Temples and Silks in Kancheepuram

“How could you wear shorts to this trip?!” The Brit in the travel group was met with shocked expressions. “We have to buy you an emergency veshti now, they’re not going to let you into the temples like that!” One of the many silk showrooms came to our rescue, but not without having to fight off efforts to sell us a pattu (silk) veshti.

The only time I’ve been to this tiny town was to see the Kailasanathar Temple for a college trip. It was meant to be to study the architecture and art history, but if memory serves right was more of a sing-your-lungs-out-on-the-bus trip.

This time though, we made it a point to see it properly and even chatted with the miffed priest who spoke surprisingly posh English. “It was those Brits” he said. “They plastered the temple to restore it, but look, does the colour even match the original stone?” Continue reading Temples and Silks in Kancheepuram

Editing A Book Is Hard Work

For what seems like an eternity, I have been editing a book by Peter Claridge, titled Chennai Expat Guide. The book started out as a blog post that was meant to outline a few things that expats need to know before relocating to Chennai. It soon turned into a mammoth 65,000 words piece of writing and lost the ability to be called a blog post!

Process of editing

Being an “editor” sounds pretty fancy – it is anything but. I’ve read, re-read and re-re-read at least 6 versions of the book printed out on A4 paper and spiral bound. The process involved hand-written notes, SHOUTY CAPITAL LETTER remarks, arguments with the author about including or deleting something, and just a whole lot of patience.

It didn’t just involve trawling for typos and grammar errors, it also included having to figure out flow, order, context of the content. The book is interspersed with illustrations, photographs and true stories, so it wasn’t simply copy-editing. There was plenty of quality checking alongside many tiny decisions – bullets or numbers? Titles or subtitles? Quote or story? Tell the truth as it is or sugarcoat? Throw the book away in frustration or power through? Continue reading Editing A Book Is Hard Work

Want Better Work? Treat Your Vendors Right!

The client-vendor relationship is complex – riddled with negotiations, expectations, and often, judgement errors. Having worked in an agency environment as well as on the client side of business (and now independently), I’ve been on both sides of the table. The very simple truth is that your vendors will perform as well as you let them.

What can we all do to get more and better work from our vendors? Treat them right.

1. Respect Their Time

The number of instances where I’ve arranged for a vendor to meet, and my superiors have insisted on letting them “sit and wait” has been disrespectfully high. When you’ve set a time to meet them, keeping them hanging isn’t going to make you look super busy, it’s just going to make you look unprofessional. Sure, agencies and suppliers need your business for a livelihood – but present an attitude of triviality towards their time, and you’ve got zero respect from them, for yours. Continue reading Want Better Work? Treat Your Vendors Right!

Getting Hitched Down Under

A version of this article was published in Metro Plus, The Hindu.

“It’s going to be a relaxed affair guys, you can wear whatever you’re comfortable in.” My soon to be Aussie SIL took us through the details of the upcoming wedding on Skype. “So shorts and T-shirt then?” While she was more than happy to accommodate our casual attire, the eye-rolling and low decibel mumbling from my old school FIL kept us in check.

The Itinerary

The itinerary included Sydney and surrounding coastal towns, the Blue Mountains, and a couple of days in the mystical land of Uluru. Sydney is a tourist’s paradise – the Taronga Zoo, Sydney helicopter ride, and the Harbour Bridge climb are recommended must-dos. If you’re one for petting marsupials (an experience you cannot have anywhere else), head to the Featherdale Wildlife Park to hang out with free range wallabies. Continue reading Getting Hitched Down Under

This Thing Called Work-Life Balance

Last April, I quit the corporate world to go down the path of self-employment. One year on, I finally feel brave enough to talk about lessons learnt, skills gained, fears felt, and priorities re-adjusted.

People are often stunned that I made the decision to leave. “You were so close to the mark, why’d you quit?” The reasons were many (and complex), one of them being I wasn’t sure what this magical “mark” was.

But the most pressing element that drove me over the edge is a seldom talked about issue – Burnout. And I was not alone, my colleagues and I danced around with our heads on fire, smoke coming out of our behinds. We all dove headfirst into the blazing corporate volcano, and forgot to take the extinguisher with us. Continue reading This Thing Called Work-Life Balance

Project Upcycle: Boring Men’s Shirts to Pretty Tops

It was like opening the closet to Narnia – I had no idea what I was going to find in there. I looked at the perfectly good men’s shirts gathering dust, trying to remember which one was a wedding gift from whom two years ago. It occurred to me that these have been worn once at the most, before being rendered unwearable by the inevitable post-wedding weight gain. Not having the heart to give them away, I wondered if cutting up a new Arrow shirt into kitchen rags would just be cruel.

Two thoughts crossed my mind. One, why are all these shirts blue?! Do men not wear any other colour? And two, if these were in my size, I would totally wear them all the time. Maybe there’s a way to shrink them to fit me? Pinterest came to my rescue and I found loads of shirt-upcycling ideas. I set to work finding a tailor who could help me with this mammoth task. Shehla, a lovely lady who runs a boutique called Kyra in Kilpauk said she was interested to see what I wanted, but I was met with unsure looks and a lot of head-shaking when I explained my mission.

She agreed, however, and we set about turning these oversized shirts into tops I could pair with jeans, pants or skirts (but mostly jeans cuz I’m boring like that).

1. The Sleeveless Chinese Collar

This Woodlands shirt is my favourite so I’ll start with it. I told Shehla I wanted to turn this into a sleeveless shirt.

BEFORE:

The collar was too big to retain, so she cut under it, cut out the arms, sewed up the centre (but retained the buttons and pocket), and made a pretty new Chinese collar with an opening on the top. I LOVE how it turned out!

AFTER:

2. The Long Puffed Sleeve

Continue reading Project Upcycle: Boring Men’s Shirts to Pretty Tops

Plastic Plastic In Your Trash

I recently anchored a conference on ‘Positive Attributes of Plastics and its Waste Management’ backed by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India. It sounded technical and when I looked at the programme sheet, I knew I had to pay extra attention to draft notes and comments. To my utter surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed every presentation and learned a few cool things!

The speakers and audience included industrialists, recyclers, educators, NGOs, government officials from the Pollution Control Board and Corporation of Chennai, along with a few students. I was honestly startled at the participation from the audience, having rather ignorantly expected silence and boredom.

In a nutshell, the conference discussed domestic and industrial use of plastics, its manufacturing techniques, technological innovations in the field, and most importantly – managing plastic waste.

I learned about how plastic itself does not pollute, it’s its mismanagement that affects the environment. I learned that most plastic is recyclable and that there are companies in India that are treating and recycling PET bottles and other plastics to produce wires, pillows, clothes, food packaging, zippers, carpets etc. I learned that it takes 6 PET bottles to make a T-shirt. Who knew! Continue reading Plastic Plastic In Your Trash

Out And About Chennai

Every weekend we have the same conversation – what should we do? Not ones for partying or pub-hopping, we end up watching a movie, catching up on chores, and occasionally trying a new restaurant.

We’ve been working on a book about Chennai for a very long time now (more about how long it takes to publish a book later), so in an attempt to check off all the ‘to do’ things in Chennai, we hit three recommended spots. The Vandalur Zoo, The Lighthouse, and the Egmore Museum. Continue reading Out And About Chennai

A Very Nizami December

“I’m sorry, did you just say you’re going to…Hyderabad?!” Our plan to spend the end of the year in the Nizami city was met with a mixture of surprise, scoff, pity, and confusion from our friends, further dampening our already low spirits on zeroing in on this city.

Bemoaning our terrible holiday choices, we braced for long traffic jams and boring city “things to do.” So much so that we stayed in our hotel the first two days (a school boy error in hindsight) binging on Christmas specials, stepping out only to experience the city’s claim to fame – Hyderabad Biriyani. Continue reading A Very Nizami December

How Many Ways Can You See A City?

A version of this article was published in Metro Plus, The Hindu

There aren’t many big cities on my travel wish-list. After a while, they start to look the same. And yet, every time I travel to a new city, my one and only goal is to see as much of it as I can. Most touristy cities are centered on a point of interest – the Statue of Liberty, Tokyo Tower, or the London Eye. Most recently, for me it was the Opera House. And here’s how I experienced the city in six ways. Continue reading How Many Ways Can You See A City?