Hope story

It was the week that trumped all of her other bad weeks: she’d lost her phone, her friends were dealing with their own issues, and all of her course work that had been due a week back remained incomplete Living away from home had always been fun, but not this week. This week, the university campus seemed to be filled with booby traps and dead ends. It was filled with people but there was no one, really.

The last straw was when her teammate for one of her assignments had requested her to stay back to work on a Saturday.

“But I’m going home!” she exclaimed, indignant. “I was planning to take the bus home this weekend. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been home.”

“Just one day,” her teammate pleaded. “Please?”

Of course she couldn’t say no. She had every other assignment due already. How could she slack off on this as well? She had to stay. She had to stay and pore over references books that blurred over into one fat burden. She had to.

So she stayed Saturday and halfheartedly helped her teammate format the citations for the last part of their assignment. The minute she was done, she knew she had to catch the bus home the next day- however late it was.

“You’re out of your mind,” her friend said. “It’s a three hour journey. You’re saying that you’re gonna leave Sunday, reach Sunday evening, and get back to college Monday morning? That’s madness. It’ll tire you out.”

“I know what I’m doing,” she said, her voice beginning to break. “I need to go home. I need to.”

The next day, she packed her bags and took the bus home. One of her other friends had tried to talk her out of it, but had realised how futile it was when she remained resolute. The journey was long and irritating, especially when she realised she didn’t have a phone to listen to music. She borrowed the phone of the lady sitting next to her and informed her parents that she was on her way.

And yet, by the time she reached her parents looked worried.

“What took you so long?” they asked. “We called all your friends to check on you! You’re fifteen minutes late!”

“I’m FIFTEEN minutes late and you call everyone I know? Why? Why would you embarrass me like that?” she burst out. There were tears in her eyes, and she was on the verge of a breakdown. She’d waited all week to fall apart; she couldn’t stop the unraveling.

And that was when she saw the look in her parents’ eyes; the way their eyes softened but remained alert. It was like they knew what she’d been through without really knowing. It was like they understood, when no one else, even her closest friends had.

“Food’s ready though,” her mother said softly. “Go eat. You look tired.”

She followed her parents to the dining table and felt like a child. As she tasted the first mouthful of chappathi dipped in dal, it was an unveiling by itself. She couldn’t- couldn’t- hold on to the mindless rage and chaotic anxiety anymore. Her mother’s fluffy chappatis and carefully made dal melted her heart, and temporarily cured her of everything. Suddenly, there was promise, that even if things wouldn’t get better- these two wonderful people were there. That was all that mattered. That would take her forward.

This post is a part of the IndiBlogger Happy Hours activity, sponsored by housing.com

A Quick Post about Quikr: Why Chat trumps Phone Calls

I’ve already blogged about my experience with Quikr, a site that matches the buyer with his/her ideal seller, and vice versa. One cool thing about Quikr that I may not have highlighted is that the whole transaction can take place without a single phone call. Instead, you can get all your queries resolved via chat or email. While the phone sometimes feels like a quicker mode of communication, chat trumps calling in a number of ways. Here are some of the advantages I found in the course of purchasing products via Quikr:

1. You can contact the seller at any time. When I wanted to purchase a beanbag, for instance, I found time to search for one only after 10PM. This wouldn’t have been a great time to call the seller to ask for further details. And the urgency would’ve died if I’d waited till a better time. Thankfully, the chat function made things much easier. I was able to make an offline inquiry. I got a reply within hours- something that would’ve gotten delayed if I’d had to call.

2. You have a written record of the interaction. This is perfect, especially when you need to keep track of prices. You can also make multiple inquiries with ease and compare the deals against each other. I would’ve definitely had a harder time remembering which deal was where and more if it hadn’t been via chat.

3. It’s cost effective and affords more privacy. Chatting is definitely cheaper, especially when you’re purchasing multiple items. It’s less draining, phone-balance-wise. Also, it’s much more private, especially in the age of True Caller and Whatsapp.

These, in a nutshell, are the reasons why Quikr’s chat feature is a plus and improvement over phone inquiries alone. Of course, it’s not like phone inquiries are completely eliminated; though they can, if you are dead against them. After the initial inquiries, based on the responses and how authentic the deals felt, I could confirm the buy via call if I wanted to. I did appreciate that this wasn’t the only way out, though; you can never be too careful.

Ask me a year back if I would’ve considered a site where most of the purchases were second hand and I would’ve been skeptical. With Quikr, though, you’re able to wade through such skepticism and get that really great buy that saves you a fortune. I bought an external harddrive, for instance, that was as good as new (only one month old, barely used) through just one chat inquiry. The price wasn’t fixed, it was subject to bargaining, and to a greater extent, it was possible to judge the authenticity of the deal with greater ease this way. I still preferred to confirm the whole thing through a call from my landline, but the chat feature helped narrow it down till that point.

This post is a part of IndiBlogger’s Happy Hours activity, courtesy Quikr.

On Kids and Family Vacations

Kids are well, kids. They have way too much energy, they can make you want to hug them and never let go at times, and at other times, tear your hair apart. During family vacations, especially, their “fresh eyes” and excitement that is so pure is, unfortunately, also accompanied by the compulsory incident when they go red in the face and scream so much, you wonder how. But no vacation is complete without them! The excitement that radiates from them as a result of things that we’ve begun to take for granted gets to me every time.

From my vacation experiences as a kid, I also know that satisfying them is way hard or shockingly easy, depending on the way you look at it. Our parents had, for instance, bought my little brother and me a model toy train set from a gift shop, this one time. But what really really made our day was cutting out pictures of mobile phones from the box of our parents’ newly purchased phones (It was the era of the Nokia 1100 then), sticking it on cardboard and talking to each other through our pretend-phones throughout the trip. This really amused passersby and sort of baffled our parents, especially since the train set was used twice or thrice, at most.

Also, “monuments” and “scenic routes” bored us to death. There were only so many gardens we could gush at and so many miles we could walk. It was the roadside cotton candy stall that made us clap our hands with awe! And the gift store next to the EXIT sign of the monument. Of course, I guess that was just us. There probably are tons of other kids who appreciate these things. But if the kid is going to like Disney World more than the museum or Euro Disney more than the Eiffel Tower, do not exclude these things from the itinerary. Other things that we’re really glad we did was collecting souvenirs in the form of shells, Polaroids, random “journal entries” of my stay written in my then loopy cursive… Making a “scrap book” of things they’ll remember ensures that they have a bit of the memory with them throughout their life.

Along with the usual “sites to see” and so on, I guess an equal amount of mindless, unaccounted for “plain family time” goes a long way. Just sitting by the beach, playing a game of throwball, lounging by the pool and having an impromptu picnic (even better if the kid is involved in preparing for it), is as important and enjoyable as “getting the feel of the city” or “soaking up in the culture”. Vacations are a time when everyone is off schedule so turning it into another scheduled run-around might just kill it. I loved visiting the Taj Mahal and Jurong Bird Park fascinated me, but ask me what I remember the most, and it’s definitely my dad finally having time to crack jokes and be relaxed, my mum enjoying breakfast that she didn’t have to wake up for three hours earlier to cook, running around by the pool and playing a quiet game of carrom: the “boys” of the family versus the “girls” in the hotel’s game room.

This post is a part of Indiblogger’s Happy Hours Activity, courtesy Teddy Travelogues. Visit their website here: http://membership.clubmahindra.com/TeddyTravelogues/index.html

Working Towards a Cleaner India: Why Litter begets Litter, and Why This Should Stop

Admit it: when you are in a place where everything is spotless, and orderly… you more often than not do not need a sign that says “DON’T LITTER” or “KEEP CLEAN.” You comply with the norms of this miraculously immaculate environment. You’re scared to put something back in the wrong place, or exert too much force in case you break something or god forbid, leave a footprint that’ll spoil the picture I just gave you.

And yet… find yourself in a bustling market, replete with slush and noise and litter and once again, you comply. You’re happy to add to the litter and noise, splashing about in the muck, however fancy the (now torn and written over) DON’T LITTER signs are. Perhaps it’s the usual argument of one person cannot undo this mess. Or that you don’t even bother rationalising: when in muck, act like pigs do.

Collectively, our attitude towards India’s lack of cleanliness is quite flippant. Sure, it’s a topic of conversation. We’ve all had the “How is it that we don’t litter when we go abroad but the minute we enter India, we’re back to littering?” chat. Or the “I just went to ___ street today. I’m not going there again, even if I really need to buy something.” We throw a chocolate wrapper in a dustbin and feel like a ninja, but in another instance, when there is no dustbin in sight… we let it join a pile of waste by the pavement, as hey, whoever is cleaning that up can take care of the chocolate wrapper too.

Sometimes, when there’s a plastic cover (yeah, those still aren’t going anywhere, despite being charged for in grocery stores) around, we might find the heart to dispose a milkshake carton or two in it, and search for a dustbin later. Mostly, though, it goes out of the bus window because otherwise it might ruin our backpack. Yes, that’s personal cleanliness at the cost of public cleanliness. Because we feel no sense of ownership for our roads and bus stops. Why would we? They are so unclean! (And we’re not helping).

How do we pay heed to different rules in different situations? How can we turn our back to civic responsibility so easily?

Studies related to the Broken Window Theory offer an adequate, and alarming explanation. The Broken Window Theory, introduced in 1982 by Wilson and Kelling, says that when rules or social norms (such as to keep the roads clean, or not littering) are openly disregarded, the situation will only escalate in notoriety. Disorder (like graffiti), is shown to promote further disorder (littering) (Source: nasw.org); which, in turn, can lead to an accumulation of litter and even theft.

The solution provided by this theory is to “repair the broken window” before it leads to widespread vandalism and alternatively, to clear up the litter, which has already accumulated, that has and can lead to further disobedience and chaos.

radical change to our environment can lead to a change in our mindset. This alone, makes the vision of a clean India important. It may finally put an end of the cycle of flippancy, and have us care about where we dispose waste and become more socially conscious. It may involve initiatives taken by groups of people and cannot be done overnight, but is not impossible. Following your own values, and sticking to them regardless of the setting, is also shown to be effective. When “offenders” look at people properly disposing garbage, it is found that offenders, too, stop littering and clean up after them. (Source)

Thanks to PM Modi addressing the issue, it is already receiving the real, undivided attention of many. Strepsils’ #AbMontuBolega campaign has also taken up this issue, urging people to raise their voice against “all that is dirty in our country.” With protagonist Montu and hashtag #AbMontuBolega encouraging people to speak up on issues that matter, it is a great way to raise awareness. Words are powerful, but hopefully it will lead to action… starting with acquiring a sense of personal responsibility, and eliminating litter and lack of hygiene at its root whenever and wherever possible.

This post is a part of the IndiBlogger Happy Hours activity, courtesy Strepsils’ #AbMontuBolega. For more details, follow Strepsils on Facebook and Twitter

Review: Getting Lucky with Lucky 6

Getting lucky has never been this easy, screams the tagline of Lucky 6. A product of Fat Cat gaming, this game is the equivalent of a digital lottery ticket that’s as recalcitrant as… the stock market.

No, really.

Since Google does not permit “reward based” games on its Play Store, even if it’s a free App… downloading this game from the http://fatcatgaming.com site was a bit of a pain. This might prevent a lot of potential users from accessing the App. Once something takes an undue amount of effort in the App world, giving up is just easier (like how my Candy Crush days ended when I was unable to sync my levels with my Facebook account).

However, once I did manage to get the tiny Fat Cat icon on my home screen, the sign up process was smooth. Pretty soon, I had an account and pass code to the App; a thoughtful safeguard against kids, teens and anyone who wasn’t me tampering with my three ticket opportunities of the day. As for what the App or these “tickets” are all about, here’s the the brief version of what it takes to have Lady Luck possibly smiling on you:

Step 1: Download the App.
Step 2: Are you 18 years old? You are? Cool. Let’s proceed.
Step 3: Choose 6 brands from what looks like a never ending list of favorites ranging from Apple, Facebook to Balaji Telefilms and Ebay. This generates a ticket. You have upto three tickets per day.
Step 4: In around 24 hours, how you’ve done will be determined based on if your brands are the highest gainers of the day. If they are, well… the goodies up for grabs will take you straight to materialistic heaven! Otherwise, there’s always the next day. Or the one after that!

The Lucky 6 game is one of the games in the Fat Cat App. The other one is called QuizApp, and pops a question at you rather than an opportunity to block a set of 6 brands. The interface is clean and easy to navigate. There are pictures next to each brand of the list, and an option to know a little more about them before you take your pick. You can see the scores next to your tickets once you have made your choices. Sharing the app with friends and family pays off, since it’s built around the concept of Crowdfunding.

Since I’m not even close to a stock junkie, I’m not really sure how much tailing the stock market will get you in this game. But since it is marketed as a DigiLottery, I guess you never know what’s in store.

Lucky 6 has a fair chance of being a hit in the Indian market. Who doesn’t want to get lucky?

However, the tedious round-about process involved in downloading the App and that it takes at least six “random” tickets for the player to even get a hang of how they want to play the game may deter even a potential user from subscribing to it. Also, for people who aren’t into brands or stocks, it’s akin to playing Minesweeper when you’re bored (analogy does not apply if you’re one of those rare people who actually knows how to play it)… and when despite seeing the game in your computer all these years and even Googling it, you don’t know what you’re doing. It doesn’t stop you from celebrating when by chance, you kill it and you can see those red flags decorate the screen but chances are that you’d rather play Pinball Arcade, or anything with a more definite aim.

My initial experiences were pretty random (my scores averaged around 200, and I pretty much picked what looked good to me). I’m not sure if I’m even the target audience for this App. However, I can see how for some people, it can get pretty addicting!

Verdict: For lottery-ticket addicts and brand-lovers, Lucky 6 is a pretty decent way to kill time without getting broke and maybe, finally, hit jackpot!

This post is a part of the Indiblogger Happy Hours activity, courtesy Lucky 6

After Ever After

And they lived happily ever after, or so it was written in that damned book.

Right after the ‘r’ of after was pronounced, he got a phone call and retreated to his room. She was left standing, staring- feeling like a fool for believing that characters in books got happy endings. What a lie perpetuated by authors! They minimized their Word document when it was convenient and then closed all of their Google Chrome tabs of secondary research. But the characters lived on.

She lived on, watching him spend more and more hours at work. Their fun, quirky dates? He just didn’t have time for those anymore.

“Grow up,” he said. “You’re not in a fairytale anymore.”

And so she wasn’t. Her friend, the “sidekick”, got into a university in Paris and left a month later. Now all they saw of her and her witticisms was from the girl’s Facebook Page.

The birds, who had lovingly folded her laundry, had migrated north. She sighed, as she gathered up her laundry and waited for him to get back home. She’d already curled her carefully brushed locks four times that day and read five chapters of a book called Freakonomics.

Just as she was about to turn on the fan, just to have something to hum along to, the doorbell rang.

She took her time, unlatching the top bolt as slowly as she could before curling her fingers around the doorknob. And there he was, tired looking and irritable as always… this man she had once called her Prince.

“Hello, beautiful,” he said, without emotion and walked in without so much as a glance. She couldn’t stand it anymore.

“I hate it here,” she said, loudly and clearly and he looked up with genuine surprise.

“Here? You mean our home?” he asked.

“It doesn’t feel like a home. Only I live here. You’re practically nonexistent,” she spat, and he took two steps back.

“How else will I provide for us? The wedding, and the mouthwatering tarts and freshly roasted chicken and candied apples, or whatever, alone cost us a fortune! I’m working for us,” he said, looking at her in the eye for the first time in so long.

“I could get a job too,” she said. “That would lighten the load on you. Did you ever think of that?”

“No,” he said, flabbergasted. “You’re far too… far too princessy for a-“

“Please,” she scoffed. “It beats whistling to myself and singing songs all day. Please let me help you. It hurts to watch you disappear like this.”

His eyes softened, and it struck her that the last time they’d kissed was in the last page of that damned book. It seemed to have dawned on him too as he bridged the distance between them, enveloping her in a grateful embrace.

As he held her, she was overwhelmed by how his touch alone melted every bit of the anger and frustration she’d felt only a few minutes ago. She could drown in those arms and she’d feel more than content. He circled her back to where she thought it had ended, but that had only been the beginning…that happily ever after.

#BringBackTheTouch

This post is a part of the Indiblogger Happy Hours activity, courtesy Parachute Advansed Body Lotion. #BringBackTheTouch

Healthy child, happy home

Illness is almost like a mood. And when it takes hold of a child, you can feel it take over the house. The mother rushes back from work as soon as she can and turns down invitations. “My child has come down with…” she says, apologetically as she refuses to leave the child’s bedside. The father checks in every few hours, and they go to school as often as the child, bringing back notes of what the child has missed in class.
The air is ridden with gloom and anxiety and anticipation. Relatives get live updates of the situation every twenty four hours.

Sounds like an exaggeration? It sounds like a major chunk of second grade, when I got typhoid. I don’t remember how long it took to recover from it… all I can remember is that it felt like forever. It was an endless cycle of soup, sponge baths, temperature-checking, missed-swimming-classes and living in bed. My brother wasn’t allowed in the room, lest he catch the fever too. My parents, they didn’t seem to care if they did… they’d hover around, looking just as sick…with worry.

When I was well enough to get back to school, they struggled as much as I did to catch up with everything that was going on in class. The day after my re-exam, there would be dark circles under their eyes. My mum would have long conversations with my class teacher on everything I should be up to date with. When I was back on track, so were they. Everyone slept fitfully again! The measuring cup for my medicine and the ever-present thermometer went back to the shelf. It was a relief not to see it around anymore, daunting the lives of everyone around.

Given that from ages 5-10, the child is the life of the house, I guess I’m trying to say that she does inevitably set the mood of the house. During my healthier and happier days in second grade, my laughter was their laughter. My anecdotes about school tickled them just as much. When I skipped around the house, there was a spring in their step. Our birthdays felt like theirs, with the food, cake, bevy of people and never ending supply of gifts and chocolates.

I also remember a time when I was at my peak: when I’d eat all the fruits on my plate, finish my homework on time and we’d all go out somewhere at least once a week. There was the time we went to an amusement park… and came back with our hair dripping wet and dopey smiles pasted on our faces. I held a stuffed toy I’d won in an arcade game, and my brother just ran around the house; he was at the age when he had too much energy. We were tired and famished, but it was a good kind of tired. Looking back, it’s extremely clear that the physical health of a kid, any kid, inevitably influences the mental (and physical) energy of the house.

This post is a part of the IndiBlogger Happy Hours activity, courtesy Dabur Chyawanprash (https://www.liveveda.com/daburchyawanprash/)