Checking out Kotak’s Jifi

Banking is a necessity. Where else would we store our hard earned money for safekeeping, or withdraw from when we need to spend it? Digging up the earth and storing money in a deep pit, and doing the digging again to recover is too ancient. Besides, there is always the chance that someone might easily take it from there, or it might suffer damages from the elements. This is also why I like to be updated with the latest in banking, for the convenience it offers.
I don’t remember when was the last time I went to a store to make my phone bill payment. If I want to order some pizza home, I do it online. Utility bills are taken care of online. Banking has evolved to something more than just a means to store your money. This is why I am keen when it comes to new facilities and features to banking. I decided to check out Kotak’s Jifi which offers some new features.
Zero Minimum Balance:
As much as I like saving money, sometimes you have one of those cash crunches at the end of the month (because you had a tiring fortnight that required multiple helpings of eating out, and purchase of new books that you would eventually get down to reading), this helps.

Social Banking:
By linking your twitter account with Jifi, you can operate your account via twitter and hashtags. I was skeptical about the security, but they have a dedicated secure server and all the info is via Direct Messages and not tweets, which keeps it private. Most of the available functions are pretty common these days (cheque book request, balance details, etc.). The feature that caught my attention is the ability to find the nearest ATM, when you’re hard pressed for cash and someone won’t accept cards. Just send them a DM and they will send you the address of the available ATMs in your area.
While this is a good facility, I don’t see myself using it much out of fear that someone may see my details on the cell. I know that I can protect my cell with a password, but I use it frequently which makes a password tedious for me.

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Friend Referral:
When friends or family join Jifi via a referral from you, you get bonus points that can be later redeemed as 1 INR worth each point. Based on a maximum of 25 Referrals per year, you can collect (and redeem) 6250 INR worth points. Which is an added bonus.

Transaction points:
This isn’t a feature that is new or limited to Jifi. Different banks have different manners of executing this. In Jifi you get 25 points for transactions above 500 INR, with a maximum limit of 1800 points a year. So this is 1800 INR bonus for us, which is nice.

Banking Application:
This offers the same facility to operate your bank account via mobile (as is the norm with banks these days). For reasons mentioned in Social Banking, I will not be using this.

Platinum Debit Card:
This is helpful when you want to make large purchases (like electronics) or are travelling and might need cash. The card gives you a higher transaction limit by which you can withdraw 50000 INR daily, or spend 2 Lakh via swiping for purchasing. Additionally there is insurance for card loss and misuse, so that adds a later of security.

Account availability:
While the account is easy to open, and is done online via a friend’s referral or through the Kotak Jifi website (https://www.kotakjifi.com), it is currently limited to select 12 cities. Now this is what prevents me from opening an account, since my city is not a part of the list (Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune). In this case I think that they should have started with more cities and covered a larger customer base. They’ll be adding more cities soon, so will have to wait for when I can get an account.

Since it is free to open an account (and you get joining bonus points), I am looking forward to open an account when I can.

 

I came to know about Kotak Jifi via Indiblogger, and have written this blog post for it.

Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore

I had ordered Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore based on a recommendation I found on Flavorwire. Written by Robin Sloan, this is his first book.

Recession has caused Clay Jannon, a web designer to be out of a paying job. He finds work at Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour book store, run by the titular man. When being screened for the job, Penumbra asks him, “What do you seek in these shelves?” The answer to that will unfold the secret to immortality, which a secret order has been looking for, over the last 500 years. An answer that possibly cannot be found without using the technology and tools at our disposal today.

Clay works the night shift as a clerk at the book store. The customers for the books are few. However there exists a shelves of books at the back of the bookstore (called the Wayback List), which seem to not have been published anywhere else. These books attract a weird base of customers, who from time to time issue the books for their own perusal. While told no to open the books, curiosity gets the better of him, and Clay realizes that these books contain coded text. But Clay doesn’t limit himself to pen and paper like these customers do, and uses his computer to crack the code.
In this process he meets Kat, who works at Google. She dresses in the same tee with a ‘Bam’ on it, is an expert at data visualization, wants to be a Project Manager at work, and is thrilled by the idea of Singularity (where technology and humans become one, a point beyond which we cannot even fathom what lies ahead). Enlisting the help of Kat and a childhood friend Neel Shah (who is start up owner that deals with computer generated 3D human bodies, but predominantly breasts), they approach Penumbra with the solution.

Instead of being mad, he is glad that they cracked it to the point of being impressed at their use of modern technology with ease. Penumbra however, disappears the next day. Worried, they form a team (A wizard, a warrior and a rogue) and trace him to New York. They find a symbol similar to the one outside his bookstore at the entrance of the building, which Penumbra tells them is a front for the secret order called the Unbroken Spine. Their objective is to search for the secrets to immortality, clues to which have been left in yet another coded text written by the founder of the order (aptly named as the Founder’s Puzzle).

The symbol for the Unbroken Spine

The symbol for the Unbroken Spine

 

They determine to now solve this puzzle which the Unbroken Spine have failed to do for 500 years in spite of having used some brilliant mathematicians and cryptographers.

The book is an easy read. As a narrator, Clay describes his world in detail. His thoughts and observations are interesting. Take his description of his girlfriend Kat:

“…is a Googler. So, she really is a genius. Also, one of her teeth is chipped in a cute way.”

When she wears the same tee shirt when she meets him the next day, he thinks that “(a) she slept in it, (b) she owns several identical t-shirts, or (c) she’s a cartoon character — all of which are appealing alternatives.”

There are more layers to the book than just the decoding of this text. There is an underlying current about the transition from old to new, from traditional methods to new found. This is exemplified in the form of books and e-readers. There is a time when even Penumbra wonders in awe at the Kindle and other e-readers, as to how volumes and shelves of books condense into one hand held device.

I have only two grievances with the book. The primary one, as with most books that I have loved is that the book feels too small. I want more of it, where the story arcs are longer and drawn out. This is something, I wouldn’t hold against the author. He does the story justice in 300 pages. The second grievance is that the adventure feels too easy. It’s not that it has not been described well, or isn’t intriguing and involving; it’s just that when the characters face obstacles, they are able to overcome them with some stroke of luck, or a specific skillset/resource one of their friends has.

The book is a treasure trove for book lovers. There are many wonderful lines that would make readers smile with joy, probably a reflection of Sloan’s own love for reading. I will leave you with some such lines.

 

“Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines — it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.”

“I’ve never listened to an audiobook before, and I have to say it’s a totally different experience. When you read a book, the story definitely takes place in your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes”

“…this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard. This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard.”

“Some of them are working very hard indeed. “What are they doing?” “My boy!” he said, eyebrows raised. As if nothing could be more obvious. “They are reading!”

“A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”

“He asked <…> Rosemary, why do you love books so much?
And I said, Well, I don’t know <…> I suppose I love them because they’re quiet, and I can take them to the park.”

Front cover of Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour Bookstore

Front cover of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore

How to backup your blog

I love blogging. As a matter of principle, I like my own blog posts as well on the account that I have written them. Sometimes when the mood does set in, I read my own blog. I read random posts, and the comments and replies. It is fun, brings a sense of nostalgia, and I end up catching some typos or grammatical error that I may have managed to incorporate. As much as I would like to, I am not always connected to internet. It can be highly impractical to be so. Which is why I like to make an offline backup of my blog so that I can read it as per my convenience.

Another added advantage of taking backup is that should something happen to my blog, I can restore my posts and reader comments. In fact when I moved from Blogger to WordPress, I was able to easily transfer my posts and comments in a jiff instead of manually copying and pasting it. Most blogging platforms do support this feature. It is popularly known as exporting, and is done via an XML file.

 

Blogger:

Go to the dropdown menu next to the Orange Compose button on your home page/dash board. Click on settings.

bloggersettings

Select ‘Other’ at the bottom of the left sidebar, which will lead you to ‘Other’ settings. You can now click on Export Blog to export your blog via the XML file. Save this XML file on your computer.

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WordPress:

Open your blog Admin dashboard, and not the reader page. You can access this from the thumbnail at the top right of your reader, or ****.wordpress.com/wp-admin/ (where ****.worpdress.com) is YOUR blog address.

Go to Tools and then select Export from the drop out menu in the left sidebar.

toolscreen

 

You now have an option to export for free or a paid ‘Guided Transfer’. Select the free ‘Export’ option, and save the XML file to your computer.

export options wp

Now these are the XML files that contain your blog back up data, but you cannot read them. You will need to upload this data to another blogging platform where you can maintain another online backup, or you can save them as a PDF (which you can use to read offline like I do). We will use a free facility via the BlogBooker website.

 

Generating the PDF backup of your blog:

Open the BlogBooker website (http://www.blogbooker.com)

You can select your blogging platform (Blogger, WordPress, or Livejournal).

Select the ‘Choose File’ option to upload the XML file you have saved. Enter your blog URL in the ‘Blog URL’ form box.

wpbboker1

 

Below you will have some options choose from. These include the date range from which you want the posts, the paper size (for printing), whether you want the reader comments, and the order of posts (Chronological – order of posting from oldest to newest, Reverse Chronological – order of posting newest to oldest). Click on ‘Create your BlogBook’ button above.

bbookeroptions

After the processing is done as shown on the screen, you will get a process completion message on the screen with a Book image that shows that your PDF book is ready. You can click on this open it and then save it, or right click on the image and select ‘Save link as’ or a variation of the same and save it on your computer.

processcompleted

 

And Voila, your blog now has a backup that can be used for an online backup (XML file) and another (PDF file) that can be used to read offline. You can also have this PDF file printed and bound to convert your blog into a hard copy book.

Cheers.

On my walls

A home is an important factor in our lives. In spite of the obvious fact that it provides us shelter, it is something that is our own. A place where we can be we, have our own environment of desire, and sense of being. This is why home is where we can be the most comfortable. An important aspect of the home are the walls of the place. While structurally important, they are also add a feel, a vibe so as to say based on what color we apply on them, and what we hang on them. It is not that I do not have a home, but it is in essence mom’s home. In itself, I see no harm or wrong in living with your parents. It is all based on the personal equation you share with them.
The idea that I have, is that it is the home she bought. She literally saved money penny by penny, and over a period of time so much of her has come into how the home is. There are of course some touches that are mine, a reflection of who I am and this is on account of the years that I have spent living there. Now I will talk of what my house would be, and how I would like it.

I have a fascination for posters. The posters that you put up on your walls are important, because you’re adding something tangible and very visual of what you like. I am a big fan of comics and cartoons. One of the earliest cartoons that I fell in love with was Batman animated series. In itself, it is a wonderful series. It makes good use of the audio visual medium through their art, and voices of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker. I have wanted a Batman poster ever since, and finally bought one that shows him in all his glory: with his rouges gallery.

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While Batman is a definite favorite when it comes to DC Comics, I don’t have a clear favorite from Marvel. I have loved Spider Man, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Hulk, Iron Man, Nate Grey equally (or sometimes more) from time to time. This is why I settled for this poster, which has different panels from Marvel Comics, and covers most of the characters.

marvel_comics_comic_panels_maxi_poster_raw

Pink Floyd is one of my favorite bands. I don’t listen to it as much as most fans though, frequently have to look up their names, and can recognize only a handful of their tracks by name. However they’re responsible for some of my favorite music, and along with AC DC, formed the gateway into English rock music for me. This poster is the famous the Back Catalogue poster that I first saw at my tattoo artist’s place. It has women sitting on the edge of a pool, with album art painted on their back. I did have this framed and put up at my previous rented place, but it got stolen during shifting.

pink floyd back catalogue

Calvin and Hobbes has always been a delightful read for me. Apart from the obvious fun and laughs, it transports me to simpler times, and how Hobbes is a safety anchor for Calvin who wants to do all that he wants. They are in true sense, soul mates.

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Calvin

Recently, I have fallen in love with the Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin, which has also been made into the Game of Thrones TV Series. ‘Winter is coming’ is a popular line from the series, but this poster reads that ‘War is coming’. It has such a brilliant depiction of it, a bloodied hand holding a throne high with victory. It shows the power and loss of lives associated with thrones.

Game_of_Thrones_War_is_Coming

I do have all these posters with me, after the incident with the Floyd poster (which I bought again), I have decided to keep them rolled up in the packaging they came in. As of now I plan to frame them and let them see light once I move to a permanent place.

Written as a guest post for Project 365. The prompt was “What do you display on the walls of your home — photos, posters, artwork, nothing? How do you choose what to display? What mood are you trying to create?”

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My Wishing stick

I have always enjoyed reading fantasy novels, and fairy tales when I was young(er). If you read enough, it starts creeping into your mind much after shut the book and sleep over. This happened to me soon after I had read Cinderella and had begun watching Aladdin. I was fascinated with the fairy Godmother, because of her ability to swish her wand and make things happen.

One day while walking back to home from the bus stop, I found a beautiful looking piece of stick that had fallen off a tree. For some reason I had picked up and was twiddling with it all the way back home. I had just started watching Swat Kats on Cartoon Network, and was wishing that I would be in time to catch the day’s episode. Wonder of wonders, I did make it in time to watch the day’s episode.

The first thing that I did after the episode got over, was to run down and find the stick which I threw before entering home (cause people at home would throw a fit). I managed to sneak it in, and hide it in my school bag. Every other day, I would take it out and make a wish and most of these wishes did come true. If I think back, I did make simple wishes like wishing for Pizza, getting decent marks for the test (that I would have studied for) and being in time for a tv show.

I did tell one friend about it, who was my best friend. He asked me to wish for some thing, I don’t remember what, but it happened. Both of us collectively freaked out. It wasn’t the first time for me to have a wish come true via the wishing stick (which is what I had come to call it), but it was magic and YEAY!

A few days later it came to me that I wouldn’t be able to hold on to the stick for long. Eventually my friend would tell someone, or someone would tell that I had a stick in my bag. So I did something that came logically to me at that time, I wished from the stick to get its powers and not need it again. Then I threw the stick as far as I could.

Sadly, my wishes stopped coming true. I think this also has to do with what I started to wish for, like ice cream when I was down with fever, or good marks for a test that I had not prepared for, or for pizza in school. Oh well, one learns.

 

Written for the A to Z Challenge

Valerie’s Letter

V for Vendetta is one of my favourite graphic novels and movies. Written by the legendary Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, it is the story of alternate reality England. Following a nuclear war, a fascist party comes to reign. Violent and authoritian, it rules the state by means of fear. It detains its opponents and those it chooses to discriminate (e.g. homosexuals) in concentration camps, where they are experimented upon.

One such person is known by the code name V, who wants to bring this party down, and bring back freedom to the people. He plans to groom Evey Hammond as his successor. He was at one point just another detainee in cell no. 5 (or V), whose blood reacts to a biological weapon to cause him to develop enhanced strength, senses and reflexes.

An important character in this story is Valerie Paige. Valerie is a fellow detainee of V, and is kept in an adjacent cell. Valerie had been imprisoned for being a Lesbian. While they don’t have any face to face interaction, he manages to read a letter Valerie wrote before dying. This is also the letter that is later found by Evey when she is detained. It is the contents of this letter that transform V (and later Evey) into revolutionaries.

While the letter is adapted for the current times in the movie adaptation, it holds the essence of the letter in the novel. A character who gets to spend a very short time in the story, she acts like a catalyst that leads to large impact on account of the changes she brings into V and Evey. Here is the scene from the movie when Evey reads her letter.

 

 

“I know there’s no way I can convince you this is not one of their tricks. But I don’t care. I am me.

My name is Valerie. I don’t think i’ll live much longer, and I wanted to tell someone about my life. This is the only autobiography that i’ll ever write, and – God – i’m writing it on toilet paper. I was born in Nottingham in 1985. I don’t remember much of those early years. But I do remember the rain.

My grandmother owned a farm in Tottlebrook, and she used to tell me that God was in the rain.I passed my eleven plus, and went to a girl’s grammar. It was at school that I met my first girlfriend. Her name was Sarah. It was her wrists – they were beautiful. I thought we would love each other forever. I remember our teacher telling us that it was an adolescent phase that people outgrew. Sarah did. I didn’t.

In 2002 I fell in love with a girl named Christina. That year I came out to my parents. I couldn’t have done it without Chris holding my hand. My father wouldn’t look at me. He told me to go and never come back. My mother said nothing.I’d only told them the truth. Was that so selfish? Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. And within that inch, we are free.

I’d always known what i’d wanted to do with my life, and in 2015 I started my first film: The Salt Flats. It was the most important role of my life. Not because of my career, but because that was how I met Ruth. The first time we kissed, I knew I never wanted to kiss any other lips but hers again. We moved to a small flat in London together. She grew scarlet carsons for me in our window box. And our place always smelt of roses. Those were the best years of my life.

But America’s war grew worse and worse, and eventually came to London. After that there were no roses anymore. Not for anyone. I remember how the meaning of words began to change. How unfamiliar words like “collateral” and “rendition” became frightening. When things like norsefire and the articles of allegiance became powerful. I remember how different became dangerous. I still don’t understand it: why they hate us so much.

They took Ruth while she was out buying food. I’ve never cried so hard in my life. It wasn’t long until they came for me. It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place. But for three years I had roses – and apologised to no-one.

I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch. But one. An inch. It is small and it is fragile, and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I hope that – whoever you are – you escape this place. I hope that the world turns, and that things get better.

But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may not meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you: I love you. With all my heart. I love you.

-Valerie.”

 

It  is one of the most moving scenes from a movie that I have watched.

 

Written for the A to Z Challenge

 

The uncle at the ATM

Back in 1998, ATM was still a new thing. Few people knew what it was; leave alone how it is used. I was in 7th or 8th standard, and was aware of how basic bank transactions work. Owing to my innate curiosity, I was more than eager to know how an ATM works. I would listen to friends of Uncle talk about it in awe, as to how one could withdraw cash from an apparatus in the wall, instead of the lengthy procedure we follow. Unfortunately, neither my uncle nor his friends knew the details or wanted to find out.

Having heard that it works on a card, I even tried to use it myself. Instead of an ATM card, the younger me grabbed a visiting card of the bank’s manager we had. Clearly, it didn’t work. I couldn’t even get pass the scanner which opens the door to the ATM cabin. I took the next logical step that I could think of, and walked inside the bank to ask one of their employees. Instead of my curiosity being satisfied, I was patronized and sent back out. They laughed off my curiosity and asked me to go to mommy-daddy. They wouldn’t listen that they (Uncle & Aunt in my case) also didn’t know.

My curiosity however would be addressed few weeks later. I was coming back from a game of cricket with friends, when I saw a man get down from his car and walk towards the bank. Since it was almost 8 in the night and way past the bank working hours, he went to the atm. I approached this uncle (it is common to address older men as uncle in India), and politely asked him if he could tell me how it all works. Instead of laughing or ridiculing me, he simply smiled and began to explain it in a matter of fact manner.

Once he was done with his explanations and answering more of my questions, he simply asked as to which school I went to and what my name was. Not only did he accept my curiosity and entertained it, but was happy that I was actually curious enough about such things to ask others about it. I walked into school the next day, proud of my knowledge of how ATMs work and eager to share the same with my friends.

I was called up by a teacher to the staff room. It turned out that this man was the husband of the teacher who had just joined my school. Imagine that. To this day, this is one of the encounters that I have had with a stranger that will stay memorable.

 

Post written as a Guest Author for the team of Project 365. The prompt was “Have you ever had a random encounter or fleeting moment with a stranger that stuck with you?”

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Written for Day 21 of the A to Z Challenge.