Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dedicated to Someone Close to My Heart

Every year at Rakhi, my sister and I would go visit our Chacha's (Dad's brother) house bright and early in the morning. We would buy 'rakhis', sweets, and hop on to dad's scooter - it was the most exciting day of the entire year.

I have endless childhood memories with Surinder Chacha. He would always take us to this shop, where we could get hot and yummy Chanas-puris. He would also make our cousin (Ankit) pay LOTS of money as a rakhi present. Every year, we followed the same routine - we looked forward to it.

I went to India in April'08 and Chacha gave me money from all the rakhis I had missed so far :)
I never take money from anyone, but as funny as it sounds, taking that rakhi money brought back some great childhood memories.

Unfortunately, Chacha passed away in a sudden and shocking accident last week. Everyone has been in a state of shock. The sadness knows no bound. I am trying to accept the fact that he is no longer going to be around when I visit India next time. I am also trying to tell myself that everything will be okay for our family soon. I have been trying to commnunicate to my cousin that he doesn't need to worry about anything..ever.

I am not very expressive with words when it comes to expressing my love or sorrow.
I realized today that a sense of loss either brings people together, or farther away from each other.
I also realized that life is extremely short and unpredictable - we should try to soothe out any differences we might have with friends or family, because they might be gone by the time you are done being angry with them.

I hope Chacha's soul rests in peace - we will always miss you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Effort to Give Up My Vice (s)

Lately, the financial crisis has taken over my world - school, home, and online life. Every day I hear or read something new at school. I am exposed to new ways to understanding this crisis and making sense out of it.

Yesterday, in the Top Manager's Perspective course, Professor Beatty informed us that the consumer spending (as tracked by VISA and Mastercard) had fallen by 35% as compared to the November statistics last year. Today, I read a couple of articles addressing the ways people can tackle these difficult times - people should be encouraged to spend less, save more, and fight the "holiday spending" season.

I have cut down my expenses drastically ever since I joined the student workforce. Travel is the only bit, where I have not and can not cut things down, because it is the essence of my being.

Today, in the morning, while sipping on a cup of coffee, I realized there are several other things that I have not cut down - things that require spending $ and contribute to my monthly expenses. Additionally, these vices make me unhealthy. For example; chocolate binges, coffee (literally every day), and warehouses sales. Therefore, I have decided to give up some of my vices for a few months and wean myself away from them.

  1. December: Give up Chocolate and Sugar completely - doable unless lured.
  2. January - February: Give up shopping completely - absolutely buy nothing for 2 months. I have done this successfully last year as well.
  3. March: Give up morning Coffee - this might be the hardest to work on, since I have a slight bit of caffeine addiction. Ok, well a LOT of caffeine addiction.
  4. December - April: Give up shoe-shopping - doable to some extent unless I drop by NYC's Nine-West store.
I hope to get far along and achieve all four targets.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Back of The Napkin

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to:
  • Break himself/herself from the power-point-bullet syndrome (funny! I use bullets to negate bullets)
  • Develop visual thinking
  • Bounce off complex ideas in a clear, concise, and memorable way.
After a very long time I am reading a book, which is sharpening my visual thinking, in addition to being a fun read :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Entrepreneurship: Passion + Persistence

I admire two people for their great entrepreneur spirit:
A) Kiran Sawhney
B) Liza Chawla.

What is the common thread?
Both Liza and Kiran, in spite of their successes are very down to earth and lively people.

Kiran Sawhney
I have known her for some eleven years now. Some 11 years back, she traveled the world in pursuit of fitness certifications and fitness skills. At that time, she was beginning to explore her passion of exploring the fitness world.

Every time I visit Delhi (after a gap of two-three years), I notice a change in her clientele, her fitness studio, and her fitness approach. About two years back, I went Kiran's fitness studio - I was very impressed. The studio's layout was very energetic, bright, and happy :)

Kiran is a regular on many news/fitness channels in India.

What is so impressive about her?
Well, what has not changed over the years is her observant eye to explore opportunities and turn them into something/anything she is passionate about! Some eleven years back, Kiran recognized that fitness will revolutionize the world.

I read her blog ( yesterday and realized that Kiran has come a very impressive way from when she was a fitness novice to when she started giving group fitness lessons to being a personal (and probably the most expensive) fitness trainer to the selected few in Delhi today!

Another interesting thing about Kiran is that she has a great eye for design - she designed my wedding and reception dresses over emails! Both the dresses were very well acclaimed.

I'd be very interested to see the level to which Kiran takes her Design passion in the coming years.

Liza Chawla:
Liza and I have known each other since childhood - our families are close friends.

Liza - a very successful professional quit her very well paying job in California in 2005.
What has Liza been doing since then?
She returned to Chandigarh in India to help the street children of sector 17 get vocational training so that these children would stop begging on the streets. Liza's blog - talks about her journey.

Liza's journey reeks of patience, kindness, and acceptance. She took a long time to understand the circumstances, which make these children beg. She spent endless hours with these childen accepting their way of living and trying to get them to kick the habit of begging.

Liza was able to bring these street children to the level where the children want to go to school themselves - they want to undergo vocational training.

What is so impressive about her endeavor?
The street children of sector 17, Chandigarh picked up the vocational training's skills - the children became so good that they designed my wedding cards! Every card was hand made and unique. Each card was made by a child, who instead of begging on the streets spent his/her time utilizing their valuable skill.

Every time I opened one of the wedding cards, I could not help smiling and feeling content.

Liza recognized the opportunity to help man-kind - I bet it took a lot of courage to trust these children to make someone's wedding cards :)

In today's world, we get so engrossed in earning money that we forget to breathe. If we stretched overselves like Liza did, we'd be able to bring a smile to someone else's life the same way Liza did.

Well, this blog entry is a reminder to myself that I am fortunate to have people in my life who make this world a better place to live in: whether they do it by keeping people fit or by taking them off the streets and providing them with training does not matter.
What matters is that these people are doing good

Thank you Kiran and Liza for your entrepreneur and kind spirit.

Finally! Success

I have been chasing DesignWorks - Rotman's Innovation Lab initiative for more than a year now.

I wanted to intern with DesignWorks. Somehow I landed myself another job before DesignWorks posted internships at Rotman. Needless to say, I was extremely bummed.

Earlier this week, finally, after a year of expressing and re-expressing my interest many-many times, I was offered to work with them! I am thrilled to be a part of DesignWorks initiative moving forward. I start soon.

Earlier in September, we worked on a exercise in Innovation class, which asked us to take steps to discover and start our journey to the time where we see ourselves happy.

I can happily say that I am starting that discovery in the next week.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Networking/Donations = 99% Luck

I had a very interesting "networking" conversation with a very resourceful person at school today.

I am heading up Rotman Photography Association (RPA) this year. RPA is in its second-year of running - it is a constant challenge to live up to its members expectations and to diversify the activities/workshops. We have a great team - very artsy people, who are genuinely interested in photography. We had 35 members sign up for the club, which is absolutely awesome!

I have been trying to get my head around different ways I can make this club exciting enough so that the members think - "wow! I am glad I joined this club". The biggest challenge is that being a new club, we have yet to prove ourselves. The second challenge is getting funding for RPA.

A few weeks back, I mentioned to my resource (let's call this person - Windfall) that RPA needs some "aha" factor to engage its members. Windfall promised to do something about it. Today, I ran into Windfall and it was mentioned that Windfall can fly in last year's National Geographic Photography's winner to Rotman (at Windfall's expense) to give a workshop on landscape photography!

WOW! was my response and I could not stop jumping around :)

Then, there were two other options:

  1. Studio Photography from another reputed guest speaker.
  2. Lighting Techniques from yet another guest speaker.
Today's conversation was all about luck! I will be so very grateful to Windfall is I can get this National Geographic person to Rotman for RPA.

Not only does Windfall know this National Geographic person, but Windfall also knows this Rotman alumni whom I have been trying to connect with since last year! I know if Windfall sees a fit, I might get connected to this alumni for a full-time opportunity within the industry I want to work in.

Getting a job, getting a donation, and getting connected to National Discovery people is all about being at the right place at the right time. 99% of times it is about luck, remaining 1% of times it concerns voicing out what and why do you want something :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Innovation, Foresight, and Business Design

I am taking some very interesting courses in my second-year at Rotman.

Some of the courses are designed to make you think NOT like a business student - they are designed to simply make you think and not download. I find Innovation, Foresight, and Business Design very intersting. The Professor- Alex Manu is from Ontario Colleage of Arts and Design (OCAD), so you can imagine how "un-business" like his teaching style must be.

His power-point presentations are stellar - the slides communicate his ideas, both visually and verbally in two lines! The slides show what a MBA will communicate in two pages can be well-communicated with visual framework. In addition, he brings toys to class, has a great sense of humor, and gives us tools to THINK.

The first question, he asked was,"If you could talk to your toilet, what would you say"?
Weird question - ain't it?

There were numerous hilarious answers, but the key to this question was - what benefit would the question have for us?
Key possible answer - Am I Healthy?

He made us work on another 12-question exercise: we had to ask ourselves a question, which was on our mind at that time and answer 12 questions (2 minute/question) in written. The purpose of the exercise was to realize something new about yourself.

What is the point of this blog entry?

I found out that if I said to Hitesh tomorrow, I want to be a farmer, he would support my decision! Also, I found out that I am a risk-taker. Therefore, worrying about current recruiting at Rotman, worrying because future looks blurry, and worrying because I am unable to let go of my fear is not the way to go.

I felt at a lot more at ease with the decision on Friday. There is a slight question (sub-set of the bigger question) that still needs to be answered though - I am sure it will come to me sometime soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Decisions, decisions, and decisions!

I am a mental wreck these days - confusion or blurriness of thoughts is making me extremely moody. I am loosing my sanity!

A few years back, I told Hitesh I would move to US with him once I get my citizenship. It is about that time now. This means, I should not apply for jobs in Canada. It also means that I should start building my network within US, which is a little hard to work on while physically being present in Toronto.

I started off great - I have been slowly building my network. First week into school, and bam! reality hits me. I see my classmates applying for jobs through Rotman's postings, I see jobs getting posted that I would like to apply to, and I see people getting intereviews.

Result 1: Temptation to apply to jobs!
Result 2: US economy's condition - would moving to US be a good desicion?
Result 3: Extreme irritation with everything in this world.
Result 4: Extreme sadness on the decision to move away from Canada.
Result 5: I am sad that my sister & I will once again be living in different cities.

For the last 4 days, I have been all over the place in my head and am unable to think straight. Today, I applied to 3 jobs through Rotman's posting. I feel like a horrible person - not letting Hitesh know what I am doing. In addition, I am ruining someone else's chances of getting short-listed for interviews.

Well, I could say that I should be selfish and at least apply and see how things move along.

Today I asked myself,"what is the worse thing that could happen to me?"
It could very well happen that I'd be unemplyed after an MBA. That scared the hell out of me! Also, US economy could be down the drain when I graduate, so it would be even worse.

Biggest Hindrance:
I am bound by time - when we put time constraints on ourselves, we tend to get nervous if the time seems to go by fast. 8 months seems like a short-time.

I feel so unhappy even while writing this post - I hope I am able to clear my head and think through my future plans.

On the brighter side, life will be so much happier if we move to San Fransciso - I shall be able to breathe the ocean air yet again :)

Canada's East Coast - Nova Scotia

Every 3-4 months, I need to get away from the city.

At the end of my 4-month internship in August, we planned a 5 day get away to the East Coast of Canada - Nova Scotia. One of my friends at school is from Halifax in Nova Scotia. He often mentions that he hates NYC/Toronto, because there are way too many people in both these cities. I could never understand his comment until I saw the kind of life people lead in Nova Scotia.

Top 5 reasons to visit Nova Scotia:

1. People are extremely friendly - canadians in general are friendly people, but people from Nova Scotia are super friendly.

2. East Coast is extremely scenic - we drove around Cape Breton National Highlands Park and Bay of Fundy. It was very pristine and the government has done an excellent job in preserving the natural beauty.

3. Atlantic Salmon tastes different and yummy.

4. Bright colors make everything in the province much brighter - I was most fascinated by the colors of boats, storage places, and houses there - bright green, red, and yellows.

5. Nature plays tricks - around Bay of Fundy, when the tide is low, you can actually walk on the ocean floor! when the tide is high, the water looks quite scary and angry. On one of the beaches, water was jet-black in color!

There was so much to explore around the East Coast - I felt content, happy, and relaxed while I was there.

We took the subway back to our place when we entered Toronto. I can confidently say that I had a cultural shock - the number of people living in Nova Scotia is probably less than the number of people who take Toronto's subway every morning!

Well, and I completely understand what Trevor means when he makes a face and says," I hate NYC - there are way too many people in that city".

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wall Street - Impressive!

I appreciate the wisdom of Finance, but I can confidently say that I am a Finance "admirer" unlike a Finance "Worshiper".

A recent trip to NYC has changed my perception of Finance to some extent. I was most impressed with Wall Street - the architecture, the aura, and the energy around Wall Street is impressive. Although I walked it on a Saturday evening, I can only imagine the hustle-bustle and energy it must have during day-time with a zillion i-bankers/traders hovering the city every day.

I like Wall Street as much as I like being at a beach in Vancouver or being close to the Sea. This is so bizzare. Even as I am writing this sentence, my brain is signaling something is wrong with me! It was one of those "aha" moments, which made me say to myself," wow! wouldn't it be cool to work here?" Oddly enough, architecture is enough to make me make such a statement. I should possibly explore the industry so I can find out whether finance really piques my interest or whether architecture does!

In all fairness, it could very well be the fact that I have been at Rotman - a school well-known for finance, for a year now and have had awesome professors to teach me all along. Possibly and probably, Rotman's influence could be the reason for my very "unlike Shalu" comment!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Shoe Shopping in NYC

Don't you just love it when you find that perfect shoe, which slips in your feet as if it were made only for you? Not only does it fit, but it is also available in six different colors! You rejoice, you can not believe your luck!

I recently had such a lucky encounter at the Nine West store in NYC. Oh! I loved the way these certain sandals looked on my feet. I wanted the pair in all the colors :)

Day 1: I check out at one of the Nine West stores (at 5th Avenue & 40 something Street, location: unusually hidden). Price = $29.99! I can not dream of buying a Nine West shoe for $29.99 in Canada, simply because it is a US retailer and is priced at $129.99+ in Canada. It is priced as a "higher end" brand in Canada, which sucks for us - the Canadians. I stopped myself from buying the shoe on Day 1 due to guilt spasms, which occur when either I have been shopping a LOT, or when I have been SHOE shopping a LOT. Well, let's just say, in the past two months, I have had the privilege of shoe shopping a bit :)

Day 2: I arrive at the Nine West store at a different location (around Union Square) five minutes it is suppose to close. The guilt spasms are gone! I am drooling over these sandals. The person who was helping me out could tell I meant business. He gives me his undivided attention. I try on the sandal in three different colors - I want all of them!

And, just when I said to myself,"boy! I am lucky to find these sandals again", I see the price. The price has gone up from $29.99 to $34.99 for the pair in green and the beige and the white are priced at $39.99! Damn, these retailers! I always encounter a price difference. Why should this instance be any different?

Retailers have an interesting way of pricing their products: in the heart of Union Square i.e. a place with posh restaurants, endless stores, and lots of hustle-bustle, Nine West tags the sandal at a higher price. Furthermore, since Spring is gone, so is the color Green. Obviously, the retailers need to get rid of it. Hence, the green-colored pair is priced lower than the others.

I guess the challenge for the customer is to find the shoe store with the perfect price for the perfect shoe. I wish I had one more day to spend in NYC, I would have gone back to the store on 5th Avenue and bought the shoes at a steal deal.

Oh well! I bought the sandals anyways without any guilt attached to the purchase :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Second-Year Course Bidding (Part 2)

The results of the bidding were listed today - I got 9/10 courses I bid for!

It feels like a big accomplishment :) Okay, that statement is a little inflated. But, I am quite impressed with my application of game theory in predicting the bidding points. However, there was one course that I really wanted - Design Practicum. I am number 5 on the wait list. I have a feeling I will get it by the time add/drop round finishes.

Key Lessons learnt:
1. Excel Sheet DOES work - I have a whole new level of respect for excel sheets.
2. "I think you will bid blah points..and I know you think I will bid blah points" DOES work to some extent.
3. Mathematics and number tweaking DOES yield desired results.
4. Either bid high or do not bid at all for the courses you REALLY-REALLY want.
5. Either bid extremely low or literally zero for the courses you will not die for.

The bottom line of this exercise was that I was able to balance both, my course load and my desire to take classes with some of the renowned professors at Rotman. In addition, I was able to keep four days free in my schedule (in both, Fall and Spring).

Key Point: I can manage an investment portfolio quite effectively :)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Routine: Good or Evil?

Something very odd happened on Thursday, June 19. I took the day off work to go for my sister's call-to-the-bar at the Roy Thompson Hall. In simple language, she was taking oath as a Lawyer on that day.

I woke up later than my usual time, wore a nice dress, reached the venue on time and seated myself in a nice spot. An hour into the ceremony, suddenly my brain flashed a signal that I had somehow forgotten to brush my teeth! For good five minutes, I tried to recall whether I actually had forgotten, or whether my brain was playing games with me. In reality, I had definitely forgotten to brush my teeth. This was the first timer!

See what routine does to you; I am so used to waking up at 6am and getting ready for work. A little deviation from my usual routine is enough to upset it :)
Or, may be I am getting old and forgetful.

Either ways, it is quite amusing that I went for my sister's call-to-the-bar without brushing my teeth :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Second-Year Course Bidding

Rotman utilizes a bidding system for the second-year courses.

We are allotted 1000 bidding points and are required to take 10 courses in the second-year. Bidding does not necessarily guarantee that you will get the course of your choice. In fact, if two students bid the same number of points for the same course, Rotman randomly allots the course to one of the students'. A few courses are extremely high in demand. The bidding points can go as high as 500 for one course, which means you have to somehow manage with the 500 points for the rest of your nine courses. The system is frustrating, because you cannot get all the courses of your choice!

Fair? I would say, Not! My reasoning is that I am paying $60K in tuition at Rotman. Hence, I have the right to take the courses of my choice. I should not have to decide between two equally important courses.

Hitesh made an interesting comment the other day. He said,"Well, Rotman is teaching you to manage an investment portfolio with the bidding system". After that remark, I looked at the bidding system from a slightly different perspective. One of the valuable lessons that I learnt from our Finance class is that; there is no such thing as "free money". If I want to make money in the stock market, I have to increase my tolerance for risk and invest in various stocks and bonds. In short, I have to have a diversified portfolio. I can either make millions, or loose everything. Similarly, If I want to diversify my course-portfolio, I will have to take chances with my bidding points.

While I am still not willing to sacrifice certain courses, I am willing to apply Game Theory to the bidding system. I have an excel spreadsheet set up to walk me through the bidding system. Nerdy? Definitely! :)

I am looking forward to the bidding results. Can I get all 10 courses of my choice?

Let's wait and watch the wonders of my excel spreadsheet :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Swimming 101

Hitesh and I started swimming lessons a few weeks back.

Hitesh has never taken lessons before. Hitesh has taken three classes till date and I have taken four. The motivation to start swimming arises from the fact that Hitesh wants to start surfing in California next Summer. Also, we want to maintain an active lifestyle. Another possible inspiration for Hitesh could be - Hollister :)

Our weekly schedule includes one lesson and three practice swims. Hitesh is more motivated than I am. This realization came through when Hitesh, who could not even blow bubbles the first day and was afraid to put his head inside the water, got his swim on in the second lesson! He can do the Front Crawl from one end of the pool to another without any aids (No Kidding!)

On the other hand, I am still struggling with getting my kicking in action. And, the worse part is that I have taken these lessons before :( The good bit is that I can swim like a fish with the fins.

I must admit initially, I was not at all confident about Hitesh's swimming skills considering that he wants to start surfing within a year! Needless to say, I was very-very surprised to see him do so well.

I realized about two weeks back while watching him front crawl, that if you want something really-really bad, you will triple your efforts to move in that direction. People tell me Surfing is really hard. You need at least three years to gain expertise in it.

I guess I am married to a "triple-your-efforts" person - Surfing in 2009 might not be just a dream.

Blogging Status

I started blogging last year. After a few posts, I became paranoid about my online presence and deleted the blog. I should have saved all the entries somewhere. Alas! When paranoia takes over, sanity is lost.

This blog is a second attempt to capture some of Life's "Aha" moments - I have decided to put my blogging hat on...hopefully for long this time :)