The Flavours of Service….
The last week was a different one. I got to taste many flavours of something for the first time. It wasn’t icecream- just something more novel.
The first flavour was at the local Canara bank. Is it imagination or something else. Whenever I walk into.a public sector undertaking can’t help get the feeling that the bubbonic plague may be more welcome here than a customer.
A simple request to open a bank account was greeted by a ping pong reply pushing us to the next and the next cashier who to our consternation was also processing cheques, deposits, new card requests, and more with a sleight of the hand that would be the envy of any magician.
With one side glance at us she declared ” No account without Aadhar or Pan Card”. Yes, dear- but this time we were prepared- having heard that oft- repeated slogan many a times. Producing the precious two documents didn’t suffice though; for she needed photocopies. And then we asked innocently ” Can you not take a photocopy in here?” which evinced a curt reply” No- it’s the customer’s duty to get the copies”.
Feathers being ruffled, I didn’t give up. ” Madam, we are customers . You are the service provider. Please understand our problem. The photocopying shop is quite far and we need to rush back “. Not much use though, for back came a quick repartee from the bank staffer “I am not your servant”. I was now truly gobsmacked. Servants, service and so on. What did these terms mean? Will run to the Oxford dictionary next to understand this better. And so we retreated this time, albeit defeated, from the esteemed Canara bank.
The next stop was at the local community clubhouse. Being new to the Rainbow Drive community this was my first taste of the new flavour. A worker had retired and the lovely ladies had decided to host a potluck lunch in his honour to all workers. I pitched in with fried papads (not too tough to make- that’s me) and went in to see the hall setup with tables, mats, and banana leaves for the lunch . And what a sumptuous meal it was ! The ladies had outdone themselves with bisibele bhath, curd rice, raita, pulav, sabji, paysam and many many more delights- all made at home with love.
The workers trooped in and sat down to eat.We started serving . In typical south Indian style -salt, pickle, papad, sabji, rice, sambar, rasam and more. And the simple act of serving the food items and seeing their joyful faces brought so much delight. The gardeners, cleaners, security staff and more who served us every day. A different flavour of service this time- me and others at the serving end…
I failed to understand. Why is service or servant a bad word?The curt reply from the bank staffer ” I am not your servant!” ringing in my head.
Well- yes you are not; but, having come here to open a bank account I am at your mercy, my dear. So what would you rather I do, to receive your precious service? Grovel at your feet? Was at a loss to understand this.
A thought- let me take Gandhiji’s quote back to the bank the next time:
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”
And have this framed perhaps or even as a screensaver on all the public sector machines.
Maybe I shouldn’t taint them all with a bad brush but show me an example of customer delight at any of these undertakings and I am happy to retract.
Aina Rao
The Amblingindian. For quirky and thought provoking reads on India.



Blame it on GST!!!

Over the last many weeks since the much awaited GST regime unfolded and rolled into full gear the amblingindian has been watching with baited breath…

Sadly though, after much brouhaha and fanfare of course, bringing extra work to the under-worked civil servants and other civilians it seemed to roll out very quietly, almost like the Y2K prep where people had stockpiled months of food and essential supplies only to find it was a whimper. Nothing really went wrong.

And so it happened with the GST, too. Almost nothing went wrong. Pretty smooth it seemed. No newspaper headlines shouting about the darned thing.Even the govt propaganda machinery was quiet this time. LPG seemed to continue ruling the roost as far as billboards went. The billboards almost screamed at you – “N million women got self respect thanks to LPG subsidy give up”. What about the others who lost it b’coz of rapes acid attacks and more? Well, we shall not talk about it now for fear of digressing… Another day for sure.

So what about the darned GST then. It seemed to be somewhat amusing; or irritating could be the better word he thinks. The neighbourhood store for want of a better understanding- started billing us for MRP plus GST. No amount of reasoning would prevail for he was too terrified to go under. Until the consumers decided to give him the boycott treatment for a week. And the fear of really going under made him sit up and come back to ground; or GST reality. Thankfully he bills us now at MRP only.

And some more amusing stories.The cabbie driving me home last night. “Madam, GST is hopeless. That’s why the price of onions and tomatoes has gone through the roof”. I thought, from my management education that prices were all about supply and demand.. but it seems that the economists may have been wrong all along.. along came a wind called GST and knocked them all down…

The watchman was better before GST. They got free chutney with dosa at the eateries. Now they charge people for extra chutney..all becuase of a demon called GST.

Next; a medium sized store selling a sports equipment is moaning .A sports racket deserves 28 percent GST; which is up from 5 percent earlier- solely because it has become a luxury item post GST..What !! A sports racket is luxury?? Pay to be fit or blame your inertia to exercise to GST. That’s easier than getting out of bed to exercise anyday!

The bigger stores seem to be not much better. A purchase at lifestyle Hyderabad and a question to the cashier “Can I exchange this in Bangalore if needed? ” evinces a curt and straight response -” No madam you have to come back here to exchange it”. Why?. That’s easy for him to answer. “Because of GST madam”.
What!!!! GST and all? I must confess it needs a lot more reading to be able to decipher this great scheme of tax. A superficial reading will not do.

Until I get to that detailed reading’s pretty simple. Let’s all blame it on GST.

Aina Rao.
The amblingindian.
For more quirky reads on India..


Tag: HD Quality Life Wallpapers, Backgrounds and Pictures for Free, Lenore DutrembleAmblingindian nuggets on life… ( A story for all ages )

Once upon a time, there was a young man, Manduka, who lived in a prosperous land. The land was fertile, lush green, and they had plenty of water. Manduka was clever, he knew all about trees and vegetation, for he had studied them closely for long. He had grown a medley of fruit trees which burst with fruits all year- mangoes, papayas, chikoos, custard apples, everything you could ask for. It was a place to live and die for.

One day, a king from the neighbouring kingdom came to visit. Impressed by the fruit bearing trees, he asked the young man’s father to send Manduka with the seeds to his kingdom. To plant the fruit trees and reap prosperity for his people. He offered them riches in return. Manduka’s father gladly obliged, and tasked Manduka with the job.

Over months, Manduka collected a motley mix of seeds. When he had enough, he made a small cloth bundle filled with the seeds, and started off on the journey. The journey was arduos, took many days, and went over hills, forests and valleys. And then he reached.

The king welcomed him and gave him a lovely room in the palace. When Manduka woke up, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The place was gorgeous. He was in the midst of undreamt of luxury. Velvet sheets, glimmering mirrors and more. Beautiful birds flew around fearlessly. Manduka enjoyed the luxurious food and drink, the joys of the palace. He got more and more immersed in the luxes of the land, and forgot to plant the seeds- the reason for being there. And thus time went by…

The day came to meet the King. Manduka hurried around, just the day before, to show the seeds to the King before he planted them in the Royal garden. But when he looked around, he could only find the scraps of cloth left over from the bundle. It seemed that birds had pecked at the bundle, destroyed it completely, and taken away the seeds.

Manduka was ashamed. What face could he show to the king, having partaken of his hospitality all along, but having forgotten what he had come for? That very night, he packed his belongings, and quietly ran away from the Kingdom.

Manduka’s journey is not new. It is the journey of the human being. The human birth, the seers say, comes every once in an era. The birth is earned, and meant to be spent for reaching the next higher stage of existence- Moksha or Nirvana. But, what happens? Just like Manduka, we get sidetracked, immersed in the luxes of the land, epheremeral joys, and forget the purpose of this existence. And one day, when the time comes to go, we realise, and we run. But, its too late by then. Manduka’s seeds are lost for ever, and so is our time on this earth too…

Aina Rao – for more Quirky reads on India.

June 24, 2017


A happy mother’s day!   

This mother’s day, for some reason, a thought came to mind- what about all the mothers out there who are struggling to feed, bring up and grow their children against all odds- poverty, wars and calamities?
What can we do as fellow mothers to make their lives a bit easier?
An organisation springs to mind. It is an organisation with a story. Many years back, I read this story and for some reason, it just stayed on in memory( some stories are indeed so powerful). Many more years ago, a lady was running a school in Lucknow, educating poor children. She saw a mother of four breaking a piece of bread into four parts to feed all of them. A piece of bread was all she could afford with her sparse earnings, as a chikankari worker. The middlemen took all the profit.
The lady educator realised education was not enough. She took it on, to create a self help group for these women, to create and sell their own chikankari work directly to the buyers. Thus augmenting their income. Over years, the Self help group grew by leaps and bounds, and established itself as a known name for chikankari products. Beautifully embroidered kurtis, sarees, Dupattas and more; mostly sold through exhibitions they hold. Training, advocacy,skill building activities- everything came under their banner. Awards and accolades- including the Bharat Ratna poured in for the lady who started it all ; but the biggest award of all – in my view – is the difference she made to the lives of many mothers and their children, The organisation is Sewa Lucknow; and the founding lady is Runa Banerjee. A true story of empowerment. I truly beleive , and the story shows how – “When you empower a mother, you empower her children, the society and the whole gennext”.

Do check out I have bought many of their exquisite products at exhibitions ( mostly through FabIndia) . They bring such joy- the beautiful embroidery of course; and also the thought of contributing in a small way to such a benevolent, visionary ecosystem. Have never met Runa Banerjee – would love to though!

Kudos to her and Happy Mother’s day, once again to all the lovely mothers out there…

Exquisite chikan embroidery work by Sewa, lucknow



Aina Rao
The amblingindian. – For quirky reads on India



About Chikankari ( from Sewa Website)
The origins of chikankari (Hand Embroidery) are shrouded in mystery and legend. As early as the third century B.C. Megasthenes wrote of the fine flowered muslin worn by Indians in the court of Chandragupta Maurya, perhaps the first historical reference of chikan. It seems likely that chikankari was prevalent in East Bengal during the reign of the Mugal emperors, from where it came to Lucknow in the 18th century during the time of Nawabs of Avadh, and where it flowered into an art of exquisite refinement. The city of Lucknow, India, evokes emotions and reactions of wondrous nostalgia. It’s culture blends aesthetics, refinement, elegant graciousness and impeccable mannerisms with evocations of poetry, music and other distinctive art forms. Amongst these has been the delicate art of very fine “Hand Embroidery” which is termed as “Chikankari” famed not only in the oriental world but prized in all citadels of culture. It is noteworthy that during this period the Master craftsmen were all men.
This highly acclaimed craft fell to abysmal depths once the patronage of the erstwhile Nawabs and landowners ended. It was relegated to a low standard ill paid commercial activity in which almost entirely, only women were involved. Manufacturers used middlemen to exploit women artisans who were not only very poor but also women cloistered and in “Purdah”. (Behind the curtains)
Since 1979 there were constant interactions with the community for understanding the need of becoming self-reliant as well as a support for the earning members in the family. Regular value and earnings for their work that would enable them to contribute respectable amount in the family.
In 1984, Thirty-One women came together to register an organization of women artisans under the 1860 Society’s Registration Act for “CHIKAN KARI.” “Self Employed Women’s Association” (SEWA – Lucknow) was thus formed with a major agenda of doing away with the middleman and the organization to act as a platform from where the artisans would address the market directly. For many, profit, acclaim and may be the craft itself are central issues, for SEWA-Lucknow it was, is and will always be the craftswoman moving to increasing excellence in her vocation as well as in the quality of her life.

Kudos and Happy Mother’s day, once again to all,,,

Aina Rao
The amblingindian.


The joy of Indianness

We Indians are a super sensitive lot. Call us poor – how dare you! We will, we will show you, they shouted from the rooftops . And away went the snapchat ratings-right down the tube.

Well- calling someone poor- is that wrong? To me, it may be just wrong perception based on some stupid average index. What Snapchat didn’t realise- Indians are superrich, rich, average, below average- just as any other community in the world. There is a vast mix of peoples with an average number that sits somewhat below America. So do people really care? Yes, they do indeed!

The Amazons, Tescos, Googles of the world know this allright. When it comes to India- poor is not the right word indeed. It is not the right word at all. It reeks of ignorance. Perhaps the right word, if that were to exist, is “unignorable”. A country that no one can afford to. Be it for tapping into the vastly intelligent employee base, or going by the sheer untapped marketsize, it certainly is “unignorable”.

The smart ones – the’ve figured this out long ago. And are well on their way to getting entrenched here. Tescos, Best buy, Target- they are just part of the beeline making its way, standing to enter. For India may be unignorable; but is not easy to get into either. Another word for India maybe “Hard-to-conquer”; as Alexander the great, the Moghuls, and many others knew; many aeons ago. But tried they did- for it was worth the while; the pot of gold that lay within. And as they do even today- the Ikeas, the Walmarts and many more.

When you think of India- Unignorable, Hard- to- conquer, Awakening Tiger and many more adjectives and metaphors spring to mind. Perhaps they should be added to the Oxford dictionary, to make it easy for some poor ignorant souls. But “poor”- that’s only for the ignoramuses-like Snapchat has proven now!

Aina Rao


A BMTC(local) bus ride!

It had been many, many, days since I took a BMTC* bus ride. Not that one doesn’t want to. It’s just that there never seems to be the right combination of available time, a suitable bus route, or leisure that one can find. It just seems so much easier to hop into an auto (and now that Ubers are here, even more so), than wait and take the trouble to get into a bus. It came as a welcome change, when there was the chance to go to Richmond road, which very conveniently , is served by multiple buses on the arterial old airport road.

And so, it was the BMTC bus I got into. Not the fancy – airconditioned Vajras, but the regular BMTC ones . The ones that get washed perhaps, once a year. Or maybe its gross exaggeration- more likely to be washed once a month. And having got in, and secured a precious seat ( it was off peak time on Saturday), it was an experience certainly worth its while.

For starters, the ride was smooth. No jarring music, no loud mobile phone conversations. Simple folks, looking out of the window, as would be expected in a bus ride.  As it used to be, in the olden days, before the mobiles took over almost every minute of precious existence. I sat there and looked too. And that was what made the bus ride so much more worth the while. I must have travelled along the old airport road at least a thousand times before, but, it was only this time, that I saw it anew, with the luxury of the heightened seats that only a bus affords. The view of the army camp, unobscured by the ubiquitious compound walls, was what I got. So much worth the while. The beauty of the Army land- churches seen for the first time, old buildings, perhaps built during the British Raj, swathes of green- lush trees, and a langour that one can dream of, almost like someone had painted the entire stretch of the camp with a broad, stillwater brush.

And along the way, some more interesting experiences. A girl got in, wearing a white school uniform. Seemed like a regular schoolgirl, nothing much to note there. But, soon after, at the next stop, a set of five boys got in too- wearing similar uniforms, and sat next to the girl. It was then that the journey changed gears completely. From a slow, relaxed second gear movement, it suddenly skipped into the 4th , maybe the 5th gear. And how? The group of six school kids now started chatting. Completely throwing my imagination out of whack. They chatted in sign language. The girl  talking the most, with her rapid sleight of the hands- occasionally interjected by a comment from one of her friends. She talked, almost non-stop through the ride. Fascinatingly so, for I never knew of the speed with which the signs could be used, seeming to surpass the human voice by leaps and bounds. It was a moment of revelation, a moment of happiness too. For, when I saw the children, enjoying their banter- so differently, the bus ride became so much more enjoyable for me too.

And then the stop arrived.. as they always do. But life goes on, peppered by the taste of an unusual, joyful BMTC bus ride.


Aina Rao,

The amblingindian.

  • Bangalore Municipal transport corporation

This land- our own?

Every now and then comes a post that shakes you and makes you want to cry. A 2 year old who wants to die as a refugee ?This is so.. unbelievable – it belies belief itself. Who gives us the right to kick others out of a land, a place, a country even? Who are we to call a place our own and not that of others? Who decides what we own?

It is very easy to forget that we ourselves are living on borrowed time, on land that has never been ours. We mark our territories thinking and assuming that they belong to us. When in fact nothing is ours for keeps. One fine day, we will leave this earth too.. we have to.. its not ours.. it has never been.

To all the bigots out there.. the aces and the trumps.. don’t forget that you are just an insect in the vast expanse of the universe. The walls, the regulations, the restrictions you make, just a creation of your imagination. You think you rule this earth.. Read on..from Kabir, the 16th century saint :

” mati kahe kumbhar se tu kya ronde mohe
ik din aisa aiyega mai rondogi tohe”

” Clay says to the potter- are you kneading me today , wait for the day when i will knead you into dust…”

Aina Rao

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What is the amblingindian  The amblingindian is an aam aadmi, aam aurat, common man, or common woman of India. As she ambles along the lanes, bylanes, gallis and mohallas that make up much of India, there is so much that puzzles, amuses, irritates and even frustrates. Is there anything to be done about all this? Absolutely not.She revels in the confusion, enjoys the chaos that is India.             Nonetheless, a germ of an idea starts to grow from somewhere, and there is a rush to put it down on paper..maybe she will just add a small tweak here , a little quirk there, all practical ideas for India.. and this blog is born… Enjoy!

The amblingindianTM blog is created along four key themes about India. Innovation- for she believes that Innovation is the future of India; Life- which is the essence of India; Humour- for the joy it brings; and Ethics- which forms the very foundation of Indian thought.

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The joy of Indianness

The joy of Indianness We Indians are a super sensitive lot. Call us poor – how dare you! We will, we will show you, they shouted from the rooftops . And away went the snapchat ratings-right down the tube. Well- calling someone poor- is that ...
Read More

The seeds of Manduka

Amblingindian nuggets on life… ( A story for all ages ) Once upon a time, there was a young man, Manduka, who lived in a prosperous land. The land was fertile, lush green, and they had plenty of water. Manduka was clever, he knew all ...
Read More