Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Vishakhapatnam and The Park Vizag- A great combo!

Part of my job profile as a trainer with the Park Hotels is to conduct induction for the new joinees at all levels, top management to the entry level. Its revisiting the vision, mission as well has brand philosophy and standards of the organisation. No matter how many times I do this; each time it's a different expereince and a new take away. As it's not just me talking about the Apeejay Surrendra Group that is 107 plus years but also touching base and exchanging information, sharing knowledge and learning about another brand the new joinee must have worked with. Infact a colleague of mine asked if I didn't get bored talking the same thing again and again. I told him that I meet a new group each time and what I do depends on them as well. Which job is not doing the same thing again and again! The beauty of what I do is that I meet people who have joined with renewed aspirations, bringing in valuable experience and energies with them. I just welcome them and their dreams into the company, the initial hand holding is always valuable. 

One property that I had longed to visit was The Park Vizag (TPVZ), the second one to be added to the collection of luxury boutique hotels and the property that'll turn 50 next year, 2018. The pictures that I looked at kept inviting me. Finally, the opportunity arrived and I had to conduct training sessions at TPVZ, a week long training schedule and a day meant for exploring the city. I was there from June 5th to the 12th this year. Was super excited, felt like a school girl beacuse the city meant a lot to me. My dad did his Commando training there, husband had started his kindergarten and our hotel at Vizag had an impeccable history. And I love history, so there it was! I had to write this blog it's long overdue!

The flight was late from Mumbai itself but the amazing view as we landed made up for that initial  hitch. The hotel car and the driver were waiting for me.  The weather was pleasant, the driver said that it had been very hot and humid the previous week. I told him that I was bringing the rain with me as it happened in almost all 4 places that I visited during the vacation, a fortnight earlier. My first experince of Vizag was that it's such a clean and green city. The walls or barriers along the road were so aesthetically painted. They gave the city an elegant and green look. I was thoroughly impressed. Later I learnt that it was one of the cleanest cities in India, they had their municipal staff working in shifts, so the streets were kept clean throughout. Then we arrived at the hotel, as we entered the porch everything looked so familiar to me; all thanks to the numerous inductions. The property was more beautiful than what I had expected it to be. After the warm welcome, so what if I am a houseguest? we believe in treating our internal customers equally well.

I was taken to the room on the top floor, the 4th floor is the top floor here and another USP of this hotel is that all rooms face the sea. I was given a room that had the view of the sea, the swimming pool as well as the light house. I assumed this was the best view. Housekeeping had given their special touch to make the room; welcoming as well as comfortable. Beautiful flowers arrangements and all amenities meant for a single lady traveller. I couldn't have expected anything more. Everything seemed to be just perfect including the whiteness of the towels. I sat by the window looking out and immersing myself in the serenity of this place, just then it started to rain and I said to myself that Vizag became the 5th place where I took rains with me! Guess what? The hotel staff started giving me the compliments for the same as if I was the Rain Goddess! The weather changed for good, little showers in the morning and evening making it really pleasant. That continued till my entire stay, I guess then monsoons would have reached the city. Let me introduce to you The Park Vizag.

The Park Vizag - Sea, Sand and Clear Skies
Overlooking the Bay of Bengal, The Park Vizag (TPVZ) sprawls over 6 acres of spectacular private beachfront. Sandy beaches complete with a lighthouse underline the romance of the sea with breathtaking sunrises and lovely tropical gardens adorning it.
Staying there, sitting by the beach you can have a dialogue with the Bay of Bengal as the waves splash onto the sandy beach. The sea-facing five star accommodation allows for a breathtaking view as the breeze drifts over the waters of the bay. Take a stroll through the beautifully poised gardens with tiled pavilions and a giant chessboard or enjoy the sunset as it sinks into the horizon. TPVZ gives you an environment that encourages exploration and inner freedom and makes it one of the best leisure five star hotels in the city. This is a place of purity where the red soil connects with the golden sand, blending with the blue sea into the clear sky. You enjoy the sea, sand, sky, sunrise and sunset all alike.

Earthy Styling
The design of this luxury boutique hotel has been influenced greatly by local art and crafts. The craftsmen have used their skills to create the precise detailing that is unique amongst boutique hotels, the ambience reflects and befits the local culture. The Buddhist influence on this region of India has been a great influence to the features and to the tranquil atmosphere that lends an aura of serenity to this beautiful property.
Dining experiences at Bamboo Bay or Vista are enhanced by the orange sunsets in a tropical setting while candlelit tables give a dancing glow to the night -promises of an enchanting getaway linger at this boutique hotel. One can relax at the Someplace Else bar with a traditional drink or a heady cocktail or dance the night away at Tribe, the club. The Park Vishakhapatnam is a  must experience for anyone visiting the beautiful city of Vishakhapatnam.

The USP of  TPVZ
What I liked the most in this hotel was the vast landscaped gardens, beautiful flowers and local art all around in the hotel. It also gave a feel of the swinging sixties, the golden era of art and design, the decade famed for its iconic fashion, ground breaking music and significant moments in history. Found all of that at this hotel. The expectations I came with were met and exceeded. It also added to the sustainability part. All flower arrangements were done with the flowers and folliage from it's own gardens. They have beautiful well maintained gardens and lawns. The hotel was affected by cyclone Hudud that led to a lot of damange, many trees uprooted. The staff found a way to recycle the finds of Hudhud, they created art out of it. I saw some centre pieces for their restaurant tables as well as vases created out of that wood, being used in the entire hotel. Not just creating beauty but also nurturing a gentle reminder of the deadly cyclone. It brought the team together, everyone worked with one purpose and everyone was thankful for what he or she had. Each counting his blessings. Could feel that when I interacted with different staff in the hotel. The team that has one heartbeat is never defeated! this was one such team I worked with.  

The training sessions were engaging and enjoyable, for the participants as well; can say so from the feedback forms. You see am not blowing my own trumpet! The challenge was, I had one participant in one of the sessions who couldn't read or write and wasn't too fluent in the language. Believe me he turned out to be one of the best trainees that I've met in my training sessions. He attended the Supervisory Development Program- a 2 day training session. He ensured that I got the best the remaining days at the hotel! He was the chef handling the Indian Halwai Section (Sweets section) so you can imagine.
I found the hotel team to be professional, had eagerness to learn something new and they had great hospitality attitude! Loved the training room too, it was my den for 5 days. The hotel General Manager took interest in taking feedback of the participants. That's a great attitude and I could see that it did filter down. A team that has a good leader is always motivated and it does well, almost always.

The last one and a half days were to explore the city, chose the weekend for that. Saw all the tourist spots and also the ancient Simhachalam temple. Vishakhapatnam is indeed a paradise, a city I felt people could think of spending their retired lives in. It's small, well connected, has every facility that one requires, clean, green and so very peaceful. A city truly blessed by nature beautiful gardens, beaches, hills and enchanting history.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Then and now!

I was addressing a group of young hospitality professionals. The lecture began with how the Indian Hotel Industry was in the past, the current scenario and what could one expect in future. It was a pretty interactive session, much more than I expected it to be, overshooting the time! Let me not bore you with the lecture now.... Don't know why boring gets itself attached to the lectures in the first place. Lectures have been the medium of imparting knowledge from time immemorial and they'll continue to do so. They can be inexpensive and yet have the widest reach, making them being used so extensively. Before I miss it, let me share with you athat yours truly's blog has been nominated for the Indiblogger Award 2017. I never took blogging seriously so this is indeed a surprise. If you wish to leave a testimony on the nomination, will really appreciate it as my blog is all cos of your love.

Since this particular post is for the marine fraternity, I wanted to touch upon a few things of the past, some forgotten and some remembered fondly incidents and memories. My source of information has mostly been my own sailor. He has shared a lot about his work and social life, as I’d express interest in the stories of the sea and the sailors. I have a particular liking for the breed. I always referred to his team onboard as a brigade. I shall cover a few good old day memories here, as it is rightly said that the old is gold. Present is right on your faces and as far as the future is concerned who knows it better than you all!

I found the only thing connecting the past, present and future times for the sailors is the good old Biryani! So much has been spoken about the Sunday delicacy. No sailor needs any intro to the chicken Biryani. Some of them fast the previous day so that they can make the most of their date with the Biryani. Yesterday I received the Sign off calendar from my husband and the unit of calculation was Biryani. I know he wanted me to have a nice laugh and count the biryanis too. Unfortunately no matter how much I miss him I can't have biryani every Sunday!

People carry a lot of misconceptions about shippys or their profession. I remember when I told my colleagues and friends about me marrying a sailor. They instantly came up with the most common unwarranted comment, “A sailor has a wife at every port.” I would laugh it off as I understood what happened onboard and outside. Coming to my own experience, the fiancé didn’t even know how to ask me out forget taking me on a date. If he happened to be on the side of town where my office was he would pick me and drop me home, as if I was a highly perishable commodity that needed to be deposited home in the nick of time. This man can’t have a distant girlfriend forget a wife!

Let’s look at some other glorious things from the past, take it with a pinch of salt, all in good humour.

The haircut Saga
While onboard it became the moral responsibility of every cadet/ young officer to display his skill as a hair dresser. No matter whether he could handle a pair of scissors or not he had to do a good job with it; otherwise he'd be entrusted with others jobs too!

Mending Clothes
Women, read it as middle aged ladies; would visit ships at the port and do the mending job for clothes. A stitch here and tuck there or fixing that loose button. It was one opportunity to see the fairer sex around. No complaints but the ones who came giving their clothes would be dressed well and smelling a lot better than they would on other days. They would also get some tips from them, in true agony aunt formats. The ladies were good counsellors, apart from being experts in their profession, that of being a seamstress.

Mobile Phones with calling cards
Talking about days when there weren't hand phones in use. Sat phones were expensive, so the sailors looked forward to the girls who'd visit ship with mobile phones and calling cards. The crew onboard could call home from their cabins, which was a luxury. Even if one didn't intend calling home the pretty girl who came with the phone was the reason enough to make that one call. Need I add that the men dressed even better than they'd while giving their clothes for mending? Looking, feeling and smelling good, all in one; there was certain charm to it. A lot of made up stories that would be shared among the group and they'd remain the top talk till the next such visit onboard. Making the saying empty vessels make a lot of noise true. All jazz and hardly any truth in it.

Ship chandlers 
Ship chandlers, along with their lady colleagues would bring not only provisions but a lot of happiness for the crew onboard. Any opportunity to see a beautiful lady was never missed.

The captain was commanding the vessel in the real sense. He only had to order and all was done. He had a radio officer with him and also a purser. His job was planning the operations; execution was the duty of the Chief Officer and his team. The top two, Captain and the Chief Engineer were the top guys in the real sense, mostly sporting the royal beard as well.

Shore leaves
The crew looked forward to the shore leave, in those days they were quite common. All were happy to go out and spend some money. This was pre ISPS and 9/11. With the implementation of ISPS shore leaves are restricted to the extent that some are stopped altogether.

There was a certain charm that the shipping industry carried which has changed to some extent. There was luxury which is commonplace now. Captain's job profile has changed too, not just a commander any more but has to double up for a lot of other’s when there is a need; this today applies to all jobs. Ships have connectivity and everyone uses mobile phones. One is in touch with the outside world virtually and with family and friends over video calling. Only shows the industry has changed for good and has made life easier. But good old days do bring a smile on our faces as the new generation of mariners will never connect with some of the things of the past.

If the sea mesmerizes you and you love the tales that it gives birth to, do follow my blogs on Cdr Abhilash Tomy, who is a Sailor par excellence. He is the first Indian, second Asian and 79th person in the world to circumnavigate the earth in a sailboat unassisted and without any stops. You'll find an inspirational man who is taking on his passion for doing something extrordinary and full of raw adventure.

His fundraiser is slowly and steadily taking him towards his next endeavour. If you wish to support the fundraiser do click here, spread the word @Ketto fundraiser - 'Cdr Abhilash Tomy in the Golden Globe Race 2018'.

Follow his page for all the excitement:

Pictures are taken from google with due credits

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Sailor and his boat that'll cross the globe

In my last post I wrote about Cdr. Abhilash Tomy and his upcoming project the Golden Globe Race 2018. In case you missed it and want to give it a glace, here you go!

He sent me a picture of his boat. It did look magnificent but so small that it was difficult for me to even imagine that it could actually round the earth. I am aware that even the tiniest things can be pretty mighty and this boat, The Thuriya is certainly one. About his boat he said that he felt as if she was talking to him. Once you establish that kind of relationship you'll do all that it takes to be in it and cherish the beauty of that love. Bonds are not created just for nothing!

I am truly a supporter of anything that's not ordinary. The out of the box ideas energise me. Not that I am a gutsy woman who can do the tight rope walking. Things affect me so much so that I can't even drive on a busy road.... forget busy not even in the best of the roads to be precise!

I love to talk about positivity, optimism and the hunger to follow one's dreams. I believe that any dose of inspiration needs to be shared, you never know who gets motivated to pursue his own set of dreams taking a leaf out of that story. That makes me follow this journey upto the race with Tomy.
My liking for Anything but Ordinary, guess what? That's the brand promise of my organisation too. No wonder I love what I do! Coming to the point, I have been following Abhilash in his gutsy, adventurous to the extent of  near impossible actions but he achieves them no matter what. I've known him for long, since school days that makes a silver jubilee, nothing less. He always stood out doing something that no one would even imagine. He went on to become a Naval pilot, that again are in minority. The sailing bug bit him and how, leading him to circumnavigate the earth. Have been a distant spectator to all that. I'd drop a message once in a while if I read his interview or heard him commenting on something. Only telling him if he was out of his mind. That probably would be the outcome of most of our conversations.

He is preparing to be a part of the Golden Globe Race 2018, who wouldn't accept the prestigious invite? It's certainly an honour to be one of the 5 sailors chosen from around the world. Guess that'd be any sailor's dream. It's not that simple as the race will go back in time and good 50 years, thats's half a century! It requires meticulous planning and a whole lot of detailing. Can't afford to miss anything on the indent sheet. Above all it requires guts, that he has in abundance.

He sent me a video posted by The Week, saw it and as usual messaged, "OMG! why do you want to risk so much. You are an achiever and an inspiration, just chill and be happy." He replied, "I like the kick." May be that kick makes him who he is. I wish to share that video with you all, here.
I am sure you connected with Abhilash's take on the upcoming event. His fundraiser is slowly and steadily taking him towards that vision. If you wish to support the fundraiser do click here, spread the word @Ketto fundraiser - 'Cdr Abhilash Tomy in the Golden Globe Race 2018'.

Follow his page for all the excitement:

Pictures and video courtesy, Abhilash Tomy and The Week

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 
@Ketto fundraiser - 'Cdr Abhilash Tomy in the Golden Globe Race 2018'.

Follow his page for all the excitement: