Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Day Electricity Came to Town


I must have been in elementary school and visiting our ancestral village for the summer in the late 60's when I was lucky to watch a village lit up with electricity.

Yes, the lights and power, air conditioning, microwave did not exist at one time and I remember how life changes when it does. Before electricity the ancestral village in modern day Telangana had oil lanterns and "Petromax lights" that were lighted at sun down till bed time.

 

 I was not a stranger to electricity as we lived in Delhi, the Capital of India. Large cable drums delivered cables to the village and electric poles were erected to being power to the village. In the absence of electricity, radios were battery operated. Life was focused on dawn to dusk and on special occasions more lanterns were hired.

Later progress would come in the form of electric pumps, until then, bullocks would move in a  forward and backward motion drawing water from wells in a tire and the water would flow to the fields in muddy pathways dug for the water.

Reminiscing this now, I feel lucky that I have seen a world where electricity did not exist.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Day Tribute - Remembering People Who Influenced Our Fathers.

My brother Dr. Giridhar with my uncle the Late B. Keshava Reddy ( photo taken in 2013)
On Father's Day we should also remember those who influenced our fathers. This month my dad's brother Bellamkonda Keshava Reddy passed away in our ancestral village which is in the newly formed Telangana State ( Formerly part of Andhra Pradesh) in India. He was 93 years old. A deep believer in the Gandhian philosophy of simple living, he was a farmer always looking for innovation in farming - trying sericulture, growing crops that were new and treating everyone with respect and equality. Continuing his good work even in death, he had asked for his body to be donated to a Medical college doing a great service even after death.

I had mentioned my uncle in a commencement speech I gave to the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies last year. 

Here is an extract of the talk that refers to my uncle:
I went to India recently to visit family and my Dad’s brother who is over 90 years still works on his farm in a remote village in South India where our ancestral home is – told me the story of how my father used to run away from school and he had to find him and carry him back to school. He recognized the value of education and to this day I wonder what what if he had not done that? Where would I be today?  Of course my father went on to graduate from engineering school and sometimes having to walk 10 to 15 kms daily to get an education, very different that walking to the school bus stop today. 
Dads and in fact parents give us the gift of life and a life-long involvement in not only our well being but also the entire family. Wishing my dad and all dads a very happy Father's Day. To those who are no longer here with us, Thank you, your memories will keep us strong.

My parents on a visit to the Washington DC area, taken at Rocky Gap, MD

With my dad in Hyderabad, India
My parents who visited for my daughter's graduation
Here is my entire commencement speech:

Thank you very much Dean Rankin, Faculty members and students of the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies for giving me the opportunity to speak to you. I am very proud and consider it a great privilege to have the opportunity to teach at the Georgetown SCS .  Along with being a adjunct faculty member of Georgetown University, I am the Vice President of Digital Marketing at The Bozzuto Group a company that aims to be the best real estate company in America. Many of you may be familiar with Bozzuto and maybe even stay in our homes.  I consider myself an intrapreneur – driving innovation from within companies and try to spend any spare time that I have mentoring small businesses and startups.
Talking about the “Story of opportunity” that, throughout life we are faced with opportunities that are presented to us, we can increase the chance of making the right decision if we have the strength , knowledge and counsel of those who have done it before. Many times it is family, parents, work place mentors or in many cases centers of learning like this University.
I went to India recently to visit family and my Dad’s brother who is over 90 years still works on his farm in a remote village in South India where our ancestral home is – told me the story of how my father used to run away from school and he had to find him and carry him back to school. He recognized the value of education and to this day I wonder what what if he had not done that? Where would I be today?  Of course my father went on to graduate from engineering school and sometimes having to walk 10 to 15 kms daily to get an education, very different that walking to the school bus stop today.
My own story,  I started off in the hospitality industry , which is a great industry  and you get to meet to people all day long and learn a lot about humanity. When computers came along, followed by the internet, I was curious. I signed up for classes to learn Lotus 123, WordStar ( yes. Many of you may not have heard of these).  When the fax machine at the restaurant where I worked broke, we decided to get a website. Being a small business and not a ton of marketing money, our way out, in the late 90’s was to go and spend our spare time (Of course there is no spare time in the hospitality business) learning html to build a basic website for a restaurant from a local community college.
As I got more into the web technology I was fascinated by it and in the late 90’s the internet was still,not as much a part of everyone’s life as it is today. I went on to learn programming languages like Cold Fusion, Php, MySQL and web server programming. It is very hard to do this when have a fulltime job specially a restaurant, but this hard work was worth it. In the early 2000’s when the dotcom bubble burst, I was making inroads into the technology business by joining Network Solutions. I must say the combination of the hospitality industry and the skills and the knowledge I got from  my continuing studies made me the excel in customer support  for this technology company.
Learning as you work is a great gift and I owe my success to the learning that I got from my work and continuing studies. I congratulate you on your efforts in learning  and wish you success.
The  three most important things that I have learned in life that I want to share  with you are:

  1. Learning never stops: Paraphrasing author George Bernard Shaw who said “ You learn throughout your life, except for a short break in school” Georgetown University excepted . If you think about how the world has changed even in the past decade, we all have now learnt how to master a smartphone. Even in your career things that you know will constantly need refreshing. I would never have had the success I have had if I did not take interest in web technology even when I was in the hospitality industry.
  2. Share your Knowledge:  “Knowledge that is not shared is lost forever”. Seek opportunities to implement what you learnt in your work, find volunteering opportunities to deploy your learning and knowledge, mentor others, inspire them  and give them a valuable gift of knowledge. Speak at local events, community events , Career days at your kid’s schools and the karma that you build will come back to you.
  3. Find time for yourself: In this fast paced world we are constantly facing pressures of activity that sometimes we forget  that our thoughts need refreshing. We need time to process, think and get new ideas,  be it 15 minutes a day  or an hour take the time to stop multi-tasking and give yourself the luxury of thinking.
Thank you.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nostalgia - V.S.Naipaul and India - A Land of 171 Million Mutinies

India will swear in it's next Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Economist featured him on the cover this month with the words - " An Indian growth miracle would be a great thing not only just for Indians, but also for the world"


Akash mentions a book by V.S. Naipaul "India: A Million Mutinies Now" that he read 24 years ago. This brought a lot memories back to me. I met V.S.Naipaul when he stayed at the Hotel Ashok, in Bangalore where I worked in the late 1980's when he was researching this book. One of my good friends M.A.Deviah, at that time a journalist for The Indian Express introduced me to V.S.Naipaul and he is mentioned in Naipaul's book several times.
I am glad Akash Kapur mentioned V.S.Naipaul's book and brought these memories back. I like what Akask Kapur says about the recent Indian elections and the results in the NPR story.
"On Monday, Narendra Modi will be sworn in as India's prime minister. His rise to power is a remarkable story. A former tea vendor who speaks poor English, Modi is a distinct outsider to India's political and cultural establishment. His election signals the extent to which India is shedding its old hierarchies and class barriers, becoming a more meritocratic society.
In many ways, that idea — a sense of self-confidence, of individual self-expression — has found shape in Modi's election. Modi's success signals to millions of marginalized Indians that their aspirations are attainable."
What will happen next only time will tell.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Listen To Your Mom to Make the World a Better Place - 5 Simple Things That My Mom Taught Me


The best thing your parents can teach you is common sense and on Mother's Day, I am sharing with you a few simple things that I learnt from my parents, speically my mom.

  1. Buy Only What You Need :
    • When you decide to buy anything a simple common sense check will save you. Do you really need to buy it? 
  2. Conserve Resources 
    • Switch off lights, Don't keep water running beyond what you need. 
  3. Practice Discretion
    • As human beings we overshare and I am not sure I follow this advice but it is important to always "speak in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information"
  4. Eat Fresh Food
    • I appreciate this advice very much. Michael Pollan would be happy. A lot of us would like to go back to the times when food was freshly cooked and the family ate together.
  5. Always Be Prepared
    • When you are in India you have no option. You have to be street smart, master the art of negotiation ( Haggle), always be careful of your surroundings and safeguard your belongings specially while traveling.
The biggest lesson I learnt from from both our parents who left their native village in Andhra Pradesh, India to begin a life thousands of miles away in New Delhi, was never to shy away from challenges and explore new places beyond your comfort zone. I remember all the times that my mom took my brother and me thousands of miles from New Delhi to our ancestral village, traveling by train, bus and ultimately by bullock cart. As kids we enjoyed it but for mom, it must have been stressful. Thank you Mom and Dad. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Improve your product says WSJ reader to movie theaters

I was reading this letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal yesterday (Thu 3rd April 2014) discussing the topic of reduced attendance in Movie theaters. This particular letter writer said that he missed the ushers the most. Ushers made sure the experience was great and maintained civility in theaters.

The other letter writer said sound (loud) was the reason he stopped going to movie theaters. I agree with the sound issue
 When we first took my son to a theater , we scared him, even as we went to see a kids movie. It's taken a few years to take him back again.

What do you think? Do you still go to movie theaters? Why not ? How should theaters improve to get more folks in?
 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Get Your Bollywood Fix : Listen to Radio Zindagi in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia

One would think listening to the online marketing gurus that you hear about new products, happenings online. This is not always true. I heard about Radio Zindagi from my wife who heard it from a colleague.  Radio Zindagi is a - a AM radio station playing South Asian Music with predominantly Bollywood Hindi music on your dial at 950 AM in the Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland area. Originally based in San Francisco Radio Zindagi expanded into the DC area in June 2013.

Even if the  signal is sometimes spotty, I love listening on the weekend and getting a feel of nostalgia. You can even listen to them online, streaming at Radiozindagi.com  or Radio Zindagi  Andorid App on Google Play. They are also on Tunein Radio.

I love the causal banter from the DJs and the humor in the programs. If you are a fan of Bollywood music do check this station out, Of course on weekdays I am listening to Nathan Hager on WNEW or NPR's Marketplace. My weekends I try to catch the Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on NPR.

Radio Zindagi is available 24x7 on 100.7FM and 104.7 FM in Central New Jersey with highest India population and also on HD2 97.1 FM in New York and Connecticut, and 950 AM in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Listen to AM 950 AM and let me know what you think?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

British Airways India -- A Ticket to Visit Mum


I saw this video link in the Twitter stream of Rajiini Vaidyanathan,BBC News Washington correspondent.
It's produced by British Airways but I cannot think of it as an ad. I am leaving for India in the next few weeks and this video touched my heart as it will millions of us who have moved from home and setup another home. it is not necessary that you moved from another country, you probably sometimes feel this when you move aaway from your hometown.

Watch this and let me know what you felt after watching this.