Friday, July 15, 2011

Another year

Every year around this time I write a blog. However much I have been away from blogging recently, I did not want to break this tradition. The previous blogs around my birthdays have been mixed with happiness for things I achieved in that last year, some dissatisfaction with slow progresses on some other things, apprehensions for what lies ahead and the urgency to do something magical in life. This birthday is slightly different. Even though I feel a sense of dissatisfaction, there is a sense of contentment that things will happen on their own time. Even though there are apprehensions, I get some confidence thinking they may be unnecessary. Even though there is urgency to do something magical, there is also the knowledge when things happen on their own time, they happen in the best possible way.

The last one year has been a very significant year as I changed relationship status from single to married, changed jobs and changed apartments. It is this dynamics of life that keeps me going every year, year on year. All that I want to be stable is the constant desire of doing something for the people of my country, something that can help them change their lives for the better.

I have written about it earlier, but would like to mention it again. Friends of Salaam Baalak Trust is the UK chapter of the established charity Salaam Baalak Trust which has been tirelessly working towards the rehabilitation of street children in Delhi since many years. I still can’t forget the experience I gained during the Indian summer of 2007 when I was teaching the students from 2 extreme spectrums of the society – the elite and talented undergraduates at India’s best St. Stephen’s college on one hand, and the extremely bright, but with latent talent school final kids of Salaam Baalak Trust at a not-very-posh shelter home in Paharganj. While I realised it was very easy to teach students who are talented and they know they are smart and inquisitive and there are all comforts available to teach and learn, it was a challenging experience to teach students who doubted each sentence they learnt - whether they would be able to remember it, whether it will help them earn for food, whether it will help them go mainstream ever. I have seen the brilliance in them, and they need us to help them bring that out to the world. Please donate as much as you can or forward it to people who would like to donate or just help in whatever way you would like (may be organising fund raising events in UK, US or India).

http://www.friendsofsbt.org/how-can-you-help

Coming back to my birthday, I want something magical to happen so that all of these children get all that they want. Something magical happens so that all the terrorists in the world stop killing as the last thing I wanted to hear was about another bomb blasts in Mumbai. Something magical so that all the health problems vanish and we feel hale and hearty always. Something magical so that we have love, appreciation, respect for each other in the world so that living becomes more fun and celebrating birthday truly becomes a celebration of life.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Biggest Cricket Mania

As most of you would have expected after reading my last post, I was super-excited about the India Pakistan match. So much so that I actually felt butterflies in my stomach the night before and could barely get a good sleep. The morning of the match was better - there was some sort of strange smile on my face bordering to depicting confidence that I felt for the Indian cricket team. As usual I had the colleague at work to banter with about the match. I went to work and she said that she would like India to win the toss and bat second because of the strong Indian batting line up. However I did not agree, I said if India wins the toss they should bat first precisely because of the strong batting line up. India chasing can be a little dicy because of a very good Pakistani bowling attack. Thankfully Dhoni saw the same argument and India decided to bat first.

As usual this gave me a lot of time to finish off some critical work on my plate and have a lighter second half. I trusted that Sachin will bat fearlessly and with élan and he has never disappointed me. The catches being dropped one after another played the role of a cameo in the middle of a horror film (so called because of the huge amount of tension on the field). 280 on the board would have helped, but with 260 I felt India needed my attention. I started concentrating on the strategies of the game and the performance of the players on field. I started concentrating on the available statistics. I started building a model in my mind, a forecasting model.

It was time to test my model. When I saw 3 dot balls to Younis Khan from Yuvraj Singh, I told my colleague that the next bowl will be out. Bang on target! My next prediction was the next time Harbhajan Singh comes to bowl, he will take a wicket. He came after a few overs as Yuvraj Singh and Munaf Patel were taking turns at that point, and giving away lots of runs, and just as per prediction when Bhajji came, a wicket fell down. And similarly I kept on making predictions to her, and wickets kept on falling, however after a couple of more predictions, I started putting a confidence interval around them. I know most of you would not believe me, but what I experienced yesterday was divine. The colleague of mine to whom I was communicating them was aghast in disbelief, but had no option but to believe at the same time.

Word spread around and everybody started trying to understand how I was actually doing it. Questions like if I have to bet my own money on my next prediction, how much I would be willing to put came up, as this would help get an ordinal measure of the confidence I have on my predictions. Even though I had convinced everybody that I have built a sophisticated model in my mind which was using all the statistical measures on the screen in front of me to analyse and come up with a prediction, the truth of the matter is that I believe it was simply something divine. I wanted India to win so badly, that just with my mental strength of wanting a wicket to fall down; I was actually making it happen. Can anybody justify how Sachin could get so many life lines in yesterday’s match? Probably not! The only answer could be that so many Indians around the world wanted India to win, implying Sachin to continue batting, that divinity had no option but to surrender again and again and again.

I want all the divine powers to come together stronger than before and make India win the World Cup. What a treat that would be to all of us who have worked as hard mentally as the cricketers on the field to help them move forward every step!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Cricket Mania

It is that time in years when everybody is talking about cricket and rightly so. We got Zee TV subscription on our TV just for 2 months so that we can see live cricket. This actually works well for me as the package includes Zee Cinema as well meaning some old Bollywood classics!

The crucial Thursday match of India vs Australia was a very interesting experience to watch, first of its kind for me, given I was at work. In the morning, I reached office but my mind was left behind with Zee Café on my home TV as I knew it will be showing that important match just in sometime. I tried finding out if any place in my office building is broadcasting the match, alas no. Just one café some distance outside the office premises is supposedly having it on, which I found a little unfair because had it been football world cups, all the cafés would have it on with special meals so as to attract the crowd. Cricket does not drive that much of attention in England, really strange for a country which invented the game at the first place, but rightly so now as the team is performing poorly, as also seen from today’s match against Srilanka.

Coming backing to my restlessness of what to do, I fell upon the usual option that people away from the luxury of television use – crickinfo! The best thing about this website is that in its minimised form, it keeps on updating the score which you can see. Given Australia was batting first, and I knew it is going to be close chase for India, I decided to only look at the minimised scores once in a while, maximising it only when any wicket would fall down. I decided to complete most of the work in the first half of the day, trying to make sure as much as possible that my second half is light, and I can focus on the match when India is chasing.

Things moved as per plan. I wanted Aussies not to make any more than 250, but 265 was still acceptable. I had been successful in getting over with most of the critical work on my plate. The second half began. India was batting, Sachin was batting. What a delight. The live commentary was getting updated on the computer screen within split seconds. Sometimes I really thank humankind for making the advancement in science, while in other times events like the Japan tsumani make me doubt it.

The experience became more delightful in the company of a colleague – a big Indian cricket team fan and a very superstitious person (she was minding whoever said that India is a good team and will win today – she thought they all have evil eyes and do not really mean so) and another colleague – an Australian with a lot of admiration for Indian cricket. After Sachin went out, one commentator said how he had just opened his one shoe just when Sachin got out. His colleagues in the commentary box have forbidden him to open another shoe and he is roaming around like that. Wickets after wickets that fell after Sachin’s dismissal disappointed my superstitious colleague who could not follow it anymore and went out for a stroll. While she was away, Yuvraj took charge of the game quite nicely, and so when she came back to her seat, I did not let her see the match. And very surprising to me, she agreed stating that as long as India wins, she does not mind not seeing the match. I wanted to go to the loo just then, and she did not let me get up from the seat, saying if India has now been performing well, I should just stay statue until the match gets over. And again, very surprising to myself, I agreed to her. We both said this is our sacrifice to the country! The Australian colleague noticed all this, and he could not stop himself from laughing his heart out. Obviously, because only Indians can do such things! He was very certain since the beginning of the match that India will win, so he was taking more interest in understanding the psyche of Indian fans, a country where cricket is more important than politics, Bollywood or anything else. Every sentence he spoke began/ended or used words like fountain, spring, river, water etc to remind me of the emergency I was in. And strangely that did make things worse for me. But I remembered Bhagat Singh at that moment, and his sacrifice for India, and decided not to give up to any temptations.

I know all this sounds so much over the moon, really exaggerated. I never thought I would be so superstitious. But whatever it was, I enjoyed my day a lot. The big boss who is himself a big cricket fan, later on shared a presentation he had given last year where he showed how a lot can be borrowed from cricket into our modelling world. Senior managers always have a way around of connecting work to everything they do. India won, won because of our sacrifice :-) Overall a memorable experience! Looking forward to an even bigger match on Wednesday!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Moving House

Over the past 3 and a half years I have been away from home (my home country India), I have been trying to create a home in the UK. This will be my 7th moving-home endeavour here in such a short span of time which makes my average time spent in one house just 6 months. The crucial point is that in this country, moving house every 6 months is not only exorbitant, but also comes with a lot of stress. The main stress is to find out a decent house which also fits in the budget. Some logistic specifications that we have, which makes the choice more difficult than usual, are as follows –

1. It should not be an open plan kitchen because in Indian cooking the smoke can bother the guests sitting in the living room

2. The cooker should preferably be gas instead of electric because it is difficult to make chapattis on an electric cooker

3. It should be a 2 double bed house with the second room being fairly good size and not a study (so that when our parents come over from India, they have a decent night sleep)

4. As per Vaastu the direction in which the front gate opens and where the kitchen and bathrooms are in the house, all play important roles

5. Just the feel that I get when I enter the house should be positive and welcoming (actually I have rejected quite a few because of not meeting this criteria)

Now you can imagine, with such specific requirements (some of which we are scared of even mentioning to the English agents around), finding the right place becomes a nightmare. And even if such places exist, making sure they fall in our budget makes it a rarity. Then the stress does not just get over yet, even by luck if you do manage to find the ideal house to move out, the whole process of shifting is a nightmare. I am a person who likes spending a lot of time planning and organising a smooth shifting. I like making sure that the D-day of moving out is not over packed with –

a) lots of packing to do,
b) loading all the stuff into the van,
c) unloading them from the van,
d) unpacking all the stuff in the new house and
e) designing the new house

Therefore, to make this transition smooth, I start the process of moving out one month in advance, with every weekend being like baking only one slice of a big cake. This weekend is about packing books while in the process identifying those to be marked for charity. We have already achieved this target, so I moved the target forward to include also identifying clothes to be marked for charity so that we could go and do all the charity submissions in one go instead of having to go twice. I have just given myself a break to write down this blogpost, but seems like we will achieve this target very soon as well. So I need to quickly think of another stretch target – hopefully I will not end up packing the whole house one month in advance of the actual day! This only remains to be seen. But you can sense the hard work we do during this process and moving almost every 6 months is not something I fancy anymore.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Women's Day & Bankers

Yesterday we all celebrated the International Woman’s Day. What makes it more special is that this year was the centenary year. At my work place there was a gathering to celebrate the accomplishment in which I took part. However, now when I sit back in my chair and think of what I gained from attending the event or by celebrating the Woman’s Day – not much really. My life has not changed since yesterday, I am doing the same job, living the same life and have got no additional knowledge of making it any better since yesterday.

However, when I think deep and question myself hard as to whether attending the event along with hundreds more women from around the globe for 3 hours (there were video conferencing facilities connecting all the offices around the globe) was really a complete waste, the ‘yes’ takes longer than earlier to come out as an answer. I guess what I achieved yesterday was some confidence. I can’t say that I met ladies from all walks of life who have done really well, because all the ladies in the room were bankers. However, what I can definitely say is that there were ladies from all around the globe who have done really well in a traditionally male dominated working environment of banking.

The Bankers Magazine in 1915 quoted ‘whether ladies will ever be considered eligible for the higher posts is, for the time being, a question too revolutionary for present consideration’, one of the ladies mentioned in her speeches. 1953 quote was ‘Nobody has yet had the courage to face the possibility of a woman bank manager’. And today in 2011, I looked around and found the room and all the rooms in the videos from all over the globe, full of woman bankers beaming with confidence. 2011 is quite different from 1915.

However, is it good enough? Are we comfortable that we can count such women in numbers? Did I learn anything from yesterday’s event that can give me the confidence that 10 years down the line, we would have reached a point where it would not be possible to count such women as it is today. Is it the responsibility of the society to ensure that we walk closer to this goal or does the onus lie on each one of us? What is my responsibility as an individual – to make sure I become one of those successful women, or also in some way try to assist others in becoming one? I would think the ideal answer would be to do both. Let's see how 2011 unfolds...

Friday, March 04, 2011

Movie Corner Buzz

On my onward and return flights to and from Mexico, almost 12 hours each way, I was on a movie spree, watched a number of them – and I must stress all GOOD movies. Here I will give you my take on each one of them, and I must add that you should watch all of them if possible.

The Social Network

This was the first movie I saw on my flight to Mexico and thoroughly enjoyed it. The movie talks about the life of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of facebook. What I liked about this movie was the pace with which it goes through, crispy yet detailed. The movie reminds you that there is a spark of entrepreneurship in each one of us; we only have to recognise it. It talks about the challenges to face and the pitfalls to avoid while kicking off a business venture. Watch this movie to take out the messages that you want to extract out of it.

Ratatouille

This is a very cute movie, it’s a story of a rat who aspires to be a famous chef. For him doing something as mundane as eating the left over food of human beings is not acceptable. He finds his passion in cooking and explains to his brother and mates the concept of taste and sumptuousness. The movie then becomes a lot of fun to see how he actually manages to become the head chef in one of the best restaurants in Paris, for human beings of course! Please do watch this; the kid in you will really enjoy this rather refreshing and imaginative movie.

127 Hours

Wow, what a beautiful movie. The movie gives you enough time to contemplate on all the things you do or habits that you have which may ever lead you to be in any problem. You promise yourself while the movie is going on that as you soon as it gets over, you will mend all your ways. I loved each and every moment of this movie. The detailed level of thinking the director has shown by capturing all the fragmented thoughts that go in your mind when you are in a helpless situation is mind blowing. Please do watch it if you can, this is not to be missed.

Gandhi

I watched this one just because of the inspiration I got when I saw one of the streets in Mexico city named as Gandhi Road, along with having a statue of the Mahatma. This made me think that however varied our opinions may be about Gandhi’s greatness, but clearly he has touched a lot of souls, not just in India but in far off countries where you wouldn’t expect so. I feel the remark from Albert Einstein that “future generations will find hard to believe that such a man walked the earth in flesh and blood” may well become true. The movie has a very nice and close to reality, description of all the events that took place in making Gandhi – from Mohandas to Mahatma. I felt very inspired and proud of our history, a part of whose present I am living today.

The Kings Speech

I dint watch this movie on the small screen of my in-flight entertainment, I watched it in a multiplex within a shopping centre called Reforma 222 in Mexico city. The conversation to figure out the ticket price and whether the movie is in English or at least with English subtitles with the cinema receptionist was purely based on sign language. I was not too sure of her answers, and took the risk of wasting the money if I ended up seeing a Spanish dubbed version. Well, thankfully that was not the case; movie was in English with Spanish subtitles. With only 4 people in the hall who were outside my normal range of vision, I felt like being given a royal treatment of watching a movie about the Royal families alone in a comfortable seat with a big screen while masticating an onion and mushroom pizza. What an excellent piece of art! I was thrilled and bowled over by the concept of the movie, and the honest and surreal depiction of that concept. Another brilliant recommendation for this weekend!

Lots of movies to keep you busy for this weekend! Have a good time, and get back to me with your thoughts here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Back from Mexico

I have just been back from a business trip to Mexico city - in 3 words I would describe the city as 'warm people', 'beautiful city outskirts' but 'polluted city centre'. The pollution in the heart of Mexico City really bothered me for the initial few days - red eyes and struggling nose. Air pollution is generally such a predicament, nothing is visible (as in you do not see a layer of black smoke or anything similar around) but the sensitive eyes and nose find it difficult to cope with change of atmospheric cleanliness.

Mexico carries with it a beautiful history, a history of the Aztec warriors who were invaded and conquered by the Spaniards. Over the weekend, on Saturday, I went for a trip to the beautiful pyramids of Teotihuacan. It was a spell-binding experience.



It is a day trip from Mexico city and I took a guided tour from the hotel. Given taxi drivers do not know any English and only speak Spanish (very strange for a city with such a proximity to the US), as a lone female traveller I could only trust my hotel booked tours. The day was well spent in the company of some other tourists mainly from South America and a knowledgable guide who portrayed the city's history as somebody who has lived there since ages and seen it all himself. The fluctuations in his voice added that extra thrill in every story he told about his great country.

I also drank the water from a Cactus plant called agabe, which after fermentation results in the famous Mexican drink Tequilla.



On Sunday I went to a small town of Cuernavaca to see a very ancient and famous cathedral followed by a trip to the Silver City Taxco. Taxco is a sweet little town with lots of silver jewellery on sale. With Mexico claiming to be largest producer of silver, you would expect the prices of silver in this silver city to be lower than anywhere else in the world, but actually that is not the case. On asked why so, 'we have to buy silver from the Government and this way they stabilise the prices and maintain its market price globally', a Silver jewellery manufacturer informed me. The city is on a hill, but the superior quality of mountain roads impressed me a lot.



Overall it was a good experience to visit Mexico. Next time I visit the place again, I will not forget to carry a pollution mask and with me a small vocabulary of Spanish words to communicate with the taxi drivers. Do share with me if you have been to Mexico and shared any similar experiences as mine or anything else that you may want to share! Gracias!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Back with house cleaning

I am back, back with a bang! I know every few months I rise like a phoenix only to get buried again by time constraints. Apologies, but I have been immensely busy with things. However, I suppose never will have enough time or thoughts to blog everyday. I can only say hats off to Amitabh Bachchan who always manages to find time and thoughts to blog even though his schedule is 10 times busier than mine. I will try to follow his foot steps. Just as in my previous resurrections, I have made a few changes to the look and feel of the blog including managing to get approval for the AdSense advertisement feature.

Apart from work which is defined as a job which keeps me quantitatively sound, something more closer to heart and interesting that I have been busy with is my charity work. A blogpost is due where I would like to update you on how 2010 was for the charity along with the recent developments of 2011.

2010 also saw some memorable trips around Europe, to be continued in 2011. The more I see different places in the world, the more convinced I feel that India is a miniature version of the world. It is the most fascinating country which contains the flavour of every possible geographical contour you can find around the world. If you disagree, then please forgive me as I am still in the process of validating the statement by visiting more places. The only thing that we need to work on to really make it a world class place for everybody is cleaning. Cleaning of not only the physical dirt, but also of the convoluted minds! I see the Adarsh Nagar scam on News channels and feel disgusted on the way in which the so called ‘rich’ people do whatever possible to snatch away from those who rightfully deserve things. This is unacceptable. Honesty and integrity in any profession is not too much to expect from anybody, therefore it is high time that we all clean ourselves up.

One thing that scares me when I am travelling in India, which is totally in contrast to travelling in European countries, is the quest of finding clean toilets. Can those who are in public services and reading this blog ensure that there are clean public toilets in your area? There was a point when I really wanted to take UPSC and become an Indian civil servant just so that I can ensure that there are cleaner public toilets than what are available. That dint materialise, but with growing economy in the country, I don’t think this is going to a major investment exercise for the government provided all the money is used for the cause instead of making its ways into the deep pockets.

Some food for thought for you here and some motivation so that you can kick off a cleaning drive in your area; may be the governments should keep awards for nominations of the cleanest state or the cleanest city in the country. Let’s not only have a Green India, but also a Clean India!