Another day, Another call

Someone called me on my mobile and said that they are from Citibank and wanted to discuss about a new personal loan product. Of late, there are quite a lot of people calling me offering loans and this is one such call. So far so good. But then, the caller wanted to ask some security questions about my Citibank account. Why on earth would a person wanting to introduce a new product want to ask security questions. It makes sense to ask those questions if I chose to avail the loan. Moreover, I don’t have any clue about the caller or her number.

I asked her about that for which she kept saying that she wanted to check whether she is talking to the right individual. She further offered to answer any question about Citibank. I flatly refused saying that I can’t disclose any details without knowing whether I am talking to the right person and also I would be able to talk about Citibank for hours, as loads of information are available over the Internet. She tried to persuade me in vain once again before giving up.

I have been whining in these pages that Citibank’s customer service has gone from good to bad to worse in the recent times. Sceptical about any proper response for this one, I called up Citibank only to be told that their colleagues from their loan division MIGHT have called up, but they asked me to call up yet another number to find that out. When I rang there, I was put on hold endlessly. I gave up losing patience. Still not sure whether it is a genuine marketing call or a different version of the Nigerian scam.

Microwave

Our 4-week old microwave oven (Hinari) gave way yesterday as I was heating some food item placed on an aluminium foil. Just by chance, I happened to notice a flash of spark inside but it continued to work. I unplugged it immediately and called up the store, who were glad to take it back. Shudder to think of the effects had it been something big & nasty. Wonder how a product from a renowned company could go this way. May be its just that one odd bad piece that somehow sneaked all the way to our home. Now, we have bought one from LG thinking that it would be good & safe.

Thachchi Mamm

Walking past a Malaysian restaurant near Tower Bridge in London recently, I casually glanced upon the menu where a particular item caught my eye. The name of the food item is ‘Thayir Sadham‘ with the description “Cooked rice nicely mixed with yoghurt with a fine topping of coriander”. But, what jolted me was the price tag. A bowl of the said item costs £10.75.

An Invite that I couldn’t honour

It was around 10:15 pm last night. I had just returned from London and was rushing to catch the local bus that would leave soon. I was walking along the Bournemouth Square area, where nightlife was as bubbly as ever with so many people – mostly young men & women out on the streets. All of a sudden a swaying young girl – probably about 15 – wearing her most economical outfit & with a can of booze in her hand, jumped before me from somewhere said, “hey.. wanna f**k me man.. I am all yours!!!” and was about to fall over me. Though I have lived in this country for little over four years, I was just taken aback at this open invitation. Before anyone imagines any further, let me clarify that I would have put the likes of Ben Johnson & Carl Lewis to shame with my sprint towards the bus stop.

BJP must be thanking their stars for having conducted the General Elections six months ahead of schedule. With yet another season of failed monsoons, had the polls been scheduled for October according to the original plan, NDA’s rout would have been complete and their strength would have even been reduced to double digits.

Talking about politics, I was surprised to get a call from someone who introduced himself as the Liberal Democrats‘ candidate for Boscombe East by-election for the Bournemouth council that is scheduled for this Thursday. He sought my support and asked me to ring him up to discuss any local issues. For some reason, this local election is being fiercely fought as the canvassing is so very intense in the run up to the polls.

Houses with Wooden Walls

Quite a lot of construction activities are happening in our neighbourhood and this is the first time ever, I am seeing a building being constructed down from the basement in UK. While I know that most old houses in UK – like in India are built of brick, the inner walls of the newly built houses are made of timber. They raise the skeletal structure of the entire house in timber and just build the brick walls in the exterior. In a plot bang opposite to my house, a block of 12 new apartments is being built. In a matter of 4 weeks from the day the work began, they have finished raising the skeletal structure (in wood) for the entire building (Ground + 2 storeys) and now they are getting ready to build the concrete exterior. I reckon that the entire building would be ready in another couple of months.

Personally, I have never lived in a house with wooden walls, but having got used to the concrete structures, I doubt the longevity of these wooden structures, though I am no connoisseur in construction. I am sure that the safety issues would have been taken care of, but somehow at the back of my mind, I don’t get a very comforting thought about those buildings. Perhaps, it is the sub-continental psyche – as people call it, of not accepting things that are not done back home.

Kumbakonam tragedy

Kumbakonam – once known as ‘Cambridge of South India’ is the place where I was born and brought up (until I was 10). That was the last semi-urban, semi-rural town I lived in India and hence I have an emotional attachment with that place. My heart sinks when I think of the accident that happened this morning where more than 75 buds lost their lives. Looking ahead, I am sure that many such accidents are just waiting to happen or have been averted narrowly. Buildings in India – not just schools, are not built with proper fire exits. Most of them have very narrow exits and stairs without any alternative escape routes. Unless disaster management is taken very seriously, these kinds of disasters – god forbid – cannot be avoided. I hope this unfortunate incident is an eye opener for the authorities concerned.

The above little comment of mine has found place in BBC Talking Point as well.

Driving Test

After about 4 months of driving practice and a theory test, I had to take the plunge today as I had booked for the Driving test more than 9 weeks in advance.

The test was scheduled at 3:27 pm and I had taken half a day off from work. My driving instructor picked me up from home at around 2 pm and I practiced driving around for about 90 minutes before the test. Everything went really well in the practice and that was exactly what I wanted. After a brief wait at the DVLA office, the examiner came out at 3:30 pm and called out my name. He asked me to sign a form to confirm that I am happy to undergo the test.

Coming out of the office, he pointed at a car about 75 metres away and asked me to read the number plate. Satisfied with that, he went to my car (well, my instructor’s) and asked me how I would check the oil level. I opened the bonnet and showed him how. Then he asked me how I would test whether the indicators are working fine.

Then we jumped in to the car and asked me to drive along. Once he asked me to drive, I was quite casual. After about 10 minutes of driving, we reached a slope and we were driving downhill. He asked me to pull over to the left and stop in parallel to a car which was parked near the kerb. I knew what he was about to direct. I was like “Of all the places, why here – in this hilly road?”. As expected he asked me to reverse park behind that car, which I managed to do without any problem. Having gained confidence, I continued to drive.

Although the roads were empty, I deliberately drove slow so as not to breach the speed limit. On a 30 mph empty road, it was hard to resist the temptation of driving fast. Two cars overtook me and I was 100% sure that they were driving at more than 40 mph.

As we were approaching a four road junction, the examiner asked me to turn left at the signal. After the necessary precautions, I moved over to the left most lane, signalled left and as I was approaching the turn, the light turned red. I stopped the vehicle and remained calm. I had a peek in to his marking sheet scanning for backward slashes and found that there isn’t any, which meant that till that point, everything was going well. The signal was still red and I was expecting it to turn green any moment. It was then that the guy in the card behind me honked. Probably, he wanted me to move forward. Getting impatient, he honked again. The light was still red. It was at this point I thought that I might be standing at a wrong lane or something. I turned back and had a look. At this moment, the light turned green and the examiner prompted me to start.

When I went past a residential area, the examiner asked me to reverse around a corner. He didn’t single out any particular corner, but it so happened that the corner I stopped was an irregular one. It didn’t have the smooth turn but a double turn. While reversing, I hit the kerb once and managed. Although, I didn’t glance at his sheet after that, I knew that is the end.

After about 45 minutes of driving, we returned back to the starting point. The result was on predictable lines. I failed the test. The examiner was bound to explain the reasons and he said that I was not alert to the signal change that a vehicle had to honk and he had to prompt me to move the vehicle. I said that I am sure that the signal was red when the guy behind me honked. But he said that I shouldn’t have turned back. Fair enough. I cursed the driver who honked. This, he considered a serious mistake of blocking the traffic.

Another one that did in was hitting the kerb. But for some reason, he took a lighter view of that and had classified it as a minor mistake (a candidate would pass the test if he/she does less than 16 minor mistakes, but would fail even if one serious mistake is done).

To my surprise, there was another serious mistake. The examiner said that I was deliberately driving at a slower speed when the road was clear. Other road users had to overtake me to get along, which in the examiner’s view was very serious.

At the end of it, I am back to square one. I have picked up the right lessons and I would make a better try. Agonising part of this is, I would have to wait for more than 10 weeks for getting the next appointment. 🙁

Chinese Dragon

Someone from “People’s Republic of China” has been trying to talk to me since yesterday. I missed a call yesterday from a number with country code 86. Today, he managed to reach me but the problem is neither I understood a word of what he talked, nor the caller got a word of mine. However, it was interesting & somewhat musical to hear “tha thow thaa roothaa” in a different language, which I presume must be Chinese.

Role Reversal

Scanning through the classified adverts in the local daily, I found something that I have been looking for a long time under the ‘For Sale’ column. I rang up the given number immediately to be answered by a lady. I told her in a loud, clear voice about the advert I saw and asked for further details. Probably she had some hearing difficulty and misunderstood me as a tele-marketer. She went on like, “I don’t want any product from you. I don’t know why you tele-marketers annoy us with something, which we do not want in the first place. Please do not ring us back again or I may have to complain”. Hmmm… so much for trying to be a customer.