Archive | June, 2012

Tirupathi Travel Tips

22 Jun

Please note : Change is part of the process at Tirupathi – so information shared here may change. Will try and keep updated as frequently as I can – This information updated post my Visit on July 26th , 2015.

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I have been fortunate to visit Tirupathi multiple times. There is something with Lord Balaji that draws you to the temple again & again. In the absence of a good website, information for first time travellers is limited and sketchy. I hope this Blog can help such people.

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How to get booking for Tirupathi Darshan ? 

If you don’t have a VIP Connection there are 3 ways to get a Darshan

1. Buy a ticket for a confirmed slot or Seva from the TTDC Centres – prices vary depending on the Seva ( In Bangalore you can get this from Vyalikaval TTD Centre, Next to Chowdiah Memorial, or from the Jayanagar Centre – Open on all days barring Tue) – at the counter your photo is taken and you are given a ticket for a certain time slot – thats the time when you can enter the line. For details on Darshan Timing / rates / what it includes check out http://www.tirumala.org/Advancebooking.aspx.

2. You Can also book a Ticket Online and upload a Scanned Photo – the website is slow and this may not be working all the time.

3. Walk up the steps (There are two Routes – 1 Hr Walk and a 3 – 4 hr walk)  and they give you a ticket on the way up

Time Taken to Reach Tirupathi from Bangalore ? 

The roads are great – it takes about 4 1/2 Hrs. I normally leave at 4PM and reach by 830PM – with a 30 Min tea break stop. The first 120 Kms are Double Track Toll Road – post that its single Track. Near Chittoor after about 2 hrs of drive look out for a Bypass.

Restaurants En Route

Nothing great. There is a Cafe Coffee Day after Kolar – only place with a clean bathroom. All other places are very ordinary with poorly maintained bathrooms.

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Where to stay in Tirupathi?  

No dearth of hotels but trusted proven ones are Bhimas & Fortune Kences (ITC). There are numerous Bhima’s so be careful while booking – some are good and some are not so good. (Avoid Bhima Deluxe near the Railway Station) The recommended one is Bhima Residency (Near Railway Over Bridge, Renigunta Road – 0877 – 6455371, 6455372) – Centrally located , easy to locate, good food. Rooms are about 2K / night. The Fortune Kences is located 200 m ahead – but rates can vary from 2500 –  3500/ night. Point to Note is that Bhima Residency does not come up on Makemytrip search – the Other Bhima’s do. However food at Bhima is the best – the Bhima Residency is a 5 min walk from Fortune Kences and we went there for all our meals.

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How much Time does it take to reach the Temple from the hotel? 

The temple is in Tirumala – thats on top of a hill about 1000 feet. It takes about 10 min to  travel to Alipiri – the main gate to the hill, get security cheque done (Budget 30 Min+)  and then another 20 – 25 min to reach the hill top – Tirumala. The road up the hill is broad & safe and one way – cars coming down are on another track. It however has many U Pin bends (Over 20) . Regular buses also ply to the temple top – the bus stand is located opp to Fortune Kences.

Keep the receipt given to you when you enter Alipiri – this will be asked many times. When driving don’t speed – they track the time taken by you to reach – and if you go well within that you may be fined.

How do you walk up the Hill ? How much time does it take ? 

There are 2 routes – the 1st set of steps start from near Alipiri ( the place where the cars drive up) – this is a long walk 3 – 4 hrs  and covers 7 hills – hill 1 is the steepest and so is hill 7  , the rest are an easy walk. All along the walk are shops selling water & snacks. This route has a total of 4000 steps.

The second route was opened a few years back (Srivari Mettu) this is on the backside of the hill. Its a 20 Km drive from Alipiri to reach this place. The climb is shorter 60 – 70 Min at a brisk pace and is not difficult. Has about 2400 steps. Clean track – no shops , not crowded.

Both the walking route at the halfway mark there is a ticket counter – where they take your photo and give you a Ticket.  You can climb with your shoes and carry your cell phone – carry some biscuits , dry fruits , juice…. in your backpack.

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Can I manage to get a ticket / VIP Darshan / Special Q by paying money on the spot? 

Fortunately no – there is no black-marketing and money can’t buy you a ticket. There are no touts – no jugad in the last minute. Every ticket has you photo (earlier fingerprint) so you can’t beat the system – there are 3 levels of check. So if you have not planned – the only option is the free darshan Q.

Whats the Waiting Time and which are the best days to travel? 

Tirupathi is never empty – its crowded or very crowded. ( Low Crowd is 50K / day – peak Crowd is 5 Lacs / day) Basis multiple options I have finally discovered that the best day to travel is Thu. Choose non peak season – Clearly avoid Vaikunt Ekadasi, Navratri. Good time to travel is  immediately after school holidays, after a grand function etc. If you can travel on Diwali the crowd is light. Wait time depends on how blessed you are and can take anywhere from 60 minutes to 10 hrs. ( I have been lucky – in my 30+ trips mostly on Thu mornings the wait time has been 60 – 120 Minutes)

Are there special Q’s for the Old and Babies ?

Yes there is a time slot reserved for the Old , Disabled and for parents with new born babies – This is in the afternoon – check the TTD website for details.

Whats the central point in the Hill Top? 

There are multiple Q’s and almost all the entry points are around a place called Vaikuntam ( Old Vijaya Bank)

What is not allowed inside the temple? 

Cell Phones, Cameras, Belts not allowed. Good to leave in car. If you are carrying Cash – carry it in a cloth bag. The temple has lockers but avoidable.

How bad is the Q? 

The Q’s are chock a block – there are multiple Q’s and they all merge near the main temple. 6 – 9AM in the morning is the time for VIP Darshan , Special Tickets etc hence most Q’s operate only after 9 AM. Crowd is mainly rural.

Pointers in Q when you are pushed ? 

Be careful of the floor – steps suddenly come , there are some places where there is water leaking , be alert so that you don’t fall or twist your leg. Once you enter its almost impossible to get out of the Q as its barricaded.

How much Darshan Time do you get? 

The last leg of the Q in front of Balaji is about 25 M long. You can start seeing Balaji the minute you take this left turn. Try and stick to the right side of the Q to get a few precious seconds more of Darshan. In all you can get a darshan for a max of 1 Min – before you are pushed out. There will be ushers inside shouting “Jaracandi Jaracandi” which in telugu means move – some even push you out forcefully. After you come out you visit the Hundi – and then on the way out collect the prasad and come out.

Where do you get the famous Laddu’s? 

Normal tickets are entitled to 2 Laddu’s each. Most days you don’t get extra laddus. On some days when the crowd is less you can pay and get extra laddus by paying Extra. The laddu counter is in a separate building. During summer as you walk in the temple complex towards the Laddu Centre and Back – the ground can be scalding hot, keep a pair of socks to protect your feet.

Is the Place Clean ? 

Tirumala is very well maintained –  there are dustbins all over , the gardens are well landscaped. Given the crowd I would give them a 10/10 on cleanliness.

Any other interesting things in Tirupathi to note ? 

  • Most Special darshan tickets like Vasantutsav/ Kalyanutsav etc where you enter from the Vaikuntam entrance mandate that you wear Dhoti / Saree / Kurta . Pls check the back side of your ticket
  • There is accommodation on the Hill Top – most of these are very ordinary, however some business houses have set up 5 star guest houses. You need contacts to be able to use these.
  • Food on top is OK. Mayuri was a good choice many years back – now the quality is poor , best bet for fine dining now is Saarangi – this is a 5 min drive from the Vaikuntam entrance.

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  • Two other temples to visit – Padmavathy (Consort of Balaji) and the Shiva (Rahu Ketu) Temple at SriKalahasti. Former is in Tirupathi Town and the latter is a 45 min  drive. SriKalahasti is one of the 5  Pancha Bhoota Temples dedicated to Vayu – its an ancient Shiva temple and has a lot of mythology associated with it – the story of  Kannappa Nayanar and how he gouged his eyes out to stop the bleeding of the Shiva Linga is also associated with this temple.

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  • There is a unique natural stone arch called Silathoranam – this is located very close to the main temple – 10 min drive – the arch is 1500 million years old and is one of 3 in the world. Its located in a well maintained garden

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20 Years of Corporate Life

20 Jun

This month I complete 20 years of Corporate Life.

I started working in 1992. That was the year Narsimha Rao rolled out the reforms in India ( I specify Narasimha Rao –  he was the man who did the job with Manmohan & Chidambaram – but all credit today for India’s reforms goes only to Manmohan Singh). People who have worked since 1992 belong to the lucky generation – we were the luckiest since we did not miss even a year.

We spend l7 years in school ( If I include the 1 year in Nursery) and I have already spent 20 years working –  but it feels like it all started yesterday. As I look at my First Pay slip dated June 1992 – nostalgia creeps in. Here are a 7  things that have changed drastically in the last 20 years – as I look back on how it was in the early days of my career.

1. Salaries 

As an engineering Grad from REC, I started my first job at a salary of Rs 3,200/Month. (At HCL Ahmedabad). We used to line up in front of Bank of India to withdraw Rs 2000 on the salary day. No Debit / Credit Cards . Annual increments were 8 – 10% and those with CTC of > 1 Lac / Annum belonged to Sr Management ( They could afford to own a Maruti 800).

A few years later I remember a colleague with 6 yrs. of work ex ( IIT – IIM) who was working as a Product manager at Wipro – he decided to join Compaq for a 6 Lac Package – 3 reasons for leaving 1. He could now buy a car  2. The company was giving him a landline 3. His PF Savings at Compaq would be 5K / Month.

Circa 2012 – A fresh Grad from REC ( NIT Now) earns upwards of 8 Lac’s / Annum. An IIT IIM Grad with 6 + Years of Experience would be grossing upwards of 25 Lacs. And Sr Execs with 20+ Years of Exp earn in excess of 1 Cr . So our Generation and the current generation should look back and be happy because even with a 9% + Inflation our salaries have grown faster.

2. Communication 

Telex was the most common  mode of communication. IOM (Inter Off Memo) – folloed by Fax. Paper courier was a prevalent mode of communication. Most offices had just 1 PC AT with Mail connection ,  no Mouse , B&W Monitors, 1.2MB FDD , Epson DMP Printers.  The STD Phone with the Manager was locked. STD Rates were exorbitant – and all long distance calls had to be made after 6 PM or even better 9 PM

In 1998 when I got a JTM Cell Phone at Bangalore – it cost 16 Rs / Min . I had to get it because we had no land line at home ( 10 + Years of wait) – and companies did not allow you to reimburse your cell phone expenses.

3. Travel 

Air Travel was exceptional – Train & Bus were the most common modes of transport. Even if the journey was Baroda – Bangalore , you travelled by train from Baroda – Bombay – Bangalore. No problem if it took 3 days to travel back and forth.  Indian Airlines was the  market leader Damania & East West were just making a beginning . With a splash as they had announced free beer inflight – and they had set high standards with their Air Hostesses. ( Jet , KF , Spicejet , Indigo – did not exist). BLR – BBY 1 way fare was just above Rs 1000/- .

In City travel was always by Auto – a Taxi travel required special approval. Hotel rooms were affordable Rama Hotel and Nahar Heritage at Bangalore were Rs 450/ night. Luxury 5 Star Hotels were 3K / Night. Food allowance was Rs 50 / Meal – which was great since a Thali was Rs 12/- .

4. Leading  IT Companies & Technology 

Wipro & HCL were the dominant IT Players . Hardware dominated – software exports were less than 10% of total revenues. ( They seem to be the only survivors from that era with TCS ).  ICIM , ORG , Shiva , PCL …. the other key players have all vanished. IBM , HP, Digital dominated the Servers and Compaq, DELL , Gateway , dominated the PC. Apple was  almost vanishing from the industry. What does Nokia make was a quiz question.

People used to demand premium on PC’s  based on features like Single Motherboard , ZIF Socket and the fact that company A had lesser Chipsets on the MB and hence was more reliable. 80% of the market was dominated by Gray / Unorganized sector. Customs duty was upwards of 50%. The cost of  an entry level PC AT 1MB / 40MB with B&W Monitor   was 40 K ( That price is now 25K).  I remember a program that Wipro launched in 1994 called perfect 10 – to sell 10K PC’s a quarter and achieve 10% MS – they scraped thru on the last day ( Total PC Sales / year in country was less than 500Ku – Thats 12M + in 2012)

The war for servers was between CISC & RISC. Common Operating systems were Novell & Unixware. Bids were won on the value proposition of Arcnet Vs Ethernet networks. Most servers operated with VT 100 Dumb terminals connected on RS 232 cables. Every company had a spur hero sales man in a city / region – who was the scorer for all large deals ( Large deals were a few Cr). Wipro & HCL were like India Pakistan – rarely would there be transfer of people between the companies – the culture was so different ( After 20 years HCL Has become less aggressive and Wipro has lost its old charisma – not much of a difference between the two today)

5. Work Culture 

Work was demanding. Commitment & passion was high. Sense of loyalty to an organization was very high. Resignations were rare. HR was functional – people were taken care of. Finance was still bossy – but not a “Controller” running your business Discipline & rules were firm. Exceptions were rare rather than the norm. If off started at 9 AM – everyone was there before 9AM. Work hrs were long . Sat was 1/2 day working – but people worked till 4PM. Managers were trusted and respected – they in turn added tremendous value to their team and helped craft their early careers. There was a strong sense of team bonding. Induction trainings were long programs stretching to a month. …. I could go on and on, its rare to find these in the best of organizations today.

6. Travel Abroad 

This was a rare perk. Reserved for the HQ people. It was the talk of the town if someone travelled abroad. Credit Cards did not exist – so companies gave you Forex Currency as advance. (1USD = Rs 30). In a foreign city you always used public transport and hunted for the highest exchange rate. Before traveling the Travel Department used to give you tips on where to exchange your currency. Most people took their first flight after a few years at work.

Getting a US Visa was a nightmare – long waits extending 12 – 18 hrs in the US Consulate at Chennai – standing in a Q in sun & rain. Thankfully that has changed

7.Brands 

There was a lot of pride in creating Brands. Ad agencies had great people – every company had a large Marketing Team. There was pride in trading punches – being smart & witty When TISL launched in India – they ran a campaign ” Think TISL Think IBM” – next day Wipro came back with a rejoinder ” Don’t Think – Act , Buy a Wipro PC Now”

I could write a book on how life has changed – but what hits you is the speed at which things have changed in two decades and how adaptable and flexible individuals and companies need to be to survive. Those who could not adopt change have sadly perished.