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 deals 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 we 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 suppose 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 teetotaler 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.
During the 50's when the non-alignment movement started there used to be regular meetings between our prime minister Nehru - the Chinese Chou en Lie the Egyptian Nasser , from Indonesia it was Sukarno , from Yugoslavia Marshal Tito.
They used to have regular meetings and on one occasion, when the programme was in New Delhi, Marshal Tito was very impressed with what he saw but before leaving he told Nehru, that everything looked great but the only thing that he found very unbecoming was that people use to urinate all over.
We made all the excuses of not having enough money to build the toilet etc.
The following year the conference was in Belgrade and Nehru really liked the city and how nicely everything was done. However, just before entering the palace he looked at Marshal Tito and said - you know when you were in Delhi you told me that you found people urinating all over the place disgusting. Take a look on your left and see what is happening just outside the main conference venue.
Marshal Tito turned to Nehru smiled at him and said we have a little problem we cannot do anything about - that is the Indian Ambassador.
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 canceled.
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 canceled 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.
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 thecolours yellow and black it reminded me of the old movies whenaeroplanes had just come outand 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 totake up. With not much choice- he called his pilots and when they landed up at theranch theywere 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 wasactually 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 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 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 skeptics 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 stoppedat 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 shriveled 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 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 "B" 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 andtook out hisnote pads & 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 "B" 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 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. tpo pray - I have had to turn to religion.
My sister 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 in the big newspaper. 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 our company 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.
Howe 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.