Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys...

...atleast so far.

The story goes that I normally travel between Baroda and Bombay by jumping into a particular early morning train bound for Mumbai or returning by another particular late evening train from Mumbai.

Now, it so happens that most of my trips are decided a day or two in advance, some maybe confirmed on the previous evening, so putting fight for reservations is almost a no-go. The other alternative is that I purchase a general ticket and get into the train; and then request the Ticket Examiner to charge the differential fare and provide me with a confirmed seat for the 5 hour journey. This invariably works because there are usually one or two no-shows in the train and now that I am a Platinum club member of Indian Railways' Frequent Traveller Club (I am joking since there really is no such club!).

Yesterday was one such day when I was returning from Mumbai to Baroda and it just so happened that yesterday was also two days before Diwali. Diwali also is the time when all of India travels to their home town and this part conveniently slipped out of my mind till I reached the station. Nonetheless, here I am at the platform waiting for the train, and suddenly the mainline platform seems almost like Churchgate at 5pm on a normal work-day. Choc-a-bloc full!
Well, so much for the crowd. Caught hold of the usual (and ubiquitous) coach attendant in one of the coaches and told him in slightly different words (and tone) that I was obliging him by travelling to Baroda in the coach. Got on to realise that there already were a lot like me, though most going to the last stop of the train (about 15 hours further). Nonetheless, secured my bag, got a bottle of water (and yes, lo and behold, a major kick to my ego, got hit upon by a group of young girls, yes!! and am not talking out of my hat here. Nonetheless, they were a bit too young) and readied myself for the journey to Baroda.

The train between Bombay and Baroda stops at Borivilli (a suburb in Bombay, 30 minutes from Bombay central) and Surat (90 minutes short of Baroda). So, by the time we reached Borivilli, I had befriended a couple of last minute travellers and were sitting comfortably on the attendant seat. This much ado about comfort lasted till a lot more such travellers entered at Borivilli. The coach soon seemed more like an air-conditioned 5pm Virar Fast rather than a reserved bogey. Each confirmed passenger probably had 2 unconfirmed or wait listed passenger travelling with him and add to that some others like us.

So here I was standing with some 7-8 other travellers sharing the Attendant's seat and the Attendant's berth - a make-believe local train environment to Baroda. The only difference between me and the other standing passengers being that I was going to a place only
400kms away, while the rest were planning to spend the night on the train going to places 1,000-1,500 kms away and spend Diwali with their near ones. Here was my first experience of travelling on the coach attendant's berth.

Some small talk happened with my co-travellers, the TTE came around (didn't bother to check any tickets for the sheer number of passengers travelling on waitlisted tickets), and before we knew the attendant on the coach came around asking us if we wanted to celebrate Diwali. I somehow managed to catch on and agreed to buy from him a quarter of vodka, emptied into a half-empty bottle of Pepsi. A couple of blokes from Mumbai joined into the party and here was my second first experience of purchasing liquor on train. (Yes, I had once, during b-school days travelled second class with a few mates and enjoyed Old Monk all the way from Calcutta to Siliguri).

The vodka, did help reduce the strain of standing and travelling but also helped whet the appetite (it was almost dinner time). With the number of people around me, I was sure, eating from the casserole provided by the pantry would be a daunting task, and so I, along with the two new buddies decided to go to the pantry car and sit in the waiters' cabin for dinner. Here was my third first experience of eating in the waiters' cabin of a train's pantry car.

By the time we got through all this, it was 10pm (about 3 hours into the journey), and people were slowly beginning to switch off their lights and go off to sleep. So, with my buddies in tow, we tried finding them some place where they could lie and spend the rest of the night (which we were fairly successfull in doing). I also managed to sit on a berth where a young boy was sleeping and finally rest the aching muscles. Spent some time exchanging notes with one of my new-found friends on the train (he was going to spend his young born daughter's first Diwali) and before I knew the train was at Baroda. Suddenly, what was to have been an ardous 5 hour journey, where I thought I would have to count every minute to Baroda, had suddenly become a wonderful evening to remember.

...such is the charm of travelling Indian Railways and warmth of making new friends.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Phonon - You are One!

It’s Phonon’s 1st Birthday (or should I say Anniversary?) today. It’s exactly a year today, since I got Phonon registered as a business enterprise. In the process of making a small (and good) reputation in the space that I started Phonon in and slowly but surely am building small but interesting products that can help carve a niche in the call-centre automation and telephony services space.

Boy, and what a roller-coaster it’s been. Have had lots of ups and downs, gravity defying falls, meteoric rises, multiple G-forces from all sides. But do I love the thrill of wind in my hair? And I just go faster and faster!!

Makes me feel like whistling to the tune of Buffalo Soldier.

Happy Birthday!

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Getting up every morning
In pursuit of a dream
Not knowing if to Ithaca the journey will end

Deep thought going in the smallest of actions
Alertness that catches a dropping crystal vase
Observing every cloud for the faintest of silver linings
And grabbing each of those with a warm embrace

Learning being the big take away at every step
Yearning to come back to the sweet pillow of sleep
Awaiting yet another bright day
Day after day.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Hiatus

Close to a quarter since I last posted some of my thoughts. Well, things have been hectic (boy! thats an understatement) - wins, losses, discussions, traveling... I am just learning the hardway that success is about getting up one more time than you really think you can.

Here are some of the things that I have learnt (a couple from a very interesting book called Losing My Virginity by Branson that I read recently, others from here and there).
  1. Business cannot be pushed. It takes its sweet time to develop.
  2. A live spirit is of utmost importance. A smile on the face at the end of the most tiring of days is what differentiates you.
  3. To be in business you need have complete belief in your concept and love it; or rather be passionate about.
  4. Say what is required; not more; not less.
  5. Passion is good, but let the intellect keep a leash on it. Know when to pull-back.
  6. The driver has to be phenomenal growth; a vision to achieve what no man has ever achieved; go where no man has gone every before (no pun here!).
  7. Fight! Not aggressive; know your worth, reason and stand by what you believe.
  8. Know when and how to take mid-course corrections.
  9. The idea is good; the implementation is critical.
  10. Be clear in what you want and say. Remember, there is no second chance.
  11. Last, but not the least, "opportunity knocks..." so be alert!
Godspeed, Phonon.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Talk about Plagiarism

I was reading the BBC, when I happened to see an article about best and worst UK adverstisements from 2006. The portion on Nimble bread reminded me of Nestle Kitkat's new campaign for their low-calorie chocolate that is being aired on Indian TV channels these days.

Come on, get original folks!!