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Two years and 16,000km with Rosemary – The Maruti Suzuki Celerio

Two years back, I bought(rather, Dad bought & leased it to me, I’m still repaying him :-D) the Maruti Suzuki Celerio. Why Celerio? I was looking at something within ₹6,00,000 – that meant the Ford Figo(which I bought, almost took delivery but had to cancel), the Swift etc were out of conisderation.

Dad told me that a new car is coming and is quite within the budget and he was right. The car seemed to be pretty good – looks good(from the front anyway), and with its hype about the AMT(and from Magnetti Marelli of all places) I decided to zero-in on the car.. till I realized the AMT is only upto the VX trim(no ABS/Airbags/BT stereo etc) and with a waiting time of 3 months or so – decided to nix this and went for the Manual transmission Zxi (Optional trim)

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The Srinagar to Manali Travelogue: Part 1: Srinagar

Few weeks ago, Jo & me went on a 11-day vacation from starting from Srinagar  heading south-west bound towards Manali via Kargil, Leh, Nubra Valley and Jispa. During this 11-day visit, we had a blast, met bunch of great folks, visited some breathtaking places and ran into wee bit of trouble. And since it’s been awhile since I posted here, decided to do a travelogue.

The Plan

So, we booked a tour via A Lifetime Trip. To be honest, I didn’t do much of the research on the tour operators – my college friend Prasad & his wife Shyamala did bulk of the research and finalized on A Lifetime Trip. We pretty much looked at the places to visit, Jo wanted to visit a lot of the places, I was happy with the places. I did a basic check for A Lifetime Trip, saw that they had good reviews and confirmed to go with them.

The tour was supposed to start from Sringar on July 31st and return to Delhi on August 10th, with overnight halts at Kargil, Leh, Nubra, Pangong Lake, Jispa and Manali.

The 4 of us (Prasad, Shyamala, Jo and me) decided to reach Srinagar a day early so that we could have some time to explore Srinagar.

Onwards to Srinagar

I booked the flight to Srinagar pretty early – actually a good 4 months before our journey so I don’t have to worry about not flights not being available later or flights being out of my price band. The flight was to take off at 06:15 and land in Delhi at 09:00 with a follow up flight at 13:20 and land in Srinagar at 15:00.

Not wanting to take a chance against Bangalore’s famed traffic, I booked an Ola for 03:00. Trust Ola to screw it up, the cab guy was nowhere to be seen even at 02:50. I called up Ola Customer Care, they reassigned another driver… who also didn’t come. I had to call him up, wake him and plead him to come over. On the bright side, we ended up with a new Ciaz to take us to the Airport. The roads were empty, and the driver seemed to make full use of this by treating the road to the Airport like a racetrack and driving like one. We reached the Airport in a record breaking 40 minutes. If you think that’s too long – well, you’ll know when you’re here.

IMG_20150730_051652

The Airport routine went without a hitch, Air India was on time and we took off and landed in Delhi on time. Once at Delhi airport, we went over to Starbucks, grabbed couple of coffees and chilled there for couple of hours.

In the which Jo wonders what the fuss is all about

A photo posted by Sathya Bhat (@sathyabhat) on

When it was close to boarding time, went over to the gate. That’s when we realized that the flight was running late. To make matters worse, it started raining outside and visibility was almost nil. Once the cloud cleared and the plane had arrived, we were about an hour off time and by the time we landed in Srinagar and collected our baggage, it was close to 16:00.

Sringar

Srinagar airport was under construction and the main hallway was blocked with either construction materials and barricades indicating construction zone. Result:  Fair bit of chaos near the baggage collection belts since only one was operational. I’m very paranoid about airlines losing my bags, so to see my bags among the first to arrive was a relief. We took a pre-paid taxi from the airport to our accommodation for the night, Welcome Residency. There was a fair bit of confusion about the hotel since Inbox pointed me to the Welcome Residency near Boulevard Road, while the one where we booked was at Shivpora. An email to the hotel and a quick reply from them ensured we landed at the right place. Srinagar was quite a bit hotter than what we expected, with the temperature at around 30 degrees. As our taxi driver drove through the crazy traffic(be it Srinagar or Bangalore, the road madness follows), we talked to him for a bit about what places to visit. He recommended us to visit the Gardens(Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh) followed by a visit to Lal Chowk. As we drove through the traffic, couldn’t help but notice the rather broad presence of machine gun toting J&K Police and CRPF. About 45 minutes later, we reached our hotel, checked in and took a short nap.

Guilt Trip

Fresh from the nap, we decided to head out to explore some places around Srinagar. And despite it being around 6pm, it was incredibly bright – something that we didn’t expect. We walked for about a kilometer to find an auto(since the Hotel was a bit interior), found an auto guy who was asking Rs 350 to head to Shalimar Bagh. We had a deal with him to drop us off at Shalimar Bagh and he reassured us that there will be other autos for us to make the return trip. With not many choices around, we took the auto anyway. While on the auto, we did some small talk with the rick driver, asking him about his family, what places to visit around Srinagar, what places to visit to check the local cuisine and I’m not sure if it was the small talk or that we agreed to his fare without a question or something else, but once we reached Shalimar Bagh, he had a change of heart, he said that he felt it wasn’t right that he asked for Rs 50 more(claiming most would take Rs 300 to here) and told us that he’d be waiting for us outside Shalimar, but will take us only to Nishat and not back to the hotel. DSC03470

Shalimar Bagh was smaller than what we expected, with two parallel short walkway on either side of the fountains and lawn on both sides with few people sitting, looking into the horizon DSC03469

Done with a tour of Shalimar and some pictures taken, we headed out and called our auto rickshaw guy was waiting for us. He repeated his stance of feeling guilty and reinforced that he will drop us only till Nishat. With this expectation on, we headed back towards city via Nishat. Once at Nishat, we realized that Nishat is closed(later we realize that most gardens close post sunset, and it was about 7pm now). Our auto guy was flummoxed as to how this was possible, since he’d told us it’d be open till at least 8. We figured he’d let stop the trip here, but once again he changed his mind saying he’ll take us to Nehru Park, which is actually an island in middle of the Dal lake. Considering the traffic ahead, we requested him to drop us straight to Lal Chowk instead of Nehru Park as it’d been a long day and we decided to have dinner and head back to the hotel – half expecting him to decline. Much to our surprise again, he agreed, without saying a word of protest, repeating his earlier talk of feeling guilty and agreed to drop us to Lal Chowk for free. About 45 minutes later, we arrived at Lal Chowk, headed off into Ahdoos Hotel for some Mutton Seekh Kebabs, Roghan Josh, Rice and Rotis. The Mutton Seekh Kebabs were so yum, we ended up ordering another round of it. Post the awesome dinner, we decided to try Kashmiri Kahwa and absolutely loved it, capping off a fine dinner.

Finishing off dinner with a fine Kashmiri Kehwa A photo posted by Sathya Bhat (@sathyabhat) on

While heading back to the hotel, we had a minor scare as a bunch of guys on a bike came close to Shyamala and catcalled her. They were gone before we could gather our senses, but anyway we grabbed an auto and went back to our hotel for some much needed rest.

Travelogue continues in future posts.

Ambulance and Bangalore traffic.

Part of this was originally posted as a comment to Nithin‘s facebook post about today’s news article stating that Cops will send you legal notice if you block an Ambulance.

There’s a well known law called Parkinson’s Law which states

work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion

There are various corollaries on this – and the one which I resonate the most is

Data expands to fill the space available for storage.

Now, if you drive on Indian roads you’ll pretty much agree with this version:

Vehicles will cram in to fill the space available on road.

I had a situation this morning where the ambulance was about 4-5 cars behind me on Old Airport Road. Right infront of HAL Police Station. The Ambulance’s sirens are blaring, the driver’s desperately trying to make way so that he can move on.  I have 2 BMTC volvo buses back to back on my left – first BMTC bus taken so much as of the road as to crumple me like I was nobody. An rickshaw was less an than inch infront of me(who poked in somehow from mid-lane bulldozing his way, eager to trade paint if necessary) and a biker trying to pass me from the right side with so little gap, his knee would scrape my car and he’d scream bloody murder if I just let the clutch go for a microsecond.  I wondered where and how am I supposed to give way to the Ambulance in this case. If I wait and let the Ambulance go, then I’d have heard more curses than a Bangalorean yelling at an Auto driver for demanding meter mele double at 8pm. Ultimately, I crawled on first gear till the Ambulance passed me, pretty much blocking the entire lane behind me.

Any curses were drowned by Foo Fighters’ My Hero coming through the Celerio’s music system. Also was good to see an auto rick behind me gesturing others to move so that the ambulance can pass. Good going man.

On to a new life

I had originally wanted to publish this back in late August when I shifted from Borg Cube to Borg Cube Grande.. ie, my new home.. but #lazybhat happened and I never got around to finishing that.

Since shifting to Bangalore, I’d been staying in a tiny 1BHK house in Murugeshpalya, off Old Airport Road. Back then, I’d chosen this place mainly for it’s proximity to my workplace – at about 4.4km, it takes me an average of 15 minutes to a maximum of 30 minutes to reach office. With 335E plying in copious amounts, heading to office or to Majestic to head back home was quite easy too. 2 years in, I decided to to move to a bigger place, so that things are all set when the inevitable #cpgweds happens.

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ICICI’s Useless Buy 1, Get 1 offer with BookMyShow & their other farcial offers

I have an ICICI Bank Coral Credit card. Part of the ‘perks’ that the card provides is something which is enticing to all:

Buy one ticket and get the other ticket free, any day of the week, at www.bookmyshow.com. You can book upto 2 complimentary tickets in a month on a first come first serve basis.

Very nice! so I had tried to book tickets using this offer. I think I’ve succeeded maybe once. Off late, trying to book tickets using this offer has been an exercise in frustration. Every time, I ended up getting an error message:

Sorry, we can`t proceed with the booking for this offer since the Total Number of Tickets for Today has been exhausted OR You may have applied it to an ongoing transaction which is not yet cancelled. Please try again after 20 mins.

Since these offers have long ass weasel word terms & conditions, I tried to check to see if my transaction meets the conditions.

  • Valid credit card for the offer – ICICI Coral Card: Check
  • You can book up to 2 complimentary tickets in a month: Check, not booked any thing for the month
  • Ticket price less than 250: Check
  • Valid only for users coming directly to the BookMyShow Website and not via individual cinema sites: Check
  • The offer cannot be combined with any offer / discounts / promotions at the theaters: Check
  • The number of free tickets available daily are limited and customers can avail this offer on a First Come First Serve basis: Hello, what’s this?

Limited tickets? So what’s the count and when does it get cleared? I sent an email to BookMyShow Helpdesk:

I have a ICICI Bank Coral credit card which entitles me to the buy 1 get 1 free offer. I’ve been trying to use this offer for several previous bookings & without any success. I tried applying the offer for today’s Man of Steel booking, only to get the error message

Sorry, we can`t proceed with the booking for this offer since the Total Number of Tickets for Today has been exhausted OR You may have applied it to an ongoing transaction which is not yet cancelled. Please try again after 20 mins. For any queries please write to us at helpdesk@bookmyshow.com. (-4011)
Why am I getting this error? Some facts
– I have not used the offer this month, so I should be entitled to the free tickets.
– The booking is directly from your site
– The ticket price is Rs 250

So, BookMyShow Customer Care replies back to me: (hat tip for the quick response):

With reference to your mail, the quota of tickets available every day under the mentioned offer is limited and hence, the offer is not available for redemption once the quota of free tickets is exhausted for a particular day. Also, any revisions/decisions regarding the quota of tickets is at the sole discretion of the bank. The free tickets quota is renewed every midnight at 12 o’clock and hence, you are requested to kindly avail the offer when the quota is refreshed again at 12 AM.

Quotas for tickets? Book at midnight? What is this, IRCTC? I asked them what’s the quota amount:

Thanks for the info. What is the count of the free tickets that are allocated?

to which I get this reply

The quota for the mentioned offer is undisclosed by the bank which can be availed on a first come first serve basis.

So, for all the brand-whoring spanking partnerships, they amount of tickets is undisclosed? They can set the quota to zero or may be single digits & these wouldn’t know.

Learning: If you’re enticed by this offer, don’t bother. The offer is as useless as the free flight ticket offer that I got as part of the same credit card, which upon trying to redeem n number of times, I was told that the route in question cannot be booked under the offer.

What a fucking farce.

(ps: I’ve asked ICICI for the ticket quota count about half hour ago, waiting for their reply..)


 

Update:

From below comments, ICICI has clarified that the quota is 100 tickets for Debit cards & 200 tickets for credit card.

BookMyShow has updated it’s Terms & Conditions to mention this(thanks, Fishy!)

 

  • Free tickets will be offered under the Offer for each day in four blocks, starting at 10am, 12pm, 3pm & 5pm until stocks last.
  • The number of free tickets available monthly are limited and customers can avail this offer on a First Come First Serve basis for the month.

Read more: http://in.bookmyshow.com/static/icici-debit-card-movie-ticket-offers/#ixzz3C8WYIZU0

Now, that’s much better in terms of communication. Is it worth? Well, I’ll leave that up to you.

 

A look back at 2012

Last year, I’d written a 2011 year in review, thought that was a nice way to recap the year. Continuing the same trend, here’s how 2012 went by

Gadgets /Software bought/acquired/reviewed

So, that’s about it for 2012, I guess. Happy New Year all & here’s wishing the upcoming year is as awesome as it was last year.

 

Contacting Bank of America from India via phone without International outgoing using Collect Call

If you’re ever stuck in a situation where you need to contact Bank of America from here in India, but don’t have International outgoing available, here’s a quick tip:

  • Check out AT&T’s Direct Access Dialing Code for India(at the time of writing this, it’s 000117)
  • You’ll reach an Operator. Tell him/her the number you want to Dial. This should be 602.597.2395 for Bank of America. Will be different for others.
  • You’ll be prompted to Enter Calling Card number. Skip entering anything
  • You’ll be asked if you want to initiate a Collect Call. Say yes.
  • Done.

This should work with any organization which uses AT&T and accepts Collect Call, but I haven’t tried with others. I’m writing here because I want to document this for my future use.

This will come in real handy especially in situations where BoA detects Irregular/Fraudulent card activity and wants you to verify the transaction by dialling in – but you have no way of reaching out to an International number. Have your card number & other details ready

Reddit’s secret santa and Guinness World Record for most email addresses in To: List

Way back in late November/December last year, I took part in reddit’s /r/secretsanta. I found it was pretty cool, to (hopefully) get a random gift based on my barren, lurking reddit account, though a small search would reveal a lot more about me.

Anyway, after Ashwin’s feedback(“my santa didn’t send anything. I was reassigned. second santa also nothing. #foreveralone”) I didn’t expect anything. A month or so later, however, my secret santa confirmed shipment of the gift. And I received it couple of days later.

Sweet! What I didn’t realize, till couple of weeks ago, was that the folks at /r/secretsanta were trying set a Guinness World Record for “the largest online secret santa game” and were successful at that! So that made me a Guinness World Record holder too! Woohoo!

Achievement Unlocked

Soon enough, I put forward an order for my Guinness World Record certificate and things were all set. Or so I thought. Couple of days ago, I received an email from Guinness stating that due to high volume of orders, the shipment would be delayed by another couple of weeks. That was fine, but then the person who sent the email did the biggest goof up ever. The person put the email address of about 1,072 people in the “To” field. Not even the cc, the frigging “To” field.

Epic Facepalm

Image courtesy http://www.comicvine.com/

  Here’s how it looked like

Naturally, I wasn’t too pleased

and neither were the reddit folks. Kicker was the contents of the email, with a disclaimer stating:

The contents of this e-mail from Guinness World Records Limited are confidential and intended for the addressee only.

If you are not the intended recipient you must not copy or further distribute this e-mail, and delete this message from your computer system.

Riiight.

Marco Frugatti, SVP Records, however did send an email apologizing the data breach

I am writing to you from the Guinness World Records Management Team regarding our company’s recent breach in relation to email data for a group of our record-holders for Largest online secret Santa game.

I can confirm that this breach was a human error by one of our own staff. Naturally, we take this matter extremely seriously and are conducting a formal investigation to ensure an event like this never happens again. I would like to offer you our unreserved apologies for this situation and any inconvenience it has caused.

However, I fear that this breach will have even more serious repercussions, given how lax people are with passwords. Good thing is that Guinness owned up to the mistake and have confirmed that they have initiated refunds for the payment of certificates. Time will tell who’ll be hit more – Guinness or the individuals in the email. My bet is on the latter.

Being on the other side of the Interview table

Attending an interview tends to be a scary, nerve-wracking event for most, me included. It’s like college exam 2.0 – you don’t do anything building up to the event, panic & do a splash and dash the previous night(though in my case, it’s more like “ah, fahgettaboutit”), start wondering and worrying what’s about to be asked prior to the event, with your mind racing about – “what if x comes, oh shit I forgot about y”, the big moment where you stammer, blabber and spit out something and then keep worrying till the results are out.

Last week, I got a call from the HR team asking if I’d be available and willing to come to office on Saturday. The reason? We had a weekend hiring drive and they wanted me(among others) to be an interviewer. My first reaction was – “mm okaaay but I’ve never done this before”(though never is not true, I did take up an interview, but that was for my team & was more of accompany-the-project-leads-and-ask-a-few-questions). This case, however, was different. It’d be a face-to-face interview. With people willing to join the organization. I decided to say Ok. Hey, it’d be a different experience.
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