Saturday, October 28, 2017

Venture out ... NOW !

Chennai Speakers Forum Newsletter Article Oct 2017

How many times have you taken a risk in your life and failed?! Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the social media company Facebook says “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changes really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks”.

Let me admit it. I had never taken a huge risk until I finished my college. In fact, I had never ventured out to try something new, until I joined my first job at HCL technologies. I always signed up for something only when I can see the end result clearly. The year 2002 put an end to my risk- free life. That was the year after the 9/11 attacks and the dotcom crash. US President Bush’s administration was planning to launch a war against Iraq any time. US economy was at an all-time low and going through a recession. I was in a well paid job in HCL Technologies. But, I decided to quit HCL and look for opportunities in US because of not getting promoted at HCL. My family members asked me “Why do you want to go to US when the condition there is very uncertain?”. My friends were asking me “Saro! You are in a well paid job and in a good position. If you leave now, and come back later, you may not have the same respect and influence here. Why do you want to take an unnecessary risk?”. I was in a very confused state and asked myself “Should I leave the golden goose? Should I leave my comfort zone? Should I move out of my cheese factory?”. After some serious thought, I decided to take the plunge. I got an offer from a start up in US. But, the unfortunate part was, the startup company had hardly 6 months of funding left-over. My friends warned me “Saro! You are looking at the light at the end of the tunnel. But what we see is a train coming in the opposite direction”.

Despite the warnings, I took the risk. I booked my tickets and flew to US. When Kannagi and Kovalan tried to enter the famous Temple City Madurai, the flags on the fort waved their hands fast alerting them not to enter the city. But, despite the alert they boldly stepped into the city. I had the same feeling when I landed in US. I heard horror stories of people leaving their home, car and belongings and moving out of the country due to the economic situation. The commercial buildings were empty and the IT corridor in silicon valley looked like a ghost town. When all the inmates of a burning house were running out, the fireman boldly walks into the house. I imagined myself as the fireman.

I joined the start-up in US and worked hard for nearly 6 months. Like my friends rightly predicted, the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a train coming fast in the opposite direction. The company that I joined shut its doors in 6 months. One fine morning, our CEO called for an all- hands meeting and gave pink slips to nearly 60+ employees working for that startup. I was in the job market with just 6 months US experience. I hardly received any calls from potential employers. Thankfully, the founders of my old startup formed another new startup and I was among the first few employees to onboard the team. I spent a solid 3 years in that startup, learning a multitude of skills such as full products development, handling customers and doing product demonstrations/trainings. I also completed my part time MBA in the mean time. Around the same time I joined a well established company Redback Networks, which got acquired by Ericsson. After spending 4 years in US, I decided to get ready for my return to India. I took the opportunity to travel to nearly 32 states in US over a 2 years period. Those travels opened up the doors for many more new learnings and experiences. After meeting all of my monetary goals, I finally decided to return to India in 2009... almost overnight. Now, I am happily settled in India with my family.

[Also read: Returning back to India ...]

Lucius, a famous roman philosopher once said “It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult”. If I hadn’t ventured out to US in 2002, I wouldn’t have had the exposure that I have currently. Living in US for 6 years not only filled my pockets, but also brought-in a number of good things into my life. For example, I got introduced to a wonderful group of people called Toastmasters in US. Joining Toastmasters helped me to develop book reading and blogging habits. Today, I strongly believe that “If you have a dream, pursue that. If you have a passion, give it a try. If you want to venture out, venture out now!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

CC Project #7 - Research your Topic - Ms. Smelly


She is in my neighbourhood. I’ve seen her almost everyday. Whenever I walk past her, I hear her giggles. She is dark, but anyone who looks at her for the first time will give her a curious second look. I’ve seen her dancing in the rains, jumping in joy.

No… No… No… I don’t have a crush. I hate her… for just one reason… she stinks. She is our Chennai’s identity… She is our Chennai’s pride… Instead of me talking about her… I would let her talk to you directly. (Change of caps - white cap to black cap)

Dear Toastmasters and guests, I am your stinking Cooum river. I stink because of you.

(Also read: Sweetie ... I hate you)

Origins of the river 

I originate from the excess water that gets diverted from the Kesavaram dam. I am from a place called Koovam in Tiruvallur District near Chennai. Though I am 72 Km long, I am the shortest river that drain in to the Bay of Bengal.

During the ancient times, I played a major role in maritime trade between Roman empire, South India and China. If you think I’m boasting, check with those archaeologists who discovered ancient wine jars, Roman and Chinese coins along my banks. I was once called the “Thames of South India”.

There are close to 100 temples along the sides of me. I was once a holy river. People believed that even the sins that were not washed away by my elder sister Ganges could be washed away by bathing in my waters.

State of the river today

I go through the rural areas of Tiruvallur for nearly 40 Km. I am unpolluted, there. In fact, those people use me as a source of drinking water even today. But the moment I enter the Chennai city I lose my virginity… and I become a carrier of sewage, thermocol, plastics and trash. It is not the slum dwellers who pollute me, it is also educated folks like you who dump garbage, sewage and waste on me.

Until the 1950s, I was clean. I was so clean that I had the company of 49 species of fish, who were my friends. But slowly, I started losing my friends. By late 1970s, I had only 21 of them. However, today, all of my friends are dead owing to the highly toxic pollutants that you guys dump into me.

Restoration Efforts

I made multiple attempts to seek justice from Tamilnadu government in the last 50 years. I wanted the government to punish the folks who polluted me and to cleanup and restore my pride. In 1967, C.N Annadurai, kick started a restoration project to clean me up and he allotted Rs.1.9 crores. In 1973, Karunanidhi cleaned me up and even launched a pleasure boat service at a cost of ₹ 2.2 crores. But, none of those programs sustained… People continued to dump garbages, sewage and waste into me and I again got polluted.

Recently, Tamilnadu government has initiated an Integrated Cooum River Restoration Project for Rs. 604.77 crore. Government has started removal of solid waste from my banks. You know how much solid waste you folks have dumped into me over the years? One lakh tonnes. Chennai City generates nearly 5000 tonnes of waste everyday. Imagine the entire Chennai city dumping all their waste continuously for a month into me… that’s how much solid waste is accumulated in me. So far, about 18,000 tonnes of solid waste has been cleared by the government as part of the restoration project. 55 slums have been identified and nearly 14,000 families zeroed in on for eviction.  This project is expected to be completed in another 2 years. I am eagerly looking forward to regain my virginity.

Dear Toastmasters and Guests, Yes… I stink… but, I stink because of you (shouting voice)

“Oh! Oh! Oh… Cooum dear… don’t lose your emotions” (Cap change… black to white)


Friends, knowingly or unknowingly, directly or indirectly, we have spoiled the life of a beautiful girl, Cooum. It is not just Government’s responsibility to keep her clean. We also have our obligations to her. What can we do to help her? Let us refrain from throwing waste or dumping sewage into her. Let us help her to rejenuvate, regenerate and restore to her old glory. Let us take the pledge to make Ms. Smelly as fragrant as Ms. Lilly.