How “Happy to Help” Vodafone misled and lied to me

Vodafone has been my mobile phone service provider for almost 13 years.  It has not always been a smooth relationship, but I have never felt the need to shift to another service provider. Until recently.

It all began with my recent trip to Uzbekistan. This was a 10-day long trip and while I could have lived without a phone during that period, I knew that I would have to connect with my mother at least once a day by phone. They weren’t to be long chats, but just a quick hello to re-assure her that I was fine, and for me to know that she was fine as well.

I knew from prior research that all the hotels I would be staying in had WiFi and while I could use that to access the internet, they were not supportive of WhatsApp or Viber calls. My mother is not text savvy, so I could only stay in touch with her via phone calls.

Ideally, I should have used a local number for that. But my smartphone has a micro-SIM and it is a pain to remove it and put it on. Just the thought of changing the SIM was enough to make me decide on using my regular number with an international roaming pack provided by Vodafone. My brother, who is also a Vodafone customer, had used their international roaming packs and was quite happy with it.

Unfortunately, my experience turned out to be radically opposite to his. It turned out to be a saga of misleading information, lies and obfuscation from the moment I contacted Vodafone at around 11 am on the eve of my departure to Uzbekistan. The very “Happy To Help” Vodafone extended their customer service support in a way that didn’t do what they promise in the picture below.

Vodafone-customer-service-number

This image is from a Vodafone site. Click on it for the source.

Presenting the entire experience in the form of a timeline.

Continue reading

Mumbai Lens: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

The grand and Gothic-inspired building of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai is awe-inspiring at any time of the day. But when this UNESCO-listed world heritage site and the headquarters of Central Railway is lit up, it is simply stunning. Do click on the photograph below to see the details.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, CST, Victoria Terminus, VY, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monument, Central Railway HeadquartersI came across the CST building, all lip up, a couple of Saturdays ago. It was around 7.30 pm and I was in a cab, homeward bound when suddenly CST appeared glowing like a jewel. I was lucky to get the red signal, which meant that I had time for a couple of quick photographs with my mobile phone, before the traffic surged ahead.

While I love to see monuments lit up and showing off their architecture, I really wish the colours are subtler and nicer. I found the pink and blue colours that light up CST quite garish and geared towards grabbing your eyeballs.

What are you think? Did you like the colours of CST? How do like your monuments lit up? Subtle? Eyeball grabbing? Thematic?

Do tell. :)


Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as I explore the world around me and share “My Favourite Things” with you.

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.


Mahisasuramardini: The slayer of the buffalo demon

Today is Vijaya Dashami or Bijoya. Today is the day when the Goddess Durga defeated Mahisasura or the buffalo demon, after a fierce battle that lasted 9 days and 9 nights. After killing him on the 10th day, Durga came to known as Mahisasuramardini or “she who killed the buffalo demon”.

Durga, Mahisasuramardini, Hindu Mythology, Indian Art, Indian AestheticsThe story of Mahisasuramardini (which you can read here or here) is perhaps one of the best known in Hindu mythology, and its associated imagery is one of the most recognisable.

I was introduced to the story of Mahisasuramardini by my grandmothers, and also my mother’s recitation of the Mahisasuramardini Stotram. Like most children of the 1970s, I was introduced to the popular imagery of Mahisasuramardini through Amar Chitra Katha’s “Tales of Durga” (see picture on the left).

It was this image of Mahisasuramardini that stayed with me till 1997 when I visited Mahabalipuram. I saw Indian sculptural art in a ‘natural’ setting for the first time, including this depiction of Mahisasuramardini. That was when I realised the immensity, beauty and power of the narratives I had heard and read from the time I was a kid.

That visit also marked the beginning of my interest in Hindu mythology expanding to include its representation in classical Indian art. And Mahisasuramardini fascinated me like no other, which, thanks to my travels in India, I came across in Aihole, Ellora, Patan, Vadnagar and Nalla Sopara. Artiistically and stylistically, each one of the relief sculptures were very different, and yet unmistakably that of Mahisasuramardini.

Continue reading

The Mizdahkan Necropolis: A city for the dead

About 20 km west of Nukus and past the town of Khojayli, on the way to the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan border crossing, is Mizdahkan. An ancient and vast necropolis, Mizdahkan is spread over three low-lying hills, covering an area of approximately 2 sq.km.

Mizdahkan appears rather suddenly in an otherwise flat landscape. One moment you are driving past Soviet-style blocky constructions separated by vast stretches of emptiness. And the next moment there are thousands of graves, tombs and mausoleums stretching away from you and into the horizon. Even though I had seen online images of Mizdahkan Necropolis before my visit their, their appearance was still unexpected and a little unreal. I actually confirmed with the driver that it was indeed Mizdahkan !

A low boundary wall separates the necropolis from the road, and like the seemingly unending graves it enclosed, this one too seemed to stretch on without a break. Just as I was wondering where the entrance to Mizdahkan was, a partly open blue door appeared on the wall. It was the entrance to the city of the dead, Mizdahkan.

Once inside the blue doors and after the initial look, the first thing that struck me was the different ages, styles and types of tombs — from unmarked graves to those with gravestones to plain tombs to elaborate ones to well-preserved ones to those falling apart… they were all there.

Mizdahkan, Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan, Necropolis, City of the Dead, Ancient burial site, travel, Central Asia, Culture Continue reading

Art in the Desert: The Savitsky Collection at Nukus

I love museums and they are an integral part of my travels. The trip to Uzbekistan was no different and I visited quite a few museums there. In the case of one museum, I took it one step further — I added one destination to my Uzbekistan itinerary, only because of that museum.

The destination? Nukus, in the remote Karakalpakstan region of Uzbekistan. The museum? The Karakalpak Museum of Arts, which houses the Savitsky Collection.

Karakalpakstan Museum of Art Savitsky Museum Nukus

The Karakalpakstan Museum / Nukus Museum which houses the Savitsky Collection

The story of how this museum (known locally as the Nukus or Savitsky Museum) came to be is straight out of a “believe it or not”. Like most stories, it has:.

A protagonist: Igor Savitsky, an artist
An antagonist: the Communist Soviet government
A supporting cast: Several artists from Uzbekistan and Russia
A location: Karakalpakstan

Our story begins in 1950, when Igor Savitsky (1915–1984) joined the “Khorezm Archaeological and Ethnographic Expedition led by the world-famous scientist, Sergei P. Tolstov” as the artist for the expedition. Continue reading

A city called Nukus

Nukus was my first halt in Uzbekistan. The 6th largest city of the country, it is the capital of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region within Uzbekistan. Karakalpakstan covers a third of the area of Uzbekistan, which includes a major portion of the Ustyurt Plateau, and the Kyzyl-Kum Desert. The Amu Darya river is the lifeline of the region and flows through the city of Nukus.

Nukus is not known for its tourist attractions, but there was a reason I visited this city. More about that at the end of the post. It is located about 1000 km northwest of Tashkent, or a two-and-a half-hour journey by air from there by a propeller-driven plane, like the one in the photograph below.

Hukus, Tashkent Domestic Airport, Propeller PlaneHukus, Tashkent Domestic Airport, Propeller PlaneWhen I saw the propeller-driven planes waiting on the tarmac of the Tashkent Domestic Airport, I got all excited as I had never flown in one. But 5 minutes into flying, I was reaching for ear plugs for they were incredibly noisy. It didn’t help that my window overlooked one of the propellers.

Once the initial excitement of the propeller plane had worn off, the flight was uneventful and monotonous, just like the landscape on ground below. Apart from a road or two or a cluster of dwellings, I didn’t see anything to break the sandy ground below.

Nukus itself arrived rather suddenly and if I didn’t feel the plane descending, I wouldn’t have known that we had arrived. It is only later that I found out that the city is quite spread out and away from the airport, and one of the reasons why I didn’t see anything from the air.

When I landed at the rather small and quaint Nukus Airport on that September morning, I had been travelling (or waiting for a connecting flight) for almost 20 hours, and sleep deprived for even longer. It had been a long journey from humid Mumbai, to hot Delhi to cold Tashkent to dry and arid Nukus. I should have been sleepy and tired, but thanks to the numerous cups of coffee and excitement at finally being in Uzbekistan, I was not only awake, but also alert and ready to explore. :)

Continue reading