Musings of a Madrasi

Jan's Jottings

Call it Madras. Call it Chennai. Call it the Detroit of India. Call it anything. The city, quintessentially, remains “Namma Ooru” for all of us – proud Chennai-ites! On this day- when Madras Day is celebrated across the city- commemorating its 374th birthday- here are the Musings of a Madrasi!

At the outset- no- we don’t like to be called a Madrasi- but if you persist- we are not going to waste time clearing the air! Agreed- people from “Up North” do not find any difference between Kerala, Andhra, Karnataka or Tamilnadu- and refer to all and sundry by the archaic name- Madrasi. Just goes to show they are still stuck in the times of the English rule- where these places were collectively known as Madras. And as enough and more reviews would have explained by now- we are not anywhere analogous to how SRK portrays us in his…

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Still trendy to buy online?

Decoding the impact of GST on our Internet-based fashion purchases

Niveditha, a happy homemaker and mom to a 6-month-old is confused. Since the advent of online shopping that has been a blessing in disguise for many like her who feel the whole exercise of stepping out for shopping, especially for clothes, is futile as everything available at your doorstep easily.

From cute baby rompers to the little black dress you always eyed – everything is now available online and all you’ll have to do is ‘filter’ and ‘sort’. Oh, and the wonderful world of offers, coupon codes, discounts, and mega sales! Many of us like Niveditha, sure lived in our la-la online land!

But with the advent of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and a slew of tax reforms being announced day in and day out, customers are becoming wary. Will online shopping for clothing and accessories continue to be fruitful or will it burn a bigger hole in my wallet? Will GST make me spend more or save enough in online purchases? We put your doubts and certain myths to rest with regards to how the world of online fashion shopping will change (or not) after GST.

Is there any good news out of this?

“GST comes in with a positive impact such as better pricing for the customers and no additional taxes on inter-state sales – which is a great move as in brings in more transparency,” says Suchi Mukherjee, Founder and CEO of fashion portal Limeroad.com. And with India being a key player in the online retail industry, GST might actually be the way forward. Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) claims that India is expected to generate $100 billion in online retail revenue by the year 2020.

GST primarily works as a uniform tax rate across the nation, eliminating the various state-level taxes. If you are expecting a product that is being shipped from another city, GST will rule out the paperwork at each stage, and your product will reach you quickly. So, that’s good news!

Will discount sales, offers and free return policies continue?

With the new tax reforms, it is only a matter of time before we notice a change in price of regular household items shopped online. Mukherjee tells us how Limeroad.com encourages discovery than discounts. “All discounts on the platform are the ones that are offered by our seller partners directly,” she says.

What about returning the products for which the GST was collected?

Will the 30-day return policy or no-questions-asked still hold good?

The portal Jabong.com points us to their new rules on GST where they mention, “On return/cancellation of an order, the refund amount, including the GST collected would be refunded, in its entirety. In case of partial returns, the GST amount charged corresponding to that particular item(s) shall be refunded”.

This comes as a relief amidst news that refunds in the event of returns or cancellation will mean the e-commerce operators deduct tax at source and then claim refund from the Government, which might be a tedious process for them.

To be on the safe side, the customer might want to take a second look at the return/cancellation policies every time they make a purchase.

Poornima Srivatsan, a Chartered Accountant based in Chennai, says that “it is too early to draw conclusions, whether this is going to benefit or affect the e-commerce sector. While the existing big players will be prepared with infrastructure and compliance, the small and medium sellers must get a good awareness on the system and prepare themselves to sustain their businesses.”

Are there any immediate changes?

We will have to wait and watch. Earlier, the Government had announced that players in the e-commerce sector would have to collect a tax of 1% TCS (Tax Collection at Source) from the sellers listed on their site. But the Government has deferred this move to a later date (yet to be announced). “Since sellers will now be able to take tax input and the overall cost of manufacturing will go down, the product pricing will be more competitive. The cost benefit of increased sales will eventually be passed on either partially or completely to the customer in the form of lower costs,” says Mukherjee.

Srivatsan explains how the e-commerce sellers need to get their act together. “All the businesses carrying out e-commerce activity are required to get registered under GST irrespective of their turnover. This has caused a bit of anxiety among the small sellers,” she explains.

With many small time sellers yet to register with Goods and Services Tax Identification Numbers (GSTIN), there isn’t any clarity on when the tax will be introduced.

But regular online shoppers like Neha, an IT professional, are undeterred.

“It’s not just about the convenience. There are certain offers and discounts that work well only online.” She says, “If there’s going to be a marginal increase in the prices because of GST, that’s not going to stop or hamper online customers like me.”

(Published first in The Hindu)

A Delhi Mom On Raising Her Children In India’s Most Polluted City

When I moved to Delhi with my 18 month old, I was apprehensive. Not just because of how she would adapt to the new city, her new friends, the weather, etc. But the pollution- was the biggest scare. Touted as the most polluted city in the world, even topping the famous Beijing- Delhi is in the danger zone, when it comes to pollution.

Just how Bad Is The Air?
The AQI (Air Quality Index) on a bright weekday, as I pen this article, is an astounding 233- which is deemed “Very Unhealthy”. The levels on other days have gone up to 300+ which comes under the “Hazardous” zone. The levels of pollution are measured on the basis of the particles suspended in the air, termed as PM10 and PM2.5 meaning Particulate Matter with diameter less than 10 micrometers and particulate matters with diameter less than 2.5 micrometer. The PM2.5, in particular is more dangerous as they extremely minute in size and do not settle, but remain suspended in air, contributing to the heavy pollution levels. The other factors include substances such as Ozone and Knox and Sox.

Parents are worried about getting their child exposed to such hazardous onditions which result in minor illness such as conte constant dry cough and cold to severe illness such as Respiratory tract infections, cardio-vascular problems and even cognitive functions impairment. Kids are synonymous with outdoor play- so what is the real solution to this evil?

The recent Odd-Even strategy that was implemented for a fortnight twice in the city- has been a marginal success in bringing the AQI down- but reports from CSE (Center for Science and Environment) suggest that after an initial dip in the pollution level during the Odd-Even period, there has been a steep rise and it has spiked up.

What can parents do?
As a parent- who is very much worried with my child’s persistent and frequent dry coughs- I realize it is up to each individual to act upon the issue.

Download the SAFAR-AIR App– an initiative by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Govt of India. It gives you accurate and locality wise details of the pollution levels- the exact value of the AQI- and indicating it with colour-coded system that describes whether the air is Good/Moderate/Poor/Very Poor/Severe.

When planning physical exercises for yourself and the kids, ensure you choose the right time. It is generally agreed that based on Delhi’s pollutions levels, early morning or Late Evenings are detrimental and harmful to health, especially for the kiddos. Choose late mornings- which can be beneficial as your child can get their dosage of Vitamin D as well.

Invest in a good Air purifier with HEPA filters that help in filtering out the dust particles to keep the indoors safe and clean. There are various sizes and prices to choose from.

Discuss with your kids’ schools if they can rearrange the play-time, so that kids are not affected when the levels are high. Also ensure the waiting area for your kids- where cars zoom in and out during pickup time is managed well and kids are not kept waiting for longer times.

Face Masks are another temporary option to use when stepping outdoors in the polluted areas. There are masks with various designs to enthrall kids out there in the market- chose them wisely! Make sure the carpets/ furniture fabrics that you buy or use in the house are washable. Clean them frequently and sun-dry them so that they don’t become a collecting place for moths and other dust-mites.

 Educate your child about the perils of pollution and the need to maintain a clean environment both inside and outside the house. Remember, a clean future is the biggest investment we can make for our kids.

Mom’s The Word!

“The second Sunday of the month of May is celebrated as Mother’s Day all over the world”- claims the Wikipedia definition when I google the term Mother’s Day. The entire concept of Mother’s Day was probably rooted in the West- when kids, who stayed away from their moms would use this day to greet them and meet them. And they said, we don’t need a Mother’s Day in the East, we meet our Moms daily. We live with them. Be that as may be/East or West- Mumma’s  the Best 🙂 And we don’t need a separate day to glorify the divine incarnation that she is-coz- #EveryDayIsMothersDay!
  • I know am a Mom – when I realize planning the menu for dinner means- “Preparing ONLY what my daughter Likes“! Then follows the hubby- and probably then will be my choice. Cut to the past- that has what my MOM has been and will be doing whenever I am Home. I rush to her to find out the Menu- listing out my favourites, but I hardly know what makes to her list.
  • I know am a MOM– when I am strict with my kid and try to discipline her- even if it means few glares and stern warnings. but the next minute, her cute little face that comes and says “Sorry”  melts me.
  • I know am a MOM when I start arguing with my husband for the flimsiest reasons. “Long Drive after Lunch? “Noo.. she needs to sleep, plan it later”. “We are done with the dinner. Lets order some Ice Creams”. “Whaaat..nooo.. she s having a bad tooth- lets not eat Ice Creams in front of her”! When these small “giving-ups” are termed as sacrifices it seems odd and embarrassing! We even laugh over it later saying how we agree to disagree. But then I realize these are such inconsequential pebbles on the long way to Huge Mountain called My Momma’s love. Our Exams- she wouldn’t venture out. If we fell ill, she would eat much lesser as her mind would be preoccupied. And if its study time, everyone at home wouldn’t watch TV- lest we get distracted.
  • I know am a MOM when I realize how happy my heart jumps when someone says nice things about my daughter. “Ohh she sings the rhymes so well” “Ohh she holds the badminton racket like a pro” and so on. Just like how my MOM would feel when me and my bro did something Good and Big. We used to tease her saying that she is soo hung up on her kids and their achievements- and she would say with a soft smile- “Wait, till you have a Kid. You will know!” I Know Today Mom!
  • I know am a MOM– when I realize after hours of enduring a painful labour- I gave a bright smile and asked the doc if I could see my child. The minute I saw her first- there was no pain, no suffering. And only the angel and me in that Magical Minute!
  • I know am a MOM when I would trade anything in the World in exchange to see my new-born daughter fast asleep. But the minute she is in deep sleep- I would slowly start playing with her tiny feet and cute little fingers and talk to her in a language that only the two of us would understand. And all those troubles I endured to put her to sleep would vanish in no time. Now, I understand Ma, why even when all would say how I was a troublesome nocturnal bird, not giving you any sleep as a baby- you would brush it aside with a smile. Not one word from you, till date 🙂
  • I know am a MOM– when nothing gives me more happiness (not even the best of handbags and designer dresses and latest gadgets) than seeing an empty plate and a tiny smile on my kid’s face- after meal time. That ‘s just the ultimate pleasure– and trust me, as Moms we battle for it each and every day!
  • I know am a MOM– when I would discard unwanted books, old torn clothes and even some staggering pieces of furniture, but those tiny mittens and booties that you wore first or the lovely green wrap that I used to swaddle you are all tucked in deep inside my shelf!
  • I know am a MOM– when shopping for ME/US soon changes to Shopping for the KID. Movie choices from Action/Rom-Com soon give way to Disney classics. Star Sports/ Sun Music/ HBO are fast replaced by Pogo, Nick Junior and Chutti TV.
  • I know am a MOM– when I see my kid playing with my MOM- there is hardly a difference of who is who. It is a clear picture of two kids playing happily in the world- with me watching it from somewhere in the corner and tears swelling up in the eye.

To, all the lovely MOM’s in the world- Hats Off. Being a Mother, is no small thing. The innumerable pain that you have undergone and the sacrifices that you do for your child- day in and day out- is unparalleled. You are the walking encyclopedia and there is nothing in the World that a mother can’t teach the Kid.Every role in the world is replaceable. Even the top boss in the best MNC can be replaced- but there is no replacement for a MOM. She was-is-and will always be the Best.

Happy Mother’s Day- dear beloved ladies 🙂

How The Art Of Complaining Has Become A Fashion

James Victore once said “Complaining is not Conversation”. How true! Sadly- oflate we have all been drawn into a web, drafted clearly by the so-called-society, wherein complaining is a fashion. If you dont complain, there is something wrong with you and your life. Picture this- the grueling summers have started.Cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Coimbatore are screaming about the rising mercury levels. At Delhi- though it is easily 41 deg daily, I have personally felt the heat isn’t much. Coz- somewhere deep in my mind- I am  prepared for a severe May and a hellish June.

But when I make conversations with friends in the city- If I tell them, it isn’t that hot- I am looked upon with a strange and quizzical look. I wonder if I offended someone with my statements. “Go with the flow” is the mantra nowadays. Agree with what most people agree has become the rule. If we are frank and bold enough to say what is in our mind- we are seen as an outcast. when the crowd complains, go with the flow. That has been the norm of late.

This mindset has even penetrated into the kiddo world. Every kid is different and every situation that the kid faces is different. If my kid screamed her way through a flight for the full 2.5 hours journey- it is no thumb rule, that she would do this on the return journey as well. She would spring up a surprise and come up as that “aww- what a sweet gal- who doesn’t trouble mom”.

But after the journey, when I discuss with my friends about it- somewhere deep down we feel we should portray an arduous picture. We must tell them “my kid troubled me sooo much. phew!- which might not be the case. We must give a picture that parenting is a tough job and parenting on flights is even more difficult. somewhere deep in all mom’s minds- the thought arises- If i tell people my kid dint pose any trouble- they are either gonna picture my kid as Dull and Not active or they are going to envy my easy lifestyle and “nazar na lag jaaye!”

Why is this urge to Please the People within us? Why do we have to agree on everything people say? Why should every conversation necessarily have a complaint/ranting about someone?  Complaints about family, about helps/drivers, about kids, about weather, about everything!

On introspection it does sound funny- and all of us are like Monica Geller from Friends- where she felt unhappy about Mrs.Greene’s anger towards her. We dont let go that easily.

So what were the flimsy complaints that you have raised, that you can remember? List them down- am sure, it will be a good read 🙂