Thursday, July 18, 2013

Applying Simple Arithmetic and Pobability for Everyday Train Journeys!

Last week during my journey back from New Delhi to Bathinda in my favorite “Punjab Mail” I was eavesdropping conversation between a family and one lonely traveler.  The family want to exchange a seat of theirs, which is 5 compartments away, with this person so that they can all sit together. The lonely traveler is ready to help out, but with a condition that he don’t mind any berths other than Upper or Side Upper or Side Lower. Seat number the family want to exchange is “42” and they have no clue which berth this is. All were totally clueless to my utter surprise! I had been routinely confronted with this birth allocation problem, especially when tickets in “RAC” gets confirmed while checking the “PNR status”. I could help them out almost instantaneously (which is middle berth!) with a very simple solution.
This is the berth allocation for Seat # 1 to #8
1 L
5 M
2 M
6 U
3 U
7 SL
4 L
0 SU

Whatever your seat number, divide it with 8 and look-up the remainder in the above table to get the answer. 

  • Let's take seat# 42, 42/8= 5 with remainder 2, and 2 is M.
  • Let’s take seat# 76, 76/8 = 9 with 4 as remainder, 4 is L.
  • Let’s take seat# 71, 71/8=9 with 0 as remainder, 0 is SU

This always works for SL (Sleeper Class) and 3AC (AC 3 Tier) classes, as Indian Railway have uniformity in (at least) numbering of the seats. For 2AC, refer the following table:
1 L
4 U
2 U
5 SL
3 L
0 SU

And for this, you should divide by 6 (instead of 8) and look up the remainder the above table.

  • Let's take seat# 53; 53/6 = 8 with remainder 5, 5 is SL
  • Let's take seat# 54; 54/6 = 9 with remainder 0, 0 is SU

Simple, isn’t it? But the problem is that most of us do not apply these simple mathematical logic in our lives! I’m sure there are engineers and even math teachers who is new to this trick!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Online-Only Direct Banks in India, are we ready yet?

Direct banks (online banks) are very popular almost everywhere except in India. Of course you will see online banking aka e/internet banking versions of traditional banks here, but I haven't come across not a single online-only bank. Are we that much traditional not to trust anything which is online?

There are indeed a number of benefits online banks offer over the traditional, biggest among them is low cost of maintenance, with minimal physical presence and absolutely no branches. A big chunk of interest rates that you get from traditional banks are eaten by their advertisements and operational costs across hundreds of their branches. Offline banks also have advantages, like depositing physical cash etc. Of course safety is a major concern but e-banking of traditional banks have been thriving in the subcontinent for the last decade and I haven't came across a single case where net banking got hacked leading to loss of money.

Of the traditional internet banks, my preference is small-sector banks that are often owned by local co-op society which offer high interest for savings/fixed account. Albeit extremely poor service with their internet banking that oftentimes fails in IRCTC payment gateway, Punjab National Bank is offering perhaps the best return for teachers. Their "Shikshak Sweep" scheme available for permanent teachers is the best sweep-in scheme offered by any banks in India.

In summary I would love to see some online-only banks coming up in India that offers a sweep-in sweep-out facility to guarantee highest returns at the same time having the lowest operational costs. Shoot your opinion in the comments.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Offline Google Calender and Google Maps

Dear World,

There are a number of apps available for android that syncs two-way with Google calender (gcal) for offline use, but I could never get this thing done for PC. For example, neither Windows 8 calendar app, nor Outlook calender, will sync with G Cal. Is there any workaround? I'm using a PC-Tablet running Windows 8 and I want to see and create schedules offline that should sync with Gcal when ever I come online.

Again, situation is same for maps. During the time of Microsoft Encarta, offline, installable maps were such an easy task, but not anymore. I used to use Gmap Catcher ultil recently when Google API changed such that catcher can not take maps offline. Is there a work around? I want high resolution maps (tiled) of selected cities (for e.g., places I'm intending to travel soon) for offline use in my Windows 8 PC.

Thanks and love,

Thursday, April 04, 2013

My experience with IndusInd Platinum Select Credit Card

A few months ago I visited local branch of IndusInd (Bathinda) for a credit card and the manager explained that it cost Rs. 3500 as a joining fee and nothing else; so I applied on the same day (primarily as an online payment mechanism for forthcoming overseas trip). Manager said it comes with complimentary Jet Airways ticket, but as I presumed, the so called "ticket" is a voucher code for Rs 1500 discount on the base fare. Base fare is normally Rs. 1 for domestic airlines in India (fuel surcharge comes almost 95% of the total fare); so in order to get that Rs. 1500, you gotta purchase 1500 airtickets! Sites like have been offering this sort of deceptive tactics for such a long time!

I received the kit with credit card in couple of months and I spent sometime to read "Most important terms and conditions" booklet (I am always alert with this sort of nondescript documents, easy to spot with its low font size, like EULA/Terms and Conditions of Mutual Funds, Life Insurance, Mortgages etc). It says credit card fee is Rs. 1499 so straightforwardly busted 3.5K joining fee. I started repeatedly complaining this matter with IndusInd customer care and bank, but all in vein.

I approached the manager in person and he said Rs. 3500 joining fee is for the offer with JetAirways ticket, and I could have opted-out this offer. Obviously when I visited him first for credit card he convinced me that the Jet Airways ticket comes as a complimentary to the credit card and never mentioned that opting out this freebie could save me Rs. 2000. He said that if I opted for a card without JetAirways offer, Rs. 1499 would be “Annual Fee” (as opposed to Rs. 3500 as one-time joining fee). Oh man, how deceiving this person really is! He then tried convincing me how I badly needed their Aviva life insurance policy, I gave it a shit.

It is interesting to note that the bank have not disclosed fee info on any of their credit cards at their site. However curious readers can still access the "Most important terms and Conditions" document in their website, which is tactically hidden in their webserver!

Update: They have increased their joining fee from Rs 1499 to Rs. 5000 in a matter of 2 weeks! I think my case might have influenced them for this decision, who knows! Original document scan is here:

The fee schedule clearly indicate that there are no annual fee for Premium Select card, so the bank manager is again busted with plain lie, again. After repeated emails and a petition through BCSBI and Banking Ombudsman, the manager wrote me the following:
Dear Dr. Bast

We sincerely appreciate your patience and co-operation in this regard. According to our records, we confirm we have reversed the joining fee of INR 2001.00 and the credit towards the same will reflect in the next month’s credit card statement.  Please view this lapse as only an aberration. We will give our best service always. You are our privileged customer and we value your relationship with us. Your relationship is important to us and we look forward to building further on this association. For any further queries, please call 1860 267 7777 or write to us  Assuring you of our best services. Sincerely,Nitin Mistry   Customer Care Officer   Premium Care Team   IndusInd Bank Limited

So my judicial proceeding is taking its on course and I hope no one else reading this post will have similar experience, so this post! 
Beware of IndusInd!