User Empathy

My dad and I visited the bank today. Hardly anyone visits a bank nowadays but some govt process requires that I get a seal from a bank on some documents. Anyways, so we were there. We were waiting in the visitor’s lounge while the paperwork was being processed.

A big room, with a row of visitor’s chairs with the wall behind, facing a row of cubicles of office employees with their monitors positioned so as to keep it away from the prying eyes of the visitors. On the left was the teller’s counter and on the right was the ‘may I help you’ desk which is usually for the office boys to chat around.

As we sat in our chairs, my dad (ex-banker) looked around and made some very valid observations about where some things should have been placed and that one of the framed posters was hanging in a very precarious manner. He called the security guard and told him that it should be fixed lest some mishap occurs.

I was impressed with his powers of observation and attention to detail. I told him as much. That’s when he told me that in the early days of his career as a bank manager, he had a superior who gave him the following advice:

As per the bank policy the office has to serve the first customer at 10 AM. That means the tellers and clerks have to be in office at 9:45 AM, so that they can ready their place and be ready to attend to customers. But managers should try to come at 9:30 and should sit at the customer’s lounge. Managers need to sit there for 5 minutes, look around, see what the customer sees, feel what the customer feels and make changes so that customer’s waiting experience is also enriched.

This was 30 years ago. Isn’t that the simple, meaningful version of the much glorified, less understood ‘user empathy’!

Three quarters of a footprint


Finally, a good book after a long time. The honest perspective, humor and historical background of the places visited by the author keep the reader engrossed. In the beginning, it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone brushed aside the book as a derogatory book about India. But if you go after 10 pages, you realize it is just an honest view of a foreigner. The precise amount of historical background added to the experiences keep the stories interesting and does not read like a history book.

The experiences in the book are from Joe’s travels mostly in south India during early 90’s, which adds a certain sense of charm. Mentions of cassette players, Walkman, having to go to a travel agent to book tickets, asking people for directions brings a touch of antiqueness to the entire book. He journals the journeys, people and not just the destinations. His honest narration of the events and experiences seemed harsh initially, but then he also makes ‘harsh’ observations of other travellers (some from his own country).

Get the book if you like to read about travel and history.

BTW, that’s one book down from the books I plan to read before end of this year.


My dad is great with words – English and Tamil. It comes naturally to him. He makes up funny one-liners, acronyms, puns – a true wordsmith. I thought of starting a category in my blog to record those thoughts and words. Here are a couple of examples of daddyisms

When I visit a place (travel, restaurant, friend’s place) with friends or family, and before leaving the place, I usually remind them to make sure they have taken their belongings, which are usually Mobile phone and wallet or handbags.

I did that once to my dad. We were about to leave some place and I asked my dad if he had taken his wallet and phone. He told me that he has a checklist of 3 P’s – Pen, Purse and Phone. Now I just remember 3 P’s.


Recently, when we visited my brother’s home, he saw a decorative candle on the center table. My dad held it in his hand for a while thoughtfully and said “This looks so good, no one will want to light it.”

I just smiled, knowing there was more to come.

“This is how some Christians have become” he continued, “Jesus asked us to be the light of the world, ‘let your light shine before others’ Jesus said, but they are so sophisticated that they have become mere adornment.”



Books I plan to read this year

I used to read more earlier than now. Same with writing. Also, I feel they are correlated. Don’t know how true that is. To put that to test, I’m planning to read more this year. There are certain books that require a lot of thinking (for eg. Mere Christianity) and there are some that require no thinking (eg. Killing Floor). There is a trade-off, the first kind takes a lot of time to finish and latter takes lesser time but leaves the reader unsatisfied. I’d like books that fall somewhere in the middle.

Luckily for me, someone I know was throwing away a bunch of books and I picked these ones to read this year. 8 months to go, 8 books here. I read somewhere that if you have a goal and you share it with the world, then you won’t complete it. Let me see if I can prove that wrong. 😉

The books are:

  1. Chicken soup for the Unsinkable soul
  2. My utmost for His highest – Oswald Chambers
  3.  —
  4. Where are you going, you monkeys? – ki. Rajanarayanan
  5. Prince Caspian – C S Lewis
  6. My Days – R K Narayan
  7. Buttertea at sunrise – Britta Das
  8. Three-quarters of a footprint  – Joe Roberts


The Munias are flying

We hosted a Spotted Munia couple a couple of months back. You might have heard the recording of the chirping hatchlings that I posted a week back. The hatchlings have started flying around now. I have spotted two hatchlings now but I think there is more to come.

The parent has brown spots on its underside, whereas the young ones’ underside is plain light brown.



That’s the whole family of 4.

spotted munia and small ones

HDFC being human

HDFC bank

I’m sure you must have spotted long queues outside certain outlets. More often the queues even extend to the footpath outside these outlets. This is no thanksgiving sale or iPhone fans camping outside the Apple stores. This is the queue to exchange the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes after these were banned by the Government.

I spotted one those queues today, but what made me take notice is that this HDFC bank has provided shade to the their customers. That shows how much they value their customers and their willingness to go the extra mile.

HDFC bank

Proud to say that’s the bank I bank with.


All this 500 and 1000 business


As the news pours in that the Govt of India has banned the usage existing 500 and 1000 rupee notes, I started discussing with my wife what the repercussions of this would be. Neither of us are experts in matter of economics, so we soon digressed into questions like:

1. If businesses are collecting cash even after this move(there are a lot of big hospitals that take ‘cash only’), won’t we have this problem soon with the new 2000 rupee and 500 rupee notes? Shouldn’t the government take actions against businesses that take only cash?

2. Why aren’t the old 1000 rupee notes replaced with the new 1000 rupee notes, why replace with 2000 rupee notes.

3. Shouldn’t this have to be approved by lok shabha and rajya sabha? If only we paid any attention during our Civics class!… speaking of Civics and the sabhas, why do they have such hard-to-remember number of seats, 500 something and 200 something. If they had rounded off those numbers, I might have paid more attention in the class. Wife quipped ‘maybe they built the parliament first and realized they had only so many seats to accommodate.

oops, I digress again… anyway, if any of you understand any of these, please let me know.

Sound of the spotted munias

spotted munia

It’s been a while since I spotted sparrows in the city I live in. So when these small birds (similar in size to a sparrow), Spotted Munia, started to build a nest in our balcony, we welcomed it. Now they have started a family here. The excited chirping of the hatchlings when the parent(s) visit the nest to feed them is wonderful to listen to. Here is a recording of that.

These are the birds:

spotted muniaspotted munia

Not my cup of tea


The best of tea and the worst of tea, Sometimes I make the best tea and some days I make the worst tea. It’s really bad, it almost tastes like hot salt water (ok, not that bad, but close). I honestly don’t understand how sugar, water and milk can taste like that but it does, you just have to take my word for it. I’m sure I’m using sugar and not salt, unless my wife swaps them both when she leaves town to make me miss the wonderful tea she makes. No, she won’t… can she?! nah!

This is a story about one of the times I made the worst tea. A maid comes home regularly (as regularly as maids come!) in the morning to wash the dishes and mop the floor. My wife makes tea for all three of us, one of the perks the maid gets. The maid likes her chai time, she goes to the balcony, sits alone and sips it while looking down on the garden plants, not condescendingly but because we stay in the second floor.  One week, when my wife was not in town, I made tea and offered it to the maid. She drank in silence, that’s usually how she drinks it. I did the same the next day and she drank again. The third day she came to work, saw the tea boiling on the stove and told me not to make for her from the next day! I do appreciate the fact that she gave the tea two chances and she’d had enough.