Monday, March 29, 2010

Good Times Ahead - Chennai Corporation School children can be proud of their school, like anyother private school children.

With interesting initiatives lined up, students going to schools run by the Chennai Corporation can look forward to the new academic year. A group of students at a school in Perambur recently.

As soon as I glanced at this photo in 'The Hindu', I felt so happy.  No one can say that these children are not from some private school.  Their uniforms are so neat and the GIRLS look so happy! The School building at the background looks like a private school building.  
The article says:
This June will mark the beginning of an exciting academic year for schools run by the Chennai Corporation, if the initiatives being planned are any indication.
To start with, the Corporation Boys Higher Secondary School in your neighbourhood will be rechristened Chennai Boys Higher Secondary School. All the school buildings will also be painted in a uniform colour.
“We want students to identify with their school and feel proud about their institution,” said Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni.
The Corporation is also in the process of procuring books for its school libraries. “We want to set aside half-an-hour a day as exclusive reading time for students, about thrice a week. We are buying children's literature, comics and other informative books to promote the habit of reading among children,” he said. During summer vacation, one room in every school would be readied as library.

A mathematics laboratory for students of classes X and XII is being set up in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation working in the area of mathematics and science learning.
“These schools of excellence will be modelled on Kendriya Vidyalayas, where the emphasis will be on quality,” Mr. Lakhoni added.

The Chennai Corporation website says:
Teaching through Computers

Chennai Corporation it self has provided more than 500 computers to various schools. Few of the schools posses L.C.D. Projector. Intel Asia has initiated a project called "SMART SCHOOLS" in 15 corporation schools aimed at Computer aided teaching and learning.

One more article in 'The Hindu' says:
English medium sections will be started at all primary schools run by the Chennai Corporation.
Corporation school students would be provided school bags and a uniform set each free of cost. Shoes would be distributed to corporation primary school students.
New courses on mobile servicing, web technology, advertising assistant training and bed-side patient assistant training would be started in Corporation Community Colleges.

The civic body would launch ‘Olichuvadu,’ a magazine for school students to provide guidance on education, career and employment.

For the past 5-10 years, I have noticed that more and more people who cannot afford to send their children to private schools too, try their best to admit them there because they think that unless their children know to read, write and communicate in English fluently, they cannot get good jobs.  So they work hard or even borrow money, to send them to private schools.  My servant maid, Nitya's children go to an English Medium private school!  Just like us,  her husband (a small time carpenter),  drops them at school while going for work in the morning. She works in 3 houses.  At 3.30 pm, she goes to the school, picks them up, feed them with some tiffin and drops them at the tuition class.  Brings them back home at 5.30 pm.  It is not very easy for the children to study in English medium with no one to help them at home, though Nitya has passed 10th in Tamil medium.  Apart from paying heavily for the school, they have to spend for the tuition too.  
Now, the Corporation of Chennai's plan of starting English Medium schools, with full fledged modern facilities, will help Nitya and her husband to fulfil their dreams.  I have already told her about this and her husband has started enquiring about it.  
Education, esp. education for girl children, will change the whole atmosphere of our society. One more step ahead for our country, to come out of the brand as 'the third world' country.
Let us dream that people like Mayavati too follow these steps to change the atmosphere of her state, instead of spending money on building  monoliths of herself, everywhere in her state. Like we remember Kamaraj (ex-CM of Tamilnadu) for starting elementary schools throughout Tamilnadu, when he was the CM of our State, her people might remember her for this good deed...

Monday, March 15, 2010

I thank you, IFB, but with a looong sigh...!

Now, where shall I start this story of my struggle with the IFB company to just change a repaired switch in my washing machine, which took them more than 40 days, instead of 24 hours?!

A few months back, I had complained to the IFB about the loose contact of the programming switch, in my washing machine. I had to manually push it to the next step of washing. Sometimes some funny 'dud dud' sound was also coming from it. The next day, a technician came from their local service center and said that the timer in the machine and some two other parts needed to be changed. It would be in my advantage if I took an 'AMC' - annual maintenance contract, with them. All these parts were covered in it and I need not pay the service charges too. We agreed and signed the AMC. He said that he could fix the parts after 45 days of the signing of the contract. He pulled some wire and fixed the switch for the time being and said that the machine would work for sometime without any problem. I paid Rs. 2,173 for the maintenance and Rs. 1,800 for a bottle of water purifier, which he said was good for the machine because our water was slightly salty.

The machine was working fine and I forgot to call them back to fix the timer. The technician had pulled some wire for fixing it temporarily and because of that, the 'rinse hold' button was not working, which was not a big problem.

Then, in January, I thought that before the AMC expires in June, it was better to fix the timer and the 'rinse hold' button, which they had said were covered under AMC. Then the problem started.

I complained on 27th Jan.'10 to their customer care no. The female repeated the complaint - washing machine, Senator Aqua-energie and I corrected my address also, which had been recorded wrongly (even after this correction, whenever I gave a complaint, which must have been nearly 10 to 12 times, the wrong address was in their record - call centers, huh!). The next day a person called from the service center asking which type of 'micro-wave' I had and what the problem was with the gadget! I said that I had IFB micro-wave, but it was working fine! He said that he was asked to fix the micro-wave in our house and not the washing machine! He asked me to complain again! Call centers, huh!

It was done again on 30th Jan.'10. After many queries from the service center, a technician came, checked and said that he would come the next day. After repeated complaints, a person came and after checking the machine again, concluded that the timer he had brought was of a different type! Again after repeated reminders, a technician came and changed the timer and switch. When he came the machine was half way through a wash cycle. He had stopped it and fixed the timer and then switched it on. He took my signature for 'the satisfactory completion' of the problem and left. Within a minute or two, a big sound came from the machine and fumes started coming from the back of the machine. I switched the main switch off and called the technician back. He said that he would go and send a senior technician to fix it. This was on 17th Feb.'10. A technician came and declared that the PCB board had got burnt and since they didn't have it in stock, he would come when he got it.

Then the row of our complaints to their service centers went to dead ears. Somebody said that the complaint was 'closed'! Then some 2 persons came and just 'checked' without opening the machine and asked me to sign a paper where it said that the 'problem was solved to my satisfaction'! When I asked why I should do that, he said that if the current complaint was closed and a new complaint was given, the problem would be solved within 24 hours. The bottom-line was they would ask me to pay for the new PCB board (around Rs.2000, it seems), which got burnt because of their mistake in fixing the timer. I came to know it later on that the wires were connected wrongly. Obviously, I didn't sign their paper.

Then we contacted their Head Office and after repeated complaints, they sent some technicians on 12th March, '10 and fixed the PCB board and now, the machine is working fine. Our complaint had reached upto the director level, I was told. The franchisee for the local service center was sacked too.

Huh, this post has become very long! Even now, my next washing machine would only be IFB , the current one is 8 years' old with not a single complaint before this one. A technician said that this machine does not need AMC at all, because very rarely they attend complaints for this particular brand esp. IFB Senator.

I came across a work sheet of a technician which he had dropped near the machine, it said 'senorita' instead of 'senator' center's mistake or the service center's!

The lesson I learnt from this episode is 'Do not go for AMC for gadgets of reputed brands, just pay for the parts or exchange for a new one!' My machine was working fine even before changing the timer, so, I feel the service center had asked me to go in for an AMC, saying that this expensive part had to be changed, which was not necessary, just for getting the AMC money. Hope the IFB Company will look into these flaws in their 'after sales service' facility, they are offering, while selling their machines.

Edited to add at 9.35 pm.:

When the 2 technicians came and 'checked' the machine and asked me to sign the 'job completed' form, the conversation went like this:

Tech.: Do you have an AMC?

Me: Yes, till coming June.

Tech.: Why don't you renew it now itself, because the company is going to hike the charge by Rs.600/-after June (exactly June!)!

The machine is under repair and they are not bothered to make it work within the stipulated time of 24 hours, they are worried about the AMC renewal for the dormant machine!

I have written a complaint with all these points to their Head Office, too.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The first 45 days of 3 tiny loving kittens after they have entered this world!

My last post on kittens was, 'Zorro's story', where I wrote about our Hero Cat, Zorro and his first wife, Ammaakkaari and their black silk kittens. After she left (we sent her off with her kittens because she gave us kittens once in 4 months and it was too much even for us!), a couple of months later, Zorro invaded our house with his second wife, Jinju, who was pregnant already (so scandalous!). As usual, we felt pity on the pregnant girl and like others before her, she too was pampered well in our house! She even slept with us in our bed, the day before she delivered her babies - she must have been nervous or with pain. When I thought the D-day was nearing, I showed her two places, one shelf in my son's wardrobe and one in our bedroom. I kept some clothes also in them and maybe she understood it and delivered 3 kittens in the afternoon of Jan, 16th, in my son's wardrobe, upstairs! She might have thought it to be a secluded place without much interference from us, humans! When I noticed her absence and saw them, the kittens were clean and she had settled down!

In the photo album below, you can find a lot of information (!) about the kittens in the comment section! Most of the pictures are of them sleeping in different postures! I loved the innocence in their faces, when they were sleeping! Jinju looked so happy and contented when she was sleeping with them.

The photos which are displayed in the album are date wise and you can notice how they were growing up nearly everyday!

Jinju stayed upstairs with her babies for nearly two weeks. Zorro used to visit them mostly in the morning, peep in and come down! One day after having morning's milk, he just ran up. Jinju was not home and my husband went after him. He just waited near the door step and saw what Zorro was doing. Zorro looked inside for a second or so (I had never seen him entering the shelf or touching or licking the kittens on any day) and closed the door with his nose and came down! I had noticed earlier when I went upstairs, Jinju jumping down from the top shelf and the long door on the left, where the kittens stayed always to be closed. Then it dawned on me...the kittens had opened their eyes and started moving here and there and their parents must have been closing the door, so that they did not fall down/out from the shelf!

On 2nd Feb, since the kittens had grown up, I thought it would be safer for them to come downstairs, so that they can start moving here and there. I brought them down when Jinju was with me and kept them in the hall. Jinju was restless but was lying down and feeding them. I was doing something and when I turned to look at them, Jinju, holding her baby in her mouth, was climbing up and went to the previous place! The wardrobe door on the left was closed and she jumped up with her baby, to the top shelf, climbed down to the area, where she was, with her babies earlier! You can see this in the album!

After a few more days, when they started peeping out from the shelf, she allowed me to bring them down. I readied a drawer with some clothes and she settled down happily in our bedroom corner. You can see the rest of the days' activities from the photo album! They were happily playing, hide and seek, 'you catch me, I catch you' etc. throughout the day. The top act was WWF/King Kong Fights. We used to sit beside the box with our morning coffee and watch their fights - along with my husband's commentary! Normally, we are very particular to sleep by 10 p.m., but because of these activities, our sleeping time became 11 p.m.!

Normally, we decide on the names to call them after we knew which one was going to be with us/with his mother. Last time two black kittens were very close with each other and one was always with her mother, most of the time and was a bit weak-looking. So we kept the weaker one at home and handed over the other two to our known persons. One of them was quite healthy and beautiful and my husband was calling him 'Hippo'! He is still called by that name in his new house!

All the three kittens were sleeping together, on top of one another, most of the time. Their favourite places were the phone stands in the bedroom and in the hall! They loved to play with books! They admired the way the pages fluttered when the fan was on! The slow turning blades of the fan also fascinated them. All the three used to watch them with their necks turned up, together! Just for the sake of identification, we were calling the kitten with more white patch in the neck as 'Vellai kazhuththi, which means, White neckwaali and the other one as Brown kazhuththi, means Brown neckwaali (Veekay and Beekay!). Let me tell the story of how we selected the name Goalie later, this post already looks like a long epic story!

The photo here, shows, how close they were while sleeping...

Now, we have got Goalie at home and the other two have gone to a new house. They seem to have blended with the new family members very well. When we had sent off Ammaakkaari's kittens, she was making crying sounds for nearly 2-3 days. Thank god, Jinju is searching for the missing kittens only once in a while, otherwise she seems to be happy feeding Goalie and playing with her. Goalie must be missing her siblings (I think it is a 'she', so I might have written her as 'he' sometimes, in the photo comments!), but now, she is playing with me and her mother.

Long back, our house was called 'Naai veedu', thanks to our dog, Andrew, now, I think I will be called 'Cat Woman'!

By the way, all the three kittens are GIRLS!

Comments are welcome to the photos in the album too!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Red-vented Bulbul family's 3rd set of babies, flew away again, happily, from our garden!

I felt very lucky and happy, when I saw the new nest of the Red-vented Bulbuls again in our garden. They must have felt our tiny garden, a safe place to bring up their family! This is the third time they have nested here.

It was a big surprise when we saw the tiny nest with 3 eggs for the first time in a small Red Vrukshi plant(Ixora), that too at eye level. The place is very very close to the heavy traffic main road of our area. You can notice the sound level of the honking cars and lorries in the video, which I had posted in my first post about the baby bulbuls.

The Bulbuls nested their first set of eggs in August '09. The gap was slightly more, when they nested for the second time. I had left the first empty nest for a month or so, in the plant itself and later on, removed it. After some time, they had the second set of two birds, for which they built a fresh nest. I didn't photograph them at that time. This time, when I saw the nest, it was slightly bigger with three eggs. Then I took the first photo after they hatched:

This time the nest was visible clearly. Last time, the plant was covered completely with leaves. Thank god, they survived without any mishap.

Here, notice the eyes of the babies, aren't they cute?:

Have a look at these photos, which are very clearer than last time:

Another snap of the baby birds, the feathers are forming...:

Now, they are out of the nest and the flying lessons had started already...

In this photo, their feathers are slightly apart... scared? Two are here and the third bird is on the Rathnagandhi tree on the right side of the house. It was around 10 a.m., two days back. First, it flew to the verandah of the house where I was standing...just near my feet. The amma bird came near me and ordered in so many words to her baby, to move on...! It flew down to the floor and then the Rathnagandhi tree! I was so excited to watch their activity which was a rare sight, nowadays! I tried to photograph every move of the birds but huh..., the battery in the camera was down! I recharged and tried to take some videos. But could capture only small bits and pieces...

Step by step flying lessons...! I love this photograph...this flower is in my profile photo too!

Amma might be warning her baby not to sit in the area, which is open to the sky...

Appa is waiting with food in his beak to feed his responsible unlike many of the human appas!

After a hectic day of flying lessons, two birds were seen sitting in this jasmine creeper for the was very difficult to see them, just located them with their feeble chirpings... The third one was sitting on the branch of a lemon tree in my neighbour's house, on the right side of our house. The whole evening the parents were criss-crossing from one tree/plant to another, teaching the babies to fly. Only a small clip of the video is clear, still you can notice the way they teach flying, clearly. The video shows the right side of the house, where the birds are flying here and there from one branch to another! Rathnagandhi and one more small tree with yellow flowers are there for them to use!

I saw the two baby birds on the Jasmine creeper (the photo above), the next morning. Later on, saw them sitting on the branch near their nest. Again the flying lessons were going on in the afternoon and evening. We could hear the loud chirping sounds of both the parents and feeble replies of the babies too, for a long time. Then... silence. The babies were off to their own lives and the parents will be on their own... I feel emptiness in my heart again, like this nest:

As I told you earlier, this video clip is just for 10 sec. but you can get a clue to how systematically, the parent birds teach their baby birds how to fly:

One more tiny video clip. The baby birds are sitting on the branches of the jasmine creeper for the night. I took this clip, the next morning. They seem to be so active and happy!:

This video clip is from my first post about these birds, with the loud traffic and loudspeaker sound as background music! Poor babies.

Please click on the photos to see clearly. This is the end of Bulbul story...or, is it?!

Edited, as usual: Embedded the video link! Videos are the same!
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