Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Business and Friendship are parallel Lines. And Always should be.

“I love the way you design, look at space, understand it, understand requirements and incorporate them into the design. Will you please be my interior designer? We are friends, don’t refuse, please?”

Did that sound familiar? It’s a common occurrence in ever designer’s lives. You don’t have to be an interior designer, it is common to all of the designing fraternity. We are all taken for a ride, by the so-called friends. There’s nothing wrong with taking up projects that mean dealing with friends. In fact, that’s how you start your own practice; go from being a slave to a boss to a free bird, who later turns into a boss. But make sure you clarify the terms and conditions well in hand. It is your profession, your bread and butter and there’s no reason why you should feel bad about asking for fees for your consultations.

Here I’d like to share one of the several incidences that have damaged my perception on taking up work for a friend. I’m always wary now of doing anything for “friends”.

One of my friends brought new property and wanted me to do up the interiors of the apartment. Knowing the kind of person he was (or so I thought), I only clarified my consultation charges and scope of services over text messages (which, by the way are not considered proof in case you wish to take Legal action). I never thought for a moment that the same loving, caring, brilliant guy would make my life hell 8 months later when it was time to pay up. Thinking he would not trouble me when it came to payments, I put in every last bit of effort in beautifying his home. Right down from meeting his finicky parents on every minute detail to selecting the accessories for his home, I did it all, without complaints, in spite of being employed full time, running for meetings before and after office hours in every weather. On one occasion even risking an important exam I had to appear for when the project was on going. The norm is to extract payments with every stage of work, but that’s something I did not do in this case because of the close friendship we shared.

Anyway, at my parent’s behest, I did broach the subject of payment in stages once, but was reproached with, “Don’t you trust me?” Well, I did and I paid for it dearly with my mental and financial peace. So 6 months down the line, his project was complete, with a few glitches as is normal for anything that involves a mixed bag of people.

Now came the time for fruitation, to get paid for the endless hard work I had put in to make a beautiful home. 6 months, it was my baby. I nurtured it. Conveniently, at the same time, he had his company auditing. He promised to pay as soon as that ended. I trusted. Waited. Then, he had some serious “financial crisis”. I trusted. Waited. Then he had to go abroad for urgent meetings and apparently lost his passport. 2 months, no news. I waited. But of course patience ran out.

He got back and I pounced. The situation had reached a stage where I could not extract money from him without involving my parents. His parents had suddenly turned deaf and dumb to my existence, behaving as though they did not know me. And my darling friend had gotten abusive to a level that still makes my skin crawl. Then there were fights on the project cost, following which a consensus was reached and an amount was fixed. I was called (I went with my mother, for moral support and also cause the person in question showed violent tendencies, suddenly). He was shamed into giving me two cheques, dated a month from the day of issue. I thought this was the end of my worries.

Just how wrong has been amply proven in the last two month. The cheques bounced. Mails were exchanged. Fake apologies on his part. Fake reassurances. I sat through it all hoping he would come to his senses. In the meanwhile, while he made claims of going through a difficult time financially, I saw facebook status updates about his new blackberry bold 4 which costs 30 thousand INR. That was the end of my patience. He had money for his whims and fancies, but when it came to paying someone for their work, he was broke. It spoke of his character in loud and simple words. That’s I threatened legal action when nothing else seemed to work. Life had fast turned into a travesty, revolving around getting him to pay up. Drunken scenes, abusive scenes, hate mail, I saw it all.

It’s been 9 months; I have got only 40% of the payment that was due to me. I see no end to this trauma. And why did I deserve this? Because, I trusted a friend. This was not the first time I was cheated of money that was rightfully mine, but only now did I realize that Money can break the strongest bonds.

Moral of the story: Never mix friendship with business. They are parallels. When they intersect, there’s unwanted fire. If you still must, be very clear on the terms and conditions of payment. Be adamant. If they don’t agree, they won’t pay and they are definitely not your friends.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mind how you save your numbers!

With the onset of fancy technology, we have fancy phones too. Gone are the good old days of keeping a pocket diary with telephone numbers, gone are the times, when people would delicately flick through the tiny pages looking for the systematically written names and number, then dial and politely wait for the phone to be answered and greet the one at the other end with a cheery “namaskar” or “hello”.

Going with the recent fads, I too bought myself a Blackberry. Ever the business tycoon. *laugh* So, the noob that I happen to be, I transferred all my phone contacts from the nokia onto the simcard as were and these went onto the blackberry the same way. Now as is the case with most contractors, I have several carpenters by the name “mohan mistry”, tiling guys by the name “sohan lohar” and electricians by the name “chawan”. Not such a co-incidence, most of the labour contractors use their profession as their last name. Here I’d like to share an incidence, a rather funny one that took place, with me.

While on site, waiting for the tiling contractor to turn up, I called him to enquire when his supposed 15 minutes would be up. “click” went the phone as the call connected. “Hailoo”, said the dude at the other end. I launched into a lecture, “Kya Loharji, Kahan ho aap, kitni der ho gayi. !5 minute hue na abhi tak. Woh Wakad waale site pe ana hai aapko, Tarun Gulati, Flat B-303.Do teen tiles tootey hue hai. Aaakar colour aur make dekh lo, jaakar khareedkar lao aur jaldi se kaam karo nahi toh paise nahi milenge. Main nikal rahi hun site per se.” Complete silence at the other end. I was about to launch into another lecture when there was a tentative, “Maaidam, main sohan lohar bol raha hun, Roheena Maidam k office wala sohan”. Mortification. Ultimate mortification. *nervous laughter*

“Sorry sohan ji, confusion ho gaya”. Of course, the nice and simple people these contractors are, he only laughed and said, “Maidam, kaam dilwa do, kuch ho toh”. I was banging my head against the wall all this time.

MORAL of the story: When storing numbers for contacts, take two minutes more to specify the name of the company they belong to, to avoid embarrassments of the kind I faced.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Open Letter to BIG BAAS, fi fi fi fi fi five. (To the Interior Designers)

This is my first entry for my new blog and in the spirit of Bitchwanti-ness AND from the perspective of someone whose field of expertise is interior designing; I shall talk about the BB5 house.
What I think is wrong with the house:
Take 1. You are put on a platform that slides into a hole(that’s what it looked like on TV) and next scene shows a massive wooden door sliding aside to let you in THE House. So what have we got here? An artificial lawn with Honey comb stepping stones. Very original! You expect to be let into a place that has a cottage, warm, natural look to it. At least I would, considering the entrance was about an element from our natural environs. The honeycomb.
Clearly, you are in for a nasty shock when you walk in and the place looks like kids went berserk with their painting kits. 
Let’s start with the flooring. It’s fairly normal. Standard beige tiles, what appear to be vitrified tiles. Your eyes travel upwards and you are shocked out of your mind when you see the yellow sofas, with boulder like black cushions. The next eye catching feature is everything. There’s a mad dash of bright pink in what is supposed to be the kitchen (sink-less to make the lives of the inmates utterly miserable). This brilliant piece of designing genius (which looks like it was designed for dwarfs, height wise) has an umbrella like structure hanging down from the ceiling, again pink. No surprise there. We are in barbie’s kitchen. Voila.
The Dining, is hideous to put in simple words. Pink in such quantities on the table is bound to cause loss of appetite, which is not what a dining table is meant for.


Moving on, the “ladies” bedroom is very predictably (and ghastly) pink. Why, I ask. Yes, women are said to have a general affinity towards the colour, but only till about the age of 5 would a girl want a PINK room. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but all the women in this house are well into their 20-30-40s. A dash of pink would have been acceptable and probably welcome. Unless of course you’re Pooja Bedi and coo, “this is so beautiful!” just because you have been paid a lot of money to appreciate such hideousness. The one feature I did like in this room though was the claw like structure on the backrest of each bed, keeping in mind the cat fights we are sure to witness with 14 women living under the same roof.

Then there’s the “boys” bedroom, which again is obviously done up in Blues and Greens. I am a girl and I love these colours. I want to ask the designers the reason for this partiality. That being besides the point, there is only one man in the house, that is Shakti Kapoor (who seems to think that purple nightdresses are meant for men). The space here is not well planned. There seems to be barely enough space to move around the room.

The “confession”room. My favourite part of the house. No offence to the women, I am one as well, but I believe that it looks like they were trying to make it look like the genitals of a woman. The vagina. I don’t, for one understand the point of the PINK swirls and the shapeless emerald green chair. What were they aiming for? To scare the living daylights out of whoever walks in to confess their scenes? Aaah, I seem to have hit on the truth there.

Then there’s the special quarters for the “captain” of the house. Here there’s blue and grey and white and black and a bed that looks like a cobra. Surely not the most soothing of shapes to sleep on.

As you put yourself through this kaleidoscope of colours, trying to find ONE dominating colour that creates a flow in the design (and give up), and your gaze turns heavenwards. And what have we here? The ceiling, lit as though you’re not in a house, but under the microscope of a loony scientist. Which in this case the inmates are, under the eyes of 52 odd cameras and the people on the other side of the TV. But that does not mean you forget that the people living in the house for the next 90 days are human beings too and although they are being paid to go through with these discomforts, a little care could have been taken with making the place more comfortable.

I understand you want to make the lives of the inmates as uncomfortable as possible, but keeping the washroom outside, at a 500 meter distance from the house is clearly stretching it too far. Same goes for the washing sinks, which are ideally supposed to be placed in the kitchen. BBoss has been taking “bad design lessons” progressively with every season. The first season we had a fairly tastefully done interior. Season 4 saw a well designed space, with white playing the underlying theme with dashes of olive greens and yellows making an appearance. The space did not feel cagey.
 The gymnasium in the BB5 house is a joke. One would wonder why they bothered having one. Probably some left over space.


I listed out what is wrong with the design. Now as a designer, keeping in mind the same colour scheme and concept that the designers had in mind, I will make a few suggestions as to what could have been done to make the place a little classy and soothing.
For starters, all the colours could have been toned down, used in their pastel tones. IF not, then they could have been paired such that they are at least complementary, instead of creating a hotchpotch of colours.

The flooring could have been wooden, since it is the biggest expanse, it would have held all the colours together, and even such bright colours would not have looked bad if they had one factor that continued the flow.

The Ceiling could have been plain white, instead of the glass and black they have used so liberally. That again would have helped maintain the flow. Lighting could have been more ambient, more toned down.

The Dining area could have worked better if they had only reversed the colours.The table could have been white and the chairs pink.

The Ladies room could have been done up in hints of gold and fuchsia, instead of the black, white and pink. The room looks like it belongs to kids, which in effect is not the case here.

The gents room could have been a combination of grey and blue, or black and grey. Subtle.

The “confession” room, with the same patterns could have been tastefully done up in black and green, rather than the pink and green. No one colour has any importance in that space. Big mistake.

The designer seems to have looked at nature as the concept, the free flowing curves give that idea.
But when they incorporated it on paper, clearly they did not pay attention to the essence of what nature is. Nature is calm, it is soothing. Most importantly, there is harmony. Something missing completely from the BIG BOSS house.

In their defense, the designers of this space will say that this was the client’s requirement. The aim of big boss is to cause mental trauma to the inmates in every possible way, to get them to fight for the benefit of a few cheap thrills of the people watching the show, that’s what gets them the TRPs. But it is the designer’s duty to create a space that soothes and calms and gives comfort. The big boss house this season is a shame to the community of designers.

Moral of the story: The kind of colours you see in the space you occupy affect your behavior, your mood and your conduct with the people around you.