The Retailers

I currently work as a product executive for a software company. If you’ve read some of my blog posts, you might understand that that’s a description I never thought I’d have. Our clients are major retailers, primarily in the grocery and pharmacy business. As a result, over the past year, I’ve met quite a few people who fit in a very select demographic – retail pricing analyst/manager – basically the guys who figure out how much to charge you for that banana you bought at the grocery store. It’s a complicated business, grocery retail – so much so that there are entire conventions dedicated to it. I’m at one such convention now. 

These “roadways” are where I’m spending most of my time this week. During the exhibition hours, the grey pathways are bustling with retail executives .

The floor feels like a marketplace and we’re the sellers with the stalls. It’s like a cross between my high school science fair and a street vegetable market in India. People are dignified and poised, but just under the skins of those crisp suits are eager salespeople. The retailers I’ve met have typically been in the business for a long time. They are mostly men, with some women, trying to coax their businesses into the modern world, shifting from paper and Excel spreadsheets to advanced analytics. They like sports metaphors and speak in regional accents. They’re hardworking, experienced, and savvy about their competition.

Our Booth at FMI: The other side to my dual-natured life

Sometimes, when I step back, I realize it’s an odd dynamic – I’m selling retailers a system that helps them decide prices for the groceries I will later buy from them. It’s a world that is all about numerical analysis and making profits. It reflects part of my nature, in that I’m interested in technology and small business, but it’s so very different from my creative, passionate-about-dance-and-writing side. The two don’t converge often, but on some occasions (like creating the materials for our booth or even writing this blog post) I get to use my creative skills at work. 


Home is a funny concept. For most of my life, “home” was wherever my parents and brother were living. India was also referred to as “home”, especially by curious white Americans who wanted to know where I was “really from”. Now, home is starting to feel like New York City. (I try not to say this outright to my mother too often.)

Mummy in the hotel room: We are currently on a trip, and she is a familiar sight in an unfamiliar place

I knew relatively few people when I moved to NYC. It’s a place where my friends are truly just mine, and my apartment is just filled and decorated with my whimsies. None of it has been curated for me by family members or a school. I realize that for some people this is the exact opposite of “home”, but I’m really loving meeting new people with fresh thoughts – it just feels right. I have a wonderful little niché of friends (we call ourselves “Uptown Funk” – hah) and I like that I’m in a place where I can meet people from so many different walks of life. 

This blog was created because I want to take full advantage of that. I find that in life, and especially in a large city like NYC, it’s easy to get stuck in your own social bubble. I’m hoping that by keeping this blog, I’ll be more inspired to go out and explore the world, meet new people, and keep writing. In that vein, I’ve decided to take on the challenges of Blogging 101 and Photography 101 – a blog post and a photograph every day. I’m hoping it will get me back into the swing of writing for the public – and that it will help me create a little “home away from home” on the Internet. 

Are you taking part in Blogging 101 or Photography 101? If so, comment below and I’ll check out your posts! 

The Week of Celebrities

The week started out fairly normally. I had heard that the movie “How to be Single” was going to be filming 30 seconds from my apartment so I knew there was the vague chance of a celebrity sighting. I’ve seen a couple famous people in New York before, so although I was excited, I wasn’t freaking out. The only person I really cared about seeing in the HTBS cast was Rebel Wilson, but I figured the chance of it happening was slim since she’s Pitch Perfect 2 came out just last week and she might get mobbed. The filming was supposed to happen Monday morning but I was wrapped up in work all day and didn’t end up stepping out until 6 pm. Lo and behold, I walked out of my apartment and there was Rebel Wilson happily smiling and taking endless selfies with a mob of middle-schoolers. Just as I paused to consider trying to take a picture with her, she was called away by the film people. It was just perfect lucky timing that I saw her. 

The next day, when I was traveling on business and sure the high point of my week had passed, I got a message from my dance company’s director, Minila, about a special opportunity. We had been invited to NBC to dance with Nick Cannon for Red Nose Day. My mind was blown. Ajna has been offered some cool opportunities in the past, but this to me was a sign that people are really starting to take notice of us.

I flew back into the city on Wednesday evening and switched immediately into dance mode. We were at 30 Rock until late in the night, but when Nick finally came over and danced with us, it was exhilarating.

On Friday, my friends and I had made plans to go see “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on Broadway. I’d been wanting to see this play since Neil Patrick Harris had starred in it but hadn’t yet gotten around to it. There have been a string of talented Hedwigs but when I saw a billboard advertising that Darren Criss is the current star, I knew I had to make the time. I’ve thought of Darren as immensely talented and down-to-earth for a long time – from watching him in “A Very Potter Musical” to clips from “Glee” all the way to his features in Tyler Oakley videos on YouTube. One of the friends that I had planned with, Proma, knew Darren from working with him on AVPM, and thought that we might be able to get in to see him. I wasn’t sure it would happen because her plans were uncertain until the last minute, and we didn’t know what kind of security Darren would be surrounded with. I should have known, though, after the week I was having, that it would all work out.
Darren was somehow even more down-to-earth than I’d expected. He was instantly thrilled to see Proma and very giving. He chatted with us about the show and the many moods of Hedwig (he called her “She” like it was someone he knew rather than a character he plays), and took us to his dressing room for a pictures. His wardrobe man and manager were also very friendly.

This week has been utterly surreal. In one week I encountered three celebrities in 3 completely unrelated events and in 3 very different ways. The first was basically a chance event – the kind of thing you’re told to expect, living in New York. The second was borne of the work my dance company has done over the past two and a half years. And the third was a result of making friends with some really talented and interesting people. All of it makes me love the City more than ever. And I find that the reason I’m thrilled has very little to do with celebrity. It’s really more that I know now that the things I’ve always wanted – surrounding myself with people leading interesting lives, achieving my creative goals, and living and interesting life myself are all things that are accessible.

The Psychic and The Client

Happy Throwback Thursday! This story is from about a month ago. Names have been coded for privacy purposes. 


I was at my local nail salon getting an amazing back massage when a young woman walked in. I couldn’t see her (because my face was happily squashed into the massage chair), but I could hear her telling the manicurist that she was a writer and indecently employed, though she was having a tough time making a go of it on her own. I was intrigued, because I, too, would like to be a writer who works for myself. So, when I sat down beside her to dry my nails, I asked her about it. 

Her first response was just to stare at me. We were talking to each other through the mirror in front of us, so it was doubly unsettling – should I look at her in the mirror or should I look at her directly? (I never know what to do in these situations.) Then she asked me, “Are you intuitive?”. I said “yes,” boldly. Then, “I mean, I’d like to think so. What do you mean?” 

“Are you an intuitive?” she asked. This didn’t help. “AN” intuitive? Is this a species? Maybe she meant Inuit? She started asking me questions about herself and telling me things she shouldn’t have known about me. I tried to answer her and giggled nervously. Apparently my answers were correct. “I knew it,” she said. “I’m a psychic, so I can sense it in others, and I can see it in your eyes. But psychic can’t read themselves, so can you help me? Just tell me what you see.” I didn’t know what I was telling her but words came tumbling out and apparently they were helpful to her. She was concerned with her financial situation and wanted to know when and how she would get to a better place. I told her that money would come via her writing and working with fabrics, rather then her acting gigs or through a boyfriend, and it seemed to make sense to her. She picked up on things in my personal life that I don’t know how she could have known about or surmised from my face. 

We walked out of the salon together and exchanged contact information. The Psychic told me that she does psychic readings as a part-time job and asked me what my rate was. I told her I had never done this before. She told me that she had a friend who she thought I could be of help to. They read each other often, but they were too good friends to do it properly. She said he would be willing to pay me, and could she give him my contact info. I said “sure, why not”, not really expecting it to amount to anything. 

That evening, I went to my friends’ place for dinner. I told them about the Psychic, and everything she had said. Naturally, they wanted me to do readings on them, too. After a couple glasses of wine, I complied. I’m not sure if I could call what I did that night “psychic reading”… I think it was more like intuiting things and offering advice. They did do a little game where they each wrote down a quote that meant something to them (without me knowing who wrote what) and I spoke about what I felt about the person who wrote said quote. Apparently what I said was accurate or at least meaningful. And, somehow, I managed to give all the quotes back to the right people. 

I feel like I should put in a disclaimer here, before I continue: I definitely do NOT think I’m a psychic. I’m just retelling the events as they happened. 

The Psychic’s friend (henceforth known as the “Client”) texted me. He wanted to set up a meeting with me and asked what my rate was. I said pulled a random number out of the air and said “$50”. I dragged my friend along to the session. She sat outside while the Client and I went to a conference room. All I knew about him before the meeting was his first name. I’ll say it right now – I do not know how I knew the things I did about him. These are some of the things I intuited/psychically gleaned: I knew he was engaged and set to be married within the month. I knew his fiancé was American, from New York, with dark skin and dark hair. I knew he had a strong male presence in his life that he shouldn’t trust. He later gave me a name and I knew instantly that that person was untrustworthy, and the Client said “that’s the person I thought of when you said there’s someone untrustworthy”. I knew he worked with money and was a good salesperson (he works in financial sales). I think the experience was more bizarre for me than it was for him. I gave him my thoughts on his job search prospects and some personal issues. In the end, I didn’t take any money from him – what if he followed some advice I inadvertently gave him and I turned out to be totally wrong? If I helped him, great. If not, hopefully no harm done. 

On the way home, my friend and I joked about pimping out my psychic services for house parties. It’s tempting, but in the end it’s definitely not for me. And, I recently tried my hand at it again with another group of friends, but definitely wasn’t as successful. I think someone was just looking down on me (or perhaps the Client) with pity that day! 

Have any of your ever encountered a psychic? What was your experience like? Do you believe in them?


Flying Pittsburgh to NYC via Chicago

Flying Pittsburgh to NYC via Chicago

I’m currently on a business trip – the kind where you spend more time traveling than doing business – and it’s landed me in Pittsburgh. Yesterday, I met Jasmine when she came to pick me up at the airport and shuttle me off to the hotel where I was staying for the night. The car journey was probably about 25 minutes, but I was the only passenger and Jasmine was friendly. She asked me where I was from and I told her New York and Boston. She said she’s never been farther north than Pennsylvania, but she has a goal to travel to all fifty states. She said she has a map where she checks off where she’s been and she counts it even if it’s a stop-over at an airport (which means she’s actually been as far north as Ohio). It reminded me of how I’ve technically been to half a dozen countries in Europe on the way to and from India, and dreamt my whole life about stepping out of one of the airports.
Jasmine asked me about Cape Cod – she wasn’t sure if it was in Massachusetts or Maine – and I told her that even though I had lived most of my life just outside Boston, I vacationed on the Cape for the first time last summer. I told her that the best time to go was the end of the summer because that’s when the weather would be warmest. I asked her what the best place she’d ever been was and she said it’s clichéd but Miami. I told her that I’ve been dying to go! We agreed that the best way to do it (or to travel anywhere, really) is to get a normal hotel (just clean, nothing fancy) and to spend your time out. She told me that she’s gone twice and is planning on going back this summer – it’s fast becoming her second home. Apparently the beaches are fantastic but the clubs are even more overpriced than New York – $39 for a couple “Sex-on-the-Beach”s?! Crazy. She told me she’s also been to Vegas and that was fun, but she’s really not much of a wild club-party type girl.
Then, Jasmine asked me what she should do if she visited NYC. Amongst my suggestions was to take in a Broadway play. This caught her attention – she told me about a Pittsburgh orchestra performance she had been to recently where the music was all from Pokémon. She said the whole experience was so different but she and her brother had been Pokémon fans as kids and the feeling when the whole audience sang the theme song together at the end was incredible. They are planning to attend a Final Fantasy concert later this year.
I liked Jasmine because she was so friendly and because I feel like in some ways we are at similar moments in our lives. We’re both trying to find new pleasures in life and remind ourselves that there are more things to do than just go out to eat or drink or to a movie. Sometimes all we need to do is say yes to something like a classical Pokémon concert, even if we don’t think of ourselves as classical music or Pokémon aficionados, because if we just say yes, we may just end up having the most unexpectedly great time.


Michelle 1

New York City – I was walking down 2nd Ave in Manhattan when I heard a crowd. I looked around more carefully at my surroundings and realized that I was at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. I remembered the location from having danced at a Holi festival there about a year and a half ago. But whereas then, the grey courtyard had been filled with bright colors and laughing, rowdy people, the people in the Plaza now held a different kind of energy. It was a sea of somber faces and covered heads. Fiery, passionate eyes gazed toward a stage where a man’s voice rang out in a beautiful but desperate melody. The colors red, black, white, and green were dotted everywhere. As I crossed the street to get a closer look, I saw the Palestinian flag waving in the distance and could read the words “free Gaza”, “racism”, and “genocide” on countless posters.

I have never been to any sort of political rally before. I’ve generally preferred to read or watch the news and discuss it with friends. And, in the effort to be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve read enough about the Israel-Palestine conflict to consider myself “fully informed”. My only real opinion about it is what I think of all such conflicts – that it is horrifying that the political aspirations of a few powerful people should cost the lives of so many civilians. In the past few months, my Facebook news feed has been filled with friends posting their own opinions and others’ on the conflict. Perhaps motivated by them, I decided to check the rally out.

I could tell from the speakers on stage that I had arrived at the end of of the event. Still, it seemed like at least a couple hundred people were around, taking photos, handing out flyers, and answering reporters’ questions. I accepted some flyers and looked around to see if I might be able to speak to one of the organizers (NY4Palestine) to get some more information. Then, in the audience, a young woman caught my eye. She was bedecked in Palestinian colors, and her arms were stretched tall above her, holding two huge posters. Her jaw was set, and her eyes were fierce. I decided that she – someone who looked my age but was clearly so passionate about this cause that she came fully prepared for this event – was someone I really wanted to meet.


Michelle’s sign caught many people’s attention. “It’s a real quote by Obama” she would say, when people asked. Tweet: ‘ “I’m here because I am listening… I’m listening to Americans all across the country.” – President Obama #OpportunityForAll ‘

I waited as various reporters and other attendees took pictures of her and her signs, and then asked if I could interview her. She agreed, and we began.

Her name is Michelle Cassis. She was born and brought up in Chile and moved to New York two years ago. She is 24 years old, and she is a filmmaker. From the way she spoke, it was clear that Michelle had kept herself well informed of the conflict. She spoke of the shocking loss of life in Gaza and about the imbalance of power between the Israeli military and the Palestinian defense. She talked about the Israeli propaganda that has flooded mainstream media through the use of phrases like ‘self-genocide’ and ‘self-defense’ (she called it “auto-defense” – I assume it’s a linguistic leftover from Spanish to English translation). However, she also spoke about the difficulty civilians and press with Arabic last names have in traveling to the region, how news is abundantly available now and how important it is to “read everything“, and how we have a duty to use social media (she called it “our civilians’ weapon”) to spread the word. I didn’t need to ask her many questions – she already had a message that she was focused on passing on.

For me, it was both eye-opening and inspiring. I am often skeptical of young activists. I generally think of them as zealously passionate about a cause they have little understanding of, simply because they are swept up in the drama of protesting something. I spent less than an hour with Michelle, so it’s possible that I am mistaken about her, and that she too falls into this camp. Regardless, I could tell that the plight of the people in Gaza had seriously impacted her and that she was making every effort to keep up-to-date on what is happening there. Her determination to not be passive and to stand for what she thought was right really struck a chord with me. I wanted to find out more about her background.

I learned that Michelle’s grandfather was born in Palestine and that she is the fifth out of six siblings. She told me about how one of her sisters passed away a few years ago from leukemia, and how her father told Michelle that the situation in Gaza had become so bad that it upset him more than when her sister died. She told me how when she first learned of the recent streak of violence, she felt so sick that she lost her appetite for a week. She told me that she took every opportunity she could to attend rallies like the one we were at. She wants to take advantage of the fact that she lives in the same city where the UN is headquartered. She said that it is important to her that when her future children learn about these events in school, they know that she stood on the right side of history when it happened.

After the interview, Michelle and I continued chatting with each other and a couple other attendees of the rally. We spoke with one (white, American) man about the lack of unbiased news sources in the US and general American apathy and ignorance about world conflicts. We discussed that such ignorance may exist because people’s everyday lives in the developed, western world strike such a stark contrast with the constant terror depicted in news stories about other countries – that it may be too stark a contrast for many people to mentally handle. Another girl came to take a picture with Michelle’s signs and prompted us all to exchange Facebook information.

In a political and human conflict such as this one, there are millions of stories and accounts of events. Truthfully, I felt that I could have spent much longer talking with Michelle and the other people at the rally. I found myself wishing that I had known about it earlier and had had time to prepare. I have so many questions both about the conflict itself and about what motivates people like Michelle to actually take part in such rallies.

Michelle 2

If you were in my place, what questions would you have asked? What are your views on activism? Have you ever been to a political rally? Comment below, and let me know!

The Origin Story

A Blogger's Tools

                       Tools of the trade

So here is the tale of why I started this blog… 

One day, not too long ago, I decided to try writing about what was around me for the first time. I don’t usually write about what is real. It’s usually all in my head. But on this day, in Le Pain Quotidien, I began to observe the people around me, engaging in the Manhattan routine of a Saturday afternoon brunch. 

And then I realized why I don’t usually write this way. It’s true that even when writing what you observe, you’re still using your imagination. You’re still interpreting a woman’s tired face as exhaustion from pregnancy, or a young man’s fervent hand gestures as excitement about the work project he is describing to his friend. But when the people you are observing are the kind of people you always interact with, the task of interpreting their behavior isn’t very exciting. The way I was trying to write now, I was neither getting anyone’s real story, nor did I have to stretch my imagination very far. So, I left the café, and decided to try something else. 

I’ve told you I’m interested in people and stories. In fact, when I was growing up, whenever my parents would ask me what I was really passionate about in terms of a future career, all I could come up with was some variation of that response. I’ve decided to stop looking for a job that allows me to get at these things, and rather go for the things themselves. Part of my motivation in moving away from home and to New York was to expose myself (metaphorically) to the world and meet people I wouldn’t otherwise encounter. With this in mind, I came up with the idea for this blog. 

The goal is to meet and interact with new people, but not to force it. If I see someone who looks interesting to me or if there is someone I have wanted to find out about, I’ll speak to them. Hopefully this will happen often, but I won’t expect it to be regular. Along the way, I hope I’ll better get to know the people who read my blog, and I hope you’ll share with me the stories of the people you’ve met. 

Thanks for reading! 🙂


Patrick and Molly (Header)

New York City – I walked past Patrick on the southwest corner of 61st St and Lexington Ave. He was grimy and had what looked like barely a shirt and khaki workman’s overalls on, but he was attracting a lot of attention from passerby. It may have been his dog or his bright smile, or maybe just his boldness. Unlike most other homeless people I have seen squatting around the city, Patrick wasn’t slouched against a building, easily ignorable to the rest of society. Instead, he had placed himself right on the corner of the intersection, just out of the way of people walking by. His sign, though on battered cardboard, was written in a neat, artistic font. Something about him caught my eye. After a few minutes of consideration, a fruitless trip to a nearby jewelry boutique, and a few more moments of agitated deliberation on the sidewalk, I decided I needed to know his story. I approached the young man crouching on the sidewalk and asked if I could interview him.

He naturally asked what it was for – I told him I was thinking of starting a blog about people I met around the city. He said it would be fine if I interviewed him, but could I give him a dollar? I had already checked my wallet in my few minutes of mental back-and-forth on the sidewalk and had decided I would give him $15. He looked surprised but grateful. I turned on the camera, and began the interview.

For a few minutes, I just jabbered back and forth with him. He smelled strongly of sweat, but he and his dog were friendly. I often get flustered talking to strangers. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep a conversation flowing. Now here was this person with whom I probably had nothing in common, who I had just approached blindly on the corner of a street. I was nervous, but, somehow, the conversation had a lilt, if not a flow.


This is Molly, companion to Patrick’s friend and Patrick.

Southern Pacific Tattoo

Patrick’s newest tattoo. He said the “SP” was for the “Southern Pacific” train-line. I took the initials as a good omen.

After the interview, I gave Patrick his promised $15. His friend had just come back and looked (humbly) surprised and appreciative. Patrick asked what the interview was all about, and if it was for an internet thing. I said yes, that I want to start a blog, and that I’ve always wanted to write. I told him I had realized I have always been interested in people and their stories. He asked if it was like journalism. I said kind of, but it was really more focused on the people themselves. I said New York is a place with so many different people, but they don’t interact – you get stuck in your own group or bubble. I said people like he and I walk past each other every day on the street but don’t interact, and I actually want to meet different people. He said, yeah, you want to know where other people come from and stuff. And I said yeah, and you never know what someone might have in common with you – like we both lived in Florida. In the end, I said bye to him and Molly and got up.

As I started to walk away, a man walking next to me said “that was great”. I said thanks, surprised. I hadn’t realized we’d had an audience. He said, “really, good job”. I smiled and said thanks again and kept walking. Hopefully one day soon I’ll be less flustered by such an interaction and will be able to calmly point them towards this blog!

I never gave my own name to Patrick. I was nervous about giving my own information to a stranger. And, I’m sure, my prejudice from a sheltered and privileged upbringing kept me wary when speaking to someone homeless. I sincerely hope, though, that Patrick sensed that I truly just wanted to hear his story. I wanted to meet someone coming from a different walk in life, with no judgment, just a listening ear.

Molly and Patrick (Footer)

Patrick and Molly.