Mantras to become successful working parents

A blog I’d put up on our company portal:

Parenthood brings with it a sense of euphoria and happiness as well as a series of responsibilities. It is a challenging task to juggle childrearing responsibilities and work demands, and therefore, it is important to create a balance between being there for your child and at the same time, having a fulfilling and satisfying work life.

Working parents often complain of a lack of time — of not being able to spend more time at work or with kids, and not finding enough time for themselves.

With more and more women entering the workforce, there is a lot of pressure on both parents to corral life and kids, and by the end of the day, they are left feeling overwhelmed, guilty and completely exhausted.

However, the good news is it will not remain like this forever. While there is never a one-size-fits-all way to live life, by following a few simple and effective tips, working parents can successfully balance their career and family life.

  • Maintain a routine

An unpredictable lifestyle leaves everyone equally frustrated and rushed, especially young children.  Some of the daily stuff can be planned in advance, like meal preparations, packing your work bags and children’s stuff.

  • Set priorities

There are days when a family member is sick and would require you at home and there are days when you have an important meeting or a presentation or a deadline to meet at your workplace.

  • Ask for help

It is said that “It takes a village to raise a child.” In these times, when joint families are being replaced by nuclear families, bringing up a child becomes a challenge when both parents are working. Many parents invest in nannies and other caregivers. Whenever you feel bogged down, there is nothing wrong in seeking help and support of your family.

  • Share responsibilities

Involve the whole family while doing household chores. For instance, the kids can help in setting the table, or getting the plates. It will be a great team activity.

  • Don’t neglect yourself

It’s not selfish to carve out some time for yourself. Even airlines say that when there is an emergency, you should put your oxygen mask first, before helping anyone else. Taking care of yourself will help in being more efficient and productive. Take out time to go for a walk every day and to talk and listen to each other.

  • Make good use of holidays/weekends and spend quality time

During holidays and weekends, plan family activities to bond with your partner and children. Keep your mobile phones aside and switch off your TV. Go on fun trips and make memories for your family.

Juggling parenthood and career is very demanding, but it can be managed with a few practical and effective strategies.

Advertisements

Books – a mirror to the universe

“My never failing friends are they, with whom I converse night and day.” – Robert Southey

This was how I began my elocution speech on the topic, “Books are my best friends” when I was in the third standard. Little did I know then that books will continue to be my truest friends even after 25 years.

I have been brought up among books. My mother, a voracious reader herself, introduced me to the world of reading when I was four years old. I received books as gifts, I got them whenever my father returned from an office trip, and I got books whenever we went shopping. Whenever we travelled by train, I invariably spotted the bookstores on the railway stations and nagged my parents until they bought me at least one book.

I read Hindi and English books, comics like Chacha Chowdhry, Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, Champak and Chandamama in the beginning and moved on to read Enid Blyton. My first Enid Blyton book was Adventures of the Wishing Chair, gifted by my aunt, another avid reader. I soon became a part of Mollie and Peter’s world and travelled to all the magical places with them. It was not difficult for me to accept books in my life. I used to read the same books multiple number of times and never got tired of them. I found friends in my school with whom I exchanged my books; I remember reading them by hiding them inside my textbooks.

I used to look forward to the summer vacations so that I could buy more books and just drift to the wonderful world of books. Before school reopening, I used to finish reading my English and Hindi textbooks. I was very fond of reading stories of all kinds. I read The Famous Fives and the Secret Sevens; I read the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. I became a part of the stories; I started interacting with each character, tried to understand them, tried thinking from their point of view. I loved poetry. At school level, I learned few poems by William Wordsworth and Robert Frost. By my seventh standard, I had already finished reading all the abridged versions of William Shakespeare’s plays and the classics. I still remember the pocket David Copperfield and Tom Sawyer that I owned (and later donated to a library for poor children) and the number of times I have read them.

At that point of time, I did not realize the impact it was making on my personal growth.

As I grew up, I started reading mystery novels and thrillers by Agatha Christie, Carolyn Keene, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sidney Sheldon, and by the time I finished my 12th standard, I knew I wanted to study English literature. I think one of the first classics I read and loved was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The idea of reading all the time was so luring that I could not think of pursuing any other degree. I started understanding that nothing as just black and white; there was also grey. I started getting a broader perspective about the world; I had travelled the world in my mind; I had started to learn so much about different countries and their cultures.

It was during college that I started analyzing books. My analytical skills became stronger as I read more and more. I read multiple books at the same time; I was reading Shakespeare’s Othello, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, all at one go.

My classmates and I have had long discussions on Sylvia Plath and T.S. Eliot’s poetry; trying to find out what went behind their subliminal poems.

I learned about different forms of love when I read The English Patient by Michael Ondtaaje, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and the Harry Potter series.

I got to know more and more about racism and casteism from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, William Faulkner’s Light In August and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. I knew about feminism when I read articles by Elaine Showalter and Germaine Greer and my hunger to know more led me to Simone de Beauvoir’s works.

There were more books, like Sophie’s Choice, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Book Thief and  Catch-22 that taught me what all must have happened during the second World War. I remember brooding over Sophie’s Choice and crying while reading Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I recollect laughing out aloud reading P.G. Wodehouse’s Blandings and Jeeves-Wooster series. Among Indian authors, I was influenced by the writings of Shashi Tharoor, Vikram Seth, Anita Desai, Bharati Mukherjee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, my professor Rani Dharker, Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri, among many others. They gave me an insight into the lives of my fellow Indians and pre-independence India.

There were also a few books that I did not enjoy, including The Fifty Shades of Grey series and some books my V.S. Naipaul, but every book has taught me something and has been worth reading.

Books have given me solace at times of distress; they have given wings to my imagination, life to everything around me, animate or inanimate, and have always given me company during the need of a friend. They have helped me escape from the real world, to witness magical things.

Anna Quindlen sums it up perfectly when she says that books are home and that they are the destination and the journey. Everything begins and ends with a book. Whatever I am today, is completely attributable to books.

Beholding the paradise called Bhutan – The land of the thunder dragon

Tags

,

Setting off from the India-Bhutan border

Our week-long trip to the happiest country in the world happened during the end of May. We, a group of 19 people, including two toddlers, and our eight-month baby, stayed at Jaldapara in the Alipurduar district of West Bengal, 28 kilometers from the India-Bhutan border, before leaving for Thimphu the following morning.

Jaldapara is famous for its national park and has the largest population of Indian horned rhinoceros. We were put up at The Mystic Forest hotel, a jungle resort amid tea gardens.

The next morning, we had breakfast and started for Phuntsholing, the border town of Bhutan, from where we had to board our coach for Thimphu. The India-Bhutan border is separated by an ornate gate which indicated that we had now entered a new country. Bhutan is nestled between Nepal, India and China. It has adopted the policy of high-value, low-income to limit the numbers of visitors. It charges most foreign tourists $250 per day of an all-encompassing fee, covering transportation, guides, room and board.

As our cars drove into the town, we could clearly see the difference in architecture, municipal cleanliness and orderly planning. The city was embellished with wooden houses and concrete houses, but in the traditional Bhutanese style.

One of the most distinctive features about the people in Bhutan is their traditional, unique dress; men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe, tied at the waist by a belt called Kera; and women wear the Kira, an ankle-length dress comprising a rectangular piece of woven fabric. Kira is worn with a wonju, a long-sleeved blouse, and a toego, a short jacket outside that.

Indians, Bangladeshis and citizens of Maldives do not need an entry permit to get into Bhutan. But we must show our passports or ID cards to get permission to go around the country. We stopped at Hotel Sinchula for lunch, following which we got our passports checked at the immigration office. We were surprised that we were the only ones there. We also met our guide, Yeshi Dorji. The weather was very pleasant as it was raining.

Tantalizing Thimphu

After all the formalities, we sat in the coach and took off for Thimphu, which is nearly 165 kilometers from Phuntsholing. But since Thimphu is located at a high altitude, it took us nearly six hours to reach the capital city. When we reached Thimphu, we were surprised to see that there were no traffic signals! But there were traffic policemen at intersections.

Bhutan is relatively new to tourism as it opened its doors to visitors in 1974.

An interesting thing about Thimphu, and the other cities in Bhutan, is that the buildings all look very similar with the architecture involving a lot of domes and arcs. As we spoke to our guide, we got to know that Bhutan is the only country which measures GNH or Gross National Happiness as an indicator of its prosperity. The natives live by their traditions and values, and look forward to development in the cultural way.

The national dish of Bhutan is Ema Datshi, said to be a fiery blend of green chillies and cheese. We were shocked to learn that there is no dessert in the Bhutanese menu!

Education and medicine are free in Bhutan. The Bhutan government believes in treating all its citizens equally. Our guide told us that there are no rich or poor sections in the society. Everyone has to pay the same tax. Now we slowly came to understand why Bhutan is the happiest country in the world.

We checked into our hotel in late evening, and were pleasantly surprised to see that our bags were carried by the female staff. The buildings in Bhutan have a maximum of five floors, and there are no lifts. We found it quite astonishing that the women were so strong to take our baggage to our respective rooms.

We freshened up in our rooms and came down to the restaurant to have Indian dinner and were so tired that we went off to sleep. Our baby was observing and trying to understand what was going around her. For her, it was a sudden change of atmosphere and locality, since it was her first trip ever. However, she was quite happy to be surrounded by people who were showering all their attention on her.

The next morning, we had a sumptuous breakfast and left for Buddha Dordenma. Locally called the Buddha Point, it is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue made of bronze and gilded in gold, and towers over the mountains. Buddha Dordenma is said to be one of the tallest seated Buddha statues in the world at a height of 169 feet. The statue houses more than 100,000 smaller Buddha statues, also made of bronze and gold-gilded. We had a breathtaking view of the statue and the valley.

Buddha Dordenma statue, Thimphu

Buddha Dordenma statue, Thimphu

After taking in the magnificence of the statue and its surroundings, we headed to see the National Memorial Chorten, or the stupa. It was built in 1974 to honor the third Druk Gyalpo (meaning Dragon King, or the King of Bhutan), Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The stupa is also considered to be the “most visible religious landmark in Bhutan.” People come here to spin the giant prayer wheels and circumbambulate around the chorten.

We were swept away with the mystique ambiance and tranquility at the chorten, and breathed in the positive energy that enveloped the area.

Takin - national animal

Takin – Bhutan’s national animal

Our next stop was the Motithang Takin Preserve, the home of Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Native to Bhutan, the animal looks like a mix of goat and moose. It was originally a mini-zoo. We also spotted a barking deer at the preserve. On our way back to the hotel, we got a view of the Thimphu Dzong (Tashichhoedzong, a Buddhist monastery and fortress) and the Parliament building. We were in for a surprise when our guide showed the king’s palace amid the huge fortress. We expected to see something really magnificent and huge, but it turned out to be much smaller than the caving buildings around it.

Tashichho Dzong Fortress, Thimphu

Tashichho Dzong Fortress, Thimphu

After lunch, we took some rest and got ourselves pampered with some head and shoulder spa at the hotel.

Later in the evening, we walked to a handicrafts market that was at a walking distance from our hotel. We ended up buying souvenirs and wall hangings from the market.

The following morning our guide took us to the national folk heritage museum, which gives an insight into the Bhutanese material culture and way of life. The museum is set up in a three-storied, 19th century traditional house.

In addition to artefacts from rural households, we saw an impressive collection of typical household objects, tools and equipment, which were used in a traditional household. The museum was surrounded by paddy, wheat and millet fields, and comprised a traditional water-mill with mill stones.

While we marveled and discussed all that we saw in the museum, we reached the National Library.

Before we could get into the library, we were stopped and were awestruck by the resplendent rose garden outside it. We got so immersed in looking at the different coloured roses and taking photographs that the guide had to usher us into the library.

The library was established to preserve ancient texts. It is also a great example of traditional Bhutanese architecture. Most of the books are printed or written on long strips of handmade paper stacked between pieces of wood and wrapped in silk cloth.

Peaceful Punakha

And soon it was time to move on to our next destination – Punakha. A few minutes after we set off, our coach driver suddenly made way for a line of expensive cars, and we came to know that they contained the King of Bhutan and his bodyguards.

Punakha valley is a three-to-four-hour drive from Thimphu. It was once the capital of Bhutan and is the winter residence of the central monk body, Thimphu being the summer residence.

On the way, we stopped at Dochula Pass, a mountain pass in the Himalayas situated at an elevation of more than 10,000 square feet. It has 108 memorial chortens, or stupas, called Druk Wangyal Chortens, built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother to honor the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed when fighting the Indian rebels in 2003.

Dochula Pass

Dochula Pass

One can see the highest peak in Bhutan, called the Mt. Gangkar Puensum, from the pass.

When we reached Punakha district, we were taken to the fertility temple, also known as Chimi Lhakhang (Lhakhang means monastery or temple), which stands on a hillock amidst the rice fields. We walked for nearly half an hour uphill. The temple was built by the Drukpa hierarch and Ngawang Choegyel in 1499, following which it was blessed by a maverick saint, named Drukpa Kunley also known as the Divine Madman.

Families and childless women from Bhutan and around the world come here to take blessings to beget children and to get names for their kids who are yet to be born. The current Lama hits the women on their head with a 10-inch ivory, wood and bone phallus. Throughout the temple, one can find phallus symbols in paintings and carvings.

The land of Punakha is very fertile with Po Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers flowing through the valley.

We reached our hotel, which overlooked the beautiful valley with the river, rice terraces and mountains. We had the evening by ourselves, and we all got together to play a game of Mafia, following which we had dinner and went on to dream about the beautiful country and wondering what we had in store the next three days.

We woke up to the mist-covered Himalayas, and it felt like being in heaven. We took off for our first stop, Punakha Dzong, which is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Po Chhu rivers and must be arguably the most beautiful dzong in the country and one can witness woodworks of highest standards. Since we visited at the end of spring, we could still see the lilac-coloured jacaranda trees.

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

The dzong houses most of Bhutan’s national treasures. To reach the dzong and the six-story Utse (central tower), one has to cross the Bazam (bridge). When you cross the bridge, you come across a steep wooden staircase that is designed to be pulled up.

Inside the dzong, there are three courtyards, one is for administrative functions and comprises a stupa and a Bodhi tree. The Utse is in the second courtyard and in the third and the most important courtyard, is the main temple and the temple holding the national treasures. You can find exceptional murals on the temple walls which depict the life of Buddha.

Visiting the dzong was purely awe-inspiring.

Behind Punakha Dzong lies the Punakha Suspension Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. It connects the dzong to the nearby villages. The mountains surrounding the bridge from all sides give a breathtaking view of the entire area.

Power packed Paro

Our days in Bhutan were closing in very soon. We headed for Paro, our final destination in this amazing country.

In Paro, we were welcomed by a cool breeze and light rains. The lush greenery around us was a treat to the eyes and health. We were mesmerized by the beautiful resort which was surrounded by the countryside and landscape.

We were up on the final day of our Bhutan trip for the most awaited Tiger’s Nest trek.

Tiger’s Nest, or Paro Taktsang, is a monastery is one of the most revered monasteries and Bhutan’s pride.  A trip to the country is incomplete without a visit to the monastery. Tiger’s Nest is precariously perched on a cliff nearly 10,000 feet off the ground and stands above a forest of blue pine and rhododendrons.

We started the trek at 9 in the morning, but were worried if we would be able to make it to the top with our baby. We bought walking sticks for all of us (and were later quite thankful that we did). We took a pony ride for half way until we came to a quaint cafeteria. The pony ride itself was quite eventful as the ponies tended to veer on the edge of the mountain; a misstep could cause them to fall over.

On the way, the baby, whom our guide Yeshi was carrying and walking (!), became quite uncomfortable and cranky, so a couple of us got down from the pony, and took the baby and walked until we reached the teahouse. We had coffee and snacks, and then hiked up since horses go up to only half the distance. We left the two toddlers and two family members at the café because it was a tad difficult for them to climb further.

Our guide told us that the second part was easier than the first. Even then, it was a tough climb as the path was steep and rocky, but the rest of us managed it with intermittent breaks, when we caught our breath, admired and photographed the astonishing views of the valley. The baby was now very cooperative and the weather was pleasant. The paths opened up to panoramic views of the valley and hills brimming with pine trees. It seemed that the entire universe was trying to help us reach the monastery. Tourists coming back from the monastery cheered and encouraged us to walk further. They also took our photographs as they were surprised to see us bringing such a small baby on the hike.

On our way we could see colourful Buddhist prayer flags fluttering wildly in the wind, and a series of prayer wheels. And when we finally reached, the view atop was worth all the trouble and was simply surreal. All our tiredness vanished as our eyes beheld the view in front of us; it was jaw-dropping.

The way up to the shrine comprises two flights of stone steps, one going down the ravine, the other going up the monastery, a total of nearly 800 steps. There are several temples inside the monastery with statues of Guru Rinpoche and other Buddhist deities and religious paintings.

The legend behind Tiger’s Nest has it that Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, who is credited with bringing Buddhism to Bhutan, flew to this site on a tigress’ back to subdue a local demon. After that, he meditated here for three months, three months, three weeks and three hours.

Tiger's Nest

Tiger’s Nest

Soon it was time for us to march back, this time on the downward slope. On the way back too, we stopped at the tea house and munched on whatever we could lay our hands on. We had one final pristine view of the monastery and commenced the last leg down. When reached the starting point, we saw the area abuzz with a minimarket selling souvenirs, trinkets and handicrafts sold by women. We bought some stuff for us and some for gifting to friends and family back home and got back to the resort.

Goodbye, Bhutan!

With a heavy heart, we bade adieu to the demure country, embalmed in mysticism, and came back home completely in awe with its beauty and impressed with its hospitable people.

My first international trip

Tags

,

As part of our once-a-year trip, we decided to explore a foreign country. And my first overseas trip turned out to be to the wonderful Malaysia and Singapore. We were a group of 10, including my grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. The five-day trip in July 2009 entailed a three-day stay at Kuala Lumpur and the remaining in Singapore.

Our flight was booked from Chennai with an overnight halt in Colombo, Sri Lanka. So we landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia in the local evening time. Ours was a packaged tour, so a fancy-looking bus was waiting for us and we were put up in a nice posh hotel in Kuala Lumpur where we had sumptuous Indian dinner and went off to sleep to wake up early the next morning for sight-seeing.

We were given a wakeup call at 6 am, after which we got ready and headed to another round of buffet breakfast which was very tasty and also filling. Then we made a beeline to our fancy-looking tour bus and met our tour guide, Julie, a local, who greeted us with a bright smile and twinkling eyes. She taught us Selamat Datang, welcome in Malay.

So the first place we visited was Menara KL Tower, the country’s most recognizable and popular landmark. Constructed in 1994, the tower stands at 421 metres and effortlessly trumps the Petronas Twin Towers with the highest and most spectacular view of the city. This gleaming tower’s spindle-like apex is visible from almost anywhere in Kuala Lumpur.

Menara KL’s viewing deck is, at 276 metres, at least 100 metres higher than the Petronas Twin Towers’ Skybridge; the view is marvellous during the day and even better at night when you can see the entire sparkling city centre.

We then set out to see the National Monument in Lake Gardens, which is a sculpture that commemorates those who died in Malaysia’s struggle for freedom, principally against the Japanese occupation during World War II and the Malayan Emergency, which lasted from 1948 until 1960. The Malaysian Houses of Parliament is situated near the monument. There is also a cenotaph which originally intended to commemorate World War I and honour its war dead. But later, its inscription also included fallen soldiers of World War II.

As the monument is situated in a beautiful garden, we got a chance to take lots of photographs in Nature’s lap. We spent a lot of our time at the garden and then went back to the hotel for a siesta.

In the evening, we were taken to see the Petronas Twin Towers, that were once the tallest buildings in the world. The 88-story buildings are now the world’s tallest twin structures, and stand tall at 452 metres. At the base of the Petronas Twin Towers is Suria KLCC, an upmarket shopping mall that is very popular with tourists. We took a nice family photo in front of the towers.

We had some more time for sightseeing, so our guide took us to Cocoa Boutique, Malaysia’s largest chocolate paradise. From the moment we set foot at the premises, our mouths started watering taking in the aroma of chocolates. We stepped inside the building and were awestruck to find the varieties of chocolates that were being made. Together, the Cocoa Boutique and Chocolate Gallery boasts of more than 300 types of chocolate products. The chocolate lovers in us would not let us leave without buying some chocolates for friends and family back in India. So we bought about four to five bags of chocolates and returned to the hotel, happy and content, our hearts melted at the sight of the chocolates.

After some quick refreshments, we went to a shopping mall, Sungei Wang Plaza, which was very close to our hotel. It is a haven for bargain hunters and is packed with stores selling primarily fashion products at affordable prices.

We came back to the hotel after windowshopping and following a lipsmacking and fulfilling dinner, we went off to sleep wondering what was in store for us the following day.

Our second day trip in Kuala Lumpur started with a visit to Istana Negara, or the National Palace, which, along with Jalan Istana was the former residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme King) of Malaysia. It stands on a 13-acre -site, located on a commanding position on the slope of a hill of Bukit Petaling overlooking the Klang River, along Jalan Syed Putra.

It was replaced by the new palace as the official residence of the King in 2011. In 2013, it was converted into the Royal Museum.

After lunch, our bus started towards Batu Caves, a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples in the Gombak district, 13 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu (Batu River), which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of the nearby village.

Rising almost 100 metres above the ground, the Batu Caves temple complex consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a very high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. To reach it, visitors must climb a steep flight of 272 steps.

At the base of the hill are two more cave temples, Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave, both of which are full of Hindu statues and paintings. This complex was renovated and opened as the Cave Villa in 2008. Many of the shrines relate the story of Lord Murugan’s victory over the demon Soorapadam. The Ramayana Cave is situated to the extreme left as one faces the sheer wall of the hill. On the way to the Ramayana Cave, there is a 15-meter tall statue of Hanuman and a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. A 42.7-metre high statue of Lord Murugan stands outside the cave and is the tallest Lord Murugan statue in the world.

So our second day came to a close as we returned all tired from the day’s outing. We had to wake up early the following morning as we were told that we are going to Genting Highland.

Genting Highlands, otherwise known as Resorts World Genting, is a hill resort in Malaysia developed by Genting Group. We were put up at First World Hotel, which holds the Guinness World of Records as the largest hotel in the world from 2006 until 2013, with a total of 6,118 rooms. It was pretty cold out there at Genting, but we had fund going on different rides at the theme park.

After the trip at Kuala Lumpur and Genting, it was time to make a move to Singapore. We left in the morning from Genting and traveled to Singapore by road. It was an almost nine-hour drive, but with the scenic beauty around us and the perfect roads, we never felt we took so long to reach Singapore.

By the time we reached Singapore, it was almost time for us to have dinner and wait to see what the city had in store for us the next morning.

So we took rest the rest of the day and started afresh the next morning to see the Merlion, Singapore’s mascot and national personification. It depicts a creature with a lion’s head and a body of a fish. The lion head represents Singapore’s original name—Singapura—meaning “lion city.” There are five authorized Merlion statues in Singapore, the most prominent one being an 8-meter tall statue at the Merlion Park, adjacent to One Fullerton at the Marina Bay waterfront.

After taking dozens of photographs with the Merlion, our bus took us Jurong Bird Park, a tourist attraction managed by Wildlife Reserves. Jurong Bird Park is a landscaped park on the western slope of Jurong Hill. It is a world-famous bird zoo with specimens of magnificent bird life from around the world, including a large flock of flamingos. It is currently the world’s largest bird park in terms of the number of birds with 5,000 birds of 400 species.

We were thrilled to see so many kinds of birds, one couldn’t have imagined to have witnessed such a splendid view of the birds from around the world. The park also has bird shows, namely the High Flyers Show with the mimicking cockatoos and pelicans, flamingos and hornbills, and the Kings of the Skies Show with birds of prey such as eagles, hawks and falcons. Apart from the shows, we also saw penguins and the flamingo lake.

After spending more than half of our day at the park, we took the cable car to watch the dolphin show at the Dolphin Island in Sentosa. The island houses the magnificent Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. We were dumbstruck seeing how friendly the dolphins are and how well-trained they were to perform different antics.

As the day was drawing to a close, we didn’t want to leave Sentosa. Well, we still had few more hours to go as we had to wait for the light and water show at Sentosa. With the remaining time that we had, we went to an underwater aquarium, S.E.A., which is also the world’s largest aquarium. We were immersed into a magical marine world with more than 800 species of marine animals, including sharks, manta rays, spider crab, guitarfish and chambered nautilus.

It was now time for the light and water show, Songs of the Sea, a multimedia show with pyrotechnics displays, waterjets, laser show, flamer bursts, a live seven-person cast and an open-air gallery with visitors. After watching the show we realized what we would have missed had we not stayed back for it. This show has now been replaced by a new show, Wings of Time since May 2014.

We couldn’t believe our marvelous trip was coming to a close as we just had a half day left now.

On the final day, we walked to Bugis Street, which was quite close to our hotel. Bugis Street is one of the best shopping places in Singapore. We bought some clothes and souvenirs to take back home. After lunch, we left for the Changi Airport to take the Sri Lankan Airlines to Chennai.

It takes all strange kinds… (continued)

Well, well! I came across two more interesting categories to add to my list below. Maybe you belong to one of these if not the previous ones 😉

10. Attention-seeking Damsels and DudesDamsel
Every company has people who are straight out of college or join as freshers or have lesser work experience. Extra-bubbly, stylish, but hardly beautiful or pretty and handsome as they think they are, this particular category of people pays more attention to the oppositeprince sex than to their work. They think very highly of themselves, that they are gorgeous and irresistible (dungheads, really). They are always trying to find ways to impress and flirt with them whenever they find a chance. Very immature, childish and careless, they tend to forget their priorities in the pursuit of attention. The girls in this category are too coy and sweet towards the guys, and the guys are chivalrous to an extreme level, so much so that their over-smartness can, sometimes, get to you.

How to spot one: This class always likes to be where the opposite sex is. They find reasons and excuses to be with their crush(es). Come lunch break and they just disappear to the TT/carrom board/chess room to display their amazing “talent”. But they will always say they go to play TT because they love the game Tut-tut, actually she knew such a game existed only when her eyes fell on that smart, lanky fellow who was looking at her. And he, who was always averse to sports as a kid, has taken a sudden liking towards it so that he can catch a glimpse of that pretty dame with great figure (but no brains).

11. Peeping Toms and Marys
They are one of the most annoying people. You can find them peeping into everyone else’s PCs and yours as well, but seldom theirs. They are always interested in knowing what others are upto. The most irritating thing about them is they make it very obvious that they are lopeekoking into your PC. With a low attention span, they get distracted by the smallest movement or noise. Even if you are talking to a colleague, this person will turn around (if s/he sits behind you) or crane their neck and keep their ears to the ground to know to what you are talking about and even try to chip in unnecessarily. You might even want to ask them back, “Hello, who asked your opinion?” But what to do, you have to bear these kinds of people, however irksome they are.

How to spot one: Hey it’s no rocket science. Keep your antennae up and be alert. You can see how many people are interested in what you are doing. Just when you are chatting with your colleague or boss, this person will definitely try to take a peek into your PC. And they will always be interested to help you even if you don’t need their assistance.

It takes all strange kinds… to make an office

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

What is an office without diversity? Diversity is the heart and soul of a workplace. Imagine a team with all talkative people or a team with all introverts! The output would either be a continuous pointless chatter or a deadly silence, both of which are really boring and monotonous. Diversity adds spark and at the same time, it’s trying too. No matter where you work, you encounter all kinds of people; some you can get along with and some you just can’t bear their sight of. Here are some kinds of quirky personality types you come across in your workplace and hate them for that. See where you fit in and how to recognise one!

1. Politically Correct
Goodie two-shoes and robHenderson likes to keep a low profileotic, these people are very much inclined towards living and breathing the company values. If you go to them with a problem, they’d always try to come out with diplomatic answers. Their answers are straight out of the book. Actually, they are people who want to be on the safer side and not bear the brunt of anyone’s contempt or opposition.

How to spot one: Some examples of statements you can hear from them:
• You’re not late; you just have a “reschedul
ed arrival time.”
• It’s not called g
ossip anymore. It’s “the speedy transmission of near-factual information.”

2. Sycophants
The Ass Kissers. Boot-lickers. Brown Nosers. Apple Polishers. Whatever you want to call them, the sycophants are just plain annoying because they don’t have any dignity and suck up to their higher-ups. These people exist in abundance. While they are unanimously hated, no one can stand up to them because of their special place in your boss’s heart and ass. People in this group are both extra-sweet and slippery. Beware of what you say around them because you know they are just gathering ammo. Your boss probably knows how fake they are, but they make bosses feel special and powerful.

How to spot one: They sing happy birthday the loudest on the boss’s special day.

3. Charmers
“Charm is the ability to create extraordinary rapport that makes others feel exceptional.” This explains what the charming ones do. They want to be in the good books of everyone. So they’d stoop to any level to be there. They personally might not approve of many of their colleagues, but would not display any anger or disapproval. They always want to please their co-workers and wouldn’t utter a word of criticism. Such people are quite dangerous. They get their work done by doing sweet talk. They’d be overly concerned about you and also remember every small thing you tell them. So you see they have an amazing memory. They have trouble coping with conflict, avoiding it as much as they can. Therefore, they also don’t do well at constructive criticism.

How to spot one: Too much sweet-talk, so much so that you feel you’re getting attracted to them and are on cloud number 9.

4. GrumposGrumpy_At_Work_Hello
Another word to describe them would be weirdos. They are extremely moody people. Everyone has ups and downs in life, but the grumpy ones are hardly happy. Once in a blue moon can you see them smiling and that could be on the day of their promotion or a pay hike. These are people who always look like they have swallowed a snake and are always with a frustrated look on their face. They behave as if they have the responsibility of the whole world. Wherever they go they spread an aura of negativity. Their very presence is a similar to that of the dementors (if you’ve read Harry Potter, you’d know!). You feel your happiness vanishing and depression gripping you.

How to spot one: Wish them on their birthday and their reply would be ‘Bloody Skype’. Escape from them if you feel a dark cloud of unhappiness surrounding you.

5. Lazy Bones6967_4
They are too busy browsing the web, or chatting with their virtual friends at work. They even pass their work to other members. They will never be around when needed most. And they will always have an excuse for their absence. You can get angry at them it won’t make an iota of difference. They take the longest breaks and also the unnecessary mini-breaks. Like I said, do anything to avoid work.

How to spot one: Their absence and ‘I don’t care’ attitude explains it all, doesn’t it? Also you can find them on the phone every now and then.

6. Bullies
Remember those kids who used to dominate you in school and your society? Well, the office bullies are just their grown-up version. Their weapons are ridicule, overt attitude and verbal abuses. Their main objective is to establish themselves at the top of the corporate pecking order. It’s said that office bullies are highly insecure people with personal problems. They use their victims to act out feelings of basic worthlessness.

How to spot one: It shouldn’t be difficult to recognise one. They are usually very loud and always throwing orders around like no one’s business.

7. Credit Stealers
Did you notice your idea and credit have been taken by someone else? Yes, these are credit hungry people, but they’d want it only by stealing it from someone else. They are opportunists. Insecure of themselves, they lack confidence. They may be watching a cricket match while you are doing the trouble shooting but they will be quick to declare that the idea used in trouble shooting was theirs when it’s all done and over. They try to prove that they are good even if it takes stealing credit from others.

How to spot one: Not a very subtle bunch. They are permanently in a self-congratulatory mood and patting their own backs.6967_6

8. Chronic Complainers:
They use drama and complaints to make their boring lives interesting. They dramatise all aspects of their life to grab attention. They are fault-finding, blaming, and certain about what should be done but they never seem able to correct the situation by themselves. Often they have a point — there are real problems — but their complaining is not effective (except it is designed to prove someone else is responsible).

How to spot one: They wear the constipated look and whine away all the time. They are busy finding the clouds from every silver lining.

9. Fashionistas
The office fashionistas are the typical dimwitted staff who, more often than not, spends time on frivolous activities that do not involve work, such as looking at the mirror, combing their hair, correcting their clothes and discussing fashion trends. They wear fashionable, but inappropriate clothes which make them the laughing stock of the office. And yet, they don’t care.

How to spot one: Ah, did you see the most ludicrously fashionable person in your office in fluorescent flashy outfits? There you go; she/he is the style guru!!

In the end, work can be a distant memory when it’s time to return home. Outside the confines of the work place, you laugh at the entertainment and also miss them. Life is fun and so can be work, co-workers, and workplace if we can manage the diversity well!

(To be continued…)

Fida on ARR’s Ada

A R Rahman

A R Rahman

I just can’t stop listening to Ada’s songs and I’m forcing my friends to listen to them as well, even by sending the songs to them. I’m surprised though why only few people have heard about the songs (although I must confess I too don’t know much about the movie or its cast.! Well, no one listens to good songs now a days…

This album sees ARR bringing together his older singers (Sukhwinder, Chitra, Sonu Niigaam, Alka Yagnik, Jayachandran) with his brand new collection. Each song is different from the other.

The songs of this movie are much better than those of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. I am a loyal and die-hard fan of ARR, so I can’t say the songs in JTYJN are not good (though I must say I was a little disappointed) and unlike his previous ventures, where you allow the songs to grow on you, this is one of the very few of them where the songs appeal to you right from the first time you listen to them.

My favourite song is Tu Mera Hai. Sung superbly by Chitra and Sukhwinder, this song is a welcome change from the albums that going the rounds. It has a rebellious/revolting flavour to it. It was refreshing to listen to Chitra singing in Hindi after a long time. The style in which shesings and the ease with which she goes to the higher notes is simply awesome. I love the ‘Ya Rab shukriya, tera shukriya’ part. The interludes sung by Naresh Iyer crave you to hear more of him.

Ishq Ada is a typical ARR song.. also sung in two versions, the male and the female and both are different from each other in terms of the instruments used. The orchestration of Ishq Ada (male), sung Rashid Ali, ARR’s newest find, reminds you of Maiyya Maiyya from Guru. Ishq Ada (female version) is sung by Parul is a comparably slower version and is piano-based. In one of the blogs I read that it’s composed in Panthuvarali raagam (Raag Todi in Hindustani classical).

After a long time we get to listen to Sonu Niigaam singing for ARR; and he has sung 3 songs. Gulfisha is a melodious and romantic song sung with Alka Yagnik. The main attraction of this song is the flute interludes.

Gum Sum is another song by the same singers and Alka sounds really good, not to mention Sonu’s awesome rendering.
ARR has rarely worked with Sunithi Chauhan. A song where she has worked with him is Saiyaan from Nayak. Well, he welcomes her back to this album where she sings a peppy number, Gulfisha, along with Sonu. It’s an average song, an un-ARR song, where I feel he could have done much better.

Meherbaan is a lovely ballad, jazz kind of a composition sung by the maestro himself, and I just wait for the line ‘Meherbaan’ in the song; not that the rest of the song is not good, it’s just that I love to sing along from this line onwards. The ending of the song where he sings the soprano is nothing like the soft start; and this is something to look forward to.

As usual, ARR doesn’t disappoint us with his new album and leaves us craving for more. ARR Zindabad!!

Adimalarina thanne Krishna

Few years ago, I had learnt a malayalam composition set in Mukhari raagam and in adi taalam. I was humming it yesterday and thought of adding it in my blog. In this composition the poet Erayammanthampi asks Lord Krishna to be with him always. Here is the composition and its translation (Forgive me if the translation is not upto the mark):

adimalarina thanne krishna,

adiyanoravalambam Sri Krishna

ariyarudadiyanu gunavum doshavum
aruluga shubhamaargam Sri Krishna

parama dayambu nidhe krishna
paalikkenam ellam
thiruvudaladilooda vadiveppozhum ennude chithe thonenam Krishna

Translation:
O Krishna with a lotus feet,
Thou art the only shelter for thy servant

Good or bad, I can not differentiate one from the other,
Kindly show me the right path O Krishna.

The embodiment of Kindness,
Please take care of everything
Thy body which is a treasure trove of all kinds of wealth, physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual,
This form should always be etched in my heart
Thou should be the only one I think of hey Sri Krishna.

Close to my heart – Kurai ondrum illai

This is a composition by Sri Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) who was also a social reformer. Every time I listen to it, I’m overwhelmed with emotions. This song is sung best by the late Smt. M.S.Subbulakshmi in a way that can move even Lord Krishna. I thought of posting the lyrics in this blog along with the raagas and have tried to translate it for for the benefit of those who can’t comprehendKrishna its meaning. I have ended up with a loose translation. Please excuse me if it’s not translated well.

Pallavi (Sivaranjini)

kurai ondrum illai marai moorthi kanna
kurai ondrum illai kanna……………
kurai ondrum illai govindaa..

Anupallavi (Sivaranjini)
kannukkuth theriyamal nirkindrai kanna
kannukkuth theriyamal nindralum yenakku
kurai ondrum illai marai moorthi kanna

Charanam 1 (Sivaranjini)

vendiyadhai thandhida venkatesan nindrukka
vediyadhu verillai marai moorthi kanna
mani vanna malai yappa govindaa govindaa
govindaa govindaa………..,

Charanam 2 (Kaapi)

thirai yindri nirkindrai kanna…kanna
thirai yindri nirkindrai kanna unnai
marai vodhum nyaniyar mattumey kaanbar yendralum
kurai ondrum yenakkillai kanna yendralum
kurai ondrum yenakillai kanna
kundrinmel kallagi nirkindra varadha
kurai ondrum illai marai moorthy kanna (mani vanna)

Charanam 3 (Sindhubhairavi)

kalinalukkirangi kalliley irangi silaiyaga
koyilil nirkindrai kesava
kurai ondrum illai marai moorthi kanna
yarum marukkadha malai yappa
yarum marukkadha malai yappa yen vazhvil
yedhum thara nirkkum karunai kadalannai
yendrum irundhida yedhu kurai yenakku
ondrum kurai illai marai moorthy kanna
ondrum kurai illai marai moorthy kanna
mani vanna , malai yappa govindaa govindaa

Translation

No woes do I have,
No regrets.

Though I can’t see Thou,
Thou art my sight,
Thou art my light
O Lord of the Seven Hills,
Protector of the mortal beings,
I know Thou art here for me,
What else do I need?

Thou standeth veiled by a curtain
To be seen only by the Vedic scholars
But why should I be worried
I’m not a scholar,
Yet I don’t have any regrets.
No shortcomings do I have.

On this hill
Thou art a crowning glory
O boon-giver,
O Unsurmountable Lord
No regrets do I have.

In this Kaliyuga,
Thou hast entered the stone in the sanctum
And though I see Thee naught,
No worries for me.

O symbol of strength,
With the Ocean of love and compassion,
Who breathes in Thy heart,
Who is like My Mother,
And gives me anything I ask for;
With the two of You beside me
Can I have any regrets?

Mesmerising Hari

When it comes to Ghazals, my favourite apart from Ghulam Ali is Hariharan. His velvety voice mesmerises me and I flow with his songs. Actually, I am back to listening to it after a short gap and thought of writing on it.

One of his best albums is Kaash which has an amazing music hand-in-hand with beautiful lyrics. The album makes use of western instruments/ Overall it’s a soothing album. The song Maikade was the first to come out on tv, and I liked it instantly so much so that even before I bought the album, I had learned the song by rote. The flute piece in the beginning just creates an atmosphere for the rest of the songs.

Soon after, I listened to Kaash and I was completely bowled over by the way Hariharan has sung it, and even today I can’t sing the cryptic variations done by him. Just amazing! The lyrics are also very meaningful.

But the best and the longest song in the whole album is Ab ke Baras Bhi… There is a pain in the song and much of the atmosphere is set by the instruments. This is one album one will not regret for having bought. Every time I listen to it, I have tears in my eyes.

Jhoom le is a very soothing and philosophical ghazal, sung in a lighter style. Jhoom le hans bol le, pyaari agar hai zindagi, saans ke bas ek jhonke ka safar hai zindagi.

Hariharan sings Ye Aaine se akele mein guftugu kya hai with a tinge of mischief in his voice.

Aadhi Raat is a faster composition, ‘chanchal’ is the right word for it. It also has a haunting, thriller kind of a feel to it.

Humne ek shaam is a ghazal in the real sense of the term. It has a sad tone to it, that really moves you.

Overall, the album is a part of my treasured collection and when I’m thirsty for beautiful melodies, I listen to Hari’s scintillating voice.