Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Captain cool checks out Melbourne!!

This post is a part of Indiblogger's Melbourne contest

He had just finished the gruelling press conference. Why can't a man just do what he wants? Captain Cool had taken his team to #1 a few years ago and yet the pesky reporters had so many questions regarding his retirement. He had wanted to shout at them, "There is nothing higher than #1 folks and I am renting Liverpool's trophy cabinet space to keep my trophies." But true to his name he kept his cool and some how got away from the press conference. The wonderful display of the paintings and photographs of the cricketing greats at the world famous MCG - Melbourne Cricket Ground automatically put him in a good mood by the time he came out and hailed a cab for Westin Melbourne, the grand and beautiful hotel overlooking the vibrant City Square. Tomorrow he would tour the city, for now he just wanted to sleep after a long and tiring last day of test cricket of his life.

Bright and early next morning, Captain Cool hopped on to the City Circle Tram and the small town boy inside him was pleased to note that he could hop on and hop off at will without paying a cent for a ride on this wonderful tram which took him around the entire city!

The tram ride was amazing but he wanted to see more of Melbourne and even beyond if possible. So Captain Cool decided to go for one of the most unique experiences of Melbourne.

He headed out to the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere at Melbourne's Eureka Skydeck 88. He was amazed at how the lift propelled him to level 88 in under 40 seconds and silently prayed for pace bowlers who would bowl this fast for his one day team of which he was still the captain. Since Eureka 88 is an experience that can't properly be told in words, you shall have to watch Captain Cool's friends Rohan and Tanmay in action at the Eureka Sky deck!

Captain Cool was fascinated by the beautiful views of Melbourne from high up at Eureka 88 but again he wanted something more. Since he was missing soaring through the air to take impossible catches as a wicketkeeper, he decided to soar through air again but this time on a Hot-Air Balloon! But on his way to the Hot Air Balooning Site, Captain Cool also made it a point to drop by the Gem Pier to check out the HMAS Castlemaine Museum Ship, the last of the sixty Australian-built Bathurst Class corvettes to be still afloat. He enjoyed exploring the ship and checking out the life style that the Australian sailors had when the ship served the Navy during the Second World War.

He thought he may get hungry during the Hot Air Balloon Ride and made it a point to pluck some strawberries at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, delighted that he could pluck them right off the plant by hand rather than having to buy in a market.

Finally Captain Cool boarded his Hot Air Balloon and drank in the sights of the beautiful city of Melbourne to his heart's content! He was also pleased to know that the balloon ride included complimentary breakfast at the Sofitel Hotel!

Captain Cool's body had soared as high as possible but his mind still had some way to go. Captain Cool headed to the Scienceworks where a Melbourne Planetarium show took his mind to the stars and beyond all the while sitting on a luxurious chair!

The evening had been set aside for the Sovereign Hill visit where Captain Cool tried his hand at finding gold and became a part of history by joining in Australia's famous gold rush! Again his friends can explain it best!

After spending time in history a call from his wife brought Captain Cool back to reality and he rushed to the Queen Victoria Market so that he could buy some lovely gifts for his wife. Regardless of how many T-20 teams you maybe captain of , at home the wife is the boss and you can get retired hurt if you come home without the most fascinating gifts.

I would love to tell you more about Captain Cool but I have to rush because I have to catch the evening show with him at Melbourne's Comedy Theatre!

Why don't you read up more on your own here? Answer my simple question below by leaving a comment and I promise some EXCITING prizes for you! Contest closes on 4th Jan 2015! Comment fast!

"Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why?". 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

igenius Young Singing stars Grand Finale

MaxLife Insurance is a company that seems to have a special relationship with the children of India. Over the past few years it has endeavoured to provide some or the other opportunities to children each year as a part of its igenius programmes. There have been scholarships awarded as well as young authors hunt conducted under the igenius banner.

However, this year they did something different. In collaboration with Universal music, they came up with a singing event for children to identify the best talent in India. This is what gave birth to the "Young Singing Stars" competition which saw the participation of more than 1,30,000 participants from across the nation. By the 17th of December, after a rigorous elimination process, the top ten participants (five from the senior category and five from the junior category) were remaining for the grand finale in Mumbai which I had the opportunity to attend because of Blogadda.

Mansi Scott was the host for the evening who brought the event to life by singing one of her unreleased songs. Soon thereafter, the Grand Finale,-- taking place just one day after the horrific events which on 16th Dec unfolded in Peshawar -- struck the right chord as the participants along with the audience were asked to observe 2 mins silence for the victims.

After speeches by senior executives MaxLife, Mr. Devraj Sanyal, MD, Universal Music Group who also has a band of his own spoke about how excited he was to be associated with Young Singing Stars and identifying new talent. He was also a part of the jury for the finale.

Shraddha Sharma, the next member of the jury then took the stage and mesmerised the audience with her melodious voice which has enthralled millions on YouTube, and made her a shoo in for singing stardom.

Salim Ali, the man whom the crowd was dying to see was the next. He also expressed his anguish regarding the attack on the Army School in Peshawar and dedicated his rendition of Ali Maula as a prayer to the victims.

With all the preliminaries done, the youngsters finally took stage for round one of their performances. It seemed like they were managing to outperform each other constantly because each song seemed like the best one.

With the first round of finalists' performances over, acapella band RaagaTrippin took the stage and out in an absolutely mind blowing performance! Simply the range of sounds that they manage to produce using merely their vocal cords let me speechless!

Their performance was followed by another round of finalists' performances which were again superb. I think a large amount of credit is also due to igenius, who I heard provided mentoring opportunity the finalists before the grand finale. I am sure that the kiddos got to learn a great deal from the mentors.

Kavita Seth then took stage to while the scores were being tallied. 

And then last, as the participants and their parents waited with bated breath, the event concluded with Shivam Ahuja of the junior category and Shraddha Shree of the senior category being declared the Winners!!!

However, that did not mean that the others went home empty handed. What I loved about the Young Singing Stars was that while the winners got an album contract each with Universal, the four other finalists also got a single song contract each! Thus Universal and MaxLife Insurance are providing all ten of them an opportunity to kick start their singing careers!

Can't wait to hear those voices again! I hope they get to release their singles/albums soon!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let Bigger Dreams Take Flight! - A short story!

"Running around in circles on the lawn in Vihar Park, wearing her bright yellow teeshirt and shorts along with a black cap makes Mahesh look like a cute honey bee buzzing in the air," thought Seema as she sat on the wrought iron bench watching her eight year old play lost in his own imaginary world. In Mahesh’s mind as well he was soaring through air but not quite as simply as a bee.

The previous day, Seema’s sister had handed over to her a bag of old toys which the sister’s son had lost interest in. Mahesh showed no interest in the old toys until amongst that batch of toys he found the 7 inch long clay model of an airplane which even had tiny plastic propellers attached to its engines. Mahesh was amazed by the model though a significant portion of its tail had chipped off and one of the four propellers was missing, thanks to his cousin’s mishandling no doubt. Seema wouldn’t even have been able to identify it as the popular passenger airliner of the 1950s if not for the words DC-6 printed on it as a part of its livery. Previous night, she had read up on the internet regarding various aircrafts, for the barrage of questions she knew would soon come from her inquisitive child.

“Brrrr Brrrrr Brrrrrrrrrrrr” Mahesh was growling trying to imitate the sound of the engines of airplane model that he held in his hand as he ran at top speed imagining himself soaring through the air on the aircraft. He swooshed and whisked it around avoiding imaginary obstacles and banked it left and right doing tricks. All of a sudden, Mahesh fell backwards, hitting the ground with an audible thump which made Seema’s heart skip a beat. As she rushed towards him, she realised that he wasn’t crying or trying to move at all because he wasn’t really hurt.

He had fallen down on purpose. His eyes were transfixed on a real aircraft in the sky as it glided low, about to make its landing approach. He held up his free hand and pawed the air as if to reach the aircraft with the innocence that only a child can have. 

"Mumma why cant we see the engines of that plane like this?" he asked, toying with the three remaining propellers on his DC-6 model.

"Because it is a new aeroplane, it has much faster engines than this one. They are called jet engines." Seema replied, glad that she had read up the previous night.

"Mumma but why, why new engines?"

"So that it can be big. That plane can actually carry more than 200 people!"

Tiny Mahesh's eyes shone with astonishment as he contemplated the big number. "But Mumma, it looks small from here."

"It looks small in the sky, but is really big and even with so many people it can go really really fasttt!" Seema continued as she picked him up and twirled him around while he laughed with glee. With the sun about to set, they started heading back home.

"Mumma I have decided. When I grow up, I shall drive an aeroplane. I shall drive the biggest aeroplane in the world.” He spoke with determination in his voice. “Which is the biggest aeroplane in the world, Mumma?"

"It is the A-380." Seema replied as they reached the lift of their apartment complex. "Do you know it even has two floors!  You have to use an elevator inside the A-380!" She told him as he looked on in amazement.

Upon reaching home, Seema ushered him to clean up and he then went off to watch TV while she got busy as well and both forgot about their conversation. Only to be reminded again, at bed time.

Just as she was tucking him in for the night, he stopped her and with a forlorn expression said "But Mumma, I cannot be a big A-380 driver."
"But why?"

"Because I can’t stay away from my Mumma." he said almost teary eyed. "I shall miss you."

She smiled as she kissed his cheeks. "Don't worry son, A-380 now flies from and to Delhi. You don't have to go far at all... "

Lufthansa now flies A-380 non stop from Delhi to Frankfurt! Check it out here

This post is a part of the “Lufthansa A380 – Bigger is Better” contest on Indiblogger.in sponsored by Lufthansa.

Lufthansa A280

Get more details regarding Lufthansa's A-380 non stop service from Delhi to Frankfurt here

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review : Tough Customer by Vandana Vasudevan

​Are you entitled for compensation for delayed flights? Can stickers be placed on the printed MRP? ​Can we hold a fairness cream to the promises made in its advertisement?

Photo of the book
Tough Customer - Vandana Vasudevan
 328 pages | MRP - ₹ 395
Publisher - Westland Ltd.
These are just some of the common questions that any ordinary person is curious about. Consumer law is a field of law that touches the life of the aam admi in innumerable ways on any ordinary day. However, till date all the literature that I had read about 'Consumer Law' was in the form of textbooks discussing each section of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and explaining the judicial interpretations of the same. It was all Consumer Law for the lawyers.

There was no book explaining consumer law for the consumer and this is the void that 'Tough Customer' by Vandana Vasudevan fills perfectly.

The book is divided into four parts, the first one covering the six rights of the consumer, a section on consumer service, another regarding the failure of certain consumer welfare legislation and the last being a must have 'Toolkit for consumers''.

Right from the first two chapters on safety and information, it is apparent how well researched the book is. The section on safety not only covers the obvious concerns that would come to one's mind such as issues relating to food adulteration and protection of financial data but it even goes on to give comprehensive information regarding India's mixed record with respect to railway safety and dubious record with respect to safety measures on roller coasters. The second section regarding the right to information is a delight to read it manage the laws relating to mandatory information disclosures on packaging in simple and succinct terms. Furthermore, we are treated to some fascinating case studies which expose how instant-noodles and cosmetics brands in India flout information disclosure and advertising norms with impunity.

The book's chapter on Right to Redressal shall be of particular interest to any reader as it describes the entire scheme of filing a consumer complaint in detail but at the same time in simple and clear language. Author employs bulletted lists under headings to explain various aspects of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and within those handful of pages an aam aadmi can find answers to all his questions such as "What is unfair trade practice?" "Who can complain?" "When and Whom to complain?" "What relief can the forum give?" etc. The author also goes beyond the Consumer Protection Act and has also included details of other redressal mechanisms such as the Banking Ombudsman, Insurance Ombudsman etc.

The book doesn't stop at just telling the reader how to file a complaint but also tries to inspire the reader by presenting the stories of several consumers who filed consumer complaints and got generous relief from the Consumer forums.  It is often said that the Indian judicial system is stacked against the ordinary man and that large corporations get away with anything. However, in this book we find tales of consumers who took on and won against mammoths like the Railways, DLF and Idea mobile. These real life stories written in a fine narrative style are not just heartening but also at times funny and unfailingly enjoyable to read. If I had to pick a fault with this book (apart from the fact that it has scared me regarding several things by exposing the lax safety standards in India), it would be that the author hasn't included any cautionary tales regarding when consumers failed to prove their case before the forums. Such counter-anecdotes could have provided some advice for the readers regarding the pitfalls to avoid while filing consumer complaints.

The section of the book on consumer service is also replete with anecdotes, most from author's own life regarding how the standard of consumer service in India is a major cause for concern while the following section is a detailed analysis of four consumer welfare laws and the author's views on possible reform. Here again what sets this book apart from most other law books is that even an analysis of the law never feels like burdensome reading. While getting the point across, it remains simple enough to be understood by the ordinary man.

The last section "Toolkit for consumers" is a real gem. It includes the contact details of various consumer welfare organisations and also contact information of consumer forums and other grievance redressal mechanisms. The toolkit also includes model form of a consumer complaint which can be adopted an used for his/her own purpose by the reader. This is followed by a checklist of precautions that an informed consumer must adopt in everyday scenarios such as while buying electric appliances or while buying jewellery. It might possibly be worth buying the book for this section alone! However do note that the tips and tricks aren't restricted to this section alone. The entire book is replete with small tips and information that shall come of use to every single person. (Eg - Tips to differentiate between genuine or fake maid agencies, entitlement to compensation in cases of delayed flights, identifying puffery in advertisements etc.)

When I was reading this book, it did not feel like drudgery for a single moment. Every single chapter is relevant and includes references to situations that we face day in and day out.

This book would be of some utility to each and every person who purchases or has ever purchased any goods or services in India!

Disclosure : I was supplied with a review copy by Wesland Ltd.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More Passengers on the Clapham Omnibus! Reasonable man gets company!

"Public opinion, nowadays, is the opinion of the bald-headed man at the back of the omnibus. It is NOT the opinion of the aristocratical classes as such; or of the most educated or refined classes as such; it is simply the opinion of the ordinary mass of educated, but still commonplace mankind."

When Walter Bagehot included this line in his famous treatise The English Constitution published in 1867, little did he know that it shall lead to the creation of a of a legal phrase denoting the standard of reasonable care, which shall last more than a hundred years.

It was in 1903 that the “man on the Clapham omnibus” made his debut in judicial decisions when his mention appeared at page 109 in the judgement, McQuire v Western Morning News Company Limited.[1] ‘The man on the omnibus’ became ‘the man on the Clapham Omnibus’ with a typical working class London neighbourhood selected as his destination lest anyone mistake him to be from the upper class elite.

However, his moment of glory definitely came in the 1933 case of Hall v. Brooklands Auto Racing[2] when Greer L.J. of the Court of Appeal held "…the man in the Clapham omnibus taking a ticket to see a cricket match at Lord's would know quite well that he was not going to be encased in a steel frame which would protect him from the one in a million chance of a cricket ball dropping on his head.[3] …In my opinion, in the same way such a man taking a ticket to see motor races would know quite well that no barrier would be provided which would be sufficient to protect him in the possible but highly improbable event of a car charging the barrier and getting through to the spectators. The risk of such an event would be so remote that he would quite understand that no provision would be made to prevent it happening, and that he would take the risk of any such accident.”  Poor, Mr. Hall who had obtained damages of 998 shillings from the lower court had the judgement in his favour set aside due to the implied terms in the contract for purchase of the ticket which ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ would have known. More than 110 years after its first use, the ‘Man on the Clapham Omnibus’ is still often invoked by the judges across common law jurisdictions.

However, what is uncommon is judges accepting the test for what it really is – judges dictating what ought to be. When the reasonable man test or any tests of like nature are applied, the court judges the situation not by considering what the persons involved in the case thought or not by taking evidence as to what the average view in the country is but by actually subjectively making a decision on the basis of what the judges think the reasonable man’s perspective is or ought to be. Thus the persons on the Clapham omnibus are actually none other than the judges themselves!

Recently, the United Kingdom Supreme Court[4] speaking through Reed L.J.[5] in Healthcare at Home Ltd. v. Common Services Agency[6] has elaborated eloquently about the various new legal fictions similar to the man on the Clapham Omnibus that the courts have come up with in recent times. I am reproducing the first four paragraphs from that wonderful judgement here -

1. The Clapham omnibus has many passengers. The most venerable is the reasonable man, who was born during the reign of Victoria but remains in vigorous health. Amongst the other passengers are the right-thinking member of society, familiar from the law of defamation, the officious bystander, the reasonable parent, the reasonable landlord, and the fair-minded and informed observer, all of whom have had season tickets for many years.

2. The horse-drawn bus between Knightsbridge and Clapham, which Lord Bowen is thought to have had in mind, was real enough. But its most famous passenger, and the others I have mentioned, are legal fictions. They belong to an intellectual tradition of defining a legal standard by reference to a hypothetical person, which stretches back to the creation by Roman jurists of the figure of the bonus paterfamilias. As Lord Radcliffe observed in Davis Contractors Ltd v Fareham Urban District Council[7]

“The spokesman of the fair and reasonable man, who represents after all no more than the anthropomorphic conception of justice, is and must be the court itself.”

 3. It follows from the nature of the reasonable man, as a means of describing a standard applied by the court, that it would misconceived for a party to seek to lead evidence from actual passengers on the Clapham omnibus as to how they would have acted in a given situation or what they would have foreseen, in order to establish how the reasonable man would have acted or what he would have foreseen. Even if the party offered to prove that his witnesses were reasonable men, the evidence would be beside the point. The behaviour of the reasonable man is not established by the evidence of witnesses, but by the application of a legal standard by the court. The court may require to be informed by evidence of circumstances which bear on its application of the standard of the reasonable man in any particular case; but it is then for the court to determine the outcome, in those circumstances, of applying that impersonal standard.

4.In recent times, some additional passengers from the European Union have boarded the Clapham omnibus. This appeal is concerned with one of them: the reasonably well-informed and normally diligent tenderer


[1] [1903] 2 KB 100

[2] [1933] 1 KB 205

[3] I do wonder if he had been ruling in the present era, Greer L.J. would indulge in this cricket analogy, seeing how often the likes of Gayle dispatch the ball into the crowd.

[4] This is so weird. Since I never have had to cite a post-2009 UK Apex Court case in any of my writings till date, this is the first time I am citing the UK Supreme Court as opposed to the House of Lords. I know and appreciate the arguments regarding strict separation of power but it still feels weird to cite the UKSC.

[5] He shall be one of the last few Lord Justices (L.J.). New UKSC judges appointed herewith shall not be elevated to the House of Lords.

[6] [2014] UKSC 49

[7] [1956] AC 696, 728:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Giveaway! - Many Lives of Ruby Iyer by Laxmi Hariharan

A girl desperate to rescue her best friend, a cop willing to do anything to save the city he serves, and a delusional doctor bent on its annihilation. When Ruby Iyer's best friend is kidnapped by the despotic Dr Kamini Braganza, she will do anything to rescue him. Anything, including taking the help of the unpleasant Vikram Roy, a cop on a mission to save Bombay. The city needs all the help it can get, and these two are the only thing standing between its total destruction by Doctor Braganza's teen army. As Bombay falls apart around them, will Ruby be able to save her friend and the city? Will she finally discover her place in a city where she has never managed to fit in? And what about her growing feelings for Vikram? 

The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer, a YA novel set in Bombay by Laxmi Hariharan, the British-Indian author of the kindle bestseller The Destiny of Shaitan is now available on  Amazon! It is also accompanied by a short prequel titled The Ruby Iyer Diaries and you can also watch and hear her talk about the novel here

Participate in this giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of her book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here is a free excerpt (chapter 1) from the novel -

Thursday, November 6, 2014

RBI allows reduction of 'free' ATM transactions - Shocking Disregard for Depositors' Welfare

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Reserve Bank of India, the Indian Banking regulator is often praised for being a tough regulator whose strict policy formulations ensured discipline amongst the Indian banks and managed to (atleast to a significant extent) shield the Indian banking system from the financial crisis in 2008.

However, looking after the banking system from a macro perspective is not the only role of the Reserve Bank of India. Its very own website states that the  Department of Banking Operations and Development is responsible for regulation of commercial banks, which is ‘aimed at protecting depositors’ interests’.

However, if you look at the recent notification (RBI/2014-15/179 DPSS.CO.PD.No. 316/02.10.002/2014-2015) titled “Usage of ATMs – Rationalisation of number of free transactions” it would seem as if the RBI is forgetting its role with respect to protection of consumer interests.

Get charged for own-ATM transactions
Previously the position was that ATM transactions at ATMs other than the card issuing bank’s own, were charged beyond the limit of 5 free transactions a month.

However, the new notification allows banks to charge a transaction fee (capped at Rs. 20) for every transaction beyond the free limit of 5 transactions even for use of its ATM cards at its own ATMs!

This is atrocious and defeats the purpose of having ATM machines in the first place. The advantage of having ATM machines was that individuals could withdraw cash as and when needed. This meant that many people, especially students are in the habit of making several (much more than five) withdrawals every month with each one being of small amounts such as Rs. 100-1000. Such a habit was convenient since one could avoid the risk and hassle of carrying large amounts of cash and at the same time one could continue to earn interest since the money was left with the bank and not in the wallet.

Only 3 free transactions at other bank ATMs
The new notification allows banks to restrict their customers’ usage of other bank ATMs to just 3 free transactions every month for transaction in Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad (at other locations banks must allow for 5 free transactions). In theses cities on every transaction beyond the third one on other bank ATMs, a transaction fee can be levied.

No distinction between financial and non-financial transactions
Furthermore, the counting towards the free transactions includes “non financial” transactions such as balance enquiry and a ministatement. It is not clear whether the change of the ATM PIN shall be considered as a non financial transaction counted towards the limit of 5 free transactions. If they are so considered, it shall be a major step backward for security since it shall act as a disincentive for changing PIN frequently. People would rather save their free transactions for withdrawals than change of PIN.

Banks given discretion and hence, the poor and middle class bears the brunt
The said RBI regulation is not mandatory and imposition of charges has been left to the discretion of the banks. This means that the banks can choose to let the present practice of unlimited free transactions on the home network ATMs continue unabated, or they can impose chares beyond five free transactions. Similarly they may allow more than three or even unlimited free transactions at other bank ATMs.

As of now SBI has already started charging for more than 5 withdrawals on SBI’s own network of ATMs while the other banks are pondering on what to do. However, a more sinister practice which is already in place and is likely to be extended is that the customers with premium accounts, with high AQBs (Average Quarterly Balance) i.e. the well off customers with fat bank balances are allowed to have unlimited withdrawals at even other bank ATMs while ordinary account holders are charged for transactions beyond the free limit. This practice by the private banks and a few of the PSUs is likely to be extended by allowing more than 5 free home network transactions to the premium customers (rich guys) while the ordinary folks have to pay for every transaction beyond the free limit.

Such discriminatory policies which work against the interests of the small depositors is exactly the sort of evil that RBI, the regulator is supposed to prohibit in order to safeguard the depositor’s interests. Indian banks have managed to perform well enough and have earned profits as well for the past several years of providing unlimited free own-bank transactions and five free other bank transactions every month and hence the Indian Banks’ Association’s argument regarding the significant costs of providing such service deserves to be treated with skepticism. Even if there are costs, I am sure that the banks are entirely capable of absorbing them without a hiccup as they have been doing for the past few years.

I hope the RBI shows regard for the depositors interests and withdraws this notification soon.

Do comment and let me know regarding your views regarding this....

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review : God is a Gamer by Ravi Subramanian

It is worth the hype! (No spoilers here)

Ravi Subramanian is one of my favourite writers and I had extremely high expectations from his latest novel “God is a Gamer”. 

Both his immediate preceding novels, 'Bankerupt' and 'Bankster' have had parallel story lines which meet in a fantastic climax. God is a Gamer carries this model forward and does a fantastic job with it. We have a story unfolding in the USA where the FBI attempts to connect the dots between the murder of one of the President’s closest associates and an online darkweb drug marketplace, CottonTrail while investigators in Mumbai are baffled by the apparent suicide/murder of a bank CEO and the possibility of scandalous political involvement.

The story in the US starts off with the assassination of Senator Gillian Tan when he is on his way to meet the US president. (It can't be a Ravi Subramanian novel if there isn't a murder within the first ten pages.) This is soon followed by the largest ATM heist in New York carried out using skimmed cards. The FBI faced with intense pressure to solve the case seems to be getting nowhere initially till an attack on the senator’s wife gives them more clues and suggests that the crimes could have an BitCoin and CottonTrail connection.

In India, the story is much more complex. Malvika the backstabbing CEO of NYIB India dies in mysterious circumstances and the investigation threatens to reveal her dark secrets which could implicate even the Finance Minister in a major scandal. At the same time, Aditya Rao, head of his own BPO and gaming company is reunited with his son who takes over the gaming business and turns it around. Soon enough though, Aditya's companies start to face a multitude of problems which could be linked to the events in the US. To all this Subraminum adds a quirky plot element of a mysterious blog - 'Confessions of a Hooker'. 

While we are enthralled by the story of how investigators across the globe connect the dots, we are also treated to a side show of how Aditya's son Varun chases love and at the same time surpasses every challenge coming his way to ensure that his company becomes a major player in the gaming sector.  At every point through out the 310 pages the story seems very relatable because of the obvious use of several real life incidents which have been in the news for the last couple of years. CottonTrail is an obvious reference to SilkRoute drug network which was in the news not long ago and Ravi Subramanian has also incorporated events in the novel which are inspired from other real life happenings such as the advent of facebook gaming, success of the book 'Confessions of a New York Taxi Driver' and obviously, the controversy surrounding BitCoins.

The story is extremely fast paced and keeps you guessing about how each of these extremely diverse elements are going to come together at the end. However, even though there are several clues which make it easy to guess the killer well in advance of the end of the novel, nothing can really prepare you for the actual climax. The climax is a saga of never ending twists and turns which had me literally at the edge of my seat. It seems like the shocking revelations shall never end but the actual end nicely ties up all the loose ends to finally present a coherent albeit shocking conclusion. However, that the shock ending is going to contain some element of revenge is unfortunately given away by the tagline 'Is revenge a crime?' sitting right there on the cover page.

I found it interesting though that Ravi Subramanian has resisted from having a perfect fairytale ending. He even treats issues of political-commercial nexus and political interference in investigations, with a level of pragmatism and that realism that I had not expected.

GOD IS A GAMER COVERHowever, the pace comes with its downside too. Unlike his previous books, none of the characters in 'God is a Gamer' particularly stay with you. There is barely any scope for character development. I wish there was atleast one memorable character in the book. Another downside I thought was the cover and marketing of the book. It has been heavily promoted as "The World's first BitCoin Thriller" when infact the novel is about a lot more than just BitCoins and even a lot more than just a novel about gaming. I honestly believe that the publishers could have come up with a title better title and cover. This is the third time (after Bankerupt and Bankster) that a Ravi Subramanian cover features a silhouette of a man standing in some overseas setting. That is getting a tad bit repetitive considering that these novels aren't a part of a series.

However, all this slight shortcomings are easily overcome by the strength of the excellent plot which keeps you hooked and eager to turn the pages like a good thriller should.

Rating : 8/10

Once you have read the book, do comment and let me know what you think!

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. 

Disclosure : I was supplied with a review copy by Blogadda.

God is a Gamer and other books by Ravi Subramanian are available at a discount on Flipkart.com and Amazon.in! Buy them now!

Monday, November 3, 2014

An Amazing Weekend at the TATA Lit Fest!

IMG_20141101_122005TATA Literature Live, one of Mumbai’s foremost literary events went bigger this year and in addition to NCPA (its regular venue), this time it was held at Prithvi Theatre as well! With the venue so close to my house, I was definitely not going to miss it! The star studded line up (see schedule) was also a big draw.

The first session that I attended was The Changing Idea of Romance in India at Prithvi Theatre, where Astha Atray Banan who has authored a Mills and Boon novel and Sathnam Sanghera (British Writer famous for his novel Marriage Material) were joined by Ashish Shakya of All India Bakchod. I honestly didn't expect much realism from a panel discussion on romance but what ensued was a really interesting and pragmatic discussion. Surprisingly enough an author of a Mills and Boon novel was convinced that romance was on the decline while the guy from Britain was making the case about how arranged marriages could be a good idea after all! The discussion veered between various issues ranging from the influence of the internet, moral policing, influence of Bollywood and the changing mindsets of the youth, to much more serious issues such as the institution of marriage, sexism in romance writing/movies and eve teasing. As you would expect when one of the panellists is from All India Bakchod, the discussion was interspersed with great dollops of humour.

IMG_20141101_150534A big fan of military history myself, the session that I was looking forward to the most at Tata Lit Live was ‘An Indian Army in Afghanistan’, a talk by William Dalrymple. The great historian is also a master storyteller who effortlessly transported us back to the 1837 and the first Anglo Afghan war. The talk was his short retelling of the story of his book ‘Return of a King’. He manages to weave together into his story-telling the big macro events such as the backdrop of the Great Game and also funny tales of the vanity of the British Army generals who while trekking 4000 miles across the subcontinent, had 40 camels carrying their wines and liqour. In his crisp voice he managed to hold the attention of the crowd and an hour felt like ten mins. While the story was indeed fascinating, his descriptions of his process of research were also interesting and to an extent, even thought provoking. Dalrymple has gone beyond the British accounts while researching for the book and has delved extensively into the Afghan accounts. He spoke at length about his research and travels into the heart of Taliban controlled Afghan countryside where ordinary people were well versed with the history of the Anglo-Afghan war which they had received orally from their elders. On of the most interesting things about the ‘Return of a King’ is how Dalrymple manages to draw parallels between the Anglo-Afghan conflict and the modern day US led invasion – “It is always possible to conquer Afghanistan but difficult to finance a continuing occupation.”

Dalrymple also emphasised how for several centuries in India including some periods of Maratha rule as well, ‘Persian’ was the language of administration. He expressed his dismay at the fact that very few Indians know about this and that today only a handful of persons who can read and write Persian, survive today in India. He urged the amateur and aspiring historians in the audience (and I am sure that after his talk, many were considering it) to not restrict themselves to colonial historical accounts in English but to read local primary source materials as well! While he was signing his books for fans, I managed to ask him regarding his next project and it is a topic that Indians shall be even more interested in – The East India Company. In hindsight I could have guessed it myself because even while talking about the last book and the story of the Anglo Afghan War, Darlymple who now must be well into his research about the East India Company, could not help himself from making repeated references about the marvel that the company was and how it was a astounding and absurd phenomenon that the fate of a subcontinent was in the hands of a public corporation run for the shareholders’ interests from a single block in London. All in all, it was an amazing session, the only negative point about which was that the venue, Prithvi House was so small that several people had to be turned away

IMG_20141102_111020The following morning, I turned up two hours early at Prithvi to ensure that I got a pass for the most awaited panel discussion of Tata Lit Live – “Gone with the Gandhis- Will the defeat in the 2014 elections leave an impact on dynasty politics in the Congress”. The panellists were Shashi Tharoor, Pranay Gupte and Shekhar Gupta in conversation with Barkha Dutt. I had expected the panel to express significant agreement with the motion express but surprisingly enough it was a rather balanced discussion. Shashi Tharoor began by rightly pointing out that we also see a dynasty effect not only in other political parties but also in other walks of life such as Bollywood (and even the legal profession). The other panellists also for a while seemed to suggest that dynasty is a media favourite hyped issue which doesn’t matter much. They seemed to all agree that the performance of a candidate matters much more to a voter than the candidate’s dynasty. However Barkha and Shekhar Gupta were also quick to point out how Congress is especially addicted to the family and there was a funny moment when upon being asked by Shekhar Gupta, Shashi Tharoor had to admit that he did not know all the members of the Congress Working Committee. While Shashi Tharoor was eloquent as always despite having the unenviable task of having to defend the dynasty as the rightful head of the Congress, it was Shekhar Gupta who really brought the house down with his jokes and very quirky anecdotes about everything. My descriptions really cannot do any justice to how amazing this session was. I just hope everyone gets the chance of hearing these great folks talk atleast once in a lifetime!

While I spent the weekend at the TATA Lit Live’s Prithvi events, there were also a lot of great sessions happening at the NCPA which culminated with the annual TATA Lit Live Awards. This year, ‘Arctic Summer’ by Damon Galgut bagged the Book of the Year Award for fiction writing while ‘Capital - The Eruption Of Delhi’ by Rana Dasgupta won the prize for non-fiction. What I particularly like about the TATA Lit Live is that they also have a Best Debut Award to encourage new writers. The Smoke Is Rising by Mahesh Rao was adjudged to be the best fiction debut while in the non-fiction category it was  ‘A Southern Music: The Karnatik Story’ by TM Krishna.

I hope I shall be able to participate for the all four days next year! Hope it remains as awesome!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Was Modi at Madison a good idea?

Recently, the Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel toured Mumbai and addressed a group of industrialists and investors on the 108th anniversary of Indian Merchants’ Chamber. Her address which was partly in Gujarati and which implored the industrialists to invest in Gujarat which she alleged was less congested and has better infrastructure than Mumbai, has become a major political flashpoint in Maharashtra with all major parties such as the ShivSena, MNS and Congress criticising it.

Interestingly during her speech, Anandiben said "Jyare Narendrabhai US maa jai ne Hindi maa bhanshan aapi shake, toh hoon Mumbai maa avi Gujarati maa boli shaku chu (When Narendrabhai can speak in Hindi in the US, I can certainly speak in Gujarati in Mumbai)"

Now this brings up the question about how Modi's show of strength in the US is going to be perceived in the US. He addressed a massive rally in Hindi!! Just as Anandiben's remarks were unwelcome in Mumbai, it would not be wrong for many US citizens to feel betrayed seeing their Indian origin fellow US citizens flock to Madison Square Garden and showing their allegiance to Modi and India.

It won't be a surprise if the more conservative US politicians now urge lesser immigration from India since Indian origin immigrants shall be seen to be less loyal and less assimilative. Similarly, a case can be made that though 'Make in India' is undoubtedly a much needed and welcome initiative, it could have been done in a more subtle way in industry meetings and smaller closed events rather than a public push.

If a major US company actually moves some significant manufacturing facility from the US to India, causing job losses in the US, I am sure the Modi in US euphoria shall die down real quick.

In his broadside against Modi Govt's foreign policy in an Indian Express Op-Ed, Salman Khurshid has articulated this stance well and I shall end with his words -

Diaspora is a blessing in disguise but it may sometimes need to remain disguised to be a blessing for itself.

Modi should keep this in mind in future...

Friday, September 26, 2014

Delhi Street Food!

With the moot court competition turning out to be much less satisfactory than what we expected, my teammates and I were left with almost two and a half days in Delhi (well NOIDA actually) with nothing to do but explore its culinary delights.

Though like any true blue Mumbaikar I believe with all my heart that Bombay/Mumbai is the single most awesome city in the whole wide world, after a couple of days of sampling Delhi street food, I must admit that Delhi street food does hold its own or even slightly outdoes the VadaPav-PavBhaji-Bhel dominated Mumbai street savouries.


Chole-Kulcha / Chole Bhature

To start off with, Delhi has a lot more variety in even vegetarian street food. Apart from the samosa and pani-puri (which the Delhites call Gol-Gappas) vendors who are probably ubiquitous all over India, Delhi (and much of north India, I presume) also has a lot of paratha and chole-bhatura / chole-kulcha vendors everywhere. Every street that we travelled to had atleast one of these chole-kulcha carts with their unique copper (or brass maybe) vessel full of chole placed at an angle!  Chole Kulcha, Chole Bhature

Mr. SV and I sampled and completely enjoyed both the dishes! The chole served with the kulchas were mashed together with onions and chillis into a thick paste which managed to achieve that just right level of spicyness. Though I enjoyed the dish I do admit that I was hoping for the freshly baked type of kulchas (i.e. the type that restaurants in Bombay serve) and was disappointed to see that the roadside kulcha was simply a special bread heated on the tava and served. The chole bhature combo however was just perfect and left no room to complain. I am dreading the moment when I shall have to have the college mess chole again. I am sure they are going to fall way short of my increased expectations.


Connaught Place Momos!

Momos! This is another north and east Indian street food delicacy that you would be hardpressed to find on Mumbai streets. When we went to Connaught Place, which by the way no one can find on a metro map because it is officially called Rajiv Chowk (Read This if such things anger you). The momos were tasty and interestingly served with not just a a spicy red sauce but also with an additional mayonnaise dip! (unfortunately not photographed) While we waited for the steaming hot momos to get ready, Mr. SV also managed to get a bowl full of fried potatos and masala which is another simple dish which I haven’t seen on Mumbai streets. He also chose to have a bowl of bhel but that is an area in which, Delhi can’t match up with Bombay. We also had the Keventers Milkshake at CP which tasted pretty good. I am told that it isn’t as legendary anymore as it used to be in its heyday. I can only imagine how good it must have tasted then …



Rolls – Nizams and Rolls King

Since Ms. AM had raved about the place so much, Mr. SV and I also visited Nizams which in addition to their awesome tender soft mutton rolls also had this interesting sign saying -

Regional, Racial, Religious Discrimination, Apartheid & Outside Food is prohibited in the restaurant.

While Nizams rolls are delicious, I must say they are also slightly expensive and lacking in quantity. Value for money and awesome quantity we found at Rolls King in Noida!


Nizams @ CP       Rolls King Rolls

Non Vegetarian Delights – Tangdi Tandoori and Gulati Kababs

Indirapuram’s famous Winsdor Market reminded me of Food Courts from Singapore with a lot of stalls/shops selling various delicacies. I opted for the Mutton Gulati Kababs and Ulte Tawe Ka Paratha, which is again something that I have never seen in Bombay. Watching the vendor make it was also very fascinating! Apart from it we ordered Tangdi Tandoori but due to some miscommunication we were served Tangdi Stuffed Tandoori which wasn’t bad either.



Good Food tastes better with good company!

The Delhi food hogging journey was especially fantastic because of the company that I had. In search of the best street food they travelled with me by air, rail and cycle rickshaw. Ms. AM and Mr. SV - you guys rock! Hope we get to go hog more often!

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What Next!?

Delhi is so full of culinary delights that I am sure I haven’t tried even close to all of the good places yet… So please comment and do let me know which are the other great places in Delhi and I shall cover them the next time I go there!