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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review: Zero percentile by Neeraj Chhibba

Recently finished reading Neeraj Chhibba’s Zero Percentile, an interesting book that details Russian culture and author’s experience learning engineering in Russia. Zero percentile is about an IIT aspirant who misses writing IIT-JEE due to a road accident and gets an opportunity to do his graduation in Russia, his experiences and explorations in Russia during his engineering studies there. (This is summed up by the tag-line-Missed IIT, Kissed Russia)

Book starts with lead character (Pankaj) ’s narration of his birth, his family, childhood days, education and so on. Though narration was good, it got boring after a while and I jumped directly to last few pages of the book, wherein Pankaj tries to convince his Russian friend Sveta to come to India with him. With that, I thought for a moment that this book has nothing interesting and kept it aside for a while and got busy with other work.

However during my recent travel I opened it up again, started reading where I’d abandoned in the middle. Book started getting interesting with Pankaj’s IIT-JEE prep plans, his tie up with senior and junior sirs in running JEE training institute, unfortunate accident and so on. Suddenly Pankaj gets an invite to do his engineering in Russia and from there readers get to feel what it is to go to an unknown country with unknown language for studies (and more importantly study the Russian language first and then study engineering in Russian language)

Just like CB’s Five point someone, here also book explains how students gave more importance to have a fun filled life than focusing on studies. Pressures back home, urge to study well but hurdles and distractions on the path, challenges and opportunities that came their way when Russian economy started opening up and Asian businessmen ventured into Russia with help from Asian students there all these aspects give good insight about Russia, something most of us would have never known otherwise.

I don’t have any complaints or remarks against the book, though I felt initial 50 pages could have been summed up little faster to take the reading to the core of the book (life in Russia). But then, good introduction and background is also essential for better understanding, so can’t really complain. Story is well weaved with no loose threads. Revolves fully around life of Pankaj around his family, school friends, hostel room mates and others. Also connects well with Sikh Riots, World wars and other facts. We all can take home some real life practical tips from various circumstances Pankaj went through and decisions (and risks) he took.

Book is doing very well on the charts (FLIPkart.com) Priced at Rs 95 by Rupa and available even cheaper at Rs 71, this book is an excellent read. Zero percentile is author Neeraj Chibba’s first book and he is also very much reachable through his website, blog, twitter and email if you’d like to interact with him.

Other book reviews: It happened in India * Raga Chintamani * 2 States * Not a penny more, not a penny less

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sanskrit village Mathur near Shimoga

Matturu (ಮತ್ತೂರು in Kannada,also spelt Mathur/Mathooru etc) is a scenic village on the outskirts of Shivamogga (Shimoga) town in Karnataka. Mattur is known for having Sanskrit language as their primary language. Villagers use Sanskrit here for their day to day conversation and not just during poojas. The town also is a hub for those aspiring to learn Vedas. If these things doesn’t interest you, Mattur is also a very scenic place from pure tourist perspective. If you’re traveling to or Via Shimoga and have couple of hours to spare, a quick visit to Mattur can be memorable.
entrance-to-shivalaya shiva-parvathi
One of the potential tourist interests in Mattur is a small Shiva temple built inside a nice garden (inaugurated in 2005 by the then state governor) with flowing freshwater stream nearby. Couple of other temples (Someshwara temple and Lakshmikeshava temple) on the banks of Tunga River are also good. Drive through tall Arica nut trees will be a bonus.
stone-carving of hanuman leaf-lotus-pearl-umbrella
riverbank-near-temple DSC03505
Some interesting birds were also spotted-help me with their names if you can identify them (identified as Cormorants by Ram and Mridula-thanks to them)
bird2 birdie
bhageeratha stonecarving-of-Ganesha
cowfriendly bull in temple
temple1 ramamandira-temple
If you’re heading there early morning, you’ll also see villagers carrying on their bicycles real fresh tender coconuts, just off the tree, to be sold in town.

If you haven’t filled the blog readers’ survey, request you to click here and give your valuable feedback. Got about 21 responses so far. Will share the feedback soon

Related posts: Keladi fort * Kodachadri * Skandagiri * Maravanthe * AmrithapuraKalhatti falls * Thyavarekere * Honnemaradu * Mullayana Giri * 


Gajanur Dam, Jog Falls, Kemmannu Gundi, Madagadde Bird Sanctuary, Tyavarekere Lion-Tiger Safari are other interesting places within short distance from Shimoga

Update: Thanks to Mridula's comment, I realized little late that Bajaj Discover advertisement has featured Mathur village
(but Mathur is about 200 kms from Mangalore and not just 100 kms as claimed in ad)

April 2012 Update: My blog reader ವಿಕಾಸ್ ಹೆಗಡೆ has following comment.
This is wrong. Our medias are also misinformed about this. The people here use 'Sanketi' language as the primary language. May be becoz Sanskrit scholars are more in this village, there is a general misimpression about the usage of Sanskrit as primary language here. U can confirm this with any Shivamogga guy or even directly with any Mattur/Hosalli guy. ! :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

enidhi india Blog readers' survey

Recently Mohan suggested that I do a survey to understand my readers better. Should have done this long back. Request you to take a few mins and respond to this survey. Thanks in advance.

In order to give some incentive for spending your time, I offer a mention of name and link to blog URL (if available) to every prime number entry.


Checked out Survey Monkey, Poll daddy and few other options and felt Google Docs was the best for this purpose. Only disadvantage is readers can't see live response/stats. Will share the responses later in a separate post. if you get any error or have anything more to communicate/share leave a comment below or email to admin@enidhi.net

Monday, December 21, 2009

ICICI phishing, gmail security & more

This post has 3 parts: An alert on typical phishing email, link to an important post by Amit Agarwal about how to protect and recover your gmail account and a quick mention of an article in Chennai times which has my 2 paisa worth opinion


1. All of us receive a good number of phishing emails claiming to be from your banks who have accidentally lost some of your account information and need you to confirm the same to them again. Most of us are intelligent enough to ignore such mails and not to part with our account information, but once in a while people do get fooled and tricksters manage to get hold of sensitive account information and promptly misuse it.
By default I ignore such mails, but below one was very close, so felt like giving it a mention. Mail appears to be coming from alert@icicibank.com, it only wants you to verify the recent details and promptly warns you not to give your account ID and password. There’s high chance that unsuspecting net user might just click on the link. However, Gmail promptly classified this as spam, MCafee siteadvisor promptly warned about the unsafe outbound links and lots of spelling mistakes in the mail were a giveaway.
icici-phishing
Below tips might sound redundant to net savvy readers, still repeating once for the benefit of others.

1. Its highly unlikely that any bank would suddenly loose your personal information. Bank IT systems are robust enough to have adequate backups and fail-over mechanisms to handle most of the problems. Any communication which asks for your personal information needs to be treated with high suspicion irrespective of how genuine it sounds.
2.Avoid using an email Id which is available in public domain for banking and other sensitive business
3 Point mouse on the link to see where the link is actually taking you.
4. Suspicious links, spelling errors and browser/antivirus alerts should warn you that something is wrong. Even if everything sound genuine, never proceed without a personal verification directly with the bank.

Check this beware of fraud link on ICICI website for more abt this.


2. Gmail and Google Aps Account Security:
Ace blogger Amit Agarwal says his gmail account got hacked and he could manage to regain control of his gmail account within hours, mainly by following the right procedure with correct information, partly helped by his internet friends who work in Google. Amit's post about protecting your gmail account and regaining it is a must read for every one of us who use gmail and other google products/services.

Vijaya karnataka editor Vishveshwara Bhat shares his encounter with hacker in one of his recent editorials-he says "I emailed him from an alternate account and threatened him with legal/police action, hacker promptly replied-'I know how to deal with this. Hacking emails and phishing is my full time business and I've made enough money for 2 generations-if you want your account back pay 700 dollars-non negotiable'..."


3. Chennai Times quotes me on trekking

In another unrelated update, yesterday’s Chennai Times quoted me on trekking. You'll have to excuse me for the poor quality image-TOI's online epaper doesn't provide a better quality screenshot/option to save as pdf. Nothing great boasting abt it-the article by Sindhu Vijaykumar says more and more people are opting to trek out during weekends and quotes CTC founder Peter along with opinions of myself and few others about trekking

TOI-trekking


Related posts: Deep forest trekking-advise * Skandagiri * eNidhi India Operational Policies * DC quotes me on Windows 7 *

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best of 2009

2009 was not that great. Satyam scandal, not much travel/trekking, not many events, no major happenings. On the positive side got some print mention and earned some little money via consulting and blogging…

Another 2 weeks to go. Advance new year wishes to all. Not planning much posts for rest of the year. Working on a post on Satyam Scam, to be published around its first anniversary. Here is quick recap of some of the posts published in 2009. Just around 108 posts this year compared to 140+ in 2007 and 2008.

Travelogues:

Didn’t travel much in 2009 compared to 2008. Yercaud, Skandagiri & Ooty were the only trips involving overnight stay. Other short visits include Maravante beach, Nandi hills, Kodachadri, Keladi Nagara Fort, Gingee Fort, Alamparai (fort & backwaters), Chitradurga, Hogenakkal, Pulicat lake and some more places. Did very little trekking and cycling this year.

In media:

An article got published in Vijaya Karnataka earlier this year and TOI and DC did quote me on fuel price hike and windows7 respectively later. Write up on Ramanagar Rock climbing and AWPT saw light in Ergo. Ergo stopped its print edition and no major articles in print this year.

Guest articles:

Several guest articles were published this year-Tips for Engineering students by Vidyabhushan Hande, car rally for the blind, Santosh’s account on surviving KSRTC bus accident, and Court Reporting career

Interviews:

Interviewed 3 international personalities (and TED India 2009 fellows): Kamal Quadir,CEO of Bangladesh based Cell bazaar.com, Enda N, the father of Indonesian blogosphere and Andy, French director and founder of clam studio and magazine.

Events:

Attended Article 19 at Manipal Institute of Communication, ET power of Ideas and Live blogged CII Connect 2009. No other major events. A Himalayan trekking and 4x4 Safari plans didn’t materialize.

Product/Service/book reviews:

There were lots of them: Mahindra Xylo, Fiat Linea, Sony DSC H50, Unwind School of Music, The associate by John Grisham, 2 States by Chetan Bhagat, Automall 2009, Mitsubishi great driving challenge, BPCL petrocard

Personal favourites:

Life saving skills from movies, my first consulting income, natural drinks for summer, My Dog Marcus, Improvements needed in PSU recruitment drives.

3 Most Commented posts of 2009: Self Drive rentals * Xylo vs Innova * Mouthshut shuts off

Most viewed: Some of my old time posts still rule the chart-Only 2 out 10 most viewed pages were published in 2009.

You may also wish to read: new year resolutions * Best of 2008 *

Review: Moveme.com

Moveme.com is a resourceful website and service solution for those looking to relocate their home/office in UK.

Unlike the normal movers and packers who just transport your household goods, Moveme.com helps in multiple other ways- they help set up your utility accounts (gas, telephone, electricity, insurance and so on. This takes care of most of the workload off your shoulders while you’re relocating.

Moveme.com helps you in cheap conveyancing, so that you can move your goods at low expenses. It gets you conveyancing quote from multiple operators so that you get to select the best. Website also has an advise section which offers various useful tips on renting, buying and selling.

Moveme seems to have partnered with several reputed brands of UK- Sky, BT, Royal Mall, British Gas and others. This partnership is guaranteed to give them an edge over others and indirectly bring better deals and greater quality service to their customers.

Moveme has a dedicated helpline to assist you. The helpline could be reached on 0845 071 2600 and is operational during normal business hours. The site also gets you advise from experts where required and also helps inform everyone (your banks, housing societies and so on) that you’ve moved. Now I feel that is a very convenient service, as that would save me from writing separate communication to each one of them about my change of address. Not sure if they’ll help get an address proof at the new location- Hope they do...

Site has a very nice design. Well optimized and all important things a prospective mover (or shall I say relocator) would need is right there.

Move me has verisign certified payment gateway, and its moving checklist and information on what to do at what stage of relocation can be very helpful to its customers. Not to mention the actual conveyancing that is taken care so well.

India's logistics companies can take several clues from this website...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chennai Roadies

Sharing a few photos clicked on the roads of Chennai. These are clicked over a period of time. You may have to click on them for a closer look.
1. A Honda City nicely modified into a 2-door convertible…Honda-city-convertible 2. Auto displays “Invalid Carriage”-whatever that means… Same auto had an unusual transmission: Gear lever as in bigger vehicles…
auto-invalid-carriage auto-manual-transmission
3. Another auto suffers due to “Operator Overloading”.. lifts itself up while negotiating a slightly uphill ride…
auto-lifts-up auto-overloading
4. Uprooted? A cycle found abandoned upside down with a wheel missing
cycle 5. Off-roading? Clicked few months ago when I was teaching car driving to a friend on the outskirts of Chenai city- we found an Alto that fell into the pit…
offroading6. Flooded streets: This year there wasn't much rain in Chennai. Below is a snap clicked last year, LB Road, Tiruvanmiyur. Its an annual routine where most of Chennai’s subways, low lying areas and roads get submerged in water every year..
floods20087. Keys for grabs:
Spotted while I was walking to office: A Fast Track call taxi driver had gone somewhere leaving the keys for grabs at the door…For a moment I evaluated my prospect of driving to office that day, but later continued to walk…
Fasttrack-city-taxi
8. Found on ECR: A nice big Honda Accord, Karnataka Registered and Belonging to Avis... Asked driver if it is available for self drive... Driver said yes, but said the cost is Rs 22,000 per day. Not sure if he is correct-Usually Avis doesn't give top end cars to individuals-they rent it only under corporate contract
9. Someone's getting down in style...

10. Wrong side: Not everyone cares to drive all the way to Madhya Kailash and take a U turn, covering 6+kms unnecessarily, while one can drive in wrong way for few hundred meters to reach their destination. Common scene near Tidel Park Signal
11. 2 B.E or Not to B.E?
12. Lock on... (read more about this here)
 two vehicles chain locked
Other Chennai related posts: Chennai MTC Volvo buses * Ticketing in MTC buses * Left half for ladies * How to avoid footboard travel *

Places near Chennai: Gingee fort * Alamparai * Yercaud * Talakona * Hogenakkal *

Review: Eyefloaters.info

Eyes are one of the prime sensory organs and some of us are not very fortunate in having a perfect eye. Some of us suffer from eye floaters and chose to cope up with it instead of trying to find a solution.

Floaters are deposits of various size, shape, consistency, refractive index, and motility within the eye's vitreous humour, which is normally transparent. (Ref: Wikipedia). Vitreous is the gel like substance (99% water, 1% solid) in our eye which constitutes 2/3rd of it. Floaters develop over a period of time and affect our day to day activities like driving, working on computer or watching television.

Floaters usually cause following distraction: strings or streaks of distraction when looked into the light, clouds and fogs that blur your sight, moving dots and pop ups, spider webs around your field of vision... Floaters are usually caused by some debris-that of blood cells, torn retinal tissue and the likes. Cystoid macular edema and asteroid hyalosis are the other causes of floaters. These microscopic foreign objects cause the obstacles in your vision by catching and refracting light resulting in irritation, frustration and disappointment.

Eyefloaters.info is a one stop solution for those suffering from vitreous floaters. Site is built on a very simple html design and has too much vertical scroll. For just about 39.95 dollars, eyefloaters.info promises permanent solution to the floaters issue, without any surgery. Surgeries like Vitrectomy are advised only for very critical conditions, as these surgeries carry a huge risk with them-complete blindness.

The website offers The Secret Cure for Eye Floaters with a 100% guarantee. To the extent I understood it is mainly a set of steps to be followed to cure floaters and not some medicine. Site lists lots of testimonies to build confidence, but details about payback/refund mechanism (if the solution doesn’t work and customers want their money back) is missing.

You deserve to see clearly...without eyefloaters...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

HT Brunch lifts Mridula's photograph

It happened in India again. Hindustan Times Sunday supplement, Brunch, carefully lifted one of Mridula Dwivedi’s photos, brilliantly cropped off "(c) Mridula D" from the image and published in last week’s Brunch edition. HT and brunch editors were probably convinced that that’s the way they conduct their business and lone individuals who become victims of their plagiarism activities will give up after sometime, if at all they notice their photo/content being lifted.

It feels good to see your name/article/photo in print. But certainly not when something is published without your knowledge, without any credit. Mridula was naturally shocked to see her coffee cup photo on page 12 of Bruch’s Dec 6 2009 edition. Mridula is a popular blogger and a very good photographer-she’s already experienced similar incidents of her photographs being lifted by Air Deccan’s in-flight magazine once.

Mridula is currently battling it out with Hindustan Times to get her due credit and apologies from the newspaper. As expected initial responses were very dismissive, no one owning up the responsibility or caring to address her concerns. As if copying her photograph is not enough, what is more disturbing was newspaper’s editing the photograph to get rid of copyright symbol, which is highly condemnable activity.

In her updates Mridula said she’s realized the power of twitter after this. She’s been using twitter very aggressively to chase this matter, drawing support, tips and causing awareness on plagiarism. She’s been marking @WSJ (Wall street Journal, HT’ is WSJ's India Partner), Vir Sanghvi (@virsanghvi, Hindustan Times Editorial Director) on her tweets to drive home her point, #brunchphotodispute

With timely intervention of Sidin Vidukut (Popular Delhi based blogger and Mint Columnist) and others, I understand that current status of this matter is that Editor of Brunch has offered to meet her. We need to wait and watch how this reaches to a conclusion and see if Hindustan Times (and other newspapers too) care to learn a lesson from it. You can stay tuned to Mridula’s blog or follow Mridula on twitter to know more on this

I am wondering if other photos in the article are lifted from internet too (and of course any copyright lines nicely cropped off). This also made me recall my face to face with Times of India last year, over the police car photo issue. I was not that aggressive and settled for a clarification. Arun Bhat had similar issue with NDTV website (details). Mint did a detailed article on this issue subsequently, but mainstream media continues its disrespect for IPR and more shamefully, they try to cover up/ignore the complaints, instead of opting for an unconditional apology and compensation. Most of them do not have a policy on plagiarism or a process to deal with it. Content lifting is routine and once in a while when detected, attempts are made to suppress it or ignore it.

Update: I'm given to understand that this matter is resolved to the satisfaction of content owner

Sunday, December 06, 2009

PSU recruitment drives need bigtime reforms

A secure job in a public sector company has come back as preferred option for many, courtesy recent recession. Several Govt of India undertaking enterprises-banks and other mega establishments ran recruitments drives recently to fill in a several thousand openings. SBI, ONGC,BHEL, ISRO, Syndicate Bank and Corporation Bank were just a few who got massive response for their recruitment drives, with lakhs of application received for these jobs, more than 100 aspirants for every post.

While managing such a massive number of job aspirants is a tough task, I personally feel that the recruitment process adopted by these companies need a big time reform. This post lists a few observations and suggestions in this aspect.

1. 6-9months of process time: Most of the PSU recruitment drives span over a timeframe of 6-9 months or even more, from announcement of recruitment drive till candidate reporting to work. In my opinion, any reasonably talented individual will find a decent job in private sector in much shorter time and PSUs will loose on talent if they take so much time. it works for them because there’s enough unemployment in our country because of which they’ll have enough aspirants on waitlist, but quality of resources will suffer. This timeframe can be reduced by adopting technology aggressively, decentralizing selection process and opting for direct campus recruitments.

2. Expensive application fees: While most of the private firms take recruitment as an investment and do not charge job aspirants, PSUs comfortably charge Rs 300 to Rs 500 or more per application. Additionally candidate will spend another 100 Rs in bank fees, postage, printouts and photocopying. There is a concession or even complete waiver for SC/ST candidates, but none to economically poor candidates. If a job aspirant wishes to apply for 5-6 PSUs per month, it takes 2000-3000Rs, which is a significant amount for a middleclass family.

3 No communication will be entertained: After charging several hundred rupees, most of the PSUs follow a strict policy that they wont entertain any communication from aspirants. I feel they should provide a helpline, because there’ll be genuine cases where candidate might not have received hall tickets/interview letters due to postal delays, communication address might have changed or many such possibilities because of which he/she may have to communicate. Poor communications, zero accountability and liability seems to symbolize PSUs

4 Age old process: All PSUs claim to have gone online. But when it comes to recruitments, their online-ness is limited to allowing candidates download application forms. After that it is the same age old process of 1990s- fill the application form, print it, affix photographs, printout the challan, go to bank, make payment, photocopy certificates and other documents, affix everything and mail it by ordinary post to some PO Box address in Mumbai or Delhi and then pray for best. No acknowledgement, no reference number to trace things, no one to contact to…

What can be done?

1 Process from Application submission to receiving written test hall ticket can be made online-this can bring down time from few months to a week. (Offline mode can still be retained for those who prefer it, as most of rural India doesn't have proper internet access yet)

2 Have a vision plan to conduct online tests. (We all know the trouble IIM aspirants went through in recent CAT online exams, so it is little early to expect all PSUs to do their recruitment exams online, but they should have a vision at least)

3 Fulfil a part of openings by campus recruitments. Campus recruitments will be far cheaper.

4 Decentralize recruitments to let regional offices take care of recruitments in their regions-I feel this can speed up the process.

5 Have a helpline for applicants to call into and a process in place to handle typical queries and requests

6 Avoid asking for dozens of documents (like copies of marks cards etc) along with application. Since originals can be checked at the time of joining, most of the aspirants are unlikely to lie. Just get the marks in initial application-this will save lots of effort as well as reduce paper usage.

7. Keep application form fee to nil or bare minimum. High fees shouldn’t discourage a talented aspirant from applying.

8 Use technology and process improvement to bring down recruitment time from 9months+ to 2-3 months max.

Disclaimer: Above are generalized observations. There could be minor differences in selection process of one co to other. Personal opinion only.

Hadn’t written a serious post like this in recent post. Feel free to share your thoughts.

Related: Your blog can make or break your career * Careers in Engineering * Workshop on broadcast journalism *

Friday, November 27, 2009

Google wave and other Random topics

1 Google Wave

I was not part of the September 2009 craze for Google wave invites and stood blissfully ignorant of it for over a month. Better late than never, got an invite sometime mid October, courtesy Prashanth. Here’s one paragraph review of it, to the extent I’ve seen and explored:

I feel it was a mistake to make Googlewave an invite only platform. Success of any collaborative tool lies in its ability to be accessible to everyone who wishes to collaborate through it. While wave appears like a good platform for multiple people to work on single subject simultaneously, the single most limiting factor I find is that most of the people with whom I’d have collaborated something are not on wave. For example, I need to plan an alumni meet using wave, I’d need all my ex-classmates on Wave. Similarly if you were to use wave for an office project you’ll need most of your colleagues on wave. With majority of potential collaborative partners missing from wave it is current state, I believe full potential of Wave will be known only when it opens up for all. Also I feel Wave should integrate with Gmail seamlessly, just like gtalk (how much you’d have used gtalk if it had different login, very few people on it and not supported in certain browsers?)

Not supporting IE is another negative aspect. Overall, Google wave is good and potential, but not worth the hype.

2 Mylapore Civic Issues

Sundar has started a photo blog for civic issues in his locality. (Mylapore is Chennai’s popular residential area, similar to Bangalore’s Malleshwaram) Good idea. Area newspapers might be interested in such photos. Hope such initiatives get attention of concerned people and make some impact

3 Dayanayak is back?

Looks like encounter specialist Dayanayak is acquitted of all the charges against him and he is learnt to have returned to work. Didn’t read anything about this in media, but his blog (probably maintained by a close aid/fan) was updated recently with more details.

4 Airtel’s expensive pay per second plan

Thanks to Tata Docomo, other mobile operators are forced to launch pay per second tariff plans. However airtel prepaid has decided to take hike SMS rates to Re 1 per SMS for pay per second plans, taking away any cost advantage this plan might have had. With actual sms delivery cost being less than a paisa, this is unfair. Anyway we’ve way2sms, 160by2 and other such services at our disposal to send free SMS. Wondering what will be next battleground for mobile operators: pay per character SMS charges?

5 NASSCOM TPIN

Several years ago, I’d registered for NASSCOM’s skill registry paying some 300+ Rs and got my TPIN (Technology Professional Identification Number). It looked like an ambitious initiative that time but there was hardly any use/application of this service and now they need me to keep paying a few hundred rupees every year just to keep my account active. Unfair again and have decided not to renew.

6 Adwords Promo

Google adwords sent me a Rs 2500 coupon, to be used for advertising my product/services (I hardly have any). but to use this coupon looks like I need to spend my money first. Something I’m not keen. Would have appreciated if I was allowed to run the campaign first using the coupon and then think of payment options. Else this is looking like Spam Today Group’s (aka India Today group) free gifts (The free gift is that they’re willing to sell me a wrist watch for Rs 3000 only claiming it is worth more than 7000 Rs)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: 2 States by Chetan Bhagat

April 2014 Update: A movie has been made based on this Novel. I watched the movie and is a fairly good visualization of the novel. Except that Santro was replaced with i10 and few songs thrown in, rest of the content is used as is without modification.

----------Original post ----------------------------------------

I'd somewhat criticized Chetan's earlier book (The 3 mistakes of my life) due to certain factual conflicts, but have no complaints on the latest one. It made an interesting read through out.

By now you must be knowing the story line. Its about 2 IIM-A students meeting at the beginning of the course, falling in love, deciding to get married, trying to convince and win approval of their parents and in-laws. Gives an excellent insight of cultural differences between two states (Punjab and TamilNadu) and parental mindsets and considerations while considering a bride/groom. Let me not reveal more as the story is best enjoyed by reading the book.

Sharing a few observations about the book:
Chetan has taken lots of liberty to reveal inside secrets of his former employer, Citibank. The details as to how badly he wanted the citibank job (as it paid the highest), how he carefully lied in his selection interview, his first day at work when he recommended a customer to invest in internet stocks, blindly trusting research reports published by another equally incompetent fresher and other matters internal to office.

Its a open secret how people go after highest paying jobs and how companies treat fresh recruits. Nothing official about it, but when putting the same in something as official as a book, authors usually use pseudo names to hide real identity of a company/person.(or at least add a disclaimer) But Chetan has mentioned Citibank’s name directly, without any hesitation. We can brush it aside as a fiction, but incidents mentioned are very close to reality and if a potential HNI reads this book and finds out how fresh out of college students with half baked knowledge mismanage his/her money, he/she is sure to think twice next time. May be Chetan has taken necessary permission, or may be no one felt such disclosures could be bad for Citi’s image. Fortunately for Citibank, I’m sure most of its priority banking customers will be too busy to read “2 States” to get an idea who is managing their money and how. (John Grisham's "The Associate" explains how lawfirms exploit lawschool graduates)

Chetan also mentioned how his job was misused-to get Ananya’s mom on stage, to get free stay at Goa hotel, promising that he’ll get Citibank to do its annual conference there and so on. All these might be purely imaginary, but since such things happen in real life every day and since Chetan was working with Citibank till 2009 (he quit to become full time writer, just as Krish in his book wanted to) these things appear more as a confession than fiction

There's also no mention of any induction program or training-he was asked to supervise a team right on his day 1. Sounds a little odd

That apart, Chetan’s books also give a feeling that there’s nothing great about IITs and IIMs. The blind faith most of us have about IIT and IIMs are likely to be shaken a little, if we take Chetan’s description of IIT/IIM life in his books for real.

Will it be a safe bet to guess that his next book will have number 4 in it? He’s already done with 1 (1 night @ call centre), 2 (2-states), 3 (The 3 mistakes of my life) and 5 (5 point someone)

I liked this particular line, which gives a clear illustration of cultural shock and differences-When Krish visits Ananya’s house in Mylapore Chennai, a banana leaf was laid in front of them, to be served food on. “For a moment I wondered if I should eat it or wipe my hands with it-then Ananya said that this is the plate”
Krish’s Dad stepping in last moment (more details removed from this review) was a surprise element for me in the book, else the story took the normal expected course.

Rest of the aspects are best enjoyed by reading the book itself. In brief its all about Krish and Ananya’s attempts to open up the closed mindset their parents had- that a bride/groom of a different community/state is not even worth considering.

If you’ve read it share your thoughts please.

More book reviews: It happened in India * Raga Chintamani * Zero Percentile * Not a penny more, not a penny less

Friday, November 20, 2009

Singapore flyer images, Singapore

Again from Partho’s collection, a few photos of Singapore flyer, the giant wheel. Riding in the Singapore flyer gives excellent view of Singapore city-mainly the sea and the port.
The cubicles (what do we call those drum like structures in which people sit?) were highly spacious so that people could stand and shoot, or even have family dinner. Maximum height is 165 meters (that’s world’s biggest, London eye is the second one with a height of 135 meters) and ticket fare is about 30 Singapore dollars.(There’re multiple schemes and offers to choose from)




More about Singapore flyer on its official website

Photo courtesy Partho, published with permission. Also checkout: Jurong bird park, Malaysia Twin towers * An earlier guest post on Singapore lifestyle *

Note: This post had display issues with the pic. Republished with freshly uploaded pics

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bengaluru visit- random notes

Few quick observations/notes from my recent Bengaluru visit:

  • Missing trees on Sheshadri road: Dozens of beautiful trees that formed a nice canopy on Sheshadri road are now completely gone. Drive from Anandrao Circle to KR Circle will never be the same. Not sure who achieved what by uprooting those century old trees.
  • Underpass in-front of Basavanagudi police station: Another unnecessary venture which would consume a few parks and several trees.
  • Good to find that tender coconut still costs Rs 12 in Bengaluru. In Chennai prices have soared to Rs 18-Rs 20
  • Lots of new blue BMTC buses were flaunting Jn NURM on them and I’d no clue what that meant. Ravi told me that JN stands for Jawaharlal Nehru and NURM is a world bank aided initiative.
  • 4 years ago ISRO layout was a developing place almost considered outside city, now it is a fully developed locality with nice roads.
  • Kadirenahalli cross underpass appears to be left incomplete since several years now.
  • Good to know about Bengaluru-Mangaluru day train. Need to check it out someday.
  • Another soon to be implemented major change will be closing down KSRTC bus terminus in Majestic.

Other updates:

I’ve enabled comment moderation for posts older than 30 days. This was necessary due to increasing number of spam comments. Regrets for the inconvenience.One often repeated anonymous comment reads: I found this site using [url=http://google.com/]google.com[/url] And i want to thank you for your work. You have done really very good site. Great work, great site! Thank you! Sorry for offtopic Not sure whose purpose this comment aims to serve.

Vizag: Will I be 3rd time lucky?

Vishakapattanam or Vizag is on my hit-list since several years, but a visit hasn’t materialized yet. On two earlier occasions I had to cancel the booked train tickets, due to various reasons. Have booked one more time now, lots of dependencies still. let me see if I get third time lucky.

Next post is likely to be a review of Chetan Bhagat's 2 States

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bengaluru Automall 2009 feedback

Hadn’t visited an exhibition/fair since quite sometime and when Santosh suggested we checkout Automall 2009 at Palace ground, I readily agreed. (he actually referred to it as AutoExpo). Sandesh and Ravi also gave me company. I’d thought it might take about half a day, but after an hour or so there wasn’t much to see inside. The event is a disappointment if one goes with certain expectations and OK-Ok if you visit without any expectation. Organizers did mislead with a yellow Lamborghini in the banner knowing fully well that there’re hardly any international models inside.Now that the show has ended my feedback is immaterial, still sharing a few observations made at Automall, for those of you who might be interested.

Several major automobile makers viz Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar Motors, Daimler Chrysler (Mercedes Benz), Audi, Nissan, HM and Volvo were missing. Rest who showcased their cars did more so like a ritual than with any enthusiasm to connect their brand with prospective customers and fans.

Got to about 6 vintage cars, of various makes. It was nice. Most of them had excessively powerful engines (about 3000cc and more, compared to 1 to 2 litre ones in present cars), but may be their efficiencies were lower. Also, anyone knows how can we know in advance if there’s a vintage car ralley scheduled to happen in our cities? I always read about them in newspaper next day and feel I could have gone there if I knew in advance.

Most of the expensive cars (BMWs, Honda Accord, Ford Endeavour, Skoda Superb) were kept properly locked and guarded by security and barricades, so there wasn’t a point in going to the fair to see them.

Only Chevrolet stall had some contests on (to write a slogan for Chevy Cruz). All other stalls were almost inactive, with visitors checking the cars on their own, while staff sitting comfortably in a corner. I asked a guy manning Honda stall how much it costs to replace an airbag, he was clueless.

Saw Suzuki Hayabusa, the 14 lakh+ two wheeler. Thought of buying it but decided against, after I realized that it can carry only one rider.

Bangalore Beetles club had several old Beetles on display. Volkswagen Beetle is a dream small car for many and it will be available in India from next month. A shiny yellow new age Beetle was also drawing attentions, but other Volkswagen cars were missing.

Off road ATVs (all terrain vehicles) were looking impressive and affordable (costing in the range of 1 lakh rupees). Though they are the best vehicles for Bangalore’s roads, unfortunately we’re not allowed to drive them on road (or on the potholed tracks referred to as Road)

Didn’t see people crowding around Tata Nano. Assume by now everyone have read enough about nano and also have seen a few of them around, so it no more turns heads.

Tata Xenon, powered by Safari engine was looking majestic, but not sure if it can grab Bolero’s market share in Utility vehicles segment.

Hyundai’s planned electric/hybrid variant of i10 was not on display

There weren’t any stalls for auto accessories. SatNav was the only exception.

Display area was very small-may be just as big as a medium size marriage hall. The crowd was busy clicking photos of themselves standing next to their favourite car, but somehow I didn’t feel like taking any photos.

The stunt show, done as a part of Automall, deserves a special mention for its bad organization

First, it was a bad idea not to have proper seating arrangements, while other blunders were inability to control the crowd and clubbing a dance show with stunt show. The unruly crowd never cared to obey any instructions and sat so close to the track,blissfully ignoring the impending dangers for the lives of riders and their own, if something were to go wrong. None of the riders had adequate safety gears other than helmet. A few rode in chappals. With everyone getting up from their seats to get better view, it was pointless to stay there after sometime. I could have written more, but since that is not going to serve anyone’s purpose, let me stop here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photos from Jurong bird park, Singapore

Sharing a few best picks from Partho’s clicks at Jurong bird park, Singapore.






















Jurong bird park is a custom build and landscaped wildlife reserve in Jurong district of Singapore. The park hosts a wide range of birds, all accommodated in their natural environments. Flamingos, Pelicans, Owls, Roadrunners, Macaws, Parrots, Peacocks, Sun Conures, Mandarin Ducks are few of them. The facility is vast enough to have a train running inside it. Night safaris, flame shows, bird information centre are just a few from the list of activities and happenings. Since I do not have first hand information on all these you may check wikipedia or Jurong birdpark official site for more info





All images copyrighted to Partho, published with permission. Click to enlarge.
Also read: Lifestyle in singapore * Singapore Flyer images*

Posts from my July 2012 Singapore visit: Gardens by the Bay * Marina Bay Sands * Singapore newspapers * Labrador Nature Reserve * National Gardens * Kinetic Rain at Changi Airport *