Sunday, April 30, 2017

FictionCrate - Making books still matter

Books has always held a special place in my heart. The innumerable plot twists, the drama, the subplots and of course the surprise elements as you unravel page by page, nothing excites you more than a good old book. Despite the rise in popularity of e-readers, the undevoted love towards a physical hardcover book can never be replaced with a PDF version. Be it the rustic old smell, the ease of reading and of course as a lifelong treasure, books can be your best lifelong companion. I'm sure some other book lover in the world would have heard my voice, so as to come up with a unique "book subscription" box called Fiction Crate.



How Does this work?

So the concept is pretty simple.
You subscribe to a plan (be it a one time try or a 3-month plan) and simply mention your favourite genre. The guys at FictionCrate would select an interesting novel in that genre and send it to you in a nicely designed box aka crate. You wouldn't know what book it is, until you actually receive it and each time a nice goodie comes along with it as well.

My FictionCrate Box


I love surprise gifts, esp if it comes in the form of a nicely gift-wrapped book. Apart from this I also got a classic T-Shirt that read "A book A Day, keeps reality away".
Definitely story of my life!


The book I received was titled "Woman in Lodge 10", written by Ruth Ware and touted to be a murder mystery & thriller. Hopefully, this would give me company for the next few days at least



Pricing of FictionCrate Subscription


Their classic programme starts from 499/month which includes one surprise book and a customised goodie with free shipping as well. The 3-month plan costs 1450 and you get 1 book & a customised gift every month, for 3 months consecutively. There are also other premium plans ranging from 700 to  2050 which also carries an additional T-Shirt every month (trust me they are super classy).
I happened to notice all their books are actually priced 8$ + (500+), so technically you get to save a little bit as well.

Their site gives you a detailed split of all plans.



Note: I was part of a blogger outreach program by the nice folks at Fictiocrate and hence invited to review their program. However the above is an honest unbiased review of this book subscription program.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Wrong Turn - Book Review

As an exclusive member of the Cosmos Book club, I happened to receive a copy of an interesting book called The Wrong Turn, written by Sanjay Chopra and Namita Roy Ghose. Juding purely by it's cover, I mistook this for a romantic drama. The book cover depicts a couple in an embracing position with a caption indicating love and betrayal. However I should admit this book took me completely by surprise, given the theme, the way it was written and a quite controversial subject as well.
No more "judging" a book by it's cover :) So here you go with the Wrong Turn Book Review.


What actually started off as a story set in a sleepy town around Kolkatta, becomes into a complex plot about the freedom struggle of Indian Independence. The fight led by our very own Subash Chandra Bose and his INA led army is the central theme of the novel.


We may have read about several famous wars that happened in World history including WW1, WW2, Battle of Waterloo, Hiroshima war  etc. Yet, when it comes to India's independence movement against the British, we know very little. We have probably come across only Mahatma Gandi's non violence movement and his Dandi marches. Yet there were several other movements happening across different states to fight for independent. One such movement was the INA, led by the great leader Subash Chandra Bose.

A story, pretty much untold by anyone, this book is a great revelation to get some insights and truth behind what really happened in Bengal during the period of 1943-1945. There are still so many unanswered questions such as "Was there a betrayal among the ranks?", "To what extent did it influence the overall movement for freedom", "What actually happened to Subash Chandra Bose". The book goes to the grassroots level of the actual fights and struggles INA faced while faced with such an uphill task, made even more tougher b the Indian forces that were part of the British army.
The authors has additionally woven a romantic plot triangle between three two main characters, Deb,Nishonko and the rebel lady, Aditi.

Despite being set in a fictional setting, you can't help but feel this might be almost in line to what would have actually happened during the freedom stuggle led by Netaji.

What could have been better in the book?
The author has preferred a slightly advanced language than simple English. Most words require looking up in the dictionary to get the meaning. The book is a lengthly read and could have been easily shortened. The pace is also something that requires a nudge. The book cover could also be misleading for so many people who would have been otherwise interested in the book, if they knew about the theme. But nevertheless , barring these minor things, the book is definitely a great read and a must recommend for all book lovers and history loving people as well.

The book is also soon to be a major motion picture and definitely have the potential to be the next biggest hit in Bollywood.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

More Indian than Most Indians - Living life the Desi Way

When the world was busy inventing billions,trillions etc, we Indians came up with the number 0 . Yes, we can find value and meaning in anything, even in a number like zero !

The first thing that comes to mind when you refer to an "Indian" way of doing things, its most probably a "Jugaad" . Jugaad is a slang for a knack to fix something that was earlier deemed not possible to do. It's very much in our blood to "find the easiest way" to get around to do something or in some cases, not do something.

Source : http://top10wala.in/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/48.jpg

Around the world, the general consensus when something is broken, is to throw it away and get a replacement. Be it a relationship or an iPhone, the motto is always "lets not try to fix it, we'll just get a new one". However that doesn't apply to us. We try every possible trick in the book or even think out of the box ones to come up with something so unique, that just solves the purpose.

So what are some common situations that uses the "Indian" way to get it done?
  •  Your motor bike doesn't start? No need service mechanics. Just tilt it right and left, twice. That should do the trick.
    Source : http://media.indiatimes.in/media/content/2017/Jan/bike_4_1484043199.jpg
  • Running out of Gum to stick labels in a book ? - Just use plain boiled rice in between the labels

Source : http://www.wikihow.com/images/4/4e/Make-Rice-Glue-Intro.jpg
  • A broken pipe or tap ? - Dont get a new one. Just use a adhesive to stick it
  • Want to ban paper cups or plastics? Just go for Indian clay pots to serve tea. 
Source : http://joezachs.blogspot.in

Yet, the pride feeling of being "street smart" , trying to come up with ingenious ways to come up with quick fix solutions is always a great thing. Haven't you noticed your mother try to come up with a dish, with whatever is left in the household, than demanding the recipe items.

It isn't quite surprising, that majority of project testers and "troubleshooters"(Bug fixers) in the software companies are predominantly from India. We know to find the issues and do quick fixes on them, even before it escalates to a bigger issue. This is why we tend to remain calm even in major crisis, as we ll know we can definitely find a way out.


The Jugaads Of Demonetization


When the country was faced in a ponder, after the government announced a ban of 500/1000 rs notes overnight, one would have expected a major economy slump in most countries. But we just happened to find absolutely ingenious ways to beat the system in its own way. We bought expensive international air tickets and first A/C train tickets legally and of course cancelled it for a small fee the next day. We converted the cash in terms of gold and silver almost immediately. All the pending bills and loans were paid off with old currencies. Some even found ways to get foreign exchange for these old notes. The best among the lot was this : Apple reportedly sold more than 1 lakh iPhones in a single day , all with old 500/1000 rs notes. So next time you spot someone flaunting a relatively new iPhone , do ask if it was bought with 500/1000 notes,


Order in Chaos

Any foreigner who comes to India, might be shocked at the bureaucracies. They see a large scale complex myriad system and dont know which is the start nor the end. They may not realize what's keeping the system in place , given this huge population . They find traffic jams everywhere, yet the auto wala just seem to know the right alley to avoid the full block. They dont find the system streamlined or disciplined. They see flaws and glaring inefficiencies and wonder, how does the system function?. But no one can beat us when it comes to efficiency or making full use of a product.


Source : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fsi-can-destroy-lifestyles-indian-cities-prabhakar-mundkur


We can convert even a broken CD pile into a wall hanging decor.  Stuck somewhere that even Google Maps can't help? No problem. Just ask a shopkeeper/AutoDriver/Ironing Guy and he'll exactly tell you where the house is and which street to take.

WallHanger made out of old CD

Being Indian

Though we may have found ways to beat the system or found smarter ways to do things, this doesn't really define or describe remotely what "being an Indian" is all about . It's much more. 

A country of more than a billion population with 28 states,diverse cultures and more than a 100 languages spoken. yet we remain as one of the most united countries in the world. 

We were the only country to believe in non-violence even during a world war period and gained our freedom successfully.  

We go out of our way to help someone and pridely call our fellow citizens as Brothers and Sisters.

My Indian Way to Success


To recall a particular incident of "being Indian" to being successful is quite the impossible task. When you lived as a true "Indian" in every way all your life,  its difficult to separate the two. It's like going to China and asking for Chinese food, when it's actually just "food" out there.

But if I were to define my way of success through the Indian way , this could be it:
  • I may not always have followed the strict rules laid by the government , but never once strayed from the rules of Dharma , written in our holy books.
  • I owe my success to my immediate family, who's always my main priority. I strongly believe in joint families than nuclear ones. Living with your parents even after you turn 25, could definitely be an Indian thing and I still take so much pride on that.
  • As a travel blogger, I love to visit many countries and places. Yet I implement my Indian travel jugaads to save money in the following ways:
    • Excess Baggage ? No Problem, just take a couple of tshirts and jackets and wear it during checkin. Reduces 3-4 Kg easily
    • Forced to buy water in flight? Just carry an empty bottle, fill it in water dispenser in boarding area
    • Expensive Lunch/Dinners in foreign countries ? Just take MTR ready to eat packets and get hot Indian food by just immersing in a pot of hot water
    • Expensive audio guides in Museumes? Just download audio tour guides of museums in your phone,plug your headphones and save easily 10-20 Euros/Dollars
  • As an Indian, I have always strongly believed in the concept of Athithi Devo Bhava (All my guests are treated like God, even if its a stranger). I was fortunate enough to be in the receiving end as well as the giving end when my city was struck by two disasters ( Chennai Floods and a major cyclone ) , offering shelter and food to even strangers. The entire community and city came together during a tough period, helped one another offering food, water, shelter . Never in my life can I describe the spirit of "Indian" ness than this.
The Indian way is not always about smart tricks or making the best use of everything. The true Indian way is considering everyone their brethren, showing love and care when one needs it and being there as a fellow human while seeing each other as an equal. That to me is the true Indian spirit!

On this note, I was quite delighted and surprised to see Lufthansa's effort to go the Indian way in making their flights more welcoming to us. Right from the greetings in the local language , the subcontinent/Spicy Indian food, Bollywood shows in the in-flight communication system, the whole experience is really thought of and wonderful, especially by a German airline. Naturally you'd expect a standard international airline welcome with some continental food being served. But this concept is totally a game changer and can be a real delight inside the flight and definitely feels like home.

The Lufthansa campaign #MoreIndianThanYouThink has definitely struck a chord in me. The way, they try to adapt to a "desi" like experience to beat the Indian squad at cricket is comical, yet at the same time, the concept is very welcoming. This clearly indicates India's rising influence in the global arena and how companies are trying to successfully adapt themselves in the local market.

Do watch their hilarious ad here:

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Snapchat Tips and Tricks

Snapchat is the means of sharing photo or video with captions and various kinds of special filters.There’s another feature of adding snapstory which can be your picture or a small video which can be shared with a selected number of friends or can be made public, which exists for 24 hours and then disappears. So here's a simple guide to master the app with top 10 Snapchat tricks .


Edit Display Name



Apart from this, there are many other tricks for the Snapchat user which are still hidden.Here are some of them listed below:

Three-Way Face Swap

 Snapchat now has a new feature of three—way face swap rather than just two. Two person face swap is simple than three-way face swap which is difficult to gain perfection. Try it out with three friends to stand fully in the frame. Clicking this picture horizontally would help you get a clear picture. After taking positions just find the face swap app and see how it works. In case there’s some problem with the picture try to close and reopen the app and try it out with different lights.


GeoFilter




It often happens that while moving around you use snapchat there appears a filter having name and place of the location you are moving around. This is snapchat’s geofilters which can be self-designed. You can use snapchat geofilter site and there is this step-by-step process of creating your own geofilter covering a specific area. The city can have a number of geofilters and they are also present for parties and other such events for a given cost and time.


You can use two filters at the same time in snapchat by simply swiping over your photo as you normally would to add the first filter and then, hold down on the screen with one finger and carefully swipe over the photo with another finger to add the second filter. This may take several tries to position your fingers correctly, but the result is using two filters simultaneously.

You can very easily change the name that your friends see in the chat. Just tap the hamburger menu in the upper-left hand corner to get a quick look at your contact's Snapchat score and Snapcode. 

Using emojis to add extra colour to your phone

As you can use the app's emoji stickers to add some oomph and glam to your photos. You can do it by choosing one with the desired color and increase its size (by zooming with two fingers) so it takes up the whole screen and the edges begin to pixelate. Then, drag the pixelated area over the frame to make it look like a filter.


Decode and change the emoji in your friend list as well

This app though will probably never bring back best friends, but its friend emoji offer a fun look at how you interact with your contacts on Snapchat. Hidden in the app's "additional services" menu within the settings, you can also find everything you need to know about this feature. The menu even offers an explanation of what each character means as for example, the difference between the red heart and yellow heart and allows you to change them to customize the emoji for each designation.

You can pin an emoji on a moving target

You need to record a video focusing on an object which is moving. After you are done with the recording tap the emoji icon present at the top of preview screen and from there select the one you want. Resize it before pinning it and then tap and hold the emoji in order to drag it over the moving target. After this hold it over the object for a moment or few, and you are done. Snapchat will now reload the video along with the emoji. Different Android Tutorials present online can help you here.

You can edit a snap in memories in order to access old community geofilter

When someone saves a Snap to their memories then along with it many other geofilters which are available at the time are saved too. You can access those community geofilters while going back to edit your snap. You just need to press and hold on the snap and tap the pencil icon in order to edit the snap. Edit your snap and then swipe left to access other community geofilters which were available at the time when you took the snap. After this tap Done to save the changes and swipe down to get back to memories. You can also create your own custom geofilter.


There are many more hidden facts and tricks for snapchat users which is really fun to experience while exploring them. You can have a totally different look towards snapchat if you get to know these features and their use. Also there are innumerable Android Tutorials present which can help you develop an app like Snapchat.