paramasivan kazhuthil irundhu paambu kettadhu
yarum irukkum idathil irundhu vittaal ellam sowkyame
garudan sonnadhu adhil artham ulladhu
The cobra coiled around Lord Shiva's neck,
asked Garuda (eagle) flying above
'How are you? Are you well?'
'When everyone stays where they are supposed to
Everybody is well',
said the eagle, there's sense in what he said.
The moral of the story
The moral of the song
Is that one should never be
Where one does not belong.
(From 'Franky Lee and Judas Priest')
Moving is stressful, and even more so if it involves crossing borders. Like relocating from Singapore to India, which is what we did recently (in 2016) after living in Singapore for 22 years. What makes it worse is there are not that many helpful accounts online, and annoyingly, every time you search ‘moving to India’, Google throws up 15000 results on moving FROM India. Hope the following account helps you with your move back to India (and shows up when you Google moving TO India).
First, the movers.
We did a lot of research and shortlisted 4 movers of international repute. There was a post in Quora where someone had a harrowing experience with a mover who forgot to tell the people that the port at Goa is not vested with powers to clear international customs resulting in days of anguish and increasing expenses of storing uncleared goods at the dock. Finally he managed to speak directly to the officer involved and sort the mess out amicably.
So we had to make sure our mover delivered door-to-door from Singapore to Goa. And we wanted to deal with just one mover to minimize points of contact and keep it simple. We didn’t want the trouble of dealing with two different movers as there may be gaps in communication, and knowing Murphy, it is better to be on the safe side.
Our list comprised Allied Pickfords, AGS Fourwinds, KCDat, Santa Fe and RelocAsia. They all came on time, were very professional in their assessment and gave pretty much the same information. The container sizes varied slightly but the rest were pretty much the same.
All reverted when they said they would except AGS which was strange. I checked spam folder, nothing.
Allied’s email had gone to the wrong email id, which I found out when I wrote to them saying I hadn’t received any update from them, seems they had gotten my email id wrong.
Of all the quotes, we found Allied the most sensible. Followed by RelocaAsia. But the terms and conditions of the bordered on the ridiculous. Anything that happened to the crew while packing was our fault. If they lost the shipment in the middle of the sea, it’s our fault. Seriously.
After you choose the mover, the project is handed over to another person at the mover’s, meaning it’s not the same person who came for the quote. Note that they quote based on the container size, 20 foot or 40 foot etc. The assessment made by the representative usually matches up so there will be no surprises. That said, we thought there was a fair amount of space in the truck after all the items were packed. Later we found that most of the boxes were just half-full (not in the optimistic way either), when they could have easily packed more.
Our contact in Singapore, Christine was excellent. She was patient, helpful and cheerful, even though we had to change the date of moving 3 times. But the movers themselves were not as professional, more on that later.
Now, once you’ve decided on the mover, you will have to go through the pack they would have given you including insurance form and check list. This will take a good 10-15 days, depending on how much you have managed to accumulate over the years. We took about 3 weeks itemizing our 22 years of gathering, spending a few hours every day.
We created a spreadsheet for ornaments, electronics, furniture, and list of items in each room. We entered the original value (I had receipts for purchases made all the way back in 1996), a description of the item and insured value. The process was as exhausting as the list but it served as a good reference for us. And it comes in handy when claiming insurance for damaged items.
DVDs, CDs and Books
While I listed the name of each DVD, it is recommended you just give a lump-sum value for movies and music collection, unless of course you have signed copies of DVD/CD by your favourite director/musician. Same goes for books.
You are not allowed to carry perishables, spices, or even tea. One look at the container and you’ll see why it’s hard for anything less than teak wood furniture to survive that trapped heat for weeks. That leaves pots and pans, cutlery and crockery. Again, lumpsum value for insurance but you can be specific if you have anything precious.
Just make sure all of them are labelled properly so you don’t spend days figuring out the location of the box with your underwear. Mark the boxes with ‘bedroom 1’ and the name of the person whose clothes it contains, it’ll save you a lot of time while unpacking.
We collected a whole lot of stuff from our travels around the world, which we itemized in the list, with a description, value of the item, and when it was bought. Rough estimate will do.
Customs department requires your presence in the country when your shipment arrives in India. So plan accordingly. Make arrangements to stay at a friend’s place or book a hotel to tide you over after you move out and before you board the flight back home.
Get a local number so your mover in India can contact you and keep you posted about the status of your shipment. All going well, it should take a month. Remember, India has a lot of holidays. Once you are back, your mover will send someone to collect your passport for customs clearance. Your presence is not required normally. This process takes a few days, not longer than 4 or 5 days.
After this, you will be informed about the date of release from the port, make sure it gets out quickly as demurrage costs are quite high. Your mover will advice you on this. Make sure the house you are going to is ready for move-in.
If you need storage in the meanwhile, most of the movers offer facilities but the fee is quite high. Keep that in mind.
I'll write about our experience with Allied Pickfords in the next post.
We recently had a nightmarish experience with Flipkart. What was supposed be a smooth, friendly, professional experience turned into a frustrating, stressful, blood-boiling, enraging drama that would have made the Buddha flip his lid. It was incompetent, unprofessional, downright inefficient. Third world, in a word or two.
It started with us ordering a washing machine when we moved to Goa a couple of months ago. We paid up front, which probably was a mistake. We should have opted for cash in delivery, at least we could have bough the machine elsewhere instead of yelling and screaming our lungs out at the barefaced lies spouted by the courier company that was supposed to deliver in 5 days.
Incompetence, inefficiency and plain lies
It took another five days. Five days of us calling them every single day, having to listen to the salespeople who 'knew and understood our frustration' because that was what the bloody script in front of them told them to say.
Five days of being promised delivery the next day, getting a message saying it was attempted and failed. Five days of immense rage and frustration because we were at home, morning to night, without leaving our house.
8 am to 8 pm - screw your daily routine because FlipKart is coming.
We did not leave the house because Flipkart promises to delivers from 8 am to 8 pm (but doesn't). So please don't make any plans, like going to work and earning money. If you have sudden medical emergency or your child has not returned from school way past evening, forget all that, because Flipkart says they may come anytime. And they don't (other options is to have a large family so they can wait while you go about your work).
What got us were the absolute lies that the delivery was attempted when it wasn't. We know this because we were home. All day. Every day. For five days that we were waiting. And we had a lot of contract workers about as renovation was going on. They were witness to the frustration we were going through.
And we couldn't go and buy a machine from another shop as we had already paid and the refund wasn't going to be immediate.
Meanwhile laundry was piling up.
Finally, we had to threaten them with legal action after which they delivered.
After five rage-filled, blood-pressure-skyrocketing days they delivered. A few parts were missing but we couldn't be bothered.
Maybe it was an exception. Maybe they all had an off day. Whatever the reason, we are not buying anything from FlipKart. Ever.
Kinda reminds me of this Seinfeld episode where Kramer makes the cable guy wait. Made me want to do
I’ll stick to Amazon whom I’ve been using in Singapore. Hopefully, they’ll deliver (and not make us wait 8 am to 8 pm).
This is a fantastic short story by James Thurber:
Once upon a sunny morning, a man who sat at his breakfast looked up from his scrambled eggs to see a white unicorn with a golden horn quietly cropping the roses in the garden. The man went up to the bedroom where his wife was still asleep and woke her. ‘There’s a unicorn in the garden,’ he said. ‘Eating roses.’ She opened one unfriendly eye and looked at him. ‘The unicorn is a mythical beast,’ she said, and turned her back on him. The man walked slowly downstairs and out into the garden. The unicorn was still there; he was now browsing among the tulips. ‘Here, unicorn,’ said the man, and he pulled up a lily and gave it to him. The unicorn ate it gravely. With a high heart, because there was a unicorn in his garden, the man went upstairs and roused his wife again. ‘The unicorn,’ he said, ‘ate a lily.’ His wife sat up in bed and looked at him, coldly. ‘You are a booby,’ she said, ‘and I am going to have you put in the booby-hatch.’ The man, who had never liked the words ‘booby’ and ‘booby-hatch’, and who liked them even less on a shining morning when there was a unicorn in the garden, thought for a moment. ‘We’ll see about that,’ he said. He walked over to the door. ‘He has a golden horn in the middle of his forehead,’ he told her. Then he went back to the garden to watch the unicorn; but the unicorn had gone away. The man sat down among the roses and went to sleep.
As soon as the husband had gone out of the house, the wife got up and dressed as fast as she could. She was very excited and there was a gloat in her eye. She telephoned the police and she telephoned a psychiatrist; she told them to hurry to her house and bring a straight-jacket. When the police and the psychiatrist arrived, they sat down in chairs and looked at her, with great interest. ‘My husband,’ she said, ‘saw a unicorn this morning.’ The police looked at the psychiatrist and the psychiatrist looked at the police. ‘He told me it ate a lily,’ she said. The psychiatrist looked at the police and the police looked at the psychiatrist. ‘He told me it had a golden horn in the middle of its forehead,’ she said. At a solemn signal from the psychiatrist, the police leaped from their chairs and seized the wife. They had a hard time subduing her, for she put up a terrific struggle, but they finally subdued her. Just as they got her into the straight-jacket, the husband came back into the house.
‘Did you tell your wife you saw a unicorn?’ asked the police. ‘Of course not,’ said the husband. ‘The unicorn is a mythical beast.’ ‘That’s all I wanted to know,’ said the psychiatrist. ‘Take her away. I’m sorry, sir, but your wife is as crazy as a jay bird.’ So they took her away, cursing and screaming, and shut her up in an institution. The husband lived happily ever after.
Moral: Don’t count your boobies until they are hatched.
'A clear sentence is no accident', says the author of 'On writing well'. Well, looks like you don't have to look far to find examples of these little 'accidents'. Just pick up any magazine or browse any website and you'll see most of the article headlines will have a number in them. 10 ways to improve your sex life. 37 websites for free graphics. 8 ways to get over your ex. Even football sites are learning precisely 5 lessons from every weekend match. Nothing more, nothing less. Just 5 lesson, derby or not.
I thought headlines like these died along with their 'how-to' cousins. Apparently not. Left to these guys, they would probably rewrite the classic Lemon ad with "3389 reasons why a VW is better" (3389 being the number of QC inspectors in those days). You can understand why, though. It's sheer laziness.I mean why go through hours of writing and rewriting when you can easily crank out a bunch of 'X ways to do Y' headlines? You can spend that time more productively, by hitting the like button on cat videos and posting close-up shots of food.
I don't know when it will stop, but it's spreading like a cliche. Close on its heels are the bullet points (bullets don't kill good copy, people do, to coin a phrase). While bullets have their place, they shouldn't be the only way to express one's point of view. But 'the-death-by-bullets' approach is dictated by the 'X ways to do Y' headline. And with the proliferation of online material on every topic by anyone with access to a computer and the internet, coupled with the short-attention span of the audience, it seems decent copy will have to roll over and die.
But you do see decent pieces sprinkled across the web, dodging the bullets so to speak, leading you to believe that there is still hope for well-written articles. Speaking of which, here's a link that you might find useful: http://goo.gl/KczFQJ
Something arty happened on the way to grocery shopping a couple of weekends ago. We picked up a lovely painting from Little Red Art's pop-up exhibition at Leisure Park, Kallang. They were just setting up the shop when we spotted this strikingly beautiful painting of Buddhist monks. The chirpy ex-banker running the outfit told us that they don't sell copies and hence this was a one-of-a-kind piece. And at around 500SGD it was extremely reasonable too.
The following week, after learning that the show was still on, we went back and picked up another piece (a HongKong cityscape) for less than $300. Besides the money-well-spent angle, there's a feel-good factor of supporting emerging artists in the SEA region. They showcase photographs too if you are into pixel-perfect art. Below are the paintings we bought and you can find them at http://www.little-red-art.com
Everywhere you look these days you are bombarded with headlines that promise 7 ways to improve sex life or 28 sites that will change your life or 76 ways to stop going insane from reading articles with titles with numbers in them. That and articles with bullet pointed lists.
I thought headlines like these died circa 1960 when Bill Bernbach revolutionised advertising with intelligence and wit. But no. Someone who was not on the memo sent by all the great ads from Bernbach, Abbot and the like crawled out of a stone, found a keyboard and just continued from where they left off. If it were up to these guys, they would rewrite (using write loosely here) the classic Lemon ad with "3389 reason why a VW is better" because that's the number of inspectors checking each VW. Or worse. I don't know when it will stop, but it's spreading like a cliche.It is as worrying as the spread of SMS lingo (omg!).
Close on its heels are the bullet points (bullets don't kill good copy, people do). While bullet points have their place in copy, they shouldn't be the only way to express one's point of view. It's just plain lazy or incompetence. But that's dictated by the headline, which, these days is all about '15 ways to something' or '27 ways to not do something'. With the proliferation of online material on every topic, and given the short-attention span of the audience, it is a genuine worry.
But you do see decent pieces sprinkled across the web, dodging the bullets so to speak, which give you hope that there is still hope for well-written articles.
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This is about writing (mine and my favorite authors'), and e-publishing. Hope you find it useful. You can click on the covers below to read excerpts and purchase my ebooks.
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