Monday, 30 January 2017

Republic Day with a difference

Republic Day means flag hoisting, singing national anthem, and cultural performances. We at Vishwa Vishwani Institute of Systems and Management (VVISM) Hyderabad did all that and a bit more. The extra bit involved hosting and training the delegates of Afghan CSOs (Civil Society Organisations) at VVISM. These delegates came to Hyderabad and neighbouring cities as part of their India Study Tour organised by GrassrootsU in collaboration with USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and Counterpart International. Ghumakkad donned the role of a teacher and facilitator during the Business Plan Training program on 26th Jan 2017-- our Republic Day. It was a Republic Day with a difference. Pictures.

 While we were waiting for the flag hoisting ceremony, this little girl holding a tri-colour balloon caught my attention. Dreamy eyes, smile on her face and focused gaze-- all symbolize the future of India.

 It was a privilege to teach along with Dr Kim Alter (Oxford Said B School and Portalnd State University USA) and Dr Archana Pillai (IBS and IMT Hyderabad and TAPMI Manipal) on this program.
 Business Plan training over four days included the following topics:

  • A live case on ApnaCare
  • B-Plan overview and purpose
  • Elements of a B-Plan (Marketing, Financial, HR, Operations and Contingency plans)
  • Organisational Change
  • Elevator Pitch (Team work on a select real life problem)
  • Concept surgery 
  • Turning concept into a social enterprise (team work)
  • Real life Social enterprises in India and their sustainability
  • B-Plan template and preparation (team work)
  • B-Plan pitch preparation and presentation to Jury (team work)
The training started with a short introduction by participants. Few pictures.

 Here is a short 50-second video excerpt from Kim's session on 'Anatomy of a B-Plan'.

In keeping with the thrust on experiential learning, the class room sessions were followed by outdoor team work. The participants were tasked to debate and select any one real life problem for working out a detailed B-Plan. Glimpses of team work.

Roshan Sirran had difficulty in walking due to problem with her knees. While interacting in the college lawns at VVISM, Ghumakkad (in his role as a volunteer wellness coach) suggested some exercises to strengthen the knees. Prof KL Srivastava of CSIM also evinced keen interest. Picture below.
Thus ended the Republic Day on a different note for us at VVISM. 
Thanks again to Kim and Archana for selecting us as the knowledge partner. It was a unique experience for our PGDM students and me.

Thanks for browsing

   -Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/30th Jan 2017

Friday, 27 January 2017

What is new in Dubai

What has changed in Dubai during last five years? Having visited in 2012 and now again in 2017-- this question was on my mind. It was easier to answer-- what has not changed? Simple-- the iconic tall tower Burj-Khalifa, the most luxurious hotel Burj-al-Arab, Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, numerous malls-- have all been there and not changed. So, this story excludes the pictures of these iconic buildings and malls. 

However, Ghumakkad's earlier stories covering these tourist spots can be accessed on the following links:

  1. Desert Transformed
  2. Up in the Sky- Burj Khalifa and Burj-al-Arab
  3. Malls in Dubai- Madinat and Atlantis
  4. More Malls-- Dubai Mall, Ibn Batuta and Dubai Festival City
  5. The Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
  6. Sharjah- The Shining Emirate and its water sports
During last five years, Dubai has developed a Miracle Garden. It has some 45 million flowers. The garden has an entrance fee of AED 40 and draws thousands of visitors every day. Well laid out, it includes an old jet airliner whose wings and fuselage adorn flowers and creepers. Constructed at a cost of US$ 12 million, it is unique in many ways:

  • It is cultivated using recycled water
  • Unlike most gardens which have horizontal flower beds, it has vertical flower beds also
  • Good example of public-private partnership
  • Free entry for disabled people
  • It has structures of all religions including a Buddha Stupa which are built using flowers
  • All the walk ways have inverted umbrellas hung from a wire mesh to protect from intense heat.

Spread over 72,000 square meters it is simply breathtaking. Open from 10 AM to 10 PM, it is shut down for visitors during peak summer months.

Miracle Garden is another initiative of UAE government to earn revenue from tourism and other non-oil sources. It is a long term strategy for sustainability when the oil wells go dry in 2050! This aspect was also mentioned in Ghumakkad's earlier story (click here to browse).
Pictures taken on 5th January 2017 for you.

According to Wikipedia, "A scene of a Bollywood movie Hamari Adhuri Kahani starring Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan was shot in Miracle garden. Movie's director, Mohit Suri added that though Dubai was generally known for its high-tech buildings and modern landscapes, he wanted to romanticise it and show its softer side." 

Here is a 30-second video to give you a 'live' feel of the garden.

Another addition to Dubai's tourist map has been  

Gurudwara. Though Dubai has 50,000 Sikhs staying there, 

it had no Gurdwara till 2012. Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar has 

been constructed at a cost of US$ 20 million. It blends with local 

architecture and colour scheme. Special credit to Anita Gambhir 

Arora for her inputs. 

Vice-president and prime minister of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed 
bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, granted 25,400 sq feet land for the 
Gurdwara in Jebel Ali area. Ghumakkad visited the Gurdwara on 
5th Jan 2017. Few pictures.

 This brings us to the end of our Dubai trip of 2017. Once again, special thanks are to Anand Jain for taking us around and being our expert guide. May God give such friends to everyone so that life is worth living!

Hope you enjoyed seeing some of the less visited spots of Dubai like the bird sanctuary (click here to browse the story). It is a happening city and you need to explore it beyond its skyscrapers and malls.

Thanks for browsing

     -Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/27th Jan 2017

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Birds of Dubai

Dubai is synonymous with gold, tallest buildings, malls, skyscrapers and so on. But Dubai also has something for bird watchers. Ghumakkad had a real treat visiting Ras-Al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary (RAKWS) in January 2017. Located 30 minutes away from Dubai International Airport, it is a well protected wetland reserve. Open from 7 AM till 5 PM, it offers great views from a 'hide' specially constructed for visitors. There is no entry fee. Friday is a holiday. It is home to almost 500 greater flamingos.

Visitors are not allowed to walk inside the wetland. There are two hides. No.1 called 'Mangrove Hide', gives a good view of the wetland and its variety of birds. Whereas Hide No. 2 is called the 'Flamingo Hide' because it is located close to where flamingos live. In both hides, if you do not have a binocular, have no fears. A telescope permanently mounted on a swivel stand takes you close to the birds. Once again, no extra coins or fees for the telescope unlike the Sea Lion Viewpoint on the Pacific Coast in California. The hides also have pictures of birds likely to be sighted for ease of identification. A short 30 second video inside the hide to get a feel.

There are birding and natural history groups in UAE like and Dubai Natural History Group (DNHG). Mr Ajmal Hasan of DNHG had made a spell binding presentation at BITS Alumni Global Meet (BGM)- excerpts of which had been posted earlier in the blog (click here for the story). Ghumakkad gratefully acknowledges the help and guidance given by Capt Tommy P Pedersen of UAE Birding group. Although Tommy could not come for a birding trip as he was flying (he is Captain of B777 Airliner with Emirates Air), we exchanged mails. He also helped me with the identification of birds. Errors, if any, are solely mine!

Enough said in words, let the pictures take over.

Seagulls are very photo-friendly. Here is a series of shots of Slender-billed Seagull doing many things that morning.

One morning while walking in Noor island in Sharjah cornice, I saw a Grey Heron perched majestically on a yacht's railing. Take a look at the Heron against the backdrop of Sharjah skyscrapers. 

We moved to Hide-2 next. Located two miles away from Hide-1, Hide-2 offers close look at resident flamingos.

Almost 500 Greater Flamingos have made the RAKWS wetland as their home. Here is a short 30-sec video to see the flamingos live!

Seeing the co-existence of Greater flamingos along side concrete skyscrapers was very reassuring that all is not lost. See the picture below. 

As if on queue, after I had taken enough pictures, the flamingos started to walk away. Were the flamingos saying 'Thank you dear photographer for not disturbing us'?
So, next time you are in Dubai do take time out for bird watching. Full marks to UAE government for maintaining the ecological balance in the desert kingdom. Apart from RAKWS, there are many more sites for bird watching in UAE like Al Ain and Al Ain cement factory quarries, Lulu Island, Jujairah, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Dibba, Wamm Farms in the east and Sila’a in far west.

Hope you liked the birds of Dubai and UAE.
Thanks for browsing

   Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 20th Jan 2017