Flashback to Paris

The other day I was watching the finale of the Tour de France happening through the streets of Paris. It reminded me of my week there as a tourist more than 5 years back.

Paris, at that time, was first on my travel bucket list. We were staying in Ireland at that time and, at the first available opportunity, we made our plans to visit the ‘City of Lights’.

And Paris did not disappoint. Never mind that it was late February and snowing, the city more than lived up to its reputation. Maybe it was because of the weather in that it might have been less crowded with tourists than at other times, but whatever the reason, I left with the feeling that I have to be back and see more of this wonderful city.

We stayed the first couple of nights in a hotel in the 1st Arrondisement. Memories are a bit vague now, but I believe we visited the Champs Elysees on the first day and the Louvre on the second. Here are some photos from these places.

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Towards a healthier diet

People who are meeting me after a few months almost invariable comment that I have lost weight. And I tell them that it is by choice. I have made some changes to my eating habits that I believe has caused me to lose a few kilos and, more importantly, feel lighter, fresher and happier.

The story goes back a few months when I was going through a rather bumpy phase. My stress levels were high and so was my blood pressure. It was at this stage that my wife heard about a naturopathy based cooking workshop. As I have a strong interest in cooking and strongly felt that I needed to make a change, I registered for it.

The session was an eye-opener in terms of what we typically end up putting in our stomachs (and bodies). The workshop also recommended a few changes that we could make in our cooking habits to lead a healthier life.

I won’t say that I have implemented everything that I learnt in the workshop, but even the few changes I have made seem to be working. What are these changes? Quite simple actually. Reduce the amount of processed food that we eat (no chips, deep fried stuff, etc.) Reduce salt and sugar. Reduce (ideally eliminate) the use of oil in cooking (use nuts instead). Avoid tea. Have an early dinner. It was told that our bodies only need two meals a day. I still have three meals, but I only have a light dinner, and I typically have my dinner by 7 pm.

But the most important change I have made is to incorporate fruits into my diet. I begin my lunch and dinner with a course of fruits. I feel that this enables my body to absorb all the goodness in the fruits and also means that I eat less of the other (more processed) stuff.  If there in one change I would like everyone to make, it would be this.

 

Tree Parichay

I recently attended a ‘Tree Parichay’, organised by INTACH Bengaluru chapter. INTACH is an organisation dedicated to the conservation of heritage. And I must admit, I would not have thought of trees as an integral part of our heritage before this walk.

The walk was ably led by a botanist, Ganeshram Esh, and was help on the 12th Main Road of Indiranagar. It was well attended by over 15 participants from different walks of life united by an interest in trees.

The location itself was interesting for the participants, being a busy suburban road. But as Ganesh explained, the city of Bengalure was planned as a garden city and this thoroughfare itself has over 60 varieties of trees from all over the World. In our two hour walk, we came across specimens from South America, Africa, South East Asia and Australia, in addition to native species.

In addition to just visually observing the trees, we were also encourages to explore the trees by the other senses – touch and smell. And this definitely added a different dimension to the experience.

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Working at eBay.in

There was a news article recently that the current owners of the eBay.in website in India are planning to shut it down soon. I was fortunate to be part of the founding team of this pioneering venture and to date consider it as the best days of my professional life. Here are my thoughts on why this was so:

People: The bedrock of any organisation. A big Thank You to the founding members of Baazee.com for consistently hiring great people. Not only were the team one of the smartest and talented that I ever had the fortune of working with, but also great individuals and team members. Humility, respect, trust and willingness to go the extra mile, while also knowing how to have a good time characterised the team.

Processes: While Baazee.com was a start-up, it was very interesting to observe that they already had a lot of processes in place that one expects in more mature organisations. This, to me, shows the foresight of the senior leadership team as it helped bring a strong sense of focus to the team. Everyone knew not only their individual role within the company, but also what others in the team did. As it to be expected, this was taken to another level with eBay. And I, personally, consider this as one of my biggest learnings from working there.

Plans: Another area where learned a lot. Both Baazee and eBay were very clear about their plans across the short, medium and long (2-3 years) terms. The process of making the plans was very inclusive, which meant that there was very strong clarity across the team on roles and objectives. This, combined with the processes mentioned above, meant that there was also a high level of transparency about the goals across the organisation.

Culture: All of the above meant that Baazee / eBay had a wonderful work culture. There was hardly any politics, second guessing, hierarchies, etc. Discussions were open and held in a respectful fashion and there was a true open door philosophy at the senior leadership level. I believe this enabled everyone to give their best.

Learning: There was ample opportunity to learn, especially at Baazee. Part of this stemmed from the fact that it was truly a pioneering organisation, so many of the things we were doing had not really been done before in the country. But another important contributor was also the trust managers had that their teams would do the right thing. There was little micro-management and mistakes, made with the best intentions, were tolerated.

I am sure there are other points, but I truly believe that Baazee / eBay was one of those rare organisations where everything just came together. People who were lucky enough to have worked there have formed strong bonds. When there was a get-together of alumni recently, nearly 60 from across the country and abroad made it a point to come together and have a good time. Cheers to eBay.in!

Agara Lake

One of the natural heritages of Bangalore are the number of lakes that dot the city. Bangalore does not have any rivers flowing through or near it, and being a landlocked city, the lakes are the only natural water habitat in the city. Unfortunately, the lakes have been under threat for a while due to population growth, encroachments and sewage being dumped into them.

There are a few lakes in the vicinity of where I live in South East Bangalore. One of these in Agara Lake. The lake was completely dredged a few months back. I do not have any photos of how it looked at that time, but the photo below of Ibblur Lake in a similar state will give readers an idea of how it looked like. I was a bit concerned when I first saw the lake in this situation but then I heard that this was part of a project to rejuvenate the lake.

Ibblur Lake
Ibblur Lake being dredged

The rejuvenation process was complete a couple of months back and I finally got a chance to visit this lake last weekend. It is now a sight for sore eyes, with clean water in it and greenery all around. The authorities must be recommended for the good work done in the restoration. There is a walkway (and cycle-way) encircling the lake with benches dotted around. There are also a few permanent gazebos that provide shelter from the elements. Children can play in a neat, albeit small play-area while grownups can exercise at a number of exercise equipment placed around the lake. There are also a couple of public toilets though one was closed when we visited.

Agara Lake
Agara Lake
Agara Lake - play area
Play area – Agara Lake

The place was packed with people of all ages having a good time. A private company was providing cycles on rent and it was good to see quite a few people having a go. The whole area, which was deserted initially is now buzzing with activity. Enterprising vendors had set up temporary stalls near the entrances and seemed to be doing brisk business. To me, this is ample proof that conservation can play a very positive role not just in improving the quality of life of residents but also in providing a fillip, however small, to the local economy.