Saturday, January 16, 2016

Give 'Life' A Bad Name...

I am fed up of people telling me that "life is complicated"!

Life is NOT complicated. Life is simple. As simple as a baby's smile. Period.

You guys make it complicated. (Guys = people)

Because of your lies. That you tell others and even yourself. (Yes, that includes photos and status updates on Facebook.)

Because of your people-pleasing nature. That does not allow honest and straightforward communication.

Because of your "have your cake and eat it too" nature.

Because of your inability to let go of stuff that is not/no longer in your best interests. Including people. Including family members too.

Because of your inability to prioritize your needs/wants.

Because of your lack of strength and/or desire to go after what you really want.

Or worst...

Because you don't even know what you really want.

. . .

Just stop blaming life for problems that you create for yourself.

You're not a fly caught in the spider's web. You are the spider. You built that web. All of it.



Sunday, December 27, 2015

And The Blog Gets Another Makeover

I have been very inconsistent in blogging lately. Just 11 posts since July. I finally decided to give a makeover to my blog, in the hope of getting inspired to write again. The gray-black theme had started to feel as sickly as my physical health. So I wanted some color here. I wanted 'yellow', to be precise. And so, my blog is yellow now.

Have a look...



By the way, it's not just the aesthetics that have changed. The sidebar on the right has a tabbed section now, for "Trending posts", "Tags", and "Archives". It makes the sidebar look even less-cluttered than it was earlier. Here's a screenshot...



Most importantly, this new template is responsive in design.  It means that the content will adjust automatically to the screen-size of the device you're viewing the blog on (i.e. laptop/desktop/tablet/smart phone etc.) I haven't got a screenshot for this though. So you'll have to check it out.

In other news, this blog completed nine years earlier this month, my shop completed two, and I have completed four years in Jaipur.

I really wish I'd start blogging regularly again. In fact, I wish I'd blog daily in 2016. Wouldn't that be just amazing? Ok maybe it would be a bit too much for my readers, but it's one of the things on my "10-things-to-do-before-I-die" list, and I wish I'm able to strike it off at the end of 2016.

Anyway, you guys check out my new blog design in the meantime, and tell me how it looks.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Reunited

The two sisters were finally reunited yesterday... up in the heavens... after almost 19 years.

My mom and my mausi...



Thursday, December 3, 2015

#ChennaiRains Trigger Memories of #PatnaFloods1975

Chennai is flooded. All those visuals of the city, on TV news channels, reminded my Dad of similar floods in Patna in the year 1975. So, as we sipped our morning tea today, he took me on a walk down his memory lane.

1975 was the year my Mom and Dad got married to each other. Unfortunately (for my Dad!), when Patna was hit by those heavy rains, Mom was not in town. She'd been visiting her parents that time. She was supposed to return the night before the city got flooded, but Dad didn't find her on the train when he went to pick her up from the railway station. Apparently, my nanaji (Mom's Dad) chickened out at the very last minute and didn't send her off! Dad is still very sore on that point [grins], but aside from that, he thinks of the whole experience as "the adventure of a lifetime"!


Flooded Boring Road Chowraha, Patna in 1975.
This is where I used to stay before I moved to Jaipur!

The Patna floods of 1975 were different from the current Chennai floods in that they were not entirely "nature-made". As Dad recalls, the heavy rainfall had caused the water-levels in the Sone river to rise above safe limits, but that flood was mostly the result of dam waters being diverted into certain parts of the town, in order to keep the Danapur cantonment from getting flooded (because that would have led to serious military losses, destroying millions of dollars worth of artillery) and also to ensure that the excess water exited as quickly as possible into the Ganga river.

So loudspeaker announcements had given prior warning to people in most of the affected areas. Dad doesn't remember hearing any such announcements though. A family acquaintance, who lived in some other part of the city, tipped off my Dad's family about the flood warnings, before the phone lines went dead. And my grandfather (Dad's father) took immediate action.

First thing he did was to get the 200 liter drum filled with clean drinking water. This one action alone saved them from a lot of severe hardships that other families had to face back then!

Next, all the furnishings that could be moved up to the first floor, were moved. Dad remembers there was a mattress on the floor. As soon as they lifted that mattress off the ground, to carry it upstairs, water started entering the room through a drain hole in the corner. Total filmy, right? [grins again]

They started emptying all the cupboards and almirahs too then, starting from the bottom shelves first. By the time, they got to the top shelves, the water-levels had risen up to their waist. Within another few hours, the entire ground floor had got submerged under water. Dad's elder brother (and wife) had refused to empty their cupboards. So, by the time the water levels went down (several days later), a lot of their stuff got destroyed.


Big houses also flooded in Patna in 1975

Phones lines remained cut for days. They didn't have any TVs and cell phones back then. And with all that water, naturally, the electric supply was cut too. They had no water supply either. So they collected the flood water by hanging out buckets from the balcony, mixed some alum in it, and used that for washing purposes.

My grandma's brothers were very well off. (They own a couple of cinema halls in the city.) One of them had rented a boat. He ferried over to Dad's house to ask if any supplies were needed. But even with that boat and all their money, those relatives still ran short of drinking water. Eventually, with no water supply, they were forced to filter and boil the stagnant water from their air coolers, and use that for drinking!

In the meantime, back at my Dad's place, the son of their landlord, who also stayed on the first floor and is still a very good family friend, came up with the idea of putting together a makeshift raft by tying a couple of empty plastic drums together. Their resident servant, one Mr. Ram Udit Mehto, used this "raft" to get vegetables from the higher areas of the city that were not flooded. Fortunately for them, their kitchen was on first floor. And they had all that drinking water. So they were able to cook proper meals. Gobhi ke parathe is what Dad remembers most clearly. Long sessions of card games on the terrace is another thing that he vividly remembers.


Streets of Patna during the floods in 1975

When I asked Dad about rescue and relief operations, he couldn't remember much, except for these helicopters that were dropping packets of bread and gud-chana (jaggery with roasted bengal-gram) on rooftops.

Dad's younger brother was drying some of his documents on the terrace, when one such helicopter flew over and started dropping these food packets. He tried to wave it off, in a vain effort to save his papers from the chopper's wake turbulence. Alas, the rescue/relief team in the helicopter misread his "wave-off" as a "plea for more food packets"! So they promptly made a U-turn and flew over a second time, to drop more bread and gud-chana! Hahahah! :P

Dad recalls that their terrace was strewn over with so many food packets, which they didn't need. They couldn't let it go waste though, particularly in those hard times. So, once again Mr. Ram Udit Mehto was set a-sailing (or wading perhaps) with their ingenious "drum raft", loaded with as many food packets that the humble raft could carry, and sent off to deliver those packets to other families stranded in nearby areas, with no access to direct roof-top deliveries from the helicopters!

For my Dad's family, the 1975 flood was mostly one extended picnic on the terrace. Yes, they did suffer some losses. And they had to stay upstairs for weeks even after the water-levels went down, because of the dampness and the smell of all the muck and rotting stuff. But it was nothing compared to many other families who couldn't move their belongings to higher ground in time.

There was no social media back then, to coordinate relief and rescue operations. In fact, there were no means of communication at all. There weren't even so many vehicles during those days. People were mostly stranded in their own houses, unless they could afford to rent a boat! Some did manage to catch fish from the flood waters though, sitting on their roof-tops or in their balconies! Now that's something you don't get to do too often, do you?


Fishing in Hathwa Market, Patna

Dad is greatly impressed by the way people are using Facebook and Twitter for coordinating local relief operations in Chennai currently. I keep telling him about all the little stories I read on my Facebook timeline, about how people are opening up their homes for strangers, about the various teams set up to give and receive aid (both rescue and relief) in different parts of Chennai, and about how people are sharing information on a real-time basis through social media.

Relief teams are able to tell people exactly what is needed at the ground level, and people are donating stuff accordingly (last I read was the request for fully-charged power banks). This direct communication is minimizing wastage very effectively. Pick-up points and times are also being closely coordinated. Rescue teams are reaching exactly where needed, within hours of "SOS calls on social media", when earlier, it would have taken days!

All this, because of technology and social media. I bet even Mark Zuckerberg had never imagined *this* use of Facebook when he first conceptualized it!

And the real "stars", of this whole chain of events, remain, hands down, the people of India, especially the people of Chennai. While the media, the parliamentarians, and the celebrities keep debating over "Growing Intolerance", the "real India" shows the world once again that it remains as united as ever!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

How To Celebrate Your Baby's First Birthday?

Now this is what you call a HAPPY birthday for a one-year-old!!! :D :D :D



This video reminds me of my nephew Yuvraj's first taste of an icecream!



. . .

Here's more in Videos!


Friday, October 16, 2015

Foto Friday: Happy Navratra!

It's that time of the year again when Indians are busy worshipping females, so that they can continue harassing them, in all possible ways, all the rest of the year round, without guilt. No, I don't celebrate Navratra. I don't keep a fast or do any kind of pujas. I stopped doing all puja-paath three years ago. Even sold my wooden temple on Quikr. (Got a good price for it too.)

The rest of the country does celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm though. Daily Dandiya practice has started in my building. They do this every year. Right below my bedroom balcony. I get a bird's-eye view of all the proceedings. Took this picture from my cell phone the other day...



It was the very first day. So it was a small gathering. It gets bigger as the days go by. Last night, I saw four distinct Dandiya groups practicing below my balcony:

  1. Ladies (the more-active married females of my building)
  2. Big girls (those who use pen at school)
  3. Small girls (still using pencils at school)
  4. Boys (haven't yet figured out why they had their separate group)

I feel very tempted to go join them. (It's only Dandiya after all, not Ballet!) Alas! I'm just too lazy to step out of my home again after I return to it at night!

I did notice one thing though... Falguni Pathak's "Yaad Piya Ki Aane Lagi" (among other songs by her) is still one of the most favorite Dandiya songs in the country. So is "Dholi Taro Dhol Baaje" from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. They play these songs every year!

Meanwhile, I'm busy doing this at my shop...



Those are gift packs for the Kanya-Puja ceremony during Navratra. Nine small girls are invited for breakfast or lunch, on the Saptami and Ashtami (some even do it on Navmi), and they are given small gift items along with some cash (usually Rs. 11).

The first time a customer came to my shop asking for gifts for Kanya-Puja, I was completely unprepared for it. I had very few items in that much quantity at that time. The next time, I made sure to stock-up before Navratra, but, I had to face a different kind of challenge on that occasion. More people turned up than I had expected, so there was quite a bit of a holdup, as I showed them all the stuff one-by-one and they selected the items and got them billed and packed.

This time, I've done some pre-planning. I have made such gift sets, of 10 packs each (9 girls + 1 tag-along), of varying price range. Most people prefer this quicker method of shopping. Plus it's also easier for me to keep a track of what is getting sold to whom. I keep making new packs as these keep getting sold.

In another two months, my shop will complete two years. In all this time, I have realized that running a business is a continuous learning process. Sometimes you learn from your past mistakes. Sometimes you learn from other business owners. Sometimes you learn from your customers. Does this learning ever stop?

Seems like I'm in a reflective mood today. Good for this blog, I guess. At least, it got updated finally. I have ignored it too much for the last few months. I've been going through a state of blogathy, I suppose. (You remember blogathy, don't you? We learnt this word during my A to Z of Blogging series.)

Anyway, I think I'll wind up for today now. (Foto-Friday's are not meant to be so long.)

I have no idea when I'll blog again.

. . .

Here's more in Foto-Friday!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book Review: The Apocalypse Trigger by Douglas Misquita

Review: The Apocalypse Trigger by Douglas Misquita

The Apocalypse Trigger
Author: Douglas Misquita
ISBN: 978-9351960379

Buy from:

Flipkart

Amazon.in

Amazon.com


The Apocalypse Trigger, by Douglas Misquita, is the third consecutive action-packed novel by this author, after Haunted and Secret of The Scribe. From his very first book, Misquita emerged as a skilled storyteller, setting high expectations among his readers, and this third book only adds to his credibility as an author.

Blurb from The Apocalypse Trigger:

In 1947, a freighter in the Malacca Straits sends out a macabre distress signal. When help arrives all the officers and crew are found dead - with no visible signs of injury.

Present day: An environmental disaster in British Colombia pits Billy Bradford against Future Energy Group and its ruthless head of security, Luc Fortesque.

A devastating terror strike on the world's grandest luxury hotel has the globe clamoring for the head of the mastermind, Sebastian Gardner.

But the three men will soon become pawns in a plot that dates back to the end of World War II and the collusion between a powerful, centuries-old cabal and a rogue priest.


I was supposed to publish this review a couple of months ago actually, but, then I got caught up with work and health issues, so never got around to it. This book deserves a shout-out on my blog though. It is another one of those rare gems that I would LOVE to see as a movie!

The Apocalypse Trigger, by Douglas Misquita, is yet another fast-paced adventure thriller with excellently scripted action scenes. The plot spans across time and international borders. The story revolves around struggle for power, world dominance, terrorism and vengeance. There are a lot of characters in the plot, some with slightly bigger roles than the others. They are all important to the story.

Written in Misquita's signature style, The Apocalypse Trigger introduces a lot of seemingly unrelated characters and events in the beginning of the narrative, and then goes on to connect them all in the latter part of the book, in a gripping climax. Now that I know that this is how he writes, I make sure that I pay attention to everything, right from page one, because otherwise, I'll end up flipping back through pages, looking for the missed "dots".

Misquita's attention to detail speaks of research well-done. You can almost visualize the scenes unfolding in front of your eyes. As a matter of fact, I'm quite surprised that none of his books have caught the eye of any Hollywood producer yet!

Anyway, coming back to the book, it has good paper quality and good printing. The only thing it doesn't have is good proofreading. There are innumerable typos in the book. Minor ones, but many. (Again, Mr. Misquita? Why?)

My rating: 4.5 out of 5. The Apocalypse Trigger, by Douglas Misquita, is a must-read page-turner for all action lovers. It will be almost impossible to put this book down once you've started on it.

Buy more books by Douglas Misquita from: Flipkart | Amazon.in | Amazon.com

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for reviewing, but that has, in no way, affected my rating and opinions.


Here's more in Books.



Friday, August 21, 2015

What's Worse: No Net or Slow Net?

What’s the one thing standing between India and Modi ji’s dream of #DigitalIndia?

We all know the answer to that one, don’t we? It is “affordable high-speed internet connection”!

Every time I go for stock purchasing for my store, I have to make a list on paper, despite the fact that I maintain a complete up-to-date inventory in an Excel spreadsheet, and that spreadsheet is saved in my Dropbox folder, which makes it accessible via my phone from anywhere. Regardless of that, I cannot use that spreadsheet directly for ordering, because it just doesn’t download fast enough when I’m at the market!


Every internet user's worst nightmare... that dotted circle in the center!
(Screenshot captured from http://www.zeetv.com)

And the one TV show that I like to watch – Dance India Dance – starts from 9 pm every Saturday and Sunday. Saturdays are okay, as it is my weekly off that day, but on Sundays, I always get held up at the shop. Schools reopen on Monday, so naturally the kids have last-minute stationery shopping to do on Sunday! As a result, I always miss at least two dance performances every Sunday. I try to catch up later on Zee TV’s website, but again, it takes AGES to stream the video!

Oh and Google Maps! It is of absolutely no use without a high-speed internet connection! So many times, I have failed to give correct navigation instructions to Dad, just because the app wouldn’t update my current location on a real-time basis! One missed left-turn, and we’re forced to take a U-turn after another kilometer or so. What does that translate to? A grumbling Dad! (Naturally!)

Recently I saw this new Airtel 4G TV ad... (embedded below)



I am so impressed by this Ad! Looks like FINALLY there might be a solution to my internet woes! Ever since I’ve seen this Ad, I can’t stop dreaming…

What will it be like to have that kind of internet speed at my fingertips?


  • No more list-making for sure! I will smartly produce my smartphone from my handbag, and rattle off the names of all the items marked in red.

  • No more getting lost either and being scolded by Dad!

  • And missing part of Dance India Dance won’t be so painful anymore either.

  • I’ll be able to watch all those speeches of Modi Ji, on Youtube, that I miss when I’m at my shop!

  • I’ll also be able to watch all those Pakistani TV serials on Youtube, that my sister is so crazy about these days!

  • Online shopping would be so much cooler. No more waiting for product images to show up. No more repeated refreshing of the screen.

  • Online banking would be a piece of cake, with no more “Session Timeouts” and “Please login again” messages.

  • I’ll be able to actually see all those videos my friends share with me on whatsapp. (Right now, I don’t even bother clicking on them!)

  • I’ll be able to have proper voice conversations with them on whatsapp or viber, without having to repeat everything at least 3 times!

  • Oh and video calls on phone! That’s one thing I haven’t even tried yet because of the pathetic internet speeds in most parts of our country! How awesome it will be to actually use the front camera of my cell phone for something other than taking a selfie!

Ahhhh! So many beautiful dreams…. all seem possible now because of Airtel – the first ever company to roll out 4G services in India… and that too at 3G prices!

I wonder if it’s available in my city already…

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Windows Downgrade: Old Really Is Gold!

Last month, my work laptop got severely infected with virus from a pen-drive that belonged to one of my kiddie customers at store. After spending more than a day in trying all possible ways to remove the virus manually, I realized that I would have to go for a complete format-reinstall.

Sighhhhh! That meant one more unproductive and eye-strenuous day of continuous long hours with the laptop. I didn't look forward to it, though Dad was very pleased. This is his laptop actually, and I'd been holding off this format-reinstall for over 2 years. He was glad I couldn't hold it off any longer.

So I backed up all the data and then thought maybe I should try an upgraded version of Windows finally. This laptop came with Windows Vista and I never bothered to change it in all these years. On Dad's persuasion, I installed Windows 7 on it this time.

First thing I noticed after the installation... I had at least 3 GB less free space in the hard drive partition, as compared to a Vista installation. I said to myself - "Okay, it's just 3GB. That doesn't amount to much these days. Small price to pay for the extra features that I'll get with Windows 7."

So I decided to look for those promising "extra features". I spent that entire day exploring the Operating System in depth, setting it up to my liking, and checking out what new stuff it brought to the table.

I did find one new feature that I really liked - the Desktop Utility called "Snipping Tool". Up until now, I had been taking screenshots by using the "Prnt Scrn" button on the keyboard and then cropping the required screen area in Photoshop. But with the "Snipping Tool", I could simply drag my mouse around the required area and save it as an image file. It was very cool.

So I thought to myself - "Maybe I'll upgrade my PC at home to Windows 7 too." (I'm still running XP on it!)

Alas... it wasn't meant to happen! My relationship with Windows 7 couldn't last for more than a few hours!

Why?

Because of these Desktop Toolbars!




You see those toolbars on the top of the first image and on the left of the second? They were the "deal breakers" with Windows 7.

I have been using these toolbars since 2001. (I had Windows ME back then.) The one on the top has all the icons from the "My Computer" folder. All the immovable drives show up here, as well as any removable storage devices connected to the computer at any time. The one on the left has shortcuts for all my frequently used folders, files and programs.

These toolbars make ALL these things just one-click away. LITERALLY ONE-CLICK AWAY! I could have any number of windows/applications/files open... I just need to move my mouse to the specific edge of the screen (top or left) and then click on the required icon. (Both the toolbars are set to "Always on top" and "Auto Hide".) Not only that, but they also leave my desktop totally uncluttered from icons. So you can actually SEE the wallpaper I've set on it!

These toolbars have been just classic. Revolutionary, even! They completely changed the way I worked on my computer, ever since I came to know about them in 2001! I have owned and used so many different computers in the last 14 years, but these toolbars have ALWAYS been there, making life that little bit easier for me.

Unfortunately, this Desktop Toolbar feature has been discontinued by Microsoft after Vista. There is no way you can get these toolbars back. Sure, there are other "dockable gadgets" available now, mostly third-party, but none of them are as sleek, unobtrusive and easy-to-use as this. :(

I realized that I could live without the 3GB disk space, but I couldn't live without my precious desktop toolbars! Windows 7 had to go.

And what about that "Snipping Tool"?

LOL! You won't believe this, but it was there in Vista all along... hidden in the Accessories folder of the Start Menu! Talk about having your cake and eating it too! :D


Monday, August 3, 2015

Quote Challenge - Day 3 of 3

Thirty posts in June, and then only three posts in July! What can I say? Erratic blogging at its best?

Sighhh!

I'm afraid I'm going to be this irregular here for some more time. I'm a bit tied-up with my body's needs at the moment. A whole lot of deficiencies are cropping up one after the other, and it is making me cranky and very asocial. Thankfully, the shop is keeping me busy, at least on days when it's not raining! And for those idleness induced blues, I'm glad to have the company of my childhood best friends -- books!

As Amitabh Bachchan said in the TV commercial for Reid & Taylor in 2009... "A book is really a machine for time-travel."


This quote, while it is not from a book or an author, or even one of mine, is, nevertheless, among my most favorite.

Losing yourself in the pages of a good book is perhaps the second best thing you can do when you wish to take a break from reality. Traveling is, of course, the best thing, but, it might not always be possible due to financial constraints, time constraints, health constraints or various other responsibilities.

Books, on the other hand, are always the cheapest and least demanding mode of travel... not just across distance, but, also across time. Movies are good too, but, for the more imaginative minds, books offer a greater freedom of visualization.

- * - * - * - * - * -

With this quote, I've finally completed your tag, Princess! On Day 3, I pass this challenge on to Sheethal, Mayuri, and Shilpa Gupte.

3-Day Quote Challenge : Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

*****************************************************************

This is what the 3-Day Quote Challenge is all about.

1. Post one of your favorite quotes (different quote on each day) on three consecutive days. The quote can be from your favorite book, author, or your own.
2. Nominate 3 bloggers to challenge them.
3. Thank the blogger, who nominated you.

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