SHRI/SRI ? — ஸ்ரீ = ஶ் + ரீ != ஸ் + ரீ

Recently, reading Unicode standard for Tamil gave me some insights, both cultural and technological. I will first put my understanding / views on the cultural aspect and then come to technical part of it in a seperate post.

ஸ்ரீ is a ligature used to represent ஶ் + ரீ, one of the commonly used forms of ஶ், which is a consonent of modern Tamil primarily used to write sanskrit words. The equivalent devanagiri alphabet is श्री pronounced as shri. If one has traveled across Tamil Nadu, they can say many people will have problems pronouncing ஸ்ரீ. I have heard people calling me “See"kanth, "Stri"kanth. The most common pronunciation I have heard however has been "Sri"kanth which is how I write my name in English. This however changed when I came out of Tamil land and having Hindi speaking friends who used to call me "Shri"kanth. I felt they have stronger MTI just like those who called me "Stri"kanth.

Over a period of time, Tamil people have started pronouncing ஸ்ரீ as Sri instead of Shri. This is a deviation from "old-school vedic folks”(for the lack of better word to stereotype) who treat essence of word lies in its pronunciation. However, extrapolating Tamil’s pronunciation rules (which is only defined for Tamil characters btw), one can adopt a stand to pronounce it the way one wants, i.e either Sri or Shri.

For personal reasons, I have chosen to henceforth write my name in Tamil as ஸ்‌ரீகாந்த் as against ஸ்ரீகாந்த் as I believe written form is meant to serve as  pronunciation guide and ஸ்‌ரீகாந்த் is close to how my name is pronounced.

PS 1: If you are unable to view ஶ் (SHA) on your screen, you can see the character U+0BB6 in the unicode table. It just means the font you use still doesn’t have a glyph for U+0BB6.

PS 2: In most cases you will not be able to type ஸ்‌ரீ on your computer (unless you use a Mac) and in the next post I shall write about why it is so, why apple products display ஸ்ரீ as ஸ்‌ரீ in some cases and how we should try to fix it part of the technical aspect of SHRI SRI

Reading Tamil texts in old script.

Tamil Script had undergone a reform on select characters to bring uniformity and simplify the writing style in 1960’s. The table below shows the old way of writing on the left and the current way on the right. I have mild memories of seeing bus boards having னை in சென்னை(Chennai) in its old form with elephant’s trunk during early 90’s.

Classical and Modern script

Now its possible to read texts in their old form digitally, thanks to the newly released Lohit-Tamil-Classical font. Announcemnt Download link

Having classical fonts will not only help giving the user the feel of reading historical texts the way they were written, but will also be probably making digitisation of old texts simpler with OCR solutions.

Copyright notes: “Simplified tamil script” by User:Avedeus, under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, from Wikimedia Commons

Writing short texts

I used to blog sometime back in college. I wouldn’t say twitter killed it. Its mostly my impatience to sit and write long texts. So I now attempt to restart sharing content in “my own” place (as against a facebook wall post :)) writing extended short texts about myself, Wikipedia, Tamil, Technology, Public Transit, Chennai, India and other random things.

City Volvos — modern Mumbai Suburban trains on Indian roads?

I am sure most in Indian metropolitan cities have been fascinated by the “Volvo travel” and most would have read in media / heard the general perception of how comfortable a volvo city ride is. There are groups / transit companies which promote use the public transit (through bus days etc) and all of them cite Volvo travel and its confortness asking personal vehicle owners to switch to public transit. Things on the ground has to change a lot.The greener pastures alone are being projected.

Most people now talk about frequency, time table / GPS updates to gauge the reliability of the service and even transit companies in some way or other try to improve the service around this with GPS info systems at bus stops (MTC started in chennai and BMTC in Bangalore has been running a pilot for quite a while now) and MTC also makes the GPS info public in the site (which hardly 10 people know of and works only on Internet Explorer). So at least transit companies are trying to make an minuscule effort in a positive direction though they need to travel a long way in making things passenger friendly.

Ride comfortness :-

Okay, not everybody gets a seat. But overcrowding the bus and charging premium luxury fares is sheer exploitation. I happened to fight with the MTC crew yesterday (588B – TN01-8609) particularly when the driver was stopping at each stop and asking the people standing by to hop in and the bus would be empty in next couple of stops when it was clearly not the case. Unlike the normal buses, Volvo buses are closed door air conditioned buses. Having 100 people in glass case is not a luxury travel(not even average level of comfort) and getting in and out is like experiencing overcrowding in Mumbai Suburban trains. Overcrowding in closed buses will lead to suffocation as there are no windows and no one cares about safety.It would create a stampede if the bus door gets jammed after an accident. Just because people have the money to pay for the ticket doesn’t mean you have to exploit them. The crew in most cases are greedy.Corporations too. We will get back to reasons / solutions later in the post.

What further surprised me was there was no mention of “capacity” inside the bus. Normal city bus has a capacity of 48+25 and have them written on the front on the bus behind the name board. A B7RLE made by Volvo India has a seating capacity of 40. I today got another shock when i saw 40 straps hanging on the 335E Volvo in Bangalore, which indirectly says the corporation wants 40 people to stand and travel. This is the true face of “comfortable Volvo travel” in India. We as straphangers need to make sure that Volvos are not mumbai suburban trains of our cities.

Reaons for overcrowding:-

1. Demand Supply management

Lack of enough fleets is one major cause. Chennai city alone is well short of some 2000 buses and when it comes to Volvo segment, it hardly has 100 fleets which is too less and when distributed across routes(for social reasons) the number of fleets on a particular route is handful and cannot cater the demand.When i argued with the conductor about overcrowding, he thrown me this point. Passengers are waiting for buses for long time, and hence they board even crowded buses.Valid but overcrowding the buses will not improve the face of public transit. Why is it so difficult to operate fleets based on demand, now that reports out of ticketing machines can clearly help visualize the demand.Are the authorities doing anything here? Bangalore through its capacity has some how overcome this reason of lack of buses, but not on all routes. The city needs more buses too.335E is not overcrowded on weekdays since the frequency is around 7 minutes, but during weekends / festive seasons it simply cant handle the load of outstation passengers reaching majestic.

2. Inefficient Route management

Route planning needs to be proper. Lack of depots make the Volvos run more idle trips causing bleeding losses. For instance 335E on mornings run jam packed to ITPL but around 10-11 am one see some 20 Volvos returning back to KBS with 2 or 3 passengers. 588B/588C in Chennai ws also the same. Just to cater the tourist demand in the evenings around 10-15 Volvos travel more or less empty to Mahabalipuram.

3. Greedy Crew / Corporations

Part of the crew’s share of wage comes from the revenue they collect and this makes them over crowd. Again due to idle running trips, crew try to double the revenue on the crowded trip and overcrowd. How many times have you heard “Holagade hogi” / “Thalli Ulla ponga”. Corporations also remain silent on this since half the trips run on loss. Ideal way for corporations is to make money through travel passes instead of selling tickets and delink the collection incentive for the crew and standardize their salary.

I will be doing some more study on this shortly and probably reach out to the corporations. Lets not make our volvos as mumbai suburban trains! As a start there should be display of what is the capacity of the bus inside it.

For Bangalore related city commute please follow

For Chennai related city commute and straphanger issues like these, please follow @straphanger_in and articles by Ajai Sreevatsan on The Hindu

Social Media and Customer Service

Well a lot of has changed about customer service since new age media came into picture. Customers can actually impact potential customers choice just by googling. I just experienced an incident where i was called back for my tweet. Let me explain in detail.

There is one awesome mobile app ngpay which is simply too good and gives you a direct access to bank literally in addition to lot of other key m-commerce options. I have been using this app for more than a year and have always been impressed with how they provide value on your finger tips. But last saturday i was slightly let down by it and i was more pissed off by their social media team.

I was on dire need of cash for personal emergency on last saturday and bank being holiday for bakrid, the only option was just to take out of ATM. I exhausted my 10k limit on other bank ATM(Our town had only one ATM functional at that moment) and was thinking how i can get as much as i can. That was the time to check out HDFC Fund transfer on ngpay. I tried to transfer 10 k to another HDFC account and it failed. Then i did a 5k, it succeeded. When i called up HDFC customer care why it was not allowing and whether it was problem at HDFC or ngpay, i was told HDFC allows till 10k, So i called up ngpay customer care to get a clarification why i was not allowed to transact when i have funds and HDFC says the limit is 10k per day. The call was not attended for ~5 long minutes and i got pissed off. To vent out my frustration i wrote this tweet. Left it then and made ways to get money.

Monday morning rush hour to office i get a call from ngpay asking what was my issue. I explained the problem i faced and got a clarification saying RBI limits fund transfers to 5k per day and merchant transactions can be up to 10k per day. Fair enough, HDFC is not aware of this, ngpay being in core m-commerce domain may be best persons on RBI’s m-commerce policy. I thanked him and left to my office. Again after an hour i got a call from another person asking if am satisfied with response to my query. Obviously the person wasnt happy with my tweet and was insisting that i update it. I was also told about other mechanisms of contacting like customer support like emailing , using the “Contact” option in the application etc indirectly to imply  that ‘I need not tweet if i dont get support, there are other ways of getting it too’ .Once again i was reminded that “it would be great if i updated my twitter status”. Probably what they expected was  a tweet like “ngpay customer care rocks! they promptly called me seeing my tweet”, but i wrote this “Okay.@ngpay seems to have ‘rot learned’ customer service through social media.I will write more on it least tweets get some response”.

Let me explain that tweet. While i completely appreciate ngpay for embracing new media like twitter and responding to customers, I find very few Indian companies actually learn the art of customer service and making the customer more comfortable using these new media.ngpay too has areas to improve along with others like tatadocomo,redbus_in many others.

I might be wrong in all fronts, but am just writing my thoughts below. The brands which adopt new media use them to do a better brand management. So they have to learn that there will always be detractors for the brand as well as attractors. So when they get the free branding from customers who are satisfied, they should understand that they will also get detractors automatically when the customers are dissatisfied. So instead of asking the ‘dissatisfied’ customer to change their views and propagate them, they must provide more value to get the positive sentiment back on new media possibly from the same person and others.

What ngpay did wrongly?

1. While they saw my tweet and called back, am damn sure their process hasnt changed you may still get call waiting for 5 minutes and may not be called back until you tweet something like i did. They didnt take my critical feedback in complete sense and act on it, they just asked if my query was resolved. It is critical that you improve your voice support since its all related to money. I will not be transacting if i know that your customer support is pita and i may not get attended after a possible failed transaction worth 10k.

2. The person who spoke second time, actually did more damage (So much that it has given me energy to write such a long post when my blog is nearing death). The person spoke about contacting through email, Contact us instead of tweeting a critical feedback.Now among call centre,email,contact us, twitter, only call centre and twitter are real-time communication tools. If i had ability to email [access to computer], i would never used ngpay firstly, have used net banking and everything would have been peaceful. “Contact us”(basically will again email you) is again a passive option and am not sure to get a response soon. I thought twitter was a real-time tool, perhaps i should have realised your twitter account is just there for sake of it when i tweeted nice things about ngpay and found you retweeted after days. So lesson is if you are on twitter, make sure you check the account twice a day(at least) and not only monitor it on 9 – 5 during weekdays. I would also suggest you to read this article to get a sense of why i called customer care and then tweeted instead of emailing.

Related read :- Cleartrip-Kiruba Incident

Am alive

Been months since i logged into wordpress.So what was keeping me busy? Well a lot of things. Work got tighter on and off, forcing to stretch for project deliveries.But a lot of other activities also took my time. Playing TT at office in the evenings was a great exercise and stress buster.

I typed the above sometime in July and i stopped it and didnt publish that time.So what else is keeping me going? Justifying that i was busy at work all along the year will be a lie, though it can attribute to 50%. So what are the other acitivities that i did? Apart from work, been doing quite few things that bring in some satisfaction. Be it hanging around with guys and making some tiny contribution in python/php/testing or literally roaming around the streets for mapping e-city / hosur or attending the Wikipedia Meetup 3 and getting hooked into it or making my first article appear on the DYK section of the main page or participating in Wikipedia takes Chennai, it was all pure fun and learning. Came across a bunch of awesome people in the process of doing these things. Been to college couple of times during the alumni meet and then for software freedom day, it was just refreshing to breathe the “old air”. So stressed office schedules + Parallel activities like above + travelling home twice a month leaves no time for blogging. I have been tweeting heavily though for quite sometime now. Follow me there. Hope i will update this blog soon and will not keep it idle for a year.


I always missed the cab to office and waited for 20 minutes for next cab. If i walk it will take 25 minutes(5 minutes for crossing the road included). Autowalahs do a daylight roberry and come for nothing less than Rs.35 on the mention of word EGL / behind ‘DELL’ for a distance of 2.4 km. Worse is that most refuse to come at all.The walk for 25 minutes at the night after good amount of TT with tummy crying was also another reason.

Last week i decided to get a bike.I was looking at gear cycles alone prior to looking at the prices.I went to a wrong shop where the guy said “we have cycles from 7000 to 1 lakh Sir”. I said Ok thanks. Finally got into right store and was in diliema to get a whether to get a Photon or a geared cycle as i loved Photon in school days and it was saving my pockets too but finally settled for geared “Hercules AXN 6SP” on Sunday

Hercules AXN 6SP

Hercules AXN 6SP

Cycled 3 km from Ulsoor to Domlur and then last monday started to office and had a bad start.Morning was fine and at 10 pm hoping to pedal back, it couldnt have been worse. Flat tyre on first day.Thanks to my friend, i kept in hand and came home in bike.Then fixed the puncture and Saturday morning i decided to have some cycling excercise. I went to Shantinagar BMTC bus stand to book tickets for home. I took the main road for most part along this way . Sloppy terrain helps in some places and is a show stopper in others. I covered a total of 13 km in just under an hour.Cycling at the morning was too good in the climate.

Time up.. gotto cycle to office