Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A getaway to the gateway of Kerala

August 4, 2017 Leave a comment

I am just back from a short holiday to the gateway of Kerala – Kochi.   I had a fun-filled reunion with my family at the picturesque Mahindra club resort at Cherai beach.

Located to the north of Kochi, Cherai Beach is a idyllic place with the Arabian Sea on one side and backwaters on the other.  There are many activities arranged for guests that make it a great holiday destination for the entire family.

Club Mahindra Cherai Beach resort is spread over six acres surrounded by greenery,palm trees, tropical plants and coconut groves. Amid this landscape are luxury cottages and suites equipped with modern amenities.  There is also a spa, gym and activity centre. So if you want to take a long walk, a bike ride, take a houseboat ride on the backwaters or getting a soothing massage, you can avail all of these during your stay at Cherai.

After our stay  at the resort, I took a ride on the Kochi Metro.  It has many unique features and I enjoyed  the smooth ride from Alwaye to Palarivattom.

  • It has been commissioned in a record time of 45 months as compared to other metro services in the country.
  • The Kochi Metro has a strong commitment towards clean energy, and it is the first metro service in the country to leverage solar power to meet a quarter of its electricity requirements. With every one of its 23 stations having solar panels, which can generate 2.3 mega watt (MW), and a 4 MW solar plant, plans are underway to meet as much as half of its electricity demands through solar power.
  • Also, every sixth of the 4,000-odd metro pillars will have a vertical garden which will use recycled municipal waste. The metro is also offering bicycles for free at every station for passengers to roam around the city.
  • Kochi is the first metro and the first state-owned company in India to “officially” offer employment to a large number of transgenders.
  • Kochi metro service, once completed, will be the first in India to have a workforce that comprises 80% women.
  • Apart from offering mobility solution, the Kochi metro also plans to offer boat rides with water transport envisaged as a feeder service to the rail corridor. The Rs819 crore “water metro” project is in the works to connect the metro to the 10 islands of Kochi, with the first phase of the water corridor expected to be operational by end-2018.



Another project that I got to see in Kochi was the Kochi International Airport –
Terminal 3.

  • Cochin International Airport  is the first green field airport  in the country built with public-private partnership .
  • It is the first fully solar powered airport in the country
  • Planned and constructed from scratch, the airport has been acclaimed for setting a novel idea in infrastructure development. The astonishing public participation, relentless support from NRIs and an effective leadership have made CIAL, the company that built and operates the airport, an international brand.
  • V.J.Kurian IAS is the founder managing director of the company and the project itself is  his brain child.
  • Ever since commercial operations started on 10th June 1999 with International flight to Dammam.,CIAL, has grown rapidly becoming the 4th largest International Airport in India in terms of international passenger traffic in just four years. The company showcases a sustainable business model  which always adheres to people, community and culture. The balance sheet also is sound as the profit ratio exceeds 35%. It is now the only airport in Kerala, which handled five million passengers a year.



Categories: Books

A weekend getaway to coffee land –‘Chikmagalur’

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Last weekend we took a trip to the coffee land of Karnataka – ‘Chikmagalur’.    For a change we booked a homestay in the middle of the coffee plantations.   We started from Bangalore at 6am and reached Chikmagalur around 11am (the distance is ~250km).   We had hired a car for our round trip.  After reaching our homestay and unpacking we immediately set off for our first day of sightseeing to Bababudangiri and Mullyanagiri mountain peaks.  We also spent some time at the beautiful Jhari falls.  Cars can go up almost near the peak.  After this there is a jeep service to take you to the waterfall.

On the second day, we first visited the Veera Narayana temple in Belavadi.   Belavadi is said to be the place mentioned in Mahabharatha where Pandava prince Bheema killed the demon Bakasura and protected the village and its people.This ornate trikuta (three shrined) temple was built in 1200 C.E. by Hoysala Empire King Veera Ballala II. The material used is soapstone (steatite). This stone is extremely easy to chisel, but attains iron-like firmness when exposed to the atmosphere.  To maintain the shine of the temple, the stone is treated with a chemical wash and then wax polished once in ten years.  Each of the three shrines has a complete superstructure (tower on top of shrine) and is one of the largest temples built by the Hoysala kings. While the famous temples at Belur and Halebidu are known for their intricate sculptures, this temple is known for its architecture.

It is believed that Veera Narayana Temple was constructed in two phases.  The temple is exquisitely crafted and is one of the architectural marvels of India.

This is a Vaishnava temple and all three shrines have images of the Hindu god Vishnu, though in different forms (avatar). The central shrine (older shrine) has an 8 ft (2.4 m) tall image of Narayana with four hands and is considered one of the best examples of Hoysala art. It is well elaborated with ornamentation and stands on a padmasana (lotus seat). The southern shrine has an 8 ft (2.4 m) tall image of Venugopala (the god Krishna playing a flute) including a garuda pedestal and the northern shrine has a 7 ft (2.1 m) tall image of Yoganarasimha, sitting in a yoga posture. Decorative sculptures such as kirtimukhas (gargoyles) are used to make the shrine (vimana) towers ornate.  The Archaeological Survey of India has voted the idol of Lord Krishna here as the most beautiful of all Krishna sculptures in the world.



After that we visited the Chenna Keshava temple in Belur.  The magnificent shrine is dedicated to Lord Vijayaanarayan, one of the twenty four incarnations of Vishnu.  This temple was built to commemorate the victory of the Hoysalas over the Cholas in the great battle of Talakkad.  According to historical records, it took over 103 years to complete this profusely sculpted masterpiece of Hoysala architecture.  The huge temple complex  enclosed by high walls has a garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum), a sukhanasi (vestibule) and a navaranga mandapa.  There are two gateways, but only one is crowned by a gopuram.  The brackets outside the temple are adorned with voluptuous beauties (Madanikas) in different dancing and ritual postures.


Our last stop was the Hoysaleswara temple in Halebeedu.  The shrine is very similar to the Chenna Keshava temple at Belur, but its figures are more profusely carved. James Fergusson, an art and architecture expert was mesmerized by the beauty of the shrine.  He remarks that the temple “may probably be considered as one of the most marvellous exhibitions of human labour to be found even in the patient east” and compares Hoysaleswara with the famous Parthenon in Athens.  The temple complex consists of two identical temples each with its own array of navaranga and sukhanasi and Nandi mandapas.  Both the sanctums have a characteristic star shaped ground plan.  The two temple halls are joined by a common verandah creating a spacious columned interior. Thousands of intricately carved sculptures depicting scenes from the mythological epics Ramayana, Mahabharata, puranic legends, beasts and beauties etc. adorn the temple walls.  There are about thirty five thousand sculpted pieces in the shrine, noted for their breathtaking beauty, but the south doorway unrivalled for its filigree work is considered to be a masterpiece of delicate carving.  Both the sanctums enshrine an east facing lingam, preceded by a Nandi mandapa with a huge statue of Nandi bull, the celestial vehicle of Lord Shiva.  Behind the Nandi are the large figures of Lord Suryanarayan with seven horses and Arunadeva.


The homestay experience was also refreshing.  Breakfast and dinner were provided by our courteous host Subhada.  There was a nice spread of delicious Malnad style food.  She was also very friendly and took good care to see that we were comfortable.


Categories: Books

Public speaking & Leadership workshop for children

October 30, 2016 Leave a comment


Categories: Books

The 10 Traits of Successful Leaders

July 4, 2016 1 comment


“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” —Jack Welch

The question of whether leadership skills are innate or acquired has been debated for long and evokes strong opinions on both fronts. We have seen how certain people stand out among the crowd and are born leaders.  And yet there are others who through observation, learning and focus have developed leadership traits with experience over time.

Here are 10 traits which I believe a successful leader should cultivate:

  • Integrity: A leader works inside out.  He/she first works on self-development – cultivating qualities like integrity, communication, empathy and resilience.  They have strong faith in their core values – what is right and wrong. At the same time, they are open to feedback. Only when a leader is able to conquer himself can he inspire others.
  • Direction: A leader has to have a clear sense of direction in conveying the vision, mission, values, goals and plans to the team. A leader without direction is like a ship without a captain.  Without a clear direction, the employees will be lost and eventually lose enthusiasm.
  • Example: A leader has to lead by example. He/she has to walk the talk.  This is one of the most difficult traits to cultivate. Employees who see their leader stand up and lead will be engaged and willing to perform to their best potential. A leader who shows vulnerability and believes that he is one with the team and working with them together will be respected by employees.
  • Empathize: Empathy is putting yourself in another person’s shoes to understand how they feel. A good leader not only listens carefully but also responds with care and concern. An employee may forget what you say or do but will never forget how you made them feel.
  • Empower: A leader delegates authority and gives an employee the power to take risks and make decisions. This develops confidence in employees to take initiative and increases their learning curve. Empowering an employee fosters open communication and recognizes their contribution. This works better than controlling or micro-managing their behaviour.
  • Collaborate: Traditional top-down leadership approach is being replaced in the modern workplace by a collaborative style which blurs the lines between the boss and the employee. Such leaders openly share information with the team, facilitate brainstorming and encourage feedback from team members. A leader is also a coach who guides the team members to achieve superior performance.
  • Inspire: This trait is often held as a mystery. Some leaders have a natural ‘charisma’ a magnetic appeal around them which attracts followers.  But there are ways in which this trait can be developed for example ‘expertise’ in a subject, being ‘warm and approachable’, ‘exuding  passion and enthusiasm’ and being a ‘role model’ for others to follow.
  • Communicate: A leader spends most of the time meeting people, so interpersonal communication is regarded as one of the most important traits to develop. A good leader clarifies the goal of the message, delivers the message clearly and with conviction and makes sure that the listener has understood the message. He/she is also open to constructive feedback and sees it as an opportunity to grow.
  • Decide: A leader has to be confident to take different types of decision based on the situation. It can be a command decision-making where decisions have to be made in split-seconds without consulting the team.  This applies to war and crisis situations.  Then there is the consensus style where the team votes and arrives at a decision.  In the collaborative style of leadership the leader invites feedback from the team but makes the final call.  A leader also  the team to make the decision in certain situations to empower them and develop their confidence.
  • Risk: Being over-cautious and indecisive is an impediment for leadership. A leader has to take risks and encourage innovation and creativity in the workplace.  This in turn develops the employees into confident risk-takers and encourages a culture of learning.


Categories: Books

Bustling Bangkok

I had the opportunity to visit Bangkok during the last weekend with my cousin and I found it to be an amazing and bustling city with something for every type of traveller.

On the first night we visited the tallest rooftop bar in Bangkok atop the Baiyoke hotel.  From the 84th floor one can have a breathtaking view of the city.  The revolving floor offers a 360 deg view of the Bangkok skyline.


On the 2nd day I took a short half-day tour of the city covering the Grand palace, the Wat Pho temple of the reclining Buddha and the Golden Mount temple.


Wat Pho2


In the evening we went on a Chao Phraya river cruise.  This is a memorable cruise of 2 hour duration.  During buffet dinner on board the passengers are treated to a live music and dances.  One also gets a view of the the Wat Arun temple and the Grand Palace.  The transport to and from the hotel is also included in the package.


The city is bustling with the shopping malls  and other tourist attractions attracting visitors from all over the world.


Categories: Books

Sunday scribbles


Categories: Books

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?

June 2, 2016 1 comment

I disagree with the premise of this topic.  It assumes that being a genius can only bring worry and sorrow and that all simpletons are happy and joyful.

I would choose to be a joyful  genius.  I think there is no greater joy than that experienced by a genius in his/her moment of serendipity.  The ecstatic moments of Archimedes and Kekule show that they experienced great joy on their discovery of ‘the principle of buoyancy’ and ‘the Benzene ring’ respectively.  They did spend years working out their problems and when they took a step back and relaxed, they had their moments of intuition, their ‘Eureka’ moment.  Such men like Einstein, Edison, Archimedes and  Kekule have discovered the workings of principles that have benefited mankind as a whole.  Is there a greater joy than this?

A fool or simpleton on the other hand lives a self-centred life.  They may be content but they have to be prodded to work.  They may appear happy but many of them have been known to harbour great sorrow.  The point is that you may be a simpleton or a genius but if your work can touch another soul and make them happy then you have made a difference.

Jack Ma the founder of Alibaba, told his son –“ you don’t need to be in the top three in your class, being in the middle is fine, so long as your grades aren’t too bad. Only this kind of person [a middle-of-the-road student] has enough free time to learn other skills”

A genius is not defined by grades or society.  Many of the great geniuses were college dropouts.  They thus found more time to tinker around with their hobbies and passions till their problems became their life goals and they started dreaming of these problems – many a time sacrificing their sleep.  Many of us think that their discoveries were moments of magic forgetting the hard work and sweat that these great men of genius put in!

Categories: Books


Daily prompt: Countless

Countless grains of sand
Strewn on the beach
Countless drops of water
in the Ocean
Countless stars twinkle
In the night sky
Countless raindrops
Fall from the sky
Countless chances
To make things right
Countless the thoughts
that rise in our mind
Countless the love
in a mother’s heart
Countless joys
In simple everyday moments
Countless blessings
If only we realise
Countless they all seem
But they really do count


© copyright skm, 27th May, 2016


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Categories: Books

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Categories: Books

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May 10, 2016 1 comment

Vidhan Soudha, Bangalore



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Categories: Books
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