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31 July 2007

Last day in Mumbai

THE DAY seemed endless. When I thought I had my appointment book all sorted out, the timing went berserk.

  • 8:00–9:00 AM: Breakfast with a friend at JW Marriott. This extended to 10:30, which meant I had to move the . . .
  • . . . 9:30–10:00 AM final inspection of my flat with the landlord. A very sociable man, he chatted amiably with me until 12:00 noon, which was way beyond the . . .
  • .. . . 10:15–11:00 AM turn-over of the car, house keys, and a few other documents to Shoppers’ Stop. By the time I wrapped this up, it was 2:30, and the person waiting for me for the . . .
  • . . . 12:00 noon appointment at Airtel was off for an hour-long lunch. My stamina had now worn thin. I should have taken a big breakfast at JW Marriott. By 3:30, I got to close my Airtel telephone and DSL accounts. I was now ready to lunch with a Baha’i friend in Bandra! But did you guess that she had to cancel the lunch as it was beyond lunch time and she had to go somewhere else?
  • 4:00 PM: With an empty stomach, wobbling knees, and throbbing headache, I sped off to Hyatt for a sandwich, an easy lounge at the sofas, and a tired countdown till dinner with another friend.
  • 7:00–8:30 PM: Lobster dinner and coffee parfait. I let the parfait melt in my mouth. Pure bliss. But not for long.
  • 9:00 pm: At the airport with excess baggage. This, I expected courtesy of all those Indian sandals and pouch bags bought for two sisters and three brothers (and their spouses) in Manila. What I did not expect was the unpacking, repacking, and depacking of one big luggage into three smaller ones, so that each would not exceed 30 kilos. Have you ever gone through the security check four times in fifteen minutes with four heavy suitcases? One day, I will write a screenplay on this draining fifteen-minute adventure.

I am now ready to sleep in the aircraft. The thought of snoring is very delicious.

29 July 2007

An empty room

After the storm of packing up

After the storm of packing up

DONE. The most overwhelming part about moving on is over. All my personal stuff have been packed in seventy boxes and shipped tonight. Two years of collectibles from Dubai and India are about to see a new home.

24 July 2007

Farewell, westerners


ON THIS particular evening, I could say they were all my girls. Gathered around the table at some suburban Indian restaurant were 14 members of the western VM team, and I hired almost all of them into Shoppers' Stop. I am proud of these ladies and even prouder to have joined them for one last supper around that long wooden table.Invitation to dinner

“Come the way that Paul would dress up!” said the invite. So they came in bright colors and tons of beaded necklaces. The colorful attire spoke about them too. This western team is one the most colorfully ferocious bunch I have ever trained. And those ladies are ready to erupt in vicious laughter. If the afternoon with the northern team was spiked with stories, the evening with the westerners was filled with laughter.

Amidst the hilarity is the throbbing Bhangra dhol drum music played by a Punjabi-dressed waiter. The food was delicious and overwhelming. What is it about Punjabi cuisine? It seemed like an endless supply of food from all the pots and pans in the restaurant's kitchen and the neighbor's kitchen. I had to take out bags of leftovers and gave them to my driver for his week-long supply of lunch.

It was hard to part ways that evening. With food and music and laughter and love, how can I ever forget the night and the team?

Related Sites:

Farewell, Northerners
Flickr Slideshow

22 July 2007

Welcome, Joaquin!

Joaquin Alfonso Aseron Ancheta

Joaquin Alfonso Ancheta
Image source: Aya Ancheta

I HAVE a new nephew, and his name is Joaquin Alfonso!

Born on 21 June 2007 in Manila, Philippines, Joax (read: Wax) is my youngest brother Von's first child with his wife Hazel Aseron. I have been told the baby takes after Hazel's nose and mouth. Well, I expect him to grow up wearing all the denim jeans in the world (like his father does)!

Congratulations, Von and Hazel!

15 July 2007

One singular sensation

Aleta Leftwich

Aleta Leftwich at 1
Image source: Her mom

AILSA HEDLEY LEFTWICH wrote in this morning to remind me that my cat Pluto is one day older than her daughter Aleta. As the mom narrated in her blog, Aleta's “birth is still a rather clear memory for me, and the last year has really flown by”. I completely agree. It went so fast I did not even hear the airplane that carried the year! (That was a joke, so you better laugh.)

Happy birthday, Aleta! May the days of being a brilliant star bring joy to you, your parents, and Zeddie the Cat!

14 July 2007

Snap!

Former management trainees

A batch of brilliance
Image source: Kalyani Vaidya

“SNAP!” WAS written on the subject line on the e-mail that carried the picture above. Sent by Kalyani (the woman in red standing at extreme right), the group shot included me with her and the rest of her fellow managers at Shoppers' Stop—and they might as well remember me as SNAP! See, I used to snap at them when they were all training as department managers in the stores. And boy, did they love snapping back in glee!

“Did we not agree to display these westerns according to collection?” “Uh, yes, but they weren't selling that way in this store.”

“Please get those ties on those suits and jackets in one color, like I told you three hours ago.” “Well, they are! One is purple, the others are pink.” “And pink and purple are two different colors.” “Maybe purple is a darker pink, and pink is a lighter purple. They're very attractive, yes? And they sell well.” (That shut me up.)

“Why the heck are these waterfall hangers moved over there?” “Paul, the customers kept bumping on the hangers, so I gave them space.” “But there's no more space for the hangers.” “Yeah, but there's now a lot more space for the customers!”

“That's how we do it elsewhere.” “But we're not Mango, are we, Paul?”

“May I remind you that you're not supposed to own that round table for your department? It's meant for the whole store.” “I don't exactly own it. I just reserve it for my regular use!”

I so loved training these 17 men and women who buzzed with intellectual courage and youthful energy. My tasks were so much easier with them, as they made me pause, think back, and evaluate the training process. They were also amongst the most stylish crowd in Shoppers' Stop.

Months after they left the stores to become managers in the head office, I posed with them in the picture above. What joyful honor to be snapped with this batch before I leave the company!

Romina and Arman get married!

Arman Imani and Romina Bahrami

The new Mr. and Mrs. Arman Imani
Image source: Arman and Romina Imani

THEY HAVE finally tied the knot. Romina Bahrami and Arman Imani exchanged their marriage vows in a Bahá'í wedding ceremony in Edmonton, Canada on 16 June 2007. I was unable to join or greet them on this special day: I was returning to Mumbai from Delhi and celebrating my birthday at the same time.

The newlyweds have released pictures of their wedding on Flickr.

Romina and Arman with former colleagues from Haifa, Israel

A reunion: Romina and Arman with six of our former colleagues from Haifa, Israel. What fun to see old friends together in one group shot!
Image source: Ailsa Hedley Leftwich

Related Sites:

Finally Happening
Romina and Arman Get Engaged!

12 July 2007

Farewell, northerners

The VM team of northern India

The visual merchandising team of northern India

THE PUNJABI lunch in New Delhi was quick, yet it took me forever to complete it. I was, after all, busy telling stories of my earliest days in visual merchandising, back when we were still called “display artists”. This was a great audience: my visual merchandising team for northern India, seated around me at the dining table this afternoon one last time. How privileged of me to be with them before my last day of work with Shoppers' Stop!

They gifted me with a silver pen and a silver clown. Did it take them forever to decide what to give me as a farewell memento? Or have I stayed long enough to share with them my gift for gab and gags? I assigned the value of these presents to my love for writing and clowning.

The gift of gab and gags

Silver pen, silver clown

Through the next four hours, there was less laughter and more silence. I looked at this youthful team of the north and thought of the years it took for me to build my career, then I thought of the years ahead of them. This was the team that always impressed me with their sense of styling, layering, and almost snobbish approach to work. What a joy to think of what they can do with the glorious years ahead of them!

I shall miss them greatly, this bunch.

08 July 2007

Viral marketing: 
AR Rahman, “Ek Mohabbat (One Love)”


Ek Mohabbat (One Love)”
Link reference: YouTube.com

THE NEW 7 Wonders of the World have been announced—and the glorious Taj Mahal made it. Indians had been vigorously campaigning for its well-deserved inclusion through a global voting system. The most catchy effort is a music video by singer-composer AR Rahman called “Ek Mohabbat (One Love)”. Shot at the monument grounds, it captures the myriad textures, rhythms, and patterns of the land, and the love that unifies these diversities. Watching the video makes me privileged to be amongst the Indians.

06 July 2007

Pluto turns 1

Pluto's birthday
Getting drunk on his birthday.

TODAY IS Pluto's first birthday. In human terms, he is fifteen years old; it will take another eleven years for him to be considered a senior cat. Imagine me taking care of a geriatric creature when I am 53.

I am not sure how cats celebrate their birthdays, but he certainly enjoyed the cold bottle of Coca Cola that I had over dinner.

Related Site: Pluto Comes Home

01 July 2007

Focal point:
Rohit Rajen, “Untitled Words”

ROHIT RAJEN, a young member of the visual merchandising team at Shopper's Stop, wrote the following in response to my resignation e-mail to the entire team.

I sail past the expanse of plains,
Through the womb of mountains,
And sometimes..
From graves.

This is Journey and I shall travel!

Acoustic silence,
Ripping me apart,
Fear of friends . . .
Drifting away.

Togetherness is a blessing,
Irony of truth kills it.
A pause is not what I see,
What I see is the cause.

A pause is not what I see,
What I see is the cause
Journey is traversal,
I traveled some miles,
Yet to go far.
I write words,
And names . . .
In paper they become story,
In reality—Life!

Come, join me in the celebration,
Because I am born,
And have the reason for freedom & expression.
So beautiful be our creation,
That it becomes one’s Imagination.

We shall be the cause of rejuvenation.

Source: Rohit Rajen, “Untitled Words” (2007)

Parting ways

IT'S OFFICIAL. I announced my resignation from Shoppper's Stop early this week, ending twelve months of work with the company (and several weeks of indecision whether to leave or not). I now count the days towards 13 July, my last day.

I made the announcement by e-mail. The outpour of response from colleagues was overwhelming (and mostly shocked), making the rest of the week bittersweet and exhilarating. But nothing prepared me for the massive chain of calls, text messages, and e-mails from my own team of 39 visual merchandisers across India. Most of them implored for me to stay. Those 24 hours reminded me how painful it was—and still is—to finally decide to leave the company—and part with the exuberant men and women of my team.

My dearest VMs,

I was incredibly moved by the e-mails and phone calls that I received from you. I honestly did not expect this. I thought you disliked my bossy, picky, pesty attitudes! :) The overwhelming show of love and affection from this team continues to move me!

Thank you very much for the very kind words. I will keep those mails and SMS'es with me.

I know that most of you have taken my decision with hurtful surprise, especially those of you who have been working closely with me. It has been a painful decision for me personally, but I must move on. There are personal concerns in Manila that I have to attend to.

I leave the organization confident that you have learned and will carry with you what you have learned from me, especially about the need to support and nurture each other. The (senior visual merchandisers) have been trained to take the big projects forward, and these will involve all of you. You must prove to your store heads that you have indeed learned and grown in the past one year. For the newcomers, you have your seniors to emulate. Please continue the mark of excellence that has been the stamp pad of the VM team.

This is not my last e-mail to you, I promise :) In the meantime, please concentrate on the events that are coming up very soon. Please do not reply to this e-mail en masse; if you need to, do so privately.

Warmly,
:: Paul A.

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