On The Road Again

So starts the month of travel.  It’s a strange thing, going between countries and continents and cultures and worlds, all tied together by the one quest to move business forward.  I suppose you can say in some abstract sense that’s the way of the world.   

History has a funny way of coming full circle, like my life was a magic realism novel written by Isabel Allende, with a forward by Tina Fey.  I’m judging the competition that I participated in with Unilever in London 2 years ago- read: I get to sit on the other side this time.  Dinner at Buckingham Palace, second time around.  London is such a beautiful city and yet I probably won’t know what to do with myself.  

Los Angeles, San Francisco, California, United States of America.  It’s funny when you’re mostly reading international media about the place you used to live in.  Maybe in some way I still live in.  But not physically, only somewhat mentally, spiritually, culturally.  

People like to ask the question -who are you.  Whose or what side are you on? What box can you tick?  Not directly of course, but in ways to avoid the deep conversation, trying to be polite.  I don’t mind impolite because lets face it, we are all itching to be real. The proxy question to answer all the questions: where do you see yourself living long term?  

I have decided that life isn’t black and white and trying to live in the black or the white would mean you’re missing out on all the good stuff.  The grey is where life lives.  Of course you need some black, and some white to make grey, but only a little.  I think those are your principles and values.  And they are very personal, non replicable.  After that, everything else, I think, is grey.  Also dynamic.  Because how could we be static beings with static thoughts in a world where we are presented information every second of every minute of every day? How are we the same person we were even 5 minutes ago?  

So the answer is: I don’t plan on choosing.  Both. All of the above.  And why limit ourselves at all? Why can’t we be a combination of every place we have visited, every person we have met, every book we have read, and every movie we have watched?  And say that unique summation is, well, me.  

I think that’s the real question people are asking.  Less about my geographic inclination and more about who I am and who I plan to be.

And the answer is: I have no idea. But whatever it is, it’s going to be pretty damn good.  

Travelog: Volume I

Apparently now that I’ve turned 28, I need to start loads and loads of traveling.  I don’t know why, it has just sort of happened all of a sudden actually.  A lot of it is work related, but more of it is just genuine curiosity for the unknown (and more disposable income + friends to do cool things with 🙂 Maybe my first 27 years were just getting my bearings (yes, it has taken me that long to figure things out) and I think now I can really start understanding other things, besides my own life.  I don’t know if that makes much sense at all, but that’s sort of the way I feel about it.  Dawn of a new era, I suppose.

Past Logs That I Still Need to Update:

  • Road Trip through Kashmir (June 12th-21st)
  • Sri Lanka (July 18th-21st)

The future:

  • Copenhagen: August 8th-13th
  • Southern California: August 14th-18th
  • San Francisco: August 19th-24th
  • Stockholm: August 25th-27th
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka : TBD
  • Manilla: TBD in September
  • Goa: December 23rd-27th

Lots of stuff ahead

Current Obsessions: Vol II

It’s kind of cool to see what I used to be obsessed with, and what I think of them now

Old stuff:

1.  Understanding People: I’ve realized that’s not an obsession, that’s a way of life.  I want to incorporate that into how I operate, because really if we can do that, I feel like that’s enlightenment right there.  (Step aside Buddha).

2.  Coffee & Tea: I still think it’s cool, but now I’m just drinking it.  I’m in LOVE (no really, if it could propose to me I would marry it) Chai Point Lemon Chai.  I’m BFF’s with the sales rep, because I literally order it every day to the office.  But learning more about it, if it happens, I’m ok with that.  At some point I will get to Coorg and it will be amazing.  But now I just find myself drinking tea, asking about it, and enjoying it.  Lots and lots of it.

3.  Dance: I still love it, but I can barely make it to class.  I think I’m going to have to stick to morning dance party’s for 1 in my bedroom for now.  Also, seriously, there is no good non-house/EDM music places to go out in Bangalore (and if you know them, please let me know!) so I’m just going to wait until I move to a city with a wider selection of dance music (i.e. music with actual beats and lyrics).

4.  Feminist Indian literature: It was cool, for one book (about Kamala Das).  And then I started reading other ones, and… I couldn’t get through it.  I feel really un-feminist writing that but…I decided to put this one on hold.  If I happen to stumble upon one I may read it, but I’m not actively seeking anything out right now.

New Stuff:

Visiting really cold places: Ok that sounds strange, but after I visited Copenhagen and, no joke, watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on the airplane (I loved that movie for some reason), I wanted to learn more about people who live in cold places.  It just blows my mind that people can live in places with snow and hail and storms.  I AM SUCH A CALIFORNIAN! I know I know.  But it is so fascinating!  Humans are incredible- learning how to build functioning societies despite nature’s challenges.  I want to go back and visit Norway and Sweden over the summer (my grandpa is back there and has friends).  Also Dublin.  Mostly because I think that will be crazy different from anything I know as well.  Oh the luck of the Irish

French: I’ve decided to learn French.  I started and then when my mom came in December, she basically said that French was useless and I should learn Kannada instead.  So I stopped.  But of course instead of spending that time learning Kannada, I did nothing (ok ok ok I started watching trashy online TV instead).  And then when I had to be in France last week, trying to communicate with doctors, and grocery people and the such, I was kicking myself for not learning.  So basically, since I want to be back in Menton in the future, I’m going to become fluent in French.  I also think it’s a beautiful language and have been weirdly fascinated with France for a while.  So French it is.

Reading Travel Fiction/Non Fiction/Travel Blogs: That’s a thing.  I want to learn more about places I haven’t been.  And of course look at pretty pictures.

The Point of Travel

I’ve realized, that to me, traveling is a means to an end.  The end, is to expand my horizons, and think about the world in different ways.  I have never in my life, seen so many bicyclists taking bikes instead of cars, like in the city of Copenhagen.  I’ve also never been hailed/snowed/rained on at the same time, while trying to catch snowflakes and hailstones in my mouth, while also trying to walk down the street to the grocery store to buy dinner.  It was kind of amazing because…well..I’ve never done it before.  Plain and simple.  And it was insane thinking about how the human race has figured out how to survive in terrains that seem incredibly difficult to survive in.  Humans did that.  It’s pretty neat.

I guess to me, the point of travel is to make it so that I am always seeing something new, always learning something new, and to constantly remind me that there are so many things out there that I just will never know.  The world will constantly surprise and amaze you.  And by just getting out of the place you’re in, the rut that you’re in, the daily grind that you’re in, it helps keep life in perspective.

At the end of the day, it’s almost irrelevant where I go.  The point is that I just get out there.  Leave the grind and become a different me for a while.

And see what that produces

Current Obsessions: Vol I

Since I have life ADD, I thought it would be interesting to document (in a more organized fashion) the things that are currently trending in my life.  At least what I think about in the little free time I have.

1.  Understanding People: Now that I’ve spent a good chunk of time here in India, I’ve realized just how diverse this country is.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like growing up in a Bengali family, or a Punjabi family for that matter (so ridiculously different from my own upbringing).  Which made me realize, holy crap if the same country is that diverse, what about the rest of the world?  Places I want to learn more about: The Middle East (general region, but more specifically Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran), each country in Africa (Because it’s awful that I just say “Africa” instead of referring to a specific country- also my friend is living in Nairobi and I want to check it out), Ireland (leprechauns, accents, Celtic tradition, and general green-ness), Bali (yeah, I want to see if the medicine men are actually real!)

2.  Coffee & Tea: I never used to drink the stuff, but now I sort of love it. I want to learn all about how it’s sourced, where it comes from, the different types, and anything else that is relevant (especially since I live in India and I can visit these coffee and tea estates!)

3.  Dance:  I.love.it.  Contemporary Indian = amazing.  I want to keep going to classes and watching performances

4.  Feminist Indian literature: I think it’s interesting how voices in India change from region to region.  I think most of the stuff I have read, written by women, have been written by Bengali women (surprise surprise), so now I’m trying to expand my horizons.  I’m reading this book written by a Tamil dalit woman (crazy, right?) and it’s really fascinating.  Now I’m going to comb through my favorite used book store in Bangalore, Blossoms, and find good writing from different regions of India.

Random Cool Things About Istanbul

When I finally started doing things, and seeing things (accidentally on purpose), these were the things that suck out

Second Home Hostel: If you go to Istanbul, I would highly recommend staying at this place.  Memo and Can (pronounced John) are awesome and they basically help everyone in the hostel meet each other/make friends/have fun.  They also help you out, and tell you all the good places to see.  Finally, it’s ridiculously close to everything good (as well as cheap food).   But most importantly, who wouldn’t stay at a place with a YouTube videos like this?

Istanbul Nightlife:  Seriously, people are in the streets until 4 or 5am, it is insane.  I thought Can was exaggerating when he said there are a bunch of people by Galata Tower just “sitting around being hippies”, but he was actually not lying.

See? Not lying.

Also, I’m pretty sure a drum circle started at some point in the night.  I was just jealous because I didn’t know any of the Turkish songs they were singing.

The Bascilica Sistern:  This was cool because I am a super nerd and I thought it was incredible that this place held 80,000 cubic meters of water and they spent tons of time making that thing that collects water look so ornate.  I mean, I’m thinking about India or the US today, and we would NEVER spend this much time on our water system.  But really though, it’s super important.  And it made me happy that the ancients of Istanbul realized this.

This is where they stored WATER. Imagine what the rest of the city must have looked like!

Random Cool Looking Buildings/Period Furniture: I was obsessed with this one historic building that was restored and made into a hotel/restaurant 22 years ago.  It was built around the 1920’s.

How do these colors NOT make people happy? (Colors may or may not be historically accurate…)

I kid you not, this place had over 4,000 lamps.  Hanging EVERYWHERE

My future living room. When I buy a house in Istanbul.

Fortune Telling Rabbits: No really, they exist!  I thought he was selling rabbits, (so of course I wanted one) and then I tried to purchase one, but he made his rabbit pick a piece of paper out of his box which, low and behold, held my fortune.  Apparently my lover (that I have been losing sleep over) loves me back.  The only thing I have been dreaming about is Dolma so that is comforting that it loves me back.

The rabbits have sharp claws, FYI.  Probably so people don’t try and steal them.  Because I totally would try to.  They are adorable.

Cemberlitas Hamami: My friend told me about her favorite Turkish bath, and she was right-it was really awesome.  It was probably one of the most liberating experiences to date (which really doesn’t say much about my life I would have to say).  But you should look into it- pretty fantastic.    Fun fact: This Turkish bath was started by an emperor’s wife way back (around AD 900 if I remember correctly) to bring in a second revenue stream to the empire so that she could build the charity Mosque she dreamed of (i.e. a woman entrepreneur built this to make some cash money!)  I’m down.

London Heathrow + Getting Lost in Istanbul

I think in life, you see what you want to see, when you want to see it.  Therefore, the things that you find important at that point in time, may or may not be what other people deem important.  I think guides like Lonely Planet are good, but they stress me out.  It’s almost like saying, these are the experiences you need to have, and this is how much fun you should be having.  And if not, what are you doing?  I don’t know.  The free guides that pretty much every hostel/hotel have + Wikipedia are actually pretty fantastic.  I guess it also depends on how much time you get to stay in a place, and what your goals are.  (Yes, I’m one of those people who actually have GOALS on vacation).

Goals:

  • Successfully travelling on my own in a completely foreign country (this is my first trip which I’m travelling for a few days by myself- I don’t count India as foreign anymore)
  • Practice NOT having a plan/not being in control (ironic because I’m planning not to have a plan, but baby steps right?)
  • Getting a better sense of direction (I am incredibly geographically challenged- my drunk friends have better sense of direction than I do and its really embarrassing especially when I’m supposed to be the sober one)
  • Exploring a new city/learning about the history
  • Spending time with my grandpa
  • Meeting new people (always fun)
  • Life thinking (you know, because that’s what you can do when you don’t have to be at work)

Anyway, I wanted to document the parts of the trip that I thought were important, and made an impact on me.

London Heathrow Airport: Giraffe Cafe

I had a layover there, and it was a great way to start the morning.  I think what struck me was the diversity of the women that they hired.  Literally all types of women, all shapes and sizes, all over the world, and they were so happy.  At 6 in the morning!  The music was awesome, the ambiance was fantastic, and the food was great.  It made me wish I worked there. It looked like so much fun.

Giraffe Cafe- I think I would like to work there. That guy doesn’t look like he’s having fun, but the staff was fun and happy- I promise.

After an 8 hour flight where I forgot to request food for myself, this made me really really really happy.

 

Getting Lost in Istanbul

I felt it was pretty important to get over my fear of a) not being in control, b) travelling by myself, and c) being geographically challenged d) not doing any research on Istanbul or my trip whatsoever (besides to take down the name of my hostel and the phone number!).  So the first day, I decided to just go wherever I felt like (without actually knowing where I was going- if that makes any sense).  So I literally just started walking.  I had a map, but after a while, I was off the map (which are the downsides of taking the free map in the hostel). I kept walking until I hit a ferry port, I took a ferry to I have no idea where (because everything was written in Turkish and my free map was not useful), and then after I reached the shore, I saw a bus stand and I decided to take a random bus somewhere (again, no idea where, but it looked like a nice bus).   I just stayed on the bus until I saw a place that looked cool and I got off.  To tell you the truth, there were definitely times I was nervous.  I was freaked out because I had no idea where I was, and nobody really seemed to speak English.  I had some landmarks (like the Bosphorus Bridge, and I knew my hostel was by the Galata Bridge) and I knew that if worse comes worse, I could just call the number of the hostel ( and I didn’t ever feel in danger or anything) so I decided I was just being a baby and I needed to suck it up and enjoy having absolutely no plan (yes, I have to tell myself these things).

And I finally did.  It was awesome.  I sat in a lot of parks, marveled at the architecture (it’s so diverse and beautiful!) people watched a lot, and ate lots of food.  Things I noticed about the people of Istanbul: They like to fish (there were a ton of people who were at the park with fishing lines- I think that’s what families do for fun on the weekend?) They also like to picnic, men like the Converse shoes, women are incredibly stylish and have the most amazing hijabs.  I think I want to have a whole post on the women in Istanbul because I think they are incredibly fascinating. I was looking up to see if there were books written on the topic but I couldn’t find any.  If anybody knows of them, please let me know! Anyway, here is the picture trail.

I think this is what surprised me the most: The amazing architecture.  It reminds me of Candy Land! It’s so happy!

Street Food in Istanbul! Corn (misir) and Chestunts (Kestane)

I ate fresh Figs! It was delicious! But I don’t think this guy was very happy because I only wanted a few, and I could not communicate this.  This was a problem.  Oh well. I probably overppaid so hopefully he wasn’t too upset.

This is where little kids get to go and fish.  Pretty awesome.

Walking around the Galata Bridge area- which made me happy because it reminded me of India! (Well, maybe a more European version)

So this place, ONLY SERVES BAKLAVA!  It is amazing! They have a million different types! AND IT IS DELICIOUS!

The Baklava Place again! I’m telling you, it looks like a Franco-Turkish 50’s diner. It made me really really really happy

More Delicious Food.  I’m telling you, IT IS AMAZING

And then, I got home.  Yes, I paid enough attention, learned enough about my surroundings, to figure out how to get back to my hostel. But the best part was coming back and doing research in the hostel (because I’m such a nerd like that).  I wikipedia’d like no other (yup, I just made that into a verb my friends), and I asked the experts how to do all the things I had trouble with (i.e. I found out you could actually buy Smart Cards, or Akbil– because the conductor almost kicked me out for not having it, but other nice people from Istanbul saved me by paying for my fare, and ALSO found out that the “WC” that I saw everywhere meant “Water Closet” i.e. a bathroom- go figure! ). It was actually really fun trying to retrace my tracks and figure out exactly where I went.  Turns out I accidentally got to the Asian side of Istanbul, which is probably why when I tried to walk back to the Galata Bridge, I got to the water front instead.

Retracing steps, Wikipedia-ing, journaling, and planning the next day.  All while drinking some amazing Apple Tea.

 

I think I felt insecure about my trip because most people come in doing tons of research, reading lots of guide books, and basically spending a lot of time which I didn’t on pre trip preparation.  But I realized that as long as you have an open mind, have at least a day to get situated/don’t mind getting lost/wander around a bit, and have access to the internet, everything will be ok.

 

 

On The Road: Istanbul, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas

Not gonna lie, I’m pretty lucky to have the opportunity to hit all these major cities on business.  Istanbul is for fun, because I’ve heard amazing things about it, and I’ve always wanted to go.  And so is Vegas.  Because…well.  It’s Vegas and it is the new thing for my family to do when we all get together.  I’m down.

Itinerary:

Istanbul: September 14-September 22

I’m getting there and I’ll be traveling the city by myself for a few days, and then meeting up with my grandfather for the last 4 days.  Is it sad that I”m super stoked to eat tons of good food and drink lots of good tea?  I don’t know why, but that’s what I”m kind of obsessed about.  According to my friend, there is lots of amazing vegetarian food there, so that makes me happy.  I think what excites me the most about Istanbul is that I imagine it to be a mix between the crazy good energy/friendliness of Mumbai + the order/sophistication of a Rome or maybe a Paris.  I don’t know- I think I’m just really excited to get out of my element, get our of my comfort zone, and just be in a place where I can absorb everything around me.

New York City: September 22-25

I think I am probably the biggest nerd ever because it’s been a dream of mine to attend the Clinton Global Initiative, and this year, I finally got an invite!  I don’t know why, I think I just want to see what it’s like to be in a room full of really important people.  I got to attend a session with President Clinton at Clinton Global Initiative University last year, but I have never seen Barrack Obama speak in person- I believe he is supposed to be giving the closing plenary key note.  Pretty excited about that!  Also, they’re hosting an informal CGI U meet and greet- and Chelsea Clinton is supposedly going to attend, which should also be pretty neat as well.  I just hope I can keep it together and not completely embarrass myself.  I think I can, I think I can.

Boston: September 25-October 2nd

I’m mostly going to Boston because a) meeting with some potential lawyers, and b) hopefully meeting with some smart people from the Deshpande Foundation.  A lot of their activities take place in Hubli, but their management team is all in Boston.  I spoke with Desh Deshpande for literally 10 minutes last month, and he basically made me rethink our entire investor pitch (in the best way possible). I can’t even imagine what 30 minutes will do for our business!  I’m also speaking with some people regarding valuations/how to place a value on our company (levers etc…)  We’ll see what happens, but I think I’ll at least be a little bit wiser than I was coming in.  That’s the goal at least.

San Francisco: October 2nd-October 10th

Need to do lots of corporate housekeeping, but I am am super stoked about taking advantage of the new partnership between the Indian bank, HDFC, and Wells Fargo .  This is huge because it means you can transfer money from an American corporate account to an Indian corporate account (i.e. Foreign Direct Investment) without having to go into the American branch every time.  Banks like Citibank already have this feature, but considering that the minimum amount needed to start the account/minimum balance is MUCH higher than HDFC, I think we’re sticking with HDFC for now.  I’m also meeting with our amazing advisors, and getting a new Visa.  Yes, I was a genius and I lost mine.  Long story.  Always keep a copy of your visa somewhere.  ALWAYS.  And of course visiting everyone in the Bay! I’m also really craving Brazil Cafe.  I may have to go there every day.

Los Angeles: October 10th-12th

Meeting with our accountant, and of course seeing the family.

Las Vegas: October 13th-15th

It’s Vegas.  Enough said.

And then it’s back to India!

I actually think I’m really going to miss my daily Paneer Tikka, Pani Puri, Idli Vada Sambar, and of course the Indian filter coffee.  Is that weird?