March 27, 2016

Being controlled by big brother

Three incidents over the last 6 months have driven home to me the fact that I am living the dystopic reality predicted in George Orwell's Nineteen eighty four. Someone, somewhere is controlling me for their gain and I am helpless. I don't like it one bit.

I list here the three different models of control I have experienced in the recent past.

Control Model 1. Not giving the right information at the right time. 
#HFDCLife: We took this pension scheme 10 years back, and have been paying a certain amount of money every year. It was a tax-saving scheme, and we diligently paid the amounts agreed to, every year.

After maturity, we were told that from next year, we would receive the same amount that we had paid every year for the rest of our lives. When I looked at the amount we were getting, I felt that if I took back the lumpsum that I had paid over 10 years (with the interest), I would get better interest even from an FD, than what they were giving me. I told them I wanted to take back the whole amount.

I was told that I could have taken back the whole amount before the scheme matured, that is, a week back. I said, "But no one told me". They had nothing to say. They assumed that I was okay with locking the entire amount with them for the rest of my life. I asked them what options I had before me to get the money back. They said none. The money could only be claimed by my children after my death. Or, they said (wow!), I could get it in case of critical illness, which of course, has to be one of the ailments from their list.

I protested and argued. What if I had been bankrupt and absolutely need the money now to invest somewhere?


I then wrote an email to HDFC Life, Mumbai. I got back an encouraging mail saying I have the option to take back the amount. I went back to the local office and spent a good 2 hours. They told me that the info in the email was not correct, and that they would investigate. A day later I got an email from the Mumbai office apologising to me for the incorrect information given to me, and telling me that I could not get the money. There was nothing I could do any more.

While I do understand that this is how pension schemes work, I feel they had the moral responsibility to give me a choice to take back the whole amount before maturity of the scheme. Of course, I am foolish to assume this. Of course, I am being idealistic.

"Sar uthake jiyo" is HDFC's slogan for this scheme. But "sar jhukake dedo" is what they actually mean.

What I intend to do: I can't think of anything I can do about this. I just would like to warn anyone else taking HDFC Life or any other such scheme to be aware of their choices and to make the right decisions. I welcome advice from anyone who might have a solution to this.

Control Model 2. Take away money and don't be available to explain when customer asks for explanation.
#AIRTEL - THE MONEY-SUCKING GHOST: All these service providers - they are ghosts. No face, no ears, no voice, no shape, no form. You can't see them or expect your problems to be solved.

Among other problems, money suddenly starts draining from my phone. The internet recharge dies out within days and Airtel starts charging from my main account. In 3-4 days after recharge, my balance is zero and I am frustrated and angry. I call Airtel helpline....and after being redirected 45 times, I hear a human voice. I start complaining. He sounds call-centerish, stupid and un-knowledgeable. I am angry now and start shouting. He calmly tells me that he will put me on to his supervisor, and then I am put on hold. He ain't coming back, and I can't get call him back ...yes, I am the ulloo here. What I intend to do: Nothing. At least I can chuck Airtel any time and go to another service provider until I have a problem with them!

Control Model 3. Have one person at the helm who doesn't read mails and who only picks up phone calls, doesn't listen to reason, and simply shouts at you. 
This is the model followed by a client I wrote about in an earlier post. The people you work with and who see your painstaking efforts are different from the person who pays you. All of them read mails and respond when you are working with them on the job, but when you send your invoice telling them why they must pay more than the tentative estimate, none of them respond. The only thing you can do is to meet or call the boss who shouts. If you are a sensitive sort who cannot raise your voice and yell back, you quickly realise the futility of meeting such a person. And you learn your more working without a formal contract!
What I intend to do: We are not working for this client any more. And they are the losers.

March 16, 2016

Kala Ghoda Festival 2016

 Once in a while, it is nice to take a break from one's life and go for an interesting event out of town. We discovered this when we went for the Typoday in 2014 at Symbiosis Institute of design when Ragini was part of the organising team. You get to see another world of creative people, and you come back refreshed and motivated. While I was tempted to go for the Typoday 2016 in Bangalore, I chose to go to Bombay for the Kala ghoda festival. That Kobita and Ragini were also interested and willing to come along was an added incentive.

Kala Ghoda Festival has a variety of events - visual art installations, theatre, cinema, music, dance, literature, events for children, photography, art, heritage walks, food, shopping, urban design, architecture and so on. There is a lot happening in various places over 9 days, and it is not possible to attend everything. The Association was formed in 1998, and the first festival was held in 1999.

Here's a selection of photos from the event, and a few other photos taken on walks around the Kala Ghoda district.

Rampart Row, the Kala Ghoda area road that is cordoned off for the event.
'Choti rickshaw badi savari'...90 artists celebrating the three-wheeler.
(Artist: Naina Soparkar)
I loved these artistic autos!
Ragini and Malini taking photos of the colourful 'Cutting chai' by Seema Kohli
'Cosmic Coalesce' by Pearl Academy was simply out of this world. The frames have layers of embroidered fabric lit up at the centre for a celestial glow.  The branches are created using hand embroidery, applique work, weaving and burnt-out print techniques.
This was definitely one of my favourites. 
A worker adding finishing touches to an installation.
Note that this guy's shirt matches the artwork :) 
'A fish out of water' by Rahul Das
An unusual imaginary hybridization of a species to showcase a world
without borders, in this case a flowerhorn. 
(This is the explanation given by them)
Not sure what this installation is called, but it added a festive touch
both during the day and at night.
'Unity by diversity' by Siddharth H Somaiya...
an interactive installation 
'Tyre canopy' by Purva Pandit.
And this is my prize-winning shot for the Kala Ghoda photo contest. :)
The ghoda on the wall of Rhythm House. I wish I knew who did this.
Originally there was a statue of King Edward VII on a black horse in this area.
Appparently this was moved to the zoo (!).
This statue is what gave this festival its name. 
My nieces Nayantara and Vismaya fooling around at the Alliance Francais photo booth.
A random shot that I somehow like.
The whole of the Fort area has magnificent buildings. Not sure which one this is. 
This is the New India Assurance building, Kamani Marg near Flora Fountain.
The art deco style makes the 1936 building look larger than it is.
It looks quietly grand. 
Buckley Court, Colaba. I admired this building every time I walked past it.
They retained the old heritage building and built apartments behind it. 
Later read that this was designed by Hafeez Contractor. 
Each flat apparently has an area of 6000 sq ft with a a pool, park and workout space, 
and a 360 degree view of the harbour. Price: 11 crore.  
Had the honour of attending Bittu Sahgal's session at Kitaab Khana,
a charming book shop with a restaurant inside. 
What a beauty this is! But it is going to be brought down...the story of every city.
I was delighted to see this guy selling 'Bombai mithai'...something we used to eat as children.
He makes shapes out of the gooey candy - a rose, a parrot, a ring, a watch :)
Spotted this interesting restaurant exterior in the gallis of Kala Ghoda.

It was nice to see the brisk and busy Leopold Cafe.
We went to Bandra to meet Rachna...and passed by 'Mannat', Shah Rukh Khan's house.
People take selfies outside his gate and wait there, hoping to get a glimpse of him.

This is the first time I spent leisurely time in Bombay, and absolutely loved the place, especially the Fort/Colaba area where we stayed. Fabulous buildings, roads, gallis, good food, great shopping, the cabs are cheap and drivers honest - I could really live in this part of Bombay! Something alive, safe and simple about it. We were fortunate to get a room in YWCA even though we called just a day before we left, asking for reservation. 

Some sessions I attended are:

- Conversation with Bittu Sahgal during the launch of the book Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins. Bittu is a natural with children and they really love interacting with him. His passion for nature and wildlife comes through very spontaneously, and I was really glad I could meet him. 

- A discussion by the founders of Kala Ghoda. I was surprised that the festival was started only 17 years back, and that our friend Amita Desai was also one of the founders. I was happy to learn that the profits of the festival go towards restoration of buildings in the area. 

- 'How pictures tell a story' by the Canadian illustrator and film maker (Oscar winner) - Torill Kove. We saw her documentary The Danish Poet

- Paintings by different artists at Jahangir art gallery

- Workshop on Instagramming. Met Kuber Shah who is supposed to be a famous instagrammer. 

- Watched two plays: 
1. Jab shahar hamara sota hai presented by Yuva Theatre, Jalandhar, inspired by Romeo and Juliet, and is a passionate and intense musical.   
2. Unhe kuch kahna hai by Rangashila. A musical play that takes you on a journey of our great Hindustani poets and their poetry.

The short life of gadgets. Are they made to break? - Tamar Akov, an Industrial designer from Israel (Interesting trivia: Longest lasting light bulb 114 years. In US. People sing happy birthday to this bulb!)

- Explored 'The State of Architecture' show at the National Gallery of Modern Art. It was truly done to the highest standards and I felt I was in Paris or New York.

There were others too, but too many to list and describe. 

Apart from all this, we ate good food, we shopped and we walked a lot. Good fun, as always happens in an all-girls group! Malini came from Pune with her friends Mehak and Tanvi for the weekend, and it was lovely seeing them. Also met Vasudev and family and had a yummy lunch with them at Kitaab Khana. 

Would love to go back to Kala Ghoda again, but there are so many other places to see and festivals to attend!