Thursday, 17 November 2016

A call for pre-paid cab operators at Mumbai airport to accept cards. Please pitch in

The Mumbai police has given an address where we can write in requesting for card payments and mobile wallet payments at the airport pre-paid cab counter.

I just wrote in. Request you all to do so too and share this. We can at least try

The ID to write in is :

This is the text of my mail:


My name is Kalyan Karmakar. I am a food and travel writer based in Mumbai and am a frequent traveller who uses the airports at Mumbai very often. 

I recently flew into T2 from Hong Kong via Kolkata. I didn't have cash on me as I had left country before the demonetisation drive.

I wanted to use a card to book a pre-paid cab at the airport but couldn't as they don't accept cards. I finally took a Meru and requested my wife to pay when I reached home. Luckily I had 100 Rs to Pay the convenience fee.

My request to you is that you should ask the pre-paid taxi counter to accept cards and mobile wallets such as paytm to help us citizens make the Prime Minister's demonetisation drive a success. This will make it easy for foreign tourists and business travellers too and help make our airports even more world class

I do hope you will look into this request and ensure that these measures are implemented by the pre-paid cab counter at the earliest.


Kalyan Karmakar 
Twitter: @finelychopped
Phone: xxxxxxxx

Update: Here's the response from CSIA and I must also add that the Mumbai Police has been very responsive to my tweet on another issue too. Makes one feel great and now let's hope that they can get the taxi operators to accept cards/ PayTm:

Dear Mr. Karmakar,

Greetings from CSIA,Mumbai!

Thank you for sharing your suggestion with us which we received through email on November 18, 2016 about cashless mode of payment at pre-paid taxi counter.

We are pleased to inform you that our concerned team is engaged with the pre-paid taxi association for their consideration of alternate payment modes. We shall share your feedback on the same with them.
We appreciate your feedback, it helps us identify improvement opportunities and ensure better passenger experience.

Once again we thank you for your suggestion and wish you a pleasant experience at CSI Airport.

Yours sincerely,

Team - Customer Care & Quality
Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd.
Tel: 91 22 66852351 / 2306 (D) (Office Hours)
Our Vision for CSIA: To be one of the World's best airports that consistently delights customers and be the pride of Mumbai

Who are the demons of India's demonitisation?

I rarely comment on social or political issues as I prefer not to speak about things I am not fully aware of.

The current demonisation issue has led to lot of strident comments on social media from both of sides of the fence and stands are usually extreme
rather than nuanced.

So I decided to write a post on this on Facebook.
Sitting at a place which doesn't accept cards and where I had to depend on my wife to buy my breakfast.

Here's what I wrote:

I'd been out of the country when this demonitisation thing happened. Didn't have cash on me but was not affected much personally at the beginning.

I couldn't buy fish for my granny from local markets when I reached Calcutta as I didn't have cash and had no time to go to a super market. It was not critical. 

I had to intervene on her behalf to make a payment to the worker clearing the garbage at her place. Neither of us had non 500 Rs notes to give him and being a daily labourer, he couldn't take a day off work to exchange the 500 Re notes he got.  

I used Uber in Kolkata very peacefully

using Paytm. Local cabbies take cash which is unaccounted for by the way and, in Kolkata, they refuse to go anywhere in any case. 

Using Uber and debit cards I could get gran's much needed medical check ups done. Left to herself, or to my aunt in Kolkata, it wouldn't have happened because they don't lead a

digital life

The pre-paid cab counter at Mumbai airport don't take cards so I needed my wife to come down with cash for the Meru cab when I reached home last night. I had 100 Rs to pay for the convenient fee thankfully

Lot of folks - cabbies, Grocers, big city market vendors, fish sellers, paan wallahs - who take only cash are not BPL and they don't pay taxes.

Thanks to them many small operators, who are genuinely poor, are losing business with customers like us going to people who accept digital cash. But that's not everyone 

I also saw huge queues of people trying to withdraw their own money in Kolkata and Mumbai for daily needs. Money which is accounted for and in their bank accounts and

not 'black'. It's not easy to get cash. People like us can still  manage to some extent but we are a minority. People who don't live in India, and who are pontificating on the issue, are not affected by this 

The reasons for cash economy are grey and not everyone standing in a queue trying to withdraw money is an unpatriotic, black marketeer 

So let's think twice before posting a funny meme. I am a bit tired of sanctimonious and vapid social media posts on the issue and let's not glorify pain. 'Vision' has to be thought through too

Few things in life are as easy as tweeting or facebooking or instagramming and yes, none of this is comparable with being a soldier on the borders

Empathy will help. Understanding will help. 

And, from the government, communication and transparency and measures to make

It easier for its citizens. We are all in one team after all

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Philosophising is fine but action is what matters

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."

We were introduced to this quote from Karl Marx by a gentleman named Samit Kar who taught us Marxism in Presidency College. We had a paper on Marxism as a part of our Sociology course designed by the Calcutta University in the mid 1990s. I was not into Marxism, which seemed so anachronistic in the post Berlin Wall fall days, and wasn't too keen on these classes.

However there was no forgetting this line of Marx as Professor Kar would keep repeating it. He was so fond of this line that a friend of mine and I wondered if this is what he told his wife the night he had got married!  I must mention that prof Kar had graciously invited all of us from class to his wedding at a place called Shinghi Park and it was a happy evening. Whether his favourite Marxist quote was a part of what was discussed later that night was not something that we ever found out.

From what I remember, and it's been a while, what Marx meant to say was that the socialist philosophy had been expounded before him by folks like Hegel. However, they hadn't said 'what next'. Marx was apparently the one who suggested a social revolution as a way to take this philosophy ahead and "fix things". 

I know that I have been guilty of simplifying things in the paragraph above but this was the crux of the argument I think.

The reason why I remembered this was that we were recently brushing up our concepts for the exams conducted by the Bharat Soka Gakkai, the Buddhist organisation that I am a member of.

The Soka Gakkai International is based on the teachings of a  Japanese monk, Nicherin Daishonin, who lived in the 13th century BC. He is said to have interpreted existing Buddhist scriptures and came up with a practical way to change one's life based on that. 

The Soka Gakkai refers to this as 'revolution' too. Specifically human revolution

The Soka Gakkai site says:

“Human revolution” is the term used by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda to describe a fundamental process of inner transformation whereby we break through the shackles of our “lesser self,” bound by self-concern and the ego, growing in altruism toward a “greater self” capable of caring and taking action for the sake of others—ultimately all humanity.

I am not getting into the details of this, or what we studied, in this post as that's not the purpose here.

What struck me though was how both the Daishonin and Marx seemed to have said the same thing. If I was to paraphrase it, "it's fine to philosophise but the key is for this to lead to action". 

This is completely my decoding of it of course.

It's funny how Marxism, known for its anti-religion stand, and a religion seem to have a connecting thought. Though, to me, Nicherin Daishonin's Buddhism, as followed by the Soka Gakkai is a practical philosophy on how to lead one's life, rather than a religion.

I then thought of my life as a market researcher. What market research agencies do is take the principles of academic research and apply it for a practical goal. To help client's grow their business. 

What we did. was applied market research and not just theoretical research.

I guess a rainy Sunday evening, when you are stuck at home, is as good a time as any to connect the dots in one's life.

Have a great week ahead.

Monday, 15 August 2016

The apps and services that have made a difference in our lives in Mumbai

Didn't go out for breakfast this morning and just wanted to call in for a coffee. So called for a Starbucks cappuccino using the Swiggy app as we often do these days. Delivered in less than 20 min. Hot and frothy. Used Swiggy to order from Sweet Bengal a few days back for a party at home. Quick and headache free. Same when we called from Imbiss and Hangla when friends dropped in.For Candies and Khane Khas, I still use the phone to call the restaurant though they have tied up with delivery apps too

Made me think about other apps which have changed our lives for late.

Ola and Uber, despite our occasional rants, for sure. Don't need to keep a driver anymore. Rarely take out the car now. Can nap when in traffic than gnash my teeth at the wheel.

Also MyDidi these days for temp house help though we use the phone more often than their site but a great service for sure.

We don't use grocery or veggie apps that much yet as we get things easily from the local markets on phone too (In Bandra - Lalu's for veggies, Jude and Meghna for meats). For fish and prawns, Cambay has helped when I can't go to Khar market. Was really impressed by quality and price of the prawns we ordered recently.

Which are the apps/ services that have made a big difference to your life. PS Thinking aloud, not research or anything. Flight booking apps/ sites have been around for a while and don't count

Sunday, 19 June 2016

So much for Digital India

I live in the suburb of Bandra, home to many who are exploring new journeys in life. In the city of Mumbai, which is considered to be a city of dreams and of opportunities.
At most times our Vodafone phone connections (we have two 15 year plus accounts) don't work and nor do the internet connections on them. The Airtel 4G device too is used primarily as a fly swatter now as the internet is barely functional. The MTNL wifi keeps disconnecting. The Tata Photon often naps, specially during the afternoon. I tried You Broadband for a while and disconnected it as it was forever under maintenance.

'Digital India' is a smart tagline indeed and our spin doctors have many such lines. But as I sit at my writing desk desperately seeking some internet connection, it sounds like hot air to me.
I can but dream of a time when we will look back at these angst ridden moments and laugh like we do today at the world of Trunk Calls and of going to the neighbour's house to make phone calls which would be besotted by cross connections.
Till then I have to find a cafe with good wifi to conduct a video conference with a client on Tuesday who has been kind enough to offer one so that I don't have to go to the other of the city

Sunday, 27 March 2016

It's time to talk

There’s no justification to killing men. There’s no justification to killing women. There's no justification to killing grown ups. There can never be any justification to killing children. There's no justification to killing in the first world. Or in the third world. Death knows no religion.


Terrorists won't read Facebook statuses. Nor will politicians or army generals.


But we can make a start to ending this madness by talking. Get to know those who are different from you. Make an effort. Find a common ground. For me it could be food. It could be cinema for you. Dialogue is the only way to break discord, to abandon hate and to embrace happiness.


Sounds philosophical. Is very practical.