Friday, September 16, 2016

Restaurant Week India: The Conversation...

“Sir, can I take 5 minutes of your time?”- He catechized, splintering through the impervious layer of silence. Aha! That wasn’t too dramatic anyway.
“(Arghh)…Ermm…okay….sure”- I responded laboriously; trance was broken for sure. Not the best state of affairs, but then that’s how life is; euphoria is fugacious. 5 minutes was a hell lot of time.
“Sir, I heard that this Quest Mall has a host of fantastic eateries. Are they affordable?”- He investigated. Goodness gracious me, is he a mind-reader? Yes, he did pick me up from Quest Mall, but then, such pin point questions? Oh wait! Has he been stalking me all the while? Why didn’t he raise these questions in Sohini’s presence?
“Umm…yes, there are. Why?”- I sounded rather skeptical with my response. Why was he asking such flaky questions in the first place?
“Sir, girl-friend ko leke jana hai….aap madam se baat kar rahe the, to maine socha…..” (Sir, I wanted to take my girl-friend along, overheard your discussion and thought of asking) - He was interrupted midway by an imbecilic tippler crossing the road; he had to pull the brake real hard. Ah, you do expect these things to happen at this juncture; kinda scary when it happens on the E .M. Bypass of course…I checked my wristwatch, it read 10:52 PM.
This brake (read- break) was a much needed one; the thrust “shook” me and in turn, gave me that extra bit of time to gather my thoughts. Yes, he has been following every bit of our conversation rather punctiliously and of course, waited for the right opportunity to shoot those questions. But then, are his intentions right?
“Sir, it’s our anniversary next week and we wanted to celebrate in style. If you could kindly suggest…..”- Of course the interruption couldn’t stem the flow.
Hmm…I was perhaps assuming way too much. But I decided to keep silent for the time being, I was waiting for more “information”.
“Sir, she loves Spaghetti….but I can’t afford it most of the times. I heard you discussing this with madam and couldn’t resist myself from asking, I hope you didn’t mind.”- He said. And for the first time he turned around and looked into my eyes. He was a young man, perhaps of the same age-group…but he had bright and glossy eyes. I couldn’t make out his expression in the dark….but by now, I was rather sure that there was hope in there. He was referring to our conversation on our way back home from the Quest Mall, the conversation that was pretty much woven around the delightful cuisines that we tasted at the Smokehouse Deli as a part of exclusive preview of “The Restaurant Week 2016”, Calcutta leg. As a part of this preview, we, the bloggers were also given complimentary Ola Prime rides to and from the restaurant of our choice; the person in discussion was my Ola Prime chauffeur on the way back home. We were pretty much on a “high” during the first half of the journey….savoring each and every moment of our dining experience at Smokehouse Deli; “we” as in me and my wifey, the aftermath of a delightfully piquant outing. The signature “Boss Style Spaghetti” (that was served right at the climax), pretty much dominated the discussion…it’s perhaps the best spaghetti that I’ve had in recent times. And very importantly, it wasn’t filling too. Of course, the Peri Peri Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Citrus Pimento did impress us too….I’ve always had a thing or two for Peri Peri chicken, remember having a great one at the DLF Cyber hub in Gurgaon, but this one was class apart. Sohini, by the way, loved the Spiced Coriander and with Lemongrass Chicken Skewers starter as well, I have always felt that the mere presence of coriander enhances the taste of a specific set of cuisines; this was no exception. Loved the tenderness in its texture, the way it coats on to the taste-buds and almost melts in your mouth, arghh…I’m almost getting carried away with the flow as I write it. The smoked chicken & onion pizza, with a thin delectable base was impressive because of the idiosyncratic flavor, I found the non-veg sliders slightly filling. Smokehouse Deli was kind enough to allow us to taste all the signature dishes despite the three-course-set-menu format of the Restaurant Week India initiative- and it goes without saying that we relished the experience to the core. Special mention for the Devil-led Roast Tenderloin served with Garlic Jam Bites that was luscious to the core; I'm generally not a beef fan, but then this one would perhaps change my perception...I reckon this would pair well with Red wine pretty nicely. The Moremelon was an interesting rendition for me, experimenting with fresh fruits has always been my thing- the revitalizing dose of Moremelon was much needed on an otherwise grueling weekday. Not to forget, the ambiance is beautiful and the hospitality amazing, never had a chance to dine at Smokehouse Deli before and it was quite a pleasant experience. Of course, in course of the Restaurant Week, you can actually try all of these at a flat rate of INR 900/- per diner, the signature appetizers being priced at an additional INR 100/- and signature main courses at an additional INR 200/- only; that for me does the trick. I firmly believe that Calcutta is the food central of country and a Pre-Pujo pocket-friendly solution makes this deal all the more lucrative. A mere INR 60/- as reservation tariff, is again an affordable proposition in my opinion; that completes the entire cycle..!!
Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Refreshing Moremelon
The excitement was slowly settling in…a palliative phase I would rather say…I was also enjoying the ride back home via the stretches of E.M. Bypass; aaaaand my trance was broken. Blame it on Sohini, who was over enthusiastic with her explication or our overall eloquent food-versation that tickled his dripping spirits. The tête-à-tête began just a while after Sohini got down at Dhakuria, ermm….it was a rather one sided interaction, but then, the damage was done. Rahim (Just about realized that his name did flash on the Ola App when I booked my Ola Prime) was desperate to take his girl-friend out for an affordable-dinner-date...!

Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Luscious Devil-led Roast Tenderlon & Garlic Jam Bites
Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Delightful Smoked Chicken & Onion Thin Crust Pizza

Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Savory Peri Peri Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Citrus Pimento
Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Signature Smokehouse Deli Non-Veg Sliders
“Sir…can you suggest some budget dining options? Where did you have Spaghetti…? The Boss style Spaghetti?”-  Rahim poked again. He wanted me to speak up….at the same time, he sensed that I wasn’t willing to. And the mere realization that my drop location was approaching, literally freaked him out…I wasn’t a savior by any stretch of imagination. But his concern was genuine….fine dining is indeed a pricey affair these days…the concept of luxury-budget-dinner is pretty much non-existent these days; I quickly did a back-ground research on the internet using Ola Prime’s Free Wi Fi, I wanted to double check on the Restaurant Week India 2016 dates before floating the idea.
“I am a Mechanical Engineer Sir….we were victims of the recession period; but then I have had a fascination for cars and bikes right through. Driving with Ola for the first time and loving it!”- I don’t know why he said this; perhaps that was his last resort…. but then, whatever he said made an impact. Yes, I’m not an overtly emotional person, but for somebody who’s doing series on the “Humans of Calcutta”, I reckon, this is indeed a moving account and a source of strong content.
Well, my destination had arrived and I could sense his disgruntlement as I stepped out of the car.
Smokehouse Deli”- I whispered as he was about to leave, I could see his face lit up...”Try and avail the exclusive Restaurant Week India offers running from 16th-25th September 2016 at INR 900/-. I have your number, I’ll text you the details. Take care!!”
Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Show-stopper alright....
Boss Style Spaghetti (High Recommended)
* About Restaurant Week IndiaOLA Prime presents Restaurant Week powered by John Jacobs is the largest and amongst the most popular pan-India culinary events, where the foodies and food-enthusiasts get an exclusive opportunity to dine at some of India’s finest restaurants at a fraction of the a la carte rates, that's a quality-pocket-friendly-solution. Restaurant Week India commenses from 16th September and continues till 25th September 2016 covering some of the premium fine dining hubs of Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune. Follow the hashtags to catch all the action from the preview -#RestaurantWeek #RWI #OlaPrime. As a part of the blogger's preview of #RWI, I decided to dine at Smokehouse Deli, Quest Mall, Kolkata and I found the food pretty good. Verdict: Highly recommended.
* Tariff- Restaurant Week Kolkata features 14 participating restaurants that will offer a three-course prix fixe menu (with an option of vegetarian or non-vegetarian) at INR 900/- for lunch and INR 900/- for dinner per diner. The signature appetizers are priced at an additional INR 100/- & signature main courses at an additional INR 200/- only. A mere INR 60/- needs to be paid online to secure reservation beforehand; the offerings (and also the online reservation facilities) are listed down in the Restaurant Week India website. The price, per individual, is exclusive of applicable taxes, service charges and anything ordered outside of the special Restaurant Week menu. Ola Prime customers to get exclusive discounts as well.
* List of participating restaurants: Calcutta Leg-  This is indeed a fantastic list- 1. Bodega Cantina Y Bar, Park Street, 2. Gucchi, Hyatt Regency Kolkata, 3. La Cucina, Hyatt Regency Kolkata, 4. Pan Asian, ITC Sonar, 5. Peshawri, ITC Sonar, 6. Saffron, The Park Kolkata, 7. Smoke House Deli, Ballygunge, 8. Souk, Taj Bengal Kolkata, 9. Studio – The Pan Asian Galerie, Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences, 10. The Legacy Grill, The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata, 11. West View, ITC Sonar, 12. Yauatcha, Quest Mall, 13. Zen, The Park Kolkata, 14. Kalash, Hotel Hindustan International, Kolkata.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tata TISCON- The Glossary of Joy!

Well, honestly speaking I'm feeling a bit nostalgic while writing this post...not because of the fact that I had worked with a TATA firm during the initial days for my career but then, the connection is much much deeper. If I go back to the roots, I did spend quite a few days of my childhood back here in Jamshedpur; it's a beautiful city indeed. This, combined with the fact that my uncle has been a TATA loyalist for over a decade, does strike those "chords" alright. Furthermore my dad, being a production engineer by profession, has often been associated with TATA Steel for various crucial assignments; he keeps traveling to various plants across the country right through the year and most importantly comes back with a smiling face. Oh well, this has been pretty much the story. Drawing a close congruence with the experience of my batchmates from Jadavpur University who did their internship at Tata Steel, well, you pretty much guessed it right- the story is a captivating one. They say that during this enlivening tenure of 3 months at Jamshedpur, they pretty much lived their life and in the process, gathered some quality knowledge from hands on experience. No wonder they had an added advantage during the core-sector-specific evaluation process during the recruitments. 
Ermm, since these are historical evidences, let me draw a quick reference with one of my recent visits to Jamshedpur for the #BuildingBlogsofJoy activity; oh well...I had to fight rather hard just to be there (for obvious reasons....damn, I got married 4 days ago) but knew that this would be one hell of an experience. And the build-up was quite fascinating as well. The furor to this memorable trip was galvanized by the exclusive access to the top most floor of the "coveted" Tata Center, the view from the top, as we all know it, is absolutely mesmerizing. You know what, as a photo-enthusiast, you crave for opportunities like these; as a matter of fact, I have been trying for almost a couple of years to get this endeared access and Tata did it for me in just about a couple of hours, such a "joyous" genesis. Perhaps this is what we call the spirit of "wondrous joy". We never looked back from there on. 

That's how it all started.....arguably the best ever view of the City of "Joy"
As we sauntered along, through the factory premises on a grueling day in the baking heat...it was almost as if by a celestial bliss that the ingrained euphoria enveloped us and pretty much "lead from the front". We could definitely sense the "immersion" alright but then they didn't forget to share a stray joke in between. The workers had their daily targets to fulfill; but that didn't stop them from exchanging happy smirks, the occasional chuckles and chortles did create a cheerful ecosystem. Yes, a recent study by World Bank concludes that "A congenial work environment can double up your efficiency" and it's absolutely fascinating to note that the charm of reciprocity and harmony is pretty much implanted in the "Tata" scheme of things. It was absolutely amazing to see the "managers" and their "sub-ordinates" hanging around in the premises, taking a quick tea-break in course of the day.
"Once I enter into the premises, it's a different world altogether, far away from the daily chores. The sound of cacophonous machines wakes me up and makes me realize that I'm at home"- Mr. Anup Kumar, Head Product Application Group, mentioned...as we entered into the pivotal hub of Tata TISCON. Plenty of winsome surprises were pretty much in store for us ;)

And a smiling blogger....the perfect way to end the #BuildingBlogsofJoy tour ;)
"The best part about working here is how the new-comers gel up with the veterans. There's absolutely no demarcation at all; it's almost like a family out here. Infact so many of my Earned leaves are still pending...I don't feel like taking them!"- Mr. Prabhat Shankar, employee, gas cutting and welding shop sniggled.  Now, that is quite a remarkable statement ladies and gentlemen...drawing an alternation with corporate slaves like us who check their leave balances almost every alternate day, this proclamation is pretty much a game-changer in my opinion. And believe it or not, the vibe is pretty much the same when you step out of the premises...the interaction with tea vendors, rickshaw drivers, litti stall-walahs are so engaging indeed, everything in and around Tata TISCON is so "upbeat". The fervor pretty much extends up to the curator at the Tata Centre of Excellence who amalgamated humor with generous dose of information....that for me, pretty much sums up the "Joy" of building. Infact, our chauffeur who dropped us to the Jamshedpur railway station early in the morning, had a charming smile on his face. What an "joyous" experience indeed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Poila Boishakh: The Nostalgic Call....

"The essence that articulates...
The sapidity that insinuates...
The wallop with a fling...
That the treasured squint and the grin!

And then the spark of artistry sets in...
With the 'canvas' wide open...
Time to unleash the resourceful 'ingenuity'....
And create an impression to insist.

"Pick up the fresh chunk"- As she says...
Bargain as much as you wish...
The otherwise-condemned stinkers that rule...
Could 'contrive' a rubric grub!

"Ogo shuncho! Padma-r hilsa enechi..."- He declares...
And unlocks the euphoria,
A grand Sunday lunch is in store...
The 'weapons' are ready...ready to score.

The Bong connection as they say...
The culminating zesty blows to deal...
The 'bait' would suit and the sparkling 'flute'...
Time to add the luscious glow.

With the cloak of turmeric...
And the 'impulsive' chill's to spawn....
The blend of mustard to stitch a doggerel...
And the "maternal touch" to 'bridge the flow'.

It's an ineffable 'novel' as they say....
With strings of harmony dipped in every bite...
The flocculent 'vibes' that allure,
Ladies and gentlemen...it's a photogenic reprise.

The cue is picked and the 'cohort' identified...
The snow-white plateau of rice-envelope in sight...
The touch of 'gondhoraj' as a 'uplifting crest'...
The guilt-free delight on offer, it's an ornate 'fest'.

It's a wicked blow for sure...
The pragmatic attempt and divine in it's *glow*,
It coats on the taste buds and melts in the flow...
Hilsa's 'elite', Hilsa's adored, Hilsa's the 'cure'.

"Whenever in doubt, go back to the roots"- They say. You know what, the journey called life might have drifted you far away from the origin, but then  with the slight waft of resurgence, you tend to retrace and revisit those salad days. Honestly speaking, people might put forward counter arguments when I say that over the years, our tradition, ethics and customs have retained the inner integrity; but then one thing is for sure...when it comes to Bongs and their folklore, there's an underlying fidelity for sure. I've been interacting with a number of Bongs who have settled abroad (termed as "Probashi Bangali") and believe me, their respect and enthusiasm in this very respect is remarkable. People often tend to draw a close synergy between the Bongs and their earnestness towards festivities; let's be honest with this, it is indeed our treasured endowment...every aspect of a Bong fiesta has it's idiosyncratic charm. And since I brought in the reference of "charm", let's quickly shift focus and talk about the tantalizing aspect of "charm on the platter"...ah I knew it. I could sense the glow in "your" eyes and the virtual lip-smacks as we dig deep into this intrinsic aspect of festivities errm "food" for thought.
Well, this has been pretty much our story...we can't, in the wildest of dreams, plan a festivity without freezing on the "menu" on offer; oh yes...that pretty much multiplies the jubilance. Erm, since I have been talking about the "love for food", let me quickly draw reference to one of my recent conversations with a friend who has been living in Delhi for the last 15 years; I had called her up to convey my regards on Poila Baisakh. This is how it went:-
Moi: "Hey whassup? Long time no see. What plans for Poila Baisakh?"
Le Friend: "Hola. Yaar, nothing much. I miss my life back in Calcutta....Nobo-borsho was so much fun."
Moi: "Yeah...I reckon no haal-khata ceremony(books of accounts) and stuff back in Delhi? Miss our competitive rivalry with the number of calendars and 'sweet packets' collected on this day. So much fun yaa."
Le Friend: "For sure. And remember, those mouth-watering snacking options that were on offer at these stores. Not to forget, these packets contained quality sweets from renowned sweet-meat stores of the city....especially the ones that were 'procured' from the jewelry stores in our neighborhood. This was pretty much synonymous to the coveted Pujo Parikrama during Durga Puja; we would rather term it as Halkhata Parikrama. Haha." I could pretty much sense the chomp of nostalgia, the conversation was engaging enough.
Moi: "Oh my, that was just about half the story my friend. Remember what used to wait for us back in hut? I'm like feeling so nostalgic at this moment."
Le Friend: "Haha, glad you mentioned. Aunty used to cook some amazing food back at home, such a rich spread...rather an absolutely rich and enticing Bengali spread. Do you remember the names of all those delightful dishes? Sigh, we don't get such food here in Delhi. And the lovely family get-togethers that used to happen on this day...such adda, fun and pranks; sigh...I'm so missing all this being away from Calcutta." That last bit had poignancy written all over it. I didn't want to aggrandize her misery but then she had pretty much shoved into a luring flow.
Moi: "Okay, since you brought up this topic....let me me do this. That's our Poila Baisakh menu for today. Jealous much?
  • Gondhoraj ghol
  • Aam porar shorbet, 
  • Ghee bhaat, 
  • Shakh bhaja, 
  • Narkel diye mochar ghonto,
  • Enchor chingri, 
  • Shona moong daal, 
  • Topshe maach bhaja, 
  • Bhetki macher paturi, 
  • Mutton kosha, 
  • Kancha aamer chutney, 
  • Sandesh,
  • Bhapa doi"
Le Friend: "Argh!!! I'm gonna kill you for this. I'm warning you, DO NOT POST ANY IMAGE ON INSTAGRAM, I'm gonna simply die seeing all this from here....
Hey wait...did you just say Enchor chingri?"
Moi: "Err, yes I did. Don't you remember that last time you dined with us...."- I was halted mid-way through the sentence...I could sense the growing jitters on the other end of the call.
Le Friend: "Dude, JUST GET ME THE RECIPE like RIGHT NOW. Listen, I never disclosed your secrets in front of your mom; this is your turn to return the favor. Please, please.....!"
Moi (Err...okay, yes she did. She never disclosed those bits and pieces of classified information, ahem, in front of my parents and I reckon I could do this much): "Okay relax. Lemme ask mom and will email you the recipe in 30 mins time. And err....Subho Noboborsho!" 
Le Friend: "Thank youuuuuu. Subho Noboborsho to you and 'pornaam' to kakima as well....will wait for the mail. Byeee!" And she hung up in a jiffy. Well, I did comply, here's the content of my email.

Enchor Chingri:-

Ingredients:
  • Enchor/jackfruit about 500-700gm, 
  • Pawns-300gm, 
  • Potatoes about 4-5 medium sized and diced,
  • Onion paste-250-300gm, 
  • Ginger paste 2 tablespoon, 
  • Garlic paste- 2 teaspoon,
  • Tomato-3-4 medium sized, 
  • Red Chilli Powder-- according to taste
  • Salt and sugar to taste, 
  • Mustard oil, 
  • Ghee.
Procedure: At the very onset, cut the enchor (jackfruit), potatoes and tomatoes into diced pieces, then rinse well in water. Thereafter, apply some salt and turmeric powder in the enchor and cook it in a pressure cooker, applying around 1 or 2 "steams". In the meanwhile, mix salt and turmeric with the prawns (please ensure that the prawns are washed and cleaned properly before cooking) and fry them till they become soft and generate a light orange colour. Set them aside and fry the potatoes till they soften. Furthermore, add adequate amount of mustard oil in a deep bottom pan, heat and then start frying the onion paste at a low flame. In the mean-time, slowly add ginger, garlic paste, red chilli powder, sugar for giving colour to the recipe; the diced tomato needs to be added next. Continue frying in a low flame till it starts separating from the oil; then add the jackfruit, fried potatoes, prawns and salt to taste.  By the way, the key here is to mix the masala well with the enchor and chingri in bengali (termed as "koshano" in Bengali) to extract the best flavor out of the entire mix. Once this is done, add around 3-4 tablespoons of water as the penultimate step. Once this is done, you need to add some ghee to add to the delectable fragrance, put off the flame and cover it. You need to serve it "hot" to the guests so that they can indulge in the luscious charm of this essentially Bengali delight.

Of course, this comes with the caveat that hygiene would be of prime concern when it comes to realizing the essence of healthy and food habits. Hence, the judicious application of a conventionally efficacious solution- Godrej Lal Hit pretty much comes into the scheme of things; it's almost intriguing that this has been pretty much the indisputable choice in all our households for over a considerable period of time. It's almost like a virtual shield that takes guard and restores "regimen" within the household and that my friend, in effect, multiplies to the festive euphoria. Now this, pretty much completes the cycle of geniality. শুভ নববর্ষ! :)

Poila Baisakh: The Gastronomic Affair
The assorted authentic Bengali thali, looks delectable isn't it?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Goodyear Safer Roads Safer You Initiative with IRTE is a change in itself....

I vividly remember the date; not for the right set of reasons though. Some of my friends have coined it as the "Red letter day", but again not for the right set of reasons at all.

You have no clue how it feels like to occupy the window seat of a "monstrous transport" that had literally minced a yellow taxi just a couple of seconds back. I was almost in a trance back then; the dreaded pool of blood that had veiled the E.M. Bypass had no iota of poetry nested in it... it was nothing but an epitome of reverence, the plethora of death. I could see the faces of my co-passengers, they were literally stoned...sloshed with trauma. Nobody, in their wildest of dreams, would have expected to have 'brushed' past such an encounter; I could see "her" dangling forearm peeping out of the mangled window....I could spot that 'ring' as well, it was shining brightly in broad daylight, proliferating the flicker of hope...sigh, all in vain. Yes, the 'rescue' team did arrive; there was nothing much they could do...the lady had already turned pale by then, almost debilitated of her senses, her fading pulses orchestrated a shuddering debacle. 

I couldn't sleep for a week after witnessing this appalling incident; those nightmares were eating me up from deep within, I kept visualizing myself sitting right there at the back-seat...hoping for a lucky escape, not to be. The shock was too difficult to handle, I had even stopped going to the University for a week or so; such calamities not only affect the families of the departed, but people like me, the ones who carry the burden of living with these abhorrent flashbacks. It's been over 8 years now, every-time I pass through this 'cursed' orbit, those disturbing scenes come back and haunt me all over again. Two innocent souls had lost their "reason to survive" on that fateful day, the scars would remain; the incident was portrayed as an outcome of heedlessness of the chauffeur...apparently, he wasn't aware of the basic axioms of road safety and regulations. It was derived that he was trying to take a shortcut (that was never there) by over-taking an ambulance and ironically, paid the penalty. 

Well, it's easy to draw a denouement, it's easy to put the sword on someone else's shoulder and shrug off all the responsibility...but at the end of the day, we need to save these inculpable "souls". We all have our beloved ones waiting eagerly at the hut, to greet us with extended arms at the end of the day...that indeed completes the cycle. Talking from personal experience, I have lost my cousin brother in a terrible car-accident when he was just 19; propelled by the exuberance of youth and incognizant with the basic on-road safety guidelines; he broke the speed-barrier and drove 'us' into abysmal darkness. I don't know whether I could pen down my emotions through this post, but adversity like this shakes you right from the core. Even his soul-mate sitting right beside the driver's seat was shoved to death; she wasn't wearing her seatbelt either. You keep reading about road-accidents in the newspapers all day, infact due to the exponential increase in frequency of such updates, people tend to overlook them. But believe me, such alluvions etch deep within... somewhere, somewhere very deep.

Going by the statistics, approximately 1274 road accidents occur in the country everyday on the streets with the "Gory 2014" recording around 16 deadly accidents per hour on an average. As per a recent study by the Times of India, the top five states - Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan accounted for over 40% of the fatalities. UP topped the list with 16,284 deaths, but Tamil Nadu with over 15,000 lives lost was much worse given its relatively smaller size. During that period, road accident accounted for a death-toll count of 382 daily, that is in effect 350 percent more in comparison to that of terrorism. However it's alarming enough to note that the Indian road safety laws do not meet the best practice requirements for four out of five risk factors: enforcing speed limits, prevention of drunk driving, safety of children and use of helmets. The scenario in Bengal is however growing from bad to worse in terms of accidents caused due to rash driving of the yellow-taxis; the percentage of accidents caused as a result has gone up by 6-7% in the last couple of years. I had once overheard an elderly gentleman requesting an arrogant taxi driver to drive slow through the over-crowded Burrabazar area; his earnest appeals could be heard even from a distance, sadly it made no impact. Honestly speaking, I'm perturbed...and concerned as well; these days I'm very unsure of boarding a taxi or a rented car, you never know what waiting for you as the wheels kisses the boulevard.

Well, as they say, no matter how complicated the problem is, the disclosure is pretty much round the corner- it was on such a "anxious" car-ride from Salt Lake Sector V to the New Secretariat that I came across a Kiran Bedi's tweet and it immediately changed my perspective. I wanted to know more about Goodyear's path-breaking initiative and to my utter astonishment, I did figure out that the hashtag #GoodyearSaferRoads was trending on twitter for the last 24 hours. Another prominent hashtag that caught my attention in this period was #SaferRoadsSaferYou. I quickly surfed through the content shared with the hashtag and what I deciphered was prodigious in true sense of the term. It's often said that whenever the problem statement seems formidable enough, go back to the roots....and this has been the backbone of this pragmatic initiative by Goodyear India. Their closely knit collaboration with the Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) for formulating a unique road safety programme ‘Safer Roads, Safer You’, has been one of the key talking points of late. The initiative is aimed at offering complimentary training to selected taxi drivers in Delhi NCR and Mumbai. It goes without saying that the vision of this initiative i.e. to train 2,555 drivers in Delhi and Mumbai between December 2015 and March 2016 is a far-sighted one. A one-day workshop was conducted for groups of 20 taxi drivers to create awareness and cover critical aspects such as defensive driving, passenger comfort and safety, vehicle maintenance, personal management and incident management. Furthermore, a selected set of drivers were handed an incentive of Rs 500 and a complimentary accidental death insurance policy of Rs 2,00,000. Most importantly, a completion certificate was also handed over to all the participants of the workshop; that is an important record to keep as well. It pretty much meets the certification requirements as well. You can read more about the initiative here.

Some inspiring words from Rajeev Anand, Vice Chairman & Managing Director of Goodyear India- “Goodyear India is committed to helping build and support collaborative programs that create positive outcomes for the people, communities and the world around us. Specifically, the company focuses on promoting safe mobility, helping to make the communities stronger & safer. With ‘Safer Roads, Safer You,’ we hope to create a culture of safe driving and passenger care in the taxi service industry to help increase ridership of the public transportation system, thereby benefiting the fleet owners, taxi drivers, police organizations & end-users”. This would certainly qualify as one of the most effective & efficacious initiatives undertaken by any Indian brand so far.

Goodyear Safer Roads Safer You:
 Drivers Sensitization Session
Source: Twitter
“With our association with Goodyear India, we hope to improve the customer service standards and to control occurrences of traffic violations. This initiative will address these issues through its various workshops and will provide an opportunity to the State to regain the trust of people, especially tourists, in the taxi service and its public transportation system.”- Dr. Rohit Baluja, President, Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) aptly summed it up. This collaboration would certainly ensure proper sensitization of the vehicle owners and drivers, thereby ensuring a safer and impregnable driving experience on the busy Indian roads. We sincerely hope to see an exponential fall in the count of road-accidents in next 5 years or so; my sincere regards to Goodyear India for taking up the first step in this very respect. You, my friend, have led from the front and pretty much shown us the way! You can connect to GoodYear's official Twitter handle for more details about this path-breaking initiative.
You can read more about this initiative by visiting the following links: Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4, Article 5, Article 6 .

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Humans of TISCON....

An Ode to the Humans of TISCON: The play of light and shadow...
Shot taken inside the workshop.
"Well done Sammya, you have been our best on-ground resource in this financial year...we are awarding you with a hike of....."- The otherwise ruthless creature sitting on the opposite side of the chair chanted. Frankly speaking, those words didn't "register", what did make an impact was the usage of this terminology "resource". Infact, I have been hearing this for long enough and I'm still unsure of the queer metaphor. Either a stock or a strategy, I reckon we have bridged the gap already. When it comes to responding to RFP's through competitive bidding, we do expend that extra bit of effort to finalize the "resourcing matrix"; there's always this intention of deploying the right resources in the right place. Of course..that's one side of the story alright. It's almost like the game of chess where the player decides the strategic moves, those 16 pieces being his "resources". It is however, important to note that in an industry these "pieces" rather the resources can regulate your "moves". The "people" aspect can turn out to be the strength of any organization; yes there would be machines, but you would need people to run them efficiently. Take a look at the image (above) closely, it is thought-provoking in many ways. There's a beautiful play of "light and shade" in this image and it depicts the congenital intent of moving from the "dim and dusk" to bright "daylight". There's hope in there. 
Let's take a look at 5 of my key take-aways from our visit to the Jamshedpur plant of Tata TISCON from the people perspective.

1. Workaholism is their religion: Goodness gracious me, I had the 'privilege' of interacting with two of the most workaholic entities inside the plant Mr. Sushil Patra and Mr. Gurcharan Singh who have been working with TISCON for the last 8 years or so and 'living' every day of their existence. But what's more important is their dedicated towards the assigned task; right through the informal discussion that we had, they kept looking at their wrist-watches rather anxiously...yes, they were getting late for work. 
"When do you generally wake up in the morning and come to work?"- I had asked.
"4:30 AM"-Gurcharan replied prompt-"We generally go for a quick-fire morning run and then head over to the workshop directly, that's our motivation!" Oh BOY! That's allegiance for you.
"And at times, we prefer to stay back at the workshop at night after work. There's a lot more fun in sleeping right beside your welding machine. But 'Sir' doesn't give us permission."- Sushil grinned. There was an effulgent spark in his eyes as he talked about the life inside the premises of Tata TISCON in Jamshedpur.
"There are times when you feel like coming to work on a Sunday, you know, the 'euphony' of gas-cutting resonates in my ears all night. It sounds funny I know, but I can't stay away from work for too long."- The zealous young man from Patna conveyed. This is amazing really.
"Look at this fellow, he has a 2 week old baby at home and refuses to leave work before 8 PM"- He pointed towards a middle-aged "versed" resource at a distance who was literally rushing to the adjacent workshop.
"We work for over 10-12 hours in a day and never feel fatigued"- Gurcharan continued-"We have a fantastic set of colleagues out here, mazaak mazaak me kaam kar lete hai!" - The manifestation of effervescent joy and euphoria at work, that's a rarity...!

An Ode to the Humans of TISCON: Mr. Sushil Patra, Employee, TISCON
Work Profile & responsibilities- Gas cutting and welding
2. The legacy and association with TISCON: Well, one of the most common questions that I face regularly is "Are you satisfied with your job? Your profile? Are you loyal to the brand?" Honestly speaking, I do not have a concrete answer to this. It's almost like a routine, a sense of inclination that drives us to work every-day and it goes without saying that on majority of the occasions, the sense of belonging is missing. We might be great performers in the firm, but in effect, we are chasing our individual goals leading to individual development. Reality check! Meet Mr. Anup Kumar who has been a part of the 'scheme of things' over two decades now and is a flag bearer of what has been quite an esteemed legacy. We,as human beings, tend to draw inspiration from the related set of events and practices happening around us; we do carry forward those conspicuous components and blend them to form an intrinsic aspect of life. Tata TISCON has been a part of his life right from the salad days and he has abided by the "call". 
"I would love to see my children work here as well"- He was buoyant right through this discussion-"Tata TISCON has given us so much, and it has a lot more to offer to the future generations."- He said.
"I have colleagues who have spent over 30 years with this organization, they have a sense of belonging here and they have been with the management during the tough times. TISCON has been pretty much like an umbrella and we have taken our refuge" - He mentioned. Oh yes, he has been spot on in many ways, it's a two way channel; the responsibility lies with the future generation as well to carry this venerable legacy. It's a rich assortment of fresh talent and experience associated with this brand.

An Ode to the Humans of TISCON: Rendezvous with Mr. Anup Kumar, 
Head Product Application Group, TISCON
3. The Banter Quotient: "I remember the day when there was a deadly accident inside the premises, there was this huge shaft that fortuitously fell on my colleagues arm. We thought he would not survive. But...."- Gurcharan narrated a nerve-wrecking story-"But he held on....on the way to the hospital, he was still smiling at us; trying to calm those frayed nerves." Such casualties are rare in this organization, but when it happens, the workers fight it out together.
"This is how we work out here, sharing silly jokes, indulging in occasional leg-pulling to ease out the load"- Mr. Probal Chowdhury, their team-mate articulated. He has been associated with the firm for over 17 years now and has enjoyed this association thoroughly.
Lunch time is the most "happening" time of the day when workers from the different units come together and share their day-long-stories. 
I have been associated with the cluster development programme for the Micro, Small and Medium scale enterprises, Government of West Bengal for a while now and I reckon, the most impending issue is definitely in terms of collaborative effort and trust building. When people from different background, different skill-sets, different set of ideas come together towards a bigger goal, that's when history is created. Individual efforts and competitive rivalry can be an restraining force, thereby lowering the productive output and in turn, the profitability.
"Though we have individual sector specific of expertise, there is no discrimination inside the plant and its premises; we know each other very well. Infact, it helps us to gel well and to share grouse and grievances in the long run. Most of us have become family friends now"- Mr. Probal asserted, they are 'building relationships' in the process. There's a strong sense of bonding that has brought these proficient employees with widely different backgrounds together, under a single roof. The fact that we spotted a bunch of Freshers rehearsing a skit for an upcoming competition inside the premises, reinforced that fact that the "fun-quotient" and the essence of alliance is implanted right at the onset. We also could sense the ingrained concord between the set of presenters who had traveled to Taiwan last year as brand ambassadors of Tata TISCON on a global platform. Proud moment...!

An Ode to the Humans of TISCON: Mr. Sushil Patra, Employee, TISCON
Work Profile & responsibilities- Gas cutting and welding
4. Training and developmentWith the progress of technological development and automation, there has to be a well defined procedure for capacity building and change management; the "heads" at Tata TISCON has ensured that the employees are made aware of the recent developments. There have been regular workshops, demonstrations, sensitization sessions that have helped the employees immensely in coping up with the changing eco-system. There have been instances where semi-skilled labour, without much of background knowledge about this industry have been recruited and trained efficiently by the management to contribute in the production process.
"The management is equally concerned about our safety and impregnability, in line with the customer needs who are served with the most durable of rebars to build their homes. The training programme on safety guidelines and the equipments provided are world-class. Accidents are rare inside the factory"- One of the senior-most employees, associated with the welding process revealed. This has been one of the key talking points across major industrial sectors across the globe, the employees would deliver to their potential provided they feel "shielded" and "sheltered" in their work-space. The workers share a very informal relationship with their managers as well, hence the process of knowledge sharing becomes all the more seamless.
"There's also a mediclaim policy for us and our family members, that is very much appreciated."- Gurcharan articulated. Amen.

An Ode to the Humans of TISCON: Mr. Gurcharan Singh, Employee, TISCON
Work Profile & responsibilities- Flame Heating, Welding, Gouging etc.

5. 'It's a different world altogether'- "Once I enter into the premises, it's a different world altogether, far away from the daily chores. The sound of cacophonous machines wakes me up and makes me realize that I'm at home"- Mr. Anup Kumar did sound poetic alright but it did make a hell lot of sense at least to me. I've been into the consulting domain for long time now and being an engineer I do miss this life; life has changed drastically over the years....I did my summer training at the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) and an exposure visit to their plant at Budge Budge was an enlivening experience. However, I didn't take up my initial job offer in the core sector; it was a circumstantial choice of course....but this visit did bring in those old memories, it refurbished the latent fervor. For all the aspiring engineers, I would certainly say that for a brand that houses & nurtures such talent and passion...there's a hell lot of potential of growth and excellence for sure. 

The following photographs are an ode to the "Humans of TISCON", the ones who have been associated with the brand for long enough and are an inspiration to the future generations who are slowly dissociating themselves from the "core sectors of engineering & application". A coalition between the youth & experience can lead to development and this sector is no exception! Also special thanks to Team Blogadda and Tata TISCON for launching this #BuildingBlogsofJoy activity, an ode to the essence of "Joy of Building".

An Ode to the Humans of TISCON: A female employee hailing from Patna, TISCON.....
An Ode to the Humans of TISCON: The synchronized walk on the way to the LD Shop inside the premises...
An Ode to the Humans of TISCON: The esteemed team of presenters...
The Team represented TISCON on a global platform in Taiwan back in 2015
An Ode to the Humans of TISCON: Mr. Probal Chowdhury, proud employee, Tata TISCON...
Putting ourselves in their shoes: That's our fellow blogger, Tiger at the rebar manufacturing center, TISCON


And of course, when there's love in the air, things become simpler. ;)
Stay tuned for the "Humans of Jamshedpur" series!
* This post is a part of the #BuildingBlogsOfJoy activity of TATA TISCON in association with BlogAdda.com. All the photographs used in this post are self-clicked and should not be used in any form without my consent.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The First Ever Instagram Exhibition in India: 5 Key Takeaways

Well, now that the press releases are out, I reckon this is the best time for me to document some of the key takeaways from the first ever Instagram official exhibition of the country that was organized in Calcutta between 7th and 9th January 2016 at the ICCR. Ummm, I have always been brutally honest with all my blog-posts and this would be no exception. Alright, let's go for it.....


1. Collaboration works wonders: An universally proven fact that was validated yet again right through the various phases of this fantastic event; the short-listing, preparatory, authenticating and "freezing" phases happened efficiently and rather expeditiously because of the ingrained co-ordination between Team Facebook, Instagram, Scroll.in, Streets of Calcutta and Calcutta Instagrammers. Without being based, I firmly believe that collaborating with local photo-enthusiastic communities was a key master-stroke in the entire scheme of things. The regular sharing knowledge, expertise, "regional know-how" and cross-linking of the popularity quotient did cumulatively add up and scripted an epiphany; conceivably it did create a huge buzz. The exhibition displayed the work of 15 of our esteemed community Instagrammers in association with some brilliant snaps presented by Team Scroll.in. The fusion turned out to be very engaging indeed. Congratulations to Arpita Pramanick for being the only female Instagrammer from our community to be featured in this historic exhibition.

2. Diversity has an ingrained order: I firmly believe that Instagram, as a platform, gives you enough opportunity to express your intrinsic multifariousness in content- this could be either in form of your genre of photography or in form of spirited representation, the Instagram audience does appreciate this variety. Umm, well yes, drawing a close congruity, the first ever official Instagram exhibition was a true manifestation indeed. I have been attending photo-exhibitions/meets across the country, and it's not an over-statement when I say that this was an exceptional medley of prodigious stills. I'm perhaps not qualified enough to judge the quality of the images displayed, but without a doubt the inner foundation was very strong indeed. Yes, my friend, amidst the peripheral cover of heterogeneity and divergence reflecting in the images on display, there was a strong backbone of visual concord - these were handpicked images from the depths of Bengal.

3. Instagram is the other name for spontaneity: How often do you see a bunch of enthusiastic youngsters flocking in, clicking selfies, groufies, sharing a joke or two at presumably one of the most prestigious and celebrated venues of the city? I reckon, we all know the answer. This is what I love about Instagram and it's community in each and every part of the globe; it's the fun quotient...the exuberance factor that this platform brings on to the forum. I bet this was presumably the rowdiest of all events that have been ever organized at the ICCR, and I absolutely love this. Photography is something that people enjoy doing, and if an Instagram exhibition can bring in those like-minded people on a single platform, it's indeed a win-win situation. Congratulations to Team Facebook and Team Instagram for adding the "quotient of effervescence"; it's definitely a value-addition.

4. Social media check-ins: I'd have to scroll through the official records to quote these stats, but from what I gather, I haven't seen so many social media check-ins at the ICCR, Calcutta in course of single event for all these years. Apparently, the highest count was recorded on the 9th January 2016 with around 27 Check-ins floating on my Facebook timeline alone in the span of 8 hours of the exhibition; also perhaps the most number of organic Geo-tags at ICCR, Calcutta on Instagram. These are staggering stats because this includes people of various age-groups; and of course people who do not even have an Instagram account. I was astonished to know that people knew me through my Instagram/Twitter handle, and that includes (yes, you read it right) our Chief Guest, ace quiz-master and hon. MP Mr. Derek O' Brien. It makes perfect sense when I use the term "bridge" to describe the 'impact' of this exhibition. 

5. Mixed reaction from the photography community: Er-rm, this is indeed the most interesting aspect or rather aftermath of this memorable event. It's a critical aspect too because feedback is essential in terms of improvement, augmentation and enhancement- this is again, universally true. It goes without saying that I was very very keen in terms of gauging the reactions as a follow up of this event and as expected, it did actuate mixed reactions. As the brook of appreciation kept flowing at one end, I wasn't really surprised to decipher that a section of the photographers' community in this city still considers Instagram as a dedicated platform for sharing mobile photographs; I firmly believe that this platform and it's utility needs to be explored more....and it will happen eventually. In this very perspective, this exhibition would be the stepping stone indeed, this will set the benchmark. Let me rephrase Ravi Shastri's legendary words & predicate, in the end, the art of photography is the ultimate winner.

The First Instagram Exhibition of the country: Derek O' Brein, during the inauguration
Photo courtesy: Anubhav Chatterjee
The First Instagram Exhibition of the country: Exhibits by Debarshi-da and Swaroop.
Photo courtesy: Sourodip Ghosh
The First Instagram Exhibition of the country: Team Social Bong!
From the left Moi (@Deckle_Edge), Soumya da (@ssghosal), Indrajit da (@indrajit_lahiri)
Photo courtesy: Sourodip Ghosh
The First Instagram Exhibition of the country: Naam to suna hi hoga, photu bhi dekh lo ;)
Photo courtesy: Sourodip Ghosh
The First Instagram Exhibition of the country: Yo Yo Soumyadeep takes a selfie his exhibit
Photo courtesy: Sourodip Ghosh
* The media coverage has been superb for this event. If you want to find out more about this historic event, read these fantastic articles here:- Mashable , DNA India , Indian Express , MaaMatiManushTv , Times of India, Social Samosa , Livemint etc. Do let me know your feedback in the comments section, that helps us grow. Cheers.

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