Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The ITC Grand Chola - IndiBlogger meet

This is the second part of the post, the blogger meet itself.

I was probably the last entrant for the meet due to a review in office and by the time I entered the Rajendra hall the 60 secs of fame was over. Personally this is the highlight of any blog meet as you can get a brief on the diverse participants. Since I am not good at anything in particular and since my blog is not a specialist blog I try to seek out similar bloggers.

I was the last to introduce myself and my twitter handle (@vadapoche) brought a few smiles and some acknowledgements from old faces. Then the choo choo train which left me a little winded and the musical chairs which I moved aside so as to not create any damage to my fellow men or women. I shudder to think what would have happened if I tried to sit on a chair with some unfortunate in between.

Since I had no time to break ice and as I could not spot any familiar faces nearby I looked for any team that would have me when the assembly was asked to break up into teams of 10. One team in the making that seemed to like the spotlight (they were on the dias) needed a member and had Chriz wearing shorts. Chriz was motivation enough to ask to join and I joined the team. Please note it was not because Chriz was in shorts.

We were asked to name our team and true to from Chriz proposed Poonam Pandey, after much deliberation, soul searching, head scratching, searching for reference to the context we came up with Poonam Pandya in the hotel called Chola. So then to answer the question why Poonam Pandya, one young woman was titled Poonam and she would fall in love with Pandya who was the leader of the pack. Now armed with a name we had to build up a story of our tour around the Grand Chola. You may know of the “room pottu yosikkarathu” behaviour of movie makers where on the pretext of making a hotel room is used to generate creativity, at least from some English DVDs and high spirits. We had a huge room, and a high tea. The high tea was just that, lots of Indian snacks from vazhapoo vadai to gluten free desserts. Since I have enough calories to spare for some, I fought temptation and stuck to a few nibbles and went about meeting folks. Nothing bonds folks like food and over food a lot of URLs were exchanged and old acquaintances met.

We were asked to develop a story as we toured the grand chola and we had to think on our feet as we walked around as there was so much to see. Before I forget the friendly guide we chose was Vivek, with 6 women I guess it was fair.

The Poonampandyas in full form with the guide

The story started off with a typical boy meet girl plot and then it got confused in typical masala movie style. We had 6 women and 4 men (I had to look at the photo to confirm) and since it was a team effort everyone was in. We planned on an evil mother in law, some woman on woman romance (the French kiss on the stairway was not part of our plan), a villain, the other woman in our story, but by then the tour did not give us enough time to think. Despite the cumbersome hashtagging  (#itcgrandchola, #tweetsfortreats, #poonampandya) I managed to send some relevant, irrelevant, photo tweets making up the story on the way and won a gift voucher (they didn’t tell me for which tweet). The story evolved, revolved, convulted itself to a point that nobody knew what was happening and then the wifi died on corridor 33, so some tweets failed. We made it back to the Rajendra for the result.

I knew that if I did not understand what I tweeted then the possibility of those reading would either result in them having some Eureka moments and make sense of nonsense or just accept it as nonsense and move on. We won the activity simply because we had fun and threw logic out of the window, (actually we couldn’t throw as all windows were sealed for security reasons, but you understand).

ITC made everyone happy by handing out dinner vouchers to all and ensured that all were happy, of course the tees were missed but since they never fit me, I guess it is acceptable. Caught up with some more folks on the way out especially Sylvian whose reviews I frequent.

Old contacts include @narayanh, @preetikag, @ramaswamyn, @vasantG, @Sylvianism, @chrony

A big thanks for Indiblogger for getting folks together like this. I have noticed that these events rekindle my blogging urge and my posts pick up. I think it may be for many others too.

Looking forward to more such meets and smaller gatherings elsewhere.

Oh and by the way since I have the dinner voucher for two in Peshawri, atleast I have one more reason to blog soon.


The team chilling after the meet

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The ITC Grand Chola – a visitor’s view

ITC Grand Chola

The ITC Grand Chola – a visitor’s view

Was a part of the Indiblogger meet and have been a part of all but one of their meets and as part of the meet am posting the venue and the meet as two separate posts. This is about the venue…

The first visit to the Grand Chola is akin to a visit to the Taj Mahal, it can be anticlimactic. Do not get me wrong, there are reams written about both that a certain expectation gets created that may lead to an anticlimax when you actually reach there. The Grand Chola is a 5 star hotel and the Taj Mahal a tomb.

First things first, the Grand Chola holds back no punches in its attempt to be the best in its class and it has come out on top. It overwhelms you with sheer presence and the architecture is jaw dropping from whatever angle you may look and it will give you a stiff neck while you are at it. Everything is grand and grand in French is Big, so there!

I could help being puzzled by a couple of things when I entered the hotel, in no particular order:

  •   Built a shout away from Pallavapuram (now Pallavaram) and in close quarters to the erstwhile capital of    the   Pallava dynasty, why Chola? This question was partly answered by the brochure that explains that the Chola empire was the most glorious of the Southern India. But still the doubt lingers…
  • The Cheras had the bow, the Pandyas the fish, the Pallavas the Lion and the Cholas the Tiger as their emblems, however the motif that dominated the hotel was the elephant. I did not get the connect for the same.

The security detail asked for both the bonnet and the hatch (a first) to be opened at the gate which I learnt was not the only one. At least 7 security guards flagged me on as I circulated the massive property and reached a reception. The mandatory security check and I was welcomed into the lobby and directed to the hall where the meet was held.
This Rajendra hall (apparently named after Rajendra Chola or Gangaikondan) is probably the largest pillar free hall of its kind in the country and comfortably dwarfs the Grand Madras Ball Room. This hall can be configured into multiple options and can hold 8000 guests at full capacity. The hall is simply breath taking!

A partitioned section of Rajendra hall

A few points of note gleaned from a member of the pastry chef team and our guide Vivek before our tour started:
-          The kitchen which we could not see is massive and can feed 8000 banquet guests at one time and runs parallel to the Rajendra hall
-          The Grand Chola is a LEED certified Green hotel and among other things produces its own power from a wind farm and the surplus goes to the grid. Salute!

The start of the tour was preceded by a lingering doubt from the press release earlier which mentioned that the staff walked 25K odd steps daily; we wondered how many we would require for the tour.
The entire building is inspired by the temple building styles of the Chola empire and the structure reminds us of the old temples.

 The motifs on the wall are beautiful and the pillars are colossal. The chandeliers in the lobby took my breath away for a brief moment.

We saw a standard room that is Ipad controlled, everything is on the Ipad and is just a touch away. The room set a high standard and at 10K or thereabouts is a steal.

The room
The pool area (was informed that there are 6 pools, we saw 3) is at the risk of sounding monotonous and repetitive grand (in both English and French) and is a highlight of the hotel.”

The largest pool is in the background
We also saw a gym and the outside of a spa as a treatment was in progress and since it was impolite to intrude we moved on. We learnt of the RFID pillars that tracks client movement and enables the staff to prepare for the guests even before they actually arrive and we were assured that the privacy would not be violated.

I loved the small lotus pool and wondered why it was restricted to just that. Water is very therapeutic and maybe they missed out on more water based installations in the hotel.

The lotus pool I liked
I liked one 3D painting on the wall and was informed that there are many more in the hotel but we did not have the time to check them out. And since the hallmark of Chola architecture is sculptures another thing that was missed was sculptures or art installations around.

“Follow me or you will get lost” said Vivek our helpful guide and what I missed very badly was the directions that is required everywhere. Like in a ship a map everywhere would be much appreciated.
There are several restaurants & bars inside the Grand Chola and thanks to the gift vouchers I can reel off a few:
Café Mercara
Madras Pavilion
For want of time we passed by and did not spend time in any except for a photo op in one bar.

Overhead view of one restauran                                 

 Some points to note:

  •         The absence or relative weak wi-fi signal in corridors 33 
  •           We noticed the incomplete or broken light fixtures in the corridor, for a new hotel looked like an oversight

The ITC Grand Chola lives upto its name as grand (I said it again), however I felt something missing. A grand temple is crowned by a gopuram and everything will converge towards the gopuram, the absence of a central atrium to which the entire hotel can converge has resulted in several insular sections that branch off from different corners. Marble is alien to traditional construction and maybe standards may not permit the use of stone but stone would have made a difference. Carpet, paneling and all rob the hotel of any unique characteristics since this is standard for any big hotel.

Size may not be everything and the sheer size overwhelms and maybe can tire also, wonder how unsuspecting guests will traverse the span of the hotel.

Finally the hotel is only as good as the people and in that aspect I think Grand Chola scores high from what I saw today. Courteous, highly trained, competent and a diverse workforce can take the hotel to great heights. 

                               Our guide Vivek

My best wishes to the team at ITC Grand Chola and a big thanks for having me over.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

No money, no honey??

By now many of us may be numbed by the amount of scams that vie with each other in the quantum and scale. We have come to accept that loot is a part of life and sometimes we are also part of the loot. It is so foolish to blame the ills of the land on the corrupt politicians when we have let it happen.

When we fake rent receipts, hide other income(s), collect subsidies even when ineligible, even watch pirated DVDs some where down the line we step over the thin line between right and wrong, the line between what is fair and unfair. In the end it all comes down to money.

If time is money, then many folks on the road are building their bank balances by putting their lives at risk, jumping lanes, driving on the wrong side to save maybe some fuel or time and hence money. My sincere wish is that they may live long with the money thus saved.

Every scam or con artist and thief would have probably started small, with a small scam or stealing a few rupees and over the years develops into bigger scams all for money. The growth of these delinquents is greatly aided by the apathy and indifference of folks around. When was the last time we screamed at a shopkeeper blatantly charging over the MRP? They grow in confidence and fearlessness and move on to greater loots.

What never ceases to amaze me is what can people do with so much money? I know that when I look around me there are so many possessions that I have that I do not use, I even use only a third of the livable space in my house. I can drive one car, I can wear one set of clothes and I can eat only so much without throwing up and surely that will be the case with all others. I really wonder how many people actually enjoy all the ill gotten wealth they have gathered. If they cannot enjoy then why do they gather?

Money is the root of all evil but what we forget is that money cannot buy the best things in life. The best things in life are free but those who are after money have no time for it. Pity.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


- do people create Gods, make houses for them, charge tickets to see the Gods and make the Gods a spectacle for those who can afford it
- do people never get satisfied with what they have and always look for something more because it always never enough
- do people play with their lives and those of others on the road just to reach their destination a few minutes earlier when it would have been easier and less stressful to start early
- do people always take the shortcut even though the benefit may not always be there
- do people proclaim equality and go around with their caste as their surnames
- do people strive to move ahead by simply pushing down all those around them
- do people make heaps of money by crooked means when they cannot use much of it and will stash it away benefiting none
- do people waste their lives for a better future when the present is just slipping by
- do people think they can always outsmart the world and get away with it too
- do people think that they can be strong by just crushing the weak
- do people who build the most beautiful houses survive with just a plastic sheet for their homes
- do people destroy this world which they never owned but just borrowed from their children
- do people do the things that they do and blame the world for the consequences
- do people forget that selfless will make the self only greater
- do people forget it is the little things of life that make life worth living and that the little things are usually free

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Thaandavam - "Bourne made by Vikraman" : )

Ok. The headline may say it all, when I got the tickets for the movie from my brother he said "this is a Jason Bourne movie made by Vikraman of Pudhu Vasantham fame". As I left the theatre I realized he was on target.

There may be enough reviews going around on the movie so I will stick to a few observations:

The positives:

- An interesting plot that had promise (not worked out the inspirations as yet)
- An actor who tries to do the best in every role he gets, and who had enough experience playing a blind man
-London makes the movie rise above the ordinary
- A host of talented performers on the pay, in no particular order Nasser, Anushka, Saranya, Santhanam, Shayaji Shinde, Thambi Ramaiah, MS Bhaskar and I still may have missed a few

The negatives:
- A plot with promise but holes like a sieve, there were too many inconsistencies and too many predictable scenes that the thrill of a spy movie was lost
- Silly writing and lines like the heroine an 'eye specialist' is oblivious to the employment status of her husband and repeatedly calling him an SI is plain silly. Still not sure if Anushka was meant to be playing a dumb blonde in the movie.
- The entry of Nasser as a SriLankan origin thinking cop had so much promise and ends up as a poor caricature. Hollywood, Bollywood, Kollywood whatever it may be, the police will wait at the climax to enter only after the last fight despite being outside the door.
- Amy Jackson, Anushka and Lakshmi Rai are pretty and that is about it. Having seen Anushka in other movies this was a tragedy and the romance or lack of it or whatever emotion the director tried to show is still a mystery. And the fact that she towers over Vikram is absolutely silly casting.
- Vikram is a good actor, and he has done a great job but he looks so old that close ups shots could be completely avoided or CG could have been used more instead of the silly bomb blast clips.
- I know London is a positive, but the question is why London, maybe because the KGB did not seem as interesting as MI6?
- The music by GV Prakash is just about there and that one song that he has sung sounds familiar
- Too many good and not so good actors wasted because simply there was no role for them
- By now even a kid will know that the bad guy is the friend and every one in the theatre would have figured it out in a matter of minutes so time directors find someone different to be the villain, maybe the gardener, dhobi etc
- And people a flowchart to make a super weapon??!!!! I was absolutley rolling over the flowchart bit. Grow up people.

In case you missed the plot here it is:

A couple of murders in London and a cab is always athe crime scene. A blind organist of a church is a suspect. The suspect is a RAW agent who came on an undercover to recover a flowchart is sold down the Thames river literally by his friend. He loses his wife, who is yet to become his wife (watch and understand that bit) and his eyes in a bomb blast which proved that the flow chart worked. He then teams up with the wife of another slain agent to take revenge using echolocation (use wiki for that).

Bottomline – Go for a interesting attempt but minus any expectations and remember the opening line before you buy the tickets.