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Month: December 2020

A wise old lovebird.

In my final year at Christ University, our classes had moved to the third block which was in Birds park. A sober-looking building tucked under the girl’s hostel and surrounded with lush greenery that attracted over 53 species of birds round the year.

I hated the 500-metre sprint from the parking to the block’s main door because I was perpetually late to the campus.

Unfailingly, I would miss the first hour because The CU logic was that the farthest block’s door would close first!

Consequently, I always had sufficient time to spend with students from other blocks and the packed cages of love birds. I’d feed them leaves and tease them with twigs.

For days, I’d compare both the birds and I were caged! They were in a metal cage and I was in a concrete one.

With a minimum of 85% attendance and a startup focused on college students I was practically grounded in my University campus!

I remember when I audaciously interrupted a professor from entering the block because he too was late!

Rules were rules, right?

Nope, turns out CU logic doesn’t work that way.

I was suspended for a day with a stern warning and had to kill time till my friends got done. So, I was fiddling around the caged love birds when my sight fell on an unusual white bird.

It almost made me puke!

It wasn’t flying but hopping from one Matka (earthen pot) to another. It had lost most of its wings and its pale like wax skin was visible at random spots throughout its body.

I went through many emotions noticing that bird. Anger, pity, frustration and awe.

But that flightless bird grounded me.

Even after being ravaged, It was still alive and surviving! It couldn’t fly but was hopping. It couldn’t lovingly peck other birds yet was constantly messing around and having fun. It relished the grains and the leaves that I thrust through the square gaps in the cage.

That old bird was having the time of its life.

When I would be in trouble (which was almost aways!) I’d go check on the bird. It was thriving and so I’d go right back and figure things through.

I remember one day around graduation when I was brewing an audacious plan: To crack open the cage’s fragile lock and set the birds free!

I was calculating the logistics of this plan. So, I could get away unnoticed and the birds would be set free!

There was only one problem: I was beyond terrified that that white bird wouldn’t make it in the real world! Here, it was protected, well-fed and nurtured.

Just then Payal, a friend who was also late nudged me out of my deep brooding as I looked at the birds. She enquired what was I up to and I spelt out the idea and the dilemma.

Then, she effortlessly quoted something biblical that shifted the way I looked at the dilemma!

I don’t remember the exact phrase but it meant that if He can take care of the smallest of being’s needs, won’t he take care of me?!

It wasn’t the bird’s survival I was terrified of! It was my survival after graduation. I let the plan go, thanked Payal and the bird. It had truly prevailed as a wise teacher!

I resolved to not look for a job and instead to build something on my own.

If the featherless, balding and aged lovebird could thrive, Couldn’t I?

Will you show up?

People, opportunities and money are everywhere!

Never before did we have a human population inching to 8 billion, problems that are pushing us to extinction and money being printed (and virtually generated) so rampantly!

Will you show up to organise individuals and money to solve problems that matter?

Don’t wait to be chosen, pick yourself up to start small, stay focused and build steadily.

Filtering your heritage

Now that you know the significance of your traditional practices, cultural approaches and cliched superstitions what will you do about it?

Because, you are inheriting your family’s spiritual, social and personal heritage.

What if you stepped beyond understanding the practices and followed what truly mattered?

You are a worthwhile filter for your heritage.

Use and nurture instead.

We’ve been building a culture that defaults on “use and throw”. From plastic cups to fast fashion to even the way, we lead our people.

It’s easy to let go of responsibility and feel light. Yet, everything discarded piles up and catches up with you!

We need to change course from “use and throw” to “use and nurture.”

When we maintain something we truly own it. Start with a small object and build the habit.

2 rotis

As a kid, I noticed an unusual practice: Dadi always cooked 2 extra rotis!

She is a calculative, creative and prudent cook who repurposed almost everything leftover, didn’t let go a drop of ghee, scraped the empty milk cover with warm water and efficiently ran the kitchen close to 0% wastage yet when it came to rotis she ensured that there was at least 2 extra in her aluminium roti-box!

When I would quiz her, she’d say her usual dialogue with pride: There will always be food in Bai’s kitchen!

I further observed, when a guest or two came unannounced (which was commonplace) she’d feed them happily and there would still be sufficient food for the rest of us!

Sabzi and daal would usually get over but the rotis were always there! And they could be had with pickle, curd or just ghee and jaggery!

There was no scarcity!

Roti was the perfect buffer!

What if you and I identified what mattered and created meaningful buffers like this?

Receiving a Marwadi manwar like a royal

5 quick ground rules before we begin:

  1. Know your appetite. A typical Marwadi meal with sumptuous manwar lasts about 90-120 minutes. It’s best to not eat anything 3-hours before the meal. Wear comfortable pant! Seeing guests struggle with their pants is a sore sight.
  2. Saying no is OK. We will explore multiple methods below to do it with grace and preserve the host’s face.
  3. Use all your 5 fingers. Isolating a finger(s) when taking bites is a bad sign. Elders will read into it.
  4. Wasting food is frowned upon. You are expected to eat 100% of the meal. (An unusual trick is listed below to impress the host)
  5. You may be seated on the floor and sharing a single massive thaali with multiple people. The prana of your meal will be high so let go of your inhibitions and awkwardness.

Manwar begins at the door:

  1. Never be the empty-handed guest! Take a gift along with you for the host. A box of Badam Katli never fails!
  2. Only sip water. Guests usually tend to chug water (which is offered first). This zaps appetite; Many still shy away from using washrooms in new territories! (Bonus: practice to take a sip from the glass without using your lips and make sure the water doesn’t drop on your clothing or drool from your lips. Water must hit the back of your tongue first

At the meal:

  1. Eat fewer sweets and chew them slowly. (Trick: chew it longer. Count for 32 bites). Caution: Many guests start enthusiastically only to exhaust 40% of their appetite with just sweets!
  2. Pace your chewing. Be the slowest to complete a bite in the group. This will regulate your appetite and make the host think you are enjoying the food
  3. Let the ghee flow. Ghee is liquid gold! Allow all your fingers to be dripping with ghee throughout the meal. The food is refined over generations to work with umpteen amounts of ghee. Trust it.
  4. Make space to accommodate the hosts manwar! Plan and eat only up to 70% of your appetite! (You’ll become the host’s favourite!)
  5. Request the host to mix traditional Marwadi foods for you like Daal-baati, Sogra and jaggery, etc. They’ll happily hand-grind the piping hot food for you and teach you the best way to eat it too! This boosts your meals Prana!
  6. The trick to complete the meal 100% is to make a Gutta. Essentially mixing everything in the plate with Daal to create a unique combination. Request the host to make this for you! (They’ll be delighted!)
  7. Most Marwaris give up just before the Gutta and this is where you can stand out! Because you’ve planned and saved your appetite for it! It’s truly a one of a kind approach to manage wastage and the taste is unique in every bite!

Post the meal:

  1. The youngest in the group picks the thaali. Allow them to. If no one does, volunteer to pick the plate and keep it near the sink.
  2. Ditch the chewing gum, polo mints or a little foil packet instead, carry a beautiful, small silver box or silk pouch with unusual beetle nut (hard supari) and offer it to the group! They’ll be surprised and elated!

Ways to decline when the host insists:

  1. If you can and are willing, take a small bite as if you are tasting it instead of the full bit that’s offered.
  2. If no, ask the guest to give you something else that you liked! (Most will mentally thank you for saving their face!)
  3. If both are not an option. Decline like a method actor is rehearsing a dialogue: Repeat the exact sentence with the same tone, volume and pace. A typical host will offer you something a minimum of 3 times! Politely say: I’m full because I overate X/ relished Y/ saving space for Z.
  4. Avoid insisting on feeding something back to them or a verbal tussle. Instead, if everything fails accept the food and save it for the end. Let your appetite decide when the time is right.

The slow death of manwar

Marwaris over generations refined their code of hospitality. Together referred to as Manwar, A way of treating other Marwadi’s (usually over meals).

However, over the years it has eroded:

  • From a massive thali where 6 or more individuals sat snugly around on the floor to relish their meal to dining at a table with individual plates.
  • Ghee was a matter of pride for the host (The cups of ghee per dish ratio was unbelievable! Your average khichadi would turn moonstone white!) and now its dwindled to an occasional teaspoon!
  • From the host generously offering the guest with all his heart multiple times (3 was a minimum) it has been degraded to a situation where refusing is taken personally by the host. Usually leading to an uncomfortable tussle or food being wasted.

The young Marwadi is abandoning this tradition by the truckload!

I have loved it over the years and it saddens me that I am witnessing its slow but steady demise.

Yet, I believe it could be revived. More on this on the next blog.

Practice baby steps

We know an acceptable answer to all our problems. Yet what bothers is the lack of implementation of those answers.

We don’t like to live with our problems, at least in our heads yet when seen from a 3-rd person’s perspective it’s glaringly evident that we have become comfortable living with our problems!

What if, you committed to taking a baby step (nothing drastic, paradigm shifting or latest). Just take a baby step towards making your common sense a common practice.

One baby step after another. Slowly yet steadily as you let the practice stack up the results will show.

Not over-night but definitely over-time.

The business model of secrets

Most secrets are worth-less.

Yet, As a culture, we get worked up, pay or even play dumb to find it out.

Building up moats around common sense and glorifying it is a viable business model until it isn’t.

Looking for a secret is a form of hiding.

You are better off facing your inner resistance and making something happen.

When you do so, people will prod you for your secret!

Their ain’t any. Go, make something meaningful instead.