Friday, October 30, 2009

Gender Discrimination


While its interesting to see many advertisements drawing controversy as racial or discriminatory, this one ad seems to have gotten away with almost murder. The Sculler's ad very clearly states "The taller the girl you're with, the greater the discount you get". Its an outright insult on the girl's biological personality.

So if a guy has a not-so-tall girl with him, its the girl's fault. This has got to be one of the most gender discriminatory ads against women and surprisingly, not even a women's rights or a women's lib organization did anything about it.

What will they think of next? Bigger discounts for bigger waist sizes? Or fairer discounts for fairer skin colour?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 Customer Service


Placed an order on from India to deliver stuff worth $50 to a friend in the US returning to India soon. I read the terms and conditions carefully about shipping methods and rates and chose the Free Super Saver Delivery because I thought there was ample time.

I missed seeing the part where it mentioned that there is a time gap from
the order date to the shipping date. The shipping date is decided on the type
of delivery method chosen and my choice meant that shipping would commence only about a week later as the items would be sent as one single package when they were all available. This put me in a predicament because this delay of one week would cause the items to get returned as my friend would have returned to India.

I mailed amazon describing what I’d done and agreed to pay extra for faster shipping. I received a mail in about 4 hours that the shipping method would be changed to 2-day shipping at no extra cost to enable me to receive my items.

This kind of service just blew me away. I normally wouldn’t have expected
such a quick response for a $50 value. But this commitment and action has
obliged to for sure hereafter.

The items were packaged separately and delivered today even as I post this
blog. I sincerely thank for their fantastic customer service. Even
more so because they did it free of charge when I was willing to pay extra for
MY mistake. Two thumbs’ up from this loyal customer.

I just wish shipped to India. But with our archaic customs
rules, many packages may only get lost or confiscated and customers would take their ire out on instead of the government officials. Maybe amazon can include another validation and disclaimer for items shipped to India. But it just wouldn’t be the same.

Thank you amazon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

B-Twin Bike Mirror

Got this mirror from Krish of for my Trek 4300. Note that these mirrors are made for mounting on the left side of the handlebar. We in India ride on the left of the road and so need the mirror to be mounted on the right side of the handlebar.
No fret. This was only too easily resolved by removing the mirror support screw and turning the mirror the other way as shown in the photo.

Mounting the mirror was a 2 minute job. Took a blade and cut a hole in the handlebar grip smaller than the diameter of the mirror mount so that the fit would be snug. Pushed it into the handlebar and turned the mounting screw to fit it just tight.

The initial ride with this mirror was very good. Jumped off a kerb and it stayed in place. Went over a few bad roads and it still stayed in place without flopping down. The quality of the mirror is well above average and visibility on the road is excellent. The mirror can be turned to suit almost all angles of viewing based on the rider’s height and angle. The plastic used is very good and the mirror itself is made of unbreakable acrylic plastic (unless a car runs over it in case of a fall). There was no image distortion.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The ICFAI tryst

11 years have passed since I passed out from the PGDBA course from ICFAI, Hyderabad. Looking back today, I wanted to write as objectively as possible about my experience and my opinion of the PGDBA course.

The College
The college was one building with the two batches crammed into it. There wasn’t anything to speak off regarding infrastructure. The building was centrally air conditioned but was severely tested when the class was full with 72 students. The computer lab too was small with a few machines. Nothing great to boast of.

I’d say fairly exorbitant. I was lucky to have paid only about a lakh for the two years combined for tuition fees. This naturally does not include the cost of boarding and lodging in the city. Since the colleges was located in prime area, most of us had to look for accommodation in and around which was expensive too. I believe the tuition fees in 2009 is somewhere around 9 lakhs which according to me is very, very expensive. Below in this post is explained why I feel it is too expensive.

No bones about this. The curriculum is one of the best. Great detail was paid to the finance specialization and a huge gamut was covered with importance given to case studies. The pressure was kept on us all the time and we had to study hard to stay above water.

Just like most other Tier II colleges, the faculty is a mix. There were some outstanding professors and some average ones which is an acceptable mix. The level of expression varied but most of the onus is on the student which is the way it should be. An MBA degree is more a reflection of the ability of the person to handle pressure and find solutions to problems utilizing all the skills available to him/her. In this respect, any hardworking individual thinking out of the box is capable of carving a niche in a career. The faculty of the institute plays a role in encouraging and bringing out the best in each student through self realization. The faculty at ICFAI is as capable or as incapable as one may deem after comparing to any other management institution.

Since most of the branches of ICFAI are located in prime cities or metros, the placement will be reasonable for a Tier II college. Most industries especially the service oriented industry operate out of major cities and the proximity to these industries makes campus recruitments a bit easier for corporate HR. However, through the process of natural selection, the grade of the students is decided by HR when they compare the selected percentage of students from the numbers who have taken the test. For example, CAT or IIT attracts the maximum number of eligible candidates taking the exams. This naturally means that the pass percentage is much tougher and the cream de la crème are accepted into the institutes for study.

ICFAI may not enjoy such a privilege. The numbers taking the exam are far lesser than CAT and the fees of 9 lakhs for an unrecognized course could be another point against.

Without going into too much math, we can assume that an education loan of 9 lakhs plus interest of perhaps 10% would mean a net outflow of well above 10 lakhs. This means that the MBA grad has to, just has to, get a job that pays enough to service an education loan EMI of atleast Rs. 15,000 per month. This further translates into a job necessity that pays a gross salary of at least 3.5 lakhs per annum to take care of the EMI plus living expenses. By the time the education loan is paid, it could be years before the individual can think of buying other assets such as a car or a house.

The pressure starts right from the day the last exam has been written. The sheer number of students passing out of the ICFAI MBA course each year is so high that they have to compete with other institutes for the same available jobs and may not have the risk appetite to start small as the loan burden is already sitting on their shoulders.

Other points
When I tried immigrating to New Zealand and the UK in 2001, I discovered that my ICFAI PGDBA degree was equivalent to toilet paper. The institute was NOT recognized and I had no points awarded for my PGDBA academics. My better half had secured more points than me inspite of not being an MBA and so we had to apply with her as the principal applicant and with myself as the accompanying spouse. I’m not sure if the scene has changed now but from what I know, ICFAI has no AICTE recognition. This means the degree will still not fetch any points during the immigration eligibility process.

This post is my opinion and my opinion alone. With the passage of time, the circumstances could change rendering my points irrelevant. But at this point of time, I feel that the job prospects for an ICFAI MBA after dolling out such high fees is not worth the risk. It is always better to secure a job after graduation and then apply for an MBA from a Tier I college as this will at the very least enrich your CV for life.

An MBA is more about preparing a person for a management role or atleast infuse a level of professionalism. Most of the times, the student has this capability within already through life's experiences. An MBA just bring this latent ability to the surface for prospective employers to see. The ICFAI course just achieves this. Nothing more.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

CECRI - Life as a student

Its been 14 years since I passed out of my Engineering college. Looking back now, I realize how much my alma mater taught me.


I stumbled upon this photo of the batch of 1995 of which I am proud to be a part. Those of you who come to this blog and see these photos will certainly appreciate how much we have changed and how much we enjoyed during those 4 golden years. For these are the years which will never come back to us.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Trek 4300 - One year later

It’s been a little more than a year since I got my 4300. I decided to post this review after drenching it in the rain over the last few days and thrashing it in slush and mud.

I may have done only about 3000 kms on it. Not much for a year of use but I’ve used it everyday over the last year to commute (barring 10 days in the Hyderabad summer). The motorbike and car have been resting at home and are being used only when the entire family has to go out.

My usage of the 4300 is not limited to the tarmac. I love hopping kerbs and riding on the sides of the roads where its free, rough, jagged and fun. I jump often (not bunny hopping) and tend to abuse the bike a little. So my experience is:

Frame: Nice geometry for all types of use. However, it is an MTB and performance on the road is certainly restricted as compared to a road bike but the high seating position gives a good view in traffic. The upright position is comfortable. The word that comes to my mind is "balanced". The frame itself is quite strong and I can vouch for it as I have done a maximum of 2 foot high drops numerous times.

Suspension: Lovely. Just lovely. Soaks up bumps very nicely when I hit hidden potholes in the rain and even better when I jump down kerbs. It’s set at the stiffest setting and does a good job balancing daily riding and jumping.

Ride: Smooth. I’ve understood that comparing an MTB and a road bike is like a Pajero and a Ferrari. The former is a lump built to be abused but can be used for road riding too although it will feel cumbersome. The latter is for the pure thrill of burning rubber on the tarmac. The 4300 mirrors the former perfectly. The sedate road traveling bike exhibits a totally different character on trails and bad riding conditions. One can feel the control and confidence especially on trails. Its hard to describe unless you’ve really thrashed this bike on a trail. The sound, the feel, the confidence, the grip all scream out on trails. This bike is not meant to be just ridden on roads because then you’ll never understand its heart. That said, it is perfectly suited to commuting for those like me who can’t afford a road bike, for now.

Quality: This is perhaps where I’m most happy to have bought a Trek or something similar. I have ridden quite a few times in the rain with the crank completely under water. I understand why a sealed bottom bracket is so important. The gears changed under water with some resistance. But the ride was superb. After all that soaking, there isn’t a creak coming from anywhere. The gears shift perfectly till date. The components have all held up just as they were on day one. The cables, derailleurs, shifters, tyres, rims, pedals, cassettes and suspensions are superb. Even the handlebar grips are good. No punctures till date. I ride with a tyre pressure of 60 psi.

Brakes: This is the one part of any transport vehicle that faces the most friction/violence/abuse. The brakes have just one purpose. To stop what it’s meant to. The brakes are reason I could touch a top speed of 51.7 km/hr. Because I knew I could stop in time if needed. They work very well even when wet. Disc brakes would be of help in hazardous terrain but these V-brakes are more than sufficient for now.

Issues: During delivery, the front brakes were slightly misaligned. I fixed this by completely removing the pads and re-adjusting them. On another occasion, the chain was touching the front derailleur in the 3-5 combination. This too was fixed by loosening the cage bolt and turning the derailleur a little. And that’s it. No issues till date.

The 4300 is a very dependable bike. The quality of components used is high and should ideally last for years unless badly abused. I have no gripes whatsoever and I do thank Rohan Kini at for edging me towards buying it. No regrets till date. Touchwood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fear - The greatest motivator

It is fairly common these days to read about how self-motivated the successful people are. The prodigies and the self-made business tycoons inspire us with their stories. And the most common thread to all these people is the fact that they’re self motivated. A deep desire from within to push forth and be the best in whatever they want to be and do.

Yet, each and every one of us have different motivational factors. Some work better when they’re relaxed and some need pressure to perform. But perhaps it is fear that is the basis for all ambitions.

Taking a corporate office as an example, one sees the average performers move along in their work-grind out of the fear of being replaced. Competition and peer pressure forces them to look at what’s happening around and use those benchmarks to better themselves. The below average performers always look over their shoulder waiting for that pink slip. The fear of being laid off makes them stay awake and plod along.

But the star performers, that’s another story. These are people who’re so completely engrossed in the finality. They see the goal and visualize it coming closer. With a vengeance, each failure along the way is studied and granulated and improved upon resulting in a razor sharp focus. But yet again, it is fear that drives them. The fear of not bettering what they did today. The fear of becoming lackadaisical.

Every human being has that potential within themselves to be the best at something in their lives. Few of us ever get to know and be what we truly are good at. The majority of us give in to what comes our way and end up doing a “job”. The really lucky ones get to work on their hobbies and make a living out of it. For it is in this state of mind that one becomes a star, afraid yet motivated by the fear of the self.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Hotel Gautam @ Mahabaleshwar - Review

For a hill station that has so many visitors and tourists during the peak season, there are surprisingly few online reviews available on hotels and resorts at Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra.

During the peak season, almost every single hotel and resort goes full barring perhaps the most expensive. We had to do an extensive search online and talk to friends and acquaintances for hotels to stay in based on our tastes and budgets.

Cutting the rant short, we searched on and for reviews and of the few we found, we hit upon Hotel Gautam ( for its consistently good reviews. This was going to be a shot in the dark and we took it.

The booking was made by calling Mr. Deepak at Pune who was willing to listen and answer all queries. I troubled him quite a bit demanding all sorts of answers about room size, hotel location, refund policy in case of cancellations etc. Hotel Gautam does not give you a refund but instead holds the amount for you to visit any time within a year of booking. This didn’t seem too bad. Besides, I booked a poolside room first, then cancelled and booked a Super Deluxe room, again cancelled and booked a family room since it was 3 adults and a child. Each time, Mr. Deepak never complained and patiently accommodated my request.

We traveled on 7-Jun-09 from Hyderabad and reached Pune on 8-Jun-09 at 9.00 am. Went to a friend’s place to have breakfast and a rest for my daughter and continued to Mahabaleshwar by the MSRTC bus. The bus started at 11.15 am and reached Mahabaleshwar at exactly 3.15 pm after which we took a taxi to Hotel Gautam. With some trepidation, we entered the hotel:


This is perhaps the second best reason to take a room here. On entering the hotel, you are treated to a fantastic view of the Koyna valley. The clouds lazily move along the mountain side for a good part of the day. The garden faces the valley and one can sit here and admire the valley for as long as one wishes (or until you checkout). The hotel is 2 kms from the market place and very close to Wilson Point.

Wilson Point is the highest point in Mahabaleshwar. The hotel is situated just around a kilometer from here. The walk is fantastic and you get treated to a cool/cold fast breeze at the top. If you’re up at 5.45 am, you get to see a most glorious sunrise.

The word "Serenity" would aptly describe the atmosphere of the hotel.


We chose the Family room as we were 3 adults and a child. The family room has 2 double beds, 2 bathrooms, 2 single beds, one mini-refrigerator, an air conditioner and two LCD TVs with some important channels showing. The entrance is through either of two doors which is particularly useful if someone wants to leave or stay. One side can be locked and the key taken.

The standard utilities provided are towels, shampoo sachets and medimix soaps. The bedsheets were neat and devoid of stains. There were no bed bugs, mosquitoes, cockroaches or ants in the room which proved how well maintained it was.

The photos of the room are attached for a better view. And talking of room view and placement, you pay more for the a valley facing room but frankly, it does not matter. All the rooms are in the same compound. So you can save a bit by taking a pool facing room and just walking up into the garden to enjoy the valley. The valley facing rooms make sense if you really love to admire the view as soon as you wake up or if the torrential rains are forcing you to stay indoors. Mahabaleshwar is simply too romantic in the monsoons.

There is a nice garden with play items for children like slides, a swing etc. My daughter enjoyed playing for hours. Enough space is given and the toys are all on grass making it a comfortable play area too. There are games too such as Table Tennis and Badminton. The swimming pool had clean water and we found many people taking a dip and having fun.

NOTE: The rice cooker seen in the photo is not a hotel provided accessory. We took it along just in case my daughter wanted to eat plain boiled dal.

The other rooms are quite spacious too and come with one double bed and an extra single bed/diwan. Photos were taken by me courtesy permission of Hotel Gautam.


This is where the hotel shines. The staff is always courteous. Right from the time we had to check in all the time till we checked out. Check-in was a polite no-nonsense affair and we were shown our rooms immediately. The room attendants do NOT wait or linger around for a tip from you. They do their job and keep moving.

We arrived at 3.30 pm at the hotel on 8-Jun-09 which was past lunch time. We were famished after the bus ride and requested some food at the front desk. The front desk is manned by Mr. Ramesh (also the Hotel Manager) and Mr. Suresh who very professional people. We were ushered into the restaurant and the manager and staff was serving us everything that was available. We asked for some rice, dal and curd and they served us without a moment wasted. Since we were close to snack time, we were also served snacks with tea/coffee with/without sugar.

The staff is responsive and carries out every request with a smile no matter what the time. Room service too is very quick. The staff did not bother us for anything. Snacks and tea were served in the garden when we asked for it as it was lovely to eat hot pakodas and sip a cup of hot tea while gazing at the lush mountains.

The most amazing level of service was extended to us after we actually checked out!

We booked a Neeta Volvo at 11.30 am on 13-Jun to take us back to Pune. Mr Ramesh had earlier quietly warned us against taking this bus because of the motion sickness experienced by people. We ignored his warning and booked it anyway.

The bus broke down at Susoor at 1.00 pm after traveling about 45 kms from Mahabaleshwar. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere with no other alternate transport and our train leaving from Pune at 4.30 pm. The bus driver called up his office and it was obvious that there was not going to be a replacement for another 1.5 hours. We were certainly going to miss the train.

In desperation, I called Mr. Ramesh and explained that we had just checked out and that the bus had broken down. He immediately barked a few orders to a taxi driver and made sure that the taxi reached us within an hour by 2.10 pm. He coordinated with us and the taxi driver and ensured that we got to Pune station on time. This was perhaps the most satisfying and justifying reason for staying at Hotel Gautam. Mr. Ramesh sent the taxi purely on the faith that we will still be at Susoor waiting for it. We could’ve left with the next bus itself and nothing could’ve been done.

The above paragraph is my way of thanking him and Hotel Gautam for the unequaled service extended to us before, during and after our stay at Hotel Gautam. Everyone is similarly helpful.


Perhaps the most ridiculous level of pampering would be in this department. The food is pure vegetarian and is impossibly good. We stayed for 5 days, stuffed ourselves, couldn’t complain anywhere and left the hotel with a relief because it was becoming an eating fetish. Good Lord! The food’s so good with so much variety that one can’t even sample everything. Even the Chinese and Continental dishes were above average. Do not expect a Mainland China or a Ritz. But the non-Indian dishes were made with passion and affection.

The Indian dishes were all outstanding. Being south Indians, we didn’t find the sambar upto our benchmark but it was good all the same. North Indian dishes are something to die for over here. The two sample menus can be viewed below. We never once felt like going out and eating anything else. The spread here ensured that we sinned properly and gained weight.

When we checked out, we requested a simple parcel for the journey. We were given a royal parcel consisting of sandwiches, pickles and curd. The manager offered us more dishes but we had to deny it.

Value for money?

Without doubt, especially during the off season. Those staying in Pune and Mumbai are really lucky as they can just drive up here within a few hours.

The only thing lacking is a WiFi connection. But when you go to stay and unwind, perhaps it is best not to have any link with the workplace.


I would be hard pressed to state any competition to Hotel Gautam as this hotel offers a perfect blend of food, location and outstanding service. We did try Ramsukh resorts which incidentally have excellent reviews but the rates were more than double of hotel Gautam.

Among the other hotels we called during the booking period, we found Hotel Pratap Heritage very courteous. Same for Lake view resort. But after having seen this hotels, the location offered by Gautam was simply too good. For non-vegetarians, Hotel Brightland would be the best but the rates are much higher there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A good samaritan

A refreshing experience it was at school today. Parked the car in an unobtrusive space to allow traffic to move. Following the traffic rules has its disadvantages too. Another chauffeur driven car came up and blocked us plumb with the chauffeur conveniently vanishing while we went to drop off the little one at school.

After due contemplation, I tried moving the bikes around to make some space to take my dinky little 800 out. Seeing me perspire, another man just came over and helped me move all the bikes around without being asked. He spent a good 5 minutes moving everything around just to give us space to take the car out.

t'was a reminder and a justification that people are still very nice and help out without being asked for it. God bless that man because I would've found it really hard to get the car out by myself. Humanity lives on!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


There are two applications that hang my system just to see me cry. And these two applications take up a large memory print and will act up mainly when I've gone half way through some number crunching in excel, thereby forcing me to close my existing applications, lose 2 hours of work and redo them.

The two applications are IE7/IE8 and yahoo messenger, each robbing my RAM of 72K and 52K respectively. Eliminating the first problem was easy. I don't use IE7. Its that simple. I use k-meleon (firefox engine). Nothing fancy, just decent browsing and a small 30K footprint.

The second is a bit tricky since we all use yahoo messenger for internal communication and I risk being an outlaw staying outside the boundaries of ymsngr. With all its fancy skins, themes, sounds, croaks, bells, whistles and more blah, the basic fun of chatting and communicating is lost among all those pachydermal worthless cosmetic features.

Having mopped the floor two weeks ago with my tears after losing some Form 16A data in MS Word due to ymsngr, I decided to search for a simpler application and stumbled upon Trillian ( which imports all your contacts from ICQ, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, and IRC. It also stores your chat histories if needed and takes up a miniscule 3.7K of RAM.

Not having had a system hang in 2 weeks (1 week actually since I was chilling out the last week), I'm going to attempt completing my Form 16As today.

I've ranted enough. If you're interested in a little more speed (especially you humans out there who do not have the new fangled 4 GB DDR3 RAM) due to a lower RAM footprint, I invite you to try Trillian. Its an 8 MB download and is worth the install.