House-hunting: A Hassle Even In The Times Of Apps

9 months ago when I had to move out of my apartment in Powai, I went through several days of house-hunting. With furniture and appliances collected over a decade of living, my search was for a semi-furnished/unfurnished accommodation (at least with kitchen cabinets) for a reasonable rent. Searching for properties and evincing interest on some of the Real Estate and Property Search apps meant that your contact number gets shared instantly with either the agent or owner, thereby opening up a channel of communication to discuss/fine tune your requirement. But the actual result of this exercise was that I ended up with a contact list of agents/brokers who worked as a liaison between me and the owner.

Agents/Brokers: The Liaision

These agents organised visits to these properties, gave a tour of the house/amenities and proposed rental charges (for a fee, of course). Besides this, the broker would take care of all paperwork/procedures, including rental agreement, police verification, Housing Society NOC (No Objection Certificate), etc. The underlying condition of engaging an agent/broker meant that I as a tenant would be required to pay a brokerage fee of a month’s rental. After 3 weekends of futile house hunting and answering endless calls with property brokers, I finally decided to ditch all the apps – Magicbricks, 99Acres and Housing.com. Nothing helped, until someone suggested Nobroker.in that allows you to interact directly with the property owners, removing this layer of obfuscated agents. I liked the idea of hearing straight from the horse’s mouth about the rent and terms. And I found my new abode this way.

House-hunting again

3 days ago, I went through the house hunting exercise again for my brother. This time we weren’t lucky enough to find a good property on Nobroker, we resorted to the popular property search apps – Magicbricks and 99acres. And again, all the apps did was to facilitate sharing of contact details between the two parties: Tenants and Agents. The owner is nowhere in the picture. It was a repeat of my first experience – visiting properties with agents, checking amenities and societies and discussing rental rates with them.

I have nothing against brokers or their brokerage fee, but why create an app to list properties that shares only contact details of tenants/brokers.

Disclaimer: All the suggestions below are for renting properties only.

How property apps can  help

Fine-tune the search – Apps currently allow users to search for type of property (residential/commercial, etc.), size of property (1 BHK – 4 BHK), level of furnishing and budget (rent range agreeable by tenant) in an area/nearby localities.

Only on physically visiting the property does the tenant get to know about the following:

A. Society bylaws – most societies prefer their members to lease to family only and not singles

B. Amenities available and rates applicable to use these

C. Feng Shui/Vaastu compliance – The direction of the front door, orientation of kitchen, wall colours, etc.

List Owner Preferences – This is a must.

Most owners have prejudices regarding eating habits, names and number of people occupying their property. This includes:

 

A. Some owners prefer their tenants to be vegetarians, but can accommodate meat-eating tenants
B. Some have restrictions on the religion that tenants follow
C. Some have restrictions on the number of people/children on their properties
D. Most importantly, some have restrictions on where their tenants work. They prefer salaried tenants over businessmen or freelancers. Working in show business (read television/movies), keeping odd hours are a strict no no. Don’t ask me why. That is the topic for another blog post. 😦

Collect Feedback – Currently, there is no provision for tenants visiting a place to record any feedback/observations about a property.

While there are pictures and videos/video tours about a particular property, what would help the user immensely is feedback by people who have visited a property.

If you are looking for a quick comparison of property apps, check this.

A refined search, details about the owner and feedback about a property is a first step to help you find your new home on these apps. Until then, it is the network of agents/brokers who will always decide for you.

 

 

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How To Make 2018 Goals More Achievable

If you are one of those super-achieving, prompter than the clock, checked off 48 things on 100 to-dos bucket list, ultra-organized list producer for everything, smart investor of time-money-effort and high-octave driven fitness freak – you are simply the BEST, better than all the rest. 🙂 Stop reading at this point, this post is not for you.

I would be fooling if I say that I don’t like to be the best. Such people always inspire me and I am thankful to learn something from them all the time.

My aim here is not to find the way to become the BEST at everything – I would probably go a little nuts while trying to achieve that. But am here trying to attain something achievable – like being more hardworking, more prompt, more dedicated, more organized, more focused and more thoughtful to begin with. If this is something that appeals to you too, then please join me in working towards the “something achievable” in our lives.

Year after year, especially on the eve of the new year’s and birthday’s, I used to reflect on all the things that I drew up to achieve at the beginning of the year. This process of self-introspection brings a lot of mind-numbing regurgitation of moments where I could have done better. The regret that one feels is good as long as one believes that what’s done is done (you cannot change anything) and focus on what one can do to act/be different the next time. One such introspection lead me to write about resolutions for 2017 with a simple plan.

My 2017 Resolutions

My list of 2017 remains intact and it has now become second nature to me. I am sharing them here again as I want to build on these.

2017 list

Something Achievable for 2018

Sir Terry Pratchett in his book, “A Slip of the Keyboard” talks of a time “when people believed that if you patiently accumulated a knowledge of small things a knowledge of big things would automatically evolve, and you would become a better person.” I don’t know if such times will be back, but what I do believe is that small things together make a big change and that is the theme for my resolutions for 2018.

Let’s look at those small things that can make 2018 achievable, things that will make us a better person.

  • More Hardworking – If your mind is saying, “I am already giving it all I can” whenever your boss/peer/partner is asking to put in extra work, tell yourself there is a “little extra” than you can still do. The trick here is to think of the reward that this extra will gain you in the long run. To give you an example, when you are writing an article/blog use Word Styles (heading 1, heading 2…), this way when you want to create a presentation or a video, you already have an outline and related content in the word document. The little extra in this case happens to be A) learning Word Styles B) using Styles every time you write something.
  • More Prompt – If you are constantly battling the clock, you can never win this war. I plan things well ahead in time and still get anxious every time a deadline approaches. Taking a cue from Robert Burns‘ line, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry“, prepare for the eventuality that it can go wrong. That way if it goes right, it’s an all-win situation for you. For example: Try a 3-2-1 approach: if you are required to be at the airport two hours before for the flight (in spite of web check-in) then add +1 hour to your time such that you arrive 3 hours before flight time, two hours before check-in, 1 hour before your actual flight. A word of caution, if you are either trying to reach the Mumbai airport via Western Express (WE) or Bangalore airport, make it 4+ hours, remember this and you will thank me always of making it right on time for your flight. 🙂
  • More Dedicated Dr. A. P. J Abdul Kalam said, “Be more dedicated to making solid achievements than in running after swift but synthetic happiness.” One of the people I follow for Office productivity tips on twitter is @drnitinp (and his Efficiency 365 site). I am amazed at some of the things that he does – writes 365 posts (aka an article a day, sometimes even 2-3 in a day), makes videos, webinars, sends productivity tips and that’s not all – even shares movie reviews based on a Movie Rating Chart, (yes, Excel Chart) that we use every day. Dr. Nitin Paranjape is simply dedicated to his cause, “achieve more with less effort: work efficiently.” – This dedication to learning is something that I aspire to and am willing to inculcate.
  • More Organized – I am a sucker for lists and am aware of how compulsive it can get. While the objective is not to be the best organized person, the effort is always being more organized to keep your head clear to focus on important things. While there are many tools, apps and tech (OneNote, Microsoft To-do, BillDesk, RSS, etc.) to help you stay on top of things, a general rule of thumb I follow is if something is repetitive, write it down, and put a time and date to it on your phone/laptop/desk so that you don’t miss doing it.
  • More Focused– Distractions are a dime a dozen, not just online or TV, distractions can also be thinking of something that doesn’t contribute to the task at hand. Most airlines make passengers pay attention to safety briefing with, “Some of you may be frequent fliers and may be familiar with the safety instructions, but in the interest of the safety of all passengers please pay attention to the safety demonstration.” Few steps that I have taken to stay focused is to break down the work using Pomodoro Timer, be prepared (list/write down the steps for a task) and start earlier than the planned time to begin. Even an hour extra before starting work can be used to organize your day and plan the work better.
  • More Thoughtful – Borrowing Schopenhauer’s words, “Health isn’t everything, but without it, everything else is nothing.“, I cannot stress this enough. While I believe that everyone has their own definition of the word fitness, mine would be to make health a priority. My Mum had warned me once, “Cook while you are not hungry, so that when you are hungry, you don’t need to cook.” On that note of cooking, my steps to stay healthy is to be mindful of how I cook (less oil, slow-cooking) and what I eat (no wheat, less junk, etc.). This, plus meditation, staying positive and the right exercise to be physically fit. This is a learning curve for me and I will share what’s worked me for me over time in the upcoming posts.

Of course, I would not be able to do all of this overnight. But as I said at the beginning, this is what I think is “something achievable.” If you are like me, I would like you to try this. Do share what works for you.

Let us make 2018 more achievable!

Heaven of freedom

In the age of online stores, shoppers still like to touch products

A report by KPMG International analyzing the online shopping preferences and behaviors of more than 18,000 consumers in 51 countries shows that 56% of consumers cite “Touch/try product” as one of the main reasons consumers shop in stores instead of online.

(KPMG 2017 Global Online Consumer Report: Figure 3.3 Reasons consumers shop in stores instead of online)

In the age of online stores, people still need to touch and feel products before they buy? Is this true?

Yes, but sometimes this might not be the only reason to shop at a physical store.

I am a Generation X consumer. I shop online for convenience, for bargains, and availability of few products online that are otherwise difficult to procure at physical stores. Most of the times, it is cost + convenience benefits that sway me toward online shopping. That said, the main consideration that I have before buying anything online is its return policy.

After relocating to a new place, I wanted to furnish and organize the apartment as a DIY project. But when the creativity bug bites you, one doesn’t like to spend a lot. Likewise, I wanted to decorate on a budget and thus make curtains, cushion covers, etc., (anything that can be sewn) on my own to enhance the visual appeal of the place. For months, I screened (pun intended) online marketplaces for drapery and curtain fabric. Pinterest, YouTube, and Etsy gave me ideas of making cheap, DIY curtains from Canvas or Drop cloth that could be put up with minimal effort and cost. At the same time, the fierce, festival season sales at Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal lured me with some of the best deals on curtains.

Here are some of my observations while browsing through the marketplaces – although this is not a comparison, it will give you an idea of what you’ll find:

  • Amazon and Flipkart, more or less offered the same brands, same products, at almost the same price.
  • Snapdeal gave me more options to fine tune my requirement: fabric type, design, material, transparency, etc.

Snapdeal

Since I was keen on DIY curtains, I searched for “curtain fabrics” and noticed these:

  • Most of the products had a representational image and the colour and quality may vary.

  • There could be irregularity in the yarn/fabric that might have occurred during weaving, dyeing and washing and those cannot be treated as a defect in the product. 

  • Most fabrics are either pre-cut or cut as per customer’s requirement, and in no way are returns accepted.
  • Almost all fabrics are prone to shrinkage, and hence again non-returnable, if you find changes after the first wash.
  • You would need to pay in advance toward 100% payment protection, in case you want to return the product.
  • Finally, it takes 5-9 business days for shipping, unless you pay extra for scheduled delivery.

What you see may not be what you get

There were more cons than pros when it came to planning a DIY project, given the cost and time considerations. That said, I decided to test the waters and ordered for curtain fabric online on Amazon. Though I received the package well within the scheduled delivery time, I discovered that the fabric was not of the thickness preferred for curtain/drapes. And I discovered this only after I had opened the package.

Amazon curtain fabric

Now let me ask again,

Is it still important to consumers to be able to touch and feel products before they buy?

A big YES.

The Curtain Call

My parents one day, decided suddenly to visit me and this demanded that I put up curtains in the house immediately. It was pointless to order for either fabrics or ready curtains as I was not sure of quality, material, approximate length and colour, besides the shipping time. A local hypermarket, HyperCITY, happened to solve my problem, in fact, several problems of the day.

This is how shopping at a physical store helped:

I picked up 7-feet, co-ordinated shear and blackout curtains for various rooms, only to come home and find out that the curtains were 6 inches short of the requisite length of the door/windows. The sales personnel had warned me that the curtains are prone to shrinkage (at least a couple of centimetres) after the first wash. So I decided to get them exchanged for 9-feet ones. The store had a 14-day exchange policy of the product when returned in unused, undamaged and in original packaging. How convenient was that. 🙂

Armed with that knowledge, I went back to the store to exchange about a dozen curtains. Here is what I discovered at the store. The store accepted my returned products and issued a Credit Note of that amount that was valid for 3 months from the date of issue. The catch was that the said credit note could be utilised in a single transaction, whatever the amount. After careful, looking, feeling and measuring the curtains, I picked up the right ones this time. The sales persons’ guidance and easy exchange policy offered by the store actually made it a “rewarding experience” to shop at a physical store than online, in spite of the convenience of online shopping.

 An ASSOCHAM-Resurgent India study projects the number of consumers who shop online to cross 100 million by end of 2017. Rise in internet-savvy people, access to broadband and internet-ready devices (read mobiles), improved logistics and easy payment methods are some of the factors contributing to the growing e-commerce market in India. People in metro cities such as Bangalore and Mumbai choose to buy daily routine products online. Tier I and tier II cities, emerging cities and rural customers, given the rise in internet penetration (25% in 2016, expected to rise to 55% by 2025: BCG report) are also gearing up for shopping online.

Buying Online vs In-Store

E-Commerce is here to stay. But the brick-and-mortar retail stores are not going away either. There are shoppers who still need to touch and feel products before buying them. We have all seen consumers picking up Spinach (Palak) packs that are deep in the pile as it remains fresher than the ones on top. Consumers try on a piece of clothing for fit and then ask for a fresh piece (something that is retained in its original packing) while buying. Shoppers planning to buy TV generally visit stores to test the product beforehand buying it online.

In the age of a digital shopping experience, what is that online shopping can offer customers besides convenience that is as close to an in-store shopping experience, here are my thoughts:

  • Listen to your consumers – There is a definite gap between what consumers say they want and what they want. They want products that are affordable, convenient (to use) and relevant for the specific requirement at hand. When the 7-feet curtains were short for my doors, the salesperson at the store guided me to buy 9-feet ones. Assuming that the fabric was prone to shrinkage, they advised me to alter it after washing them once, so that I could get the right length.

  • Customer interaction is crucial – Online businesses spend to discover trends in customers’ expectations and buying patterns, but investment in customer engagement is crucial in e-commerce. Most shoppers need some form of support while buying online, so live chat is welcome. I was avoiding buying ready-made curtains online as most brands had stainless steel eyelets. Washing these curtains in washing machines could cause these metal rings to scrape the drum inside the washer and dryer. While buying at the physical store, the sales person helped me to find curtains with plastic eyelet rings that may not affect the washer.

  • Offer ‘better’ products/services – Frequency of purchase and spending per purchase occasion is rising given that consumers are not just buying during sale season, but almost all through the year. BCG survey indicates that 30% of Indian consumers are willing to spend more on products that they perceive are “better” (read higher-quality).
  • It’s not just discount, display and descriptions matter – Multiple attractive pictures of the product do not help unless accompanied with the right descriptions, that includes information such as where/how it can be used, size and measurements, etc.
  • Time matters – BCG study defines “time compression” as the need to perform increasing amounts of work within a given time period. When the focus of the consumer is convenience – to buy, to use, to return (if necessary), they cannot be bogged down by calculations of shipping time, return policy time, etc. Psst…immediate gratification is the secret.

I know this article is not to compare whether online is better than in-store (offline), but a step to understand how online shopping can offer a rewarding customer experience and not just “convenience”.

PS: The views expressed here are entirely my own and the marketplaces, stores mentioned here have not paid me for this post.

 

 

 

 

 

How India Refuses To Accept We Have a Rape Problem

Yesterday, @IndianInterest on twitter posted an article about how China refuses to admit it has a rape problem.

@IndianInterest: China Refuses to Admit It Has a Rape Problem

The communist party blaming Hollywood and “loose women” is akin, probably closer to our Indian politicians’ thinking that cell phones, Chinese food and of course “loose women” are to blame for the rape problem in our country.

I shared the same post, and added a note saying, “How long before we accept that India is a dangerous place for women too. We aren’t very far in becoming the world’s rape capital.”

And some gentlemen reacted. Some quoted articles which said that the Indian rape figures were “atrocity literature” – cooked up by Western media to position India in a bad way. Some wrote that the pathetic condition of women in India was only in “certain sections of society”, not the country at large. Some talked about how it is worse in other countries. And some backed it with data to prove that India is one of the “countries with the lowest per capita rates of rape”. (Source: Wikipedia)

Well, this post is not for the fine ‘gentlemen’ of such kind nature in our lives.

Nay, it isn’t for the kinder menfolk who inspire us, support us, motivate us, walk with us every step of the way. No way, it is not even for the kindest mankind – fathers, husbands, sons and brothers who share our blood and bed sometimes.

Alyssa Milano’s #MeToo was a Tsunami – Over 12 million posts on Facebook, comments and reactions, over 1.7 million tweets from over 85 countries, over 5 lakh public posts on Instagram, and support pouring in on WhatsApp and women ‘opening’ up. But what about it? It’s just another wave.

It feels frustratingly familiar!

Should women pour out their pain in public to show that they are suffering.

How many times must women pour out their pain? So, women need catchphrases now to prove to the world that something is wrong.

You think it has helped hapless women, connect them in their pain and angst, help them feel as though the world is finally geared together to make that difference in their lives.

Eleanor Cummins writes that “#Metoo…also exposed them to further harassment and made many feel as though they needed to perform their pain in a public platform to have its existence acknowledged.”

No, it doesn’t give me any strength to know that it has happened with another woman.

#MeToo, used on social media in October 2017 to denounce sexual assault and harassment.

It doesn’t empower anyone, it’s not that radical change that we have all been waiting for. In fact, it weakens me! It breaks me every time I read about a child molested, a teen murdered, a woman gang-raped…pavement, bus, train, school, home – nothing, no place, nowhere is safe for women.

Harassment, assault and molestation is persistent for all ages of women and will continue to be as long as people remain blind to this fact. No hashtag will help until there is a mindset change. AND, not to forget the quick retort of “#NotMe” posts by men to show whoever did whatever to you that wasn’t me, not my kind even. Bah.

Most women choose to remain quiet for decades, especially if they have been sexually assaulted as a child. A Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) survivor neither stands up against abuse nor is able to set boundaries on what is ok with her life.

As a kid I never knew why a friendly neighborhood Uncle would draw me close to him and bundle me on his lap. The warm, hard feeling against my buttocks was something that I didn’t understand then. Years later, when travelling every day in the public bus to the high school, I learnt that it wasn’t just about getting a boner for men (old more than young), for they want to show it to you and mostly rub it on you, even if it is just a few seconds of contact with any female. Many years later, as an adult while travelling in general compartments, I learnt that it wasn’t just men brushing their manhood against your genitals, but pinching nipples, waist, bums, thighs, breathing down the neck, running hands on your body, sniffing, spitting…harming, the list goes on. They can’t help doing what they do. Men can’t keep it in their pants. Of course, you are not that men.

I forgot to mention that my account above is only as a woman growing up in a conservative society, in a metropolitan city in India and based on incidents over the last 4 decades.

I am sure things are not the same across the country, not this decade, not this generation. Right, who are those men anyway?!

Rape in India may be the fourth most common crime against women in India, but we take pride that India ranks much lower than countries like US and European countries, both in terms of total incidents and in terms of percentage.

Aren’t we one of those “countries with the lowest per capita rates of rape”? Indians who travel around the world find Germany, Italy, Latam to have worser conditions for women than what it is in India.

Oh, that’s so pacifying. Much of what displeases us is still good to have around. You would agree, wouldn’t you?

And if I say that you are living like the Ostriches that stick their heads in the sand? You would disagree, wouldn’t you? We are better than the rest of the countries, aren’t we? Our men are better than the rest of them across the world, aren’t they? Wait, our men doesn’t include ‘those’ men at all? Right?

Sarcasm is a lost art, and I am not going anywhere with it.

This is the sad truth. Everything is the same. Nothing changes.

More stories, more catchphrases, more pain, more power to those men.

 

 

Death By A Thousand Cuts

A rather sudden decision (read persuasion by Mom) to attend a distant cousin’s wedding in Chennai made me check for tickets on the travel portal. Intelligent people, I mean, the ones who really ‘save’ money would have decided not to make the trip at all. Semi-intelligent ones, I mean, the savvy ones who know when to book in advance to avail of “offers” and “sales”, know how to use air miles, have a 365-things/places-to-do/visit bucket list would be careful enough to book directly on airline websites. Quasi-intelligent (I am using quasi here, because it hurts to call myself un-intelligent.) ones, like myself, deduce that booking on the travel portal is the right thing to do. Now, when you have a Platinum Credit Card offered by your bank in connection with the travel portal, your brain makes you want to believe that this membership card offers you exclusive privileges and doubles your reward points. Wonder why my brain did this to me? Nonetheless, like the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, my brain bewitched me and I do most of my travel bookings on this oh-so-much-more-exclusive-than-thousand-other-cardholders-have card.

Before I digress any further, I compared air fares (signs of semi-intelligent behaviour) on the airline website and travel portal and decided to book my tickets with the latter. The travel portal did warn me with “Did you know: Almost 20% of our users cancel their flight. You can save full Rs. XXXX on cancellation penalty.” I ignored that box.

Cancellation Box

Don’t tell me that I didn’t warn you.

I hate to agree, that I have been part of that said 20% several times. But one does not book tickets for a wedding and not not go unless you are the bride and I wasn’t the one at this wedding.

Moving on, I procured two flight tickets to Chennai (from Mumbai), a week in advance. A word of advice, one should always attend weddings and family get-togethers with your spouse. This is the best way to avoid the pesky Aunt’s questions of, take your pick, “When are you planning (a baby, car, house, Europe tour, IVF, SUV, holiday home…child adoption, tirath yatra, retirement home, yada yada)?” 😉 How does it work? At the event, ensure that you never leave your spouse’s side at any moment. When the questioning begins, panic that you have misplaced your smartphone somewhere and you need to find it, before it could get lost. This quick getaway trick works only if you remember to put your phone on silent mode and place it in your spouse’s coat, so that it doesn’t ring suddenly when someone tries to ring your phone to locate it.

That said, this is what I paid the airline as per my travel invoice.

Airline fare

Airline fare charges with surcharges

Let’s try to understand what the above charges mean.

The Base Fare is the actual cost of the airplane ticket. Airline Fuel Charge, this is self-explanatory. Selling tickets to you at only the base fare would mean immediate bankruptcy to the airline, so they decided to add some sundry charges. Cute, really? Not. Airlines always find creative ways to charge you for their costs:

  • CUTE Charge – Common Use Terminal Equipment, this includes the software solution and airport terminal equipment such as passenger boarding bridges, passenger/luggage loading systems, etc.
  • Passenger Service FeeSecurity service charges for security provided by CISF at airports
  • Other Surcharge – I have not been able to find any information on this.
  • Convenience fee – not a surcharge but costs for the convenience of doing payment by Credit Card/Net banking or any method, other than cash

And, remember GST happened on July 1st, 2017.

Fare with GST

GST charged by the Airline

As luck would have it, I caught a bad bug a few days before the wedding, a viral infection that didn’t allow me to travel. Didn’t Jean De La Fontaine say, “Luck’s always to blame.”? 🙂

I had to cancel the booking. The travel invoice clearly mentioned cancellation/date change charges of Rs. 2250 applicable for any changes made 4 hours prior to departure. Again, a convenience fee of Rs. 250 is applicable because the refund payment (if any) would be made to you via Credit Card/Net banking or any method, other than cash.

This is how the cancellation charges affected my refund.

Cancellation Charges1

Convenience fee, costs for the convenience of doing payment by Credit Card/Net banking or any method

Blame my illness, or blame my quasi-intelligence, I recovered only 56% of my booking amount. Needless to add, that the travel portal had a service fee as well.

Cancellation Charges2

Cancellation charges almost 50%

Airfare, as compared to the 80s, 90s and early 2000 has become quite cheap. I thank everyone in the aviation value chain for that. But those days did not have any of these sundry charges. I am not even going to talk about seat selection, seats with more leg room and baggage allowance charges. You opt for these services, because you know you get that ‘extra’ for what you pay. That’s still acceptable.

When you cancel a ticket, it is highly unlikely that the airline does not earn anything on it. Airline fuel charge never, never gets refunded, in any case. What happens to those CUTE, Passenger Service Fees? You never did use any of that airport terminal equipment nor was the security system utilized in this case. The convenience charge is still debatable, but charging a passenger twice for using a convenient mode of payment doesn’t cut it.

People who are sure about their travel plans can afford to spend time and effort to research thoroughly before picking up the right deals/ticket offers. For travellers like me, for freelancers, for people whose travel is not compensated by any corporate, for people who must redraw their schedule for emergencies, where is the flexibility?

Heed the cancellation warning provided by the travel portal, safeguard your money against cancellation charges by paying an extra 399 something? Avoid the travel portal, book directly with the airline website?

Probably, it’s time I got intelligent. And not travel if I don’t have to.

The curious incident of the car alarm in the night-time

It was 27 minutes after midnight. The Sunday grudgingly dragged itself to bed hoping for some shut-eye before the fear of Monday could creep into the dreams of people. Boyfriends on bikes had bid adieu to girlfriends in their PJs in PGs. Tankers carrying waters had finished their rounds of spilling water and splattering mud and muck on the street. The dogs had dragged their owners back home, after cocking their legs on every lamp post, signpost and post box to mark their territory. If all this seems familiar, you must be residing in one of the crowded lanes of Koramangala 6th Block. 🙂

20170729_225829

Well, it looked like the night was finally drowning out the melee of sounds – Arijit’s songs on a loop, sudden clang of the steel tumbler on the floor, annoying commercials during the Mega movie of the month on Star TV…lights being switched off on the higher floors, etc. But it did not get completely quiet…yet.

A shrill siren suddenly changed it all! Whose car’s anti-theft alarm was that?

My father, like every neighbour, was certain it was our car that the burglar had struck. Doors were unlocked, porch lights came on, people tumbled out on to the street to check their cars. Autolock keys went “click-click” everywhere, until each owner was satisfied that his/her car was safe. But that did not stop the deafening noise.

Shetty shrugged his shoulders that it was not his car’s alarm. Mr. and Mrs. Dsouza walked down the street with their dog to identify the car owner whose alarm had broken the calm. The girls in PJs in PGs, covering their ears rushed out, mobile in hand to join the commotion on the street. You know, I am sure they are used to the fire-drill exercises in their high-rise offices. Wait, aren’t the exercises, actually excuses, by management to rouse sleepy employees post long lunch hours? ;).

Krishna’s car was the culprit. Baig’s grandsons ran up to the third-floor to wake their tenant, Krishna, the bachelor. Good!

Finally, Sleeves rolled up, the men gathered around the car to shut its alarm. The Autolock key wouldn’t work. Suggestions started pouring in. Some checked the car door lock, some talked about damaged immobilizer chip in the anti-theft device, some poked about the electrical wiring in the hood, some went in search of spanners – this is something that I am always curious about. Tell a man he has to fix something/anything and he ‘needs’ a SPANNER first! Some tried to turn the ignition off/on, whatever that could shut the damn thing.

The car alarm blared and bayed until the batteries died. Sudden silence filled the air…Yay! it was such a happy moment. People clapped, a few whistles were heard, girls giggled, some tapped others on their shoulders, the I-told-you-so old Uncles smiled graciously, the teens fist-bumped…and all went home.

A memorable trip

A memorable trip

In December of 2004, we four girlfriends had gone down to Goa, hoping to get a memorable experience. Well, memorable it certainly was – just not in the way we eanted. Our trip was cut short when a tsunami struck the southern coast of India on 26 December 2004. Though Goa experienced only mild tsunami waves, the ominous sky, high tides, and the raging sea had caused widespread panic among tourists and locals alike.

13 years later, having made several trips to Goa individually, three of the original group decided to plan a short trip to Goa together, and try an re-live the experience.

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The last time, we had visited South Goa – including the Vagator, Anjuna, Baga, Calangute, Candolim and Sinquerim beaches. This time, we wanted to explore North Goa. Morjim caught our interest, as it is known for its peaceful waters, happy vibes and crazy parties. But our timing from the trip turned out to be bad. The month of May is neither within the peak-tourist season (b/w October and January) nor the monsoon season (June to September). Most properties are shut now. Finally, we managed to get a booking for 3 nights at Leela Cottages, on Ashvem beach, via Booking.com.

Pablo Picasso said, “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone” and I can’t agree more to this sentiment. We headed to Mumbai International Airport, Terminal T2 to take a red-eye flight (No “Eda” in his right mind does it, even if it is Goa) Jet Airways 9W 446 at 02:35 hours. We landed in Goa early in the morning and reached Leela (1.15 hours away from Dabolim, Goa airport) at 5.10AM.

Leela Cottages, Ashvem Beach

We had secured booking for two guests only. Mr. Prakash, the owner, offered to accommodate a third guest for Rs.1000 extra (for an additional guest bed) which seemed like a fair deal. We got checked into a wooden cottage with a double bed, and a mattress for the guest. However, the cottage room had several broken and displaced tiles, and the bathroom floor was dirty with rat and lizard droppings. We approached the Manager, Ms. Selita with our issues. She gladly agreed to upgrade us to a clean beach suite (G6) that had ample floor space to accommodate a bed for the third guest. She assured us that the wooden cottage was a stand-by accommodation offered due to unavailability of cottages. This was indeed a nice gesture by the hotel.

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Leela cottages is a beautiful location on Ashvem beach with easy access to Morjim beach and its white sands. A neatly-landscaped property amidst tall coconut trees and hibiscus plants, the cottages are interspersed with stone statues of Ganesha and Buddha, making it a quaint and peaceful retreat. The restaurant, Elevar has a limited menu and the staff is friendly too. Since most part of Morjim is closed for the season, you cannot venture out for local food or any basic shopping. This was a big bummer, and we decided to amend our booking. We planned to move to familiar grounds in South Goa which still had a considerable number of tourists (mostly Indians during off-season) and offered places to shop and try the local Goan cuisine.

Majestic Beach Comforts, Varca Beach

A friend insisted that we try Majestic Beach Comforts, on Varca Beach assuring us of great amenities and comfort during our stay. And oh, boy, it was majestic true to its name. A cosy beach resort nestled on the pristine sands of Varca beach, Majestic Beach Comforts is a new property, just finishing its second holiday season. A 3-star property offering 5-star amenities, we were blown away by the service offered by the staff at Majestic. A 2 nights stay at this place worked well within our budget and we got to stay at the Royal Suite (121). Plush rooms in wooden cottages with modern amenities to dry clothes, shower enclosures, secure beach access area with benches, 24X7 security and a beautiful swimming pool made it all worthwhile. A round-the-clock coffee shop by the pool and the restaurant, “Mood Alter, Wine and Dine” that offers a nice, sumptuous buffet breakfast in the mornings is a big plus. The manager, Anant Prabhudessai is very courteous and goes an extra mile to ensure the comfort of guests.

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We had decided to bring in a friend’s birthday at this venue and the staff at Majestic treated us to a candle-light dinner by the beach. The staff was so good with the arrangements that they could pass off as professional event managers. We had a memorable experience and cannot wait to stay again at the Majestic.

The next time you are in Goa and are looking for a nice refreshing and rejuvenating experience, head first to Majestic Beach Comforts, trust me, you will get a ‘majestic’ treatment. 🙂