My father was a student of history and wanting his children to be well known too - named them after famous Indian Kings/personalities
His first son was Ashok - was brilliant in many ways, but turned out to be quite a naughty boy
Since it was difficult to get angry with him, using the name of an emperor, they thought of a simpler one & decided to call him by a nickname "Tony"
When I was born, I was called Ranjit - also a Maharaja's name and was a very quiet and soft natured child
However, under the influence of Tony, I became quite a devil too so they decided to look for a name that rhymed with his- and that is how I became
known as "Mony"
It certainly made things much simpler for them when they had to chase us around or scold us
Both my brother Tony & I went to the same boarding school, but there was a world of difference between us
He was good in studies, sports, debating etc a complete all rounder
I was bad in all these things and only scraped through my exams by the grace of God or the teacher
Like all parents, mine were very concerned about what would happen to me
later on the life - as things did not seem to improve over the years and I was just about 5 feet in height
Someone suggested that they let me join the armed forces - so I sat for the entrance exam. By a miracle - managed to pass and was then sent to Meerut for the final selection
Things went off quite well at the aptitude tests, but when I got my results, it stated "not suitable".
I was very surprised at this - though happy in a way- as not that keen
A few decades later, I met someone who remembered what had happened and asked if I knew why I had failed
Since I did not- he told me that mine was a very unusual case While the tests are going on, they are usually used to being flooded by phone calls and personal requests to see that their sons get through
In my case a lady had rung up to speak to the military commandant and told him in simple words:
"My son cannot even kill a fly- how can you think of taking him into the Army. Make sure he fails - give some medical reason if need be."
So, even though I should have passed, I did not
That was a turning point in my life.
My father was in the foreign service and was at that time posted in West Africa.
I had gone on a short vacation and was supposed to join Delhi University- mid 1960
However, as my brother was also at St. Stephen's college, they thought that I may have the same problems like I had at school
Hence suggested that I should consider going to a completely new place
In those days studying in Germany was quite fashionable and people went over there to become Doctors, Engineers or Architects.
Being an obedient son I agreed and landed up in Frankfurt at the age of 16+
Learning to live like others, I was booked at a youth hostel and at that time paid just 50 pfennig - which was only a few rupees
I found the accommodation quite good, but was informed that the rates were subsidized and everyone staying at the hostel was supposed to do some work.
Coming straight out of a boarding school, had never done any such things earlier and wanted to know what the options were. They included - tidying the rooms, sweeping
the floors, washing bed linen, gardening or working in the kitchen. The last option was more appealing than the others so I opted for that.
The head chef.looked at me, smiled, and gave me what he termed something very simple to do. He took an empty beer barrel - fortunately a small size and filled it up
with something which looked like rocks but said they were simple potatoes.
Having seen these mainly in the form of chips or mashed versions it was quite a sight - as some were huge. He than gave me a tool and said I should start peeling
It sounded easy but took ages - my hands hurt, got blisters too and by the time I finished,most of the potatoes must have reduced to 1/3rd of their original size.
The cook however, was quite considerate and did not say anything.
When I travel to Germany now, I point out to a bench and tell my children that is where I spent my first three days in Europe - peeling potatoes along the river Main
Naturally, if one wanted to study in Germany one needed to learn the language and the Goethe Institute I went to was located in a small town.
It was almost like a village, considering that the total population was only about 6000 and the people had been told that whenever they saw a foreigner were to speak to them only in German
This was certainly a very efficient way of getting us to learn the language but then we were in for some tests as well
During the lunch break were allowed to go to different restaurants to eat by ourselves, so naturally, got quite excited
When we sat down and were ready to order, the waiter looked at us and said we don't speak English - you have to tell us what you want in German.
None of us knew any words, but it was a matter of survival because he was quite stubborn about it.
Suddenly I realized that I had just done some work in Frankfurt but was having difficulty in remembering what the German word was. The waiter, however refused to budge from his stand
Then suddenly it came back to me and I said "Kartoffeln" He replied "Ja wohl" and sprang into action. A friendly person, instead of bringing plain boiled potatoes he got us Brat Kartoffeln which were fried and made with onions/flavoured
We asked him what else we could get, he simply replied "bitte auf Deutsch"
So on the first day we had just potatoes with salt and Senf(mustard).
When we started our next lesson in class and the teacher was telling us about the countries of the World, we told her that was fine, but at the moment we wanted to learn one more word about food so we could order our lunch properly.
Hence, from just Kartoffeln the first day, we added Spiegel Eier (Fried eggs) and gradually in about a week were getting a full course meal.
Shows that we actually had to learn the language to survive.
The Germans are very thorough in everything and our teacher told me way back in the mid 1960s
"Herr Khubchand - wir werden Ihnen Deutsch so gut lehren, dass Sie die Sprache Ihr ganzes Leben nie vergessen werden"
This means Mr Khubchand we will teach you German so thoroughly that you will never forget the language for the rest of your life
Strangely enough - even though it is more than 50 years since I attended the class, I do still dream in German quite often!
As the student in Germany in the earlier 60s we were always broke and used to look around for places where we could eat at a reasonable rate.
Our favorite restaurant and dish turned out to be the German pea soup.
That was quite tasty, but the reason why it became so popular was because we got free bread with it.
So, for 50 pfennig we got a big bowl of soup and bread to our hearts content
We did not go in for the wurst which cost DM 1 extra because it was too expensive.
Most students in Germany in earlier 60s had to supplement their income by taking jobs
The notice board at the University was full of opportunities and like the others
I also started doing odd things - working in bread factories/shops/delivering beer/baby sitting/ serving in restaurants/laundry / painting trucks - you name it I must have gone through
They paid about 1DM an hour - which was quite good those days, but once in a while we got jobs that we really enjoyed.
For instance, where there was a major trade shows in Berlin and to give it a foreign touch notices at the University had big signs saying they needed foreigners who looked foreign - which sounded very interesting
So, all of us who had dark hair/skin went to take up jobs - welcoming people at the exhibition and also going around the exhibits. The pay at time was 10DM per hour which is very high even in today's standard.
While studying in Germany my father got transferred to Sweden and suggested that I continue my studies over there.
Hence, I went to Stockholm in 1964 to pursue my Engineering course
One of the compulsory subjects was English as a language and even though I told the professor that I had studied in this all through my school days and should not actually have to start from the alphabet again.
He was, however, a bit strict and said that rules apply to all but when I protested he got a bit fed up and said OK- just write an essay and we will see.
So, I took out my pencil and wrote an article on my impressions of Sweden and ended it with an observation
When two Swedes - two Danes and two Norwegians were stranded on an island-by the time they were rescued, the Danes had become good friends, the Norwegians started fighting but the Swedes were waiting to be introduced to each other.
He found this most humorous and it saved me from learning ABC in English again.
In Germany one could get food from different countries quite easily but when I started working in Vaestraas had an urge to eat "Dal".
The people there told me that such things were not available in Sweden and one would have to import them from the UK or other such countries - which sounded far too complicated.
The only types that were available were the brown kidney beans and dried peas-none of which I was particularly interested in.
However, I continued asking around- when one person - was not quite sure whether he was trying to help or tease me, said Mony- "why don't you go to a pet shop".
In life when you ask someone for advice you have to try it out, so I looked around and found such a shop.
It was amazing, they had dals in so many different shapes/sizes/colors - some that
I had never seen before but at least a few looked similar to what I wanted so I pointed out to the man there what I was interested in and asked him to give 500grams of each.
He was a quite surprised and asked what type of a bird I had.
I told him, it was a very special Indian one! And when I look back I realize that for the first two years in Vaesteraas I actually survived on bird food.
Sweden in the sixties was one of the most prosperous countries in the world and were proud of their cradle to grave security.
They were a bit surprised that I wanted to return to India after my studies especially since people were trying hard to come over there for a better future.
When asked why I was so keen on going back, I told them that I was not a materialist person and did not go in for fancy things. For me human contact was very important and I felt quite lonely and the people one actually interacted with mostly with those who looked like us.
Some wise person looked at me and said Mony why don't you get married.
Strangely I had never thought on these lines earlier.
During my days in Stockholm I happened to meet an Indian girl -whose father was posted there. We liked each other and wanted to marry.
Somehow, the Swedish press got to know this and said that it was very unusual for two Indians to get married in Sweden, so asked if we could have an Indian Wedding which would be interesting for their readers.
We checked with the Indian Embassy and their records actually indicated that ours would be the first registered wedding in that country. They also said that if we decided to get married on a Friday afternoon- they would let us use part of the Embassy premises.
Hence, in 1968 Tannu and I had an Indian Wedding in Sweden right in the heart of Stockholm with a lot of press coverage and with the help of the authorities even got to hold our reception at an actual palace.
Press people do have bold headings to get readers attention and in one of the top ladies magazines which had four pages of colour spreads, the headline was - The Stars had foretold that they would marry on a Friday afternoon.
People really believe that - though in reality it was the only time we could use the Embassy.
When I completed my studies in Stockholm I shifted to a smaller city Vaesteraas which had been built as a completely pollution free city.
So much so, that the heated water for the homes was made at one place some distance away and after distributing to the houses, used to go back to the power station under the roads so as to keep them ice free.
This was all well and good, but the Company I worked with also had their own customs and traditions.
One of these was that they promoted well being/staying fit and minimum use of private vehicles.
The choice of commuting to work was that one could either walk, or use public transportation or ride a bicycle.
Fortunately, one of my Swedish friends in Stockholm gave me his mother's cycle so that is what I used regularly.
Going around in summer was quite enjoyable, but in winters the temperature went down to -25 degrees Centigrade
It was certainly no fun then- taking the chill factor into account.
However, it did keep me active and fit.
Staying fit was one thing but when I landed up in Vasteraas I used to sneeze a lot - also had some problem with nose bleeding
Found this very strange, but when examined by the doctor, he told me that the air was much too pure and this could cause problems as well.
To overcome this, I actually had to go for regular injections - not sure what they were for but I presume it is something to pollute me so that I could breath the air that I was used to.
Also found that in our office where the company employed almost 12000 people, the work started at 7am and since everything was computerized, we all had to be on time- otherwise it could show up on our punch card.
Being on the marketing side, dealing with other continents - the USA, Canada, Latin America, we found this time to be rather impractical and preferred starting at a reasonable hour of about 8:30am.
Since no decision could be taken immediately, they had a referendum within the organization which went completely contrary to what we had wanted.
Instead of starting at 7am, almost 80% preferred to get to work even earlier - 5.30am.
Fortunately this made the management rethinks and we went over to flexible hours way back in 1967.
After my studies in Germany & Sweden I started working over there and every time I wanted to come back, people said I needed more experience.
Finally I realized that they all felt I should settle down abroad but I had no desire of doing so.
There was very little help from the family -in finding an opening. Must have made 100's of applications and scarcely got any reply.
Finally after two years I did get a letter from someone based in Mumbai. Who offered me a job?
This was in 1973 and the salary that they mentioned was less than what I had been earning as a student in 1961
However seeing how difficult it was to get an opening and realizing that even after a few years there might not be any change in position. I took the plunge.
The Swedish company I had worked with said that they had never seen an Indian not coming back , but I told them I had an earnest desire to go back home. They did [point out that If I decided to return, I was most welcome to rejoin.
However, this situation never arose.
Once I visited my grandmother in her old house in Connaught place when the lights went off.
She asked me whether I could change the fuse and I said yes certainly - where is the fuse box. She did not quite understand what this was so I told her - this was a box where the switches were - which trips in case there is a fault and all one needed was to re-set it.
There was no such box but said there is a little room in the back where one could do so.
When I went to that room I was absolutely horrified to see the huge ceramic circuit breakers and wires all over the place, many of which were live. I went back to her and said if I was in
Sweden, they would break down that room immediately as it was very dangerous.
She looked at me and said- Mony all I asked you to do is to change the fuse can you do so.
I replied no way - I have two young children and no intentions of getting electrocuted.
At that, she just got up went to the room herself - fiddled with a few wires/fuses and the lights came.
Then turned towards me and said- Mony why did you go to Sweden to study engineering?
That's when I realized that I was in the wrong profession and would be spending half my time just demolishing things rather than constructing.
When I came back to India my first job was in a multi-story building where we were located in the 12th floor.
Every country seems to have their own systems/rules and after I parked my car I proceeded to the lift with my briefcase.
People looked shocked and when I asked why - they said you are not supposed
to carry these things - a peon is supposed to pick it up for you
I said no way as I always carried my own things myself.
They found it very strange because even if something fell on the table I immediately cleaned it and did not wait for someone to come. Then when papers/letters had to be delivered to the mailing section and the concerned peon was not there I used to get up myself and do so.
If one believes something- one needs to continue in doing so. It is all a matter of showing people a way and not feel embarrassed.
In Scandinavia, I used to quite enjoy cooking.
In fact, I could make Indian food, continental and a lot of other things.
When I came back to Delhi, I wanted to do the same but was told that things were not that easy, as there were no super markets where one could buy semi cooked foods and there are different shops where one had to get grocery/milk, bread etc.
I told them that I enjoyed cooking and I wanted to continue in any case.
However, they insisted that I at least interview someone who had come for a job.
The lady arrived - quite pleasant looking but I had no desire of taking on someone so I asked her to make two dishes which I knew were difficult. She replied she could do so, and when I saw that it was far better than I could do, I decided to take her on.
She stayed with me for almost 21 years - her family was doing well and when people asked why she continued working with me she said I was lucky for her and carried on till her daughter got married and her son found a job.
During the course of this period her children got a good education we trained her daughter ourselves and rose to a very senior position in a large multinational company.
The joke going around was that I & my family are used to travel coach but my cooks daughter flies only business class.Quite remarkable and something to feel proud about.
However once she left- the desire to continue cooking was no longer there and I took on another help.
I enjoyed smoking but did not take to drinking.
Since I was living in a cold country -was told by everyone that one needed to have an occasional drink to warm up and stay fit.
Starting in the year 1962 I must have tried every possible combination, but after struggling for almost ten years and not seeing any progress, asked myself what I was trying to prove anyone- so finally gave it up completely.
When I returned to India in 1973 I was called a social bore because inspite of my having lived abroad I had not taken to the bottle.
It was, in a way, very fortunate that one of the Prime Minister we had was a teetotaller and he made Delhi a dry city in the sense that no restaurant was allowed to serve alcohol.
This suited me and I became a willing law abiding citizen through those years.
I did, however, have an understanding with my elder sister that we would have a glass of wine together on her 75th birthday. Unfortunately, she passed away before that so I have no dates to get started again.
During our courting days in Sweden I got a little dog - Dodo for my wife to be.
When we were returning to India in 1973, decided to leave it over there until we had settled down.
Once we had done so, started working on arrangements to bring him to India but were shocked to realize that as we had not declared it at the time of transfer of residence, we were only allowed to do so after getting an import license.
Since we had had Dodo for over 5 years - he was naturally part of the family too, had one of my first encounters with bureaucracy
It was a very hot day- peak of summer and I was going to the Ministry. However, as my shirt was torn near the elbows I decided to put on a jacket just to cover it up
When asking for an appointment at the reception while registering -the two clerks sitting at the other side of the desk were having an interesting conversation- about me in Hindi thinking that I did not understand.
They were both perspiring a lot but I was appearing very calm. They just could not understand this so after picking up courage looked at me and asked - Excuse me sir, but is that an air-conditioned jacket. I smiled and said yes.
Everything moved superfast after that. I saw the concerned officer and even though I had planned on staying there half a day completed all the formalities for an import license within an hour.
It just shows that even a torn shirt can come in handy in a situation.
Delhi airport was quite deserted those days with just a few flights in and out.
Dodo had been booked on the Lufthansa flight and when it landed someone in the customs area - out of curiosity opened the kennel and the dog just ran out- full of excitement as could finally stretch its legs.
Dodo was a small silver grey poodle and before embarking on his voyage had been taken for a nice bath and then to the hair dressers like they do in Scandinavia - who even put on a red bow.
It was quite amusing seeing the officials trying to catch Dodo who was having a nice time running all over the place.
I was standing with the customs officer who was on duty that day and he looked at Dodo and asked me what type of an animal that was.
As a joke I told him it was a Swedish lamb. He was quite foxed- looked in his books but as there was no restriction about import of lambs, Dodo got in duty free.
Right at the beginning in 1973 we were staying in a bungalow with a big park in front.
One day we were visited by a street dog - who looked like a cross between a Labrador/ Alsatian and perhaps a lot of other breeds. However, was friendly, had a smile which only dog owners can understand and wagged his tail
When trying to understand what he was trying to communicate I could gather something to the effect that the Swedish dog we had brought with us would not be able to survive in India - if he tried crossing the roads he would be run over. Then there were many other dogs around who might attack him.
He hinted that he would like to be his body guard, so we decided on sort of adopting him after we had taken "Goldie" to the vet getting all the necessary injections/treatments until he was found absolutely fit.
Almost like the story of the lady & the tramp - with a difference - our lady was actually male.
It was amazing to see how Goldie used to take Dodo out everyday for his walk-protect him from other dogs as well. During one such outing Dodo heard a noise which the other dogs were making.
He could not quite understand what it was but decided to try it out too and suddenly out came a bark. Having lived in a peaceful country he never found it necessary to do so earlier and hence did not know even how to.
However, itr was one of the greatest pleasure in his life and for the next three days he barked all the day/night.
This certainly helped him to adjust and like India and we kept Godlie with us as well and both were together for almost 7-8 years.
So, even our simple stray dogs can teach something to the most sophisticated ones.
While living in Sweden, had been well informed that the customs in India were very strict and always seemed to find something or the other on which they could charge duty.
However, right from the day I started studying in Germany in 1960's I knew that I would come back to India so made sure that for everything that was of importance or could come under question I kept the bills/receipts.
Before returning in 1973 I made sure that everything in the container was properly packed and the cartons duly marked.
In those days, one did not have the metal container as one has now but others made out of wood which were build up to size. The barns in Sweden are in a reddish tone- lift vans are made the same way- and when it reached Mumbai, it really stood out.
I went to the docks to clear it with an agent and they started emptying the container. The customs officers called me to one side -saw an interested carton - opened it asked for some receipt which I produced. All ok.
They did the same for a few others and then found something which really caught their eyes - a refrigerator. They immediately opened it and did something which I never seen before- put their fingers between the rubber lining looked at it and said this is new- no dust. I said this was not correct- the Fridge is almost 4 years old - see the manufacturing stamp on the fridge itself /see the bill/receipt.
As for dust, in Sweden there is no dust .That's how we carried on and the game went on.
The last time they didn't even open the box - he just looked at me and said OK - box no 37 what does it contain. I opened my list and gave the exact contents. There were also three pairs of socks - he asked me if I could give the colours - I said yes two grey and one blue.
Seems he had not experienced such a thing in the past so without any further comments cleared the baggage and I got in everything I was supposed to in the proper manner without payment of any duty/penalty.
Way back in the 70s there was a departmental store in Germany which was organizing an India promotion and because I had been associated with that country and spoke the language I was asked by the authorities to look after some of the people who came from there.
I agreed to do so and as I could not afford a driver those days had taken my own car to pick up the guest at the Oberoi hotel.
Their buyers were a special lot - only flew first class, wore three piece suits and could easily be identified with their standard Panam briefcases.
He introduced himself as Mr. J. I did the same but said that my name is Mony.
Our first appointment was with the Ministry of External Affairs - and we were supposed to meet them at 9am which was a quite a normal time then. Unfortunately, however, just outside the hotel, my car stalled. There was no one on the road and I was not quite sure what to do. I looked at Mr. J. and said "Moechten Sie fahren oder schieben (Would you like to drive or push) Mr J got a shock of his life, took off his jacket and said Herr Khubchand ich schieben.
The Germans are a very tough race and that one push kept my car going the whole day.
Our meetings went off well but then he looked at me and said -Mr Khubchand you are a strange man. In Germany I am treated like a king. People come to see me and I say I will meet you after three weeks - I can spare 5 minutes after 10days - no time for now etc. etc.... What would happen to my reputation if they found out that I had to push a car in Delhi?
However, you have also shown me that I am a normal being and because of that I want to do something for you.
I asked him what he could do for me and he said that he was a buyer for clocks so he would like to purchase some.
Not knowing if there was anyone in India doing this item we decided to go in a shop and found out that there was actually a clockmaker in Delhi. We went to see the place and he was absolutely shocked. You call this a factory- I have never seen anything as bad as in my life. True enough it was all very messy, dusty but I told him it was the best that was available.
He looked at me and said that it might cost him his job but he had promised to do something and so he got started.
We picked up a big Ben alarm clock it was lying the corner. He asked for different colours/dials nothing was available so he said he would provide everything himself even give a German name as there was no way to sell under the local brand.
He stuck to his word and he placed a trial order for a 1000 clocks.
The next days the reports/papers spoke about this great break through - not realizing it was all due to the fact that Mr. J. was made to push a car in Delhi.
With German thoroughness- these sold well for over two years.
With a population of over a billion, for every question we ask you are bound to get several dozen or even 100 different replies.
No one is lying because this is what they believe, so irrespective of what you say there will always be thousands feeling the same way as you.
A German group I was with in the 70's was having fun with me. They asked any question they wanted and I always gave them a humorous reply.
I knew, however, they wanted to catch me somewhere. so when we went out together for dinner at the Maurya - the game started when they looked at me and said.
Mony you see that girl at that table.
I said - yes good looking.
No Mony look closer - look at her face.
I said - looks very pretty too.
Now Mony - why does she have two nose rings?
The whole team looked at me in anticipation of my reply.
I wasn't quite sure what to say as i had no idea but then I just turned to them and said quietly- two husbands!
Am sure this is a story that they will remember all their lives and out of the various answers they get while talking to different people it is easier to recollect the answers that had a little humor in them.
One of my European school friends came to India for the first time- in the eighties- and was staying with me in the heart of town.
It was during the monsoons and he saw children playing in the rain so he also decided to wear his swimming costume and dance in the middle of street – he loved it - had not seen such freedom anywhere.
Was always quite adventurous roaming around going in rickshaws etc.
After India he went to Singapore and although he liked the place very much as far as the cleanliness and the efficiency was concerned, he was missing the vibrancy that he felt in India.
One night he called me up and when I asked him how things were -he replied he was in Jail.
He said that he had found things too disciplined and strict so he just went on the side of the road and started laughing. Within a matter of minutes the police came and took him to jail where he was made to sign papers that he was drunk and disturbing the peace. After doing so he was told that he would be released the next day.
So, every place has some advantages & disadvantages we have a freedom which many others so desire.
Long before mobile phones and Google were there, we used to spend a lot of time with our clients over dinner-chatting, laughing and having fun.
Many were new to India so they made it a point of asking many questions and it was fun hearing and replying to them.
As time passed, they tried to make these more difficult for me, but i always managed to find a way out and luckily there was no way they could check on facts.
One evening when we went out to dinner at a very fancy restaurant -they saw a pretty lady sitting at a table closes by. They looked at me and said Mony see her Face. I said yes very nice.
Mony look closer and I replied very pretty.
Mony just see her nose-that’s fine too I responded.
Look a bit closer at her – the nose rings.
They look great too.
Then they all turned towards me - Mony now why does she have two nose rings?
I really had no idea, so I looked at them - smiled and said two wives!
They were satisfied- a story to remember and the rest of the evening went off very well.
After graduation, my son Rahul won a competition and was called to Mumbai for many modeling assignments and was doing really well- as he also got to travel abroad to shoot music videos in Canada and elsewhere
However, his college girl friend was based in Delhi and she wanted him to come
Back instead. Wondering what to do, she suggested that he join me in my business.
Not many children want to work with parents but one day he called and when he asked about the salary I told him I would pay rs.3000/-per month .he was quite shocked and advised that he made more than that in an afternoon. I pointed that he had no experience and needed to start from the bottom.
He was quite undecided- but his love- who became his wife later on- brought him here.
Since we stuck to punctuality and discipline, he found it very difficult to adjust and quit to try other jobs for almost a year -which was not that easy either.
Knowing that he was still had great potential, but was a bit reluctant to rejoin-an opportunity cropped up with a new team of buyers coming to India.
I suggested that he look after them .he pointed out that he had no experience.
Never mind I replied - you know how to talk.
So, he worked with this USA group for five full days - they loved the way he managed things and at the end of their trip they came to me and said would him to look after their business in India.
From that day everything changed. He was very involved, most efficient and everyone enjoyed working with him. They still do.
My daughter Raleena who had been working as a senior representative of a bank loved the job, and though she kept getting promoted – there was not much time off.
Hence she moved into another line - human resources - then joined my company a few years after my son.
The reason she mentioned to others was that we work with such wonderful people from so many different countries. I told her this was not exactly so-my task was to make them nice.
Once one of our potential clients whom we had been in touch with- asked us to come for a meeting. We presumed it was to be in Hong Kong or somewhere close, but they replied that it had to be in the USA in the coming week.
My son who had just come back from a business trip was not that keen to rush out immediately, so I looked at my daughter and asked her whether she had a visa for the USA and if she was willing to come. She was thrilled – anytime, anywhere -was her reply, so the trip was on.
When asked what the subject was- I said religion -she said she had no idea what that is all about. I replied neither does - so we went.
On arrival at the airport we were met by a security agent- who welcomed us as the father- daughter team and said a car was waiting for us. This was repeated at different places.
From the initial shock/concern - it was a nice and unusual surprise.
The meetings with our clients went off very well- and although it took a little while to get going- we have been representing them for almost 20 years and have added many other/new product categories – which one would not have imagined earlier.
My son had gone to the gift fair in France and met with one of our clients from South Africa who were keen to start working out of Indonesia as well.
We explained that the distance between Europe and India was almost the same as
From India to Indonesia.
However, they said that as they felt comfortable in their dealings with us in India they wanted us to handle things over there too.
Seeing how enthusiastic they were- we decided to go ahead
It was certainly a wise move.
We went to Jakarta on a fact finding mission – researched the market and
Even set up a liaison office there. Fortunately we were able to tap some of the contacts we already had.
Indonesia turned out into a great and regular business- over the years we have added many other clients and countries too
Shows one should not be scared of accepting new opportunities that come by-
But be prepared to work hard to make it happen.
One of our first clients was from Australia
We just happened to meet him because the factory whom he was visiting and he just could not understand each other.
After sitting and talking with him for over an hour, realized that he wanted a few samples of quilts to be made with his special designs.
That was our first dealing with him and over the years we realized that he was very creative and sold his products in many other countries too – New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and even in the USA.
He also travelled in style –always first class and carried a lot of baggage so had a
Hotel limousine to pick him up.
When wondering what was in those bags, he said they are mainly gifts of cheese and bottles of whiskey.
I asked him how many bottles - he said half a dozen -I looked at him and said you are only allowed to bring one.
You have no idea what Indian jails are like – e smiled and said not to worry - nobody has ever stopped him anywhere.
He also turned out to be one of our biggest buyers.
My eldest sister was a very warm and kind hearted person - had a lot friend and used to love socializing.
However, as the years went by she got several medical problems but used to tackle them in her own way.
Whenever the doctors told her something new, she would study everything about it so that she could actually have a serious discussion with them.
She knew what the course of treatment was and how things were to be handled so could give her comments when being examined.
This way she becomes quite experienced in the medical field.
Sometimes, however, it is not that easy for others.
On one occasion I had a splitting headache and just mentioned it to her.
She pondered what it could be – and going by her own issues- started off by saying that there could be a tumor in my head and that I should fix appointments with the following doctors etc. - that scared me.
The next day the headache was still there and she suggested going ahead with the examinations, but I was reluctant.
Looking for a second opinion a friend told me to check my specs.
I immediately went to the optician and found that power of my lenses had actually changed- so ordered a new pair of lenses and the headache disappeared.
This shows that one should always try to look for a simple solution rather than something which sound severe and complicated.
For any visa applications nowadays a lot of forms have to be completed.
Then when asking for a long term one they want to know your history when
You visited in the last 10 years.
It takes a little while to put all these together but when doing so for the UK one, I actually wanted to check when I had first visited London.
A cousin of mine in Canada had sent me a sheet some years back - which was from the P&O lines showing that I had boarded the Strathnaver on the 20thjuly 1950.
That was my first boat trip from London to Bombay when my parents were being posted back to India from Berlin-so long ago.
Such interesting finds!
The eighties were the days of the telex in India but our buyer from Australia
Used to send us long messages by fax- which we had to collect from a service provider.
He told us that he faces the same problem in Australia too when he receives our telex messages and has to pay a lot of money.
We had only started working with him a few months earlier but our of curiosity he asked us what a fax machine in India costs.
A week later we got a registered letter and in it was a bank draft
Now Mony- i have paid half the cost- go and buy yourself a fax machine.
In those days these were very expensive- not only that but we had to pay an enormous amount to obtain another phone connection.
How times have changed- now one can get a telephone in a matter of minutes and the company even sends there representative to sell and install
Anyway, we will always remember who put us on our feet so long ago
When I started my company in 1983 and was preparing for my trip abroad
I worked on many different product lines and thought that since my wife
Had experience in garments, i should probably concentrate on that.
However, things did not work out exactly the way I wanted and when I met
Buyers - each one of them asked for only cushion covers.
Since i spoke a few European languages-, it made it much easier to communicate.
Even though I only had photos -they indicated what they were interested in and said would be happy to work with me after seeing actual samples.
In a few weeks, I was back with the collections- and they stuck to their words.
The first few orders were for cushion covers- which I still sell to this day too, but that got me started into a completely different line to what I had in mind.
Garments picked up many years later
People nowadays are very health and figure conscious and do many things to achieve their goals.
I also started swimming & gemming regularly at the age of around 70 and it has certainly helped keep me fit and in form.
The only thing I noticed was that in spite of this, my body shape has changed very
On checking what the reason for this could be one of the wise persons i swim with said:
Up to the age of 45-50 going to the gym/exercising helps in reducing weight. After that the secret lies in the kitchen.
Whenever we have to meet new and important clients in different parts of the world make it a point that my son & daughter and i go together as a team this is very important because youngsters have a lot of knowledge and a charm of their own.Then, when people talk to me they get comfortable and feel are in good hands as the company has existed for decades.
One should always be confident. When going in for such meetings – but be honest & explain to the clients- what the advantages for them would be.
Never openly criticize whom they have been dealing with but make positive suggestions.
This strategy has worked well and we continue following it.
I enjoy entertaining at home- especially when we have clients coming in from different countries.
As far as food is concerned always- like it to be made/catered properly but when doing up the place want to work on my own ideas.
The main thing is that is is informal/relaxed and people should feel comfortable and free, so no fancy crockery and not scared of dropping glasses and other such things especially when the party are held outdoors in the garden.
For decorations I like to use simple cloth lamps and a variety of handcrafted items and textiles.
One is always looking for ideas and on one particular occasion my grand daughter
Caaira had come to over in fancy Indian clothes. They looked nice and I asked her to
Lend me some for a project -which she did so.
The evening party was going off very well and everyone was admiring the the things hanging in the trees and other places.
It is only when Caaira looked closer- then said - opa what are my clothes doing hanging up in the trees.
One should always think of something simple and be creative -not depend on expensive props – is unnecessary.
Although my parents and brother & sister were members of the DGC- i was not as was studying abroad when i was supposed to apply.
On my return to India I was told that the waiting time was about 7-8 years which was something i had expected. However, as the years went by nothing happened.
I was not in a special category so was on the general waiting list and this never seemed to become shorter.
Then one day - when I was well over 60 I got a message that my turn had come.
It has been a long wait of almost 30 years and I had sort of given up.
However when i told them that I had wanted this membership when my kids were young but it had taken so many years and is almost time for me to retire.
They just looked at me and said there are so many people wanting it and if I did not desire it any more should just say so.
Anyway i took it and used to come for a swim every now and then.
The youngsters came to me one day and said that since I had been a member for quite some time now they wanted to be invited to the family lunches that are held over the weekend .
I agreed and we all went together.
When my bill came I took out my card but it didn’t work I was surprised and then I told that on is supposed to use it not just keep in the pocket
Luckily my sister was around so she settled it for me.
Although I use the gym and the pool regularly I do make sure to invite people for a meal as I would not like that to happen again
In Europe one had all the gadgets to help to do things at home.
In India, one can still use the services of cooks and maid.
Good habits, however, remain and one tends to do things oneself.
I actually look forward to my staff going on leave for a few days –and even though i am not that good in cooking any more, as long as the food is there, manage things myself I did, however, have to learn how to use micro oven as in my earlier days we only had a regular stove.
So, when evening comes i like to lay the table- sit down comfortably, eat and then move all the things to the kitchen.
Since i do not like to see dirty things around i pick up my brush and soap and clean all the utensils. Not only that, i put them where they belong as well.
When the staff came the next day they find everything spic and span and wonder why a had not eaten.
Were surprised when i told them - so it was good that I learnt all these things in my youth as it certainly makes life so much easier- when the necessity arises.
In my mid 70’s as happens to many, i was diagnosed with cancer in my bladder. Since this had to be operated on immediately I went ahead and the team of doctors did a fantastic job and I was very happy.
However, I had a simple problem which was that even though I was connected to all the pipes, I was not able to pass urine properly.
Whenever the doctors came to check on me I used to tell them that I was not ok- I explained the issue, but they showed me the connections and said that everything was flowing properly.
In the next two visits, there was little improvement and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable.
Later that evening I caught hold of my daughter who was spending the night in the room and told her that I have a “doggy” problem.
Having never stayed in a hospital earlier and not being able to do anything lying down- told her to untie all the cords as I just needed to stand up. She did so and I went to the look and was able to relieve myself properly.
The next day when the doctors came on their rounds and asked how I was feeling,
I told them just perfect but said if a person has a problem like I had, you have to find a solution.
I did - it worked and it cost me only rs.10.
They were happy to hear about that, but were quite confounded.
When they wondered what the amount was for I said I bought some medicine and with it I got one of those green carry bags which I needed to cover the bottle when
I am walking.
So when I go down the passage like I am supposed to- I use the bag - it’s like going on a shopping spree so, many times in life, there is a simple solution to a big issue- and it is important to try it out.
While I was at the hospital because of my bladder issue, I had to go through a number of tests and examinations.
I was informed then there was also a big patch in my lung that needed to be examined closely and was referred to a specialist.
After the doctor said what he had to, I decided that if it was necessary to remove part of my lung he should just go ahead.
He asked if I want a second opinion and I said it was not necessary.
He had been recommended to me and as I have accepted him as my doctor- if he suggests something I should proceed -so the operation was fixed for the same week and it went off very well.
I was a bit surprised, however, that even though they had chopped off a large portion of one of my lungs, I was supposed to start exercising almost immediately thereafter- either on the tread mill or if that was not working walk up and down the stairs.
Important for the lung to start functioning properly and to get back my stamina.
I did this and I must say it certainly helped me recover much faster than I had thought and I was also back to my swimming & gemming shortly there after.
In life if you have to take an important decision - listen to what people say but then decide yourself.
You must always be the one to make up your mind and go ahead. Don’t keep waiting, asking other people as it only confuses the matter and doesn’t help at all.
It is strange that’s after having had two operations without any problem,
I kept hesitating when it came to visiting my dentist for some implants.
This actually scared me more than anything and I kept delaying things one month after the other.
The main reason was that my regular dentist was no longer practicing and I was not able to find someone whom I felt comfortable with.
Both my son & my daughter offered to take me to theirs so i selected the latter as was available and I went across to see him.
He was very kind & gentle and explained the exact procedure of how an implant is done albeit with extraction. It sounded so simple and easy that i told him i would like to go ahead.
However, I wished I had someone to hold my hand. He looked at me and said certainly your daughter can be there. When he said this, I knew that it could not be such a painful matter and I went in.
I had all the injections and they completed the necessary work .I did not feel a thing nor did I actually have to hold my daughter’s hand.
So, when I had to do the next step -I fixed up the time and looked forward to going because each visit has been helping me progress.
Talking on landline phones has always been easy when it came to mobiles, it was a different matter.
I started finding that I couldn’t hear people properly hence was rather abrupt. When this situation continued, I told my family and they simply said why don’t you put on the speaker button.
I had seen that all the time, but had never tried it out.
When I did, it sounded so much better to talk.
Feeling guilty about how I had been treating people I rang up those whom I had been close to and said this call is only to apologize for having been so rude on the phone and the main reason for that was that I couldn’t hear you.
Now that my speaker is on, i am especially calling you to apologize for that. It takes time to catch up with technologies- youngsters are much faster than we.
They all understood- and there are no hard feelings
I have always been particular about timings and some people specially my driver used to find it very strange because if I had to meet or pick up someone at 10 in the morning and he got there 15 minutes early, I was not happy.
He however thought he had done a good job.
I explained to him that time is important for people. If I have to pick up someone at 10am, you have landed there faster. I will not go there at that time in fact will wait outside the hotel till 2 minutes before – then go through the security and as soon as we get to the entrance can see the guest actually coming out to get into the car.
Once we had a discussion with various people about timing and what we meant if we are called for dinner at 8pm over here, reaching at 9pm would not really matter.
In some countries you are allowed 10 minutes grace and in others something else.
They did, however say that there in one country in the world, have a unique policy or system and that was Sweden- where i had spent many years.
Over there you if are invited for dinner at 8 - you never turn up 1 minute late. On the other hand, you do not come 1 minute early.
So, if you should reach the destination ahead of time. You walk around the block or something and if you are wondering what has happened to your guests- suddenly at you will see all of them marching in at the same time many may have arrived 15 minutes earlier but to land up early increases the stress on your hosts - so stick to the time – that are important.
My wife Monica was very much into holistic healings Rekhi, art of living and all such good things in life and she spent a lot of her time helping others.
In fact we used to say we have two divisions in the company – one was marketing and the other was spiritual. So whenever our guests had any issues that they could not
Find a cure for - I used to refer them to her and they always felt better.
Once when I had a splitting headache I told her that she treated all these other people –so why don’t you just touch my head and make the pain go away...
She looked at me and said that’s not possible you must have faith in me. How can me when i know you. She replied then it can’t work so i took a Saridon and my headache went away at the moment you don’t realize what i do for others, but when i am no longer there, you will understand. The first thing you are going to see is that whenever you walk in to my apartment, you are going to be a better person, you will talk nicely, smile and anyone who stays here will feel these positive vibes .that way I will make sure that you become a better person.
Since I started my BNB chrysalis- using her company’s name- found that many guests
Said there were very positive energies and they felt these as soon as they entered.
I do not actually suffer from stress but when we opened our branch office in another part of Delhi during the days of telex & faxes, i had a lot of pressure because the man used to come to me early morning and all papers had to reach the office by a certain time.
Printing, photocopying - all that added to the rush and as I normally stay very calm, was surprised that i got stressed. The reason seemed to be that I was always checking the time every few minutes just to see whether I was on schedule.
When this happened for a few days and was not becoming less, I removed my watch and put it away.
Strange as it may sound - from that day almost 35 years back –when I stopped wearing a watch. All my work gets done on time I don’t have that stress level I do what I have to and i never make an excuse that I am late because i am not wearing a watch. Just need to make sure to check the time every now & then to see that my appointments are on schedule.
Each person has to find his own way of relieving stress. I found mine and until today I do not wear a watch .also make sure not to keep my mobile phones too close to me.
I like to be away from these for sometime as that also makes life much easier
One of my first buyers in the early 80’s was from Norway.
I was on a business trip in Stockholm at that time and i called him wanting
to meet. Since we were so close, suggested I should just come over for a cup of coffee
Martin was very nice about it and welcomed me to his office -showed me around and when I left gave me a trial order for some cushion covers over the years, he became my biggest buyer those days and I also reminded him that my coming over to his office by taxi was more expensive than the money I earned from that order.
He said that they got so many visitors/calls from India, so was a bit cautious, but as we seemed to get along well –he wanted to start something.
He mentioned that he had bought over a million table cloths already and as Norway only had a population of a little over 4 million always
Wondered where they had all gone.
He was also a great designer & created many nice bag lines out of India.
In fact when i visited him in Oslo - at the airport itself, he kept identifying people carrying his collection.
He was very proud of the fact that even the princess of Norway had some.
I thanked him for having helped me in those initial years.
He looked at me and said not exactly- if you were not there to look after our affairs- we would never been able to grow so quickly.
We were quite close to each other and treated my place like home- in fact he used to come over for breakfast quite often too.
Unfortunately, he passed away many years ago after a tragic surgery.
When mobile phones came to India, my wife was one of the first to get one.
Around 2005 I got a message from the telephone company saying that since I
Started they have never seen any bill exceeding a few dollars per month.
They told me politely that I had joined in the category of big spenders and asked whether I was going to increase my calling frequency or if they could transfer me to another category.
I told them that since I could not guarantee any change-they were free to do what suited the maybe they thought it over- was perhaps better to have a long standing happy customer than to change things- so I continue paying the special rate.
I enjoy my coffee-but prefer the simple powder form that one makes oneself.
Once, however, I had gone out with some friends from Scandinavia to a restaurant, in Guru gram after eating they decided to go out for coffee and suggested star bucks.
When I went to the counter the staff asked me what i wanted and i said a cup of plain coffee.
They replied Armenian, Ecuadorian, Brazilian and a whole lot of countries, some of which I would not be able to pin point on a map that easily I chose one.
Then they wanted to know whether I prefer mild or strong and things like that and they kept asking so many different questions- that I had no idea what i was getting into finally hen the questioning was over- they approached me with a smile and asked what I had decided.
Tried to look away- but then gathered my courage and said: I think I will settle for a cup of chocolate looks like I may not be welcomed with open arms next time.
Seems I have similar problems when deciding what to eat from an elaborate menu or being shown too much variety when I want a shirt.
If there is limited choice am able to decide very quickly.
My Norwegian buyer martin had given my name to Begona who he had met in the Far East,she had been running a very successful and prestigious store Becerra in Spain and had been in the import line for years and was a trend setter.
We got to meet in the late eighties and all things were moving very well she had come with her family- who were also in the business and wanted to have a short break in Kashmir.
As was usually the case - flights were full however, she was not satisfied with that reply and wanted to go to the Indian airlines office herself- which we did.
She is a distinguished lady- very charming too and went to reception and asked for the duty manage as soon as he came she looked at him and told him politely my name is Begona I want to go to Kashmir I need four tickets leaving on this date and coming back it only took a few minutes to get all confirmed that Mony is how to do business with India- we still work together after more than thirty years – in our second generation.
One of my relatives had an Alsatian who was quite ferocious and was always concerned when somebody rang the bell.
I asked her what the name of her dog was and she replied Sheru.
I said that’s a wild animal why don’t you try something else why don’t you change the name to Laila for a while and see.
She thought this was very strange, but if anyone came to the house and said hello Laila, Sheru wagged his tale.
So a name can change the personality – also in human beings on another note – a vegetarian friend had a big dog and when i asked him how he managed with the food, he looked at me and said well my dog is vegetarian since he has never eaten meat - doesn’t crave for it.
People at the counters have to be very tough and alert as they need to decide who can enter the country and who can’t.
Once we were on a family vacation to the USA -eight of us -to the USA at the same counter and were being processed one at a time.
Our passports were quite full and even if they had difficulty in finding our visas, every time we tried to show them, they said no touching please. Finally they found what they were looking for and then we had to go through the usual process of finger printing and photographing.
My granddaughter Saisha-was little heard all the drill and learnt the whole process.
So as we moved on –waiting for her turn -she made up her own song- something like put this little finger here-put the others there now the right hand look at the camera stay still the officer could not see her, but smiled- must have reminded him of some one which made the whole process quite amusing and the mood changed for all.
What i have taught my son & daughter is that whenever you meet a person=- whether for business or pleasure always say he/she is nice.
When you do that- you will only see the positive things it is easy to criticize people for this or that, but just find something small that is nice and you will find that every person can be wonderful.
During one of our meetings in the USA our principals had a party in our honor and we met many of the buyers and other reps that evening.
Were told that one particular person was very cranky- a loner- and did not like to meet/talk to anyone since we were the chief guests, we could not ignore anyone and when I found that person-started walking up to him. Didn’t quite know what to say.
Just when we met all that came out was – i hear you have a fantastic sense of humor,he looked at me –shocked-and said- whom? I said yes and we got chatting.
The next day the other buyers told me that he had changed and become a very friendly person so ,a few kind words can go a long way to help in such situations.
Once we were called for a meeting to the USA.
As it was winter and i do not like the cold, i was not keen to go, but they insisted that we had to come so, we confirmed that we would come for a day.
They replied that one day was not enough- we had to be here for a whole week.
Wondered what we are going to do for that much time and they said - not to worry we will tell you and will keep you occupied.
When we landed, a car was there to receive us at the airport & then take us to the hotel.
Wherever we met people in that company they always smiled and were nice to us.
This got me a bit concerned and i remember the story of feeding a lamb well- just before it was going to get slaughtered and wondered what could have gone wrong.
Discussions were going to start with many teams and when we met the coordinator, asked why people were so nice to us he replied that something very strange had happened.
Many teams of buyers had gone to India on fact finding missions- but there was one who actually agreed to try a few items we had suggested. This was against their instructions.
However, three of these items had actually become amongst their best sellers.
Hence, there were many other departments wanting to know what we had in our bags for them.
So, what started off with a scare turned out to be just wonderful.
I was never that good in my studies at school and used to tell people that I only got through with the grace of god or my friend Ravi who used to help me.
When i went to Germany in the 60’s to study -things looked a bit different.
The people whom I had to submit my results to -thought I was brilliant.
Over there 5, 6, 7 are the highest grades one can get and going by my results i had quite a lot of them.
So, from being at the bottom of the rank, they felt that i was actually quite brilliant.
Right from my days in Sweden, when we were taught about the environment and how to preserve things it has made me very conscious about this even when I returned to India I continued doing so and instead of being in the buy and throw category, always like to innovate and do things that last longer in a simple way.
Fortunately I have had a carpenter for years who understands what and how I want this to be done. So, when we no longer need beds, we convert them in to cupboards or tables or something else not just discards.
Even the chips of wood are glued together and I tell people that some of the doors contain things from three or four different items.
Then the other thing one has to always think of is how to make things look everlasting not that people come and point out that something is an old model and needs to be changed.
There was one particular situation where i was deciding on curtain rods, but was not exactly satisfied with what I was seeing.
Suddenly it dawned on me that I needed something completely different and when going to the market found some bamboo poles being sold on the side of the road for 6 PCS to a dollar.
They looked interesting so I picked them up and together with my carpenter cut them according to size and painted they white, to use as curtain rods they have been up for several decades already and never look odd.
When I was leaving Sweden in the early 70’s to return to India I decided to sell most of my house hold goods and decorations.
People came over and selected almost everything i had but there were no takers for the furniture.
I wondered why this was so and was told that Swedes do not go in for 2nd hand furniture as such and the only thing that one could do would be to donate it
to some students.
I didn’t particularly want to do so, so kept waiting.
One day a man finally came and he said 500 dollars for the sofa set.
I told him it is rather low considering that it was quite exclusive.
He looked at me and replied I am not buying it- this is how much I charge to dispose of it – naturally I did not agree fortunately the Swedes were well advanced in the making of furniture even in those days so everything was knockdown.
We found this easy to do and they all could fit into long boxes.
Since we were sending our main things by container, these could fit in very well and we decided for this option.
Have used these for over 50 years already and they are in still perfect shape. The only thing one needs to keep changing is the upholstery which is something that can easily be done over here.
So by doing this little change one has a new look and something that lasts forever.
I have photos of my son lying on the sofa as a baby half a century ago.
My daughter did the same and even the glass table in the drawing room is where they both used to go when they used to play hide & seek,
When working in Sweden in the late 60’s, my wife Tunu and I were going on a vacation to Germany and since the roads were good decided to drive down.
It was end April the weather was perfect.
We were listening to the radio where they cautioned drivers to wear seatbelts Ss the maximum speed at which they are somewhat protected is only 20km/hour.
When we were in a hilly area in the south of Sweden we suddenly saw that the road ahead was covered with ice making it was very difficult to keep control of the car.
Everything that we had learnt in the driving school was forgotten and when I applied the brakes. The car just skidded and went around in circles smashing into the side.
People coming from the back stopped and although it looked like a bad accident- were quite surprised to see both of us inside were safe and sound- thanks to the belts.
What they teach- especially in the air force over there is that if you have been involved in a mishap you need to get onto another plane quickly, before you have time to think about what had happened.
We decided to do the same, so drove down to the nearest workshop.
They checked the car and found that even though it was in poor shape- the engine and other parts were quite intact.
When we asked them if we could continue our journey to Berlin they said it was possible. So we just got in again and continued to Berlin.
One of our earliest buyers whom we still work with in the second generation was from Holland his company was into crockery and when he came to India in the late 70s he was very impressed with what he found here.
Bone china is a very specialized product and the main producers were in the UK , USA , Japan etc.
The Indian quality was very good and he felt that he could definitely sell it over there. The selected styles in special decals were all suited for the European market.
He wanted to promote India – and even mentioned the name of the factory somehow, it just did not click that well as people did not associate India with bone china he was still very confident of the product and so for his future campaigns he decided to use one of his own special logos the Balmoral castle collection.
Sales immediately picked up and he did huge volumes for almost 20 years till the factory shut down due to some family problems.
So, even though one may want to promote something in a particular way, one has to actually see how the market is going to react.
This is another example of what’s in a name.
A lot of important things in my life actually started at the Oberoi.
I met new clients and other people who had a lot of impact on my business too.
One late evening i got a call from an exporter saying that he has been working with a buyer from the USA who was getting very concerned about his dealings with India.
He had been told how things could go wrong and was looking for someone who could help him.
I was actually going for dinner with some of my clients, but I could understand what the situation was, so I told my son to carry on and I would join him later.
Hence, my daughter and I went to the Oberoi and met Edward for the first time.
He was a very nice gentleman, young, dynamic and I could see what he was going through. We chatted for a while and as he felt comfortable asked if we could help him over here.
It was the early days of our working with the USA and as we were already associated with another company d56 - told him that I would need to seek permission from ED basinet because even though the lines were different at the moment, there could be a clash in due course.
Ed was very quick in his response and gave the go ahead.
Our first business together was mainly for bathroom accessories but over the years Edward discovered that he had a flare for designing and was extremely creative.
So much so, that he has several catalogues with the special things that he had worked on over here. He is of my son’s age and they had been working together very closely for well over 20 years.
Swimming is a lot of fun and I am always trying out new strokes.
One of the ones which I do regularly is what I call sleep stroke and that is where you lie on your back and swim in the direction of your feet using the breast stroke movements above your chest.
It is very relaxing because you can breathe deeply and do not have to stop on the sides of the pool and take a break.
Have also shown this to people who have tried it out it is also a nice feeling when you walk near the pool and see some people doing it as well.
One makes a lot of friends/acquaintances while swimming too.
One day I met a lady- with her family - at a social function she came up to me and said hi mony don’t you recognize me- we swim together almost every day.
I really could not as ladies cover their head and wear goggles too.
What I almost said was no I don’t - you look so different with your clothes on!
Fortunately, I was careful in what I said and did not utter those words.
Life in Europe as a young student was nice but could get quite lonely.
As one gets older one tries to recollect happy memories.
In the early 60s I met an exchange student from the USA who had come to Europe.
Met her in Sweden where my father had been posted and she became what I would term my first girl friend. We were both young and enjoyed each other’s company and she also came across to Germany where I was studying to say hello.
Then when she had to go back life returned to what it was and after some years we just lost contact with each other.
During one of our business visits to the USA in the 80swe passed through Seattle and I tried to locate her through the telephone directory as she was originally from Tacoma.
This was not that easy as there were 100s of people having the same name.
In India too I met a lot of people based in the USA and many of them offered to help but none was successful. I didn’t have more information- as this goes back over 60 years many things would have changed - I myself am a grandfather four times over and she would probably have got married and changed her name.
Not wanting to be on social media does make it tougher to find someone- but who knows I was able to find many people whom I had lost touch with and something could work out one day.
When we shifted to our new office premises the question was what type of place we wanted.
I believe in simplicity and more openness whereas the others wanted something that looked very modern and fancy. For the latter we had to go in for interior designers.
So, when they started coming they asked me what type of office I wanted I said it should be placing that takes away my stress- I like natural colour wood and green.
They looked at me quite shocked and said who has a green office and who uses wood that looks like packing material.
We can offer mahogany, teak -very nice furniture and do it up in a real posh way.
I said this was not what i want.
The designer looked at me and said- you know we have our reputation to think of so if that is what you want, sorry but we cannot help you.
The same thing happened with the 2nd person who came over - who also refused to go ahead.
Everyone thought it had become a big problem, but for me it was an opportunity to try to do something myself- and was quite excited.
I called my regular carpenter, electrician, plumber and painter and we all sat down on the floor.
I took out a big sheet of paper and a pencil and drew the office exactly how I had visualized it - right down to where the tables and chairs would be - even the paintings.
We started working in that room itself. Everything was made in the premises itself and there is hardly anything that we had to buy from outside.
It came out just like I wanted - is a very special sort of set up and anyone entering does not know whether it is new or old because it had a completely different look.
We have run the place for over 20 years and it still looks nice.
We started our company in our family home- right in the centre of town.
Gradually we started adding more and more people.
Since we maintained a very low key, things were proceeding well one day, however, the authorities came over and said that this was a residential area and we are not supposed to use it as an office.
Was quite shocked as to how they knew and they replied simply .
At night there are not more than 2-3 cars parked there, but during the day there are quite a few also many motorcycles. So it is quite clear that something is happening.
When we heard this we understood that we need to find another premise. Could not argue - but this became another step in helping us expand.
When we started working with the Japanese many years ago they said that whenever they went for meetings they always carried some paper and pencil with them and also a recorder.
The reason is that it is easier to remember things then and also to make sure that whatever important was discussed would be remembered.
They also pointed out was that one should be very careful with personal questions – if you ask someone the name of his wife or birthdays etc., you must remember those as well .
I used to be very good at that but now when i meet so many people at the pool or gym it is not that easy to remember their names. Hence, even though i wish them, do not ask as i cannot always recall their numbers and other details.
Seems there are others in similar situations and find that many people who I meet say that I am referred to as the person who always greets others with a smile. At least that’s a nice way of being remembered.
When children grow up they always wonder what they were like when they were young.
Nowadays photos can record a lot- but there are other matters that are not always recorded this way.
Things keep changing during the course of their childhood but certain incidents remain in our minds.
Raleena’s son Ayaan was a very decent and reserved boy but when we went to his school to see him perform in a play he was certainly quite the opposite- right on top.
Not only did he love taking part in musicals too- was very good at it - but was very popular there and when he used to arrive in the morning a lot of little girls were there to welcome him saying aye-aye - almost like he was a rock star.
He really enjoyed those earlier days.
Raleena’s daughter Alaaya was of a different nature.
She was very bold, running around, doing things all the time. In fact we had to stop her from jumping from the sofas- as could get hurt.
When the time came for her to learn swimming we wanted her to get used to the water slowly but no- the moment they put on a ring around her she jumped in- not in the shallow end but the deep one.
The parents had to make sure that nothing went wrong but she started moving her legs and arms and really got started from the moment she was in the water and always loved swimming.
Raleena’s husband Vivek also known as Johnny comes from a purely vegetarian family although he practiced this for a few years too, after marriage he sort of went over to
Try out other things - so much so that we used to call him a foodie.
Was always interested in trying out different dishes, styles of cooking and whenever we went out for lunch or dinner and thought had ordered more food than we had expected were told not to worry as he- Johnny- was around.
Nothing was ever got wasted but there soon came a time when we found that he also wanted to start cooking/experimenting himself so much so that when we have parties he loves to turn out some dishes himself both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
In fact has become so good that we call him the family master chef.
I had a car which i enjoyed driving for a long time as it was comfortable and i felt safe in it too.
One day, however, they passed a rule that any petrol driven car over 15 years cannot
Ply in Delhi.
Mine was still almost like new and had only done about 80000kms.
I checked with the authorities who they told me quite bluntly that if you are diving yourself they would probably not stop you- because of your age, but if you have a driver then watch out.
One day i had to go to a market where parking is an issue so I took a driver. As soon as we entered the area there was a police check point.
They didn’t even speak to me, asked my driver for the papers -looked at him and said- this car is 17 years old you are only allowed to drive it for 15 years in Delhi.
We are giving you 3 days notice - you have to get it scrapped and show us the proof and give us the special plates, otherwise it is going to be impounded and you would be heavily fined.
Pleading with them would not have helped- so had to proceed as they said it was distressing to see the video showing the can being taken apart- but one has to live with such things and move on.
When I started my company we used to travel a lot all over the world getting to meet our clients and others whom we were interested in working with.
One of our first trips was to New Zealand and there our buyer came to the airport to perceive us.
When i introduced myself- I said my name is Mony he was quite shocked and said he thought I was a girl.
I replied- no wonder your messages were always so polite.
On a boat ride to one of the islands to see how sheep were sheared there was a lady playing the piano-wanting others to sing.
No one seemed to be doing so.
However, I realized that the songs that were being played were similar to what I had learnt during my school days- so our whole family decided to sing along.
It was nice to see so many join in there after- must always make it simpler for others.
In the earlier days there were certain days on which people could go to meet the Prime Minister.
My grandmother, therefore, had something on her mind so she went over there on a Sunday morning.
Seeing an old lady amongst the numerous people, they came up to herself and asked what they could do for her. She replied Prime Minister I am an old lady and have only one house in Delhi. The authorities are saying that my area has been declared commercial and I have to demolish the house and move somewhere else.
My request is that you allow me to die in my own house.
This was a very unusual request as most people ask for money/charity etc. etc. but permission to die in her own house had to be looked into. When asked where she lived she replied Fire Brigade Lane.Nobody had heard of this not even the team of advisors
So, thinking that it would be just some small road, they said yes OK & Fire Brigade Lane was saved and survived that way even 20 years after my grandmother passed away.
Now, suddenly the pressure is on as it was the forgotten lane, but being surrounded by multi story buildings the time had come to put pressure on us again.
I do not think similar excuses or requests are going to work anymore.
My children are fashionable - not like me -have to keep up with other friends and acquaintance they change their clothes/fashion regularly .Not only that, they go in for new furniture and home decor every few years.
Instead of allowing them to just discard the stuff I decided to store all the things in a warehouse and when I started my BnB took them over there - and they fitted in very nicely with the type of feeling I was trying to promote.
Once I had a German client visiting me and I told him that I was a student in his country in the early 60's and showed him a picture of our group where there were atleast a 150 people - all foreigners.
He looked at it and within a few seconds he pointed out a person and said this is you. I was shocked as I had never met him before and were talking of things over 50 years old .When I asked him how he recognized me he smiled and said Mony the same type of tie. Is true - I still have many things from my student days.
I always enjoyed interacting with people and since I had an apartment which belonged to my wife - wanted to convert it into a BnB
Like in the case of corporate, I was questioned left right & centre about the viability etc. What experience do you have? With thousands of big & small hotels in Delhi and another 100,000 guest houses and Bnbs how are you going to compete?
For everything that I wanted to do, I was always being told it was not possible and that is why I like to give it a try and see whether that is the case or one can make things work.
I looked at them and replied experience - zero
How are you going to make work - I will do my way
They scoffed but knew I was determined to go ahead so did not stand my way.
All I knew was that it should be friendly, more like a home and offer things that one misses or wants to change at a Hotel
I collected all the old furniture and things- from the store that my family had exchanged for new ones and put them at the BnB where they fitted in very nicely. It gave it a comfortable look -not feel stiff or posh so people were not worried about it getting damaged.
Then - whenever someone wanted to stay I offered them the rooms free of charge, but each one was told that they would have to give me some ideas on how to run the place.
For each piece of advice that I accepted they would be allowed to spend another day.
I had a lot of willing people/volunteers - those who wanted to stay 5 days made sure they gave me one tip for each of those days. I kept learning.
My daughter asked me what were my plans for marketing were - I had no idea.
When she travels- she checks things out on Trip Advisor- so suggested I register and then ask the guests to write about their experience.
I had never heard of this site before but did so.
The reviews started coming in and it really helped in us finding our place amongst the numerous BnBs & hotels.
When I started my office - apart from teaching people their work I also wanted them to be honest, polite and have their values in place. This has worked quite well.
Hence, at the BnB when asked what I was running it for said to make better people.
To achieve this, we play a little game which is not known to the guests.
Every time a person comes, he/she is rated by the staff on duty. Either Accha (good) or kharus (crank)
If they are accha, then we do little extra things for them - there is no charge for soft drinks or snacks and if they stay for a longer period even do their laundry free of cost.or give the a free meal.
On the other hand if they are Kharus - the rate remains the same, but they will be charged for all the extras.
I also make it a point of meeting everyone who stays there - surprisingly almost all of them are giving a good rating - except some who already arrive with a very negative approach as they were supposed to stay at the Intercontinental or Sheraton and were told by their company to cut expenses.
It is interesting to note that many of the latter when coming to stay with us have been upgraded to good (accha).
I was once interviewed by a magazine- who said that although I seem to doing quite well as a BnB - what problems do I face.
Told them that before people come to stay with me - we have already exchanged a lot of emails so know much about each other. However, once they sit down with the other guests-there is very little conversation. They are not used to it
So to tackle this I had to do something- what!
The whole country has been talking about corruption - so I have joined the bandwagon and when I meet people quite proudly say I also bribe
They get quite shocked because I have always campaigned for people to be honest and how could I stoop to this level - my explanation is simple
We have many nice people coming to stay at the BnB but they spend most of their time in their rooms and do not mix much with the other guests
As we are running a home stay and not a hotel / guest house, I wanted this to changed but was wondering how to do so.
Since we have a very good cook at the BnB I thought of the old proverb- the ay to a man's heart is through his stomach - so started inviting all the guests for a complimentary dinner.
This is quite unusual, but since everyone has to eat, they have always agreed.
Hence, we sit down together in a very informal manner, chat and enjoy and it is good to see even start going out together
They also say that this is something they have not experienced before and are very happy about it.
So, if we still have to bribe, it should be acceptable- based on what we are trying to promote.
On one occasions we had a group of foreigners at trhe BnB who had come to India and were discussing plans of what they wanted to do and see.
Naturally, some of them were interested in seeing a tiger so were talking about the possible places where one should go to.
My cook was overhearing the conversation and since no one seemed to have been able to quite decide where to go, he came to me and said quietly in my ear- if they want to see a tiger why don't they 'just go to the Zoo".
It was certainly a wise idea from his point of view and was foxed when no one took it.
We have an association but my views on how to run things can be quite different to theirs on many occasions.
Once I got a call from a person who said that there was great news for us.
Not quite sure what he meant by that - asked for a clarification.
He replied that there was a volcanic eruption in Iceland and many flights had got cancelled.
With about 7000 people stranded in Delhi - hotels have decided to double their rates and so should the BnBs I told them this was a wrong attitude- but he said I should sometime listen to the others and not always disagree.
We had a quite a few people staying with us including a Scandinavian family with two young children.
In the evening I went up to them and said -I understand your flight has been cancelled and you may be stuck in Delhi for another week or so.
They said yes and were naturally very disappointed.
I, however, just could not get myself to say what I had rehearsed,as I put myself in their situation and didn't want to add to their misery. Hence said - the room position is quite tight, but for the rest of your stay I will give you a discount of 50%. Then, whatever your children eat at the BnB till the time of departure- will be complimentary
They were absolutely shocked & surprised, but this is what I would have liked to be offered if I was going through depression
A few weeks later, I started getting a lot of calls from those countries with people wanting to stay with me - without even asking for the rate.
When questioned was told, that someone had put our details on one of their main websites, and said Mony cares more for people than for money.
This is actually so and has helped a lot in building up our business and in promoting our cause of being good.
On another occasion I was called by the association asking what advance.
I take from my guest as they were thinking of increasing to 50%.
When I advised that I did not take any they were quite shocked.
Explained that I am in touch with all the guests personally and when they stay with me - it is like inviting them to my home. As such I cannot & do not take payments in advance.
Then, they asked whether I at least took the money/swipe their cards on their arrival and here again I told them that I only take the payment at the time of check-out.
Found this very strange- What happens if guest goes away without paying- I told them this has not happened before and why should it when we promote being nice & honest.
As for cancellations we do get these- but these are quite genuine and are usually informed well in advance of any change in programme.
We travel quite a lot ourselves- and even though we need to pay deposits almost all the time- do not like the idea. Hence, when running our own establishment - have done away with such things. One needs to practice what one preaches- as they say.
When I started running the Bed & Breakfast, I always made it a point of taking advice from people who had experience in the line.
One of my friends worked with the Radisson in the Far East and when he & his wife came on a visit, they looked around and suggested two things:
The lady pointed out that to give the place a homely feeling it was necessary to have real plants.
Fortunately, the caretaker's wife had managed quite well in the balcony so said she could organize for inside as well.
My friend looked around and wondered where the coffee machine was. Told him that no one has asked for this earlier but he suggested that since this was popular we should certainly organize something.
In life, if you ask someone for advice and gets suggestions that are practical and possible, you must go ahead. Hence, the same afternoon went to the market and purchased the coffee machine.
Inspite of our efforts and reading the instruction book, just did not get it to function, so called up the maker who confirmed that they would sent their technician within the next 2-3 days.
The same evening one of our regular guests from the UK arrived and said:
Oh Mony I see you have bought a coffee machine.
I said yes, I hope you know how to use it.
Of course I do he said, so I made sure that the caretakers immediately learnt how to use it too.
Hence, whenever we get people wanting to use it, we remember this little story of how it all started.
There has been a lot of momentum as far as the Clean India campaign is concerned and one of the main focus points has been to ensure that every home has a toilet.
This has been promoted in a big way and one sees changes everywhere.
However, when watching TV during a lunch break, saw a programme where they were interviewing a lady who had just got a new toilet for her home.
When asked how she felt about it, she did not sound very excited and said she finds it suffocating to sit in a closed room so still prefers going out in the open.
Certainly not something that was anticipated, but wanted to look into this.
During their conversations at the BnB people regularly discuss their plans and on one occasion were talking about going to the toilet museum
Nowadays, when one wants to know more about something it is quickest to just Google -which.is exactly what I did and found that there was one in Delhi itself near the airport.
I rang up the office to say that I would be coming back late as I wanted to go across to try to understand things.
The museum was amazing - they had toilets, going back hundred of years showing even the gold painted ones that were used by the kings right to the current ones.
There were also two big notice boards one was the Prime Ministers vision about the type of toilets that were being built all over- with a target of 2025.
The second board was amazing - The History of toilets.
It was quite an eye opener & said the first country in the world to have inhouse,sanitized flushed toilets was India. This was during the time of the INDUS VALLEY civilization several thousand years BC.
With the fall of this society around 1500BC, the toilets disappeared from India never to resurface.
How remarkable -we taught the world how to use these and forgot so ourselves.
Have always enjoyed telling stories and if they are told in a convincing way, people believe them too.
Unfortunately, I now have competition with Google who have really taken away a lot of humour.
The moment I talk about some historical monument or give figure everyone just goes to their phones to check.
As you can guess,in many cases I am wrong and the fun has gone away from many such episodes.
There are many things that happen in the export trade - instead of shouting and screaming at people when something is not exactly coming out the way it should, one has to find ways of getting people to modify things without hurting them or making them feel little.
As far as merchandise/products are concerned, it is important to say how nice everything looks - how happy the customer would be, but then point out the defects - there could a dozen things wrong but by using this strategy, the factory accept these and get them rectified.
On the personal front things can become a bit more complicated.
If one sees a friend who is wearing a terrible dress/sari it does become a bit awkward to point it out to her.
One way - in case she is wearing something in orange - you can just tell her that what she is wearing looks quite nice but blue & green suits her much more. This can work wonders as one may not see her in the strange outfit again.
When we shifted our office to a new locality, the first question was how are we going to do it up?
The youngsters wanted a very modern fashionable Corporate office, but I wanted something more sober and low key
However, the pressure was on and was told to get some good designers and asked them to work on it.
The first one came - very impressive and when he asked me what type of office I wanted, I told them it has to be a place which takes away my stress. Then the colours I liked we green/earthen. The wood had to have visible grains/even holes were fine- more like pine.
He looked at me and said we are here to offer you very exclusive mahogany, teak and we could make your place amongst the best in Delhi.
When I persisted about what I wanted he looked at me and said -no one has a green office and uses packing wood. Then, said he had to think of his reputation too and turned me down.
The second designer was called and he also refused.
In a way I was quite relived as designers do not always understand me. I then called my carpenter, painter, plumber and electrician and I drew up the office exactly the way I wanted it.
It has been over 20 years since we moved in.It has come out very well has a character of its own and people do not know if it is new or old because it is completely different
We don't have any competition trying to keep up with the Jones's.
Even the designers admitted that they have learnt something.
Many times we get messages from our clients which have to be replied on an urgent Basis. We forward these to the different factories and even though we mark them accordingly - find that the time for responding could vary between two hours to even a week.
Could not quite understand why this was so, but when analyzing things realized that the fault was with us because the word urgent itself was very vague
The person who is used to do something in a couple of hours would be quick but the others who normally take 10-15 days to respond and if they did get back within a week as far as they were concerned, they also treated the matter as urgent. Hence we tried to be a bit more specific.
Started by asking people to get back by for example lunch time and when we did not even get a reply till 5 in the evening - and wondered why - they used to answer very truthfully - we have not had lunch yet.
Again, we realized that this is our fault and started specifying a date/time- which works well. Those who know us also know that replying too early was not going to impress.
Having studied abroad, where we were very disciplined as far as timings were concerned, found it a bit of difficult to understand why this was so little meaning over here.
However, we needed to change things and started being very strict about
appointments - giving dates/time etc.
We also used to rent cars/taxi service to go outstation for inspections- but then found something amiss.
The people used to leave about 7am but used to ask the cars to report at 6am - which didn't quite make sense. On checking was told that they wanted to play it safe and by calling them that early they could be fairly sure that they would be able to leave by the time they want.
This did not sound right, so I called up the taxi company and told them we would stop this system immediately
Will give a time - no reminders or calls and the car has to be there accordingly our own staff were told that they had to be ready at that time - no excuses.
It worked- and we have been following this system since then.
I recently got to know that even though all countries have their own concepts of time - Sweden, where I spent many years, has a unique one.
If you are invited for dinner at 8 pm you never come one minute late. Also - you never come one minute early.
One of the greatest passions in my life was to smoke which I started a way back in 1961.
If I had to choose between a nice meal or a cigarette it was always the latter
Many years later, when I started working on my own, I was on a business trip to Toronto.
The flight was very long and I spent most of my time reading magazines- almost all of which were focusing about the problems of drugs and how this was affecting society.
On the way back it was the same.
When one sits alone one does also talk to oneself and I started analyzing the reasons why & how people got into this and were not able to get out again. I then seemed to hear a voice which said - Mony - who are you trying to give a judgment- look at yourself - you smoke. That is also a sort of addiction- so you are exactly in the same category.
If you can give up smoking, then you have a right to say something about drug users-otherwise "shut up".
I thought about this throughout the rest of the journey and when I landed in Delhi at the end of Sept 1984 I thought to myself that must be possible to give up smoking.
Called a few friends of mine who were also big smokers-20-30 a day and said that I was going to stop smoking from the 1st of October - will they join me. They all said yes- as were keen to kick the habit- but it requires more than that. ,
We stood up together, made promises and when the day came I just left my cigarettes where they were, ashtrays remained on every table land never touched a cigarette again.
The others resorted to smoking secretly but after some time they got back into the habit.
I didn't, but one of the reasons why I do not dare take even a puff was because I quit smoking at the time that I enjoyed it the most and when I think about it I only get happy memories and thoughts.
Hence I know if I start again it will be much more difficult to quit.
As a family we take short vacations together about twice a year .There are usually
8-9 of us and we get to explore different parts of the world.
On one of our short trip to Dubai in 2013, the youngsters caught hold of me and asked sarcastically if I ever looked at myself in the mirror - I replied yes. Well what do you see - looks quite nice, No look lower - perfectly fine.
They were not satisfied and asked me what my weight was- I told them it was around 90 kgs. They were quite shocked and said that for my age & height I should not be more than 75kgs.
They asked when I last had a checkup - I said it was 6 years back. They were shocked, but I told them I do not want to see doctors because it was taking an old car to a mechanic who had to find a dozen things wrong to prove that they are good at their work.
However, the family pressure was on and as soon as we got back to Delhi- they took me to a doctor. He was a nice person but told me to go through a lot of tests first.
When I showed him the reports a few days later he asked me how I felt. I told him I felt good. However, he said you may feel so but your reports are very bad. I seemed to have every single problem related to excess weight - diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol etc.
He said that the treatment was simple and I could start with injections and some medicines.
I told him I did not like injections -and if there were any alternatives. He pondered- then replied yes, but for that one needed a lot of will power.
The choice was between injections on one side and will power on the other.
Naturally I chose the latter - and decided to beat the doctor at his game!
THE DOCTOR'S GAME:
Will Power - what did I have to do?
Very simple he said - there are just two things:-
1. Eating habits
Whatever you like in life is on your banned side
Was quite shocked and just wondered what there was left to eat
He told me not to worry they would give me a weekly menu
When I am told to describe what I eat - it was quite simple
I told him I did not like doing exercises or going for walks but he said that this is a part of the condition and was essential. When did I actually last exercise- since he wanted an honest reply and I told him that apart from an occasional swim I used to play tennis in Germany 1962 –1963.
He was shocked that was over 50 years back.
On the first day even before I got out of bed my whole body was aching. I just did not feel like getting up. But then when I though of the needle I decided to give it a try. After walking for a short while every part of my body actually started aching and I wondered if I had made the right choice. However, after a few days things began feeling a bit better.
I had also started swimming and use to do about 8 lengths of 20yards each. It was quite enjoyable but then, my kids told me this was not enough as I was supposed to do for at least 30-35 minutes.
Being quite stubborn I replied OK from tomorrow I will do 40 lengths. Was just waiting for them to react and hoping that they would just say forget it you will kill yourself- and the chapter would be closed. I waited patiently- there was no reaction at all. So, the next day when I finished my 8 lengths in swimming -I said let me try more and did actually do 40 and survive- though it took well over an hour.
Now as a regular habit I go long walks in the morning and swim 40 lengths nonstop and quite fast.
I call my diet prison food but it seems to be quite healthy - all strange concoction, but by following this - when I went back to my doctor after 10 weeks who had given me a maximum deadline of 3 months- all my reports were fine I had also lost over 15 kgs. Was permitted to do what I want to.
However, I am now used to this regime of exercising and food I still stick to it as much as possible- and have learnt to enjoy it too.
A couple of years ago- 2012 - I got a call from Lufthansa advising me that my miles were about to expiring and no further extension was possible.
The lady I spoke to was quite friendly so I asked her why I was getting this step motherly treatment -especially since I have used this airline for almost 35 years.
She replied sweetly and said once upon a time you were a gold card holder, then you got down graded to a silver card holder then to miles & more card and now you are downgraded to a non flier. It is not they who decide but the computer and there is nothing they can do about it.
I asked her how many miles I actually had and she replied between me and my family we have almost a million miles amongst ourselves.
Had no idea what would use those miles which had to be utilized in a few months but the youngsters in the family always know. Lets go on a holiday they said to the USA - there are 8 of us and we need 120,000 miles each.
Sounded like a great idea we wanted to go in June - no seats possible, July was the same problem. Then we got an opening in August - six seats -take it or leave it - so we all took the opportunity of flying to Switzerland and the USA.
It was a great vacation – blackmailing had actually helped.
Using our miles we managed to get 6 tickets - bought two separately for the kids and went to the USA.
This did not cover all and we still had almost 200000 miles left to be utilized.
There had been news about an aircraft going missing and one of the likely sites was the Andaman sea.
We suddenly realized that India did have some islands over there and on checking were told that we could transfer our miles - which worked out perfectly and we got 8 tickets at exactly 25000 each.
The Andamans were amazing - we went to Havelock island where we stayed at a Barefoot hotel as they wanted to prevent any damage to plants or Fauna.
As soon as we got to the hotel, we took out our phones/laptops as everyone seems to do now a days, but the guests already there just smiled at us saying
there was no internet connection, the phones could not work and they also had no TVs.
The Island is supposed to be a place to relax and get away from everything.
However, as we were not aware of this earlier, went to every corner of the island trying to get something working, but nothing did.
So, decided to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. Little did we know that one of the beaches there had been rated amongst the 10 best in the world
Not only that, but we actually got to swim together with an elephant.
When we travel to New York, we like to stay in the center of town as that is where the action is.
People roaming around, busy, just like at home.
On one occasion, an American friend/business associate wanted to invite us for dinner.
He also said would arrange to pick us up
We told him where we were staying and asked how would we find his car? He replied not to worry you will see it.
Times Square was very busy that particular evening- we looked in all directions- but right in the midst we saw a limousine with a big Indian flag
Naturally, we went straight to it - and it was right - first shot.
Nice way of making things that easy for us.
Working in India was completely different to conditions in Scandinavia - especially if one wants to stick to ones values in life.
The first few years were very difficult and I was always in a situation where I would either be sacked or had to resign.
After this happened a couple of times, was unemployed for several months -and was told by many that what I was looking for was not possible in India and I should go back abroad.
The pressure was building - especially since I had two schools going children and sitting outside my grandmother's house in the heart of Delhi, was watching people go by early morning.
Interesting lots - the first was a subjiwala (vegetable man) the next a phalwala (fruit seller) then a kabadi wala (waste collector) but the fourth person who passed by did not even stop. This got me inquisitive - wondering what he was doing out that early so I stopped him and asked what he was selling. He replied that he was not a vendor and when I questioned further he said that he tells the future.
When things seem to be going against you, you always look for a signal, so I called him to me and said - I would like to know something but tell me only nice things - not that I will fall sick or have to do some prayers or usual things they like to mention.
It is very good that Indians can be superstitious and since I was his first customer of the day he agreed to what I said. I called him in and started talking-
I do not want to work for anyone - he said OK that is fine.
I want to do something myself - sure go ahead
I do not know what to do - you will think of something. My last question was - will it work - he said yes.
He was the only person in India who said what I wanted to hear- after which I decided to start my own company in 1983 and went to the bank to open an account.
I needed a current account and was told to deposit RS.5000/-
Since I was already upto my neck in debt and did not want to borrow more, I asked them if they could accept RS.3000 instead
He pointed out that if I wanted to open a savings bank account I could do so for even RS.10 but for a Company bank account the charges were RS.5000/-
However they seem to have been more considerate in those days and I managed to start my account with that lower amount plus what they told me - a rubber stamp which cost me Rs.2/-
Was not pretty sure how things would work out but I knew I wanted to do something myself where I would put into practice what I learnt abroad and teach people to be honest, polite and correct.
Almost everyone I met told me this was just not possible, but we have already completed over 35 years.
On another occasion our associate wanted us to visit him at his ranch in Montana
Since we had nothing planned for the weekend, he arranged to take us there not in a limousine - but in his Gulfstream - so flew straight there from Atlanta.
It was a very luxurious place but inspite of all the comforts it was a bit unusual to see the host actually getting things organized - even cooking /clearing up/washingthe dishes.
When talking about sightseeing he mentioned that we must see the Yellow Stone Park and also advised that most of his guests like to go in a small open plane. When I looked at that - in the colours yellow and black it reminded me of the old movies when aeroplanes had just come out and people were flying any way they wanted to.we were expected to wear goggles too.
Not being that adventurous-declined the offer.
However, as he still felt that we needed to go there, he wanted to arrange for someone to take up. With not much choice- he called his pilots and when they landed up at the ranch they were quite surprised when instead of taking us by plane, they had to drive an SUV.
Were a bit taken a back at first but when we got to know them better the trip was actually great fun.
Once in a while one is invited us to a big event where they have dinner and dancing.
One can see people sitting at the tables, tapping their feet and humming along none of them wanting to be the first to get onto the dance floor.
When such a thing happened, I looked at my wife and said - let’s go.
It is not that we are good at dancing - in fact we are quite bad, but once the others see us, they know they can do better and it gives them the courage to start themselves.
Simple things like this does help others in moving forward.
During one of our family vacations when we had only a few days at a disposal - decided to go to Maldives.
It is known for its beautiful beaches/Islands but was more for honeymooners or people like that.
I looked at my granddaughter Caaira and told her that her father and mother were together – her aunt & uncle were also there but since I would be alone, could she find me a mermaid.
She didn't quite know what this was - so I took a book and showed her.
Yes, Opa I will certainly find one for you she said.
On the first day on the exotic island, she really looked all over but as she was not able to find what I wanted, she came back to me in the evening and said Opa I could not find one but hope this will do- had a little turtle.
How a child's mind works. When I looked at the mermaid it was a beautiful lady with the tail of a fish. In her eyes it was a small fish with the face of a girl.
Hence, in her opinion the turtle was a good alternative.
When my company was celebrating its 25th Anniversary I told my fortune teller who has been visiting us all these years that if I was living in Germany or Sweden I would be a retired man now.
I asked him what my prospects in India were. He was absolutely shocked - retire?
You don't smoke, you don't drink, you have no women running after you, what are you going to do by retiring?
You will make everyone's life miserable.
I looked at him and said what am I supposed to do?
He said work - how long. He replied for the rest of your life
Amazing what effect such words can have
I suddenly felt 10 years younger and said to myself - wow now I can really do things that I want to experiment with - which opened a fresh new chapter for me.
When we shifted to our corporate office IN THE NINETIESwere told that there are usually many power cuts and one needed to install a generator
When the contractor came to see me I told them that I did not like the idea as they were polluting and also create a lot of noise
He came up with a quick solution - put it outside
Crazy how one thinks - I did not like the noise, so how could I have it installed where others would get disturbed
He thought I was a very strange person-not to do something so simple
However, the final result was that we never went in for generators but stayed with the battery operated inverters instead
As a family we take short vacations every year and travel to different parts of the world
My son Rahul was born in Sweden - and after he got married to Neelanjana, we decided to take a trip to the Scandinavian countries
We landed in Stockholm and I told them that the distance to the City Air terminal was about 50 KM and for every person they saw walking on a road I would pay 5 crowns.
Naturally they were all excited to get extra pocket money and thinking that even though it may not be as busy as in India they could make quite a packet money bags were ready.
They were most therefore most disappointed that on the whole way they only saw three
Having been a student there in early 60s I told them that we were going to visit a friend of mine by pubic conveyance. Hence left our baggage at the station and went to the counter.
Told them that in the year 1967 I used to go by bus # 52 to Fridhelms Plan - what is the number now. Even though it is more than 40 years later the number was the same.
We got onto the bus - the colour/markings all looked familiar - the only difference was that it become much longer
In the earlier days there was a conductor and a driver whereas now one had to enter from the back and walk to the driver to make the payment. Seven of us got in but when I passed the 1st person seated he saw through me. I tried to get his attention - but there was no reaction at all.
So, I told my family that we were going to play a little game and said - the Swedes are very reserved but they are also amongst the politest people in the world, hence you do exactly what I say.
Having no choice they all agreed, and so when I passed the first person again, bent down smiled and said Goddag hur maar du? (Good day how are you) The gentleman got a shock of his life - looked up and said "tack jag maar bra". (thank you i am fine).
The whole family followed exactly the same procedure and by the time we reached the driver, there was a lot of activity in the bus.
I asked him how much we should pay, he looked at me and said you had made everyone in my bus talk - no charge that was our first day together in Sweden.
One of the first things that one does get to notice is that there is a lot of noise because almost everyone uses their horn.
When I questioned people as to why this was so they replied that in India it is absolutely necessary.
Found it rather odd and told them that I had a Swedish license and had not used the horn for many years - their simple reply was -don't worry you will learn.
Somehow I could not get myself to doing so and when I bought my first car in 1974 - a second hand Fiat I disconnected the wire going to the horn.
Also felt that if I was questioning people I needed to check myself whether what they said was correct or not.
Driving in Delhi without a horn those days was fantastic - it made me a better human being.
I had respect for everyone crossing the road even cyclists and pedestrians and slowed down for the animals too.
Traffic was chaotic - one needed to look in all directions but without a horn one could not point or shout at anyone but waited patiently for things to pass.
Amazingly because of this, I got rid of my stress as well.
Time passed very quickly - and after driving around this way for almost 15 months I caught hold of some of my friends and said that I had actually driven without a horn myself and it works - would they join me in a no horn campaign.
They all looked at me and just said - Mony go back to Sweden.
However, since I had started something I decided to continue this way.
My daughter was learning how to drive and had become quite good.
When she went for the test, everything went off very well, but she was shocked when the instructor wrote a big F on her results saying that she has failed.
She questioned him how this was possible and he looked at her and said Madam you did not blow the horn.
My father told me not to do so-she replied
The inspector looked back and said your father is not taking the exam please come back in three weeks.
When she returned she made sure that at every crossing she blew the horn loud and long.
The inspector returned the pages to her and F for fail has changed to pass with flying colours.
Wondering why things were still so I checked around a bit and found that in the year 1915 a British gentleman had written a book about driving in India - and had mentioned that it was necessary to blow the horn so that the horses and other cattle driven vehicles got alerted.
Apparently after that there has been numerous books on this subject but this still seems to stand out.
In the year 2010 I was in contact with an NGO who asked me whether my name was Mony - I replied yes. He told me that they were ready - was not sure what he meant by that as I was into many different campaigns.
He replied No Horn. I told him that I had spoken about this almost 35 years, but since there were people who were ready I decided to join this campaign as well and start promoting No Horn in a better manner.
They had a lot of banners and stickers and I covered up my car in them so much so that people used to refer to it as the NO HORN CAR.
The number of times it has been photographed by others shows that there was interest. Nobody likes being pushed into doing something but this campaign needed to be there to make people aware of things.
On one particular occasion someone wanted to interview me but I suggested to speak to my driver instead as I never blow the horn.
Reluctantly they did so and asked what his name was he replied NO HORN YUSUF.
He was very proud of his title/achievement - as he used to blow the horn all the time but then gave up.
When I asked him what he spoke to the other drivers about when he parked at hotels and elsewhere - he always said he talks about - not blowing the horn.
We once had to attend a wedding in Jaipur so I told my relatives and friends that I was going to go there in my car and if anyone wanted to accompany me they were most welcome.
There were some who had come in from Pondicherry who decided to do so and we travelled together to attend the wedding.
At the reception they caught hold of me took me to one of their relatives – whom they were related to and said meet Mony.
For over 20 years he has been telling us not to blow the horn and now we came the whole way from Delhi and he has not used it once nor found it necessary. Hence if you get re-elected be sure to appoint him as your transport Minister.
Yusuf in fact had to lecture the other drivers at the Hotel about driving without a horn and when we came back to Delhi a few weeks later we noticed big banners were up saying that 1st of January was declared as a No Horn day.
This must have been something preplanned, but I told Yusuf this was all because of his meeting the top people who said if he can drive without blowing the horn so should others in Delhi too.
The day has been announced but how many people actually know it.
When talking to others gets the impression that out of the population it is not been more than a fraction of a percent.
Then as far as the officials/police are concerned, would be negligible too.
When one is campaigning for something one has to believe in the cause
However there are always sceptics who come up and one of them did so and said
MONY you always try to teach us to be clean, honest etc., but sometimes you have to be a bit realistic in life.
When I asked for clarification - he said take your no campaign.
You are over 70 years of age. India has a population of around 1.2 billion. What do you realistically expect to achieve during your life time.
This was certainly a very valid question so I turned to him smiled and said it is all a matter of how you look at things - you say with a population of 1.2 billion what I expect to achieve - I say with a population of 1.2 billion I would never be without a job.
For any change or campaign it is very important to get youngsters involved because they are the ones who can actually change their parents.
All this posters that we have to take this into consider one does see change in attitude.
One should never try to force someone to do something as we can get quite angry. Then, do not be scared of being ridicule made fun of etc. it doesn't make any matter.
One occasion I was invited by Trip Advisor for prize willing ceremony for my BnB at the Leela Kempinski hotel which is one of the exclusive ones in Delhi.
When asked what I was going to wear - I replied I will wear casual clothes as I promote a home stay and not a formal establishment- hence no suit/tie
Atleast, we hope you are going in a proper car. I replied - NO.
I am going to use what people started referring to my delivery van as it has posters all over.
When I was told that others will all come in the Mercedes, Bentleys etc.
I told them it did not matter as they would definitely notice my car too.
Since I was promoting a cause this was important for me.
Others felt I was rather eccentric - had no volunteers to accompany me.
The centre of the Metal industry in India is Moradabad. In the 70's & 80's getting there was quite treacherous.
In fact, as a joke, we used to give a certificate to our buyers to the effect that they had actually done the road to Moradabad.
The USA Company asked me once what the alternatives was and as a joke
I just said only a helicopter.
I was surprised when they asked me to check on this- hunted around and finally found that there was a Company who used to provide these to the Prime Minister office and were willing to take us there if we gave them the coordinates.
Flying time half an hour - compared to the several that is took by car
I then passed on this information and said that a regular car would cost USD25 return, a fancy Mercedes about a USD100 whereas a helicopter was USD4000 - and wanted full payment in advance.
Their immediate reply was take it. So 10 of us- with the buyers - went on this trip.
When we approached Moradabad- the only place with a Helipad was the police headquarters- it looked as if half the city was wanted to know who was coming. Only politicians and movie stars came that way - and we had to have heavy security to safeguard the helicopter.
The trip went off well - we had official beacon car escort all over and the newspapers in next day said "buyers are terrified of coming to Moradabad by road - when is the government is going to improve the road.
This message took several years to get heard but now we no longer need to issue certificates!
In the 80's the only flights to Jaipur used to leave at an unearthly hour and nobody liked getting up that early.
Hence, the team suggested that they would like to take the Gulfstream and leave at their convenience.
Had no idea that this was going to be quite complicated as my name was mentioned as their reference in India and even though I may not have had more than 25000 dollars in my bank account, had to give a guarantee of several million - which was accepted!
As long as all the rules were followed- there was nothing to worry about
Based on this, we flew to Jaipur in less than 20 minutes - the factory was all spruced up- and the entire team was dressed up in turbans- looking like distinguished Maharajas and dignitaries.
Fortunately- all went off well - it took a few months for the guarantee to be given back to me-keep it as a souvenir.
It is to be seen to be believed.
In the nineties-one of the cash reach companies we worked with in the USA bought over a big corporate - almost like the case of sardine swallowing a whale.
When the buyers of the latter were coming to India they were told to work with Mony. Who is he?? They were very reluctant - as were only used to dealing with the multinationals.
However, since they didn't have much choice but to do so, right from the moment when their Vice president landed in Delhi one could see that he was going to be tough.
When I met him at his hotel, all suited & booted I rang up the office to say that I would take some time in coming as need to give them him some Mony Therapy.
Took him on a little tour - told him a lot of stories about Delhi and India and after a little over an hour, he suddenly relaxed- opened up and said, Mony one of my biggest desires in life has been to ride an elephant.
It was nice to see this change in him, but when we checked with the various hotels there was no elephant available.
Naturally, he was disappointed but while driving to our office, we stopped at a traffic light and right next to us was an elephant- returning from some function. He got out of the car- we thought he was going to take some photographs but instead of that he took out his visiting card and gave it to the man riding it said that he was staying at the Sheraton and wondered whether he could have a ride .
The Mahut as we call them was a shrivelled man must have been in his 30's but looked at least a 100. He also fumbled - put his fingers in his pocket and took out a slip of paper saying my mobile number - call me.
We were all shocked and taken aback but we actually contacted him and fixed up a ride near the Jamuna River where the elephants are kept at night. It took only a few minutes cost us Rs.100 but ever since then he loves India.
We are grateful to the Elephant for having done this for us.
Our office has large entrance doors made of glass - and the reception is made in such a way that people do not hesitate to come in
However, my daughter said that we faced a problem as got many unwanted guests as well.
She explained that where the weather changes and the air-conditioning is on - a lot of flies also come in- to chill- which was not good.
Even though China is one of our main competitors she said that they do manufacture nice products which we could also use.
One these was a battery operated racket which was a sort of flies swatter and made a sharp cracking noise every time every time an insect came in contact.
The staff loved to use it - made them feel more like tennis champions.
One particular day when sitting at our conference table an insect came in I told one of the staff members to get the fly swatter. He did so but instead of aiming for the fly just put it next to me on the table.
I looked at him quite surprised - the fly is over there why have you put it here?
He just looked at me and said - today is Tuesday - apparently on this day Hindus do not kill any type of animals and since religious there was no way could get them to do so.
Fortunately we have people of various faiths working with us so I called my driver who finished it with one smash!
One of my buyers in Australia - Michael - was very creative - had a lot of contacts with stores all over the world and also designed his own collection. His buyers used to come to India quite frequently, but since he did not have time to keep rushing here he asked me to take them around.
In the mid 80's one of his American associates was coming so he asked me to take him around to the various factories that he worked with
I rang up Ed at his hotel - who invited me to join him for the breakfast.
He was a nice person, but he asked me a lot of questions and I almost told him that I was not looking for a job but was only going to show him around.
It was summer - quite hot - but we made our way the first showroom in my Ambassador car which did not have any air-conditioning.
When we reached the first appointment, he became very focused and took out his notepads & computer sheets and started working on different samples that he had selected.
We were there for almost three hours and then he gave his notings to the concerned executives.
They got back to me after a while but said something was wrong.
When I asked what it was, they said the value of the order. Having worked only with Europe where it was usual to place PO's of USD5000-10000 I told them that the USA is much bigger so probably be around USD 20,000
They told me this was not so - was closer to USD100,000
I pointed this out to Ed but he confirmed that this was correct but we have not added his bulk samples which could vary between 200 - 400 per style.
When we sat in the car for the next meeting, I looked at him and said that my
Australian friend had told me that if I started doing business with you I should charge a commission of 5%. I requested him - out of embarrassment- to reduce it to 3%.
He looked at me and said - Mony you have never worked with the USA before and never with me. Once you do, you will realize that you have to put in a lot of efforts. Hence, for the moment let us leave things as they are, but when my buying comes up to around USD5 million, then I shall reconsider your offer.
During the course of the day, he kept placing orders on the spot and by the evening we already have confirmed ones for over half a million dollars.
I spoke to my Australia associate and asked who exactly this person was. He told me that he is CEO of one of the top Giftware Companies - Department 56 - in the USA and had come to India in his own Gulfstream.
I asked him why he didn't give me this information in advance- he told me because he wanted me to be natural and had already being informed by "B" that he liked the way I worked and wanted to route all his business through me.
That is how we started our business dealings with the USA.
In India almost every animal is worshipped or treated as holy in some partof the country or other.
During the time of the 2nd world war, as were not sure who was going to win - there were sections who allied with the USA, the UK.Germany and even Japan - to play it safe
The Americans had their barracks right near the main government buildings when some monkeys came visiting. The immediate instinct was to offer something to eat - it was not chewing gum but bananas that did the trick and they became friends.
Over the years the population of monkeys went up from a dozen to several hundred and getting bored like young children, they started playing games of grabbing people's lunch boxes and running away with these/shoes etc.
Inspite of complaints nothing happened, because the monkeys were holy and no one wanted to offend them because of religious problems.
Unfortunately for them the monkeys got much bolder. Once they even went to the Defence Ministry and started throwing files & papers all over the floor.
This got the army into action as there was no way they could permit such a thing to happen but here again they did not know how to proceed.
After a lot of discussions and think tanks, they were told that even in the jungles there are certain hierarchies. Apparently there is a black faced monkey with a whitish body and a long tail called langoor - and when he is around the usual brown monkeys stay away
Hence, since Indians have all sort of pets right down from elephants to birds, they caught hold of peoples who had langoors who were made to report to the offices during regular working hours and just get them to sit there for them.
This worked wonders - the places were absolutely peaceful, but on the weekends the monkeys had a field day.
The Society for the Prevention of cruelty to animals has recently banned langoors from being used - so the problem has resurfaced.
Every religion has something positive and although I do not go to temples, churches, mosques etc. to pray - I have had to turn to religion.
My sister Kuku used to work with Lufthansa and when I first started my company used to travel on her discounted tickets which were all standby.
On the final leg of a journey when I wanted to check in for the Frankfurt - Delhi sector the queue looked almost a mile long and I always felt that there was no way I could get on.
However, I had to try to do something, so started praying to the different Gods - atleast a dozen Hindu ones then Christian, Moslem Jewish anything and waited patiently.
Fortunately, I always got on, but since I don't actually know which of the GODS was responsible, I make sure to respect all religions - who knows.
This is actually a story with a twist, but quite enjoyable.
When Mc Donald's came to India many years ago they approached the government for permission to start their restaurants chains over here.
When told that the only condition was that they could not serve beef the reply was we are known for our beef burgers and that is all that we are going to stick to.
Hence, they were not given permission but after seeing others come they decided to give another try- a few years later.
The answer was the same and this time McDonald agreed - the reasoning was that Idea has the 2nd largest Muslim population in the world and if McDonald started serving beef there would be some fanatics who spread the word that the Muslims were slaughtering our cows
Hence for the sake of burger we were not willing to see our country get into any communal riots.
The burgers that they started of with were chicken, lamb and fish and they had a beautiful outlet in one of the posh market of Delhi which was very crowded the first few days - then things quieted down.
McDonald was not sure why this happened but on checking was told that their prices were too high. An Indian burger costs Rs20. whereas McDonald was selling theirs for about Rs100 hence it is only the crowd who wanted to impress others and say I have been to Mc-Donalds almost like the rest of the world talks about Tiffany's
Based on this Mc Donald reduced their prices then threw in a coke and French fries too This worked better, but again just for a short period
After another brain storming session wondering what was wrong with the Indians they were told frankly - your burgers have no taste.
They were shocked, but they had to change and if one walks to a Mc Donald
now a days, can see that about 70 % of their menu is more Indian than foreign
Also their best selling burger which they picked up from the street - Aloo Tikki (potato) one is what they have now branded as McAloo and this even exported from here to the Middle East and other countries.
So, we all have helped each other and sometimes when we have a discussions as to why the government allowed Mcdonalds to come in and not other big industrial factories, I reply that even Mc-Donald has made a big contribution to society.
They could not quite understand so I clarified by saying this is one of the first chains that came to India which showed that we can have a nice restaurants very hygienic, functional, efficient with clean loos
After seeing the success, Indian companies said that if Mc-Donalds can do it so can we and now we have fantastic restaurants all over with the clean loos as well.
Once I was spending a night at a relative's place- it was a new location for me and also new surroundings
Being the weekend, I was just taking it easy lying in bed when an inner voice spoke to me and asked what the time was.
I replied- must be between 7 - 8am.
The voice replied – Mony this is not like you - be precise what is the time.
Without pondering I replied 7.23 am
The voice then said - Mony take a look at your clock.
I did so and it showed exactly 7.23am
I was terrified, got the goose bumps - covered myself under the quilt and did not get out of bed for the next two hours.
Till today when I narrate the story, I still get the shivers.
This interpretation does not always work out in a way one imagines.
Being in the export line a factory was working with was making a special embroidered rug with the alphabets and corresponding images.
The initial pieces we saw looked very nice but we then we noticed that the letter E was facing left instead of right.
When asking the worker why this was so, he simply replied -it looks better this way. Naturally we were not able to accept his explanation and had to change things to the way the buyer wanted.
My wife was very much involved in reiki, pranic healing, Art of Living and many other such good causes. In fact, we had an apartment where she would teach and study these things. It was frequented by people from many parts of the world
Not being a believer myself, when I had an occasional headache I used to ask her if she could cure me and her reply was - not unless you believe.
Hence, I always stuck in taking Aspirins and the like instead
However, one day I had a visitor from the UK whom I have known for many years. He was almost in tears and when I asked him what the matter was - he said that he gets severe back pains and at times just feels like jumping off a high building.
I told him this was crazy - you are living in one of the most advanced countries of the world and also had access to the best doctors in the UK, USA, Europe.
He said nothing had worked, had also tried some eastern remedies which did not help either.
Seeing his plight and not been able to come up with any suggestions, told him that well if that is so maybe you should go to Monica
He took this seriously - went there and in a matter of a few days, he was fit as a fiddle and does not seem to have had this pain again.
So, the power of healing is very much correlated with the power of believing.
If you think it will work- it does.
We spend a lot of our time/energy in telling people to clean their tables/office etc. but it does not always work out the way we want as we have different levels of interpretation.
Sometimes, one has to play a little game in the sense that instead of rewarding people who keep their places nice & tidy, we have a special award for the one with the dirtiest table.
After getting it once, the person herself made sure she was never in the running for it again.
In India, every animal is worshipped in some part of the country or the other.
When the monkeys from the Government Buildings in Delhi were transferred to a little forest along the main road for the airport, they set up home quite nicely.
Worshippers would make sure that they had their fill of bananas and other fruits.
However, even the monkeys get confused as to which day is auspicious for
them,but they had learnt how to make this out.
Early in the morning when they are sleeping peacefully on the trees –sometimes they hear people calling out to them- not giving up
It is only then that they realize it must be monkey day but since they are all still sleepy - they do not want to come
Hence, when this is the case, it is finally the drowsy- elder monkeys who decides to meet the person takes his offerings and go back to sleep.
Once the sun rises, the younger monkeys come down from the trees to play around and whenever they want to eat something they go towards the road, stretch out their hands and almost every religious Hindu stops.
This is so well organized now that there is actually a banana seller sitting there and people buy these from him and give to the monkeys
What one observe is that the monkeys of that area will never steal his bananas but just wait for the next devotee to come along.
Nice way of living!
When I was living in the Sweden in the 60s had a good friend an Indian girl who got married to a local, but somehow that marriage broke down
When I visited Sweden again around 2010 I wanted to get in touch with her but was told by others who knew her that she had gone underground and they had not heard from her for over 20 years.
I found this quite difficult to comprehend but as I was keen to meet her after all these years, decided to try to do so when I was visiting to attend a wedding of a friend's daughter.
It was a church ceremony in the city of Uppsala and after it got over I went to the priest - told him how nicely ha had done things and asked if he could help me- something personal.
I told him that I was looking for a friend of mine who married to a Swedish priest - but we had then lost contact. Had tried getting information from the police and authorities but they were not allowed to advise.
He found it quite an usual request and said they did have a special register for priest but being the weekend he could only give a few phone numbers where I could call.
I was grateful and started doing so. Within 24 hours I was on the line with the person I wanted to meet and she got the shock of her life when I told her who I was. Apparently she was under depression after her marriage broken down and did not want to meet anyone.
Had come this way and was not going to take that as a final answer.
I told her that I was coming back to Stockholm the next evening to take the flight back to India.
I would like her to meet me at the train station but she was reluctant to do so. I then decided to blackmail her a bit and said. You have a choice, either you meet me there or I will come to your house as I have the address.
When I reached Stockholm she was there - was great to meet after so many decades
When parting told her that she needed to get out of this shell and that I would be passing her details to all the friends she had earlier.
It was good to note that she has started meeting some of them already.
So people can help you achieve such things- not just facebook/twitter & the likes.
Once we were waiting for a flight from Cincinnati to Kansas City and the airlines announced that it is going to be delayed by 3hours.
In India if such a thing happens, lots of people just rush to the counter – ready to start a fight saying that this is not acceptable- they must find another plane, how important they are etc.
In the USA there is no reaction at all - people sit down quietly read their books/ magazine or work on their computers.
Finding myself in such a situation, my eyes start wondering and I look around for interesting people. My kids remind me that I am not in India and one doesn't go & talk to people just like that in other parts of the world.
However, I told them I only meant good and continued to do so. Then, I actually met someone and we started talking - he about his recent visit to China and I about India.
Since the flight was late, there were no seats allocated and we decided to sit down together and before we knew it we already arrived at our destination. When disembarking he asked me for my visiting card which I gave him.
A few days later when I was back in India I got a call from the USA asking me if I knew who the person I met on the flight was. I did not even have his name but they told me he was the Business Editor Topeka Capital Journal. He found my conversation interesting and wanted to write a feature.
Hence, they started sending me emails with questions and calling and just a few weeks later the phone rings is was an associates of mine, who said- "Mony what are you & your family doing on two pages in colour in our Newspaper.
He was quite excited and happy but also said disappointed about one thing.
When you google your name and Hallmark your whole life history comes out.
When we do the same and we have worked here for over 30 years we only see the telephone directory.
Isn't that unfair.
With the passing of years, one has to pay more attention to ones health.
Hence, after I noticed something strange happening, did get alarmed.
It all looked very simple, but when I used to get those beautiful Christmas cards from Europe, my body used to shiver.
Naturally, the kids took advantage of this and said that I must be going senile so if I wanted to continue working would have to get a doctor's certificate.
When I explained this to the physician, he told me this was something quite natural and I should not get worried. As examples, he said
If you see a photograph of a pretty girl, you get attracted. If you see some nice display of food, your mouth starts watering.
In my particular case, when I see those beautiful snowy scenes, instead of just admiring them, since I actually lived in these countries my body migrates and that is why I actually starting feeling chilly.
With this approval, I was permitted to restart work and am still going strong well over 75.
Since I am actively involved in this campaign, I make it a point of practicing and promoting it as well.
At the time of our International fairs that are held twice a year in Delhi, we get many clients from different parts of the world.
We are also obliged to rent 10-15 cars from outside, but I make it a point of talking /meeting all the drivers early morning before they start their work.
Explain that foreigners are very scared of traffic in India and if they hear any noise they will get even more alarmed. Hence apart from driving carefully, they should also not do any undesirable things such as spitting or blowing the horn.
There are always some drivers who listen to what I say, but then tell me that it is not possible to drive in Delhi without doing so.
I explain that we have been renting cars for almost 20 years and have not had any such situations in the past, but if they really have a problem, they should go ahead and blow the horn. However, they must note that in every car there is a person from our office and for each time they do so, we will deduct Rs.100 from their owner's bill.
The bosses of the companies are there and they nod in confirmation/acceptance.
So, the whole day we drive around peacefully, but if at around 7 in the evening you see a fleet of cars driving in the centre of town with their horns blaring, you would probably understand that they must have been working with Mony during the day and have to let out their frustration.
I only actually got into sports seriously after the age of 70 and have started enjoying many things including swimming.
I took part in a competition for those over 60 and came second. Quite a feat considering that the one who beat me was an ex national champion.
He was not supposed to be in my group, so when I asked him he said that he had permission to take part in three which he did and that included mine as well.
I told him this was not fair as I had no chance with him around, but his simple answer was that he liked winning and would be in mine next time as well.
Little I could do except talk to him, but he refused to change his mind.
Agreed that he was much better than me in free style but I said could swim breaststroke and backstroke faster than him.
He looked at me and said OK, but what about butterfly stroke.
Told him I had never done this in my life, but decided to work on it.
I am at the pool at 7 almost every morning and when I asked the instructor there to teach me how to do the butterfly stroke he agreed. Unfortunately, by the time classes start at 11am, I am already at work.
So, what does one do in such cases - Google.
Found a site with a lady instructor who said if I wanted to learn an easy way, I should pretend I am a dolphin.
For the first two weeks I should only move my legs. After that start with the arms.
How nice, I learnt this stroke in a couple of weeks and am enjoying it too.
When googling sites seem to open one after the other and on one I saw part of the Olympic game and found it fascinating how the professional swimmers used to zoon and then do a flip turn at the end.
Looked so nice but when I told my instructor that I wanted to learn this as well, he refused saying it was very dangerous at my age and only people between 20-30 should do so.
However, I still wanted to give it a try so googled again and a friendly instructor said that the main fear people have is that when they are reaching the end they feel that they are going to bang their head on the wall- so slow down.
That is wrong, keep going fast and when you are about a foot away, put your arms against your side put- your head down and you will automatically flip.
Great - it worked, and I even have a new assignment -teaching this to young swimmers who never had the guts earlier.
Class and creed have always been barriers so when we opened our own office in the 80's decided to have an open system with no doors/cabins and let people mix freely with each other.
No locks either and we should not have anything to hide
This had other positive effects too which we had not realized earlier- because it is in a open space people have to lower their voice and also not shout on the phone as they would be over heard.
Then also realized that visiting cards are a sort of barrier too- especially since they tell you who the person is to become accessible and take aware this scare- we removed our own designations- and only mention names.
It certainly makes it much simpler for others to communicate with us.openly.
Nowadays every airline seems to be competing with each other showing off their business class and the facilities they offer.
The current generation gets very excited about all this
It suddenly dawned on me that when I took my first long distance flight in the 40's, we used to change into our pajama suits and even had bunkers to sleep on.The air hostesses used to see that we were nicely tucked in.
Nobody believed me and since I started having my own doubts had to double check.
Lo and behold they confirmed what I said and even showed pictures of the planes in those days showing just what I said.
Thank you Google !
When I was told by the doctor that I had to start doing exercises I took out my old canvas shoes that I used for walking.
Gradually I started enjoying this exercise, my speed picked up so much so that I felt like flying.
Was advised that one has to do such things in stages and after walking comes running .
For this, however,I needed to get a proper pair of running shoes.
These were so comfortable- made me feel much lighter, but it also had some problems because I started enjoying running so much that I overdid it and sprained my ankle.
So, one needs to be careful before wishing to fly.
My late wife had an apartment which she had willed to me.
I wanted to do something with it but was not exactly sure what.
Since it was vacant for a few months the pressure was on to give it out on rent till I decided something.
I was not keen to do so and to put a spoke in the wheel by saying that I would only consider an offer double the market rent.
Naturally, all the brokers and others thought that this was crazy and was never going to happen.
One day an American company came to see the place - and were interested.
When they asked what the rent was, I gave them the higher figure-which they immediately accepted.
This put me in an awkward position ,so instead of the usual one month advance, told them they needed to give a deposit of six months -they agreed to this too!
When I asked how long they needed it for they said 30 months. Under the circumstances, there was nothing I could do but accept.
I did, however, ask why they were so keen on my place.
They looked at me and said that most of their clients came from the USA and they had been putting them up at the Sheraton which was across the road.
By taking my place, they got four large bedrooms and would be saving a lot of money in the process.
They also said with a smile, that if I had wanted more, they would probably have agreed.
Being a gentleman I accepted what I had said.
When the government issued a notification to reduce pollution in Delhi- diesel cars were permitted for 10 years and petrol driven ones for 15 years.
I had a van which was almost 10 years old so decided to dispose of it in time.
One day a gentleman looked at me and said Mony you are a very law abiding person but what about your personal car. How old is it?
I was not sure so checked the papers and found that it was well over 17 but as it had only done about 80000 KM did not want to give it up.
Spoke to a policeman friend of mine who said if I were driving it myself as a senior citizen there was not much chance of anyone stopping me.
However, if I ever had a driver then it would be another matter.
One afternoon I had to go to the market and since parking is a hassle, took help and just as we reached were stopped at a check post. They did not speak to me at all but asked the driver to show the papers.
After seeing them they said that this was a violation and I would have to dispose off my car within 72 hours otherwise pay a heavy penalty and the driver's license would also be confiscated for three months.
Hence, with a heavy heart had to part with a car that had served me well for almost two decades.
Also made a video showing the actual scrapping, but I did not have the courage to see it - would have been most depressing.
On one of our family vacations we had gone to the Far East and on the way back had gone to Shenzhen on a shopping spree.
All the youngsters were very excited as the city was known for good bargains and variety.
I didn't need or want anything so was just hanging around.
Since the ladies wanted to shop in peace they suggested that I go and buy some shirts for myself. I told them they were far too expensive but my daughter looked at me and said I needed to learn how to bargain.
If they say the price is 120 RMB just say you will pay 25 RMB.
I took the cue from her, the shopkeepers were aghast saying the best price they could offer was 80 RMB. I told them I was told to spend not more than 25 and if they did not give me at least some at this rate my daughter would come over and they would have to sell the same for 15 RMB.
This seems to have worked wonders and I got myself half a dozen.
The quality was amazing too - some still last.
I have always kept an open house/been accessible and have tried to help people in whatever way I could.
Several years ago , a person arrived at my home in a big Mercedes and wanted to meet me.
When he came in ,he asked me if I remembered him .I just could not recollect.
He then said that some time back he was not quite sure what to do with his life and had come to me .I listened to him patiently and had given him some advice-which he took and has established himself very nicely.
Wanted to thank me and say that if there was anything he could ever do for me, I should just let him know.
The important thing in helping people is that you should do so because you want to - not that one day they may be rich and famous and can do things for you.
When I chucked up my job in the eighties and started working on my own,there were two things that I got rid off - my briefcase & my ties.
In life, however, there are situations where one is forced to do one or the other and this happened when one of our Swiss buyers wanted to introduce us to a German company who were going to take over his business.
Were supposed to meet at the Frankfurt fair and as an introduction he sent us photos of the 3 directors. All dressed up very smartly in dark blue suits.
This certainly meant that I could no longer just go there in a casual outfit, so dug out one of the old ties.
When I went to meet them they looked exactly like in the photographs - very correct and serious.
I looked at them, smiled and said that when my Swiss friend had sent me the photos I knew I had to be properly attired too so dug out my old tie so that they would not mistake me for a "Putzfrau".
I said all this in German and it immediately brought on a lot of smiles and the business deal was finalized even before we even started.
In school I was very bad in almost everything-be it studies, sports - even acting/debating
The only thing I was very particular about with was discipline- always punctual, well behaved and sticking to one's word.
Hence, when others got awards for brilliance, every year in school except for one,- that's another story- I signed the Honours book for good conduct.
This certainly laid the foundation for the way I have worked my whole life.
Have been involved in many campaigns right from the time I came back to India and then when the Clean India one started - I was most interested.
However, I found it very cumbersome & difficult to use the broom and felt that to make young people take part in it they needed to enjoy what they were doing.
During my days in Scandinavia when we used to go into the woods to collect mushrooms and other things we used a simple grabber - which made it very easy.
I tired buying these over here, but as were not available-finally ordered some from China.
They were light, worked well and instead of then having to wonder where to collect the garbage and throw it, arranged specially laminated reusable bags for this purpose.
People loved the grabber - it made them feel like Neil Armstrong on the moon and I had many wanting them.
The only thing I pointed out was that one should not be tempted to press each others noses!
Since I used to go to many school functions decided to use these as gifts for those who achieved something.
In fact, I became quite popular as there were many who wanted to earn the grabber.
I was once interviewed by a lady who discussed the various campaigns that I was involved in - trying to make people honest, decent, clean etc. etc. but pointed out that sometimes my campaigns were not actually realistic.
I asked her to clarify the matter and she said - take the No Horn Campaign.
You are over 70 years of age - Delhi has almost 10 million cars/motor cycles and the country a population a more than a billion.
Now Mony what do you actually expect to achieve in your lifetime.
I looked at her, smiled and said it was all a matter of how you look at things.
You say with a population of one billion - what do I expect to achieve.
I say with a population of one billion - I will never be without a job.
I enjoy coffee but it is more of the simple instant one that one has at home.
Recently I was invited out for lunch and thereafter they all wanted to go for coffee.
With so many choices available, it was very difficult to actually decide what to go in for.
Was first asked whether I wanted Columbian, Brazilian etc etc. some of the places I may not have been able to pinpoint on a map.
Then whether I wanted strong, weak, mild etc etc. This just carried on and on.
Finally with a big smile they asked what I would like.
I looked at them and said I will settle for a cup of hot chocolate!
They were shocked but at times one should make life simple.
We had a customer in Greece who was very much into high fashion clothing.
One day he called up saying that he had a meeting with his main client and as they were having a promotion asked him for some drumsticks.
He clarified that these were for some music festival so had turned to us for advice/sourcing.
Got the samples- but when we tried to have these made here, they turned out quite nicely but there was no way could produce 100 000 sets in four weeks.
We then turned to Sri Lanka who confirmed could do but committed 50000 sets.
Our customer was happy but said that he really needed the full quantity - where we got it from did not matter.
Fortunately we had a contact in China who managed to confirm the balance.
All worked out well and his client was very pleased for having helped out in this situation and he got many more orders for his regular line from them.
Living abroad for many years one gets more attached to one's own country.
After returning in the 70's was very happy meeting close friends/relatives but started wondering where the rest of the family was. Over the years, people had settled in different countries/places.
When my father noticed my interest , he asked me to work on a family tree.
It is not a simple process like in other countries where things are noted/documented, here one has to actually go around to different places to meet people and check around.
It was a complicated task, but once I decided to do it -proceeded accordingly.
The first step was to visit the holy cities - the closest one being Haridwar.
Was told that they keep records of families going back several hundred years and that would be good place to begin with.
Even though I was quite skeptical went - went like a tourist -with my camera.
After a lot of questions -they sent me to one of the hundreds of cubicles -and said that was the one was linked to my family.
I remembered that my grand father had passed away in the early 50's and his ashes had been immersed in the river Ganges over there.
Gave the name and within less than a minute they took out a scroll- went down and showed me some handwritten notes. The name was correct and I could also see the signatures of my two uncles. Took permission to photograph it and did so- unbelievable. All was authentic and so began the story into looking into the past.
Many exciting things came out. Apparently my great grandfather married thrice - we knew of only one link but got details of the others. Another interesting fact I was told that my brother and my names were not what we currently use. Here I had to check with some of the elder relatives and they confirmed that was correct.
However, over the years have built quite a rapport so people actually inform me of the changes / happenings.
In fact I am also invited to many functions where I am introduced as Mr Family Tree.
India has certainly become a country of mobile phones- well over a billion- and computers/internet and other forms of communication are growing faster than in almost any part of the world.
Then- as we are moving towards a cashless society - new accounts - in millions - to facilitate - were opened every month.
Inspite of all this we realized that there were still many support staff who had never flown and the closest they got to seeing aeroplanes was in movies.
So, in 2016 , as a complete surprise and gift for them we organized a special trip for all 17 -to Jaipur- by jet and made sure that each one of them got a window seat.
Over there went sight seeing and shopping in a special coach.
We had decided to take everyone connected with us including the drivers/peons/even the domestic help- cooks / maids.
One should have been there to witness the excitement.
Many had never imagined such a thing could happen to them in their life time-but, as they say "Dreams can come true"
Preparing a holiday list for India is not that easy, because to please everyone it runs into several hundred.
Naturally as a nation one cannot get a day off for all those but people are allowed to decide themselves which of the 16 or so they want to chose per year.
Even though the majority of people are Hindus, many a times the religious holidays fall on a weekend, which is not that convenient. Hence, people tend to chose the Christian/Muslim and other ones which fall on Fridays or Mondays as this gives them a long weekend.
In other words if you want to promote a religion here , what better way than to see that the holidays fall on the right day.
Travelling in the 70's was still quite convenient - easy to get visas and minimal customs formalities.
On a business trip to Scandinavia I was supposed to cover all four capitals twice and my air-ticket was becoming very expensive.
One of my close friends suggested that if I extended it to the USA it would work out much cheaper..
Had no intention of actually going there, but when my work finished on Friday afternoon,just went to the airport out of curiosity.
Apparently they did have some extra flights and after checking my ticket; offered me a seat. So carrying only a small hand bag with my passport ticket and some papers I boarded the flight to New York. Had no clothes or anything else.
Was quite exciting - even got welcomed by friendly customs officials over there and told them I had only come sight seeing for 24 hours as I had to be in Helsinki on Monday.
So, an unexpected way to make my first visit to the USA.
I swim regularly and one morning there was a man next to me doing the butterfly stroke in a most majestic way.
I asked him what the chances of my doing it as nicely as he does were, he looked at me and said not much- because you have no muscles.
Was disappointed, but he said that if I was serious about the matter I should get myself some flippers. I told him that I had wanted these when I was a child of 11 but as I never got them, had never actually worn aby before.
When you ask someone for advice you need to think about it and so the same evening I bought myself a pair. Fortunately, there was someone at the pool the next day who showed me how to use them and it worked out quite nicely.
However,it increased my speed by almost 20% and as I felt very guilty about that decided to use a dedicated side lane in the pool.At least I could swim there at ease and tell people that they could call me Mr Cheat.
I had entered my name for the annual swimming competition, but when the actual day came did not feel like going.
However, I heard a voice which said: Mony what excuse do you have.
You are feeling well, the weather is nice and you are in form .
After this, I decided to participate.
Came first in my age group - 75 and above
There was a medley group of 40+ which was to start, but they had a problem as they needed four people and had only three.
Since they were keen, asked if I could help out and I said yes.
The first length was backstroke - and since I am good at that , gave them a good lead and we came first in the competition.
So, at the age of 76 I got my first few medals in swimming - never too late!.
Our foreign clients was going to Jaipur on some work and one of the girls from our office was to accompany her.
She was quite excited as had never been on a plane before and was very curious about things and was looking all around.
When the air hostess came across to offer her a drink, she did not know how to react so stood up and said - Madam let me help you.
Every five years we plan an office trip usually to some close destination abroad
On one of our first ones we were planning a trip to Nepal - was a package tour by air and staying in a five star hotel. All the staff was supposed to come with us but those who were not that keen- were offered leave as well as extra money.
Everything worked out well, but there was one maid who refused to take this compensation and insisted in coming as she had never been on a flight before.
We told her she would have to make all the beds/clean the rooms etc, but this did not make change her mind.
When she landed up at the airport ,we could hardly recognize her - dressed in slacks, blouse, camera in her hand.
Naturally she did not have to do any of that extra work while she was there and really enjoyed herself.
This did, however, cause some problems for her because when she went to her village they told her she was too fashionable and no one would marry her.
She felt very sad about this but being a determined person, caught hold of her cousin who was posted in Delhi and asked him to introduce her to the eligible people based here.
After meeting all, she actually chose one of them and said- I want to marry you - will make the arrangements.
Surprisingly this worked out very well and she is happily married and has two children of her own.
She still works for us but has employed another maid to look after her kids.
During one of our trips to the USA we were making a stopover in Europe. It was difficult to decide which city we wanted to go to as there were several choices from Reykjavik in Iceland to Istanbul in Turkey.
The former however was outside the mileage permitted whereas the latter country took about a week to give a visa.
We did not have that much time, so checked with the travel agent what the other options were.
Moscow turned out to be one of them and if we paid for the hotel in advance, the visa would be granted within 24hours.
So, we made our first trip to Eastern Europe - was quite an eye opener.
Being used to greeting people-found it very strange that when I joined the Gym after the age of 70 - each person was doing his/her own exercises- and didn't even look at each other.
I told my family about this and they all said that at such places no one wanted to be disturbed- is just not done.
However, that was something quite difficult for me and so before starting anything - went around saying good morning to each person.
Except for one who responded- there was no reaction at all from the others.
The next day I did the same thing and another person replied too.
In a matter of just a week or so- everyone at least nodded.
Now, they all do so- some manage even before I can say so.
A lady came to me the other day and said - just want to tell you that since you started saying good morning - we all greet each other -even if you are not there.
Remembering names is not that important here, it is just being nice that suffices.