Yearly Archive 2018

ByShanthini Rajkumar

Golu

The first memory I have about the story of Goddess Durga was from reading the Amar Chithra Katha comics.They really were a great substitute for when grandmothers were too busy to tell us stories.The vibrant images further enhanced the text.

Even as a child ,the idea of all the goddesses coming together in the creation of an omnipotent Shakti was incredibly appealing.It cemented the thought process that good will always triumph over evil.The picture of Goddess Durga in her full glory with her foot on Mahishasuran thereby putting an end to his tyranny is quite unforgettable.

While the nine days of Navarathri are celebrated with much gaiety in different styles across the country, the festivities commonly signify the power of divine light banishing away darkness and negativity.

The day preceding Navarathri ,a ritual is offered to welcome the Goddess by the arranging of the kalasham. At our uncle’s home, this is usually done by my eldest aunt. The  Goddess is welcomed into the home for nine days of puja and prayer.The blessings derived from these nine days of chanting are shared with visiting friends and family who partake of not just the prasadham (blessed food offering) but all the positive vibes that the home and the hosts have invoked through the rituals.

As we know ,in ancient times, festivals were also a way for families to socialise with one another.So, during the nine days of prayer and song,the women folk ,dressed in finery would display a set of steps ,of any odd number,using wooden planks, line it with cloth and set up their collection of dolls.Now these dolls were traditionally made of wood by talented artisans and were known as marapatchi bommai.These were specially made for the ‘golu’ also referred to as ‘bommai kolu’.

Most families today own dolls that go back several generations.Each year they add a few to their exquisite doll collection.I’ve lost track of the number of stories that I’ve heard over the years while my gaze was either transfixed on a beautiful set of dolls or on a fascinating story that was laid out ,complete with street lights and all.

The top most layer of the step was always for the figurines of gods and goddesses depicting stories from mythology.Time would pass by effortlessly as we sat cross legged and looked at the mighty River Ganga cascading from Lord Shiva’s locks or the story of Gajendra Moksha depicted beautifully…along with countless other stories.

The bottom few steps are just as arresting because they depict scenes from the lives of the common man.From the expressions on the faces of errant children to that of soldiers keeping vigil at our nation’s borders,each detail is the work of master craftsmen.A lot of families also like to stage a different theme each year.All of these makes for delightful kolu visits.

One rarely sits idle in front of a kolu display, children are encouraged to sing familiar devotional songs along with the ladies and it adds a lovely charm to the festivities.The neivediyam (offering of food) is also given a lot of importance.Rice and lentils figure prominently on the menu as do the many traditional desserts like payasam , pongal,laddu etc. Each day rice is flavoured differently using either lemon, coriander,tamarind,curd,coconut etc.No onion or garlic is used during this period as it is believed that the properties brought on by those foods are not beneficial to the body and mind during this period .That’s also a reason why the high protein pulses are cooked daily in the form of delicious sundal.

When children are taught the importance of such festivals and their significance, that’s what paves the way for them to follow suit and also teaches them to embrace their culture rather than to shy away from it as something that is unfamiliar to their thought process.

Even the thamboolam that is gifted to each departing guest  contains items that signify harmony , prosperity and positivity.Betel leaves and areca nut are offered because when the guest leaves with a red stained mouth,it is testimony to being well looked after.Also the betel leaf is synonymous with the Goddess of wealth.Bangles, coconuts ,vermilion ,a new coin all denote that which is revered in our culture. How blessed are we to be a part of such a glorious celebration cloaked in radiance and happiness.

Shanthini Rajkumar

https://www.facebook.com/pltpinklemontree/

ByJayanthi

Night owls vs Early birds

She could never get her eyes open in the morning. Try as she might, once the sun shined, her eyes wanted to keep shut. In her childhood, her mom would wake her up in the morning and she would doze right back to sleep savoring those extra special moments of happiness. Who would really get up so early at 6:00 a.m. was her greatest thought! She could sit all through the night along with her father and they would have great fun watching television together. She was the typical “night owl” who was extra productive at nights too. 

College/work years/marriage:

Years rolled by and she had to change her ways for sometime at least. Obviously, college and work will change any person. And a night owl could not be a “night owl” forever. She soon got married and life was running smoothly.

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After marriage:

Few months into the marriage, she figured that her husband was an “early riser” and was amusedly shocked! 😉 He could get up by 4:00  in the morning and go about his chores happily…:) Going to gym, responding to emails, calls in the morning, anything and everything before the sun was up was his policy. She shuddered at the thought of getting up at 4:00 a.m. or the “middle of the night”, as she called it.

sunrise

Slowly, she felt her nocturnal habits returning and both the husband and wife were working at the opposite sides of a day… A ‘night owl’ vs a ‘early bird’ – they were a match made in heaven!! 🙂

Puzzle:

In all the years that they have been married, there has been one thing that has puzzling her all along though. She really wasn’t sure what exact time, he got up … was it 3:30 a.m. , 4:00 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. Sometimes, he stated a later time to keep her early rising queries at bay(otherwise, she would gasp with “You have got up so early?!!!!! and spread the good news all around to families and friends!!) 

She always thought “I wish an alarm would ring loud and notify me whenever my husband gets up”!! 🙂


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

If you liked this post, rate it! 🙂

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂

ByJayanthi

H4 visa woes

It has been a while since I wrote about my US-India stories, right? 😉 The US is always a dream country for many from India. The ‘H1B’ visa is the highly sought after visa and is one of the most popular work visas to the US. It is primarily used by companies to fill positions by employing skilled foreign labor. 

Every foreign worker(eg. Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai) in the US would have gone through the H1 visa grind.  Most individuals who come to work in the US, start off with the H1 visa and if all goes well, move onto apply for the Green card or permanent residency. Five years after one has acquired the GC, one can apply for US citizenship.

So, where does H4 visa fit in now? H4 visa is the dependent visa to H1 visa issued by the US immigration service.  The spouse and the children of H1 visa holders are issued H4 visas.

passport

H4 visa:

During my entire stay for 14 years in the US, I have noticed it is mostly the wives who are on the H4 visa. I am sure you are thinking what is the “woe” related to this visa… it is just that individuals on this  visa do not have work privileges and that might be bummer for many…(there is a reason behind it)

While many are excited to just join their husbands on their American journey, the H4 visa women’s career comes to a grinding halt. Most(if not all) are very well educated and highly experienced women who cannot work because of their visa status. The H4 visa wives unfortunately go from active workplace leaders to waiting- to- work professionals. It is a frustrating experience for many as they try and polish their resume with new skills. They also learn to drive on American roadways all along thinking that they will work some day.  

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So, what happens next?

Many like me find work sponsorships. Others, wait till their husbands get their green card(after which both husband and wife can work) which used to be a good 5 years when we were there(but not sure how long it takes now)

Some even seek  US higher education and manage to get a work visa after that. All in all, it is quite a game of visas and waiting for the woman who moves in behind her husband. While many adjust to the waiting game there are others who think their career would have been better in India after all…

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂

ByJayanthi

Single sign on

In the wake of the Facebook data breach that supposedly compromised 50 million accounts and other personal data last week,  it is but imperative to look at yet another aspect of ‘Information security’ – ‘Single sign on’.

What is ‘Single sign on’?

Remember, the time when you discovered a new website or app ? You had to register to get into the site. You were presented with these options:

                ‘Continue with Google’

                 ‘Continue with Facebook’

in addition to a lengthy sign up process. In a hurry to understand what the new craze was, you just signed in with your ‘Facebook’ or Google account information instead of going through the whole signing up rigmarole. This is ‘Single sign on’ wherein by just signing into Facebook or Google, you can access many other apps and sites with ease.

data breach

What is the downside of ‘Single sign on’?

It seems to be such an easy thing to do – just sign in with one account and we can access so many other sites with ease. So, what is exactly the problem? If you have signed into multiple accounts using Facebook or Google, when the main ‘sign on’  site gets hacked, it is quite a possibility that the other apps that use ‘Single sign’ on method of being authenticated would have their data breached too. 

So in essence, you are exposing the data related to all other apps to the hackers too!

How do we ensure the safety of our data in the wake of the breach?

Since there is nothing that is simple and easy in this world, single sign on comes with its own troubles. In case of the Facebook data breach, you would have definitely received appropriate messages and notifications if, your account was indeed hacked. In addition,it is  good to always:

  1. Check ‘Settings’  in ‘Facebook’ and check the devices and locations where you are logged in from. Logout from all of them and re-login with a new password.
  2. It is also good to login to each site/app with a separate login and password henceforth and give your memory a good workout! 🙂 (Seriously though, a password manager might be a good option to consider since it is difficult to remember multiple logins and passwords)
  3. It is better to try two factor authentication to prevent further data loss.

These security tips will hold good for some time before the next breach occurs!

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂

ByJayanthi

‘Minimum online presence’

No sooner had I written about maintaining a ‘minimum online presence’ on my Hacking post, I had several comments relating to that(either, ‘it was not possible’ or ‘how do we that’) While it is next to impossible to grow a business or forge business relationships without a good social media presence, it is also imperative to reveal only what is needed.  In this post I will discuss what I meant by ‘minimum online presence’:

  • It is unnecessary to reveal location information all the time. It is pretty exciting to tell our social media world the smallest details relating to our current location/life – but it is good information for a hacker or anybody of malicious intent.  Occasionally, revealing is fine but we do not have to feed all the social media giants with our data all the time!  ‘Location’ is needed only for food delivery apps and Uber/Ola booking services.
Cyber security
  • Posting of children’s pictures is also absolutely unnecessary. Children’s pictures can also be stolen and used for malicious purposes. You don’t want strangers leering at your child’s picture, do you? But again, posting once in a while will not do any major harm. 
  • It is also good to not divulge bank account numbers, passwords, phone numbers,credit card numbers and other personal numbers in public conversations without appropriate encryption.Why? – because, once that information is received by hackers,  your bank balance will be reduced to zero! 
  • It is a better idea to change your profile picture occasionally on different social media platforms than changing it frequently
  •    It is also good to never go overboard with excessive personal information(whether pictures, conversations, or any other data) Balance is always the key!

Going to an online world is just like going to work – if we will not reveal everything about ourselves to everyone at our work place – we should not reveal everything about our self in the online world too! It is best for your  business to thrive but not at the cost of your kids/personal safety or your financial information. 

For any other information that has to be shared, visit the person, call or private message the person. It builds good business/personal relationships too! 🙂

This is my eighth post for #MyFriendAlexa by @Blogchatter

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂

ByJayanthi

Bengaluru traffic

I had written a post long back about why Bengaluru or Bangalore, India is an ideal place for NRIs to return back…in that post I carefully avoided one of the Bengaluru’s worst kept secrets – the notorious and infamous Bengaluru traffic! 🙂

Bengaluru not having the same infrastructure as a Chennai – is more prone to nasty traffic. The roads are definitely more narrow and with the area seeing rapid growth with new apartments, malls and the metro construction – you can imagine the state of the roads!! Numerous vehicles try to get past the small space everyday causing frustration and delays.  Living in the heart of India’s Silicon valley and literally sitting in the eye of the traffic storm , I get to witness the serpentine traffic as I step out each day(and remember in India we have vehicles of all shapes and sizes- the autos, the bikers, the water tankers, the buses, the cars, the SUVs, the bicyclists, the pedestrians)  Here are a few realities :

  1. As soon as you walk out of your home/apartment you will see traffic standing in a long line right in front of you. On those days it is good to just “work from home”, walk – if your destination is closer or try other modes of transportation. (like an auto, bus, car pooling etc)
  2. 2 kms does take 45 minutes on certain sectors!(Silk board, Kundanahalli gate, Marathahalli) It is still amazing how most of these vehicles weave in and out of traffic and reach their destination. They also drive so close to each other and still not cause major collisions !!(there are still scratches, bumps for vehicles along the way! :))
  3. In spite of all the traffic, I do see many solo drivers on cars.
  4. When it rains, chaos doubles or triples – you can be assured that you will be rooted to the same spot for at least an hour! 
  5. You will see bikers also moving in all directions(they will drive confidently on the wrong side of the road without a helmet!)
  6. The back roads and smaller roads are a savior for many(there are plenty of back roads for every major road – but they might be in worse shape than the main road)

So, how does everybody  go about their work?

  1. Many of them find the time of day when the traffic is relatively lighter and which works in the office(say, leave,  1/2 hr early from home everyday)
  2. This might be a known fact – but many companies do have their own transportation for their employees to chauffeur them around  within a certain radius(a good move, I would say)
  3. Many people still drive 20 kms or so everyday for their work and I am sure they have their schedule for working out things(like finishing con-calls in the car! :))
  4. Good rule of thumb is  to never go out on a Saturday!! 🙂 You will not get to your destination, rather – you will only be stuck in traffic for hours.
  5. Plan family activities and other fun things for a Sunday!

And the silver lining – if you have lived and commuted in Bengaluru, you can drive anywhere in the world! 🙂

This is my seventh post for #MyFriendAlexa by @Bloghchatter

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂

ByJayanthi

Tamil Nadu

Born and brought up in Tamil Nadu(a state in Southern India) and having lived close to 23 years in the state,I have never done a post on my home state  – how did it happen? Let’s get started right away…:) Here are a few points about my beloved state:

  1. Language – Most of you might be knowing this – but to reiterate there is only one language that is freely spoken and understood in Tamil Nadu – and that is Tamizh! 🙂 Unfortunately, no other language is visible except for English, of course… It is not to say that people from other parts of India cannot thrive here – once here, everybody blends in very well after a while… 🙂 
  2. Food – We love our idlis and dosas…I have written extensively written about it…in addition we also love our Venn Pongal, Sakkarai Pongal(sweet Pongal), Vadai, Thayir sadam(Curd rice), different varieties of rice(Puliyodharai(tamarind rice), lemon rice)  and all other poriyals(vegetables)!  Rice is our staple and it finds its way into all the meals whether directly or indirectly…The non-vegetarian spread is no less too!
  3. Cities – the more important cities in Tamil Nadu are Chennai, Coimbatore, Salem, Madurai and Trichy.
  4. Weather – It is a very hot state – there is no concept of winter here – though the month of ‘Margazhi'(December) is considered to be slightly cooler…
  5. Music and dance: It is a great state to learn classical dance and music. If you would like to learn Bharatnatyam or classical music in the true authentic way – then this is the place to be. With places like the Kalakshetra and gurus like the Dhanajayans – it is THE place to learn Bharatnatyam.
  6. Festivals –  the ‘Golu’ season(Dusshera) is celebrated with dolls adorning the steps for the nine days. ‘Pongal’ (Sankranti) is another important festival which is celebrated with much pomp and happiness for a full five days.  Unlike other cities, Chennai wakes up early in the morning to celebrate Diwali (around 4:00 a.m. or so)
    And interestingly enough, there is no dancing or partying for any of the festivals! 🙂 And no –  no, Holi , Karva Chauth etc. 🙂
  7. Fashion – It is one of states where women still dress conservatively(at least, I think so! :)) No ripped pants, shorts, 3/4 pant, sleeveless tops etc. etc. for women. Fashion for women can still be a simple salwar kameez with beautiful jasmine flowers to adorn the hair! 🙂 Of course, not to say that nobody wears western clothes – but the number of people wearing them might be less(and might be only in Chennai)
  8. Temples – Tamil Nadu has huge number of temples with beautiful architecture for the various Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Most of these temples are several hundred years old and it is a privilege to visit these temples!
Temple

These are a few things that I could think of that make Tamil Nadu…can you think of anything else? Add them in comments below! 🙂

This post is my sixth post for my #MyFriendAlexa by @Blogchatter.

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂

ByJayanthi

Black Widow

The Information security world is a deep one and sometimes it is quite shocking to know the things that can be done. Did you know that ‘Black widow’ is not just the name of a spider…but it is a actual software that is used for ‘reconnaissance’ too(Of course, InfoSec professionals will know :))

‘Reconnaissance’ is the ability to obtain freely available information about a website. Vocabulary.com defines “Reconnoitering as checking something out, but in a sneaky way!”

Once this information is obtained one can seal the extra unwanted information that is unintentionally creeping out(for example, maybe passwords and employee details are visible with the reconnaissance tools) One of the ways that a site can be ripped is by employing website downloaders like ‘Black Widow’, Website downloader  and Httrack.

Most of these tools will allow you to download the entire website and the directory structure, external links, bad links and email addresses. The picture below shows a screen shot of the ‘Black Widow’ software…

The details provided above are for informational purposes only! Please do not use it in any inappropriate way!

This is my fifth post for #MyFriendAlexa by @Blogchatter!

Liked this post? Please comment and share! 🙂

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂

ByJayanthi

The clock

He got up at the same time of 4:30 every morning. Not one morning had he ever gotten up late. In fact, the alarm always needed him to get up… 🙂 He had his fixed morning routines that he would follow everyday. Whether it was the gym or walking – it was followed meticulously and perfectly. Neither rain nor shine could ever disrupt anything. He would leave for work at the exact same time everyday and get back home at the exact time everyday. Breakfast, lunch, dinner was had at the same time of day. Exercise was reserved for certain days of the week. Personal phone calls were made at the exact time intervals(nobody gets extra free calls in his routine!! :)) Even the move to India had not thrown his schedule out of gear. 

If he was busy doing something, it had to be at a particular time of day…There was no need to to look at the clock in this house as there was already a “clock” roaming around! 🙂 Once you see him in a particular location, you knew the time of the day.

She knew the routine as she was married to him for a very long time. While most people maintain a routine, he was an absolute stickler for it…from food habits to exercise to sleep and work – everything followed the hands of the clock. No wonder she thought she was married to the clock rather than him!! 🙂

Most of you must have guessed this “clock” – if you haven’t as yet guessed, come home – I will introduce you to him! 🙂

Clock

This is the fourth post for #MyFriendAlexa by @Blogchatter

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂

ByJayanthi

Pharming

The online world unfortunately is not a fun place as it seems. There are other types of people around too seeking to grab credit card numbers, bank account numbers, steal pictures of children and/or any personal data that is floating around. 

Let us assume that you would like to visit a website, www.abac.com (a fictitional website) What happens when you visit www.abac.com and do a bit shopping and submit your bank account details or any other personal details only to realize after a day – that the website that you visited was actually a fake one? 

This type of attack is known as ‘Pharming’. ‘Pharming’ is done by modifying the victim’s file or by a more complicated technique known as ‘DNS poisoning’. 

To protect oneself:

The best way to protect oneself from ‘Pharming’ attacks is to:

  1. install the latest version of anti-virus software
  2. Apply the patches as and when posted
  3. Associating one-self with a good ISP
  4. When making payments ensure that SSL(secure sockets layer) is enabled for the website
  5. Keeping with the latest in the security field(where are the breaches, what was stolen, what is the newest type of attack)
  6. And keeping ears and eyes open! 🙂

We have seen yet another concept of ‘Information security’ in this post.

This is the third post for ‘MyFriendAlexa’ by @Blogchatter!

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂