Wednesday, September 30, 2009

To shine silverware at home

Happy Dussera to all! Last week must have set in the festive mood! Now we all await Diwali, the festival of lights! Of course, its a festival of sound too, thanks to all the firecrackers!!

Preparing for Diwali, took out silver diya and found that it was all oxidised and got tarnished. First thought that came to mind was search for a jeweller who would polish the diya and make it shine again. Finally searched a few and found that they do not polish and that they only sell silverware.

My work was still not done. Casually, I called my friend to ask for some nearby jeweller who would do the job and then she told me some home remedy. Since she was unsure, she called her mother and then confirmed the remedy. Guess what? I tried them at home and it worked wonders!!



Method 1: With baking soda

Materials required:

a) Aluminium foil
b) Boiling water
c) Baking soda


a) Take a wide-mouthed and a deep container so that the tarnished silver item can be immersed completely.
b) Cover the the container with aluminium foil.
c) Based on the size of the silver item, pour baking soda inside the container.
d) Pour the boiled water in the container. Be careful while pouring as you will observe fizz due to soda and hot water mixing.
e) Then immerse the silver item inside this water mixture and leave it for 3-5 minutes.

f) After 5 minutes, remove the item and wipe with a clean cotton cloth or tissue paper.
g) Depending upon the amount of tarnish, you may have to repeat the wash 3-4 times and the silver item will be free from tarnish and shine as before.

Method 2: With toothpaste

Materials required:

a) Toothpaste
b) Cotton


a) Squeeze out some toothpaste on to the cotton swab.
b) Rub the silver item with the paste on the swab.
c) As the rubbing progresses, you will find the tarnished portion getting back to its shiny silvery surface.
d) Once done, rinse in warm water and wipe the silver item with clean cotton cloth or tissue paper.
e) Be careful while rubbing. If you observe scratching, immediately stop and rinse off the paste. Its best to use a plain white toothpaste rather than the gel or the ones with all those new salt flakes etc.

I had done a mix of both the methods. First 3-4 minutes immersed the silverware in the water-baking soda mix. If any more tarnish was remaining, I used the toothpaste to remove it from the grooves.

CAVEAT --> Baking soda or paste is said to be a little abrasive on silver. Thus, be careful of any scratches. Handle the items gently and remember it is not a steel utensil that you are washing but delicate silverware!

For those who understand simple chemistry, the methods use the principle of electrochemistry, the REDOX(reduction-oxidation) reaction. Silver tarnish means that the silver atom is oxidised to silver ion. The baking soda mixture provides the lost electrons so that silver ion gets converted back or reduced to silver atom.

It also seems like a good home teaching tool for kids to show the application of the principle they learnt at school! :)

Anyway, wishing you all a Happy Shiny Silvery Deepavali! :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Experience with Philips!!

Just yesterday, we got our new Philips water purifier model WP3890 installed at our place. Now you must be wondering what's so new about that? Water purifiers are kind-of part of every domestic household. Well, you are right! But what I wanted to share was our experience with the company.


Since it was our first purchase of purifier, we decided to do some research about the technology. We went through plethora of websites understanding the meaning of each term, so gloriously used by the manufacturers. They all sound so out-of-space terms, that prospective customer may think, wow! this purifier must be doing some additional purification!! Gosh!

Anyway, thanks to the time spent, we finally chose Philips over Eureka, owing to all the bad reviews about the latter's service.

In fact, we even went to the extent of verifying the gold seal certification by WQA also. I know, some may find this wierd and waste of time, but then we are too cautious! No offence but marketing community has got very little reliability factor left in our minds to just go by their tall claims of being the best and blindly choose a product.

Just to make our research complete, we stumbled upon the Dos and Donts page of Philips. Few of them were so obvious ones that we both broke into peals of laughter. Not at the list, but the fact that there are people who might actually do them, if not instructed otherwise!! Its like telling customers who purchased hot coffee that "it is hot!!" You know what I mean, right! I am pasting the few of the funny ones below, the remaining are the regular ones.

Do's and Don'ts
To help you use the Intelligent Water Purifier safely, here are some useful tips. Kindly go through these tips thoroughly to avoid any kind of hazardous situations.
Comments in the brackets are my exclamations, I could not resist it!!

The Do's

--> Install the Intelligent Water Purifier at a safe location so that it does not come in the way of your normal routine.

--> When in use, place a container below the Intelligent Water Purifier to avoid spillage.(Wonder who would leave the tap running with no container below!!)

The Don'ts

--> Don’t spill water on to the Intelligent Water Purifier.
--> Don’t install the Intelligent Water Purifier close to a gas stove or over the cooking range.
--> Don’t store the water in open containers.(Defeats the purpose of the purifier, right!!)

--> Do not connect the Intelligent Water Purifier to a drain outlet.(This one is my personal favorite, 'coz its unthinkable!!)

--> Do not store anything on the Intelligent Water Purifier.

--> Do not use the piping or wires for hanging anything. (Like a towel hanger!! Gosh!!)

--> Do not clean any plastic parts in a dishwasher or boil them.(Awesome!!)

Final Selection

So, we chose the UV technology purifier and chose Philips WP 3890. UV technology is better suited for municipal water or so to say soft water, while RO(Reverse Osmosis) is best suited for hard water.

Eureka was on our list too but there is lot of dependency on its service center even after installation, hence decided to go for a product that gives us independence from human interaction as far as possible. This product has a candle that can be replaced by us. All we have to do is just go and purchase the candle from the service center every 3000 liters. Even regular cleaning done with a button. So lot of ease for us.


Now this is the main part of our ordeal which forced me to write this post.

We purchased the product on a sunday. Since, the customer care centers are closed that day, we had to wait till monday to book for installation. We booked on Monday and were given an appointment on Wednesday evening and the same was confirmed via an SMS. The company claims to install the product within 48 hours of your booking.

Wednesday comes and no call from any technician to confirm the appointment or take directions to our house, which is generally the case. So, we call the customer care again and they confirm that a person will come as already confirmed. And as soon as we kept down the phone, we receive an SMS that our appointment is pushed to next Wednesday, that is a week later. Imagine our shock and dismay!!

So, we call the customer care again and this time a new guy attends the call and says that our system confirms appointment of next wednesday as there are no available slots before that. We asked him how were we given an appointment earlier. And he answers blah! blah! blah to add to our consternation. Well, there is no point talking logic to customer care people as they are trained to answer only one thing for all questions, "We apologise for the inconvenience but there are no available slots!!" At that time, we realised we will not get any meaningful response from them.

Then, we visited the Philips website and sent an email stating our complaint to them with very little hope of any action being taken.

To our surprise, the next day the grievance cell person calls up and explains the situation to us that there was a total goof up at the request handling and that we will see that the process is expedited.

Anyway, the call itself cooled us down that at least there is someone reading our complaints and taking them seriously. Well, that was not all. In an hour, we receive a call from a technician that he will be visiting our place for installation the same day.

He came 2 hours earlier than the appointment time and did a fine job at installation.

We just could not believe it. Thus, Philips did keep up its promise. As a good customer, we sent them a "Thank You" mail too. I guess, it deserved a compliment for the prompt service.

To be very honest, we had lost all hope and thought we might have to finally hire a local plumber or wage a war as we might receive another SMS next time. But, they just surprised us so much that although, its been just a day old, yet we have full confidence on the product too.

The best part in this whole thing was that though, it is a big company, it values its customers dearly and not forget them, leave them in a lurch once they have sold their product, which is the case most of the time. In fact, all the time!! I kept scratching my head to think of any past experience which had been as pleasant as this one, but in vain. This is our first experience with a product company which has lived up to our expectations!! :) Guess, Airtel was the other company with whom we have had a trouble-free experience till date.

People have such harrowing experiences with poor, inefficient and indifferent After-Sales dept of the product companies, generally, that one loses trust and confidence.

Just pray that we keep getting pure water and there are readers who have similar positive incidents to report. Wish that atleast there is one report to instill in us the hope that all is not that bad out there!! :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No Board Exams in Tenth!!

Yesterday, with the govt. announcing the Board Exams being optional, has sent many into perplexity while the students must be rejoicing!

First of all, let us broadly see the decisions that were announced. The pros and cons will be so many that the debates will be endless anyway. We will come to that later on.

a) No board exams in tenth standard for students studying in CBSE schools.

Students will be graded continuously through out the year under the system grandly named as Continuous and Comprehensive Education(CCE) starting this October

b) Nine-point Grading system introduced.

The nine-point scale will start from
--> A1 (91-100, exceptional)
--> A2 (81-90, excellent)
--> B1 (71-80, very good)
--> B2 (61-70, good)
--> C1 (51-60, fair)
--> C2 (41-50, average)
--> D (33-40, below average)
--> E1 (21-32, needs improvement)
--> E2 (00-20, unsatisfactory)

c) Students can opt to give board examination.

This applies generally to those students who wish to change their school when moving to Eleventh standard.

Also, students continuing the same school may opt for boards.

d) Minimum passing marks for acquiring a certificate is 33% marks.

So, what we understand from all of the above is that under CCE system, all the core areas of subjects being studied in the classes will be assessed on a continuous basis including co-curricular activities.

CCE system will have two components:
a) Formative Assessment - based on whole range of tests like interview, quiz, project work and practical assignments.

b) Summative Assessment - will be the aggregate of the yearly assessments of all areas.

These terms ring some bells. We used to study a lot about these in our B.Ed days. Our complete course was based on preparing teachers for such form of assessment besides the existing one.

Pros based on my teaching experience of Indian and US curricula:

a) The most important effect of this system will be the removal of fear of board exam from the minds of students as well as parents. This will aid in better learning environment for the child.

b) Emphasis will be laid on the various skills of students, besides the skills of mathematics, english, science etc.

c) Rote learning will diminish. Students will learn to analyse more rather than merely memorising facts. But the analytical development will be based on the type of quizzes and projects are given to the students.

d) Pressure on teachers will reduce a lot and also provide flexibility to them with respect to logical sequencing topics, type of tests based on the topic. Not all topics need a project and not all topics be assessed by quizzes.

e) Sports have such a demeaning position in our education system, blame it on the employment sector or whatever.
Sports act as a primary tool in building the character of an individual, besides its advantages in building a strong body during the formative stages of the child.

f) Various forms of art will gain impetus. In our days, I remember, how the drawing class was treated. It was like a free 40-minute break rather than actually learning something.


a) First and foremost is the fear that the students will have no fear of exams on their head at the end of tenth standard. This may relax the students to a level where the school may just be a play school till XI when exams kick in.

b) Teachers may take time to come out of the inertia of the system that has been followed for like ages. Thus, adequate training of teachers is necessary.
Being a teacher, I have been to many of the training programs organised by the schools and found most of them so boring. Boring because they lacked purpose and was just one-way. Obviously the speaker kept speaking for hours together with no inputs from teachers at all, besides the many other drawbacks.

Such training never empathises with the practical problems faced by the teachers real time and keep giving ideal scenarios. The suggestions made at such programs have to be feasible and applicable to the real classrooms and not fancy dreams!!

Many interesting training programs go without use as the teachers lack motivation too. Its two-way process.

c) Setting uniform standards across boards.
Confusion may arise when a student wishes to switch over from CBSE to state board or ICSE, the state board must accept the percentiles provided by CBSE.

d) Preparation for XII standard boards should not start from X. The CCE must ascertain that the students do not find a disconnect between X and XI standard.

e) Grading system tends to get subjective.
Project work is all so subjective, how to qualify for grade A1 or A2 or any other grade. Thus, work of the students must be graded fairly. At all times, motivation level of the students need to be maintained at high levels.

The above mentioned are certain pros and cons that came to my mind and felt were important. There will surely be many more.

Apparently, one good thing of the whole process of formulating is that the system is not based on the whims and fancies of a minister who knows head nor tail of education. Its been done with proper consultation from eminent people from the field, like Prof. Yashpal. Anyway, I was his fan since the days of TURNING POINT on DD!!

Overall, the CCE system is heralding our education system into a new era. If implemented in its right form, it is really an innovative and vibrant approach to make studies less burdensome for kids and inculcate learning in the right perspective.

Readers are welcome to voice their opinion to initiate a healthy debate to analyse the system holistically.