England beats Dressing Room Jinx and New Zealand to win ICC World Cup 2019

England beat Dressing Room Jinx and New Zealand to win ICC World Cup2019

England in their quest to win their maiden cricket World Cup had not only New Zealand to defeat in the 2019 ICC World Cup Final in their quest since 1975.

But they had a bigger rival to overcome at Lords, ‘The Dressing Room jinx.’  Since 1975 when the 1st World Cup finals was played at Lords, the team that was allotted the Home Dressing Room never won the trophy.

R Mohan in his column in the Deccan Chronicle writes that No team which has used the Home Dressing Room has won the finals.

1975- Australia allotted the Home Dressing Room.

1979- Hosts England used the Home Dressing Room.

1983- For some inexplicable reason, West Indies were allotted the Home Dressing Room.

19999- Human beings are superstitious, more, so, sportsmen as Steve Waugh, insisted on a toss of the coin for choice of dressing rooms after allotted Home! He won the toss to allot his rivals the Home Dressing Room.

2019- The British traditionally ‘Never the bride but always the bridesmaid  ‘ in World Cup competitions went on to defeat the enemy in the mind and their opponents.

Though it was not an England team, but a Commonwealth  team comprising of 2 South Africans, 1 West Indian, 1 New Zealander, 1 Irish and 2 Pakistanis. In addition to a lame ICC rule

Maybe that facilitated in beating the jinx.

Chef Arvind Saraswat Whom I interacted with

    My Tribute to Chef Arvind Saraswat

 A Legend passed away yesterday, 13th July 2019. I had the fortune of interacting with him in his role first as an Interviewer 1986 at IHMCT Ahmedabad.  Later from 1991- 1994 as a teaching faculty at IMCT Pusa and in my capacity as one of the members of the Indian Culinary Federation. I saw him in a new light then.

But, first, flashback 1986 The Final Round for the Management Trainee slot with the Taj. My first interaction with him.

Ramola Mahajini- Group HR Head was firing away questions starting on the 4 core subjects of Food Production, Food & Beverage Service, Front Office and Housekeeping. I was to my own surprise, in my elements, answering brilliantly.

All this while, the legend, Chef Saraswat, threatening with his stilled silence and hint of a smile. Almost foreboding, waiting like a vulture for his prey patiently.

Ramola- daughter of Late SK Wankhede- Wankhede stadium, changed tracks noticing cricket in my interests. But, knowing my facts, figures and anecdotes of my passion better than hotel management subjects, every delivery she bowled was despatched to the ropes effortlessly. Queries on literature, another interest, followed. Very articulate, well read and knowledgeable she was, in whom I found a great ally to literally discuss on everything from Spofforth, Bradman, The three W’S, Kundanlal Saigal, Hollywood, Bollywood authors, books….

To me it looked as we both were the only duo in the room on the edge of our seats facing each other chatting away like school friends meeting after years. The legend was, solemn; inscrutable his face. I dared not look at him, lest I falter.

At the end of the session lasting almost 2 hours, I was offered the letter in the F & B Department. Yet, he remained stoic. For some inexplicable reason, I did not take it up, but that’s not relevant here.

1991 I was asked my Sumita Paul, the Editor of The Pioneer Pulse – The Pioneer’s Sunday supplement (when Vinod Mehta was the Editor) to write  a feature on the leading  Chefs of India based in Delhi.

That’s when my impressions of Chef Saraswat changed. On my meeting Chef Manjit Singh Gill-Executive Chef-Welcomgroup Maurya Sheraton, Chef  Devinder -Meridien and Chef Sudhir Sibal -Executive Chef The Ashok also the member of the ‘Cub de Chef de Chefs- The Ivy League Club of Chefs assigned to the Head of State, they asked me to meet Chef Saraswat being the senior most and a legend as well. I shuddered at the idea. “Nahi Sir dar lagta hai” was my immediate response! They laughed but compelled me to refer me as well.

For the meet at TAC- Taj Air Caterers, I   was there an hour in advance. Outside the gate waking and smoking in a bid to be calm.

When I was announced, I was flummoxed to be greeted by him with a very warm smile that finding expression all over his face. Here I was like the club class bowler whose loosener saw Vivian Richards play a defensive shot. The thought in my mind was “When Viv Richards plays a defensive shot; the entire cricketing fraternity exclaims “Now what!”

Needless to state, I was on pins & needles. As he led me to his office, pulling the chair for me. I was pinching myself. ‘It was too good to be true.’ Seeing me uncomfortable, he was kind enough to ask me what he could do to make me comfortable. I confessed “Dar lagta hai” recalling the campus interview and quoting from the grapevine. He laughed. To comfort me and put me at ease with “Neelakantan that was then.”  “But Chef, that impression has stayed all these years which was fuelled further by the grapevine at Pusa and on interacting with you at Pusa too.”

To put me at ease he ordered lunch.  Taking the pleasure of serving me as a host would do at home.

I found myself. Then, to realize he was human as human as we who chat ‘nineteen to the dozen’ are, but, he kept his silence, which was misunderstood by us sitting on judgement. This man was charming for me not to notice time ticking away. It was dusk as I bid farewell. It was kind of him to organize a cab with his compliments over ruling my protests to drop me home . Slipping into my hands before closing the door a nice box ” Some treats for your family!”

The grapevine had it that he had ‘a hole in the heart.’ But the wag said “Impossible, for a heartless man.” I differ on that count. With “A man whose large heart we blinded by our prejudices, could not view.”

He shared very many insights which made for a great story on the Chefs of India in Delhi.

 I recall, starting the feature referring to the short story by Jeffery Archer on the boy who serendipitously becomes a great Chef. Detailing the hard work, grit determination and the long hours that become endless more when a Chef joins the managerial cadre.Getting rave reviews for the feature. One of my first attempts in mainline editions.

 But the finest and first among all callers from Chefs that Sunday was from the legend Chef Arvind Saraswat, calling early to compliment me for a lovely article.  Inviting me over whenever I wished to.

On noticing the cricket ground attached to the TAC, similar to those in New Zealand, I inquired whether my boys could play here; a cricket ground, basin shaped butting the road leading to the airport.He introduced me to the Manager to liaise to play our games there. My boys used to organize inconsequential fixtures just to play there in those picturesque settings. Lunch the airline food then a novelty to us being the bonus.

 Thank you Chef Arvind Saraswat.The first Indian Chef, presumably to author a book- his first of many- ‘Prashad Cooking with the Masters’ co authored with Jiggs Kalra with whom he did India’s 1st cookery series by the same name Prashad…

Go in peace to join your good friend Jiggs Kalra who has preceded you. To cook Prashad Cooking with Indian Masters for the Gods waiting in attendance.

How Indian IT companies are Crippling Our Youth

India’s IT exports are expected to grow at 7-9 percent to be at $135 billion-$137 billion in 2018-19, the report further said. The IT exports during the current financial year are projected to be $126 billion, a growth of 7-8 percent over last year.

That is the only scorecard that is shown to us for us to go gung ho on the stupendous intangible USD earnings by Wipro, Infosys, Accenture, TCS, CTS and other software companies.

 What we fail at and don’t notice is the seamy underbelly of how in this worship at the altar of Mammon, an entire generation of our youth is being crippled. These boys and girls primarily from tier-2 and tier-3 cities recruited at a CTC that is a small fortune. For them with accommodation to live in Bangalore, Pune, Kochi, Hyderabad… is to be mesmerised by this razzmatazz to lose their bearings.

 A majority of these employees in their late teens are already plagued by   crow’s feet, obesity, diabetes, infertility/ low sperm count, spondilytis, lower back problems, and a host of related ailments by the age of 25.Suffering from Vitamin D deficiency living in India, as they shuttle to fro office in an air conditioned cab.

Their sedentary lifestyle within conditioned environs to splurge on aerated beverages, carbohydrate and fat surplus meals at odd hours, is taking a   toll on these youth. Odd hours of sleep, if they get any, adding to the toll. Their insatiable craving for aerated beverages and junk food must not be mistaken for gluttony. We have to realize they are small town boys and girls who have been catapulted into El Dorado.

 At the OYO Home at Kochi I noticed these girls and boys.  They were   housed for a project. At age 53, I looked more presentable, leaner and healthier than these 25 pluses.  Girls and boys with more grey in their mop if they had any in comparison to my salt and pepper mop, a family pack in place of a six pack, slouched postures. They shuffle like old men and ladies than how youth should walk with energy, purpose and vigour

Indeed a sad commentary on how to earn a living.

 The issue raised here is how ‘Pound foolish and Penny wise’ as also ironically shrewd for their personal stake these cerebral captains at TCS, CTS, and Infosys are.

They have invested huge costs of time, manpower, money etc to recruit and train these youth.

Then leave them without a mentor to assist them professionally and personally for their career growth and health. ‘Jaan hai tho jahan hai’ or the corresponding in English ‘Health is Wealth.’

Ethically and businesswise just not done.

On Ethics- How to Cut Corners to save that Cab hiring charges. Lady employees in Hyderabad need to be home by 7 pm as per law I am told.  What our smart Software Companies do is to make them work late, save that cab costs to risk being penalised. Instead, they are paid a small amount to use their two-wheelers – As narrated by a lady employed with a software giant in Hyderabad. Uncle Scrooge would be shamed.

For all their pontificating in public, the reality is at odds.

Employees should not work more than 8 hours is the public pronouncement of one such IT captain, but that’s only for his US employees- the white skinned folks, otherwise he would be dragged into a legal battle. Whereas   back home, 10-15 hour shifts are normal.

INFOSYS Effects Parking Fee deduction in Staff Salaries’- Can it get any less ethical than this. As reported in the Hindu. I cross checked with several Infosys employees.

For all the talk about employee welfare, this is how hypocritical and cheap it can get

 These youth can anytime be laid low by a cerebral stroke, heart attack and other major health issues. They are not culpable but the software giants are.

Its time Wipro, Infosys, Accenture, TCS, CTS TCS and other software companies also start caring for their youth. Our youth, with as much focus as they do to their balance sheets and personal stock.

 We in the hotel industry fare better in comparison, working physically and mentally in all the 3 shifts allotted. Surely you can do better with the enviable resources you have at your command.

For all your glib talk in public on employee welfare, it’s Time to Walk the Talk.

The solutions if not in place already

  1. BMI monitoring fortnightly. To be adhered to strictly with those failing; to avail their annual leave to work on it.
  2.  Compulsory Yoga sessions before and after work with a good Yoga master.
  3. 30 minutes gym to be made compulsory daily on duty under the guidance of a fitness expert with aerobics.
  4. Food  menus to be prepared with more  natural fibres,
  5. Food guides for each employee with a Wellness expert’s guidance.

These are just some of the suggestions I could think of ‘off the cuff.’

I am sure all the wise heads can certainly think better.

Otherwise an entire generation, the next in line stands not just to be wiped off but being crippled for a lifetime without a support only due to  the  avarice, lust and greed of a few.

A Tribute

Mr YC Deveshwar and His Eye for Detail

 A tribute to the late YC Deveshwar, former Chairman, ITC 

 Somewhere in August 1986, I interacted with him in our official capacities. He was MD Welcomgroup Hotels (then the brand name for the ITC Hotels division). 

And I, the Front Office Supervisor, a member of the pre-opening team of the Welcomgroup, Vadodara. My first career break after campus placements at the Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Ahmedabad. 

For our soft opening, where senior management members check in as guests to test operational readiness before the official launch, YCD as he was known, too flew in from Delhi with the HD HQ team.  IA flight 487, the hopping flight on the Delhi Jaipur- Agra – Japur –Baroda- Bombay route (if memory serves me right).

He walked in tall at around 2100 hours after probably boarding the aircraft around 1800 hours,  into the lobby his right hand bent at the elbow  hooking his suit on his fingers behind his back, India Kings cigarette in his right hand. We, the Front Office staff  were all there behind the Front Desk while Mr Oscar D Monteiro RGM- West accompanied by the West Zone team were in attendance in the lobby having flown in earlier. Mrs Sumathi Rai, the Corporate Housekeeper too was there. Of course the WGV GM Mr Menon known as Bala Menon with his HOD’s Mr Atul Channa the F & B Manager, Mr Franz Mascarenas the Sales Manger, Mr Jehangir Ghadiali, the FOM  with Mrs Vandana Ghadiali the Executive Housekeeper all waiting to welcome him.

YCD  came in and  with one glance remarked “ Bala, you better have that crack in the ceiling looked up!” This a man who travelled extensively, must have sat through unending meetings, just got off a hopping flight, noticed in a nano second while we who were there for months failed.  Oh my God, every Manager worth his salt running to get that damned crack attended to. 

He was roomed in room number 320, the most luxurious & spacious room in the absence of a suite.

As the Front Office Supervisor, it was my responsibility to man the desk in the graveyard shift that followed. I was at the EBPX telephone exchange with a team member at the desk.

Precisely at around 0130 hours as veterans of night shifts  can testify is when  you can be caught napping literally. I heard the buzzer sound of a guest room calling to shake me out of my reverie. To see the light glow,  indicating it was 320. “Bloody hell, can’t this man sleep in peace”. I muttered instinctively plugging the socket to answer the call honed by the endless hours of practice in the training with “Good Morning Mr Deveshwar. My name is Neel, How may I help you?”

I  heard his deep bass voice replying with “ Oh no, I  was just checking.”

I could only shake my head in disbelief wondering about this incredible person who had set his alarm in the middle of the night to check; if his staff were ready to receive guests. A hectic day late arrival, retiring post dinner late after being taken around the hotel to ensure the hotel was ready reflected on his stature as the MD and his eye for detail.

As a hospitality Management teacher, I  have never failed to share this with my students at the IHMCT Pusa, New Delhi -’The One memorable  Night shift’ in which I  didn’t cat nap. Rather I could not as he had in truly  007  style  ‘Shaken the Living Daylights’ out of me.

Mr YCD, Rest in Peace eternally and thank you most for sharing a lesson no class room lecture could have. I chuckle at the thought of St. Peter   caught napping, literally ! 

MS Neelakantan  is a  Hospitality  Management Coach, Author, Columnist.   He is the Founder of India’s first & premier hospitality lessons website https://hospitalitylessons4u.com/

What After 10 +2? For Those Who Fail

What After 10+2? For those who fail One Test

A personal Account to succeed in life

One exam a scholar not make, neither does a 98 percent marks indicate intelligence.

One of the biggest blots apart from dowry and honour killings in India  is venerating only those who get excellent marks. Judging a student merely, on the basis of marks obtained in one exam.

For those of us who passed out in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, there were only 3 streams to choose from: Arts, Science and Commerce. Aptitude was not taken into consideration but percentage. Nothing could be more cruel than this. The Xth & XIIth standard marks determined whether you were eligible for Science / Commerce/ Arts stream.

And those poor souls, who failed in that one test or got poor marks, were termed ‘Failures for life.’ To be hounded & sneered in the classrooms by some teachers, at home and in the neighbourhood with the tag ‘Bekaar’ or ‘Naalayak pre-fixed.’ Physical thrashing followed the day the report card came home.

A majority actually failed in life as comparisons to siblings or cousins was inevitable. At family occasions the family elders took turns with sadistic pleasure in pointing out a failure. More so in Tam-Bram families in which I was born.

With two elder sisters scoring 70 plus; paternal cousins with IIT & IIM degrees , maternal cousins topping the University, you can well imagine my trauma & agony with my scoring & matching consistently the Sunil  Gavaskaresque batting  average of 57. I never failed in that!

I did not actually fail but was made to feel like one. Hence I understood & empathized with those who did.

No wonder students forged marks and their parent’s signature on the report card.

Fear, peer pressure and societal judgement calls can make you do the unimaginable.

With no college ‘worth its salt’ willing to offer me admission, I had to settle for a lesser known morning college. It did hurt to see my classmates having fun at the prestigious HL College for Commerce, HA College and the St Xavier’s College.

In hindsight, I realize destiny had bigger & better plans for me. An advertisement inviting applicants for the 3 year Diploma Course in Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Ahmedabad, caught my attention.

Applied for a lark, got through the interview- ‘A walk in the Park’ it was. The 3 years were gruelling yet fun filled and we passed out as in the 1st batch 1986. To chart out a career in the wonderful world of hospitality.

Little did I  know the black sheep of the family was en-route to becoming the dark horse.

 Work experience of 3 years in a world of luxury interacting with guests from distant corners of the world was far more enriching than the CA/ IIT work experience I  thought.

 1989 was the Tipping Point on being appointed as a teacher at the IHMCT, Pusa, New Delhi.  I finally   found my soul in the classrooms & off classrooms with my students. Loved Cared for and Respected by them. 4 decades later I am an author (my students forcing me by sponsoring the costs to pen my memoirs

One of the finest  moments  in my life

Did I mention, I am the first teacher in my generation and also the first & only author. Not bad for the boy who was judged a failure on the basis of a report card!

(MS Neelakantan- is a Hospitality  Management Coach, Author, Columnist.   He is the Co-founder of India’s first & premier hospitality lessons website https://hospitalitylessons4u.com/ . Aslso  ranked high on www.quora.com as a life coach .

MS Neelakantan

Co- Founder

YC Deveshwar and His Eye for Detail

The Late YC Deveshwar and His Eye for DetailA tribute to the ITC Chairman

 Somewhere in August 1986, I interacted with him in our official capacities. He was MD Welcomgroup Hotels (then the brand name for the ITC Hotels division).

And I, the  Front Office Supervisor, a member of the pre-opening team of the Welcomgroup, Vadodara. My first career break after campus placements at the Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Ahmedabad.

For our soft opening, where senior management members check in as guests to test operational readiness before the official launch, YCD as he was known, too flew in from Delhi with the HD HQ team.  IA flight 487, the hopping flight on the Delhi Jaipur- Agra – Japur –Baroda- Bombay route (if memory serves me right).

He walked in at around 2100 hours after probably boarding the aircraft around 1800 hours, tall into the lobby his right hand bent at the elbow  hooking his suit on his fingers behind his back, India Kings cigarette in his right hand. We, the Front Office staff  were all there behind the Front Desk while Mr Oscar D Monteiro RGM- West accompanied by the West Zone team were in attendance in the lobby having flown in earlier. Mrs Sumathi Rai, the Corporate Housekeeper too was there. Of course the WG Vadodara team of  GM Mr Menon known as Bala Menon with his HOD’s Mr Atul Channa the F & B Manager, Mr Franz Mascarenas the Sales Manger, Mr Jehangir Ghadiali, the FOM  with Mrs Vandana Ghadiali the Executive Housekeeper all waiting to welcome him.

YCD  came in, with with on one glance, sweeping the lobby remarked “ Bala, you better have that crack in the ceiling looked up!” This a man who travelled extensively, must have sat through unending meetings, just got off a hopping flight, noticed in a nano second while we who were there for months failed.  Oh my God,! every Manager worth his salt running to get that damned crack attended to.

He was roomed in room number 320, the most luxurious & spacious room in the absence of a suite.

As the Front Office Supervisor, it was my responsibility to man the desk in the graveyard shift that followed. I was at the EBPX telephone exchange with a  team member at the desk.

Precisely at around 0130 hours as veterans of night shifts  can testify; is when  you can be caught napping literally. I heard the buzzer sound of a guest room calling to shake me out of my reverie. To see the  light glow  indicating it was 320. “Bloody hell, can’t this man sleep in peace”. I muttered instinctively plugging the socket to answer the call honed by the endless hours of practice in the training sessions  with a “ Good Morning Mr Deveshwar. My name is Neel, How may I  help you?”

I  heard his deep bass voice replying with “ Oh no, I  was just checking.”

I could only shake my head in disbelief wondering about this incredible person who had set his alarm in the middle of the night to check if his staff were ready to receive guests.  A hectic day, late arrival, retiring post dinner late after being taken around the hotel to ensure the hotel was ready reflected  on his stature as the MD and  his eye for detail.

As a hospitality Management teacher, I  have never failed to share this with my students at the IHMCT Pusa, New Delhi -’The One memorable  Night shift’ in which I  didn’t cat nap. Rather I  could not as he had in truly 007  style  ‘Shaken the Living Daylights’ out of me.

Mr YCD, Rest in Peace eternally and thank you most for sharing a lesson no  class room lecture could have.I chuckle at the thought of  St. Peter  going to be caught napping, literally !

(MS Neelakantan- is a Hospitality  Management Coach, Author, Columnist.   He is the Co-founder of India’s first & premier hospitality lessons website https://hospitalitylessons4u.com/ . Aslso  ranked high on www.quora.com as a life coach .

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