End of Ramadan

For the uninitiated, Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. We fast from dawn to dusk, in hope of pleasing the lord almighty and attaining our ultimate purpose in life – The Afterlife!

At the start of each Ramadan, there is much excitement about what lies in store for the next 30 days. We fast, we pray, we eat. Biological clock goes for a toss. Sleeping patterns change. Eating patterns change. The ultimate goal is to maximize our time pleasing Allah the Almighty and follow the footsteps and guidelines laid down by the Prophet (pbuh).

Even the working hours are reduced to 6 hrs a day. Everyone around is cognizant of the fact that you are fasting. People refrain from eating, smoking in public. All this is a mark of respect to this amazing practice laid down by the Almighty.

And thus, as we approach the end of Ramadan, there is a lot of sadness and nostalgia in the heart. The disappointment of not doing enough. The fear of not seeing another Ramadan. The memories of the past 30 days, where every aspect of your life had changed. Ramadan is a glorious month. And as we dawn to close yet another month of Ramadan, my only wish today is to carry forward little part of the last 30 days with me.

And hope we live long enough to experience another Ramadan. The eternal holy month of Ramadan.

Eid Mubarak to all.

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When Roger wins…

My adoration of Roger Federer is no secret. I’ve celebrated when he won. And I have cried when he lost. And just like everyone else did, I had doubts if he ever had it in him to win another major. He has put all of it to rest today.

Roger Federer has won his 18th grand slam title earlier today. By doing so, he has further distanced himself from the rest. The next highest grand slam winner is Sampras and Rafa, both tied at 14 each.

So what makes this victory so special? The fact that it came nearly 5 years since his last slam, at an age when 90% tennis players are into retirement. And against the player who has been his nemesis for the entire duration of his career. And to do so upon returning back from a career-threatening 6 month injury layoff. I think nothing can be more special.

But what makes it special for me? I think I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Roger has been my inspiration since the time I understood what’s the real meaning of inspiration. Everything about him has been surreal. At a time when he was winning grand slams , defeating opponents, rising up the rankings and creating history, I was closing sales orders, achieving my quotas, cracking contracts and signing commission cheques. There really is no comparison but to have someone who has mastered his art with sheer hard work, to follow someone of his stature gives me the kind of hope like no one else.

What’s not to like about a man who has single-handedly inspired millions of kids around to world to pick up a tennis racket?

And to all those like me, who never played the game, Federer was the epitome of success. His success meant the world was in order. And that there is nothing to worry. We are all going to be OK. It gave me hope. And a sense of belief. That even I can be special. That even I can achieve the seemingly impossible. There are times in life when we are in self-doubt. And in those moments on weakness, people want to cling onto whatever they can find. Even the tiny bit of hope, that little ray of little, is enough. To brush ourselves and get back into the arena. To start believing again that things will get better. Invariably, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Roger brings me that hope. To me, my ambitions and to my dreams. That it is not over till it’s over. Roger brings me that will to keep fighting. To be persistent and to work hard. There is no shortcut to success. And anyone whose seen it closely can tell you there really isn’t. Roger brings me the belief. In myself and in what means the most to me.

So if one man can inspire millions with what he can do with a tennis racket, then that’s really enough for me to believe in myself. To wake up tomorrow morning with a new zeal, renewed hope and reignited enthusiasm about life. To understand that failure is ok. We all fail. We all lose. But to get back up and get to work, that’s the beauty of HOPE.

To all of us who believe we can, I can just use the same 3 words that inspired millions around the same time some 8 years back – YES WE CAN.

To Roger – Thank you for letting us be part of this amazing journey and to instill hope in all of us. In me. Good luck for the rest of your career. For me, this was the final frontier. #18. We will be with you till the day you call it a day.

Till then….how about #20 @ Wimbledon?

Class of 99 reunion

It started 4 years back between 2 friends (one in India and other in Canada) discussing about getting together for a class reunion.

What transpired between those 4 years is impossible to account for. But the end result was better than expected.

I completed my schooling at Abu Dhabi Indian School (ADIS) passing out of Grade 12 in 1999. Thus the “Class of 99”. And this year, actually the last 3 days, we celebrated our 15 YEAR REUNION.

And what a reunion it was.

Maybe that’s the reason behind this sudden feeling of emptiness. I returned home couple of hours back, settled it, and a bout of nostalgia kicked in. Did I just spend the last 3 days with all my high school buddies? Did I just meet some of them after 15 years? And that’s when it hit me.

This was exactly how I felt when I left school in 1999.

A lot has changed since. Marriage. Job. Kids. Responsibilities. But the last 3 days was like a journey through time. To relive the madness of high school. And to see a room full of guys, and this time with wives and kids, was one hell of an experience. No matter what happens from here, I will be carrying a piece of this with me for the rest of my life.

What really stood out was some relations were still the same. In some cases, the same awkwardness. In other cases, the same openness. The same passion. The same friendships. Just bigger waistlines and lesser hair.

All in all, this reunion turned out far better than we all expected. And I think the timing was perfect. Had we met for our 10 year reunion, we all would still have been fighting and striving, trying to come to terms with our lives. With our failures and imperfections. But today, it really didn’t matter. I guess as time passes by, the lesser it does.

Tomorrow morning, I will be back to my life but rest assured, I can sleep tonight with a heart full of memories and feelings of emptiness at the same time. Maybe that’s the part of me that I left behind in 1999 today.

Nostalgia.

How NOT to Sell

I just got a call from a local bank (name withheld purposely) trying to sell a credit card. If I have to rank, this has to be right up there amongst one of the worst sales call ever. I wasn’t nasty. I took the call and gave him time. Gave him multiple opportunities to back off or move on. But it had to happen.

I will try my best to replay the conversation.

Agent: Hello, Good Morning, Sir. This is John Doe (name changed) from XYZ Bank. Can I talk to you for a minute?

Me: Hi John. Sure. What are you trying to sell me this morning? *jumping the gun*

Agent: *Chuckles* Do you have any relationship with our bank?

Me: No.

Agent: Great. Sir, we are offering you our best credit card. You have to pay annual fee of Dh 1000 but you get 35000 complimentary Etihad travel points which you can redeem for a return air ticket to India. Are you from India?

Me: Yes. *This card is not for me. Not interested*

Agent: Great. So that way, you won’t have to pay anything for the card. Along with that, we provide 2 complimentary lounge access and….

*I interrupt him”

Me: Hang on. But I already have lounge access through other credit cards. Why do you think this card is of any interest to me? *Giving him an opportunity to hook me”

Agent: Sir, because you are getting 35000 travel points and you can get a return air ticket to India with 25000 points. Then we are also giving you access to Marhaba lounge. Plus you can use the remaining 10000 points also.

Me: But I already told you I have lounge access through Priority Pass that gives me access to 700 airport lounges across the world. And I don’t fly Etihad. I fly Emirates. So I ask again: why is your card of any good to me? *Giving him one more chance to do the sell*

Agent: Sir, because you can travel for free.

Me: What do you mean by free? *Throwing him a rope*

Agent: Sir, with 25000 points, you can go and come back to India for free.

Me: But I don’t fly Etihad. I am a Skywards Gold member of Emirates. And I have to pay Dh 1000 to get those points. So how is it free for me? And not to forget, I have to pay Dh 1000 again next year and the year after. *Some more rope*

Agent: Sir but you can travel with those 25000 points for free so even if you pay 1000, you are getting free air ticket. So you are not losing any money.

Me: Well, I can get a return air ticket for less than Dh1000. *The rope is snapping*

Agent: No Sir. For any return ticket to India, you have to pay atleast Dh 1500 plus during season, the ticket price is even more. Other airlines will charge a lot. With the points, you can redeem ticket any time of the year. And you can fly Etihad, which is best airlines.

Me: Can I ask you a question? *That’s it, I’ve had enough*

Agent: Yes please.

Me: Are you a credit card agent or a travel agent? *SNAP*

Agent: *Silence*

Me: John, now listen to me very carefully because there are not too many of your customers who will give you this advice. Consider this as your 2 minute free career counselling that will change your life. Do you have 2 minutes?

Agent: Yes Sir.

Me: Now let me start from the beginning. You asked me for a minute. Keep an eye on the watch. As soon as you get to about 55 seconds, say that a minute is about to finish. Can I request for a few more minutes to discuss further? That’s being professional and helps in establishing Credibility. Moving on, you asked me if I had a relationship with your bank. When I said No, you said Great. What’s so “great” about it? If you are positioning your bank to me, you should not show that you are happy that I already don’t have a relationship with your bank. You should instead just say OK, and ask me for 30 seconds to tell me more about the bank and only if I say yes, give a brief pitch about XYZ Bank. No one says no to 30 seconds. That way, you are establishing Rapport with your customer. And you get to spend 30 seconds more with him to build that rapport.

Me: Now, when I asked you why should I take this card, you gave me a story on Etihad points and lounges etc. Fair enough. But when I said I already have lounge access and I do not travel that airline, you became a travel agent and tried to convince me to travel with Etihad. I replied saying I am a Gold Skywards member which means I travel only with Emirates. Now, anyone living in UAE knows that Emirates is a Dubai based airline while Etihad flies only out of Abu Dhabi. So why will I want to fly from Etihad?

Me: The minute you realised I am a Emirates frequent flyer and already have lounge access, many more than what your card offers, you should have backed off. A simple reply like “Makes sense. This card is probably not for you”. This establishes Trust. Instead you kept pushing the same card and the same feature over and over again, not really understanding if these features mean anything to me or not. A feature is only as good as its need. If I have no need, then that feature is useless to me. So before you push any feature of your product, make sure you map out your customer. If he/she tells your explicitly, like I did that I don’t travel Etihad, that’s your cue. Stop right there. Acknowledge the fact. Your customer is not an idiot. Make him feel the same about you. Establish some trust and credibility. Then if you have anything more to offer, go for it. Or else, position a different credit card. Normally, every bank has multiple types of cards. You can always pitch a cash-back offer or free-for-life offer. Whatever you want.

Me: I know you have pressure to sell and make those 60-70 calls a day. Trust me, I have done it all. Been selling for 10 years so I know what I am talking. I am a perfect client for you. I gave you time. I gave you info. I gave you an opportunity to sell to me. Which means, I wouldn’t mind spending Dh1000 as long as its worth something to me. You need to hook such clients. If you cannot sell, then establish credibility and hang up. Call back again in a week, and sell something else. He will listen to you again. But the way you handled this call, if you call me again and tell me its John Doe, chances are I will tell you I am in a critical meeting discussing the onset of a nuclear world war and cannot be disturbed, ever. Or I am on a space ship ready to take on a manned mission to Mars.

Me: So, Mr. John Doe, I hope you heard every word I said very very carefully. And use some of this for your future reference. Trust me when I tell you it works.

Agent: Thank you so much, Sir.

Me: Any time. OK, I am already late for a meeting. Talk to you later. *And I was back to sipping my latte and waiting for 44 more tokens to go at the Saudi visa consulate*

*Smirk*

The week that defined my 2011

Most of the best things of last year actually happened in the last week of 2011. To the extent that it almost qualifies as the best week of my life. Baring a few like Ibrahim’s birth, my wedding, my first job selection, I don’t think any other week in my life has been so eventful and fulfilling.

It started with my biggest ever paycheck. Modestly speaking, I did a fair amount of business over the last few months. And had held back my commission for a few months to pick it up in one go. So yes, that way, I was a rich man last week. But that was till I bought my car! Picked up a Lexus ES350, pearl white, V6, 3.5L, 272 hp @ 6200 rpm, leather seats, keyless entry, bluetooth bla bla bla. The only thing not there is a navigation system and rear camera. Everything else loaded.

So yes, I am now a proud owner of a Lexus. And while I was finalizing the purchase and car transfer, I got an email from my boss with the official announcement on my long-awaited promotion! Well, not too long actually. It was under discussion only since the last 4 months and she made it happen. I now have 6 guys reporting into me. Not bad at all.

A good week. No, a great week. And I thought that was the end of it. But no. Out of sheer luck, I managed to get tickets (FINALLY) to see the great ROGER FEDERER in action LIVE. And not just some game but the semi-finals of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. He was playing against the world # 1 Novak Djokovic. Anyone who knows even a teeny veeny bit of me knows that I am a cult follower of Federer. He is my absolute hero. And to finally see him barely 15 mts from me, was my biggest dream come true. A big check on my bucket list. Ofcourse, it did not help my enthusiasm that he lost badly. But all was well when I managed to get his autograph of my cap!!!

My purpose in life is complete.

Well, not quite actually. I need to see him win a match. And then a championship. And then regain the world # 1 rankings!

Anyways, such is the nature of us humans. Never satisfied with what we get. Till a week back, all I could think of was when am I gonna buy a car, where is my promotion, when will I ever see Federer etc etc etc. And exactly 7 days later, here I am.

2011 for that reason has been a super year. Almost everything that I slogged for through the year, came out OK by year-end. Actually by the last week of the year.

So here’s wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous 2012. Never stop dreaming. Never stop believing. Have a fantastic year. Cheers.

 

How it all began

I’ve spent more than 2 years in Bangalore. And the best phase of my stay in Bangalore was during my courtship days. I got engaged to my now wife in Jan 2007. And relocated to Dubai in August. So I had about 7-8 months of ‘lovey-duvey’ days before I left.

Why the sudden recollection today? Well, before we took off for our honeymoon after the wedding, we had spent a day in Bangalore on transit. This was just to clear out some pending paperwork with my old employer and some bank formalities to be settled. Later that night, I took my wife around to my favorite restaurant for dinner and to Corner House for ice cream, obviously! It was well past mid night that we were on a way back to the hotel. Early next morning was our flight to Malaysia.

So our on way back to the hotel, we were passing by the locality where I had stayed for 2 years. And my wife insisted on seeing the area and the bungalow atleast. Ofcourse the flat was probably rented out to someone else. Anyways, we got to the house and just as we were about to leave, I noticed that the gate was not locked. So like ‘chors’, we entered through the gate tip-toed and went to the second floor to my flat. That was locked. Then we went to the terrace. And that is where I think I spent the best 10 mins of my married life. Now, don’t get your dirty minds working overtime!!!

Back in my courtship days, I used to spend hours talking on the phone with my then fiancee. And most of the time, I used to be at the terrace. I had a few specific places where I would sit and talk talk and talk some more. And I used to tell her about the lovely sunset, the views, the greenery, the amazing Bangalore weather and so on. But when I had relocated, I never thought I would ever get a chance to come there with my wife, to the exact place where I had spend a good part of 8 months talking to her during our courtship days. Infact since that day, I’ve not gone back to Bangalore. It’s been close to 4 years now.

But as fate would have had it, just when we were beginning our lives together, I managed to spend some precious moments with my newly wed wife and share the experience of how and where I was, when I first fell in love with her. I say ‘first’ because that was not the last time I fell in love with her.

Today I recall that day and my heart fills up. Those 10 minutes at the terrace at 2am in the night, strolling around hand in hand, cool February breeze, not a soul in sight, only the sound of leaves rustling with the wind and talking about how it all began, ranks right up there amongst the most memorable and fulfilling moments of my life!

Coffee or mockery?

Some times I wonder at the shallowness of people around me. I have a bunch of guys at work who are seen with a cup of Costa or Starbucks coffee each morning. You know the disposal paper glass.

 

Being a coffee lover (and I cannot help it. I was born on International Coffee Day), I look at them with pride. A fellow coffee-fanatic I think. A quick nod of approval when we cross-paths. Even if I don’t know the person. But we have something in common.

But I now realized how naive I was. It was all fake.

Because that Costa or Starbucks cup does not really contain coffee but MILK. They go over to the coffee shop, pick a glass for 1 buck, pour a glass of fresh milk into that and walk around all day with that cup in hand, pretending to be sipping coffee and enjoying it.

So the illusion is that he/she is a loyal coffee fan but in reality they are just trying to show off. Honestly, I really dont have a problem with that. But what worries me is why would someone wanna do such a thing? Go to such lengths just to prove a point or try to fit in? To flaunt a brand? Is it that important in today’s world to spend 1 buck for an empty cup and another buck for a bottle of milk and have you ‘coffee’ for 2 bucks instead of the actual price of 15 bucks or so?

Why do people need to resort to such tactics? I have no idea. Maybe they are just too insecure about themselves. I know it looks good, that cup of Costa or Starbucks in hand. But do people drink that coffee just because it looks good? I don’t think so. Any coffee lover will say that it is the coffee, the aroma, the taste that gets them hooked to it. But these guys are hooked to that paper glass!!!