Friday, October 31, 2014

Sponsored Expedition of 5000 Miles: All Expenses Paid For The Journey: Blogadda and Quikr

October 11, 2014

'There is an expedition, all expenses paid, once you cover your journey successfully, surpassing all adventures, coming back successfully, and detailing your journey in length in your own words. If you accept this challenge, write back.’  - Read a mailer in my mailbox on Google. 

'Your budget is xxxxx amount that you will have to spend on the way to fill up your necessities and essentials on the way. Once you come back and submit your success story with us, the amount mentioned above will be transferred to your bank account.' It further mentioned. 'Your journey will be 5000 miles.'

'Wow!' I thought, 'Quite a challenging task. Let me go for it...'

This is a mailer from my favorite Blogadda as below:

I decided to go for it, though was not at all clear about the expedition and journey. I had to carve my own path to cover up this 5000 mile long journey. 

Just for clarity, the first mailer mentioned above is purely hypothetical. The second one is real. This challenge from Blogadda was not less then an expedition to a slightly known territory. I was already familiar with Quikr till then only to an extent that it is a portal to connect sellers and buyers for second hand items. (Mind it, I was not at all aware that it also facilitates you to buy/sell new items too, in an individual capacity or as a known/unknown trader). 

So I clicked on the link to fill my application for the expedition without being sure whether I would be selected or not. 'Definitely there would be some selection criteria and I am not the only one applying for this adventurous journey.' I thought. Clicking on the link landed me onto the following page:


Clicked on "Apply Now" and landed further on the next tab as below:

Clicked on "Register with us here" to get the next tab opening up instructing to Login on Blogadda to apply. After logging in, it displayed my details and 5 of my blogs registered with Blogadda, with a radio button to select on which blog I would be posting my journey details after the completion of expedition. I selected the one, mentioning approximate visitors on my blog and confirming my details. And then clicked on "Submit".

October 16, 2014

It is my wife's birthday. We all zeroed in on 4 PM to be the appropriate time to cut the cake and celebrate her birthday. At 3.20 PM, there is a mail landed into my Gmail account delivering a good news, before our celebration was to start. A gift from Blogadda, in advance, probably, dedicated to her. The mail said:

Well, so it was confirmed that the whole family of three was going for this expedition together - me, with my wife and daughter. The adventure was about to start. The journey was about to begin. We had to complete our adventurous tour with submission of journey details by 31st October. 16 days we had in hand to plan, execute and report. Project started with a hunt on Quikr. The portal was already familiar with my identity as I had an account there. The account was opened in January this year to post an ad for buying some B.Tech books for my daughter. Here is the ad I had posted:

So this way, Quikr already knew that I was in NCR. By the way if you have not seen this vibrant ad, the newest ad of Quikr on TV, you can watch it here on Youtube. The ad is touching, fully clear and informative on what it wants to convey; and musical/vibrant as mentioned above. I bet the same applies on their all ads.

The Budget:

The budget is Rs. 5,000. We three sat together with our individual ideas on what to buy, as soon as the birthday party was over and we gottime free to start planning for our expedition. The categories that excited us most were 'Mobiles & Tablets', 'Electronics & Appliances', 'Home & Lifestyle' and 'Entertainment'.

'Wow! You can buy new items too here!', exclaimed my daughter. That was an awakening call for all three of us. So far we thought it is only for selling and buying old/used/second hand items only. She got to know the moment she clicked on 'Mobiles & Tabs' category, selected a selected a sub category and reached to the and had a look on the left hand side options bar with all kind of useful options.

'That is fantastic!', the reaction was simultaneous from both of us. We learnt that you can refine your results in terms of brand, price range, old/new items, location preferences, ads only with photo. That is really marvelously customer friendly gesture for high level of facilitation to get quicker and accurate results. Unanimous decision was to go only for new items.

After certain explorations we had many items in mind that were placed in our tentative list of items to be procured. The list had - 
  • Folding Chairs, Chairs, Cane chairs, cane stools
  • Artificial Jewelry
  • Mop on Wheels (Spin Mop)
  • Electric Roti Maker
  • Handbags, Tote Bags, Leather handbags
  • Clothes hanger for accommodating 84 cloths.
  • HeviBase Induction Cooker
  • Gas Tandoor/Grill

The clock was ticking rapidly with a higher pace as compared to the speed at which we had to zero down on final products and that too the festive season around Diwali was nearing, indicating that finalization of deals during this period might be a hiccup for sellers.

The first item zeroed in on was a Hawkins Hevibase Induction Cooker. It was easy to hunt as I knew my destination (the cooker, brand, type) though didn't know the seller. But it was not as simple to search as I had anticipated it to be. By putting "Induction Cooker" in search, I found Induction plate (on which the cooker and other induction utensils are placed for cooking) rather than the desired Hawkins induction cooker. Putting "Hawkins Induction Cooker" again brought in similar kind of mixed results, instead of giving me the desired result. One irritating point is that when you go for customized search, you don't get the complete items on the left bar, like to opt for used or new items. Another drawback is that once the repository of ads is in the hands of seller. Like in my case when the seller, who was an individual, had delivered the items at my residence, the ad was removed by him. Here is the link to his ad that he had posted that clearly stated about the price of the cooker. 
Here is the screenshot of the Cooker page on Quikr:

Logically Quikr must have a provision to maintain the database for the items even if their deal is closed and the items are sold. Here are the pics of cooker:

The next item was a weighing scale that we wanted to purchase. 
Here is the screenshot:

Here are the pics of the product at home:

Our next deal was electric roti maker. The deal was made with dough maker. Here is the screenshot of the quikr page:

Here are the pics of the product at home:

And the dough maker that came bundled with this:

The final hunt was for books. We needed some engineering books  that we searched on Quikr here. Here is the link page screenshot:

The good part was that as part of deal, we not only got the computer programming books that we were looking for, we got 2 bonus books (one fiction and one non fiction book) free. Here are the programming books and the additional bonus:

Some good and bad learning from Quikr:

1. Quikr refined search is not very powerful when you want to go for customized product search.
2. The links to pages saved do not remain constant. 
3. There is no rating provision of sellers so that you can be cautious for the wrong sellers. And sellers remain cautious for their rating going bad. That way they will always go for the fair deal.
4. I have contact details of the persons for each deal so as to prove my purchasing in case anything goes wrong due to lacking in Quikr site.
5. Some sellers (specially in handbag section and some other sections) give wrong information in terms of pricing (give lower price) so as to attract customers.
6. Quikr site's concept is good but then there are all kind of good and bad people for which they need to do some improvements on their site so as to increase fair buyers and sellers.
7, There is a huge experience gained in terms of interactions with sellers and hunt for products on Quikr portal. A lot of interactions happened with the sellers over the phone, whatsapp etc.

This post is a part of activity

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action by Nick Vujicic: True Soulful Inspiration

Nick Vujicic is a well known speaker and whenever he speaks in front of his more than thousands of audience, he has touched their soul and heart deeply thereby bringing a big impact in their life. His books on the same track have been able to motivate and inspire his readers. By profession Nick Vujicic is an advocate and his main focus in that field is to fight for equality in one's life. Despite a big setback of his life at the time of his birth, when he was born without limbs, he never let this hurdle come into his way to achieve tremendous heights in his life in such a way that most of the normal people do not achieve in their life. It seems as if nothing has been impossible for this spiritual soul.

Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action by Nick Vujicic is a wonderful 256 page inspirational story that was first published in 2012 by WaterBrook Press. It gets you hooked your mind and heart to it the moment you start reading it and soon you build an emotional connect with the flow of words as you move on. It is a light and simple read but immensely powerful in terms of conviction of positive power in the world and within you against all storms of life. The stories are painful as they touch the bleeding portions of life comprising of brutal realities and pains that come through. The stories are powerful enough to make you realize with the harshness of life and get you driven page by page, emotionally. 

This amazing book Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action by Nick Vujicic comprises of gracefully told stories of real life stories of people who had to fight against the tides, against all odds. These true stories told in such an inspirational way are truly going to touch every reader's heart and will definitely enhance their inner strength and encouragement to help them in fighting their individual fight of life.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Author Interview: Suzy Duffy: Romantic Comedy With A Strong Sense Of Irish Humor: Lincoln Ladies

Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes. Ive been writing for as long as I can remember.  I wrote my first play when I was only nine. Then I hand delivered it into RTE Irelands National Radio & television Network   It was during the troubles in Ireland and the Irish Army were protecting the place from behind sand bags but I didnt mind as I marched up with my pencil written manuscript.  I remember the receptionists looking amused when I explained why I was there. They probably thought it was a hoot.  Not me, I was very serious about my career.  In due course, I got an incredibly kind and supportive rejection letter. They explained that the plot needed a little more development.  I wish I still had that letter my first rejection.

When did you first consider yourself as a writer"?

A job becomes a real job when you do it five days a week and get paid for it.  I reached that stage with writing about twelve years ago.  Then I had to stop because our family life got too hectic. I have five kids.  Now theyre all at school, Im a writer again phew.

Did it take a long time to get your first book published?

No, I was very lucky. I got a publishing offer half way through my first book.  I was living in Ireland at the time and sent the first ten chapters to Irish Publishers, Poolbeg They offered me a three book deal.

Do you have a process or routine that you follow when writing

This is what I aim for but dont always achieve.  I drop the kids to school and then get my bum on that seat but it so easy to get distracted - Emails, phone calls, group texts waghh.  I always start with new writing.  After lunch I deal with editing. Midafternoon its time to get the kids and 3 8pm Im a full time mom, homework monitor, cook and taxi driver.  After 8pm I often head back to my desk for fun stuff like marketing, PR, interviews like this.

What books can we expect from you in the future?  Any works in progress?

Lincoln Ladies is the 3rd book in my New England Trilogy.  I love the story and thoroughly enjoyed writing it. I wrote three books in three years which was a big work load so after that, I took some time out. Now Ive just begun a series of books set in Silver Strand, Sligo, Ireland.  I grew up in Sligo and know it well. Im very excited about it and will post more on my FB page as the plot develops

What genre do you write? Do you stick with this religiously?

Ive always written romantic comedy, with a strong sense of Irish humor because as a race we really do laugh at life.  Years ago, starting my broadcasting career, I worked with a fabulous man called Ian Dempsey He gave me some excellent advice, telling me to be myself and not try to mimic anybody on air. An audience can sense if youre fake.  They may not be able to put a name on it but theyll know.  That advice served me well on air and I think its equally valid for books. If youre going to make a success of your profession, no matter what it is, be true to your inner voice.  If it rings true and you persevere - chances are youll succeed in the end.

Do you have a favorite book out of the ones that you have written? 

Right now its got to be Lincoln Ladies.  I love Tuscany which is why I used it as the backdrop.  Theres a magic quality to the countryside there. Its the perfect place to enjoy all that amazing fresh pasta, super Tuscan wines, and maybe fall in love? Youll have to read Lincoln Ladies to see what I mean.

How important is humor in you works?

Very. I think we are what you read - at least I am. If I read a depressing book, it makes me depressed.  Im reading The Secret Garden with my youngest daughter at the moment. Written in 1910, the language is quiet old fashioned. Yesterday I found myself fetching some afternoon tea, like the Lady Dowager of Downton Abbey - instead of just grabbing a coffee.  Thats the power of books and so; I choose to right humor into my books. Its my gift to the reader.  I write funny escapist female fiction.  If I give the reader a few giggles and the odd belly laugh along the way, Ive done my job.

Do you get feedback from anybody close to you before you submit them?

I have literary agents. I aim to get a story well written, very well edited and polished. Then they take it to the market. Its an exciting and terrifying time.  Once its with a publishing house, Ill work with the in-house editors.  Theyll have particular views on strong and weak characters/plotlines. I listen to them and usually obey. This is a business. Books are the product. Its not a time to be precious. Sorry if that sounds hard-nosed but its the difference between writing being a hobby and a job.

How do you approach reviews? Have you had many negative ones? Do you read them?

I read them all. Ive been very lucky with the New England Trilogy. Most were very complimentary but I cant take all the credit. My publishers The Writers Coffee Shop, have an amazing team of editors.  A book is a team effort.  I have had a few bad reviews. Meh.  Let em go, I say. You cant please everybody.

Tell me about the covers for the New England Trilogy; you seem to use a particular theme and style?

I LOVE LOVE LOVE them.  I used the company out of Donetsk in Ukraine. Im thinking of them a lot at the moment because that is the town in the center of the Russian/Ukrainian conflict right now.  Im in touch with the girls in the office and they hear bombs going off nearby. Its surreal their word not mine.  Love and prayers for them please.  One of their artists came up with the animation style.  I love it because; as you well know you cant tell a book by its cover only with mine, you get a few hints. There was a black cat and a red Ferrari in Wellesley Wives - just like the book cover. We have a little white dog and a house on the lake, in Newton Neighbors and yes there are hairy sheep in the Tuscan hills in Lincoln Ladies. Enough said, youll have to read the books to get the full story

Lots of love Suzy

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review: God Is A Gamer by Ravi Subramanian: A Journey of Scandals, Murders, Heists and Money Laundering

God Is A Gamer by Ravi Subramanian is a crime story plotted in an international arena involving political leaders of the United States and India; investigation agencies of both the countries and some high level banking professionals. There are many interesting characters in the story. Their journey starts in isolation in the beginning chapters of the story but later all the links between them come into light gradually. Story starts with an international bank NYIB (New York International Bank) with its operations in India. Three friends - Aditya, Swami and Sundeep. Aditya and Sundeep move out of the bank and start their own organization eTIOS to handle banking operations as an outsourced agency. NYIB is the first bank to outsource them for their operations. Aditya and Sundeep are also engaged in running their gaming industry launching online games from time to time. 

Swami was aspiring to become overall operations head in a short time until he gets a big jerk in his career, when Malvika (his boss) sends a confidential negative report about his performance to the Asia Pacific Headquarter of the bank. This all resulted from a heist that takes place in the country and customers lose money in fake money withdrawals through ATMs from their account. Then there are murders, more heists on a larger scale, involvement of many international names in scandals, murders, heists etc.

My View:
I became a die hard fan of Ravi Subramanian when I first read his book The Bankster (reviewed here) in November 2012. This is fifth fiction novel from Ravi and all of his stories revolve around crime related to banking in one way or the other. Having a large amount of his career spent in various portfolios in banking, he is probably aware of in and out of banking business. He also has a non fiction to his credit. Overall story is quite interesting and keep you hooked to the plot throughout 300+ pages. The virtual money floating over the internet in large amounts is an interesting bit in the story.

Somewhere in the story, Varun visits Tanya's residence and is stopped abruptly when he is taking a bottle of wasabi nuts from one of the shelves in the kitchen to taste some nuts. Varun likes Wasabi Nuts and hence could not stop himself for this action. Tanya immediately stops him with a reason that the bottle has crossed its expiry date and hence let him not take nuts from this bottle. She brings another bottle for him. This is something that Ravi would have kept as a point to be talked about at the end when the suspense is being disclosed, but probably forgot it or skipped it.

You will feel it a quick read and running the book faster as each chapter is not more than 2-3 pages. Otherwise also story has been kept crisp and moving at a right pace to keep you engaged throughout. The story is about good and bad, crime and investigation, law and violations. Bigger the crime, more is the research and analysis required to reach to the crux of crime and criminals. Ravi might have plans to come out with a sequel to tackle Varun later. As far as title is concerned, more than God, it is the human mind that is behind all crime related plannings and executions. The crime becomes so big that law is forced to crack it but still a criminal with a different bend of mind is still able to play with the law and give a twist to the final outcome.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Author Interview: Janaki Murali: Tender Tales: The Colour of Dawn: Gulu Naami: Mica in Someplace Else

She rejoices in fiction, revel in fantasy and love to tell a tale. She writes for both adults and children.
Her work includes short stories in several magazines, Tender Tales, a serialised children's adventure in a daily newspaper (Deccan Chronicle), The Colour of Dawn (Harper Collins India) (read review here), Gulu Naami and the Power of the Triad (Partridge India), the first part in the Gulu Naami series and Mica in Someplace Else (autopilot:Spoilt Ideas) in memory of Aagneya (2005-2014).

A crusading journalist (perhaps), a soft skills trainer (maybe), mom to a son and daughter (always) and a friend to stray cats (sometimes). her likes include the Beatles, books, movies, theatre and travel. She live in Bangalore, India.

Welcome Janaki!

Your real name and pen name?
Janaki Murali – I write under my own name. I am called Jana by friends and family.

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood
My dad used to take my brothers and me on an annual outing to a film and dinner. ‘Hatari’ was a film I remember seeing on one of these outings. Mom would give me surprise treats, by coming to my school to pick me up and take me to a restaurant. She bought me my first book, ‘Hidden House’ by Enid Blyton and dad was always the first one to read my work.

About your education
BA English literature and then went on to do Journalism

What career did you plan during your education days
Writing, always writing.
Addressing a Summer camp
What languages you can speak and write?
I can speak English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, a smattering of Malayalam and Bengali, but prefer to write only in English, although I have learned to write Hindi, but never do.    

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life
Books. There have always been some great authors and their books that have inspired me at various phases of my life.

What hurts you most in this world
Harsh words
fantasy session at Bangalore litfest
What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?
There have been several challenges in my life, I don’t want to go into boring details here, but I found prayer a big help in surmounting them.

If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?
I would love to be Margaret Thatcher for a day. She battled prejudices and stereotypes and become the Iron Lady.

 What is your favourite genre and why?
Children’s fantasy and humour. It’s so wonderful to escape into a fantasy world, rejoice and revel in it and subtle humour, is so much fun to read.
reading at a bookstore
When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?
I started writing as a child, I would invent stories in my head. My first short story was published when I was 16 years old. Writing is my passion, I write because I am. I hope my readers get as much pleasure from my articles and stories, as I get in writing them. 

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?
As a journalist, I have written several articles and columns in newspapers. Many of my short stories were published over the years in magazines. Tender Tales, a children’s adventure series was featured in Deccan Chronicle. My published books are, The Colour of Dawn (HarperCollins), Gulu Naami and The Power of the Triad (Partridge India), and Mica in Someplace Else (authopilot:Spoilt Ideas) Recently my short story, Smile, There’s Only This Life, got published in a literary e-zine, The Earthen Lamp Journal
The Colour of Dawn
The Colour of Dawn is about a woman’s struggle to bury a past that crowds into her present. It is about an unfulfilled love that turns vindictive.

The novel is an exploration of a hot and sultry cauldron of cultures awaiting the rain, after a series of nuclear blasts raised tension between two rival countries. 
With a powerful blend of irony, drama and pathos, Janaki Murali delineates the universal nature of fear and its effect on human lives and destinies and leaves you wondering whether love can be so crippling!
Gulu Naami and The Power of the Triad:
Dive deep into the bowels of a volcano in the Bay of Bengal and meet the fire-breathing Mrigas, shape-shifting Bahulas, four-headed Gufiyas and the special unugly Gulu. Watch them as they employ insects of espionage and wield weapons of fantasy.

See a whole new world through the eyes of three earthlings who learn to stand united after losing a parent, and are pulled into a chain reaction that is about to shake up the entire galaxy.
Building on influences from Asia, Africa and the ancient language of Sanskrit, Janaki Murali takes readers on a phantasmagorical journey.
Mica in Someplace Else:
Everyone has a talent in Someplace Else and eight year old Mica Mishti, who is magically transported to Someplace Else, must find a talent real soon, to escape being axed.

In an adventure that was waiting to happen, Mica meets King Ginger, who yearns to fly, Gold Button, who heads a troop of button soldiers and one eyed Gren, who becomes her ally and friend. 
Mica in Someplace Else was written around nine year old Aagneya’s sketches. Saluting Aagneya’s indomitable spirit in fighting chronic kidney disorder and the joy he brought to people through his drawings, the book is in his memory. Aagneya (2005-2014)

What are your forthcoming writings?
Gulu Naami and the destiny keepers - 2nd book in the Gulu Naami series, a collection of short stories and a novel titled Following the Light Home- this has been 13 years in the making. 

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?
I was born in Calcutta (Kolkata) West Bengal. I have travelled across the USA, UK, Europe, Singapore, UAE, Kuwait, Egypt and Israel. My favourite cities are London, Paris and San Francisco. I like these cities because they’re so culturally alive, pulsating with art, music, theatre and the best wining and dining options.
signing the facebook wall, Menlo park, US
Your favorite time of the day?
Mornings, sitting with my coffee and working on a Sudoku in my morning newspapers.

Your zodiac/ sunsign?

Your favorite color and why?
Blue, it’s such a pleasant colour.

What is the last book you finished reading? What is the current book you are reading?
I read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory last week, and I am currently reading Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

Your favorite book and why?
Golden Gate by Vikram Seth. I marvel at the sheer brilliance of Seth’s achievement of writing a whole novel in verse.

Your favorite movie and why?
Godfather for its characterisation and the sheer expanse of the film

Your favorite celebrity and why?
Meryl Streep for the sweep of roles she has essayed.  

Your favorite food?
Pasta and Chaat

Some quickies: Sun or Moon, Laughter or Smile, Morning or Evening, Coffee or Tea, Mountain or Sea, Long Drive or Short Drive, Silence or Conversation, Water or Fire, Air or Earth, Mars or Jupiter, Tulip or Rose, Red or Blue, Left or Right, Glance or Stare
Sun. Smile. Morning. Coffee. Mountain. Long Drive. Silence. Water. Air. Mars. Tulip. Blue. Right. Glance.

What three words come to your mind for each – Technology, Life, God, Humanity, Terrorism, Racism, Childhood Abuse, Love, Parenting, Old age
Technology – faceless, distant, reach
Life-Emotional, exciting, exasperating
God- Is there one?
Humanity-Complex, Caring, Crass.
Terrorism- Misguided, angry people.
Racism- Be human first
Childhood Abuse- It frightens me.
Love -Unconditional, warts and all.
Parenting-Enjoyable, frustrating, stressful.
Old age- Lonely, friendless, losing control    
State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote
Do your best

The last line of your autobiography would be…
I did my best

Amazon link: Gulu Naami and The Power of the Triad:
Mica in Someplace Else: