Sunday, July 25, 2010

Using Credit Cards well

I am quite surprised by the fact that there are several people who have no idea how Credit Cards work. First of all, most of these them think that if they have paid the ‘Minimum amount due’, they can pay the ‘outstanding amount’ whenever they feel like, and no extra amount needs to be paid.

I had 3 such discussions with different people. The first one had splurged huge amount of money on his credit card and paid half the amount. He thought, he will pay the balance next month but he did not know that he will be paying interest to the tune of 2.5 to 3.5 % per month on the outstanding balance.

Second one had spent a few thousands on his card, and paid back most of it, except Rs 1000. He had linked his account to the credit card, so the ‘minimum amount due’ was debited every month to his bank account. He thought he just needs to pay Rs 1000, but the fact is he would be paying huge interest per month on the outstanding balance.

Well, I got my first Credit Card when my first salary account was created. I was scared of credit cards then, since I had heard too many stories of people ending up paying huge amounts of interest on their cards. So, I did not use it for an entire year. Then I moved to a different city and started getting to know the ‘credit cards’ better. So, I took the initiative and used it. And well, there has never been looking back thereafter.

Somewhere in the middle, I had spent a lot of money on my card but over the years I have learnt to limit my expenses and work around the cards well.

So, the rule of the game is you should always memorize the statement and due dates well. Say your statement date is 20th of July, so once your statement is generated, the best time to use the card is immediately after that. So, you can use it on 21st, 22nd, 23rd and so on. This amount that you have spent on your credit card will feature on your bill only on 20th of August and the due date before which you need to make the payment, will be somewhere around 5th of September, so you will have ample time to pay back! Easy.

Also, it works well if you use only 1 card, or maximum 2. It is easier to remember all important dates plus you accumulate all points on a single card, which you can redeem for several benefits!

So, use your Credit Card intelligently and enjoy the benefits!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Ubiquitous TV and the school days!

Reading At the Edge, I was transported into my early school days. Those ads from yesteryears, those visuals….they are delightful and nostalgic. As a kid, I used to sing along all the ads.

Sunday mornings were devoted to Ramayan and Mahabharat. They were engaging and fascinating, especially for us kids because we did not know the stories of Indian mythology. It was our first brush with these great Indian epics. Of course, right now, owing to my fascination for Mahabharata, I have read several versions. I still don’t know and am not able to remember a lot of characters, but I know more than an average Joe! I used to be so upset, when the casting would appear and the programme would end, because then you would have to wait an entire week for the next episode. Those were the days when there would be ads before and after the programmes, never in-between. Now look at the idiot box today, there are daily soaps dime-a-dozen, which are repeated twice or thrice during the course of the day. There are atleast 2-3 breaks in-between the programmes, so that you can do channel hopping and watch multiple serials at one time. I just hate watching movies on TV with others. I hate surfing channels when there’s a good movie on, because invariably, somebody gets interested in another programme and then begins the continuous surfing and watching 2 programmes at one time. I just hate it! It just ruins the impact of a good movie.

Schools used to be from Monday till Saturday. Sunday would be a free, relaxing day. In those days, kids were free to do whatever we want to, no rushing for tennis classes or dance classes or any such classes. Invariably, the breakfast would be Upma or Idli / Dosa. You would get up to the grinding sounds of mixer, huffing / puffing / grinding the rice batter for Idli / Dosa! No such hassles now though. Idli batters are available ready-made on the kirana store next door!

Sunday afternoons will invariably be dedicated for delicious chicken cooked by mum, and afternoon siesta. Doordarshan would play regional language movies. Now I realise those were Award winning, great movies but at that age I never could appreciate the dark (read art) movies. I also regret not giving enough attention to ‘Discovery of India’. I would fall asleep watching it. I also remember trying to watch a movie (can’t remember the name right now) which had Shabana Azmi, Roopa Ganguly and few others. It started on a rainy day and ends on the same or some other rainy day. It never made any sense to me.

Those were the days when our lives would not revolve around TV, we kids would actually play in the evenings, which I rarely see with kids these days. If I had to grow up in this age, I don’t know what kind of childhood I would have got. I would have been spoilt for choices.

After coming back from school, we would take lunch. Though my brother would conveniently pass on his bag to me and go for playing football. He knew he would get bashing after coming back but he did not mind as long as he had fun! I would also make a ‘bechari’ face after carrying 2 bags, and try to increase his punishment for making me do it. You cannot win from an elder brother, we had enough fights for me to understand this, but you can certainly work your ‘little sister’ tag well to make up for the bullying he did to you to get some thrashing from mum-dad ;-) Sorry brother! But I was the ‘good’ one, and he was the ‘naughty’ one. I would listen wide eyed to his made-up stories, and he would make me laugh hysterically, which would prompt my dad to scold me for complaining later on getting thrashed by my brother! But I would always, always vouch for an elder brother. It is comforting, and fun!

So, where was I? Afternoons were meant for siestas, and we were supposed to go out for playing only after 4pm. Of course, many times I would sneak out even before that. I was supposed to be back before sunset. But those times were fun – running, cycling, playing! The entire neighbourhood would come alive with the laughter of children.

Cable channels, initially meant the local channels which would play new movies. Then we had Zee TV. I used to love ‘Farman’ on Doordarshan; and ‘Campus’ on Zee TV – may be they were on air during different time periods but those are the memories of my school days. My mum never let me watch ‘Banegi Apni Baat’ and ‘Hip Hip Hurray’ because she felt they promoted too much of metro culture. Whatever! I was also hooked to ‘I dream of Jeanie’, ‘Bewitched’ and ‘Small Wonder’.

TV should not rule our lives. I see it happening increasingly these days. They are always on. One of the things I nag my husband about is, unsubscribing Tata Sky. I hate the persistent noise of TV in my home. TV has certainly come to invade our personal space. There is always so much time in a day, but we still keep complaining about not having enough time because we waste a lot of time sitting unblinkingly in front of the TV. I completely disapprove of it. I consciously avoid wasting my time on idiot box. I only like to catch good movies on TV, or watch FRIENDS while I am doing something like cooking or making collage or reading a magazine etc. I will never only watch TV. People argue that atleast for News we should watch TV. I think, the kind of news they keep on ranting about is anyways worthless. Nobody really watches much TV at my home, but whenever somebody visits – my parents or his – it is always spent more on following the serials and less on talking amongst us.

Perhaps, in the earlier days, we were much better because TV was in moderation. There were 2-3 good programmes in a week. With so much of choice in everything, I don’t know where are we going!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Expressions of creativity

I mostly ride my 2-wheeler for several reasons. I am still not too comfortable behind the driving wheel, it is tedious to find place for parking, it is much easier to whiz past in heavy traffic….blah, blah, blah! So, I get too see a lot of things while commuting. I am especially enamoured by the variety of number plates people have, and even diverse messages on their car, on their bikes!

Earlier I had mentioned about this extremely cute message on a car “not so close darling. I hardly know you”. It really made me smile!

Most common ones are inscribing your religion on your vehicle, be it the stickers of various gods (ganesha is the most preferred, some also go for sai baba), you would also occasionally find a ‘786’ or a ‘cross’. ‘Aai-baba cha aashirwad’, ‘Daddy’s gift’, etc, also can be seen a lot.

Anther trend is creating names or words out of numbers. Many times some numbers are more prominent, rest are too small to even be legible.

In fact, what really prompted this post was the number plate I saw today. It said “careful! Stunter ahead!”. ‘Army’, ‘Press’, Doctor’s cross sign are also very, very common.

Trucks, cars and few bikes display names of the kids of the family. In fact, I also came across 1 car with the photograph of the children on the back.

Many times when I see distorted numbers, I fee strongly that there should be a standardized format for Number plates. In accident cases, one would never be able to make out the correct number of the offenders. A number plate should not be an expression of creativity, it has some purpose and when there is too much of clutter, distorted numbers and creativity at play, it just beats the purpose. A standardized format also orients people in grasping the numbers much more quickly. In current context, even an alert person on the road might take several precious minutes to make out what the number exactly is.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blabbering of the mind!

It is said grass is always greener on the other side. And not for nothing! In my hectic professional life, I sometimes wonder what could life be as a fulltime housewife. When I look at long hours at work, continuous stressful state of mind, follow ups and more follow ups; it seems such an idyllic state of being! But is it so? I cannot even survive one weekend doing nothing. People have called me weird at different stages of life. I like getting up really early on a holiday, others prefer sleeping till late. And well, with the entire day on hand, I keep wondering how to best utilize the day. I have this inherent quest for a perfect, balanced life. My passion for books and magazines is strange and all-consuming. I have them in every imaginable corner of my home. But we all have our idiosyncrasies.

I am overjoyed with the sense of achievement when a job is accomplished well. It is exhilarating, and it makes all the sweat worthwhile. But I have romantic notions of stay-at-home life…… getting up early (at sunrise), exercising, cycling, having green tea, taking in the fresh air of early morning, cooking, catching up on good movies (which I always miss, since I am at office), spending time with family, finally complete all the filing, bank-related work that I always wanted to do, finally read ALL magazines, books which I have hoarded since so many years now (!), finally read newspaper (from front to back). Ah! If only life was so simple and ideal. I am certain that I will not survive this ‘do-nothing’ phase for more than a week. It is something else to take time off from work and enjoy holidays, and something else to be completely out of touch from professional life. After all, it has contributed to my being.

Perhaps, perfect life is a misnomer. Perhaps, after a while, everything becomes mundane, and routine. Perhaps, there is merit in enjoying the moment.