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The Swan in the Stream

258Her graceful moves

Soothes sore eyes

Her ethereal quietness

Calms raging minds

Her peaceful swish

Brushes away fears

Her motherly calm

Wipes away tears

Her protective demeanor

Gives strength and resolve

Her peaceful glance

Sweeps worries away

Her silent speed

Inspires noble action

Her serene beauty

Elicits wondrous awe

Her graceful reach

Brings new hope….

She uplifts minds and hearts

A beacon of cheer on a cold snowy lake.

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Travel Here are a few tips for those traveling abroad.  If you travel frequently, then you are probably already aware of all of them.  If you don’t and are often caught unawares, these may help.  

  1. Print, copy, scan, save

Print your itinerary, important names, addresses and passport numbers and frequent flyer numbers.  Don’t depend on your cellphone or laptop.  Several airports will ask for printed copies of itineraries for entry.  Store printouts in your carryon bag, not your check in baggage.  Checked in baggage can get delayed or lost. Scan and save your passports and critical documents in your cloud drive.  It is easier to get a new one if you have a copy.  

  1. Spare set of clothes, spectacles and essentials

Pack a spare set of clothes, some small dollar bills (dollars work everywhere), and other essentials like a spare set of spectacles in your carryon.  Checked in baggage could get delayed and lost.  Printed directions to your first meeting, hotel location, office essentials are good to have in your laptop bag.  That way you won’t look like what the cat brought in for your first business meeting and you will be on time and well prepared.  

  1. Cords, adapters and chargers

 Have an international travel adapter, cords and chargers that work well with it.  Problems always crop up e.g. some larger iPad chargers won’t plug into small adapter receptacles, better carry the small iPhone one.  Don’t expect an HDMI socket in all PCs or slide projectors.  Carry a VGA cable, it always works.  Carry a LAN cable for internet access at hotels.  The day that Wifi works well at all hotels and your laptop logs on to it easily will be the day when Jack Bauer really solves all the world’s problems.  

  1. Ziplocks, bags and organization

Carry some ziplock bags for bathroom essentials, adapters and cords and larger plastic bags for soiled clothes.  Otherwise you will be hideously wrapped in wires whenever you try taking out anything from your bag and very item will plan to purposely annoy you by getting lost in your bag’s farthest nooks and corners.  And your freshly ironed clothes will not get mixed with yesterday’s used ones.  

  1. Prepare sensibly for unexpected weather

Carry a cap and a light rain jacket even if you expect warm weather, unexpected rain during a walk can get annoying.  Prepare for arrival and departure weather conditions.  For instance, if you are traveling from US to India in March then prepare for a colder arrival when you get back into US at middle of the night and wait for your limo to arrive.  And wait, don’t depend on your check in baggage for these situations, these items need to be in your hand baggage.  Layered clothing and warm heads, hands and feet – all that your grandma taught you will help.  

  1. Plan for stuff back home, lawn, mail and more

If you maybe gone for more than a couple of weeks, then plan for things back home.  Plan for care of your lawn, cars, overflowing mailbox, overdue payments and bills and make other arrangements for your car pool duty.  Keep some spare cash for family, kids and instructions on how to contact you anytime.  Maybe you could also save some money by parking your utilities with your provider at a lower cost, like phone plans who offer to keep your service on hold at a lower cost.  

  1. Prepare to be safe, secure and healthy

Read up local laws, rules, safety warnings and be prepared.   Know what you can carry through customs and what you cannot.  Don’t assume anything at all.  Be cautious of your luggage and what’s in it.  Don’t leave any valuables in the cab/taxi.  Keep passport and visas on your person only.  Watch and ask before you venture for a walk at midnight.  Steer clear of suspicious food and contaminated water.  If it’s busy it’s safe, says Anthony Bourdain, the American traveling culinary guru about eating at restaurants while traveling.  Above all be prepared and be safe and healthy.    

Why am I a Madraasi?

Bangalore seemed like a pretty strange place to me when I was a kid, the first 10 years of my life.  Some things stared out at me as very different from my “hometown”, New Delhi, where I grew up.  Bangalore people were much nicer and friendlier and knew about 5 languages. In Delhi too people knew about 4 languages – Hindi, Punjabi, Angrezi and Bad Language, the one punctuated with abuses or “gaalis”.  In Bangalore everybody asked everybody “coffee aitha” or “oota aitha” and “yenu adige” which I thought was weird, because in Delhi they asked no such thing and just said “Ram Ram”.  There were no ceiling fans then in Bangalore, well, in most houses.  It was an air-conditioned city.  Small “Cinni” table fans were there on stools and table.  There were mosquito nets everywhere.  And no one drank tea, it was kapi and coffee everywhere. Food was different, fruits were different.  I loved the “halasina thole” and “gini moothi mavinakai”.  I could not find lichis anywhere which I loved in Delhi.  I saw liquor and booze flowing freely and most kids had beer like Coke in the evening, which was disconcerting till I too started drinking and looked forward to my Bangalore visits.  In contrast even adults in Delhi had to line up in front of a state sponsored ration shop to buy liquor.

It took three days to get to Bangalore from Delhi every summer holiday and I used to look forward to the train ride on  Grand Trunk Express.  We used to get a half day halt at “Madras”.  I would love the Marina beach trip my parents took me to after locking up the train compartment.  We would return to Madras station in the night and reach Bangalore in the morning.  During my first few years we used to take the “Yattina Gaadi” to Chamarajapet 5th Main Road and reach my grandfather’s house.

Back in Delhi we were called “Madraasis” and were a sort of outcasts.  For all Delhites and Punjabis, everyone south of Mumbai was a Madraasi.  We Madraasis spoke good English.  Our tribe made good neighborhood English and Maths teachers for Punjabi kids.  In the eyes of Delhites the Madraasis drank strong funny “filter” coffee but still were puny fellows and could be easily frightened by a strong Punjabi glare or a simple “gaali”.  They knew we Madraasis were only fit for teaching their kids English and doing sarkari jobs, while they set up businesses and made money.  Poor guys they would never learn to speak English well like us Madraasis.  “Running is business is risky you know”, we Madraasis said to each other.  You could lose all your money.  After all what good is running after money, anyway, we Madraasis thought.

I finally became a great fence sitter.  I loved Delhi and loved Bangalore, did not know which I liked more.  I loved the touch-me-not plants in Bangalore and spent hours touching them and waiting for the leaves to spread out again.  There were none in Delhi.  To impress my Biology teacher in Delhi, I potted a “Muttidare Muni” plant and took it to Delhi all the way in the train.  The whole class of Madraasi Delhites were”maha” thrilled and I was a celebrity.

My Dad used to tune in daily to Vividh Bharati at 4:15 pm sharp.  There was 15 minutes of Bhaavageethe in 4 Madraasi languages, “Kannad”- as Delhites would call it, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.  And there was 15 minutes of film songs in the same 4 languages.  Every third day “Nityotsava” was played.  Every third day “Uttara Dhruva Din Dakshina Dhruva Ku” was played.  I never understood the songs then.  How significant I find the meaning of these songs now.  I was drawn by the “chumbaka ghali” the magnetic wind of the North to the South and loved it at both places.  These 30 minutes were all the Kannada we heard in daily life.

And then there was Kannada Bharati in Delhi, just like our NEKK.  Movies were screened every 2 months at least.  I remember visits by celebrities too – by LV Prasad, Dr. Rajkumar and many more.  BV Karanth, MS Sathyu and Girish Karnad were frequent visitors.  I was entranced by the beautiful Jayaprada and Raajkumar in “Huliya Haalina Mevu”.  So after every Bangalore visit I would ask my Mom, why can’t we stay in Bangalore?  Why are we living like Madraasis here?  Why are we called Madraasis?  “Gottilla – sumne iru” she said and promised one day we would live there.

Then I moved to Bengaluru in 1985.  It was a new freedom for me.  I could shout at people on the road while driving and get away with it.  In Delhi I would be at the bad end of a lathi and get hurt.  My grand mom sent me to a “moole angadi” Lavanya store to get some “bele”.  I went adventurously and came back empty handed. Why didn’t you tell me the board would only be in Kannada, I asked her?  I can’t read Kannada.  I grew up a Madraasi for God’s sake!

Then I met my neighbor in Bangalore, a nice girl called Jyothi.  Our parents thought we’d make a good match. We did the “usual get to know each other” discussion at Pavitra Hotel in Jayanagar.  She asked me why my Kannada was no good?  Did I know how to read and write Kannada?  I said no, I grew up in Delhi, how could I?  I said, do you know how to read and write Hindi?  She said yes, which kind of made me look like a fool.  I said, hey, I can read and write Tamil and I went to a Tamil school in Delhi, I proudly declared.  She said uh-huh really?  We both decided to get married on the condition that I learn the Kannada script.  Now it is since 21 years she has been trying to make me learn the Kannada script and I have not yet started.

Growing up in multiple cultures is fun.  I was in all places in India – Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Mumbai and met great Kannadigas everywhere.  Wish they were not shy to speak Kannada, though.  I found Gujarati shopkeepers in Mumbai, Chennai talking more comfortably to me in Kannada, than several Mumbai hoteliers who were originally from Karnataka.

Why are Kannadigas so shy of calling themselves Kannadigas I really wonder?  Even in Bangalore.  Even now when I visit Bengaluru, I try speaking in Kannada.  “Yenri, namaskara?”, I say to the Immigration guy.  The immigration guys usually will say “Good morning Sir, what is the purpose of your visit, Sir?”  “Sumne bandidini swamy, Kannada kelokke” I would like to say!  It is tough to get Kannadigas to talk in Kannada.

My sister in Bangalore has an Oriya cook.  I tried some Oriya with him 2 months ago.  He replies, “Yenu Saar, Kannada baralva, forgotten Kannada in US?”  I loved that and ate his Bisi Bele Baath with gusto.

One thing I really wait for in Kannada is my friend and the tabla maestro, Rajesh Pai’s Kannada jokes in the NEKK (New England Kannada Koota) Facebook page.  I plead with my wife to read them out to me.  She obliges thankfully and reminds me for the millionth time to learn the Kannada script in accordance with our marriage vows.  I tell her I can read Madraasi, dear!  You will forever be a Madraasi, she says, till you learn Kannada.  Maybe I will, someday.  Kalithini, Kalithini…alli tanaka solpa adjust maadi.

Life’s simple pleasures should not be missed.  The one that I treasure most is the joy of walking through Basavanagudi on a weekend, especially during festival days.  Right from the Lalbagh West Gate, the serene trees envelope you with a cool canopy as you walk to the majestic Krishna Rao Park.  In the evening, a cacophony of birds welcomes you near the entrance to Gandhi bazaar. 

As soon as you hit Gandhi bazaar, the mad traffic amazes you.  But, the serenity and calmness of basement book stores, the freshness of roadside fruit stalls, the history of Vidyarthi Bhavan, Ganesh Bhavan and the revered Rayara Matha remind you that this is the heart of the peaceful old Bangalore.  During festivals the flower stalls are full, fragrances abound and the fresh vegetables with roadside vendors have a splendid color of their own.  The arrangements of “bendekai” with the pointed ends all facing one way, the   hills of apples each fruit delicately covered with a soft mesh of foam, so artistically balanced on rickety carts like fine Japanese Ikebana arranged by rustic traders from nearby towns.  You walk towards Vidyarthi Bhavan and nothing has changed, not even the signboard.  The wait is as long as ever. The dosas catered by waiters with 15 plates balanced on their hands, is as tasty as ever.

You can move on with wondrous daze at the modernity of Coffee Day and the ancient splendor of Vidyarthi Bhavan you turn into DVG Road towards Netkallapa Circle.  And you find all the essence of the South Indian Hindu traditions pouring out from the puje samagri shops that sell everything from  kumkum to archana and offerings to every type of Lord you can imagine.  Turn left into smaller lanes and you find picture of deities in all forms and sizes.  You can get good framing done for your own pictures here at 1/100th the cost of Michael’s.

Again the modern age takes over and you find street vendors selling Hindi and English movies on DVDs, all pirated for a few bucks each.  But ask for the one latest Kannada movie you want and you will not get it.  That’s a no-no. Once when I asked a vendor for Ghalipata a couple of years ago, he said “Saar, latest Kannada movies sigalla. Hindi, yes, but no Kannada!” period.  Piracy laws get enforced with remarkable selectivity. Wonders do happen, I thought.

Bats hanging upside down at Bugle Rock gardens

Basavanagudi is blessed with another beautifully maintained garden – the Bugle Rock Park.  The Dodda Ganesha resides here and so does the majestic Nandi bull built in the 16th century, measuring 4.5 m in height and 6.5 m in length.  Visit this garden between 7 and 9 am and you will notice a huge unbelievably loud  cackling noise from above all over the park.  Till you lift your eyes are peer closely you may not even notice the thousands of bats on all the trees hanging from the trees and cackling away all morning.

If the pangs of hunger hit you there are 100s of eateries including Dharwar Sweets, Davanagere Benne Masala, Upahara Darshini, Sreenivasa Bakery and the world famous roadside bonda shops to appease all tastes.  The best khaali dosas are probably made on the other side of DVG Road at MTR, no,  not “The MTR” – but the Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room.  The taste of the dosa and the peaceful looks on the faces of customers inside never change here.  You could finally complete the visit with boiled kadlekai and halasina tole from roadside carts and be at peace.  Never a moment of boredom at B’Gudi, anytime of the year.

– Originally written for and published by eDarpana  of www.nekk.org online magazine from the New England Kannada Koota, an invaluable resource for Kannadigas in New England.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a session on Entrepreneurship and Ideation at TiE Boston in Burlington.  Desh Deshpande, the legendary serial entrepreneur gave an inspiring talk on how to start and build a business and the challenges and adventures involved.  His session inspired me to write some lines on the challenges an entrepreneur faces in today’s world.

An Ode to the Entrepreneur’s Dream (inspired by Desh Deshpande’s thoughts)

Stride boldly into the wicked market armed with conviction
Let not the bigwigs or lack of resources or money scare you.
Take small sure steps on the chosen your path with determination
Let not false promises or market mirages fool you.

Mistakes will happen, huddle and course correct, don’t fret
March on, plan for next few milestones and move on
Above all enjoy the smell of freedom, your adrenalin and sweat
Success will eventually come, after many battles lost and won.

by Nagendra Rao

Don’t we all yearn to achieve something, be famous and leave our mark behind?  Would you like thousands of people uttering your name several times in a day 500 years after you’ve gone?  Some brilliant people have done that even 900 years ago, with no formal MBA education. More about that, later.

Thomas Campbell’s saying goes, “To live in hearts we leave behind, is not to die”.  Visionaries leave their stamp behind the world. Reading their biographies is inspiring.  I read Odyssey – from Pepsi to Apple – the story of Steve Jobs and John Sculley from start to end non-stop, it was so captivating.  Steve Jobs was then, and is now, a true visionary.  He knew computers would change the world.  In the 1980s, John Sculley was at Pepsi.  He had catapulted Pepsi into a leadership position, he met Steve Jobs and Steve asked him the famous question, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” This changed John Sculley’s life and Apple Computers’ future.   Steve Jobs continues to change the world we live in today.  The world waits eagerly for every product launch that he personally unveils to a global audience.

Geniuses like him and great human beings leave a stamp on the world like none other.  There is no city in India which does not have an MG Road, named after Mahatma Gandhi.  Bose is a household name for speakers now.  The Swedish and Danes are great designers and inventors who built Kazaa, Skype, Nokia and IKEA.

Even luckier are those who have units of measurement named after them.  Like Newtons or Bosons.  Boson is a subatomic particle named after Satyendra Bose and Einstein.  You can have iPads or iPods but who is luckier, probably the one whose name is permanently engraved in posterity in a unit or measure or a place or planet.  It is probably the most powerful form of branding to have your name embedded in history.  Economists are probably the luckiest, having all those glorious theories named after them, Keynesian economics et al.

Cricket has its share of names going immortal.  “Mankaded” is an unusual, now disallowed, type of dismissal of a batsman, named after Vinoo Mankad who dismissed Australia’s Bill Brown in a rather strange manner in 1947.

In my opinion, the most unique branding technique which immortalized one’s name has been used in Carnatic music and Hindustani music.  Songs or kritis of the great composers like Purandara Dasa (1484 – 1564), Thyagaraja (1767-1847)Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775 – 1835) and many others like Basavanna (1106-1167) are sung by thousands daily every day.  The unique thing is this.  Their name or signature is embedded in each song or kriti.  Purandara Dasa song has “Purandara Vittala” embedded in the lyrics.  Muthuswami Dikshitar has “Guru Guha” in every kriti and Basavanna has “Koodala Sangama” in every Vachana or verse he wrote.  In fact every child starting to learn Carnatic music in India starts with 3-4 compositions written by Purandara Dasa and utters his name right from the beginning.  Kabir’s dohas (verses) are recited probably thousands of times daily and “kahata kabir” (meaning – says Kabir) is omnipresent in all the verses.

There was no branding guru or Philip Kotler to teach them marketing, nor were there Harvard courses to attend on branding.  Even 600+ years ago, these composers had the foresight to build in their names into their compositions. Today we have “easter eggs” in software programs or games with names of developers embedded secretly, but which developer really gets a chance to be seen or talked about daily?

What better branding strategy do you need which immortalizes you 500 years after your life, with probably few hundred thousand people uttering your name every day?  Any thoughts?

We Indians have the ultimate power to solve all the world’s problems.  Barack Obama faces the healthcare bill impasse.  World leaders like Clinton and Biden want to bring peace to Palestine.   Come to us.  We Indians possess the “Stealth Bomber” to solve these problems with – Just 3 simple words.

Simply uttered, they are – “Swalpa Adjust Maadi” in Kannada which is the lingo in Bangalore – or “Kuch Jugaad Kijiye” in Hindi or literally translated in English – “Please do something”.

The meaning is important – “Accommodate and help me, please”.  “Screw the rules and just get this done for me”.  “Please do me this favor, You Are The Great One!”  “Honey, please don’t get so upset, please adjust, accommodate”!  Get the idea?

Utter these 3 words and you are ready to rock and roll.

Because, hear me out – These are the most powerful, omnipotent, non-negotiable words that can cause mountainous barriers to collapse and fires to simmer down, relationships to resurrect and governments to move.  These words have made India the growth juggernaut that it is.  We have been using these words and solving problems for centuries.  We can travel in trains or see movies when all tickets are sold out.  Politicians can use them and hush up an irate mob of 100,000.  We can feed an additional 1000 hungry mouths.  We can get a fortress to open.  We can make up a broken marriage, reopen a business partnership.  We can even get a job where is none.  We can change despair to joy, sorrow to hope and a no to a yes (yes, maybe).  India’s 5 Year Plans can be simply adjusted for more growth with some minor “adjustments.  All with 3 magical words.

The Western and the digital world have missed out somewhat on the power of these simple 3 words.  And so they are up the shit creek without a paddle all the time.  There are only 0s and 1s, logical programs and policies and rules in the Western and digital worlds.

In the US, could we “somehow” board an overbooked train?  Can we “adjust” and get a prescription drug over the counter?  Can we “manage” and get into a Red Sox game without tickets?  Or park in a wrong spot and “request to adjust” and get away?  No, hell, developed digital worlds and countries just haven’t learnt to “adjust”, man!  Can’t get anything done here.

Look at current events.  A budget gap can stop a city from functioning in California, a museum and a library to close in Boston and 100s of teachers to get pink slips all over in Massachusetts.  That won’t happen in India.  There is no such thing as a budget gap.  It’s just a “minor adjustment”.  Somehow other departments will “adjust”.  Plans will be juggled around, space made and bills printed and under-the-table “something” negotiations will keep the engine chugging along.  Payroll maybe delayed, maintenance maybe delayed, reimbursements postponed and some frugality enforced, but life “somehow” goes on.

Alas, the Western world does not want to learn this simple philosophy of “adjusting” with fate and circumstance.  Nike tried to imbibe this wonderful Indian philosophy with their “Just Do It” slogan. But it misfired and no one else understands it, really.  Except Tiger perhaps.  Things get really tough and non-negotiable here, without the magic words.

Devdutt Pattanaik traces the roots of this absolute comfort with ambiguity and flexibility of the Indian mind and compares it to the Western “Yes or No” way of thinking very well in this video at http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/devdutt_pattanaik.html

Utter these three words when you negotiate next time and see how the person on the other side purrs into submission and gives in.  Things will work out well for you.  You could even whisper them into your laptop microphone next time it craps out on you – Swalpa Adjust Maadi, Please Do Something – it might work out and boot successfully.  Maybe the program was developed by an Indian who knew the power of these 3 words.  Well, maybe…..somewhat…perhaps…..Swalpa Adjust Maadi…..