Morning Walk at Parvati Hills in Pune

Recently I came across an article that traced the history of Parvati Hill landmarks in Pune. It was fascinating to walk in the bylanes of history and come to know that the hill represents the second highest elevation in Pune after Vetal Tekdi.

Indeed one gets a panoramic view of the city from the top. But I have great memories of going for morning walks at Parvati Hills in Pune – am sure it remains a popular activity even today.

It was the early 90s and I was still studying in High School. One of elder brother’s friends was very close to us and used to regularly visit our home. Suddenly he felt the need to undertake a vigour exercise program to cut the flab and chose me to keep company. My ineffectual protests did not make much of an impact, so imagine the two of us would start out around 5 30 in the morning to reach Parvati Hills for our exercise routine.

On googling it I learn that the distance from our homes in Rasta Peth to Parvati was about 6 KMs and we should be able to easily cover it within 10 minutes by using a two-wheeler when there was little traffic in the morning. Am sure that it is factually correct to state thus – the experience was no less shocking as one left the warm quilt in exchange for the nipping winds that Pune continues to experience in winter nowadays as well. They did serve one purpose though – one was fully awake and alert at the end of the journey.

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Review of ‘Next Sunday’ by R K Narayan

Next Sunday is a collection of short essays that Narayan wrote to provide the common man a breezy relief from the languor of a lazy Sunday afternoon. It includes over 50 pieces that deal with an assorted variety of areas including politics, bureaucracy, culture,  the ‘day-to-day’ hassles that beset our lives.

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The Next Sunday – series of essays in The Hindu by R K Narayan                                                                      Image Courtesy – Indian Link

60 years after they appeared it is quite remarkable to see that much of it remains relevant in modern India even today and one is easily able to relate to Narayan’s narrative.

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The R K Narayan Museum                                                                                                                     Image Courtesy – thehindu.com

The opening essay is a novelty for sure – it talks about the need to obtain an annual licence to operate a Radio service. Well this is sometime during the 50s so TVs had not yet made their appearance on the scene. The annual fee is mentioned to be Fifteen rupees – quite a handy sum in those days and an interesting relic from the past. Narayan’s focus on the story is more about the bureaucratic process involved in getting the radio licence renewed. Continue reading “Review of ‘Next Sunday’ by R K Narayan”

India Diaries: Public Sector Banking

My recent India trip had a mix agenda – pleasure and work were intermingled as I had to sort out a few things on priority. I assigned a working day’s time slot to ensure that I closed my saving account with a leading Public Sector Bank. And I reckoned well for it did take the better part of the working day to get my work done.

I have been abroad for about four years now. In that time I have adopted to what is de rigueur with modern private banks – use of technology to do my Banking. I have opened Banking relationships with two such Banks wherein neither have I seen my home branch nor have I have met any Bank official.

Both these Banks do not even have a presence in my current location. The accounts were opened using a creative mix of online application forms, email coördination, courier pick-ups and deliveries. I operate these accounts online for all my transactions and Net Banking is my nirvana. Mobile Banking is the new kid on the block in the digital world but even otherwise the online banking interface provides solutions for all that I have required to do in the recent years.

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India Diaries: A Heritage Building in Pune

You can’t miss the ‘Palace Building’ in Rasta Peth, Pune – it has the unique legacy of being one of the early RCC buildings when it came up in 1928.

The building stands till today though most of the occupants are gone now. I am told that it has been included in a Heritage Building list but not many know what it implies for the building’s future.

The Palace Building
The Palace Building

My maternal family has a long association with the building that came to an abrupt end when we finally moved on in 1998. That meant an end to a relationship that started more than 60 years ago when my grandfather became one of the early tenants in the building. My mother was born here and spend most of her life at the place. It gave her a wrench to finally leave but by then the Palace was past its prime and life had moved on.

It had many redeeming features as a tenement – a central location in the heart of the city with amenities like schools, hospitals, temples, gardens, markets, bus and train stations at a walkable distance. It was an ecosystem in itself as most families had spent decades and generation at the place. It was ‘home’ like no other place.

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Review of ‘If God was a Banker’ by Ravi Subramanian

The story is set in the 90s when India would seem to be an El Dorado for launching retail banking products to a burgeoning middle class starved for decades of consumerism and living the good life.

The title is certainly a catchy one and one got to hear of this book from friends and colleagues while working in the Banking industry. It may not everyone’s idea of literature but the novelty of the tale makes it interesting to begin with.

By: Rosemary Calvert Collection: Photographer's Choice Courtesy: Getty Images
By: Rosemary Calvert
Collection: Photographer’s Choice
Courtesy: Getty Images

Guess it is never really easy to write a book objectively if one were to cast oneself in the role of the protagonist. One seems to miss the scale of our own personality and the ‘blind spots’ that are so easily visible and read by others are just not captured to present a nuanced character with shades of grey.

But the premise of the book is interesting for most people particularly youngsters. Retail Banking riding on technology and liberalization is a great story and the India setting in recent times gives it a great topical value.

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A visit to the Taj Mahal

My Google news feed carried a sad story about the declining tourists visiting what would undoubtedly rank as the # 1 tourist attraction in India. A variety of reasons are reported that have nothing to do with the wonder itself – it is the usual mix of the tourists not being treated well and our failure in marketing our heritage.

A visit to the Taj Mahal is an experience that one should not miss – I visited it about 12 years ago as part of our annual ‘get-together’ trip organized by the Corporate I worked with. Some of the problems mentioned today were found even then – but possibly we were more tolerant or more likely the world of social media has changed our expectations forever on what will attract the newer generation of tourists.

It is an amazing experience to see the Taj, as it is reverently addressed by the people who get an opportunity to see it. Enough can be said about its architecture and uniqueness – but even a child would be held in wonder by the symmetric structure that meets your eyes. It is a true spectacle and one savours the memory of it forever.

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Memories of Spencer Plaza in Chennai

Spencer Mall in Chennai was the forerunner of the mall culture that became the craze of the nation in the late 90s, as organized retail ramped up rapidly in the boom years before stalling after the 2008 Financial Crisis.

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Image Courtesy – Chennai.com

The Chennai landscape is all changed now – for the Millennials there are many other hip alternatives to hang out and spend their weekend. I guess they would regard it to be a stolid old-timer that needs an image makeover to keep up with the modern times.

Indeed one needs to walk down the memory lane to recall the prided place that Spencer’s Plaza occupied in our minds about two decades ago. Organized retail in the Mall format was an altogether new experience even for Chennaites who were otherwise used to the concept of retail chain stores for a variety of their needs such as consumer durables, jewellery, garments to even medicines.

Chennai was indeed leading the way when it came to driving footfalls and improving sales revenue by gunning for the volumes than the margins. Spencer Plaza, launched in 1991 (the year heralding  economic reforms), is possibly the oldest mall in India.

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Matunga – Southern Surprise in aamchi Mumbai

South Indians who visit the ‘City of Dreams’ for the first time are enchanted by its magic but still hanker for life back at home. Indeed if you look forward to listening to the sweet strains of MS rendition of the Suprabhatam in the morning as you tuck in a nice breakfast of Idli-Vada or Ven Pongal followed by the delightful Kaapi – you need to look no further than visiting Matunga.

It is still the home for many South Indians though older families have started to shift to the suburbs where they can afford bigger homes. And if you are lucky enough to live here, life can go on just as it was at home.

Collection:The India Today Group Credit:India Today Group/Getty Images
Collection:The India Today Group
Credit:India Today Group/Getty Images

The morning scenes are not very different although you are now in the heart of the modern megapolis of Mumbai. Matunga proudly hosts acclaimed schools and colleges and yet the old familiar routines are not lost. You will spot the decorative ‘kolams’ (Rangolis) welcoming you to a South Indian home. Early in the morning, people still visit the nearby Temples for prayers and socializing. Priests are seen going through their morning rituals and planning for the events of the day.

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World’s spectacular railway stations includes India’s icon.

Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus i.e. CST (a.ka. Victoria Terminus i.e. VT) railway station makes it to a list of the spectacular railway stations in the world. It was also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

A popular landmark in the commercial capital of India, CST marks an entry point for many Indians who come to the city of dreams to pursue their dreams or even just to visit the Mayanagari.

The station serves as a hub for the long distance trains and the suburban trains on the Central and Harbour lines. We used to arrive at the CST while travelling on the trains from the nearby Pune. As the train entered on a slow pace from Marine Lines, one would get a lovely view of Mumbai’s ‘Central Business District’ and the station’s regal outlook was a fitting tribute to its importance.

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‘1 US $ = 70 INR by 2016’ – fanciful or realistic?

Currency exchange rate, inflation, interest rates, real interest rates, GDP growth rate, Current Account Deficit, FDI, FII, remittances, foreign flows, QE, Quantitative Easing – words and jargons that have penetrated our consciousness thanks to the innumerable reports that flash on our news feed. We never quite understood the dry concepts of Economics at college – we are forced to learn and know better as they impact our lives and livelihood in so many invisible ways.

By: Fanatic Studio Courtesy : Getty Images
By: Fanatic Studio
Courtesy : Getty Images

The forecast was a bit scary when I recently read about it in the papers – only recently we have sworn in a new Government with a strong majority, a wave of ‘feel-good’ sentiment has run awash in our Country and the markets have mostly cheered the changed scenario.At the time of Government formation around mid May 2014 the INR was at its strongest at 58.4 to the USD.And as we resume the march towards becoming a superpower, one does wonder why is there someone writing such pessimistic forecast for our currency? Why can’t the equation be 1 US $ = 50 INR by 2016?

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