Friday Aug 22, 2008

Jashan 2008


It is a festive occasion at the Sun India Engineering Center (IEC). We celebrated our Annual Employee event today.This year the event's called "Jashan 2008". Jashan means festival. The event was held on the lawns of a hotel, in a specially erected structure with professional lighting and sound arrangements.The entire show was co-ordinated and managed by an event management firm. T
he program began at around 4 PM in the afternoon and is expected to go on until around 10:30 PM in the night. Buses are available to ferry employees from office to the event venue & back.


The main highlights of the event were the address by the IEC Site Lead, the distribution of the IEC Annual awards (for patents filed, Innovation, Execution, Team work, etc.), entertainment programmes by teams of Managers & Engineers, game show, performance by music bands, singing and dancing & other interesting activities. Not to forget, the freely and plentifully available - good food and drink.


The excitement builds over the preceeding week or two with fun contests and preparations happening in advance of the main event. Different venues are chosen each year. All said and done, it was a memorable event with the Site Lead's opening address, setting the tone followed by the other activities & presentations.

Wednesday Aug 20, 2008

Bowling

Our team's been faithfully taking a break every once in a while to do something off-work. This week we decided to continue our now fairly regular intra-team bowling competition. We got together and after a quick lunch together, went for a round of bowling at the alley nearby.


One fact that bears mention is - for the sake of bowling, we've split our team into two sub-teams and compete against each other at regular intervals. Scores for each match are tracked on an internal wiki page by the respective team captains. There is a lot of cheering (and booing) while the game is on. I must admit, we tend to take our fun, seriously. Here are a couple of pictures of some folks in action.



Sunday Jun 01, 2008

Our Trip


Our team took off on a fairly long trip to a few places in the state of Kerala. The trip lasted all of 4 nights and 3 days. Its a rarity to see trips of such duration happen with our teams and while we did'nt really expect too much attendance, I must admit that i was amazed at the actual participation which was very high.

The prominent places we visited during our trip include, Nelliyampathy, Kumarakom and Cochin, all of them located in the state of Kerala.

Rather than put an account of the entire trip in one large blog entry, i'll use this post as a main page linked to additional entries (which i shall post shortly).

In summary it was a great trip with a great team.


Sunday Apr 06, 2008

Wayanad ... again !


Our second team trip to Wayanad. With good memories of our past trip, we left on a bright beautiful Saturday morning in a Force Traveller which we had hired to transport us during this trip. Some members of the team had'nt visited Wayanad and so our plans were to cover two of the same places we visited last time viz. Muthanga wild life sanctuary and Edakkal caves. The other place we planned to visit was Soojipara falls. We intended to stay at the same place we stayed the last time.

The journey was great which was not unexpected considering the group I was with. We stopped for break fast at Tiffany's on the Bangalore - Mysore highway. We reached Wayanad in the afternoon and decided to have lunch at Sultanbathery town. After a nice & heavy lunch, we went to visit the Muthanga sanctuary. 


Our experience of Muthanga, the last time around was not too great since we did'nt really get to see much wild life. Of course, last time we did encounter some deer and foxes. We were now hoping to do better and off we went. We were allowed to do the safari using our vehicle instead of hiring the jeeps (vehicles normally used for safaris and can be hired at the entrance of the wild life sanctuary). Just as we entered the sanctuary, we smelt something burning and within seconds our entire vehicle was engulfed in thick white smoke. We managed to open the doors and rush out - apparently the vehicle's electricals were fried, but not completely. Interesting experience indeed ! Couple of us trekked back to the entrance of the sanctuary to hire a couple of jeeps (should've done that in the first place, probably !) while the driver of our vehicle was trying to figure out the extent & nature of damage. We hired two jeeps and resumed our safari, leaving our vehicle's driver to get the vehicle fixed.

With fingers crossed, off we went - our cameras were on and ready to capture any trace of wild life which crossed our path. A short while into the trip we encountered a wild elephant that looked pretty dangerous. The drivers of the jeeps we were traveling in did not stop and continued lest the elephant get into a playful mood with us. After a while we took a less traveled path inside the jungles and stopped in a clearing. Apparently there was some wild animals at a distance. Straining our eyes, we could see a bison and some deer far away. This was one time i wished i had a camera with better optical zoom (my point and shoot had just 3x optical zoom which seemed woefully inadequate here).

We resumed our journey and met a group of tourists who were returning from their safari and we stopped them to ask if they had sighted any animals. The forest guide in that vehicle said that a tiger had crossed their path a little while ago. The first thought that passed my mind was he probably must've been hallucinating or making things up to raise the levels of our curiosity. Ok, its not that there are no tigers here, there supposedly are tigers and i don't deny that. But the possibility of sighting of tigers during the day (considering my past experiences here plus conversations with some of the folks around) seem akin to sighting of large pools of cool fresh water in the middle of the Sahara desert during noon.


Anyways, giving them the benefit of doubt we set forth on our endeavor to sight the large cat, or at the very least some other wild denizens of these forests. We reached a large clearing next to a placid pool of water in the midst of the jungle. Parking the jeeps there we wandered around the place and took a few pictures. I must admit, the scenery was beautiful.  After loitering around for sometime, we left again and after traveling some distance we saw some deer and another elephant in the distance. Soon, we returned and completed our safari.

The one thing to note when compared to the last visit, was the timing ... last time it rained and there was a lot of lush greenery plus water everywhere. The scenery looked very beautiful. Forests in the rain are beautiful indeed ! This time it was summer and things looked a little dry. The open vehicles we traveled in kicked up clouds of dust that required some of us to cover our noses ... makes me feel that visiting the place when there's a light rain would be better. Anyways, it was a refreshing experience for us city dwellers.

After Muthanga we took the jeeps to Sultanbathery town to catch up with our driver who was getting our vehicle repaired. The vehicle would need some more tinkering and could take some more time to be ready. So, we went walking around town in smaller groups of two-three members. I had a bit of shopping to do too. By this time the vehicle was ready and we left to the resort where we would be spending the night. Its about 10 kms from town and after a nice drive, we reached the place. After a bit of freshening and relaxing we decided to start our evening and night activities on the lawns of the resort. There was a lot of food and drinks going around. The amount of energy in the team needed to be seen to be believed. We had a lot of fun; we tried our hand at playing mid-night volleyball (using a very light but large plastic ball) which turned out to be very entertaining, followed by other group activities ... all of these fun activities had made folks hungry and after a real nice dinner we ... continued our interesting activities ... by early morning (1:30 - 2 AM ish) we decided to call it a day and grab some shut eye.

Woke up early on Sunday morning and after some folks had a splash in the pool, literally speaking ... we bid adieu to the resort and began the rest of our tour. Our first pit stop was the hotel in Sultanbathery town for breakfast. After a typical Kerala style breakfast, off we went to our first destination, Edakkal caves. Some of us, me included, had seen this place earlier. However all of us were game to go see it again, for the benefit of the folks in our group who had'nt seen this place.


The trip to Edakkal requires parking your vehicle at a designated parking spot and then going up to the entrance of the caves, where you purchase tickets for your entry into the caves. However, one thing to note is the journey to the entrance of the caves can be very tiring and exhausting especially if you are'nt the regular trekking enthusiast or marathon runner types. Ok, i was probably exaggerating that a bit, but not too much. What I would advise is for folks to hire a jeep (again the same kind of vehicle we used for our safari). Yes, thats the only vehicle that seems qualified to do this uphill journey to the entrance of the caves. There are jeeps for hire a little distance further from the parking slots and you'd be advised to conserve your energy and hire these vehicles. Of course, if your plan is to only visit Edakkal all day and don't plan to go around anywhere else, then walking all the way up is probably a good idea.


However, to save time and energy, hop on a jeep and if you are lucky, you'll get a jeep driver who's gonna treat you to an experience that can leave your adrenalin pumping ! Yep, some of the drivers in this area make me think these guys really wanted to participate in Formula 1 racing, yet due to some unfortunate circumstances probably ended up here driving jeeps on these narrow mountain paths and boy they sure can make the roller coaster ride seem like a drive in the park ! ... again., depends on the driver you get. One of the jeeps we hired (the one I was traveling in) had this young driver who appeared before us with tyres screeching to a halt and beckoning us to get on board for an exciting ride ahead ! ... our expectations were not belied and off we went with wheels spinning wildly on rock and gravel via narrow paths upto the entrance of the caves.


When we reached the entrance we saw a large number of tourists. Looks like weekends and holidays can get to be very crowded. Once you purchase tickets, you then make your way up to the caves. The cave area is a little spacious and you can see inscriptions made by the Neandrathal man. We took pictures, savored the scenery and crowds! and left the place. On our return from the caves, we again took the jeeps down to the base of the mountain, a little distance from where we'd parked our vehicles. The visit was good and the scenery plus views are very good. Crowds were a little too much and seemed very much like traffic back home, on the roads of Bangalore. Not sure if this is a regular weekend phenomenon. During our last visit the place was not crowded. By the looks of it, it seems this place is getting to be fairly popular with the average tourist ... what with man's quest to see what his ancestors have been upto !

We set off to our next destination, Soojipara falls. In summer we did'nt expect much water though. Anyways, at Soojipara we need to trek a little distance to reach the water falls. The walking path is well laid out for most of the distance and could take about 15 - 30 mins depending on the walking speed. Carrying drinking water is very much advisable since walking during noon / afternoon times can be pretty hot and tiring. However, with our group, the fun quotient is pretty high and we spent a lot of good time as we walked. Fortunately, there was some water at the falls and many of our team members decided to bathe in the falls. After some fun times there, we trekked back to our vehicle and left to reach Sultanbathery town for lunch. After a fairly heavy lunch we set off on our way back to Bangalore.

The journey back was great fun too, again not surprising considering the enthusiastic & fun loving bunch of folks I was traveling with. By evening we reached Mysore and some folks got off there whilst the rest of us continued our onward journey to Bangalore. Barring a minor incident (our vehicle had a flat tyre near Mysore ... gave us some time to get out of the vehicle and stretch our limbs), we reached Bangalore by ~11 PM on Sunday night. Looking back, it was like all our team trips - simply super !


Here are some pictures ...












Saturday Mar 29, 2008

Life and times ...



I realize its been ages since i last posted anything here ... i did travel a bit ... some interesting trips to Wayanad (yes, again! with the super team that i'm part of), Chennai (to attend to a good friend's wedding) and Singapore (generally on a sudden trip!) ... hopefully i can now keep adding more content here in the days ahead.

For this post, i thought i'd write a few words about an interesting experience I had while coming back from Singapore. So, here goes ... Would you ever have imagined that a single stray dog can bring an entire airport to its knees, preventing all international and domestic flights from either landing or taking off ... the airport was virtually closed for couple of hours and incoming flights were diverted to another city ! Well, i'd never have thought such a thing could happen until i had the luck to be part of this event. Here're the details ...

I was aboard a Singapore Airlines flight traveling from Singapore to Bangalore. The flight was due to land in Bangalore Airport at ~ 9:30 - 9:45 PM. Just as we were hovering above the city, the pilot announced that our flight was being diverted to another city (Chennai) due to some problem at the Bangalore Airport. We did not then have much other information on happenings. After having landed in Chennai airport all we could do was stay in the plane and were not allowed to come out of it. Again, i did'nt have much to complain about, as a matter of fact i'm glad i got to go through this experience. I got to know the cabin crew much better, very nice folks working extremely hard to make sure the needs of the passengers were met. Since the plane wasn't too full, many of the passengers chose to occupy multiple adjacent seats and lie down for a nap. Also, none knew when we would reach Bangalore - so sleep seemed to be a good option with nothing much else possible. To me, sleep did'nt seem like the best thing to do especially when I was in such an interesting situation. As the saying goes ... When life gives you lemons ... make lemonade !

Decided to stroll around the plane and doing so, got to sit & chat with some of the cabin crew. We talked about the nature of their work, Indian and Singaporean cultures, etc. and shared some soft drinks and small eats. We were soon joined by a few other interesting passengers. Before we realized it, all of us were talking like old friends, joking, laughing (in the process waking up a few passengers who did'nt seem too amused with the boisterous proceedings) and generally having a great time ! After what seemed like a short while, the captain announced that the Bangalore airport was now open and we would be leaving to Bangalore. I did a quick time check .. it was 2 AM on a bright beautiful new day ... we'd spent nearly four hours on the plane at the Chennai airport ... having a nice time !

We returned to the now crowded Bangalore airport and after landing we had to wait a while to disembark. Finally, got out of the airport by ~ 4 AM. Looking back, it really seemed like a nice ending to a good trip. During that short stop at Chennai, made friends with an industrialist from Indonesia with a good knack for communicating & connecting with people, a friendly and cheerful Equity Researcher from HSBC and an IT professional from Infosys who along with his wife were returning from Hong Kong via Singapore. On hind sight I would'nt have minded a little more delay in returning to Bangalore, especially if I could meet with and connect with a few more such wonderful people !

Oh ! lest I forget, the reason for the delays at the Bangalore airport was - apparently a domestic flight hit a stray dog that wandered onto the run way just when the plane was about to take off.  This resulted in the plane's landing gear getting damaged and the entire airport had to be closed for domestic and international operations until the runway was cleared. Whoever said that every dog has its day, was right. This one's had its day and what a day its been !

Anyways, that to me was an interesting experience, but not an isolated one though ... i've been through similar interesting experiences. The last time i had a similar kind of an experience was during January this year, when I & my colleague Kalyan landed at London's Heathrow airport. At that time a British Airways plane crash landed just minutes before our flight reached there. Fortunately for us, this did not affect our onward journey out of London. We did however hear a lot about it on the news & from fellow passengers.


Anyways, looking forward to more interesting experiences in the days ahead !


Signing off this post with a quote by Alexander Woollcott, "There is no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day."



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Saturday Jan 12, 2008

Unwind

I recently chanced upon a piece of writing that had tips to Un-wind and De-stress. Would we have need to think of ways to un-wind if we did not get ourselves all wound up in the first place or have the regular need to de-stress, if we did not get so stressed out ? Generally, we do not require much external assistance and are very capable of getting wound up or stressed out, all by ourselves.

Its probably in the nature of our existence, the paths we traverse, the choices we make (or not make) ... is there a way out ? Are we destined to play the role of the proverbial mice that follow the pied piper marching to his tune at his pace, along with the mechanical multitude or do we set our own pace and trace our own paths, based on our realization of our ability to choose ?

I'm sure we all agree that for the most part, our lives are anything but Simple.

Most of us lead, complicated lives. We even tend to subscribe to the view that we are complex beings, with complex thought processes, designed to solve complex problems employing complicated methods; we tend to remain in the relentless pursuit of "more", seeking more of the good, the bad and the ugly. Gimme more, seems to be the common refrain. Have we paused to consider that there could be other options. More need not always be better; Less could be more and at times, better. Any resemblance to an oxymoron here, is intended. Savor this thought in the inner recesses of your mind and allow it to linger around those vast spaces ...


Whilst on the subject of simplicity, here are some thoughts from the world around, which could be useful.




  • Recognize that the primary purpose of work is not money. Its about finding meaning, enabling you to learn, contribute, grow and your well-being.

  • Celebrate the ordinary. You will have many more occasions to rejoice.

  • Be fully present in every situation and give your all to any & every thing you choose to do. Resist the urge to mimic the computer a.k.a. the tendency to use your perceived ability to effectively multi-task by way of trying to do many things all at the same time and not being really focussed on any thing.

  • Develop the habit of patience. Some times it does take a while. Instant gratification is not always possible, feasible nor a good option to hanker after.

  • Know thyself, your limits, what you can & cannot do well. Knowledge can be liberating.

  • While there's a time to work and a time to play, it's not always the case that these two need to be distinct entities. Explore ways to merge both; make work fun, engaging and something to look forward to.

  • Do not take yourself too seriously.

  • Realize that some bit of solitude is actually nourishing. Get alone and by yourself. Savor your own company, you might even get to love knowing and being with your self.

  • Whoever said, Silence is golden, is ... right. The power of silence to enrich your life, needs experiencing. Get away from the noises around you and get in touch with yourself.

  • Take time to be like a child. Indulge, let go & stop worrying about what others will think. Life will seem a lot better, simpler and nicer through the eyes of a child.

  • Do manual work. Use your hands more often to do physical activity. You are never too big to do the seemingly little things.

  • Value non-material possessions too. They are usually cheaper and last way longer than most material possessions.

  • Live a purposeful life. Meaningless existence & mind-numbing activity tend to sap our life forces and energies leaving us in a constant state of boredom and tiredness with little or no incentive to do anything creative or useful.

  • Doing nothing, at times, is a valuable thing. Give yourself little slots of time to do nothing.

  • Avoid pretending to be something you are not. It takes away a lot of burden off your shoulders. Accept your shortcomings and work on improving. A related quote on this would be ... "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

  • And do ask if you really need more ?



Thursday Sep 13, 2007

Wayanad Trip

Well, its been a few days since i've posted anything ... partly due to the hang-over from a recent team outing to Wayanad  located in God's own country a.k.a. the beautiful and very green state of Kerala


For those interested, here's a real quick summary of our trip ...




  • About 10 of us from our team, started from Bangalore at around 7:00 AM on a bright Saturday morning. We had hired a Force Traveller to ferry all of us to Wayanad.

  • On the way, we stopped at the Shivalli restaurant for breakfast.

  • We passed through Mysore city and traversed through Bandipur forest

  • Reached Sultan Bathery, our destination in just about 6 hours since we left Bangalore

  • We stayed at the Orchid Resort, initially in the thatched huts to experience nature first hand - but a short rain later (when some of the huts leaked a little), we moved to contemporary concrete dwellings with plumbing and electricity ... frankly, i was very happy to stay in familiar environs !

  • After a super Kerala style meal, we set off on a safari to the Muthanga Wild Life Sanctuary. Apart from some great scenery in the jungles, we spotted couple of foxes that walked alongside our vehicle for sometime and posed for snaps; we did see several deer idly standing in herds and watching us watch them; oh yes ! we also saw couple of peacocks, but nothing much else ... guess we were'nt too lucky that day

  • Saturday evening after the safari was time to see most of the team in their natural state ... with "interesting liquids" flowing freely, and lots of delicious food, we stayed up very late ... singing, shouting and generally having a boisterously fun time !

  • Woke up fresh on Sunday morning and got ready to visit couple of tourist spots

  • Our first stop (after a very filling b'fast) was Edakkal Caves, which has carvings from the Stone Age / Neolithic times ! The climb to the caves is fairly steep and can be a challenge for folks who are not in the right shape (yep, round i realized is not the right shape to be, while attempting to clamber onto the rocks to see what the neolithic man has carved !)

  • After this pretty hard endeavor, we proceeded towards Meenmutty falls. Vehicles can not go close to the falls and we had to park our automobile a little distance away and walk for about 3.9 kilometres to reach the falls. A quick word of free advice - to the faint-hearted and not so nimble-footed, out-of-shape and out-of-breath types ... stay away from this place ... its sooo very easy to take a wrong step and be terminated or better - break a few bones and be rendered immobile for some time. OK, if you are confident and feel fit as a fiddle, trek along ... there's some truly breath-taking scenery on the way to the water falls. You walk through tea, pepper and coffee plantations and to add spice to the spicy climes is the presence of cool mist that floats all over the path ... the trek can at times get ethereal (until you reach the more dangerous part where you start praying and clawing onto earth and plants around) ...all in all a great experience ... Even for folks who are fitness-challenged, you should walk for atleast about 2 kilometeres where the path is safe, see the beautiful scenery and fill your lungs with the fresh crisp oxygen rich invigorating air !

  • Well, after Meenmutty falls with little energy left, we had a heavy meal following which, we went over to the house cum plantation of our friendly documentation team member (Sunil), at Wayanad - I must admit, this was a very nice experience. After spending some time there, we finally decided to start on our journey back to Bangalore

  • Except for a short stop at a roadside tea stall for some hot tea (it was good !), we reached Bangalore virtually non-stop and in record time. Needless to state the obvious, the journey to Wayanad and back to Bangalore was definitely fun filled, with lots of leg-pulling and light banter



Its definitely been a very memorable trip and is one in a series of trips our team's been having ... the last one was a super exciting, adrenalin pumping trip to Coorg ! wow ... it was mind-blowing to say the least ... on hind-sight, we really had tonnes of fun and carried several memories of that trip too.


Btw, in case you are interested, here's some snaps of the scenery ...


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John Morrison

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