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A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Category: Daily Life (Page 1 of 10)

From Technology Outsourcing to Social Entrepreneurship – The journey of Dr Sridhar Mitta

As part of A Few Good People – This blog features Dr Sridhar Mitta, a pioneering visionary who not only established Wipro as a global leader in Technology Outsourcing but also built the foundation for the industry. Dr Mitta has influenced the lives of thousands and on this Guru Purnima I would like to pay my respects to this wonderful man.  

In 1980 when a young 30 year old walked into Wipro’s nascent Information Technology Division as a founding employee he achieved two things. He helped catapult Wipro into a Global Technology giant and set the ball rolling to position India as a Global Outsourcing hub.

Bangalore in 1980, with a population of ~ 2M was a quaint little town deserving the sobriquet of a pensioners paradise and a hub of  Research Institutes. The Janata government had shown the door to IBM, The PC was yet to be discovered, Infosys did not exist and the Indian Rupee was trading at 1 USD = Rs 7.86.

This was also the time when a young Azim Premji (AHP) at the helm of Wipro was hungry to expand. Whether it was vision or chance one would never know – but AHP who always had the knack for identifying great talent hired Ashok Narasimhan (A smart savvy financial controller from Telco) and Dr Mitta. Between them they were tasked to build the IT / Technology business at Wipro. 

Dr Mitta armed with a MTech from IIT Kharagpur and a PhD in Control Systems from Oklahoma State University (He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009) was the right choice for Wipro. He was a visionary but hands on. A wonderful team player he was crystal clear on the road ahead as he went about it step by step with determination and passion.

I recollect my first interaction with him in 1992. At our induction  program he  predicted that in the coming years the PC would be like a telephone, just a black box – and the whole attention would be on Software and Services. How right he was.

Over the next 20 years the successful trio of AHP, Ashok Soota and Dr Mitta built Wipro into a global giant. (Mr Ashok Soota took over as the President of Wipro Infotech from Ashok Narasimhan in 1984)

Sridhar Mitta celebrates his birthday with Mr Premji, Ashok Soota & Sudip Banerjee

The first phase between 1980 and 1990 was the “Make in India” journey. Intel was coming out with blazing fast microprocessors and Wipro started building multi-user Minicomputers the S86, S286, S386, Landmark 486, Pentium based Synergy series etc. some of them based on the Unix operating system

Designing a Multi Processing Computer in the 80’s was not easy. Remember there was no Internet and Google. The R&D team under Dr Mitta built deep expertise in Chip design, Board design, Operating System, Compilers, Interoperability, Testing and all the zillion things that go into making a reliable high end system.

Dr Mitta recalls that in those days Wipro was the 1st choice for any IIT Graduate because of the quality of work and company ethics. People, Process & Technology were the bedrock for the R&D team and that was Wipro’s positioning for many years. Quality work always gets noticed and global tech companies like Intel started exploring partnerships with Wipro’s R&D team.  This would prove to be the foundation for the next wave of innovation. 

The young engineers from Global R&D. Most have grown to be Tech entrepreneurs,CTO's and CEO's of leading companies

By the early 90’s it was evident that the India was liberalising. HCL had tied up with HP, Compaq had an alliance with Microland. All the large players were beginning  to make an entry. They had global scale and size and it would be unviable to try and compete with them in manufacturing given the small size of the Indian market.

The visionary in Dr Mitta saw an opportunity amidst this threat. He started contacting his friends  in the US who were working in large Tech companies like Intel, Sun, Tandem and NCR. The bold pitch was to ask for projects that could be done by his team of highly qualified engineers from India. He was crystal clear that there would be no body shopping (The model that software exporters had adopted initially).

The going was not easy as foreign travel needed RBI permission and there were strict controls on the amount of Forex you could carry. He recollects – “We survived on less than $50 a day living with friends and at times eating one meal a day. It was tough. But we were fired with a mission.” Infrastructure, power and network bandwidth were the other challenges that the team had to surmount.

Doing work remotely needed a strong process. Wipro led the industry in embarking for ISO and later CMM certification. This gave a high degree of comfort to clients on the process maturity of the company. Thus was born Tech Outsourcing from India. A wave that has transformed the lives of millions and positioned India globally.

      Dr Mitta with the numerous awards won by Wipro Global R&D

After that there was no looking back as Wipro’s R&D transformed to Global R&D executing high end work for tech giants in US, Europe & Japan.This was when Dr Mitta decided to explore his entrepreneurial calling. After a 20 year stint at Wipro starting as employee No 1 he had now become the President of Wipro Global R&D. But deep down the technologist in him was itching for doing more innovative work that would impact society.

He spent a decade in EnThink and E4E two innovative startups. EnThink was an Intellectual Property design and licensing start-up located in silicon valley. At E4E  he helped develop the concept of EAP – Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program working closely with TIE (A Global organisation fostering entrepreneurship). By now he had seen the challenges of the rapidly growing IT Industry in Indian cities. It was time to connect the dots and bring his 40 years of experience in creating something new and innovative. This led to the creation of NextWealth.

While conceptualising NextWealth he met the legendary Dr C.K.Prahlad who spent a lot of time with Dr Mitta and finally concurred that his basis for NextWealth was foolproof. Dr Mitta still remembers his advice ” Think beyond Best Practice, invent the NextPractice – The next big business model“.  The founders wanted the company to be named NextPractice but since that domain was not available they settled for NextWealth.


           Dr Mitta with Anand Talwai & Mythily Ramesh

NextWealth was Co – Founded with leaders from Wipro and the team of Dr Mitta, Anand Talwai, S.R.Gopalan and Mythily Ramesh steering it ahead.

NextWealth was created to add social value through entrepreneurship. The company has a unique business model that solves many of the challenges of the day.

  1. The Vision of the company is to provide 10,000 jobs in smaller towns. They call it The Distributed Delivery model.
  2. Each job generates 5 ancillary jobs and kick starts the local economy. NextWealth promotes not just employment but overall economic development in smaller towns.  “40 Years back Bay Area outsourced work to India 5000 miles away so why can’t Indian companies outsource work 500 miles away in their own backyard? Questions Dr Mitta.
  3. A lot of good talent is available in smaller towns at very affordable prices. This kills two birds with one stone – Lower costs and almost nil attrition.

The company identifies business opportunities and partners with entrepreneurs in smaller towns. The local entrepreneur runs the centre with  inputs from the experienced leadership team at NextWealth. The company has now partnered with competent entrepreneurs in smaller towns like Salem, Chittoor, Mysore, Hubli and Bhilai and has established its business model with many customers.

Over the last few years NextWealth has delivered with some very demanding Global & Indian customers in eCommerce, Finance, IT & Retail. Their core expertise is on deriving insights from Digital Data that can be monetized by blending people and automation. The focus areas are

  • Customer Interaction
  • Assisted Digitisation &
  • Business Process Management

It is a Win Win formulae for Customers, Employees and the Entrepreneur. A mid sized company that can scale rapidly and deliver quality output at very affordable rates. Quality of staff is good and with the right training and mentoring the staff excelled. And it was no surprise that more than 50% of the staff are women.

I visited their largest centre near Salem. It was buzzing with energy. The process & security standards were foolproof. NextWealth supports over 40 customers in a variety of high end digital services. (Judgemental, Cognitive, Analytics, Lead management and Lead conversion customer support) and is meeting metrics ever day and every week

Backed with the vision and operational depth of Dr Mitta and his leadership team NextWealth is now ready to take on large complex projects. The proof of concept phase is over. NextWealth is now ready to accelerate this proven model. It is truly delivering its promise “Human Touch to Digital processes”. 

For additional information please contact 


Graama Bhojanam – Fresh, Healthy, Tasty Millet restaurant at Jaynagar

An experienced Iyer couple from Chennai (Who left his job after 30 years at HLL), a young entrepreneur just back after completing his degree in Hotel Management from Switzerland and his friend from the legendary Savera hospitality group, and a Ranji cricketer  – When these four people with diverse expertise get together something unique is born. And that was Prem’s Graama Bhojanam.

The restaurant at Jaynagar Bangalore leveraged on the expertise of Mr Krishnamurthy who started Prem’s Graama Bhojanam with his own cooking at a small place in the bye lanes of Adyar Chennai.

Their goal is to promote healthy food with healthy ingredients. All the  dishes here are made of millets and Red/Brown Rice.  It definitely is more environmental friendly as growing millets requires 70% lesser water than rice.

The first thing you must order here is their “Paddus” (“Kuzhi Paniyaram”) – They are delicious and healthy – made of  “Samai” Little millets. Crispy outside and soft inside – you can gobble 3 – 4 of them easily. So ensure that you order more than 1 plate if you are in a group. At just Rs 80/- a plate you need not worry about the bill.

Thats the beauty of this place – all the varieties of Idlis, Dosa’s, Vada’s and Bajjis  are made of millets and they taste better. Of course they are healthier. They are also priced very reasonably.

The signature dish is their Lunch and Dinner Thali that includes 4 Main Dishes – Sambar rice, Curd Rice, Rasam Rice and Rice of the day – Lemon / Puliyogare etc  but all these “rice” items are made of millets. Then there is a Curry, Chutney, Sweet of the day,  (Made with Jaggery), Buttermilk and Roti – all of this unlimited for Rs 195/-. Even the RO water is laced with Camphor, Tulsi, Clove and Cardamom. Food is cooked in a healthy way – all their products are sourced directly from Organic farms and there is no use of Vanaspati, Sugar, Maida and artificial colours.

A lot of focus has gone on the menu and the accompaniments – and thats what is important. If you get the food and pricing right people will come – ambience is secondary. And they seem to be on track serving over 100 lunches every day and 200+ lunches on the weekend.

The ambience is basic, functional and clean with an eye on costs.  Prem’s Graama Bhojanam is expanding with a fine dining restaurant that opens in Chennai (Annanagar) on the 23rd of July and its a matter of time before they expand their footprint in Bangalore. They seem to be setting the trend with a handful of other restaurants in promoting Millet based food.

Do visit them – Sr Citizens especially will love this food. Prem’s Graama Bhojanam is a house in Jaynagar converted to a restaurant. Its run by Yuvajith and Smita, Avinash & Tina and their friend from the Savera group Tarun Reddy. (Yuvajith is passionate about Coffee and has opened a signature coffee brewing centre – The Brewing Bean at Eco Space Bangalore)

  • Address : 234, 32 A Cross 2nd Main Road, 7th Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore
  • Timings : 12 Noon – 10.30 PM

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Navaratnas : 9 Must Visit Restaurants in Bangalore

Bangalore is home to thousands of restaurants. Its tough selecting the best and most unique amongst them. The criteria I have used is based on Longevity, Consistency and Uniqueness. These are the Nine Jewels – the 9 Must visit restaurants in Bangalore.

  • The first 5 are legendary  – they are part of Bangalore’s history. Many have been around for more than 50 years. They are located in Old Bangalore – Malleswaram, Basavangudi & Lalbagh. All of them serve authentic Karnataka taste S Indian food . Most of them are Tiffin joints serving traditional Karnataka tasting food. (Yes the taste of Sambar and Chutney changes across the 4 South Indian states). These places are always crowded, service is fast & effecient and they are very affordable. BMW’s and Mercs line up outside these shops and don’t be surprised if you bump into Rajnikanth, Puneet Rajkumar or the Padukone family.
  • The Next 3 are unique new ones run by passionate entrepreneurs. They serve healthy food – Vegan, Millet based food in a lovely ambience. They are also located in traditional Kannadiga localities of JP Nagar, Jaynagar and Sadashivnagar.
  • The lone North Indian Restaurant – In a city packed with Italian, Chinese and Continental restaurants its difficult to find a good authentic North India restaurant. It was a close call between two restaurants and I finally chose the newer one because of its brightness and positive energy.

The First 5 : Traditional and legendary, They are timeless. 

No 1 – Veena Stores at Malleswaram – Light as air Idlis and yummy “Savige”

A small standing joint spread across 150 sft it dates back to 1977 . It all started when  Suryanarayana Hegde moved to Bangalore from Sirsi as a 10-year-old after the death of his parents. After working as a cook for 10 year in a doctors house he started his own restaurant on Sampige Road. That closed due to labour problems. He then started Veena Stores with mainly condiments and a limited menu of coffee, tea, badam milk and Idlis.His son Pradeep a diploma in electrical engineering joined the business in 1987. Pradeep now runs the restaurant with his wife.

Veena Stores serves a limited menu – Fluffy soft Idlis, Vada, Khara Bath, Kesari, Pongal, Lemon Rice, Puliyogare, Coffee all of this served fresh and piping hot. The Savige (Vermicelli)  is the best. The Mint Chutney they serve is a hit. (The restaurant does not serve Sambar). Very reasonable priced all dishes are in the 20 – 30Rs range. Sumptuous breakfast for 2 will be less than Rs 150/-. Good to know Kannada while ordering and please go with a driver as parking is a challenge.

  • Address : 187, 15th Cross, Margosa Road, Malleshwaram, Bangalore
  • Timings : 6.30 AM – 12 Noon , 3.30 PM – 9 PM

No 2 – CTR (Shiv Sagar) at Malleswaram – Best Place for Dosa

This hotel was started by Y.V. Subramanyam and brothers  in the 1920s. They hailed from a village in Kolar, whose residents are Ashtagrama Iyers of Tamil origin. Subramanyam sold his hotel the mid-1950s. It still has a vintage wall clock and rosewood furniture with Italian marble table tops. It is said the brothers passed on tips about preparations to the new owners along with advice to take care of workers by not overburdening them. It was established as Shree Sagar in 1950 and after changing hands a few more times it was bought by the current owner in 1992 and renamed Central Tiffin Room (CTR)

This is the best place in Bangalore for Dosas. And they come in many varieties Benne Masala Dosa, Butter Masala Dosa and Crispy Masala Dosa. They have seating inGround & 1st floor. It has the ambience of a Coffee House. Apart from the Dosas CTR is also known for its Idly Vada, Poori-Saagu, Kharabath and Kesaribath, Mangalore Bajji and Filter Coffee. It has won awards including the Times Food Guide “Best Benne Masala Dosa in Bangalore” and Burrp.com’s “Best Benne Masala in Bangalore. Very reasonable prices – A sumptuous breakfast for 2 will be about Rs 200/-

  • Address : 7th Cross, Margosa Road, Malleshwaram, Bangalore ( Opp to Malleswaram Grounds)
  • Timings : 7.30 AM – 12.30 , 4 PM – 9 PM

No 3 – Brahmins Coffee Bar commonly known as Brahmins Cafe – Basavangudi  : Consistent quality and awesome Chutney

Brahmin’s was set up by Narasimha Rao, in the 1960s. Jan 27th 1965 to be precise. They initially started by serving traditional Filter Coffee and sourcing snacks from outside. Soon they started making limited variety of high quality S Indian tiffin. They have stuck to this winning formulae over the years. The speciality here is their Chutney. KN Saraswathi (the founder’s wife) who is in her 80s is still believed to supervise the preparation of the restaurant’s chutney every single day. It’s one of the many things that have remained constant at the restaurant. And there is a person serving serving unlimited chutney from buckets. The menu hasn’t changed in over four decades – Idli, Vade, Kara Bath and the sweet Kesri Bath. Each one of these items is truly delicious and incredibly consistent. (The restaurant does not serve Sambar)

  • Address : Ranga Rao Road, Near Shankar Math, Shankarpuram, Near Basavanagudi, Bangalore
  • Timings : 6 AM – 12 Noon , 3 PM – 7 PM

No 4 – Vidyarthi Bhawan – Gandhi Bazar, Basavangudi  : Truly legendary  – a tradition since 1943

Located on the main road you enter the restaurant walking by a street full of fragrant flowers. “Vidyarthi Bhavan was primarily started for students, as the name suggests, but its popularity increased, and today we have celebrities from all fields who brainstorm over our dosas and coffee,” says Arun Kumar Adiga, who runs Vidyarthi Bhavan. On weekends there are over 3000 walk ins as people wait patiently for the seats to be freed up.

The wait is worth it – The dosas are rich and soaked in butter. To this day, six dishes on Vidyarthi Bhavan’s menu — benne (butter) masala dose (along with saagu-masale), puri-saagu, idli sambar, uppittu, chow-chow bath and rave vade have celebrity status! And its been consistent over the years.

  • Address : 32, Gandhi Bazaar, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore
  • Timings : 6.30 AM – 12 Noon , 2.30 PM – 8 PM

No 5 – Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) – Needs no introduction 

MTR needs no introduction. Lalbagh, Cubbon Park, Vidhan Soudha and MTR are the 4 pillars that define Bangalore. There are many MTR restaurants in town and abroad but I am referring to the iconic 1st branch near Lalbagh. The others are no match to the original one. Started in 1924 the restaurant is spread across 2 floors and has a lot of seating. There are even rooms that can be reserved for families.

The food served at the MTR is all veg, Karnataka Brahmin fare and owes its origin to the Udupi Cuisine of coastal Karnataka. The decor is old age. For many years, the customers entered the restaurant through the kitchen so that they would be able to satisfy themselves about the restaurant’s cleanliness before they ate there.

During  WW 2, MTR found it difficult to make Idlis, since rice was in short supply. They experimented with Semolina instead of rice and thus invented the very popular breakfast item of Rava Idli. The Tiffin here is wonderful and over the weekends its customary for Bangaloreans to go for a walk in Lalbagh and then Q up for breakfast at MTR. However if you are visiting for the 1st time visit them for Lunch. Its an elaborate multiple course meal with unlimited servings and you will struggle to complete it. Important to note that they are Closed on Mondays. Paid 3rd party Car parking is available diagonally opposite.

  • Address : # 14, Lalbagh Road , Bangalore
  • Ph: 080 – 22220022 (Reservations are taken for lunch & dinner only)
  • Timings : 6:30 am – 11:00 am & 12:30 pm – 9:00 pm

The Next 3 : Unique, Healthy Food run by passionate entrepreneurs. 

These are not as well known as the earlier 5. They are a new age of restaurants promoting healthy food. They have a lovely ambience, tasty food and are reasonably priced. After the rich fare with dosas soaked in butter in the above 5 restaurants  – the light and healthy food here will be a refreshing change.

No 6 – JustBE, A Vegan Restaurant that offers a lot more

A classy Vegan Restaurant at Sadashivnagar it serves Vegan food without Oil, Dairy products, Refined Products like Maida, Sugar etc. Serves a variety of tasty and healthy  continental dishes from Nachos, Sandwiches, Sizzlers to Pizzas and Asian Bowls. The idea is to appeal to the younger generation. The ambience is calm and serene. the place also has a Meditation Room and the only Svara (Sound Healing) room outside of Auroville. Servings are large and a meal for two costs about Rs 1000.

Read more about JustBe : https://vak1969.com/2018/07/12/justbe-cafe-eat-meditate-satiate-in-a-holistic-zone/ 

  • Address : 383/31, 13th Cross, Sadashiv Nagar, Bangalore
  • Timings : 11 AM – 11 PM

No 7 – Vaathsalya’s Millet Cafe, A Millet Only Restaurant 

Located at JP Nagar this place serves a wide variety of dishes – from Cutlets to Thali and everything cooked here is mad with Millets or Red Rice. Jyoti the owner is passionate about furthering the cause of Millets and after years of seeing the benefit in her family has started this restaurant to espouse the cause. the signature dish is their Thali. The store also sells handicraft , ladies handloom clothes, and organic products. A calm and quiet place on weekdays – it can get busy on weekends.

No 8 – Prem’s Graama Bhojanam, A Millet Only Restaurant 

This is another Millet only food restaurant that serves a wide variety of dishes that look and taste like regular S Indian dishes made with rice. All of this served in a rustic village ambience. The Dosas, Vadas, Paddu’s are all made of Millets. They also have Rotis of all the main millets served with curry. Thali options are available at lunch. The water that is served tastes like the “Teertham” you get in a temple – mixed with Camphor, Tulsi, Clove & Cardamom. The Matka Kulfi was also very tasty. At the end of the meal they give you a concoction “Kashayam” to improve your digestion. Its a very affordable place. Between four of us we ordered 2 plates of Paddu’s (Kuzhi Paniyaram), 2 Dosas , all the 4 Varieties of Millet Roti’s with Sabji and Kulfi and the bill was only Rs 884/-.

No 9 – Urban Tamasha – Bright and Positive 

After so many S Indian fares I had to include one North Indian restaurant. In the new Bangalore areas of Indiranagar , Koramangla and Sarjapur you will struggle to find a good North Indian restaurant. All you see is Pubs , Italian, Chinese, Continental , Sandwich cafes, Coffe Bars etc. I have always felt that Tandoor in MG Road was the best bet for North Indian food. Good variety, authentic N Indian, consistent quality and great service. But I recently found a place that had all this with 2 additional advantages – A bright ambience full of positive energy and a wider variety of dishes.

This place is Urban Tamasha a newly opened restaurant at Indranagar.  The North India food and starters were great – they also have Pasta, Noodles and Pizza options – which works out very well when you go with the younger generation. Non veg dishes available. Lunch has a buffet option. No Alcohol is served.

  • Address : 2011,1st Floor, HAL 2nd Stage,100 Feet Road, Indiranagar
  • Timing : 12Noon to 1 AM

………..and one more thing

At the end of every presentation the legendary Steve Jobs used to have a slide titled “One more thing” – having worked in Apple I will take that learning from him and add one more restaurant to this list.

Sree Krishna Kafe Koramangla 

This is where I have been going Traditional restaurants of bangafor breakfast once a week for many years. And it would not be fair not to include it. Located in Koramangla next to Anand Sweets its the only restaurant that serves authentic Tamil Nadu style food. Idlis, Upma, Pongal, Dosas for breakfast and evening tiffin and plantain leaf lunch. The Sambar here is distinctively different from the other restaurants listed above. Its like a mess – always crowded with regulars.

  • Address : 5th Main, Near Anand Sweets, Koramangala 5th Block, Bangalore
  • Timing : 7:30AM to 10:30AM, 12Noon to 3:15PM, 5:30PM to 10:30PM

PS : For the best thin Crust Pizzas visit Toscano or Little Italy – Both have multiple branches in the city 

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JustBe Cafe – Eat, Meditate & Satiate in a holistic zone

If you are invited for a treat to a place where the food is cooked Oil free, Dairy free, Sugar free, Color free – chances are that 99 of 100 people would make a polite excuse and wriggle out. I guess I was the odd one out when by chance I discovered JustBe. Its not just a restaurant but a lot more – with many unique zones that includes the one and only Sound Healing Therapy room outside of Auroville. Do plan a visit to JustBe at Sadashivnagar, but before that read on about this place and the passion of Nidhi  who conceptualised and developed this place.

JustBe is a classy boutique restaurant – Its unique and it serves amazing fresh food. Tasty, nutritious and aesthetically very appealing.

The Spinach Quesadilla, Crunchy Nachos, Hotpress Batata Sandwich, Asian Curry, Garden Pizza, Pink Lemonade, a variety of smoothies and many more interesting dishes will keep your taste buds captivated. The servings are large – and thats the 1st philosophy at the restaurant – Eat sufficient quantities of one item and don’t mix and match too many dishes in your meal. 

JustBe is not just a unique restaurant it is a holistic Zone of peace and tranquility. A zone of positive energy where you can Eat, Meditate and be Satiated to the full. You can let go of the stress and JustBe in touch with your inner self.

Every Sunday 9 AM a group Vipassana session is conducted for old students. You can use the facility to come and meditate whenever you are in the mood for some Soulitude. 

They also have a library and a Yoga Hall where Yoga, Tai Chi, Qui Gong and many other classes are regularly held here.

What I feel in love with was Svaram – the Sound healing room. The only such facility outside of Auriville Pondicherry. Its a unique experience and its just getting started. Here is a brief Video about Svaram and the therapy room. 

JustBe also hosts a Sunday farmers market that sells a wide variety of fresh organic produce and a shop that sells handcrafted clothes, Jewellery and more.

It requires a passionate, creative person with an eye for detail to run a place like this – And that person is Nidhi. A housewife tending to her family and teenaged children her life transformed after attending a 21 day retreat at Swaswara (An Eco Retreat near Goa) organised by Sharan in 2016. (This organisation was started by Dr Nandita Shah in 2005 to prevent and reverse lifestyle diseases by identifying the cause of the disease and using food as a medicine – https://sharan-india.org/about-us/)

While attending the program Nidhi was ailing from high Cholesterol, Skin Allergy and Migraines. She had heard from friends how this 21 day program not only transformed you but also taught you the techniques to lead a healthy life.

JustBe was born thanks to the learnings from this 21 day program. Nidhi’s eyes light up as she talks about this program and how it has changed her life. The only medicine we were served during this program was FOOD – she says. Food is the core element of our being and the right food, cooked correctly can solve all your health problems. The body needs proteins , minerals, calcium etc – the body gets stressed when it has to hunt for this amongst fried, unhealthy food. Yes they are tasty and addictive – but not healthy.

During the 21 day session they were served a wide variety of global cuisines – but the one common theme across all of them was Vegan Food cooked with no oil, no diary products, no preservatives. Add to this no refined food was used – so No maida and sugar. Inspite of this the food was tasty and delicious. And they were taught how to cook with these principles. 

Over 21 days Nidhi was convinced that this was the solution for a healthy body and mind. Her Jain traditions further helped her to imbibe the concepts deep within her  and she practised it with heart and soul at home. The transformation at home was also magical – and health bloomed at home.

This then took her to the next step of wanting to share the benefits of this learning with a wider audience through JustBe. And she practises what she has learnt to the minutest detail. No food is cooked in Aluminium dishes, No microwave is used and no Bone China Crockery is used in her kitchen. She was lucky in finding the right cook – a trained Chef Prem Darshan who after years of serving in high end restaurants and hotels in India and abroad joined her and is now running the kitchen with the same zeal and enthusiasm. They jointly developed the menu keeping in the mind the younger generation and hence most of dishes were continental.

I tried having a debate with Nidhi on the positives of milk and honey trying to understand why they were eliminated. I have grown up knowing that a glass of hot milk in the morning and a spoon of pure honey is as good as nectar. Nidhi demolished this notion by explaining that nature has given us enough food. The human baby needs milk for a few years just like other mammals and then graduates to other food. Any food taken from animals is developing cruelty towards animals and the ethos associated with that food is negative.

I failed in the debate  – I was up against a woman who has many a certificate in NLP, TA , Counselling etc – and was no match for her strong conviction and rationale argument.

By now we had spent over an hour chatting and it was time for my evening cup of tea – but felt a little conscious asking for masala tea after this educative session. Sensing my predicament Nidhi got me a Smoothie – made of Spinach, Mint, Banana and Pineapple. It tasted divine. Thats the beauty at JustBe – I would never have drunk a smoothie of these ingredients at home.

And as I drove back I kept wondering – can I really make a shift to a diet that is devoid of Milk, Sugar and Oil. That would mean no Coffee, Tea, Chocolates, Sweets…. all of which I love. I am not sure. Maybe I should ask my wife to attend the 21 day program at Sharan.

This is a unique restaurant in Bangalore and probably India. Its a must visit so the next time you happen to be in Sadashivnagar do visit JustBe

JustBe

  • 383/31, 13th Cross, Sadashiv Nagar, Bangalore
  • Open from 11 AM – 10 PM
  • Meal for 2 Approximately Rs 1000/-
  • Valet parking available
  • https://www.zomato.com/justbecafe

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Find Purpose – The Means Follow, 3 Rural Hospitals – A case study in excellence

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to visit divine forces at work in remote rural India. It is amazing to see the transformation that a few good people can bring around with their commitment and passion. There is no adulation, no positive strokes, no awards – the commitment is totally Service, Service, Service. This is Karma Yoga in its purest form, True meditation – and they have found peace happiness and satisfaction.

The 3 Centres we visited are all located in Rural India – about 125 to 200 Km  from Bangalore.

  • Rishi Valley Rural health centre (Near Madanapalli) –  http://rvrhc.blogspot.com
  • Tribal health Initiative at Sittilingi (100 Km from Krishnagiri) – http://www.tribalhealth.org
  • Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement at Saragur , H.D.Kote – 70 Km from Mysore – http://www.svym.org

There are a few common things that have made these initiatives so successful in the last 25 – 30 years since they were started from a thatched hut or 1 room.

  • The dedication and commitment of the doctors who started these centres. They could have had great careers in the cities with big hospitals but they consciously decided to tread a different path. They started small – hands on, and built it brick by brick.
  • The strong focus on community development and awareness. They are Human Centric Organisations focused on Holistic Health. All of them have invested in counselling and guiding people to lead a healthy life. As Dr Seetharam at SVYM pointed out – ” We are not here just to kill the Bacteria & Virus but to ensure that we provide Holistic services to the community to ensure that they don’t fall sick”. And they have taken it to a totally different level with a team of dedicated counsellors and even a Radio Channel to spread awareness.
  • All of which has translated in deep trust and overall development of a healthy community

Dr Regi & Leela started the Tribal Health Initiative at Sittilingi in a remote hilly tribal valley 100 Km from Krishnagiri. It all started with a thatched hut with no electricity – but over time they have built a 30 bed hospital with 3 operating theatres and have earned the trust of the community. Treating over 100 patients every day they conduct ~ 75 surgeries every month. What is more important is their initiative to train the Tribal women as counsellors. The core team trains the local village women  who become the first point of contact to spread the awareness on health , sanitation , pre & post natal care – and this has created wonders.

Dr Karthik and Kamkshi at the Rishi Valley Rural health centre had a similar start almost 20 years back. Trained in AFMC Dr Karthik left a successful career to start the centre with his wife Kamakshi – a pathologist. Today they serve over 200 patients a day – some coming as far as 100 Km away. Madanapalli is a district HQ with a Govt Hospital – but the trust and quality of service they offer is so high that people prefer coming to them. They have taken the level of service to a totally different level and even have a local cobbler designing shoes specifically for diabetes patients.

While talking to Dr Kamakshi she introduced us to a young girl from Washington University St Louis who was visiting them on a Fulbright scholarship to research the high instance of Diabetes in the area. Inspite of the idyllic rural setting – the instance of Diabetes, Hypertension & Thyroid are widely prevalent amongst the villagers. Preliminary study indicates the usage of pesticides and extensive use of Palm Oil in cooking as possible reasons. Here again the focus is on counselling & advisory services for healthy living – how to shift to Millets , the right diet , enabling them to access the best of Govt programs etc.

I had written in one of my earlier blogs for India to Progress – you need 3 things Healthcare , Education & Jobs. Most of these places seem to be following this to perfection. They all  have a school that helps the community children get educated. Quality of education is excellent , schools are neat and clean , well equipped , good teachers. They also provide jobs to the local community – the Nurses , technicians , drivers all come from the local community. At SVYM they have even tied up with Mysore University for a 2 year management program in community development.

Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) was founded by Dr Bala when he was graduating from Mysore Medical College and he has not looked back in the last 30 years since its inception. Today the centre has a 100 bed hospital and outreach program that covers almost all the districts of Karnataka. The institute is doing ground level practical research on areas that impact the lives of the local in close coordination with the Govt. The Viveka school of excellence adjacent to the hospital is an excellent facility for overall development of the children. The approach is 100% Holistic – Dr Bala the Secretary explained that SVYM even helps the local get legal help when they face harassment regarding their land , they help them the documentation to apply for Govt aid programs, they even supply them seeds to promote kitchen gardening – they are a one point social connect to the localities.

At all the three centres the doctors were clear that there would be a nominal charge for services. This contributes less than 50% of their expenses – but there are compelling reasons to charge. Dr Balasubramanya explained beautifully why it is important to charge a notional amount. This is what he had to say

Charging helps preserve the poor patients dignity – he is now demanding service. He has the right to question. This puts pressure on the institution. We are a country where we walk in to a guests house with a token gift of fruits or flowers or sweets – even the poor tribal does not like the concept of Free

The other common theme was the element of trust. Dr Anup explained the importance of building Trust thru Human Connect. Rural people are simple folks. You need to advertise to them. They believe what they see. they believe their community. When the same doctor visits them or treats them, is genuine, doesn’t con them – then slowly familiarity breeds favourability. Then the Trust quotient builds up and spreads word of mouth.

These are hospitals that are spotlessly clean, efficiently run, professionally managed with well defined process and as the mission statement at the Tribal health centre says it all  – their mission is to play an integral part in the communities development. India runs because of such people and their selfless service.

They say “Find Purpose – The Means Follow” – and these doctor teams have demonstrated this saying word by word. Dr Karthik, Dr Kamakshi, Dr Regi, Dr Lalitha, Dr Balasubramaniam  and his wonderful team are all testimony to this.

They are helping define what the new age hospitals should look like. Its time the management from Apollo , Fortis , Manipal …. hospitals paid them a visit. And if you ask ” What is the one things that distinguishes these hospitals from the 5 Star Corporate hospitals of Indian cities ? ” – the answer in one word – GREED.

You can play your part – visit their websites and feel free to contribute what best you can – remember that they need help from Corporates and people like you to manage 50% of their operational costs.

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500,000 Views – Launching the new Website for “A Few Good Things”

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama
 
I do it a lot more than once a year. If the travel bug bites you there is no antidote.

My blog is a live example of the power of compounding. When I started in 2010 after attending a training on Digital Marketing it was an exploration. Which rapidly grew to a passion to share a lot of good things. It took nearly 5 years to get to a 100,000 hits and less than 3 years to get to 500,000 hits. And thats when I said its time to upgrade the Blog to a Website.

The website A Few Good Things –  has a clean , simple layout that is based on the Golden Rule of 3

  • All the 170 Blogs are distributed under 3 heads – Travel, Spirituality and Daily Life.
  • The Travel section is further trifurcated to Day Trips, Short Breaks and Longer Breaks.
  • There is an excellent search engine that can help you navigate with ease

This started as a travel blog. I love to travel and document it in detail so that fellow travellers can plan their trips easily.  I hunt for offbeat locations and resorts and help market them through my Blogs that have a viewership of ~ 500 a day.

Over time I have added other interesting entries on Spirituality and Daily Life (Corporate, Personal Finance, Fitness etc). All these are based on my real life experience.

Some of my Blogs feature high on Google search – for Eg if you search for “What is Rudram”  my blog may well be in the top 3 . Tirupathi Travel Tips, Baevu Village, day trips in Bangalore  are also some of the blogs that come in the top 10 in Google Search. Blogs on Valley of Flowers, Soulitude in the Himalayas, Badami – Pattadakal , Tiruchi in 3 days, Vipassana Experience  –  record a high viewership daily benefiting many. The PIO to OCI writeup has helped thousands in Bangalore to visit the FRRO office and get the necessary paperwork done. A Few Good Places which is an exhaustive list of all the places we have been to and those that are in my list – is used extensively before the holidays.

Many resorts have thanked me  – as they have seen a steep jump in bookings rating their property as a must visit – with all the details on how to reach and spend your time there.

The journey continues and I seek your support to continue the compounding effect – help take the 500,000 to 1 Mn and beyond. Do sign up as a follower and please do share the blogs that you found useful with your friends and relatives.

A big thanks to all my well wishers, followers and travel partners and lets pray that a Few Good Things continue to roll out regularly.

 

 

3 Catchy Promises to Win 2019 ?

The golden rule of 3 is the foundation of Communication. Most of what we see is a play of 3. The Trinity , Past – Present – Future, Good – Bad – Ugly , Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner , Introduction – Body – Conclusion , The 3 Little Pigs , Fork – Spoon – Knife ….. I could go on and on . The Golden rule of 3 is a great framework for communication – and when you have to reach out to woo a Billion + electorate it works miracles.

It all started with “Roti – Kapda – Makan”  – a catchy promise that was not met for a very very long time. But it connected with the masses and helped Madam G to be in power for well over 15 years.

And in the last few decades has given way to “Bijli – Sadak – Pani” . I am not sure if this can be attributed to Atalji – but definitely the last 15 years has seen significant progress in Bijli & Sadak. I have travelled extensively across many states and the Urban and Rural roads in India are in good shape. We seem to be generating surplus power and with solar power spreading rapidly the days of 8 hrs load shedding are things of the past. Our villages are getting electrified and Diesel Locos will soon be history.

 

So what will be the 3 key things to focus and connect with the electorate in 2019 ? The last 10 Lok Sabha elections where BJP has lost after 2014 clearly indicates that if promises are not met – the people show you the door. The common man is hungry for more – he has growing aspirations and he wants Acche Din NOW.

Lets look at a few things – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

First the Good Things

Our / Capita income is rising rapidly, inflation has been under control , food prices are stable , the monsoons have been good so Agri production has been decent ( Yet there is discontent in Rural India).

We get our passports in a few days , we dont need baggage tags while flying , the country is cleaner – there are more public toilets and you rarely see beggars in stations or in front of temples. The stock markets have done well in the last 4 years and just when retail investors started coming in droves the LTCG came as a rude shock. There are too many cars and two wheelers on the roads and everyone is a flaunting a nice expensive Smart Phone.

 

And now the not so good things 

The country is going Digital but Aadhar is a pain. I just spent a few hrs visiting a small outlet to get my PayTm activated – and I have been doing this for months now – For my phone , Bank accounts , Mutual Funds , LIC – this is bugging me. its irritating – its a waste of time. And a billion people doing this – is not a joke. There should have been a smarter way of getting this implemented.

The interest rates are coming down and the large population of retired people are fuming. And when they just started moving from Fixed Deposits to Balanced Funds and regular dividend to increase their income from 7 % to 10 – 12% they got hit with a Tax on Dividends. This is a large segment of our population and they are fuming – both with the lower interest rates and with Digital India.

And finally the Ugly things

The 14 M graduating everyday are struggling to find jobs. The only jobs I see are delivery boy jobs. The education system is broken and the quality of Graduates coming from our colleges are not job ready. Skill development projects re yet to take off on a. large scale. Yet again a large population that was hoping for a miracle with Acche Din feels let down. This is the generation of instant gratification – they will not wait for 10 years. Even if logic says that Modi is the best and has no alternative they will not think twice before shooing him out if after 4 years they dont see job prospects.

Our cities are going dry, the lakes are drying , the rivers are drying – as urban population explodes the cities are not geared to manage this influx. A city like Bangalore lives off Tanker water – the population zoomed from 3 – 8 Mn in the last 15 years and the prediction is it will touch 30 Min by 2030.

Which brings me back to the Topic of the Blog – what are the 3 Most Important things that is needed to be communicated AND implemented in the next decade. Here is a probable list which may matter to different segments of India – and from this will emerge the catchy slogan for 2019 – and lets hope that is not an empty promise.

  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Clean Water  & Sanitation
  • JOBS
  • Broadband / Wi Fi across the country
  • Food Inflation at 0%
  • Happy, secure , debt free , successful farmers

But I will end this on a happy note – the Indian economy is on a. long term growth path since 1992 and irrespective of who comes to power the growth engine will remain accelerating for the next 20 – 30 years. We saw UPA – 1 benefit from all the good work done by Atal Ji’s government.

 

In 2014 BJP inherited a shabby economy and its taken them 4 long years to try and get it back on track ( remember the article on the eve of 2014 elections which talked about how UPA 2 was like a retreating losing army burning and marauding everything before they fled) – so irrespective of what happens in 2019 – we will still see a positive economy and health markets for the coming 3 – 4 years. Lets hope for the best and pray that India does not miss this last chance to become a developed nation.

 

 

 

PS – Source of Data Slides – Anand Rathi Chief Economist presentation on “Future of Indian Economy”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kolkata Shining – Well Done Didi

I recollect that some years back Kolkata came to the news for all the wrong reasons – it was christened the “Dying City”. This after many many years under the administration of Jyoti Basu. From 1977 he held the CM post for 23 years without a break – a tough record to beat. But Bengal and Kolkata saw no progress.

I remember my trips to Kolkata – from the mid 70’s and till 2005 almost nothing changed. Traffic jams , pavements choked with hawkers, load shedding, appalling poverty , filth – it was a mess. Mother Teresa and Dominiqe Lapierre did not help by positioning Calcutta as a city in deep despair. I remember in a quiz competition in school we were asked to name the dirtiest city in the world and the choice was between Karachi , Dhaka and Kolkatta. Karachi narrowly beat Kolkatta to claim the distinction.

Things slowly changed and in the last 7 years Mamta Banerjee and the TMC have done a phenomenal job in transforming Kolkatta. I visited the city after many years in the last week of 2017 and was pleasantly surprised to see a city that I could barely recognise. The transformation is to a scale that you cannot comprehend. Broad Roads , cars zipping at 50 Km/hr ( restraining themselves as thats the speed limit), clean footpaths and pavements, well lit roads with plants, a maze of flyovers , clean billboards and shop fronts, efficient traffic police, the water bodies or “Pukurs” that dot the city are sparkling clean. In the 3 days I was there I did not see a single pothole or a dug up road or footpath – I could go on and on.

 

I would rate Kolkata as the Indian city with one of the best urban infrastructures in the country today comparable with Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and of course New Delhi. Coming from Bangalore ( Koramangla in specific) where traffic crawls at less than 10 km /hr and it can take you 30 min to cross the Sony Junction Kolkatta felt like a foreign city. Add to this Kolkatta has no power cuts and thanks to the mighty Ganges you will never see water tankers queuing up in front of apartment complexes.

We visited the Dhakuria lake complex – again a very well maintained park with excellent walkways spotlessly clean.

All this is indeed creditable work. Its not easy to change a dying city that has been languishing for decades. Yes good work was started by the former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and if the Nano plant at Singur had happened the industrial pace at W Bengal may have matched that of Gujarat. But full credit to Mamata Di for picking up speed and achieving the impossible. Well Done Didi.

The Indian Press is miserly – all I have heard about Kolkata sitting in Bangalore is Didi’s anger against Modi and the Muslim appeasement – not a word has been reported on how a dying city has been transformed in such a short period of time. You need to give credit where it is due and this change from a. dying city to a sparkling city should have been cover page article and news.

Its not just the infrastructure but also the cleanliness. People have started taking pride in their city – the Bengalis have always been proud of their legacy and now they have earned their bragging rights. I am sure this saga of development will continue. Its a very affordable city and the cost of living would probably be less than half that of Bangalore or Mumbai. A city with history , legacy , sights – a city waiting to be marketed. With all this going for Kolkatta its a matter of time before the builders, brands , malls , companies , jobs flood into Kolkata. And all the  NRI babus who always wanted to be in Kolkata and enjoy their adda will come back. A city on an ascending curve is unstoppable and as the momentum picks up the growth will accelerate.

The trip was also special as I caught up with my college mates from REC Surat and met them after 25 years. We were knocking at 50 but as we met after so many years we felt like 18 year olds. Thanks Manik , Somen and Tutli for taking time to come over.

It was also nice to meet up the folks from ABL township – the colony where I grew up after 30 long years. the hot didis and aunties had aged gracefully. Thank you Ishani and Deepa Di for making this happen. Bengali is a very sweet language and Bengali women are amongst the prettiest you can meet but behind that pretty face and charming smile is a dominating woman – this after all is the land of Ma Durga & Kali.

A trip to Kolkata is never complete without visiting Dakshineshwar & Belur Math. We left our hotel at 5.30 AM and reached Dakhsineswhar by 6.15 AM – spotlessly clean with hardly any crowd we had a blessed Darshan of Ma Kali in all her divine glory. The Ganges was sparkling clean and majestically flowing with Belur Math on the other bank. We could feel the vibrations of the great Sage Ramkrishna in his small room at the temple complex. We didi visit Belur Math also and the Bhog we had was special, don’t miss it – piping hot Khichdi , delicious curry, and Kheer so tasty all served with so much love and affection. Whether its Golden Temple or Puri Jagannath or Dakshineswar there is something special about the Prasad they serve in these divine places.

This is also the city of food – from street food to fancy restaurants all at very affordable prices. We relished the Jhal Modi at the Maidan as we waited for a ride on the iconic tram and enjoyed sweets galore all through the trip. There is no comparison to Kolkata sweets. My fatty liver restricted me from being very adventurous but we did through justice to the amazing food of this great city. The only disappointment was our lunch at Tero Parbon at Hindustan Park where the service was disastrous.

Central Kolkata was buzzing with energy – the stretch from Victoria Memorial , Park Street , Chowringee , the National Museum – is mesmerising and brings back fond memories of childhood when we used to visit Kolkatta from Durgapur. The yellow Ambassador taxis are fast making way to the Uber’s and Ola but I pray that continue for some more time. Kolkata without the yellow taxi and its blaring horns would never be the same again.

Its a paradise for shopping – again great stuff at affordable prices. This was the time of the year when there were melas all around the city. Khadi , Handicraft and a wide variety of clothes and artwork at prices which you cannot believe. From sarees to pyjamas and kurtas, shoes, leather goods you can shop all day long in this city.

Kolkata has so much to offer – it was only on the last day that I came to know of a Jyotir Linga at Baidyanath Temple – a 1 hr drive from Kolkata. I missed it but will come back for sure to visit. There are 12 Jyotir Lingas in the country and most states market them very effectively. These are divine sites blessed with the energy of Lord Shiva – Kolkata needs to market itself better.

I have 3 suggestions to make to help the city sparkle more and attract investments. 

Kolkatta and Chennai produce nearly 50% of the CA’s of the country – Kolkatta with its low cost base can easily position itself as a back office finance hub for the country. The intelligence of the Bengali and the low cost of the city will make this a very compelling proposition.

A lot of day trips can be organised to market the city better. A 7.30 to 6.30 PM trip that includes breakfast and lunch – its easy to identify 10 – 15 such packages and have buses travel on a daily basis to these locations.

Launch a company that can help cities like Bangalore – specially BBMP spruce up the city. You now seem to have the expertise to provide consultancy and execute projects that can bring cities like Bangalore to shape.

And last but not the least Kolkata needs more Gym’s. Given the rich oily diet, lethargic lifestyle, late dinner habits and probably the highest % of smokers in the country   – my friends in Kolkata need to exercise vigorously. But I hardly saw any gyms.  Here is an opportunity for Mukesh Bansal to open many Gyms across Kolkata – so Mukesh please don’t open any more Cult Zones in Bangalore – head to Kolkatta. If Mamta has succeeded in a cleaner Kolkata I am sure she can make it a fitter Kolkata too.

Hospitality is in Bengali blood – my friend and his family took such good care of us we felt we were with family. Thanks Subhashish and Ruma for going out of the way to make us comfortable. I am looking forward to my next trip soon.

 

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A year after retirement at 48 – Changes & Learnings

Nov 7th, 2017 –  I completed a year after I left the corporate world.

A year back I had written this blog https://vak1969.com/2016/11/12/is-48-the-new-58-the-growing-trend-of-early-retirement/ – and a lot of people came back asking how the last one year has been.

How do you spend your time ? Did you have second thoughts after a few months ? Are you feeling restless ? Are you bugging your wife staying at home all the time ? Etc Etc …. So I felt its time to share how the last 12 months have been  on what have I gained and lost.

In Summary : Its been a breeze – I have had no second thoughts and have been recommending to one and all to pull the plug. Now lets look at some of the key Learnings & Changes

TIME no longer manages me – I am the BOSS 

TIME – Most challenges in life come because TIME dictates us. All our stress, tension , spoilt relationships is because TIME is in total control of us . The day has 24 hrs and you need to do a lot – so you start the day getting irritated in chaotic traffic and all thru the day you fight with TIME and its a losing battle. TIME is your ultimate boss and trying to constantly catch up with TIME wrecks your life.

I am now in control of TIME – I am the boss. The world looks very different when you don’t have multiple deadlines and time pressure. There is no stress – you look around when you drive , you stop by small stores in the neighbourhood , you talk to people in the stores, you admire the flowers in the garden , you observe the birds in the morning walk , you see things you never saw before  – that is a Big Big WIN .

 

You have very few TRUE Friends 

You may have over 500 FB contacts and over 1000 Linked in connects – but if you have a few genuine friends consider yourself lucky. When you are in a position to help people a lot of people keep in touch . For Employee discounts on Apple products , jobs and internships , special deals , references – that translates into 100’s of Diwali , New Year & Birthday greetings. All that vanished- and a few good people kept in touch , to be specific 3, and I am thankful to those 3 people (they know who they are).  So your phone bill comes down – I downgraded from a 1599 Airtel plan to a 799 plan and I am good. I get worried when the phone rings and keep it in DND most of the time as the only people calling me are those wanting to sell insurance products or credit cards or Orphanages wanting charity

A Rupee saved is a Rupee earned 

I was a flamboyant spender – never counted the pennies. But suddenly even if you have enough and more you become very cautious when the monthly pay check stops. It all started one day at the grocery store when I was buying butter and realised that Nadini , Amul and Britannia were priced Rs 40 , Rs 42 & Rs 44 – thats a 10% difference – all 3 brands work fine. The same veggies in two shops 100 m away could be priced differently by as much as 25%. I always had a cup of filter coffee at Adyar Anand Bhawan during my visits to Axis bank – now I drink the same coffee at Udupi Vihar next door – Adayar Anand Bhawan Coffe was Rs 15/- while the one at Udupi Vihar was Rs 10/-.   Same goes with eating out – earlier a family Dinner was in the 4 – 5 K /meal range , we have now discovered lovely places with great food and ambience where it costs us 1000 – 1250 / meal. I never flinched while working paying 30 K / night for a hotel room – we now discover lovely hotels for 5 K / night.

Hotel Rooms , travel , dress , food – you name it – if you have the time to check out a few places there are amazing savings around the corner and without too much of an effort we were able to bring our annual expenses down by 25%.

Do it Yourself. 

Indians are bad at DIY. Our parents were great – as kids we banged nails in the walls , took an entire cycle apart (and fixed it successfully), changed the scooters punctured tyres , and most households managed with 1 maid.

This week I saw in our building Whats App group a lady complaining that the electrician needs to be changed – she has not been able to change her fused tube light for 3 weeks since he did not come. Another  complained that the laundry guy doesn’t come and pick up clothes for ironing. A very good friend calls up HDFC bank to deliver cash at home – we have lost it. And I had lost it too. But now I am starting the DIY journey – and its linked to both TIME and MONEY.

When the laundry guy increased his rate from Rs 5 – Rs 6 ( a whopping 20% increase) my monthly bill went up from 1250 to 1500. I started ironing clothes – 10 a day , most of them are easy to iron – in 20 minutes I can iron 10 clothes – and I am sure I will get better with time. Now you are no longer dependent on anyone and you have saved Rs 1500/- Same with the driver – he hardly had work for 3 hrs a day – his cost to me was Rs 18,000 / month – I let him go with a months notice. We now manage with UBER / OLA and we call in a driver for Rs 350 for 3.5 hrs twice a week – all of this put together costs us less than Rs 6000 /- month – a saving of Rs 12,000.One way of looking at it is I saved 1.44 Lacs – the other way is I just paid for 3 holidays in a year.

We live in comfort – but having a driver who is utilised for 3 hrs a day is unnecessary luxury. My next step is working on reducing our maids from three to two – lets hope that happens soon. For a start we are already washing over 100 utensils a day.

It takes time to change HABITS – but I guess my habits are changing , from becoming extravagant I am now thinking twice before spending money.

And now to answer the main question everyone had for me – How do you spend the day ? Its easy the day flies by – I have watched 3 movies and almost no TV this year. The day can be split into 3 clear sections

On an ideal day I wake up at 4 AM , meditate for an hr , Chant the Gayatri Mantra 108 times and do Yoga/ Walk  for an hr. That between 4AM – 8.30 AM.

We have an early lunch Ashram style piping hot freshly cooked at 9.30 AM. Then from 10 AM – 2.30 PM I have free time to check out mails , make some money on the stock market , read , go shopping , visit Chai point for a cup of tea, go to the bank etc etc

Before the kids come we make some snacks and then its pick up and drop to Tuiton classes , Music Classes , art classes etc – most days that keeps me busy till 5.30 PM. Then I run for 5 Kms (40 minutes) on the treadmill, come home , Chant the Mrityunjay Mantra 108 times , have dinner by 7 PM , spend time with kids and off to bed by 9 PM.

I travel every month to some place – this year has been great and have covered Binsar, Dunagiri , Andamans , Goa , Bandipur , Tiruchi , Chidambaram, Kanchipuram  – and I have Kodaikanal planned in early Dec and Cal / Bhubaneswar / Konark in end Dec. I completed a 10 day Vipassna program and went to Valley of Flowers for an amazing trek. Not just that we discovered 14 new places in and around Bangalore in our Fusion day trips. There is no dearth of things to see and do in India. I learnt swimming ( but got to practise more – Bangalore cold weather not helping) , tried my hand at learning Kannada and failed miserable. Spent a lot of time in doing the interiors for my Villa. Improved my cooking skills , perfected my vegetable chopping skills and with my dish washing ability I am now a great backup if the maid takes leave.

So its been a wonderful busy productive year – not a day have I sat back thinking ” so what do I do today ? ” And I am sure that the next year will be equally busy and productive.

I gained a lot – and I lost a lot – I have lost my anger ( most of the time) , lost my restlessness and have worked on the two most difficult things in life – reducing EGO and minimising DESIRES. I am healthy and fit , 6 kgs lighter and my Fatty Liver which used to erupt every month has troubled me only once this whole year. ( this will go down in history as the most expensive cure for fatty Liver and GERD)

My family sees me at home a lot – and I guess they are happy because they grumble when I say I am taking a few days off. My wife gets to travel more as now there is someone at home to look after the kids.

The essence of my new life is based on 3 fundamentals

  1. Nothing is permanent – everything will pass
  2. You are responsible for everything no one else
  3. My belief in destiny has got stronger – do good and good will happen to you

I am happy that I took the tough call to leave a high paying job at Apple at 48 – No Regrets at all. Its helping me inch forward in my quest for Truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relocating to Bangalore – Think Again !

Whats the trigger to writing this blog – When a 1 km drive from home to my daughters drawing class takes 30 minutes its time to vent your frustration. (You have to drive because there are no footpaths , the roads are full of potholes and choked with traffic)

A lot has been written on Bangalore’s infrastructure – but its no longer collapsing, its collapsed. Every month thousands relocate to Bangalore – to them I have to say STOP – Bangalore is choking, we are sold out , no waiting list , no RAC.  In the late 90’s I used to joke with my friends in Delhi – relocate to Bangalore now or very soon there will be a Visa – I wish the Visa had come ten years back

Lets look at a few facts

The current vehicle population in Bengaluru stands at 67.22 lakh. In the absence of an efficient public transport system, private vehicles dominate the city’s landscape. There are 46.54 lakh twowheelers (70%), 13.01 lakh cars (19%), 1.35 lakh taxis and 1.71 lakh autorickshaws. All this, with a population of a little over one crore.

And the population is exploding. Close to 10 M Bangalore’s population today is in excess of Chennai & Kolkatta put together. That is colossal. I recollect in 1992 when I was graduating and my 1st company gave us a choice of  selecting a city – I toyed between Pune, Ahmedabad & Bangalore – as they were Tier 2 Cities 

Today Bangalore ranks in the list of Top 3 Metros. Which is great –  but it has the infrastructure for a population of less than 5 M. The IT Boom and now the eCommerce wave has created millions of jobs , real estate rates have boomed, investors , politicians and builders have made billions – but in the process the city has been raped.
This is a photo of ST Bed (Srinivagulu Tank Bed) – in Koramangla 4th Block where I live. Its one of the most sought after expensive localities in Bangalore – Apartments sell  at 10 – 12,000 / sft and a 3 BHK rents for over 50,000. The average speed of traffic anytime between 7 AM and 9 PM is less than 5 KM / hr. To cross the Sony Junction signal will take you 20 – 30 minutes. The narrow roads and by-lanes have cars parked on both sides including the footpath – so less than 50% of the road is available for motoring. The drains are choked – and when you have an entire locality built on a Tank Bed you can imagine what happens when it rains for a few hrs. What you see below is the effect of 3 – 4 hrs of rain. Not a storm or cyclone that went on for 3 – 4 days. With this comes sickness – one of every 5 households in Bangalore has been hit by Dengue this year – you cannot sleep without spraying Hit, even at 530 AM when I step out I need to apply Odomos.
Yes Bangalore has a Metro. Namma Metro with a Phase – 1 length of 42.3 Km – probably the second largest metro after Delhi. It started late and Phase 1 was completed recently – a delay of many years. The metro should have happened in 2010 – but better late than never.  Its made an impact in places where it has come – the 2 wheeler and Auto traffic has reduced significantly. But look at the map and see what are the areas covered in Phase – 1 ?
The biggest residential &  office hubs in Bangalore housing thousands of office and millions of daily commuters are E City , Koramangla , Outer Ring Road , White Field , Bannerghata Road, Sarjapur  – Namma Metro Phase – 1 does not touch any of these parts. The result a drive from Koramangla to Whitefield a 15 km distance will take you a minimum of 2 hrs. The frustrating part is when you go out of station and drive 300 Km in 3 hrs and then the last 15 kms to get home takes 2 hrs. The Railways have planned it beautifully – as you get to a junction or main station the number of tracks increase – they need to do the same for the roads – a 4 lane road getting into Bangalore needs to become a 12 lane road.
It may be a coincidence but Namma Metro Phase – 1  covers most of the old city and the areas which have a higher density of the local Kannadigas. Koramangla, Whitefield, Sarjapur, Bannerghata Road are packed with IT workers – mainly Immigrants. In our apartment of 124 flats not even 5% are locals. Thats the story with all these localities. There is utter neglect of these localities. The nice broad roads , world class “Tender For Sure” footpaths, Metro – all of them exist but in Central Bangalore , Malleshwaram , Jaynagar , Basavangudi, Palace Grounds . These localities have Cauvery water and decent electricity supply.
Bangalore desperately needs some zoning laws. Residential houses on 30 ft X 40 ft plots have 4 stories – so the cars spill over to the roads , worse many of them are let out to companies. between these cars and the UBER / OLA’s the roads are jammed 18 hrs a day. God forbid a major fire or a medical emergency in these areas.
The lightest of Drizzle and the current is cut in Koramangla. Fortunately we have a Genset in our building – but as the current keeps coming and going it plays havoc with your electronic devices. While watching a 2 hr movie last week I timed that the current kept tripping 9 times. The Cauvery water does not meet even 25% of your requirement and the rest is managed thru Tankers ( In many localities 100% of the water supply is thru Tankers)
With 30% of the Bangalore Population being Tamilians there is no Saravana Bhavan here – wonder why ? the annual Cauvery water fight would have resulted in them being easy targets of demolition by local goons. But does Bangalore need Cauvery water – a City that has been bestowed with so many lakes. The city in its heyday had more than 250 lakes. In the 60’s with a population of less than 1 mn , full of green cover and hundreds of lakes – Bangalore was a Hill Station. The lakes are gone – its either Apartments or Offices or Golf Courses that are built on the lakes and storm water drains.
The lakes that are left are dying – they are choking with pollution and weeds. And there is total apathy at fixing this mess. The NGT has issued multiple deadlines to fix the frothing and fuming Varthur lake – but sadly there is no accountability. So the next time a builder solicits you with a lake facing apartment – think twice , the beautiful lake picture in the Ad may be from the 60’s – what you may actually get is something below.
Bangalore is jinxed – God has been kind in bestowing Bangalore with excellent weather , lakes , greenery , hundreds of lovely weekend getaways – but in the last 20 years we have destroyed it. Lalbagh and Cubbon park came up during Hyder Ali and the British – in the last 20 years not a single new large park has been established.
Its one of the few states where the State and the Central government are never in sync.
BBMP one of the largest city budgets after Mumbai – but one wonders where the millions are spent. The roads and drains are fixed every year and they hardly last for a few months. I wish an investigation journalist would compare the money spent on Bangalore Roads in the last 10 years with any other city ( Indian or International)
In the last BBMP elections the current CM requested the people to give him one chance to make Bangalore a golden city – he got the chance in a messed up coalition with JD(S) – the result is there for everyone to see. The future looks bleak – young dynamic BJP chief Ministers like Fadnavis and Adityanath are driving development and change – when it comes to Karnataka BJP has chosen Yedivuruppa – a sad choice.
In a way the IT bust is good for Bangalore – hopefully this mad growth will slow down. A few years back Villas in Whitefield ( the famed Palm Meadows and Prestige Ozones) would rent for a few Lacs and there were none available for sale even at a million dollars. Today 25% of these villas area available for rent at less than 50 K / month –  and there are no takers – a sharp drop from its heyday rates. With almost 30% of the Real Estate in Bangalore locked up – its a matter of time before the prices crash. Rent to Investment ratios are less than 2% – one of the lowest yields in the country.
Between the IT Slowdown , RERA and the collapsing Infrastructure lets hope the jobs and people migrate to Hyderabad and Amravati and Bangalore can slowly but surely get back to its feet as a livable city.

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