Friday, October 31, 2014

4 weeks in 1 post

I have been so behind in updating my blog and now I am sitting here racking my brains about first of all, what I've been up to for the last few weeks and then about where to start and how. Anyway, here I go.

29 September to 5th October : Week of Ideas and Imagination

The two main events of this week were - one, the Start-up Bootcamp Weekend that my husband attended and the other, a presentation I attended by Caroline Watson, a Social Entrepreneur, 2011 Young Global Leader (WEF) and owner of Hua-Dan. Both these re-fuelled my brain and got me thinking about my own goals - in life including career. There was a sudden burst of energy within and out came tonnes of ideas. I began imagining and visualizing a myriad of possibilities of how I could really make an impact, stay true and motivated to my purpose in life.

Here is a bit more about the two events. First, the Start-up Bootcamp Weekend. It's a 48 hour intensive Bootcamp organised by the INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship. People who are venturing into the world of Entrepreneurship with an idea or would like to get a feel of what it's like are the ones who mainly attend and I guess also benefit the most out of it. It starts out on a Friday evening when the participants who have an idea give a one-min elevator pitch following which teams are formed for ideas that generate most interest. Friday's session lasted till 11 PM. It was the same evening as the Iberian Week Party, so some brave souls, including my husband were off to the party after the session that night. Like any other party, it was absolutely crazy. Hats off to my better half who survived the crazy night and was off early next morning for the intense day that was ahead of him. Saturday and Sunday was all about building a business plan for the idea. The teams were guided by expert investors and Sunday evening was the grand finale during which the teams picthed their business in under 2 minutes to another panel of expert investors and a winner was chosen. Having seen my husband go through one of the most intense yet fulfilling experiences ever, I can say that this has been one of his highlights of P1 (First term at INSEAD).

Second event that I really liked was the Presentation on Hua-Dan - A social enterprise that aims to bring about Social Change through Theatre. Given I am not into theatre at all, I went to attend the presentation to understand the scale of impact something like this can have and of course, the business model.  To say the least - I am glad I went and I was so inspired. The company uses such a creative way to make an impact and at some level it struck a chord. I reached out to Caroline, the founder, after the event to look at potential volunteering opportunities and things got more exciting. More on that some other day. But I highly encourage Partners to attend these presentations (those that are open to Partners) - it's a great way to find something for you to do, get inspired, meet inspiring people or simply learn.

6th October to 12th October: Week of consolidation and calm.

Given that my brain went into hyper active mode and all over the place with some crazy ideas of what I want to do in life, I had to really pause and take a breath. That is exactly what I did that week. Took a deep breath, thought more calmly about the ideas that were really feasible and finally narrowed down to two things I'd want to do - one in the near term and one in the long term. Because things are still in the nascent stage, will share more once I've completed certain milestones I've set myself.

Meanwhile, the same week,  we had another Partner's meeting to schedule activities for the month. Oh and yes, we finally got our residence permit card that week! Very smooth and straightforward process. Took us less than 2 hours if I recollect right.

The highlight of the week though was our trip down to Biarritz. Given I had hardly seen my husband the last weekend and the week, we decided to go on a short break to Biarritz. It's less than one and half hour flight from Paris and is absolutely gorgeous. Highly recommended for a short break.

13th October to 20st October : Week of Action and Activities.

 After the relaxing weekend came an action packed week. The Partners' activities finally kicked off and we had three events that week.

The first, a presentation on "Basics of Brand Marketing - How to market a brand". One of the Partners was a brand manager at P&G, one of the best marketing machines and she took us through the process P&G follows for a brand marketing campaign. This included a case study on Olay's Christmas campaign and was very interesting to learn what happens behind the scenes.

The second, a lunch gathering at La Grand Café followed by a walk in the Chateau Gardens. The plan was to visit Paris initially but because of the weather, we settled for this option. I couldn't join the ladies for lunch but met them for a walk after. I still can't get over the fact that such beautiful gardens are just a mere fifteen minutes walk from home. This is something I will surely miss once I leave Fonty.

And finally, the week concluded with an Indian Cooking Class hosted by two partners. I couldn't attend as my little boy decided to nap then, but the turn out was amazing. They had a fabulous time learning and tasting. They also had a "roti" (Indian bread) making competition in the end and the whole event was a super hit.

21st October to Today : Exams, Holiday and Back to the INSEAD Bubble

Following the exams, majority of the 15J batch were off on a holiday. Italy seemed a popular choice but so was Turkey, Georgia, Morrocco and Greece. It was a much need break after the busy exam week for the students and we chose to unwind in Capri. What can I say about the place. So beautiful, serene and perfect for relaxing with family. It felt good to take a break from the INSEAD bubble. But time flew and we were back early this week.

This week has been a quite one but next week promises to compensate for it. It's Desi National Week and is totally action packed. I will blog about the event in detail the week after. Other than that, Partners' cooking classes continue to be a hit with the next one being "Learn to make Tart Tatin" - yummy french apple tart, hosted by a French Partner and a Ukrainian one scheduled for next Friday. Will blog about these as well in more detail in the following weeks.

That's it for now.

Enjoy the rest of the week and weekend!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Let's Talk Food!

A picture is worth a thousand words they say. A picture of food is worth a million words I think. J

You know where I am getting at with this. I am going to let the food photos do most of the talking this time around.


It’s not just the students of INSEAD but the partners too – smart, entrepreneurial and excellent in what they do.

How does an authentic home cooked Indian meal sound to you? For some it’s a first time experience, for some a unique one. For some it’s the convenience factor and for some it’s the craving. For some it’s a combination of all.

To me it’s so much more than a meal service. These women are doing a phenomenal job of providing all of the above and more. I am sure that they will be remembered fondly by many students of 15J.

Sneha and Krati – You have surely made a huge  ( and of course,continue to) difference to this student community. Cannot praise you ladies enough! Great job and I look forward to more yumminess here at Fonty. :)
Dal Makhani
Pav Bhaji
Palak Paneer - with homemade paneer!
Veg Kofta


INEAT Club : Foodies of INSEAD gather for the first time at Le Bistro du Broc.

My husband, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t miss this for anything. A fancy French meal at a cosy restaurant just outside of Fonty. I so wish I could’ve joined him as well but well, I had a better reason to stay back – fun with my son J

Here are some photos from that evening.

NATURALIA: My favourite store

A store that stocks a huge range of organic foods, teas, chocolates and lots more. I absolutely love it. I discovered this amazing chocolate – lovechock . I so love it! My new found favourite.  So good!!
Stay tuned for a lot more on food.
Have a wonderful week!!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tension of the Opposites

“Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound by something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted when you know you should never take anything for granted”

“A tension of the opposites, like a pull on a rubber band and most of us live somewhere in the middle”

“Like a wrestling match”

“Which side wins?”

“Love wins. Love always wins”

One of my favourites from Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tension of the opposites – experiencing this exact feeling and consciously making a choice guided by Morrie’s wise words has by far been the highlight of my week. Here is the how and the why!

It’s Tuesday night. It’s 7:00 PM. I started packing my little boy’s bag with his toys, some finger food, and of course all the baby essentials, gave him dinner, got him ready and finally got ready to leave for the first “desi dinner”. A gathering organised by the Indian community at INSEAD at the only other Indian restaurant in Fonty called Raj Mahal.

“Tension of the opposites” strikes the very first time that evening– It’s 8:00 PM. A part of me wants to stay back because I know my little boy will probably not enjoy being out this late. But a part of me wants to go and meet new people. Something I’ve always enjoyed. I convince myself that given all the preparations I’d made to keep my little boy comfortable and occupied, he should be ok till about 9:00 PM. And the plan was for me to make my way back home then. So with that, the three of us leave.

The restaurant is about a 10 minutes’ walk from home. When we arrived, it was rather quiet. A small gathering of about 7-8 people. But soon it started getting really crowded. And of course, like in any large gathering, people tend to get a bit loud. “Tension of the opposites” strikes again. Given the noise and the look on my boy’s face, I wanted to leave but I’d hardly spoken to anyone yet. Well, not more than an introductory greeting. So, I think to myself, may be I should stay a bit longer, distract my little one with all the toys and finger foods I’d packed, talk to a few more people, eat and then leave.

Wrong decision.

In less than half hour since that moment, my little one gets totally exhausted and bursts into tears. Totally heart breaking.

Similar situation, though we weren’t out very late, struck again when I attended a BBQ that Friday. Crowd. Loud voices. Strange faces. Perfect recipe to put my boy completely out of his zone.

On both occasions I got back home sooner than expected (so glad I did).

So that week was that of a lot of reflection and introspection. And I did something I have been doing ever so often since I arrived when I go through such contradictory thoughts in my mind – I went straight to my recent favourite book and straight to the part about the “Tension of the opposites”.

So what did I learn from it all – the two experiences, the process of reflection and introspection?  I realized that I can find ways to still socialize and meet people however would never do it at the cost of my little one. He needs all the love and care as he is figuring out this world and it’s my prerogative to be there for him with all that love and care, in fact even more than what he needs.

Because - “Love wins, Love always wins” – How simple, yet how easily forgotten when one is caught in the middle of it all.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's Friday Already?

Hope you've had a great week!

In my last post, I think I mentioned about working on a survey to capture the expectations, goals and ideas for activities from fellow partners. So my week started with creating that survey. Almost after a year and half, I was working on building a survey again. Took me back to one of my favourite projects at Cisco. I really enjoyed putting the survey together and I thought a lot about Denise, one of the most amazing women I met during my days at Cisco, and what I'd learnt from her.

Anyway, end of Monday, off the survey goes to partners' community. By end of Thursday, we had received an overwhelming response and a lot of positive feedback about the survey itself.  It felt great and very reassuring to know that we are on the right track with this. I can't wait to analyse the results, share it with all the respondents and work on plan for the year. It feels like being back at work again, a bit more relaxed however and I am loving it. What makes it even more exciting is that I am getting to do all of this with some really amazing, very driven women. Strong personalities. Diverse in every sense. Similar goals. Very motivating!

But it was not all work. On Tuesday, a group of us met to plan a baby shower for one of our new friends who is due anytime now. We decided on a picnic on Thursday at the Chateau gardens, get a delicious cake, buy some cute gifts and play some fun games.

She is from Brazil and so her Brazilian friends suggested a game that is kind of a tradition in Brazil. The mom-to-be has to guess the gift items that her friends bring to the party and every time she gets it wrong, her friends draw something funny on her bump! :) We modified the game a bit - instead of gifts, we put a bunch of baby stuff in a bag, blind folded her and asked her to guess. And as you can imagine, at the end of the game, she had a cute little face with lots of hearts and stars drawn on her bump! Yes - she couldn't guess a lot of things - well, rather, we made sure she didn't get them right! :) We played two other games, both for everyone to take part - one, guess how big is her belly and a quiz on baby trivia. Was so much fun. Lot of laughs and jokes. 

Oh by the way, I was the worst at the guessing game. My estimate was just way off - what was I even thinking!! ;)

This was my first ever baby shower experience and surely not the last - we have two other showers coming up before the end of this year! Yay!! Can't wait.

The same day, I attended, partly, the information session on the INSEAD Entrepreneurship Club (IEC) by a professor of entrepreneurship. It was mainly targeted at students, so decided to leave mid-way - also because my little son was getting restless in the sling. So a friend of mine  and I spent about half hour in the family room with our little ones before we went back to meet the professor to share some ideas to help support the IEC. Just as we approached the professor and were next in line to talk to him, my friend's six month old daughter gets super excited and screams. This scared my little son and he starts crying. Can you imagine. Two women with babies in slings. One baby screaming. The other crying. And a bunch of MBA students waiting in line to talk to the professor. Two students very seriously chatting with the professor. 

A scene I'll never forget :)

I walk around trying to calm my baby boy as we await our turn. As he settles down, it's our turn. I introduce myself and so does my friend. We start talking about the idea and right then, it happens again. Action - a scream. Reaction - a cry. 

And here is another scene I'll remember for years to come. Both my friend and I, swaying, trying to calm our babies whilst talking to the professor about the idea. I'd never seen such a sight and of course, never imagined that I'd actually do something like that. :)

Anyway, as you can imagine, the discussion lasted less than a few minutes. 

But I must say - I feel so grateful to that professor who listened to us so patiently irrespective of all that was happening. Not just that, he seemed really positive about the ideas and even responded to our follow-up email next morning. How nice! We were chuffed and can't wait to discuss more about our proposal next week. Will keep you posted on how we get on!

Friday was mostly at home, spending some quality time with my dear son. However, in the evening, we went to campus for about half hour to see the Global Insead Day celebrations. There was a live band, students and professors jamming along, lots of balloons and of course lots of people. A bit too noisy for my little one. So didn't stay for too long. Chatted with a few friends and made our way back home.

So, yes, that was my week. A good mix of work and fun. And a bunch of first time experiences - 
First time to be a part of a Brazilian baby shower tradition (sort of). 
First time to attend a information session with my baby strapped on to me. 
The most hilarious - First time to approach a professor to share my ideas whilst trying to soothe my baby.

Wish all of you a great weekend and a lovely week.

My next post will be in a week's time. Stay tuned! :)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

I got a good feeling about this!

What a productive evening!

Picture this. A cosy apartment. A centre table with cakes, teas and a whole lot of post-its. Yes! Post-its.

The purpose of the evening was to come up with goals, ideas and activities for the partners’ community.

All of us, partners, have solid professional backgrounds, skills, competencies and most importantly zest to learn, share and make the most of the next 10 months. What we as a group thought was needed is a formal and structured way to harness that energy and translate into concrete actions. So that we, like our partners, feel a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the year. And we like our partners can say that this has been one of the most amazing 10 months of our lives! 

The structure of the meeting was simple. We wanted to understand the WHY, WHAT and the HOW. It was fascinating to see that within the first 15 minutes there were common themes emerging; networking, professional development and culture awareness/immersion were on top of everyone's list. We then drilled down a level further and gathered ideas for each of these themes. Got some fantastic feedback and ideas.

We are now in the process of prioritizing those ideas by getting the partners’ community to poll and trying to capture ideas from those who weren't present today. The outcome will help narrow the list and build a solid actionable plan for those that were most popular.

I feel so energised and excited by the very thought of how this might turn out. It was inspiring to learn that other partners share similar expectations and want to truly make the most of such a fantastic opportunity of being among the best, in an environment which is one of the best in the world of B-Schools.

At the end of it all, I couldn’t help but wonder how this might end given we have had such an amazing start. I couldn’t help but wonder how these ideas would come alive and bring us closer. I couldn’t help but wonder how much each one of us may grown through these experiences. I couldn’t help but wonder – Can the partners of the 15J batch leave a legacy behind?

Either way, it promises to be very very interesting :)

And the activities begin....

In my earlier post I mentioned that I had signed up for the chateau tour, which was a part of the partners activity for the orientation week. But unfortunately, I couldn’t do the tour. However I decided to join a group of ladies who'd stayed back after the tour for a small picnic by the canal in the chateau gardens.

A beautiful day to be out. Sunny with some clouds. Lovely smell of the fresh green grass. A group of fun, beautiful and interesting women. Lots of snacks. Perfect. I finally got to know some of them better. We chatted about our past professional lives, exchanged stories about how maternity and new motherhood is perceived in India and outside of India, about INSEAD and what this meant for all of us.  Two hours flew by just like that. We decided to meet the next day for a walk through the forest, just behind the INSEAD campus as we said good bye for the day.

The next day, I was all set, got my darling baby in the sling and was off for my walk. I met the others at the café and we were off. As we made our way, we couldn’t get over the fact that there are three trails leading into the Fonty forest from right behind the campus. How amazing. As we walked soaking up sunshine, we chatted about so many things. Spent close to two hours walking and honestly it didn’t seem that long at all. Great company, great outdoors, felt amazing. So alive!

A few days later, I attended the baby music class in the family room. Got there about half hour late ‘cos of my morning chores with my little boy. The room was packed with kids of all ages, ranging from 2 month old babies to 3 year old ones. My little boy loved it. The class was held by a wonderful woman, originally from England. She had brought along with her so many little rattles, tiny instruments, and lots of things for the kids and the kids absolutely loved it. She sang both French and English songs and we sang along to the tunes we knew. Was a lot of fun!

After class, we got a table outside to enjoy the lovely weather and have some yummy lunch. I got to meet few other partners. Some from the previous batch and some from the current.

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve been here and a week since I’ve met the partners. I think it’s going to take more time for people to open up to each other. But I am very hopeful and am looking forward to more activities in the days to come J

It's for real! It's happening! The grand opening! The Big Day for INSEAD 15Js

26th of August 2014. One of those days that we’ll never forget. Exactly a year back, my husband and I had watched the official opening ceremony of INSEAD batch of 2008 (I think), and we were blown away! The event we were going to attend in minutes was the very event that sparked the INSEAD fire in my husband!

Hand in hand, with our faces beaming with smiles that probably lasted well after the event, we enter THE AMPHI. We wanted to pinch ourselves to see if it was real. The excitement in the room was palpable. What energy. And then it starts… silence… and then we hear… “we welcome you, INSEAD Class of 15J”! Applause. Cheering. Smiles. What a moment!

It was a simple opening ceremony yet so grand - for each one that had worked so hard to make it this far. The dean’s speech was amazing and the guest speaker was good too!

However I couldn’t stay for the whole event because 40 minutes into the event, my phone rings…. 

It’s from the family room!

Two days before the event, my husband and I were talking about how we wish we could be together for the opening ceremony as it meant so much to us (because children weren’t allowed). The very same day I see a post on FB.

“14D (previous batch) partners offer to babysit for those who want to attend any events during the orientation week.” 

I was thrilled but wasn’t quite sure how I’d handle leaving my little sonny boy with people I hardly knew. So I decided to meet them a day before the event. 

Such nice people, I must say. One of them even told me that she had never left her son just like I never had till the same event of their batch. Her reassurance and encouragement made me take a leap of faith and leave my son with them. The consolation that he was just a call away and in a room just 2-3 mins away made easier.

I am so grateful to those three wonderful women who offered to help us that day. If not for them, I couldn’t not have been a part of one of the greatest moments in my husband’s life.. one of the greatest moments of both our lives!

Selflessness is an amazing thing! I will surely pay it forward by offering the same support to the next batch.  Thank you Tatiana, Lena and Olga for inspiring me!

INSEAD welcomes Partners of 15J

Monday, the 25th of Aug, after finishing all my morning chores and feeding my little bunny boy his breakfast, I strap him on and make my way to the campus. The weather was dreary – reminded me of those grey rainy days in the UK. But thankfully, the walk wasn’t too long.

I ask for the partners’ registration desk and go straight there. The first task was to collect my badge for which I apparently had to submit a photo and my details online. Given my crazy schedule for the last few weeks, I had completely forgotten about it.  So my badge wasn’t ready at that desk. But it was no deal breaker – I was asked to visit the career services office to get my photo taken and get my badge done on the spot – which I thought was very cool. I was also handed a bunch of pamphlets – about the Fontainebleau chateau, the forest, the town and of course, the partners’ schedule for the orientation week.

We’d received the schedule by email and on FB as well. Most events had the comment I hated to see – “Children not advised”. But anyway, I signed up for the rest which included the chateau tour, baby music class and wine tasting (though I don’t drink  – signed up just to meet other partners and enjoy the cheese).

I also attended the official welcome session for the partners which was organised by the previous batch – 14D and the school staff. The session was ok - mainly about getting around in Fonty, the family room and a list of events and clubs partners can participate in during those 10months. I personally would have liked to hear two or three of them share their personal experiences but I figured, I’ll probably just ask them one on one.  So yes, the session had some good information but I wish it had an element of fun as well.

After the information session, we got to enjoy some tea and macaroons in the restaurant. We were there for about 45 mins before we left for home as our little boy was really tired and sleepy.

All in all a good day. Informational.

INSEAD family room

Ever since I heard about INSEAD’s Family Room, I was so curious to find out all about it -  to see how big it was, what was in it, how it looked.. but couldn’t really find a lot of info about it when I searched online.  So I decided that I have to blog about this room in detail as soon as I get there because I know there are people like me out there who are as curious as I am :)

As you can imagine, visiting the family room was one of the first things I wanted to do when I got here. After taking a few days to settle in, I finally decided to visit the family room on a Wednesday evening.

The room in the lower ground floor of the main building.   I enter and see three kids running around and two women chatting in a language that was completely alien to me.

I scan the room – I see plenty of toys, tricycles, small bicycles, two slides, carpets, cushions, small house, small play kitchen, a microwave, highchair and a couch for breastfeeding.

Before I could find a spot to put my little boy down, the two women asked me to come and join them. They were partners from the December intake. Brazilian and super friendly :)

They were so warm and friendly. They told me a few things about the room: 
·       It is basically the responsibility of those who use it to keep it clean and tidy
·       The stuff in the room is donated by those who’ve been here
·       One can borrow anything from the room – from tiny toys to strollers to high-chairs to cribs – ANYTHING you see in the room basically

We also got chatting about how it’s been for them so far and I must say, my positive feelings just get stronger. The partners’ community seems to be a very supportive one – just to quote some examples I heard –
·       partners taking turns to baby sit each other’s kids at the family room if one decides to take a language or gym class
·       organise play dates or outings
·       meet-up almost every day at the family room or parks in and around Fonty

So yes, I had finally seen the much heard about Family Room and not just that, I had made two new friends who made me feel so welcomed! 

Will keep you all updated through the months with more on the activities in this room.