Goodbye Movember!

Wikimedia Commons
See that woman behind Tom Cruise? She's got that glint in her eye because... Yes, you guessed it - thanks to Cruise's drop-dead gorgeous, clean-shaven appearance! The last one month has been all about beards, beards and still more beards. Now, no one's denying that there is a certain (albeit odd and distinctly devilish) charm to hairy faces and overgrown stubble. But I think, the ladies will agree that the appeal of clean-shaven, well-groomed faces is simply timeless!

I've seen the men in my life moan and groan when they realise they haven't shaved on an important day. Imagine walking into an interview for your dream job with a face that screams "irresponsible". Like it or not, we do associate the ideal, able professional with a no-nonsense haircut and clean-shaven good looks. Still don't believe me? Well even Scottish actor James McAvoy confessed, "I always have a beard between jobs. I just let it grow until they pay me to shave it."

I've heard this story of a guy who was rejected by the parents of the woman he loved, simply because he had chosen to sport a rugged beard that day. Hard to believe? Well it seems that many Indian parents are allergic to the roguish sensibility that comes parceled with a healthy beard. So if you want a good chance at getting your girl to say, "I do," you should probably go say the same words to your razor first.

Then there's the issue of men with facial hair that's really enthusiastic in some spots and practically non-existent in others. All the more reason to create a clean slate. Take a cue from Tom Ford's advice, "I hate tricky facial hair. If your facial hair is too spotty in places, shave. Just forget about it." If you need more inspiration, here's a glimpse of celebrities who look hottest clean-shaven:
Daniel Craig (Wikimedia Commons)
Ranbir Kapoor (Wikimedia Commons)

Shah Rukh Khan (Wikimedia Commons)

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (Wikimedia Commons)

George Clooney (Wikimedia Commons)

Jude Law (Wikimedia Commons)
My friend landed his current job with an excellent pay hike as well as a promotion, during an interview where he sported / did not sport a beard. Not much of a guessing game there. There are some moments in life where you have to shake off the lure of your preferences; moments that are so monumentally important that they can make or break your life. At moments like these, your answer to that primordial question 'Will you shave?' - it's got to be yes. It's what differentiates us from the apemen after all. It's what makes us civilised and suave, new-age men and women (yeah, for women, it's not much of a dilemma - whether to shave or not).
To shave or not to shave? If you're still pondering over that question, I suggest you shake off the Movember blues and go pick up that razor that is crying for your attention!

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This post is a part of #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette

An ode to Bombay winters.



I'll tell you about Bombay winters
The ones many will scoff at
The ones often called a poor substitute
For snow and frost and curling mist

But I'll tell you about early morning mist
That most miss
Wrapped in their dreams and coverlets and groggy exist
That mist that roams in the laden darkness
And the gifted quiet of pre-dawn solitude
That mist that creeps in through windows aflutter
And watches the shadows of wishes dance across your sleeping face

I'll tell you about the crispy cool streets
And its lightly jacketed denizens
Sporting secret smiles, painted by the wispy wintry air
That wordless, weightless freedom
From sultry heat that sticks to the back of one's hair
That sudden gust of joy reflected in shining eyes
Eyes that feast upon the Bombay winter sky.

I'll tell you about Bombay winters
Magical, subtle and short-lived
Yet, more memorable than months of stifling heat.
I'll tell you that it gladdens me
As much as the snowy slopes of Ooty
And the unbearably stormy chills of Garudmachi
Because the Bombay winter -
She struts into my heart with her understated elegance
Her delightfully cool demeanour
And she lifts my spirits
Colours my day
With so many shades of silvery grey.

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Have you touched the face of God?

Wikimedia Commons

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God
-   John Gillespie Maggie (‘High Flight’)

Who doesn’t want to fly? To run on land is fine, but to soar amidst wispy clouds and bright bits of firmament would be quite something else. Once, before the advent of aeroplanes, men and women devised methods to fly that we might laugh at today. They tried to strap on wings to their arms and imitate birds, they built hot air balloons that blew wherever the wind desired and in Douglas Adams’ ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, they even threw themselves at the ground, in the hope that they’d soar into the enchanting sky! John Maggie died at the tender age of 19 as a result of a mid-air collision. But his passionate words continue to inspire flyers till date.

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It took a long time indeed to get to where we are today and we have many enterprising innovators to thank. We have English baronets and the Wright brothers to pay tribute to, even as we enjoy the plethora of flight options we have today. It’s nothing short of a modern-day marvel – the idea that one can traverse 6112 km between Delhi and Frankfurt in merely eight hours and twenty minutes, via the new Lufthansa A380 aircraft #LufthansaA380 (http://a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home). That’s less than an overnight bus ride from Pune to Hyderabad! We’ve really come a long way.

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Visit the airport today and the sheer number of carriers is mind-boggling. Time was when the Indian airspace was solely dominated by Indian Airlines and Air India – government-owned airlines. Today, we have a multitude of Indian and international players providing an enviable cocktail of flight options to highfliers. When I began my first full-time job at a business news channel, I was asked to identify industries that I was interested in. My first choice was aviation. There seemed to be something in the news every day, about this dynamic industry! And that was the year in which I’d taken my first solo flight, all starry-eyed and expectant. I was amazed at the ease with which I floated from Mumbai to Cochin airport. I kept reading about the problems some airlines were facing, the price wars among others, the entry and exit of top honchos and the introduction of hitherto unheard of airlines!

Here are a few statistics to put things in perspective:
·         India is the world’s ninth largest civil aviation market;
·         The Indian civil aviation industry is worth around US$ 16 billion;
·         The Indian aviation industry handles 2.5 billion passengers and has over 87 airlines flying to and from India;
·         The foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows in air transport during April 2000 to July 2014 stood at Rs 2,348 crore (US$ 383.63 million), as per data released by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP);
·         The total aircraft movements and passengers have registered a compound annual growth rate of 3.3 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively during FY11 to FY14.


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And now, the latest development in the world of aviation is the launch of Lufthansa’s jumbo A380 #LufthansaA380, with a mind-boggling capacity of 520 passengers in India. The aircraft will fly privileged passengers from New Delhi to Frankfurt every day. The mention of Frankfurt reminds me of my favourite cartoon Heidi, which I have been watching all over again, since the past couple weeks. Heidi is the story of a Swiss girl, who has to leave her home in the Alps to be a companion to a wheelchair-bound young girl in the city of Frankfurt. Now the Lufthansa A380 is the largest commercial aircraft in history and it’s fitting that it will be flying to a majestic destination like Frankfurt.

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Frankfurt has the distinction of being one of the few cities in the European Union to have a Manhattan-like skyline thanks to its numerous skyscrapers and high-rise buildings. Germany’s business capital is bound to have a vibrant cultural scene and for art lovers, it is nothing short of paradise. The stunning city is home to St├Ądel Institute of Art with the Municipal Gallery, the Museum of Applied Art and the Schirn Kunsthalle gallery. Those who enjoy immersing themselves in nature will be wowed by the parks, forests and bits of unspoilt wilderness in the Frankfurt Rhein-Main-Area. And here is a behind the scenes look at the most efficient and comfortable way to get there (https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=1010481858977855&set=vb.139211742771542&type=2&theater):



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The first commercial flight took place between St. Petersburg and Tampa and covered just 21 miles of bay waters. The flight took 23 minutes and was piloted by Tony Jannus and his one paying passenger. The plane was a Benoist XIV with a seating capacity of just two! And now we have the Lufthansa A380 with a capacity of 520 passengers! What better evidence of the fact that bigger is better for Indian aviation than the reality that flights can today carry thousands and millions of passengers everyday, to their dream destinations? Imagine if these wonderful crafts were still the privilege of the astonishingly rich alone. You and I, we’d still be taking ferries, braving storms and spending months to touch foreign shores.

This post was written as a part of the Indiblogger and Lufthansa A380 – The dawn of a new era initiative to celebrate ‘why bigger is better for Indian aviation’

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The road not taken: What could have been.


I define myself primarily as a writer. It doesn't matter what I write about or for whom. What matters is, I work with words. I arrange them in a way that they (hopefully) create value. But I did not always plan on doing this for 48 hours a week.

Back in school, I loved animals and plants. I observed birds, wrote about exotic species and obsessively memorised the details of butterflies I hoped to spot. I entertained dreams of becoming an environmentalist or studying biodiversity, at the very least. The reason I didn't do it is really silly - I wasn't great at mathematics. And I was under the (perhaps erroneous) impression that it is impossible to get ahead in the science stream without a passion and an aptitude for numbers. I chose the safer route - I went for Arts. Languages and social sciences were my fortes. There was no way I could go wrong with that. And indeed, I didn't.

Yet when I saw LinkedIn's new hashtag #RoadNotTaken, the one regret that came to mind was the passion I sacrificed at the altar of practicality. There were many things I know now, that I wish someone had told me then. I wish someone had told me that you do not have to study journalism or writing or English, to be a good and even a professional writer. I wish I had known that subject matter expertise actually allows you more scope in writing, as it gives you in-depth knowledge of one area, rather than a shallow overview of many. I wish I had known that one did not have to excel at mathematics in order to study biology. I wish someone had alerted me about the fact that being a scientist was an excellent choice for my introverted personality. Above all, I wish I had had the courage to explore something beyond my obvious strengths.

However, the thing about the #RoadNotTaken is, you'll never know where it might have led. Maybe, aiming to be an environmentalist would have turned out to be a monumental mistake. Yet, I do believe that there are no mistakes in life. There are only choices and consequences. If you're fortunate enough to get an opportunity to take the #RoadNotTaken even after you've made a choice, I suggest you don't let it go. Because the 'what ifs' always return to haunt you, sometime or the other.

The other thing I want to emphasise on is the need to guide students better and make all kinds of practical job-related information available to them. They need much more than a cursory knowledge of the top three careers related to each stream - Arts, Science and Commerce. They need to know about salaries, long-term prospects and the trade-off in choosing one discipline over the other. They require access to well-informed career advisors and counsellors. And they need to be told that fear has no place in the quest for success and fulfilment. Then perhaps, there will be fewer #RoadsNotTaken.

Do you have a #RoadNotTaken story to share? I'd love to hear it.

This post was originally published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141120110448-47567319--roadnottaken-what-could-have-been

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The touch of love


I never thought I'd be a victim of the 'seven year itch'. After all, these were just pop cultural terms you read in magazines and on social media. Little did they invade your own life and confront you with their unsavoury meanings. I was so wrong.

You know how it gets with married couples after a while. You live together, you share everything and eventually, you fall into this comfortable routine that starts to become second nature to both of you. There's nothing wrong with this. The only problem is, eventually, you forget that you're a couple that's meant to love each other and revel in each other's companionship. You forget that you're more than just two people living under the same roof, sharing the same food and the same bed. You forget that eating together is an act of love, and so is spending your days and nights together.

A few days before our seventh wedding anniversary, I came across the new TVC for Parachute Advansed Body Lotion. I was randomly flipping through TV channels on a lazy Sunday and suddenly, these sensual images of the entwining hands of a man and woman arrested my attention. The simple phenomenon of skin-to-skin contact - it seemed so magical as demonstrated in the advertisement. Suddenly, I was seized by a desire to hold my husband's hand. I wanted to feel his reassuring warmth and slip my softness into his. But alas, the skin on my fingers were peeling, thanks to the winter coolness. I was pretty sure our contact would be nothing like what I saw in the ad! Something would have to be done.

I went to http://www.pblskin.com/ to see what this product was all about. I saw that they had three delectable variants, although I only knew about the lavender coloured bottle - deep nourish, soft touch and butter smooth. All the lotions claimed to give you softer skin in seven days. 'Just a gimmick', I thought. But I wanted to do something to make our anniversary special. I stopped weighing the pros and cons and went ahead and ordered the 'butter smooth' variety, meant for rough, dry skin.

If I told you that my husband couldn't stop feeling my skin during our anniversary dinner, you'd probably think I was exaggerating. But I'm not. That lotion worked wonders, both on my skin and my relationship with my husband of seven years. It's not like he's never wanted to touch me before, but the knowledge that my skin was silky smooth, emboldened me to take the initiative myself. I'd forgotten how good it felt to have his fingertips caress the sensitive skin in the crook of my arm and at the nape of my neck.

Do you want to #BringBackTheTouch in your relationship as well? I suggest you try Parachute Advansed Body Lotion. It's perhaps the most affordable option in the winter lotion market right now. And it's superbly effective as well. What more does a woman need?

(This post was written as a part of Indiblogger and Parachute Advansed Body Lotion's #BringBackTheTouch campaign)

The right to dignity

At Pandharpur, a pilgrimage town. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Little Babli thinks it's normal to go about her morning ablutions in full view of the world. Her parents have instructed her to sit with her back facing the world, and so she never sees what they really think of her. Babli is an open target for diseases of various kinds, and even abduction. But this is the only way she knows. She has never used a toilet except when she goes to the school or the doctor. She lives in a shanty with no water supply. Whose fault is this? Her parents? Her destiny? Or society at large?

The lines of children, men and women that we routinely see along the railway lines and along dusty city lanes have become the subject of one of the many jokes that are routinely cracked around India. But for the innocent little children who are subjected to numerous health and safety hazards every single day, it's not really funny at all.

Nobody chooses to subject themselves to the indignity of open defecation. It is a result of poor sanitation facilities, which is the responsibility of the government and society as a whole. The following measures might serve to discourage such undesirable practices:
  • Public toilets within every kilometre, with minimal or no charge
  • Fines for open defecation in an area with access to public toilets
  • Awareness campaigns in schools on the need for sanitation
  • Fund-raising and petitioning for building more public toilets
One organisation that is working towards making this world a happier, safer place for Babli and her friends is Domex. Domex, HUL’s flagship sanitation brand, currently runs the Domex Toilet Academy (DTA) programme. Domex Toilet Academy was launched on 19th November 2013. It aims to become a sustainable and long-term solution to provide sanitation that benefits the local community and helps stimulate the local economy. The Toilet Academy claims to make toilets accessible and affordable, while promoting the benefits of clean toilets and good hygiene. According to Domex, their effort has resulted in bringing a change in the villages of Maharashtra and Orissa and the brand aims to build 24000 toilets by 2015 in rural areas faced with the problem of open defecation.This is a noble goal indeed, which if achieved, will go a long way in bringing a smile on Babli's face.

Maintenance is the biggest issue when it comes to public toilets. Often, what starts out as good initiatives falls into disrepair due to lack of funds and monitoring. Take the case of railway station toilets in Mumbai for instance. Most of them are absolutely unusable, apart from the ones at major stations like CST and Churchgate. We need sustained efforts to make low-cost public sanitation available at every corner of the country. And we need to change a mindset that thinks urinating in public spaces is completely acceptable.

You can bring about the change in the lives of millions of kids, thereby showing your support for the Domex Initiative. All you need to do is click on the 'Contribute' tab on www.domex.in and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Babli live a dignified life.

(This post has been submitted as part of Indiblogger's #ToiletforBabli initiative, in association with Domex)

Fleeting magic


One hour amidst winding woodsy paths
And secret staircases and hidden, tuneful birds
Grew wings in my memory,
Stretched time,
Let moments wander,
Into the realm of hours.

Now when I dance backwards into time,
I find the music slower, prettier,
Our words longer, more punctuated,
And it almost makes up -
For the sorry shortness of that golden hour.

It's funny how, 
I remember the silences better than the words
And the fleeting magic better 
Than the emptiness that came after.

Now when I dance backwards into time,
I can smell the sunny, sweet scent of the Southern air
I can see the trees watching us with languid eyes
I can feel the sweat making ticklish inroads down my back
I can hear the buzz of honey-thirsty bees 
And I wonder how much of it is embellished memory.

And it's funny how,
I remember the light on your hair better than the light itself
And the arc of your smiles better
Than the arc of the path that brought us there.