Monthly Archives: March 2011

Jakarta Vibes – Part 1


Excitement slowly crept in. The week of February 22, 2011. My first overseas outing with friends. We were going to visit Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. We were going to the 11th biggest city in the world, in terms of population & size.
One Friday evening, back in the later part of 2010, Aditya messaged saying there are cheap tickets to Jakarta, and that they are planning a trip. Feb was a long time ahead, but even if I can’t make it for some reason, 30$ is not a big amount take a chance. I had no inkling of an idea of what Jakarta has in store for a tourist! Six of us from our group, minus Venu & Stephen “signed” up.. And what fun it turned out to be! All the credit for planning goes to Aditya, well, apart for one thing – that he did not schedule any time for lunch on any of those days!

Feb 24th, 2010. Arrival.
Rushed back from work slightly earlier, quickly refreshed, grabbed some food & took the train for a long ride all the way to Changi Airport. The leader of the pack led us to staff canteen for supper, I made sure to have something lest I starve later in the night.
Arrived in Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at around 8.30 pm. The airport looked pretty decent, although only slightly better than Chennai airport. One step outside the airport, and we were surrounded by touts for taxis & cars. Totally reminded me of Chennai or Bangalore airport. After a bit of haggling, we finally settled with a sort of mini van from the airport to Ibis Mangga Dua Hotel for about 200,000 Rupiah.(Here starts the arduous counting of zeroes in the Indonesian currency!) Roughly a 45 minute ride. The first thing that caught my attention was the number of cars on the roads. The roads were literally jam packed with cars, and took a little while to even get out of the airport. The in-taxi entertainment was Aditya-Jason sweethearts, with Aditya constantly nagging Jason to take pictures using his camera (Owing to the front-seat advantage Jason had) & Jason wondering why anyone would bother taking photos of toilet signs!! Of course, we can’t leave out dear Prof Loh, who kept insisting that billboards are as common in Singapore as Jakarta! Yeah, billboards, another instance we Indians of the group found very familiar. And not to forget, the occasional road bumps during the ride.

It was not very different from travelling in Chennai. The weather, the crowd, was all too familiar. Nevertheless, sometimes it’s a joy to simply break away from the extreme orderliness of Singapore & sink into the chaos around. The taxi turned into a small lane leading to the hotel from the Mangga Dua main road, and at around 10 p.m, this lane was lined with tent shops (or whatever you call them),  selling stuff from bags, to footwear, and hardwares and what not; also road side food stalls. The lane was only lit by lights from these shops. Brought back memories of walking down the streets of my native place, a town called Pollachi (Tamil Nadu, India)

We finally arrived at the hotel & decided to refresh, rest & meet next day for breakfast. Some of us took a stroll outside the hotel on the streets to find the shops closing down, a few bajai drivers touting, but the place was more or less closing for the day.


My first stint with Toastmasters


March 13, 2011

My first meeting with NTU Alumni Club Toastmasters was on January 15th, 2011. I had little idea of what to expect, but I simply decided to go for it and see what is in store. It was a chapter meeting; And I witnessed some very good speeches, some attempts at public speaking by guests like me and some impromptu speeches too. Overall, it was a FUN day. I actually mustered my courage to do an impromptu 1-minute speech in the segment called Table Topics, where the person gets to pick a chit and speak on the topic on the chit for a minute. The topic for me was Blue – and not being the best at thinking on my feet, I actually fumbled a lot and spent more than half the time thinking. Anyway, it didn’t bother me in the least as we all were there for one purpose – to get over the public speaking phobia & improve with every attempt.

Even before I’d confirmed my membership, one of the VPs-Education took down my name for my first project on March 12. That’s fast, I thought!

It didn’t take me much to decide whether I wanted to join. My second meeting with TMC was a special day with CNY celebrations. Instead of table topics, there was a CNY game & Yu-Sheng (A special kind of potluck in celebration of Chinese New Year). The celebrations replaced the Table topics sessions that are normally held.

March 12, 2011. My maiden speech at Toastmasters. I was giving a prepared speech in front of a group after many years, my last one being way back in high school. That excludes the communication classes in university. I prepared for the speech for about a week, roughly an hour a day.

The outcome was decent for a P1 speech, and I received some good feedback. There was an advanced speech – AP2 with the theme of story telling. Today I actually learnt what a Project day constitutes, and what a Chapter meeting constitutes. Projects day has more prepared speeches, about 7-8 of them with evaluations. Chapter meeting has more variety – with a session on Table topics, President’s speech, and visiting guests. Towards the end, the first timers were awarded with a First Timer Ribbon. Thought that’s pretty cool.

This was just a short write-up on my initial experience with Toastmasters. In the write ups to come, think it’ll also be a good idea to maintain a log of my speaking experiences with TMC.


Breakdown your goals – A lesson from jogging.


The Sunday morning lethargy from waking up late was broken when I resolved to hit the tracks. A few minutes of looking outside the window, into the clear blue skies and pleasant weather, was enough motivation for me to leave the house and go for a run! I changed into my running attire, wore my training shoes, and off I was to sweat it out a bit!

I usually have a target of jogging 3 laps at the minimum. I was mentally prepared for that much. As I was resuming after a hiatus, there was also a slight uncertainty of whether I’d be able to complete it in reasonable time.

Decided to put aside the uncertain feelings & I simply went into the stretching mode and picked up pace on the track. First lap, easy, consistent. Second lap, not bad. My average is about 3 minutes  per lap, a lap being equal to 400 m. (Yeah, this is not a big deal for all you regular runners out there!) and I was hovering around the average, on the better side. Third lap, I wanted to go on, was not a cakewalk, nevertheless, this old strategy I used to adopt back in school came to my mind.

I looked out for targets at 50m or less. If there was a 100m line coming ahead, I focussed on completing that small stretch of the entire lap. Let’s say it’s about 30 m, now that shouldn’t be too hard. Once I got there, it’s like accomplishing a small goal, and I moved on to set the next goal, say the lightpost about 40 m away. Again, the focus is only on reaching the lightpost. And the process is repeated until my big goal of 400 m is completed, and believe me, before I knew it, I was already there, comfortably pacing the last few meters of the lap.

The benefits are many.

1. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the fact that another 400 m lies ahead of me. All I did was simply break down the 400 m into smaller, digestable or rather do-able lengths. A big relief.

2. Focus all my energy on that small stretch – that mini goal to give it a name. This means, I gave the best of mind and body to reaching my current goal.

3. Maintain a consistent, if not, an improving pace.  Achieving the 40 m stretches gives motivation to keep going consistently, and not feel the pain of completing the whole thing.

Breaking down goals was applied to an activity as simple as jogging – whose smaller goalposts are very clear. But in other scenarios, such as get into a good MBA school etc., the goal setting process needs to be thought out and well planned, keeping results & time in mind. But the basic principles remain the same.

1. Break down into smaller chunks – Define task, end result, timeline

2. Focus on the composite goals

3. Achieve end result

4. Move on the to next with renewed energy

One point that is of enormous help and is worthy of being kept in mind – Quantify your goals. For example, instead of “I’m going to start jogging regularly” , a quantified version of the same would me – “I’m going to jog 10 km per week”. This strategy I adopted recently into my personal work, and it does wonders. Also, you get a picture of where you stand at accomplishing your goals, and where you should be.

If you are already into this, it’s great! If not, why not give it a shot? Do share your experiences here!