Category: Me

Toastmasters Project-2 “Public Transport and Me”

Remember I mentioned to you all that I’ve joined Toastmasters and put up my first speech 2 months back on this space.

We are to complete 10 project speeches in the year and I moved to complete my Project-2 yesterday.  The topic I chose was the one which has been very dear to me having lived in Mumbai 26 years of my life. It also won me my first award at Toastmasters. Yes, yours truly won the “Best Speaker” award for this speech yesterday.

“Public Transport and Me”


Staggering statistics aren’t they? Don’t worry I’m not here to conduct a statistics class. Dear esteemed guests and my fellow toastmasters, I’m here to share my admiration for the public transport in a city and why I prefer to use it.

The first 2 numbers represent the two lifelines of Mumbai – its Local Train System and BEST Bus system. Growing up in the busy, crowded, crazy Mumbai city, I have spent an approximate 21,600 hours i.e. almost 1.5 years of my entire life traveling in them. Are there any folks here from London? I’m sure you are tempted to make similar calculations in your head because the 3rd line of numbers represents the London Tube – “Mind the Gap”, one of the main reasons I love London as city.  However, I can also sense folks who have rarely used a public transport thinking “What a waste of time” – spending 1.5 years of your life traveling?

 And that is exactly my point – it was never a waste of time.

 I grew up in South Mumbai where buses governed my travel to school and college. All the institutions I attended were unfortunately very strict about punctuality, my parents were also very strict with me – as a student there was no way my parents were going to let me spend 10 times the amount on a cab just cause I could grab 15 minutes of extra sleep in the morning. So I had to catch my bus on time.

I got married and moved to Suburban Mumbai; my first office was at the other end of the town – 35 Kms of travel one way via train and bus. In my 1.5 years there, I never got late to work, catching my morning 7.41 train and then the connecting 9.05 bus – That’s how efficient the transport was or still is, despite the traffic woes in the city.

 Buses & Trains taught me discipline and value of time.

Now I was spending 2-3 hours traveling daily – so I figured out ways to utilize those hours.

Reading: I read a lot! Most  of the books on my bookshelf have been completed during my bus and train travel.  I would complete 2-3 novels a week. Newspapers were bought at the bus-stop /train station every morning by me and my fellow travelers. We would read them on our way to college/office – in our small way we helped the newspaper industry earn some additional revenue.

Radio & Music: My favourite companions: I would plug in my earphones and listen to the constant chitter-chatter of my favorite radio-jockeys and latest city happenings.  I’ve come to believe that all the radio channels in the world owe their popularity to the billion public transport users. If I got bored of the radio – I would switch to my mp3 player. When else do we take out 1 hour to listen to our favorite songs?

Information Gathering: Now, if you are traveling on the London Tube or any of Europe’s main city local transport – you’ll see most people with books or with their ipods, but my city Mumbai has to be different. If you seek information don’t bother searching on google/wikipedia, the ladies train compartment in the Mumbai local train is the best source of information on parenting, kids psychology, tackling in-laws, latest film gossip, politics, recipes, knitting, shopping, work, college life, fashion trends – name it and you’ll overhear it. I never eavesdropped but Mumbai trains are so crowded that even if you want to avoid listening, the conversations still fall upon your ears and you walk out a much knowledgeable person.

The Friendships I made: Only in Mumbai do you have this concept of “bus friends” and “train friends”.  We are tied to the clock and everyone ends up taking their specific trains every single day. I made many such special friends. They lent me a shoulder when I was upset, and they jumped with excitement on any good news I shared. In those 1 hour conversations we shared our lives with each other.

 Drama on the Roads: I have seen a family of 5 trying to fit onto the 2-wheeler ride, the bickering bullying bus and cab drivers, the guy proposing to his girlfriend in the 3-wheeler auto-rickshaw, the wife and husband fighting in the car, their kids making monkey faces at the other travelers and enjoying the chaos. I have watched so much drama on the roads that I rarely missed watching television.

Going Green: Without realizing I helped the world “Go Green” in a small way – by reducing pollution and traffic by not taking my vehicle. I do my little bit to reduce the carbon footprint. Did you know how much you can contribute by not taking your car out even if it is for one day? Here are some “green” stats. Also imagine the tensions you set yourself free from by not driving in traffic.

Dubai and Me: And finally, I came to Dubai in 2006 and needless to say we did not hit it off well owing to her lack of a good public transport system. The Metro construction had just begun; I thought I was the only one eagerly waiting for the Metro but I was proved wrong – that last statistic I mentioned in the first slide is about the Dubai Metro. I hope it will soon become a lifeline of this place – just like London, New York, Shanghai, Mumbai, Singapore have their lifelines.

I take the Metro everyday from work to home. I like the 7 mins walk from here to the station – I get to see the Burj lit up beautifully in the evening and even though the ride home is just 2 stations away; the 15 minutes spent with myself listening to my favourite music makes up for a tiring day spent at work

Yeah, I’m a public transport girl – I may own a car but I’ll leave her behind any day. I’m still a Mumbaite at heart when it comes to trains and buses.

I’m leaving you all with some words about public transport to take home today – next time when we meet let me know if you’d consider becoming a public transport person too?

The “I”cebreaker

I’ve got the opportunity to join the “Toastmasters Club” – an initiative at my workplace. Today was my first speech at the club.

We give our speeches and then there is voting for the best speaker and evaluation of each speaker along with few more activities. We meet twice a month – so far it has been an interesting experience. The last time I spoke before an audience was in my MBA college during my formal paper presentations.

So doing this after a long time made me a bit nervous – though I thought I’d share my speech  on this space with you all.

Here goes – the “Icebreaker” Speech where we were to narrate a bit about ourselves to the audience.


The use of the letter “I” seemed so selfish until Steve Jobs walked in and gave it a makeover to make it the most cherished letter. The iPod, iPad, iPhone. Steve Jobs revolutionised the way we saw technology. So why am I beginning the “Icebreaker” talking about Steve Jobs when I should be telling you all about myself . There is a small relation. I’m a huge fan of Steve Jobs  – he who dared to think different. Steve Jobs and Apple are the reasons for reviving the iGeek in me. As a kid  I’ve loved gadgets – it took my mom sometime to adjust that her only daughter preferred gadgets to dolls. I would sit with my dad to repair all the electronics items in our home. Apple’s products are my little toys – my prized possessions. So I’m going to tell you something more about myself in the Apple language.

iLearn: Education is important – that is one thing that no one can take away from you. My school days were the best days of my life. My engineering college re-engineered my life. I went through the worst & best times & I learnt that success without humility has no meaning. MBA gave me the opportunity to shift streams and get back to finance, it also gave me the love of my life – I met my husband during my MBA days. My education has not stooped. I learn everyday – about life and about work from my friends, family, colleagues, and my boss. Each experience has only made my knowledge richer. It’s a great feeling to know I will never stop learning – cause that remains my biggest fear.

iLove: Cricket. My husband jokes it is my first love. I’ve watched almost every match held at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai since 1993, yes I even watched India lift  the WC live at the stadium this April. My papa and uncle took me to the stadium as a school kid and the love affair that started is not likely to end. I don’t need India to be playing to watch cricket – I can watch just about any team play cricket .Cricket makes me believe that miracles are a reality – all that one needs is some self-belief, a little faith, lots of determination and the will to work hard.

iSmile: Always. Smiling is contagious. There is story I’m going to share. As 3-year olds when my neighbour and I were playing in our pre-school , he pushed me and my left cheek hit the corner of a table. I came home with a swollen cheek that turned, red, blue and black and then there was dent that never disappeared. That dent is my dimple – the first thing folks notice about my smile. When I see myself in the mirror I realise sometimes accidents can be good. I cannot thank my neighbour enough for giving me my best gift.

iUnwind : via my music, books, and cooking. They are my anti-depressants. They help me detox my mind. My Ipod is my permanent companion, when I’m travelling I always have a book by my side and I enjoy experimenting and trying out new dishes. Apart from all these I also believe sleeping is the best way to unwind – if I could, I’d sleep for hours – it is the most peaceful thing on this planet

iTrust: The goodness in people. An incident that happened 2 weeks before my wedding taught me not to lose this trust. As my wedding was nearing I was busy shopping and visiting relatives. One evening we returned home by cab after the usual busy day; an hour later I realised my purse had gone missing. I was distressed as it had cash, credit cards and my id cards. Then I received a call from my fiancé who had received a call from the cab driver. His daughter had found my purse in the cab. The cab driver drove back 20 kms just to return my purse – not a penny was lost. He refused to accept any gift from me My mother and I requested him to come for my wedding, not only did he turn up with his family – he even brought me a gift.

IBelieve: Struggles are a must else we don’t appreciate life and the people around us. As the 6-year old Calvin sums up Life:

“Life is like a topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine, and valleys of frustration and failure.”

 Those valleys are your struggles. Once in the valley, you can only go up.  If it doesn’t kill you, it only makes only you stronger. Struggles give you a choice – to be a cynic or to be an optimist – I choose to be the latter. I learnt that choice from my husband & my friend D. They both are the most  optimistic people I’ve met in my life. Cynicism is a word absent in their dictionary.

iAdmire – My mother- because it  is not easy to raise a hyper-active, rebellious girl all on your own – and also ensure that Daddy’s little girl never misses her Papa. She is witty, sarcastic, forthright, practical, impartial, loved by one and all. There was a strong reason why God chose her as my mother. I know at times I don’t give her enough credit for the person I’m today.

And finally,

iAspire : To be the 10% of the person my father was. He the simple middle–class Maharashtrian man, intelligent writer & orator, excellent teacher and guide. Unfettered by life’s challenges. I always saw him reach out to people and help them out but when he passed away I realised how many lives he had truly touched. When I got married every single person we invited turned up for my wedding, including his best friend who was bed-ridden for years – my father’s love and goodwill brought them all to bless me.

These were a few titbits about me. I take your leave with one of my favourite quotes – it comes from the pen of “Grantland Rice” – one of the finest American Sportswriters.

“For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost –
But how you played the Game.”

I believe our life is game – and it is in our hands to choose how we play it.

Regrets Anyone?

This post has been selected among BlogAdda’s Spicy Saturday’s Picks

Yesterday night I had a short but interesting conversation with my engineering classmate. Just took a look at where we stood currently in life – all that we wished we could’ve done and reasons for not doing so.

Every generation looks at the younger generation and wishes they had the opportunities bestowed on the younger lot and imagines how different their world would’ve been; and when you start falling in the former category you know you are not so young anymore.

I look back often at my life and take stock – the kind of expectations that were built up from school days – how I was an utter disappointment in my own book in my choice of graduation stream – how the post graduation helped in more ways than I had imagined – how I never ever gave it a thought to make a profession out of my hobbies or passions.

When you are brought up in a middle-class Maharashtrian household, the first thing you learn is to build a good career and get a decent paying job. Any other creative yearnings are to be maintained as hobbies not converted to professions.

I dabbled in few extra-curricular activities but discovered that my biggest problem was zero perseverance to take them up seriously to the next step ahead (plus I never thought that I could ever make a career out of the). Guess my mother sensed it very early and I was given ultimatums – to consider them seriously enough or to give them up altogether. Those activities cost my parents their hard earned money and in the 90s Rs100 had a lot of value unlike today where I see teenagers buying Barista coffee for the same amount. Being good at academics was merely my excuse to not pursue anything else seriously. The lure of a lucrative career at the end of completing a good education from the best of colleges seemed more realistically achievable for me rather than pursuing a career in dancing or journalism. The risk in opting for the latter seemed too large then and I admire my friends today who have made a name in their chosen fields – different from the regular boring people like me:-)

During my school & college years I was obsessed with becoming an IAS officer – it seemed to me that it was one place from where I could make a difference to this country. My father most encouraging and my mother most opposing towards this ambition of mine. I sometimes wonder if my papa had not passed away so early in my life, if I would’ve still pursued that dream of mine. My mother did try her bit to give her encouragement, although reluctantly, but I felt I lost my zest to pursue it seriously, often comparing the expectations of the job and the other easier options available to me.

Apart from IAS, I also considered being a historian – history fascinated me, still does especially Maratha history. What could this career option offer me? Peanuts compared to the others available on a platter and so a possible major in history by choosing the Arts stream was ruled out.

I was never an all-rounder at school – probably the quintessential geek you know. The girl who topped her academics and was good for nothing at everything else; the only other activity I knew I could’ve done equal justice was classical dance. When the classes close to home moved away – mom said that as working parents they both did not have the time to pick me up and drop me to the classes. They were willing to do it but I had to show that much more interest and dedication which was clearly lacking from my side. If I was looking to take it up professionally or pursue it seriously she made it pretty clear that it will never fetch me the returns that my academic degrees would. I was not willing to take the risk and I chose the easier option out.

I’ve over the years craved for creative genes – my mom is a powerhouse of talent and my father was an excellent writer and orator. Both however never got the opportunities to showcase their talent and build a profession out of it – if circumstances would’ve been great, he would’ve made an excellent lawyer and she would’ve built her art school. I was not blessed with their gifts but when they saw that their only child was blessed with a little above average intelligence they preferred that she got to see less struggles in her life. Best way to ensure would be to get her the best education opportunities that will help her settle down comfortably in life rather than spend time as a struggling dancer, historian or journalist. I can’t blame them for the options they kept before me cause they only had the best interests in mind. My mumma has often confessed that if things were different financially maybe she would’ve let me run the risk of not choosing to pursue professional studies.

We had not been hit by the internet boom in the 90s when we were studying. The 21st century was just opening up and by the time we realized the power of internet – we had completed our mandatory education and were settled in marriage and comfortable jobs. I’m rather envious of the options available to the current generation – I would’ve given anything to be born in the late 80s/early 90s. Those kids have had different streams open up and parents who are ready to break the traditional mould.

My example was always given in my family for my academics and education; obviously you guessed right that I was mostly hated by my younger cousins and nieces/nephews who had no inclination towards academics. Whenever their parents requested me to guide them on the importance of education, I told them that education today is no longer defined by a medicine/engineering/MBA degree. The world has changed and there are a million opportunities on offer. They need to pursue what they like, in the fields of their choice. There is not much age gap between us and I probably wanted them to pursue what I could not. Result – I’m proud aunt today of an international award winning graphic designer, an architect in the making, a dietician in the making, and the younger ones looking good to excel in different arenas.

So do I regret my choices? Yes and No. Given my interests I’m glad I’m in the financial field and into some hard core analytics. It gives me much joy. I’m glad I’ve kept my cricket writing to a hobby; else who knows I would’ve been bored of it and that would’ve been depressing for me. I’m glad I’ve the independence today to choose the dance form I want to learn without bothering to clear exams for each level. Would I have done things differently if given the chance – yes – I would’ve been less of a geek , taken my limited creative abilities seriously and made the most of it. Given them a serious chance – I would’ve failed but atleast I would lived with the fact that I had tried.

I also feel that maybe now my generation is better placed to let the kids make their own choices – not only are we more financially secure but  we are also willing to let our kids take the risks they want, let them fail and try again.

My mom often jokes with me that my first salary was equal to her last salary in 35 years of her government service; then she turns serious and tells me  how proud she feels about that fact. Her daughter is independent, doing reasonably well in her career and still getting to do all that she missed out in her early days. So when she says this to me, I know exactly why she insisted on me making a decent career instead of pursuing hobbies where the future was uncertain. That makes me regret a little less on the things I missed out on in this life:-)

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