Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 5 reasons why NOT to be a CEO

  • Suit Up: To wear a suit for a meeting at a place with scorching 30 degrees temperature can be very excruciating. Imagine the Nile and Amazon flowing from the underarms. One can argue that if you are a CEO you will always have the luxury of an air conditioned room. It might not be the case all the time. Maybe you are at a small airport waiting for your flight without any fancy business class lounge. Even if it is not about the sweat, suits are so uncomfortable that it seems like a small kit for playing American football especially along the shoulders.
  • Travel: It can be fun but maybe not when you have to fly somewhere every week to attend meetings. The fun of traveling dies after a couple of years unless you are Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) from Up in the Air. The artificial air at airports, the hotel rooms with a different mattress every time, the packaged food can all get nauseating after a while.
  • Paparazzi: Of course, being a CEO can make your pictures appear on the front page of business magazines but at the same time one make himself prey to the information hungry journalists. It can be like 24-hour surveillance. One wrong move either in professional or personal life could prove damaging for the future. What kind of publicity will the company get if its CEO is caught bulging down Panipuris at Chopati or savoring Chole Bhature in Bengali Market, Delhi or even devouring stuffed Amritsari Naan on a highway!
  • Stress: The biggest hurdle can be to maintain the work-life balance. With the constant pressure of delivering on time, keeping up to the expectations of the shareholders, proving better than every other competitor can take its toll on personal life. And imagine doing everything by abiding all the rules and regulations of the trade. Missing the first birthday of one’s kid, not being able to go to that local fest with family, being unavailable for one’s spouse when he/she is sick can prove to be an unfair bargain for being the CEO at times.  
  • Saying: Like some people say …. it can get pretty lonely at the top!  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Latest on the Playlist

I had always admired the Coke Studio show by Rohail Hyatt. And in its new season, I am hooked on to two pieces played in the first couple of episodes. Not so surprisingly, Sanam Marvi is back again in this season and I just adore her singing. So the first one is from her. I feel she is one of the few singers who really sings from her heart. With the voice she has and the command on those vocals, she could be the new Abida Parveen of the future.

The second one is from the classical Qawalli singers. What impressed me the most was how the new age instruments had gelled so good with the classical singing. But this is not new from Coke Studio. They had been always very innovative at creating new music.

If you like the Sufi and Qawalli genre then I am sure you will also enjoy these two presentations.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Reminder ...

I was in a grumpy and low mood today so after work, I decided to take a walk in the city center. I thought maybe it might divert my mind from the mundane things troubling my head. So, I took the train to the main station since the center is close to it.

After getting off the train at the train station, I was walking with my head hanging down and random thoughts troubling my head. I noticed a man walking elegantly in front of me wearing a neatly ironed suit. The man had a long white stick in his hand. The man could not see. But, there was a smile on his face and a unique confidence in his strides. It made me curious and I thought of following him for a while. It might sound creepy but at that time I thought maybe he might need some help taking stairs or a lift at the station. But to my amazement, the man was walking perfectly without a hiccup. He knew his way, he knew where he was going, he did not need anyone’s help, he was on his own. On the other hand, walking behind him, I saw people with eyes bumping into each other, even missing a step while taking the stairs but here was my MAN walking with a charm. Soon, he was lost in the crowd leaving behind a positive feeling in my heart. I felt very motivated and charged.

Here was a guy who was deprived of one of his senses and yet there was not a wrinkle on his forehead and an ever pleasing smile on his face. On the other end it was me who was blessed with all the comforts of life and yet was frowning over silly things. We read hundreds of times those motivational sentences in emails, on facebook, on twitter and what not but sometimes it takes a real example in front of you to make you realize how fortunate you are and how easily you are missing each moment of your life frowning over things which sometimes are not even in your own hand.

It reminded me of a quote by Kabir which I once read somewhere and loosely translates to:
Kabir said that when I was not a learned man and did not had His blessings; I was standing in a crowd of people thinking that I am the most miserable one. But when I became more learned by His grace, He raised me above that crowd. And what I saw from the top was that it was not just me but everyone in the crowd was feeling as miserable as I had been. It was just that before while standing with the crowd, I never realized it.

So, just as a reminder … come what may but never stop smiling :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Brittany - Day 7

After bidding farewell to St Malo, we set off to Arras in the Normandy region. It was supposed to be a long drive so we left around 9 in the morning. Now, the main reason for going to Arras was to meet a friend. A and I had a common friend from our hometown and we thought it would be a great chance to meet her. She had been living there since a long time after marrying a Frenchman and had 3 kids.

After leaving St Malo, I had already started missing the place but with the hope of coming back again one day kept my spirits high for the last leg of our trip. We made a stopover at a town called Rouen for lunch. We took a small walking tour of the city center and had some sandwiches for lunch. We learned that Rouen was a pretty historic town. It was here that the famous Joan of Arc was burnt in the 15th century. The city was also half destroyed during World War 2 due to bombings from both sides. The city is also famous for its huge cathedral and an astronomical watch called Gros Horloge. We took some pictures of the city center and then continued our journey to Arras.

Below is the Rouen Cathedral with Gothic architecture. 

At the city center square or Place du Vieux Marché was a huge building which is the church of Saint Joan of Arc (below). It looked pretty modern though.

And this is the famous astronomical clock on one of the narrow streets in the city.

This building particularly caught my attention with its painted wall. Looked almost real to me.

We reached Arras around 5 in the evening. We directly went to our friend’s house. The place had a typical French architecture feel to it with big halls and high ceilings. As we entered the house we heard some familiar noises coming from one of the rooms. To our surprise, all the kids were sitting in that room watching Indian programs on TV. They had a setup box and could receive all Indian entertainment channels. The kids only spoke French but could understand Hindi pretty well. The husband of our friend was also well versed with India and Indian culture. He could speak proper Hindi, even with slangs. Actually, the guy did his Phd in Sanskrit and had done translation work of old Indian texts like Ramayan to French. It was weird talking to a French guy speaking our language. The family gave us a warm welcome and were pretty excited to meet us. After some chit chat, they took us on a small tour of the city. It was a small city with two huge squares in the city center. Our friends told us that the town is usually not that crowded but since there was a Golf Tournament that week, there were many people at the city center.

After coming back from our walk to the city center, our hosts took us directly to their kitchen where there was a dining table. We all sat there and frankly speaking, I was also feeling hungry by that time. The next surprise was to see Indian dishes. Dal Makhani, Dum Aaloo, Chappatis, Salad and on top of that Dahi Bhallas. A and I looked at each other and gave a virtual high five to each other. We never imagined sitting in a random French town, talking Hindi with a French guy and enjoying Indian food. We then just devoured the food. There was no stopping us. For dessert there was home made cheese cake which was even more delicious. The hosts made us feel very homely. After dinner, the guy told us some very interested experiences during his stay in India. We then discussed life in France, Germany and India and the positives and the negatives of each side of the coin. The talks went on till late night after which we went to a hotel for the night stay.

Next day we drove back to Paris and returned the rental car. I had my train back to Cologne and D and A had their flight back home. We had a coffee together at the train station and talked about all the nice experiences of the trip. After that it was time to bid each other good bye on the note that we will do another trip soon in the future. So, that was the end to a memorable road trip!

The route of our trip on the map:

View Larger Map

Monday, June 6, 2011

Brittany - Day 6

The last day at St Malo was a complete relaxation day. We were taking things in a more unorganized manner. My friend, A had seen a nice omelette last time at a restaurant and had been drooling over it ever since. So, he asked me to accompany him. We went together and it was an open restaurant on the street. We took a table right next to the street facing all the people passing by. He ordered his omelette and I had a chocolate croissant with coffee. There was a huge antique building across the road with a board saying “Hotel de Ville”. During our casual chit chat, A jokingly told me that maybe one day we make enough money to stay in such a hotel. I replied tauntingly to him that he can dream on. It was only later that we got to know that “Hotel de Ville” is not actually a hotel but a French term for a municipal town hall! After feeling embarrassed for a few seconds, we burst out laughing on our ignorance. Then it started making sense that why each French town we visited had a big antique beautiful building called “Hotel de Ville”!

After breakfast, D joined us and we further explored other parts of town which we skipped last time. We went to some painting shops, post office to send some postcards, even to a vegetable and fruit market inside a building. A peculiar thing about this market was that it was also selling sea food and therefore had a stink to it. Being a north Indian and never experienced such a vast variety of sea food being sold before, it was particularly fascinating for me. They were even selling something which looked like squids/octopuses. I saw a customer buying it and then came the one of highlight of the trip for me; the cleaning of the octopus. The shopkeeper handled the process meticulously. First the loose skin was removed, then the eyes were popped out and finally something which looking closely like the digestive system was removed. It was an unbelievable sight, at least for me.

While walking through the narrow streets of the walled city, a small bakery at the corner of a street caught our attention. There was a counter for selling stuff on one side of the shop and a big glass window to peep inside on the other side. One could clearly see how the cooks were making some of the desserts. An apple biscuit/pie called “Ker Y Pom” was the speciality of that bakery. I later learned that it is a special dessert of the region. We also saw the complete making process through the window. The already made dough was flattened with a rolling pin and then circles about the size of bangles were cut out from it. Then, green apples were peeled off and sliced. The slices were places on those already cut circles of dough, on top of each other. Some secret ingredient was put in the middle and then another circle of dough was put on top of it. After that it was baked and served. And since I have a sweet tooth, it was customary to taste that dessert. It had a new taste and a kick to it. I would recommend trying it if one gets a chance.

From late afternoon till evening we were lying outside our hotel on the sand beach. A was reading a book and I updated my travel journal. I would confess that I was also feeling a little guilty of not doing anything and just lying there. There are people who have to work their butts off to make ends meet and here I was doing nothing and spending/wasting time looking at those blue and white waves. To get over that guilt feeling, I started talking to A. There were some guys doing kite surfing a few metres away. We starting arguing about the mechanics of handling it and using it although both of us are as alien to kite surfing as Berlusconi is with modesty. It was pure garbage we were talking but it was good enough to get me off that guilt ride.

After ending the day with dinner, we recollected the memories of the trip. I liked this place quite a lot and maybe one day, I would like to visit it again. Unfortunately, I have no photos of this day since I wanted to enjoy and absorb the beauty around with my own eyes rather through the lens on the last day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Brittany - Day 5

There was no fixed plan by the time we slept the night before. So we all got ready a bit early than usual. We had a quick breakfast at a bakery near the hotel and discussed what could be done for the day. The girl at the bakery advised us that if we don’t mind walking then there is a trail along the coast up to a small hill called Sentier des Douaniers. It is very scenic and we won’t regret taking it. I think the total trail was 15 km to and fro. So we thought of giving it a shot.

Now, the special thing about this place was its pink granite stones formations. Over the years, the sea waves have carved some really interesting formations on the rocks along the coast. We started walking on our trail with a lot of enthusiasm and after some time reached the end of the trail where there was a light house like structure. The weather was nice and sunny and we took enough pictures on our way. After taking some rest at the light house we headed back to the place where we started.

When we reached the parking place to get our car we had to take some decisions about the next day. Now, K wanted to go further north along the coast and explore another town. On the other hand A and D wanted to go back to St Malo and spend the day there. The reason was that our last destination called Arras was towards the east. If we would have gone north west and stayed the night there it would have been a long straight drive the next day for D to reach Arras. And it made sense since she was the only driver. Frankly speaking, I liked St Malo so much that I also wanted to stay another day there.

So, it was decided. We would drop K to a town called Morlaix which is further north west and then A, D and I would head back to St Malo to spend the next day. We helped K to book his tickets from Morlaix back to Paris from where he had his flight back home. We finally reached St Malo in the evening around 4 and the next task was to find a hotel for the night. We went to the hotel where we had stayed before but it was surprisingly full. So we looked for other options. While on the hunt we found one hotel where the booking was done in a way I have never experienced before.

It looked like a small family hotel. We could not find anyone at the reception nor could we find any customers around. “Hello, anybody home ?” was something A and I tried but still no response. Just when we were about to leave, I saw a notice on the wall of the reception written in French and also an arrow which pointed to a rotary dial type telephone. There was a number written on it but also with an alphabet. The number was 09.24.H6.66.37. We assumed that we might have to call this number to ask for someone. I jokingly asked A, that the numbers are fine but how can we dial an alphabet ‘H’ on a dial type telephone. We were still very confused. While playing around with the telephone with a hope to find more clues, I accidently picked up the receiver. Suddenly, we heard a voice coming from the receiver. There was a lady on the phone. I asked her that we are looking for a room in the hotel. She checked something on her end and told me to go to the first floor and see room number 4 and if we liked it, we should call her again. She then hung up. A and I still not sure what was happening went up to check the room. I am not kidding but I have never seen such a room setup before in my life. Here is a photo of that room. It had the shower right next to the bed :)

A and I were looking at each other in amusement. We went down, picked up the receiver and the phone automatically dialed a number. We asked for the price since we forgot to ask her before. She told the price and said if we liked it then get our stuff in the room. The key is in the room. She will meet me at 6 pm at the reception. She had to go and pick her kids from the school in the meanwhile. A and I were shocked for a moment and then totally cracked up laughing at the whole system. I said to A, dude this is called Ram Rajya.

Finally, we found a room at another place. We all then went to have dinner and were anxious to tell the hotel story to D.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Brittany - Day 4

The plan on the fourth day was to leave St Malo and go further west to an island called Ile-de-brehat. The idea was to drive till L'Arcouest and then take the ferry from there to the island. We left our hotels after breakfast at around 9 am. We all had liked St Malo very much and left it with a heavy heart. After reaching L'Arcouest around noon, we parked the car in the huge parking place along the coast to take the ferry. There were so many people making day trips there that we had to wait for the second ferry.

After arriving on the island, we felt hungry but decided to walk towards the central market rather than eating at the ferry port. K and I decided to get some sandwiches for everyone and in the meantime A and D went to check out the hotels. Now an interesting incident happened here. The guy making the sandwiches at the kiosk was an old man who could not speak a single word of English. I was trying to explain him that we wanted vegetarian sandwiches but all my hand signals went in vain. Incidentally, a guy passing by overheard my conversation in English and came to my rescue. He was a Canadian and said he had many Indian colleagues and knew that most of us eat vegetarian food. So he understood what I was trying to do there. He could not speak French himself so called his girlfriend from a distance and asked her to help us out. Sometimes I feel there is no dearth of good people in this world. So this is how we managed to eat our lunch that day.

In the meantime, A and D were back from their search and we were amazed that there was no free room available on the island. Everything was already booked. So while we were eating our sandwiches on a bench under the table near the kiosk, A was looking in the lonely planet book for a good place near the island to spend the night. He came up with the suggestion of a place called Perros-Guirec on the mainland but again along the coast. We all agreed to that and started exploring the island.

The island was very beautiful. There was a trail going through the island taking people to all the places around. We decided to follow it for a while. The island had some amazing and very well maintained houses one could die for. We guessed they might be of some rich people who come here and use them as vacation houses because island was mainly a tourist spot.

We walked a lot that day covering all the corners of the island and enjoying the views from each of them. We were also lucky to have an awesome weather all day.

So after burning our feet all day we came back to the starting point to take the ferry back to the mainland at around 5 pm. The plan was to now reach Perros-Guirec and stay there overnight. It was a short drive and we reached there in no time. But the town appeared to be a little dull to our expectations. Even though it had nice sandy beaches and all but still it appeared very artificial with few people around. We found a hotel in the city center and after taking a shower we all went for dinner. The place where we had dinner was run by an American woman much to our surprise so this time we were lucky with the language :)