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Whisky Lady – April

April brought another trip to Jakarta and Singapore – naturally fitting in a whisky flight too!

Plus two of our whisky groups met up and I revived my “mini” session too – with notes to follow in the coming months…

Whisky Ladies explore Master Distiller Rachel Barrie’s Bowmore Travel Trilogy:

Finally got around to sharing our February Original’s Undisclosed Distillery session with the BMC lads:

Our original group had a celebration of NAS whiskies:

I also managed to swing through Singapore twice in March and April with stops at:

There were a few more notes sharing Whisky Live Singapore explorations:

Plus the last from the archives:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

You can also find my Whisky Lady in India avatar on:

Migration migraines… Welcome to India’s GST

India has a reputation as being a place where some things take “foreeeever” to accomplish. Whereas others happens so fast, no one is prepared! Such as the sudden overnight demonetization of Rs 500 & 1,000 notes.

Or the “GST migration” taking place all over the country.

In the last two weeks I’ve been inundated by emails, pro-active phone calls begging and pleading me to migrate my Service Tax number before the “deadline” of 31st March 2017.

But guess what?

The initial “deadline” was completely impossible to achieve. To migrate one assessee took several hours of painstaking mind numbing effort online, repeatedly trying and testing to see if this photo would upload or that one… In short, the government servers and systems are so slow and archaic or so poorly designed it was simply not possible!

Welcome to digital India!!

And the real kicker to all of this?

As of close of business on Wednesday, 29th March 2017, the status of India’s “brave new tax reforms” was stuck at the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) which had raised objections regarding the GST bills which then went to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament).

Meaning an entire country’s machinery was being activated even before it was passed by Parliament or became law!!

And the latest greatest twist to this story? An invitation to a “GST Mela”!!

Now a mela in India is a fair – something fun! A great big gathering, often community celebrations but… for taxes?? Seriously taxes??

Naturally the invite:

  • Doesn’t say where this mythical event will take
  • Only dates not timings (being government it is assumed everyone knows only between 10:00am to 2:00pm and maybe possibly again between 3:00pm – 5:00pm)
  • Sent from a hastily created Gmail ID
  • Released the email IDs and names of 382 other fellow Assessees!!!

I’m not kidding. Seriously. This is a bonafide tax office initiative.

So I wrote back asking where, when and what the heck is up with releasing my email ID to scads of other folks stuck in this hapless situation of ‘migration’?

Amazingly within less than a minute, I received an email reply providing the details, assurances this is a legitimate request to help assessees.

Even more remarkably, it was followed up seconds later with a phone call. From a young man speaking in English helping clarify and sincerely requesting I complete my migration – either in person or by sending my assistant (naturally he assumed I have one!).

And when I asked what is needed:

  • Only your mobile number and email ID…
  • Um… that doesn’t sound right. Anything else?
    • Maybe your Adhaar and PAN number…?
  • But I don’t know if qualify for an Adhaar (India’s controversial universal ID card)
    • Oh ok. No problem…
  • What about the photo and address proof as required on the website?
    • Nope not needed!

Umm…. really? Somehow I don’t think this is correct.

On disclosing everyone’s email IDs, he apologized that they hadn’t thought about tax payer confidentiality and shared they are under “too much pressure!” to get 100% compliance.

Obviously he couldn’t actually say if my migration was outstanding or not – my CA’s team was trying to do the online migration for me.

That would be too simple.

Moral of the story?

Living in India Tip #3

Never underestimate the speed things can happen… or change… or that if you just dig a bit further they may be alternate arrangements for the back-up arrangements. It may not initially make sense but you will get there in the end!

Related posts:

Whisky Lady – March Madness?

Once upon a time, March 31st used to mean year-end sales push with everyone running around, heaps of energy, effort and much more!

While I no longer have such direct business pressures, I do still need to do the accounting books so did a little whisky cabinet spring cleaning to pull out a few older oxidation bottles to have on hand for a late evening post numbers wind down. Great plan… til a cold happened. And I never waste good whisky on a stuffed up nose!!

So instead, my March round-up will not feature my hidden gems, instead share that it did bring some merriment and mischief with a trip to Jakarta and Singapore – including a nip into The Single Cask and La Maison du Whisky.

Alas March missed two of our usual tasting group sessions – both the BMC and our underground original club. However nothing was going to stop our Whisky Ladies from their monthly tasting!

And what did the ladies chose? A few less common slightly ‘Risky Whiskies‘:

Plus a birthday bonus and bourbon:

I also shared notes from an amazing evening with Krishna Nakula when we sampled:

Plus a few extras like:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

You can also find my Whisky Lady in India avatar on:

Jakarta Journeys…

It is time to stock up on tolakangin, Toraja, Lampung and other coffees, perhaps even some Indomie for a friend… yes I’m on a plane back to Jakarta.

I spent most of December 2016 in Jakarta… long days, late nights but thoroughly worth the time investment. At that point, I thought my job was done and didn’t expect to return until a new project began.

However thanks to some creative re-allocation of who does what, I’m delighted to be back -even if it is just a quick trip!

I’m looking forward to returning to my favourite serviced apartment tonight, catching up with friends mid-week…

Then hopping on another plane to Singapore to check-in on company related matters, re-stock on interesting whiskies, hopefully catch-up with even more friends… mayhap a business meeting too if can swing it!

In short, I’m delighted to be back in the air, doing what I enjoy and hope this trip leads to even more such opportunities…

cropped-2013-08-10-jakarta-skyline.jpg

Related posts:

Whisky Lady – Frolicking February

February was just frivolous and fun! I flew off to Delhi to co-facilitate a conference, home to Mumbai then a few days in Goa where I made a quick trip to Paul John distilleries too!

For the Whisky Lady, February had two whisky industry events:

sansibar-askaig-wilson-morgan

For our regular whisky tasting sessions, I played host to two!

  • A bit cheeky, I twisted our original underground club‘s most sacred of traditions – blind tasting – by teasingly revealing the bottles from three independent bottlers… who did not disclose the distillery on their labels.
  • Then even more sneaky, I planned to repeat the performance with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents to see what they thought of the selection.

My idea was to contrast and compare tasting experiences… alas the BMC night was postponed to April however here is a sneak peak into what the original club thought!

  • Sansibar Islay 8 year (2007/2015) 52.2% – Citrus spice & everything nice!
  • Port Askaig 19 year 50.4% – Floral, beautifully balanced peat with a long refined finish
  • Wilson & Morgan “Highland Heart” Sherry (2006/2015) 43% – A classy classic whisky – soft wine, spice and simply superb

penderyn-lagavulin-aberlour

Without  our regular ‘proper’ tasting evening, the BMC gents decided to do their version of a ‘Bar Night‘ with whiskies more accessible to us mortals – Aberlour 12 year, Lagavulin 16 year and Penderyn Madeira finish.

Our Whisky Ladies also departed convention and embraced a Sunday sundowner to sample gins made by our very own Whisky Lady – Susan Dias!

Nordic Whisky Set

Another whisky lady and I brushed off the last Nordic whisky samples to explore:

In February, caught up with the tasting notes for earlier sessions and experiences…

2016-11-13-teeling

Starting with our original club’s November Irish night:

(Photo: Table for One)

(Photo: Table for One)

Then our combined Whisky Ladies / Bombay & Malt and Cigar gents “Ladies Choice” whiskies with guest posts by some of our whisky ladies:

ad-laws

Followed by the Whisky Ladies “out of ordinary” North American evening:

2016-11-12-whisky-collectors-room

And closing with more Whisky Live Singapore postings with:

  • Dalmore – Quick nip of the 18 year

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

You can also find my Whisky Lady in India avatar on:

Delhi dawn… another Sunday snap

For many years I called Delhi home.

Winters would bring chilly temperatures hovering just above zero. Which sounds wimpy when compared with a Winnipeg winter of -40’c, however when you have no indoor heating, it is mighty cold!

And fog, so thick sometimes you could barely see a few feet in front of you. Causing havoc with air transportation with delays endemic those winter months…

This is what I found looking out from my hotel window, an early morning in February…

20170203_delhi-dawn

Dawn in Delhi from the window of the Taj Mahal hotel on Man Singh Marg. That mythical quality was clearly not captured so well in the photo, and alas is a combination of natural (fog) and unnatural (pollution) factors.

Such a contrast to our scorching sunshine days in Mumbai! I returned from Delhi early Feb to be greeting by an unseasonably early temperature rise.

Related Sunday snaps:

Pppffft Provident Fund Follies in India – Part 3

Everyone likes a nice story book happy ending? Right?

And guess what? Spoiler alert! I’m about to give you one…

To recap… once upon a time I had real salaried jobs in India.

With each job at each company there was a little thing known here as a “Provident Fund” i.e. something you contribute to towards your retirement.

Which is a great thing!

Except that if you are not actively contributing to your Provident Fund (PF), it goes dormant and lies there withering away with no interest accumulating.

Yeah… you got that right… it gets frozen.

Factor in inflation… rupee devaluation… and basically what could have paid rent may not even buy a cup of coffee when you try to retire. I exaggerate… somewhat… but not completely…

So what happened?

Job #1 – Zippidydoodah!!

  • Remarkably quick… merely took a few calls, getting the right forms, supporting documents in place and that was it!
  • Redeemed in weeks… that’s correct! Under a month!

Job #3 – Get smart!

  • Began with the usual “We lost the paperwork” and “Ooops! We didn’t set it up with your middle name…”
  • Re-submitted paperwork with a different ID and different bank account without my middle name. Smart lass, eh?
  • Redeemed in only a few months… that’s correct! Under a year!

Job #2 – Umm…. 

There is a reason the middle job comes last in this story…

There was more than one obstacle in this case… Like any good tale there were villains aplenty!

Villain #1 – Good old M&A

Original company merged with its global competitor… Combined company again went through a further acquisition… each change meant a further complication.

Villain #2 – Good old incompetance

Original PF registration had the wrong date of birth. Yeah, I know, how could that be when all supporting documents has the correct date of birth? Simple… someone… somewhere… wrote or typed a “0” instead of a “9” and voila! We have a problem.

Villain #3 – Good old ignorance

Once navigating a defunct PF was managed, date of birth corrected, someone got the bright idea that I was disqualified from withdrawing due to my citizenship. Seriously???

Yet like all good stories, we have heroes too!

Hero #1 – Good old boys…

Unbelievably, remarkably, astoundingly… despite all the changes, the Finance guys at my erstwhile employer remain.

Even more amazingly, they respond to my emails and til this day do not ignore my calls.

Without them nothing – and I do mean nothing – would have happened.

Hero #2 – Good old persistence

Even with the right people behind you, without consistently, persistently following up, resubmitting documentation, checking and rechecking… submitting new documentation, checking and rechecking… submitting yet new documentation, following up, checking and rechecking…

Only with pesky sometimes annoying prodding could any progress be achieved.

Hero #3 – Good old info

When ignorance reared its ugly head, more help was needed.

Even the right people, with persistence, gets nothing accomplished without the right “proof” that what someone less informed thought impossible was indeed possible and proper. Information is power. Proof of that information is even more powerful!

Documents were duly submitted dispelling ignorant assumptions that foreigners – and more specifically Canadians – have no access to their Indian Provident Fund.

So then what happened?

The heroes prevailed and defeated the evil villains and my beautiful lovely provident fund was won!

Redeemed in only a few years… that’s correct! Under a decade!

dragon-slayer

Moral of the story?

Living in India Tip #2

Remain friends with the finance and admin guys of your former employer!!! You never know when you may really really really REALLY need their help!

Related posts:

Garbage bricks? In Bandra

Years ago a Turkish diplomat getting ready to leave India shared that one thing he would not miss about Mumbai was the constant cacophony of the crows.

I was puzzled as this was not an issue for me… at the time I lived in Kalina. While there were birds a-plenty, crows weren’t specifically a problem.

Til we moved to Bandra.

That’s where the fun began.

And I remembered the crow comment… Oh how I remembered his genuine frustration at the constant, relentless cawing… What trouble they were getting into homes, garbage… the nuisance and nonsense of these feathered devils.

It was a frustration I began to share.. particularly as we have several crows who have adopted our building.

bandra-crow

One does get used to all sorts of noises and sounds, so after time, the cawing simply blended into the noises that make everyday life here.

However there is another aspect to the equation.

The humble garbage bin.

Why you may ask is this at all relevant?

Because in addition to the sharp cawing, this is a further element of angst with these scavengers.

They LOVE garbage. They LOVE even more making a mess of things. All your unmentionables strewn about for all and sundry to see… Our building crows boldly open bins to unearth your hidden edible treasures.

Enter the brick to the rescue.

In my climb up the stairs I discovered a simple yet smart way adopted by several neighbours to combat the crow garbage scourge!

bandra-garbage-brick

Just like the odd cones on our building pipes that keep the rats and mice away, a simple brick on top of the garbage bin makes it sufficiently challenging to the crows.

Voila! Garbage crow deterrent!

Now I gotta go get me a brick!!

Other Sunday Snaps:

A ‘Tolly’ good evening in Kolkata

As I sat in the Tollygunge Club in Kolkata, hearing Bengali, munching on fried fish with kashundi (mustard sauce), sipping my ‘rum pani‘ (Old Monk, of course), I felt so much at home.

There I was with an old friend and his partner, my partner and his old friends – who just so happened to know each other.

It is a small world like that.

20170122_kolkata-tollyganj

My partner was in Kolkata to perform in a play.

I was in Kolkata to meet with my client and conduct focus group discussions with their team.

It wasn’t an accident we were in Kolkata at the same time. One commitment sparked another and thankfully nothing got in the way.

So that Sunday evening, we came out after the play to meet our friends, enjoying the slight nip in the air…

I could not have been happier.

For me, Bengali is one of those languages that I do not speak but I was immersed in enough consider it a familiar friend. It is the sound of one of my many past homes… the home where I lived in the 90s as a student in Chittaranjan Park, Delhi.

And Bengali food is something that once upon a time was what would constitute a regular home cooked meal.

The setting? A piece of history.

While the Tollygunge club was officially founded in 1895, the Club House was built even earlier and is now over 220 years old. What was once home to Tipu Sultan’s son and a member of the East India Company now is where our friends come out to enjoy their day or night.

Rather than be a stuffy relic, ‘Tolly’ is where families and friends go to entertain and be entertained, relax and re-invigorate…

It is a nice reminder that things do change… yet also retain elements of days gone by.

It was also a time to reflect…

Looking at a friend I’ve known for more than 20 years, it was clear that I’m not the same person I was back in early 1995 when we first met.

However I would not be the person I am today without all the ups and downs, rights and lefts that occurred in between.

So though Bengal is no longer a core element of my everyday today in a way that it was living in a Bengali home in a Bengali colony, hearing Bengali, eating Bong khanna, listening to Bengali music… these experiences are all intrinsically part of me, not just my past but indelibly part of who I will always be.

And for that I am thankful. It was indeed a ‘Tolly’ good evening!

20170122_kolkata-carissa

Me with my friend’s partner

Related posts:

Just part of living here… Indian tax rectification requests

It has been awhile since I shared an update on my latest greatest efforts to get something fixed with the Indian Income Tax Department

Over a year ago, I shared my hope that the tax tide was turning… at the time I was doing a manic happy dance as there seemed to be a tacit acknowledgement that the ‘outstanding amount’ was hokum, bunk, BS and more!

And another notice... more money!

And another notice… more money! NOT!!!

Of course, I knew that just because I was finally paid a refund vs having it adjusted against the fictitious ‘outstanding amount’, that didn’t mean the issue was actually resolved. No siree! That isn’t how we roll in this part of the world.

So I duly filed yet another rectification request… feeling rather like my CA and I are becoming experts at this… was it number 4 or was it 5????

And nothing… a full year of nothing… no “ITR Rectification” notice, meaning a formal response to my request.. just nothing…

At one point I even attempted to do a follow-up rectification request online – not allowed as there was already an open rectification request for the year in question.

The challenge with being in limbo is you can’t assume it is actually fixed… because it is not. Yet without a formal response, one simply has to wait… wait… wait for it… wait…

Then came the phone call.

That is correct… a phone call… asking me to again pay for tax that was already paid in 2008/09.

One year and three months after the last rectification request was filed.

For which no formal response has been received…

I want you to pay your taxes

I think he is used to people getting upset with a call from the IT Department not a gushing:

“OH! I’m so happy you called! Thank you!

Now… 

Help me out here, what can we do to get this internal system glitch fixed?

At least to get it updated for the year in question?”

You could tell he knew it was actually paid but no one is able to acknowledge that one system in the IT Department doesn’t “talk” to the other system and hence tax payers – all 1% of us – get lost in the middle.

The reply was to re-send what had already been submitted online to an official email ID. Hmm…. that is simple… suspiciously simple… Would it really work???

Did my enthusiasm to get something fixed from 2008/09 make me vulnerable to some brilliant new scam or trick?

Or has the tide actually officially really finally turned and it will indeed be smooth sailing?

Moral of the story?

Living in India Tip #1

Those of you foreigners living in India – best advice anyone can give you to surviving longer term in this country is get a good honest CA.

One you can continue to rely on even after you leave… (if you leave)….

As something you thought was done and dusted years ago can come back to haunt you!

Like a tax issue from 2008/09 still being unresolved in 2017! 

Related posts:

Welcome!

Carissa Hickling

Carissa Hickling

Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, has called India home since 2003, working in Asia Pacific and traveling all over! She's also a bit of a 'Whisky Lady' too!

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