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Bollywood Box DVD Rentals The Desi Version of Red Box

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If you live in the United States and love to watch Bollywood movies, you have a few options such a renting a movie on YouTube or iTunes. If you have a Netflix subscription, you can get a few Bollywood movies there as well. If you happen to live in an area with a large Indian population, you may have a video store in your city. Now you have another option - "The Bollywood Box".


We visited on the Bollywood box at the Al Markaz grocery store in Carrollton. Unlike Red Box, this is inside the supermarket so you have to use it only during store hours. The box is nice and colorful and certainly draws attention. The rental is $1.59 for the first night and then $1.29 for each additional night. They seemed to have a good collection of movies with some new movies like 'Bodyguard' and 'Ra.One', some slightly old but popular movies such as 'K3G' and 'Rang De Basanti' and of course the really old classics like 'Kashmir Ki Kali' and 'Yaadon Ki Baarat'. They also had Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam movies as well.





Verdict : This is certainly something new and may work in areas with large desi population. However, many movies are available for free on Youtube or for Netflix users and they may not need to use the Bollywood box. They also did not have Blu-ray as an option which would be a good addition. They have 4 boxes in Dallas with 2 more coming up soon so it may actually catch. Looking forward to the next few months to see how it goes. No news on other markets.

There are 4 Bollywood box locations in the Dallas area now

Also see our section on how you can see Indian movies legally online.


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Ooma vs Vonage for Calling India

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When I first came to the United States in 1999, I paid about 55c/min to make a call to India, that too after signing up for the AT&T International calling plan which cost another $5. How times have changed in the decade since! You can now call India for about 1c/min or in some cases, pay a flat rate and make unlimited calls. The low cost of communication can be attributed to many things but Voice Over IP (VOIP) is certainly on of the main factors. In this article, we compare two VOIP services, Vonage and Ooma that are available in the US which we have tried and compare them for their services (within the US) and also for calling India.



Vonage - Vonage has been a long time player in the VOIP space and have an excellent plan for calling India. They offer an unlimited calling plan nationwide and 60 countries including India, which costs $25/month with taxes (works out to about $35/month). Vonage will provide you with a VOIP adapter for free once you sign up. We have used their service for more than 8 years now and overall are very pleased with the success in reaching India and also with the quality of the call. There have been a few times, especially at certain times on weekends or during holidays when it may take a couple of tries before you get connected. There is little to no VOIP delay or breaks in the voice quality. They also offer a 3-month or 6-month discounted package as well.


If you call India very often and talk for more than 15-20 hours/month, this is a great service. Guys with girlfriends or fiances back in India, this is a great plan. Vonage also offers you a Vonage extension so you can also use the same account to make calls from your Smartphone for no extra charge (except of course for your mobile airtime if you are calling during peak hours).


Ooma - Ooma is also a VOIP service provider but they do not have a monthly service fee model. You only pay for the device, which can run you between $200-$250. After that you pay about $4 for taxes. With that, you get a phone line for life with no monthly service fees and unlimited calling to the United States. The risk with this company is whether it will stay in business or not. If the company is alive for between 8 months and 1 year after you buy the device, you would have paid for the device. Unlike Vonage where you have unlimited calling to India, you need to signup for a calling plan for India. Ooma offers two plans currently $5/500 minutes or $10/1000 minutes to 60 countries. If you stay within your plan, you pay about 1c/minute but once you go above plan its 8c/minute.


We tried the 500 minutes plan and we extremely disappointed by the entire experience of calling India. The calsl failed more than 75% of the times. When we were lucky to get through the sound quality was terrible or we got disconnected midway through a conversation. The call to the support desk was not very helpful either. They made us go through the entire reboot process (which of course disconnected us) and never acknowledged that the problem is at their end. Based on our experience we would not recommend Ooma's calling plans for calling India.


Verdict : If you call more than 20+ hours a month calling India then Vonage is certainly recommended. Their call quality and service is much superior compared to Ooma. If you speak less than 15 hours a month, then the combination of Ooma with a calling plan like Reliance works better. We called India using Ooma and Reliance and the call quality was excellent.


Do you use Vonage, Ooma or another VOIP service for calling India? Let us know what you think.


Hindu Funerals in the United States

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A funeral is not something you wish to encounter when you are in a foreign country but unfortunately there may come a time when a close family or friend may pass on and you have to help with the last rites. Unfortunately one of my friend's wife passed away earlier this year after a prolonged fight with cancer. When my father passed away in India a few years ago, neighbors, friends and family helped make the arrangements and I never knew what they had done. This time it was my turn to help and I found little help on the Internet so I thought I would share my experiences with everyone.

Overall, you need to look at the following three main things

  1. Arrangements with a Funeral Home
  2. Priest for the Ceremony
  3. Items for the Pooja

Arrangements with a Funeral Home

If you live in a metropolitan area such as Dallas, Chicago, New York-New Jersey etc, then you are fortunate enough to find a Hindu temple that can help you with some good information. Hindu temples in the US do not have a crematorium but there are many funeral homes that do. If you call the Hindu temple, they will recommend a few that they have worked with in the past. If you do not have a local temple, you can call the funeral homes from the Yellow pages and ask them if they have a crematorium and if they would allow a Hindu funeral to take place at their premises. We called the Hindu temple and they told us the name of the most commonly used one.


Priest for the Ceremony

This is probably the most difficult part of the arrangements because not all priests do funeral services. If you live in a big metro, you are likely to find someone at the temple who can help. If you live in a smaller town, you may have to drive to a bigger city and get a priest or may even have to fly someone in. I did not have that dilemma because we have a big temple in our city. The priest said he is not a funeral expert but can perform the last rites to the best of his abilities. My friend had no issues and so we went with this priest.


Items for the Pooja

Once you have selected your priest, he will give you the list of Pooja items needed for the ceremony. It includes the standard things you would expect like Rice, Haldi, Kumkum, coconuts, flowers, diyas etc but there are some special things that maybe hard to get like Ganga Jal and Tulsi. We got Ganga Jal but were not able to get Tulsi at any of the grocery stores. Luckily another friend of ours had a Tulsi plant and I got some. The priest later told me that even Tulsi seeds (which may be available more easily) would have sufficed.


It was a stressful time making the arrangements but we were able to get the ceremony done in the best and most traditional manner that we could under the circumstances. It was a duty I had to fulfill.

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