Thursday, March 15, 2012


A lot, actually.

Especially if first impressions have a way of they do with me.

I have this favourite skincare brand, Forest Essentials. They are made with natural ingredients, they are made in India. Open a jar or uncap a bottle and delicious smells of jasmine and rose, sandalwood and orange neroli waft out to seduce your senses. And their creams, gels, oils, pure waters and lotions are light as air and soft as flowers on your skin. And they come in this aesthetically minimalistic natural packaging. Clear bottles and jars with stark black caps, small, neat brown and green lettering, and the whole delicious elixir packed in a classily unobtrusive brown-paper colour packaging. I'm getting carried away. But they are really really good and lust-worthy.

Till they changed their packaging. Today, I stepped into a nearby Forest Essentials outlet, only to have my eyes assaulted by the brightest assortment of "Indian" colours outside a Sabyasaachi show - magenta, purple, and oodles of gold. 

It's true that the earlier packaging was so blend-into-the-background kind that although I have had my Forest Essentials stuff right arranged on my bathroom shelves, my inquisitive mom and mom-in-law never noticed them. Or disapprovingly frowned at their printed prices.

But that discretion in packaging was half the charm of Forest Essentials. Right down to the discreet and intricate Tree of Life logo in an antique gold colour. And now they look like a tacky gold-bedecked cousin of Shahnaz Hussein products.

CONFESSION: I have never been able to buy a Shahnaz Hussein product because I get completely put off by the heavily-red-henna-haired, heavy-duty-diamond-beringed, heavy-kohl-lined visage of Shahnaz herself. If this is the way one looks after using the products, then I'd rather use Biotique, which is also in the same price brackets but which are eye-pleasingly packaged in subdued green and sober white.

So, there I was - ready and eager to pick up a Forest Essentials aloe vera day gel and a Forest Essentials jasmine and patchouli night cream. But so disappointed was I with the too-bright too-new too-glossy packaging that I walked out, saving myself a couple of thousand bucks. I know that it is all the same INSIDE, but it just does not seem the same. The drool quotient has gone, for me at least.

Maybe later, when my eyes have got better adjusted to this gracious-lady-turned-circus-performer change.

Have you hated it when a favourite product suddenly underwent a change of appearance/packaging?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Respected Sir,

(or would you like to be addressed in the colonial-hangover manner as 'Sahib'?)

This is to bring to your notice a very typical scenario in any government office:

Distraught Employee (usually a working mom with some looming/happening domestic crisis): "Sir, please will you allow me to come in late/go away early/ take extra leave/work the same as everyone else but at a more convenient timing? I am really having a major problem at home...(explains problem), and I would be so glad if you could help me with this just for a week/month/off-season!"

Boss: (without so much as inquiring into the heart of the problem) "Sorry, madam, not possible. We cannot change the rules/change the system/change our thick skins."

Sounds familiar? Sounds just like those pesky female employees who come crying for your pity and begging for your favours every time their child gets sick/maid goes away/school has an open-house? Such a nuisance, aren't they? If they want to work in the government sector, they should follow the rules, no? After all. rules are sacrosanct and written on stone by the Vedic samrats/Mughal emperors/Britsh masters, no?

I humbly beg to state that I think you are looking at the whole thing from the wrong end of the telescope. I mean, I know that you sit for long stretches of time on that swivel-chair (with the suspiciously greasy-looking towel hanging over the back - all the better to absorb the generous doses of flattery you swallow with impunity everyday), doing nothing much but signing files and passing them down to your minions. But it is really quite laughable to see how that swivel chair seems to have swivelled your brains. In your mind, I am sure you feel you are a RULER, as in not just lording over your dusty, file-bound, hidebound, hardly-moving universe of mediocrity, but also as in THE KEEPER OF RULES, the guardian of discipline and the guard-dog of punctuality. And in this HOLY DUTY, you have the assistance of the trusted BIOMETRIC MACHINE or the swipe card, and other such stuff.


If one employee is reasonably hard-working, sincere and honest, then why can't the rules be re-interpreted to benefit one deserving person with a genuine problem?

Because if one person is granted some special leave/benefit, others will come and ask for the same, no? Because everybody has be equal in the eyes of the rule-book (except you, but we will not mention that), no?


Why should the employees be a generalized bunch of faceless robots, expected to swipe in (or thumb-impressed-in or sign-in) at a fixed time and swipe out at a fixed time six days a week without fail? Why can't you treat them as individuals with ups and downs in their lives away from their office? Why won't you recognise that some employees may deserve special treatment in special cases?

But of course, honesty and hard work are of no value to you - indeed, they may be unrecognisable: mired as you are in boot-licking flattery and fossilizing inefficiency. That's what you have done unto others, and that's what is being done unto you.

In my humble opinion, you deserve our pity as much as we do. It must be mind-numbingly, brain-addlingly, soul-fryingly dull to sink into this quagmire of mediocrity year after year, although you do it in a creaky swivel-chair and light-flashing car.

That EXTREME INERTIA explains the EXTREME DISCONNECT between you and your employees, between you and real life; and also the EXTREME DISPLEASURE you feel when people request leniency. Because CHANGING SOMETHING means THINKING AND DOING NEW THINGS. And thought and action are alien to you.

For you 'TIME' WILL ALWAYS BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN 'TEAM'. The team can go to hell, but the time (of entry and exit) must always be maintained.

So what if the employees come in and leave at the 'proper' times but do no work in between? So what if the staff at the Banking teller counters sip tea and gossip while snaking queues wait impatiently? So what if all the L.I.C employees go for an hour-long lunch simultaneously closing down all the counters when the customers might have other important things to do elsewhere? So what if Government clerks take diarrhea-like long loo-breaks and tea breaks every hour while files pile up and gather dust on their desks? So what if College teachers twiddle their thumbs in hollow staff-rooms even when 'teaching days' are over and the class rooms are vacant till the next session? HOW DOES WORK MATTER TO YOU? Work, productivity, flexibility, accountability are foreign concepts, found in the illegitimate and immoral private sector, the big, bad 'corporate world'. There, people are judged on merit. There, system-shaking concepts like flexitime and work-from-home have taken root. There, efficiency and out-of-the-box creativity is usually valued more than sycophancy and seniority. There, Human Resources Management is more about ENCOURAGING PRODUCTIVITY than about ENFORCING RULES. There, happy employees are the norm, not hapless employees. How utterly scandalous, no?


IN THIS ANACHRONISTIC, UNACCOUNTABLE, ILLOGICAL AND SOULLESS WORLD OF THE GOVERNMENT SECTOR, it is actually sad that you feel that you have employees working UNDER you, rather than colleagues working WITH you. Which is why you get so swollen-headed, and behave in a lord-of-the-manner fashion, unwilling to dole out 'favours' to those who do not do the requisite amount of boot-licking. After all. being a BIGGGG BOSS in an moribund, stultifying, claustrophobic and very small and insignificant office can give you the illusion of TOTAL CONTROL and SUPREME POWER.

So, you will perhaps ask, why do we join THIS DEADENING FOSSILIZED SECTOR at all? And if we are frustrated, why don't we quit?

Security, my dear sir, security. The assurance of a steady (although very slowly increasing) income, the assurance of of a 'permanent' job, the assurance of a post retirement pension. And assurance has a way of cancelling out aggression. So, though we crib and rant, rest assured we won't throw our resignation letters at your face, or plunge that knife into your back (dearly as we like to do it). At the best, we will take out ineffective morchas and shout slogans. Or just decide to give up doing any constructive work whatsoever. Except following the rules, of course.

                                                                                                  Yours humbly (lying at your feet)
                                                                                          A disgruntled-but-not-disobedient employee