04 August 2018

If I were not a software engineer

I was a topper at school. Though I was not bad at math and science, I was a whiz with languages. I was obsessed with books of all kinds (literature, encyclopedias, mysteries, biographies) and was quite well informed due to this. I had a strong sense of truth & justice; won prizes in essay competitions and extempore at school. I could also throw about colors well, on paper as well as in Rangolis. I wrote poems; had even submitted an entry to the then popular children’s comic – Tinkle, in which my story of Suppandi got published once. I loved to help my working mom in the kitchen; housekeeping was a passion. I loved to see the smile on her face when she returned home after a tiring day at work. In short, I was destined either for the arts, law or the hospitality industry.

Life took a very different turn, however. Given my grades in HSC, engineering and medicine were the only two options on the table. My father dreamt of me in a white coat and shiny halo that only a doctor can sport. He argued that I had the hardworking ethic required to don the stethoscope. But I have always been squeamish about blood and sickness. He felt that I was too much of a straight shooter to be a lawyer. My mother envisioned me as a goddess with multiple arms; a broom in one arm, a baby in another, a rolling pin in yet another arm, and if I absolutely had to work, then chalk and duster in my other arms :-) My friends advised me that I was too staid (no artistic “temperament”) for the arts. Back in junior college, computers were the high rage. Peer group curiosity was high and my elders were certainly clueless (a definite plus!). Also, I heard that one could work magic with colors, shapes, designs and words using software! So that’s how I came to be a computer engineer.

After I joined engineering, I developed a keen interest in astrology and psychology. I am tempted to attribute this to the insecurity and romance of the teenage years. But in hindsight, lost in the world of programming machines, I was desperately seeking to debug the toughest algorithm God has created - the human being. Unraveling the bits and bytes (emotions) of this complex machine held me spellbound. I felt confident that mastering this life skill is most critical to navigate the choppy waters of life.

Indeed, people skills have been demanded of me throughout my work as well as personal life. Emotion, and its articulation, drives all aspects of human transactions be it relationships or business. A result of my pursuit of this skill is that I am often regarded as the go to person for all family feuds. I have spent an entire life time counseling friends in their love or work lives. So much so that I have toyed with the idea of writing agony aunt columns in magazines :-) I’ve often been urged to write books. The closest I’ve come to publishing my work is when I write film reviews on social media (they are quite well respected, by the way). Yet another recommendation is that I become an official film critic or script writer.

As they say, no one knows you better than your parents, siblings, spouse or your child. My dear departed dad maintained till his last breath (he had been hospitalized for a month) that I would have made a great doctor. My mother claims that, with my service-oriented nature coupled with my love of toddlers, I would be great at anything dealing with kids. My brother says I lost my calling as a bestselling author. What does my better half recommend? He says that the International Relations lost out on a promising diplomat to the fickle world of IT. And my daughter, in all her 8+ years of wisdom, harbors hope that I will one day become a designer (of fashion in clothes, shoes and accessories & home interiors, etc)!

So, what does the most important critic of my life – myself – feel, you ask? Well, if I had not been a software engineer, I would have been an astrologer / numerologist / palmist / face reader or a spiritual guru - minting money by spouting pearls of optimism in a world drowning in pessimism. I am too vivacious to lead the life of a Monk who sold his Ferrari, and too restless to do horoscope readings day in and day out. Hence, I will probably design my own website for marketing this elixir of faith via blogs, videos, pictures and discussion forums. Reverse engineering human beings is so much more exciting than software engineering!

29 December 2017

Bhavnagar-Ahmedabad Dec 2017 travelogue

Just returned from an awesome family trip to Gujarat! Wanted to pen the precious memories before they get blurred with time and newer experiences. My cousin is posted as District Development Officer (DDO) at Bhavnagar since last 3 years. We had put up at his place for 3 days and what eventful days they were! The next 2 days were spent in Lothal and Ahmedabad. This post is divided into highlights, kodak moments and food diary.

The DDO bungalow has a bevy of super-cuddly rabbits, lots of plants, a garden, veranda, swing, and many rooms. This meant that the kids (my daughter and nephew) could roam and explore at leisure.  It comes with a full staff of cook, gardener, handyman, etc. So there was never any need to worry about what to eat, what to make, what to do - we spent some quality time with our hosts despite the jam-packed itinerary.

We flew Pune-Ahmedabad and my cousin's car & driver picked us up at the airport. On the way to Bhavnagar (a good 3.5 hr drive), we gorged on gota, dhokla, poha & bataka vada at a local joint. On reaching my cousin's place we were greeted with coconut water served chilled. Lunch was prawns curry with hot chappatis, yummy salad and daal-rice.

On the first day, we visited the Black buck Sanctuary at Velvadar National Park. It was awesome to watch the black bucks, neelgai and many birds in the Savanna landscape. Due to my cousin's clout we had a private guide, who not only updated us on the park's secrets, but also took some awesome pics using the binoculars and cell phone camera (since none of us had a DSLR). The entire experience was akin to an Africa safari. We were treated to lots of fruits and snacks over tea at the park - guavas, bor, apples, bananas etc. In the evening, we dined at the Black Buck Lodge, founded by a local, rich businessman as a weekend resort for the elite. The campfire and tent experience at this lodge while dining was a memorable experience.

The next day was slightly lighter, we spent time at home in the first half with our hosts, chit-chatting over faafda-jalebi and a round of dumbcharades over umpteen cups of tea/coffee. In the late afternoon we started for the jungle of Jesar (again possible due to DDO clout as its not open to public) and reached there at twilight. The goal was to view lions in their natural habitat when they are out to drink water at the watering places. After searching high and low at various hangouts, we finally sighted them. There were 2 young male lions strutting along without a care. We parked as close to them as possible and then quietly got down from the vehicles to view them better. Photography was naturally not allowed. It was a mind-blowing experience, no one even bothered to comment - so busy were they in absorbing everything. The lions were roaring and walking majestically and if they were aware of our presence, they ignored us royally. A little farther ahead, we spotted 3 more lions. By then it was completely dark and we watched them with aid of the car headlights which the drivers pointed toward the lions. Eventually they got bothered by the lights and walked away from us. It was a nail-biting, hair-raising experience. We wrapped up the evening with authentic kathiawadi dinner(rotla, maakhan, gud, sev-tamata nu shaak, ringan nu bhartu & chhas) at a rural place. Even the kids sampled it despite it being spicy!

On the third day, we set off for Somnath temple (6 hr drive from Bhavnagar) at the crack of dawn. We crossed Diu on the way but did not halt. On reaching Somnath, we got VIP darshan of the jyotir-linga and were out within 15 mins! Had lunch and then set off for Bhavnagar again. This time we took the Sasan route and passed Gir National park on the way. Though we did not stop there (there wasn't enough time), we did some souvenir shopping. Finding something to eat on the highway back was a challenge, but after many false alarms we finally found something we all liked. We reached home at midnight and went to sleep as had an early start again the next day.

On the 4th day, we started back for Ahmedabad but stopped at Lothal for 45 mins. It was informative and a step back in time. After geography, botany and zoology, it was history time for the kids :-) As we neared Ahmedabad, the kids were heartened to see big buildings and signs of civilization they are used to finally. First thing they ate was pizza !!

Novotel was a welcome break after the rustic experiences of past 3 days. Hair washed and jackets discarded, we set off for Kankaria lake. But due to an ongoing carnival, it was too crowded, so we abandoned it, promising the kids we will visit the next day. We indulged in some retail therapy at Law Garden and spent a blissful couple of hours shopping ! For dinner, we tried the much-recommended "Agashiye" close to Sidi sayyed ki jaali but the waiting was 1.5 hrs. So we aborted and went to Govardhan thaal instead. The thali was awesome and we ate out of brass vessels.

On the last day, we did a round of Kankaria lake in the toy train and then went to Sabarmati Ashram. More history for the kids ! Lunched at Marutinandan - methi muthiya nu shaak and Gujarati kadhi were mind blowing. Bought some sweets, checked out khadi stores and then pushed off for the airport.

The best part of the trip is that we did not have to worry or plan anything for first 3 days. It was all taken care of and hence a real vacation. Kudos to our hosts for making our stay comfortable and interesting in the rural heartland that is Bhavnagar!! Also, the long open spaces until the eye could see, the various plantations of cotton, sugarcane, cattle fodder etc. on the highway, the salt pans and salt processing plants were a novelty. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time to not be able to see any buildings or civilization for long stretches. The sunrise and sunsets that we experienced on most of the days over this empty horizon are unforgettable. Last but not the least, both kids were amazingly cooperative and patient throughout the trip!

14 October 2017

Movie time

I've recently taken to watching movies on Netflix or Youtube. There are some gems to be found there which one has never heard or read of before. Wanted to mention a couple such movies that I've had the opportunity to watch lately.

The love letter
This is a toe-curling, goosebumpy romantic story spanning 2 different eras 163 years apart! No, its not sci fi or time travel. The hero, who is engaged, buys an antique writing desk on impulse while his fiancee is window shopping at a store. Inside the writing desk, he finds a secret compartment that has a letter. The letter is basically a love letter to an imaginary lover from a young lady almost a century ago. At 29, she is being pressured to accept the suit of a suitable gentleman by her father but she burns for the aching kind of love. On another impulse, our hero types a response to her letter on his computer and even tells about it to his mother. The mother being a hopeless romantic herself, gifts him some old style stationary, an inkpot and a pen to draft a real response. She even tells him of a quaint post office where he can post the letter! The hero actually does that and lo & behold he hears a pop from his desk. On examining the secret compartment he finds a response from the same lady to his letter! This back and forth of letters continues across time and space and they fall in love with each other. The direction is really good and the background score adds to the magic. As long as one is content with forgetting logic and science, this one promises to be a tear-jerking, heart-wrenching romantic journey.

This one is a gem of a movie. The protagonist owes huge gambling debts, and is working as a janitor at a mental hospital while on parole. His parents are loaded, but he has fallen out with his father so refuses to ask for his help. He is invited to his brother's wedding by his mom and happens to blurt to his dad that he has a girlfriend who is a nurse at the same hospital that he manages the administration of. Dad extends the invitation to the girlfriend so he has to hunt for one at short notice. He zeros in on a patient at the hospital who has a tendency to go barefoot - she has never used shoes in her life! What follows is a delightful adventure that the two embark on that eventually ends in their falling in love with each other. Anything more would be a spoiler so I'll leave it at that. A must watch.

11 September 2017

My experiments with domestic help

I just completed 20 years of employment in the IT industry. Those who know about this industry, know that its notorious for long hours, scope creep into evenings, nights and weekends too sometimes. And if you are in India, its doubly so. On top of this, I'm afflicted with a mild case of OCD which means that I need to clean, organize and declutter every free moment I have else I go nuts. (Hubby says there is no future tense about it.)

With this kind of demand on a working mother, and wife,  and with both sides of the family living in the same city, the only way to survive is with a sound support system - maids, cook, nanny etc.

My first maid was someone who cleaned my 1 bedroom apartment when I was single. She was a spry lady who worked at a lot of flats in the apartment complex and was much in demand. She bunked a lot of days due to this, but somehow I was favored with less bunks than my neighbors. She had even invited me to her daughter's "coming of age" ceremony. When I was to get married and go to US, she even gifted me a farewell present! She expressed a wish to accompany me to the US and keep my house! Unfortunately, I could not comply due to obvious reasons.

After a brief stint in the US where I had a long commute and managed all the other chores alongwith it, I had sworn that I would never cook again. So I hired a cook for the first time. She also cleaned at my place. She was a muslim lady, single at that. The advantages were that she did not demand too many leaves for various festivals, no strings at home with hubby and in-laws missing and cooked delicious non-veg!

A lot of people judged me for this decision as having someone else cook for you was anathema at the time. Luckily hubby was supportive. But though the maid had sound basics of cooking, she needed to be handheld in the correct usage of oil, ghee, salt, spices etc. to suit our palate and pocket. I trained her on how to make chappatis that would stay soft for a long time, how to cook maharashtrian dishes etc. (She used to work at a north Indian home earlier) Also, having no hubby or MIL at home, she was not used to accepting criticism of her culinary skills. That meant I had to take a crash course in tact ! She also had an irritating habit of not informing if some critical ingredient needed to be replenished well in time. She would tell it while cooking and many a time I or hubby had to rush to grocery store to get it (e.g. salt).

At this time, though she did the jhaadu-poccha, I did all the other cleaning such as bathrooms, balcony, fans, ceilings dusting etc. With a 3BHK home, this was exhausting and took up all my free time, especially the weekend. Part of the reason was that we had to leave for work in the morning and she had to finish by the time we had to leave - so there was only so much she could achieve. Since there was no guarantee of when we would be back, we could not have her or anyone else coming in the evenings. She was an artist at whatever she did but had the attitude to go with it. But she was super-honest and above board. As she gained our trust, I even gave her a duplicate key so she could take up more chores and lock the door behind her when she finished. She never let me down. But over the years she met a senior guy who became her "husband" as per local grapevine, and he influenced her a lot. She became more demanding, less respectful and we had frequent spats over mismatch of expectations. Finally, one fine day, I had to ask her to take it or leave it. She was advised to leave it and she did.

So after a successful 7 year stint with a maid in my young life (big achievement, believe me), I had to hunt for a replacement. I had a baby girl by then. So I decided to split the duties this time. I went in for 2 maids - one for cleaning and one for cooking. This way, if one didn't turn up, there was always the other to help. This, however, took a toll as it meant training 2 maids in different sets of tasks with a baby to care for. The cleaning one didn't work out so had to change a couple of times. By the time my baby became older, we also hired a nanny to help my mother look after her. So now I had 3 maids to manage. Believe me, it was a nightmare.

The one who washed utensils complained that there were too many. So had to ask the cook to use less utensils while cooking. But she would not comply. So I had to ask the cook to clean utensils too - to ensure that she would make her own work easier by using up less utensils. That worked! But she wouldn't clean the kitchen platform properly. So I adjusted her wages and put that on her performance goals. Though she cooked the regular meals well, she had no stomach to try out new dishes. She could not read so I had to read and explain recipes to her, which she tended to forget. So had to explain everytime she cooked. Also, she could not read a clock (believe me, I tried a lot) so she could never use the pressure cooker accurately. She also tends to hog the entire kitchen platform - I have a big one too. So when she is cooking, there is no scope of cooking alongwith her as she does not like sharing her platform space. Needless to say, I had to lose the tact and give her a lot of feedback to get her on track. There have been verbal spats, tears, threats and phone calls. She has stayed on though (7 yrs and counting). Despite many of her family and health challenges, she continues to cook for us and is respected even by my daughter (tough tastemaster) for her culinary skills. She actually surprises me with some creativity in the menu sometimes and even lets us know in advance what needs to be replaced. And she cooks for 3 people only now, earlier she somehow assumed we are 6 and cooked double. She still embarks on long leaves whenever there is a wedding or funeral amongst any of her acquaintances without any notice, but nowadays her son does call to inform when we can expect her back.

Meanwhile, I had delegated the bathroom cleaning to the cleaning lady. But that was a different ballgame and I had to change a couple more times before someone met my standard. In the meantime, the nanny was not working out. She came from a political family and was a sarpanch figurehead at her village. She needed to rush for monthly meetings to the village whenever required and was out for 10 days at a stretch sometimes. The next nanny was a gem, but her husband had trust issues, so she quit(or was made to). The subsequent one was a young girl who got married and put her mother in charge after she left. Now this fourth one tended to pick quarrels with other nannies in the neighbourhood and I had to step in many times to calm the ruffled feathers. Eventually hubby put his foot down and she had to be let go. The current nanny has been a blessing so far. She takes care of dusting, some other chores in the house and even picks my daughter up from the bus stop. She has evening snacks ready for my daughter and us when we return hungry from school & work respectively and accompanies her to the park.

I've been staying at my current residence for 14 years now and its been a long journey in terms of domestic help. There have been some trysts with drivers too (such as a driver not able to read the traffic signs due to illiteracy, another being a drunkard, a third having a fetish for running red lights and the last giving in to Hinjewadi road rage with choicest language) but I've long given up on those now. As long as Uber and Ola exist, I believe drivers, and their attitudes, are redundant.

Domestic help can be a cause of great stress and discontent. But when things work out, they are a lifeline. Without all their combined help and valuable life lessons, I wouldn't be where I am today. I've had lectures from my mom and MIL that I am too lenient with my domestic help but believe me there is nothing to be gained by being authoritative or strict. The only way to deal is with lots of respect, patience, acceptance and generosity.  Gadgets should be bought and delegated to them with care as they are either reluctant or careless with them. I've never had anything missing from my home in all these years and no experience of the stove being left on etc. till date. Also, last year, when we renovated our home, the cleaning maid and the nanny helped with a lot of cleaning and organizing both during and post the renovation. The cook even came for a fortnight to my mothers' place where we had put up during the renovation! They are like an extended family and work in peace. If I so much as sneeze, they ensure that I do not need to lift a finger around the house.

11 June 2017

Decision making - an underrated skill

Today, there is an article in Sunday TOI about maids and the rising class divide in the Indian context. Yet another context is the manager vs worker class in corporations. The former is regarded with a severely jaundiced eye - some even regard managers as the useless bunch who have no talent to speak of and know only to delegate to their underlings. You might think how the two themes above are intertwined. Well, in my opinion, they are because of one distinctive trait that runs amongst employees & managers. And that is the skill of decision making.

I will not argue that there are disparities in society and some employers do treat their employees unfairly. Life is inherently unfair afterall. But what I want to talk about is that no matter how talented or hardworking one may be, 90% of the people do not want to be in the seat for decision making. Hence it is the remaining 10% who eventually call the shots. Its the trait that separates leaders automatically. Ever seen kids playing? The one who decides which game to play or who should play automatically becomes the leader. There are those who propose, there are those who follow. But the one who says decisively (not plaintively or wisely, mind you) gets his way.

In a family fabric too, one often thinks why it is the dad who always gets to decide everything. Or in some cases its the mom or the grandmother etc. This person is automatically regarded as the resident Hitler :-) But no one realizes that this person has taken it upon himself/herself (or sometimes circumstances thrust it upon them) to think what is good for all. Whether its which restaurant to go to for dinner, or which school to send the child to, or where to go for vacation etc. This person has undertaken the not-so-glamorous task of weighing which might be the more successful alternative given a set of people or circumstances (many times in a split second). This person is not only willing to take the blame if the decision falls flat but also has the resourcefulness to do course correction.

Is decision making an inborn trait or something one can acquire? Why is it only there in 10%(or even less) of the population? The reason is simple : Most people do not want to take the blame or responsibility when things go wrong. Everyone wants attention, appreciation, credit. But when there is a chance that you may lose popularity because of something you decided for a bunch of people (and chances are generally high that you will as you can never please them all), only a few people stand up. Also, this kind of responsibility requires one to move out of one's comfort zone. Human nature is such that getting out of comfort zone does not come easily. And usually its the males who do get out of it, women are sheltered in our society right from childhood so it does not come easily to them. Most women do not even want to decide how to get from A to B location, they want someone (husband, father, brother, driver) to plan and execute for them.

Now consider the case of maids & nannies. I've been handling them for the last 20 years. My experience is that their sole purpose is to squeeze as much salary and perks out of the employer as possible. Despite serving for years in the same household, they have not mastered the art of what the employer expects. Without an explicit instruction, is it safe to do something out of their own judgement? Most are too scared of being chided or scolded. Hence, they will go on doing the same thing year on year and keep expecting superior entitlement due to their tenure. In case of the nanny, if the child refuses to eat something, they let it be. There is no attempt to call the employer to figure out what can be given as an alternative. Or whip up some mouth-watering snack themselves to entice the child to eat. Most times, they do not know how to use a phone or how to read food labels. So even if options are available they do not feel empowered to act. They fail to realize that between an adult and a child, the onus in always on the adult to improve the relationship, soothe the child or resolve a problem, even if the adult is a nanny. Another instance with a maid is actually commendable. I once told my cook that I would be getting dhansak from a Parsi colleague that evening. So she need not cook dinner. Now the maid not only knew what dhansak was but had actually prepared brown rice to go along with it for dinner! Definitely exceeded my expectations.

One part of decision making is also action. Sometimes the action involves convincing a difficult person to do something against their wish. This may take a lot of perseverance and negotiation. Now, if its with a child, usually its the mother who does it. But if its with the landlord, then the husband/father does it usually. So the one who has the stomach for that particular task, usually undertakes it. Sometimes the dad has to do it in mom's absence and wife has to do in husband's absence. And that is when they realize that it is not an easy task. Its only when you are in the decision maker's shoes that you understand where it pinches.

As for delegation - Communication, negotiation, decision making requires a lot of time and effort. Many technical folks think that the HR is an easy stream to be in. But the human factor is often the toughest and dealing with different personalities, sometimes across geographies, takes up a lot of bandwidth. In such cases, delegation is the only way these people can find time to take up this additional activity. Delegation is an art and should not be treated lightly. Not everyone can delegate or trust others to do their tasks as well as themselves.

Thus, its easy to comment about people who decide, delegate, boss around. But since majority of the population is not in their boat, they seldom get the credit that they deserve.

04 May 2017

What is love?

So much has been written about that king of emotions called "Love". Whether it is romantic love or love for one's children....the feeling remains the same. But many people interpret it differently.

When I was young, my mom used to watch black & white Hindi movies. From those I learned that love has to bow before duty. The couple did not get married if family or circumstances did not allow. My younger self used to rebel at this thought. I felt that those who shy away from love citing responsibility as a reason are cowards or lack staying power. I was equating love with marriage or achievement.

Then came glorious adolescence and I was exposed to so much literature on romantic love. Even the movies of that time portrayed love as coy glances, stolen kisses, mushy letters & gifts, the adrenaline rush of the hormones etc. Love was action at that time. Lack of these meant lack of feeling. But not everyone is capable of action or fancy words.

Then I met men who claimed to love me. I observed, and realized, that each one saw me as someone to idolize - someone saw intelligence, some admired my confidence, some saw outward attractiveness. And I felt that if I ever show them my vulnerabilities, or the baggage that I carry, will they still love me? I kept looking for the one who was not scared to see my scars.

I saw my friends getting married the arranged way and observed what qualities they wanted in their life partner. There was no love (how can there be with hardly any time together?), but a lot of calculation viz. what education, what community, how much income etc. I learned then that romantic love can be conditional.

I got married myself. And I learned that even when someone claims to love you, they can still disappoint you, hurt you. Living with someone 24x7 tests the relationship at all levels; especially when there is family on both sides involved. There are ups and downs and if you manage to stick together through this roller coaster, then you find a life-long companion who sometimes would kill for you and at other times would like nothing better than to throttle you :-) Love became friendship and trust that have withstood the ravages of Time.

And then I ventured into motherhood. Now, I've always prided myself on being articulate and bold in putting across my thoughts. But it is only after I became a mother that I feel I understood and can put in words what love means finally.

When you are solely responsible for a tiny tot and have to mould that scrap of humanity into a well-rounded human. When that little one is totally dependent on you for their every need. You have cleaned umpteen messes after them, your sleep and meal times are completely messed up, you have no privacy left, you don't remember the last time you saw a movie or went to the parlor. Yet, their one smile is all the reward you ever expect. That overwhelming, unconditional feeling is love.

While the child is dependent on you, you never expect anything of it. You never tire of giving. But that feeling changes the moment the child becomes independent or an adult :-) And then its like the feelings between any 2 adults. There are expectations, the usual ups & downs and the bubble is forever burst. Love can have an expiry date!

Thus, love is unconditional, without expectation, it does not have to "belong" and it can only be known with the passage of time. It can wax and wane. A blood relation or soul connection is not mandatory. Also, it cannot be switched on or off. Neither can it be hidden - at least not from the object of one's love.

Marriage and love are not intertwined. Marriage is a duty and responsibility first and foremost. Love may or may not come into it. With time, it usually does though. Those who are looking to get married the arranged way, are basically pragmatic. They haven't found love, but that does not mean they cannot choose the life partner with the requisite criteria.

But when there is love, all the criteria fly out the window. That's when people say love is blind. But Love is never blind. It gives eyes to even the blind. You notice, & remember, even the tiniest detail about your loved one. All your senses suddenly start operating at their prime! It doesn't matter if your little one stutters or drips well past their development stage, it does not dim the intensity of the feeling. Love is acceptance.

Above all, love is NOT the panacea for all the problems, neither is it the ultimate goal of life. It provides strength to get through life, it is the spice that makes the food palatable. But life is more than love. There is ugliness, anger, envy, fear, bitterness and despair. So do not get stuck on love only. Experience all the flavors of life and you will know that love leaves the best after-taste.

21 November 2016

Renovation 2016

I had been struggling with the clutter in my home for 12.5 years. It was causing a lot of depression to me as I am a tidiness freak by nature. It was causing a lot of stress in our family life too. From what seemed to be a lonely battle to me I finally figured that I needed some expert help in this matter. Though we had had some furniture done over the years, the interior was of an inorganic nature. The fact that I'm a compulsive shopper, and hubby is a hoarder, did not help. After the advent of my daughter, the clutter seemed to multiply exponentially! Not only did one tend to go crazy while shopping for little girls, the gifts she received and the various project work she accomplished in school, that we proudly displayed, the various toys, sports paraphernalia and cosmetic jewelry/accessories that had piled up, was mind blowing.

So we decided to at least do our daughter's room such that there would be a place for everything and her things would stop encroaching precious space in all the rooms. We also wanted to redo the bathrooms as they had become really tacky. Thus began a very logical and down-scaled renovation project- not because of budget constraint but because we were not planning to move out of our home while it was ongoing. Ambitious indeed! As it took off, we realized that there is so much more that can be done to the interior in a much more organic way. According to our decorator, the design of our apartment was faultless, but the space management (storage) left a lot to be desired. Add to that hubby's caveat that there should be no tod-phod and breaking of society rules in our quest for utopia. What followed was an exercise in superb execution of a renovation disguised as a major re-haul of our apartment, and lives :-)

What started off as a tiny project soon snowballed into a tornado. Though we decided to retain most of the current furniture and furnishings, we redid the tiles in the living room, kitchen and one bedroom. This was because the tiles provided by the builder had started to swell and break in some places. The tiles in the bathroom were literally glued on top of older ones after polishing them. This saved us the labor and cost of prying the older tiles off and risking water leakage into the flat below. We revisited the awning in the terrace and installed ones for windows too - to provide better protection against rains and counter the pigeon menace. Thus, fabrication work piled up. We got rid of some space-hogging furniture and got foldable sofa-cum-beds. The terrace underwent the most transformation - its now a lounge for guests over tea or drinks or reading lounge for us. Just a swap of the 2 sofas in the living room has given a transformative effect to the living room. White color on all walls has considerably increased the space and light in each room making the entire house look bigger and brighter. Lofts in the kitchen and one bedroom made a lot of clutter disappear. Better use of window ledges has added more room and storage. Better lighting and improved design of plug points, switch boards etc. has made life so much more enlightened.

As to the clutter, we have given away so much stuff that was not serving any purpose except to add to our cleaning and maintenance efforts. An old bed and almirah, TONs of clothes, utensils, bedsheets, blankets, bathroom stuff, mirrors, and about 25 kgs of books! No wonder the house feels lighter too :-)

Here, I'd like to add a few words complimenting our decorator. She is a gem and so different from other interior decorators in the market. For one, she is not out to make a quick buck, she is plenty loaded herself. She is in the business only to satisfy her creative urges. And boy, is she good at her job?! She has a highly efficient and eccentric team for more than 10 years. Despite this, she haggles over every little screw with carpenter, cost of paint and labor of tiling with the painter and mason respectively and got me hefty discounts on furnishings(curtains, upholstery, wallpaper) through her contacts. She ensures that every bit of ply, laminate, granite and cement is used judiciously. And coordinating the time and efforts of the carpenter, mason, painter, fabricator, electrician, and us,  so no one's time is wasted and work finishes at a fast pace, is an art she has got down pat. She is a whirlwind in action.

The cleanup after all the major work was a royal pain. No amount of wiping, scrubbing, dusting seemed to get the grime off the cupboards, furniture and the air we breathed. After multiple cleanings and vacuuming over weeks, now the house sparkles like a diamond.

Needless to say, even with a few things such as adding a good artwork to our living room and a suitable wallpaper to my daughter's room pending - everyone who visits the home is super-impressed. She has taught us that interior is not about throwing money on false ceilings, wood, marble or imported vases, paintings. It is a whole new way of organizing, make things more functional as well as being aesthetic. Other takeways for us were of course, buy/hoard less - donate more, do your bit to cleaning and tidying everyday so giant pile-ups can be avoided in future. And the biggest one is that I now know someone whom I can contact in the event of any future home-related emergency!

If I were not a software engineer

I was a topper at school. Though I was not bad at math and science, I was a whiz with languages. I was obsessed with books of all kinds ...