Igatpuri Trip in the Monsoon


The family decided to take a short break at Igatpuri, which lies on the way to Nashik.

We straight hit the Eastern Expressway (took 90 minutes from Malad West in the morning traffic), and then we just followed the expressway all the way to Igatpuri (took another 150 minutes). This expressway does not have a huge amount of traffic like the Pune Expressway. It did have some annoying lorry and container traffic, and there was expansion work going on along several stretches of the highway to make it a 4-lane expressway. Hopefully, the next time may be a better drive, notwithstanding the skepticism on the completion track record of any government projects.

Igatpuri is a great place to go if you like to do nothing but just trekking. There is nothing else to do, just greenery and hilly terrain, and some lakes. However, it is more peaceful than the commercial Lonavla hill station. One simultaneously gets a feeling of being on a valley as well as on top of a hill station ! Great place to unwind.

Stay : While we stayed at the Mystic Valley Resort, the better choice would be the good old Manas Lifestyle Resort across the road. Mystic Valley does not have the same spirit of service, or even the looks of Manas Lifestyle, though both places are owned by the same owner. Even the swimming pool is yet to be commissioned, and they do not offer the multitude of activities that the other resort offers. On top of all this, the food is much more expensive !

Some of the photos I took are shown below.



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A beautiful hilly view at Igatpuri



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Railway Bridge at Igatpuri



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Railway line in Igatpuri Valley



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Beautiful Greenery enriched by the Monsoon Rain……..



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The starting point of the Arthur Lake near the MTDC Resort



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Arthur Lake – a stunning view



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This view of Arthur Lake compares well with the scenery in the Southern Island of New Zealand



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Another view with the Wilson Dam barely visible on the middle left side…..



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Roadside view between Igatpuri and Bhandardhara



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Another lake near Igatpuri



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An idyllic scenery on the route to Bhandardhara

I would strongly recommend the 75 minutes drive from Igatpuri to the heart of the Bhandardhara region – more scenic area, with the added attraction of the Arthur Lake, which reminded me of the South Island scenery of New Zealand which we visited in 2004 !

Cheers, and Enjoy the Weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan
26th July 2008
Mumbai

The Impact of Appreciation


People crave for recognition and appreciation of a job well planned and superbly executed. The recognition is more than anything else, even money, for them.

I recently had a health check-up at a clinic. I was assigned a “corporate” supervisor, whose purpose was to take care of me during my short visit of 2 to 3 hours. Not only did he deliver well on the stated purpose, he went beyond the call of duty. He was nice, courteous, and helpful. That one would expect anyway, given the premium nature of the clinic experience promised.

He arranged for a laptop at one of the physician’s rooms knowing that I wouldn’t want to waste time away in between the tests. He said that I can use the laptop, no worries, he would come and fetch me for the next test. Just relax and enjoy the browsing ! Once in a while, he checked how I was doing, enquired whether I needed anything, et al…….

That is service. Not that I liked any attention at all, I wanted to be all by myself. However, I am sure to recognize exceptional service in a country where the “pure” service standards of gold quality are more in paper than in execution. Oftentimes, I hear that it would be difficult to deliver outstanding and consistent service of high quality due to the numbers involved. There are just too many customers for any service !

But we all know that is hogwash. I noticed that the above supervisor was executing a busy job, moving around all the time, and enquiring with various waiting patients, all the time. There was no “clinical” precision in what he was doing. He is obviously a people-friendly person, but he was also well-trained. He had an eye for the sophisticated customer as well. He knew what would make a customer happy, and make him/her a repeat client.

When I was leaving, he was particular that I should complete a feedback form. I am normally “allergic” towards these badly designed forms, starting with the airline customer surveys which make no sense to me. However, I decided to express my “appreciation” to Mr Supervisor in writing on the form he provided. Since I was also happy with the professional quality of the testing and physician services provided and the cleanliness of the place, I mentioned all that in the form, but I highlighted the special service provided by the supervisor.

I felt good after writing that out.

Couple of weeks passed and I visited the clinic again. The level of service was the same, no change in anything I previously experienced. And, is that not great ?! But, more than anything else, I was a bit taken aback when I saw the notice board.

And, there it was – my appreciation on the feedback form, proudly xeroxed and displayed (along with couple of other referral letters). Ofcourse, one can conclude that this supervisor was smart enough to highlight the specific appreciation that I had given him. But, I concluded that while that may be true or intentional, I am not going to take back anything of what I had written about the clinic or its service.

The supervisor’s consistent service level impressed me, and he looked like a guy who thrived on customers’ recognition and appreciation. I have already referred the clinic to two folks that I know. Power of word-of-mouth !

We need more such people in India (and in Singapore, and surely in Hong Kong !).

Keep it up, Mr Customer Supervisor !

Have a Wonderful Weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
25th July 2008
Mumbai

Adversity and Mind Deprivation


Life becomes more interesting when it is full of opportunities and challenges. If there is no challenge, it is difficult, if not impossible, to sharpen one’s skills and capabilities to tackle life.

However, sometimes, challenges are made more complex when these are laced with human vendetta and game-playing. The mind is so fickle, it shifts its focus to the human frailties and spends time on hitting back rather than tackling the main challenge.

The true mettle of a person comes out when he or she faces (a) challenges described as above ; or (b) adversity in life. I have written about adversity in one of my very early posts.

While it is not easy for anyone to face the challenges or adversity all alone, the strong fabric of our soul helps in gathering ourself and gaining the necessary strength. The power of religious beliefs and faith also contributes tremendously to believers.

I have written about the topic of selfishness and greed in one of my earlier posts – “Selfishness, Greed and Human Frailty”

90% of the people one encounters in life do not consider themselves as even co-passengers on the same flight. Less than 10% would thank you for a good deed or help done to them. This is a fact of life, and it happened even to Jesus Christ !

This means only one thing – that when one is stricken by adversity, he or she needs to have the mental strength necessary to push forward in the sea of life with tremendous rigour and vigour. Not many folks would be able to do this alone, may be they need their spouses’ or parents’ support and commitment in the process, or may be they need the Almighty’s help in the form of “faith prayers”. Whatever be the mode of support, it is critical to remember one thing.

And, that is, do not take revenge. Positive orientation is extremely important, and ability to forget and forgive is supremely important. Apart from this, one needs to forgive oneself as well ! Yes, strong-willed individuals sometimes do not forgive themselves and unnecessarily put themselves into agony and hardship.

It is critical to realise life has a definite timespan and it is necessary and very important to help other people, especially those who are in dire need of some form of assistance. People who have suffered in the hands of adversity. People who have lost their bearings. People who have lost their minds and capacity to fight life.

Going back to the point of revenge, there is just no point. God has designed mankind in a way that mixes varieties and shades in a potpourri of life. Inherently, man was designed to be good but he gets corrupted as I argued in the blog post on selfishness referred above. It is for him to realise the corruption of his soul and fix it.

On the anecdote on Christ – which I need to investigate further – he moved on from the point wherein only one out of the 10 followers thanked him from his heart for the help provided by Christ. The others just went back to what they were doing in life, without even thanking Christ. He just smiled and and got on with helping others waiting for His touch. Isn’t that the way to go forward in life ?

Well, more thoughts are in the offing. Let me think through this more intensively, in the meanwhile enjoy the upcoming weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
17th July 2008
Mumbai

A Complex World


The world seems to be moving towards an economic and political recession.

Well, most people understand what is a recession in economic terms, if not exactly accurately. By most definitions, recession is “a period of general economic decline; specifically, a decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters”. In the United States, the National Bureau of Economic Research’s (NBER) Business Cycle Dating Committee ultimately decides whether the economy has fallen into a recession. The NBER defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production and wholesale-retail sales.”

The above definition is reflective of the current status of the world’s largest economy – that of the U.S. There is no recession in some of the major emerging economies of the world, notably China and India. In fact, there is a positive growth momentum in these and several other large countries such as Brazil and Russia. However, as people say, when U.S. sneezes, the world catches a cold. And, that is indeed the major problem facing the world today.

Americans are afflicted by a wide variety of economic factors – gas prices (approaching US$ 5 per gallon, US$ 150+ per barrel of crude, etc.,), the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the resulting credit crunch, bankruptcies, Wall Street layoffs, and so on. They are clearly cutting down personal consumption, while industrial productivity is under cost pressures. There is no doubt that the U.S. economy is still one of the most resilient and productive economies in the world. Under the current scenario, however, the whole lifestyle economics of Americans could come unraveling with a big thud if immediate corrective actions are not taken. I guess we should leave that to the U.S. Federal Reserve.

On the other hand, the emerging economies are hard hit by gas prices, food shortage/high prices of food, and inflation. INFLATION ! It is defined as “the upward movement of prices of goods and services measured by Consumer and Wholesale Price Indices”. India, for instance, has been hit by rising inflation every week for the past several weeks, the recent figure hitting a 13-year high of 11.89%. China and many Asian economies are not spared from rising inflation and interest rates either. Home loan interest rates in India have risen to 11% +, dampening the demand for real estate. Consumer durables and automotive purchases are dropping. One needs more money to purchase the same quantity of goods and services, and this reduces the value of one’s money. This is the reason why Indian Rupee is dropping against the USD, and why USD is dropping against Euro, Yen, etc.,

When I started writing this piece, I referred to “political” recession. One may wonder what is that. I mean here the lack of political will by governments to take hard decisions in the face of multiple economic pressures. This is also the election year in the U.S. and the year leading upto the elections early next year in India – that is, if the current Indian Government survives the “no-confidence” motion likely to be introduced on 22nd July. Some governments do not have these political challenges – China being a case in point. But, surprisingly, the Chinese government has become very sensitive to the economic impact of political actions that it had not expected or envisaged. The “Dalai Lama” factor and the Tibetan mini-revolution have agitated and upset the Chinese government like no other matter in the past few months. So, like the democratically elected governments, China also is compelled to deal with what are essentially “political” problems and challenges in an economically devastating year, and further in a year during which it is staging the Olympic Games.

Well, the World is becoming more complex for the average man to understand and plan for – the personal lives of millions are getting impacted very badly by the political and economic difficulties faced by governments all around. What is needed is a collective will against speculation and for managing the inflation with an iron hand. This would mean a strong boost to the supply side, and aggressive dilution of some free market principles. Time to think, huh !

Cheers and Have a Wonderful Weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan
12th July 2008
Mumbai

Stock Market Experts !


Courtesy : My IIMB Classmate, T Srinagesh

Einstein dies and goes to heaven only to be informed that his room is not yet ready. “I hope you will not mind waiting in a dormitory. We are very sorry, but it’s the best we can do and you will have to share the room with others” he is told by the doorman. Einstein says that this is no problem at all and that there is no need to make such a great fuss. So the doorman leads him to the dorm. They enter and Albert is introduced to all of the present inhabitants.

“See, Here is your first room mate. He has an IQ of 180!”
“That’s wonderful!” says Albert. “We can discuss mathematics! ”

“And here is your second room mate. His IQ is 150!”
“That’s wonderful!” says Albert. “We can discuss physics!”

“And here is your third room mate. His IQ is 100!”
“That’s wonderful! We can discuss the latest plays at the theater!”

Just then another man moves out to capture Einstein’s hand and shake it. “I’m your last room mate and I’m sorry, but my IQ is only 80.”

Einstein smiles back at him and says, “So, where do you think the markets are headed ?”

Courtesy : My IIMB Classmate, T Srinagesh

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
6th July 2008
Mumbai

Monsoon in Mumbai


I promise I will place some good monsoon pics soon on my blog ! The problem is that the monsoon so far has been quite erratic, and the camera never seems to be available handy when the rains do strike !!

So far, the monsoon has played truant – couple of heavy showers over the past 4 weeks is all what Mumbai got. That’s not good news – monsoon determines India’s agricultural output, no less ! It also largely determines the water supply and power situation in Maharashtra State, India’s most industrialised and largest state, hosting its financial capital.

It rained heavily on 1st July morning, and that heavy downpour brought the city to a halt. Metro trains could not function, and I was shocked to witness the one-foot deep water on the Western Expressway, of all places. Below the expressway, where the low-lying areas abound, it was a total mess, giving lie to the Municipal Corporation’s boasts that they were ready for this year’s monsoon. People can only get scared thinking of what would have happened to Mumbai if the rains continued non-stop, as they normally do in July. Just recall what happened in 2005 and even in 2006. The city is hardly prepared even now, given all the learnings from the past experiences. And, we are talking about one single city of India – the financial, commercial and entertainment capital of India – which pays over 40% of India’s taxes.

But, to save the Municipal Corporation and the State Government from charges of negligence and apathy, the rain god decided to further delay the rains. It has showered on and off after 1st July, nothing that could hamper even the pedestrians ! That monsoon behaviour is no good either. If the pattern continues like this for the next couple of weeks, I guess Mumbai would have water supply problem, combined with partial power cuts. At the end of the day, this only proves one thing – good governance and efficient urban management is elusive even in the best of the countries around, but in India it is a scarce commodity. It is a precious skillset lacking absolutely all around India, which incidentally is in a state of political paralysis with the Communist Party threatening to withdraw support to the ruling UPA Government at the Centre.

But the beauty of Mumbai is that its people just do not bother – I was again amazed just looking at the people on the streets – sometime quite well dressed – moving about in heavy rains as though things are pretty normal. I could not even hear raised voices cursing anyone for the state of affairs. Mumbai folks are practical and have learnt to fend for themselves, they know for sure it is no use depending on the undependable and unreliable !

Life goes on, stock market is on the mend, people appear to be positive in their outlook, so it is business as usual in the business capital of the country !

Have a wonderful weekend, and don’t miss the Wimbledon !!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
4th July 2008
Mumbai