I've moved - found a new home for reflections!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I'm a little late this time. Two years is a little late in my dictionary, how is it in yours?

This move was not planned. It was a challenge; a resolution I made to myself that I had to keep at all costs. With two articles submitted and an assignment completed - all within the respective deadlines in the middle of December, I felt excited and nothing to look forward to. So, I casually mentioned to V that I might as well get my domain and move my blog before the year ends; he has been insisting on this for two years now and finally gave up. For which he casually remarked, "You mean this year?" I didn't say anything then but made a mental note to get it up.

One thing lead to another and I had enough on my hands - LG's birthday party, actual birthday, holidays, travel planning and bookings, LG falling sick on and off which meant trips to the Ped and finally I succumbed to fever on 28th Dec. I recovered on the morning of 31st and still believed this could be done provided everything went on fine. So, I just picked a wordpress theme to my taste, signed up with a hosting provider in Bangalore who provided excellent support and bam! the site was up within two hours while LG took his afternoon nap.

When V came back form work on the evening of 31st December, I presented to him the new home of r e f l e c t i o n s. For me, the timing couldn't have been more perfect and achieving my goal for once. 500 posts in four and half years.

The future of this blog still remains indecisive; I may redirect for a while to see how it goes and then turn it off. This blog contributes a good chunk of my adsense revenue. And, the new site is a still a lil rusty and needs some working upon. However, all new posts will go there and this will be the last post on this space. Thank you for stopping by!

Names and nicknames

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The decision "to nickname or not to nickname" is certainly not something I would lose my sleep over. Yet, I decided to give it some serious thought when a wise, worldly and well-informed acquaintance of ours asked with concern, "Aren't you going to have a nickname for Lil' General?" That was the most natural thing to do, according to him. A name that is personal, known only to family and something creates a special bonding. Hypothetically, when LG is 50 and I'm nearing my 80s (I know, high hopes to live on until then), I wonder how calling him "chotu" would look like. Make him feel younger?

As such, choosing a name for the baby is not straightforward and time bound in India, unlike in the U.S. If you are like one of us who hadn't decided on one name for a girl and one for a boy, then the choices are limitless, recommendations from people abound who couldn't fulfill their own wishes and creativity at its best. And, ofcourse the knowledge of soaps on STAR TV. The luxury of time to select a name and change and then change your mind again is exhausting; all this while staying within the boundaries of what letter of the alphabet the name should start with. The starting letter in some communities is calculated by which star was visiting whom in the planetary charts and where the moon was resting. send your head in a tizzy.

We emerged successful in this tedious exercise of zeroing in on a name on the 10th day after Lil' General was born. To subject ourselves to a similar one for selecting a nickname is beyond me. There is total freedom of expression. Call LG what you like until he is old enough to object to it. For now, it is LG, SSACBKG, pannu, buschkundi, willy wonka donka etc etc

What's it like to live in Pune?

Monday, December 24, 2007

We've lived in Pune for over two years now; not decided to make it our home, at least not yet. I don't love it; I don't hate it. There's something about the place that I can't quite point my finger to that makes me oscillate between this love-hate thing.

Indian cities that way are quite different from the American ones, never been to Europe so I don't know if they are stereotypical like their American counterparts. Every Indian town and city is diverse from the rest - in its culture, its people, language, cuisine, tolerance level for people from other states, festivals, real estate, mannerisms and communities. Every city will not have a Reliance Fresh or Spencer's, though that's changing now.

I was town-bred for the most part of my childhood. The first metro I lived in was Bangalore and that became my benchmark for a city lifestyle. The move to Pune was difficult; assimilation of the local culture tougher than expected. It took us a while to understand people are not yelling at you when they open their mouths; that's the normal way of talking here and they are polite all the same.

Given a choice to move back to Bangalore, I would have said "yes" without thinking a year back. Now, I realise why it's so much fun to live in Pune. Life is a celebration here and that's one of the reasons I love it. From Dahi Handi for Krishna Jayanthi to the Ganesh Mandals during Ganesh Chaturthi to Pandals for Durga Pooja, it's fun all the way. I can't remember once when we played Holi in Bangalore. Here, I can't keep track of the no. of people turning out for Holi for Diwali. It's not "I"; it's "We" here.

You'll know you are in Pune when ----

- you see young women cruising on motorcycles
- poha for breakfast
- every dish is garnished with kothimber and pyaaj gets replaced soon with kandha in your vocab
- hooded young girls and women (with their face covered in scarves even while walking on the road)
- 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. power cuts on Thursday
- when the shops pull down their shutters between 1 p.m. and 4:3 0 p.m. for the customary nap
- celebration is not individualistic; it is for the community
- when the Rain Gods don't pay heed to your prayers even after 48 hours, it is time to stay indoors than be stuck on flooded roads
- the roads have gone larger, wider and more flyovers have appeared but the traffic has got worse
- there is a chat shop in the corner of every street, so much so that some streets are named Bhel Chowk.
- there are more students than any other city in India

The Lead India initiative is such a mockery

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lead India is a Times of India initiative. In their own words,

On August 15, we embarked on an ambitious journey — a unique talent search which has the potential to make a huge difference to India. We began a hunt to identify new leaders for a new India, men and women with the vision and ability to empower India with the kind of political leadership that is so conspicuous by its absence.

The Lead India campaign stemmed from our belief — and overwhelming reader feedback — that even as India takes giant strides towards fulfilling its undoubted potential, it is doing so despite, not because of, its political leadership. ‘‘Good people don’t want to join politics’’ is an oft-heard lament. And yet, good governance is the cornerstone if India is to overcome the many hurdles that threaten to slow its journey to developed nation status.

And so, we decided to provide a platform to the good men and women out there who refuse to be daunted by the system, and struggle against massive odds to make life better for their fellow Indians. We invited them to come forward and use the Lead India programme as a springboard to public life. Read more about this on Lead India site

After shortlisting 8 finalists from different cities, the national finals has moved to Television. The first two episodes focused on introducing the finalists. This Saturday, was the first actual round - the one on General Knowledge.

Anyone who saw the hour long GK round would think what a joke it was. I fail to understand how knowing "Under what category, Sholay won a Filmfare award?" would make the leader chosen struggle against massive odds to make life better for their fellow Indians ? Knowing which of Akbar's navaratnas was known as Tanna Mishra will definitely enable the winner to bring good governance as it is cornerstone if India is to overcome the many hurdles that threaten to slow its journey to developed nation status.

Call it the bluff round or whatever you want. The whole purpose of such a noble cause is defeated by turning this initiative into a reality show. Your ads are good; it will boost your TRP if that's what you wanted at the end of the day. We would be no better off than our current system.

Is The Times of India trying to be Playboy?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Times of India - a daily Indian Newspaper in English with the largest circulation started a small colorful column on its last page a few months back. It's called Graffiti. I have no idea why they run this column - more often than not, Posh Spice occupies the space here with cheesy news about their over-publicized lives.

Sometimes, I think it is one of the strategies of The Times to boost readership just as their city supplements do. I know of many people who read the Bangalore Times / Pune Times first and then if time permits, go on to read the main paper.

The point here is the Graffiti column I totally out of taste bordering on reporting news that can easily fit into the indecent category. Sample this one titled "Posh discloses all" if you don't believe me. Of late, also giving Posh company is Lewis Hamilton who gets more attention in Times for his exploits than his races.

Lil General : You turn ONE today

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, LG. You turn ONE today.

For once, your mom is on time with her monthly milestone posts. This is a special edition - the yearly one.

First, the monthly updates; then, a recap of the year.

It's Goodbye to fear of falling down and no signs of stranger anxiety yet.

We've given up on teaching him meaningful stuff like where is your nose, show me your mouth, say bye etc. I was very excited when "nose kaami" (read" show me your nose) was met with a aaaah aaaah from LG opening his mouth wide. Unlearning something is tougher than teaching kids something. It took 3 days to undo the nose-mouth connection.

And it took just a day for him to learn that "Hail the C Family" is to dramatically portrayed by raising both the hands that makes us clowns look straight from the Medieval Ages.

Sleep patterns are changing drastically - I-need-a-nap-every-2 hours is being replaced by I-can't-be-a-loser, I will sleep when m body can't take it any more which is usually once in three hours.

LG has fun playing the catch-me-of-you-can game with me as I chase him down the house.

Climbing up the sofa and cot without support and the knack of getting down by putting a leg first instead of hands first has been learnt.

Your parents aren't creative to come up with a nickname for you yet. We believe in calling you Pannu, willie-wonka-donka, S.S.A.C.B.K.G (can't say what it stands for), LG and anything that comes to mind.

You are happy because you received a lot of presents on your birthday which was fun.

You drive me up the wall by ignoring when I say "No". You understand that I don't want you to do what you are doing, but are smart enough to stop doing until I turn away just to resume it a minute later with a sheepish smile.

You were very passionate about your red and blue pillows from the beginning. But the attachment is just rowing stronger. You sleep in your place of the bed when drowsy and place yourself into position that makes us wonder if you are really only a year old. You've stopped shaking your legs when feeling sleepy. The decibel levels are on the rise at nights that has made your parents' insomniacs.

Some memorable pictures from LG's FIRST year:

You arrived at 8:13 p.m. on Dec 18th, 2006.

At 5 weeks, you looked at us and started smiling.

By the end of 2 months, you siwtched over to combination feeding (formula + mother''s feed)

On March 16th, you turned for the first time at 10:30 p.m. and your dad was the first to witness that.

You started on solids and cereal at four and half months, the first solid food being mashed carrots and then Nestum cereal.

You got your first set of lower teeth May 20th, at 5 months.

You enjoy the evening walks with me, which we started when you were six months old; hardly missing a day. You love going out in the pram.

You started crawling the first time on the evening of July 7th, at six and half months.

You stood for the first time at seven months.

You gave up crawling on your body and were on your fours during the Amritsar trip, at nine and half months.

You said papa the first time at ten months with the vocabulary soon comprising of just bow bow after finding good friend Beethu.

You turned ONE today. You don't walk yet or talk yet. We HATE to compare you and when people say you are not aggressive or go easily to strangers with a smile on your face, we just go with the flow. We don't take any comment about you to heart. We love you just the same, the way you are. And your grandparents too.

Another feather in the cap

Friday, December 14, 2007

Don't ask me where I've been. We've got one piece of junk for a laptop that's ready to be tossed into the dustbin any minute. Compounding to this problem is the now-on, now-off broadband connection from BSNL. By some stroke of good luck, if both these are functioning, then my Dear Son feels moms are meant to be playing with kids all day, so he plugs off my laptop. And, the boys have been taking turns in falling sick for the past ten days - it's tissues, salt water gargling, sneezing and getting high with cough syrups time. That should explain my blogging absence.

Anyways, so I got back from the dark ages today and was casually checking Little India. Guess what? My article Raising Your Multilingual Child has been published. Those of you who know me, if you are wondering if it wasn't soon enough for us to have a daughter after Lil' General, don't worry, it is only one for now - I have my hands full with Lil' General. Ananya was the name I had chosen if we had a daughter, hence its usage in the article.

My experience with getting published in The Times of India

Thursday, November 29, 2007

If you are here looking for information on how to get published in The Times of India, then you are in for a disappointment. I've spent every waking second trying to get information on how to make an edit page submission to The Times.

Alright, here's the deal. I am very new to this writing game and I am not familiar with the unwritten rules; so I play by the book and deal in black and white. Now, you know how it works in India; until you've tried a zillion times for anything, success is not guaranteed.

I've had success in getting my work published to wherever I've sent so far. So, why The Times now, you might ask? Every evening when my husband returns from work, he looks at my distraught face knowing what I've been up to and asks, "Again? today, too? Why? Why just The Times? There is Mint, DNA, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Deccan Chronicle and rattles the list." I sigh; if you have to ask you wouldn't understand. Call it my obsession or whatever you want. My morning starts with this paper everyday; it has been that way for the past 7 years of my life which makes it difficult to just turn away and give up in a day. Getting a work published in the edit section of Times of India is my dream, even if it's just for once. I know what you're thinking - very ambitious indeed for a person who started writing just a few months back. So what, I've had no rejections so far. I have a piece ready to be submitted to Times and my gut says, it wouldn't get rejected. I've closely observed and analysed every single column submitted in the past five months and I feel I am ready to try it.

Most of my writing ideas are inspired by day-to-day events and some occur in the middle of the night. Very few of these ideas transform from thoughts to articles.

Back to the Times of India story, I started this exercise of getting the editorial contacts a week back. During this period, my list of disappointment from the largest publishing house in India with a readership of 68.28 Lakh, has just grown and grown. Sample this : they have a few phone numbers listed at the back of the print edition. Since I live in Pune, these are local numbers. On calling them, I am told that the edit page articles are published from Delhi and I would have to get in touch with someone there - no information available about the Delhi contact numbers. That should be easy I thought - look up their website for the Contact Us page and just get the numbers. But, that was not meant to be. All the pages in TOI have only the Indiatimes numbers. An Indian lady with a fake westernised accent trying to pretend she didn't have a second in the world to spare was kind enough to give me the Times of India office number.

Did you know the editorial section in a newspaper office is different from the edit page section? I didn't: dumb schmuck. I thanked my stars when I spoke to a gentleman from the editorial section who promptly directed me to the edit page section..I've been trying to get through to someone for the past 3 hours while my long distance phone bill keeps increasing.

On a closing note, I've not given up; atleast not yet, just a little disillusioned right now as to why our publishing houses can't be more organized and give sufficient information on their websites or bloggers/writers/journalists in India who can put up this information such as this one.

What I would like to see are:

  1. Editorial/ submission guidelines like the one for New York Times

  2. Editorial Contacts such as this one at LA Times

  3. This is stretching it a bit too far citing reasons for rejection, but wouldn't it be nice.

  4. A rough time line before which you would get back for promising articles

I don't have stats to compare the readership of Times of India with New York Times; but what I do know is that it doesn't hurt anyone to be organized and give information right away without wasting your time and ours thereby inviting opinions at e-mail addresses which were not meant for this purpose. Time to think people!

Why ICICI Direct is not a good idea for Intra-day or Margin Trading?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In the life of a trader, there are only two types of days - great and worse; there's nothing in between that can qualify for being a mediocre one. I just experienced something worse than a worse day - totally down in the dumps; thanks to ICICI Direct for making my life so miserable. Interestingly, ICICI Direct was awarded the Most Preferred Financial Advisory Service in the CNBC Awaaz Consumer Awards 2007; this going to a brokerage firm that sucks in margin calls.

Anyways, the latest episode with ICICI Direct is that during peak trading hours, the site is exceptionally slow which means you have to go through the process of placing an order to confirming the same a number of times before getting it done by when the price has changed and it makes no sense at all. This is still OK. But what happened today cannot just be forgiven. The damn site was down for a good 9 hours starting from 14:00 hrs. Just when I placed a margin order and before I could convert it to delivery the site went down. Calls to their customer service resulted in an automated message - "Due to an unexceptionally high number of calls queued, we'll not be able to connect you. Please try again later." It was obvious; there were hundred others trying to square off their positions profitably.

I was relaxed later that evening to know that my position would have got squared off automatically at a higher price, but that was not meant to be. The jokers at ICICI took the least price when the stock was falling momentarily and squared off resulting in a huge loss. The stock in question was MRPL. Their customer care representatives were kind enough to tell me that they were working hard on improving the site and that I should have read the Terms and Conditions carefully while signing up for the demat account which apparently states that they are not liable for damages caused by technical fault. What a nice way of covering your asses!

So, my advice is if you are contemplating of opening a e-brokerage account, then go in for something else.

LG is one month shy of turning into a 1 year old

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Seniol proudly says Lil' General is growing like a weed; I prefer to say he is growing every day, every minute in to a handsome lil' one just the way babies are supposed to. Gosh! Can you believe in a month he will be a one year old. And then, I wouldn't have to count his age in terms of weeks and months..I can just say in terms of years like we grown up adults, and make him feel like one too. Seems like yesterday when I started writing about all the weird stuff that was happening inside me; those temper tantrums in the first trimester; an indulging second trimester with all the announcement "we-are-pregnant" and a nausea accentuating the weight factor in the third semester. It is all over and the product is right in front of our eyes growing everyday with the growth actually visible; it is not like those unreal moments when our parents meet us after a few months gap when we are 30 and still comment, "Oh! you have lost so much weight; the face is not shining, are you not taking good care?" while the weight machine says another story.

Am I getting nostalgic? I don't know but one thing is for sure - I'm growing old. I set out to write the 10th month milestones and here I am talking totally unrelated stuff. so, back to the topic.

The weighing machine is on LG's side and the results are there for everyone to see. I would like to be told that I am doing a good job - hmm, of feeding him, obviously. The needle on the machine kept oscillating this month as he struggled from being a fussy eater to finally giving up on his stubborn momma to eat, eat and eat.

LG met a very special friend, Beethoven aka Caesar with whom he seems to forged a very strong bond. Even I am very fond of his dear friend and we make up stories to go on a walk; just to meet him.

Diwali was special; we visited Beethu at his house and he greeted us with sweets. Beethu has also grown very fond of LG and during his walks he just keeps pacing up and down near our gate and car park refusing to go ahead with his walk. If he sights LG, he gets very excited brushing all over him and once, he even pulled out LG's socks. LG reciprocates Beethu's love with the beating of his legs and a jumping motion on his pram; I've never seen so much happiness on the boy's face. This was the quickest thing he learnt - to learn to do bow, bow and bow. Sadly , "bow" has replaced "papa" from his vocabulary.

He got naturally weaned; acts like a grown-up boy and looks at feeding as if it is an inhumanly thing to do.

Enjoys foam bath; hates wearing clothes and puts up a fight while wearing diapers.

Potty aunty visits precisely at 7 a.m. every morning. Susu aunty has been over-friendly this month; she blames it on the weather.

The Seniol is maintaining a list of all things damaged around the house and calls LG his retirement fund. Ever since LG got to know what his dad was up to, he has been smart enough to act carefully and break things only when no one is watching him. You can't blame, you can't claim if you can't prove it, right?

This was LG's first Diwali and he was irritated than being scared.

One emotion he was unaware of until now - fear, has finally surfaced. He has suddenly developed a fear for heights. Climbing up and down the diwan was child's play earlier. Now, once up, he rarely ever comes down unless we pick him.

Ever since my cook left, LG has been helping me a lot around the kitchen every evening taking the masala containers out of racks, breaking oil bottles and such.

It's amazing how kids learn on their own; he figured he could use his dad's chest for one step and my face for the next to lift himself from the floor onto the cot.

His diet has increased and so has the variety. He hates red pumpkin; loves milk ka kheer; no-love no-hate for beetroot; loves capsicum; likes idli; hates dal; loves khichdi with curd; goes bonkers on seeing his milk bottle.

Alrighty, enough of LG. Now, a little bit about me. Because my schedules are so tightly linked with his. I am not going to hide the fact that I long for the time when LG would sleep so that I can get a few peaceful moments for myself. He is not a difficult child but requires a constant watch so I can hardly get any of my work done. And his sleep patterns are erratic so I don't get as much sleep as I'd like to.

LG is helping in reducing my waistline. No amount of cycling, yoga and exercises have helped me get back in shape. He draws immense pleasure in tapping hard on my tummy, so that's my last hope now.

If you've come this far, you sure have a lot of patience. Do me a favor and send your suggestions for a theme for LG's first birthday party.