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Monday, November 07, 2011

COL comparions SIN vs BLR

I am going to be posting about Cost of Living (COL) comparisons between Singapore & Bangalore on various things. The background is that I am hearing a lot of mixed reports about Bangalore's cost of living. Some saying it is becoming very costly. Others believe it is still cheap. The idea is to get some numbers.

Day 1:

Ride from Airport to Home: 
In Bangalore: Rs. 726.
Direct Conversion: SGD: 28
PPP Conversion: SGD 72.6 (assuming PPP exchange rate of 10)
In S'pore, ride from Airport to Jurong: SGD 29.00+ (as per gothere.sg)
(reasonable comparison since my house in Blore is at other end of the town) 
Analysis: With a direct conversion itself, it is just about matching, with PPP, Bangalore is quite costly.
Verdict: Bangalore is costly.

Commute from BG Road to Tin Factory By Volvo:
In Bangalore: Rs. 65+  (two legs of Rs. 10 each and one leg of Rs. 45)
Direct Conversion: SGD 1.60
PPP Conversion: SGD 6.5
In S'pore, ride from Sengkang to Jurong: SGD 1.69 (by bus. By Train is 2.02)
(Reasonable Comparison distance wise)
Analysis: With a direct conversion itself, it is just about matching, with PPP, Bangalore is quite costly.
Verdict: Bangalore is costly.

Meetha Pan:
In Bangalore: Rs. 7
Direct Conversion: SGD 0.20
PPP Conversion: SGD 0.70
In Singapore: SGD 1 (There is a guy selling Paans in Little India)
Analysis: Bangalore is cheaper by both PPP & Direct Comparison
Verdict: Bangalore is cheaper.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A reasonably scary evening

Right then, having had a comfortable sleep, now is the time to write about the 2 hours last evening that had me pretty worried..

First, the background was that I was to catch a flight last night to come to Bangalore a spend a few days with my parents. As always, I packed up in time and headed out to the Airport with my wife in tow to see me off. We took the bus to the airport, and in the middle of the journey, when bus 27 exited from the expressway and still some way to go to airport (I didn't realize that it doesn't use the expressway all the way to Changi), I decided to switch to a taxi to save valuable time (I wanted to be in time to get my standard emergency exit seat) and we alighted at next stop, shifted to a taxi.

Mid way into it, a car in front off us decided to sway into our lane with little notice, and on express way, at 90 kmph speeds, and had it not been our alert cab driver, we would have rear ended the car in front and I should have been a grievously injured man, if not dead. That was averted.

We reached Changi, alight and when it came to paying up, I realized I didn't have my wallet. I surely had it at the exit from the bus (I swiped at exit), and I was sure I checked my purse for the taxi fare while in the taxi (I was wrong), so we look around the whole taxi to no avail. Bewildered, I send my wife back into the taxi to the place we boarded to check if I misplaced it there. (Apart from the fact that getting a lost wallet is generally tough, getting it in the nick of the time for the flight looked impossible, but what was the harm in trying.)

While my wife was heading back, I take my luggage and try checking in (thankfully, the ticket wasn't in my wallet), but turns out they can't check me in because they need the credit card I booked with for verification and I didn't have the card because that was in the wallet. So, I am nervously waiting for my wife to report on the wallet and the time was ticking for the check-in counter to close.

My wife reaches the point, sees no wallet there, and asks around and miraculously, a man was sitting there, waiting a good 20 minutes for somebody to come by and pick it up. My wife and the taxi driver profusely thank him, she reports this on the phone to me and heads back to the airport with the wallet.

With about 10 minutes to check-in closure, she reaches and we are back in check-in queue (the queue is because of other flights sharing the same check-in row) and we ask the staff to help us be on time, but they assure us that I should be in time and the queue will be cleared by the deadline. It does. I feel fortunate.

Now, when I am finally at check-in, it turns out that I am NOT carrying the credit card with which I booked it. (I had feared as much in the intervening minutes and the staff had assured me that if that happened, they will charge the card I had and refund the older credit to me, but the fear was time running out.) The staff and me are trying to figure out a solution when she tells me that if I could tell the last four digits of the card, she can still complete verification. Thankfully my mother in law, who decide to stay home, was at hand to retrieve the card at home, give me this information and let me check in. I feel fortunate again that my mother in law decided to rest back at home.

By now, I was spooked. Was this a day where signs were being given of an impending disaster? Was the flight going to crash? I started recalling all the episodes of the Aircrash Investigations to revise the dos and don'ts of the crash etc (check life jacket, check emergency exit opening, don't inflate life jacket before having clear path to surface, etc).

I clear all other procedures, take my seat and the captain announces that we are expecting turbulence an hour into our journey. By now, I was quite spooked, certain of a disaster. The flight is delayed, first for 5 minutes, then 10 and they were investigating technical issues (which doesn't help when you are worried about Death or TPD, as the insurance salesmen tell you) and finally 25 minutes into the delay, they announce that they are shifting us to a different aircraft.

That was when I tweeted about it. I am generally not a nervous traveller, but you put a few ominous things ahead of it and I can get quite nervous. I was silently praying for a safe arrival home.

Thankfully, that tweet was the about the turning point. Everything from there on was a spot-on experience. After the inevitable delay, the flight took off. By now, the captain told us that no turbulence was expected now because of the ground delay. The flight was silky smooth, the immigration procedures at Bangalore was tiring (due to the queue and the late hour) but smooth nevertheless. The taxi ride to my parents' home was again uneventful.

I have to downright admit that SIA's service quality amidst all this was about excellent. They had a snack box waiting between the aircraft changes. Our in-flight service was friendly and good, albeit a bit late because it took some time for the crew to get their bearings with the aircraft change. Nevertheless, really really good experience. No complaints. Whatsoever.

Secondly, I was very happy with the company I got. A smiling Sardarjee, who was returning from Jakarta after a business trip put me at ease with very interesting conversations about a lot of things. There is more to say about that, but I am keeping it for some other time.

Thirdly, thanks to those who tweeted and enquired about the situation after seeing my tweet (you know who you are). The moral support was invaluable. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some thoughts on Anna Hazare & Jan Lokpal Bill

What a fantastic movement this is turning out to be! Never before has a single civic issue been brought so much to the fore and with so much force as this one, at least not to my memory. I am sure many commentators have already spoken at length about the merits and demerits of each of the many versions of the bill in current circulation. I am not plugged in enough, not being in India, to make a statement either way. So, I will stick to a few general thoughts. Take it with a pinch of salt.

  • Never before have I seen so much following for something that does not have either a caste, religious or a regional connotation. If nothing else, this movement should be hailed for bringing together people for a cause beyond their own boundaries.
  • It is absolutely admirable that violence hasn't happened in these movements. I have written in the past about frustrations about non-peaceful public congregations and the peaceful nature of these congregations is a very good achievement, in my humble opinion. It shouldn't take much for political parties to destabilize the peace by using their cronies to incite violence. Why hasn't it happened? I expected it? I am pleasantly surprised.
  • The fact that Govt. tried presenting a bill that is actually useless doesn't surprise me. What surprises me is that why didn't they accept the JLP and then malign it beyond recognition through the parliamentary process while diffusing the movement? The cynic in me believed they would. They didn't. I am not sure who should I thank for this.
kingfisher flight 4132 at Belgaum airport: captain announces flight is delayed because 2 MPs r on way to airport: THIS IS WHY WE NEED LOKPAL
No, you idiot. This is not why we need Lokpal. We need Lokpal to fight corruption, not egos and power struggles. Don't get carried away please. 
  • I am concerned about saying patriotic Indian slogans allows anybody to fight any argument about any bill remotely attached to the actual national cause. The fact that well educated Indians just decide to drop in a slogan instead of an actual argument is deeply disturbing.
  • Just because somebody doesn't pay taxes in India (NRIs), or doesn't vote in India (millions of resident Indians too for various reasons) doesn't mean that their argument(s) is/are wrong. In fact, if a sound argument came from a foreigner, does ignoring it make it non-sound? Again, the fact that well educated Indians indulge in this instead of properly arguing a point is deeply disturbing.
  • When the Gujarat Riots happened in 2002, it left a lasting distaste for BJP.  Even then, I never really believed Congress was the party that could take us anywhere - and unfortunately, it seems my intuition was true. Apart from their gross mistakes in Gujarat in 2002, was BJP a better party in power than Congress is today? Are they up to challenge Congress in near future? Is it time to reconsider BJP for future? Or is there an alternate party or a coalition that can not only take centre-stage but govern the country better than Congress?  Will this movement germinate a lasting political legacy for India?
  • Finally, one of my frustrations while living in India was that our current young generation seems to be conditioned to not care too much about the laws of the land or the rules of a society. Breaking traffic rules, using "jack" or "influence", breaking queues etc are some examples - things that are easy to observe and higher in magnitude in India than in other more-developed countries. This movement seems to indicate that Indians won't tolerate external corruption, but would it also mean anything for their own personal corruption? Would they refrain from inciting corruption when it suits them? Or is this just a convenient way of wanting others to be perfect but carrying on with their own lives as if nothing needs to be changed?
Think about these points.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Remembering Saddi Dilli

Today marks twenty years since my family moved lock, stock and barrel to Delhi. Me, my parents and my grandfather arrived in Tamil Nadu express from Madras at New Delhi Railway Station (back then it was just Old Delhi and New Delhi Railway Stations that were worth a mention) and started off a new phase in our lives. For my parents, it was a change, but not too great - after all, they had spent 3 years in Jammu in the 70s and had had their fair share of travelling to the north and mingling with the communities.

For me, however, it was THE change. Moving out of the cocoons of living in Madras and being surrounded by TamBrahm setup everywhere, moving to Delhi and setting myself into a whole new world was overwhelming for me. I hadn't lived through a winter yet. I did not know schools had canteens (back then, canteens weren't popular in Madras schools) and I couldn't speak much of the primary local language.

Cutting a long personal story short, here is what I would like to recall the most:

  • The first few years were a struggle. An overenthusiastic and over-talkative kid can find it difficult in an environment where most don't understand what you are speaking to the extent that it can drive you nuts - at least one school teacher announced to the class in my absence that I WAS nuts! 
  • But then, once I got through that, Delhi has given me some of my best memories. Absolutely brilliant memories. 
  • It has given me exposure to a truly metropolitan environment, where everybody was truly welcome. If you could communicate with the guy in front of you, that was enough - whether you were a Dravidian or a TamBrahm or a Jat or anything else didn't matter. Everybody kept cognizance of your background, but I can safely say from my own experience - nobody acted on it, and that was enough for me.
  • It gave me a college degree and life long friends from that phase of my life. There are few other gangs (or Circles as Google Plus would lead us to believe) that I find myself totally at home than my college mates from SGTB Khalsa college days.
  • Last, but in no way the least, it has given me my wonderful wife - whom I met on a bus ride during college days. I married her at Delhi.
Cheers to Delhi - or shall I say Saddi Dilli!

Friday, January 07, 2011

50 books in 2010

I am guessing I can call myself a bibliophile now that I have read 50 books in the past year, 2010. Here is the path to the half century:

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog
Find new books and literate friends with Shelfari, the online book club.

I believe it has been the highlight of 2010 for me. How many of these have you read? Or otherwise, how many did you read in 2010? Leave a comment.

Thanks to all those who lent books to me, who recommended these books to me through blogs, word-of-mouth or social network posts and to the following places where I sourced most of my books:

Administrative note

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