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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Happy Book Lovers Day

In the stillness of a summer afternoon, in the chatter of a busy street, on a cold winter night when it is snowing outside, when I am happy, when I am sad, when I extend my hand to touch you with my half-closed eyes the first thing in the morning, when I walk in the rain but cover you with my embrace, when you protect me from the scorching sun, when I smell your pages and feelings stir inside, when I weep resting my head on you, when you comfort me in my loneliest nights, when my eyes light up when I talk about you, when I read and reread you but never think I have known you enough-let me count the ways I love you. Happy Book Lovers Day.

Also, 10 ways to celebrate

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Volunteering for non-profits

I have volunteered for a considerable number of non-profits in the past and will continue to do so. I always advice my friends to find time to volunteer because:
  1. Networking: You make new friends. Some of the best friends of my adult life are from volunteer gigs. A common interest is always a good place to start a relationship; personal or professional..
  2. Team spirit: Your ability to work within teams improves. Of course, you don't get paid in money, but you learn and practice skills that are not taught in school. In older days, success meant being competitive. Now, it is all about your ability to bring value to the team. No one likes a genius asshole. The quicker you grasp that, the better it is. 
  3. You learn better time management. Someone said to me recently: 'You organize your time very well.You wear so many hats. I am impressed.' I thought to myself I could have never learned it if I were selfish about sharing my time. You know Parkinson's Law, right? Now, here is the Kar's Law 8.5.14: You can wear as many hats as you let your head.
  4. Self-restraint : You learn to smile better. A good amount of your success depends on being likeable (assuming you are already an established genius asshole. If you are just mediocre, don't bury your ideas in your effort to be likeable. Red flag there.). And trust me, it is a learnable skill. Unfortunately, people will not care if you had a bad day. For them, the moment of truth is when you interact with them. If you appear unsympathetic during that single moment, then they will assign a personality trait that might not be typically yours. Exposing yourself to a diverse mix of personalities improves your self-restraint. You learn to compartmentalize your emotions. The show goes on.
I was offered to be a board member of a non-profit I am associated with, which if I accepted (in my late 20s) would make me the youngest board member. Cool, right? Wrong. Here are a few things to consider why-

 -How aligned is their mission with your career objectives? Because you have to accept, you have a primary responsibility - your regular job.

 -How much willing are you to share your time with the same kind of people? It would become an obligation, at least for me, to stay in touch to facilitate communication and rapport. Are you prepared to be doing that on your days off? Or would you rather be networking within your professional sphere and unwinding with your friends? 

 -I understand that volunteering is more about what you believe in, but what if you want your primary identity to be your career? There is nothing wrong in being ambitious and wanting to dedicate a major part of your time in learning new skills required to be more competent at your job. You have to make a trade-off here and by declining some offers you are actually committing to focus on what is really important to you. 

 -Don't get dragged into the agenda of someone else. Have the discipline to say 'no' even if the offer sounds lucrative in the short-term. 

 Lastly, I'd like to say that when money is not the motivation, the power struggles become much more pronounced because humans are attuned to have a social hierarchy. Unfulfilled promises and hurt expectations bring a lot of negativity in your life. Are you willing to be in that environment and try and formulate a new protocol or would you rather be an outsider, observing and taking notes? If you want, dive in!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Life is a pilgrimage

As a child, I often wondered why some of the revered temples in India are located in not-so-easy to access places. Instead of building it on a high altitude, why didn't they build it at the base of the mountain? Now, I think it is more about the journey. Days of traveling for your destination, bearing both physical and mental hardships, challenging yourself to face those and completing your itinerary. Meeting others on the way, exchanging stories, and of course, becoming friends. And when you are done, planning the next undertaking.

Life is like that. When you feel something is particularly difficult to achieve, think of the distance you have covered so far. Give yourself a pat on the back and keep walking. There is still so much to see.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Agartala? Where is that?

Recently, a Kaun Banega Crorepati promo (the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire) has gone viral, and for good reasons.

I shared it on FB and Twitter too, with the message:Do not alienate your own people. If you see others doing it, educate them. I have great belief in the present and the future generations and in their commitment towards equality.

A lot of people ask me where I am from. The typical response is- 'Oh, is that in Assam?' and an accompanying sense of accomplishment with the query. I want to say- 'As much as Puri is in West Bengal', 'Seriously, at least remember the capitals!', 'How much did you score in Geography in school?', but I put on a blank expression and pretend they do not exist. Inner peace.

Then there are the concerned responses: Is it difficult being so isolated geographically? I have to say that social conditions are much better than most other 'connected' places. Then again, I might be wrong. A school senior asked me to comment on a post about the recent malaria outbreak in Tripura. This is what I had to say:

Here is my two cents worth since you particularly asked for it: I have been always proud of my state (Statistics: Literacy rate: 94.65%, Vote turnout: 93%) but the recent teacher recruitment fiasco and the malaria outbreak has left a bitter taste in my mouth. We, Indians, love to lie on the sofa and play the blame game because that saves us from shouldering our responsibilities which takes courage and strength. What the state needs now are social leaders who will raise awareness and funds, mobilize volunteers and be at the coalface of the outbreak. My comments within the comforts of my home -cussing out the mosquitoes, or the state or Central government will yield negative emotions and resentment, but no positive action towards a solution.

You know what I am getting at, right? No one pays attention because we are dependent on government aid, dependent on the labors of others, 'dependent'. The solution is to be self-sufficient.

Now, there might be some observational bias, but I see a lot of bright people in Bay Area who hail from Tripura. We were told when we were very young that the only way to be successful in life is through knowledge; therefore, we try to learn. Because knowledg means freedom from limitations. Freedom to choose our own path anywhere in this world. Freedom to be whoever we want to be. Most of us are from middle-class families with no family business or legacy fortune for sustained income. We are supposed to start from scratch, build our lives somewhere else- be it in India or abroad. But why could we not dream of staying where we were and still be considered successful? You got it- resources. Though, hopefully, things are changing now.

And this is not the story of only the north eastern states. The NASA Program Manager from a relatively unknown village from South India, or the CEO of a tech start-up whose dream, while growing up in a nondescript town in Madhya Pradesh, was to build a product that can diagnose lung cancer at an early stage. Examples abound. In the wider world, they all belong to- you guessed it right- India.

When you succeed in the worldly terms, it is your responsibility to speak about your roots. Let your good work be associated with your provenance, though, some people do not like to be connected to their past.

The diversity of India is a matter or pride, not of ridicule. And I really hope that the future generation will dream of unified India, embrace the differences and celebrate them. Because the only way you can really progress is by holding hands, not by pushing each other down.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

A Farewell to Orkut

I heard it in online conversations, now the mail from Google confirmed it.

It was like the death of an old friend we had stopped caring about. I went to Google Takeout and archived the memories. Those who want to do it: Google ' Google Takeout', Click on 'Create an archive' option, Select Orkut. It will download the profile and photos in a zip folder.

Here are some of the testimonials I had on my Orkut profile, saving it for rainy days (some of my friends deleted their account and are listed as 'anonymous'):

A special mention to dad's testimonial on my birthday in 2008, which was my birthday gift that year.

Anonymous - May 5, 2010 at 10:04 PM I was reading the testimonials...but let me tell u... words fall short of explaining Aparna--she is simply DIFFERENT.....and I mean it.. How ??? well, I am not sure how i cud define...but i can tell u...if you talk to her or read her features .. for the next 30 mintues or so you bcome a different man.

Pramit (classmate from HCS) - November 6, 2009 at 9:41 PM "Aparna...The Warrior Princess........" Always ready for an ACTION....It doesnt matter whether she is holding a "Pen or A SwOrd"..she kNows the aRt of using both of them...nicely and with full AccUracy...sHe will always leave a MARK..Besides that as a human being she is fun loving and adVenTurous and A DeaR friend to me....I have seen her LoVing and CaRing Nature and also seen the "DRagOn" inside her....In both of her forms she leaps over all boundaries...We have had Great Fun in school days....and those memories of our fights and debates on every smalL IsSue will always comfort us and gift us with a SMiLe in the FuTuRe......and also in the days PasSing By...

Puja Raut (my roomie in Boston) - March 27, 2009 at 10:13 AM Cheerful, down to earth and a reliable friend. Can instantly pose for stunning pictures and can laze the whole day writing creative stuff for all her fans. Great cook! Try out her awesome baked recipies and not to miss the " Kheer". If you take her out for dinner, and if she closes her eyes while eating, Boom!! She is relishing the food duh!! "Banda Pagal hai" is Appu's patent dialogue. So all you guys BEWARE before opening your hearts to this great listener! Spent some good times with her to cherish all my life. I wish Appu the best for her future endeavours.

Anonymous - August 6, 2008 at 8:26 AM APARNA KAR for the world but for me she is that Kid "Appu" friend from school. She is an enigma...with lots of potentials waiting to be unfolded. At the moment the world is in need of people like her who can be truthful and faithful to their dreams...who can bring their words and actions in one track. Dear I have learnt about ur book from ur profile but m not yet privileged to read that...will do that one day...but even without reading i can guarantee its gonna ba a masterpiece and i know it is. Well an intelligent young woman who can capture ur heart with her beautiful eyes....turn off ur speech with the intensity of her gray matter...soothe you with her compassion when you are in need ....! She is that human being you can rely natural simple...yet so gorgeous and adorable. love u ...may God bless you!

Dr. Sangram Ganguly - 8 de março de 2008 22:21 you are the ultimate girl ... accept it... baci baci

Aniruddha Bhattacharya - 6 de dezembro de 2007 14:31 Aparna, aka Apu, as I lovingly call her, is my kiddo friend .. do not remember how we got introduced, did we ever ? But kinda remember her commenting on my weirdo profile pic during the Beta phase of orkut, probably early 2004. She appeared part confused, part suave, part jovial, part clownish, part loving, part didn't somebody (was it Freud or Jung?) say the whole is more than the some of the parts? As we got acquainted on orkut, with time, the flirt in me took a veritable backseat and gave way to affection, and my fondness for her grew courtesy our sporadic telephonic conversations. She came to me as a sweet mannered, giggly, naive and vulnerable young soul who wanted a way in life. Well, Apu finally has broken the jinx of immaturity and naiveté (though I wish she does remain naive and pristine as before) and has embarked on to successful channels in life All the love for you dear.. do be happy in life

Anonymous - 4 de julho de 2007 10:05 "She is a Goddess", and I have no doubts about it. As she has wisely said, "when demi-gods go, Goddess arrives" :) I am not sure if I have more appropriate words, but yes, She is one of those I want to spend some enlightening time with over a coffee...and lucky me, she has agreed for the same.

Subhendu Kahaly - 9 de março de 2007 15:31 A creature in its journey towards humanity...On the verge of the transformation...

sYzYgY (Prasenjit Dey) . - 15 de janeiro de 2007 17:17 had she been an alien.. she would have had a million tentacles, each with million colours... had she been a tree, she would have had her root with billion branches spread around thousands of miles.. and way deep to touch the heart of the earth... well, thats just one or two of endless things you can imagine to describe her. Lemme make it easy for you all. If you like this girl without a second thought, feel happy that your intuition is sooo right. If you don't..then... no no don't think you are confounded... you can still like her and you'd be surprised to find on a magical day that your intuitions are not cheating you anymore.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

All characters are imaginary

Man: So, what do you do for a living?
Prospective Groom: I am a story teller. I spin stories about products so that people can relate to them.
Man: That's alright.. But what do you do?
Prospective Groom: Oh, you mean job title? Brand Manager.
Man: How much do you earn?
Prospective Groom: About 100k, plus bonuses.
Man: But you are not an Engineer?
Prospective Groom: No.
Man: Oh (disappointed)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Confessions of a Marketer

Your profession makes an impression on your character. Policemen often develop a good eye for things, lawyers have good ears, and teachers should have a gift of the gab. Someone in marketing should learn peacocking early in life. There is no place for introverts here. Sure, I like to curl up on the sofa with my preferred device, a cup of tea, (maybe a cuddly kitten) and type away to glory, but every day I have to think- how can I help others reach their target audience in this world of clutter ? It is advised to have a dialogue, not one-way communication that only pushes their agenda. Followers like authentic, responsive and compelling content.

And sometimes, you have to be obnoxiously cocky. Feign it. Believe in it. I think I was born for this.

Now that I have done some shameless self-promotion, let us get to the crux of this post- how do you motivate talented but invisible members of your team to be more involved? It is a well-known fact that some work cultures prefer extroverts over introverts. Yet, sometimes introverts have a lot more to add to a discussion than they readily contribute. What you need to tell your introvert employees is that networking is a learnable skill. Also, rapport building need not be an exclusive trait of the extroverts. It is more essential to have a few meaningful relations than several superficial ones. Think of it as your Klout score. Your influence is measured by your ability to drive people into action. If an introvert spends 40 mins on 5 prospects and converts 3 of them, but an extrovert talks to 20 and converts only 2- whom would you rather have? A good team has a healthy balance of both and a leader should make it conducive for all kinds of employees to thrive in their ecosystem.

Also, read why marketing needs more introverts on HBR blog.