Category Archives: business

Going Live………..

Before we moved to India, I was a small business owner. Yippeee for me. But I totally got away from it because it was just too hard to manage from a distance. But no more!

A Reason To Write is back. The website – complete with shopping cart – went live today.

Enjoy!

Oh, and you can get a discount on all orders until March 31st by entering the discount code “ThankYou” in the shopping cart when checking out. And, Thank YOU!

Outsourced……….blech…..

I was so excited for the premiere of the new tv show Outsourced and was absolutely bummed when my son’s back to school night was scheduled for the same night. Honestly, you would think the school administration would be a little more sensitive to my tv viewing preferences and be a little more careful to not create conflicts between my parenting and entertainment priorities. But no – they weren’tย  – Outsourced aired right in the middle of my session of 8th grade math. Hpmf.

But the techno gods have been generous and blessed us with tivo capabilities. So, all is in sync in the parenting and hollywood worlds.

Last night, I finally got to see Outsourced – the new NBC comedy about an American manager running a call center in India. Frankly, they should have outsourced the production, writing, and editing. Blech. Let’s remember that I did offer my assistance. They should have taken me up on it. Who knows, maybe they still will. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The Executive Producers are Robert Borden, Ken Kwapis, Victor Nelli, Jr., Tom Gorai, and David Skinner – just in case you are reading along fellows, you can contact me at AReasonToWrite (at) gmail (dot) com.

There wasn’t much about it that was realistic – even worse, there wasn’t much that was funny. And yes, I understand you are supposed to suspend reality and just laugh. But I just spent the past year and a half of my life living it and there is a lot that has laugh potential without being insulting. A lot. There is the line at the post office and the puja and oh, so much more.

I am not always great with chronology so I might not get my complaints in exact order but it doesn’t really matter.

The first big misstep was that the American manager went to work in a rickshaw. Beyond the fact that the rickshaw scene was very poorly done, an outsourced manager in India would very likely be driven to work by a driver. They just ruled out about 3 hilarious episodes by leaving out the driver and his very real side (splitting) story. Having a driver in India is part of the experience and it adds a whole new dimension to life abroad. It is so foreign to the way most Americans navigate through their day in the U.S. Maybe the manager should have tried to drive himself somewhere – now that would be funny. Very funny. Or try to communicate with a driver whose English is not exactly up to snuff – like here. Or try to find the zoo – like here.

However, my biggest criticism is the Outsourced character of the big Sikh guy who just looks intimidating and totally ticked off. Too easy. It’s (horrible) stereotyping. It’s ridiculous. And based on the Sikhs I met, it’s largely inaccurate. Many are actually gentle giants in many respects. Their temples all have kitchens and they feed absolutely anyone in need for free. I wrote about the Golden Temple here, where they feed over 100,000 people a day.

And then a cow appeared in the front office window. Really? A cow? That’s all you’ve got? Sure, cows roam the streets – but really? Again, way too easy. They should have at least made it a monkey (more realistic in front of an office window) or a camel or an elephant. At least that would have been unexpected. And not to be nit-picky but the cow in the window was way too fat.

On to the minor inaccuracies. All the desks are lovely, spread out, and nicely decorated with picture frames. Yeah. Not gonna happen. Call centers operate on shifts. And for obvious reasons, they try to get as many people in a room as they can (just like in U.S. offices). In the real world, two to three workers would rotate sitting at a desk during a 24-hour period. So there would be no personalizing your workspace. And it is highly unlikely that the boss would be sitting in the same room as the call center employees.

The Indian manager was wearing suspenders. I don’t think I ever saw an Indian man in India in a set of suspenders – I am not saying it didn’t happen – but I call malarkey. Or at least bad editing.

The company in the tv show sells novelty items – some of which are a bit risque. My experience with Indians is that they are very modest people. At one point in the show, the American manager is explaining the “value” of a mistletoe belt to the staff at the call center. How it works – why you would put mistletoe on a belt. Yeah, that would be totally inappropriate and awkward. Later in the episode, he shows the staff a plaque with a replica of a woman’s chest (read boobs) on it that jingles when a song is played. Maybe it was called Jingle Boobs – I had mostly tuned out at that point, so I probably didn’t get the name right. But please. A female employee at the call center laughs at the novelty item. I just really have a hard time believing that would be a typical response. Even most American women would not exactly be amused.

If it was Al and Peggy Bundy get Outsourced, it might have been chuckle-worthy. But it wasn’t about Married with Children hits India and it wasn’t funny.

The one thing that was funny was the food in the cafeteria but only because they made another (way too) easy joke about what we used to call Delhi Belly. When you are not used to spicy foods, you do have to be careful what you eat – and of course that is true of anywhere – not just in India. And some Indian food is super spicy and it can upset your belly. And it can be funny – when it happens to someone else – and someone else who knows better and laughs when they put it in his/her mouth and jokes “what’s the worst that can happen?”. That is what I call “famous last words”. Which are often followed by Montezuma’s Revenge and a quick re-enactment of the fabled Murphy’s Law.

So, for what it’s worth (and I realize that is nothing), I was left very unimpressed. I do, however, remain very willing to offer ideas and suggestions. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Fall for the Book ……………

A neighbor just told me yesterday that this week is 2010 – Fall for the Book week at George Mason University. So if you are anywhere near Northern Virginia, check out the schedule here. The dates are Sept. 19 – 24.

I went to one of the sessions today on blogging and ebook publishing. It was interesting to hear what people who are getting paid to write are doing right. All of the authors on the panel were science fiction/fantasy writers – so not exactly my genre – but I learned about some great resources and was inspired to stop resting on my unlaurels.

Gujarat Haveli…………..

Most people who live in a foreign country want to take something special from that country back home with them to remind them of their experiences. Furniture seems a good choice because it’s also practical – of course I am also a big advocate of the impractical bejeweled souvenir as well. But I digress. Lots of our friends in Delhi have told me about the Gujarat Haveli and we finally made it out there. Holy home furnishings batman! Just on the FYI side of things Gujarat is a region in India and Haveli loosely means (very) lovely place to live and trade.

This place was amazing. It reminded me of antique stores (barns) in the U.S. but with way cooler stuff! I have absolutely nowhere to put something like this horse- but I love, love, love him. He loves me too – I just know it.

This table has brass elephants on the side.

Beautiful pots.

More beautiful pots. The one on the left is made of iron with leather braiding. The one on the right is wooden with brass trimming.

These are dowry chests. The brides family would fill these up with prezzies and they would be rolled with the wedding procession to the groom’s house. My youngest daughter had a hard time understanding all of it until I told her not to worry. She will surely marry someone who will be giving her gifts and if he needs a chest this big to fit them all in – so be it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

He might just have to come home with me one day.

Either him or one of his cousins.

Most of these are the bottoms of Hookah pipes. The ones on either end reminded me of spittoons from the wild west days but the shop keeper told me they were for water. He said that at night you fill it with water then in the morning you drink it. You leave it over night so you get the benefit of the all the minerals in the metals. Not exactly the same, same as a spittoon.

Tres cool statues.

I would not sleep at night if this guy lived in my house.

Oh, the fabulous finds just went on and on.

This chair is for the boy, the girl, and the chaperon. But it would also be great for a game of duck duck goose.

This is a coffee table made out of an old door. Magnificent!

An old swing that doesn’t have to involve a chaperon. Must be for a married couple.

There were a lot of painted things. They aren’t my fave just because I am too practical and I cannot imagine trying to fit these into a room with other things.

And you know how I love my bells! Ding ding!

We left without buying anything – because there is also Sharma Farms that I have heard we should see – but clearly we have lots to discuss. I’ll let you know how it goes. Yes, you should start feeling sorry for number one hubby right about n.o.w.

P.S. I have gotten a few emails asking for the address (I had a super hard time finding it too) so for those of you who are local – here it is….
Gujarat Haveli
Mobile 98100 66925 (you need an appointment)
43 KM Stone Delhi
Jaipur Expressway, N.H.-8
Gurgaon, Haryana
email: kutch@ndf.vsnl.net.in
(I will leave it to them to give you directions – I might get you lost. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

The Flower Walla………….

I know I have talked about flowers on this blog. And I know I have shared lots of pictures of flowers with you. But I don’t think I have given you the skinny on the flower walla. The word walla means vendor. The flower walla sells flowers. The broom walla sells brooms. The sweeper walla sweeps the street. So now you speak a little bit of Hindi. You are very welcome. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Every neighborhood seems to have at least one flower walla. This guy is in Vasant Vihar.

And these are some of his flowers.

and some more…

and some more…..

and then some more……

I don’t know why I was surprised to find so many “American” flowers in India – and by that I mean flowers that I know and love in the U.S. I am not sure what I expected – maybe tumble weeds or cactus – I have no idea. But just so you know, they have palm trees and coconut trees here too. Shocking? I know. Next thing you know they’ll have roses…….uh-oh….. it is a small world after all.

But seriously, I know I am just a country mouse on this grand big city adventure – but I did not know that flowers were universal. ๐Ÿ˜‰ These flowers were not from the vendor in Vasant Vihar but I just bet he knows a guy who could easily get you these tomorrow.

And this bunch of flowers from these guys was…….wait for it…

a whopping 200 rupees or about $4 U.S. dollars.

And yep, I probably overpaid.
Of course, they don’t last long and you
simply must change the water everyday
or your house will smell like really, really old man teeth.
And you might get a few gnats if you aren’t careful –
I always shake the flowers a little to make sure nothing flies out.
But these are certainly worth (more than) the asking price!
As we like to say at A Reason To Write – they are sufficient. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Freezing but still warm…………………

One of the hardest thing about living in India is that we really don’t have a neighborhood. Let me correct that – we live in a neighborhood – but we don’t have a neighborhood feeling. There are no sidewalks, really nowhere to ride bikes, kids don’t play outside, and worst of all, really we don’t have any friends in the hood – especially not life-long friends. That means not many play dates and no spontaneous happy hours in the driveway.ย  No ordering pizza at the last minute and staying out way past sundown. No running through the sprinkler and chalking the driveway. No basketball in the court where dads can school their kids in just exactly how to play the game. We don’t even run into each other when taking out the trash (the trash wala comes in the gate and collects our garbage) or when checking the mail (it’s all delivered to hubby’s office). We don’t bump into friends at the gas station (our driver fills up the car) or at the grocery store (they really don’t exist).

So, yesterday was pure heaven. Each of the kids had a friend spend the night. The house was loud and a mess – think play dough meets paint meets cheese puffs meets hot chocolate with marshmallows. We ordered pizza and made waffles and eggs and bacon. My kids are still young enough that they will sometimes still play in groups of various ages of kids. Yesterday was full of that awesome synchronicity. Eight year olds and twelve year olds (with every age in between) played and danced and laughed together for the entire day with thankfully very little fighting.

Then they got an idea. As they called it – a great idea.

Yeah – uh oh.

They decided that it would be a lot of fun to have a bake sale. Excuse me?

Me: You do realize it is below freezing outside right?
Bear: Yeah – so
Me: Please say yes and not yeah. And enlighten me, who do you think is going to buy things? Bake sales are usually in the warm weather.
Bear: If we go to the pool, people will be running by there.
Me: With their wallets? If they are running, they may not want sweets.
Bear: Oh – but cars go by too. Lots of cars. It’s a busy street.
Me: What are you going to sell?
Bear: Can we make cookies?
Me: Honey, we don’t have flour – remember we haven’t lived here in 6 months. Your options are what we might call limited.
Bear: I’ll be right back.
Me: (to myself) good heavens.
Bear: We have brownie mix.
Me: Okay – you know they will get cold – possibly frozen right?
Bear: That’s fine, we’ll wrap them in foil.
Flower: We want to make something.
Me: What do you want to?
Flower: What is there?
Me: Yeah – I am not getting that involved in this – you go look and find out. Report back to me when you figure something out.
Angel: Do we have lemonade? We want to sell something too.
Me: (no longer to myself) oh good heavens. Sweetie – we don’t have lemonade. That is really a summertime drink. There is ice on the ground here. It’s cold.
Bear: We are going to make hot chocolate too. (Nice that he fed off his sister’s idea and stole the thunder right out from under her.)
Angel: Hey.
Me: What are you going to put that in?
Bear: The lemonade pitcher.
Angel: No fair. We need the pitcher for lemonade.
Me: Bear, that isn’t going to keep it warm – you cannot call it hot chocolate.
Angel, we don’t have lemonade -why don’t you and your friend make art work.
Bear: fine
Angel: fine
Flower: chocolate covered pretzels
Me: I really want to see a marketing plan before I decide if this is a go.
Bear: You always tell us to try new things. That there is no sense in not trying. Why is this any different?
Me: You are confusing me with a mother who encourages her children. Are you sure that was me?
Bear: Yes.
Flower: Pretty sure.
Me: Dang.

So they made brownies, chocolate covered pretzels, hot chocolate, and artwork. They carried the table and chairs and blankets and goodies up to the pool. They made signs. And they had customers (not all of them relatives). One of my friends bought a play dough eyeball from Angel – and she paid $10 for it and insisted they all split the profits. Yes, she has forever cemented her place in my heart.

They actually lasted about an hour and a half before they realized that 22 degrees is really pretty cold.

They walked away with red noses, about $20 (to be split 7 ways), and memories that will warm their hearts on even the coldest of days.

Tonight we are hosting a New Years Eve party for the families of many of our friends. Pray for me.

Happy 2010.

Sugar and rice and everything spice………….

I have been hearing about the spice market and I have desperately wanted to go. It sounded like a magical place where the sights were only rivaled by the smells. Where wholesalers bargained out of burlap sacks and the color of the spices lit up the canvas of the market.

Unfortunately, it felt a little drab – more like the streets of Oliver Twist rather than the hoped fields of the Sound of Music – but there were some beautiful sights to take in. The spices did light up the back drop a little – like the hushed tones of a sepia infused photograph. Quietly stunning.

On the way to the Spice Market in Old Delhi, the streets are lined with nut wallas – a walla is a merchant – so you guessed it – a nut walla sells nuts. There were dozens of them – one right after the other. Their displays were beautiful and tasty.

There was also a paneer walla. He sells blocks of paneer – think cottage cheese meets tofu – it is very popular here among the veg and non-veg eaters. And, yes, it bothered me a little that it was not refrigerated – but it did not seem to bother anyone else.

Along the way to the actual Spice Market, you see a lot of stalls with spices in them. But even though these are not the stuff that the official wholesale spice market is made of, they are pretty all the same.

There are also all sorts of pickled treats. I am a big believer in “when in Rome” so if this had been pasta, I would have surely tried it. But alas, I am in India and could not bring myself to taste these unidentifiable delights. The locals were not so shy and quickly savored them.

Now this is another story – take a potato, slice it, and fry it in some grease – and you have yourself a customer.

These are bags of rice and flour.

These are seeds for Lotus flowers.

Someone told me what these were but I cannot remember – some form of crystallized sugar – maybe molasses – I can’t remember – if you know, please do tell.

I wanted to go all Martha Stewart on these stars of anise and decorate them with glitter or at least a little paint. Wouldn’t they be pretty hanging on a tree with a ribbon?

These bowls were in the actual Spice Market. I did not know what all of them were – but there is surely curry, pepper, cinnamon, salt, coriander, ginger, chili powder, and many other yummy spices in these bowls.

I wonder how this works. These are red chili peppers. This is a wholesale market – so it is entirely possible that these bags get emptied every day. But what happens if they don’t all sell? And who is buying that many chili peppers?

This yellow root is tumeric. It is said if you grind it and add it to a warm glass of milk and drink that every day, you will fight off the swine flu.

And, no, I really don’t want to know why they are selling rat traps here.

These are dried rose petals for making potpourri. They smelled as lovely as they looked and reminded me of my grandmother’s bathroom.

This is what a typical stall looked like. Bags brimming with spices just waiting for someone to come buy them.

And really, truly, don’t blink or you might miss it. This is the sign above the alley that tells you that you have officially arrived at the Spice Market. It was a crowded place with lots of activity – not many tourists – and a lot to see. I am glad we found it!

Pimp My Font……..

As you might recall, in a previous life I had a handmade stationery business. So, it makes perfect sense that I am always on the prowl for the perfect font. And handwriting fonts are my favorite fontalicious variety of font.

Holy font, batman – if you love fonts, I have great news for you.

There’s a young lady named Amanda and she likes to make fonts out of handwriting samples. No, dear font freak, I am not kidding. And she gives them away for, say it with me, FREE. Seriously. And, yes, I love her! And her fonts are fontfabulous. She has an entire line of “pea” fonts. If you don’t know what I mean, check her and her delicious fonts out at Kevin and Amanda’s Free fonts.

You can thank me later.

Google Me………….

As a relatively new blogger, I realize there is a lot left for me to learn about this whole “blogging” thang. I signed up to get stats via sitemeter and they just look like alphabet soup to me. If someone knows what I should do with all that info, please feel free to speak up. I still don’t know how to post a you-tube video in my actual blog, so you are left clicking on a measely link. I am about to use up all my “free” wordpress space for pictures and am about to have to upgrade and *gasp* pay for blog space. And I still have not figured out how to get paid millions of dollars for my insights and wicked sense of humor – or even $5 for that matter. Talk may be cheap, but apparently writing is free – that is unless you use up all of your free space – but I digress.

Some people blog to ultimately get published – and sure – that’d be great – but sometimes people just blog to blog. I guess I honestly fall somewhere in the middle. I want to capture all of our memories of our great Indian adventure so that I don’t forget the details – but it is also (really, really) nice to know that other people are following along. It amazes me really. I have had people tell me they grab a cup of coffee (I am sure for some of them it is doctored coffee) and sit down to read my blog every day. Wow.

One of the things “real” bloggers talk about is google page rank. So, just for giggles, I thought I would see where I rank. When I entered the key words – a reason to write – into google, I almost fell over. I did not use quotation marks. Does that matter? I do not know. But I did not use them.

Some biotch with a handmade card business called, of all things, “A Reason To Write” ranked number one – oh yeah, that’s me. And then some blogging goddess with a blog called, of all things, “A Reason To Write – India” ranked number two.

Seriously, I am not sure how that happened and it may not last. Maybe my computer remembers it’s me and is empathetic – like a well-intention parent, it doesn’t want to let me down. Hey Data on Star Trek learned to show emotions – it could happen.

How do I know that it might not last, you ask? Well, I don’t want to use up all of my 15 minutes of fame in one place – but also, my blog was linked to a CNN article on prisons for about 20 hours. I (very) excitedly wrote to my family and dear friends to tell them the amazing news – only to find that they removed the link and replaced it with more current blogs on the same topic. Bastards. So, the time difference coupled with the dreaded in-box wait time, it looked like I was a liar, liar pants on fire. And, no, I did not screen print. That would have been the “smart” thing to do – so you can clearly see why I chose NOT to do just that. I had no evidence whatsoever. DAMN, is right.

So, if by the time you read this and google search me, I am no longer ranked as number one and two, rest assured that I have a mental picture in my mind of my success. And I believe me even if no one else does.

The bottom line in all of this is thank you for following along and catapulting me to rock star google status – even if it only exists in my own mind. ๐Ÿ˜‰

When the stars line up……

Many of you know, I used to own a stationery business (www.AReasonToWrite.com). Moving to India put that on hold (for now). I was (more than) a little sad to think of not being creative – but holy guacamole – I found the paper store to die for. It is called Four Seasons and it is in Jor Bagh. Rohit runs it – he is delightful. He used to live in New Jersey and he misses Dunkin Donuts. What’s not to love! I mean, he sells beautiful paper and he loves doughnuts – we were destined to meet.

Rohit tells me that Oprah’s friend Gail has shopped in his store. (Yes, I mean THAT Oprah.) Maybe I will run into her. He showed me which paper Oprah likes and I swear I almost bought him out of it. You can tell her to contact ME if she would like some more. A little handmade paper blackmail maybe not be that impressive so I will lurk in the shadows hoping to spot that BFF of hers.

So anypaper, here is a small sampling of the handmade papers I bought there…

scan0001

It turns out that the paper is made by handicapped children. Seriously, that is a little gift. Because now when I buy it, I am helping to employ handicapped children – it’s almost charity. How can you argue with that?

The stars are definitely lining up. Invitations anyone?