Credit History

Few weeks ago, I applied for a new credit card with one MBNA Bank. Not that I badly need one, but their offer of a FREE compact camera drew me there. Yesterday, I got a mail saying that my application is being rejected coz of my poor credit history. Coincidentally, one another financial source called up to inform me that my credit history is not in order.

Wondering whether not borrowing anything from anyone or paying up the credit card bills in full would result in bad rating, I called up Equifax – the independent credit report agency for my credit file (had to pay £8.25 for that), which mentioned that my outstanding credits amounted to about 15 times my actual. Aghast, I went on to investigate further. Few phone calls later I discovered that it is my bank who were responsible for the mess. They were promptly informing the credit report agency whenever I owe them any payment, but they didn’t bother to update them when I clear those. Thus, the outstanding kept accumulating.

For a moment I thought of accusing the bank of unprofessional service, holding them responsible for the blot in my credit history and milk out some freebies – may be have my credit limit increased (which is of no great use to me), have the interest waived for few months (anyway I prefer to clear the bills immediately) or have them pay for my credit file (at least, this would have made some sense. I would have got the £8.25 back). But the fact is, I found it hard to understand the accent of the call centre operator at the other end. Probably, she too had problem understanding mine. Don’t know whose fault it is, I had a tough time to get her sort out the issue that I didn’t have any energy to carry over to the accusation round.

ASDA, Wal-Mart‘s UK arm has recently started a section in its Bournemouth store selling Indian groceries. This is not a news of any significance to the people living in London or any other city in UK with some sizeable Indian presence. But for Indians living in Bournemouth, its a sort of boon as otherwise, we have to travel all the way up to London (2.5 hours drive) or get them at a Pakistani owned shop in place called Charminster near B’mouth at about three times the normal price.

Happy that ASDA has recognised the Indian presence in the town, a small crowd though!

The Ugly face of Momtaz

On Sunday evening, five of us (4 adults & a kid) went to an Indian (Bangladeshi) restaurant ‘Momtaz‘ in Bournemouth. Bangladeshis/Pakistanis in UK who run the Tandoori restaurants call them as ‘Indian Restaurants’ despite the acrimony back home. In some cases, the waiters/chef used to be the guys straight from the sub-continent and at times it would appear that they would need some training on language, etiquettes & behaviour (I mean no offence to the waiters back home. What I mean to say is the people who come to work here would be better off if they learn a bit more about the European culture). It was obvious that the waiter who was about to serve us would fit in the above category.

It was not a busy day for them as there were only two other small groups of people apart from us. We had three glasses of Orange juice and Poppadams (our good, old Appalam) as starters while flipping through the six-page menu. Despite the face that it is an Indian restaurant, as vegetarians, we had very little to choose from. As we were placing our order, the waiter informed us of the never-heard policy of a minimum order of £9.99 per person. He further went on to say that we have to order a minimum of 3 main course thalis and they don’t consider ‘Naan’ as a main course. I told him that I am a regular customer to that restaurant and have never heard about this before. He bluntly told, “No! That is the policyâ€?. We thought that this is utterly ridiculous, as we would have to eat something, which we didn’t want to comply with the rule. I asked the waiter to bring the bill for the starters and also wanted to talk with the manager.

My intention of talking to the manager was to give him a constructive feedback that it would make good business sense if he relaxed the rule. Although, we decided to move, even in our case, he would be making business worth at least £35, which is a good sum particularly on a lean day. The manager, whom I think is also the owner of the restaurant, came all the way and when told about the incident, simply said, “That’s the ruleâ€?. We told him politely that it would have saved our time and embarrassment had this rule been more explicit. Not sure what he thought about, he started yelling at us at the top of his voice and showed the menu where there was a mention about the minimum amount of £9.99 in small print. However, the policy regarding the main course et al. were nowhere to be seen.

I was totally taken aback by his unprofessional behaviour that led other customers staring at us and we felt very embarrassed. My friend told him that if he was so rigid about this kind of rule, he could do well to put up a notice in front of the restaurant. He took us outside the restaurant, where they have put up the same menu, inside a small display unit. One would really need a magnifying lens to read that rule. He further abused us with the four-lettered “Fâ€? word and added, “I don’t want people like you in my restaurantâ€? (This could very well be taken as a racist remark in UK).

We were presented with a bill of £7.90 for which the break up read was £1.10 for Poppadams, £4.50 for the Orange juice and £2.30 for the pickle. We settled the bill and were keen to get away from that sucker and in the process failed to point out that we never asked for pickle and it is served along with poppadams. As if he was doing us a favour he mentioned “I let you off from service chargesâ€?. Little did he realise that the restaurants do not levy the service charges (read, tips) but were the prerogative of the customer.

Thinking about the incident after cooling our heels, I don’t see anything wrong with this kind of rules that takes the customers away from the business. If the owner of the business is not interested in developing it, why should we bother about that? On a different note, if I had called up the restaurant from home, ordered the same food and had them delivered at home, would they ask me “How many people would be eating this food?â€? Their menu card says that they would do a free door delivery service for orders more than £10. But the incident sure brought up several questions in my mind.

>> What made him behave in such an unprofessional and highly undignified manner?

>> Sometimes, people have to be tough to deal with drunken nuts. But, we went there with our families who were startled on hearing him shout at us.

>> Would he have got the guts to say the same thing if a non-Asian had been in our place.

>> Did he behave in such a manner just on knowing that we are Indians or would it be the same treatment for his countrymen as well?

>> What makes him treat us like dirt? After all, I am not eating out of his benevolence.

>> Why? Why this arrogance when he too like me have come to this country for earning his daily bread.

>> How should I deal with this kind of guys when I encounter a similar situation next time?

Obviously, I wouldn’t step into that restaurant again in my life. But I am just thinking of ways to make him remember that Sunday evening.

Back to work after an extended weekend!

My friend Renga & his family were at our place over the weekend and it was all fun. The weather was bad on Sunday with lot of mist & very poor visibility but that didn’t deter us from going to the beach and help Varsha – Renga’s 3-year-old cutie realise her dream of building a sand castle. Couldn’t help thinking “Those days…â€? hmmm!

Late on Sunday evening, we went to a Bangla – Indian restaurant only to return home in few minutes and have yummy curd rice. The incident there warrants a separate post.

I need to make some very important decisions very soon (few years down the line, I might call this as a turning point in my life or something of that sort) and quite obviously my mind was/is preoccupied with those thoughts. Nothing personal about it though.. will certainly post about those as and when something tangible happens.

The weekend was not without problems. Someone at office mistook my laptop for his/hers (I hope someone has taken it away only by mistake. Would know that in a day or two) and deprived me of online connectivity for the last three days, which is why the world missed my rants.

Every penny helps..

It is sad when people who are so young suffer from chronic health problems and their suffering becomes even more painful when their finances let them down too.

There is one 26-year-old Prabhakaran in Chennai – a friend of my friend, who is suffering from heart related problems and needs help in the form of cash to the tune of Rs. 27,500 to undergo an essential surgery. Click here if you want to see the doctor’s version of his illness.

If you would like to chip in with your mite, please drop me a mail at sam_chakra@yahoo.com. I shall tell you the best way to reach him. Your help would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

Indica as City Rover

For long, I was proud of India’s first indigenous car – Tata Indica. I was doubly happy yesterday when I saw BBC reporting from Tata’s manufacturing unit at Pune in India that MG Rover’s new model City Rover to be rolled out in UK shortly is based on Indica’s design with some changes to suit the European taste. (I know that this is an old news..) Apart from the benefit of reduced costs to MG Rover & other commercial aspects, the recognition of Tata’s expertise is important for the country as well. This could make the world turn towards India as a ‘manufacturing’ destination apart from software & services giving the much needed fillip to the most under performing sector of the Indian economy. Coming months would indicate which way we are headed.

Morning walk

After our unsuccessful attempts to go for a walk regularly in the evenings, we have embarked upon the idea of rising early and go for a jog along the beach. The first day plans were executed to perfection as we started out at 5:30 in the morning and returned an hour later. Unlike our good old Marina in Chennai, I could hardly spot anyone walking/jogging here at Bournemouth. Perhaps, people don’t find beach as an ideal place for these activities. I have the knack of planning everything systematically to finer details and shamelessly blowing it away. Let me see how long this circus lasts.

Racism??

As I was walking towards the office this morning, a car that was passing on the road honked and I turned around to see the driver gesture something at me. Normally people don’t honk here unless or otherwise it is absolutely necessary. There was no one around me at that point to whom he could have waved/gestured. Anyway, since I didn’t recognise the guy in the car and also because the car sped by, I didn’t care a damn.

On reaching the office, one of my colleague who was following me at a distance came up to ask whether I am okay. He thinks that the guy in the car was making some obscene gestures at me and might be a racist. It is his just his thought and he could possibly be right. In the 3.5 years I have lived in UK so far, I have never faced any racial overtures. I am not going to let this one isolated incident change the perception about this country in me. Nevertheless, I need to exercise caution.

The washing machine in our house has gone for a toss and the landlord is all set to replace it. Since he is not in station, I presume that it would take at least a week to get a new one. Meanwhile, as the used clothes started piling up, my wife embarked on the arduous task of manual washing. Like the Tamil movie cops who arrive at the scene after everything is over, I chipped in at the last minute and offered to help, hoping her to say that she has completed all the work.

Not one to miss an opportunity, she grabbed it with glee and asked me to rinse them all. It was not a very tough job all right and I have done that before during my bachelor days in the mansions of Chennai, where Sundays used to be dedicated for washing. But having got used to the luxury of automated comfort in the recent years, I found it hard & boring to do the same manually. Made me realise what a slave we have become to these automatic monsters. Things that were considered luxuries years ago are considered absolute necessities now. No doubt, we should salute the spirit and energy levels of prior generations who went on to do their daily chores without these washing machines and other gizmos.