When Terror felt up close and personal

I cannot put it more simply and I do not want to try. It HURTS. It hurts and the images refuse to go away, maybe because this time I chose not to try. Yes, this time there wouldn’t be that filter of calculated indifference, skilfully deployed while reading the daily news in this day and age. Today, I wanted to feel rather than think, write rather than wonder and lend words to images that existed only in my mind. Because today more than ever, I wanted to take the time to understand why these images wouldn’t go away.

French images from Chennai, when I stood waiting outside the classroom for the lecture underway to finish, even as my parallel Tamil lecture had wrapped up early in the adjacent room. I eavesdropped eagerly at the soft-sounding words and phrases; “Merci bo-koo madhaam”, they all said in musical unison just as the French lesson ended and I sauntered in wondering what it meant. It was all so feverishly exciting and exotic and completely captivated that little school girl’s imagination for years to come.

French images from Nice, twelve years later, when I sat at a coffee place overlooking the supremely scenic promenade at Nice, sipping hot coffee, where time stood still and I made elaborate retirement plans that involved admiring the water, the benches, the asphalt and the view. They called it “Café au lait” on the menu , which that school girl’s imaginative French proficiency would have happily translated to laid-back coffee.

French images from Hong Kong, five years after that coffee, are easy to create and are almost predictable. They include (for the most part of the last 2 months now), a French dictionary, a grammar book, some pronunciation videos and me. “La vie est belle”, a beautiful life, an image of a beautiful life.

Then there were other images today, ones in which little school girls lay dead on the road next to their dolls. (Image source: Reuters)

Indifference had become my go-to survival tactic for today’s world where terrorist cowardice targeting innocents have sadly become far too commonplace, the ensuing social media rage between different ideological camps, far too polarising and the yearly anniversaries with candles and peace marches far too worryingly characteristic. Indifference that usually stemmed from a mix of helplessness, resignation and prioritisation of immediate and individual problems – “Its sad but I have lots of work to finish, that geyser to fix, milk to buy”.

I searched desperately for that mask of indifference that would help me get through the day and endure some sort of normalcy. I couldn’t find it. That piece of work in office lies unfinished, that carton of milk that should have been in my fridge remains at the store. The delicious, fresh cup of coffee it would have made tomorrow morning somehow seemed much less important, than penning all of this down urgently.

It is imperative now, more than ever, to stand up and be proud of the way we live, share our individual and collective dreams, continue to travel, learn, work and be inspired by the beauty of our world. If you have actionable solutions to counter terrorism and have a voice that can be heard by those who can make a difference, shout with all your might ! For the remaining amongst us, lets not be bogged down by the deplorable miscreants who seek to destroy it and make us live in fear.

I am going to go back to learning French, with a vengeance. You? If you like, you could start by learning to pronounce cacahuètes – (Kaka-wet I think). Its sounds adorable and it means peanuts. Remember? The ones that we eat, as we sip our wine on the balcony, overlooking the Eiffel tower and with one leg resting over the other – because thats just who we are, who we want to be, and no one can take that away.

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May the souls of the innocent rest in peace.

‪#‎NiceFrance‬ ‪#‎PrayforNice‬ ‪#‎NiceAttack‬ ‪#‎Staystrong‬ ‪#‎Nice‬

Buttermilk with a pinch of sarcasm

When life gave lemons, Beyonce made  ‪#‎Lemonade‬. Lets take some inspiration and make some buttermilk, with a pinch of sarcasm, shall we?

I have always been immensely impressed by and slightly jealous of overnight internet stars. ‪#‎DamnDaniel‬ being a case in point. Surely each of us must have some semblance of a skill thats internet-worthy, other than doing it ‪#‎KimKardashian‬ style that is. One good bet is taking the culinary route – pictures of mouth watering home-made food on social media, along with elegant recipes are a safe and steady bet towards internet mini-celebrityhood. Sadly I have no talent in this space but having gotten tired of brooding over it, I decided to leverage my Masters degree in Chemistry to make a concoction and fine-tune it with presentation skills from MBA. So what if there was no discernible content, that powerpoint can still look fabulous and delude the reader into believing that there just MAY be something noteworthy in that left aligned text and eye-popping bar charts – especially if one can use the laser pointer appropriately, voice modulate masterfully and be momentarily convinced of the output oneself, to deliver it with a straight face.

With these as guiding principles, here’s my very own creation – “Lemongrass Buttermilk” – a Signature Sunday mocktail ! Here’s how you can create this awesome summer cooler from the comfort of your own home.

Critical Ingredients: Churning instrument, fancy serving glass, photo editing app, swanky resting table, wi-fi, gentle dose of sarcasm**
Other Ingredients: Yoghurt, Water, Salt, Curry leaf powder, Lemongrass powder

Procedure:

  1. Add whatever yoghurt is left in the carton from last week and empty bedside water bottle into a large container. Roughly estimate the proportions and hope it is in the range of 35% buttermilk and 65% water
  2. If not stored in an airtight container, salt apparently lumps up in humid weather. New lesson for the day. Your salt is not going to make it to the finals of the “Tata free-flowing salt” ad campaign, but its fine, no harm done. Throw one very smallish looking lump into the container
  3. Add carefully stored and until-now-unopened-hence-no-idea-how-it-tastes lemongrass powder from recent Cambodia trip (Quantity: Tilt packet, whatever falls is the right amount)
  4. Look for other ingredients that haven’t been used in a while and may be nearing expiry date but can look versatile in the recipe listing. Curry leaf powder that mom sent last time will likely fit the bill. Throw some of this too in the container.
  5. Use churning instrument and mix these till you get bored.
  6.  Transfer contents into a clean swanky wine glass provided by landlord.
  7.  Search the fridge for anything that can add a pop of colour and some dimension such as half a lemon. Force fit this on top of the glass.
  8. Place on swanky table, use atleast one photo editing app, check wi-fi connectivity and serve chilled.
  9. Admire picture, post it on social media, then taste it, throw it in the sink and order proper dinner online or take a cooking course.

**At how presentation has become as important, if not more than quality content in today’s world. WYSI(snotalways)WYG
‪#‎Foodforthought‬ ‪#‎summertimemadness‬

Why I am building my Batmobile, while also managing portfolio risk

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So you just watched Captain America. Great! Soon you will watch X-Men, before possibly going for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in early June. That’s three superhero movies within a month, not counting Batman vs. Superman which with its ‘Martha mom’ moment, didn’t make the cut here for me. So what superhero powers should you have on a BAU basis? The good news is, today you get to choose online – even as you join a LinkedIn group, follow someone new on Twitter or publish your own post on Facebook.

Just in case you are under the illusion that you need not jump on the social media bandwagon or be more ‘visible’ online, because you are a lawyer or a banker or any other  ‘-er’, think twice, just like I did two months back, because being a ‘superhero’ will soon be part of life’s course credits, one that you need to fulfil, to be a graduate in tomorrow’s world. I have since come to believe that the power of the resources available via user-friendly, creative apps can be drawn upon, for customizing your own set of powers which can then be showcased via the right social media platforms. I have begun shopping and showcasing (albeit in a small way) in multiple platforms now: a) I gave my LinkedIn profile details, a light-hearted spin before which they screamed serious and possibly boring banker, which although mostly true, is not my only identity. b) I started posting more on Twitter and gained powers 140 characters at a time, all while having fun and knowing that the world has some very witty and hilarious people c) I chronicled my California solo-travel experience in 350 words on Facebook, which appears to have gone down well.

Everybody will need to be more than one person in tomorrow’s world. We are fast approaching a world where bankers have toned bodies and possibly a head full of hair (!), supermodels profit from market volatility and lawyers have ten thousand followers on Instagram. You wouldn’t keep all your money in one savings account or put everything in the stock market, would you? Why then should we be content having just one identity? By doing one thing (ie. Likely your day job) exceptionally well you can be Bruce Wayne; but to be Batman, we all need the gadgets, and the right apps / social media options can help you build your own Batmobile.

 I am building mine with original parts from Babbel (a language learning app), fixing it with clues from Crossword Cryptic Lite and making it look shiny with fashion feeds from Pinterest, all alongside reading articles on Economist, on a regular basis, helped by better time management.

So, what superhero powers are you possibly hiding? Download and find out, and share it online on Gotham’s wall !

RoGoMac – My Rose Gold Macbook !

Humanity in often hosted in generous measure within the white walls of the huge ‪#‎Apple‬ store in Hong Kong’s IFC mall, which I often pass by, never really understanding what the big fuss was about Apple products (or Game of Thrones for that matter, but thats for another day). I had never owned an Apple product or ever considered buying one, being one of those swear-by-Android-and-cant-be-bothered awesome homosapiens. But by the end of the day that Apple announced its first quarterly revenue decline since 2003, I had ironically and unintentionally become the proud owner of the recently launched 12 inch ‪#‎rosegold‬ ‪#‎Macbook‬ (referred hereon as ‪#‎RoGoMac‬), which looked like Japanese cherry blossom on a computing device. Heres how I got drawn in:

In ‪#‎HongKong‬ ’s financial district, a zebra could walk next to you and you wouldn’t notice, for the area is mostly a collage of black and white at eye level. There’s all those formal suits and high-end black office dresses, with some grey thrown in overhead thanks to the mostly moody sky against which more grey skyscrapers compete to blur the lines (often successfully) between office space and open air. Inside the buildings, excels and word documents provide a conducive environment where black makes a mark on white in the form of numbers and letters. A lucky few get to work on powerpoints, with the gentle promise of occasionally being allowed to tweak the RGB settings. I wasn’t one of those lucky ones and on one of those days while I was finding my way around the black and white pit, RoGoMac, caught my eye.

With its patented Retina Display, it promised to bring my entire grey world into one enigmatic rose gold focus at a density of 226 pixels per inch, and bringing into better view, the beautiful Great Barrier Reef and the hot Hemsworth brothers, (among other focusable objects that is). Add to that, the 10 hour battery life with which one could get closer to watching the extended version of all the LOTR movies in one uninterrupted sitting while simultaneously writing bitcoin code, thanks to the sixth generation Intel processor (now that Craig Wright couldn’t prove his claims, I am strengthening my own campaign as bitcoin creator:p). With the right search strings, it was also possible to find non-dubious websites that swore by the calming effect of rose gold (no one can have too many stress busters right?). In a highly deluded moment, I could have sworn I almost saw Gollum holding it and whispering ‘My Precious’. I suddenly felt like I understood how extra-marital affairs began, given I already had two other pinkish coloured and perfectly functional smart devices. I quickly jotted down a few reasons to justify my purchase, in case RoGoMac and I ever get caught during the act.

  1. With significant initial expenses that cause notable dents in the wallet, the Mac costs nearly half a zebra, (if it weren’t illegal to trade them that is). But 50% of a black and white zebra still gives you black or white, while here you get exotic and exclusive rose gold !
  2. Sure, one could buy Ferragamo shoes for that price. But when you are trying to catch the eye of that cute stranger in the cafe, would you rather make a great first impression by sneaking a look over your sleek RoGoMac or point your Ferragamo heels in his face? Likely the former, unless you are the hot girl in the heels scene from Wolf of Wall Street!
  3. Its no secret that the weak commodity prices in the last year has had far reaching economic impact. Although you can add iron bars to your window to do your bit to increase demand and prices, RoGoMac is a great bet as its an alloy of copper and gold, and Copper too could really use some love right now.
  4. True, you can buy Tiffany rose gold jewellery instead, but as a girl, theres a good chance that you might get it for free especially if you can remember that the squeaky wheel gets the oil or if that doesn’t work you already know what will. For the guys reading this, note that while RoGoMac comes with a 1 year Applecare warranty, theres no guarantee that your Tiffany gift will translate into (re)payments in kind ! (stereotyping with apologies) So RoGoMac is a much better bet.

Convinced yet? For those who wish to continue being awesome (read Androiders), check out the Samsung smart devices in rose gold! ps: I do still absolutely love my Android devices