ARLI Bloggers’ Meet Bangalore

What’s the difference between a man and a life insurance policy? Eventually, the life insurance policy matures.

Aegon Religare Life Insurance LogoThis past Saturday was quite interesting for me. I attended a bloggers’ meet in Bangalore, hosted by Aegon Religare Life Insurance (ARLI) in the morning. My first thought, on receiving the invitation, was, “Oh my. It’s about life insurance! I will need a good book to help me sit through this one.” I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought this at first. I arrived at Mocha with some trepidation, and waited for the other bloggers to turn up and the event to start. The event was managed by their agency and their point person was a lovely young lady called Anuradha. We chatted about this and that until we could begin, and I took a seat among the other people who had turned up.

At first glance, I could make out only three familiar faces in the audience, and the other three looked ominously like insurance salesmen! The Chief Marketing Officer of ARLI, Yateesh Srivastava, kick-started the meet with a brief introduction and took us through a well-structured presentation on their new product. This is where it got slightly more interesting. Apparently, people can now buy their life insurance policies online, in under eight minutes. It’s a concept, he explained, that hasn’t really taken off the way they hoped, but was making steady progress nonetheless. The product, called iMaximize, was launched twenty-one months ago, and has clocked 15,000 sales. Any decent life insurance salesman will tell you that this figure could have been better, but for a completely new concept of buying a policy online, I think its quite a decent start.

As I had suspected, quite a few of the people who turned up were not bloggers, but insurance agents and independent salesmen, and at first, it was fun to see them debating with the ARLI reps about the pros and cons of their online product. Very soon, however, it became a messy affair, with almost everyone in the room getting bored of hearing two people argue about vague topics. It would have been better to take that discussion offline.

As a person who has organized close to a hundred bloggers’ meets for the past five years, I was not too happy with the way this was held. I don’t blame the organizers one bit because most of the usual bloggers who attend meets in Bangalore were present at the Yahoo! Code Jam, happening at the same time Saturday. I have had enough of Code Jams to last me a lifetime. A lot of bloggers in Bangalore who are part of the Bangalore Tweetup were left out, and though I made it a point to invite them, it was probably too short a notice. Apart from this fact, I think the event was a success with some very good information being shared. But if I am allowed to disperse just one bit of gyaan – don’t invite non-bloggers to a bloggers’ meet. It’s not a healthy sign.

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Chennai Chronicles…

Corn And Cheese :)
Corn And Cheese 🙂

This will be a short one. I just got back this morning from Chennai, after spending 3 days  of the long weekend there. These are some of the highlights:

  1. My belt broke on my way to the bus stand, Thursday night. My pant was a bit too loose and I spent the journey in mortal fear of being arrested for indecent exposure.
  2. The bus, when I finally boarded it, was a bit too stuffy, because of a lack of an air-conditioner. I sweated my way to a fitful sleep.
  3. On reaching Chennai, I had 10 cigarettes and no matches to light them with.
  4. I had 11 meetings throughout the long weekend and still did not get my jobs done.
  5. I realized that ‘Darjeeling Tea’ in five-star hotels is actually hot, tea-flavored water. And it costs way too much!
  6. Drank white wine in water glasses and drank water in wine glasses.
  7. I’m not suited for a humid weather. I can’t survive in coastal cities, because I can single-handedly solve the nation’s water problems by sweating.
  8. ‘Egg Masala’ in Chennai is actually a boiled egg with salt and red pepper sprinkled on it.
  9. I can’t speak Tamil to save my life. And, a weird, throaty combination of Hindi and Kannada makes a bad substitute.
  10. One of the three changes of underwear I had brought along belonged to my terrorist brother. So, I was stuck in Chennai for three days with only two changes of underwear. You don’t want to know what I did.
  11. Met Archie, Arvind, Vishesh, Apar and Aparna in a small bloggers’ meet. Yeah, I met Vishesh. I’m not kidding. He’s for real.
  12. On the way back, I got stuck in the very last seat of a ridiculous excuse of a bus, in between two people who gave me a run for my money in the sweating department.
  13. Every time the bus hit a bump, I was flying high, literally.
  14. I arrived this morning in Bangalore, sleep deprived, but in one piece.

Phew, not quite a short one, eh?

The Land Of Beautiful Women :)

I felt like Johnny Bravo, trapped in a strange land with nothing but beautiful women all around. Everywhere I looked, there were hot, sexy women flaunting themselves, lost in the oblivion of beauty. And for someone like me who hauls from a concrete jungle where the only eye-candy is found in a mirror, I was irreproachably lost and felt a pang of jealousy for every man who walked the streets in that Paradise.

I was in Ahmadabad for the weekend, arriving in Bangalore only last night. The return flight was anything but comfortable. Indigo Airlines has a reputation for more heart-in-the-mouth moments than any other airline and last night, I experienced it first hand. The plane was rattling to the bone, crunching and creaking at every seam and the nuts and bolts could be heard deafeningly loud in the ear. The pitiful whine of the engines added to the mayhem and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one sitting hunched up, hugging myself and my dear life.

Indigo Airlines DeathtrapBut the deathtrap was worth it’s airfare as it dropped me safe and sound and in one piece in Bangalore, when I promptly fell to the ground, kissed it and flipped two big, fat middle fingers to the plane. As I walked down the rickety ramp, I could sense the huge beast breathing heavily and sighing with relief from the strain of being pushed to its limits for two-and-a-half hours.

Ahmadabad is a Paradise with a violent past and a glorious future, living in it’s quiet, picturesque present. The people are warm and fuzzy, and they talk about their Paradise with a pinch of salt, cringing every time memories come flooding back. Being a lion from a concrete jungle, I had no connect to their violence, no sense of belonging in a bloodshed past, and nothing to offer but a kind ear.

The women – oh god, the women there are breathtakingly beautiful. I felt so relieved that I was in love with the most beautiful woman in the world, because if I wasn’t, I would have been so tempted! Some of the places I visited were absolute thrills, and for a few minutes, I was comparing God’s creativity and Man’s imitation of the same – the women and the architecture, respectively.

The Architectural Splendor At Adalaj
The Architectural Splendor At Adalaj
Adalaj Step-Well
The Play Of Light At The Adalaj Step-Well

The step-well at Adalaj was so perfect in more ways than one – every turn and every bend boggling the mind with the complexity of the labyrinth; the light sneaking in at every turn, break and crack, throwing up fascinating shadows and reducing us to mere silhouettes; the throng of people, open-mouthed and yet, cautiously silent, awed by the hidden divinity of the place; and the beautiful women made the picture complete.

The Serenity At Sabarmathi
The Serenity At Sabarmathi
Rare Peek Into The Mahatmas Room
Rare Peek Into The Mahatma's Room

Sabarmathi Ashram was the other major pitstop I had, and amidst the quiet chaos in the heart of the city, the place had an eerie calm to it, ensconcing the visitor in a shroud of silence and almost forcing everyone to marvel at the power that Gandhi wielded without touching a single weapon, without commanding a single army and without having the luxury of wealth, office and politics. It made me feel proud. It made me feel small.

The obvious highlight of the trip was meeting three of the sweetest bloggers – Manushi, Sakhi and Alice. It was a different thrill meeting each one of them, and it did not feel awkward or constrained at all. The fact that each one had in them something different to offer to the conversation and add to that my fascination of finally meeting them, made what could have been a potentially disastrous meet into something akin to absolute fun. You three are great and I take my (non-existent) hat off to you.

Of course, the most prominent part of my trip was my reunion with a dear old classmate/friend/confidante/curse-buddy/beer-buddy/sutta-partner of mine – Chucks. She was back in India for a semester break during her MBA in Sydney, and meeting her was an absolute thrill that cannot be expressed. I raise my glass of beer in toast to you, Chucks, and hope that you succeed in whatever you do. Tiny steps, remember?

All in all, it was a great weekend. I got some quality work done, met some absolutely fantastic people and saw some breathtaking places. Ahmadabad must be on every traveler’s list. It’s worth a re-visit.

All images are taken by me, using my Nikon L12.