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25 May 2010

Urgent!! Spellchecker Required!!

Is it odd that this totally bothered me at the stadium the other day?
Creating Opportunities for VULNERABLE Children
While we're at it, can someone define 'vulnerable children' to me, please? Are we.. er.. uh... they all vulnerable?

Queer Mr. Sevenraj

What is in a name? One of the most cliched questions. In my opinion it is the silliest too, because we all have found atleast one name to be fascinated about, at some point or the other. How many people would pick a random name for their children, without a second thought? Well, here is one man who named his 7th child, No. 7! How many of us have wanted or met some who wanted a different name because the given one was queer? No. 7 rationalizes the name his father has given him.

The story of Mr. SevenRaj goes like this... 
Note: I have picked up only the 'queer' bits of his story and left out his rags-to-riches life to the rest of the internet world to narrate. Google him up, if you care - there is none other by this name.

As the 7th child in the family, he was named No. 7 by his father, who wanted to name his children without any indication of their caste or religion (seven was what he could come up with?) He hails from Badagara in Kozhikode district of Kerala and when his family moved to Bangalore, his son's name was changed to Seven because the school refused to accept a number for the name. When Seven had to drop out of school. due to financial difficulties in the family, he started dabbling in films and added Raj to his name, as was the trend during those days. He has been SevenRaj ever since.

Continuing in his father's footsteps, he named his children IndiaRani and BharathRaja as a way of declaring that he did not care about the caste system and showing his patriotism to the country. Ahem!

This afternoon, I watched a show on one of the local channels. The studio was done up in red and white. Mr. SevenRaj and his family were being interviewed, all of them were dressed in red and white. What started off as a brand-building exercise for SevenRaj seems to have turned into an obsession as his efforts stretched to extremes. He only ever wears that colour combination and that is right from his innerwear down to his socks.  His suit, mobile, furniture, office, handkerchief, stationery are all red and white. His house is painted in red and white, so are his cars. He is proud of it. He explains how he has tried to create his identity using these colours. The late Tamil movie star MGR who was recognized by his famous dark glasses, Mahatma Gandhi is recognized by his glasses & bare torso with a white towel, so I had to do something similar to be recognized by one and all, he says. 

It does not stop there. He has a craze for the number 7 too. His mobile number ends with 77777. His first mobile number ended with the number 007. His blazer has 7 buttons and he speaks 7 languages (his native tongue being malayalam). 

He believes that he can change the world. While he claims he does a lot for the society by way of helping people, charities, donations to temples, he says the big thing is yet to come. It seems that he is expecting certain super-powers to come to him in the next 2 - 3 years, which will change his life and help him change the world. He does not know what it is, except that it may be some sort of a 7th sense (7 again!) but he knows for sure that it will happen.

I could not help but wonder if his family (wife and children) feel the same way about the colours and number. If not, what do they feel about his fetish? In a similar question asked by the host on TV, his wife Pushpa said that while she could be embarassed sometimes and does not understand his fixation, she is fine with it as he seems undeterred by what people have to say and he does a lot of good work too. His children are happy to let their father be but do not share the same excessive love for those colours or numbers. They both share his love for movies, though.

Queer as he might be, Mr. SevenRaj has come a long way from a boy born to a large, poor family with no money or job to a mobile real estate agent with a bungalow, a few cars, travels abroad and continues to draw attention with his flashy apparel. He is not embarassed by it. Instead, he is thrilled that people recognize him by it and elated with the attention he gets. He says his dream is being realized - he wanted to be famous and stand out in the crowd. In that red and white suit, he sure does!

SevenRaj - 7, Red & White everywhere

It reminds me of Scott Adams' recent posts on The Value of Attention and The Attention Contest. In my opinion, Seven is a clear winner!

Disclaimer: This blog post is a collection of facts from the show on TV, memories from an old newspaper article and a small post on the internet, interspersed with my fascination of the strangeness of it all. The views expressed are purely a personal expression of such fascination of an intriguing anecdote and not intended to take a dig at any person(s).

Sunfeast 5.7K Majja Run 2010

So I did the run again this year. The Sunfeast World 10K Bangalore (2010). It was an adventure, compared to the 2009 run. That was a run-walk-walk-run that ended in a photograph of me and a colleague in one of the local newspapers. This was a different story altogether.

The Women's World 10K Runners
It started off just like last years did - catching up with friends outside the stadium, checking out people in costume, watching the World 10K women return, hooting & cheering, mobile photographs and finally running out from the stands on to the tracks when the gates opened (as my sister-in-law said, "like animals released from their cages"). If it was not for the lifeless crowd ahead of me, I might have even pushed and shoved (erm...crowd mentality... uh). 

Somewhere in the middle of this, the Open 10K run started and we searched desperately for my brother. He should have been easy to spot, in his fluoroscent green & red attire. Not easy but spot him we did and photographed him too. Look for him in the picture below.

The Open 10K begins
I took off on a sprint right at the start, leaving my friends behind within seconds. I knew I was unfit, untrained, unfed and thirsty, so I was pretty sure that my run would not last for long, I wanted to make the most of it when the energy levels were still high. That led me to throw caution to the wind and run right away, instead of starting slowly and picking up speed later. That was one of my many follies of the morning.

About 800m from where I started off at 09:02 hrs, I ran out of breath. Running on the hot roads in the blazing sun with no cap or sunglasses, what could I expect? More examples of lack of preparation. I hoped to walk a bit and start jogging again. I intended to jog as much as I could and I was counting on the electral/glucose supplies at the water-stations to help me. Sorry to note, no such thing. All that was available was water and sipping on it did not help at all. So, try as I might I found myself unable to do more than walk. Tired, hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. 

Pic courtesy marathon-photos
A friend passed by and egged me on, so I ran with him for a while. He left me behind as he kept running & I kept slowing down. I caught up with another friend who was doing a slow jog too and very soon, even she had overtaken me. More walking. At every kilometer, there were volunteers and non-participant public egging us on and each time, I felt encouraged and ran a few meters. Maybe 20? Maybe 50? Could not have been more, I am sure. 

"Come on Bangalore, Run. Do not run with your legs, run with your heart", one of the volunteers was screaming. 

"Odi Odi, race madi. Avrigintha fast agi neevu odbeku. Odi odi", a fat middle-aged enthusiastic woman jiggling and clapping.

Cheering from cops holding the boundaries, traffic, dog-walkers, morning walkers, photographers, reporters, the cacophony of voices and noises were encouraging in a weird way. Yet, I found it a struggle to run. Except at corners, milestones and other places where the cheering just could not be ignored and the feet took off by themselves. By the time I reached the half-way mark, the pre-existing ache in my shoulders had aggravated. When a friend of mine asked me the previous night why I was running in spite of my shoulder aches, I said, "I'm running with my legs, how would that affect my shoulders?" Now I know.

I was grateful for the first-aid station that finally offered some electral. A bit of that powder in my bottle and I was ready to run some more. A lot of running and walking later, I covered 4.5km, where I met another friend of mine. She suggested we run the last bit. That and the fact that the stadium was in sight was enough drive for me. I ran the last 500m and turned around to spot my friend. She was gone! I waited up for her and we picked up another bottle of water, as I tried to get in touch with the rest of my crowd. 

An apple, bun and a couple of biscuits later, I felt alive again. Achy shoulders, achy neck and the promise of achy legs but I felt alive. All I needed now was some cool air. A wait for my sister-in-law and an elaborate search for my brother, which included walking around the stadium, calling random people, munching on some puri and announcing from the DJ console, later we headed to where our car was parked. Another search for the car in the parking lot (like sister, like brother, we can never remember where we parked) and finally, we returned home in the heavenly atmosphere of an air-conditioned car. 

Two days later, I am still nursing my body aches as I hunt down the official photographs on the marathon-photos website and squeal in delight, each time I find one from our gang. 

I might have run about a kilometer and walked the rest. It was disappointing until I saw the pictures. They tell a different story. I have run. That is what counts. Looking forward to the next run. When will that be? Where will that be? 

23 May 2010

Sunfeast 10K World Run 2010

My first post on this blog was on 2nd June 2009, called the Majja Majja Run. It was after the run and I spoke of my experiences. This time I find myself writing an account before the run. 

I had hoped to train and run the open 10K this year but as a lot of other things go, I never got around to it and I find myself gearing up for the Majja Run again this year.

Last year, I registered to run for an NGO called Dream-A-Dream and collected donation for them. This year, the fees have been hiked up by a 100 bucks and I'm just running for me. 

Last year, I picked up the bib from work. This year, I went to the stadium and it was good to see the stalls and arrangements. 

Last year, the goodie bag was full of biscuits, chips and crap that I did not care to use. This year, the goodie bag is a lot better. Sunscreen, facewash, hair gel, biscuits, chips, sugarfree, and so on, two sachets of each... except for the energy tablets, it was all useful stuff. 


Last year, I did not even know there was a fancy dress part to the Majja Run. This year, I not only knew but I wanted to participate. I wanted to be a cute yellow chicken. Agreed I'm no cutie but the yellow chicken part should be do-able right? I was not even able to convince the rest of the family to co-operate. Not enough time, that is my pathetic excuse.

Last year, I ran with a colleague from work. This year, I run with family and a friend from school.

All these differences apart, one thing has not changed. Last year, I ran* with no training at all. This year, I run* with no training at all.

* When I say ran/run, I may mean run a bit, walk a bit, run lots (ah-em), walk lots, wish I could sit down, try to run, walk, jog, walk, sweat like a horse, walk, walk, walk, oh thank god we're here!

Run or walk, I need to be up early and be well-rested for some 'majja' tomorrow. Here I go...

21 May 2010

A Poison Tree by William Blake

The last in my poem series for this month. William Blake.

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole.
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see,
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.

Come Live With Me And Be My Love by Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of th purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
Christopher Marlowe

20 May 2010

Sestina Of The Tramp by Rudyard Kipling

Speakin' in general, I'ave tried 'em all
The 'appy roads that take you o'er the world.
Speakin' in general, I'ave found them good
For such as cannot use one bed too long,
But must get 'ence, the same as I'ave done,
An' go observin' matters till they die.

What do it matter where or 'ow we die,
So long as we've our 'ealth to watch it all
The different ways that different things are done,
An' men an' women lovin' in this world;
Takin' our chances as they come along,
An' when they ain't, pretendin' they are good?

In cash or credit no, it aren't no good;
You've to 'ave the 'abit or you'd die,
Unless you lived your life but one day long,
Nor didn't prophesy nor fret at all,
But drew your tucker some'ow from the world,
An' never bothered what you might ha' done.

But, Gawd, what things are they I'aven't done?
I've turned my 'and to most, an' turned it good,
In various situations round the world
For 'im that doth not work must surely die;
But that's no reason man should labour all
'Is life on one same shift life's none so long.

Therefore, from job to job I've moved along.
Pay couldn't 'old me when my time was done,
For something in my 'ead upset it all,
Till I'ad dropped whatever 'twas for good,
An', out at sea, be'eld the dock-lights die,
An' met my mate the wind that tramps the world!

It's like a book, I think, this bloomin, world,
Which you can read and care for just so long,
But presently you feel that you will die
Unless you get the page you're readi'n' done,
An' turn another likely not so good;
But what you're after is to turn'em all.

Gawd bless this world! Whatever she'oth done
Excep' When awful long I've found it good.
So write, before I die, "'E liked it all!"

An Epitaph by Walter de la Mare

Here lies a most beautiful lady,
Light of step and heart was she:
I think she was the most beautiful lady
That ever was in the West Country.
But beauty vanishes; beauty passes;
However rare, rare it be;
And when I crumble who shall remember
This lady of the West Country?

19 May 2010

A Cup Of Comfort For Friends by Colleen Sell

I was at the Crossword book store last week. After I paid for my books and while I was waiting for the husband to finish his shopping, I picked up a copy of A Cup Of Comfort For Friends and browsed through it. 

The book is one of those anthology from various people's lives. I generally do not enjoy such books and would never read them twice. I still bought this one because I loved the introduction, a couple of things the author said and quoted in there. I'm going to use this blog to list out some of the things that stood out for me. 

Friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life - Thomas Jefferson

... we tend to squeeze each other into whatever slots are left over after the other people and responsibilities in our lives get their share.
Amazingly, our friends understand. They patiently wait their turn and graciously accept whatever time and attention we give them. They're always there when we need them, and they forgive us when we're slow to recognize their needs. Such is the nature of friendship--true friendships.

A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often--just to save it from drying out completely - author Pam Brown

Their gifts say that these lovely people love me. In the midst of their busy lives, they think of me. They've made the effort to know me, to reach out to me, to make memories with me--not out of dury or familial fate, but because they chose me. 

The story My Jar Of Self Esteem talks about a friend who helped another build her self-esteem by giving her a little jar with numerous notes telling her how she is special

The story In Praise Of Temporary Friends is about a woman who does not have any life-term friends but has learnt to appreciate all the ones that have been there while they have. 

I have always envied other women's friendships. It's not that I don't have any friends. I do. But I don't have a friend that I can call at four in the morning, who would hop on the next plane to come hold my hand through disasters great and small. I don't have a friend I've known for so many years I can't remember life without her. I don't have a friend who knows all my secrets. 

I can relate to this so well. Yet, as I read on, I realized that I was better off than her. I have had friends who have lasted me a couple of years atleast and been there for me when I needed them, kept my secrets and life was beautiful with them while they were with me. That doesn't change how I feel about friends forever. 

I wrote this blog a long while ago and forgot to post it. Am gonna post it now, without any changes. The book, while was a good read in the first few pages (to past half the book, actually), gets a little boring and dull later. It's not a repeatably readable one either. One of my give-away books.

Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

18 May 2010

Scott Adam: The Value of Attention

I have been following Scott Adam's blog for a while and love his writing. I even like his posts most of the time. Today he writes about the value of attention. The way he starts off, with the post, is splendid. It is worth quoting.

Most people enjoy getting attention. It's one of our basic needs. Little kids go through a "Look at me!" stage that lasts years. I believe we never grow out of that. All we do is learn how to be more subtle in saying, "Look at me!"  

To read the entire post, click here.

He asks a very interesting question that have elicit quite a few interesting comments, some of which further strengthen his theory on the value of attention. I would have loved to pose that question here but that would be infringement. 

He ends saying, "Someday an entrepreneur will make a fortune by figuring out how to monetize personal attention in the most efficient way". How true, of the world that we live in today!

Aside: Personally, I think if someone posted a comment in response to his blog and insisted that (s)he is not an attention-seeker, it's ironic. Need I explain?

Whatta Way To Start My Day

A bowl of cereal... 
Some fruit...
A delightful breakfast and a silly lyric to go with it. Whatta way to start my day!

The Hitchhikers Guide 
To The Galaxy
Is but a ride 
In an airborne taxi

It does not gimme direction
Nor tell me what place,
Without an explanation
Absolutely no grace

Pity I feel for Mr. Dent
Stuck with Zaphod and Trillian,
Ford with a fake human bent
In a dream in a million

They have the Answer
But what is the Great Question?
Forty-two says the dabbler
Leaving 'em all in a spin

More to read, to go on
So seemingly endless it is...
What a way
To start my day!

17 May 2010

Because She Would Ask Me Why I Loved Her by Christopher Brennan

It started off with a google search on one of my favourite poets, Frost. One poem led to another and before I knew it, many minutes had passed me by and I could not stop reading. Lunch forgotten, shower forgotten, I found myself lost in the wonderland of poetry. How long it has been since I devoured creative-writing this way, I cannot tell but it was simply impossible to tear myself away from the pages. 

I had not heard of Christopher Brennan before today but when I read this poem, I knew it was the most beautiful way I had ever known anyone express love. 

If questioning would make us wise
No eyes would ever gaze in eyes;
If all our tale were told in speech
No mouths would wander each to each. 

Were spirits free from mortal mesh
And love not bound in hearts of flesh
No aching breasts would yearn to meet
And find their ecstasy complete.

For who is there that lives and knows
The secret powers by which he grows?
Were knowledge all, what were our need
To thrill and faint and sweetly bleed?.

Then seek not, sweet, the "If" and "Why"
I love you now until I die.
For I must love because I live
And life in me is what you give.

In the coming days, I will share a few more poems that I liked from today's session. If you love poetry too, keep your eyes peeled.

Why Do You Get to Define Morals?

In a discussion about women of the (g)olden days and today, the group supporting the latter spoke of how much bolder and confident women are today. As a counter, one of the guys argued that women were bold and courageous even in the years gone by. He cited an example of how the great Alexander was first defeated by a woman. I cannot help but wonder... if she had not defeated him, would the same guy have spoken of her with such regard? If she had failed, I'm willing to bet anything, the guy would have said (if he had to cite the same example) that women should remain confined to indoors and not try bravery. 

In another point made during the same discussion, one of the men drew a parallel between Beluru shilabalike (the famous stone sculptures of Belur depicting women in various poses) and the girls strutting down M G Road in skimpy attire. It seemed to appall his opponent, who dismissed the comparison by saying, "If you are going to compare Beluru shilabalike with the half-undressed chicks on M G Road, then I have nothing to say to you". Obviously, he has nothing to say. Our defendant said it was just the costume that differs. I  tend to agree, it is just your view that differs. The way you choose to look at it. 

You gawk at the shilabalike with awe because everyone talks about it's awesomeness, even though you may not understand what it is that you are really admiring. Is it the stone art or the visuals that are fantastic? Do you even know? If it is the stone art, then the costumes, or lack of them thereof, should not matter to you. If it is the visuals that you admire, then how is our defendant wrong? Are you just a hypocrite who can stare at a pair of breasts carved in stone and openly claim admiration for it but will ridicule a pair of uncovered legs in real flesh? Hang on, why were you staring at those legs, in the first place if you are such a saint? Do not tell me that when you walk down M G Road, you have these 'skimpily-clad women' jumping in front of you and flashing their stuff. 

I am amazed by some of the ideas and beliefs people hold about women rubbing shoulders with men, in modern times. I might understand that in somebody from an older generation, they may be set in their opinions, but to hear the same from the younger people is a revelation to me. How can you not see all the development around you? What world do you live in? What is with all the moral-policing? Why are your close-minded notions right? How is that our culture?

On a somewhat unrelated note: Muthalik's rent-a-riot issue is slowly gaining ground. People are discussing it and insisting that the government clamp a ban on the Shri Ram Sene. With the Chief Minister Yediyurappa refusing to impose the ban, Pramod Muthalik seems to be making the most of his new-found ally.

iPad 2007 Vs iPad 2010

When the iPad was announced and through the initial days of it's launch, anybody with an opinion about the iPad or Apple wrote a review. Most of them were technical but I managed to find a few reviews which had enough layman English in them for a technically-challenged soul like me to understand. In fact, I wrote a post myself, just to prove to no one in particular that I could. 

While the craze has been subsiding gently, there are still people out there buying iPads. Those who do, or already have, are showing off their prize gadgets, irrespective of what the technophiles opine. No matter what the reviews, Apple has been able to sell their shiny new toy to a fair deal of satisfaction, if reports are to be believed. 

While reading another blog on the internet, I found a link on one of the comments that led me to this piece. A woman's review of an iPad. Why is it special? Why am I stressing on the 'woman'? For one, there is a dearth of posts from women on this topic. For another, this blog solely concentrates on a woman's viewpoint of the iPad. This one is, by far, my favourite write-up on this topic. It is humorous yet all true and meaningful. I found myself nodding at almost every aspect she has covered. I clicked on the links in her post and I did not regret that for a moment. They just add to the fun angle. 

She had me, from the word go. First, the title. Bang on. Read the review. There are a few things you simply cannot miss. I will try to point you in that direction here. 

You can give the link about 85% consumer purchases a miss. Make sure you click on the MadTV link, though. It explains the blog-title even better. It is fun. Once you watch the video, you will never be able to hear the word iPad without... umm... I think I should just let you watch it, eh? 

At times she rambles, especially where she is whining about the health hazards to her fingers and palms. I suggest you forgive her for that (she is a woman, remember) and keep reading. I absolutely love the way she ends her blog. You have to give it to her for that! Perfect summary. Well-put. Sort of. I mean, I was really tickled. I wish I could write like her... the title, the links, the post and the ending all tie into each other so well. All that, without deviating from the content and the flavour of humour blended nicely into it. 

The more I read, the more I find that the most exciting thing about the iPad, for me, is reading what everyone has to say about it. I do not think I would every buy one. That said, if you wanted to buy me an iPad...

PS. My Blogger spell-checker, with UK-English option set, does not recognize iPad as a valid dictionary word. Yet.

16 May 2010

Hail Hailstones, Rumblers and Flashes

I went to the balcony to bring in Lucky's bed that I had put out to dry. It was mildly drizzling. In fact, it was so mild that I was not even sure it was drizzling. I brought her bed in & turned to greet the husband who was trying to get her returned home from their walk. 

Within seconds, there was a loud noise. Rain was pounding on the windows. Mum was yelling out to everyone to bring in everything that could get wet. The husband was rushing about, closing balcony doors (we have so many of those). I stood transfixed, staring at the window at the stairway and the rain that was lashing  mercilessly at it. I expected it to crash any moment, give way under the force with which the water kept slamming it. I waited. For a few seconds. The next thing I know, I was running around the house, yelling "Close the windows, close the windows!" I checked the glass door of the balcony and the windows. I ran into the bedroom & closed all the windows. 

The library was closed. I hesitated for a second and then ran inside, quickly closing all the windows. The mesh windows were of no use, the glass had to be shut. As I closed the window which would easily let water in, given the direction and force of the rain, I ran to check the husband's Mac. It was alright. Thank God! The glass window on the left had protected it. With a sigh of relief, I laid my palm on brother's laptop. Holy shit! It was wet, almost dripping. Almost... I am not sure because I was panicking. I looked around, tugged and yanked off a bed-sheet from one of the mattresses rolled up and wiped it desperately. Thank God, it was only the lid of the laptop. Everything else seems fine. I am able to do this blog, it must be fine.

All open doors and windows shut, I raced back to the living room where mum and hubby were watching the rain. What a beautiful sight! How lovely! It was a scary too. The wind was the roughest I have ever seen, my pots in the balcony had fallen off, the windows appeared to be fighting tough to stay in place and soon there were hailstones. I could do nothing but watch enthralled! It was thrilling to watch the force of the wind and rain. I have never experienced something like this before - visuals to the highest degree of awesomeness, yet alarming. So strong. 

The house was dark within seconds, it was bright outside. The rain kept lashing as I made desperate attempts to capture the picture on my mobile camera. All in vain. Not one good picture. I kept running from window to window, I did not want to miss what the outside looked like. So beautiful, so beautiful, I kept thinking. 

The rumble of thunder was in competition with the loud sounds of things crashing outside. We did not dare look out but we wanted to know what was going on. So much frenzy. It was all crazy. So exciting!

Twenty minutes later, the only sound of water is that of water dropping down from roofs of houses and pipes from balconies. We can still hear the rumbling of thunder and see flashes of lightning. It is nice and cold outside, unbearably warm inside. The husband opened the balcony door and let a rush of cool breeze inside. Ah, the pleasures that nature bestows upon us. I love the rains. I absolutely love the rains. 

And through all of this, Lucky lay down in the living room and watched. She watched people acting crazy, she watched the rains and listened to the strange noises it made. When it was over, she went back to sleep, with one ear cocked up to the sounds around her - mum and husband trying to clean the balcony with the rain water, me typing away on my keyboard. Oh! That reminds me. Shouldn't I be there, helping them? I think I should. I had better run along. In a minute. As soon as I post this. 

Where Are Your Balls, News Guy?

Tehelka.com and Headlines Today, in a sting operation, 'exposed' Muthalik. For the last couple of days, HT has been running episodes of 'Rent A Riot' and trying to create a sensation, in vain. Not one other media channel has lapped up the story, here is not created enough hype over the story and definitely no action is being taken against Muthalik, who can apparently stir up a riot for a price (in the video, he was seen demanding 60 lakh rupees to start riots).

What went wrong? Why are HT licking their wounds while no one else will talk about it? No doubt the Muthalik story could have been made to be a big deal. It was breaking news when the Mangalore incident happened (they harassed girls in the name of moral policing) and then the Valentine's day moral policing again. 

In a bid to keep the story to themselves and come across looking fabulous, HT ran a story with the video a couple of days ago. They had discussions on what should be done with Muthalik and asked if he should not be arrested? That was their first mistake. While what they have done is a neat way to trap the bugger, they should have shared clips of the video with other media channels before they did their first run. They could have come out with the story first, the others would still need time to whip up a presentation. They would have made some money out of it (possibly, I am not sure how it works). To have not shared and to expect that the rest of the world will pick up from their accounts, was foolishness. Why would any other news channel want to run a news report that HT has played and replayed enough times to make it stale for them by the next day? 

Their second mistake was to refuse responsibility. This is something I feel strongly about. Why do they expect that recording an expose on video and playing it on TV is enough to warrant action? One of their reporters on TV, Shoma, repeatedly said it was their job to simply bring the reality out in the open but the responsibility of civic institutions like the police department to take action. Even as an ex-DIG argued that the police will be unable to take action without a complaint. While I think there is something wrong if the police know of a wrong-doing but cannot take action unless there is a complainant, I cannot see why HT or Tehelka do not want to take complete responsibility for their operation? Why are they refusing to file an FIR or even a PIL?

On Day 2 of HT's 'Rent A Riot', they spoke to the public and tried to generate a voice that said to to the police department, "Arrest Muthalik!" A cheap tactic to escape having to register a complaint themselves, I think. They have been bold enough to blow his cover. Why do they want to hide now? Agreed there is a lot of red tape to cut through and a shitload of garbage to face but if they started something, they must finish it. Why do they keep asking on TV whether Muthalik must be arrested? We all know he should be locked up to never see the light of day again but repeating the question is not going to make the creaky wheels of the government departments moving. Especially when their viewership is limited and they have no support from the rest of the media world. The public will wait for more noise before they join the bandwagon. The common masses are a lethargic group, aren't we? Isn't that why we sit around and watch when shit happens all around us? 

If they ran the expose in public interest, as a conscientious organization, then they must take complete responsibility and see through to the end of the matter. It appears that Tehelka performed their sting operation, as it is what they do, and HT chipped in with a promise publicity but now do not have the guts to brave politics and get their hands and feet dirty. Everybody wants to tape wrong-doings on video (and God knows there is enough of it in our country) and run it on their news channel, in order to get an edge over the others. The question is, how far are they willing to really clean up the mess? 

Through all this noise, Muthalik has been able to sleep peacefully. All that came of the video (so far) was that he had to give an interview on TV (Headlines Today) where he refuted their claims and called the journalists shameless. Nothing has changed in his life, as a result of the news. As Director General of Police, Mr. Ajai Singh, said there are a number of cases pending against him and this will be looked into as part of those. In short, the grand expose by Tehelka and HT just relegated to the dark corners of an already dust-gathering pandora's box of Mr. Muthalik.

Lee Lounge

Yesterday was  a day of good customer service. Mostly. 

I had bought my husband a pair of jeans from Lee earlier last week. It lasted all of 5 days. A couple of wears later, a small hole formed in the jeans and stray threads loosened up. Bloody hell! I did not pay two thousand bucks for a pair of jeans that would last only 5 days. No way! I took the jeans right back to the store and requested an exchange. I was all set to create a scene, if required, but I would get an exchange from them no matter what! 

First visit. The guy gave me an exchange note, saying they would have to perform a quality check and that he would call me when that is done. Not bad. Atleast he did not say, "but you've already worn it", like the guy at the store where we bought the husband's shoes did some weeks ago. 

Five days later, there was still no call, so we called. Two calls and no response later, I was beginning to get annoyed. Bad customer service, I thought. Last evening, I landed at their store. Without a word and a smile, they gave me a new pair of jeans. They let my husband try it on, in case we needed a different size.  

I always loved Lee for their lovely fit. Now, I like them even more for their customer service. No whining, no excuses, great accountability. Yeah, I'm willing to ignore the week-long wait. 

15 May 2010

ICICI Bank. Khayal Aapka.

Have you seen ICICI bank's Khayal Aapka ads on the telly lately? As a fellow blogger describes aptly, in his blog, where he complains that they don't really live up to the khayal aapka (we care for you) promise

But I thought that the ICICI Khayaal aapka series was well done. There is something truly warm and real about an elderly lady being able to speak as much as she wants to a stranger - a bank employee. And the bank employee listening to her into the wee hours of the night. Banks are about speed and efficiency; so its reassuring to know that you can get a listen. Similarly the other one in the series, shows a child comfortably fooling around at the bank while the mother gets the work done. Simple, warm.

Until yesterday, I would have agreed with him. For one, the customer service of ICICI has not been so great in the last year or so. I've heard similar complaints from colleagues, some of who have closed all their accounts with the bank. Secondly, it seemed a bit too far-fetched. Now look at this ad. Would someone in the bank just sit listening to an old lady yak for hours together?

This morning, I walked in to the CMH Road branch of ICICI bank to close my demat account. I've heard enough about how awful it can be when you visit the bank to close accounts. I reached there early so that I did not have to wait long and I could make it to their other insurance branch to surrender my policy before they close at their half-day timings. As expected, I got the first number on the Demat counter and I was pleased. 

It was with a bit of surprise that I found an old lady at the 'Demat' counter. She was there to buy 20 grams of gold, on the occasion of Akshaya Trithiya. She was waiting for the guy at the counter (I found out later that his name was Uday). As soon as he arrived, she turned hysterical and started panicking that somebody was waiting for her downstairs. "His name is Shrivathsa. He will come now but he will not wait for me. Somebody please go downstairs and tell him to wait. Please!" Uday tried to find her someone to go down and meet her friend but could not, so what did he do? He walked down to the road himself and brought her friend up to meet her. Then our dear aunty took off into a long exchange of pleasantries with Mr. S, loudly while Uday tried to sort out her documents for her. Each time he started to explain something to her, she cut him off and turned to her friend, because she remembered something else to talk about. On one occasion, it was the weather. She tried to bargain with him on the prices of the gold coin. Then she had another discussion with Mr. S about the difference in the rates at various banks. Our customer service executive patiently explained to her how ICICI bank offers the best rates and what documents she had to sign. Throughout the 30 - 40 minutes that the old lady sat there yakking, he patiently listened to her, addressed her queries and concerns, in almost a replay of the khayal aapka ad. 

Even though my work there took only a couple of minutes, I had to wait a good half hour, I did not mind it at all. I was amazed by the care the customer service executive took, of his customer. While three of us waited patiently for the old lady to leave, we did not have to just sit around either. Uday came over to where we were waiting, found out what we were there for and handed out our forms to fill while we waited. When my turn came, I merely had to hand over the form, get his signature and pick up the receipt, all the while he tried to hold a pleasant conversation with me. Okay, he was trying to sell me gold and I told him I was not interested but he was really nice about it. Also, I was already pretty impressed by the calm and pleasant manner in which he carried out his work, so my time at ICICI left me feeling good.

In fact, when another customer had difficulty with getting a token for himself, I got up from where I was and helped him out. Normally, I would give him directions and leave him to help himself but today I was inspired to walk up to the token machine & get the token for the man. Who says that you cannot change the world by example? In fact, the entire experience started off my day pretty well. 

My next stop was at the ICICI Prudential office near Mayo Hall. Here again, excellent customer service. The receptionist was very helpful, the customer service executive (Nandish?) explained to me how I could obtain a duplicate policy document, even told me where and how I could obtain the required paper. Upon his advice, I took off to get the document in order. I returned to the bank, requested the receptionist who very kindly helped copy the duplicate request on the paper I had bought. Back to the service desk (priority bank, hah), filled the forms, paid the fees and off I was. 

I was wondering whether I should mention the not-so-bright boys I met at the branch. Two boys, who found it impossible to understand "Get a blank paper valued at Rs. 200 and xerox this template on it". How hard is that? After I explained to them how they could get the required paper, they left the building and returned a good 20 minutes later. They wanted a copy of my document because the guys at the court did not understand what they wanted and demanded Rs. 650 from them! Did not understand? How hard is that? Really! Do you understand what you want? If they did not understand, what were they charging you 650 bucks for? Really!

Anyway, I refused to give them my now-filled form because I was not comfortable sharing my policy details with them. The employee accompanying them said if I would give it to her, she would photocopy the document for them and wipe out my details with white ink. Hmm. I was not too happy with that either but I let her have it anyway. Good customer service again. As far as the dumb boys are concerned, I mean. As for me, I still have a nagging uneasiness about giving away my updated form to strangers. The only comfort is that I am going to close the account after all. All's well that ends well, I guess. 

The call to the customer care for an updation of my address was smooth and simple too. A day of good customer care experiences, all with ICICI bank.

Cheat The Cheater: Strike A Bargain

photo by Ragaabhinaya

Bargaining is a big thing in India. If you are good at bargaining, you can get anything for a fantastic price. Sadly, it is a talent I do not possess. I would rather go to a 'fixed price' shop and buy something for the quoted price than put myself through the stress of wondering what the actual price of the article might have been, how much I am being overcharged, what the best price of the item would be and the actual ritual of haggling! Phew!

I needed some paper for a bank request this morning. There are only two places where one can get this paper but both were out of my reach. There is also a third place which sells them but for an extra cost, the latter depending on how well you can bargain. In a little shop on the courtyard of a court. 

Near the entrance of this building, there are a number of typists who type up affidavits and similar legal documents. There are lawyers in the designated black coats, smoking, drinking coffee or just standing around waiting for gullible victims they can make a quick buck out of. There is a small shop that sells coffee, tea, snacks (chakkuli, nippattu, etc) and some miscellaneous items (for e.g. smokes). It is here that you can also buy these papers.

As soon as I walked in the gate, I was intercepted by a man in black coat, who looked every bit like a crook. I had no choice but to explain to him what it was that I wanted. After all, I had been told to expect that. With an unabashed tone, he said to me, "It will cost you 400 rupees". Four hundred bucks for something worth 200? Was he out of his mind? I forced myself to remain calm and told him that someone sent me here saying it would cost me 250 rupees only. He insisted that it were not easily available, so I had to pay him an extra 200 rupees to procure it. Two hundred bucks to procure it, my ass!

I put on the best helpless look I could and told to him that I did not have that much money with me. I went on to describe my 'circumstances' to him, telling him that I had to pay a fee of 200 rupees at the bank and I brought just enough money with me to pay him 250 rupees. Clearly, he had seen enough people like me (probably more) to know that I was haggling with him. Initially he refused to budge but when I insisted that I really did not have enough money, he obliged and reduced the cost to 350 rupees. Are you kidding me? Do you not understand "I do not have so much money"? I kept repeating my story to him as many times as it took to get him to down his price further. Also, because I could not think of anything else to say. Also, because nagging and repeating is what I do best. Sic.

Finally, he asked me how much I would pay him. I said, "They told me it will cost only 50 rupees extra sir". He, obviously, knew I was BS-ing him and I knew that he knew but I had to try. Finally, we agreed to a price of 300 rupees. He was looting me by 100 bucks. Sigh. He pointed me to the tiny shop. 

I went up to the shopkeeper, who said to me that he would get it by 11AM. A 20-minute wait. In the meanwhile, I tried to find out if I could get it elsewhere instead but apparently, I could only get it at the post office if not where I was at. My husband was at the post office at the moment, so he tried there. They were working till 3PM but asked him to come back on Monday anyway. Government offices! Sigh! 

So, I returned to the courtyard and waited till 11 'O' clock. I went back to the shop and he said he was still waiting for someone to bring it. The guy said he would call me when it arrived. While I waited, I saw the guy selling papers to a couple of lawyers. I went back to him and asked again. He said he was still waiting and that he would call someone. He fiddled with his mobile for a bit when I did my 'help me' act again, "Please sir, I need to go to the bank before 12 'O' clock or the bank will close". It was 11.25AM. The guy waited another 5 minutes while I stood rooted on a spot in front of his shop. Finally, he left the shop and went to bring it himself. Within 5 minutes, I got my paper. I paid him 200 bucks, trying to see if I could get away without paying extra. He gave me an incredulous look. "Madam, 50 rupees", he said, as I handed him another 50 rupee note. Well, atleast he was not trying to rob me like the lousy lawyer did. 

I needed to photocopy the contents of a template onto the stamp paper. Our man in black coat was right in front of the copier. I made a quick decision. I would not go to him and pay up. I will just slink away. I've already paid 50 bucks to the guy selling me the paper. The bank had a photocopier machines anyway, they could do my document for me. As expected, they did the document for me. I felt proud of myself. I had never in my wildest dreams imagined that if someone tried to charge me 200 bucks, I would be able to bargain and get the same for 50 bucks. Hah! I had cheated the cheater. 

11 May 2010

A Glass-ful of Juice

Like a dutiful wife tending to her invalid husband (pun intended), I opened the fridge to get a glass of juice that my mother had made for him this morning. The juice was in a tall jug with a lid that you only need to lift up, to open. Easy peasy. I got a tall glass from the kitchen, took out the jug and tried to prise the lid open. It would not open. Try as I might but it refused to open.

I put the glass on the top of the fridge (yes, I'm taller than my fridge; by many inches). Now I try to prise the lid open with one hand as I hold the jug in the other hand. I cannot hold it too tight, you realize, for the lid might open and spill the contents. I am very careful that way. Struggle as I might, the stubborn red contraption that holds the juice in the long transparent jar will not budge. 

A few minutes later, plenty of variations of the f-word run through my head, as I look for ways to get the liquid out without spilling it contents or mutilating the jug. I can not say those aloud for fear of ticking off the husband who, by the way, is still waiting for his glass of juice. Patiently, I dare say. 

Finally, I manage it. Don't ask me how, I cannot remember now. I was almost delirious with joy when I got it open. The liquid was not so much liquid after all. It was thick. Like gravy. 'Carrot juice, hmmph', I muttered and proceeded to pour the juice into the glass. 

Now, let me explain that I am a really careful person. I would hate to spill things on the floor, so if I even had the slightest idea that what I'm pouring out of a container could spill, I would be standing over the sink making the transfer. I do that with tea in the mornings. On the rare occasions that I pour tea from the tea-pot to the cup, I mean.

The juice was like thick gravy, so I stood there with the jug and poured it into the glass, over the fridge. The next thing I know, a hug blob of almost-solid 'juice' dropped into the glass, liquid juice came rushing out, filled the glass, overflowed onto the top of the fridge, flowed down into the pockets of the fridge cover, rushed down the front of the door of the fridge, over my hundreds of fridge magnets, on to the floor. Splash! I'm standing there stunned, a glass full of juice in one hand and a jug with barely any juice in the other and plenty of juice all over the dining room. 

My husband cannot stop laughing. Yeah, you think it is funny to? Grrrr. As I glare at him, all he can say is, "You should be happy I am not angry and yelling at you right now". Beat that!

I am not even sure where to start cleaning. I went over to the wash-basin to wet a piece of cloth. There's juice in my hair too. How did that happen? Oh well! I hate carrot juice, I hate carrot juice! How is it the fault of the carrot juice, you're thinking. Well, if it had not created the appearance of being semi-solid in the first place, I would not have tried to pour it into the glass in the dining room. Makes sense? 

Mum walked in, calling out to me, as I was cleaning up. She demands to know what happened. I told her I had spilled carrot juice and explained how it happened. She gives me an incredulous look and says, "It is not carrot, it is melon". Thank you, that explains everything. 

How To: Comment On My Posts

A friend writes to me and says, "Here is my comment to your blog, please post it yourself, in my name".  Yeah, that is possible. I can post a comment in my own blog under the name ABC, XYZ, Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Tom Cruise or whoever. While most people are able to leave a comment (but won't), my dratted blog page won't let those who wish to leave a comment to do just that. How ironic!

Hmm. So I received this email today from a stranger who said he reads my blogs but cannot comment on them. Yes, I have heard that before. You know what? Some people can. So should I just ignore that as I have done in the past? Maybe not. He has been kind enough to tell me how I could fix that too (thank you Mr. PK). So, I clicked on a link and guess what?

As I said, today's email had a link to a forum which tells me how I can fix that. Maybe. There are different solutions that worked (apparently) for different people. Eeow, yeah? Exactly. There is one about how the browser may not support embedded comments, another one about cookies and some such which, clearly, the reader has to fix himself (or herself). I cannot be rude to my faithful readers, so I go about doing what I can do with my settings. Yeah, I'm kissing your ass just so you'll continue to read my blogs. And comment on them. I just tried to fix it comment issue. Please, go on, post a comment! Gee, thanks.

I changed my comments from 'embedded' to 'pop-up'. Then, I remembered how some of us block pop-ups on our computers. I let it be for a few minutes. I mean, people can see that message which says pop-up blocked but allow this if you wish and just stick their comment in. Right? Wrong. Sigh. Some people are simply too lazy to do that. When (IF) they realize that the pop-up did not pop up. Sigh again. So, I went back and have now changed the setting to just take you to another page where you can comment. 

Go on, give it a shot. If you still have problems, click on this link and see if you need to do something. Or write to me and tell me what else I can do. 

Ah, the things one has to do for a blog! For a few measly comments... umm.. uh... I mean... er... mind-blowing comments... er... that... you have been wanting to... er.. post.. eh? Ok then, I'm signing off. Have a lot of cleaning to do... er... after I finish... er... reading this book... I'm... er.. you know... yeah, ok.. I'm going...

Shield Of Justice: Margaret Series 2

I told you that it is a really long email. I've been reading it since yesterday and I am only half-way through! Here is another snippet. It is a classic, I swear! I just had to post it here, it would be a sin not to share it.

You don't know me, right? You're aware, perhaps, that my hair's bright red, you know I've got some Web space, you have a certain suspicion that in quiet moments I speculate on what it must be like to be rubbed all over with a Nastassja Kinski - but that's it. It's not like, say, we've being going out with each other for something over sixteen years and have had two children and decorated a landing together. Given that, let me place before you a scenario: You are leaving the house to go shopping for a number of hours. Just before you go, you poke your face towards me (I, hunched and unblinking, am playing a computer game of the most frantic and intricate kind) and say, 'If it starts to rain, get the washing in off the line.'

Now, you know what's going to happen, don't you? You've never even met me, and yet you know what's going to happen. So if Margret, with whom I've lived for well over a decade and a half, doesn't bother to employ painfully basic foresight to see what's obviously going to happen... well, the Shield Of Justice is mine, I reckon.

It is about things this guy and his girlfriend quarrel about, remember? Now you see why it has been unread for the last year? I'll let you know when I finish. A few months down the line.

You've Flooded The Kitchen, You Idiot: Margaret Series 1

I was reading an email that my husband forwarded to me over a years ago. Don't ask me why it took so long to read it. Oh well, ask me. It is because the email is that long! Coming back to the email...

Among other things, this bit I liked best. Oh, by the way, the subject of the email was 'Things my girlfriend and I argue about'

Margret flooded the kitchen last week. Turned the taps on, put the plug in the sink, and utterly forgot about it (because she'd come upstairs and we'd got involved in an unrelated argument). She goes back downstairs, opens the door and - whoosh - it's Sea World. The interesting thing about this is, if I'd flooded the kitchen, it would have been a bellowing, 'You've flooded the kitchen, you idiot!' and then she'd have done that thing where I curl up in a ball, trying to protect my head, and she kicks me repeatedly in the kidneys. As it was, however, there's a shout, I run downstairs and stand for a beat in the doorway - taking in the scene, waves lapping gently at my ankles - and she turns round and roars, 'Well, help me then - can't you see I've flooded the kitchen, you idiot?'

Yes, go on, say what you are thinking.

Days of Unemployment: The Beginning

Planning a trip, moving to a new place... so exciting! I thought I would have loads to fill my blog pages. On the other hand, there is so much to be done but hardly anything worth writing about. The list of tasks to complete keeps growing every day. As I score 2 items off my list, 4 more spring up. How can there be so much to be done? Sigh!

I cannot help wishing I had more people, helping me raze through the mad pile of tasks ahead of me. If travellers could be classified as the enjoy-the-package kind and the stress-while-planning-stress-while-travelling-stress-till-you're-back kinds, I would most definitely fit in the latter group. So, it is no wonder that I walk around with a pen, paper and headache every waking moment of my days. I dare not not get started on my mood swings. 

As I am typing this, a lady from Vodafone called to inform me that I have not paid my bill for this month yet. A whopping 3 grand (well, almost). Damn her! Got that out of the way. As I turned poorer by a few thousands, it was exciting to hear the 'ding' of a new message on my mobile phone. That means the payment is complete. There is another 'ding'. And another one, in quick succession. Now that's strange. I check my mobile and guess what? More bills! Insurance premium is due. Damn damn damn!!

As if it was not enough that I have a list that grows longer every minute, the expenses seem to going higher and availability of funds retreating as if scared of being spent! I feel like Rebecca Bloomwood of the Shopaholic series now. The more bills I clear, the more that seem to materialize out of thin air. 

I have 15 things on my list today. Writing a blog was not one of them. That's 16, shit! 1 down though, the blog is done. Woohoo! Better get going... 15 more to score off. And some of unlisted tasks. Like feeding the dog. The fishes. Oh dear, I really better go!