Thursday, October 30, 2014

Incognito - Phoenix market City, Pune

Incognito - A small cozy place, on the first floor of Phoenix market city, came highly recommended, we went here after a tiring shopping experience. I have come to the decision that nothing beats the comfort of online shopping (more on this later).
The restaurant was pretty empty at 1.00 pm on the day of Padwa, during Diwali, which was absolutely perfect for us. However, the tables are so laid out that there is not a single table away from the speakers blaring music, well maybe not blaring, but you know how you want a quiet lunch experience after shopping? No? Anyway, we did ask them to lower the volume and they were kind enough to pretend to do so!

Down to business -

Drinks - We ordered the 1 liter keg of beer - Kingfisher. Standard fare - fresh, cool, nothing to dislike, though they do have the standard menu of cocktails and mocktails. Do check out the offers on beers, they have plenty of those.

Entrees - This is not one of those restaurants whose menus resemble big fat books, you are not spoilt for choice, but the options are varied enough to keep it interesting.
 I will definitely recommend the chicken wings - yummy, soft, succulent with a good dip.
We tried the Chicken Yakitori - and it was delicious. The chicken pieces were cooked to perfection and the highlight of the dish was the wasabi aioli - creamy, tangy, sweet and yummy!

I was too full to order anything else, but Sagar went ahead and ordered the thing that they are known for - the steaks. He ordered the Fillet Mignon, i am not a big fan of beef - but i will not go ahead and recommend it without reservations. We ordered it to be medium and received an overdone steak. The bearnaise sauce was next to invisible, making it very dry.

We skipped the desserts - Mad over donuts is situated in the same complex - it would be a crime to even think about any other dessert!!!

The service was good. Our server was patient, possibly new, so eager to please, enthusiastic and nice. The service time was fast. We did not have to look at our watches even once!

The decor is cozy, yellow and warm. Sleek wooden tables and chairs. There was an interesting looking lamp shadesque light above our table, casting soft light on the table. The decor was as you would expect at any such restaurant - the essential Bob Marley poster, beer slogans, a wooden ship, "Keep calm have beer" frames.

Last words - give it a try! The entrees are good - skip the steaks and possibly try the pastas.

1. Incognito - F-66, first floor, Phoenix market city.
2. Contact - 020 - 30950592
3. Other reviews

Favorite bites 

Chicken wings 

The keg

Sunday, October 26, 2014

From noise to silence

Years 1-10: Diwali was about food - sweets to be had without any limitation or reprimand, more the better. Clutching my grandmom's saree as the firecrackers went off - with a loud bang, wondering what was so thrilling about these scary things that made so much noise. It was a time when no one adhered to food and bed times, where we would huddle around my granny and she would tell us exciting stories of Lord Ram, his return from vanvasa and the celebrations that followed. This was as close to a child's dream place as i could be. Diwali was much awaited.

Years 10-18: Diwali was about holidays - no more school worries, cousins coming over, meeting extended families and gorging on delicious foods. It was about getting up early, and having a bath before sunrise and giggling and teasing younger siblings with scary stories of hell on narak chaturdashi. This was also about bursting fire crackers - louder the better. It was about getting creative and introducing firecracker games - how to light up all of them at one go, synchronizing time and movements. The fascination of watching your "rocket" blast into the sky and the amusement that a dud rocket would bring on - the heart stopping process of getting close to a rocket that refused to take off and confirming that it in fact was a dud! Diwali meant a lot of things to look forward to - break from school routine, cousins, food, fire crackers and all nighters (all this fun without alcohol, who would have imagined!)

Years 18 - 25: Celebrating the first two days of Diwali away from family - with new friends, and dinners and a few pegs. Then the mad dash home for laxmi pujan , making sure you took the time out from work or studies and planning a trip home, getting ready in our finest - clothes, jewelry, welcoming guests home and tucking into limited portions of food, so as to not lose your carefully tailored fitness regime. It also meant introducing the younger cousins to the magic of firecrackers. Coaxing them to try out a new "bomb". This was also the time to go shopping, with lists of meticulously thought out gifts, lighting diyas with your mom, helping dad put on the "akashkandil" and marveling at the delicate decorations and shadows of light, it was also the time where noise and pollution entered our consciousness and we kept away from firecrackers, more or less! 

And then Diwali turned to holidays with friends, phone calls to families, sending gifts online and propagating the concept of a silent Diwali - without noise and firecrackers. For the last four years, Diwali for me was characterized by holidays - mostly in Goa - with fish, beer, sun, sand and friends or cousins. 
It was like turning into a big beautiful butterfly, made dizzy with new found freedom and breaking away from traditional Diwali celebrations. 
Sweets were replaced by chocolates, diyas by highway headlights, rituals by holiday routines and family by friends.
It was not a bad place to be.
And then this Diwali, because of Sagar's workload, we could not plan any holiday and were stuck at home. And i had forgotten how to celebrate a traditional Diwali. The first two days went smoothly enough - propagating no fire crackers, shopping for pretty diyas and lights, setting up decorations and rangoli, welcoming guests, poojas and gorging on the traditional sweets, which seemed delicious once again. 
What a circle of life!
And since i had time, this Diwali i chose to make "recycled gifts" as my theme and refused to buy any. Every evening, for a week, before Diwali was craft time. I made gifts for a few close ones and my DIY week was a success!

Getting all supplies out

Painting the keys for the wind chime

Painting more keys...this was the fun part

Getting Flipkart delivery boxes cut and resized for the double drawers

The final product - wind chime - gifted to my cousin who is collecting them for her garden. Used a discarded drill bit from Sagar's tool box for my centre piece, also the wooden base/ top is taken from one of Sagar's project

The mason jars, a used pasta sauce jar and another jar with a lost lid! Painted with glass paints and golden markers, stuck to a cardboard base. You can light a tea candle in these and bring home Diwali :)

The recycled mason jars

Cereal box cut and covered with wrapping paper

It is a magazine/ newspaper holder made out of a cereal box!
Chest of drawers made from cardboard for my parents, to keep their knick knacks,
with a pretty ribbon handle for pulling it out

Pretty roomy

And then the next 3 days were sheer boredom, what do you do at home?
The days and rituals had lost their meanings - there is no hell and if there is having a bath one day in a year before sunrise is not going to save you from it! I asked around - i asked my mom, my cousins, my other married friends - what do we do now? Is there something definite that is to be done? celebrated? Anything? The answers were pretty standard - go meet people, do something at home, burst some crackers, whatever! Such an idiotic question - what have you been doing for the last 28 years of your life- do the same! 
Well, I didn't remember beyond the last 5 years and then what i did remember involved my parents and they were not with me. (Since i am married and have to celebrate Diwali at my new home. Its silly traditions like these which make no sense and get under my skin. However i am glad my mother followed these, i had a happy Diwali for 20 years at least!) 
It was like any other holiday, an extended weekend, nothing special to do and nowhere to go and i was bored. 
And that is when my husband and i decided we would go on a holiday every Diwali, because that is so much more fun than sitting at home wondering what is to be done. My mom says this phase of flight is going to last till we have kids, after which we would want to stay home and introduce them and have them experience the same Diwali that we did as children, but then again, for her everything revolves around us having kids, as soon as possible! 

So till then, Goa here we come...

Sources of inspiration for my crafts -

4. Cereal Box Instructables

Also, check out my projects and many other on Sunday showcase by Stephanie Lynn

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Clash of Values

When two value systems clash, it results in a big bang.
Especially when the two systems are strong and at two opposite extremes of a spectrum.

Its independence vs binding ties
It is brutal honesty vs manipulative diplomacy.
It is indifference vs compassion.
It is neutrality vs loyalty.

There is no right or wrong.
These are not as mutually exclusive as they look, sometimes even compatible. But superficially, it is quite difficult to find middle ground, in fact it seems next to impossible to try and get the two together.

Independence stands for no interference. It refuses to be bowed down by other's considerations. It stands for "I can never betray myself", it comes with an implicit distrust of other people. It comes with the ability to bear consequences of one's decisions. Interdependence, on the other hand, will never sacrifice emotional ties at the altar of autonomy. It will mean being dependent, sometimes even to one's detriment. It will mean investment of time and emotion where it is not appreciated.

Brutal honesty means just that -  ruthless, clean, precise. Calling a spade a spade, because any form of diplomacy equals dishonesty. Brutal honesty is built on the principle of "truth never hides". It works on the principle of mercy - being merciful by telling the other the truth because you owe it to them. The objective is to get the thought across no matter what. And then there is manipulative diplomacy - the art of sparing the other's person's feeling. The knowledge that words are like swords and they cut deep, often, making the wound fatal. The acceptance of the fact that whatever bitter truth or frivolous observation that you have to make- there is ALWAYS a better way of saying it, a nicer way of saying it. The objective is to ensure other persons's feeling are not hurt, even if the thought is lost in translation.

Indifference, stems from the fact that not everything affects you and not everything is your business either. It is about giving space and time, even an infinite amount, because the belief is that every individual is entitled to their space and their privacy. Privacy and isolation are believed to be an individual's basic rights. When a person says - "Give me some time alone" - it means just that - nothing more nothing less. But when compassion comes into the picture, the same sentence means - "I am saying give me some time alone, but what i actually want is for you to stay and make things ok". And there lies the basic difference in perception. Emotional interference is based on the philosophy of "man is a social animal" - joys are doubled when shared and troubles halved. Every individual needs someone to make life easier. Problems are fought better with strength of numbers.

Neutrality - where decisions are based on cold hard facts, not relationships. Where facts speak and justness is of utmost importance. Where the principle of fairness, justice and truth are held above everything else, even loyalty. Loyalty - unconditional acceptance and support, no matter what. The facts don't matter, the reactions and conditions don't matter, it is just plain old loyalty. And nothing comes before or after. Nothing can shake it or change it.

And imagine when these value systems marry - what a clash! It is big, it is loud and boisterous, it is pretty, it is ugly. It is shiny, it is passionate. It is brutal, but forgiving. It is thoughtful, but senseless. It makes life hell, it makes life interesting. It opens up new ways of perception, it makes your world go round. It uproots you, it grounds you. It throws you off balance and then provides a new ground for stability. It does a lot of things, but one thing is for sure, life is never dull.
And what is more frighting than living a dull life?

For all their opposite views, there is one thing that unites these two systems in a marriage, a common ground that is big enough to accommodate both the value systems, an unbreakable thread that is woven around them, binding them together forever -  LOVE.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Business @ the cost of principles

Bribery, or "commission" as it is colloquially called, is a very real fact of doing business in India. Waiting for the "ache din" promised to us by the Modi government, businesses have to deal with the reality of greasing greedy hands. And i am not talking of the government only.

Bribing government officials to take things forward is something we have even stopped looking at as a crime. It is something we have accepted as gracefully as we accept say an excise duty or a service tax - a percentage we HAVE to pay to the government to make things move.
FICCI and Pinkerton, in their India Risk Report 2014, have mentioned corruption, bribery and corporate frauds as the no. 1 risk in doing business in India. It is a risk, Indian businessmen - big and small, have been taking, since time immemorial.
 It could be the sales tax officials, the excise or customs officials, petty government servants at the octroi post, the passport office, the labor commissions, factory inspectors and anyone remotely affiliated to the government.
They might as well make it legal and tax all business transactions the "bribe tax" - to be paid directly into the account of the bribe receiver by the bribe giver. Might as well make it easy and traceable for all. The tax could also be made voluntary - to be paid as per the rate of urgency and the depth of the pocket of the giver.
All clear and precise for all. Why hide something that has no shame value?

Here, i don't want to talk about this type of bribery.
Our business, rarely, needs to deal with the government (thankfully!). Our supply to them is limited, our interactions with them are purely of a statutory nature.
What does affect us are transactions with private enterprises.

On the whole, the belief is that bribes should not exist in the private world of efficient businesses. After all the whole structure works on competitive pricing, efficient manufacturing and trading systems and merit based decisions. Without these, the enterprise cannot succeed.
Also, the system always starts with a person asking for bribes, no one wants to voluntarily part with their money for unproductive reasons. So, here i want to talk about this phenomenon where the person feels that asking for a bribe is OK, without fearing any adverse consequences.

Surprisingly, we have observed at our unit, that the smaller the enterprise, lesser are the chances of people asking for bribes (this is purely my observation based on dealings in our factory with no statistical support). The reason is that the owner / top manager is in touch with the ground reality and most of us don't want to support the practice of bribery. So, closer the owner or top manager is to the ground level, more the chance that he will exercise his power to keep efficiency and fair competition and not resort to asking for favors to take things forward. The logic is clear - the aim here is to get good quality products, from a competent supplier, at the best price without inflating the cost or disrupting the relationship with the supplier. (A lot does depend on personal relationships here, of course business good coming first).

However,  as the organisation gets bigger, people at the purchase department start asking for favors from the suppliers to pass their quote forward, ignoring the real factors by which a supplier is to be judged - the quality of his supply, his pricing, the regularity of supply, his lead time etc. Of course, these are important considerations but when you have many suppliers vying for the the same supplier post, these purchase managers are in a position to base their decision on the bribes received, just like any government official.

So what can be done?
There are only two ways this problem can be looked at - you pay the bribe, include the cost in your product pricing, get the supply and be happy. This is the easy way - but this way does not lead to the "ache din" dream that every India holds now.

The other way is the way of the idealist - You have a strict principle in place - "we will never pay bribes", It does sound very idealistic, and you have to be prepared to lose the business. It is a hard way, but it can be done.
We do it at Abhishek Enterprises.
We have instituted a rule - We will pay no bribes in cash.
We will take the purchase managers out for dinner and drinks, we will buy them Diwali gifts in the form of dry fruits and sweets (this is something we do for all our suppliers and customers anyway). But we will pay no cash to push our products through or to procure any order.
This was a principle instituted by my dad, with a practical corollary - be prepared to face the consequences of this rule in the form of orders and opportunists moving away from you.
But, pay no bribe.

This is relatively easy for us now. This was not how we started, we started the same as any business. My dad and his partner started it from scratch, with no guarantee of money coming in, and in that situation you tend to go with whatever works, but when you reach a point of stability, and now that we have, the one thing my dad says is "bribes don't matter - not then, and definitely not now."

The real test of the principle is when you want the job so badly, but you say no because your principles mean something more than writing on a scrap of paper. And as my dad thinks, you want the job, your product is competitive - then you will get the job. And you don't get sucked into the vicious cycle of bribe taking and giving, and one person, then another and another organisation and its nerve wracking to keep everyone pleased and greased!

After all these years, and with all his experience if he feels that you can stand tall and make a ton of money solely on the basis of your confidence in the quality of your product, we young managers should definitely  look at it as a valuable lesson learnt. It is these lessons, buried under the normal course of review meetings and daily operations, that are the cornerstone of business, and are never taught to us in a business school.

We are taught how to calculate net profits and returns on investment, but are never taught the hidden, huge costs of money and morale when a business indulges in malpractices.
We are taught the best HR theories, but are never taught to nurture and gain the trust and loyalty of the people working for you so that they always work for the betterment of the company and its culture.
We are taught what leadership qualities to nurture, but not everyone is a leader as soon as they graduate business school. We have never been taught how to be good followers, how to work  for a company and how giving or accepting bribes is a complete no.
Lesson of corporate social responsibility, is one chapter in some subject and glossed over, or case studies of huge corporations making billion dollar donations to some charity. What do these mean for managers or small business owners or entrepreneurs, when in many companies basic facilities of toilets and dining tables are not up to the mark?

And for these very reasons values of a company are very important. Not values written on a piece of pretty looking paper and stuck in the lobby, and vaguely worded that even the person who made them up is not clear about their actual meaning, forget the values percolating down to the the person at the ground level.

But, values that have meaning in this uncertain business world, values that are simple and that people can relate to. Values that the top management embraces and believes in, so that everyone knows their importance.

Values of simple commitment - commitment to good business practices.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pretty is the new strong

Every time i look at this plant in the picture, growing in concrete, i am amazed.
It is quite well to grow to be a beautiful plant when you are watered and sheltered and taken care of daily, it is also seemingly easy to do that when you have soft, nourishing soil under your feet. But to grow out of concrete, with no guarantee of water, sunshine or shade and after all the hardship managing to look this pretty at the end of the day, must be taking an unimaginable amount of effort.

How do these delicate looking plants grow through the concrete? More than the plants growing through the concrete, it is the concrete that breaks around the plant. The concrete gives way to the plant, through the plant's sheer perseverance. Given, the concrete is porous and not really like a stone, but it is not soft, full of nourishment soil either. 

And look at the pretty little plant. In our minds, anything that strong cannot be that pretty and vice verse. The two are mutually exclusive.

I have heard numerous comments about a strong girl's body being described as masculine and a pretty little girl being ridiculed when it comes to arm wrestling. I have also seen the "masculine" girl at her "pretty" best and the pretty little girl putting up a tough fight. 

Strong is not big, strong is not bulk - strong is mental and physical capacity to withstand pressure. 

My mother always says " Be like a diamond, shiny and pretty on the outside, and strong on the inside". That is really the true worth of a diamond.

It is like my favorite quote "no matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up for life"

I love this quote on days when i am absolutely ready to give in. My cousin and i have our own phrase for this. We call it "powering through". 
No matter what, you say i am just going to power through this. So this applies to when i am exercising and have to finish that last tiring rep - i power through. And when i have had enough of social interactions, but there is one more party to attend - i power through. When i am sleepy, but there is work that needs to be done - i power through. When I have slept for an hour last night, but need to be up early morning - i power through.
We love this phrase. just saying it in my head, makes me feel so strong and capable of doing anything, feeling strong and pretty!

Pretty for us girls is not pink, lace and flowers, that is a perception that people have.
Pretty for us is doing what we want, pretty for us is working hard so we can get that dress or bag or oven that we have been eyeing. 
Pretty, is not getting our hair done, or make up applied, but about being ourselves, without any pretensions.
Pretty is cooking an elaborate meal for our loved ones to see the joy on their faces, pretty is not looking good for our husbands or boyfriends, but about feeling good about ourselves. 

Pretty is an emotion we feel - whether in cute dresses, or track pants.
Pretty is what we feel when we are trying to understand the working of our home wi-fi or getting new curtains for our house.
Pretty is what we feel when we are smeared with oil - either from our bike's or from the kitchen.
Pretty is when we feel strong, when we feel like we have conquered the world.
Pretty is what we feel when we know we have truly been blessed with a happy family, and pretty is what we feel when we are told we enrich someone's life.

Yes, we are pretty, but when we say pretty we don't mean how we look, but how we feel.
And that feeling has so many faces and expressions. Pretty is simple, yet complicated. 

When we talk of Cleopatra, we talk of her beauty - yes, she was striking and good looking by all accounts, but what she was remembered for was being a beautiful, complex woman who held her own in a male dominated era. She was known for her charm as well as manipulation, her sensuality, and her love for Antony. She is good and evil, pretty and strong.

So when people say - "you are strong...for a girl", take it as a compliment because they have no idea of the strength that lies within a girl.

Huffington Post had written an article earlier this year, about photographer Kate T Parker. Parker's message to her daughters was "be strong, be yourself, be honest and celebrate who you are."
The article was named "Strong is the new pretty"
Also, check out #Like a girl video, where they are fighting the negative impacts of stereotypes. "Doing anything...Like a girl" is not an insult, it is a compliment. It is acknowledging the immense strength that lies within them.

So fathers, next time let your daughters fix the bulb and ask your son to make tea for you when you come home.
Mothers teach your daughters how to change car tyres and your sons to make a perfect round roti.
Husbands let your wives drive on the highways and you can make and pack the picnic basket.

I want to go a step forward and say "pretty is the new strong"
Pretty not in the conventional sense of the word, but pretty as what i have tried to convey in this article. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How Emoticons rule the world

There was a time when silence was the consequence of loss of not knowing what to say.
When you were speechless, or overwhelmed, overjoyed, or saddened, shamed, or agitated to the point of not being able to articulate or not finding the right words to express your extreme emotions, you kept quiet - your eyes did the emoting, your body language took the conversation forward, maybe a mumble or an yell helped you out.
Do you realize what this silence has been replaced by today?
The Emoticons!

Before, the only emoticon we knew was the smiley on the yellow ball. Smiley was capable of only one emotion - smiling. That was the range of Smiley's expression.

Now, there is one for every emotion, happiness, disgust, sadness, joy, confusion, anger. There is the face doing the smirk, or being the devil, or being unwell.
The emoticons have gone beyond the yellow smiley face.
There are caricatures telling the other person how busy you are drinking, eating, holidaying or in the bathroom, at work or at the swimming pool.

Emoticons are a prettily wrapped, practical gift for people with few words, you don't have to talk and you do not come across as being rude! Its a win win situation
They are also, though somewhat redundant, an aid for people who love expressing their emotions wildly. They have caused the death of the "exclamation mark."

I set out to experiment. 
One whole day, every time, i used whats app, i would use only smileys or symbols, and see if i could take a conversation forward or would the conversation come to a halt and words would have to be used?
By the end of the day i was surprised at how much easier it was to convey with emoticons than use words. How is it possible to wrap up my entire day and my interactions with numerous people on that day with the help of a mere 100 symbols, signs and smileys. And here we are thinking that we are complex animals who are certainly more complicated than a 100 symbols.  How complacent of us! Every emotion we feel, every action we do, the food we eat can be denoted with the help of a single image. In that case, what do we mean by individuality? 

Maybe, individuality stems from the degree of emotion - maybe the happiness i feel is different in degrees than the happiness the person sitting next to me might feel. But a quick look at the emoticons and i know that is not the case - they have covered every happiness degree - from the straight smile, to the sightly happier smile, to the embarrassed smile, and the wink smile, to the final "laughing till tears fall out" smile. All possible degrees are covered.

So is it our communication skills that differentiate us?
What we feel is more or less the same, the thing that makes me - me, is how i articulate my emotions - either with my words or my gestures, my tone and my body language. 
Which takes me back to my article of importance of Direct Connections - of how in the world of virtual avatars and interactions, we tend to crave direct human connections.

Plus, i keep wondering how genuine are the emoticons? If a person is sad that he/ she is not attending my party, they send a depressed smiley face. And i am thinking, if you are really that depressed about missing my party, you should probably come anyway!
Or say the recent idea of wishing a very happy birthday with beer glasses, and cake and partying symbols on whats app. I would rather like a phone call to accompany all the fake celebration. It is my firm belief that people who genuinely remember your birthday and want to wish you will call you. The others message. 
And when i get a message / Facebook post like that, i more often than not don't remember it or do not respond to it.

The other downside being, for some reason i feel the emoticons are very personal.
To convey sadness to a random person, i would never think of writing "i am sad or hurt". I would probably brush it aside and say i am fine.
But with an emoticon i can easily send the sad smiley. Do i really want a random person to know the  states of my deepest emotions? No!

It is said the pen is mightier than the sword, and now the emoticons look like they are winning the battle of communication. 
But it looks like a case of winning the battle, losing the war, with more and more of us moving away from the virtual world and back into our real, interpersonal universe of direct connections!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Garudmachi - in the lap of nature

A work trip to Garudmachi on the 9th and 10th of October 2014, turned out to be much more than reviews and presentations and short walks in the evenings.

With my dad announcing his retirement from day to day operations, the new management team was set to take the reins into their hands. This team of 4 now had to coordinate and communicate like never before and a work trip to break the ice, and bond, to understand each other a little better. And so an outing to Garudmachi seemed like a good idea.
There is so much i want to include in this post, even as i write, ideas are popping into my head and you know my aversion to ideas not categorized. So let me slow down a bit and try and make a logical connection of these ideas!

Chronologically seems the best way forward -

1. 9th October 2014, 10.00 am : We leave Aurangabad in a hired 10 seater mini bus. The journey is long - from Aurangabad to Pune to Garudmachi, west of Pune. Google Maps shows a distance of 72.4 kilometers to be covered in 1 hour 56 mins without traffic, from Pune to Garudmachi. We followed the map, from Chandani Chowk, to Pirangut to Paud to Mulshi to Garudmachi - a very easy to follow straight road. And Garudmachi is located on the main road. So you really do not have to rack your brain over it. The road is in equal parts smooth and bumpy. The drive takes you on these charming little roads, surrounded with yellow wild flowers and trees, twisting through tiny villages and past streams, over the Mulshi dam and around the Bamboo forest.

We reached Garudmachi, tired and in desperate need of tea at 5 pm.

Photo source: Garudmachi
We checked into our rooms, and went to the mess for tea and hot, delicious pakoras.
After that the evening was ours to do what we pleased.

So we went for a walk. A short hike later, we reached a plain overlooking the mountains and the Mulshi river. You look down and you can see the clouds at your feet, you look up and you can see the majestic mountains. Words will not be able to describe the sheer beauty of the place. The photos, too, might not be able to do justice to this serene space overlooking the mountains and the TATA hydro power project (even the pipelines of the power plant add a distinctive feel to this place, or maybe we were just in awe of the beauty of the place!)

Trying to get the perfect "jump" picture :)
Reluctantly we left this place as darkness started to set in.

Once back, it was suggested that we take a look at the Everest - Lhotse expedition DVD published by Giripremi. It was a short film based on their Everest - Lhotse expedition of 2013. It was a thrilling, bone chilling, inspiring short film of the expedition by Mr. Umesh Zirpe, the leader of these expeditions. To capture the footage that has been shown of the climb, must have taken immense hard work and perseverance, not to mention, doing this while also successfully sumitting the peak!
After watching the DVD, we were in awe of these guys, whose passion for mountaineering makes them put everything on risk, even their own lives. This is a very different kind of passion that drives them, something we can not imagine.
We had the pleasure of Mr. Surendra Chavan's company for the rest of the evening. He is Maharashtra's first ever Everester ,who scaled the peak in 1998. The conversation took a very interesting turn we asked these guys to explain what fuels them to stake their lives to climb the Everest. And they surprisingly were of the opinion that their passion can be compared to anybody else's passion, for example, ours - to succeed in business. We staked our livelihoods and money on it and the only difference being they staked their lives. Which, for us, was the major differentiating factor. There was an element that was unexplained - why risk your life?!
To this my uncle, who is also from the mountaineering field, answered, given a choice between running a business or climbing a dangerous mountain, he would rather climb as that is less terrifying!
Both the sides agreed o disagree and went for an simple yet delicious dinner of veggies and chicken curry. And thus ended our first day at this heaven.

10th October 2014
6.30 am: All team members were up for the much awaited trek organised by Anish and Sujit, our outdoor experts. After tea, we left for the mountains.

It was an hour long trek to the top. Being on the top was like being enveloped in a big bear hug by nature, it was like rocking to a soothing lullaby in the cradle of nature. Again i will let the photos speak, rather than my words, which will be inadequate.

We came back famished, but there was one more activity planned - Rappelling on their wall. Now, it might seem like its a controlled environment and the wall is not too big, but is was terrifying for me all the same. The safety is foolproof, and you try and repeat that to yourself all the while you are up there, but it scares you nonetheless.

Rappelling down the wall
After a hearty breakfast and shower, we came to our business at hand - the company 6 month review. They have a well equipped conference room, with projectors, white boards, notepads and pen, audi systems - they have though of everything even before you feel the need for it!

Following the meeting, we discussed our future over a nice steaming cup of tea (already arranged and kept ready, i told you - its like the people at Garudmachi can read your mind and give you things you want even before you realize you want them).
Following lunch it was time to say good bye to this wonderful place, with its wonderful people.

A definite visit for teams, families, couples or even solo. I could imagine coming here alone with a stack of books!
Especially if you are in Pune, there is absolutely no reason why you would miss giving this wonderful place a visit. In fact, for us, our travel of 8 hours was worth every minute spent on the road, every bump that broke our back! We did not want to leave, but we left vowing to come back!


1. High Places - contact for information on Garudmachi and other programs that can be organised for you
2. Giripremi DVD - to get a copy of the Everest Lhotse 2013 expedition DVD.
3. Photo credit - Anil Deshpande and Meenal Deshpande : for carrying their phones around, when the rest of us had conveniently left them in the rooms (no range for Airtel network) and clicking numerous photos with insane amount of patience :)
4. A special thanks to Milind Kirtane (my uncle first and then Head operations and Lead facilitator at High places), Surendra Chavan, Anish, Sujit and the wonderful support staff at Garudmachi
5. A thanks to our Board Directors - Anil Mirashi, Anil Deshpande, Meenal Deshpande and Anita Mirashi for arranging this trip that helped us connect with ourselves and our team. It is on the strength of this connection that we look forward to a thrilling, successful business future.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Direct Connections!

We Indians have suddenly in the last 6 months been introduced to the power of communication, all thanks to our PM, Narendra Modi. Especially, coming after the complete communication failure of the Congress, it was good to have a PM you actually wanted to listen to on Independence Day, or at New York, or at my home town of Aurangabad. It was a change and a good one.
It began with the "Acche Din Ane Wale hain" social media blitz campaign, it started off being the irritating advert on radio or paper and then we were surrounded by the jingle on all fronts - print, radio, television, twitter, Facebook and we had no choice but to get over our irritation and actually look for and understand the message that was being communicated and it definitely seems to have been understood by all for BJP to come into power all on its own!
That is the power of communication.
But with this power comes great responsibility. The responsibility of being remembered and being held accountable for your actions and promises.

On a personal level, social media has helped us connect, it has helped us build brands, it has broken down distance barriers. But many of us have forgotten to take into account the responsibility that comes with this great power of invading someone else's time and space.
Why are people slowly moving off of Facebook? Why has whats app turned into a tool of irritation rather than enjoyment. The endless stream of forwards, the "funniest video you have ever seen", the "most epic photo ever", the "let me disclose and involve you in every minute detail of my life" has reached a level that is not tolerable.
Of the 300 odd friends i have on Facebook, i would, given a chance, not bother meeting if they were in the same town, about 280 of them and for my 20 close friends i don't need Facebook. I use whats app for making plans with my 20 friends, but i don't need what app when it adds me to a group of some relatives / colleagues that i don't want to be a part of and cannot quit the group as that would be too rude. I need whats app when my suppliers can easily send photos of receipts and material, but i don't want the same suppliers asking me "who is in your display picture with you" .
And so we log onto the privacy settings, and construct walls around our profiles, when ironically the very existence of social media is to break down these walls and connect!

I wish friends on facebook, without bothering to call them. We meet as a group and more than half the people are busy on their phones, i see people stopping their cars and bikes to answer whats app messages (we should be glad they are stopping, and not texting while driving!). But there is a fear of missing out if you are off social media. It is not a very easy, black and white decision that you can make.
And so last night stands out for me.
I was invited to Launch of Independence Brewing company's own beers by a friend, who is interested in home / own brewed beers.
I asked Sagar to accompany me as i knew no one else there. We reached the place at 9.00 pm and till it was time to go home i did  not have a chance to look at my phone. I didn't want to. In fact except for a lady's phone cover that i liked and wanted to see, i did not notice any other cellphones. They were pocketed, as they are meant to be!
The evening was all about hanging out with 6 other people i was meeting for the first time, ironically most of them were from the media industry! There was the customary discussion about the beers, and the "fun facts" sharing by our common friend, and then it was an open to any kind of discussion climate - from relationships, jobs, cities, humor to food, photography, weddings and drunken escapades. Surprisingly, no one was interested in clicking any photos either, to put up on a social media platform, so that other people would know about it. I think when you have a good time, you don't feel the need to display it. Maybe these guys are so involved with communication and media all day every day, they want to escape it when it is their time off!
I may not meet these people again, or maybe i will. But i will remember them as a set of genuine people interested in other people and not just avatars, building up their friends count.

I will remember the fun we used to have without social media and instant connectivity.
The charm of an actual conversation!

Independence Brewing Company - Launching their own craft beers

Let me make it clear at the offset, my knowledge of beer is limited to enjoying a pint of Kingfisher or Budweiser. Crafted beers all i know is - the lighter they look the better i like the taste, i still haven't acquired the bitterness taste!
Independence Brewing Company launched their craft beers on tap on the 4th of October. Sagar and I were invited by a friend who is a beer connoisseur and he is going to hate me for mentioning Kingfisher / Budweiser in this post!
Their tag line is "bringing independence from boring beers", quite silly, i know.

Starting with the beers, like i mentioned i normally choose the lighter ones. The first one i tried was the "Belgian Wit Beer" - the blondest of them all - it actually was too sweet for me too!
After taking a sip of the IAP and the darkest ale (i don't really remember the names, they were too bitter, though the darkest one had a coffee aftertaste) i settled on The American Pale Ale. This was my drink of the night - a perfect blend of sweet and bitter.

Moving on to the food, the menu is extremely restricted - we tried the nachos with pulled chicken, which was good, but not the best i have had.
The ham croquettes, on the other hand were mouthwatering. The Paprika chicken wings were extremely spicy and i would give them a skip.
For main course i wanted to try the Chettinad chicken, but it was not available. We settled on the cumin and mustard chicken breast which was delicious. We skipped the desserts.

Ambiance - The place was extremely crowded, and there was no space to move! Wooden benches get a tad uncomfortable after some time. The lighting was soft and yellow and gave a prety glow to the whole place. But given the heavy traffic and extremely tiny number of serving staff, the service was not especially affected. The pace of service was good, no server ever seemed in too much hurry to answer your questions, the energy was vibrant. The music, though, fell flat! With beer you have to have groovy music.

All in all, i would like to give this place a go again in peace, when there is no bustling event happening here and of course to sip the American Pale Ale again!

Image source:
For the more serious beer drinkers, to get a honest and knowledgeable review - i will try and get my friend to contribute a post here! You can also get in touch with him at Nakul B