Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Liebster Award - Cute!

I have been guilty of being a rather inconsistent blogger for sometime now. But recently, having decided that I had procrastinated long enough, I started writing again. I was one post down when a message was left for me that I was nominated for the 'Liebster Award' by Senorita who blogs at Tattva. It made me smile, it sounded cute, though I had no clue what the award was about. As I read her post, I realized it was all that and more.

Thank you Senorita for the honour. :)

Liebster Award
(pic courtesy: Google Image search)

So, what's a Liebster Award?

The Liebster Blog Award is given to upcoming/new bloggers or who have less than 200 followers. The 'Liebster' word is of German origin and means sweetest/ kindest/ nicest/ dearest/ beloved/ lovely/ kind/ pleasant/ valued/ cute/ endearing/ welcome...

 How does it work? 
  1. Link back to the persons blog who has nominated you and convey thanks for giving the award.
  2. Answer all questions posted by the nominator.
  3. Nominate 10 more bloggers whom you feel are deserving of more subscribers; you pass the award on to them.
  4. Create 10 questions for the nominees.
  5. Contact the nominees and let them know that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award!

My answers to the questions posed by Senorita who nominated me:

1. Where does your blogging inspiration come from?
Real life (clichéd as it is, but true).

2. Which cartoon character do you relate to and why?
Hobbes (from Calvin & Hobbes). I wish it was Calvin but I don't think I am wicked enough :D
3. If you were given 1 lakh rupees to shop in an hour to purchase 5 items, what would be your shopping list?
(i) A state of the art music system
(ii) a good camera (DSLR)
(iii) Books (can't be specific here, but I can spend a lot of money on them, trust me!).
I am rather over budget here already, so maybe I should stop :)
4. Which one is your pic Friends/How I met your Mother/the Big Bang Theory?
Big Bang Theory, definitely! It's got some really good, clever dialogues & great comic timing. Friends comes really close though.
5. Funniest moment of your life?
The day I boarded a flight in sort of a daze. Then I doubted myself and actually went up to the stewardess to ask her if the flight was headed to xyz city. I wasn't sure if I was on the right flight!
6. Price of onions per kg in your city?
Err...I think about Rs. 75/-
7. Equities, Real Estate or Fixed income.. which one and why?
Real Estate - it's a one time paper work (more or less). And guaranteed to succeed in the long run.
8. Black or white?
Both - So that would make it grey? :)
9. One holiday destination that you never wanna go back again?
I don't think I have had a never again experience. Maybe a few hotels, but never a destination 
10. Your Favourite book?
Lord of the Rings

My list of blogs nominated for the Liebster Award are:











I apologise if I have not fulfilled the criteria of choosing the ten blogs very diligently. It wasn't easy. The definition of followers being rather loose - some had listed followers and some none. Therefore, I have picked the ones I think match the criteria but more importantly, these are the ones I loved reading / going through for various reasons - the free flowing verse, the eloquent photographs, bringing stories to life or for being simply funny :) I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

My questions for the nominees are:

1. Three things without which you would never step out of the house?

2. Writing a blog post or reading another's post?

3. Backpacking/ adventure holiday/ luxury trip - if money was not a constraint which would you enjoy the most?

4. Favourite genre of movie - comedy/ sci-fi/ fantasy/ horror/ romance (a.k.a chick-flick)/ biographies?

5. Photographs as memories or memories only?

6. Skydiving/ Bungee Jumping/ Zip Lining/ Paragliding - which one would you prefer to try out?

7. If you had the chance to take the place of a celebrity for a day, who would you be and why?
(Sorry, Mother Teresa and working towards world peace are out of the running here.)

8. Favourite musician/ band?

9.  A holiday memory that you remember vividly?

10. One definite bucket list destination to travel to in this life?


P.S. Go visit Senorita's blog at Tattva (linked here to my favourite post), if you haven't already.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Having been an introvert all my life, it's been an uphill task trying to convince people I am OK being this way. It's not an affliction or a disease or something that I want to change about myself. How many times have I had to hear - "take your nose out of that book"; "go play with the kids (neighbourhood) outside"; "why are you so silent, are you unwell?".... Aarghhhhhh!!!

I don't think that I am the shy, wallflower types either. I know I can hold my own when I want to and can fight for something that I truly, deeply believe in. Somehow, I doubt anyone who has known me all these years wants to accept the fact, they have just resigned themselves to the fact that I am like this only.

I happened to come across the comic series titled 'Introversion' by Luchie (an artist, comic lover/ creator) based in Belgium via Leaping Windows (a library-cum-café that stocks only comics in Mumbai/ Bangalore).

Anyway, the comic so spectacularly illustrates exactly what I have been telling friends and family for years. When I first read it, the series resonated with me... totally!  

OK, so I get it that you get it...so without much further ado, here's the entire set. (Incase, you're unable to read the print here, please read it at Luchie's blog)

Luchie http://heyluchie.tumblr.com/post/53461087106/my-comic-introversion-is-finished-please-go-to
Page 1
Luchie http://heyluchie.tumblr.com/post/53461087106/my-comic-introversion-is-finished-please-go-to
Page 2

Luchie http://heyluchie.tumblr.com/post/53461087106/my-comic-introversion-is-finished-please-go-to
Page 3

Luchie http://heyluchie.tumblr.com/post/53461087106/my-comic-introversion-is-finished-please-go-to
Page 4

Luchie http://heyluchie.tumblr.com/post/53461087106/my-comic-introversion-is-finished-please-go-to
Page 5

Luchie http://heyluchie.tumblr.com/post/53461087106/my-comic-introversion-is-finished-please-go-to
Page 6
Thank you, Luchie, for reading my mind (& life) like this :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Laptop woes

wicked witch Apple
Everyone who is hooked onto the online world and has even a teeny, weeny interest in technology, has probably seen an Apple product and gone 'WOW'. I was one such person. But, unfortunately, for the early part of my adult life, they were far beyond my reach. Quite unaffordable. Until iPods came to India. My first buy was an iPod and it was simply awesome, the design, the sound... I could go on.

Boosted by my confidence in Apple's promise of good quality & great design in products, I saved up enough to buy a Macbook Pro. It was a conscious decision to pay at least 40% more than a regular PC. Oh...the lure of a well positioned brand! This was in early 2011. Bringing it home was pure joy and awe. I simply loved it the functionality, the screen clarity, etc etc.

Exactly a week later, all of this goodwill towards Apple had sunk down into the depths. One of the keys (Esc) on the keyboard snapped off. It looked like a simple repair, so I went online and logged a complaint with the Apple tech support guys (based in Singapore, incidentally) as well as took it to the service center (outsourced). I wasn't very worried then, as the machine was still under warranty (a week... duh, what could possibly go wrong?) except for thinking "so much for Apple quality".

At the service center the technician dropped the bomb. He looked at the keyboard and told me the entire keyboard would have to be replaced as the keys don't come as separate units. Also, that it can't be taken under the warranty as it looks like damage via usage. A new keyboard cost Rs. 18,000!!! All my protests fell on deaf ears. Then he said, if tech support in Singapore gave them a go ahead I could get the keyboard replaced under warranty.

I started following up with Apple tech support, who in turn constantly asked me to go back to the service center. This to-ing and fro-ing with me like the poor ball in a tennis match went on for about a week (patience is a virtue, or so I had been told). Finally, it seemed like all of us had reached a stalemate. I was all set to file a complaint with the consumer courts when a friend introduced me to a contact within Apple, an employee that is. As a last ditch effort, I wrote to him and also mentioned that I was so sick of both Apple & it's outsourced service center that I was planning to go to consumer court. He promptly got into the problem (even though it wasn't his role really. Nice guy that he was.) and in 3-4 days, my machine had been restore, changed keyboard and all, as good as new. All this saga in the first month of my having bought a brand new Apple Macbook Pro.

Cut to two years later. During this time, I had the most pleasant user experience with the Mac. I really loved the way it worked. I would use it only over weekends mostly as during the week I had a regular PC at the office to work on. Usage on weekday evenings was limited.

Around Jun 2013, I had carried the Mac on a relatively long holiday where I hoped to use it to be connected to the external world. I noticed that the machine would boot on its own despite being properly shut down. Initially, I thought I had been mistaken. But when this happened more than once, I had to let the battery drain out completely and leave it in that state, not to use it at all during the holiday. One cannot begin to imagine the withdrawal symptoms I had, my only device was the phone which was erratic at best due to the mobile network. Soon, I returned home and started using my Mac in the normal way and it seemed to be working fine. It almost seemed like the Mac needed a holiday too.

Three days later, once I got back home, to my complete horror, the Mac refused to start. It just blanked out. I ran back to the service center (yes, the one and only outsourced one) with it, where they first charged me Rs. 2,500 just to 'analyse' the problem, took more than 3 days at it when it was supposed to be 48hrs. Diagnosis - the motherboard had gone bust and would cost me Rs. 37,000 approx to fix. Yes! That astronomical sum to replace the motherboard. The machine was out of warranty too. I quietly left the place and used my hard earned money to get myself another laptop, a good, regular, inexpensive PC.
My grouses against Apple are:

1. Why wasn't the famed customer service attitude extended to me when the keyboard had to be replaced? It took a form of 'string pulling' to have it fixed.

2. When all other machines (PCs that is) have a lifespan of at least four years on average, why did this last just about two years? That too a machine that wasn't being extensively used, day after day, 8-12 hours a day like normal work?

3. Utter disillusionment with a brand that promised the sky, moon and stars which from all that I had heard and read seemed to keep up to it.  

Don't we deserve the same level of service and quality as customers in their more favoured nations? Read about survey results in the U.S.

Ever since I started talking about this to friends and family and researching on the internet, I have been hearing more and more stories of how Apple products bought in India (and Asia) have not lasted as long as the ones bought in the U.S, UK etc. or have had similar problems with their devices/ machines. And, we pay far more for the products here. Makes me wonder!

Lastly, on this subject (phew!), here's another link I found regarding Macbooks especially about their logicboards/ motherboards.

My advice to prospective customers of this company - Look before you leap; All that glitters is not gold etc. :D

As for me, no Apples of the tech variety. Too expensive - money-wise, time-wise and stress-wise.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


The sight of this frangipani tree in full bloom prompted me to jot a few lines.


Flourishing in the sunshine, this tree provided a shaded corner where one could rest, share a cup of coffee or tea with friends or simply contemplate life. It was beautiful!

Common white frangipani
As a child, I had seen the frangipani trees (probably did not notice the fully grown trees) only as potted plants in homes with a few flowers. I hadn't even known it's name. It's only much later, I started seeing the fully grown trees around. I noticed them more so as they were perennially in bloom. The seasons did not seem to make a difference to them, though spring/ summer did bring out the best in them.

A little trivia: The common name is frangipani/ temple flower, belonging to the genus Plumeria. They give off a lovely scent at night. They are also mostly mistaken for the other sweet smelling flower 'champa/ champaca' which really is the Indian magnolia . The scent attracts insects at night which is so necessary for pollination and so on and so forth. But it's just a ruse as the flower does not produce any nectar. These flowers are also seen in a variety of other shades - red, pink, pure white etc. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Frogs in the well/ village ponds... whatever!

At the outset, I must confess that I was not very comfortable publishing this post. Though, while writing it, I felt far easier in my mind with all the venting. It felt good to get it all out of my system.

One of the things I dislike is when fellow Indians who travel to or live in other countries come back and describe everything that is wrong with India. The thought running uppermost in my mind at those times is "Hell, why do you come back then?!"

However, I am going to stick my neck out and do a similar number here. I must add in my defence that these incidents really, really got my goat, to the extent that I ended up having at least one minor scrap with a 'fellow Indian'.

On this recent trip to Thailand (of which I blogged in my previous post), the following incidents were cringe-worthy and extremely unpleasant.

1. At the airport in Bangkok where we had to stand in line for a visa on arrival, there was a long queue. Flights had come in from various Indian cities and many of us were standing in line for our passports to be stamped. We had arrived at a time when there was to be a shift change among the Thai visa officials, so it was taking longer than necessary. The queues of Indians meanwhile disintegrated into one large mass, which looked like the hordes that try to enter an unreserved railway compartment at most Indian railway stations. Only the security guard near the visa officials' booths ensured that they did not run forward and trample everyone in sight. 

In that fracas, there were still a few people who wanted to behave like civilised beings and were quietly waiting their turn. But the uncouth ones, shoved and pushed people around, so much that it almost ended in yelling and shouting. I have to admit, I added to the noise levels for giving someone an earful for trying to get ahead of me, out of turn. The Thai officials seemed unperturbed by the ruckus but I thought I detected an even slower processing of the visa, almost deliberately. 
(If I had been in their place, I would most certainly do the same or probably deny the idiots visas and deport them!). Next time visa in advance, for sure - a lesson well learnt. 

2. In the shopping arcades and malls, we (I had friends with me) noticed that when there were Indians around, the shop keepers  became very wary and would not really talk to us directly. If they did, it would be a bit more aggressively. (Thais are some of the nicest, calmest people I have ever met. Aggression is not something I would normally associate with them). As we spent more time shopping, we realised the shameless haggling our fellow Indians were resorting to, was the cause of all the heartache. In most Asian countries, bargaining is taken as a norm, but not so in Thailand. The Thai shop keepers were more or less rude about the whole situation, either quoting absurdly high prices which they would drop to the regular amount or simply refuse to entertain the Indian customers. 

3. The best feature of the country for me were the amazing foot massages that were to be found at every street corner. Every evening after the end of a long day we would all troop into this place near our hotel for an hour long foot massage. Simply heaven! But I digress. 

During one of these sessions, there appeared a noisy bunch of 3-4 men (they spoke a certain Indian language which made it easy to identify them) who came in and demanded massages, loudly. That itself shattered our peace for the evening. After the receptionist told them the different types available and the details, they decided on the ones they wanted - some body massages/ scrubs on the list. As the masseuses were directing them into their enclosed spa areas, one of the men, loudly stated "massage only women, only women". Meaning: He wanted to ensure that the masseuse for him and his friends were only women. Since I was watching the whole spectacle like a drama unfolding before me, I noticed the masseuses looking at each other and unspoken signal seemed to have been conveyed. The men were told that "all women" was not possible as the women masseuse were busy. The masseuse would have to be men. 

Thais in the tourism industry seem to have devised means of handling the nastiness that comes their way. And this was in an upmarket, posh area of the city, not one of the seedier areas. I hate to think what might have happened there. 

It's sad that women in Thailand, especially, the hospitality industry are seen as 'available' irrespective of what they do or who they are. But, no matter what the profession, treating a woman with any less respect than you would treat your friend/ family/ acquaintance is just NOT DONE. 

4. On my way back, while boarding the flight, there was a newly married couple ahead of me. At one point, we were waiting to enter the aircraft and were being assisted by the airline's ground staff. The man said something to the lady attendant (from the airline) who was standing nearby. His English was not very good so his speech was indistinct. The lady asked him to repeat himself. He did not say anything, instead pointed to her eyes and made a gesture indicating the slant of her eyes and grinned at her, idiotically. She was so furious, that she just walked off. The man's wife just looked on. It was so infuriating to not be able to tick him off or say anything nasty because he just would not have been able to comprehend what it was about. Most people around me, I realised, from the conversation I overheard, thought nothing of cracking jokes about the shape of someone's eyes or the way Thais spoke. Racism was the last thing on their mind. Any ranting on my part would only seem like I had lost my mind, not them. 

My experience of Thailand was of a people who were friendly, polite and soft-spoken. To get them angry and/ or aggressive, one must really offend them. 

I am not even relating the behaviour on board the flights, am sure many of us are familiar with it on domestic flights itself - the incessant calling of the stewardesses for inane requests, asking for freebies etc.  

It's sad to have to gripe about the behaviour of Indians abroad, but I did search around in my head for any good, decent stuff I came across. And there was nothing, zilch. 

When I was relating these incidents to a friend, back home, he joked that India tourism's advertisement ought to also be created in reverse to teach us how to behave in foreign lands with citizens of those countries. It's certainly not something that can be taught overnight, but a mindset that must change, if we are to be viewed more favourably wherever we go. 

(Pic courtesy: Google search)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Grand Palace, Bangkok - shock & awe

On a recent (and my first ever) trip to Thailand I visited the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok. Since the trip was a sudden one, I didn't prepare for it as I usually do i.e. research the place, mark out sights to check out, restaurants to eat at etc. I just decided to go with the flow, there wasn't enough time anyway to do more.

At the hotel where I stayed, the tour booklet touted the Grand Palace along with the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew in Thai) as the sight to beat all sights in Bangkok. While I took it mostly as hype, I decided to go visit it - many reasons (convenient distance, required amount of time etc).

All I can say is that the entire experience left me reeling, speechless, gobsmacked, with a jaw-dropping-eye-popping, surreal feeling.

I could barely make out where the Temple of the Emerald Buddha ended and the palace began. It was a hot, blistering afternoon and I required my sunglasses anyway. If not, I am sure it would have been blinding :D

If we, in India, feel that our forts, temples and palaces are expensive and ostentatious, this one took the cake, icing and the cherry on the top.

You can see it for yourself in some of the photographs posted below. Better still, pay a visit yourself.

The roof tops of the buildings within the palace complex, bangkok
The roof tops of the buildings within the palace complex

The facade of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok
The facade of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

A closer look at the work on the walls of the buildings, Bangkok
A closer look at the work on the walls of the buildings

One of the many windows on the palace buildings, Bangkok
One of the many windows on the palace buildings

Sorry for the numerous adjectives and cliches, the sights within the complex did have a profound impact on me. 

For more information on the Grand Palace complex (good old Wikipedia).

Photo courtesy: All by the author. Reproduce only with permission, please.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Irresistible advertising

Many years ago (that's a very many years), here in India, television sets at home revealed a new brand, playing the advertisements (ads) over and over again - a men's deodorant (deo). The clip showed a man - sometimes suave, good-looking; sometimes nerdy, awkward - spraying himself with the deo and suddenly being transformed into a 'girl-magnet'. Women of all shapes and sizes and corners of the world converged on the man like nothing else mattered. The 'Axe Effect' had come to stay. 

The reactions from the TV watching audience ranged from amusement to scandalised shock to skepticism that it was just another phase in ads. The Axe series has endured the test of time, with the plot moving from women to even angels dropping from heaven with a whiff of the deo. I mean…seriously?!! 

Needless to say, since then the formula became the mantra in India to sell men's deos…yes, all and any men's deos. 

So many years of the same old thing… (yawn!) Either the advertising agency guys are in love with the idea or they're just too lazy to think of anything new. 

dilbert, gonewoolgathering.blogspot.com

I am assuming that (a slight chance) that the idea works for them i.e. sale of deos are proportionate to the number of these ads being churned out (why reinvent the wheel and all that)

So, I decided to see if this jaded advertising is only an India phenomenon or a global one:

Nivea (Germany) - video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMoDvhL14Is 
What is the fuss all about, incase you can't watch the video

Old Spice (USA) - video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owGykVbfgUE (and many others in this set of ads). What is the fuss all about, incase you can't watch the video 

Shellys Card (Israel)
So advertisers, as you can see, there is immense scope to do interesting stuff. Please don't treat us (men and women) like lesser beings (so you think!) who do not deserve better. Of course, if this is something beyond your scope of creativity, I guess, we'll just have to continue switching channels when these ads come on, again and again! *appeals for help*

I did not come across even one Indian men's deo brand that broke away from the 'sex-sells' idea. 

*evil grin* Free idea: A testimonial ad campaign to get men (i.e. users of the deos) to relate how their life has been transformed with all those women in their lives!

dilbert, gonewoolgathering.blogspot.com

Interestingly, I came across a few posts in a similar vein including the ones panning the sexism that's rampant in these ads. But that's a whole different topic of discussion.

The 50s and 60s didn't exactly fare any better. If anything it was even worse.

P.S. images are courtesy Google Images search. These are just my views and not an endorsement of any particular brand/ product, just incase someone thought otherwise. 

November 26, 2013 - some of the links were updated as they had expired/ become bad links.