Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Shock and the Horror!!

It has been two days and I am still reeling from the aftereffects of the impact recent news articles have left on me. The most upsetting being the news of little Pradyuman, an innocent 7 year old whose throat was slit mercilessly by a bus conductor employed by his school, for resisting sexual assault in the washroom, just minutes after he was dropped at school by his parents. As if this news was not ghastly enough, there were fresh updates about a 5 year old girl raped by a peon in the school in an abandoned classroom. These incidents are over and above the previous two incidents that rocked the parenting community in India where a boy somehow fell into a septic tank in the school premises and died; and another boy allegedly 'slipped' outside his class room and died on spot. The point to be noted here is, all of these deaths took place in Delhi NCR in fancy, reputed schools, which charge exorbitant fees for various facilities including 'state-of-the-art' safety.

These news pieces are the reason why I do not subscribe to newspapers and avoid reading the news online. There is nothing but gruesome rapes and murders and wars and devastation all over the world today, but especially in our country. Not that these kind of reports did not upset me earlier, but being a mother now, I feel far more affected by any reports of sexual, physical, or emotional torture on kids. It is horrifying enough for adults to bear such inhuman acts, but for children, especially little ones 5-6 years old, it's just unimaginable heartache. Their life didn't even start, before it ended. Whose fault is it?

Is it the fault of the person who perpetrates such unspeakable acts against innocent children? Who are these people and why are they allowed to access areas deemed 'safe' for kids? Why are they allowed to be drunk during duty? Why are they allowed to carry weapons? How do they get access to kids in isolation? Do they plan this, or play it by the ear? Are they caught and punished severely enough to prevent further crimes? Are they tagged sexual offenders and prohibited from working around kids for life?

Is it the fault of the school authorities? Why do they talk about CCTV cameras that do not actually work or record? Why do they charge high fees to compensate for more staff and help, which is never around when required? Why do they not adhere to strict safety guidelines within and outside the school premises? How can a kid go missing and no one has a bloody clue where he/she is? Why are they not strict about screening of employees before hiring, and audits/random checks on employees during their tenure? Why do they employ people with no integrity in important positions like security, that the guards allow their 'friends' to walk in without being checked/having a reason to go inside? Why aren't the teachers more vigilant and the principals more concerned or responsible? If any untoward incident happens, why does the school just pass the buck? Why do they make excuses, refuse to take accountability and responsibility? Why do they make us sign consent forms exonerating themselves from all responsibility when they take our kids out?

Is it the fault of the parents for sending their child to school? Few parents can home school and given the ongoing tradition of sending children to 'gurukuls' in India for centuries, it is natural for kids to go to school, to learn, to play, to socialize, and to grow into smart and responsible adults. But is this what we send our kids to school for? To get murdered, raped, assaulted? Whether it be these incidents, or the incident in Lucknow where a teacher mercilessly slapped a student 40+ times for not answering her roll call; or the incident in a fancy Delhi school where a couple of middle school boys bullied a classmate and slapped him so hard, he lost partial hearing from one ear. Are we parents idiots to send our children to such hell holes where they are physically, emotionally and sexually abused? Where do we go? Which school is completely safe? Which city is completely safe? For that matter, which country in the world is a safe place for our kids? And can every parent shift abroad? Or to a different city? If not, what choice do we have, but homeschooling? Is homeschooling easy for everyone? IS homeschooling the solution? 

OR is it the fault of the children themselves? For being born in such a cruel world. For going to school. For trusting their teachers, and staff members. For being hopeful and innocent? What was their fault? That they went to the washroom? That they didn't listen to the teacher, or didn't bow down to a bully? That they wore objectionable clothes or deliberately enticed these despicable men?

I don't know who to blame. I don't know what will happen in the future. I do not know how these parents will live for the rest of their lives. I do not know if the criminals will ever have any remorse for what they did. I do not know when we humans will stop being such horrible fiends. I do not know when the school authorities and staff wake up. I do not know when the government will do something about this. I do not know what will parents do, homeschool or leave the county. I do not know if something will change or we will forget this in a few days and move on. 

I do know, that as a community, as a society, as a species - we have failed our children, EVERYWHERE. We have failed to give them decent food, decent water, pollution free air, safe homes and schools, safe playgrounds, safe LIVES! IF we don't keep our future safe, who will? Or are our lives, especially in a grossly overpopulated country, worthless? These are sad times for humanity, and especially a sad time for a mother like me, who has no way to keep her daughter - SAFE. 

Friday, November 04, 2016

All about Subscription Boxes! Food Box Special

As promised, here is my follow up post on various subscription boxes available in India. This is not an exhaustive but an indicative list; do comment with options that I have missed!

Starting with Food Boxes: Happy reading, and good luck finishing without tucking in! J

Bake Box: Based in Delhi, they work with professional and amateur bakers across Delhi and Gurgaon and provide a monthly box of goodies from their baker of the month. A regular monthly box costs Rs. 850, no eggless/vegan/gluten free or other special boxes available as of now. One can order for self or gift a box and pay COD or online/through cheque. The boxes can be picked up or delivered, as per requirement. The delivery dates are fixed and grouped geographically. They are open to taking orders for events.


 Nibble Box: This box is for young kids, professionals hankering for tidbits during the day, and those looking for high energy, fibre and nutrition food. They send 2 portions each of 4 different healthy snacks every week, delivered to office or home, across India. You can take a trial for 2 boxes for Rs.700+taxes, and there are monthly, quarterly and 6 monthly plans available, with cost of each box ranging from Rs. 250-350 depending on plan. They take into consideration your preferences. The snacks are healthy, nutritious, natural, with no preservatives, sugar, artificial colours/flavours etc. There are over 100 different snacks developed under the guidance of nutritionist Luke Coutinho, and come with nutritional information. Types of snacks include cookies, bars, crackers, Granolas, trail mixes, and nuts/seeds.


Tea Box: As the name suggests this box is for tea enthusiasts. There are 3 monthly plans available: a tea lover plan for 999 which gives you 80gm tea good for 30-40 cups, a tea avid plan for Rs. 1499 which gives you 150gm of tea good for 60-75 cups and a team enthusiast plan for Rs. 1999 which gives you 300gm of tea good for 120-150 cups. They require you to take a quiz so understand your tea preferences. One can also buy tea directly from their website, for self or gifting for Diwali or corporate etc. Apart from tea they also sell tea related stuff like infusers, mugs, tea maker etc. They deliver not only across India but in 35 countries across the world.


Gourmet Box: The Gourmet box supplies local and international Gourmet food products handpicked by an expert team on a monthly basis, only in Mumbai. The boxes contain theme based products, suitable for vegetarians. There are 2 options: the Lil box for Rs 700 which gives you 2-3 products, 1 recipe idea and discount coupons; while the Big box for Rs 1500 per month gives you 5-6 products, recipe and pairing ideas and discounts. You can customize a box for yourself or gift one too. Apart from the subscription service, they sell gourmet foods, accessories, baking products etc. on their website.


Snack Experts: Just like Nibble box, Snack Experts want to give their customers healthy snacks to munch on. Their snacks are healthy, free from preservatives and additives, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, artificial sugar. They are based in Chennai and deliver all over India. Each box, which costs about Rs. 600-700 depending on the plan, gives you 5 pouches of snacks of your choice, each weighing 150gm. You can choose 3 or 6 box option and also set your delivery frequency preference. You can choose what snacks you like from 6 categories and 20 varieties, and can pay online or COD. A trial box for Rs. 150 is available which allows you to taste 3 snacks of 50g each. All nutritional information about snacks is available on their website. Their options include crispies, flapjacks, seed mixes, dried fruits and nuts, trail mixes, bars and cookies.


Eatelish: Something like the Gourmet Box, each box of Eatelish contains a selection of handpicked treats from all over the country. Once in two months, they ship you a box filled with curated edible delights, ingredients, food ideas and recipes that will introduce you to varied flavors, food experiences, techniques and food traditions of our country. A box costs Rs. 699, 3 boxes can be subscribed for @Rs. 1799. Payment options are only online. You can buy boxes for self or for gifting. Some boxes featured on their website are- chocolate delight collection, flavours of Agra, taste of Kerala, Bombay cookie box.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Subscription Boxes: Disrupting Retail sales across the world!

 According to Wikipedia, a subscription box is a package of retail products sent directly to a customer on a recurring basis. An innovative marketing and distribution strategy, they target a wide range of customers with a variety of interests. The industry is nascent, having taken shape only in 2010s, but they have become very popular very fast, owing to easy access, affordability, and convenience they offer to customers. 

USA, the pioneer of subcoms, has almost 500 different boxes offering diverse range of products. Some of the categories are: food (snacks, bakery items), fashion (cosmetics, jewellery, and accessories), adult products, books/games, children’s activities, stationery etc.

A subscription box works because it is generally a win-win for all stakeholders. The customer gets to sample a company’s products conveniently and within budget. Especially in case of expensive products like luxury cosmetics, getting access to samples can help the customer make a decision about purchasing full size products. Even if they never want to buy those products, a subbox allows them to sample a variety of brands and products that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.  An added factor is the mystery – customers generally do not know fully or partly what to expect in their boxes and the process of discovery, makes people try out new things, which is usually a success and appreciated.

 It works for the company or brand because it helps them reach out to potential customers in an effective and targeted manner, especially those customers who live in rural or remote areas, reaching out to whom would be very expensive for a company. It also helps reduce costs as brands don’t need as many outlets and warehouses thanks to the online fulfilment nature of subboxes.  It works for the subbox service providers as they are able to get excellent commercial deals where they get many products from brands for throwaway prices or sometimes even free.

There are caveats though, subbox companies need to constantly innovate to avoid getting repetitive and lose customers. Customers may get products they don’t like. Brand risk bad publicity of their products are not packaged and delivered in perfect condition. However, it seems the benefits outweigh the problems and thus the industry continues to boom.

Here is a rundown on some of the categories and names of subboxes available in India. This list is only indicative, not exhaustive, and includes only those subcoms who have a website and monthly subscriptions. There will be a follow up post with details on each box!

            Food: From Bakery products to tea, from organic gourmet food to snacks, there is a box available for almost everything!

Bake box, Nibble box, Tea box, Gourmet box, Snack experts, Eatelish

2.       Fashion and Lifestyle: These boxes cater to mostly women, though there are some options for men too. Boxes typically include clothes, accessories and other lifestyle products

Sugar box, Lady Raga, Pincbox, Mystery Box

3.       Beauty: These boxes are probably the most popular. They provide customers with a mix of beauty, makeup, perfume, bath and body care products, in both regular and luxury segment.

Nature’s Co Beauty wish box, Scent box, Happiness caged, Fabbag, MSM box, Oh cute box, Globox

4.       Jewellery: Another fast growing segment is the jewellery box which comes with latest trinkets as per your budget, as per the ongoing trends.

 Little bauble box, Embellishment box, My envy box, Zotiqq, Bling bag

5.       Ladies Box: Made just for the ladies, usually these boxes cater to sanitary needs, and throw in samples of soothing teas, yummy treats and bath/body products for an extra dose of pampering for those days.

High tide, Being Juliet, Happiness in a box, La coffer box, Cosset box,

6.       Education: Primarily targeted at kids from ages 3-12, these boxes come with a variety of activities for youngsters to keep them busy and away from gadgets. From worksheets, to craft supplies, books to games, there is a wide variety of stuff available to engross the little ones.

Flintobox, Magic Crate, Xplorabox, Ivykids, Crafty chimp, Small brown box, Little reader’s nook, Cocomoco kids box

7.       Miscellaneous: There are a variety of other subboxes available for various hobbies and pets too!

Paper plane Magazine Subscription, Originone Stationery box, the Book box, Woof box, Wag box

Friday, May 20, 2016

Things I wish I knew when I was younger - my advice to my daughter for future

As I look back at my life in the past 3 decades, there are so many times when I wish I hadn't acted/reacted like I did. But then, I was younger and we all make mistakes, and learn from them. Here are some life lessons, from my own life and personal experiences, that I wish to pass on to my daughter. Maybe she will benefit from them.

1. Act cool with boys you have a crush on. Too overbearing and you turn people off. Also take rejection in your stride, don't associate your self worth with it.

2. Participate in sports. Pick at least one sport and pursue it. Not only is it healthy but it also teaches you discipline, hard work, team work.

3. Take up at least one extra curricular activity as per your interest, like singing, dancing, theatre, art etc. and pursue it. It opens up your world, gives you an opportunity to hone your skills, make new friends.

4. Do not pursue MBA without at least a few years of work experience, if not more. Else it will become a rote learning and vomiting out exercise with no value addition.

5. Do not fall in "love" and imagine yourself getting married to every guy you meet. Take each day and relationship as it comes. Give it time and see if its worthy for long term, else move on.

6. Do not get attached to the guy you lose your virginity to. If he isn't right for you, no need to get senti and force yourself to string along and get married. Times are changing. No one cares if you aren't a virgin.

7. Live in or spend enough time with the guy you wish to marry. Think of all the things that are important to you, especially what is non negotiable. Don't get blindsided by current romance, think of all the practical stuff you need to agree upon in the long run.

8. Don't be bogged down if you're not as rich as others in your friend circle. Or as pretty, or slim. The right people will love you and want to be with you no matter what. And more attractive and cool than being rich or pretty, is being confident and in love with who you are. If you're into books or art or sports, exude knowledge comfort and confidence about that. People will get attracted to you for those interests, qualities. Not something you didnt make - your looks or money or home/car.

9. Do not take abuse from any guy ever. Don't think it is a momentary or one time thing, or that he will change. Do not tolerate it for sake of the relationship, even kids. Same for cheating, gambling, alcoholism etc.

10. Do not let anyone tell you you're a shitty mother. You decide what you wanna be and strive hard to achieve tour personal standards. There is no one size fits all formula for parenting. Don't compare yourself or get into self pity mode.

11. Do not sacrifice your life and goals and dreams for everyone else. It will never be worth it. To make others happy you need to be happy yourself. Everyone adjusts, don't completely give up though.

12. Do not bow to societal pressure of what is considered normal or good to do. Be it with studies, career, marriage or kids. Do what you really want to do. And if thats not what the society accepts, screw them.

13. Aim to study to learn, not to pass or get good marks to appease everyone. Easier said than done but when you take interest in what you study, and study what you're interested in, you will learn and retain much better. You may not have much control in school but afterwards, choose wisely.

14. Travel travel travel. As much as often as far as you can. Savour the journey, the experiences, the languages, the food, the culture, the people, the geography, the history. That will teach you more than any book or class can.

15. Better to regret doing something than not doing it. Do whatever you want to do. Its never too late, you're never too old. Don't let age, marital status, kids, husband, family, society dictate what you can or can't do.

16. If someone is rude or mistreats you, don't take it, and cry and crib. Stand up for yourself. Have the courage to confront people, especially on difficult topics. To hell with respect for elders, bosses, etc. No one should be allowed to humiliate you and get away with it. If you don't stand up for yourself, no one will.

17. Always be independent. Physically, emotionally, financially. Parents will always help you. Friends, spouse, kids, may or may not. Learn how to manage finances, run the house. Learn how to drive, do your taxes, change a flat tyre, do repairs around the house, manage the help, cook proper food, wash clothes/utensils etc. You may be well off enough to hire someone to do everything for you, but know how to do everything for yourself. Learn to be alone. Watch movies, eat at restaurants, travel alone. You need to be comfortable with your own company. Have a life beyond family. Have an identity beyond relationships. Cherish the woman and person in you.

18. Always be good to your parents. Always take care of them. And always be patient with your children. Treat your family with love. They're the only ones who will stand by you. Do not let your temper, ego and other issues ruin relationships. Not worth it. But understand difference between self respect and ego.

19. Don't try to change others in a relationship. Honestly introspect and see where you need to change. And even after making requisite changes, people or situations remain negative, change your attitude, your response. Meditate, forgive, forget, move on. Its for your own mental peace and good. Carrying grudges, maintaining negativity inside, only burdens you, no one else.

20. Be kind and compassionate. Help those in need. Respect everyone irrespective of their age, socioeconomic status, looks. Care for flora fauna environment. Be responsible. Lead a healthy, organic, sustainable life. Connect with nature. Donate money generously and if you don't have any, donate your time and skills. Try not to be judgmental or biased.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Preparing for the Unpredictable and Inevitable: Checklist of must have Documents!

They say nothing is certain but death and taxes. but that does not mean that one cannot be prepared.
In today’s fast paced and unpredictable world, there is no saying what happens when to whom. Especially after I had a child I realized it is important to always be prepared for the worst. In addition, it is important to be prepared with all sorts of documentation that may come in handy in various circumstances. Here is a list of documents that may be useful to maintain for everyone in India!

  • Banking account details: These days all of us have at least one bank account. Be it a joint account or an add on credit card, prepare a document with details of all bank accounts, debit/credit cards, fixed deposits and other investments, loans; nominee/ balance/EMI details, branches and contact persons. Also maintain a file of latest 6 statements at least for each account. This is good to maintain for applying for loans, visas, new jobs, investments or paying taxes.
  • Insurance details: It is advised to insure everything possible, including debit/credit cards, or gadgets to be prepared for any loss or damage. Prepare a document with details of each insurance policy (life/medical/general/auto/property etc.), along with nomination, premium and other information. Keep the main policy/registration documents safely, also retain all receipts of payments made. This is useful for calculating tax liabilities and claiming partial or final settlements in case of accident/illness/death etc.
  • Birth, Marriage, Divorce and Death Certificates: It is mandatory by the Indian Government for all Indian nationals to register births, marriages and deaths. Birth certificates serve as age proof during admissions, travel, marriage, etc. Death certificates are important for cash and asset transfers, closure of accounts etc. on demise. Marriage certificates come in handy for passport and visa documentation, divorce decrees are mandatory when filing for remarriage.
  • Electronic and Social Media accounts: Whether it be the username and password for financial instruments, utilities payments, e-commerce websites, social media platforms or any other clubs which require you to register for access, maintain a document with user Ids and passwords, although it is best to have passwords memorized. Also remember to periodically change and update passwords to reduce risk of hacking. While you may maintain online accounts and payments system, do not forget to retain properly all physical bills, receipts, agreements, deeds, policies and other documents carefully.
  • Retirement funds, Assets and Income tax details: If you get gratuity, provident fund, pension etc. from your employer, it is always good to have information on your account numbers, contact details for various offices and knowledge on partial or full withdrawal procedure in case you need for any emergency.  Same goes for taxation – always file taxes yearly irrespective of income, and maintain hard and soft copies of returns. They come in handy in many instances, like visa application for travel abroad, buying property etc. Lastly, have a document which precisely lists down details of all your assets, be it property or cash or financial instruments or bullion or jewelry, and keep updating the same. Having all this information ready can be useful when buying/selling/gifting/transferring assets.
  • Medical heath details and records of self and family: our lifestyle these days guarantees everyone suffering from some or the other disease or allergy. Whether it be a new born, a child, an adult or an old person, it is imperative to maintain medical history and records of all family members, and ensure everyone memorizes most important details about each other, like allergies, blood groups, chronic diseases, surgical history. It is advised to store soft copies as well in case physical copies are lost or compromised.
  • Will and Power of Attorney: Probably the most depressing of all documents, one should have a living will maintained and updated regularly. One never knows when tragedy strikes and you are left seriously ill, paralyzed or dead, unable to take care of your affairs. Many will formats are available online; one can easily fill it up, register it and store it for use further. It is also suggested even if you do not have a business or property you still get a PoA made so that you can give charge to one person to handle all financial, legal, personal affairs in your absence due to any emergency.
  • Educational and Professional Degrees and Certificates: It is important to retain the physical copies of all the degrees an certificates you amass throughout your academic and professional career, as they are required for further admissions, job applications etc. they also serve as proof of your skills, especially when you apply to work or settle abroad. The Class 10 certificate also serves as age proof.
  • Personal documents: Last but not the least, in fact the most important set of documents one must maintain is Personal documents issued to citizens by various government agencies for various purposes, which usually serve as ID, address and age proofs. Examples are: Passport, Driving License, Voter ID card, Aadhaar Card, PAN card, Ration card. In addition, depending on your employment, you may have additional cards certifying your membership in professional societies or institutions. For students and Govt/Private employees, they must also carry their identification cards.

For all the documents you have, it is important to maintain all possible physical copies and scan them to keep soft copies as well as backup. It is advised to not store passwords, but memorize them. All physical documents should be kept together in one location, but a copy must be kept in a separate location as well. All important information must be shared with at least one close family member like spouse/parents/siblings/children who can manage your affairs if required. Utmost care must be taken to keep all documents and information safe and secure. It may seem like an impossible task to do all this at the outset, but in the end the effort will be worth it, as you will be prepared to face whatever challenge life throws at you, with minimum disruption or problems!