2016 – A Recap

A bit late doing my year end ritual as i was traveling.  There were a more downs than ups in the year 2016.  A brief summary.

looking back

  1. Finished 4 papers of my CFP exams (Risk, Investment, Retirement & Tax Planning modules).  If not for a lot of interruptions, would have attempted the Advanced Financial Planning module in November itself.  As of now, its pushed into the new year.
  2. Read just 5 books in the whole year.  While i read a whole lot of other literature.  Broadened my reading interests into medicine, astronomy, personal finance, behavioral finance, company annual reports etc
  3. Watched more than 90 odd movies.
  4. For the first time started watching TV series and a whole new world of entertainment opened for me.  Once i started watching TV Series, i lost interest in movies.  Watched all seasons of House of Cards, Breaking Bad, The Americans, Narcos, The Night Manager, Billions, Banshee (2 seasons), Homeland (1 season) & The Good Wife.
  5. Traveled a lot.  Multiple trips to Bangalore, Kerala, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Haldwani-Kathgodam, Srinagar-Srikot (Uttarakhand)
  6. A loved one had a real health scare and i spent more than 20 days at the hospital attending to him.  Watching death from such close quarters made me realise the importance of being healthy.
  7. Towards end of October, started going for early morning walk/jogs. Tried to stick judiciously to the daily 10000 steps target throughout the year.  Did a lot of calisthenics (body weight exercises), some free weights and aerobics.  In just about 5-6 weeks was able to have a better toned body and dropped a few cms from the waist line.
  8. For the 5th year running, the annualized returns of my equity portfolio beat the annualized returns of the Sensex.  Its not something that i consciously ever worked upon, but it just happened. Some of the best performing stocks in the portfolio were Sonata Software, Hindalco, Bharat Forge, Rallis, Gruh Finance.
  9. The blog got hacked and i had to totally wipeout the site and rebuild. I had infrequent and incomplete backups and so restoration was a pain. For an IT guy, not having proper backups of the website was a big mistake to commit. Didnt matter much as i hardly blogged in the past year. Had thoughts of letting the domain name go, but i have already been holding the domain name for more than 6-7 years now. I have some interesting plans for the same in the future.

As always, the new year presents more challenges and am actually looking forward with much more excitement.

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A Trip to Shilparamam Exhibition

It’s an arts and crafts village and having opened in 1998, it was the first time ever that I made a trip to Shilparamam. Though I had been coming on and off to the city of Hyderabad during my decade long stay in Singapore, a trip to the Shilparamam exhibition was never on my mind inspite of having visited other places in Hitec city.

Honestly, there is nothing much to do there unless you want to shop.  Looking at the things that they sell, you realize that its primarily aimed at the female audience.  There is nothing much for the guys to do other than lugging around all the purchase that your partner does and paying for the same.  The place sells a lot of handicrafts, sarees, kurtis and other hand made products. A lot of merchants from Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, North East and other parts of India put up their wares.  As most of the products are sold by the producers themselves, all the money goes back to them.  Since no middlemen are involved, the prices are not really so high as I suspected before.  Best of all, you can haggle on the prices to your hearts content.

A visit to Shilparamam’s exhibition bought back memories of the annual Numaish (Exhibition) at Nampally that takes place in January-February of every year.  I believe the spread of things and products on offer at the annual Numaish are much better than what is offered here at Shilparamam.  Anyway, its not worth the comparison as the Numaish has been around for around 50 odd years now.  Shilparamam is slowly on the way to establish its own identity.

The one good thing about the place is it the green cover. It feels lovely to walk under the trees and taking in the nature.  A few birds here and there, a few fountains (that were unfortunately not working when we went there), a lake with a few ducks swimming around, some swings for a couple of people to swing together, a rock garden,  some rock sculptures and lots of love birds cootchie cooing at different corners.  Not to mention boating in the lake, few adventure sports and lots of rocks to climb if you have the patience. Just don’t blame the officials of the place if you get injured while climbing those rocks.

A few artisans were working on creating some new sculptures with waste products and the place was cordoned off.  But a glance at the work they did and it looked really imaginative and beautiful.

Shilparamam Timings

  • 10:30 am to 8:00 pm

Entry Fees

  • Adults  Rs 30
  • Children Rs15

Shilparamam Events

  •  Other than the shopping, there is a rock garden with some rock sculptures (both man made and ones created naturally).  You can laze around, take your time and enjoy the sculptures.  A great view of the buildings in Hitech City is worth it from the highest vantage points of the rock garden.
  • Rural Museum – There are some authentically made huts constructed with clay and thatches which depict the rural and tribal lifestyle of India.  The museum has some good sculptures and life sized models of the day to day life of artisans living in the rural places of India.
  • There is a very good open ground with lush lawns where people can sit around and have a picnic.  There is also a very good stage that can be used for performances.
  • A few food courts are there which dish out authentic Andhra Pradesh cuisine.  A traditional Andhra meal served on banana leaf is also served here.
  • Apart from all these, there is an Amphitheater where cultural programs like folk dances, cultural programs are organized.  Also a night bazaar is supposed to open by the end of this year.  The night bazaar will have four themes
  • Azma (Stone Age)
  • Vedic Age
  • Sultanate
  • Adhunic (modern)

It will provide 60,000 sq ft of shopping space with 250 shops and 1.6 lakh sq ft of landscaped garden area. It will run from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., every day.

Shilpakala Vedika

It’s a massive venue which can be used by corporates or cultural organizations to conduct their meetings or cultural programs.  Movie shoots, weddings, reception and corporate meetings can be organized at this auditorium.

Shilparamam Contacts

Phone         91 (40) 64518164
Fax             91 (40) 23114759 / 23100455
Email          info@shilparamam.org (or) shilparamamhyd@yahoo.com
Webiste      http://www.shilparamam.org

Address     Hitech city Main Road, Hitech City, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh 500081

 

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How To Create a Vegetable Garden at Home, Eat Healthy and Control Food Inflation

In these days of runaway inflation and as more and more people migrate to the cities, there are lesser and lesser people who are working on the farms.  But the human population growth on this planet is not slowing down.  This is putting lots of pressure on the food market with food inflation always on the rise.

The Indian Reserve Bank has been trying to keep a lid on the inflation index for many months now. Keeping the interest rates high for more than a year has meant that overall inflation has dipped to single digits, but the food inflation is still stubbornly placed in the double digits.

Leafy Veg

Cause of Food Inflation

According to Wikipedia, “inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.”  So, what is worth Rs 100 today could cost you Rs 110 the next year.  Salaries might not increase at the same pace and this puts immense pressure on the family budget.

Today more and more people live in nuclear families and most of them in apartments. Living in an independent landed property is now a pipe dream for many families. Both husband and wife have to work to keep the kitchen fires burning.  Surviving on one salary is not enough

India is the world’s second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world after China.  As per the 2010 National Horticultural Database, during 2009-10 India produced 71 million metric tonnes of fruits and 133 million metric tonnes of vegetables.  With no proper storage and cold storage facilities most of the vegetables and fruits rot before it reaches the market.  As India doesn’t really have the infrastructure to process the fruits and vegetables to preserve it, the problem is exacerbated.

Guava

With unhelpful government allies like the Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party and the perennial flip flop kings the BJP, FDI in retail is a far way off.  Without FDI, and without proper guidelines, proper infrastructure cannot be created.  This means that food inflation is here to stay and stay for many more years to come.

How to Control Food Inflation?

Well, you can crib about the government not doing anything to ease your pains like we are so adept at doing.  We believe the government should help us in each and every way possible but baulk when we realize that in this process the government is micro-managing our lives.

Long beans
Long beans

The better solution is to do is by having a vegetable garden at home.  Or  can call it a kitchen garden.  Ya, I know now you will start complaining that I don’t really have the time, farming is a labour intensive job and that I don’t have enough information on farming etc.

Vegetable garden is very easy to start off and will take just a small portion of your kitchen or your balcony (if you live in an apartment).

Creating a Vegetable Garden / Kitchen Garden

  • Some of the vegetables (green leafy) don’t really need a lot of space to grow and can perfectly grow in the shades.  This means that people in the apartments can grow such plants in the limited place (balconies) that they have.
  • Go to the nearest plant nursery near your place and buy a pot and some seeds of the vegetables you want to grow.  Talk to the person selling the seeds for more information on how you can grow them.  Or research a bit on the internet for more information on the plants.
  • You don’t really need any fertilizers for the plants. For manure, talk to your milkman to supply some cow dung that can be used as a natural fertilizer.  Some of the leaves mixed with mud will also make for organic manure for the plant.As much as possible stay away from pesticides.  In case there are any insects or worms on the plants, you can buy a neem cake from the seeds shop, mix it with water and spray on the plants.  Its an eco friendly and effective solution.
Chilli
  • Don’t forget to water the plants.  Different plants require different kind of watering.  So don’t under water or over water.  You can do a bit of experimentation here and there and will come to know over a period of time the exact schedule and quantity of watering.
  • Introduce your children to the vegetable garden. Teach them about the vegetables, how to plant them and taking care of them.
  • Start off small.  Start with one or two potted plants.  Slowly and steadily, as you get a hang of it, you will become a master of the kitchen garden.
  • A family of 2 adults and 2 children will spend at least Rs 200-300 per week on vegetables.  By slowly replacing one by one the vegetables you buy from the market with the vegetables harvested from the kitchen garden, you will see significant savings a few months down the line.
  • Of course, don’t expect dramatic results in the first few weeks.  You need to be patient and you will reap the rewards of your hard work in baskets.
  • The whole investment of setting up a vegetable garden / kitchen garden wont be even few hundred rupees.  If you don’t want to spend on buying a pot, you can start growing the plants in some old bucket or pot that you have at home.  This means that your investment goes down even further and all that you would need to invest is in seeds.

The most significant part of the kitchen garden is the realization that you are no longer eating vegetables that have been artificially either ripened or chemically treated before they reach your plate.  Your kitchen garden will give you true organic vegetables that are free of pesticides and chemicals.

Not to mention the happiness of seeing a basket full of vegetables or fruits that have been cultivated by you is something that words cant express.

So, go ahead and start cultivating your own vegetable garden. Happy farming 🙂

PS: All the above shown pictures are from the vegetable garden at my home.

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Return to India after living abroad for years

3 months ago, I was supposed to write a series of posts on how I handled the return to India after having lived and worked in Singapore for more than a decade.  My career started with working in a company in India for about 3 years.  Going to work in the US was always the target (as has been the norm in Hyderabad).  As friends moved to the US and different parts of the world, I too planned to make my move.

The first option that came to hand was an offer for a job in Singapore and I grabbed with both hands as I was already working in the current company (Softcell Technologies) for about 3 years then.  In those days (am sure the trend is still the same) working in the IT field in one company for anything more than 3-4 years was considered as suicidal from the career point of view.

Once I went to Singapore, the intention was never to come back and honestly in 2000, there was nothing much exciting happening in India. Or maybe, it was happening and I wasn’t aware of the thing.  Anyways, times passed and I applied for Singapore PR as well as Canadian PR.  The Singapore PR came thru first.  Unlike the promised 18 months, it took more than 3 years for the Canadian PR to get approved and by the time it happened, I was well and truly settled down in Singapore. I was happy there, but that over a period of time, you get well versed with the politicial and social structure of the country.  And one thing was decided for sure, I wouldn’t take up the citizenship of Singapore.  There are many reasons far beyond the scope of this post.  Maybe in some other post I will describe it.

But its nothing to take away from the beauty of the place, the stability of the government, the relative peace and tranquility, the safety on the streets, the ultra-efficient and technologically superior infrastructure.  But then deep inside, you realize that you don’t really want to dig your roots in an antiseptic environment.  The chaos that is so entrenched in India was missing.  Also there were other personal reasons for which I wanted to move back.  I miss Singapore a lot.  The place, its people, my friends i left behind, my colleagues who were an integral part of my life for so many years…but time goes on and you need to move on too.  Singapore will always remain a special place in my heart.  No matter what i will always wish the place and its people well.

So, I started thinking about the move back somewhere in 2008.  By then, I had completed 3 years as a Permanent Resident in Singapore.  I wanted to wait for the first 5 years of PR to complete and then apply for a renewal and then make a move back.  I planned as much as possible over the next few years. But then honestly, you cant plan enough.  Things don’t go according to your plans.  You make mistakes. The trick is to realize that you are gonna make mistake and be ready for them.

I will write in the next few posts on how I made the relocation.  Stay tuned….

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2 months hence

What have i been doing in India 2 months since coming back from Singapore?  Studying, taking a break from work at the same time.  But things are still as busy as when i was in Singapore.

Have suffered one of my worst summer in a decade.  Its always 40-42 degrees daily and i suffer the most on my way back home from my classes daily.  Once i reach home, am so drained that i just dont seem to have the time and inclination to do anything else.

Just cant wait for the rains, but looking at the screwed up weather, i foresee very bad monsoon this time too.  Hopefully iam wrong.  The winter in December was extreme and so has been the summer.  I experienced both of them this year.  Just hope that the monsoons are also extreme.  I promise not to complain 🙂

So much to write, so little time.  Becoming a full time student after working nonstop for 15 years has been a refreshing experience.  The course would end by mid of this month.  See how things go ahead from here on.

Will write soon on my experiences after moving back to India.

Above picture courtesy: Chase’s blog

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Its been a week

A quick update…Its been a hectic one week for me here in India.  The speed of this place is simply mind boggling.  Trust me, Singapore seems to be very much laid back compared to Hyderabad now.  Did anyone say that Hyderabad had a easy-go nawabi culture?

Forget about settling down, am still in the process of getting my things organized.  Going to the bank to get my residence status changed from NRI (Non Resident Indian) to RI (Resident Indian) has already had its share of story to tell.  Will write in detail some other time.

Meanwhile have joined a course to brush up on my networking skills (CCNA and CCNP) and unlike full day one week courses in Singapore, here they are 2 hrs per day classes for 15 or 30 days (depending on the course).  Not to mention the course fees which is a fraction of what it is in Singapore.

E.g a CCNA course in Singapore costs SG$ 2000 (approx INR 80,000).   The same course here costs me INR 3500 (approx SG$ 87).  A CCNA + CCNP course combined costs INR 8200 (approx SG$ 205).  In Singapore, it would cost SG$ 8000 (approx INR 320,000).   I think that should settle any argument on why you should not come back to India to study and get certified (if you wish to).

My cargo is to arrive only in the first week of April.  And when that comes, there will be another mega round of unpacking.  Combined with it the course schedule which is in the afternoons (morning class is full) and Iam still tired at the end of the day.  Havent had time to even think of searching for a job.  There are quite a lot of  ideas in mind.  Am already working on one of it simultaneously.  Cant believe i had the energy to juggle so many things at the same time.

Summer is slowly creeping up, but the nights and mornings are surprisingly cool.  Getting ready to face my first Indian summer in years.  But at the same time my mouth is salivating at the prospect of mangoes that are gonna flood the market during summer.   That itself is worth relocating back 😉

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Moving back

Finally, moving back to India over the weekend.  Bringing to an end my 11 year old saga in Singapore 😉  Lots of packing done over the past 2-3 weeks.  Never knew that relocation was so tiring. Updates will be slow in the meantime (not that I have been any active in the past few months on this blog).

Moving back to your home country  after working abroad for a long time is not easy.  Brings about a lot of changes, changes in lifestyle, mentally getting adjusted to the new environs even though its the same place you were born and bred.  Still, its something I needed to do to jolt myself out of the comfort zone.  Of course there were personal reasons too that were instrumental in this move back home.  Some of which i will write in detail later on.

There are a lot of things that i have done over the past 1 month that i feel i could share on this blog and would help someone else who is either planning or is in the process of moving back to India.  Resigning the job, relocation, cancelling the numerous subscriptions, giving up the work status in the country, moving money, documents, dealing with cargo etc…

I plan to write more in detail about how i went about sorting all of them.  I will miss Singapore and all the wonderful friends i made here.  The place and its people will always have a special place in my heart and I will always wish the country and its people well.

Till then its goodbye Singapore.  Hyderabad, here i come 😉

Above picture courtesy: RehannaBernard

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Universal Studios Singapore – 2012

Before leaving Singapore, i thought i would go around and see the last one place I hadn’t yet visited.  So off we went to the Universal Studios during the Chinese New Year weekend.  Contrary to what i feared, it was an overcast sky the whole day and had a cool breeze, so walking around wasn’t a chore.

Seriously, if you are not a fan of roller coasters, the place doesnt really justify the high entrance fees (SG$74 per head) it demands.  Not to mention each of the eating joints are nothing but rip-offs with high prices.  If you can, pack some food from home as the prices of eatables are sure to drive your hunger away.

As for the souvenirs, the lesser said the better.  Prices are again out of this world.  No wonder i hardly saw anyone buying anything.  For kids though, there are enough attractions and stuff to keep them occupied.

Resorts World Singapore
Resorts World Singapore

Universal Studios SingaporeUniversal Studios Singapore

WaterworldWaterworld

Dinosaur - Jurassic ParkDinosaur – Jurassic Park

Ancient EgyptAncient Egypt

Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Rollercoaster - Battlestar Gallactica
Rollercoaster – Battlestar Gallactica

Far Far Away

Far Far Away

Transformers
Transformers
Universal Studios 1
Universal Studios 1
Dancing Girls
Dancing Girls
Hollywood Dreams
Hollywood Dreams
Madagascar
Madagascar
Shrek & Gang
Shrek & Gang
Art on the boardwalk
Art on the boardwalk
Stairway to Heaven
Stairway to Heaven

Final word: Avoid this overpriced hyped up place unless you are dragged by the scruff of your neck by friends and family.   The Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and the Science Park are still the best attractions in the country.

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