Thursday, June 28, 2018

How to book a tatkal ticket from IRCTC.

Please note : this is based on recent personal experiences trying to book train tickets via the IRCTC portal.

So you have an unplanned travel ahead and cannot / won't shell out money for expensive flight tickets. Tatkal train tickets is the option for you, but if you're trying to get lucky with tatkal tickets, the probably and chance game is like that of winning a contest. So all the best!

  1. The route: Chances of scoring tatkal tickets on a popular route eg. Mumbai to Delhi is much better than getting it for an unpopular route for instance Panvel to Gwalior. Because less trains / less frequent trains hence more competition for you.
  2. Internet Connection: Your Lan / broadband / wifi/ Hotspot better be strong enough to survive the way till the end. If your takes more than a couple of seconds to load, you will fail.
  3. Typing skills: now it's best to have a master passenger list saved in advance, but u still have to type a few things like to and from stations, enter dates etc.. Payment card details and more. So u better do ur typing test and be good at operating/navigating the laptop/computer!
  4. 10am alarm! Now even if u login before, u may have to relogin again and the server becomes really really slow. I almost feel that it's a conspiracy where you won't be able to login because no captcha image or login error or server not responding (all of this happened with me). So be ready to bang your head with the keyboard in sheer frustration. (Timing for non-AC tickets is different. 11am)
  5. No surety:  By God's grace and some luck if you enter all details and find availability in the train of your choice, there are good chances that by the time you make the payment what you've booked are tqwl tickets or tatkal waiting list tickets, the chances of confirmation of which is really really slim. As the general quota waiting list is given preference first. So basically, full popat. 
  6. Why the app? There is an IRCTC mobile app that works faster, but once you enter details it sends you to log-in to your desktop-like IRCTC account (from the phone). What logic?
  7. Success! Maybe after trying for 2-3 days you will finally hit jackpot and get confirmed tatkal tickets. And if you can have a fundraiser organized for your travel, you could book premium tatkal tickets. Still cheaper than last minute flights but way too expensive for train travel (double the cost of a tatkal Tkt and equal to flight if you had booked it months in advance!)

So, if you think you may travel later, even if there is a remote hunch - I would suggest you to book tickets and bear the nominal cancelation charges if you don't go. It's cheaper than the tatkal surcharge and fares. And I get sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat every time I try to book tatkal tickets - the pressure and anxiety of getting one for the family members I tell you! So if it's a life and death situation, I suggest you go to a known agent.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Top 5 online tools to ease parental woes!

Technology has influenced every single aspect of modern life in the 21st century. It is almost impossible to think of life without technology in a device-driven world where the screen holds infinite power.

While parents may not entirely be happy with navigating the tricky by-products of technology like managing their childs’ screen time, most also acknowledge the way technology has positvely impacted their lives.

From helping with their child’s education to aiding parents to seek advice about the quandaries of parenting, technology is there for everything. It has helped organise things and schedules, save time, and answer essentially any question related to parenting (or otherwise). In moderation, the right tech tools can arm parents with curcial information, save time and money and, of course, give them a well-deserved break.

Here’s a lowdown on some of the best tech tools that have made life much easier for parents and have almost managed to change the parenting game.

1. For safe online usage

YouTube Kids:
If there is one place where kids universally love watching videos, it is YouTube. YouTube launched the app YouTube Kids three years ago to give kids around the world a platform to access videos that are enriching, engaging and which entertained them while teaching them new things. Last month, in a bid to give parents more control, YouTube Kids announced three new features around the content available in the app. The new features include ‘Collections’ that will allow parents to choose only the channel collection and subjects they want their kids to view. The ‘Parent Approved Content’ feature empowers parents to handpick every video and channel available to their child in the app while an improved ‘Search-off’ control ensures more contained experience. This way, parents can monitor what the children are watching in their absence.

2. For Finding reliable tutors & keeping a tab on children’s study schedules
Ed-tech or technology in education has created a major evolution in the field of education. One such tool is that has created tutoring space by facilitating parents’ search for a reliable tutor. GuruQ stands out as India's largest tutor community platform where one can pick quality-certified and user-rated tutors. It is a one of its kind digital integrated platform connecting tutors and students and addresses the need for a single, simplified and cohesive ed-tech solution that provides online and offline tutoring. Parents can use the platform to pick reliable ‘GuruQ Certified’ tutor options for primary, secondary, higher secondary and undergraduate courses. GuruQ’s unique dashboard reassures parents as it allows their wards to save valuable study time by managing timetables, schedule classes and assess self-progress. Its biggest plus is that students have the convenience of choosing whether they want to take the customised package sessions online or offline. Parents can also get a complete report on how the child is coping academically with just a click.

3. For child health and managing immunization schedules

Immunize India:
While everything else follows, it is the health of children that always bothers and worries parents. Often, it’s a tough task to keep a track of immunisation schedules for children. This is where platforms that tell parents when a vaccine is scheduled, give information on its efficacy etc and indicate the compulsory and optional ones are welcome. The Immunize India app is a straight forward app from the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) that follows the IAP’s vaccination calendar. All parents need to do is feed in the name of the child and date of birth after which they will receive three sets of email and push notifications in the week that the vaccination is due. The app is available in 12 languages and takes the child through from 0-12 years.

4. For managing kids mobile screen time

It’s a routine scene in most households where children are stuck to mobile devices even if it’s time to eat a meal. An app called the DinnerTime app is a simple solution that helps parents who want to give their kids time-outs from their phones and tablets especially during meals or sleep hours. This is a parental-only app which lets parents connect the mobile device which the child is using to their own device. Once that is done, it allows parents to lock the child's device from their own for a 30-minute, 1-hour, or 2-hour break for dinner. The Bed Time break lets parents set a start and an end time when the device is locked for lights out. Lastly, the Take a Break feature lets parents start and stop a break without a predetermined time limit.

5. For keeping a tab on your child’s whereabouts

Find My Kids – Footprints:
For parents worried about their children’s safety, location tracking devices can be of help. Find My Kids uses GPS in real time to help parents keep track of and automatically locate where the child goes with his phone. Location info is never shared with anyone else beyond those who have permission to see it, and data is saved for later review. But giving a child a smartphone isn't always an option. Even then, technology can still come to the rescue with options such as Letstrack by a UK-based startup that sells location tracking based devices.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mother's Day Celebrations at Le Meridien Goa

Mothers day all my life has been a day I pamper my mom. Get her fresh flowers she likes, make a greeting or buy one if I'm keeping busy, spend the day with her and the sort. Only after I had my baby 3 years ago did I realize what being a mother really is. And my respect for my own mother only increased ten folds.

This mothers day, I was in for a surprise when Le Meridien invited me along with my son and husband to spend mothers day weekend at their Goa property - about which I have written here. In this blog I am going to talk about how they made our stay very special!

1. High-tea by the pool -

The awesome culinary wizards at Le Meridien Goa, Calangute set up high tea by the pool side, and the presentation was simply unique! All the food items broken down to their raw ingredients and presented - so that kids can know what's in the food they're eating. The samosas and chocochip cookie were the highlight for me. They were also sweet enough to send some to the room for the husband who was not feeling too well.

2. Dinner at Jazz & Grill -

Jazz & Grills is Le Meridien's and Goa's first "whiskey bar". The restaurant transforms you to another place with it's stage for live performances with the big screen, comfortable seating on two levels and a bar where you can sit if you prefer that. The decor has guitars and everything music too. We had our special set menu here and had such a great time with the great staff, awesome drinks and food! 

There was falafel in pita pockets, chicken burger, cottage cheese in thai green marinade, zatar spiced fish fingers. Also a special egg-bhurji that chef Saurav Chattoraj - that was the highlight for me. For drinks we had bourbon based drinks - one infused with honey another with apricots, both just amazing!

For the kids there was french fries, roasted papad and juices - which kept them happy too!

3. Mothers Day brunch at Latest Recipe -

Latest recipe is Le Meridien Goa, Calangute's buffet restaurant and that is where we had our Mother's Day brunch. A wide spread to choose from - I went for their recommended soup of the day - khau suey - had that twice, also tried other things from the spread and then jumped to dessert - the stawberry pavlova was just amazing - light and fluffy. Kings beer was relished along with the food.

There was a special activity set-up for kids where they could paint a Mother's Day card for mommies or have something painted on their face or hands. There were also lots of candies on display - jujubes, marshmallows and more - and the kids had a crazy time binging on them!

4. Goan thali dinner at Latest Recipe -

For the second day dinner we experienced local goan delicacies, again at Latest Recipe - but this was a thali. Lot's of unique vegetables and curries, served with pav and breads and also the local dessert - bibinca. We also tried the chicken zacuti gravy which was amazing too. Again, with Kings beer, the goan local beer.

5. Eclair making activity at Longitude 73 -

Every Le Meridien hotel has a signature dessert - The Eclair. And for each local hotel, they choose a third flavor (apart from Chocolate / Vanilla) that is known for it's local flavours. For Goa, it was mango and feni flavoured Eclair. Now just eating the dessert is so vanilla (pun intended), so they made us make our own eclair! It looks very easy, but isn't that easy. You have to make holes in the pastry to pipe in the cream all the way through - this is a real challenge. After that you decorate with cream, chocolate pieces and other garnishing and voila! Amazing and tasty!

I felt absolutely pampered over the Mother's day weekend, and the kiddo felt quite special too! It was definitely a stay to remember - and we made some new friends too! Kaavya, our awesome host for the weekend, Kuheli, Pawan and their son Shreysht with whom my son Panav absolutely had a blast! Also Ruchi and husband and her adorable daughter Ivanka.