Monkeys on the Trail

It was the second time I was following this same trail. Starting from Dehene village to Ajoba hills. And it was the second time I paused at Valmiki Ashram, and did not continue on the trail any further.

I was looking out for monkeys but there were none to be found. I distinctly remembered seeing many of those skipping around, when I was there last time, on the eve of Mahashivratri. I wondered what would have happened to those bunch of monkeys. My speculations were put to rest by a resident, who had a very strong view that the monkeys will be arriving at any moment then, as their nap time must be over, which comfortably coincided with our lunch time. Monkeys!!

I remembered seeing a bunch of dogs too. And few cows munching happily, staring into abyss like they always do, speculating the meaning of life and universe. I mentioned this and looked inquisitively at the residents. They shrugged and said they don’t remember seeing any such combination around. Although monkeys will be arriving soon, they reassured. I wondered where the dogs must have been. They never seem to miss lunch time.

We feasted on rice chapatis, some saag, and daal, which was simple yet sumptuous. I tried to remember when was the last time I enjoyed my food so much. I had to break from my hyper-concentration, as I could not remember, and MONKEYS HAD STARTED ARRIVING.

At first they came one at a time, then in pairs, then in rowdy groups of threes and fours. After a couple of dozen settled themselves around like sentinels, the mother monkeys with babies stuck at their bellies started coming in. Social order – All of us basically, before some mutant gene triggered evolution.

I stood there looking at those sober, super boring monkeys. They just sat on the branches without any purpose. What do you call monkeys who have no purpose in life, not even when it is lunch time? I thought that they might still be in post-pre-afternoon-nap trance. So I decided to give them benefit of doubt.

After a while those purpose-less creatures stopped pouring in. A few small monkeys from the rowdy group starting taking short jumps across branches. Here we go, I said. But then they again settled lazily on a new branch. As if trying to judge which was a better branch for a session of uninterrupted purposeless sitting.

A few others came down the tree, drank some water, and went back. A group of detectives were seen inspecting the garbage area. Trying to find easy meal. I reflected on the good old days in Banaras, when they used to barge in your house, open fridge, take as many things as their arms could manage, and then, while sprinting away, they gave you this look which seemed to say “Go on. Keep the rest. No need to thank me”.

The air around me was full with tiny droplets of water. The blanket of clouds had taken over the sky. The birds had stopped singing. The plateau beamed in anticipation of rain.  I sat there staring into abyss, not wishing for anything, perfectly content. I felt like one of those monkeys.

Morning Star

Morning Star.

He bids the Moon goodbye and greets the first rays of the Sun.

How does he take the change?
I guess not very well.

But he knows the cycle. They will meet again, only to be separated. Again and again. Followed by yet another long wait.

Endless cycle. Endless pain.
The promise to never leave again.
But all in vain.

The Moon and Star’s meeting. Is it destiny?

I refuse to believe so. I believe it is for a purpose. Everything is. Everything fits this plan.

Evening is the time Nature plays with colors. The colors it has been splattering across the canvas throughout the day. And now it’s time for a final stroke.

And I just sit here and watch.
So does the Morning Star.
For it can see its lover once again.

Chasing the Monsoons – Stories from Meghalaya


“I learnt by getting to know the forest as a being, feeling its breath in the stillness of days, filling my lungs and my whole being with the freshness it inspires.”

26-May

It was partly one of those periodic urges to run away from the world, and partly the wait for monsoons that found me flying on a Saturday morning to Guwahati. Mumbai had been sweltering hot during the previous couple of weeks and even though the lack of sleep the night before should have dragged me down, I found myself wide awake, looking at the crimson shadowy morning, eager to keep moving.

***

I couldn’t keep up with the running white strands of the clouds, and dozed off peacefully. I was woken up by a sudden turbulence in the bus. Everyone was rushing out and their gaze made it very clear that it would be the opportune moment for me to do the same. The bus that I took to be going to Shillong dropped me at Paltan Bazaar, a busy market in Guwahati. It was 9 in the morning. The clouds had conspired for a showdown while I was asleep. The sky was dark brown, the clouds steady as a rock, refusing to move an inch. Full with anticipation, I continued onwards to Shillong in a shared taxi. The family sharing the taxi with me was not very keen for a conversation, and I too had similar feelings. We continued forward in peace, while the new landscapes ran past me. The brown urban mud soon gave way to green fields, marked by the colors of cattle and reminiscence of spring.

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Green Leaves

It has been a decade since I started this blog. The journey from Blogger to WordPress, from engineering to masters to corporate life – it has both been a short time and a long one. Short in the terms of the overall scheme of things, and long in terms of me as a person. I favor reading a lot more than writing, nowadays – It has come with a lot of patience in my life – And I often find myself wondering about things I didn’t know exist.

Still, I wish I write more. I am not sure if it is a mental block or just a case of priorities. Is this space just a pensive or is it still alive? I will admit that I am not sure anymore. I wish to find that out for myself, and hence you find me here, blabbering without a particular theme in mind.

***

Wadala House and the Mango Tree

June has been a GREEN month for me. Backpacking across Meghalaya for a week was a much needed detoxification. I encountered the first rains of the season. Flying back to Mumbai, I found the west branch of Monsoons greeting me. Even Bangalore was gleaming with wonderful colors as sky poured incessantly, This is the most tranquil part of the year, which rejuvenates everything – living and animate alike. It does come with side effects, but I believe it has a lot of pros than cons. A festival which spans across months – Monsoons is a pleasant reminder that even a metropolitan like Mumbai has to mend its ways as per the dictate of Nature – And it’s citizens happily go the prescribed path.
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CouchSurfing – New Age Scam

I came across CouchSurfing while going through a travel blog. I had heard about CS earlier, and this reference acted as a re-enforcement to install the App. This is where I started on an acquisition flow, which was so cleverly designed to trap the users, that even in the hindsight it is improbable to spot this trick.

Let us go through the on-boarding flow for CS:

1. First screen post Sign Up:

So you land on the front page, trying to figure out the navigation. And the first thing that you notice is the “Get Verified” link. In the current ecosystem, majority of the sites follow following two ways of verification:

1. ID proof / Mobile Verification – This is done to confirm the identity. Most of the social networks have mandated this.

2. Payment Details – Sites like AirBNB asks you to confirm your payment method. This is done with sole purpose to safeguard the hosts.

So I did not wait to question the CTA and continued with the flow to get started quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Farce of Verification Benefits

The verification page highlights the multiple “benefits” – Content bundled around a decent UI, with only a minor information missing – they actually forgot to mention that the verification is not FREE – of course one could argue that they never mentioned that it is FREE either. We shall come back to that.

Coming back to this page – It contains over 500 words, photos of verified members, “Testimonials” from the happy users, and logos of Forbes, Time, NYT and Guardian. A perfect setup you might say.

You can verify your account using either Credit Card or PayPal (Just getting this information as a safeguard, are we?)

I clicked on Credit Card and proceeded. Let’s see what happens now.

 

 

 

 

3. Surprise!!!

You land to the next page, not suspecting any foul play. Now look closely at this page. You might say that you can see the amount mentioned here – “Just Rs 3900 for life helps you meet the world” – Such a noble thought. But the objective of this design is to deceive the user.

– The text is intentionally kept vague, 3900 to meet the world. All the pricing principles asks the product owner to specify the payment details clearly on the checkout page. But these principles were made for ensuring good user experience. They do not make sense if you are concerned about creating false revenue channels.

– Notice the font color of the text? As light gray as could be. I wonder if they would have debated to keep the text color white – Why not go all the way?

– The bottom CTA says “Verify My Account”. If you explore other e-commerce sites, you will not find such a deceit elsewhere. All the sites says “Complete Payment” or “Pay Now”. Interestingly, CS says “Complete Payment” for iOS App. Reason – Apple is far stricter compared to Google in protecting users.

I, like many other users, was deceived. I entered the details and by the time I realized what was happening, I received an SMS from my bank. Another thing that got me here was absence of second factor authentication (company outside India – hence the false cover of security also played a part in the same).

CS can argue that they did mention the charge. But if they bring in this argument, they already lose. Victim blaming and hiding behing T&C has never helped any organization.

Once the first phase was over, I contacted both CS and my bank instantly (as I had no trust left in CS, even though they promised a full refund if requested within 72 hours). While I waited for them to respond, I checked for similar cases Online. No wonder Internet was full with similar complaints against CS. Here is a full list of the complaints: https://twitter.com/i/moments/900365776133206016

Apparently, CS did an AB experiment around Aug-2017, where they tried this new gold digging tool and it succeeded (obviously). The B users would have been more revenue generating, even after all the refunds (if honored). This is a perfect example of how not to run your business. I wonder how they intend to succeed, if they continue with this modern age scam.

I am reading stuff online to identify a way to escalate this (Not that this has not been done earlier, but one got to try). If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.