Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Review : Bala Gala the Brave and Dangerous

Title : Bala Gala the Brave and Dangerous
Author : Gita V. Reddy
Illustrations by : VC Arts

'Bala Gala the Brave and Dangerous' is a cute little story which celebrates imagination of tender minds as the main theme. Every child is a gifted dreamer, and the flights of imagination take him to far and wider places which may not even exist in the practical world.

There once was a Gamba-Bamba forest in which a river Kanga flowed. Bala Gala was a tiger in that forest who roared ferociously. Earlier he was a deer, who was quick and fast. There were many other co-inhabitants of the forests too. Brammy-Gommy, the crocodile who always wanted to eat Bala-Gala whenever he came to the river to drink water. Once when a monster came to the jungle, Bala Gala turned into a fire dragon to scare the monster away. In every flight of his imagination, he made many friends, scared some away, saved some but enjoyed every tryst thoroughly.

Yes, these are all imaginations of a little child who wakes up every day with a fresh adventure in mind. Just by imagining himself to be a different creature every morning, he weaves a unique world around it.

Role play is a great way by which little children learn and entertain themselves. The author has done perfectly well in reaching out to the children through their dreamland where they usually love to reside. In fact, the ability to be able to imagine oneself to be anything is quite empowering. One can choose to be anybody or anything and that is what Gita has allowed Bala Gala to be. He chooses to be a deer first but when Brammay-Gommay frightens him,  he decides to be a tiger instead. And on a beautiful bright morning he looks forward to being a pretty butterfly. There is no end to the options and hence the excitement is endless too.

Illustrations beautifully accentuate the impact of the story.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Mobile Wallets are digital equivalent of a physical wallet that we all need to carry. It actually stores digitised information for authorisation at various levels. It could take the form of a credit card number, a password, a digital certificate, picture identification or any other information. In short, these are entry points to access a user’s most sensitive information and data. Hence, the security of these entry points is highly critical.
Empowerment with a single device
A mobile wallet facilitates the users to pay for the purchases at NFC payment acceptance terminal, besides helping them buy train or airplane tickets on the go. The information is stored on the smartphone, which can be at the actual travel time, get logged in to the company’s network to work remotely, enter the office premises without having to swipe any identification card, check in to a hotel, pay for movie tickets and enter the movie hall without having to produce any physical ticket and much more.
Although mobile wallets potentially hold keys to innumerable possibilities, these are primarily being used for payment. It is working as an online platform which allows a user to keep money in it, just like a bank account. The concept of mobile wallet is still in its infancy in India but is already gaining a lot of fan following and patronising among for payment purposes. According to a study by the research firm RNCOS, the current Indian market size for m-wallets stands at about Rs 350 crore and is estimated to rise to Rs 1,210 crore by 2019.
How does it work?
The user creates an account with a mobile wallet service provider and adds money to the account as in a regular bank account. Debit, credit and other online transactions are then conducted through this account. This facility offers some great advantages over online banking — users are not charged for any transaction, one does not have to enter the card details/pin numbers/passwords for every single transaction and the transactions can be conducted on the go. Nothing beats the mWallet in terms of convenience that it imparts to the users.
Though the target users of mobile wallets are predominantly young tech savvy section of the society, yet it holds great promise for all those who use smartphones in their daily routine. The reach and accessibility of this facility is only going to increase with time as it frees its users from having to maintain cash and waddle of debit/credit cards.
Among the forerunner companies in this space in India are PayTm, MobiKwik, Oxigen, mRupee and FreeCharge. Paytm mobile payment service is the RBI-approved digital wallet. It provides recharging and bill payment facilities, including electricity bills, gas bills, telephone bills. It is a preferred choice of payment across companies like Uber, BookMyShow and MakeMyTrip.
MobiKwik wallet can be used to pay for various utilities bills and in addition to that, users can make purchases on popular e-commerce sites, including eBay, Snapdeal, ShopClues, MakeMyTrip, redBus, Domino’s Pizza, HomeShop18, Infibeam, Pepperfry and many more.
Using Oxigen, people can share money with their friends and family over social networking sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, Google+ and Twitter. Users can also use Oxigen to pay bills and make online purchases.
mRupee, another company licenced by the RBI, enables users to take care of bill payments and transfer money to near and dear ones. Citrus Pay, Free Charge, Zaakpay, ItzCash are some more players in this field. With changing digital lifestyle, mobile wallet is going to play a significant role in the transactional routine of people.

This appeared in 'The Tribune' on 12 September, 2015.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

कविता : फ़िर मिलेंगे

मैं आँखें खुली रखूँ या फ़िर मूँद लूँ
क्या करूँ कि वह चेहरा धुँधला सा न लगे
चेहरे की एक एक लकीर फ़िर स्पष्ट हो जाए
हाथ में हाथ रखने का एहसास वापिस आ जाए
बस इसी उधेड़बुन में निकल गई एक शाम,
जो मन से समर्पित थी सिर्फ तुम्हीं को ही |

आज फ़िर मन में तुमसे मिलने की तड़प उठी है
आज फ़िर उस आत्मीयता को तलाशता है यह मन
यादों के संदूक से एक एक कतरा पकड़ रही हूँ
तरतीब से लगा कर फ़िर संजो रही हूँ
वो जो 'है' था कितना कुछ 'था' है बन गया
फ़िर न आने के लिए सदा के लिए है चला गया

यक़ीन है फ़िर मिलेंगे हम - कभी तो, कहीं तो
बहुत दूर न निकल जाना कि ढूँढ न पाऊँ तुम्हें तब
बाकी हैं कुछ काम जो नियत हैं मुझे अभी
पर मन के एक कोने में वास है तुम्हारा ही
बारिश कि बूंदों सा भिगोता है जो अंतर मन को |

जो सरलता तुमने अपनाई सदा अपने जीवन में
जो सादगी तुमने सार्थक की अपने अंदाज़ में
जो राह तुमने दिखाई एक मुसाफ़िर बन कर
जो जीवन दर्शन तुमने कराया सिर्फ उस पर चल कर
जो भरोसा तुमने दिलाया विश्वास और निष्ठा में
कोशिश है उस सब को अपना सकूँ हर एक पल में |

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Love for the Virtual Word

Perhaps, one of the most blissful experiences for many would be — entering into a new world through the pages of an engaging book and losing oneself in it. Regular readers would agree with this quote, “Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
As we have been progressing on our evolutionary path far away from the time when language was first invented, the body of written content has been increasing at almost a mind-boggling pace. Just the variety and range of the written books is astoundingly high. On top of that there are journals, magazines, dailies, comics, encyclopedias, dictionaries and many more diverse categories. However, the sticklers of reading usually do not consider reading newspapers and magazines same as reading complete books and novels but it is reading nonetheless.
Reminiscing the past
Just go a couple of decades back in time and the whole scene looks quite different from the times that we are living in today. Imagining a life without gadgets which have almost become an extension of our bodies, is just so hard now. But those were the times when reading, as a hobby, was one of the few ways through which people liked to unwind, relax, rejuvenate and recreate. Curling up with a book, visualising the world of the written world, becoming a part of it and riding the waves of the narrative was one of the most pleasurable pastimes.
Come back to the present, the multimedia sector has gifted innumerable ways of recreation and relaxation to humans in ongoing times. Has the hobby of reading become a casualty among many others in today's times when gadgets, video games, social media sites and YouTube are ruling the roost? With multitude of entertainment sources to choose from, where are the loyalist readers? Is reading a dying art competing against many other glamorous and attractive entertainment sources now?
i-Age invasion
There is no doubt that the number of activities, engagements and distractions that have cropped up to lay claim on the same twenty-four hours of a day has increased tremendously. However, eBooks and eReaders do show a glimmer of hope to salvage the habit of reading among people, especially youth. Electronic version of books have extended the accessibility of books to a wider segment of people. Whether it is a tablet, Kindle, reading apps on phone or e-version of books on laptops, the options are aplenty for those who want to indulge in this pastime. Reach, accessibility and availability do not pose any issue any more. One can download almost all classics for free or at a very nominal price. Many sites and apps make free sample chapters of books available so that buyers are able to make informed decision regarding purchase of books. Kindle version of books are priced at very reduced price anyway which can be read either on a Kindle device or on any other device with Kindle app installed on it. The features that come along with reading apps and e-version of the books are not be ignored either. One can customise the font size, font style, resolution, brightness and many other things to suit one's liking. The dictionary and thesaurus support that is built in almost all good reading apps helps readers in looking up the meanings of the words by just clicking on the word. Readers can annotate wherever they want to by adding small notes along with the written text. If anything is to be looked up online, even that is just a click away when one is using apps on tabs/phones. The notification bars would keep the reader updated on the critical mails or messages that one cannot afford to miss. So if one is really looking and wanting to read, then there is absolutely no dearth of options — either in terms of books or of mediums on which it is to be read.
Features or distractions
Having said that, some of the above mentioned features do come as great hurdles in the way of uninterrupted reading experience and true purists would not want to adulterate their reading time with any of these. To them reading is just their self and the book and nothing in between, no e-mails, no messages, no Whatsapp, no notifications, no reminders and no easily accessible internet. They would rather open their trusted dictionary than look for easy solution online. But purists or otherwise, readers are readers. To them mediums do not matter, nor does the level of customisation of the written material, what matters is the book which captivates them like a trusted friend and leaves them asking for more.
But the million-dollar question is, have the eReaders and ebooks been able to spell their charm on non readers to adopt reading as a hobby? An avid reader Kannan from Chennai, studying in class IX says eReaders have just given another easy option to those who were anyway in the habit of reading. For others their existence has not made any difference. Keshav Sharma, a student of class VIII is a die-hard Harry Potter fan and has read the whole series many times over. He says, “None of my friends is into reading, for them gadgets means a device to play games on. They have not read any of the Harry Potter books either, however, they have watched all the movies. They find watching movies much more appealing than reading thick books.” Malathi Jain, who teaches English to senior secondary classes in Chennai, shares, “Reading among younger generation is fast dwindling. Chats, social media and sharing pictures and updates online take away most of their time. There is not time left to sit quietly and become a part of the world that the books open in front of us.”
A standard tablet and smartphone can do as many as 30 different tasks these days, many of which most customers don’t even use and care about. eReading features, options, variety, mediums and similar such features are for those who want to make use of them in enhancing their reading experience, otherwise the same get added to the list of unused traits of devices.
Signals point more towards the trend that spells : reading is fast turning into an endangered hobby if not extinct yet. Although electronic media can facilitate the process of reading to a great extent, but can do little to turn unwilling readers into avid readers.

Handy world of words
Among many eReader apps available for the hand-held devices, Kindle, Nook, kobo, google playbooks and iBooks are the famous ones. If one wants to keep reading separate from other phone activities then eReaders offer a great option too. Though considered as forgotten siblings of smart phones and tablets, eReaders do satisfy the inner reader in many. These are designed for reading books and deliver that excellently. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Glo, Kobo Aura HD, Barnes & Nobles Nook Simple Touch Reader (with glowLight) are rated as the top eReaders these days. ‘While one can read on any tablet using eReader apps but simple eReaders won over the regular pads as one is spared of the temptation of notification, gaming and browsing in the exclusive eReaders.’

This article appeared in 'The Tribune' on 5th Sept, 2015.
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