Friday, September 26, 2008

Veendumoru Onam

Onappookalam, Maveli, Madhore, Onakkali, Onaghosham, Onashamsakal, Onappoda, Onasadhya okke Onathinde pratheekangalayi nammal karuthunnundenkilum.. sathyathil ippol njan kandu varunna Onangalil idhu virtual bhavathil aane ulladhe.. realityil ninnum valarey vidhooram. emailukalil, scrapukalil, chatukalil, phonecallukalil, advertisementukalil, sinimakalil, pinney shopping mallukalil, storeukalil, thunikkadakalil okkeyaane ippol njan Onam kanduvarunnadhe. Kaashu chelavaakaanulla upadhikalum, kaashu chelavaki medikkan pattunna chila anubhavangalum aayi maariyirikunnu nammude Ponnonam.. TV yude sthaanam living roomilum , bedrooomilum,endhine bathroomil polum aayi varunnu,kudumbaangangalde sthaanam telephoneindeyum, emailindeyum maru vashathe ulla kaanaankazhiyatha saadhanangalaiyi mariyirikunnu. Adhum manapoorvam aane.. Orumichu kudumbaothode Onam enna concept paade maariyirikunnu.'njanum ende TV serialum maathram'enna concept aane common. Angineyullaoru Onathinidiyail njanum ende bharyayum koodi onam divasam nammal TV kanilla.. samsarichirikkaam.. pazhaya onakkalavum..anubhavangalum..manassinu sandhosham pakarunna karyangalum okke samsarichu.veetil nalla bhakshanam onnum undaakaan menakkedadhe.. nalla restaurantil poyi bhakshanam kazhiche, nalla baril poyi nalla kallu kudiche orupadu nalla nimishangal panku vechu Onam aaghoshichu. Njangaludey onathinde ee varshathe flavour 'family' focussed aayirunnu ennum orkunnu. Nammal enganey aane Onathiney kaanunnadhum aaghoshikkunnadhum ennadhe nammudey ishtamaanennum.nammude sandhosham aane typical Onam celeberationiney kaatlum pradhaanam ennum manassilaki ini mudhal eppozhum namukke nammadey flavour of Onam madhi enna bodhapoorvamulla theerumanam eduthe.. iniyulla jeevithathil oro onavum..valarey vithyasavum ..valarey sandhoshameriya oru sambhavam aayirikkumennum orthu aanandikunnu. Ellavarkum avaravarudey Onam valarey manoharamayirunnennum..iniyulla Onangal adhilerey manoharamavatteyenne aashichukondu njan ende vaakukal upasamharikatte! Nandhi! Namaskaram!

Author - Pallassana Vadassery Vinod Kumar
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Roissy Charles De Gaulle, Crakowie!!

Well 11 days ago, I was at the same airport for the first time. No money in hand, no idea if my cards would work and with no clue on what to do during exigencies.

Today, I am here 5 hrs ahead of my flight and have checked in my baggage.. figured out the cheapest ways to have some beer and food and am indulging in a beer called the Navigator from Amsterdam, with an alcohol content of 8.4%. I am gulping down this drink (half a litre) in between mouthfuls of Casino potato chips and typing this in the passenger lounge opposite Paul’s Restaurant at Terminal 2 next to the Delta Airlines checking counter which has just a few people now at the Roissy Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. I have managed to survive in Europe for 11 days and also learnt to find and do things that I feel like doing to add to my experiences in life.

While reflecting happily that I find writing increasingly interesting and practice this once in a while with passion, I also realize that this passion has been infectious and has touched my wife too. She sent me her 3rd blog (read as writing) today for proof reading which I found was wonderful to read because of the richness of its content.

I digress. When I first set foot at the Roissy Charles De Gaulle (CDG) 11 days ago, I learnt that it is a large airport with a few terminals and shuttle trains to take you from one to the other. I also learnt that there were only 2 ATMs across all the three Terminals and their variants ( A to Z!). The fact that none of these ATMs would accept my China Merchant’s Bank ATM card for cash withdrawal inspite of the bank’s call centre agent in China and the Union Pay (Chinese Equivalent to Visa/Mastercard) website and call centre agent also claiming that CDG and France had a total of 20000 ATMs that would accept the cards. Well this was another big learning!!!

Breaking into sweat out of anxiety, exhaustion from walking all over all the terminals and speaking to ill informed call centre agents in China, It dawned upon me that I had 3 more options which I hadn’t thought about before! One was to use the HSBC Visa debit card or the ICICI Mastercard or the Amex card to draw cash from the ATMs. At this same opportune moment, the memory gods that sometimes fail me, came swarming to me and reminded me that the HSBC account did not have any cash balance to withdraw from, and that I had received an email from the ICICI bank stating that my card had expired, plus I needed a new ICICI card to transact and also that I did not have my Amex card’s username and password for use in the ATM. Now stranded without any options, I called my wife in China to narrate my desperate situation. While I was doing the same , it dawned on me that the only option was to check if the ICICI expired card could work. I was also aware if the risk of it being eaten up by the French ATMs or risk the same with my China cards.

I found the two ATMs and decided to experiment with both the cards. The efforts at using the China Merchant’s Bank card at both the ATMs bombed. I was lucky to get a printout stating, card invalid! I was also lucky to have got the card back in spite of this. Well, the French Bank don’t have appetites for Chinese cards!! Then the hand of god waved over me and everything changed. The ICICI card that had expired, worked and I drew 300 EUR money from the ATM after which the ATM said that I had maxed my limit. I was fast to reconcile to the fact that I need to contain my expenditure for a day at 300 EUR. I was better off now than till now and proceeded with confidence to chekin for my flight to Krakow, Poland. I had planned to go to Les Fontaines, Chantilly, France directly from Paris and return to China but realized that I could go to Krakow and meet and discuss issues/opportunities with my counterparts there as I was in Europe and was logical thing to do. I checked with my boss who reconfirmed that I was right and gave me the go ahead. So here I was in the checkin area for LOT , the Polish Airlines and decided to write about the day’s proceedings.

I treated myself to a takeaway Cappucino and settled in cozily to start typing. A good 2 hours later after repeated delay announcements of the flight due to air traffic control clearance issues , I was finally allowed to board the aircraft to Poland. It was a 50 seater small plane that looked cheaper than even Deccan airways ( I felt proud that Deccan was better than this in India!). The flight rolled on and finally took off to Krakow under the sunny weather. I landed amidst loud clapping from all passengers at KRK to realize that it was warm ( 28 degrees C)and the airport was even smaller than our very own Coimbatore airport but was much more snazzier than the Bangalore HAL Airport! I disembarked and claimed baggage and was met at the arrival lounge by Lukaciej who spoke flawless English and wore a Ray Ban sporting a thin line of hair for a beard. He welcomed me with all his assumed Polish(read European!) demeanor of deliberate superiority trying to hide the deep seated East Block insecurity of all Poles!
He went on to say that It would be easier for me to pronounce Lukaciej and Lukas as most foreigners do that rather than attempt Lukaciej. I instantly surprised him with a clear and precise rendition of the name in the same accent and intonation and literally explained to him that I speak 7 languages apart from English and these had evolved from Sanskrit like many languages even in Europe and such small things were never a deterrent for us to pronounce names clearly. This sort of unseated him from his assumed European superiority which I had challenged and cut down clearly and quickly with my Asian superior demeanor and explanation of the Sanskrit intricacies and language etc! Now we were suddenly on equal terms and I made him feel at ease by mentioning that his country was beautiful and I need information from him to understand his country. This was an instant trigger for him, he fell for it and said that he liked me instantly after that and went about explaining all the sights, cultures and traditions of the Poles in between the 20 mins ride from the Airport to the Sheraton Hotel next to the Viswa River.
Author - Pallassana Vadassery Vinod Kumar
Email -

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Westward Ho!

One morning in March, a mail from the Director of training for the Outsourcing vertical in Capgemini informing me that I had been nominated for a 1 week residential course in Les Fontaines( in Chantilly in France was a welcome surprise in an otherwise predictable work environment. It was an indication that my superboss(boss’s boss) who had nominated me believed that I was deserving of that opportunity and considered it a wise investment as well which was reassuring and comforting in its own way that I was valuable to the organization and to him for considering such an investment in my development! The bonus was a possibility to experience more of the beautiful country of France and also a possibility of realizing my dream of visiting Paris. My Parisian CEOs comment that Paris was the most beautiful city in the world and comparable only to Rome had ignited this inherent deep need to experience the beauty of Pari ( as he called it)! There was an additional opportunity to visit Krakow in Poland , another beautiful country in the East Block of the Iron curtain making the opportunity very attractive.. almost a dream come true!

The fact of having to leave my wife back in Guangzhou for 11 days while I go about experiencing my dreams without being able to share it with her along with me was a certain dampener to the whole scheme of things. I reconciled myself to the fact that this was a business trip which was necessary and unavoidable even if I did not want to do it! I reconciled to the fact and decided that I will make the most of this opportunity to experience every aspect of these places to the extent possible and share with my wife to make her experience the same through me.

The day came when I had to finally leave for the trip. The Murphy’s law has been so accurate in my life in many cases , I could be a living testimony to it and be a scientific evidence to people who doubt its existence. I managed to leave home late in spite of having 3 hours of lead time to reach the airport. As Murphy would have it, I managed to board the flight without any RMB, USD or EURO and 3 plastic cards which I did not know will be usable in the countries I was visiting! I realized that I don’t have a penny and didn’t know how to manage if I needed one! This is where the survivor instincts in me awakened and instilled affirmation that I would be able to manage in spite of my situation! I don’t know how this happens, but this happens always! My banks website and the agent who I spoke to from the Bank’s call centre informed me that the card would be accepted in Paris!. I realised on arrival at Paris that there was not a single ATM in any of the Charles De Gaulles Aeroport De Paris did not accept my card. I realized that I was now on foreign soil without a penny and without a way to arrange for any either.

In between the racing of my heartbeat and the sheets of perspiration breaking on my back out of anxiety, anger, stupidity and helplessness, it dawned on me that I had a Visa debit card! I realized in the next instant that I had received a mail from the bank stating that the card had expired last year and I was required to renew it. The bank had sent me the new card in India while I had been in China and the Bank decided to disable it as it had never been activated in 1 year after issue. I decided to take a chance with the old card risking losing it to a hungry French ATM tummy!

The hand of god that has always helped people like me in such circumstances came to my rescue and luckily I was awarded with the permission to withdraw cash from my India Account with the old ATM card. I don’t understand why I had always carried it. Maybe because I was destined to use it and appreciate the hand of god from Paris! Or maybe in the scheme of bigger things, this was the design sketched to add to my experience in life! My heartbeat and perspiration came back to normal and I realized that in between all this chaos, I had been drawing energy, reassurance and support from my wife via ISD calls all along to maintain my sanity and to get me through this situation. It had worked for me and I feel that is special!

Author - Pallassana Vadassery Vinod Kumar
Email -