Frisky

Quite a while back, both Soni and I were getting back home from a dining out. Just as I took the final turn towards home, Soni shrieked out seeing a kitten on the road – which would have been under our vehicle if it weren’t for the alert. That 20cm/10cm thing was drinking water from a pothole on the road. Taking pity, we picked her up and carried back home.

I am not very keen on cats around. After a sip of water and milk with lots of cuddling around, I sternly ordered for its removal. Emotions ran high. Much debate later, I filled in for the kitten’s mother who would be searching for her and it would be really necessary to put her right back in where she came from.

The three of us went back around the corner of the road – all quiet with nobody around. An apartment stands right across the road where Frisky was found (the kitten got a name by then). Pushing Frisky behind the gates of the apartment, we started walking back. A “meow” from her felt like ‘thanks’ to me. As we turned heads to acknowledge, there was shock and terror!

Two dogs rushing towards Frisky from far across while the ignorant thing was wandering out of the gate. A rush of adrenalin got Soni all the power to reach Frisky before those dogs. Street dogs are pretty infamous for what they’ve done often in Bangalore, and this would have been yet another slaughter. Those dogs had surrounded a Soni with Frisky while I rushed to pick up a stone and hurl at those bast****. I hit one, and the cowards they are, both of them ran. But they kept on howling as every other dog of the area got on track. Thus began my first real life Super Mario reach-home-safe-with-the-kitten stage. I picked up as many stones as possible and Soni kept Frisky cuddled up in her arms.

Barking dogs were all around us. I kept on sermonizing, “Don’t run, keep walking straight. Don’t look them in the eye, look straight.” Until that day, dogs were my favorite animals. Status change – not anymore, and my hate for them increased with every dog crossed. The final stage arrived. A big beast ahead had gathered all the courage and grouped two more of its kind, waiting for us to come up. I had only a few stones and if I missed, they would pounce on us and the pack would have a Frisky meal.

Life is a game. All games have special powers. Ours arrived in the form of two men who realized what we were doing. They ran behind the dogs, distracted them and broke the pack. I took a shot at one of these dogs and hit (generally I couldn’t have)! That was it, the squeal was music to our ears and a psychological nuclear attack on every other dog around. The track was all clear and I used a loud “Thank you!” for the special powers.

Always remember, dogs are strong only in packs. When you see a pack, stay clear or try and break it (if you can). Also, there is no way you should stare at a dog unknown to you. They really hate it. Friendly or known dogs will never look in your eye though.

Frisky was home. The rest of the night went by in a lot of cuddling. She peculiarly ran all around the house and followed Soni everywhere. Though I felt for her, I still couldn’t get my acceptance levels up for cats. So I wanted to fix it somewhere. I took out an old TV carton and put Frisky into it. She did meow for a while, but would have gone to sleep later.

Next day, there was a lot of research done on what cats like, dislike and how to groom them etc. But I, researched for just one thing, an animal shelter. I found out one (further ahead from Mekhri Circle) and called them up. They asked how old the kitten was. Disregarding the questionnaire, I convinced them that she was supposed to be with them and not with me.

Back at home, Frisky was being dried up in the sun. Apparently, Soni thought that the little one was very dirty, so bathed her. Pretty well done, but Frisky wasn’t pleased – no meowing or eating anything. Especially, if it came from Soni. As I put my head into the TV carton, a meow came out. Soni shrieked with joy and laughed heartily. We enjoyed the anger we saw and I was quite amazed to see such reactions.

Cats do not like to be washed up often. For that matter, both dogs and cats are given a bath at most once a week.

Frisky had quickly become a pet. Soni had made up her mind to keep her in. It wasn’t to be – and though there was a lot of resistance in the air, we drove to the shelter and let Frisky join a lot of other cats. Once inside her new home, she quickly forgot about us and got engaged with the others. Once again, emotions ran high and Soni kept on cuddling with Frisky in her thoughts. It was a nice experience, especially the running behind I saw on a night and then the “not-talking-to-you” the next morning (because of that water drill)!

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

Saving Tax The Smart Way

You start your financial year (in April every year) by investing in some SIPs. In case your objective is to save tax, you start investing in a Tax Saving fund (refer Mutual Funds to know more). Is there a better way, a new way to do it? There sure is; consider what follows.

Instead of investing money into a tax saving fund (ELSS or whatever), let’s invest our money in some other great fund. We’re looking at doing a small time investment, so choose the fund that has been doing great in the last two years (smaller period shows the popularity of the fund in recent times, though not necessary). So let’s say, we have a top ranking fund called A Company Fund. We choose two other funds (in all 3 funds), B Company and C Company funds (note that all of these funds should be Open Ended). Now let’s break up a monthly investment of, say Rs. 10000 into 3, make a round figure of 3500 each and invest into SIP of these funds from April to December (for 9 months).

Come December, let’s switch in all the investments done in Company A Fund to a Company A Tax Saver fund, Company B fund to Company B Tax Saver and Company C Fund to Company C Tax Saver fund.

Here’s a point-by-point break-up of the same thing:

  • Let’s say, you have a tax investment objective of Rs. 50000 from Mutual Funds (assuming rest of you investments are done elsewhere).
  • April: Start SIP of 1800 in Company A Fund (a top ranking fund from Company A) for next 9 months (till Dec)
  • April: Start SIP of 1800 in Company B Fund … for next 9 months (till Dec)
  • April: Start SIP of 1800 in Company C Fund … for next 9 months …
  • May: SIP for Companies A, B and C Funds for 1800 each (total 5400 this month).
  • June-November: SIPs repeat until December.
  • December: Your last SIPs of 1800 each get deducted in Company A, B and C funds.
    • Investments in each of Co. A = 16,200 + Co. B = 16,200 + Co. C = 16,200
    • Total investment till December: 5400 x 9 = 48,600
  • Now, you switch in your individual investments from Co. A, B and C to Tax Saver Funds (of the same companies) including the profits you got.
  • Let’s imagine if…
    • ..Co. A performed with a profit of 20% – you get back Co. A Tax Saver funds worth 19,440
    • ..Co. B performed with a profit of 15% – you get back Co. B Tax Saver funds worth 18,630
    • ..Co. C performed with a loss of 10% – you get back Co. C Tax Saver funds worth 14,580
    • Your total tax investment for this year would be: 19,440 + 18,630 + 14,580 = 52,650
    • Magic right? You exceeded the tax investment objective you had set even after investing a lesser amount.
  • Now you have to pay back some capital gains: Co. A = 648 + Co. B = 486 Co. C = 324 = 810
  • Just pay back some tax of ~ 800 (capital gains tax calculated with 20%, a good tax return preparer can bring it down further).
  • Including the capital tax gains you paid back, the money you paid for the whole thing was: 48,600 + 810 = 49,410
  • And your investment was done for: 52,650 – you saved an investment of 3240.

Those figures don’t impress you, do they? Then, what else is the advantage of doing things this way?

  • Your tax savings are done all at once in January.
    • This means, after three years, you can draw the whole amount out all at once. When you do an SIP on tax saving, you have to wait month by month for withdrawal.
  • The profits you get out of the earlier investments act as a buffer and take care of any market fluctuations at the time of your Tax Investments.
  • Also, although you pay tax (10% or 20%) on these profits, you actually get the one lac limit benefit on the same money too.
    • Thus you achieve your one lakh goal by investing a lower amount of money through the year.

No really, there should be some disadvantages too? God save you…

  • …if the capital tax gains are increased (from 10% or 20%).
  • …if you run into losses in all the top 3 funds you chose from Co. A, B and C.
  • …if the Tax-Saver funds for the three companies A, B and C somehow stop accepting fresh investments.

But all of the above are circumstances beyond control. And that is where you step in with the word – risk.

So go ahead, and at your risk, try investing in the way above (repeating: try all this at your risk).

Poetry

Was reading through Abhinav’s blog and was delighted to read Pushp ki Abhilasha. Reminded me of another great poem which makes much more sense to me now “Mera Naya Bachpan” by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.

You can read it here. But I can’t help posting a few lines here:

Main bachpan ko bula rahi thi bol uthi bitiya meri,
Nandan van si phool uthi yeh chhoti si kutiya meri.

“Ma o” keh kar bula rahi thi mitti kha kar aayi thi,
Kuchh muhn mein kuchh liye haath mein mujhe khilane layi thi.

Pulak rahe the ang drago mein kautahul tha chhalak raha,
Muhn par thi aahlad-lalima vijay gaurav tha chhalak raha.

Maine puchha “Yeh kya layi?” bol uthi voh “Ma kao”,
Hua praffulit hriday khushi se maine kahan – “tum hi khao”.

The impact is made when the poetess’ daughter offers some of the mud to her mother, to which the mother fills up with joy and though refusing the offer – she doesn’t stop the kid from having it too. The ease with which the poetess sees her child’s joy and love is remarkable. The unassuming turn down of the offer and the affectionate encouragement are a pure joy to read while you feel those emotions.

Another exemplary creation was “Adhikar” by Mahadevi Varma (read it here). Here are a few lines from the same:

Aisa tera lok vedna
nahi, nahi jisme avsad,
Jalna jana nahi, nahi
jisne jana mitne ka swad

Kya amron ka lok milega,
Teri karuna ka upahar,
Rehne do he dev Arey!
Yeh mere mitne ka adhikaar.

I am simply amazed by the highest level of thinking this lady had attained, and extremely distinct thought processes that set you thinking in a vertical direction. Though you might not be so much into afterlife, but the perpendicular point of view presented here is extremely dramatic.

Beautiful (Instrumental) Songs (That Might Be) Missed

  • Randy Crawford – Trade Winds
  • Lost Found – Be My Baby (Airplay Version)
  • Chris Spheeris & Paul Voudouris – Golden Days – Fri Jan 18 10:09:30 2008
  • Nicholas Gunn – Eye of the Vortex – Fri Jan 18 10:09:30 2008
  • Luna Blanca – I-Ai-Do
  • Frederic Delarue – Future of the Sea – Mon Jan 21 06:08:04 2008
  • You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore – Neil Diamond – Sun Feb 10 15:16:02 2008

Don’t wanna miss these songs, so am putting ’em up here.