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How to get your child’s passport in India in 3 days flat!

UPDATE (09-Aug-2016)
It has been a year and a half since I wrote this post and since I got my child’s passport and as you can imagine, a lot of things have changed. A few lucky breaks that happened to us may not apply any more.
I think after reading the blog, you should head down and read the latest comments as those would be more helpful and would paint a more realistic picture of what to expect in today’s date.


I recently applied for the passport of my 10 month old on the Thursday (1st Jan 2015) and had it in my hand on Saturday (3rd of Jan 2015). If you are wondering how this was done, here is my story.
If you are expecting any hacks or cool tips, I am sorry to disappoint, but it was a boring, straight-forward process.
Disclaimer:
My wife and I both have valid Indian passports and are living in the same city from which we got our original passports issued. So your mileage may vary depending on where you are staying and whether both of you have passports. You may require additional documents if you do not fall under this category.
Other happy notes:

  1. Wife’s name on passport before marriage
    The name on my wife’s passport is the one before marriage and on the birth certificate of my child, the name is from after marriage (change in surname). We were afraid that this would be an issue and we would first have to change her passport and then apply for my child’s passport. Fortunately, this did not matter. The name on my child’s passport under the mother’s name column was entered from the birth certificate and they did not trouble us on this front.
  2. Spouse Name Endorsement
    If you go through the FAQ section of the Passport Office and if you even call their customer support (I did), they will insist that you first endorse your names on each other’s passports. Otherwise you cannot apply for your child’s passport. (On the last page of your passport, there is a line which says “Spouse Name”. You are supposed to do this after your marriage. Both of us basically felt this was quite stupid and we did not bother doing this.) 

    I was quite sure that they would send us back due to this. However, fortunately, they did not bother and did not even bring it up. If you haven’t gotten your names endorsed, don’t worry. Didn’t matter for us.
  3. Walk In Interviews
    When you fill up the form online for the passport and get an interview date – you’ll generally get something after 30-40 days. I applied on 20th Dec and got a date for 30th Jan. However, if it is for your child, it does not matter. You can simply walk-in to the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) the next day (you need to wait for 1 day after filling in the form). The timings for walk-ins are between 9am – 10:30am in Pune. Though this could be different for the PSK you visit. So please check.

What I took:

  1. My passport (original)
  2. My wife’s passport (original)
  3. My child’s birth certificate (original)
  4. Photocopy of my passport (first and last page) – attested by me
  5. Photocopy of my wife’s passport (first and last page) – attested by me
  6. Photocopy of my child’s birth certificate – attested by me
  7. Print out of the Online Application Form Receipt – 1 copy
  8. Annexure H (http://passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/pdf/AnnexureH.pdf)
  9. A recent passport photograph of my child (3.5 cm x 4.5 cm) because she is less than 4 years old.

What I paid:

  1. Rs. 1,000/- online for the normal passport application process (don’t bother with tatkaal)
  2. Rs. 35/- in cash at the PSK for the SMS registration facility (if you want SMS updates for your passport process)

The Process:

  1. Make sure you have the birth certificate for your child. In our case, this was the only document they scrutinized and I don’t think it may be possible to apply for a passport without it.
  2. Create a username and password on the Indian Passport Site: http://passportindia.gov.in/
  3. Apply for a new passport and fill up the form the best you can.
  4. Pay the required fees (in my case, it was Rs. 1,000.00)
  5. Wait for a day.
  6. Look at the documents you require to carry with you. They have quite a handy document advisor here:
    http://passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/docAdvisor/attachmentAdvisorInp
  7. Go to the PSK at 9am. There wasn’t much of a rush for us and we moved along quickly.
    We actually entered at 9:30am and were out by 10:20am

What happens at the PSK:

  1. Tell the guard outside that you are there for your child – so this is a walk-in. He will let you in. Yes. Your child needs to be with you. Both parents can accompany the child.
  2. Go to the Token counter and hand over all the documents from #4 to #8 listed above.
  3. The guy will make a file for you and give you a token print out.
  4. You then will be asked to go to Counter A.
    In Pune, there are approximately 30 counters for the A Counter and our number came up within 30 seconds of us getting the token. (It will be shown on a screen).
  5. Meet with a friendly guy (probably on TCS roll) who will do the data entry for your documents and scan all your original documents along with the notary approved copies and translations and the passport photo of your child.
  6. He will also take your child’s thumb print via ink pad.
  7. He will also verify your details on your application by looking at the original documents and make the necessary changes.
  8. Once everything is done, you have to go to a waiting room and wait for your token to show up for Counter B.
  9. Counters B and C are Government counters and people won’t be as friendly as from Counter A.
  10. This takes about 5 minutes. Your number will be shown on a screen. There are about 10 counters for Counter B.
  11. The junior officer will verify the documents and sign at a place in your file.
  12. You then have to move to counter C (about 6 counters for C). Wait for your token to show on the screen. Takes again about 5 – 10 minutes.
  13. The senior officer or Granting officer takes the final call on your file and will choose to grant your passport.
  14. He will keep your file with him.
  15. You return your token at a window on your way out.
    In Pune, they compulsorily make you fill the feedback form behind the token.
  16. If your passport is granted, you will probably write happy things.
  17. Exit the building.

Next Steps (via SMS & email updates):

  • Thu: Passport sent for printing
  • Thu: Passport printed
  • Fri: Passport dispatched via Speed Post
  • Sat: Passport arrives at home.

I hope this post was helpful. Please leave your comments below of experiences that you’ve had with the passport office.
If you have any particular question, please add it in the comments and I’ll try my best to address it as well.
Update 01: 29-Oct-2015
As per a comment from Madhuri (see below this post), if you submit only one parent’s passport, your child’s application gets put in for police verification and is not as quick as it can be. Hence, it is recommended to submit passports of both parents (if available) to expedite the process and skip police verification.

Why the Poets of the Fall concert in Pune, India wasn't so fun for me!

For those who didn’t know, Poets of the Fall are doing an India tour.

They were performing mostly at the Hard Rock Cafe branches and were in Pune yesterday (25th Aug, 2012).

To be honest, I am not a “crazy, T-Shirt ripping, head-banging, OMG-they-are-the-best-band-ever” type of fan – but I have heard their first two albums (Poets of the Fall and Carnival of Rust) and thought they were pretty decent to go ahead and book the VIP tickets that HRC was selling for 3K a pop (includes unlimited starters & IMFL).

So, this is how my entire experience was. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with the entire setup.

Before this, I have been to only the Bryan Adams concert in Pune – which was twice the price for admission – but they put up an awesome show and I enjoyed every second of it.

Here goes:

The show as supposed to start at 8 – so we reached at 8:30 because these things generally start late. The place was already crowded.

If you had the non VIP pass (for 1K), you would have to stand in a hot, suffocating and sweaty sea of humanity for the entire duration. So, I was glad that I spent the extra money as I would have been even more uncomfortable.

So, we got in at 8:30 and loud music was already blaring – typical of any HRC – but they were playing really good rock music.

We expected the band to start atleast by 9 – as they need to close down by 11. But we had no such luck.

The band turned up at 9:50pm and started playing only around 10.

They played for an hour and stopped at 11. My fault in this entire thing was that I did not listen to their latest album (Temple of Thought) and missed the part that this was the “Temple of Thought” tour. Hence, most of the songs were alien to me and I did not relate to them.

However, the other major disappointments with the entire event were:

  1. The Acoustics

    I am not an audiophile or a prude – but I could barely make out what the band was saying / singing because the acoustics were probably not tested with that large of a crowd. (It was packed! And when I say packed, I mean people squishing each other trying to just stand on their two feet).It was just loud and very illegible. When I compare this to the Bryan Adams concert – they were phenomenal to the point that I could not believe that they can have a setup over such a large area and still sound excellent. All my other friends experienced the same thing with the Poets of the Fall thing.

    So that was a downer.
  2. The Temperature

    It was HOT. The concert was indoors and there were SO MANY PEOPLE, that the HRC waiters said that their AC unit had given up.

    EVERYBODY was sweating. As there was no seating, we had to stand which made it more painful for the 3 hours.

    If they could have fixed this one issue as well, it would have been a pleasant-er experience.
  3. The Food

    HRC food generally sucks – but I thought the starters would be ok. But they were not.

    There were only 2 starters that I was able to try – one Veg Manchurian and one Potato starter and both sucked (to the point that I wouldn’t pay for them). So yeah, no music, no food.

Overall, I felt that HRC and the organisers were a total sell-out (which is sad). Firstly for selling so many tickets which they were clearly not prepared for and then skimping on the food. I was made to believe (while purchasing the passes) that the band would play for atleast 2 hours (Bryan Adams played for 3) – but they didn’t. (which could also be a blessing in a sense considering the circumstances).

The music experience sucked overall – and it was uncomfortable to add to it.

Lessons learnt:

  1. Make sure you know all the newest songs of the band.
  2. Don’t go to anymore concerts at HRC and avoid indoor concerts cause the acoustics are difficult to fix.
  3. It always makes sense to spend a little more money at such things and be a little more comfortable.

Update:

Just found that my friend Akshay who was with me during the show also put up his experience. He had a better time than me.

Here is his side of the story:

http://akshayunplugged.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/watching-bands-live-in-india/

Transaction failed on IRCTC website?

If you are in India and have tried booking your train tickets on the Indian Railway website through IRCTC, there is a good chance that your transaction has failed while booking the tickets.

I generally use netbanking (ICICI) as it is more affordable (Rs. 10 per transaction) as compared to using credit cards (3.5% per transaction) and have had my transaction fail recently.

Which means that they deducted my money from my  bank account and before the site could redirect me back to IRCTC from the payment gateway, it timed out.

What do you do in this scenario?

  1. Login back to IRCTC
  2. Go to “Booked History” by clicking on the link from your dashboard.
  3. If it is showing your ticket there, then great! It has been booked and you can now take a print out!
  4. If your ticket is not shown there, you should quickly book the ticket again as tickets run out quickly on popular routes.
  5. The money already debited from your account will turn up automatically in your account within the next 48 – 72 hours – so don’t worry about it.
  6. If your money hasn’t come back in 3 days – you should contact IRCTC with the exact transaction ID and they should hopefully be able to resolve your issue – though this has never happened to me.

 



This same holds true for instances in which you book a ticket but select an option such as “Confirm ticket only if all seats are present in same berth” or “Book tickets only if I get my choice of seating”.

In such cases, your account is debited – the site will inform you that the booking could not be made – and your money will come back to you after a couple of days. So if you don’t have a lot of cash in your bank account, this might not be the best option to use as you may be left with very little cash for a few days while they refund your account.

At one time, 4 of my tickets could not be booked as I needed a particular seating for my grandparents and close to Rs. 8,000 was stuck with IRCTC.

IRCTC contact details are as follows: (as of 25th May 2012 – this may not be the latest)

Customer Care No. 011 39340000

Fax no.011-23345400

Chennai Customer Care No. 044-25300000

For Railway tickets booked through IRCTC

General Information

I-tickets/e-tickets: care@irctc.co.in

For Cancellation E-tickets: etickets@irctc.co.in

For Shubhyatra users: shubhyatra@irctc.co.in

For Mumbai Suburban Season tickets: seasontickets@irctc.co.in

Hope this post helps someone who has just had a bad transaction and is apprehensive of whether they will ever see their money again 🙂

How is the IPL experience at the new Subrata Roy Stadium in Pune?

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the match between Pune Warriors and the Chennai Super Kings at the newly built Subrata Roy Stadium here in Pune.
Thought about sharing my experiences here.
So, a couple of friends and me decided to go for this match – which  took place on the 14th of April, 8:00 pm.
We booked the tickets on BookMyShow and the only ones available by the time we booked it on around the 6th / 8th of April was the Rs. 1,500 ones.
So we got those.
On the day of the match, we drove 30 kms outside Pune to reach the stadium.
Yes, I live near the airport and the stadium is a good 30 kms from it!

View Larger Map
I left home at 4:45 pm because a friend had advised me to leave earlier – and was parked at the parking only by 6:40.
It takes almost an hour to cover the final 2 kms as cars are backed up so long.
Once you are parked on some ground adjacent to the highway, you need to trek a good 2 – 2.5 kms (atleast) to reach the stadium.
Once we got there, we realised that we were in the North Stand and the Stadium gate opens at the South Stand. So we had to literally traverse all around to get to the North Stand.
This walking and getting to our seats took another hour and we were seated only at 7:40 pm – just in time for the toss.
However, the atmosphere at the stadium was electric and that is the only solace (apart from Pune winning) that day.
To cut a long story short, this was my first experience and I will probably not go back again – unless I have VIP seats and parking (which is inside the stadium – at a distance of 10m from the entrance!).
The following are problems, (I feel) that will eventually kill the live match watching experience in Pune atleast – unless something is drastically done about it by next year.

  1. The stadium is frikin’ out of the town – with no public transportation there.
    You literally have to drive on a highway to get there and it takes a good 2 hours to get there. I know you cannot get the stadium inside town, but you could atleast have special buses or something run which ferry people back and forth from the stadium on match days!
  2. The parking is shit! Literally.
  3. By the time you walk from the parking to the stadium, you are exhausted. Forget about having the energy to cheer your team.
  4. Food inside the stadium is daylight robbery.
    They will not allow you to take any beverage, water etc. A 200 ml glass of Pepsi which the chap was filling from a warm 2 ltr bottle and serving (not even fountain pepsi) was for 50 bucks. A Rs. 65 dominoes pan pizza – which again tasted like crap was being sold for Rs. 150. Go figure!
  5. The music, cheerleading, announcements actually stopped at 10 pm!
    We were like – WTF? So for the entire Pune batting innings, there were no cheer leaders and no music.
  6. The crowd gets excited only when the camera is on them.
    When you are watching this on TV, you feel that the entire crowd is energized throughout the game – but in reality, most of the crowd is dead for 95% of the match.
  7. There will inadvertently be a*holes who will spoil the entire experience for you.
    There was a middle aged, man sitting behind us (with his family in tow) passing lewd comments and yelling in our ears. Really screwed up the experience for us.
  8. To get drinking water, you have to trek all the way outside your stand. Water is not allowed inside the stand so that they can sell you more pepsi (which is allowed inside). Go figure!
  9. Once the match gets over, and people start streaming out, there is not an inch of space to walk. I was actually expecting a stampeded to break out anytime. If things are not fixed, I am sure it will.
  10. The walk back to the car is a good 40 mins at 12 pm at night – which sucks!
  11. It takes another hour for you to get your car out of the parking to the main road – which sucks again – considering its already 1 am.
    I reached my place only by 2 am at night for a match which got over by 11 pm INSIDE my own city!

However, if you are a die-hard cricket / Pune / IPL fan, you will probably enjoy yourself.
There are a couple of pros too:

  1. The stadium is fantastic!
  2. The atmosphere until 10 pm is electric – no amount of 50″ HD television can match and the view is breath taking.

However, all said and done, I will be catching the rest of the Pune matches from the comfort of my home with God given, high definition – where water is free and I can feed pepsi to an entire party of people for 50 bucks! And also go to bed by 11:15 for a match which ends at 11!
The video below captures the atmosphere – minutes before the start of the game. It was electric!

And everything is right with the world …

So where were you when India won the world cup?
This is one of those defining moments in history that all of us — who were present and witnessed it — will probably remember for the rest of our lives (unless India makes a habit of winning world cups)
Looking back at the last couple of matches, it was very poetic – wasn’t it?
Beating Australia in the quarters.
Beating Pakistan later in the semis – in one helluva match and then later winning the finals against Sri Lanka — played in excellent spirit.
With both Afridi and Sangakara being extremely graceful in defeat.
With Dhoni being the one to score the winning runs. With him ending the match with an awesome six. With Yuvraj being there for company while he hit the runs. With both of them winning man of the match and man of the tournament awards.
With the team winning the world cup for Tendulkar!
In a way, it was just meant to be I guess.
And I have developed great respect for both Afridi (never thought I’d be saying this) and Sangakara for being extremely gracious in defeat and especially for Dhoni for being probably the best captain India has had in a long, long time.
Overall, its been a brilliant tournament and I was glad to be present here to witness it.
All the effort into setting up the giant screen on the terrace and getting a projector paying off…
We have finally won the world cup .. and everything is right with the world!

Entrepreneurship?

I was invited today to give a talk at SITM (which stands for Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management). The college is situated at the Symbiosis International University campus at Lavale, Pune which is a very picturesque location (set on the top of a hill) on the way to Lavasa. Though approach roads and some other things are under construction, the place was beautiful and I am sure it will look terrific in the rains.
I always have a conflict of interest while speaking at such events because I do not completely believe in the “entrepreneurship” mumbo-jumbo and pushing students to take up entrepreneurship for the college’s sake. Many faculty members express their disappointment with students who do not take up entrepreneurship after getting their MBA degree. The sad truth (if the faculty members would realise) is that most MBA students take up MBA studies for one primary thing – and that is to get a high paying job. Thus pushing them to give this up is going to be very hard and better grounds to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit would be in undergraduate courses like engineering.
I heard of a reputed MBA college which allowed students to try entrepreneurship for a year and if they could not make it, they could come back and sit for campus placements the next year. Stats? Out of the people who tried to be entrepreneurs, 96% sat for campus placements the next year — and only 4% of the students continued their startup.
Moral of the story? People who want to do a startup / be an entrepreneur will do it regardless of getting any push and people who don’t want to, won’t.
Like the famous quote from the Jesse Eisenberg character (Zuckerberg) in the movie “The Social Network”:

You know, you really don’t need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this. If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.

Then there are of course core “entrepreneurship” courses which teach you how to become an entrepreneur.
I totally (and this is my own personal opinion) – think these course have no value whatsoever and are hooking onto a fad. (It is suddenly cool to be an entrepreneur, no?) I believe that running a business is like swimming – you cannot learn it from a book. You just have to get out there and do it!
Anyways, I had prepared a deck on my learnings from trying to run a software startup(s) for the past four years. I spoke for about 30 minutes and it wasn’t scripted – so I do not have the notes to share – but I  think the deck has some decent bullet points which should be self explanatory.
Sharing the deck here for my own personal (chronological) reference so that I can come down a couple of years later and see how stupid (or clever) I was:
 

Kolkata Trip–Day 2

As every great day begins, mine too started with a visit to the neighbourhood market to buy the freshest vegetables at 7:30 in the morning with my uncle (mama). 7:30 was pretty late by Kolkata standards as people come by around 5:30ish to get a shot at the choicest and freshest vegetables.

However, by the time we reached, the fare was still pretty decent and we picked up whatever we wanted to. The especially funner part of this was the scooter ride through the neighbourhood area. The area that we rode the scooter through had the tiniest of roads (one lane, sometimes 1/2 a lane) – some parts were even dicey for small cars to go through without some skill – but the place had its own charm. Tall palm trees next to palatial three storey bungalows with the narrowest of lanes for company. The smell of fried fish wafted in  the air and it was not even 8 in the morning. It was truly extraordinary.

After a scrumptious breakfast of freshly prepared puri bhaji, we took off in the hired Innova to Dakshineshwar. Dakshineshwar is this pretty large temple complex for Goddess Kali. We reached there through traffic and some maniacal driving in less than an hour. After wading through the crowds and giving a handful of people business – including the flower vendors and the shoe keepers, we went and obediently stood in  one of the many lines inside – like any good, self respecting Indian would.

ride

Our awesome ride!

Cameras and cell phones were prohibited in the temple premises and big signs all over the place screamed at you – threatening you from taking any pictures. Fearing for the life of my precious camera, I kept it hidden in my backpack and as a result, was not able to take any pictures. However, knowing that you will be disappointed with this, I am putting below a stock image that I found on Google Images.

1241502054750-dakshineswar temple

Dakshineshwar temple and the long queues to get in (source: google image search)

Our lines were twice as long as depicted here though.

After waiting for what seemed an eon – we moved up the line to the temple and got our magnificent glimpse of the Goddess for exactly 2.3 seconds. During this, I saw the pandit pocket atleast 60 bucks from the three people in front of us. Our turn came, Pritika handed over her flowers and when the pandit put out his hand and said “dakshina dao” (give me money for donation), Pritika went “huh?” and that was the end of our temple visit. (This was the first time for us when the pandit was proactively asking for donations.)

We then loitered around a bit having spent so much time getting there in the first place and after giving some more business to the people selling idols, plastic stuff, etc., we took a twenty minute, very unsafe boat ride across the Hooghly river to a place called Belur Math.

swades

Our boat ride from Dakshineshwar to Belur Math

Again at Belur Math, photography was banned. It’s a pity because it was an awesome, well maintained place. Belur Math is actually a institute as well as a temple to Sri Sri Ramakrishna who was the teacher of Swami Vivekanand.

As there were many signs prohibiting photography inside the campus and due to my gifted ability to be able to read, I kept my expensive camera inside my bag for fear of some over enthusiastic security guy breaking it. Quite a few people were clicking photographs though and  a group were insulted by a watchmen who ran towards them shouting “Are you freaking illiterate? Can’t you read the signs? This is not a feakin’ garden. It is a temple!!!”

I then realised that photography was banned at such places not for anything else, but for the principle of it. Anyways, all I have to remember the place is the following:

belur_math_sign


which I happened to click “before” entering the premises. And boy I am glad that I did!

For those of you lazy enough to *not* click on the Wikipedia links I so painstakingly have put up (I know who you are!), here is an actual site photograph taken by a brave soul who then put it up on Wikipedia!

Ramakrishna_Belur_Math,_Howrah

Belur Math – main building (source: wikipedia)

After paying our respect to the statue inside the building and loitering on the well kept lawns for a good half hour, we were chased out of the premises at exactly 12 o’ clock by a person ringing a very loud bell.

Our car screeched to a halt near the gate and the doors swung open. We jumped into it and made a quick escape only to get stuck behind a  line of ochre’ colour Kolkata taxis. However, lucky for us the person with the bell had given up and had turned his attention to other cell phone photographers.

yellow_taxis

A sea of yellow taxis surround us just next to Howrah bridge

We then made our way to College street which is the street on which the Presidency College is (and hence the name I guess). College street is also famous because you get nothing but books on either sides of the road. Something like ABC in Pune. My dad got a bargain deal when he managed to pick up a Rs. 95 book in Rs. 10 (though I must mention the book seemed old and very probably second hand).

Another thing that this lane is very famous for is the Indian Coffee House – which is a quaint little place in an old building and has great food (YMMW) along with a good cuppa. It is famous because you will find all the highly intellectual types (read: people like us) hanging around here discussing all conceivable topics under the sun – from Mamta Banerjee’s politics to how channels like UTV Bindaas are spoiling today’s youth by airing shows like Emotional Atyachaar.

We had quite a bit of food from vegetable cutlets to bread butter to hakka noodles to veg pakodas. As you can imagine, it was quite a fare and was mighty reasonable as well. This was topped up with a nice cup of filter coffee – something that this place is famous for. We soaked in the ambiance, the coffee and tried to fit in to the intellectual crowd but found that it was just too much effort. So we skipped out of the place within 45 minutes and went out to soak the sun.

ich_01

The crowd and ambiance at Indian Coffee House

ich_02

Us, trying to fit in with the other intellectuals at the Café

ich_03

View from the top. The place has seating on top as well.

Our car came back soon and we made our way to City Center I and then later City Center II. There is nothing much to write about them except that these were malls and that City Center II was much better than I (one) and that both the malls were so much better than the pseudo malls that we have back in Pune. Though a little confusing in design, they had quite a bit of space and hand plenty of place for people to just sit and hang out.

Rest of the day was uneventful except that we were stuck in an hour long traffic jam and our driver tried playing tag with the oncoming vehicles on the road and fortunately. lost.

My fabulous Kolkata trip –Day 1

So we finally made it to our Kolkata Vacation with my folks – something that has been pending (and getting cancelled) for one reason or the other since the last three years.

We took a SpiceJet flight from Pune to Kolkata (via Delhi).

The flight was okay but I somehow felt that the seats were slightly congested. Also noticed the abundance of toddlers and children in the plane which made it a pretty eventful and noisy ride

Smile with tongue out


The flight leaves Pune at 11:15 am – but was 30 minutes late and after an hour and a half stoppage at Delhi which passed quickly – thanks to the “That 70s Show DVD” that Pritika packed in, we were in Kolkatta by 5:30.

The first thing that hits you when you step out of the airport – besides the chilly December wind is the colour of the Taxis! They are all yellow – a kind of ochre’ – which adds charm to the city. Other things that you will noticed in the first 30 minutes of landing in the city will be the famous cycle rickshaws,  cycle vans – which are largish platforms on wheels (something like the vegetable vendor’s cart) – but which ferries people and is driven by a person riding a cycle in front.

The other thing which you will probably notice will be the number of sirens. I counted 6 sirens in 30 minutes of landing – 2 for ambulances and 4 for police and “babu” vehicles. Babus here use their lal battis and sirens to very good effect – something which was completely new to me and something which doesn’t happen that often in Maharashtra.

If you are in Kolkata, you just need to taste all the awesome sweets. Kolkata is heaven for sweet lovers and the fare you are promised here will make all the “Bengali sweet” shops in your non bengali state fade and flicker in comparison. Since landing, I have savoured three types of awesome sweets – something that my youngest aunt had told me to expect. We had a longish, white, dry rosogulla which was as fluffly as clouds. Then later had khejure gude sondesh (sondesh made out of jaggery which is made from dates) and finally some kheer! And this is just the beginning I hear.

Netaji Picture


Took a walk around the society where my uncle stays and took a picture next to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s bust. Netaji is to West Bengal what Shivaji is to Maharashtra.

PS: Kolkata should be pronounced as Coal-kaaa-taa (with the stress on the kaa instead of the Kol). Most Indians get it wrong. Something I learnt today.

The thing about life getting back to normal …

This happened the last time – and I bet it will happen again once the dust and smoke settles down.
Last time, people commended – how life went back to normal and the resilient nature of the people of Mumbai India.
It is actually sad that people approve of how life gets back to normal.
It should not! Lessons need to be learnt and things need to be changed …
We Indians are probably one of the most tolerant and laid back group of people in the world.
It’s time to get a little bit angry and a little paranoid …
It’s not too late to have a plan. Terrorism is upon all of us now – not only in J&K.
Time to stop covering our eyes and prepare to deal with these guys as and when the situation arises …

Startup hiring …

Yes we’re hiring …
There are millions of blogs out there on startup hiring which preach on the dos and don’ts of startup hiring.
I’m not trying to preach anything here – just sharing my experience with the first batch of hiring activities that we’ve been upto …
Hiring they say – is difficult – even more so with a startup.
We guys keep getting a decent amount of resumes every week which we religiously archive. So when we decided to get a couple of people, thats where we decided to look in first. We’ve had a multitude of resumes from various different segments (all computer related of course) – quite a few freshers and people with a year of experience and looking to change a job and some even with 2, 3, 4 and 5 years of experience. (Yes. We were shocked ourselves when we found out that people with so much experience want to ride the uncertain-startup-waves). But its definitely a good sign to see people wanting to not work in a multinational company, take a little bit of risk and do something extremely exciting at work.
The first thing that I personally check for is the to field of the email.
All people interested in joining ThinkingSpace, need to mail in their resumes at careers [at] thinkingspace.in.
It is unbelievable how many people bulk send their resumes to various companies and put all those addresses in the to field. C’mon people! Give me a break. If you cannot take the trouble of personally emailing a company you’re looking to join (something you will be investing the next 2 – 3 years of your life in) then I am not going to bother calling you for the interview – no matter how impressive your resume is.
As a matter of fact, the resumes of such people are not that great anyways – so this is a good quick filter.
The smarter ones bulk email putting you in the bcc field – better – but I still know you are bulk mailing. So out goes your resume. Learn how to use a mail merge next time.
Bulk mailing also indicates how desperate you’re to get a job and that you’re not particularly interested in the company you wish to join.
So far, we have been calling people directly for an interview – which works out decently well for us.
Except that some people are unprofessional enough not to show up and not inform you. Then they email you and tell you something to the effect of – I have my certification exam – can I come back next week. Yeah right!
The first inteview we do, we generally try to check whether the guy is right for a startup and whether a startup (particularly our startup) is right for them. So far, all the people we interviewed knew what a startup was like and gave decently convincing reasons as to why they wanted to join one.
After this is over, we generally start the technical process – which involves a few coding challenges and a rapid fire technical interview. I know we are doing this in the reverse order (first HR and then technical) – but it works for us.
There is no sense in spending time, money and effort in doing a technical – getting a good person and then finding that they didn’t even know what a startup was and what will be required of them.
The technical round is another shocker. It is amazing how many people over rate themselves.
The question – “On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest) – where do you rate yourself in XXX” always gives an excellent picture of where the guy actually is.
The good ones generally tend to rate themselves much, much lower than the bad ones.
Its also shocking to see how many people with their basic computer fundas all mixed up think they can code well. I’m guessing this trend has something to do with the larger companies (read Infosys, Wipro, TechM) picking up large number of people with no coding skills and then training them.
People have become complacent knowing that if they have decent aptitude skills, they will make it.
Unfortunately for them, a larger number of companies don’t have thre resources nor the time to teach people the basics of OOPs or whether private constructors are allowed by the compiler and what happens when you define a constructor to be private. Four years of an engineering degree ought to have taught you atleast these things …
It also pays to be sincere and honest I feel.
Atleast for startups. You could know a lot of things, but when you don’t – you must have the heart to admit it and the drive to figure it out yourself.