Sunday, August 13, 2017

Changing timezones

Yes, so it happened. As the title suggests, I moved out of Pune (after 7 years and 5 months), to an entirely new continent. Africa -> Kenya -> Nairobi.

Its been exactly two months since I landed here, and of course as expected it was a little outside the comfort zone of what I was used from Bombay, Pune and weekend trips to Hyderabad to recharge.
But what I have slowly started realizing is that only outside the comfort zone, lies one's true potential. You push yourself to achieve straightforward objectives, but with a completely different set of value, cultures, abilities and working styles. Also a leader of almost 120 direct and indirect reports, its about having everyone on board with your vision for the business.

So amidst a plethora of challenges - ranging from mindset to technical organization, I have settled in quite well I have to admit. The warmth and openness of the Kenyans has been the number one factor for me to ease into my role here. Everyone from my peers to the workforce on the shopfloor has been very welcoming and eager to adapt to the hands-on startup jugaad mindset that I bring to the game.

Another big strength that providence continues to bless me with are some great mentors, my latest boss, who I realise has coached two of the managers that I was fortunate to work with back in India. So I look forward to advance in terms of business acumen & mixing Indian frugality with low cost quality solutions.

On the personal front, things have been tough I have to admit. 50 days in a hotel room can drive anyone up the wall. In hindsight, atleast the food and laundry was taken care of  ! But as they say, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

Found a nice apartment in the Westlands area with a view to die for (I can see Karura forest at the distance). Its walkable from two malls with cinemas (which I know will be patronized a lot in the future), and from the SSD temple complex fully loaded with a place to play football, a walking track & an Indian restaurant.



The city itself, is one of contrasts, some places like Karen, Westlands, Lavington etc are on par with neighbourhoods in the West with amazing green cover and all urban facilities. Parklands almost seems like a suburb of Ahmedabad. But there are some places like the slums and outer suburbs that can do with focussed development. The traffic is a nightmare, but for someone coming from Bombay/Bangalore etc, it shouldn't be much to digest.

Safety is about knowing what to do and when to do it. So far I have not had any negative experiences, (I walk around Westlands a lot), so not much to share there.

I will be meeting the Mrs & the kid after 9 whole weeks. The little man has now become 8 months old and is turning out to be quite a fun fellow. I hope he starts picking up on Swahili along with English & Tamil in his time here. Apart from that, many trips involving Wildlife and the Savannah will happen. Binge Netflix is also happening after acquiring a Safaricom High speed wifi connection. Vikings, Fauda (Israeli series), Iron Fist and a multitude of movies like Piku, Dear Zindagi, Raman Raghav 2,0 have been consumed already.

Meanwhile, after multiple lower back issues back home, I'm starting to put in 15-30 mins on the treadmill everyday. So slowly building my stamina, I hope be back to doing 10Ks in the future. So watch this space for more. Also for more day to day fun scenes of Nairobi, find me on Instagram.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Sporting Spirit

No shame in saying that this title was lifted from the famous George Orwell essay from decades ago. I have always spoken of the positive impact that sport has & have encouraged people to take it up in any small way they can.

To put it down as a simple blogpost would never really do justice, to what playing cricket in my days as primary schooler & football from high school till date has taught me in life. Nevertheless, although I haven't played competitively for a bit, it has been a great year in sport & the ebbs and tides of a few key events has truly helped me battle some very interesting challenges at work.

Below I have listed down five very important tenets that I have internalized and has helped me become the person I am today.

The importance of being a Unit 
The motto of the Welsh national football team said it all. #togetherstronger
Appearing on the international stage after a long spell in the shadows, led by the talismanic Gareth Bale, the Welsh dragons seemed to be mellifluously in sync and behaved like one single fighting unit. Recording memorable victories over big names like England & Belgium, it reiterated my belief that a team that has one true focus and a fighting attitude can do wonders, making up for what they may lack in skill and talent.


Leading, with silent strength
Growing up watching Steve Waugh leading the Aussies to victory after victory had a strong impression on me as a teenager. I found striking similarities in one of India's greatest captains MS Dhoni. Both of them in their own right were also great finishers of the game. I have seen numerous occasions where both of them have turned games for Australia, India & CSK respectively where they single handedly absorbed the pressure around them & converted it into a positive work ethic.I have never seen these two gents ever lose their wits in the worst of situations & have always taken loss in their stride.


Never stop working hard- Form is temporary, Class is permanent
The Under Armour commercial starring Michael Phelps pays homage to a great athlete. A man who retired after being at the highest level of swimming a few years ago, came back in the 2016 Olympics overshadowing every other athlete & this is credited to his focussed hard work no matter what the circumstances.

Another fantastic story of hardwork comes from closer home, Hyderabad. PV Sindhu won a silver, losing a tight game to Carolina Marin. The stories of her work ethic and sacrifice along with the legendary Pullela Gopichand are inspiring.

So knowing yourself, your strengths-weaknesses, putting in a good shift everytime you enter the field and backing yourself every time will work wonders.

Build a strategy that suits the situation - one size does not fit all
I started following the fortunes of FC Barcelona and everyone who has been associated with it, during the days when Van Gaal was coach in the late 90s  He had a fluid strategy with a 3-4-3 setup and combined this with the right international talent such as Rivaldo, Luis Figo, Kluivert and local lads such as Pep Guardiola & Luis Enrique who are now master strategists in their own right. Van Gaal was a legend during his Ajay days as well, but we all know what has happened to him in the recent past.

A similar story of the Oakland As, made famous by the movie Moneyball. A strategy masterfully built based on an analytical pattern that the manager had seen, but this could not become a formula for success everywhere.

Always keep the big picture in sight - tags & odds don't matter
Whether you are a top seed or an underdog, tags don't really matter. It's understanding the bigger picture & making that the real driving force behind your team, that will push you that extra mile

Case in point - The West Indies cricket team battling against their own cricket board, showed up to the T20 World cup this year without even have their kits sorted. But Darren Sammy kept reminding his team that they had to win it for the people of the Caribbean, and boy did they do it in style or what ! Braithwaite in that last over seemed like a man possessed.

Chennaiyin FC, an ISL team gave their heart out during the semifinal against a stronger on paper Kolkata team and they kept saying just one thing - that they wanted to win it for the people who were suffering due to the flood situation. They went onto lift the Cup last year.

And finally the unbelievable story of Leicester City, a team that had fought relegation in the past few seasons and had no real chance at even making it into a Champions league position. Under the watchful eye of Claudio Ranieri, the team beat unimaginable odds to win the Premiership despite tough competition from likes of Man City and the other English biggies. This team again goes on to say that they did it for their fans and for the folk from the town of Leicester.

Sport is not fiction, it has real heroes with blood, sweat and tears that teach you innumerable lessons everytime it plays out. It is for you to observe, learn & adopt.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A holiday in the life of...

I had a couple of days away from work last week & decided to stay home in Pune instead of a quick dash down south because my folks had come over. I decided to spend those days lazing, reading copiously and eclectically of the internet, re-watch some classics & finish up certain mundane tasks that I've left undone for a while. So basically a holiday in the life of me reads a little like this -

Wake up at regular time.
Daydream over the morning cup of coffee while "intently" listening to what the Mrs says.
Flick on random TV channel for company.
Tablet in one hand and phone in the other, open multiple articles from StoryPick, Buzzfeed, Yourstory from across the Facebook & Twitter platforms.
Restart wi-fi when it acts funny.
Walk down to the grocery store multiple times or just accompany Ma since she doesn't know Hindi numbers too well.
Curse the TV for not having great content.
Eat healthy.
Powernap.
Partner the Mrs when she goes for a walk.
Redecorate (read: move around) furniture and other stuff to make the home seem upgraded.
Get Govt related documentation done.
Wonder what will happen to traditional businesses as some of them slowly fade away (I have an interesting story about how I hardly find any Stationery shops anymore, people either buy their writing paraphernelia and other novelties from the big stores or from the e-commerce sites).
Enjoy the newly acquired sofa.
Sleep early.

Just re-reading this post, I realize one thing . Its funny how a similar post from around 5 or 10 years ago would have been so different with regard to a few subjects while some of the core aspects remain the same.
I guess our perspectives about many acquired tastes (say Movies, Cuisines) in life change/erode/edit themselves as we meander through life, but the core values (say Morals, Habits) of an individual seem to have borderline recalibrations. The self remains a constant in the end.

You understand ?


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Nostalgia

Nostalgia or more simply put, a longing for "the good old days" seems to affect all of us due to different triggers. Music, Weather, Photographs, Phone calls, Travels are amongst many such triggers.

One such trigger for me happened to be "Cleaning". Yes, the mundane household activity that my beloved wife happens to think that I'm incapable of (cooking, planning romantic dinners, staying awake past midnight are other skills that she normally puts in this category). More about that another time, lets get back to what I was saying.

So today afternoon was spent, reminiscing about many events from the past and putting in place a mini library at home.


While rummaging through the box that had safeguarded these books I came across some amazing little things that reminded me of some fantastic times in Pune, Bombay & Barcelona (specific to the stuff I found). I remembered the people associated with these moments in time that I successfully froze in these objects & got busy sending the aforesaid folks a "hi, how are you ? look what I found " message on whatsapp.

So in chronological order, let me reminisce with you a few of these occasions -

So here is a pic of a tissue paper from Cafe Leopold in Bombay. It was my first time in Leopold & I badly wanted to go there after having read so much about it in Shantaram. The four signatures that you see on the paper are Chetan Shetty, Anirudh Krishnan, Ambujesh Yadav & myself. There was also a blogpost I had written about that day which you can read @ http://adityagn.blogspot.in/2009/02/football-cafes-and-movie.html



Another tissue paper, this time from the suburbs of Bandra. Toto's - the place with the Maruti Van that looks like it has crashed into the wall, plays some amazing music. This was a spontaneous trip with Chetan, Swathi & Prachi. Speaking of which, it is Prachi's birthday today & I sent her this as a gift. Nostalgia as a gift, interesting no ?



















This next one is a catalogue from the Monetary Museum in South Bombay. This was during a hot summer afternoon when Ambujesh & I just happened to chance upon this place & decided to walk in. We spent a good two hours there & were humbled by the quality exhibits on show. Bombay can do that you, surprises at every nook and cranny. If memory serves right, we went for a movie at Eros after that ? I don't remember the details though.

One of the better weekends during my days as a bachelor in Pune was going to NH7 before it was as big as it is today & of course the plays that were hosted here, which honestly were few and far in between. These are three tickets from the plays - " The Blue Mug" , "Death of a Salesman" & "Boy with a suitcase". Dilip Anand aka Pedro was the constant companion for all three, while my other two roomies : Himanshu & Pulkit joined for one of them. 



 My most favourite adventure so far. The single spontaneous backpacking trip to France & Spain. This is the bag that contained all the goodies that I bought at the FC Barcelona store at the Nou Camp.


Quite co-incidently, I was at a local South Indian store that sells everything that makes one miss stuff from Madras, Hyderabad or Bangalore. I found this copy of Gokulam, a children's magazine that I used to wait eagerly for every month. Stirred up so many memories of those days. Probably this magazine was the trigger to me developing the habit of writing.

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So I wish you have your nostalgia moments & smile. I hope that this post may have struck some chords with those of who you may relate to these pictures. Drop me a line and say you smiled and thought of me. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Androgogy & Haircuts

Wow, again I find myself apologizing to this blog for my absence. But, I know it will understand. It has seen me visit a few times to see if the visitor counter was ticking & to my surprise it crossed 30k visits around a month ago. So for all the good people who keep wanting to know what I’m upto, I salute you ! *graciously bows*

While I’ve been away, I moved houses again. Not too far from where I was staying, but this location chops of 10 minutes on the commute for the Mrs.

I got to see my nephews after almost 3 years, and it was super fun to spend sometime with them in Hyderabad. They have gone back to the US & I think I should find a way to keep in touch. Perhaps through FaceTime or some such new tech.

Football hasn’t made a comeback yet, but I’ve been building some stamina, so hoping to find some opportunities to play soon.

So here is something new that I’ve been doing for a bit now, I’ve started taking some classes. Its more Androgogy than Pedagogy, because the target audience is normally older than me. I try to instill in them a sense of direction, understanding  how their work can impact the organizations on a more macro scale & of course I bring my brand of crazy exercises for experiential learning. Makes for interesting weekends periodically.

Travel this year has been a damp squib, had so many plans but none of them have materialized so far. Trying to work something in, during the second half of the year, so that the year end appraisal with the Mrs goes off well. *winks*.  Wanted to do a little bit of Eastern Europe, but looks like Greece is imploding so may not be the best of ideas. Chennai/Madras should happen more often since the sister has moved there with Teach For India. *secretly fantasizes about SCUBA diving at Pondy*

Invested in a Philips trimmer a few months ago.  The barber shop in my locality has a first come first served system & on most occasions is followed. This one occasion, one of the local politicos *read Goon* happened to stride in. The barber gave the chest hair flaunting  - orange paan based liquid spitting barbarian precedence for an oil massage. This enraged the lot of us who were waiting our turn, and I for one stormed out vowing to never come back. This triggered the aforementioned investment.

So now, the Mrs & I have started styling what is left of my mane. I have become an expert at the crew cut & sometimes try a buzz cut as well while she patiently gives the finishing touches to my *coughs* master strokes. Might consider doing a few trials on some other people soon too, perhaps might make a career of it in the near future ! Who knows ?

#nowreading – Lord of the Flies
#nowlistening – Lag Ja Gale by Studio Unplugged



Saturday, November 22, 2014

The year that was, 2014. Minus December.

Gah ! The last post here was 13 months ago. So how has life changed since then ?

Not too much I would think. The waistline has increased. The hairline has decreased. The wife is quite the scientist when it comes to the culinary arts & I, her willing guinea pig, thus the increase.

Three China trips happened. Also did a pitstop at Hong Kong. Loved the city, but methinks I went at the wrong time, in terms of weather. It was as humid as a summer day in Bombay.I also happened to spot Kollywood starlet Arulnithi at a certain touristy place & walked over to give him my best.


Closer home, we stayed at a lovely Plantation Trails bungalow in Coorg for anniversary in Feb. Its a dreamy place, where your home is nestled among acres of Coffee Plantation. We had our own butler who was a local Kodagu lad and he treated us with some super local delights. The Kodagu highlands, the sights, the sounds and the food was top draw, marking a memorable first year for us.



During the monsoons, we visited the East. I've heard so much about Calcutta, where Amma spent a few years growing up, that I had to explore the place. Purnima found us a fantastic place to stay in Alipore. We did the regular touristy stuff. Park street happened multiple times, so did Victoria Memorial. We were gasping in the old world charm of Jorasanko Thakurbari, home of the Tagores . Later that week,  we were also hosted by two friends from NITIE/L'Oreal, Pinak & Madhuri. We spent the afternoon with the family & Pinak's father, Mr.Ghosh has such an infectious joie de vivre about him. It was at their home that "Death by Rajbhog Rosogulla" (literally) also almost happened.



It was onto the highlands of Gangtok & Darjeeling then. Charming monasteries, the thundering Teesta & some good times. Two pieces of advice though, always check for landslides, because we ended up spending 4-5 hours stuck in traffic & always hire SUVs for inter-city travel in these parts.




We also extensively used the Railway network for this trip, so it was a whole lot of sleeping in middle & upper berths.

Sometime in June, we also moved. Just a lane away from our last home, but this one is a little less expensive in terms of rent & is on the 6th floor. So it comes with a great view of the Aundh treeline, but becomes like a brick kiln during the hot season.

A few months ago, Paati passed away after a long battle with illness. My mother's mother was one of the most giving people I knew. A teacher of Carnatic music, a doting mother & a fighter, I stayed with her as a baby. It was a tough time for all of us. But I'm sure she is in a better place and watching down on all of us.


Amma & Appa have moved into our new place in Hyderabad and both seem to be having a good time there. We keep doing weekend trips to Hyd, the wife & the sister love the Pool & Garden area. We also once had ourselves a triangular series table tennis tournament, in the sports center there.

So that broadly speaking has been the year that was 2014. Instagram is in, with selfies becoming the trend. The ISL has shown that Indian schoolboy defending when paired with World stars can make for a very entertaining game of football. Hope I get to play more too.

Lets hope for some surprises in December & a whole lot of adventure in 2015. I also secretly promise myself to be more regular here.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

A pipe dream

All humanity is equal. It is this strong belief that has led to me to think time and again about the less fortunate. In an era, when helping the less fortunate seems to a fashion statement, the work done by some people across the nation that I've been reading about is nothing short of inspiring.

I travel 35 kms everyday to the outskirts of Pune, to an area where rural India collides head on with industry that employees well educated people from all over India. But the gap between these pockets of shiny vast campuses & rural infrastructure keeps widening as we move further away from the city.

 I've been fortunate to interact on a daily basis with such people, and the gap is quite evident. Basic necessities they tell me are still hard to come by. Running clean water, electricity, dependable public transportation, healthcare etc are most of the issues that their families deal with constantly.Cityslickers, such as most of you reading this would have faced this, perhaps two-three times a year, that too not all together.

The Government clearly tries and fails on a daily basis, due a multitude of reasons which I don't even want to get into. (too many people doing too much Government bashing, with far more depth & data, so I won't get into that). But can this be the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid that the new age entrepreneur is slowly starting to focus on ?

Transportation opportunities are capitalized today by seven seater autos that seat upto ten, a highly disorganized space. Fast, omnipresent & cheap they are becoming more & more the parallel bus service of rural India. I'm hoping to see the day, when this becomes the hunting ground of the numerous taxi startups that are mainly focused on trips in the urban jungles today.

Forgive my ignorance or lack of data, but this space seems completely open for big guys and startup to jump in. With the likes of Aravind Eye Hospital and other examples that can be easily replicated, this spot is up for grabs.

Clean Water & Electricity, which is personally my area of interest and possible future activity is full with stories of everyone from Matt Damon to the local engineering institutions jumping in for a piece of the action. Biogas plants, Solar offgrid, Small Wind & Hydro, standalone products. The technological spectrum is varied and so are the business models, which means that its a case of  "the more the merrier" for these areas.

Also I'm keenly watching Education and Rural BPOs stories to see what sort of opportunities they are going to bring about in the future. I am strongly of the opinion that for the upliftment of this oft-neglected market and for sustainable livelihoods in these areas, impact investing & low cost innovations are the answer.

But the will to explore and execute is going to be the biggest challenge (even for me).