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My first impressions of NYC

11 July 2010 2 comments
  1. New York City is the world’s capital. Period.
  2. The NYC commute reminds me so much of India – the multi-coloured crowds, the usual delays and the increasing police presence, …
  3. The daunting skyscrapers amaze me every single time I see them.
  4. The huge/wide Hudson river seems like a sea to me (incidentally the venue for the thrilling Macy’s July 4 fireworks this year.
  5. We have hardly seen 1% of the attractions that define the city and the good thing is we have all the time to see them at leisure.
  6. We have got integrated into the largest Indian community in the US. It is hard to get anywhere without bumping into someone I know (especially so if you visit the theatre or the temple or Anjappar).
  7. We don’t stay in that quintessentially India place in New Jersey. We stay in one of those so many little towns NJ is reputed for in spite of being one of the smallest states.
  8. Local government is amazing in our little town. We watched the Memorial Day parade and felt overjoyed by the amazing community sense they display. We also felt the same at the crowded MVC office, when everyone waiting for Drivers’ license, renewals, … was buzzed off with an unAmerican ‘computers are not responding’ message and they started talking about paying taxes.
  9. We can eat almost every cuisine that can be named. We are testing our tastebuds with new varieties – Greek, Malay/Thai, Peruvian, …
Categories: NYC, Society

Using RTI Act

13 December 2007 3 comments

In 3 simple steps, churumuri shows how to use the RTI act effectively. The post also talks about how it was used in 4 scenarios. Very useful info!

Categories: Society

Lessons from the Metroman

9 February 2007 1 comment

Guest lectures have been intellectually stimulating components of my Bschool life. This evening, we had a rather short talk from the Metroman of India, Dr. Sreedharan, the man behind the Delhi Metro (The Economist has done a piece on him last year). I liked his no-nonsense talk. He emphasised 4 things for a successful person.

  1. Punctuality (He says this is a courtesy to the others)
  2. Integrity (He says it is not only about honesty rather a sense of moral values)
  3. Knowledge (You guys know it…)
  4. Health (which in turn derives from 3 things – a. Balanced Diet b. Ample Sleep, Early-to-bed, early-to-rise c. Character)
Categories: Bschool, Society

Asking questions

27 January 2007 5 comments

One of my pet signatures reads “No question is stupid if I ask it!”. I am of the opinion that in any marriage, love or arranged, it is very important that the couple ask many many questions and get to know each other before they enter into a lifelong relationship. That’s what I told Anjali very soon after we started talking. Ok, ok, her full name is Geethanjali and I call her Anjali. Last month, NYT had a very interesting article titled “Questions Couples Should Ask Before Marrying”, which I found in its “Most Popular” section. Now, we are discussing all the points mentioned in that. I highly recommend it for all couples 🙂 A very relevant example – “Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?” MSNBC reviews this set of questions here very well. Its bottomline is “A strong couple won’t have trouble discussing important issues about compatibility and handling inevitable differences. But it’s short-sighted to think any answers lie in a list of questions”. There is a Muslim set of questions targeted at the male here, not all of which are good, but still worth a glance. What do you think, people?

Categories: Family, Me, Society

A global warning

30 November 2006 4 comments

The third movie I watch in a NZ theatre is “An Inconvenient Truth” (Climate Crisis http://www.climatecrisis.net/), after Munna Bhai Part 2 and Ata Whenua. The only reason I go to a theatre this time is because I get a free ticket. The Skycity theatre in Auckland reminds me of PVR in Bangalore – the red ambience and the lighting is so similar. Ever since I heard of the movie many months ago, I wanted to see it. I don’t know if it will be released in India. So I use the free ticket here to watch that must-see film.

For starters, it is a documentary by Al Gore about global warming, its disastrous effects and how to avoid it. The way he illustrates the catastrophic consequences interlaced with humour makes it very interesting. His use of statistics, graphics and cartoons in the slideshow or presentation tell the point. His intended audience is the US people who are the only other big country (apart from Australia) not to have ratified the Kyoto protocol. The US is the world’s largest emitter of Green House Gases. I doze off whenever he sidetracks with his personal history. He jibes at other politicians a little and calls for political will to solve the crisis. The damage that we humans have caused to the environment is very significant. The Stern report (at a glance here) is serious indeed. It highlights the environmental and economic impacts. Al Gore has been working on this issue for a very long time and will advise the British government with possible solutions.

But not everyone agrees to this portrayal of climate change. Bjorn Lomborg, the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” opines on WSJ that the Stern report is flawed and the world has better priorities. Michael Crichton vehemently attacks this crisis as misleading in his novel, State of Fear. Also, a MIT professor says that there is no scientific consensus on the global warming crisis in his WSJ piece here. Politics and science cannot be mixed, they say. They do not refute most of the facts presented by the movie. So all I can do is protect the earth for our children, which seems a clinching argument.

As the movie says, the solution is in our hands. It is all about efficiency and a sense of thrift or carefulness we need to cultivate. Several tips to take action are here. They look like – use less hot water, recycle more, drive less and plant trees. You can also visit the Stop Global Warming site. I have seen that NZ (especially the YHA) is a pioneer in eco-sustainable activities. I learnt to be eco-sensitive more by seeing their work. Here I try to do my little bit by spreading the word around. I request my blogmates to link to this or write about it, maybe after watching the movie or reading the Climate Crisis site.

Categories: Society

The death of Reservations

25 July 2006 3 comments

List of Computerised Railway Reservation Offices in India

No, it is not about THE reservations. I am not a serious guy, who has strong opinions about societal issues. This is a favourite activity of mine. Railway reservations, to be precise, are fascinating by themselves, just like reading the railway timetables. Back home in Thoothukudi, the railway station is very close to the sea. A thin road divides the old harbour from the main station. The station thus gets a pleasant sea breeze throughout. There used to be a good macroon shop on the way to the station and every trip to the station, be it to book tickets or to travel or to receive guests, included a stop by the bakery. Tickets were issued manually to start with. Being a small town, the station did not have much of a rush.

I got involved with regular reservations once I joined college. I always had a copy of the Railway Timetable and sometimes spent hours just reading the various routes and the trains. Vacation trips always were special, with all ‘oorkaaranga’ (town-mates) travelling together. People from towns on the way like Kovilpatti, Sattur, Virudhunagar and Madurai also joined us. I always cribbed about the partial treatment the Railways gave to Madurai passengers on the Pearl City. Student concessions were in demand till the final year, though in decreasing priority. The college office staff made us wait long times for such a simple issue of concession ticket. After that, we had to go to a railway station to endorse the concessions. What a pain it used to be! Most times we had to book our tickets first and then get them re-done with the concessions. Getting all the guys together and the concessions was a chore.

The Mambalam PRS complex comes first to mind. Being in the busy T.Nagar area, it was full of people especially as we used to get free only in the evenings or during the weekends. But we had no choice. We wasted two hours every time. All citizens used to abuse us given that we used to go in gangs of 2 or 3 and used to take maximum time at the counter. The counter folks did not help things by scrutinizing the concessions carefully and rejecting them for minor mistakes. “Boys” showed vividly what happens in T. Nagar. I used to hate the crowds that when I discovered the Besant Nagar Rajaji Bhavan office, I was simply delighted. That was at cycling distance from campus through the tree-filled lanes of Adyar. It took less time and at the end, you could have a stroll through the famed Elliotts Beach.

Come Bangalore. Indra Nagar was the first centre I visited. Innovations like seats while waiting and “one queue, multiple counters” were pleasant surprises. There were so many days when I will feel bored at office. On few such days, these booking counters gave me good rest. I shall take a book, read it there for an hour and get my tickets as well. I had the added pleasure of meeting my good friend RL during fewer of these days, who was looking for her job. The nearby parks proved to be our talking grounds. We commented on the many couples that frequented these parks in those times. When we moved to Wilson Garden, it was the turn of the Jaya Nagar 4th complex centre. Finding it in the maze of the shops there is a great trick by itself.

While at Bangalore, how can I forget the Tatkal days which had me at the Koramangala BDA complex by 6am, all decked for the day at office and still be 10th at the queue? (Of course, this might remind some of you about the passport experience of which I was part of, where the early morning 47A left you at The Passport Office, Shastri Bhavan very very early indeed and you are 40th or 50th in the queue.) This usually happens during peak holiday seasons when the trains seem to be full on the 50th day before the journey date. The Koramangala centre is one of the best, with thoughtful quotes, disciplined queue managers and flower pots to add. At Bangalore, there is the 23rd floor centre at the Utility Building on MG Road, which must boast of the tallest railway reservation counters in India. Walking up the stairs is a delight, except that you don’t have a choice when the lifts don’t work. But the sights of Bangalore up there make up for everything else. Where would you find a free skyline view of the city otherwise?

At Indore, it was a difficult time looking for the main reservation station. Here it is back to those dark ages when you had to stand all the waiting time. It reminds me that Southern Railway must be the most modern of them all. Later we discovered our very own Rajendra Nagar centre, which has 10 people at its peak. It is nice and quiet, typical of an out-of-the-city atmosphere. It had to happen. All the good times come to an end. I was not convinced when they talked about i-tickets. Who wants delivery when it comes at a price? But when they talked e-tickets, I was hooked inspite of the 25 rupees they charge for the convenience. From last April, I have not used any paper tickets at all. I know, I am losing out on a significant portion of my living experience, the physical booking touch. But I have to move on…

Categories: Society

House hunting in Bangalore

23 June 2006 5 comments

The first time I was in Bangalore (2001), Alex and the others did the job for me. All I had to was occupy the single bedroom(BR) I got allocated to me in the 1BR house we rented in Nanja Reddy Colony off Airport Road. They went through the broker Baasha (a Kannada Jain) whose house we occupied. We paid a whopping 7k for that small house. Inspite of it being furnished, we were cheated the first time. When rents dropped very soon after its peaks in 2001, the place went for 5.5k when we vacated. The company had laid off one of our mates and so we stayed there for about 7 months. For the second house, I only identified Wilson Garden as midway between Bannerghatta Road and Residency Road. Prakash and the rest did the job that time through two brokers — for which we faced problems later. We were six of us in the pretty expansive house (owned by a Gult family) – a 3BR home we picked at a decent 7.5k. I stayed comfortably for more than a year and a half.

The first time I went hunting for one was when I intended to stay alone in 2003. I picked up the latest copy of Free Ads and looked for the cheapest possible option. There was a 1BR flat in Austin Town for 2.5k – a bargain in my opinion – given the rude start we had to rents in Bangalore. It was an old redox (red oxide) BDA flat built 25 years back. It had a equally-sized BR, hall and kitchen (I never used this), quite big for a bachelor with no material possessions except a few dresses and books. The owner was a Gujju businessman, pretty loudspoken. Satisified with the bargain, I happily paid the advance the same day and occupied it the next day. I stayed there for a little over a year and a half. I decided that it is time I got myself closer to where I work and so I intended to shift to Domlur. Gopi and I looked at a few places around the Airport Road junction and had almost finalized one when I made it here.

This time though, it was a little different. It is 2006 and I am looking for proper homes where Abi, my mom and Madhu can stay. Needless to state, I pick up the latest FreeAds and make a shortlist of the houses I can call/visit that day. Townhall is where she works and my choice of areas would be Basavanagudi, VV Puram, Jaya Nagar, Shanti Nagar and Wilson Garden. Abi says she doesn't mind commuting a little more if the home is perfect for Madhu. I start with one in Ulsoor – the Tamil heartland in Bangalore. I know it is quite far, but the landlord had advertised for a decent Tamil family — such ads are real funny — which I am sure we are one. I talk to his wife, check out the 2BR redox place on the 1st floor and am pleased to an extent. There is no separate entrance for the house, but it is spacious. Sometimes, the landlord is as important as the place and he looks gentle. He asks for 4.5k. I even take Amma to have a look. All along, she has been used to forcing herself to others' opinons and this time too, she didn't think too much and was okay with the place. The landlord and his wife are very elderly people and try to sell us the advantages of the place. He runs a temple nearby and I am sure Madhu would have grown to be a very religious girl if she lived there. I tell them I shall bring Abi later in the evening and promptly pay a token advance if she is satisfied. But doubts still linger in my mind.

Armed with a house at hand, I go ahead. I call the second guy who has a 2BR house for 5k at Sakkamma Garden, quite close to South End Circle. I manage to converse in the little Kannada I know with his wife. His name ends in some iah and is so tough to pronounce. I figure out that he is away and I need to come back later. The weather is a tad pleasant and threatens to rain just like it has over the last several days. I call the third guy, a Muslim banker at Jaya Nagar 4th T Block. The house is right on the T Block Main road, a lot closer to Abi's office and again I am satisfied with the 1BR home on the 1st floor and the banker. He quotes 6k as he has bachelors ready to pay the amount and is willing to reduce it to 5k for families as is the case with me. This house is definitely better than the last one, though the kitchen is smaller. The biggest advantage is its proximity to Abi's office. This guy also speaks about the many advantages of the house. I promise to bring Abi to have a look in the evening and go back to Sakkamma Garden.

This house is on the 2nd floor and is bigger than the other two. I seem to be progresing 🙂 It is also much more nearer to Abi's place. The Kannada professor is a softspoken scrupulous guy and asks an astonishing (I mean, cheap, no no, rather value for money in mbaspeak) 5k for the 2BR house he is ready to rent. He does not speak too much on the greatness of the place unlike the others. I guess he must have got enough requests given the offer. I seem to be spoilt for choice today. Abi's Tata Indicom mobile, which I was carrying, calls it quits as I have exceeded the arbitrary limits it was set to. I call the last guy in Jaya Nagar 1st Block Siddapura, house to many nurseries. I am unable to locate a yellow water tank he had told as the landmark on the way to his house. I call him back and he says, "Just ask for XYZH aunty's home". I do that and easily locate his house. His wife — the aunty — is the ward member of that area.

The guy happens to be an Erode guy though he retains little of the characteristic "enungaa", which Abi also seemed to have picked up during her study in Coimbatore. He runs a PG here and I am impressed by his interactions with the guys around. Most of the inmates of the PG are Tamil boys. He shows me two houses, both being BR ones – one on the 1st floor for 6.5k and the other on the ground floor for 6k. These houses are easily the biggest of all the ones I have seen today. 6k is a little out of the budget in my opinion. I think it is fair that Abi decides after seeing the houses. I go to her bank. She sits on the 5th floor amidst some of the most senior people. I talk to a few of them before she is done with her work. Her work timings are till 5pm but she almost always stays till 6 as she cannot go before any of the senior guys who go out much after 6.

It has not rained at all today and I take her to the Siddapura house, just 0.5km away from the back gate of Lal Bagh (as I know it) or the Lal Bagh Siddapura gate (as the owner calls it). Abi also likes the place pretty much. She does not mind about the excess over the budget. Her only criterion seems to be that the house is in the ground floor which suits Madhu the most. Of course, she trusts my opinion that this house is the best of the rest, which come at lower rents though. She does not even see the other places. After a quick call to her hubby, we decide on this place. I go to the ICICI Bank ATM at Elephant Rock, one of my favourite ATMs 😉 to pay the token advance. We go back to have a round of Amma's food. I am very happy that my Bangalore knowledge has been put to use and 3 cheers to Free Ads.

Categories: Family, Society