In The Lap of Nature, Business Line, May 2013

This travel piece is centered on The Tamara, a resort located in Coorg. Set amidst a coffee plantation, the resort is a gateway into a world where nature and modern luxury come together in a beautiful blend.

The Tamara, a 170-acre resort in Coorg, is surrounded by nature in all its wonder – so much so that the resort looks like it has sprung up in the middle of a forest. The odd birdcall, the gurgle of a waterfall outside the reception, and the receptionists’ soft voices break the silence that envelopes this place. The narrow path to my cottage is flanked by the rock face of a hill on one side, and wooden cottages that seem to float amidst the trees on the other. I peer down — the cottages are supported by solid metal stilts that go down for about several feet. “This is why children below 12 are not allowed on this resort,” Catherine, the hospitality-in-charge, explains.

Wood is the choice of building material at this place. High, sloping roofs look down on a split-level room. Behind the bed is a wooden wall that hides the closets and bathroom. French windows lead to the balcony, beyond which miles of lush greenery stretch out. An abundance of coffee plants dot the property.

(The article continues – read it in full at the Business Line website: In the lap of nature.)

In The Driver’s Seat, Business Line, May 2013

An article on Hyundai’s CSR initiatives, notably their ‘driving school’ which trains school dropouts from rural areas to become full-fledged drivers – free of cost. The company also runs a programme that trains young girls from rural areas to become nursing assistants. These initiatives have helped provide youngsters from backward economic circumstances with a chance to move forward in life. Some of the graduates from the driving school have become entrepreneurs, while some of the girls who became nursing assistants are now thinking of studying to become full-fledged nurses. The article was published in (The Hindu) Business Line in the Weekend Life section on May 2, 2013.

They are all like crude oil when they come in, and we have to do the refining and extract the petrol!” says K. Sridar, in charge of corporate social responsibility at Hyundai’s car manufacturing facility at Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, waving at the 20 boys seated before him. Some of the boys smile, probably at the mention of ‘petrol’, but their faces register curiosity at my presence in their ‘school’.

The classroom wall is lined by charts containing road symbols and driving instructions; a mock traffic light stands next to the blackboard.

Most of the boys are high school dropouts from the neighbouring villages. Unable to land a decent job and told off by their family for being idle, they enrolled in this 45-day course fully paid for by Hyundai.

(The article continues – read it in full at the Business Line website: In The Driver’s Seat)

When ‘service tax’ serves no purpose, BL On Campus, April 2013

What do we pay a ‘service’ tax or charge for, when we go to a restaurant? Apparently for the intangible ‘service ‘ element by the staff – which I find lacking in several restaurants in Chennai, the city where I live. The lack of concern for this basic element of business was reiterated to me in a stark manner, thanks to the rude behaviour of a cashier at a take-away counter. It was bad enough that a staff could get away with treating a customer badly. What makes it worse is the lack of a channel where by a customer can ask for their rightful due. The article was published in The Hindu Business Line – On Campus on April 14, 2013.

Last Saturday, I left office later than usual, and decided to pick up my dinner from a fast food outlet along the way.

The place was packed with people, and while I waited behind three or four people at one counter, I saw a man sneak past everyone, say something to the cashier, hand over money, and take his food.

A couple of people grumbled but that was all. When it was my turn, I placed my order and then asked the cashier why he had allowed someone to cut through the queue.

“Oh, that man has parked his car in a No Parking zone outside, so I helped him out,” came the nonchalant reply, accompanied by a defiant stare.

“So, the rest of us should also park our cars in No Parking zones to be served? I have an auto waiting for me – does that give me the right to push past other people?” I retorted.

“You are talking as if I gave him some privileges because he is my relative. What’s the big deal?” the cashier replied aggressively

A few minutes later, when I asked for the manager, he came forward. But until I asked for him, he didn’t bother to tell off his staff for being rude to a customer.

Anyway, he apologised and said he would take necessary action – and took down my phone number with the promise of informing me about it as well.

I have yet to receive the promised phone call.

(The article continues – read it in full at the Business Line On Campus website: When ‘service tax’ serves no purpose)

“I am envious of their freedom”, BL On Campus, Dec 2012

On December 16, 2012, in New Delhi, a young girl was gang-raped in a moving bus and brutally beaten up. Her friend – a guy – was also subject to a brutal physical attack. The two of them were dumped, naked and severely injured, on the side of a road. The incident sparked outrage across India, and several hundred protestors took to the streets, demanding justice for the girl (who was battling for her life). The incident showed how unsafe women feel even in modern Indian metros. Several people took to blogs, twitter and the printed word to express their feelings – this article is my take on the issue. The article was published in The Hindu Business Line – On Campus on December 26.

Over the past few days, my Facebook home page is rife with messages of gratitude posted by friends who live in Singapore, thanking their stars that they live in a country where they can go out any time of day or night, without fear of any sort.

One of them talked about how she went for a late-night snack with a friend at 2 a.m., and then walked home. “Wonder how many nations, even developed nations at that, can offer this haven?” she wrote. Another friend posted: “As I returned home early this morning from a Christmas party, in party gear, I reflected that at no moment did I feel unsafe.”

As I read the messages, I feel envious of their freedom.

(The article continues – read it in full at the Business Line On Campus website: “I am envious of their freedom”)

Agenda 75, Business Line, Nov 2012

An article on India@75, based on an interview with Bhairavi Jani, Executive Director of India@75. Bhairavi, who took a five-year break from her corporate role talks about what holds India back, and where we should focus to get our country on the development track. The article was published in (The Hindu) Business Line in the Weekend Life section.

Bhairavi Jani believes the biggest stumbling block towards development is not lack of resources or skills – it is lack of belief. “The first thing we as Indians need to do is believe in ourselves. We deserve to live in world class cities. Why should we say ‘chalta hai’? Just enough should not be good enough. And that mindset is the biggest roadblock.”

She is not complaining – merely stating facts. Her comment is underlined by her experience as Executive Director of India@75, an initiative started and spearheaded by the late management guru C.K. Prahalad.

(The article continues – read it in full at the Business Line website: Agenda 75)

Bee that as it may, Business Line, Oct 2012

A look into how honey bees have found their way into fashion and art – beginning with a mention of Sarah’s Burton’s bee-themed collection for Alexander McQueen during the recent Paris Fashion Week. The thrust of the article deals the Hyatt Regency Chennai’s honey bee-centric art theme display, which was the inspired by a need to spread the message that honey bees are dwindling in numbers. A box item details the reason as to why the honey bee is an important part of our ecosystem. The article was published in (The Hindu) Business Line on October 26 in the Weekend Life section.

In the recently concluded Paris Fashion Week, designer Sarah Burton showcased models wearing honeycomb-latticed boots, head gear modelled on apiculturists’ hats, and elaborate evening dresses with blooms and bee detailing. As Sarah, who designed Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, said later, “It was looking at womanhood and embracing the female form. I wanted it to feel sensual. I wanted to have a lightness to it and I wanted it to feel erotic but not in an overly fleshy kind of way.”

Closer home, the Hyatt Regency in Chennai recently hosted a three-day fest centred on bee inspired art pieces. About four years ago, Namita Saraf (hotelier Arun Saraf’s wife) and Rajeev Sethi (designer and chairman of Asian Heritage Foundation) were standing at the erstwhile Abbotsbury in Chennai, which was later acquired by the Sarafs’ Hyatt Group. There, they saw huge bee hives hanging from beams that were part of the former structure. Rather than being scared away by the thought of painful stings, Namita wondered “if the bees are telling us something”.

(The article continues. Read the full article at the Business Line website: Bee that as it may & Bee-gone)

Faster, further, higher…factoids, Business Line, Jul 2012

A review of two books for children – India at the Olympic Games (for 8-plus years) and India’s Olympic Story (11-plus years). Published by Chennai-based Tulika, in association with the British Council and the Abhinav Bindra Foundation, the books were released just before the start of The Games in London. The article was published in (The Hindu) Business Line on 27 July 2012 in the Weekend Life section.

Do you know who won the first Olympic running race? Or what the crown of olive leaves presented to the winner was called? How about the year in which India first took part in the Olympics? Can you name the ‘magician’ who led our country to gold in hockey?

This is not a quiz — it’s a teaser to nuggets of information packed away in two books recently launched for children: India at the Olympic Games (for 8-plus years) and India’s Olympic Story (11-plus years). Published by Chennai-based Tulika, in association with the British Council and the Abhinav Bindra Foundation, the colourfully illustrated package includes history, trivia, and mini-biographies. Both books open with a letter from Abhinav Bindra, India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist, in which he talks about his love for sports, and the spirit of the Olympics.

Moving from the origin of the Games, the books discuss India’s performance over the years, and profile prominent Indian sportspersons who have made their mark there. The book for the younger audience is visually more attractive, with the narrative centred around illustrations, while the other is text-heavy and uses cartoon-strips to lighten the account.

(The article continues. Read the full article at the Business Line website: Faster, further, higher…factoids)