Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'm Back!!!!

Unfortunately, I could not find anyone to do my work, let alone blog so I have been out of blogosphere for nearly a fortnight now.

Between extensive travellling, some work, large bouts of laziness, and family commitments my blogging was forgotten. But I'm back!!!!!!!

Missed you all.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Fix

Driving down an Indian road, cool wind against your face, a song in your heart, your spirits floating high…… Ouch! You come down to earth after you dive into a pothole. Curses and bad mouthing the civic agencies and every other possible culprit dampens the spirits during the drive ahead.

So what is a pothole and why does it cause such mood swings?

Wiki to the rescue. Potholes (sometimes called kettle and known in parts of the Western United States as a chuckhole) is a type of disruption in the surface of a roadway where a portion of the road material has broken away, leaving a hole. Most potholes are formed due to fatigue of the pavement surface. As fatigue cracks develop they typically interlock in a pattern known as "alligator cracking". The chunks of pavement between fatigue cracks are worked loose and may eventually be picked out of the surface by continued wheel loads, thus forming a pothole. The formation of potholes is exacerbated by cold temperatures, as water expands when it freezes and puts more stress on cracked pavement. Once a pothole forms, it grows through continued removal of broken chunks of pavement. If a pothole fills with water the growth may be accelerated, as the water 'washes away' loose particles of road surface as vehicles pass. In temperate climates, potholes tend to form most often during spring months when the subgrade is weak due to high moisture content. However, potholes are a frequent occurrence anywhere in the world, including in the tropics.

Potholes can grow to feet in width, though they usually only become a few inches deep, at most. If they become large enough, damage to tires and vehicle suspensions can occur.

If you thought that potholes are the calling card of Indian roads check the pic below.

Wiki says that the city of Los Angeles is known for its potholes like the picture above.

Till last week I cursed every time I hit a pothole and then I came upon this

And on Saturday with a team of 30+ professionals (mostly techies) including two women, we filled up around 27 potholes with concrete in Adyar and Besant Nagar. Next time you see a pothole or a problem, stop cursing and see if you can fix it. I tried and today I am proud to say that I am a part of I Fix!

WIP on a pothole in Besant Nagar near St. John's School

Inspecting the last pothole filled for the night at 3 AM near the Cancer hospital Adyar

A job well done, the twigs mark the spot where you may not drive over for atleast a day

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Police = Thief

This is a long but true story of the rogue cops of Chennai. Read on only if you are interested…

Yesterday was a day of great lows! It was a good day to start the week and as usual I dropped D off at the university and proceeded to office. On the Gandhi Mandapam road (just a thought, the name is a misnomer since the mandapam is a couple of kilometers away on another road) a cab way ahead in the traffic pulled up suddenly. This caused a sudden application of brakes of the cars following it including me in my third love. In a split second I felt a huge thump and the shattering of glass. As I was securely belted up I got away with no damage but my poor car was damaged very badly. I rushed out to see a sea of confusion; 1) A girl, ostensibly the pillion rider of the bike (A Bajaj Pulsar) that rammed into my car 2) A flustered guy who rushed to the aid of the girl who was by now bleeding and appeared hurt 3) A crowd of irate motorists who found this delay very irritating and 4) The usual good Samaritans who flagged down an auto and bundled No1. and No 2 into it in a flash leaving me behind totally frustrated with a badly damaged Martuthi Wagon R and a mangled Bajaj Pulsar.

My car after the crash
The dark spots are blood from the injured girl

The crowd dispersed almost immediately like magic and I was left wondering as to my next course of action. My despair reached great heights as for the second time in a row, after a long time in a service station and a bill of several thousands my car gets rammed in the back necessitating further repairs and hefty bills. I tried calling ICICI Lombard my insurer to register my claim but after several agonizing minutes on hold I got an executive who after taking down all my data hung up. A second call and the same on hold with painful promotional ads yielded nothing. Finally on the third call I got through and after a call that spanned 12 minutes I got my claim registered. The sheer indifference of these executives considering the fact that claims arise due to some accident rubbed salt into my now simmering wounds.
2nd time the door needs to be changed
The accident happened at 10.15 AM and despite sending word to the traffic cop posted much further down the road I got no response. I managed to locate the police station and logged a complaint; little did I know that my woes had only begun. After an agonizing wait of two hours sitting on the footpath finally a constable came to the spot. The owner of the bike still did not make an appearance. The cop made his notes and asked me to move my car to the other side of the road, and then he flagged an auto and asked the driver to move the bike likewise. I secretly pocketed the bike keys just for security. Then he got hold of another mini truck and asked the drivers to load the auto on the truck. The cop then asked me Rs. 50 to pay the truck driver to cart it to the police station. I asked him incredulously why I should pay for the vehicle when I was the victim, he said that they will settle it at the station and that it is better for me if I pay. Like a moron (actually I was so frustrated that even thinking took an effort) I took out the only note I had a Rs. 500 and looked at him like an idiot. He promptly changed it into smaller notes paid the truck driver Rs. 50 for carting the bike, the other driver Rs. 30 for lifting it and returned Rs. 300 to me saying that he owed me Rs.100.
I paid Rs. 50 for this cart !
In an attempt to pacify me, he kept repeating that he was a Christian too and started quoting the scriptures saying that I should not loose heart in the face of adversity. I saw a glimmer of hope but in a flash it was extinguished, when the constable unashamedly asked me to drop him to Muttukadu, a picnic spot 26 kms away as he had another call which he had to finish before he gives me my FIR. I was fuming and I declined to drop him. Then he instructed me to park the car in the police station and leave it overnight till he completes the investigation. In confusion I called up my dad who after talking to a friends got introduced to a DIG of police who instructed me to go to the station and lodge a complaint and get a copy of the FIR immediately and on no account leave my car behind. Accordingly I left to the station but before leaving the spot I had the presence of mind to take snaps of the vehicles and the spot which was a blessing in itself.

In the police station I had to recount my story and then the cops asked me to wait till their colleague returns from Muttukadu. Then they had a change of heart for whatever reason and asked me to return by 3 after lunch. The time then was around 1.30 PM. So I met a friend for lunch and we returned at 3.30 PM to the station. By that time the officer in charge had gone to sleep, it was his siesta time apparently! We were informed that we had to wait for him to arise. After twenty minutes the others decided to wake the sleeping cop and ask him for the certificate. (The certificate is needed for an insurance claim in the event of a third party damage). The cops proceeded to mouth a lot of administrative jargon which seemed to be an euphemism for “It’s going to cost you money”. Finally I got my report after an eternity and then the “Christian” cop walked in. (As I am a Christian too, I will refrain from calling him that any more and switch to “rogue”) He looked sufficiently dismayed to see me in the station against his advice, the possibility of a big loss in revenue maybe. This idiot had even got the number of the bike wrong, I was so irritated that he could not do a simple thing right. I had to show them the photos to prove my version of the story and the real number of the bike. If not for it, the complaint by itself would have been useless.
Can you read the number? That rogue couldn't!

Finally they wrote my certificate and handed it over to me scratching their heads. I pointedly tried to ignore their signal. As my friend and me stepped out the rogue cornered us and said that his colleagues had done us a favour by releasing the certificate without inspection and completion of legal formalities and we owed them. I tried reasoning that I was the victim and that I have come for redressal but it fell on deaf ears. I had a just Rs. 200 after paying for lunch and I gave it in disgust. The “Christian” cop then said that there were 3 and so it was not enough. I snapped literally and then I asked him what happened to the 100 Rs that he owed me. Without any shame he replied that the money covered his travel expenses to Muttukadu. My friend restrained me and paid another 100 bucks and we walked out of the place by around 5 PM.

I was so filled with revulsion for the police force; they are nothing but the scum of the earth. Worse I hang my head in shame that one should call himself a Christian and act like a rogue. For all my education, having a DIG to support and all my knowledge I had to go down to such lows to get a certificate that was mine by law, I shudder to think what would someone lesser be subjected to?

Template traumas


As you can see QuoVadis has taken yet another avatar. Actually every time I try to get a third party template for my blog it somehow contrives to end up doing a lot of damage. Blame it on my lack of html knowledge or just simple bungling. I managed to get some absolutely wonderful templates and finally I end up with a compromise.

A few problems I face:
1) I am not able to back up the widgets from my current template and move them to the proposed one.
2) The proposed template though good still has some scope for improvements and I don't know how to do them
3) I get run time errors when I try to paste third party code and I'm simply clueless to debug.

So all you whizkids out there who can do something about this, lease take your cue from the image at the start of the post.....

P.S. I think this template is good and it brings to mind a great management technique.
KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid!!!!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Gossip?? Turn on the news.

I tend to watch the news channels in the morning after my daily reading of the Hindu. Actually it is more of hearing the news while I go about my daily chores in the process of getting ready for work.

Initially it was NDTV 24/7 for want of choice but when CNN IBN was launched I found it a little more appealing and so I switched royalty. However my liking for the channel stops whenever their cricket programme LOC comes on simply because of my aversion for Kris Shrikanth who is affectionately (sic) called Cheeka (a la the Hutch pug). Shrikanth is simply abominable but I will save that for another story. Anyway of late I started watching TV Today as they tend to have at least two pleasant looking well dressed hostesses dishing out the news. Some of you may have seen TV today and may recollect a third woman who looks like Scary Spice and whose histrionics are a serious turn off for any serious news viewer.

These news bulletins tend to structure their programme into the headlines, then business, entertainment and others. Thankfully I can cut the crap and stick to serious news with this segmentation. I still remember those good old days of Prannoy Roy ending his popular “The World this Week” with the newsmakers segment which was my favourite bit of news programming, simply because newsmakers then did not mean a page 3 starlet pissing on the street or something like it caught on candid camera. Imitations and copy cat formats abound today and even if TWTW may not be an original it was a pioneer in Indian broadcasting then.

Coming back to my story during my breakfast I was surprised to know that the hot news of one particular day was that Bips is single till she marries. I nearly dropped my spoon at this earth shattering revelation. A girl is single till she marries! That calls for a place in the Guiness book of records or in some book of the most profound truths of the world next to the scriptures. In case you don’t know Bips, she is also known as Bipasha Basu, ex model and now actress and supposedly John Abraham’s girlfriend. Bips was living a good life till the Ronaldo kiss happened and was dutifully broadcast on all the media channels and now these TV channels are falling over each other to check if she is still the girlfriend. Almost 10 minutes of serious news programming was spent in analyzing this profound truth mouthed by Bips and its implications, I almost threw up the break fast lovingly cooked by D for me.

Today yet again on TV Today, the scrolling headline reads “Kareena takes a Saif bet”. For all those in the dark including me till I saw this segment, apparently Kareena has broken up with her long term boy friend Shahid Kapur and is now being seen around with Saif Ali Khan. The newscaster (sic) goes on to analyze the dateline of the relationship of Kareena and Shahid and the number of occasions that Kareena was seen with Saif. This time no dropping the spoons or puking, I simply asked D to switch to NDTV money and proceeded to eat my breakfast. So much for food for thought!

It is a sad commentary of our society that news channels have degenerated to such crap and if this is what the public want then the paparazzi hounding Diana to her death will not be an exception. Expect more such incidents. Why must the world (ok, Indians) know who any actor / actress is going around or living or sleeping with? Are we so interested in being peeping toms? Newspapers that have been the custodians of the people’s rights and freedom have degenerated into simple gossip pages. Were it not for Page 3 items I can challenge that many papers would decline in their circulation. I know that you are familiar with the papers I talk of. So it is understandable that these TV channels promoted by these media houses going the same way.

Thankfully there are still some beacons of hope, if not in the TV format atleast in the print format. They may not be always 100% neutral on issues or policies but hey a newspaper is people driven and people are never neutral no matter what they claim to be. Again you may know these papers I talk of, my sincere advice to you is to find one and read it regularly. It will do you a world of good. As for TV news, ignore their names and watch them they may be much better entertainment than the ridiculous soaps on the general entertainment channels. After all how many soaps can give such though provoking, mind blowing, earth shattering, traffic stopping statements like “I am single till I marry”?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Credit card capers

I had a 60K limit on my Visa Silver credit card from the second largest bank in India and very recently de to bad financial planning and a lot of stupidity I had an available cash limit of under a couple of thousands and the interest servicing alone was draining me. So I decided to pay the amount in full from my savings and get rid of this debt trap and based on the bill I did so right down to last paisa. My problems with the card then commenced!

When I call up their 24/7 customer care number for some unknown reason every time the officer understood that I wanted to close my card my line invariably gets disconnected. So after several frustrating disconnected calls I finally managed to get through them from the hotline in their branch. Finally I got an assurance that my card will be closed. Happy and flushed with the success of my mission I rested in peace at home. This peace lasted only for a week when my next statement read that I had a couple of hundreds to pay as interest for the intermittent period and the service charge on the same. The same rigmarole continued and after several more frustrating calls that bloated my mobile bills but yielded no result I decided to do something drastic.

At this moment I must rewind back to the month of June, where the world’s local bank had a tiff with me. Their gold card was paid in full and the card expired in normal course in March 2007. I declined the renewal card sent by courier and I was living a life of contentment and bliss knowing that one noose was less around my neck. Good things end invariably and my bliss ended with the receipt of the bill statements for a card I did not possess. The customer care of this bank is so terrible I sometimes wonder if it should be named customer scare. I was informed that my card was duly returned to them and was also destroyed but I was being billed as my relationship was not terminated!!!! What they were telling me was that I had to pay for something I don’t have because I had it some time back.

Left with no solution I searched the net and chanced upon the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, based in Chennai. I suppose they may have a chapter in many other cities too. Based on their suggestion I mailed a stinker to the customer care with a copy to the CAG with a mild threat that I would resort to “the available recourse” and waited for a response. Though I had given a deadline of 7 working days in 2 days flat the bank replied with closure formalities and that relationship was formally ended.

So coming back to the first story I decided to call upon the CAG again and guess what? I send a mail in the evening to the bank and by late night I get a SMS that my charges are reversed and my balance is NIL, the next day I get a mail saying that my card relationship has been terminated.

This post is aimed at two things:
1) To place on record my gratitude and appreciation to the Citizen Consumer & Civic Action Group for their wonderful services
2) To tell all those who are stuck with a consumer problem, do approach your nearest cell and watch the results
3) If you have a credit card and believe that it is a smart thing to use the revolving credit, STOP, it is stupid, Trust me.