Trip To San Fransico

This was my second trip to San Francisco. As people say that the first one is always special. But for me, this trip was a lot more special. The difference was ‘familiarity”. I knew when I landed at the airport, the taxi driver didn’t overcharge me. I had planned to meet friends, end up calling few others in different states. At least I was in the same timezone as them. Stayed in the same hotel, so hotel staff, rooms, facilities were all familiar. Soon after I landed on Sunday morning, I ended up going to Union Square. I had been there few times but of course, this time I knew which shop to enter and what to buy.

Last time, before leaving, I had eaten at Chipotle and loved it. So, this time, I started off my first meal in the city with Chipotle (Mexican Cuisine). And ended up going there few times.

I haven’t figured out the public transport yet. Navigating through Uber was easy and cheap. I didn’t even feel the need to get on to the public transport. But for my next trip, I will try to figure that out.

This trip was dedicated to food gestation. Tried different cuisine and overall, I liked American food. It is very tasty but fatty. Lots of cheese is being used in almost every dish. The portion of the meal is huge. I couldn’t finish any of the meals and always ended up packing back

The culture is similar to any other developed nation. It is very individualistic but still unlike other places, it feels like people care. The fantastic part was that I could see colors. There were whites, blacks, browns and all kinds walking with same pride. I believe that is what makes America great!

During the trip, there were two times, I nearly lost things – my wallet and phone. I was lucky to find those but then one should be careful while navigating the city. After living in Singapore for almost 10 years, we are so used to the security that we take it for granted. Singapore is a VERY safe country, pal! You don’t have to worry about your family when you are leaving for business trips. This place is heaven for parents with small kids.

One of the saddening things about the city was that it has a lot of homeless and crazy people. I checked with locals on why they have so many people roaming? And they said that the cost of living is very high. People can’t afford the house and don’t want to leave the city. The government took some measures to help but then it didn’t work out. I was scared few times while crossing them but then most of the times they are harmless. Only during evenings, post 9 pm, one should be worried about roaming around in the city alone.

There are tonnes of job opportunities in the market but at the same time, competition for locals is tough as best of the brains land up in SF. One of my colleagues mentioned that how she faces stiff competition because of that. But overall, perks offered by companies are fantastic. They are lured with free lunches at work, snacks, drinks, flexible work hours and what not.

So far, I met with good and nice people. But I heard some horror stories too. The experience is individual. The country is big and it has all kinds of people living there. There is a famous saying, “You can’t control the experiences you have, but you can always choose the response to that experience”. I think the city live by that rule. People, in general, are kind and helpful.

I have been to touristy places like Pier 39, Lombard Street, Union Square, Westfield Mall and North Beach. But yes, I finally fell in love with the city.



How to develop a ‘Power Profile’?

Given that more women are waking up to the idea of Personal Branding, this is a good start..

Empowering Women

This Friday my company had organised an event called  “Fearless Friday” where the objective was to encourage youngsters to participate in new challenges and be fearless about it. Part of the event was prize distribution for LinkedIn competition that was ongoing for six weeks. For me, it was even more exciting because I got prize of 200 dollar voucher from LinkedIn for having highest SSI (Social Selling Index). It was truly amazing to get rewarded for all the LinkedIn posts contribution and engagement on the platform. LinkedIn’s competition “IN IT TO WIN IT” was a long process and had about three categories. They had invited the participants to their office, did a training on how to build a power profile and how to use LinkedIn as a platform for Brand building. Given that LinkedIn is moving towards content generator and distributor, this competition was also to get people into the habit…

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Choose your Boss/Friends wisely!

I saw an interview from Jack ma recently where he advised how a student should spend his early years in work life! He mentioned that a boss plays a very important role in someone’s career path. It all depends on which boss one follows. A good boss will teach things differently. But this logic applies beyond work-life. Success, in general, comes with the kind of companionship a person gets during her growing up years. Those people shape your thoughts, ideas, and dreams. And that stays for life.

Since childhood, parents encourage to choose friends wisely. They are cautious of people their kids go out with. It does have some merit. You do get influenced by people around you(Not all though). When the child steps out, parents have little control of the kind of exposure they get outside. The only thing they can do is to inculcate a good sense of judgment.

With those thoughts, I was reflecting on my own journey. When I was growing up, I met girls from all walks of life. Some resonated, some not. There is one girl who had deeper influence in shaping my aspirations. She was a neighbor and probably 7-8 years older than me. I thought she was different from the lot. She came from a modest family, but she had higher expectations. I saw her juggled between taking care of the family and working part-time for extra income. On top of that she was studying. In those days, there was little expectation from girls. So, she was admired for her efforts. I still can’t forget how she conducted herself in such adversity. She finally moved to a bigger city to earn a livelihood and much later got married. We lost touch. But she was my guiding star till she left. She always encouraged me to study harder and be independent in life. The seed of moving out of my hometown was also sown by her.

Around the same time, I was best friends with a girl at school. We joined the school at the same time. May be that’s why we bonded more. Both her siblings were studying and working abroad. Her career path was very clear. She was to go abroad for higher studies post graduation. My parents had no intention or resources to send me abroad. They were probably waiting for me to complete graduation (+15 years of study) so that they can marry me off. It was only because of Minu, I started thinking of going abroad. Desire comes first and then Means follow. Therefore, people say, Don’t Stop Dreaming!

I left for Delhi to join advertising course. Minu was in Delhi too but we were not in touch. I didn’t have mobile back then (Now I get a latest model every year). When we finally managed to get in touch, she was already preparing to go to the US. And once again I was pushed towards the thought of moving abroad.

During college days, I met Monica. She came from affluent family and had a lot more exposure to the world. When we met, she adopted me(literally!). She took care of me like a friend cum sister. Sometimes when you can’t be a leader, at least be a good follower. She was key in grooming me and transforming me from a small town girl to the babe of the big city. There is a very common term used in Delhi BTMs – Behenji turn Mod (A village girl who suddenly turned Modern). My college mates thought I was the prefect example for that. I laugh it out loud when I look back. But the exposure and learning that I got during college days transformed my life forever.

Later I joined Advertising industry. Things were going steady till another disruption happened. My new boss Archana Ram was US-returned. She was extremely driven and equally talented. I caught the abroad bug again. By then I started preparing for GMAT and looking out for universities. While I was writing my applications to various universities, she helped me a lot. We spent extra hours in office just to review my Statement of Purpose. She herself had studied from a University in the US and knew the process. She encouraged me almost every day to keep trying. I haven’t seen a more optimistic person till date. Her problem-solving skills and attitude were amazing. I kept trying and ultimately managed to get through one of the colleges in Singapore. And that started a completely new journey.

I am grateful to all of these women whose path crossed mine and were instrumental in shaping my career and life.So yes it’s all about people who you meet in life and how they align with what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve in life!


How about wasting some ‘TIME’!!

It was an interesting day today! I was talking to one of my colleagues about our busy lifestyle. We plan every minute so that we can make the most of the 24 hours. This topic hit me even more because I have been very busy for last few weeks. And I am not complaining because this is what I always wanted. I remember a couple of months ago when I decided to take a break from work life, it was the most difficult 2 months. I was supposed to sit down, relax and do introspection. And here I was sitting sad, depressed and lost all day long. It felt as if there was no life. At that point, I realized that the retirement that I have been planning for my 40th birthday is never going to happen. I don’t like not going to work.

Wasting Time is at times good

During our conversation, he mentioned something that struck me. He said he spends a couple of minutes or hours depending on his daily schedule, doing NOTHING. He sits down and relaxes. He doesn’t watch TV (he decided not to have one), no games, no reading …nothing at all. He just let his thoughts flow. He tries not to think or plan anything during that time. It is a more casual form of meditation. But even that sounded difficult.But like how we take care of our physical health by doing exercise, we also need to take care of our mental health.

First, we fill our minds with unimportant things and then start looking for Mindfulness courses to clear our minds. To be honest, it is not our fault. We are living in a day and age where there are ten additional things to do because of Facebook, Linkedin, WhatsApp, Instagram etc. During the day time, I just feel there is a lot going on in my mind. If I have to scribble my thoughts on a piece of paper, it would look crazy.

Last year, the visit to my village after 10 years had given me a perspective. Technology has touched village lives but not so much. So, one can still enjoy roaming around in fields, eating organic fruits and Veggies, sleeping under the star because there is no electricity. I will be honest, during day time, it was unbearable without electricity.

I missed internet for two days. I was using my mum’s phone to access the internet (that was on purpose) but then after 2 days, I stopped missing Social Media and friends there. People visit house un-alarmed. They spend hours talking about all kinds of topics. It’s like 24×7 live channel about all happenings around nearby villages. I felt so relaxed and happy. I decided to do that more often. I also learnt that staying away from the internet is best way to unwind. But as I landed back, I saw everyone was glued to their phones. No one was interested in talking or even paying attention to others. So I went back to my Facebook friends.

Coming back to the topic of wasting time. How many of you can think of wasting time by sitting and doing nothing? Think about it. It is not so easy as it sounds.

‘Time is the most important’. This is the lesson we are taught from the beginning. More important than money and here I am talking about wasting it. Yeah, that’s right! We have stopped enjoying the joy of doing NOTHING.

After our conversation, I realized that I was excited about trying this at home. Not going to take out time from daily life and do nothing. But whenever I have idle time, I am not going to book with outings, meeting with friends or any other activity. I am just going to relax and do NOTHING!


My Techie “Baby Mausi”

Aunty Acid

Technology has touched our lives in every possible ways. It has reached to a point that it is much easier to chat online than talk to a person. It’s like a group of friends deciding to meet in a café. When they meet, they are busy taking selfies, Welfies and posting them online. Tagging each other and discussing who commented on whose pictures, and what are the latest trends/news on the Social platforms. Think about it, can we really avoid Social Media related topics during a conversation with friends? It is now intertwined into our lives. Infact people are compelled to take actions in real life to feed their online life.

In such advance world, elders feel neglected and left out. We moved and settled in far off cities. And tend to visit home during big festivals. Not enough time to meet the extended family. While life is happening on one end, we don’t realise that elders are being cut off. Even if we call them occassionally but it take years to see them in flesh.

In this situation, I must say I am very proud of my eldest Maasi. I wasn’t in touch with her for over 10-15years. Occasionally we may talk but the conversation used to be brief. There was lot going on in our lives.

One fine day, we got connected over WhatsApp. We started chatting and hit it off as if those 10-15 years vanished in few seconds. Of course, there is a lot to catch up but this was a good starting point.

What amazed me even more was when she was trying her hand on Facebook! As a Facebook user, we may feel that it is no big deal. But this brought me to the year 2006 when I was trying to make a profile on Facebook for the first time. The platform was asking basic but never-ending questions. Many times I was confused on where to click, what to do? And here I am talking about 70year old lady who was never exposed to internet before. She not only learnt to deal with internet but she created her profile on networking sites. My amazement doesn’t end here,she also created a cool family group that has about 30 members. She is a shining star among technology retards. Now, in my mind, there is no excuse to learn the new and upcoming technology. The only explanation for not catching up on technology is not being aware of the surrounding or just being lazy.

She may have achieved a little in her own world. But this is a huge inspiration for all the youngsters out there. Learning is for life. That is how you are connected
and stay alive.

By the way, my mother is almost 12-15 years younger but she learnt and picked up Social Media long ago. I wasn’t that amazed because I was pushing her to learn. Learning Social Media and internet was not an option but necessity. It was a MUST so that she can interact with me regularly. You do have a higher expectation from your MOTHER!

If you have similar story like this, where technology has touched women’s lives and empowering them, please do share.

Trip To Phuket & Kids – Friendly Resorts!

My writing juices started flowing again and here’s my next post after a long hiatus. I was missing ‘writing’. There were so many things happening around but it was just too difficult to put everything aside and write. In between, I had my first trip to the US. That was interesting. I am going to write more in my next post.

Today, I want to talk about the most recent trip – Phuket in Thailand. This was my third visit to the city. The last two visits were also through company trip. It is only 1.5 hours from Singapore so it is much cheaper for companies to organize events in Thailand. For two trips, I stayed in Westin Siray Bay and once I stayed at JW Marriot. Both of them had their own pros n Cons. But I would prefer JW than Westin.

This time was special. I clubbed my family vacation with the office event. Office event ended by Thursday noon last week and vacation started. We chose a different hotel for 3 days 2 nights tour. Westin was good but it wasn’t a kids friendly hotel. It is still targeted to business and the executive crowd. The rooms are big with a beautiful view to the sea. It is calm and serene. The thing I didn’t like about hotel is that it is on a hill. People like to walk, I don’t. So everytime, I stepped out, I had to call buggy (small club car).

We moved to Novotel Resorts and Hotel. This was my first stay in Accor Group of Hotels. I am a Starwood Member(Marriot now) and I earn points as we stay but then the points were not enough to choose a hotel of our choice. So, this time we had an opportunity to choose a different group. We decided to choose Family & Kids resort and after much research, we zeroed down to Novotel. Novotel was almost 15kms from Westin which was towards the east most part of Phuket. We booked Grab for all our travels. There was a discount coupon active “Island200” and we made full use of that. Grab was so much cheaper compared to other transport options. By the time, we reached the hotel it was already 3 pm and kids were tired. We decided to explore the activities in hotel before we plan next day. I was surely amazed to see the facilities the resort had for kids.

There was a small Cinema room, that had couches for kids. Kids can watch movies anytime with free flow of pop corns and drinks. Parents can join them too. The water pool was very long and it had big water slides. Both my kids enjoyed the pool. I must say, the pool wasn’t as clean as we have in Singapore. But then the comparison was not fair. Another exciting fun area was ‘Kids world’. When we entered that area, it was like heaven for kids. There were books to read, abacus, puzzles, building blocks, ball pool and many more games. In fact, there was a game room and young children were playing Video Games. The hotel organizes different classes on every day. Painting class, Art & Craft, Music classes, Story telling and what not. The best part was, it was all complimentary. They had way too many things for us to cover in one day. We had already stayed at the resort for one full day. There were many food choices within the hotel so we didn’t need to go out to eat.

We decided to visit Patong beach as it is one of the popular destinations of Phuket. There was a free shuttle at different times from the hotel. We took 3 pm bus and reached there at about 3:40 pm. We had already identified an Indian eating place close to the drop off point. Without the internet, it was difficult to locate the restaurant but after checking with few people, we did manage to find the place. We had our food and started loitering around the same place. In Patong beach, there is a huge flea market but then you have to be cafeful about bargaining in the shops. If you do intend to buy something, bring down the price at least 4 times.

We finally ended up at Patong beach. This beach had some water sports, more than Surin beach which was closer from our resort. I heard from few friends, there used to be a big imitation market. Imitation stuff of any big brands was easily available but now they have made it more strict. We were on the beach around 5:30 pm, just at the time of sunset. We got some good clicks with beautiful sun set in the background.

Other attractions in Phuket are Fantsea land, Phi Phi islands, island hopping, massages etc.

If you are visiting Phuket with your family, I would highly recommend Novotel as we had an amazing experience. In case you are not particular about Kids friendly then you should be staying near Patong because that’s where all action is.


“Vatan Se” Restaurant Review!

Generally, I don’t like to write reviews on my blog unless I really liked it or detested it strongly. Therefore, the reviews that you will find here are direct from the heart (just like my blog). Since last month, we have decided to try new restaurants every week. The reason behind the decision was that the girls are forced to try new dishes. When it is dinner time, and hungry, they have no choice but to eat what is in front of them.

It has been an exciting experience so far. We have only tried Indian restaurants near our area(east coast park). And there are quite a few close by because of the huge Indian population.

As part of this ritual, today we visited a restaurant called Vatan Se. There is a newly opened branch at 368 Tanjong Katong Road. We had heard about the place but because it was closer to the house, it was given the last priority. Though Vatan se has few chain of restaurants in the city, catering parties/gatherings, and marinated bbq are their main business.

This was my first visit to the restaurant. So, I wasn’t sure if the décor was consistent in all the branches. The ambiance was warm and attractive. There was Bollywood music playing in the background. I can assure you that there are only a few restaurants where you will find such a thoughtful décor. The furniture and upholstery were tastefully chosen. The food was served in the biodegradable material (Pattal) and other utensils were copper plated steel glasses/cutlery. One can sense the personal touch given to the restaurant.

The hosts were again warm and comforting. We are not sure if it was because of Sunday or their son’s birthday party, but we managed to meet the owners of the restaurant. During a brief chat on the opening of the new branch, he mentioned that as part of their commitment to providing an unforgettable dining experience, he started a new scheme of offering 10% on the food bill. Only if you surrender your gadgets before ordering the meal. I was totally impressed. How many would risk the idea of getting more check-ins and likes on Facebook that people sometimes post when they are dining in a restaurant?! He also mentioned about food quality and how he chose to keep it simple and home cooked. There are no additional color or preservatives that other restaurants like to add in order to make it more attractive and delicious.

To be honest, we were little overwhelmed after the chat and our expectations were higher. We ordered Paneer makhani, butter naans and Vegetable fried rice. There was papad and green chutney in the beginning. Not to mention, they did meet our expectation. The color of food was indeed little different. And paneer was literally melting in the mouth. The food had a very authentic north Indian taste. One would actually make a difference between makhni you eat at Vatan Se and the ones you try in other places. Vegetable Fried rice also tasted good. The Butter naans were hot and butter was dripping from naan, just like how my husband likes it! Interestingly my daughters enjoyed the food too.

I heard that their Kebabs are popular too. I am planning to try them on our next visit. They also have weekend brunch $10++(per pax) with a different menu every week. And if you register on their website, they will inform you every weekend.

In terms of pricing, this restaurant is little on the higher end. The portion of food that you get for the price you pay leaves you little dissatisfied. But the taste and ambiance makes it all worth it.

If you are looking for a healthy, authentic home cooked North Indian meal, I would recommend this place.

In case you are visiting the restaurants after reading this blog, please let them know VatanSe005. They may end up offering you 5% off. They are generous and genuine people.