Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Kotak Junior Account - Chute Hue Chutte ko Jud Jaane Do

Chutey Hue Chutte Ko Jud Jaane Do...
Khulle Kabhi Yahaan Kabhi Vahaan, Ko Mil Jaane Do...
Chan Chan Karti Chillar Ki Party Ho Jaane Do...
Batore Jamao Kamao...
Aaj Ki Chillar Kal Note Ban Jaane Do...

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Study Tours are NOT #ShamelessJoyride - Spot the Difference

Over the last 2 days, I have been listening and listening to various people speaking about this. A set of politicians have planned to tour the Amazon Forest, South America and Dubai in order to study the economy, policies and people over there. However, Timesnow has exposed a document that shows the itinerary of the tour. Its a disgrace to the planner that there is not even one item that could be considered a part of what we can define as 'Study'.

But then, very honestly, I am not at all shocked. There is no reason to be shocked at all. Like our CM has remarked, this is a regular part of their career. Some have even remarked that it is the right of the MLAs/MPs to go on 2 such tours annually, etc. and the right has been conferred on them by the law. Perfect! I do NOT feel sad nor do I feel bad that such tours are happening. We might try to equate this as a cost on the exchequer and do a hue and cry on this but that doesn't serve any purpose. A set of people who do not like what others are doing will keep shouting on them and such shouts do not deter the doers from doing what they are planning to do. It might only delay the process. Just last year, a similar junket has been exposed and what happened?

So, what exactly does a study tour mean (in my opinion, might not be exactly what the law says)
  1. A study tour is a tour to some other location that has certain expertise in dealing certain issues that we are not able to deal with. We go to them, learn how they are able to do it and try to implement our learning to solve our problem.
  2. Study tours could also be undertaken to learn new technology, business or anything that can be of help to the state or the nation.
  3. Study tours provision could have been introduced with the aforementioned objectives.

So, whats wrong with Study Tours? I feel the leaders are doing good by studying the world
  1. Here is the conlict of interest. The benefits of the tours must essentially accrue to the ones bearing the cost of the tour. In this case, the cost is borne by the taxpayers and hence, the tours must be of some help to the taxpayers.
  2. What started as study tours have now become a joy rides or perks of the politicians. How? May be one MLA tried to repeatedly use/misuse the provision of the study tour and then, a rule was made that one can undertake only 2 such tours in a year. Thus, in the process, all the politicians realized that there is this provision and they all must use it. It is their right to go on a study tour.
  3. Its just like you are served tea in the office. Now, one employee drinks too much tea. The office makes a rule that you can not have more than 2 cups of tea in a day. Soon, even those employee who were not having tea start taking interest in having tea. After all, something that was an option to be executed when the need arises has now been turned into a right. And we all know better to utilize out rights, especially when there is a possibility that our cup of tea could be consumed by other if we don't.
So, these study tours should be stopped?
  1. Absolutely not. Why would you want to stop a study tour? You have to ensure that study tours are undertaken for the purposes of study only.
  2. But how would you do that? Well, there are no straight answers. It needs courage, determination and willingness of the CM or the concerned minister to take necessary steps. Some have advised to ensure a proper agenda or ensure submission of a report with findings and outcomes of the tour.
  3. It would be wrong on our part to generalize. I am sure there are at least some leaders who have, in the past, made use of such studies to learn something and do good for us. The idea is great but the process of implementation is flawed.
In a nutshell, Study Tours, by themselves, are neither bad nor do any harm to the economy. It is their misuse of that is a disgrace. I definitely do not agree with the argument that a study tour should not be undertaken when the state finances are not in a good shape or when there is a draught. Such argument is as good as asking Mukesh Ambani not to live in Antilla, or for that matter, all of those who live in a home, because there are people without homes. In fact, it is exactly in these times that study tours, discussions, seminars, inviting experts, panel discussions, etc. should happen. I am speaking about the ideal definition of study tours and not the maligned meaning it has gained today.

I guess, a right step in this direction has been taking by Mr PGR Sindhia who said that he will request the Karnataka CM and the speaker to cancel these tours. The solution lies in action. There is a need to cancel/amend the provision to ensure this doesn't repeat. By the way, it is very much possible that the existing provision itself could have been an amended and accepted one. One must also keep in mind that, in case, we all decide to reduce the number of these study tours to 1, for example, we shouldn't go back and question the people who go on the tour. In other words, it would be meaningless for us to put a number. We have to have clear provision that leaders who have an appropriate agenda, an honest intent to learn something and a strong plan to implement the learning for the common benefit MUST be encouraged to go on the study tours at whatever it takes (subject to the condition that we will, in the longer run, benefit more from this exercise).

How about the ones who want to have the experience and a bit of study.
  1. There are numerous ways to achieve better results that what you can achieve with study tours.
  2. One could be to invite the specialist/team to the state and ask them to work on the project or implement it. Ask them to give a report on how we should solve the problem under discussion.
  3. On my, did I forget Youtube? NDTV Good Times? History Channel? There are numerous ways to get information/knowledge about anything you want to know.
So, things are not bad by themselves. They are made so by a set of people. Neither are things good by themselves. They are made so by a set of people. We have to build more of people of the latter kind. I always believe in getting to the heart of the matter and resolving it from the roots. The root to this problem is a provision that makes it legally possible.

People seriously desirous of saving the taxpayer of the burden should appeal to repeal this provision instead of unnecessarily harassing the law abiding politicians. Hows that for a change?

Friday, 8 November 2013

How to Avoid a Breakup - A True Love Story

This post has been written for Platinum Day of Love on IndiBlogger

Based on my experience in life about love due to my interactions with my friends, I am making an attempt to understand what exactly it takes to live a happy life. Of course, there is a huge volume of material available on the topics of life, happiness & success but then, we do not remember anything that we read when it comes to practical life. We know that we should not lie but we do, we know that we should not bribe but we do, we know that we should wake up early but we sleep, we know that we should make sincere efforts but we don't, we know a lot of things but we never put them in to practice in real life

Very recently, my friend broke up with his long time girlfriend. They had been together for more than 5 years and I would look up to them as role models for anyone who wants to rise in love. But then, like someone said, you always fall in love. When I look back to the reason why this happened, I feel it was so silly, cheap, meaningless or insensible but then, I should also agree that there are many things in the world which we ignore and many others value. When I asked the girl, she told me that he went out to purchase something with another girl and it hurt her. I was totally taken aback. It could be a case of possessiveness but then it can not be a case to break the relationship that is standing from more than 5 years. I mean, come on. My brains were blown off. But then, the girl explained to me that the guy has been doing such things in the past also. Despite her warnings, he has not stopped such activities. As far as I know the guy, I had complete faith in him but listening to these words, even my faith was shattered. I understood that there is a terrible misconception at one of the ends. To ensure that the girl puts out everything without anything hidden in her mind, I played a trick of supporting whatever the guy did. The girl was in no mood to talk to me, perhaps, she did not like a third party interference. As far as I remember, this is what we discussed

Me: So, whats the problem if he goes to a shop or for a movie with another girl?

She: I don't like it. Will you take it if your wife goes for a movie with another guy?

Me (shocked to some extent): Hmmm... May be no, but, I would not mind if she went to shop with some other guy

She: That's you. But I am not you. I don't like it

Me: But, come on. In which century are you living? Do you still believe in gender bias? Moreover, he has not done anything wrong. He has just accompanied the girl to a shop

She: You can explain me whatever you want but I do not like it

Me: Then why did you have this relationship with him for 5 years. You should have broken it a long back

She: I truly love him but he is interested in other girls. In fact, this matter has come up many times and we have had many fights because of this

Me: Oh, I see. How many times?

She: 1 week back (current issue). He also went out with a girl in 2008 and that too twice for a movie. Then in 2009, I think he went to a girl's house

Me: So, 3 times in 5 years. I mean, do you think he should not contact any girl at all. What are you trying to say?

She: No, I have no problem if he speaks to other girls but I don't like if he goes out with any girl alone

Me: But he told me that you have problem if he speaks to other girls. You have created a lot of scenes whenever he has spoken to any girl. He says that you have always fought even if he were to say hi to some girl. You even asked him to delete all the phone numbers of girls from his mobile

She: Yes, what's wrong in that? Why should he have any girl's number saved in his mobile? In spite of all this, he speaks to girls. He has spoken 2 times to one girl this year. Last year, he has spoken to at least 3 girls

Me (going mad, psyche, fool): Do you mean to say that he should not speak to girls at all?

She: No, I already said that I have no problem if he speaks to any girl

Me: You just gave me a statistical count of the number of times he spoke to a girl in a particular year?

She: Yes. That was FYI so that you don't tell me that he does not speak to girls

Me: OMG, I speak to at least 2-3 girls in a day. I mean, nobody even counts such things but I am trying to count. What is all this you are speaking? Don't you feel this is non sense? After all, what at least are you trying to prove?

She: You don't know the pain as you don't have a girlfriend. When you have one and it happens with you, you will know then

Me (thanking God for not having a girlfriend): Hmmm, so what do you intend to do now?

She: Break this relationship

Me: What?

She: Yes, it has been already decided

Me: Why are you in such a hurry? I mean, 5 years of relationship getting over in 5 seconds because he met some girl for 5 minutes? Is this all you people call love?

She (angrily): Don't speak about my love

Me: Or are you seeing someone and want to dump him quickly

She: That's none of your business. Do what you have come for here. Nothing more

Me: OK, so, what do I go and tell him now

She: Tell him that he is dead for me and not to contact me in any manner for any reason

Me: OK

After this discussion, I moved to my friend. In fact, my friend was just sitting nearby. I had asked him to stay away so that they don't fight and the discussion doesn't get lost. She drove her vehicle away from us and never even bothered to say a bye. I don't know what has happened. She was never like that. May be, the ego is playing a bad role in these lives. I know these people from a long time but I have never seen them like this. And the reason for which they are going to the extent of breaking the relationship is really something that I can't digest. I started to get a feeling that there is something else. The truth is something else and both are not telling that to me. I tried to take it off from the guy and this is what we discussed

He: What did she tell?

Me: Go to hell

He: What?

Me: She told, 'Go to hell'. Don't ever contact her

He: Hmmm, I knew. I told you right. Nothing is going to happen. You simply wasted so much of time

Me: What the hell is wrong with you people man? 5 years of relationship and this is all that you have?

He: That even amazes me

Me: People understand each other so much in days and you are like sucking each other's blood

He: This is all a long story. There are huge stories behind all this

Me: Tell me the truth

He: Whatever you know is the truth. There are a lot of stories behind each of these words. Not today please, we'll look in to it some other day. By the way, what is the use now. Its all over

Me: Oh come on, tell me. I know, if not today, you are not gonna tell me ever

He: Hmmm... if you insist, let me tell you. She is a very sensitive girl and very very very ziddi. Unfortunately, I am ziddi but not not very sensitive. I keep my sad feelings for myself. It all started in our college days. I will keep in short. There was a girl who she hated. I, unfortunately, spoke to her for some reason. The warning bells rung. I went to prove my zidd that nothing is wrong but she getting hurt due to high sensitivity. My purpose was solely that she should understand that personal life & professional life are different. I also wanted her to understand that a guy speaking to a girl or vice-versa should not be construed as wrong as the society still considers it a taboo. Now, that was the greatest mistake of my life

Me: Why? What's wrong in that?

He: Nothing. But she mistook it as my interest to speak with that girl. All explanations, debates, declamations happened and it was proved that I was right but nothing can ever change your thought unless you want to change it. The whole world called Osama a terrorist while some called him savior. Its just like that you know. The more I tried to explain her, the more the things went out of order. Slowly, it spread like viral fever and my speech with any girl, even the ugliest of them, was referred as wrong. I kept opposing to ensure that she will improve her thoughts, get the right thoughts on her mind and correct herself. My only intention was to ensure that such creepy thoughts should not kill the future. I wanted them to end them at the earliest. Unfortunately, its 5 years and the fight is still going on

Me: Hmmm, now I got you. This is a case of complete misunderstanding and selecting the wrong option which appears to be right

He: Huh, sort of. As we progressed, I kept making attempts to improve her thoughts but with each attempt, I was only writing my defeat. It was like a series of battle that I was aggressively fighting. Who knew that I am going to lose the war itself?

Me: That's sad. They say, whoever wins the maximum battles wins the war but in your case, I know that you have lost it. I must say that she also has lost it bro. Don't worry

He: I have always been a very social kind of person. I always had this dream of having my girlfriend introduced to everyone and everyone appreciating us and all that stuff. You know right, I always behave like a celebrity though I do not have anything

Me: Haha, no doubt in that

He: It so happened that I introduced her to a couple of girls I knew at my workplace. My friend's girlfriend also was introduced to the same girls and they had a jolly good time. I was asked to join them but I denied. So, I thought, once my girlfriend meets them, they will know each other and have a nice time together. You know, the social recognition need. Something that makes you do what you like in other's doing. But things turned into utter dismay. She came under an assumption that I wanted to be a friend with those girls and I used her for that or something like that. Within minutes, things came to an end

Me: Oh my, this is really sick. You got to be joking

He: No. That's the truth. Though I blamed her and fought with her then, I do not blame her now. I blame myself. Imagine how much my one mistake costed me. Everyone around me goes around in groups and have such a nice time and each time, I just keep avoiding giving some or the other reason. Soon, the people even got to know this reason and it was so embarrassing for me. For the kind of person I am, all these are critical for me. Else, I would never care. But then, I said, nothing is more important than love and I did whatever was told to me. Of course, there have been slips here and there. What hurts me the most is that she did not even make a single effort to understand why all this is happening and what is the solution to this? She kept saying her own demands and if not met, break the relationship. We have broken this relationship, like some 1000 times, easily

Me: OMG, I gave your example to the world for being true lovers

He: Sometimes, I turn mad when I think about all this. You know what, women are crazy characters. Specially when they have people who care for them, they turn too too too possessive, have expectations beyond limits and live in a world that no one wants to enter, not even the one they love. It is just a world with you and the girl. I mean, come on, its good for a day and not for life. The stomach needs food the next day. They never understand and never move on

Me: I guess you should be right. I have no idea of this. Mate, the best solution to your problem would have been to keep quiet. You should have let her sleep in her dreams. You did a mistake by waking her and trying to bring her to real life in a instant. May be, you should have spent some time and then slowly got her into practical world without her knowledge. You have erred by putting words directly. You should have followed the indirect approach

He: Yeah, I know. I have thought about this. But then, I do not want to be a kind of management guru at least in front of her. I know I could have easily dealt this matter with the indirect approach but I wanted to be truthful and straight forward. You know, I had so much trust in her that I was certain that she will understand. I had so many dreams in life, so many, and none of them pictured before me without her being at least 90% of the part. I did a lot for her. I spent a lot of time for her. But these couple of matters, I never compromised on. It was not that I would go to a girl and f**k her or flirt with her. All the time, it was a genuine reason. I was totally pissed off whenever she pointed fingers at me. Because I have so much love for her but I never expected such a thing in return. This was discussed many times and decision was taken that she will improve but it never happened. Each time, she only made her thoughts stronger that I am interested in other girls and all that stuff

Me: Oh, this is crazy man. Now I know how good my life is

He: There are lot of joys too bro. Its not that love gives you pain only. Why are we fighting? Its because we resolve and get together. Why do we want to be together? Its because we love each other. Why do we love? Because we like each other's company and having a good time. This indicates that our life is better. But we have made it worse due to all this external crap. I have been telling not to discuss these things but these keep creeping in to life every now and then and make life terrible

Me: Hmmm, so what do you plan to do now?

He: I have to firstly find out what at least is the source of all her thoughts. I mean, it can not be just her thoughts that is creating all this trash. Sometime back she was referring to some friend who told her that boys are always flirting. May be, there are some more such girls who are adding fuel to the fire. Something has to be done to stop this

Me: Yeah, I do remember a similar problem faced by my friend. She never got any gift from her boyfriend. At a party, someone put it in her mind that, it means, her boyfriend is seeing someone else and he is cheating on her. She got angry and blasted him. Poor fellow, he started buying gifts for her and she was delighted. At another party, someone told her, 'Men give gifts to women when they are cheating on them so that the woman does not doubt on them. They act sweet when they want to have some work done or when they have done something wrong'. She went back and fought with the guy. He comes and tells me, 'What should I do? If I do something, it means I have an affair. If i do not do something, it means I have an affair. Where should I go and die?'. All I could do is sit and laugh at him. Nothing happened in their life, you know. It all came to an end. And that poor guy did not know anything except the route to his office and back home

He: Yeah, such things do happen. Especially with women who receive a lot of love, this is bound to happen. I will tell you another incident. When one of my friend went to see a girl, the girl asked him, 'Would you save a girl if she were to be caught by a few goondas?'. He thought practically and considering his lankiness, he said no. The girl rejected him saying he does not even have the will. At the time of seeing another girl, coincidentally, he got the same question and he answered, 'Yes'. The girl rejected him saying that he can not be normal husband. He will poke his nose in to other women's matter. He will not give due attention to her, etc. Thoughts are so contradicting you know. You can conclude anything you want. The conclusion is already there on your mind. Same way, whatever I have been saying/doing has been concluded in the way she wants over the past 5 years. Thus, the truth has never ever come to the picture. So, I wish to give truth the chance now. I guess, I will keep quiet and see what happens. All the effort to convince her over the years have been wrongly interpreted by her. Lets see if she has gets a right impression at least now

Me: But, she's already gone

He: Everytime she left me, I have gone back and set things right. The only reason would be that, from the bottom of my heart, I knew that I am nowhere interested in even seeing any other girl. But I would have fought with her saying that it is not wrong. This would make her assume that I am interested in other girls and she leaves. I go back, clarify and set things right. And this process has been going on from years together. There are a huge number of remakes and sequels as well. I guess, its time for me to stop now

Me: If both of you stop, who will solve the problem?

He: God. He knows what is right and what is not. All these days, I forced the right upon her which made her feel it is wrong. Its time for her to understand what is right

Me: What if she never understands and sticks to the same point?

He: Does that make a difference?

Me (totally shocked): What?

He: Bro, I am not interested in f**king any girl or something. My mistake is just that I told her over and again that me speaking with a girl is not wrong. That's all. I will stop doing that. It hardly makes any difference to my life whether I speak to another girl or not. The one & the only reason I have been fighting all these days is only to ensure that she removes these wrong thoughts from her mind. I have no benefit from it at all. I just don't want them to be there because you never know what the future has in store for you. Though the world is so big, you repeatedly hit the same people time and again

Me: My mom keeps saying that a husband and wife have a lot of differences when they meet each other for the first time. The success of their relationship depends on how quick they turn these differences to common interests. She keeps saying that the major role in the relationship is played by the woman only

He: Hmmm, that's right. Lets see what is in store for me. Someone has rightly said, "Every woman wishes her man doesn't change after marriage and every man wishes her woman changes after marriage". I really do not know how this decision of mine will be taken. Whether it will be taken as a ignorance, not interested kind of attitude or whether it will be considered as ego or whether I will be considered as a cheat or whether it will be assumed that I had no love and wanted to end this relationship or whether it will be assumed that I am going around with someone else. Some bitches seem to have entered into our relationship who are guiding her. They would be the happiest to see their prediction of our relationship coming to end come true. I really do not know what has been filled into her mind by who or whether it is her own thought or whether it is due to this cumulative effect of what been happening with us or whether it is the pampering or whether the relationship itself has lost its value...

He broke into tears and fell over my shoulder. I guess, it would be the same case with her in case she too is, as per her words, really in love and it is still alive. I, for never having been in love, do not understand what this is all about. All I have been able to understand that there is a lot of force, energy and power in this one feeling. We left the place and had our dinner. While on the way, I got to know the greatest truth of love which my friend said, "Its got nothing to do about the girl or the feeling or thought or anything. Its just that she wants me to do something based on which she is deciding whether I love her or not. Coincidentally, I am also deciding on the same parameter whether she loves me or not but my need of results is exactly the opposite of her need'. How true...!!! This is all the problem they have. In fact, this is all the problem the world has. While the Congress calls something good, the BJP calls it bad and vice-versa. If the guy agrees to the girl, he will feel that the girl will never improve her thoughts and he is struck with a wrong girl. If the girl agrees to the guy, she will feel that he is a flirt and he will never improve and her life is struck with a bad boy. Nobody wants to lose for the reason that they will treat the other person with a wrong thought. Thus, both are good and both are correct in their own senses. But then, both can win if and only if both of them lose. I guess, there is no direct solution to this problem. All that can be done is to love each other so much that these problems will just disappear. Insult the problem, insult the thought that created the problem. Do not insult yourself. Do not insult love. And now, I have been dwindling over this dilemma from the last 5-6 hours. Its 3am and I guess, I need to go to bed now 

Hope this helps some young lovers out there. Make efforts to grow love. Don't ever have a doubt on it. Love so much that the one who is cheating feels ashamed to have done what he is doing. There is a quote in kannada, 'Pratyaksha kandaru Pramanisi nodu' (even if you have seen, check the validity by taking a promise). Life is more about having the right thoughts and approach than anything else

I wish all the lovers a very peaceful life ahead. Keep smiling. No one in the world wants you to be hurt. You are hurting yourselves due to the wrong thoughts you have. Don't ever take someone's suggestions for your love or for that matter any other problem you have except from the ones who you trust completely. 50% of them do not care and the remaining 50% are glad that you have those problems. Take your decisions yourself. Always have faith in God. And like my friend, do NOT go to force anything on your girl/boy as the chances that they will assume that you are taking advantage of them, using them, etc. is very high. Just spend time together, enjoy each other's presence, speak good things, think about growth & progress in life, chit chat about bollywood, in case some issue like this comes up, try to joke on it and close it unless it is really necessary to do a research. You are lovers and not CBIs. Learn to also understand each other and express each other's needs in real terms and put them into practical application. The 3rd person has nothing to lose. Its only you who will lose all the the time, energy, peace, love and above all, trust. Don't forget the the 3rd person also has a relationship, life & duty to perform. He/she is the 1st/2nd person in another relationship. Everyone has got their own life. No one wants to enter your life. Its only you who pull them into your mental life. When you practically see, they are nowhere to be seen. Even in the above case, the girl does not seem to trust the boy and the boy is hurt because she does not trust him. Those girls about who the girl speaks are nowhere in the scene and these people are still fighting over them. They know it but still they don't stop. Trust is the foundation for every type of relationship. If the foundation cracks, the building just has no value. Its always good to lose the top floors (ego, jealousy, hatred, zidd, etc.) than to damage the foundation. Give it up. After all, if you really love someone, you are one and the same. What's the problem in giving up for your own happiness? Life brings many real challenges in the future. Keep up your energies for them. Don't burn them away in such unnecessary thoughts. True love survives everything. Take care

My Platinum Day of Love

The contest is all about what is the platinum day of love? While I personally opine that nobody can define what's love or what's the perfect day of love, I have only been writing about what is NOT a platinum day of love. That doesn't mean anything else is a platinum day of love because its simply not. After all, we all have different needs, different desires and different feelings. Watch this nice video that I watched recently. Its about marriages. But observe the thought process of the boy & the girl. There are so many differences and yet, they go about the right way and end up in a happy life. May be, this is a platinum day of love for these couple in this video. They find life partners in each others.

In other words, A Platinum Day of Love is then, when two lives find life in each other, when a couple buries all difference to become one, when the 'I' element dissolves to form a 'We'.

Make love your life. After all, Life is not a fancy dress competition.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Khali Quarter Victory Song Meaning in English (Lyrics Translation)

Man is Never... Hmmm... Never a Single Demon...
No one is a better friend than a Bar Supplier... No One... No one...

Life is like an Empty Bottle of a Quarter (of drink)... My wife has thrown me out of home...
My eyes are full of water, My mouth is full of beer...
I'm telling you the truth, Truly, Bar is Men's *Parents' Home...
Life is like an Empty Bottle of a Quarter... My wife has thrown me out of home...

Drunkard, even if you do not drink, you are a Drunkard only
Even if you drink, you are a Drunkard only
So better, I keep drinking, because I am a anyways a Drunkard
Drunkard, Drunkard, Drunkard

The entire city is a Cemetery, The entire city is a Cemetery
The bar alone is the place without death
Please ensure that the doors of the bar, Please ensure that the doors of the bar
Don't close (keep it open for 24 hours)

Drunkards are very good, Only the drink is a little bad
Drinking every day is one's own option
Do you think anybody can drink water when sad?
I'm telling you the truth, Truly, Whoever pays the bill is our God

Life is like an Empty Bottle of a Quarter... My wife has thrown me out of home...

Love and Pain both, are like twins
Marriage Children etc, is like letting a snake bite you
When you go home every day, you see the same wife every time
The Green colored old nighty (nightwear), Bank Loans, Car problem, Gas problem
House Rent, Children's education fees. The same old cooker, the same old Sambar
The children hold a plastic car in their hands
Middle Class, Old Scooter, Which gets punctured as soon as it wants

Do you want me to tell what is life? It is a disease without any medicine
Nobody is here to give medicine. Whoever has something, let them give something.
I'm telling you the truth, Truly, Drunkards are the Doctors for the Society

Life is like an Empty Bottle of a Quarter... My wife has thrown me out of home...

*Analogy - Women generally speak of going to their parents' home when they are sad. The lyrics identifies a bar as a similar place when men reach when they are sad.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Death by Chance or by Choice?

Wait for the link to load. After loading, click on see more. You can also read the post directly on this Facebook Link.

Post by Puneetkumar Pattar.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

RBI's bizarre take on the 0% EMI offer. Are we ready to be Americanized?

In simplest terms, it is ridiculous for a central bank to get into such micromanagement on offers and schemes of the bank, which are widely expected as well as accepted by consumers. Perhaps, our new Governor has returned to India after a long time and wants to implement the American system in India where pricing indeed is net of all the all possible discounts for upfront cash payments for purchases. In India, however, these steps hold no significance, except that they can spoil the festive mood.

Lets take a simple example of a Croma or a Flipkart. We all buy products from these websites and they offer an EMI option. The price to buy using cash on delivery or using your card or using the EMI option is the same. For periods where the pricing is higher, the payment gateway shows the additional cost involved using the EMI option. There is a clear distinction between the cost of the product and the cost of financing the purchase. When the distinction is so clear and evident, how does the RBI claim that the customer is being deceived?

Lets take an example. Assume that you want to buy a Google Nexus 4 on Flipkart.

This clearly indicates that
  • If you want to buy the phone by making a one time payment by card or cash, you pay Rs 26090
  • If you want to pay it by 3 EMIs, you pay an additional Rs 100 (26190 - 26090)
  • If you want to pay it by 6 EMIs, you pay an additional Rs 300 (26390 - 26090)
  • If you want to pay it by 9 EMIs, you pay an additional Rs 1200 (27290 - 26090)

We do not need brains to understand this. We just need eyes.

Is 0% EMI really a 0% EMI? Yes, it is, in most cases. To give an example, I purchased an iPad Mini last year. The cost of the device was Rs 21,900. I inquired at Reliance Digital, Croma, iStore and a couple of other outlets. I also checked several websites where I saw the same pricing. Now, when I went to buy at Croma, I was told that the processing fee for a 6 month EMI is Rs 300. However, this fee will be refunded to me after I pay those EMIs. Very technically speaking, may be, I would lose some Rs 15 as the opportunity cost (lost interest for 6 months). It is as good as zero.

But, like RBI, I wanted it to be ZERO ONLY. I walked in to Reliance Digital, where I was told, if I buy within a particular date, they have an offer going on, they will waive off the processing fee. I purchased the product right there and opted for the 6 month EMI option. Thus, it is clear that neither the retailer nor the banker are trying to cheat. Reliance knows that, if they give a really 0% EMI, they can get some customers to buy their products, who would have otherwise bought it at Croma. Croma, on knowing this, will ensure they have a similar offer in place soon. It indeed happened in the next 1 week.

Had I paid them in cash or through a one time payment in card, I would have been paying Rs 21,900 only. Now that I went in for an EMI, I paid Rs 3650 a month. Thus, very technically speaking, I saved some Rs 450 (the earning that I could possibly have by investing Rs 21900 in a FD, withdraw Rs 3650 every month and pay the EMI).

So, is it a 0% EMI? I would rather say, it is even better. A screenshot of my EMIs right here prove it.

What the RBI Governor has forgotten is the fact that he is not in America or Europe anymore. He is in India. India is still a nation where the bankers are fighting to increase the usage of cards. The whole effort that we did in the past several years to discourage cash transactions and encourage electronic transactions would be put to the bin with such steps. It would now be more attractive for someone to buy using cash at a retail store than buying it on EMI.

The RBI must understand the fact that we are in a market economy. There are competitors for every product and service, thus the pricing elasticity is not high. While there is a bank which has a strong customer base and wants to get some interest income by letting the customer purchase on EMI with interest, there is another bank which wants to grow its customer base and thus offers EMI without interest. Thus, the former is also forced to offer EMI without interest to remain competitive in the market.

Indian consumers are not only smart but also demanding. It would be foolish to think of them as fools. Before buying a product, a person goes to all shops or websites possible to find the cheapest possible price to buy. He goes for only such purchase. The RBI's job is not to get into shops, at least.

One must understand the basic fact that NO SELLER WILL SELL AT A LOSS. You can bar anyone from selling with or without certain clauses. However, he will still ensure that he will keep his margins in tact. If you do not give him any scope to keep his margins, he will increase the selling price itself. And thus, the customer will end up paying more.

The steps that the RBI is taking in respect of the EMIs could be required, may be, 100 years down the line. As of now, all the RBI has done is spoil the festive mood. In an already hurt economy, RBI could have just been successful in help it bleed even more. RBI is a macroeconomic regulator trying to micromanage things. It would be in the best of everyone's interest to do their own job perfectly.

Now, it would be interesting to see how the banks and retailers structure their product offers now. They will drill into some loophole for sure.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Yahoo! wants its reigning internet legacy back, Now

At one time, this website designed by Jerry Yang and David Filo was was the home page for every internet user. Yahoo!, an acronym for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle went live in 1995 and was an internet giant until recently. Of course, it continues to be a mammoth organization even today but the rate at which it is losing its market share is worrisome. Several web players have aggressively gained market share at a scorching pace, leaving the likes of Yahoo! and MSN with a lot to worry about. The companies enjoy tremendous exposure to cash and that has been one factor helping them to implement business strategies, which most other companies can not afford to, to come back to business.

The rise of Google has been the greatest contributor to the falling market share of Yahoo!, especially after GMail was launched, Yahoo! has failed to keep pace. MSN continued facing similar troubles. In 2008, Microsoft made a ~$45bn to acquire Yahoo!, which Yahoo! rejected. Interestingly, Yahoo!'s market cap is ~$29bn today. The further rise of Facebook has not just hit Yahoo! and MSN but Google as well. All these companies have been unable to keep pace with the future's technologies.

A look at several of Yahoo!'s products indicate that they have failed to compete.

Yahoo! Answers
The portal offers some very good information database. It allows people to ask questions and answer these questions. A lot of questions that you want to ask are already answered. The of Wikipedia, however, has been a major drag on the growth of Yahoo! Answers. Further, Google's strong search capabilities help the users to find information by providing them search results containing articles or discussions by experts in the field compared to Yahoo! Answers where the people answering the questions may not be the same. People generally find it safer to refer expert blogs to find answers.

Yahoo! Finance
A relatively better portal. However, it has no USP to attract people to stick on to it.

Yahoo! Groups
One of biggest reasons for Yahoo!'s user base growth could be this, after Yahoo! Mail. While competition from Google and Facebook groups is strong, Yahoo! Groups continues to be a very strong product in its basket.

Yahoo! Mail
Yahoo!'s email services gave a definite shock to Hotmail. The volume of Yahoo! mail users has been very high. However, over the years, Google has been grabbing a significant share in the email market. In fact, the younger generation definitely has more interest in GMail than in Yahoo! mail. In the longer run, this could become a risk. Yahoo! has been making desperate attempts to revamp it mail services. Several changes to the interface have been introduced over a period of time. However, it still fails to keep up with GMail.

Yahoo! Maps
Maps services have undergone a tremendous transformation over the years. Google Maps have taken a huge lead by allowing users to add locations and approve such edits after due verification. Nokia maps also are well developed. Bing Maps have grown with support from Facebook. Yahoo! maps, thus, faces enormous competition and it would be a herculean task to get any significant move in this field. Further, considering that Yahoo! doesn't have any significance in the mobile space and maps are building a strong base through mobiles.

Yahoo! Messenger
Yahoo! Messenger is definitely one revolutionary product that brought about an era of chatting in the world. The internet's ability to communicate grew rapidly by enabling people to instantly communicate through IMs in lieu of emails. Further, the addition of group chat and video chat played a dramatic role in increasing Yahoo!'s presence all over. MSN introduced its messenger which which did not catch up as much. However, Google's GTalk took over a significant market share away from Yahoo!. The recent switch-overs to Facebook chat and mobile applications like Whatsapp, WeChat, Viber, etc. have put messengers at bay.

Yahoo! Search
The search business is perhaps the biggest way to garner revenues in the internet market. Yahoo!'s search mostly works through its homepage. Considering that Yahoo!'s homepage contains a lot of stuff, of which the search bar occupies a small space. On the other hand, Google's homepage is dedicated solely for search, which has slowly, perhaps, induced the mindset that Google is THE search engine. Its also not news that the search capabilities of Google are relatively advanced than any other search engine. Furthermore, the entire search business has now moved from the search box to the address bar. Google's Chrome has made the address bar itself the search box and other browsers have kept pace. However, while IE doesn't see great success in getting people use Bing and Firefox as well as Opera set the default search engine to Google. The latest beta version of Chrome provides instant results in the address as you type in the address bar. Yahoo! tried to developed an IE optimized for Yahoo!. However, it failed to catch any interest. Chrome's increasing market share, by default, improves Google's search market share as well. Not just for Yahoo!, it would be a very difficult task for anyone to displace Google in this business.

Yahoo! Toolbar
Toolbars caught up our attention some years ago. They seem to have disappeared now. Had they continued with some pace, Yahoo! could have been a beneficiary as it enjoyed a strong market share in this segment.

The recent Flickr changes
Yahoo! acquired Flickr several years ago and closed Yahoo! Photos. It was a strategic move to fight against the rising popularity of Google's Picasa. Off late, Picasa too has lost its charm and considering that Google has started focusing on Google Plus, its social networking adventure, Google has been making attempt to make Picasa a part of Google Plus. Yahoo! recently introduced several value added features to Flickr included an incredible 1TB storage space. This was, perhaps, more to attract people back to the Flickr platform. Google Plus and Facebook, anyway, offer an unlimited storage space for photos. However, the greatest deal with Flickr is it will save and let you access the original version of the photograph and not the one with reduced resolutions (like on facebook and on google plus). Picasa still allows original size pictures but the storage space is just a GB. Flickr could also be taking Dropbox head on through this move by possibly deterring users to make a move to Dropbox to save their photographs as the storage space is relatively limited.

Tumblr is another recent gamble by Yahoo!. Yahoo! 360, an attempt to enter the blogging arena, did not take off as expected. The Tumblr acquisition has been termed as a game-changer in the blogging space, like all acquisitions are termed. Posterous was acquired by Twitter in 2012 and it was shut down in 2013. Blogging itself may not be a real strong business, for some platforms. Wordpress and Blogger lead this market and it remains to be seen how much Tumblr could do to tumble the giants down. 

Executive Changes
Yahoo! has been making some desperate moves to get back their crown in the internet business. In the recent past, there have been several executive changes, the most talked one being the hiring of Google's Marissa Mayer to the CEO's position. Mayer was the first female employee at Google and has been the face of several Google products. She has been taking some decisions that have caught the market's attention, for eg, stopping the work from home facility for most employees, a spree of acquisitions including the $1.1bn Tumblr, $50m Qwiki, $40 Xobni, $30m Summly, etc. totaling to nearly 20 in just a little more than a year. This clearly indicates the serious desperation in Yahoo!, just like something similar seen with Microsoft, to turn around themselves to a company/product that the consumers would switch to.

A dire challenge to acquire loyalty
However, it is a real challenge for any company to migrate customers. New customer acquisition is relatively easier. To take a simple example, even though Tumblr or Wordpress can give me a lot more advantage, switching over to them would mean a loss due to new links, loss of some reader base, etc. Even though Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail revamp and ask people to sign up, it would be tough for people who are used to GMail to make a move. Google gives a host of services, like Drive, Calendar, Play (linked to android phone for quick access to apps), Youtube and Maps, the most crucial and useful services for many of us in a single access in a superbly powerful, neat and clean interface. Plus, the chatting app within gmail, where we get instantly connected to friends, is another benefit. Unless Google itself makes some mistakes, like it has been doing off late, be it introducing the new mailing interface similar to chats or forcing an inbox classification which some are not interested to use, etc., it would be difficult for any email service, no matter how wonderful, to get back some loyalty.

Next is What
Tech companies have to always remain ahead of race. There is 100% truth in the fact that what gets invented today gets outdated tomorrow. While acquiring tomorrow's technology is one side of the game, the real game is to develop such technology which would keep your consumer with you for a long period of time; something in which Google is the leader. Anybody with money can acquire companies but what do they do after acquisition is a big question. Twitter acquired Tumblr and closed it after having, perhaps, no clue of what to do with it. Flipkart acquired Letsbuy just to kill it. There have been acquisition disasters in the past as well. A lot remains to be seen what happens to all the acquisitions that Yahoo! has done recently. Could Yahoo! think of designing a mobile operating system? Something like Apple. Or could it partner with Microsoft or Apple to do something? Microsoft would definitely not like to do anything with Yahoo! as most of the products are competing products, and thus, if at all an acquisition happens, it would be to kill competition. There, anyways, doesn't seem to be such a competition with them now. An Apple tie up with Yahoo!? Who knows?

Well, the world changes each moment and thus, nobody can be sure of what happens in the coming days. For the moment, lets, as consumers, enjoy the attention all these are paying to us to keep us happy.

And yes, Yahoo! now has a new logo as well. All we can say, "All the best Yahoo!"

 is now

Disclaimer: All the information in this post is to the best of my knowledge. I might be wrong at several instances. Any help to correct the statements above would be highly appreciated. Images and references used are solely the property of their registered owners. They are used here solely for educational reference.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Foreign Direct Investment - The Third Invasion on India

Once upon a time, some writings say, the major chunk of the earth was called the "Bharatvarsha" and from then, we kept losing the land each day and today, we have been reduced to a minuscule of what we used to be.

Around the year ~1000, Mahmud Ghazni invaded several parts of India several times to take control of all our agriculture produce including fruits, cereals and sugar, and exported them to other parts of the world, especially the Middle East. Several Indian kingdoms were conquered and we were left helpless. Such was the confidence that Ghazni that he vowed to raid India every year and exploit all the wealth that this great country had. In a way, we were responsible for this. After all, nobody can sit on us till we let them.

Around the year ~1600, the Britishers entered India through the East India Company route. It was such an easy task for them to lure our rulers with gifts and promises of wealth. Our leaders who we trusted to lead us in the right direction sold us for their monetary benefits and soon, the Britishers were ruling us. For whatever little money that they gave, they reaped several times of it as benefits for ruling us for hundreds of years.

Around the year ~1990, a similar situation came up. It was around 40 years since India got Independence and was fighting to move up as a nation. Just then, we thought we need to accelerate the pace of our growth. We needed more money. We decided to liberalize our economy, privatize businesses and globalize our reach. The idea did wonders and we started racing ahead with the so called growth. The numbers became bigger, the balance sheets become larger and reach became wider. One must always understand that while debt makes us responsible due to a commitment for repayment as our assets are at stake, equity makes us careless as our assets are already somebody else's. When the equity in us gets sold to somebody else, we are selling a part of us on which we won't have any further. The moment we allow more than half of us to be controlled by others, we are no more we. We become the others.

If Mahmud Ghazni invaded India to loot all the precious stuff we had and the Britishers invaded us and ruled the hell out of us, the Americans are in the process of invading Mother India and own her forever. We, the sons of India, are primarily responsible for all these invasions on us and more for the one that is in process. FDI should be used as a source to accelerate growth and not as a means to sell ourselves.

The Third Invasion on India

In those days, the assets that we had were agricultural produce, gold, diamonds, land and people. These days, the economy's progress has resulted in to aggregating all our assets into companies and these companies get listed on the stock exchanges. The ownership in these companies gets traded electronically through shares. So, if a nation has to invade us, how do they go about? They can't declare a war on us considering there are organizations like the United Nations who would not approve of such steps. Buying shares of a company is as good as buying ownership in the industrial activities of a nation. Considering the modern world is tremendously dependent on industries and industrial products, the ideal way to invade a country would be to invade its industries. As we open up 100% FDI investment aka ownership of several sectors, we are forgetting the fact that we are up for a sale and the cost of this would be infinitely high.

Do we really need FDI?

YES. Period. The question is how much? It always reminds me of those kings who agreed to sell us for paltry sums to the Britishers when our Government announces that FDI in a particular sector has been raised to 100%. While the statement that the world wants to participate and help in India's growth was valid about 10 years ago, I personally do not consider it valid anymore. There is no real reason that can justify allowing a foreign entity to hold more than 49% of stake in any of our companies. The ideal FDI investment that ensure synergies of technology, growth, participation, profits and socioeconomic welfare is 26%. Observe any industry with a higher FDI, it would either be in chaos, which is often self created to ask for a higher FDI limit, or greed would have taken pricing sky high making products of such companies unaffordable for people. People pay for certain products from their sweat and for some from their blood. As FDI increases, the products move from sweat to blood. For example, education and healthcare facilities are charged at rocketing prices courtesy the foreign technology. While it does good in several ways, it does bad in several more ways.

The fall of the rupee and the relative poverty

According to most credit rating agencies and fund managing firms, India's future is bright. However, the present is worse. It has remained this way from the last 8-10 years. We have always said that we will grow at 5-6% this year but we will grow at 10% after 3-5 years. Those 3-5 years don't seem to have come. In a ways, when we say that our present is uncertain, we are available cheap. India's sovereign rating too is a paltry number. It thus becomes an easier task for a foreigner to buy us out because we are more willing to sell out. It is we who make the rupee weak and the dollar rich. It is we who make Uncle Sam rule us. Nobody is better than us but it is we who subconsciously believe that the west is superior to us. Even a jerk dampens our economic sentiment while even a small pick up in the US makes us happy. The rupee's fall from Rs 50 to Rs 60 means that the dollar can buy 20% more shares at the same amount of money, thus accelerating our sell out. We become relatively poorer as we have to shell out more rupees to pay off our loans from the international organizations as they are quoted in dollars. At 10% on $100, they continue to get $10 as interest while for the Rs 5000 on which we were paying Rs 500, we pay Rs 600 now. This makes India a relatively poorer nation, higher debt in rupee terms, lower repayment capacity and thus, our credit rating falls further leading to even more fall in the rupee's value. It all started with our invitation for the foreign capital, greed to get rich quick and in the process, get caged for a lifetime.

Make India attractive for Indians before attracting foreigners

A recent survey claimed that more Indians are willing to migrate to the US, given a chance, than ever. This is more than any evidence that the native Indians have started to dislike their native. The theory that we upgrade from villages to towns, towns to cities, cities to metros and metros to foreign destinations has had a large impact on the emigration mentality of Indians. When your family members do not want to live with you, why do you buy a home? We must join hands to make this country a great place to live in for ourselves. The others will follow suit. The US doesn't invite anyone to their nation but everybody aspires to go there because, in the past, some visionaries built the nation in such a way. It is time for us to build our nation in a similar manner. Whose nation is it after all?

Is deficit weakening rupee or rupee weakening deficit?

The debate will always continue whether the it was the egg or the chicken. A similar debate is whether our economy's downfall is cause the fall in the rupee or it is the fall in rupee that is causing the economy's downfall. There are arguments on both sides that are equally valid. When the debt to be repaid is high, the fall of the currency has a major effect on the economy as the economy bleeds cash to repay the debt. The currency rise helps in making debt repayment easier.

Capital Markets - Who owns them anyway?

India is now running a record current account deficit, uncertain inflation, confused corporate indicators and of course a political saga that is so very much a part of our lives. While we are under so much struggle, the foreigners have continued to buy us in the last many years. In 2012 alone, around $25bn was invested into the Indian equities. Why would anyone buy a falling nation like ours? Falling because the numbers indicate that way. We have always maintained that our present is not good. An analysis of shareholding pattern reveals that FIIs now hold around 38% in the free float market cap of the BSE100 index. This has been only rising over the last several years. So, who owns the capital markets? Who can cough and make India catch cold? Even a little uncertainty in such times leads to vast devastation and erodes our market cap severely. The next day, we always see that there is even more investing interest in the market for the foreigners while the domestic investors seem to lose interest each day. The retail has clearly expressed its dislike for the stock market as the retail trading volumes on the bourses are at an all time low. The AUM size of the mutual fund industry has remained stuck at Rs 7-8 lac crores over the last several years.

Up for Sale

There are several estimates on the wealth of our leaders which may or may not be true. It doesn't hurt to see someone getting rich but it does hurt to see someone getting rich at the cost of someone else's life, more so if it is at the cost of the citizens. Apart from those speculations, the facts suggest that those companies which we names as Navaratna, Maharatna, etc. are now bleeding for various reasons. We have Air India, BSNL, MTNL and the likes going through turmoil. A 100% FDI in telecom, aviation and defence procurement are more a cause of concern than an advancement for us.

The Cost of Buy Back

We all understand that the price of buying back something that we lose is infinitely high. In fact, we might never get back what we lose, in most cases. Speaking from the stock market front itself, companies are able to buy back shares from investors only at a huge premium. The cost of buying back a nation is a something that we can not calculate because it would not be about currency notes, it would be about battle, about life, about another Satyagraha, about all factors except money. Money loses its value after a certain level when other factors come into play.

Next is What?

What lies ahead to us as a nation is something that we can only speculation up on? Speculation and stock markets are two major distractions that have corrupted the science/art of investing. As Indians, it is our duty to ensure that we take right decisions in the interest of the nation. Unfortunately, the leaders do not seem to have the nationalist spirit anymore and in such a scenario, a nation goes in to chaos. The fact that Indians are far more understanding, strong and thoughtful has ensured that we do not end up in a mess like in other nations. We have been quietly everything that has been happening and it is time for us to speak up and join hands to lead this nation in the right direction. The leaders should take a holistic view of the situation, think about the possible results that their decisions can bring in the long run and consider the welfare of the nation and its people above everything else. The focus has to be on the future because we are obsessed with the point that our present it not good. If the sale of Indian stocks continues this way, the time is not far when we could be in a situation similar to slavery and this might go on forever because we would never have that kind of money to buy back our freedom.

Disclaimer: Everything written above are my personal thoughts and opinion. They have nothing to do with anyone or anything, dead or alive, for any reasons. Images used in the blog are subject to copyrights of the owners.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Kabhi Bhoola Kabhi Yaad Kiya #WarningSigns

This blog post has been written exclusively for Colgate for their "Write a Moral Story about ignoring warning signs" competition on IndiBlogger. All characters in this story are fictional and has nothing to do with anyone or anything from anywhere. The story itself is a work of imagination.

Life is a process. It is not a stagnant equation but a dynamic situation. What's true today can become untrue tomorrow. What's right today can become wrong tomorrow. What's perfect today can become imperfect tomorrow. What's love today can become hatred tomorrow. Today's trust can be betrayed tomorrow. Today's success can be failure tomorrow. Today's life can get over tomorrow. Things change at the speed of thought. In the whole process, Warning Signs play a great role in telling us where we are headed, whether we are in the right direction, what corrections do we need and how we can help things go right. Seeing these signals, with an open mind, can help tremendously. On the hand hand, choosing to ignore them can lead to disastrous situations. Here's the story of Armaan who chose to ignore, not one but many, warning signs.

Engineering colleges are also places, in fact its true about all colleges, where love blossoms. The kids have just turned into adults, experiencing a new found freedom, looking at the new world, most entering hostels for the first time, most getting ready to explore opportunities, and it all appears like they have taken a new life altogether. When a girl passes in front of a boy and their eyes meet, the heart beats and the brains start working on various permutations and combinations of how the relationship can be taken forward. In most cases, they don't even know one another's name but the plans go on.

Armaan was a happy boy who entered the MRP College of Engineering at Hyderabad. He was not exactly new to the city considering that the would visit the place often to meet his grand parents. His father, a software engineer, worked in Bangalore. His parents too married after being in love for a long time. His father is from Ludhiana and mother a native of Bangalore. Armaan knows about how his father met her at a cultural event and love blossomed. Armaan was more than sure that either he will find love at Hyderabad or love will find him.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Oh Radha Tera Birthday... #MyWeekendParty

My Weekend Party with Gourmet Food - WinnerThis blog post won a dinner voucher for a couple in the Kitchens of India My Weekend Party with Gourmet Food contest on Indiblogger.

This post has been written exclusively for Kitchens of India's "My Weekend Party with Gourmet Food" on IndiBlogger. Kitchens of India has come up with a wide range of Ready to Eat dishes and desserts, making a gourmet meal accessible at the comfort of your home with the concept of "Just Heat and Eat!". Interestingly, these recipes have been crafted by the Master chefs of ITC hotels, from royal recipes guarded closely over the ages.

Around 6pm, while I was browsing through some pages on facebook, I realized that it was my friend's birthday the next day. It definitely called for a treat but it also called for a surprise plan from my end. I called up a couple of other friends and luckily, all of them were available for a late night party. I called up the birthday friend, Radha, to confirm if she was available at her home.

So, we started planning for the party. Radha is the cook in our friends circle. Though a Software Engineer by profession, she's the one who can cook some real food unlike most of us who can cook maggi and coffee. Radha can cook upma, make chapattis, prepare various curries and several other food items. On most weekends, her home is our adda aka den, firstly because there is enough space and secondly because she can cook for us. It would not have been a good plan to make her cook for her own birthday while it would not have been bad either as she would not refuse to do that. Considering none of us were good at the kitchen, we decided to pack some food.

The responsibility for managing the show was given to me. We planned to meet close to her place around 11.30pm and pounce the surprise on her. I went out looking for some good food at restaurants. I walked in to some regular Andhra food places, some pizza cafes and some fast food joints. Something was holding me back from taking a decision on buying any food. I was kind of bored with regularly consuming the same stuff. I was also not interested to visit any restaurant to have food. Eating at a restaurant everyday had made my mouth kind of a machine churning the feed.

I really wanted something new to eat.

I called my friends again and told them about this dilemma. They too were of a similar opinion. While Shreya suggested we must go to the city outskirts and eat some food at dhabas, Dheer suggested we must get into an overnight bar and drink all night. Shreya also spoke about some ready to cook food which we can buy from retail outlets. The dhaba plan didn't seem very feasible as none of us were willing to drive. Neither the 'get hangover' plan seemed to fit all of us. So, we decided to experiment on the read to cook plan.

After googling a bit about these packaged foods, I was amazed. I never knew that I could use these packets of paneer sabjis, mutter sabjis and several other savories to cook food instantly. There were several varieties of rice as well. It looked yummylicious.

There were several brands that were catering this segment like the Aashirwaad from ITC, MTR, Act Chawa, Regal Kitchen, Parampara, etc. What caught my eyes was one the Kitchens of India brand. I learnt later that it too was an ITC brand. What impressed me was that Kitchens of India offered a wide array of ready-to-dine and ready-to-cook packaged foods like none did. May be, the others had many products but Kitchens of India had exactly those products that I was looking for. It looked like my portfolio.

I read further and was thoroughly impressed to learn that each of these recipes were master crafted by the chefs from ITC hotels. That stunned me. I've always loved the food at ITC hotels. Very recently, I visited the ITC Windsor Manor and the kind of paneer starters the chef had for us was simply world class. The tomato soup that I had at ITC Gardenia almost a year ago is something that I savor even now. I looked through the website http://shopping.kitchensofindia.com/ and it looked pretty interesting.

I was ready to experiment.

I went to a nearby retail store and bought the ones that I liked. In the meanwhile, I delegated the task of getting something to drink to my other friend, the one who suggested to drink all night.

For the occasion, I needed to buy something sweet as well and the Kitchens of India product catalog surprised me with Halwas. I picked up a pack of Hazoori Petha Halwa and dropped it in to my cart. For Shreya and Dheer, who love to eat non vegetarian, I picked up the Murgh Methi and Chicken Darbari. For me and Radha, who are vegetarians, I chose Mughlai Paneer and Dal Bukhara. I chose the Mughlai Paneer as it was prepared in a gravy of cashew nuts, that I love to eat. What surprised me the most while I was shopping was the fact that most of these products have a life of 35 months. I was like totally wowed to read this. I did not believe this but when I spoke to the store manager, I was convinced. It is incredible how food and technology have come together to help homefoodless people like us staying away from home and eating the same food over and again at the restaurants. Plus, the ITC tag on all these packets made me extra comfortable.

I bought a small bottle of Shredded Mango Chutney, a Vegetable Biriyani Mix and a Chicken Curry Mix. Now these purchases didn't have any motive. I was just curious to see how they were. Considering that I would be staying back at Radha's place, I thought I can ask her to prepare some rice the next day and get her view on whether it made a good option for us.

I was ready to go. I got back to my room, got fresh and got back to watching TV. Around 11pm, I left to Radha's place. Shreya had picked up the cake and Dheer had got all that he wanted to drink. It was still 15 minutes to 12 but we couldn't wait anymore. We just started belling and banging the door as Radha ran out to see what was wrong. And here we go

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday dear Oh Raadheee
Happy Birthday to you

The birthday bumps were next on. We just stood to clap as Shreya tried to really do some bumps. The cake was ready to be cut and her face was ready to be messed with the cake. It was all done. We were having great fun. After all the celebration, I could see that Radha was really happy to see this surprise package from us. She said that she will prepare some tea for us but Dheer was quick in showing her all that he had got. A mat was spread on the ground and he went right over. Shreya was quick to join him with some fanta sprite stuff.

Very hesitatingly, I took out the Kitchens of India products that I had shopped and handed them over to Radha. She was totally surprised. I told her that the rest is up to her and that we were also open to go out for a midnight dinner elsewhere. Radha said that she can get the buffet ready here itself and walked into the kitchen. She had some ready to eat kind of chapattis and parthas that she kept for emergencies (like this). It took some more time for her and me to set things up and then, our dinner was ready. Dinner cooked by us in the disguise of ITC chefs. I was very skeptical of how it would taste.

In the meantime, I was laughing to myself as the TV played. I was certain that Shreya and Dheer were doing it intentionally.

Kuch thanda pee lo – mood nahin hai... Dahi vade lo – mood nahin hai...
Kulfi kha lo – bahut kha chuke... Paan kha lo – bahut kha chuke... bahut kha chuke...
Aji ras malai – aapke liye... Itni mithai – aapke liye...
Pehle joote – khayenge kya... Aapki marzi – na ji tauba, na ji tauba...

After some time, we starting eating whatever we prepared. To put in the simplest words, it was just marvelous. The food was so fresh and nice to eat that I felt like I was having a live buffet at some restaurant, like Radha remarked. She revealed later that she too has been liking this Kitchens of India products that she used from a few weeks. She claimed that her usage has been increasing. We were very hungry and the consumption happened at a very quick pace. Soon, we had eaten up all that we had prepared. There was still a lot of empty space in our stomachs.

While Shreya and Dheer continued to go down, it seemed like Dheer had given enough motivation to Shreya to not just remain with cold drinks, I checked with them and Radha if we should try the Biriyani mix as well. Everyone was gung ho and the birthday girl, though we were sorry, happily got on to prepare some rice as well. Our whole objective for all this plan was not to toll her with the cooking work and it did not really seemed to work to 100%. But then, definitely, the toll had reduced by more than 80-90%, to say the least. Being able to have gourmet food at the comfort of home does need some effort, obviously. The biriyani tasted fabulous and we all loved it.

We all were wondering how the world has evolved over a period of time. From the time when we would say that we have to consume food within 1-2 hours of cooking, we have evolved to a time when food can be preserved for 2-3 years. It made us feel totally clueless on how this has happened. But then, we were happy at it. There was a time when building a home with bricks was considered a miracle and today, we have multiple floors built in a day. Above all, what made the most important and significant point to me was the amazing quality that continued to be preserved in the package making food time proof.

Oh Radha tera birthday... Oh Radha teri party...
Oh Radha yeh hai ITC ki Kitchens of India...
Oh Radha teri tasty recipe... Oh Radha teri cooking tareekey...
Oh khaaye khaaye saari nagariya...

We continued discussing on many other changes the world has seen, from various fields, and we realized how fast changing the world is. Undoubtedly, we all were under total influence of what Dheer got us but then, it is when we are hung over that we speak of the simple things in life and realize how lives and times have changed. Else, in this complicated world, there's not a moment when we try to be simple, straight and sweet.

Thank you ITC for this delicious Kitchens of India endeavor. I'm sure it will help a lot of us experience authentic cuisine at our choice of time and place. Freedom is the greatest virtue for human beings and providing freedom with the most basic needs of life is indeed a great way to help people live a better and beautiful life. Thank you for these simple solutions that are so difficult to discover.