If I was a Frenchman…

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My name could have been L’eon, or Anant if I was a South Asian guy. But on moving to Texas,  that would surely have shortened to Andy the brown immigrant turned Texan cowboy. But hey, I’m neither French nor a guy, garcon, hombre, l’homme… Je suis une femme, a woman, une fille, dama, a desi nari… so don’t get me wrong, I am not ‘nar‘ the desi man, my emphasis lies on ‘not’ and equally on ‘man’! Oui, I am quite the opposite, definitely a woman, the emphasis now on ‘definitely’ and ‘woman’.

Okay, so that issue being quite settled, I should think, here’s a commonly asked question among my desi brethren — bhaaiyon aur behnon, i.e. brother, sisters — and fellow countrymen (and women). “Are you settled?”

In my view thus far, isn’t this a loaded question? Yeah, yeah, in Texas, folks may walk around with loaded guns, but to be honest, I’m not afraid of those. However, I am leery of the missile I’ve had to dodge for as long as I can remember.

To give you a little background: well, I recently moved — no, no, not from India, but locally. In fact, ‘shifting’ from Mumbai to North America happened almost two decades ago. A.k.a. immigrating (or, ‘back home’ where it is commonly referred to as ‘migrating’ – perhaps because we take flight from our ‘matrubhumi‘ – motherland, across the seven seas… ‘saat samundar paar‘, on a transatlantic, or ‘transpacific’ flight; and when your friends don’t follow you peechhey peechhey, (hence you may make facebook friends and make feeble attempts at building an online following); and just for the records, I didn’t follow anyone either. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say, I’d moved, simply on a whim… (and did not change my mind on a dime). This dame was strong, and soon ‘settled’… or so she’d thought, until…

She moved down south – again, not just on a whim, but with purpose. As the years went by, my moves were frequent, and each time I often faced this loaded question, “Are you settled?” Believe me, the question rattled me, in fact it was most unsettling. Never could I  fathom, ‘why’.  One could argue that with the moves as frequent as 12 on last count, I should be quite adept at the process, right? Oops, I daresay, ‘wrong’!

You can, and may move as often as you can cope with it, but until and unless you make that shift inside your head, you’re still rooted in your motherland. As a consequence, your career can take a beating, your social life comes to a standstill, your bags, books and boxes will move with you… but your mind has remained in a faraway land, which also morphed while you were away, and is really no longer your home. Your heart too beats in a rhythm that is completely out of sync with the sounds that surround you here. Do you hear them? Are you even listening? You may as well be tone deaf. If so, then how would you communicate with those around you? You’re now in neither-land… yeah, you may as well be in Netherlands, with folks speaking Dutch, and you feeling out of your depth, secretly praying that they’d dumb-down their language. Bingo… that’s the secret sauce… learn their language (easier said, but not entirely impossible).

But remember, you’re not in Netherlands. You are in a nation that speaks the language you do speak… so it should be easy. All you have to do is change your thought process… remember the old adage, “When in Rome be like the Romans”, and all that? Well, if you wish to feel ‘settled’, embrace the culture that surrounds you…  you don’t have to shun what’s encoded in your DNA, but if you’re smart, you can adapt to your new environment… that’s key to survival… that’s fundamental Darwinism… that’s key to your inherent strength… even back in motherland the maxim was to adapt, to survive… or get trampled over, or worse, left far behind.

You can be French, Spanish, Japanese, German, English… American or American Desi, or Desi American… or cook up whatever name or ethnicity or race you wish to embrace. If you wish to feel ‘settled’ sooner rather than later, alongside the geographic change, the change must take place within you. The peace and the purpose within will follow, I have no doubt. In case you wondered about L’eon or Anant… well, my true name has its origins in ancient Sanskrit vocabulary… it means infinity… or a long epoch of time… eon — in other words, timeless… and that is a constant. So what else is constant… but of course, ‘change’… and that applies to every aspect of life. No matter your name, or your nationality, or ethnicity, race, color… learn to embrace ‘change’. Rest assured, your inner peace will follow. At least I plan to do just that, going forward. Better now, than never.

No matter where life takes me, the next time someone shoots that missile, I will smile and say, “Yes, I’m settled.” In fact, better still, I will not view that dreaded question as a missile… after all, why should I look for a deeper meaning to a polite, simple question, filled with some concern for my well-being? Just view it as misri — ‘sweet’. At least someone cared enough about my well-being to sweetly ask.  So now, I ask of you, “Are you settled?” 🙂

 

The “Flying Rani”!

Gujarati? Catch the “Flying Rani” going Mumbai to Surat!

બાળપણ નું સુસ્મરણ

હોતું હશે!

(ભઈ તમે માનો કે ના માનો આ વાત હકીકત છે.)

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After reaching Navsari (pix above: Juna Thana), Surat is just minutes away… you get set to alight… with all your bags! 😉

મમ્મી: ઓ કે, હું taxi વાળા ને પૈસા ચૂકવું છું, તું કૂલી ને શોધ (ચિંતા નહિ કરતી, તું શોધે એ પેહલા એ તને શોધી કાઢશે)
હું : એ એ એ… આણે તો bag ઊંચકી એ લીધી!
મમ્મી: ઓ એની સાથે ભાવ પેહલા થી નક્કી કરજે, ભૂલતી નહિ … ઠીક છે, કંઈ નહિ.

મમ્મી (કૂલી ને): ઓ, કેટલા? કિતના લેગા?
કૂલી : ફિકર નહિ, આપ સે જ્યાદા નહિ લેગા … બસ, બીસ રૂપિયા.
મમ્મી: હેં!……. કેટલા રૂપિયા??
(કૂલી ને): તુમ કો ક્યા લગતા હૈ – હમ નયે હૈ ઇસ શેહેર મેં ! દસ રૂપિયે સે ઝ્યાદા નહિ દૂંગી
કૂલી: સત્રા
મમ્મી: નહિ, નહિ, ચલો, બારા બરાબર હૈ
ફૂલી: અરે ક્યા મેમસાબ તુમ ભી… અચ્છા પન્દ્રા
મમ્મી : ચલો છોડો — જાને દો. હમારી bag રક્ખો, તુમ દૂસરા ઘરાક શોધો

મમ્મી (અમને, બચ્ચા પાર્ટી ને): ચાલો, ચાલો, જલ્દી જલ્દી એક એક bag ઉઠાવો – નાની, મોટી, જે ઉંચકાય તે લો.
હું : મમ્મી, જલ્દી, પછી સીટ નહિ મળે!
મમ્મી (કૂલી ને): અલ્યા ચાલ, ચૌદ રૂપિયા નક્કી, ચાર bag ઉઠાવ – આખી berth પકડ, બારી સાથે!
કૂલી: ફિકર નકો કરા મેમસાબ
મમ્મી: છોકરાઓ, જલ્દી કરો, નહિ તો આ ભીડ માં કૂલી ગુમ ના થયી જાય!
હું : મમ્મી, કૂલી તો બહુ ફાસ્ટ જાય છે!

થોડેક આગળ ગયા, થોડી વાર પછી, થોભ્યા:

ફૂલી: મેમસાબ, ઇધર રુકો, bag કે પાસ, અભી સીટ પકડ કે આતા હું!
હું : ઓ…, કહાં જાતે હો? Train કહાં હૈ? Platform પર હજી આવી નથી ને!
ફૂલી: બેબી, અભી આતી હૈ train.
હું : તુમ કો કૈસે find કરેંગે?
કૂલી : એક રૂમાલ દો, ચાદર હૈ?
(મમ્મી પર્સ માંથી કાઢી, એમનો સ્કાર્ફ આપે છે કૂલી ને.) કૂલી સ્કાર્ફ લઇ ને ભીડ માં ફરી થી અલુપ્ત થયી ગયો!

મમ્મી : તમને બંને ને કહ્યું’તું જલ્દી તૈયાર થયી જાઓ, નહીતર આ ભીડ માં ભીંસાવું પડશે પણ સાંભળે કોણ! કેટલો Rush છે, હવે જઈશું ઉભા ઉભા ઠેઠ સુધી!

મમ્મી (અકળાઈ ને) એક બીજા યાત્રી ને: ઓઓઓ, વગાડી દીધી મેટલ ની bag. કચડી નાખ્યો મારો પગ! જોઈ ને તો ચાલ!

હું: આવતી vacation માં મારે train માં ક્યાંય જવું નથી! I don’t want to go on the train anywhere! What a nightmare!
મમ્મી : ઓ, ચાલો, ચાલો જલ્દી જલ્દી, ગાડી આવી ગઈ!
હું: ઓ, પણ bags નું ધ્યાન કોણ રાખશે
મમ્મી : ચલ એક જણ અહીંયા ઉભા રહો, તું ઉભી રેહ… ઓ લે, જો, ફૂલી એ હાથ દેખાડ્યો… જગા મળી ગયી લાગે છે.
મમ્મી (કૂલી ને બૂમ પાઈ ને કેહ છે): ચલ, આવી ને bag ઉઠાવ!
કૂલી: Bag આપ લાઓ, નહી તો seat ગેલી!
મમ્મી : અલ્યા અડધું કામ અમે જાતે કરી લઈએ તો ચૌદ રૂપિયા તને શું કરવા આપીએ!
કૂલી (હસતાં હસતાં): મેમસાબ, બગા તુમી, seat મસ્ત હૈ… પાંચ રૂપિયા ઔર દેના બક્ષીશ!
મમ્મી: ઘ્યા હે ચૌદ રૂપિયા, નહિ તો એ પણ નહિ આપું!
હું : મમ્મી, જલ્દી, આપી દો એને જે જોઈએ એ, ચાલો, let’s settle in, please!
હજી તો બેઠાં નથી, અને કોઈક બીજા યાત્રી આવ્યા:
યાત્રી : Excuse me, પણ તમે મારી seat પર બેઠાં છો! હું ફક્ત પાણી ની bottle ભરવા નીચે ઊતર્યો હતો.
મમ્મી (જરા અકળાઈ ને): ઓ હો, શૂ વાત કરો છો! હમણાં જ મેં પેલા કૂલી ને પૈસા ચૂકવ્યા seat માટે!
અચ્છા ઠીક છે, બધા જરા જરા ખસો, થોડું “adjustment” કરીએ… આ છે તો એક unreserved compartment ને! ફક્ત સાઢા ચાર કલ્લાક ની જ journey – મુંબઈ થી સૂરત સુધી ની!
યાત્રી (અડધું મનમાં બબડતા): ક્યા થી આવી જાય છે આ લોકો!
મમ્મી: મને કૈંક કહ્યું તમે?

સીટી વાગી, લીલો ઝંડો ફર્કાયો, ગાડી ની છુક-છુક શરુ થયી. ધીમે થી વેગ વધવા માંડી… પળ માં જ platform પર થી ગાડી બાહર ખુલા માં જતી રેહવાની…
મમ્મી (અકળાયલા સાદે): જો, હજુ તારા પપ્પા આવ્યા નહિ દુકાને થી… આવજો કેહવા અને મળવા!
(દૂર, પપ્પા દોડતા આવતા દેખાયા – બારી માંથી અમે આવજો કર્યું, એમના હાથ માં થી નાસ્તા નું packet જલ્દી થી લઇ લીધું! અમને, ખાસ કરી ને
મમ્મી ને હાશ થયી… મને મન માં થયું, “કદાચ પપ્પા ને પણ હાશ થયી! એમનું vacation પણ શરું થયું “) 😉
બીજા યાત્રીઓ ને પણ હાશ થયી…

યાત્રી (મમ્મી ને): ક્યાં સુધી જવાના, ક્યાં ઉતરવાના?
મમ્મી: last station… સૂરત! અને… તમે?
યાત્રી : હું પણ
મમ્મી: ચાલો, સરસ, થોડી company રેહશે 🙂

અર્ધ-સ્મિત સમેટ યાત્રી અને મમ્મી ની અકળામણ સેહજ વિલીન થયી.

મમ્મી (મારા નાજુક, baby ears માં ધીમે થી બોલ્યાં): સરખી tight બેસજે, જો, કોઈ ધક્કો મારી તને ખસેડી ના દે!
હું (મન માં વિચારતા): હાશ, જગ્યા મળી એટલું જ બસ છે… પાંચ મિનીટ પેહલા જ તો seat ના ફાંફા હતાં, અને station પણ હાંફળા-ફાંફળા પોન્હ્ચા’તા!
મમ્મી: હાશ, હવે જરા નિરાંતે શ્વાસ લેવાશે!
થોડીક જ પળો થયી હશે, ત્યાં તો, bag માંથી Pear કાઢી, purse માં થી ચપ્પુ ખેંચી, મોઢાં પર સ્મિત વેરી ને બાજુ માં બેઠેલા નૌપરિચિત યાત્રી ને મમ્મી એ પૂછ્યું, “Care to Share?”

Hima Kala Kendra

We knew her as Ms Hima Devi.

I always remember her as a lady with immense attitude, a cigarette between her fingers, puffing smoke in our middle school classroom. After a while our Victorian “ha, hoo” shocked by her stance, simply stopped.

Hima was just Hima… cool. No, we did not use that term then. But in my mind, I always remember Hima as an angry woman. Upset with the world outside, while the insides of her brain were immersed in drama – Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, Shakespeare… and continually pacing in the classroom, her feet were perhaps eager to dance in Manipuri while her fiery eyes matched the exaggerated movements in a Kathakali.

She once picked on me in class announcing rather dramatically that I would be the first to go behind the ghunghat (a long veil drawn over my face) — symbolic of a newly-wed bride (in another era)… 😉 Would she chuckle, I wonder, if she knew that I almost missed that opportunity of wearing the coveted veil… or would she roll her eyes in disbelief!

I wonder if anyone remembers how we were summoned to pay an immediate visit to Strand Book Stall – no, not New York’s Strand that claims to hold miles of books in its single store in Manhattan, but the one off Pherozeshah Mehta Road, and a stone’s throw from the Reserve Bank of India building in Mumbai. Alas, Mr. T.N. Shanbag has also passed on. The book, I remember, that was imperative for us to get – in middle school, again, within walking distance of this ‘bookstall’ (a book lover’s delight)  – was the late 17th century literary work of John Bunyan… The Pilgrim’s Progress!

There’s very little I actually knew then about this doyenne, a grand dame if you will… every now and again I run a search to find so little. While updating my previous post that I wrote five years ago, in the comments I added some articles others have referenced her in. But here are some visuals… piece these together to learn a little bit more… note how far back these will take you…

Hima 10Hima 8Hima 7Hima 6Hima 5Hima 4Hima 3Hima 2

 

Although there are few references available, there’s little doubt in my mind that hundreds and thousands of students who were under her tutelage, however briefly, would always have at least an atom sized space about Hima, in their memory. We loved you, admired you. Few can emulate your grace, sharp wit, your elegance, your style, your sense of timing, your voice, the words, the tone, the pitch, diction, the drama… you will stay with us.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembrance (2011): My Take

Last evening, I watched this foreign film, “Remembrance”.

It is the story about a Jewish woman, Hannah Silberstein, who struggles to break free from the dark memories of her past life in the Auschwitz concentration camp during Poland’s SS occupation.

Young Hannah falls in love with an inmate, Tomasz Limanowski. Together, after they escape from the camp, he returns home, introducing Hannah – his fiancée – to his mother. Instead of warmth and joy, they face Mrs. Limanowski’s wrath. Circumstances compel Tomasz to leave his too-ill-to-travel fiancée in maternal care — for just a couple of days. 30 years later, Hannah catches a glimpse of him on TV. Truly, was this the same Tomasz who had rescued her? Where did he go? Did his mother reconcile? Now, what?

Remembrance2011Film2

An interesting story set in the mid-’70s, the film’s narrative moves back and forth spatially and temporally, transposing audiences from Brooklyn, NY, to a tiny village in Eastern Europe. Paced perfectly, you will savor the romance and anticipation, while feeling the pain of separation when two people are in love, the circumstances notwithstanding.

The older Hannah – played by Dagmar Manzel – plays a fine role of an anguished woman battling her demons during her 30 year old marriage to an affluent businessman. Based on the true story of Jerzy Bielecki, a Polish social worker born in the early 1920s, and Cyla Cybulska, a young Polish-Jewish woman, the only one to have survived after her family was murdered. Played poignantly by Alice Dwyer, you will see glimpses of defiance and determination even during her stricken youth. Mateusz Damięcki and Lech Mackiewicz, as the young rebel Limanowski, and as the older Tomash, respectively, both portray the character deftly, and with just the right portions of passion and aggression.

Remembrance2011Film

Director Anna Justice has delivered a fine film, with the entire cast in tune with the story. In 105 minutes of the film’s duration she has unfolded the characters at a pace that holds your attention, while developing every one of them – short, or tall – as a strong presence – whether brief, or long. Hannah’s husband, their adult daughter, Tomasz’s brother and his wife, Janusz – a family friend… every character is memorable.

This German film was released in late 2011, so NetFlix aficionados are fortunate to be able to watch it now… before they pull it off from their drama and foreign film categories. Original title: “Die verlorene Zeit”.

Dancer, Photographer, Soprano Singer, Writer, Director, Movie maker… Dreamer?

A short while ago a couple of people ‘followed’ me i.e. this blog. Now that can seem mighty flattering, if you too blog, be it on Blogger, WordPress, or wherever else… By the way, can someone tell me if there’s a ‘word’ for someone who blogs on WordPress?

Pronto, like for the 99.99% out there, curiosity got the better of me so I checked out these followers, and whoa, what do I see? One of them is an actress with her very own IMDb page. But for me, this lady is accomplished in ways that hold a greater significance. Well-traveled across four continents, that too solo; a photographer, a dancer, beautiful and bold enough to battle with a baboon… no, kidding I’m not! I won’t plagiarize, or re-post what Lena has posted, photographed or written about. To get to know a bit of her very interesting character, you may want to begin here, and she will lead you thereon. 😉 Thank you, Lena. I recall visiting your page many months ago and then again moments ago. What a fantastic journey you’re on. Lovely, and my best wishes to you for even more exciting times ahead.

Another person that I listened to yesterday is a soprano singer. It is simply amazing when I learned of her achievements. It speaks to her sheer dedication, and in no small measure her determination. Searching for a link to add here, I visited Charlotte‘s blog even as I’m typing these words. It’s just fascinating to see the dreams of people taking shape, in one form or another… music, dance… wow!

Recently, I wrote about an indie film. It took the writer/director over seven years to bring his dream to fruition. I do wish his film too meets with the success it deserves… both, for his effort, for taking on a subject that is both intricate as it is difficult to explain in a few scenes.

Thank you people, for allowing me, and the world, to peek into your vast universe that’s brimming with dreams. Pray, where’s the dream catcher?  About some of the others I will write again another day. 🙂

It’s not “Gawd”… open your jaw wide to say, “God”!

Or, again, it’s not “Dawg“, but a jaw-wide-open “Dog”! Again? O, Gawd! Oops, sorry, Oh, God!

A long time ago, Hima Devi – a graduate of Trinity College, England, taught drama to kids at ‘elite’ schools in Mumbai; she also trained them for ‘elocution’, improving their pronunciation, diction, grammar, reading skills, etc. While reading Sam Roberts’ Unlearning to Tawk like a New Yorker, I was transported back in time, into my classroom at middle-school.  Appalled by our diction then, Hima Devi’s rasp cut through our reading session. Her outburst shocked us… a bunch of 24 kids. We were rather shaken by her voice as it jarred on our (then tender) ears; peeking through her smoker’s ‘voice-box’, her anger seemed magnified even further.

[Adding references to “Hima Kala Kendra” after a search in January 2016! ]

Hima1

Hima 2

Of course, after all these years, I searched for references to Hima Devi on the internet. I think she was quite a lady… in a class of her own… very elegantly turned out, always! My search lead me to this 30th anniversary issue of India Today.

Bhanu Athaiya

It seems that Bhanu Athaiya, costume-designer, and winner of the Academy Award for ‘Gandhi‘ (Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film), once lived with Hima Devi. Hmm… now that’s interesting. I would read the article, “Lost and Found”  in India Today – July 03, 2006 issue.

This issue of India’s # 1 magazine at one point, has another interesting Cover Story, “Golden Moments”, and as used to be the case when I read this magazine fairly regularly, several other facts and figures, which make interesting reading. However, now India Today seems to sport a new look; I wonder if it continues to lead news stories, or if it follows the media maxims of our new era. Ouch.. tweet, tweet!

Well, after all this, I’m still searching for more information on Hima Devi… Amazingly, in cyberspace, there’s so little information available about someone who contributed so much to the theater world. Furthermore, towards grooming school-going kids to enable them speak with finesse… an attribute that often defines an individual’s persona!

But, hey, for all Hima Devi fans, here’s a photo, courtesy Bruce Bayley of UK… how could I possibly forget to mention that  Hima Devi, besides being a theater doyen, also expressed herself through dance!

Shrimati Hima Devi

Thank you, Mr Bayley, and I do hope you will not take offense to this reference. 🙂

“As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists”… a comment

Yesterday, a friend wished to post a comment on the much-discussed article that made the headlines in The New York Times. Some readers thought the article was newsworthy, others expressed their furore over the skewed perspective, and yet others posted counter-comments. The following is one which was written, but was not published, since all comments were being screened by the newspaper.

March 13, 2009 2:33 pm
In response to Editor’s selected comment # 167:

Editor's Pick of Interesting Comments
Editor's Pick of Interesting Comments

“Glad to hear your husband visited India. However, am amazed at the one-sided observations: Of the four months he spent there, he saw “people simply cut wires to hook into the electrical grid… “: Did he pay a visit to the electricity Bill Payment Centers (especially in the major metros), where there are long-winding queues of men and women, who do take time off from their work, or from lunch-hour to go pay their bills?
Daily power outages do not prevail in all parts of the country.

A woman who “stands up for herself” would be killed; yes, while Indira Gandhi stood up, she was “killed”, no doubt… but that has been not just her fate, but the fate of many leaders (in India and even in our part of the world and elsewhere)… incidentally, Indira Gandhi was India’s Prime Minister (stood up not just for herself) for several terms… of course she had ups and downs, but that’s history. (I am not particularly her fan.) The point is there are several strong women in the history of India – both, on the political front, as well as in every household in the country. The current President of India is Mrs Pratibha Patil, a woman – educated and an accomplished sportswoman.
Despite the high incidence of the infamous female infanticides, if women were so easily killed (as your husband may have observed), India would not have such a high population (over a billion) and the ratio of women to men is certainly not low at 930 women:1000 men. It is not as “simple as that” to kill women in India… incidentally, a woman, who (almost) could not read nor write, was even leading one of the largest states i.e. Bihar, as their Chief Minister
(circumstances notwithstanding) – and a totally male-chauvinistic state at that.

You’re right about the tax evasions (even among the ‘elite’ and people in power), hence the advertising to “beg people to pay their taxes” comes as no surprise. Even Rabri Devi’s husband was chased by the Income Tax Officials a decade ago.
And here is the very same Rabri Devi… almost an illiterate, happily married (not forced into it at the age of 14) who is the mother to 7 daughters (no less) and 2 sons… who has the “wisdom” and “guts” to comment on the ‘historic’ budget.

You’re right in drawing attention to the hospitality of people towards your husband, despite their poverty. Tourists and visitors (especially the fair-skinned) often have a fan following of poor kids and street urchins, in cities (or at touristy attractions) smiling and laughing around them, begging and chasing them for just a pencil or pen, while their tummies are probably growling with hunger.

Well, the whole point is the government certainly can do much, instead of filling their own coffers. It’s not enough to throw your hands in despair and say, “where do we begin”… Education is not an “impossible luxury”. The government can provide incentives to those who are educated, to teach or provide a basic education to just one other poor soul. Instead of having to scavenge from garbage cans, those who do have homes, could have just one homeless child come around everyday for one small meal – provide two rotis or a bowl of rice with a vegetable (or soup). In fact, come over to learn your ABC’s (K, Kh, Gh), learn the basics of hygiene, and grab a sandwich, for good measure! It really isn’t too much… many families waste and throw away so much food after every meal, that they can well-afford to part with a sandwich a day! How do you think those garbage cans get filled with wasted food that putrefies in there… followed by epidemics of diseases. So, the bottom line… no, the government has to take a lead, and so should those who have been blessed with far more than they can enjoy in their own lifetime… as their “giving back to the community”. They spend loads of money building schools for the rich and elite (so with their IB diplomas they can apply to schools in the US or UK). Those families are charged steep fees (no different from private schools here). How about schools in rural areas with nominal fees – a buck a day – nothing fancy, just the basics at least? Yes, they’re probably hoarding that for their future generations. Well, the future will take care of itself, if the present is provided for… even partially. Please follow my comment #206. India is a land of paradoxes (clichéd). Your observations may be true, but there is certainly another side. Something must be done to resolve the poverty issues… soon! Thanks.”


He wanted to be a “Quant”…

In the late 90s, my close buddy quit his well-paid job of ‘research scientist’ with a leading oil company. He wanted to be a “quant“. Lured, not by the money; that would follow (and plenty of it, although not quite as much as the obscene figures that Wall Street traders take home), but by the sheer mathematical elegance (I recall him using those very words way back then), which this new career would allow him to dabble with.  He spoke of the subject with a passion that sounded more like a woman’s dreams of luxury, silken sheets and Manolo’s!

His previously earned doctorate in hydrodynamics from M.I.T. was a mere starting point. He immersed himself in studying tomes of finance books – disciplined and motivated enough to “self-educate” himself on the subject. When he spoke of ‘vanilla’ or ‘exotic’ it had little to do with flavors of ice cream, or the fjords of Scandinavia. He pondered long over what he considered hot’ topics at the time – derivatives, futures, swaps and options – and seemed lost in a world of numbers!

To be honest, it was with immense difficulty that I had grasped the math entailed in regression analysis, linear programming and autocorrelation, towards earning credits for o-r and econometrics… in fact, I’m still fuzzy whether my present state is a result of “statistical error” or whether it may be deemed as a fitting error“. 😉 Random, or residual – why care! Instead, speaking again of my friend… when he first mentioned ‘modeling’, my brain – then skewed towards advertising, was farthest from ‘mathematical modeling‘. When he spoke of inverse problems my thoughts drifted towards micro-economics, juggling personal finances to fit month-end needs. Not in my wildest imagination could I have considered derivative pricing, or financial engineering.

Well, now as we approach 2010,  I can hardly pretend to have turned into some finance whiz, comprehending the jargon of Wall Street. Call it fate, or destiny, the events in the early years of this decade somehow did not allow my buddy with an opportunity to work as a ‘quant’ on Wall Street… something he had so deeply desired, and for which he toiled and sacrificed much, but which somehow eluded him.

Talking of predictions, futures, recent market volatility, financial debacles and gargantuan tumbles in the world’s financial capital, I am secretly thankful – at a personal level – that a perceived “failure” in finding a suitable position turned out to be a boon in disguise. For the past several years my pal has again immersed himself in science, and research towards what I consider a noble cause, and which, in my opinion, deserves far more genuine respect than what he would have earned through his computational genius on Wall Street.

Good luck to all those who have done well in their selected field, playing a clean, positive role, even in what is today deemed a maligned world, but which will undoubtedly rise again. When money begins to flow freely someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, memories of present times will fade, of that there’s no doubt, I’m afraid.

Ad Agency layoffs

In Spring 2008, when I referred to layoffs at marketing companies and ad agencies, some smart alecks scoffed at my words, merrily mocking me and my writing. Numerous people holding jobs then dropped pearls of wisdom… “Network, get yet another degree (since my MBA does not seem to cut it), or better still, change your profession“. Some even went as far as suggesting I change my personal [‘Look’ and ‘Feel’]… like I was some website that was long overdue for a total makeover!

Of course, last March, Bear Stearns, believed to have been firmly parked at 383 Mad Ave in NYC, was only just beginning to teeter…  we all are now privy to its change of address… they’ve moved permanently to the annals of financial history. At the time of their big move, the formal announcement of a recession that had already been three months in the making since December 2007 was at least three seasons away! It is highly unlikely then that A&M agencies could have been insulated, impending announcements notwithstanding! However, only those who were laid off, and those who never got  hired — despite job postings that continued to appear (to ostensibly lure fresh, “experienced” talent) — would have gotten a whiff of the hard times to follow; obviously, the rest of the world was happily oblivious to the latent harsh effects it was already beginning to experience!

Long before birds herald the onset of spring, you may have heard (and read) twitters about ad agency layoffs. Think back, the frequency may have been rising since mid-December 2008. Now why is that? It’s because that’s when the US government formally announced that the recession had already set in since December 2007! Looking back now, for 12 months this recession had stealthily taken its toll on jobs, home sales, the fate of companies and on families that depended on these organizations – directly, or indirectly; or even on retirees who lived off their fixed incomes! Wow, so now that it was official, it was okay to openly talk or twitter about how much even the ad agencies were hurting.

You just have to read the compilation of all the twitters (14 pages as I blog just now) to truly gauge the severity of this situation. If that’s too much work, especially considering you may be looking for work, take a look at BNET’s mind-boggling layoff numbers… including ad agency, media and marketing layoffs, ever since the recession started. These will show you why you’re meeting with little success in finding a new job. Or that if you do still have your job while your colleagues have been shown the door, why it’s no time to be smug… the pink slip may likely be well on it’s way to you! Perhaps it’s time to consider another field, go to school and acquire a new skill… and while you’re working on that resume, remember also to go for a makeover on yourself… I’m just sharing those pearls of wisdom I’d received from the mavens on Mad Ave!

The layoff counter keeps ticking.
The layoff counter keeps ticking.
No stopping to this counter's ticking!
No stopping to this counter's ticking!
The Twitter since December is getting louder in Spring '09.
The Twitter since December is getting louder in Spring '09.
When will the Twitters end?
When will these Twitters end?

Of layoffs… something’s not quite right.

Piecemeal layoffs avoid warning laws

Yes, this one sounds much like what I expressed almost a year ago.

Continuing job losses may signal broad economic shift

More on Jobs (Including  a Little Good News)

Thanks for the link, EON.

Ever Closer to 1982.

What to do when you lose your Job (Some advise from various experts)

Searching for work and not giving up

Three unemployed New Yorkers look for work as more than 4.4 million Americans have lost their jobs since the recession started in December 2007.

NJ Governor says he’s prepared to layoff state workers

Well, search and you’ll see more headlines… perhaps news like this best be buried. For the unemployed it may be wiser to focus on the “job search“; like someone said, “Make it your job to get a job.”

Easier said? Well, we don’t know unless we try, right! 😉