Friday, April 07, 2017

A rambling random post inspired by traffic

Body language is such a crucial part of communication which is often ignored or not given its rightful due. This post is about few body language signals that are seen on the roads of the city and their interpretations, for easy understanding some common examples are also given.

The “my way or the high way type”: This is when you see a motorist who decides to cut in irrespective of the traffic lights, vehicles, lanes etc. This is exhibited by a simple nod of the head with an Up Down motion. You are free to interpret as you please but the common interpretation is “I am coming in and you can do what you please”. This behaviour can be understood by remembering the VIPs in their beacon lit cars and escort vehicles who just care for nothing more than their “right of passage”.

The “I see you but I don’t” type: This typical behaviour is when a motorist blatantly rides on the wrong side whether it is a 2-wheeler or 3-wheeler or a 4-wheeler is inconsequential. These people have slightly weaker balls (more on this in the next behaviour) and so they do not want to see you in the eye, so you will see them looking everywhere else but straight ahead more often than not looking at some point high above on their left or right. They know they are wrong but hey, they didn’t see you see them so they have the right to get away. This behaviour can be understood by remembering the now Hat wearing politicos who know that they have messed up but will not own up to it but want their way in.

The “I see you, yes I see you, do you know who is my father…” type: Remember the weak balls, this type of behaviour is exhibited by those who have somewhat iron clad balls, nothing fazes them. They will be on the wrong side of the road but they will stare at you defiantly often cowering the other side into submission, because of the baggage they carry: A beacon, security guards or goons and other paraphernalia. This type of behaviour is understood by the 25 times slipper beating politicos of the world whose egos do not permit them to acknowledge that they are in the wrong and because they have the baggage they can get away with it. These people often have the habit of getting their paternity origins confirmed from some rank outsiders because they tend to forget it.

The “I am the boss” type: This is the behaviour where a show of a hand like the symbol of a political party is enough to through the entire traffic into a tizzy on most roads. You will encounter this when someone suddenly decides that the signs above, the stars are perfectly aligned and his auspicious time is right now for him to cross the road always on foot and puts up his hand and walks across the road. The parting of the Red Sea may have happened something like that all those years ago but minus the blaring horns, screeching tyres, cursing motorists etc. This type of behaviour is understood again when we remember the VVIPs who decide it is their right to lord over the people whom they have sworn to serve because they are having the V or the VV behind their descriptions. So the traffic makes way for them to reach their destinations.

The “weary grin” type: This type of behaviour is usually the behaviour of the vast majority who for want of a better option grin and bear when they encounter any or all of the above mentioned types on the road.  Often they get resigned to their fates by statements like:
“This is India!”
“What’s your problem?”
“Is this your grandfather’s road?”
“Do you know who I am?”
“A#$%^&, M!@#$%^&, B%^&*(), F!@@##$&*,W!@#$%$%^”

These are the type of people who often go by the term “common man”, the common man who makes the people above him important, who is part of the public whom the public servants are duty bound to serve, who pays the taxes directly or directly and thereby their salaries and yet grins and bears it.
So what type are you?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Life in colour

During a recent conversation I came upon the term “gender neutral colours”, wearing such colours is a safety aspect for women on the roads especially at dawn / dusk times when visibility is lower. So if you are wondering what would be a gender neutral and safe colour, I learned that white is a strong contender for the top spot.

Recently when I was in my daughter’s school waiting to pick up my daughter, I observed a long line of students walking to the gate led by their class teacher. Suddenly a parent near me turned and said that he was amazed to see more than 75% of the class carrying a pink school bag. I racked my brains to see if there were any other colour options in the store earlier.

We were picking up a gift for an infant at our regular baby item store when the shopkeeper showed us two gift boxes and appropriately colour coded for boy and girl separately. I do not want to mention the colours because by now it is a given that you will not mix them up.

I have a set of shirts that are from the pink colour family and ever since fashion experts came up with the term metrosexual (I still crack up over it) and what is appropriate dressing for metro sexual. The experts deemed that purple and pink are acceptable colours for these metrosexuals and so they are available in stores for men.

The other day we dressed up for a wedding, sometimes it just happens that we (the better half and I) end up colour coordinated and this time the colour we ended up was black. We looked good together but then to some relatives it seemed that we had come to grieve because we chose the unsuitable colour.

In the mornings if you were to see me, I will be unashamedly wearing a top in the shocking shade of a flouroscent green or even orange. I take great care to ensure that the colours are as bright as possible so that I may be visible for the errant motorist who suffers from blindness when he is one the road.

When I dress up for work it is usually black or blue because well you know work tends to do that to you…

What is your colour story?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

So you are a runner? Nice!

After a long hiatus and many excuses I have started taking baby steps into a renewed fitness journey.  There is no point in dwelling in the past when I lost weight and was fitter and etc. it is now time to look at the present and gradually in the future about where I want to be with regard to my fitness.

Most people take up sports like running or cycling or swimming separately or together when they hit middle age when either under threats from their doctors or close family members or a clear mirror they decide to huff and puff their way to a sleeker new version of themselves. While the intent is good, there are many grey areas that often get overlooked in these fitness journeys.

One of the first challenges is finding a good group to do these activities. Chennai has seen a rash of running, cycling, triathlon and other fitness groups and their growing memberships prove that more are seeking to get fit through a mob. Yes the mob mentality runs through these groups where mindless peer activism tends to lead people wrong. Every individual is unique and every ones fitness status is different therefore using a one size fits many schedule and plan may not always produce the best results.

Groups may not have the structure to allow a new comer to discover himself / herself gradually and then evolve step by step. The standard term is “How much?” Meaning how much are you doing today. 

For a new comer it may be acutely embarrassing to admit that their PB or personal best is probably half a kilometre at best.  A better option would be to simply say let US run and let us focus on the time we run rather than how much we run.

Then there is this mysterious number called PB.  Mysterious because of the value people attach to it, you will find at least one in most groups who cannot stop himself from displaying his PB each time forgetting that it does not mean anything to the others. Worse sometimes this may cause fool hardy imitation by a rank newcomer at times leading to injuries since these displays are usually commended by a few others. A PB is personal best, meaning it is a personal number and ideally it should be personal. I wonder if people run just to post on Facebook for the likes.
 Injuries are a given for sports and prevention is better than cure. One way to prevent injuries is to avoid sports altogether the other way is to be careful. The best way to be careful is to carefully listen to one’s body. A mandatory requirement for most sports activities especially if the person is unhealthy is a clearance from the individual’s family physician, an annual Master Health Check-up after the age of 30 for every one can be a life saver. Many join up for such endurance sports with scant disregard for their current body conditions, these sports can be extremely stressful to the heart and therefore a stress test like a Treadmill will help alleviate any fears and also make the individual aware how much he can push himself. Life style diseases are on the rise and sports can be a killer rather than a panacea for the ills.


One more peer related issue and this has a connect to the PB is the accessory standards. Running or cycling clothes, shoes, the cycles and then the gadgets. 
GPS trackers, Heart Rate monitors, Fitbit bands the options are endless and sometimes it becomes a simple "Mine is better". The activity at times revolves around the gadgets and not the other way round.                            


Keeping it simple may not be a bad thing and the chances of a heart burn due to non syncing of a device after a grueling activity is less.

The final challenge in this fitness journey is in one knowing how much is too much for him.  This is another personal number and is best known by the individual or maybe his doctor.  Group activities can make this number become a variable quantity. The best fitness plans will factor in adequate rest and recovery however unless the individual is clear and committed to his personal plan these two crucial elements are often given the go by. Since most groups are heterogeneous and people come from different work styles fitness plans can never be standardised.

So should one give up all these? No. It all comes down to balance and knowing oneself. A fitness activity will lose its edge the day when the person no longer enjoys it so it may be a good thing to mix it up and vary the intensities. A game of badminton or Frisbee or even a walk may be the need of the day and the moment. The challenge therefore is to understand and act accordingly. Groups serve a limited purpose, they will make it fun, they will provide the buddy network, they will give the social cushion but optimum fitness is down to the individual. A buddy usually helps, so it may not be a bad think to work out with a buddy or more than one buddies but the challenges that one takes up every day are with oneself after all it is a personal milestone.

So get out start running or cycling or swimming or any other sport, it is fun, it is healthy and it is worth doing, just be responsible along the way.

P.S. In case you are wondering, i have completed a MHC last year and my next one is due in a few months. 

Images courtesy Google Images.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The three rings...

This is a picture of a gutter in a place called Annur near Coimbatore. This gutter brought back some strong memories and my eyes wandered to my ring finger.

You would have heard the joke about marriage being a three ring game:  Engagement Ring, Wedding Ring and Suffe Ring. This post is about the second one and it is written after 10 years of it being on my finger.  There are two pieces of jewellery that are constantly on me both have a connection to special women in my life. The first is a cross on a chain that is a gift from my mother and the second is the wedding ring. I seldom take off both however this post is about the times when the ring tried to get away!

Instance 1: This happened few years ago during a trip to Tuticorin. This was on a flight from Tuticorin after the inflight meal when the attendants were collecting the trash, the ring fell off into the trash bag. I did not notice and when I did I got frantic and called the air hostess. I asked to look into the trash bag but she asked me to wait then I saw her wear gloves and patiently sort out the entire trash bag, finally after she retrieved it she washed, dried and gave it to me with a smile. I know for sure that my Thank you will never be enough but I said a silent prayer for her as I left the flight.

Instance 2: This time I lost my ring in Tuticorin but at the hotel. Somehow I contrived to leave my ring among the bedcovers and realized it a few hours later. After much panic and retracing my steps I discovered it safe in the room

Instance 3: This takes me back to the gutter at the start of the story. As I got out of a car my finger got entangled on a string hanging near the car and as I attempted to pull free my ring slipped off my finger and fell into the gutter. My colleague who was with me found his cell phone light to be insufficient and bought a flashlight from a shop nearby. Then both of us started flashing the light and tried to spot the ring without much luck. Few bystanders and locals who noticed us asked us what was the issue when we told them that we lost a ring and they realized that it was worth a sovereign or so they started giving multiple ideas none of which seemed workable. Then two of them got into the gutter and literally poked around till they found it. They gave it me as my colleague found some water to wash it. I kept repeating thanks and thought of giving some money in gratitude, they just smiled, washed their hands and went away.

Instance 4: This time I lost it in a bus when my ring got struck in my bag and in the rush to pull it free the ring pulled free and disappeared. This time quite a few of my co passengers joined me on my knees looking for the ring. Soon it was found and it returned to its rightful place.

By now you may be wondering why I keep losing my ring so often? I wondered too but in time I learnt:
-         That there are many good people around who help without any returns
-     No matter what happens marriages are forever and despite every set back it will come back to its rightful state that is togetherness.
-         Staying married is hard work and needs a lot of help.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Train Tales

Train journeys can be very interesting and much has been written about train encounters, movies are made when the lead pair falls in love in the train journey and so much more.

I have not been in a train in ages getting used to flying for business trips and when possible taking the car, it was due to a combination of factors that I found myself in the Rock Fort Express in the First Ac compartment yesterday. After the pleasant surprise seeing the new rake that was spic and span with working fittings I settled down to the journey.

The compartment was quite busy with a few men in the coloured dhotis which indicated that we had the three major parties of the present Assembly represented. My co-passenger a distinguished gentleman was greeted by a few and I tried to blend into the surroundings and make myself as unobtrusive as possible in the small confines of the coupe. Suddenly a young man in jeans and tee spotted my co-passenger and told his dad who came into our coupe. The visitor to our coupe in the tricolour striped dhoti was the leader of the party. His casually dressed son had lost the election narrowly and for me it was a pleasant surprise to see a casually dressed politico but Gen Next looked promising.

My co-passenger was from the principal opposition party and in alliance with our visitor when another person joined in, he was from the ruling party and all three started a conversation. What impressed me was the mutual respect they had for each other and the camaraderie they exhibited. As I attempted to leave they dissuaded me and after a short conversation about the current political scenario the visitors left the coupe and two others who were also in the coupe joined us.

The next two hours passed by in a blur when my co-passenger engaged in a conversation with us and floored us with his knowledge and experience. He took us through demonitization, taxation, VAT, GST, NEET, Neduvasal and so much more. Every topic was discussed in an objective manner without taking sides and the relative merit / demerit of each explained in simple terms. He respected the views of the other three ordinary citizens and clarified our doubts.

He candidly explained that in politics, experience and qualification is crucial and lack of both is easily caught out catching me by surprise. Our conversation carried late into the night and I went to sleep humbled and wiser by this chance encounter. In the morning as we separated I was again touched by the humility he displayed as he left.

I learnt that:
-          Politicians can wear jeans and tees
-         There are politicians who are qualified, experienced and know how to rule unlike some who thrive on histrionics and showmanship
-          Despite their external demeanour politicians have mutual respect for each other
-          They can be great travel companions
-          Never judge people by common prejudices

So why am I writing a politics inspired post now?
-          The local body elections are coming up and everyone must participate in it as a voter as this will be a clear sign of the public mood in the state after all the nonsense we have seen
-          This is an option for those who would like to make a difference to society to enter the fray as a councillor, a study has shown that it requires only around 2000 votes to win the election and nothing works as well as local door to door personal campaigns and issues. Money I was told is an add on
-          There appears to be a large reservation for women in the local body polls and is a good opportunity for the next set of clean, educated, concerned people to come to power and do something for the people

Monday, February 13, 2017

Go Frshly!

This Saturday I had the pleasure of going for a blogger event.  Off late various reasons made me miss a few events and I was happy to sign up as the topic was on food. Food tends to make people emotional.  If you have seen me you will know that I get very emotional about food and though I still believe that the best food is always home cooked I am always ready to try out a new restaurant any day.

The invite intrigued me because it wanted 5 food bloggers and 5 tech bloggers & the event was in an IT park so my curiosity levels went up. The venue was the office of M/s Owl Tech blew me away. The exposed brickwork, furniture made from stacking pallets among others made it a good place to be in. I met up with a few familiar faces and some new faces and we settled down to learn about the place and the event.
The Ice breaker! Note the table made of pallets.

Our hosts for the day Divya Gandhi and Abhiskek N gave us a brief of the machine, a food box that we would see after some ice breaker activities and full marks to Divya for bringing out a Scrabble board. After some crazy rules were made and remade we had a good time playing Scrabble and as we played we met the CEO of Owl Tech, Satish Chamyvelumani. Owl Tech owns Frshly. So what is Frshly? I quote from their site “Frshly- A first-of-its-kind automated retail marketplace that makes good food accessible to customers by providing a collaborative ecosystem for food providers.”

The next few lines made for even more interesting reading “Along with inspired flavours, we provide fresh and hygienic food all under 90 seconds! We’re a team of inventors with food on our mind and a disregard for boundaries to scale for higher ground.
Frshly - with real time display of inventory

So we got down to business the food part. We were taken to the cafeteria of SP Infocity where we saw the working Frshly machine awaiting us. To keep it simple, Frshly aggregates food from chosen vendors in standard packing which are loaded in the machine. When a consumer wishes to make a purchase he sees the options and the inventory displayed above and makes his / her choice of the touch screen before the kiosk / machine. 
The ordering and payment options

Once the order is accepted and the payment made with any of the digital options available the machine starts to work. The trays are moved from the stack and moved to the microwave where they are heated and sent to the pickup point of the machine in 90 seconds. The other order options are oline and through their app. The cola bottle vending machines in the airports would be the earliest cousins of Frshly.

Some key points about the food in Frshly which I gained during my converstaions with Satish:
-          The food is chosen after a lot of homework. Satish being a foodie helps.
-          The offerings fall under 2 south Indian options, 2 North Indian options and 1 the winner a biriyani
-          They have also offered Chinese among others based on demand
-          The vendors who supply to Frshly work on real time data and the food is brought before meal times, since the machines are predominantly in IT parks it is before lunch
-          The packaging is in food grade plastic that has been tested and allows to be heated without contaminating the food
-          The portions are decent sized and will ensure that no one will go back to the work station dizzy with food.

I observed the working of the machine and was happy to hear that the impressive machine was made in my home town Coimbatore. Since the group was predominantly vegetarian the hosts had planned and stocked the food accordingly in the machine. Dilli Highway came highly recommended by the vegetarian friends and from the reactions it seemed that they were happy.
Engineer Biriyani from Madarasi Biriyani

I was very curious about the Engineer Biriyani by Madarasi Biriyani. I am not a big fan of the term Madrasi but reserved my judgement for the food. Made from the seeraga samba rice variety the mutton biriyani was good. The accompaniments including the brinjal curry and the chicken curry were also good. They also had a bread halwa that was an additional order and I was pleasantly surprised with its consistency and the relative absence of oil or ghee. Usually I stay away from these desserts that seem to float in oil but this was a pleasant surprise and in no time I finished it all.

I also tried the Anjappar chicken biriyani combo that came with a parotta in addition to the curries and the raitha. Compared to the other biriyani the curries seemed to have more oil and the masala was in true Anjappar style. It can be a minor challenge for a first timer. For Anjappar regulars it felt like home.

During lunch I had the pleasure of picking Satish’s brains and I was quite impressed with the whole conversation. What started off as a typical challenge for him like most train travellers in India was finding clean, quick, hot food during the journeys, this challenge eventually culminated into Frshly. I was informed that the Indian Railways has a large part of their future plans. I also learnt some more details about the economics of the whole project but that is beyond the scope of this post. The plans ahead for Frshly are quite big and the Indian operations are a small part of their overall plan.

So what makes Frshly a great idea?
-          Standard, clean food from reliable vendors served hot in quick time
-          The pricing is quite pocket friendly for regular diners
-          The portions are decently sized and quite adequate for business lunches, biriyani lovers can always go for a second tray
-          Being aggregators they bring to the table some lesser known gems who have been vetted and serve wholesome food like Madrasi Biriyani which is currently a take away and is now getting a large share of its business through Frshly
-          The assurance of hot food that is freshly made based on real time data, (stale food is removed from sale as part of their process)

Currently Frshly is present in Chennai and Bangalore in the cafeterias of many IT parks and is quite popular as attested by one of the bloggers who attended the event. Since power and the internet are essential to its working it is a natural fit in these cafeterias.

So if hunger strikes you, Go Frshly!!!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Dear kids who are taking the board exams this year...

It’s that time of the year when we see harassed school kids and even more harassed parents awaiting a landmark event in their lives the board exams.  This is a short post to these kids.

Dear Kids, please pause for a moment and remember:

-          The marks that you get in your exam are just  numbers and do not define you

-          The marks do not give any indication of how good you are, maybe it tells who has got the better memory

-        The marks are not the best guide for your study or your career choices, meaning just because you scored higher is no reason for you to take pure science not matter what schools may think. If you are still not convinced remember the cut off for B Com in some of the top colleges in the city are a dizzying 98/99%. So if you think that Commerce is the easier option for those outside the 90's bracket think again!!!!

-        In the end the class X report card does not serve any other useful purpose than being the first authentic government issues age proof, with Aadhar coming in maybe it  might lose that status

-          Class XII students have the dilemma of the way ahead and even for them their marks do not define their college or career choices. I know a pure sciences student who decided to go for CA and top the exams in her first attempt. She then went into law!!!!

-        The college degree also does not define the career choices or the kind of jobs you may end up doing, many have changed courses midway or afterwards, though engineers seem to be able to make this shift easier. I studied computer science, then business administration with a marketing focus and now into the BFSI space with my computer skills restricted to MS Office!

-       There is no correct time when you will know what you want to do in life with respect to your career, these board exams may not even be the turning points. Many still are unsure few years into work.

In the end they are just exams, one of so many that you have cleared in your school lives and the marks are just numbers that hide much more than they reveal.

The key is to space out the studies to avoid excessive pressure in the last few days, take adequate breaks, chill out and face them knowing that they do not define you. Let not these two years be ones that pass by in a blur where you gained nothing more than just these marks.

Dear Parents, 

Love your kids, support them, encourage them and above all believe in them. They have enough pressure on themselves already adding to it may not work at all times. If your kids forget to take a break give them one. You know your kids best and you know that these numbers do not describe your kids.

Friday, January 27, 2017

December and Chennai

We have seen and have now got immune to collective apathy, you know that ignoring what happens around and going on with life has been happening everywhere for long. If you are from Chennai however December seems to be a month when collective apathy is kept aside and people come together for the good of the other. If you have been in the Chennai floods or cyclone Vardah you will know what the emotions behind this post are.

This year Chennai added one more page to it's growing list of encomiums, the jallikattu protest. Much has been written about the protest and this post is not about the protest but the day when the protest ended. If you were in Chennai and in some parts of the city that felt the effects of the police action you would remember the paralysing traffic jams that threw the city out of gear. I was affected too, because my daughter was stuck in the van for over 3 hours without food.

Though I was upset at the mismanagement of the events by the powers that be, I observed that like me many others did not blame the students for the hardships. It will be grossly unfair to pain the entire protest as a student activity for it was not just the students but their parents, few grandparents, relatives, neighbours and many others who converged on the beach. The Marina has been the venue for many landmark gatherings and public meetings till the historic and monumental Seerani Arangam was demolished but this was a spontaneous demonstration of pent up feelings of a large section of the citizens of the city under the collective banner of jallikattu.

         (The Seerani Arangam where many historic speeces were given - pic courtesy Vikatan)

I digress from the post but I observed that many like me did not blame the movement (better than protest) because maybe they were also a part of the movement by deed or in spirit or maybe they have developed some empathy from two Decembers gone by. What was heartening was the relative absence of anger and road rage that you will see on the streets of Chennai, those who usually break every traffic rule were silently waiting it out. Many helped to regulate the traffic and I noticed a few youngsters sharing a few reassuring words to the rare harassed motorist. I observed one bride in her finery and wedding gown sitting in a car and I noticed the lack of tension on her face despite been stationary for a long period, her bridesmaid on the other hand was visibly nervous! Motorists who were getting diverted from one crossing to another smiled in resignation and kept going, something that was unbelieveable to see.

Chennai, you are changing for the better and it seems that December brings out the best in you, more than the music festivals, the kolams and the Christmas festivities. This year the goodness seems to have flowed over into the New Year. Here is a silent prayer that this goodness grows and spreads through this year.

 P.S. The picture is my fooling around with MS Paint

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Monkeying around...

Observing the children play in the Tower Park Annanagar I was wondering how did we grow up to be like this? How did we who were born like monkeys grow up into staid and boring men or women?

The children’s play area is full of slides, swings, see saws and jungle gyms. Watching the kids run around and play on these simple mechanical or stationary devices and having the time of their lives made me wonder if we stopped believing that life is not complicated at all and is all about simple little things. The biggest fascination for me was the many jungle gyms that had so many little kids on it.

Climbing, swinging and jumping seemed to be the most basic of activities after walking and running. Every kid seeing a jungle gym even for the first time took to it like fish to water. I remember few years ago when my daughter climbed on her first one. The kids are excited and so much at home up there, climbing, swinging and at times falling only to pick themselves up and start all over again.

As we grew up and other things occupied us we forgot monkeying around, we forgot getting down to the basics. These days Parkour sessions are slowly catching up and they are making an attempt to rediscover the skills that are inherent to everyone but are forgotten due to non-use. As we grew up we relegated physical activities to the bare minimum and its results are fairly evident: obesity, poor health are just a few.

Next time we call someone a monkey, maybe we should pause and think if being a monkey is really such a bad thing after all.

Image courtesy Google Images / Shutterstock