How to identify married men in India

After visiting our Bangalore office for a week, a visitor from US asked this afternoon while having lunch at our office cafeteria, “Most married women in India have got vermilion on their head or a ring on their foot. Is there any such symbolism for identifying married men?” 

Pat came the reply from my colleague, “Why not? Most married men can be seen carrying the Tupperware lunch boxes”.

Travel Diaries

  •  Last week, we travelled from Bangalore to Trichy by road. From there on, we drove up to temple of our family diety located at a tiny hamlet called ‘Annan Perumal Kovil’, about 10 kms from Sirkazhi. All through the way the roads were brilliant, the only stretch that sticks out like a sore thumb is the one between Thanjavur and Kumbakonam.
  • The Thanjavur – Kumbakonam stretch is very narrow lined with paddy fields and houses on the way. The trouble is not only that it has got lot of bends, but the quality of the road leaves a lot to be desired.
  • When we were driving past Salem, Narendra Modi was present at the town addressing an election rally and so was Vijayakanth. We didn’t get any idea of his presence. No visible presence of cops, no hoardings or posters or what not.
  • If one were to travel by car, it costs approximately 300 quid on tolls between Bangalore and Trichy. Given the quality of roads, I would say every penny is well worth it.
  • Between Chennai and Bangalore, one can spot several shops / shacks selling ‘Kumbakonam Degree Coffee’. This time around, such shops have sprung around in the TPJ – BLR route.
  • It is very painful to see Kollidam without a drop of water. Cauvery has a trickle flowing though.
  • The best local drink to taste in Tamil Nadu after ‘filter coffee’ would be Bovonto. It is a shame that it is not available in Bangalore (to my knowledge).
  • All along the long stretch of highway, why isn’t there a concept of lay-bys? Wouldn’t it be convenient for long distance drivers to pull over, stretch and drive on? I think it might work if the petrol stations on the highways are mandated to provide few amenities for the moving population.

 

 

Hygiene

*Travelling in a mofusil bus from Bangalore to Trichy. Perhaps, this is the first time in 15 years that I am travelling in such a mode (mean to say that all my previous road trips have either been on a car or long distance bus). Interesting to see places like Hosur, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Salem etc.

More than anything else, this country needs hygienic urinals and toilets at every possible place. Plus a law to shoot the ba$tards who poo and defecate in public. So much of filth that the entire population must be immersed in phenyl and dettol.

* Blogging from the bus.

Reynolds

After so many years, I got to use a Reynolds ball point pen, while visiting a vendor’s office today. Some 20+ years ago, it was the most common writing instrument in India. The pen used to cost a princely sum of 10 rupees then and one can get a refill for 3 rupees. There was a premium version of the pen sold at 25 rupees, which I have never used. I don’t know what it costs now, but was told by someone that it is lot less than what it was in mid-1990s. If that is so, here is one product that withstood the inflation tall and square.

I vividly remember that a point in time during my college days, I had to buy multiple refills in a short span of time because the refills would leak the ink causing it to smudge on the paper. One fine day, I was filling an important application form when the ink leaked and created a mess. A very furious me wrote a long letter enclosing all the faulty refills and sent it to GM Pens Ltd. Two days later, I had a representative from GM Pens at our door apologising for the poor quality of their products and offered a bagful of goodies (half a dozen Reynolds pens).

Never imagined that a pen would trigger these many memories.

low fare airlines

Spice Jet was offering air tickets starting from Re 1 + taxes and the offer lasted for three days from April 1. I picked an arbitrary day in October and checked the return fare for 2 adults and 2 kids between Bangalore and Delhi. While tickets are available for the base fare of 41 rupees, the total for 4 after adding all the taxes works out to 38,000 and odd rupees. Each trip works out to approximately 5000 quid, not very less than what one would pay in normal circumstances. Considering the fact that the base fare is only 41 rupees and also that I am booking the tickets several months in advance, I would expect the average per trip per passenger fare to be around circa 2500 – 3000 rupees.

Talking about low fares airline, the very first time I heard about such a concept was in the year 2000. I was living in London at that time and bumped on a promotional material offering return tickets to Pisa in Italy for 50 pence + taxes (yeah, you read it right!). I thought it must be a fake advert of some sort, but decided to call them up anyway. To my surprise, it was true and when I told my friends, we quickly hatched a plan to visit Italy. None of us could believe that the air fare, whatever might be the distance could be as low as 50 pence. The taxes worked out to 7 or 8 pounds then, marginally more than the cost of a meal in McDonalds in London during that time. We would have made two dozen calls to ensure what we heard was true and there is no detrimental stuff in the small print. Eventually, we did make it to Pisa and by the time we booked the tickets the fare had gone up by a pound, still a steal. It was from an airline called Ryanair, pioneer of low fare airline in Europe.

The concept of low cost airline was a great discovery for us. Not just Ryanair, there were few other options like Easy Jet, Go etc. With friends and family, we had several happy trips with these carriers. Coming back to India, do the low fare airlines in India really live up to their tag? Well, that is for another post.

Entrepreneurship

A week ago, I was buying tender coconuts from a street vendor. I asked him for his mobile number, so that I can call him if I need more and ask him to deliver them home. As I was trying to make note of his number in my mobile, he quickly thrust his flashy new business card that contained all his coordinates. “If you are from one of the nearby apartments, you can also email me if you want it home delivered. I check my mails at least once an hour”, pointing to his Micromax phone.

 
My jaw dropped and that bloke made sure it stayed there by saying “In 2 or 3 weeks, our Android app will be ready. You can order from your app as well”.
 
 
On speaking to that guy, I learnt that he has studied until Class 8 and has been doing lot of seasonal jobs. Apparently, he had sold tender coconuts last summer as well and figured out that there is a good demand for the home delivery of the above. A shrewd guy that he is, it didn’t take long for him to work out that the neighbourhood is dominated by those who work for IT companies – the kind of lazy bums with tablets and smart phones, who wouldn’t bother moving their posterior unless there is a very real need. To serve the above kind of clientele, he decided to make himself reachable over email, as that sets him apart from the competition. How about the smart phone app? How is he developing one? One of his regular customers is a smart phone developer. Impressed by his service, he decided to help him by developing the app.
 
 
I was mighty impressed by his entrepreneurial efforts. Although his product is something that is sold by every Kuppan, Suppan and Subramani – he clearly differentiated himself with his services. An infectious enthusiasm has lead him to offer and market his services through a smart phone. This is innovation. I doubt if this would be taught at any of the B Schools out there.
 

Happy Hour at work

It is not that very often that an invite at the workplace would become a reason to feel glad about. Last Wednesday, when a fellow manager from our business line invited me and one another person to join his team for the ‘Happy Hour’ at our office cafeteria, I was smiling at the choice of name and the cartoon that went up on the pillar near their work area. As my desk is in the close vicinity of that team, I am not only privy to the artistic skills in that team and more often than not, I get to witness the work in progress.
The idea behind the ‘Happy Hour’ is when this particular team based out of our Bangalore office gathers informally for a potluck lunch. What appealed to me the most was the way in which they used the occasion to give a pat to their own team members and make them feel at home. As the one who had the privilege of signing few of the beautiful hand-made cards – one for welcoming a new team member, one for someone who had taken up a new role, one for the guy who scaled new heights by clearing a tough certification exam, some to the guys for doing a commendable job, I was indeed amazed at the camaraderie among the team members. It is a great feeling to be appreciated and backed up by your own team and I am sure it would have done wonders to the spirit of the folks who were cheered. They even made me feel important by asking me to talk for a few minutes.

Needless to say, the potluck lunch was a sumptuous feast of homemade food and I could see lot of effort had gone in organizing this. It is a simple way to celebrate, relax and rejoice as a team and these folks made it very effective. Pot was theirs, luck was ours and it was indeed a very happy hour! 🙂

Hail Hailey

Been a while since I scribbled anything anywhere. 2013 went in a jiffy. Before I could realise, the year was gone. The fact that I didn’t find time even to read a decent book tells something about the way the year went. However, I took few days off from work in the last couple of weeks in December and did nothing. Yeah.. didn’t do anything but lazed around at home and caught up with many of the books that I always wanted to read.

Wonder how I missed Arthur Hailey all these days. In the recent times, I finished ‘Evening News’, re-read ‘Detective’ and now I am on to ‘Money Changers’. Still in awe with Jeffrey Archer, but certainly Mr. Hailey impresses me a lot and am planning to read all of his works.

Happy New Year and all that stuff to those who still visit these pages. 🙂

Notes from Kolkata

Thanks to a driver who was keen on showing me the real beauty of Kolkata, I had a tour of the city for about four hours.

* Central Calcutta is a great place indeed. With so many legacy buildings from the British era, the place looks stunningly beautiful.

* Many of the key landmarks of the city – Victoria Memorial, Writer’s Building etc appear grand and great, but one can’t help get the feel that the city stopped growing after 1947.

* Dull looking buildings that hasn’t seen a coat of paint for decades is the norm here rather than exception. With very narrow roads everywhere, traffic pile up is quick but is not as bad as Bengaluru.

* Outer lying areas like Salt Lake city, New City etc appear tidy and planned. Lots of buildings had space for greenery.

* With so much history behind many of the landmarks, the city as such has lots in it to woo the tourists. If one were to take a look around, it has lots in equal measure to drive people away. Garbage and filth are strewn around at every possible place. Yuck!

* Everyone in Kolkata keeps munching one of the rolls all the time. I had one at Park Street and it is certainly the one to die for. If Veg Rolls is one to die for, how would I describe the irresistible ‘Mishti Doi’.

* Trams look to be an integral part of Kolkata’s culture and Kolkatan’s seem to be the one in awe of their culture and heritage. Then, what does it take for them to replace those worn out trams, that seem to be running precariously well past their ‘Best By’ date. With so many people riding on those dilapidated tin boxes, it shouldn’t be that hard to come up with a viable plan to revive them.

* Seems that this bustling metropolis does not have air conditioned buses in their fleet. Not just that, the buses on the roads appear to have been bought when Jyoti Basu was a kid. With trams and buses in such a state, how on earth do they promote people to use public transport?

* Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport’s (for a change, an airport / infrastructure project not in the name of someone from the first family) new terminal building is awesome. Very spacious and well planned. Well done AAI.

* I was told that Park Street is one of the happening places to visit and would be nicely lit up during Christmas. Hope I have a reason to visit Kolkata in December.

* I sincerely wish Didi issues a shoot-at-sight order for those throwing garbage in the river. Not to forget the idiots who urinate and poo. What a lovely river and what a mighty let down.

* I have only heard about Kolkatan’s great taste in literature, music, movies etc. I wish I had more time to experience them first hand. Anyways, there is always a next time.

This is as much I could observe and make note during my 8-hour stay in the city that included 4 hours of official work. Signing off from NSC Bose International Airport at City of Joy, while waiting for Air India ka ‘udaan’ that would take me back to Namma Bengaluru.