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How To Book A Place On AirBnB

A few days ago, I’d read about a terrible experience that a dear old friend (and idol), Naren, had with AirBnB. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar, AirBnB is an awesome service that lets you rent Apartments and Private Rooms (or if you don’t care much for privacy, shared rooms) in pretty much any city in the world that you want to holiday in.

I have used AirBnB twice so far – for my trips to Barcelona last year and Paris a few weeks ago, and I have to say, the experience is way superior to the one you would get in a hotel, it is a great deal more convenient than any other living arrangement and most importantly, it’s considerably cheaper than getting a hotel room of an equivalent standard. At the outset AirBnB sounds like awesome doughnut unicorn land, but the truth is that there is a great degree of uncertainty, not to mention the fact that you are at the mercy of your “host”. My experiences with Airbnb have been pleasant because I have massive trust issues. I follow a certain set of rules while booking anything on Airbnb, and these rules have worked quite well for me, so I’m sharing them here and I hope they work for you too. So without further ado, here’s how to book a place on airbnb –

Rule 1: Read the reviews!

I cannot stress on this enough, especially if it’s your first time booking a space on the website. Also keep in mind that a place with a four star rating after 200 reviews is a safer bet than a place with a 5 star rating and 2 reviews. I’m sure the 5 star rating place would be great, but for your first stay you want something tried and tested, with special emphasis on the tried. And tested. I read at least 25 reviews before I zero in on a place. Yes. I know.

Rule 2: Verify your account!

Now, the hosts aren’t the only ones who get reviewed, the users/guests do, too. So it’s only natural that well rated hosts are more likely to give their houses to well rated guests, which can be a problem when it’s your first time figuring out a place to stay on AirBnB. The idea is to be the least shady as possible so ensure that you verify your account with your phone number and email.

Rule 3: Research the area

Where is the apartment located, exactly? What kind of neighbourhood is it in? Is it accessible by Taxi? How close/far away is it from public transport? There are great apartments in shady areas and shady apartments in great areas, so don’t be swayed by the photos of the apartment alone, look up the area that your housing is located in.

Rule 4: Know the apartment and its rules

I almost booked a fifth floor apartment which was in a building without an elevator. Imagine lugging around your baggage for five floors! High rise apartments are cheaper sometimes, but make sure to check if there’s an elevator in the apartment. Alternatively, you can pack light (a skill I’ve never managed to learn because really there’s no such thing as too many pairs of blue jeans)

Rule 5: If it’s too good to be true…

…it probably is. Pass.

Rule 6: Be detailed and polite in your email to the host.

For most spaces, you’ll have to send a message to your host explaining the reason why you want to book their place. Suffice to say “Hai Plz give room” isn’t going to cut it. Introduce yourself, where you’re from, who you’re travelling with to their city, how many days you’re going to be there, and how great it would be if they’d let you have their place for your stay. You don’t need to write an essay, but providing necessary details about your trip (especially about the people you’re travelling with) will make you seem like a more reliable guest.

Rule 7: Other Reviewers

This isn’t an essential issue, but I am conscious about the experiences of people of colour (hello fellow brown people!) in the apartment. The world isn’t the most perfect place, and it is better for the sake of your vacation to be sure that your host is one who doesn’t discriminate.

Rule 8: Respect the property

Congratulations! You’ve got a room using AirBnB. To ensure that future bookings go even smoother, you need a good review, and in order for that to happen, you should respect the other person’s space. This means tidying up the bed, cleaning the kitchenette counter, taking the garbage out and generally not leaving it like your own room back home.
I love AirBnB and ever since I discovered the service last year, I’ve not even considered a hotel for travels. It’s affordable, it’s efficient and gives your holiday a kind of authenticity that staying in a hotel never will.
Have you tried AirBnB? What have your experiences been like so far?
{FYI, This is not a paid post. That I wish it was is a whole different matter altogether.}

Deviance – For Real!

So around November of 2008, I wrote a short story called “Deviance” about a Tamil dude who wanted to marry another man. The story was essentially the result of one of those “what were we even thinking?” conversations with another friend, (the erstwhile) IdlingInTopGear, except I actually wrote what we were thinking/talking into a story.

The story became popular in a very 2008 way – some people made into an e-mail forward with extra punctuation, some others posted it on their own blogs and so on; It also became a short film, starring very talented actors from the Chennai theatre circuit and was featured in an LGBT Film Festival in Chennai, too – it’s currently on a Youtube Channel for Indie short films called Bench Culture which is promoted by Karthik Subburaj, of Jigarthanda/Pizza fame . I’ve written a lot since then, but in all honesty, Deviance remains one of my biggest accomplishments in writing, not because of the popularity it achieved, but because a few people from the Tamil gay community reached out to me to tell me that they found it hilarious, and that for me was the greatest piece of validation.

Anyway, so 8 whole years later after I wrote Deviance, this news item comes up on my feed about an adorable gay couple who had a traditional, South Indian style wedding with pretty much everything that I’d imagined in the story!

Anyway, so I just thought I’d share it here because,
a) It’s too freaking cute
b) More people need to know about my Nostradamus-ness OKAY.

lavanya mohan, chutney case blog, lavanya mohan chutney case, deviance short story, tamil brahmin gay story, indian lgbt fiction

On Contests

Hello! Just wanted to let you guys know that I’m currently participating in a contest for…Greeting Card Designs. I’m no artist, but I do like to think of myself as a professional doodler of sorts, and over the years I have been drawing many random things, but the last year or so especially, I’ve been shifting my focus on animals. When I saw this contest pop up, I knew I had to participate – not to win ofcourse, that would be too awesome to actually happen.

ANYWAY, so I came up with a set of 3 cards to fit the contest brief of “modern and quirky” – I’m putting the link below, and if you like them, and I really hope you do, do vote for them by using the “like” and/or “tweet” button on the same page. You can see them here: http://ohhdeer.com/competition/occasionally-fun/view-artist/8456/Lavanya

Thanks very much everyone!

POSTSCRIPT:

You know, at first when I started typing this post I thought it was all smarmy and not nice to like ask for votes in a blog that I haven’t really been updating but then I saw the number of posts this year and good god have I been regular or what – ok so maybe not 2008 regular but I’m still writing! Did you guys know that it’s been like what, 9 years since I even started blogging? My first blog was The Evil Autorickshaw which I started in 2005 when I was about 16 years old. I then deleted it because I’m generally an idiot like that, and started this blog in 2007. It’s 2014 now, and it boggles the mind to think that I’ve actually grown up with this space – Board exams, my spectacularly embarrassing teens, internships, my spectacularly embarrassing adult years,failing and passing CA exams, becoming an actual Chartered Accountant, MARRIAGE, wow! It’s been a good run, and if you’re reading my blog, or used to read my blog, if you like my blog, or if you used to like my blog but now think it’s crappy and disgusting wtf how did it even last this long – it doesn’t matter – you were part of my growing up years, and if I’m here, I owe you a part of the credit so let’s just go out now and get some doughnuts to celebrate.

Those Two Marks

Much hullabaloo was raised yesterday on the many methods of gentle persuasion that schools are employing to ensure that their students are watching the Prime Minister’s Teacher’s Day address that will be aired on DD today from 3 pm to 4.45 pm. Here is one example:

The more you read it, the funnier it gets. Photo Credit @masalabai

This is where this post stops being about our Prime Minister and his speech.

I studied in PSBB, where we took our “annual day” very seriously. We were so serious about it, that we didn’t even call it “Annual Day” like the other schools did. It was the school Anniversary. The Anniversary, like most weddings these days, was essentially the same programme that was performed over a span of three days at one of the biggest auditoriums in the city. Day 1 was for students, Day 2, parents of Nungambakkam and T.Nagar branch, and Day 3, parents of KK Nagar branch. Each year, the programme would have a different theme based on which the teachers had to conceptualize dance/music/theatre performances.

The anniversary usually began on a Wednesday, and after the three days of performing, the weekend was off for the participants to recuperate and begin school refreshed. This was something I got to know only after I saw my sister participate – she has participated in the programme every year she was in school, apart from giving the School Pupil Leader address during her last year. I was a non participant all my years in school – I quite enjoyed being one too – my holiday began two weeks before the anniversary – amidst the wonderful chaos that would ensue in the auditorium with multiple practice sessions and cross-batch bonhomie, I would get about 7 free periods during the day to catch up on sleep that I didn’t need. I did do a voice recording for a Tamil play as Avvaiyaar in Standard XII because the girl who was supposed to do the part got a sore throat, but I’ve never been on stage because I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t sing, and while I could emote, I “wasn’t stage friendly”, which was basically polite for “we can’t have hippo sized students on stage”.

ANYWAY, once the programme was all done and we got back to routine and extra classes to make up for those we missed, there would be an Anniversary Quiz. The quiz, based on the theme and the performances in the anniversary, would be for twenty marks, which would later be shrunk to two, and added to the marks that you’d already scored in your Half Yearly exams. Most of the questions were from the synopsis of the programme that was attached with the invitation, and the questions that weren’t from the synopsis were always vague and open to interpretation, like, “What are the benefits of honesty?”

Everyone cared about the Anniversary Quiz, whether they were hoping to turn their 38 into 40 (“The Anniversary Miracle”) or their 98 into 100 (“The Anniversary Centum”). I was a recipient myself of The Anniversary Miracle when I got 38 in Economics (40 was pass) in Std XII and it was this completely, completely, pointless quiz with academic consequences that prevented the school from calling my parents up.

The reason I took the trouble to write all this down, is not because I wanted to write a lofty sounding post about how sometimes you need to know more than just the subject (such as the benefits of honesty) to get through school, or because I have problems with anything that the Government is trying to do (if you do want to read my opinions on the Government read my columns where I write under the pen name “Siddharth Varadarajan”), but because, for the first time, it feels like my school has prepared me for the future.

Suggestions.

Pregnancy, apparently, is a more popular topic than “sreesanth slapped by harbhajan video”.

 We were searching for “sneezing remedies”. Honest.

I like how trisha bathroom video just breaks the monotony from the other train related suggestions.

Indian men are a nervous lot, clearly.
Something tells me that the “blue film” doesn’t refer to the one with Akshay Kumar in it. 

As you can see, I didn’t really have much work at work today.

Cliqued

Surely you’ve been tagged in one of those group pictures on facebook now? You know that picture, the one with a bunch of cartoon faces with titles like “little miss psycho” and the lot. Well, not little miss psycho maybe, but you get my drift.

Its actually pretty interesting, the tagging. But somehow, it doesn’t represent the clique/stereotype sets from where I come from.I never went to school with gangstas, pimps and ladies men.

I went to school, with these guys.

Bet you did, too.

Filter Copy

They say imitation is flattery. Its flattering no doubt, when you get to know that there are people who feel that the crap you write is worth the process of right click->copy->paste->send to all.
At the start of it all, I was amused when I got an email from Ram saying “You’re famous”. It was my very own blog post (Deviance Nov 2008) being recycled as an email forward. I scrolled down to check if there was a link or an attribution.
There wasn’t any. But whatever, I thought. As long as they thought it was funny, I was ok. What made me happier was that it was now concrete proof that I was kinda famous. Online, atleast.

When the second and the third emails started arriving, I was basking in my own smugness no doubt, but there was a twinge of disappointment. None of them had an attribute. My post continues to be recycled in cyberspace, and its even found a place in shady desi forums (where you can’t leave a comment without having images of female genitalia being thrust at you). No attributes, again.
Yesterday, I got a call from a cousin saying I was featured in a magazine. I was naturally surprised, because Vogue/India Today/Seventeen/Outlook hadn’t called me for their exclusive interviews…yet. Turned out it was some obscure Tamil magazine published by (catch your breath) The Tamil Brahmin Assosciation.
The alledged picture of mine which had been featured had clearly, clearly been ripped off my flickr photostream!
And surprise surprise, no attribution again. (I could sue those guys, considering all my pictures on flickr are copyrighted as all rights reserved.)

—->Now where have I seen this picture before….

This has made me lose all my belief in online publishing. Takes me back to the days in 2nd standard where I used to come to school with pretty pink pencils only to get them stolen by fellow classmates. My mom stopped buying me those pencils and instead sent me to school with the boring red-black Natraj ones instead. They got stolen even then, but atleast the number of incidents dropped.
I have half a mind to stop publishing on line. I’ll tell you why – its not everyday that I come up with ideas like that, and I had intended to get that bit of fiction published. But now, there doesn’t seem to be a point, what when half the world had it delivered in their inbox.

Is there any kind of solution to this? I mean, if someone like me is having plaigarism issues, I’m pretty sure the country is going through an originality crisis, plus there are people better than me who are probably having their stuff ripped too.

Help.

PS: In case you got my post as a forward too, and if you want to forward it, go ahead, but please link me back. Pretty please.

In Pattu We Trust

The SICASA (South Indian Chartered Accountant Student Assosciation) conference was held on the 17th and 18th of December. I had expected some deathly boring sessions with one technical paper after another being catapulted at us.
I was mostly right. But you know what they say, every cloud has a silver lining.

No, No I’m not talking about the free food they gave us there. It was Pattu Sir’s (My Financial Management teacher) presentation. More than the presentation, it was this one video.

Disclaimer : Its not a funny vid by any means. Its inspirational type and it kicks ass!

Well now you know why, In Pattu We Trust.

You can read his entire speech over at his blog