Bath, Somerset

Ever since I got a call to

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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’

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

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

Dope Shope trip @ Himachal Pradesh

Continued from my previous post —
Baraat was a total dance dhamaka, I never felt any jetlag. All the mishaps in the last few hours were behind me. We had loads of fun. Post Baraat, the food was a-mazing.
The next morning after the wedding, is when the 5 of us Sunil, Shaz, Kumar, Charan and me started off our Uttarakhand trip.
Our trip from Roorkhee to Rishikesh was in a local bus. We then hired a Tata Sumo for our remaining trip.
Drive along the Tehri lake was quite an experience. The small trek along the river and hot noodles we had on the banks of Tehri lake was a nice experience. We stayed overnight at Uttarkashi dowtown.
The next day was our big trek day. The dayara bugyal trek. Our drive till the foot hills of dayara bugyal was a scary one. I cant just forget the moment when our trek guide played the devotional Shiva songs as we drove past Ganges gorges. Trek was a little tiring. But it was worth it. The views of the Himalayas from top of Dayara bugyal was quite a stunner.
Other highlights of our trip was our visit to the Uttarkashi temple. Ganga snan in freezing temperature, rafting in Rishikesh, night out roaming around Ram jhoola and lakshman jhoola, dinner at Buddha bar and our foodmadness at honey hut.
The best part of our trip was our visit to a cave in the mountains near Rishikesh, a cave which’s home to Naga sadhus.
By the time we reached the caves, after a brief trek, it was already dusk.
The yogis offered soup of herbs for all of us.
We had carried milk n sugar for the sadhus, and they prepared kheer for us which tasted very nice.

As the night progressed, we smoked ‘chillam’ with Sadhus.. (Chillam with fresh n pure Cannabis grown in the Himalayas).
In no time, we were so high on cannabis. I just could not get a control on what was happening out there. Someone just whispered in my ears, it’s time for you to medidate. And I started medidating.
And then the ‘Homas’ started, sadhus recited Shiva chants sitting around the homa-kund (fire). The ‘damaruga’ n ‘shankh naad’ n chants n ‘Shiva hymn’ echoed through the himalayan mountains. I was not in an involunatry trance anymore.Everytime I remember that exact moment, it send shivers down spine.

It was bitter cold all night. The sadhus never slept, they kept medidating all night.
Early morning when I woke up in the caves, I was in my normal senses and I could feel the chillness in the air which hit me harder now. I was like ‘where was all the shivering and cold last night’.
We took blessings from the Sadhus and trekked back to our normal-world. Our time at the gufa was simply out-of-the-world literally.
What a trip this one turned out to be!

In a couple of days, I was back in Bangalore. 9-5 office hours. Job. Boring!

An Epic Travel – From Boston to Roorkee

It HAS to be one of the craziest travel experiences EVER !! coz it involved a travel distance of 12,000+ kilometers half way across earth, a travel duration of over 2 days, and on all modes of transportation – air, bus, train, taxi and walk.

Unfolding it from the beginning-
I alway end up dragging my office work untill the very last minute.  My journey started off from Hopkinton (my work location in US). After I finished off my last minute office chores, my colleague dropped me at Logan Express Bus terminal (Framingham, MA). It was a 45 minute ride from Framingham to Boston Logan Airport. I was reminded by the ticketing crew that I made it just in time, and should be cautious in future to arrive on time.
Advice taken! (as always).
I was like phew, everything went just clock-work.

My flight itinerary was a funny one though, Boston-Heathrow-Kuwait-NewDelhi (Thanks to my employer’s ‘book the cheapest airticket’ policy).
Even though I had a tough time fighting off cattle class passengers at Kuwait airport, none my flights got delayed.

I reached New Delhi on time, and I had already booked a train from Delhi to Roorkee. Now, all I had to do was pick up my luggage, hire a taxi, reach railway station and board train to Roorkee. As simple as that.

By the way, did I mention why I was heading to Roorkee instead of Bangalore? ..
So as to attend my friend’s marriage in Roorkee. 🙂 ,, and obviously many of my friends too were traveling towards Delhi / Roorkee on the same day.

It had been six months since I’d met my friends, n I was a little too eager to meet them all.. I took a shuttle from International airport to Domestic airport. Shaz, one of my close friends was supposed to land in Delhi airport in an hour. So, I was like let me meet Shaz in Delhi only, have a small get-together and then let me go to the railway station. I had enough time for that.

#Kirik1- For some reason my Cell phone stopped working.

At 9 am, I met Shaz, his flight had landed on time. After a little chat, we decided to have breakfast together. In the mean time I called up cell phone customer care from Shaz’s phone and got my cell phone fixed.

Shaz said he would accompany me till Railway station since I had lot of luggage to carry., and more over his connecting flight was at 2pm. By the time we hired a taxi, it was already 10am.

#Kirik2 – Crazy Traffic Jam, we managed to reach railway station only by 9:55am. My train was at 10 am. We hurried to the platform, train had already started moving slowly, I dint have time to verify my seat, and my seat was showing as ‘empty’ on the chart so I got into the train,, .. Bye bye Shaz, thanks a lot I shouted as I waved at him, more or less like a DDLJ scene..  I put my luggage under my seat, and sigh.. I was like, Thank God, made it just in time… again!

#Kirik3 – Shaz calls me in 10 minutes, and says I had boarded a wrong train. #wtf . To make things worse, I was traveling in the exact opposite direction.
Everyone in train were trying to help me. I almost  had a thought of pulling the train chain .I eventually got down in the next station, at Faridabad with a 40 kg luggage with me.

#Kirik 4 – I had only 100 rupees with me, no debit card either.
Shaz hired a taxi till Faridabad so that we could come back to New Delhi together. This meant he’s gonna miss his connecting flight.

#Kirik 5 – As I waited for Shaz , my phone battery said 2% remaining. I was literally kicking myself for getting into such a situation on a sunny hot n humid day, that too after my 32 hour flight.
Kumar my other friend had landed in Delhi by now. I called him up, and asked him to hire a taxi till Roorkee from Delhi.
Shaz reached Faridabad, and we decided to take a local train till Delhi Railway station.

#Kirik 6 – Local train experience!!  Close to hundred people in a bogie. What an strenuous experience, a couple of days ago I was chilling out in US, now I was hanging on to my life with 40 kg bags on my shoulders in an overly crowded local Dilli train.

#Kirik 7 – Kumar missed his connecting flight.
Shaz and me reached Delhi railway station at 3ish. Baraat in Roorkee starts in 5 hours. We were still in Delhi.

When I saw Kumar at the railway station with the taxi, it was such a huge relief. I put my luggage in taxi, gave a big hug and we travelled towards Roorkee.

We reached Roorkee, just a few minutes before the Baraat started.

I met all of my biing friends, the Wildriders..

Wow, only now I could say ‘Alls well that ends well’

Shaz’s quote at the end of it – If all these hadn’t happened we would’ve missed so much fun, well what should I say.. lol

Winter Trekking Tour

Third time in a row, I'm going back to India completing US onsite and a trip is being planned with WRs. In 2011, it was Thailand trip. In 2012, we went to Indonesia and Singapore. This time it's gonna be the Himalayas.
I'm not flying to Bangalore this time, I'm directly flying to New Delhi and then to Roorkee to attend P's marriage.
We have booked a package tour after Ps marriage.

The tour guide's description about our trip is as follows:
Tour Type : Winter Trekking Tour Package

Tour Duration :- 5 night & 6 day { 29-12- To 4-12-013 }
Group Strength :- 6 adult Only
Tour Plan :- Haridwar+Rishikesh+Sari+Deoriya Tal+Chopta+Tungnath+Chandrashila4000mt Top & Haridwar End.
Transport Type :- Offer – Max/Bolero+/T. Sumo/Tavera/Zylo
Message To – Mr. Sunil Bhushan , Hi I am Vijay Sharma { Travel Planner } Ultimate Fullpower Adventure Company Uttarakhand Tourism. K. Pass Is now close. This trel plan Is Very enjoyfull & about nature life here. you must do this trekk with us. we have something special. i hope your soul like real adventure. thanks. Holy Ganga Travel Company. http://www.travelrishikesh.in
Offer Price :- !! 31,800/- !!   5,300 @ per pax offer only.

!! Visit On :- www.travelrishikesh.in !!

!! We are waiting for your Response !!

!! for more Package's please visit !!

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!! We suggest you to book well in advance to help us make best arrangements for you !!

!! Please revert or feel free to call undersigned for any further clarification !!

!! Best Regards !!

!! Vijay Sharma !!

( Travel Planer )

!! Contact : +91 – 9837468358 , 9410105559 , 9927726950

!! Land-line No : +91- 0135 – 2430417, 2440998 !!

!! Holy Ganga Tourism Company : SINCE 1987  – By :-  !! Pt. Kishan Lal Sharma !!

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