Friday, April 18, 2014

An Entrepreneurial Debut

We have been regular visitors to the monthly organic bazaar at Saptaparini. Ayaan loves to come along with me and potters around spending his meagre stockpile of money on stuff like organic millet laddoos, jowar crisps and oddly shaped tomatoes. In addition to vegetables and staples, they also have stalls of homemade goodies. When we were at the February bazaar, Ayaan suddenly perked up and asked whether he could have his own lemonade stall at the market. I answered in the affirmative. Since we were travelling on the date of the March bazaar, we decided we would aim for the April bazaar. Over the next couple of months, the plan evolved to include bakes goodies. 

Ayaan was pretty determined to sell only organic stuff, in line with the philosophy of the bazaar. So, we had to look for recipes that could be made with the organic ingredients available in Hyderabad. This ruled out two of his favourite recipes - brownies and chocochip cookies - since we could not find organic cocoa and chocolate. After much debate, we narrowed it down to 4 recipes to test and of those, chose two to make for the final day: Wholewheat Banana Muffins and Peanut Butter Cookies.

The day before the market, we went to the Saturday organic market to close the deal with the organisers. They blocked a stall for us and kindly agreed to charge us a deeply discounted rate of Rs. 250 instead of the standard Rs. 750 (they finally waived even this nominal amount). We also used the opportunity to pick up some last-minute ingredients (read 50 limes) and note down the prices of all our ingredients for costing purposes.

We sat and made cost sheets for each of the things that he was planning to make and sell. Even though I did not plan it as such, it became a sneaky teaching opportunity. Not only did he have to practice his multiplication and division, we also ended up discussing concepts like the relationship between price and demand, overheads and profitability. The final sheets looked something like this:

We first got started on the lemonade. After googling a bit, I figured that making sugar syrup would be less labour intensive than stirring the sugar into the water. So, Ayaan measured out the necessary proportions of water and sugar and patiently stirred it over the gas till all the sugar dissolved. For the lemons themselves, Tarana was recruited and was super excited because she was allowed to cut some lemons into half (with a knife!) and assist with the squeezing. (It's no surprise then that she was least impressed by the classroom lemonade making activity the next week where the kids watched rather than made). 

For the baked goods, Ayaan did most of the measuring and mixing, while I manned the oven. Once everything was done, we packed the cookies and cupcakes into boxes, poured the lemonade into a large dispenser, picked up the remaining supplies and headed over to the market. Oh, and we made this simple poster on PowerPoint. (We had grand plans of making it by hand but we ran out of time and I got realistic about our art skills):

The organisers (Dharti Organics) were nice enough to give us a stall right near the entrance and we got started with setting it up. Tarana hung around and pretended to be helpful for a while but then my friend arrived with her son, who is also Tarana's classmate, and we barely saw her after that.

Business was slow to start with. But then as people started arriving and the mercury began to rise, the lemonade started calling out to people. About an hour into the bazaar, our lemonade container had run dry. Then Ayaan had a brainwave and went over to one of the vegetable stalls and managed to unearth and buy some more lemons. We sent Jai home for supplies and then made lemonade on the fly so that we could keep selling it.

The baked goods were slower to sell. But then they started going too and eventually we were all sold out on everything. We were helped along by some supportive friends who showed up and bought in multiples. 

Ayaan totally exceeded my expectations. Despite the fact that temperatures were virtually at melting point, he was bursting with boundless energy and optimism throughout. When sales were slow to start with, my heart was breaking a little for him but his spirits never sagged. At one point, he took one of the box lids, arranged a selection of his goodies on it and walked up to potential customers and asked them to buy. That is something that I am not comfortable doing even as an adult but he had no qualms, even when many people politely said no. I think I was more upset about the people who said no than he was! He was also extremely sharp and business-minded. He resolutely refused to give discounts to friends and family and promptly asked Jai to cough up cash for the lemonade and cookie that Tarana consumed!

In the end, we sold about 35 glasses of lemonade, 28 cupcakes and 32 cookies. We came home and did the math. I decided not to make him pay for the overheads this time, so he just had to pay me for the ingredients. He also offered to pay Jai and me a salary for our help. I told him that I wanted my salary in kind - three days of being nice to his sister. His response: "Mama! Can't I just give you money?!" Sigh. I guess you can't win them all...

Like the calculation above says, he made just over a thousand rupees out of the whole exercise and is feeling very rich. The money has been carefully put in a pouch and deposited into our safe. He also wants to look into opening a bank account in his own name.

To be honest, my instant reaction to his request to run a stall was to say no - it seemed like too much work (and it was!). But I am so glad that I managed to bite it back and say yes instead. I think he got so much more out of it than either of us put into it. In addition to the money and the experience, he got a lot of compliments and positive strokes from everyone he interacted with and he was on cloud nine for days after. Overall, it was an experience that fostered learning, confidence and joy in equal measure. And if he does go on to fulfil his current ambition to be a chef, I guess this counts as his first  bit of work experience.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Not That Kind of Horror Movie

Nothing resurrects lost blogging mojo like the need to rant about something. And I have had this rant building up since Sunday when I went to see a night show of Queen with a friend.

Digression: I absolutely loved the movie. Kangana Ranaut totally rocked the role and pretty much carried the movie on her shoulders. Having also caught Hasee Toh Phasee a couple of weeks ago, I am delighted that Bollywood is finally turning out some films that break the stereotypical mould of a conventional Bollywood heroine and I hope that this is a trend that is here to say. Go see both movies!

Now, back to aforementioned rant. Clearly, the movie seat gods are not in favour of yours truly because we found ourselves sitting right next to a couple with a toddler and right in front of another couple with an infant-going-on-toddler.

And these were by no means the only kids in the cinema hall. The place was teeming with little ones of every conceivable age. I am surprised none of the advertisements were targeted to kids – there were enough of them around to make it a viable proposition for an interested marketer. Also, did I mention that this was a night show? It started around the time my kids are usually tucked into bed for the night and extended to a time that was past even my usual bedtime. Yet here were ALL these kids, when they should have been in bed instead.

Sure, I get that not everyone has a meltdown (and I mean me, not my kids) if bedtime routines are meddled with. But what about the age appropriateness of the content? This movie was definitely not a kids movie – there was drunken behaviour, a visit to the famous red light district in Amsterdam and some talk about condoms amongst other things. How is it okay for young, impressionable minds to be watching this?

I remember my mother covering my eyes when anything even remotely steamy came on the screen and this was when I was in my early teens! The mother of the little girl next to us had no such qualms. During a song that revolved around pole dancing, this lady actually had her daughter’s hands up in the air while she made her jiggle and sway in time to the music. It was just so wrong on so many levels.

I have been pretty clear on this from the start. In the last 9 odd years of being a parent, there has not been a single movie that I was desperate to enough see in a cinema hall that I would consider taking the kid/s along. Even for the kiddie movies that we go to, I usually vet online reviews to ensure that there is nothing that I deem objectionable in them. (FYI: For Hollywood cinematic fare, Common Sense Media is a great source of age ratings and reviews for children’s movies).

But while I don’t get why anyone would want to bring their kids to a late night show of a movie with inappropriate content, that is me and my personal parenting philosophy. To each their own, I guess. But I do have a problem when their decision to do so gets in the way of my enjoyment of a film that I paid good money to see. Like they say, your freedom ends where my nose begins. And my nose, to put it quite mildly, was put out of joint last weekend.

First, there was the pole-dance enthusiast next to me who, in all her wisdom, decided to let her toddler have solo control of her sippy cup. And while mom was absorbed in the movie, the resourceful little girl managed to get the lid off and empty the contents of the bottle onto the floor. It was just water thankfully but my idea of an ideal movie-going experience does not include a soggy carpet beneath my feet. Two years old at the most, the little girl was also understandably unfamiliar with movie-watching etiquette and kept trying to engage her mother in conversation, quite loudly might I add.

The parents at the back let their kid stand in front of them for the first half of the movie. This was all very fine for them but the kid was holding on to the back of my seat for support and more than once, managed to grab and yank a fistful of my hair. Ouch! But that was nothing compared to what happened after the interval. The poor kid totally lost it and started shrieking at the top of his voice. At this point, common courtesy would have dictated that at least one of the parents step out and calm him down. But, no. They just sat on their butts while their kid brought the house down. This was despite many pointed glares from me (Note to self: my glare clearly needs some work; must practice it on the kids some more). They also added to the fun by occasionally berating the little fellow with useless remarks like ‘Ab bas bhi kar’ and ‘Chup ho ja’. Real effective, as you can probably imagine. Anyway, the kid finally gave up on his parents and self-soothed himself into a semi-sleepy state.

So, yeah. If you think it is ok to bring your kid with you, that is really your choice. But please at least make some attempt to ensure that this doesn’t ruin the movie for all of us. I left my kids at home with their dad and came to watch this movie. I didn’t do this to have my evening ruined by YOUR kids and YOUR inability to keep them quiet and comfortable. Wait for the DVD!

Phew! That felt good. Better out than in, as the saying goes. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Book Review: Tuki's Grand Salon Chase

As an inveterate people watcher, beauty salons have always held a special fascination for me. All my good intentions to get a big chunk of reading done while in the hair stylist’s chair usually go right out of the window. It is so much more fun to watch the patrons and stylists out of the corner of my mind and make up interesting back-stories for them. It doesn’t help that in the last decade or so, the stylists themselves have gotten so much more interesting.

Parul Sharma’s third book Tuki’s Grand Salon Chase was therefore right up my alley. The book starts off in a bustling hair salon in tony Bandra and we get a peek into the workings of the place with a cast of characters (both the staffers and the clients) that keep things interesting and offer loads of fun insights into what makes them tick.

The book follows the adventures of Tuki, a young girl with big dreams of opening her own salon. Her dreams run into many a speed bump along the way and her adventures take her to Goa and London before she finds love and success back in Mumbai.

I have to say that this is my favorite of Parul’s books yet and I really enjoyed it. All the characters are written really well – they are quirky enough to be fun and interesting but stop short of becoming caricatures or stereotypes, which keeps them real and believable. The story itself is written in a witty, fast-paced and engaging style that kept me turning pages well past my bedtime.

It is peppered with witticisms and insights about beauty, love, people and behaviour that make you go ‘Word!’ or ‘Amen!’ My favourite: ‘A girl with a new haircut. Nothing could touch her.’ Word!