A blog on journeys, great destinations and fantastic travel experiences

Monthly Archives: April 2020

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 23


India does not restrict movement of people for economic purposes. This has seen a lot of youngsters move from their home states to other states for economic reasons. Many times the home states may not have seen industrial development or the migrating worker may not own agricultural land and of course there is always the issue of skill. The lockdown has truly impacted the migrant labour and their employers and state administration have shown little empathy in dealing with their plight. The incident of DTC buses transporting huge number of migrant workers and dropping them at the borders of New Delhi – UP, migrant workers evicted by their landlords walking back home / taking refuge in public places or the one on 14th of April where purported migrant workers assembling outside a mosque in suburban mumbai expecting trains to resume. All these incidents collectively point at only one root cause – lack of timely intervention towards arresting fake news flooding social media or instant messaging channels. Once the incident happens, there are many analysts and conspiracy theorists dissecting the issue and in some cases even pointing at extreme political conspiracies. The reason the Hon’ble Prime Minister has established a direct connect with the people via his apps or other digital mediums is to ensure that people hear directly from him and not through other channels which are prone to distortion.

Other incidents of businessmen waving a letter issued by a Home Secretary of a state and zipping past policemen to a hill station have resulted in a lot of anger towards the establishment and crooked ways of the entitled lot.

Another day of calls. The HQ comes back with full force and there are scores of calls through out the day on various subjects. Chosing which to attend, is one adequately prepared, are there outcomes defined; if the call set up does not meet the above laid out objectives, better to stay away.

An analyst briefing is slotted for friday evening with global leaders joining in. Preparations are underway with daily time invested by a senior leader towards reviewing of content and in specific cases, taking it upon him to write them. Generous in praise and always ready to step in; this man has truly won some of our hearts. When a guy does it and leads by example, others naturally gravitate towards him/her. Leaders are great schools to learn at!

Lunch today was a nice sambhar with salad. Sambhar contained a medley of brinjal, onion and potatoes. Missing some crunchy fried snacks which normally accompany such dishes. The Mrs. is now dividing her time brilliantly between washing vessels, cooking and attending travel industry webinars.

A plate of rice on which there is a sambar of potatoes, onion and brinjal along with a green cut salad
Sambhar rice and salad

Mid way through the week, looking forward to the weekend and covering ground with discussions around college admissions of Miss and future of travel with the Mrs.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 22


A very happy Tamil New Year! The Sarvari varusham is here. The Vasan thirukanitha panchangam (thirukanitha – mathematical calculations to arrive at precise planetary positions thus determining auspicious time for various activities) has been an integral part of every household and a new one is published just before the new year.

The pink coloured Vasan Panchangam with Lord Krishna holding Govardhan mountain with his little finger
The Vasan panchangam with Krishna holding aloft Mt Govaradhan

A morning trip to the store to find coconuts is futile. Result is no payasam or coconut based fare. Never mind. Picked up a few flowers on the way back and everyone was ready to usher in the New Year. On the occassion, offerings are made of rice, dals, coins, cash, jewels and clothes to signify prosperity and good health. Prayers to the panchangam are offered as well. Along with all of the above thin and spiced buttermilk (Neer mor) and a jaggery + cardamom + ginger powder based water (panakam) is offered as part of the prayer. A mango + neem flower mix, boiled with jaggery signifying the sweet, sour and bitter experiences is offered and later savoured. All experiences are to be treated equally and accepted gracefully.

Prayer altar with photos of deities a lamp burning. Offerings of jewels, fruits, rice, dal, currency and coins. Along with neer mor, panakand a mango, neem flower and jaggery mix.
Prayer altar with photos of deities a lamp burning. Offerings of jewels, fruits, rice, dal, currency and coins. Along with neer mor, panakand a mango, neem flower and jaggery mix.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister wished its citizens celebrating New Year and promptly announced the extension of the #lockdown. We were now heading in to #lockdown 2.0. His appeal was based on the need to save lives and livelihoods. All arms of the government along with state governmernts were taken on board before a decision was communicated to the citizens of the country. The second lockdown was to extend until the 3rd of May. The severity of guidelines were to be increased until the 20th of April post which sector wise easing was expected. This was the livelihood piece. Of siginificance here is the agriculture sector which had to get back to work to complete the harvest and be in readiness for the monsoon on which the country is dependant.

The Hon’ble Prime Ministers address to the nation conveying the extension of lockdown

With the office headquarters in the country shuttered due to Tamil new year, the rest of the locations had a relatively easy day to contend with. However, calls that were already on calendars had to be honoured and those few hours were definitely required to get them completed. An afternoon movie on a regional channel was a good watch along with the Mrs. The movie was called Thambi.

Lunch was a simple Rasam prepared with neem flowers. The dish is a delicacy and is a great stomach cleanser.

With HQ coming back online, the day after was always going to be one where there would be no respite from the calls that infest the calendar.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 21


A busy week begins!

The leadership is keen to know the business pipeline and team composition. How to go after new business, what business to go after, should we talk about offerings valid in the COVID 19 scenario, what will we discuss to address their short term pain and also help them prepare for the long term ? Questions abound. Questions relevant to the customer are in many ways relevant to the family as well.

What is a family that has not saved and has little cash in the bank going to do if the lockdown and the expected slowdown stretches their finances ? Are the elderly protected from this storm financially ? The government is doing its best to ease the burden on interest payments but the pain just got delayed and is not totally out of the way.

The business unit strategy discussions are underway and 11 AM everyday is a scrum call to align on work completed, to be taken up and challenges.

Prior to the leadership pipeline call, the team call happens and a thorough pipeline discussion is conducted. How can we regularize the habits of the team with respect to tracking of activities that they own ? The company has provided multiple collaboration tools to make life easier but the world still derives pleasure by shooting of emails by the dozens.

Conflict resolution with dialogue and ability to take decisions is a culture that has to sink in.

Pipeline review with leadership passes of without any major incident. Getting to know these guys a little better and how their asks vary from one another. In this age of personalization, even in such calls, important to prepare from the perspective of what they would like to hear. Are we covering the deals they want to see ?

Lunch is a simple Methi dal and Cabbage + peas subzi. Skipped taking a snap.

Next day is regional new year festivals including the Tamil new year. An announcement by the Hon’ble Prime Minister has been scheduled for 9 AM on the 14th of April.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 20


Watching the news everyday leads one to think that the lockdown is not expected to end anytime soon. The Hon’ble Prime Minister is expected to make an annoucement before the lockdown ends on the 14th. News agencies are in to their job of speculating on possibilities. There is no end to FAKE NEWS.

A sedate sunday passes off without any major disruption. The regular cleaning activities are planned and executed. Rewarded with a simple and nice lunch of Rajma + Chawal + Raita. Pulses are extremely useful in the absence of vegetables. OTP + pulses can take care of a week’s meal.

Rajma chawal and raita
Rajma, chawal and raita for lunch. With such a heavy lunch, dinner is more or less ruled out

What will the new week bring forth ?

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 19


Weekend is here and out come the grocery bags for some missing items. Looks like the whole neighbourhood chose the weekend to get out; queues outside stores with people standing outside stores within circles maintaining a safe distance. People buying Amul butter in multiples of 500 gms, multiple condensed milk tins, multiple packets of all purpose flour; Not sure if they would have generated such volumes on a normal day. Indians are unit level shoppers and usually buy in sachets, single piece items and not in terms of value packs. In the future if an FMCG company puts up a notice that few of its plants are shut for maintenance for 20 days, am sure people will flock to pick up whatever stokcs are available.

Daughter has enrolled in to an online learning session on office productivity tools. Essential Word, Excel and Powerpoint. In crucial times, someone who is able to clean up an excel sheet or make a few presentation slides is more valuable than just a textbook student.

Lunch was Methi Thepla with Alu subzi. The recipe for Methi Thepla was from the original home cook tutor, Ms. Tarla Dalal. Adding a bit of curd to the dough makes the thepla ultra soft it seems. An enjoyable saturday lunch! Kudos to the Mrs. and Ms.

Methi thepla with Alu Subzi and gujarati chilli pickle with mustard
Methi Thepla with Alu subzi and Gujarati chilli pickle with Mustard

Afternoon nap after flipping a few pages of the book Midnight’s Machines by Arun Mohan Sukumar. Fantastic read about how India embraced technology post independence. A huge point the author makes is about how the leaders (PM’s) took it on themselves to communicate to the people on technology and in the process maybe did huge disservice to the people by not focusing on technology to enhance people’s lives. A notable miss is the semiconductor complex in Mohali for which we seem to be paying dearly!

The vegetable truck was in and people were lining up to stock up for the week. Not much variety in the vegetables.

Adai was back to reinvigorate the evening. White butter and jaggery made it the perfect combination. Avial ? Maybe next time!

Adai with Jaggery and White butter
Adai with white butter and jaggery

Sunday was Rajma chawal and the Mrs. had done the soaking of Rajma beans.

Good night!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 18


Officially a day off due to Good Friday but there is always someone who is ready to pile on some work with some cheesy and patronizing line like…”I know its a holiday in India, but can you please try and send me something by your end of day……”. I seriously wonder how executives survive without data at their finger tips. Dont they keep their own “Go-To” folder with all the data, essential presentations and key reference material. It takes some real discipline to get there and continue to stay. 12 monthly business reviews, 4 quarterly reviews, 4 investor relation calls and numerous adhoc presentations. So much material gets generated from such reviews. All one has to do is keep them handy and refer to them regularly for all inputs. Executives have to get skilled in basic excel and that includes tools like Power pivot and using templates in power point. What if support teams are removed or made exorbitant from a service stand point ?

Reactions on the win mail start pouring in.

  • Congratulations
  • Congratulations All
  • WOW
  • Its been a long wait but well worth it!
  • In times such as these, this is a fantastic achievement
  • Fantastic win guys ! Hey, XXX let us discuss on how we should organize to deliver flawlessly (sane voice)
  • Did you write this mail ? Wow! Really good one, thanks! Please support till contract is done

The one i treasure the most came in from a senior leader who specifically called out my leadership, efforts and not dropping the ball while juggling multiple jobs. Also highlighted how much the deal meant for the company and the practice. It is very hard to bring in the collaborative spirit especially with territories marked with a red line. However, the company comes before all of these and one has to only protect the interest of the company while addressing the needs of the customer. In such matrix organizations, ceding control is out of question. The moment control is given away, it is a dog fight with no real owners stepping in and it pretty much becomes like a dysfunctional democracy. Family’s happy as they were the ones to watch the effort going in to the pursuit.

One interesting perspective offered – this deal might have just saved a few jobs. Hope so!

Data collected for the overnight requested, prepared and submitted. An evening presentation with the executives lasts all of 45 minutes with requests for offline copies to work on. Another submission was finalized and readied for submission. Closure is important for everything !

Lunch was simple. An Amti (A tangy Maharashtrian Dal with Kokum for sourness) with Rice, broad beans curry and some grated salad

Rice with Amti, Broad beans curry and a grated salad
Amti with Rice, broad beans curry and a grated salad (Radish, cucumber and carrots)

Had taken ownership for evening dinner and towards that had soaked for Adai, a protein rich pancake made like a thick crepe. Soak a cup of Idli rice with a handful of raw rice, handful of chickpeas, green gram, black gram and green chick peas. In another vessel soak half a cup of a dal medley (Red gram, Moong gram and bengal gram) along with red chillies. The whole thing is ground after 8 hours and allowed to ferment. Creative additions like curry leaves, additional chillies, moringa leaves, drumstick leaves and onions make this a power packed dinner.

Adai eaten with Jaggery and leftover Amti
Pardon the shape but the protein power is top notch. Jaggery gives great iron and energy. Leftover Amti is for some brownie points for not having any leftovers.

A great week draws to a close. Need to chart out a course of action on how to design one’s life in the weeks and months to come.

Almighty’s grace is all over!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 17


Day for buying vegetables. Two options exist – purchase from the truck which drives in to the building campus every alternate day or shop from the fresh produce store 50 metres away. The fresh produce store seems to have a better variety and no queues. The downside is a premium for some of the produce which seem to have risen due to shortfall in supplies. A kilogram of cucumbers for example cost Rs 100/- (1.5 USD).

Fresh vegetables, fruits and greens. Laid out, washed, dried and then packed off in to the refrigerator. Advised to wash once more in salt water before use

The raw mangoes are useful for some pickle and the upcoming Tamil New year’s day festival.

The deal is done. An announcement from the customer is greeted with much relief by all parties. A strict cap on communication ensues and everyone maintains a steady silence on the outcome and saving the honors of communicating to the Boss. Drafting a note announcing the win with details of the effort and the people involved began. An 8 month pursuit takes a small building complex. Apart from recalling the names, mandatory to also recall the specific contribution; necessitated to avoid snide remarks later on. The ones who are left out are the ones who left the company during the course of the pursuit. 4 pages of details ultimately goes out as an attachment to an email rather than going in to the body of the email. How does one get the attention of the reader ?

Evening calls are becoming a drain on energies. 45 minutes is a barrier after which attention flags.

How to get people to solve their problems by themselves ? A culture of running to the boss to resolve issues of work assignment, priority assignment has to be uprooted. It is an antithesis to ‘collaboration’. What will it take for a team member to call another team member and plan regarding utilization of a shared resource ? How many are mature enough to do that ?Begun the process of withdrawing from such interventions by indicating explicitly via emails. What do you do when no one is watching ? Do you want someone always to watch over ? Ease the burden of reporting and elevate the level of engagement with the team. Each one is free to design the way they want to organize work for themselves.

The evening town hall call to report on business continuity passes of incident free ! Outcome is townhall with another business head. We have now become a presentation vomiting factory/deck churning factory ! Aghast at the number of presentations churned out and the dependence that a lot of people at leadership level have on associates to prepare material for them. No idea how it happens at various levels but this preparation is a mighty bandwidth guzzler.

Lunch involved a good amount of research by Mrs. This time it was a Dal Fry inspired from a recipe by Sanjeev Kapoor

Dal fry, Basmati rice and a lot of Salad
Healthy eating is happening by default – Dal Fry on Basmati rice and salads. The red chilli flavor stands out.

Mrs. is busy attending numerous webinars organized by tour companies from Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Good learning on new destinations and how to pitch to customers.

The win mail hits every inbox that matters and the responses start coming in.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 16


The calendar for the day begins by 11 AM and goes on non-stop until 10 PM.

Thanks to the speakerphone, there is practically no strain on the ears. Comprehensive AV equipment for working from home will become a great commercial opportunity in times to come i guess.

A townhall with managers is expected to communicate the state of the company, steps taken to continue customer support, appreciating the teams who have gone beyond the call of duty to keep work going on.

Lot of news going around in the company about curtailed projects, people without projects, loss of revenue and finally leading to reduced guidance for the year.

The deal is expected to be announced any day now. A few overexcited pursuit team members wanted to draft an announcement mail in anticipation. Politely turned down the request. A few pending technical queries were answered to the best of our understanding and presented in the same format that was used during our final presentation.

Exercise, chop, work, eat, sleep, repeat. Read, study, learn, listen are verbs which have been reserved for the weekend it seems.

Pending vegetables had to be utilized and fresh vegetables procured. To ensure, the Mrs. settled to prepare simple dishes over the next few days so that the refrigerator could be cleaned up. There was a vote taken to order some cupcakes from a neighbourhood baker who was waiting to jump at the mention of the word called ‘Order’. The cupcakes and brownies were ordered and a 24 hour window given for collection.

Lunch was rice, cluster beans curry, Tomato rasam and flame roasted papad. Ghee lifted the experience.

Rice with Tomato rasam, Kothavarangai / cluster beans curry and roasted papad
Tomato Rasam, Papad and cluster beans curry (kothavarangai)

The next two days could see a long deal journey come to a conclusion. Reactions and responses to be watched and understood for human emotions.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 15


Began a series of one to one connects with team members who joined us recently and understood their background in greater detail. Helps while drawing out specific career plans and handing in work which is to their liking. A morning session to orient a few new joiners on the industry we service and the offerings for the industry.

The vertical team is keen to draw up a strategy for the years to come. Teams are coming together to apply themselves for the next 12 – 14 weeks before a presentation to the board.

There are requests to constantly check on availability of delivery slots with an online grocery retailer. It is better to start making a list and have them ready before placing an order. Using Google Keep to keep track of favorites, making lists, saving long read items; searchable and takes in items of various MIME types.

Trips to the local grocer to buy immediate necessities like cereal, cleaning liquid, instant snacks, hygiene goods, cleaning goods happen in the timeframe before lunch. Post the purchases, wash of clothes and a bath becomes mandatory. The ladies begin their online purchases on an online beauty products portal, the Ms. and i begin ordering our health drinks on the cold pressed juice vendor. It is great to see these online channel based vendors beging their services as it can kickstart local economies in a small but significant ways. Food delivery chains too have begun delivering from restaurants who seem to have open their kitchens with a very basic menu.

One company that seems to have cranked up its supply chain & manufacturing and is benefiting from its distribution network is ID. Their packaged Idli, Dosa batters and parathas have become life savers for housewives and bachelors. Excellent packaging, interesting line of products and excellent pricing have seen their products flying off the shelves during this lockdown. Great Business!

The ladies at home have been reviewing recipes for Kadai Paneer with Rotis. Turns out that the recipe by Ranveer Brar was chosen to be replicated. Must say, it turned out to be on the money! Bravo!

Kadai Paneer with 2 chapatis in a plate
Kadai Paneer and ghee toasted chapatis for lunch

An expansive lunch like this naturally leads us to a simple dosa dinner. Two meals a day is light and filling.

Day winds up only by 11 PM. What will tomorrow bring ?

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 14


Another week has begun in right earnest. This week has two public holidays viz Mahavir Jayanti on the 7th of April and Good Friday on the 10th of April. Irrespective of these holidays, the fight against the pandemic continues across the world.

There is a clutter of news from across; surprisingly, there is no single agency is speaking with facts and without clutter. One area where everyone seems to be doing their bit is about donning masks and washing hands a feet. Thankfully, there is unity on this element even in the western world.

The murmurs around role of WHO, its chief Dr. Tedros, and acts of praising China to the skies have grown. THe President of the US has rightfully called for a review of the funding of the global health organization in view of the role played by it during the course of the pandemic.

Work continues unabated with the slow realization that one is expected to be online more than ever. On normal work days in the work place, coming home meant disconnecting. Here, disconnecting means, out for a lunch break, water break, even a dinner break and of course a trip to the store for stocking up on essentials.

Unknowingly, the afternoon lunch sessions claimed me on the first day of the week. A heavy lunch, empty couch, turned a 10 minute rest in to a 45 min nap. Consequence – missed a conference call. We are Human after all!

Morning Shambhavi Maha Mudra Kriya sessions have been extremely helpful in maintaining concentration and energy levels. Surya Namaskar is great for pumping the heart rate up, feeling light and keeping all the limbs flexible. The only thing missing at the moment is plenty of sunlight.

Preparing for a curtailed week but one in which a lot of action can happen.