Weather 

​After about three months of scorching heat, weather seems to be easing up at Abu Dhabi. Afternoons doesn’t seem to be that very hot these days. Weekend is expected to be much pleasant at 30 deg C. If this run continues until the onset of next summer, that would really be awesome.

Over to AUH 

​After five years in Bengaluru, we have moved again. This time to Abu Dhabi.

 In fact, I have been living in Abu Dhabi for the last one year and I brought the family back recently after sorting out the accommodation and the school for the kids. Life in Bengaluru was okay. We did have our happy moments as a family, but there were
quite a few social aspects that could have been better. The perceived class difference and the indifference at a time of need within our secure gated community at Marathahalli were too stark that it didn’t befit the quality of that place.

Now, looking forward to a much more happier existence in United Arab Emirates.

Life’s simple pleasures

Interesting that a fellow passenger walks up to me at Abu Dhabi airport and says,  “Chakra sir. How are you? I used to work for Wells at Bangalore. Do you remember me? “.

For the life of me, I couldn’t place that guy let alone remember his name.

He further embarrassed me by saying that after my refresher session on ITIL about couple of years ago (yes, I did few in 2013 & 14), he went on to get certified in ITIL and moved out of Wells. He was returning back to Bangalore after his brief on-site sojourn at Abu Dhabi. He believes that the certification is the game changer in his career and kept thanking me profusely all through the conversation.

Simple conversations that really make your day. BTW, made my day is a massive understatement. :))

Settling down at Abu Dhabi

Happy New Year and all that.

It has been a little over five months since I moved to Abu Dhabi. Should I use the cliche “time flies”. Cliche or otherwise, it sure does. Family was here for the last two weeks in December 2015 and we managed to sort out the residence visa and the Emirates ID card while they were here.

Getting the medicals done was a breeze. Due to paucity of time, I thought of paying for express service that would make me poorer by 500 Dirhams, but would get the results out within 24 hours. However, even with the normal service, I got the results in less than 24 hours.

Process related Emirates ID proved to be a bit of a pain, due to less number of female staff available to take finger prints for women. Wifey had to revisit the centre twice to get past that stage. All is well that ends well and they all got the residence visa on the nick of time, just a day before they were scheduled to go back to India.

Exchange houses of UAE

After Oil, the next best successful business in UAE appears to be the exchange houses. Thanks to the predominant presence of South Asian community, who typically send their earnings to their home countries – these exchange houses do brisk business all through the day. In the downtown area of Abu Dhabi where I live in, the streets are literally peppered with exchange houses under some banner or other.

UAE Exchange seems to be the market leader here. In either side of the building I live in, UAE Exchange have got branches. Don’t understand the logic of having two branches adjacent to each other. I am sure someone in that organization would have done their maths.

Talking to few of the acquaintances here, they all have their favourites and they back their preferences with some strong logic too. Personally though, I haven’t used these exchange houses, as I work for a bank and it doesn’t make economical sense for me to use one of these blokes. The exchange houses in UAE, the  way people prefer one over the other would one day make an interesting case study.

RIP Selvakumaran

Quite sad to learn that a classmate of mine had passed away. Selvakumaran was my classmate during under graduation at National College, Trichy. I wouldn’t say that I know him very well, but I remember him hailing from a village called Allur near Trichy. Once I have seen him ride a bullock cart into the town with some agricultural produce.

Thanks to the WhatsApp group, I just got to learn that he passed away about two years ago after suffering on kidney related illness. Upsets me a lot to think that a guy in mid-30s passing away leaving behind his young family. Rest in peace Selvakumaran.

Home and all that…

After a month’s stay at Courtyard Mariott, I have moved into my own space now. It is a studio flat just across the road from the hotel that is good for a bachelor’s life that lies ahead of me for the next year or so. :) Just sorted the Internet connection that comes along with the landline phone and a IP TV.

Among other channels, I have been blessed with Jaya Plus, Jaya Max, Star Vijay and Zee Tamil channels. Evenings would never be the same again, I guess. :)

 

Modi in UAE?

Just heard the news that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is travelling to UAE this month and possibly as early as next week. As far as I am aware, the complete itinerary is not out there on the media yet. If there will be a public address like the one in New York and Australia, I would love to go.

There are lot of ifs and buts though. First, I don’t know if he is travelling to Abu Dhabi. Even if he is, not sure if there is going to be a grand reception of sorts. And, would that be on a weekend? Fingers and toes crossed.

Abu Dhabi

After 4 years in India with Wells Fargo at Bengaluru, I have moved job and that too to a different geography. I have moved to Abu Dhabi and have joined a leading local bank here. For the previous move to Bengaluru, I had the good fortune of lovely friends who made us feel that international relocation is a piece of cake.

For the moment, I have moved in alone and have been put up in a hotel by the bank. Once I sort out the residency visas and other mandatory stuff, we need to focus on the greater problem of finding a good school, home and bring the family along. There is a long road ahead of us and it remains to be seen how that pans out. As has been the case, I will update this blog sporadically with updates from Abu Dhabi.

Smart Phone story

After a gap of couple of years, I have started using a smartphone.

The first smart phone device I bought was a HTC Wildfire in 2010. At that time, Android was at its infancy and a smart phone was look at in awe. Having used that for three years, the screen got smashed one fine day when Srivaths accidentally dropped it. Then, I switched to a basic Nokia phone that served the purpose for the last couple of years. The only thing I missed during my non-smart phone days was the Twitter. Although I haven’t been actively tweeting, the amount of information that I got and the way it helped me to kill time while waiting for something was phenomenal.

In the last couple of years or so, WhatsApp seems to have replaced the email and I seemed to have been blissfully unaware of this. Accidentally, I got to know that quite a lot of communication among my college mates are happening on that platform and even a get-together is being planned at my backyard. It coincided with the timing that someone decided to gift me a smart phone and I was presented with Lenovo A6000. A nice, little toy to play around. Having habituated with the bare bone Nokia mobile for the last couple of years, I am still yet to come to grips that this stuff is an extension of me. Hopefully, will be there in due course.

:)

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.

Revival?

Sometimes I do wonder if it is worth maintaining this blog – for I am guilty of not giving the attention it deserves. I haven’t written much in the last eight months. Not just here, but also in the the blogs that I created for the two lights of our lives. Let me make one more attempt to revive this blog and see where it goes.

Impression

As I entered our office premises yesterday, the security guard stood up and greeted me. I know he is relatively new and have been around only for about a week or so. His supervisor, who was watching him from a distance pulled him up for unnecessarily greeting me by standing.

The security guard replied “He is a senior guy sir. He sits near the CEO”.

His supervisor immediately snapped back, “No, he comes by two wheeler. He must only be a junior guy”.

I loved their definition of a senior manager. :))

Teacher’s Day

On this day – Sep 5, let me thank all my teachers for making me what I am. Happy Teachers day!

At my alma mater (The Hindu Senior Secondary School, Triplicane, Chennai), the convention is to let the Class XII students run the school for the whole day. The day before, the students will elect among themselves for the key roles – Principal, Vice Principal etc. Needless to say, it will be super cool to be elected as a Principal / VP. Sitting on the swivel chair and issuing commands on and off the microphone would certainly be giving one a sense of power. There will be a clamour to be allocated to ‘teach’ for the higher classes. Ours being a co-ed school, one doesn’t need to tell the reason for the above. Over all, whether the students appreciate the role of teachers on this day or not, it will be good fun for everyone involved.

It has been close to two decades since I left school. I only hope that this tradition still continues.

London Olympics

It is an irony of sorts that we were in United Kingdom for eleven long years, but chose to pack our bags to India just a year before London is about to host Olympics. When London won the Olympic bid for 2012 way back in 2005, I immediately signed up for any volunteering opportunity even though we were living at Bournemouth at that time, which was more than 100 miles away from London. Later, around 2010 time frame when LOCOG invited formal applications for volunteering during the Games, I applied for it too.

My interest was in working at the Press area in some capacity so that I could get to know the background function of real time journalism. Although the above was my preference, I was fine to contribute to the Games in any capacity and I had indicated that as such. I was prepared to take 2 weeks off from work for this. Sometime last year, I got an email asking me to attend the interview for a volunteering position at the Press Box. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was several thousand miles away from the venue at that time.

Just because of the fact that I wasn’t able to volunteer my time for Olympics, it does not mean that I regret my move to India. There is absolutely no regret on that count. Looking at it the other way, with our new born just about two weeks old – had I got an opportunity to volunteer at one of the Olympic venues, it would have been a next to impossible job to go there with full zeal. Perhaps, this is what people mean when they say ‘If God denies you something, it means that he has got better plans for you!’. :)

New Baby Blues

Our little one is exactly 7 days old today. I have been saving up all my holidays this year for this and I have taken two weeks off from work. Despite having a fully staffed support structure in place (M-I-L, her M-I-L at home), our boy is driving us nuts with the volume of work that we need to do. Anirud has been on his bestest of the best behaviour during this time. He is cooperating amazingly well and till date he hasn’t given any trouble whatsoever. If we ask him to keep an eye on the baby for a few minutes, he wouldn’t bat his eyelid even for a second. In fact, we are guilty of not giving him the attention he deserves.

During Anirud’s birth in 2005 – I was in UK in a laid back mode. I was getting daily updates from my wifey on what was going on, but it is a completely different ball game when you experience things in person. Having said that, there are lots of small, little things that I missed at that time and I am making up for the lost opportunity then. Some one I know used to say, “It is interesting to watch children grow”. Yeah, that is so very true.

Wednesday Baby

Allow me the pleasure of inviting you to visit the new blog of our little one – Wednesday Baby. Much like Anirud’s blog, this new blog is an attempt to capture the younger one’s progress. Some day, when the Daddy finds time, he will integrate both the blog at some common location and try to look cool!

Second Bundle of Joy!

Little Anirud is no more the youngest in our family. It is pleasure and pride that we announce the birth of our second bundle of joy – a male baby weighing 2.95 kgs born at Bangalore at around 7:17 am today.

When the nurse placed the baby on Anirud’s hands, his face radiated the glow of few thousand watts. Not sure if he had this rehearsed earlier, he said “Hello Baby! Welcome to the new world!!”. :)

Nammura Halli Mane

There is a new food joint / eatery named ‘Nammura Halli Mane’ at the entrance of Bangalore airport (must have started only in the last two months). The food is awesome there and they give one lot of choices even for breakfast. Previously, the passengers had to depend on either ‘Taste of India’ or the dosa shop – both inside the terminal and hence very expensive. A plate of two idlis cost Rs. 95 inside the airport, while it costs Rs. 30 at ‘Nammura Halli Mane’. Apart from the pricing, one major disadvantage with ‘Taste of India’ is their turnaround time and the long queue. With hundreds of passengers queueing up, the man at their only till will normally struggle to cope with the volume. I have had nightmarish experience with them several times, especially on Monday mornings. I hope that it won’t be the case any more.

Talking about food joints, in the last one year – at the neighbourhood adjoining the place I live in, I see that the number of Dosa shops have spring up like anything. While some of them serve the traditional menu, quite a few of them are experimental (like Mysore Schezwan Masala Dosa for instance) and they taste yum! All of them are stand-in eateries and I should say that most of them are neat and clean. No wonder there is a good patronage for these businesses. For foodies like me, more the number of options, the better it is. This is one particular thing I love about India – the ability to taste food of any kind, almost any where.

By the way, would any kind soul enlighten me as what ‘Nammura Halli Mane’ means?