Water your plants while on a vacation

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Going for a vacation? Don’t forget your plants at home. Of course, you can’t take them with you. Leave them with your neighbors or ask someone to water them regularly. It’s quite easy to forget about them while doing last minute packing. Wondering how to water your plants while on a vacation?

Or just do it yourself. You can very easily make some DIY kits for watering your plants while you are on a vacation. And you don’t even have to spend a dime. There are so many videos on Youtube about this. Here’s one setup that I made 3 days before I am off for a vacation.

  1. 1 2-liter soda bottle
  2. A small hollow pipe
  3. Some tapes
  4. Some strings

That’s it. For the hollow pipe, I used the insulation cover for electric wires, which actually seems to be a great choice. Just by bending the pipe, you can adjust the flow of water very easily. I have adjusted the flow such that the setup discharges 1 drop of water per second. I will be gone for 6 days. Hope the basil plant doesn’t die out in the scorching heat.

I have tried such setups before without much success. This one seems to be a perfect setup.

Tips for moving your house – Part 2

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This is the second part of the series. You can read the first part here if you haven’t already, Tips for moving the house – Part I. The first part focussed on issues that specifically on choosing a service provider. In this post, we are going to discuss things that you should take care of yourself. I always thought that it’s going to be an easy job since the people from the moving company will take care of packing all the stuff. I just have to stand there and supervise them. I was completely wrong. If you are not prepared, there would be loads of surprises when your packed boxes arrive at your new house.

1. Pack all your documents yourself

This is the one thing I had done myself, well before the moving exercise started. And that saved me hours of effort while unpacking. I started working on it at least a month before. First, I collected all the important papers, documents, and bills from all around the house, sorted them, discarded the unimportant ones like, and packed them into separate envelopes. I also separated out the documents that I needed to carry like ID proofs, passports, etc with me instead of sending them with other items. You should also keep a few copies of each important document since you would generally need them sooner than you can imagine. It’s better to be prepared in advance rather than running around in the new city, searching for a copier machine.

These are the things that I kept with me:

  • Passports of all members: Original and 2 copies of each
  • PAN Card: Original and 2 copies each
  • Aadhaar Card: Original and 5 copies each (Most sought after document nowadays)
  • Copies of vehicle’s RC, insurance policy in case you are moving your vehicles as well
  • Medical Files: Especially if you have kids (vaccination schedule and important prescriptions)

2. Surrender/apply for relocation for your services

  • Surrender your gas connection. The whole process might take a few days, but if you are lucky you might get it done in a day or two. Call your provider and check how many days they would need to process your request.
  • Apply for a relocation of your broadband and TV connections. I had paid advance rentals on both of these, so it made sense for me to apply for relocating. But, call them first and check the feasibility at your new place. The better option would be to close your accounts, and when you finally settle down at your new house, apply for new connections.

3. Electronics and other valuables

I had packed my TV, Desktop, laptop, all electronic accessories like desk phones, speakers, cables, chargers, power adapters etc on my own. And since I had kept all the original boxes with me, it was easy to pack them. It turned out to be a good decision. When I reached my new home, I could see the boxes that were packed by me, clearly marked with its contents. I also had listed out individual items on the boxes, in case it contained multiple items. The movers and packers people will never take care of your things as you would. Although it might take a few extra hours, it’s always a better choice to do it on your own.

Valuables: Obviously have to be carried with you and not with your other stuff. But it does help if you can sort them out into boxes if you already haven’t.

Large appliances like refrigerator, gas stove, microwave, washing machine can be left for the so-called pros. These things are generally more durable, and can’t withstand the tortures. Don’t be surprised if you see some new scratches or dents when they arrive at your new house. These damages are not avoidable.

4. Breakables

Kitchen glassware, photo frames, and other glass items should be packed under your supervision. You probably cannot do it yourself, but you should keep a close eye on how they are being packed. Although the guys are a bit more extra careful with these items, you need to tell them to add more layers of bubble wrap whenever you feel so. They would most of the times acknowledge your request only if you are around.

5. Food item and groceries

Try to avoid packing up opened packets of food. All liquid containers should be properly sealed. Again, your supervision is important here as well. You should also be aware of rats. The carriers would make multiple stops at warehouses and godowns where rats are plenty. They would try to feast on your food. Even if one of them manages to get into your boxes, you would end up having a lot of food to throw away.

6. Clothes

Clothes are the only items which can be easily managed while moving your house. But, I would suggest that you make separate boxes for each kind and each member of your family. That will help you to unpack and re-arrange them again at your new place. If they get mixed up, it will take a lot of time to find and sort everything again.

7. Stationary

If you can manage to organize them yourself before they are put into boxes. It will save you lots of time when you search for your things like staplers, gum or tapes when you need them at your new house.

8. Toys

Handling children can be pretty tough when everything is being packed. My suggestion would be again to sort and make boxes for the toys. You can also involve your children here. My daughter cried a lot when all her toys were being packed. She calmed down only after I ensured that all of the toys will be fine. I also asked her to remember which toy was in which box, and we were very surprised when she was able to figure the contents when our boxes arrived at our new house. This is also probably the right time to discard those old and broken toys to reduce the clutter, although you might find it hard to convince your little ones.

9. Beds, Mattresses, Sofa

These are the big items that should be left for the so-called pros. Although they would probably do a good job at this, a little supervision will surely help.

Make sure they dismantle your bed properly, mark all the items and safely keep the nuts and bolts so that they can be easily found. Dismantling a bed is easy. Before that, take some photos of your bed which will give you a rough idea how it was set up, especially, if you have a bed with drawers. In my case, the guy who had dismantled the bed didn’t turn up at my new place. It was a hard time for me to figure out how to set it up. I had no pictures of it, so I had to try all combinations possible. Spent a good 5 hours at that.

Same applies to other furniture which can be dismantled. Small tables, show pieces, etc.

Mattresses: Do not let them fold or roll your mattresses in any case. Ask them to put extra layers of bubble wraps on them so that they don’t get torn accidentally.

Sofa: Ask them to put extra layers of bubble wraps to prevent accidental damage.

10. Mark all boxes

Mark all the boxes and items yourself and be as descriptive as possible about the items. Also, tag the boxes with the room where you plan to keep it in while unloading. Although, it’s not possible for all your stuff, doing this would make sure that you don’t pile up all the boxes at a single place in your new house.

If you can follow all these tips, I am quite sure that you will see very fewer damages, you can’t avoid them completely. The most important thing is your supervision. If you can get help from your friends or family, that would really help. There would be around 4-5 packers storming into your house and try to pack up everything as fast as they can. Having a few extra hands on your side will help you instruct them and make sure everything is being packed safely.

On the day when the things are being packed, you should be relaxed. Do not try to hurry up, take your time to ensure that everything happens under your nose. If the packing guys are in a hurry, offer them some water or tea, ask them to rest and then resume. Let them know clearly that you want everything to be packed safely. Don’t fall for their serious assurances of safety. You would probably never get hold of the same guys at your new place. The guys who come to deliver your stuff would most probably be a different set of people, especially if you are shifting to another city.

While unloading, ask them to put the boxes in different rooms. If you have tagged your boxes, it would be easier. Ask them to put the large items in their intended places. Before they arrive, you need to have a good idea where to put what instead of deciding on the fly. Spend some time discussing the rooms at your new place, which stuff goes where, and who takes which cupboards.

A lot of things mentioned here might seem obvious. It did, for me too. But it’s quite easy to miss all these points when a lot of things are happening around you.

Again, I would stress on that fact that you should start preparing for this exercise at-least a month before. Make a plan, not just in your head, but put it down on paper.  Plan in detail as much as possible. And hope that you shift to your brand new home peacefully.

Here are some links that you can also go through:

How to pack up your house like a pro?

41 Easy Moving And Packing Tips That Will Make Your Move Dead Simple

Tips for moving your house – Part 1

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Moving Houses

Moving Houses

Shifting houses is hard. And it’s even harder if you are not well prepared. Recently, I had to move from Bangalore to Faridabad. It’s been about a month now that I have shifted to my new house, but I really can’t say that we have settled in yet. Many would think, moving houses is an easy task. Enquire and finalize a Movers & Packers, finalize a date and you are done. That’s probably true for a bachelor. But if you have a family, I would suggest you plan for it at least a month in advance.

In this post, I will only write about things that you will need to know about choosing a moving company. I will also do follow-up posts covering other aspects of moving your house and how you can plan it so that you are not frustrated in your new home.

1. Choose a Movers and Packers company

This is probably the hardest part. Choosing a vendor is not at all easy or straight-forward. This business is still quite unorganized and most of them will disappoint you. If you go by their reviews, you won’t find even a single reliable vendor who you can trust with your items. Once you call them, they will ask for an appointment to survey your house and give an estimate. They would just talk and talk, give you an estimate and give you all possible assurances.

You might get very cheap estimates, and some might quote you exorbitant prices. Do not always go for the cheapest or the costliest one expecting them to give you a trouble-free experience. Read reviews about them on the internet. You should never shortlist a company if it has less than 50 reviews(good or bad). If they mention something which is not written in their terms and conditions, ask them to give it in writing.

Note: 80% of their words are plain lies. Please don’t believe their words. Ask for written commitments and terms and conditions. Never go by their words.

2. Household items: Avail insurance or not

For household items, the insurance amount that you normally have to pay is 3% of the declared value of items. They would force you to declare a higher value for your items so that they can earn commission from the insurance companies, it at all they insure your items.

What could go wrong here? Well, as I said earlier, don’t believe these guys. I would suggest not to spend anything on insurance. But if you still want to, make sure you first get your insurance policy from them before the shifting date. Go through all the terms and conditions before you let them touch any of your belongings.

Note: For me, they took insurance charges from me on the day of the shifting, and never gave me any insurance policy details even after following up with them for weeks. Some items were damaged during transit, and I was never able to claim anything. What they probably did? They pocketed all the insurance premium that I had paid, about 6000 INR.

3. Payment schedule for the Movers and Packers

Most of them ask for 80% payment on the day of shifting. 20% or so needs to be paid when you get the delivery. Although this is a highly unfair payment schedule for you, there’s nothing much you can do here. They will accept all methods of payment: Cheque, Cash, Online Transfer etc, which is quite convenient.

Note: Keep all your estimates, payment receipts and other documents related to this in safe custody. It is very easy to misplace these documents while moving.

4. Full-Loading or Part-Loading

Full-load is obviously going to be costly in theory, where the vehicle which loads your items is the one that is going to deliver it, and it would only contain your items. Part-load is usually cheaper since a single truck can contain household items of multiple persons who are moving.

Part-load can be riskier because:

  1. Your items can be easily mixed up with others’.
  2. Your items can be damaged since they will be loaded and unloaded multiple times due to change of trucks or carriers which ply to different destinations.

If they are promising you a “Full Load” carrier, make sure you note down the number of the carrier that leaves your house. Verify at your destination if it’s the same carrier.

Note: For me, they promised a single carrier for my items, but when they finally delivered the goods, I realized that I had been taken for a ride. I lost 2 items in transit, which they haven’t been able to track down yet. The carrier wasn’t the same one which had picked up my items. And I did see several damages on various items, which clearly suggested that they have been loaded and unloaded multiple times.

5. Moving your car or driving

It is a tough decision. It was for me. But if you are adventurous, I would suggest that you drive it to your new house yourself. Trusting your car with these guys is very risky. Driving could be tiring and costly, but it can also be economical since you would save on your air tickets. However, if you are still shifting your car through any moving company, please take care of the following.

  1. Insurance or not: Please refer above where I have talked about insuring your household goods.
  2. Take note of your odometer. Although, this doesn’t make any difference. If they need to misuse your vehicle, they will drive it around by taking out the cables attached to the wheels.
  3. Take note the fuel in the tank. If there’s a big difference, ask them to explain.
  4. Please mark the tires in front of them which cannot be easily tampered or reproduced. I have heard about incidents where they steal your new tyres and replace them with old ones.
  5. Do not leave any accessories inside the car.
  6. Take note of all current damages and scratches. Take lots of pictures of your car, both inside and outside.

For moving a car, they generally would ask for your RC in original and the Insurance Policy document in duplicate. That’s normal.

It is very easy to skip all these things. You would probably be very busy when they come to pick up your car. So, please plan for all these points well in advance.

Note: For me, my driver’s seat cover was torn at 2 places. The toolkit was missing. My car phone charger was gone. Tires seemed to be replaced by old ones, although I am not very sure about this. The fuel tank was almost empty. The delivery guy at least had the courtesy to remind me that I had an almost empty tank: it was half-tank when I had handed over the keys to them.

These are the things that you should definitely plan for and keep in mind. Also, check with your friends. Most of them would probably know a moving company which they might have used before.

This is only the first part of your preparation, and probably the most important one. If you happen to succesfully choose a great moving company, by luck or by research, 90% of your hassles are gone. In the follow-up posts, I will talk about other things that you need to keep in mind.

Cooking Diaries: The disaster

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Weekends are generally my turn to surprise my wife and daughter. Today, this is what I made. Khaman Dhokla. Here’s a picture of what was expected and what the outcome was. It spoiled my years of reputation as a cook in my house. This is the worst disaster ever in the kitchen for me.

Cooking Disaster: Khaman Dhokla

Cooking Disaster: Khaman Dhokla

I was trying to multitask, entertain the kid and make lunch as well. And I lost track of time, till I saw smoke coming out of the microwave. The wife burst out in anger, which quickly turned into laughter, when my 2-year-old daughter asked, “Papa, Ye Dhokla Tha?”

This wasn’t the second batch of Dhokla. My wife made the first ones, and my daughter knew what a Dhokla looked and tasted like. It was yummy. Unfortunately, I didn’t click a picture of it.

Being Busy

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There were days when I just slept for the weekends. I don’t even remember the last time I slept for an hour during the day. All these days, it’s been late night sleeping, and waking up early, trying to beat the morning traffic to the office. The one good thing about being busy: you are never bored. You are either doing something or sleeping. Your brain is either working or sleeping. It never rests.

I love being busy, as compared to lying on the couch the whole day, and watching those eternally repeating movies on TV. The only time I am relatively less busy is when I am commuting. My commute to the office is about 50 minutes one way. That 100 minutes daily, is the time when I do a lot of thinking, singing and sitting. Oh, and sometimes, just waiting at the red lights, praying and pleading to God to let me move on.

But I also know someone personally who is busier than me. I envy her. Her days are more interesting than mine, or so I feel. She doesn’t tell, but I can feel it. As much I hate going out and getting stuck in the traffic, she loves all the time that she gets to spend at home.

She sleeps as much as she wants. She doesn’t want to sleepy at all, but when she sleeps, even the loudest noises on earth can’t make her turn over. Her days are not monotonous, each day is new experience for her.

Here I am, trying to catch up on all my missed gym routines, sitting on the cycle and finishing my unfinished post that I had started 2 weeks back.

First Date – Part 2

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First Date

First Date

If you missed the first part, you can read it here.

And they burst out into laughter. Keith took a bunch of tissue papers and started drying himself. Veronica wasn’t sure what to do. The initial clumsiness of the first date had gradually settled down. There was an uncomfortable silence around them. Both didn’t know what to start with. After all, they had never talked like this or even met like this before.

Keith finally broke the silence.

Keith: “So, are you angry that I didn’t pick up your calls?”

Veronica: “Not really, but I was worried. But then I figured you must be tired after yesterday night’s long phone call.”

Keith: “Yeah. Sorry about that.”

Veronica smiled. She wasn’t thinking about what had already happened. She was, in her mind, trying to concentrate on something else. She was a bit nervous, which Keith noticed. He was nervous as well. For the first time, they didn’t know what to talk about.

Veronica: “Tell me something which you have never told me.”

Keith looked surprised. What kind of a question was that!

Veronica: “Come on, that’s not a difficult question. There are so many things I don’t yet know about you.”

Keith: “But what exactly you want to know about me?”

Veronica: “I don’t know, anything, that I haven’t heard from you.”, she winked.

Keith knew it was a trick question. He took up the challenge and thought he could defeat her in her own little game. But little did he know that the game Veronica wanted to play had only one outcome. She was going to win anyway.

Keith: “I didn’t like you on the first day I met. You were too rude, and had an attitude.”

Veronica smiled and said, “OK, that hurt a little, but you can carry one. Next.”

Keith was puzzled. He didn’t know this game was going to be a long one. He was now alert, though. He raked up his brain to come up with the next sentence. And at the same time, he was already ready for some more. He started enjoying this game.

Keith: “I felt really bad when you didn’t accept the chocolates that I got for you on your birthday. I threw them away.”

Veronica: “Next.”

She had no expressions to Keith’s responses. She had only smiled at the beginning of the game. She seemed composed and very serious. She seemed to be waiting for something very specific.

Keith on the other hand, although confused, was more comfortable now. He thought he could just go on and on, and at one point of time, she would be tired, and Keith would win the game. The food came, and they started eating, the game continued. Veronica would just listen to his answers, and ask him to move on to the next one. Keith was pretty fast in the beginning with his responses. He kept talking about things that either made him feel good or bad about Veronica. As the game progressed, Keith felt like he was being overpowered.

Veronica: “Is that all that you haven’t ever told me?”

Keith: “Well, I have at least told you 100 things now. We have just been talking for a few weeks. Let me get ready with the next set of my answers. Give me some time.”

Veronica: “Sure, take your time. I will be right back.”, and walked towards the restroom.

Keith finally realized why he wasn’t winning yet. He had been pitching the wrong answers to her. He smiled and thought that he can win the game now since he knew what he was going to say. After all, the opponent was a girl. He was ready with his next set of responses, eagerly waiting for Veronica. He actually jotted them down on a tissue paper, he didn’t want to take chances this time. Right then, Veronica came behind her, peeping into the notes that he had been making.

Veronica: “What’s that? I see you are concentrating hard on your homework. Good. Let’s resume.”

Keith: “You think you can trap me? Get me some Gulab Jamoons. I guess this game will continue for some more time. I really like Gulab Jamoons.”

Veronica: “Fine, I didn’t know that as well. I will take that as one of the things you never told me. Continue.”

Keith: “When I saw you today, I skipped a beat or two. You are looking so different than usual. You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.”

Veronica smiled this time, probably because she thought this response was a bit sugar-coated. She didn’t mind and said, “Thanks. Continue please.”

Keith: “I love the way you flick your hair whenever you turn towards me.”

It was already 10 pm, and the waiter asked them if they wanted something else, prompting them to leave. Veronica and Keith looked irritated. Both wanted to continue their game. But they had to leave now. Keith was starting to flirt with her and was in a romantic mood. Veronica was loving all the attention and compliments from him. They were enjoying each other’s company. But as every good thing has an end, their first date came to an end, on a happy note of course. It was a bit chilly outside. Keith took out his jacket and put it on her shoulders. Veronica turned towards him, flicked her hair and said, “Thanks for the lovely date.”

Keith: “I should thank you. You had planned the date, and I really loved it.”

First Date – Part 1

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The First Date

The First Date

They didn’t know each other for long. It’s just been about 3 weeks that they had been talking to each other regularly. He was a bit shy and reluctant to ask her out yet. Veronica somehow knew it, but was hoping that he would make the first move. Although Keith wanted to spend some time with her outside of office hours, he was terrified of the thought of a date with her. Everyday, Keith would try to ask her out on their first date, but he just couldn’t do it.

It had been a lazy Sunday. Keith had been sleeping all day. They had been talking over the phone for 6 hours straight the previous night. Both knew they were just not friends anymore. Yet, they talked about all the other things in the world but themselves.

Keith’s phone rang while he was still in deep sleep. He thought it must be the alarm, and fumbled for his phone, muted it, and went back to sleep. He woke up at 3:00pm in the evening, tired of oversleeping. He was hungry. He fetched his snacks box from the cupboard, opened up a packet of biscuits and started munching on them. He picked up his phone and unlocked it. There were 60 missed calls and a message from Veronica. Keith opened the message which read:

“I am hungry. Let’s meet at 6pm at the Desho’s Lounge”.

Keith looked at his watch. It was already 4. Desho’s Lounge was about 30 kms from his house. He wasn’t sure if he could make it on time. Keith called Veronica to check where she was. Her phone rang, but got disconnected. He called again, Veronica didn’t answer. Thinking she might be busy with something, Keith got up to get dressed. He was ready in about 10 minutes flat. His phone beeped. It was a message from Veronica:

“Sorry, Change of plans. Let’s meet for dinner at 8, The High Bar”.

He tried calling Veronica again, but all his calls went unanswered. He was getting nervous, not knowing what to do, he turned on the television, and started browsing through the channels. He kept on looking at his phone impatiently, wondering why wouldn’t she answer his calls, and why did she change the meeting place. He kept on thinking about all possibilities, everything that they talked about last night. Was it about the last night’s conversation? Did he say something weird or inappropriate to her? Was she angry with him for not answering her calls while he was sleeping? He was so desperate to talk to her now.

It was 6 now. He turned off the TV, picked up his keys, and was about to leave for “The High Bar” when his phone beeped again. It was Veronica. Another message:

“Sorry Love. Change of plans again. Let’s meet at the “Ebony with a view(The 13th Floor)” at 8:30″.

His heart started pounding. His eyes couldn’t turn away from his phone. “Love” was the word he was staring at. She had never done that before. He knew she would never say something casually, even in messages, if she didn’t mean it. He had never had this feeling. What was it? He had been staring at his phone for more than 5 minutes now. The phone beeped again. Another message from Veronica.

“Let me know when you start from your house. It will take me about 30 minutes from my house”.

He came back to his senses. It wasn’t a dream. He smiled and messaged her back.

“Sure Love. I will be starting in 10 minutes. See you at the restaurant. Good choice.”

He didn’t know why he typed in the “Love” word in the message. But he thought he would pass it as a joke in response to her “Love” in her message. Keith was very happy now. He started going through all that had happened since last night, in his mind. Why did she change the meeting place twice. Why did she choose Ebony after all. He knew it was one of the most romantic restaurants nearby, while the other places were just usual hangouts. It was pricey too.

Keith reached on time. He parked his car, and went on to the reception to check if she already had a reservation. The receptionist ushered him to a table where he could see Veronica flipping through a magazine, seemingly bored of waiting for a long time.

Keith: “Hi Veronica. What’s all this about? Why wouldn’t you answer my calls? Why are we having dinner here?”

Veronica: “Calm down Keith. Take a breath. Have some water, sit down, and then we will talk.”

Keith sat down, took a deep breath, and looked at Veronica. She looked different. She was wearing a red top and a long black skirt. Keith had never seen her wear a skirt before. She was looking lovely. Was it her birthday? Why would she want to celebrate her birthday with him.

Keith: “You are looking different. Looking lovely. Is it your birthday? Why didn’t you tell me before.”

Veronica: “No Keith. If it were my birthday, I would have asked you to get a gift for me. I just wanted to have dinner with you today. I was a bit confused about the place, but finally settled for this. Do you like it? By the way, thanks for the compliment.”

Keith: “We will see. We have the whole night to arrive at any conclusions about your choice. Let’s just get started with the dinner. I am hungry. I guess, you are too.”

Veronica: “Of course I am. I haven’t eaten since 4. By the way, how come you missed all of my calls?”

Keith: “Oh, I was sleeping. Sorry about that. I never sleep so late. Anyway, tell me, what’s the special occasion.”

Veronica: “Come on, do I have to spell it out? Are you that dumb? It’s our “First Date” you idiot.”

Keith couldn’t take in the words. Although he knew it was the first time they were meeting outside office, it never occurred to him that it could be a date. He was also surprised at the blunt response from Veronica. And he really felt like an idiot right now. It was a little too much for him, all the things that had been happening today and the yesterday night. They stared at each other, until a loud voice startled both of them.

“Excuse me.”

It was the waiter. He pointed to the glass of water in Keith’s hand, from which water was spilling over onto his shirt.

— To be Continued…