Tag Archives: lunch

Networking eatings

Given that I’m a freelancer and do several things to earn my money, and that there is no consistency in my income flow, I need to do a lot of “networking”. Essentially, this is about generally catching up with someone over an informal chat, discussing what we do, and exploring if there were any synergies to exploit. I think this is great option value, for meeting people and getting their perspectives makes you think different, and that can give you ideas which you can potentially make money out of at a later point in time.

The point of this post about the venues for such networking meetings. I don’t have an office – I work from home, and my home office is not particularly suited for meetings, so I prefer to do my meetings outside. Sometimes, when the person I’m meeting has an office, we end up doing the meeting there. I’ll leave out those meetings from this discussion, since there is nothing really to be described about the venue. Most other occasions, though, meetings happen over food and drink, more likely the latter. This post is about good and bad places for networking meetings.

Most of my “networking meetings” so far have happened at the trusty old Cafe Coffee Day. The city is littered with several of these outlets, and for the price of two cappuccinos, they offer excellent place to sit and talk for hours together. The problem, though, is that they have now (for a couple of years or so) gone pre-paid. You need to order at the counter before you settle down at a table, and each time you want something more you need to go up and order again. There are two problems this poses.

Firstly, if you reach before the other person (chances of both reaching at the same instant are infinitesimal), you will need to wait. And in the time when you’re occupying a table and haven’t ordered you have to deal with strange glares from the cafe staff. You need to keep telling them “I’m waiting for a friend”. The next problem is with payment dynamics. It is so much easier to split the bill when you’re paying at the table. It gets complicated when you’re paying at the counter, with the effect that more often than not one of you will end up paying for both of you. That’s not exactly a problem, but starting a meeting with discussions on who will pay is not exactly the best way to go.

My initial meetings with the person who has turned out to be my biggest client so far happened in the coffee shop of a five star hotel. I must mention here that in most five star hotels in Bangalore, you get remarkably good filter coffee nowadays. Coffee shops of five star hotels are good places for these meetings, for they are usually quiet and you are served at your desk. They come at a cost, however – though you might argue that paying two hundred rupees for filter coffee at Vivanta is not so much more than paying a hundred rupees for a cappuccino at Cafe Coffee Day.

Breakfast at a five star hotel, however, isn’t that great for networking. Recently, I did a breakfast meeting at a five star hotel. As you might expect, we had the buffet. However, the problem with doing a meeting over a breakfast buffet in a five star hotel is that you simply can’t do justice to the spread! You can’t keep going for refills, and you would want to stick to things you can eat without creating much of a mess. And when you’re doing a professional meeting you don’t want to be eating too much also.

Then there are South Indian restaurants. I’ve done some meetings in those, also. The problem, however, is that such restaurants rely on quick table turnover and even if you go in off-peak times you get strange looks if you stay too long. This has to be mitigated with staggered orders through the course of your meeting. The advantage is that these places are cheap and the food is great.

I don’t usually do networking meetings over drinks. It has nothing to do with my capacity – it is just that most pubs are loud and not particularly conducive for conversation. And you don’t want to be screaming at the top of your voice in a professional meeting. That doesn’t mean I haven’t done meetings in pubs, though, but it’s usually after a certain degree of familiarity has been established.

Finally let us come to the lunch meetings. Here, it is important that you choose a cuisine that is high density. Again you don’t want to spend too much time eating, so you should prefer food that you can eat little of but will still fill you up. Also, you need to choose a cuisine that’s not messy. On both counts, North Indian is NOT ideal – it’s not very high density, and you need to eat with your hands which can become messy and that’s not something you want at a meeting. A further problem is that North Indian food in most restaurants comes in shared portions – and when you’re meeting someone professionally it can get a little uncomfortable.

These problems are there in East Asian also. South Indian restaurants (in Bangalore) are mostly quick service and thus not great for networking lunches (and south indian food is low density). So the ideal choice in this case is European – portions are small, the food is filling, you can eat it all with a knife and fork and it comes in individual portions.

I’ll put more fundaes on this matter as I get more experienced in the matter of networking eatings. I’m off now – need to rush to a lunch meeting!

 

Rememberance of birthdays past

I was about to start writing this when I realized that I’d written a similar post four years ago. So I guess I’ll talk about what I had left out in that post.

I’m a “Monday’s child”. Thirty years back to the day, I was born around 2 pm in a largish “Maternity Nursing Home” in Basavanagudi, South Bangalore. My mother had been admitted to the hospital the previous night, and it had been decided that it would be a Caesarian operation. For breakfast that morning, my father’s mother had sent “avarekaayi uppit”. My mother’s mother had sent sweet pongal. My mother had told me that she had taken only one spoon of the former and wolfed down the latter. Maybe that’s why I have a sweet tooth. Oh, and I like uppit also!

My grand-uncle (mother’s father’s brother) was concerned that the surgery was scheduled for 1:30 pm. “The stars aren’t good at that time”, he had mentioned. “If it is going to be a girl, it would be extremely difficult to get her married”. His request to the surgeon to postpone the surgery by half an hour were summarily dismissed. As it happened though, by the time I made my way out (shortly after 2 pm), the position of the stars had changed.

Number twenty eight was a week after my wedding. I had messed up in planning the flights and we figured we had to wake up at 3:30 am to catch our 7 am flight back to Bangalore. My (then new) wife had ordered for a Tiramisu to be delivered to our room at midnight and the nice folks at the Taj Samudra (Colombo) had decided to make it complimentary. A whole posse of stewards came over and sang for me.

The duty free liquor I’d picked up at the airport came with a complimentary shot of Glenlivet which I gulped down. The day was only going to go downhill from then on. I had a bad cold, and it got worse as the day went on. Lunch was at my aunt’s house and dinner at my in-laws’. We opened our wedding gifts that day and it turned out that most gifts we’d got were quite useless – they were stowed away in one corner to play “passing the parcel”.

Twenty seven involved an “illegal” visit from my then (not yet “legal”) girlfriend (now wife). That was the first occasion I brought liquor to my house. I made nice vodka cocktails for both of us and we’d ordered lunch from Ragoo’s. Early in the evening, I mentioned to her “so how do we proceed?” and she brought up an elaborate plan about when she might be ready for marriage and how we should inform our respective relatives (her parents were already in the know). We ate corn at the 17th cross park (now closed for renovation) and she showed me around Subramanyanagar.

Later that evening, my cousin told my other relatives about my girlfriend. I had decided to use the goodwill of my birthday to make sure it wasn’t taken too badly (as it turned out, all of them ended up liking her immensely, so it was perhaps unnecessary caution). That was also the first time when I hadn’t mentioned my birthday on any social network. Got a maximum of of five phone calls that day (including a “guess who” call early in the morning by my current in-laws).

Twenty nine was special. The wife made sure it was, as she bombarded me with surprises through the course of the day. Video wishes from friends, a bunch of them turning up for dinner, five new kurtas (!!), a leather laptop bag and numerous other tiny gifts (there were a total of twenty nine of them). A massive breakfast with Nitin at Maiyya’s. And the formalization of my Project Thirty. It was an all-round brilliant day.

Numbers twenty and twenty five were particularly sad. The former was spent doing assignments in IIT. Few friends remembered it was my birthday. It was around the time when I got disillusioned with birthdays and stopped expecting much out of them. The latter was supposed to be spent with a lavish lunch at aunt’s house. As it happened several other guests turned up there unannounced just as I was going there, and I got pissed off and went for a long walk. My disillusionment with birthdays only turned deeper, and was resurrected at number twenty nine (described above).

My wife plans to celebrate my thirtieth birthday by getting herself a Thai massage (she’s in Bangkok as I write this). Before she left, however, she got me to cut a cake last evening, and I found more this morning. Mother-in-law woke me up with brilliant coffee and gave me (brilliant) uppit for breakfast. She’s also given me lunch. For dinner I’ll be meeting some of my oldest friends. And there’s lots of work to do. Massive series of meetings at client’s next week. And a conference from tomorrow, and I’ve to prepare for my talk. But I’m having fun!

More on religion

According to the Hindu calendar today is three years since my mother passed away. If I were religious, or if I were to bow to pressures from religious relatives, I would have performed a “shraadhha/tithi” today. Instead, I’m home, leading a rather normal life. In spite of it being a Sunday today, I’m actually working (I coordinate schedules with my wife, and for some reason she chose to take off this Friday and go to work on Sunday, so I followed). I’ve eaten breakfast and a very normal lunch.

Every year, twice a year (it’s remarkable that my parents’ death anniversaries have a phase difference of about six months), I begin to get requests from relatives – mostly uncles and aunts but also from the wife – that I need to “do my religious duties” and perform the shraadhhas. The last few occasions, I complied. However, as I’ve explained in this post, I’ve gotten disgusted with the general quality of priests around and decided that it’s not worth my while to enrich that community just because someone tells me it might help my parents attain salvation in their afterlives.

Since I flatly refused to do the shraadhha this time, the last few weeks have had more than their fair share of religious discussions compared to earlier. I’ve been asked how I know that priests mis-pronounce. When I say that my limited knowledge of Sanskrit is enough to identify the mispronunciations, they suggest that I try different priests. I then talk about the number of different priests I’ve encountered over various Shraadhhas over the last few years, and about how not one has really said the mantras well (except for the family priest who conducts weddings, etc. but shraadhhas are too small-time for him).

Then comes the clinching argument from my relatives – that even otherwise irreligious people like my father did their ancestors’ shraaddhas without fail. And it is at that time that I start questioning the whole purpose of the Shraadhha and trying to ascribe a believable reason for it. I argue that if the intention is to remember the deceased, I don’t need one day a year to do that since my parents come in my dreams practically every other day. The intention might have been to get all the descendants of the deceased together, but then I’m the only descendant of my parents and I’m “together with myself” all the time.

Then they try and convince me to perform what I can classify as “lesser evils” – such as giving raw rice and vegetables to a priest. I’ve done that once before and considered it to be such an unpleasant experience that I don’t want to do it again. And then I question how it will help. And the argument goes on.

So for today, finally I submitted that I’ll put food out for the crows before I eat, since in the Sanatana Dharma crows are supposed to represent your ancestors. After much haggling, this seemed like an acceptable compromise.

Later in the evening yesterday, my wife and I had a long conversation about what it is to be a Brahmin and why Brahmins are traditionally vegetarian.

Sometimes, when I don’t think enough I think it is ok to admit to the whims and fancies of other people just so that I don’t piss them off. But then when I do think about it, I find it ridiculous that saying a certain set of songs with certain pronunciation and intonation will have some bearing on my life. I find it incredible that feeding some random so-called Brahmins will help provide peace to my deceased parents.

Growing up with an ultra-religious mother and an atheist father, I never really “got” religion, I must say. In fact, the first time when I thought about religion was when I read about parts of America not believing in evolution (this was some 4 years back) – it was incredible that some people were so deluded that they didn’t accept something so fundamental. It was around the same time that I read The God Delusion (not a great book I must say – could’ve been written in < 20 pages), and the beliefs of the devout, as it described, shocked me.

It was around this time that I realized that some (nay, most) people actually take it seriously that if you pray for something it increases your chances of getting it. It shocked me to believe that some people believe that chanting a certain set of songs (mantras are just that, in Vedic language) will improve your life without any other effort on your part. It shocked me that people actually believe in afterlife and rebirth. By this time, my father had passed away, and this wasn’t a topic about which I could have a rational discussion with my mother, so I let it be.

Some temples (of various religions) make me feel calm and peaceful, and I love visiting them. There are temples which look so good I think they need to be preserved, and I make reasonably generous offerings there. There are festivals that I consider fun, and I celebrate them enthusiastically. We had a fairly large doll display at home this Navaratri. We burst fireworks and ate lots of sweets this Diwali. Last year we hosted a Christmas party. With some friends, I raided the kebap stalls in Fraser Town during Ramzan. We set up a little mandap at home for Ganesh Chaturthi, and displayed my collection of Ganesh idols.

But the concept of before-lives and after-lives and rebirth? That of prayers sans effort making a difference? That you need to feed some so-called Brahmins who can’t recite mantras for nuts just so that your parents attain peace in the afterlife? I find it all absolutely ridiculous.

I didn’t put food out for crows – I find no reason to believe that my mother has transformed into one of them, and that that particular crow will come looking for food today. I haven’t worn back my sacred thread as promised yesterday. I think my cook had put onion and garlic in my lunch today. And life goes on..

Discharge procedures

Earlier today, I had gone to help out a relative who had been admitted to hospital, and who was getting discharged today. The procedure was bizarre, to say the least.

A little before noon, a nurse walked into the room announcing that the discharge formalities were being put in place, and asked us if we had insurance cover (we didn’t). She reappeared five minutes later in order to remove the thing through which the intravenous drip and medicines had been administered. We thought it was time for us to leave, and informed people at the relative’s home to get lunch ready. What we didn’t know was that the “release” process would take nearly three more hours.

Every few minutes, I would walk up to the nurse station on the floor, and ask them when the discharge would happen. For the first one hour, they would tell that the bill would be ready “in ten minutes”. Finally I lost patience (my loss of patience doesn’t exactly make me an appropriate choice of personnel to manage discharge, I know) and asked them to direct me to the person who was actually preparing the bill. The bill was ready a minute after I appeared in front of that person, and it had been settled in the next five minutes.

A word here about the billing procedures. The relative’s ward was on the fifth floor, and I went down to the basement (“floor minus two”) to the billing section where I got the bill. I had to then take the bill and walk up to the ground floor to the cash section to make the payment, and once again take the receipt back down to the basement to get a printed bill.

Anyway, I thought most of the ordeal was done and proudly announced to the nurses at the nurse station that the bill had been cleared and they should let us go. But the discharge summary remained, and for the next hour or more, they said it would be ready “in the next ten minutes”. And once it was done, a nurse had to run down to the basement (yet again!) to collect it and get the signature of the doctor on duty. And run back up six floors (in another bizarre policy, hospital staff are forbidden from using the elevators!).

Then there was the set of prescriptions that were delivered to us regarding the medicines we had to buy for the following one week (and I’ll write a separate post on drugstores located within hospital premises). This wasn’t the first time I was helping someone get discharged, and this wasn’t the first time the discharge process took this long. From my own anecdotal experience, and from that of other relatives who I was talking to today, this is more the norm than the exception.

This makes me wonder why most hospitals, without fail, have such screwed up discharge procedures? Is this a matter of such low priority that all hospitals can consistently choose to ignore it? It is not like the amount of work that needs to be done is immense, so I wonder what prevents hospitals from streamlining the procedure? Or, like some hotels do, fix a discharge time so that they can batch process the procedures?

The problem, in general, with people in businesses that makes them feel noble, I tell you, is that they are not willing to heed to advice. And are not willing to question themselves enough. The nobility of their profession, they believe, places them too high to deal with mundane trivialities such as time taken to discharge a patient! And I’ll write a separate post soon on people in noble professions.

Religious functions and late lunches

I remember being invited for a distant relative’s housewarming ceremony a few years back. The invitation card proudly stated “lunch: 12:30 pm”. I had a quiz to attend later that afternoon, at 3 pm, I think. Knowing there was enough slack for me to go to the function, thulp lunch and then go to the quiz, I went. At 12:15 (I have this habit of turning up at functions fifteen minutes prior to food; that way I don’t get bored, and people won’t think I’ve “just come for lunch”). Some ceremonies were going on. 1:15. Ceremonies continue to go on, no sign of lunch. 1:45, I realize there’s no slack at all, and want to leave without eating. Relatives get offended. Finally I went to the cooks, thulped some sweets and went off to the quiz.

Almost ten years back. My thread ceremony (upanayanam/brahmopadesham/munji). The priest arrives at the hall at eight o’clock, a full thirty minutes late. “My colleagues are coming at 12:30″, explains my father, “and we should serve lunch by that time. I don’t care what shortcuts you use but make sure we can serve lunch then”. Maybe munji rituals aren’t that compressable after all. Come 12:30, there were still quite a few procedures to go. Lunch was served while the ceremony continued to go on.

Religious functions are notorious for serving lunch late, and the religious purpose of the function is often used as an excuse to do so. I fully support religious freedom, and fully appreciate people’s choice to perform whatever ceremonies that they want. Keeping guests waiting while you do that and delaying their lunch, however, I think is gross disrespect for the guests’ time. And the sad thing is that religion is usually given as an excuse for this disrespect of time.

When you bring religion into a debate, it sometimes becomes tough to pursue a rational debate. In religious functions, if you were to make even the smallest noises about the timing of lunch, you are accused of being inconsiderate, an ingrate, and for having come there only for the food (I don’t know if the last mentioned is actually a crime). It is disrespectful to leave from such functions unless you’ve eaten, and so you are trapped into cancelling other appointments, and staying on until they actually decide to take pity and serve lunch.

I’ve brought up this topic in family forums a few times, and each time I’ve been chided for making such a big issue of something trivial. I don’t, however, understand how lunch is a trivial issue. And how disrespect for people’s time is a trivial issue. I have decided that the next time I attend one such religious function, where there is potential for the hosts to waste guests’ time by serving food inordinately late, I’ll take along a framed printout of Leigh Hunt’s Abou Ben Adhem. And tell them that all their prayers and respect to god will have no effect unless they also respect their fellow men.

Working for money

One of these days during lunch at office, we had a fairly heated discussion about why people work. One guy and I were of the opinion that the primary reason people work is for money, and everything else is secondary. The third guy, who among the three of us perhaps works the hardest, argued that “people who make a difference” never work for money, and that it is only “ordinary people”, who have no desire to “make a difference” that work for money. He took the examples of people like Steve Jobs and a few famous scientists to make his point.

Now, while I agree that money is the primary reason I work, and which is what I argued that day during lunch, I disagree that the end-of-month salary credit tells the whole story. The way I see it, you need to take a longer-term view of things. So while the short-term money you make is important, and affects important decisions such as quality of short-term life, a more important thing is sustainable returns. While you do your work and get that end-of-month salary credit to bolster your bank account, an important thing is about how much the work you’re doing now will contribute to your income later on in life.

Digression 1: I keep oscillating between wanting to retire at forty and wanting to retire at sixty. And I must admit I haven’t frankly decided which one is more suitable for me. This analysis is more relevant with the retirement at sixty model (which is what I think I’ll end up following, health etc permitting). End of Digression 1.

Digression 2: Not so long ago, some people in my firm wanted to recruit “software engineers from IIT with two to three years of work experience”. Being one of the “CS guys” around, I interviewed quite a few people for that role. Their CVs indicated that had we “caught them” on campus, they would have been sure hires. But two years at a software services shop, I figured in all cases, had made them “rusty”. Spending all their time in mind-numbing activities (like building UIs), they had failed to build on the skills that would have been useful for the higher-up-the-value-chain job I was recruiting for (finally that team went to IITs and got a bunch of campus hires. They gave up on lateral hiring altogether). End of Digression 2.

Those two digressions weren’t particularly meaningless. I guess you know where this post is headed now. So, the thing with a job is that along with the short-term benefits it provides, it should also help you build on those skills that you think you can monetize later on in life. Every job (most jobs, really) teach you something. There is constant learning everywhere. But what matters is if the learning that the job offers is aligned with the kind of learning that you think you are geared for, which you think you can monetize at a later point of time in life.

I still claim that I work for money, but just that I take a longer-term view of it. And I strive to learn those things on a job which I think will be helpful for me in terms of monetization at a later point of time in my life.

 

Mutter Paneer for Breakfast!!

So when our newly-recruited cook told us last week that she knows how to cook North Indian dishes, and when we bought Paneer and Frozen Peas at the supermarket yesterday, I assumed that we’ll be having Mutter Paneer for dinner tonight. The cook comes in around 6am, a little after I leave for the gym, so it’s usually the wife’s responsibility to tell her what to make.

And so I return from the gym and find out to my horror that we’re going to have Mutter Paneer for breakfast instead! I mean, who has mutter paneer for breakfast? Or even, who has chapati for breakfast? Isn’t it a dinner item? Well, that’s been one of the longest standing disputes the wife and I have had ever since we started living together.

She comes from a family of rice-eaters (she’s technically Gult, I’ve told you right?), without anyone in her immediate ancestry suffering from any lifestyle disease (heart/diabetes/cholestrol/etc.). And so, they’ve been used to having rice for meals. Rice for lunch, and rice for dinner. And occasionally chapati for breakfast.

I remember this being the case in my family, too, when I was a small kid, but things changed sometime in the 90s. My parents were both plump by then, and for a variety of other reasons, we switched to having oil-free chapatis (phulkas) for dinner. And now that chapati had become a dinner item, it automatically stopped being a breakfast item, and so for breakfast we restricted ourselves to the “traditional stuff” like dosa, akki rotti, uppit, avalakki, etc. (I hate homemade idlis so that was never a part of the menu). And for dinner, apart from chapati, we also started having ragi mudde (ragi balls, made world famous all over India by former PM HD Deve Gowda).

And so the battle begins. She, who has grown up always eating chapati for breakfast, and never for dinner. And I, having been looking at chapati as solely a dinner item for the last twenty years. Ok, chapati and onion-potato palya for breakfast is acceptable. But Mutter Paneer for breakfast? You gotta be kidding me!

Anyways, the Mutter Paneer was good, and I did need a high-calorie meal after the gym session, so this cribbing here is more for the sake of cribbing rather than a genuine crib. Also, it is possible that it’s healthier to reserve the high-density food for breakfast, and have something light for dinner (I admit mutter paneer for dinner isn’t that good for health). But mutter paneer for breakfast and then rasam rice for dinner?

I’m sorry but I’m not a big fan of rasam. I find it too low-density and not filling enough. And in order to fill myself I need to eat a lot of rice, and eating a lot of rice at night makes me sometimes feel gross as soon as I get up the next morning.

Ok I’ll stop cribbing now. And I guess I’m a CHoM.