Have 48 Hours? Go To Singapore

This article was published in Metro Plus, The Hindu

Living in Asia has its perks. The weather, the food, and most importantly, easy access to incredible travel destinations. Singapore has consistently been a favourite among couples, friends and families alike. The Singapore Tourism Board reported an incredible 12.4 million international visitors from January to September 2016.  817,000 of them were Indians.

The ease of travel and range of accommodation catering to different budgets makes Singapore a must-do destination, even if you have just 48 hours.

Arrive

Indigo, Scoot, Jet Airways and Air India Express operate budget flights from Chennai to Singapore (ranging from INR 13,000 to 16,000 return depending on when you book). Taking the 10pm flight will get you to Singapore at 4.40am local time. Check-in to your hotel and catch a few hours of sleep.


Day 1
8:30 am – Singapore Zoo

The zoo is well connected by buses or you can take a taxi from the nearest train station connected to your line. Hang out with free range orangutans and lemurs, feed the giraffes, watch the Komodo dragon, learn about tropical and polar critters, and walk through the fragile forest enclosures. You can pack your own lunch or go to the restaurants on site for a choice of Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and international food. The zoo also offers River Safaris and Night Safaris which we decided to skip to be able to tick more things off our list.

We then took the free bus shuttle to the Khatib MRT station, and made our way to HarbourFront Station.

10 - Free range orangutans singapore zoo Continue reading Have 48 Hours? Go To Singapore

A Parallel India In Jaipur

I’m staring at the visual symmetry of a stepwell in the middle of Rajasthan, and I can hardly believe my eyes. We’re on the last day of our Jaipur exploration and happened upon the Chand Ki Baoli by divine intervention from the travel Gods.

While touring the palaces and to-do monuments the previous day, we feel like we’re on a United Nations field trip. Tourists from all over the world wander around taking selfies at the glimmering Sheesh Mahal, and hold up victory signs as they pose with the mahouts and the poor elephants who’ve been taking captivated travellers up and down the hill all day.

Amer Palace - Jaipur
Amer Palace – Jaipur
Sheesh Mahal - Jaipur - 1
Sheesh Mahal – Jaipur
Sheesh Mahal - Jaipur - 2 (Custom)
Sheesh Mahal – Jaipur

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We see something called Panna Meena Ka Kund on the tourist map and an auto-driver takes us to it. Through tiny streets and massive potholes we bump our way to the deserted stepwell. It’s taken us by complete surprise – there are no entry tickets and exactly zero tourists. And yet, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Meena Panna Ka Kund - Jaipur
Panna Meena Ka Kund – Jaipur

Continue reading A Parallel India In Jaipur

Cheese, Wolves, Food and Paper in Pondy

Always be nice to chefs. It pays to be in their good books.

My friend and I talked about doing a short holiday together. We went over every destination that mildly interested us. Ellora? Too far. How about Bali? Ugh, flights are too expensive. Kerala? Already been. Gujarat? Not so appealing actually. After 4 months of talking about going to an unconventional, exotic, impressive destination, we decided to go 4 hours down the road to…..Pondicherry. Yay.

This is when the Executive Chef at the Promenade (one of the finest hotels in Pondicherry) came to our rescue. An ex-colleague, he ensured we got a fantastic room rate and even better food.

We ticked off some very ‘Pondy’ things to do, and below are some recommended highlights. We didn’t get around to Auroville, the Ashram, or diving (we’re both awful swimmers), but do those if they interest you!

Walk Along The Promenade

“Watch out for the wolves on the promenade,” someone told us when we reached Pondy. Wolves?! What the hell kind of wolves live on the beach in coastal Pondicherry?! Obviously, we rubbished the warning and set about making plans for the rest of the day. Continue reading Cheese, Wolves, Food and Paper in Pondy

Textile Luxury In Our Backyard

In March 2016, I was lucky to get to visit a textile factory in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu. Since then I have learnt a lot about the water and soil pollution from textile dyeing units, and a lot more about sustainable vs fast fashion. I am personally an advocate for buying less and reusing more, and during my fleeting visit I did not have the opportunity to ask questions about pollution and proper waste treatment.

It was however a wonderful peek into the textile export industry that has put Indian produce on the global map, and this is a gist of that experience.



“Madam, please give me 5 star rating on the app” says the taxi driver as I jostle about getting my bags onto the over-crowded railway station entrance. “Sure, sure” I mumble half asleep. The strong smell of raw fish jolts my senses out of lethargy and I elbow my way through the human soup to the early morning Shatabdi taking me to Coimbatore. My mission is to see textile factories in the humble town of Tirupur, and I am armed with a million questions. Little do I know I am about to get a lesson in globalisation, international trade, and government policies. Continue reading Textile Luxury In Our Backyard

Tracing Tipu’s Legacy In Mysore

“What do you mean he was not your son? Who has all my clothes then?!” Our dear friends who were hosting us in Bangalore were dealing with a crisis. P had accidentally handed her best clothes to be ironed to someone who turned out not to be her ironing man’s son. While she stressed over if she’d given away her new M&S pants to an opportunistic thief, or donated them to someone asking for clothes, we decided to use the day to do something in Bangalore.

Every time I asked a Bangalorean what I can do when there they said – microbreweries, pubs, restaurants, and umm Nandi Hills? Imagine our delight when we found the Bangalore Palace – who even knew there was one?!

Bangalore palace
The Bangalore Palace

Continue reading Tracing Tipu’s Legacy In Mysore

Temples and Silks in Kancheepuram

“How could you wear shorts to this trip?!” The Brit in the travel group was met with shocked expressions. “We have to buy you an emergency veshti now, they’re not going to let you into the temples like that!” One of the many silk showrooms came to our rescue, but not without having to fight off efforts to sell us a pattu (silk) veshti.

The only time I’ve been to this tiny town was to see the Kailasanathar Temple for a college trip. It was meant to be to study the architecture and art history, but if memory serves right was more of a sing-your-lungs-out-on-the-bus trip.

This time though, we made it a point to see it properly and even chatted with the miffed priest who spoke surprisingly posh English. “It was those Brits” he said. “They plastered the temple to restore it, but look, does the colour even match the original stone?” Continue reading Temples and Silks in Kancheepuram

Editing A Book Is Hard Work

For what seems like an eternity, I have been editing a book by Peter Claridge, titled Chennai Expat Guide. The book started out as a blog post that was meant to outline a few things that expats need to know before relocating to Chennai. It soon turned into a mammoth 65,000 words piece of writing and lost the ability to be called a blog post!

Process of editing

Being an “editor” sounds pretty fancy – it is anything but. I’ve read, re-read and re-re-read at least 6 versions of the book printed out on A4 paper and spiral bound. The process involved hand-written notes, SHOUTY CAPITAL LETTER remarks, arguments with the author about including or deleting something, and just a whole lot of patience.

It didn’t just involve trawling for typos and grammar errors, it also included having to figure out flow, order, context of the content. The book is interspersed with illustrations, photographs and true stories, so it wasn’t simply copy-editing. There was plenty of quality checking alongside many tiny decisions – bullets or numbers? Titles or subtitles? Quote or story? Tell the truth as it is or sugarcoat? Throw the book away in frustration or power through? Continue reading Editing A Book Is Hard Work

Want Better Work? Treat Your Vendors Right!

The client-vendor relationship is complex – riddled with negotiations, expectations, and often, judgement errors. Having worked in an agency environment as well as on the client side of business (and now independently), I’ve been on both sides of the table. The very simple truth is that your vendors will perform as well as you let them.

What can we all do to get more and better work from our vendors? Treat them right.

1. Respect Their Time

The number of instances where I’ve arranged for a vendor to meet, and my superiors have insisted on letting them “sit and wait” has been disrespectfully high. When you’ve set a time to meet them, keeping them hanging isn’t going to make you look super busy, it’s just going to make you look unprofessional. Sure, agencies and suppliers need your business for a livelihood – but present an attitude of triviality towards their time, and you’ve got zero respect from them, for yours. Continue reading Want Better Work? Treat Your Vendors Right!

Getting Hitched Down Under

A version of this article was published in Metro Plus, The Hindu.

“It’s going to be a relaxed affair guys, you can wear whatever you’re comfortable in.” My soon to be Aussie SIL took us through the details of the upcoming wedding on Skype. “So shorts and T-shirt then?” While she was more than happy to accommodate our casual attire, the eye-rolling and low decibel mumbling from my old school FIL kept us in check.

The Itinerary

The itinerary included Sydney and surrounding coastal towns, the Blue Mountains, and a couple of days in the mystical land of Uluru. Sydney is a tourist’s paradise – the Taronga Zoo, Sydney helicopter ride, and the Harbour Bridge climb are recommended must-dos. If you’re one for petting marsupials (an experience you cannot have anywhere else), head to the Featherdale Wildlife Park to hang out with free range wallabies. Continue reading Getting Hitched Down Under

This Thing Called Work-Life Balance

Last April, I quit the corporate world to go down the path of self-employment. One year on, I finally feel brave enough to talk about lessons learnt, skills gained, fears felt, and priorities re-adjusted.

People are often stunned that I made the decision to leave. “You were so close to the mark, why’d you quit?” The reasons were many (and complex), one of them being I wasn’t sure what this magical “mark” was.

But the most pressing element that drove me over the edge is a seldom talked about issue – Burnout. And I was not alone, my colleagues and I danced around with our heads on fire, smoke coming out of our behinds. We all dove headfirst into the blazing corporate volcano, and forgot to take the extinguisher with us. Continue reading This Thing Called Work-Life Balance