Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The year that was!

People make new year resolutions!... I haven't done that ever and neither will make any this year or in future. But this year I feel like putting my thoughts on paper... because it has been an incredible year for me. Please don't think in terms of success, material or otherwise but truly it has been a year of realizations and feeling of gratitude. Just  3 days to bid goodbye to the year 2016, let me recount the best things that happened to me this year.

The Plan B

This was the year, I had certain plans made and wanted to go by them... not talking of resolutions here. I was turning 40, wanted to be on my own and plan B was vaguely sketched. I would travel more, be with my children more and give my mariner husband a bit more of my time. Do what I thought would give me happiness, that is conduct training programs for different industries, and associate myself with skill training and contribute a little bit towards making the underprivileged youth employable. I sounded this to my husband who has been the pillar of strength . He was supportive of whatever I decided to do. Then was the chance meeting with the chairperson of my company and happened to share my ideas with her. She has been the very reason why I joined the company in the first place, 10 years ago. She is an inspiration, a lady we look upto. Not just for her being the chairperson but being gutsy, anything but ordinary and the woman of substance that she is. She has been a personal role model, I am a big fan of hers actually! She heard me and the first thing that she said was, "We wouldn't want to lose you. Can we think of doing something together, will work something out." 
Who in today's world will say that to one of the employees? It had a profound influence on my mind, heart and I must add even the soul. Her words were one of my biggest rewards. A feeling of gratitude and of being valued so much. No one is indispensable including me, I know that very well. When someone gives you that value, doesn't want to give up on you, believes in you and wants you to do the best that you can. How could you not listen to that person? In fact you must never leave him or her. One, it shows you have earned that. Second, you can achieve anything but it takes so much more to earn someone's trust. 
I didn't have the heart or the will to walk away. I decided to stay on, count my blessings as I could start noticing beauty in every little thing that I had taken for granted. My plan B has been pushed a little further as I'll never give up on the person who had that trust in me. Life is a two way cycle and gratitude is just not another word in the dictionary! Its a feeling that's only felt and no words can ever explain it.

Your family is the biggest strength

Your family is the biggest strength that you'll ever have, invest in it. Social media will give you a lot of virtual friends. Most of them will be just your contacts, instead of building a longer lists there invest on the relationships both personal and professional. We have a close family that we love and value but we spend more waking hours at the work place. 
Work colleagues too must build and nurture those professional friendship and bonding.Work environment has to be healthy and fun. Collaborations, teamwork and partnerships actually decide the success of an organisation, not the brilliant human resources that can't work as a team. That's why we have started valuing EQ and SQ, not focusing only on the IQ. Healthy work environments create happy professionals, that in turn creates happy results for the organisation. Just imagine, that'll keep everyone coming to office with a smile, where will the Monday morning blues go?

Be ready
We all make great plans and put all our thoughts and actions towards fulfilling them. If that plan doesn't work out for us we are completely shattered. Remember we make plans for ourselves, He makes plans too! Sometimes its good to trust His plans and be ready without much of disappointment and crying over the spilt milk. Instead look for the dairy where you can pick your milk from. Even better, rear that cow! A slight change in attitude can do a lot more to ones confidence. Its only that confidence and self belief that'll create success for you. So be ready for whatever comes your way like a soldier. You are the major of the army called your Life. 

Just do it
Life is so unpredictable, last couple of months we have witnessed so much around us. It'll be true to say that nothing comes with a guarantee. Make the most of whatever is close to your heart and NOW is the time! Never miss an opportunity to meet the person who is important in your life, talk to someone special over the phone, express your love, gratitude and even disappointments. Apologize and make it up for the fight that you might have picked up or an argument that might have developed. These things don't need the seal of permanency.

Create a balance
Create that work life balance, that everyone talks about these days. Its your life and you know the best, trial and error method is the only solution. No expert or self help books can ever chart it out for you. You are unique and so is the situation around you. So create the best work life balance that you can. You must feel energized, happy, optimistic and in peace with your surroundings. This is what I feel the balance should create in your life. Finding 'Me' in the middle of things and keeping stress at bay!

Body is your temple
Good health is your biggest wealth and literally so. Check out the hospital bills and the number of ailments finding their way into the medical books. Healthy body harbors a healthy mind. Take care of it, dedicate at least 30 minutes a day in worshiping that temple! Find a fitness regime that you enjoy and the one that works for you. Walking, jogging, swimming, yoga, working out at the gym or following any sport that you love will take care of your fitness. Eating healthy is equally important as it contributes to your stamina and endurance. If over 35 years of age, one needs to get the routine health check ups done. If you respect your body it'll love you back. Not only will you look great but also feel on top of the world.

Count your blessings
Be grateful for what you have, the best things in life actually come for free. You must know to recognise them, invite them in your life and ensure that they stay. All good things are to be shared, ensure that you do a good turn each day. No matter what has happened throughout the day, all the mess can be negated by this one good deed and you can sleep peacefully. You must also be the Santa for someone else. There's greater happiness in giving, sharing and bringing a smile on someone else's face! 

Love yourself
The person you know the most is the one in the mirror. Who knows the journey walked by him/ her better than you? Who has seen him all through the thick and thin. Be proud of that person and be his biggest support system. He needs you all the time, keep giving him the 'push' when he needs it the most. Be his guide and philosopher, above all be his cheerleader! Remember your journey started together and it'll go on till eternity. 

Celebrate anything that deserves one, big or small doesn't matter. But you having basked in that moment of glory matters indeed. Milestones, benchmarks,successes or lessons learnt, special occasions, friendships, family get togethers; all are reasons enough to celebrate. Celebrate life!.... period!!

Wishing you all, a very happy, healthy, peaceful and incredible New Year 2017!... Shine on!!

PS. Pictures have been taken for representational purpose from google with due credits 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

When I couldn't go sailing!

I was told to write an article covering the dos and don'ts that a lady should follow when she joins her husband on the ship. By virtue of me being married to a mariner, this is but naturally expected from  me. I have a blog so I guess that automatically makes me the person to do the honours. I am grateful for the privilege.... but there's a little hitch. The little hitch is that I haven't sailed with my husband yet! When I was to write on the topic I spoke to him on phone, enjoying the luxury of Whatsapp calling (ofcourse when the time zones don't clash and he has the time to talk). I was pulling his leg saying that I wasn't qualified to write on the topic as I hadn't sailed with him. I felt he really took it seriously and was clearing his side of the story by telling me that it was actually me who had no time and suffered sea sickness! I said that was long time ago, may be not anymore; as I've been riding the waves ever since we became husband and wife. Jokes apart, I have sailed on a ship not with my husband but with my dad, who was a saturation diver and a marine commando in the Indian Navy. It wasn't a long sailing but long enough for me to have lasting memory. The voyage was from Chennai to Port Blair, that used to take 3 days. Dad was posted to Port Blair from Cochin and we all moved there. The only mode of transportation was either the ship or the aeroplane. The option two was ruled out as we'd be travelling with a lot of luggage. Secondly dad wanted us to experience a proper voyage, though we all had been a part of day sailing on the naval ships as a part of the family day celebrations. Had that 'little extra' privilege to go boating on the high speed boats called the geminis with dad when he was an instructor at the training base.

The Background
Its important for the people to understand where I come from, only then the sailing or lack of it will make sense to them.  Here we go, I used to have motion sickness as a child, have never sat on a Merry go round till now! When visiting Fairs I must have only seen the "Maut ka kua" my biggest adventure and never tried any of those fancy rides. Even now when I take my children for the neighborhood fairs and they want to go on the rides, I look for a volunteer, buy him a ticket and make him sit with the kids. 
Getting back to the story,  I was in 9th grade when we had to go to Port Blair on dad's transfer. He was wondering whether I should go on the ship or by flight. It would require a lot of planning and making logistic arrangements in case I had to take the plane. So it was decided that we'd all go by ship. My younger brother and sister were excited but I had mixed feelings. Anyway, Dad got the tickets for us on one of the biggest passenger ship's of that time and in one of the best cabins ( in the lowermost part of the vessel so that the rolling and pitching wouldn't be felt much). My preparation for the voyage was a camera with additional rolls and avomine to see me through the voyage. We got into the ship, the on boarding experience was great. We still had time till the ship set sail. I took an avomine and gave one to my brother and sister. Guess what?... we all fell asleep and when we woke up the ship had left Chennai. The moment my siblings woke up and saw just the sea everywhere, they blew their tops! They never forgave me for making them miss the opportunity to see the ship leaving the harbour.

How Sailing has eluded me
Got engaged to my sailor in April 2005. We had a courtship of about eight months, during that time, like all couples do we would discuss many things about us, life, our life together etc. He was sailing as the chief mate then. I made it clear to him that I wouldn't want to sail with him for long periods of time (for obvious reasons, as already covered in the background) as I had a career too. He wasn't really looking forward to it either. Just imagine a man who wasn't open to getting married in the first place was walking that path. Wife being with him even at work may not have been an ideal situation for him or any other man for that matter ... am just guessing! We got married in December that year, the very next contract he was promoted as the Master. When I joined back on work after a vacation of two months, a colleague told me that it was such an adventure to sail on a ship and see the world. She suggested that I should do it as it was privilege that I could enjoy as a sailor's wife. She added how that was the right time to spend quality time with hubby, get to know  him better, his job and also have a long vacation with him. I thought really deep and hard, it was a privilege for sure but pregnant women were not allowed onboard. She got to know later why I was still going to work and not sailing around the world with my husband.
Three years I couldn't join hubby as children less than two were not allowed on the ship. Elder one turned two, thought of doing his passport as we could join his dad if an opportunity arose, that is, my vacation and hubby being at a convenient port. Ultimately didn't hurry with the child's passport as we discovered that he was to become the elder brother soon! We had sailing restrictions for the next three years as well. 
When the younger one turned two the elder one finished his kindergarten and had to be admitted in the bigger school. Getting into a good school is a bigger challenge than even college admission. I was handling two hyperactive boys, my job and home. Sailing was stuck somewhere in between the higher responsibilities. Ten years went by we trying to balance our careers, family, children's school and our love for roadtrips. Now is the ideal time for us to plan a mini voyage with hubby. May be have the school vacation and my leave matched so that we can experience at least 30 days of being onboard a vessel. 
Tips for a great experience onboard 

So what if I haven't sailed yet I know what is to be done! Have discussed with my sailor and also have heard from the ladies who have sailed with their husbands. Here are a few tips that can be followed:
  • You must carry all things that’d require while onboard, clothes, medicines, cosmetics etc.
  • You can catch up on your sleep
  • Read books that you didn’t find the time for or watch movies that you missed.
  • Enjoy the sea and its vastness; imagine getting  those click- worthy views.
  • Do your yoga or use the gym and remain fit. In fact the routine onboard will keep you in great shape, both mentally and physically.
  • Write your blog / story/ poetry or click great pictures that can be kept for eternity or shared with family and friends
  • Help in the kitchen planning menu or sharing some great cooking tips and most loved home recipes.
  • Help organize festivals, special occasions or parties.
  • Participate in the drills and follow all safety and huygiene rules
  • Be on time always
  • Help organize things for your sailor, his laundry, food etc
  • Don’t interfere in his work but help him perform better.
  • Help the cadets doing the deck job or just chipping and painting, it'll be fun for you and they'll be motivated too.
  • Use shore leave to go out and see new places, whether with your husband or alone if he is tied up with work.
  • If you are a professional such as a trainer or a doctor you can organize some training classes for the crew.
  • Organise fun activities such as games or contests that can keep everyone engaged and it’s a good pastime during long sailings.
  •  If you have your children with you then you must ensure their safety.  Take care of them without causing any disturbance / inconvenience to anyone including your own husband specially during working hours.
  • You'll get so much quality time with your husband, remember he will be always on board and not joining his boys group every now and then that some ladies are not really fond of!
  • Above all enjoy your time onboard and create happy memories!

PS pictures are taken from Google with due credits, for representational purpose  

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Lucky Me!

I called my ex boss to wish him on his birthday. He has been a mentor and a guide. Apart from huge respect, I also have gratitude for being given so many opportunities that helped me become a  better professional. It makes a lot of difference specially if its at the beginning of one's career.
Generally the catching up time has been his birthday where we exchange the happenings in our lives. Did the same this year too. He mentioned to me that I had always got things on a platter. He was referring to my career and how I was lucky to have my in laws there for me so personal life was sorted too. He has seen me right from graduation days. Having known him for over 20 years, he literally knows the way my life and career have shaped up or  progressed. I certainly don't think I am an achiever or a star performer but I guess am happy with everything.... Optimist you see!

He telling me that I have been lucky and that had got things on a platter, made me think. Its not that I've reached the moon but all's been fine, rather I feel that I am living a balanced life and did things that my heart really wanted to. That makes me grateful and humbled for almost everything that's there in my life, family, friends,  career, colleagues etc. But I don't think that things came on a platter.

Its like telling the best actor that there's no effort. Infact a good actor is one who rehearses so much that the piece or his role looks very natural and effortless. He certainly works harder than others.
Who knows one's journey  better than the person himself. No one else can judge the path. I believe to get 100% from any relationship or a situation one needs to put in a 1000%. All have to do it, but when it comes to women the efforts will certainly need to be 1000% plus. 
It takes me to the book review that I read recently 'The Luck Factor' by Richard Wiseman. I haven't read the book though, it looks good! Will certainly grab a copy soon. 
Excerpts from the book, Psychologist Richard Wiseman conducted a study that lasted about 10 years, to determine Why some people were luckier than the others.  
He shared his results including the four critical elements that could help each one of us to become that Lucky Person.
In his interview with The Telegraph, he says,"My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good".

To launch his study, He placed advertisements in national newspapers and magazines, asking for people who felt consistently lucky or unlucky to contact me. Over the years, 400 extraordinary men and women volunteered for my research from all walks of life: the youngest is an 18-year-old student, the oldest an 84-year-old retired accountant.
He gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs, whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message: "Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper." This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than 2in high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people spotted it.
For fun, he placed a second large message halfway through the newspaper: "Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250." Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.

Personality tests revealed that unlucky people are generally much more tense than lucky people, and research has shown that anxiety disrupts people's ability to notice the unexpected. 
And so it is with luck - unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. 

Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for.
He then asked a group of lucky and unlucky volunteers to spend a month carrying out exercises designed to help them think and behave like lucky people. A month later, the volunteers returned and described what had happened. The results were dramatic: 80 per cent of people were now happier, more satisfied with their lives and, perhaps most important of all, luckier.

Wiseman goes on to explain that part of luck is very much played-out in the mind. As a result, people who view themselves as unlucky tend to fail at following their intuition when making a choice. Whereas lucky people respect those internal hunches and reap the rewards. Unlucky people also regularly follow routines, whereas lucky people introduce variety into their lives, possibly increasing the likelihood of those lucky opportunities.

When someone appears lucky, remember he or she has created that factor around him or her!... rarely its luck by chance!!

PS Pictures are taken from Google with due credits for representational purpose.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Only the sailors will know...

  "Lets go to our cabin" - I'd be surprised and wonder where that was,... but that was a long time ago, not anymore! Now I know that's our room, mine most of the times as hubby uses his cabin while onboard!
"Shift to the port"....or it could be to "the starboard"  some other time. These often used terms for directions that'd make me looking confused ever more. That's supposed to be the left  or the right side. For the people who can't figure out. I still can't get the hang of it myself. For a person who  has to look at the eating hand (right hand) to check the right or the left side; port and starboard are a bit too much ...Greek!
I recently discovered that there's a term that describes my condition and its called direction dyslexia. I wasn't too pleased with the discovery though. Can you imagine a Professor describing herself like that. Well the other day I happened to talk about it to some friends of course in the third person. Guess what? I  learnt that it wasn't me alone. There were others who faced very similar challenges! I call it a challenge as there have been instances when I am in an auto or a taxi and give direction to the driver. When he goes exactly in the opposite of where I mentioned, it gets tricky to tell him, " Oh am sorry I meant the other way." 

Let me not add bow and stern, for that matter not even  aft. Lets keep our directions to good old Left and Right. All those who get confused with even these, like me let them check with their (eating)hands. That's right (or left if you are a left handed person). 
The Captain or the Master is often referred to as the 'Buddha', not as in Lord but buddha that's old in Hindi. I am certain that the maritime world knows what Buddha is! I discovered this term even before hubby told me. Soon after our marriage, when I went back to work a colleague who happened to be a Chief Engineer's wife called me a Buddhi... I was wondering why and she explained that my hubby was a Buddha in waiting; hubby was sailing as Chief Mate that time though he had cleared his Masters written as well as orals. Next contract he did become the Buddha! On a lighter note it also shows the great camaraderie between the Deck and the Engine sides. 
Similarly there are the Bada Saab, that's  the Chief engineer, Second Saab is the second engineer, Teen Saab and Chaar Saab for third and fourth engineers respectively. Also Cookie for the Chief Cook , AB for the Able Seamen,  Bosun, Batti Saab for the electrical officer and so on. There are different ranks but each having a nickname too! Guess what?  All of them are Indian in origin. Look at how our marine brothers have been globetrotters and globe influencers! Isn't that really powerful? The British might have been credited with creating the modern maritime but we Indians have given what matters the most- the nicknames! Whats in a name they say.... there's definitely a lot than one can imagine. 

Everything you buy worth thousands will only be so many dollars for your sailor! I often laugh at that I 'd think it to be so expensive if something costed 7 or 8 thousand rupees but for hubby it would only be 100 something Dollars. Perception is different you see!
Leaving  aside perception,  there are also certain qualities that set the sailors apart. Lets look at some of them.
The conservationist - Save water! for that matter save everything possible, all resources are to be judiciously used. I can't even keep the tap on while doing dishes, if hubby is around he'll come and turn it off anyway. No food will be thrown ever and absolutely no wastage of anything. Lets not talk about money here, money is just a couple of dollars and they work so hard to earn them, hence the family deserves indulgence! So they don't save that commodity.
No lettering around - Swatch Bharat Abhiyan came into practice now in our country, and government has levied a tax too but we have been living with it ever since. So much so that my kids put chocolate wrappers in their pockets and bring them home if they can't find a dustbin around. 
Safety First -  Whatever is attempted has to be done with utmost safety in mind. If there is a doubt that means 'doubt exists' and something needs to be done about it! This applies every single time.
Know it all - He is the electrician, plumber, tailor, cook, driver, accountant, housekeeper, doctor so on and so forth. When he is around there'll never be a need to call anyone as the sailor knows all these jobs, you see he is a jack of all trades. I call mine a Neem Hakim as he has a solution for everything. Your problems will be expressed later but his solution will be laid on the table first.
Spendthrift - They are big spenders.They work so hard and are away from their families for long periods of time so that they can give their dear ones the very best. They rarely spend on themselves though. Its always for their near and dear ones. That gives them true happiness. What else will you call selfless?
Too trusting - They trust every telecaller and ever banker who calls them. These NRIs are called to look at great investment ideas and schemes that'd be too good in the long run. They generally oblige, trusting everything that's told to them. They don't understand numbers much when it comes to adding zeros behind the notes though. Our Rupee hasn't been strong in a long time that could be the reason why the investments don't look too big ever.
World language - They would have worked with so many nationalities that they could speak quite a few languages. Generally grammar may go for a toss as they are so used to not using proper English or proper sentences for that matter.  Just for the ease of making things understandable to all. So that all can comprehend whats spoken. Imagine Italian, Russian, Filipino, Bangladeshi, Indian, Ukrainian,  Chinese or Thai all working as one team. The language needs to be global, ...truly! 
Ship as the home - When they are on work, the ship is home for the next 4-5 months. So every time you speak the general topic will be concerning weather, port, loading, discharging, crew change, dry dock, port state, vetting, pre- vetting etc. But they'll love to hear everything from you, all the happening around you, even the daily chores.
Routine -  Everything is clockwork, the watches, time for meals, sleep or wake up time. No one follows routine like a sailor does.
Understanding Timezones - The Shippies are just too good when it comes to understanding the weather, time zones, tides across the globe and also identifying the stars and constellations.
Expressive- They are quite the non expressive kinds. For that matter most men are but the sailors score a century here. Thanks to having "all boys" work teams. I guess they just learn to not express and its for others especially the spouse to understand. Their actions will speak for them, they don't ever depend on words. So if you don't hear," Baby I love you" or "I've been missing you". Its absolutely normal. They mean all of these that's why they call you using satphones. Over the period of time you begin to love this particular quality of his.
The beverage love - They love their drinks whatever spirit or alcohol they prefer. Its a luxury when they are on land Most shipping companies don't allow consumption of alcohol while onboard as certain countries have laws against them.
Cosmetics-  They understand the importance of beautification and cosmetics. The big lady they live with is extremely demanding. They do the regular cleansing and painting work to keep her in top shape and  with all aesthetics in place. Guess the sailor expects his own lady love to be the best! He surely knows the maintenance part. 
Ladies man- The sailors are quite popular with the ladies from time immemorial. Women have always loved to hear the stories of the seas and their adventures. Not to mention they getting jealous of the mermaids, believed to be every sailor's fantasy and imagination. 
Eye for detail - It is said that women have great eye for detail, I wish to add that the sailors are equally good if not better. They take in details of every little thing. It 'd be a surprise though when they wouldn't notice what you wear but will know that the eyeliner on the left eye was thicker than the right one. They are that precise!

Love these lines by Joseph Conrad, A British marine,
"Nowhere else than upon the sea do the days, weeks and months fall away quicker into the past. They seem to be left astern as easily as the light air-bubbles in the swirls of the ship’s wake, and vanish into a great silence in which your ship moves on with a sort of magical effect. They pass away, the days, the weeks, the months. Nothing but a gale can disturb the orderly life of the ship; and the spell of unshaken monotony that seems to have fallen upon the very voices of her men is broken only by the near prospect of a Landfall". 

That makes me love and value my sailor!

Monday, 12 December 2016

True value of life!

I was at an event recently, the head of academics spoke about how each child was unique and how it was unfair to compare any two. The second part of the program was to award the best performers, the categories being best turned out, punctual, most caring, most disciplined, most helpful etc. I was so confused, was it in any way supporting the gyan that was delivered a few minutes earlier! On the other hand can these qualities be judged just in a couple of hours? Certain qualities can only be felt and not explained or judged. Reminds me of a story, the true value of life.

The value of life
A little boy  went to his grandfather and asked, “What’s the value of life Grandpa?”
Grandpa gave him one stone and said, “Find out the value of this stone, but don’t sell it.”

The boy took the stone to an Orange seller and asked him what would be the cost of the stone. The Orange seller saw the shiny stone and said, “You can take 12 oranges and give me the stone.” The boy apologized and said that his Grandpa had asked him not to sell it.
He went ahead and found a vegetable seller. “What could be the value of this stone?” he asked the vegetable seller. The seller saw the stone and said, “Take one sack of potatoes and give me the stone.”
The boy again apologized and said he that couldn't sell it.
Further ahead, he went into a jewelry shop and asked the jeweller the value of the stone. The jeweller saw the stone under a lens and said, “I’ll give you 30 Lakhs for this stone.” When the boy shook his head, the jeweller said, “Lets call it a deal for 1 crore, but give me the stone.” The boy explained that he couldn't it. The little boy then saw a shop dealing in precious stones and asked the seller the value of his stone.
When the precious stone seller saw the big ruby, he lay down a red cloth and put the ruby on it. Then he walked in circles around the ruby examining it closely. He bent down and touched his head in front of the ruby asking the boy, "From where did you bring this priceless ruby ? Even if I sell my life and all my belongings , I won’t be able to purchase this beauty".

Stunned and confused, the boy returned to his grandfather and told him what had happened.

“Now tell me what is the value of life, Grandpa? He asked his grandfather.
Grandpa said, “The answers you got from the orange seller, the vegetables seller, the jeweler and the precious stones seller explain the value of our life. You may be a precious stone, even priceless one for that matter but people may value you based on their own level of information, their belief in you, their motive behind entertaining you, their ambition, and their risk taking ability. But don’t fear, you will surely find someone who will discern your true value.”
In the eyes of God you are very precious, you are unique. Respect yourself and remember that no one can replace you ever. 

Life is extremely valuable, one needs to have a wholesome balanced one rather than on a single tangent. Life creates its own rainbow - colours of happiness, love, caring of family and friends, bonding with others over common interests, respect for diversity and difference of opinion completing it. Living in a healthy environment, being strong both mentally and emotionally these score well over, just the physical strength. People who are capable of handling loss just the way they handle winning, handling sorrow just like they engage in happiness. The tough times are like little pebbles on the pathway, they can be crossed easily. These little wars are won mentally or emotionally rather than with any other might such as physical strength or the power of money. So value what you are worth and be proud of who you are. Always strive to make you a better version of yourself- ever so balanced, happy and full of cheer & hope!

P.S Pictures are taken from google with due credits for representational purpose only.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Hospitality Attitude

Hospitality is much more than a simple welcome or an offer of food or drink. It is an attitude that opens us to others and receives them on their own terms. In other words, what we know as anticipation of others needs, in this case the guest needs!
Attitude is evaluative statements or judgments concerning objects, people or events. Attitude generally has two components figuratively speaking. Affective component could be emotional or a feeling segment of an attitude whereas Behavioral component is an intention to behave in a certain way towards someone or something.
It is easy to train someone to do a job but it's extremely difficult to train someone with a poor attitude. One needs to work on the attitude first, if that's right anything can be done and achieved with great success.
The key  is to paying attention. We need to get out of ourselves and become interested in the expectations of others. I have been a part of the hospitality industry for over two decades and I feel its not just your physical assets such as the building and other tangibles that are important in the success of the organisation but its the attitude and qualities that the employees possess and display.

Lets look at what makes a great hospitality attitude. It is extremely simple, doing things from the heart and having certain basic qualities and personality traits.

Willingness to serve
The employees should possess and display readiness to serve others. Customers here are referred to as guests and guests need that special attention.
Physical Fitness
The job is demanding with long hours of work, working in shifts or involving a lot of physical work. If not that then it could be standing for long hours.
Grooming standards
A pleasing personality with well groomed appearance makes an employee the perfect hospitality professional.  
Guest is always right! ....A guest is a guest is a guest!
A guest is a guest, lets not look at whether he is right or not. Hotels place a very high priority to guest satisfaction. Now that has moved a notch higher to guest delight or creating that dazzle.
Personal  and  Professional ethics
Ethics are your sense of right and wrong. Morals and values that define how you are as a person are your personal ethics. How you behave and conform to the rules in a professional setting are  your  professional ethics. One must maintain the dignity of each domain.
The employees should be honest and have strong moral principles as they deal with both hotel assets as well as guest valuables.
The employees should be sensitive in dealing with others and they must achieve peaceful resolutions in guest interactions. If not a solution, it must at least facilitate discussions.
Communication Skills
The most successful in the hospitality business are those with excellent communication skills. They can communicate effectively both verbally and in writing also displaying positive body language always.
Computer knowledge
A great hospitality employee should have good computer skills and should be familiar with a wide range of technological applications that are used in the industry.
Knowledge of Safety and Hygiene 
Employees should be  familiar with rules of safety and hygiene as they apply to kitchens, restaurants and other places where guests spend time
Interpersonal skills
The very nature of the business is to provide immaculate customer service, the base for the same being one's interpersonal skills.
The employees must have strong leadership quality and the ability to take charge that contributes to an organization's overall success.

Loyalty and Commitment
One must be loyal to the organisation and also do whatever it takes to keep customers happy. That's the key to creating repeat business and important for any industry not just hospitality.

Multi tasking
To stay focused , the employee should be organized and multitask with efficiency. They must be thorough in their work and realize that any oversight could result in customer dissatisfaction or loss of business.
Great employees are enthusiastic about their jobs and they strive to do their best at every interaction. They give their customers the best service available and create that WOW experience every time!

Every employee needs be a team player. No one can succeed alone in a people dominated industry. Everyone's contribution counts. 

Anyone who wants to build a successful career in the hospitality industry, this could be your guide to what it takes to be there and all those who are already working as professionals can use this as their checklist!
I believe that education is the forming of impressions on the soul.

Picture courtesy: Apeejay Institute of Hospitlality

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Boutique Hotels

 I am often asked what a boutique hotel is. I work for a boutique hotel brand, The Apeejay Surrendra Park hotels Ltd. That operates a collection of luxury boutique hotels by the brand name, The Park  and also manage The Zone by the Park hotels. Its a question that comes from the students or the new joinees during their induction program. Thought of putting all the information that I generally share with them on this blog and next time I need people to read up about Boutique hotels I shall refer them here. A bit of personal interest but I am sure everyone will like visiting this in case they need to tell people or guests about these hotels. Here, I am visualizing the sales or the front office teams. Also students of Hospitality will find it useful. Hope you find it informative if not interesting! 
Boutique - according to the dictionery definition
1 a : a small fashionable specialty shop or business
1 b : a small shop within a large department store
2 : a small company that offers highly specialized services (an independent investment boutique)
Boutique hotels are described as personalized, customized, unique, and individual. The most important defining features of boutique hotels are cultural, historical, authenticity; the boutique hotel is not part of a chain and that it provides interesting, unique services. Other important defining descriptors of boutique hotels include, “social spaces such as living rooms, libraries with social rooms” and “many, high-quality in‐room features””. - The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association.
A boutique hotel is an intimate, design-led property which distinguishes itself from larger chain hotels by providing guests with ultra-personalized service and accommodation. In fact the properties are so different that even if the company owns more than hotel, they don't call themselves a chain but a collection of luxury boutique hotels. There are unique set of characteristics that define a boutique hotel.
There are two branches of Boutique Hotels: Boutique Hotels in city destinations, and Boutique Hotels in resort destinations. The Boutique Hotel in city destination is not only visited because of its convenient location, but also because of it being the city’s fashion destination. Historically, the most common locations of the Boutique Hotels were London, New York, Miami, and Los Angeles etc that easily fitted into the fashion destinations.
Technology is an important attribute of a city boutique Hotel. It could be technology used to emotionally connect the guest with the hotel, like music and light, or it could be technology for the guests’ convenience, such as computers with high-speed internet, cordless phones, DVD players, and flascreen or smart televisions.
Also, there are boutique hotels in resort destinations, which generally are located in hidden places, like islands or mountains. Unlike the ones in city destinations, technology is not strictly necessary in the resort destinations. Instead, exotic amenities as well as unique and personalized services are the core competence of the resort destinations. They commonly replace the absence of electronics with spas, yoga, meditation or painting classes and creating connection to the environment  so as to  promote their guest's comfort.

Established in 1981, both the Clarion Bedford Hotel in San Francisco and Blakes London, with its fabulous interiors conceived by celebrity designer Anouska Hempel, are recognized as two of the earliest boutique hotels in the world.
The person credited for inventing the “boutique hotel” concept is the American entrepreneur and hotelier Ian Schrager, who, together with his business partner Steve Rubell, opened the Morgans Hotel on Madison Avenue, Manhattan, New York in 1984. It was then when Steve told the media: “Hotels are like department stores. They’re trying to be all things to all people. This is different. It’s like a boutique”.
 Boutique hotels are generally known to be perfect and small chic little places which have a common characteristic of the less formal charm that they all seem to be bringing in an air of differentiation in their products and services. The "Morgans" looked fairly strange and unique, and was nothing like the 'big - boy' hotels, who had a domineering presence in the hotel industry.  Schrager  and Rubell obtained the services of popular Parisian designer Andree Putman to come up with the interiors, so that, during the beginnings, the boutique hotel had a dash of American and European flavor. The main features, however, were the independence of the design and its uniqueness.
“A hotel with a point of view ” Ian Schrager
This type of lodging facility gains its uniqueness through aesthetics, atmosphere, and a level of personalized service that just can’t be found in larger establishments. Therefore, the size is another important feature of a boutique hotel, and bigger is not necessarily better!

Architecture and design
Style, distinction, warmth and intimacy are the key words in the architecture and design of boutique hotels. Emphasing Out of the box designs  and using unique themes such as the Library hotel in New York. they are very chic.
The d├ęcor plays a major role in adding the right amount of individuality and setting a thoughtful ambiance throughout a boutique hotel. High-quality materials, designer furnishings, and quirky touches are often used to create a memorable visual experience, while bespoke amenities like a generous pillow menu, plush baths, or handmade organic toiletries contribute to an atmosphere of comfort and luxury.
Another common characteristic of these exclusive accommodations is the great attention to detail. A true boutique hotel will always take time to style its rooms individually, and to incorporate bespoke art and locally-sourced materials in the interior decoration. And also  choose the finest linens and freshest food ingredients to be used in their hotels.
They are not just design empasised and theme based hotels but also the services are unique. The  staff displays a very friendly, relaxed yet professional attitude. There is emphasis on entertainment in terms of music, drama and art that the entire atmosphere appears to be theatrical.
Target market
The main traget group for the boutique hotels guests in the age group 20 to 50 years. Belonging mostly to the  mid and upper income groups. The hotels are easily address of choice of designers, entrepreneurs, media, fashion and leisure travelers.
When it comes to staying in a hotel, one demands relaxation, convenience and luxury that can add comfort to their holiday. Hotels in India offer all of that along with hospitality that is exclusive to Indian culture.  Apart from the huge 5 star hotels there are many budget hotels in India. When talking about budget hotels and the other segment, boutique hotels are much in demand. They offer the same luxury, comfort and convenience that is experienced in high priced luxury hotels with their own style of service or products. Boutique hotels are common and popular in western countries; however, this concept has recently gained momentum in India. Boutique hotels cater to all requirements of their guests, giving them a memorable stay without really costing them a fortune. Initial boutique hotels in India were in metropolitan cities or at popular resort or spa destinations but now they are moving even to tier two or tier three cities.
Boutique hotels are in ever-growing demand by travelers seeking hospitality experiences that are unique and distinctly different. Be it for a special occasion like a honeymoon or an anniversary, or just for the fun of it, you're bound to find something very different!
The Park Hotels was the first Indian hotel brand and to come up with boutique concept in India but today there are many boutique hotels. Even some of the large hotel chains with popular luxury hotels are opening their boutique segment.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Fitness in the Hotel Industry

Hotel industry is extremely demanding. The team members are expected to be passionate about their jobs, excited about the property and the company that they represent. And truly looking out for customers’ best interests. Among the many necessary traits that an employee should have in order to ensure that the business succeeds are:

The ability to multitask
The hotel industry is fast-paced, and often requires a staff member to do several different things at a time. If a team members cannot manage these or have trouble dividing their attention, it’s likely that they’ll struggle in their roles.

Organizational skills
The hospitality professional should be able to stay organized at all times. When a person fails to do this, guests’ requests and other important issues can be missed. There should be a system in place to ensure that every team member stays organized even when the days are really  busy.

Being a team player
The industry is focused heavily on teamwork, and every employee should be a team player where everyone is open to new ideas,  also appreciate others point of views.  This dynamics works because the industry has a great focus on customer needs and their satisfaction.  No one can be a ‘Me’ person but all working as ‘We’ is the key.

Listening skills
Every team member should be not only diplomatic and tactful but also posses’ great listening skills. They should be able to read between the lines. The successful professionals are those who have mastered the art of listening, and are able to respond to guests’ questions, comments, and concerns. Handling every situation, to the guest’s satisfaction, creating wow!

Physical fitness
The team members are required to work in shifts. They are standing most of the time during their shift such as receptionists and bell boys and housekeeping attendants.  This requires them to be physically fit and mentally alert so that can respond to guests requests, complaints and compliments objectively.

The hospitality professionals should exude enthusiasm which is a must for every employee. The individuals should be passionate about their work and enjoy meeting as well as  interacting with people. They should possess and exhibit the hospitality attitude!

All these qualities and personality traits need an individual to follow some kind of fitness routine. A healthy mind in a healthy body holds true. We at The Park Hotels understand this and have taken wellness or an individual’s physical and emotional well being as a serious business. Some of the various initiatives that we have taken in this direction as a company are:

1. Stepathlon program:
We participate in the Stepathlon program. It is a mass participation event for organisations of all sizes across all industries and countries. The Stepathlon approach to achieving better physical and mental health is fun, motivating and sustainable. Deteriorating public health, increasing risk of lifestyle diseases and alarming statistics on mental illness at the workplace are the compelling reasons why they offer corporate employees the opportunity to be part of the Stepathlon 'Movement for Movement.' Stepathlon is simple and easy to implement and has been designed for maximum inclusivity.
As an organization we have about 100 team members from across the units participating in the program each year since 2012. It has helped many of our team mates achieving not just their fitness goals but also in the overall wellness and professional work hygiene.

2. Yoga sessions:
At the learning centre of The Park Hotels, the Apeejay Institute of Hospitality we have been conducting a lifestyle and wellness module that covers yoga, meditation, health, beauty and personal grooming. The Management Trainees are sensitized towards maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This is included in their on boarding experience into a successful hospitality career and wellness becomes an integral part of it! Lifestyle and Fitness module has been a part of the Management Training program since 2013. Even before International Yoga Day, 21 June came in vogue across the country.
Yoga sessions are conducted every Friday evening for all team members. It reinforces the message of wellness both physical and mental. Not to mention that we celebrate International Yoga Day with great fervor now.

3. Get Set Go Week:
All units across the Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Ltd. celebrate week of fun and cheer across locations of The Park, Flurys, AIH and Zone. A time to celebrate our Teams and us. To say "thank you" to one another for the service, support, commitment and contributions. 
THE GSG week denotes - 
 : Getting to have fun through learning, sports, food, music, friends and other little pleasures
 : Setting Goals - Personal and Professional
 : Going forward to achieve more balance & living life to the fullest 

Fun activities are conducted ranging from creativity, team spirit, fitness, health, beauty, sports and games.
Being healthy is important as it can help a person have a stronger heart, better muscles, stronger bones, a sense of well-being and a better social and professional life. Eating right and exercising the correct amount leads to overall wellness. When the body is healthy,  the mind is alert and the individual is ready to face all challenges with a smile on the face. A healthy persons not only looks good but also feels every good from within. When one is happy, he helps create many more happy people and happy situations. 
All so needed for a hospitality professional.