Wednesday, April 23, 2014


It has been more than a couple of weeks that I have been having a churning of multiple thoughts for putting my pen to paper (finger to the keyboard, rather). And I was simply devoid of any ideas. Today is the first day of the Bengali New Year 1421 and as we say Shubho Noboborsho, I thought why not try and make an attempt. And what better place than a peaceful chair at 35000 ft above MSL, up in the air.

I started blogging in 2006 with an account of my experiences of going back to school at the ripe young age of 30. 6 months down the line, I started another blog to capture the experiences and happenings with a new arrival in the family. The first blog ended as I finished the school after a year. So started two new blogs to capture my thoughts: one on cooking and the other was for "rest of the nonsense in my mind". Fortunately I have been able to somehow maintain these, though with extremely sporadic updates.

Now that I have crossed the initial cold feet of writing a post, let me come to my story for the day. I like to talk and I do that with multiple variety and cross section of people as, when and whom come across. I like to know people and experience their thought process. These days the flavour in this part of the world (and I am sure in many parts of the Western world), are the general elections, Mr Narendra Modi (NaMo) and Mr Rahul Gandhi (RaGa). And no this is not about NaMo or RaGa. This is about the conversation I had with the gentleman driving the car on my way to the airport. He is a frequent service provider for my journeys to and from the airport and keeps sharing his anecdotes / thoughts. As usual we got talking and we ended up to the flavour of the season - elections. And he had an interesting lot of dichotomies to share. As per him that NaMo is going to win the elections is a given; India needs a strong administrator. But Sir, Congress is the oldest party in India and they know the Indian political game inside out. RaGa will have an edge. I responded that RaGa has hardly any experience and is bumbling. He retorts that RaGa has the experienced team at his disposal and when a team is good, it is always the Captain who gets the credit. And then he posed a dichotomy, in Maharashtra, the current incumbent has drained and spoilt the state and will have no chance to get back to power (Incidentally the state is being run by the same party as at the centre). The conditions become further complex. He comes up with another observation. The local leader of his area (belonging to the incumbent party) has been in position for almost 20 years. So I ask him what does he do to garner that kind of long term support. He shares that the leader has lot of empathy for people of his constituency. If there is a marriage and he is invited, he will make it a point to visit even if it is for 10 mins. In this part of the world, that makes a huge difference. If there is a death in the family, he will be there at the head of the pall bearers. If the bereaved family do not have the resources, he provides. And then comes the punch. One month before elections, he starts a community lunch home, providing ample delicacies, twice a day. And he ends the session with "sir, still it will be NaMo"; and the oft repeated repartee these days "Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar" (this time it is the govt of Modi).

And I come to the moot question playing in my mind. What drives the Indian electorate? In developed economies (read Western countries) do you see such dichotomies? How much does the development plank and GDP growth rate really matter for the people at the lower base of the pyramid? And as the juggernaut of NaMo and RaGa rolls across the country in the pre-electoral drive, I am eagerly waiting for the verdict on 16 May when the election results will be announced.

This post was not about the Indian elections or the electoral strategy. That requires a separate treatise, which I am frankly not equipped to write. This was more an attempt to capture the simplicity with which people with much less educational degrees perceive life and analyse the trends. That the requirement of life can be so basic, may be astounding to many. But then that is how life is, in the vast GDP growth machine called India.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hypocritically Utopian

Came across an article yesterday about a young Flight Lieutenant of the Indian Air Force being chucked out (summarily dismissed) from Service and I realise that I often have a nagging question about our civilisation: are we utopian when judging others character and not for ourselves? And are we really in a time warp when it comes to morality?

The young officer in question, a promising SU 30 pilot, supposedly had an affair with a senior's wife and hence this has been construed as sacrilege and the reason for his dismissal from Service. It's a different tragedy that the lady had committed suicide.

The comic part is however the technicality of the guilt (in case there was actually any) 'stealing the affection of a brother officer's wife'. Was the brother officer's wife a juvenile or mentally stunted that she did not know what was happening as her affections were being stolen? And why is it always the fault of the man who was only one of the parties in the affair? And since Service rules apply equally (supposedly) to women, it should apply to the other party as well in case the lady is a service officer. Such cases are observed across Services and this is not to say that the Services are a bunch of over zealous, carnal pleasure searching group. Services are only a reflection of our society, only a tad bit better due to some existing scruples and values. Extra marital affairs in our society are today commonplace across office spaces and social circles. While we take it in our stride in the civilian society, when it come to the Armed Forces, we tend to take a high moral ground.

It is time the Services come out of the time warp they exist in. World over Armed Forces are adapting their rules and policies to the current times while we continue to follow archaic British founded policies. Add to that our Honourable Defence Minister who has given the directive that any such dalliance in the Armed Forces are to be dealt with the severest of actions. He probably needs to have a reality check. It is a personal space of an individual and we as a country need to respect that. It is between two partners and the solidity of their partnership which stands in the way of such dalliances.

On a practical note, I as a tax payer is worried that another bright young fighter pilot with all the money spent on his training has been lost due to our stupidly utopian thought process.

Let us learn to respect the personal space of an individual and honour his or her choices in their personal life.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Airline Inefficiencies: An Observational Litany

24 hours is a good record when you don't post for almost a year. And what better opportunity than one of my favourite topics: organisation efficiency and airline companies in India. 

My experience of course limits me to the Indian geographical boundaries unlike a multitude of my friends and colleagues. And something that I observed on my way to Delhi from Pune on the flight, made me really wonder what drives organisations to gradually or in some case inherently have inefficiencies in service. And by quality one would ideally like to think of JRD's penchant for exemplary service standards - from the air hostesses to service on board, to punctuality. JRD'S biography, Beyond The Last Blue Mountain, is a fantastic testimony to process excellence on a personal as well as business level. And it has a good part dedicated to his favourite business Air India.

When we started travelling by air almost a decade ago, our travels were pampered by jet airways. I remember on one of the flights from Mumbai to Kolkata in the January of 2003, the menu had an introductory note by Jiggs Kalra and the menu was designed by him. In the last 2 years, the airline has definitely had a tremendous decline in service standards. Incidentally on the flight today morning, we had a bun in the menu which was overheated and hence next to rubbery though burning hot! And topping it I had an interesting companion in form of two small cockroaches (!!), 35000 ft high in the sky and without a ticket and I was feeling cheated since I paid almost 10k of my company's precious profits!

Thankfully we were still on time for our meetings. And that brings me to the other end of the spectrum of inefficiencies. I had the good misfortune of flying one of my most avoidable options, Go Air, which I frankly do not comprehend where it is going. The 3 times that I have flown on this airline, 2008, 2012 and 2013, have been interesting. The airline is never ever on time. My mean count of delay has always been in hours and surprisingly I get an intimation generally at least 6 - 7 hours before the actual flight. That makes me wonder if the entire team of this company starts on a handicap on time in the morning! And probably gone are the days when a service company used to apologise and inform the reason (how so ever stupid) to a customer. It's take it or leave it with some of them. My first trip on this airline was hilariously painful. On my way back from Kochi in 2008, the flight seemed to be about 2 hours late. After much prodding the staff was kind to inform that the incoming flight from Bangalore was delayed (2 hours is a little preposterous). After its August arrival and turn around, we were herded to the flight and we realised that the air conditioning was off and even the air blowers / circulatory were not working. People started making noise and requesting for the blowers to be switched off and this was followed by wailing children due to the suffocation. But guess the Bombay Dyeing group recruits hardy staff who can face challenges and maintain a stoic semblance in the face of crisis. Take off was a veritable discotheque environment with flashing lights (due to defective fluorescent lights) and vibrating appendages. And once we were airborne, the air conditioning was probably linked to the outside ambience to give the passengers a feel of space. It became bone chilling cold and we landed shivering in Mumbai. The last two trips has been a significant improvement since they have got new Airbus A 320s. But the punctuality meter has been probably trashed somewhere over the Indian Ocean along with Bin Laden. And a funny observation: while a large chunk of my co passengers are from the Maratha heartland and probably would comprehend Hindi, the crew insists on speaking only in English ... And a tad bit accented.

And in the extremes are the examples of extremely efficient airline in blue.

And as I cruise back home and contemplate the reaction on ringing the door bell home at the wee hours, I can't help but try to comprehend what drives organisations to inefficiencies? Is it complacency about the market? Or is it the sheer DNA of ineptitude? And in the cases of the later, how does the organisation exist in the market? Is it simply because of the high demand vs the low supply of seats in the air? Or is there something more to it? What would have been the driver for Jet to gradually degrade its service quality Or make the fares extremely uncompetitive? My experience of using the other LCCs - Indigo or Spice jet has been extremely positive barring few rare instances. Better food, extremely efficient, good service and fantastic on punctuality.

My friends with B School degrees and in exotic sectors like business / strategy consultancy can actually throw some educated and valuable view on this paradox. On a lighter note, no power points and theories, since we may not comprehend them either ;)

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Out from the comfort zone, into the happiness zone

I started writing this blog way back in 2007 and the frequency of the posts have been dwindling exponentially until it became an annual event leaving aside the intermittent sharing of some interesting article I came across. And the discomfort of reading Mr Amitabh Bachchan posting on his blog with alacrity only makes the guilt worse.

The motivation to restart posting on this blog is ofcourse a major change in our 'timelines'. We have finally relocated out of Mumbai, to a small town (or gaon, as some of my friends refer to as) on the outskirts of Pune, Talegaon. The impetus to shift has been multiple, starting from the fact that the most important members of the family - wife and daughter, likes the place; our irritation with Mumbai as a city had reached its peak (we probably are not comfortable with the big city life); the driving is half of my erstwhile driving and quarter of the time i used to take one way; and at the end I did not have to add to the attrition census of my organisation.

And some of our key objectives of shifting: spend quality family time; give more time to your self and wellbeing (read physical exercise, which we are yet to get into the groove); and enjoy the pollution free environment. It has been almost 3 weeks that we relocated and we are enjoying the place. We had the peak of summer when we had to use a wrap in the wee hours of dawn, the air conditioner is really redundant (mine is lying in packed state). The monsoons have set in and it's pretty cold. And today we went to the Sunday farmer's market. While getting the fresh produce was the main wish, I realised that in a way this also contributed to reducing my carbon footprint :). And I really hope that am able to give time to some creative activity to keep the emotional fluids balanced.

So let me hope that I am able to think enough to pen some relevant thoughts in the coming months and years (weeks may be a little too much of an assumption) as well as keep my recipes blog alive as well.

Would like to leave you with a link to the World Environment Day theme for 2013: Think, Eat, and Save ...  

..... Interesting how we take many things in our life for granted ..

Thank you for taking time to read through ...

Friday, March 08, 2013

India Can Do It!!

This article written by Claude Arpi (Claude Arpi is French-born author, journalist, historian and tibetologist born in 1949 in Angoul√™me who lives in Auroville, India), was written after the PSLV launch.

A country that can launch a 229-tonne rocket with seven international satellites into space does not need to import trucks, howitzers or helicopters, says Claude Arpi, who was present at the PSLV launch in Sriharikota on Monday.

In recent months India has been a depressing country to observe. One scam follows another; the latest being the chopper scam for the procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters from the Anglo-Italian firm Agusta-Westland. Choppergate is the symptom of a deeper malady; 'indigenous' corruption is increasing by the day.

I was in this dark mood when I got an invitation to attend the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-20 in Sriharikota, 100 km north of Chennai.

Having followed President Francios Hollande's visit to India earlier this month, I thought that, if successful, this would be the cherry on the Indo-French partnership cake.

Apart from the Indo-French collaborative effort, Saral, which is to study the ocean surface and environment using two French devices -- ARgos and ALtila, the Indian Space Research Organisation was to put into orbit six other satellites, UniBRITE and BRITE from Austria, AAUSAT3 from Denmark, STRaND from the UK and NEOSSat and SAPPHIRE from Canada.
A couple of hours before the launch, Yannick d'Escatha, the president of the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, ISRO's French counterpart told me how important the cooperation with their Indian partner has been for the CNES, particularly after the Megha-tropiques project initiated in 2003.

On February 14, President Hollande and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh witnessed the signature of a statement of intent for long-term cooperation in space between ISRO and CNES; d'Escatha said a third joint mission will soon be planned, again in the field of environment and climate change.

For me, the launch of PSLV C-20 rocket (weighing 229 tonnes with a height of 44.4 metres and carrying a payload weighing 668 kg), was a 'comforting' experience.

One hour before the expected time of ignition, one could feel the tension (if not the anxiety) mounting among the French, Canadian and Indian engineers gathered in the special gallery above the control room in which five giant screens were installed.

On each screen were given details of the countdown, including the IST and GMT timings. Several cameras focused on different parts of the rocket as well as the control room.

As the hour approached, a silence descended even as the thousands of flamingos, herons, egrets or pelicans populating the Pulicat Lake seemed to know that the time had come.

The full moon was a bonus for ISRO's Indian and foreign guests.

As the '10 minute' countdown was announced, the remaining tasks (shown on the screens), one by one turned from red to green when successfully completed; the silence was then complete.

A Canadian scientist who had worked for 12 years on the NEOSSat satellite and who witnessed several launches at Baikonur (in today's Kazakhstan) or at Kourou, in French Guyanna, advised me to stay outside during the first two minutes (the separation of Stage I occurred after 113 seconds after the initial ignition).

I did not regret heeding him; later I felt sorry for President Pranab Mukherjee and the poor VVIPs inside the enclosure who could only see the screens. Outside, it was grandiose, as twilight descended, the PSLV majestically rose; first in a leisurely manner, then the rocket took a slow turn towards the south.

As the Stage I and II separated, one could see the Stage I slowly being left behind (before falling into the Bay of Bengal); all those present started clapping enthusiastically. Then, everyone rushed into the gallery to follow the rocket's trajectory on the radars. After each announcement, visible on the screens: The separation of a stage, ignition of the next one and then separation of each successive satellite, the scientific staff (including ISRO's chairman who had abandoned the President to be with his scientists) and the other lucky witnesses would applaud.

Our hands were red after 22 minutes when it was announced that the launch had been a success; all the satellites had been placed in their proper orbits. Then everybody started to congratulate his or her neighbours. Some even congratulated me, just because I happened to be born in France? The tension was then transferred from ISRO to their partners whose job was to link their respective satellites with different earth stations. For Saral, it happened immediately; but the poor Canadian of the SAPPHIRE project had to wait two hours for confirmation that the link was established; they could then join the celebrations.

It was a great success for India. No question of bribery, of 'cheating' the system here, of replacing 'cement by sand' to cut down the cost. One can't cheat at this level of technology.

I thought to myself, India can do it! Why does one still need Czech trucks or Swedish howitzers?
India can do it!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Kishori | Apathy in Aiims | Photos India | -

Kishori | Apathy in Aiims | Photos India | -

And people in our country makes billion dollar homes, billions squandered away in scams (list unending) and we talk big nos for our GDP and IIP growth ... what a dichotomy of a nation's growth story ...