Saturday, 28 February 2015

How I'll Get My NXT Car Quikr

Last Friday evening, I watched Bond movies back to back, and couldn't help but lust after the sleek cars the protagonist would have at his disposal. Even after I stopped watching the movies, the thought of James Bond's Aston Martin refused to leave me. I knew then that it was a signal from God! ;-)

I know I'm only twenty four and can barely afford a Santro, but I just could not stop thinking about Aston Martins. I HAD to get that somehow! And I did not have the patience to wait till I retired or got super rich. Just then, I saw the Quikr ad on TV, and knew just where to look!

The site has an entire section dedicated to cars and bikes. This made my search easier. I could even filter the cars through brands, my budget, their old or new status, the city, the location of the seller and the date of the ad.

Even though I did not find my Aston Martin, I found a nice used BMW 3 series 320i just for under three lakh rupees! This was music to my ears! I quickly checked the pictures and vital information on the advertisement, and started planning how I'd buy it. I knew exactly what I could do - sell my old car on Quikr!! :-D

I could sell my old Alto for about one lakh rupees and use my bonus and some savings to pitch in the rest. After I was done daydreaming, I would quickly approach the seller on Quikr NXT. This is a revolutionary chat platform where your number remains a secret as you chat with your buyer or seller smoothly. I will not have to make unnecessary phone calls or be inundated with "friendship" requests on the pretext of selling or buying. Also, my chats will get saved, so I will always be able to double check quotes from different sellers.

Once the money is paid, the car keys will exchange hands and I will have my first BMW ever!!! I will have also sold my old car in the process. Effectively, I would have upgraded my little hatchback to a swanky sedan! And the best thing is, I would have done all of this without lifting a finger! ;-) This is because I would literally be chatting on Quikr NXT with my fingers tapping away at the screen of my phone.

And that reminds me, Quikr works like a charm not only on the desktop site, but also on the mobile website and mobile app. Give it a try if you haven't already! Who knows? You could just be buying your new (used) car online! ;-) And remember to share the pictures of your new car with me! I am still dreaming about Aston Martin. The too shall me mine someday!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Get Acquainted with Axis Mobile

My Saturday morning last week was well spent at the Axis Bank office in Worli. I attended my third Blogadda meet with over a dozen enthusiastic bloggers from all over Mumbai (and one from Pune).

Agenda for the Blogger-Meet

The event was held to launch the latest update of the Axis Bank mobile app. As I explain the app to you step by step, you will agree with me that this application is just as beautiful as Deepika Padukone - the brand ambassador of Axis Bank.

The Axis Team

The jovial team of Axis extended us a warm welcome and escorted us to their swanky conference room. The only thing on the agenda was the demo of the app... and of course, some light hearted talk and Q and A session.

Registering on the App

You must visit a branch to get your app authorized for your phone number, but the app is highly user friendly. When you click to login, it lets you register through multiple options. Onboarding takes less than a minute! You need not open an internet banking account if you already are an account holder or Axis credit/debit cardholder. (This will come as a great relief to many users who have had to open internet banking accounts just so they could start mobile banking with their respective banks.) For first timers, you may choose to onboard at one of Axis Bank's 100 wifi-enabled offices with the help of their customer care executives.

Security on the App

Registration is a one-time process, after which, the app works like a charm. You literally carry the bank in your pocket! In addition to being simple and convenient, the app is very secure. Other than the two layers of security provided by your m-PIN and first-time physical registration, there is a third layer of security - your mobile number. The app is configured to detect the number you are signing in from. Even if you lose your phone, your accounts are safe as only you know your m-PIN. Likewise, this app can't be prey to phishing scams as even if you disclose your m-PIN, only you will have your mobile phone to do the actual login.

The Axis Menu

The menu panel has a host of options from recharging, transferring funds and paying bills to claiming rewards points, maintaining accounts and making special requests. This view is customizable. You can either choose a menu or icons, depending on what you are comfortable with. You can also reorder the sequence of the options on the menu!

Another unique thing about the app is that you can simply click on "Logout" or the cross button (on the screens that have that option) to gracefully log off from your account. You need not close the app (as with most other mobile banking apps).

Checking Balance on the App

Most people (almost 95%) use their mobile banking apps just to check their account-balance. It is with this behaviour in mind that Axis Bank has designed their app to make it very simple to check one's balance. Clicking on "Accounts" from the menu will show you your balance right at the top. You will also be able to see the balance for other accounts you have - even your credit card outstanding balance.

Handling Multiple Accounts

If you have multiple accounts (Car Loan / Personal Loan / Home Loan / Credit Card / Savings) with Axis, you can access all of them from the same session. Suppose you have a home loan account. When you select "Home Loan" from the list of options, your screen will show you complete details of that loan history - the sanctioned amount, the term, the ROI, the EMI, the date of next installment, etc.

Bill Payment

Paying your credit card bill is also very simple on the app. If you have multiple cards, the "drum feature" kicks in, and you can choose the card you wish to pay for. You may either pay the full outstanding amount (default value) or edit the field to part-pay your bill. The app does not have the boring radio buttons, and instead makes the most of the touch platform to enhance user experience. In fact, the Axis team told us that they have user experience experts advising them after sessions of observing where users look when they try to find a feature. Their app releases are sent out after rounds of user acceptance testing (in addition to the other tests done internally).

Adding a Beneficiary

My favourite feature on this app is adding an Axis-Bank-beneficiary. This is so user friendly that you don't even need the account number or IFSC code! You only have to enter the mobile number (which was registered during account opening) of the beneficiary, and you are all set! For non-Axis accounts, you have to know the account number and IFSC, as usual. All of these additions seamlessly reflect on your i-banking account. Similarly, all the beneficiaries added via i-banking auto-populate on the mobile app.

The moment you add a beneficiary, your first need is to transfer money to that account. Ordinarily, you would have to tap around and reach a fresh page, choose your beneficiary & then transfer the amount. But on the Axis app, the page that confirms the successful addition of your beneficiary has buttons to do an NEFT (standard or at a future date) or an IMPS (for those of us who only add beneficiaries to instantly transfer the amount and remove the account thereafter). The only downside is that RTGS is not allowed over the mobile.

Social Media Integration

An exciting attribute of the app is that it is integrated with social media and many things are customizable. For instance, once you add a beneficiary, you can take her picture (using your phone-camera) or import it from Facebook and save it with the account details! Nobody ever thought of that! The image can further be cropped to your liking.

Other Tasks via the App

From the menu, you can select "Requests" to access many other features such as requesting a new cheque book, getting your account statement emailed to you (in PDF), checking your MMID (for IMPS transfers), generating an OTP, etc.

Blocking Your Credit Cards

If you lose any of your Axis credit cards, you can block it in a couple of taps. Here too you can select the requisite card using the slide-feature (and not an outdated form / radio button). The only issue here is that you are also sent a replacement card at your registered address (so, you can never really get rid of a card once you order one).

Security for your Debit Card

You can effortlessly change transaction limits for ATM and purchase, especially if your card is lost. This makes your account highly secure as you can easily bring the limits down to zero in case of a theft. All of these changes, undoubtedly, require your m-PIN. Another option on the app, only for debit cards, is that you can "switch off" the card when you don't plan to use it (e.g., if you will be abroad for some time), and switch it on again when you wish to resume. This is an ingenious power in the hands of the accountholder!

eDGE Loyalty Rewards

Axis Bank runs the pan-bank eDGE loyalty rewards program for each of its customers - account holders who only do physical transactions, internet banking users, credit card holders and mobile bankers. Nobody is ignored in this program, and the points accumulated can be tracked and spent via the mobile app.

Point Redemption

The reward-points can be redeemed on a variety of products at the touch of a finger. Many popular brands such as Flipkart, Pizza Hut and Bookmyshow have tied up with Axis to provide you instant e-vouchers which will be emailed to your registered id.

Axis to GPS

This app effectively uses the GPS to find you your nearest Axis ATM or branch, and even restaurant-partners where you can get 15% discount when you pay with an Axis card! This feature is simply mindblowing, and never before seen on another banking app. You can also use the "List View" to get a list of your nearest Axis ATMs, branches or partner-hotels (in case you don't prefer the map-view).

What Next for the Axis App?

The Axis Mobile app is available on Android, iOS, Windows and via mobile web (web browser of the cellphone). The app is about 5.5MB on Apple and slightly heavier on Android. The team, however, is working to bring the size down in the next release (slated for 15th March). They also have plans to bring in access to mutual funds for some of their customers in the April release. This app has a new release every 45 days.

I am thoroughly impressed by this mobile banking app. I have never seen such a beautiful balance of security, customization and ease-of-use in any other bank's mobile app before. If you are an Axis customer, you must certainly download this app and make the most of it!

This post is about 'Make the Axis Acquaintance' meet conducted by Axis Bank in association with

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Book Review - Ramayana: The Game of Life (Shattered Dreams: Book-2)

After reading a modern rendition of the Mahabharata last month, I got my hands on the other epic in Indian mythology - Ramayana. Shubha Vilas's Ramayana is the age-old retelling with an "extra something". Let's find out what:-

Fast Facts:-

Title: Ramayana: The Game of Life (Shattered Dreams: Book-2) 
Author: Shubha Vilas
Genre: Mythology
Publisher: Jaico
Pages: 387
Price: Rs.350 (Paperback)

Key Characters:-

  1. Dasaratha: The king of Ayodhya. He is often regarded as the king of the world.
  2. Keikeyi: King Dasaratha's second wife, renowned for her beauty and valiance as her husband's charioteer in the battle against Sambara.
  3. Manthara: Keikeyi's sour-natured servant and confidante.
  4. Rama: Eldest son of Dasaratha from Kaushalya, his first wife.
  5. Sita: Rama's virtuous wife.
  6. Lakshmana: Rama's most loyal follower and Dasaratha's third son from his third wife, Sumitra.
  7. Bharata: Keikeyi's only son, and a worshipper of his elder brother - Rama.

The Review:-

'Shattered Dreams' is the second volume (parva or kanda) in the 'Game of Life' series. The story in this version of Ramayana remains largely intact. The author, however, captures valuable lessons in management (at work and for life) and mentions these learnings as footnotes throughout the book.

This part explores Dasaratha's desire to handover the reigns of his kingdom (Ayodhya) to his eldest son - the able and righteous Rama. Rama has an impeccable character and is extremely popular across the kingdom. Dasaratha's decision to coronate Rama brings a lot of joy to all of Dasaratha's well-wishers. This joy, however, vanishes when Keikeyi, brainwashed by Manthara, redeems two of her boons which she had received from Dasaratha many years ago.

The first boon is used to install Keikeyi's own blood, Bharata, as the king. And, the second boon is redeemed by banishing Rama for fourteen years to live an austere life in the forests. This news shatters Dasaratha's dreams and leads him and the entire kingdom to mourn the loss of Rama and condemn Keikeyi. On the brighter side, Rama is lucky to have Lakshmana, his younger brother, and Sita, his loving wife, pledge their companionship throughout the exile. Most of the latter part of the book describes the trio's journey through the mountains and the forests in the first few years of their exile.

The book also briefly introduces Ravana, the learned but conceited king of Lanka. The story of his predecessors and their misdeeds are explored in the second chapter. Shubha leads us to believe that Rama was exiled for a bigger reason. If he would drown in the daily business of ruling a kingdom, he would never have the time or opportunity to later defeat Ravana - the tyrant.

The novel takes the reader through Bharata's selfless nature, and his anger at the knowledge of his mother's rancorous deed. He sets out to right the wrong, and takes the entire kingdom on a mission to bring back Rama to Ayodhya and be the ruler everyone has prayed for. The suspense (obviously, only for those rare souls who have never heard of or read the Ramayana) is in Rama's answer. Will he accept Bharata's apology and accede to his request to reclaim his throne? Or will he continue on his arduous journey through the woods?

My Verdict:-

Shubha Vilas's storytelling seems quite preachy at parts, but he can be forgiven for the original Ramayan is almost a moral guidebook for many Indians. The narration is slightly dull and slow in the beginning, but soon grasps the readers' interest as the story paces ahead. What is most interesting is the small stories, many of those unheard of, that make up the huge Ramayana.

Shubha does a commendable job of weaving in all the little tales to keep up the interest levels of the readers. This is necessary as the story otherwise progresses in an abysmally low rate. His style of proffering management gyan at every opportunity, is a little irritating at times as it distracts one from the story. But some pearls of wisdom are valuable indeed. Also, the author's phraseology is flowery and very ornate. This manner is perfect for an epic that bears the burden of disseminating moral education to the masses.

I give Shattered Dreams a strong rating of 8 on 10 for the priceless insights into every situation, the beautiful language and the intricately drawn scenes (through words) throughout the book. This novel should be read in leisure so you can soak in every lesson in the footnotes.

This review is part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Oindrila's Style Secrets Revealed!

This post is my expression of style for ‘A Style Of My Own’ blogger contest by Women’s Web and Trishla emart.

Before I give you a tour of my fashion preferences, I'd like to introduce you to the person I am. Behind the smiling face and fun-loving disposition, I am a passionate travel blogger at Oindrila Goes Footloose. My style is not constant. It can never be defined. My choices are transient. My signature looks are inspired by my numerous trips across India and overseas. My quest for unearthing the local values and cultures of the indigenous people leads me to imbibing their traditions on most occasions.

I present here (in no particular order) my ensembles that depict my persona:-

1. Pheran and Taranga inspired from Kashmir

Flower-girl in the Himalayas

I donned this beautiful Kashmiri pheran with a matching taranga with some help from the local Paharis. The velvet fabric felt smooth on my skin and the ornate jewellery completed my look. I opted for the traditional heavy headgear, tikli, a silver choker and a long beaded necklace to accessorize.

2. A Tibetan Satin Blouse

Flowers that bloom in winters too

I bought this gorgeous floral patterned top from a Tibetan migrant in New Delhi. This piece stood out as the most elegant and ornate one in his entire collection. This outfit needs no other accessory, and is complete in itself. This is why I have gathered my hair in a simple bun.

3. Silk Saree for Durga Puja

Glowing in the company of my mum and sister

Durga Puja is an exciting time for us Bengalis. This is when I love to embrace my Bengali culture and drape a bright saree to celebrate the festivities. Ma Durga is a symbol of power and grace. She inspires me to have confidence in my abilities and carry myself gracefully. I decided go for a backless black blouse with net-sleeves to add a bit of sensuality to the otherwise conventional garment. Even the saree is modernistic with its geometric embroidery. I kept the look simple, opting for a statement gold necklace and kada.

4. Churidar-Kurta and Dupatta for Punjab

Devotion to God is golden indeed!

On my visit to a Gurudwara in the North, I was humbled by the hospitality of the Sikhs. I took from them a little bit of their culture along with the langar. Here, I stand in front of a golden dome atop a magnificent white building. My green kurta is almost golden in the light of the sun. My combination of white and green-gold matches perfectly with the gurudwara and its floating reflection in the holy pond.

5. The Village-Lass Look

Gaon ki chhori

I spent a night last month in a quaint village in Rajasthan. I chose to wear this homespun bandhani-print figure-hugging kurta with a bright red patiala and flowing chunni. I wore a pair of functional brown Hush Puppies ballerina flats to make sure I could walk on the sands with ease. The only jewellery I wore was a big red wooden bangle. Red looks attractive in the middle of sandy roads and green plants.

6. The High Street Apparel

The elite way to wear Indian outfits

This is the same outfit that I wore in the previous pic for a rustic look. But here, I have made slight adjustments to my styling to turn this garment into a  smart fashion statement. The shoes are Tresmode pencil heels in flaming red. I have also worn a classy brooch at the collar to close the neckline and give more shape to my torso. I have done away with the dupatta and instead, carried a gold-bordered handbag. In my opinion, the shoes have contributed the most in transforming my look.

7. Tradition Meets Trendy

The biking look

I always try to balance the elements of ethnicity and contemporariness in my attire. When I go on roadtrips to the outskirts of the city, I wear traditional clothes with a chic twist. Here, I'm wearing a halter-neck fitted kurta paired with a checkered slingbag in contrasting shades of blue. The look gives me the flexibility to walkabout comfortably and also embrace my traditions.

8. The Magic of a Scarf

A cute look for trekking

I often go on treks, and dressing for one presents a dilemma in itself. However, I have found the perfect way to look dapper for my treks. I still wear the dark jeans and sturdy tops, but I add some fun to the outfit with floral scarves. It brings out the ultimate girl in me! :-) A graphic printed handbag also helps when you are only walking instead of climbing mountains.

9. The Beach Dress

The sands and sea should always be enjoyed in full colour! :-)

I love beaches! And I dress up depending on my reasons to visit a beach. When I'm planning to feel the waves on my feet and the wind in my hair, I wear a flowy floral sundress with matching colorful Crocs slippers. I also carry my multi-coloured slingbag to stash my sunscreen lotion and lip balm.

10. Glamorous Gladiators

Gladiators look great on rickshaws too!

Charming little towns, where there's hardly any traffic, are ideally explored on foot. I trust my favourite khaki coloured gladiator sandals to add some oomph to my look while I strut about with elan. I have learnt that gladiators work best with short skirts or hotpants. For my summer trip to Pondicherry, I picked a sunny pair of shorts and teamed it with a red noodle-strap top and sleeveless cotton jacket.

11. Power Dressing - 101

Look cool and confident in fitted blazers

I love to travel and explore every corner of the world, but at the end of the day, I am a working woman. I aspire to break all glass ceilings and be respected at my workplace. I have often read that you must dress for the job you want to have, not the one you currently have. This is why I always aim to look my best in smart formal fabrics. Blazers keep me warm on the air conditioned floors and also lend some strength to my shoulders. Well fitted clothes can do wonders to your body and self confidence! Try not to keep your look too uptight. I balance the formal tone with elegant tops in soft fabrics. A brooch also goes a long way in establishing your stateliness. I always prefer closed-toed wedges appropriate for formal settings. They help you walk about and also improve your posture!

My ephemeral sense of style keeps me free of any trend-rules and gives me the freedom to explore and experiment. My fashion-lingo keeps evolving with each new day, just as I grow and evolve. I am a working woman on one day, and a carefree traveller the other. This is me. I am unpredictable. And, so is my style! ;-)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Book Review - Rapescars

This Sunday, I'm reviewing Rapescars by Gaurav Sharma. This is a book that perhaps every female (and even male) should read. It's a thin one and can be finished in a single sitting.

The coverpage

I was sent an autographed copy of the book.

Fast Facts:-

Title: Rapescars 
Author: Gaurav Sharma
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Petals Publishers
Pages: 151
Price: Rs.150 (Paperback)

Key Characters:-
  1. Akriti: The protagonist - a young girl in her early twenties
  2. Raman: Akriti's love interest in the beginning of the story, and later, her rapist
  3. Seema: An advocate who fights for Akriti's rights

The Review:-

'Rapescars' begins with the description of a girl's (Akriti) state of mind when she is left to her own elements after being ruthlessly raped. The story then proceeds in flashback and takes the reader to the very beginning of how the victim met the perpetrator of the rape. Akriti and Raman are college students who travel to their respective colleges in the same bus. Over the period of a few months, Raman manages to attract Akriti towards him and convinces her to raise her level of comfort and agree to various intimate rendezvous with him behind closed doors. Akriti's world comes crashing down when on one such occasion she is filmed, by two other boys, having sex with Raman. Those two boys turn out to be Raman's friends and they take turns to rape her as Raman abets the crime. Akriti is shattered at this juncture.

The girl, however, is a brave one. She promptly tells her mother and her parents take her to the police to file an FIR. There begins the long and arduous journey of this rape-survivor who is made to revisit her trauma again and again as she is repeatedly questioned by various people who will supposedly help her - the police, the doctor, the lawyers and the judge. The book details every stage a rape victim is made to go through, right from having her medical examination done to getting the criminals punished. All the hurdles that a victim has to endure just to prove the genuineness of the crime is simply enraging! In India, victims have to undertake the two-finger test (to determine forceful penetration in the vagina). At many hospitals, the victim does not even have the right to a female doctor for the medical tests! The court proceedings progress at a snail's pace and it takes ages for justice to finally be delivered.

The book effectively captures what goes on in the family of a victim - how the neighbours and relatives take pleasure in picking at their wounds and revisiting the story on the pretext of offering condolences. Fingers are first pointed at the victim for her dressing and "culture" and the inordinate amount of "freedom" enjoyed by her. Narrated largely through the perspective of Akriti, the book has an unpolished tone.

Besides the victim, Seema is a strong character in the novel. Seema is Akriti's lawyer who first counsels her and prepares her mentally for the impending court-hearings, and then fights ferociously in the courtroom to seek justice on behalf of her client. The story takes a sharp turn while Raman is at the brink of  being imprisoned. After the long court battle, Akriti asks the judge not to imprison him. She decides to impart Raman a lesson he will remember forever! And here begins an unusual journey that Akriti scripts for her offender... The story's twist has a strong justification. What remains to be seen is whether this new method makes Raman repent or not.

My Verdict:-

Gaurav's style of narration is inconsistent throughout the book. He attempts to speak through the voice of a young lady in some parts, and switches to a more professional discourse at others. The book is littered with grammatical mistakes and misapplication of words and idioms. The story proceeds smoothly, but the pace is perhaps too quick to deal with a sensitive issue such as rape.

Nevertheless, I salute the author for taking up this subject and succinctly educating the reader about all the steps one should take if (God forbid) one finds herself (or himself) in a similar horrendous situation. One very important takeaway for me is to not wash the victim's wounds (to allow the doctors and police to collect ample evidence of the heinous act) and to not delay in reporting the crime.

I give this book an overall rating of 6 on 10 for effectively handling the complete story from start to finish, and teaching the readers a lot in the process. Unfortunately, the author fails to impress me on the literary front. Irrespective of my rating, I urge all of you to use this book to educate yourself about rape and how to help a victim.

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This book review is part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program and Blog Tours. To get free books, reach out to

Friday, 20 February 2015

Book Review - Best. Generation. Ever.

It is with a lot of admiration that I present today's book review. The author is a young boy of only seventeen, and this is his first ebook.


Fast Facts:-

Title: Best. Generation. Ever. 
Author: Aditya Jha
Genre: Non Fiction
Pages: 71
File Size: 431 KB (PDF version)
Price: US$ 1 (Smashwords)

The Review:-

'Best. Generation. Ever.' is a collection of Aditya's essays on various topics that are relevant to the youth of this millennium. The entire book is written in first person and is divided into eleven chapters. The first essay is on Internet and how today's generation is embracing the IT sector. In the second chapter, the monologue drifts to politics and the need for young blood in public administration.

Somewhere in the middle of the discourse, Aditya emphasizes the importance of  communication skills  and touches upon the issues of brain drain and unemployment. He further expounds on the inspiring efforts of young entrepreneurs and the attitudes of the corporate world in the present age. Towards the end of the book, the focus tilts towards the initiatives needed to develop the youth of India. A discussion on Indian education and sports draws the set of essays to an end.

The book transitions smoothly from one chapter to another. There are some gaping grammatical and spelling mistakes throughout the ebook which call for a round of good editing. The thought behind every essay, however, remains very lucid and mature. It is evident from the statistics and sources quoted across the book that the author has put in a decent amount of research and has checked his numbers before stating them.

The book bears no page numbers and makes for a very quick read. (I finished this in under 90 minutes while I was at work ;-) ).

My Verdict:-

Aditya Jha impresses me not for his style or language but for his maturity of thought. This school boy puts in a good amount of effort to clearly express his views on a lot of issues that affect the youth of our country. He backs most observations with data from newspapers. I feel, he can cover a few other topics too - health, for example. Another observation is that most of the views expressed are generic and slightly cliched. For a boy who hasn't yet reached adulthood, I would have liked to hear some unique ideas and thoughts that only his generation can think of.

Best. Generation. Ever. gets a strong rating of 6 on 10 from me for the hard work and articulate exposition. I wish Aditya all the best for his future! I would love to read more books from this budding author.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Good Night! Sleep Tight!

Did you know that babies sleep better when they are happy? I know this through numerous experiences with my younger sister (when she was tiny and crawled on all fours) and my sundry nephews and nieces. Even my own mother keeps sharing some of my stories from when I was a baby.

My first hand experiences with babies have made me aware of interesting and useful activities in which mothers engage their babies. These bedtime rituals are very special and help in strengthening the bond between a mother and her child. Many of these bedtime rituals also help the baby have a good night's sleep.

Off the top of my head, some fun bedtime rituals for little ones are:-

  • Talking to them : Your baby need not understand anything you say. The very act of spending quality time with your child will go a long way in giving her a lot of contentment. A satisfied mind stays happy and has no trouble falling asleep at night. I will always make sure I talk to my baby and make her cackle with laughter for a few minutes before I tuck her in.
  • Tucking them in : Now this is a ritual my father would religiously follow until we went to college. And this is a very powerful way of forging your relationship and creating a strong bond of trust and love. It's a very simple gesture. You can just pull the blanket over your son or help him set up the mosquito net. (We had those nets until a few years ago. I suppose, every Bengali family swears by these mosquito nets.)
  • Reading them a story : I am an avid reader of novels and an aspiring author myself. Every child in my home will have the privilege of listening to a bedtime story. Stories with happy endings help your child feel better and they naturally have happy dreams. Avoid scary or negative stories around the night time.
  • Milk and cookies : Quite a few mothers I know give a glass of warm milk to their toddler before they hit the sack. Milk has a calming effect on the mind and body and keeps the child satiated throughout the night. This ensures you don't have babies waking up in the middle of the night due to hunger. If your child is not fond of milk, serve an attractive chocolate chip cookie that she can dunk in her glass full of milk and enjoy the ritual.

Research says that the soothing compositions of Beethoven are very beneficial to children. The unique frequencies of the soundwaves make babies intelligent too. Such compositions help even when your baby is still in the womb. The pleasing music also helps put babies to sleep.

An important thing to remember here is that children retain in their dreams the last thing they do before they sleep. This is why a good bedtime ritual goes a long way in the growth and rest of your young one. The better your kids sleep, the better will be their concentration and physical and mental development!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Top 5 on my Bucket List

It is already the second half of February, and I am yet to check any item on my long bucket list for the year of 2015. In the interest of time, space and the ever diminishing attention span of my readers, I will list out only the top five things on my bucket list. All of these dreams of mine are pretty challenging, and I feel I can do them only if I am #BefikarUmarBhar. This year, I shall also complete a quarter of a century of my existence on this planet. With age, my responsibilities implore me to rein in my deepest desires and concentrate on securing a stable future for my family. But thanks to some interesting insurance instruments, I can focus again on my passions. Watch this short video of an old man and his two sons:-

The IDBI Federal Lifesurance Whole Life - Befikar Umar Bhar advert

Without digressing further, I will tell you what my "challenging", rather daring, plans on my bucket list are:-


Sitting right on the top of my list is my dream of conquering Mount Everest! It might seem insane to many, but I have nurtured this fire ever since I heard James Ketchell talk about his journey as an extreme triathlete and serial adventurer. I know the path is going to be full of hurdles like crossing the valley of death, camping on almost vertical tents, surviving on just 48% oxygen, and then some. But I also know that all of the hindrances will be worth reaching the peak and hoisting the Indian flag on top of the world (quite literally)!


Next on my bucket list is to run the Big Five Marathon. This marathon is no ordinary 42 kilometers! The entire route is through the Entabeni Game Reserve in South Africa. The runners have no protection from the animals and likewise, the animals are not shielded from the runners. As you run, you may encounter a leopard or an elephant! This long distance running event is the most thrilling and amazing one I know. I am an amateur runner and have only just started with half marathons. With a lot of practice and financial savings, I shall one day run at the Big Five!


My third wish is also related to travel in some way. I want to go deep sea diving in the Atlantic Ocean and sail around the Galapagos Islands. The waters there are clear blue and the marine life is vibrant! I have only ever swum on the surface. It is time I dived deeper and felt like a sea creature.


A treasured aspiration is to write a novel and have it published. While I have written a collaborative story which will shortly be out, I yearn to write a solo book and watch my dream (of becoming a published author) come to life.


My goal for this life is to be a celebrated travel writer and visit over 100 countries and discover even more cultures and cuisines. Nothing makes me happier than exploring the world.

Now that I have shared a glimpse of my bucket list with you, I'd like you to share yours.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Zenfone - My Ideal Valentine!

Yesterday was Valentine's day! Many of my friends badgered me to tell them who my valentine was. They suspected every hapless friend and colleague of mine, but they could not find out the identity of my valentine! Fortunately, you, my readers, will find out about my ideal valentine today! Watch this teaser video (the #UnconditionalLove advert) before I reveal the name of the special someone:-

After the short video clip, you all must have guessed who my perfect valentine is - Asus Zenfone! And this decision is not just my heart's but also my brain's. I have five reasons for choosing the Asus Zenfone to be my valentine:-

1. I can click endless selfies (thanks to the front camera) and pictures of beautiful landscapes (with the high definition thirteen megapixel rear camera) no matter where on earth I am. I am a travel blogger and I jet off to a new place almost every month. With my endless urge to record every memory in photos, I can't rely on random guys for the perfect shot. This is why I need the Zenfone to accompany me on my trips. This glamorous companion also pays attention to detail! Its five-element optical formula lens has larger photoreceptors to capture more light and enhance the intricate details of your face or object of attention.

2. This phone can multitask! The hyperthreading feature ensures that four threads can run simultaneously. What this means for me is that I can listen to music while I download a movie and upload the latest pic of my lavish meal on Instagram! And I can perhaps have my running app tracking my run too! A regular date cannot even do one thing at a time! Most guys look flummoxed when you ask them to take a video while they eat.

3. I can play and watch movies to my heart's content! The powerful Intel Atom processor delivers a power-packed gaming experience with mind blowing graphics. I'll never have to watch boring sports matches when I can watch a lovely romantic movie or an entertaining video in peace.

4. It will last longer! Unlike the average man who tires easily, the Asus Zenfone will stay charged for long hours. The phone is very power efficient, and despite my compulsive talking and taking pictures, it will not desert me.

5. Good looks! The Zenfone is the most elegant partner and arm candy these days. Who needs a constantly nagging and complaining guy when you can have a classy and sleek phone for your consort at the Valentine's day party!

I have already expressed my desire of dating the Zenfone. I hope it will be mine someday. Who was your valentine this year? Don't forget to share the details of your date with me! For the singletons, who would you like for a valentine? Let me hear your stories!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Sound of Surprise

There are very few days remaining for Valentine's Day. This is a good time to tell you how I proposed to my better half last year. I had been preparing for some days before I executed the grand plan on his birthday.

I had planned a treasure hunt for my dear one. We both are explorers and I knew he would love a good search. I rang his doorbell and when he answered the door, I took him by surprise and blindfolded him. This gave me ample time to quickly put the post-it notes (which acted as clue markers) on the predefined clues in his house.

When I was done, I unfolded his eyes and handed him his first clue. All the clues I wrote were in verses. My boyfriend and I are into poetry and there are few things that good poetry can't do. ;-) He had turned twenty five, and I celebrated his age by planting twenty five clues across the house.

Now, my companion is quite smart, but even he would get stuck at a few clues. This is when I would grant him bonus clues for which he would have to pay with a kiss (I'm smarter! :-D ). After half an hour of searching and laughing and smooching, the birthday boy had finally found his gift. I waited with bated breath as he unwrapped the giant package and wondered what I had stashed inside.

He jumped with joy when he pulled out the camouflage-print forty litre rucksack I had selected for him. But the surprise wasn't over yet. The bigger surprise was the reason for the backpack - we were going to do a long trip to Delhi, Dehradun and Mussoorie in a couple of months! :-) He hugged me, not believing the news I had just broken to him. Travel is a passion we both nurture, but he has a special fondness for the mountains of the north. The Himalayas had been on his bucket list for many months.

As the evening gave way to an enchanting night, I took my boyfriend out to a romantic fine dining restaurant. His happiness knew no bounds when he saw it was an all-you-can-eat buffet with items he had been craving for! We celebrated the night with some wine to go with the sumptuous fare.

My love made me  ponder over the sounds that make me truly happy - the sound of his laugh when we think of our funny moments, the clinking of the glasses after we raise a toast to each other and our relationship, the sound of the music he plays on his mouth organ, the sound of his breath against my skin when we slow dance together. I believe this is what love sounds like. My favourite sound is the sound of togetherness. When we two are together, there is only silence - a sound that only we can perceive. It is our sound of love!

I am participating in the #SoundOfLove activity at BlogAdda in association with Bluestone.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Social Media: Then and Now

I was in middle school when I was first invited by a friend to join Orkut. Remember Orkut? It was so popular back then, I never thought Facebook would ever fly. Orkut was where I first preened my virtual image and projected exactly what I wanted to appear to the world. Every little detail mattered - my turn ons, my turn offs, my ideal match, and even my level of beauty on Orkut's totem pole which graded you from mirror-cracking material to beauty contest winner.

Why am I suddenly talking about Orkut? I haven't time-travelled into the past. I am only analyzing how social media has affected and shaped my life over the years. When we hear the words "social media", we don't once remember those old famous sites that have now quite clearly become obsolete or extinct. Before my tenth board exams, I remember being on Hi5 and the insanely addictive Yahoo Messenger. That messenger perhaps can't be counted in social media, but it pioneered the concept of an online avatar. Never before did people ensure their avatars changed clothes with seasons and festivals. The avatars got new hairstyles before we did. the virtual social era THEN was built on the WEB.

And those few applications spawned a web around us that kept us from playing real games on the playground and meeting real people in real-life scenarios. But on the brighter side, the web and social media was what made it so cheap (and in some cases, almost free) to keep in touch with our dearest friends and family who we seldom had the privilege of meeting.

I fondly remember overcoming with emotion when I found my first crush through one such social media channel. The digital environ gave more wind to our fires than being in the same classroom had. Social media on web was not static then. I have seen Facebook grow just as I did through college. The once drab white wall gave way to customizable newsfeeds and portfolio-like profile pages. Most FB users had joined the site to stay connected and reconnect with people. But with time, Zuckerberg's baby became a platform to showcase our best pouts and foreign trips.

The best thing that happened in the world of social media was the change in its definition and perception. What in one age was synonymous with Facebook, is now a multidimensional term to denote many forms of social hangout places. Twitter was a trailblazer for microblogging. Sina Weibo and several others (hinting at Google's failed app, Buzz) cropped up, and character-limits took our poor spellings and tattered grammar to a whole new level.

In the past couple of years, social media has come to encompass location-blogging (think Foursquare/Swarm), photoblogging (Instagram and Pinterest) and video-blogging or vloggging (thanks to YouTube). The advent of mobile internet has made us ever-connected beings with funny behavioral patterns.

We see no wrong in completely ignoring our dinnermates as we Instagram a pic of our meal. We are also joined to our cellphones by an umbilical cord disguised as a hand. Jokes and rants apart, social media on mobile had made our lives much smoother. Tracking news or flight statuses are only a matter of hashtags! Hashtag is perhaps the best thing that Twitter-bird has gifted this world. Searching has never been such a breeze! Even mobile banking has gone to the extent of letting one transact and check account balance using nothing but hashtags on Twitter! Some pubs provide you free tequilas if you check in on Foursquare while dining there. (I did not make this up. I'v been there and done that! ;-) )

The question of judging whether social media is more effective on web or on mobile is meaningless to me. In our world, if you don't embrace and learn the newest technology, you are left behind. If I have the option of checking my Google Plus feed on my smartphone, why will I give that a miss? And if I compulsively use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter on my phone, why should that mean I'm never going to use my computer again.

The poor pieces of justification of the stance one takes in the pseudo war between web and mobile just baffle me. My friends site the clunkiness of a laptop to a cute, portable phone. Only a few years back, a laptop was a prized possession, and so much more portable than a desktop. The smaller screen space is one thing that goes against phones.

The way forward is to accept the next big change in the realm of social media. It could be interconnected electronics that talk to each other and ignore humans like we did for so many years. Or it could be the end of social media as we know it, and the rebirth of face-time reactions.

I am participating in the #SMWBangalore activity at BlogAdda in association with Social Media Week Bangalore.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Book Review - Thar Express

Last week, I read another new Indian author - Nagendra Murti. This time, it was an ebook, but I loved it nevertheless. So, here's my review of the 'Thar Express'.


Fast Facts:-

Title: Thar Express 
Author: Nagendra Murti
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 409
File Size: 1.18MB (PDF version)
Price: Rs.181 (Kindle Edition)

The Review:-

'Thar Express' is the unbelievable story of a man who is discovered in Poonch, at the the India-Pakistan LOC (Line of Control) after a team from the India BRO (Border Road Organization) finds him trapped unconscious in a landslide. After this badly injured man is admitted to the nearest military hospital in Anantnag, Kashmir, the doctor learns that his patient has lost his memory and has no recognition of his identity or any recollection of his past. After a few days, this man recollects his nickname (Mano) through a dream.

'Thar Express' is the story of Mano's journey through various cities in India in search of his lost identity and memories of his past. Mano is shifted from Anantnag to Nashik to be treated by memory-loss specialist. It is here that he makes some progress and regains most of his health. On the advice of the doctor, Mano undertakes a journey to Srirangam, Tamil Nadu after he recollects being in a temple there. One thing leads to another, and Mano gradually finds familiar memories from various places and dreams. He ends up changing a few jobs in his quest to start earning and be independent. His search for his past life leads him to Goa, Mumbai, Rourkela (Odisha) and Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh).

All this while, the army, the local police of several cities and the NIA (National Investigation Agency) keep an eye on Mano and later are alarmed by his frequent change of location without their knowledge. They suspect Mano to be a terrorist from Pakistan due to the sensitivity of the location where he was found. They also don't entirely believe his story of memory loss. They start a fierce search for this alleged insurgent and try to piece together his whereabouts by questioning every single person who comes in contact with Mano.

The last part of the story leads up to a crescendo as the mystery of Mano's identity and past is disclosed. The reality is unfathomable and horrifying! It makes one think of the condition of people in similar situations. The revelation also answers why the book is titled 'Thar Express'.

My Verdict:-

Nagendra Murti does a commendable job of tying up all the loose ends of the story and the ending is a satisfying one. His style of writing is smooth and undistracting. The prose is mostly simple and straightforward with dialogues that lack much impact. The author takes a very clinical approach to the story an presents it as is without much effort to turn his book into a travelogue of sorts. Mano's character, though, develops gradually, and makes one sympathize with him at every turn of the story.

Even though the narration is crisp, it makes the reader long for vivid descriptions of the myriad places that Mano visits. Murti misses many great opportunities to paint picturesque images of Indian and Pakistani lands. The book also needs some proofreading as a few typos surface. I believe the change of scenes can be better depicted by effective formatting. The sequence changes (especially between Mano's parts and the police-army-NIA parts) are rather abrupt in the second half of the story.

Thar Express gets a rating of 7 on 10 from me for keeping my level of interest fairly high and for the compelling and unusual story that may actually be real for many.

This review is part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

3 Things I Must Do

I got a nightmare last week and I woke up with sweat all over my bed. I had dreamt that I had lost everything I had achieved so far and I would have to start my life all over again. And this made me think about what I truly love in my life. If had a second chance at life, how would I live it? What would I do? And what are the things I would want to achieve this time? Would I do the same things I did the first time? Or would there be a change?

These thoughts made me push my brain and think. Think hard. I listened to my heart then, and I discovered I wanted a few things to be different. I realized I had three big dreams that I have always been wanting to pursue, but I keep putting those thoughts off for reasons so insignificant, I can't even remember!

My first dream is to become a full time travel blogger. I already have a travel blog, but I hardly post an article in a month or two. Every time I write, I love that feeling! I feel like quitting my boring day job and becoming a full time travel blogger! I enjoy travelling more than any other form of entertainment or rejuvenation. I have never had the courage to quit my sedentary job for the fear of not having enough money. Travelling is an expensive affair at most times. But I have decided now that  I will not come up with any more excuses for not concentrating on an alternate career as a travel blogger.

My second wish is to get an MBA from Stanford. I always push aside that dream thinking of the huge financial cost that I and my family will incur. But I have faith in myself that I will be able to pay the student loan with my hard work and professional brilliance. I shall apply to my dream school next session!

The third of my desires is to write a full length novel and then, continue writing more titles. I always thought becoming an author was next to impossible for me. But a recent contest-win got me my confidence back. I will not procrastinate any more! I will work on a novel as soon as I have a great idea for the story!

Have you ever thought of the things you would do or how you would do them differently if you were blessed with a second chance? Give it a thought! You might realize that you can still do things the way you have always wanted to. Grab your dreams, my readers!

This post is part of the #SecondChance activity at BlogAdda in association with MaxLife Insurance.