Monday, August 16, 2010

Commonwealth Games or ‘Personal wealth’ Games?

Just after the closing of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when it was announced that India was elected to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a wave of jubilation swept through out the nation. The Indian Olympic Association promised to dish out the best even sporting bonanza even seen in India.

The total budget estimated for hosting the Games is USD 1.6 billion; and this amount excludes non-sports-related infrastructure development in the city like airports, roads and other structures. This will likely make the 2010 Commonwealth Games the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever. The first question which comes to mind is - do we really need to spend so much on these games, when there isn’t even basic sports infrastructure in the country? Most athletes have to spend their own money for training and coaching, and when they become successful because of their own efforts, the country claims them as ‘sons and daughters of the nation’!

Anyways, now that we have been selected to host the event, the picture today is absolutely shameful. Most of the games venue are incomplete and have been slated to miss the deadlines. Even the completed work has been branded as substandard, with leakages starting within a week’s time. Everyday the newspapers scream out reports of blatant corruption, irregularities in building standards, loss of revenue, or overpayments in handing out contracts. All this has been creating an absolutely sorry image of our country around the world.

Now when it’s just over a month remaining for the opening ceremony, our respected prime minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh has suddenly woken up and is taking a personal interest in the completion of the work for the games. He has appointed a new group of ministers to oversee preparations, visit games' venues each week to monitor progress and ensure contractors meet fresh deadlines.

We can only hope that the people concerned really buck up now, forget about filling their personal pockets and try to salvage the games and India’s image. It’s high time they stop making this a ‘Personalwealth Games’!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

India's 64th Independence Day

As India celebrates its 64th independence day, let’s take a moment to think about all the people who laid down their lives for the country. Thousands of martyrs with a single dream of an independent motherland threw themselves into the freedom fight against the British. Their vision was a free independent, fair, democratic nation where the people’s progress is imperative. The question after 64 years is; have we achieved their dream?
Indian still is counted as a third world country with nearly 40% of the population living under the poverty line even today. Since 1991, inter-state economic inequality in India has consistently grown; the per capita net state domestic product of India's richest states is about 3.2 times that of the poorest states. With rampant corruption, internal conflicts, illiteracy, an ever growing population, we need to ask ourselves a lot of questions.
Actually, we all know what the problems and their solutions are. We just need to dig deep and think about all the martyrs who laid their lives, so that we enjoy freedom. We just need to take the correct decisions, do the right things. Today, let’s each one pledge to make this country a better place to live in, by contributing our squirrel’s share. Jai Hind !

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fish Fry

Sorry to disappoint all you fish food lovers; what I mean by Fish fry is baby fish :)
Continuing my fascination with fish keeping, the next step for me was fish breeding. I had heard from many people about the joy of watching tiny fish which have been born in their own houses. Wanting to experience that, I got a pair of loaded (pregnant) Mollies and introduced them to a new smaller tank (8 gallons). I kept them alone so that they won’t be stressed out by other fish.

Mollies are live bearers and give birth directly to babies rather than laying eggs. Mollies have been known to snack on their own babies, and so to avoid that I added a lot of plastic plants to the tank to create a lot of hiding places for the baby fish.

In a week’s time I was surprised to find my tank full of baby fish, I counted more than 25 to 30 fry. I realised that the fry kept on swimming upwards towards the surface of the tank to avoid being eaten by their own mummies! So I added a few fresh leafy vegetables to the tank which float and create lots of hiding places for the fry.

It’s been a month now, and there are still about 10 fry left in the tank. It has been really fascinating to watch their grown and needless to say they have been the star attraction in the houses since the last month.

This is a picture of the Mamma Mollies

Here is the 4 day old fry

The fry after a month’s time

Meter Jam - Once more please !!

Meter Jam, the campaign against auto and taxi drivers yesterday, can be termed ‘successful’ as it created a lot of awareness among the commuters as well as the auto/taxi drivers. Nearly 30,000 people supported the campaign by signing on the website, while many more boycotted auto and Taxis, opting to walk or use public transport.

It was really heartening to see many senior citizens, giving the cold shoulder to autos and instead opting to walk. But at the same time it was equally frustrating to see many educated youngsters, run after autos and taxis. Though most auto drivers refused to accept the success of the campaign, they have accepted the fact that commuters will no longer take nonsense lying down.

Surely, this one off campaign is not expected to bring a sea change in the behaviour of these auto/taxi drivers, but it surely brought about awareness. I sincerely hope that we have these campaigns periodically to continue the pressure on these errant drivers and increase awareness.

A big hug to all the commuters who supported the campaign; and for those who ran after the autos/taxis and got rejected once again … .well you deserved it!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My name in today's paper :)

The following article appeared in today's hindustan Times - Cafe.
Monogram Thieves
Aalap Deboor, Hindustan Times, August 11, 2010

Whenever Aniket Pargaonkar (32) noticed luxury cars without their monograms, he assumed that they had been stolen. He knew that these logos made their way straight to the black market and were sold at a lesser rate than the originals. But last week, he was in for a rude shock. He discovered that the logo of his Tata Indica had been stolen. “They'd come after my car, an Indica! Usually, you’d think they'd go after a luxury car whose logos are expensive,” he says. High-segment cars such as the BMW, Skoda and Mercedes have routinely been targets of monogram theft in the city. Their rear and front logos are jemmied loose using screw drivers and pointed tools, and are then sold for cheaper on the black market, possibly back to the owners themselves. Of late, even Tata and Fiat cars have been spotted missing their monograms.
The police started looking into the matter when complaints from car owners began steadily increasing. They soon discovered that a number of adolescents and college students were behind the racket.A source from the Mumbai police said that college students pay street urchins anything between Rs 200-500 to remove the monograms, and sell it in the grey market for much higher. “These incidents have been reported the most in western suburbs, where there are many expensive cars. Most people just opt for a duplicate monogram as it costs much less,” the source said. In extreme cases, the police make arrests and take the accused to court.
Automobile mechanic Suresh Shirke had two kids come up to him a while back to try to sell him monograms of a Skoda Laura. What’s surprising, Shirke says, is that they belonged to affluent families and were doing this for easy money. “One was eight, the other 12. I informed the police and called their parents, and they were let off with a warning,” he says. Asked if he stocks the logos, Shirke says, “If I buy one from the black market, I’m part of the chain that sells these,” he adds.
Pargaonkar installed a new monogram from an authorised Tata showroom for Rs 60. He didn’t lodge a complaint since a new one was priced so low. “An original monogram cost me Rs 60, I wonder how much the thief would have made for stealing mine and selling it on the grey market!” Pargaonkar says.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Customer harassment by Vodafone

I just faced a real horrifying incidence while trying to close my father-in laws account with Vodafone. I had earlier called their customer care number (which is charged from now on by the way!!) and requested them to close the account. After taking all the verification, they tried to convince me why not to close the account. But when I clearly told them that I was not interested in continuing, they asked me to send a mail requesting them to close the account from the ‘Registered Email Id” for that number.

The Email ID that has been registered with that number is my wife's number as my father-in-law is a senior citizen and not computer literate. Accordingly I sent them an Email from the registered email ID on the 22nd of July. But to date they haven’t closed the account and I got a bill for the whole last month, even when the number hadn't been used at all.

Today I once again called up the cust care. Now they tell me a new story, the request they said was made from a 3rd party email .. it seems!! The Email ID does not have the name of my Father-in law in it!! Now they want me to send a request from my father-in-law’s personal email Id. I told them that he is a senior citizen and not computer literate. On that the ridiculous solution they gave was to create a new Email ID in my father-in-laws name and then send a cancellation request to them!!! I mean how ridiculous is that? When you have registered an email ID for that number and you have been sending your bills on that I, why can’t you accept a cancellation request from that ID?

This is just a way to harass the customers who want to close their accounts. When you need a new number they’ll send their agents to your house and goody talk you into believing that they are their for all your needs, but when you want to close the account, they show their true colours!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Meter Jam !!

For all you commuters who have forever faced the rickshaw menace in Mumbai, here’s an opportunity to strike back! Tired with the rickshaw drivers’ unwillingness to take passengers for a small distance, meter cheating, fake mater cards and unruly behaviour, a movement called as ‘Meter Jam’ has been formed by a group of Mumbaikars.

‘Meter Jam’ calls for a non-cooperation movement on Thursday, 12th August, 2010 where an appeal has been made to all mumbaikars to reject autos and taxis and bring their meter to a grinding halt for a day. Commuters are encouraged to arrange car-pool, alternate transportation or use public transport for the day.

Commuters who wish to support this movement can register themselves at and show their support. I have already registered with the website and have pledged not to use autos or taxis on the 12th of Aug!

Looks like this time, the hunter’s gonna be hunted!!

Friday, August 06, 2010

My Fishy Affair

I’v been meaning to write about one of my favourite hobbies for quite some time now. Well, if something excites me as much as food, it’s got to be Fish! Not on my plate but in fish tanks. Just watching them peacefully swim through the water, relaxes me and takes me into another world.

For pet lovers in a place like Mumbai where space and time is a big constraint, fish can be the ideal pets. Unlike other pets, such as dogs, fish don’t expect a big chunk of your time, they don’t need to be taken for walks, they don’t need to be toilet trained, they are not noisy, they don’t bite or spread diseases and they don’t cost you much. Also its easier to take care of fish when you are on holidays, as you have options of holiday food which lasts for 4-5 days or you can request your nice neighbour to just put in some food everyday in case of longer vacations.

I’v really begun to enjoy keeping fish since the last 8 months. I bought a 135 gallon tank (28”x18”x15”) at first with an acrylic hood, under gravel filter, external power filter, coloured gravel, and some plastic aquarium plants. This cost me around Rs. 4,000 (one time expense). I got some hardy fish to start with such as Goldfish, Red Cap Orandas, Shubunkins, Plecos (Sucker Cat Fish), a Betta (Fighter Fish) and honey Gouramis. Gradually I’v added a pair each of Silver sharks, Red tail Sharks, Golden Angels and Golden Apple Snails. Fish cost anywhere from Rs 30 to Rs 30,000 depending upon their breed and size. Most popular home aquarium fish like Goldfish and Angels cost around Rs 100 to Rs. 500 a pair.

The most important fact about keeping fish is to keep the tank water clean by doing regular water changes. Water changes are usually done once in 2 weeks, where about 25% of the tank water is removed and fresh water which has been treated with chlorine remover is added. This takes about 15 to 20 mins at the max and is very easy to do by using a gravel cleaner (Rs 100). Fish can be fed once or twice a days depending upon the quantity and size of the fish. Fish can be fed different types of food such as fish flakes, fish pellets, freeze dried worms or even fresh vegetables from your kitchen such as cucumbers, tomatoes or broccoli. Most fish like Goldfish eat vegetables, while Fighter fish are carnivorous and have to be given dried worms. Fish food is not costly and ranges from Rs 50 to Rs 100 a bottle.

These are some pictures of my tank

A close up of the tank

My beautiful Golden Angel pair. I entered this snap in a monthly photo contest conducted by a fish enthusiast’s forum and actually won :)

Interview Bloopers

Over the last few years that I have been conducting interviews at VN as well as at my earlier jobs, there have been many memorable inst...