We need not donate $100 to a charity everyday. But small acts of kindness and good deeds can make our day – Be it helping a blind person to cross the road, giving a bus seat for an old woman, holding the door for a pregnant woman to enter, giving way for a car trying to merge in the packed road, giving the ‘unused’ or ‘never to be used’ book to library etc.,
While we converse daily about very serious issues and concerns of the society, country and the world, we tend to forget or fail to appreciate the small inspirations that we see in our daily life. The small inspiration could come from a neighbor, a friend, a colleague, a family member, a classmate.
“We can do good from where we are, with what we have”. And here’s a life inspiration that truly depicts the above line. [The below narration is from one of the email forwards that I received recently from a friend (Thanks S for sending this)]
Narration of a unique auto-rickshaw ride by Suvendu Roy of Titan Industries, who shares his inspirational encounter with a rickshaw driver in Mumbai.
Last Sunday, my wife, kid, and I had to travel to Andheri from Bandra. When I waved at a passing auto rickshaw, little did I expect that this ride would be any different. As we set off, my eyes fell on a few magazines (kept in an aircraft style pouch) behind the driver’s back rest.
I looked in front and there was a small TV. The driver had put on the Doordarshan channel.
My wife and I looked at each other with disbelief and amusement. In front of me was a small first-aid box with cotton, Dettol and some medicines. This was enough for me to realize that I was in a special vehicle. Then I looked round again, and discovered more – there was a radio, fire extinguisher, wall clock, calendar, and pictures and symbols of all faiths – from Islam and Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. There were also pictures of the heroes of 26/11- Kamte, Salaskar, Karkare and Unnikrishnan. I realized that not only my vehicle, but also my driver was special.
I started chatting with him and the initial sense of ridicule and disbelief gradually diminished.
I gathered that he had been driving an auto rickshaw for the past 8-9 years; he had lost his job when his employer’s plastic company was shut down. He had two school-going children, and he drove from 8 in the morning till 10 at night. No break unless he was unwell. ”Sahab, ghar mein baith ke T.V dekh kar kya faida? Do paisa income karega toh future mein kaam aayega.”
We realized that we had come across a man who represents Mumbai – the spirit of work, the spirit of travel and the spirit of excelling in life. I asked him whether he does anything else as I figured that he did not have too much spare time. He said that he goes to an old age home for women in Andheri once a week or whenever he has some extra income, where he donates tooth brushes, toothpastes, soap, hair oil, and other items of daily use. He pointed out to a painted message below the meter that read: “25 per cent discount on metered fare for the handicapped. Free rides for blind passengers up to Rs. 50.
My wife and I were struck with awe. The man was a HERO! A hero who deserves all our respect!!!
Our journey came to an end; 45 minutes of a lesson in humility, selflessness, and of a hero-worshiping Mumbai, my temporary home.
We disembarked, and all I could do was to pay him a tip that would hardly cover a free ride for a blind man.
I hope, one day, you too have a chance to meet Mr. Sandeep Bachhe in his auto rickshaw: MH-02-Z-8508.
Who is your inspiration today? Spend few minutes to draw it from your memory. Have a great inspiring day!
T20: There are 2 T20s that I want to talk about: India Vs Pakistan. Became an ‘app’ woman – only checking updates from the notifications of the app. While you are busy working, these notifications do help – they do remind you that something else is also going on in this world other than work or school A win against Pakistan if not in hockey at least in the world of cricket draws some contentment. Second T20 is of Airtel Super Singer’s. It was legendary Kamalhaasan’s presence made the show special (DD maadhiri thirumba thirumba naan solla maeten ) I admire him not only for his acting and skills which is a very common justification of being a fan, but also for his pursuits, bold ventures and sincere efforts. If you have watched the show this week, you would have noticed how he enjoyed the music and singing (by nodding and tuning his head and hands to the tunes). That’s the beauty of an artist – enjoying his own as well as others work.
Movie time: Watched NEPV (Needhane En Pon Vasantham) and NKPK (Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kanom). Gautham Menon has disappointed me. I am a big fan of his Vinnaithandi Varuvaya and with huge expectations, I watched the movie but it pushed me to a point “Please padatha seekirama mudinga”. It was a totally opposite experience when I watched NKPK. I did not have any expectations other than few friends suggested to watch it. Though I felt the start was a bit boring, the fun part started from “Ennachu? Cricket Velayadinom…” till the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Vijay Sethupathy has acted very well and so as others. The “Ennachu” disease has stuck me and I keep saying
that word, though neither did I play cricket nor did my Medulla Oblongata is repaired. I would recommend any Tamil movie lovers to watch it – You will have fun, you will laugh a lot, you will feel relaxed and at the end you will feel contended that you spent few hours worthy relaxing and entertaining yourself.
Cash flows: Ha…I always took pride that I am good at Math. With my ‘Financial Reporting’ coursework in progress, my problem solving and analytical skills are being tested. Only with two courses completed in my school curriculum, I feel that being an Entrepreneur is the most challenging and difficult thing in this world. It’s not about focusing on one area, it’s about focusing on almost all areas – Investment, ideas, revenues, people, talent, time, market share, economy, structure, design, employment, opportunity and also a bit of luck and being at the right place at the right time. Though Entrepreneurship is a long way to go, my current focus is only on tackling cash flows, balance sheets and income statements [Hair stands like Einstein's when I do financial accounting assignments. I should at least get pass marks in this course is my goal ]
Innovation: Reading articles, watching shows like ‘Shark Tank’ and ideation does not do any good unless there’s some sort of action involved. Travel industry is the major market that’s being targeted for innovation. Though there are yoga studios and checking the menu and ordering via an iPad in the restaurant seems to be new ideas, I’ve always wondered why not a ‘Red box’ (I don’t own some movies that are recently released and while the flight is delayed, need some form of entertainment to pass time) rental or ‘Book rental’ (I don’t need to carry books or my Kindle or nook) or ‘Toys rental’ (distract or engage the kids while waiting) in the airport [though the ROI may not be that great is a reason behind not having these rentals]?
Innovation starts from observation. Startup mantra is:
1. Finding a problem that YOU currently have
2. Building something that solves the problem
3. Iterating and never stop improving
4. For every iteration, checking if the end meets the means
“Empty vessels make much noise”: SFO women’s startup pitching competition is in Feb 2013. I wish I had an idea, a business plan and a prototype to pitch there, even if it does not scale or win. There’s an Entrepreneurship teaching campaign in Africa led by Babson during Spring break for which I really wish to go and teach kids about Entrepreneurship. I want to take internship in my dream company IDEO. I wish to go to India and work with NGOs for my non-profit start up to have a beginning. Sometimes, it’s like I want to do too many things and end up doing nothing
1 more week of break time and I rather use it efficiently and effectively writing blogs, eating & sleeping, watching movies and listening to music ‘Study mode’ button will soon be pressed after New Year.
Have a fantabulous new year ahead!!!
[Warning: Long post. Read at your discretion]
Taste buds: It’s a series of festivals…Halloween and then Diwali…As I said earlier, I’m in the road to breaking my routines. So, made up my mind to prepare 2 new dishes for Diwali this time – K (Kaaju Khathli) & K (Kaara Bhoondhi), it was! Poor me, with my tooth braces tightened, could not relish much of the Bhoondhi. But was grabbing the K sweet every evening as I passed by that small dabba where it resided. For everything I do, there’s either a self motivation or an inspiration from someone I saw – This cooking inspiration was from my friend ‘A’ who has a forte in preparing sweets like Badam Halwa, Kheer etc., For you all to believe that my hands on these two new items turned out well, here’s a picture [2012 'From Raji's kitchen' Copyrights reserved ]
Celebration time: Not only this, we had a Diwali celebration at work place like the ones that we had last year. My responsibilities spanned from ‘Rangoli’ to ‘Diya decoration’ and I did help sometime in serving desi food. After watching all those creative minds decorating diyas, I couldn’t stop my longing to do one. So, grabbed a Diya type that most of them did not pick and created a colorful one, realizing that the diya had only five petals. I thought it had six and started decorating with two different colors. Mine was an average creation. I saw some superb ones, gold plated, plush green ones etc. I’ve placed it in my cubicle now. It was a fun time with friends and colleagues enjoying some music, sports, dress booth, dance, food, ethnic decorations, Henna decorations etc. I couldn’t stay till the end for a group snap (Cha…I missed it this time) since I had to rush to catch my flight to SFO for my face to face MBA classes.
Traveling in trains: Though I did not have any clue of how trains operate in CA or the different public transportation systems (BART, Caltrain, Muni, Light rail), I did enjoy the journeys. I could use that 1 hour 40 mins train travels from Sunnyvale to SFO to review my class notes, do the case studies, talk to family and friends, browse, observe people and surrounding and sometimes munching snacks. I hail the technology of this time – My friends in those trains were the iPhone apps – Caltrain and BART and Google maps [No, I don't have iPhone 5]. I relied on them totally for my walks from train station to the class, getting tickets, checking timings and even sometimes some FAQs. I don’t know even if my other friends would have helped this much as how these apps did. Thanks to Technology!
Class connections: Since I am one among those who comes from a different state to the classes in CA, all my classmates cared to ask where I stay, how I commute, when my flights were. Every breakfast, lunch and snacks time was a time to connect with different people. During one of those lunch time, met one of the prospective student visitor who was asking about the classes, course work etc. I could see a bit of intimidation in her face watching us cramming through the presentations and case study reports even during lunch time.
Memory game ice breakers: Our first class was our final project presentation of the innovative product that we created as a team. All of us had this anxiety syndrome on how we were going to present and tackle through the questions from the other class mates and professor. The professor found our inherent anxiety and started the class with an introduction game where we had to tag our first names with an adjective which starts with the same letter as our first name and then tell about our job and a fun fact about us. The next person has to tell the names of those previously did the process and it continues on. We all had a notebook with all those names. I could have told ‘Relaxed Raji’ but I said ‘Reluctant Raji’ and the whole class now calls me with that name Snakes coming in my dream was a fun fact [Idhu fun fact-a? it should be a nightmare] about me and one of my other Asian class mate detailed that in their custom, if someone gets snakes in their dreams, he/she will get a very good guy in his/her life. I smirked and said ‘I have been waiting so long for one’ and the whole class giggled. The same Asian classmate told that she drives out the snakes in her dreams…I turned back and asked ‘Are you the one who drives away my luck of getting a good guy?’ After the whole game of introductions, we laughed much that the anxiety went away. Each team presented an innovative product prototype that has a potential to be in the market. I don’t want to reveal any of the product ideas here which will hinder our chances of being an Entrepreneur to create such new products. Though all of those products including ours were not mind blowing but each had its own usefulness and uniqueness.
Rocket pitch: Since I had been following the TV series ‘Shark Tank’ and some entrepreneurship forums and articles, I was aware of what a Rocket pitch was. Nevertheless to mention, earlier, I went to my professor who’s also a venture capitalist and said ‘I want to become a VC and what should I do to become one?’ He gave me a ‘bulb’ asking me to find what VC is and why I want to become one? I’m yet to find the answer for that We have to show case our product ideas to a bunch of investors within 3 minutes allocated covering all significant details that will make an Angel investor or a Venture capitalist to invest in the idea. The most important learning was the feedback and questions and insights shared by the other classmates and the Prof, after it was presented. It was a coincidence that I had glimpsed through ‘Steve Jobs’ presentation skills and tips few days before and it helped me to easily traverse through what was discussed. I’m seriously considering some tips to be put into action. There’s one big area of improvement for me, Public Speaking – Planned strategies in place and its going to take some time for me to implement and become successful in it. Some people are very good at it and they inspire me. Inspiration does not help in its entirety, some action needed from my end.
Role plays: This was the most fun part for me. We were put into positions of being CEOs and planning strategies and composing visions and subjected to “If I were the CEO of company X, what would I have done differently?’. After we reported the role play pointers, class discussions happened on analyzing and working through which would work and which wouldn’t. With a mix of different thinking abilities of people, I automatically learn new perspectives which I would have never even thought of. Another time, we were partnered and negotiate for a start-up company that we were about to start as partners. To my knowledge, I played it very well that most of the negotiations fell in my favor. High fives!!! But I failed considerably in the role play of how to give constructive feedback and gain momentum to work with others. My partner said ‘You are too humble and giving up easily. Give me a tough fight so that we can learn from each other’ for which I smiled (not knowing what else should I do).
These freedom of thoughts has brought out my openness in asking how to bring innovation at work place. I could see a change in me - Analyzing the business reports of the company which I never spent much time earlier rather than just reading it. As one ages, memory deteriorates. I try harder to keep up with the memory after I read various case studies and text book articles, but its not coming up easily. Any tips are welcome!
Time with friends: It was a (S)Funday! Spending time with friends, eating loads, watching movies and playing with ‘S’ (my friend’s 4 month old son) – A relaxing day after travel and studies. Flights are not being friendly with me these days. Missed the connecting flight last time (not my fault, airlines’s) and stuck inside the flight for 2.5 hrs due to some servicing yesterday.
Back home now and enjoying my ‘Me’ time – Yeah….it’s the first break time of the course! Time to clear the back log of reading magazines, watching video and movies and connecting with friends.
Deep sense of gratitude to all my friends and family who’s helping me in (m)any ways that they could, to achieve this ‘MBA’ dream of mine possible. With this thanks giving note, wishing ‘Happy Thanks Giving’!
Its been a year since I had been to Boston. Had lots of excitement to meet my nephew R and to enter into Babson MBA community. I’m going to keep this post short and cover all the activities in a nutshell.
Day -1: Played with R for a while…his observations, puzzle solving capacity, talking abilities…there were more to catch up. I couldn’t compete with him in solving the large set of puzzles that he have. Loved when he says ‘Not like that Chitthi’ when I tried to connect the puzzle pieces wrongly Aha…his American accent…I’ve to learn from him, I told my sister. Picked up the rental car (Welcome my first solo driving in the people packed Boston). Did a bit of shopping for the Business casuals and dozed off early at night.
Day 0: Accounting Workshop – My first day @ Babson. Met Prof PW. I had difficulties in completing my pre course work accounting course and hence signed up for this workshop. When I got a hold of the basics of Accounting during the first few hours of the class, totally succeeded in solving the first set of problems that he gave to solve working with a group. Connected to those people in my group while solving the problem. None of us had finance or accounting background. Income Statements, Balance sheets have shifted from ‘Oh I don’t get it’ to ‘I like solving it’ type. A set of ‘Account statistics’ and ‘Company matching’ group solving activities followed. It was great to brainstorm with others and come up with solution and eagerly awaited to see the solution that Prof posted and explained in the class. Keeping in mind that the whole week is going to be a very intense and exhaustive week, caught sleep early after getting
Day 1: The Auditorium was filled with so many people connecting during breakfast. Orientation was started by Babson’s dean followed by our fast track chief and the President’s ‘Entrepreneurial Thinking’ session. He was brimmed with enthusiasm and energy moving across the Auditorium while delivering the content. During lunch, we were asked to pick up a token at the entrance and sit at the table with the number that was in the token. It was a way to connect to people from different industries. Went to bookstore with one of my classmates to pick up our coursepack. Connected to so may people and got an idea of why everyone chose Babson and why were they there. There were some technical laptop setting sessions thereafter. It was a 8AM-9PM week with 1 hour driving up and down amidst traffic, school buses, I felt very exhausted by the time I got back home
Day 2 & 3: It was a session called ‘Techmark simulation’. We were divided into groups into each planet (divided into 5 planets and 5 groups in each) and each group represented a Management team trying to bring back Techmark to speed and reap profits. We were given 5 quarter periods spanning 1.5 hours each to solve and sell 3 products to 3 different countries based on the market statistics, economy and financial statements. You don’t understand anything right after reading this? That’s how we as a group felt too…After 2 periods, we could gather details and understand what was expected and by the end of 5 periods, we won in our planet. Was it a win by luck? May be or may be not, but it was a great experience trying to calculate, brainstorm, listen to various perspectives, ideas and coming up with a competing strategy doing all this inside a room packed with charts, flipboards, print outs and notes. By the end of day 3, my brain was about to explode
Day 4: Had an idea lab session with Prof DC to know about brain orientation, where ideas come from, working on gathering and multiplying stimuli and coming up with an idea only with a company name given. There were 42 different ideas that were generated in the class…Mine was the most dumbest idea But most others were weird, very different and out of the box thinking types. We were asked to pick up one idea as a group and pitch as a business plan with Potential customers, Business/revenue model, Target industries, Production costs in mind. It was another group interaction session which led me to think ideas come from divergent thinking and its not easy to pitch if you are not sure about what you want to do/implement. Had a welcome party in the evening where we connected to our Profs and other faculty members.
Day 5: We had our first 2 core course sessions. Without pre reading for classes, you cannot contribute anything in the class which led me to catch up with the readings early in the mornings. Class interactions count for grades and hence introverts like me were pushed to talk. It was evident that only when you talk, your thinking and ideas emerge and help you to leverage with that others think of. It was a great session to discuss about a case study of Innovation, How failures breed success and much more. Said bye to my learning groups and other classmates and thanked Babson for such a wonderful experience throughout the week thought it was exhaustive. Did a bit of shopping and dinner with Sis and R later.
Day 6: Went to CT with friends and saw fall colors. How long I had to wait for seeing the fall colors? Had a great dinner at A/S’s house after which stayed very late till 2:15 in the morning completing my assignments. Ha, when did I become a good student?
Day 7: Watched some TV shows with A/S and talked about those. Packed and got to the airport very early not anticipating that I would be missing my connecting flight. New experience of missing the flight due to technical snag in the aircraft and stayed at a Hotel arranged by the airlines.
Got back home the day after and went to work after a week. Felt like I had been in a different planet the week before
Intense coursework and busy schedules ahead. The interest towards the coursework has certainly multiplied after the whirlwind week. Got to go…Will catch later
It started with a sumptuous breakfast – Pongal, Vadai, Sambar. We prepared Puliyodharai, Thayir saadham, Potato Fry (nothing can beat this combo) and packed it for lunch/supper and headed to Duluth, a scenic place in MN. Before leaving to Duluth, we had a small photo session – What’s in a trip without photo sessions and that too with different brand SLR in the hands of guys? On the way we picked up some beverages (‘A’ called it as ‘drinks’ always – more on this on day 3 & 4) – The ‘Starbucks’ lady gave us one triple cappuccino instead of 3 cappuccino [Ok, nothing significant here but I wrote this in a flow]. We stopped by the Visitor center on the way and we could be the only group who can take 50+ photos in a Visitor center – Thanks to Nikon and Canon SLR camera makers and credit to those budding photographer friends S, N & Sh Me & A took the ‘posers’ role If there’s a photographer, there should be a poser, right?
From the visitor center, we went to Aerial lift bridge and Canal park. I loved the shores and the rocks. It was packed with people. We thought of playing frisbee but it got dark and cold and had to park that plan for some other day. While S, N & Sh were busy taking photos of nature, flowers and birds, me & A took rest in the bench enjoying the scenic beauty from there. We saw the Aerial lift bridge but not the view of it opening when ships pass which is one of the landmarks of MN. Then we ate the food that we had packed. From there, we went through the north shore scenic drive – It would have been more beautiful if it had been fall time but it was still good when we drove. It was very dark by the time we completed the drive and reached the Gooseberry falls. We discussed whether it was worth visiting the falls during that night-time while it was dark. There were different levels of falls – Upper, Middle and lower. After few minutes of discussion, since we were already there, we thought of just glancing it and walked in the dark to see the falls.
After that, it was a drive to WI then…
Wisconsin Dells – America’s largest water theme park – the next day’s coverage – For a hydrophobic person like me, was it fun or phobic? Day 3 will tell you…Stay tuned.
Visiting all states in USA is one of the items in my bucket list. It’s going to take a while to make it happen but I hope I can do it. This time it’s midwest coverage. Excitement factor of trips, visiting friends used to creep in sometime before boarding the plane. Ditto, this time as well.
Day 1 – MN:
Minnesota – City of 1000 lakes – It started there. I was the last one to arrive at the airport and N, A, S and Sh came to pick me up. I was hoping for a tiffin box full of food to be offered to me in the car while we headed to N’s home. They were giving me hints of what they ate and what will be offered to me for dinner – I knew all that was a lie. Truth turned out to be a ‘Saravana Bhavan’ special consisting of Dosa, Adai, Pudhina Chutney, Tomato Chutney made by N – In addition to it, N and S made fresh musk melon and water melon juices and served those past midnight [Sema Saapadu...burps... ] Then the award ceremony started – Who’s got gifts for whom? One of them took the vocation of a photographer while I got my share of gift – Aha…this B’day became a B’day of watches. Now, I have the privilege of wearing different watch every day of the week – Different straps, dials, colors, shades, pattern, brands. I gave the cards that I made for A/S and N. I started talking to Sh about his MS coursework, classes, credits, professors [See ya...it's student student conversation] Heard from N that Sh pulled a full nighter before he came to MN. I thought to myself: It’s not far for me…Classes are nearing. We all spoke for some time and went to sleep after discussing the next day’s menu and logistics.
Day 2 to follow…
It was a trip planned well in advance. It was a trip that was due for a year, waiting for the cute twins grow and giving adequate private time for my friends to enjoy the parenthood and the new experience. Few days before the trip, I told my colleague friend M about the Seattle trip. M, who shuttles between Seattle and Colorado Springs often, told “Say my hi to the pilot” and giggles followed The GPS struggled to work on my way to Denver but some luck showered in the form of my driving skills and the driving directions memory that I held hitherto.
The sleep cycles after the India trip was a deviant that continued even ‘in the air’. I had the Infinithoughts magazine on my handbag that gave me company through out. It was the first time after so many years I finished reading the magazine in one sitting. There was an argument between the airline crew and a lady who boarded. Due to a delay in the previous flight, this lady has gotten into this connecting flight at the last minute where as her boss had missed. The argument continued for a while until the crew member had to discuss about the laws and regulations. I got reminded of actress Sneha who comes in a guest appearance as the Senior airline crew member in the latest movie OKOK – The nuisance in the movie scenes was probably in line with this actual and thats why I gotten Sneha in my mind at that point of time.
While we disembarked the plane, saw most of the people taking their jackets and wearing it. I too picked up my jacket and wore it. Seattle weather can be gloomy all the time. I remember my colleague friend M telling me the correlation of percentage inclination of suicides and weather. AP came to pick me up and we talked about work, Colorado, songs, movies, personal things etc. There was a group of friends at his place and we had dinner and ended up chatting till 2 AM in the morning. S was asking about my India trip and other personal plans. The twins were happily sleeping in their places and we did not disturb them.Is this what is called ‘Sleepless in Seattle?’
The next afternoon was the B’day party. In the morning, AP’s mom, sis and I were chatting for a while talking about good old stories and how me and his sis used to play teacher games Getting the Y & Y twins ready was not an easy task. The tikes that I had gifted was a hit – the twins and all those kids who came to their place wanted to ride on that. Loved the kids dresses – the boY with a cute coat suit and the girlY with a cute little pink frock and a flowery headband was a delight to watch. The next set of dresses – a girlY chudidhar with a dupatta for a one year old? (wonder how they design such cute dresses for the little ones) and the ‘cool dude’ dress of boY also suited them well that we couldn’t get the eyes off of them. Snaps were clicked continuously.
Though I am not used to long earrings, with S’s request, wore one. I looked different to myself The bright colored dress was another thing that was a new attempt from me. The new attempts bore its fruit of satisfaction revealed from the snaps that I saw later. The party place was filled with friends of AP & S. Loved the place which had a park and a lake around. We took a stroll to the lakeside and took few pictures. Then some group snaps followed. The lunch dishes were good and we packed the left overs for dinner. While getting into the car, A came and showed me a photo asking “Why are you not having a Bindi in this photo?”. I said “Ha ha…it’s not me”. The girl in the photo was a look-alike of me and hence the question. I then enquired who that was and since it was AP/S’s friend SC’s sister, I have started calling SC as ‘enga Anna SC’
We had some games in the evening at AP/S’s place and dinner at their friend’s place. There was a game to tell in one line about each of them present there. They asked me to tell about S and after few mins of thoughts I said “Friendly”. I could have come with a better word because I meant to say something more than that. Anyways, my turn was over. S was asked to tell about me and she said “Samaritan”. M said “I have read the word in books but don’t know the complete meaning of it”. I was in the same boat as M but I thought it was to refer a person who lends a helping hand. My vocab is limited that way. When S detailed it, I didn’t know how to react but smiled and felt very happy inside
Dinner time was fun at their friend’s place. We were taken an inside tour of the house by A. Liked the way they have kept things, modelled and adorned the house. We had home made dinner, party left overs, pizzas. Before a game of poker was started, we requested AP and his brother-in-law, a talented vocalist and guitarist to play Guitar and sing songs of “Engal choice” [the songs that were chosen from all of us]. Songs ranged from Ilayaraja’s “Madai Thirandhu” to Harris Jeyaraj’s “Nenjukkul Peidhidum”. Banters were there in between the musical show Kids were engrossed in Wii games. The game of Poker was detailed to some of us who were new to it. I watched the game most of the time rather than taking the role of a player. Time flew and it was well past midnight. Then, to bed.
GirlY refused to come to me most of the times but boY did not. Sat besides them and saw them playing. Took pictures with them in AP’s friend N’s place. I knew N from the school days. I was teasing N and AP on how those school days they waited at the bus stop to sight a girl of my class, whom they liked We had a surprise baby shower for AP’s sis and then lunch at N’s place. We had a ‘in and around’ house tour there also
Left to the airport there after. AP & S came to drop me off. On the way I was thinking of the hand written card that they gave. I’ve clipped it on my bedroom now. It means a lot to me as it referred how much I mean to them. Their gift to me reached a week later – it was a very funny desktop organizer. I told S why I did not want to keep that in my work place. If I keep it, I’m sure every one who walks that side, will stop by and pass some comments.
Boarded the flight and with insufficient sleep for few days, thought of dozing off as soon as I get in. There was an old man sitting across my seat smiled and asked me “Are your parents from India?” I nodded and he said he want to talk to me. I did not know why until he came and sat next to me and told his details. He was a musician who had gone to various parts of India for his concerts. We started talking about various topics – India, Culture, Varanasi, Chennai, Carnatic Music, Brahmins, Religious gods, Marriage rituals, Dowry, Recipes etc., He said he loved Upma and Dosa with coconut chutney and sambar. He went into the details of “how to make Upma?” I told about my iota of knowledge on music and the carnatic classes that I had taken [not worth mentioning though ] We both did some thaalams, aadhi thaalams and talked about some raagas that I’m familiar with. Being at the rear end of the flight, the flight attendant kept smiling at me often seeing our conversation. The old man and I talked about Harappa, Mohenjadaro, Castes, religions, history, tamil linguistics, differences between Hindustani and Carnatic – Most of these topics which I am not knowledgeable enough, I felt bad for not knowing more about my country, history and ancient culture that he asked about. I shared the Dosa recipe with him. He showed me how he wrote his name in Hindi – It was crystal clear and correctly written. He asked me if I am in my 20s. I told that it was a decade before Good thoughts, happiness, peace can bring radiance in you making you look and feel younger
While we waited to pick our baggages from the side, he sang a carnatic song for me. I remembered my carnatic teacher and my ‘on the class’ experiences then. Back home then…
Every trip offers a different enriching experience. Many more to come…
Meeting ‘Ra’: Tried so much to meet ‘Ra’. I knew beforehand that it would be too difficult to get an appointment to meet him. So, I started my attempts to get an appointment few days after I booked the flight tickets to India. After many attempts, I got an appointment. G was the one who was in constant touch with me to get that appointment. I was a bit anxious and many things were running in my mind like what to talk, do I need to write a set of questions that I can ask him when I meet, will he accept the personalized gift of Inspiration that I had got for him and the feedback on Frozen Thoughts (Infinithoughts now) that my friends had insisted me to give to him. The day came but the chance of meeting him did not happen. I was disappointed to miss it after giving so many attempts. I thought that the chances of meeting him would have been higher if I had been in Chennai and not in Madurai. But a sense of hope prevailed when G updated me that Ra may come to North America this year. Chances are there that me and my friends will meet him.
My ‘young’ buddy: 2-3 years after P was born, I held her in my arms. I was probably 10 years old that time. From that day till now, we are friends Now she’s in college and still remembers me and wishes on my Birthday every year and tries to meet me whenever I go to India. Without any notice, she stopped by, at our house one day. We did a ‘high five’ and started talking. Amidst her non-stop talking about college, friends, movies, studies and future plans, I got to talk for few minutes about US and higher studies here. With my more than one attempt on GRE, TOEFL and constant musings about higher studies I think I should become a ‘higher studies abroad’ consultant She insisted that I should have lunch with her sometime. I tried to make an awesome dosa for her which stuck midway. ‘Awesome’ turned to ‘terrible’…Seeing that, with giggles, she ran away
The Super Singer replica: G Aunty, who was our neighbor few years ago, called one day. She was excited to tell one thing – ‘You know what? Whenever the super singer junior Stefi comes to the daïs and sings, all of us at home get reminded of you. You looked the same when you were young’. I told her that my sis used to tell the same thing when Maestro’s daughter Bavadharini comes to stage. Ha ha…I know what they all mean…I wish they told that I sang like Stefi or Bavadharini
Eye care: The first time when I went with Amma, at the registration desk, they asked my age. When I told the age, the lady said that she couldn’t believe it and she thought I may be around 24. That’s when I realised the reason behind her eye glasses With my frequent visits to the eye hospital for Amma, all the sisters there connected to me very well. Every time I went, they talked to me nicely. One of them gave her contact # and asked me to be in touch. Another one told that she was very proud to see me taking care of my Amma like that. Ore fan following dhaan…:P
Mall in Madurai: It was ‘new’(s) to me when I heard that they have opened a new mall in Madurai. Maduraiyile mall-a? I wondered. Went there twice and picked up some new fashionable dresses. People were very courteous in the shops. Even on a Sunday, there were only few shopaholics. We went to food court to try few dishes. French fries for 57 rupees – Are you kidding me? Not like big malls in Chennai, but I feel that this itself is big for people in Madurai
Second Chennai Visit: The route from Madurai to Chennai – NH is great. There are toll roads, service areas, sign boards throughout which I thought was a real development from what I had seen earlier. We made some stops before reaching the Chennai city and visited some houses/apartments. We went to a township P.G. where all the apartments looked like palaces. Though I am not a big dreamer of lavish lifestyle or owning luxurious bungalows, my Appa said “This is where I think you should live”. I said “this is where I can live if I were a billionaire ” The sales manager’s native was Madurai and hence my family ended up talking for a while and had lunch with him.
After that, Appa, Amma and me went to the hotel talking about the horrible traffic in Chennai. We had wi-fi in the hotel and me and Appa used my iPad wisely. The next day, met B Aunty and her husband. We all had lunch together. She had bought some fancy jewelry for me as a token of her love and we talked about the initiatives that me and my friends had started. We talked about how we can provide education to some kids who cannot afford to get one and more on that front. After our lunch and back to hotel, my Amma and Appa said that the happiest couple that they have ever seen is B Aunty and her husband and they liked them. N’s Appa came to give her wedding invitations that I had assured to take it when I go back. My Appa and he talked about many things and I was listening. I wish I was there in Chennai for N’s wedding. But, there were lots of things to squeeze within few days of vacation.
Got the monthwise photos of my Nephew’s first year and loved it. Decided to pick a proper picture frame that can hold it. Then went to Grand sweets and picked up loads of items. With so much popularity of Express Mall, went there but returned empty-handed. Picked many books and DVDs for me and now my book shelf is overflowing (Padikromo illayo adikiruvomla ) The most surprising thing was without me telling that I was looking for Management/Business/Entrepreneurship books, my Appa was picking all those and giving it to me. My future plans are shaping well, I thought My Amma was giving a “What will she do with all these books?” look.
Met K & A, my previous company friends, for dinner. The ambience was great at AB and that was the first time I went to that restaurant. Casual talks about friends, family, life, personal things went on. Those canteen talks and breaks, birthday bashes, dance practices, cricket matches, organizing events, ‘what next’ talks, drop dead gorgeous following, Girls day outs – all those moments flashed – Golden period of my life. Very happy to be in touch with all of them and it was a pleasure to meet them after years, though the gang size has dwindled.
Most of my plans worked out with all those who I wished to meet (except Ra and college friends), what I wished to do and those that I wanted to eat (Mangoes, Butterscotch/Casatta ice creams, ‘Jayaram Bakery’ cakes in particular). Weeks went off in a jiffy.
Bye India and here I come, Colorado! There I was standing in the Chennai airport, waving bye to Appa and Amma.
- The End
Hello Chennai!: With Immigration formalities over, headed towards the baggage conveyor belt to pick the baggage. Someone standing there helped me. Got out and after a while, could see a head popping out and waving at me – Appa, it was. Could see Appa and Amma faces brighten as I went close by. With a few good behavioural attitudes that I picked up here from US, went far away to keep the cart in its place. I could feel the humidity and difference of weather but it was not bad for me. After refreshing, my parents thought I would sleep like Kumbakarnan but I was all enthusiastic about meeting cousins and eating Saravana Bhavan sambar vadai Met my cousin B and she was asking me about my Matrimonial alliance seeking experiences. There I was, revealing my experiences and threw in few words of wisdom – This chance does not come often and hence made better use of it We went to PVR Cinemas and met our another cousin A – From those early days, A and B used to share their thoughts with me ranging from college crushes to where to do MS, MBA topics. Though I am older than them, I’m always called by my name – no suffixes like akka is attached – not that I want it but I feel without it, they feel close in sharing anything that generally they would hesitate to, as far as I know. Aha, there I received the honorarium I hogged on any type of food that I saw – Chats, Icecreams, Coffee (I picked the habit as soon as I landed in Chennai…), South Indian dishes, but was very cautious in having drinking water from anywhere. Met K the next day and collected my official document and talked to her for a while in the office where I used to work before. 15-20 mins was not enough for us to share lots of things that we wanted to and hence we decided to meet again. Good amount of friends and memories that I possess in this building – Golden period, it was. On the way, I was telling my dad that Chennai had become like New York – All high-rise buildings, hoardings were new to me. Visa Interview was a cake walk and after that, headed back home.
Endrum Maaradha Madurai: Had been anxiously waiting for years to see this person in Madurai and the day had come. Without knowing how that experience is going to be, sitting in the car, I was closing down my eyelids slowly taking myself few years back in my life…
Amma shook me asking “Tea or Coffee?” and I asked “Are we there?”
Did I meet whom I was anxiously waiting to see? What happened then?
To be continued…
Catching a flight at the right time has become adventurous for me in the recent times. Though I had planned well and arrived earlier as I expected, with a ‘go-green’ paperless motive of not having a print out of the ticket, had a hard time to get the tickets from the kiosk. Had to run here and there trying different kiosks and later realized that there’s a system malfunction that prevented to print the boarding passes at that time. There was a big queue in the ticket counter and I was very much sure that I am going to miss the flight. With some unprecedented frame of luck, got into an extra service counter where I could collect the boarding pass. I could have used my iPhone to check in online and show the boarding pass but at times like this, my mind goes numb and I stay dumb
Got into the flight and was watching Jeff Smisek’s welcome message on the monitors and my business mind sprouted to think about the merger of airlines and how cost effectiveness would play a role there. It left me in a drowsy state and my subconscious mind woke me up for a cup of Orange juice from the air hostess. P came to pick me up from the airport and we spoke about weather, activities one can do in Bay area and around, traffic, universities, work culture, people, list of restaurants etc., Reached S’s house for whose baby shower I went to SFO. Had a nice lunch and spoke to S for some time. Went to R & D’s house from there which was 2 blocks away and chatted for a long time until SG called me to inform that her work was done. Me and N went to pick her from her place and once she came, the talks continued in R & D’s place – After a long time, had tasty Adai Aviyal. The place was exuberant with many friends coming in and the talking went on and on. Met lots of my ex-colleagues and memories got rewinded and refreshed. Small world After that, went to S’s place and started our arrangements and decorations for the next day’s baby shower event. N making rose milk for us at midnight and we cracking jokes for a while - It was total fun that continued till 1 AM.
Next day went in blowing balloons (hard to blow with your mouth as well the pump that you get in party stores), the rose decorations (the roses fell off 17 times out of the 18 times I tried ), helping the young ladies group in wearing sarees (self trumpet – I was considered an expert in wearing saree and compliments came from four corners – was flying high ); getting ready for the function (Paasakara nanbargal – Offered expensive jewels for me to wear). Once we went to the Clubhouse for the function, I felt as if I were in India – full of desi crowd with kids running here and there and I could hear Tamil everywhere. My face lit up with excitement when introduced to people who are from my native place Madurai. 7 types of variety rice, appetizers, sweets – What else do you need for a sumptuous lunch? Then photo sessions started. Me and SG asked P, whom we considered as a professional photographer, to take nice photos of us so that we can put it in Facebook and get more comments and likes – Jus kidding! Was super tired after the function but had plans to go to mall and the respite mood was procrastinated. Did some window shopping and me and SG picked some gift for S. After that, we had cake cutting where P had ordered a customized cake for the parents to be and he was explaining us the design that he ordered is not what he got. But still it was good. Had dinner with all of them and went to S’s place and dozed off while I was talking to SG about some personal stuff.
The day I had to leave went off with working for sometime, walking with S and SG in and around the apartment talking about various things and waving bye(s). Got new friends and the friends circle seem to be expanding with every trip. 3 days went in a jiffy but this trip was fun in its own way. 2 more trips in the planning stages and I feel that this year is marching faster…