Monday, March 29, 2010

Chennai - Beyond Temperature & Humidity?

Very first thing a person thinks after hearing word "Chennai" is its climate, which has only three seasons - Hot, Hotter and Hottest!

Whatever people say, but for me, this city has seen a major portion of my life since my school days. Some of the things which I could associate with it would include my school completion, my under grad engineering days, my first job, meeting my fiancee, my daily evening walks on beach side, and many more...

Life was never easy then, especially beyond the boundaries of Kendriya Vidyalaya and Air Force (or be it any defense area per se). It is not just the language which people might feel is difficult to adjust to, but it is also some of the cultural changes and eating habits that makes a difference. Sudden rise in temperature and humidity just adds to your uneasiness, which goes without saying. Climate is deigned in Chennai in such a manner that people sweat a lot, not only that, it also sticks to your body and doesn't go easily. If you stand near the sea, you would feel heaven in Chennai but as soon as you go away from it, you would start feeling the layer of salt deposition on your skin. Feeling the pinch??

Marina Beach is counted as one of the longest and largest beaches in the world. Few years back, this could have also been one of the dirtiest beaches on earth. My recent visit changed my perception a bit as I could see some cleanliness around with nice places cropping up like parks, fountain, skating ground, shops with dustbins and cleaning vehicles. Within its cleanliness, people were enjoying the heat and the water touching their feet with jeans folded up to their knees. Touching the knee portion of the jeans wasn't a tough task for the waves, though how difficult you make it would all depend upon how much Doppler effect you studied in your school/college - just to gauge the speed and height.

Other place which you can go around is our famous Elliot's beach (aka Besant Nagar Beach, aka Lovers' Beach), which is one of the hang out places for young crowds ;). This place is mostly filled with people from North and also a resting ground for some of the hawkers (bhajjiwalas) and shops. Mumbai's Marine drive can always oust any beach side in the world but when you are in Chennai, this could be your preffered location to feel that thunder with bikes racing around, road side bajjis, CCDs and Idli Corner shops with tea stalls... Punjabi Dhaaba is one stop which is always seen with a line going outside its shop at night times. Ideal place is the stretch where you can sit and have good talk with your partner or friends. Family people come here for jogging in morning and evening and see sun rising from sea. Come at 5:30 in morning and catch a glimpse of red sun with cool breeze touching your face and cold water touching your feet. Amazing experience!! I did it twice in my ten years Chennai life time.

If you are a movie freak then you must not miss places like Sathyam theater (Near Spencer Plaza, Mount Road) and Inox (Chennai City Center, Marina Beach). Tickets start getting sold on Wednesdays early morning, 12 midnight on internet. Catch your tickets by this time else you would only crave for a good movie release. I would have suggested you to see most of the movies in Sathyam but Inox has also come up really well with its Mall type culture. If you go to Inox, you will be inside a Mall, which is new and modernly designed on some European architecture. It has places to eat, shop and watch movies - an entertaining place near the sea shore that would satiate your desires even after your shopping/eating is done. Sit beside the statue of Gandhi Ji and see kids playing in park or fountain. There is also an area where these kids pass their time and that is their skating ground, which is very close to the fountain. You should see their spirit and enthusiasm to learn skating. They fall everytime they take a turn , but get up again to be ahead of adjascent losers.

For me, these two days were full of fun and excitement as I visited this place after three years. Major thing that comforts me here is the language which I tend to understand to some level and can also converse in the same. I learnt about reading and writing Tamil in my college, at least it helps me in understanding which Tamil movie poster is displayed, which bus goes where as most of the buses will have only Tamil written destination boards (if not the final, at least the "via" portion of it). Communication with autowalas for the bargain part had also become easy those days; even this time I felt the same easiness in me. I would suggest any new person to first read and understand Tamil.

How can we leave Chennai without talking about south indian cuisine? First thing people ask whenever they meet each other is "Saaptiya?", which means "Had food?". Food is something which you can very well rely to be adjusting to. South indian cuisine has a wonderful flavor in it, which can be noticed with its aroma. Some which could be found on any menu here are Curd Rice, Sambar Rice, Idlis, Dosas, Utthapam, Tea, Vadas, Lemon Rice, Rasam, Sambar, Varieties of Poriyals, Appalam (papad), Pickles and More (Chhach - Curd Water), etc that will become friends of your food habits sooner than you expect :)

You should also visit theaters for movies of Vijay, Rajnikanth, Vikram and Kamalahasan. If you miss even a slightest thrill in your life, just purchase a ticket in black or book at 12 midnight on internet and sit in a theater for their movies - "first day, first show". You may miss out on language, but you would not miss on the excitement which is no less than a stadium cricket match of India Vs Pakistan ;). Story line is understood automatically, as least by the moving reels and common sense :P These actors are treated like Gods here and any word against them could lead to small massacre. No movie goes flop here if you have these actors in your movie. Gravity is one thing which you would find missing in their movies, esp i fight and song scenes :P

For women, Jayachandran Textiles, Sarvana Stores, Nalli Sarees, Chennai Silks are some of the exclusive places in T Nagar (Mambalam Station). You would find sarees ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 10,00,000 also here of umpteen varieties. BEWARE HUSBANDS, strict NO NO if you are planning to go with your saree philic wives!! If this is not enough, then save your credit cards as this place is also a hub for the jewellers of Platinum, Diamonds, Gold and Silver. Especially during days when golds are cheap, please avoid. Apart from these two things, you will also find shops for every damn thing for your house - fruits, vegetables, utensils, shoes, sandals, clothes, bags, suitcases - think for one and you would get is here.
Though it was tiring, this trip has slightly rejuvenated my desires to be a Tamilian, but for the time being I should be rather concentrating on my work and not hope for a posting in Chennai, which is one of the strong contenders now.

Sorry Humidity, people can be Chennai's friend only if you shift your place somewhere else!! Please Kunj Gavani (in English - Please give some thought) :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mumbai To Bangalore - New Job Awaited

11th March | Thursday | 1000 hrs | Mumbai | My Apartment...

The day had been smooth like a snow on snow. I was packing my bags and leisurely chatting with friends before "cya"ing Mumbai. Two of my college friends were boarding the same flight as mine for Bangalore. Yes! finally I am into a job :)

It was Jet Airways, booked 3 weeks before our journey to get the best fares. My taxi was for 12 noon, just two hours prior to the departure of my flight. Seventy percent of my bags were packed and some tit bits were left to be shoved in here and there.

I believe in doing things in last minute, especially packing , as it gives you a rush of adrenaline and adds to your excitement. While doing this, I received a call from Jet Airways that our flight had been canceled and in lieu of that there was another flight arranged for us, which was Jet Konnect. I assume everyone would know the difference here and would not blame me for not taking the exchange flight at same fare. The reason of cancellation was something related to technicality of the flight, though I confirmed later that this was very normal in Jet Airways flight when their flights don't fill in time.

As if I wanted more adrenaline in life, with that call my snowy smooth day turned into a LIVE chaos - half due to the cancellation of flight and half because I broke my toe while doing alternate booking and rushing for the filling and scanning forms. Yatra website or any other travel websites do not allow booking of flight within 6 hrs of schedule of flight. What was left with me was Tele Booking with my credit card. But there were some more adventures awaiting my presence.

Forms were sent to my mail, and what normally happens when you book 2-3 hrs prior to departure, declarations of credit card payment in standard form becomes mandatory with identity documents like pass port of pan card. All this was to be sent to the booking agent within half an hour of my new booking, else seats would stand canceled. In the mean time, it was also a work of coordination as other members should also agree to this flight. I was on two calls at a time, wishing I had more ears and hands to manage. I rushed to the nearest Sify center and got everything done in stipulated time. Flight was booked for the same time (2 pm), but this time it was Go Air Business. Yes, its Business!! Imagination has no bound but I must tell you that this business is just another economy with a curtain covering your back so others can't see you getting fooled. The only extra thing you get there is free meals and permission to "alight first" - with just Rs 1000/- more than economy fare.

Anyway, we reached our Mumbai International Airport (Domestic) and boarded our flight on time. As it was not Air India, "time = money" held true for them. Slight delay could cause them to shell out Lakhs from their pockets towards Airport Authority. This on-time flight made us reach Bangalore in just 1.5 hours. Reaching our Guest house was not a daunting task, as airport had ample taxis waiting for us. But one secret - never take a taxi without brand.You will know when you reach your destination. Always prefer Easy Cab, Fast track or Meru over them. A fare of 700 in these taxis could turn out to be 1000 in unbranded taxis. "Caveat Emptor" (Buyer Beware) applies there too!!

Finally we reached our guest house in evening 5:30 and checked in for our rooms. New people were pouring in every hour and soon all the rooms were filled. Our room had two beds, one almirah, french windows, modern style bathroom, telephone, tea maker, meticulously arranged sheets and curtains, TV and A/C. "Overall a nice room to start our day with" - was our thought.

But we forgot that we were in Bangalore and not Mumbai anymore. Things like auto fights and no night life would become a common thing to adapt to. Transition could be tough, but not impossible. After all we are MBAs!! :) We may not use Adidas but we do follow the same philosophy - Impossible is Nothing!

It was our time to rest and do formality on following day, like documents verification, opening bank accounts and filling some mandatory forms on PF, Gratuity and pensions. Just a day's work and weekend accosted us to roam around and meet old friends. We did use this opportunity to meet others and make good time kill by watching movies, browsing malls and web chit chatting. The schedule was like this - first day would be introduction to our company policies and facts on our HR aspects. Post that would follow three days of communication classes where we would run through some of the aspects like active listening, mail and Telephone etiquettes, role play, team building activities, body language, etc. Three more days are to be for the domain specific training on business front from various VPs, Practice Heads, SVP, HRs and Quality head. Thereafter our streams would be announced and that training would go for a month or 6 weeks, depending upon the technology acquaintance requirements.

Life seemed to be returning on track again. But to say the least, we are still in recession mode and become readily skeptic to any kind of stability. Good for some of us who would like to have their adrenaline pump ON ;) Happy New Job!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bihar Can Never Change - Oh Yeah!!??

Recently I came across a very nice article about Bihar in Times of India ( that spoke about imposing penalty on a teacher who used the phrase "Bihar Can Never Change" in one of the KV (Kendriya Vidyalaya) exams.This article provoked me to do some soul searching about the facts about Bihar, means abode (monasteries).

It is really amazing to know that Bihar was one of the states that led to the development of India at world stage.Though my research was completely secondary, I could still manage to get some interesting bullet points to talk about. I am sure that many of us would not know that the invention of Indian Rupee and Custom Duties started in Bihar. It was started by Sher Shah (1540 - 1546) during his regime and it is still part of our Republic. He even built longest road of the Indian Subcontinent "Grand Trunk Road", which is still in existence and helps India in sustaining transport infrastructure.

To deal more with Bihar, one should know the facts about it - it has the 3rd largest population and majorly around 60% of popoulation is below the age of 25, which is good for the service industry growth. It is surrounded by Nepal, UP, West Bengal and Jharkhand from four sides and sacred river Ganga divides it into two parts. Bihar used to a center of power with dynasties equivalent to Roman Empires - Guptas and Mauryas. Whole of the South Asia was under a central rule of Magadh Empire (which was under Maurya and Gupta dynasties). Interesting huh!!!???

As far as Religion is concerned, Magadh Empire gave rise to two - Jainism and Buddhism, which is even now followed by large chunk of population in South Asia. Ganga in Bihar was a portion of stretch where people from around the world came for their mental peace. Talking more about the religion, Sikh Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna - the last Guru in Sikhism.

Now the most interesting fact - Nalanda and Takshila were the world's first global universities, where people from every geography came and learnt subjects like Science, Ayurveda, Geography, Arts, Maths and Advance Sciences along with 60 other subjects. It was like a huge Infosys Campus at Mysore, where more than 10,500 people studied at a time. Things which were heard after a long time from USA and other developed counties were already running in Nalanda and Takshila in Bihar.

Bihar has given us brave and political people like Khudiram Bose, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Jayaprakash Narayan, and many more who led to its development. With the advent of new government, we can see changes coming in from various fronts - from Industrial to Educational. There has been talks to make an International Airport in Bihar near Bihta. Resurrection of Nalanda would be another topic we would be looking at, but I would assume that it could take time. IIT Bihta is coming soon at areas which was segregated for Heavy Vehical Factory once, which was not materialized due to political constraints earlier. This HVF was later moved to Avadi, Chennai by Jagjeevan Ram.

Lately, when I was attending my brother's marriage party, I happened to meet the VP Global of a world's renowned bank and another Financial project consultant person. We spoke at length about the development in Bihar and the only thing I found was common among all of us was that we were very positive about its growth in coming years. Real Estate, Education, Industries, Tourism, Financial Consultancies, etc were some of the hot areas which we were looking into. Call centers were also one area which would come in abundance once the education level reaches a threshold level, so a new level of training could transform these people altogether.

I have seen people from Bihar growing leaps and bounds once they come out of the shackles of mentality that prevailed for long since 1989. Mojor portion of Collectors, IAS officers, IPS officers, IITians come from Bihar. Energy and zeal to work hard is what they have to offer. They are the preferred workers at most of the places - even in Punjab. They have a very good adaptability to cast themselves into any part of land - be it Mumbai ;).

As far as food items are concerned, names like Litti Chokha, Motichoor ke laddoo, Kala Jamun, Kesaria Peda, Khaja, Khurma, Lai, Laktho, Thekua, Murrabba, Tilkut, Malpua & Pua, Chiwda, Sattu and many more are already in cuisine parlance everywhere... One could open a restaurant with most Bihari touch in any part of India and he would succeed - But not in Mumbai ;) (pun intended).

For long caste systems have constrained Bihar and its growth but with the new systems from Mr Nitish Kumar coming along, Bihar can regain its level once again. To add to the points about growth, its GDP has grown better than any other state in the past couple of years, and this has pushed it as one of the fastest growing major state in India for now.

So should we think before commenting on any of the state's competency about growth? Oh yeah!! I would rather say no state has seen a Point Blank Change as Bihar has seen in past couple of Centuries. I am positive about its change.

Are you??

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Journey Story on Holi(day)s

Standing at New Delhi IG International Airport at 2 o clock in morning, waiting for my brother to pick me up, reminded me of my days of travels early in 2009. Its been quite some time I moved out of Mumbai. I planned for Delhi two weeks back for my friend's birthday and also Holi.

An environment full of colors and exuberance came after a long time for me. It has been more than 8 years since I played last. I generally avoid colors but this time, I was in some mood. People played Holi with various other stuffs also, which were supposed to be taking some other designated places - like car carborator, shop doors, roads, pipes, etc... i am talking about tar, coal powder, grease, etc :) However, I do not advocate these playful acts with dangerous chemicals but hey, who is going to listen to you anyway!

As this was my first Holi after 8-9 years, I was a bit scared. I poured some color on my face, hair and dress on my own, to make some fools on my way. They must have thought I had already played some good one. No one likes to color a colored face again. One thing which I didn't want to do was to pour liquid color on myself. Its quite discomforting!

Full day of Holi celebration with friends, plus dancing and hogging on sweets was the complete schedule. Next day was reserved for the travel to Rajasthan where my parents are - three days with them will make them happy too. This journey was always with Train. I am not sure about other places, but this place had only one train.

I have a habit of initiate talking and making few acquaintances with people. I have been with some good ones with very nice business ideas. Different background people talk about very different experiences. Businesses like making financial analytics solutions for financial companies with hard core IIT brains plus financial modeling, making ultra sonic thickness measurements for ships, preparing and supplying chemicals which are acid inhibitors, selling designer lights after importing from Italy, Germany, and other European countries, getting distribution of Microsoft gaming software, ans various others.

This time was also a unique business. The person I met in train was from Himachal Pradesh with bachelors in Computer Science (1991 batch). But he never went to IT line. Why would anyone go if your own business is getting you 4-6 Crores per annum? He had family business of hybrid seeds in India. Production, Marketing, Sales and other operations aspects of business was seen by him. Expanding from Punjab to Andhra Pradesh, this guy had seen the thick and thins of a business curve. All his experiences was in front of me in just four hours of our journey together. Bad days do bring some good experiences with them and good days bring the confidence to face those bad days. Every part of business life has its meaning. By the way, he had other plans also like breeding cows, making gas from the dung by using bio gas plants, dung cakes, manures, dairy products, and various other associated product lines .

Standing at Suratgarh (Rajasthan) Railway Station at 2 o clock in morning, waiting for auto to pick me up, reminded me of my days of ... hey, is it not similar to 3 days back Delhi airport trip? All the journeys this time are night ones it seems. Climate seemed gentle, with temperature around 15-18 degrees C and wind was light, touching openness of your body with care. You won't feel the spine chilling cold, which was there 2 months back. Recession my god i tell you!!

Another few days of entertaining journey and I will be back to Mumbai via Delhi. Trips and experiences never end and that is what brings excitement/refreshment in my life.

Hope to see some more stories coming along :)