Friday, May 20, 2016


It seldom bothers me that companies merge, get acquired, get funded or try long enough for funding and finally shut down. But Nokia CEO and mgmt. team crying over the Microsoft acquisition does make me sad. Nokia 3310 was my first cellphone gifted by my father. And it withstood much metaphorical and physical battering. This phone was almost made of steel, it disintegrated into 3 neat pieces if it fell and could be assembled back in perfect working condition in a minute. It seldom ran out of battery. The audio was perfect. And thankfully as the era of “connectivity” hadn’t arrived – this phone did everything a phone was meant to do – talk , text, stay in touch, and not be invasive. I LOVED my 3310. And eventually had to trade it in for a touchphone after much resistance. My friends and IT team at work know that I kept my sophisticated touchphones in my cupboard for a year and continued using my Nokia as I couldn’t give it up. Maybe some people are just like that.
Nokia management team have so much to be proud of. They created one of the most reliable brands in the world and made mobile phone affordable and accessible for the common man. While I am not the expert on technology, I do know many who worked for Nokia and loved what they created.
I see some friends working in startups, some successful and funded and some not. Like Nokia if they do get acquired (or shut down), would they regret anything? I personally am full of admiration that they pursued what they felt was their calling and took the risk to make their dream a reality. Being
successful (or funded) has a lot to do with being at the right place at the right time. But being acquired by another company is by no means reason to believe that the experiences, the journey and the creation mattered any less to the customer.
I hope people can share Nokia’s successes and legacy, success for Nokia and other companies is so much more than just the balance sheet.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


As a kid I used to believe India has two communities except Bengalis - Punjabis and Madrasis. The divide between the north and south of India is possibly one of the most overrated and underrated beliefs of our times. Overrated as it actually keeps employable talent, infrastructure investments and people in general curtailed to one region while it could be more porous. And underrated as there really are a few essential differences which are way fundamental to be bridged in a few generations.
Up north people love wheat. Down south people love rice. Up north people have summer and winter. Down south people only have eternal summer! Up north the big fat Indian wedding can last a whole week. Down south it lasts a whole day. Up north you typically need to own a big bungalow and car to have arrived in life. Down south its enough to have arrived intellectually to where one desires, and walk around in Bata slippers. I could go on and on , but the point is that despite belonging to somewhere up north (if Kolkata qualifies as that) , I feel more connected to the south. And to me Chennai is the epicenter of the 'Madrasi' world. 

It might be an exaggeration of sorts to say there is no downside to Chennai. Of source there is the aggressive auto guy , the constant chettinad restaurants and the overall conservative homogeneity on the surface of things. However , this city has some character and unlike other cities I have seen. The trigger to putting stuff on paper is the visit to Mylapore this evening.

Mylapore is like a very traditional New York. Busy. Crowded. Street hawkers. Heavy traffic. Interesting little curio shops. And tonne of character. The air smells at once of fresh ground filter coffee , camphor and incense. The fulcrum of the area is the Mylapore Kovil or the Temple , which is very old and extremely beautiful. It’s intricately carved and there is a traditional water tank inside the temple. All around it is the temple linked economy that has grown over years. Small shops sell idols of gods, earthen dolls , toys for kids and  knick knacks. In Mylapore you have some of the best Sari shops with exquisite silk weaves from all over the south of India. People jostle around trying to buy stuff. But there is nothing aggressive about the place. The heat is unbearable. It’s sweaty. However people are gentle. And it’s a gentle evening.

A very dear friend recommended I check out Mylapore and the small curio stores there, and I am glad I did. The place echoes what I like most about Chennai. The people. Educated and simple, non-flamboyant and layered. There just might be an unassuming rocket scientist sitting next to you on the public bus with a packed lunch box of curd rice, but you’ll never realize it!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Old travels, old scribbles

Amsterdam ( Netherlands)

For first time travelers in Europe, Amsterdam is a must see destination. It combines the beauty of Venetian canals with the bohemian freedom of choosing to visit art galleries, museums, take a canal cruise , do your own barbeque in Vondelpark, soak in the sun at Dam square, take a look at the famous red-light districts or just spend the afternoon at the much talked about ‘ coffee shops’. Amsterdam has so much to offer. It has some of the best restaurants serving world cuisine. It has beautiful architecture that frame the canals and it’s a treat to see the bright windows studded on these old buildings. While in Amsterdam it’s a good idea to see the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam and Anne Frank House.
Most of all , it’s the spirit of the city. It has people from all over the world and is a melting pot of culture, ethnicity and experiences.
There are some great weekend getaways close to Amsterdam like Paris, Brussels , Antwerp. Keukenhof or the tulip fields, Volendam is a small fishing village close by, Rotterdam etc are good day trips.
Amsterdam is a place best seen at a leisurely pace. Rushing through the city doesn’t do justice to the place. So pick up a bite to eat and walk around town, sit by the canals and savor the beauty of this lovely city.
Travelers tip:
Amsterdam has great trams, bus and overall public transportation. You can buy discounted pass for day / week / month at the Central Railway Station. Try local cuisine while in Netherlands, its easily available and tastes great. It’s perfectly safe to be out at night as long as you are careful. You can also buy calling cards at the station to call back home – it’s cost effective and gives you sufficient talk time.

Paris ( France)

This city has always been heralded as the original city of romance. It has been the backdrop of much art, culture, movies, literature and music. And quite deservingly so. There are few cities in the world that manage to balance modernity  with  history as  well as Paris. From the right and left bank of the River Sienne that  is  dotted with beautiful old architecture , to the Sacre Coeur   and the winding roads of Abbesses dotted with artists and small French patisseries , to one of the best public transportation system.. . Paris has it all!  
 If you are lucky and  are traveling in summer, you will also walk alongside the river while street musicians playing softly on their accordion and violins , while you can just halt for a while and take in the magic of it  all. Stop at small Parisian cafes for crepes and coffee before you explore more of this enchanting city.  
Traveler's tip: ensure that you see the Eifel when it lights up gloriously at close of each hour . Buy  day passes for the metro  for the duration of your stay. The metro connects you to every part of the city and is the most economical and fastest way to travel. If you love Indian food, there are some excellent Indian / Pakistani restaurants near  the two main rail stations -  Gare Du Lest and Gare Du Nord.

Innsbruck ( Austria)

Anyone who has seen the movie ' Sound of Music' would have wanted to see the Austrian alps, and among the choice of towns  scattered on the Alps in Austria…Innsbruck is one of the must see places . Known as a tourist attraction for the Golden Dachl and other sights it has some lesser known secrets to offer.  
Not many explore the Alps on foot and that's something  one must try. Each day early morning a group  of mountain lovers departs from the city centre by bus to the foothills. You can even borrow trekking boots at no extra cost.  From the foothills the trekkers go up the hill on ropeway to the summit of the trek. The guides are seasoned trekkers and they know the distance, trail and difficulty level. This is one of the best ways to experience the alps as you climb with  other enthusiasts , pass cattle grazing on the meadows  and experience the beautiful mountains as they should be.  
Traveler's tip: try the famous apple strudel and herring sandwich. There are good hostels that offer nice rooms at affordable rates. Use public transport as much as possible. The restaurants near the train station have some good deals on buffet meals

Monday, June 20, 2011

Maggie and Chai

Scoffing at the humble Maggie Noodles was routine for me, as I saw my friends and cousins stir up a hot bowl of noodles through the years. To me it appeared a compromise of sorts to eat ' instant noodles' while there existed the more gastronomically evolved chow mein, pasta etc. All this attitude stayed with me till I did my first real Himalayan trek.
After 4 days of trudging up the cold slopes and eating half dried rotis with potato and pickle, I had enough! I could have killed for a hot meal of rice, dal and the works. Combined with the sub zero temperature, was the unending mountain slope, which just kept sloping up. For a first timer, this was as difficult as it could get.
In such hostile terrain...on an overcast stormy day as we tired trekkers lumbered though the last few kilometers of snow...did I discover my love for ' Maggie'. On a small clearing just across the snow...was a small man with a mobile shop of sorts...making hot tea, omelettes and Maggie. We followed the delicious smell till we reached him and stood there transfixed and he broke one egg after another and made the perfect ‘Omelette Maggie’ combo. He charged us thrice as much, and frankly I would have paid much more than that! Thus was the affair with Maggie rediscovered and has been rekindled with love on lazy weekends.

I longed to feel the same thing again...and as they say ' When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you get it :)
This trip to Mumbai was so special. It was raining cats and dogs...and everything else along with it. The skies had kind of opened up and wouldn't close.
I was staying close to the sea in Colaba and needless to mention the wind was wild...each time I ventured out, it turned my umbrella inside out and I had to get drenched. Despite all the hazards...I risked myself that Saturday morning to see the morning sea. The muddy brown Arabian Sea seemed lapped at the shores with a frenzy that scared me. Huge waves broke on the promenade and carried away stuff strewn on the road. For once I thanked my weight...the sea couldn't sweep me off.
I walked cold and windblown alongside the sea wishing for something hot. And there he was...out of nowhere a tall man with few plastic cups and a thermas of tea. He knew the look when he saw it...stopped unasked...poured me a cup...and took the money and left.
The cup of tea has got to be the best I’ve had in was regular tea spiced with some ginger and masala. And to stand in the rain...with drops falling into the tea…and watch the sea crash on the gate way of India.

For lack of inspiration, the ' Mastercard' tag line kept playing in my to Mumbai 5000 Rupees, stay in hotel 4000 Rupees, cup of tea on a rainy morning by the sea...priceless!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Rockstar!

I have met quite a few Pastors in churches across India in the last few years. They were wise, knowledgeable and had the special quality unique to spiritually inclined people.

This Easter was special. And I have concluded that the Pastor in our church in Pune is by far the most talented man ever. It isn’t an exaggeration if you read through the rest.

We were a little late for the Sunday service and tip toed to the empty seats. The singing wrapped up and the Pastor climbed the pulpit. In his usual mellifluous voice he proceeded to talk about Easter and brining out the symbolism of the rising of Jesus. He does speak well, among the best orators I have ever heard. The intonations of the pitch are perfect and he also adds a subtle theatrical touch to the talk.

I was listening to him, like the rest of the church, in wrapped attention. At a certain point in the message, he wanted to make a point about the story of how Jesus was betrayed and how he came back on Easter. Pastor broke into a song! I have heard him singing hymn before and he is melodious. But this was different!!

He had a tiny jingling handheld instrument that he shook with the beat of the song, and he broke into this almost rock like anthem. For a moment I was stunned. Everything in the periphery melted away, and I could only see our Pastor, standing in the pulpit, singing the song. If I had to compare it with any rock number I know, it would have to be ‘Hotel California’. The beats were kind of similar and so was his style of singing it.
His voice did the works…he slowed down , recited few lines in a different tone , had just the right accent and gave the finishing touches to a performance I’ll never forget.

The audience watched spellbound...I looked around to see people’s faces. Such talent is rare, combined with the kind of person he is. There was an element of surprise as well, as not many are musically gifted and instances of people singing completely out of tune is not rare.

I haven’t heard anyone of late who can compare with his voice, skill and ability to perform without any accompaniment.
For me, the man is a rockstar!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The music plays on

I spy a bit of winter blue sky broken by the branches of the gulmohar tree, with leaves browning in the dry air, and no sign of the blushing red blossoms that weigh its branches all through spring. The branches sway to the rhythm of ‘ thandi hawayein’ as Lata’s timeless voice goes on unendingly about the beautiful cold breeze.
Time doth fly. Am listening to a very old collection of oldies with voices and melody which till date remain unparalleled. Pity most of these folks aren’t around anymore.

Am thinking of Kolkata, when as a kid I used to be sent to a music school around my house. I loved music, but hated the regimental style of learning it. And to learn it from someone who I thought croaked like a frog! As a kid I used to despise the day of the week when my music teacher would come home and ask me to bring out the harmonium. She would systematically plonk it on the bed, make me sit opposite and then with a sense of grandeur sing a song that I would have to learn and sing the same way post practice.
I would occasionally gather some courage to say – “ I don’t like this song, can you teach me this instead”. She would size up this 4 feet something eight year old sitting opposite and then on second thought give in.
My mom would bring in the teacher’s tea and goad me on to sing louder. There never existed any sense of delicacy about the whole process.
In retrospect, it was actually quite funny. I would on purpose mess up the ragas, go off tune on Tagore songs and upset my teacher….till she gave up.

With my mission accomplished, I joined a little more democratic music school that I walked to post school few times each week. I would initially be intimidated by the enormity of talent around me. Most of my country cousins seemed so bursting with talent, that I felt pretty inadequate in every possible sense. I looked around and saw kids who would grow to sing and play music in big talent shows and with maestros like Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Zakhir Hussain. I usually saw myself in the audience and staring at them and clapping. I did harbour some fleeting dreams of being in the spotlight and in a resplendent red gown, with my hair done up with huge glittering earnings – entering a stage and all standing up to applaud. But it was a fleeting dream usually interrupted with my mom pulling my quilt off to get ready for school.

All of these musical rendezvous did end with pragmatism taking over…other things took priority. When I look back on all of this – I almost have an out of body experience. Doesn’t feel like it all happened to me. Seems like I was observing my life happening around me. And taking notes. Some of those notes make me cringe. Some make me smile. And some make me wonder, if it was really me.
The one thing am certain of is that if time could be turned around, I would indeed be in the black and white era, where most things existed in black and white. Where the white was white and the black was unadulterated black. Absolutes. Not many greys. And these golden voices sang unendingly.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Mom used to say that when she dropped my brother off to kindergarten, he would be the most composed of all the kids. He was a brave, independent child and not afraid of most things ( he's legendary…really!) . Anything novel interested him. But once in the school, the composure was challenged as he saw a dozen kids howling for their mother. Amidst the cacophony of the children, he would look confused over his shoulder and then decide to join in the howl. And there he would be crying, some real, and some crocodile tears looking more at the other kids and less for familiar faces. I have no clue how I was : ) Maybe someone else in my family has stories from my childhood, maybe not. I hope there are some stories.

But the story I like most was of my mom leaving me home alone to pick my brother from school, when I was 2 or 3, and me clambering up the couch to reach the low curtain rod and grab this delicate doll made of sea shells. All I knew was that the white stuff had something to do with the sea (Shomudro in Bengali). The colours painted on it looked good to me and in the process of admiring the tiny doll I obviously dropped it and broke it into a gazillion pieces.

Mom came home to see this apologetic looking kid at the doorway - and she tells me that I ran to her wide eyed and mumbled in baby tongue "Ami Shomuddo Bhenge Diyechi" which loosely means " I broke the sea". She couldn't do much except smile with such overwhelming apology coming from a kid who professed to have broken the mighty sea. And yes, I was spared the spanking and the tale was passed around to all and sundry.

Am home alone again, and know that even if I break all the sea shells around - she ain't coming by to chide me and make me understand that I can't break the sea.
And after all these years, maybe I do really miss all her nagging and bullying and coaxing.
Coming to think of it...lemme try dropping one of those bone china cups - just to be sure that she really doesn't spring up from thin air to give me a piece of her mind :)