Monday, December 31, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
we drove down to palas resort which is on the mumbai-goa highway (just a little before nagothane - check the map here) on saturday morning. (we were planning to start by 7.30 am but ended up leaving only by 9.30! tanu will never let me forget about this for life!)
we had a good time at the resort. the pics say it all. spent time in the pool, playing cricket, badminton, football, cards, dancing, watching 'the incredibles', lazing around.... and most importantly stuffing ourselves at every possible opportunity.
on monday (24th dec) we drove to kolad which is about 45 minutes away from the resort and spent a day at the z-bac adventure facility. everyone, including the kids, rappelled, rafted, climbed rocks, made pots and had a whale of a time!
the punch-line for this trip was 'jaana padta hai!' (one has to go!) people had to use this line whenever they had to excuse themselves from the group (for reasons i can't state here, since this is a family blog) or when they had to try out the adventure activities after the kids took the lead!
palas resort is named after the nearby village called palas, which in turn is named after the 'palas' tree. this tree has leaves with 3 large segments and these dried leaves are used to make 'patravalis' or plates.
this trip also showed us that -
1. food tastes much better when we are really really hungry!
2. kids are much tougher than we make them out to be.... they need more exposure to nature.
3. roughing it out occasionally is good for all of us... it helps put things in perspective.
4. fear is in our minds... and we normally transmit these fears to our children.
5. children overcome their fears quite well if they are left on their own. they get inspired by the other kids.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
no i am not going to shout myself hoarse that this is grave injustice and that the airline should refund the money. nor would i say that the passengers deserved such treatment for reportedly being abusive and violent with the airlines staff.
i think the truth, like it mostly does, lies uncomfortably somewhere in between.
(i recently had a similar experience on my way back from delhi. waiting for your flight in delhi airport after your security check is a very depressing experience as compared to any other airport in the country.)
- the airline for some inexplicable reason chooses not to keep the passengers updated on the status of the flight. why don't they realise that passengers would be less upset if they were told about the problem upfront?
- start pouncing on the poor ground staff as if they have purposely delayed the flight and are taking perverse pleasure in agonising the passengers!
- start crowding around the gates demanding to know what is happening, when they will be asked to board, will they get some refreshments, will they get a refund, will they be accommodated on another flight, etc?
- demand that the airline charter another aircraft because the aggrieved person who is making this brilliant suggestion has to reach his destination to meet some other equally important person at any cost (as long as he is not bearing the cost!)
- threaten the afore-mentioned ground staff with dire consequences and demand that the top honcho of the company appear in front of them right now and give them an explanation for this mess.
- or threaten to drag the airline to court for the mental torture and trauma caused and the irreversible damage caused to their delicate psyche! (how about the poor staffer who's wondering what sins he had committed in his past lives to land this job!)
- and the smarter ones are trying to negotiate free life-time flights, upgrades to business class, use of the vip lounge, etc. to compensate for the inconvenience.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
i don't know if its only i who's going through this experience. but i've been on the receiving end of the drastic and perceptible deterioration of quality of service in my mobile phone service. and this has been noticed ever since vodafone took over hutch in india.
the problems range from :
1. sudden absence of signal.
2. regular dropping of calls (at least 8-10 times a day).
3. poor voice quality (and no, i have not changed my handset recently).
4. and all this obviously resulting in higher billing amounts every month.
but i must mention here that this has been my experience in mumbai (and also when i travelled out of mumbai to delhi). i am not sure if others have had similar experiences.
if there are more of you out there who are facing a similar problem, here's a simple plan that i am putting into action.
1. i am writing a complaint mail to the following address - firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to the nodal officer whose email id is provided on their website. the url is - www.vodafone.in. (i tried submitting the same complaint through their online feedback form but with no luck.)
2. the text of the mail is -
I've been a Voadfone client since many years now (right from when it used to be Maxtouch, to Orange, to Hutch to Vodafone now).
My number is 9820190487.
Ever since Vodafone has taken over Hutch I have noticed a perceptible deterioration in quality of service. This includes -
1. Sudden absence of signal.
2. Regular dropping of calls (at least 8-10 times a day).
3. Poor voice quality (and no, I have not changed my handset recently).
4. And all this obviously resulting in higher billing amounts every month.
With this mail I am writing to communicate to Vodafone that I AM EXTREMELY UNHAPPY WITH THE DETERIORATING QUALITY OF SERVICE!
I hope that :
1. You will acknowledge my mail.
2. You will let me know how you propose to improve the quality of service.
3. There will be a significant improvement in service standards.
3. you can replace the number and name with your number and name.
4. mark a copy of your mail to me at email@example.com.
5. i then propose to collect all your mails and send a consolidated mail to the vodafone india ceo. (if anyone has his email address please send it to me.)
i am sure such collective action will get their attention, and hopefully get them to act promptly and fix this problem.
please send out your mail by the 20th. i will keep you all posted about further developments.
Friday, December 07, 2007
(this post was suggested by my brother.)
i don't know about you, but i remember the days when a television set used to be a big luxury. where i grew up, it used to be as rare as a 'vertu' phone is today, maybe more so :-)
and tv watching used to be a social event. those were the days of black & white tv and a solitary 'doordarshan' channel. and the programs were beamed only for a limited number of hours each day. and weekends were the high points when we all trooped to the houses of one of the more 'fortunate' ones to take in the weekly dose of a regional language film on saturdays, a children's english film on sunday mornings and a hindi film on sunday evenings.
it was not a rare sight to see an entire family visit another family so that they could watch tv together. and the news break was an occasion to have some tea and snacks too :-)
and there was no mtv, can you imagine??? only some rare telecasts of the grammy nominees or an occasional collection of the european 'top of the pops'! with artists in sequined dresses performing in clubs with disco lights!
those were the days of star trek, and fireball xl5, and 'go kart go' and lucy ball. and buniyaad, of course :-)
and we used to lap all this up so eagerly. each film or episode would be discussed at length in schools and playgrounds.
but today we have a surfeit of channels offering you everything you could ever possibly want. but we don't find anything worthwhile to watch. and we don't even have any excuses to visit neighbours for a movie and some tea and snacks. we prefer doing this in secondlife! :-)
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
i am reproducing the entire article verbatim here. i would like you to read it and tell me if you got it? i didn't.
Browse, chat, confer — all on the same Web page!
AHMEDABAD: All your favourite Web sites will soon be available on a single platter. Personalised, only for you. So, whether it’s checking latest stock market tips online, discussing it with your analyst friend through a chat tool or taking global cues and holding live video conferences, everything will be available on a single Web page. And that too without any downloads but by simply registering on a Web site. What’s more, the new tool will also enable phone, mobile and web users collaborate on a single platform.
('quick bytes' section on page 5 of the economic times of 3rd decemeber 2007.)
Friday, November 30, 2007
(came across this post on india uncut which prompted me to write this post.)
i recently came across a news article about someone we know being stopped by cops when he was driving to lonavala. though the papers were in order and he had a valid license, the cops accused him of being a private taxi operator without a permit and wanted him to pay up. when he refused they then found that he hadn't renewed his puc license. when they realised that he was a tough customer and one his co-travellers was calling up various people they drove off with his license.
and then there was this time when i spent a few hours in a police station when a friend and i were rounded up by the cops. our crime was walking in a group on the road during holi. we had to pay a fine to be let off. later i heard that the cops have a target of people they have to round up on days like holi.
but i've also had my share of 'good cop' experiences. the most memorable one being an incident at the delhi airport.
i was carrying my hp laptop in a bag which looked like exactly like what at least a dozen other people were carrying. after the x-ray scan in security i noticed my bag was missing from the x-ray machine belt. and there was another unclaimed laptop bag of a different brand. i reported this to the cops on duty.
one of the cops then mentioned that he recollected a man in a light pink checked shirt picking up a laptop bag which he felt was not his. he then came along with me to help identify the person in the large busy concourse. and he managed to identify the passenger too, who happened to have picked up my laptop bag my mistake.
i was completely dumbfounded and thoroughly impressed.
Monday, November 26, 2007
a friend recently shared this very interesting observation. and it hit me when i thought about it. and i'm sure it will hit you as well :-)
we were talking about the recent trend of many recently married couples who willingly choose not to have children or to have only a single child. earlier i had written a post about the benefits of having at least two kids - the second solution!
my friend then said that we will soon have a significant number of kids who will not have brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, no brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law, no co-brothers or co-sisters, and so on and so forth! and as this trend continues it will be even more stark.
most kids will only have theoretical knowledge about such relationships and will not be able to understand what these actually mean in real life. in fact, over time, they would start wondering whether such people and such relationships actually existed!
i guess it would be similar to our understanding of kings and queens and dinosaurs too!?
such kids would lose out on the joys of visiting relatives, vacationing with cousins, the scores of marriages in the family which are usually an excuse to fix some more marriages and also have a feast with good food and the company of near and distant family for a comfortably short period of time!
i wonder what fond memories the children in the future would have
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
my wife and i never let go of an opportunity to pat ourselves on our back when we see one of our kids do something which we believe is a trait they have inherited from the 'self-back-patter'! nor do we miss an opportunity to rib the other party whenever there is some embarrassing or awkward trait noticed in our kids and are convinced that we ourselves had nothing to do with that particular trait. and we all know where that came from and all that!
well here's a bizarre one where both my wife and i have the same view, one of those extremely rare moments :-)
my daughter is a 'mosquito magnet', just like i am!
before she was born, if there was one solitary mosquito which was in the mood for some human blood sampling it would unfailingly find its way to some exposed part of my anatomy and proceed to go on a binge on my vital body fluid! the said mosquito would choose to ignore the presence of an entire brood of family members present in the vicinity at the same instant. i used to console myself by claiming that i was a 'pure blood' which even the discerning mosquitoes vetted! ('pure blood' of what species, don't ask me!)
and now i've noticed that our daughter is a better mosquito magnet than i can ever aspire to be. the solitary mosquito now makes a bee-line (shouldn't that be 'mosquito-line'?) for her. that explains the ever-present tube of mosquito repellent in our household.
till recently i thought there must have been something unique about me which makes us more attractive to the animal kingdom. (nonetheless, i would have preferred doves and cats and other representatives of the animal kingdom expressing their allegiance to a royal personage than just some measly mosquitoes!)
now medical science throws some light on this mystery. scientists believe that genetics account for about 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. people with concentration of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface; people who produce excess of certain acids like uric acid; these are the people mosquitoes like best :-)
researchers are still trying to pinpoint what compounds and odours people exude that might be attractive to mosquitoes.
so next time the mosquitoes prefer you over the others in your company - blame your genes!
p.s. here's an interesting fact - mosquitoes have been around for more than 170 million years. basically tells us that they are not going to disappear in a hurry :-)
Saturday, November 17, 2007
i stumbled upon this news item on the bbc news site - Doomsday vault begins deep freeze.
engineers are building the svalbard international seed vault in a mountain on one of the islands of svalbard, norway, where they will store seeds from all known varieties of key food crops by freezing them at -18C. built to hold about 4.5 million seed samples the vault aims to safeguard the world's crops from future disasters such as nuclear wars, asteroids or dangerous climate change.
the concept is amazing and i could think of somre more such vaults for :
- animals/ birds/ insects
... a post-modern noah's ark of sorts!
but a few questions come to mind -
1. what if nobody survives doomsday to pull out the seeds from the vault?
2. will there be any arable land left for use?
Monday, November 12, 2007
after a series of high-profile drunk driving cases, some of which resulted in deaths of pedestrians, the mumbai police had launched a campaign and passed an act to address this problem.
according to the official website of the mumbai traffic police more than 9000 cases of drunken driving have been registered since jan '07 and fines amounting to more than Rs.1.5 crore (15 million) have been collected.
and this had a huge impact on the sale of alcohol in mumbai. there were reports in the media about beer sales dropping by more than 3 lakh litres and imfl (indian made foreign liquor) dropping by one lakh litres in september '07 itself.
why am i talking about all this here?
last night on my way back home after a late dinner i noticed a man, who was obviously drunk, on a motorcycle with his wife and son weaving dangerously on the road. he stopped at a traffic signal and after a few lurches collapsed on the road. his wife and young son were also thrown off the bike. fortunately this happened when the bike was stationery and all three escaped unharmed. but i shudder to think what would have happened if he had fallen while they were speeding on the highway with vehicles zipping by at break-neck speeds.
what is tragic in most cases of drunken driving is that most of the victims are innocent pedestrians or co-passengers.
the dna campaign for responsible driving is very apt - 'die for your country, not by drinking & driving'.
and the manickchand ad campaign capitalised on this high awareness by launching their bottled water with their brilliant tag-line - 'drink and drive!'
Sunday, November 11, 2007
this was surely one of the biggest wars in india in recent history! both oso (om shanti om) and saawariya released on the same day).
and the battle lines were clearly drawn weeks ago. and both camps pulled all stops. no trick in the book were spared. for the first time blogs were used to build up the tempo. and all radio and tv channels have been airing viewers' initial reactions for the last two days. (i heard that there was a special 7.30 am screening of saawariya at one of the multiplexes... another first!)
i happened to watch oso on friday itself, thanks to a treat from bil (bro-in-law). here are a few thoughts ...
- quite disappointing.. considering the hype. (if you look at it shorn of all the hype n hoopla, then its quite a fun, mindless kind of film).
- deepika adds a freshness to the film but has some way to go before she makes her mark.
- i think it will do better than saawariya (srk power and the 'timepass' quality will prevail!).
but for me the winner, without any doubt, was 'jab we met'! we happened to watch it earlier today. and it was miles ahead of oso in terms of screenplay, direction and production values. kareena literally carried the film on her shoulders. and even though both the story-lines were hardly original, 'jab we met' managed a much better job at the retelling.
(and the kids thought that 'tara rum pum' was much better than oso! well, there you have it!)
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
one of the most conspicious things that hits you in your face in most cities in india is the number of hoardings all around. you see hoarding of all shapes and sizes. (no, most of them are rectangular actually.) on bus-stop shelters, road-sides, across the roads, on buildings, on boats, on airplanes, on train coaches, on vehicles, on helium-filled balloons, and even mobile ones!
the number of hoardings have been reduced to a large extent in places like delhi, thanks to the state government strictures. but i guess in cities like mumbai, the income generated from these hoardings is too lucrative for the municipal corporation to ignore.
have you noticed how the hoardings change over a period of time depending on various factors like :
- the economy - remember when most of the hoardings in cities used to talk about equity ipos? and then there was a phase when many insurance companies and mutual funds shouted at the top of their voices from the hoardings. and now as the real estate boom simmers we see many hoardings for residential and commercial projects all across the country.
- trends - there was a time when all we saw around us were hoardings of mobile phones and mobile operators vending their fare. and now all we see are hoardings announcing various tv soaps, tv contests, sporting events (only cricket actually), and reality shows. and i can't for the life of me remember any of them except for the 'biggest loser wins' hoardings.
- hoarding war - when dna was launched in mumbai almost all hoardings were taken over by them. this was then soon followed by a series of campaigns through hoardings by the times group. it was war out there!
- launches - this could be anything ranging from films (its oso vs saawariya now), to shampoos, to tv channels, to music albums, to malls, to foods and more.
- regional bias - have you noticed the hoardings for dhotis (mundus) & set sarees in kerala? and the numerous gold shops/ souks. or the gigantic hoardings in chennai of actors which overshadow the film they are acting in?
you can feel the pulse of india through its hoardings! (personally i find them an eyesore... especially the temporary ones put up by political parties during festivals, anniversaries, birthdays.... any occassion is an excuse enough!)
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
i came across this article (actually an interview) of 'why indians are privately smart and publicly dumb' based on a book by the same title authored by v. raghunathan. (thanks for the link leya.)
in this interview the author talks about why indians are reasonably smart in private but publicly are dumb. one of the traits he describes is our 'low trustworthiness'. according to him we indians tend to believe that if we do not co-operate then we benefit more.
our normal mode of thinking goes something like this -
'what if i co-operate and the other person doesn't? then i end up a loser.
but if the other person co-operates and i don't, then i win.
similarly if the other person doesn't co-operate and i too don't co-operate, then i am not worse off.'
and then based on this infallible logic, we choose not to co-operate.
this is reflected everywhere around us in all our actions - in the queues we disregard, the traffic signals we jump, the litter we throw on the streets (while our homes are spic and span).... i could go on and on :-)
according to the author, the line of thinking we should ideally be adopting should be something like this -
'what if i co-operate and the other person doesn't? then i end up a loser.
but if the other person co-operates and i don't, then i win.
similarly if the other person doesn't co-operate and i too don't co-operate, then i am not worse off.
but if the other person also is thinking like me then he too will choose not to co-operate (and given that the other person is also an indian you can be sure he will think along these lines!)
this means that both of us would be losers.
but if i co-operate and the other person also decides to co-operate then both of us win. and this is the best option for both of us.'
now this might sound like an idealistic situation. but if you think about it, this is the most practical option. but how do we get to this state of existence? how do we get people to understand that cooperation and not defection is the best option available to us at any point of time? this actually means taking a big leap of faith and drastically changing our outlook about people.
is that about to happen? not in a hurry, i think. but i agree with the author, v raghunathan, when he says that possibly with the improvement of the economy and increase in education people will replace defection with cooperation.
Friday, November 02, 2007
but don't worry, its not about your 'aspirations'. nor is it about the contents of your dreams which i propose to analyse. and i am definitely not going to share the details of my dreams and scandalise you in the bargain! :-)
have you noticed that, irrespective of what we dream about, we dream in a particular language? and we normally dream in the language we think in.
now you might say that dreams don't have any language. its only a series of images passing through our sub-conscious mind. but by that logic everything we see in our waking state is also only a series of images. in fact, if we think about it, everything we think about in our waking and dream states are composed of nothing but thoughts. our dreams are also, therefore, a series of thoughts. (for more about thoughts read 'bundle of thoughts')
and we think our thoughts in a chosen language. and for some, this is not necessarily the language you speak in. some of us think in one language and then translate these thoughts into another language before we speak. and therefore, the language we speak most comfortably in is the language we think in. even if you are a multi-lingual person, you would still be thinking in one default language.
and the most amazing thing is that we even see objects in a particular language! because whenever we see anything we always label it and then use these labels to relate, recognise, understand and experience the objects and events revolving around those objects.
imagine watching a 'rose'. in your mind you see a 'rose', if your default language of thought is english. alternately your mind would see a 'gulab' or a 'roja-pu' or a 'rosa-pu' or any other such name depending on your own language of thought!
but then, these are all my own random thoughts (in english :-) ). how about you? what's your language of thought? what language do you dream in?
Monday, October 22, 2007
we are all familiar with the phrase 'light spilled out' but not 'darkness spilled out'. this implies that light moves into areas where there is no light and drives away darkness, so to speak.
darkness can never drive away light. darkness cannot survive where there is light.
the same is also applicable to knowledge.
- knowledge drives away ignorance.
- ignorance cannot survive with knowledge.
- knowledge spreads ... not ignorance. (though rumors tend to spread like wild-fire :-) i believe rumors are a version of the truth!)
- we are never comfortable with ignorance (though we do say ignorance is bliss!)... knowledge never feels like a burden.
and now when you apply this to happiness,
- whenever the cause of sorrow is removed we become happy... it shines forth from within us.
- sorrow departs from within us and what remains is happiness.
- sorrow can be spread but you don't find any eager buyers for it. happiness can be spread and nobody turns it away.
- and happiness is never a burden... unlike sorrow.
according to vedanta, knowledge and happiness are aspects of our true nature. and anything which is our true nature will always come naturally to us. we will never shun it... it is never a burden.
Monday, October 15, 2007
in the reckless days of my youth this could be attributed to my pecuniary condition. but in the recent past it was only because of the fact that i was caught unawares (my wife would be more precise and call it 'carelessness').
but i am sure it is possible to survive a day in any city, like in mumbai, with only small change in your pocket. it is quite a novel experience actually and i would strongly recommend this adventure to most of you who haven't tried anything like this in the recent past.
here's what you could do with to 100 rupees and still survive in mumbai -
1. have bun-maska and chai (bread, butter and tea) for breakfast at any irani restaurant - Rs. 10
2. bus ride to office - Rs. 5
3. thali at local udipi restaurant - Rs. 35
4. cutting chai - Rs. 3
5. sandwich or bhel at roadside stall - Rs. 10
6. auto rickshaw ride to train station - Rs. 15
7. train ticket (second class) - Rs. 5
8. auto ride home - Rs. 20
i know, i know... it adds up to more than 100. i happened to have some loose change in my wallet!
but the point i am making is that many of us lead a protected life-style where we never manage to experience the other side of the city. and the majority of the people are on the other side. over time we get too far detached from the sweatier side of our daily lives. and we also protect our kids from this 'other side'.
i think it is a good idea to occasionally expose them to the other side so that they can appreciate whatever they take for granted in their lives. take them out by public transport (bus, train, auto, etc.), let them play in a public park, let them visit the local vegetable market, eat out in a small udupi restaurant, and all that.
apart from teaching them valuable lessons in life, it can be a fun-filled, memorable adventure for the entire family.
try it out!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
the universal language for emotions is music. and there is no person on this earth who can say that music does not touch her. if it doesn't then she is either dead or soulless.
wikipedia defines music as "Music is an art form consisting of sound and silence expressed through time." but one of the best definitions of music i have come across is here - basking in the light - IV.
have you noticed how we identify with specific songs/artists/lyrics/music? it reflects our moods and our growth. our favorites change over time. and sometimes we keep going back to the same songs even after ages.
and some songs catch the imagination of an entire nation/ age. they literally become anthems for the generation. whether it is 'hotel california' by the eagles or 'we don't need no education' by pink floyd or 'chak de india'.
i remember when i was in school and college, i used to get deeply moved by some songs which would reflect my state of mind at those times. especially when we are going through confusions or phases of infatuation or frustration. (they mostly used to go hand-in-hand :-) )
the beatles used to be one of my favorites in school. and i used to feel that they used to have a song for every mood that i went through. they even had one when i had a bad toothache - 'here i stand with head in hand, turn my face to the wall'. though i am sure that's not what they had in mind when they wrote the song :-) but that's the point. we see our thoughts and feelings getting reflected in certain songs and we identify with them. we feel as though the song was written specifically for us at that point of time.
but i also cannot understand how some people who like music get so focused on a particular genre that they are just not able to appreciate any other. and many of these are people who have a far subtler sense of music appreciation than people like me. even among indian classical music enthusiasts, i am sure you have met purists of hindustani or carnatic who just cannot stand the other form.
i think such a person's heart is just not large enough!
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
many of you who have been to matheran know it is a popular (and therefore overcrowded) weekend getaway from mumbai and pune. and chances are that 7 out 10 people you meet in matheran are gujjus! (thanks to the gujjus!)
but our team of more than 50 people from office had one of the most memorable annual trips in the recent past. and the reason for this was the adventure activities and games that we had organised for the first time.
i personally did rappelling, valley crossing and jhummering (rope climbing) for the first time. and so did my wife and prasann (my son).
here's a link to the few pics that i managed of this trip.
so, all in all, a very enjoyable and fun weekend was had by all.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
we did the usual tourist haunts including - chokhi dhani, hawa mahal, city palace, and amber fort. and we indulged in gastronomical sins of the highest order by pigging out at chokhi dhani, rawat mishthan bhandar, lakshmi misthan bhandar, etc.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
i think trains have an almost magical quality of making us dream and think of adventure and the unknown. it is also very romantic for many of us with visions of trains chugging into the setting sun! (i think i got a bit carried away there :-) )
i consider myself very fortunate that i have been exposed to things which many children today can only dream of. the only steam engines my son knows are 'thomas and friends' which he watches on the computer or on tv. (his grandfather once made his his day when he managed to get him to sit in an electric engine with the driver at panvel station while we were waiting for our train to arrive.)
but i am sure our kids will also be saying the same things when they have had kids and are similarly reminiscing about their childhood. i wonder what memories would they be cherishing?
for those of you who are interested in trains and related pictures, you can view this album - trains & more (http://picasaweb.google.com/ckguruprasad/TrainsAndMore)
another very good resource is - IRFCA - The Indian Railways Fan Club
and if any of you have similar fond memories you would like to share with the rest of us, please send in a mail or post your comment.