Archive for the 'Personal' Category

A Drive to Pescadero , California

We went on a week-end drive on 16 September to Pescadero , 45 miles away from San Francisco  through State Route 1 . The old state highway passes through some sparsely populated places and many beautiful beaches on the way , the Half Moon Beach , the most notable  among them. The drive took us about 75 minutes and the week-end traffic was normal.

Pescadero is a very small hamlet , part of San Mateo County , extending 4 square miles , population around 650 only ,living in about 200 households – mainly a farming community. The place is only 2 miles away from the Pascadero Beach on Route 1 ,14 miles south of the Half Moon Beach. The climate is wet and cool in Winter and mostly dry in Summer . There are many farms and lumber mills around with some good camping places.

The history of Pescadero dates back to 1833 as part of the MIssion Santa Cruz pasture. The place is also connected with the Wells Fargo Stage Coaches legend .An article in the Wells Fargo messenger states that a stage-coach salvaged and refurbished from the clipper ship Carrier Pigeon which wrecked at the nearby Pigeon Point in 1853 carried passengers and freight for 40 years on the Pescadero road for the Wells Fargo Company. Intel co-founder Gordon.E Moore also resided here till the age of 10 and his childhood home Lunasea still stands there.

The high point of our visit to Pescadero was our sumptuous lunch at the well-known Duarte’s Tavern with some choice white wine , sea food delicacies like jumbo fried prawns with artichoke and rice , artichoke soup and some very good pies . An enjoyable experience away from the city looking at the rustic countryside and farm lands on one side and the many beaches on the ocean front.

Memories of the Ladakh Air Crash of 1968

A very old and painful memory came back rushing to me today when I read the news about the Spiti Valley air crash of 1968 involving an AN 12 aircraft  carrying 98 passengers from the Army and Border Roads organization along with four crew members with no trace of the aircraft and passengers till date barring one find in 2003 of Beli Ram of Akhnoor,J&K.

Today’s news item in the Times of India reported that three young trekkers accidentally reached this crash site and found an Identity card of a soldier . They also reported seeing  mutilated body parts and remnants of the aircraft at this site .

I was posted at Kargil during 1967-68 as a captain working with the Border Roads organization in a maintenance engineer role and happened to travel from Chandigarh to Leh by an AN 12 aircraft , two days after this incident . Needless to say , we were all very tense through out our one hour travel and could not help looking out again and again at the desolate ice capped mountains which we crossed on our way to Leh.

I cannot say it is human failure on the part of the authorities that we have not yet been able to close this incident by finding out all the missing bodies even after 44 years . The nature has its own rules and the site remains covered with thick snow through out the year . May be the new information from the trekkers can help find a way out now .

I sincerely pray for the final closure of this great tragedy soon so that the bereaved relatives can also find solace in identifying the bodies and give them a decent burial .

A long break only to come back with fresh thoughts and new insights on Life.

I really cannot explain the 70 day break – quite unplanned . It just happened that way . Had a few encounters with the occult while at Palakkad in Kerala during September . The Indian way of exorcism through certain rituals to ward of the influence of evil to ensure the well being and peace of mind of my near and dear – a new experience introduced by a mystic friend.

While the new experience was sinking in,  in my otherwise skeptic mind , another full blast came my way through another ritual to please the so called Serpent Gods who were annoyed with the lack of veneration and upkeep of their dwelling place in the family estates. An astrology expert and the mystic  interpreted the signs during the rituals and suggested remedies to ward of the evil spirits.

I decided to go along and believe in the larger family interest  in spite of the rational in me protesting all along . Was there any manipulation of our anxiety for the well being of near ones or we were merely doubting the veracity for want of direct evidence ?  . We are not very sure even now.

On the whole , it was a unique experience with the spiritual dimension , of invoking Gods and spirits to the place of rituals , of  sacrificial offerings and symbolism and the final state of relief and solace in being able to ward of future problems for the nuclear family .

Nostalgia – 15th June 1966 – An Officer and a Gentleman.

Today – the 15th of June 2011 is the 45th anniversary of my commissioning in the Indian Army . Some of my course mates from the 21st Technical Course always call and greet each other on this day .

Looking back , many images come up in my mind . The first day at IMA [ Indian Military Academy ]Dehra Dun when we were inducted to the gentlemen cadet [ GC} routine with a good doze of ragging , the rigors of training on field craft on the bed of the Tons river and Siwalik hills , the tough physical training regimen followed by a sweating drill practice guided by Subedar Major Harnam Singh [ He was the first to salute us after we passed out !!] , the front rolls and restriction parade , the discomfort in wearing a full suit in summer while going out to the city and above all the battle inoculation exercise simulating war noise and gun fire ! . The packaging was so good and the food was a great draw !! .

I remember Major Bhawani Singh , MK  , [ later Brigadier and the Maharaja of Jaipur ] the academy adjutant on horse back , a formidable icon of influence to all the cadets . He died recently in his eighties . Our squad instructor Major Shashikant who was a tough disciplinarian and our PT Instructor Nirmal singh who helped me pass the vertical rope and horizontal bar tests .

The passing out parade on 15th June 1966 from the steps of the famous Chetwode  Hall to the tune of ” Auld Lang Syne ” was the beginning of my 31 years of Army Career which I cannot help looking back with a lot of Nostalgia on this day !

The motto of IMA was a message to all the passing out cadets which I reproduce below –

” The safety , honour and welfare of your country comes first , always and every time.

The honour , welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.

Your own ease , comfort and safety come  last , always and every time. ”

While the Officer Like Qualities [ we called it OLQ while in IMA]  we  learned while on training helped us in our Army Career , it continued to guide me in my corporate life after retirement and in my social life all the time .

Looking Back – August 1960

Late Evening on 16th August 1960 , I left home alone by an overnight train to Trichur  and from there by bus in the morning   to Palghat to start a new chapter in my life  –  to join the first batch at the newly started NSS Engineering College there .  While I was excited about the new career opening up in front of me , I was also rather pensive in my thoughts about the challenges ahead for the next five years for me and my parents . When I woke up in the morning in my sleeper berth , I realized that I have  good company – three or four youngsters of my age  , very naughty with spicy comments about everything under the sun and generally enjoying themselves – and very confident about themselves .  I learned their names from the conversation  – Madhavan Kutty , Unny , Ravi and  Vijay Krishnan .

Later during the day , I met all of them at the college  –  and we  became good friends . Four years later , we  parted ways and took up jobs miles apart  . While Madhavan Kutty went to the US  and I joined the Army , Unny and Ravi joined the Industry . Vijay Krishnan did not qualify for a degree in Engineering .

We had a college reunion for the Batch of 1960 recently at Palghat where 71 out of 100 living batch mates met -42 with their spouses . It was a great experience for those who could make it . Sadly , I realised that Unny and Ravi were not with us in this world  – both succumbing to rare diseases early in their work life . the toll for the batch  was 23 out of 123 – a really tragic input to all of us.

I dedicate this blog to the memory of those who left us for  ever .

Villagers – An Embarrassing moment

During our basic technical  training at Secunderabad  after commissioning in the Army in 1966 , we went to Bangalore on a study tour . Three of us  – young subalterns  freshly minted from the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun  ,  proud of our status  and displaying OLQ [Officer like Qualities ]  were strolling  on the  MG Road in the Cantonment in the evening . At a cross road near the famous Koshy’s  ,  we saw the RED light but seeing no vehicular traffic , decided to cross the road . It was almost dark and we did not see a traffic constable standing at a distance from the traffic light . Seeing us crossing the road , he whistled and called us to his post .

As is generally the practice , we thought he will ask us for money . But we were in for a rude shock !! . He merely looked us all over including the well groomed hair , neat dress and blazer etc and said with utter contempt  ‘  VILLAGERS – GO AWAY !!  ‘   –  Imagine our discomfort  and the loss of face suffered  with a greatly deflated EGO .

Five T Shirts – My experience on Coporate Mergers and Acquisitions

During this week end , I attended an exclusive dinner with some of my erstwhile colleagues from the  US based Software Development  Company where I worked for close to 10 years   and a birthday  party for the grand child of one such colleague . On both these occasions , I met and exchanged ideas with old friends who are all still with the IT Industry or with academia in senior positions and doing well . The common thread of our conversations with nostalgia was the great culture and team work which was the hall mark of our company where we all worked from mid 90’s to 2006 . Many of us felt that we sadly miss this great culture now .

After my 30 plus years of Army career , I got an offer  from a US based Software Company at Hyderabad to join them as a General Manager  in charge of their support functions .  While my Army Experience  in managing people and equipments came very handy , I learned most of the specifics of the new role on the job and the team of senior managers were really great and supportive .

During my 9 plus years with this organization , we went through  five acquisitions  – all happening in the US  – but the impact was faced in the off shore arm in India as well . We could generally hold on and and grow thanks to the visionary leadership in India and because of the great culture and team work displayed by the senior team both in the US and in India.

The Corporate experience commencing from preparations to meet the Y2K Challenge , competency development for freshers and middle level managers , managing interfaces , building out world class infrastructure , branding the company at Hyderabad , quality journey culminating in CMM Level 5 , expansion within India and due diligence expertise gained during acquisitions  and  forays to new territories in Europe , Australia  , the Dot Com boom followed by the crash  all helped me learn a lot . I graduated to a Head of Operations role and later to an all India role as Head of Knowledge and Learning before I left the organization to start my own venture in Training and Consultancy .

I often narrate the story of my five T shirts which I earned during the mergers and acquisitions while with this company to the participants who attend my training programs  and give them useful lessons which I gained  from such an experience .

We lived our experiences once again during the last two days and many moments of triumph and occasional pain still linger . Great times indeed .

Our Purple Monster

Our own ” Purple Monster ” turns 27 today .  A few minutes past 2.30 PM on this day in 1983 , Raghu was born at the Army hospital , Delhi Cantonment  .  By evening , he had developed rashes all over his body and the doctor applied  junction violet . Revathi , an intern  called him  the ” Purple Monster ” jokingly  and Jaya , his elder sister liked the name .

I clearly  remember  the night before when Malathi started her labor pain  and we had arranged an Army Vehicle stand by to take her to the hospital . Raghu refused to come out till next afternoon and Mrs Kochhar , the Gynaecologist waited patiently  to facilitate a natural delivery . Malathi’s elder sister Suku was around to support us .

Raghu – Ragzz to his friends  is an associate with Google  now . We fondly remember the Rolly Polly  youngster who refused to go to school at Bangalore , was afraid of the Sea Harrier  aircraft during the ” Beating the Retreat ”  function at New Delhi ,  the young devil who could beat an insect to pulp and now afraid to confront a spider , the student  at Army Public School  and Bhavan’s College at  Secunderabad  who started his own  rock band along with friends  , his vulnerability with mathematics but  good grasp of the English language , my assistant in a Team Building outbound training  program at ICRISAT  for NVIDIA  and above all a worldly wise young professional  who has traveled extensively to Europe , China , Australia and Korea .

When he was four years old , Raghu wanted to drive a Coles  Crane  when he grows up ,   as from our room , he used to watch his Menon Bhaiyya  lift engines effortlessly with his crane  in the Army’s Station Workshop at Bangalore where I was the Commander. After his  college , he wanted to learn music  and now he wants to learn boxing as a hobby besides his job with Google .

We wish our son great innings in the days to come and be what he wishes to be in Life.

My First Picnic.

I have traveled widely in the last 60 plus years and I have been to both the US  and the erstwhile USSR and also to UK , China and to the Middle East . Within India also , thanks to my career in the Army , I have been to all the states of the country . But , I still remember my first ever picnic from our school way back in 1950 .

I was part of the Boy Scouts  Batch in my school  and our Scouts Master  took us for a picnic cum study tour  by bus to a destination 10 miles away  to a rocky area  called  ” The Pandava Rocks ” . The legend says it was a place where  the Pandavas camped during their banishment from the kingdom when the whole place was a thick  forest . On top of a rock ,there is an impression of a sari which is believed to be that of Panchali , the wife of the five Pandavas .

We really enjoyed the outing and understood the historical importance of this heritage site.

My first earnings –

I was about 12 years old when I earned my own income !!. It happened this way . One day , I saw an advertisement in a newspaper  announcing  an opportunity  to sell the popular ” Chandamama  ” magazine for children .  The announcement said you can ask for eight  issues to resell and pay only for six  copy.. A good offer indeed.

What started as a two copy profit  became  a personal income for me and I became the unofficial PRO of the publisher .  Soon I called myself a news agent  for Chandamama  publications and printed my own letter head and receipt book . The Circulation Manager Mr M V  Raman wrote to me  his up dates  in ink and I used to flash it in front of my class mates as Mr Raman was also a well known Movie Producer .

Very soon ,my income came to three figures in a month and I was thrilled when my elder brother borrowed money  from me to buy a sports gear. This luxury had to be called off soon when my father asked me to concentrate on my studies .

The nostalgia of my first earnings still lingers !!!