Friday, August 31, 2007


I'm currently enamored by a composer called Mithoon - he's given music to some random movies - but I find some of his tracks quite interesting - havent seen any of the movies - just heard the songs - check out soundtracks to

- The Train (Mahesh Bhatt nice Hollywood knockoffs)
- Anwar (some spelendid tracks)
a. Maula Mera Maula
b. Anwars Dream
c. Javeda Jindagi

The soundtrack to Cash (Vishal / Shekhar) is pretty catchy - flava of the month. My Punjabi fix for the month is O Yaara Dhol Bajake (Movie:Dhol) - Labh Janjua, once again after his blazing track of Pyaar Ke Side Effects (O Pape Pyaar Karke Pachtaya) - Its my belief that there is a computer somewhere that churns out generic Punjabi songs complete with lyrics - I have to post on this funda sometime!

Nothing too notable in English music - my last good purchase was "The Travelling Wilbury's" - if you're into that music - its a recommended buy - Wilbury's is a coming together of Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. I love Roy Orbison/Tom Petty and Bob Dylan , 3/5 aint so bad - and I must say its an amazing album - musicians in synch at the top of their game. Its mellow stuff - but I like it.

Read more!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Move 1-2-3 (Part 2)

..So my stuff got to India, I was in India. We were staying with family in the interim, time to ..

5. Rent / Buy
We moved to Bombay, so buying is a hard proposition right out of the gates, in our situation we had some uncertainities so we decided to rent. However, if you can afford it, buying is always the better option IMO. Renting was funky - there are a lot of random "so-called" real estate agents, very few dependable and who know what they're doing. Essentially, figure out where you want to live, you can go building to building and ask the watchmen / managers and they will give you information about open houses - its a bottom up approach - but quite effective. You also get a buzz for who the better agents are. Get an agent, it makes it easier. Typically landlords are gunning for long term company leases so you're already down in the order, typically people will give you 1 year leases, depending on paranoia - your landlord will either ask you to register the document (registrar office) OR just sign it and be done with it - registering it is in your interest as well as the landlords because your agreement becomes an address proof for items you want to do later (bank, cc etc). You have to put up a deposit equal to 2/4 mths rent, varies. Insist on wardrobes, paint job - standard stuff in Bombay. You pay for parking,electricity, gas - your landlord picks up the society maintenance, any non-occupancy charges.

6. Bank Accounts
We previewed 3 banks, ICICI/HDFC/HSBC - ICICI had hordes of people at the bank, not a pleasant banking experience, here I can be perceived as a snob with my dollars coming back home! :) Truth is that we were looking for some 1:1 banking system - which abounds in India - you will get it by default since you will come in with all your USD's - and heck you've earned it. I found out later that ICICI has a separate cell for high net-worth individuals (HNI), yes, thats you now - atleast till you make giant purchases like a home! :) Anyhow, so checked out HDFC, seemed very sarkari but was able to get into the bank and see faces - very sarkari - bored. HSBC met our requirements, small crowds (they have a min balance requirement) - instant 1:1 attention and smiling non-sarkari faces - I've been with them for 2 years now - very good experience so far - recommended. I opened an account in HDFC as well, thats useful cause
1. you can pay your taxes there
2. HDFC interfaces with almost ALL online outlets in India (websites, bill payment, ticket vendors) HSBC does not.
3. They supposedly have better loan products.

Its a good secondary account so far, best of both worlds as it were.

6. Move your money
You can only move it in smaller chunks if you transfer online - RBI has some norms. A good point to note is that you are NOT liable to pay taxes for any monies earned before you returned home, but bring it back in good time.

7. Find a good CA / PAN Card / Enter into the tax structure
I actually did this as #2 (after I decided to move!), found an amazing CA - Kamdar Desai & Patel - - I've not met these guys since I moved here - all my interaction has been over email / phone - they've filed my returns - gotten all my tax related items done thru them. Very highly recommended! Young team of people - they get the concept of service and provide it without having to travel to all corners of the city! Convenient! Apply for a PAN card ASAP, this is India's answer to SS # - everyone will ask you for this - so get it. There is a loophole - some Form 60 - but I hear that they are discontinuing that practice now.

8. Get a cellphone
Need I say more. Get tons of passport size photos and figure out what your address proof will be. Hold on to your old voter ID card or ration card if you had one. If your passport has the same address that you are living at - excellent - use that. Essentially to give you a cellphone line - you got to give photographs, address proof - if you aint got it, ask a relative to help you out - get an add on SIM card or a pre-paid card. You can always get your own later. Note that India does NOT have number portability yet.

9. Vehicle
Buy a car, a small car / hatchback preferably - why small - when you can afford much more. Couple of reasons - parking/parking/parking/small streets/fuel efficiency - my wife talked me out of buying an expensive giant ass car - good move on her part! :) A set of people might think less of you (seeing how your foren returned and all) - seeing that you've bought a small cheap car - I had a driver in my buiding (observant) - asking me why I didnt buy a Honda City - his exact words were "Saab, aapke gaadi mein sooo (show) nahi hain!". Ha! Incidentally we bought a Maruti Swift - love it - recommend it - peppy and fun to drive, seats 5 people - gets into small roads and takes little parking space - is also a looker (think Mini Cooper) - but these things are subjective. I've owned that car for 2 years - no issues, they came out with a Diesel version - supposedly rocks and has great reviews as well. Maruti really have re-invented themselves since I was last in India - I think they are a very smart company.

...more to card, dual part 3

Read more!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Move 1-2-3 (Part1)

Revived my blog and am hoping to blog semi-frequently based on how much time I get. I had originally created a blog because my friends wanted to know about life back home in India. 10K view - I lived in the US for 8 years and moved back about 2 years back now - so this is how I moved back...

1. Decide : The hardest part! :)

2. Pick what you want to move
- Disposable Furniture
Got rid of a lot of disposable IKEA type furniture, there is a good chance it wont survive the long trip home on a ship. Sold all of it on Craigslist to local buyers.

- Electronics
Preferably sell everything off, I had a speaker / amp system that I had assimilated over time with a lot of pain, so I HAD to get that, but I sold off every other item - again on Craigslist. The TV was the hardest to sell! Buy a transformer from the US if possible, its hard to buy an off the shelf transformer from here that works reliably and has a reliable voltage output. I bought a 300W / 500W transformer from Fry's , works like a CHARM. Houses in Bombay are smaller and I have a major issue regarding speaker placement and furniture placement at home - thats a topic for another blog! :) We were also unable to get rid of our food processor, we dont use it as much and an Indian make processor is preferable for Indian maids to handle and destroy over time - as opposed to your pricey Cusinart food processor!

- Propah Furniture
Here again we decided to sell off most of our furniture. We only brought back our bed and mattress, again only because we loved our mattress.

3. Picking a mover
This was very hard. I spent a lot of time asking and researching the right movers, almost everyone had a bad experience with movers that someone else was praising - so very hard to pick a winner as such. I used UTS Worldwide. I know the website doesnt look like much, but I had an AMAZING experience with these guys, while in the US and even once my stuff showed up in Bombay - the people in Bombay (their liaisons) were super professional and got my stuff out in record time and with the least pain. They even have some rudimentary online tracking of where your stuff is. Also, any good mover will give you an in-home estimate of how much it will cost roughly. Prepare atleast a month in advance to get this going.

4. The Stuff Move
We had about 30 odd boxes, the movers came in and boxed everything, make sure your cutlery is nicely packed and padded to avoid heartache on the other side - be prepared for *some* breakage though. We were fairly lucky here, we lost a couple of wine glasses in our move. So 30 boxes, one giant mattress (Queen) , bed and my music system. All this cost about $5K in 2006 to move from SF to Mumbai. The move itself cost close to $4.4K, the once it got here there were assorted bribes and such that had to be paid - I forget the exact numbers but I can safely say that we blew through my $5K move allowance. In moving parlance, we had a half container I think or a small container. People always try to hook up and try to share a full container, its supposedly cheaper. That might complicate the customs clearance later maybe?

- Transfer Of Residence (TR)
Check the Indian Consulate website for the latest rules, but this facility can be availed by NRI's moving back one time only. So you get favourable duty rates on items you bring back, I know of several people who go on a buying spree thinking that items are cheaper (sometimes they are) in the US than in India and do a TR to bring those back. Anyhow, my stand is that if I'm living in India I'd rather buy items here, support is easier and you avoid all the voltage conversion stuff, again there people buy EU spec items to work around the voltage imcompatibilities - to each his own! :)

- The Process
So we got back, my stuff took about 2/3 months to come via ship, yes it sails across the world, thats the cheapest option. Once my stuff showed up, the mover guy came, took my passport and other docs, did the paperwork - I had to goto the docks in Mumbai to do the customs part - which is just a elaborate dance to get a bribe - you pay your bribe and get done with it. Your stuff is now free to go wherever you want. Be-aware of extra local octroi (atleast in Maharashtra) - eg. I was moving some stuff back to Pune, the Octroi people charged me 1K odd to let my stuff pass, again bribes. Sigh..

More in part 2...sustaining the green card, getting bank accounts, pan cards, moving money, investments,cars, loans....

Read more!