Posted by: Madhavi CN | September 9, 2017

#RallyForRivers. Water Matters!

As we wear the blues and give missed calls to join the #RallyForRivers, we are not showing our support to one man or one foundation but pledging to increase the awareness (and subsequently action) to revive the life lines of civilization.

Indus Valley to Industry Ally: Progressive Regression

From the times of Indus valley civilization that flourished on the basin of the Indus river, we have made substantial movement towards building industry ally civilizations across the globe. Deforestation, water scarcity, pollution, mining, extreme energy consumption, extinction of species, ozone depletion et al cannot be imagined to be the ‘minor’ outcomes of progressive living.

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The world is facing danger that none can deny.  Perhaps our generation will make it through, but what about the next or its next?

It is no longer the problem of developed nations, environment committees or global organizations. It is time that we stop sighing helplessly and step up to contribute proactively to the environment.

Small Steps towards A Big Change

Plant a tree, say no to plastic, car-pool, install that solar panel and rainwater harvesting system, place a water bowl for the birds….Yes, what each of us does matters. In short REFUSE-REDUCE-REUSE and inspire others to do the same. There are always those who question the methods and processes, present statistics to stall, laugh at your ‘exaggerated’ fear for the environment or worse still, raise an eyebrow at your choice of the organization that is fighting for the cause. Ours is not to debate and delay but to act in the right direction (Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die – Alfred, Lord Tennyson).

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Revenues Or Rivers?

Some are loyal to revenues rather than rivers. They would choose obvious or obscured ways to divert the mass awareness for they know that “Awareness is the greatest agent for change” (Echart Tolle)

My friends and I are with Sadhguru and Isha Foundation on the nationwide drive to save our rivers. We will wear blue, blog, tweet, post, instagram, campaign and march with all those who #RallyForRivers.

Each of us may have different ideologies, lifestyles, education, careers, opinions and affiliations, but we all consume water so we #RallyForRivers!

As cynics sneer, we optimists cheer awareness and action.

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#RallyForRivers

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Posted by: Madhavi CN | June 9, 2016

My Heady Potpourri 

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Family Pic – Thank you Mario Miranda! 

Some families are good and boring. Some are bad and roaring. But when it comes to the craziness quotient (let’s call it CQ) each tries to outdo the other. I can get away by saying that all Indian families are at par when it comes to the CQ. On a closer look, I definitely feel my family is a sure winner in this segment. If you have some adventure in your soul, I will take you for a peep into my family and its perky people.

Like any family that typically shares the same gene pool, surname and the wifi, we too share the same but that is where it ends. It is not that we are mean or unkind to each other, it is just that everyone (and that includes even the tiny people) have strong opinions, ideas and ideals to scout for. We believe in voicing it out even if there is no one to hear; rather, there is not much that can be heard. It’s a boisterous blend of generations and a medley of relationships. There are nephews who are older than their aunts, staunch bachelors who are grandfathers and even a just-born who is an uncle by birth! It gets quite complicated when a kid needs to scream out that the sister-in-law’s brother’s son has snatched away his ice-cream. In such situations, a ‘that-fellllllooooow’ did-whatever, is considered acceptable. Yeah, we don’t sweat the small stuff.

Now that we got the essence of beating the complexity out of the relationships, it’s time we discuss the personalities. Ours is an alphabet family; we have some OCDs, ADDs, ADHDs, MPDs, PTSDs and so on. Oh, none of them are clinical cases…(as yet!) but I seriously think they are close to that. If you had met my MIL after the daily dose of her favorite soap, you would emphatically nod that she is the PTSD case. She would be in shell-shock and would be continuously mumbling about the ordeal the poor bejeweled, chiffon saree-clad driver’s daughter is undergoing, as a daughter-in-law of the ‘big house’. You may forget that she was only referring to the heroine of the daily soap and start empathizing with her. There were actually cases in the past to prove it. To prevent any possible harm, let’s agree on the colorful personalities my family nurtures and leave it at that.

When I talk about the daily soap, I think I should also tell you the way some of my family members watch the TV. There is one who does fing(a)erobics with the remote, some who hide the remote and some who sit on the remote to have complete control of it. It is not only about the remote but the TV shows too. My FIL watches the same news item in every possible news channel, my husband has a penchant to toggle between the sports and business news, and snore in between; my aunt (the actual relationship is quite complex but let me simplify it so) who breaks into an-out-of-tune-but-loud devotional chant every time the bhakti channel is on and then there is my sister who sits before the TV to get busy on Whatsapp! I bet, a family that eats together, prays together may not stay together if it were asked to watch the TV together!

Eats together? Mmm…that reminds me of food and our family’s take on it. We all eat what’s cooked by the people in the kitchen. When I say people, I mean the whole lot. At any time, our kitchen is the most occupied room in the house. Almost everyone in the family is there – giving suggestions, configuring the recipe, reworking the menu, tasting the ingredients or just figuring out where to join. There are too many cooks, just too many cooks! Don’t want to say more, but you get a freehand to figure out the obvious.

We neither give each other the Karan Johar’s hugs or the Balaji Telefilms’ snide remarks. We are bad for we prick and poke; we are good, for then we kiss to heal. And in between all that, we are totally crazy. We stay together for we do not know how else to be!

Posted by: Madhavi CN | May 6, 2016

Strolling in Phuentsholing

11With lot of time on hand and nothing much to do, my daughter’s eyes were glued to the TV, while I was in a chatty monologue about what to expect in the next two weeks and my husband was searching for the optimum wireless signal (the hotel assured us of the wi-fi but it did not tell us how weak it was!) Some magazines were read, enough channels surfed and catnaps taken. Monotony was slowly entering the monarchy. To beat that, the obvious majority decided to avoid the room-service and take a stroll out – first for some mineral water, next for lunch, then for the evening chai, later for some evening walk and finally for dinner ;).

The roads are clean and all buildings look similar to one another. They are like colorful stacked boxes of blues, greens, yellows and purples with plain glass windows that had no grills. Only the ground floors had windows with lattices. The general belief seemed to be that thieves in Bhutan do not climb through windows… or even better, there were no thefts! All the buildings had built-in pipes for rainwater harvesting. This is the first initiative to be implemented for our Indian cities.street-1

All the shops have standardized name boards in dark green with white letters. Only the font changed. And every shop, however small it is, has its own colorful dust bin. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the streets are so clean. DD and I had a game of trying to spot a shop without a dustbin as we walked around the streets aimlessly. There were some shops without customers and a couple of them without the shopkeepers (!) but all had the litterbin steadfast at their doors. This is the second initiative that must be implemented for our country.

There are plenty of alcohol shops and bars around. It was amusing to see women on both sides of the counter animatedly buying and selling a wide range of Bhutanese brands of rums, gins, whiskeys and wines. I felt free flowing spirits made a contribution to the nation’s high spirit (read Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness). Do I hear someone saying that this should be the third initiative?!? LOL

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Close to the hotel is a rickety movie theatre where we need to pay for watching the movie (duh) but hearing the movie is free for all in the 30-yard perimeter. No-cost acoustics!

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There is a quiet trickle of a stream flowing in the middle of the town with a giant bridge across it. We walked by that rivulet after lunch and it looked as if we had that entire area for ourselves. My DD was pretty scared to walk around without the permit. We had to continuously give assurances to all the possibilities that her little head conjured.

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We went to the temple – Zangtho Pelri Lhakhang, in the city centre. It had statues and paintings of their Guru Rinpoche and Buddha. People were relaxing in the lawns of the temple and it looked as much a park as it was a temple.

By the night the ornate gate was all decked up with lights and looked like the entrance to a wedding plaza. As such the town is in a festive mood over their King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck’s birthday celebrations the next day, May 2nd. It was beautiful.

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With our permit still pending, we are limited to a 3 Km radius of Phuentsholing, the supposedly second largest town in Bhutan and the entry point from Jaigaon.

Posted by: Madhavi CN | May 2, 2016

Borderline Bhutan

The colorful archway of Bhutan beckoned us over the loud noise of Jaigaon’s traffic. But our stomachs growled louder and reminded us the priority. Perhaps with the foresight of

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Bhutan Beckons

momo-full days ahead, we found ourselves ordering dosas in unison. Followed it up with a cup of Indian chai (yak chai was waiting in the hills for us) and some lemonade for my DD. We munched as we fondly looked at a country that was calling us endearingly. With just an unarmed soldier at its gigantic gate, the country looked rather friendly. The fence was defined by a 10 foot high railing which looked no different from what we have for some private buildings. After a leisurely breakfast, the three Hindustanis walked into Bhutan around 9 am through the side-gate entrance that was only for the pedestrians.  It was momentous, just as crossing any border can be!

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D-Fence

It was early but there were many Bhutanese and Indians entering into Bhutan after shopping in India. The day definitely started early here. All were toting something and if they had nothing to carry, they at least had a chubby baby tied to their back firmly in their traditional fabric. It looked like India was the place to buy toys, potatoes, pomegranates and even pyjamas! Most of them were in the traditional Bhutanese wear – women in colorful wrap-arounds and men in a long-sleeved-short-tunic with skinny legs covered in thick socks. Little boys and girls were dressed similar to their Indian counterparts.

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On the Bench – 1

Soon after entering Bhutan, some
of them would make a short stopover on the rock benches next to the giant gate. It is here, they exchanged pleasantries, compared notes, showcased their purchases, had a snack or just sat in silence.

I too sat on a bench there observing the new country and its people as my husband and daughter went to get the visitors’ permit for us. Looking at me and my luggage, some Guides and taxi-drivers were courteously asking me if I needed their help. There was no

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On the Bench – 2

flocking around, no pushing, no continuous enquiries – things definitely seemed different here. Cutting my reverie, my husband says ‘no Permits until Tuesday!’ Did I hear it right? This is Sunday and haven’t we read on the Internet that Bhutan’s Immigration Office is open on Sundays too?! And if Sunday was a holiday, what about Monday? The questions kept pouring until my DH shared his newly acquired knowledge about visitor’s permits. Bhutan issues permits on Sundays too for all nations except those Asian countries that enjoyed the free permit arrangement! And the Monday, i.e., the 2nd of May,

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Artistic

was the birth anniversary of their King and hence a national holiday. So we got 2 days of Bhutanese induction program to complete before we plunge into the country, is how we looked at it.

There were many hotels on either side of the border and we picked one on Bhutan’s side. We were literally a stone’s throw away from India.

Posted by: Madhavi CN | May 2, 2016

Chugging through India by Train

When we travel, we get to meet lot of interesting people; when we take the Indian trains, we have the microcosm of India awaiting to be explored and experienced. If you love Nature, you can soak on…

Source: Chugging through India by Train

Posted by: Madhavi CN | May 2, 2016

Chugging through India by Train

When we travel, we get to meet lot of interesting people; when we take the Indian trains, we have the microcosm of India awaiting to be explored and experienced. If you love Nature, you can soak on the changing landscape, if you enjoy chatting you have people around to get introduced to, if you are one of those introverts who are happy by themselves, just throw an eye and ear to people around and enjoy the fun.

IMG_20160430_131738The subjects to observe keep changing as a new destination may take away some and bring forth some new ones. The best view is often from the general compartment and as we move higher to the sleeper or AC classes, we realize that we get secluded and need finer observation skills to enjoy the panorama. However colorful and boisterous the crowd is, for the summers and long distance journeys, I try to stick to the AC to avoid getting exposed
to the tropical heat.

Here is the peep into the people I came across as I travelled from Secunderabad to New Aliporedaur by the Sec’bad-Guwahati Holiday Special:

A newly-wed couple going for their honeymoon to Gangtok: Their relationship was gaining a strong foundation on singdas, biscuits, groundnuts, savories, sweets and

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The Red & Blue Love Bag

some exotic stuff, the names of which I know not. Every once in a while the guy pulls out a large red and blue bag from below the berth and takes a handful of eatables for his dear wife. She first gives a nonchalant look followed by a puckered face and a heavy head swing to say that she does not want them. He cajoles her prodding the food item into her face. Finally she relents, picks the piece gingerly, gives him a giggle and both munch happily ever after.

 

An Energy conservationist: This mountain of a man slowly lumbered up with his relatively tiny satchel and took his seat on the side-berth. There is no escaping the bulk of this man. As the train started, he sluggishly laid himself sideways on the berth with his head supported by his right hand. He bundled the pillow, bedsheets and the rug messily near his belly. He slept for most of the time with well-spaced out snores that were not irritating but rather funny. They were more like a little girl giving a cry of joy as her baby brother responded to her attention! Whenever he woke up from his slumber, he bought a packet of potato chips from the hawkers and chomped them away fast and furiously. He was not brand-specific, drank no water, spoke little and moved minimal until he got down at Kharagpur, leaving a pile of empty packets.

The Lord of Rings: The Lord of Rings wore a crisp cotton dhoti, had a large vermilion bottu and looked totally chilled out.  The dhoti with the simple brocade border made me wonder if this would be the perfect wear for the South Indian summer. He declared with pride that he was the expert on precious stones and had a ‘doublu doublu doublu’ on the Internet! He saw a man with three stone rings and went into an impromptu singsong style lecture on the properties of precious stones. I felt that people were trying to hide their rings to avoid his attention. His other amusing trait was that he was guessing the profession of every man around. None of the guesses turned right but then he did not stop. He guessed that my husband was from the Police Department. I had to suppress my smile and thank god that he left the women out.

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The Jolly Couple

The jolly ride couple: Train journeys are soporific. This elderly couple took that saying a notch higher. When they slept, it was as if they were on the operation table on anesthesia, waiting for surgery. I don’t know if people on operation tables made biological noises owing to the gases in their belly, but these two did. Freedom to let out was their birthright. The man could also make guttural noises. It was disgusting to all but we could do nothing but to let the elderly have a jolly ride.

The chatter-box: I do not feel like calling this guy a chatter-box, perhaps you may help me with the right term. He talked continuously and with all. He had wit and the heart to help people around. He helped move heavy luggage, get water bottles for the elderly, give political views, discuss the swachh-Bharath tax that was getting included in hotel tariff, explore ways to run railways and a lot more topics – some useful and some totally unnecessary. He even invited his friends from other compartments to come and join him in the AC one. When he took rest, it felt that the whole train was on silent mode.

The Mobile Marriage Bureau: A heavy gold chain with an ‘om’ pendant, around his neck and enough gold rings on his fingers, he was the well-combed and well-dressed man who was on the phone for most of the time. He was loud, cheerful and upbeat in his conversations. He seemed to be helping people get married, rather helping their children to get married! He was the quintessential marriage broker in the Indian matrimonial setting but for me he looked like a full-fledged wedding agency that gave bharatmatrimony.com a tough competition! I got to know that middle men take 1.5 lakhs for ‘match-fixing’ 😉 That girls’ side objective is to bring down the wedding expenses while the boys’ side aims to push them up. There is a lot to change and I hope it does, even if it means that marriage bureaus may need to close or change their business model.

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The Indian Panorama

Posted by: Madhavi CN | February 26, 2016

Understanding Change

Untitled‘Change’ is a key word when it comes to the health of interpersonal relationships. If I can risk facing a heated debate here, I would have said, ‘change’ is the bone of contention in marriage. I am going to leave the heated debates for Barkha Dutt and Arnab Goswami to handle while I stick to discussing change in any relationship per se.

We love/hate it because the other person has changed! We love/hate it because the other person has not changed!!

The other day my friend offered to return the library books that I borrowed and were due for return (so typical of him and how I love it). But instead of saving me from paying the overdue, he left my books to languish in his car for a whole week (so unlike him and how I hate it!). This does not mean that I hate change; it is only the context that makes me love or loathe it. I celebrate when my team throws a surprise party for me instead of following the routine of cajoling me into hosting one.

How does the change work for us? Does it give us a benefit – materialistic or otherwise? Or does it leave an uneasy after- taste? This equation is quite simple to follow. But what about those changes that do not matter much to us and yet we take a strong stand on them? Things like Facebook changing its layout or Google changing its color scheme or the changed logo of a company. These do not impact our usage at all, yet we are either thrilled or killed with the change. Is this our acute sense of aesthetics that makes us react so? Or is it our personality’s predisposition towards the concept of change?

Wait for the next one about:

Top 5 changes that people Love and Top 5 changes the people Hate!  Any guesses about what makes it to the list?

Posted by: Madhavi CN | February 25, 2016

Inspiring Innovation

Businesses have heard the clarion call for innovation and are attempting ways to make innovation part of their culture and routine. Innovation starts with ideas and hence enterprises are working on institutionalizing idea generation. Companies are setting up formal training programs and workshops to enable their people with the right tools and processes for creative thinking and making them as idea generation machines.  Idea factories are being built by creating systems for gathering, sharing and funneling ideas from people across the organization.

These efforts to raise organizational creativity for idea potential may result in a huge database of ideas or at its best, it may lead to big data analytics on ideas. But all the creativity and idea generation might in no way make any significant contribution to actual innovation.

Ideas do not automatically nurture innovation. They need to be backed by the passion and energy of people. More importantly, new ideas need a champion who not only promotes the idea but enrolls others to maximize it.

There is no element that can compensate for the lack of human drive, enthusiasm and commitment. It is this vital aspect that needs to be recognized by organizations before driving innovation for excellence. This journey often requires breaking through years of conditioning and embracing disruptive change.

Posted by: Madhavi CN | February 23, 2016

Sharpen the Saw, Strategically

Often businesses face some of the toughest challenges but routinely categorize them as high competition, insufficient market intelligence or insufficient sales efforts. Companies that were once successful start struggling as they invest into intensifying their efforts instead of taking strategic initiatives that lead to real advantages.

Check out if your company is facing any of these challenges that need a strategic approach:

Mature Markets: Are you in a mature market where the growth rates are stagnated? Have you reached a plateau and attempting a fresh burst of growth?

Customer Base: Is your product/ service liked by customers/clients once they tried it? Are you trying gimmicks to get a larger customer base to try your offering?

New Market: Are you entering a new market which is dominated by a biggie? Are you looking to be a David who can convert Goliath’s advantage to a disadvantage?

Changing Regulations: Are you struggling to leverage the shifts in the industry practices or Government regulations?

New Concept: Is your offering centered on a radically new concept that requires a mind-shift change in the customer?

A conventional approach in dealing with the above challenges gives no benefit whatsoever.  Businesses that are driven by efficiency might have been successful so far with their well-tuned efforts in achieving incremental goals. But what is needed to stay ahead, be it business or personal success, is to continue building the resources (‘sharpen the saw’ as Steven Covey puts it) that enable quantum leaps. At the core of the resource building efforts is INNOVATION.

Posted by: Madhavi CN | September 25, 2015

Success: Knowing just Enough

An idea is born but we don’t know everything about the business that our idea generates. But, we know something about it and that is just enough to be geared to start the initiative.

When are we ready?

Waiting to completely know about something before acting on it often kills the opportunity through the time dimension. It is good to launch your idea with passion that gives the necessary impetus to overcome the hurdles, create solutions when needed
and most of all, fulfill Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest.

Now is the age of analytics. The best decisions are made using data analytics, social media and a smart KM of blogosphere and expert forums. If you have just enough knowledge that helps you comprehend ‘when’ and ‘how’ to act on the data, you are well set to make your path. Remember, data guides decisions but the passion that goes into the action drives towards successful goals.

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