Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A sailor at heart and an explorer in soul

This post is not about me but a sailor who can certainly be called 'great' as he has achieved something that no ordinary man or woman can. This is about Commandar Abhilash Tomy, KC an Indian Naval Officer. What makes him an achiever is that; he is the first Indian, second Asian, and seventy-ninth person to complete a solo, unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation (the action or process of sailing around the world) under sail.

It's about India’s greatest naval adventure.

The boat used for the project, Sagar Parikrama of the indian Navy was the Indian Navy Sailing Vessel INSV Mhadei, custom built by the Indian Navy. A man who covered about 40000 kms, sailing around the world, alone and without any help or stops. INSV Mhadei, went through some of the most terrible and lonely places on this planet encountering ferocious storms and raging seas. An adventure of this magnitude is so difficult that less than 100 people have ever successfully completed one. To compare, more than 5 times the number has gone to space and more than 5000 people have been on the Mt. Everest.
He set off on the historic voyage from the Gateway of India, Mumbai on 1st November 2012. Moving slowly and steadily on the route marked for him. If you can say marked, in the first place! Remember nothing is marked on the sea; one has to make it on his own but the route is more or less just a guideline.
He crossed, from West to East, the Indian, Pacific, Southern and Atlantic Oceans, covering 23,100 nautical miles, rounding Cape Leeuwin in Australia, Cape Horn in South America and Cape of Good Hope in Africa. The journey took 151 days and was completed on 31 March 2013.

Tomy was awarded the Kirti Chakra (second highest peacetime gallantry award in India) and the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award. He has spoken to students regarding the protection and conservation of the world's oceans. He has done TedX Videos, has numerous articles written about him and he has spoken on many different platforms with panache.
I was following his voyage closely just like millions of others from around the world through his blog and social media updates. He came out with a book, which was a pictorial representation of this feat, aptly titled 151.

The other day I received an invite from him, before the attachment could open I was smiling thinking that finally the man gets hooked! When I saw the invite it wasn't for his wedding but about the launch of another boat. The invite read,


Hi there,

You would have already read something about the Golden Globe Race 2018. 

Held for the first time in 1968, the race threw up the first person to circumnavigate the earth solo and non stop. Out of the nine entrants only one finished. 

The race is being repeated in 2018, with entrants requiring to use the same technology as 1968 participants, and I have a special invitation. I am building a replica of the Shuali which was the first to win this race.

The Thuriya will be launched on 7 August at Goa, and you are invited to the ceremony!

Please do confirm your presence.

I messaged him immediately, asking him if he had lost it. Why on earth would he want to do this again and this time being even more primitive, going back 50 years? To which his circumnavigation looked like a cake walk. He laughed it. I also told him that it'd cost a fortune, how was he going to manage the funds necessary for this voyage. 

Have learnt, from the history that the voyages were funded by the Kings and Queens. Thankful to them that the world is a smaller place today and there is so much travel and trade. Also the maritime industry is huge and touching almost everyone’s life. The Voyage of Vasco Da Gama was funded by the King of Portugal and that of Columbus was funded by the King of Spain.

I asked him if he had found the royalty that'd sponsor him. He said that he needed funds and in fair amounts. He had good chances of podium finish. Anything less than the funds he calculated might not be good enough but he'd still go. He was adamant not to approach any government bodies so relied on organisations to sponsor and general public to help generate funds. He said that he had fighting chances and any help would be good.

I guess we can be the royalty in our attitude and support this daredevil in his upcoming challenge. Commander Tomy, is one of India’s most prominent sailors and has been given one of five Special Invitations to join the Golden Globe Race.

A brief but jaw dropping history of the Golden Globe Race

The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race was a non-stop, single-handed, round-the-world yacht race, held in 1968–1969, and was the first round-the-world yacht race. It  was controversial due to the failure of most competitors to finish the race and because of the suicide of one entrant; however, it ultimately led to the founding of the BOC Challenge and Vendée Globe round-the-world races, both of which continue to be successful and popular.

The race was sponsored by the British Sunday Times. The Golden Globe trophy was offered to the first person to complete an unassisted, non-stop single-handed circumnavigation of the world via the great capes, and a separate £5,000 prize was offered for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation.

Nine sailors started the race; four retired before leaving the Atlantic Ocean. Of the five remaining, Chay Blyth, who had set off with absolutely no sailing experience, sailed past the Cape of Good Hope before retiring; Nigel Tetley sank with 1,100 nautical miles (2,000 km) to go while leading; Donald Crowhurst, who, in desperation, attempted to fake a round-the-world voyage to avoid financial ruin, began to show signs of mental illness, and then committed suicide; and Bernard Moitessier, who rejected the philosophy behind a commercialised competition, abandoned the race while in a strong position to win and kept sailing non-stop until he reached Tahiti after circling the globe one and a half times. 
Robin Knox-Johnston was the only entrant to complete the race, becoming the first person to sail single-handed and non-stop around the world. He was awarded both prizes, and later donated the £5,000 to a fund supporting Crowhurst's family.

To add to the dramatic history of the race, this I learnt from Tomy that all nine men were single except Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who had divorced his wife.  Figuratively speaking even he was single then. He was the only man who completed the Golden Globe Race, Guess what he did? He married the same lady he once divorced. Also Sir Knox- Johnston’s boat was built in Colaba, Mumbai, India.

Tomy is recreating what Sir Robin Knox-Johnston did in 1968, his boat The Thuriya is a replica of The Swahili used by Sir Knox- Johnston. Only thing not replicated is the divorce part as Tomy is all single! With his kind of madness and to keep doing something that is more challenging.  His aim is to get people to take yachting as a more serious sport. The Sea makes an individual understand the meaning of life and the realization that a little is certainly more! The only other person that I know who kept bettering himself was Sergei Bubka, the Russian pole vaulter who had no competition during his career.

I am sure Tomy will find sponsors; anyone of you reading this has a lead, would be really nice if it can reach our man.  Any organisation wants to sponsor the only Indian at the Golden Globe Race can certainly show their support and encouragement. 


All others who are reading this, now you can be a part of the race! Show your support on 
https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/abhilashtomyGGR

Follow his page for all the excitement: https://www.facebook.com/abhilashtomysailing/


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Can't say goodbye to my sailor!

The making of a queen
I recently discovered that a sailor’s wife is actually called a Queen! Late discovery but the feel of it has been there for ages. After the late discovery…. why is it sounding like a late harvest to me? May be I am putting all those moments as ingredients for making a good wine! Wine has clarity, taste, body, maturity and something unique to it in terms of being sweet, woody, earthy, or may be just plain dry! Let’s see what has made this wine strong, if it can be called so!
We were travelling across the state of Kerala (India) after our marriage. We spent almost half a month there. It was my choice for a honeymoon destination, over hubby's Maldives beach holiday. Reason? I’ve grown up in Kerala and love its people and culture. Childhood memories and growing up years are always special. I wanted him to connect with the place I had so many fond memories of.
In fact I use every opportunity to travel to the state and at every time possible! 
We were at the ancient palace at Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, clicking pictures like newly married couples do, and other tourists would offer to click some for us. There were no selfies those days, you see! An elderly lady who was sitting there, reminiscing in the beauty of the palace was watching us. She told my husband to always treat me like a queen. I really liked the way she said it, that brought a smile on his face and I could see sincerity and love in his eyes. It’s been many years but I have remained his queen, he never ceases to treat me like one. 

A queen has to always hold her head high 
Where does the strength come from? I guess it's just harnessed from within. She has to play multiple roles that of a wife, mother, son to the in laws and man of the house most of the times in her sailor's absence. The most difficult time for her is when the sailor is all set to join back on work. 
It isn’t any easy for him either. He starts preparing for it weeks in advance. It's more of an emotional preparation rather than collecting items on the packing list or completing errands on the 'to do' list. He’s going to be away from family, his near and dear ones for long. He may get to speak to them but it won’t be that regular. His children are going to achieve small milestones that he might miss. He also would miss the little family events children’s or his spouse’s birthdays, his anniversary or the festivities. He’s going to be away from all of the little joys of life. He prepares in his heart and mind to detach and be ready for the call of his duty. He knows he’s doing all this for his family, for their happiness. He thinks like a provider. The logic gets the better of him and the sailor is all set to go, sign on for his duty.
The queen prepares herself too. Showing all the strength that she can and keeping a smile on her face, assuring her man that she'll be fine and so will be everything else.

On a deeper level she starts missing him right from the moment there is an intimation of his joining back, missing him even before he left. Trying to, soak in as much as she could. Making him talk just to hear his voice, looking at his face and make a mental note of every fine line that might have appeared. Every mole that might have pronounced itself and see how broad his smile could get. These are the things that'll keep her going month after month till she meets her man again. This wait will never be easy but it'll certainly be 'worth it' in every single way!
Distance is to love like wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small and kindles the great!
The distance is just a matter of separating two in physicality but the hearts are connected. This connection strengthens the relationship and the love grows deeper. The countdown begins the day he leaves home and every passing day brings him closer home; with the hope of fair winds and following seas always.

A man never knows how to say goodbye; a woman never knows when to say it. ~ Helen Rowland

PS: pictures are taken from google with due credits


Thursday, 6 July 2017

MNR Brands - Get the mosquitoes & pests out of your homes!

Mosquitoes are a nuisance and also a threat as they  are known to carry many infectious diseases.   Mosquito-borne illnesses include malaria,  elephantiasis, dengue fever, yellow fever etc. Monsoon is the time when Dengue is in full force. I am particularly scared of the mosquitoes to the extent that my windows are generally shut assuming that mosquitoes will be at bay. No matter what you do these tiny pests find their way inside the house and ultimately the virus gets into the bodies of people. Some causing the ailments. I heard about the Super Sonic and Super Trap pest management solutions.  I tried the Super trap that works on insects and mosquitoes. It worked as I found many dead mosquitoes, that was a buy in for me.  Since then have been using it regularly with good results. It relieves me of some stress for sure!

Super Sonic works on cockroaches, and rodents. The usual menaces at home and also a nightmare for most of us. It is safe as it doesn’t use any chemical but works on ultra sound waves. I’ve been able to drive most of the pests away from my home. I recommend these products to all those who cannot make pests their cohabitants. I can very well say that Super Sonic and Super Trap are an effective pest control solution for your home. Try them! you won’t regret the step taken to make your home safe and healthy for you as well as your family.
Check MNR page for the range of products that they have :
https://www.facebook.com/MNRBrands/ 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Professions and Relationships- is there any connection?

I had written an article for the Mariners Galaxy a portal that has it's tagline as Maritime world at one place.  Here's the article for you. This happens to be one of my most shared articles on the portal. It was litled, " Am so brave coz I am a sailor's wife".

It’s certainly being brave being a wife; no matter whose! 
Am sure you've heard the saying, Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. I haven't read the book though, by the same title written by John Gray. It was always on the back burner and still remains there! May be one day soon I shall grab a copy and read it. 
Also, have heard that, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus but they suffer on Earth!

Coming to the point, how being married itself is being brave. I am certainly not an expert on the subject but I do have a Martian in my life.... actually three if the little Martians can be counted in the list! My first experience with this Martian was when we met for the first time, almost 13 years ago. Yes, we liked each other, when we got talking he spoke only his negatives. I wondered how someone couldn't think of anything positive in him, quite contrary to the general expression by most men. They try to impress the lady, may be this Martian had marriage on mind so he hit the nail on the head. If it struck it was good otherwise all was well; must have been the thoughts in his mind. It did work and worked how.....we are married!

I have read articles/ blogs/ queries coming from sailors’ wives and most of them have the tone, that of being brave, making supreme sacrifices or that of being different. All women are different! People are different including identical twins! Some common ones expressed by shippy wives are:

1. Loneliness’
Sailors wives have to be alone most of the times or for months together. That's true for all wives whose husbands are in the armed forces, paramilitary, police, are doctors or hoteliers for that matter. They are away generally and on important dates, they'll certainly be away! That doesn't make us much different isn't it?

2. Sailors are the best
Sailors are human beings and they can be good or not so good. Profession doesn't really have a bearing on one's character. Sailors are certainly good at multi tasking and have many skills. Agree they are great guys who can do almost everything and can get along with almost everyone. In their profession too they work with different nationalities and different teams on every contract. This makes them amicable and tolerant. You are certainly lucky if you managed to get the best out of them (I mean men here)

3. Love story
A write up by a shippy wife will always be on her love story. Have read so many love stories of the sailors, in their better halves' versions. Are people really interested in knowing how you met and what you did? All love stories have all the elements of a blockbuster and a sailor story is no different. It does have a dash of long distance romance but that garnish comes with the dishes churned out by many other professions such as marketing or IT for instance.

4. Sailor's queen
Every man worth his salt will ensure that his wife is treated, as well as lives the life befitting a queen. I personally feel a sailor's wife does most of the things on her own when her husband is away. She doesn't depend on a battery of servants to manage things for her. She is much more than a queen. She becomes a master, just like many other women who manage their homes, work and lives in general. 

I am asked so often, how do I deal being married to a sailor who is away from home for months. I think it's a choice I made.  I chose the man and he came as a 'package' that had his family, his profession and his identity. I am an independent woman, have my career, my children and my family. I am an equal half to my husband so we need to work together and manage our work and home front just like any other couple. 

A girl who is in a relationship with a sailor and wants to walk down the aisle with him must not be scared of the misinformed notions surrounding him by virtue of his profession. But must think of it being like any other relationship where the husband is away for a few months. It becomes a long distance relationship then, having its own pros and cons. The biggest being, distance makes the hearts grow fonder.

All husband-wife relationships involve love, respect, caring and sharing. Professions may have a little bearing on that but not overtly. Relations are more of understanding, mutual respect and to accept each other's differences. So prioritizing and celebrating those differences is the key. 
All husband-wife relationships involve love, respect, caring and sharing. Professions may have a little bearing on that but not overtly. Relations are more of understanding, mutual respect and to accept each other's differences. Men and women think differently, their brains are wired differently. Men will talk straight and women will look for some emotional 'aw moments' in them. They are genetically designed to read between the lines and they do a lot of that; whereas men will go by what is being said. This can be a little point of difference. It is this point that generally leads to the fall out or may be even  a break up. Toilet seat can lead to a furore, whether it has to be kept up or down! Life is certainly not that bowl; so prioritizing is the key. 

PS: pictures are taken from Google with due credits!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Mom my rockstar!

I got a message from one of my ex students who is an entrepreneur and a public speaker saying that he’d asked one of his colleagues to get in touch with me for a mother’s day activity. I was wondering what it was all about and how was I any different as a mother. All mothers are special; here I am not referring to women who have given birth to their children but all those who have that caring and nurturing instinct in them.  That makes them equally special if not more. It is said that the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.  Mother to me is more than a relationship, it’s a ‘feeling’ and her love and care can never be described. For when a child is born the mother also is born again. I knew about mother’s day in bits and pieces, of late we have started celebrating it in India too. Agree every day is mother’s day and it really doesn’t require one to choose a day to wish their mothers but what’s the harm in celebrating what makes people feel special? Anything that makes you feel good isn’t that bad an idea after all. Whatsapp will be full of content that traces the origins of this day. I found some and sharing the same here with you all to see where it really started.
Mother’s Day is a day for many to thank and show their appreciation towards their mothers and mother figures. It is an annual event celebrated worldwide but it may fall on different dates in the calendar, depending on the country. It is held on the second Sunday (being a non working day) of May in many countries. It’s a day to remember mothers and mother figures such as stepmother, mothers-in-law, a guardian, a relative or a family friend who has been like a mother. There are many ways to celebrate Mother’s Day.  Some common ones are:
Giving Mothers Day cards, flowers, and/ or cakes.
Mother’s Day poems and messages self composed or bought in the form of a picture frame or a memento. 
Gifts such as chocolates, jewelry, accessories, clothing, hand crafted items, hobby ideas and accessories or gift vouchers.
An outing or a day at the movies with mothers.
Phone or video calls if one cannot meet the mother or is based in another city or country.
Family gatherings or events where all mothers and children celebrate the occasion together.
Family brunches, lunches, or dinners either at home or at a restaurant.
Gifting mothers a day at the spa or a complete health check up.
Creating a traditional or conventional album of all pictures and photographs. 
For me mother’s day celebration began almost 15 years ago, that’s when I learnt about it. Got flowers and cake for mom and thanked her for all that she has done for us brother and sisters. It has continued over the years. Then mom in law joined the celebration after my marriage. Now, it’s two cakes and two bouquets. I generally have lunch with one and dinner with the other. Haven’t got both of them together yet may be this year, will have family celebration. 
Origins of Mothers Day
The origins of Mother's Day, as largely celebrated these days can be attributed to two women – Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis, who were important in establishing the tradition in the United States. Around 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for Mother's Day to be celebrated each year. It continued to be held in Boston for about 10 years under her sponsorship, but died out after that. Other sources say that Juliet Calhoun Blakely initiated Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the late 1800s. Her sons paid tribute to her each year and urged others to honor their mothers.
In 1907, Anna Jarvis held a private Mother's Day celebration in memory of her mother, Ann Jarvis, in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1908, she played a key role in arranging a church service that attracted 407 children and their mothers. A Mother’s Day International Association was founded in 1912 to promote the holiday in other countries. Mother’s Day has grown increasingly popular since then.
Many people believe that Mother’s Day is now very commercialized, with card companies, flower shops, jewelry stores, gift shops, restaurants, hotels, and department stores advertising promotions and special deals for this event. Anna Jarvis, in her lifetime, unsuccessfully filed a lawsuit to stop the over-commercialization of Mother's Day.

Mothers Day for children away from home
Children such as sailors who are away from their families for long periods of time. It is said that distance makes relations grow fonder. Use this distance to make the bond with your mother even sweeter. Men are generally less expressive but making a phone call to your mother or a mother figure will certainly bring in loads of smiles and a few tears. Women are emotional and mothers in particular, simply adore anything their children do, that says ‘they care’. They won’t really bother about any material gifts but a couple of words do for them, bringing a lifetime of happiness and more.

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life
~Abraham Lincoln

Wishing all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day and all children, young or old, all the happiness!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Mom, you make me who I am

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.
~George Washington

When I think of my mother, I think of a very strong woman who fought all odds to make sure that her first born survived and survived to be a warrior!  That’s me who was born premature and at home; barely into the seventh month of pregnancy. My Naval diver dad was away for a course and mom had to stay with my grandparents in a remote village in Uttarakhand, there was no hospital close by and healthcare unheard of during those days. I came unannounced and too soon,  no one was prepared including my mother. She was very young. She gave birth to me and nursed be all along to ensure that I survived, she named be Laxmi after the warrior queen of Jhansi, Rani Laxmi Bai. Don't know if I've turned out like that but my mother has treated me like a princess all through....I still am, her princess!  Mom has been my biggest support system, my friend, philosopher and guide. She allowed me to take my own decisions, be it choosing a field of study, career, marriage or any other matter. She was there with me through all thick and thin. I believe I have really been lucky to be born to her. Got luckier; when I got an equally loving, caring and supporting mother in law.

The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.
 ~Jessica Lange

I guess you need to know where I come from to understand the gratitude that I feel and the bleesing that I count. I am a professional with a career spanning over 20 years and a hands- on mom, have two lovely sons. I have gone through all the concerns and challenges that every mother faces. It wasn’t easy as I had to single handedly manage things, not depending on my mariner husband who is away for months.  My mothers; mom as well as mom in law have been the pillars of strength for me. They form a great support system, creating the right environment for my children to grow up in. Otherwise I don’t think I’d have been able to do justice to the roles that I play being a mother, daughter in law, professor, trainer, counselor and a blogger. Every woman wears multiple hats and she has the power to manage every role beautifully. The key being investing in relationships, if you want a 100% from anyone your contribution has to be much more than that. All relations are important but that with the mother in law is very special. When I look back, I am happy with my journey so far and I look forward to equally awesome years ahead. I owe all this to my moms. 

In a child's eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe. 
~ N.K. Jemisin

Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Differently Abled - a story from The Park Hyderabad

I was at the Park Hyderabad recently on a training program. Have been to the hotel so many times but this time the agenda and perspective was different, so I could notice a whole lot of things that I must have missed on my previous visits.  I also wanted to use the opportunity for my own learning; I wish to share here with my readers. It can also highlight the efforts of all unsung heroes and the ones who are in the limelight most often.
I did two,  two day programs, Train the Trainer and Supervisory Development Programme (SDP). The last day was meant for observation and learning for me. Glad it went in that order. I believe Training is not just a department but its a mindset. 
I am back with extremely fulfilling and enriching training experience at The Park Hyderabad (TPHD). Before I take you all into the differently abled inspirational story, let me share the general feedback about the hotel as that'll clearly highlight the reason why certain concepts, ideas and initiatives work there that may inspire some more stories too.

Let me follow the guest cycle as we call it in the hotel industry, right from arrival to stay and departure.
The arrival experience was absolutely great, I was in my room in less than 3 minutes upon arrival at the hotel. This was a great service recovery after I had to call hotel for the driver's contact at the airport, as travel desk didn't have my number. I am mentioning the incident as it shows a wonderful service attitude and recovery. I met Ms. Sahu, the Front office manager and learnt that they have created a wow team. It did create that WOW for me throughout the stay.

Housekeeping took great care, the room cleanliness was good. I must mention that the rug (carpet) that I was using as a yoga mat smelled fresh. To me that's the exceptional level of cleanliness. I am not auditing hotel cleaning at all here. The amenities for single lady travelers were very thoughtful and I thank the team for everything that they did. Made me feel like a royalty. Also gives me a lot to talk about in my training sessions. As it is rightly said that knowledge is all about sharing. Applauding whats good and working on things that are not so good, till the time they reach a level of perfection too!

The Train the Trainer Workshop - I had one of the best batches in my TTT programs, have been doing this for more than 15 years now.  One, the job knowledge was very good and I could also notice some of the participants being very passionate about certain aspects of their jobs. Be it  Chef Abdul Shakur Khan for the biryani knowldge or Kadheer for his passion for bars. Even Pankaj Kumar from Aish, our Hyderabadi speciality restaurant, who had qualities to be a good trainer. If I write the qualities of each participant this post will go into pages.I believe right feedback goes a long way.


The SDP workshop - The participants were enthusiatic, receptive and a fairly younger lot than the TTT batch. They delighted me with their presentations on creating a story as a team, where they had to trade  pins for items.  It was an inspiration for me as well, to see the staff attend full day workshop and then get back to their shifts, reporting back for training the next day..... on time! absolute delight for any trainer.
I got to spend some time with some of the HODs and managers. HODs, seeking feedback of their team members attending the training session. This is such a positive thing to do. Training filters top down and I experienced that at TPHD.

Met the Chief Engineer, who showed some to the useful things they had created out of scrap. That's the way forward and a great initiative towards sustainability.
Spent some time with the Executive Chef and learnt about the initiatives followed in the kitchens and the Food Production department as a whole. A dynamic person who permeates that quality in his team. Met HR and Training heads, the interaction was again with a lot of exchange of  ideas and synergy. Got to know so many things that they do,  make them anything but ordinary! Spending some time with the spa manager,  learnt about the new business plan and menu for Aura, our signature spa. Again a very insightful discussion and knowledge sharing.

Team members with disabilities

I was so very touched and inspired by the way they have been working. Got insights from Ms.Suchitra  Naidu, Area Director Housekeeping on this project and a whole lot of other things that they do. Ms. Naidu is an inspirational lady and time spent with her is a huge learning always. I met her exclusively to know more about her initiative of involving the differently abled team members into the work force at TPHD. The one hour that I spent with her, we discussed not just about this project but so many other equally interesting and inspiring ones. Will write about them, later.

Coming to the topic, the term disabled is often associated with people diagnosed with different kinds of physical and mental conditions. The conditions that often restrict normal functioning of an individual on a personal or social situation. The first thing that comes to mind when labelling someone as 'disabled' is the action itself. People aren't and shouldn't be labelled as anything, least of all disabled!  Who they are as a person is not impacted by a medical condition and it certainly doesn't contribute to their identity.

The term disabled has not been favoured in recent times with several alternatives coming up. People have agreed upon 'differently abled' being the most appropriate one to use. Individuals with mental or physical conditions are rightly called differently abled as they possess unique set of abilities and perspectives. Everyone has ability and everyone matters isn't it? It's just the matter of acknowledging it. 'Differently abled' doesn't hide the fact that they do have difficulties and challenges that might hardly matter to the ordinary human beings; but continues to empower them despite it.

Most often, differently- abled people see what we can't, hear what we can't hear and think what we can't imagine. This makes their ability; not inferior, not even superior but just different! The term differently abled recognises talent and value in everybody and treats them equally. The lack of certain mental and physical conditions  need not stop them from enjoying a fulfilling, enriched and loved life. Many differently abled people are known to flourish and rejoice in life with the right opportunities, support, guidance, encouragement, love and care.

I asked Ms. Naidu how she initiated getting differently abled team members on board. She had worked with ITC hotel Kakatiya, that employed  people with disabilities in the laundry, gradually involved them in some other areas too. She got inspiration from there. More than that, she spoke about a problem that she was facing in the laundry, linen and uniform room. It's a big hotel and has many employees. The morning scene in the linen room, where the staff go to pick their uniforms from, used to get tensed. Imagine many employees yelling at the counter staff for their uniforms. They would shout, pick up arguments and do a verbal volley if delayed, certainly not a pleasant way to begin the day.

She thought of getting staff in the uniform room with hearing and speech disabilities. She contacted Take One, an organisation that trains and empowers people with disabilities. It didn't matter what the people are shouting for. They'd just do their job and not get hassled. The outcome was different. The laundry and uniform room became so much quieter and everyone smiled. There was built the culture of understanding and humanity. No one wanted to shout but wanted to encourage the new team members. Slowly the other staff started learning the sign language. It was heartening to see everyone communicating with them in their language. Didn't matter which department they worked in everyone was learning the sign language... the language of love and understanding.

On talking about challenges that she faced, she said that while working in the laundry especially on the flatwork ironers, sometimes they'd have their fingers in the feeder. Whistles were given to them so that in case of any mishap or emergency they could blow the whistle and attract attention and help would reach them. They were trained on SOPs and each team member got better with every passing day. That gave them a lot of confidence, they moved from self pity to the level of being confident and self reliant.
This was evident to all, their families were  grateful to the hotel for giving this life changing opportunity to their loved ones. The mothers came and thanked Ms. Naidu.  Can really identify with their concern, as when a child is diagnosed with a medical condition, there are many questions that emerge such as what does this mean for his future? Will he be able to cope in the real world? How will their own life change after this revelation? How will the family deal with someone who is different from others?
When they saw their differently abled child do well as a professional, learning new skills and enjoying his work More than anything else he is happy! They'd but naturally be grateful.

Their uniforms have, ' Differently abled' monogrammed on them so that no can miss that especially the guests. The hotel guests may find it rude if the staff don't  respond to their requests, the message on the uniforms serves the purpose. They wear whistles around their necks to draw attention when needed. She spoke in details sharing incidents where the differently abled staff showed so much of commitment. She said some of them were immensely talented. One of them gifted her a portrait of hers for her birthday.The journey that started for a few 6 years ago from the laundry now has moved to other areas that are covered by the housekeeping department. Its heart warming to see so many happy faces and happy families have resulted from the small step that was taken by Ms. Naidu. 

She discussed many more ideas in this direction and making work place conducive for the differently abled. She swears by the loyalty that these people bring with them. Also the intelligence that they display. To add the care and understanding of human beings, qualities that are needed in the hospitality industry. I know her ideas will find wings and  will certainly write about them too.  
A portrait gifted to Ms. Naidu by one of her talented differently abled staff.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Romancing the chicks!


We meet interesting people, say butter chicken types and some are the typical tangy, minty, spicy chutney kinds and Chef Mandaar Sukhtankar is one such person. Have known him for almost a decade now, infact the familiarity was more with his food. He specializes in Italian cuisine and  he can pass off like one of the interesting Italian men, if you know what I mean! 
He heads the kitchen brigade at The Park Hyderabad, A very interesting hotel that is truly a grand boutique hotel carrying the glimpses and the legacy of the Nizams. I love every visit to the hotel and look forward to the next one. Its a designers delight and scintillates every possible sense that you might have. Mesmerizing is the right word for it. Most of the trips to the hotel are on work, that means there's a very packed schedule in place but Chef Mandaar would always make it atleast one dinner with us. My personal favourite being Aish, the restaurant serving Andhra and Hyderabadi cuisines. Haven't had Haleem and Andhra food better than Aish.

I was there recently for a training schedule at the hotel, as usual had a very packed one and Chef Mandaar was busy too with many high profile events that he had to personally oversee the culinary part. But it was on my agenda to meet Chef as his first book is out called Romancing the Chicks! Infact what attracted me to the book was the title. I had to meet him and get to know a bit more about him as a person and also the story behind the book. I love stories and I know for the fact that people love them too. Infact the participants in my training programs always compliment on my real life anecdotes and stories as examples. Hence proved....this sounds so Maths isn't it? Doesn't matter if you liked maths or not but stories certainly go a long way.

Chef Mandaar Sukhtankar - Who?
An alumnus of the Institute of Hotel Management, Pusa, New Delhi, Chef Mandaar started his career as a management trainee with The Park hotels in 1993 at New Delhi.
He was one of the only 12 winners worldwide, of the ‘Foundation for the Future’ scholarship awarded by the International Hotel and Restaurant Association for the year 2000-01.

In 2006, he was rated as one of the Top Young Chefs of India in an independent story published by the Taste and Travel magazine and in 2013 he found place among the Celebrated Chefs of India - a definitive book by Marryam Reshi brought out by the Times of India group.
He credits his early learning of European cuisine to the Spanish restaurant, Las Meninas at The Park New Delhi, but he is more famously known for Italia, the suave and iconic Italian restaurant that he opened and ran for 10 years at The Park in Bangalore.
His work with Antonio Carluccio, one of the biggest names in Italian cuisine, has made him one of the foremost foreign exponents of Cucina Italiana, to the extent that it made Carluccio call him “my extension in the east”
More recently he was awarded the ‘Chef of the year 2016’ by the Times Food awards at Hyderabad, for his revivalist work with Hyderabadi cuisine at the  award winning restaurant Aish at The Park Hyderabad.
He loves to travel and explore cultures and cuisine and is an avid writer with a keen sense for capturing details in his unique literary style. He also loves photography and playing the guitar.

Chef Mandaar Sukhtankar is the Area Director, Food Production of The Park, Hyderabad, a contemporary Indian boutique hotel and during his six year stint there he has worked a lot on traditional recipes and explored the cuisine of the Nizams in great depth.
He lives in Hyderabad with his wife, Meenakshi – a trained classical musician and son Aadi- a budding young cricketer.

Hope you found his story interesting.

The conversation I had with him was even more.... interesting! This time we couldn't manage to have a meal together so no food suggestions from him but I had to meet him and get an autographed copy of his book. I am a die hard romantic, how could I miss on getting a bit of romance myself? I met Chef around 8.30 pm after my dinner at Verandah. He was in an event but the kind of person that I am, with the never give up attitude managed to get 20 minutes of his time. That's when I heard his story and what brought him into the kitchens of the Park Hotels. 

Hotel management by chance 
He comes from the army background, during his 12th he had gone to pick up a form for NDA entrance exam. The lady at the counter didn't have the change so she offered him the National Council's hotel management joint entrance exam form for the IHMs. On the day of the entrance exam for hotel management, his friend came on his moped to pick him from his home. Mandaar was sleeping, it being a Sunday. He didn't want to go for the exam but the mother force woke him up and asked him to get going as there was money paid for the same. A DD of Rs. 100, that was  a big amount in 1990, mind you and Indian mothers want value in everything. So Mandaar went for the exam by accident of sorts as the sight of other candidates carrying thick books, guide for the entrance exam scared him. The result was out and he secured a seat at IHM Pusa, one of the top colleges in the country.

He was interested in Food and Beverage service initially and wanted to go to Cidade de Goa for his internship in the second year of college. His reason was to chill out in Goa. But again there are some good friends and advisors, especially for the parents. Following the good advice, they asked him to train in a city hotel where the exposure would be good. He finally interned from The Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi. That's where he developed interest for the culinary. Rest is history! He has so many awards in his kitty, done newspaper columns, articles for journals, TV shows and what not!

The book - Romancing the chicks!
He started off as a column writer in the Deccan Chronicle, the editor liked his content and the writing style so much that he offered Chef a full page weekly feature on culinary. Which he undertook for a good time. Then a lady from Westland books asked him to try putting his interesting stories about food in a book. He gave it try and approached the publisher, the result of that is a book that is not just a cookbook but the one that celebrates food. 
I simply loved this book, the stories that are woven make things so very, ' in front of your eyes'. I loved every chapter. The recipes are a must try with so much gyan and interesting tidbits in between. Appetizing sense of humour and cool incidents as well as names served for dessert.  I strongly recommend this book to all the chefs, chefs in the making and the chefs at heart. A great book for gifting as well.  Its available on amazon if you wish to feel a bit of the romance, show some love! Would say its a very different book on culinary, a collectible for sure. At The Park Hotels we call it Anything But Ordinary! 

Monday, 9 January 2017

Kick that pill!

Though I am a healthy person and manage my weight within limits, I had developed gestational hypertension 8 years ago and was taking medication. In 2013, got a health screening done rather accidentally at a camp in my housing society. The reading for blood sugar were slightly higher. This made me take a stock of my health. Thought to myself  that I was on medication for hypertension and if I started another one, I'd be stuck in medications and I wasn't even 40! Thought I really had to do something about it. I checked my BP regularly and it was always on the lower side of the normal with a low dose medication. I wondered if  I really needed the pill?  The next time I visited my doctor I shared my concerns with him. He said that it could be achieved but with lots of efforts and monitoring. So the efforts had to start and they had to start with me. I ensured that I did atleast 30 minutes of exercise everyday, watched my salt intake. With being a bit thoughtful and leading a healthy way of life. I was only on a maintenance dose. Then the doctor put me off the medicines gradually.
Around that time. I had to travel to Kerala doing a series of training programs. I came across an article in the newspaper on Hypertension and how the medicines were not the best solution for it. It also addressed the side effects of the medicines. I also discovered that May 17 was celebrated as World Hypertension Day. I can't recollect other details of the article but it did help me in understanding the condition. I researched on the topic to get more facts.  I made a promise to myself that I'd do ‘whatever it takes’ to kick the pill, I did that and for good! Its a lifestyle disease most of the times. If lifestyle can get it; making changes can drop it too, was my belief. Its been more than two years and I haven't taken the medicines for BP. Of course, I consulted my doctor.  Have made a few significant lifestyle changes, yoga has become a part of it in that quest. 
Let me share, all that I did in the pursuit of kicking the pill! Do check up the internet for more details, I have only mentioned what I have been doing. It'll be half the purpose served if it can motivate another person. Just like an article in the newspaper was an eye opener for me.
Tibetan Yoga
All thanks to my sister, she introduced me to the 5 Tibetan Rites. A quick form of yoga that I find great and doable. Morning 15 minutes are dedicated to The Five Tibetan as it is referred to. It should not be done without the doctor's consultation, if you are suffering from high blood pressure. Found it extremely good for overall health.
Watch salt intake
I am not too much into it, I eat the regular food but avoid anything that has excess salt such as pickles and papads, generally had with Indian food.
Garlic 
I take 2 pods of garlic first thing in the morning, with a glass of warm water. It is said that garlic helps controlling blood pressure.
Ginger
I take some crushed ginger in the form of tea before going to bed. Ginger too is considered helpful in controlling the blood pressure. 
I also walk for half an hour everyday. Do twenty minutes of yoga and deep breathing. This has helped me keep blood pressure under normal limits without any medication. Not only has it contributed in fulfilling my short term goal but also helped improve my overall health. Specially women in their mid 30's- 40's go through a lot of changes. This lifestyle will eradicate all those challenges, if not that, they'll make them bearable. I have experienced that. It helps greatly when you are aware of what you are eating, no need to actually go off certain foods and exercising 'moderation' to everything works. Its also a great idea to have a cup of green tea or may be just black. Above all, be hopeful and optimistic that it'll work for you. I am a very strong believer of that Hope! Placebo works.....
Stress is the biggest spoiler
Remember no one is incharge of your happiness, for that matter not even sorrow; except you! It is said that everyone works hard to make a happy life for himself not to create so much stress that one dies because of it. Stress is one of the main causes of lifestyle diseases. It needs to be under check always, if uncontrolled it spoils everything else that one has done for his health as well as personal and professional goals.
Each one of us is different and different things work for us. Be it on the health front, weight management, lifestyle perception or what works for us on the professional front.  Find out what works for you. It may take time but once understood you can have a lot under your control. That understanding is needed to create a great work life balance and a happy life! 

Keep walking, dancing and running your way to Health, Fitness, Wellness and Happiness!! 
PS pictures are taken from google for representational purpose, with due credits!