Friday, August 24, 2012

Cheque books ? What are they ?!

I have never had a cheque book, ever.

My first bank account was in India, naturally a joint account with my parents and they took care of everything. When I came to Germany in 2003 and opened my account, I had the wonderful world of online banking. All my expenses - rent, insurance, credit card etc. were set up in such a way that they were automatically debited from my account on specific dates every month. If I had to transfer money to anyone, I did it online. I had a debit/ATM card for everything else. All I had to do was login to my bank account once a week to make sure the transactions were correct and that I was not overdrawn.

Then came my first trip to the US in 2006 and everybody was writing everybody else cheques ! People were dropping off rent cheques, asking me to pay them in cheques and I didn't get it ! They were amazed that I didn't have a cheque book ! I was amazed that their banking system was still in ''stone age'' - I mean, writing a cheque, going to the landlord's place and giving him that in exchange of money is almost akin to the barter system.

Then I noticed, they were everywhere - Seinfeld, Raymond and Rachel were talking about them (they even made complete epsiodes with ''cheques'') and I was wondering how I missed the ''cheque wave''.

I wondered too soon because I opened a NRO account in India and got my first cheque book yesterday. I told appa about it and he went on and on about how I should ''write neatly'' (which in itself is an impossible task for someone like me who types the grocery list), ''cross'' it, make sure that my signature corresponds exactly to the ''sample'' the bank has (is that even possible ? I mean try signing twice on the same paper and see if they match exactly !) and finally make a note of the cheque number and other details before using the cheque. It sounded simpler to fly to India, meet the person in question and give him cash !

So now there is a book in my house that I would probably never use but safely store as an ''artifact'' to remember fondly that I once owned a cheque book, a never-going-to-be-used cheque book.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Power of Attorney from NRIs

Updated on 14 Oct 2015:
A reader has pointed out in the comments section that the requirements have since changed. They can be found at -

They key difference is that now witnesses from NL are required to appear with the applicant along with their ids to sign the PoA.


As an NRI in the Netherlands, if you, as an Indian citizen, wish to give power of attorney (POA) to a resident in India, you need to do it at the Indian Consulate or the Embassy of India and would need the following documents:
  • Official POA text printed on normal paper: Please note that the format is usually provided by the bank in case of a housing loan or by a lawyer in case of property sale or registration and stamp paper is required only when the POA is executed in India
  • Passport and Residence card or visa
  • Form for consular services (usually found in the Indian embassy website)
  • Photocopies of all of the above
  • At least 2 passport size photos: You will need one for the consular services form and one for the POA
  • Fee
You are required to sign each page the POA in front of the consulate employee (who will then affix his signature and stamp), so do not sign anything at home. It is also prudent to carry additional documentation, for example, passport copy of the person who the POA is given to, marriage certificate especially if you are a woman etc since requirements may vary from one country to another.

NL specific (cannot comment about Indian consulates in other countries)
The website of the Indian embassy in NL hardly offers any information on POAs and neither do they answer phone calls. So you get the requirements only when you go there in person to Den Haag, so it’s better to be prepared especially if you want to avoid another trip. Please note that only passport and visa processes are outsourced (to VFS Global services) and POAs are directly dealt with by the Embassy. So neither the VFS hotline nor the VFS agents will be able to help you with this request.

Some tips and information:
First of all, any POA should only be given to a person you completely and implicitly trust like a parent or spouse. To avoid legal complications in the future, its better not to choose agents or other business associates.

Second of all, please exercise caution while giving someone general POA. It typically means the person can do ANYTHING with any of your investments and liabilities i.e. act like its his/her money and property. So if there is a specific purpose, for example sale of a particular property, then state only that in the POA. To be doubly sure, please also make sure you revoke the POA, once the job is done. Yes, it is good to have faith in people but there is no need to make it explicit with a legal document.

While drafting the POA, make sure the
  • format is right - I found some useful formats here
  • date and place of execution (in this case, Indian Embassy, The Hague) are correct
  • names and addresses are spelt according to the passport (or similar identification card)
  • space at the end of each page (easily done with custom margins in MS word) is enough for the signatures and stamp
Purchase of property
If you are availing a housing loan from a bank for purchase of property (Land or House) in India, please note that in this case, 2 POAs may be required. The first one is to be given to the bank, which will allow them to deal with a local representative. The second one, is for property registration i.e for the representative to appear in front of the Govt. Registrar to register the property in your name. Please note that the text is vastly different for the 2 POAs.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dark knight rises and falls.....

To me, the movie was neither as bad as the Spiderman, nor as good as the avengers (which is worth watching just for Robert Downey Junior's witty repartee). While I enjoyed all the elements that one enjoys in a Batman movie - the cool gadgets, Alfred the butler, the mass destruction (some of which is caused by batman himself) - the predictability of the script and the unnecessary length of the movie made me stifle yawns quite often.

Anyone who has read enough Sidney sheldon books and seen enough 007 movies would have predicted that Rachel is not as goody goody as she seems. I mean, why else would anyone refer to a child, as ''child'' always without once using a pronoun like ''he'' or ''she'' (sheldon fans/readers would have immediately spotted the similarity to ''Angel'' from Windmills of the Gods) ?! And why in the world, would we have another leading lady (Anne Hathway) who acts like Robin Hood - if Anne is going to be Batman's girl, then the other girl is obviously going to change sides especially after Bruce mentions 17 times that he trusts her !

When is the movie industry going to give up showing the hero's comeback with push-ups as the music reaches a crescendo ? He could have been shot, beaten to a pulp, dropped from a building and all he needs are a few push-ups to get back into the game, eh ? Yeah, yeah, we get it, you want to make the most of his fitness but get creative people !

Some reviewer said ''Hans Zimmermann could have just come to the theatre and beat us on the head with drums''...there is no better way to say it, the music was so unbelievably bad ! We already have a villain who speaks like the darth-vader and add drums to it, you might as well even stop attempting to make sense of what he is saying. Maybe its time for Hollywood to replace Hans with ARR !

All in all, if you have nothing better to do, you might as well grab a few snacks (you will definitely need them) and go watch the Dark Knight.

PS: Did you know that the prison was modeled after the wells in Rajasthan ?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My ideal lunch

Call it an idiosyncrasy or a weird habit but my ideal lunch is having something warm to eat (and no, cold sandwich is not lunch even if my fellow Dutch strongly disagree) and something spicy to read (don’t get the wrong idea….). I always like to read something that makes me think…there is something indescribably satisfying about thinking and letting one’s imagination wander when I slowly chew and enjoy the food. It could be the usual privacy violation article about Google or a John Grisham book that I am probably reading for the umpteenth time.

I don’t have anything against a working lunch but its wraught with complications
- How is it a lunch ‘’break’’ when you continue to discuss the same topics with the same people ?
- At the cafeteria, even if I choose just soup, salad and juice and a colleague comments light heartedly ’’oh..thats a full tray’’, all my ‘’am-I-too-fat’’ sensors light up like a Christmas tree and where-o-where would I find the energy to still keep smiling and think of something to say so as to not offend him (naturally it’s a ‘’him’’) ! To add to it, why does someone who is thin and fit sit just across from me and enjoy the same dessert that I willed myself to ignore ?
- When you eat a spoonful of salad (that requires inordinate chewing), why do people always choose the exact same moment to ask you a question ? The more the person waits for an answer, the more I feel like a cow chewing its cud !! Not to mention the endless worry about bits of salad stuck between the teeth !

Given that there is hardly any time for breakfast (and I eat it while commuting to work) and dinner is preceded and succeeded by household chores, lunch is probably the only meal during weekdays that is slow paced and gives one time. I have to applaud the French here – when I was in Paris for work, lunch was atleast an hour, mostly accompanied by wine and even if its the office cafeteria, the menu was long and the food was delicious. And to top it all, no one spoke about anything but cheese and wine…..that definitely goes on the list as a pro, if I ever consider moving to France.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Losing faith in people very uncharacteristic of me. I get upset with them, fight with or yell at them but I never lose faith in people I know and if they are strangers, I just grumble about them but I eventually get over it.

I recently got a gift certificate for a massage and when I reached the parlour, I was surprised that it was actually a house in a quiet residential area away from the main road and not a commercial establishment. Before I went in for my appointment, I called Ashok, gave him the address of the place and told him that if I didn’t call him back in an hour, he should call back and check with me. I went in and met an extremely friendly and professional masseuse. When I saw her I felt guilty because I hadn’t trusted her enough to not have a back-up plan. Maybe this is good practice, but to me the distrust I had about an innocent stranger made me think (and what better place to do it than a massage table!)….

I don't know if this is a part of growing up and finally facing reality but lately a lot of people are letting me down. I am inclined to blame the news (Syrian Genocide, Iran Nuclear plans, Greek debt situation and the list goes on) and the biography of Steve Jobs (there are things about him in the book that I need'nt have known) but I know its more personal than that.

I always believed in the adage that good things happen to good people. It does not mean that life is always a bed of roses but it only means that every problem that occurs paves the way for something better and in the end, everything ends well. But in the situations I have been seeing, try as hard as I might, I cannot see a silver lining. I only see people bullying those who cannot stand up for themselves or for their loved ones, I only see the good hearted ones getting hurt and being helpless. I would love to be nosy, step in and fight their battles or rather give the bullies a piece of my mind but that would only make things worse.

This is a good part to insert a disclaimer - There is nothing wrong with my life or me, nobody died but I am seeing so many problems happening to people around me that I am afraid that I am letting go of my optimism and my inherent faith in the goodness of people, albeit slowly !

One simple way would be to tune myself out for a while and not get involved in others' problems but when is running away the answer to anything ? If I cannot do what I do best i.e. talk to them, when people are in trouble, then the guilt of not being there when they need me would be overwhelming.

Oh...well...this too shall pass....until then I have to bear with myself, replace books with comics, news with funny sitcoms and look harder for ways to still cling on to the optimism and faith I have left !

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pongal Kad(a)i

After coming to Europe, I never really celebrated desi occasions like Pongal or Karthigai with the appropriate gusto because many times there was no one to share the joy (and food). Since Ashok and I started living together, I have been celebrating everything and cooking everything like crazy to make up for lost time.

Since this is our first pongal after we started living together, I had already made up my mind to celebrate it the proper way. Ashok is usually not very enthu in celebrating such occasions but he does enjoy the food. So when I asked him about the menu, he played along and said lots of ghee, cashews, whole peppercorns (for the ven pongal) and shallot (china vengayam) sambhar to go with it.

The first order of business was to find my pressure cooker which is small, almost dying, with its safety valve long gone. I had to use the cooker twice to boil the rice and dal for the Ven pongal and chakkarai pongal separately since the former is cooked with water and salt, while the latter is cooked with milk. I was worried that it was going to die any minute, but it was surprisingly robust (which is a tribute to Premier) and I even managed to shout ‘’pongalo pongal’’ (not being able to allow pongal to boil over on an induction stove is a major buzz kill…ivalum iva modern appliancesum…cha…cha..thollai thangala)

As much as I love shallot sambar, I hate to peel them - handla shallots =>eyes fulla tearu and infinite patience. Then I realized that I need the paavamana cooker again for boiling dal for the sambhar. So for the third time, the cooker cooked successfully.

After a hearty meal, when Ashok was dozing off, I called Amma and proudly narrated my accomplishments for the day. She listened and finally said – ‘’ellam seri, ana nalaiku dhane pongal’’ !!! After few seconds of shock, I remonstrated ‘’inniku 14th, eppodhum 14th dhane pongal’’…apparently the tamizh calendar decided to give me a mega bulb !$#@!%#$% by pushing pongal to 15th this year.

Mental note to self: Google for thamizh panchangam and add it to favorites

Favorite response to my comedy story (from a friend): Pongala mundiri (kottai) potiya ?!
Hit Counter
Website Hit Counter I had decided to have a counter only after I hit a 1000 views and since it happened last week (as on 14 Dec 2009), now is the time to see some stats :)