Thursday, December 04, 2008

One Election can change the Nation and the world

The following note is reproduced with permission by the author, Tarun Malaviya.

I fully subscribe to this point of view.

Sadly a lot of the reaction to the Mumbai terror attack has been emotional (and at times simply naive). That is understandable. But it serves little purpose to condemn all politicians. That only ends up undermining democracy.

My belief is that democracy offers the best mechanism to make meaningful change. And it is quite simple. One, we must resolve to vote. Two, we must find the best candidate to vote for in our constituency.

The idea seems too simple & simplistic to work. But, it isn’t so.

Firstly it is not simple - voting for the cleanest candidate means voting across party lines, across regional, cast and religious divide. That would mean a leap for most people. Also, it would require some work to figure out who the honest, diligent candidates are.

The idea is not simplistic either - no matter how cleverly the candidates have worked out the electoral math, a one percentage point votes added or taken away from a candidate can make all the difference (actually even single vote can do it). More importantly since we are dealing with not just a case of security lapse but a rotten system, we must start by fixing it from the top. And there are many more things to fix in India than just the security apparatus.

If you find this idea sensible please send this mail to as many people as you can. If you are enthused by the idea spread the word further. And if you are charged up to really make a difference gather the information on the best candidate in your constituency and spread the information around (emails, blogs and networking sites are simple ways to do this).

The more honest people we can get into the parliament the sooner we might see the change we so desperately need.

One election may just change the course of history for our nation and the world.


Monday, November 24, 2008

What is truth?

This question has been "truthfully" :-) bothering me for a while now. Everyting I hear a discourse from a Guru, or read some self help books, they talk about living in truth. So what is it like to live in truth?

Truth is what is and not what we interpret it to be. I know it sounds obvious, but this was a moment of revelation and realisation for me today. Most of the time we continuously interpret what we see, feel and hear. We color the "truth" with our past experience OR what we would like it to be in future and present it. Thats a lie and will always remain one.

In one of our review meetings, a similar thing happened today while presenting the numbers related to the funtioning of one of our departments(unconsciously I would hope). One of friends once said that "numbers never lie" and this is the "truth" if the numbers are presented as they are. Thats what I mean by seeing what is. If the numbers are colored by a desire to be seen as good, then we could go on a totally wild goose chase.

Put another way, all of us should be on the lookout for always trying to bring out the "truth" way past the interpretation of it as anybody sees it.

If we color the "truth" by our past experience and judgement, we are probably not realising the potential of the situation. If we color it by a future dream, we are probably not in acceptance of the situation as is. Stop applying adjectives to situations.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Resq, Resq and more Rescues

Dear Friends

After Panda's rescue (mentioned in an earlier post), there was a period where I wasn’t involved with any rescues (thanks to my extended holiday and business travel commitments). That doesn’t mean there weren’t any. Our team & volunteers are constantly at it.

Most of the distress calls for animals are due to road accidents. Being an animal lover and also a driver of a vehicle, I look at this situation in an equonamous fashion and understand that it’s not just the fault of the driver of the vehicle. The urban environment with the mind set of most people is quite hostile for stray animals.

Reflect on some common causes of dogs getting into accidents.
1. Many people so unconsciously shoo away dogs when they come across them on the streets, that the dog is startled into jumping away and actually finds itself hit by a vehicle.
2. Dogs crossing the road to look for food or chase another dog who has dared to stray into its territory.
3. They sleep under vehicles and when the vehicle starts, they can’t get out quickly enough.
4. During festivals, the noise makes them run helter skelter looking for relief from this noise. In this scared, hyper mode, they are not so alert and tend to get hit by vehicles.
5. Besides these, open man holes, unfinished infrastructure having gaping holes, construction sites etc also are harmful to the poor souls.

My recent rescues in the last 7 days would give you an idea of what the animals really go through (I don’t have enough data on the rescues done by the rest of my team)
1. A small cute kitten (now called Rini) was attacked by a dog and was lying prone (paralyzed) in the compound of a bungalow. Thanks to the caller, timely attention by the vet and now loads of tender loving care and attention by Mitali (who actually individually runs a cat rescue, care and adoption center); she is now on her way to recovery. If anybody wants to adopt cute adorable cats/kittens, please write to Mitali at
2. Another kitten (whom we called Tiger, since she looked like a tiger), who was actually noticed by my friend Prem, to have a broken hind leg. It's been observed that kittens have a tendency to hide behind the radiators of cars in parking lots. Despite veterinary attention, she didn’t survive the night. Cause was an internal hemorrhage.
3. While returning home one night, I observed a dog on his side trying desperately to crawl out of a deep water filled pothole on West Street (near the pay and park on East Street). I stopped and saw that he was a fairly old dog, skin disease and paralyzed from the waist down. He didn’t have enough leverage to get himself out of the water filled ditch. Probably might have been in that position for ages. While I was talking to Neha and Shruti to figure out what to do, he died right in front of my eyes. I pulled him out of the ditch and left him there.
4. Immediately after that I attended to a call on Dhole Patil road. An elusive but weak dog was reported. Wasn’t eating and couldn’t walk too far before collapsing. I found him, and from the waist down seemed very weak and also twitching continuously. I conferred with Shruti and left him to be picked up the ambulance the next day. Since I wasn’t available the next day, Sameer attended to him. It turned out that he was distemper case, recovered.
5. A few days back, I woke up to cries of distress which sounded like puppies. I went down and asking around I found one puppy crouching between a telephone exchange box and the wall. I thought he was stuck so he was howling. I pulled him out and took him home. While going to work immediately after, a friend of mine Aspi, called to inform me that there seem to be puppies below the same telephone box. Then I realized that probably some of them had fallen in and the puppy on the outside was crying for his family. Now we have a situation. This particular telephone exchange box was mounted on a frame which was about 3 feet into the ground. Ideally the frame and box should have had no gaps (unfinished and poorly implemented infrastructure). But it had a four inch gap through which one or more puppies had fallen into the ditch. No way to look in and gap too small to put the hand through. The only solution was to remove the box. It was a struggle, but thanks to timely help by my friends Sunil, Rohit and Murtuzza who provided the tools to open the nuts, we pulled out the puppy. Both are now fine and are staying at the dog pound. Both are very cute, dark colored male puppies. Let me know if you would like to adopt.
6. Last night was a completely paralyzed dog who could only lift his head. There was a large swelling in the lower back, spine area pointing to a road accident again. No external wounds. Didn’t survive.

Yes, I know that the basic cause is that we are not supposed to have strays. And for this we have a WHO directive and enough evidence to support the fact that this population in the dogs can be controlled only by sterilizing them in pockets.

But while that happens, we can’t act irresponsibly about them. Remember they are living, breathing, sensitive creatures. If we feel that they are invading our space, the reverse is also true.

We need to accept them, respect them, help them and work towards reducing their population.

I think the key word here is "responsibility" and "ownership". Let’s not simply wait for "someone" to fix this problem. Do what you can. If you feel helpless, at least call when you see an animal in distress and see that rescue through by providing the necessary local support.

So what can you do?
1. Take leadership and work towards getting the dogs in your area sterilized. The only effort you need to put in is to coordinate this and provide some local logistical support to one of the animal welfare organizations who exclusively do birth control e.g. Blue cross society.
2. Educate yourself and your children on accepting strays as part of the ecosystem we live in. Teach them to treat the strays with respect and not be afraid of them or cause them any harm.
3. If you see an animal in distress, please do stop and evaluate the situation. It’s a selfless act to be responsible for a life. You happening to be there could be looked at as a chance or a part of a larger play out by the universe to give you an opportunity to do something large. Call our rescue hotline 98903 34433
4. If you would like to keep pets, adopt a stray. They are hardy, low maintenance and very loving. And they need a home.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thank You

I travelled yesterday by the MSRTC volvo bus from Mumbai to Pune. The best thing about this service is the punctuality of departure and running. They do not waste time (our time) scouting around for extra passengers even if the seats are half empty. While I sat there listening to the radio, I was reflecting on the many times I would have travelled in such buses (public transport) and the life of a driver. I am safe so far means that the drivers (of the many busses I have travelled in so far, including yesterdays trip) have done their job well. A thought crossed my are scores of people who have had a hand in transporting me around (have actually been part of a service chain) and how often have I just walked out of the bus at the destination without really stopping to express my gratitude. I decided that I would do it today and then at every such opportunity.

When we stopped at Pune and while I was aligting, I stopped by the driver, touched his shoulder and thanked him for the good safe drive. He smiled and was also slightly embarassed. With a gesture he said "its ok. its my job". But I knew and could feel he was touched. I was touched too.

Go out there and express your gratitude openly. It'll only bring more cheer into your life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My second Himalayan holiday (Kuari Pass trek)

Where is this?
Kuari Pass is a mountain pass at about 3800 mtrs in the central Garhwal Himalayan range in Uttarakhand (norhern state of India). The pass is probably the best window to view the high Himalayan peaks. We face north and see the gorges of Trishul in the east to the peaks of Kedarnath in the west - the Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, Nilkantha, Kamet, Gauri Parbat, Hathi Parbat, Nandadevi, Bethartoli, Dunagiri – (all high 6000ers or 7000 m peaks) lined one after the other in a panoramic arc

Why did I choose this?
Hmmmm...As I was planning my holiday for this year (its been 2 1/2 years since I last took one), I dug deeper into myself to see what did I really want. I realised that I needed a mental cleanser (its been a very active last few years on both the personal and the professional front), and that I needed to retract and develop a better understanding of myself. Also that I was going to do this holiday alone (no friends or family tagging along) and didnt really want to indulge in a splurgy holiday. I worked out several options but fell prey to the great Himalayan temptation. I also recalled the great time I had the last time I was there. I was a little apprehensive since the mountains would be cold at this time of the year (I am not a great fan of cold weathers...prefer summer anyday). All said and done, I thought it would be a great non-indulgent way to unwind, what with all the physical activity to be undertaken.

How did I plan this trek?
Once decided I started looking for companies, which organise treks for small groups. I thought that since I am alone, I may as well join a group. After a lot of unsuccessful attempts ( i sent an enquiry to more than 10 companies, whose links I got off the Internet, but didnt get a response from a single one), I got a reference of Wanderers from a friend who had travelled with them earlier. I started interacting with them, and I found them so amazingly responsive. Maithilee from their Pune office, patiently helped me work out several options and arrive at a solution for my needs. I finalised upon the Kuari Pass trek, which was just the right length (10 days Pune to Pune) and spent enough time in the mountains (7 days). In addition a small group had already formed for the trek. I did this a couple of months before the departure date to give me enough time to work out the plans in office and also to prepare myself for the trek.

The trek:
I have described my trek in the sequence of days as we went through the trip. The pictures uploaded in picassa are also arranged in the same sequence to relate the happenings of the day.
Day 1:Delhi -> Rishikesh (330 mtrs)
Starts at Delhi by boarding the Shatabdi to Haridwar where we were received by Avilash Bisht of Aquaterra adventures, who would be conducting the entire trip with us. (Wanderers have tied up with Aquaterra adventures). The entire group was on the train (probably in the same compartment) but we didnt meet since we didnt know each other. Our group consists of myself, Vikram (delhi), Shirsha (Mumbai), Richa (Delhi), Emma, George, Niki (UK). From Haridwar we were driven to Rishikesh, where we put up in "The Great Ganga". After a group lunch, the day was free and I set out to explore Rishikesh (my first time here). I visited the famous Ram and Laxman Jhulla (suspension bridges across the Ganges), listened to some soulful music for a long time outside a music store, attended the arti at dusk on the banks of the river and devoured some delicious north indian samosas.
Day 2: Rishikesh -> Cheffna (1560 mtrs)
We woke up early and started out on a long picturesque drive towards our first camp site. It was approximately 240 kms and we were headed for a village called Cheffna. We drove in two vehicles, a Chevrolet Tavera and a Toyota Qualis (I am mentioning the vehicles since they deserve a special note for being able to stand up to the rough roads quite sturdily). The drive was serene and we passed four confluences viz. Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Nandprayag and Karnaprayag. We followed the alaknanda river and after a 7 hour journey, reached our camp site on the banks of the Nandakini river. Our drivers kept up the pressure and went over teh rough roads at a good consistent pace. My respect for the tavera and qualis climbed a few notches. we made it to our camp site, just before sun set and were greeted by the rest of the Aquaterra team who would be with us on the trek and would look after us. We had Yuvraj (one of the cooks, very good one at that, who Vikram said looks like Rafael Nadal since he was sporting a bandana over his hair), Yogendra (the other cook), and Chain singh. Besides the four aquaterra team members, we had four mule drivers and 8 mules to carry the equipment, kitchen, etc. Our camp site consisted of basically 4 tents for the 7 of us, a kitchen tent, a toilet tent and a dining tent besides the other stuff like stools, tables etc.The food was quite unexpected (throughout the journey). Variety daily, with desert and very delicious. I thought the cooks were not just professional but also very deeply involved with their work. They surely loved their jobs. We turned in early since we decided to start walking at 7:30 after an early breakfast. It was my first time in a sleeping bag and a tent and frankly found it a little difficult to sleep.
Day 3: Cheffna -> Ghunni (2450 mtrs)
We woke up early at 6 AM. It was quite cold (for my liking). Hot water, tea and coffee was already served in the dining tent. While I was strolling around having my morning litre of water, I saw Vikram walk back from the river looking absolutely fresh. he mentioned that he had a full body bath in the river and encouraged me to do so. It was tempting but it was also very cold and the water more so. Moreover I dont normally bathe in cold water. Eventually I gave in to the adventure spirit within me and took the plunge. Awesome is the only word to describe the experience. The first splash not withstanding, I wanted to continue bathing for longer. Thanks to my left over sensibilities I exited and dressed up. Felt lovely...thanks vikram for this push.After a yummy breakfast and a packed lunch, we started our trek. Today was a short day of approximately 4 hours and takes us through the Ghat village onto another village called Ghunni. I was carrying my own bag (approx 23 pounds) and found the going moderately tough. The sun was high too. After we leave the camp site, the team packs up, loads the mules and moves to the next camp site. They try to get there earlier than us so they can setup the camp site and greet us with a hot cup of tea. Today was an exception, but while we waited for them, we devoured our packed lunches. The camp site was right above te shool in Ghunni. I used the space after the trek to reconnect to myself, do my meditation etc. What follows from now on is a similar pattern.
Day 4: Ghunni -> Sem Kharak (2630 mtrs)
We left our camp site at 8AM and trekked towards our 3rd camp site. Todays walk involves steep ascents and walks through woods. After about 5 hours of walking, we came to our really cute camp site nestled in the woods. Here we encountered heavy rains in the evenings, after dinner. Weather then was cold and damp. I realised that I have overpacked. There was some stuff which I might never use (refer to my note at the end of this blog post about lessons learnt during this holiday).
Day 5: sem Kharak -> Pana (2790 mtrs)
Today I got rid of about 6 pounds of my bag and let that be loaded on the mules. What was left was a bag minimally packed for 7 days of living off only the bag contents. Today is a tough long day with 2 descents and 2 ascents totalling about 7 hours of walking. Today I came down with a severe congestion of my ENT system along with some fever (it turned out to be bronchitis). This added to my stress and made the day really long and tough for me. The walk was really beautiful though...through the woods (every time we walked through the woods, it looked different), over a very high bridge crossing the Birahi Ganga, crossing some really pretty meadows, and a village where there was a school. The kids here clean the school themselves, and call the teacher "Adhyapak" which is a hindi word for teacher (Check the pictures). Todays camp site was located above the Pana village. we had 3 cute kids from the village visit us and be with us. They were curious to see what we are upto. They were especially kicked to see me, George and Emma meditate. They were sweet enough to sing for us.
Day 6: Pana -> Dhakwani (3105 mtrs)
Todays walk was through forests and meadows with steep ascents and descents to bring us to a camp site just below the Kuari Pass. From our camp site, we could clearly see the pass above us. Today was a stretch and a struggle for me physically. I was finding it very difficult to breath, thanks to my congestion and the thinning air. I was now consuming crocin+combiflam (twice a day) to get symptomatic relief at least (didnt help much). In the mountains, its not just the temparature but the breeze which adds to the discomfort. It multiples the effect of the cold (chill factor). Continuing to walk now was a mind game for me. I was now physically broken. Tonight we would turn in early since we planned to wake up at 3 am and reach the pass before sunrise. We wanted to capture the snow capped mountains being kissed by the rising sun (how poetic :-))
Day 7: Dhakwani (3105 mtrs) -> Kuari Pass (3800 mtrs) -> Khulara (3395 mtrs)
We started at sharp 3:30 AM and walked with flash lights towards the pass. It was a steep climb. I was covered with 5 layers including thermals, woolen cap and muffler and gloves. I was really straining today and it took me a little over 3 hours to reach the top. But once at the top, all pain was forgotten. We had a panaromic view of the Chaukhamba, Neelkanth, Badrinath, Kedernath, Kamet, and more. It was stunning. We spent a good deal of time on the top, ensuring our cameras have captured the peaks with all the changing colours (as the sun rose). It was severely cold, especially due to the wind chill and most people couldnt use their hands.Shirsha and Richa were our professional photographers, who between them took over 500 pictures using SLR cameras. (I have linked to their albums in this blog). We bumped into a foreign national who had camped on the pass (must have guts to sleep in that cold) and had been travelling in India since a year and half. He was kind enough to take some pictures of the group using our cameras. We were lucky to have not encountered any bad weather (despite niki having seen one Magpie, which was supposed to be unlucky. After a windy breakfast and a short (refreshing) nap in the sun, we started our leisurely descent towards Khulara. The camp site again was nestled in the woods near a water source. As soon as we settled into our camp site we encountered bad weather (not too soon). We were treated to a hail storm for about 4 hours after which our green camp site turned white. The whole camp site looked like a snow covered holiday resort.The weather turned really very cold and we huddled around a camp fire to keep warm. I realised how poorly i have been sleeping all through out the trek. (probably couldnt handle the cold). This despite having exchanged my sleeping bag with Avilash's bag to see if the bag is not suitable for these temparatures.
Day 8: Khulara -> Auli -> Bihari guest house.
Today we woke up later than usual and started a scenic walk towards Auli, where our trek would end. Avilash changed the plan (originally we were meant to descend to tapovan directly) and made walk through the north facing slope and all along we had a great view of the peaks, especially Nandadevi. Was a good walk, partially through the snow covered path and then through a slushy part (melting snow) and the usual dry trail. We were picked up by cars and driven to the Bihari guest house which is along the Bihari Ganga river. After a refreshing bath (after 6 days), we all had a small gettogeher to celebrate the achievement (was not fact this trek was much tougher than the Har ki dun trek I had undertaken 2 years ago).

My learning from this trek:
Every experience in life happens to you for a purpose. It is lifes way of prompting you to grow up. I believe this and am always on the lookout for the hidden lessons in the experiences (of course without compromising on the beauty of the experiences). Heres what I learnt from this (this trek offered me several "first times" e.g. first time in a tent, first time in a sleeping bag, first time in the snow, first time bathing in ice cold water in the open ( i now suspect that is what caused me to get ill), etc.
1. The lessons learnt to deal with these situations were invaluable.
2. I strongly recommend Wanderers and Aquaterra adventures to help you with your holiday plans. They are very professional and committed.
3. If you plan to carry your own bag, target a weight of 6 kgs including the weight of the bag. I struggled initially for 2 days with my 10 Kg bag, before I realised that I had overpacked. On day three, i stripped the contents to the minimum listed below. It came down to about 6.5 kgs which was more manageable.
Heres what I suggest (learnt by observing Avilash and others and then trying it out after day 3) One pair of tracks + one T shirt + one long sleeve t shirt for the walk (Choose material which dries quickly and also keeps you warm (poly material)and can be reused for the 6 days of walking...recomend Nike dri fit) One extra pair of above in case it gets wet. Change for the camp wear (thermals+pyjamas+layered t shirts+jacket+woolens(muffler+cap+gloves)) spare underwear and 2 pairs of socks Dont carry any toiletries except tooth paste (small)+tooth brush+moisturiser+sun block+soap strips+hand sanitizer (all in travel small sizes) Every 100 gms matters. Dont bother to shave, bathe etc. You wont stink no matter what. The environment is too clean.
4. Nothing you do can prepare you for this kind of gruelling event. It takes the most out of you physically, although it refreshes mentally. If at all, do loads of cardio so your lung capacity is good. Add pranayam to this. Dont forget to strengthen your back and shoulders to be able to carry the load.
5. Go with an open mind and enjoy the experience (especially if its your first time). our group was really sporting and open. Not taking away the pampering treatment given by the Aquaterra team. Vikram was an avid trekker (in these parts) and had loads of information to share about the peaks, spots etc. Avilash was a wonderful guide, very well informed and quite focussed. Richa and Shirsha were our fun anchors. Emma, George and Niki surprised with their high level of fitness (they could chat continuously during the entire walk) and were way ahead of the rest of us.

What about the pictures?
Check out these links (Shirsha's and Richa's pictures have an all new quality/depth...very good pics)

Would I do it again?
Yes. No question about it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Panda - My second ResQ

I am writing this post after about 3 weeks of doing this rescue. It was around 2 PM when I got a call from Neha requesting me to join her for this rescue. She had received a call from a regular caller, who informed her of an injured dog on Pashan road in Pune.

When we reached there, sure enough there was this full grown black and white dog lying on the side of the road with laboured breathing and also bleeding slightly from his nose and mouth. Apparently didn't have any external injuries.

As usual, Neha wanted me to handle this too. I muzzled the dog (as a precaution since we couldn't make out if he was aggressive) and I gave him a sedative shot. Inspected him for any broken bones and we slung him into the rear seat of Neha's car and headed towards the kennels. It was apparent that he was hemorrhaging.

En route, Neha started calling the vets in sequence to see who was the closest and could take a look at him. We were lucky to have Dr. hatekar in the vicinity, heading towards his home.

Doc, asked for him to be taken to the kennels so he could start his treatment. We started him off on a drip with required medications. While this was on, we cleaned up the dirt & blood around his mouth to make him comfortable. While filling out his case sheet, Neha was wondering what to call him. She kept recalling recent movies and we came across "Kung fu Panda"...voila his name is now Panda (he is as cute as a panda :-))

Its been almost 3 weeks, and steadily he is recovering. At first he couldn't walk, fortunately he was eating. By and by he is now able to walk and is returning to normal. he is still at the kennels awaiting a green signal by the Vet so he can be dropped back at the same spot (or adopted...which is a little difficult considering his size and age)

I have to admit, that my first reaction was that if its internally bleeding, it might be a gone case. However since I have been working with this organisation, I have been seeing a very striking blend of practicality and a clinical determination to work on each case with the same enthusiasm and level of detail until recovery. The feeling is that "I must give this my best shot, even if there is a 10% chance of the dog recovering"

I admire this quality and this is what really attracts me to this group. Keep it up guys.

Reply to Ariane's comment on my blog post about Loiu by first resq

Dear Ariane
Unfortunately you didnt leave any way for me to contact you with regards to your request. Yes of course we would be happy to add to our volunteer network. Please contact me when you are in Pune. You could write to me at sunil_uttam at yahoo dot com.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Loui - My first ResQ

It was bright Wednesday morning, when I received a call from Neha, asking me to join in for a rescue near the airport road. By then I was almost at work (near Baner) and decided that I might just hold them up by travelling so much. The most effective aspect of this model is that you call in the nearest volunteer to support.

In the evening, when I was on the way to the GYM on FC road, and I asked her about the morning rescue, she mentioned she was trying to coordinate another one near about Alka theater and there was no volunteer in that area. I volunteered to go check it out, since I was so close by.

The case was reported by a family staying in the by lanes near Kaka Halwai on that road. When I landed there, I saw a puppy lying on one side and with these people from the family watching over it. A student (who expressed his desire to become a volunteer) was also part of the group. The puppy had been hit by a vehicle and his right hind leg was broken just below the elbow.
Even though it was a small puppy (around 4 kgs and maybe 4 months old) I used my newly acquired training before handling it. I checked the spine, I felt its body for being warm and sensation, I checked for bleeding. I was told that he had been howling every time he moved. Also observed that he had his right hind leg pulled into his body (mostly in pain). I didnt feel the need to muzzle him or sedate him since he was quite down anyways.

I carefully moved him into the jute bag, (like a makeshift stretcher) holding him by his scruf (to prevent any bites to myself)...he did howl a lot. With the help of the family, I moved him into my car and got him to Neha's home.

She made me give him a shot, cleaned up his wounds, applied an anti flea powder, we tied his leg in a makeshift splint, and let him sleep. I left him there, after which I learnt that he was taken for an xray and his leg professionally done with a splint to help him recover and he was christened Loiu (since he looked like another dog they had got who was called Mario and loui was mario's brother :-)

This was my first rescue with PAWS (i have done several others but would typically move the animal to the Blue cross pound so that a vet could attend or else if I couldn't move the animal, call Dr. Ahir from the pound to check it on the spot.)

Here I observed that the PAWS team takes ownership of the helpless lone animal, nurtures it back to health and rehomes it. I have to comment on the tenderness with which Neha handled the animal. There was a deep concern and desire to see that the animal would be well. At that moment, she was with the animal completely and didn't for once think of it as another one in the crowd. That animal was treated with utmost respect and as a unique spirit. I am sure the others in the organisation think similarly, which explains the mission and passion with which it is run.

Most people I know, would say that someone else will come and take care of it (shrugging off responsibility). I say, we need more people like these, and the family which not just reported the incident but also stood by until we reached there to take charge. Like Osho has said, forget about humanity, and instead lets work on the individuals, the world will be a better place automatically. So citizens, please be more aware while you are living on this planet and sharing the same space with other living beings who deserve as much if not more respect.

BTW, i went to the kennels to look at loiu. The cute guy had his leg up in a plaster and was sleeping peacefully. Anybody want to keep him at home...I guarantee you unconditional love by Loiu :-)


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

ResQ - The paws pack

Recently while going to my office, I saw a donkey sitting in the middle of the main road, right across the lane leading to my office. Its not abnormal to see donkeys resting near or on the road, typically separated from their pack or with their pack in the vicinity. But I noticed that he didn't look too well. The traffic flow was heavy and despite people trying to move him (stubborn as they are), he wasn't moving. But I could see that it wasn't a steely resolve to stay put but a lack of energy.
That's when I called the PAWS pack, which is an animal rescue organisation, started and managed by three like minded animal loving girls (Neha, Shruti and Tanya). I got through to Tanya, who gave me basic instructions, guided me to contacting a vet, coordinated my meeting with the vet, so I could go and bring the vet over to the site.
The donkey was diagnosed to be having a high fever. The doc gave him a couple of large shots, we fed him a couple of times and the guy recovered. Before long he disappeared, probably joined some passing tribe. I also learnt that PAWS was already aware of this case (was called by some more people) and was keeping an eye on the donkey via some of its volunteers
After this incident, I was inspired to become a member of this team. The concept is amazing...a central point of coordination, relationships with 20+ leading vets in Pune, a 50+ strong volunteer network to cover the city. The model is to get a call of an injured or needy animal, send the nearest volunteer to get first hand information, report back to HO, while the team organises the protocol to rescue the animal.
While running this setup, they I guess, figured that it would be useful to have the volunteers be able to administer basic first aid to stabilise the animal (thereby increasing the chances of survival) while more help comes its way.
Leading towards this they organised a first aid work shop last Sunday, which I attended. It was extremely useful to learning about the common ailments, common protocols to approaching and muzzling the dogs, and very basic treatment (of course in consultation with the vet network).
How can we help this cause?
1. Become a part of the volunteer network.
2. Participate actively in the rescue or help in the back end operations (organisation)
3. Funds (always welcome). Currently the girls are pursuing related professions (like Tanya is a dog trainer & behaviorist, Neha is studying to be a canine nutritionist) to support the cause financially.
4. Awareness...spread the word and educate the masses to help prevent accidents and treat animals with respect.
5. Support by buying/selling their produce. They are now manufacturing dog snacks to generate revenue

Hats off to the effort of the girls and their core team.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A new High did I go looking for another mountain to climb? Well yes and I also found a more challenging one. Close to Pune is Sinhagad (fort built by Shivaji) located on a high hill. There are two ways to reach the fort, one by trekking up via a trek route of about 4 kms, and two
by a road of about 11 kms (parking at the base to parking on top). The road is continuously inclined with a very little respite for a small patch. It has more than 6-7 hair pin bends.

So I thought, now that I can climb mountains, why not this? I chose a Saturday (on a holiday the road to Sinhagad is packed with people) and drove upto the base of the fort, carrying my cycle in my car harnessed to the back on a cycle carrier.

I started the ride around 7 AM. I started strong and kept the cycle in a higher gear to cover ground quicker. At first I was quite comfortable, but after around 4 kms, the high gear started to tell on me. The road was continuously inclined & steep. I shifted to the lowest gear and pushed myself just saying one thing to myself...that I should encounter a horizontal patch of at least 10 metres to get some relief from the pressure. But that wasn't to happen and towards the end, as if it wasn't enough to have a steep road, I also encountered wind resistance. I was steaming, dripping with my mind screaming to turn back and feel content that I made it so far.

That's the lesson, the mind always tries to settle you back into the comfort zone and will try all kinds of tricks to convince you to give up. It will attempt fear (if you go on like this you'll get hurt), confusion (still a long way to go, you wont make it), procrastination (come back tomorrow and try it), give up (not for you...this is for Lance Armstrong), etc. Here you need to do some soul searching to see if you really want this...if you want it, nothing can stop you. I have noted, that whenever ANYBODY REALLY wants something, he gets it, no matter what.

Well, I made it to the top, and lived to tell the tale. The feeling of reaching a new high is unmatched. You have to experience it to know how it feels. I urge you to go for it.

Technically, it took me 1 hour and 15 mins to reach the top covering 11 kms climbing. I took 3 breaks of 30 seconds for regrouping my body. and I followed all that I wrote in my previous blog on eating to recover.

BTW the next time I did it, I was more comfortable, did it in the same time with only 1 break.

Matter over mind :-)



Friday, May 09, 2008

Over the top

Dear friends.

Although the blog may appear to be a self praise note, I would like to clarify that the intention here is to share the learning from my life with my friends. I would like to spread the word on what worked for me and what didn't, so you all can benefit from this. Please look at this in the light of the above.

In one of my previous blogs I wrote about "Reaching the top". How I trained to overcome perceived physical challenges and a mental image of "impossibility" to improve my cycling capacity.

In this note, I would like to share how a human is capable of adapting to new situations, latching on thus allowing one to go further up and beyond.

As I continued to train myself, I found myself being able to cycle up the mountain in lesser and lesser time and also recovering much quicker from the grueling workout. I managed to cut my time from 1 1/2 hour to 1 hour in about 4 weeks of training. Also recovery improved to the point, where I can do this twice continuously.

I learnt that the inherent capability was present in me (read all humans) and I had to overcome my mental blocks to have the faith that I could do it and all I had to do was train myself scientifically to prevent a physical burnout or injury. I also realise that by visualising each trip in the way I would like it to turn out, I was able to achieve that and more. Let me caution, that at the physical level, you have to be scientific in the training, rest and nutrition. My training wasn't all about cycling endlessly. No, in fact it has a a solid mix of resistance training to develop strength, stretching to keep my self injury free, cross training cardio like running, a biweekly massage to help recovery, solid nutrition and good portion of rest. If I didn't do all this, I wouldn't be able to get to work and do my job without sleeping out of exhaustion.

Most people arrest their progress by "thinking" themselves into inaction. Overcome your mind to reach over the top. (I'll write a note soon on how one can do this)

Some ground lessons to serious cyclists/athletes for text book style recovery:
1. Eat a banana before you start a long session (2 hours+)
2. Carry and sip water which has glucose (dextrose 3 tablespoons to 1/2 a litre of water)+Electral powder to allow you keep hydrated. Believe me, it makes a big difference in being able to keep going without breaking down.
3. Have 1/2 litre of water for every 1 1/2 of exercise to compensate for the water loss.
4. On returning, immediately have a protein shake (1 scoop whey protein with milk/water).
5. After 1/2 hour to an hour, have a whopping meal consisting of potatoes (excellent carbohydrate source), grain (like chapati, rice, thalipeeth), fruit and curd/yogurt OR eggs.

So now whats I wrote earlier I am looking for the next challenge. By innovating, I could challenge myself on the same route progressively e.g. cycling up in a higher gear deliberately, or pushing for a faster speed to cut time down, doing it twice, carrying a heavier bag to add weight, push to stay ahead of a truck struggling to go up the mountain, etc.

Look for ways to make your life interesting. You can discover gems even in the same path you walk on daily. Push yourself to achieve more (isn't that what life is all about?), innovate, challenge and keep looking ahead. Live on the edge.

You do this, while I seek the next mountain to climb...all towards my goa trip on a cycle :-)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Silent retreat

Recently Mithi conducted a Corporate SSY program for all our employees. The focus of the program is build people by teaching them how to cleanse and maintain the building blocks of life viz. the body, mind and soul. The thrust is on ensuring harmonious functioning of these elements for optimal performance of the person.

Many corporates we hear are now making this a mandatory training for their employees. We found that the corporate version of the more rigorous version of the SSY is as good or even better in providing clarity and understanding on management than many westernised management training programs. But this can be known only after experiencing it.

As a follow up to this, recently I and a few of my colleagues had the good fortune of attending an SSY retreat where we go and stay in the wilderness for a few days away from any stimuli in terms of time (watches), communication (phones/mobiles), money and be in silence for that period.

Being with people but being by yourself.

Going back to the roots, playing, meditating, practicing Yoga and basically doing nothing.

The results are amazing. The energy creation in silence. Being meditative with eyes open. Learning to live on natural foods.

Definitely a battery charger. This is the form of rejuvinating holidays which should be taken up more often. The idea is to come back refreshed and not exhausted (as typically happens on most regular indulgent holidays where one ends up over eating, drinking, overdoing, or over sleeping)

I would definitely be integrating these kind of 2 day getaways into my routine, to recharge.

I strongly recommend this for you too.

Go experience it to know how it feels.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

The inevitability of a crisis

It was 7:00 AM, and I was 50 hours without sleep and we were just about done. So whats going on?

We had scheduled a project to execute in 3 phases over 3 nights since we couldnt take downtime on the servers in the day. OUr execution time had to start at 7PM and had to finish by 1 AM (6 hours scheduled downtime).

The product development team took up this deployment project with me (the product manager) leading this to get a first hand feel and sensitise ourselves to what the deployment and support team faces when they use our creation (the product).

We experienced on the first day how it feels to execute a project which has been planned well and executed as per plan with no deviations done or needed. Here we experienced a form of comfort zone, feeling more and confident as time went by that the result will be as expected.

Even though we didnt face any problems, the time estimate was way of the mark, due to slow execution speed of a few servers. Our learning may have been limited to small challenges coming in the execution steps. That phase ended at 6 AM in the morning.

Even though the team managed to go get some sleep, I was too hyper to get any. The nights happenings, questions, answers, thoughts, learnings, notes, kept flashing in my mind keeping me wide awake. I ended up having a normal working day pondering deeply on how to make our product such that these reconfiguration exercises can be actually offloaded to the customer. I didnt see any scale in this exercise.

Same day evening, we start again. This time we experienced, how it feels to execute a well planned project, which throws up an unknown/unforeseen situation throwing the plan of track. We were faced with a situation of a currupted database on all the servers due to wrong data input to the program. We had to undo the damage and redo the operation properly. An unforeseen situation for which we were not ready.

Here you are pushed out of your comfort zone since you realize the repercussions of what might happen. Its a crisis situation, especially so at 2 Am in the morning when you really cant think that well.

Here however a proper structured response with levels of participation is required to ensure a successful result. If we all had piled into the details and started fixing each case with inadequate discussion or planning we would have created multiple crisis situations within the main crisis.

As an observer, I quickly stepped in to set a framework and document the cases of the failure with an appropriate action plan. Once this was done, I also quickly stepped back. Thereafter the team handled it wonderfully by writing new scripts, meticulously executing these and ensuring that the servers were finally setup as expected.

What did we learn from this:
1. Acknowledge the inevitability of the crisis moment. No point in blaming, getting frustrated, angry etc. Accept and act.
2. Managers to step in at the right time and step out at the right time. Much as you might be tempted to roll up your sleeves, move everybody aside, and start running the machines, I suggest that to keep up the team morale up, restrict yourself to set the framework and the direction and move aside.
3. Plan, act and take unbiased data driven decisions with responsibility.
4. Divide the work amongst the team, but work together and support each other in whatever way possible without too much interference, always staying alert to the changes in the situation.
5. Dont forget to assign, the coffee boy job to someone responsible :-).
6. Once the crisis is over, think prevention, to ensure such a situation doesnt recur. Ask yourself, what you could have done to prevent this situation.

This blog is being published on the third day of the project execution at 1 AM. Estimated completion time for today's project is 6 AM. Good night.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reaching the top

Whenever I share my vision of making a trip to Goa on a cycle from my home town in Pune (500+ km), almost everybody has the same expression on their faces - as if saying "have you lost it", "isn't it better & more fun to go to Goa in a car, lounge on the beach, down beer bottles by the dozens and eat like a pig", envy (by those people who would actually want to be seen doing that but actually don't have the energy to do it, or possibly wont be allowed by spouses :-), family etc).

On many occasions I tried to show them my side of the coin...the journey is the reward, food is not the only way to celebrate, just undertaking such an endeavour will expose me to and teach me a lot about myself and the geography, etc. But in vain.

Anyways this journey is all for myself.

As part of my endeavour to improve my capacity to cycle long distances, I would ride small hills, flats for long distances and work out in the gym regularly to build up my strength. Many a times I would think about the several ghats (mountainous roads) that I would have to cover in my journey to Goa and doubt myself if I would be able to climb those steep roads on my cycle. I would recall all those times when I have found even the car struggling to get over those roads (i have driven to goa several times in my little wonder).

Near my house there is bopdeo ghat which leads to a village called Saswad. The top of the Ghat would be around 10 kms from my house, a more or less continuous climb with the last 5 kms really going all the up in a Z shaped carve in the mountain. One day, I decided to overcome my doubt and work towards reaching the top.

I started by breaking down the distance into 4 parts and worked towards doing this in 4 weeks. I set myself the goal of covering more and more distance each time I rode this route, once a week. On other days (with appropriate rest days thrown in) I would cross train by gymming, treadmilling and riding the cycle on flats (sprints and quick climbs on smaller hills).

Guess what, I actually made it to the top in 4 weeks...something I thought I might never be able to do and would have to walk the distance in my journey. No doubt it wasn't easy (I had to do about 5 kms on the lowest gear and had my legs bursting out of my shorts)...but the reward of being on the top and having reached there without a car was amazing. Now the next logical thing is to set a higher and longer goal.

I learnt a lot from this experience.
One, that we are limited by what we think we can do rather than what we actually can do. We actuall build a wall around our selves simply by our thoughts which are limiting and become a self fulfilling prophecy.
Second, breaking down a goal into smaller doable goals and also allowing your self to adapt to the new situations and stresses makes it easy to achieve the big goal (read...I would have failed if i had attempted to do this in one attempt, without preparation and possibly would have given up totally thinking its not for me).
Third, my experience with the bike can be applied to all activities of life - personal, professional, society, family etc. Set lofty goals, break them down, go after them.

Life is about abundance.