03 Apr

Applying for an ITIN for a dependent on H4 for Tax Returns

Taxes due April 15

There are few things harder in life than dealing with a Governmental organization. And I was fortunate enough to have to deal with the IRS recently regarding my Tax Returns for the year 2013. Since I got married last year and have my wife here in the US on an H4 Dependent Visa status, I get to file my returns as Married Filing Jointly. I was aware that I will need to apply for an ITIN for her to be able to file my returns successfully. I also knew that it can’t be done preemptively since I need to do my returns and only then send that along with a filled in W-7 form which is the application for an ITIN. That wasn’t any problem to figure out. But my woes only began when I realized that TurboTax Online cannot do it for me. In fact, TurboTax gave up after filling in my 1040. My faithful friend who makes life so easy for millions in the country had given up on my after serving me so well the last two years. Okay so here’s the process for applying for an ITIN and the various options available for anyone wanting to do the same:

  1. Use TurboTax to help you fill your Federal and State Tax Return and generate the forms.
  2. You will not be able to file online so don’t bother paying for any additional services of TurboTax for e-Filing (i.e., if you can avoid it)
  3. Whenever TurboTax asks you for your spouse’s SSN, leave it empty. You will be warned about Errors but that’s OK since you are not going to e-File any way.
  4. Once your forms are completed, TurboTax will tell you that you will have to file by mail because of the errors above. Save all the forms to your computer or print them out if you have a printer available.

Now that you have your Federal Returns (Form 1040, Form 1040EZ) filled in an printed, you will have to mail that to the IRS ITIN Operations Division ( along with other documents. Note that this is not the address TurboTax and the return form tells you to mail the forms to. Amongst the documents you need to send to the IRS, the ORIGINAL Passport (of the H4 dependent) is the one standalone document that is sufficient for most H4 applicants. Other documents are listed here: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Revised-Application-Standards-for-ITINs Since I don’t feel comfortable mailing an original passport away, I wanted to find out if there was another way. And in my case, since we were planning to travel around soon, not having a passport in hand was a risk I could not take. So I found I had three options:

  1. File the return and apply for an ITIN at a Local IRS Office. Find one close to you here: http://apps.irs.gov/app/officeLocator/index.jsp
  2. File returns and apply for an ITIN through an acceptance agent. Find them by state here: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Acceptance-Agent-Program
  3. Mail a Copy of the Passport (H4 Applicant), endorsed by the issuing authority – The Embassy of the country that issued it – to the IRS ITIN Operations division, along with your returns.

Knowing me, I had to research all three options. Option 1 seemed the safest bet since there was a local IRS office only 20 minutes from my home. IRS offices work 8-30 to 4-30 on weekdays only so I went there one morning before work. I was there at 8-45 and the lady at the reception told me that a limited number of tokens are issued daily for the ITIN processing at that center and that they were out already. She told us that the line forms outside the office as early as 8AM. So we wanted to give it another shot, try come early and get in line. So we arrived another day at 7-30AM and found that we were about the 10th in line. So I figured we would get it done that day. To all my dismay, I later found out that the number of tokens they issue per day is a paltry 8! So the couple in front of me frowned and left and we followed suit, angry that they only process 8 ITIN applications a day. So I gave up Option 1 knowing that I am wasting time and effort on this with no guarantees of getting it done on any day. So I looked up Option 2: File through an acceptance agent. There are a bunch of acceptance agents near where I lived, including some H&R Block offices as well. So I called up a few – some said that their Acceptance Agent was no longer certified to process ITINs, some claimed an exorbitant fee upwards of $200 and few didn’t know the process. Before I settled to shell out a fourth of my returns on fees, I wanted to find out about the feasibility of Option 3: Send an endorsed copy of the passport to IRS by mail. Endorsing has to be done by the issuing authority of the document, which in the case of a passport is the embassy of the country that issued it. Luckily for me, the Embassy of India is in Washington DC and is quite approachable. So I looked up their website for the procedure for endorsing a passport and found that it was about a $13 affair plus the metro fare to and from DC. I asked my wife to visit the embassy and get her passport copy endorsed and she got that done in a day.  So that was easy and I sent across my Federal Returns, Form W-7, Endorsed copy of Passport of ITIN Applicant (with Visa and I-94 pages) to the ITIN Operations Center of IRS. More Links:

  • About ITIN: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Individual-Taxpayer-Identification-Number-(ITIN)
  • General ITIN Information: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/General-ITIN-Information
  • Revised Application Standards 2013: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Revised-Application-Standards-for-ITINs
  • Additional ITIN Information: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Additional-ITIN-Information
  • IRS Local Office Locator: http://apps.irs.gov/app/officeLocator/index.jsp
  • IRS Acceptance Agents: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Acceptance-Agent-Program

Questions? Comment below.

01 Dec

US and Me

Okay so I got this offer to join a company in the US as a SharePoint Trainer for a long term basis. As this was a great opportunity, I took it. Being the typical “namma bengalooru huduga”, never been out of Bangalore (atleast not longer than a month), never stayed in a hostel, never cooked a proper meal for myself, it was a big decision to make.

So here is my experience first time in the US.

Pre-Visa Interivew (H1B)

  • My company sent me the Visa related documents including a letter from the company stating why they need me and other documents as submitted to the USCIS.
  • I visited https://www.vfs-usa.co.in/USIndia/Index.html and followed the instructions to fill and submit the DS-160 form.
  • The documents my company sent me contained one document called the I-797B Notice Of Action. I was asked to take my passport and this document to the HSBC Bank in Bangalore (Kasturba Road) to pay the Visa Interview Fee and collect the challans.
  • Using the I-797 and the visa fee receipt, I booked my visa interview date in the US Embassy in Chennai. At that time there were no visa interview slots so I had to wait a few days for interview slots to clear up. I don’t know if it is allowed for a person to take an appointment in a US Embassy other than the one mentioned in your consular district.
Visa Interview
  • I got an early morning slot for the interview. I wanted to drive down to Chennai in my car with my mom. So I left Bangalore the previous morning. Chennai was a pleasant drive. About 6 hours with stops.
  • We stayed in a relative’s place and went for the interview early in the morning.
  • The interview was a smooth process.
  • I am not the guy who’ll say hold a 100 people’s feet to get to the US but it is extremely demoralizing to fail in anything, especially a visa interview when I had driven all the way down there!
  • So here are MY tips for the interview:
    1.  Organise your documents. Buy a couple of good high quality folders. One for all the junk documents that your company will provide you. You may never be asked to show these documents but you are required to have them. In the other folder, keep the important documents like your Passport, Degree Certificates, Resume, Offer Letter, I-797, Letter from employer etc.
    2. It is a good idea to know exactly where each document is in your folders. The biggest bungle people do in front of the interviewer is to scramble through a single folder looking for that one important sheet.
    3. Dress formal. Dress to impress. But don’t over dress and make yourself look too eager to get to the US.
    4. Be natural, act natural. Answer questions as if you have got nothing to lose even if you fail.
    5. Be confident, be cheerful. Greet the interviewer and ask how he/she is doing first.
    6. Answer to the point. Don’t give long stories. But don’t give the impression that you have memorized your answers. Think about the question asked for a second, frame your sentence and reply. Even if you know the answer, act as if you have put some thought into the question.
Travel to the US (Packing & Pre-Flight)
  • My company sent me the tickets. They booked on Qatar Airways and I later learnt that they are a very good airline.
  • I sold my car. Had foreclosed the loan and had the hypothecation removed earlier. Maybe did not get the best price for it. But it was hassle free.
  • Went in for a International Driving Permit to be made. The Jayanagar RTO had just shifted to their new facility. The IDP cost me about Rs.600. Need the passport, tickets and existing DL copies along with about 4 passport size photographs.
  • As usual, I received a ton of advice about what to pack and what not to pack. I wanted to travel with minimal luggage but somehow I ended up having to remove stuff b’cos I was over the 46kg limit. Yes, trans-Atlantic flights are allowed 2pcs of baggage 23kg each as check-in baggage. Apart from that you are allowed a small kit bag with a 7kg limit plus one laptop bag.
  • I realised only at the airport that they don’t weigh the laptop bag or the cabin baggage strictly. All that matters is that you don’t pack any stuff like powders/lotions/un-processed food items/liquids/deodarants or things like swiss knives etc. in these bags.
  • I packed in about 3 sweaters (I was headed to Fairfax, VA where temperatures reach negative Fahrenheit), 2pairs of thermals, gloves, skull caps, inner wear, office wear, jeans & casuals and my trustworthy Sapient woolen pullover. Had a couple of friends help me with some shopping as well.
  • Bought new shoes, slippers and a large trolley kit. Packed a pressure cooker (forgot the weight!), couple of heavy duty vessels & pans, a coffee filter, plates, tumblers, spoons.
  • Also went in the regular MTR ready to eat foods, sambar, rasam, vangibath and puliyogare powders.
  • Went to my regular doctor for a prescription for common allergies and ailments. Went to the pharmacy and bought all of them for stocking. Made sure to collect a bill and carry it with me on flight.
  • Packed all my required electronics and associated cables. Backed up my laptop files in my portable drive and carried it. Left the laptop back at home for mom. I was gonna get a newer powerful one in office anyway.
  • And thanks to my friend Sharath’s advice, I did a web check-in so that I can avoid the long check-in queue. And indeed it helped. The check-in queue was windingly looooong and the quick bag drop off was just 3-4 passengers long. Qatar also had the feature to pre-select my seats. I was naive so I selected a window seat. People usually prefer the aisle seats on long flights.
  • I was not aware of having to make a food preference 36hrs before flight departure. By not doing so, I risked not having anything vegan to eat on the flight.
  • Make sure you carry all the required documents in your cabin baggage/laptop bag. Passport, I-797, Employment Offer Letters, USCIS documents, destination address etc. Its ok to carry a camera in your cabin baggage. Its worth it.
  • I had planned to carry my Vodafone SIM to US. So carried my phone too. Activated International Roaming 24 hours before departure.
Travel to the US (Flight & Immigration)
  • The day of the flight was a painful one. The people I really wanted to come drop me off to the airport couldn’t/didn’t make it. Even after they had 6 months to prepare and plan for it. Was really depressed over it and it took me a couple of weeks to get over it.

Departure at Bangalore

  • No job can be done well beforehand. The last 4-6 hours before leaving the house were the most hectic and productive packing hours. Got prints of required emails, maps, phone numbers etc. Cello-taped my own name and destination address stickers to the baggage. Do not lock any of your luggage. Had to even visit the lawyer to get a power of attorney made in my mom’s name.
  • Booked a Tata Sumo to drop and return everyone. Made sure it has a top carrier for luggage. Rs.1500 for that. Reached the airport 3 hours prior. After all good bye’s and a coffee, I went in. That was it. A new phase of life. No turning back now.
  • An airline representative handed me a form to fill for emigration, directed me to the quick bag drop line as I had checked in online. This was a good move.
  • Then I filled up the form. This is some emigration step which no one had told me about. The person basically asked me if I planned to settle down in the US permanently etc, asked for my passport & visa and verified it and let me through. I was cleared in my passport that I do not need an Emigration Check. Indian passports now carry an ECR seal if you are required to clear Emigration Checking for some major countries. Basically people who have a minimum 12th standard pass certificate or those above age 50 will not have this seal. I thought people without the seal don’t have to go through this emigration step but looked like everyone was going through it.
  • I boarded the flight to Doha. Qatar Airways are one of the best airlines in terms of seating comfort and hospitality I am told. I wouldn’t know for sure as this was my first international flight. But I for sure did not have any space cramps for my legs.
  • 5 hours later I landed in Doha. I took my first step on international soil (concrete actually). For some reason while the flight was descending I got a severe headache above my eyebrows and it was uncontrollable. It subsided only when the plane landed. I was not prepared for another round of such a headache when the plane lands next in DC. So I asked for the Airport clinic, consulted the doctor who gave me a couple of tablets to swallow and told me it would be fine. It was free.
  • I had a 4 hour gap between flights but the BLR-DOHA flight landed about 90 mins late and that left me about 25 mins to make my way through a stringent security check and board the next flight to DC. They got everyone to even remove shoes, didn’t let me carry my water bottle. It was a special water bottle and I didn’t want to let go of it. So then he told me that I can’t carry the water in it.
  • The flight to DC was a long 14 hour flight. The air-hostesses will force you to pull down your window blinds as the bright sun might disturb other passengers. The plane takes a long route from the Middle East over Europe, Britain, Greenland, Canada and finally the US.
  • Seeing Greenland from the air was a treat to the eye.

Greenland from the air

  • While the plane was about 2 hours from landing we were issued a form to fill called the I-94. This form would be used in immigration and would be stapled to your passport. You will need to have this form on the passport as long as you are in the US. And will need to have it removed when you leave.
  • It is important that you fill this form accurately with information as-is in your passport. I made a goof-up here as my visa has my first name as FNU, I filled up this form with my first name as FNU. I later had issues with they did not give me an SSN till even after 6 weeks. I am still waiting for it. More on that later.
  • The plane landed in the US. The DC airport was a let down. It was too simple and barren. Something unexpected for the capital of the country.
  • After landing you need to go through immigration wherein you will be asked questions about the purpose of your coming to the US etc. If you answer straight and with a smile, this should not take more than 2 minutes at the counter. But the queue to the counter took me about 2 hours with a heavy backpack and a big kit bag in my hand. No trolley’s at this point. My Tip: Once you get out of the plane, rush to the immigration counter. Atleast saves 150 people in your plane from getting ahead of you. If you want to use the restrooms, do it on the plane!
  • Next I collected my check-in bags. They had been taken off the belt and placed on the floor. I was told that trolleys are not free like in India but I didn’t have to pay for my trolley.
  • I took a taxi and headed to my hotel. Cost me $40 including a 15% tip to the driver. I for one thing didn’t understand the concept of this tip. In India we fight with auto drivers to give us Re.1 change.
  • First thing after checking in at the hotel was to make phone calls back home and to my brother and announce that I have arrived! The hotel had free wi-fi but I left my laptop at home. My N97 had a Skype app but it was off due to low battery. I took out my charger only to realise that it is an Indian charger (the round pin was the problem, not the voltage). So I had to find a converter first up. I went to a nearby pharmacy and got a universal converter. Yes, a Pharmacy. A pharmacy here basically sells everything, including beer and wine!
  • Crossing the road here requires you to reach a pedestrian crossing and push a button by the traffic light to request for a crossing.  I didn’t know that. So I waited 5 mins at the signal not knowing what to do. Then finally crossed without any pedestrian green just to see a car come to a screeching stop next to me from the wrong side!! OMG I checked the wrong side of the road for traffic and crossed! Whoa that was frightening. Next 2 days I was getting over that incident and crossing a road was the biggest challenge for me in the initial few days.
  • I suffered hardly any jet-lag. I did nothing special so don’t ask me. My friend Sharath’s tips were:
    1. Take a walk in the daylight if possible. No matter how tired you are.
    2. Do not sleep till atleast 10pm local time. Avoid all urges to take a nap before local bed time.
  • Next morning I was to report to office and begin my new career!
  • Next items that needed to be settled were:
    1. A Phone Connection.
    2. A Laptop (from office)
    3. A Bank Account
    4. Apply for an SSN
    5. Find an apartment/room to share.
    6. Get a Car!
    7. Get a Driving Licence
    8. Get my name rectified in my passport and have the FNU removed by the Indian Embassy.
And my story with those items is equally long so I will end this issue here and write about those in my next post!
People prepare a lot when travelling to the US. I had not done even 10% of that kind of preparation. I wanted to learn my way around. Not go in with my cup full. I wanted to be Jake Sully! And I have been doing OK so far. I could rent a car with Enterprise.com and go around thanks to my International Driving Permit. People complain that it is a big hand-written book. Who cares! As long as it is accepted, I am happy. Period. The Indian IDP is accepted in most US states and you can drive with it for upto 6 months after arriving in the US.

So I am in the US

01 May

Kodachadri Trip


Sreenath

Date: March 1 – March 3, 2008

Places Visited (in order of visit)

  • Shimoga
  • Sigandur
  • Nettur
  • Kollur
  • Kodachadri
  • Kaup
  • Mangalore

No. of People: 8

Best Season to Visit: Post monsoon – July-Sept

Transport:

Bangalore – Shimoga : KSRTC Volvo – Online Booking (various other modes of transport are also available)

Shimoga – Sigandur : Local bus (to Nettur) -110 km – 3 hrs – Includes a ferry ride across Linganmakki lake – The bus comes in the ferry to continue with onward journey to Nettur. Sigandur is first stop after the ferry ride.

Sigandur – Nettur : Local bus – 25 km – mud road

Nettur – Kollur : Jeep – Rs. 450 for 6 people – 22 km. (Bus is also available)

Sigandur Temple

  Kollur – Kodachadri : Nataraja service (Trek) – 9 km – 4-5 hours. (Jeeps available –    Rs.1300 per one way trip, capacity – 6-8 people)

  Kodachadri  – Kollur : Jeep – Rs. 1300 (Negotiable till Rs.1100) – Very bad roads – not advisable for people with back bone problems or slip discs

Kollur – Kapu : Local Bus – 2.5 – 3 hr journey – Nominal fare – fairly frequent busses available

Kapu – Mangalore : Local Express bus – 1.5 hour journey

Ferry ride from Sagara to Sigandur

Mangalore – Bangalore : KSRTC Volvo (online booking) – Other buses at lower rates available without booking as well.

Food & Accomodation

Sigandur : Temple provides free rooms – no furnishings. Few mats available, clean. We used the toilets and the bathrooms which had cold water (freezing literally), rested for a few hours, visited the temple, had lunch at a local hotel.

Kollur : First night halt – Guest house was booked from Bangalore – via phone. Many guest houses available – RNS Guest house etc. Mobile phone connectivity – Only available for BSNL and Reliance for now. Food at the guest house – decent enough (Poori’s were rather awesome). Free lunch and dinner is also provided at the temple for devotees. We dined there that night which hosted a speacial Rathothsava.

Kodachadri – Guest house on hill top – booked via phone – food is prepared at the guest house (we did not try food here as it was mostly non-veg and drinks)  – cell phone connectivity – nil. Water and electricity – scarce. Generator runs for about 3 hours every evening. A temple near the guest house also prepares food for a nominal price – decent meals. Accomodation was decent – all 6 people preferred to stay in one room(hall rather). Since electricity is a problem, taking candles and powerful torches is advised. Also would need torches for visiting the sunrise and sunset points as no lights are available (and the sun is either still not in the mood to shed his light on the world or he has finished his day’s work and is napping)

Panorama view from Kodachadri

Places & Tour Guide

        We reached Shimoga from Bangalore which was a 6 hour journey. From Shimoga, we boarded a local bus heading towards Nettur to go to Sigandur. The ride includes a ferry ride across linganmakki lake in which the bus and other vehicles too hop on. We continued the bus journey after the ferry ride and hopped off at Sigandur. Sigandur is famous for its temple. Free rooms, toilets and bathrooms are provided at the temple. We freshened up there, visited the temple, rested for an hour or so, had lunch at the only hotel available there. Food was bearable but the hygene concious may find it hard to digest.

Playing in the stream at Kollur

We then boarded a bus to Nettur. From Nettur, buses & jeeps are available to go to Kollur. Since we had to wait a long time for the next bus, we hired a jeep which took us to Kollur in a jiffy for Rs. 450 – a 22km journey – decent price for 8 people one would say. At Kollur, we went directly to the guest house we had booked and got our rooms. Rooms were decent and toilets were pretty clean. Mosquitoes may be a problem, hence carrying coils is recommended. A small stream flows through Kollur where we spent the evening spashing in the water.

We visited the mookambike temple, which Kollur is famous for. Mobile connectivity is available only for BSNL and Reliance for now. Hence we made calls to our homes from STD booths. We had dinner at the temple which was excellent for all of us. There was a special Rathothsava (chariot pulling) also on the night we visited the place. We went back to our rooms for the night and woke up at 7 AM, cleaned up, packed all our luggage into one room, checked out the other room, had breakfast in the guest house cafeteria ( me and DJ downed 6 plates of pooris each!) and hired a jeep to drop us to the trekking start point.

Flagging of the trek

Thus started our 9km trek to the Kodachadri hill top. We were here in the wrong season. What should have been a cool walk in lush green meadows turned out to be a sweaty tiring trek in hot sun through sun dried brown tall grass and dry paths. What should effectively be climbed in less than 5 hours took us more than 8 hours – thanks to the girls!

There was a beautiful stream from where cool sweet water gushed out from stone a wee bit away from the trek path. The guys climbed down and had their fill of this nectar. The girls however, were advised to give this a miss. The trek was fun, full of story telling, singing and enjoying the scenery. We had to reach the hill top before sunset at any cost. When we realised that we were lagging, we sped up and started going up real fast. We reached a small temple and had lunch there. The guest house was a hundred yards from there. We dumped whatever we carried in the guest house and made a beeline to the hilltop which was another kilometer from there.

Kodachadri Trek

Kodachadri Top

Quiet evening by the campfire

Vegetation on the trek route

Sunset from Kodachadri Top

We made our way back to the guest house, thanks to few other visitors who had thoughtfully brought torches with them. Otherwise we would surely have gotten lost on the hillside that night. We settled in the room for sometime. It was hot and we thought we will spend some time sitting under the stars outside. It was a beautiful night sky there. I spent time telling Mrudula stories about the cosmos, black holes, comets and parallel universes etc. The place slowly became crowded with shady people having drinks and non-veg food and we were a little perturbed at that. Thus we moved down to the temple and had dinner prepared there. Then we came back to the room, locked ourselves up, played some games and few of us took bath in the cold water. The toilet didnt have a light, hence we resorted to candle light baths! There were strange crawling caterpillars on the sink and on the bathroom floor which scared the girls and they did not enter the bathroom.

We had to get up early to watch the sunrise. We trekked to another point for it in pitch black darkness, fearing snakes, insects and other creatures in the dense forest. But it was well worth the effort.

Sunrise at Kodachadri Top

After enjoying the sunrise thoroughly, we climbed down, packed our bags and hired a jeep to take us down. The road is so bad that it has to be a jeep to take that road. If you were thinking of bringing your car since a jeep can go, plan for a one way trip for your car only! We reached Kollur and went back to our room in the guest house. Since we had only one room now, we all cramped onto the same bed. We made plans for the evening to go to Kapu beach and enjoy the evening before we go to Mangalore to board our bus to Bangalore and the drudge of a life we have in the city.

Lighthouse at Kaup

Being the biggest water and sea fan in the gang, I had to take a dip in the sea even if it meant I dont have a change of clothes till I reach Bangalore. And that was what happened. Sat with wet undies all the way to Bangalore. Hope the KSRTC wont sue me for making their volvo seats wet! We had good fun at the Kapu beach and had to hurry to the Managlore bus stand in the end.  And luckily for us, it was a bus and it was waiting for us, while we ended up 15 minutes after its scheduled departure time.

After that, all I remember was I was in the office track meeting the next morning. Ciao!

More photos at : Kodachadri Trip

07 Oct

Filmcamp

Filmcamp Bangalore

The FilmCamp concluded here in Bangalore today. It was a two day discussion forum or gathering of people who have the passion of making movies in them. I spent the entire weekend over at an auditorium in the Jain college of Management studies taking in tons of points and views and speaking out my views and questions to people who are either from the professional movie makers land or from people who study the art of movie making. Also present was Columba, documentary film producer who is currently making a documentary in support with BBC.

I think around 15-16 short films were screened at the event, some from dedicated movie makers while some from students of cinematography courses and also some from people who just go about their work on other days, but on weekends are seen with their cameras. A coupla movies were quite exceptional and the rest were actually good starts for amateur movie makers or students of such courses. I am so motivated now that I am working towards having my short film screened in the next Filmcamp!

The B RTFF community was behind organising the event. The name sounds like a big organisation and believe me, its all the brain child of a few motivated guys, much similar to the way I was part of the BDotNETStudentgroup.

When I told a friend about this event, he asked me if I went alone for this (as if its a sin). And I replied, I went in alone. But did not come out the same. That’s guaranteed!!

Some of the imminent personalities at the event (who’s names I remember) were Sanjeev Jha (director of the movie Pran Jaaye Par Shaan Na Jaaye, yes that’s a bollywood movie), Anand Krishnamurthy (I don’t exactly know what his qualification is, but he spoke like a teacher at an institute of movie making), Sanjay Nambiar (a person who has a mac laptop and also the main supporter of the event) and more.

Over and out, it was great to be part of this. And this is my first such venture to actually go out of my way and make a conscious attempt towards a career in movie making. I had a Silverlight dhamaka at Microsoft GTSC on Saturday and a BDotNETStudent UG meet Sunday morning that were alluring me away from this but I still made it here and stuck in. This was probably the first event in my life I attended not for the sake of lunch/goodies/five star treatment, but for the sheer content of it. And the story doesn’t end here.. Rather, it begins here.

Flickr Tags: FilmcampBlr

27 Apr

Tirupati Trip

I had been to Tirupati for the first time in life (yes, the first time) during a long week end starting Good Friday 2007. I went with my colleagues and had a wonderful time around. But the heat was unbearable and we were happy we werent staying there any longer. We had booked our darshan time 3 weeks prior from Bangalore itself. So we had not much of trouble getting over with the darshan. But still my mind asks the question – What strange drive does a simple rock formation have that draws thousands of devotees everyday from the world over to the temple literally 24/7!! And they do it not once or twice, but its in their quarterly or yearly calendar to make this trip. Strange isnt it. Not so for them all.

The Tirumala temple resides in a small valley atop a hilly region and has a very good ambience if there wasnt so much popluation and noise. Now buses ply right to the entrance to the temple but its considered sacred to actually climb the way up the hill.So we decided that we had the energy to climb the 4000 steps. Although it was not a cake walk, since we started at 3AM, the climb was pleasant. Doing that in the afternoon sun would be impossible. Even then, the path is actually painted white so that one could walk on it even if the sun was beating down on the ground. The advantage of this, one will realise only when he tries to walk on a black tar road that has been open to the infrared rays of the sun for a coupla hours.  We reached the top, collected our luggage which was transported up the hill by the temple authorities free of cost, had breakfast, decided to book a room in the Karnataka Bhavan instead of the Tirumala Temple rooms which had a long queue.
 
The Tirupati area is full of temples and visiting all of them would easily take a month. We visited another 2 commonly visited ones and actually slept in the temple as we had checked out of our rooms. The best part was that we went into an AC hotel for lunch, and to beat the heat, we did as much timepass in the hotel as we could before they threw us out. So all in all, a pretty cool trip – in the hot scorching summer.
 
Photos at: TirupatiTrip
04 Mar

RNSITDOTNET Vista Launch


Ajay doing his magic

I have already passed out from RNSIT and am no longer a manager of my college .NET Club. So why do I have to involve myself into these things anymore? I may not have a simple answer to it, but I had to drive this event anyhow through the present manager of RNSITDOTNET Sattvik.Planning started almost 2 months prior and ground work was established 2 weeks prior to the event scheduled on Saturday, 3rd March, 2007. The downside for the event was that the college management did not agree under any cost to have the event during college hours because “precious” class hours would be missed. So we had no option but to request for college busses to stay back and that interested students attend. This the college agreed and also sent out notifications to each class about the event. Both Sattvik and me were skeptical about the number of people who would turn up. We were so desperate that we counted the volunteers and it totaled 16 people. So we thought having an audience of 15-20 is pretty OK.But rather to our amusement, 15 minutes before the event start time, there were 60-70 people sitting in the hall!! I quickly jumped in and started playing a few Vista and Imagine Cup videos that I downloaded from the Internet while the chief guests arrived. Soon enough the guests came in and the audience too had grown to be over 100 heads.The guests were:

Ajay Thomas Abraham, ADE, Microsoft
Prof. M R Holla, Director, RNSIT
Dr. H N Shiv Shankar, Principal, RNSIT
Pooran Praasad, Microsoft MVP, CEO, Zealous Solutions

Chief Guests at the launch

Chief Guests at the launch

 

Then we suddenly realised that the lady compere had disappeared. So I stepped in to introduce the guests, explain the agenda and engage in some TWT. Then things went on smoothly and my Principal and the Director gave a pep talk and shared their amazement at the number of people that have come in.

Ajay took the stage and delivered his session on Development Opportunities on Vista while explaining in detail the various new features in the greatest ever OS by Microsoft. (Isn’t that quite obvious???) There were some interesting snaps taken during the session and the best one has to be this, with Ajay brewing his magic on innocent minds. Ajay got some debatable questions shot at him as well as questions regarding community concerns. But being an ADE, I am sure he is well versed on how to defend such queries more than Dravid’s capability to defend bouncers. In fact, he got so interactive with the crowd that his session slated for 45 mins extended to 1hour 30 minutes. Pooran’s session should also have been over by then. But this is natural in any event.

Then Pooran took the stage and he had downsized his PPT since the majority of the audience was new to .NET. He was speaking on Office and Vista Better together. Pooran is a master of his topic. If one wakes him up during his sleep and asks to explain the topic, he would be able to take a 3 hour session without a break. The major takeaways from his session were the screen shots of the cool UI of some of the apps built on WPF and Office 2007. But he also made some valuable points at the end of the session regarding community resources and his eagerness on sharing information in such sessions in the future as well. He also gave pointers to MSDN AA and MVP resources.

Then it was time for the quiz. RNSIT boasts of lots of things – its management, its principal/director, faculty, the basketball team and many more. The quiz club of RNSIT, titled Trivial Pursuit is one that cannot be missed on the same list. They were the ones conducting this quiz and did a very commendable job. A copy of Vista RC1 was up for grabs. So were copies of Visual Studio 2005, Express CDS, Imagine Cup 2007 T-shirts, key chains, caps etc, all thanks to Ajay. The first round was a set of 13 questions which all could answer in a sheet and submit. Then the valuation proceeded and a set of 5 final teams were selected. Then it was 15 questions and it was one helluva round. The teams spit fire and clashed horns against each other. Ultimately it was over and the finish was a close one. The honours were done by Ajay. A quick round of thanks and it was over. A great day and a great event.

Looking forward to more such events. I just cant stop being part of them.

Flickr tags: RNSITVISTALAUNCH

31 Oct

Farewell party by RNSIT


Sreenath giving the farewell speech (trying to)

I felt so pathetic after this entire event. I was supposed to speak on my journey through this course of four years. I went on stage and forgot everything and came down by saying just thank you! Hopeless!!

And after that i didnt win any awards for my services to the college. So .. an eventful terrible day. Memorable for a few though.

But anyways it was a great evening, with dinner sponsored by the college and everyone turning up in sarees and blazers. A feast for the eyes.

Sunday May 7, 2006

31 Oct

Hands on Lab – 7th May, RNSIT

RNSIT Hands On Lab

I finally succeded in completing the long awaited and planned .NET hands on lab after cancellation at East Point college. I had to do a lot of running around with bills running up into three thousands.

I had taken entire responsibility of Getting the tickets printed, distributing the tickets, getting the stickers for the CDs printed, getting the CDs, burning stuff on the CDs (almost over 130 cds.) and then the certificates too needed to be designed and printed. And also the design for the CD stickers was also by me.

Finally the day dwaned and everything was cool and smooth with no last minute glitches. Things went compeletly normal and we even sponsored lunch to all the attendees which was previously not on the menu. Thanks to the canteen which was kept open on a sunday.

And on top of that i delivered three sessions all along the day in two different labs which were seperated by a kilometer i suppose. SO i must have done around 100 kms of running around today between labs, office and the canteen.

But what makes me happy is that it went really smooth with the amount of prepartion that we had for the sessions, with a few last minute drop outs by the speakers.

Check out some more snaps here: http://groups.msn.com/bdotnetstudent/handsonlabs.msnw

Sunday May 7, 2006

31 Oct

Rajkumar Demise


Rajkumar Demise

If you expected to see a photo of Rajkumar on this post, well what was more visible than his death actually was the wide spread arson and looting that followed after his death. There is a big political issue to debate on why riots actually happened on the natural death of a great peace loving actor.

It is rumoured that some opposition party leaders, in order to spoil the government’s image, brought in 12 trucks of hooligans from outside sources and dispersed entire cases of liquor to them and asked them to spread out and wreak havoc.

At the end of it all, it was a shame to a city like Bangalore and loss of 8 lives and about 200 Crore rupees. Thats peanuts to win an election.. some politicians would argue.

Sunday April 16, 2006