Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Are all politicians crooks

We hate profiling or typecasting. We all do. We cry our lungs out when a Muslim is singled out for 'questioning' at an air-port or denied a rental flat in a building. We despise stereotyping women or South-Indians or anything that involves the Aam Aadmi. Then why are we so eager to pick up brooms to hit any politician?
When you are in public life (and for long), stones will be thrown at you - by people, opponents and media alike. Sometimes these allegations may not be true and may not even stand a chance in the courts. But if someone's name is thrown up enough number of times for the wrong reasons, his 'public image' is bound to take a beating. I am sure there are hoards of politicians who are as clean as you and me, but have fallen prey to the game called politics. Whether it is allegations of corruption, criminal conduct or anything else, common man does not have the means and patience to verify them. Hence, the 'image' plays a vital role in how we perceive all the politicians. And the image may not even be close to reality!
Another argument that needs pondering is - most political parties (or rather political start-ups) that have grown organically have a clean and idealistic image in the beginning. But a party needs people to grow. The essence of a political party in a democratic system is inclusiveness. And as more and more people join (as you want them to), it becomes difficult to keep the image of the party clean. Because the party is held responsible for the behaviour of it's members. This is where we start hearing statements like 'that is his personal opinion and not the party stand' , ' the allegations are yet to be proven' and  the most commonly used ' no comments'.
So in toto, having a clean image is not merely a function of your character but also depends on how long you have been in politics!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Shortening the postal address

Today, I was writing the address on an envelope to be sent to the Income Tax PAN services in Pune. The address runs into 6 lines and has more characters than twitter or SMS allows. I am sure this address must be receiving thousands of letters everyday. Why can't the Indian Post think of a way of shortening such popular addresses - something like tinyurl of the postal address?
This will save a lot of time for individuals, reduce errors and lead to customer delight! The post box service is one way of looking at it. But it is limited by resources (space available for post boxes) and also latency on part of the addressee. However, a service that shortens the postal address can be driven by an alpha numeric code and is virtually unlimited. 
This can be monetised by charging either the sender or the receiver. The receiver may be issued this code at an annual fee or the sender may be asked to paste a premium postage stamp (marginal premium of Re.1) for a shortened address letter.
If tinyurl can do it to the web address, I am sure there is a way to do it for the postal address as well.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gacchibowli Royal Enfield Service Station

Very unlike me, I am going to write a review about this Royal Enfield Service Station in Gacchibowli, Hyderabad without availing any service from them.
I was really happy when Royal Enfield came up with a service station nearer to where I stay. But this happiness was short lived. I have been trying to get my Bullet Standard 350 serviced from these folks for past 1 month. First of all, it is located in a weird place. About 200 metres from the main road, you have to ride a unmade road through dust, slush and garbage. Then the staff seems to be more than unwilling to accept your vehicle for service. The first time I went there, they told me that they have enough vehicles to keep they busy for next 4 days. And I was asked to come back after 4 days. This was about a month ago. When I visited them after 4 days, the service station was closed!
Then I called them last Friday to check if I could have the vehicle serviced now. I still get the same reply. I am advised to come on the following Wednesday. So, I go there on Wednesday to be told the same thing in person! Now, I am asked to come on Friday, keep my precious Bullet there for a good 4 to 5 days and take it back. And it doesn't even have a breakdown as such. It's just a routine service with oil change, lubricating the brakes, and some minor wrench work.
If you still believe in destiny, go visit this place!

Friday, October 18, 2013

How to travel from Hyderabad to Goa

Disclaimer - there are airlines and travel agencies mentioned in the post that follows. This is merely for information purpose and not a promotional mention. The experiences mentioned here are my personal and to each his own.

We have been living in Hyderabad for last 4 years. I was here for another year and half before that. That is a long enough time period to advise people on how to get from Hyderabad to Goa by various means. I have been to Goa by train, air and road (there is no water route :-) ). To save you the jhigjhig of going through the entire article let me put forth some rough guidelines for travel to Goa.
  • Taking a Volvo bus is currently the best alternative for travelling to Goa.
  • Flights are freaking expensive.
  • Trains take an eternity.
  • If you are travelling with kids who can't tell they want to pee or want to go 'outside'
    • If you are on a budget, take the train
    • If you have enough money, fly
Now, having set the basic premise, let us get into the details.

Flying to Goa
There is one direct flight to Goa (SG-1071) by Spicejet. Takes you about one hour tarmac to tarmac. And this is mostly expensive unless you book more than a month in advance. If booked in advance, you can get this flight for approx 4k. Other suitable alternative is an Air India flight via Bangalore (you need to change planes).

For return journey as well, Spicejet operates the only direct flight. If there is no direct flight, Air India flight via Pune or Spicejet via Chennai are the best alternatives.

Train travel to Goa
We have always taken the 17603 Kacheguda - Yeshwantpur express. This leaves Kacheguda station at 9PM for Yashwantpur (Bangalore). This train has 4 bogies that are detached at Guntakal Junction at 3:30AM and picked up by the Howrah Vasco train after 40 minutes wait. The train reaches Madgaon at 2 PM next day. If available, this is the best train travel option. Note that this train has only 2AC & SL options for Goa.
The other option for train travel is taking the train 11303 Hyderabad-Kolhapur express. This will take you till Londa Junction from where Panaji is about 3 hours drive. This is a less preferred option because you need to spend an entire day travelling.

Buses
There are multiple Volvo buses available. The most reliable ones are SVR, VRL, Kesineni & Paulo in the order of their reliability and my experience with them. In sleeper buses, I prefer Paulo over Kesineni. This is because, Paulo has double beds. So, if you are with family, you have ample space for your child to sleep between the parents. Moreover, the beds are along the line of motion so there is less sickness. In Kesineni sleeper, there are train like compartments with barely enough space for one person. And since the bed is perpendicular to the line of travel, there is a lot of body roll and hence sickness.

Self-drive
Read my older post here

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Beginners guide to working from home

I just switched jobs a month ago. Along with other things, my new employer is a huge supporter of working from home. While my previous employer wanted me to be in office for 9 hours 15 minutes (I know, it's a weird number!), now I am pretty much by myself. This is a drastic change in work environment, schedule and methodology. Not just for me, but for my family as well. It has it's merits and demerits though. On the positive side, I save time and money on commute, get freshly cooked lunch, can help my wife with chores and plan my evenings better since I know when I will be home from work(!). On the flip side, there are challenges like being taken for granted, assuming your availability all the time, domestic distractions (kids, food, sleep, guests, salesman, TV etc.), infrastructure issues (electricity, Internet and telephone) and personal lethargy.
I badly wanted to overcome the challenges because I began to feel that my productivity while working from home was worse than what it was from office with my previous employer. So I did what any 21st century adult does when faced with a problem. I Googled! There are a host of ideas available on the Internet -on websites, blog and in forums. I collated them together and with my wife's help, I have started to work around these challenges. This post is not a collation of all that in on the Internet. This is a gist of what worked for me - a 32 year old, father of a 2 year old toddler, living in Hyderabad and whose wife is a home-maker. So, what follows is just a guide, you may have to tweak this a bit.
  1. Working hours: Stick to normal office hours. Largely 9 AM to 5 PM works for everyone. Also stick to a lunch schedule. Avoid lunch invitation from neighbours or friends because it disrupts your schedule. 
  2. Work clothes: Avoid working in your pyjamas. It leads to a lackadaisical attitude towards work. You don't need to be all decked up. But wearing trousers/ jeans and a collard shirt/tee will help. 
  3. Work location: This is the most important thing. I moved from bed to a couch to a bean bag and now I have settled on a more desk like location. It is a computer table with a plastic chair. Though it does not give a perfect posture, but it's good to start with.
  4. Kids: My daughter thought I would be available all the time. But we had to discipline her by saying 'this is Baba's office; You are not supposed to go in there'. In a month's time, she has learnt to deal with it.
  5. Infrastructure: If you are in India, this is one of the most challenging aspects of working from home. You would need the following to work from home effectively & efficiently -
    1. Good light - either natural or artificial. With building very close by, you have to ensure that the work place is well lit. Make sure the light source is in front of you so that it doesn't cause glare on your computer screen and also let's you take video calls (if needed)
    2. Telecommunication - to attend some calls, you may need a land line phone. Make sure you get one. Companies like BSNL or TATA give WLL phones that work just like land lines but in CDMA technology (wireless). You may opt for those as well. Make sure the workplace you have chosen has adequate and uninterrupted mobile network. Else, switch network or log a complain with your existing service provider. 
    3. Internet: Make sure your ISP understands that you are completely relying on him for your work. Moreover, either locate your desk close to where the network cable can be easily provisioned or if you are using a WiFi network, ensure that your wireless router gets uninterrupted power supply. Additionally, keep a wireless Internet dongle handy as a backup. This also helps if you have to carry your work when you are visiting, say your parents.
    4. Power: Planned load shedding, unplanned outages and voltage fluctuations are pretty common in most parts of India. Make sure you use proper equipment to overcome this aspect.
  6. Health: Make sure you stretch every hour, don't eat excessively and consume enough water. When you are in office, all these things are part of a routine. If not out of habit, you tend to do them when you see someone else do them. But at home, you need to inculcate the habit.
I won't say that the six points above are your Bible to working from home. There will probably be more tips you may have or I may come across.  I will keep enriching the post as I go along. Happy working!


Update:
18.10.2013 - Having said and practiced all of the above, it has not been very easy. I have had my bad days where I felt I am better off working from office. The main reason for this being my 2 year old. She just refuses to accept that her father can be home AND working. And in case you don't know, it is extremely difficult for a parent to sit & concentrate on work while the apple of their eye is wailing in the next room crying out your name and asking you to hold her. I hope either of us gets over this ASAP.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why do we need religion?

A status message on Facebook by a friend, a reply from me and comments by others in the known made me sit up and think on this subject more deeply. So the post that follows, is what I actually think about religion -
Let me make it clear at the very beginning - 'I believe in the concept of religion and feel that it is necessary for mankind'. Now, if you are liberal enough to accept that people can believe in their religion and also the existence of other religions, please read on. If not, you are exactly the kind of person for whom a religion is badly needed. :-)
To begin with, in whatever way life started on earth, I am sure there wouldn't have been any religion. There were people, geographically separated and who would be classified based on their build, language they spoke etc. They would all have their own life style considering the environment they lived in. For the generations to come they would have to set norms, a sense of what is right and what is wrong, some sort of guiding principles to live by. This would also need a vague idea of 'the ideal' - the God. This set of rules we all were supposed to live by is religion. It will be your guide to making decisions. A sort of reference.
So where did all go wrong? Why do we hate it so much today? In my opinion there are 2 reasons for it - 1. there were people who manipulated the guiding principles to their advantage. For those who understand geek-speak, the kernel itself got corrupted. 2. With education we began to think that mere rationale is sufficient for us to make decisions.
So should we eliminate all religions?  The idea of a 'unified humanitarian world' looks attractive. But we need to look beyond ourselves. It is not possible to get such a diverse human race to agree to a single point. So it becomes next to impossible to have a larger overarching concept for the entire humanity. There will always be non-believers who would want to start their own sect!
So what can we do now? For point 1 above, we need to correct it. We have to realign the core religious ideologies to what makes sense not just for us but for the entire mankind. And the onus of this lies on the literate, the thinkers and the well read. For point 2, well if work towards point 1, point 2 will self-resolve.
I am open to ideas on this and would really like to hear people speak their hearts. After all, this is how I believe religions have evolved.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Casuals

Have you ever observed what your father wore to a picnic when you were young? Or what he wore when he occasionally played cricket with you? What were his 'casuals'? Remind yourself what your mother wore at home! Casuals, as we call them today, were old clothes then that could not be worn to functions or office. Faded, repaired or possibly even misfits!
But now, we have got into the habit of buying casuals. And I am trying to figure out the reason. Every time we choose clothes, the first classification is - formals or casuals? So while the previous generation used and re-used a lot of their clothes, our old formals never end up being casuals. Not that they would cause any discomfort as casuals, but we buy equally expensive clothing for that 'casual' look. Isn't casual supposed to mean ' I don't need to be too particular'? Then why are we so particular?
Me thinks, our parents got the real essence of 'casual'.

Monday, July 01, 2013

The 21st century father

It feels different to be a father. But it is a whole lot different to be a father in the 21st Century, specially in India. The fatherhood of our generation is remarkably different from that of our father's or grandfather's. There are many aspects of this state that were unheard of in earlier times.
We live in a far open and socially volatile environment now. We need to make constant decisions, break the stereotypes and set new rules at a faster pace. As if it was not difficult enough to do this for self, we also need to do this for our kids now. What the child should eat, how much of TV is ok, what kind of friends is one allowed to have, should we communicate in mother tongue etc. I could write pages about each of these, may be later. But these decisions put us in a spot every now and then.
Secondly, we live in an era of gender equality. The lady and the man of the house share the responsibilities when it comes to household and the kids. This increases the dependence of the children on their father. The father is as much needed when the child is sick. However, our society seems to be having issues at coming to terms with this arrangement. The carer's leave may be a provision in many companies today but you should see the look on your manager's face when you tell him ' I can't come today because my son is not well'. Or try telling your friends that you can't come for a drink because it's your turn to look after the kids today.

It will be some time before we come to terms...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The devil in me

Yesterday as I was driving back from a lunch with colleagues, I was shocked to see an old man sit right in the middle of the road - a busy road. Long white hair, similar beard, torn shirt; he sat there with his back to my car. Vehicles zoomed passed him on either sides. It was a narrow road and he was an obstruction to the traffic. Vehicles swirled by to avoid hitting him.
Just as my car passed him, I glanced at the side of the road, where I assume he must have been sitting otherwise. There was tree,under which there were a few clothes, a rug to sit on, a polythene bag with his meagre possessions and...crutches!
I zoomed past, like may other vehicles. Now I could see his face in the rear view mirror. He looked calm. Possibly even smiling! How did he land in the middle of the road? Did someone put him there? Did he get there himself to fetch one his precious possessions that may have rolled off? Only he knew the answer
And the simple question I ask myself which only I can answer...Why did I not help him? Where was my humanity and compassion? Or is it only reserved for organised social work, flood victims, underprivileged children?
Need to fight this streak before I grow into a full fledged ass hole. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

And Back

Back to blogging. Again!

Earlier I used to set aside time for blogging. With a new home (another post on that), a child (yet another post on that after Being a Father I) and career moves, now I need to start squeezing time out of the schedule.

E.g. right now, as I type this, I am waiting for the Water heater to heat the water for bathing. :)

Expect more action here.