Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Least We Can Do

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26/11 claimed 166 lives and caused unforgettable pain to everyone. We lost our fellow citizens and we lost our Heroes. Yet this figure is only 166, it has directly and indirectly affected many and brought a great loss to their families. We cannot bring back what has been lost, but we can try to heal it. That is the Least We Can Do.

“From the Ashes of Tragedy, Heroes Arise.

From the Debris of Despair, Compassion is Born.

From the Wrath of Nature, Humanity’s Strength is Forged”


With this Motto, The Taj Public Service Welfare Trust has started its mission to help not only those who were affected on the fateful day of 26/11 2008 in Mumbai, but also for those who may need the help recovering from what the World throws at them in Future.

TPSWT aims at alluding the pain when the terror strikes, providing the peace of mind when the war invades, and help put the lives back together when the nature rages. Therefore let us support TPSWT to achieve its mission, infact it is our mission.

We always think and talk about the pain, but we don’t find any proper means how we can part of a mission to do the least we can do. I made a difference today, Will You.

The details of TPSWT are as follows:

Contributions can be made from India and from any where in the World by direct account transfer or by sending cheques or drafts.

Indian Account Details for Online Transfers or Cheques or Drafts:

HDFC Account No: 00600310020833 , IFSC Code: HDFC0000240, Branch: Fort Branch,   Favouring “TAJ PUBLIC SERVICE WELFARE TRUST”, Mandlik House, Mandlik Road, Colaba, Mumbai – 400001


For Transfers From Germany


For Transfers From Switzerland:  


For Transfers From Sweden: 


For Transfers From Denmark: 


For Transfers From USA:  

JP MORGAN CHASE BANK, NEW YORK,  A/C NO: 001-1-406717, SWIFT CODE: CHASUS33, CHIPS ABA : 0002, FEDWIRE ABA : 021000021, CHIPS UID # 354459

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We are not terrorized

It has been a year now when terrorists have carried deadly attacks on 26/11 which has terrified Mumbai City for more than 60 hours and claimed 166 innocent lives. Their ultimate motto was to create fear, gut wrenching fear and spread panic and hysteria everywhere. Terrorists know very well, if they don’t create such a big fear and hysteria by such a big bloodbath, everyone will forget the tragedy much more quickly as a bus accident or a train accident. There have been many terrorist attacks before 26/11 in India, but no one remembers and neither did the whole World was glued to the Televisions broadcasting live the massacre.

Terrorists have achieved what they wanted, they crave for being noted and noticed in a much bigger way. They carried such big massacres over and over again to get noticed and to reach the maximum. Therefore 9/11, 12/10, 7/7 and 26/11 shall be remembered for the biggest achievements of terrorists. They reached the maximum hearts and created fear in them. And that is what they die for. They want us to be afraid about. Every attack has led to the blood-bath of the innocent children, men and women. Lives of people are lost for no reason. But every year if we invest ourselves in recalling those anniversaries and remember those hours, more and more fear creep into our lives and that is when the terrorists build their superstructure of fear.


We lost many of our fellow citizens, we lost of heroes on this day, we do remember them but we do not let our spirits down. Future lies in not recalling these memories and encouraging those perpetrators who leapt into our homes and try to shake its pillars and cause unforgettable pain. It is important to forget our own mistakes and prepared in much better way for the future and show the world that we are not afraid, we are not terrorized. We move on in our lives with our heads high, we are not afraid of anyone, terrorists did hurt us, but they cannot break our spirit and our resolve. We move on and we move on with courage and our heads high.

May God bring peace to all those who lost their lives on 26/11.

Image Courtesy:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chinese Hot Pot – Lecker!

Last week we had been to Chinese restaurant with some of our colleagues for a savoury Chinese Hot Pot Dinner. Well, truly speaking I have not tried of that sort before though I have heard quite often from my hubby that it is quite interesting. I was very excited thou a little sceptical about the taste.

We had been to SHOW (unusually a name of Chinese) Chinese Restaurant, in Düsseldorf Downtown Düsseldorf. Well, the very thought of dining in Downtown, Düsseldorf made me excited as I can never say no for it. We have been there many a times, still I always love to go there for a little crowded, but for variety and perfect dinner environment along the banks of River Rhine.

We were 10 colleagues in together, quite a big team from different nations having a savour for international and exotic cuisine. When we reached the  restaurant we were bit surprised by the crowd and thankfully our evening leader (Abend Leiter), a Chinese colleague of ours has already reserved a big round table for us. We were given a sheet of paper listing the ingredients of Hotpot available and our leader was quite generous to select as he is the expert and we left everything to his whims and fancies thou he knows very well the sentiments (both religious and cultural) of everyone in the team.

Well once we finished with our Chinese, to be frank enough after a long wait our two pots arrived on our table which looked like the one in the picture below.chinese hotpot A big aluminium pot was separated into two halves, one half was filled with hot chilli soup and the other more plain soup. Well, it is not quite usual that it is separated into two halves, yet it was on request for “HOT” and “NON-HOT” people, i mean to say, the red hot part for those who love to eat hot and spicy and the other half for those who cannot bear spice. Thou being an Indian and a little used to eating spicy food, I was even little sceptical if I can manage the Red-hot chillies. The pots were placed in stoves and slowly the soup (usually made of rice water) started simmering. There were already a small porcelain bowl along with a small porcelain plate were served to every guest and we were directed towards the Sauces table to prepare our own combinations of the sauce. Our Chinese colleague helped us understanding the different sauces and their level of hotness and we prepared our sauce (combination of different ones like chilli sauce, coriander, garlic, chilli oil, Soya sauce, Hoisin sauce, Peanut butter, sesame butter, Sa cha sauce). By the time we returned to our table, we found the Hotpot ingredients we ordered were placed on our table. Well, the usual ingredients shall include different kinds of sliced raw meat, prawns, Fish, Fish Balls, Prawn Balls, Mussels, Squid, Spinach, Bean sprouts, Tofu, Mushrooms, Rice Noodles, Noodles etc.

HotpotIngredientsWell as you guess, we have to put these uncooked raw ingredients into the hot simmering soup in the pots and allow it to cook for approx 30-60 seconds and can eat it. Usually we don’t place all the ingredients together in the hot place, depending upon the individual tastes, we place the things we like to eat and cook it for a while and just mix with the sauce we prepared earlier and enjoy it. Thou, initially scared, I dared to try the hot soup and well it was bearable and amazingly tasted much better than the non-hot soup cooked stew.

I really enjoyed our self-cooking Chinese Hot Pot event as it was something very exotic and very tasty enough. It was refreshing to sit with bunch of colleagues, cooking slowly and enjoying the spicy food in a chilling evening of Winter. We spent almost three hours cooking and eating and truly speaking I never ate for such a long time in my life before. I am now looking forward for another Chinese Hot Pot evening.

Image Courtesy:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Credit Card, Debit Card or ATM Card Skimming

Off late one of my colleagues received a letter from her bank that her Debit Card has been skimmed i.e., forged and the perpetrator has withdrew 1200 Euros somewhere in England from her account by duplicating the card. Well, being a Japanese, she could not understand the real content of the letter which was in German, and then she ignored it. Yet, when she had been to the bank to withdraw some money, she could not able to do it. Then she printed the statement to get shocked that there is no money in her account. She was panicked and reached the bank where the entire fraud has been narrated to her which left her with both shock and embarrassment. Well, that is when I heard first time like many others, about “Skimming”.

We have been hearing about Credit Card frauds every now and then. To add to this list, the biggest ever fraud discovered recently in Spain whereby many banks in Europe and almost all the banks in Germany are the victims of fraud. It has been found out that some fraud ring from Spain has skimmed both visa and master cards from the European customers. Therefore many German banks have recalled more than 100,000 cards so far.
What is Credit Card Skimming?
Credit Card Skimming is theft of Credit Card Information used in legitimate transaction. This is considered to be “inside job”, as some dishonest employee of a legitimate merchant misuses the credit card information of the merchant’s customers. The thief procures the credit card information by photocopying payment receipts or in a more advanced methods such as using a small electronic device called Skimmer which when swiped thru stores hundreds of customers’ cards’ details. A small keypad is used to unobtrusively transcribe 3 or 4 digits of security code which is not present on the magnetic strip.

How do you become a victim of Skimming?

Well, the most common chances of getting skimmed are restaurants or bars where the skimmer possess your credit card for short time out of your immediate view.

Nowadays the thieves are inserting a device in the card slot of the Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), which reads the magnetic strip as the user unknowingly inserts the card in the slot. These devices are used in conjunction with a pinhole camera to read the user’s PIN at the same time. This is how besides credit cards, the bank cards are skimmed, duplicated with the bank details, distributed and used somewhere in the World. It does not mean, every ATM is skimmed, it usually happens with the ATMs located in the remote places, Gas/Petrol Stations, Open ATMs in public places.


How can you protect yourselves and what are the measures you have to take incase of the theft?

To some extent it is out of your control to protect the theft of the data, yet being careful can avoid possible risk.

  • Avoid using the remote ATMs, ATMs at Gas/Petrol Stations on Highways and open ATMs at public places.
  • Do not use the machines where you suspect any manipulations.
  • Regularly check your bank statements and in case if you find any unauthorized withdraws, you can immediately block the card and inform the bank. For banks in Germany, you can use 01805 / 021021 or 0049 / 1805 - 021 021 round the clock.
  • If you notice any theft of your card or theft of information, immediately report the theft by calling the central emergency number of Germany 116 116. It is also centre to the liability for possible fraud with the card. In addition, you need to file a police compliant and inform the bank. Sometimes if you inform the bank, the banks shall guide you in filing the police compliant and with further follow up.
  • Pay attention when you enter the PIN at ATMs, make sure you cover it with your free hand.
Do my Banks pay for the data theft or being skimmed?
In the most cases, if the data theft has occurred not because of your negligence, then banks shall pay for your loss as usually every customer is insured for fraud with your account.
Well, atleast my friend got her lost 1200 Euros after 45 days from the bank. I know since she and we are living in Germany, we are a bit lucky that still banks care for the customers and some or the other way, the accounts are insured and the lost amount is being paid. Well, it does not happen everywhere.
Image Courtesy:
Excerpts From:

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Tax Reform - What it means to me?

We have been hearing quite a lot these days that the new coalition government in Germany pressed by FDP (Free Democratic Party) shall bring new tax reforms. The issue is much debated as the new Finance Minister Schäuble has refused for any major changes as the total rehaul of the tax system shall definitely take longer time and introducing the reduction of income tax shall bring more deficit to the economy inview of the current financial crisis thou Germany has declared itself totally out of recession. Moreover many states have challenged the proposed tax deductions as it may make bigger holes in their treasures. Despite rejections from Wolfgang Schäuble, the Finance Minister of the Germany, FDP is pressing hard to bring in the new Tax System in Germany with "Three Level Tarif".

Well, we may be wondering what these Tax reforms shall bring to us as an individual and what difference it shall bring to our incomes. The "Three Level Tariff" is as follows:
  • 10% Income Tax on Gross Annual Income upto 20,000 euros
  • 25% Income Tax on Gross Annual Income upto 50,000 euros
  • 35% Income Tax on Gross Annual Income above 50,000 euros
Thus FDP is pressing towards a simpler and more transparent Tax Systems in Germany.

You can calculate here by inputing your Gross Salary Income how much you are paying now and what shall be the impact of the Level Tariff.

Please donot forget to leave a comment if this information has helped you.

Vergleich Steuermodelle

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Autumn Colors

It has been gloomy weather everywhere out here, no guesses, it is ofcourse due to Winter being set-in Germany. Well, the days gone-by were not bad, the past couple of months were absolutely colorful out here, the colors I have never seen in live before. Well, I was so appalled by these colors that I could never fail to admire it and whenever i get a chance, I tried capturing it but not to the perfection, which one of my friend and his wife could do. I am posting here some of the beautiful pictures of Germany's Autumn from my friends David and Marcia and some of the pictures we tried our hands.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Updates Swine Flu Vaccinations in Germany

I did already post earlier about Swine Flu vaccinations in Germany, yet there has been lot of confusion everywhere about the genuinity of the vaccinations their side-effects and also about its need. I am hereby providing some insight into the recent developments about the Swine Flu vaccinations controversary in Germany.

Well, we all have heard about the first controversary about the genuinity of the Swine Flu vaccinations itself. Germany has placed orders for two types of vaccinations, Baxter's Celvapan and Glaxosmithkline's Pandermix. There has been revelations that Baxter's Celvapan which are ordered in less number and introduced in Germany for the first phase of vaccinations whereby only "people in power" are preferred has less side-effects compared to massly ordered Pandermix. Pandermix, less tested and containing adjuvants, definitely may have more side-effects than to Celvapan, yet the side-effects are neither fatal nor serious. The side-effects may be more in children and pregnant women. But the side-effects range from fever, swelling of the injection part of the body, dizziness, shivering. But every vaccination has similar side-effects and it is quite usual. Yet every individual is different and every individual will have different experiences.

Well on the other side, the swine flu vases are multiplying in tens and thousands everyday in Germany and already the number of infected has reached beyond 47,000 and the death toll has reached 17. I dont emphasize that you should go for vaccinations, it is left to individuals choice.

Yet, Prevention is better than Cure. Protect yourselves by keeping yourselves healthy. 
Dont forget to add turmeric to your food - turmeric increases your immunity. 
Wash your hands properly with soap whenever you come back after going out of your house.

The list of doctors where you can have vaccinations in some of the important cities of Germany are as follows:

Aachen : Click Here
Berlin: Click Here
Bochum: Click Here
Bremen: Click Here
Dortmund: Click Here
Duisburg: Click Here
Düsseldorf: Click Here
Essen: Click Here
Hamburg: Click Here
Hannover: Click Here
Köln: Click Here
München: Click Here
Stuttgart: Click Here

Well, decide for yourselves if you need a vaccine or not. Please take care and protect yourselves. Share your experiences with Swine Flu vaccinations in comments, may be it helps others and everyone.

Image Courtesy:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It Indeed Does Exist - Santa's Post Office

I have always heard and wondered if I do can send a letter to "Ho Ho Santa Claus" with my "Wish List" when I was a kid. When I disclosed this to anyone who themselves thought they are much wiser and knowledgeable than me promptly told, there is nothing like that, there is not address for Santa Claus. But it really does, atleast in Germany and it is well-known across the globe.

Six weeks before the Christmas, the Santa Claus post offices across Germany have started working on children's wish-lists from all over the World. Eight Post Offices spread across the Germany with seasonal names such as Heaven's Gate, Angel Church and St.Nicholas are funded and organized by Germany's Post (Deutsche Post) and employs people to answer each child's letter they receive. It is estimated that they receive approx 280,000 letters from 80 countries including India, US, Ghana, Mali etc. The employers of these Santa Clause Post Offices can write letters in 16 different languages and attend to each letter with utmost care. All the German postmen have received instructions to forward any letter addressed to Santa, Jesus or St.Nicholas eventhou no postage stamp has been attached to one of these eight post offices.

One of the famous Santa Claus Post Office address is as follows:
Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus)
16798 Himmelpfort
In Germany, Christmas is called Weihnacht which means Holy Night and Weihnachtsmann means Holy Night Man or Santa Claus.
So get ready to prepare your wishlist and send it to Santa Claus, you will definitely get a reply back from Santa may be with lot of surprises :-)

Binge Drinking among children

I happened to read a news article today in which a 7 year old boy was hospitalized in Berlin, Germany later "after 6pm" in serious conditions due to over-consumption of alcohol which German media described it as "Alcohol-Poisoning", ofcourse it should have been more termed as "self-poisoning". It was shocked at the very thought how come a seven year old get access to what is called "the prohibited" to the under-16. Well, it was also stated that the "the seven year child" drank alcohol at the playground with his nine year old brother who acquired the beverages from the other under-age teens. God! They all are just children.

I really wonder where are the parents? May be I was raised in totally different World than the rest, may be parents were over-protective. I remember, when I was seven years old eventhou it was close by, even if my brother accompanied me, I was not allowed. And we had just one rule, never move your ass out after 6pm and be in the house premises before 6pm and before the street lights are switched on. It was not just for me being an "Indian Girl" but the same rule applied for my elder brother too. I am very much disturbed when I read the news article.

There has been several reports that Binge Drinking is rise among children in countries like Germany, UK etc, but to my surprise when I googled i found almost 30% children are passionate towards drinking alcohol or Binge Drinking - consuming 5 or more drinks in a row. The reasons for Binge drinking among the children is just the pressure from the peers, curiosity to know what it is like and how it feels to be over-drunk, and to make themselves feel that they are older. But these children never realize that it is much dangerous than what it seems like. The passion to "Do It" is more than the ability to think about its consequences.

Studies have been made every year, and every year there has been rise in binge drinking, is it due to lack of proper measures or there is something seriously going wrong? May be there is something or much to do with the environment or circumstances in which child is reared or parents more careless towards their children or children just don't listen to their parents? Sometimes, i feel I am lucky being an Indian whereby the access to alcohol is quite limited, yet the ever-growing urbanization is leading to more negative impacts than to positivities of it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

When the Berlin Wall Went Down

There is quite a buzz in here these days, well why not, Germany is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of "the Fall of Belin Wall". Well, may be wondering how come "The Fall of a Wall" is the mark of Celebrations.  Hmm!! it is quite a history. Well, in short, Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 to separate East and Western parts of Berlin, yeah, more so ever to separate East and West Germany. The immediate effects of the building of the Wall led ot the separation of many families and also many lost jobs as borders were completely closed.

On 9th November 1989, ARD, a West German Television Channel broadcasted an incomplete information from East German Press Conference stating that the East Germany has announced  starting immediately its borders are open for everybody. Thousands of East Germans gathered at the Wall and demaded for the opening of the Gates to enter the West. No one could dare to stop and  the borders are opened and that is how the East and West are united and thousands of people gathered at the Wall started celebrations for their freedom and for their unity. Many started chipping off the Wall to break open the borders and aslo to collect the pieces of the famous Berlin Wall as memenots for their Freedum and Unity. From then 9th November is celebrated as "The Fall of the Berlin Wall or The Freedom Day"

Read more at: Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall Now and Then:
1. Branderburg Gate in June 1989 before the Fall of Berlin Wall and now the most famous tourist attraction in Berlin

 2. The Most Famous CheckPoint Charlie in Berlin Now and Then

The complete Album can be browsed here.

The 20th Anniversary celebrations have already started and on Monday, November 9, many World leaders gather at Brandenburg Gate and topple many Giant Dominoes painted by the students placed along the former path of the Berlin Wall to commemorate the "Fall of Berlin Wall".
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Needless Isolation

When AIDS was still a little understood disease, the governments across the globe have taken initiatives such as Isolation of the AIDS victims and also travel restrictions were put into place to slow or altogether stop people living with HIV to travel. Over 20 year after the restrictions were originally implemented, many countries have eliminated these inappropriate restrictions after a broad consensus from the public health community agreed about their ineffectiveness and discriminatory nature. In spite of this, 74 countries still have some form of HIV specific travel restrictions, and 12 countries ban HIV positive people from entering the country for any reason or length of time.

This picture depicts "THE MAN IN THE BALL" campaign. This initiative is to highlight the isolation felt by the people living with HIV/AIDS. 1st December is observed as World AIDS Day. Take a pledge not to isolate the AIDS victims and spread this message.

Image Courtesy:

Monday, November 2, 2009

India pens the Social Security Agreements with Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and other European Countries

Well, it has been almost an year that I tread into Germany after working as Accounts Manager in India, and one of the things or I should say the only thing that I impressed me a lot is the Social Welfare System of the Germany. It is quite an elaborate and comprehensive system. People employed in Germany have to contribute to four principal social insurances whereby employee pays half while the employer contributes for the other half. The contributions are:
  • Pension Insurance: 19.5 %
  • Unemployment Insurance: 6.5 %
  • Health Insurance: 14.3 %
  • Nursing Care Insurance: 1.7%
The Health Insurance and Nursing Care Insurances privileges you can claim whenever you needed a medical service in your day-to-day life. The Unemployment Insurance privileges can be claimed once you are down and out  (Jobless) in Germany. You can claim the Pension Insurance only once you have reached 64. Well most of us Indians do come to Germany for work temporarily, yet entitled to pay the pension insurance which God knows if we can claim it once we leave Germany.

I have been wondering when we stay here temporarily, what's the funda to pay Pension Insurance which we are not sure if we can claim it. 19.5% is quite high, isn't it?

Well, answering to my queries and bringing relief to everyone who come to Germany temporarily, the Government of India has signed Social Security Agreement with Germany on 7th October, 2008. This Agreement shall exempt the nationals of either countries (Germany and India) working in either countries from social security contributions. But the exemption is given only to those on short-term contracts for a period of FOUR years, extendable to ONE more year. The agreement provides for portability of the benefits at the time of relocation for those who are self-employed and have lived longer, but they have to contribute for the social security system of the host country.

Officially, this agreement should have become effective from 1st October 2009, yet Employee's Provident Fund Organization of India has not updated with this regard.
Check this link for further updates:

But for sure this agreement shall protect the interests of all those professionals who are sent from India to many German companies or subsidiary of German-based companies in India or subsidiary of Indian-based companies in Germany for short term contracts up to 48 months.

Well, though I have highlighted the Germany's case, this has been true with some other European countries too.

Indian Government has signed a Social Security Agreement with Switzerland on 03 Sept, 2009. This agreement shall allow the nationals of one country who are working in the other on a short term basis - not more than 72 months - to be exempted from social security contributions in their host nation.

India signed a Social Security Agreement with Netherlands on 22 October, 2009 to facilitate the exchange of professionals between the two nations. The detached workers sent by Netherlands-based companies to their Indian subsidiaries, or those sent by Indian companies to their branches in the Netherlands will be exempt from social security contribution in the host country for a period of 60 months. This agreement provides that an employed or self-employed person, other than detached workers shall be subject only to the legislation of the host country. The agreement provides for portability of the benefits at the time of relocation.                                    

India and France have signed Social Security agreement on September, 2009. The agreement will ensure that short-term workers of 60 months will be exempted from social security contributions on reciprocal basis. It will also allow exportability of pension benefits, which will mean that workers can avail of pension benefit even if they change their residence between the two countries. The agreement will also allow the totalisation of periods of contributions made in both countries for calculating eligibility of pensionary benefits.

India has announced that the Social Security Agreement with Belgium has come into effect from 1st September 2009. The agreement allows the employees of the home country deputed by their employers in the host country for a short term contract less than 60 months, need not remit social contributions in the host country. The Agreement also allows the export of pension due under the legislation of one country to the other country, where the member chose to live is possible and also the totalisation of the contribution periods earned while in service in both the countries for the purpose of deciding eligibilty to benefits is possible. Check this out for more information:

India has also signed similar agreements with Denmark in August 2009. This agreement shall open up opportunities for Indian skilled workers, including Doctors and Nurses to work in Denmark. The agreement shall also provide cooperation between India and Denmark in the areas of labour market expansion, mployment facilitation, orderly migration and exchange of information and cooperation in introducing best practices.