Yahoo! has made its WAP service a paid one. They charge ยฃ2.50 per month per account for this service.

Over the last 3 years, I have got addicted to checking my e-mails (Yahoo!) from my mobile. While changing phones, I made sure that the new instrument is WAP enabled and friendly. Typically, my day would begin with checking of mails from my mobile while in bed. Things are not going to be the same any more. But, rather than spending 30 quid a year, I would rather shake off my laziness, walk up to my PC and check out the mails there.

Earlier, Yahoo! started charging for using its service for POP3 mail accounts. Now, they have started charging WAP. In the recent times, they have reduced the mailbox limit to 4 MB for new users. I am sure that sometime in the future, they would start charging for the basic e-mail service.

NDA slipping?

Normally, I give a damn to these opinion polls that dot the newspapers before every polls. I don’t think anyone is honest with their assessments. Most of them are done to please their political masters and obviously mislead the public. This would be evident from the diametrically opposite results that would normally be predicted by various different surveys with the actual results falling somewhere in between.

This time it is no different. About 2 months back, various opinion polls were unanimous on the result although they varied a lot on the numbers – that the NDA would comfortably sail through, thanks to the ‘feel-good’ factor, expensive ‘India Shining’ adverts & ‘Brand Vajpayee’ image.

As the first round of the mega-tamasha has got over, pollster after pollster is coming out with the news that the going might not be smooth for NDA and it would have to bargain hard to cross the magical number of 272 in the Lok Sabha. What could have gone wrong for NDA in the last two months. One of the resaons attributed in the media is the presence of Rahul Gandhi in the electoral fray. But I think that hardly could be the case. I don’t think a shy political kid, who has hardly made his presence felt apart from the few hamlets in Amethi & Rae Bareli could have caused the swing single-handedly. One of the main factors, I feel, that is responsible for the swing (if there is one really) could be the complacency within the NDA that could have led to the selection of wrong candidates. My reasoning is, although people might like Vajpayee, they might have a strong feeling against the sitting MP of the ruling party, which would definitely have a say when the voter presses the button on the D-day.

Coming back to the opinion polls, the key to predicting the correct results lies in getting the sample as random as possible. No point in having a huge sample if it does not reflect the realistic demographies & patterns of the society. Pollsters hardly go to rural side of the constituency to find the mood of the voters. With so many so-called ‘independent’ opinion polls, both the voters and the political parties are as confused as ever about the results of the world’s biggest democratic exercise. May 13th would provide the answer this time!

Permanent Residence

Subsequent to my stay in UK for the past 4 years, I have now been granted ‘Permanent Resident’ visa status.

This means that

– I have got an indefinite visa to enter/leave United Kingdom.

– I can take up any job in UK without the need for any clearance from the government or any other formality. That is, if some one is ready to offer me a job in the first place. ๐Ÿ™‚

More than anything else, what I like most about this PR thing is the colourful, new visa along with my scanned colour photograph stamped on my passport with the heavy Home office vignette. I really hated the dull looking old visa, which was only slightly bigger than an average postage stamp.

This day, That age!

How about making your first International journey (infact, first one in the air) and landing up at the wrong airport due to your ignorance.

Exactly this day, four years ago, we (two of my friends and yours truly) started from Chennai and landed at Brussels Airport enroute to London Heathrow. Our connecting flight to Heathrow was 8 hours later and we thought it smart to check whether there are any flights prior to that. The girl behind the Sabena (thats the name of the airline.. I think they have gone bankrupt and closed down.. but it has got nothing to do with our flight) counter checked at her computer and asked “Would you like to go to London City?”. We nodded our heads sheepishly without knowing what was in store for us. It cut down the waiting time by about 6 hours and we happily landed at London City.

Fairly smaller queue at the airport and we were out after clearing the immigration formalities. We picked up the luggage and came out of that area. To our surprise, the airport was just slightly bigger than Thiruvanmiyur Bus Stand. Only then, to our agony we realised the folly of nodding our heads when we were asked “London City??”. “London City” is the name of one of the five airports in London and doesn’t mean City of London as we had thought. I in fact, went one step ahead and was beginning to wonder whether we were in the correct country. If East London can be in South Africa, why not London City be in Switzerland?

We had our office numbers (Ramco) and I called them up (my first expense in Sterling Pounds) only to hear “London City? Where is that?? I have never heard about that airport”. Apparently, London City is the smallest airport in London and even long-time Londoners seem to be unaware of it. We got into a cab that took an arduous 2-hrs 20 mins to reach our office. Our colleagues at Ramco, UK were a bit stunned when we gave them the cab receipt of GBP 77.

What a way to start my overseas living experience!! ๐Ÿ™‚

Cricket series & Bonhomie

I had to call up someone over phone on business today and as soon as I started talking, the guy at the other end asked, “Did you follow the India-Pakistan match today?รขย€? I was elated to find a stranger talking about cricket, which I thought would happen only in India.

I replied that I did follow and India won the match. The guy replied “Hope you are happy with India winning the match. I assume that you are an Indian”. I confirmed that & thanked him for his courtesy. I was in for a bit of surprise when he said, “I am a Pakistani. I am not as happy as you are for obvious reasons, more so because I hail from Rawalpindi but it was a great show by your guys and the better team won at the end of the day”. He went on showering praises on the performance of Indian team and also said they learnt better crowd behaviour when Pakistan toured India about 5 years back while I complimented his countrymen’s hospitality towards the team and the Indian fans.

It was a simple, insignificant conversation between 2 ordinary individuals, but I wonder how the peace initiatives & cricket have changed the perceptions among the common people. I was sceptical and I still am about anything tangible happening in the ‘region’ that would change the lives of people in J&K. Yet, my perception about the common men & women of Pakistan has undergone a sea change in the recent times, particularly after the cricket series. Now, I tend to think that they are as innocent as any other; like Indians they too have been brought up with the idea that the neighbouring country is evil. I know that these emotions, this bonhomie is on a fragile state. God forbid – a single untoward incident would reverse these opinions causing high rhetoric spewing venom at each other.

Yet, how good it feels to be spoken of nicely by a Pakistani, whom we considered archrivals not so long ago. Is this what the government (of India) calls a ‘feel-good factor’? ๐Ÿ™‚

We apologise for the delay in answering your call. Our operators are aware that you are holding and they’ll be with you as soon as they can.

This is the message one hears for not less than 25 minutes if we call up Citiphone Banking and chose to speak to an operator. I was subjected to hearing this annoying message three times in the last four days (around 25 minutes each time at different parts of the day) before I lost the patience and hung up. Yesterday, however I waited for about 40 minutes and got to speak to one operator (incidentally from a call centre in Chennai). All this was to find about the status of my request placed weeks ago and as usual I was not given a proper answer. I knew very well that the guy at the other end was not responsible in anyway for the mess and it is only the system, which is to be blamed. But since Citibank hasn’t provided with any other way to contact their back office staff and also chose to ignore my lengthy complaint sent about 10 days back, I had no alternative but to give my piece of mind to that call centre lad. It was not his day. Certainly not!!

Of late, Citibank‘s service has gone from bad to worse and I am seriously thinking about switching to some other bank that could provide better service. Any pointers would be much appreciated.

Easter Holidays

Hurray! 4 days of holidays round the corner. The first long weekend after Christmas. It is that part of the year again, where the next 2 months would be littered with extended weekends.

Easter is a special landmark in time for me. It was on the eve of Easter – in the year 2000, I landed in UK. I had no idea about Easter when I flew from India. I joined the office and was told that the next 4 days are off. What a great start, you see. ๐Ÿ™‚

Close to four years have run and lot of water has flown through the Thames. My world too has changed on many counts – since then I managed to visit 8 countries – yearning to visit more, changed job, shifted homes, saw ups & downs – both in career & personal life, happily got married and now.. stepping in to the fifth year of my stay here in this country with lot of dreams.

Whining Week

It has been a whining week for me so far.

First, is with Citibank. I requested them to add my wife’s name to my bank accounts about 1 month back. After several weeks of chase up, they still haven’t done that. What pisses me off is the unprofessional way in which they come out with excuses like “no one is answering our call at the concerned department”; blaming the call centre, back office etc. As a customer, I am not bothered how their internal systems work and the task I have requested is not the equivalent of rocket science. I have sent a 3-page complaint threatening to explore the legal remedies available to me. Frankly, I have no idea about what legal remedy is available to me, but then, that is a different story! ๐Ÿ™‚

Next, is with one of the driver working for National Express – the biggest coach operator in UK. More on that later as I am about to shoot of a letter to the bus company.

Reservation in Private Sector Jobs

Damn the vote bank politics. Just when India has started looking up in terms of economy, Congress’s manifesto spells doom with its election promise: Promise of reservation in private sector jobs. In simple terms, this would cause a scenario where you can throw your Masters degree out of the window if the guy being interviewed before you has the quota advantage. Even in a private company, the surname or caste will decide who gets the job.

While this is one reason is good enough for me not to vote for Congress, the incumbent BJP doesn’t want to be left behind. If you skim through BJP’s ‘Vision Document‘, it says “Private sector enterprises will be incentivised for creating more educational, training, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for SCs and STs“.

The argument that the private sector cannot be immune to social necessities is nothing short of bull s**t. Is it wise to drag the private sector into the mess at the cost of efficiency, when the mammoth government machinery is already providing those opportunities. This, am sure is going to be a contentious issue in the months to come, that would determine the nation’s future.