Monday, November 26, 2012

Bro Bonding - Happy,but not Gay!

It seems a while since i wrote a full blog post which is not another travelogue or pic motivate. There is no waiting time for an idea that has arrived as they say! It’s been a while now that I have wanted to blog on one of my old friends – Vishal or aptly nick named Sandy by me and Rana (another common ex-colleague cum friend cum roomie of ours).

Sandy and I studied in the same engineering college – specialized in Electronics engineering, but we were in different class rooms throughout the course. Our paths hardly crossed in the first three years of our four year engineering course. In the fourth year – thanks to the extra-curricular activities we were involved in – Vishal leading the IEEE activities and yours truly dabbling in both IEEE as well as Placement Committee, we started to know each other and understand our existence. Our relationship was that of acknowledgement of our roles in these extracurricular activities and there was nothing like a “friendship” or common bonding between us. Neither were we friends nor were we trying to avoid each other. Both were however destiny’s chosen projects – when it came to the next 10 years of our life post final year of engineering – 2002.

Thanks to my participation in the students placement committee of our college and the impending recessionary clouds left by the Internet Dot Com Bubble of 2000`s, not many of us got campus jobs after completing a torturous 4 year engineering course! Vishal & I were sailing on the same boat and were going about our own ways of hunting jobs – not crossing our paths between May and July of 2002. In August’ 2002 we both were invited by Infosys – along with other batch mates and the larger strata of Mumbai's engineers for one of those “entrance tests" in one of the colleges in Mumbai. Such examinations are conducted by the dozens in India by Public Services, Banking Industry, but was probably being conducted for the first time - out of campus by a reputed Private company. We cleared the written test, sailed through the interviews and got our offer letters on Sept 5th 2002 (I am thankful to god that i used to check SPAM mails then and not DELETE any emails! The appointment letter landed on my SPAM folder!) After a 4 month long ordeal of being jobless and watching other batch mates start going to their first job and getting monthly salaries, we felt life wasn’t too bad. (Interesting point to note that post 2002 - the flood gates opened in Indian IT organizations and they started ramping up from being a 15,000 strong organization to 150,000 - 200,000 strong organizations now in 2012).

We both connected with each other then and thanks to the fact that we had a common alma mater in our engineering college, our residence in close by suburbs ( Thane & Mulund) – we geared up with other likewise friends to prepare for being in Infosys Bangalore from end September – the first job of our lives! The Infosys job was destiny's play to probably bring us closer over the years. Be it the shared frustrations of being jobless before we started, or discussing pressures of day to day work life – that we did quiet often since we were sharing our accommodation with other room mates. We spent a total of 3 years – sharing common accommodation across cities like Bangalore, Pune which deepened our understanding of each other and our resultant friendship.

Over the years, the mutual interests that have connected us well include (not an exhaustive list):

a) video games – we totally exploited Sandy’s X-Box in 2003/ 2004 / 2006. I always wanted to buy a video game console for myself, but guess never was able to buy one. Maybe loosing to Sandy on a “Dead or Alive” game fighting down was better than solo single player escapades from reality?

b) Toastmasters Club – we both joined this amazing movement in Bangalore – through the local Infosys Toastmasters Club. We donned various roles during meetings, gave various projects from the CTM Manual and also were office bearers. That spark from Infosys Bangalore was also further implanted in Infosys Pune, when we started the “Lets Talk” public speaking club, which was then certified as a fully functional Toastmasters club. In fact i had posted about “Lets Talk” on this link in 2004. Pls click here

c) Hanging Out & Movies: We painted “Bangalore” red by hanging out in Brigade Road – MG Road – Commercial Street and by watching most of the movies in single screen (multiplexes were just gaining an entry then) theatres over weekends with other room mates or by renting DVD’s and watching it indoors. Some of the good times we have had as room mates is also captured on "Tribute to Bangalore Roomies" at this link.

d) Blogging: This has been an “acquired” taste for us over the years. Sandy’s blogs have stayed true to the internet and have been descriptive, detailed – articulating his travel and travails as a global nomad across India, China & Americas. He is now dabbling very well by blogging on areas out of his comfort zone. You can access his blogs here. One of the blogs on this site - Dogs take on corruption was an inspiration i derived when we were together at the Registrar office in Thane, India in April 2012.

e) Humour:  Over 10 years – there have been so many shared memories now that we have a pulse on each others sense of humour and those incidences from 2002- 2006 that still makes our face break into a smile if not a passing laugh. Be it “SaSa” and his pink tubelights or the innocence of “Tatya Vinchoo” – our dear roomie, “Sasuma” or “Boss”– we chose to exploit humour in the most unusual circumstances!

f) Being Spontaneous: Doing as crazy a thing like putting up a tent in the living room of your apartment and enjoying a beer inside, playing “Holi” inside the walls of our 3 BHK late at night – back from office or diligently weaving a story on the fly and selling ourselves as poor students from Sangli to bargain a piece of kitchen and bathroom ware from a “Marathi centric” seller in Kothrud, Pune - we guys have done it all!

g) Enjoying Outdoors: We have jointly done the “Bababudanagiri / Mullaianagari” Trek with other roomies and also the 40km cycling trip to Manchenbelle dam. Blog for these trips are also available online - Manchenbelle Trip Blog or Mullaianagari Blog ! Look forward to another outdoors in the coming years!

g) many more – but will reserve it for some other blog!

Sandy has been “God’s Saviour” on many occasions – the most important ones during my home moves. When i moved in from Bangalore to Pune - following Sandy (he moved a month earlier to me), i had pushed some luggage through him to Pune. When i landed in Pune – a city where i knew no one – Sandy had come to pick me up at the station – ready to embrace the tonnes of baggage i had carted out from Bangalore. Even when i was moving back from Pune to US or while i was moving houses in the US, i had Sandy with me in Connecticut, helping me shift through boxes! He was in Connecticut for a group re-union and didn’t mind lending a helping hand for the shifting! I should ideally feel guilty for taking advantage of his helpfulness so much. However i know i can depend on very few people and he is in that short list of mine!

We no longer work for Infosys. We are still very much upto date on our lives. We do speak often  – almost once/ twice a month and keep connected through GTalk, Facebook and our Blogs. Sandy is currently in a very interesting part of his professional journey, a journey not many undertake. I am sure all the positive elements of nature will conspire to help him achieve the pinnacle and realize his potential.

As i said - there is no waiting time for an idea that has arrived! This blog idea has been niggling my mind for some time now. I chose to reserve it till Sandy’s Bday in December, but can’t help – the time of this idea has come!

And by the way if your mind just went a tad mischievous – we are “Happy, but not Gay” !
DC & Sandy rocking @ Thane, India

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Road to Success

The road to success will never be smooth. It will be full of obstacles (stones). In your road to success, you are the lone traveller along the path. Through the enablers you have (like family support, education, support from work/ school) you can decide the obstacles you want to physically/ mentally remove or avoid. It`s your journey and your own personal accountability to make this journey a success.

About this pic:

1. This picture was taken in Feb 2009. With the TCS Toastmasters Club members, we had gone for a day outing to Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP)  in Mumbai, India. SGNP is one of the largest protected forest covers in Mumbai. It encompasses an area of 104 square kilometres and is rich in wildlife, flora fauna and bio-diversity

2. TCS Toastmasters Club had organized trip in conjunction with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) – which has been promoting the cause of a natural India for over 100 years. Objective of our trip was to not only do team building activities, but also enjoy nature and get educated on it. We went on a long nature trail as a group of 20, and during that trip, this snap was taken.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

UK: Leedsify! Walk along Trans Pennine Trail

The English countryside is one of the most beautiful and picturesque sceneries your eyes can ever capture and store in the hard drive of your memory. The countryside can be enjoyed by a combination of road trips, cycling or by walk. A lot of the walking paths are made in such a way that they criss cross through small towns, cities and villages. They give you a sneak peek into the myriad of beautiful landscapes, houses, Pubs, churches, small ponds, waterways, waterfalls and lush greenery.

Most famous of such trails are  the Trans Pennine Trails (TPT). TPT is an exciting route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders linking the North and Irish seas, passing through the Pennines, alongside rivers and canals and through some of the most historic towns and cities in the North of England.The Trail from coast-to-coast between Southport and Hornsea is 215 miles (346Km) long. A north-south route connects Leeds and Chesterfield and a spur to York means there are approximately 350 miles (560 km) of Trans Pennine Trail available to explore. You can walk, jog or cycle along this entire route!

The Trans Pennine Trail is mapped and signed all the way, mainly traffic free and is surprisingly level considering the dramatic scenery along the way. Easy gradients and surfaced paths make many sections suitable for families, gentle exercise and people using wheelchairs and pushchairs. So whether on foot, horse or cycle; for a day or longer; alone with friends and family - the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) can offer something for everyone.

One evening while walking along my apartment complex near the Royal Armouries I accidentally discovered the TPT criss-crossing Leeds – right outside our doorstep!  My inquisitiveness and subsequent research on the internet revealed that this was the Trans Pennine Trail  - TPT Central part connecting Leeds and Chesterfield. The Central section starts by the royal armouries in the centre of Leeds and travels alongside the Aire & Calder Navigation before skirting Wakefield and continuing south to cross the east-west route at Barnsley. There are a number of route choices through Sheffield and Rotherham before the Trail heads to its southern-most point at Chesterfield.
River Aire by Royal Armouries
I wasn’t dressed in a gear suitable for a long walk/ jog – but decided to give the adventurer in me a little more push as I started packing my walk. I started the walk from the rear of the Royal Armouries, following the course of the River Aire and inched my may forward with a feeling of adventure and enjoying the beauty of nature. Luckily it was summer and the weather was kind – in the mid 20’s.

Two ducks on the path seemed to be trying to impress each other and get into a relationship, unfazed by the public gaze of my eyes and camera. TPT is a special place for even wild species!

As I walked further, with no hint of a sweat on my brow or any hint of discomfort (since I was into active outdoors in a small way after a long time), my eyes tried to capture as much as they could. Be it churches, apartments or even trees lining the walls of the river Aire flowing through the canals, I captured it all – thirsty for more of natural beauty and serenity.

 I decided to look back after walking non-stop for about 20 minutes, waving past other fellow walkers and cyclists and couldn’t be better rewarded than a tinge of blue skies, run down mills dotting the skyline with their brick red colour, the greenery of the bushes and the water trying to pull all colours onto it.

Some nice wooden bridges over the River Aire make it more memorable. Especially the sight of seeing this narrow boat slip quietly under the bridge piercing through the stillness of the water like "a preacher on a mission with his mesmerising sermons" was breath taking.  I exchanged smiles and waves with the folks enjoying their narrow boat trip.

As I got down the bridge and started walking further down, slightly panting and gasping for breath, couldn’t be more delighted to see the river, greenery blending in harmony and underlined by the wild yellow flowers underlining this magical moment.

If the above wasn’t enough – waiting further ahead was this nice and compact waterfall – looking ferocious, but still calm. The sound of water flowing down filled the air around and could easily set any avid nature lover into a trance.

If you walk five minutes from this point, further on you will hit the “Thwaite Mills Museum” – one of the famous working water powered mills (powered by River Aire) in Leeds. It was 40 minutes since I had started this adventure and I thought I should resist visiting the Mills and keep it for some other day!

I walked back – enjoying the same experience – almost like a cassette tape on “rewind” mode and headed back to Royal Armouries in under 40 minutes. What a discovery it was! I managed to excitedly go back and share all this with my wife and enough enthusiasm was built up for atleast 3-4 four such walks together this summer.

With the river Aire on one side and houses and scenic greenery, old mills, churches on the other side, walking through the calf path laced with stones, mud and grass was indeed a dream come true and an adventurist’s delight!

A must see for anyone who likes to go “off the beaten path” to enjoy the simple joy’s of nature around you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

UK: Leedsify! Leeds Minster /Minster and Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds

North face view of Leeds Minster

The Leeds Minster is an imposing structure of cultural and structural importance that underlines this city. There are two imposing buildings in Leeds that you will always stay etched in your mind – Leeds Minster and Bridgewater Place ( a modern commercial cum residential complex in an odd shape). The Leeds Minster, (formerly Leeds Parish Church) has however been the more senior, having witnessed this city transform from a sleepy industrial town of mills to a modern epicentre of business in England outside of London.

A church has been onsite of this area since 7th century. This modern building visible in this picture has been a result of the re-building done over the last few centuries. This year the Parish Church got its due credit by being declared as “Leeds Minster” in September 2012.A Minster is the evolution of the church to perform higher duties to the local communities. Not many churches get promoted to become Minsters!
Side view - Maude Street car park
If you happen to be around the Leeds city center area – near the Leeds Coach Station, Leeds City Market or the Corn Exchange or the area around, you can always spot the Minster giving a beacon of permanence to locate yourself in the city center!

Seen from the swamps at Brewery Wharf
A remarkable testimony to changing times in Leeds!

As seen from beginning of Trans Pennine Trail


Having spent a year in this lovely city in England, its high time i gave the city its due credit by blogging on it.

In a nutshell, Leeds is 
  1.  The fourth largest metropolitan area outside of London in England
  2. UK's largest centre for business, legal, and financial services outside London, and its office market is the best in Europe for value
  3. Very renowned for education (thanks to the University), shopping (some of the biggest shopping districts outside of London are housed here), clubbing (variety of clubs, pubs) and outdoors and entertainment (Royal Armouries, Leeds City Museum, Canal Walks along Trans Pennine Trail etc)
In the last one year, i have discovered quite a few facets of this beautiful city with my wife and family members. Sharing this with all folks through some pictures and the descriptions!  In this series of Leedsify! i cover some of those lovely places which one shouldn’t miss visiting/ walking around while in this city.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It all started this day last year!

Leeds City seen from Etap hotel
Exactly a year back – this day i landed in the UK – thanks to a new deputation posting to Leeds, West Yorkshire. Time flies so fast! It was as if only yesterday i was looking down the 7th floor room of my Etap Hotel in Leeds City Centre, trying to place myself in yet another country in the last 3 years.

The view itself was a strong statement and made me feel lost between two extremes – letting go of my baggage of memories of first day in the US and Norway and the other extreme of soaking in charm of England through the eyes of this wonderful city called Leeds!

Time flies as they say. Can’t believe that i have already seen a full cycle of life, seasons, festivals, work in this country! It has definitely been a different and rich experience being here in England. I have started liking my jacket potatoes, wanting crisps or chips with my British meal, enjoying the rich countryside, pubs, tea rooms and the BBC news in the mornings. However, i do know that a virtual India exists in this country just 5 minutes away from you- where i can walk into the Tesco express convenience store below my apartment and get a Garlic and Corriander Naan bread – 10.30 pm at night! Indeed - home – yet away from home!

As the travails of this wanderer continues – aimlessly drifting like a dry leaf on a summer breeze, it will be good to know how the next few years unfold in this magnificent land or some other land?

Another view of Leeds city from Etap hotel

Thursday, November 08, 2012

"The beautiful butterflies" by poet Sanjana Iyer

My niece Sanjana is young, but has a way with words. Glad to share that her poem and picture were chosen amongst many other entries in her school and other schools in London to be featured in the “Wild World” Magazine issued by National History Museum, UK. I got a scanned copy of the printed edition from my sister and here is the Poem from Sanju titled “The beautiful butterflies”. Pls note that the bright and bubbly butterflies in the pic below are also drawn by our adorable and enthusiastic poet.

Sanju got a book on “Bugs” as a present from Wild World. Here’s wishing all the best to our dear Sanju aka Ubbu to develop her writing career!

About Wild World:
Wild World is packed with 32 colour pages of features, fun facts, competitions, puzzles, posters and much more. You can enjoy a special feature on the top 10 lethal weapons of the natural world, hear from TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham, and there's an opportunity to help name a wasp.More on it at

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Think Ahead, do not brood over the Past!

The car windscreen in the front is always bigger than the rear view mirror or the rear windscreen. This is to ensure that you look ahead more clearly than behind. Don’t brood over the past. Pick up the learning`s from your disappointments and failures and look ahead with new rigor, energy and enthusiasm!

About this pic:
1. This pic was taken inside a Taxi while i was in Kolkata, India in August 2012.
2. My work takes me to this magnificent city in the eastern coast of India quiet often. Kolkata is a a blend of modern world with the old world. The city never amazes to give you a feeling of being in the 21st century and simultaneously being in the British era or even before that (which was centuries before).
3. Most of the taxi drivers in Kolkata are people from neighbouring state of Bihar. Bihar's political climate and job opportunities have forced people to look outside of their home state for their daily livelihood since years. However the scenario is now changing with a stable government and pro development mindset from the current Chief Minister of Bihar - Mr. Nitish Kumar. Years down the line it would be interesting to see who takes up this vacant seat of a taxi driver - the intellectual Bengali or the hardworking Bihari!

Dog's take on corruption!

The government offices serving the public in India are notorious for two things – freedom of entry to anyone and machinery that works only when the palms of the key officers are greased. Behind my ass is the Registrar office in Thane, Maharashtra, India. Day in and day out me and my friends enjoy our morning and afternoon siesta’s on the cool flooring of this office. Sometimes we are rudely awakened and driven away by visitors who are not “dog friendly”, but at other times, we mutually co-exist with the officials. I have seen numerous apartments and properties being registered in and around Thane area right under my nose and behind my ass (especially when my ass is facing the entrance to the offices). Touts, agents and house buyers intermingle and jostle for space in the limited seating and standing area, before being ushered in to sign in front of the Registrar on their house deed. Though money changes hands quiet often between these entities – the amount you would see on the stamp duty and registration receipts would always be lower than the one that changed hands. All this has been happening for years together, right in front of the portraits of erstwhile national leaders of India – of Mahatma Gandhi, Balasaheb Ambedkar or Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Though all three would have cringed in their grave to see this current state of affairs in India, even the latest addition to bring in transparency to public services – the computer in the background – feels disgruntled and lost like a veteran losing the battle against transparency and corruption.

Well – to hell with you humans...i continue to enjoy my siesta and see umpteen houses change hands and hence feed into the families of those numerous middlemen, touts and government officials.  At times i get lucky to be rewarded with some snacky titbits thrown at me or a small pat on my body from an odd street dog lover.  They say, one can never straighten a dog’s tail – no matter what. I would say – corruption is so ingrained in you humans that my tail can be straightened perhaps – but not your habitual offence on corruption!

Bow Bow!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

March up, keep the tempo on

Each step of the corporate ladder will be full of fun, frustrations and difficulties. As you climb each step (symbolic to spending 1 year in your professional life), you will keep having fun, challenges and difficulties. A lot of times the difficulties and challenges may make you want to climb down the stairs. This is the moment when you hold onto your nerves and continue climbing upwards. You can take a deep breath momentarily, but keep marching up, keep the tempo on! Once you reach the pinnacle of your professional success or career, and as you look back it will all be memorable!

About this pic:
1. This pic was taken during our walk around the City Walls of York in Yorkshire, England, during a cold summer evening in 2012.
2.  York is one of the most famous Roman cities in the UK.
3. There is a blog written on the City of York. To read it, pls click here