Friday, January 30, 2009

Thailand Trip

Edited, politically correct, censored version on Thailand Trip.

Every year in Jan we have our company paid incentive trip abroad... last year it was Australia and this year to Thailand- Phuket and Bangkok. Sales, HR, operations, marketing, supply chain- all functions are a part of this trip.

Before I begin... I have to introduce my friends- Dhruv and Abhinav 'coz of who the trip was so much fun. We joined the company together as Management Trainees.
Dhruv and I became friends in August'07 while working on factory project together... I appreciate that he is straight forward... what you see is what you get. The friendship deepened over time and has withstood the distance (he is North- Delhi and Himachal).
Abhinav was in my B-School but we never went beyond "Hi... hello". I don't know when we became friends... it was slowly and steadily.. once he was sure I was harmless he started opening up... he is in the South (B'glore and AP) while I am in West (Mumbai and Gujarat).

We have few things in common- honesty, straight forwardness, loyatly (towards each other), a mean and evil streak, do not believe in ass licking (PR).

Day 1:

We took the flight from Mumbai to Bangkok at 11.30 pm (it did not even have a TV)... at Bangkok I waited eagerly for South and North branch to arrive. Dhruv was arriving late so Abhinav and I headed together for Phuket from Bangkok. We were staying at Hilton Acardia Resort in Phuket which is excellent... across the road is a beach... the resort is huge with many swimming pools, restaurants and pubs.

The tour guide from Cox and Kings had arranged for 2 shows in the evening- Cabaret by ladyboys or transexuals and Fantasea.

Abhinav, Dhruv and I had no intention of attending any shows... we were going bungee jumping. Yes!!! I have always wanted to do it. Once the North branch and corporate guys arrived- Boss, 2 North ASMs and 3 of us headed to the site.

Boss decided to go first... we all had to sign a declaration which states we are physically fit... Boss' legs were tied together so he could only hop. A lift took him 50m high... there was a man there to direct him on the jump. He had to hop till edge of the lift, spread out his hands and jump down facing towards the ground (in this case the water below). He did so... and plunged into the water till his waist. Dhruv went next... he had refused to come on the Bat Wing ride in Movie World, Australia last year. I was confident that if he can do it... so can I. Next was my turn.... when I was standing on the edge the guy counted till 3 and asked me to jump. I refused... how could I? I was at 50 m... so he pushed me lightly from behind and off I went. I closed my eyes and mouth to keep from screaming. It was a dizzying sensation and I wanted it to end asap. After less than a minute (it seemed like hours) I came to the ground... I was afraid I would puke... but a few sips of beer and some water and some rest made me feel better. I vowed never to go bungee jumping again. Once was enough.

After the unsettling experience we headed to the resort and changed into beach wear... the beach was deserted at night... the bars and food joints were also closed... we went to the pool but that was also closed. We headed to Bangla street for dinner and some night life. Thailand is known for cheap sex... it is teeming with prostitutes. Bangla street in Phuket is full of shady bars... strip clubs... prostitutes... ladyboys (women with penises/surgically created women). The night life begins at 11 pm and we headed to KFC for a bite. The nightclubs open at 11 and we headed to the bar near them. The street had clubs where there were women pole dancing at the entrance to attract tourists... men and women thrust photos of almost nude women in your face whether you were a man or a woman. The guys were taken aback.

Me: Why do you look so shocked? Wasn't Australia also like this? (I had not explored night life there)

Them: There were few clubs like this... but it was not so in-your-face. This is too much actually.

We took our seats at a bar where there were lot of women dressed in white. (Later I found out female prostitutes dress in white and ladyboys dress in black). We were served our drinks and one female started dancing on our table. It was un-nerving 'coz she had not waxed her legs and if I looked up I could see what was under her skirt... and she was a lady boy. I finished my drink asap (actually gave it away to the guys) and left for the hotel... I was tired... and disgusted...

Day 2:

We were to leave for James Bond Island... it is an island where a James Bond movie was shot... we were to go rafting also. Abhinav and Dhruv had arrived at 4 am and were still sleeping when I was leaving for b'fast. I convinced them to skip bath since we would get wet there... It took us 2 hours by bus to get to the ferry... from there 1 hour on boat... and it was rafting not canoeing (2 people sit on a rubber boat and a 3rd person uses the oars to guide it)... quite boring... we skipped it and poked fun at others instead.

James Bond Island is very sad... the only attraction is a rock... the water is dirty... the journey is too long... we stopped at another island for a traditional Thai lunch. Hungry, exhausted and miserable we headed back to the resort for the conference (the reason we had taken the trip). The conference was ok kinds but snacks provided were good. We changed into party wear for the DJ night. At midnight I headed to my room while the guys hit the Bangla street again.

Day 3:

We headed to Coral Island in the morning carrying our beach wear. This time I had asked the other tour guide for details on the activities there. Convinced that it would not be a disaster like the previous day we went ahead. It took 1 hour to reach the ferry... we boarded a motor boat... grabbed the front seats and reached Coral Island in 15 mins after a choppy ride. The sea is beautiful there... calm, shallow, blue, green... we headed for the Under Sea walk... you are taken under the sea and get to walk among the fish, feed them, touch the flora there. It was an amazing experience. The rest of the time was spent in the water or sun bathing. We headed to the airport for our flight to Bangkok in the evening. Dhruv was on a separate flight. Abhinav looked very tired... he had not slept in days and was in no mood to party at night. I was dissappointed. I wanted to explore Bangkok and so he agreed to come out with me. My roomie Jolly also joined us... we headed to a pub on Sukhumvit street. The pub was good with weird music... pretty waitresses... lots of couples... good lighting... After dinner at an Indian restaurant (we were craving for butter chicken) we hit the bed and snored soundly. Later I realized that there were only white men in the pub... they were with Thai women. It was actually a pick up joint.

Day 4:

The day started so late that we missed b'fast. The plan was to skip sight-seeing and head straight for shopping. We headed for Siam Square which has the biggest malls. For unbranded stuff MBK mall is the best. It is spread over 4 floors and you can get good and cheap stuff after bargaining. All the malls are connected through a bridge which is connected to the Metro station. The malls in India are nothing compared to this. Another place recommended for shopping is Indira Nagar. Abhinav and Dhruv would not let me stop or rest after my comment; "I miss girls... shopping is different with them". Indira Nagar is like Palika Bazar in Delhi... maybe even worse. It makes Linking Road look classy. We bought tee shirts for our team (sales executives) and left asap. Bangkok is teeming with fake stuff... we were looking for branded shoes (Nike, Reebok, Adidas)... there was a shop which offered 20-30% discount. We were surprised and had every intention of buying them. On surveying closely we noticed that "Nike" logo had a slight angle... which means that it was fake. We decided to shop as little as possible.

At night we were supposed to be on a cruise but decided to skip it (like most people). I received a message from Boss saying the cruise was compulsory since Head of South Asia and more important people were going to be there. I convinced the guys to join me... They gave in... the cruise was ok... there was booze, dinner, a Thai lady singing Hindi songs with an accent, the ASMs dancing around her. After the cruise I headed to my room... got an in room Thai massage and snored soundly (Artee had warned me that I should not return without a massage).

Day 5:

We were to leave for respective branches in the evening... morning was free for shopping. We headed to MBK Mall to buy souveniers.

We got a little senti while saying Good-Bye... it had been a good trip... and we don't know when we will meet again. I doubt they will turn up for my wedding (They just confirmed that they will attend... Yippie!!!) Either way... I miss them...

The trip left us depressed... we were low after the high.

Any thoughts???

A: i hv accepted his invite

Me: good for u

A: coz u said so

Me: he will make ur life interesting

A: good for u .... u dont need backups

Me: sigh... who knows

A: its a sign of insecurity and absence of blind faith

Me: i agree... its strange how one person can remove that insecurity... crazy na???
for every relationship we convince ourselves this is the one
and when it doesnt work out... we see the faults...
n think next time.. we will learn from these mistakes... n be sensible
but does it happen?
why does it work out with one person and not another?
is it coz we want it to work out??? or is it luck? compatibility???


Just received this fwd from Artee... anyone who has been to Chennai will totally identify with this:

Here’s a guide on how to hire an auto rickshaw in Chennai.

Never ask the auto that is waiting on the stand. The driver will be playing cards, chatting with friends or sleeping and will surely charge you a penalty for infringing on his basic right to enjoyment. Always stop an auto already plying in the direction you want to go in. This way you have a better chance of managing a reasonable rate.

Be prepared to be ripped off. It’s going to happen anyway so set your expectations right. Please understand that at best you can only manage some damage control on fare so don’t expect too much.

Always mention a landmark where you want to get down. Get down exactly at that landmark, take a short walk to your destination but don’t ask the auto driver to take you even 2 meters farther from the landmark you had mentioned. While getting down, point at the landmark and hand him the promised fare. While doing this speak out loud the name of the landmark and the denomination in a robotic voice. For example, (pointing towards the building with one hand and holding a 100 Rupee note in the other) “Kalyani Hospital… Hundred Rupees.” After the transaction don’t look him in the eye and just get down and walk off. Always keep the exact change ready or face a penalty.

If you are talking with someone en route and are assuming that the auto driver does not understand what you speak just because you are using English or Hindi, you are wrong! If you assume that even while he understands what you are saying he will respond to your statements in English or Hindi, You are wrong again!! The auto drivers here are the Zen Masters of the Art of Ripping Off. They have a cartel and create a false language barrier to get more negotiation power.

If the auto driver gets emotional about petrol prices, traffic, hot weather, rain, house rental, auto repair expenses, his 5 girls of a marriageable age, his only son suffering from cancer, police, chief minister, prime minister or Barak Obama don’t get involved in the conversation. Just pretend you did not listen to him. A good tactic is to put on headphones and listen to some music. Conversation is another trap, don’t fall into it.

Here’s how the fare structure works. Let’s say honest fare = Rs 80.

1. Add 30% if he was engaged in recreational activities before you hired him
2. Add 20% if you looked lost when he threw the name of some alternate landmark at you
3. Add 50% if you can’t speak Tamil
4. Add 20% if your complexion is lighter than him
5. Add 50% if it’s really late in the night (after 7 PM)
6. Add 20% if you engaged in any conversation with him while on the way
7. Add 30% if you are dressed well and are sporting a perfume
8. Add 15% if you don’t have exact change
9. Add 50% if it’s raining
10. Add 10% if he ran out of petrol and had to walk off to get some fuel

Lets say nothing works in your favor, given below is the implication.

Minimize the mistakes and control your expenses. Sometimes you are better off calling a cab. Use short and crisp statements while setting a deal. Spice up your conversation with some Tamil words. Use South Indian accent. An example is given below:

Me: Anna… KK Nagar
Auto: (Something in Tamil)

Don’t bother about what he said. After he stops speaking just mention the landmark near your destination. Keep a straight face. This is serious business.

Me: Pondicherry Guest House
Auto: (Something in Tamil)

He may try the classic “confused about the location" trick. Just throw more landmark locations to him that are near your destination. Add aaa sound to most English words you use.

Me: Udayam Theater-a… Left-a…. Pillar-a… Straight-a… Pondicherry Guest House. KK Nagar… 10 meters Pillar-a.

Unless he is a real son of a gun he will nod his head. Don’t board yet. Just signal from your hand how much money he wants don’t say anything more.

Auto: (Something in Tamil)
Me: aaaaa?

Auto: Rs 100
Me: Anna!! What? Poor Man… What Anna? Normal-a 50 Rupees. OK TAKE 60

Now it’s up to you. Keep on negotiating until you find a reasonable rip off rate.

Some tricks you can use are interrupting the conversation for faking a phone call. Respond in English and make it appear that you are not new to Chennai and use Tamil words here and there. It helps to carry a Tamil Pulp Fiction magazine full of sex, murder and conspiracy stories in your hands. This costs about Rs. 10 and is next to currency for Auto Drivers. You can even give the magazine to him and ask for a big discount.

Last but not the least, remember hiring an auto in Chennai is like a Poker Game. You win some you loose some. Mostly you loose. Be a good sport and enjoy it.

Happy traveling!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I have been working for 12 hours straight and am exhausted. I had an interesting day... lot of learning. It is not everyday that I meet practical people who can think on the ground... I hate vague gassy people... they don't add any value... not to their jobs... not their colleagues... not their sub-ordinates. Thankfully, there are enough practical people to counter-act the gassy ones. They keep the wheels oiled and in motion even when the gas tries to spread rust.

One reason I moved from corporate office to branch office is to get a local ground perspective... there will be enough opportunities for the national perspective.

In the corporate world, you have to learn from people and look at them beyond their faults... one way of doing that is interacting professionally and not personally... avoid socializing...

It is amazing how smaller, local companies can get things right. All the MNCs are struggling while a local company in Gujarat has got it right. MNCs have the best brains... high salaries... exhaustive tools... while a local company has local people. Like I was telling Boss; "These buggers of a local company have got it right while we are still struggling... hats off to them". We are so focussed on the over-all picture we forget to think small.

Look at where the retail chains are today... once upon a time the smaller shops were freaking out 'coz of Modern Trade... the retail chains- Subhiksha, Big Bazar, Spencers are still struggling. The smaller retailers had the last laugh. How the fuck did they expect to succeed with screwed up supply chains, impersonal staff, cash payment?

Think local... thats the message for today.

Enough of gyaan... had plans of going to Chaos but no chance now... I'd rather spend Sunday in Mumbai than in A'bad.

Yawn!!! Good night... have month end closing tomorrow and day after... bahut tension hai re!!!

Good Morning Gujarat

TOI, Gujarat is on a strange mission... to take credit for Slumdog Millionaire.
My mornings are very amusing 'coz of these newspaper headlines...
(notice how the PM and his health, Satyam news... terrorist etc are less imp than the Gujju connections of Slumdog actors)

There is one more news item... which was the first one... it said that Dev Patel (actor in Slumdog) had fallen ill when he came to Gujarat few years back.

TOI, Gujarat is on a strange mission... to take credit for the success of Slumdog Millionaire.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Strange friendships

Friendship is strange. As a kid and then a teenager my friends were my world... more so 'coz I grew up in a boarding school. But over the years the dependence on these friends has decreased... maybe 'coz everyone has become busy with their life... husbands, kids, family, jobs etc. The rules have changed. Maybe the entry of a guy (hubby or bf) has replaced the need for friends.

Either way, it is not the same... and the challenge is in accepting this but not resenting the situation. Maybe I am also the culprit... I don't know... none of my friends have complained of being side tracked.

The reason for this post today is my best friend... I have been pissed with her for 28 days (Yes... I am counting... I am such a kid) but she doesn't know... (I have a difficulty in expressing hurt)...
There have been times when we have been on the verge of letting go... but I always gave in. I guess this time I have decided not to... I am ready to let go... to stop being hurt and side tracked.

Introduction to "What The Fuck!!!"

It is a dull Wed afternoon... I have met my sales target... waiting for the sales executive to pick me up so we can roam on the streets of Rajkot screaming "DB... db joyiye che" (Distributor... need a DB). It is our daily ritual for past 2 months which has yielded no results. I like how practical my company is.... lets name it ABC... we do not use scoping, targeting, tele calling etc. Such MBA techniques are for the sissies... real men (in my case, real women) just go out there and "Do It".

Don't mind the double meaning dialogues on this blog... after 3 blogs (1 in college... 1 at job... 1 anonymous) I know how to pull traffic (hint: read blog title).

Why have I started another blog? Lets see... I am missing the attention in my life.So.. this blog.

I will try to be as controversial as possible... I promise. And unlike most bloggers... I will update it quite often... maybe even everday (keep your fingers crossed).

All said and done... I am such a Gemini.