Summer Blockbuster

Longtime back, I had read in a Tom Cruise interview that during summer time, we always look forward to mind-blowing blockbuster movies. I quite agree with him. This may be because the heat and holidays fan the inner fan out…I think, having an awesome summer is defined by two things: going on a relaxing vacation and watching a (few) wonderful movie (sometimes, even a football or cricket tournament does the trick too).

In 2017, however, I’m still in search of a blockbuster (though it has been provided by something else, a real-life crime story, about which I will post another blog) – a movie which will result in my allegiance to a new fandom. There have been a few good films which I liked watching during their run time.  However, their charisma ended as soon as I walked out of the theater.

Tomorrow, I am going to watch Spider-Man: Homecoming with the expectation that may this be the end of my search for the summer blockbuster on silver screen? The enthusiasm and excitement are same as I used to have during my teenage years before the Tobey McGuire Spidey movies.

Do you feel the same about the recent releases, that they lacked punch? Or do you find Wonder Woman as the movie of Summer’17?

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GST Day 1: Got Ripped Off With A Catch!

Last night, at the stroke of midnight, the ‘one nation, one tax – GST’ regime was introduced in India. Based on my past mistakes (= experiences) of gaining knowledge about government policies, I learned only the basics of GST. This is because from experience, I knew, learning too much would result in unnecessary arguments/high blood pressure as service providers would do as they please. And how things unfolded during the course of the first day of GST implementation would somewhat prove my point.

I made three billed purchases during the course of the day.

1. Breakfast: I was meeting a very good friend after 2 years. We always end up meeting on days of historical significance (or blunder?!). Last time we met, Delhi was voting to give Aam Aadmi Party an overwhelming majority to form government in the state, and today, it was the first day of GST coming into effect.

We met for breakfast at American Diner, Indian Habitat Center, New Delhi. The waiter messed up our order (leaving us listening to the rumbling of our empty stomach), thus spoiling our mood early in the morning. When we were presented with the following bill:

I noticed two things were wrong: we were not billed for our entire order and there was a service charge (which was supposedly subsumed under the GST).

As I uttered “something is wrong with the bill”, the waiter said that the food was on the house as they botched up. We were only charged for our coffee. Now, in this scenario, I chose to see the bigger picture and let the service charge thing slide. Bigger picture being, they TRIED to salvage the situation without being asked.

I’m not returning to American Diner anytime soon. Waiving off bill does not turn my experience into a better one. I don’t like to sit hungry for an hour in the morning. The complain was never for free food. And I couldn’t gauge the impact of GST on the bill. It was more less same as it used to be for coffee.

    2. Munching stop: I made my next purchase at Khadiline (for papad and moisturizer). It was not as dramatic as the previous one. They had not figured out/implemented GST as of yet, and I paid as per the MRP. One strange thing though was that they didn’t accept card, and I had to pay cash. The explanation was fuzzy involving keywords such as “closing” and “auditing”. They did give a bill. Again, no impact of GST was felt.

3. Cab Fare: At last, I ordered a cab to head home. The cab fare was same as earlier – the flat carpool rate for a certain distance.

The first bill has its comic and moral side. If I have to prove my point before service providers, I should not only understand the information on the following site, but also save relevant screenshots:

http://www.gstindia.com/about/

And as Plan A, of the essential ‘luxury’ items like soaps to sanitary pads, I had bought a packet or so extra to last till the speculative environment settles down.

Do you know of any better or reliable source to understand GST? How was your experience on the first day?

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Explaining My MIA Mode 

Using this Italian word – MIA – to explain my Missing-In-Action mode since my last post in circa 2012.

What have I been doing in the interim period…A little catching up before more serious blog posts follow.

What have I been doing? 

Bringing discipline back to my life.

This meme pretty much explains it all. Yes, I have been struggling to maintain a full-time job, have a social life, and find time to work out. (Universe, it won’t harm you if you throw in a rope in the form of a million dollar lottery winning so that I can chill.) This routine is exhausting, but the results are worth struggling for. (I will document my journey from 88 kg to 66 kg in different blog posts as I take up my yoga challenge from 8 July 2017. This challenge is part of my commitment to leading a disciplined life.)

Going back to a disciplined life is not an easy task. Because it is very difficult to convince people (whom you care for and who also care about you) that everything is fine, and this not-so-seemingly-normal behavior is actually normal. Those who understand this, it’s fine; those who don’t, that’s fine as well.

How I achieved my goal? 

  • ‌Prioritized tasks (professional and personal) based on need/importance
  • ‌Learned the art of direct communication
  • ‌Worked on having an assertive approach rather than an aggressive one

The above three points helped me organize my day, and find time and energy for doing things which used to be listed down as new year resolutions (every year!!).
Now that I have become used to discipline again, I can focus back on certain things which were/are closer to heart such as writing and taking vacations.

Do you also struggle to maintain a balance in life? What methods have you devised to deal with it? Are you also prone to as much drama as described above? Let me know as I also need to learn.

 

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Moment of Happiness

We all want to be happy… but what exactly is happiness? What is the exact moment of true happiness?

While watching Pursuit of Happyness recently, I started asking these questions. What led to the thought was that the protagonist was describing certain clinching moments from his life as “this part of my life is called…” Eventually, gloomy moments end with the part in his life which he describes as happiness or being happy. (It is an inspiring story…I enjoy watching it.) He enjoys the moment. He walks out of the building with tears of joy still in his eyes…not able to think of what to do next. But that was all to the moment of happiness…the movie ends with the protagonist walking with his kid while making future plans to secure and build more of this moment of happiness.

Then, what was the actual moment of ‘happyness’ and how long did it last? Can burden of expectations let happiness persist for long? (I wondered.)

Consider this. Announcement is being made that you stood first (or any rank till third) in your class for the academic year. (Remember the moment) You being in a different world – grinning ear to ear. You collect your report card from the principal. And the princi while congratulating would definitely say that it has to be better next year. There ends your happy moment. You come down and mingle; everyone congratulates you with the rejoinder that try to do better next time (if you stood first, it has to be better percentage next time, and if second, strive to top). So, the moment to rejoice is over or f**ked as expectation starts building.

Life is full of imperfections. The perfect moments are rare and brief. It is these moments, which I feel, are the moment of happiness. The state of true happiness is when you realize that you have achieved what you have expected, desired, or striven for. It is that brief moment when you learn that you stood first in class or you have got your dream job or have finally made it to the place you have always wanted to travel to or when your partner pops the question. It is that very moment, and a brief time period following it, when you might have been really happy – without thinking about what happened in the past or what would follow. You just cherish the news that you have achieved what you have been striving for. As the moment passes, expectations start building and your brain (automatically) starts working on ways to fulfil them.

At least that is the case with mere mortals like me. We end up internalising those expectations as our goals. With great human beings, it might be a different story.

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Staff Hai

…which loosely translates as “I am part of the staff”. This is a common answer given by students in New Delhi (I am sure in other parts of the country as well) when asked for fares while travelling in bus or shared auto rickshaw. This phrase holds the same stature amongst students as our fundamental right to freedom of speech. Any violation of this right, i.e. extracting money in the name of fare from a student who has already claimed to be a staff of some privileged educational institution which the bus or auto rickshaw has to pass by, might lead to epic battles between the staff of the bus (operator) and rightful staff of the educational institution – students.

(For guys, the ‘staff hai’ also works at all the local roadside food stalls for free stuffs.)

During my college days, (usually) my canteen and movie budgets were funded by the savings made from the bus fares, especially at the end of month (and if you are a guy, then…it’s life-saver other than mom 🙂 ).

I pity those who have studied in really privileged colleges (no pun intended) where they didn’t have strong student council or union which could force the public transport of the city to bend rules to take care of the requirements of students. It is for such dedicated representatives that 40-50 per cent voting in the (Delhi) university election is reported and not for free movie tickets. Don’t know what happens to such promise fulfilling, budding politicians after they enter the mainstream. Such candidates should be given direct tickets for the Parliament or state assemblies instead of making them struggle as party workers in the name of getting proper training for the political career. Just like education, this political training only kills the innocent leader who only wants to serve people.

Apologies for digressing 🙂

This right of staff was most used in the now-thing-of-the-past, Blueline buses of Delhi. I happened to have studied in a college which allowed us to proudly avail the staff facility in a Blueline bus. God only knows how many conductors got sound beating from the college’s barey bhaiyas (tough guys) for harassing students by asking fares.

With Blueline buses being taken off the Delhi roads, it would be interesting to know what methods the students of the staff hai group of colleges, including mine, would resort to for a free ride. The fare money these days seem dearer given that the call-centre jobs no longer pay that well as they used to 7-8 years back.

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Samosa Versus Momo

Ever since the recessionary clouds have been hovering over the economies of the world, we have been listening to every analyst forecasting or repeating that China and India would be taking the lead in showing the world a way out of the dark times. I don’t want to get into probing or analysing, how much of that is happening, and (if it indeed is taking place, then) how. Instead of looking into already known facts and figures, I will be sharing an observation that resulted into this claim – while India is still in the process of becoming developed from developing economy, China has moved ahead. (A few days back, the Indian Prime Minister admitted that China have moved ahead of India in research and development. This might be one of the aspects of the larger picture.)

While growing up in India, the most common snacks that I (and lots of people) have grown up to is samosa. It is fried or baked triangular pastry shell with a savory filling, which may include spiced potatoes, onions, peas, coriander and lentils. From high-end shops to local kiosks, whosoever serves samosa, never runs into loss. It is an all-season hit. Samosa is likened by both the rich and the poor. However, the rich people became global long before the aam aadmi or the common man. He had cultivated tastes for lots of exotic stuffs. Continental food in this part of the world might have its fans, but it’s the recipes of the Far East that was unanimously likened by the taste buds of rich here as well as the West. Among the preferences for delicacies of the East, the Chinese food tops the list.

Once upon a time, eating Chinese was considered a big affair. Think about eating momos or dumplings in the late 90s. Where did you go to eat it and how much did it cost? (De Paul’s is the word that might pop up in the mind of the readers living in Delhi. Hence, I have included the second question. :P) However, like other Chinese items, availing Chinese food is no longer an extravagant affair.

Lately, Chinese food joints mushroomed in this country as engineering and medical colleges have – in every town, on every street. From good, cozy, fancy restaurants to kiosks, nowadays, you can avail good Chinese food pretty easily without burning a hole in your pocket. You might find it difficult to get good Punjabi food these days.

At this juncture,  I remember a situation from a Bollywood movie, Kal Ho Na Ho. The hero – Shah Rukh Khan – plans to attract customers from a Chinese restaurant to his friend’s by offering samosa on the menu. The plan works there. I see a same sort of competition being offered by one of the Chinese cuisines, momos or dumplings, to our dear evening snacks, samosa.

It is really surprising to see a vendor selling momos at every 100-200 metres these days. (If you stay in Delhi or Noida, you definitely have seen it. You might prefer the momos available 200m away to the 100m one because of your taste buds.) And it is easy on your pocket, health (calories numbers), and amazingly, they don’t leave you with upsetting stomach either. For samosa, you might have to travel a little more than 200 metres.

So, by being easily accessible and economical, momo is certainly giving good competition to samosa. And my reason for saying so is that if the business was bad, vendors would have vanished long back and new ones wouldn’t have mushroomed.

Just like electronic items (do I need to provide a list? Remember, once upon a time expensive VCR, washing machine, heater, electric rod, sandwich maker, blender, etc., from stables of big companies and the really good, cheap Chinese variants of the same. :P)  and other stuffs – from national flag, utensils to lights for Diwali decorations – whenever we want a lasting (not necessarily longlasting), budget stuff with value for money, we rely on ‘Made in China’ materials.

Is how momos have become a popular evening snacks an extension of one the Chinese way of leading the world?

Pause. Think over it.

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The Human Touch

A few days back, I was reading an article about the reason behind the success of Apple stores. One of the reasons pointed out by the man behind the retail operations of the company, Ron Johnson, was that the “staff isn’t focused on selling stuff, it’s focused on building relationships…

What Apple stores offer, one can get in other stores as well as the online ones with better deals/discounts. Yet Apple stores exist and are doing good business. The company is not into philanthropy, but the staff, it seems, have not been directed into selling things to customers whether they want it or not. Instead, they have been asked to help customers find products as per their requirement. The customers are not going to forced to buy anything by the salesman at the Apple to ensure sale for the company, claims Johnson. If this is true, then nothing can be greater than this. The salesman (at the store) would really be of some assistance, which is great.

Instead of spending time online doing personal research before making an electronic purchase, one can devote that time to accomplish something else, even if it’s jogging in the park. It would indeed be great if we can really trust an electronic company (I know some people will think of murdering me after reading me describing Apple as electronic company…but doing this to tease you 😛 ) and make a purchase.

Personally, I can’t verify the claim Johnson has made, but I can share with you what the human touch to an otherwise mechanized world can do.

In India, despite offering good interest rates, nationalized banks are not very popular because they are feared to be lacking smart, English speaking staff. And yes, the old generation is supposed to keep you waiting because they will not sacrifice their lunch or tea time to help the customer. I have had also listened to this sort of hearsay and avoided these government-owned banks.

Recently, I had to visit one the largest nationalized bank, State Bank of India, to get some work done. I had gone there with the presumption that an entire day is going to be spent. However, to my surprise, I had completed applying for credit card and opened a Fixed Deposit account in about 30 minutes time, which is about the same time limit for getting a pizza delivered. And within this time, they had told me about every details related to both these things. Very prompt service by a government bank, I must say.

And they didn’t stop there. According to my requirements, they told me about other services and products which will be useful. I did return to the bank to get other things done, about which I had read and been told but with the rider that the procedure and the waiting in queue will be very annoying. Had it not been for the helpful staff at the bank, I would have never got a huge part of my life sorted. Just like the (loyal) customers of Apple store, I would like to trade with a bank by paying an amount for maintaining a credit card (private banks don’t charge you) and by taking a little time out of my life to go to the bank to get things done in consultations with the ‘helpful’ staff.

These days, most of the banks advertise themselves as tech savvy, queue-free means to banking. But I would prefer a bank with helpful staff to guide me through products and services than dialling numerous passwords and codes to get a machine try to do the same (You can talk to the customer care executive, but it’s difficult to get through, especially at odd hours).

A human being can apply brain and will react as per my requirement. While dealing with a machine, I will have to customize my requirement as per the availability or programming.

The ‘helpful’ staff at the SBI has won one more loyal customer.

(You may check out this link for the Apple article
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/11/what_i_learned_building_the_ap.html)>

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