Archive for February, 2011

Restaurants that pay you to finish?

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Part of my morning drill (after dunking a coffee and reviewing the tasks for the day) is to read business blogs. There are a few that I read every so often, but BNet is one place that I turn to almost every day. Today morning, I stumbled upon an interesting post on Farnoosh Torabi’s You’re so Money. Apparently, there are quite a few restaurants here in the US that will pay you (or reward you, to be correct) if you complete a gastronomical challenge.

What a neat marketing trick! Lure customers with “get money for eating” and present them with something that they just can’t finish… But the reason why this post caught my attention is entirely different.

Three years ago, I used to live in Aundh, in the outskirts of Pune. There was a small eating joint where me and my wife would go on occasion. This was no “Fine Dining” joint; it was rather a place that bachelors frequented more often. A place to get good food for a reasonable price. The kitchen was inside the building, and the tables were set outside in the open.

If you sat at a table to the right (under the Neem tree), you could see a notice posted on the wall – “this restaurant charges patrons that leave leftovers in the plate.” Below it, in a slightly smaller font was the explanation – “Please do not waste food. You and I can afford it, but our nation cannot“.

I hope more people consider this and make it a habit. As they say, it’s little drops of water that make the ocean, after all.


Missing home

February 25, 2011 2 comments

Here in the US, the fastest way of getting any social interaction is to invite people over for dinner. In our apartment complex’s “Indian Community” there’s at least one such formal dinner every week – with someone or the other inviting someone else. So far, we have been invited to 3 of our friends’ homes, and we have in turn invited people four times. Prudence (and societal niceties) demand that no one be left out, and everyone invite everyone else at least once (and an equal number of times if more than once).

Tonight, two of my colleagues are coming over to our place for dinner. We planned the menu a week in advance, and my wife has spent most of yesterday and today fixing up everything. 30 minutes from now, the doorbell will ring and our house will be full of chit-chat and laughter for the next three hours.

Except that I won’t be there to share this with my wife (and be with her in case there are any sour vibes).

Today one of my projects was supposed to go live to production – at 3PM to be precise. To cut a long story short, there were some hiccups, and here I am – sitting with the technical team that’s trying to fix things up. I have had three phone calls to home in the last few hours, and although my wife is very supportive and understands that I need to be here – I know that we both want to be together right now.

As I write this, two of my colleagues just let out a small cheer and throw their hands up in a gesture of victory. Apparently, they have figured the solution out. All that remains now is to document what they have done and write an email to the person who will take the baton from them. Then, we all head home.

It looks like the weekend will be a good one, after all.

“Elementary,” he said

February 23, 2011 1 comment

Our daughter’s pre-school here is a far cry from what she had in Mumbai. Back there, she had 3 hours of school 5 days a week, including classwork & homework too. Over here, it’s a tame affair – she attends school just twice a week – and there’s only play in school. No formal “education” as such.

Last month, we were informed that there’s an option of having her stay an extra hour in school and have lunch with her friends too. My wife went to the principal’s office to enroll her in the program, and asked her about any additional fees.

“You will have to pay $20 in addition to the monthly $143.”

“All right,” my wife said, “I’ll write a check for $163”.

“Wait, wait,” said the Principal, and rushed to her calculator. She punched a few buttons, and smiled at my wife. “You are right, it is $163 after all!”

Later that evening, I and my wife chatted about this incident. Back in India, it’s not that you are expected to do such basic arithmetic in your mind – it is assumed that mental arithmetic is the way to go.

*   *   *

Last weekend, we went to the Border’s bookstore to get some educational books for our daughter. Once again, we were surprised – she knew the stuff in books meant for kids 2 years older than her.

What’s with the education system in this country? I know – children are precious, they should be carefully nurtured and all that. But the first 5 years are when a child’s brain develops the most (and has the highest rate of learning too). So what’s the logic behind not harnessing all that intellectual power?

I couldn’t find an answer to this question. Neither do I intend to stay here to find it out.

(Yet another) beginning

February 18, 2011 5 comments

My wife admits that I am “a creative sort of a person” – and I agree with her too. However, being filled with creative ideas does have its “side-effect” – I’m always on the lookout for means of expressing my creativity. In the past 6 years, my wife has seen that in different ways: trying my hand at the guitar, simple drawings on paper – even miniature sketches and “graffiti” using a blue marker pen (not on paper, though). And each time, she had reiterated what I know – that I am full of creativity.

But last year, when I announced that I will write a book, she expressed another of her opinions about me – that I love beginning things. That I begin new ventures with lots of enthusiasm, do it for a few days (or in the case of my book, a few months) and then give up and move on to something else.

Me – I constantly need fresh challenges. So if something fails to sustain my interest for too long, I will quit paying attention and move on to something else.

Next month, I plan to buy a Nikon.


February 7, 2011 4 comments

On 5th November 2010, we left India, and landed in Denver on the 6th. In these three months, the topic we have discussed the most has been “how long should we stay in the US of A”. Of all the Indian people we have met here, I believe we are the exception. While everyone here is trying to prolong their stay, we are trying to reduce it as best as we can.

So why are we so keen on leaving? After all, the US is the land of opportunity – dreams to be realized if you are but willing to fight for them. And the “life” here is “good” too:

  • The civil infrastructure is good (and sufficient in scale too)
  • It’s nice to breathe clean, fresh air every day
  • I really love the way the US has preserved its natural heritage & the wilderness
  • Traffic’s almost non-existent (and disciplined too)
  • Museums, Libraries – these are excellent

Or is the life really good? Here’s some of what we miss:

  • Amazing social life that we had back in India
  • Unpretentious neighbors
  • A good education system
  • No compulsion to be politically correct every time
  • A culture of Frugality

If you want a one-line summary, here it is: We have a house in Denver, but our home is back in India.

Memories of Satara

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Last September, we were in Satara for a weekend getaway. Saturday was a tame affair, for we reached the town only in the afternoon. After spending the evening on Ajinkyatara we retired early, for we wanted to be completely rested for a hectic Sunday.

Over breakfast, we talked about the plans for the day. After a brief discussion, we decided to visit Sajjangadh, Chalkewadi (a windmill farm) and Thosegar (gorgeous waterfalls). We set out at a leisurely pace, and rolled the windows down – although it was the monsoon season, the air was warm.

By noon, we had left Sajjangadh behind and were moving towards Chalkewadi. As we crossed Thosegar, the road started to climb, and the air became noticeably cooler as we gained altitude. Half an hour later, we reached Chalkewadi. I glanced over my shoulder – my daughter was very sleepy. I drove on, until we reached a small stone bridge over a narrow stream of water. I parked the car at the side of the road, and wedged rocks under the wheels for extra precaution. My wife put our daughter to sleep on the rear seat, and then stepped out to join me.

We sat beside the car, on the bridge’s arch. All of a sudden, it started to drizzle, and we huddled together – a single jacket over our shoulders, and one umbrella to keep us dry. Beyond the meadow was an endless line of windmills, all turning slowly with the wind.

Yes, we did not visit every place we intended to that day. But happiness is in enjoying the journey, and not in just reaching the destination.