Sunday, November 27, 2011

I flew Indigo today. They are the best.

Just boarded my flight back to Mumbai after a wonderful evening at MICA, Ahmedabad. In my mind, I am thanking the MICA team for booking the tickets with Indigo Airlines.

Indigo never fails to surprise me with their brilliance. The crew, the hostesses, their marketing ideas, the in-flight announcements, their time adherence, their customer service... the list is endless. They know their business well.

No surprises that they are the most profitable airlines in a time when kingfisher has become pawnfisher with no money to pay for fuel.

So how Indigo pleased me this time...
  1. Quite obviously, the hostesses were looking better than ever. They were wearing a hat that we normally see on international flights. And very pleasantly, they had the same stylish haircuts!  
  2. Most interestingly, they were wearing a cute badge on their left sleeves saying 'I am going international'. What a great communication idea to talk to existing customers! It could have said 'We are going international'. Most marketeers would have written it that way. But there is a reason why Indigo is also the best employer in the transportation industry. The 'I' factor will make every hostess will feel proud of the message and own the message which will positively affect their service standards.
  3. Have you ever seen Sandwiches photographed like this? A top cross-section view. The in-flight 
      Inflight Magazine of Indigo
    mag is top class and no-nonsense. 1 page each for veg and non-veg food, two pages for snacks, two pages for munchies, one page for juices/drinks, two pages for full page ads clubbed together, 4/5 pages on Indigo merchandise, and 3 pages about Indigo. Interestingly they talk about various awards inside a simple trophy mnemonic in the merchandise pages in an unobtrusive way.
  4. I was delighted to hear 'please do not forget to save your work that you might have done on your laptop before switching it off'. How do they arrive at such great ideas when every other airlines are simply being so usual and normal? 
Thank you Indigo for a great flight. We have just landed in Mumbai. I will surely show my gratitude by traveling with Indigo every time.

All the best.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Organise an event to learn how to be patient !

Dr. Mallika Kondoli
performing Sattriya Nritya
13th November 2011 has become a past tense. I feel awkward. My mind was too used to considering it in the future; a future that was approaching super fast to a no-station land.

Today, there is an emptiness due to its absence. Pre-13th November was a period of many emotions. There was optimism, pessimism, anxiety, camaraderie, loneliness, anger, frustration. The only thread of all the overflow was patience which helped me keep my sanity and self motivation intact.
Srimanta Sankaradeva
A few of my friends and I had organised 'Saaneki - Indelible Impressions of Assam' at the Experimental theatre, NCPA, Mumbai on the 13th of November 2011. It was a Assamese cultural event with 35 artists being invited from Assam for 4 nights, and 10 different song/dance items to be executed in 2 hours 30 minutes.

Our plan was grand. Grand beyond us. Our wish list was impractical given our nine-to-nine Mumbai jobs. Cost was much higher than what we could self fund. The agenda was too large in scope to clearly fathom its depth. We were few and inexperienced.

Entrace to Saaneki at NCPA
Mukha, Japi and Gamocha
What we had was our love for Assam and the Northeast, our grief that the rich Sattriya culture is unknown to the rest of India and our resolution to give back to our roots, our identity.
August is when Monali (my better half) and I, first thought of Saaneki. We wanted to create awareness about our great 15th century Saint and socio-cultural reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva

We called ourselves
Kuhipaat Foundation
The initial plan was to put up the event on 16th October - His Janmotsav. Later we had to shift the date to 13th November and thankfully so because the venue that we got was the most prestigious NCPA, Nariman Point. The venue search undoubtedly was one of the most anxious times that we had spent. I was always hopeful, though.
We needed a venue, which would lend credibility to the program. Moreover, our target audience were people from outside the Northeast.

Simultaneously, we were deciding on the event name, and organiser team name. Designing of their logos. We were doing research on the program agenda. Sattriya culture developed and propagated by Srimanta Sankaradeva is too vast, classical and sacred. We needed to collect funds and sponsorships. We need to scout for talents in Assam who can perform in Mumbai and do justice to Sattriya culture. The list was endless.

Naam Prasang at Saaneki, NCPA
Every little thing that we had to accomplish gave us hopelessness in the beginning. We had to keep patience for things to fall in place. Be it the venue, artists, funds, event props, audience, media coverage and logistics. The only mantra was the thought that we have to keep working hard, be positive and think that we can make it happen.
Every night after office went till 2AM in the morning. Writing content for the leaflet, writing mails to probable sponsors and individual contributors, negotiations with performing artists.

Ram Katha by Mridusmita Das
As the event came closure, the tension was building up. Booking train tickets for the artists, hotel reservations, arranging transport etc were easier, we were actually tensed about the logistics inside the auditorium, once the program starts. How do we manage 12 different programs - the agenda had live programs, solo performance, group performance, songs, shraddhanjali to our dear Bhupen da, a prayer ceremony - Naam Prasanga.
Shraddhanjali to Dr. Bhupen Hazarika at Saaneki, NCPA
We kept working hard and we told ourselves to be patient. Today I firmly believe that if you have focus and keep working hard, the whole universe conspires to help you out of all your problems. We had three hands of God, helping us have a great professionally organised event.

First hand of God was our friend called Dezadd, who is one of the best floor managers of the country. We had casually told him to help us on the event day. There was no confirmation that he would actually come. But half an hour prior the event, he was with us. He reached and chaos went away. People today ask me, "Was it really your first event? It was so professionally done."

The second hand of God was the extremely intelligent Meiyang Chang. He cancelled his other appointments to be with us, half an hour before the event. In just 15 minutes, he adapted himself to all the Assamese words. He added grandeur to the event that we could never achieve in our very first event.

Meiyang Chang was felicitated with the
traditional Assamese Japi and Gamocha
The third hand of God was a friend of one of our team members - Mahan J. Dutta. He was George K. Antoney. He designed the lights. And I think it was just too fabulous. The photographs would tell you what I mean by writing 'just fabulous'.

So today, when I look back at Saaneki - the planning, the design, the logistics, the 'begging money' spree, the 13th of November, the accolades, the post event phone calls - I just take back one learning. 

Have patience and keep working at it. Everything just happens. Sometimes it takes a bit more time, but it would happen nevertheless.

I take this opportunity to thank Meiyang Chang once again, Dr. Mallika Kondoli, Mridusmita Das, Rumi Talukdar, Mrigen Dutta, Gunindranath Ojah, Dezadd and George without whose participation, this event would have been a non-starter.
I thank Monali Bhardwaj, Mahan J. Dutta, Arindam Baruah, Dhruva Bordoloi, Sourik Datta, Leon Kaushik, Debashish Sarma and Sagar Saurav who worked tirelessly in various ways to organise this event.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika... Scribblings of a dark day!

Its a day of extreme sadness. Bhupen da has left us forever.

Many know Dr. Bhupen Hazarika as the singer-musician of Assam; some know him as the multifaceted genius, who was a good poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and a film-maker; few know him as India's first doctorate in film studies and music.

I however know him as someone, who loved his ethnic identity, his Assam and her people. I know him as the pragmatic statesman who wrote for people, of their emotions, about their problems, and for their future.

Loving one's identity is not corollary to hating everyone elses'.

He sang in Bengali. He sang for Bangladesh. He sang in Hindi. He even sang in English. He became closely associated with Paul Robeson between 1949 and 1955 in USA, where he was awarded a Gold Medallion in New York as the best interpreter of India's folk songs by Eleanor Roosevelt.
6th November 2011
Today Dr. Bhupen Hazarika did his last trip to his Nizarapar house in Guwahati. The whole Guwahati was on the streets to walk with him for the last time. I have not seen a bigger reception. I have not seen a bigger mass-emotion. I have not seen so many people crying for a public figure.

Why is a genius in some art forms so respected, so adored and could gather such a massive public response? Jagjit Singh in today's times and Mohd. Rafi of yesterday didn't generate such public emotion. They were better singers and surely had a larger fan base.

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was a poet and a singer who knew how to communicate through his songs. He was a social activist who knew the power of words if written and sung well. He could do both very well.

This talent of him was further strengthened because of his genuine love for his motherland - Assam. He understood Assamese people and had knowledge about its myriad cultures and traditions. He had written and sung songs on every social, economic and political issue of his times, that are relevant even today.

It was in 1970 when he thought of inculcating 'dignity of labour' among the common man of the Assamese community. He with his brother Jayanta Hazarika started the Rickshaw Chalao musical drive to convince the common man that even pulling rickshaw is a dignified job. There is nothing to be ashamed of. He envisioned that if there is dignity of labour, a community can do quicker economic progress and would have lesser unemployment.

His love for Assam took him to every corner of Assam. He related to people of every tribe and community. He had written and sung songs about every place (almost) that he had visited. His songs had meanings that penetrated public emotions of each of these places that he visited.

Dr. Bhupen Hazarika had his own share of personal miseries. He perhaps had a larger share than most of us. But those bad times couldn't take him away from his focus, from his love for the Assamese community, from the love of music.

He was a true Indian and a responsible world citizen. However, from all his work, I see that he was an Assamese first. It is this love that he had for his ethnic identity that's making me feel a great loss.

It's an era that has ended. Assam has lost one of its greatest son ever.