Sunday, 19 October 2014

Man v/s Mosquito... Who's winning the race?... #ImmuneIndia

This post has been exclusively written for IndiBlogger and Dabur Chavanprash. Check for more information.

After hearing about so many people being contracted with mosquito related diseases, I thought I should do a bit of research on this subject. Incidentally, even I fell ill with high fever a couple of days ago and started getting a chilled shivering kind of sensation. When I consulted the doctor, he suspected it could be a viral infection. The blood tests revealed that the platelets count has dropped and nothing can be conclusively said on this sole indicator. So, I am being asked to take some medication and do a same test after 2-3 days.

Children are very susceptible to mosquito bites
So, coming back to the research thing. According to WHO, each year, more than half a million people, mostly children, are hospitalized due to severe dengue. About 2.5% of those affected die. All this starts with aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry a viral infection causing fever. These are usually found in tropical and sub-tropical climates and affect 50-100 million people every year. In the next stage, which is called breakbone fever, it leads to a flu-like illness and severe joint and muscle pain. In the next stage, a smaller number of cases, it leads into a potentially lethal complication called severe dengue, which is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries.

It shocked me when I read that almost half of the world’s population is now at risk from dengue, and with no specific treatment or vaccine available. This is far more dangerous than the female anopheles mosquito that causes malaria. There's another disease called Chikungunya, which is a viral disease carried by daytime-biting mosquitoes (1.9 million cases in India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Maldives and Burma also known as Myanmar since 2005). Gosh, shouldn't we be waging a war against mosquitoes instead of attacking other countries. Interestingly, the scientists say no to this as this could have a disastrous effect on an ecosystem. Since 2005, there have been , according to the World Health Organization.

So, how do we fight mosquitoes? Come on, don't tell me about All Out, Mortein, Good Knight and stuff like that. Firstly, the coils are harmful to our own health. So, they are ruled out. The mats aren't effective either. So, they are ruled out. Now, they have this liquidator. Last week, I was able to see a mosquito happily sitting on the liquidator, which was switched on from over 2 hours. I was about to snap a photo and it flew. The mosquitoes have become immune to these, while we haven't become immune to mosquitoes yet. We do not have an effective solution to even tackle mosquitoes, a basic problem that everyone faces. I feel this should be pursued very seriously before we are worse days.

Some ways we can protect ourselves and children is to net the windows, use a baby mosquito net, close the doors, keep all surrounding places clean, or practically jump, run, hit and kill those mosquitoes that enter our homes despite all this. After all, we at least have the freedom to breathe in our homes. Let them enjoy their lives outside of our homes. We don't like them. They don't like us. So, better, stay away from us. If any mosquito is reading this, take this as a final warning, with love. After all, no parent want to compromise with the safety of their child.

I think we should also do things to improve our immune system, especially when we are young. It will not help us to cure things but it will help us prevent a lot of things. Whoever said, "Prevention is better than cure". Having a strong immune system helps in ensuring that you don't contract infections/diseases easily. Your body has high resistance to things that can cause damage to your system. One thing I have always trusted is Chavanprash. My grandfather was an Ayurvedic doctor and from his time, we have been having Chavanprash and it has definitely kept us strong and going.

So, life is all about health. You can do anything and everything. Else, every wealth in the world will be of zero value. Strengthen children with right food, exercises and develop a sporting interest in them. It will keep them healthy.

Take Care !!!

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.