Our National Carrier

 

A last minute change of plans lead to re booking air tickets for my flight to Sanya, China, and so it was that I had to fly by the National Carrier from Delhi to Hong Kong and from there to Sanya by China Southern .The return trip from Sanya would be via Guangzhou to Delhi by China Southern .This then was a great opportunity to match up our National Carrier with the China Airlines.

 

The flight from Delhi was at 11.15 pm .I had reached way ahead of time as the cabbie overestimated the traffic congestion we were likely to face. Poor check in facilities manned by a “make shift”, huge wait just to get info on the boarding gate, no ground personnel to be seen not even at the boarding gate; boarding at the lousiest corner of the airport, all made for very poor first impressions .Strange I thought for the National Carrier to be so badly placed in it’s own country .The Airport renovation work was on, and some portions where ready.. quite swanky I must say, with world class toilets etc.but this was for the foreign airlines .Charity begins at home I guess.

 

.11.15 came and went, yet no announcements or any sign of ground personnel .Eventually a security guard told us that the boarding gate had been shifted to Gate no 1 .We rushed down but saw no formal announcements or displays with Gate changes .We had to take our chance and wait .There was a fair degree of uncertainty as passengers of three Air India flights, the ones to Abu Dhabi, Amritsar and Hong Kong were all waiting at the same boarding gate with no formal announcement. Boarding finally commenced over an hour late from Gate 2 !!

 

The aircraft looked old and below par .Leg room was just not available .I just grit my teeth and prepared to sit out a 51/2 hour flight .The hostess said there was no rack for coats so I would need to hang on to mine for the journey .But then an airhostess said she would do some thing about it and managed to accommodate my coat in the crew area!!Indians accommodate at all times.

 

Dinner took ages in coming and was finally served a good 21/2 hours after the flight took off .Poor food, not even comparable to the stuff we get on domestic flights. In flight attendance was poor , no water served after dinner , not even just prior to landing , when most airlines serve juice and water .The only silver lining was the composure of the senior flight hostess Ms Saldhana .Indians manage under the toughest of conditions .

 

What a relief to get off the aircraft at Hong Kong.Thankfully the over 11/2 hour delay didn’t effect me as the  connecting flight was still two hours away !! The Hong Kong airport was spacious ,well laid out , world class and hugely better than our existing airport at Delhi .The current renovation may turn things around a bit but I don’t think we have  the necessary space to ensure world class settings for the passengers . Like wise the boarding area for the China Southern was top class and manned by three smartly groomed ground personnel .Our own airlines hostess were poorly groomed .No match even for other private Indian carriers such as Jet , who are flying international routes .

The one hour flight to Sanya from Hong Kong was pleasant enough .The air hostesses where well groomed and a smiling lot, ours didn’t smile too much .No such courtesies shown to the paying clientele!!The interiors of the aircraft weren’t all that good, but reasonably clean with clear leg space. Simple touches like gifts of bracelets made of shells, added to the positive customer experience .With this trailer I was really looking forward to the China Southern experience form Guangzhou to Delhi.

 

Our experience on China Southern unfortunately was equally bad!!! How come you would ask as the Hong Kong Sanya leg offered so much of promise .Well the boarding area and staff attendance was reasonable with out being extraordinary .The boarding procedures left much to be desired .It took too long and we were herded into the waiting buses and stuffed inside till it almost burst !!!???Besides the aircraft finally left a good 11/2 hours late.

 

 The aircraft was  even lousier than the Air India flight to Hong Kong .In fact the aircraft flying noise was so high we couldn’t hear any of the in-flight announcements .The air hostesses were well groomed but devoid of welcome smiles .In-flight service was way below par .Why was there such a stark difference with respect to the other international flights of China Southern ?Sadly it was because of the clientele .Mostly Indian and mostly frequent fliers who act as “pigeons” .For China Southern they just didn’t deserve better .The crew and in flight attendance also just couldn’t seem to manage .This was just not their cup of tea.

 

So it would seem that on the rigorous routes frequented by the “pigeons” Air India for all its sloppiness was still the better option. But in the less taxing routes Air India still remains sloppy as ever and a night mare to travel with .China Southern would come out a winner by several miles .

     

 

 

Shirish Goes International

Shirish was always clear on graduating from 12th class ,that he would only join a premier institute in India or study abroad .He did get into St Stephens College , Delhi , as premier an institution as they come , with Maths Honours as his main subjects . He also, on his own initiative ,applied to McGill University , Montreal for a Batchelors degree in Electrical Engg . The day he received his admission advise from McGill ,he had no hesitation in leaving St Stephens and commenced prep for going to Canada.

 

I had always believed that The Shri Ram School , where Shirish studied was a good school ,which would give him a strong foundation and all round development .Deepa did have some reservations ; thought the school was not academic enough and that the ICSC system may prove a problem in his latter educational quest .I had always felt that the environment and friends circle he grew up in, would stand him in good stead. It was through The Shri Ram school that Shirish decided to apply to McGill as some of his seniors had gone there and had sent back good reports of the Institution .All we knew was that it had a very good reputation and was rated very high particularly for Electrical Engg. I was happy that Shirish had choosen McGill and Elec Engg and hoped that he would settle down in Montreal ,and in the field of Engineering ,and would make a mark of him self .

 

The rush to go through all the formalities , the application for bank loans , student visa , awaiting all the documents from Canada were nerve racking .Less for us but I’m sure it must have been so for Shirish .He didnt show any signs of irritability or impatience though .. he has a very cool temperament and takes life as it comes .Eventually all the formalities were completed , the air ticketing secured , a meeting  with Madhav’s parents , a senior at Shri Ram School, who fortunately also got admission into an Arts course at McGill and like Shirish was joining in the Fall Session ,Sept ’02.It was good that Shirish had company as he set off for Montreal .The boys were on their own , had no hostel accommodation ,had to fend for themselves and had only the confidence of old schoolmates already at McGill  who could help them when they reached .  And they were just  short of 19 yrs old !!  What must have gone through the boys minds .. excitement , apprehension , uncertainty , the exhiliration of making a leap into the unknown??? Will have to ask Shirish to comment on what he felt as he set off by air that faithfull day. As we retuned from the airport ,Deepa sobbed alot worried as all Mother’s would be !! She would continue to be consantly in touch with Shirish almost on a daily basis .Todays technology allows this so easily .And as Shirish would some times say ,she worries too much !!! But that’s how mother’s are .. reallly the heart of the family !! 

 

Shirish , settled in quickly and seemed to enjoy the environment he had got into.He and Madhav spent the first week in a temporary accommodation where the beds were bunker style .They then took up an apartment close to the College, expensive but comfortable .Shirish woulds continue to live reasonably comfortably and while being a trifle expensive it was ok for us .He changed accommodation every year and in later years breaking past the Indian barrier and living with first a Belgian and now with a pair of Britishers !!! He learned to handle his finance quickly and so far has managed admirably .

 

If there was one nagging worry I had , it was if he would like his engineering subjects and do well .I hoped he wouldnt drop out or any such thing .Shirish however seemed to like the academic environment and the courses and started doing well .So far he has been doing reasonably well and is at the fag end of his course .Also very good was that he got selected for a 16 month internship at Research In Motion (RIM ) the Blackberry people He has just completed this internship successfully and has now a job in his hand.When he graduates ,and gets the Engineers ring presented to him by his Ex Dean , he would head off to Waterloo in Canada to join RIM.I’m really glad Shirish had this excellant working experience , more so that he settled down well ,liked his working environment and his colleagues  and is well on his way to building a professional career. 

 

We, Deepa & I, had an opportunity to be with Shirish in Montreal in September this year and got to see the environment he was living in and how he was managing .It was heartening to se how well he had fitted in into the international environment he was into .We even got to see him play football .. in a game his team won 2 goals to nil and he had little to do as the opposition didnt get any where near his goal line .Nevertheless he gave us glimpses of his acrobatic goal keeping in the practice sessions .Like in other aspects of his life , his sporting abilities had also moved up considerably .

 The international exposure and upbringing ( as it was such ) will hold him in very good stead in his future career. Surely his horizon has broadened beyond belief .Now it is for him to consolidate and make a great mark for himself in his profession. On one of his holidays back to India he came home with his hair streaked and looking very much a foreigner !!! Even the street urchins would chase after him thinking he was one . He wouldnt need those trappings of differentiation any more, the last five years have given him the right exposure to live and work successfully in an international environmemt. From now the  moves he makes and the advancements he makes as he grows into his professional career , will make him stand out much much more .  

Seema’s Wedding

No question about it , this was the biggest event in our family by a mile or more .We didnt really know how awesome an  event this was till it hit us and what a huge responsibility off our shoulders till after it was over !! The aftermath stayed for a long long time .
 
For Seema it was clearly the biggest milestone of her life and we were extremely happy that eventually she was happy and comfortable with her choice of a life mate ,in Darshan .It wasnt all smooth sailing .We just couldnt hit on the right alliance for her , yet Deepa & I were not unduely perturbed and alot less worried than several families in similar situations may have been .The tripe we used to get out of the marriage web sites left us with a feeling that these sites would be of no use in our search .Yet some people had told us of great alliances being forged in sites such as Bharat Matrimony .We had to keep the search on though ,hope was low.As for Seema , she was quite clear that the responsibility for finding a suitable groom lay squarely on us !!
 
Eventually it was our astrologer and extended family member Goviettan ( Govindas) who suggested Darshan and arranged a meeting at his house.The wheels finally got moving from then on .After a few meetings between the prospective couple and initailly and understandable
doubts and anxiety the "knot " so to say was tied and the wedding plans sealed with a simple ring ceremony .Goviettan incidently is an excellant astrologer of considerablew repute and I understand has a fairly impressive list of clients who regularly consult him in India and abroad.
 
The ring ceremony was held at the Eros Club in Charmwood Village .We got great support from Anand Barua , the Club Manager and the event went off in a very cozy manner .Approx 55 of our near & dear relatives attend along with Darshan’s family and friends .Present were a few of Darshan’s relatives from the US who added a great touch to the simple ring ceremony by singing a few hymns.The food , true to Anand Barua’s promise was very good and every one liked it,so also the snacks and the cocktails .As we would experience ,right through all the events laeding up to and including  the marriage , people crucially invoved with each event come forward to help way beyond expectations making each event memorable . 
 
The marriage was fixed for 1st January , 2006, an auspicious day not just in astrological terms , but also because it was the start of a New Year , a time for change , a time for new resolutions and a time for refreshing one’s spirits. This also gave Seema and Darshan ample timeto get to know each other … and what they saw of each other only cemented the alliance further . Shirish could also come down from Montreal and like wise Darshan’s sister, who jhad just had a baby,  and other  family members.Ravi and Mariw couldnt attend as they wetre away in Australia and couldnt get tickets to reach back to India in time , but they were most ably represented by Sandhya and Nicky .For both of them it was a first visit to Delhi , and also an opportunity to be associated with the greater familty .I think they enjoyed themselves very much and we in turn were very glad to have them with us . Mom’s side of the famly was also under represented mainly because most of them were down South , and age wouldnt allow them to travel all the way in the cold .We did however seek every ones blessings and were happy to hear from most of them .We took pains to get hold of as many addresses of the folks Dad & Mom knew well and sent them wedding invitations .For me that was a sacred duty .It was important for me to mention that Seema was the grand daughter of  Srimathi & KV Baskaran .Likewise  she was the grand daughter of Hyma & CP Ramachandran. We missed Deepa’s Dad very much during this event .He was so fond of the kids and the kids in turn loved their Achachan .
 
The wedding invitation was probably the simplest wedding card we could pick from the "Card Bazaar" of Chandini Chowk which all of us including Seema was happy with.
The event management firm we decided on was Kumar Brothers, a very good choice as it turned out to be .Kumar was a charcter in his own right and as he said this was a first day first show for him and he wanted it to be very well conducted .He really put his heart and soul into making the run up to the marriage and the marriage itself a much memorable .Kumar also provided a cook , Selvan , who stayed with us with a helper or two for a few days befor ethe wedding .He and the helpers ensured that the gueast and all of us were well taken care off in terms of all meals ,tea coffee et al .We stilll remember the hilarious tea/coffeee order taking with soo many with , so many with out etc ( the with and with out being sugar) ; and we added within .. which meant please keep the beverage from spilling out of the cups !Ramesh & Jaya had "loaned us their house , just next door so we literally had a large extended house for the folks who came over to stay with us .Geetha ,Anand & Reshma , Prithi ,Aruna & Amutiachie ,Jaya & Ramesh , Sandhya & Nicky, Shilpa who moved in to be where the fun was and others .It was fun time .. it was family time … and when itwas all over most said it had been a great time that we all had together .
 
Deciding the menu was a painstaking task .Kumar had his view and so did several others , including Darshan’s folks .We decided on a mis of south indian and north indian food , and Kumar agreed for a tasting meal for 16 people .Our chief taster and menu approvers where Rashi , Rekha and Srinath .They were absolutely metriculous in terms of precise instructions on what ingredients to add what not too , what to retain & what to drop .Eventually we all decided to stick to South Indian food with a bigger array .That was a great decision and the tasters care and mtericulous detailing resulted in an excellant spread on the wedding day .Some thing that every onetalked at great length  about for long after the event .
 
The wedding it’s self was at the Guruvayoor Temple at Mayur Vihar .This again turned out to be a very apt choice .We had the ground floor hall for the wedding and the first floor for the  lunch.Arrangement were simple and elegant and ably supervised by Prem & Promila and Srinath .Srinath was asort of floor manager for us and the principle interface with Kumar’s team .
 
The prep also included dress and preparing the bride .A task championed by Reshma & Aruna .They did a splendid job and Seema was looking exceptionally good on the day of her wedding .She was truely a resplendent bride .Even I had to catch my breadth when I fisrt saw her all decked out for the wedding .Seema had by her side the " elves " Sandhya & Shilpa who stayed by her side most of the tim e .Not htat Seema needed mch moral support .Bye now she was very comfortable and happy to be with Darshan and it reflected in th3e confidence with which she carried her self on wedding day .
 
The satisfacxtion of an event well conducted lay sweetly on all of us when we sat back and relaxed after it was over.Every one had chiped in , every one played his or her party .Every body added joy and fun to the occassion .Ram was the life and soul of thehappening s over all and could easily be called the man of the match , baring the bride and the groom off course . I was happy to have severalm of my old friends from Xerox , HCL and IIM B attend .Several attended the wedding most the reception on the 2ndand some both the events .
 
The reception at The Habitat Centre , a place I had some how wanted for the reception also went off very well .The food and arrangem,ents were well taken care off personally by the Banquets Manager , Shekar , who took personal charge of the event . He also arranged a tastingsession ,where Geetha, Prithi & Deepa where the chief tasters .They did there job with care and attention to detail and as in the case of the wedding lunch , the food was a great hit at the reception .Shekar ensured that it would be so.He was introduced to me by Gagan , our ME Distributor , and soon Shekar and I became good friends .We have remained in touch till recently and untill he relocated to the UK .
 
Gurpreet Kalkra from our marketing team come off the sick bed as he insited on taking care of the arrangements .This he did in his inimitable stlye andensured every thing went off perfectly .He had lovely music by the ever smiling Hussain , who I had know from earlier evemts .Hussain , performed with person joy and attachment to make the evening splendid .A touch of class was added by thetwo Lancers sent by Col Ajai Singh of the 81st Armoured Regiment . Jaya’s old Regiment .Since sponsoring theChanging of the Colours event at the 81st Armoured Regiment ,ColAjia and I have been good friends .
 
It was again a memorable event made possible bythe warm hearted contribution of very many good friends and family members  .Onthe evening of the reception rain almost played spoilt sport , but Shekar ensures contingency arrangements.In the end the rains stayed away and we had better arrangements for dinner . I was keen on serving good liqour for the reception and this was possible with the hewlp of Pervaiz , Zarina’s husband .Pervaiz and Zarina finally couldnt attend because of viral fever but their help and I’m sure their good wishes were fully with us .We eventually served  good Australian white & red wine , Chivas Regal whiskey , Seagrams new VAodka Fling which Pervaiz recommended ,being a Seagrams man  ,besides beer for the die hard beer fans .The folks liked this array and also the snacks that went with it .
 
The night before the wedding was also new years eve .We had thenicest new’s eve possible and loads of family fun .We had Nicky as the music DJ , we had the three "dirty old men" , Srinath ,Jaykumar& Hrichie added fun&  humour, Ram had a great movie on Seema put together with all the photos we could rustle up .Sheilachi,Ammuthiachie ,Shyachi & Aruna formed the "Kottaka" sisters quartet and sang as only they can .It was fun fun all the way .We even jogged along , holding each other’s waist ,as a  winding train .And so we broke in the new year and set the stage for Seema’s wedding .  

If your going to San Francisco

 

 

What do you say of a visit that is only for a three hour meeting  and involves 18 hours of flying time each way plus about two hours at each airport!! Exhausting more so because of a time zone change of 12 1/2 hours !!! All to ensure support for a business cause .The meeting thankfully was a good success and may well have ensured a better understanding of our perspective on what need to be done to grow  business for these products in India. These are not discussion you can successfully carry out over phone or video conferencing .It’s about the people who matter , hitting off a great personal equation .As our Chairman, whom I accompanied on this trip, always says , relationships are not formed between organizations but by the people who man them .

 

I did read up about jet lag and ways to minimize it .I think I coped pretty well mainly by taking note of the destination time as soon as I got on board any flight and re-orienting sleep for it . Food times would be called dinner , lunch or breakfast based on the destination times. Also drank a lot of water and orange juice … the stuff that Indians seemed to favour most when offered a choice of drinks !!! Completely avoided alcohol , including wines on the way up .. but relaxed a bit on the way back .

 

Did have a mild fever and cold all through this brief trip and I was afraid I was coming in for a bout of viral fever I may have caught from a colleague prior to departure. Took crocin tablets at regular intervals and kept the fever under control .Eventually was able to manage the all important meeting with out major difficulties and also got back home in one piece !!

 

You don’t get to see much or experience too much ( other than the in flight service and the quality and customer care of the hostesses .. will speak of this soon ) .Yet there was a lot to “ feast” on for the senses , even for such a brief visit .The SFO visit will always be remembered for the sense of history as we visited the “Innovation” Capitol of the World. This is the place where the life style changing innovations have been taking place over the last couple of decades .

 

This is also the place where the Indians have established themselves as  the s/w brains trust of the world and pitch forked our country from the land of the mystic to the land of opportunity .

 

Got to feel the pulse of the Indian community at a dinner we had with our Chairman and the local HCL Tech Managers .The restaurant was called the ‘Amber “ and was in a happening place where crowds gathered at the large number of International restaurants and street side eating places out there.

 

The restaurant was full and buzzing with conversation as is the wont in most places where Indians congregate ..very good representation , around 35 to 40 % of non Indians .Some tables with only Indians some with only non Indian couples or groups and some mixed. The Indians were holing there own .. This was clearly their land it was heart warming to see our country men so much at home and co-existing so well with the non Indians. The HCLites also displayed a bit of restless striving to achieve in this land of opportunity.

 

Baring this dinner , there was nothing else to fest my eyes or senses on .I didn’t know till I reached SFO that our very good friends  , Kavita and Vineet , where there and I could have easily extended my stay by at least a day if not two and got to see and experience more of  San Francisco .That will have to wait  for another occasion and another time .

 

The air hostesses where the only other source of  human engagement at close quarters and hence the opportunity to “observe” people of a kind at work !!In the SFO –Munich leg in Lufthansa , we had two hostesses of differing asset mix and temperament. One had great features and a look that could take her to the posters of any airlines .The other was  a plain Jane , in fact reminded one a lot of the TV serial Ugly Betty !!??But she had a swagger about her , a throw of the shoulders , a ready smile and winsome ways !!Kept calling me by my name and making sure I was being well taken care off .The other was well trained smart and correct .. but some how didn’t have the same winning ways .She would tell you about the choices of food and beverages available and leave it to you to decide .. the plain Jane made suggestions and urged you to try , and have a good time .

 

I kept the scrutiny going right through the flight and Plain Jane was out scoring the Poster girl all the way. But then as the final food & snacks trays were being cleared , the Poster Girl leaned over and with a touch of concern asked me if I was feeling better now .Guess the mild fever and tiredness I was carrying must have been showing and I must have been looking a wreck !!Maybe it could have been a touch of sadness that some times comes over me , or more still the effect of the soulful music I was hearing !! Whatever I was she finally displayed a sense of caring beyond the rule books .I  must say the Lufthansa crews in all our flights in the recent past have been of very high quality and very well trained .  

 

As we filed past the hostesses biding us good bye .. Plain Jane was around and she did give me a beaming send off !!! Guess I had “satisfied customer “ written all over me and she could be happy at a job well done .

 

 

 

 

 

Eye Catchers !!

Thought I’d write about some of the eyecatchers we met on the recent bout of gallivanting!!!!

 

Laura was the person from the event management team that took care of all our travel and stay arrangements, and like the last time at Rome did a great job. Helpful to the core , pleasant and clearly very duty conscious. She’s a great asset to the Event team , Peroni .A very good event management team !!

 

At times with worry lines etched on her forehead , trying to hustle every one into the waiting buses , at times with a really pleasant smile, welcoming us to the next venue and almost all the times being very caring … that’s how I remember , Laura .

 

The group, we have now come to know quite well , had several Indian ladies ,.Besides Deepa & Saraswati ,there were  Indian ladies from Singapore and from Vietnam ( I think ??) .The last named was a person of Indian origin from Mauritius , married to an Italian !!! All the ladies carried themselves with grace and dignity . Three cheers to the Indian women !!! Surrounded by Europeans and South East Asian , they where a very distinguished group .

 

In the group we had a Thai lady , married to a senior Nokia Manager .In Rome she had attended as a “partner” , this time around she was a spouse !!! I didn’t quite put her in the eyecatchers category in Rome , but this time at Milan & Monza , she did stand out !! Strolling around an expensive mall , window shopping ,we saw the two enter the Prada stores , the husband following with a wry smile on his face an a shrug of his shoulders to us .She eventually walked out with a swanky Prada hand bag !!! Could have easily cost close to a lakh ???!!!! Somebody said Thai partners are costly too maintain and we could see why !!!

 

She seemed a very friendly sort and good natured. Not particularly happy to be at the race track at Monza but never the less tagged along. Seemed to like Deepa quite a lot and gave her a huge hug and kiss as she said goodbye .. said she was planning to visit India !! We may see more of her soon !!

 

With us was lady from Indonesia , who had a moon shaped face , calm and serene and as Deepa remarked , a flawless complexion . At Milan we had dinner at the same table with this lady and her husband and an interesting couple from Vietnam. The Vietnamese lady was quite a character , although a very successful business person . She runs a garment export business & if I’m not mistaken a travel agency as well .On the race day she  wore a loud jacket which was printed as a newspaper !! I used to refer to her as the newspaper, when out of ear shot , that is !! Never the less she was an entertaining and an accomplished business person.

 

At the dinner table conversation went along briskly and at one stage we came to know that the Indonesian lady and her husband were very keen on another child , but a male one .They already have two female children and desperately wanted a male, to carry on the family business .The Vietnamese suggested that they could go to Thailand, where a doctor she knows would arrange for fertilization outside the womb and then implant an appropriate egg , to enable be certain of a male child .She mentioned she and her husband have been through this experience with the same doctor in Thailand and she swears by him !!

 

She did also toss on the conversation table a statement that women dressed for other women and not for men .I guess she felt men dont notice .Do know that on several occassion I was found napping as I would be asked what so and so wore on a particular occassion and I wouldnt have a clue .But off late I’m a bit more conscoius of these things .. I’m a long way off but I’m getting there !!Had to say though that while men may not focus hevily or exclusively on clothes , they do notice .. you bet !

 

 

 

 

 

Milan & Monza

 

 

Monza was an unforgettable experience .Never for once did I think that we would be at such a historic race track in the midst of the passion and excitement and the roar of racing cars! Even a visit to the Lords Cricket ground to watch a world cup final  isn’t some thing that one  plans, for but might just dream about .A visit to Monza was never in contention even in dreams .By now you can guess I wasn’t an F1 freak !!

 

So the excitement and anticipation was high, so I’m sure it was for Deepa, even if she was less of an F1 freak!! We witness the qualifying rounds on the previous day and then the race itself on the big day. Lunch conversation before we set off, was on the huge roar of the engines.. Some advocated compulsory use of ear plugs or we where in for trouble.. Some said they would not allow any one to wear ear plugs as they wouldn’t want to be seen with people wearing one and watching the great race!! In the end, we where in a special glass enclosure which shut off most of the noise.. Sad to say.. because it would really have been more fun with the roar of the cars racing by.

 

And racing past they did as they where going in excess of 350 kms an hour and when they passed the straights where we where.. all you got to see was the blur of cars zooming past .If you blinked you may miss them .The on site TV monitors helped us keep track of the entire race and the passion and  speculation on the pit stop strategies of the Ferrari  and McClaren teams kept us hooked to the race all the way through.

 

The atmosphere was created by the surging crowd of fans on race day .Most wore the Ferrari colours and you knew where the Italian passion lay on race day. The walk around the pit stop lanes was a memorable activity .There where huge crowds even for the 45 min long walk around.. I had thought it would have been more exclusive, but the crowds added to the atmosphere .There were not much we saw beyond the surge of people.. Did get to see Michael Schumacher at relatively close range but far from hand shaking distance.

 

And then it was time for the great race. The pre race line up with the marker girls, bevy of press photographers, officials and celebrities down at the race track prior to the race all made for the build up of expectancy and emotional fervor.

 

After the warm up lap, they where ready to go and off they went to the roar of the crowd.. Including the folks in our enclosure.. The race was finally on!!

 

Alonso was in pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari drivers , Kimi Raikonnan  and  Massa. I did recognize most of the  other names in the race from watching F1 races on TV , but all attention was focused on the top four .It seemed to hinge on the pit stop strategies of the two teams .. two for the McClaren team and one for Kimi Raikonnan . For long hope in the Nokia camp and in the crowds by and large rested on Raikonnan pulling it off . Specially after he went ahead of Hamilton .But with  four laps or so for the race to go , Hamilton cleverly squeezed past him and the race was clearly lost for the Ferrari team .The Nokia team was despondent and most of them left the race at this stage .. partly in disappointment and partly to beat the crowds dispersing from the venue .

 

We stayed on till the end and drove past milling crowds of disappointed fans .Their team had lost .There was no burning of chairs or throwing of water bottles or vandalism of any kind .They just trouped away disappointed .But will bounce back with hope for at the next race day .

 

 

 

 

 

The Alaps and more

Holidays are made ever so much more memorable by the company you have .For a visit to Switzerland early in September ’07 we had Jvr,Saraswati & their son Karthik with us .We’ve hit it off very well on such trips since our visit to Italy last year.Being accomodative, adjusting to the needs of others and sharing a desire to have a great time together made  for great experience sharing.
We landed at Zurich and imediately took a train to Lucerne , where we based ourselves for two nights before we moved on to Interlaken for a night , before we joined the Nokia Sales Conference at Geneva.
As most tourist do we visited Mount Titilis , Jungfrau and took wonderfully scenic train rides. The experience of snow on the mountain tops , the scenic beauty and the precision with which life runs in Switzerland I’m sure are what every tourist carries back .So did we .Being on our own and managing to get around and do all the things we wanted to, added to the fun.Managing on our own worked well with a bit of prior planning on what we would do.Thanks to the internet we could easily decide on just how we would spend the three days we had to our selves.One the one occassion we departed from the schedule for a quick trip to Berne , we did flounder a bit ,as we had no idea what to do once we reached there.That it was a Saturday and hence most places were closed didnt help.
We then headed for Geneva where we were most admirably taken care off, by the Nokia APAC team.Stand out experiences include a sledge ride with Huskies on Glacier 3000 and a helicopter ride from Gstaad to Geneva. The food was simple outstanding countinental fare with the best at Restaurant de L’Hotel de Ville , where the Chef Philippe Rochat gave us a great dining experience.On the reverse of the menu , which is now a memorabilia for us , is a brief write up, which best reflects the experienc we had :
" In the temple of gastronomy ,Phillipe Rochat now presents the great dishes of his mentor Girardet, for whom he was a student, right arm and alter ego until venturing out on his own four years ago.His creations reflect the the perfection,balance and attention to detail that are the marks of a great chef.For Phillipe Rochat ,cuisine is primarily about sensitivity, not just about about aesthetics.Quality of preparation and blending of flavours take priority over sophisticated presentation; the value of each flavour is acutely researched , deeply understood and knowingly intensified to reach the highest standards for which Philippe Rochat has become world renowned"
I’ve just added a couple of photos of some of the delectable courses we were served .For the vegetarians , all this was a huge problem as they could neither participate or appreceate the fare being dished out .The host however took care of them to some extent .It was tough going for them never the less .
The excelant food and wines completed a memorable visit to Switzerland .

Fast forward — Montreal

Remarkably different emotion to be received at an international airport and guided around by your son…..equally emortional when it’s time to say good bye .Deepa couldnt hold back the tears in her eyes.Dont blame her !!
Shirish has expensive and very refined taste and hence  usually took us to classy eating joints and shops.We didnt mind this as it surely was much better to give him an opportunity to dine well , with us.. it would have been less than acceptable if we were subsisting on fast foods and saving money for sight seeing and purchases of gifts and souveniours.Just as it was to be a great occassion for us , so did we want to make it for him also a memorable visit.In the end we managed our resources reasonably well , had a great time and carried back truely wonderful memories, in his own way Shirish had ensured this for us .
We dined at reasonably classy places and tasted or should I say gouged on an international cuisine which included Japenese, Chinese,Mexican ,Italian & Canadian food. No Indian food at all for us on this trip .
Our first breakfast was a typically large North American spread .You ended up being filled to the brim.The decor, the friendliness of the staff, and yet the sense of privacy made for a very pleasant experience.Shirish had ensured a good start for us !!!There was much more to follow such as the Italian spread at the Guido Angelina restaurant , the 3 Amigos Mexican food joint , a crepes speciality eatery at Quebec City ,reasonably priced Chinese food at China Town, Sushi at a Japanese restaurant and smoked meat , the Canadian speciality as per Shirish all made for the flavour of the visit!!
Bonjour .. the standard and charming greeting  and most often  with the intonation " may I help you" , is an enduring image etched in our minds, of friendly and courtious service where ever we went . Service with a smile is an extremely well cultivated art in the Quebec Region.How wonderful to experience friendly service .And when we responded with a "hi" or a "hello" , they would switch to english imediately with no drop in courtesy or friendliness. This is a place where tips are unabashedly asked for .. but then you dont mind a hefty tip when the service is so friendly .
Montreal mid town is very much a university town and the influence of McGill and the student community was every where .I had always assumed a cloistered University campus surround by high walls and lush lawns .Here the mid town and the university just seem to merge .I guess the university expanded a great deal over the years and so did the mid town and the two just collided !! We were very happy to see that Shirish was so comfortable in this international environment and was at home with the living style and scholarship needs of this university.Many we are told dont complete the engineering course and just drop out .. Shirish will be graduating with reasonably good grades and the assurance of a job at RIM , where he did a sixteen month internship .Valuable experience even befor ehe graduated !! 
Our guided tour to the Quebec City along with Shirish was another great experience.This is a city we would have loved to spend at least a day more and explore and soak in the culture and ambience of the place. We didnt do too much of travelling around and sight seeing as we prefered to be with Shirish as much as possible .He managed his classes , assignment, extracuricular activites ( including a foot ball game which we witnessed ) besides looking after our needs admirably .Hats off to the guy!! And our son has turned out to be an acrobatic goal keeper of fairly good standing !!!
A unexpectedly memorable evening was when we saw the movie "Once" at the AMC Theatre complex ( 22 cinema halls in all ) .This was a very heart warming movie and perfectly in keeping with the nature of our holiday.
That a slice of us resides in Montreal makes it a very special place for us .

Moving Ahead

There is just too much happening around me to remain in the past .There’s much I need to write about the key projects in Xerox , but this will have to wait a bit as I move fast forward to the present and capture all that has been happening while it’s stil fresh in the mind .Also want to shift gears gradually on a commentary of sorts on contemporary events and happening around me .Wil get back to the SMWG programme and the Service Outsource progreamme at a later date as these programmes remain very close to my heart .
Havent been successful in getting players in those programmes to jump in with their idea and thoughts , so will hold back for a more opportune time.

Transiting from Analogue to Digital

A key architect of this heart warming journey , were a team of analogue copier maintenance engineers evolved into a digitally competent team , was R Balaji , the National Tech Support Head. I do remember when we had proposed to him to relocate to Delhi and take up a National responsibility post a successful stint as the Regional Tech Support Manager ( South ) , he was very hesitent, and unsure if this was the right thing for him to do .This has always been a trait of Balaji , he deliberates a lot before he makes a move effecting his career .
 
The earlier encumbant Ajay Dewan had painted a very poor image of the role and hence the hesitation. I used an anology then , and have since used it several times , to get Balaji to think of his role differently. I told him that his role was like painting a picture on a very large canvas .He can choose to paint a very small picture or choose to paint a very large one .The choice was his.Roles in HQ’s for such support roles are invariably like this .The value of the role comes out only when a big pictures is attempted to be painted. Balaji saw the wisom of this and went on to paint a very glorious picture.His role more than any one elses was pivotal in this transition as he provided effective leadership to the support team under his command.
 
The first key player in the drama was Sudhir Putran .Sudhir was languishing in the West Warehouse in Mumbai on a refurbishing assignment , when we choose him to come to Delhi to be the Product Support Manger for the desktop  laser printers we were to launch. It seems so laughable how very seriously we had taken our ability or rather our inability to maintain printers as simple as the 4010 & 4011.Sudhir turned out to be an ideal Product Manager .He himself gained competence  rapidly and was able to lead and guide the team well. He served as a very useful information source for product performance related issues not only for the service team but also for the sales team. He went on to take up higher responsibilities and more challenging products, including high end printing systems and was a key resource in the development of programmes and training that enabled the successful transition . Sudhir’s multi dimensional capabilities also got him  roles in the Channels Sales team and in course of time he moved on to Compaq , then into HP on it’s merge with HP , were he was the Service Head for Channel Sales . He is currently the National Service Head of Lenova .Quite amazing for a copier refurb engineer.
 
With the initial inputs on PC’s and computer fundamentals provided by Balaji & Sudhir , the team’s thirst for knowledge grew by leaps and bounds.Those were days when laptops and PC’s were not so freely available ,and team members would return after an exhausting and tiring day maintaining copiers , to freshen up , then take over from the work controllers and other staff who worked on computers , to learn on their own .It was not surprising to find the eager beavers  working had at it late into the night and some times into the early hours of the morning  .The thirst for knowledge and upgradation of skills I guess is a fundamental part of the DNA of any good maintenance engineer.This zeal and the espirit the corp the team showered in sharing knowledge and working together to jointly build competency was another remarkable hall mark of this transition programme.
 
Another key enabler was the Digit training programme  .This comprehensive training programme  for IT & computing  skills was put together by a core team of Arvind Nayan, Jagan , Bhargab lead by Balaji .Several others also contributed to this collaborative effor and the names that come readily to mind are Muruganandam & Nilanjan Sur .The programme went on to receive acclodes from across trhe Xerox world and copies of the programme were also sent to other countries , Egypt being one of them if my memory serves me right.
 
I am going to invite as many of the key players  as possible to contribute and write about their recollections andthoughts about the Digit programme and also the transition as such