Saturday, June 27, 2015

My interview of Stan Wawrinka

Stan Wawrinka is in danger: from his hideous, chequered pink shorts.
If there’s something that can bring him down, despite beating the World No.1 Novak Djokovic to win the French Open earlier this month, it’s his choice of shorts. Last week, he put up a message on Twitter saying he will give away one pair of his “lucky shorts” to “a lucky follower” when he reaches 500,000 followers. We asked him if he was serious. “Of course, I’m serious! There has been so much talking about the shorts, so many people wanted to get one. There were also some funny cartoons in Switzerland. All of a sudden it was all about the shorts,” he said in an email interview.

I interviewed Stan Wawrinka, the French Open champion 2015 for Live Mint.

Here's the link to the story:
http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/vUthczokWpMdF9UsJLZ35O/Stans-the-man.html

End of the road for the Big Four?

"We’ve got teenagers and young guys coming now; I see change is coming,” says American coach Brad Gilbert over the phone. Gilbert has trained the likes of Murray, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Nishikori. “I don’t know when it’s coming but there is change coming. This is an exciting time for men’s tennis where we’ve got the older, established players, the challengers, and a good mix of new young players,” said Brad Gilbert. 
Men's tennis is changing. How long will the Big 4 continue to remain the Big 4? You have the challengers to the crown and then you have the young turks, under 21, who are potential leaders. My story in today's Mint on how the men's tennis landscape is changing.

I have also attached the graphics that wasn't carried in the story. But I am attaching the same here for my reader's reference. 

http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/L2pyk3ElzCsP6PAt8tWVgP/End-of-the-road-for-the-Big-Four.html


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Flipkart Wish Chain advertisement





Arguably, the best advertisement in recent memory. And my favourite ad- I think- of the decade. The story is beautiful and told like a story. You may or may not like Flipkart, but the product positioning is brought out beautifully through the advertisement. Background music is lyrical and haunting, but in a good way, of course.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Visit to the Rashtrapati Bhawan

There's something about Delhi that gets me. My love affair started in 2000 when I camped here for three and half months when I started my first job. I had got home sick by the end of that tenure, but not before I had some of the best time of my life while staying there. A day trip to Agra (my first visit to the Taj Mahal), new friends, countless movies, lunches and dinners; I had a great time back then. It's a place where I cannot stay for months, but an occasional visit- even once or twice or thrice a year- is always looked forward to. The affair continues. Safdarjung Enclave, ITO, Delhi Gate, Connaught Place, Janpath, Khan Market, Patel Nagar, Karol Baug, Tughlak Road, Lodi Estate....these are just some of the Delhi corners tattooed in my brain. All my life I have worked for publications headquartered in Delhi, so I've been fortunate enough to keep going there. Plus if you have friends there, all the more reason.

So after a massive delay of 10 hours and embarking to 45 degrees temperature at New Delhi Railway station, I quickly take my Uber ride to the Bahl residence at Patel Nagar. Metro station pillars are the new landmarks; only in India. You turn right or left when you come to a certain metro pillar; how convenient. Saturday is wasted but there's pretty little you can do in such heat, anyway. But a nice get-together with old friends and colleagues is enough to end the day on a high. A-glass-of-wine-and-beer high as well!

Sunday dawns and Rashtrapati Bhawan (the President of India's house) beckons. We have a walking tour to take at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. With effect from September 2013, the Rashtrapati Bhawan is now open for public through guided walking tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Ofcourse, only a section of it, not the whole facility. Online booking is allowed but we went through a group that specialises in- and what I am told are brilliant- walking tours (Intach Heritage Walks conducted by Ms. Priya: email her at walks@intachdelhichapter.org) for historical places in Delhi. We meet her- and the group assembles- outside at one of the many gates to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Cameras, mobile phones, eatables are not allowed.

The tour starts and Priya hands us all over to a charming and very knowledgeable in-house guide. Only in-house guides can take you inside the President's palace. The flag at the centre of the massive complex was hoisted, which indicates that the President of India is in the country.  If the President is travelling abroad, the flag does not get hoisted. We went past the massive entrance at the outdoor seating area where our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his cabinet was sworn in, in May 2014.

To start with, we were taken to the Marble Hall where, amongst other things, large portraits of past British Viceroys, Queen, King George and so on were there. A large replica model of the Rashtrapati Bhawan was also there. From there we went downstairs to the large kitchen and saw lots of gifts that were given by various foreign presidents and dignitaries to our Presidents, past and present. There were lovely crockery; tea pots, dining ware, cups and saucers and so on. We were told that although the President gets these gifts, they are not personal gifts. These are gifts that were given to a state head and hence the property of the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

We saw the Banquet Hall that had the longest dining table I have ever seen. Chairs were not laid out, but if they are, the President's chair is at the centre and has the longest backrest to distinguish itself. We were told about the very elaborate butler system there was. There were lights at the higher ends of the walls, with different colours. A certain colour light, if switched on, signals the butlers to serve. Another colour acts as a signal for the butlers to clear up dishes. Downton Abbey, anyone? Earlier, the walls had motifs of guns. But we were told that one of the former President Pratibha Patil didn't like it. She felt that there is no place for guns in a dining room, and so the gun motifs were replaced with- if I remember correctly- floral motifs.

The President's library has some very old books. But the highlight I thought was the magnificent Durbar Hall where countless functions have taken place, including the ones where the civilian awards (Padma wards, etc) are given away every year by the President. Did you know that the foot of the statue at the front of the room is of the same height as the tip of India Gate? Infant if you stand near the foot of the statue and look straight, you'd be looking at India Gate. The Ashoka Hall was also quite impressive.

Unfortunately, the Government isn't doing enough to promote the tours of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. It serves as a very good history lesson for our children if they're exposed to such places. Rashtrapati Bhawan has two gift shops; one outside in the garden and one inside the building. The former was shut because it was Sunday (we took a peak and it looks woefully inadequate) and the shop inside the building was an embarrassment. No salesperson to attend to us, the fridge was empty and only a staff's personal water bottle was in there. That was a pity because it was baking hot outside and we could have all bought cold drinks or water. There were hardly any curious, T-Shirts, mementos, etc on sale. If this had been US or Europe, the shop would be full of tons and tons of interesting items, bearing the Rashtrapati Bhawan logo. People would be queuing up to buy something, anything from there. We need to learn how to market ourself.

All in all, a pretty eventful day, thanks to my friend Himalee who had the vision to book a tour here when she heard of it. We must not miss such opportunities. Do visit Rashtrapati Bhawan if you get a chance. It's a trip of a lifetime.

(Picture courtesy: Rashtrapati Bhawan website: http://presidentofindia.nic.in/rashtrapati-bhavan.htm)

Business class on Vistara

It's not even been a year since Vistara was launched, but it has already got me excited. This brand new airline, a joint venture between the Tata group and Singapore Airlines, has managed to shake up the industry after a long time. It may not have cornered many passengers yet from competitors, but it has shaken up things, especially the full serviced carriers.

This particular Delhi - Mumbai flight was my third by Vistara and the airline has already upgraded me twice. This time, they bumped me up to Business Class, up from Premium Economy class. Coincidentally, this was also the first time ever that I had been upgraded to Business class.

To begin with, cold towels were given to us, followed by lime juice. Newspapers were already there in our front seat pockets, but magazines were also offered. But in a two-hour flight, there's precious little we can do, especially in full-service carriers when 3/4th of your time go in just eating food. Anyways, there was a bloke in one row ahead who, right after settling down in his seat and taking several selfies and selfie videos of himself in business class, chose some 3-4 magazines!

The flight was full. But they managed to pack us in pretty quickly and we left about 10 minutes ahead of scheduled time. Very soon, we were given our dinner menu. What I wanted was not available, so I chose something else in continental non-vegetarian. It was not very tasty, very passable. Dessert was good; I chose kulfi. Food at Vistara is generally good as it is prepared by the Taj kitchen. Ofcourse for certain items, you need to acquire a taste. Perhaps, for my conti dish, I hadn't yet acquired the taste. No matter.

They later offered us a Samsung Galaxy Tab and Sony headphones for entertainment. I don't know whether Jet Airways offers a similar service for their business class passengers because I have never travelled by their business class, but I was very impressed by Vistara's idea of tablets as entertainment. Not much of entertainment was loaded on it, but it was good enough. As I said, how much of entertainment can you take in, on a 2-hour fight. I could barely reach the halfway mark of an episode of The Big Bang Theory, when we started to descend and the air-hostess politely came and requested us to return the tablets and headphones. By the way, that guy ahead of me- who was already sitting with three magazines- had also taken the tablet!

Canadian Rockies: Day 11-13 (Vancouver highlights)

On day #11, I took the ferry and came to Vancouver. Much of Vancouver is filled with Asians. The whole 36 km distance between Tsawwassen Fe...