Some three years ago, I remember attending Nexus 2012 in Chennai. I had a lot of questions in mind about IIM Shillong. And Nexus was a great platform for people like me to get their doubts cleared from the Seniors. Prasanna and I were the only two people from the incoming batch of 2012-2014. We were completely outnumbered by our seniors and super seniors and “superest” seniors. I remember sitting there amid all of them, listening curiously to their chatter. They spoke about a lot of things related to IIM Shillong, which was Greek and Latin at that time but made a lot of sense after we reached there. I also made a few connections from the super senior batch who continue to stay in touch till date. It’s a simple yet brilliant concept. Nexus. Get a set of people together who have at least one thing in common. IIM Shillong. My Alma Mater. I attended Nexus 2015 in Delhi today. Attendance from the senior batches (my batch and my seniors) was surprisingly very less. But there were at least 10-15 prospects of PGP-15 batch who were in attendance. Somewhere while interacting with them, I realized how time has flown in these three years, from the day I attended my first Nexus till today. Over these years, my responsibility towards my Alma Mater has also increased. To be able to live up to the expectations of an IIM Shillong Alumnus! image

Three months ago, we also had a more formal Annual Alumni Meet at Delhi, called Mélange 2015. The event had our Director and our esteemed Professor Sanjeeb Kakoty in attendance. As Kakoty sir gave us updates about the changes in the Institute, the flashback of the good old days at Shillong replayed in our minds. Alumni Committee had also made a beautiful video about Life at IIM Shillong, with mini talks from our favorite faculty. It was a tear jerker, literally. image

Ah, how I miss that place! Shillong.

Janani

Posted: May 15, 2015 in Friends, Janani, Joker's Project, Mother
Tags:

I first met Saurabh sometime in December, almost 5 months ago. Even at that time, I remember him telling me he has been working on a track called “Janani” for a few months.

Janani - Mother

Janani – Mother

Well, it’s finally here, It’s worth all the effort Saurabh and his team has put into this project! The visuals, Yatin’s voice, Saurabh’s composition all make this a soul-stirring timeless masterpiece, dedicated to all Mothers.

An original, fresh and awesome work of art. A must watch!

There are followers.

There are fans.

And then, there are maniacs.

When it comes to the Chennai Super Kings, I fall into the third bucket.

The company I work for is one of the sponsors and the official e-Commerce partner of the Chennai Super Kings for this edition of Indian Premier League. So when I got to know there was a  meet and greet function organized, where we’d get a chance to meet a few CSK players, I wasn’t going to miss it!

Paaru and I reached the gates of ITC Maurya, realizing (as we walked to the entrance) that we were a bit over-dressed for the occasion.

Right at the entrance near the reception area, I spotted Ishwar Pandey, Pawan Negi, Mohit Sharma and Russel (the CSK manager who is hyper-active on Twitter). With players so accessible, I though it was going to be a great evening. Realized later that I wasn’t disappointed.

All three players were into their phones. Talk about heights of technology overdose. Just for a moment when Ishwar Pandey looked up, I seized the opportunity to request him for a pic. He obliged. We wished him good luck for this IPL campaign and clicked a selfie with him.

With Ishwar Pandey, Chennai Super Kings

With Ishwar Pandey, Chennai Super Kings

Just when I was about to meet Mohit Sharma, a bouncer whose biceps would have made Dwayne the Rock Johnson jealous pushed me aside with a stern look. “No more pictures”. That’s all he said.

Shortly, the players vacated the reception area, still deeply engrossed in their phones.

A little while later, I bumped into Irfan Pathan near the loo. “Irfaaaaan, big fan!!! One pic please”, I exclaimed. “Hi (looking into his phone), give me a moment. I am trying to figure my things out”. And off, he vanished.

After 2 futile attempts of giving those big players a chance to get pictures clicked with me, I gave up.

The event kick-started at 8 pm. The CSK players made it to the stage with a huuuge roar from the crowd. Non-stop whistles as Mike Hussey, Suresh Raina, Ravi Ashwin, Irfan Pathan and Ronit More made it to the stage one by one.

Hussey wore that infectious smile all through the evening. What a gentleman! Ronit More was a sub for Sir Jadeja who was initially slated to attend the event. Raina, Ashwin and Irfan Pathan didn’t miss a single opportunity to kalaaichify (make fun of) Ronit More. Ashwin called Ronit the upcoming Waqar Younis of India, while Raina and Irfan set him up with a girl, who made him blush all through the evening. Hussey and Ashwin played Dumb Charades with loud cheers from the audience. Irfan sang a couple of songs. Raina judged people from the audience who went on stage to enact their favorite “Sholay” scenes, Sholay being Raina’s all time favorite movie. Raina and irfan enacted a few scenes too.

To see the CSK stars laughing their hearts out just a day after a thumping defeat against the Delhi Daredevils was a lesson in itself.

The crowd was well organized and all of us got a chance to get clicked with the CSK lions.

I managed to say, “Huge fan Sir!”, to Mike Hussey who was sitting in the corner. He smiled back!
Something I can tell my grandchildren. “I have a pic with Mr. Cricket!”.

Mike Hussey, Ravi Ash, Ronit More, Raina and Irfan Pathan, Chennai Super Kings

Mike Hussey, Ravi Ash, Ronit More, Raina and Irfan Pathan, Chennai Super Kings

An evening with the Chennai Super Kings that I’ll remember for a long time!

Photo with a Dhoni standee is good enough

Photo with a Dhoni standee is good enough

I love the concept behind which YourStory.in was started. There are hundreds of media houses, newspapers and forums that cover already successful startups. Stats show that only about 1 in 10 startups succeed or stand the test of time. Who covers startups that are yet to hog the limelight? The startups that are still finding it challenging to establish themselves among peers/competitors who are thousand times bigger? No one, literally.That’s why (and how) YourStory was born. Let’s talk about YourStory and Shradha Sharma some other day.

Today, I’m covering one of those budding startups, called Gharofy.com, which offers a plethora of products that come under the Home & Garden category.

As soon as I visit their website (www.gharofy.com), the first thing that strikes me is their simple and elegant UI. The colors are predominantly black and white and the CTAs (Call to Action) are very evident and stand out.

They offer products in five main categories: Kitchen pack, Housekeeping pack, Bedroom pack, Study room pack and stuff for rent.

The catalog comprises a good few hundred products. The biggest categories are Kitchen and Housekeeping. There are only a few tens of products available in the other categories. “Stuff for rent” is a welcome addition, promoting need based usage among consumers without having to spend a fortune for a new product (Most products under Stuff for rent were “Out of stock” at the time of writing this blog though).

Prices are competitive for many products (compared to similar products in Fabfurnish, Pepperfry, Flipkart, etc.) but is on the higher side for few of them. They currently deliver products in and around Bangalore. And COD is the only payment option available as of now. They guarantee delivery within 48 hours and even promise a refund of Rs. 500 if this SLA is breached, which seems cool.

Gurgaon, followed by Bangalore are the top cities that have a migrant working population. That way,  I think Gharofy has hit the nail on its head by choosing Bangalore to start their business with. I’m sure they’ll expand to rest of India and scale up their Product catalog soon.

So are you just setting up your home in Bangalore? You could give Gharofy.com a try.

By the way, if you haven’t read the earlier posts on Startup Diaries series, you could read them here: PepperTap, Zomato

With every passing day, the fear inside me keeps growing. The fear of not being able to recollect the eventful four years of under-graduate life. The best days of my life. Can’t believe it’s already three years since college got over. Time flies. And memories fade.

Sometimes (rather most of the time), we tend to get preoccupied in the chores of everyday life and work, that we fail to relish, recollect, reminisce the beautiful days from our past. When we are 75 years old and sitting in an easy chair by the balcony sipping a cup of coffee, it is these memories that’d be left with us, to be shared with our children/grandchildren. Memories matter the most.

NIT Surat Final year students have come up with a brilliant video depicting four years of college life. Watching it, I was literally transported 7 years in the past, to the initial days of college life. Through the video, I relived my four years of engineering college life in its entirety. Watch it. I am sure you will, too. It doesn’t matter if you are from NIT Surat or not.

The background music for this movie was scored by our very own talented Saurabh Lalwani. I’ve played a few bits in Violin too.

Enjoy!

The Signal

Posted: April 25, 2015 in Diary

I come across different types of people during different times of the day.
Early in the morning, I see sweepers cleaning the roads in front of me, sacrificing their sleep to earn a living.
I see Traffic police trying to take control of the highway, but in vain.
I see booksellers carrying copies of “Chatan Bhagat” books and Sachin’s autobiography and knocking the glasses of every single car that stops by, to sell at least one copy.
I see elderly beggars, helplessness and hunger written all over their faces, trying their best to survive the current day by begging for money/food.
I see the young middle class men in their bikes, pondering about their day ahead at work.
I see the educated rich women in luxury cars, not wasting a moment to add some more lipstick or adjust their hair.
I see the 5 year old girl who can’t wait for me to turn “Red” just so that she could display her gymnastic skills and earn another 10 rupees.
I see the uneducated rich people who have never acknowledged my existence in the middle of the road. They think they own the roads. I have seen numerous people lose their lives in front of me, because of the carelessness of these people. If only people were more civilized.
I’ve seen innocent dogs being run over by ruthless drivers. It’s a shameful sight. What do these dogs do to earn this plight? Can’t human beings drive safe? Is it that tough?
I am jealous of my brothers in other civilized cities where their words and instructions are being respected.
I work for 16 hours a day, at least.
I do the same job all day long, but religiously.
Yes, I am the Traffic Signal of Gurgaon, one of the least respected entities of this world.

A conversation between a set of cricket crazy people on who is the best batsman who has ever walked on this planet, follows! 

What do you think about this debate? Share you views/opinion in the comments, below :)

21 Apr 00:07 – Bhaskar NH: ABD vs Sachin.. Anyone up for a debate?

Sachin says, "I'm in"

Sachin says, “I’m in”

21 Apr 00:07 – Me: No debate bhai… One is Shiv, one is Vishnu. Both Gods!

21 Apr 00:09 – Bhaskar NH: 👍👍

21 Apr 00:10 – Bhaskar NH: Poda..I thought we could have a healthy discussion on this.

21 Apr 00:10 – Me: Seri start

21 Apr 00:15 – Srikanth: With the respect to abd, Sachin is the only God in my book

"Sachin is our God! Period", says Srikanth

“Sachin is our God! Period”, says Srikanth

21 Apr 00:17 – Srikanth: Simply because Sachin played the way he did against McGrath Walsh Akram Warne all in their primes… Abd is no match in this battle😜

21 Apr 00:19 – Srikanth: BJ so finally you have given up supporting sehwag😱 as it is evident in you starting a debate without him has never happened before😂😜

21 Apr 00:20 – Sud: Sachin laam waste, compared to ab

21 Apr 00:29 – Bhaskar NH: Sudarshan👍👍👍 .. Cheeka, ABD can play like Sachin..but can Sachin play like ABD?

Could Sachin have played this?

Could Sachin have played this?

21 Apr 00:30 – Srikanth: Sachin can, just with more orthodox shots itself

21 Apr 00:30 – Bhaskar NH: Orthodox shots ellam okay… But ABD is a freak da.. 26 off Steyn llam I doubt if Sachin can do

21 Apr 00:32 – Srikanth: Dei, in a flat track with no assistance even Steyn is not as potent a bowler. And if I remember right sachin took Steyn to cleaners in his 200 innings…

21 Apr 00:32 – Srikanth: Maybe not 26 in an over but that innings not possible

ABD vs Steyn

ABD vs Steyn

21 Apr 00:32 – Bhaskar NH: Sachins 200 was also a flat track fyi

21 Apr 00:32 – Bhaskar NH: 😄😄

21 Apr 00:34 – Bhaskar NH: Remember ABD’s match saving 33 of 246 balls in a test match in Oz? Also the fastest 100 and 150…

21 Apr 00:35 – Srikanth: Accepted that Abd played some scintillating innings that rank along the best

21 Apr 00:36 – Bhaskar NH: Only thing is that Sachin had the longevity

Sachu baby

Sachu baby

21 Apr 00:37 – Srikanth: But remember Sachin in Perth when he was only 18 or 19, countless sharjahs, and that 200 was done never before, the situation of that game, the format and the heat! Both had different roles in their teams, so not fair to compare Sachin’s innings with the fastest innings and all…

21 Apr 00:41 – Manoj: Sachin’s bowling is very underrated IMHO. He has over 150 ODI wickets

Sachu bowling

Sachu bowling

21 Apr 00:44 – Srikanth: Manoj👍👍👍👍👍

21 Apr 01:21 – Ajak: Apdi paatha abd is a rugby player so abd > sachin. Comparison is in batting. Ab >srt IMO

21 Apr 01:23 – Me: I agree with BJ for once. ABD can play like Sachin. Sachin has not played the kind of knocks ABD has. ABD is an all format great! Sachin hasn’t scored 41 off 10 and would never have

21 Apr 01:27 – Ajak: Sachin would be never have scored 33 off 220 too

21 Apr 01:27 – Me: The fact that he carried on for 24 years (with consistency and class) is unparalleled. In my books, Dhoni, Dravid, Lax, Dada, Sehwag, Ponting, Lara were all great batsmen of their times but Sachu and ABD have the “Gods of the game” status

21 Apr 01:31 – Sibi: Sachin stood the test of time. ABD has to stay like this for few more years.

21 Apr 01:31 – Sibi: Other wise it would be an extended purple patch

21 Apr 01:32 – Srikanth: All said and done, Abd’s fastest 100 and 150 in times with the field restrictions, which is a great advantage, and Sachin was already around 37 I think when he scored the 200. Maybe he didn’t play much in the last 2 years of his career, and also didn’t face the same bowlers that AB thrashed around, but I think he would have thrived even more. Perhaps not the 150 off 60 odd balls, but he didn’t need to play that kind of game, and it was one time innings by Ab,

21 Apr 01:35 – Ajak: 2 times in the space of 1 month. That’s not a 1 time innings. And when you hit 10+ sixes

21 Apr 01:36 – Srikanth: I am not taking anything from AB, but as all say above, given the longevity and pure masterclass, AB is not as great as Sachin

21 Apr 01:36 – Ajak: Size of ground or restrictions don’t matter

21 Apr 01:36 – Srikanth: Ajak, accepted, my mistake

21 Apr 01:37 – Ajak: It’s an opinion macha unakku sachin enakku AB avlo dhan

21 Apr 01:38 – Srikanth: In this generation, AB is the best. But Sachin has been the best since the time of Lara, Steve Waugh, Ponting and even when AB started to thrive

21 Apr 06:36 – Hari Haran: Getting run a ball was good enough few years back.. Just because of t20, batsman have become more mature and fearless Also they have more exposure.. Unlike before.. Dhawan has styne bowling in nets.. That’s a good practice for him to play very fast balls.. Dravid used to wet rubber ball and ask his coach to chuck and throw it fast at him.. That’s the was he practice.. So, the exposure level were different before and now. 20 years back, entering into iit means u r great.. Also, u can get into iit with mere 20-30% . topper would be say 50%.. Now with these many coaching classes, topper are scoring 80% .. Now u just cant arrive at conclusion telling this topper of 2015 is best. Fastest 50 in IPL is Yusuf pathan.. That sums up all.. Stats can’t just be compared

IIT

IIT

21 Apr 06:48 – Srikanth: Captain Hariharan, pulli vevaram spot on🙏

21 Apr 06:49 – Hari Haran: 🙏🙏

21 Apr 06:54 – Sud: “Pure masterclass” is subjective but I think longevity is the only thing that stands between ab and emulating tendulkar. If ab isn’t pure masterclass, who is? He can play the tank shot over the keeper’s head, reverse sweep for six over third man. If you’re saying he isn’t as pleasing on the eye, take a look at his straight drive in the semis against the kiwis. Also, I don’t think Sachin is capable of playing the 42(233) knock he played against Australia to save a test

21 Apr 06:56 – Hari Haran: Yeah..

21 Apr 06:57 – Sud: And Sachin isn’t capable of playing the 41(11) he got against the Mumbai Indians. Having said that, we have to account for run inflation. Sach was scoring at six an over every match when 200 was par and 250 was a match winning score. Plus he averaged 45. Simply put, he combined the skills it took to play the 42(233) knock and 41(11) knock

21 Apr 06:59 – Hari Haran: Neither sachin nor ponting was part of mi playing 11 .. Tare scores better than both.. But just can’t conclude with this stats. Those two were dropped after few matches

21 Apr 06:59 – Sud: So if ab can play like this for six more years, we will have a winner

21 Apr 07:00 – Hari Haran: He is awesome.. I love AB .. I hate sachin.. Hez selfish. But can’t conclude anything as the generations were different

21 Apr 07:00 – Ajak: AB has pushed the limits of what is possible in limited overs even in this era

21 Apr 07:01 – Sud: Selfish vera. Sachin and ab have one thing in common. In spite of their inhuman talent, they don’t win enough matches for their respective teams. And they aren’t big match players. That’s why I rate ponting, Lara and smith, kohli in this generation higher

21 Apr 07:02 – Hari Haran: KL Rahul scored 100 in Australia in his debut series.. That’s a great task 15 years back.. Not now

21 Apr 07:03 – Sud: Kohli has  lot to prove but he has done enough to be considered one of the best in this generation I guess. Ponting is the best. Vera level. Mavaney what a player. Lara too. Australia ah ye azha utaan. And if I had to choose between Lara and Sachin as to who I’d pay to watch on their best days, lara any day. Sheer domination. Ommaley

21 Apr 07:25 – Hari Haran: But can’t conclude. Agreed. But sachin 175 against Australia in a chase of 300+ 🙏🙏 the team just let him down in that match

21 Apr 08:07 – Bhaskar NH: @Sudarshan- I agree whatever u said except the point about Pointing.. Dei, what’s his record in the subcontinent.. Bhajji llam avana uttan da😄😄

Ponting - Bhajji's bunny!

Ponting – Bhajji’s bunny!

21 Apr 08:19 – Bhaskar NH: And Kohli is not a big match player yet.. I’d rate Steve Smith higher..

21 Apr 08:52 – Ajak: Second BJ on both counts

21 Apr 08:58 – Me: AB’s shots aren’t pleasing to the eye? Then neither is Aishwarya Rai

21 Apr 09:24 – Me: Anyway, who is in for a Negara vs Steyn debate?

Nungambakkam Nehra

Nungambakkam Nehra

Memories are strange. At times, you find yourself under the Lockhart Memory Charm, not being able to recollect memories even from the recent past. There are other memories from 10, 15, even 20 years ago which stay crystal clear in your mind, as if it had occurred yesterday.

I have one such memory from 20 years ago, when I was a 5 year old kid. We had gone to Haridwar for the first time then. I remember taking a dip in the mighty Ganges, tightly clinging on to my uncle with one hand and holding on to the steel ropes with the other. The temperature of Haridwar and that of the Ganges was as contrasting as CSK’s and MI’s performances in IPL games. Ma Ganga was freezing cold. I remember my body and teeth shivering even 20 minutes after the ordeal I had with Her. I vaguely remember walking across Ram/Laxman Jhula, feeling accomplished after crossing them, as if I had conquered the mighty Velliangiri hills (Of course, I was a 5 year old then :P). Well, that was 20 years ago.

Last week, I went to Rishikesh again, this time with a set of 6 colleagues-turned-friends, mainly for whitewater rafting.

A lot can happen over lunch. Our two day trip to the adventure capital of India (yes, that’s what Wikipedia calls Rishikesh) materialized during one of our lunch sessions between Office. Over the past one year of my stay here in NCR, I’ve heard a lot of people talk a lot of good things about whitewater rafting in Rishikesh. So when Parkavi Vasan (referred to as “Paaru” going forward) initiated talks about a two day trip to Rishikesh, I was more than game for it.

Nothing about the trip was planned, apart from the onward train from Delhi to Haridwar. I quote my Guru Bhaskar NH, when I say, “If you want to see the real India, travel in a sleeper class train”. We reached Haridwar Junction, early in the morning.

At Haridwar Junstion

At Haridwar Junstion

The roads were deserted and the climate soothing and breezy, with a sense of holiness attached to the Holy city. Tour Managers Adwait and Sumeet found us a makeshift room near the banks of the Ganges.

Streets of Haridwar

Streets of Haridwar

Ganga hadn’t changed much in 20 years; it was as cold and mighty. All of us barring Lijo took a dip in the Holy river.

Ganga, at Haridwar

Ganga, at Haridwar

Manasa Devi Temple was an enjoyable climb of 30-45 minutes, barring the heat, which had set in by then.

View from Manasa Devi

View from Manasa Devi

After munching piping hot Puri with Aloo and Choley for brunch, we left for Rishikesh, which is an hour’s drive from Haridwar.

Hot afternoon at Hardiwar, with Shyam

Hot afternoon at Hardiwar, with Shyam

At Rishikesh, our tour managers started scouting for the tourist agency guys, to book a package for us. We wanted to take a “Camping + Rafting” package which is generally the most sought after package for visiting tourists. There are a lot of other things one could do at Rishikesh – kayaking, rock climbing, flying fox (800m journey on a rope between two cliffs, with Ganges flowing 80 meter below you), among others.

The tourist agency guy took us to a horrible place initially – a nothing place with our tent facing a small hill, with Ganga nowhere to be seen. I was like, “My two colleges (Amrita and IIM Shillong) offered better views than this!” Others were of the same opinion too. So we ditched that guy and started scouting for camps on our own. Deepanshu, Adwait and Sumeet managed to find a beautiful camp, river facing and breezy.

We spent most of the evening playing in the waters and lazing around within the camp premises. It was a great setting. Hundreds of tents on the banks of the river, white sand, cool breeze and a breathtaking view. Remember those “Diu tourism” ads? Something like that. Welcome break from the drudgery of daily life and the noise of the cities. I didn’t want the clock to tick. Sitting there on a chair outside my tent, facing the river, I let my thoughts take over and felt at ease with myself. It was a good feeling.

Outside our tent, Rishikesh

Outside our tent, Rishikesh

Meanwhile, the likes of Lijo, Shyam, Sumeet and Deepanshu were having a ball in the waters, doing some solid stunts. Adwait was showing off his fitness and gymming skills by doing “push-ups” in the water.

At the waters outside our tent

At the waters outside our tent

While the only thing Paaru was doing was shuffling his hair all the time and clicking selfies. Reliable sources reveal he clicked at least 400 selfies of just himself in the tour span of two days.

One of Paaru's 400 selfies of the trip

One of Paaru’s 400 selfies of the trip

There was enough room for all seven of us to sleep in the same tent. The photo session continued in the morning too.

Rishikesh!

Rishikesh!

We had booked for a morning rafting session. We had chosen the 18 km package, which had 9 rapids (part of the river where the waves are high, irregular and fast).

I had to deal with a lot of butterflies in my stomach just before our rafting begun. I had heard stories about the boat capsizing in between a rapid and had visualized that happening to our boat. Our instructor’s introduction didn’t help my cause in any way. He warned us that the waters here were mighty and dangerous and if we didn’t follow his instructions to the word, there were chances our boat would capsize.

At Shivpuri, our starting point

At Shivpuri, our starting point

I kept chanting the “Darr kea age Jeet hai” thing in my mind to ease things up.

Just before the ride!

Just before the ride!

For the first 3-5 minutes when we were riding on still waters, our Instructor trained us to the different commands he would be chanting throughout our journey.

Initial stretch

Initial stretch

There are, I came to know, 4 different grades of rapids. Our first rapid was a Grade I rapid and was supposed to be easy to negotiate. We failed. Our motions were not synchronized and the waters took control of us rather than the other way round. We were pushed to the shore and had to start all over again. This time, we successfully surpassed the Grade I rapid.

Grade I rapid, near our camp

Grade I rapid, near our camp

I was just thinking what Grade IV rapids would have on offer.

When the waters were calm!

When the waters were calm!

The second rapid was Grade III and the most thrilling of them all, I realized later. I can’t quite put down that experience in words. My mind went blank. I closed my eyes out of fear, and realized water splashing onto me from all directions. All of us were shouting our lungs out. Then a lot of other things happened and finally we were out of the rapid, onto the still waters. Our instructor shouted “Ganga maiyya kiiiiiii” and we screamed “Jaiiii” in unison. Somewhere in that rapid, my fears drowned and I felt liberated. We came across a few rapids which were trickier, faster and narrower that that one, but now that my fears were conquered, they were all completely enjoyable. Each of those rapids apparently have names too. Roller Coaster, Hilton, Golf Course, Double Trouble and Club house are few names I can recollect now.

One from the internet

One from the internet

We went to a nearby Gurudwara in the evening. My first. Felt good. They offered free food too. That mess hall reminded me of my Amrita mess and the Amrita culture of respecting food above all else.

“The World is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.

Cheers to more such trips with awesome set of people.

Where does Rahman find these voices?
He introduced Ghazal singer Hariharan into Tamil playback singing in his very first album, Roja. Rest is history.

Carnatic Singer Unni Krishnan got his break into playback singing, courtesy Rahman. Rest is history.

<Now add a list of a few dozen other singers who got introduced by Rahman>

And then he discovered Shashaa Tirupati of “Aye Mr. Minor” fame from “Kaaviya Thalaivan”.

“OK Kanmani” is an album Shashaa is not going to forget for the rest of her life.

OK Kanmani: Rahman-Mani Ratnam combo is back!

OK Kanmani: Rahman-Mani Ratnam combo is back!

Shashaa’s voice would make it to my list of “Top 3 things that stand out in OK Kanmani” list. “Naanae Varugiren” is out of this world. Dot. Darbaari Kaanada is a soul-stirring raaga and one of my favorite raagas too. There are a lot of cult Tamil songs in Darbaari Kaanada. Have shared links to few of my favorites songs in this raaga, below:

1. Kaatre en vaasal (Rhytm, Rahman)

2. Malare Mounama (Karna, Vidyasagar)

3. Nee kaatru, naan maram (Nilaave va, Vidyasagar)

4. Aagaya vennilave (Arangetra velai, Ilayaraja)

“Naane varugiraen” would make it to this list now.

Shashaa doesn’t stop with this song. She weaves magic along with Karthik and Rahman in “Parandhu sella vaa”.

“Kaara Aattakkaara” struck a chord with Rahmaniacs right from the time the teasers for OK Kanmani got released a few weeks back. The song has an enlivening feel to it, with gentle acoustic strums to back the vocals. The transition from song to rap and back is seamless, as always, from Rahman.

“Mental Manadhil” is the new “New York nagaram”. It’s fresh and it’s stylish. Rahman’s pronunciations stand out in this song. For example, the way he says “taka taka taka”, among others. The female version is equally catchy.

Karthik sure does know a thing or two about rendering awesome solos, irrespective of the genre. With “Sakthi kodu”, “Girlfriend”, “Usurey pogudhu”, “Vinnai thaandi varuvaaya” and now “Hey Sinamika”, we’ve come to realize that the ARR-Karthik solo combo can never disappoint.

And when was the last time we heard Rahman “sing” semi-classical? “Malargal kaettaen” was a complete surprise when I heard Rahman singing classical at the lowest of scales his vocal chords could afford, as opposed to the high-pitch tracks he generally sets aside for his own voice.

Kutty Thala A. R. Ameen makes a cute entry into playback singing with “Maula Wa Sallim”. Just one word to describe the song. Cute.

“Theera Ulaa” just grows into you. Like any Rahman song, the number of layers in this track is higher than the number of orders that Flipkart gets on a monthly basis. Listen to “Theera Ulaa” with earphones plugged deep into your ears and discover the phenomenon that is Rahman.

All said and done, is “OK Kanmani” the best of Rahman-Mani Ratnam combo? Nowhere close to.

Does it join the league of Rockstar, Roja, Alaipayuthey, VTV and the likes? Nope.

Is it better than Kadal? Not yet.

Better than Kaaviya Thalaivan? May be.

Better than Lingaa? Hell, yes.

Better than “I”? Hell, yes.

Best of Rahman in recent times? Hell, yes.

To read more posts related to music, click here.

Imagine this scenario. Anupam Nair and Prateek Saurav are two bachelors who are working in Gurgaon, staying in a 2 BHK. Both of them are lazy by nature; so lazy that they think twice even for moving inside their house. So for them, going to the Grocery store to buy the weekly groceries was always going to be a colossal task. And in a city which has one of the maximum number of migrant employees staying away from home, Anupam Nair and Prateek Saurav are not alone.

It is this gap that Peppertap has identified and is trying to establish itself, as an Online Grocery, fruits and vegetables store. And they are slowly but surely making a mark in this space, in Gurgaon.

I heard about Peppertap three months ago, from a colleague whose friend is working there. I gave them a try. And they impressed. The Android App interface can be better and more user-friendly. There are nine Meta Categories, and anywhere between 2 to 9 sub-categories for each of the Meta Categories. So the App can be a bit tough to handle, initially. But then, their search bar is beyond awesome. I realized this only after my first 2-3 orders. After that, all I had to do was “search” for an item and add it to my cart. So instead of choosing “Fruits & Vegetables” and then choosing “Vegetables” and then choosing “Potatoes”, I could just type “Potatoes” on the search bar and add it to my cart.

And their selection is good, considering they’ve only started a few months back. I’m sure they’ll expand their category tree with time. Geography-wise, they’ve hit the bull’s eye by starting with Gurgaon.

Service is impressive. They deliver within two hours and there’s no extra charge for delivery if your basket size is above 250. I’ve had only one bad experience with them. I had ordered for 3 units of Nutrichoice 5 grain and got Nutrichoice Digestive delivered instead. To quote Deepika Padukone, it is “my choice” what biscuit I’d like to munch. Raised this issue with their customer service agent and they were quick to respond and cordial.

Google Playstore says that their Android App has 5000-10000 downloads and my latest order number was 9270. So they’re still young, but definitely growing.

Good luck, Peppertap!  Would love to see “peppertap” become a verb, like Whatsapp, Xerox.

Why go to the market to buy groceries when you can just PepperTap it.

Cheers!

On the one side, you had a team which had played 6 World Cup Semi finals (I repeat, 6 World Cup Semi finals) and was yet to feature in a single World Cup Final. On the other, you had a team whose worst enemy was luck.

You always knew that when NZ and SA would clash for a spot in the World Cup 2015 Final, the result was going to be unfortunate, irrespective of who wins. Both teams truly deserved to play the World Cup final (IMHOHO). If one team had bowlers hunting in packs and batsmen who strike at 200 (or above, BMac, case in point) for fun, the other team had too many awesome players (both on the field and off it) for anyone to even think about hating them.

So, when Grant Elliott nailed the match with a six over long on off Steyn, there were a million hearts broken; not all of them were of South Africans’. I (like millions of others) could not just move on. We were gutted. We felt cheated. We didn’t see it coming. We completely empathized with the Proteas. We just couldn’t resist breaking down, on seeing sights of SA players crying on the field. Eden Park suddenly seemed a holy place.

AB de Villiers and his army were men on a mission. They really really wanted to make it to the World Cup final. And this edition was their best chance. AB de Villiers! Whatte man! I don’t think any of us acknowledge how fortunate we are to live in an era when this man ruled cricket! Think about it. We are living in a time when Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is playing cricket. Can we safely assume he’s the best ODI player ever? (In a list that includes Sachin Tendulkar, Sangakkara, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli). I will.

Truly heartbreaking moment

Truly heartbreaking moment

A rational person could argue, “It’s just a match. One team has to lose, after all”. Agreed. But now, it’s not about being rational. It’s more than that. SA dropped two potentially match-winning catches and missed two run out chances at crucial points. Logically, by committing those mistakes, SA deserved to lose. But it was beyond all of that. When emotions seep in, rationality takes a back seat. I am sure even die hard supporters of the Black Caps would have felt for the Proteas. Today, I am officially ashamed of calling SA “Chokers”, in the past, even jokingly.

Talking about NZ supporters, what a crowd they were today, at Eden Park! Giving a standing ovation to the losing Captain ABD was truly special. In my mind, they’ve risen above the Chepauk crowd that gave a standing ovation for the winning visiting team (Pakistan) in 1999.

That’s how awesome Cricket as a Sport is! Neutral observers experience heartbreaks, crowds cheer for opponent teams after a match, players console each other after the game! The guy who called Cricket a Gentleman’s game didn’t call it without reason.

Talk about Sportsmanship

Talk about Sportsmanship

AB de Villiers and Co., all I have to say to you is there’s no shame in this defeat. You were truly sensational! You can go back to South Africa with your heads held high!

Written by a gutted Proteas supporter after the 1st Semifinal of Cricket World 2015 between NZ and SA on 24th March, 2015 at Eden Park, New Zealand.

Restaurant Review: Vaango

Posted: March 20, 2015 in Food
Tags: , ,

“Vaango” literally translated in Tamil means “Please come”. For those new to Vaango, it’s a pretty big restaurant chain across NCR that offers Authentic South Indian food.

The model is similar to the KFCs and McD’s of the world. They have a standardized menu across all outlets and follow a franchise model (I think).

The taste of food is unmatched by any restaurant chain here in NCR. Sagar Ratna will have noticed a lot of their customers being poached by Vaango.

Top 2 reasons why you should dine at Vaango are it’s menu and customer service. They have a number of new and unique combos to offer; Mini Dal Vadas (set of 4) and Poori Thali Combo being my personal favorites. Their staff are very cordial, except for the fact that they try to cross-sell/up-sell every time you place an order. “Would you like to add X as well?”, “Y will go well with this”, “Any drinks you want sir? Filter coffee, juices?”, can get on your nerves, after a point of time.

Will give you an example on the level of their customer service.

Last week, I had ordered a Poori Thali combo and completed the Pooris and 1 bowl of rice. I needed extra sambhar and pappads for the second bowl of rice and asked the server for the same. Even after 5 minutes when I hadn’t received it, I went up to the counter to raise my concern. Apparently, the server had taken the sambhar and pappad to a different table.

Seeing this, the manager immediately rushed to me to apologize for the mishap and gave me sambhar and 2 extra pappads. Apart from this, he also offered 1 plate of Idly Sambhar “from his side”, to appease me. “Extremely sorry for the delay Sir. We’ve kept you waiting for so long. From my side, I’ll offer you a plate of Idly Sambhar. Please don’t refuse it”, he said.  All this when I wasn’t even pissed or something.

Goes to show how much these restaurant chains care about their customers.

Like everything in Delhi-NCR, Vaango too is overpriced. Not every night can you have a Poori Thali Combo and Mini Dal Vadas for 180 rupees.

Why holidays are bad!

Posted: March 16, 2015 in Diary, Nostalgia
Tags: ,

I remember starting this blog, some 32 months ago, for sharing experiences from my personal life with the blogosphere. I had christened it My Shillong Diary (MSD) because of my obsession with Dhoni. It was started as a diary and over time, has evolved and encapsulated a number of other topics including (but not restricted to) Cricket, Movies, Music, Travel, Books and random ramblings.

Today’s post is more of a personal one. Almost like taking a leaf out of my personal diary and sticking it out for the world to read. So it was one of my best friend’s wedding on March 8; something I was looking forward to, for quite some time. I had planned for a ten day vacation.

Thanks to Ola Cabs, I almost,missed my flight from Delhi to Chennai. Read more about it, here.

Ernesto’s wedding at Coimbatore was a great opportunity to meet many friends for the first time after college got over (in April 2014). Few of my friends witnessed a South Indian wedding for the first time.

Ernesto's wedding, Coimbatore

Ernesto’s wedding, Coimbatore

After Ernesto’s marriage, Ashok (a Coimbatore local) hosted us for a grand lunch at his place. I ate so heavily that I skipped dinner that night. Savitha even skipped breakfast the next morning. Unknown sources revealed that Ram Prasad was the only guy who had dinner that night.

Abhishek Trivedi (a district level Cricketer) also joined us for the wedding. His interest in the Shaivaite and Vaishnavite cultures and his penchant for exploring South India intrigued even a few locals.

Coimbatore was my second home for four years (I did my under graduation there). Paid my respects to cult places like Annapoorna Gowrishankar, KG Cinemas, RHR Hotel, among others. Couldn’t visit Sita Paani restaurant, our dheivam (God) for close to two years. Hopefully, it stays around till the next time I visit Coimbatore.

Along with Aradh and Abishek, I conquered Velliangiri peak (albeit, at snail’s pace). Read a comprehensive post on Velliangiri, here. And visit the place some time.

I spent a good one week at home, busy getting pampered. And having proper food.

Dadak (an Amerikka Maappillai in the making), was gracious enough to spend an evening with locals like me, Ram and Shreyas. We met after close to three years. At the risk of sounding cliched, I must say we realized almost nothing had changed since the good old Ettimadai days (doesn’t quite have the ring like “Malgudi Days”, but still :P).

From left: Guruji, Terror, Yours truly and Dadak

From left: Guruji, Terror, Yours truly and Dadak

Stalwarts (Class of 2014, IIM Shillong ) from Chennai met at Elliot’s beach for a mini reunion of sorts.

Stalwarts at Elliot's

Stalwarts at Elliot’s

I stayed at a rat infested house for two nights, which also had Pam, Prateek and Sayar living in it.

Oh and yeah, #YoPrateekSoMarketing is a hashtag that’s been doing the rounds in twitter, past one week or so. Unleash the creative genius in you and join in to contribute towards the hashtag and make it a milky way galaxy wide trend, if you know Prateek Gaurav personally.

Few tweets from the hashtag below.

This is exactly why holidays are bad. When they are on, you have the best time in the world, like I did. But like all good things in life, holidays too come to an end and all you have is memories to carry over, till the next holiday season.

On a completely different note, do maintain a personal diary (if you don’t already) and register stuff from your daily life into it. Reading 4-5 year old diary entries and reminiscing about “those” days is one of the most under-rated feelings in the world. My paatti (Grandmom) writes diary entries even today (I think). What’s more, she has a collection of her personal diaries from 50-60 years ago, still.

Enough rambling for the day.

Dear Ola,
The first time I used your service a few months ago, I immediately became your loyal. The entire concept of booking a cab through a mobile app using your current location was awesome, and a first for me. To top it up, the customer experience was flawless; the ride arrived well on time, the chauffeur was cordial and the fare was very nominal.
The subsequent rides only reinforced my faith in you. I, in fact, deleted all contact details and Apps of other Taxi service providers I had been using before. I was (I still am) one of the thousands of your loyalists who contributed to positive Word of Mouth. I used to tell my friends and family, “Use Ola! They are awesome” or “Ola has a 50% off this week!”. I acted as a marketing channel for you which has infinite ROAS (Return on Ad Spend).
I thought you guys could do no wrong! Perhaps, I was mistaken.
On March 5th, 2015, I had a really really bad experience with your service. The events in chronological order are described below (timings not very accurate).

I booked an Ola Mini at 5 pm, for a ride at 6.15 PM from Sushant Lok, Gurgaon till the Airport. I immediately received a message:

Ola Nitin Srinivas! Your booking with CRN65458017 has been received for 5Mar, 6:15 PM. We look forward to having you onboard.

Being a frequent Ola user, I knew I should be getting a message with Driver details at least 15 minutes before the ride (i.e 6 pm in this case).

Time was 6.10 pm and I hadn’t received any message yet. I got concerned and immediately reached out to your customer care. The executive who attended the call was very cordial. He apologized for the inconvenience and immediately sent a message with driver details.

You’ve got a free upgrade! CRN65458017 – Driver Umesh (8860656268), White Maruti swift dzire HR 55 U 7543 will pick you up @ 5Mar, 6:15 PM. Say Ola to being special!

The time was 6.20 pm and Umesh hadn’t arrived yet. I called him at his number. To my shock, he told me he wasn’t coming to Sushant Lok. He told he was going for another ride near Mehrauli, and asked me to call Customer Care to raise my concern. Now I was beginning to get a bit tense. My flight was at 8.55 pm (AI540 from Delhi to Chennai), and I had to be at the Airport by 7.55 pm at max. Knowing Gurgaon traffic, especially in the evening hours after Office, I knew I was getting late. Still, I called your Customer Care one more time. This time, one other executive picked up the call and he had no idea about what had happened with me, in the last 15 minutes. I had to explain everything to him all over again. He then took some time to look into his system and told me Umesh is on his way to my place. I told him I just had a word with Umesh and he told he was going to Mehrauli to pickup some other customer. He told that was sometime back and that Umesh is now on his way to my place. I immediately cut the call and called Umesh again. “Bhaiya, you are coming to Sushant Lok right?”. “No bhaiya. I am going to Mehrauli to pickup a customer. That’s what my phone is showing”.

I had no idea what was going on! I made a final call to customer support to see if something could be worked out. Time was 6.40 pm (I had to reach airport by 7.55 pm). Again, I had to explain everything from scratch. This time, the customer support executive had no clue about the status of Umesh or me or whoever was going to attend me. He told his system was down and that he wasn’t able to see anything. Completely miffed and gutted, I cut the call. 6.45 pm.

I couldn’t see any private cabs around. Not even an auto. After walking for a while carrying my luggage, I found an auto, which took me till Huda City Center. From Huda, I couldn’t find any cabs to Airport. With my pulse raising, I asked an autowallah if he would go to the Airport. The airport was in Delhi and he told me Haryana autos aren’t allowed beyond Kapashera, which is the Delhi-Haryana border. Having no other choice left, I boarded that auto which dropped me at Kapashera at 7.30 pm.

I had to reach the airport in 20 minutes. Otherwise, I was going to miss my flight back home. Looked like this sense of urgency was very much visible on my face. The lone Taxi wallah there decided he’s got a great opportunity to make a fortune that night. He told he’ll try his best to drop me at the Airport before 8 pm. He charged me 850 rupees, for a journey that would cost 300 rupees at max. I wouldn’t blame him. He just pounced on the great opportunity that was lying in front of him, and made full use of it. I was “cornered and helpless” and ended up paying more than double the normal charges so as to board my flight on time. Thanks to Ola Cabs and my blind faith in you.

Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not like I’m going to stop using Ola or something. In fact, I have already used it once after this incident, in Coimbatore this week.

However, lesson learnt the hard way. No one is perfect. Not even Ola Cabs. Always have contingency plans in place.

P.S: After I landed in Chennai at 11:30 pm, I got two messages from Ola.

You’ve got a free upgrade! CRN65458017 – Driver SHOKEEN (9560966493), White Toyota etios DL 1 YD 8345 will pick you up @ 5Mar, 6:15 PM. Say Ola to being special!

Ola! We regret to inform the cancellation of your booking CRN65458017 as we are unable to find a cab near your pickup location. We’d have loved to serve you!

Scene I

We were just about to start our ascent of the mighty mountains of Velliangiri (also called South Kailash) when we were confronted by a man wearing a helpless face, trying to live a respectful life even in poverty. That kind of face. He said, “Ayya, please give me an opportunity to smoothen your bamboo sticks. I will charge only 5 rupees per stick. I have two kids Ayya, and I want them to study”. We could see a small boy (referred to as Jet Lee, going forward) playing around in the temple premises, having little idea about the poverty his family was in. Just behind him, the man’s wife was feeding their second kid. We gave the man 30 rupees and also asked him to make sure Jet Lee studies and comes big in life. The man thanked us with a beaming smile and wished us good.

Scene II

A boy, all of 14 years, was manning a small shop in the middle of the mountain forests, selling biscuits and other refreshments. Abishek asked him if he was going to school. Their conversation follows.

Abishek: “Brother, do you go to school?”

Boy: “No” <without any signs of resentment>

Abishek: “Why not? Your parents couldn’t afford it?”

Boy: “They could. I was going to a Government school till Class VIII. Then I stopped”

The boy shooed away a few monkeys which were interested in the bananas in his shop

Abishek: “Why? Why did you stop?”

Boy: “One day I got angry in Class and hit my teacher bang on his head. I never returned to school after that”

All of us were in shock.

Abishek: “Why? What did he do?”

By this time, he had developed a liking for us and spoke more freely.

He went on to explain how the teacher had shouted a lot of expletives towards him when he had gone to class without completing his homework. When the boy tried to explain that his father was taken ill the previous day, the teacher wouldn’t listen. At one point, the boy apparently lost his cool and hit him hard on the center of his head with a stick. And never returned to school.

In the middle of the forests, after 11 hours of trekking, sitting on the rocks, there was only thing running in my mind! What if Jet Lee grows up to become like this boy!

Anyway, these two scenes kind of capture the quality of life of people living in and around Velliangiri.

This was my second successful visit to the Velliangiri mountains, in three years. Something I can proudly tell my grandchildren, 40 years hence.

If you look at the demographics of people who come to Velliangiri, 80% of the people are from Coimbatore or its surrounding areas itself. ~19% from Chennai and other cities in Tamil Nadu. There were hardly any people outside Tamil Nadu. Other than being a pilgrimage center for Shiva devotees, it is also a brilliant trekking destination.

Velliangiri - the seventh mountain

Velliangiri – the seventh mountain

But there are a number of reasons why Velliangiri is not yet there in say, “The Top 10 trekking destinations of India”.

  • The Authorities probably don’t see it as a Tourist destination, and haven’t taken any significant steps in that direction
  • It is not safe.
    • We heard stories about a Tamil movie Director who got lost in the forests, and came out somewhere near Kerala, after nearly a month.
  • Lack of facilities.
    •  Apart from moonlight and the torch/mobile phone one carries, there’s no source of light, for 95% of the journey, up and down
    • There are only three sources of water, all seven mountains combined
  • No WOM
    • Since most of the people who visit Velliangiri are “not-so-tech-savvy” devotees, the word of mouth doesn’t spread beyond their close circles
    • Perhaps, the Isha Foundation can contribute in a big way to make it an awesome tourist destination

To kill boredom while trekking (we were only three of us), we surveyed people who were coming in the opposite direction. We would ask someone, “Anna, innum evlo dhooram na?” (“Anna, how much more distance to the peak?”), and he would say, “It’s very close. Will hardly take two more hours”. We would then walk for two hours and then ask another guy. “Just one more hour”. After walking for an hour. “Maximum one more hour”.

It took us 7 hours in total, to reach the peak. The mountains were deserted, that friday evening. In fact, there was a stretch of around an hour when there was not a single person ahead or behind us. Stories about the missing Tamil Director was there in the back of our minds, Our torch lights were dimming. That moment was my best of the trek.

After paying our respect to Lord Shiva at the peak and taking the load off our feet for an hour, we started our descent at 7 am. It was raining then and we were offered some breathtaking views by nature.

Rock bed

Rock bed

The rocks were slippery due to rain and it took us some extra effort and time to climb down the 7th mountain. Aradh’s obsession with clicking pictures didn’t help us either.

Rainbow

Rainbow

Sunrise

Sunrise

The next 4 mountains were relatively easier to climb down. By this time, after 12 mountains (7+5) and 12 hours of continuous trekking, my legs had given up. They were dead. Climbing down the last two mountains were the toughest for me, taking a break after every 10-15 minutes.

Trekking unlike say jogging, or gymming, is different in the way that you don’t have a choice. You cannot give up. You push your boundaries longer and harder. But when you are done, there’s no feeling bigger than that feeling of accomplishment.

Darr ke aage jeet hai

Darr ke aage jeet hai

At the end of 14 hours of trekking, some picturesque moments. some eerie moments, some calm moments away from the drudgery of city life, the experience was totally worth it!

If you do not have Velliangiri in your bucket list yet, it’s time you add it to the list and make it a point to visit the awesome place, some time. You will not regret it!