Thursday, March 27, 2014

Online Shopping Woes & Upsides (India)

I don't recall the first time that I shopped online but I faintly recall doing it to buy books off Flipkart. The thought of discovering and owning original books at reasonable prices lured me to start shopping from Flipkart. I think it's an amazing concept till date. Next, I had purchased a domain online for one of my friends as a gift on her birthday. A lot of domain & hosting purchases followed. Shortly after that, I started shopping for jewellery online and had a very bad experience with when they did not replace my damaged earrings.

And it's only been a few months since I started shopping for clothes online. What stopped me from doing so earlier was the fact that you couldn't try the clothes on, and it was hard to tell what would look good on you just by looking at the clothes online, not to mention the difference in colour. But when ecommerce retailers came up with this amazing return policy, where you could return the outfit within 30 days if you didn't like it / if it didn't fit you, or you could try it on and return on-the-spot, things got a lot easier and I safely ordered about 4-5 dresses for my birthday, 2 of which I liked best and the rest, I returned with the money refunded to me in no time.

Just last week, dad was checking out grocery stores online and was discussing it with mom on whether we should give it a shot. It would surely reduce trips to the market, thus saving time. Plus, with the number of cashback & payback offers with almost every other product that is bought online these days, it was also saving us some money.

A lot of Indians are still skeptical about shopping online. At first, it was because of the stigma associated with online transactions, whether it is safe to deal with money online. I have been a victim of credit card fraud and though I wasn't charged for the amount after I filed a complaint, I haven't activated my replaced credit card since. I do shop online a lot though- for recharging my phone, to renew domain names and I use my debit card in a lot of places offline too. But my mom almost never uses hers. The online frauds that show up in the papers are enough to scare her. The ecommerce retailers came up with a solution for this - Cash On Delivery. I'd think online sales have doubled ever since they came up with that.

But there was another problem to deal with - trust, personal touch. Wouldn't we like to buy from people we know? Don't we like to feel the products we are buying - whether they are mobile phones or clothes? Return policies served the purpose but that still wasn't enough to push people to give online shopping a try.

So now, we have discount coupons, cashbacks and free items (for instance, a free pair of sunglasses with a camera or a watch free with a mobile phone).

That's right - online shopping didn't serve one major Indian shopping habit - bargain. Freebies and discounts compensate for it totally.

Also, after ecommerce have started attacking social networking sites, they are forced to better their services to maintain brand reputation.

This November 2013 infographic tells us how much online shopping has grown in the recent years in India:

e-commerce(Retail) in India

But online shopping still has one major concern - return policies can have loopholes and customer care can be non-responsive or careless. I am still waiting to hear from YepMe on what they have to say about my damaged earrings. Returning a product at an offline shop is much faster & easier. Customer care is almost never required.

Shopping in the comfort of your home may have these downsides but if this also means you can shop for anything under the sun with just an internet connection, I guess the risk is worth it. Saves you so much time and often, money.

I have slowly learnt to strike a bargain between the two. A lot of times, especially when buying electronics, I usually look for online reviews, look for the best price available and then walk into an offline store to test the product out. If the product is offered for the same price, I buy it offline and if there is a lot of difference in price, I buy the same product online if I have liked it after testing it.

So, I get the best of both worlds. And even though I've had a couple of bad experiences, I can say I am a happy shopper.

This post is a part of the Shop, only to Save More! Activity by in association with

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I am participating in the MalaysiaJao Blogathon Contest in association with

When someone talked of Malaysia, the first words that used to come to my head were 'culture', 'dragon','costume parades' etc. It's strange how that image has completely been replaced ever since the disappearance of the MH370. Now, Malaysia evokes feelings of concern, worry, angst amongst other things. My heart goes out to friends & relatives of the passengers on that plane. I cannot imagine what they must be going through right now.

Malaysia holds my interest for a lot of things.

I am fond of dragons and everything to do with them. Don't know for what reason! I was also born in the year of the dragon as per the Chinese zodiac. And this is me kissing and posing with a dragon in Mussoorie!

So, in Malaysia, I'm going to visit Penang to witness the dragon boat competition and be there for the dragon boat festival.

Even the map of Malaysia looks like a dragon boat, see!

Keeping my obsession with dragons to one side, these are the list of some other five things I'd like to see and do in Malaysia:

Numero Uno : Experience the Culture

I'd like to experience the culture as much as possible by way of festivals, temples, meeting people. So here are some places I'd go to for the culture!

1. George Town, Penang:
I had mentioned in one of the earlier posts how much I love to see heritage buildings. George Town has been listed as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008. It's named after a king of Britain, is the capital of Penang and has wonderful heritage buildings to look at. A heritage walk here is a must!

Something to note about this place though is that it is inhabited by a lot of Chinese & Muslims and most of the shops and places are closed on the latter half of Saturdays and all of Sundays. So visiting on a weekday is preferable.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

This mansion may not look like one from the outside but has 38 rooms, 5 courtyards, 7 staircases and 220 rooms. It has been built as per Feng Shui rules and has made an appearance in a lot of movies.

Fort Cornwallis

So this fort was named after the Governor General of Bengal. Interesting, eh? It was built over a century ago but a lot of structures are still visible i.e. the chapel, the prisons, some cannons. There is a Dutch canon here called Seri Rambai (1603) which is said to have a positive effect on a woman's fertility!

The Seri Ramabai cannon

Victoria Memorial Clock

I can't help thinking of the clock tower at VT (Mumbai) when I see this. Just next to Fort Cornwallis stands this 60 feet tall clock tower that was presented to Penang by Cheah Chen Eok on occasion of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria (1897).

So other than these, I'd also take a walk on Armenian street, pay a visit to the Islamic Museum, City Hall, Little India. It being a religious place, will also go to churches & temples here!

There is also a huge national park out here in George Town called Bako National Park.

2.Sarawak Cultural Village

I have heard that the best way to get acquainted with the culture and lifestyle of the people in Malaysia is to pay a visit to this "living museum" - Sarawak Cultural Village

There are about 150-200 people living here. They put up performances for the visitors at a theatre in the village, make wonderful handicraft items and provide information about their culture & the different ethnic groups. There are also buildings specific to every ethnic group (Iban, Malay, Chinese, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau) that you can see here and you can also get married in any of the styles you want!

So this village is basically a huge dose of culture. I'll easily stay here for a couple of days and tour the whole village to get a good taste of everything!

3. Cultural Enclaves

So, Malaysia has these cultural enclaves which have a huge number of people living there that belong to one sect, region or culture. It makes sense to visit these places to get a feel of the culture.

There's Little India in Penang & Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur and Central market a few minutes away from there. Those are good places to shop too!

Paying a visit to Little India will be appropriate when I'm feeling a little homesick :

This reminds me so much of the garland vendors at Matunga! :D

Number Two: Food

In Malaysia, I heard you get a lot of rice based dishes. I'd like to taste them all (vegetarian ones). Nasi Lemak is one such well known rice based dish  - rice, coconut milk and screwpine being the main ingredients.

Other than that, would love to try out the different festive sweets, drinks and snacks.

Number Three : A trip to the capital, KL

I want to see the World's tallest twin towers at Kuala Lumpur.

I also want to shop here. The two main things to shop for here are the Batik fabric and Chinese herbs/medicines. I'd like to lay my hands on the Chinese tea. Heard a lot about it but never tasted.

Number Four : 

For a taste of nature & adventure, I'd head to Pahang and Sabah.

Genting Highlands, Pahang

River Safari, Kinabatangan river, Sabah

Tioman island, Pahang

Number Five : 
For age old stories, I'd head to Langkawi and Melaka.

Christ Church, Melaka

So that's about it. Adventure, nature, tales & legends, culture, shopping, food, the dragon boat festival..

I have tons of reasons to visit Malaysia and I really hope to win this contest.

Images have all been Googled for (as I haven't been there yet).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

How far?

So, Indiblogger & British Airways came up with this contest, the topic being, "How far can you go for someone you love?"

One of their (British Airways) ads had gone viral not too long ago :

I came up with the following.. "You" here refers to who I've loved / will love in the future :)

At thirteen,
Love was tender, it felt so new,
It felt fun.

At seventeen,
Love was flippant & each person,
seemed like The One.

'Going far'
meant skipping classes,
It meant stealing a glance.

'Going far'
meant being courageous,
it meant taking a chance.

I've gone as far as,
living my life around you.
Without you, I could never imagine to be.

I've gone as far as,
picking a life, just like yours.
I thought you'll remain with me.

Time went by,
And I grew with time.
Love, for me, changed every year.

Love is now,
something pure & divine,
to the truth it'll take you near.

Love is helping each other,
to grow, to serve,
to be better & better everyday.

Love is enriching each other,
to help to just 'be',
to stay strong, come what may.

Love is to inspire,
to grow each other to become,
the best versions of "me".

All this,
so that the universe can be beautiful.
For to it, love adds beauty.

So I don't know if, together,
you & I,
will ever be.

Because, now, I'll go as far as,
stepping out of your life,
If you have to grow without me.

And that is the farthest I can go~

Thursday, March 6, 2014

An encounter

I had posted this on Facebook a few days ago and some people still couldn't view it even with the Public settings. Posting it here again.

Valentine's day for me was very different this year.

I thought of treating myself with a hair spa & a haircut at a salon in Andheri West so I was there by noon. When I was done after about a couple of hours, I was looking for an auto to take me back to the station & by fate, I was in celebrity rickshaw driver Sandeep Bachche's auto!

He is a simple man from Mumbai who calls himself Munnabhai SSC, being a die-hard fan of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt. He is such a big fan of Sanjay Dutt that he has tattooed Sanjay Dutt's face on his left arm and ever since Sanjay Dutt went to jail, he has not worn slippers. He walks & drives bare foot.

So as soon as I got into the auto, he started telling me he's on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other sites I hadn't even heard of! He went on to tell me about the number of awards he's got, who all he has met, how he went to give a talk at TedX Vizag, how Salman Khan called him over for tea and how he decided to help cancer patients after his mother passed away in his arms in 2004 (hope I got the year right).

His auto was a sight to see. He provides a lot of services within his auto- water, newspaper, fire extinguisher for emergency, tissues, a mirror, mobile charging, chocolates for kids, PCO, hot tea for Rs. 5. I might have missed on more. There are so many services that he even felt a need to write- "Toilet is not Available"!

There's a small board that he updates daily with the current currency rates, weather etc. He told me he gets it from the morning newspaper.

A believer of Ram, he also believes in respecting Gods of all religions and bathes the holy idols/pictures in his auto with milk on Sundays. He said that instead of separate offerings, he lights an agarbatti for all of them together. 

He does not drink, smoke or eat meat.

He offers 50% discounts to blind people, 25% to other handicapped people, 10% discount to couples who are just-married and for senior citizens, the meter starts from Rs. 10 instead of Rs. 15.

While waiting at the signal, a man peeped into the auto almost scaring me. Sandeep then explained that this is a common occurence because his services are also printed on the back of the rickshaw so people get curious!

He sets aside Rs. 150 daily and every Sunday, he uses Rs. 700 to help cancer patients. I don't quite remember what he does with the rest of the money but he said that he often keeps getting calls from people who require money for someone's operation or education.

I took a lot of pictures while sitting inside the auto and after stepping out, he happily agreed to pose for a picture.

That's an LCD TV

A phone and a fire extinguisher (at the far left) 


Flowers and tissues

He updates this board everyday with the current currency rates, weather, shares etc. He says he gets it from the newspaper every morning. And hey look- it's also Valentine's Day!

He has all the Gods!

Water and a newspaper - also laughing Buddha! Peace & good luck! ;)

"Jeena yaha, marna yaha.. Mumbai ko chhodkar jaana kaha?"

Important numbers

Mirror.. selfie :P

Take 1 sweet - chocolates for the kids in his auto!

Mobile Charging Available

I spot "Baga" of Tarak Mehta fame, Rajdeep Sardesai, RJ Mallishka

Tea for Rs. 5, and the photo looks like that of the Tarak Mehta cast!

Hot tea available ;)

So, this was my meeting with him and all that I mentioned was narrated by the man himself.

I am really interested in hearing from people who he has helped or know someone he has helped so if you're one of those people, leave your views & thoughts in the comments below :)