All posts by aam

How to Make an Itinerary

The Plan

The summer of 2017 – Nam and I were planning our first long vacation together. We were looking at 13 days in the first half of June. After working out multiple itineraries, we settled on Eastern Europe. We wanted to experience the best of what each place had to offer. This meant staying with the locals, having the best of the local cuisine, exploring the small lanes by foot and travelling light by public transport across cities – in other words, backpacking! The way I see it, there are two types of backpackers – ones who go where the roads take them and others who research and plan well ahead. It is difficult to be the first type when you are a working Indian and have less than 15 days of vacation (sigh!). Also, I prefer to be second type – it ensures that you do not miss out on the top experiences. In fact, I enjoy planning trips almost as much as the travelling. Continue reading How to Make an Itinerary

One of the most stereotyped cities in India

One of the popular discussions in college was – which city would you like to live in and work? A more popular one was – where you would NOT like to live. And the answer almost invariably used to be Chennai (the word would be uttered with a nightmarish expression). The reasons ranged from the heat to the smelly beach. I’ve lived in Chennai for close to a year in the past. Yes, it’s really hot. And yes, the beach is kinda smelly. But I never felt a kind of repulsion as I saw with a lot of my friends. I guess it has to do with the stereotype where every city in south India is Madras and every south Indian is a Madrasi! So when I got a chance to work here for a couple of weeks, I decided to take a look again. And here’s the Chennai I got to see. Continue reading One of the most stereotyped cities in India

Mood Indigo 2011

What is IIT Bombay’s Mood Indigo? Is it really as big as all the hype surrounding it? I decided to find out along with some buddies from college. This is an account of my first visit to a college fest outside my college. I feel that experiences should be big – so I decided to make it no less than the biggest college cultural fest of Asia (at that time). I had a rather interesting train journey from Bangalore to Mumbai but I guess I’ll leave out that story for another time.

Continue reading Mood Indigo 2011

Backpacking in Lanka

One random weekend, Pilla, Mehta & I were chatting on our group and we realized that we’d never gone on a trip together. So we started planning for the weekend of 15th August. Potential destinations – anywhere in the southern half of India qualified as the three of us were sitting in Cochin, Hyderabad and Bangalore. After much debate, we zeroed in on Ooty, Pondicherry and Kodaikanal. And then, we went to Sri Lanka! Continue reading Backpacking in Lanka

Weekend Escape – Hogenakkal Falls

It was one of the weekends when Spilla was here for his project. We decided to rent out a car and go for a drive somewhere nearby. After a lot of research and debate, we decided to make for Hogenakkal Falls which was on the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. We first tried Zoomcar but couldn’t get the car we wanted. Then we decided to explore other options if available and found Carzonrent who also offered self-drive cars. We did a quick check of how much the rates added up to with the distance and mileage and found that for longer drives, Carzonrent made much more sense as it was the cheaper option. We booked a Swift for our drive on Saturday.

Continue reading Weekend Escape – Hogenakkal Falls

Campus to Corporate – How has life really changed?

Everyone is busy ushering in the New Year – celebrating, partying, making resolutions, reminiscing old times and of course getting used to writing “2015” in the “date” columns. Yes, 2014 comes to an end. In fact, yet another year begins! Some are enjoying the holiday with their loved ones, some on trips with friends and some others working hard like any other day to ensure everyone has a jolly good holiday. So what is it that we’re celebrating about – just a day, a month passing on the calendar, like any other? Not that I don’t enjoy the holiday or the celebrations (in fact, a year should have more such days where we celebrate life). But I feel this gives us a chance to look back for a few hours and re-assess, get our bearings right. Continue reading Campus to Corporate – How has life really changed?

The prequel – A Tale of Six Islands

The previous diary that I wrote of North India, had 6 parts and I decided to shorten the next trip’s account to make it reader friendly. This will be a story of 6 islands – in three parts. A trilogy is the safest bet, at least in movies – LOTR, Matrix, Bourne, Oceans, Toy Story. The only thing that works for me with more than 3 parts is Federer’s Grand Slam victories. I wouldn’t mind seeing him win a 100 times!

This part is the prequel – the one where the story takes off.

This story starts off in a supermarket where we are holding tubes of sunscreen like monkeys holding an iPhone. SPF 20, 30, 40?!! Having no clue about the technicalities, we made a rational decision like a manager – after trade-offs between the price, brand and SPF level, we picked out a few. Pleased with ourselves, we returned to college. (We later found out that our choice hadn’t really been the best one! :P)

We were a group of 11 – six from our hostel wing and five adopted members. We started our trip with steak burgers at Downtown Café in Calicut. Super Yum! We then headed to the railway station to catch the West Coast Express to Chennai. It felt like a really short trip with time flying as we played bluff and mafia.

We were welcomed the next morning at our very own Mehtaji’s home with delicious grilled sandwiches, bhel puri and sweets. I had taken on my usual role of the money bank with my camera bag acting as the ATM. We booked tickets for the movie Queen, which had recently released. And missing movies in Chennai would be a crime, given the cheap ticket prices. We checked-in for our flight the next morning so that we got window seats. All planned and set, we walked to the Marina beach. Right next to Mehtaji’s home was the main office of AIADMK (a prominent political party). The shops near the place had small photos and frames having Amma’s photo – like you get the ones for Gods near temples. Chennai is indeed different!

At the beach, we shot some balloons (with those moong dal bullets), discussed the atrocities of the college admin while sitting at the shore (will never get tired of doing that), ate a sub (chicken ham with loads of mayo) and went in for the night show at the nearby theatre. The movie was delightful and kinda fit in with what we were looking for – a last big escapade to enjoy a long trip without having to worry about deadlines or leaves.

The next morning we took taxis to the airport. We spent some time doing bakar and cracking some very punny jokes – couldn’t help it with so many Mallu’s in the group. Soon, we were on our way to Port Blair as the rickety Air India flight took off to cover the 1200 km over sea. So as promised, this prequel is where the story literally takes off. Stay tuned. Click here for Part One of “A Tale of Six Islands”

A New Store Opening – Retail Diaries

It’s been almost 6 months into my first job. It’s been an amazing ride – a lot of learning, got exposed to corporate life, retail, Bangalore and a lot more. After stints as store fashion advisor, department manager, store manager and shadowing a regional manager (each having long stories of their own), I was in the middle of a retail operations project and this account is about the one which involved opening a new store. Continue reading A New Store Opening – Retail Diaries

Trains and Nostalgia

Travelling on trains always makes me nostalgic. It’s like that reset button. Brings back perspective into life. Today I’m travelling from Chennai to Bangalore. I’ve been to Chennai Central a lot of times. The first time I was here was at the age of 10, travelling from Patna to Alleppey. I think it was Patna to Howrah, Howrah to Chennai and then Chennai to Alleppey. Knowing the delays in trains from the east and north, we’d kept a gap of around 15 hrs between trains as a buffer and still missed our train from Chennai! I remember it was the time of the Sabarimala season and our train was full of black clad, bare footed swamis. I’ve been to Sabarimala twice and it’s an amazing experience. Continue reading Trains and Nostalgia