Thursday, September 10, 2009

Smartass Me!

I think I am smart.

So there I was in the act of booking a ticket on the British Airways website. Like the diligent and smart guy that I was, I had been tracking the prices everyday. It kept stable at 31K for the Friday that I needed the ticket for and I was pretty happy about it. I has been waiting for my new credit card which had just arrived.

Anticipating the need for a credit card I had signed up for one. Was not that smart!

Once I got it, I was just waiting for the right day.. Work in office and the PS3 at home. Not much time to book tickets.

Next day! Usual price check and I got a shock. Ticket for Friday at 41K and the cheapest was 35K on Sunday. Whoa! This was unexpected.

But then me was smart..So immediately re-planned my trip.. Sunday would work just fine. So started the process. BA website was very helpful and finally for the payment handed me off to the credit card site.

My first credit card transaction in my entire life on this planet... So carefully keyed in the data it asked.. card no.? yes sir... Name on card? yes sir.. Mobile no.? yes sir.. Email address? hmm.. No wrong email address!! Ooops.. what the heck. I just have one email address and use only that everywhere.

Tried again.. Same message. "Email address does not match our records"! Now if I wait one more day.. or even one more hour.. prices would go up!!

Not one to take setbacks.. smart that I was...I called up the credit card company.

Told them the problem. They asked me 101 questions to ascertain that it was me that was calling and said the email address they had on record had one letter missing!!! Some data entry carelessness!! So I told them.. please change it right away coz I have a pretty expensive ticket to book. Sure he said he'd change it but it will take effect after 48 hours. Cant it be done now? No sir. Sorry sir it will take 48 hours.

That was too bad. Did not even have time to use my cousin's card and book it at night!!

But I was smart..

I immediately hit the net. Sent a test mail to that "wrong" email address. It bounced back which meant that address didnt exist. Immediately created a new account with that "wrong" address. Cool so far.

Went back to my online booking. Gave this "wrong" address. Yes sir, it said. And I printed out the ticket for 35K.

I was damn smart...was'nt I. Felt so happy that I was smart and went home that evening with the ticket in my pocket and my head amongst the clouds.

Night. Logged in again just to check how many thousands I had saved by my smartness.

The page loaded.

Ticket for Friday 31K.

Ticket for Sunday..Also 31k.

Thud Thud Thud*..

* wall and head meeting produces Thud!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Train to Katpadi

The article by Coelho spoke about someone who missed a good chance to speak to a long lost friend and then regretted that for the rest of his life..for life seldom gives second chances.

I boarded the train in the middle of a working day at Bangalore Cant. I was looking forward to the 6 hour journey to Chennai - not having to think about work, read Paulo Coelho's book and contemplate life and Civ Rev rather than engage in pretentious banter with my fellow passengers - an old couple and a family of 3. But there was something familiar about that aunty.

The fashion parade in the train started.. Flower vendors, blind man, vegetables, Masala dosa, blind man 2, Peanuts, Chips, blind man 3, return of the blind man and so on in a never ending line. Surprising, the number of blind men on the train.

The old lady must have felt she was in the middle of T Nagar and was buying from every other vendor much to the inconvenience of her methodical husband, who found his careful calculations - change for the auto, bus etc. methodically torn apart by his wife's insistence in propping up our ailing economy starting with the train.

The family of 3 - something still very familiar about the aunty - were also paying obeisance to all the vendors. Especially their college going daughter - always happy to greet a vendor and inquire about his / her wares. Her father - a nice gentleman indulged his daughter without any complaints whatsoever.

Should I ask the aunty? But how do I broach the subject...well, chuck it and let me get back to the book.

In this article, Coelho spoke about a pastor who suddenly had the urge to preach in the middle of a bus journey and despite a lot of misgivings did so which was appreciated by all the passengers. All went home happy.

The train neared Katpadi junction - home of the venerable old Christian Medical College (CMC) where I was born, grew up as a kid, almost died as a teenager and came back to life. The family of 3 were planning to get down here. Now this confirmed my suspicion that I might know that aunty after all.

Shall I ask her? hmmm.. well what if she was not the one. Ok Mr. Coelho here I come.

The next article spoke about how an young man saw a poor lady.. he wanted to help her but then went on with life.. but that incident burned him so much that he had to come back in search of that lady and give her all he had..It was only after that he found peace.

The family was getting things ready. The uncle went to the door and the daughter was ferrying the luggage to and fro while the aunty kept watch.

Should I speak to my mom on the phone and mention CMC loudly? Maybe that aunty would recognize. Almost took my phone out but then I just could not get to carry out the charade.

Coelho as an young man goes to a town and was asked to buy a book which he rejects at that time. But then it irks him so badly, maybe he should have just got it and helped that person - a pastor rather than miss a chance. He goes back after many years and realizes that pastor is no more.. Only if he had seized the chance that day.

Well just do it...was what the book was saying. And I better do it. Better late than never and whats there to loose.

The train was slowing down to enter Katpadi junction.

Well come on bozo.. just ask her. Isn't that what you have been reading all day!!

Summoning all my courage, I asked "Aunty,are you in any way associated with CMC?" (Now I realize that must have been a really dumb question.."associated" bah.. was I doing a formal interview!!)

"Well yes.. I studied there"

Bingo! That was a good sign. Phase 1 passed!

"My dad studied there too"

"Who?" and I mentioned his name and my mom's.

She gave me one tight slap on my shoulder.

"You.. you wait all this while to tell me that you are their son.. Didnt you recognize me? WHen I saw you, you looked different. You are just like that father of yours.. sit simply till I have to get down and then tell me. Well at least you told me now."

She called her husband.. her daughter (who happened to know my mom very well and also my sis - "your mom is my chat friend!!"). In fact there was a mini rejoicing with aunty telling the other passengers also that I was her classmates son and she was so happy to see me after so long.

The train reached Katpadi and finally they got down. After waving goodbyes and promises to convey their regards to my paretns, I went back to my book and opened a page at random.

That article by Coelho spoke about someone who missed a good chance to speak to a long lost friend and then regretted that for the rest of his life..

I was now at peace!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The beef shop near Coles Park

Many moons ago

A casual visit to my uncle's house who lived near by.

The talk turned to eateries in the neighborhood. Thomson Bakery for the oh so soft garlic bread - all for Rs. 10. The Sweet Chariot down the road for the delectable cakes and the beef shop near Coles park.

Beef shop!! My ears pricked up.

I have driven past Coles park many a time and had never seen this place.

"Oh" said my uncle, "It's a small make-shift place and easy to miss but you should taste his chilli beef..mmm" he licked his lips.

Now beef was one of my favorite dishes and I had been searching for a good place from the time I landed in Bangalore. Chennai has scores of such places but Bangalore.. was still searching and this was Godsend for me.

Few moons ago

A Table tennis tournament at the club.

I was paired with one of the younger members of the club. Born and brought up in Bangalore he had never lived outside Frazer town. After our game the talk turned to well you guessed it..eateries. This time from Frazer town - Just Bake, Zaks and... that awesome chilli beef near Coles park.

What! "Yup" he said. "Amazing chilli beef..just a make shift place and easy to miss..but if you like beef a must-try place".

One moon ago

In Church on a balmy Sunday evening with the sun painting the sky in bright hues of pink and orange just before it last appearance for the day.

Riding home on my bike and thinking about plans for dinner my mind came to rest on the famous chilli beef. Well..why not I thought, Coles Park was on the way and I could finally find out what makes everyone go gaga over this.

A drop of rain. Well how long would it take to buy a plate of chilli beef and reach the warm confined of my house. Lightning danced across the skies, drops fell faster but my mind was fixated on the beef. So a quick left turn towards Coles Park, parked my bike and went on foot to locate this easy-to-miss shop when rain started falling in buckets.

Taking shelter with the others in front of a closed shop we watched the rain.. we watched life pass by.. a group of boys running in the rain towards a pub.. auto drivers slowing down hoping to get a fare.. families on bikes stopping to take shelter but the kids wanting to go on! Well this went on for an hour bu the rain did not show any signs of receding.

I had fish at home. Had I just not yielded to the temptation I'd be home by now feasting on some fried sardines but we seldom listen to reason.

One more hour went by.. the rains continued to fall.. auto drivers continued to slow down and it was past 9 PM. The beef shop might close and my waiting for close to two hours in the rain would have been in vain. So deciding to risk it for the chilli beef I walked out looking for the shop.

But try as I might I could not find it. Walked the entire length of Coles Park, no beef shop.. well there were no other shops either. I was wet..hungry and now getting irritated. But maybe I was looking in the wrong direction, I better ask someone. So went to an ice cream shop. The menu outside advertised "Hot chocolate Fudge". Ooh must be good in this weather and ordered one. After he serves me he tells me its not hot. Hmmph!

While paying for the cold chocolate fudge I asked him about the beef shop. "yes" he said he knew about that shop. "Where is it?" I asked, excitement building. "The shop is no more. They closed it a month ago".Grr!

Shivering and wet I reached home. Set the stove and fried the sardines. Two hours in the rain all for a chilli beef that was never there.

Last Night

Was eating some chicken when my neighbor dropped in. "You made it or bought it" he asked. I said I made it as I was not happy with the chicken available in shops. "You don't like shop cooked food. You must try this chilli beef near Coles Park.. Its a make-shift shop only...."

I choked on the chicken!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Bird Flew?

Reading a lot of student forums I sometimes find it difficult to understand the alpha-numeric code aka SMS lingo by which these youngsters communicate. Primary inference - Me getting old!! But lets leave unpleasant thoughts aside shall we!

So when I recently read about bird flu and stuff; for a moment I thought even journalism was going the SMS way. But thank the powers that be I can still read and make sense of some written stuff at least for the time being.

According to, bird flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches and headaches. Ultimately it leads to breathing difficulties, pneumonia (phew!) and is potentially fatal (eeks!).

So there I was doing my weekly shopping when I came across frozen chicken kheema by "Real Good". Having never had the courage to cook non veg stuff I would have normally moved on. But then my well meaning friends had been recently going on and on about how chicken is very easy to cook and also overcome by my carnivorous urges, I thought I'd take a chance this time around.

Took home one pack and sought help from the same set of experienced well meaning friends to give me step-by-step instructions on how to cook some really tasty kheema. Wash the meat, sautee the onions.. add a tomato..some ginger garlic paste.. curry leaves... (this was my usual routine) now add meat,pepper, chilli powder and cook for 20-25 minutes and you have lovely chicken kheema. Very simple!

So followed these instructions and soon the meat was gurgling in refined oil and I came over to watch Chennai Super Kings (Go Chennai Go!) thrash some hapless opponents. 30 minutes later the meat was ready and it did look quite tasty and tempting. Patting myself on the back I quickly put some on my plate and hurried over to the match.

My first mouthful made me forget the match altogether. It was rather sweet and maybe a little raw! I took another tentative mouthful. Initial diagnosis confirmed! Match now forgotten. I called my friends and presented the scenario to them. "Did you put salt?" - Of course I did. What a question to ask an expert cook?. "Did you put enough pepper?" - Obviously! "Did you cook for 20 minutes at least" - Well no. Actually 30 minutes. Unable to solve the puzzle and grateful that they were not invited to sample the results of my culinary expertise they gave up one by one and went back to Chennai Super Kings.

When all chips are down and you do not know what to do, you call the one person who knows you inside out - your Mom.

Mom found out what was wrong in 2 minutes flat. She just heard me out and told me "You dumb budhoo! You must not have poured enough water". Well I never poured any water!. No one had told me that.

When I called my well-meaning friends they went on the defensive telling me that since I claimed to be the great cook that I am I must have known something as basic as this. Grrr!

Hey one sec... I can feel something happening... I think am a little feverish. There is also some cough and my head is aching. My throat... my throat is sore and ouch my muscles ache too. I can't type anymore...You there...Hello?? there? Any idea whats wrong with me?

Guess I should call Mom!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Mark Of Cain

In our younger years we are seldom bound by the tenets of social conduct and do not hesitate to speak our mind. So invariably you have young kids who ask in all earnestness why the neighbor's nose is so big or someone's teeth resemble the rabbit they saw on Cartoon Network.

I have been at the receiving end of this kind of inquisitiveness from children and also from not so young people. My right thumbnail had a thick dark line running right through the middle of the nail and almost everyone would want to know what it was at some point. I never knew what to tell them then.

Now I tell them its a long story...

In the beginning there was darkness. And God said let there be light and there was light and like that the whole world was created in 6 days. Thus starts the Bible and goes on to tell us the wonderful story of how the first man - Adam was created. God seeing that Adam was all alone and nagging Him all the time decided to create another being who would nag Adam instead and keep him occupied.

And so Eve was created so says the Bible out of a rib of Adam's. Now Adam and Eve were all so happy in the Garden of Eden till the devil tempted Eve with the apple of knowledge. Now Adam and Eve started having more happy times especially in the night. Since the ipill nor the ipod had been invented then soon they had two little kiddies running about...

The eldest was called Cain and he soon grew to be a "tiller of the land" and Abel had a way with animals and was a "keeper of the sheep" or so says the Bible. Now both these young strapping lads once offered a sacrifice to God. Cain with his corn and Abel with his sheep. God liked Abel's sacrifice better - God being a non-vegetarian obviously preferred mutton chops to corn cobs. This angered Cain so much and in a fit of rage turned on Abel and killed him. Poor guy soon realized his mistake and immediately buried Abel in one of his fields. But God if you know is all-seeing and all-knowing; a fact we forget many a times. He called up Cain and asked him about Abel to which Cain replied "Am I my brother's keeper" which has now become the catch phrase amongst all those who have killed at least one of their own brothers.

God let that remark pass and tells Cain that his brother's blood "cries out from the ground" and goes on to punish Cain with a curse. The curse being that the land will no longer provide for him anymore. Cain is now worried. He pleads with God to remove the curse or lighten it. His fear being that if he didnt know to plough and therefore contribute to the balance sheet of the world as it was then he would be killed.

Now comes the most interesting part...

God tells Cain not to worry. If anyone kills him or his descendants he would take "seven times seven" lives in revenge. But Cain does not let go. He sees the loop hole there and argues with God how would people know that he was Cain or one of his descendants - an astute negotiator our man Cain. But God is prepared after all he IS God is it not. He tells Cain that he will give him and his descendants a mark. By that mark will all humanity know that he is Cain and is therefore protected by God.

And so says the Bible that Cain and all his descendants have that mark - the mark given by God.

A true story ladies and gentlemen. Now you know why I have that mark on my right nail.

If you too have a mark like this, you have nothing to fear now. And let me know... we could be related!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Going Solo

Let me warn you upfront that this is an unglamorous post on microwave ovens and nothing to do with being single and living in etc etc. If you intend to buy a microwave and have a tough time making a decision, then you might find this useful!

It all started with all these festive discounts and offers that I was tempted to buy at least one home appliance. And the one thing which I figured could be remotely useful with all my experiments in the kitchen was the microwave.

So with offers being shoved down your throat you hardly had time to decide..each brand spoke of some fancy feature or other, discounts were offered and the temptation was huge to pick up the one the salesman was pointing at.

And quite a lot of people were picking it up too.. A microwave oven with convection - does anything and everything.. 10K and after discount 9K plus you get a cook book too!!

If you had no clue about what exactly all this convection / grill etc is all about you'd actually end up like me..prepared to plonk 10K on a convection oven coz you never know when you might want to bake a cake. But if you are like'd visit atleast 10 shops and spend a few nights poring over microwave oven reviews on the net. And this is what I found - a decent microwave with no grill and no convection is what one will need and for the grilling and drilling and the baking you have the OTG!

First - whats a microwave oven. Well all that gyan about magnetron and stuff you can find in your physics book or at but What you need to know is that the damn thing can cook stuff at surprisingly short time using something called microwaves which means your gas doesn't run out all that quickly.

So now you want to buy one and heres when you realize that the world of microwaves has its own types and castes.

Well the first type is the Solo - the real deal: Uses just plain microwaves to heat and cook your food. Nothing fancy. No grill.. no convection fan..And since its got just one function - its called the Solo.

Now add a heating element to the MWO and place a grill - and this is the Grill combo. Well this heating element "browns" your food. So if you want to fry or brown something - place it on the grill and use the heating element. Issue here is the MWO comes with only one heating element - usually placed at the top of the you have to open the oven and turn the food item upside down so that the other side also gets browned.

So Solo - cooks but does not fry or brown and the grill does that. Now add a fan to it and some other stuff at the bake which makes the MWO heavy and bulky and you get a convection oven. This is used to bake cakes and cookies.

So a convection model = solo + grill + convection oven. Cool! So this convection thingy takes care of everything right. You dont have to get a separate grill or convection model later.. and thats what shop dudes would tell you and if I hadn'ta done the research I'd be having one in my kitchen right now.

But then if your needs are going to be just cooking and heating and you do not bake cakes or fry fish using the grill then you'd be better off with the Solo. In fact for 80% of your cooking the Solo does the needful. And for that 20% more of cooking you pay double the price of a Solo. Bad maths!

But then you say that you love baking and you'd want to bake cakes every second day. If you are really into baking then the microwave-convection combo would hardly do it for you. What you need is an OTG (Oven Toaster and Grill) - comes with two heating elements so you get uniform browning and baking and also a toaster in the side to get your bread nice and warm and toasted. And this thingy doesnt cost you more than 3-4 K. Further the OTG bakes and grills better than your microwave. The downside is that its slow. But the food is way tastier. In fact those who are expert bakers would'nt be caught dead with a microwave convection oven.

Oh two appliances will take up space you say but me says lesser complicated technology in each appliance so less chances of something going bust and even if one does go you can still use the other.. And the cost - an OTG + MWO would not cost more than 8K. much lesser than a convection model.

So planning to get a microwave - only heating.. cooking rice etc etc. Go Solo.

You love baking, grilling and also need a microwave get an OTG and yes Go Solo again!!

And who said going solo cant be fun ;-)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thank you for calling our after-sales division!

The cool night had a mellowing effect on the party and the music had toned down from the ear-splitting levels it was. We three - the last remaining vestiges of the rocking party sat around in my hall talking. It was about three in the morning.. and since my friend's stayed near my house, time was not at all a constraint.

The talk veered to - as almost everyone who comes to my place talks about - why didn't I have a classy LCD TV instead of the basic Philips 21 incher which now graced the space between by floor standing speakers. My friend even went on to suggest good options as well.. the LG LCD TV and the Samsung LCD.. good value for money eh!

Now that got me.

LG, Samsung..Korean companies and Korean companies never being my favourite I went hammer and tongs at him. If he was convinced or not remains a matter of perspective but if you observe the Koreans, they keep gaining market share inspite of their inferior product quality and the better made products from Europe and Japan never really get on in India.

You could ask me why and I could tell you that it was the Indian customer's misplaced notion to associate after-sales service with superior quality.

I could also explain it with the help of this small anecdote:

There was this guy who went to buy a few electronic appliances.. be exact two appliances. A washing machine and a microwave. He went and got himself a basic Siemens washing machine which was priced higher than the most expensive IFBs and the Whirlpools. And chose a LG microwave oven which had colourful LCD displays, some fuzzy logic which could read your mind and a bio something which could heal cuts and wounds if you stood next to it. The Siemens had an on-off button and no displays. Just a red light to let you know that yea the damn machine is working.

He got both installed in his house and watched over them lovingly as they went about their respective jobs. The guy was ecstatic when the LG oven displayed this and that and winked its LCD eyes at him.. with the Siemens he had nothing much to do other than keep staring at the red light.

After a few months, like all new things..including wives.. they lost their novelty value.. The LG machine feeling this lack of attention - like most wives - promptly broke down. What the heck goes the owner and calls that help line number written in big bold letters right across the manual and in almost every other page.. the throaty voice of a female call center exec on the other end cools him down a bit.. stopped working.. oh no issues..I'll wait.. and next day morning the LG guy is at his door. No problem sir..he says will just take a few minutes.. and in an hour.. they are done and the machine is happily flashing its LCD lights. No charge sir.. they announce..its covered under warranty. Our man is now impressed.

The Siemens stands in the corner.. takes all the rubbish he throws at it.. and does its job!

Six months later..

The LG oven goes bust again.. Again the throaty voice on the other end.. the smiling repair man.. no charge sir.. under warranty.

The washing usual takes in the clothes and cleans it to perfection

13 months later..

LG oven screams again.. throaty voice..smiles.. BUT now.. warranty over sir..a small charge sir.. are you sure it costs this much.. let me check with LG.. throaty voice.. oh ok.. heres the money and keep the change!

Washing machine.. taken for granted now.. keeps washing

15 months later.. you go to meet this dude.. you tell him that you plan to buy a few home appliances.. and you need his advice as he has quite a lot of experience in this matter.. He looks at his microwave and his washing machine.

The washing machine... it soaks, cleans and dries the clothes in exactly the same way it did since the day it was bought!

The microwave flashes its LCDs and lights up the customer care number printed on it..

Ah he tells you.. you know what you should get.. you should go for an LG.. what excellent after sales service they have! You know just last week when it failed...

20 months later..

You do not know Siemens makes washing machines..

You have a house full of LG products..

And you know the LG customer care number by heart!