25 February, 2010

Oh Captain! Oh Captain!

An interesting thing I read today. Death is certain. One day or the other, every one has to die. The day you are born, there is one thing that gets certain. And that thing is that no matter how much you try, you cannot avoid death. It's like that path wherein you know the final destination. And this path is the biggest path of all that one takes during their lifetime. One should not worry about the certain things in life.

So why am I mentioning a thing as death, which is often feared and not spoken about. Well it so happens that there have been a few instances where I think was real close to it, and escaped. Whether, it is falling from the cliff while doing rappelling, almost setting foot on a venomous cobra, sky diving from the plane without knowing what's going to happen, white water rafting inspite of fearing water and not knowing how to swim etc etc. Needless to say, I am thankful for it, every time I look back at it.

But more than that, I have always had this queer thought in mind. The thought is that when I do come to the end of the life, and am on the verge of this dreaded thing, I should be smiling. Smiling at the things I have done, and a life well lived so far. Of having done things that I am passionate about, and living each day with immense happiness.

The latest of these near end moments was when a bird hit our plane on my way back from Ahmedabad to Bangalore. And smiling I was, when others in the flight were panicking and asking the flight crew to take the plan back to Ahmedabad and make an emergency landing.

The foul smell in the cabin was noticed by many and people immediately started to feel that something was wrong. A few started to take precautionary measures by holding their seats firmly. By the time the smell went off, we learnt that the air conditioning unit in one of the engines was switched off. A few mistook that for the engines being shut off, and hence started to panic more. The guy in front of me, started communicating with the cabin crew in sign language, signaling her to request the captain for an emergency landing. Numerous episodes of National Geographic series came rushing into my mind. Nevertheless, I thought the whole scenario unfolding in front of me was... well .... interesting. And that's when I smiled more :)

Another guy kept pointing to the flashing red light in the cabin, indicating to others that something was terribly wrong and that we compel the captain to fly back. One asked the air hostess if she had experienced such a situation before, to which she replies, oh yes. And bird hits are a common thing. Really? 

I was smiling as the air hostess was calm and was smilingly assuring us that nothing was wrong. Even if she mentioned that to keep us away from worrying, and the truth was something else, I still believed her. I thank her for taking care of the situation calmly and explaining with a beautiful smile to every passenger who asked her what happened. To one she replied, "Poor bird.. It got roasted!" I literally burst out laughing on hearing her! :D

Finally the flight did land without any hitches, and on my way out, I smiled again at the air hostess and said her "Thank you for that eventful flight :) "

She smiled back.

17 February, 2010

Of travels across India

One of the many things that inspired me to move back from the US to India is been my love for travel. [The other of course being my love for road side chai :) ]

So the days that I have been here, I have tried to do that and am super glad
It started with me landing in Delhi in May and since then I have been on a non stop mode.

From there in June I was in Vrindavan (UP), followed  Bihar (home), Pune (Maharashtra),  and then to Bangalore (to start my company here). July was spent in Bangalore. August mid I was back in Patna and home for a while., August end to September first week, I was in Guwahati (my beloved North east) for a series of workshops. October went to the west coast of India. Explored Udupi, Surathkal, Manipal (Karnataka). December was in Bhopal, Indore (Madhya Pradesh, for a pre-study of a documentary) and then via Mumbai back to Bangalore.  December I went to Kerela (friend's wedding in Cochin) spent almost a week in Chennai thriving on authentic Tamil food (sans the curd rice :P ) after the wedding. Spent the new years in Chennai. January was Bangalore. February was in Goa for another series of talks and workshops.

Scheduled to travel to Gujarat (workshops), Bihar (non profit project and the trip home), Delhi (Meetings), Kolkata (Workshop) and Bombay (seminar) before I settle back here in Bangalore!

I am loving it!

11 February, 2010

TEDx Experience

This had to be the most interesting experience I have had in my life in terms of attending conferences. Visionaries, people with a dream, the desire to do something different and make their marks in their own field.

And another thing that i thought I should mention is that this is not the TED talk, as many of my friends have misunderstood. I think I have a long way even before I can think of even attending TED, forget being an invited speaker. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share ideas worth spreading. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks videos and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Read more about it here)

Having said that, I still am glad that I was sharing the stage with the kind of people who had gathered there. All the talks were truly inspiring. There were young entrepreneurs to well established CEOs. Someone with some ideas, and a few with more dreams. The underlying thing amongst all definitely was the Passion with which they did their works.

Amongst the most inspiring talks were the rubric cube whiz kid Bernett Orlando, who also is the running champ in India for 6 years straight. Just a kid of 13, but his ideas on national integration, demonstrated with the skills on the cube was absolutely worth of a standing ovation.

Then there was Himanshu Parikh, who had a vision of eradicating Slums through his works on slum networks. One of the things he did mention that one need not worry about not earning. His works involve primarily in improving the sanitation and drainage systems in the slums in India without having to relocate them. No matter what others think, i think that it is a very novel idea. There is definitely a pride associated in the work that one is passionate about. If one goes about doing it, the returns would follow. His works has impacted over half a million people living in slums. Truly inspiring.

And my favorite talk of the lot was Professor Arvind Gupta (www.arvindguptatoys.com) (IIT Kanpur alumnus, product of the 70s) . Here was one man, who gave up his corporate life to explore something that really he was passionate about. But since he did not know what that was, he went and stayed in a village exploring it. And came up with this idea of making toys. So for the past 30 years now, he has been making toys! And the best part is that he is now using those toys to explore concepts of maths, physics to students. And you know what, the toys are made from junk and things that we generally discard! We talked about working together on creating some workshops together and seeing how we can. I am actually thinking of using his toys and the ideas of making toys to design a workshop to be a part of my child education project. Super Super thrilled about the possibilities.

Then there was Khurshid Batliwala, an IIT Bombay alumnus, who is been instrumental in getting more youth to be a part of the Art of Living foundation. He had a really interesting interpretation of the AUM and most definitely the best I have ever heard. I will be writing a separate blog post about it as I think it is worth sharing and a thing that makes me super proud as an Indian.

Karn Malhotra had somethings to say which we have been trying to do at my Design firm, Deskala. He talked about the need for Design studios in the industry to adopt a design school. I think its a novel concept, and it will only result in getting better designers in the already starved for excellence industry.

I did get a chance to speak to the Ad Guru Prahlad Kakkar himself and was really suprised to know that he was a certified Scuba Diving Instructor too!

The other people who were really nice to meet and get inspired from, Nikhil Velpanur (CEO of StrangeLabs) , Siva Cotipalli (CEO and Founder of DhanaX) , Aparna S Wilder (Founder of Global Rickshaw)

A very interesting conference overall and memories to last forever!