Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Taare Zameen Pe

A contemporary movie that is a touching account of a dyslexic child who faces the rat race of growing up in a world that does not understand him.

Darsheel Safary the child actor has performed brilliantly. After watching the movie, I imagined him to be a highly mature actor in the lines of Halley Joel Osment from the 'Sixth Sense' fame. On the contrary, he looked a playful naughty normal child during an interview by a CNN-IBN host. The music is simple and soothing. I just love Shankar Mahadevan and his slow numbers. Aamir Khan performed his role well as an actor/director. Considering the brilliant artist he is, he lived upto those expectations.

I watched this movie during a late night second show starting 9:45 PM after a long tiring day driving 200KM+ through traffic from Pune-Mumbai. I have very little patience to sit through long movies but this was an exception and was wide awake when it got over at 1:00 AM.

I would say that it was time well borrowed from my precious sleep.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Microsoft bots

Microsoft has a very broad base of worker personal computers spread across the Internet. The operating brain of these computers were written by the masters at Microsoft. They have made sure to not lose complete control over their prodigies.

I come to office after setting up background jobs yesterday ready to work on a carefully drafted environment only to find an annoying dialog box that tells me that the computer will be automatically restarted in 5 minutes. There are two buttons "Restart now" and "Restart later". I hit the obvious and continue working only to get the box again in 2 minutes telling me that the computer will be restarted in 5 minutes. After two/three tries, I give up and killed all my tasks/environment to restart the computer.

After the restart, I get a message that a critical update needs to be installed. I check the details and it happens to be Microsoft's genuine software verification tool to prevent piracy! Tell me how critical it is to force me to break my work. If they had issues with their previous tool, they should install it with little collateral damage.

After the install, it automatically takes you to a page that rants about the benefits of using genuine Microsoft software. Yeah the masters do not want to lose control and I get the picture!

Friday, December 07, 2007

First long distance race

I do not know what exactly were the sequence of events but I had registered for the Pune marathon held last Sunday.

Same time last year, my office was abuzz with talk about the marathon. A large contingent took part in the 4.5 Km dream run. They said that it was fun with crowds cheering and bands performing all the way. It was a very hectic period for me and my fiance then with just a couple of months to our marriage. But this time there was no excuse. This was something to be experienced. I opted for the 10 km run. Being a regular at the gym for half a year now, I felt that I was reasonably fit to run that distance with proper training. Me and a couple of colleagues from office ran for a week averaging 3 km a day. It was very hard for me to run beyond that without adequate rest. I felt that I was over enthusiastic to register for the long run. But I was determined to complete it without taking rest in between.

Race day comes and its a chilly December morning around 6 AM when I take my bike and travel 15 km to the location. A friend of mine joined me and we went searching for the start point of our category amidst hoardes of people spanning race, gender and age. We apparently had to submit a form and stamp our number card pinned to our t-shirt. Believe me, it was chaotic. Around 12000 participant had turned up and there was hardly room on the road to stand! We somehow made it to the 3rd row of the start line and finished our formalities only to wait for an hour to hear speeches by the organizers and celebrities who had come to flag the race. The crowd went berserk when Salman Khan stood up the podium. Sunil Gavaskar flagged off our race and we tried to go past the crowd of people who were still awestruck with the celebrities.

After the initial shoving and pushing, I started a slow run and with distance the crowd gradually spread. Within 2 km I started to pant and had serious doubts on completing the race. Around the 3km mark, I was pepped by drummers and people on the streets cheering. The initial part of the race was slightly uphill and tough. It only got easier later. I kept running and lo behold, it was the 9km mark! I did not even realize that I had run this far. My hearbeat increased with anticipation which only made me more physically exhausted. Then did I see the beautiful arch that said finish point for the mens 10km. I crossed it and stopped but my legs wanted to run more. Running had almost become an involuntary action by then and I had to force myself to sanity!

It was my first and a race to remember!!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Gymming in Chennai

After a long break from physical activity and no break from slumber, I decided to hit the gym one evening. Having paid around 10 grand for a year, I felt guilty of utilizing less than a third of it. The out of shape look did not thrill me either. This was around 6 months back and I have been pretty regular since then.

Recently, I had tried out some of the popular gyms in Chennai a day at a time over a period of a week.

The mecca of body building Gold's gym had a center close to my house in Chennai. The movie Pumping Iron starring Arnold featured Gold's gym prominently and was sure worth an experience. I was greeted by a friendly receptionist and the ambience looked promising. They charged me Rs 233/day and had a yearly rate of Rs. 15000. The workout area was on the ground floor with a locker room upstairs. The instruments were from Precor and in good working condition. The coaches let you work on your own if you knew what you were doing! I found the open floor space for stretching/abs pretty less.

Fitness One was bigger and costlier. It has a reputation in Chennai to adhere to the high income super rich class. They charged me Rs. 333/day and had a 3 month rate of Rs. 9000! I did my warmup and stretching on the first floor which had a poor air conditioner. The basement had all the weights and a separate room for aerobics. Half way through my workout, there came a model posing with instruments and a photographer with a lights guy clicking away. I have heard about their strong marketting!

Blue gym was much smaller and charged me Rs. 200/day. They have a monthly package of Rs. 1700. Surprisingly their yearly rate was 1700 * 12 without any discount! One thing that stands out here were the instructors. They were very friendly inspite of me being there just for a day. They corrected me when I was not lifting correctly. Overall I had a very nice and relaxed workout. It did not have some of the instruments that were a part of my schedule though.

Dimension was undergoing some repair work and had a makeshift place with a lot of instruments crammed together. They charged me Rs. 200/hour and had an annual rate of around Rs 12000. They offered me some deals if I was going to enroll with the next one week. I found the place the smallest and most in dearth of dumbells and other instruments. I went on a Sunday morning and so had to wait 15 minutes to just get to a cycle. The instruments were old and needed oiling.

Compared to my ABS gym in Pune, I found the Chennai gyms costlier and smaller. I see that gymming in Chennai has not really reached out to the middle class or it could just be that the cost of living in Chennai is far higher when compared to Pune!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Blood donation debacle

There was a blood donation camp recently near our office and we decided to go for it.

The last time I had donated was around 3 years back in the US. Apart from the 'feel-good' factor, goodies like t-shirts, key chains etc. used to be given to donors. The people handling the process are thorough professionals and make you feel comfortable throughout the process.

We went post noon just after having our lunch. The security guard stopped us near the entrance asking us to enter our names in their registry as our company did not belong to this building. We did so and went to the first floor following directions. It turned out to be an under construction floor with makeshift aluminium paritions and a number of people wandering in a haphahazard way. There were a couple of blood testing areas at the center with long lines leading to them. Towards the end of the area were some people donating blood lying down on iron beds.

We filled our questionnaires only to realize that we needed to fill a pink one if we wanted to stand in the shorter line. There were two different agencies collecting blood in the same hall. We filled the pink one and had our blood pressure checked. We were then asked to go towards a table near the iron beds manned by a compounder. There were many donors cluttered around depositing their questionnaires and collecting empty packets needed to collect blood. This place was clearly understaffed. There were around 7 iron beds and 1 doctor moving across them inserting the needle and pulling it out once done. She also kept multi tasking to the blood testing section. When we were finally noticed by the compounder he asked us to go to another table performing blood tests first. Another long line! When it was my turn my name was entered in the register and directed to another line performing the blood test. Line is a line mathematically but not in reality. Name a trick in the book and it is done. People keep cutting, sneaking and what not.

Then comes the final decisive blow. There is this guy who comes running with blood dripping from his forearm, shirt sleeves and onto the floor. Everybody rushes and tries to stem the blood
flow. We had seen enough. We rush out of the place and vow to never come back to this place again.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

5 nutritious habits of the planet's healthiest countries

Take note of the healthy habits of the countries listed. India figures in the healthy spices list.

I like the following points,

- Try one new type of fruit from your local market each week.

- "hara hachi bu," which in Japanese translates to "eight parts out of 10" and means stop eating when 80 percent full. (Very difficult for me ;)

- Skip the prepared food aisles at the market and choose fresh, whole foods.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Free and fast filing of IT returns

A follow up from my previous post Filing income tax returns Protect your privacy and save the cost of a CA by filing your IT returns online. A colleague of mine recently sent this:

1. Go to
2. Register yourself with your PAN number as your login ID.
3. Download the software listed(its nothing but a PDF file). (You require adobe acrobat reader 7 and above. Filling the form can be done offline also. Only the xml file is required for filing the returns.)
4. Fill it. Have your Form 16 along side you. It has all the information required. And have your check book also because you will need your bank details.
5. At the bottom of the PDF there are 4 buttons Print, Check Form, Generate Bar Code, and Export to xml . After filling, click on Check form and then click on Generate bar code. Finally click on Export to xml.
6. This will generate an xml file. Save it. (Ensure the file name has no special characters or space).
7. Now login to the site and go to the option “Submit returns”.
8. Upload the xml file. You will get an acknowledgment form link “ITR-V”. Download this and save it for reference.
9. That’s it!

Friday, July 20, 2007

More to credit cards in India

HSBC claim to have strong security and privacy measures. They provide a hardware device that generates a one time password. You use that along with a pin number and a username to log into their online banking site. Now here starts my timeline. I apply for a HSBC credit card April 2006 and I promply get one by June 2006. They are one of the most blatant solicitors and have call centers spread across the country calling randomly generated numbers. They keep calling me 5-6 times a week soliciting credit cards even after I received one is a different story altogether. So I did get my card and waited for their security device to arrive after requesting one. After many a calls, I did finally get one after almost 9 months only to be able to log into somebody elses account!

SBI solicits cards not only through the phone but also has agents spread across planet earth. You are somehow drawn into their net and apply for one. Now they need to verify your background. What do they need? Your credit card statements from other banks. They have resigned themselves into believing that they are late starters and every individual has already hooked onto some credit card or the other.

End crib.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Credit cards in India

Some of the major banks that provide credit cards in India are Citibank, HSBC, HDFC, ICICI, SBI and recently Barclays. They operate very differently from their American counterparts. In America, there are credit bureaus that maintain credit history of individuals. The credit history is verified before issuing credit cards. There are concerns of privacy but it is located at some central entities and this information is disbursed to selected organizations. It is a lot more haphazard in India. Credit card companies employ third party call centers to solicit and collect information of individuals. They employ third party background verification agencies who call you and/or send their representatives to verfiy your residence/office.

There was one such individual who had come from ICICI to verify our residence. When asked for an Identification, he retorts that he does not have one and walks away. Three weeks later there is a letter from ICICI saying that they have rejected the application for credit card and do not state any reason.

I had applied for a Barclay's card recently. They promply send their representative who collects your relevant financial documents and you fill their application form. Now the verification starts. First they send their representative to your residence who asks you a bunch of questions. Then they call your cell phone and repeat the process. It does not end here. They send someone to your office. Then call your office phone. It could get worse if you are living in a rented accommodation. They may also call and physically verify your permanent residence! And I thought applying for a passport was tough!!

To be continued....

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Filing income tax returns

Painful as it seems but it is that time of the year when you need to submit Form 16(Tax Deducted at Source salary) and Form 12BA(Perquisites) to the government. But the good thing is that there are Chartered Accountants available in aplenty to file the returns for you. They charge anywhere between Rs.100 - Rs.200 for each return filed. They collect your forms, PAN card copy, bank details and fill up the relevant forms before they file it and bring you an acknowledgment receipt from the government. You save the trouble of doing all these yourself and standing in the line during government working hours.

How trustworthy are these people? I tend to trust them because so many others do. If there are issues, there are others to stand with you and fight for a common cause. We tend to feel safe if you have a crowd by your side. But how many times have a large group of small investors been cheated by fly-by-night finance companies. Digressing, I recently watched a programme on Discovery which showed about the London subway bombers. They showed how people, when in a group, tend to follow the group irrespective of how very different they are. This can lead to radicalization of individuals when otherwise would be leading a simple holistic life.

Coming back to filing IT returns. What is the worst that can happen? Privacy! Your entire financial portfolio can very well be compromised. It is back to the same argument. Would you forsake convenience/ease for security?

I do plan to file my own returns from next year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tennis rhetoric

Questions keeps popping up. Who is the greatest player of all time since the open era? Rod Laver who has achieved the Grand Slam twice, Bjorn Borg who has won the difficult double in French Open and Wimbledon the maximum number of times, Pete Sampras who has the maximum number of grand slam singles titles or is it Roger Federer who is fast catching up on Sampras's record. Here is another one. Will Nadal win a Wimbledon before Federer wins a French? Another. Did Serena Williams fake her injury during her Wimbledon fourth round match against Daniela Hantuchova?

I would call all these sensational media generated hype. The services of an astrolger or a mystic mind-reader with a clean track record are needed to get some of the answers. For others only God can tell.

Monday, June 11, 2007


"Pink is my new obsession" sings Aerosmith. Traditionally it has found more appeal with the fairer sex. But things have changed these days.

I used to shy away from having to do with anything pink. Pink and me, no way! It is only for gals or sissies.

I recently wore a pink shirt during one of my wedding related ceremonies which caught quite some attention, hopefully for the right reasons.

[Here is where my picture with a pink shirt should appear]*

If you are thinking that I have found style in the Ramarajan or Govinda school of fashion, maybe you are right. But sorry I just do not care. I enjoyed my limelight and dared to do the wildest of things.

Wearing the same pink shirt to office..ahem the world is never friendly nor forgiving everytime!

* Naaah..Making a fool of myself does have its limits!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Trip to the US

I was recently at the US for a couple of weeks to attend an engineering summit. It was nostalgic to relive that lifestyle. Work on the weekdays and enjoy your weekends. There are a lot of options to explore over the weekends unlike here in India ranging from sky diving to a visit to the local aquarium. There is always stuff to do for all kinds of people to suit their respective interests.

However it does get very lonely out there. You have very few friends and other like minded people. So inspite of the number of things you could do, you may not find the buddies to accompany you.

Onto other things, I really enjoyed driving a Hyundai Elantra all over the place while there.

One of my bosses there told me that we should be driving on the right side and not wrong side of the road here in India ;)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tale of two countries

I was just reading PH's post when I decided that I need to pen some of my own thoughts on this topic.

First a little bit of a background. I did my masters in the US and worked there for a year before deciding to move back to India. Now its been slightly over two years and I still keep getting this question once in a while "Why did I come back to India?" To put things in perspective there were many reasons of which I will delve into the most significant ones.

1) "I was fed up living there trying to get a relevant job": 2003/2004 were the years when recession was just starting to loose steam. But there was a big anti-India anti-H1B wave back then. There were many interview calls to fill limited positions. Foreign candidates were the last ones to be considered.

2) "Missing my loved ones back home": It had been almost 2 years since I last visited them and would have been another year had I secured a job just then.

3) "Hiring in India": It was shooting northward. Gone were the days when trivial jobs and backend office work were being done in India. Good companies were setting up their R&D labs in India aplenty. The scenario looked very rosy.

Here I am now happily married enjoying my work...touch wood! But once in a while I look back at the country I studied last, met a whole lot of great friends, my very nice colleagues at my former work place, the american way of life and realize how much I miss it!

PH says "Grass appears greener on the other side" and I completely agree with her.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I am alive

So I am finally posting after more than a year now. Sometimes you get very enthusiastic when its all new and then laziness creeps in. Thats exactly what happened to me!

I am still thinking of what to write. Maybe it should be short and simple. I may need some motivation to continue posting or maybe the look of some of my words on the page would inspire me to carry on. So excuse me if you took the trouble of reading absolutely nothing.

I am back and would start bothering you to keep visiting my blog.