Tuesday, August 24, 2010

B2B (Back to books)

I have been away for a while. One thing I did, besides travelling, was get back to books. I had been away from books as well and I felt pretty guilty about that. I finally made amends.

I read a few good ones in the last couple of months: "Rich Dad Poor Dad" (by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter) and "Good to Great" (by Jim Collins). I must say that I really liked "Good to Great" which addresses a single question: how can a good company become a great one. Jim Collins, based on the research by his team, writes about the seven common characteristics that I feel like sharing here - (1) Level 5 Leaders (humble but driven), (2) First who ... then what (right people on board), (3) Confront the brutal facts (and yet never give up hope), (4) Hedgehog concept (identifying what you are best at, what makes you money & what ignites your passion), (5) Culture of discipline, (6) Technology accelerators and finally (7) Flywheel (a focus on continuous improvement).

I had also started reading "The Secret" (by Rhonda Byrne) but it got a little monotonous for me with too much emphasis on the law of attraction. I have paused this for now but will surely take it up soon. I also have "How Mighty Fall (again by Jim Collins), "The Power of Now" (by Eckhart Tolle), "Isn't It Obvious?" (by Eliyahu M. Goldratt) and "Many Masters Many Lives" (by Dr. Brian Weiss) lined up next that I hope to get to in near future.

Talking of travel, it was mainly weekend trips with family or corporate outings. Trips to Goa (with family), Mysore (with family), Ooty (with family & friends) & Coorg (with colleagues) were the best. Acco - Park Hyatt at Goa, Royal Orchid Brindavan at Mysore, Hill Country at Ooty & Club Mahindra at Coorg were really good and I's strongly recommend these places. The Pegasus Institute outbound with the entire office team was also fun. And yes, I almost forgot the trip with team to Kemmangundi which was much more than what I had expected of that place. There was also a business trip to Pune with one of my colleagues (& friend) where we attended & presented at Scrum Day India on "Road2Lean" and "Lean Principles in Software Development". There was more travel but I don't seem to recollect ...

Let me sign off for now so that I can plan for a weekend trip in 1st week of Sep to Masinagudi :)


Saturday, April 17, 2010

A thought ...

Who am I? I am merely one of the 7 billion other humans living on this planet earth. Our planet earth is just a tiny planet solely dependent on the existence of Sun, which by the way is one of the hundred billion stars in our galaxy Milky Way, which in turn, is one of the many hundred billion galaxies apparently forming our universe.

I just realized I am nothing! Still why am I aimlessly running like a machine with so many worries, ambitions, etc. I feel like I am one of those toys which is moving around & making noise after a kid has put in a couple of charged batteries and turned my switch on.

Should I be doing something better ... hopefully one day I will!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Swine Flu & the Media

I am not thinking about Swine flu these days. Well, the situation was very different 3 weeks back, thanks largely to the extra attention paid by the media to this pandemic. I still remember my childhood days when the elder males in the house used to religiously listen to the news on All India Radio or sit in front of TV for DD news in the evening to be in tune with the latest. As we know, the world has changed a lot since then. There are innumerable 24X7 TV news channels and it is interesting to note how they influence our psyche these days.

Swine Flu was the hot topic on all news channels and was on the front pages on all national newspapers. The coverage was important but if the media had taken a balanced approach and also focussed on some positives then some of the panic could have been avoided. The reports were mainly around number of positive cases & deaths but there was hardly any information on the number of recoveries. A statement reported in media from our health minister on 33% of Indian population getting affected by this virus did not help either. Surprisingly there was very little on the preventive & precautionary measures which is what media should have focussed on big time. All this led to a huge panic and everyone rushing to the limited test centers to get tested even for mildest of symptoms. People (including me) completely stopped going to crowded places, kids were not sent to schools, travel plans were cancelled and so on.

Not much has changed since then in terms of the situation. Swine Flu continues to be a big problem around the world. India now has around 140 officially reported H1N1 casualties with a few reported very day. More than 5000 people have been infected in India alone and mind you, this is the official number. Around 3500 people have died all over the world so far because of this deadly virus. Situation does not seem to be getting better. However, many people (including me) have come to terms with this and the panic has greatly come down. Well, it maybe the inherent compromising human nature but a significantly lower coverage of this flu in media has also greatly helped. As I mentioned, it is interesting to note the role of media in everyday life.

Having said that, let us all hope & pray that the most complex machines we all have (our bodies) come to our rescue and humans develop the required immunity to counter this huge threat that this pandemic has posed.


More Information
Country wise data

Monday, July 20, 2009

Skandagiri | Night Trek

A google search on Skandagiri will tell you that it is not as unknown as you may think. You will find numerous blogs & pictures on Skandagiri trekking experiences. In fact, based on what I personally saw, I guess every weekend an average of 30 people must be trekking their way to the top of the hill. For starters, Skandagiri is around 60 km from Bangalore and is located along the same range as Nandi Hills. Reaching Skandagiri is not so straight forward and I could not find detailed directions to this place on any site. So let me startight away add some value by providing detailed directions to the place.

Drive from Bangalore towards Bangalore International Airport (BIA) on NH7 (aka Bellary Road). After crossing the BIA, you will be on Chikkaballapura road. Follow the same road until you find a Visweswaraih statue on to your Left. Take a left at this place and keep going on this smaller road. Take a right turn at the City Municipal Council (there are two parallel lanes on your right; take the 1st one). Keep going for few hundred meters on this small lane and later take a left turn at the junction. Keep going on this road for almost a km till you see an arc with Papagni Mutt written in Kannada on left. You need to take a left here on this small lane and then take a right on the dead end which will take you to Papagni Mutt (aka Omkara Jyoti Ashrama) through Kalawara village, which is at the basement of Skandagiri. You are likely to spot some villagers just before the Mutt offering their services as Guides and I would recommend hiring one of them for a smooth trek.

The Trek:
I will just say that the trek is awesome. There are 2 routes - one is relatively easy (~ 8 km) and the second one is steep & tougher (~5 km). I liked the latter. We took the tougher one while going up and the longer one while coming down. We started at around 2 am and reached the top at around 4:30 am. It was quite cold at the top - very misty & windy. The mist never cleared and hence we could not witness the much hyped sunrise. That is an incentive to go there again. We started back at around 8 am and reached the base at around 10 am. For folks who want to visit this place - it is better to carry a jacket and some snacks + water. Torch is a must if you plan to trek during the night. You do get tea, Maggi & omelette on top (not very hygenic though). If you go in a non-rainy season, there are ample spots for you to setup your tents and spend the night. That is what I hope to do next.

Must-visit for trekking enthusiasts

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A lot has happened ..

A lot has happened since I shared my Leh experience. What comes first to my mind clearly is the financial crisis that became much more visible marked by shutting down of businesses and significant decline in economic activity. Then there were the unfortunate 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai killing over 170 people. Obama was sworn-in as the first African-American US president while at home Congress staged a strong comeback and Dr Manmohan Singh was sworn in for a second term. Indians seemed to lack energy & will to win at the T20 world cup while the super cool Federer claimed a record 15th grand slam title. Eventful last few months ...

As for me, I went to Coorg again with family & friends and trekked the heck out of that place. Stayed at the same place which I had recommended on this blog (practice what you preach!). We finally also checked out the Innovative Flim City in Bangalore. The place met my expectations and mine were not too high ;-) You can easily spend one full day and some of the attractions are actually quite good. We all liked the Haunted Mansion, Ripley's, the 4-D movie show and the Mirror Maze.

I also got a chance to spend a weekend in Goa in April with my office colleagues. It was good to see that many cruise casinos have come up in the last few years thereby giving you more options. It was a fun trip overall and the icing on the cake was the 5 figure amount I won at one of the Casinos. Another outing worth mentioning is the night trek to Skandgiri with office colleagues. It was fantastic and I would write in detail about it once I have some pics to post as well.

Last but not the least, we also managed to spend a little over a week in London in June. The trip was a prefect mix of sight seeing and meeting up with family & friends. Both my wife & I loved the place and we liked the city much better than almost all the US cities we have visited in the past. We will surely be there again.

Will be back with details on the recent night trek ...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Leh - Travelogue

We were planning on a Mgmt Outing for a long time and after a lot of deliberations, we zeroed in on Leh. It was clearly one of our best Mgmt decisions :-)

We were 8 in all and our original plan was to land in Manali and then drive to Leh. Driving on this road is considered an experience/adventure in itself especially in October since the road is officially closed in mid Sep. We had planned our trip for 2nd week of Oct and we were hoping against hope that the weather God would be kind to us. However, there was a heavy snowfall in Sep last week and also some tourists got trapped/killed and that made us seriously re-think. Finally just 2 days before departure we cancelled our tickets to Manali and booked direct tickets to Leh. Actually in hindsight, we had much more fun with this changed itinerary.

Day Zero: We landed in Delhi at around midnight and had a flight to catch for Leh early in the morning. Hired a couple of cabs and rushed to a nearby Dhaba on the Haryana border. Spent a couple of hours doing you know what till the cops drove us out :-)

Day One: The flight was on-time and we landed at Leh in the morning. Leh is supposed to be the best place in the world to land at. The view from the plane was awesome. We checked into a very nice hotel - Noble House. This hotel had a very nice view from its rooms & terrace and the food they served was awesome. Since Leh is at an altitude of 10,000+ ft. it is advisable to take rest on the first day to let your body adjust to the oxygen levels. We did the same till lunch time and then ventured out in the afternoon to the nearby Leh Palace, Leh Bazaar & a temple. It was really cold and we also had a mild snowfall for sometime.

Day Two: The plan was to go to Pangong Lake which is bisected by the Indo-Chinese border and is the highest brackish lake in the world at around 14000 ft. It is around 150 kms from Leh and one has to cross ChangLa pass which is at around 17,500 ft. We started early in the morning as it takes around 5 hours one way to the lake from Leh. It is preferable to stay overnight by the lake but we wanted to come back the same day. The weather was cloudy and hence we knew it would be tough to reach our destination. The way to lake was very pictureseque with snow-clad mountains on all sides. Our fears came true when our scorpio starting skidding big time as we approached ChangLa pass. We had to return back from Zingral which was at 15,500 ft as only vehicles with chained tyres were allowed beyond that point. It was sad but then we had no other choice. We started driving back towards Leh and decided to head towards Alchi which on the Srinagar highway. This road was equally fantastic with multi-colored barren hillocks on both sides. On the way was a point called Sangam where the river Indus meets the river Zanskar. The view throughout was awesome. We finally reached Alchi monastery which is probably the oldest one in Leh in afternoon and later spent some time on sandy river beach before heading back for Leh. It was a hectic day where we covered close to 250 kms.

Day Three: The plan for Day 3 was to go to Nubra Valley via Khardungla pass. We really did not want a repeat of Day 2 and luckily, the skies were clear in the morning. This was undoubtedly the best day of our trip. The road to Khardungla pass is the highest motorable road in the world at 18,380 ft above sea level. As we approached the pass, the road became very slippery and it got really scary. We were determined to go to the other side of the mountain and we did make it. Some of us had to walk 2 kms at that altitude to get there but it was an amazing experience overall. After a short break at the pass, we headed towards Hunder village in the Nubra Valley. The road to the destination was very scenic with views of snow clad mountains, canyons, valley and even sand dunes. We arrived at the guest house in the evening and enjoyed nice drinks by the bone-fire before crashing off.

Day Four: After a nice breakfast, we started our trek towards Diskit monastery. We even helped ourselves with a ride on Mongolian camels for covering the most sandy portion of the trek. We stopped at the monastery for sometime and then headed back to Leh via Khardungla pass. The road today was much better and we reached Leh in the afternoon. We spent the evening at the Leh Bazaar shopping for some shawls & woolens. We had dinner at a nice hotel in the Bazaar and got to taste some exclusive Kashmiri dishes like Roganjosh & Rista.

Day Five: We were contemplating whether to go to Pangong Lake but then decided against it since we had an early morning flight the next day and covering over 300 kms in a day would have been hectic. We instead chose to visit the very famous Hemis Gumpa, Thiksey monastery & Shey Palace and later spent some time on bank of river Indus.

As you would have realized by now, we clearly did not lose anything by not taking the Manli-Leh road as we could instead cover a lot of ground in and around Leh. Even though we were there for 5 days, we still could not cover places like Pangong & TsoMiri lake. Maybe this will make us all go there again. It was truly an amazing trip to an awesome place ....

Friday, October 31, 2008

Weekend Trip - Coorg

This place significantly exceeded my expectations and hence it would not be fair not to share this. I am referring to a weekend trip to Coorg with family & friends a few months back. The goal was to just chill out completely and goal was met in time & budget :-)

The best part was a relatively unknown HomeStay where we stayed. It's called "Bee Hills" and is in the middle of no-where (read a large estate). It is a pucca "value of money" place - very scenic surroundings, decent food, excellent bon-fire place with a view of surrounding hills, excellent hosts, reasonably priced, no network :-) and much more. Even though I had been to Coorg once earlier and stayed at Orange County, it was no match to this trip. I can now see why Coorg is referred to as Scotland of India. We were there for 3 days and did not venture out of this place even once. The highlight of this trip was am amazing trek that we did. I will share some pictures & a video from the trek to give you a feel.

So, in case you want to plan a weekend get away from Bangalore, do give this place a serious thought ...