Saturday, March 28, 2015

A to Z Apr 2015: All About Blogging!

BREAKING NEWS !!!

After many jumps from "No" - "Yes" - "No" - "Maybe" - "No" - "Should I?" - "Yes" - "No" - "I Should" - "No" - "Oh Come On!"... I'm finally attempting the A to Z Blogging Challenge... for the very first time!



For those of my readers who don't know what this is about, it is a blogging challenge where we have to write 26 posts in the month of April, the four Sundays being "off". And, as the name of the challenge suggests, the first post has to be on a topic that starts with the alphabet 'A', the second with 'B', and so on.

Bloggers from all over the world participate in this challenge every year in April. Some even write creative stuff like poems or short stories every day! What style we choose to write in is totally up to us. Moreover, these 26 posts can be completely random, or they could be around a single theme.

I have decided to go with a theme this year. Since this will be my first attempt at this challenge, and also since April will be a busy month at my store as new sessions will start in schools, I've decided to pick an easy theme to write on. I have to decided to write on "Blogging".

Yup. I figured I'm so passionate about blogging that this would be the easiest theme for me to write on this time.

I'm hoping this round of A to Z Blogging Challenge will help me get back into my blogging form after my last "disappearing act" here.

So keep watching this space for some regular action next month! Goodnight for now, folks! :D

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Bloggers, Food and Photography

Last weekend, Askme.com organized a Bloggers Foodie Meet in Jaipur, in association with the Jaipur Photographer's Club. Their email invite promised a Food Photography Workshop, which made me keen to go. Saturday is normally a "stock purchasing" day for me, but, I decided to work my schedule around a bit to make time for this meetup. Shilpa was also planning to attend this event, so we went together.



Now, Askme.com is that same website whose ads, featuring Ranbir Kapoor, have been all over the TV channels during the last year. I never got to use their website personally, but, it seems like it is along the lines of Justdial and Quikr, i.e. a search engine for local listings, including used/secondhand items.

They have also come up with this "Bapp of all apps", for mobile phones. From what we were told in the meetup, this is a 4-in-1 app. You can :

  1. Search for local listings (like Justdial)
  2. Find best deals for shopping (like Snapdeal)
  3. Post an ad (like Quikr and Olx)
  4. Buy stuff listed on it directly

We were further informed that apart from this app, they have come up with various communities too, on Fashion, Travel, Wellness, Education, Gadgets and Weddings. So, for example, if you notice a particularly awesome vacation destination in a latest Bollywood movie, and you can't find which place it was, you can search for it on their Travel community. Same way, you can find college listings and scholarships on their Education community. Now, they're launching their Foodie community, and this Meetup was for promoting that. From what I could make out, this new Food community would be kind of like Zomato, with reviews of various restaurants and food joints.

I haven't yet been able to to check out any of the communities or the app, but it looks quite promising. Kind of a one stop hub for all our local search requirements. Should be good.

As for that meet, I'll just say that I have attended better. Here's what I disliked and liked about the meet.


"Stamped" on Arrival! :)

Things I disliked about the meet:

  1. The ambiance. It was dark. Like cinema hall dark. With random spots of dim lights in various odd colors. Not only did it seem unprofessional for a Meetup like this, but it was also quite disorienting. Plus, we couldn't have any "practical" photography session in such low light! (Or maybe it was never on the agenda, I don't know.)

  2. Delay. Their invite said the meet was from 3 pm to 6 pm, so Shilpa and I reached right on dot at 3 pm. And then we waited... till 4 pm!

  3. Lack of preparedness. a) They were still setting things up after we had reached. b) It didn't look like much effort had gone into planning the "fun activities". (The aunties in my building find better fun games on the internet, for their kitty parties!) c) Despite the one-hour delay in starting the event, we still finished at 6 pm, with the last 20 minutes being used up in an impromptu session by a professional blogger who just happened to be there! So they called us for 3 hours, but didn't have activities for that duration! :(

Things I liked about the meet:


  1. The food. Definitely the food. The meet was organized at the Oopper Restro Lounge in C Scheme, Jaipur. We were offered tea, mocktails, variety of snacks, pizza slices, second round of snacks, and gulab jamuns! The lounge staff was courteous and helpful.

  2. The Photography Workshop. Organized by the Jaipur Photographer’s Club. Ever since those Photo-A-Day challenges in 2013, I have been planning to find a photography club in town and sign up for a beginners' course. Never got around to it though, first due to my sickness, then 'coz of my shop. And now this Jaipur Photographer’s Club came knocking at my doorstep via my inbox! LOL! I liked their 45-minute session on basics of photography and then food photography. They answered questions clearly, explained things in layman's terms, and had plenty of self-explanatory slides in their ppt presentation. I wish my Dad had also gone along. He has used an SLR all his life, so he would have better understood everything. But I made lots of notes throughout the session, and showed it all to him when I got home. He's hooked! Now we're both planning to attend one of their workshops as soon as we can. :)

  3. A surprise "monetize your blog" session by one of the bloggers who came to attend that meet! This guy, Jaspal, mentioned during the intro that he made a lot of money from blogging ("lot" as in "6-figure" lot!) So naturally we wanted to know how he did it! He was kind enough to oblige. Shared quite a bit of useful info with us in the last 20 minutes of the meet. Answered some questions too.

    Overall, it was a mixed experience - some takeaways and some dampeners. I got to catch up with Shilpa and also met her sister. And another surprise highlight of the day - Shilpa's homemade cupcakes! I had no idea she could bake that well! Now I wish we lived closer to each other so that I could get to taste more of her baked goodies, more often! By the way, for our next meetup, I have already requested her to bring her homemade cookies! I'll remember to take pics next time before I finish them off! :P

    [Continue Reading...]




    Thursday, March 26, 2015

    Is Change Good?

    They say that change is good, but I've never been the one to welcome it readily into my life. For instance, this blog. I started it more than 8 years ago, and, until about half an hour ago, I was still stuck on the same old blogspot domain! Not anymore though. :D



    That's right... miss_teerious is now at mysteriouskaddu.com! :D :D :D

    Oh, and I forgot to tell you guys earlier, I changed my blog menu bar too about a month ago.

    8+ years of blogging (even if it is as erratic as mine) and 800+ posts, on such a wide range of topics, forces you to optimize navigation on your blog if you want to make your content accessible easily. More so if you're as obsessed with orderliness as I am!

    So here's a screenshot of the new menu bar too.



    With all these new sections now, i.e. "My Interests", "My Blog Columns" etc., it looks more like a personal blog, doesn't it? Plus I managed to get the sub-menus working too. So now, for example, the category "Audio/Visual" further opens up into "Music", "Movies" and "Videos" automatically, right up there. Now anybody can access any topic on my blog in just one click, no matter what page s/he is on! Neat, right? :D

    As for the new domain, well let's see how that change goes.

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    Monday, March 16, 2015

    No Matter What

    One of the best things about having your own business is, perhaps, the freedom from corporate politics. As the owner and primary decision-maker at my store, I’m free to make all the rules, as well as to ensure consistency in implementation of those rules. Whether it is work timings, or designated work space, or company policies, the rules, once set, don’t need to change unless there is a valid practical reason to change them. Unlike some corporate offices I’ve worked in previously, where they were solely dependent on the personal whims of managers and team leaders.

    I remember one company in particular where I experienced a really bad case of corporate politics. It was my first job in Delhi – a BPO in Okhla Industrial Area. The promised “night shift allowance” was linked to attendance, and the catch was that we weren’t allowed a single day of leave during training and probation! So, we never got to see that particular allowance on most of our monthly salary slips during probation.

    The performance-based incentives were dependent on our scores on ALL the client SLAs taken together. In our process, we had three. For two of those three parameters, my scores were in the “maximum incentive” slab, but nobody knew my scores on the third parameter. Every week, my name was in the list of top scorers for two of the parameters, but, for the third, there was no data available with anyone for my Employee ID. I was told that they could not calculate my incentives without the complete data and that I would get all the back-dated incentives as soon as they got my missing scores. I could do nothing except wait for that day.

    Our leave records were also manipulated by our TLs. If you happened to be a personal favorite of your TL, you could take 15 days leave in a month, even during probation, and still receive the full month’s pay, plus the night shift allowance. If not, they could deduct two days’ pay against one “TL-cancelled-shift” because the pick-up cab couldn’t find its way to your place in the Delhi winter fog!

    Even if you were present, there was no guarantee you’d find a workstation. And if you did manage to find one, you’d find yourself logged out from it, with some other agent sitting there, when you returned from your meal break! Then you would have to wait till someone else left for break, so you could make a grab for his/her workstation! In this way, the official nine-hour shift easily extended to at least 11-12 hours daily.

    There was nobody who could help you out with these issues. None of the seniors took any responsibility for anything. If there were any designated SPOCs for these concerns, nobody told you who they were. There was no clear escalation process for the employees either.

    Now you can only take this crap for so long. After a certain point, you start thinking you want an “out”. After eight months, I had reached that point, but I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I indeed opted “out”.

    At the end of my shift every morning, on my way back home, I used to stop at a PCO to talk to Dad, who lived in Patna back then. (Yes, we didn’t have cell phones in those days.) That particular morning, it seemed to be less busy than normal at the PCO, so I was able to have a long chat with him. I sat there and discussed everything in detail with him, told him about all that was going on in office, shared my feelings about it with him, as well as my indecisiveness about continuing work there or quitting, and if quitting, then doing what. There was also the matter of my pending incentives.



    My Dad then reminded me of why I’d gone to Delhi in the first place - for the experience. He said I wasn’t there to work for the money; if I wasn’t enjoying the experience, I could leave. He told me that those incentives weren’t more important than my peace of mind and that if I wanted to experience working at some other company, I could remain in Delhi for some time and try to look for a new job. If not, I could come back to Patna. In short, he let me know that I was free to decide whatever I wanted to do and he supported me either way.

    His calm and cool-headed treatment of the situation, and his unconditional support, helped me get clarity in my own thoughts. After our chat that day, I felt mentally lighter and stronger.

    That’s the best part about having a family. Just knowing that they are with you, no matter what, makes all the difference in the world. You feel like you’re ready to take on anything, come what may! Life can keep throwing its little “ups and downs” along your path, but if you have the unconditional support of your loved ones, overcoming challenges and moving on becomes so much easier. What may seem daunting all alone, looks like an exciting adventure with your loved ones beside you. The "togetherness" of "today" gives you the courage to deal with "tomorrow".

    . . .

    P.S. - About that job... well, I decided to take a week’s break, told my flat-mate about my plans (i.e. "leave current job after getting this month’s salary, try to find a new job within next two months, go back to Patna if I can’t") and fortunately, found another job in that very same week, with a much better work atmosphere and a much higher pay package as well! Perfect timing, you see! :D

    [Continue Reading...]




    Thursday, March 12, 2015

    Breaking Dawn

    When I first posted about my shop on my blog and Facebook, so many of my friends and acquaintances congratulated me and wished me best of luck in my new venture. It was truly heart-warming.

    And then there were some married females among them who also wanted to know how I did it. They told me how they’ve also wanted to start something of their own like this, but haven’t been able to do it. Lack of family support, lack of self confidence, “what if I failed?” kind-of thoughts… the whole package, you know.

    I honestly had nothing to offer them… no answers for their questions, no words that could be sufficiently encouraging, no magic tips.

    The thing is… I’m no different from any of them. I’m not made of any different stuff. I had to face all the same challenges and self doubts that they do.

    Some people think I had it all cut out for me, nice and easy, because of my Dad. They like to believe that my Dad set it all up for me. The truth is that my Dad was even more scared about starting this business than I was!

    We were in a new town. Both of us are introverts to the core. We knew very few people here. And, you won’t believe this, we’d never even ventured towards the main town area of Jaipur till then! So, not only did we not have any knowledge of the wholesale markets and suppliers in the town, we didn’t even know any of the routes and stuff! On top of everything, I had just been seriously ill! Under the circumstances, I don’t blame Dad for freaking out.

    Ordinarily, his attitude wouldn’t have affected me so much, but, all those toxic years in Patna had really brought my confidence levels down. Plus, I’d just been through a very low period in my life due to health and some other issues. In short, I was at the “rock bottom” phase of my life. And Dad’s fears only added on to my own insecurities. My mind read them as clear “votes of no confidence” against me.

    I thought maybe I was being stupid and reckless; that I was making a big mistake in starting this store. There must have been at least hundreds of moments when I thought of abandoning the project, but I knew that if I quit on it, my body would also quit on me. So, while it was vital to me that I started this store, I was also practical enough to understand that it may not last long. The only question that remained to be answered was “How long?” There was a part of me that said if I could make it through the first six months, it might survive after all. But it was a very small part of me, and it spoke in a feeble, barely audible voice.

    There were just about half a dozen people back then with whom I’d shared about this venture. (I was so unsure about it myself that there seemed no point in shouting it out loud to the world!) My aunt in Kanpur (my Mom’s sister) was one of those people. And one day, just out of the blue like that, she announced on phone that she had saved up two lakh rupees, and wanted to know how she could get it to me so that I could use it in my business! (Yes, well she’s from the background where women don’t even know the ‘B’ of ‘Banking’, let alone ‘Internet Banking’!)

    Can you imagine the look on my face at that moment? Here I was, still wondering whether I was doing the right thing in starting this store, already making an inventory of stuff that I could sell second-hand on various online websites, trying to deal with my own fears as well as my Dad’s, and then all of a sudden my aunt tells me she wants to invest a further two lakh rupees in it, that too with no collateral! And she was so casual about it… as if she was only giving me a twenty rupee note to buy a loaf of bread for her!

    That was the moment when my entire internal world shifted. While Dad’s fear had been rubbing off on me as a vote of no confidence, my aunt’s offer of such a huge amount of money translated as this big BIG sign across the sky that the Universe had faith in me! That “barely audible voice” (that I mentioned a few lines above) turned into a loudspeaker. And it’s a basic Law of Attraction that when you start something with optimism and positivity, chances of succeeding increase many times over.



    That one phone call was my “Look Up” moment, the moment that changed my perspective from one of despair to one of hope, the breaking dawn after a long dark night. All I can say is that I was lucky I got that moment, but everybody doesn’t. Some just have to fight their battles on their own, with no help… not even a positive sign from the Universe. I guess it is all part of our Karma.

    I may not be able to help any of those friends in crossing over from their fears and doubts to faith, but I just want them to know that I’ll always be ready to help them in any other way that I can.


    [Continue Reading...]




    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Dare To Start A New Life?

    “Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn

    And you know you need to initiate a change in your life when you are filled with a persistent feeling of discontent and unhappiness.

    I found myself at that stage in life few years ago.

    I was living in Patna, known for its uncouth gentry and its strong casteism. While the former proved to be an obstacle in opening my own store there, the latter wouldn’t let me get a good job locally. On top of that, I was surrounded by toxic relatives who apparently lived to criticize and pull us (Dad & me) down.

    I could see only one way out – leave Patna for good. But go where? My sister lived in Delhi, but I couldn’t see Dad or me settling there for good. We both are more of “small town” people. We like to breathe clean air. We like to wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and not to the blaring horns of vehicles. We like to be surrounded by plenty of greens and not a concrete jungle. And we definitely don’t like spending a major portion of our day commuting from one place to another (or stuck at traffic signals)!



    So Delhi was definitely out.

    When I made a list of possible places where we could relocate to, based on the presence of at least one friend/acquaintance there who could help us in the initial days, I realized I didn’t have that many choices. It was either Nagpur or Patiala or Jaipur. All three were places where we didn’t have any relatives. All three were places where we would have to #StartANewLife from scratch. Not even office colleagues to help you out, you know… that kind of “scratch”.

    It was a challenging thought for me, but still seemed possible. Or maybe I was just so fed up with Patna that I felt ready to face this challenge. Not so for Dad though. His mind could simply not adjust around the idea that the two of us move to some place completely new, where we don’t have any relatives to help us settle down. He had never done that sort of thing before.

    Eventually, it was our “relatives” in Patna who made the decision for him. Or gave him the “kick”, you can say.

    When my sister got married in 2011, they made things so difficult for us at every step of the way that even Dad decided he’d had enough. In fact, the groom’s side didn’t make as much “fuss” as my own relatives did (the ones from Patna)! So critical, so demanding, so negative, and just so toxic!

    One month after my sister’s wedding, my Dad and I had moved to Jaipur. It wasn’t a temporary move. This time, we had moved for good. Complete with our bank accounts and everything. It was a big gamble we were taking. We had no idea how we’d fare over here. We didn’t know whether things would get better or worse. All we knew was that we had to make a change.

    We dared to #StartANewLife, in a brand new city, and today, we’re living in peace, surrounded by greenery and birds. (See pic above - that's the view from my balcony). We finally bought our own flat here, and I even have my own business now… finally!




    [Continue Reading...]




    Monday, March 9, 2015

    Which 'Lord of the Rings' Character Am I?

    How can a book-lover resist a fun quiz based on one of his favorite books?

    He can't!

    So when I saw this 'Lord of the Rings' quiz on Facebook, I just had to find out which character in the series I was! As it turns out, I am...



    Hmmm. That "being evil" bit in the end is interesting.


    Here's more in "Who-Am-I"!


    [Continue Reading...]




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