Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Thursday, 28 February 2013
After the heart breaking Delhi gang-rape incident in December and ahead of my TED2013 talk I felt that I must do something.
The whole idea of Billionaires of Moments is to recognize moments that need to be remembered. A reminder of incidents both great and gory. The current edition is to pay homage to the young rape victim from Delhi.
We want to capture the reactions this incident evoked around the world. While we find ways to personal safety, WE MUST NEVER FORGET this incident.
I am sure that if we not let this incident slip out of our conscience, then change will definitely happen. Here is a growing crowd-sourced collection of such moments. It is important that we express ourselves, may it be through our own words or words from someone else. Our effort is to magnify every moment -- your feelings, your reactions, your thoughts and actions.
Please take a moment to submit your thoughts and go through the submissions of others.
BOM Project on twitter: http://twitter.com/BOMproject
BOM Project on Facebook: http://facebook.com/BOMproject
Wednesday, 2 January 2013
All this got me thinking of what has media become and what lengths we are willing to go to get a story / to get a laugh ..even if it is for a split second. The joke played by the RJs would be in public memory for a week or two but the hurt it caused Jacinda could have lived with her all her life EVEN IF she was alive. The RJs have been removed from their jobs, their twitter account suspended making it seem as though it was their fault. But, I think that the blame should rest on us.. each one of us who has gotten used to being a voyeur even at the cost of someone else’s feelings. As time went by, we all have become insensitive to the feelings that we hurt along the way. The horrible nicknames we give in college that stick for the rest of their lives, how we make fun of those who look a little different, kids taping their friends in compromising positions and webcasting them, the pranks that we play – all lead to a very unhealthy living. Do we need to hurt someone to have a laugh? If we pick on public figures, that is one thing but I feel strongly that we should not pick on simple citizens who are minding their own business. We have to invest new ways of entertaining ourselves that does not involve others.
Photo credit: dailyrecord.co.uk
Photo credit: dailyrecord.co.uk
Saturday, 29 December 2012
Nine years ago, in the early hours of one day, I gave birth to my son. A small group of people consisting of my friends and family rejoiced with me. In the early hours of today, a mother lost her daughter and the world is mourning with her. When I first heard of the Delhi rape, I was saddened, hurt and even angered. Today, I am truly shaken by the brutality of the rape that actually killed her. What kind of an attack she must have been subject to … to have her internal organs fail and have her heart stop. I do not know her name or her family but this morning, I wept and hung my head in shame for silently witnessing this crime, and for our collective inability to prevent it. I think part of the problem is the language we use. She is being called “Amanat” (treasure) but we should really call her “Trampled” or “Trashed” because this is exactly what we did to her. We trampled all over her … WE … all of us who have been witnessing this …trampled all over her and thrown her on the street.
I know that the police and the politicians are going to be worried about the outburst of anger on the streets, the activists are going to be busy with planning protests, journalists are going to write articles and citizens like me are going to fill the blogosphere and every possible social networking avenue. We are all going to be outraged today in our own way.
Here is how I paid homage in my own way. One is, I sat with my eyes closed experienced the pure physical pain this 23-year-old medical student must have gone through as she was being gang raped by men driving around the streets of the very city we proudly call our capital.… just so that I NEVER forget this. And the second thing I did was to remember something that Gloria Steinem said “,We've begun to raise our daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” If I stop and think for a second of the men who raped her, I wonder what was going through their minds to be that brutal, to turn such a deaf ear to screams of pain, to derive any pleasure out of the most gory attack. I want to know what they must have heard when they were growing up to think that THIS is what it means to be a man. Maybe we all should look at ourselves and never ask our sons not to “cry like a girl” when they are being sensitive or not call them a “sissy” if they don’t want to play sports or not call them a “weirdo” if they are not interested in being a Casanova. I feel sorry for the mother of the “Trampled” soul and also feel terrible for the mothers of men who committed the rape. What must they be going through to witness this side of their sons. Today, I made a promise to myself to raise my son more like a daughter and teach him what it really means to be a “huMAN”.
Sunday, 9 September 2012
My job at INK is to collect people – whether they have anything to do with what we do or not. I always admire people who have a vision, take a stand and be with it way before anyone else can even understand what they are talking about. Here is a story of the man who pursued a vision for a greener world -- way before it was fashionable.
Today, we talk about Hybrids, Electric vehicles, and sustainability as part of our natural language. But imagine thinking about it 18 years ago. And then to take something as precious as your mother’s name and put on a project that is at best a pipe dream. This is exactly what Chetan Maini did. He launched Reva giving shape to his dreams of a greener world. And he did it in India where he hardly got any support. At a time when outsourcing was just picking up, at a time when MNCs were looking for smart, young professionals to run their companies, at a time when he could have relaxed on family money, he chose to dream. When Chetan started Reva as a joint venture between the Maini group and AEV systems in 1994, he took baby steps in giving shape to his passion and he did not let go of that passion through tough times, even when progress seem to be at a standstill. Over the years, I have heard all types of comments on Reva - some positive, some luke warm but all those who meet Chetan will agree on one thing – he is committed to his vision and is determined to make a difference in his own quiet way. Along the way, he conveyed the dream to Mahindra and got them as his partner.
|run on the sun|
|Sun 2 car|
|Car 2 home|
I was impressed by all the advances, the design, the thought process that went into it, the amazing extended team that worked on it –architects Atelier D’arts to brand company Idiom to name a few- but what I was most happy about was that I got to witness a happy interlude to the persuasion of passion. Sitting here in 2012, we are celebrating having an Indian company at the cutting edge of a global revolution and what I see is the hard work that has been put in for the last 18 years, the countless lonely moments Chetan must have experienced standing alone in the seat of responsibility, the evaluation process he had to go through before he let someone else be a partner in his dream. As an entrepreneur, I can understand how tough it is to choose to bring someone into your world. It needs to be someone who does not interfere with your passion and opens new doors; who lets you follow your dream and interferes only to set the course right if things go awry; who stands next to you in the spotlight but does not let you fall in their shadow. And I think that Chetan found that perfect partner in Anand Mahindra. And this is why-
At the inaguration of the Mahindra Reva green factory, Anand stood in front of the press to make the opening speech and he started off with acknowledging Chetan and his family for the pursuit of their collective dream. Anand made sure that even with the addition of the Mahindra name, the dreamer remained at the center of attention. In that one gesture, I felt that Chetan picked the right partner who would let him pursue what he was best at, improve the rest at an accelerated pace and make it possible for India to produce one of the most cutting edge innovative products on a global stage.
I was impressed with the technology, excited by the possibility of Indian innovation making a global impact but mostly what I am rooting for is the possibility for the passion of an individual to be fueled by the reach of a large corporation while keeping the entrepreneurial spirit intact. I celebrate the friendship between Anand and Chetan, and hope that they grow together. We talk about corporate structures, practices, supply chain improvements and many other issues but I know that the MOST IMPORTANT thing that matters in the success of Mahindra Reva is the relationship between Anand and Chetan, and I wish them all the luck to continue their journey as friends and partners.
Sunday, 26 August 2012
I grew up in India loving movies. It was our family tradition to go to the movies every Sunday evening, and that love for movies continues even today. When I immigrated to the US in 1983, my interaction with Indian cinema reduced considerably. In 2001, I started visiting India more often and worked across India as part of large philanthropic projects. During one of my trips to India, I was travelling from Bombay to Delhi. I was in the last bus that drives you from the terminal to the plane, and there were only a handful of people in the bus. As we approached the staircase, I saw an old man in a white khadi churidar and kurta, making his way slowly and painstakingly up the stairs. An airlines employee was carrying his bag while giving him a hand. The old man was shaking slightly. I waited patiently at the bottom of the stairs till they reached the entry to the plane, as I did not want to hurry them. When I entered the plane, I glanced casually at the older gentleman who was settled in business class. He looked familiar but I could not place him. Almost an hour into the flight, I realized that the old man was Rajesh Khanna and it really shook me. And this is why.
My 25 years in the US also included working in Hollywood and
meeting stars. I don’t claim to be close friends with any of them but I worked
with them in close quarters and learned to treat them as equals. I got to see
them as human beings with their own mood swings and faults. So, I was not in
awe of them. But the Indian cinema of my childhood was different. I remember my
older sister and her friends debating Rajesh Khanna vs. Dharmendra. I remember
the splash that Rajesh Khanna made with movies like Aradhana, Anand, etc., I
remember his innocent yet mischievous eyes, the tilt of his head, and the unique
way he spoke. “Babumoshai” became a
household phrase and I can still hum the lyrics to many of the songs from his
movies. Being in Hyderabad, I never saw the glitz and glamour of Bombay and
never witnessed the crowds of girls who would threw themselves at any film
personalities. To me, people like Rajesh Khanna were only characters on a
screen. So, when I saw him in that flight, I witnessed the aging of a star and
our own fickle nature – how we adulate someone and not even care about them
once they pass their prime. It pained me to see him sit a lonely man in that
business class with people passing by without even noticing him. That moment to
me was not about Rajesh Khanna per se but about the fleeting flow of fame and
the loneliness that comes from it.
|Rajesh Khanna (Photo credits TOI and SamayLive)|
Personally, it also made a difference to my re-entry into India. I realized that even though I acknowledge all the changes in my life in America, my life in India was frozen, as it was when I left it in 1983. The music, the actors, the teachers, the schools - everything seem to be better in 1983 ... NOT because it was truly better but because that was all I knew. I stood still and the scenario around me passed by and I was complaining that it was not keeping pace with me. The truth was that I have not kept pace and did not notice the passing of time. That encounter with Rajesh Khanna dismantled the romantic memory of the India of yester years. Looking at his frail figure fast-forwarded my experience of India and placed it in the present time frame.
As I read about his death, I thought of that day a decade ago when he played a silent role in my education of India. I also remembered something else. His hands were shaking and head had a slight tremor as he walked up the staircase slowly but his khadi kurta and pajama were starched to perfection and there was not a fold out of place. And the way he placed himself on the seat and sat upright showed a man who was ready to face the crowd and not someone who was hiding from the crowd because he knew that he was no longer famous. He carried himself with confidence and like a star and in some ways, that’s all that matters.
Monday, 20 August 2012
Part of growing up is also facing the painful experience of losing ones parents.The other side of having three sets of parents is to go through the pain of losing them that many times over. It was my biological parents who went first, then Esther and now, I lost my dad Hank in June 2012. I was in Bali when I got the news and I could not make the international flights to make it back in time for services. So, I got to visit my mom in late July, for the first time after she lost dad. They were married for 58 years and that number kept coming up multiple times during my stay. It was as though mom was saying it because she could not believe that he was no more, that he would come around to celebrate the 59th and the 60th. I did not try hard to make it to the services or even to send any message to be read out. I felt that the only way I could pay homage to him would be to spend some time with mom after she settles down a bit.
I went to Portland and spent time with her and stayed at their home. The first thing that hit me was the emptiness of the spaces that once belonged to him – the chair by the fire place in the living room where he would always be seated, the bar where he would insist on making me a gin and tonic; the dining chair where he usually sat and then the voice, the laughter, the mocking tone as he teased mom. I missed dad terribly but I also thought of mom – how lonely it must be for her to go to an empty bed, to eat alone. They were inseparable for 58 years. I don’t think that mom spent more than 30-40 days away from dad spread across all those years that they were together. They had their own set of disagreements but were always a team. He, at 92 and she in her 80’s played tennis regularly, dad went to office, mom grew a spectacular garden and made all the meals herself. They were a team. I could not convey my condolences to mom because words seem insufficient.The only thing I could think of was to spend time with her walking down her memory lane.
I visited her in Portland and we planned out our day together. We started it with a walk on Fairmont loop. We parked our car in front of the home where she grew up. As a young lady in her 20’s, this was where she met dad for the first time. We stood on the front lawn as she pointed to the window that was once her room. As we walked, we ran into women who knew her, who would ask how she was coping and she would introduce me as her fifth daughter and invariably, I would find something in common with everyone we met. It was as though we
were blending our individual pasts in Portland into one happy giant story. We stopped by at a couples’ home where Karen and I baby sat their teenagers almost two decades ago while they went on vacation. I saw photos of the teenagers, now grown ups, with their own careers and children. As we walked, we had a long chat about mom and dad. Mom shared how they first met, some of their dates, the subsequent marriage and four daughters over six years and now seven grand children who are all boys (including my 8 year old). It was great to go back in time when they were youngsters and meet them there. Our conversation would often be interrupted by history of some of the homes on the loop, stories of their past or current inhabitants. We took twice as long to finish the loop but it was totally worth it. I wanted to have a unhurried, relaxed time with her and that is exactly what I got. Mom did not cry at all during our entire time together because she said that she had to be strong for all of us. So, I did not cry either till an hour before we left home.
Mom asked me to take a shower in their bathroom as it was larger and more comfortable. When I went into the bathroom and saw two tooth brushes in the stand, two sets of towels hanging side by side, I just broke down. It was a stark reminder of his absence in the presence of his stuff. And then we went out to lunch at my favorite “Al Amir” restaurant. At the end of the meal, I wanted her to take home the left over fatoush salad and the kabob and she instinctively almost said “Your dad would enjoy this at night,” and in catching herself, there
was that understanding that this was going to take a long time to come to terms with his absence.
Dad died with an unexpected cardiac arrest at 92 and left this Earth without being a burden to anyone. And my job is to keep thinking of dad in a way that it puts smile on my lips. So, here is what I remember him by. Whenever mom would be talking about someone’s demise and refer to the widow as “She lost her husband”, he would say something to the affect “How careless to lose a grown up? Did they finally find him?” and make a joke of losing someone as through a child lost in the zoo. So, when we think of dad, we are not thinking as losing him but finding him in all the little details and memories he left hidden in each of us.