Thursday, December 21, 2006

Shane Warne retires...




Its the end of an era,a magical era. There has never been a time in the last 15 years when I have done anything else, when Warne was bowling. Hats off to this magician! Thanks so much,Warnie, for the fantastic aggression,competition,display of skill and indeed reviving the dying art of leg spin. It was a delight to watch you play and I plan to get hold of DVDs of your best spells to treasure for eternity.

I will never forget your battles in India on turning tracks against Sachin,VVS and the like. Not to mention the endless spells worldover that bamboozled the best of players. It was a delight and indeed a privilege to have watched you and your art in all my growing years. Watching you compete taught me lessons of being highly competitive and approach my life with a never-say-die attitude. Thank you so much! I will miss you

Wish you the very best of luck in the future, and I still hope to see you on TV. It would be great to listen to the voice behind the magical hands and the razor sharp cricketing brain, with a microphone!

In the typical Aussie way, "Cheers, Mate!".

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Training, training,training!

One of the best days in my corporate life thus far! I will remember today for a long time.

After a very long time, I took a training session with a couple of my colleagues. This was in primary interviewing skills for a new induction batch. The whole session lasted two hours, and I never ever realised how the time went past. It was an exhilirating feeling to demonstrate to the new joinees about various approaches to an analyst briefing, the kinds of challenges, simulated scenarios, different techniques to tackle different types of people etc. It was seriously enjoyable too.

And the crowd was younger than me, for a change!:).

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reached San Francisco – but my baggage didn’t!

Well, I finally made it to the west coast of the US. Such a long flight, but fortunately, I wasn’t feeling tired at all. If anything, I was wide-awake, fresh, and raring to go!

After deplaning, I realized that my checked-in baggage hadn’t arrived from JFK airport. The airline had checked my baggage right through till San Francisco, from Chennai. But looks like it got lost in the big JFK airport! Anyway, true to the American customer service tradition, the airline officials jotted down the details, and even tracked my suitcase down electronically. They even showed me the photograph of the type of suitcase that I was talking about, from a slew of designs of suitcases!

I exited the terminal in the knowledge that my baggage would reach me at the hotel the next day. And outside the terminal, I had my first glimpse into how infrastructure, and support services in and around an international airport can make life for a foreigner so much easier. I am talking about a shuttle service to the hotel that I was to be housed in. There was a Hotel Shuttle Bus Stop and scores of vans and shuttles from different hotels flocked in one after the other to pick up people from the airport to their hotels. It was such a brilliant way to accommodate customer needs right from the minute that they decided to book their rooms in these hotels. While I initially didn’t know that these shuttles operate in blocks of half hour (one trip to the airport every 30 minutes), I noticed a public phone booth with extension numbers to these hotels. I called up the hotel that I was supposed to go to and in a matter of 3 minutes, the hotel shuttle turned up. Impressive! Its just amazing how customer service is so brilliantly done in this part of the world. Its just amazing. While these things may be a given for the average westerner, for somebody used to “negotiating with” with local cabs and auto rickshaws back home, these sorts of experiences are in a different league altogether! And it makes one learn so much more and become richer by the experience.

For the rest of the trip, I used this shuttle service from the hotel to the airport, and from thereon, the local train to scout the city of San Francisco, and indeed a lot of California. The public utilities and transport systems were just outstanding! I had absolutely no problem in figuring out my ways around this big city; the maps were accurate to the T; the routes to be taken to reach different places were accurate; the schedules of inter-city trains were on the dot each and every time; the schedules of connecting buses were hassle-free; most of all, there was complete ease of travel, lack of pressure, systematic, regulated and highly efficient transport systems, which made my stay so memorable. I didn’t even have to look at the clock and wonder if I am going to be charged double the rate like all of us are charged, back home after 10 p.m!These systems here operate at the same level of efficiency, are free of human interaction and are available at standard tariffs 24 hours a day. Nobody to cheat you, nobody to fleece you, and nobody to misdirect you.
Amazing!

Anyway, got to my hotel, to experience yet another great service experience. Complimentary high speed internet! That helps!

JFK Airport & New York City

I am back in the big city after exactly one year. And the exhilarating feeling that buoyed me in 2005 has resurfaced. While I am not about to exit the terminal, as I have only 2 hours, the sheer pulse of the city is visible right at this incredibly busy JFK international airport. The fact that New York city is the world’s melting pot is epitomised by its airports and the sea of humanity that converges there. Multiple dialects, multiple currencies, multiple cultures, multiple views, opinions and feelings are all available in one place. It just amazes me no end as to how this city has the power to integrate, digest and absorb such diversity into its fold every day of its life. Incredible!

I have been running from gate to gate, as the terminal from which my plane was scheduled to take off has been changed to some other terminal. And the airline officials at the new terminal are waiting for me with a smile (unlike the usual grumpiness that lateness is normally associated with!). One of the highlights of seeing what customer experience is all about, was when I boarded the flight to San Francisco at the JFK airport. The captain of the plane walked down the length of the aircraft, greeting everyone in the plane with a beaming smile, talking to them about the weather in Sfrisco, how the day was and what plans he has for the flight. Simple, yet an incredible lesson of how customer service can be replicated in the manner we do it at home i.e. if someone visits us, we spend the first few minutes greeting them, smiling at them and talking of general things. That’s exactly what the captain did, a la customer service style. Every time I come to the US, and every time I fly these airlines in this country, the quality of customer service just keeps getting better. You may recall the amazing experience I had with a delayed flight last July at Memphis airport (again on a flight out of New York City!).

As for JFK airport, well, I guess I have this to say. Based on what I had heard from my dad all these years, that there is a flight departing or arriving at the JFK airport every two minutes, I can only say that it’s the reality of the day. Two minutes is a long time at JFK airport. The various management lessons I learnt of scheduling, operational efficiency in providing better service, speed of delivery, were all visible to me at the JFK airport. Lines of aircraft stood one behind another waiting patiently to take off, one after the other. No blaring of horns that I am accustomed to back home!

Next to me is an old lady, who is alternating between sleeping and reading a Spanish book! Am off to sleep now. Should be reaching San Francisco by 10.30 p.m.

Day 1 – Chennai to Paris


I am writing this as I am sitting in Paris airport. It was a long flight from Chennai to Paris and I slept through most of it. I thought I’d have an interesting neighbour, but ended up with an Indian national settled in Paris and he was old hat! And a touch serious! So, I thought I may as well catch up on my lost sleep, considering that I was beating a deadline through the week, having sleepless nights getting approvals, travel documents, print outs of every discernible document that I needed (two copies each, lest one of my baggages doesn’t turn up when I land in the US). So, I slept through the flight.

We reached Paris an hour ago and as soon as we got into the bus, the modernity, technology, systematic approach to life in the wild west hit me rightaway. There was this bus that we had to board and reach the transit terminal to catch the connecting flight to New York. The manner in which the documents were checked, the way the bus was structured, the procedures followed to help the old people into the bus with specialized systems was just a glimpse of the attention to detail that westerner adhere to.

I got to the terminal, and after the security check and then baggage check (for a second time) by a hot French blonde, I entered the waiting area in the terminal. Clear-cut messages of the schedules of various airlines to various destinations in the world were the first thing that hit me inside the terminal. For the first time in my life, I noticed a public phone where I could use my own credit card and call anywhere in the world (I had heard of call collect and the usual ISD or IP phone, but this was different. telephonic model!)

I then scouted around the airport terminal across various duty free shop which were replete with the best booze possible (even a teetotaler like me could appreciate the variety on display!), scores of porn magazines, foreign exchange counters, a café that had the typical French toast, croissant and butter! Not to miss, the terminal was of course full of very good-looking women(charms of travelling!).

Well, as I am typing this sitting in this Paris airport, two Indian girls sitting next to me are speaking aloud about life in the US, life back in India, the learning experience, college education etc. While I am never one to eavesdrop, the volume of the voices of these two girls is so high that even if one doesn’t want to hear them, it comes and hits the ear straight!

Well, its another two hours for my flight. Let me scout this terminal a bit more and add to my international exposure?!!:)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Its Amchi Mumbai for all of us...7/11 or otherwise.


I hail from the Silicon Valley of India and have been an ardent fan of the way of life in the biggest metropolis in the country, Mumbai. I simply love that city, for its sheer magnitude, pace of life, accommodative nature, range of opportunites(land of dreams, as they say) and immense will to steam ahead irrespective of whether there is a crash on Dalal Street or a bomb blast in the suburban train.

A lot has been said and written about the recent bomb blasts on 7/11(India's own version of 9/11?), but I don't think Mumbaiites have the time or the inclination to fall prey to this dastardly act.I remember seeing the BBC news on 9/11 back in 2001, when the twin towers came crashing down.None of the footage there showed any jumping bodies, or blood-stained images, lest it dents the psyche of the American race,more than it already had.But Indian television channels had a great story on 7/11/2006.After all,they don't get such juicy stories everyday!My God!The lifeline of Mumbai,indeed the lifeline that transports the people who run the financial capital of the country, had been hit.One of the television channels even had their own journalist on the same train,but on a different bogie to the one that was reduced to ash.And that made for terrific soundbytes and TRP ratings,to have given a "first-hand" account of the events.

But,yesterday evening,I was witness to a couple of showpiece events on television, across two leading channels.One was in CNN-IBN,with the effervescent Rajdeep Sardesai getting tough with a bunch of 6 panelists from Mumbai,while the other was in NDTV.Predictably,it was the famous Barkha Dutt,again with a bunch of famous Mumbaikars on the panel and an angry audience to boot.As I was watching these two programmes that deliberated on whether Mumbai is a soft target and beyond repair,I found the same cliched answers by both panels on both channels.Topics ranged from anger of the average Mumbaikar,how there is no political will, how there is a collapse of the infrastructure in the big city,how there is no leader who can inspire the city,how gangsters,mafia,powerful honchos,bollywood threats,13 blasts in the last 13 years had made Mumbai city vulnerable.It was amazing to see the cross-section of society in these two television studios voicing their concerns, saying that they do not have the resources to run the city and its the job of the adminstrators.The famous 26/7(why have we reduced journalism to dates?!)rains that destroyed the streets of Mumbai and paralysed normal life,was discussed threadbare.The point that 13 years have passed since 1993 and we still have not convicted the key accused in the Mumbai blasts was loudly echoed.And the city has been hit again and again since that dark day in 1993 - Ghatkopar,Gateway of India,Zaveri Bazar,Mulund blasts are as fresh in the average Mumbaikars mind as the the 7/11 bomb blasts in the local trains.

Looking at all these detailed analysis,I got the feeling that all of us STILL love the city of Mumbai,but are unable to come up with a solution to manage its scale and size.I also got the sinking feeling that we are scared deep down that the face of India in the international economic map,is slowly weeding away at its firm exterior.While we may romanticise the famed Mumbai spirit and rightly so,I strongly felt that this time,we are sincerely and genuinely concerned that our own version of New York city is incrementally getting eroded in its own value.Sadly,the terrorists seem to have understood this gradual erosion and are hitting harder each time.

Yes,there is corruption,there is are traffic bottlenecks,there is a sensitive stock exchange,there are major conglomerates in India and abroad with headoffices or some presence in Mumbai.Corporate honchos live in Mumbai,Bollywood stars and sports stars are based out of Mumbai.Many influential people have made Mumbai their home.Some of the most famous journalists are from Mumbai.Why,even the great Pramod Mahajan,had the formative years of his enterprising spirit in Mumbai/Maharashtra.We have rags to riches stories aplenty in Mumbai,most notable amongst them being that of Dhirubai Ambani and the Reliance behemoth.The great Mumbai marathon exemplifies the Mumbai spirit.Leander Paes has made Mumbai his hometown for the last 6 years and has promised to host the Davis Cup again in Mumbai,and for as long as he can manage it,till he is the captain.The last Davis Cup was won on the adrenalin that Leander received from the Bombay crowd.Financial analysts,investment bankers,lawyers,bankers,policy makers,central banks,commercial banks,dance bars,taxiwalas,hotel chains,upmarket socialites and a cross-section of the Indian populace are all based out of Mumbai.That is the fantastic accommodative nature of this great city.This very diversity is becoming Mumbai's problem and possibly weakness.

The resolve of the city never to bicker down can negate the sternest of terror attacks.BUT,beneath all this,there is another Mumbai.One of chawls,roadside vendors,vada-pav stalls,mafia,underworld dons,extortion threats,black money,blackmail to the high and mighty,floating population that comes into the city in the morning and goes to neighbouring towns and cities at night.All sorts of people live in Mumbai.And it is in the greater cause of the growing city that we seriously need to look closely at this scare,inherent soul-searching that we have been doing in the last week.We seriously need to pay heed to this feeling that this time,maybe,just maybe,the surface of the Mumbai wall in its essence has been hit.And that is something, we cannot choose to ignore.

I do not know what the solution is.All I do know is that,I simply love the city of Mumbai.Everytime I go there from Bangalore,I feel like extending my stay by a day or two.I feel like seeing more of that city.I have gone in those local trains myself, from New Bombay to VT and even Churchgate.I love the sandwiches that are sold outside Churchgate station;there have been days when I have had them for breakfast and lunch.I love the speed of the city.There is something enigmatic that captures me everytime I touchdown at Santa Cruz.That look out of the aircraft window down into the Arabian Sea and over Marine Drive is something I adore!

Please don't kill this pulse in Mumbai,both for the Mumbaikars, and for millions of others like me,who truly LOVE Mumbai!Its AMCHI MUMBAI for all of us!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Of plays ..dramas and crowds..!

I have been going to plays in Chennai and Bangalore for a while now.Its been good fun.The artificiality of the environment, the pseudo-knowledge of many people in the crowd about the play,the daring dress codes that I have seen in these places are indeed an interesting combination!

The girls in the crowd at these plays have always been a feast to the eyes.Their idea of decorating themselves with resplendent attires,slam-bang colour lipsticks,revealing tops,and an artificial English accent to boot, is a combination that is possibly available only at these plays.The number of ooooooh's and aaaah's that I hear almost make me believe that these women are having an orgasm in public!Pecks on the cheeks,tight hugs....all the American ways,are well on display,long before the play begins!

I am going with 19 other folks tomorrow for a play here.Should be fun!:).Its a Sunday evening too.....

Manmohan Singh - don't discredit the great man!



I have been an admirer of our Prime Minister,Dr.Manmohan Singh for over a decade now. He is the man who needs to be credited with our liberalized mindset these days. He has also been instrumental in getting globalization and pioneering economic reforms when India was at its economic nadir in 1991.

But the same Dr.Singh is drawing flak now, for his supposed "weakness" and "inability to be stern". While those accusations are arguable, one can never take the credibility and integrity of the man away. He is one of the sharpest brains in the country's economic horizon and a much needed one at that.

I get the feeling that Dr.Singh is first an economist, who chose politics to use his prowess for the greater cause of the country. And in that endeavour, he wins hands down. But, when the same professional is given the mantle of the Prime Minister, people are casting aspersions. That is not acceptable.He is not a natural politician. He possibly doesn't have the mass appeal of a Vajpayee or the strategic political skills of somebody like the late Pramod Mahajan. To therefore expect a popular PM is a fundamental flaw. One needs to look at the contributions of a leader to a nation. And Dr.Singh's stellar performance far outweighs the most accomplished political leader that India may have produced. It is no joke to open up currency fluctuations to a free market economy. It is further no joke to create awareness of economic reforms in a highly fragmented society. Dr.Singh has done this. And he is a respected economist and looked upon as a veyr knowledgeable man in the international fraternity. Let us not forget that he has enough and more experience in India's economic policies than most of the other criminal politicians that we have around us.

Just that Dr.Singh is in a situation, where he is unable to use his prowess in finance and economics in the political seat of a Prime Minister these days. That is asking for a huge shift from the man. He has never been the headline hitting man. He is quiet by nature, but no less steely. Political considerations and coalition politics are slowly creating windows of opportunity for people to target the man.

Let us not do that to a man who has been one of the jewels of India. If we cannot find a full-blown politician as areplacement or give the political climate in the country a clear, majority mandate, let us at least not discredit a great man!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The jinx of July 4

I don't know how and why its been happening over the last few years on July 4th.Its just been one jinxed day.On July 4,2004, I had gone out on a rainy evening with my drama class friend in pouring rain.And on that infamous evening,as I was taking the car from the corner of the street,I lost my mobile phone.One smart ass noticed was quick enough to make the most of the opportunity that awaited him and before I knew it,I had lost my phone.And to my horror,I discovered only after 5 minutes,by which time the damage was done.On that day,I lost my mobile phone to such a jerk who was just laughing when I dialled my own number to request him to return the phone to me.I guess I was being too polite.Sad!

On July 4,2005,when I was in the US,I went to a pub for the first time in my life.And I forgot to take my ID card with me there!And they didn't let me in,despite my team mate and American boss vouching for my credentials to the pub owner.Its a different matter that I managed to go to the same pub at a later date.But,this jinx of July 4 didn't leave me.

And today was no different.My phone fell down and had a crack that cut through the screen.That was not all.The display card in my mobile phone conked.So,throughout the day,I couldn't see who was calling me or messaging me - I just had a blank screen staring at me and funnily enough, I was getting all the calls as usual!Sure felt weird picking up every call with an air of suspense!

Wonder if there is more to this July 4 jinx than meets the eye.Maybe having an ex-gf's birthday on this day is jinx enough....

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The magical Muralitharan


I read the papers this morning that the genius of Muthaiah Muralitharan did the honours in wrapping up the English batting line up in their own backyard. While there have been enough aspersions cast against Murali over the years, what stands out is the courage of conviction in the man. I mean, an attitude of, "let the world say or do what it wants. I am going to be the master of my art", takes tremendous will power and confidence in one's skills. And its no mean feat to scalp over 600 wickets in test match cricket, when the entire Lankan team was a one-man bowling attack for all these years.

Hats off to a champion, who stuck to his guns and proved to the world that if you are good, you are good. Sooner or later,people will realise!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mumbai trip- day 1

I had been to Mumbai for the May day weekend.At the end of it,I realised that I needed another weekend to recover from this long weekend!That is the pace of the mega metropolis that I was hit with.

The sights and sounds of this big city can be pretty unnerving for the mellowed souls.Such is the expanse of humanity and speed of life,that I didn't even realise how my three days were spent.

It was a great feeling to touchdown on Mumbai's CST airport on a Friday evening.I still remember trying to figure out the way to a cabstand, and like with most metros around the world,this one too had a system.More importantly,it worked!I hopped onto a cab and as we exited the airport terminal,a cop readily stopped us and asked me something in Marathi, which obviously was Greek and Latin to me!The cabwala helped out and at the end of the "translation", it transpired that the cop wanted to know just where I was headed.All I needed to say was Powai!:)

Anyway,we got onto the Western Express highway, which was to be my first glimpse of a city in the grind i.e.every single pebble and slice of mud was dug up right along the way from the airport to Powai.It was amazing that my cab driver actually managed to keep the relic Fiat car on its four wheels,what with oscillations at every 5 feet on the street.But I actually was enjoying it.Very soon,as we hit the exit into Andheri,the typical Radio Mirchi channel came on.I just smiled at the cab driver and told him to increase the volume.Reason?There was a Kishore Kumar special going on and I just loved the combination of a long cab drive and a Kishore da special.

As the cab chugged along,I transported myself into Kishore land and just reached a trance,only to be woken up by my mobile phone!My cousin wanted to know where I was!!:)Anyway,told him that I was in a cab that was hanging on for its dear life and should be home in some time!Poor guy,he had cooked some authentic north Indian food for me,that too without garlic!Just the way I like it!Of course,I followed up this call with a quick buzz to my dear Mumbai friend in Andheri,and fixed up a lunch date with her the next day!She is the famous tall girl that I once wrote in my article on www.arun.zine5.com!:)

Finally,made it to my cousin's place at 10 p.m., only to discover that my cousin hadn't returned from office.He belonged to the breed of Mumbai professionals who drove early in the morning from Powai to Nariman Point and drove back the same distance,when people were just retiring for the day!Anyway,caught up with his wife and was chatting away to glory with her, with my stomach grumbling.I was starving!We had dinner!

I got up at 9 a.m. the next morning and met my cousin for the first time in a year.Had breakfast and walked down to the pool in the apartment complex with the whole family.Two year old kiddo jumped into the pool with her mom and screamed and smiled and then never left the water!She was so adorable and cute!:)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Of stock market crashes and emotions


So,the Sensex tanked more tan 800 points today.Big deal is my reaction.The game is just the same as with anything in life.Nothing is permanent,nothing is elusive,and nothing is what it is always believed to be.There are going to be cycles of ups and downs in every walk of life,and the stock market is no exception.

I do not understand the hue and cry that is made about the singular movements of the stock markets.Ok,its a great avenue to get rich,but I somehow feel that cyclical movements of markets can still be understood and controlled.But there are many other events in our lives that have no repair or remedy,if its as impactful as a 800 point crash on the Sensex!The sooner we learn to rationalise this difference between the "man-made" world and the "internal world of a human being", the easier it will be for us to look at life beyond fund portfolios and ROI.At the end of the day,while it is important to make money,it is possibly more important to learn to be happy and exercise that learning by actually being happy.

Rebirth of my weekly column

I never believed in rebirth till recently.The editor of my website where I have been writing for the last 3 years wrote to me saying that another set of editors have agreed to take the website ahead and keep the show going.We had to stop the website for the last few months due to the pressures of logistics and demands of individual professional careers.

But when I received that email that another couple is going to run the show now,I felt relieved.I almost felt that a part of me had been reinstated after having taken a sabbatical!!:)

Great to be back into the writing mould now.I will now have the excitement,worry,tension,thrill,and romance of figuring out ways to write newer things every seven days.Should keep me on my toes though!!!:)

The essence of Bangalore

I went home last weekend.It was a mesmerising feeling to get down at Cantonment station for a few minutes,sit on the bench on the platform and inhale the fresh morning air.It was a divine moment that I just did not want to end.Those few moments made me relate to the old saying that there is nothing like home on this planet.The aroma of the morning,the freshness of the early dawn,and the early morning birds and crickets around with there tweety-beety sounds were an exhilirating experience.And in the midst of all this,the early morning tea was perhaps the most blissful moment in the last fortnight.

Hats of to the simple things in life.They matter more than any of the so-called "big things".I am convinced of that.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tamil Nadu Elections

I have been living in Chennai for 15 months now and the election fever has been brewing up over the last 3 months or so. But I am amazed that in a highly polarised politcal framework in India, Tamil Nadu still has to choose between one amongst two alternatives. Maybe that is good in a way, as the voter has limited options, unlike elections elsewhere, which have some unknown parties making tall promises.

In its own way, the political climate of Tamil Nadu reminds me of the two party system in the West. People will vote only if you can deliver there (though that may not always work in Indian conditions!).But at least, the voter is sure about what he is getting by casting his vote in favour of one party over the other. We have therefore seen tremendous competition in this Tamil Nadu election, with both parties (DMK and AIADMK) trying to woo the voter with numerous freebies. I recall a question that one of the journalists covering these elections posed to a political leader i.e.” Have you worked out the economics of these freebies?". Fair question, I thought. But it was obvious from the politician's facade that he couldn't care less, except ensure that he completed his mandate of getting his quota of the votes. Freebies are a very temporary way of getting people to vote. Just like a blue-chip stock, the inherent value of a political party to deliver is what will help anyone in power sustain durable advantage and contribute to the development of the state. While that may be the view of the educated lot, I guess the same may not be true of everyone else. I may be wrong there, as a number of the rural folk these days, yet, the chances of wooing them with freebies are higher.

But I must say that these new IIT guys have caught my attention. They do not have the bandwidth and resource pool of the bigger political parties in the state, but they sure have created ripples of things to come. There have been many conversations in and around Chennai where people do not question the intent of this young brigade and do see them shaping up into something substantial in the coming years.

I just hope at the end of the day, the party that comes to power does something concrete and delivers. I wonder if corporatisation of political parties is a good idea. This might just bring in more accountability and transparency in their operations, both pre-election and post-election. This corporatisation issue might be of interest to the journalist fraternity, especially in these days of "panel of experts"!

Finished five years work ex today

I don't know how I am feeling right now.All I know is that I finished five years post PGDBA work experience today.Its been one big,interesting journey.From days of being clueless,to managing nightmarish bosses,to working with peers and seniors who taught me the ropes,to meeting client expectations now,it sure has been an interesting journey.

Possibly the biggest lesson I have learnt in these five years is to have a peaceful sleep at night with a clear conscience.I am glad that I have managed it unfailingly in this early part of my career and there is possibly nothing more satisfying than a good night's sleep - however bad the day may have been!:)And trust you me,there have been some really bad days.But the good far outweigh the bad,so I guess I will take that.

I will never forget my first year out in the big,bad corporate world.Was hurled into assignments that I was clueless about and hardly had any navigation path.Didn't know what to talk,how much to talk,what is politically correct,what is politically incorrect,what to divulge,what not to divulge,how does one manage holidays,how the boss is not always right even though he may claim to be,etc.

Its all been a great learning experience.Especially,living alone in a different city and standing on my own feet has been nothing short of a live-MBA in itself.I call it a live-MBA,because of the real-world lessons that living alone has taught me - cost management,budgeting,time management,people management(landlords,servant maids,autowalas etc),resource management,skills development,multi-tasking,overdelivering after underpromising.

But the sheer freedom to do things my way,learn things the hard way and be better off from the experience has given me the confidence to make the full utilization of my persona in exceptionally tough times.These lessons should keep me in good stead for the rest of my career.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Leaving for Bangalore amidst the Rajkumar chaos

The news headline went on and on about the end of an era with the sad demise of Dr.Rajkumar in my lovely hometown, Bangalore.And the flip side of the death manifested itself into violence in this erstwhile pensioners'paradise.I felt sad that my city had transformed into such a violent city.It wasn't ever like that before.Sad.

Anyway,I had go board my train back home to Bangalore.And the train was choc-a-bloc.Not death of Rajkumar or any other factor was going to dissuade Bangaloreans from going home for a nice three-day break - away from the simmering heat and humidity of Chennai.Not to mention, folks like me are not going to miss the opportunity to enjoy some sumptous home food!:)

There were a few people who boarded our bogie without tickets.All of them looked like ruffians to me.The ticket collector warned them right after the train left Chennai Central that the police and the railway authorities will come at night and as these unauthorized travellers to disembark from the train.That threat went on deaf ears,with a couple of the unauthorized travellers exchanging a quiet word or two on bribing the officials to get past them,when they arrive.Hmm..so much for corruption seeping into the system.

But I was awoken when I heard animated conversation in the dead of the night, as the train sped home!The railway authorities had arrived and so had the cops.They were in a long dialogue with these unauthorized travellers for the best part of 30 minutes.Nobody could sleep in the bogie, as decibel levels were high.But I was pleasantly surprised and glad that the authorities had their way.They managed to get these unauthorized travellers to alight at the next station, and asked them to board the unreserved bogies,where one doesn't need a ticket.And all this without any corruption but purely on the merits of the case, with was a lost case as far as the unauthorized travellers were concerned.Even bribing was not talked of eventually!

I guess some things are changing.Am glad!

Catching up with my greatest boss ever!

Wow! What an evening that was!I went to visit my old boss at his office a couple of evenings back.I was meeting him after a good 3 years or so.Felt so,so good and meeting him convinced me that there are indeed some fascinating professionals in the corporate world. The poise,the charm,the professionalism,the scale of achievement and his overall persona had always impacted me in the most positive manner possible i.e.inspirational.While I have never been the type who has wanted to by like somebody else, this boss has always been so inspiring to me, that a lot of my professional standards have manifested themselves from the grounding that I received from this amazing man.

There are three of them actually,out of which this guy is the tallest.All three of them are scintillating exponents of professional excellence which any average Joe or motivated gradudate can look up to and pick up a pointer or two.These three guys have weathered many a storm for a long,long time and have established their credentials very firmly in their clients' eyes.Its amazing how they discover newer and newer ways to deliver client satisfaction by maintaining the highest standards of excellence fathomable by a human being.

Anyway,to sit down with them, in their swanky new office,in the big boss' cabin, sharing a nice,long conversation,interspersed with some munchies and tea, was an exhilirating experience for me.I mean,clients value these guys a lot and their time is or paramount importance to the outcome of any of their engagements.And to have sat down with me,after a long,hard day at the office,and spent the best part of two hours made me feel on top of the world. Not because I was sitting with these big ticket people or something, but just the sheer manner in which they gave me their time as friends,catching up on old times, checking with me on the current state of my career and my plans, some of the recent experiences abroad etc,just made me feel so,so,so good.It didn't feel like a boss-subordinate talk at all, but was more like that of a bunch of senior and juniors engaged in some quality time with each other as friends.Just made me feel very good to be recognised on the merits of my own case by them as well.They were very happy to see me after a while and to observe the moves I have made since I started off with them in my first job.

I am glad that I had these three wonderful men as my mentors when I started off my career five years back!Just seems like yesterday that I was there!:)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Davis Cup & Leander Peas - the romance continues..

I had one of the best Sundays in 2006 yesterday.Sitting back in my living room and enjoying every second of the mesmerising passion for tennis and an Indian victory,sure had its lessons embedded in it.The passion,romance and thrill of watching Leander Paes guts it out against the toughest of opposition and under the most extenuating circumstances was an abject lesson on how a human being can really overcome every obstacle that comes his way.

The pundits would call it strategy i.e. losing the fourth set miserably(6-0),just so as to regain momentum and time for the medicines to bite, and eventually going for the kill on the back of sheer passion,adrenalin and crowd support,not to mention ability.Yes,that is what happened at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai yesterday,as India beat Pakistan in the Asia-Oceania group,Davis Cup finale.

Hats off to Leander.Few professional sportsmen can boast of integrity and passion while going about their work.To add such passion,energy and a never-say-die attitude with one's back against the wall, was nothing short of inspiring!The reverbating stadium,and the congregation of the Indian team around Leander was proof enough that he is indeed the solitary torch-bearer for Indian tennis.And the tears that poured from his deepest corners showed what passion and will to win actually means.And it was not one of those artificially,glycerine-initiated tears whatsoever.Those were tears of doing anything for the country,with a sound mix of ethics,passion and sheer grit.

Hats off to a great champion!Proud of being an Indian,indeed,Leander!Very,very proud!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Why I think the ISB crorepati is hogwash

It is amazing how the traditionally most secretive element of a human being's professional life is being publicised to this degree.Media pundits have hailed the Indian School of Business today for creating the first ever crorepati from the ramparts of its hallowed turf.But hang on,let us not fool ourselves anymore about this "big-ticket" placement.

While there may be merits in the case of such recruits, we must remember that these are more the exception than the norm(possibly a fractional percentage of the entire workforce or employable workforce).That said, mere receipt of such placements is no index of a human being's capabilities,as there are scores of professionals who have done and are doing yeoman service in their respective streams.

If there is talk of a balanced media, I would be happy to see features and lead stories of people who have done exceptionally well without any of these overly glorified degrees. Having graduated from a business school myself and having been part of the consulting world, I can safely say that there is more to life than a fast-paced, jet-setting job with a skyrocketing salary.

The question to be raised is, have we reduced these business schools to assembly lines of hype? Or are we still a race who values the teeming millions who have done wonderfully well in life, despite stints at such schools?Get real...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

20 hours with my old friend!

I will never forget March 20,2006.It was a red letter day in my life.Something quite memorable and on a different plane than what I had ever experienced before.

The occasion was my old,school friend's marriage with his sweetheart.But the greater thrill for me was bumping into my old,childhood friend after two years and spending the best part of two days with her.Its amazing to see unadulterated,natural,emotions straight-from-the-heart and ever-widening smiles when two childhood friends meet after a break.The enthusiasm levels automatically escalate!

I keep hearing of the word,quality time.I think I know what it means now,because those 20 hours will be something I will cherish till my grave.That is how wonderful it was.From freewheeling conversation to teasing each other,to laughing and cracking jokes and going down memory lane,it was an exhilirating experience!!

Will never forget that day for sure.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The irrational journey from girl to bride and guy to groom!

This is not an attempt to draft a manual of the processes involved in upgrading a girl to a bride or a guy to a groom!Its that time of life when every relative I have and every remote associate in the family has an opinion. About what else, but my marriage! While X wants a homely girl, Y presents the case of a daring girl, and somebody else showcases the candidature of a girl with a good mix of modern and tradition. Some girls are qualified,some are not so qualified (who decides this, by the way?), while others are not up to the mark(questionable again). And then, there is the other issue of family background et al. Are we on a "hunt" here? Or are we trying to make the best use of the available talent pool in the matrimony market? Or, are we trying to quickfix the situation?

While I am still enjoying my freedom (with a multitude of girlfriends and in NO hurry to make an immediate choice just for the heck of it!), I am actually wondering why this concept of unification is paid so much attention to,in our country. Why the Mittals and Saharas of the world blow up so much of money and have pompous weddings of their children? Is it an index of happiness? How is it that the attendance of VIPs, is supposedly deemed to be proportional to the degree of happiness experienced by the duo who are getting married? What has social status got to do with a marriage? Why can't a guy and a girl love each other like there is nothing else in this world? Why are we reducing these opinions to class, sects, sub-sects and such man-made demarcations? And pompous displays of wealth is NO index of happiness.

Thankfully, I am lucky in that, whatever X or Y may say, I get to take the final call. Thank god for that and thank god for having such broad-minded parents!!

In a lighter vein, I find the process of this bride-hunting very funny (at least in the arranged marriage route) - two families meet based on the documented evidence of a horoscope (which is generations old by the time the guy and girl in question are of marriageable age!). There are pleasantries exchanged between the two families. I think this meeting is a classic behavioural test more than anything else i.e. everyone is at his/her best behaviour and putting his/her own best foot forward. And in broad-minded families like mine, after the initial pleasantries between the two families, the guy and the girl go and sit alone and have a long talk.

This conversation is the most interesting bit i.e.two human beings, brought together by the documented evidence of their candidatures (which is again based on somebody else's estimation/calculation),trying to make the most of the meeting. They try to be themselves, but are not possibly themselves at all. The conversation can go either way - drift, or end up as a chatter. Now,chattering away to glory can depict a false sense of interest! That is something not too many are aware of i.e.two individuals,meeting for the first time, if talkative, will have a lot of conversation going! (My friends call me a flirt and I talk a lot with girls! Doesn't mean I go after every available singleton on the planet -m arriage is special stuff, please! At least, for me!). Now, such conversation can be no index of affinity! On the contrary, the meeting can bomb, with both the guy and girl not knowing what to talk, or one party doing all the talking and the other sitting as an ardent listener. That has its own dynamics, as some guys like quiet girls & vice-versa, but outgoing people like me would much prefer a girl who has a brain and uses it to voice her opinion with her mouth! Don't need dumb ducks here, please! Not me, at least!

Finally,after the "talk", the families bid each other goodbye, with the cliched,"we will get back to you", and as soon as the guy and the girl are back on their way back home, the parents shoot the missile question:"What do you think?". BOOM! Ah! One meeting, and one has to answer a question that would impact a lifetime (thank god I know to say no!), what one thinks in bullet points that have just two options - yes or no! (Ok, exceptions are there to this, I know). Hehehe, had that been so easy to answer, I would've married some 20 times by now, as I like so many of my friends who are girls!! But that is a totally different ball game, will write about that some other time...

I cooked today for the first time!

Wow! What an experience to eat your own cooking! There is nobody to complain, critique, comment, moderate or opine. Just gobble down what you make with your own hands and feel on top of the world about it!

Well,well,well. Today was my debut in cooking (a la,a debut in a cricket match!).I used a cooker with my own hands for the first time in my life. The thrill and tension were working in conjunction as I eased rice into the water-filled cooker. The tension mounted as I awaited steam to emanate from the insides of the cooker. The whiff of steam took a good 2 minutes to make its appearance. That time was enough for me to wonder what the tantrums of the "bzzz" sound meant!

Slowly, the steam surfaced and I struggled in placing the "weight" on the cooker stopper. Its amazing, such a small piece of "weight" controls the entire output of the quality of the rice. No "weight" and the cooker risks getting blown apart!

I stood right by the cooker, till I heard the whistles. It took its own time and I got impatient in my count, but had to stand by the cooker to listen to the whistles. Mom had instructed me that 3 whistles is the bare minimum! Well, finally, after much waiting, the whistle blew at the top of its voice and I turned off the cooker.

But hell, I had to wait another 15 minutes before I could sample the colour, texture, look and feel of my first adventure with a cooker. I went and had a bath to circumvent the 15-minute wait!

Finally, got ready, returned to the new cooker (which was no longer spotless) and removed the whistle and the top lid. There it was! Bright white cooked rice, staring me in the face! What an exhilarating feeling it is to cook your own rice!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I walked through IIT Chennai last evening!Wow!

I went to the IIT Chennai last evening.I don't know how others feel,but just like I had read in books,I felt at peace with myself when I entered the campus.Now,I am not a science student but,even though I am from a different stream,the power of the place hit me a wee bit.The rustle of the trees,the cold breeze blowing across the lanes,the serene atmosphere.It was amazing! I recalled Chetan Bhagat's famous book on life at IIT,Delhi, Five Point Someone,and was picturising all the antics described in that book,happening in the Delhi campus of the type of institute that I was walking through,for the first time in my life.

The sight of a senior student standing in front of 6 absolutely tense students,explaining some scientific phenomenon is a sight that I will treasure for eternity.The boy was standing in a jeans and long shirt,explaining some theory with immense passion,fire in his eyes and terrific commitment.Six juniors(they may have been classmates of his,I'm not sure)were sitting in a bench in front of him,absolutely glued to what he was saying,scribbling notes and marking points on their books.This was bang in front of the famous Central Library,a building where one can spend a lifetime and still not be done with all the reading in the world!I remarked to my counterpart,that the library could pass off as a software company - that's how smashing an architectural masterpiece it was!

Many of my friends in the engineering world have told me that life in IIT is an experience and one gets immensely nervous on just entering this hallowed turf of the science world.I guess the trailer I experienced last evening is what they were referring to!

I have walked all around the IISc in my hometown,Bangalore.And that I thought was a mesmerising experience.The walk through IIT yesterday was even better!

I am proud to be an Indian!Jai IIT!

Friday, January 06, 2006

A nice,serene 28th birthday!

A really nice day today!After a really long time,I had a nice,serene,relaxed birthday!

My room mate ensured that I had the traditional surprise on a birthday,by waking me up at midnight and making me cut a cake!!Its been 7 years since I cut a cake on my birthday!The cakes were yummy!Customary calls at midnight followed from friends!Two lovely girls were the first to call me and wish me!Felt great!!Few sms's flowed in as well!Felt nice as I lay down to sleep at 1 a.m.

Could hardly get up and run to office in the morning.But old friends will be old friends.My oldest friend(I know him since 1989!) woke me up at 7 a.m and wished me.The phone kept ringing and sms's kept coming,so I decided that I may as well get up.Logged on to the net,checked email, got ready and then headed to office.

It was a low-key thing in office.Not much publicity, prefer it that way these days, compared to the jazz in previous birthdays.I still remember my 16th birthday.It rocked!Abou19 friends called me over to a restaurant, and the tallest among them smashed a cake on my face to euphoria surrounding him,with everyone going gung-ho and wishing me in public!It was a serious high!And I share my birthday with a lovely,tall girl,who graced this planet 1 hour before I did,in the same year!And on that 16th birthday she was around as well. Girls sure get their way around - nobody smashed a cake on her face!Anyway,that was a high,once upon a time!

This time around,I was cooped up in office with absolutely no mood to work.Lots of pleasant memories of past birthdays came flooding back.Felt great to recollect them all!A handful of my counterparts in office wished me in office.At lunch time,I decided to invite my team mates out for a snack/treat in the evening at Amethyst.This is one of the most cosy, upmarket coffee shops in this city of Chennai!Everyone readily agreed!I booked a table for 7 of us immediately,as more often than not,this place gets flooded with cosy twosomes!

We left office early and reached the venue at around 6.15 p.m. after beating some maddening traffic.Settled down around a nice,round table and didn't quite realize how the next 2 hours went past.Had some terrific,freewheeling conversation with the entire team with everyone at their enthusiastic best and out to try some new dish or the other.One of the guys around was the solitary non-vegetarian and was initially feeling very awkward.But he retained his courage of conviction in non-vegetarian food and hit a lovely sandwich!The rest of us placed our orders too and it was seriously the lightest birthday I ever had.Out in a corner table, with a small bunch of nice people,away from the pressures of the office,away from deadlines,bosses and clients,seated in the open,on a lovely breezy January evening!Wow!(Almost a perfect setting to go out with a hot babe on a romantic dinner!).

As the evening progressed,I sensed that my companions were up to something fishy.And my gut feel came true,so to speak.They surprised me with a cake!A terrific,plum cake!Slurp!I cut the cake in suspended animation as it was very breezy in that place and we found it tough to keep the candle alight.Managed it finally.My companions thrilled me when they offered to treat me,rather than the other way around.Now,that was a first of its kind for me!

We then split and I got off near home and walked home.Was still not convinced that the day was complete.So went out with my room mate to the most authentic north Indian food joint in Chennai city, Bombay Halwa House.It was simply awesome.The dishes there were not only inexpensive but also of incredibly high quality.Just too good!I gulped down the cold buttermilk with some masala mix and dived into the exotic menu there.The roasted papad there with green chutney rekindled memories of my trip to Jaipur last January,where I had the greatest Rajasthani food till date!

Anyway,finally got home at 11.15 p.m. checked my mailbox and crashed at midnight!

So ended a nice,serene birthday!And the best part was,I did not miss my old girlfriend.Thank god I've moved on in life!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Bitten by the writing bug!

Its bitten me now.Hard and deep.I want to write now.I've always been a very expressive person.Never realized that expression,passion for life,and innate interest in writing and engaging in a conversation can be harnessed to reach higher levels.Maybe even carve careers.

I am right now in a writing-related job,where I write about technology markets!I think I need to make the most of the emerging boom in the media.Do something about my passion to write.Do something about my flair for expression(No,I am not blowing my own trumpet here,I just have genuine interest).

Let's see how it goes.The seeds of interest are sown.Need direction!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A year of recovery-2005

It would be safe to say that after a very long time,I had a fantabulous year in 2005.It was undoubtedly,a year of recovery for me.

The highlight of the year was surely my first ever trip abroad.The experience of the US across three months,opened up my eyes and horizons into a world beyond anything that I had experienced previously.

Three days in 2005 defined the year for me.July 22 to July 24.I visited the world's melting pot,New York!It was the realization of a childhood dream for me!I had seen the world famous Times Square and Statue of Liberty on TV,way back in school.I had dreamt of seeing the tall skyscrapers,of experiencing the happening events in the greatest city in that part of the world.I had dreamt of seeing NY city from the top of Empire State Building.I wanted to see the museums there.I wanted to get into teh hustle and bustle of NY life and experience the subway there.I had dreamt of getting my own caricature done(I got a portrait!).OH!How I had dreamt of all this,way back in school- a good ten years ago!And to have actually realized that dream,gave me a kick like nothing else.The pinnacle was the incredible Broadway show that I managed to get discount tickets and attend!Ooh!What a phenomenal experience!I was in a trance at the end of it.And to watch Times Square on a Saturday night,from the Broadway balcony,with scores of people,fun,frolic,lights,action and a fever pitch in the atmosphere,just got me mesmerised!Will NEVER forget that evening at Times Square and the stupendous professional performance of all the actors in the show,Fiddler on the Roof!I never knew that Broadway actors were legends in their own right,and very deservingly so,if I may add!It was a TRULY GREAT evening for me!!I felt on top of the world that evening,that's how special it was.Even now,the strands of hair on my wrist straighten,whenever I think of that exhilirating evening!Wow!

Even though its been more than 5 months since that visit,my jaw still drops whenever I recall those 3 days.What a scintillating experience!Wow!I guess,my friend in New Jersey would be cursing me a wee bit as I hardly let him sleep those few days.But then again,I am sure that he will appreciate the fact that it was the greatest experience for me outside India till date and it was something truly memorable!

For a long time,I had been crippled with failures,not necessarily due to my own faults.But all that changed in 2005.I reaped the rewards of some good work,got some amazing opportunities that I had never even attempted earlier and of course,got a fair degree of exposure in working in a globalized world.I would have to credit my professional interest and sustenance to my stupendous boss and team mate.Many of us are blessed with great jobs,some of us with great money,while others may be engaged in path-breaking work.But I would trade a lot of those glories for the peace of mind,fantastic integration within the team I operated in.It was an experience to work with such a fine American Director and professional team mate.Will always remember my team mate in the US for helping me with my ways around that country,as I was a total novice when I went there!My US trip would not have been what it ended up as,if not for the terrific co-ordination,assistance,and enthusiastic co-operation from my team mate there in more ways than one!

I guess,even otherwise,I diversified my interests during the year.Read many new books and did some serious writing.Hell,I started my blog in 2005!!Now,that's something incredibly exciting for me!

I suppose the start and end of the year said it all.I started the year in a most disastrous condition,following a break-up with a fine girl after 11 years.From those days of cringing and being subjected to emotional trauma to the end of the year symbolised with some internal peace and a complete resurrection of my own self, was one hell of a journey between extremes!I think I would suggest to anybody who has a break-up,to give himself time(can only speak for a he here,but I think the girls can pick up a pointer or two as well!).No point in forcing the recovery process.It will get nobody anywhere,most of all the person concerned.Am glad that I have recovered now!Hell,even had a birthday party of a very,very,very close friend on Dec 30 and I had a blast of a time there!

There is a great confidence that is now embedded into my system,following a rebuilding process after string of professional failures and a personal disaster at the start of the year.But I think,I trained myself.I worked on myself like a project,slowly rebuilding myself,inch by inch.There were many times during the year when I used to climb a bit back into recovery and then go crashing down into depression even deeper.But then,I realized,its all about a will to get on with life.I have only about 70 years on this planet(excluding accidents or sudden occurrences for a sec!).27 of that 70 is gone!So,it does not make any sense to me anymore to bother about things and people I do not control.Makes eminent sense to me to bother(COMPLETELY)about things and people that I have in my life,can do something about and enjoying having in my life.No point wasting my presence on the earth with things and people that are not there.These were hard lessons that I discovered as I worked tirelessly on my recovery process.Am glad that I have some very firm lessons now to guide me through the rest of my life!