The Joy of Less

My Journal of Minimalist Living

Happy Birthday Love!

Happy birthday Dumbo! Thanks for being born. Without you life wouldn’t have been worth living! I cannot believe we have spent five birthdays together. This birthday is special for this will be our last time celebrating it as lovers! Next year around, we would be married. Yes, we would still be lovers in many ways! But it still will be different.

The only thing I want to do today is to make you – SMILE!

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Wish me luck! Big day tomorrow! :*

Love
Sen

Two weeks later in Saudi Arabia – First Impression

It’s been nearly two weeks since I came to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on a business visit. A lot of assumptions that I had either made up myself or was forced to make due to inputs from others have either been proved wrong or reinforced even more strongly. When I first mentioned coming over here for a month or so, people (family and friends) made faces, scared the hell out of me and made me believe I wasn’t safe here. Whereas, people at my organization assured me things would be just fine and Saudi Arabia is a great place for living and getting business. Since, both of them care for me from different angles, I decided to believe fractions of what each one said.

We took a Saudi Arabian Airlines’ flight on May 18, 2009 that would take us from Bangalore directly to Riyadh. I was travelling along with my HR Manager Mr. Raja. The flight was scheduled to leave at 1.30pm, but took 30 minutes more for reasons that weren’t explained to us. We took our allotted seats and waited patiently for the flight to take off. We landed in Riyadh 4 hours and a few minutes later. The very first process at the airport, that of getting ourselves immigrated, pissed me to the core. We had to wait for 4 long hours, standing in a line predominantly populated by other Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis. The staff at the airport would treat you terribly if you are brown. It doesn’t matter if you have come for business, leisure or for toiling in scorching sun to lay roads and build building for them. Finally, when our turn came to face the immigration officer, we had to show our passport, get all our ten fingers scanned and get our photograph taken.

When we were finally done and came out, you cannot but feel the hot Arabian weather. It is hot as crazy! Yet, since there is absolutely no humidity here, you won’t sweat a bit. Luckily, my company had sent a driver who was standing for us outside the airport with our names printed with bold letters on an A4 sheet. He took us to our office-cum-residence close to Thabab Street near Olaya. I currently stay on the road exactly opposed to King Fahad Medical City. As you drive back from the airport towards the city, the tall buildings, fast cars and wide roads would never stop amazing you. Since Olaya is like the Central Business District here in Riyadh, you can find all major food and clothing brands here. The city is peppered with shopping malls, fast food joints and apparel stores (many of whom offer great discounts!). I knew my next few weeks here wouldn’t be as bad as many of the people had warned me about back at home.

My first few days passed by meeting clients and working on few marketing material for our new office. I also had a chance to go meet my sister and brother-in-law who also stay in Riyadh. At least, there is someone to make me feel at home. Each evening we take a walk on Thabab Street and go eat Shawarma Rolls and drink a tin of Coke. Taxis are available in plenty and don’t charge you a lot due to cheap oil. You can normally go to any corner of the city for less than SAR 20-30 (Around $8), if you negotiate well. Most of the taxi drivers here are either Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. They normally try to chat with you asking where you are from, how long you would be staying in Saudi and other questions that would let them compare their own lives against yours.

I had a chance to go to a lot of hypermarkets, apparel stores, shopping area including Hyper Panda, Tamimi, Geant, Centerpoint, Carrefour, Euro Marche etc., and there are tones of other places that we have planned to go visit sometime soon. I also had a chance to go visit ‘Kingdom Tower’. It’s the tallest building here in Saudi Arabia and is 300-ish meters tall. They have constructed a skywalk right at the top from where you can see the entire city. At night, the city is fully lit up and looks lovely. The food here is also great. You get to eat a lot of things here. I just loved Cinnabons and Dunkin Donuts. Coke and Pepsi is also cheaper here compared to India with a tin selling at Rs. 13!

I guess my first impression of Riyadh has been pleasant and I have started to like this place a bit. But staying away from my dumbo, family and friends is the toughest thing to do. I really miss home and at times feel so lonely out here. But since I would be back home in another two weeks time, I try to not think too much about home and depress myself. I intend to write a lot more about specific incidents that took place here since I came over. Hope you find them interesting. 🙂

Love
Sen

Slumdog Millionaire!

No news has made me so happy in recent times than Slumdog Millionaire being nominated for 10 Oscar Awards! For the first time ever, a movie that has so much to do with India is being accepted so much globally that its already won numerous awards and now awaits judges decisions at the Oscars.

Of all the nominations, the three bagged by A R Rehman was the best of all. I always used to wonder, as to why there are so few Indians who are top notch in their chosen field. Yeah, we do have formula one drivers, movie stars, olympic athletes, hockey players, politicians and all the others. But how many of them are so accomplished like A R Rehman? Very few.

Now with Rehman’s nominations, we have new hope. We can now believe that India does have the potential to produce world class talent. I just hope Rehman inspires a million others to do what they are doing best and keep working harder. For if we do that, awards are just around the corner.

Broken Sequence!

With reference to my previous blog post on how a possible sequence could be found in the terror attacks over time. I am more than glad that there were no major terror attack on any city in India.

At least something to cheer about! 🙂

Terror Attacks on January 13th?

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One of my classmate Sandhya, sent me a text message a couple of days ago. This is how it goes-

13 May – Jaipur
June – X
26 July – Ahmedabad
August – X
13 September – Delhi
Oct – X
26 November – Mumbai
December – X
13 January – ??
Where  Next?

Please be careful in the week of January 13. This is the observation of the sequence of bomb blasts. There is no harm in keeping ourselves alert.

Take care and spread the news. We want everyone safe.

While the intention of the message is great, I was just curious if there really was a sequence? And if there really is, why wasn’t the news more prevalent. So let’s do a google search to check if the sms is really credible.

Date & Location Fact or Fiction?
13 May – Jaipur Fact. Serial blasts. Suspected work of Indian Mujahideen
26 July – Ahmedabad Fact. Serial blasts. Suspected work of Indian Mujahideen
13 Sep – Delhi Fact. Serial blasts. Suspected work of Indian Mujahideen
26 Nov – Mumbai Fact. Serial blasts. Suspected work of LeT and SIMI

Except for the fact that the Nov 26 attacks were carried out by LeT and SIMI, the more I google about these issues, the more evident it becomes that it does look like a sequence. So could January 13 be the next chosen date? With only 2 days to go, god and terrorists (and hopefully our intelligence bureaus) alone know if another attack is under way.

God forbid another attack on India. We cannot take it any more. My prayers for India and her people. Hope this is just a co-incidence and not really a sequence. Please do pray!

Love
Sen

A month after 26/11 Mumbai Attacks!

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A month has gone by since Mumbai had yet another terror attacks. The incident shook me as it did the entire nation and individuals across the globe. My immediate reactions were that of anger – against the government, against the terrorist groups who caused this gory incident, against the security forces and officials with whom India’s safety was trusted with and against us Indians for suffering from short term memory loss!

In a way we all are like Aamir in Ghajini. We tend to forget after a couple of days. We tend to forget that India is a victim of terrorism and politics. Even as the terror attacks were being aired on national news channels, me and my close friend Dumbo were discussing how we will soon forget the incident as time goes by. But I guess I was wrong in a way. Indians woke up like never before! People criticized politicians and their inability to run this country well.

A month has gone by. The case is far from being solved. Accusations and denials are still being made. India and I are confident that Pakistan is in someway involved. But in the grand scheme of things, my opinion doesn’t factor in. Each time I see Pakistan denying that it is involved, I feel we should give Pakistan the benefit of doubt. If not, India should provide hardcore evidence and have other countries to vouch for India’s evidence. While the governments in these two countries fight out the truth, my concern is with civilians of India and Pakistan.

My cousin Vicky is eleven years old and I asked him, ‘Is Pakistan good or bad?’. He replied saying, ‘ Pakistan is definitely bad. They are trying to attack India and killing Indians’. I am sure if I were to ask a Mohammad or Saeed in Pakistan, he’d say the same about India. Somehow in all these governmental issues, we civilians get caught in a web of hate and curses. I think an average Pakistani is as innocent as an average Indian. Sure, there could be thousands of terrorists across the border fighting in the name of religion. But how different are they from Raj Thackeray or Bajrang Dal? How different is what they are trying to defend different from what the terrorists are trying to defend? And in between all these hooligans, why should normal Indian and Pakistani Citizens suffer?

At times like these, we need to think harder and try to see the truth in all the accusations that is being heaped against each other and do our level best not to stereotype! I am sure all these fights have caused more trouble for people on behalf of whom these terrorists claim to be fighting.

If at all anyone deserves our anger, it is our lazy and corrupt government servants. In the days to come, we should do our best not to forget the Mumbai tragedy and keep the pressure on our government to keep working towards finding answers and eliminate individuals and groups involved in this heinous crime. Also, lets pray for the families that have lost their loved ones and for all those risking their lives to safeguard our country and her citizens.

Let tomorrow be a more safer day for India!

Love
Sen

My One Year Old Dead Laptop!

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I purchased a Hewlett Packard TX-1000 tablet pc on November 15, 2007 (Implies my warranty got over a month ago. More on this later). Its a sleek 12-inch laptop powered by an AMD Processor and runs Windows Vista smoothly. I couldn’t have asked for more. A year ago, this model used to sell at INR. 68,000 across stores in India. Since my uncle stays in the US and was visiting us in a couple of weeks time, I decided to buy the laptop on HP’s website and get it delivered to my uncle who stays in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. By doing this I was able to buy a far superior configuration at nearly INR 20,000 less. I eventually paid INR 52,000 equivalent in dollars.

The laptop developed serious problems over the next few months –

  1. The laptop gets extremely hot! I mean you just cannot keep it on your lap and work. You either need a pillow or you a table. Most of my friends used to call my laptop a ‘Room Heater’! If you are planning to buy this laptop, please be informed!
  2. Wi-Fi stopped working after a couple of months. It will work once in a while, before completely dying.
  3. Finally, the laptop just wont boot. It will stop working completely. If you switch the laptop on, the LED lights will go on, but it just won’t boot.

The first time my Wi-Fi stopped working, I took my laptop to ValuePoint Solutions, an authorized HP reseller and service centre. They shocked me saying they cannot service the model in India as it was purchased in USA. A lady who picked up the call at HP Customer care told me the same thing after asking for my laptop’s serial and product number. Since it was only the Wi-Fi that wasn’t working, I purchased a new external Wi-Fi card. A week back, my laptop just stopped working completely. When I did a Google search, I found hundreds of customers who had this same laptop, complaining about the same problem. Again, these problem occur exactly a year after they have purchased it, meaning their warranty is over and now have to pay for fixing their laptop.

A lot of them had called HP and complained that the product is inherently faulty and HP should compensate. HP outright denies the fact and says these people must pay USD 500 – 600 to get the laptop fixed. Now that’s a lot of money! Here are a couple of links taken directly out of HP’s own forums where people are complaining about the model.

Link to HP Forum 1
Link to HP Forum 2
Link to HP Forum 3

One person even went to the extent of opening a new group on facebook protesting against the issue and asking people to join so that once there are sufficient number of people, they can hire an attorney.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=38244259698

Now, having bought this laptop in the USA, I cannot service it in India and still have to shell out money even if I ship it to US. When I checked the cost I’d incur for couriering my laptop to US from India, it turns out to be another $200 dollars for sending and receiving it back. So here’s the math – $600 + $200 =  $800 (Nearly INR 40000 to fix it!). I can buy a brand new laptop for that money. And what if my laptop dies again a couple of weeks later? Am I supposed to spend another $ 800?

I truly suggest everyone intending to pick the TX1000 and other tablets from HP to kindly think twice. They just aren’t worth the pay. Don’t take my word. Google search the issue and you’ll find the truth for yourself!

Love
Sen

Done being a student!

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With the end of this month, I would no longer be a student anymore. (Well, lets assume I don’t get crazy enough to go ahead and do my PhD or something like that!). Now you might be curious to know how I feel about the whole thing. Well, I myself cannot figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I mean, I just woke up the day after my last presentation we made for CAPSIM like it was just another day. It didn’t somehow hit me that I can no longer be a student. Strange.

But when I look back at how I felt when I was done with school, I felt the same – Nothing!. But years later, every time I think about school, I always get nostalgic and never fail to smile. ‘School days are the best’, I’d tell myself. And again, I somehow feel this is exactly how I’m going to feel about college years from now, when I hang my laptop on my shoulder, carry files in hand and fake a smile for a foreign client from whom I expect to fetch my company millions in dollars. I just hope those days aren’t any day near. Yearning to go back in time can be killing! Let that feeling take its own sweet time to reach me.

Having said I have done classroom-studying, I’ll never let my need to keep learning leave me ever. What’s there to outside one’s classroom far outnumbers what one learnt in class. And as I prepare myself to jump across frames that will transform me from being a student to an employee (a businessman later in life), there are things to be done, habits to be changed and people to be thanked. Since the list can get long, please bear with me!

I cannot but start thanking some of the most nicest teachers I have studied under in Christ School, Bangalore. Starting with Sr. Sagaya Mary (Taught me maths in Standard Two), Mr. Baby Philip, Mrs. Shashikala, Mrs. Amita Chaturvedi, Mrs. Latha Renji and Mr. Pandey. I guess if not for them, I would be less competent in one way or another. And then I must thank Mrs. Mariyamma, my accounting lecturer in Christ Junior College. My professors at Alliance Business Academy, where I did my BBM, always believed in me and have played a key role in my academic life. I cannot, but thank Prof. Ray Titus for his wonderful lectures in Services Management and Strategy, that I remember until today. The list is absurdly long when it comes to my Ohio University Christ College MBA professors whom I love and respect. Thanks to Dr. Raghu Iyer, Dr. Amalendu Jyotishi, Dr. Venkatesha Bhagavat, Dr. John Schermerhorn, Dr. Felicia Morgan, Dr. Dinesh Iyer, Dr. Jayanta Sen and Mrs. Gayathri (Placement Officer). I am really going to miss the office staff in Ohio Christ.

I met some of my best friends while being a student. Though I’ve lost contact with a lot of these people, they still mean a lot to me – Fijo Paulson, Dhanush Jose, Derrin Joseph, Asma Rafeeq, Sharan Sridhar, Soumya Madhavan Soumya R, Ninal Joseph, Nandini Narayan, Jiji John, Sachin R, Ammar Khan, Krishna Murthy, Vinay Chetan, Nimisha Saha, Nayanshi Shaw, Preethi Paul, Shalini Kashinath and Salma Raheem. I am so sure I’ve missed out a lot of names. If you are among them, my apologies. I really wish I could throw you all a party for being such good friends of mine!

As I start my career, in an not-so-awesome fashion in a not-so-good recession ridden economy, I am nervous and excited. Years from now, as I look back to tomorrow, I just hope I can say to myself – ‘I’ve come a long way!’

Love
Sen

Last day of my MBA Program

Its 8.42 am to be precise. On a Wednesday morning, as I type this post, my team members are preparing for the last presentation we would be making as MBA students scheduled at 9.00 am. Since we are the first team to go to the podium, we reached college early and began rehearsing. Now all we have to do is wait till Ershad, our senior from Batch 11 and someone else (who we still not sure) is going to be here to judge our presentation. Since we are going to be called in any minute. I’ll stop here. More to come in less than 90 minutes. Stay tuned. Since its my last day in college, I have a lot to rant and cry about! Lol

Love
Sen

MBA Placements

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Some of our worst fears are coming true lately. We are completing our MBA program in a couple of days and a large number of us are yet to get a job. We have been two trends in the job market this year – Companies are outright not hiring or are willing to hire one or two students at half of what they used to previously pay.  Thanks the global economic crisis and reduced demand that most of the companies are now suffering from.

Very few students have been lucky enough to get jobs. Currently, as I write this, 4 students out of 100 have been placed with less than 3 weeks left before we complete our MBA program. We, as students are pretty much stuck in the middle. We have to decide between accepting meagre salaries in not-so-good companies or wait for bigger companies. You can successfully argue for both.

In the time to come, I guess each one of us need to work and have a lot of patience. The best thing for us to do now is to do our best to get employed in the first place. A time will come (shortly!) when we can get choosy again. Until then, we should keep our expectations a bit low!

Wish us luck!

Love
Sen