Loading...
Browsing Category

Pune

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 owning a second car doesn’t really make much sense …

The title of my post says it all… Before we start, there are some assumptions to this statement.

The assumptions are as follows:

  1. Your are living in a Tier 1 / Tier 2 city in India which has decent Uber / Radio Cab connectivity (Have heard good things about Meru as well See Update 2 below).
  2. You use your car as much as an average person does – say about an hour or so a day.

Let’s pull out our calculators for this one…

Step 1: Determining the cost of ownership of a car in India

  1. Some used or new car (average make): Rs. 5,30,000.00 (A). This, again, depends on what kind of car you are looking for.
  2. Lifetime of a car: 7 years (pretty decent estimate)
  3. Fuel expenses (considering diesel without inflation): Rs. 2,000 per month (on the lower side)

    Cost over 7 years: Rs. 1,68,000.00 (B)
  4. Car Auto Coverage Insurance (considering Rs. 10k avg per year): Rs. 70,000.00 (C)
  5. Car Maintenance / Servicing: (Rs. 10k avg per year): Rs. 70,000.00 (D)
  6. Change of tyres (twice in 7 years @ Rs. 3,500 per tyre): Rs. 28,000.00 (E)

Let’s add all this up: Rs. 8,66,000.00 (T = A+B+C+D+E)

Cost of owning this car / day over 7 years: T / (365 x 7) = Rs. 338.94 per day.

Please note that these are fairly conservative estimates. The cost here will be somewhat higher due to:

  1. Rise in the cost of fuel over the years.
  2. Not considering the amount you may need to pay for parking in your society (going rate in Pune is 1.5L – 2.5L per spot)
  3. Not considering the loan that you probably need to take to buy a car @ 15% pa. (you will end up paying an additional 2L interest over a 7 year loan period).
  4. You may not want to get an average car but a more expensive one. (Add the difference in costs accordingly.)

(Adding these expenses will take up the cost of your car to about: 8.66L + 1.5L parking + 42K fuel inflation @ Rs. 500 extra pm + 2L for loan = Rs. 12.58L or Rs. 492 per day over 7 years)

What this means is that everyday your car is sitting in your garage, you are wasting Rs. 340.00 – Rs. 492.00 per day.

I am going to consider the case in which you need a second car for your spouse to go to work.

(My office is around 8 km from home and hence my fuel costs are Rs. 2k per month approximately. If it were further, fuel costs would go up accordingly)

Also, most folks I know – use their second car even more sparingly than this particular use case.

Step 2: Let us consider the alternative: Uber / Ola Cabs / Meru / Other Radio Cab Services (See Update 2)



This is what I would pay one way to travel from my house to work.

Uber - Pune 2014-10-08 00-02-17


So: Rs. 120 one way. Rs. 240 both ways per day.

Assuming that I don’t need to use my car to travel on the weekends (Sat, Sun) my expense turns out to be:

  1. Per week: Rs. 240 x 5 = Rs. 1,200.00 (W)
  2. Over 7 years: W x 52 weeks x 7 = Rs. 4,36,800.00
  3. Cost of travel per day (over these 7 years): Rs. 170 per day

    i.e. I will be saving 340 – 170 = Rs. 170 per day just by not buying a car and using Uber instead.

In addition to this, the benefits of Uber / Similar services (over driving your own car are):

  1. You don’t have to drive a car.
  2. You get a nice, air conditioned, chauffeur driven mini-sedan (UberX has Sedans).
  3. No worries of filling up fuel, getting your car insured every year, PUC, serviced and maintenance.
  4. No more driving around for hours – looking for parking.
  5. No worries about someone hitting / denting / scratching your car while driving / parking.
  6. You can use your travel time to catch up on that extra level of Candy Crush instead of cursing those taxi and rickshaw drivers.
  7. With a little pre-planning, you can use your other single car between yourself and your spouse in most occasions. Saving on money and the environment by carpooling.
  8. The extremely satisfying feeling that you get when you press a virtual button on your phone and a car magically appears in front of your door cannot be beat. The magic of technology!
  9. Let someone else worry about getting you through that rush hour traffic – while you sit comfortably behind playing Candy Crush.
  10. Did I mention you don’t have to drive a car anymore?

Isn’t this all worth it? Not only do you save 170 bucks a day (Rs. 62,000.00 per year), you pay only when you travel. So if your travel needs are more infrequent – say for example, you need a second car only 2 – 3 days a week, your costs will come down even further – to about 80 – 100 bucks a day (or 60-70% cheaper than owning a car).

Step 3: So what is the hold up?

Sigh… There always is a catch isn’t it?

In this case, there are a couple of them:

  1. Uber isn’t as widely available as I would like it to be – and this will still be in only Tier 1 / 2 cities for sometime.

    Most of the times, it takes me between 10-15 mins on an average to get a cab (after pressing a button on my phone).

    Depending on your address in Pune, it could take you longer (20-25m). So a little pre-planning is required. However for the popular areas (camp / Viman Nagar / Kalyani Nagar / Koregaon Park / Aundh / Station / Airport / etc. – cabs arrive in between 5 – 8 mins which is not bad at all).
  2. You would be dependent on public transport / rickshaws – incase Uber cars are not available tomorrow.

    So you cannot depend on them a 100% yet – but with a little pre-planning, you can get around it.

In the end, I believe it is a lifestyle choice – something that we are very interested in trying. The economies make sense and the convenience makes so much more sense. If only the service grows and has enough drivers – then we’ll be talking.

Step 4: Get your first ride free – on me – worth upto Rs. 300.00

Just because you have read this post so far, your first Uber ride is on me. The coupon for the Rs. 300 off is: ubersaurabhj

Download the App on your phone (search Uber on the App Store, Google Play Store or Windows Phone Store), sign up (most debit cards and all credit cards work), hit Menu > Promotion and enter this coupon.

Update 01 – 08-Oct-2014

Gaurav pointed me to two interesting resources related to my blog post:

  1. An interesting discussion on hacker news.
  2. A blog written by Sam Altman (in SF) with an excel sheet having the same thoughts as me.

Update 02 – 08-Oct-2014

I have added Meru as a viable option in my posts assuming their rates are at par with Uber. But I was quite surprised to see them substantially expensive. In Pune for example, their minimum base fare is 200 bucks compared to UberX’s 90 bucks. Also their price per km is 20 vs UberX’s 12. That won’t hold up to my earlier calculations.

Disclaimer:

This post may seem that it has been sponsored by Uber – but that isn’t the case. The level of service and convenience that these guys offer is giving us the first glimpses of “Transport as a service” – which we haven’t seen so far. A service which allows you to summon a ride at the push of a button gives you the ability to dream about getting rid of that vehicle you rarely use anyways and use your hard earned money smarter.


We are actually very serious about selling our second car and converting to Uber – so if you see any flaw in my plans / calculations, please leave me a comment so that I can rethink! Thanks 🙂

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/

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!

Parking hassles

I have off late started judging businesses depending on their parking policies.
No seriously! If you see some of the extreme arm-twisting techniques and prices some of these malls use, it’s unbelievable.
Firstly, charging for parking is illegal (I think) and yet everyone does it!
But if you think about it, we Indians being the free-loaders that we are – would just abuse free parking and I know tonnes of people who regularly do it.
C’mon – haven’t you gone and parked at a mall – just to go somewhere else nearby.
So, after a lot of thought and consideration, I kinda agree being charged a nominal fee for parking my vehicle.
But at the same time, the price should be justified.
The places and policies that top my list are:
1. Crosswords (at Sohrab Hall)
They have reserved FREE parking for people visiting crosswords. All you need to do is – on your way back, get the ticket stamped which says that you were in the store.
This seems completely justified – considering the amounts they spend on reserving parking slots for their customers – the least people can do is visit the store and see what they have on offer.
2. Inox (Free parking for 30 minutes)
Inox charges 10 bucks for bikes and 20 bucks for cars – completely justified in Pune – and this also seems like the norm.
However, what I really like about them is that they have 30 minutes of free parking. (This was an hour earlier but I could live with 30 minutes)
What this does is – gives you enough time to hop into the theatre and buy some tickets or grab some lunch at McDonalds without paying the equivalent of your Mc Donalds’ meal. If I am watching a movie for a couple of hours, fine – I agree with being charged – but theatres shouldn’t charge people for coming and buying tickets!
3. Pune Central (Parking charges redeemable during purchase)
Pune Central charges you for parking – but you could exchange the ticket inside when you purchase something.
This seems kinda harsh – considering that you may not like something and still be paying just to browse around the store. (Hey! Wait a minute! Shouldn’t stores be making it more conducive for you to browse around?)
Anyways, so yeah! What Pune Central does seems pretty just to me.
Actually Dorabjees in camp does the same thing – but you need to purchase a minimum amount of things (I think 100 bucks) before they will re-imburse you for the parking. Not entirely fair – but still okay sometimes.
Now for the worst offenders!
1. E-Square
Nothing – and I mean nothing beats paying 40 bucks for parking your car. I have noo idea what these guys do to your car. 40 frikkin bucks for parking! I could put a litre of fuel in my car for that amount and drive half way around Pune.
Totally sadistic, arm twisting tactics (and there is no public parking available near E-Square for miles!!!)
This is one of the reasons I really hate E-Square and avoid going there.
(The other being the weird seat arrangements and the crowds – but thats for another post)
2. Ishanya, Nucleas, Gold Adlabs, Lifestyle, etc. etc.
(And every other place which does not re-imburse you even on purchasing)
Ishanya and I however have a special history …
When Ishanya opened sometime ago near my house – I thought it was fabulous!
The mall was gigantic – you could get anything there, spend a good couple of hours just browsing around and even the parking was free. (and they have ample parking believe you me)
However, I was in for a rude shock one day when I drive in and am charged for parking which is not even redeemable.
The worst thing is that Ishanya is literally in the middle of no where and you have no option but to park your vehicle inside. Its like paying 20 bucks for an entry ticket to the museum!!!
Anyways, I came back and shot an email to them complaining about it.
To my surprise, the next day, I received a call from their head of operations (signing the email as President, ThinkingSpace Technologies has an effect sometimes) who assured me that they would start the redeemable policy soon and that they were charging parking because people would park their bikes there and go off someplace else.
(Yeah right! If you’re in the middle of nowhere, where do you think I’ll go?)
Anyways, its been a year and more since, and still nothing has been done.
However, I have stopped visiting Ishanya.
Result? I try and buy whatever I need from local places around my house. Ishanya being the last option.
(I dunno – I just somehow feel cheated going there)
To cut a long story short, I do empathize with businesses and their problem with free-loaders parking in places reserved for customers – but these businesses need to come up with more amicable solutions to this problem.
Charging monstorous amounts for parking is just going to hurt your business.
I love what Crosswords is doing – but I also understand its difficult to implement.
But I’m completely cool with the Pune Central approach too. (Redeem parking when you buy)
I actually have a better idea!
Redeem double the amount of parking when you buy something! (Applicable over a certain limit. For below the limit, just redeem the amount what you paid for).
Here is wishing some sense manages to creep into the heads of people making such idiotic decisions (especially the ones from E-Square) and hoping that ’09 is a brilliant and fun-filled year for everyone!

And I was transported …

The incidents which took place today were far from the usual boring stuff that we end up doing. (I know I am using the words boring a lot – which I just realised how dinners generally go anyways – I mean what else can you do besides eat, drink and talk?)
In the evening, my dad comes up and asks me whether I’d like to go out for food – and being the hog that I am, the question was redundant. This time around, we decided to go to this far off place called “Chandraphool Gardens” which is a huge garden restaurant – little ahead of Dighi on the way to Bhosari.
We’ve been to this place only a couple of times – way back in the past and have always had a pleasant experience.
The place has sprawling lawns, good natural air, decent lighting and decent food – which made it a decent enough place to visit any time of the year.
And, as we had not been there off late, we decided to pay the place a visit.
So, all of us ready and 40 minutes later – turn up at the venue.
We’re surprised to see their pretty huge parking lot, full with cars – as it was a very sparsely populated place on our previous visits.
Once we entered, we realised that there was a party going on at the other end of the lawn (which is again pretty, pretty big – easily about 200 – 250 mts in length).
After being seated and having ordered the drinks, we realised that it was sort of an all – mens party – probably thrown by a guy for his co-workers who recently got promoted.
This was underlined by the fact that extremely loud, item number type of music soon started playing including “Babuji zarra …”. The sight of grown up, formally dressed (possibly drunk) men – holding hands and gyrating to these numbers was particularly amusing.
I was instantly transported to the Bihar of the movies and the ambiance and the crowd added to the effect.
Things got more interesting when two drunk men sitting on the table behind us, got up and assaulted the waiter who was serving them for no apparent reason.
The waiter fought back – but was soon over powered by the two goons who looked like some cheap political party workers.
Soon, the poor waiter was falling around, dropping plates and landed next to our table.
(Just to be clear, by assaulting, I mean – being slapped repeatedly, lots of pushing, shoving around and trying to sock the other guy in the face)
Thankfully, the manager showed up in time with a couple of other waiters to break up the fight and save the poor guy’s life.
“Perfect” I tell myself – an experience worth driving all the way out of Pune for.
All this while, my extremely charged up little brother shouting – “If anyone did that to me, I’d _beep_ him and _beep_ him and _beep_ him”, added to the entire experience of seeing a guy get clobbered. (Just to clear matters more, my little brother is not so little – he’s almost 6 feet and pretty big and probably capable of doing the _beep_ things that he said he’d do. So you better not try messing with me! I’ve got protection :))
Funnily, after the break up, the two guys get back to their seats and continue with their meal, booze and even order something more.
(If cooks and waiters spit in your food for being slightly rude to them – I’d hate to see what they must have done to their food for assaulting a fellow worker).
These two fellows might have gotten scared of being clobbered by the rest of the waiters when they stepped out – because one of them calls his other goon friends up for back up.
In fifteen minutes, four other equally goony looking men show up.
All my hopes of a goon Vs waiters show down went up in smoke when instead of barging into the kitchen and clobbering up the waiter, these guys made for the exit. Whether they paid their bill or not – is sort of irrelevant at this point I think.
However, the other families sitting around looked sort of relieved at their departure.
And if you’re wondering, the party men at the other end of the lawn, were dancing all this while – holding hands to the tune of Babuji, a Titanic Remix, a Himmesh Reshammiya number and also an “We’re going to Ibiza” track.
So if any of you people are interested in experiencing the “Bihar of the movies” ambiance, please head to Chandraphool Gardens – I’d be happy to give you directions.
This place beats the artificial environs of Horn Ok Please on F.C. Road hands down.
Brilliant experience and highly recommended.
[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 86.]

Why do we Indians have to suck at providing quality service?

I have always realised, that we in India – don’t give a damn about quality.
I don’t exactly know why, but I am guessing it has something to do with the demand always exceeding the supply – considering, we’re bursting at our seams with the large population.
So, as long as the goods keep coming, the manufacturer (and not the customer) is king – and they can keep dishing out crap – because there will always be someone to buy it.
I have a complete live example to give – hence this post.
This is about the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF website).
Last year, we guys from college had gone for the 4th Pune International Film Festival and it was tonnes of fun (even though the organisation had a lot to be desired).
So, when it came around this year – we went for it again (It is still going on – at the time of writing this).
This time around, the movies are pretty good and we’re having lots of fun again – but nothing has changed organization side.
And considering it is an “International” film festival, the standards are far from it.
The schedule of movies was available extremely late – just a day before the festival and the catalogue (which has the synopsis of all the movies) – only a couple of days after the festival started.
The schedule is given only for the next 3 days (out of the total 7 days of the festival).
So, if I am working and need to really catch a movie and need to inform my boss about it, there are chances that I would be doing it only hours in advance
Quite a few movies had their running times mis-reported in the schedule – which caused a mix up of our plans.
Then, the schedule (or the catalogue) ends up having movies in the wrong category – so you never find the movie you’re looking for (there is no index or a table of content).
In 3 days the festival has been running, the schedule has on been changed on 2 occasions , on the fly. They exchanged the timing of a couple of movies minutes before they started – which again threw all our plans out of the window.
Their website (which I think is one of the most important things) is totally un-updated and you have news from PIFF 2006 lying around.
It also has a schedule section – which lists movies which have already finished showing and a catalogue section which contains information on only 1/10th of the movies running.
But, the icing on the cake is this – which actually prompted me to write this blog.
I wrote the organizers, the following email:

Dear Sir / Madam,
This is a very humble request to the organising committee to please put up the complete schedule of films on the website (preferably in the document / excel / pdf format) which is also up to date.
Today (18th), the schedule for the remaining days became available at the venues (19th onwards), but the website still shows the schedule only till the 18th.
I request you to please update this – so that we can better plan which movies to go for.
Thank you and regards,
– Saurabh Jain


To this, I got the following reply from a Moti Irani:

Please stop visiting our website we are all far too busy collect the schedule from INOX or Esquare

Hah!
Hows that for providing shoddy service and having the audacity to tell your customers to F*** Off? A perfect case of demand more than supply.
I don’t know, but if something is worth doing, its worth doing well.
In my opinion, if they have a website running, it should be updated – otherwise there is absolutely no point in having it in the first place.
[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 88. ]

Nitpickings with Pune …

I’ve lived in Pune all my life, and to tell you honestly, I wouldn’t probably want to live anywhere else …
But of late, there have been a few things, really hurting, which I wanted to yell about.
I don’t know if this is happening in other parts of the country, but it shouldn’t generally happen anywhere at all.
Anyways, here are a few things which really hurt and I have no idea how I could help to fix.
1. Pathetic Roads
When the it rained recently, all the roads got completely damaged.
I mean – the roads were so bad, and nothing was being done about them … that someone actually came up with an online petition which was the number 1 active online petition till some weeks ago.
Even now, the roads are pretty bad and if you get out of your house, you are sure to face the brunt.
There is a road behind residency club ( which I have also written previously about ) in which people come to one of the ends.
Stop their bikes or cars, get off, observe the stretch, go back to their bikes / cars, turn around and take the longer route.
The Pune Police has actually barricaded the stretch of road to deter adventurous people from venturing there.
It’s already a month since the last of the rains and still most of the roads have not been fixed. Going at more than 40 km/hr for more than 2 min at a stretch is next to impossible and even trying to go above 50 km/hr anywhere is plain suicidal.
2. The Public Transportation System
In Pune, this equals to nothing but the PMT ( Pune Municipal Transport ) buses.
Everytime I go to college in the morning and see the scores of hapless people waiting at the bus stop, and hundreds of people hanging out of the bus, I thank my stars that I have a bike and don’t have to depend on the crappy system.
Everytime I see people hanging from the buses, and by hanging I mean – atleast 7 people hanging from the bus, I feel this blinding rage at the apathy of the PMT and PMC.
The true story goes that, sometime ago, there were the six seater rickshaws which would ply through most of Pune.
They were not allowed to move in as many places as the PMT buses were, but they covered a major chunk of Pune.
Of course, they were rash drivers and would stuff 8 people in places meant for 6 … but they were a blessing.
You could walk out of your house and be certain of catching a six seater within 5 minutes.
They stopped everywhere, and their sheer frequency was such a boon.
Anyways, naturally people preferred them, rather than waiting for the buses.
So, PMT went into loses and they got an order passed via the PMC, banishing the six seaters to the outskirts of Pune.
Their reason – six seaters cause too much pollution.
Later, more buses were promised …
But I think its almost 5 years now, and nothing has changed except the number of commuters.
All the people who switched over to using the public transportation system ( six seaters ) were stranded.
It’s so sad and pathetic.
The government creating a monopoly in a market which it itself does not have the resources to satisfy the basic needs.
3. Power Crisis
I have noticed this huge crisis cropping up ever since the congress government came into power.
There hasn’t been a single day where you had 24 hours of pure unadultrated power ( electricity ).
And on top of this, the government has the audacity to offer free power to farmers.
The farmers, naturally happy at the offer, elected these people, and are now suffering the most.
All villages around Pune undergo 9 hours of power cuts everyday.
And as all election promises go, the free power deal was eventually cut off …
On top of this, the maximum revenues of the MSEB come from Pune and it has always gotten step motherly treatment.
With hundreds of BPOs and software companies and industries in and around Pune, needing to manage power themselves for 3 – 4 hours daily, who in their right mind would want to come here ?
4. Fuel Stations
There should be a rule made in the constitution, which makes it illegal for fuel stations to go on strikes.
It has just been happening too frequently off late here.
These people know that they can hold an entire city to ransom, just by going on an indefinite strike.
The latest thing which happened just yesterday is just short of a joke.
The Fuel distribution centers went on an indefinite strike ( which has now been called off ) because they did not want the Oil companies coming and checking the purity of the fuel they were serving.
Their argument being that the oil companies themselves send them adultrated fuel and come later to check it themselves.
What utter crass !
========================
I don’t know, but I sincerely hope something is done.
Sell off the PMT, sell off BSNL, sell off MSEB, sell off everything that makes any difference to the life of the general populous to private companies.
Though I doubt anyone stupid enough to actually buy any of these.
Privatisation, it seems might be the only way out …
You don’t see Mumbai undergoing load shedding of 2 hours daily … do you ?

Banner Banters …

There is this thing going around in Pune … which I had been wanting to blog about … for quite some time now …
Its about the amazing number of advertisement boards coming up … all over Pune … with guess what … Birthday wishes for politicians …
The board will be a pretty big one …
And will be strategically placed at the corner of an intersection … so that whatever view we got of the traffic coming from the left … is blocked …
The entire board will contain a huge picture of an ugly politician .. who looks like he’s stepped out of Satya …
The message will read something to the tune of “Heartiest wishes for so and so’s birthday on such and such date …”
The poster will then contain the photographs of the 3 to 4 people who are wishing him … in bottom right … which actually look like mug shots taken from the Tihar Jail ..
If the entire poster didn’t look gooney enough … the pictures of these 3 dumb-asses would complete the picture …
Saw in the newspaper sometime ago … about this dude from somewhere in the city … who put up an equally sized poster with his Alsatian dog’s picture on it …
Below, he conveniently puts the pictures of a pom, a doberman and another dog …
The caption reads …
“Heartiest birthday wishes to my dog – Rocky … from his fellow dog friends …”
This deserves an applause 🙂
Bravo !