Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Imagining India" - By Nandan Nilekani - Quick Review

If you are a subscriber of Outlook, that now iconic weekly news magazine, then you would know that you get a mini-book kind of thing every few weeks. A very good concept from the point of readers since now they can taste the book and then decide whether they want to buy or not , as well as from the stand point of Author, since now at least they have a bigger chance to reach more people.

The last book-excerpt which I got was for Nandan Nilekani's book, titled "Imagining India".

The book reads like an essay and talks about various issues around development, IT, policies, population and likes. Since this booklet is of a size of a mini-book (5 inches BY 5 inches), its not the complete book but it has 100 odd pages so I would think that it has good enough to introduce you to what the real book would carry.

I think 'Imagining..' borrows heavily from the works of other people and they tries to distill that information with his own opinions in a essay or factual kind of way. There are interesting things which you learn like 'Population Dividend'. Essentially a concept where large population is not a bane but a boon. This concept is not Nandan's but he has incorporated this in great detail by including the works of lots of economists, with due credit given at multiple places.

In another chapter it talks about various programs which Government of India is pursuing in the areas of land reforms, BPL subsidies, information dissemination , electronification of rural India. Again most of the text is not his but a great collection and a good amount of hard work must have gone to research this.

The book is not very easy to read since its neither a story, nor a travel log, not even a piece of opinion. The closet this book reminds me is 'India ' which Publications Division, Ministry of I & B, used to publish every year. That book was like a bible to all IAS aspirants and it used to have all the information about government policies, all the data and likewise. I am also not sure whether you would want to keep this book as a reference material because its not a reference material book.

I was talking to someone the other day and I found out that the famous title of Thomas Friedman books was actually Nandan's line, viz. 'The World is Flat'. There is a mention of Thomas at few places in the booklet.

The byline of the title is "Ideas for the new century" and that would make one expect that the book would talk about clear, crisp, implementable ideas. In the booklet, Nandan touches upon the need of having a common identifier for all Indian Citizens. He informs that there is a PAN no for all Tax Payers, there is a Voter Id card for all 18+ registered voters, there is a ration card for BPL folks and then there are Passport IDs, Driving License Nos and so on. Though the need for having a common ID is well felt and people understand that we would get benefit from it, Nandan fails to address the need through a simple idea.

All in all, I would think that one should probably wait for another book from Nandan.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The New "Honda City 2008" is going to be a rage

The news was out almost 6 months back but Honda would not make it public. "Honda City 2003" model still looked very new and stylish and probably no other car has been able to move them from the top position. Whether its the design or the finesse, so much so that at my workplace, Honda City was the de-facto standard car for anyone who wanted to buy a sedan which is plush, valuable, has good post-sales service and overall a value for the expense.

The new one is not bigger or powerful rather in terms of spec its a tad below than the previous one but it deliver greater performance, power as well as fuel efficiency, and thats something which is credit worthy.

Interior is plusher and have been designed to keep the Indian home maker in mind who prefers to have boxes, small packets and what not when she is taken out by her better half or goes out by herself with her family.



In terms of audio capabilities, there is no CD Player. Instead you get a USB connector and that's a bold step assuming that iPods are now household items, at least for the junta who drives a car like Hondy City.

The boot is bigger because the fuel tank have been moved. Infact the boot is now bigger than the Civic.

The greatest thing which I liked was the safety. All the models have air-bags and have ABS. Unlike all other vendors (leaving Skoda), they are not restricting the option of Airbags to a particular variant, rather they are setting this as a benchmark. I still remember that when I bought my first 4-wheels, there were no seat-belts on the back seat, now its mandatory. I hope that government makes air-bags as mandatory at least for > 1000 CC segment.

And before I windup, one more salute for the Arrow design which looks so much ahead of its times. Great work Honda Team.
Check more at Honda website

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Posting in Hindi on Word Press

Its been a while I had this travel blog site called www.ghumakkar.com and for some reason or the other, I was not able to post a story in Hindi. I looked around but found no help. While hunting around, I could see numerous blogs in Hindi and a lot of them were on Word Press and that made the life more difficult. I asked around and somehow it worked for everyone except me.

Then one day, after a ghumakkar asked me this question again, I hunted again and could finally fix the issue. I found the answer here. So I thought that I would probably write a small post detailing the solution since the above forum post can be a little cryptic.

Problem - I am able to get Hindi Text and when I paste it in Word Press Post, it appears fine, but when I save the post it becomes '?????'.

Solution - The relevant property of the SQL fields which decide the encoding for the post body doesn't have the right 'collation' property.

Solution in Detail
If your problem is exactly what I have described about then you can do following. This actually means tinkering with your Word Press database so I would advise against getting adventurous.

Do Following.
1. Find a tool which gives access to your database. In my case its phpMyadmin since I am on www.hostmonster.com.

2. Once you are inside phpMyadmin, click on the relevant database of the wordpress installation. If you have just one site and only one WP then just choose the one which you see. The typical name in the default installation is something like '_wrdp1'.

3. Once you click the database, you would see a list of tables.

4. One by one, Choose the following tables
- wp_option
- wp_comments
- wp_posts

and click 'Edit'.

In Editing mode change "Collation" setting to "utf8_unicode_ci" of following
1. in wp_option -> option_value
2. in wp_comments -> comment_content
3. in wp_posts -> post_content and post_title


Hope this works for you. Happy Blogging.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Who is M S Dhoni and why everyone loves him

The title of my story doesn't finish with a question mark. Try reading this

Who is M S Dhoni and why everyone loves him ?

and you realize that something is wrong with the composition.

There is no question behind everyone loving him, its so apparent and clear that no one would have this question and may be thats the precise reason behind every one loving him. The trigger for this story is a 'pari-charcha' (panel discussion) I heard the other day on the government FM channel. India had won their 2nd ODI against England and most of it was because of Yuvraj Singh who played like hell (batting as well as bowling). But surprisingly, the panel expert attributed the win to Dhoni since he thought that it was Dhoni who gave the ball to Yuvi and Viru and that decision turned out to be a winner. I am sure if Yuvi and Viru would have failed, that expert would have still commended Dhoni for trying new faces and for being brave.

For the benefit of some of my readers who may not know enough, Dhoni is the man everyone has his eyes on as far as Cricket is considered. He got us the 20-Twenty World Cup, led India to series Wins in ODI and recently was made Captain for the Test side and there too he gave us a Series Win against Australia.

As per Wikipedia, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (born July 7, 1981 in Lavali Vilage Almora, Uttarakhand) is an Indian cricketer and the current captain of the Indian team. Initially recognized as an extravagantly flamboyant and destructive batsman, Dhoni has come to be regarded as one of the coolest heads to captain the Indian ODI side. Under his captaincy, India won the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, CB Series of 2007-08 and IDEA Cup India-Sri Lanka ODI Series of 2008, the first ever bilateral ODI series win of India in Sri Lanka and The Border-Gavaskar trophy 2008 in which they beat Australia 2-0 thus letting India regain its spot at No.2 in world test rankings(fallen to No.3 after Sri lanka tour). Dhoni is currently ranked the best ODI batsman in the world by the ICC. [1] Mahendra Singh Dhoni was awarded the ODI Player of the Year award in 2008, the first Indian player to achieve this feat.

Now add to this the fact that he also happens to be largest Tax Payer in his home state of Jharkhand. With so many endorsements and so much of new-age cricket (IPL, Champions' League and so on), I am sure that he is going to keep that spot for some more years.

Having learned enough of him, I still wonder that why everyone loves him. I attributed my fan-ship to the fact that I belong to Bihar and he seemed like a nice small town guy from the next town. But then its not only me, its everyone.

And after lot of thought, I guess the reason is that he doesn't come from a existing bastion of Indian Cricket. He is no Sachin (Mumbai), nor Rahul (blr) and definitely not Saurav (Bengal). He is from a place which is probably as in-significant from Cricket perspective that it doesn't matter whether you lap the place or ignore it. And from the same perspective, if I own him as a Marathi or Kannadika or a Punjabi, I do not feel odd. To me he is like from my little town. The disguise has acted as a blessing.

I was brought up in the age of Kapil Dev and I was a huge fan of him till late, and later I lost all interest in the game. But recently that interest has again re-kindled and I love watching Dhoni.

I somehow think that this is our best chance to get the 'World Cup'.

Go Dhoni Go !!

Monday, November 10, 2008

"The Mickey Mouse Show" in Delhi, India - Quick Review

My little one went to this show with her mom the other day which was very well marketed and publicized over TV Channels.

I thought I would write a quick review, so here it is, based on my interaction with my little one's mother.

The show had a very simple set, to the extent of being not too impressive at least in the beginning. It was in Siri Fort Auditorium which can house at least 600 people and it was a full house as per the ticket sales. The show started almost half an hour late and interestingly the house was not more than a third full of its capacity. But during the show, people started trickling in and it was a full house by the end.

The audience was mainly the young moms with the small kid, often with a maid. The show started with two anchors, who were very impressive. After the initial ice-breaking and warm-up they introduced Mickey Mouse. That was high point of the show when Mickey came on stage, super production value. They did a 30 minute performance with Mickey hosting a TV Show (Jay Leno sorts) calling Goofy, Minnie, Donald and Pluto. They had lot of fun with each other and Kids loved it. From the TV Show the crew moved to Bolywood and they danced to Bolywood numbers like Nagada-Nagada, Jhoom Barabar Jhomm etc. While this change was happening, they switched to Indian dresses, Lehnga n all. There was this dance troupe as well. As the part of Bolywood Premiere , they also introduced Romeo and his lady love Laila. As expected kids got more interested in Romeo than the Mickey. All in all Kids had fun especially during the end when the anchors dropped their hair among Kids.

All this lasted 30 minutes. The ticket prices were Rs 500, Rs 1000 and Rs 1500 and one can book tickets at http://www.bookmyshow.com/.

Now the big question, do we recommend. Well, its not a value-for-money for Rs 1000. Probably a NSD powered Children's festival like Jashn-e-Bachpan at Rs 40 a show is much more killer but then this one is from Diseny. So dust your address book to see if you can find some Jugad. One of our friend's found one and took us in for free, and for a free ride, its definitely more than worth it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Community Site for Nagars - www.nagarwara.com and more

An old colleague pinged me sometime back. He was with Adobe India for couple of years and then moved out of India for greener pastures, taking a position in IBM, USA.

He wanted to build a website for his community. While looking at various solutions, he was not sure whether he should use a "Content Management System" like Joomla which is feature-rich and appear more suited or rely on something like Word Press which is rather thin but quick to setup. I had tried my hand at Joomla and from his initial set of requirements, it seemed to me that its the right thing to invest in but I also warned him that Joomla has a steep learning curve.

Few more chat sessions and he settled on Wordpress and with in couple of days, he was up and running. He has always been a very active and energetic person, a Go To guy, but setting a website that quickly needs lot of hard work. Though he attributed that to his family being back to India leaving him with ample time to work on the website.

The website is called www.nagarwara.com and has picked up well in the short span of its existence. Being a Gujrati community site, its not very surprising that he quickly received offers for hosting advts.

This post is not entirely because of him starting a website for his community, rather this post is for a wonderful work which www.nagarwara.com has been able to do in its short span.

Recently they ran a story about a person in need, who was undergoing medical treatment and would have tremendously benefited from any help. Though now the site is only open for its community members, but here is the link of the story : http://www.nagarwara.com/2008/10/23/urgent-medical-help-for-mrs-indira-naresh-dave1/

It was not long before lot of Nagars came forward and helped him. My bro-in-law's brother works at Vadodra (Reliance) and my bro-in-law often visits him, and one observation which he made about Gujjus is that they really help each other, esp when someone is in need. I had this thought in my mind and when my friend, Nimesh Nagar, told me about Mrs. Dave's case and how a short post helped her, I was not surprised.

I think its so much nice for Nimesh to create a platform and once you know that the platform is being used for these deeds, you can only wish them more luck.

All the best and good luck.

Friday, November 07, 2008

iWoz - Autobiography of Steve Wozniak - Book Review

I picked this book from Khan Market about a month back and from the cover, its a easy decision since this book is about Steve Wozniak who created first computer or so the cover claims.

It was a easy and quick read since its been written in first person and has tons of events. Even though there is a co-author, it doesn't appear like ghost-written book. The style of expressions is very frank, fluid and on the face. It starts with Steve growing up as a child, getting influence and impressed by his Engineer Dad, doing pranks and all that.

Later he meets Steve Jobs, and Apple is formed. As a co-founder of such a impressive and change-leading organization, probably you would start to have great expectations and you would keep discounting the author for the so much I-I-I kind of statements in the beginning but as the book matures, it seemed to me that if Woz would not have met Steve Jobs, he would have been another hard working bright engineer. And somehow the book doesn't focus much on that. A better part of the book covers the time when Steve was designing Apple 1 and later Apple 2, the computer which sort of introduced computing to home users.

He was instrumental in starting Apple and till the point it created Apple II computer and after that he was getting disconnected and later moved out (though he was still on payroll). Later Steve started another company called CL9 (Cloud Nine) and they wanted to create a 'Universal Remote' and that didn't work. He had three marriages, first two didn't work too well. Finally he spent lot of time teaching kids.

For one thing, this book doesn't sound like a piece of inspiration. Rather it might piss you off as you read claims after claims of being first in lot many things. Its a good read and one should read it for the facts and to get Steve's side of story. But beyond that, its just another book.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"Kabab Kings" in Shoprix Mall - Sector 61 is GOOD

We had lunch at Food Court in Shoprix Mall, which is located in Sector - 61, Noida. Its right on the road which connects the GIP with NTPC and goes all the way till Flex. I never too much admired the 'Food Court' of Shoprix because its very noisy and overall ambiance is more like a open food street. I like that ambiance but it has to come at a cost which suits it, at Shoprix the prices are still of that of a restaurant. So anyway, it was a large group and some of us chose to have Indian Mughlai.

We ordered food from Kabab King and it was awesome. These days they are giving a deal where 3rd dish is free. We order a chicken-based platter, a mutton-based platter and we got a ghost-biryani free. For each platter, we got 2 rotis/naan , a bowl of Dal Makhani, a small potion of Kabab (Burra or Kathi) and a small potion of Tandoori chicken/mutton. We ordered more Rotis since we were a group of four and we had a full meal. The total damage was Rs 420 including tip. Not only it came with a reasonable price, the food quality was super, it was served in clean plates and it was very fresh. Interestingly, it was funny to see that people who have ordered thing like Pizza from other counters had to wait more.

I am going to go there again soon.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Website Links for Indian Railways

I am an old user of http://irctc.co.in, the revolutionary Indian Railways website through which you can book rail tickets, get PNR information etc. I remember that there was this website called Indianrail.gov.in which would give you the latest 'Time Table' and all that. Recently I learned about a new website which is really a high speed functional side, though the user-interface is a little geeky, its called erail.in. With these thoughts, I think
it might be a good idea to pick the important ones and put them in this post so that it can act as a a quick reference.

Top Websites for Indian Railways
1. http://www.indianrail.gov.in/index.html - This is the official website and is a decent site but overtime other sites are offering better features. But its still the offical site, so you want to check 'Ticket Cancellation Rules' or 'Break Journey Rules' or want to know the websites of Easter, Western or other zone then visit this site.

2. http://irctc.co.in/ - This is the ticketing site and is being managed by 'Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited'. Beyond ticket booking, probably I wont recommend this site for anything else. I heard that now you can book tickets at some of the private websites (likes of make my trip, Yatra etc) as well but this is still the so called 'official' one. Its excruciatingly slow at times but still functional.

3. http://erail.in/ - This is my pick these days and I keep folks referring to this one. Its a no frill but very complex website which is meant to give you the information you need in no time. Its a feature-rich site and it may take few visits to really understand the user-interface but once you have a good hang of it, just visit this. You can get train time table, seats availability, trains between two stations etc in a jiffy.

4. http://www.trainenquiry.com - This is one website which seemed to me ahead of time when I discovered it. This site gives you the running information of any train in real time. If enough awareness is spread, it can save lots of calls which people frenetically make to Railways to find out the running information. This is maintained by CRIS. I think they should get into with some kind of deal with telecom providers so that I can get SMS for any train, if I register. It could be a simple alert service where I can ask myself to be notified everytime it has a new information for a train. For a 18 hour journey, usually the status is not updated more than 5-6 times, so if I need to go to station to pick someone, i would have the latest info.

5. http://irfca.org/ - Finally the website of rail fans. If you are one then you dont need to know what is Rail fan. If you are a Rail lover then you must visit this site.

I would close my list here but I know that I must have missed some so let me know (post a comment) and I would add them here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Turning 35 and looking back

I am now 35+ years by my biological age. I wanted to write a small post here, mostly to read it again when I turn 40 or at some greater age.

First 22-23 years were mostly dedicated to formal education with some sprinkles of extra-curricular like theater, public speaking, writing. In terms of education it was a very regular one, with a graduate degree from Kirori Mal College, DU , in pure sciences (B.Sc) in 1994. Then a PG Diploma in Computers after my attempts to get into a MA (International Studies) at JNU failed. The high point of this phase was the time between 1992-1995. During this period I got exposed to a much bigger world doing lots of theater, learning lot many things and shredding so much of baggage which any avg middle class study-driven boy keeps. This meant going to various college fests, winning acting awards and so on. I was almost staying by myself after my class XI so I had more time and little or no family-pressure. After I finished my college in 1994, I enrolled for a evening course in Urdu. Did a program with National Museum and spent lot of them in their huge library. :). I also started to write as a Theater critic for a 'Sunday Mail' publications. Lots of things happening during this time. I stayed at JNU for probably 3 odd months.

Later a new group of friends in the PG course. My school life is not the high-point of my first 22-23 years of life since I didn't do much in school days, more so because there weren't enough avenues. My father had put to the best school which he could as per his means so I am really lucky to get what I got but as a school it didn't indulge in any genuine extra-curricular or things of that sort.

Next comes the work life. With my first job in a garage firm ACPL in early 1996, writing anti-virus TSR programs in assembly language was fun. My first salary was Rs 3600. When my daughter starts her school from April'2009, I would probably be paying more than Rs 3600 as her monthly tuition fee. And she is not going to a new age, new world, 20 students a call, international, all air-conditioned school. Its a regular school. But Rs 3600 were enough to pay for room rent, conveyance expenses, food etc. I was also taking some tuition which used to give me another Rs 650 - Rs 900 and most of that were getting saved. My next job was with Newgen (1997 - 1999) and Newgen was indeed a large firm. Then a brief stint at Quark, followed by Legato and finally at Adobe for last 7 years, since January 2002.

The high point of this period was 2000 - 2004 when two things happened. At a first level, this was the first time when I started to live with friends. Some of us took a large duplex flat in Noida and that bond is still very strong. I spent about 4 years there (2000 - 2003) and they were simply out of the world. I also bought my first car while I was there i.e. in Oct 2001. It was a WagonR and I still have it. We were at house no 437 in sector 37 and sometime back, we even attempted to have a blog on that.

Meanwhile I reconnected with some of the old college friends and met some new people in the process and we had a gang. We made numerous outstation trips and it was simply a blast time. Later I got married in Oct 2003 to a real old friend who was part of that gang and we had more parties. In fact there was a party almost every other day. We bought our 2nd Car, a Mahindra Scorpio, in 2004 and that meant more outstation trips.

By the mid of 2004 things started to move a little away. I had moved to my own house after my marriage so the connection to friends with whom I stayed with was gradually getting weak. The old college friend gang was also getting thinner since one of them moved to London. Others got occupied as they got married.

In 2005, Pihu came into our life. While Pihu was coming, our outstations trips reduced, gradually coming to zero. Parties stopped happening since we can't any long have a a drink-all-night-smoke-any-where scene. By the time Pihu was 2 months, we started our outstations trips to break the monotony. By the time Pihu was an year old, we moved to a new house and setting that up was keeping us busy. By this time, parties have almost stopped or probably they have taken a new form which meant less people, more clam and all that.

I would think that this is the time when the 2nd golden era finished. This was the time between 2006 begining to 2007 mid.

Smita took to work again and that pepped up things. Pihu started to go to Play School. And by the beginning of 2007, things started to change. We were again going out. Later I started Ghuamakkar in July 2007. Later in the year, I drove to Jaisamler. Things were again bright and chirrupy. In 2008, I drove to Allahabad and later all the way to Darbhanga. My work at Adobe was going steady and after a few changes, Smita was back to ZEE which she was enjoying. Zee gave her the freedom to work at flexi time. We also booked a house at the posh ATS, Paradiso, Greater Noida in early 2008. Last summer my niece has now started to live with us as she has taken a program at a nearby college.

Last month we went to Dubai, first international trip for the family together. I would guess that 3rd era has started from early this year and would probably carry on for some time. I would guess that we would most likely move to ATS house in 2009 as we complete 3 years in July 2008 in current house. or May be it would happen in March 2010.

I dont know what lies in future and probably I would want to write this kind of note when I get to 50.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bravo M. S. Dhoni for enrolling to a Graduate Program

For a while I have been wanting to write some thing on the latest cricket sensation, Mahendra Singh Dhoni or MSD and I didn't want to just write about his cricket scores. So when I learnt that he enrolled for a Bachelor of Commerce program , to be a graduate, it made me to pause and think and probably share some of my observations.

MSD enrolling for a graduate program is not a normal thing to happen. He is too big a star and I wont be surprised if down the line, he would actually be awarded honorary degrees by the high-n-mighty of the academia world.

His enrollment is to be seen in the context of the millions of fans, mostly growing kids who watch him in Boost advt along with Sachin and want to become MSD one day. Imagine that each one of them would understand that leaving studies entirely is not the thing to do. Dhoni did his class X and XII from DAV School,Shyamli, Ranchi scoring 66 % and 56 % respectively. Both of these scores are ok scores, if not good or great, esp if ones sees them in the light of him spending almost all of his time on playing professional cricket.

He enrolled at St. Xavier's College, Ranchi and probably he wont have to attend as many classes as other folks but he would still need to write his exam. Its a really bold step and it wont come easy. Bravo Dhoni.

I keep telling everyone these days that someone should make a movie on him, name the movie as 'Inspector Vijay' with Dhoni in lead role. Believe me it would be a hit.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Use 'Copper Tank' Geysers instead of 'Steel Tank' Geysers

I noticed that my lone Geyser is leaking when we tried using it on one of those rainy but not-so-cold days. We ignored the problem since it was still not winters and later thought that the temperature regulator knob which is at the base of Geyser might be the culprit.

Meanwhile to mitigate the risk (Wow, what a phrase) I installed another one in my 2nd loo which was lying in my store, feeling left out. You know, just to have a backup. The leaking continued. Finally I had the time (rather inclination) to call a plumber but he was not of much help. Later I got hold of an electrician and he told me that the tank is leaking, there is no problem with the knob.

So far so good. I was relieved to know that now we have isolated the cause and now its a matter of just fixing the tank. But as you would have guessed, it was not that simple. After looking at the tank, I was told that I have been a stupid person to buy a steel-tank Geyser. Steel-Tank Geyser can't sustain the high pressure water which most of the new-world high-rise apartment gets and if for some reason they leak, they can't be repaired unlike a Copper-Tank one. Also Steel-Tank-Geyser are not known to handle too-hot or too-cold situations, both of which is fairly common here.

Well, I didn't know that there is something called a Steel-Tank Geyser and a Copper-Tank Geyser. I just worried about buying one of reputed brand. I had bought a Usha-Lexus which is like one of the better ones.

Anyway, that electrician gone and more time passed. Meanwhile my wife fitted a LPG-Gas-powered geyser in the 3rd loo (yeah, we have so many of them), giving me more time to put my act together.

I asked around and found out that I may be able to get a Steel-Tank from Usha if I work hard. A more worldly solution is to junk this and buy a new one, this time with a copper-tank.

I am yet to make up my mind on what would I end up doing but I thought that I would spread this advice since the winters are zeroing in. Always buy a Copper-Tank Geyser.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Troubleshooting "Header Image Rotator plugin" for Wordpress!

For a while I was looking at a way to change the photos on my travel experience site with least effort. Not that I finally found a good answer but I did find a WP Plug-In which seemed to be doing the job. This plug-in is called "Header Image Rotator plugin for Wordpress!" and here's the website of the author.

So I quickly downloaded and set it all up but it didn't work. Then I put a post at the forum but unfortunately I didn't hear back. I searched around and I could not find any answer.

At the same time my brother-in-law and myself were thinking about it, not the plug-in but about the fact that we should write the necessary code to change header-photos on its own. So recently both of us sat together and thought that before we write a new piece of code,lets see if we can fix this wp image rotator plug-in. We were doing everything as per manual but somehow it was not working.

Let me give a brief of how this plug-in works.

1. Normally any WP template, worth its salt, would have a style-sheet.
2. Typically they would have a header-image.
3. Header-image will have its own div or its own descriptor in the .css file.
4. Normally, header.php file would be using this div to set the header-image.
5. When we use this plugin we copy certain photos at a location and then tell the plugin the div which the header.php is using.
6. Ideally, the plug-in would replace the div with its own code.

After not making any headway, we though about looking at the executed code which the browser was getting. So we loaded the home page on a browser and did 'View Source'. What we found was that the plug-in was indeed setting the right div to a random image but after that statement, the original template was again setting the same div to what it usually sets, so what was indeed happening was
1. Plugin sets a random image from your collection as header-image
2. Then, the original template sets the default or what-so-ever header-image to that div.

End result is that for a user, the world is all same.

Here's how we fixed it
1. We copied the style-sheet div section of the header-image in the .css file and created another one with a different name. In my case the header-image css was . I created another called .
2. In plug-in settings, I mentioned as my css id for header-image.
3. In header-php, we used instead of

And Voila it worked.

If you are having some problems here, you can try your luck by doing above.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Govindam Prasadam - ISKCON Noida' - Nice and homely food

Someone suggested that we try 'Govindam Prasadam' at ISKCON and being a sporty lot, most of us said, Why not. The other reason besides us being sporty was that on thursday, office food is a little drab in comparison to other days and 'Govindam Prasadam' was just of blocks away from our office in sector - 25A.

It was a group of 7 and after a 10 minute stroll, we found ourselves at the modest looking, 15 X 20 eating joint of ISKCON. The ISKCON at sector- 32 (right opposite the towering NTPC office in sector-23, on Atta-Flex road) is a new thing and probably the construction is still on. I would guess that the restaurant would get a bigger home once the construction is complete.

As of now, its a humble little place with polymer chairs and tables. Unlike the one in 'East of Kailash' this one doesn't give you many choices but I guess thats a matter of time. It can probably house 25 odd people at a time so it might get a little busy during peak time, also it may not be a great idea to enjoy this outing with a large group.

There are two Thalis which you can take. Rs 35 for a mini-Thali and Rs 45 for a normal Thali. In a regular thali you get unlimited supply of chapatis, two vegetables, one raiyta and rice. You also get some basic Salad and a sweet, both of which didn't seem to be under the 'unlimited' category. I think in mini Thali, you dont get sweet. Staff is polite and alert. They are usually the first ones to spot a need for another offering and are generous in their servings. All of us liked the food very much and would recommend it any day. Its light, fresh and very very homely. I would bet whether you can get this much at this hygiene level at Rs 45.

Since now the weather doesn't demand cool confines, I would suggest that you must try this on one of those boring office days. If you do try then please comment here on your experience.

Monday, October 20, 2008

10 Point Guide for Cracking Nursery Admissions

This is from a personal experience and incremental learning which we underwent while trying to get our little daughter admitted to a school in Noida. Initially we were not panicky over the whole situations but after the some what initial unpleasant interactions, listening to fellow parents who were as pained, getting frustrated over the opaqueness of the whole process, we had to put our head down for a while and we started to think beyond the normal.

Both of us work at very reputed organization, at socially impressive steps of the rat-race corporate ladder (if anyone really cares), are young and honest, our offices are in Noida, we stay closer to Noida and so on. It seemed to us and our well-wishers that we would sail through but as you could imagine that it was definitely not very smooth.

So, cutting the crap, here's my personal 10 point guide for fellow parents. This is just out of my head and there is no data but if we all collaborate and share our information (write a comment) then we can refine the points over time, making it more effective.

10 Point Guide
1. Plan early. Read blogs. Join discussion forums,www.nurseryadmissions.com is really good, collect information about dates/names of school/criteria etc. Having this information would help you to do those extra things like getting a lease-agreement etc.

2. Make a list of 10 schools and put them in order of your preference. I would suggest that you must try 10 and probably that is enough.

3. Working Parents + Day Care (Creche) doesn't work. So if you can find a way to have your baby go to grand-parents then have it. If you can't then plan for it and when you fill the form, mention that they go to grand-parents.

4. Parents' educational qualifications count a lot. So if you have done a PG Diploma in HR while you were not doing much in life and are now a creative head of an Advt. Organization and think that writing PGDBM in HR is low-class then dump the thought and flaunt it. Schools love these things, probably because they are in education business, so mention all those courses esp if they are PG courses.

5. Schools do not understand corporates. So work-at-home is a sort of new-age thing for them, so be a little careful when you claim that you are mostly at home or at beach. Its always better to be a conformist and say that your work timing is 8 to 5.

6. Some professions do not work well. So if you are a lawyer, a media professional, a cop then you are not one of those good people around. Find a way to hide it. For example, an environmental civil lawyer is still a better one than a criminal lawyer. A safe way to portray would be to show your job as a dull-back office-insignificant one by adding necessary designations. So if you are a cop, say that you are posted at Head-Quarter's PF Wing or some such crap. I know cops dont read blogs but you get the idea. If you are a business-man, then probably you can say that you are a consultant and so on.

7. Some Job functions doesn't work well. One such job is Sales and Marketing. Somehow I have a sense that anyone who is into 'Sales' or into 'Marketing' is perceived as 'Miss Chamko' of 'Chasme-baddur' fame. In simpler words, if you are in 'Marketing', you might be looked down, more so from folks in Academia. Hide it. One advice would be to change your Job Designation, add something academic to it. For example, add 'Research' or 'Analysis' or some such crap. Try reading 'Head of Marketing - North' and then read 'Head of Marketing Research - All regions', somehow the later sounds more academic.

8. Stay in Noida. If you dont or can't then get into a Rent-Lease agreement and claim that you are in Noida. Except Somerville which insists on interacting with you through 'courier', everyone else would need a proof only at the time of admission. They would accept 'Rent Least Agreement' as a valid proof.

9. This is a little tricky but dont behave with school as equals. You are not as equal as them and thats the reason they dont treat you one being equal. Always go with the assumption that anyone with whom you interact (more true for big brothers like DPS, Apeejay, Amity, Cambridge etc then the newer ones like Khaitaan which is really polite) is your school principal. Even the nursery teachers who would take your interview (yeah, I know it sucks when they ask you those big questions about parenting) would love you, if you bow a bit and wish them. Be submissive, Yes Mam Yes Sir. They love it.

10. It would be harsh to be know-all so I leave the last to you.

I know some of the schools are not going to like this list and I would really encourage them to being some open-ness to the whole system. Its really a painful exercise for a Kid and parents and one thing with which we can all benefit is getting some transparency.

All the best and good luck !!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Father Agnel, Noida - Quick Notes

For our Kid's admission, we applied for Father Agnel as well. I visited the school couple of times and one of my friend's son studies there. Here's some info about the school which I learned during this time and which might help fellow parents.


Location - Sector 62. Its on the road which connects Labour Chowk to NH24. The other way is to find Fortis hospital in Sector 62 and then go West from Fortis, its right at the end.

Father Agnel is located very well for residents of Sector-62 which has a large no of apartments, Indirapuram which is just on the other side of N24 and Sector 55,56,57,58.


View Larger Map

The above is an interactive map so you can move the mouse and can also get directions from anywhere.

Father Agnel is a convent school and they have other schools in Delhi and elsewhere. Its a convent format but its a CBSE board. The one in Noida where we applied, seemed to have decent infrastructure, with clean small lawn in front, a moderately big play-ground in the back and not-so-large main school building.

What really impressed me was the new auditorium which can really give a run for the money to some of the bigger schools. I could see some more development happening which is a very good sign for folks who have more years to spend here.

The staff was very polite and methodical. They didn't take any money for the form and when we submitted it, we were charged Rs 100 (Thats what I remember, but it was definitely not more than 150).

Our first interaction was on Oct 14th. They were very organized and all the parents were requested to wait in the auditorium. It was a little warm inside but this was much better arrangement then what we saw in Somerville, Cambridge, Vishwa-Bharti etc. All the information regarding results were very clearly projected on the big screen which was also sort of very good, not very common in most of the interactions we had.

The results would be out on Oct 23, but since we got another school, we couldn't wait for these results. I was very impressed overall with the school.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

'Superstars Noida' - Pub, has lost its sheen

I was at Superstars the other day with a large group. We had some business guests from the other side of ocean and the team wanted to have some fun time together.

Superstars with all the great reputation was not a difficult choice. There were about 40 people and we had lot of fun since we could get hold of some free space to let loose. For about 2 odd hours almost every one danced to the desi (Ashok Masti to be more precise) tunes belted out non-stop by the DJ. We had got into a deal where we were to be served any Indian Beer or hard liquor, unlimited, a buffet for snacks and a buffet for dinner. All this at Rs 900 per person. It didn't seem like a expensive deal considering that Superstars has always been expensive (but valuable).

But the euphoria started to get a taste of real life when a colleague of mine was refused Fosters Beer, for no good reason since it was covered under 'Indian Beer'. My experience with these events have made me more mature and I let it go. Then I was refused any cock-tail, even though it could be out of Indian liquor. I failed to understand that if Bacardi is covered, soda and cola are covered then why can't they spare some lime, a little mint and some crushed ice to make Mojito. I was not really asking any Belly's or Cointreau or a triple-sec or a tequila. They did end up giving me one but it started to get unpleasant. I moved on and ignored and decided to have my share of fun with RC Beer, the only Indian Beer they were serving. Its such a shame to just stock one Indian Beer and that too a RC (I love RC though), when we have Cobra (UK fame), Tiger (Singapore) and Carlsberg (again available locally) around. Its not a Rs 100 a beer pub, its a Rs 200 a beer pub which we are talking about. Anyway, ignore.

Time to look at snacks buffet. It was a fairly Kake-Da-Dhaba kind of arrangement with 6 choice to choose from. Then came dinner which was a truly a flop-show. All this was understandable since they could always tell us that you dont get a fortune out of Rs 900 per person and I would not have any argument.

But can you explain following
1. The balls at the pool table were taken away.
2. Bar counter was closed much before time for us.
3. The guy who was supposed to help us serve the food was himself found chewing the green salad, picking his favorites every few minutes.
4. They wont put enough Vodka since they wont use a 'measure'
5. Some of them were im-polite

Enough was enough and even though I was not doing anything, a fellow colleague could not stop and he got into a chat with the super visor, one Mr. Rawat. Mr. Rawat listened to us and it was very clear that he had no intention to do anything and he was just trying to be patient. I would not blame him since it seemed that he had no good control. On being told that a gentleman called 'Jeet' has been rude, he summoned Jeet and challenged him. Contrary to what one would want to believe, Jeet refuted and challenged Rawat back :)

The only thing they could think at that point was to offer me additional beer, after 11 PM, and some ice-cream scoops for the handful who were still hanging around.

No sweat but I am fairly sure that I am not going to blow up my organizations' hard earned money on these folks. I am not a regular pub-hopper but some of my close friends have been and we always looked at Superstars with respect.

It seems that it has lost its sheen and at this rate probably its a matter of time when it goes down further.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Adobe India enthusiasts put together world's largest jigsaw

Last week, few jigsaw enthusiasts at Adobe India did something magnificent. They pieced together world's largest jig-saw puzzle. As per Aditya Nagpal, who led the effort...

"It gives me great pleasure to announce that we've assembled the puzzle in 108 hrs 43 mins. This puzzle has been assembled for the first time in India and non-stop for the first time in the world."

This has earned the team a 3-way entry into the WLP Hall of Fame. Look at following links:
http://www.worldslargestpuzzle.com/hof3.html and
http://www.worldslargestpuzzle.com/hof-049.html

It took me a week to publish this but better late then never.

Congratulations Team. Great work.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

NSD Children Play Festival. 'Deewar' - Play Review

Just back from watching a play at LTG Auditorium. NSD is celebrating its golden jubilee and they are hosting a children play festival called JashneBachpan.

This is not really a review, its more of a small snippet :). I do used to write review for 'Samachar Mail' (A 'Sunday Mail' publication) about 14 odd years back.

"Deewar" is a short play, 1 hour one act, about two communities (Reds and Blues) which are separated by a wall and lot of mis-conceptions about each other. Over the course of play, some of the members of the community interact over-the-wall and seeing the limitation decide to break the wall. There are two Sutradhars (Bholi and Laali), one Watchman and one Neelu.

The high part of Play is its interaction with audience, kids in audience. They have been able to do it without making this whole thing too chaotic. Great. Also the performances are brilliant. I would think that Bholi needs some more sound lessons.

The play is directed by Vibha Chhibbar (remember Kamini jee of 'Chak De India', same girl) and she has done a very good job. Its by 'Fun..toosh' group of Mumbai. They are sort of cousins of 'Samskara Rang Toli' which is active in Delhi.

Pihu enjoyed it. At the end scene one of the Sutradhar invited 10 kids but they could not stop any one and there were at least 50 Kids on the stage ;). Great show.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jashne Bachpan - National Theatre Festival for Children

National School of Drama (NSD) is celebrating their 'Golden Jubilee' and as part of celebration, they are organizing a festival for children. This is being managed by TIE (Theatre in Education).

As per their website, Jashn-e-Bachpan showcases the works of theatre groups working with and for children. These groups represent various regions and languages from across the country. As a special feature, this year we will also be inviting theatre groups from abroad to participate in the Festival.

Important Information
Venue - NSD Campus (Abhimanch, Sammukh etc), Sri Ram Centre, LTG etc.
Date - Oct 10th - Oct 20th
Ticket - Rs 20 for children and Rs 40 for Adults


Interactive Map

View Larger Map

There are two plays every day at 1730 and 1830 hrs. On weekend its at 1530 and 1830 hrs. Here's the schedule. There are plays in various languages.



Click this photo to see a bigger version of it.

I am just back from there and they have put this structure (a Cycle oozing out of a back-seat of a car) on the gate so you can not take your car in. Parking is available in 'Bhagwan Das Lane' as in previous years. I saw 'Rajesh Sharma' at the gate, one of those regular actors 5 odd years back , my 2nd innings hang-around time :)

We bought tickets for the play on Sunday, its called "Deewar".

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Age and Distance Criteria for Nursery Admissions in Noida Schools

This post is a result of a conversation between two colleagues, one who’s Kid is trying to get admissions for the academic year 2009-20010 and the other whose kid might be ready for 2010-2011 and would need to start the process around September 2009.

I initially planned to include more schools but thats taking time so here's the one which i have been able to compile so far.

1. DPS Noida - Between 3 & 4 on 30th Sep- 2008 - Residence With-in 8 KMs.
2. Amity Noida - Born between 1st April 2005 - 31st March 2006 - Residing in Noida
3. Somerville - 3+ as on 01.04.2009 - Residing in Noida
4. Cambridge - Born between 1 Oct 2004 – 30 Sep 2005 - Residing in Noida
5. Vishwa Bharti - 3.5 years on 31st March 2009 - No restriction on residence
6. ApeeJay - Between 3 and 4 on 31 March 2009 - No restriction on residence
7. Khaitan - 3 on 1st April 2009 - No restriction on residence

For aspirants who would want to seek admission for 2010-2011, probably add one year to these days and they would still hold good.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pre-Paid Booth at IGI Airport-Delhi and our readiness for interanational tourists

We were coming back after a short holiday at Dubai. As we touched down, we called three Radio Taxis. Routes, the first one didn't pick up. Then we called Megacab and they refused to give one for Noida/Indirapuram. Then we called Easycab and we were told to ask for the Taxi at the airport since they have a counter there. One of our friends has already tried Quickcabs (or somthing like that) and they also do not cover Noida/Indirpuram. So we waited for the counter.

After our share of immigration, where strangely the guy who was manning the desk asked me that why I came back early, he was bluffing to make me say something odd, dont know why. It was a 3 day simple trip and probably I spent less time to really make good value of the all the expenses, but it was none of his business. Anway, I told him that the plan was to come back so I didn't really come early and I looked sorry to disappoint him.

We finally got out of Customes and headed for EasyCabs counter. We were told that we would need to wait for 15 minutes. Being alert and frequent travelers, we guessed it that the guy doesn't really know, when a Taxi would be available. If its indeed available in 15 minutes then they would say that its waiting at the gate. So I went to Pre-Paid booth which is run by 'Delhi Traffic Police'. I was non-politely refused when I asked for a cab for Noida. After thinking for another 40 seconds or so, we decided to take one till Delhi-UP border and request my brother-in-law to fetch us from there.

So much for so called NCR, where one even can not get a TAXI.

I paid , it was to be Rs 405 till Ghazipur. We exited, went to another counter. A guy there wrote a Taxi no. Located that Taxi. It was the old classic Amby which has lived its good times. The driver, Ashok Kumar, was courteous enough to open the boot but stayed away from my luggage, such show of respect of privacy was not observed when you are dealing with Radio Taxi, they would rather snatch your valuable heavy luggage. Anway, we got in. It was a non-Air conditioned vehicle with unclean seat-covers. But getting Delhi air after Dubai was still great fun. He dropped us at Ghazipur in 45 minutes, that was very quick. We got out, took our luggage out ourseves, this time he gave me the opportunity of opening the boot. As you would have guessed, I took the luggage out, gave him the pre-paid slip, thanked him and headed towards my bro-in-law's car.

This was a experience of a localite, imagine what can happen to a new person. Incredible India. I hope someone reads this and may be takes some action.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Our Nursery Admission Score Card

This is more for us then for anyone else, something to look back later and relive. We had decided to apply at 10 schools, hoping that we would get one at least.

  1. . Amity (Round 1 - Pass, Round 2 - No)
  2. . Apeejay (Round 1 - Pass, Round 2 - Yes. Admission Taken)
  3. . Cambridge (Round 1 - Pass, Round 2 - No)
  4. . DPS (Round 1 - Application not shortlisted)
  5. . Father Agnel (Round 1 - Results on Oct 23)
  6. . Indus Valley (Only one Round - Pass. Selected)
  7. . Khaitan (Only one Round - Pass. Selected)
  8. . Ryan (Round 1 - On Oct 10th. Skipped)
  9. . Somerville (Round 1 - Application Shortlisted, Round 2 - No)
  10. . Vishwa Bharti (Only one Round - Pass. Selected)

Khaitan School, Noida - A primer on Nursery Admissions

Khaitan is a new school but its gradually getting more popular and is seen as one of the better schools in Noida. It doesn't figure among big-bro schools in Noida like DPS, Amity, ApeeJay or among the new age modern swanky ones like Step-By-Step, Lotus Valley etc but is gaining ground.

Location - Its in sector 40 which is a little away from the old main Noida but a very handy location for Sector 50, 51, 39 etc.

Age Criteria - 3 years on 1 April 2009.

Form Availability - We applied in 2008, for 2009 session, and forms were available from 15th Sep 2008 - 23th September 2008.

Last Date for Submission - Form submission was on 24th, 25th and 26th.

Admission Process
There is only one round of interaction for parents as well as the kid. We were asked to fill a form which had the usual questions
- Why KPS
- What do you expect from KPS
- Why its important for Father to spend time
- Nuclear family or Joint Family
- How much quality time you spend

Kid was taken to some interaction room and it seemed that the session was exhaustive as my Kid was back after 30 minutes or may be more. She briefly told us that there were puppets (may be they do some sort of role-playing games) and that she was given a banana to eat.

Our interaction was about 60 seconds. We were asked about our education and thats it.

We were fairly impressed with the way the whole process was executed. Staff was very polite (not a usual scenario at schools, they are very teacher-ish) and was smiling (again not a usual thing). School was very clean and I could see lot of work going on, probably some infra additions.

Result would be out on October 3rd.

Update on Oct 6th
------------------
330 odd students were selected. We also made in. We need to submit fees by Oct 7th. We tried asking for an extension, hoping to get a result out of APJ, but no luck. Monthly fee is Rs 2.5K and fees at the time of admission is Rs 33.5K. Nothing is refundable out of 33.5 K, should we choose to change our mind later.
We would most likely go and submit the fees.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Website address of good schools of Noida

This is a simple list of the website of some of the well known schools of Noida. To keep it simple, I am not adding any more info and the list is arranged alphabetically.

. Amity International School - http://amity.edu/ais
. Apeejay School. http://www.apeejay.edu/noida/home.htm
. Cambridge School - www.cambridgenoida.com
. Delhi Public School - http://dpsnoida.org/
. Father Agnel School - www.fasnoida.org
. Khaitan Public School - http://www.kpsnoida.ac.in/
. Lotus Valley School. www.lotusvalley.com
. Mayoor School - www.mayoornoida.net
. Vishwa Bharti Public School - http://vbpsnoida.com

If I am missing any good one and you would like me to add it then please write a small comment and I would update the post. Hope its useful for some of us.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Somerville School, Noida - Nursery Admission primer

Somerville is one of the better schools of Noida. It doesn't feature among big brothers (DPS, Amity, ApeeJay) or among new-age modern-thinking swanky ones (Mayoor, Lotus Valley, Step-By-Step etc) but is a decent school.

Location - Its in Sector 22, not the best of locations since its just next to 'Chauda Village' and there is a 'liquor shop' right at the gate, but thats fine.

The forms were out in early september and were available for a week. I think it was first week of September. They only allow Noida residents and all communication happens through courier.

Admission Process
1. Apply if you meet the age criteria. You need to be a resident of Noida, preferably a close-by sector.
2. In first round, they shortlist some of the cases (we dont know the criteria and it would be anyone's guess) and send a letter through courier. For this year, they used DTDC so please ensure that you keep a tab on that.
3. In 2nd round, you interact with a very senior person. In our case, it was the Principal herself. She asked on
- how do we get time
- what stories she likes
- why Somerville

For the kid, they had some plastic fruits and animals. They call out names and the kid is to identify the animals and fruits. Non-torturous and pretty good for Kids. 3-4 minute interaction at max.

We were called on Sep 25 and successful candidates would get the letter via courier by next week. I would try to find from DTDC on whether they have started dispatching.

I would update on what I get.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It was a hard day's night and I was working.....

A indeed hard day's night for all to celebrate. Some of us were seen last stepping out from the local Chinese bar-restaurant (every time I go there I promise myself that I am not going to visit that place again) at mid-night.

I am getting that feeling which you get when you reach your destination on a really long drive, what next. The adrenaline suddenly plays truant, no issues to chase (there are some, to honestly share with you), no early-morning late-evening same day meetings, even my cell-phone has started feeling like a left-out.

Amid all this melancholy, I tried looking for some good-funny act and look what I found.



Some smart-alec shot this while the team was busy doing last chores. And he even made it public. Dark times, I am warning you. One thing which we must do for next year is to put something around security-n-privacy. If you like the video then do comment. I read somewhere that bloggers love every comment (even a track-back, what rubbish) and they are often seen reading and bragging about them. Bye.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Amity Noida - A primer on Nursery Admissions

Amity is not very old and for a long time it was perceived as a rich man's school but over time that has been changing. Right now its considered as one of the better schools and probably a infrastructure which very few can challenge.

Location of School - Sec 44. This is almost on the South-West corner of Noida. Very apt for Sec 37, 28,29, 39,44, 41 etc. Also good for Sarita Vihar and Greater noida since its right on express-way.

Age - Born between 1st April 2005 - 31st March 2006 (This is for admission seekers in 2008)

Location Criteria - They only allow Noida and Gr. Noida since there is a Amity in Vasundhara (for Vaishali, Vasundhara and Indirapuram residents) and one in Mayoor Vihar.

Dates - For this year, the last date for submitting online was Sep 7 2008.

Website - http://amity.edu/aisadmission/

Admission Process

1. Round 1

Round 1 has two parts. They call all the parents and kids for interaction. For parents there is a 11 page extensive question paper. Its very time-consuming and you would need to really focus and work hard.

If I remember correctly then there were five sections.
1. There are about 5-6 questions around school/office details for parents and grand-parents, annual income, whether the children has any visual/hearing or other disability etc. The other questions were

- Why you think your child is ready for school
- Whats your expectations from Amity
- Why Amity
- Describe your child.

2. Part two questions
- How do you bridge work/home gap ?
- something around communication. Why its important and how do you encourage your kid to communicate ?
- how do you tackle a restless child.
- how to ensure that your child is not aggressive and impatient
- how do you handle 'defiance'
- What skills are needed to make your kid good during his/her nursery class
- what are your child's expectation from you
- Something around setting high-standard and whether thats good or bad
- how do you handle morning scene where you had to say bye to your child

3. Part 3 questions
- If your child misses school bus
- homework not done
- bully in bus
- loses his bag or tiffin-box
- scolding
- Are dads different than moms
- if kid gets his friend's stuff (by mistake)

4. It was a short section and I think it had 4-5 questions. One was subjective and rest were objective/multiple-choice

5. This section was also mostly tick mark kinds
- a truth/myth section where there were thins which you had to mark either as 'Truth' or as 'Myth'. Some examples are 'working mothers are not good', 'children should be given enough money' and all that.

As for the the kid.

They take the kid to a different room and they are asked to color and probably a poem. Whenever I asked my daughter on what she was asked, she very intelligently distracts me. I have a guess that she didn't like whatever she was asked there. She is otherwise a very cheerful and talk-loving girl.

The results would be out on Sep 18 on the website.

Amity results are out.
http://www.amity.edu/aisadmission/index.aspx

My kid made it, All the best.

2nd Round details
It happened today morning. Very well managed. We were met by two very senior people. My kid was taken to a table nearby where I think they asked her that , what do you call a dog's kid, and some other things.

Most of the conversation happened with my spouse. They asked her the name of the principal of her school (probably they knew the principal). Both of us work so they asked on how do we manage time. Since my spouse is with Media, they asked here that how watching too much of cartoons affect a child. Pretty in-formal and relaxed.

One of my friend was also there and as his husband did some analysis on the number of kid's who were called for Round 2 and the availability of seats. It seems that they called 900 odd people and they have 650 odd seats so assuming that there is a lot of overlap and some people might choose other schools (like DPS Noida), the chances of us making in are more.

The results would be out on Sep'24, two more days of anxiety.

Update on 27th Sep
-------------------
Sorry, we flunked. Now when we reverse-engineer the whole thing, I think being a nuclear-family + both-working thing worked against us. Anyway, no worries. We are still trying to influence upon our way since its a good school.

I would try to write a post on 'how to crack this thing' later. So far I have been to Somerville, Cambridge, ApeeJay, Indus Valley and Vishwa Bharti. Tomorrow it would be Khaitan and then we go to "Father Agnel" and "Ryan" in 2nd week of October.

Apeejay School Noida - A primer for nursery admissions

Apeeyjay is one of the highly reputed old schools in this small town and even though it lacks the glitter of some of the young schools like Lotus Valley, Greater Valley, Mayoor, Step By Step etc, its still one of the favorites among admission seekers.

My daughter has also applied here. Here are some details.

Location - Sec 16 A (very close to Delhi-Noida border, very well located for people residing in Mayoor Vihar, Eastend apartments, Vasundhara Enclave and some of the sectors of Noida)

Age - Between 3 and 4 on 31st March 2009. (This is for admission seekers in 2008)

Location - There is no location constraint but I would assume that they would give preference to kids who live close-by.

Dates - Forms were available from early september and last date of submission is Sep 16,2008

Process.
1. They meet every kid so unlike DPS and some of the other schools, you definitely get first chance. In my case the interaction date is 27th Sep. But I know someone who went through this.

It was a 4-5 minute interaction where they asked couple of questions to parents viz.
(i) Why Apeejay ?
(ii) How do you balance/manage your work and home. My friend is working and probably for a home-maker, there would be a different question.

Kid was also in the same room and she was asked to recite a poem first. After that she was asked to walk on a set of bricks/blocks which were lying a little apart. Kid actually got down, moved the bricks so that there is no gap and stood on that :)

They are awaiting results.

I have heard that Apeejay relies more on lottery and less on actual interaction.

Update on 27th Sep
------------------

We had our first interaction today. It was pretty well organized from what we have seen so far. We were asked to wait in a room. Later we along with the kid were taken to a room where there was a lady who interacted with us. Kid was interacting with another teacher on the next table. I could not observe clearly but they had some sort of puzzle.

We were asked
- Why Apeejay
- My wife is working so how does she manage her time
- What do we expect from school

5 minutes odd. It seemed that we were meeting a junior teacher (and I sometime wonder that whether as part of their teacher-training, were they ever taught on this aspect but anyway). It was not evident whether she was impressed or not.

Results would be out on Oct 2nd.

Update on Oct 6th, 2008
----------------------------
We made it in the first list. Today morning, we had our first interaction. It was a 2 minute interaction. Principal first confirmed our names , then our salaries from the form which we have filled (he confirmed that its indeed a monthly figure), asked for our schools and bade us bye. My daughter was invited to a table side by and was asked to recite a poem. I am not sure whether she was asked anything else later.

I noticed that Principal had this register on which he was writing marks against each name. I dont think that those 2 minutes are going to decide. Also our schools are not too great or flashy :)

Anyway, its over. The results would be out in a week.

Update on Oct 16th, 2008
------------------------------
We called school on Oct 13th and were told that results were not yet out. On Oct 14th, they said that results are out but we didn't make it. We found a contact and he told us that the list is not complete. We called again on Oct 15th and we were told that we made it. We were lucky to find a contact otherwise we had planned to take admission in Vishwa Bharti and that would have made us poorer by 16 K odd. So please ensure that you visit the school and probably do it few times. Their front-office system needs a lot of improvement. Unlike Amity, DPS and some of the other schools, they have no infrastructre to publish results on their website.

Today we took admission.

Monday, September 15, 2008

'A Wednesday' - Movie Review

A low key movie which was released couple of weekends back have failed to evoke much excitement but somehow I was recommended this movie by a my half-brother. Also incidentally I wanted to watch this movie since it has Naseer and Anupam, one of the two all time great artistes. I was eye-ing the poster for a while.

I did get a chance to watch this on last weekend and what a delight it was. Its a tight, not so long, thriller which keeps you almost on the edge, has stellar performances from everyone, brilliant editing and camera work and most importantly a fine piece of overall cinema. A great story and screen play, a small dose of humor and a high-impact social message.

The story is of 'A' Wednesday when Anupam who is playing as the Police Commissioner of Mumbai receives a call from Naseer for releasing some of the terrorists. I wont give you the story so that I dont kill the fun. Anupam is ably supported by a team which is led by two Sub-Inspectors Arif and Jai. Neeraj Pandey as a director has done a great job and I am certain that big assignments must be on his way. Right from character establishment (esp of Jai and Arif) to continuity to timing, everything has been really spectacular.

Some things which one of my colleague mentioned and I agree with him is that we as a nation are still not doing a good job in terms of researching the topic and trying to make the movie more real. There was definitely one thing which could have been handled with more maturity. This was around finding a hacker who could geo-locate Naseer. There were other small things which probably could have been done better, like managing to get the convicts (I would argue that in the current system it would be next to impossible to arrange four high-profile convicts in one place in a matter of 2 hours, the paper work would probably eat half a day if not more). We do not seem to be doing research the way Hollywood does. May be as a nation we work more out of guts then a real planned data-driven decision. Anyway, dont read too much of this.

All in all, a must watch. If you can't catch it on a theater then wait for the DVD and do watch it. If you watch it and have things to share, then please write a comment.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

DPS Noida - A primer on Nursery Admissions

DPS is one of the reputed schools in Noida and as per the school website which is here, during 2007, they received 30 forms for each single seat. DPS uses more of a lottery system to select candidates, this is what they sort of say. I know few parents who validated this since they could not figure out a reason for their ward's selection or rejection.

Anyway, lets move on

Website - DPS Noida
Location - Sector 30. Its on Atta-NTPC road. Very well located.
Infrastructure - Good
Reputation - High
Recommendations - Very good (first hand recommendations which I got)

For 2009 session, one could fill Online forms by Sep 4th. Thats the only way to fill forms. There is no fee for filling this online form. The website is very tacky so keep clicking on the home page to get rid of that irritating flash animation.

We filled the form. Results for some of the cases were out on Sep 10th as per schedule. One of my friend got in and they have been called for 'first interaction' on Sep 12. I would update on what I hear from her.

I am not yet lucky and for my daughter, the website shows "Under Process".

-----------------------------------------------
Update on 12 Sep 2008, through a friend who made it to the list.

There were 30 parents in one batch. Two batches were scheduled for 12 Sep, 2008. First a form was given, a simple one page form, personal data sort. After that you get prospectus against a payment for Rs 400.

Then another paper was given and that had two subjective questions viz.

1. What the milestones or landmarks during your child's development in life ?
Answer - She answered it by mentioning things like
- when the child started walking, speaking
- her first day at school
- first eating , first x and first y

2. What efforts do you make the bond the family together ?

Kids Interaction Rounds

1. During this time, they started taking kids away to a room where there was a teacher. Kids was asked to do coloring while parents were busy answering questions. Her kid was asked to fill a duck. Then parents were asked to be with the child.


2. There was a puzzle where different pieces of a butterfly was to be assembled, jig saw puzzle. Not very difficult since a pic was there. To practice at home, take a large page and then draw a butterfly on it, paste that paper on a card-board and then make 4-6 pieces and ask Kid to put them together so that it looks like a butterfly.

3. In another puzzle, there was a strip of wood which had dots of colors of a particular sequence. Kids were give a string and beads and they were to put the beads in the right sequence. Its a little tricky for a Kid to hold the string and the bead but it seemed that Teachers gave kids enough time.

Parents were allowed to interact with the during this but I think they dont expect you to help them do this.You can hint or give verbal instructions.

4. There was a paper on which they had blue color at the bottom, then brown, then black and then light-blue. Kids were told that blue is water, brown is grass, black is road and they were to guess the meaning of 'light-blue'. As per my friend, those colors were not looking like real water or road or grass (no gradient or shade or texture difference in terms of colors, dont know but someone should tell them that color has meaning if its of one single shade). So difficult for a kid.

Then they got some items from a box like flower pot, boat, car, dog etc and one has to put those things correctly. There were funny things like a man having a parachute. How many kids have seen a Parachute in real life.

5. Finally there was this Poem round. Kid were asked to recite with action. They asked two poems. Then she was given a toffee (eclairs and Kids HATE eclairs because it sticks) and were expected to say 'Thank You'.

Another thing which my friend noted was the energy level of the teacher, that energy level also decides how the Kid does.

Whoooooooooooof. And they say that they select randomly.


Parents Round 2
Parents were called in a group (10 parents) along with kids in a hall. They then asked parents to introduce themselves. People generally talked about their qualification and their job and all. Funnily, neither the Principal nor anyone else form the school introduced themselves. There was no session from school where parents were told about the school, its education system etc.

Results would be out on 15 the Sep, 8 PM. Keep tuned. Feel free to ask anything or post any comment.

Since these results are out on 15th Sep, I am assuming that they might call some more kids and I hope that I get called.

Wish me luck and comment.

update on Sep 16 morning
----------------------------

My friend's kid did not make it. The language which was their on the site was pretty rude. I haven't got a call so far and I don't think that I would get one now. Anyway.

DPS Management - If you ever read this then here's a request from a parent. Make your process transparent and publish it on your website. If its lottery then have it in presence of select group of parents. If its interaction then please assign marks and publish merit list.

one more update
--------------------

My Kid didn't make it to even short-listing :). It took DPS five days to come out with that status. The website says that the shortlisting is based on random-selection and I believe them :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Victime of CERN - Big Bang Experiment

I have heard about CERN before. So when I read news about CERN trying to re-enact 'Big Bang', I read that as another science project. Later I came to know that is a 10 Billion USD project and there are many countries who are supporting it, including India. We supposedly have close to 30 scientists there.

I knew about CERN not because I have a deep interest in big-bang and the making of universe, you would never find me discussing this over lunch-table or in airplane aisles but I knew about it since my bro-in-law (or half brother) has been to this place. He was at Geneva for some office work for few months and he accidentally discovered this place. This place is near Geneva and I can bet that all those hazaar honeymoon couples who change their flights at Geneva on the way to Interlaken or Zurich, have not heard about this place.

Apparently they have build the deepest/largest tunnel in the world where they would do these experiments. It is essentially a atom smasher mixer-grinder where protons would travel at a lot higher speed from different direction and would collide, making the big bang. There are dig-cams (weighing more than a ton) which would take millions of snap-shot when this happens.

So far so good.

All was well today morning. I prepared tea, my daughter was cheerful (she had very high fever the other day, tonsillitis) before my wife found out few missed calls. Our maid has called and missed us. She called back and found to her horror that we would be do our chores by ourselves, maid has learned that today's the world is going to be finished and so she was not sure whether she should spend those precious hours with us or with her family. No prizes for guessing that she chose later.

I am now in office and would get into a tele-call a moment from now. We are going to discuss whether we are on track for releasing our s/w or not. I hope someone mentions about this 'Big Bang' thing and I can crib more, after all no one likes to clean utensils before coming to office.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

An evening with Debojit Dutta, the singer

I would let do the video do most of the talking but writing some text to give you a little context. Debojit was at Noida to perform for a event at 'Great India Place' mall. Yashita and Pratibha were also there but I spent more time with Debojit.

Debo is 23 year young lad from Kolkata and at times he sings like god. There have been at least two performances where all the 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' judges came running on the stage after he finished. A little less worldly-smart, the son of scientists parents, Deb is now participating in the now iconic show 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009' which airs on Zee TV every friday and staurday at 10.00 PM.

After having a sumptuous dinner at Rajdhani, the famous Thali joint of Mumbai, at GIP, I had a little chat with him, while we were waiting for some of the other folks, here are some bytes. There is lot of background noise and I have further down-sampled the video to make it light enough for quick loading, so please raise the volume up.

video

This is what the reporter looks like in his new moustache look, these days.



And one more video to wind-up.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My first E-commerce transaction and my recent one

I am probably one of the earliest Indian in India who might have exercised E-commerce to buy a book. I really wish that some day someone hunts me down and I am felicitated for this act at some mega event. It was in year 1998 or may be 1999 (I guess), at that point of time I was working with 'Newgen Software, Okhla, Delhi', a small software company with great promise, testing their flagship product 'Newgen Omnidocs'. I had recently read 'The Midnight's children' and became an ardent fan of Salman Rushdie, have also read one more of his book called 'The moor's last sigh'. A new book has recently come out by Salman, 'The ground beneath her feet' and I ordered that book at rediff.com

I chose to pay through VPP (Value Paid at Post), which means that I would pay once I get the goods. I did the transaction and my wait started. Interestingly nothing happened so I mailed the relevant folks at rediff and I remember that I was asked to wait for some more time. I dont exactly remember but I did receive a call from some bookseller in Bangalore confirming my order. Finally one fine morning, I was called in by my front office staff at Newgen and there lay the hard-bound edition of the book. While I looked at the the packet with novelty in my eyes, the world around me didn't notice anything. History was being created in that office.

I asked around to see if there is anyone waiting for me to collect the money but I could not find any one. I even left a note at office security which is at the main entrance of the office to contact me if someone comes looking for money and me. But no one came. My first e-commerce transaction turned into a gift. I was never charged anything. In fact if I remember correctly, the guy from Bangalore said that since they can't source a paperback edition, they are sending me a hard-bound edition without any extra charge. It turned out to be without any charge.

The book is still lying on my huge 6 rows , 3 columns end-to-end wall mounted book rack.

Over time, e-commerce caught up. VPP became a thing of past, now you punch in your credit card no and you are good. In less then a week you get a book at your doorstep and they never forget to charge you.

My most recent purchase has been a technical book. Its called "Programming in C" by "Ritchie and Kernighan". My niece is now going to college and she would start learning C in her first semester so I gifted her this book. This time the process was very simple, do a search, find a seller who is in India and who sort of looks trust worthy, order it and you are done.

I bought this from www.flipkart.com and they delivered the book in 5 odd days including weekend, not bad. It was a Rs 125 worth transaction, shipping included. All done over a matter of 15 minutes.

The world has changed a lot in last 10 years. If you are an E-commerce expert then please try to find out that whether I am one of the first e-commerce customer or not.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Better Channel Navigation in TVs

Out here in India we used to have just one TV channel, when we were growing. TV Remote was something which we have seen when we got old. I remember that when we bought our first Color TV in 1987 (A Bush model), we chose to buy the one without remote since we thought that it doesn't make sense to pay Rs 1000 just for a remote.

Then came the satellite revolution, around 1991 odd, and suddenly 100s of channel were visible. When I read a report in Time magazine in 1991-1992, I didn't believe it. My college library used to get 100s of magazine and I thought that this is not about India. After some weeks I was seen working with local cable guy to fix things, apparently a couple who has just moved in a close-by apartment has agreed to pay 200 or whatever for this satellite connection. When we first watched MTv we were as good as dead. We could not believe it.

The result of all this ensured that TV Remote became a standard fitment. Now you could flip channels. Then about 2 odd years back, we got DTH (Direct to Home) where in you get a set-top box and the beauty of this system was that there is no cable-wallah in between, the signal reception is good and you can access TV Guide.

So if you are on "Tata Sky" or "Dish TV' or recently launched 'Big TV', you can find out much more about the running and future TV programs. Life is simpler, better and more richer now.

So in this life, while browsing or surfing channels, I thought of something. In Tata Sky, there is a way through which you can find out 'whats playing' on next channel and you can browse the list, without actually changing the channel. So if Star, Sony and Zee are configured one after the other then while watching Star, you just press some keys and you can see a text information of whats playing on Sony. At this point you can either chose to change to Sony or go to next Channel.

What occurred to me that whether it wont be killing, if I can also see a small video preview of next channel. This small preview would help me further since I can figure out whether they are playing any ads or not. Sometime these small previews could actually help me to find out the details of the 'content' rather then reading it. Especially if I am familiar with that particular program. A small preview is enough for you to register whether the program is "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009" or "Big Boss" or "The Great India Laughter Challenge". Over time it may happen that you only video previews since those are much more easier to register.

PIP (Picture in picture) is already a solved problem. This is just another good use case of using PIP technology. TV makers ??? Can you do it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Admissions for Nursery in Noida is now on

Pihu is now 3+ so we join the game of trying our luck and use our skill in getting her admitted in a good school. We just had the counseling at her pre-school and we were told that we must apply in at least 7-10 schools.

While me and my better half are into this, I thought I would try to capture my experience and any information which I gather so that it might be useful for other people in the boat and may be for future aspirants.

I would try to update this blog post every now and then, so that there is a single post on this subject. If you visit this and have things to add then I encourage you to comment and I would add that info in main post.

Lets go school wise.

1. DPS, Noida
Website - www.dpsnoida.org

Click on 'Admissions' and then proceed.

You can apply only online so no alternate methods. Available From 1st Sep - 7 Sep. After that shortlisted candidate would be called for assessment from 10th - 16th Sep.

It seems that they dont accept applications from Indirapuram residents because there is a DPS in Indirapuram as well. Children residing with-in 8 KM radius would be accepted and age should be between 3 and 4 as on 30th Sep'2008.

2. Amity International School

link - http://www.amity.edu/aisadmission/

Fill the form online, pay Rs 300 through credit-card and you would get an invitation for 'first interaction'. We have been asked to be there on Sep 8th.

3. Lotus Valley School

Forms are out. Link is - http://www.lotusvalley.com/download_form.htm

Unlike Amity and DPS, you can't fill the form online. So take a print and submit it in school. I didn't see any end dates on the website.

4. Greater Valley School.

Its in greater noida but me and my wife were very very impressed by their Principal, Sangita Chima, who was there in the counselling session at Pihu's pre-school. So we would probably try this school. If we shift to Gr Noida, this admission would come handy.

link - http://www.greatervalleyschool.com/

Its run by the same organization which runs the famous 'Vasant Valley School'. I also think that a women principal is a better principal then a man principal :).

5. Somerville School, Noida
Forms were out on Sep 4 and there was this 10 KM line. We skipped that yesterday, today it was like a breeze. They only accept candidates from Noida and form is free. Once I fill the form, I would update on what happens next.

I would add more as I learn more. If you have any queries, then dont hesitate to ask, I would try to find an appropriate answer.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

"It Could Happen to You" - Watch it

A lazy hot sunday afternoon spent watching this fabulous movie, It Could Happen to You. We have 'Tata Sky' at home so there is this handy little option which gives you a snippet of the movie. I have seen this movie before but I didn't remember the name, but after reading the snippet, I remembered and made the good call to watch it.

I wont spill the beans but its a movie about a Cop which promises a waitress to split his lottery ticket fortune in lieu of the tip. As luck would have it, he wins the lotto and a cool 4 million USD. The man keeps the promise (A promise is a promise), his wife doesn't like it and so on. Its not a court-room drama, its neither a emotional essay or a moral lesson movie. Its a very simple and easy watch movie, with brilliant acting by Nicholas Cage and Bridget Fonda.




If you have watched this movie and liked it then comment, we share something in common , if you dont like it then too comment :), for all the good reasons. And if you watch this based on my recommendation and then like/hate it, then comment for sure :)

'Bachna Ae Haseeno' - Quick Review and my gripes

I was at Fun cinemas, Pitampura, Delhi, the other evening, watching the new block buster 'Bachna Ae Haseeno'. We were there in a group of 6 since we got some free tickets for the show, so owing to large group, overall mood was peppy and there were reasons to be busy other then just watching the movie. Fun Cinemas, Pitampura is not in the best of locations with a ad-hoc parking and a foul-smelly auditorium.

Bachna is a movie around a 'killer' (why he was termed Killer and how he miserably failed there, later) who has two affairs and he dumps the two girls. When the 3rd girl tells him that she doesn't want to marry him because she doesn't , then his past haunts him, he goes back , finds those two girls who are now shattered to death and are living a recluse to bit**y life, says sorry, peps their life up, comes back and gets happily united ever with the 3rd one.

Ranbeer Kapoor plays the killer and Minissha Lamba, Bipasha Basu and Deepika Padukone (is the surname something to do with a shuttle cork, kone) are the three Haseenas. There is a friend of the Hero, played very well by Nitin (I guess I am having the right name) , son of legendary Paintal. Except Puneet Issar who plays Mahi's (Lamba) dad and Kunal Kohli (brilliant as a surd) who plays Mahi's hubby, there is no one else.

The story starts with Switzerland (Minisha episode) where she misses her train and then she and Raj Sharma (Ranbeer) drive to Zurich on a scooter. She falls in love, he falls in loves (pretends) and just after a lapse of 24 odd hours when she realizes that he has been kidding, she is devastated.

I have two problems at this point. First Ranbeer didn't do a single trick to be the 'Killer' so as a story writer, add more meat and juice to his character, work hard, think of twists and work on this character to really make him look like a 'killer'. My 2nd probelm is that Mahi (Ms Lamba) who is already engaged , she finds this junkie and likes him, they kiss couple of times, there are no intimate moments, and there is no time which really nourishes this love, it was a one-night-stand with no protection (since there was no need of one, since it never happened). Why this minor interaction leaves her into a lady who disbelieves love, goes into a semi-recluse and what not is hard to understand. Do you really think that such a mild and minor encounter would make someone into like this. C'mon. Director was more busy with shooting exotic locales, designer dresses that noone really cared a shit for character-establishment.

So that was Swiss. Then comes Mumbai. Ranbeer now works for Microsoft , earns well, has his own small apartment, finds the hot Bipashu as his neighbour. They get close. Again reels were spent showing the glamorous Basu then 'killer' Raj, they get into a live-in relationship. Later Raj has to leave for Syndey for some long term work and he is not ready for marriage, so on the d-day when they were to assemble at the courts, he plays truant. Basu is devastated. This devastation was better managed then the earlier one since they were together for a long time but all the while no time was spent to even shoot a single sequence where their relationship was explained.

Anyway, then comes Deepika. Deepika Padukone is a Icchadhaari specie. She is first seen as a cabbie, then she is also from B School , later she is seen as a super-mark. Love happens, she quits, Raj remembers what he has done in the past.

So far the movie is about promiscuity, skin, exotic locations, more skin, bright and happy faces, good cars, more exotic locations (Rome - Italy n all that). After this you get some sanity and content in the movie. He comes back , says sorry which has been managed so well. For the first time, it appears that someone is thinking, there is some real story.

It finishes pretty abruptly, Raj comes back to Sydney, his friend shows him a new car which they never drive (why the hell was that scene), comes back home, meets Kone, they get together.

Ok. so that about 'Bachna'. Dont spend too much money to see this movie, if you want to see Swiss, Cote d Azure, Sydney and some of other good beaches then watch it.