Sunday, May 24, 2009

A trip to the land of the blues - III

Trip to Mauritius: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

The next thing I heard was the ringing of the phone. Sleepily navigating myself towards the phone, I managed to pick the call up.


“Good morning Sir. This is the concierge.”


“I called to inform you that your cab is here Sir”

I flipped my wrist over and looked at my watch. Still had an hour left.

“Ok, we will be there at 8.15 as informed to us”

“Sir, the time now is 8.20”

I sat upright.

“What?! Are you sure?”

“Yes, sir.”

Totally awake by now, I mumbled something about my watch saying something else and promising that we will be there soon.

In the next 20 minutes, both of us operated on fast forward as they show in movies and managed to rush out by 8.40.

As we reached the cab, we were greeted by O’Brien – our guide for the day. We avoided his eyes and frantically dumped our carry bags in the car. That was when he made a strategic mistake.

Trying to scare us, he said “It’s very late, Sir. If we start anytime after 9, we would get stuck in traffic jams”.

That made my wife freeze in her tracks.

“After 9?”

“Yes ma’am.”, he said forcefully, not knowing what was coming up.

“Then we’ll have breakfast and come. We still have 20 mins”. Saying so, and not giving him time to recover from this blow, the missus pulled me and ran to the restaurant. Poor guy took a couple of minutes to re-draw his jaws from the ground.

I was not so much for breakfast then. We were already late by a half hour almost. And I absolutely HATE that. So I kept mumbling something as we filled our plates with buns, croissants, omelette etc.

Then the missus told me “You were the one who set your watch wrong. And you wouldn’t set a wake up call also. Don’t blame me for this now.”

But I HAD to have the last word.

I said “Ok”.

(Go Vishy!)

In 10 mins we were back at the car. With slightly heavier carry bags (Wink wink).

O’Brien chose to keep himself quiet as we pulled away from the scenic hotel. And luckily for us, the other couple that was supposed to join us for the day’s trip had cancelled their program. So we were virtually on private transfers, at group tour costs.

(Balls to you, tour operators.. Ha ha!)

Soon my heartbeat was back to normal, and my mind started functioning again. And that was when I realised why so many things had gone the way they did the previous day.

The tour operator lady’s comment on keeping time at Mauritius.. The hotel tour that never happened.. The server looking at us weirdly when we ordered food (cos it was way past closing time).. Ah!!!

Soon we were whizzing past Win-XP-wallpaper after Win-XP-wallpaper on our first day of touring Mauritius.

We had actually suggested that this day's trip could be cancelled and some adventure sport could be scheduled in its place. The tour office lady almost had a concussion when she heard that. Deeply hurt, she claimed that this was “the classic Mauritius tour that no one ever misses”.

My foot.

The first half of the day was filled with places I would not visit even on Google Maps.

First we were taken to a ‘glass factory’ that posters claimed “is to glass, what Madame Tussauds is to wax”. I thought the factory made glass models of celebs, and went in with some excitement.

The hallway was filled with row after row of glass models of celebrities’



Imagine being in a semi-dark hall. You look all around you. And all you see is model after model of glass bearing some obscure hand print. The only things that visibly differentiated the models were the plaques that called out the name of the celebrity whose lovely hand it was.

As I wondered why they had brought us to such a place, and what was so great about it, we moved on to the next room. Ah! That explained it.

One could take home a glass model of one’s own hand. For a thousand Mauritian Rupees.

Have these guys been smoking dope! Why would ANYONE want to do that! Who the hell (apart from Joey Tribbiani) could identify a hand!

A funny exhibit at the glass factory

We were out in a jiffy and went to the next stop of the day.

The ship factory.

Actually the ship model factory.

Actually one more ploy to try and part our precious money from us.

This ‘factory’ made models of ships (that were 3 full feet in length) and tried to test the IQ of tourists by offering them things for sale. But they met their match in me.

The sales lady kept dropping hints, each less subtle than the previous. Starting with “These ships are made of good quality wood”, moving on to “These are very popular souvenirs that remind tourists of the fun they had here”, and finally to the extent of pleading “Sir, we assure that we can pack this very well to tolerate the pressure of an international flight”, she tried her best. But I betrayed absolutely no emotions of even remotely considering a purchase. I looked at the ship models with the stoic eye of an Engg graduate at a factory in an Industrial Visit. My only thoughts were about the fun stuff that were planned for the rest of the day. This was just a formality that had to be done with. Soon the lady gave up and just let us walk around the showroom.

Pretty soon we were out of that place, and moved on to the first tourist spot of the day: (hold your breath, ladies and gentlemen)

The Volcano!

We were kinda excited about this one. Finally some interesting stuff which we cant get elsewhere!

O’Brien took us to a hillock (at Trou Aux Cerfs), and pointed a large pit in the valley and exclaimed “THIS is what remains of a terrible volcano.”

We peered over. The ‘pit’ was quite large, and the air was heavy with reverence.

I managed to whisper out a quiet “when did it last erupt?”

“Oh don't worry. Millions of years ago"


(That was the heaviness vanishing into thin air)

Why again would someone want to see this? It’s been millennia since any activity happened at this place, and these nutty folks were crying over spilt lava?! Why, had this been in India, kids would have been playing cricket all over the place.

Anyway, there were some good 'valley view' points there, and we started clicking pics together.

Can you see the ocean behind?

(Tip to Honeymooners: Buy a tripod for your cam and take it along. We did. Helps a lot, later when telling others that both of you went on the trip, together)

Soon we were back in the vehicle, and went on a scenic route to a place called 'Ganga Talao'.

En route to Ganga Talao

En route to Ganga Talao

There is a huggggeee statue of Lord Shiva on the way to Ganga Talao, towards the end.

Legend has it that Lord Shiva appeared in some saint's dreams and asked him to get water from the Ganges in India, and build a temple in Mauritius. And so he did at this place.

The actual temple near the pond looks like some kind of department store outside, with quite a few statues of different lords erected there.

Soon we were on another scenic route to some gorges and waterfalls.

And the last stop for the day was a place called "seven colored earth". It was a place with mounds of dark mud that was in different hues. Fine, it was interesting to the extent that I wouldn't have minded watching it on NatGeo or Discovery. But coming in person to see this was a huge disappointment. Seeing 'seven colored earth' on different posters and pamphlets, I had expected it to be something spectacular. But those guys hadn't lied. It was just that - seven colored earth. Nothing else. Nothing great.

Boy fishing inside Tortoise's mouth

Soon we were on our way back to the Hotel. One more scenic route.

Overhead irrigation systems are omnipresent at Mauritus

With quite a tiring day behind and ahead of us, we retired for the night after some time at the private beach at the Hotel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Salaam Bombay

A photo-post after a long time.

Long long ago, so long ago, that nobody remembers how long ago, I announced a contest, remember? The topic was street photography. I did get a lot of entries. But many participants had misunderstood the meaning of the term.

Street photography does not mean photographs of streets and roads. It refers to the freezing of routine life OR the out of the ordinary that one experiences in one's normal activities daily - on the streets.

Sounds too profound? Nothing much actually. This post comes with some samples of street photography from the streets of Mumbai..

1-up at IIMB: A review - II

Moving on from people.

One major change IIMB brought in my life is in the area of time management and responsiveness. Earlier, I would never be able to think up something and execute it right away. I used to need quite a lot of time to ‘get mentally prepared’. But this changed at IIMB. One would hardly get time to ‘get comfy’ with stuff. Things always move at Top Gear. So I was forced to think on my feet, always. And by now, have got used to it. It’s no more painful for me to get into something right away. I do not feel unsure and inadequate as I used to earlier. One major learning I had at IIMB.

And in a related topic, I also learned to enjoy during and between work. In my life before IIMB, ‘fun time’ and ‘work time’ was very clearly defined and planned. I would never be able to enjoy my lunch if there was an EoD deliverable left unfinished. Even if I were on schedule, I would still feel insecure and would not really be able to have fun. But now, things have changed. At IIMB, the only fun you get is wedged between bouts of hard work. And I have got used to that way of life now. I can easily switch between work and fun at the sound of an email. I guess this is in preparation for the corporate life I have ahead of me. Am I thankful to IIMB for this! Else, my work-life balance would have gone for a toss.

One aspect of IIMB that every student would have to come to terms with is – you are not much. You may have so many achievements behind your name, but then so does everyone here. So what’s new with you? This is a heartless realization one has to come to terms with here, especially a brief period after joining, cos that is when all the adulation from the home frontiers would be at a peak. And if you peak today in a quiz, nothing guarantees that you won’t be the last guy on the mark list in the surprise quiz of tomorrow. Greatness is not perennial here – neither in space nor in time.

IIM life always comes with bizarre sleeping hours and durations. But it’s not mandatory, mind you. There are so many people I know who cannot stay up beyond 11 PM, and get their 8 hours every day. It is very possible on most days. Things are not as bad as they are purported. But there’s a catch to it :) YOU have to decide how you want things to be. Most people choose to stay up for long (12.30 AM – 2.00 AM is when the campus begins to slowly tuck in for the night). But that is cos they choose to spend a part of the day chatting / watching movies / playing computer games / etc. So if at all one is worried about the late hours one needs to put in, well, it’s not as bad as it seems from outside. There WILL be a few sleepless nights every month. But then that’s hardly anything to lose sleep over :P

So is everything hunky dory about IIMB? Is it the perfect abode on earth?

Obviously no. No place is perfect.

One depressing aspect of any IIM is that with competition being at sickening levels, and the stakes being perceived as terribly high, it is alarmingly easy for people to get their priorities skewed and become individualistic. It pains me (and many folks in here) when some brilliant intellectual starts behaving in a self-centered fashion. And that happens fairly often here. You can easily see through some folks who do everything with some hidden motives (which always target better placements). That is something I wish were different here. It is the bane at any IIM, but a bane alright. Not everyone is like this though. The majority gets its focus right very soon after joining. What I despise is a minority, mind you.

And this is the reason why I just *love* my section folks! The Dakoos are an awesome bunch of very helpful people who always think, work and act as a single entity. The entire class of 73 people feels like a gang that has similar tastes and preferences. There have been very few instances of individualism in Dakoo history, and am I proud as hell about that! Thank you, Dakoos! You are among my most favourite memories of first year life at IIMB!

This time of the year is when many lucky people with multiple IIM seats at hand scratch their heads wondering which IIM to go to. My 2 cents on this (much of it borrowed from Prahalad :) ): Where you end up after 2 yrs is not going to be very different between A, B and C. Placements are great at all these three institutions. So you might want to choose an insti that suits your attitude. In that sense, IIMB is for a consistent high-achiever who has huge dreams, but wants to reach there without compromising on something that actually matters in life – viz. life itself. Work as well as life here is intense.

On the whole, if I look back at my first year, one thing that makes me boundlessly proud is:

You go out.. Meet some people.. And tell them you are from IIMB.. and they take a second, closer look at you saying “Ohhhhhhhh”..

That’s when all the hardships seem worth it.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Vote for Sarath Babu!

While on the one hand we constantly crib about the educated Indian isolating himself from the political process, silently a revolution seems to be taking place in India. Come every election, we find younger and younger people stepping into the arena. If last time it was the Lok Paritran, this time Foodking Sarath Babu is making heads turn with his brave decision.
Actually when my Mom SMSed me a month back saying that he was contesting the elections, my first reaction was "What the hell, isn't this too early for him?".
But in one sense, it's already too late! More people like him have to enter the fray.
Lok Paritran failed. And honestly speaking, Sarath also may not make much more than a few headlines here and there. But there is such a thing as a learning curve. As my dear friend Rathu puts it, people in future will learn from these experiences and some day educated youth will meet politicians eye-to-eye in the game of politics.
Lets lend all the support we can to this transformation.
Calling all South Chennai voters to express their support.
If you have not formed an opinion about this yet, take my word - Vote for Sarath Babu.
Also get your parents / friends / relatives to vote for the man. Think of all the times you convinced / forced / cajoled them into doing something in the past? Add one more to the list.

And most importantly:
Or you wont matter.

- - - - - - - - - - Update - - - - - - - - - - -
South Chennai Election Results:
Total Votes: 7,26,329
Rajendran C (ADMK):3,08,567
Bharathy RS (DMK): 2,75,632
Gopinath V (DMDK): 67,291
Ganesan La (BJP): 42,925
Sarath Babu E: 14,101

5th out of around 50 candidates. 6th candidate had 2154 votes.

Decent performance, what?

Full results here.