Friday, February 25, 2011

Connemara Library, Chennai - Disappointing

I've spent nearly 2/3rd of my life in Chennai - but I had never been to Connemara Public Library. Whenever I cross Pantheon road, I remind myself to visit Connemara library ... someday. Finally, the day came. I visited Connemara library two weeks ago. It is conveniently located in Pantheon Road, Egmore and very accessible to people from Nungambakkam, Chetput, and Mount Road. It is located in a huge campus which was mostly abandoned. (Also read: American Library in US Consulate - for history lovers)

There are a number of facilities inside the campus - most of them out of operation or closed. The campus also houses Chennai Government museum among other things. On the day that I visited (a Saturday), a Chennai corporation school had brought their students to the library. It was fun to watch the kids running all around with curiosity.  (Also read: Semmozhi Poonga - Greenway in the heart of Chennai City)

I've seen the interiors of the "old building" in several movies and I was longing to see that. To my surprise, the library has moved to a new building and the old/legacy Connemara library is under preservation. 

The new library is located in a multi-storeyed complex. The library had books covering almost all the subject - right from new age computer technology books to old age "Tholkappiams" & "Manimekalais". The folks who were there are mostly poor/middle class students, old/retired people, and the folks who are trying to kill time. I believe the library serves as a good resource for students who cannot afford costly books. I didn't see many "rich" or "middle aged" people there. (Also read: Visit to World Classical Tamil Meet - 2010)

Though the library has a good collection in terms of "quantity" I seriously doubt the "quality" of the books. Most of the books (except for engineering or management books) are at least 50+ years old and they're in a pathetic condition. The books looked like a person in hospital after a serious accident - stitched everywhere, or with patches/tapes all over. Some of the aisles were stinking because of the large volumes of old books. The library also has a computer room and digital collection (CDs, DVDs etc.,) - once again, targeted at students.

I saw administrative people only in the ground floor. There weren't people available to help/assist the visitors in 2nd or 3rd floors.

I saw a canteen in the Connemara Library campus - however it was empty. There was a petty shop selling Aavin drinks. There are playing structures for kids - most of them are broken/rusty. There is place for school students to sit and eat. There was a small store selling books - which had a good collection of books to buy.

I saw a few foreigners/tourists visiting the library and the Chennai Government museum.

There is no entry fee for visiting the library. You can be a member by paying an annual subscription of Rs.50. You need to pay Rs.300 to borrow up to 6 books. You've to get the signature of a Grade A or Grade B government officer to be a member (not sure about the purpose this serves).

I was quite disappointed with my visit and I decided not to become a member of Connemara Library. I'm eagerly looking forward to visiting Anna Centenary library. I heard good feedback about Anna Centenary library from my friends.

Also read:

American Library in US Consulate - for history lovers
Anna Tower Park - A Boon for Anna Nagar residents

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A visit to Children's Park & Snake Park in Guindy, Chennai

If you have kids at home and want to keep them occupied for half a day, you should consider visiting Children's Park & Snake Park in Guindy, Chennai. We visited Guindy National Park last week and had a great time there.

(Also read: Mahabalipuram, Muttukadu, & Crocodile Park   A visit to Arignar Anna Zoological Park - Vandalur)

Guindy National Park consists of Children's Park and the Snake Park. There was a time when Children's park used to be filled with a variety of animals. However, today it looks almost deserted. There are only a few animals in the park, such as monkeys, turtles, crocodiles, peacock, and deers. Though the park was running short of faunas, it is rich with flora. The whole area looked like a dense forest. The trunk of the trees have grown large - indicating that they're there for several hundreds of years. There were a couple of banyan trees also in the park.


One thing worth mentioning is the play structures in the park. The park had a good collection of play structures for kids. The play area was filled with joy, vibrancy and noise. It was nice to watch the kids playing with full enthusiasm.

We then went to the Snake Park which was nearby. The Snake Park is maintained very well. It had a good collection of pythons, cobras, and a variety of other snakes. The park has a collection of snakes that live in land, and also the ones that live in water. In addition, the park had crocodiles and turtles. My daughter enjoyed watching them all. The locality was maintained very well - neat and clean. We were lucky enough to see the live show of snake (at around 3 pm).

The Guindy National Park is open between 9.00 am to 5.30 on all days (except Tuesdays). One of the things that has improved in public/recreational facilities in Chennai is the restroom and water facilities. Guindy National Park isn't an exception.

Guindy National Park has enough parking facility for cars, two-wheelers and even tourist buses. In fact, the touristers who come to Guindy to visit other nearby attractions such as Gandhi Mandapam, Kamaraj Mandapam, and Rajai Memorial also park their vehicles near Guindy National Park. These attractions are at a walkable distance from Guindy National Park. You can spot a few deers roaming near the parking lot and chasing people for food.

My daughter enjoyed the visit to Guindy National Park, more than us.



Also read:


Mahabalipuram, Muttukadu, & Crocodile Park
A visit to Arignar Anna Zoological Park - Vandalur

Green Card vs. US Citizenship

Return to India (R2I) decision becomes a moving target for many folks because of the desire to get a Green card or US Citizenship. I have heard many Indians say "I've stayed so long in this country... I would rather get my Green card before I go back". In the quest to learn more about the benefits of US Citizenship vs. Green Card, I started doing some reading (actually research).  Here is a summary of my findings.

(Also read: Going to US through a consultant on a H1B visa?   When is the right time to go to US? )
   
Green card provides you lawful permanent residency and allows you to live/work in US, on a permanent basis. US Citizenship makes you a citizen of the country, and eligible for almost all the benefits enjoyed by born citizens.

Residency Status Maintenance

When you move to another country, intending to live there permanently, you loose your Green Card privilege. Typically, this happens when you live outside US for more than a year without obtaining a re-entry permit. Government has the "authority" to invalidate your Green Card, for durations of stay less than a year outside the country. You need to file your tax returns when you are outside the country - failing which, your Green Card status may be at risk.

When you have a Green card, you've to keep UCSIS informed about your new address within 10 days of changing your address. (Also read: R2I Checklist for Change of address)

You don't have any of these issues when you have a US Citizenship. You can be living anywhere and for how long so ever. UCSIS recommends US Citizens to "register" with your nearest consulate, so that, they can help you in case of any emergencies.

Starting a business

When you have a Green Card, you can start your own business and corporation, like any other US Citizens. H1B visa holders are authorized to work for a 'specific' employer in US. So, they aren't authorized to start/run their own business.

Employment/Job

When you have a Green Card, you can join a company immediately after you get the offer, like US Citizens. You don't have to go through any hassle like H1B visa holders.

As a Green Card holder, you will have the right to apply for government jobs which do not require security clearance. Jobs that require security clearance are filled with US citizens only. (Also read:  R2I Job Search)

Travel

When you have a Green Card, you still need to obtain visa to travel to countries like Schengen nations in Europe. US Citizens don't require a visa when traveling to Schengen countries.

US Citizens are encouraged to register with the nearest US Consulate when they travel outside US, and be in a country for a long period. It helps UCSIS to reach them, in case of emergencies.  (Also read: Places to see in USA)

Immigration

When you have a Green Card, you don't have a "time limit" to stay within US (like US Citizens and unlike H1B visa holders). When you go through the immigration checkpoints in US, you won't get the funny questions from immigration officer "How long are you going to be here? & What is the nature of your visit".

Tax

With respect to Tax, there is no difference between Green Card holders and US Citizens. Tax laws are for the "residents" of United States. You are considered a resident of United States if you stay in the country for 183 days or longer. You're then qualified to pay tax.  (Also read: Filing tax returns in US after your R2I - Some tips)

Financial Aid / Mortgage

You can get loans from banks irrespective of whether you are a US Citizen or a Green Card holder. have a Financial institutions prefer Green Card Holders & US Citizens when issuing home loans - because of their "permanent residency" status.

Some of the financial aids given by Government are for US Citizens only.  (Also read: How much money is enough to R2I)

Right to Vote / Elections / Politics

Green card holders do not have the right to cast their vote in elections. However, folks with US Citizenship can vote. US Citizenship allows you to contest in elections, except for the post of United States President - a President must be a US born citizen (Yes ! Arnold schwarzenegger isn't qualified to be the President of US). Immigrants are not eligible to run for the office of President, no matter how long they have lived in the country. However, your kid born in US is eligible to contest for the post of United States President :)

Green Card holders & US Citizens can make financial contributions to politics, whereas foreigners/visa holders cannot.  

(Disclaimer: I haven't taken any effort to verify the legal accuracy of this article. Please consult with your attorney for accurate details)

References

Retaining Green Card
Pre-requisites to become a US President
Benefits of Green Card
Tax Topic - Resident & Non-Resident Aliens
Green Card Renewal
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program for US Citizens