Sunday, 14 December 2014

#RiseAboveFear Thoughtfully, Don't take that blind jump in the pool

This blog post has been exclusively written for IndiBlogger's Rise above fear! contest in association with Mountain Dew.

In 1997, I joined Sainik School, Bijapur to continue my education. It was an all new life and I was slowly adapting to it. A lot of adventure awaited me and I was all excited. We had many of these athletic events, sports competitions, races, etc. When our house master came in to our barracks to select the team for the swimming competition, he said, "Whoever knows swimming, take your swimming trunks and come with me to swimming pool. And those of you who don't know, enroll your names for the classes."

Now, I was in a dilemma. Did I know swimming or did I not? I was a 10 year old kid then and had no idea about swimming. Those TV visuals of people beating their hand and legs in water appeared in my mind. I also remembered of those couple of occasions when I had been to a swimming pool, all to play in the baby pool. So, I decided to take my swimming trunk and follow the house master.

We were about 20 of us and there were 5 lanes. The first 5 took a jump into the pool, which was about 25 meters long. The depth of on one side was 12 feet and the other was 4 feet. The 5 reached the other side of the pool, and their timings were recorded. The next 5 were asked to get ready, and I was given the lane in the mid of the pool. I took my position, and soon, the whistle was blown. With a tiger's dare, I jumped into the pool. In seconds, I was gone, deep down in the pool, absolutely unaware of what was happening. A huge volume of water went in my stomach and I lost my breath. I struggled to beat my hands and legs to seek help. In moments, our PT (physical training) instructor Sanjeev sir dived to rescue me. He took me out, and in all terms, saved my life.

For the next 5 years, I did all that I could to escape swimming and stayed away from water. I would participate in all other activities that would exempt me from swimming, so that I am occupied in those time slots. I even skipped the mandatory swimming tests in some or the other way. However, in Class XII, there was no escape. The swimming test was a mandatory requirement before passing out from the school.

I was terrified. It was then that I thought what I holding me back. It was one unplanned wrong risk that I took long ago out of my thoughtlessness. It was a bit awkward for me to note that all my friends were able to swim now and I was afraid to even go near the pool. I decided, to dare. I challenged myself to learn swimming in the next 3 months and clear the test. It was, after all, a question of dignity, when I saw my juniors swimming through fluidly.

I went to the swimming pool and requested the instructor to train me. The training started. I still remember how afraid I was when I was entering the pool. It took a lot of guts to get in. After basic training, a rope was tied around me, and I was asked to jump in the pool. Despite those training sessions and gaining confidence by learning those basic moves by holding the edges, I trembled. I was practically pushed in to the pool and I just gave up. I was pulled towards the edge. It was easy due to the rope. I was asked to leave the pool, and take "fail" for an answer.

As I walked out, something in me kept telling me that I would regret this moment all my life. Fear is temporary. Regret is permanent. I went back and requested for one last chance. I closed my eyes, put all my trust in the God and the coach, and dived in the pool. It was horrible. The rope was a savior. My kept instructing me on how I should move my hands, legs and balance my body. I was able to manage myself for some time and reached the other side of the pool. I was covering the width of 10 meters in shallow water. This completion was a great confidence boost to me.

There is always victory after you have dared and given your best. That's perhaps why Mountain Dew's "Darr Ke Aage Jeet Hai" is such a catchy phrase. In a week, I was able to learn the basic free style swimming and was able to do that 10 meters without any support. In the coming days, I did the full 25 meters and I felt this was a real big accomplishment for me, as I had dodged this for year. In the end, it was not just swimming that I learnt, but also the fact that we ought to rise above our fears to make things happen. Its always better to try, than to think you can't.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Toilet for Babli

This blog post has been written for Domex's #ToiletForBabli initiative on Indiblogger. Visit to be a part of the "You Click, Domex Contributes" initiative and help children like Babli live a better life.

Open defecation is one of the biggest challenges that a country like India faces. There are several reasons for this problem, including the inability to reach all the people in the country. However, we can not deny the fact that this issue needs immediate attention and we must put in our best foot forward to ensure that we provide the basic sanitation facilities to everyone, at least considering that we are in the 21st century already, a century that we boast for technology and immense human advancement. Man has reached Mars and yet, our people aren't able to find a toilet. Strange.

It is sad to note that, according to the UN, nearly 1/3rd of the world population does not have access to a proper toilet, and nearly a billion people are forced to defecate in the open. People are choiceless and are forced to defecate outside, without privacy. Open defecation is a leading cause for diseases like diarrohea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitits, worm infestation as well as reduced physical growth. Putting an end to open defecation will not only help people with privacy and reduce possibility of diseases and infection, but will also help children like Babli improve their attendance at school, and reduce their visits to hospitals. There have been several cases where stools are washed into lakes and rivers, and this water is used for consumption by people. In some countries in Africa, diarrohea is the third bigger killer of children below 5 years of age.

In a recent report jointly prepared by the WHO and the UNICEF, it was stated that nearly 597 million people practice open defecation in India (largest in the world).

When we think of women defecating in the open, it is such a shameful thing today. While on one hand, we are talking of becoming the crown of the world by 2025, on the other hand, we are struggling to take care of the people who are unable to catch the pace at which things are moving. It is the collective responsibility of the society to ensure that we move together. Corporate in now taking the initiative through CSR activities to help people get these basic amenities.

One such wonderful initiative called "You Click Domex Contributes" is taken up by Domex. The company has taken an initiative to make villages in Maharashtra and Orissa open defecation free zones. Nearly 443 million school days are lost due to diseases caused by open defecation and this initiative will cause a significant decline in this number. You can help make a difference by visiting and click on Contribute. You don't have to contribute anything. Just enter email ID and the company will contribute Rs 5 on your behalf towards this cause. Awesome. I just did it. Please do it right away !

Sunday, 19 October 2014

This Diwali, just make it a #GharWaliDiwali

This post has been exclusively written for Indiblogger, celebrating this Deepwali with PepsiCo #GharWaliDiwali Film. What an awesome video this one, truly winning hearts. Check out, share your Diwali story, and win gifts for your family.

Deepawali is undoubtedly one of the most favorite festivals that we all celebrate. Holi too. Who doesn't like colours and lights. Sometimes, I wish, Deepawali and Holi should be celebrated on the same day. For a long time, nearly 10 years, I stayed away from mt parents and hence, missed the festival. It is one fantastic moment when the whole family comes together, leaving all their egos and cat fights away, and hug one another, smile and wish that their lives be fulfilled with light.

One of the most memorable experiences that I have is the Deepawali Special Trading hours. The stock market opens in the evening for about an hour or so and this period is considered very auspicious to buy stocks. Thats why the name Muhurat Trading. It also marks the beginning of a new year according to the Samvat calendar. I really enjoy that one hour of trading. Its a pleasure to watch.

#GharWaliDiwali is a splendid experience, especially considering the delicious food that my mother prepares. There are some sweets that are specially prepared for the festival. Apart from them, there is kheer, which is one of my favorite delicacies. When eaten with pooris, it makes a wonderful combination.

Not to forget, Diwali is a extreme shopping season. Not only people are curious to buy everything during this time, because it is counsidered auspicious, but the shopkeepers also provide exciting deals and offers to further stimulate the desire to shop. Statitics prove that we see highest volumes of gold sales, vehicle sales, gold sales, clothes sales, etc in this season. Flipkart sold Rs 600 Crores worth goods in 10 hours in its run up to Diwali. This is also that time of the year when I get to shop along with my family. It is an amazing experience to go out with everyone and buy stuff that we need.

Diwali also means crackers. This is a festival that celebrates the homecoming of Lord Rama. It marks the destruction of the evil and the return of the good. Though I may be absolutely wrong, I find it a bit weird when a whole set of NGOs, celebrities and others coming together asking everyone to not burst crackers in the name of air pollution and noise pollution. Noise, yes, I can understand. But it should be okay until, say, at least, 8 PM? Air, I don't know how much an evening's crackers would add to the pollution compared to a days's vehicle pollution, or say, cigarette pollution. I think, we should be happy about the way we celebrate our festivals. May be, take public transport for 2-3 days to compensate. So, this Diwali, go on, have fun.

There is no Diwali like #GharWaliDiwali. Go Home. Celebrate. Live the moment !!!

Everything else can wait. Carry some Pepsi, and Kurkure, too :) Everyone loves them

Happy Diwali !!!

Duvayein, Badhaiyan, Mithaiyan, Khushiyan
Iss Tyohar ki Hai Kayi Saari Khoobiyan
Aao Manaye Milkar yeh Deepoan ka Tyohar
Rab Sabko De Sukh, Samruddhi aur Dher Saara Pyaar

Shubh Deepawali

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Crayons of Hope - Episode 2 - Papa Kehte Hain...

After a long break post the first session of the Crayons of Hope program, I returned to the school that I am affiliated with for the second session. A good number of students had left the school due to reasons like parents' transfer, relocation, etc. But then, more than 70% students were present. A few more students expressed interest to join and got in.

The kids were extremely joyed when I told them the meanings of their names. Most of them had faced difficulty in the 1st session when we had a discussion about their names. After a brief chat on what we had done previously and how that impacted them, we started with the day's session on the topic "My Parents".


I started with a pep talk on parents and their role in our life. Slowly, I encouraged children to contribute their views. A couple of students even stood up and give a 60-90 seconds talk about their parents. Most students spoke about how their parents are adding value to their life, about their parents' work and interests. I could see a lot of them saying that their parents buy whatever they ask and that makes them very happy. I uttered a small statement, "Never complain about what your parents have given you, that is all they had".

I distributed the sheets to the children and they got on to business. Over the next 30 minutes, they sketched all that they wanted to say about their parents. It was an interesting session. However, I was able to notice that kids didn't have much idea about their parents. All they knew was their names, occupation and a bit about the dreams/aspirations that they had for their children. Perhaps, that has always been just enough to fill the forms for admission and focus on studying.

I'm not sure if its the phenomenon everywhere but it is definitely a phenomenon in India that children seldom interact openly with parents. Most kids/adults confuse respect with fear. Parents always want to ensure that their children are afraid of them and be under their noses at all times. While this has its own advantages, it can not ensure that the kid is on the right path. You never know what is happening in your absence. I have always had this thought in my mind that to have a strong relationship, there should be more love and not fear. When you love someone, you ensure that you do a lot of right things and when you fear someone, you ensure that the other person doesn't get to know what you are doing.

I encouraged the kids to go back to their homes and spend time with their parents. Interestingly, when I asked them who all help their parents in work at home, everybody raised their hands. I asked them to question them about their lives, their friends, their business, how was it like when they were kids, how was their school life, college life, how their their parents live then and so on. Engaging with parents helps kids to get the fear factor away and slowly, they start feeling connected and the relationship grows to into a more meaningful one. There is always something that you can learn from everyone.

This was another lovely hour of discussion we had and I did enjoy it. Here are some images of what happened through the session as well as the outcome.


Check out this album on facebook for images.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Debit Card Annual Fees - Why most customers shouldn't be charged?

Published on Moneylife at

The banking industry has evolved in a great way and today, we are almost at a stage where everyone has a bank account. Those of us living in cities could be having 2 and those living in metros could have 3-5 accounts. I remember reading somewhere that the upper middle class has at least 6 bank accounts per family. From being a privilege for the wealthy and for those working in the Government services, banking has become a basic necessity of life. In fact, most parents get a bank account in the name of their as soon as they get him/her in to the school. How could they not? After all, a whole bunch of bankers run around them explaining the advantages of opening a child account, how it could help the kid become responsible, how it will help in education, and so on. The moment you open a bank account, a recurring deposit in the name of the kid and a life insurance policy are up next. That's okay. After all, the world is growing.

Banks want to have their cake and eat it too. Guess what, they have been successful at it

Over the last many years, I have been looking at the changes happening in the banking sector. After computerization of the banking industry, banking has more to do with marketing that with calculations. The computers and software take care of all the calculations and thus, the banks are now better positioned to use human resources to generate revenue. Not so long ago, a bank employee would spend majority of his time in accepting deposits and making payments across the cash counter, making him a cost center for the bank. Modern bankers (like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, etc) aggressively marketed their products by showcasing their services like the ATMs, Internet Banking, Phone Banking, etc, making them a revenue center.

Inter bank fund transfers through internet banking attract charges too. The internet banking was supposed to benefit the bank by reducing the cheque clearing work, thereby leaving behind a lot of time for bank employees to work on other fronts. Its a different story that the phone banking, which was supposed to help customers on a toll free number, is now offered on a paid line. So, all these services that came up to help the customers have helped the banks more than the customers. Of course, no one can deny the great volume of convenience we enjoy today. The point I want to make is that, all that was free, now comes at a cost.

Even SMS sent to customers are subject to charges now. The SMS initiative came as a measure to ensure safe banking and now, it costs the customers to ensure that he banks safely. Somehow, it doesn't convince me that my bank account is not safe with the banks with this paid SMS facility.

Debit Card Annual Fees - A trap

Before declaring charges for SMS facility, the banks introduced annual fees for debit cards. This one is perhaps the most annoying charge that today's customers pay. On a personal front, I had nearly 10 debit cards on my name, some time ago (side effects of working in the banking and financial services industry). One day, I realized that I am paying a lot of money in the name of 'Debit card annual fees'. At Rs 110 per card, I was paying almost Rs 100 a month. But then, I would hardly use those cards. I started closing those accounts, one by one, and yet, I was left with 5 of them. Yet again, paying Rs 500 plus taxes for no reason whatsoever made no sense to me at all.

Banks benefit more in terms of times and cost than the customers

Banks came up with an idea of ATMs in order to save time for customers and more importantly, for themselves. While customers do benefit from these cards, the banks benefit far more. Imagine the bankers sitting around and processing cash withdrawals of Rs 100-1000 to thousands of customers everyday in today's world.

A large number of customers still do not extensively use cards

It is a well known fact that a large number of customers who possess these cards, especially the ones in rural areas or the ones in business, seldom use these cards. Sole proprietors and, to some extent, Partnership firms have cash on hand, which they use for their daily expenses and this cash is received by them in the course of daily business. Most of their withdrawals are in the form of payments to third parties by cheques or transfers. So, the card lies in their pockets or lockers and they keep paying the annual fees.

Use of debit cards for shopping is very low

Banks promoted debit cards saying that these cards can be used at other bank ATMs as well as be swiped on merchant terminals. However, the number of customers using debit cards for shopping is very low. Most customers who have a credit card would consider swiping their credit card and thereby, getting more than a month's time to pay the amount, rather than swiping a debit card where the amount goes off immediately. It is only when there are some offers, discounts, cash backs, etc that customers consider swiping their debit cards.

5 transactions only - you are anyways taking money for 6th one

The banks' promotion of debit cards quoting that these can be used to withdraw cash from any ATM doesn't appeal anymore. After all, only 5 such transactions in a month are free and the customer has to pay for the 6th transaction. However, banks have continued to offer unlimited transactions at their own ATMs even today.

Banks should bring back the ATM card

While adapting to technology should be encouraged, banks should also provide for such customers who do not want to use technology that doesn't help them. Its like asking a banker to learn Hadoop or Big Data, as they are the latest technologies. I guess there are some banks who are still issuing ATM cards on request. In fact, I got an ATM card from one of the leading private sector bank on placing a request for the same.

There was absolutely no need for the bankers to do away with an ATM card and make the customers opt compulsorily for the debit card. An ATM card is a boon for those customers who do not use the ATM often or do not intend to shop using it. Banks are making big bucks with these charges but it is time they realize that they focus on tailored solutions than making generic products. While many appreciate the progress from ATM cards to debit cards, there are many customers out there who do not find any meaning in shelling out a hundred rupees every year for no real reason. In fact, there are awkward situations when such charges result in a drop in balance, and such drop results in a cheque bounce. Online consumer forums are filled up with such complaints.

Reintroducing ATM cards would be a friendly step to help customers who have too many debit cards, or those who seldom use them. Levying an annual fee on all cardholders could be legally right but when you look it from the moral or customer delight perspective, the business has got it wrong. Abolishing the annual fees in totality would be more of a dream for customers.

Customers who are not happy with the debit cards should walk in to the branches or write to the bank and ask them to issue them an ATM card in lieu of a debit card.