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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

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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! 

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Whisky Lady – Jolly Good January

January was just jolly good! It was great being home in Mumbai and even better being able to join all three whisky groups sessions…

My Whisky Lady posts began the month with a great big THANK YOU for so many who have been integral to making it possible to have such copious content and memorable experiences!

(Photo: Table for One)

(Photo: Table for One)

(more…)

Dethroning “King Cash” – daily life post demonetization

While it is true I spent much of November and December in Indonesia, I’m home in India now and discovering the new day-to-day reality of life post demonetization.

For those not familiar, on November 8, 2016 the Prime Minister of India with a swipe of his pen made the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes no longer legal tender – effectively taking 86% of the currency out of circulation.

The rules of how to exchange or deposit any cash kept changing and, more challenging, the new Rs 2,000 then also Rs 500 notes were a different size so ATMs didn’t immediately work. Then when re-calibrated, apps popped up informing where you could get cash – finding an ATM (or bank branch) with cash became a more elusive race than catching Pokemon Go!

(more…)

Whisky Lady – December Delights

Just wanted to raise a virtual toast and wish you all a very Happy New Years!!

As I was away in Indonesia for most of December, my Whisky Lady posts were mostly catch-up on earlier tasting experiences…

berrys-islay-speyside-ghosted-reserve

Once again the Bombay & Malt and Cigar gentlemen managed to accommodate my mad travel schedule and arranged our night to coincide with my limited dates back in Mumbai. The theme was Berrys’ and a blend featuring:

(more…)

Everyday Asia 2016 – Happy New Year!

It is a time of celebration. It was a year of change. From some nerve wracking months when I didn’t know whether I could remain in India to manic work back in one of my favourite places – Jakarta – 2016 had lows and highs and many moments in between.

Blogging honestly hasn’t been a priority.  From September, I was more in Indonesia than India. Even when home, my focus was on the project. However I didn’t just work in Jakarta. I did manage an escape to Bogor to breath in oxygenated air at the Botanical gardens and even attend a Christmas fair in Kemang.

Did you want this box?

Did you want this box?

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Sunday at Como Park, Kemang… Jakarta adventures

Everyday Asia has been quiet for an understandable reason – I’ve been pre-occupied with a project in Indonesia for a couple of months. When not in Indonesia, I have  either been in Singapore or Mumbai or somewhere in between.

There has been lots of activities and not much “down time.”

Even weekends have been packed with things like Whisky Live in Singapore or cramming four social events into a single evening home in Mumbai.

Until the long weekend. In Jakarta.

Naturally I had delusions of being able to go on adventures outside of Jakarta… maybe Yogyakarta and Borobudur or other places…

Naturally I also did not book anything in advance… So by the time I tried to fix on a plan, most places that looked reasonable were full.

(more…)

Feeling blessed…

This time of year is special. I feel particularly blessed… and while the last five years have had some ups and downs, the good far outweighs the challenges.

Five years ago Christmas Eve is when I met my partner.

Bangkok romance

Bangkok romance, 2011

(more…)

Whisky Lady – November novelties

My Whisky Lady posts kept speed with lots of activities in November despite being away in Indonesia most of the month with a short detour to Singapore for Whisky Live.

linkwood-balmenach-longmorn

Before flying off, managed to sneak in a session with the Bombay & Malt and Cigar gentlemen which was a quest for quality affordable cask strength whiskies:

Our original tasting group carried on to sample an interesting assortment of Teeling whiskies – which I also tried at Whisky Live in Singapore… so didn’t feel completely left out! (more…)

Music Musings – Emel Mathlouthi

Emel Mathlouthi performed at Mehboob Studios as part of the first Johnnie Walker – The Journey festival – and part of reviving my old Music Musings series!

Emel seduced the audience with the powerful emotions her voice emitted… punching through with passion, protest, shifting from lilting to wrenchingly raw.

After the show, Emel shared how much she enjoyed their short stay in India. Yet after extensive touring also appreciated a chance to relax in the hotel, swim outdoors…

She shared that they had been to Vancouver and Montreal and enjoyed their Canadian tour. I later met the guitar player who talked about being busy working on their new CD, soon to be independently released – Ensen.

Emil Mathlouthi – Ma Lkit

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I’ll admit I’d never heard of her before the event… and yet for much of December, Christmassy music was replaced by the haunting sounds of Tunisia.

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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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