Category: Inspirational

Dear Susan..

How are you? I hope Indonesia is all that you expected it to be.

In case you don’t remember me, I’m the young college student from Singapore you met in the Rainforest Bakery in Penang last month. The couch across looked cozy and you looked like a warm person. When I came up to your table, I had absolutely no intentions to steal you from your kindle. In fact, I had my own kindle in my bag. I had spent my last few days in Penang sight seeing with my friends, and I felt physically exhausted from walking around in the heat. I was not in the mood to converse, and had come to Rainforest Café looking for some quiet time, only to find opposite. And I’m so grateful for that. Talking to you that afternoon changed the course of my trip.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to hear a story too different from what I’d heard in the past few days from other travelers in the area. But when you told me such astounding stories from your work with victims of domestic violence back in Holland and your recent trip to Burma, I felt refreshed. For a few moments, I felt like I was living your life through your stories, and learning from your past.

Inspired by our conversation, I decided to spend my next three days in Penang in search of more conversation. I wandered around the streets of Georgetown’s Heritage city the next day by myself. Even though I had walked these streets before, I saw things I hadn’t noticed before, and I smiled at people more often. Sometimes I’d just wave at them, and sometimes I’d stop to talk to them. Every local and every tourist I met was very different from anyone I knew, and everyone had something new to say. As I learnt about Penang and Malaysia from the locals, I learnt about other parts of the world from other tourists in the area. I realized that although it isn’t possible for me to go every place I want to go, it is possible for me to hear from people who’ve been to these places.

So Susan, I thank you for teaching this young traveler that travelling is never really about seeing monuments and museums. Rather it’s about the people, who can take you miles away from where you are and show you so much more than your eyes can ever see.
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Ideas Ideas Everywhere

Coffee Houses, Metros and Buses, Malls, Bathrooms, Restaurants, Middle of the Road, Parties, Dinners, Dates, Facebook discussions and Blogs. 

In case you were wondering THAT was the list of places where people often come up with business ideas and opportunities that can be converted into organizations and startups. Yes, people get ideas in the weirdest places, at the weirdest times and in between the weirdest conversations. And if I were to go around counting the number of great ideas that are mentioned every day, I would soon run out of numbers. 
Everyone has ideas. Some have the aspirations to make it a reality SOME day. But few have the courage to actually go out and execute them. 
I’m not writing this to criticize the passiveness of people in executing. There is a lot of thinking that goes into a startup and a lot of courage to invest time and money into it. 
I write this for the people who are out there executing their ideas and living their dreams and also for those who dare to dream and think of executing their idea some day. 
Keep trying, and keep dreaming, because a 90 storey building was once just a pile of rubble. 

My Experience as a Dietician

December 2007: 55 kgs
April 2008: 48 kgs. 
May 2008: 46 kgs. 
June 2008: 45 kgs. 
July 2008: 44 kgs

You must have read an endless number of articles about how to loose weight, and you must have seen those eye-catching advertisements in the newspapers of a fitness centre with a picture of woman before and after she lost weight due to their invaluable and unredeemable guidance(which btw, they provide for only Rs 1200 a month!).

Well I didn’t need any of that. Losing weight wasn’t my problem. I was good at dieting. No, I was GREAT at dieting. My biggest achievement was when my dadi, who happens to be among those Indians who can feed anyone who comes our way gave up on me.

I changed 3 school uniforms in 2 months. Stores which earlier I couldn’t go to because I was too fat, I still couldn’t go to because I was too thin.

My problem began when I started giving advice on dieting.
Now when people saw that I lost 10 kgs in 6 months, they came up to ask me how I did it? It felt so good to be the one answering the questions and not asking them.
I felt like a dietician, and I thought to myself. Maybe, I can just become a dietician without having to study about it. I can be the first empirical dietician in the world!
So the customers came pouring in and I got down to work!

My first customers were my parents. The first thing I did was throw out all the chocolates and sweets from our refrigerator. Then I replaced butter with low calorie butter, cheese with slimz cheese, and coke with diet coke. No chips were allowed in the house except special diet ones. I even threw out all the Bourbons and chocolate cookies and replaced them with Tiger and Parle-G instead! We checked their weight every week. I assured them that they would lose weight soon. But their weight started going up instead.


For a few weeks I wondered, how this could be happening. My dieting methods were fool proof, parent proof, adult proof, everything. But the day I smelt a McDonalds burger on my mom, I realized it was I who wasn’t fool proof! My mom and dad had been eating in office. My sources revealed that they had everything from rasgullas to ice creams to pizzas while they were in office and had decided to act all saintly at home. And their excuse,  “We thought we could eat in office. You didn’t say anything about eating there!”
Mom, Dad, really? Isn’t that just like me bunking all my classes at school and saying “What!! You do push me to study when I’m home. But you never said anything about school”
Needless to say, I had disowned my parents as my customers. They had greatly hurt my inner soul, by making me doubt myself and my dieting principles. It was time to move on.

My next customer was my friend. Now my friend was one of those huge people who you use as a pillow on road trips, those people who seem to be exercising and dieting all the time but never seem to lose an ounce, and if they do, you start doubting the weighing machine.  Lets just say that I wouldn’t be surprised if she told me that she was a long lost relative of the Dursley’s. (The Harry Potter fans know what I’m talking about)
I personally got very excited at the idea of instructing this friend of mine. I trusted those dear dieting principles of mine so much that I knew she would lose weight. I was so confident about them that I was convinced that I could turn an elephant into a flamingo.  
So I told her, don’t eat carbohydrate, or fat. That meant no butter, no biscuits and definitely no cheese.
She was a very obedient pupil, unlike my parents I must say. And a very enthusiastic one too, which unfortunately did not let things end as I would have wanted them to.
Not only did she start following my diet, but she also started exercising on top of that. Now if there is one thing you should know about my diet, it is that it involves absolutely NO exercise.
My friend started going to the gym. The gym makes you hungry enough to eat more than shrek if not shrek himself. And if you decide to follow my diet on top of it, you’re a goner.
After 2 weeks of following my diet and her exercise regime, my friend ended up bed ridden, with instructions from the doctor telling her not to get any form of exercise for at least 10 months.
What’s more, the medication she was on made her gain even more weight. So by the time she was out of bed and able to walk and talk, she was even fatter than before.


Now, I was really distressed. First my parents, then my friend. Could there be anything wrong with my dieting ways? NOO! How dare I think of that!

 My fears turned into reality when I myself started feeling weak and faint all the time.
This was when I realized that I was wrong. I realized that my dieting had not done me much good. Apart from reducing the flesh between my skin and bones, it had also reduced my bones to twigs. I was weak and tired and lazy and unhealthy. Sure I had lost weight, but maybe it was something not worth compromising with my health. It took me a while to realize this, and even more time to admit that I had been wrong all along.  But when I did, it came out to be a truly wonderful learning experience. From that day on, any friend who came up to me for dieting advice got a long sermon on the catastrophic effect of dieting.

So remember, the next time that creamy cake appears in front of you while you’re busy running away from it, think of whether you’re doing the right thing before you’re long gone and away! 

Generation Y

“PAYAL LAL, get up! GET UP, NOW! Do you have any idea how much I studied when I was your age? I woke up at 5 a.m. every morning. And look at you. Still sleeping.”


This is the story of every one of my Saturday mornings. Every one of them. On the Saturdays my parents have to work, I hear them in my dreams. My parents, live in another world altogether. They get up at 5 a.m. every morning, even if they have nothing specific to do. I don’t even do that if my facebook account gets hacked.  

Welcome to India-a country where the parents are too Indian and the children are too American
Being part of generation Y, I can tell you based on experience, it is a combination that doesn’t go well at all. It’s like having Punjabi food with South Indian food.
Allow me to tell you why.

Every now and then my mom barges into my room, see me sitting around and says
“Sitting around on your bed, talking on the phone and whiling away time on your laptop. I knew we shouldn’t have given it to you. Stupid useless distractions. I had none at all when I was your age “

Okay, MOM, first of all, a laptop or a cell phone did not even exist when you were my age. There is no way you could have had it. You learnt how to use it about the same time I did.
Secondly, I could be doing something productive. Don’t just walk into my room and assume stuff. I could be discussing the terrible conditions of the Greek economy on my phone and researching about the Middle Eastern uprisings. I’m not. I actually just talking to my friend on the phone and chatting with a few others on facebook. But whatever. Don’t assume stuff.

Not only do they not like the idea of a laptop or cell phone with their child, but also, they donot know how to use it.

It’s understandable considering the circumstances that existed when they were kids. Terrible circumstances! Worse than poverty!

The other day, I was trying to figure out the deal with these middle eastern countries. I was researching on google.
I asked my dad who was sitting besides me, “Papa, was Iran earlier called Persia?”
But before my dad answered, I had already looked up the answer on the web.
When my dad was my age, he would probably not have bothered to make an effort to find an answer to such a question. Not because, it was a stupid question, but because the effort would not have been worth it. He would have to get up, go to the bookshelf, open the bookshelf, find an atlas, open it, look through the index, find the right page number, then browse through all the text and then he’d have his answer. By then Iran would have changed it’s name again! All I had to do was type two words into google.


And it isn’t just the computer which had changed things, it’s the cell phone as well. Commonly known to be a maniac among parents, it’s dearer to us than our own lives. While they take hours to send a two word text, it takes us seconds to do the same. If they were to send the same number of tects that we do in one day, that’s probably all they would do that day. Baby’s today are probably born with their fingers moving that way. Part of evolution you see.

Facebook is another hilarious example of the generation gap. My parents joined facebook much later than I did. And they didn’t seem to like the idea that everyone could see their profile picture and all their friends could see what they wrote on people’s wall. When my mom realized this she said “What? What if Vanita sees what I wrote about her on Renu’s wall? Wont she feel bad?”


They have been accustomed to emailing.  One of my uncles whose on my facebook friends list has a habit of writing comments in the form of letters. I once wrote on his wall “Happy Birthday”. The next day when I logged in I had a bunch of notifications. So I clicked on them and I found that he had commented on that wall post. He had written

“Dear Payal,
Thank you for your wishes.
Hope you are doing well.
Love. 
Mama”

Anyone else would just write thanks. At most a thank you and a smiley.
So it isn’t only the age gap that creates such differences. It’s also the change of trend. What our parents did at our age, we wouldn’t even dream of doing. That would make us a different species altogether. I would call them Boro sapiens.

Gen Y thinks their parents are impractical, overly conservative, boring. On the other hand, the oldies complain all the time, about how the younger generation is lazy and spoilt. We have all been grown up in different environments and different mindsets. In India, the kind of change that occurred over the last 20 years, makes 1 generation gap equal to 5.  The generation gap does not allow us to see eye to eye on much, unless we try to think from their point of view once in a while.

Everyone is the way they are because of a reason. It’s their background or their upbringing that makes them that way. Therefore they have a different point of view. That’s why we are so different from our parents. We have grown up in such diverse environments.

Next time you are talking to people who you don’t see eye to eye with, be it people from the older or younger generation or anyone else, wait for a second before you pick up an argument with them and put yourself in their shoes. Maybe you’ll realize that they are right in their own old ways. 




(also published in the Hindu : http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/article2442489.ece)

The Free World Charter

I came across something called the The Free World Charter. It is the simplest idea with an incredulous impact. The idea is to do away with the idea of money and just watch with awe the transformation it brings in the world!
I know that at this moment you are trying to figure out how this would work? How would we survive if no one works? No one produces food! No one takes care of the criminals! Think a little more. With all the machines we have today, we don’t need humans to produce all the food. With no money around, there is nothing for criminals to rob! Whatever we do, we don’t do because we HAVE to, we do it because we WANT to. If you like to teach, you teach. If you like to do social work, that is what you do. You want to be doctor? Then be it!
This video explains it all!

Sign the Free World Charter here: http://freeworldcharter.org/?a=charter
I did!

D-Day


One afternoon my mother walked into my room and said “Your aunt is here from America, she wants to meet you, can you come and say hello”
Me? oh NO, I am ok playing SIMS on the computer. 
But that’s not what I say aloud. To my mom I say, “Coming in  5 minutes.”

15 minutes later, “Are you coming? You must come and SAY HELLO”
“Okay Mom! Why this big deal?.”

Grudgingly I get there- say hello and the little kitten that I am, in 15 seconds I give some stares to my aunt, to the wall, to the fan and before my aunt can blink, I am out of there.

Believe it or not, this was the scene at my home every weekend 5 years ago. If it was not my aunt, it was my granny’s sister, or my grandfathers friend. Once I was asked to say hello to our neighbour’s brother who was visiting from Australia. Imagine? 

My parents were fed up. They hated dragging me up to greet guests. It was not only humiliating for them, but after I turned 12, my shyness became an issue of worry. They kept persevering to come up with solutions to my little problem! I hated what they were doing. I was in my comfort zone, happy where I was. I did not really care for any change. But I knew that my parents did. And they would do something about it-very soon.

As expected the D-Day arrived. The dreadful one – and I got the BITTER PILL.

Do you know what is the 2ndbiggest fear most people have? (the 1st being death) Do you know what the biggest punishment my dad gave me was?
When my uncle was once visiting and I refused to come up and say hello, my dad punished me by pushing me into a public speaking club, namely the NEW DELHI GAVELS CLUB.

Corporal punishment was banned. But the 2nd biggest fear. You fear, I fear..PUBLIC SPEAKING! And can you believe it, my own father was the one who pushed me into facing this fear.

I had heard of Toastmasters. My dad went there on Sundays, when he had nothing better to do (although he still claims that he tries his best to go there). It was a place where he went to improve his speaking skills.
One fine day, I was in my happy place (in front of the TV) when my dad walked in and announced “My toastmaster friends just told me that there’s a junior version of toastmaster being opened. It’s called the New Delhi Gavel’s Club. It’s for kids of ages 12-18. And guess what, Payal’s joining it!” 


The fireworks began!! I am actually scared of swimming, but I was willing to jump into a 12 feet deep pool. Maybe get some water in my lungs, NO BIGGIE RIGHT? 
But gavels? Woah!  BIG BIGGIE!
From that day onwards, 90% of my time was spent thinking of ways to get out of this big mess. But my dad was adamant. He would take me there. 

1 week later I was at the first meeting of the NEW DELHI GAVELS CLUB. I had already decided that I would hate it. I wouldn’t open my mouth. I would behave just like I did at the dentists.

There was no way in hell they’re going to make ME speak! I went and sat inside. As people kept coming up and speaking, I thought, what geeks, don’t they have anything better to do!

While these thoughts flew in and out of mind, the others in the room spoke. I was so preoccupied with my thoughts that it took me a while to realize it when I was called upon to speak. There were some chits on the table and I had to pick one at random and speak on the topic that was written inside the chit. As I opened the chit to read my topic, my knees trembled! I was sweating and suddenly, there were double the number of people in the room. Why didn’t the ground just open up and swallow me.  Gosh dad! I hate you! If it wasn’t for you I could have been in my happy place.  
Now, I had a new happy place, the time the meetings would finish!



This cycle continued for a while-my dad would force me to go and I would unhappily and half-heartedly oblige. 

Strangely, after a couple of meetings, I began to feel better about being there.I actually felt confident. My voice no more shook, my knees started to stabilize! I started actively taking part in the meetings. 
I guess the end of the meeting was no more my happy place! The people around me were not geeks any more. And I was in no mood to kill my parents.

Not only had the D-Day lead to me feeling better about my speech, but over the years, being part of the club made me more confident as a person. I became more open about coming out of my comfort zone and doing things that initially sound very scary and undoable. Sometimes you need someone to force the BITTER PILL down your throat!
Now, when my parents insist on me joining a class or a club or a program, I willingly accept. After all, who knows what it might have in store for me? 

My 60 seconds on TV

Here is a clip of my TV interview that was aired about a month away. It was at the TYE feliciation ceremony. TiE Young Entrepreneurs (TYE) is a program that gives us about 8-10 lessons on various aspects of starting a business, and then divides us into groups, as a part of which we come up with business plans. We present our business plans in a competition, first at the local level, after which the winning team presents it at the global level.
My group came second in the local competition. Although we didn’t get anything in particular as a prize, we learnt an incredible lot. TYE actually teaches one how to be a leader, which is what makes it so amazing and inspiring.

Link to TiE group on facebook http://www.facebook.com/TiEDelhi?sk=wall