Thursday, 28 May 2009

Dante's hell...aka phone banking

ring ring

Dead voice: we have a tie up with an insurance company so please waste your phone time and listen us while I drone on

Sultry machine voice....welcome to Big International Bank, please enter your account number followed by hash brown potatoes


SMV Please enter your date of birth in .... format

me: done

SMV Sorryyyyy I can't recognise your date of birth, please enter your date of birth

me: done

SMV Sorryyyyyyy I can't recognise your DOB

Confused Voice: Sir this is Jane Singh how can I help you

Me: I want a change of address

CV: Please verify your pin number on the phone.

me: done

CV: Oh sorry our system is not working today. Please answer the following questions. 1 what is the specific gravity of hydrogen 2 How was the thrid person to climb Mount Everest 3 What was your mother's vavourite maiden snack 4 What is your overdraft limit

Me: what is an over draft limit?

CV: sir, that's the wrong answer. Please call again

Me: But I need to change my address

CV: Please call again

Me: but I typed in my DOB, your system is not showing it

CV: That is not possible the automated voice doesn't ask for DOB

Me: But it does

CV: It doesn't

Me: It did too

CV: No it doesn't

Me: Ok let me verify my pin

CV: Sir our pin verifying system is down, please call again

Me: But I need to change my address

CV: Sir I can open a term deposit for you for 300 days at 7 per cent

Me: But I need to change my address

CV: sorry please call again


Did this really happen to me? Did I just hallucinate with back ache and fever pills hitting me from all sides? Is this a nightmare?

End of story... I lost my temper and yelled "are you a bank or a cattle shop!"

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Marooned in your own country ... Aila to Amritsar

I caught snatches of the coverage of the cyclone Aila in Calcutta and Eastern India on Bengali news channels. On one side there is the terrible loss of life and property. On the other hand there are people who were out on work and stranded because there was no public transport. My mother and brother were two of those.

Thank God for the metro. That at least helped people to some extent. But buses? No! Taxis? No! Autos? No! The frantic faces of people of TV were really sad to see.

And from what i saw on TV today, it is the same in Punjab with many stranded thanks to the riots there.

And this happens everywhere in India. Whether its in the commercial capital, Mumbai, the ruling party's current darling, West Bengal, the Prime Minister's state, Punjab... any place that you can think of. The calamity could be natural like a cyclone or floods or man made like terrorist attacks, bomb blasts, riots or the current violence in Punjab over the Gurudwara in Vienna.

Innocent people get stuck. And there is absolutely no support from civic systems.

Coincidentally, my mother was stranded when she was twenty five years younger and there were the riots in Calcutta after Mrs Gandhi was killed. We were kids then and everyone was worried as there was no news of her till she returned home after walking miles from work.

Twenty five years later, the only difference is that we knew her whereabouts thanks to her cell phone. She still had to trudge back with no support from the system.

But the metro was there and she did get a lift from a good Samaritan in a cab ... so some things have changed in India. But is it enough?

Talking of mothers my mom in law was sinking in the famous Mumbai flood when once again an unknown Samaritan literally pulled her and got her home safely from her office.

Where is the government machinery when calamities strike us? Why are good samaritans our only hope when we pay taxes obediently? Why do people have to come out in their cars to help people during floods? Why do people have to collect biscuits for terrorist victims in hospitals?

And most importantly why is there no leader out there talking to the people and giving them hope and direction?

Or perhaps that happens only in Obama land and in movies like Independence day.

PS I also heard on news that an elderly lady died close to our place as a tree fell on her rickshaw during the cyclone. Imagine living through the trials and tribulations of life and then suddenly it's over before you realised it thanks to nature's whim. Or worse still, on a terrorist's whim.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Ode to Master T

Under your tough shell lies a frisky soul
Snoozing in a corner when you are alone

You somersault when we are around
Thinking you are Spiderman you try to cross the glass walls

You don't speak a word as you stare into the world
But when we are around, baby you do rock

Your needs are little as are you
Six fish sticks, twice at eight

With your beady eyes you look into mine
God only knows what goes around in your primitive mind

Dunno if you know our days together are numbered
But why think of that while we are together

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Born in the USA?

There was a lot of enthusiasm amongst folks I know on the American elections. Barack Obama fans in India were all over Facebook, Blogspot, Twitter rooting for him.

Recently I have come across some folks questioning the apparent apathy of such people when it came to the Indian elections. Questions raised were whether such people even voted here. Or on why there was hardly any chatter on social network sites on the Indian elections.

Now let me lay my cards down in the beginning. I voted. It was not easy to get registered but Imanaged it over three years. I am sure many would have tried but couldn't. Secondly I too was cynical of the obsession over the American elections. Especially if one was not active in the Indian political scene.

Having said that I must say that I can relate to those who were over the moon with Obama but inert on India.

In the American elections you had a man who was inspiring. A man has appeal cut across economic and social classes. Who was fighting against a President who was seen to have left crises behind in whatever he touched. People were hoping for a change. The promise of what would change was clear.

So there was something you could identify with, get inspired by and support.

Cut to the Indian elections. First of all I don't think that India was in a crisis the way the US was and therefore the need for change was not that in your face. Secondly there were no clear and visible polarisation in stances between the parties. And thirdly there were no inspiring leaders you could pitch your lot behind. The PM candidate of one party was not even directly elected by the people of India. And the candidate of the other has definitely had a questionable past when he had polarised the country.

So whom do you root for? And for those who argue that we are not a Presidential system, which party do you root for?

And this 'parliamentary system and therefore the leader doesn't matter' argument is one of convenience. By that logic we wouldn't have had the Nehrus, Gandhis, Vajpayees, Thatchers and Chruchills who were part of parliamentary systems but were clear leaders too.

In such a scenario what is wrong if people look for inspiration outside? After all Obama, Mandela and Dalai Lama looked to Gandhi for inspiration. By that logic one should mock them too.

The results have shown that the electorate have pitched their lot with the Congress and the UPA.

But there is nothing wrong in hoping and wishing that someday we have a leader who inspires the whole country of not the world. To start with the Congress could at least chose someone who was elected in the Lok Sabha to be the PM. And if they do stick with Manmohan Singh, which seems likely, can't they at least get him elected in a Lok Sabha by poll than depend on a technical Rajya Sabha seat? In fact, if memory serves me right I think Narasimha Rao did that when he was appointed Prime Minister. He was a RS member who then contested in the Lok Sabha and won in the by polls.

After all a knockout punch is always more convincing than a technical points victory.

And for those who are Obama fans but alienated here, I think it would be better to see why that is so than to mock them.

Perhaps we are missing a trick.

Stability rocks

Well the election results are out.

It seems that we will have a fairly dominant ruling party after ages. One might subscribe to part of their policies and not to the others, but overall this should be a good thing. Hopefully the markets and economy will respond well to this and hopefully some things will get done in India for a change. Democracy is fine to a point but one needs some autonomy while leading, in all walks of life. While both the Congress and the BJP have their specific stances, the fact is that practicality rules when it comes to governance so I don't think either would have been disastrous for India. Example of this would be the communist government in Bengal which woos industrialists or the BJP government which never pushed its Ram Mandir stuff when it was ruling the country two elections back.

The other great surprise is the Left losing in West Bengal. I left Bengal a decade back so I don't know whether this would have been a surprise to those who live there. But one can't imagine the Left losing on Bengal. They had such a stranglehold on the state. In fact it was a pollster's dream. I guess it is a bit like the West Indies losing the '83 World Cup.

So let's keep our fingers crossed

Friday, 15 May 2009

blogging in bed

you are probably here because you like surfing. You might even blog. At least the net means a lot to you. But what do you do if you cant access the comp. For eg i have a back pain today and should be in bed. Taking out the laptop and pounding away is not a good idea. At least the fancy e 71 which k gave me helps me stay connected. But nothing like tv or a good book if you are in bed i guess.. Unless the geeks come up with something where you have a comp in the form and size of a book. Is such a thing there?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

fake housing society secretary creamed

i will write a more detailed post later as i am quite drained out tonight. This is for all of you who have been following our housing society woes and have been supporting us. The special general body meeting happened today. And, in short, we won! We swept the floor with the museum piece. And everyone supported us. Quite a fight, full drama. More later ...

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The night before...taking on the Mickey Mouse committee of our housing society

I earlier wrote about the delusional secretary and his Mickey Mouse committee in our housing society who weren't allowing us to rent out our house.

Since then my parents in law swooped in and got us a letter from the deputy registrar directing the society to let us rent our place.

We found a tenant after losing four months of rent thank to the society goons.

And suddenly the society, who had not replied to our application for four months, has called for a general body meeting to 'enforce' a ruling passed by them two months back not allowing people to rent out our house.

That meeting's tomorrow. We have pumped ourselves up for the fight. We have figured out that we have a solid case:

  • the society cannot stop a person from renting their house and passing any such law is illegal
  • the Maharashtra Co-operation act, section 79, 2001 actually encourages people to rent out their vacant flats to help bring down property prices
  • we have seen cases where court rulings have overruled societies who have charged unjust amounts from people who have rented out their house or societies who have tried to bar people from renting their house to bachelors, spinsters or foreigners
  • we have gone through the legal route - registered agreement, all in white, police NOC, prior letter to the society... we have done it all
  • the society committee, on its part, hasn't replied to our application. AND in a consumer court ruling a society secretary was fined Rs 7,000 for not replying to a society member
  • we have a letter from the deputy registrar asking the society to allow us to rent out our house
  • AND our trump card, the nuclear option, society committee members need to form an indemnity form, M20. Without that, any rule passed by them is illegal. My sources tell me that the secretary our banana republic haven't filled the forms

They have harassed us enough and more. Hopefully tomorrow it will be our chance to sock it back to them.

It won't be easy. Society meetings are as unparliamentary as the Indian Parliament. But the trick is to have a good breakfast and outshout the buggers.

Paraphrasing the Mumbai Indians, 'society hila denge!'. We have to stamp out what Amitabh Bachchan called, 'society ke keere' in Hum.

I will keep you updated on what happened.

PS. Kainaz says I should leave the Hindi parts to her.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Don't cry for them Kolkata

I never thought I would cheer for Sachin and Jayasurya when they were bashing the Knightriders team at the IPL. Nor did I think I would clap for Yusuf Pathan when he helped the Rajasthan team with the Super Over against Knightriders team.

But I must thank Badshah D@#$% for converting me to a Mumbai Indian fan. And for hating the Knightriders.

First he drops Kolkata from Kolkata Knightriders. He probably thought that his own name was big enough to carry the team. He didn't need Kolkatans by his side. Well he is mistaken. It was the passionate Bengali which made KKR the most successful franchise last time. And dropping Kolkata has got the home city against KR.

And my question is that who gave him the permission to drop 'Kolkata' from the name? Why is this the only IPL team without a regional identity?

And secondly the way he has treated Saurav Ganguly was sickening. It's not that other captains have not been dropped. Dravis, Laxman were removed as captains. But not through a press conference tamasha as it happened for Ganguly.

The fact is that Bengal has only one iconic cricketer, Ganguly. Dildo B@#$%^ and Bhooka Noon's (with apologies to the fake IPL player) shenanigans with Ganguly were sickening and have lost them all respect.

The team seems to be going though the motions now going from one defeat to another. There is no passion or buzz in the players on the field. Nor is there any support for them. KR exists in the IPL for other teams to up their net run rate. They were supposed to send their NPAs back but as of last count the coach and the captain are still there playing fiddle while the team burns.

And last heard, Badhsah D@#$% was trying to make money by what he is actually good at. Dancing at weddings!

Vote's up

I voted for the first time yesterday, since I moved into Mumbai ten years back.

I had voted twice in Calcutta when I stayed there. It was fairly easy then as the political party cadres would ensure that your name was on the electoral list.

Conscientious Bengali that I am, I tried to get my name on the voters list a few years back. This was before Jaago Re, Lead India, Rock The Vote tried to get people to vote.

So I took Kainaz with me and went to a nearby school in 2006 to submit our voting forms. The place where they were taking the forms were chaotic. We found it tough to get through the officials as they were speaking in the local language of Marathi. We filled our forms and hoped for the best.

We didn't hear anything after that till I once got a call from an official for verifying my antecedents. The problem was that I was out of the country. Kainaz went and apparently the gentleman told her that we would need to go to the office once again.

Three years passed since then. Nothing happened.

Then the terror attacks of 2611 happened and Kainaz and I felt we must vote. This time we tried our luck with Jaago Re. But we found out that the site just gives you the forms and directs you where to go and that's it. It was not a place to fill forms unlike what we thought. The Jaagore site informed us that no new registrations were being taken. So we got back to our lives glumly.

Election day was preceded by a crescendo of public service ads asking people to vote. I even got an off day in my office because of the elections. But I thought I couldn't vote as I wasn't registered.

Come election day and Kainaz and I went to Candies for breakfast before she was to leave for work. I was feeling pretty sheepish as there were posters of John Abraham exhorting people to vote even at Candies.

What followed was straight out of Hans and Gretel. Kainaz left for work while I went to check on our house where we used to stay earlier.

I opened the door and I saw that there was a paper which was Kainaz's voter's slip. Apparently our application had worked after three years! She was on the list. And I was hoping that I would be too.

I excitedly called her on her cell and she turned back. We went to the school where we were supposed to vote.

There was a government official manning the station. There were quite a few folks trying to find their names.I must say he was being quite patient and even breaking into English when he realised that they couldn't speak Marathi.

He gave me a directory and said that the names were in alphabetical order. A quick scan and I found my name beside Kainaz's.

I could vote too!!!!

I can't begin to say how thrilled we were.

We stood in the queue for about 15 - 20 minutes and then our turn came. And we voted!

One can always argue that a single vote doesn't make a difference, that we have to choose between political parties who don't have much to say for themselves, we could say that the middle class vote doesn't count ... but the fact is that we took a step in deciding our country's future, And our future. And felt great about it.

The registration process could have been easier and more transparent. I think we were just lucky to find out that we were registered. Or perhaps our keen desire to vote moved things. Or perhaps it was Mr More who called Kainaz in 2006 and promised that our names would be on the list. But seriously there must be better ways of tracking this - online forms, political cadres like in West Bengal?

I must say that the government folks who were running the show were doing a good and sincere job under hot and difficult conditions. In fact there was a gentleman inside the polling room who was trying to get more people inside the room so that we could all stand under the fan. He was quite friendly too.

It is thanks a to millions of such nameless people quietly doing their job that the great Indian democratic process is alive and kicking.