Friday, 21 March 2014

The Paanta Bhaat Nostalgia

When I was a kid, there was a maid who worked at our grand-mother’s house. We used to call her Pisi (Aunt). Pisi was very close to us, and loved us a lot. Though we went to my grand-mother’s place only once a year, but it never felt like that Pisi was not a member of our family. Maybe it is because as kids we have a bigger heart and we do not look at things in a complicated way. So, Pisi used to do all chores for my grand-mother, mostly cleaning the house and the utensils. I remember, then we had a kitchen with mud floor, it felt very cool during the summers (we spent our summer vacations here). And summer means eating paanta bhaat or semi-fermented rice with lots of water.
The recipe is simple, just put lots of cold water in the rice and leave overnight. The heat reacts with the rice and gives a semi-fermented look. It is very cold and makes the heat bearable. It tastes awesome with some fried daal and just raw onions. And due to the little alcohol content, you will definitely feel sleepy after eating it. Hence, no eating it if you are going to drive later.
So, this Pisi, lived in a shack near a pond. She came from Bangladesh with her daughter. I do not know anything about her husband. The shack was made of dried leaves and bamboo, with terracotta tiles for roofing. I remember, she had a very high bed. It served two purpose: lots of things went under it, and during the rainy season, if water gets into the home, at least the bed will be dry. The pond was very dangerously close to the home. That was one part of excitement I used to feel when I went to Pisi’s house, which was on most afternoons. The close proximity to a pond, and not anyone to deny access to it. Water bodies always attract kids, I was more attracted owing to the many restrictions my parents had imposed. It was very exciting to stand by the pond and see Pisi wash the utensils with the water.
On most afternoons, at Pisi’s place the menu will be paanta bhaat. Just that rice with some pickle and raw onions. If it was her lucky day, she would have brought home some onion bhajjis from the last house she worked that noon. Believe me, it was pure heaven, the taste, and the ambience in that small shack beside a pond on a hot summer afternoon. Things were so simple those days and we got happiness from the small things of life. Now, I look at all these kids who frequent the malls of Bangalore on weekends and eat overpriced meals at KFC and the likes, and wonder, if they are missing on the simple joys of life.
Life has moved on so much from those days. I do not even remember when I have had paanta bhaat last. It is not that hot in Bangalore, besides all my afternoons are spent in AC office, hence I do not need paanta bhaat, yet I miss the taste as much as I miss those moments.
They say, life is all about memories and memoirs, it is true. The other day I was thinking about those days and my eyes were full of tears, not that I was sad, it was because I was overwhelmed by the fact that such simple thing got me so much happiness, whereas now even after a five course lunch at a star hotel, I would give the place a 4-star rating.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Film-making and Chilli Cheesecake

It is not every day that you work with a director, I luckily got that chance. Being born in India, Bollywood has a lot of influence on me, mostly on the music front, but then making a film is a different experience altogether. This happened when my director friend suddenly called me up one day and said that he wants to shoot a portion of his film at my house. It was pretty exciting for me and I was all prepared for the D-Day. Most of the day was spent in cooking, Mr. Director wanted to shoot a dinner scene and the food was to be prepared by me. And, me being a very nice guy (and a great chef), agreed to it impromptu. The food menu was simple, a Chinese style sautéed vegetables dish and a Bengali-style chicken rezala, to be served with rice and there was custard for dessert.
The team came quite late, and the set up took about 15 minutes. It was a simple set-up, just a few lights, one tripod and camera. Most of the set used my already nicely set-up drawing/dining space. And then the shooting started. The dialogues were being prompted and read, the director was saying “action please” and “cut” very frequently. It was quite funny actually. I met the actors for the first time, but still it was hard to maintain composure and keep my serious face, and hence, I got busy with the cheese cake, the recipe follows. I was called in to prompt for some time, which I enjoyed doing. In some time the funny part became less and it was serious business. You can’t be giggling a lot when there is such a serious director on the floor!
The shooting took about two hours, since due to resource shortage, the same scene was filmed twice from different angles. I felt good after Mr. Director took one of my suggestions (about blowing the candle) though rest of the suggestions went directly to the bin. By the end of it, the director looked satisfied, the actors were tired and we all sat together and had dinner. The food had to be re-heated, but still tasted awesome (as the Director for feedback)

The Chilli Cheesecake Recipe
This is a cheat’s cheesecake as there is no cheese involved. This is a no-bake cheesecake, hence can be made by anyone. You just need a fridge so that the “cake” sets firmly. In hot countries like India, the cake might not hold for a long time and will become a  custard like formation when left out for some time, so take care of that. No eggs, hence vegetarian.

Ingredients:
         For the base:
    • 100 grams or one packet of your favourite digestive biscuits
    • 50 grams or half cup unsalted butter (melted)

         For the filling:
    • 300 ml of thick cream
    • 400 grams or 1 tin of condensed milk
    • Zest of 2 limes
    • Juice of 1 lime

          For the topping:
    • Half cup sugar
    • Juice of 2 limes
    • 2 long red chillies, de-seeded and de-veined, finely chopped

          Equipment:
                One 8-inch round cake tin or 20 cm x 30 cm pan lined with baking paper, even on the side walls


Procedure:
  1. Crush biscuits by hand or pulse mode of mixer. Mix with butter.
  2. Press the above mixture in the pan, spread evenly and refrigerate.
  3. Whip cream to soft peaks and keep aside keeping as much air as possible.
  4. Now whip condensed milk, then fold in lime juice and zest.
  5. Gently fold the whipped cream into condensed milk until just combined. Keep temperatures low otherwise the cream might curdle due to the lime.
  6. Pour over the crumb base and refrigerate for minimum 3 hours or overnight. The cake should become firm.
  7. For the topping, place sugar, lime juice and chillies in a pan and bring to a simmer.
  8. Cook until little thick, stir to dissolve sugar. Then remove from heat, let it cool and transfer to fridge.
  9. To serve, remove cake from pan carefully. Drizzle with chilli syrup. Cut and serve.



Tips:     
  • Replace biscuit base with nut base for gluten-free.
  • Do not add chilli syrup and store the cake, the syrup being heavy will cut down into the cake.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

BQFF: the 6th edition

The weekend was so packed with films and people that I had to take the Monday off. The 6th Bangalore Queer Film Festival ended this Sunday, 2nd March 2014. It was an amazing experience, my first time, and I am already decided not to miss it ever (well, ever is too long), say miss it for a few years to come.
To introduce about the festival first, it is about films which are based on alternate sexuality which is not mainstream, yet. The festival also showcases talents from the community, photographers, dancers, poets and the like. This was my first time, but I came to know all these years the venue is always the same, Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, Vasanthnagar. The venue is a charming place and very apt for such a colourful and multi-cultured event. This post is about my experience at the festival, for more information on the festival, please visit http://blrqueerfilmfest.com.
I was there at the festival on both the days of the weekend, though it started on Friday, but my working hours prevented me from attending on a Friday. I have seen 7 films in total, and following are my short reviews.

  • Pas, USA: Very short and very creatively directed film. No words, everything is expressed with ballet steps. Funny and expressive.
  • Frangipani, Sri Lanka: Well directed, but not-so-new story. It was a little dragging in between, and  the flash-back and present story lines were not so much differentiated, which made it little confusing at times. Acting was superb. The film tried to deal with a lot of issues together and hence the story got quite complicated. Definitely worth a watch.
  • Damned If You Don’t, USA: Not a new film. The initial old video effect makes you little bit nauseous, and after a while you start fearing that your eyes are going for a toss. But, if you can sit through the torture, the film can be quite a challenge to your brains. I am sure by the time it is over, you can relax your eyes and your brain will realize that it was the story of an enchanting seductress.
  • The Invisible Men, Israel: It is real documentary and not a film. Well shot, well edited; the shaky camera never seemed so perfect. And the fact that the film ends in a hopeful note leaves everyone happy.
  • Just Two Steps Away, India: The film which I was luckily a part of. Made by my friend, it did not disappoint me. Story was ok, but what made the film stand out were its quirky dialogues, awesome background score and good editing (because I saw how it was shot). On the minus was the voice sound, that needs to be improved a lot. And personally, I missed wide shots, everything was so close-up, it seemed like an interview sometimes. Worth a watch (maybe in a less crowded place).
  • Cannibales (Cannibals), Spain: The shocker of a film. Until the end you will not know what is happening, shot in a park, with a hand-held camera, the message this film gives cannot be simpler, more direct and more shocking. The background music builds the tension very effectively. The film even uses the ending credits to add to the story, which was very creative. The best one I have watched at this festival.
  • I’ve Only Just Begun, Finland: A music video with a strong message. About how the alternate gender people fight against religious institutions and social stigma up to a road to St. Petersburg, Russia.

Coming to the performances, I missed the day one performances of piano and poetry reading. The day two performances were splendid. There was so much energy on the stage that it will keep you wondering what energy drink keeps them going. It was a mixture of classical, semi-classical and contemporary Bollywood dance, and who will not be entertained by that!
Then there was a lot of social networking, well for others, if not me. I am not much of a “social butterfly” (as another friend is), and hence I keep to myself at gatherings like this. I came to understand that I know a lot of people by face, some of them came and talked to me, some of them did not. I was happy meeting a few people whom I have never met or met more than three years back. I was happy that few people did not come and talk to me because I have forgotten their names. I was happy to have known nice people around, and more importantly, I was happy to see some quality films.


P.S.: Reviews need not be taken seriously, take them in jest.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Duronto travel and Orange Cheesecake

A lot of people had been asking me this question, “why travel by train? Its 30 hours journey!” I just answered, firstly, I am short of funds and air tickets are very costly, and secondly, I have not travelled in long distance trains and I want to experience it and enjoy it. And so, my tickets were already booked 60 day in advance, just because there are just two decent trains that go from Bangalore to Howrah and hence getting tickets can be quite troublesome at later stages.
On the travel day, I was all prepared, armed with my books and “Grey’s Anatomy” DVDs. I had a lower berth in a 3AC coach (is the new general coach. so they say). I prefer lower berths because that gives me access to the window as well as the charging point (you know these android phones are such a power drainer). So the journey started, and I was ready for 30 hours of eating, sleeping, reading, watching and listening. I had no idea that the listening part would overshadow everything else. Two of my co-passengers who seemed to be colleagues were continuously chattering about their workplace, workplace politics and a lot of other things. One of them seems to dislike every food served on the train and had to voice that pretty loudly. As for me, the food was much better, though the usual things were not right, like palm oil in the parathas and rice-starch in the daal, but still, it is ok and I did not fall sick.
Being in 3AC entitled us to three course lunch, starting with soup and breadsticks and ending with a sweet dish or an ice-cream, evening snacks and tea, three course dinner, a morning bed-tea, then breakfast and tea again, and again a three course lunch just before disembarking. This is pretty good for Indian Railways Standard. Even the toilets were clean and even had toilet paper (limited stock though). The Duronto express has no scheduled stops in between, so all the passengers were tied together for this 30 hours and hence travel friendship is not un-common. But for me, well, I am not much of a talker and given the two of them were already eating up a lot of footage, I decided not to involve in the office gossip. The rest passengers in the coach were female, and being a single man makes me very susceptible and hence I kept quiet, except for once when one of the ladies asked for a hajmola tablet.
The 30 hour journey was over eating and sleeping, it was kinda boring, but thanks to Gibran and Grey, I was kept amused. It was quite surprising to find escalator in Howrah station, though it worked only one way (Up). The first thing that I always do when I enter a local train is but a jhalmuri. This jhalmuri was made awesomely and it tingled all my taste buds, so much that my mouth is watering even now when I am writing about it. Well, I reached home station much after the jhalmuri was over, and surprisingly the first rickshaw-wala I asked, agreed to carry me and my luggage home, guess it was my lucky day.

Coming to the recipe now, you might be asking how train travel is related to the recipe; well, it is, because the major ingredients for this recipe came with me from Bangalore to Howrah on the train. To identify which ones, read along.

Ingredients:
                For the base:
·         150 grams or 1 and half packets of digestive biscuits, you can use any biscuit you like, even Oreo to give a chocolaty twist.
·         75 grams or 3/4th cup butter (melted), unsalted or cooking butter preferred.
For the filling:
·         50 grams or half cup butter (melted), again unsalted preferred.
·         150 grams or 1 and half cups of castor sugar, you can pulse grind normal sugar.
·         400 grams of cream cheese, I used two packs of Amul normal cheese spread. This came with me on the train.
·         25 grams or 1 tablespoon of plain flour.
·         Zest of two oranges and juice of one orange. Buy fresh oranges for good zest, just use your cheese-grater and rub finely, so that no white portion is grated.
·         3 eggs, separated.
·         200 ml of cream. This also came with me on the train.
·         2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. (optional)
For the topping:
·         2 oranges, peeled and separated.
·         200 gram or 2 cups of normal sugar.
·         1 cup of water.
·         2 tablespoon Orange liqueur (optional).
Equipment:
·         1 round cake tin lined with baking paper, if using microwave, use glass bowl, lining not required.

Procedure:
The final product
  1. Preheat oven to 170 C, no pre-heating required if using microwave. Crush biscuits using pulse mode of your mixer. This can be done by putting biscuits in a plastic bag and banging it with any blunt object.
  2.  Mix biscuits crumbs with melted butter well, and transfer in the tin/bowl. Press by hand evenly to create a nice base. Cover with cling film and pop it inside fridge to chill.
  3. Bring cream cheese to room temperature or soften it. Take a big bowl and mix cream cheese, butter, sugar, flour, orange zest and juice, vanilla, and egg yolks. Beat this mixture until smooth.
  4. Whip the cream in a separate bowl and fold in with cheese mixture.
  5. Beat egg whites separately until stiff. Remember, the less oil in the egg white, the more easy it is to beat till stiff.
  6. Fold in fluffy egg whites to cheese mixture, keeping as much air as possible. Since we did not add any baking powder, the air in egg whites is the only thing that will make the cake soft.
  7. Pour this in the tin/bowl on the biscuit crust. Bake for about an hour, for 30 minutes in case of microwave. Cake is done when the top looks firm. Cool inside the oven for some time, then cool outside.
  8. Run a knife around the sides to loosen the cheesecake from the side of the tin/bowl. After cake has cooled completely, put in fridge to chill.
  9. For caramelized oranges, de-seed the oranges. In a thick bottomed pan, place all the sugar, with the water. Heat up the pan, dissolve the sugar first, then increase heat and constantly stir until it gets a nice caramel colour. If the mixture is too sticky, add little water carefully and then add the liqueur and the oranges. Cook for some time and switch off the heat. Let cool.
  10. Cut cheesecake in slices, top with the caramelized oranges. Enjoy the bliss.



Note: Do not store cheesecake with the topping, as the liquid may make the biscuit base soggy.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Re-birth

Though my hair is already about half-an-inch long, it is never late to share the experience with everyone. Yes, I had shaved my head, almost a month back, on account of my sacred-thread ceremony (poite in Bengali, janau in Hindi, upbit in Sanskrit). For those who do not know what this ceremony means, it is the process by which a Brahmin kid becomes a full Brahmin. Yes, I am not a kid and hence there were a lot of questions about “why so late?”, to all those, I have just one answer, “everything happens on its own time”. Yes, it was quite delayed, partly because of my own reluctance on this ceremony, partly financial, partly not finding suitable dates or time. Like any other Bengali/Hindu ceremony, there are fixed dates for this ceremony too and most of them fall during summers. This year, it was in winter and hence my parents decided that it can happen without any problem. Having such kind of ceremony in summer is really pathetic, due to the heat and humidity near Kolkata, and so, it’s only those I-have-to-get-married-soon people, who have their weddings in summers, others prefer the ceremonies in winters.
Coming to the ceremony, it was not very grand. I was against inviting a lot of people, but then, since I will never have a grand wedding, so I agreed to my parents’ wishes for inviting more than hundred people. The ceremony in itself is almost like wedding ceremony. So, I was awake before dawn on the d-day, ate little something, and then went back to bed (I was not supposed to sleep or change clothes). The main ceremony involved yajna or fire sacrifice and puja to all great Gods of Hinduism. I had little to do, my father was doing all of it along with two pundits. I was busy clicking pictures. Then after half the yajna and the offerings to fore-fathers were made (it was sad that the fore-mothers don’t get anything), I was called for shaving my head, which I did readily since my hair-line is already receding. The actual ceremony involves getting ears pierced too, but I stayed away because of my already huge ear lobes and fear of infection. Then I was applied haldi a-la wedding style. Then after the bath, I was wearing saffron dhoti and sat through the rest of the fire sacrifice. After the ceremony was over, I was supposed to beg for food, and I was supposed to spend the next three days inside house (no seeing sun) and cooking and eating whatever I had collected in the begging process, and I was not supposed to show my face to anyone. Well, things are quite easy in 21st century and I was left alone by evening. Though I still did not eat anything substantial, so I was fasting for almost twelve hours by evening. Then I was changed to rajbesh, which is basically elegant attire, I was happy with the dhoti that was gifted to me. Finally, by evening, I was able to eat some food.
The title “re-birth” comes from the fact that this is called the second birth of a Brahmin. If I was dead before this ceremony, I would have become a ghost (brahmadotti in Bengali, which means Brahmin ogre) which lives on banyan trees. Incidentally there is a big banyan tree behind my house in Konnagar, also everyone knows about the big banyan tree near Bangalore. Luckily, I am now a complete Brahmin and hence both the banyan trees and the tourists are saved. Now, I can officially perform pujas, (it is hard to survive in Bangalore on single source of income). One of my friends has booked me for his house-warming yajna, but, I do not think I am qualified to do that, but for smaller pujas like Lakshmi or Narayan puja, I can do, provided I can get hold of a book which describes everything.
By the end of the ceremony, I had a lot of gifts, most of them were shirts or clothing materials. The cutest gift was by one of my uncles, which was a set of tea-glasses of different colours. The hugest one was a dinner set by my sister’s colleagues. I got two books, both are awesome, and I also got one Parker and one Pierre Cardin pen. But the real thing I learnt is how to wear a dhoti.
Oh, I forgot to add, I have to wear the sacred thread now, which is nine strings of thread, in three sets of three, worn around the left shoulder. I am supposed to not talk while having food and I am not supposed to eat outside, I am not supposed to eat meat too, but that thing we bengalies have left long ago. I am supposed to follow a lot of other things, and I have to do regular puja at home or at least recite the Gayatri Mantra two times a day. This I do already (once a day though) and thankfully it won’t change.
To summarize, the experience was good. I had never gone bald since I attained by senses, so my head feels lighter and colder most of the times. And also it is good to do a yajna or two in a year, it feels nice to do something which is a tradition for more than 3000 years. It also feels good to feed a lot of people and more so after they compliment that the food was good. I agree, I did not make the food, but at least I found the caterer who made the good food. It was good to see a lot of people, whom you hardly meet owning to our own busy lives. And it always feels great to open gift boxes!


P.S.: I am available for your Brahman-bhojan requests.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Three Decades

Yes, it's official now, I have joined the 30's Club. And, to tell you the truth, it feels great! Well, for some of my friends "30 is the new 40", but for me it is "life begins at 30". So, let me recollect my past three decades in this blog post.

1980s: Truly speaking I do not remember much. But yes, one thing I vividly remember is riding a First class coach while we were transferring base from Konnagar (my birthplace) to Rupnaryanpur (my father's workplace). I remember those closed coups and also remember it was a winter evening and that we were having oranges on the train. Maybe that was a very special moment and so I remember it nicely.
After shifting base, it was time for me to go to school, and since my parents used to tell this story to everyone when I was a kid, I know that I cried a lot on my first day to school. It was like howling as my parents used to describe it. I also remember the school premises, it was a nice group of buildings, actually employee quarters which had been converted into a school. The area was covered in trees and hence break time used to fun.

1990s: This decade was marked with two tours which are still etched in my mind. One was to Darjeeling and another was to Kedarnath, Badrinath and Gangotri. Darjeeling happened in the early 90s and hence I remember little, mostly from the photographs. But Kedarnath memory is still fresh in my mind, since it was really an amazing journey. Besides that this was the usual school days, the teachers, the friends, the not-so-friends. Thankfully, I was never bullied in school. Well, being a good student has its perks. It was a good childhood now that I look back. The usual fights with sister, the usual sleeping just before dinner, the usual sadness before exam, the usual happiness after exam, the usual lunch sharing with friends, the usual studies, the usual long summer breaks, the usual visiting relatives, the usual teenage love, the usual small heart breaks. By the end of this decade I was transforming, I knew I thought in a different way than the rest of my friends or class-mates. Finally, school time was over.

2000s: The most important decade. College. Though I did not have a great college, but the company in college made up for it. We were a group of not-so-much-geeks. Then the love which started unknowingly and continued for the whole decade, getting stronger and stronger and finally leaving me devastated. Then it was time for the first job, the first travelling alone, the first flight, the first international flight, Switzerland, Scotch, Champagne. Then there were people, lots of people, colleagues who became friends, friends who became strangers, colleagues who pretended to be friends, friends who pretended to be friends, strangers who became friends, strangers who became friends for a night, strangers who became friends for a few months, strangers who remained strangers. And the most important of it, I grew up.

So now, after thirty long years, how do I feel? Yes, I feel awesome, I feel wise, I feel loved, I feel wanted, I feel beautiful. I can influence people, I can make decisions, I can take up a social cause, I can be myself. Yes, I have broken a few hearts, got my heart broken too many times. Yes, I have loved and lost and yet loved again. Yes, I have trusted people who broke my trust, and I have trusted people whom I will always trust. Yes, I have seen people change, for the better, for the worse. Yes, I have seen myself change, for the better for the worse. Yet, there is so much I have done in these years, that I feel content. I have lived the pages of history, I have touched famous works of Art, I have seen Northern Lights dance, I have experienced the love they talk about in books; I have lived my life. But of course, it does not end here, it gets better from here.

Friday, 15 March 2013

How to (or not to) port a number in India

Working for a popular telecom service provider over the last two years, and specifically working for porting changes, I thought porting or MNP (as they call it here), would be an easy process. But oh boy, how wrong I was. Hence, here goes the story, the story of my battle which lasted for eleven days (FYI the war of Mahabharata lasted for eighteen days).
The whole process was triggered when Vodafone, my previous Service Provider, deducted about 200 bucks from my pre-paid account without giving me any reason, and later giving me stupid reasons like:

  • Your data pack validity expired and hence the balance has gone to reserve. Please disable data connection and restart phone, your balance will be back. (I had a data pack, and I did as instructed, it did not work, as expected) 
  • You have used data connection without data pack and hence all your balance has gone. (You mean to say I used 200 rupees worth of 2G data in 2 hours, where half of the time there is no connection!) 
  • There is a technical problem, please check after 1 hour. (Haha, we all know what that means, you do not have a clue what is wrong!)


After all these, I thought I have had enough of Vodafone and asked them to give me the detail breakup of the charges, which of course they could not, and so I decided to move on.
The best choice was Airtel (appeared at that time), little did I knew what would be in store for me at Airtel. So, here is a step by step procedure of how to achieve number porting successfully:

  1. SMS PORT your number to 1900:The easiest step of the whole process. You will get a Unique Porting Code which will be valid till some date as mentioned in the reply message.
  2. Grab a porting SIM:One of the toughest jobs to do. I roamed around for two days. All retailers said there are problems in porting hence they do not keep porting SIMs. How naïve of me to not listen to them. I thought, Telenor does porting in one day, can’t they do it in 7 days! And finally I got the SIM at a small shop in Begur and hence started the ordeal.
  3. Wait for 7 days: Relatively easy part. After that you get an SMS about the time of your porting, and you see the phone showing no signal after that time, when you are supposed to insert the new SIM. I did exactly and tried making a call, which directly went to some Airtel call centre, and the guy verified my details and told me not to make any calls till morning. Anyway, I could not have since this is a pre-paid connection, and there was no balance in my account.
  4. Call here and there: Now starts the real battle. Your account will be in a limbo state, you cannot recharge, hence you cannot make a call. And since getting real support also costs now, you cannot talk to a real person by dialing 121. What do you do then? You go to some random Airtel retailer shop (or the shop you got the SIM) and ask for help. Then they connect you to 198, the complaint section of Airtel. Then you tell your story, and first thing they say is “Please wait for seven days”. It is first time, so you believe him/her.
  5. Wait for seven days: You cannot call for these seven days, since you do not have balance and you cannot recharge. Your number shows “not a Airtel Number” on online recharge, and recharge by the retailer fails by just saying “not successful”. And then your ex-boyfriend calls just when you were recharging, and you give away the money even without checking the “failed” message, and then repent about why did you have to pick that call!
  6. Call here and there: If you have notices, this is same as 4th step, that is what you do when it does not work after “seven” days. You call 198 again and again until your number is blocked there, and then you call from your friend’s mobile who has a Airtel connection. And mind you, all these while you have incoming, both SMS and voice, so, you should not complain much. And then you listen to all these options:
    • Please recharge with Rs. 4/- from the same retailer where you got your SIM. (Very clever ploy, they know you have other work and hence can’t be sitting all day at the retailer shop.)
    • Please recharge with Rs. 201/- (Does not work, I have already told it was failing both online and at the retailer)
    • Please talk to my supervisor. (We all know that “supervisor” is the guy sitting beside you, Sweety!)
    • Please wait for 48 hours. (At this point I ask “Why someone takes a mobile connection?” No answer, as expected)
  7. Try to make noise: Go online and make noise. Check all consumer complaints forum and make online complaint, make as much noise as you can. While doing that I stumbled upon this Facebook page Airtel Presence https://www.facebook.com/bhartiairtelltd and I left a wall post as well as a message. Though my wall post was deleted, they replied to my message that they are sorry for the inconvenience and they will look into it. Let a day or two pass, and nothing happens, then start commenting on all their pictures. And then a mysterious savior (appointed by Airtel Presence) calls you, “I will look into it!” and you fall in love with him/her!
  8. Your account is valid now but you cannot recharge: All the savior does is fix half of your problem, so now your number shows as a Airtel number online, but still you cannot recharge. Now your money gets deducted from your bank account but the recharge fails. And then you ask your boyfriend to do a “chhota” recharge from a retailer and it still fails. What do you do now? Keep making noise. This is when I logged in here https://prepaidweb.airtelworld.com/PSC_Web/PSCloginAction (you have to use your Airtel number, before the savior came into the battle, here it would have showed “Please enter a valid Airtel number”) and raised a service request. Finally I got a request number of all my complaints.
  9. Savior saves the day: Your savior calls again and you calmly explain the problem and he/she promises you to look into it. And then after a few minutes you get an SMS saying the problem is solved. And now you try to recharge online and it is success and you can’t believe it, and you check the balance thrice, and then you send the first SMS to your boyfriend, and make the first call to your mom, and shout “Yay!” as if you won a great battle. Finally you thank your savior and promise that you will never call him/her back, even for a date.
  10. Thank God: Don’t forget to thank God, after all it was all His doing. Otherwise how would you come to know who cares about you. Call and text back to only those people who called or texted you in this period, they are your real friends J

A software engineers POV of the problem:

  • All service providers want to reduce pre-paid connections and migrate you to post-paid since post-paid customers are like the farm cows, most beneficial!
  • That is why it is very easy to port to post-paid. I myself got call two times from Airtel Chennai asking if I would like to make my connection to post-paid, which I politely declined.
  • Airtel’s Order Value chain was surely not be working properly, the defect might have been in the order capture system, or in the back-end.
  • The SIM was activated, but the subscription was not created properly with my details. Hence, my number was being declared as a non Airtel number.
  • The savior fixed this, but then he forgot to send those details to billing systems, hence my billing account was not created. As a result, recharges were failing, if there is no account, you cannot transfer money into it, can you?
  • Finally, the account was created and connected to the subscription, and hence I could recharge  and make calls, and send sms, and recharge for 3G data.

Truly speaking, when I received that porting SIM, I had no idea I would write a whole blog for it!

PS: Vodafone would have tried to call me and persuade me not to port out, but given the discussions I had before, they decided not to.