Monday, 3 November 2014

Hotels and the dotcoms

Last week, in fact on my last post there was a comment from one of the readers asking me whether I had stopped writing on the topic of hospitality. It certainly got me thinking and here comes the post, don't know how good, bad or ugly it is but I wish to dedicate this one to that reader. I belong to the old world of hospitality. Can call it Old world as I belong to the mid 90s when there were  a very few hotel schools and institutes in the country. There were also no foreign hotels or hotel chains operating in India, barring a few big hotels that had franchise or management contract of the Intercontinental, Penta or Kempenski to name a few. The big players being the Taj, The Oberoi, The Leela, ITC  Welcom Group, The Park hotels etc.
This was also the time when a few people flew, if someone travelled by flight within the country, there was a fear that probably something unpleasant had happened or there was an emergency. No wonder every movie made at that time, especially the ones made by the Bombay film industry had atleast one airport scene. The heroine of the movie was generally introduced coming home from vilayat!

Five star hotels were truly five star, an exclusive product that had the snob value to it. The guests were also fit to be there. A bit of ego massage always went a long way. A guest being recognised and addressed by his name. Guest histories maintained to delight and dazzle the guest on the next arrival. Customer satisfaction was not the buzz word anymore, everyone did that, something better was thought of every moment. There was competition among hotels to offer better products or services. Innovation always got appreciation and was also paid! They could charge premium for using things as simple as better toiletries and guest amenities.Hotels started moving from having soaps, shampoos, shower gels and moisturisers having the hotel name and logo on the wrapper or the label to them showing off some good brands. We have come a long way now the hotels showcase their amenities. 
There was a distinct divide between a 3 star hotel and a 5 star property. The rates were a clear indication. One knew what to expect and at what price point. Bookings were through the sales offices around the world, I believe it was quite personalised that way and some GDS (Global Distribution System like the Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre, Worldspan etc) were used. GDS was used more by the airline industry since they already had a huge network across countries and continents, it became the next best thing to be used by the hotels for managing their reservations.  Utell was used by hotels for their reservations and there were others like the Leading hotels of the world or SRS hotels and similar others that managed reservations as well as publicity and promotions for the member hotels. The product that these organisations dealt with was purely hotels. They understood and valued the product. Understood their clients and also the operational aspects of a hotel. 
Then came the flood of dotcoms, handled and managed by software companies somewhere they became distributors for hotel rooms. Expedia, Makeytrip, Cleartrip, Trip advisor and many others. For them it became a business to manage the room rates, indirectly though. In fact they slowly and steadily got into the hotels, gave then guaranteed business and bought a good chunk of their rooms. Hotels didn't mind it, as they got a steady business.The dotcoms took almost all hotels in their wings. It became necessary for the hotels to be a part of these intersell agencies (selling more than one product line). The dotcoms started indirectly dictating terms to the hotels. Hotels had to list themselves not with one of these but almost everyone. Revenue management became a key expertise in the hotels. Now along with the sales and Front office, revenue management became a very important and crucial portfolio.

The dotcoms have made the business of hotel and hotel booking easier and transparent. But this level of transparency is not always that good for the business. The repercussions of this has affected the hotel industry greatly. The hotels don't make much profit so there isn't much left to be reinvested in to the business. Reinvestment is required to develop and refresh the product. Some hotels are badly hit, this has lead to the product deteriorating and downsizing of staff has led to poor service quality too. The measure can be as drastic as shutting down of the property itself. In fact there was report of a hotel owner committing suicide recently. Don't really know the reason but somewhere this thought came to my mind. I may not be correct, but its definitely something to be looked at.

Hospitality is all about personalised service, it certainly cannot be completely driven by technology. Guests and customers who value good service need to also bear in mind that asking for discounts and low rates are not sustainable measures. It's said that hospitality and good service never goes out of fashion!... it seems to have got mixed up somewhere but there is certainly a need to bring back the charm of old world hospitality.

Pictures are taken from Google, with due credits.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Diwali - festivities and celebrations...

Diwali is round the corner, in fact the celebations have begun with the children, there are crackers being burst and the atmosphere is filled not only with the noise of the crackers but the resonance of the alarms and sirens from the parked cars in the housing societies.

My younger son who has suddenly become bold and adventurous to try his hands at the crackers by virtue of being inspired by his 'Big Bro'. Turning 5 for the younger one has been turning Bold too..... but I discovered something about him, this time he had the gun loaded with the a strip of crackers but before he fired them he asked his grandfather to cover his ears!! 

I quietly ignored it, didn't want my boy to feel embarrassed, he was behaving so grown up you see! That night while I was putting him to sleep he asked me why was Diwali celebrated. I remember asking the same question to my mom when I was young and she told me a  couple of stories as the legend had it. I read about them during by school years. I was glad my son asked me this question. I told him 5-6 reasons but today talking to my friends found a few more and I wish to share them here. There are many reasons from mythology behind celebration of the festival of lights. 

The Victory of Lord Rama: According to the epic Ramayana, it was the new moon day of Kartik when Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after defeating  Ravana and conquering the kingdom of Lanka. The people of Ayodhya illuminated the city beautifully and decorated it with earthen lamps. This story is what most of the people know including my little one.

Goddess Laxmi's incarnation: There's another story that says the Goddess of wealth, Laxmi was incarnated on the new moon day (amavasyaa) of the Kartik month during the 'Samudra Manthan', churning of the ocean, hence  Diwali is associated with Goddess Laxmi.
Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi: On this very day, Lord Vishnu in his fifth incarnation as Vaman-Avtar rescued Laxmi from the prison of King Bali and this is another reason of worshipping Goddess Laxmi on Diwali.
The Return of the Pandavas: According to the epic Mahabharata, it was Kartik Amavashya when the Pandavas were back from their 12 years of banishment that was awarded to them after Kauravas defeated them at the game of dice. The people of the kingdom,  celebrated their return by lighting the earthen lamps or the diyas.
Krishna Killed Narakaasur: On the day preceding Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the Demon king Narakaasur and rescued 16 thousand women from his captivity. The celebration of this victory went on for two days including the Diwali day. 
There are a couple of facts from the other religions such as Jainism, Sikhism, the Arya Samaj as well as there are some historic references of the festival.
One of the greatest Hindu kings, King Vikramaditya was coroneted on the Diwali day, hence Diwali became a historical event as well.
Mahavir Tirthankar, the founder of modern Jainism attained his nirvana on this day.
It was the Diwali day when Maharshi Dayananda, the founder of the Arya Samaj  and known as one of the greatest reformers of Hinduism attained his nirvana.
The third Sikh Guru Amar Das institutionalized Diwali as a historic day when all Sikhs would gather to receive the blessings of their Gurus. In 1577, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid on this day. In 1619, the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind, who was imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor Jahengir, was released from the Gwalior fort along with 52 kings. Sikhism has a lot of significance associated with the festival.
How Do we celebrate?

People do the spring cleaning of their houses and offices.
The festivities are generally for 5 days starting with Dhanteras or dhan tryodashi, when it is considered auspicious to buy some gold jewellery, household utensils or something new for the house. Of late it has become a tradition to buy houses or other property, even take thepossession of the new house or vehicle. Even new businesses and ventures are started on this day.

Naraka Chaturdasi. Second day is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdasi or 'Chhoti Diwali', On this day Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakaasur and liberated the 16,000 women that he had held in his captivity.
The third day is celebrated as the actual Diwali or Badi Diwali   the day is marked as the Hindu New Year. Goddess Laxmi is worshipped  to receive blessings of wealth and prosperity.  This is also the day Lord Rama, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman returned to Ayodhya, defeating the demon King Ravana. It marks the triumph of good over evil, that of light over darkness.
Govardhana Puja,  Fourth day is celebrated as a spiritual harvest festival. Thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna asked the people of Vrindavan to perform Govardhana Puja. On this day too lamps or diyas are lit.
The firth day is celebrated as Bhai Dooj - the festival of brothers and sisters. This marks the last day of the celebrations.

People generally visit family, relatives and friends and exchange gifts and sweets. Now the sweets are replaced with much healthier options like dry fruits and healthy nuts. This is also the time when there is a huge demand for sweets all over the country and adulteration is prevalent. 
I have found a very healthy option to gift my family and friends, I have chosen natures' goodness over artificial sweets.

One great option I found for gifting during Diwali and the rest of the year is the natures' gift from Jammu and Kashmir. It has everything from almonds, walnuts, figs, raisins, saffron and other nuts and dried fruits. Loved their celebration pack for Diwali, a beautiful pack of dry fruits. They also have some fabulous skin care and beauty products.
Do check:

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Sista - let me be your best buddy!

"A woman cannot be another woman's best friend"
~ Who the _________ said this?!

A woman is certainly best friend to another. I've lived that and I say so. Just imagine a world that had no fairer sex how would it be? In fact in my college for the Miss Fresher contest a question asked to me was how would I feel if I was the only woman on the planet? I don't remember what my exact answer was. There was too much going on at that time. Being in the spotlight, having everyone present there the college principal, faculty members and the seniors, as it was a formal  function at IHM Mumbai. Coming to the question, it was not one of the things that I ever wanted to happen though. There'd be no competition as I'd have been everything- Miss Universe, Miss World and whatever Misses there are...... come to think of it that'd have also made me the only Miss..... Cool!!... absolutely not!!!  the most uncool thing to think of even in the wildest of thoughts.
A man complements and supplements you but its the girl friend that supports you and keeps you sane. They understand you and they teach you so much about life in general and boys, boy friends and men in particular!
All I needed to know about life I learnt from my girlfriends won't be wrong at all.The friendship starts right from the time one goes to school, the nursery through the kindergarten, to school, high school, college and then the workplace. Some friendships we keep and some slip into time even without us noticing it. Every friendship has its own charm. Different things are shared in each one of them. All of us go through these friendships and learn our lessons from the girl friends we have had.
Then we have the first man outside our family or blood relation forming an integral part of our lives, the husband. Marriage may take the lady away from all familiar settings and surroundings. She builds her life all over again, at times. Again its the company of friends who have been a part of that culture and setting that make her comfortable with her new life. The transition is smooth because there was a woman who made it comfortable for her. It could be the mother in law, the sister in law, the women in the new neighbourhood or wives of husband's colleagues.

I come from the defence background and have seen the importance of NWWA (Naval Wives Welfare Association), AWWA as the Army wives would call it and AFWWA for the Airforce wives. These are not just women's associations or clubs but have a huge role to play in the lives of the defence personnel. The men are in the service of the nation ready to move and relocate just in a couple of hours, at times the notice can be even shorter. Who takes care of the family behind or old parents away in another city or village? Who forms the liaison in times of emergency? Its these associations. The brave men who have to leave their families behind to attend the call of the nation can do so with ease as they know that everything will be taken care of my the strong support of the women. On a lighter note, NWWA was also called the BBC as the news travelled faster in those circles. 

I find myself a part of a similar association, it is not a formal one as the defence wives association but has been formed with the efforts of a lady who has been a part of the fraternity for very long  The Merchant naval officers wives have lives very similar to the that of the defence wives and no support whatsoever. She can get in touch with the shipping office but can't connect the way she would with other women like her. In fact I was pleasantly surprised to see that my husband's company,Fleet Management had their officer's wives community page on Facebook the Elegant Divas Club..Fleet Management. I can't tell you how happy I was to see that. It reminded me of the essence of NWWA. I immediately became a part of it and congratulated the creator of the group Mrs. Renuka Nayar. Infact I called her up and spoke to her, she made me so comfortable this I speak for not just myself but the other ladies as well. This was the space where we shared not just our concerns but also a lot more. We became friends and helped each other when the timely advice was needed. Formed a support group for each other. We became buddies and Sisters! There is a buzz on the group right from, Good mornings to wishing and being a part of important occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and the likes. So the wife may not have heard from her mariner hubby but will be wished by her friends here. Its nice to note that at times they take guidance and help regarding foreign travels or joining their husband's onboard. A place where we visit every time we log onto the social networking sites.
Now we have taken the girls group even closer to each other, we have formed the group on Whatsapp. This has become our 24x7 helpline. There are women who would want to know whats to be given to their ailing child even in the middle of the night, someone will get back to them. They get the support of others when the sign off their husbands is getting delayed or they have some emergency at home. There are the others waiting to lend their unconditional support. We don't just talk serious stuff here we have the silly jokes times, the photosharing and fishing for compliments times in equal doses.We laugh, we cry, we crib, we joke but above all we are at home in the company of the ladies our sistas!

The group has women from other cities too and its nice to share the happenings in each others cities, in their lives and also in the clubs. I am certainly looking forward to the club meet soon where I shall see the women I interact with almost on a daily basis. I guess after the group is formed the sailing hubbies do not hear so much from their cribbing wives and also the company office gets lesser phone calls from the worried wives of the sailing officers. This is called killing  two birds with a single stone. One women have got the 24 hour channel not just to socialise but also to vent. A lot of concerns can be managed at the micro level. I feel this is certainly a fabulous platform.
So sistas if you aren't a part of it come onboard you'll be received with open arms and warm hearts.

With love, to Ms. Renuka Nayar for creating the fab group Elegant Divas Club...... Fleet Management and ofcourse all the Divas!

Pictures are taken from Google with due credits.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Navratri -9 Days of Maa Durga!

Navratri the time of the year when I  get transported to another world, a world thats full of hope, love, peace and ( I believe so!) In the past couple of years I have been dedicating a post on my blog to Maa, Goddess Durga. This year too let me touch another aspect of my life that revolves around Maa.
Navratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of Maa Shakti, Goddess Durga or Parvati as she is lovinly called by her beloved devotees.  The word Navratri means 9 nights in Sanskrit. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Goddess Durga , are worshiped.  It is believed that Maa Durga visits earth during these pious days. The 10th day is celebrated as Vijayadashmi or Dussehra. 

How we prepare for welcoming Maa at our home? 
The preparations begin much before the actual Navratras. 
Cleaning the house- Cleanliness is next to Godliness as it is rightly said. The misssion begins atleast two weeks in advance with spring cleaning of the house. My mother in law's pet project. She plans everything to the T.
Mother in law and her group of friends follow the ritual of doing kirtans (prayer meets) during the 9 days. The ladies book the day when they want kirtan at their homes. They invite women from their neighbourhood to attend the puja, Decorate their 'Maa ka darbar'- place to worship Goddess, sing bhajans, distribute prashad and gifts to the ladies. Worship, celebrate and seek blessings of Maa Durga.

The first Navratri puja is at our home, where we expect around 50 women to attend. It is certainly one of the biggest events in my family. Just love the way my mother in law diligently prepares for it. Over the years it is more like a routine that we follow. In fact festivals are a way of keeping the hopes, hopes of tomorrow being better. In India we celebrate many festivals, they also keep women and the older people busy throughout the year. Busy in things that they love doing. Parents expect their sons and daughter would visit them in case they don't love together.
Preparations begin with the shopping list. The following items feature on the list:
1. Chunni (decorated dupatta) for Devi Maa and other things that form part of her shringar (dressing and ornaments)
2. Mathe ki patti - The narrow ribbon with "Jai Mata Di" written on it that women wear aound their foreheads during the Pooja.
3. Items to make prashad - dryfruits such as almonds, cashew, dates, raisins, peanuts, ramdana (sweet found in dry prashad), makhane and dry coconut.
4. Cardamom, clove, aniseed, mishri (crystallised sugar)
5. Shringar to be given to all the ladies attending the puja - henna, sindoor, bindi, nailpolish, kajal and a gift can be a household utensil, a towel, tray, bowl or anything that one wants to give away.
6. Fruits for the Puja and also to be given in the prashad - generally 5 different types of fruits are kept in the puja such as apples, pears, bananas, orange or sweet lime, pomegranate etc. 
7. Coconut to be given to all the ladies.
8. Milk seasoned with cardamom and almond to be offered to the ladies as a lot of them fast during this period and may not have tea or other snacks or beverages.
9. Curd - to make the panchamrut (5 nectars - milk, curd, honey, sugar and ghee), required to be offered to the deity and also all present. 
10. Kalash - lota (water pictcher), mango leaves (7/9),Coconut.
11. Kalava/ Mouli - Roll of the thread generally tied on the wrist of all the devotees.
12. Haldi kumkum and akshat - sindoor, termeric and rice sued to do the tika of the deity and the ladies.
13. Diya to light in front of Goddess Durga
14. Diya for arti
15. Flowers and garlands for the puja.
 The items are purchased in stages and kept ready for the puja. In fact perishables are bought just a day prior.

The First Navratra
The day begins with decorating the 'Mata ka darbar', where an idol or a large picture of Devi Maa is placed for worship and making arrangements to accommodate about 50 ladies. It is generally our living room, the sofas are adjusted or moved and we make place on the floor, covering it with Rugs,daris and carpets so that everyone can be seated comfortably.

In the temple, the kalash is made and placed. Jau or barley is sown, that grows during this time and used for puja on Dussehra, that falls on the 10th day.. The temple is decorated with garlands and flowers. Diya is lit, this is the 'akhand jyot' that will light for the 9 days.

We generally fast during this period. The kirtan starts at 3pm and goes on till 6, singing Devi bhajans and distributing prashad. Its also an occasion to meet and catch up with everyone. Festivals are after all an opportunity to celebrate the company of family and friends.

The  Navratri colours for 2014 are:

 Pratipada - September 25 2014 (Thursday) - Yellow

Dwitiya - 
September 26 2014 (Friday) - Green

Tritiya - 
September 27 2014 (Saturday)- Grey

Chaturthi - September 28 2014 (Sunday) -Orange 

Panchami -
September 29 2014 (Monday) -White 

Sashti - 
September 30 2014(Tuesday) - Red

Saptami -October 1
 2014 (Wednesday) - Blue

Ashtami - 
October 2 2014 (Thursday) - Pink

Navami -
October 3 2014 (Friday) - Purple

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Home maker or a career woman - As you like it!

Just the other day I was checking my facebook page, was logging in after 4-5 days and had lots to catch up on, as far as updates from friends were concerned. While going through a profile found something that caught my attention and that later made a great discussion. Won't call it a debate as this wasn't face to face and no one was catching anyone else's neck! But the opinions shared by different people indeed were very interesting and that's what led me to write this post. Even before you read it, let me apologise in case it touches a wrong chord with you. But let me also add that some facts are pretty uncomfortable.... we must not turn away from reality right? Now that I have made myself a bit clear (and not to be chewed up by some of my dear friends).... please read on!

No offence meant but am a bit curious, when women who are home-makers write/declare their professions as," Stay at Home Mom and loving it." and similar others.... whereas the ones who are professionally employed do not write, " I am so and so and loving it!" 

Ofcourse, its a tough job especially when the children are younger. Some were quick to say that it was just a cover-up for their insecurity. If the column asked to list their profession, that's all they needed to do. Adding on how they felt about it was petty. It's similar to women announcing how they were proud to be women, as if men were not happy and proud to be who they were!! 
This is plain logical isn't it? But social media is ones own personal space that one wishes to share with his or her friends. 
The point here is why SAHM had expressions such as, " I am loving it, This is the best thing to do and am proud of it, I am my own manager and CEO" are just a few of them. 
Maybe in spite of it being such a tough and responsible job SAHMs really do enjoy it not the same could be said about the others at all times. A friend was quick to add that These were self obsessed words. People often used such vocabulary /content to over shadow their actual roles. Those who do it ,and are not sure if that's what they should be doing use adjectives like these. Whereas the ones who love it stay calm, enjoy and you can see it when sometimes they share the moments of that joy.
A friend who has been a SAHM as well as a full timer on job said, "there is nothing to love about being at home and I speak for myself. You enjoy watching the kids grow alright but there are moments of frustration and of not earning despite being educated. I have always been a happier and more tolerable person whenever I have worked.You can ask my husband and kids".

A more experienced lady had to say this,"Lets not blame them they indeed are trying to prove some point, that they may not be earning money but their SAHM job demands respect and recognition...unfortunately our society is yet to accord them thus. We may consider their tag line 'and am loving it' SHAM but it's an effort to assert their individuality. No offence meant but to see your kids grow in front of you is sheer delight, to wait for them when they get back from school or when your husband gets back home from work may also be a way of life and that too a happy and interesting one! we do get judgemental at times and hence this struggle for identity."

Yes agreed but sometimes staying at home is a privilege that not all can enjoy or afford it. Living in cities and having to deal with the monster of "price rise" it sometimes demands both the husband and wife to take up professional careers to earn their living. A friend who has been a SAHM said that it was a thankless job and some day say it just to convince themselves. 
To each his own I've seen a classic example of someone taking credit for the kids school results by throwing lines like ,"today the benefits of having given up a career and opting to be a SAHM are clearly visible " to a working mom whose child did equally good.

As career women we have to give our 100% everywhere, be it work or at home. Somewhere we still get branded, at work it is said that the women have their family over careers and at home its the other way round. So we need to state and prove our priorities no matter where we have reached in your careers.
As individuals we all have our own insecurities. A stay at home mother may want to validate her decision when she says something like that, similarly a mother with a professional career may want to validate her decision in some other manner. May be the options available for each are different and hence the expression is different. But neither of them need any validation from anyone. There is no need to justify anything. We need a big heart to understand that. Our decisions are our own, it is not a judgement on anyone else-A mother is a mother....simple!
A friend who gave up her career shared this, " I think leaving your job to be a home maker is not an easy task at all especially if you are with your in laws. The only sunny side, to console yourself is that you are taking care of your children as per your plans and are not dependent on anyone. Other wise you are financially so dependent that all your creativity goes for a toss."

You better love what you do, whether SAHM or a working woman! If you do not then CHANGE!! Its not as important to anyone else whether you're "loving it or not!" The best place to be in is, have a choice to the above, power is in choices.

Pictures are taken from google

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Independence Day Ride with a Pledge!

Brotherhood of REO ride again this Independence day with road safety in their minds and requesting all to pledge 'organ and eye' donation.

My favourite people - my brothers and sisters the REO (Royal Enfield Owners) ride again for a cause, close to all our hearts! The REO ride, where the thump becomes the heartbeat!, rode this Independence Day, 15th August 2014 from Vashi to Karnala Sports Academy, Panvel. The ride carried the message of “Safety and enhancing it by Eye and organ donation” cause supported by Shekhar Naidu Memorial Foundation setup by his parents in memory of Shekhar Naidu, who passed away in a road accident early this year in Pune. The foundation takes up many social causes be it educational scholarships, healthcare, old age homes, orphanages or setting up libraries to name a few and REO riders come in full support whenever needed. Noteworthy is the fact that Shekar Naidu’s parents have adopted  twin girls and are taking care of them as well as their education, thus setting and living a great example.
The event was a much awaited one not only by the riders but also the general public in Mumbai & Navi Mumbai. Bullet riders assembled at Center One Mall, Vashi at 7am , by 8.30 am the riders joined the flag hosting ceremony at Assam Bhavan followed by ride flag off,  more than 1200  Royal Enfield Riders participated in this prestigious event. Special guests at the event were Royal Enfield rider from Pune Lt. Col. Sohan Roy (Retd) & Sanjay Naidu founder of Shekhar Naidu Memorial Foundation, who were in the city to participate in the Independence Day Ride with the support of  Royal Enfield Riders and paying their tribute to their fellow brother rider late, Shekhar Naidu.
The beast, Royal Enfield Bullet, is not just to pump the adrenalin rush but it makes the rider responsible, disciplined, follow brotherhood and take up social causes in a big, organized way! Nigel Rich and Steven Miranda are members of REO& other Royal Enfield Clubs, who spearhead the rides with the support of other riders.They have organized many rallies in the past. Their ‘Republic Day Rally’, ‘Independence Day Ride’ and the ‘One Ride’ in the first week of April are yearly events that carry social messages. The rides are received very well by the people, their last year Republic day Ride had a message to stop violence against women, Road safety was the message for another ride that they organized. They are cheered on with enthusiasm and have their own fan following now.
We see youngsters misusing the powerful bikes leading to accidents due to rash riding. The highways and super highways and decent roads that provide great driving experience, see such accidents almost everyday. The statistics support this, During 2008, Road Traffic Injuries (RTI) ranked fourth among the leading causes of death in the world. Nearly 1.3 million people die every year on the world's roads and 20 to 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many sustaining a disability as a result of their injury.  Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years and cost countries 1-3% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Ninety-one percent of the world's fatalities on the roads occur in low-income and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately half of the world's vehicles. Half of those dying on the world's roads are 'vulnerable road users': Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. Only 28 countries, representing 416 million people (7% of the world's population), have adequate laws that address all five behavioural risk factors (speed, drink-driving, helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints). If no action is taken, road traffic crashes are predicted to result in the deaths of around 1.9 million people annually by 2020. Hence the goal of the United Nations' Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011- 2020 is to save five million lives. 

In India, the motor vehicle population is growing at a faster rate than the economic and population growth. The surge in motorization coupled with expansion of the road network has brought with it the challenge of addressing adverse factors such as the increase in road accidents. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic injuries are the sixth leading cause of death in India with a greater share of hospitalization, deaths, disabilities and socio-economic losses in the young and middle-aged population. Road traffic injuries also place a huge burden on the health sector in terms of pre-hospital and acute care and rehabilitation. 

The Bikers, through these rallies carry the message that safety and responsible riding provide the thrill and excitement of biking making the experience enjoyable and fulfilling. Speed needs to be supported with a sense of safety and responsibility.The rules they follow makes everyone to adhere to the each one of them to the T, thus making it a habit for everyone, sensitizing and educating the youngsters on road safety, check the following:
Rules that the bikers follow for the ride :-
1. Be on time for the ride.
2. Helmet for the rider and the pillion is compulsory and carry riding gears (if any).
3. Shoes or boots compulsory for the rider.
4. No overtaking amongst each other. 
5. No rash riding during the ride/ rally.
6. No breaking file, ride in a file of 2.
7. No violence during the ride.
8. Always follow the bike which is ahead of you, all the way through the rally. 
9. Headlights will be full time on.
10. Every rider should carry valid driving license along with all necessary documents.
11. Ensure that the Royal Enfield is well serviced to avoid a break down during the ride. 

     Violation of any of the above rules will disqualify the rider and he can be asked to retire from the ride. It’s a habit that can be inculcated at an early age and make road safety a way of life! 

Special mention is due to the following 
This ride was led by female riders, Betsy Miranda, Privana Shetty, Aashwani Marathe, Reena Jadhav and Nisha Rathod.
Wings Commanders: Hozefa Gilitwala, Atul Vig, Raji Shah, Pravin Yadhav, Christopher Nadar, Biren Chapaneri, Karan Sharma ,Carl Gawli, Vinod Rawat, Milind Bidave, Rakesh Pujari, Sanjay Nair, Rajiv Nair,  Suraj Lazar, Saniel Sonawane, Bhatar Choudhary, Akshay Awhad, Amrit Pal Singh and Mohit Khanna

The riders thank Mrs. Roy, Mrs. Naidu and their entire team.

Data Ref: Manisha Ruikar, National statistics of road traffic accidents in India

Thursday, 31 July 2014

20 Years on - High School Reunion, Bees Saal Baad!!

An idea coined by a classmate and a dear friend, who was coming down to India from the US,  in July the vacation time there. This time she was going to be in the country, a bit longer than the customary 15 days that the usual Desi Firangs stay in their native land. It was also the year we young people were completing 20 years of passing high school, Kendriya Vidyalaya, No.2, Naval Base, Kochi, Kerala..... 20 years! My Good God!!

She just expressed her wish if there was anyway we could all catch up, while she was in India. This thought lead to a Whatapp group being formed and one of the Bangalore batchmate becoming the admin. We had so many of us being added, suddenly Whatsapp made more business in that week than it did the rest of the year. The phones continued beeping. That made me discover a setting on my phone that could be used to mute the notifications. The different time zones that we lived in made it even more exciting, won't call it a nuisance you see! That's what our spouses must have thought it to be, I am sure. Talking about mine, I am definite, he wondered what got me hooked on to the phone even in the middle of the night and smiling at stuff that I was reading. Well we are early sleepers, courtesy my two hyperactive boys who need to go to school everyday! Suddenly the messaging got a bit longer and sleep time being pushed. The topics on the group were always interesting, taking us back to our school days. Some of us were classmates for more than 10/ 12 years. 

Then the question of fixing the reunion venue came about. Cochin, where we all studied was ruled out as there wasn't anyone in the city. The boys seem to be liking Goa, for the obvious reasons but we weren't really keen as it was peak monsoon there. Bangalore became the destined city to host the powerhouses! Bangalore gang then met up for the first time as they suddenly became hosts. Living in the same city for ages yet not meeting up!.... Good  that the ball started rolling. Bangalore gang became the forced planning committee. I am sure they enjoyed it nevertheless as the result was awesome. The only challenge being that the batch mates were all over the world and in India it was time for the new school term. The dates were frozen to 25-27th July 2014, the weekend the batch of 94 would relive their school days! Emails were exchanged and the buzz was not only on the Whatsapp group but in the group on Gmail! All of us were excited and looking forward to the reunion. The school days are the best days of ones life, uncomplicated, fun filled and carrying lots of hopes and aspirations, ready to reach the stars. 

All never goes smooth, hiccups are the part and parcel of anything  that's going to be mind blowing! When it comes to people, there are some who are the initiators, they just initiate and then take a walk and watch all the fun going on. Some are leaders, who take charge of the situation and make it a success, and there are some who'll push the the others who cannot decide. All these roles were well played, many international calls made and finally we started inching closer to the time. One realisation all of us had by then that its easier to get older than it is to get wiser.

On the personal front I had everything going against me, in laws being out of  town around the same dates, two children to manage on my own and husband who would join back on work about the same time. I was weighing a lot of things and praying hard that everything falls in place. Had to be there at the reunion, didn't want to miss the opportunity of meeting school buddies after two decades. Couldn't leave kids on their own, and also wanted to be home to see off my hubby. In my heart, I knew everything was going to be the way I wanted it. The Secret worked and guess what? in laws came back a week earlier and my better half got another week to join work. I could never be thankful enough. Finally, I could fly to Bangalore!! Can you imagine my thoughts?... ofcourse the best that anyone can have.!!The happy me......

My travel buddy from the city was a batchmate I knew for more than 30 years. Again met him too, after high school for the first time. It was just catching up on the good old times. Didn't realise how time flew, delayed flight and  bad weather didn't mean anything at all. While we were on our way, most of the batchmates were already there by Friday morning, we reached in the evening, checked into the hotel and rushed straight to the venue for the welcome party. It was an amazing feeling, meeting friends after so long. No words can ever describe that emotion. We were all teenagers again, it felt as if  April 94 was just the previous day. There was so much to talk, have fun, pull some legs and also share some serious thoughts. 
As it is said that, the Old shoes and old friends are best for relaxing. Some of us experienced it and the others had fun watching it!!

Over the next two days didn't realise how morning turned to noon and noon to night. It was such great bonding and loads of fun. Walking down the memory lane is so relative it was actually living those beautiful moments. Our careers, families, children and the universe just conspired to make this happen, as Paulo Coelho would have said. We do cherish it  and it'll be etched in our memories for a long long time!....  In fact the plans of the next reunion are already underway! Afterall, the best antiques to collect are old friends!

Sunday the group started leaving one after the other,  for me the family and children took over my mind. Had a nice trip back home. The boys did miss me could make out from the  life size bouquet that was placed on my bedside table welcoming me home. This was the icing on the cake. All good things come to an end but somethings make way for another, even better one!
To all of my friends, the high school buddies,  
"You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely".

Friday, 27 June 2014

Road trip - A study tour to Rajasthan

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.

AIH is also the center of learning for  Apeejay Surrendra  The 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.  The institute boasts of a world class curriculum augmented by state of the art facilities on campus with separate hostel facility for Girls and Boys.
Not only academics but extracurricular 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. 
This year the institute organized a Domestic educational tour to Rajasthan and visited the capital city, Jaipur and the other tourist destinations in Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh and Haldi Ghati. 37 students with 4 faculty members were there from the 11th to the 20th of December, 2013. The students learnt every aspect of this tour right from selecting the destination, zeroing down on the local attractions, reserving hotel rooms, planning the itinerary, identifying the hotels to visit as a part of the study tour, as well as all the Dos and Don’ts of travelling as a group.

Rajasthan was chosen as it is one of the most sought after tourist destination in the word and is one of the highest earners in the country in terms of revenue from tourism. It also has some of the best hotels in the country and houses some of the best Heritage hotels not only in India but are among the best in the world. Also this time of the year offered the best of Rajasthan in terms of the weather and travel.

The tour was a road trip of Rajasthan over 8 days. Train was the mode of travel taking us to Rajasthan and back from there. Road trip with students on an educational tour is certainly worth reliving our own college days. Since I as a professor at the institute was travelling with the group, I thought of taking my sons who were then 7.5 years and 4.5 years old. They would not have stayed behind at home when I was out for 10 days. So the children travelled with me. This was the first time I was taking my children on such a long road trip but wanted them to experience that. I believe that travelling is learning, . As a family, we take atleast two vacations in a year. Children learn a lot be it visiting historic places, wildlife sanctuaries or places of immense natural beauty.

The group left from Mumbai Central on the 11th of December 2013 by the Jaipur super fast train, that leaves at 9.30 pm. Reached Jaipur at 12.50pm on 12th December, we had a luxury tourist bus waiting for us at the station. We boarded the  bus and headed to our hotel at Jaipur.  Reached hotel in half an hour, were received at the hotel with refreshing welcome drinks and headed straight to the restaurant for lunch. There were two cakes waiting for the twins who were celebrating their birthday that day. The hotel was good and the rooms very comfortable. In the evening, that day we went to the World famous Choki Dhani, an ethnic village resort representing the culture, traditions and aspects of village life in the state.
Day two of the tour was for  a hotel visit, soon after the breakfast at our hotel we left for the Taj Hari Mahal Hotel. The group was large so was divided into two ensuring that they got a good exposure and got to learn all aspects of operations at the heritage property. Evening was left free for shopping.

Day three - The day of sightseeing, we started with the Amer Fort. The fort stands atop a range of craggy hills. The fort is remarkable as much for the majestic grandeur of its surroundings as for its sturdy battlements and beautiful palaces. Post lunch we visited the City Palace, situated in the heart of the old city and the first high rise structure (7 storey) in the city. After seeing the magnificent palace we went to the famous Jantar Mantar (observatory) the largest and the best preserved of the five observatories built in the 18th century by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in different parts of the country.  We also visited the Hawa Mahal, the 5 storied stunning semi octagonal monument having 152 windows with over hanging latticed balconies, a fine piece of Rajput architecture and Jal Mahal situated in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake.

Day Four – We left for Jodhpur it was a whole day journey by road we reached the hotel in the evening. Some of the students freshened up and relaxed at the hotel whereas some did a bit of shopping at the local market close to the hotel.
Day Five – We went to see the Famous Mehrangarh Fort.  It is one of the largest forts in the country. It is situated 400 feet above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Had a relaxed evening back at the hotel.
Day Six – Left for Udaipur. Reached Udaipur in the evening had our dinner at the restaurant and retired for the night.
Day Seven – We left early morning for Chittorgarh. We visited the Chittorgarh Fort, Vijay Stambh, Padmini Palace, Rana Kumbha Palace, Kumbha Shyam Palace. The story of Chittorgarh is a saga of valor, tenacity and sacrifice. The fort is a treasure trove of history and offers to the travelers an insight into the lives of the great Rajput rulers, who laid their lives fighting superior enemies instead of leading a life of submission under them.

Day Eight – We visited the Leela Palace hotel, one of the best modern palace hotels in the city. The tour was very well organized by the hotel HR and Training team. The property is amazingly beautiful with great service standards. Evening was free for camp fire. The students enjoyed the chilly evening sitting by the camp fire.
Day Nine - We visited the Haldi Ghati, a mountain pass in the Aravali ranges, the name is believed to have come from the yellow coloured soil that looks like turmeric. It is the site where the famous battle of Haldighati was fought between Rana Pratap and the Mughals in the year 1576. We saw the light and sound show based on the life of the Maharana and his horse Chetak.

Day Ten- We visited the Jagdish Temple, built between 1628 and 1653 dedicated to Lord Jagannath. The next attraction was the City Palace, which is one of the architectural marvels of Rajasthan, it is the most visited attraction in Udaipur. The palace has various towers, domes and arches. It boasts of the wonderful blend of Medieval, European and Chinese architecture. We also visited the palace museum. We returned to the hotel, had our lunch and checked out. On our way we visited Saheliyon ki Bari, this is a well planned garden blessed with extensive and shady lawns and great water fountains.
Towards the evening we did boating on the Fateh Sagar lake and visited the Jagmandir island in the centre of the lake it was a sight of rare beauty. We then visited the Pratap Smarak, which is on top of the Moti Magir or Pearl Hill overlooking the Fateh Sagar Lake. The path to the top, traverses through elegant gardens including the Japanese rock garden.

We had dinner at the Natraj restaurant that is famous for its Thali meals. Then it was time for us to board our train back home. We came back with very informative and enriching memories of the Royal Rajasthan.
We used the expertise of Royal Tours, a Mumbai based travel company that specialises in group tours especially school and colleges. We found them doing a fantastic job! 

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Who kills your dreams?

Dream is a beautiful word and has many meanings, carries different interpretations for different individuals.
The dictionary describes dream as, "a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep."

There are dreams that you see in your sleep and there are some that keep you going after them till you actually achieve them, forgetting whether you slept or not. 

If your life is without any turbulence, everyone loves you, all your ideas are accepted with no oppositions- it simply means that your dreams aren't big enough! Everyone of us is capable of dreaming, its a fantasy world, We can be all that we want to be. But a majority of us are dreamers only in our sleep. 
If you ask older people or people of my generation to list some of their dreams. Its very difficult for them to even come out with just10. The other day I was talking to my husband, what his dream was, He couldn't come out with any. I know that he has been a go getter, an achiever in his own right and I am proud of him. But he, in his early 40s, having more than 20 glories years in his career; couldn't think of a dream. I am a person who'll always talk about positivity, optimism and dreams. Wanted him to think about his dreams, dreams that he cherished and the ones that were hidden somewhere. I felt the need to wipe the dust that was gathering over his dreams and hiding them from his vision as well as his mind. He represents a lot of us out there who have forgotten what dreams they once saw. I feel that we all need to have that drive to keep us going otherwise life certainly has no meaning. Again, these are my thoughts...

At the same time it made me wonder, why does this happen to people?Where do our dreams go? What distinguishes us from other animals is that we dream, We believe in them and we can achieve them. I also happened to ask my young sons the same question and they both came out with many dreams. Infact the elder one wrote down a big list of his dreams right from what he wanted to become when he grows up to the kind of house, car, toys, electronics, bikes and loads of other things that he wanted. The younger one who is only 5 and can't manage writing that well, told me more things than his brother. You know how kids are! to seek my appreciation he ensured that he came out with things that sounded jazzy! 

It made my thoughts stronger  that there had to be something that killed our dreams. When we grow up the focus moves from dreams to the harsh realities of our lives and that we somewhere forget to dream. As children our dreams are so many that we need to stretch both our arms to try holding and expressing them. As we grow up, finish studies, enter into the professional lives. We then try to fit the dreams into our earnings. They still look so big . We then try to make them smaller and smaller till they fit into the pay checks that we receive.These we take as our realities, the bitter truths and live by them. 
In this process we tend to lose our dreams, some may even kill them. The people around us become experts in telling us what works and what doesn't. Society starts forming rules for the living safely, following somebody and doing what someone wants us to do. 

Society and the people somehow become like the stadium where a cricket match is on and passing their expert comments and directing players to play the shots. Does this work? Does the advice work? will the players listen to these so called experts sitting up in the stands? Definitely not! 
Then why do we listen to others when it comes to our own dreams. We create them in our imagination and in our minds. Our thinking makes a strong imapct on our subconscience mind. We visualise how to take them forward, what measures on our part will take them closer to realisation. We know the journey that we have walked and the steps that'll take us closer to our dreams. 

Our dreams are ours and only ours! we must certainly not risk them at the mercy of others. 
I love this saying," If you can dream it you can do it". If you were not capable of doing it you won't even imagine it in your wildest dreams. And if you have have dreamt it then allow your dream to take off.

Back to the questions who kills your dreams? It can be YOU, the experts in the society, your own circle of friends who haven't attempted what you are thinking of and the general experts who have no experience whatsoever. If dreamers and achievers listened to the losers in life, the earth would have still been plat, the sun would have been the centre of the universe and there would've have been no inventions and discoveries.

We all know that we have this one life, this one opportunity to live to the fullest, Do what we want to do, be constructive, be an achiever, live a worthy life and be proud of what and who we are.

Picture courtesy: Himanshu Tomar and Bharadwaj Dayala