Category: Life

Shame On The Streets

Stop. Look. Get emotionally robbed. Go.

If you have ever stopped at a traffic signal (anywhere in India), you have witnessed an industry that has grown by leaps and bounds. Begging at traffic signals is increasing every day. Here are the facts:

  • They play with your emotions and earn money. Don’t be fooled by the old age or the new born babies. It’s all set up and none of it is ever genuine. An excellent movie on this was made in 2007.
  • You earn hard money – and you convert it into black money by giving out 5 Rupees a day.
  • You are not helping – but encouraging mafia to “cut more hands / chop off more legs” of kidnapped children and helpless men/women.
  • This is not personal – it’s a national shame that people beg on the streets.
  • A show on BBC (on everyday lives of Mumbai’s eunuchs) interviewed a eunuch begging on a traffic signal. When a man in a car offered work to the eunuch (that was on camera), the eunuch hurled some abuses (live on camera).
  • Most of the beggars out there are making money anywhere between Rs. 50 to Rs. 1000 a day.
  • India Today covered a story in the last week of January 2008 on begging. The numbers and facts there are not in the least shocking.
  • Update – Begging is an industry which has an annual turnover close to Rs. 180 crore in Mumbai alone. The article from India today has the data. Who’s the beggar?

You can help by discouraging people when they give out money to beggars. Even a single coin lost to them will promote begging. Begging is a combination of multiple evils – inflicted injuries, black and easy money, kidnappings, child stealing and child labour.

Write We Do

Soni just got me to install a blog for her. She was using mash, but as the product is no longer actively up, she was forced to move elsewhere. I set up an MT installation here for her.

It’s interesting to see what people write when they start off. First there’s apprehension on who would read it and how’d they react. And then there’s a choice of subjects that are on offer. Personal life is always on top, though it manifests into different streams. Like Soni talks about history, but she does that by writing about her own grandfather – who was a famous personality in Varanasi. This is some important information that was missing from the Internet. Although for personal reasons, she did add some value by providing an important missing link that might turn out useful to relate facts and answer queries about people.

For all that matters, my job is done. Her blog is setup and she has been introduced to the internets in her own personal way.

On a separate note, I really liked MT (and some obvious advantages over WP – got out of it as soon as it was deployed). But I feel comfortable with WP now, and having configured it to fine levels – it would be rather hard to migrate now. Just in case someone were going to start off a new “their own” blog, use MT than WP.

Credit Card – Why You Should Have One & Which One

Why? Here’s why:

  • You track your spendings – which has millions of benefits, tracking is a must
  • You get rewarded for each spend
  • You get an emergency pocket friend that everyone needs (for life & death moments)
  • You get a chance of credit rating – that you will require in future

The last point requires a bit of explanation. With CIBIL in place, all the credit activity of individuals is reported at a central location. In future, when you would need a loan for car, house etc., your credit score in CIBIL would help you in getting good interest rates etc. If you maintain a good credit history, you would be a preferred customer getting a good deal.

Which One?

Let’s take the three most important features in a card (that experience taught me).

The most important feature on a Credit Card is how they reward you. In short, rewards should be given back in form of cash or other monetary means (store specific reward points also work, like I go shopping in a store and get a discount of Rs. 1200 for 1200 points on my card).

Next up is whether you can “decrease” your limit on the card. Personally, I would really like my card to have a lower limit, so that I can spend all of my limit without fear of overspending and next month pay off a bill that fits my pocket. That is the correct way to use a Credit Card. Spend only half as much you earn and pay off every bit of the bill next month, 3 days ahead of the due date.

The last feature is the availability and modes of payment (on how you pay their bills back) the card offers you. They should have enough ATMs, or a way to pick up cheques (without charging extra) or an online transfer ability. Some way to get the money across with minimum delay and hassle.

These 3 most important things point to two cards that I have researched thoroughly. One is an ABN Amro Card, which has two of these most important things. It has a Flexi Limit on it (which means you can reduce the limit) and it has a Cash Back card where you get cash back of a Rupee on every purchase of some Rs. X (=200 maybe).

What the ABN Amro card doesn’t have is the ease of payment. They have lesser ATMs and they offer a Master Card, so you have difficulty in paying off their bill using Visa transfers from other banks. Unless, of course, you have an ABN Amro bank account, which would make your Card payments really easy to manage.

The other card is the Citibank Card (Platinum), that again has two of the above benefits. First off, it has a really good reward system, you get back the rewards as real discounts (1 point = 1 rupee) in a lot of stores. The other benefit is that you get a great deal of payment modes – from the Citibank Account, Visa transfers (from ICICI), plenty of ATMs across cities, plenty of drop boxes here & there and a cheque pick up facility (although they charge you for that probably).

Citibank has one thing missing; that they don’t have any limit decrease facility. Again, you can work around the problem by getting an add-on card issued for a relative and get a limit defined on it (you can tell them to set the limit as X). Once again, it’s not flexible – you can’t increase/decrease it.

Digital Diagnostics

So we get this free complete health check up from our company. Turns out that you have a host of options to pick the Hospital or Diagnostic Centre of your choice. For this one, I choose Wockhardt Hospital (Bangalore).

If I run back a year, I see myself sitting in Wockhardt Hospital (same place around the same time of the month), getting a similar health check up done. After about three hours of a lot of questions and answers, juice extractions and urea content push outs – I finally wait for the reports to come. As I doze off in the waiting lounge, somebody calls my name two hours later. Waking up, I see the executive holding a folder in her hand an pointing me to “Room 152” where the Physician awaits. The physician smiles, reports are normal – my Cholestrol is border-lining somewhere and I get to exercise a lot to push it up. Yay!

Zoom forward to this day. I am in the same waiting lounge after all the puncturing and pushing out is complete. I don’t doze off, instead have carried a book along with me. I hardly complete a few chapters when I feel it best to have some lunch with my better half and get back.

So, am back in the waiting lounge. The executive recognises me, calls my name and puts me to “Room 152”. Physician smiles, all reports normal – Cholestrol is border lining on the lower side and I get to exercise a lot to push it up. Wait, deja vu? Didn’t this happen already? “No,” I think to myself, “I haven’t been exercising and hence the status quo of my body.” I take the reports – glance through things that I understand, shove it away in my backpack and return to work.

It’s night time and I am looking at the treasure of the day – my reports. I suddenly realise that I still have my older file, which my better half fetches for me. My curiosity on how have I fared increases and I don’t let it any more. My heamoglobin, cholestrol (both HDL/LDL), bilirubin and every other damn thing hasn’t changed since last year. It’s like my body has locked upon the values and there are a hundred billion cells trying to stand stationary and not move – lest any value changes!

Welcome to Wockhardt Hospitals. The database of this Hospital retains records and reports. Clean – very clean. They not only retain the reports, but they would print out the same report and give it back to you when you visit them next time. So what if they drew 200 ml of your red (or blue) bloods? So what if you pissed away into a container thinking it’s going to be a clear yellow report! The hospital database is retained for people by their names and birth date combinations (primary key for those who know). If there was ever a Rishi Pande in Wockhardt – he will always have the same Hb.

But why am I ranting? This is dangerous. You keep people who are pathologists and maybe they are doing their tests alright. But when you print out the reports, just because your software decided that as long as there is a fetch from the database, it’s good to be printed, you are going to create havoc. Now that every thing were normal today (I still don’t know if really every thing is normal), I don’t care. But suppose it were an emergency and my Hb count had been really low, whereas the report would have said “it’s fine dude, go back home and sleep”, the dude would be dead. Really dangerous for uninsured dudes.

Living in digital age is not fun. As long as there are `database fetch` programmers who are doing it just because they were told to, things are not going to be easy.

Message: “Watch out for the neo-digitised institutions. There are bugs everywhere.”

Your Duty To Vote – Never Expires!

All in Bangalore, your “duty” to vote has arrived. The first step to ensuring that you can vote, is to get a Voter ID Card, also known as EPIC (Elector’s Photo Identity Card). The only catch is, you have to act fast – as the last date for getting your name on the Electoral Rolls is 22 Feb, 2008. All the details can be found here: BangaloreVoterID.org

  • You have to fill up Form 6, indicating your current residence, supplemented with some documents (for proof of age and residence – see below)
  • You don’t have to be a permanent resident of the place where you want to get a Voter ID card (you can be a tenant)
  • If you are working at a place different from your home town, you are eligible to get a Voter’s ID at your town of work
  • Please make sure to fill Form 7 to get your name deleted from electoral rolls elsewhere in the country
    • Search here to know if your name exists in the electoral rolls of your home town
      • Doing this will ensure that your name is not used to register bogus votes at your home place
  • You can also fill the same Form 7 to de-register people you know, who no longer are residing in those places (and hence can’t vote) due to migration or death
    • Please do this for as many people as you can, you will do a huge favour to the nation.
    • You can search for names in the same way as you did for yourself
  • Documents for proof of age (18+): High School Marks Sheet, Birth Certificate, Passport, Driving License or this affidavit on a stamp paper stamped by a Notary (I created this from Annexure A of the Passport Form).
  • Document for proof of residence is not necessary. But it would help to facilitate (speed up) the work of registration if you can provide any of these: Passport, Bank Pass Book (or a letter from bank), Driving License, Telephone Connection (your name), Gas Connection Documents, Employee Certificate or any Govt. document.

Update: Here is a fresh site where you can find details on deadlines and addresses of electoral registration offices.

Update (21.Apr.08): You can now drop a filled in form (with your photograph pasted on it) and get the Voter ID card within 48 hours. Check this news article from Times of India.

It is your duty to vote, not just a right any more. Please see FAQs and detailed steps on how to get a Voter ID card at BangaloreVoterID.org

Memory Will Defraud You

Was reading a book by Sigmund Freud which had some classic experiments. Some times memory can fool you, so much so that what you can recall very clearly had never actually happened. There have been some real life instances where I have experienced this, and so I can confirm this truth (at least for myself). Some really unpleasant memories held by close relatives I know, also live to tell the same truth.

An excellent way to run ahead of your memory, and always be in time to catch it is writing personal diaries. It has been a long time since I have written into my diary (I used to when I was a kid – basically for logging whatever I used to do). Even though I might resume that, I have taken care to invent a script of my own to make sure that none but some extremely trustworthy people can read it. That said, personal diaries are meant only for the people who write them, and for those who are very near and dear to them.

Anyhow, the point I want to make is that I can clearly remember the years where I used to write diaries (though not regularly, but I kept as much track as possible). But there is a certain void in my memory for all these years I haven’t been writing, which to somewhat extent does mean that my memory might be fudged. The most interesting part is, the conflicts of whether a certain event happened or not are more during these unlogged years – even though it was only 6-8 months back. Still to read up more on Freud.