Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The God of Small Things

I was relaxing at home last night, listening to Michael Bublé's new Christmas album when the recollection of a past incident brought a smile to my face. Now when I say past, it seriously was a long time ago, so you'll have to stay with me for a bit while I take you back in time. Yup, fifteen years ago, all the way back to 1996.

I was a twelve-year old kid (I know, the years have totally flown by!) living in a small quiet town in Kerala, India called Trivandrum. The incident I'm gonna tell you about is my first actual visit to the cinemas. Now don't go "Aww man I wasted two minutes of my time reading this?" Stay with me, its not your typical story. Being the youngest of three children, brought up by our mother who was a typically strict school-teacher, let's just say that I never had a lot of the freedom I wanted, which perhaps was good for me, looking back now. I was also especially envious of my older brother (six years older) whom according to me was always having a ball, hanging out with his set of motor-cycle owning friends who'd stay out late, eat out, do all the "fun" stuff. They seemed so cool to me. Me on the other hand was the nerdy boy who'd sit with his books all day and then was given permission to read his Tintin comics or Hardy Boys fiction books after I'd finished homework. Sometimes even that was too much to ask.

So imagine my excitement one day when my mom magically gave me permission (okay maybe I cried, screamed and threw stuff - but just a little) to go with my brother and his cool friends to watch "Independence Day", the new blockbuster starring Will Smith, that everyone was raving about. I remember wearing my favorite tee shirt and waiting eagerly for my brother to come home after college to pick me up. As usual the boys were late, but soon enough a bunch of six or seven motorbikes vrrooomed up to my front gate, with my brother shouting at me to hurry up. Imagine the scene, a 12-yr old kid finally going out with a gang of 18 or 19-yr old boys: this was my big day! I was nervous yet so excited, and I think it was evident on my face, cos all my brother's friends found it very amusing that I was tagging along as well. They decided to thus "set" me up; they told me to hop on the back of one of the Yamaha RX100 bikes, who's rider was known to be the most fastest and daring of the lot. I can never ever forget that 20 minute ride to the theater. I was clinging on for dear life as we zoomed in and out of heavy traffic, scared out of my wits yet extremely excited. I remember thinking, "God, this is the best day of my life, don't make it my last day though please!" My brother's friends made sure I had the ride of my life, all of them laughing jovially at my plight as they raced their way to our destination. As we made our way into the cinema halls and took our seats (we'd missed the opening credits), I remember my heart still pounding within my tiny chest. The movie turned out to be one of the best movies I'd watched till that day and I was smiling throughout - still overjoyed that I was actually living my little dream of hanging out with my brother's cool friends. As Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum punched and flew their way out of trouble to save the human race from alien invasion, I kept thinking to myself that this was in a way, my Independence Day as well. I truly felt like this was my first day of freedom and ended up beaming all the way to my house, rushing inside to tell my mom and sister all about the movie. I could not wait to go to school the next day, just to tell all my friends what an awesome day I'd had. Since then, I've had the highest gratitude to my brother's friends for that day, a day that was just another ordinary day in their lives, but not to me.

Perhaps it was not a co-incidence that yesterday, another fourteen year old kid had a pretty good day. I'd won Platinum tickets to the Maple Leafs' Fans night in a contest last week and gave them to the young kid (one of my favorites!), whom I knew was a huge ice-hockey fan, but had never been to a game in his life before. The fact that he had to skip school for it might not make me a favorite of his parents, but his thrill and excitement was extremely evident, once his elder sister said she'd take him to the game. Based on his texts after the game, it definitely seemed like he had a great time! Maybe, just maybe, one day, fifteen years in the future, he'll suddenly smile thinking about his experience yesterday.

Cos when its all said and done friends, it's neither the size of your pay-package nor the number of cars you own that will make you sit back and smile. It's moments such as these in life, that are innocent yet so precious in nature that will always remain with you. I'm sure the Almighty above us would love us to think the same way too. There's a saying that's so cliche now and has totally being replayed a million times but I'll say it - "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away..." Ouch, so cheesy but still kinda true. Remember that surprise party your friends threw for you? Guys, remember your first video game console? Girls, remember your first barbie? Remember that the day your parents brought home your first pet? Your first time at an amusement park? Treasure them, because as your grow older, your innocence maybe lost but the memories remain. It's up to us to just reach out to them.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Looking at life from two sides of a coin.

It's been one year since I've blogged seriously, but there are certain situations where life just surprises you, or rather frustrates you. In these cases you can't help but vent, and today's post is about one such incident that took place today afternoon.

I was on my way downtown for an interview today and just like the past few days, Toronto was as hot as an open furnace. Imagine me sitting in a moderately crowded bus decked up in a suit and tie. Saying that I couldn't wait to get to the subway would be an minor understatement.

The ride usually takes 15 minutes or so on a normal day. Ten minutes into the ride, a little cute black kid got onto the bus with his two younger brothers. I was sitting towards the front of the bus so I did get a good view of them. Super cute, all three of em'. He must not have been more than ten years in age and his brothers definitely just four or five years old.

The kid put in the money for him and his two brothers but then I felt something was wrong because the driver seemed pissed. He wouldn't go on he said because the kid hadn't put enough money for their bus rides. That's when I noticed the driver - an old white guy, probably around 60 years of age. He had this stone cold mean look on his face, which made it seem like he couldn't smile even if he wanted to. He was like "Get off the bus kid, you cannot ride in here until you've given me the exact amount". I realized that the kid had calculated a lesser rate for his brothers but the driver wouldn't allow it cos they had to be younger than two years or something. Obviously the kid was embarrassed and he tried joking it off by telling his younger brother "Hey, you're more expensive than I'd imagined!" But the driver would have none of it, he told them he would drive on to the next stop and they would have to get out if couldn't cough up the necessary change.

My initial feelings of frustration that the bus wouldn't move cos of these kids by now changed to sympathy for them. The older kid genuinely seemed embarrassed and helpless. His younger brothers just looked scared and confused. So off we went to the next stop, and once the new passengers had got on, the driver didn't move on. Instead, he started yelling at these kids again to give him the necessary money. The kid said he had nothing more so the driver told them they had to get out. He even started yelling at them along the lines of them trying to cheat him and what not. And based on how the TTC works, he couldn't give them back the cash they had put in as well, which means would have to lose their money and miss their ride as well.

I looked around now expecting some of the bus passengers to help the kids out, but nobody made a move. Everyone was too busy on their smartphones or talking among themselves. By now I was furious at the driver for acting so inhumanely towards the kids. C'mon old man, let these kids be! Don't ask them to step out into the sweltering heat with no money! But those were only my thoughts, and I then realized I was doing nothing as well, just like the rest of the passengers. And so I decided to take charge. I looked into my wallet, took out a 2$ (toonie) coin and called out to the kid, "Hey, take this, is this enough?" OMG the look on the kid's face just melted my heart. He looked shocked and shyly said "No, it's too much." I asked him how much was he short by and he whispered "35 Cents". And so I dug into my wallet again, and I'm not kidding, this is what I came up with. Two dimes, two nickels and four pennies. I kid you not. I had exactly 34 cents left and I was short by one cent! ONE friggin' CENT.

And so I had no option but to offer the toonie to the kid again. I was "Hey, just take it, it's fine." But for the life of me, I still don't know why, his pride wouldn't allow him to take it. He again shyly spoke up, "No thank you sir, that's nice of you but it's still too much." I insisted saying "Hey kiddo it's totally fine, just give it to the driver" and his face seemed so embarrassed that it just broke my heart. But he still didn't take the money, cos his heart wouldn't allow it I suppose.

I was aghast. Here I was, in my suit and all, worrying about my future job and whether I would get it, how much would I make, etc. while this little black kid who was about to thrown out of the bus along with his brothers, wouldn't still take my toonie because he didn't think it was fair. And that's exactly what happened then. The driver forced them to get out of the bus and the three kids went sadly trudging off into the heat.

I felt emotions of pure anger, rage, sadness and bewilderment run through me. Suddenly, life was thrown into perspective. On one hand I was mad at the driver and felt like I could beat him up. On the other hand, I think my heart had shattered into a million pieces for the little kid and his brothers as well. My mood was destroyed and as I got into the subway and saw hundreds of passengers again merge into the distance, I didn't even feel like going to my interview. It just didn't seem fair - Life just didn't seem fair!

We all move on with our lives though. I went on to complete my interview, come back home and go out and enjoy soccer with friends. I don't know what happened to the little kid and his brothers. All I can say is that God bless that kid, his honesty and his self-pride. He'll be rewarded some day, I'm sure of it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Social Media Metrics - Platforms and Tools

Hey guys, check out this preso from my Social Media class today, led by Rob Kozinets. Let me know in case of any questions or comments!