On fighting classroom hunger

In our twelfth standard Economics class, we learned about the cycle of poverty; which may remain unbroken for generations. I mean, think about it: a poor household means limited access to a lot of resources like food, water, education, and so on. This obviously affects their health and literacy, which limits their skill and productivity. Low incomes, large family sizes (ie, more mouths to feed), susceptibility to disease and poorer generations to come are an inevitable consequence. The cause of poverty becomes, to quote my Economics teacher, poverty itself, which only perpetuates poverty.

Education is one of the ways to break the cycle of poverty. However, as Maslow explained in his need hierarchy, more often than not, you have to satisfy the lower order needs (basic needs like food and shelter) before you can even dream of higher needs. Which is why the Midday Meals Scheme is extremely relevant and important for India’s children. It beautifully provides a solution to two interdependent needs.

Because, well, education on an empty stomach isn’t going to happen. It’s that simple. You cannot learn about fractions and photosynthesis when you haven’t had even a square meal a day. Chances are you won’t even feel like making an appearance in that classroom when you could be working odd jobs and making money to get that square meal, or provide for your family.

Or well, just for a second, forget about poverty and hunger but think about hunger by itself. Think about the last time you skipped breakfast and had to attend class. What were you thinking about? I remember my eyes constantly shifting to the clock, my mind already in the canteen thinking about what I’d get and nothing else entering my brain.

classroomhunger

“Think about the last time you skipped breakfast and had to attend class.”

Classroom hunger defeats the purpose of classrooms and eliminating it is imperative. While midday meals give parents a reason to send their children to school… it also helps these children, if implemented adequately, benefit from the purpose of school. Food fuels the brain and clears the mind. For a lot of the children benefiting from the midday meals scheme, I’ve read that it may be their only meal of the day. Perhaps, a morning meal can also be worked out, and further such motives to benefit from classes and study beyond the minimum requirement. It will be a significant step toward breaking the cycle, once and for all.

This post is a part of the Akshaya Patra initiative, in which every blog post sponsors meals for an Akshaya Patra benficiary for a whole year! I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

My Quikr Experience!

When I got a mail from Blogadda saying I’d been shortlisted to buy products worth Rs.5000 from Quikr.com for FREE and blog about my experience, I didn’t jump for joy. Not right away.

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”, you might ask. To which I will say, “YES, I get how BRILLIANT it could be.” (which is why I signed up for the activity in the first place) but I was a little skeptical about what I’d find from what promised to be an “Online Classifieds website”. The word “Classified”, to me, always evoked images of small, cramped text and products you wouldn’t need ever.

Phase 0: Getting acquainted with Quikr

Anyway, I logged on to quikr.com, where I was asked to select my location. I was then redirected to http://chennai.quikr.com/. I signed up for an account of my own, which was a fairly easy and speedy procedure. This was even with mobile phone verification as an option in the registration procedure. I proceeded to look at the Categories I could shop under:

Quikr Categories

My initial impressions of the layout and items listed on Quikr across all categories:

  • While the layout isn’t going to win any awards, the text was extremely readable and it didn’t hurt my eyes. The layout succeeded in how utilitarian it was and satisfied the user’s basic navigational needs.
  • The ads varied on how genuine/professional/amateur/appealing/lackluster they came across as. It was pretty much like a virtual fair, where you, as a buyer, could wade through what you didn’t like to zero in on the ads that interested you, within and across products.
  • THERE WAS SO MUCH VARIETY IN ADS. I honestly didn’t expect this. From guitar classes to a used guitar to a bike to a mosquito net, home cooked lunches and even homemade chocolates, there were ads for everything you could possibly need!!
  • All the items weren’t necessarily used. There were a lot of used products for sale, yes, but new products, either sold by individual sellers who don’t have use for it or dealers were available.

Phase 1: Replying to ads for products on my want (and need) list

I think it was after the initial round of browsing that I allowed myself to get a little excited! I then proceeded to consult my wishlist, which I call THE WANT LIST:

The Want List

Since I didn’t want to buy a straightener just yet (I was sure I’d waste half my day straightening my hair, as I can get pretty obsessed with it) and I knew I wanted to buy the Jigsaw puzzle elsewhere, the beanbag was the obvious place to start. I proceeded to Home and Office Furniture where I found Bean bag under type of furniture. I felt hopeful and restless as I sifted through the various beanbag ads:

Items Listing for Beanbags

Since it was close to midnight, I couldn’t start calling all the sellers. Instead I left some of them messages (by Replying to the ad), asking if it was still available for sale. In some cases, the picture itself turned me off as I wanted a relatively new bean bag that wasn’t already old and worn looking.

A couple of hours later, when I was deleting a few movies to make space for downloading a new movie, I remembered what my friend had told me the previous day:

“You buy all of these things online… why don’t you buy yourself an external hard drive? You won’t have to keep deleting stuff and your laptop will FINALLY be able to breathe.”

And then it hit me, Why COULDN’T I get myself an external hard drive? I didn’t WANT it but I definitely NEEDED it. Looking for external hard drives under Computer Peripherals (which fell into the Electronics and Appliances category) was a little trickier. Some of the drives were too pricey, while others were at such a reasonable price I was sure they would’ve been sold by now. Again, I tried looking for hard drives that were either new or hadn’t been used much. I tried searching for external hard disk ads that were listed nearer to where I lived so that it would be less of a hassle to pick up the product, if at all I got lucky enough to buy one.

I also decided that if this didn’t work out, I’d splurge on books. There were a number of ads for books: ranging from a Georgette Heyer stash to a sale for imported used books, in the Books – Magazines Category under Home & Lifestyle. At the end of that day, my Quikr Message box looked like this:

Quikr Replies to Ads

Phase 2: When My Replies get Replies & I Zero In

I woke up to find my Yahoo Mail inbox filled with mails bearing subjects like “Beanbag” and “available” or “sorry”. It took me a while to realise it was Quikr-related! The sellers had actually responded, and so promptly!

One problem I had was that since I didn’t know the name of any of the sellers, there was no way of knowing which ad the respondent of any mail was referring to when he/she replied saying the product advertised was available or not available. Sometimes, if the seller had given his/her contact number again, I could match the contact number with the number listed on the ad. Otherwise, I’d have to call the few ads I’d saved and ask, again, if it was available or not.

I also still felt like it was too good to be true… like the chance to acquire these beautiful, beautiful goodies would slip away any moment. I started calling the numbers they’d listed under their contact information. A Toshiba 1TB external I’d seen available for Rs.3000/- had already been sold and so was a beanbag for Rs.250/-. But a lot of other sellers responded affirmatively and said I could pick it up from their residence or office the very next day.

A combination of how value-for-money the price was, the vibe I got from the seller, how far I’d have to travel to pick up the product and how close to new it was made me narrow down my choices to:

And because I’m a bookworm and it’s in my blood:

Phase 3: Action!

I'm on a quest

When I refer to the picking up of all the products I’d zeroed in on from the respective individual sellers’/dealers as a quest, I am only exaggerating a little bit. It was the day after Diwali, and there was a slight drizzle. I was scared there would be a downpour any second, but I wanted to make the pick ups as soon as I could.

As my father and brother had some work on the way, we were all in one car, and had around five stops to make in total.

Our first destination was the office of the individual seller of a Seagate 1 TB external hard disk. We found the place with no difficulty and the seller had the external hard disk ready. He’d also printed out the Invoice. He explained that he’d purchased the hard disk to shift a few files from one office to the other, and beyond that, he had no use for it.

We checked if the hard disk worked on my laptop, went through the warranty PDF and after that, we decided that we’d get it. Though the seller had listed the item at Rs.3700/- on Quikr, he was willing to sell it for Rs.3500, which was pretty great! After the transaction was made, we thanked him and left. I was amazed at how quick and easy it was!

For the bean bag, we had to pick it up from the residence of the seller, which was almost 40 minutes away. Still, after a couple of wrong turns and then finally finding her residence, she promptly showed us the bean bag. It was in great condition. The seller maintained that the price was nonnegotiable as it was barely used and only four months old (she was only selling it because she was leaving the country). We left with an XXXL beanbag in the backseat of our car!

The final Quikr-related stop was at ISHTAM, a used-book exhibition. The books were imports from US, UK and Australia and were at great prices (ranging from Rs.50 to Rs.150 per book). I had to stop myself from squealing when I saw books by Nick Hornby (!!!), Audrey Niffenegger, Alice Sebold, Alexander McCall Smith and other amazing authors (even Sophie Kinsella, who’s such a guilty pleasure) for Rs.100! Only BECAUSE I didn’t want to splurge (I had just bought an external drive and a beanbag), I left with four books (two for Rs.50 and two at Rs.100) and a dopey smile pasted on my face!

On our way back, it started raining buckets. But I was so so happy, and my brother started getting equally excited! We just couldn’t wait to get back and unload everything!

Phase 4: The Happily Ever After!

:D

So worth it!

Can Hardly Stop Smiling

The beanbag finally got struck off my Want List!

I also have four really fun books that I can read while lounging around on my beanbag! 🙂

And thanks to the 1 TB external hard drive, my desktop computer and laptop can finally breathe.

Final Thoughts

I can safely say that my experience with Quikr.com was a positive one. It was definitely quicker than what I imagined it would be. Contacting individual sellers/dealers and picking up the item can be done as easily as within a day or two, whether you arrange for the product to be delivered to you or if you personally pick it up. It takes even lesser time than when you order it online, something I didn’t expect!

The sheer variety of products also surprised me, though I would approach ads with regard to tuition classes and job listings with even more caution and discernment. Quikr definitely matches the buyer with their ideal seller, as you have the option of settling for the price and quality that you are most comfortable with. It’s like a mela of new and used stores minus the crowd and chaos! I come away from this experience a little less skeptical about the Quikr experience, and even open to putting up an ad or two, if the need ever arises!

This post is a part of the Quikr.com activity at BlogAdda.com

Review: The State.com Experience

“Our opinions become fixed at the point where we stop thinking.” -Ernest Renan.

Meet State.com: a social-networking site that connects people through their opinions. After Wall-posting, colourfully-edited-picture-sharing, especially them cupcakes, hashtags and character limits, an opinion-based social network might just be the next big catch!

After all, connecting people through opinions rather than geography/acquaintances has the potential of uniting us through proximity of thought; while hopefully not creating much of a false consensus effect.

I’ve messed around the site for about a week, voicing 90 opinions on a range of Categories such as TV Shows, Books and Publications, Travel and Lifestyle, Politics and more, on topics that may be as broad as “Reading” to “Ed Sheeran”, “Sharing food-related pictures on Instagram”, “Voting” and even “People who constantly say ‘you know'”. By urging people to ‘State’ their opinions on a range of existent/self-created topics/URLs, State.com succeeds in teasing even the stereotypically passive internet user out of their shell!

The State.com Experience in a Nutshell

Interface: The interface is all kinds of sexy. A gorgeous, glitzy red dominates the State.com design. The buttons to STATE or Respond or select a maximum of three words that match your opinion on said topic (a pretty cool way of creating uniform parameters to match our opinions/agreement with others) are satisfyingly chunky.

Accessibility: While it took me a day to find my way around the site, and figure out which was where and for what, once I did, accessibility to various features was effortless.

The only exception: attempting to create a new topic in the midst of responding to an opinion; where the navigation could be a little less slippery.

As for accessing content itself, it’s easy and seamless: quickened by the process of “Tuning In” (State.com’s equivalent of “follow”) to a category, subcategory or person.

Features: It’s quite a rush; responding to diverse range of topics with your specific and sometimes-biased opinion. You can also give someone else’s well-stated opinion a “Well-said” (State.com’s equivalent of Facebook’s “Like”); a feature which thankfully encourages articulation over blind popularity as a means to this end.

The Sharing options: to your twitter/Facebook feed or by asking State contacts what they think are expected and might do well to help the site grow.

Other features include Top Word Groups, Sentiment Range, Trending Topics and Meet…: all of which tell you where your opinion stands in terms of general populace. They also help connect you to people with similar/compatible opinions. These features do much to enhance the awesomeness of the Interface; giving you the feel of being a part of an evolving schema.

State.com Features

State.com opinions

What makes State.com work?

Well, more than anything it’s the rapidity and diversity that characterises the State experience. While it allows longer posts, the bare minimum involves Stating your opinion using 1-3 words from a drop-down; with auto-suggestions that help when you’re stuck on finding the right word. That’s pretty quick, right? Also, it connects you to people from all over, through a mix of topics that do much to pique intellectual, not just superficial interests. With a lot of superficiality in the social media, why not take on a medium that demands nothing but your honest and simplified opinion?

State.com

Disagreement and debates, are of course, inevitable and even healthy here. Because after all, isn’t that the point? To state your opinion? A mere flurry of like-minded talk would’ve scared me, to be honest. Reinforcing a single line of thought does not do much to broaden one’s stance!

Speaking of simple and rapid, the site is tailored to be used on-the-go for iOS users, with the State App for iPhone/iPad. I do hope an Android version is also in the making. That would definitely increase the usability of the site for me!

FINAL THOUGHTS: I stand by my initial[ly stated] impression of this 2014-launched England-based social networking site that builds on opinion-networks:

Opinion on State.com

This review of State.com has been posted as a part of the Blogadda Reviews Program

Blogadda Contest Entry: #IPLTales

This is a story of extreme cricket craziness, an Android App, a city of fans, the TV set that went from Idiot Box to Most Prized Possession overnight and some mad bicycling skills!

IPLTalez #KannaKeepKalm

The evening of a Pepsi IPL match -Chennai Super Kings versus Mumbai Indians-, a bunch of us were lounging at the beach. The pseudo witty banter had reached its peak and the match was in the corner of all of our minds. I was watching replays of the earlier matches on Star Sports.com’s Android App on my pretty yellow phone. I loved how they made important plays easily viewable and accessible. They made for neat recaps. I was also completely dependent on their live-streaming feature. CSK had it in the bag, didn’t they? History would repeat, surely?

I had placed bets with my Royal-Challengers-supporting cousins on CSK. They wanted Mumbai Indians to win so badly.

If we lost, I had to buy myself a pair of new, non-orange shoes. I wasn’t ready to give up on my vice of wearing the oldest, ugliest pair of shoes so easily.

And then, before the clock struck eight, the unthinkable happened—

I swore out loud, breaking up the mundane conversation on who should get back together with whom. My phone had lost charge! How could I have forgotten to charge it?

“Stupid,” I said out loud, provoking shrieks of laughter and insults from my friends. “Phone? Anyone?”

But no one had recharged their data pack. I was the one who usually gave all the cricket updates. Now, they would miss out on a chunk of the match too. It was 7:40PM. I couldn’t just sit there! I decided to cycle all the way back home. More bets on whether I would reach on time were placed. I was becoming the source of entertainment.

8:07PM: I was still in transit. Traffic jams! Eurgh!

“What’s the score?” I yelled near the bend of the road leading to my house, in sheer frustration.

A man peering into his phone poked his head out of the auto and gave me the much-needed-update! My mother was flabbergasted to see me drenched in sweat when I reached home but I raced past her to the already-switched-on-TV-set. Star Sports was blaring and the commentator’s voice felt like music to my ears.

I knelt in front of the TV, a wide grin plastering my face and my heartbeat quickened with every ball! Everything –EVERYTHING- that had led to that moment was completely and totally worth it; just to watch the game, the people who played it and the people who loved it as much as I did on one wide screen!

(And spoiler alert: My “ugly” orange shoes remained unreplaced!)

This post is a part of Cricket just got better! Activity by starsports.com in association with BlogAdda.com.

Protest Against Smelly Stubble activity: A Prickly Letter from Girl to Boy (#epistolarystory, Blogadda Contest entry)

Epistolary Story

Dear Boy,

 

So your friends heckle at your hairless face

Call you chocolate boy, mamma’s boy, basket case…

So you have decided to grow out that beard

Let the stubble tickle and spear

What’s left of us?

 

Now the friends call you rockstar!

The groupies tug at your shirt

Only I see it drain

what’s left of your mirth.

The stubble grates against everything,

It sticks to your face,

It adds to the heat,

It cuts against my cheek.

It makes you hot-headed,

Miss a beat

while you scratch the itch

Near your cheek.

 

Boy, if you’re not done,

I am. For

I hate that smelly stubble!

that makes you look older

but no wiser

strange, but no quirkier

lazy, but no nicer.

 

You have said:

judge me not by my looks

i’m a man, it’s manly

the resemblance to a crook

it’s not uncanny

How am I judging your looks

when I cannot see your face?

How is it manly

to ignore what’s sanitary?

How do I ignore the haunting

daunting, extra weight

it adds to your face?

 

I love you, Boy

I really do

It’s just really

I hate that smelly stubble

that is not a part of you

and definitely not

a part of that gorgeous face 🙂

 

~Girl

 

This post is a part of the Protest Against Smelly Stubble Activity in association with BlogAdda

Protest Against Smelly Stubble activity: A *Rough* Encounter (Blogadda Contest Entry)

Protest Against Smelly Stubble

As Murphy’s Law would have it, Boy bumped into Girl at the market of all places, when he was looking his absolute worst.

You see, Boy hadn’t shaved for days. He had been slummin’ it and as a result, the prickly, sweaty hairs on his face had gotten in the way of his niece snuggling up to him, eating breakfast and now saying hello to The Girl He Liked without dying of mortification. He could see Girl fighting against the urge to cringe.

HER: Um, uh. Are you okay? Are you sick? Is everything alright? You look-
HIM: Uh, no- uh, I’m in a play! Yes… I’m…
HER: Oh! Um, that’s-
HIM: Igottago.

Boy raced past Girl to the nearest store, leaving Girl absolutely confused. 

HIM [to the shopkeeper]: Razors please! How many? I don’t care, all of them! Do you have a restroom?

Minutes later:

GIRL [picking up her phone]: Hello?

HIM: Where are you?
HER: Just leaving. Are you okay?

And then Girl caught sight of Boy exiting the opposite store. A little shaken, with that goofy smile, wearing those annoying orange shoes… but looking like… looking like him. For me?

"His clean shaven look bowled her over"

His clean shaven look bowled her over.

This post is a part of the Protest Against Smelly Stubble Activity in association with BlogAdda

Chilling with the Mintz: ITC’s mint-o Ultramintz

I got back home from Uni for the weekend to find two boxes of ITC’s mint-o Ultramintz waiting for me! I’d called home ahead of time to tell my parents that it would be coming (courtesy the Blogadda Product Review Program) but my kid brother had already torn through the personalised packaging (tied together with a bow and everything) by then. Nevertheless, the boxes themselves were exquisite, especially for a box of mints!!

Ultramintz box

My first look of the mint-o ultramintz 🙂

opening the mintz

Opening the box of mintz! It’s like the mints have a throne of their own 🙂

And… *drumroll*

ultramintz- one's just enough!

You CAN have just one (at a time). And it’s an ultra-refreshing peppermint high!

A quick overview

mint-O Ultramintz, by ITC mint-o, is in the new class of premium and sugar-free mints laced with peppermint oil imported from France, powered by unimaginable cooling compounds and encased in a designer case. Priced at INR50 and containing 60 pellets, it’s refreshing mints targeted at the calorie conscious!

And I thought they were

EXQUISITE!

As you can see from the pictures, the mints are tiny and pretty but that does not mean you need to pop in more than one at a time to get a dose of the promised minty freshness! ITC mint-o definitely takes the phrase “power mints” seriously as these are ULTRA cool, ULTRA powerful and ULTRA refreshing in flavour!

One lone mint made me feel energised and “cool headed” in the literal sense. It melted in my tongue, leaving a pepperminty cool aftertaste that felt out.of.this.world.amazing. Despite being targeted towards diabetics and the weight conscious, I think being sugar-free doesn’t make it any less appealing to the rest of the crowd! I liked the no-nonsense not-so-all-over-the-place taste that was far cleaner and nicer than that of the fruity mints I’m used to living on.

Another thing that really appealed to me about the ultramintz was the packaging! I’m a huge believer in good packaging… I will sometimes pick a pretty-looking okay-tasting carton of juice over a decent-tasting moderately-priced yet sloppy-font bearing carton of juice… so, the packaging is a huge deal for me! The designer case is great to look at and is small enough to fit in the front pouch of my bag or my pocket… so it’s handy and savvy. It’s something brand-conscious me would be happy to own, as ridiculous as that sounds. I can also imagine surviving a long dreary day of continuous one hour classes or a heavy-on-masala meal with just one ultramintz pellet! Unlike the Lays slogan, you can survive on just one -at a time, mind you- and when it comes to mints, it’s a good thing as it means it’s long lasting in effect and flavour.

One sort-of drawback is the pricing. Probably because I might not fall under the target market… but I do not think I will want to spend 50 bucks on mints, even if it’s 60 pellets of premium tastefully packaged power mints. Nevertheless, I might just pick it up when I’m in a mood for overindulgence and frivolity because it’s pretty darn addicting and refreshing!

Buy it

  • If you’re on the lookout for power mints that will make your head feel like the inside of a refrigerator!
  • If you’re sugar conscious, and on the look out for a sugar-free mint option.
  • If you want to buy the classiest mints encased in a tasteful tin that’ll feel great to carry.
Courtesy: Ultramintz Facebook Page Harry Potter promo references always make me happy :) Definitely looks like he's "taking a chill pill", doesn't he?

Courtesy: Ultramintz Facebook Page
Harry Potter promo references always make me happy 🙂 Definitely looks like he’s “taking a chill pill”, doesn’t he?

Ultramintz

I am reviewing mint-o Ultramintz as a part of the Product Reviews Program at BlogAdda.