Sunday, August 31, 2008

Speech Fiasco

I do like the idea of public speaking and up until some time ago thought i was not too bad at it. A speech, if you could call it that, on the Welcome Night for the MBA batch of 2010 at LUMS made sure i change my mind on that thought. It was the first time i had a prepared speech, i love impromptu, i took 2 hours to write it. What contributed to the debacle was a bad audio system, a bad venue and a mike way too far from my face. Here is the tex of the speech.

"Assalam u alaikam ladies and gentleman and welcome to the “Welcome night” for the batch of 2010. There are quite a few activities planned for the evening and im sure you all hate long speeches so I’ll keep this as short as I can.

First of all, on behalf of the batch of 2009 I would like to congratulate you on being added to the illustrious group of individuals who have been a part of the LUMS MBA program. You have here today because your academic performance and work experience make you potential leaders of tomorrow. It is indeed an honor to be in this group and I am sure you will give due respect to this position of privilege.

Now to the more important part, being where you are right now, at the start of a rigorous 2 year MBA program you have plenty of choices in how to go about these 2 years. As your seniors, we consider it our duty and right to give you guidance based on our experiences. Whether you choose to learn from our learnings or want to learn from your own mistakes, is up to you but I would recommend getting some input before you go any further.

To keep it simple, ill choose two obvious options. The first option is that you choose to study real hard. You choose to get as many HP’s as you can, you choose to spend long hours in the library and stay up till 4 am reading up cases a week in advance and you choose to make your parents real proud with your grades and scholastic achievements, you choose to prove your worth not just to everyone around you but to yourself as well. After all there isn’t an academic stage in Pakistan which is as big as the LUMS MBA program. So that’s one option and to those who choose this option I wish you the best of luck and hope you reach the ultimate heights in academic excellence.

Now some students in this program choose not to take that route and instead decided to make a little more use of the freedom offered by college life. You may recall your time during your bachelors program which im sure wasn’t so long ago and along with all those fun filled memories, there are those moments of regret of things you DID NOT do. In the next 2 years you will be pushed to study day in and day out and its easy to get lost in all that rut so my advice is to not let that get to you. Rather live out these two years such that when you finish the MBA program you don’t end up with any regrets at all. Life’s too short and these 2 years will pass u by before u know it So just remember to live a little. You can join a society, become the president of society XY and Z, If you look around you, you’ll see some very special people. People you will make real good friendships with. Study them a little more than your books and I assure you, you’ll learn a lot more about how to better live your life. I must make it clear however I am not encouraging reckless behavior or careless shenanigans but just showing the option to selectively choose actions of a more… frivolous nature which of course must be based on mature judgment. This advice does come with a warning attached, if you take this option too far, you may not be here two years from now. Do remember that before you make your decision.

Well, that’s my two cents worth, its up to you which path you take but just remember any time you need any help you’ll find your colleagues from the batch of 2009 right behind you waiting to give you an extra hand. Thank you for listening and have a nice evening."

It wasn't all that bad though, hanging out with some friends helped ease the pain from the ego-bruising!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kuala Lumpur - Day 1 - Arrival

I reached Kuala Lumpur at 3:30 pm after a sleepless night in Karachi. I had been at the airport at 4am after last minute passport retrieval from the Cargo service. Before then, I had been hanging out with Foaad, Zahra and Shehzad at a rock concert at the Art Council followed by dinner at Karachi Bar BQ and a chill out at Shehzads place.

Immigration was exceptionally smooth but not so was the baggage retrieval which took well over 15 minutes. Once i was out of the airport and saw some of the Malaysian landscape it really was an exceptionally enthralling experience. It was so starkly evident how Malaysia has progressed into a relatively well developed nation. There are well organized structured systems in place, people are happy doing their tasks, business seems to be doing well. There is plenty of multiculturalism, several ethnicities living together. There may be one of the 55% of the 24 million population muslims sitting next to you or an orthodox Christian, Hindu or Buddhist and it just will not matter. There is no apparent segregation or rift between them at all.

Food Street - Bintang

Enjoying some local delicacies with Chen and Rebecca (not in picture)

The weather is a bit warm as I find my way to the YMCA which has highly affordable yet very decent rooms. There is a Laundromat, hair saloon, an internet café, electronics store and a grocery store within a minute walk of the place. In the evening headed over to Bukit Bintang to chill out with Chen Chow and Rebecca we walked around the place. Some the Star Hill shopping mall, which is ultra cool and expensive! We ate some roadside Malaysian food in a place like the food street with various vendors selling different types of food. It was an awesome start to the trip.

Kuala Lumpur - Day 2 - Hang out

Most of the delegates for the HPAIR conference had not yet arrived in KL. So took the time to learn more about the MM2H program and spent most of the afternoon meeting government authorized local representatives and using the very efficient train system which reminded me a lot of the T in Boston. In the early evening, Ghazi, my cousin, came over from his college town and we hung out for a bit before heading out to a get together for HPAIR people all set up by Chen.
Scintillating Malay dances
We had a nice group of people including Chen the Malaysian guide, Xiao Ming from Hong Kong, Darby from Canada (her brother goes to ISU!!!), Mohit from a village in Punjab, India, Daniel, a beer loving dude from China/Canada, Hidemi from Japan who will work for Morgan Stanley M&A team when she graduates, Ming a, quiet, local Malaysian, Van and Kirsty from Vietnam and Liza who has her own consulting business in the Phillipines, Ghazi, myself and a few other whom I did not get acquainted to. Most of these guys had travelled to 5-8 countries already which was astounding. Had a pretty wholesome buffet which had a variety of stuff from prawns, shrimp and buttered vegetables to fruit in a spicy sauce and roasted chicken. We witnessed some pretty decent dances from Malaysian, Chinese and Indian backgrounds before we went on stage ourselves and had a great time doing the bamboo dance, some cha-cha type dance and other local dances. It was truly great and well worth the RM 70 that we paid for it all.
Went on stage to do the bamboo dance
The night wasn’t quite over. Those mentioned above excluding Ghazi head out to a bar called the Luna Bar which has some pretty awe inspiring views. The place had a pool instead of a dance floor and was on the 36th floor of some building with an excellent view of the KLCC. Very much recommended spot for anyone travelling there and we had a lovely evening out there. Came home at about 2 am with no real plans for the next day but the way plans are made out here, do not know what might come up next.
Friends at the Luna Bar

Kuala Lumpur - Day 3 – Conference initiated

I switched hotels and came to the JW Marriott which is where the conference was to be held. It is located in an area called Binkut Bintang or more generally the triangle, which is an awesome place with lots happening all around.
The pool on the 6th floor
More relaxing in the afternoon
Did initial registration for the conference, chatted up with some new people there were plenty to choose from as we had over 300 delegates participating, and heard some boring speakers before about 12-15 of us went and had dinner at a place in the Pavilion called Michelangelo’s followed by a pre-party at Xiao Ming’s place attended by about 20 of us. I think the 20 of us were from 17 different countries and 5 continents.
The fancy dinner
It was incredibly good gelling experience, so much so, that instead of going to a club for partying we ended up staying there for the evening. Afterwards a few of us gathered at Sams place for more partying before finally sleeping at about 3 which was very early for the upcoming days standards.

Kuala Lumpur - Day 4 - Conference and Networking

It was a day full of events at the business conference. It started with an introductory session on globalization which was quite interesting. Despite the fact that I was extremely tired after the previous nights extravaganza and that I missed more of the speech I asked a question to the speaker from GE regarding the role of government policy in curbing the fast pace of globalization to safeguard local companies. Afterwards we had a case discussion on GE’s Eco friendly hybrid engine for rail transport which was really exciting as a high profile employee of GE was present to answer questions and oversee the case discussion. More of the same events in the evening, finally got done at about 4.

Some heavy pre-partying
Networking from around the globe
Dancing away
Then we chilled out the remainder of the evening. Had some seafood dinner at the Pavilion food court followed up by some solid pre-partying at XM’s place and then we were off to the Asian Heritage Drive where there were a row of clubs to choose from. Pretty neat experience, I am not even sure which club we went to but it turned out pretty nice. There was a group of about 20 of us so we pretty much took over the place somewhat. We had the usual 3-4 am pool party followed by some post-partying at Sam’s place. Then we finally called it a night around 6 or so.

Our little group

Kuala Lumpur - Day 5 - Conference and more networking

I woke up a little groggy at 10 after about 3 hours of sleep. It was already too late for the plenary session and the first round of sessions. Not that I regretted that, as I was to later find out they were quite boring. Had a nice breakfast by the pool at the Marriot to detoxicate and rehydrate myself before attending a session Feng Shui – The art of good living. That also turned out to be very boring so I left that early and headed of to the Sauna which was just mind-blowingly relaxing. 5 star hotels rock…or I think that what the Marriott was.

Breakfast by the pool :)
The Sauna....relaxing!!!
In the evening we had dinner at the food court across the street in the Pavillion. Later on in the evening there was a delegate party at Planet Hollywood. That was pretty cool. We partied with many of the newly made friends at the conference from literally all over the world. It was indeed an incredible evening. Some left for the Poppy Lounge, a pretty hip-hop club but Planet Hollywood had a good crowd going. So it was aight!
Typical dinner - Exciting seafood
Planet Hollywood - Good times.
Came back to the Marriott for our regimented pool party routine, did some fun pool stunts which were more fun to do because it was past 2 am. We had a post party in my room. And Yosuke was kind enough to let us do what we wanted despite the fact he was sleeping. Later on we chilled at Sam’s place for a little while before having breakfast at 7 and heading to bed soon after.

Kuala Lumpur - Day 6 - Fish Massage and Sky Bar

I had a relatively free morning, so slept in 4 hours. Just chilled out for most of the afternoon, made an attempt to go shopping for souvenirs didn’t really find anything reasonable and affordable so we just walked around and chilled out before we came back to the hotel and took another shot at the Sauna which once again absolutely rocked. In the late afternoon, I arranged for all of us to go for a very exotic and therapeutic fish massage. You basically put your feet in a large aquarium and these little fish (some were as big as my hand) nibble on your legs and gobble up all the dead skin leaving your legs fresh and healthy. It was pretty intense and some of us couldn’t keep our feet in for too long at all.
The fish massage
Yes, we ate that
Friends at the Gala Dinner
In the evening we had the gala dinner, which was truly exceptional. We had several exotic dishes to choose from. It was quite superb. As exhausted as we were, we still went out for the bars. Then we headed to the famous Sky Bar which is on the 38th floor of Traders tower and has a pretty neat view of the KLCC and the Twin towers. We chilled about around the pool and played some fun drinking games with a group of Koreans before heading back home. I lost my phone on the way back and spent a good 45 minutes of frenzied panic before knowing, I’d lost it in a friends car.
A view of the Sky Bar
A view of the Twin Towers
Then we chilled out at Sam’s place, played some really fun card games and then had some food at 6 am before finally hitting the sack at about 7 down at XM’s place near KLCC. Another fantastic day of a hell of a trip.

Kuala Lumpur - Day 7 - Goodbyes

Woke up at about 11 am and headed back to the Marriott to hang out with Darby, Sam and XM. Alice had already left, missed out on saying goodbye to her. The four of us went out and got one of those fancy massages at a pretty neat little place. I would highly recommend the massage, coming in at just 44 RM for an hours massage; it was a steal and extremely soothing for the body. Then we had lunch at a roadside eatery which was pretty cool except it wasn’t too great for the tummy. We said goodbye to Xiao Ming, who was heading back home to return to school which had started already. Came back to the Marriott and got a hold of my phone, thanks a lot to Tammy who had been extremely helpful the whole time. More goodbyes as Darby was headed back home as well and so were many others.

The Conference was over and so was my stay in Binkut Bintang. Went back to the YMCA in KL Central and checked in there. Had a bit of a fever going due to fatigue mainly so slept for a couple of hours before coming back for dinner at La Botega in the Pavillion with Tammy, Nadine and Sam. It was nice to have a relaxed more simple tasting meal after lots of exotic food over the past week. After that it was time for goodbyes, Nadine was heading off for more partying in Singapore, Sam had to prepare for the Academic Conference, Hidemi was heading back home to Japan, Tammy was heading back soon and Chen the local was to stay in Malaysia of course. So met with all these guys, said our heartfelt goodbye and then I roamed the streets of Kuala Lumpur one last time before coming back to a much more regular sleeping time of 1-2 am at the YMCA.

Kuala Lumpur - Day 8 - Last Day

I had a sleepless night due to very high fever. Wanted to go shopping for friends and family but did not have the energy to do so. Checked out of the YMCA one last time, left my Ufone sim behind, headed straight to KL Central station to get to the airport, really enjoyed the scenery while on my way to the airport in the train service. Then it was the two hour wait at the Airport before finally heading off back to Karachi and the next morning to Lahore.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mumbai - Day 1

Well, i got to Mumbai on 30th August, i had previously had a delay from Lahore to Karachi due to a bad weather, but no such problem on my flight to Mumbai. Got there in the early afternoon and surprising it took me only about 20-25 minutes to get out of the airport. They had an extra checking feature for Pakistanis but still it was all super easy and super fast. Awesome!

Met up with Samir (the groom), Richa (the bride), her father and two brothers. We went down to a local eatery called Yogi - Chinese Indian style restaurant with not the best taste in music and food that took forever to prepare and wasn't especially good. But there was A LOT of good food coming my way over the next couple of days.

Samir and Richa
Uncle Arjun party guy
Gaurav and I

Went home, which at that time, was the Reliance guesthouse in ChunnaBhatti. Got dressed and drove down to Arjun (Richa's Uncle) party. Almost had an altercation with 5 rowdy youngsters cause my driver had blocked there way as we had stopped for the train to pass. Anyways, got to the party which was at the CCI Lounge which is like an ultra exclusive spot, they dont even accept new members anymore. Arjun Uncle rocked the evening, great hospitality, amazing liquor, even better tidbits to eat, met some really lovely people from both sides of the family, also got to meet with Gaurav, friend from college. Exceptionally good evening and great dinner i might add.

After the party which lasted a mere 3 hours and ended at 11 pm we, now this included Samir, Richa, Gaurav, Manish (Samir's brother in law) an awesome fella, really lively, and Pranay Richa's brother headed out to the bars. First up was Jeffries' a nice little hangout where we had some tequila shots and a couple of drinks. Then we went on to a new place called 'dragon-fly'. A very trendy little nightclub located in an office building. Restaurant by evening, club by night, it was ultra cool. Alcohol was ultra expensive as it is all over Mumbai, had a margarita and some beer.

That was it for Day-1, i was exhausted but there was much more in store for Day-2.

Mumbai - Day 2

Another nice day in Mumbai, it rained again. It is lovely when it rains, there is a good breeze and its not too humid. I stayed at home mostly, chilled with the family, did some of the wedding errands, put the gifts for the guests in thier rooms, and mostly just relaxed and soaked in some of the Mumbai sun.

In the evening we went out to a place called Blue Frog and believe me this place was just incredible. They had fancy blue lights, live music from local upcoming artists which was totally rocking, free entry and some good drinks as well. Even bought a CD from the place.

My phone camera can never do justice to the lighting and aroma of the place

Mumbai - Day 3

The day was spent sightseeing. Gaurav Sangtani aka Santa drove me around Bandra and Linking road (links it to Khar). More than anything else, i ate. I ate a lot. I had a samosa (smaller than the Pakistani ones, frankies (like a paratha roll), sevpuri which are excruciatingly tasty and a street side sandwich with all the trimmings. It was great, i was stuffed, so we had some Thumbsup and did some shopping.

On a busy street in Bandra

Gaurav having some Sevpuri
Prices were very similar to here in Pakistan, i bought some shoes from Metro, very affordable, i think i needed them for the upcoming Malaysia trip and i used them extensively during the wedding as well. We drove around some more. I saw Shah Rukh Khan's house, Salman Khan's house and the under construction Abhishek Bachan house. All pretty mediocre considering thier incomes but they had nice and views and apparently the land costs in most parts of Mumbai are appalingly high.

Folks dancing at the party
In the evening, Mr ManMohan had thrown a surprise party. It was only the close family and it was absolutely rocking. Had an awesome time. At one point, Mr Manmohan had the music stopped to make an announcement, he got everybody's attention and then introduced me expecially the fact that i had come all the way from Pakistan. A fact, that far earlier, had reached everyones ear and over the next few days, they made sure they had a chat with me and welcomed, and thanked me for attending. It was both flattering and heart warming. Nice memories! =)

Mumbai - Day 4

The wedding festivities now in full swing. There was plenty in store to watch and learn. There was the Bhaat in which the uncles (mamoos) are officially invited to the wedding by the groom's mother and in return they felicitate the groom and his mother. There is lots of laughter and joy as there is a lot of mithai to be served and little gifts exchanged.

Before the Baraat leaves there are other smaller ceremonies and its all good fun. Then we have the official ring ceremony and after that the dancing begins. There are just 6-7 co-ordinated dances and then the dholwala takes over and we had some good ol fashioned bhangra for a while before the DJ starts playing latest songs which everyone danced to. All the while, there were lots of things to eat, prawns, chicken teriyaki, veggie patties, rolls etc an open bar and also a table from where to get Bhelpur, dahi bhallas and channa chaat. Lots of drinking later, the dancing continued, dinner was served which was scrumptious but i was too busy elsewhere =) which i would regret immensely later.
The couple dressed colorfully

The Couple dancing away

and so does everyone else

Since the sangeet began at around 6 by 1-2 am the event is well over and like most people i was done for the evening and retired to my hotel room. Those with some energy left over head off to the bars, Gaurav and Vivek, who had come from Dubai right after the event went clubbing till 5 am and had some real good fun. While some of Richa's blonde brazillian friends =D ended up gatecrashing a Salman Khan party where Katrina Kaif was there. What a day!

Mumbai - Day 5

After an exhausting Day 4, there was not much respite for the attendees at the wedding since it was going to be another day jam-packed with exciting tradiotions, food and lots more. By this time Vivek from ISU had joined us and we had some good chit-chat. Today's two events included the reception and the wedding.

It was all done at the Grand Hyatt, Mumbai but before we headed off there the Baraat got togethor at the Reliance Apartments and we all danced to the drum beat for a little while before assembling into buses and cars and heading off. We got off about a kilometer before the hotel and then we had a band playing as we danced bhangra infront of the groom, who was on a big carriage pulled by horses. Imagine that, me, wearing a turban in the middle of the afternoon and dancing on the street in Central Mumbai. =)

We finally made it in into the aiconditioned and quite superbly decorated marriage Hall. There was an open bar nearby, and lots of tasty tidbits to taste. The first half of the wedding included several customs, most importantly the pheras. After which there was a break for an hour and a half during which everyone changed into formal clothes (we had so far been wearing shalwar kameez (afghani as it is called there), kurta pajama, sherwani etc) and then we had a big ass dinner and more customs and more fun.

All nervous and shy for the ceremony

Lectured by the pundit

Going through the knot untying custom
Then the couple are finally allowed to go to thier suite but, Gaurav, Vivek, Swapnil, myself and a bunch of Richa's friends, as we were such good friends, followed them to thier room and teased and kept them company for a good half an hour or so before finally letting them be. We though of doing some clubbing but as Richa's friends were leaving for Brazil we decided to chill and came back where we chilled. =) Brought to end a very exciting and entertaining wedding. Really enjoyed the experience and the hospitality shown by them all.

Spoiling the fun in thier bedroom
Day 6, and i was travelling back home to Karachi in the afternoon!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mumbai visit

I was in Mumbai for the past week for a friends wedding. stayed at the comfy guest house (Swadeshi apartments) of Reliance in Chunna Bhatti, Central Bombay. It was somewhat discomforting but quite enlightening to see the stark difference between the Mumbai slum-dwellers and those quite well-off living virtually side by side.

Had a great time at the wedding and could not help but relate all the customs, rituals and events to weddings here in Pakistan. Ill be writing in detail of things i did but currently need to get back to work =)
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