Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tirupathi Tirumala Temple visit - May be the last?

We went to the richest and the most visited place of worship in the world, yesterday. People all over the world come to this holy place, to get a few seconds of 'swami darshan'. Extraordinarily rich people come to this temple, with suitcases full of cash (unaccounted money?!) and dump them into the temple Hundi. Yes! After a gap of nearly 10 years, I visited 'Tirupathi'. May be, this is the last time that I ever visit this temple.

Also read: 

Tiruchendur Temple - Poojari's demanding money
Kovai Trip - Maruthamalai Visit
Rameswaram Trip Experiences 

We had taken the Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) Tirupathi Darshan package. They charged Rs. 1330 (which includes commute, breakfast, lunch, and Rs.300 for the darshan). They picked all the tourists who were assembled near the TTDC office in Central Railway Station, and took everyone to the TTDC office in Chepauk. The tour started at 6.20 am from the Chepauk TTDC office. The bus stopped at around 7.15 am for breakfast. The breakfast was decent enough (pongal, 2 idlis and a vada - limited meals). The quality of food was good. But, the breakfast was served in a not-so-clean marriage hall.



We reached lower Tirupathi by around 10 am. A local AP transport bus (in substandard condition) was waiting there to take us to Tirupati Tirumala. Before the bus departed, the tour guide collected all our mobile phones, cameras and camcorders. It looks like they weren't allowed to be used in the temple. I was quite amazed by the quality of roads that lead to the Tirupathi Tirumala temple. They've constructed a one-way road with 2 lanes, that are wide enough. There are safety gaurd rails on the side of the road that faces downhill. The safety gaurd rails are properly painted in black & white. There were proper road signs indicating sharp turns, bumps etc., I saw a number of jeeps, private cars and even two wheelers that drive up hill, to Tirupathi Tirumala. We reached Tirumala at around 11 am (roughly, 1 hour commute).

The tour guide took us to the place where they do hair tonsure. He said that we cannot go through the 'normal process' because of the long wait time (which would affect the remaining tourists). He charged Rs.90 per person to get a 'quick' hair tonsure, without having to stand in queues (2/3rd of the money went to his pocket & 1/3rd of the money went to the barber). We had to pay Rs.10 to get a bucket of 'free hot water' from a lady servant there.

We were taken to the location where the "Rs.300 queue" starts. There were about 6 halls (actually, cages) in which people were locked. The cages had benches for people to sit. The cages were opened up one after the other. I was expecting that we'll get the darshan, right after the cage #1 was opened. To my surprise, after the cage #1 was opened, we have to stand in queue for nearly 3 hours to get the "darshan". Things haven't changed much in the last 10 years. The quality of treatment for people is still the same during the wait in queues. You are pushed, pulled, crushed, and even scolded. Also, you've to put up with the sultry weather and bad smelling people. My daughter, who wasn't used to such things was crying most of the times. Oh my god ! If god is really divine and has powers to do wonders, why should people suffer this much to see the god (infact, to see just an idol). At the place of darshan, there are volunteers/servants who push devotees (old or young) without mercy. You hardly get only a few seconds of darshan.

After the darshan, we returned back to TTDC cottage (which had 3 small rooms and two bathrooms) for the 65+ passengers. After a short break, we boarded the local AP transport bus. We had to wait for an hour there because one of the families didn't return back from darshan, ontime (we later learned that they went for shopping!). The bus reached down hill in about an hour. We had a good buffett lunch in AP Restaurant, at around 5.00 pm. They took us then to Padmavathi temple. We left Padmavathi temple at about 6.45 pm and reached Chennai at around 10.30 pm.

Though we were able to visit & come back from Tirupathi in a day, it was very hectic. I would not recommend taking the TTDC tour, if you are going as a family (especially, with kids). It is not a pleasant experience, at all. I wish Tirupathi Tirumala Management does something about the 'waiting process' and the unorderly queues. There are lots of creative ways to control the crowd. Considering the fact that Tirupathi is one of the richest temples in the world, they can implement crowd control mechanisms with ease. They have spent lots of money in improving the roads (which results in increased crowd in the uphill). However, they haven't made any significant infrastructure changes that can accommodate the growth in devotees. Hopefully, this pathetic condition changes soon. Until then, Good Bye to Lord Venky.

Also read:

Golden Temple in Sripuram, Vellore - Marvelous
Ayyappan Temple in Trichy - The BEST that I've ever seen
Rameswaram Trip Experiences

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

List of CBSE Schools in Chennai


You can find here the list of CBSE schools in Chennai, that have a website. I was quite surprised that many of the Chennai CBSE schools do not even have a website. You can go through the school website to understand the school's infrastructure, teaching system, core values, etc., Hopefully, this helps you in deciding the BEST SCHOOL for your kid. (Note: This list is not exhaustive/complete)

Also read: R2I school admissions - FAQ   Getting KG admission for a kid in school
  1. A School (Alwarpet, Anna Nagar East, Anna Nagar West, Ashok Nagar, Kilpauk, Perambur, Thiruvanmayur, Valarsaravakkam, Velachery
  2. Adarsh Senior Secondary School (T. Nagar)
  3. Amirta Vidyalaya (Saligramam & K.K Nagar)
  4. Arsha Vidya Mandir School (Guindy)
  5. Asan Memorial Senior Secondary School (Greams Road)
  6. Aspire Superkidz (Nanganallur)
  7. B V Bhavan's Rajaji Vidyashram (Kilpauk)
  8. Bala Vidya Mandir (Adyar)
  9. Bhaktavatsalam Vidyashram (Korattur)
  10. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Kilpauk)
  11. Chettinad Vidyashram (R.A. Puram)
  12. Chennai Public School (Anna Nagar West Extn)
  13. Chinmaya Vidyalaya (Chetpet, Kilpauk, Anna Nagar, Virugambakkam)
  14. DAV School  (Adambakkam, Gopalapuram & Padi)
  15. Kendriya Vidyalaya (Anna Nagar, Selaiyur, IIT Campus, Choolaimedu, Anna Salai, Avadi, Ashok Nagar, Meenambakkam)
  16. Kola Perumal Chetty Vaishnav Senior Seconday School (Arumbakkam, Kilpauk)
  17. Maharishi Vidya Mandir (Chetpet)
  18. Manthan Vidyashram (Palavakkam)
  19. National Public School (Gopalapuram)
  20. P.S. Senior Secondary School (Mylapore)
  21. Padma Seshadiri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School (K.K. Nagar, T. Nagar, Nungambakkam)
  22. Pon Vidyashram School (Thiruvanmiyur, Virugambakkam)
  23. PSBB Millennium School (St. Thomas Mount)
  24. SBOA School and Junior College (Anna Nagar West Extension)
  25. Schram Academy (Maduravoyal)
  26. Sherwood Educational Society (Chetpet)
  27. Sindhi Model Senior Secondary School (Kilpauk)
  28. Unity Public School (Adambakkam)
  29. Vani Vidyalaya (K.K Nagar)
  30. Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School (Mylapore)
Also read:


    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    A journey from Non-Vegetarian to Raw-Vegetarian

    What is in a diet? If you are conscious about your health, fitness, and environment, you should be conscious about your diet too. Recently, I started experimenting Raw Vegetarian diet and I'm loving it. The diet makes me feel more fresh, healthy, and energetic.

    My journey as a vegetarian started in 2000. I became a vegetarian for 3 reasons. First of all, I didn't have a desire for non-vegetarian food. Second of all, the horrifying scenes of animals getting killed in front of my eyes during my childhood days, had an influence on my decision to be a vegetarian. Third of all, when I read Mahatma Gandhiji's "My Experiments with Truth" in 2000, I decided to give up my meat eating habit, completely. (Also read: Why am I a Vegan? )

    People wonder, "How did you manage to be a vegetarian, in US"? If you are under the influence of your taste buds, it is hard, to survive in US being a vegetarian. Especially, when you are traveling to places or not having food at home. If you are ready to eat whatever is available, you can manage in US easily. In fact, every restaurant in US has something for a vegetarian. You can customize your food. You can go up to the extreme of ordering a Chicken Burger without the Chicken.

    A modern diet has deprived us from enjoying the freshness of hundreds of vegetables, fruits, and nuts that nature has provided us. Many of the things that I eat today were hardly part of my diet when I was a non-vegetarian. I have been practicing Vegan diet for the last 3+ years. I'm staying fit and healthy - no visits to the hospital, except for yearly health checkups. I've now started my experiments with Raw-Vegetarian diet, by reducing the intake of cooked food and increasing the intake of raw vegetables, fruits and nuts.

    People think that 'pure vegetarian' diet lacks Protein, Calcium and other Vitamins/minerals available in milk/meat based diet. If you are making conscious choices of vegetable based diet, you can eliminate the need for non-vegetarian food completely. For example, my everyday diet includes Soymilk, Sprouted beans/nuts, Spinach, and a variety of nuts, fresh vegetables, and fruits. It provides me enough protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals.

    I was once challenged by a friend of mine, who is a born vegetarian. He said pointing to his huge belly "I've been a vegetarian from childhood days. I get sick quite often and I don't feel healthy/fit". Being a vegetarian alone doesn't make you fit. What happens when you don't service your car/bike  for a long period of time? The vehicle loses its fitness - engine problems, brake/battery issues, clutch/gear problems and over a period of time gives you low mileage. Similarly, you need to service your body regularly. A good diet should also be complimented by a proper exercise program. Also, feeding your stomach with fatty/non-healthy vegetarian food is equivalent of fueling your car with a low grade petrol. The mileage/performance will also be low. Have you heard of "Garbage in Garbage out"? It holds good for your diet also :)  (Also read: Sunday - a day of mass murders in India )

    If you would like learn more about Vegan or Raw Vegetarian Diet, you can read/listen to the following:

    HappyCow - Becoming Vegetarian
    Veganism in a NutShell
    GoVeg - Podcast
    Raw Vegetarian Food/Diet 

    (Also read: Raw Vegetarian Diet - Experiment scaled down)

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    Questions asked during KG Interview in Chennai Schools

    We attended interviews in 3 different schools in Chennai for my daughter's KG admission - Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Chennai Public School, and Sherwood Hall. The KG interview pattern/questions seem to be more or less similar, in all the 3 schools. Your kid should be prepared to answer the questions / do the assignments without your help. In Chennai Public School, the kid was interviewed separately without the parents around. You can get a distant view of what is going on. I've compiled the list of questions asked during the KG interview here. Hope this helps you.

    (Also read: R2I school admissions - FAQ)

    Questions/Assignments for kid during KG interview

    1) What is your name?
    2) Which school are you going to?
    3) Which class are you studying?
    4) Who are all staying with you at home?
    5) Who drops/picks you up from school?
    6) How did you come to the interview, today? (mode of commute)
    7) An assignment to color something with crayons (flower, fruit or vegetable)
    8) An assignment to identify the object (animal, fruit, or vegetable)
    9) An assignment to test your kid's reflex / physical ability (by asking the kid to throw a ball, asking the kid to pick a ball, asking the kid to run/jump etc.,)

    Standard questions like "Where do you work", "What is your pay" etc., will be filled in the application form itself. So, the parents should be prepared for the following kind of questions.

    Questions for Parents during KG interview

    1) Why do you want to admit your kid in this school?
    2) What would you like the kid to be?
    3) What are the skills that you want your kid to pick up?
    4) What are some of the things that your kid likes to do?
    5) How many hours do you spend with the kid each day?
    6) Who helps the kids with the school assignments?
    7) What are the extra curricular activities that you would like your kid to participate in?
    8) Who will drop/pickup your kid from the school? Would you need school van service?
    9) If you R2I'ed, why did you R2I? Do you have plans of going back to US?

    If the school is expecting a donation (also called as "school development fund"), you'll also be informed about that during the interview.

    Things have changed very much in the last 10 or 15 years. There were times when the admission process was very simple. The parents have to just meet the school Principal and pay the fees. Now, every school is trying to pick the 'best' kid(s) through interviews. I pity these innocent little kids. They have to start competing with each other for a limited number of seats in a good school. It adds unnecessary pressure and frustration to the parents. There are lots of parents who are ready to do 'whatever it takes' to get admission into a good school, which results in increased cost of education.

    Also read:

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    How to apply for Credit Freeze during R2I?

    Social Security Number (SSN) is THE most important identification number for you during your presence in US. SSN is linked to all of your accounts, and you should keep it very safe. There are folks who ask "Should I return/cancel my SSN when I return back to India?". The answer is NO. SSN once assigned stays valid, even if you are out of the country. It is your responsibility to keep it safe and prevent it from mis-usages. So, what should you do to your SSN, when you Return to India? How do you prevent people from misusing your SSN, after your R2I?

    You should put a credit freeze on your SSN, before leaving the country. There are 3 credit bureaus that track your credit history - Equifax, Experian & TransUnion. You've to apply individually at each of the credit bureaus for credit freeze. Here are the links for you to follow-on:

    Equifax Credit Freeze
    Experian Credit Freeze
    TransUnion Credit Freeze

    Social Security website allows you to block electronic/telephone access to your personal information. However, it doesn't stop the credit bureaus from performing credit checks. Hence, it is highly recommended for you to apply for credit freeze, at the individual credit bureaus.

    If you are extraordinarily rich, you can also sign-up for identify theft services such as Lifelock, that provide extra protection.

    Applying for credit freeze should be one of the important things to do, in your R2I checklist.

    Also read:

    R2I Planning Guide
    R2I - How can I get my Social Security benefits/money?

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Saravana Stores - The "Walmart" in Chennai

    Since I wrote a post on my recent visit to Skywalk Ampa Mall, I thought I also should share my experience regarding Saravana Selvarathnam Stores. This is the new shopping complex of Saravanas group, in Usman Road, T.Nagar. It is a multi-storeyed shopping  complex selling a wide variety of items such as dresses, utensils, electrical appliances, electronics, jewelery, sports equipment, toys, groceries, and sweets. (Also read: List of things to pack & bring from US)

    Saravana Selvrathnam stores is lot more spacious than Saravana Stores. So, you don't have to go through the experience of getting squeezed by the fellow shoppers. There are lots of helpers around and they'll help you to locate the items. Unlike in Saravana stores where the goods are just piled up one over the other, the goods are neatly arranged in Saravana Selvarathnam Stores.

    Similar to the folks visiting Walmart in US, people go to Saravana Stores or Saravana Selvrathnam stores to buy inexpensive goods. Most of the electronic goods are non-branded and you would be pleasantly surprised by their cost. Another nice thing about Saravana Selvrathnam stores is that you can find all the items under one roof. They have a very diverse collection of goods. For some items, you may have to compromise on the quality. (Also read: How much money do you need to R2I?)

    I normally go there by 9 or 9.30 am. The store is less crowded and you can easily find a parking lot near the store. They have billing sections in all the floors and you don't have to stand in long lines to get your items billed. You can even get some of your dress items stitched in less than an hour. Isn't that cool?

    They have a system in place for preventing thefts/looting. They seal all the bags that you bring-in and all the items that are 'paid' for. That is a key difference between Walmart & Saravana Selvarathnam Stores :)

    Saravana Selvarathnam stores is for people who want to buy inexpensive items and for people who want to buy several things under one roof.  For people like me, it is the Walmart in Chennai.

    Also read:

    Nilkamal's @home - Not designed for me
    Goods in US - lots of options & cheaper price 
    Skywalk Ampa Mall - Multiplex++

    Skywalk Ampa Mall - Multiplex++

    Multiplexes are gaining lots of attention these days, in India. Growing economy, increasing disposable income and the need for recreation has spurred the growth of multiplexes. Multiplexes promise entertainment, shopping, and dining - all under one roof. The latest giant multiplex to show up in Chennai is Skywalk - Ampa Mall. The mall was open to public in last September and most of the shops are already rented out. All big brand shopping outlets such as WestSide, Star Bazaar, Landmark, Reebok, Lilliput and Bose are there. Skymall also houses a number of restaurants including international brands such as KFC, McDonalds, & Pizzahut.

    We dined at McDonalds in Skywalk. In US, we hardly dined at McDonalds due to the lack of proper veggie food (except for their break fast menu). But, McDonalds in India offers lots of custom/localized choices such as McVeggie, & McAloo Tikki. A McVeggie costs just Rs.45. If you make it a 'meal' with medium fries & medium coke, they charge you Rs.95. I guess they make lots of money in fries & drinks, than in burgers :)

    We spent nearly an hour and a half in Skywalk, just doing window shopping. The mall is well maintained and appears to be very spacious. The number of shops is less when compared to Spencers Plaza. However, the facility is well maintained and the shops are targeted at upper class families. PVR cinemas & Landmark are giving finishing touches to their interiors. They are yet to open up.

    Skywalk has a nice multi-storeyed parking structure. However, the roads around Skywalk are not equipped to handle the additional traffic. I couldn't imagine how bad the traffic would be, once PVR cinemas open up. The Poonamalle High Road & Nelson Manickam Road intersection is already very packed. A flyover at the intersection would definitely help.

    Skywalk is a boon to poeple living in/around Anna Nagar/Aminjikarai area. They don't have to commute too far to get to a decent shopping mall/theatre. And for me, I can just walk to a shopping mall :)

    Also read:

    PVR Cinemas in Skywalk, Chennai - Worldclass
    Nilkamal's @home - Not designed for me
    Goods in US - lots of options & cheaper price

    Tuesday, March 09, 2010

    Infoquest 2010, GCT Coimbatore

    A visit to Infoquest 2010, brought lots of nostalgic feelings. I felt younger amidst a group of young and energetic students. This blog post, captures my experience at Infoquest 2010.

    Infoquest is a technical symposium organized by the CSITA (CS & IT association) in GCT, Coimbatore. It is a 2 days function, with lots of technical events and a few cultural events. I had been to Infoquest 2010 to attend the 2nd day of the symposium (on March 6th). Before my long US stay, I regularly attended all the previous Infoquest functions.

    I reached GCT by 10 am and went straight to the auditorium. I was greeted by the General Secretary and he took me to the office of CSE HOD. I met Prof. Lakshmi Praba & Prof. Valarmathi. I had a long conversation with both of them.

    There are lots of things in Infoquest that have not changed over the years or have become better. A few highlights are:
    • There were 17 different events including Technical Paper presentation, Software Presentation, Quiz, Marketing, Business Planning, Software Debugging, Impromptu Programming, and Online Treasure Hunt (compare it to 5 or 6 events that we had during 1998).
    • The number of delegates who participated in the symposium reached 700 (compare it to ~200 delegates that we had during 1998).
    • Do you know what the budget was? It is roughly 4.5 lakhs & the unofficial numbers seem to be lot higher than that (compare it to ~30K that we spent in 1998).
    • Hospitality of juniors. Students go out of the way to take care of guests. Of course, the quality of food (from Hotel Annapurna) was also awesome !
    • Systems committee had lots of cool flicks. Most of the flicks carried some social message such as "Students participating in Politics", "Terrorism", "Saving Trees", and "How to cope up with love failures". Most of the flicks were like 'stories' with real characters. Syscom has come a long way from the traditional story board and 3D studio animations. The flicks are similar to 3D animation movies.
    • Auditorium was well decorated and they have spent a lot on the backdrop, sound systems, projector, screens etc.,
    • MCs/Comperers were great as always and there wasn't any dull moment
    • Cultural events show cased extraordinary performances. There was more fun in watching the performance of students in the walkways, than watching the performance on the stage. The performers/participants in cultural events were from non-CS & non-IT departments too. The cultural events went on for nearly 2+ hours.  
    It looks like there is a recent tradition that seniors talk to the current 3rd years and give them tips for campus interview preparation. So, I got a chance to interact with the current 3rd year students (120 of them from both CS & IT departments). I gave a mini interview preparation talk to them, highlighting the 4Cs of a successful software professional - Commitment, Communication, Competence, and Collabaration. Hope, I got them motivated :)

    The function ended at about 8.15 pm, closing with a feedback session from all the seniors & staff members.

    Overall, Infoquest 2010 was simply superb ! I'm eagerly looking forward to attend Infoquest 2011.

    Also read:

    Kovai Trip - Maruthamalai/GCT visit
    World Classical Tamil Meet 2010

    I've captured some video clips of the Infoquest 2010 cultural events. You can watch them below:

    Tuesday, March 02, 2010

    R2I school admissions - FAQ

    This blog post captures the most commonly asked questions regarding school admissions. The answers are based on my own personal experiences in finding a KG admission for my kid and based on the information that I gathered from friends/colleagues.  

    Also read:  

    Questions asked during KG interview in Schools
    List of CBSE schools in Chennai
    • When do school admissions typically start?
    School admissions typically start in the month of Oct for the next academic year. For example, if you want to put your kid(s) in school for the year 2011, you should start looking for admissions in Oct, 2010.
    • What is the ideal time of the year to R2I, to take care of kid's school admissions?
    Schools begin their admissions at least 6 months before the academic year starts. So, you should plan your R2I accordingly.   (Also read: R2I checklist - 25 things to do)
    • Do I have to stand in a long queue for admissions?
    No (most of the times). Schools do issue lots of application forms. In fact, the admission forms are distributed for 2 or 3 days in a row. Schools make good money out of application forms and so they don't hesitate to issue application forms to everyone.

    However, there is a general perception that schools only shortlist people for interviews on a first come, first served basis. I was the applicant #5 for one of the schools in Chennai. However, they haven't called us yet for the interviews.

    If you can afford to go early to beat the queue, you are very much encouraged to do so.
    • Can I get a seat for my kid in school, from being in US?
    Technically you can book/block a seat for your kid in school, from being in US. You can get admissions easily in schools that are trying to establish.

    If you are specifically looking for Tier-I or Tier-II schools (i.e., the most popular ones), the chances of getting a seat from being in US are very slim.
    • Do I need recommendation to get admission into a good school?
    Yes. Based on my experience, recommendation from 'influential' people go a long way.

    The law of supply & demand comes into play, when it comes to school admissions. If there are too many contenders for a fixed number of school seats, the most influential ones would be given higher preference.
    • Do all schools demand donation?
    Yes ... in some form or the other. For example, some schools get the donation in the form of "Admission Fee" or "School Development Fund"
    • Do I have to pay the donation amount in cash or check?
    Different schools have different practice. Some expect the donation amount to be paid in cash and others accept a check from you.
    • What are some of the fees charged by schools for admission?
    One-Time

    Donation or School Development Fund or Admission Fee (non refundable)
    Caution or Security Deposit (refundable)

    Recurring / Yearly Fee

    School Tuition Fee
    Cost of Books
    Cost of School Uniforms

    Optional (only when you use the infrastructure)

    Transportation Charges
    Boarding charges
    Post-school hours day care
    Extra-Curricular activities (Swimming, Tennis, Karate, Dance, Scouts etc.,)

    Miscellaneous Fee (will go out of your pocket during the course of the academic year)

    Picnic / Excursions
    Participation in Exhibitions
    Participation in Annual Day Celebrations
    Inter School Competition Registration
    Art Work / Project Work
    • How much does kid's education cost?
    The cost of education drastically varies based on the school. It can be anywhere from Rs. 35,0000 per year to Rs.1,00,000 per year (irrespective of the standard/class to which you are admitting your kid). For example, the school in which I got admission for my daughter charges the same fee from Pre-KG to VII std. For classes from VIII - XII, there is an additional Rs.15,000 fee.

    This amount does not include the donations. The donations can vary from Rs.25,000 to Rs.1,00,000.

    (Note: These are prevailing schooling costs in Chennai as of 2010)

    Also read: How much money do you need to R2I?
    • How easy is to get admission in a good school?
    It is extremely difficult to get admission in good schools. You need to have recommendations from influential people to get admission in a good school. Money also goes a long way, in some of these schools. Your kid's interview performance alone doesn't decide the seat allotment.

    You should be very aggressive to find the right contacts in/outside the school. Continuously ping the school administrators and show your interests. There are instances, where my friends/colleagues have to meet the school principal directly a few times, before getting a seat.
    • Who are some people that can provide recommendation for school admissions?
    Teachers/Staff working in the same school
    Parents of students who are studying in the same school for a long time
    School's board members / trustees
    Key politicians
    Key educational board officials
    Government officials higher-up in the rank

    Note:
    - There may be multiple people approaching the school with recommendations from the above set of people. Who influences the most will get a seat. For example, we got a recommendation letter from the P.A of Chief Minister with his own government stamp on it. The school authorities simply said that they have multiple recommendations from CM's P.As and they may not be able to honor them. Of course, we tried this after the admission results were published. If we had gotten a recommendation before the admission results were announced, we could've gotten a seat in the school

    - If you are getting a recommendation letter from an XYZ IAS officer, and another  person is getting a recommendation from the IAS officer who approves educational grants, the latter would have more influence on the admission process
    • What is the recommended mode of communication with school authorities?
    It is recommended to do in-person visits, if it is possible. The next mode of contact should be over the phone. Don't expect any cordial responses over the phone. The person who is attending the phone call would be very eager to disconnect (He/She may receive 10s/100s of such calls during the admission season. So, they may not be excited about patiently responding back to your queries)

    Don't try to send emails to the email address given in the school's website. So, far I haven't received any responses to the emails sent to school's email address (even from popular schools such as Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan (aka PSBB), and Chinmaya Vidyalaya)

    • Does the child's citizenship make any difference in the fee ? 
     No. The child's citizenship doesn't make any difference in the fee (at least, the schools that I talked to, didn't have any difference in fee for US citizens)

    However, I would recommend you to check with the school administration - just in case, the school had a special fee structure for foreign students.

    Also read:

    Getting a KG admission in school - the math behind it
    Questions asked during KG interview in Schools