Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from January, 2009

Where is my Ratan Tata Industrial (RTI) institute?

If you are a Parsi, then the words RTI shouldn't be Greek and Latin to you. But for the uninitiated, RTI stands for Ratan Tata Industrial institute; the once-upon-a-time ultimate stop for Parsi cuisine, sweets, delicacies as also mouth-watering cakes and pastries. It started out from inside a building at Hughes Road - before it moved to a new location, just opposite to its original location, into a much swankier place - and branched out to about six other places in Bombay. From my personal observation and one of its loyal customers for ages, what was once a thriving institution is now half its original glory. 
I have many pleasant memories of RTI. In the olden days - gosh, I sound like an old Bawaji - we used to refer RTI as Industrial. I think it was because it was situated in an old building outside Khareghat Colony where if you'd step inside that building, it kind of resembled an industrial unit. Which actually, in a way, it was. I do not know RTI's history, but from wha…

Postal Savings Schemes - Big returns + pathetic service

It's ironic that on one hand, the Indian Postal Service - a government agency that runs popular small savings schemes like Monthly Income Scheme (POMIS), National Savings Certificate (NSC) and Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) - offers most attractive risk-free returns to the tune of eight per cent, and on the other hand offers really sloppy and pathetic service. Does it really make sense going for postal savings?
Most post offices do not have computers. They write pass-books (POMIS) manually; they maintain records in their dirty large gigantic ledgers and then when we go to them for passbook updation, they write down the corresponding figures in our passbooks. No computers, only manually! As a result, they make several mistakes. The onus is on us - the investor - to monitor our passbooks and ensure there are no mistakes. Talk about living life in the 21st century.
The service standards at most of these post offices is pathetic. Some of them talk endlessly on phone discussing thier domestic g…

A talent named Ravi Chekaliya

That talent is available in plenty in India is not a doubt in anyone's mind. But whether such talent is noticed and thereafter nurtured in another question alltogether. Here is an inspirational story of a young 16-year old lad named Ravi Chekaliya. This story appeared in the Bombay newspaper, Sunday Mid-Day, dated 25 January 2009. (Click the link before to read the full story and to watch the video.) There are countless of such young lads who are born in poverty but, if given a chance, can prove to be as good as anyone else you'd know. 
Here is reproduced story in case the above link does not work in your browser. 
AS part of a Republic Day celebration, Nirmal Nagar Ground in Mulund will see 16-year-old Ravi Chekaliya showcase his talents to thousands of students from 40 of the city's schools.

His unique ability to understand and speak ten foreign languages without any schooling caught the eye of an event organiser from Mulund, who then invited Chekaliya to the celebration. 

T…

Grit and combacks at the Australian Open 2009

Probably the first time this week, I have been able to enjoy the Australian Open tennis championships all day long on TV. Of course, today being a Sunday, it helped. Roger Federer played Tomas Berdych in a classic 5-setter. I did not expect Berdych to play this well, especially the way he opened the match and rushed through the first two sets. Berdych is a talented player and has good groundstrokes and a big serve. I watched him play a very good match against Dimitry Tursunov in the finals of the first edition of Kingfisher Open (Mumbai) in 2006. Whilst Tursunov had very narrowly won that match, Berdych showed a lot of promise. He has won four tournaments till date and remains one of the few active players to have won a title on all three main surfaces, clay, grass, hard-court and one even on carpet. Experts say that his lack of self confidence has prevented him from doing great in the Grand Slams. Out of 21 appearances in Grand Slams, he has gone past the Round 3 just nine times. His…

looking ahead at Down Under...

So the Australian Open tennis championships are under way. It's a pain to get up so early at around 5.00 am (India time) to watch the Open, I prefer to catch up the results on its official website. I used to get up early when I was in college during Steffi Graf days. Her matches were scheduled to be the first -or at worse the second -match of the day. She always used to prefer it that way. Her early round matches usually used to get over within an hour, so it fitted well in my schedule. But those were my good, old days. 
Of course I did not expect India's Sania Mirza to do much. She could at best crack the top-20 and then taper off, but she's definitely not a top-10 player by any standards. Expectantly she lost to Nadia Patrova, 6-3, 6-2 in just 70 minutes. Not that Petrova is a push-over exactly, but if Mirza is at her best, she has the game to beat Petrova. I still feel that no matter how much she'll try and regroup herself going from here on (especially after a disma…

cliche...cliche...Ghajini....

After almost a month of its release, I finally saw 'Ghajini' last Saturday. Although the premise was interesting, the movie did not work for me. It was disheartening to see Aamir Khan - I am a fan of his - to be associated with a movie containing too many Bollywood chiches, after having worked on novel movies (by Bollywood standards) like Rang De Basanti and Taare Zameen Par. 
The romance build-up between the Aamir and Asin wasn't convincing. Apart from a scene or two, the comedy wasn't genuine. I just could not buy the fact that someone can be so silly - not to mention foolishly gutsy - to play up such an outrageous story the way Asin did and go along with it even after knowing that the story had inadvertently been carried in the press. The plot did not work for me. Plus, nobody recognises Aamir when he freely roams the street, in a BEST bus, etc., after the gory incident in which Aamir loses his memory. This, after supposedly running what seems like a very successful …

Can striking unions hold public to ransom?

Today, 9 January 2009 Friday is the third day of the strike organised by Oil Sector Officer's Association (OSOA). This strike is taking place across India as a result of which oil is not supplied to petrol pumps and the latter have dried up. There is no petrol and compressed natural gas (CNG) and therefore public transport is hit the hardest. Reports indicate that around 95 per cent of the petrol pumps across the country are running dry. In Bombay, as per my observation and estimate, almost 80 per cent of the taxis are already off the roads (at around noon) and B.E.S.T. buses are running jam-packed even after the morning peak hours. I am sure local trains must also be jam-packed. Today I had to go to Duncun Road (Gol deval temple area) for some work. 
I was quite hassled on my way back since I didn't find a single taxi who was willing to take mom home. While most of the taxis were off the road, the remaining few weren't stopping. The handful remaining few were seen refusing…

Good time to invest in Debt funds

When equity markets are giving sizzling returns, we tend to forget about asset allocation and join the herd in maximising returns by aggressively tilting our portfolios towards equities. It’s only when equities land with a thud, like it has done in 2008 (the Sensex has dropped 60 per cent from its highest closing on 8 January, to its lowest closing on 20 November), that we flock towards alternate asset classes. Asset allocation is about striking a balance according to your needs and risk profile, across all asset classes. One important asset class that was long forgotten has staged a quiet comeback. It’s safer and less volatile, and merits attention in 2009. Reintroducing the humble debt fund.

Low interest rates
Debt funds and interest rates are inversely proportional. When interest rates fall, net asset values (NAV) of debt funds rise, and vice versa. India, as in the rest of the world, is witnessing drastic rate cuts. The global credit crisis has slowed down economies across the glob…

South India tour: Day 6 - Ooty (29 December 2008)

Taj Savoy Hotel is as beautiful as it can get. It is an old heritage hotel and the management has done its best by any standards to maintain its rich heritage. The beautiful and self contained cottages are neatly nestled amidst the beautiful and manicured hotel gardens. Very English type. All rooms have a fire-place, the staff will light it up for you as and when you request them. A well lit-up fire place lasts for an hour and its warmth can last for an entire night. The staff is very cordial and friendly as with any other Taj property staff, food is just exquisite with a sumptuous buffet offering over breakfast, lunch and dinner. 
So after a heavy and delicious breakfast, I headed off to Ooty railway station, in time to catch the 9.15 narrow gauge train to Coonor. This is a must-do in Ooty. But even though as recommended by the Taj reception to reach the hotel by 8.30 am to stand in the ticket queue (tickets are given on a first-cum-first-served basis), I was way behind in the queue. …

South India tour: Day 5 - Bandipur Tiger Reserve (28 December 2008)

After checking out of Misty Woods, and this time reaching the highway to Mysore (en route to Ooty) correctly, we were on the main highway in three hours flat. Taking the outer ring road of Mysore and bypassing the foothills of Chamundi Hills, we were on our way to Ooty. 
I stopped briefly at the Bandipur Tiger Reserve - a vast expanse of protected forest land in South Karnataka and home to wild cats such as tigers, leopards, panthers and also deer, wild dogs and an array of snakes like Cobra and Python. The sightings on that day I was there were very poor as I was told by a senior forest ranger with whom  I had a nice, long chat. But I  decided to take a chance. Jeep tours were discontinued but buses were there and fortunately I happened to be   there a good 1/2 hour before the next bus ride. 
No, I did not spot any wild cat. But no regrets! The safari was good (45 mins), it was my first ever safari, so in that way, it was quite memorable. I only spotted langoors, deer and wild boars. 
We…

South India tour: Day 4 - Coorg Dubare Elephant camp (27 December 2008)

Back to our sightseeing ways, today was a visit to the Dubare Elephant Camp. This is a unique elephant camp where elephants are preserved, nurtured and kept in safe surroundings. So after a a 2-hour ride, past bustling towns of Virajpet and massive coffee estates of Siddapur town, we reached Dubare. A small boat ride took us across the elephant camp. You could also wade through waters and what looks like a natural pathway of rocks to get across if you are adventurous. It ought to be great fun! 


The elephant camp's main attraction is an  elephant ride (Rs 100 per person). Three rogue elephants (one of which was caught a couple of days before I went after it had gone on a rampage destructing property, farms, etc.) were held in large wooden cages and were being tamed.
At the camp, names, sex and ages of all the elephant members are listed and next to it is the kitchen where their food is cooked in a gigantic bowl that was boiling at the time I was there. Knowing an elephant's appeti…

South India tour: Day 3 - Coorg Misty Woods (27 December 2008)

Hotel Misty Woods is a holiday resort deep in the forests of Kakkabe in the district of Coorg. It's a task reaching there allright, with numerous twists and turns along the narrow -and at times muddy roads -winding through the densest of the forests. The forests and the greenery of Coorg is unbelievably beautiful. But because Misty Woods is so deep inside Kakkabe, it's always recommended to reach here before dark. It gets really dark after sunset. But once you reach Misty Woods, you are in heaven. The resort is on a steep hill, the reception is below and the cottages (only cottages here, not rooms) are scattered all over its hilly property. The cottages are beautiful, very heritage type, typical South Indian superior woodwork. No T.V. and heater are its only minuses. But these are small sacrifices to be made, and if you are in Coorg, you have ample of nature for good company. Savour it while you're there; it's quite unlike anything you've seen before. The manager D…

South India tour: Day 2 - Mysore-Coorg (26 December 2008)

After a heavy breakfast at Hotel Sandesh - The Prince (great hotel, value for money, very clean, good food and centrally located), I proceeded to the Mysore Palace. A beautiful and a very imposing structure, this is Mysore's biggest attraction. Unfortunately cameras aren't allowed inside, else I would have freaked out. Wonderfully and artistically built, it's interiors are India's ancient architecture at its very best. The authorities have also maintained it quite well. The Durbar Hall is quite unlike anything I have ever seen. It's very grand and gives a commanding view of the palace grounds in front. 

Then, we proceeded to Chamundi Hills. There's a temple on top of it, but since I was there on a Friday -and the temple is most visited on Fridays, hence it was very crowded -and I decided to give it a miss. So we proceeded down the hill again, taking in breathtaking views of Mysore city from up the hills and passing by the Nandi Bull -an imposing structure of Lor…

South India tour: Day 1 - Mysore (25 December 2008)

The new Bangalore airport rocks, it's the best Indian airport I have seen so far. However, there's hardly much to be seen after you disembark as you are quickly led to the baggage claim area and in no time, you are out. 
I decided to skip Bangalore taking ample cues from several recommendations from friends. So I proceeded straight to Mysore. My first stop was Srirangapatna, former capital of Tipu Sultan. I stopped by the most important tourist destination in this town - Dariya Daulat Baug (picture 1). This was the summer palace of Tipu Sultan. It's set amidst beautifully manicured and vast lawns. From the outside, the building looks quite ordinary, however it has a treasure of precious paintings, coins, swords, guns and such ancient and historical artifacts. 


Next stop: Brindavan Gardens (picture 2). The one thing that you notice once you enter this place is its ample number of water fountains. We were there at about 17.00 hrs, but the place really comes alive once the ligh…