Saturday, August 13, 2011

Taipei, 6-14Aug 2011

This was a business trip, which turned out to be a memorable holiday.

We stayed at Sheraton Taipei Hotel and it was perfect. Excellent breakfast buffet. French toast is very popular and there's perpetual queue in front of that counter. Easy access to all the good shopping areas. Electronics market is within walking distance (I didn't go there, but my friends did lot of shopping there and claimed that the prices of cameras & tablets were about 20% lower than in India). Shandao Train Station is nearby too if you want to use it.

Taipei is mecca for shoppers. I enjoyed shopping at following stores and markets for women's fashion:
1. New Sogo & Taipei 101 for Luxury Brands. You can find nice shoes for reasonable prices at New Sogo too.
2. Old Sogo and surrounding area for mid-range apparel, shoes and accessories.
3. Mitsukoshi - you can get instant VAT refund in the store itself on purchases of NTD3,000 or more. VAT refund can be claimed on the day of the invoice only and you'll need to present your passport. Plus there's the added convenience of submitting the VAT refund form for approval & verification at the airport before checking in. It's too much trouble for getting back 5% of the amount back, if you ask me.
4. Silk Market (i think it's WuFenPu, not sure) was the best if you want to shop for fabric for dresses, curtains, costumes... you name it, they have it. There are tailors too, in case you want to get something made immediately. Visit to the silk market was a revelation

We went to Shilin Night Market as well. It's supposed to be one of the bigger and popular night markets. I wasn't impressed. It was whole lot of junk at exorbitant prices.

All the department stores have food court, plus there are restaurants in all the shopping areas so finding food is not a problem.

If you walk into any market and foul smell hits you and makes you want to turn back and run... it's just stinky tofu. People love it here.

Sheraton offers 14 tours. We went on three half-day tours and they were all good.
1. Wulai aboriginal village tour - it included trip to wulai waterfall (it's about an hour's drive from the hotel... very beautiful), push-car ride, aborigine folk dance (it's an hour long prformance... gets interesting in the last 15 mins), stop at swallow lake for photos (lovely view).
2. Chiufen village & northeast coast tour - highlights were the drive by the coast, chiufen village market where you can get custom-made shoes, two-colored bay, and the rock formations.
3. Northern coast tour - rock formations in yehliu park were interesting.

Monday, January 17, 2011

5 Days Spa Vacation in Jordan!

I was looking for a spa vacation package and I stumbled upon this great 5 day spa package by Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea. I booked the package online, worked out the schedule for my 11 spa treatments with the spa team and booked airport pickup & day excursions with the travel desk - the entire process worked like a breeze. I got the visa on arrival for 10JOD.

Movenpick is a beautiful Arabian Village resort with a lovely beach (yeah, you can really float in dead sea and read magazine :)). The Deluxe room was very spacious & comfortable.

The food at the resort was sinful! The Arabian Wrap at 'The Village Cafe' was to die for. Their main restaurant Al Saraya serves multi-cuisine buffet for breakfast, lunch & dinner. It's hard not to overeat. Plus you can have movenpick ice cream for FREE any time of the day!

Then there was the whole Zara Spa experience which was unreal. I loved almost all the treatments: Thalgo Facial, Hot & Cold Stone Massage, Sea Salt Scrub & Relaxing Mud Wraps, Oriental Massage, Swedish Massage, Pedicure, Manicure, Hydrobath Therapy, Aroma Therapy Massage...

I had set aside full day for shopping in Amman and I was sorely disappointed. The two malls I visited, Mecca Mall & Abdoun Mall didn't have much to offer in terms of variety & quality of women's apparel, shoes & accessories. BTW, there were hardly any people in the mall on a Sunday - agreed it's a working day for them, but still malls are supposed to be buzzing with shoppers! There's a lot to see and do in Amman, so i intend to go back for more (soon I hope!). The dining experience at the hilltop Kan Zaman Castle Restaurant was nice.

I went on a day trip to Petra, the ancient city known for it's rock cut architecture. The site is 17kms across. That means you can easily spend couple of days exploring it. It makes for a good trekking excursion. The walk thru' the gorge (Siq) & the amphitheater cut into the hillside was awe-inspiring. Again I need to go back for a longer visit. The right way to enjoy Petra is to go on the night tour that happens every  Monday, Wednesday & Thursday from 8:30pm-10:00pm. And then spend the next day exploring the site. There's Movenpick Hotel in Petra too. The traditional Jordanian food at the "Magic Restaurant" is not to be missed!

 (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

There are two access routes to Petra from Dead Sea. One is the desert highway which takes about ~3.5hrs each way ,and the other is the Dana Nature Reserve route that takes about ~5hrs onward and ~3.5 hrs or so return. The Dana Nature Reserve route is incredibly scenic. You have to see it to believe it.

Last but not the least, Ma'in Spa, thermal mineral springs. It's about an hour's drive from Dead Sea. Again the route is very scenic with some breath taking views of the lush green mountains & Dead Sea. Three waterfalls were open to public. Apparently there are others that are reserved for Spa guests only. The water was deliciously hot, for a cold winter day!

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I can't wait to go back for more!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NASSCOM Product Conclave & Expo 2009

These are my key takeaways from the NASSCOM Product Conclave & Expo, held in Bangalore from 27-28 Oct 2009.

Keynote: Entrepreneurship 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki
1. Build what you want to use
2. Pay Rs. 0 for Tools - use free tools/ software like PHP, MySQL, Drupple to build your app.
3. Pay Rs. 0 for Marketing - use Facebook, Twitter & MySpace
4. Suck down/ across not up - impress users with a solution thats of value to them and they'll spread the word about your product.
5. Use Twitter & Tweetmeme for marketing & selling your product/ service
6. Pay Rs. 0 for people - employ interns.
7. Put everything on the cloud - use the inexpensive infrastructure available for a subscription fee
8. Ship then test.
9. Forget venture capital - first build a prototype and build a customer base and then go to VCs for funds to scale your business.
10. Niche Thyself - offer something unique and of value to users.
11. Beware of the Bozos.

Workshop: The Art of Writing a Business Plan by Naeem Zafar
(Note: this was the best session)

Steps to start a business with higher probability of success:
1. Find unmet need
2. Validate need
3. Market Research
- Who needs it
- How many people are out there - sizing
- How will I make money - business model
- How will I uniquely position myself - unique sustainable positioning
4. Create investor material
- profound understanding of market dynamics
5. Find a team
6. Write a business plan

Why write a Business Plan?
- Business Plan is for YOU
- To organize, debate and validate reasons to start the business.
- To convince yourself and others that it'll make money, so it's worth the investment.

Business Plan answers three questions for a Investor:
1. Is there money to be made?
2. How much money?
3. Are these the people who can make money?

Business Plan Anatomy:
1. Exec Summary: 2-3 Pgs
2. The unmet need: 2-3 Pgs
3. Market size: 1-2 Pgs
4. Competitive Landscape: 1-2 Pgs
5. Your idea: 2-5 Pgs
6. Positioning: 1-4 Pgs
7. Business Model: 1-3 Pgs
8. Your Team: 2-4 Pgs
9. GTM Strategy: 3-6 Pgs
10. Financial Assumptions: 1-1 Pgs
11. Key Financial Projections OR KPIs: 2-3 Pgs
12. Use of Funds: 1-2 Pgs
13. Status Timeline & Traction: 1-4 Pgs
14. Supporting data, research, resume, proxies: 5-15 Pgs

- Co-Founder
- Advisory Board MEmbers
- Strategy Consultants
- Professionals - law firm, accounting firms etc.,

What's the diff b/w Co-founder & Early Employees?
The difference is in the,
- Mindset: co-founder has owner mindset
- Expected contribution/ remuneration
- "Halo Factor"
- Shared vision

Team Equity Divide:
70% Founders
20% Early Employees (hired in first 18 mos)
10% Advisors

Ideal ADvisory Board:
- Market Guru - domain expert
- Technical Guru
- Personal Coach
- The connector
- The celebrity

Strategic Advisors & Experts
- Financial models
- Market research
- IP experts
- Licensing
- Off shore
- Manufacturing

Business Plan sections elaborated...

Unmet Need:
Do a survey to identify unmet need. 28 key questions to ask are published in his book. E.g.,
- What issues & problems they foresee?
- Why have they not fulfuilled their need?
- How have they tried to look for a solution?
- What should an ideal solution look like?
- How will they buy it?

Then validate the need thru'
- Google Adwords
- Online survey (
- Personal interviews - atleast 10 conversations per founder. preferably 20+ conv'

Market size:
- Look for publicly available data
- Estimate # of users & your revenue per user
** then estimate how many you can get to realistically each year for the next 5 yrs
** proxies? e.g., who did it before?
- VCs don't typically invest in small markets

Competitive Landscape:
- Google
- Pretend to be a user of YOUR product
- Do mystery shopping - order products, sugn up for info
- Put yourself in your customer's shoes

Differentiate between customer (payer) and user of your product. E.g., Pre-teen products, Medical & hospital products

Business Model:
- How will you make money?
- Who pays who? What is the relationship between all characters in this play?

Positioning is "what you do" etched in customers', investors & employees mind.
- we are like ------- & unlike --------
- we are like ------- except this -------

"Be memorable thru' association"
"Help your audience place you in the right compartment"

GTM Strategy:
- Pricing
- Channel Selection
- Alliances
- How to lock in your first "n" customers
- Support strategy
- Customer acquisition cost

Distribution channel:
- Where do you fit in the solution stack?
- Thru' which channel do people like to buy this product?
- Distribution channel doesn't do any selling. They only sell products that sell by themselves.
** Distribution channel comes into the picture only after the product is established
** You need to do the selling & evangelizing as a startup

Assumptions & KPIs:
- Identify success metrics & watch them
- Take corrective action if assumptions fail

Financial Projections:
- Make reasonable assumptions & have proxies
- Be conservative in 1st & 2nd year because people will be watching you. Get bold in yr 4 & 5
- Give 5 yr projections of
** Revenue
** Gross Profit
** Expenses by Dept.
** Special Expenses
** Net Profit

Timeline & Profit:
- Past 6 mos & future 18 mos

Supporting data:
- Show actual survey questions, interview transcripts etc.,

Exec Summary:
- Same as topics 10-12 as paragraphs.

Other tips/ words of wisdom:
- Develop your personal filter to screen ideas.
- All ideas have to be chiseled away to be funded.
- People don't leave companies, people leave managers.
- You have to be stubborn in your conviction & flexible in your execution.
- You need a team to start a scalable business. You are not going to find anyone between your couch & TV. You need to go out to find a team.
- A Players attract A Players. B Players attract C Players.
- In battle the plans are useless... But the planning was indispensable.

Exit Plan:
There are only two possible exits - IPO or Get Acquired. Build a company for value. Exit will come to you.

Twitter as a marketing tool by Guy Kawasaki
Direct Selling e.g.,
- DellOutlet
- Kogibbq
** Street food vendor
** Location bound business

- Comcastcares
** Look for problems that comcast customers are having and address them.
- JetBlue

- VirginAmerica
** PRovides info about the company & engage with customers
- Fandango
** online movie ticket booking.

Tip to grow your followers
- find interesting info & tweet it.

Tools Guy Uses
** site to find interesting site & info for tweeting
** shorten URLs & post tweet
** site to find interesting site & info for tweeting
** manual editors find interesting articles on a topic & publish it in the form of a newsletter, which you can receive via email too.
** shortens links
** schedule tweets
** analiyze link clicks
** twitter client
** react to people who mention you or send direct message to you
** twitter app store
** tweetie iphone app is great
** a tool for managing twitter followers, direct messages, spam etc.,
- tweetmeme
** put on blog page so people can spread link to that page.
** helps grow your followers community
- twitterfeed
** automatically tweet RSS feeds from AllTop or other such sites
** objectivemarketer can do it too
- twitterhawk
** paid mass tweeting service service. 5 cents/ tweet
** auto respond to tweets to promote your product/ service
** has effective spam filters.

GTM Strategies: Top Tools in your GTM Strategy by Digit River (??)
- Affiliate MArketing - 15-30% incremental revenue
** affiliates are "sales people" you do not have to pay until they sell something for you.
** best way to drive traffic to your online store
- Paid Search - 7-10% incremental revenue
- Organic search
** optiimize your site for SEO
- Free trial - 2-5% incremental revenue
** helps generate word-of-mouth marketing
- Traditional Advertising - 3-15%
** established brand is a pre-req
- Email/ maintain ongoing communication with customers - 8-12%
- A/B testing - 5-10% incremental revenue
** continuously test your site, cart offers and optimize

Difference between Affiliate & Reseller
- Reseller
** requires knowledge
- ongoing training aboud your pdt/ servcie
- you pay commission for the sales they make
- you need to be more hands on

- Affiliate
** more remote control
** they just drive traffic to your site for a commission

Thursday, July 02, 2009

very funny poem!


This is the winner:-

My darling, my lover, my beautiful wife,
Marrying you screwed up my life.

I see your face when I am dreaming.
That's why I always wake up screaming.

Kind, intelligent, loving and hot;
This describes everything you are not.

I thought that I could love no other --
that is until I met your brother.

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you.
But the roses are wilting, the violets are dead, the sugar bowl's empty and so is your head.

I want to feel your sweet embrace;
But don't take that paper bag off your face.

I love your smile, your face, and your eyes --
Damn, I'm good at telling lies!

My love, you take my breath away.
What have you stepped in to smell this way?

My feelings for you no words can tell,
Except for maybe “'Go to hell.”'

What inspired this amorous rhyme?
Two parts tequila, one part lime JJJ

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Holiday in Thailand

My end-of-year holiday in Bangkok & Pattaya was a roaring success. Five days of shopping, sight-seeing, water sports, lounging on the beach, going to shows, and indulging in great food... it was just perfect.

Bangkok is like any other metropolitan city – sky scrapers, fly-overs, bumper-to-bumper traffic and crowded. I stayed at the Royal Benja Hotel, conveniently located close to the sky train station which gave easy access to the shopping malls. I spent two whole days shopping at Siam Discovery, Siam Center, Siam Paragon and MBK. Between them these malls pretty much covered the entire spectrum of unbranded and branded stores. It was overwhelming. I found some great shoes in Siam Paragon Department Store, but didn’t have much luck with clothes & accessories though.

Better than shopping was the food hall in Siam Paragon. The desserts spread had my mouth watering and going round and round in circles unable to decide what to order. ‘Special Fruit Cake’ at ‘Secret Recipe’ was the best of the four desserts I tried. It was delicious with lots of cream and fresh fruits.

I went to the must see show in Bangkok, Siam Niramit. It’s a musical about Thailand’s history and culture. The whole evening was like a dream – buffet dinner, personal tour of artificial Thai village inhabited with actors dressed in traditional costumes and play acting different village scenes, classical music & dance performances in the courtyard, and finally the actual show which lasted for an hour and half. The show was larger than life & so magnificent. Imagine elephants actually walking around on the stage, auditorium walls come alive with ligthening and sudden appearance of dancer who transforms into a picture while you watch… you just have to see it to believe it.

Buddhism is the religion of 96% percent of Thailand’s 63 million population so naturally there are lot of Buddhist temples. We visited the temple of reclining Buddha, which was quite interesting.

I was blown away by the jewellery collection at the Gems Factory in Pattaya. I couldn’t not buy anything, so i got ruby earrings & pendant set in silver.

I went to the two must see shows in Pattaya - The Adult Show.. there are multiple choices, i went for the Russian Strip Tease Show. The girls were young, pretty and had nice figure. The music, dance and costumes were great. Then there Tiffany’s Show It’s another must-see show in Pattaya. It’s a dance show. The sets, costumes and performances were brilliant. I couldn’t believe it when our tour guide told us later that all the female artistes were actually transvestites. You just can’t tell!

On New Year day I went to coral island where I did parasailing (my first time… it was great), went for a water scooter ride, had the best Thai food, and discovered the joy of lounging on the beach sipping tea… it was lovely. On the way back I went shopping at Royal Garden Plaza. It was a much smaller mall compared to the ones I went to in Bangkok but I liked this one much better because I got lots of nice tops at Zein and Ten & Co. at very reasonable prices. And then shopping for hair accessories at Motip was delightful. My day was made.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Keep off the grass, Karan Bajaj

I picked up this book reluctantly because the previous book i read about IIM - Mediocre But Arrogant - was a let down. Two pages in and i was hooked. This is the third debut novel i've read back to back - the other two being 'Almost Single'(desi Sex and the City) and 'A Piece of Cake'(this one was actually about cake) - and i liked this one the best. It's a light read and more importantly it resonated the confusion/ discomfort i went through when i had to make a choice between relocating to US vs. staying in Bangalore and my reasons for staying in Bangalore were the same - This is where i belong. I feel happy and at peace here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The 3 mistakes of my life, Chetan Bhagat

This one is a delightful read. His best so far. It has all the ingredients that make it a must read - simple but interesting story line, realistic characters, humor, drama, thrill/ action, facts, insights into political situation in India, romance, suspense... It's wholesome entertainment. This one would make a great movie. I've already figured out the cast: Shahid Kapur as business-minded, mathematics genius Govind, Kunal Kemu as Ish who is hot-headed, passionate about cricket and bravely fights to save Ali's life and Tushar Kapoor as gullible and kind-hearted Omi. I absolutely loved it.

One of the events this book touches upon is the burning of the train carrying kar-sevaks in Godhra and the subsequent riots in Gurajat. This brought back the fear i felt when i read about similar events in The Source. It's scary how 'normal' people could turn into cold-blooded mass-murderers when provoked.

What i like most about his style is he writes in simple English, unlike some of the other Indian authors who use such 'heavy' words and metaphors that you have to keep reaching out for the dictionary/ read a sentence multiple times to comprehend it's meaning. E.g., Arundati Roy's 'God of small things'

I wonder why his books are priced so low though... this one is priced at Rs.95 only

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Brida, Paulo Coelho

In Brida, Coelho establishes that God exists, we can experience him in all things around us, we are all born for a purpose and only God knows what that purpose is. We just have to keep faith in Him and follow His lead. Tradition of the Sun & Moon teach you how to know God's will & live your destiny. Tradition of the Sun advocates conscious living & meditation (concept discussed in The Alchemist) to connect with the universe/ invisible world. Tradition of the Moon (witchcraft, discussed in Brida) is about communing with the invisible world thru' rituals, time & space travel, talking to spirits and so on. All that is fine. But there's one part that didn't make sense to me...

It says that everyone has a soulmate (sometimes you may meet more than one soulmate in a lifetime) and we are all looking for our soulmate coz only then can we experience true happiness. Further it goes on to say that people with higher level of consciousness can recognize their soulmate by special light in the other person's eye or light on the left shoulder. Rest of us ordinary people have to rely on intuition. So far so good. In Brida's story, The Magus (teacher of the Tradition of the Sun) breaks up with his girl friend whom he loves very much because she's not his soulmate (no light in eyes/ left shoulder). He spends many years waiting for his soulmate and finally when she (Brida) comes along and both of them recognize that they are soulmates, he lets her go because she's in not in love with him but with another man who's not her soulmate. And then he consoles himself saying that he'll meet someone else and fall in love again. Duh!

Anyways, it was a interesting read...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Sex And The City

It was a bad bad movie... complete let down. I had expected it to be like the TV series - lot of fun girl talk, dating mishaps and a touch of emotions. But what i got was whole lot of emotional crap... it was tiring to watch Carrie mope around half the time... Imagine Samantha controlling her libido and being stuck in a relationship in which she's not getting enough of 'it'... that's so not her... There was very little city and no sex at all... Oh, wait a second... Actually, there was sex - a puppy humping stuffed toys and pillows... You get the idea... The only bright spot was the charming Mr.Big... He hasn't aged as much as the others.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Zoya, Danielle Steel

It's a interesting read. The story starts off very well with Russian Revolution and First World War as the backdrop. But then it fizzles out. The problem is it tries too hard to capture the impact of all the major events of 20th century (the Russian Revolution, World Wars and the Great Depression) on the protagonist's life, as a result of which the story moves in high-low-high-low pattern. You've got a heroine who finds 'true' love with one too many men and gets a lucky break every time her life hits rock bottom. You don't fall in love with Zoya like you do with Scarlett O Hara of Gone with the wind.

High point of the story is the sneak peek into the life of Russian nobility before and after the Russian Revolution - apparently those who managed to escape alive emigrated to Europe and made a living by driving taxis and doing other menial jobs - and the sad execution of the Tsar and his family. Depressing.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Animal Farm, George Orwell

I finally got around to reading this book and honestly i couldn't appreciate it. I quit after about 100 pages. I guess it has lost it's relevance now or maybe you need an understanding of Soviet Union's history to appreciate it. The only part that made sense to me was it's analogy to the corporate structure as my friend and colleague Kartikeya put it: You've got the Pigs at the top of the hierarchy who are the thinkers/ decision makers, then come the Dogs who's agenda is to do Pigs' bidding and get the job done and at the bottom of the pyramid are the Sheep, the doers.

Where do i fit in my organization's hierarchy? As a Product Manager I think i'am versatile and switch hats depending on situation... sometimes am a pig, sometimes a dog and sometimes a sheep... however for the past six month i think i've mostly been a sheep.

Passport Renewal

My passport renewal experience...

When i reached the passport office at 8:30AM I was surprised to see a mile long queue. There were 150+ people ahead of me. I wasn't prepared for the long wait - no umbrella (sun was already sharp), no book. At around 9:05AM i experienced a 'stepping into God's favor moment' (in Joel Osteen's words) - a teenaged boy approached me and said he had reserved two spots up front and now one spot was open as his friend wasn't coming. He asked if i wanted it. No prize for guessing what my response was :). In moments i went from 150+ to 22nd position. Apparently people at the front had been waiting since 5:30AM...

Passport Office opened at 9:30AM and they started issuing tokens - they do preliminary check of the documents before issuing the token. After that comes the more detailed review and then form submission.

When my turn came to submit the form, they wouldn't accept the form because i didn't have address proof. I had to got to Citibank Suvidha Customer Care Center on MG Road for the letter. God bless Citibank! Within an hour i was back at the Passport Office and thereon flow was smooth - submitted the form, met the Deputy Passport Officer which is an additional step for Tatkaal applications, paid the fee (Rs. 3000 for Jumbo booklet with 50 pages) and was out at 12:40PM. Am supposed to receive the new passport by post on Thursday.

About the meeting with Deputy Passport Officer, Mr. Ramesh Bhat. He was extremely nice - polite, professional with human touch. At the end of the interview he said, 'Best of luck Beta. God Bless You!' How often do you meet government officials who are that pleasant?

List of documents required for passport reissue/ renewal if you already have the ECNR seal:
(a) Application Form # 1 - can be downloaded from
(b) Two copies of the first and last four pages of the passport PLUS valid/ active visa pages
(c) Address proof like voter id, BSNL phone bill or letter from the bank (see website for complete list) is required if current residential address entered in the app form is different from the address in the passport. New passport will be delivered to the current residential address and that address will appear in the new passport as well
(d) For Tatkaal applications (delivery within 3 days) you need to submit couple other documents: Annexure I on stamp paper and attested by Notary (i got this from BCD Travel. Ph: 080 4040 6720). And a hand written request letter addressed to the passport officer

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What do actors mean when they talk about 'baring their soul' on screen?

I've heard this phrase twice in less than a week. Shefali in her thank you speech after receiving the Zee Cine Award for best supporting actor in Gandhi my father said something to the effect of, '... am happy they acknowledged that it's hard work baring one's soul...' and then Nandana Sen talking about skin show in the forthcoming Rang Rasia goes '... baring the body is easier than baring the soul...' Now, what's this soul baring they are talking about? How could an actor who is playing some fictitious character on screen be baring his/ her soul? I wonder...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Books I read recently

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
Another tear-jerking tale about Afghanistan. This time the story is about women and their struggle for survival in a country where war & death is common place and there's no escape from domestic violence. It's a good read with some new insights about Afghanistan's history and lovable characters. I hope his next book will be more upbeat and he won't kill the protagonist.

World Without End, Ken Follet
Sequel of "Pillars of the Earth" and just as enjoyable as the first book with unexpected twists and turns. I loved this one.

The Source, James Michener
First Michener book i managed to read end to end and with pleasure. It's a history book about Israel & Judaism written in the form of short-stories set at different points of time - it starts at the beginning of Agriculture Age and ends in 1964. It's a excellent book but am glad it's over it was making me very depressed and spiritual :) I have new found respect for the oldest religion and the resilient spirit of the people who have kept it alive for 5000 yrs now.

One common thread between these three books is religion - A Thousand Splendid Suns is about Islam in 1900s. World Without End is about Christianity in 130os and The Source about Judaism. To me the underlying message is 'Religion provides laws for living in this world... without these laws life would be chaotic... So Religion is good but only as long as it doesn't start repressing the human spirit by making the laws too restrictive/ hard to follow...'

Thats a lot of heavy reading, now i want to read something light and fun like 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, God Wild and Got a Life'... Plagiarized or not, it was a fun book...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Return to VividhBharti

Couple years ago there was influx of FM stations playing Hindi music in Bangalore. That was a blessing as my commute to work would vary between 45-90 mins each way. Things started to change slowly... i think it started with 98.3 FM which started playing more regional music and everyone followed suit and now when you turn on the radio all you here is regional music with some Hindi music peppered around. I find it hard to believe that there are no takers for Hindi only music stations with so much immigrant population from North.

So now i tune into VividhBharti (102.9 FM) when i'am in the mood for Hindi music. It seems like nothing has in the past 30 yrs. They still play 'Mann chahe geet' at 1:30pm and 'Fauji bhaiyon ki pasand' at 7:00pm... and their sponsors haven't changed either. You still hear the good old 'Vicco vajradanti, tooth powder, tooth paste' jingle... It's nostalgic.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Quote of the Day

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are - Mason Cooley

Monday, December 03, 2007

Reliance Footprint

I checked out the Reliance Footprint store on 100 ft. road, Indiranagar, Bangalore last evening. Parking is not a problem - they have basement parking and you can also park on the road in front of the store. The store's interiors misses the mark at being 'classy'. Their claim to fame - '40 international brands under one roof' - i guess is true when you combine Mens, Womens & Kids collection. There was nothing unique about the Women's shoes & bags collection. They had the usual Catwalk, Inc5, Clarks, Reebok and other brands. You can get same or even better shoes at Lifestyle/ Commercial Street. I was surprised that they didn't have Crocs shoes which is the 'in' thing right now. Am not going back there again for sure...


AyurvedaGram is a wellness center in Whitefield, Bangalore. I tried one of their day packages this weekend - I went for the yoga/pranayama/ meditation package which cost Rs.650 per person. They have another package which includes full body massage for Rs.950 per head.

So here's how the day went...

The place is an hour's drive from M.G.Road. I got there at 9:30AM. After meeting and greeting, i was given a tour of the property. The whole place has authentic rural Kerala feel. They have 26 heritage cottages, some of them with outdoor bathrooms. I wasn't impressed with the cottages - small room with smaller beds, old/ over used bed linen, rusty plumbing... definitely not worth Rs.6,500 a night.

Consultation with the ayurvedic doctor was useful - he gave insights about ayurveda and food/lifestyle tips based on my body type. Next was Yoga... The instructor was excellent - he has masters degree in yogic sciences and has been teaching for 10 years now. He customized the session according to my requirements. He taught me asanas/pranayama for vision correction and few other things.

After that, there was group pranayama session, followed by very healthy south indian veg lunch. I hung out in the library for couple of hours - books collection was average. Then i attended the meditation session in which i drifted off to sleep.

I headed back home at 4PM still feeling groggy after the brief nap. It was a day well spent. Good break from busy city life...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Quote of the day

As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes - Mel Brooks

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield

The concept is very similar to The Alchemist & The Monk who sold his Ferrari. It talks about serendipity, letting go of ego, positive thinking, being in tune with the universe and following your heart... Good read.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Girls of Riyadh, Rajaa Alsanea

I had been looking for this book since i first heard about it a year ago and i finally found it at Barnes & Noble in Evanston this week when i was least expecting it.

This book is written by 25 yr old Saudi girl, Rajaa Alsanea. It examines the love life of four girls in their 20s from affluent families in the Islamic capital of the world, Riyadh.

I loved it. It's a page turner and a delightful read. It's the 'Sex and City' (the TV show, not the book. That book was awful) of Saudi Arabia. It proves that the story of the girls is the same whether they are in the ultra-liberal US or ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia. They are all in pursuit of love.

To me this book was a continuation of Princess Sultana's Trilogy (Princess, Princess Sultana's Daughters & Princess Sultana's Circle) written by Jean Sasson. The trilogy shed light on women's life in Saudi Arabia from early times up until early 90's and this book picks up the thread from late 90s and portrays the present day situation which hasn't changed at all - Saudi is still a male dominated society where women are treated as second class citizens, women can't start their own businesses (this one is strange considering that Prophet's first wife Khadija was a business woman herself asaik), no dating and so on. However, this book itself represents a step forward in the direction of change:
- A young Saudi woman has taken the first step to stand up and say "I love & respect my religion and my country. But the rules by which we are living are archaic and they are suffocating me. I think we need to make some changes around here. Do others feel the same?"
- The government for it's part is helping spread awareness about the issues highlighted in the book by permitting to publish it in the kingdom and thereby encouraging discussion on the topic

India has some things in common with Saudi Arabia like the banning of valentine's day celebration by the moral police in some parts of India. If you think about it oppression of 'freedom of choice' exists everywhere in one form or the other.

Monday, July 09, 2007

'Mind your Business'

I have been thinking that these three simple words 'Mind your business' might be the key to having trouble-free interpersonal relationships at work and at home.

Minding your own business at work to me means,
(a) Staying focused on my responsibilities and self-improvement
(b) Not giving unsolicited feedback or advice to people - i have learnt the hard way that giving unsolicited feedback or advice to someone is always a very bad idea no matter how close you are to that person... only exception is when you are that person's manager or mentor. People in general know deep inside where they stand. They don't want to hear it from you. If you point out their mistakes, they'll get defensive and it'll only make them person shut you out
(c) Not telling people how to do their job - this clearly falls in 'trespassing' category and i absolutely hate when other people do this to me. So, this is definitely a no-no

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Billy Goat Trail

Did the Billy Goat Trail hike last Sunday - its in the Great Falls Park, Maryland. It's moderately difficult hike of 4 miles. Took about 2 hours. The trail runs along the Potomac River so there are lot of beautiful views of the river along the way. It was lovely.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Have been busy last few months trying to learn & play the 'get rich game'. It's been an exciting journey so far. I haven't figured out my 'magic formula' yet... I'am trying out some of the lessons i have picked up so far. I promise to write a book or at least a blog post when i figure out what works for me :)

In my quest for knowledge about investing in real estate, i signed up for two-days workshop with The Trump Institute - a course designed by the man (Donald Trump) who made his fortune in real estate. The course was well worth my time and money. The trainer is a successful real estate investor himself, so he knew what he was talking about. The course was very informative and gave lot of valuable insights about real estate investing. It was exactly the kind of beginner's course i was looking for. I have to figure out how to apply the learnings in India where the Real Estate market is not as organized and mature as US. There are two higher level courses after this. I'll probably take them when Trump Institute comes to India.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Muhammad by Martin Lings

'Muhammad' by Martin Lings is a biography of the Prophet who founded Islam in 500AD. I like this book coz it gives factual account of his life in a readable manner. It put to rest the misgivings i had about the battles and bloodshed associated with the spread of Islam during the Prophet's lifetime. Now i understand why those battles were necessary.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem is a short story which condemns groupism and glorifies individualism. The story is prophetic, it tells what kind of backward and unhappy place this world would become if everybody stopped living for self and started living for others. So the message is to stop thinking 'We' and start thinking 'I'. I agree that 'I' is the key to happy and fulfilling life. Every individual is responsible for his happiness. Only if an individual is happy would he make the people around him happy.

Traffic Signal

Traffic Signal is the new Madhur Bahndarkar movie starring Kunal Khemu, Konkana Sen and others. It's about the life of people who make their living by begging and selling knick-knacks at traffic signals. It was like a documentary film which ends just when it starts getting interesting. It had some funny and touching moments. Music was very boring.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Quote of the day

"I do the very best way i know how, the very best i can and i mean to keep on doing so untill the end" - Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Chembra Peak (in Wyanad, Kerala) Trek

Went on a trek with the $16 Trekkers gang, on Jan 26th weekend . It was six hours trek. It's got to be the most difficult trek i have done till date in South India. It wasn't as bad as Kodachadri though. That one still holds the top spot in my 'worst treks ever' list.

Losing the way made it interesting and added atleast an hour to the climb. There are some nice views of tea plantations and mountains along the way.

The 'heart shaped' lake located about halfway to the peak is a perfect spot for long and refreshing break. The view of the mountains from the peak was amazing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bangalore not safe anymore!

Riots are becoming common place in Bangalore (i know it's now called 'Bengaluru', but i prefer 'Bangalore'). Since April 06, there have been four riots including the two that happened this past weekend. Riots trigger at the drop of a hat and everytime there's a riot, people are killed/ injured, buses and auto rickshaws are burned, houses and shops are looted, businesses and schools are shutdown. Then there's the growing crime rate & threat of terror attacks...

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

It's the story of a demented middle aged man who has incestuous relationship with his adolescent step-daughter for over two years. As if that was not enough, in the end he goes and murders the man who 'steals' the girl from him. According to a reviewer this book is written the way prose is supposed to be written i.e., ecstatically. Well, i couldn't appreciate the style... I thought it just went on & on with lot of unncessary details for e.g., one page description of the way she plays tennis, mr.humbert humbert sitting in his room and visualizing the girls movements around the house... all that was too much to take...

Monday, January 22, 2007

To Kill a MockingBird by Harper Lee

This book deals with the issue of racism in USA in 1930s, from a child's perspective. It was an eye-opener to me as I had no idea how bad the situation was. Easy but very interesting read. Am curious to know how things stand today... i guess it's not as bad

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

My friend Gyan gifted me 'The Kite Runner' on my last b'day. I just finished it and i have to say it's one of my favorite books. Thanks Gyan...

It's a story about two boys, set in Afghanistan. For most part, the book is quick paced - it has drama, suspense, unexpected twists & turns and lots of emotions. It gives some shocking insights into the turmoil in Afghanistan starting from1973 (change of power thru bloodless coup) through to 2001 (US attack on Afghanistan following 9/11 attacks). The level of detail about the war and politics is just right and is beautifully woven into the story. So you don't feel like you were reading a war report or digressing from the main theme... Neat!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Software Schedules...

Testosterone-crazed game companies like to brag on their web sites that the next game will ship "when it's ready". Schedule? We don't need no stinkin' schedule! We're cool game coders! Most companies don't get that luxury. Ask Lotus. When they first shipped 123 version 3.0, it required an 80286 computer, which wasn't very common then. They delayed the product by 16 months while they worked to shoehorn it into the 640K memory limit of the 8086. By the time they were done, Microsoft had a 16 month lead in developing Excel, and, in a great karmic joke, the 8086 was obsolete anyway! read more

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Egypt: 13 Dec - 23 Dec 06

Am back from my 10 days vacation in Egypt. It was better than what I had imagined. I had a wonderful time there. Am sad that it's over - i haven't felt this way about any of my travels in a long time.

Egypt is beautiful and so full of history. This tour was like a walk down the memory lane of ancient Egypt. What amazed me more than the monuments itself, (which were all larger than life and awe-inspiring) is the deep-seeded belief /faith that inspired people to build such magnificent structures. Some of them like Karnak temple took centuries to build. It’s amazing!

My favorite memories of the trip are that of:
· Abu Simbel – Ramses II and Nefertari’s Temples by Lake Nasser. It showcases the great achievements of ancient and modern man. It’s a gigantic rock cut temple built in 1200 BC and it was rescued i.e., literally shifted to higher ground in 1960s when it got flooded by Lake Nasser
· Nile Cruise – the whole experience… especially playing Antakshari with all the ladies and chatting with them
· Galabiya night on the cruise – costume shopping, dressing up and the party… the atmosphere was so festive that it felt like a family get together
· Alexandria – what a beautiful city… loved shopping, walking by the Mediterranean at night...

For day-by-day account of the tour click here

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Egypt Trip Prep

I figured it was high time i started working on my dream of travelling the world. After considering various options i settled for 10 days (13 - 23 Dec) Egypt tour by SOTC. The good thing is SOTC takes care of everything - visa, tickets, hotel, sight-seeing etc.,

I had to submit 3 years IT return statements for obtaining the visa (along with various other documents)... i had a hard time with this one coz i had only last year's statement. I threw away all the previous statements when i cleaned my closet couple of months ago (yup! i do such smart things from time to time). Thanks to Swati & Talisma i managed to get duplicate copies of my previous IT statements within 24 hrs. I was amazed by the quick turnaround!

Once i got the visa and tickets (the whole process took only 4 days once i submitted all the documents)... next question was what kind of clothes should i wear on the trip... considering the egypt is a tourist hotspot i didn't expect it to have a dress code.. well, i was in for a big surprise coz they do have a dress code for women which goes something like this: loose fitting clothes, top should be atleast elbow length, no low necks, no shorts, skirts should be below knee... bottom line, the respect you get is directly proportionate to how much you are covered... if you don't adhere to these rules, you are likely to be subjected to eve-teasing and god knows what else... finding 'cool' outfits that met at all these restrictions was quite a challenge... with my shopping almost complete am all set to take off to the land of pyramids... am very excited about this trip :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dhoom 2

Watched Dhoom 2 last saturday. Overall, it's a very well made movie and has a feel good factor.

Hrithik was a pleasure to watch. He looks piping hot in his new look and carries out the role of a high-tech thief impeccably. Aishwarya & Hrithik look very good together. Aishwarya didn't quite fit into her role. Uday was very funny. Abhishek did justice to his role. Bipasha did what she does best i.e., do the bimbo act.