Krishna’s Arrival

It’s been a year since the arrival of my baby Krishna’s  and I haven’t blogged about it yet. How mean of me! or rather How busy.

May 19th, 2016 evening at around 4 PM, I was in a meeting and I start getting repeated calls from an unknown number, I kept snoozing them few times but then when I received the call to give back an angry answer, it was actually Deepthi trying to call n tell me she had a water break. Well totally unprepared I was. Due date was almost a month away. tense I just stood and walked out of the meeting room, and straight to the parking lot.  I I don’t know how I reached home, picked up Deepthi and rushed to the hospital all in less than 45 minutes.

At 5 PM I’m sitting in front of Deepthi while she rests playing incline/decline on labor ward bed. Did we even think about a name for our baby? Not yet.

We were a little worried as we were about to have a late-pre-term baby. Night 1sh is when the real intense labor pain kicked in, and then our Doctor Dr. Deborah Bieter-Schultz suggested Epidural anesthesia. Unless doctor suggested, our nurse was not ready to approve anesthesia. Well, Epidural specialist walked in and talked to us very pleasantly and in Kannada. Epidural done, and we were asked to take some rest. We slept till around 8 am.

Next morning was a gloomy overcast day. Around 10.30 – at this point, Deepthi had been laboring for about 18 hours and was visibly tired.  Contractions had sped up significantly to every 5-6 minutes this is when the doctor told us it’s time! Things started speeding up. An intense 30 minutes. I was holding Deepthi’s hands and stood right beside her all the while. 11.02 is when our Baby Krishna was born. He immediately started crying as he was given his first set of immunizations. We were so so happy to hear his voice. 5 1/2 pounds, a healthy baby nothing else mattered. magical moments and a huge feeling of relief. Deepthi cried as she held the baby for the first time. So thankful to God and heartfelt thank you to all the doctors and nurses at Paoli Hospital.

As amazing as it sounds, just 15 minutes after birth, Deepthi WALKED from labor room to our ward as I carried my baby in a bassinet.

A Guru we happened to meet a couple months back at ISKCON, had blessed us and predicted we would have a baby boy and so it happened.. just as he said, our baby was born on a day filled with thunderstorms and heavy rains.

We have named our baby as ‘Krishna Aradhya’

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Stupid IVRs

Speech – Toastmasters Project 3 – Get to the point

As Toastmaster just said I will be talking today about IVR which stands for “Interactive Voice Response”.
In a laymen’s term, it is the automated phone menus that we hear when calling customer support.

Question – Did you know that how many phone calls Comcast alone receives every day? One million to 1.2 million phone calls per day!!
What does this mean?
It can only mean IVR IS a big deal and a business necessity for any company.

Few facts-
Did you know that over 70% of customers end up being unhappy after interaction with IVRs
And do you also know 8 out of 10 people prefer talking to a customer representative?

Fellow toastmasters and Dear Guests,
My speech today is not to talk about technical aspects of IVRs. (because it would end up being such a boring speech). I will be talking about “Not so Good” things about IVRs.
I’m not saying we need to get rid of them because they are obviously needed. But why are almost each one of them so badly done?
Let me illustrate what happened when I called with X-And-Y Global Services a few days back.

Hello, thank you for contacting XYZ, the home of Americas best XYZ service provider
Please listen carefully as our phone options have changed.

Wait a minute-
Don’t you think, there was so much information you just listened to that was totally unnecessary?

It does make sense to put much information on a website or a catalog printed out, but it does not make sense to read them out on a phone call. Why? because for God’s sake phone calls are linear and there’s no way for us to skip over what is being said.
When we browse a website, we definitely know that all our activities on the website get logged ins some way – be it in the browser, or Web server or who knows NSA is recording all our activities as well.
But do we get a pop-up or something that says we would be logging all the clicks and all? No right?
Then why do we have to listen to this –> “For quality and training purposes, your call may be recorded.”

Now that you just listened to all the unnecessary stuff, I got to hear this-

Press 1 for whiskey, press 2 for tango, press 3 for foxtrot , and it went on and on and on and finally, press 9 to talk to customer agent.
I was like – This has to be some scam where your time is deliberately being wasted.

After all the hassle till now, when I was about to connect to an agent, I got to listen to this – >
Now you can check your account details safely and securely online. To do this log on to – http://www.xyzonline.com/getstatus
Wait a minute, did I ask for that ?? This automated system is giving me some speech that I don’t care.
After that-
I had to listen to this annoying music for a good 2-3 minutes
and In between, I get this-
Your call is very important to us. We are making sure we serve you as soon as our agents are available. Please stay on the line-
I said to myself – Really?

And finally when I got to talk to a customer agent who said- “Hello how can I help you today”? and I had to explain everything right from the beginning.
If by any chance, your call gets disconnected. You will have to repeat the whole stuff again, IVR typically leads down a path with a pre-programmed one-size-fits-all approach based on options selected.

Enough said-

Let me propose a couple of very simple solution –
The problem here it takes away so much time just to get to the department I want to-
Have a section on the website where I can see the menus. There can be how much ever options of sub-options on the website.
I will click on the relevant ones, and then it would show me options of the next menu, this can go on till I reach a certain point in a menu.
I would probably get a code like 3-3-6, then I would call a number, IVR should (identify me with my mobile number- no questions asked) and press # or something and press 336 – Very simple
Or even simpler, just text the code and get back details.

Offering a route to a live agent in your main menu 70%–80% of callers will take this option, Companies believe rendering this would make IVR pointless.
But the end of the day, you would lose business if you are not letting customers do what they want to do right?
We could also think about automating smart IVRs using technologies like Alexa / Siri
We could also think about something like IVR + Smart Phone Apps collaboration or Visual IVRs
Dear Toastmasters,
I would like to conclude by saying – We just need to use some common sense and follow some simple steps to modernize our IVRs.
One should never over-utilize a good thing.
And, yes, I think an IVR is a good thing lets hope someone will make a smart IVR happen. 🙂

A thanksgiving speech to my dad

Today I’m here to write about how I feel about my father and how my perception of our relationship has changed over years.

It’s hard, to sum up, a man in few words. If I could, I’d probably be able to write a book about him 🙂

My dad, a man with fewer words, a silent observer who watched and learned. He has silently shown me what hard work really is.

My father was born in a poor family. His mother raised 9 children and his father was a musician. He grew up being a domestic help to another family. I very well know his childhood days weren’t the good old days that he could cherish about, but no matter what his experiences were, he never commented or complained about it. It’s very heartening to know he had to complete his graduation on his own earnings.

In my early childhood, all I wanted from my dad was to buy me expensive toys, clothes, and gadgets, and when my father refused to buy them for me, I wondered why my father couldn’t afford such expenses. However, never once my dad hesitated to lend a hand, be it fix my bicycle or fix my toys.

My father did all he could do to afford a good education for me and my elder brother. He worked seven days a week, from 5 am to 8pm most of his life. But he never lost his joy of life and the humor. In fact, not one day did I see him whining about life.

When our demands increased, he started working part-time as TV repairman. I remember me going to his part-time workplace where I watched movies on big screen TVs (big screen as in 20 inch RGB TVs)/ Videotapes.
He later got a job as an Electronics teacher in a high school. Every one of his students loved him. I remember him create an R2D2 with his students that could talk n move around. There was an article published about it in Deccan Herald newspaper . He was quite innovative.

He started his first venture on manufacturing gadgets. He created something called ‘Steam mix’ – A handheld Steam Steam Vaporizer. It was an instant hit in nearby beauty parlors.
He also started a part time business – Marketing/selling food and snacks.

His hobby was using a Ham Radio – He often used his ham radio to talk across town, sometimes around the world. He used to take us to ‘Foxhunting’ – An activity involving tracking radio signals using Ham radio and decoding secret messages that were being broadcast.
He even worked as a special police officer and worked on a few cases . (I got to know about this very recently.)
He would take us out at least once in six months to classic movies like BenHur, Ten Commandments.

During my high school days, he started his own telecommunications company where he would build networks in schools. He also invested in real estate. But as in most of the business, he incurred losses after which he lost probably most of his savings, and he just got back to the regular 9-5 job. It just so happened I was a teenager back then and I sometimes feel bad for not being there, not caring when he needed me.

My father would withdraw all of hid PF (401K) just before I had to pay my college fees and this is why I graduated as an Engineer with no student loan on me.

When I got appointed as a computer engineer, and when I got my paycheck, I was happy to spend all of it on myself and for buying gifts, (I did buy a watch set for my parents).
I was very moved when I heard my father talk to his friends how proud he was about me, and that he felt very happy for me that I started my career at a salary which is higher than his salary at the end of his career.

He is currently 67 and he refuses to retire, he works as an Organic Farming survey officer. And whenever I call him, he says come back to India and “Have a drink with your old man, be somebody” – (Like in Nebraska)

My father has taught me the importance of hard work and sacrifice not by only his words but through HIS actions.
My father taught me that no obstacle is too large to overcome. On the road of life, there are often many ups and downs, but they are part of the journey and experiencing them makes us who we are.

There’s an old saying you can choose friends but not your family and I’m happy I have had a wonderful family.
Thank you, dad, for being a hero for teaching me to be a good man and never every putting me down, and most importantly, for backing me .

I’d like to end my speech with a Sanskrit saying-
मातृ देवो भवः Maatru Devo Bhava पितृ देवो भवः Pitru Devo Bhava पिता स्वरग् पिता धर्म Pita Swarga, pita dharma पितहि परम् तप पिता सर्व देवता Pitahi param tapah pita sarva devata
Meaning Mother is considered like Goddess, Father is considered like God. Father is Heaven Father is Dharma(religion) Father is ultimate sacrifice

Las Vegas n Grand Canyon Experience

We gave ourselves one of the most luxurious travel experience for our Baby moon trip. We flew to LAS VEGAS!!. Vegas trip was CRRAAAAZZZY! Seriously, it was a lot to take in. We had a lot of fun like we flew in a Helicopter, visited Grand Canyon, gambled a lot, broadway shows, roamed around on the strip, visited number of casinos what not! We had a lot of fun, it’s not what we’re used to.. nor would I want to get used to it. 

Las Vegas
Las Vegas

Bally’s Las Vegas-

This is where we stayed in and spent most of our time gambling. The location is just amazing it’s is really in the heart of the strip which is exactly where we wanted to be!. We stayed on the North tower. 

Caesars Forum Shops-

This has got to be my favorite mall on the planet!. The architecture is magnificent and we ended stopping literally ever few steps taking plenty of pictures. We felt like we were in a Roman village while walking around because of the ceilings being painted like the sky and the floors felt like we were walking on cobblestone. We had our lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in the mall and saw the Atlantis show there (in front of the Cheesecake Factory)

ARIA Resort & Casino-

The beautiful ARIA hosted our Cirque de Soleil show Zarkana. We spent sometime window shopping at The Shops at Crystals and we stopped by for dinner at mouth watering Wolfgang Puck Pizzas

Stratosphere-

Going up to the observation deck (108th Floor) was amazing and was one of the highlight of our trip sure. Views of Las Vegas from The observation deck was stunning. My wife dint let me do the thrill rides. It would’ve been awesome had I done that.

Bellagio-

It was great to watch the Fountain show from the street. We strolled around and had a quick bite in one of the Bellagio restaurants. Indoor botanical gardens in Bellagio was way too impressive.

Mirage Volcano-

Watching the water stop running and then the volcano erupt was super cool. Again, we watched the show from the strip.

Zarkana – Cirque de Soleil-

I only got to see one show when I was in Las Vegas. I’m so glad I chose this one! The show itself is fantastic and amazing! An amazing display of skill, strength and artistic creativity. The stunts are beyond belief and the quality of the show was as good as anything I’ve seen.

Helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon-

Excellent experience, all the way through from picking us up from the hotel till the banks of Colorado rivers. We were lucky to have got the front seats in Helicopter. Needless to say the helicopter ride was incredible, beautiful views. We flew over the famous Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. Cracking bit of lunch down at the bottom of the canyon (sandwich, some crisps and a couple of glasses of fizzy champagne) on the banks of the mighty Colorado river. I’ve made a video of our ride ->

The Deuce-

If you can get a seat, this is a nice way to travel up and down the strip. We got a top level window seat and it was like a free sightseeing tour of the strip.

and I needed something more to drive with enough Swag

Just like anyone else, I’ve had that dream – Cruising around in a stylish powerful car at least once in my life. To my luck, this time around, my project in USA got extended for a few years and on my persistence, me and my wife decided to pool in money to upgrade our car to a High end car (High end for working in TCS standards :P).
Well, I just got my expectations jotted out before I ventured out looking for cars –
Price – I have always worried about the resale price since my stay in US was usually not so long, but this time I wouldn’t mind about the resale price.
Engine – Definitely V6/ 6 cylinders, 3.5+L and 270HP or more
Power – Should pack a mean punch! Should make me enjoy the thrill of cruising.
Style – Coupe with a sleek, muscular build  . I’ve always loved the Coupes as they’ve got like super Sporty looks and also for the fact that these are not available in India.
Funky features – Elegant interiors, Moon roof, Remote start, Keyless Entry, Push button start, Heated seats, Cruise control, Bose Speaker systems..etc
This is what I ended up buying !

Keep calm and keep tripping-

When I look back at myself over the years, its filled with so many memories, most of them are about of my visits to amazing places. I’ve had a bunch of friends who’ve had similar travel interests which helped me travel places in the past. Post marriage my wife has been an awesome travel partner.

I’ve always had this crave to travel, an extreme desire to travel to remote places, get disconnected from chores, experience solitude, yada yada yada

To me, there are like ‘crave to travel stages’, first up, I start getting kinda travel itch, a small thought that keeps lingering in my mind .
Next stage, I stop concentrating on my work and start reading about places that I could visit.
Then, I just get into the mood of packing my bags and leaving (for good ). there’s no stopping at stage 3 though!

The big news – I’m becoming a father soon, which means I wont be able to take travel breaks for the next couple of years. That’s how the usual story goes.  Well not for me, I have already started planning a trip before my dear wife gets into her 3rd trimester.
Nowadays clichéd as a Baby-moon trip. Well yeah we’ve already started planning a safe fun trip. Giggle giggle

Spiti Valley – The hidden Shangri la of Himalayas

In 2010, a few of my friends went out on a biking trip to Leh & Ladakh, but due to heavy rains in Leh, they ended up visiting Spiti valley. Very recently, I happend to watch some footage of their trip and that’s when I realised I wanted to see Spiti with my own eyes.
By the time we decided (me and my wife) to go on a trip to Spiti, it was just 1 week from the day we actually took off.
We didn’t have enough time to plan an itinerary or book hotel. We just took off. I’d say it’s always fun going on a trip with an unwritten itinerary.

We flew from Bangalore till Chandigarh. This is the second time I visted Chandigarh. I love this small very well planned city.
We should have booked toy train from Chandigarh to Shimla earlier, hard luck! tickets were all sold out.

We had to drive to Shimla instead. We stopped for brunch at one of the hundreds of Pujnabi Dhabas we came across. The parathas we had here were so yummy!

Shimla was, as expected, way too crowded. Traffic jams slowed us down big time!

We reached Kufri at around 4ish in the evening, we were in a dilemma whether to go for a horse back ride or not. Horse back ride would take anywhere around 2-4 hours, we chucked the plan and drove ahead towards Narkanda.
We left the crowd behind in Shimla, and got to see the beauty of the Himalayas onwards. These roads were just heavenly.

Narkanda
On our way to Narkanda

We stayed at a decent hotel in Narkanda. ​Narkanda is a small town, at an altitude of around 2700 meters and hosts a Ski resort. I would definitely reccomend a stay here rather than in Shimla.

Our trip was all about our journey on the unpaved roads, scary bridges, dam construction sites, along the beautiful apple farms, rivers, streams,high altitude mountain passes and low valleys with an unplanned itinerary.

I can try to write about my experience about the journey, but believe me there’s no substitute for being there.

From Narkanda, it took us around 5 hours to reach Sangla Valley. We found this place to be so scenic, we decided to stay here We spent sometime in the evening hiking around. We found peple to be very hospitable people here. We stayed in a Hotel but we could also see a few tents hooked up in Apple farms, we should have rented tents instead but we’d already booked a room (at Cafe 42). I’d also suggest, if possible drive till Rakchamm and stay in Rakcham, which is an hours journey from Sangla towards Chitkul.

Our next destination Chitkul, the last village on the Indo-Tibet border. Okay, rather than explaining about the journey in words, i’l better post more pics.

Chitkul
On our way to Chitkul
After our visit to Chitkul, we by-passed Reckong Peo and drove towards Puh (or Pooh). FYI, there’s a military base in Pooh, which hosts a movie theatre. Most probablt you could watch a Bollywood movie here, if interested.
Pooh
Pooh

Along the Sutluj and Spiti rivers, drive only gets better and better (and deserted roads) onwards. We visited Nako and Tabo monasteries along. Both these monasteries are a ‘must visit’.

Tabo Monastery
Tabo Monastery

We reached Kaza, in the evening. Electricity was out for the last 2 days. A blessing in disguise. If you love stars, you have to watch the Night skies from this place. There’s no way I can describe this place in words.
Look at this – http://spaceexp.tumblr.com/image/107251685431

Kaza
Kaza The Shangri La

Kibber is an hours drive from Kaza and happens to be world’s highest village.

Kibber
Kibber – Highest Village in the world
Key Monastery
Key Monastery

We could’nt go further. Due to a snowfall, Kunzum pass was closed. We had to take a detour back towards Reckong Peo.

Reckong Peo
Down town Reckong Peo

Our drive towards Sangla from Reckong Peo was quite a bit of an adventure, it was almost getting dark and we were in the middle of nowhere. That’s when we got to know the road ahead was closed due to a landslide. There was no turning back, we had to take a detour on a narrow muddy road which took us deep into the woods. It was pitch dark and we kept driving in the night. We reached Sumdo at around 10 PM, some one suggested us we could stay at Tapri Government guest house. By the time we reached Tapri it was midnight. ‘Never again we’l take such a risk’ – we told ourselves

From Tapri, we passed lush green Jalori Pass, towards Kullu. Kullu to Manali along Beas was fun a few years back. But now, I feel it’s a little too commercial and crowded.
We spent a couple of days around Manali, we also made it to Roghtang Pass.

Marhi
Marhi
Around Spiti
Around Spiti

Around Spiti

I got so used to traveling around Spiti that I felt like I could just go on and on. I felt like I should just stay back. This trip, to me, was was such a physical and spiritual gain.

I’d like to end this with a quote that I’d read somewhere-
The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask

Our travel map –
Chandigarh-Shimla-Narkanda-Solang-Sangla-Chitkul-ReckongPeo-Puh-Tabo-Nako-Kaza-Kibber-Key-Sangla-Jalori-Kullu-Manali-Rohtang-Vasisht. (Kunzum Pass was closed due to heavy snow)

List of Hotels that we stayed in-
Narkanda
Hotel Old Thorns
Price- 700 INR
Address: Behind Narkanda Main Bus stand, there is a board behind temple about the hotel.
Sangla Valley
Cafe42
Price- 1000 INR
https://www.facebook.com/Cafe42Sangla
I suggest if possible stay at Rakchamm.
Hotel Rupin Riverview
Rakcham Sangla, 9816686789, 9418092894
Pooh
Govt Guest house, 5km from highway uphill
Price- 1100 INR
Kaza – Hotel Deyzor
Price- 1500 (We paid 2k for 2 days – off season rates)
Address: Near BSNL Office V.P.O., New Kaza, Himachal Pradesh 172114
Phone:094 18 402660
Tapri – PWD Guest house
Price- 500 INR
Adress: Tapri 1km from highway downhill.
Vasisht-
Price- We paid around 2000 for 2 days
Best place to stay in Manali.
Address: 500 meters from Vashist hot water springs on main road

in the lost city of Machu Picchu

A visit to Machu Picchu has been on my wish list for more than 15 years. To be precise, when I read Tinin – Prisoners of the Sun for the first time, I was a school kid back then, I’d dremt back then to see the Incas, Temple of the Sun, and the Llamas of South America.

It all started when I came across Machu Pichhu travel deal by Gate1 travels on livingsocial.com. Iknew it was a risk to book a trip to Machu Picchu in March (the rainy season), but I booked it anyway.

Andes_Landscapes
Andes Landscapes

Amazing landscapes around the Andes of Peru

Our first few days in Peru was around the Andes, Urubamba and Cuzco. There’s much more to Peru than its ancient Inca artifacts. From the soaring peaks of the Andes and the lush Amazon Rainforests and Spanish colonial cathedrals, Peru has it all, the allure of the ancient and mysteries.

On the big day, we travelled in the luxurious Inca rail till Machu Pichuu. When we reached Machu Picchu it was drizzling and very cloudy in the morning.

Misty_MachuPicchu
Misty MachuPicchu

But the mist on the mountains added drama and mystery to the Inca site. We were lucky enough that the longer we stayed the more the sky started to clear up! And eventually WOW what a view!!!

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Totally awestruck to stand at the top looking over the ruins and the Andes Mountains.
This site certainly is worthy of being one of the seven wonders of the world!!! The magnitude of the accomplishments of the Inca people is simply overwhelming.
Below are a few scenes from Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire in southeastern Peru. Standing at an elevation of about 11,000 feet in the Andes, this is an amazing travel destination as well.
Peru Collage
Peru Collage