The lifetime experience of smashing Metal Concerts: Iron Maiden & Metallica!

My first live music concert was Rolling Stones in Bombay in 2003. With my parents. Yes, my parents introduced me and my brother, Arpan to the finest music and the best way to enjoy it: LIVE.

My family is a bunch of music freaks. My parents agreed to a trip to Bangalore just so we all could attend Iron Maiden, back in 2009. My brother is the seed planter, at 13 years of age, he convinced our parents that this was a lifetime opportunity that we cannot miss. Into the circle of fire I followed them, into the middle I was led.

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Need we say more? \m/

That was just the beginning (what a start, I must say :P). Since then, I have attended some phenomenal live music concerts. And for me, the real concerts are those with metal-heads, mosh pits and high energy performances where musicians actually play their instruments and really sing the songs!

So here goes my rock concert lowdown:

Iron Maiden, Bangalore, India, 2009:

The overall experience: My first ever Metal concert and I was whipped! Spending the entire day at the venue in an environment of constant build up to the show. We arrived in the morning and played games, chilled, sat about and just took in the vibe. As the day progressed, the anticipation increased, but there was enough to do to pass the time. For instance, playing Guitar Hero. Arpan flashed his skills and won a T-shirt!

And then we were right up the front of the stage. But unfortunately, not in the mosh pit. Of course, Maiden took it away in the best way possible. We enjoyed the electrifying performance to the hilt!!

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Respect to Bangalore!

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It’s warming up…

The band and the music: Memorable opening act by Parikrama (they have opened for Maiden thrice!). We met with Sonam sir (lead guitarist for Parikrama) who was our guitar teacher at the time, so it was more than perfect.

Aces High: What a damn start to the show! And Hallowed Be Thy Name is special for very many reasons. I don’t think I can forget how I tried to learn the bass guitar part for this song: did not get too far. But there is something about this song which takes me to another world altogether.

Yes, we sang along Fear of the Dark in the classic live style. And kudos to the Bangalore crowd for knowing the lyrics to all the songs! We truly ran to the hills.

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Sonam Sir!

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All those metal horns -ooo yeah. Photo credit: Google Images

Partner in crime: Arpan. Happened because of him. And parents of course, who by the way also attended the entire concert!

6 years later I met Musheer & Pranav who happened to be at the very same concert! Insane, right?

One thing i’ll always remember: a 51 year old Bruce Dickinson flying around the stage. Can I ever forget that?

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Haha, with the Indian touch! Photo Credits: Google Images

Download, Donington Park, UK, 2012:

The overall experience: This is the epitome of metal festivals. 3 days, 6 stages, 100,000 attendees, 10th year of Download. I mean what? It was a dream come true. It was mad, crazy and wild. The muddy ground and terrible logistics were the two backdrops. But hey, we can’t complain that much.

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Download 2012 Lineup eeee

The premise was to watch Metallica live, after the disastrous attempt in 2011.

And we got was: Metallica, Black Sabbath and Megadeth!! Plus a trip to London, Liverpool and Manchester because we wanted to attend this festival. I love my parents 😀

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It’s mad: I’m telling you

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OOOH yeah. Photo credits: http://www.downloadfestival.co.uk

The band and the music: Effing insane line-up. Metallica was on FIRE! The performance, set up and presence of James, Kirk, Lars and Trujilo was mindblowinggg! They performed the entire Black Album, not the most exciting I have to admit, BUT IT’S METALLICA! Also got goodies such as Master of Puppets, The Four Horsemen and Battery. 

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Master! Master!

Well, while Metallica was headlining on Day 2, Dave Mustain performed in sunlight on Day 3. Hey hey, ok I still got my Hangar 18, Sweating Bullets, Symphony of Destruction & A Tout Le Monde.

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Mustaine at it!

Black sabbath headlined on Day 3. A reunion at an apt venue! I had a mad time when Iron Man came on. Kisses to the guy who lifted me up so I could capture Tony Iommi 🙂 And yes, Ozzy has got the performer charm!

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Tomy Iommi, the Iron Man

Partner in crime: Arpan! We planned the entire trip, festival logistics and ensured we knew every damn song that was part of the setlist before we reached there. Haha

One thing i’ll always remember: The best for last. Live performance of my favourite Metallica song “One“. Just. made. my. life.

All the headbanging, screaming and shouting out lyrics resulted in insane whiplash.

I conclude with my rock concert D-Day Checklist: 

  • Setlist: The first important thing: which songs, what order, what’s encore. Have to know every song because c’mon you have to shout it out
  • Attire: Band tee, jeans, sneakers. I play it standard
  • Camera: Ok, it is important. But I took the first row for watching live, not recording. So just the main shots.
  • Arrive early: It’s usually the whole day. Get in early, there are merch stalls, drinks, more awesome people like yourself. Hang out and get in the vibe. Also essential if you want to stand right in the front line (I won’t have it any other way)
  • Nerves, excitement and a natural high: I don’t need any inebriation. But you can have your pick! Everything is just an arm’s length away, yes, everything.
  • Helpful folks all around: People offered to click photos, offered to lift me up so I could see/capture photos- both in Bangalore and Donington Park.
  • Headbang: Hair open and go for it
  • Water: Constrained space and nearly no breathing space means you must have water on you and be ready to push around to claim back your spot.
  • Banter: Before it all starts, a lot of it is waiting, anticipation. So you indulge in a hell lotta banter
  • Mosh pits: I love the shit that goes down there. It’s incredible. There has got to be a female mosh pit somewhere?!
  • Opening bands: Respect them and give them your love.

A sample of the banter: The audience made friends with this security guy whose job was to stay on the stage the whole time. And we were shouting “836, 836”, yeah there was nothing to do between bands 😛 And then this guy writes 836 on his chest – true love, true love.

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Ragers.

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The Anthrax Mosh Pit

~Watch out for the next post about my other two music concert experiences~

Note: Photo Credits for Headline Image: http://www.downloadfestival.co.uk

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Celebrating a year!

One year. Time seems to have gone by way too quickly. I remember the day I restarted my blog.

Sometimes, the lowest points set up you up for the highest peaks. Like how you bend your knees before you take a shot at that high jump.

I am really happy, glad, satisfied, fulfilled with my content for this year. I am so thrilled that I am able to express myself through this platform, share my stories, thoughts, and passions! It’s also lovely when I get to know it’s being read.

There is an urge to share: sometimes I wonder if I share too much? But sharing brings me a different kind of joy. Maybe vulnerability is not all that bad, but you have to be strong to express freely.

As Maya Angelou (sometimes I feel she has examined my mind) puts it: “We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans- because we can. We have some impulse within ourselves to make us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone- because we have the impulse to explain who we are.

I can say from last September to this one: I haven’t learnt this much in my entire existence 🤣

Blogging has kept me excited, engaged, occupied and eager while providing me a platform to be myself.

At times I want to believe Dan Stanfald “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” And then at times I see what I have created with what I got. And I am super glad with that.

People will tell you: Perspective. Faith. Belief. Trust. All of this is within ourselves. We just have to find it, eventually.

Hope you read this and found something relatable. Keep reading and do share your stories with me! A big shout out to everyone who follows my posts, gives me feedback, and lets me know that they took away something from my writing. Thank you!

The thrill of launching Sofar Sounds in Hong Kong

You’re going for a live music show. But you don’t know who you’ll be listening to. Oh and you also don’t know where the show is going to be until one day before. It’s all a secret 😉

Can you be excited about it?

Hell yes!! Sofar Sounds hosts live music gigs in this format in over 300 countries worldwide and it is known to curate 1) a fantastic artist line-up which one can explore on its YouTube channel & 2) an engaging and lively audience who come together to experience this unique set up. Chances are you will have a superb night. The twist is that it can be hosted anywhere- from someone’s living room, a rooftop, a garage to a beach.

My first experience was in London in the summer of 2016. Some people introduce us to great things in life. I enjoyed the whole vibe, experience and ambience of this totally fresh and interesting concept.

When I moved back to Hong Kong, I decided I must find out what’s brewing. Why isn’t Sofar here? I wrote to the global team – yes – just do what you must! And they very kindly connected me to Julien, our country lead, who was also just planning to launch. We put a team together and devised our strategy to launch.

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It’s wonderful how music brings people together. I am so fortunate to work with my Sofar team members: Julien, Marston, Betina, Alwin and Denny. Each of us contributes our strength and volunteers time apart from our day job to make Sofar happen in HK. But as expected in launching a startup, we faced hiccups on various fronts. We have to give it to the very structured and supportive global Sofar team to help us through this. At the same time, we are learning to be our resourceful best! So many people have come forward to help us as we expand in the music community in Hong Kong.

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The first Sofar HK

Our first gig was magical: the way we envisioned it, the way we felt about it and the way it unfolded. Everything came together and it was perfect for the kick-off. We organised the second gig in June and definitely got better at setting it up! The audience is charmed with the format. The artists enjoyed performing at our shows – an opportunity for them to receive a global platform through our YouTube channel and have an additional avenue in Hong Kong to showcase their music. The artists we have hosted: Yeung Tung, Olivier Cong, Stranded Whale, Pineapple Jam, Marston and Eli. Such a pleasure to host their music!

 

 

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We are working to organize the next one. The success of our model rests on three pillars according to me:

  • The artists: We are curating local artists through various sources and we encourage new, fresh, different kind of music which goes with Sofar’s style.
  • The hosts: Any private space can be a venue for us: a rooftop, office space, terrace, living room, art studio, anything!
  • The audience: Audience is curated by invitation to ensure we have a diverse mix of people and an opportunity for everyone to attend as usually space is limited to 30-40 people

Looking out for artists and hosts! You can reach out to us at hongkong@sofarsounds.com for any recommendations. Our Facebook Page has the photo coverage for our gigs – go ahead and check it out! Sign up here to attend our next gig!

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For me organizing Sofar is such a thrill because music runs in every vein of my body. I define a lot of myself with songs – always better than words I think. Learning to play the guitar was a challenging and eye-opening experience for me. There is a plethora of things in an artist’s journey: dedication, devotion, passion and creativity. It is important for an artist to get their recognition and due and for music lovers to share this euphoria. I have discovered so many awesome bands through Sofar and met such lovely people who share the same joy for music. This is a community I truly believe in.

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I lose and find myself with music. Photo credits: Musheer Ahmed

What’s fantastic is how global it is. We are talking about a 7 year old startup in 327 cities founded in London by Dave Alexander, Rafe Offer and Ricky Start. These guys were annoyed that people didn’t pay attention to the musicians at a bar. You don’t listen to their music, you do 10 other things. With Sofar (Sounds from a room) you have an intimate setting and you just go there for the music. It’s simple. And it works.

Richard Branson invested in Sofar Sounds last year. News suggests the startup is valued at ~$22M. Airbnb signed a global deal to host Sofar in its accommodations! Amnesty International partnered with Sofar to host concerts on one day (September 20, 2017) in different cities to support refugees. In my knowledge, UK and the US are the two countries where the business model is successful. Rest of the world is catching up and I believe it will. Currently, in HK we are running it on a voluntary basis but we hope to be able to monetize soon!

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It’s awesome that Hong Kong’s music community is coming together too. We are reaching out to more and more people and yes, our plans are big. Hit us up if you have ideas!

Photo Credits:

  • Denny Chan
  • Alwin Leung
  • Betina Libre
  • Musheer Ahmed

 

 

~My Quirky Experiences in Yangon~

When you’re thrown into a new situation, either you seek a way out or you just go with the flow. I belong to the latter category.

Yangon is at an interesting turn. People who visited 4 years ago very clearly remember that there was hardly any nightlife with only 1-2 five-star hotel bars frequented by the expats. Although even today, the city is gone to bed by 9 pm, it is slowly waking up to the night. There are up and coming restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s all happening – from rooftops to basements, from featured nights celebrating Oktober fest to salsa lessons, all listed in a weekly online magazine such as Myanmore.

And I would say it was quite buzzy! Some rooftops gave you the feel of being in any other party city, except that the breathtaking view of the Shwedagon pagoda is a constant feature, glowing through the night and twinkling up Yangon’s skyline.

In the midst of things, you meet people and how. And while you go and enjoy the usual ways you know, sometimes you come across people who bring with them a hint of adventure. I met a couple of inspiring women who were working for international development organisations in Yangon. They took me out to one of the most happening parties. At a gay bar. The speciality is it happens on the last Saturday of the month and the DJ spins the best of the club classics. And it’s not only the expats who make it here: it’s a good mix of locals and expats.

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Them Girls!

I absolutely danced the night out and found such enthusiastic dancers around me. A gay couple was undeniably cute and tried to follow my moves. It was the best dance I had in a club with two guys. No chance of being hit on! Hahaha

On that point, I was hit on by an old Italian guy unrelentingly till I almost kissed my girl friend, Boran to indicate I am gay! Boran was seriously a saviour that night!

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It’s a ladies’ night out!

Well, I always find myself in a mix of excitement and uncertainty. I discovered that Yangon has a North Korean restaurant named after the country’s capital, Pyongyang.  I did not know firstly that this existed and secondly that it is quite popular, with 130 branches in mostly Chinese cities, but also Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Political commentary suggests that Myanmar and North Korea share a friendly relationship, as a follow through from the close military ties. Goes to explain the existence of this establishment in Yangon!

Well, as I looked on for more info and found Tripadvisor reviews, I really wanted to go. I found an equally enthusiastic partner in Alie, a lovely woman, working to support and help refugees in Myanmar. Her stories are one of a kind and truly make you believe in the faith of humanity.

We debated whether we would put our money to fund this? And although we were principally against it, the curiosity got the better of us, I would not deny. So we decided that before she leaves from Yangon, we should go there.

On the night of our dinner, I arrived a little early and had the opportunity to observe the space. A compound with an outpost where a woman was selling ice cream? Hilarious and a little bizarre. A buzzing Chinese restaurant in front of it. So I was relieved that it was not deserted, yet the vibe was so eerie. I was waiting for my friend to arrive, who took a “little” longer than the time we had decided to meet. She did not have access to mobile data and I almost contemplated leaving, but I decided to go in and have a look.

As I entered the compound, the girl selling ice cream left her post and ushered me to the entrance. There were 5 women dressed in traditional clothes at the door of the restaurant and they welcomed me in. I found Allie sitting on one of the tables and heaved a sign of relief. At the time, there was no one else in the restaurant, as we chose Monday night because she was leaving the next day.

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At the entrance

Our research suggested that the waitresses are trained musicians who put on a performance every night. They play various instruments and are really good at it. As I tried to click a photo of the stage with the equipment set up, the waitress told me that pictures were not allowed.

Unfortunately on this day, they were not going to perform. We were slightly disappointed. However, the experience was good. The waitress was clearly trained to chat with customers and ask questions like “which country do you belong to?”  and “how do you like the food?” And we could also click a photo with her! We had read in online reviews that these women are not allowed to leave their compound and are always escorted by someone if they do leave.

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Hello there!

 

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With my plotter, Allie ❤

For food, I don’t remember the dishes’ names but we went for North Korean dumplings and pancake. As the food came, I hoped I’d be alright hahaha. Well, it was good though- nothing very special (as we didn’t try the overpriced specialities) yet nice taste. And we constantly felt like we were being monitored/recorded on camera. I am quite sure of that actually. In the end, we were charged for paper towel and water as well, but this was expected. First their dishes are so expensive and second they charge extra for every tiny thing.

But I enjoyed myself in both the situations and walked away with memorable times! If you don’t explore, you don’t know!

Consuming and commenting on 4 big global brands!

How would you feel if you were strolling in the port town of a Greek island, going down a quaint street full of tiny shops with artefacts & hand-made scarves and cute little cafes serving Greek coffee, and then…. you spotted a Starbucks?

I still don’t know if I felt “Yay, this town has Starbucks!” or “Oh no, why do they have Starbucks here?”

Do you know what I mean? I want to share my experiences with 4 massive global brands and how I feel about them. For me brands are about recognition and perception, and that’s what takes me back to them. Or not.

Starbucks:

Ok, I decided. I was not happy to see Starbucks in Heraklion, Crete. I did not travel to go into a new place and get Starbucks coffee and sit there with the same ambience which makes me feel like I am working in my home city. But yes, please I would any day have my Greek coffee!

While I am not a crazy fan of Starbucks coffee, I do have my favourites: the winter special Toffee Nut Latte and the Americano. Have you seen the number of Starbucks cafe thrown in the face at every corner in Hong Kong? So it’s a factor of availability and convenience. And it goes back to how I use this product and what it makes me feel. The environment is great for me when I need to sit and crunch some work.  However, there are tons of cafes in Hong Kong which have much better coffee and even better ambience, so I have explored and keep changing my working spot.

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Photo Credits: Google Images

With a market cap of $87 billion and strong global presence, Starbucks does have a strong brand presence in my opinion. And I still have a decent feeling towards it, maybe not love but affection to some extent.

Apple:

My first Apple product was the iPod, which my uncle in the US had gifted me. You know when India had no foreign brands and only family members in the “US” were the source of such “prestigious” products? Haha. Well, I adored the iPod. For a music freak, this was heaven. But I do remember having syncing nightmares where I had to sync with iTunes to put the songs on the iPod and the software version was never the latest and this process took HOURS. Also, as recently as 2011, Apple’s customer service in India SUCKED. My mom and I were frustrated beyond measure to get a problem fixed in the iPod, which eventually never got resolved, after we tried everything. That’s when the charm whatever it was faded for me. I never bought the iPhone for this reason, maybe.

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Photo Credits: Google Images

But when in China, this brand is the Apple of everyone’s eyes! As my Samsung S3 breathed its last, the time came for me to pick a new phone. Three months in Hong Kong and the Mainland, I had an overdose of Apple products all around me. Yes, I decided to buy an iPhone. I had to book an appointment for the 6s, I couldn’t just walk into the store. I tried twice and since it was full, gave up and bought the 6. I am not that person who’d wait in line to buy an Apple product. Haha.

I even have a photo of me selling out, my Apple-disapproving brother was not happy.

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Sell-out?

Last year, my Dell laptop also gave up on me and I posted on Facebook asking friends’ opinion for recommendations because tech decisions and I have a turbulent history. Well, it was a hands-down win for the Macbook. I went for it.

So, how do I feel about these products? Upfront, I am not a tech geek and maybe I am not even aware of more than half the features. But the use of the products has been smooth, seamless and easy. The biggest thing for me has been battery life! Also, multi-tasking and interface has been great. Ok, I have dropped and crashed my phone some 3 times – the glass is fragile or I have butter fingers. I also did not invest in a sturdy cover. So I don’t know who to blame here?

With a massive ~$700 billion market capitalisation, Apple’s brand dominance is real. The craze to upgrade to the latest version – while I heard about it in India, I saw it in Hong Kong. Out of my MBA class of 50 people from 16 countries, 35 had Macbooks. But I am not sure, is it marketing or really the best product out there? Is it worth the price? Is it a me-too wave? What really are the features you should really buy Apple for? I am not too sure, but I can say I am a happy consumer 🙂

Uber: 

Convenience! That’s the word. This has been a fallback, ease and boon for the traveller. While I am all for figuring out local transport and getting the real feel of a city, Uber has been phenomenal. Stuck somewhere? Don’t know how to reach a place? Don’t want to think? Just a short ride? Just Uber it. The cashless angle is so hassle-free for a traveller in a new city. Also, usually, the Uber drivers are chatty and willing to give recommendations around the city. Even within the city, for example in my hometown, Delhi, people have started using Uber regularly to work. It’s just more convenient than driving your own car in the mad traffic.

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Photo Credits: Google Images

I Ubered my way in London, Manchester, Prague, Delhi and my experience till date has been positive. I like how Uber has become a verb and how relatable this is. My best experience was in Manchester, when we went pub hopping at night. I ended up chatting with almost all the drivers, who were very helpful and mostly belonged to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. It was super interesting to talk to them and no we didn’t have any frictions.

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The Manchester Crew

But when I am using this brand, the issues surrounding the brand globally are definitely on my mind. Safety, capital burning, horrifying remarks from the CEO, reports of a misogynistic workplace and in general new scandals propping up regularly. Does it make me change my preferences as a consumer? Yes, it does. One can choose to be indifferent or one can choose to be careful. I do appreciate the fantastic idea behind Uber but don’t know where the company’s future is headed, if such is the culture and thought process of the company. At the same time, the company has been valued at ~$70 Billion and is gearing up for its IPO, I believe. But I do not have any comments on its valuation. I mean $70 B?

Airbnb:

I’d say Comfort! What a concept!

Fantastic homes in superb locations, with reasonable prices and a local friend! I mean I really love Airbnb. But I preferred to use it when travelling in groups. I am not much of a solo traveller, and if I am then I prefer a crowded hostel or hotel for sure. My favourite Airbnb experience was with my family in Prague. It was a wonderful two bedroom house and the four of us fit right in. It was introducing the concept to my parents and it was awesome how they analysed different aspects and compared their experience with their usual hotel stay.

The brand has a great global reach. Also, I am loving their partnerships in the travel space and beyond, especially the most recent one with Sofar Sounds. Despite incidents of the platform not being used in line with the policies, I like this company. Recently valued at ~$31 Billion, this tech start-up is profitable! I am excited to follow Airbnb and see where it goes.

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The living room of our accommodation! Photo Credits: Airbnb

So that’s a wrap! Some Prague photos, because I mean just look how beautiful it is:

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Note: All figures in USD and are provided for rough estimation only. Sourced from publicly available databases.  This blog post is not for informational purpose, it is purely based on my very biased opinion 😀

3 things I missed as an Indian student in Hong Kong

I lived in Beijing, Hong Kong and London during the MBA journey. I spent the maximum time in Hong Kong – 8 months – my first living abroad experience. Here are the top three things I missed as a student. Of course, being Indian added other interesting elements.

1.FOOD: Price and Variety
As an Indian, the first and constant thing I missed was the food. Firstly, food is expensive for a student in Hong Kong. Secondly, there is a major lack of street food options, which we Indians thrive on.
I will admit though that when I just moved, because of the language barrier, I did not explore the very local Chinese places, where one can find tasty food at reasonable prices.

Another thing I and most of the Indians found difficult to digest (pun intended) was the concept of salads as meals. We do not eat salads. Period. Well, we start with a sumptuous breakfast, then a tiny snack before lunch, followed by a hearty lunch. After that it’s time for tea time snacks, munching on random stuff before dinner and finally dinner around 9 pm. Where is the need for salads? But I developed a mentality for having salads as a meal. I think it was because the vegetables are much fresher and there is greater variety in the components and dressing. And it was legitimately filling.
Definitely, there were Indian food options too, but it would usually get heavy and also lacked the original taste to a great extent. If something could get me to cook, it was the desire to eat Indian. And to fulfil this, Apoorva was my saviour! Thankfully she knew how to cook and I happily assumed the role of a helper. We cooked chicken curry and jeera aloo (Potato dish) on few occasions when the workload was bearable.  We cribbed about food together and got excited about the prospect of going home for holidays only because of the food! I was so motivated that I learnt the recipe of Shorshe maach (Fish in Mustard curry, typical Bengali cuisine) from my thaku ma (grandmother) and cooked it in Hong Kong 3-4 times! Me!?


In hindsight, as a student- on a budget-in a fast-paced 1 year MBA program- it isn’t easy to discover/look for the best food options. So I winged it more or less. And adaptability is a good policy! I explored new cuisines, understood what a satisfying meal feels like, discovered my preferences and realised how important it is to eat properly. I think I have adapted to a variety of flavours by now. I really like the very local Cha siu bao (Cantonese pork bun), will happily eat at Cafe de Coral (yes, my friends here can go ahead and give me a disbelieving look), love sushi now, explored Vietnamese, Korean and Singaporean fast food options, among many others. Also for the Indian touch, I was recently introduced to an awesome Nepali place which has the best momos and chai (tea) in town. So food discovery is a constant process and one which I embrace happily.


2. TRANSPORT: Well-connected and efficient yet where is my autorickshaw?  

Let’s just say there is a lot of walking involved, which we don’t do at all in India. The Metro (MTR) is very well organized but some stations have SO much walking involved inside to reach certain exits, it’s like a mini trek. I was definitely not used to that. Also, within the Hong Kong Island, one can usually walk to most places. There is a culture of walking to reach your destination. In Delhi, for one you cannot walk as there is no place to. Footpaths exist but they are for hawkers or they are not well-connected to reach anywhere. Further, there is limited respect for a pedestrian, so it is highly likely it will be a frustrating experience to navigate your way.


What did I miss the most? Autorickshaws! Some locations can be very far from the MTR exit. So when you get out of the exit, you still have to walk 10 minutes to reach your destination. In Delhi, when you get out on the exit, there is a line of autorickshaws, so you don’t even have to walk two seconds. Finally, I missed my car. In Delhi, besides the Metro, the public transport is not well developed so the first option is always one’s car. That luxury was definitely lost as a student and that too in Hong Kong.
In all, due to my walking adventures in Hong Kong, I broke two pairs of sandals which just wore out! 

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Miss you laa!

But yes, I appreciate the organisation and connectivity that this city offers. Hong Kong has a very efficient and affordable public transport system- buses, trams, ferry and MTR- you can get to anywhere in good time. And if need be, even the taxi is a feasible option. A special mention to my favourite mode of transport in HK- the tram. It’s cheap ass, has a well connected network and is really convenient on the Island!

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The tram!! Photo by Musheer Ahmed

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Taxi Mesh. Photo by Musheer Ahmed

Photo credits: Musheer Ahmed. Check out the Facebook Page here!
3. HOUSE SIZE: Life in a room 
I am going to sound pompous, but oh well~

Most of us back home have decent sized houses, which accommodate joint families and usually have a garden/backyard/basement/terrace included. We also have separate rooms such as TV room/ guest room/own room/parents’ room/dining/kitchen. And then you move to Hong Kong to live in a room which is smaller than half of any of the above rooms :D.

The double whammy is the ridiculously inflated property market in Hong Kong and that one is a student! Icing on the cake is of course, that Hong Kong features in top 2 most expensive cities in the world in different studies: Knight Frank Report and Economist Intelligence Unit Report.

So one misses the expanse and comfort of SPACE. At the same time, I realized the value of it. I know I am damn lazy when it comes to cleaning my room but if I didn’t, I would not have any area left to put my foot in! My room is never in a photo worthy state, so no pictures here :/
I push and pull, adapt and change, accept and enjoy. Whatever I don’t like, it means it’s time to change the situation. Settled and found solutions (although no replacements) to each of the above mentioned misses!

Life’s about the people, no?

It’s always about the people. The people who matter and who don’t.

The zealous ones who became my mentors. They invest in you, believe in you and provide their time, resources, experience and advice. These are the people who listen to you then tell you you can achieve much more! Everything I valued so much and without which I would not be where I am today.

The unexpected ones who became my angels, lifting me up during dark times. Just when you thought that not even one ray of light would shine on you, they came out of nowhere to be the whole sun with all its warmth. I thank them with all my heart and wonder how they were placed to enter my life when they did.

The strangers who stoked the flames and then washed out my fire. They are strangers because it’s like I never knew them. I am surprised at how their negative energy sapped my essence, but probably I have become a bit wiser and stronger with the multiple lessons I learnt.

The genuine ones who became incredible friends. You hang with them and like their company and you are delightfully pleased when they are there for you. I discovered them a bit more, shared my joy and laughed a lot. I felt warm around them and valued their presence around me.

The family and friends whom I came back to. My very foundation, my strength and support. Time may pass and distance may grow, but our connection magnifies every single time. They know me in and out and they make me who I am today. These are my people.

The random people who brought a smile to my face and made me feel good inside. A passing smile, a caring gesture, a good conversation, a good morning greeting – just a hint of humanity through people I met in various parts of the world.

Maybe people are not black or white. Neither are they grey. No, people are five times all the colours in the rainbow. Which colour you experience is what they want to show you. So be prepared to decipher the right hue and assess whether it matches with yours. Ultimately, it’s all about the people we meet, give our time to, observe, look up to, help, cry and laugh with.

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Photo Credits (for both images): Ronald Kwok

How living abroad has made me reflect on my Hindi

Disclaimers:

*** This is an introspective post. What I am writing is a result of my experiences and opinions***

*** This is not a politically inclined post***

Let’s go?

When you go through a new experience – is it really a brand new experience or just changes your perspective about an old experience? Multiple encounters and situations have made me reflect on what this post is about.

Greetings:

I visited a couple of countries recently and lived in four in the past 1.5 year. The most striking thing was how people of each country greet “hello” and “thank you” in their local language. It’s easy for people if you use just these two words – it makes people happy and open to help you. I realized that back home, we have stopped using the Hindi for Hello and Thank You –Namaste and Dhanyavad all together. Namaste is used to only greet elders to show respect and way too formal in our culture. With parents, friends and anyone new we use Hi, Hello, What’s up. As for Dhanyavad, it is happily replaced with Thank You as everyone does understand Thank You. Last time I went back home, I tried using Namaste and Dhanyavad and see how it felt. I said Namaste to the immigration officer and Dhanyavad generally to my friends, grocery guy, auto-walah. I just felt good, as if I am doing something right. When I used Namaste and Dhanyavad with my friends they just said who uses that. I mean if context be explained, it is really uncommon to use our own language greetings and if I think about it, it is purely strange.

Teaching Hindi:

While I was in Yangon, I became good friends with Ling. I met her at a walking tour and we hit it off, given our cultural exchange. I had learnt Mandarin and she was trying to learn Hindi! So we got talking and eventually she asked me to teach her basic Hindi. I had three months in Yangon and I thought if someone wants to learn my language, I should be helpful! So we started off with some basic lessons. Two things which were difficult to really explain were the importance given to respect i.e. how verbs change depending on whom you are talking to and of course the change of verbs based on the gender of the noun. One day Ling messaged me in Hindi on Whatsapp as practice, she found the word “Arrey Wah” quite fun to use. I realised I did not have the Hindi keyboard enabled on my phone. I or the circle of people I know do not use Hindi text at all. This was a realization. Yes, we talk in Hindi on text but we write it in English itself. I still can’t figure a reason for this.

Digging deeper:

Since childhood, I learnt both Hindi and English together at home. More importantly, the medium of instruction for education was English. This is a key differentiator when compared to generally people from other countries where they learn English as a separate language while other subjects are taught in local language. So I learnt Hindi as a second language. Also, speaking in Hindi and learning Hindi at school were two very different aspects. We just don’t speak the way we write it or are expected to express ourselves for exams. Over time, our colloquial speech has become Hinglish, where we mix and mash Hindi and English words as we please. If you asked me to speak 5 sentences in pure Hindi, I’d probably struggle with that.

Another aspect was that the Hindi teachers at school were plain uninspiring. I am not disregarding their knowledge but their presentation, delivery and approach to teaching the language was so dry and not something we looked forward to. I can only remember two authors whom I enjoyed reading: Kabir ke dohe (couplets by the poet Kabir) and Premchand’s stories. Out of school curriculum, I read Chacha Chaudhary (Hindi comics), which was super engaging and a fun experience. I don’t think school focused on anything beyond the curriculum, which in my opinion is a recipe for disaster.

My mother used to teach me Hindi and I remember how frustrated she was with me. Her Hindi is super and she was sad to see me 1) not enjoying learning the language 2) not making much effort except to get those marks in exams. I eventually dropped the language in Class 8th and chose French instead.

Position of English:

English has been one of the most useful legacies of the British era. India is united by English, given its multiple languages in different regions. Our adaptability to English has enabled created plethora of jobs and taken Indians further in life and the world. Today, if the Chinese could master English, Indians would really have causes to worry.

With all its merits, English also brought a significant class division in society. It is perceived often (at least where I have grown up in Delhi) that if you don’t know English, you are not educated. It is sad and improper, but it has been quite blatant.

When I reflected on why I am not closer to my mother tongue, I found an answer. My thought process is in English. My urge to express -when I feel something compelling be it in doses of love or bouts of anger or this blog post- is in English. But then, some forms of expression are just possible in Hindi: for instance certain songs have such nuances which only Hindi can bring out or sometimes you want to abuse in a way only Hindi abuses would suffice haha.

So what now?

I think we adapted to certain things through which we saw progress and a way to a better life. But for me, it should not be about leaving those things behind which define you or are your identity. Personally, I need to make an extra effort to ensure that I am satisfied with my Hindi. I look at Amitabh Bachchan as an inspiration. He is someone who can express beautifully in both Hindi and English- his articulation is impeccable. When he hosted the super popular game show, Kaun Banega Crorepati, his use of Hindi was so perfect that one was intrigued to understand or learn words which were unfamiliar. This year, I plan to read some Hindi literature – to touch base, to revive, to be better at the language which is mine.

Ending note:

Unrelated to this post, but I composed a few lines in Hindi randomly. I was chatting with my friend and just wanted to be a bit dramatic given how life is at times. It took me just a minute to write in the flow of the conversation. I’ll share that as an ending note:

“कहते है कि अपनी मंज़िल खुद तह कर सकते है। कहते है और हम मानते भी है। लेकिन अब तो  ऐसा लगता है कि सब लिखा हुआ है और हम तो बस कठपुतली है।”

(They say that you can decide your own destiny. They say and we agree. But now it seems everything is already written and we are just puppets in the hands of destiny)

Welcome to my world :)

Smile. Breathe. Giggle

The sun is glowing, welcoming a bright day

It’s freedom and liberation

I want to face the day with my head held high and hair flying in all directions

 

Swing. Sway. Live

The beat is pumping, drawing me in

I twirl and twist, lost in the rhythm

I want to be in this moment and never let go

 

Strum. Thrash. Headbang

The double bass is building up

It’s almost time for the solo

I want to immerse in the music and feel the madness of it all

 

Speak. Listen. Share

Words are flowing and stories are linking

I connect, laugh, hear, argue

I want to talk in awe and animation

 

Trust. Expect. Hold on.

People come and people go

It’s easy to nurture the relationships which matter

I want to believe people and hope that they mean what they say

 

Always embracing, born vivacious, and forever untameable.

 

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The little joys which brighten me.  Photo credits: Tanmay Shah

 

 

 

 

5 experiences that I loved in Yangon

Blog post #3 on my Myanmar expedition!

I would love to share 5 things that I found very interesting in Yangon.

  1. Buzzy Mornings:

I was living in Yaw Min Ghi area, an expat-friendly area. The street was full of restaurants and cafes- ranging from from local tea shops to Japanese sushi places. But mornings were a party of their own. I would walk up to a point to get a taxi for work and this walk was the best part of my day. Both sides of the street were lined with pop-up carts- selling different kind of local breakfast items- hot pancakes, eggs, and other fried things. There were also carts of fruits, vegetables and fresh flowers. I was greeted with smiles and chitter-chatter. The people were in full swing for the morning and their energy was infectious.

Another feature of Yangon mornings was the Buddhist monks’ alms round. Every morning the monks leave their monastery and walk barefooted with the alms bowl to accept food donation. People prepare the food and wait outside their houses. As the monks arrive, they offer the food. The Buddha’s teachings suggest that giving and receiving alms creates a spiritual connection between the monks and the common people. So my mornings were calm yet energetic and truly uplifting!

 

 

 

2. Crossing the road:

When you are from India, how much worse can crossing a road be? Well, it can. In Yangon, the roads are underdeveloped and there is no concept of a pedestrian traffic signal. So your best bet is just to cross the road, as you please. I have seen people walk into full-on traffic, show their hand and cross the road like a boss. The big difference here is that vehicles actually stop when you do that. You can’t carry that off in India- you will get hit for sure.

So given my knowledge of traffic in India and my infamous accident in Hong Kong, I was petrified to cross the road in Yangon. I have waited for 10 minutes for cars to thin down so I could find the right time to cross. Eventually, I lost my patience, and tried the local way. It worked!

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Ahlon-Bago intersection

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Just a pretty road, during off-peak hours

 

3. Being confused for a local:

Indians account for around 2% of Myanmar’s population at present. Most ancestors emigrated to Burma during the British rule and played an important role in Burma’s history as civil servants, engineers, soldiers and traders. History suggests ethnic Indians had a somewhat turbulent time in Burma, but I am not going to delve into that for now.

I observed that the ethnic Indians see themselves belonging to Myanmar as they have lived there for over 5 generations. Yangon and Mandalay have the majority of the Indian population. So when I was in Yangon, I was often confused for a local. People would just start speaking to me in Myanmar, without any doubts. In fact, at a famous tourist attraction, Kandwagyi lake, I almost got the lower entrance fee for locals instead of paying the charge for foreigners. It’s just that I didn’t understand what they were saying, that they realised I am not local. Haha! I finally learnt how to say “I don’t speak Myanmar language” in Myanmar language.

But I did embrace everything local I could. I thoroughly enjoyed the food, which in my opinion, is a blend of Oriental and Indian cuisine with a unique Burmese flavour. I also enjoyed wearing the Longyi, which really suited me and confirmed my local look! Also, I made many local friends, who had origins from Nepal, India and China. They showed me around their city with a lot of pride and care. A big shoutout to Jessica, Tinzar, Medha, Yu Yu and Geeta for being so lovely!

 

4. Teaching Bollywood dance:

The private equity fund I was interning at has made 9 investments in Myanmar, one of which is a gym. It was conveniently located on the second floor of the office building, so I decided to join it. The attractive thing for me was the various dance classes- Zumba and Body jam- and the flexibility of attending any class at any time. The instructors were superb and infused amazing energy! I absolutely loved the dance classes. I attended the gym regularly for two months- which is something for me- since I find gym boring as a concept.

It was my mother who suggested that I could try taking my own classes. She is always the one with the ideas, inspiring me and everyone around her. I suggested Bollywood classes and we did a trial class. It was so well-received! The locals absolutely loved it- reactions I received were “it felt like we were in a Bollywood movie” and “we have seen the dances on TV but didn’t think we could do it“. It was a wonderful feeling to share my love for dance! The first song I put in my routine was recommended by a good friend, Musheer and was very apt- Mere piya gaye Rangoon- a classic Bollywood song about a lover going off to Rangoon and calling on the phone from there.

I found a fan in Rommie- a fifth generation Indian- who thoroughly enjoyed my class. I also met Medha – Myanmar-Nepali- a fabulous dancer herself! And my dear friend Joana attended my classes as well. Surprisingly, some men also attended the class and had a delightful time! It was joy, hip rolls, energy, smiles and 1 hour of intense workout! Link to a sneak peak of the class: https://www.facebook.com/kritika.kumar7/videos/10157705395685008/?l=1039638281381106422

 

5. Representing a reputed company:

I thrive on being an active member of the community I live and work in. Thus, it was my endeavour to understand the investment community in Yangon and also increase my knowledge of what people were doing in Yangon. It was a great feeling to represent my company, which has built its reputation since it started three years ago. Having made 9 investments in startups and small-scale local businesses, it has achieved a respectable position in the community. The co-founders – having extensive experience in private equity across Asia- are committed to provide their expertise to nurture local talent and businesses. I could see the impact – creation of jobs, investment in human capital and increasing knowledge of how to run a successful business.

The future is bright and beckons the right people! Lots to do and more to achieve.