Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book launches & Fantastic Beasts in my Home

It's been quite a couple of weeks.  In between the regular commitments, launching both my new books 'When Love Finds You' and my first kid's book ever, 'Peanut Has a Plan'  - and this along with travel to Mumbai for a work conference and some serious effort at racing against time to get ready not one, but two presentations for an important discussion.

Quick round up of whatever has stayed with me through the blur -

1. Atta Gallata is a wonderful store in Koramangala Bangalore - they stock only Indian authors, which is very, very refreshing. (And by the way, have you read this piece on the elitism in Indian media written by my publicist at Harper's?)Did an event there last Saturday, it's a warm, wonderful place. If you're lucky enough to live in my favourite city, check it out. The funny part is it turned out to be started up by a first cousin of my batchmate and friend from IIMB!

                   Holding forth at Atta Galatta Women's Web Event. Books all around and a live audience. Never happier!

Women's Web had organized this event and it had an audience of 50 very engaged women who asked great questions on the theme of 'Women at Work.' My co-panelists were the impressive Vaishali Kasture, Partner at Delloite, and Malini Gowrishankar, Entrepreneur by day and VO artist by night, who did an impromptu reading of my book blurb.

Here's a link to a video of Vaishali asking me a question about being multifaceted.
Here's an article they wrote featuring me prior to the event.

Some other pictures from other recent events -

             
     Gurgaon Moms event at Cafe Nowhere. That second one above is me and Amrita, my favourite book marketing person of       all time. See how she's finger-pointing even as I show affection? Typical.

  With a special bunch of bloggers delighted to be in conversation at an actual publishing house office, Harper's office in Noida. 
                             With Manasi (my editor) and Amrita (aforementioned publicist) at the Truly Madly Office.

2. With all of this, I happened to be out last weekend and missed my younger son's Papad's school performance. Which would have been quite heart-renching had I actually missed it - because thanks to technology and timing, I managed to sit in my hotel room at Lemon Tree and watch the whole thing on FaceTime. My husband very sweetly arranged for enough battery and front row seats so that I didn't miss a moment of the stage performance. The kid was somewhat assuaged by my recounting of the whole thing, including his rather shy dance on stage and the fact that he 'fell down once but jumped up immediately like a Jack in the Box.'

I was glad to be here this weekend because this time it was Pickle's performance. He too was in a dance and had an actual real dialogue which he delivered with great panache even though he stood just to the right of the spotlight so only his front-row parents could see him. I must say that even though technology is wonderful, it was great to actually be here and be with him during the entire morning madness of 'Will you PLEASE get on your Khakhi shorts, and for the love of God, do NOT wear that white shirt until you've finished your breakfast.' This was Vijay, of course, I couldn't care less but it was nice to be able to hear all the yelling. The performance was both short and sweet and then we were home for the afternoon; and in the evening, we went together for a musical performance at the school where Peanut and I learn music for a 'Terrace Jam' which was also great fun. Even though Pickle & Papad found Soya Katori packets meant for twenty people and finished them all by themselves - after sweetly handing around single pieces to the rest of the audience.

3. I cannot quite believe how Peanut is already behaving like a teenager. She's reading like crazy most of the time around the house and a big help when it comes to managing her six year old brothers, except when she ignores them stealing Soya Katoris and except when she actually decides to turn into a six year old herself and then it's like managing triplets-gone-mad.

Here's some of the stuff you get to hear from her -

(After she finishes explaining to Papad that great can also be written as a g-r-8) '...And There's a Lot You Don't Know About Growing Up, Boy' - followed by a condescending pat on his head.

(After complaining about how she's getting tired following me around the mall, and hearing about the store we're going next) Oooh, Shopper's Stop? Great, I thought you'd NEVER stop!

I just took her to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and what a movie it is. Please go ahead watch this one (Vijay and I also took the kids for 'Trolls' which was thoroughly enjoyable too but can't compare to this one).  This flick had the kind of special effects around Magic that would have lifted the Harry Potter series to the next level, in my opinion - and very good casting too. We had a debate about whether all of us should go but my six year old twins saw the trailer and opted to stay home themselves and just watch TV. Kids today are pretty smart. So it was just her and me because Vijay's decided to traipse around farms on the weekends, and we had a great time together. We were both less irritable without the men in the family around.

In fact, we were late for the movie, and usually getting late gets her goat - I hate being late for anything, and she particularly hates being late for movies. Uber wasn't working for some reason so barely with five minutes to spare, we rushed out of the house and managed to get an auto.

'There's nothing like an auto to spoil your hair.' She yelled over the roar of traffic as we sped along and I held on tightly to her.

'Yeah.' I agreed, pushing my hair out of my eyes.

'And we've never been this late for a movie before!'

'Yeah.' I had to admit. We barely had four minutes to spare although our guy was smartly snaking around traffic and making decent speed.

After a beat, she snuggled a little deeper into my arms and remarked cheerily 'This is fun.'

It took me a moment but I looked at my first born and realised something.

'Yeah.' I said, my grin broadening. 'It is.'


Friday, November 11, 2016

Random Hotel Review: Lemon Tree Bangalore Vs. Grand Hyatt Santa Cruz

So for someone who's been travelling last few days, landing at Mumbai airport to find out that their currency has suddenly been demonitized and that the U.S Presidency has been demon-ized, it's been a rather disorienting week. It is making me even more random and cranky than usual and so I thought I would take this perfect opportunity to do a review. After all, when it comes to my book reviews, at least SOME people seem to wait until they are their randomest and crankiest. Let's say it brings out the best and most honest in any reviewer.

I was at Grand Hyatt Santa Cruz,Mumbai for a conference the last 3 days and last night I flew to Bangalore for an event with Women's Web that my publicist at HarperCollins had set up. I was checked in at Lemon Tree. I was particularly sleepy when we landed and told the driver that we had to go to Lemon Tree, Koramangala. We set off confidently at 9.30 p.m. from the Bangalore airport and about 11 p.m. we were reaching Koramangala when I decided to check in on Google Maps about the exact location of the hotel. Just to be super safe and cautious, I'd look at the printout of the hotel check in details.

What?

'Wait, Manju, wait!' I called to my driver. 'We have to go to Lemon Tree, ULSOOR LAKE not Koramangala!'

'Oh!' said the hapless driver. 'But we passed that 30 minutes ago!'

My immediate reaction was to blame my publicist. How my publicist has put up with me for the two last books I do not know, but I thought it was time to test the relationship even further. I called her up.

'Amrita!'

'Yes, Yash, you've reached? Okay listen about the blogger's meet tomorrow...'

'No, wait!' I interrupted firmly. 'You told me that I was booked in Koramangala, and I have to go to Ulsoor Lake!'

'I told you the EVENT was at Atta Gallata at 6 p.m., that's in Koramangala. There was no availability of a hotel there, so we put you in...wait, wait, what was it? Oh yes, Ulsoor Lake, Lemon Tree.'

'No kidding.' I said bitterly. 'I distinctly remember you saying Lemon Tree, Koramangala three weeks ago.'

'Yes, But I shared the details with your assistant three days ago.' came the unusually logical reply, followed by mild curiosity 'You didn't look at it?'

'I've got to GO now.' I said coldly. 'On a LONG ride.'

I spent the next few minutes bitterly complaining to any friend who I saw online on whatsapp and of course my husband, until I reached Lemon Tree, Ulsoor Lake. It turned out not to be in the lake (another disappointment) but merely in the Lake Area.

However, my mood somewhat brightened when I saw that it seemed to be a rather well-lit hotel. Kind of living up to it's name, you know? A lemon. A tree. A bright lemon tree. Things in yellow and green, just as lemons and trees should be. And as I went up in the lift, I noted the contrasts between two hotels for the first time involved in the life of a 'living out of a suitcase businesswoman'. These were the following -

1. Grand Hyatt Mumbai was quiet, dark and sophisticated. Lemon Tree, Bangalore was bright, cheery and friendly. The same seemed true of their prices although I hadn't checked the details carefully, but I'm pretty sure that's true.
Winner: Lemon Tree

2. At Grand Hyatt, as soon as you get out of the car, they take away your suitcase and usher you inside, assuring you that your suitcase will reach your room. This forced parting can be very disconcerting for the hassled traveller. I mean, what if my photo ID proof is in the wallet in the very top zipper of the suitcase? I know it's not usual to do that but what IF? At Lemon Tree, they helped with the suitcase but it was always in my sight.
Winner: Lemon Tree.

3. The check in - Grand Hyatt had very polite staff but the guy at Lemon Tree seemed friendlier. Even though I growled at him to check me in FAST PLEASE, he didn't seem bothered and kept chattering at lightning speed about 'wejustneedyouraddressandmobilenumberandsignaturehere.' Also, they didn't pre-swipe my credit card with crazy amounts of money like they did at Grand Hyatt. This is always a good thing.
Winner: Lemon Tree

4. Post check in at Lemon Tree, I was expecting some help with that stupid suitcase of mine (this had eventually turned up in my room, much to my relief when at Grand Hyatt), but the folks at Lemon Tree all suddenly disappeared, and the entire hall was deserted but for me and my suitcase and my struggles. It was kind of a small suitcase so maybe when they think the guest can handle it, they all collectively dive behind their comfy sofas. I'm all for it although I did think that it was slightly rude. On the plus side, I wouldn't have to feel bad about not tipping the guy who brought it up although I could have blamed it on the currency issue even though I never like to tip the guy for bringing up a tiny suitcase which I could have done easily myself.

Winner: it's a Tie purely because of my above confusion.

5. The Hallway to the Room: Grand Hyatt had these mile-long deserted depressing hallways. No one around and yet a zillion rooms facing each other in stoic silence, broken by only by the occasional sound a foreign businessman (soft) talking to an Indian businessman (loud). Don't ask me why they were having business conversations inside the hotel room. It could happen, and it's just my impression anyway. Wait, so basically, the hallway at Grand Hyatt- long, depressing. Hallway at Lemon Tree - I don't remember it at all, which means that my room must have been close to the lift and the hallways must have looked normal and not like something out of the Matrix.

Winner: Lemon Tree. Of course.

6. The Room itself: Now, this is the real deal, right? This is where you spend most of your time when at the hotel? The room at Grand Hyatt looked very posh and all that in the first go, but you very quickly discover that it's designed to irk normal people. I mean, normal people want to be able to see what switch bloody switches on which bloody light, right? I stumbled around trying to get the room to a state where I could actually see, which took me half an hour. And later at night when I actually wanted to sleep, the same switches didn't bloody seem to work anymore!! Every single night I stayed there, I called the 'guest services' and had to ask him which switch was for the light above the mirror, which one for the reading light above the bed. They were completely non-intuitive, hidden inside flowerpots and the like (almost). In frustration, I asked the guy on the third night 'Am I the only one who has this problem?' He replied quietly but honestly 'No Ma'am.' I asked him 'Why do you DO this to your guests? Please give this feedback to management...you should design these things better, you guys aren't here to trouble your guests, right? I mean...' I went on for a bit and to his credit, he didn't hang up after saying 'Hallo, hallo, awaaz nahin aa rahi...' He just heard me out. I feel sorry for hotel staff.
The lights at Lemon tree were all normal and there was even a good ol' middle-class type fan regulator. I didn't notice if there was a fan at all in Grand Hyatt. There should always be a fan. I am a fan of fans.

Winner: This is getting predictable.

7. The bathroom: equivalent. But guess which one actually had the thingy near the toilet seat which sprays water for washing hard to reach places? The only thing that actually SHOULD be considered a luxury at a hotel but of which the absence indicates 'Ooooh we're sooooo western. Use just a tissue like the Americans.' Eww.

Winner: You guessed it.

Okay, so now I'm getting late for breakfast at Lemon Tree so I can't write just yet about whose complimentary breakfast was better. It is clear that the Lemon Tree is the overall winner. The ONLY problem, and it's a big one. You have to pay Rs. 475 plus taxes to get hi-speed wi-fi (on up to six devices). I don't want to pay for free hi-speed wi-fi in a hotel! It is my birthright to get it for free. And what do you mean for up to six devices? How many devices do you expect me to have? I just need it for my phone and my laptop. At best, someone may need it for their tablet as well. So why six? This kind of psychological pricing doesn't work on me, I've been in Marketing for 15 years or something. And now we bring you to the end of this short rant bulletin and head for breakfast.

I hope this helps you to make your luxury hotel stay decision. Of course, the fact that these comparisons are made in two different cities shouldn't bother you, I'm sure it's reflective of the chains all over the country and maybe the world. I love generalizations.

On a parting note: I'm a middle class child of the nineteen eighties and nineties, daughter of a doctor and a government official. I shall never ever be sophisticated.

Thank GOD. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bloggers meet at HarperCollins on Nov 5th!


Are you in NCR - and do you love books as well as blogging?

Would love to see some of you there.

Just share your blog links and why you'd like to come for this meet-up : )

You can do it as a comment to this post :)

Friday, October 14, 2016

When Love Finds You

Okay guys - so my fourth book 'When Love Finds You' is out!  It's something I wrote over two years ago, even before 'There's Something About You' - more on that process later. Right now, every single pre-order counts, as is always the case. I do hope you won't wait - get it now



Another rollicking ride from the bestselling author of Just Married, Please Excuse, Sorting out Sid and There’s Something about You. 
Natasha is a badass boss. Just how badass? She can make a grown man cry, she can whip a team into shape, she can meet her targets and she won’t take bullshit from anyone. 
Of course, getting the job done is never enough for a woman in a man’s world. When it’s time for her long-overdue promotion, she’s passed over for Rishabh Sethi – a smarmy rake who apparently has ‘people skills’. He knows just how to push her buttons and it's driving her up the wall. Thankfully, the very desirable Nikhil – he of the quiet self-assurance and distracting dimple – is around to make the office tolerable. With a crotchety old neighbour, an unrelenting friend and a tumultuous family history in the mix, Natasha is suddenly beginning to find that everything she's ignored in the pursuit of success is now coming back to haunt her.

But don’t worry. She’s bringing her A-game. She always does.

Pre-order now

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Delhi Folks, Seen The Inside of a Dating App Office?



As part of my new book launch (Ta-daaaa - and by the way, please pre-order it here!), HarperCollins has done an interesting conversation with TrulyMadly and so, this Saturday, we're doing an Open Mic where I'm in conversation with their CEO Sachin Bhatia. There's going to be poetry, jokes and a lot of general conversation.... as well as wine!

So if you're Delhi and you'd like to meet a cool bunch of people for a nice Saturday afternoon, go ahead and join us here. And do help spread the word ;)

P.S - pre-order? 

P.P.S - hop on over to read a little something I wrote for them this week?

I may not have the latest  statistics when it comes to love in the workplace, but since I married a guy who flirted with me in the office years ago (though he claims I started it) I guess I am a statistic. Living proof that the office is a natural environment for relationships to blossom. Read More on the Truly Madly Blog

Monday, September 12, 2016

STRONG

I was quite amused to see a picture of myself from Jan 2011, when my Mom sent it on Whatsapp. No, am not sharing it here. The twins and Peanut are sitting with me, all nice and chubby, but there's no one chubbier than me.

Sure, it is to be expected that a woman bloats up during pregnancy - but this was seven months after the twins were born. I always put on too much weight during my pregnancies - 22 kilos the first time and 25 kilos the second time, vis a vis the recommended gain of about 14 kgs ( if I remember correctly, that's true even for twin pregnancies). 

The first time I worked it off completely -it was a normal delivery and I was working full time after several months, and used to climb up eleven floors each day to get to the office. It worked beautifully, I don't remember much else about how I worked out at that time.

After the twins, with the C-section, the following surgery post a complication and the general chaos that happens when you have twins, it was SO much harder. I managed to lose some of it, but it was the Zumba program that actually helped me get back into shape. 

Still, after a couple of years of Zumba-ing (learning for a year and then teaching), I realized that I had hit a plateau yet again. My weekend classes weren't enough to give me the required  toning; even adding Yoga didn't help the belly area (that C-section pouch is an a-hole!). I was contemplating what to do about it when...Strong by Zumba got launched!


This is a high-intensity Tempo training workout; it's different from Zumba in that it is reverse-engineered - a team decided the right High intensity moves that make for a great workout and THEN they designed the music for it. I love the concept - signed up, went for a training on August 7th, was blown away by it and have been practising since. In just a month, I see a big difference in my strength, toning and energy! It's not a cakewalk but it is very, very doable. 

There's a whole bunch of us in Delhi who were trained by the very fit and very professional Prateek Kundial, and only a few of us have launched the program so far. I feel ready to do at least a Demo session of it and am trying to see if I can get enough people ( ideal number - 8) near my locality in Gurgaon ( MG Road) in order to do it tomorrow i.e. Wednesday September 14, 6.30 p.m. 

I'm writing this quick post just so that more people become aware of this program. It is NOT dance-based, so for those with two left feet who drop out of Zumba classes because they feel they can't keep up, this is actually a great alternative. The choreos are not left up to us 'creative' instructors because the one-hour class is broken up into four separate Quadrants with varying and carefully designed levels of intensity to really get the max out of the workout. 

The other thing we've discovered is that many non-licensed instructors are either already teaching this program OR dismissing it as 'not for everyone - only for young folks who like gymming' - neither of these are a good thing, so that's the other reason for this post. If anyone talks to you about Strong By Zumba, first ask if they're trained or licensed. 

Okay, that's it!  Watch the videos to know more - the one above that explains the concept in a minute; and the other that showcases a very cool song 'I don't waste my time' by the very cool Ai Lee.

And lastly - none of this will ever take away for the love of us Zumba instructors for the core Zumba program, excellent, fun and effective in its own right! I feel that if I were doing more classes of even Zumba in the week, it would work brilliantly - but now that there's an option for variety - heck, why not?

Find a Zumba or Strong by Zumba class near you! And if you're in Gurgaon, find mine ;)! 


Friday, September 9, 2016

Papad the Little Wise Man

One of the downsides of being a twin has to be the constant comparison you're subject to. This one is smarter, that one is faster, he's more of an athlete, he's better behaved yada yada yada. As Pickle and Papad grow up and their individual personalities now shine through more clearly, I see this happening less. It helps that even though they're genetically identical, they don't look the same - I don't know how that works. But at this age, when they've turned six years old and Peanut is nine, it's interesting to see their differences.

Vijay's always had this thing about Papad not being the brightest bulb on the planet. Earlier, he used to piss me off by suggesting that Pickle was the one who was least like the two of us and had perhaps been switched in the nursery after birth. But of late, he's come to the conclusion that it's Papad who we will need to save for.

'Poot Sapoot Toh Kya Dhan Sanchey?
Poot Kapoot Toh Kya Dhan Sanchey?'

After this dramatic announcement from him, I asked him what the heck he was blabbering about. 'What Kaput, Shaput, Man?'

'It means.' He said in a superior manner. 'If your child is good, what's the need to accumulate wealth for him, he is capable. And if he is bad, why would you want to accumulate wealth for him? He doesn't deserve it.' He then looked over at Papad who was playing innocently with a set of toothpicks trying to make them stand up on the carpet. 'But...what if your child is a buddhu?' He announced fondly. 'We'll leave you some money, Papad.'

Papad smiled at him and I glared. Not funny to label your child like this.

I know Vijay's only kidding about this stuff, but Papad doesn't really help the cause at times.

'What words start with Q,' he wonders out loud while doing his homework. And then. 'I know! CUCUMBER.'

Actually a most natural mistake, if you think about it but I don't miss Vijay's head-shaking and quiet murmur 'Don't worry, we'll leave behind the money.'

Or when we were preparing the kid for Show and Tell last week.

'So, this is a pot that is used for planting...tell the class why it has holes in the bottom? You remember, right? So that the extra water can come out. Right? So....why does it have holes in the bottom?'

'So that the mud can come out.'

'No, we just discussed this...so that?...the...?'

'The air can come out.'

'NO! I mean, no, beta...so that the...?'

'The hole can come out.'

'NO!' I all but clutch my hair.

'What was the queschun?'

I've run out of time and bundle him out of the house to catch the bus with the others. Vijay takes another sedate sip of tea and looks satisfied.

But there are times when the little boy comes up with fairly profound insights. I think all kids do, and he's no different. He is sensitive especially to my feelings; he watches my expressions a lot and responds intelligently many times. We share a special bond, me and that skinny little kid and I think he's going to do just fine. He was cuddling with me last week and then a thought struck him.

'Mom. What is more important. I or my Family?'

'What?'

'Am I important or is Family important?'

'Well...' I struggled. 'What do you think?'

'I think' He pursed his lip. 'That I is more important. Then is Family.'

'Um-hmmm.' I had to admit. 'I think I also feel that way. But what do you think about how your Dad would feel?'

Vijay walked out of Papaji's room. Papaji is a Parkinson's patient and in a condition now where he needs twenty four care and even though we have an attendant, Vijay is up several times a night to help him to the bathroom, and so on.

Papad gazed at him 'I think Daddy thinks Family is THIS important.' He raised his hand above his head. 'And that he is THIS much.' He dropped it down almost to his knees.

'What?' Vijay frowned. I explained the queschun and the answer.

'So Papad.' Vijay said. 'You think family is less important? But if there was no family - there would be no you, right?'

Papad thought about it for a bit. 'Yes, but if there is no ME, then how can I have any family?'

Vijay didn't really have a rejoinder. And I figured I really did agree with the logic that young Papad spouted. You have to take care of yourself first. Your own oxygen mask on before helping someone with theirs. I've often tried to tell Vijay that this is how it has to be - the self-sacrificing can only take you so far in life.

I gaze triumphantly at Vijay. Papad runs off and my husband stares after him for a bit. I figure he must be duly impressed with the child's reasoning and philosophy.

'Hmmm.' He mutters. 'At least he's good at sports. Maybe he'll be okay through Sports Quota.'