Sunday, 30 September 2012

Nightclubs and discos at 40

"Uncle can u give me that tin", i heard a feminine voice behind me, saying but i continued looking at the different items on display at the mall. "Uncle can u give me that tin", i heard it again but only this time the voice was louder and firm. I can't be a uncle for anyone, i thought to myself and ignored the voice.  'why cant you help the little girl" said my wife. Startled i looked around to see a girl in her early twenties addressing me for that tin.  She looked "hot" in her outfit but how could i be her uncle i reasoned with myself - after all i am only 40!!!! I always took care to go to the gym and exercise and keep myself fit, so when the girl received  the tin from me and said "Thank you uncle", it only dented my ego further. "oh! cmon you have a teen aged daughter - reasoned my visibly happy wife (happy that her husband has to at last acknowledge looking like an uncle no matter how much time he spends at the gym) but i could have none of it.

typical scenes in indian clubs
I remembered the time, that i was abroad when on the beaches, there were several nubile young girls in the best of their outfits and toned bodies but nobody called anyone "uncle" no matter what their age. 

beach party abroad

So, is this phenomenon peculiar to India?  I was in Mumbai at that time and I started to look around.  On very Fri/Sat night, there were plenty of teenagers waiting outside the discos just to get an entry as they were jampacked inside.  i really wonder if any 40 something guy like me with his wife/girlfriend would risk standing outside a disco late at night just to get an entry!!!.  The regulars at the disco's may say that it is easy to get in but what about the others? You are not  a teenager to keep waiting for the bouncers to call you in!!!  I am sure that a vast majority of middle aged people dont even make the journey!!

but if u look at people like me - I am hardly 40, i love dancing, i love having a good time and i dont want to be called "uncle" while doing it. 

Well in present day india, its not difficult if you are Shah rukh khan, Salman Khan or Amir Khan (all atleast 5 years older than me but girls seem to swoon to them and more importantly  dont call them 'uncle'). The same kids who call me Uncle (at 40) call Salman as Sallu bhai (even though he is 45+).  Why is life so unfair?  And Amitabh - he is called uncle at 60 but i am an uncle at 40!!! So where is the way out?  Cmon we are not finished!!! even we have some josh left in us and we do genuinely want to have fun.  So, whats the way out?

Can we have a disco exclusively for couples over 30?  Stags are allowed only if they are above 40!!!  Would this concept work in india? We are often embarrassed by the great moves by the mini skirt laden girl and the muscular guy on the floor that we don't even think of reaching there. What if , everyone on the floor is as left footed as us - would that be an impetus for us to pickup our wives/girlfiriends and head to the dance floor. Can this concept work?

middle aged people enjoying themselves
 Firstly, I think it will work mainly because the couples in their 30's and stags in 40's have much more money than the teenagers who throng the disco's and surely they wont mind paying a little extra for the good times.  Secondly, the existing discos/nightclubs could introduce this concept on one day in a month to study the trends - probably one friday in a month should give some result!!!

Lastly, for all those guys n ladies in 40's - dont give up on having fun coz u r just at the halfway mark in ur life - n dont let these youngsters subdue your moments of joy - coz the world is big enough for everyone to make merry simultaneously!!!

Remember - 'You're married and you have kids, but you ain't dead,"

(p.s : when i looked around there were others too echoing similar sentiments. you can read one here

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

DR RA Mashelkar, F.R.S.- Great Indian Challenge - Mind vs Mindset

A good friend of mine had forwarded this lecture " Mind Vs Mindset: The great Indian Challenge" by DR RA Mashelkar, F.R.S.

I found this to be quite an inspiring one with some notable extracts mentioned below:-

1.   About Teachers - ".....we say Guru Devo Bhawa Guru Sakshat parabrahma tasmay sri guruve namah about our teachers......I had presented a small story about my Guru the Presidential address at the science congress in 2000 when Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the chief guest as the Prime minister. During Lunch, where some nobel lauretes were also present, a question was raised as to why such great teachers dont exist today!! And i still remember Atalji saying - Mashelkarji aapko pata hai aisa kyon nahi hota? Is ka kaaran yeh hai ki samaj mein aaj unko pratishta nahin hai (Masherlkalrji, do you know why there are no such great teachers now ? because in today's society they don't get that respect and honour!!!...."

So, unless we give more respect, honour and pay, how do you expect the best to turn teachers?!! While there are some lamenting the dwindling respect for teachers there are others merrily making movies like Sorry Teacher

    Dr RA Mashelkar with Mr Mukesh Ambani

2.  Second about determination - "...i was born in a poor family... two meals a day was tough....we had to borrow money from a lady who used to work as a house maid to pay for my education....I was given a scholarship of 60 rupees per month by the Sir Dorab Tata trust....It is very interesting that in the same Bombay house where i used to go collect the 60 Rupees, I now sit as a Director on the board of Tata Sons..." That is the power of faith and perseverance

3.  " Someone once said - I think of only the future because that is where one is going to spend the rest of one's life"

4.  " TCS had developed computer based functional literacy (CBFL) course, which can make illiterate women read a newspaper in 6-8 weeks at a cost of Rs 100($2).  More then one lakh people have become functionally literate using this system in six states of India. It has also been used in South Africa with astonishing results"

5.  "We have become an intolerant society in as far as risk taking and failure is concerned!!... Tolerance I think is going to be an essential part - tolerance for all religions, castes,creeds, socially deprived, economically deprived and for failure. So I believe that the New India that you have to build has to be on this solid fulcrum of Talent, Technology and Tolerance.

Lastly a couple of interesting quotes-

1. "Free enterprise was born with man and shall survive as long as man survives"  -  Mr AD Shroff - founder president, Forum of free enterprise

2. "People must come to accept private enterprise not as a neccessary evil but as an affirmative good" - Eugene Black, Former President, World Bank

(The booklet sent to me was sponsored by Shri Shailesh Kapadia Memorial Trust. Mr Shailesh Kapadia (1949-1988) was an eminent Chartered accountant in Mumbai).

Monday, 17 September 2012

CIBIL- Credit report - A growing monster or saviour? - Part 2

the part 1 of this post could be accessed here 

Brief history
CIBIL was set up in 2001 to reduce the number of NPA's the banks were facing by providing apriori information of the prospective borrower's payment pattern by studying his previous loan track records.  Earlier these records were not available centrally but with the formation of a central bureau and the directives of RBI to all banking institutions to report credit related data to this bureau, the bureau became a central repository.
the brief history could also be accessed here

CIBIL was setup with honourable intentions - no doubt. But the problem was in its execution.  Though the bureau was setup in 2001, many people were not aware it even after a decade.  Even after a decade of its existence, the bureau was not willing to acknowledge the individual customer (it does now in 2012) and the banks were equally uncooperative.  The problems that arose were the following:-

1.  Many times a customer may have defaulted on payment on the due date but the banks always charged the customer penal interest on the default(which in some cases like credit cards goes upto 42%)!!! So if a customer had paid the defaulted amount along with interest, why should the delayed payment be held against him, as the bank only made a profit in this case.

2.  Next,  who authorised them to charge upto 42% penal interest? Are they modern day money lenders of yore? They first inflate the penal interest amount by charging an exorbitant rate of interest and secondly caluculate compound interest (i.e interest on interest unpaid).  Thereafter, their representatives get in touch with the customers and offer them a settlement by reducing a large amount of interest, as if they are doing a favour (whereas the bank actually gets more than the normal 16-18% interest).  And as a final kick to the customer, they also report this reduction as 'written off' to CIBIL.

3. In many cases, even after the payments were made, they were never reported or reported incorrectly.

4. Isnt it the responsibility of the bank to inform the customer that they would report the matter to CIBIL despite them giving a 'No Dues Certificate' to the customer, when going in for a settlement!!!

In My opinion the following are the important issues that must be addressed by RBI before CIBIL is given a free reign in our country.....

1.     CIBIL must maintain only verified database.  If CIBIL cannot have all the database verified then they must have two levels of weightage i.e the unverified scores should have lesser weightage than the verified ones.

2.     The ownership pattern of CIBIL may be relooked into. If all that we want is a Credit bureau, then why should we have a foreign institution carrying out the same for us (even though in conjunction with other indian banks). The security of all the data involving crores of indians could be at stake.  Indians, I am sure are sufficiently competent at a simple job of record keeping and we surely dont need foreign support for the same!!!!

3.   Accountability of banks - Unless banks are held accountable for the errors in reporting or not informing the customer of CIBIL reporting prior initiating settlements, the customer would be put to a tremendous amount of hardship.  As in our story, Ramesh gained 25,000 rupees but lost more than 55,000 rupees plus the oppurtunity to buy the flat of his dreams.  A well informed Ramesh would not have gone in for the reduction of 25,000 rupees from his personal loan settlement.  Shouldn't the onus of informing the customer rest on the lending bank?

4.   After initiating a settlement and issuing a 'No Dues Certificate' to the customer - how can a bank report him to CIBIL as a defaulter?

5.   When the credit card company (owned by banks in most cases) had charged a penal interest upto 42% on the defaulted amount and made the customer pay for it, how can they report the customer to CIBIL as a defaulter? Hadn't the bank made a killing in the deal? How can they actually 'kill' the customer in two ways i.e once by charging 42% penal interest and the again by reporting him to CIBIL?

5.   The scene gets even more scary when one reads the reported ideas of Mr Thukral who is the MD of CIBIL.  He apparently wants to rope in Telecom and insurance sectors into the CIBIL reporting.  Have a good look at him here-
Mr Thukral wants to make more money for his company as any right thinking MD should.  But he does not seem to be worried about how his expansion plans are going to hurt the common man!!! Any common man would know that the Telecom companies fleece the consumers in many ways!!! Inflated bills, incorrect bills, unexplained call drops (forcing you to repeatedly call and pay more), excess data charges -- all these cases require protracted fighting with the Telco and finally they reduce a part of the charges without accepting their guilt.  I am sure most of us have come across atleast one such situation.  Now what if all the Telco's start reporting all this incorrect data to CIBIL? 

Coming to insurance, if you dont pay insurance premium, you lose the No claim bonus. Why should CIBIL be interested in that data and brand you as a irresponsible borrower or the like? Again it is a double blow because - on one hand you lose the NCB and on the other CIBIL would brand you bad!!!

6. CIBIL already had companies in its list (Company credit report) We all know how faulty the credit reporting..The recent S&P downgrade of US debt is a good example and the full story can be accessed here

Therefore We know Credit rating agencies are not cleansed in milk (to borrow an indian saying) and they are susceptible to all kinds of back door manoeuvring.  

But, our contention is to let the ordinary common man survive!!! Dont show all your might on this simple Guy!!! Get after the banks to make them more responsible while lending and also while reporting upon individuals so that only the genuine facts are reported. Banks must be made to take responsibility for incorrect reporting.  CIBIL also cannot wash off their hands.

Lastly, why should i pay for my credit report? Firstly, you are collecting information about me (isnt it violation of privacy - any lawyer please tell me) and thereafter selling the information to me for four hundred and seventy rupees!!! Isnt this a joke? And there are many guys on the net advising that everyone should check their credit score. considering that there are about 16 crore individual credit records with CIBIL, IS THIS ANOTHER SCAM IN THE MAKING? because the total amount even if all of them apply once amounts to 7500 crores. India having a population of over 100 crores (and considering everyone takes a vehicle/house/personal loan in their life) you can see how much money is going to flow into the coffers of CIBIL in the years to come!!!

THAT BRINGS US TO THE OLD POINT. if its such a crucial and profitable venture why isnt the government taking it on?

(......To be concluded)

Friday, 14 September 2012

CIBIL -Credit Report - A growing Monster or saviour? - Part 1

My friend Ramesh showed me the new flat he was planning to purchase. I checked the vaastu for him and found that it was perfectly suitable for him. He was getting the flat at a good price as he had promised the builder quick settlement.  

The moment, the agents (of different banks) came to know that Ramesh had finalised a flat they started pestering  him through their telecallers with great offers on home loans.
Ramesh carefully scrutinised all offers and then applied for a loan through a nationalised bank and he being a government officer with good social standing, the bank was willing to fund upto 90% of the cost of the flat and accepted his papers. In the meantime, Ramesh paid the 10% due from him to the builder as advance.  However, to his utter shock and disbelief, the bank had rejected his loan application.  On enquiring from the bank, he came to know that the application was rejected due to low CIBIL score.  Now "what was that", he exclaimed.

 He came to me and we checked the Net with whatever details the bank provided him about CIBIL.  Then we discovered the Monster!!!  Here was a monstrous database of information about "You, Me and Everyone else" they could lay hands on and the astonishing fact is that, all the information is being collected without our knowledge.  They are collecting this information about us and then using it against us.  Doesnt that infringe on our human rights? How can they collect information about us without our consent?

Let us examine the reasons for rejection.  Ramesh is a well paid government officer.  A couple of years back, due to some unforeseen circumstances in his family, he was in a dire financial situation for a year or so.  During that period, a credit card company offered a settlement for 1.0 lakhs for his outstanding loan amount of 1.25 lakhs.  As he was getting benefited by 0.25 lakhs, he somehow raised the money and paid the amount.  Now this 0.25 lakhs was what which caused the problem. In adidtion there were a couple of discrepancies where fully paid up loans were shown as outstanding by one bank.

Ramesh had by then, paid 3.5 lakhs to the builder expecting the balance in quick time as promised by the bank.  Once the first bank had refused the loan he went to several banks in vain.  The builder too refused to return the money immediately as he had spent the money and insisted on Ramesh making the balance payment in the stipulated period.  Ramesh's state was miserable in that one month with him knocking on the doors of every bank with the same result.  He finally could not get the loan to buy his dream flat and in addition it took the builder one year to return his money back, that too after deducting 10% for administrative expenses. So, Ramesh had effectively lost 0.35 lakhs plus interest on 3.5 lakhs for one year for saving a sum of 0.25 lakhs in addition to the hardship of running around banks and the mental agony of not being able to buy a flat.  Was Ramesh informed of all these issues before the Credit card company made an offer to him to pay only 1.0 lakhs against 1.25 lakhs?

An enquiry with CIBIL had stated that they are not responsible for refusing the loan as that decision is the bank's and not theirs.  That surprised us even further as the bank told us we were denied because of CIBIL.  Detailed probing revealed that CIBIL provides a credit score- something like marks to you - which the banks use to pass or fail your application.

Now, What is Credit Score

It is a marking system by which CIBIL gives you marks between 300 and 900.  The higher your score the better it is.  Normally marks of above 700 should qualify you for a loan.

As already mentioned, Ramesh's report,  of which we could only get a sneak peak in the bank, showed some discrepancies (i.e fully paid up loans were shown outstanding) which damaged his credit rating further.  Ramesh wrote to CIBIL about the discrepancies which simply washed their hands by saying that they only reflect what is reported by the banks and therefore he should take up the case with the concerned bank (where there were discrepancies). So, Ramesh asked CIBIL for a copy of his credit report for taking up the issue with the bank. CIBIL had very arrogantly responded that they dont give credit reports to individuals and he can only see it from the bank which had requested his credit report i.e the bank processing the case for the home loan.  So, Ramesh and me went to the bank and requested them for a copy and to our surprise they told us that they cant give a copy as it is against company policy.  When we started to argue with them, the bank cleverly out manoeuvred us by saying that they refused loan to Ramesh due to bank policies and not due to CIBIL reports.

So, there we were - neither CIBIL gave us the report nor the bank. We found ourselves going nowhere. Ramesh then wrote to the RBI complaining of this discriminatory practice.  

Apparently RBI received several such complaints and therefore came out with a ruling that CIBIL must provide credit information to individuals.  They were still very reluctant to provide at that time but now it appears that they are willing to provide it online also.  The complete CIBIL page on Credit score can  be accessed here.

But why this CIBIL, why do we need it? Can they pronounce us guilty without any reproach? can they deny your personal info to you? how did they come into existence and how do they operate in other countries? 

pse read part 2...... 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Bill Gates and the high tech loo

Who doesnt know Bill Gates!!! after all he found a way for all of us to use computers. Windows had made it so easy for all of us that even an uneducated guy can just 'point and click' at what he wants!! Just think of those days where one had to punch a plethora of coded lines just to get our favourite program started.  This one man and his team(which i heard included many indians) had transformed the way we use our computers and made them an intrinsic part of our everyday lives.

He made his trillions and one day, he decided to retire and continue to work for his philanthropic organisation ' Bill and Melinda Gates foundation'.  He travels to many countries including india.  One of his important concerns is that Governments should take on a project after his organisation starts it in pilot mode.  His argument is that philanthropic organisations can only fund/initiate innovative pilot projects but the real funding for implementation on a large scale must be taken on by the government.  

What he says is true. No philanthropic organisation however rich, can afford to implement social programs which legitimately should have been implemented by the government.  They can chip in where there are perceived bottlenecks in the planning and implementation to show the way as a 'path maker'. Anyway whatever any philanthropic organisation could contribute towards implementation of governmental schemes would be 'peanuts' literally in comparison to the volume of funds that are allocated for social development.  The only question is - actually what % trickes down to the most needy?

Anyway, Mr Bill Gates has now decided to reinvent the toilet - yes you read right - the toilet!!! He gave a grant of $100,000 (about 55 lakhs)to Caltech university for the same, taking their total committment to the project to about $ 400 million (200 crores)  Surely this project is more socially relevant than the 'windows' but what does he hope to get out of it?

Mr Bill Gates believes that the conventional toilet is not environment friendly and uses too much water.  So he started funding the research first to cut down on the amount of water and next to utilise the waste as manure/for power generation/or to make it more easily decomposable etc.  In this way he considers that potable water could be saved and many ailments due to improper disposal of waste could be avoided. 

Well said Mr Gates!! we look forward to your invention!!! There is one intresting one already. Its called the EVAC system used in some of the warships and merchant ships.  It uses a combination of vacuum generation and water to flush out the waste.  A conventional old fashioned toilet uses 20 litres of water to a flush.  The modern flushes use about 10 litres but an EVAC uses only 1.6 litres of water per flush.  It may not be suitable for residential house because of the complicated machinery required to create vacuum but it surely should be the way for hotels/malls or commercial etablishments. Imagine a mall with a footfall of 50,000 visitors per day and considering atleast 50% use the rest rooms, that is a whopping 2,50,000 litres per day per mall which could be reduced to about 40,000 litres a day using EVAC.
and trust me - this technology is available since 20 years!!! Its just that we didnt bother about it!!!

With the new thrust Mr Gates had taken, I think it would drive many heads in such directions!!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Sorry Teacher?!!!

'Sorry Teacher' is a movie about an illicit affair between a student and his teacher. The titillating photos and promos are sure to excite the youth but it has also run into stiff opposition from women teacher associations, human rights commission and the high court.

Why is the film being opposed - because it depicts teachers as sexual objects and destroys the sacred relation between a teacher and a student (remember "guru brahmo guru vishnu?").  Being exposed to a film like this may have a lasting impression on young minds who may develop similar attitude towards their teachers.

Let us examine the facts. To begin with - this is not the first film where the hero had developed a crush on his teacher. the first film to the best of my knowledge was our good old Raj Kapoor's "mera naam joker" where he develops a crush on simi garewal, his teacher. Now lets be honest most of us (be it guys or ladies) have had a crush on one or the other teachers during our child hood and college days. And to have a crush on a teacher was considered quite normal by everyone in college even in those days.

So why this hue and cry over this movie?

Firstly - in all the crushes we had, the teacher never reciprocated and in many occassions she never even knew about it!!!!

Secondly - it was a crush where one wanted to be in the company of that teacher, listen to her or try be their favourite student etc with "love or infatuation" being the driving factor and not "sex"!!! and no where did the teacher by herself ever contribute to that, unlike the poster of this movie given below!!!!!! 

Then kicks in the censor board which gave the film a U/A certificate. Pray tell me!!! what is there in this for a child to watch the movie under adult/parental guidance!!! It would probably be most embarassing for a mother to watch this movie with her son or even for a father!!!  The censor board could atleast have given an 'A' certificate.

Fortunately our society is still active and members of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) and United Teachers Federation (UTF) held protests at the office of Censor Board for Film Certification for giving the U/A certificate.  The high court too played its part by summoning the censor board member who gave the certificate.

The High court in the interim stayed the release of the film which is good news for all people holding saner visions of student-teacher relation ship.  It is understood that some organisations are calling for a total ban of the film!! I hope the high court does that!!! 

That would be the best teachers day gift our society can hope to give!!

"Happy Teacher's Day"

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Innovation and ergonomy based on research - the need of the day

I enjoy driving my car. its a nice sedan with all the frills i.e a high end stereo, two lcd screens, reverse cams, sensors et al.  i particularly like my second reverse cam which is always on unlike most reverse cams which get switched on only when reversing. I was at a traffic signal yesterday waiting for the signal to turn red. I suddenly saw something moving across my screen. On a closer examination i could make out that it was a handicapped person almost crawling on the ground using only his hands as his legs werent there or had polio or some other ailment(coz i couldnt see clearly). The fact remains that this guy could not use his legs to walk, so he was using his hands to almost crawl.

That set me thinking. why doesn't this guy use a wheel chair?.  the first answer that came to me was - may be he cannot afford it. Ok, if we approach some charitable person/organisation - would it work for him? 
The second question that came was - even if he is given a wheel chair -would he able to drive it with his hands? for people who are not familiar with a wheel chair- the wheels are normally turned
   (a) with the hands directly
   (b) or, with the help of pedals akin to a bi cycle but mounted high to be       pedalled with the hands

either way they are quite laborious and need good strength in the hands. to pedal/turn the wheels over even small distances requires good amount of exertion even for a healthy individual and whether this impoverished individual could exert himself so much is also another question!!!  

so, how do we go about it? well i am throwing up a few solutions which the more learned and the more scientific of the people who come across this blog in times to come may kindly amplify further to make a working model.

1. take any ordinary wheel chair with high mounted pedals
2. take a motor of sufficient power rating and fix it to the pedalling mechanism using pulleys/belts etc
3. power this motor using a rechargeable 12/24 volt battery sufficient for travelling at brisk walking speed.
4. have a roof for this wheel chair which would provide a shade
5. use this roof also a base to mount solar panels
6. have charging facility for the battery both through the solar panel and normal electricity
7. have a joystick/steering wheel for steering

well, this may cost a bit but the emphasis has been on reducing the running costs wherein the user only spends for charging the battery, that too if done on electricity. i dont know what is the cost likely to be. any expert who happens to read this post may give his estimate (even on individual parts). once that is done, I will approach a suitable organisation/individual for funding the prototype. this prototype i intend to present to the chief minister of our state for his government to study and if found suitable, replicate it for as many similarly handicapped persons as possible.

bcoz, we owe it to them to lead a dignified life and they need our help n assistance in reaching there!!!
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda