Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Holi - the festival of colours.

We say, "Whats in a name?" ... whats in a size either?...Does it matter really?

Holi is round the corner and the children in the neighbourhood are walking around with their pichkaris (waterguns). They are of all sizes some resemble the rocket launchers, some are hand held and some are the backpack variety and  pichkari in the form of rifles throwing huge water streams. Children start the festival atleast a week in advance and it goes on until a couple of days later.

My kids wanted the new pichkaris too even though the last year ones are still good and they sure can last another season or two but they insisted on the new ones ofcourse much larger as well. They were in constant touch with their grandfather letting him know what they liked, giving all the specifications for the new possession that they were longing for. The elder one who is 6 years old wanted a backpack type with dual tanks and a large gun spray with it. When their grandfather asked the  younger one what he wanted, he echoed his elder brother. I was around that time and told him that he was too small to handle that huge pichkari, to that my 3 year old snapped, "Mumma, I can surely handle that I want my pichkari to be just like Bhaiya's". It saves getting two things identical for the boys otherwise, theres a war waiting to break everytime one doesn't get what the other has. So everything is bought by the twos!

The shops are full of different pichkaris right from the tiny spiderman kinds to the huge cylindrical backpack vacuum cleaner types. There are all the cartoon characters right from Mickey mouse to Shinchan and Doremon, Ben 10 to Power rangers. Children influence a large number of purchases in a household indeed! The new design this year, as the shopkeeper puts it, is in the form of a Saxophone, one can play on it, fill it with water and it doubles up as the pichkari.

This episode of the huge, colourful pichkaris took me back to our own childhood days and the festivals of  Holi. It  was more a festival of colours, meeting people and having a great festive time.

The festival would begin with the Chhoti Holi (which is the previous day of the full moon), Holi in the month of March. Legend has it that Demon king Hiranyakashyap wanted everyone in his kingdom to worship him but his son who was a devotee of Lord Vishnu didn't worship him or supported his evil ways. Hiranyakashyap wanted his son to be killed, he gave this job to his sister Holika as she had the boon that fire wouldn't harm her, she would be immune to the flames. So Holika sat in the blazing fire with Prahlad on her lap. But she was burnt to ashes and Prahlad was saved by Lord Vishnu himself. Legend has it that Holika's boon would work when she'd enter the fire alone. Since that time, people light a bonfire called Holika on the eve of Holi festival  also known as Holika Dahan and celebrate the victory of good over evil. The next morning the actual festival of  Holi is celerated.

It is a festival celebrated all over India with some local flavours in the different regions. The Holi of Vrindavan, Braj ki Holi and Barsane ki Holi are very famous. In Vrandavan they play Holi with flowers whereas Barsane ki Holi has the women hitting the men with huge sticks. Each of the style carrying its own legend. Hasya Kavi Sammelans are often the flavour of this festival. People play all types of pranks on each other, Political satire are often televised on different channels.
In the olden days Gulal was used but now the markets have everything available mostly synthetic, harmful colours, colours that are permanent and toxic. There are also organic colours available which some people who are sensitive enough do buy but majority of them pick what is available in the market. Its time we really think about the safety of everyone, specially our children. So much of water is wasted in the name of the festival, when there is drought in some states.

One must celebrate and enjoy the festival but not move too much from its tradition. People used to celebrate the festival of Holi with flowers, gulal, singing and merry making. Homes would make special delicacies such as Gujias, chakli, namkeens and sweets. People also had thandai and some people enjoyed bhang as well just to break inhibitions as its a day of fun and festivity. Celebrate the festival with song and dance and loads of fun with some classic Holi songs from the hindi movies, 'Rang barse bheege chunarwali' from Silsila being a personal favorite.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe, funfilled and colourful Holi!

Pictures have been taken from various websites for illustrations, if anyone has an objection to their use they'd be promptly removed

Friday, 22 March 2013

A page from the life of a shippy's wife

I had been thinking of writing about the life of a shippy's wife after I came across a diary maintained by a mariner that spoke about the hardships and the agony the sailor goes through being away from home for long periods of time. He had everything written from his point of view, somewhere I felt that this officer didn't understand that his wife faced the same and much more as she had to manage her family and kids all by herself and get worried about her man too.

I am married to a mariner and have a lot of friends in that profession, I also know quite a few women married to the mariners. I understand the profession to some extent by now.

Who is a mariner?

They work for shipping companies. Most of them join as cadets right after 12th standard with Science and Maths as their core subjects, some even join after their graduation in Science stream. A student holding a bachelor's degree in Mechanical/ Electrical/ Technology engineering can also join the Merchant navy. 

A career in the merchant navy requires people to be mentally strong physically tough.  They need to be able to adapt to different environments and work cultures. They should be willing to take on responsibility, have  love for adventure and challenges and have a desire to strive for higher positions. They should be able to work as well as study for examinations in between. They need to be intelligent, intuitive, willing to work in a team, be flexible, be patient, have a liking for solitude, are willing to live away from family and loved ones for long stretches of time. 
Engineers are required to be resourceful and practical, have great skills at Maths and Physics. Have in depth knowledge of the working of different machines and manual dexterity is a must. One should be willing to learn new ways and work with modern technology and be able to work in the deck department as well if need arises. This is the kind of job specification for a career at Sea.

It takes about 2-3 years of sailing as a cadet to become the third officer  then another 2-3 years to become the second officer. Sailing for about the same time, one can go on to become the Chief officer or the First Mate. It takes about 15  years of service in the Merchant Navy to finally adorn the stripes of the captain. (The wait used to be much longer in the olden days probably that's how the stereotype of the captain the grand old man with white hair and beard has remained a symbol of the highest rank in the profession). They need to clear exams at each stage.
For engineers, they can join as engine cadets / fifth engineer / junior engineer. Just like their deck counterparts they also go up the ladder in their careers as the 4th engineer, 3rd engineer, 2nd engineer and then the Chief Engineer.
Some of them even go on to become deck or engine superintendents after successful stint as Masters or Chief Engineers.
They join different shipping companies the employment is on contract. For Cadets the contract can be for 9 months, for junior officers its for about 5 months whereas for the senior officers the contract is generally for 4+_ 1 month. They have the option of  rejoining the same company or going for afresh contract with some other shipping company.
The job is tough, they see only the sea for months. The team is the bare minimum that the company can think of . A large vessel may just have about 20 people to manage the entire show. Captain becomes the teacher /philosopher / trainer/ mentor and the 'Buddha' and in some cases the doctor too. Bosses are extremely demanding and the same moves downwards. The agony is explaining the situation onboard to people (experts) sitting miles away in some other continent, at times the expert advice that they get can be the most illogical one. This is the tricky stuff the captain handles, making  a choice between obeying orders or doing what can save at that moment. The faint hearted  may hang their shoes even before they get worn out. The job is demanding no doubt and not everyone's cup of tea... oh the sea sickness gives me goosebumps. The sea itself can get hostile as pirates operate in certain stretches of the sea around the globe. Everything comes at a price! including the NRE status that others envy.

He at sea and the better half on land - the communication
Today if I need to communicate with my husband I can drop an email to him, if he is at a port can sms him or even try calling the vessel number in case of an emergency. He can be contacted within a few minutes. Of course they don't have their internet connection active throughout the day but the vessel connects to the internet regularly to communicate with their head office or charterers. The message will certainly reach him.
I remember when we got engaged, during our courtship as well as early years of our marriage hubby was Chief officer then. He had limited access to the internet,(in fact he didn't want to use the captain's computer for accessing his emails) so didn't receive emails from him at all. But he would call using the satellite phone or make calls from the local number when the vessel was at a port.
In the olden days it seems communication wasn't that easy, people had to write letters. When I listen to those ladies who wrote letters to their husbands and would wait to hear from them, I feel we are blessed to be having such efficient technology at our disposal. I know of ladies who send emails to their husbands, atleast one everyday, just letting them know whats happening on the home front or how the kids are growing up, or sharing the mischiefs and special moments from the lives of their children. They really don't bother if the mariner was busy and didn't get the time to revert to their email. These ladies keep the communication going and keeping it very healthy. They know what their husbands careers demand and are playing their roles of being the better halves the best that they can!

Some of them feel that their husbands are away for 4 months, but they'd be there for them for the next so many months. Thats certainly good quality time with family. If you look at today's corporate world, the husband and wife are busy with their own careers and can never have the kind of time that they need to devote to their family. For the mariner its 4 months of vacation after putting in about that much of time at work. If you have an office job you can't manage with more than 21 days of leave in a year. The vacation becomes an incentive for the mariner for sure, an incentive for spending days in solitude.

Life of a shippy's wife
'Saat saheliyan' song from the movie Vidhaata, is apt for describing the woes of a new wife being married to the man following a particular profession very seriously.
saat saheliya - khadi khadi fariyaad sunaye ghadi ghadi
The song talks about the complaints that the women share with their girl friends about their husband's professions. How they bring their professions home and expect them to be just like one of their clients!
There are issues that needs to be addressed in every marriage. The solution lies in the understanding that the two individuals have about each other and how they adjust and adapt themselves to make things work for them. Its certainly not about compromises but adjustments is the key.

The issues faced by a shippy's wife are adjusting with the family if the man joins back soon after marriage she needs to understand the family and fit into that; some girls find it difficult. Some who do not follow a professional career have  much time at their hands and don't really know what to do with it so they join  kitty party groups and form a circle of similar friends. Spend time meeting for kitty parties, go shopping, visit salons etc. The weekends might be spend with their parents if they are close by, they feel loneliness often. Some choose to join their husbands and sail with them, infact there are some ladies I know who enjoy this. Its a good getaway from home (responsibilities as well!). Again, for a career woman this is often not possible. This ofcourse changes when kids arrive. Even that is an experience in itself and adventurous one may be. Some of them go through the pregnancy all on their own. Handling the morning sickness, visit to the doctor and the long wait there. They get emotional when they see the others accompanied by their husbands. Some may have gone through the delivery without their husbands reaching home, as no one can predict the exact date of delivery and in spite of planning things well in advance the mariner may not have been able to  make it for the D day. The new dad feels the same emotions but he may never express it. The mother is there welcoming her child and the little bundle of joy is with her but the poor mariner is miles away from home, missing the big moment and worrying about his wife and child.

She single handedly brings up her children. Initial years as a young mother are quite trying, the child falls sick, gets cranky and needs more attention as he too misses his dad. She tries to be a good mom at the same time fill in a bit of the father's shoes too. She handles the birthdays, the school admissions that are like missions to Mt. Everest, it is extremely difficult to get into the most soughted  after schools in the city. School lives of their children bring their own challenges. Being there for all PTMs and other school functions and activities. As the children grow up she needs to match their energies, its tough when she has boys to manage.
So for the mariner who felt that life was quite tough for him, his better half deserves the same appreciation for her efforts.
Now, its not about comparisons and who scores above the other but its all about valuing each other and respecting and appreciating the efforts.

I personally feel that shippies are very simple people, not much in touch with the happenings around. They spend so much time away from home. Most of them start their careers at 18 years or so and then they are away most time of the year. They don't make many friends as they might have not been to a regular college, missed the college fun and socialising during their student years and thus missed opportunities to build great friendships. 
When they have the time while on leave the others are busy juggling their homes and careers. 
These people are also soft targets for ambitious bankers, relationship managers and financial advisors who sell their mutual funds, life insurance instruments and other financial plans to them. Often these financial decisions are not that great. Forget being great they aren't even good!

They are also very vigilant a little noise or some tricky smell in the house can put things on high alert, that might annoy the other family members. But one needs to understand the tough laws that they have to adhere to while sailing has a bit of a bearing in their lives. They are perfectionist when it comes to their work but when at home they warm the sofas as the couch potatoes. Gym membership may be taken as they come all charged up from the ship but the realisation that they are on vacation and need to take life easy sinks in in due course of time and they bid farewell to the gym. Thats perfectly all right and we do respect their decision.

One of my friends mentioned that one had to be a very strong woman to be married to a mariner. I'd say all women are strong and deal with issues. Be it your maid in the house who juggles to make the ends meet, the woman who works at the quarry or the one assisting her husband who is building the road, taking care of the little child who she takes along. The same is the case with the wife of a corporate honcho who works round the clock and has hardly anytime for the lady or the family for that matter. I come from the defence background and I have seen women who manage everything on their own when their husbands are away on duty. I have deep respect for my mom and my mom in law who are two such women. They are instrumental in making us siblings, what we are today. If I compare myself with them I am no where close.

Something that I have often heard, an old saying that, 'A sailor has a wife at every port'... C'mon if you see the way modern ships work and the sailing patterns that they follow, they hardly have any time at ports, most of the time they are standing far in the sea on anchors. Vessels pay to stand at the port, so they are there only till the work of loading or downloading of cargo is happening. Poor men handling one wife at home port is all that they can manage in one lifetime! I still wonder where this saying came from?

To the mariner who thinks that he has the toughest job on earth, please pause and look at the lady in your life who deals with all that and more. To the lady who feels being married to a mariner is the toughest thing and that she is a 'Superwoman' look at the things that the shippy does to make life comfortable and easier for you and supports you emotionally. He may not be there with you physically but he is always around in spirit.

Cheers to the brave men who choose careers at sea and the women in their lives who match them in every possible way! 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Graduation day - An academic regalia

Graduation day is probably the most important day in the academic life of an individual. A momentous occasion for every college student, it also is the most memorable one. It is an achievement that comes from within that signifies maturity, the ability to cross multitudes of obstacles and reach a goal of unprecedented possibilities. They learn many new skills, gain knowledge and uncover new passions that they'd apply in the walks of their lives. Family, friends, colleagues and well wishers celebrate the big day and pay tribute to the hard work and efforts of the graduates.

As a professor at the institute, it is a part of my portfolio to be the Master of Ceremony for the event. I always take it as an honour. It is certainly a big day in the life of the graduating batch as well as for us at the institute. To me it is particularly very emotional. It is the time to bid farewell to a  batch of students who we have seen for 3 years, seen them as young girls and boys when they join us to turn into young ladies and gentlemen. The parents see the change and somewhere they give us the credit, but its always a team effort, as teachers we are their mentors, guides, facilitators of knowledge and we somewhere become their inspiration and role models. Oh my God!.... isn't that some responsibility we carry on our shoulders?
The event requires a lot of planning. It starts months in advance right from deciding on the venue, the invitees, the menu and a few rehearsals of the parade of the graduating batch in their robes. It makes such a spectacular sight, ... and an emotional one too.

Institute profile
The  Apeejay  Institute  of  Hospitality  located at CBD Belapur  shares its premises  with  The  Park  Navi  Mumbai. It is an initiative of the Apeejay Surrendra  Park  Hotels  that  operates its collection of  Luxury  Boutique hotels in India. The  institute  offers  a 3 years   Bachelor’s  Degree programme in Hospitality Studies (BSc-HS)affiliated to the University of Mumbai & YCMO University and  is recognized by the  University Grants Commission.AIH is also the center for learning of  Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels.The group's Management Training Programme, Professional Development programmes as well as consultancy projects for  the hospitality industry are some of its  additional core activities. Not  only  academics  but  extra curricular activities are also given equal impetus.  Students have  the  advantage  of  getting  hands-on operational training at The Park, Navi Mumbai, doing their industrial
training from any of the Park properties  or associated organizations and take up careers with the Park Hotels as well as other hotels.

The Ceremony
The 4th batch graduated from the portals of the AIH on the 16th of March 2013 in a spectacular ceremony held at the Park Navi Mumbai. The Chief Guest for the function was Ms. Priya Paul,Chairperson, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels. Also present was Mr. Lemuel Herbert, Associate Vice President and Area General manager, The Park Hotels. The invitees were parents of final year students, AIH alumni, Principals of Hotel Management colleges in Navi Mumbai and Mumbai, media, Hotel General Managers  and recruiters.

The function that started at 12 noon went a little over an hour.The Master of Ceremony welcomed all the guests and thanked everyone for joining AIH on their special day in celebrating the graduates. She also expressed her appreciation to all those who had supported them – parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives and close friends.
Principal Mr. GM Bhuvan presented the annual report; the juniors presented a cultural programme, a melody of classic graduation dances. Then Ms. Priya Paul, chief guest of the function addressed the audience. Apart from the inspiring address to the graduating students she gave an insight into the hospitality industry’s current standing and spoke about the measures that’ll have to be taken in the future. Final year representative Mr. Rajdeep Tokhi, shared his experiences of the journey at AIH with the audience and it was received with cheer and applause.
Chief Guest Ms. Paul distributed the course completion certificates to the graduating batch. This was followed by conferring the Jit Paul and Surrendra Paul Gold medals. The medals carry great value for the student as it is a recognition of his or her achievement over the 3 years at the institute, it carries material value as well as each medal is 15 grams, 24 carat gold. 
Jit Paul Gold medal is awarded to the passing out student who is an all rounder with the best attitude and values. The winner of this award was Ms. Pratiksha Palkar.  Mr. Holsten D’Souza was the winner of the The Surrendra Paul Gold medal awarded to the student for academic excellence.
The passing out batch took the oath lead by the Master of Ceremony, this was in full academic regalia, students wearing their graduation robes and hats, holding the candles lit by their faculty members signifying the transference of knowledge.
 The programme concluded with the national anthem sung by everyone present. The faculty and students then joined the guests for lunch. Parents were happy seeing their children graduate, it is said that they come to the ceremony as parents but go back home as contemporaries.Certainly a day cherished by all! 


We wish for you, a joy filled transition
From the shelter of AIH to the world so wide....
We wish for you new friendships,
While you cherish the old ones.
May you have a smooth journey,

Towards your chosen destination.
May the world embrace you, excite you, delight you
And strengthen you in everything that you do!

May you make wise decisions, 
And have great success!

"It's not your blue blood, your pedigree or your college degree. It's what you do with your life that counts". ~Millard Fuller


I'll keep with my promise of writing about Abhilash Tomy in my posts till he is back from his historic voyage.
(Abhilash Tomy is attempting to be the first Indian on a solo non stop unassisted circumnavigation of the globe).
He is homeward bound now, crossing the equator for the second time in this voyage. Of course a few days from now and this officer will graduate to be a part of the elite group of men and women - the sailors who have lived their passion and have circumnavigated the globe, solo and unassisted. He also became a Cape Horner, - joining yet another elite group during this voyage.
There has never been an achievement that did not begin with a dream. It must be a great sense of achievement for Tomy that he would be the person that he dreamt of, doing what he wanted to do. Ofcourse he had the courage and the belief in his potential and held on to that dream. What a remarkable examble of strength of character and enormous courage. Fighting all odds and being the survivor. He is on the last leg and an absolute last phase of his voyage. He shall be home soon but ....he has miles to go.... before the nation welcomes him.

This facebook update of Mhadei caught my attention:
"If you are between 13 and 18 years of age, write to me about how sailing protects the environment in less than 50 words and win a chance to sail with me soon. 
Do this before March 26! Happy writing!"

If any of my readers are in this age group, I guess they must try to be the 'One' that he chooses to sail with. Give it a short, who knows you may be sailing with the first Indian solo circumnavigator!... phew!

To know more about Lt. Cdr Tomy and his boat the Mhadei, follow the link below.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

International Women’s Day- salute to the spirit of women.

Traditionally women have managed the hearth and the household and raised children. They have been a support to the men folk who were considered to be the providers for the family.

Women had to fight long battles just to be treated fairly and given equal opportunities in the personal and professional lives.International Women’s day can be traced back to the women’s suffrage movement in the late nineteenth century. Over the last two centuries women have progressed tremendously in all walks of life. They have achieved great success and have made their contribution note worthy in every sphere of work that they have taken up. Today they are in the defence forces and have even captained projects to space apart from being the professionals in the conventional careers.

There are also regions, small pockets in the world where women are still suppressed and demeaned; they deal with violence both mental and physical. They have to fight gender bias regularly; this is not an issue just in the developing countries but also prevalent in the developed nations.
International woman’s day is marked on 8th March every year, celebrates the emancipation of women. It celebrates womanhood and pays tribute to all their achievements and brings them on one platform to share their views, deal with issues of concern and empower them.

Women are leaders everywhere you look, from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women and we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes.  ~ Nancy Pelosi

My boss called me the other day and asked me to organise a program to mark the International Woman's Day. I just thought for a while and wondered what is that we should be doing that day. I spoke to a few of my  women colleagues and the first suggestion that came up was organise a charity lunch at an old age home and the same followed with others. This got me to think that we women will never think of just ourselves, its supposed to be our day and we should be doing things for US. What was a priority for us, me being on the other side of the thirties felt that health was something that was certainly an issue as far as the Indian women are concerned. We are anemic, have issues with calcium and bone density, we are the most stressed among the women across the globe. We will think of everyone else first and be the last person in the family when there is something to be prioritized  We will always take ourselves for granted, women are supposed to be the backbone of a family, when that itself is weak the foundation of the family is shaken. With these thoughts at the back of my mind it didn't make sense to organise an entertainment programme with some song and dance and have some great food.

I went back to my boss's office and told him that we would like to have a health check up done on that day. Thus emerged the health screening camp at the institute and gave out the following message:

"Apeejay Institute of Hospitality celebrates the International Women’s Day with a special message for the women that ‘healthy mind is in a healthy body’ and ‘a healthy mother can bring up a healthy family’. Women somehow neglect themselves; they take care of everyone else but take their own health for granted. So a general health check up has been organized at the institute where all the lady staff members from the institute, the Park Navi Mumbai and the girl students can get a health screening done.  Dr. DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Nerul in association with the Rotary Club of Navi Mumbai, Hillside, will be organizing the health check up camp at the institute. The doctors will be available to guide and advise the ladies on different aspects of their health and the PR person from the Hospital will also advise and recommend specific tests to the ladies if they wish to get an elaborate health check up.
With this initiative the institute feels that the ladies will get in the habit of having regular health checkups as recommended by the health care departments. No gift can be bigger than the gift of good health. This awareness will help the women in passing on the benefits of health screening to their family and friends thus building the foundation for a healthy nation!"

Am I happy with the initiative? .... Very... I must say! pleased with myself... how an idea gives birth to something more meaningful.

Wishing all the women a Very Happy International Women's day! 
Celebrate your life... your uniqueness, your differences!!


I'll keep with my promise of writing about Abhilash Tomy in my posts till he is back from his historic voyage.
(Abhilash Tomy is attempting to be the first Indian on a solo non stop unassisted circumnavigation of the globe)

By now this gentleman has numerous fans and more than 60% of them are women. He is almost done with the job and is on the last lap of his voyage circumnavigating the earth. He is only 3000 miles away from reaching his home port, Mumbai, the Gateway of India. 

To know more about Lt. Cdr Tomy and his boat the Mhadei, follow the link below.