Saturday, December 28, 2013

Economic challenges will be Kejriwal's acid test

A lot of us have been for years saying that India will not change unless we change the way we do politics. A few attempts have been made in the past to bring about that change.

In mid-70s, when many thought that Indira Gandhi was getting dictatorial and corrupt, Janata Party was cobbled together. In an unbelievable electoral wave, she and her Congress were swept out of power in 1977. She herself lost her seat to someone called Raj Narain.

The Janata Party experiment was largely reactionary: it set up Shah Commission and hounded Indira Gandhi. Their undoing was they practised the same politics as Congress. Morarji Desai as PM couldn't keep the disparate power centres together. The same Congress, the same Indira Gandhi, came back to power in three years.

Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, gave us lot of hope. He tried cleaning up the system, and called upon bureaucrats and technocrats to come to public life. Even now there are many talented people, young and old, in the Congress. But none of them are able to break out of the party’s culture; and instead of reforming the system, they have virtually merged with the system. The BJP, positioned itself as an alternative with a different approach, but in many ways, they are no different from the Congress.

For the first time, a group of educated people, not belonging to any established political parties, but sworn to public service, took corruption as a major issue, and decided to clean up the system by getting into the system. (Of course, AAP was helped to great extent by Anna Hazare's Lokpal campaign.) That’s the reason why the AAP victory in Delhi assembly elections and today’s formation of new AAP-headed Delhi government is historic.

So far the AAP story has been a heady mixture of populism and idealism. Nothing wrong with that. But now they will have to find space for hard reality too. The AAP movement grew on India's anger against corruption. But corruption is a part of India’s socio-economic culture. Changing the way we do politics will now have to extend to changing that culture.

For example, we have been brought up on freebies and subsidies. A lot of these, which should actually go to the poor, go to people who don't need it, the upper middle class and rich. Our economy and development policies are in a shambles; and that’s one reason why our infrastructure and standard of living are way poorer than what they should actually be. Political changes are easier compared to economic changes. And therein lies Kejriwal’s acid test.

AAP and Kejriwal have a real battle ahead. But as of now, they are the best bet we have. They are not only talking idealism, but also making every effort to practise it

(Crossposted from Kaleidoscope)

Monday, December 9, 2013

AAP has bigger challenges ahead


The AAP is on a roll. But as Arvind Kejriwal would know very well, the path ahead will be harder from now on. This is a track he chose consciously: to fight the system by joining it, and not as his mentor Anna Hazare prefers, to be outside the system. So far so good.

Politicians may not admit, but surely the Aam Aadmi Party’s performance has made them sit up. If it were any party other than the AAP in Delhi, we would have seen power-brokers jumping into the fray, leading to the all-too-familiar scenario of wheeling and dealing, and before long we would have had a government.

There may be a few reasons why the BJP is not staking claim to power. One, with the AAP-inspired vigil, it's difficult to woo allies to cobble the requisite number. Two, President's Rule will lead to a re-election in Delhi, probably along with the Lok Sabha election. BJP might well be hoping that the Modi wave will give it a greater momentum for a decisive mandate.

Kejriwal's hope is that the AAP will be able to repeat the performance at the national level. But the extrapolation may not be so easy as it sounds. The citizen-driven party will have to mobilize state and district-level participation in big numbers to counter the well-entrenched local influences of the established parties, not just the Congress and the BJP, but also the many regional parties. It may not be beyond Kejriwal and his highly motivated team. Their theme of 'clean politics' is one which has a pan-India resonance. If Kejriwal has his eyes on a big number in the Lok Sabha, then the work will have to start right away.

The Delhi election result is a milestone in India's story of democracy. The light at the end of the tunnel is now a shade brighter. Kejriwal and his team need to ensure that the light only burns brighter. Hopefully, we are seeing the beginning of a change. If the right people are elected, the right people will be in power, and there will surely be better governance.

Friday, December 6, 2013

RIP Mandela

Nelson Mandela was more than the first Black President of South Africa. He was more than an anti-apartheid leader. What inspired people across the world was his compassion and forgiveness. There aren't many fighters and achievers like Mandela.

His African National Congress was once classified as terrorist organisation. He spent 27 years in prison. Once he walked out he carried no vengence against the people he fought a life-long battle against.

He set up a Truth and Reconiliation Commission. He was not just against senseless minority domination purely on the basis of colour of human skin. He was also against Black domination. The way he accommodated Fredrick De Klerk, the last apartheid era head of state, is a monumental example of his deep understanding of the society for whose liberation he fought.

The sort of societal transformation he brought about is unparalleled in the world. He avoided massive bloodshed that could have ensued. He was so humble and forgiving that he invited the prosecutor who got him jailed, for tea in his presidential palace.

He taught us the value of the age-old saying "Let bygones be bygones". He said we had to move on and the country had no time to waste to achieve its larger goals of elevating the standandard of lives of people.

How many leaders we see around have the vision Mandela had? How many can sacrifice their comforts for the good of the society? Mandela is guiding light for everyone, especially so for leaders who are championing people's causes. We have a lot to learn from his life.

May his soul rest in peace.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Our poverty has nothing to do with Mars Mission

To say that the Rs 450 crore spent on Mars Mission (comparatively a small amount) should have been spent on feeding the poor, is mixing up issues. If many Indians are hungry and homeless, if India has poor public infrastructure, it's not because Indian space scientists are doing their job. More


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cucumbertown: A recipe to bring chefs and foodies together

We are all familiar with companies founded in garages and wooden sheds. But here is one where the founders were sitting in their respective drawing rooms in three corners of the world – two in Bangalore, one in the US, and the other in Switzerland – and none of them had met the others.

There are a number of blogs on restaurants, dining and recipes. But, Cherian Thomas, a Bangalore-based foodie, realised that these blogs are restricted only to the tech-savvy community, since opening a blog and maintaining it requires some amount of knowledge in website management. It struck him that there isn’t a Facebook for cooks, like there is one for photographers or designers and Cucumbertown, a social network for chefs and foodies, was born.

“I used to cook with my brother from the time I was in 7th standard. Later, I realised that many housewives, mothers and grandmoms, besides many men who cook as a hobby, don’t have an online presence, because they are neither comfortable with writing a blog nor have adequate motivation to write long articles on food,” says Thomas, who is an engineer by profession. “So I thought I would devise a mechanism that will make it easy for everyone who is interested in cooking and recipes to have an online identity -- a community where foodies can easily exchange tips on cooking: that’s the premise of Cucumbertown.”

The site is simple to use. You can either log in with your Facebook username and password or create a new account. “Once you are onboard, you can search by ingredient, cuisine or cooking time, upload photos and write recipes, and share all that you cook,” says Thomas.

“I remember one of my friends saying that his grandmother knows a few good Konkani recipes, and he feared that those dishes might become extinct,” Thomas recalls. “Cucumbertown will not let them become extinct. On our site, you mingle with not only chefs and food bloggers, but also with a huge number of home cooks who might end up sharing a few family secrets as well. This is also a place where you can save your recipes for generations to come.”

Thomas, who is the CEO, had worked in Zynga and Support.com. The other three co-founders are CTO Arun Prabhakar who previously worked with Taggles and TutorVista; Chris Luscher, partner at InformationArchitects, a premier design firm in Zurich; and Dan Hauk, theme designer of Tumblr and co-founder of BrewTracker.

Thomas explains the importance of having world-class design experts as cofounders of the Cucumbertown: “For a consumer product, design is extremely important, as important as the website content, for users to keep coming back to the site. Secondly, we decided to work with professionals in America and Europe because we wanted to create a global product.”

Thomas says that Cucumbertown has users from 60 countries, the largest audience, after the US, is from Australia and the UAE. “Thanks to our site, we know of some interesting American-Arabic fusion recipes, created by Americans living in the Gulf. Sanaa A’esha, a user, says, “I spend half my days lookng for recipes, interesting food blogs and sharing my own personal creations. I would have thought of developing this site, if this hadn't come up.”

Cucumbertown raised a $300,000 seed round last year. The first round of investors included Naval Ravikant of AngelList, Paul Singh of 500 Startups, FarmVille co-creator Sizhao Zao Yang, founder of MightyText Maneesh Arora, early Google product guy Richard Chen and Sonique Player co-creator Tabreez Varjee.

(This article appeared in the Brainwave column of The Times of India, Bangalore, yesterday.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Inuit - an IT management platform for SMEs

The only data-management solution a small or medium enterprise typically invests in is an accounting software like Tally. To manage the rest of the functions, like inventories and stock supplies, the manager relies on his goodold ledger, files and notebooks. Nothing wrong with them, except it's hard to handle the growing volume of transactions and the diverse types of data.

That, in turn, limits his ability to diversify and grow in business. Sharath Chander Punthambekar, a 59-year-old veteran in implementing ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions in India and abroad, saw this as an opportunity and set out to build a platform that would put the small businessmen on a par with their resource-rich counterparts, as far as IT infrastructure is concerned.

"Most of the companies, especially at the bottom of the pyramid, don't have the technological, infrastructural or cultural bandwidth to implement a true ERP solution. Some go in for one, because their competitor has one," says Punthambekar. "And, many of them can't afford a solution like SAP."

With the aim of giving the power of IT to the millions of SMEs and thereby revolutionize the way they do business, he and his friend of over three decades, M H Narasimhan, 63, have joined hands to put together Inuit.

"Our platform is based on three critical premises: simplicity, affordability and speed. "We offer SMEs the 5-12-5 advantage: cost of Rs 5 per day per user, 12 key modules like orders, bills, receipts, purchases, payments, deliveries, etc; and the app is up and running in 5 days. There are no licence fees, no implementation fees, no customization fees, no maintenance fees, no version upgrade fees and no consultant fees," says Punthambekar, CTO of Inuit Cloud Technologies.

Narasimhan, who is the CEO, adds, "For any businessman, there are just three matrices: receivables, collections and stock turnover ratio. And we have just focussed on them."

Narasimhan, who is the primary investor in this initiative, has over 30 years of experience in senior management, strategy, sales and marketing. Narasimhan says, "SMEs are the backbone of our economy but the most neglected. They have poor quality of information. Even large companies , who have tried to slice ERP solutions, haven't been able to do it in a simple manner. So, we decided to make available a simple information management app to the SMEs who have neither great knowledge of IT nor resources to manage an IT team. It's mobile, and you can upload and download data wherever you have internet connection ."

Inuit, to be launched on November 1 in Bangalore, won the gold medal from the government of India's department of science & technology and Lockheed Martin, USA, for the Best Innovation on the Cloud. Punthambekar is one of the 30 Indians to have won the annual gold medal.

A recent study by Ficci and Google showed that barely 5% of SMEs had even a website. The founders of Inuit are gungho about the change the platform can bring. The company already has around 400 installations in the pipeline. "There are roughly 18 to 20 million SMEs in India that contribute around 40% of the country's GDP. An app like Inuit can help them manage their business better, increase productivity and diversify. When they grow, so too will the GDP," they say.

(This article appeared in The Times of India, Bangalore, in the Brainwave column on Oct 22, 2013)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Three cheers to our weather bureau

A proud moment for our weather scientists and India Meteorological Department who accurately forecast every detail of cyclone Phailin and saved hundreds of thousands of lives in Orissa. One may say that's their job, but given the poor reputation they have, they deserve a round of applause.

Meteorologists have always been the butt of jokes in our country. It's a pastime to look at the weather column and trash the forecast. Such is the disdain that if someone is planning a picnic, they check if there is a prediction of thundershowers!

The poor quality of prediction was never because of the lack of well-qualified meteorologists. India has some of the best scientists in the world. But they lacked state-of-the art technology to collect and analyse data. Thankfully, there's been change. Weather men say they now have good computer-backed systems for data analysis and forecast. And, we have seen the result.

In the runup to Phailin, our weather scientists were criticised by their counterparts abroad for underestimating the magnitude of Phailin. While IMD forecast a maximum wind speed of 220 kmph, western weather centres put the figure at 315 kmph. A noted meteorologist, Eric Holthaus, was quoted as saying, "Phailin is already worse than what the IMD is forecasting. A recent satellite estimate put Phailin's current intensity on par with 2005's Hurricane Katrina... I feel that IMD's underestimate of the strength and impact of this storm is potentially tragic and could catch many millions of people off guard." Katrina hit the US coast in 2005 killing over 1,800 people.

The western commentators seemed to have been bound by their stereotypical perception of India. Our meteorologists stuck to their assessment. Following up on their forecast, our National Disaster Management Authority in association with state and central governments did a commendable job of moving close to 9 lakh people to safety and reducing significantly the loss of human lives. Finally, our forecast turned out to be spot on.

It was good to see our weather scientists and disaster management officials getting their well-deserved prime-time coverage on all national news channels last night.

Incidentally, the India Meteorolgical Department has a very good website. It has a Facebook page too, and it has close to 7,000 Likes.

Time to take our weathermen seriously. No jokes, please.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Daring escape by IAF officers from Pak jail - Part 2

Second and last part of M P Anil Kumar's piece on the escape of three IAF officers from a Pak jail 41 years ago. "The three escapees were never feted for their awesome attempt... The threesome truly deserves official recognition. Why not honour them at least now through retroactive decoration?" asks the author. More 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Daring escape by IAF officers from Pak jail - Part 1

My friend M P Anil Kumar's gripping account of a daring escape by three Indian Air Force officers from a Pakistan jail. More

Monday, September 2, 2013

Shutting petrol pumps and #MoilyIdeas

Petroleum minister Veerappa Moily's idea of shutting down petrol pumps at 8 pm in order to save fuel consumption, shows how befuddled the central political and administrative machinery in the country is, on improving the economy. (The original story in Indian Express & in Epaper). It's difficult to even understand the logic behind this bizarre thought.

Very few petrol pumps are open late in the night, and fewer open round the clock. Most petrol pumps anyway shut by 10 pm. Never heard of people filling up petrol and going on long drives in the night just because they saw fuel stations are open after 8 pm. Wonder how much Moily thought the oil companies would save by closing these pumps 2 hours early.

If at all such a restriction comes into place, one, people will fill more petrol in the hours when the pumps are open. Two, people who need fuel on emergency will be put to great hardship. Three, a remote possibility of vested interests hoarding petrol and selling it near stations illegally at a higher price for people who are caught unawares and need fuel urgently after 8 pm.

Moily's remark has led to a flood of comments on Twitter with the hash tag #Moilyideas. It was trending for a while yesterday. But the tweets are still pouring in here.

Here are some of them:

Nikhil Narayanan ‏@nikhilnarayanan
"Boss, I need to leave by 7 today. Gotta fill fuel" ~ Possible office-talk, thanks to #moilyideas 

Mocking Bard ‏@Spooferman_ 
People are getting fat. Please shut down restaurants between 8am and 8pm.

IndiaFirst ‏@NiketNabriya1
Government bans sex from 8pm to 8am to conrol population explosion! 

Faking News ‏@fakingnews
BREAKING: ATMs to close down by 8 PM to arrest the slide of rupee

Gaurav Sabnis ‏@gauravsabnis
After 8 pm, women traveling alone in cars should walk on the streets instead.

Now Moily says the idea to shut down pumps came from the public and not from the government.

Everyone, including people in government, know that there's not control on fuel consumption for government vehicles. The common logic is that since it comes free, why bother. That attitude has to change, because that's where the maximum wastage occurs.

Secondly, limit free trips and travel allowances for government functionaries.

Thirdly, remove the subsidy for diesel. Or if that could add to inflation, then have differential pricing mechanism for it.

I am sure people are willing to take the hard measures, provided they see that the government itself is setting an example.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Elections will end political uncertainty

Rupee for now seems to have stabilized after the precipitous fall. The fears that it may not fall further haven't eased. The GDP figures paint a depressing story. 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh -- irrespective of his eminence as an economist and a crafty politician who has survived many a storm in the portals of power -- ironically is the weakest link in the economic chain. 

He gave a statement in Parliament. But it came too late and didn't offer any solutions. He merely said get ready for hard days. But he should have announced some measures that would have infused confidence in people. I don't think a few steps now will be able repair the economy damaged over many years.

The biggest problem now is the seeming lack of control authority in Delhi. Foreign investors have pulled out money precisely because of the evaporation of confidence in our country. 

Dissolving Parliament and calling for elections will bring to an early end the policy drift. But Congress will not do it but will hang on for as long as possible and try their best to salvage the situation.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hurray! Murray!!

What a way to end the world's most famous tennis tournament! Yesterday, there was a new Women's champion, and today, there's a new Men's champion, at the 2013 Wimbledon tournament.

Finally, Andy Murray got it; remarkably in a three-setter that looked like a five-setter.

For a long time, I wanted to Andy Murray to win. He was an underdog, but not of late. He won in the Olympics and US Open; and as the 2nd seed today, he had to get the Cup, for everything was going in his way.

Luckily the match wasn't a one-sided one. The No 1 seed Novak Djokovic was giving a stiff resistance. It was a battle of equals -- long and gruelling volleys that averaged 20+ strokes, deuce after deuce after deuce; service breaks after service breaks; three missed Championship points and finally, Murray got the better of his opponent.

The first indicator was the way Murray broke and got the first set. Then in the 2nd set Murray was 1-4 down, and came back to turn the tables on Djokovic; made it 4-4, 4-5, 6-5 and then 7-5. It was an amazing set, and gave the clearest indication that the Cup was beckoning the Briton.

Djokovic, who was known to a fierce fighter who comes to behind, just couldn't do it. There were double faults and volleys going long. It just didn't seem to be working for the Serb.

And, in the way the Championship final should be, points never came easy. A befitting finale to a tumultuous fortnight.

But what an irony that Murray's coach is Ivan Lendl, who never won the Wimbledon, and worst, he once famously said, "Grass is for cows."

Well done, Murray!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lisicki, you did well; there’s always next year!

(Crossposted from Kaleidoscope

Finally, the favourite lost. But today's 2013 Wimbledon Ladies Championship final wasn't like anything before.

Marion Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki had never won the Cup before. Both were nervous. Finally, what mattered was, who got over the nerves first, and kept the momentum going. And it was Bartoli, the better player, who hadn’t lost a single set in the entire tournament.

My favourite though was Lisicki. Because she was playing excellent tennis; she wasn't ready to lose, the quiet fighter, who likes to come from behind when all seemed lost. The route she took to reach Centre Court today is a testament to her grit, tenacity, resilience, and above all, her tennis. And what an achievement for her to be as close to winning the cup, as she was today.

Bartoli may not have beaten Serena Williams or Agnieszka Radwanska. That went to the credit of her opponent Lisicki. But the French champion too was etching a similar route on another side to reach the Centre Court.

Bartoli was cool, she seemed to be more in control of her emotions, and her nerves. Why not, she was there, at the Centre Court, battling for the coveted Venus Rosewater Dish, six years ago. She knew what it was like to be at the last mile.

As the match got off to a start, it very much looked like it wasn't Lisicki's day. It was the French girl who seemed to be holding on. One clear indicator was the body language. Bartoli had been there before and it showed. She pumped her fist in the first set as if she was well and truly on her way to the Cup. Lisicki looked defensive. She served some powerful aces and forced Bartoli into unforced errors with a few breathtaking crosscourt volleys. But many of her shots were long. And she went down 1-6 in the first set in 30 minutes flat.

In the third game of the second set, the first point Bartoli won wasn't actually hers. It was wide. It was clear to the naked eye and it was clearer from the Hawk's eye. But Lisicki, already rattled by the way the first set went, missed the chance to challenge it. I thought, that was a crucial turning point.

Still, the 2nd set gave Lisicki hope. She was holding on. But, suddenly, she collapsed into a bout of double faults. And, in a scene, one wouldn't see very often in a Championship match, in the fifth game of the 2nd set, Lisicki hid behind the racket strings and dissolved into tears. That said it all. And I thought that was it.

But, there was an unbelievable flicker of hope. When all seemed lost, Lisicki was playing some excellent tennis. There were some stunning aces; and the placements and the volleys were just right, and getting her the much-needed points. I wondered why couldn't she have come up with those before. She even saved two Championship points. Commentators were beginning to talk about what could be one of those unprecedented comebacks in the history of Wimbledon!

But it was too little, too late.

For a second time, Bartoli served for the match and got it. 6-1, 6-4. And, again in a scene, which we may not see very often, Lisicki broke down during the customary post-match interview, unable to complete her sentence. But she had summed it up rightly: she was overwhelmed by the occasion.

Finally, as any sportsperson would know, it's not the game alone that matters, but it's the emotions and nerves too. All along, Lisicki seemed to be the player who had that edge, who could surprise with the power of her serve and the accuracy of her shots. But Bartoli was the more experienced, who played better tennis, who strategised for the winner, who kept the cool, who had emotions in control, who seemed to know it all.

Well done, girls, Marion and Sabine. All-England Club has a new champion. Congratulations, Marion Bartoli.

Friday, June 28, 2013

First time ever: IAF commissions a wheelchair-bound cadet

Herojit Rajkumar Singh, an exceptionally brilliant cadet, suffered serious injuries to his spinal cord in a flying accident during training in 2011. In a trend-setting gesture, the IAF, has retained him, though he is paralyzed waist downwards.  He is now a Flight Lieutenant, perhaps the first such instance of a wheelchair-bound cadet being commissioned by any of the armed forces in the world.

Here is the story of Herojit by M P Anil Kumar.

"Even though the armed forces need to maintain a fit profile, not every soldier needs to be on the front; the organization has to deploy hundreds in the offices. That is, instead of throwing disabled soldiers to the wolves, they can be retrained for sedentary tasks, especially for the computer-driven workplace, and be made useful cogs in the organization," says Anil.

A prolific writer, Anil Kumar, was a former fighter pilot and is my friend and school-mate. He himself is a paraplegic, paralyzed neck downwards, since 1988.

Read about M P Anil Kumar here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Irony of Obama's choice of Comey as FBI director

We are going to hear more about state surveillance on citizens in the coming days, with US President Barack Obama planning to nominate James Comey, a Republican, as the new director of FBI. He had been in the midst of the spying controversy right from 2004, when he was the deputy attorney general. During the Senate hearing for Comey's confirmation, in the coming months, he will in all probability be questioned about controversy.

In 2004, Comey had hit the headlines, when he refused to sign certain legal aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance programme, initiated by George Bush. He was then serving as the acting attorney general since the incumbent, John Ashcroft, had been hospitalized. Ashcroft, too, refused pressures from White House aides, to endorse the programme. Later Bush intervened and the allowed the programme to run.
Comey's refusal had endeared him to Democrats then who were opposed to Bush's surveillance programme. Comey also had said that he had a change of heart after the Madrid blasts that year.

Obama has steadfastly defended the programme, while assuring the citizens that only certain generic data were collected and no one was actually listening to anyone's telephone conversations.

No government, of whichever party, anywhere in the world, will ever shut down surveillance. It's part of the police department's crime-prevention and law-enforcement procedures. Telephone tapping too has existed for many decades. So too privacy-intrusion concerns. Now, internet has increased manifold people-to-people contacts and, in the process, a lot of personal information are also more widely known than they ever used to be. So, we are just seeing a huge amplification of the age-old concern about privacy intrusion.

While Bush then, and now Obama in the US; and here the Indian government officials may argue that some amount of vigilance and surveillance is required to ensure the safety of citizens, the hullabaloo is over the seemingly inappropriate process used for surveillance. While the overriding concern of everyone continues to be their safety, the worry is whether governments are appropriating the right to pry into people's personal lives without the required legal and constitutional mandate. The objective may be legitimate but the process too needs to be.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dengue - of platelets and papaya leaf juice

My wife was recently diagnosed with dengue fever.

Medical literature says that you must suspect dengue if you have fever accompanied any two of the following symptoms: severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands or rash. But she didn't have any of them; only fever.

Her illness gave me an opportunity to learn about the disease. Here are some points. I have sourced the following from doctors and web pages of recognized health institutions.

(A diary of my wife's case is below the FAQs)

What is dengue?
It is a viral infection caused by the bite of a mosquito (female Aedes aegypti mosquito), which has previously bitten a dengue patient. The disease is transmitted this way: patient-mosquito-healthy person. The symptoms surface 3 to 14 days after the bite.

When should I suspect it could be dengue?
If you have fever that doesn't go with paracetamol tablets within 2 days, go to a doctor. You may or may not have other symptoms like headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting or rashes.

Is low blood platelet count, a sign of dengue?
As a first test, doctors order a blood test. The result would give lot of clues on why you have fever. A drop in platelet count could be a sign of dengue. The normal range is between 1.5 lakh and 4 lakh. But a drop in platelet count is no confirmation of dengue, as the count drops with any infection. So, a specific test for dengue is ordered.

After dengue is confirmed, with the specific test, the disease is monitored by looking at the count of the platelets. Typically, in a dengue patient, the platelet count keeps dropping. How fast and how much depends on many factors like immunity of the person and the severity of the attack.

Blood platelets help the blood to clot. When the count drops, there's a risk of bleeding. So patients are advised even not to brush teeth, because the gums could bleed. There are also dangers of internal bleeding.

The platelet count is monitored every 24 hours. But once the count goes below 50,000, every 12 hours the count is checked. Doctors won't let the count drop. Once it reaches a threshold level -- around 15,000 to 20,000, or even 25,000 -- platelets are injected.

Once the infection is out of the body, the platelet count starts increasing: at first slowly and then rapidly. The rate depends on the general health of the patient.

Is dengue dangerous, fatal?
If detected and treated early it is not. There is no need for panic or fear. A severe form of dengue can be dangerous, and even fatal without early medical intervention. So don't ignore the flu-like symptoms. Visit a doctor.

What is the cure for dengue?
There are no medicines for dengue. Doctors give medicines for the symptoms; and intravenously administer fluids. Patients are told to have plenty of fluids, like water and fruit juice; and have normal food. Nausea and vomiting reduces food intake; and that, combined with the infection, makes the patient weak. The infection lasts about a week. Even after fever is gone, the patient takes about one or two weeks to recover from the tiredness. Fluids, and more fluids, is the only way out.

How beneficial are papaya leaves?
Word has gone around that pomegranate and papaya; and the juice taken out of crushed pomegranate skin, papaya and neem leaves are said to be good for generation of platelets. Doctors merely advise patients to have any fruit. Though benefits of pomegranate and papaya have been well known, the benefits of papaya leaf juice is a new development.

People who have taken papaya leaf juice have spoken of dramatic rise in blood platelet count: for example, from 30,000 to 2 lakh; and from 80,000 to 3.5 lakh, within 24 hours. In Kerala, I am told that not just ayurvedic doctors, but allopathic doctors too, are advising patients to have the papaya leaf juice. I was advised by a couple of nurses to give the juice to my wife. I am also told that tender papaya leaves are being sold at a premium in Kerala.  

In the hospital where my wife was being treated, a patient was being given papaya leaf juice right from day one. But that didn't help much, it looks like, since her platelet count went down to 15,000 and she had to be administered platelets twice. But after she was cured of the infection, the count went up dramatically fast: from 55,000 to 1,30,000.

There is no well-validated and documented scientific backing for this. It's merely an anecdotal evidence. Allopathic doctors are not very forthcoming in giving any credence to this. Ayurvedic doctors say there is an urgent need to research thoroughly the correlation. 

Doctors say once the virus is out of the body and the infection is over, the platelet count will naturally increase with normal food. But most patients tend to have lot of pomegranate and papaya, as part of the diet; and some go a step further and include the juice from crushed papaya leaves. So whether the rise in platelet count is a natural phenomenon or aided by fruit and juice is not clear.

One way of looking at it is: any way the platelet counts will increase once the infections is gone; and the other way of looking at it is: the fruit and juice have played a role. Until a proper scientific investigation is carried out, we wouldn't know for sure the effect.

The effect of any medicine depends a lot on the individual's health. The effect of such remedies vary a lot from individual to individual.

(November 30, 2015 Update: My uncle has been admitted to Chaya Hospital, with viral infection and fever. Though dengue was ruled out, his platelet count is down to 65,000 because of the infection. Doctors have prescribed Caripill, which is made of papaya leaf extracts, in order to boost the platelet count. This means allopathic doctors are recommending this ayurvedic solution.)

How to prevent dengue?
Tough. since it's very easy for a mosquito to bite you, and it's very difficult to keep that one mosquito away. But the following steps could be helpful.
  • Don't allow yourself to be bitten by mosquitoes.
  • Regularly spray mosquito repellents.
  • If you are in a mosquito-prone area, apply some mosquito repellent on your skin. 
  • If there are too many mosquitoes, cover your body; and while sleeping use mosquito net, since the effect of the repellent may not last too long. 
  • Don't allow water to stagnate. Keep changing the water in plant pots.
Related literature:

MY WIFE'S CASE

Wednesday, June 5
She got fever on Wednesday (June 5) morning. She had Crosin. The fever didn't go.

Saturday, June 8
After 72 hours, we went to Manipal Hospital at 9 am on Saturday. She was asked to take a blood and urine test. When we got the results at 12.30 pm, we found that all her parameters were normal, except the blood platelet count. It was 1,20,000. It should be at least 1,50,000. She was advised to get admitted to hospital. A specific test for dengue was also ordered.

Manipal Hospital has been seeing a rush of dengue cases. A lot of patients were also being referred to the hospital by smaller hospitals and clinics. There was no bed available and we were asked to call up at 5 pm. Luckily we got. She was admitted around 7.30 pm.

She was put on IV fluids, and given Dolo 650 (Paracetamol) and Folvite (folic acid) tablets. Her appetite had reduced to near nil.

Sunday, June 9
She had nausea and wasn't able to eat solid food. So the dietician ordered semi-solid food like kanji (porridge) of rice, rava, raagi etc, and soup. She was also having pomegranate and papaya.

On Sunday at 5 am, her platelet count come down to 90,000. By evening the fever and blood pressure, which was low, had satablilized.

Seeing the way her platelet count was dropping, I networked among my friends to look for papaya leaves. I thought, if papaya leaf juice has to be taken, then why not early enough, rather than when her condition had serious.

Monday, June 10
On Monday at 5 am, the count dropped to 35,000. In retrospect, arranging for papaya leaves the previous day, was a good move. Since her count had dropped below 50,000, her blood sample was taken at 5 pm. Her count hadn't dropped in 12 hours. It was the same 35,000.

By evening, I got the papaya leaves. Since we couldn't mash it and get the juice then, around 5.30 pm, she took three leaves and chewed them to get the juice out, and spat out the leaves, like bubble gum.

Since she had the leaves after the blood sample was taken, the leaves didn't have any role in arresting the fall of platelet counts. May be pomegranate and papaya and the water she had did.

Tuesday, June 11
The next day, Tuesday morning at 5 am, the count had gone up to 38,000. She had a teaspoon of papaya leaf juice around 11 am. Blood sample was taken at 5 pm. The count had gone up to 54,000. She was also regularly having lots of pomegranate and also papaya, and lots of water.

Wednesday, June 12
On Wednesday, at 5 am, her count went up to 65,000. I thought she would be discharged on Wednesday. But doctor said it was better her count goes up to at least 80,000. No sample was taken in the evening.

Thursday, June 13
Thursday, at 5 am, the sample was again taken at 5 am. Her count had gone up to 1,28,000. May be the juice had some effect in boosting the platelet count by 90,000 in 48 hours. She was discharged yesterday around 2 pm.

She is very weak. Recovery will take a lot of time. She will have to take a lot of fluids, and may be another round of papaya leaf juice.

MY SUGGESTIONS:
  • If you get fever, especially when there are lot of dengue cases in your city, don't ignore fever. If it doesn't subside within two days, go to a doctor.
  • Don't panic. Even if the doctor suspects it's dengue, and later it is confirmed it's so, don't panic. Do get admitted to a hospital, where your platelet count can be regularly monitored.
  • Drink lots of fluids -- water and fruit juice.
  • Have lots of pomegranate and papaya. If you can get papaya and neem leaves, do arrange for them. Wash the leaves very well. Mash them in mixie with a little water, filter it, and have the juice. Even if there may not not be any good, there won't be any harm.
  • Recovery will take its time. Eat whatever you feel like. Drink lots and lots of fluid.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Greenery not at the cost of development

Today is World Environment Day. One of the subjects commonly discussed is the loss of greenery.

We all feel bad when a tree, big or small, is axed to make space for anything -- be it a shopping complex, residential layout, railway or road bridge, Metro Rail or children's park. Opposition to these projects are instantaneous when trees have to be sacrificed. Protests are staged, roads are blocked, shutdowns enforced and litigations initiated in courts. It's almost made out that these development projects are merely an excuse to have the trees cut!

For good measure, parallely, alternative models of development are indeed discussed. But often it's too late to undo whatever has been initiated and bring in the alternative. Finally, these projects get the go-ahead, after enormous amounts of time, energy and money are wasted.

For a moment, look at it from this angle. The roads and railway tracks we travel, the apartments that we live in, the theatres where we enjoy the movies, the shopping complexes from where we get our essential household purchases, the schools and colleges we, our relatives and friends study or have studied in... They were not there when the Earth was formed. Most, if not all, I am sure, of them have been constructed after destroying some natural resource like a lake or a few trees.

How right are the protesters when they obstruct development -- by preventing building of bridges or shopping complexes or schools or parks -- when they themselves are enjoying the benefits of development?

Getting into full-throttle activist mode and arbitrarily stopping all development work just because a few trees have to be cut or a lake has to be levelled is a regressive step. To be fair to people who are involved in these projects, I am sure they have considered alternatives. If not, that's wrong.

The solution is two-pronged: one, ensuring that the strict rules and regulations, which are in place to safeguard our natural resources, are adhered to. Two, relocating trees, planting new sapling, not just on World Environment Day, and protecting greenery to the extent possible.

The heartening fact is that there is widespread awareness regarding the importance of greenery. Many corporates, NGOs, resident welfare associations etc actively support green initiatives.

Development and environment protection have to go hand in hand; and not one at the cost of the other.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Not all autorickshaw drivers are bad

Autorickshaw drivers are a much-maligned lot. Very rarely do we come across one who is not rude or arrogant. But there are exceptions, which give us the much-needed hope.

The following is a Facebook post by Rita Senthil Selvaraj, who works with Cognizant Technology Solutions, posted in the last 24 hours.


I was for sure lucky today..
took an auto from koramangala to yemlur(my house), in between it started raining heavy. somehow i reached home safely and the driver u see in photo dropped me till the door step so that i don't get drenched. I was so excited to see baby that i made the payment and left my iPhone 4 (Gifted by my hubby on my birthday) in the auto..
after almost 35 mins I thought of making a call to my parents and here i don't find my phone. my hubby Senthil Selvaraj called from his cell to trace the phone n luckily the auto driver had kept the phone safe with him which he received.. he was dropping someone to whitefield but he promised that he will return the phone after the drop.. imagine heavy rain and the driver was so kind and honest that he dint think of his comfort.. he was not carrying any phone of his own. it took almost 1 hr for him to come back.. we generally dont trust auto drivers as they keep asking extra money, late night work and what not.. so with that mentality we used find friend and find my iPhone apps to trace the phone and the route of my iphone was sure to my house.. in that heavy rain he did come home and returned my phone..
We should seriously appreciate such people on earth.. and we do.. this auto driver's name is Zamir auto number KA 03 9847.. Thanks Zamir for being so honest and trustworthy.. and also to be a reason of making my day lucky.. 
Not all absent-minded people forget their phones in autorickshaws. And, rarely finders take the trouble to return the phone to the owner. Zamir's effort needs to be lauded. Hope we have many more people like him.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The platform ticket dilemma

My wife and I were at the Banaswadi Railway Station, Bangalore, this morning to receive my in-laws who were coming from Kerala by the Garib Rath. As we were about to enter the platform, my wife nudged me to get the platform tickets. At that point, a thought flashed my mind.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bangalore's voter apathy

(Crossposted from Kaleidoscope)

Many feared that the voter turnout in Bangalore city had plummeted to a new low yesterday. But the figures put out by the Election Commission paint a different picture. A little more than half the city voted, 52.8 percent, five percent more than the 2008 turnout. But Bangalore Urban continued to record the lowest turnout among the 30 districts in the state.

I don't find anything surprising in many city dwellers shying away from exercising their franchise. There are many reasons why voting isn't a priority for them. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How to remote log out

If you headed home from office, without logging out of Facebook or Gmail, you can do so from anywhere using the ‘remote log out’ feature.

In Facebook, click on the tiny gear sign on the top right of the page, go to ‘account settings’ and then to ‘security’ on the left pane. Under ‘security settings’, click on ‘active sessions’.

No one else might be using your account, but you would not have logged out of Facebook, leaving the session active. Anyone can gain access to your account in such circumstances. To remote log out, click on ‘end activity’.

In Gmail, at the bottom right side of the page, you will see details of your latest email access. If someone else is simultaneously using your account, you will see a notification there.

Click on the ‘Details’ link below it. A new window opens, with a notification on whether the account is simultaneously open elsewhere. Like in the case of FB, you might not have logged out of the account, leaving it active. If so, you will see an option to ‘log out of all sessions’. It also shows you the details of your previous 10 accesses to the account.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How to declutter your Facebook news feed

If you have many friends or followers on your social network, it’s only natural that your news feed is cluttered. You are either swarmed with photos and videos; or you miss the all-important updates from the people you really care about. Social media makes better sense if you are organized.

Be selective while accepting friend requests. There is no obligation to ‘confirm’, since, even if you don’t, he or she will remain subscribed to your public posts.

Even if you have 1,000 friends on Facebook, you can still have your small private corners to share photos and status updates. They are called Lists.

Facebook, by default, provides three lists: Close Friends, Acquaintances and Restricted. A few others like family, your workplaces and schools, are automatically created, depending upon the details you add to your profile.

To see the lists, go to “Friends” on the left pane of the home page. You can create your own lists as well, like “Party pals”, “Teachers” etc. When you upload photos, make them visible to one or more lists, so that only people in those lists will see them. The same applies to your posts.

In Facebook, contacts added to ‘Close friends’ show up more often on News Feed.

In Twitter too, you can make Lists. Categorize people you follow like Celebrities, Friends, News organizations, etc. This will help if you are following too many people on Twitter.




Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How to know if your laptop is infected


We are living in an age of cyber attacks. Without your knowledge your computer might have been infected and remotely being controlled by a hacker. There's also the danger of data in laptop being accessed by cyber thieves.

Here are a few simple ways to know if your computer has been infected:

  • The computer slows down, even when you haven't loaded lot of data in it. 
  • Suddenly a browser or a popup window launches itself, without you having done anything. Even if you close them, they open by themselves. 
  • Security ads pop up, warning you of your laptop getting infected and asking your to download security software.
  • You are redirected to a site which wasn't your destination.
  • Your friend tells you about an email that's unlike the one you usually send. Or social network shows posts you never posted.

How to be safe online

  • The first step to being safe online is never use a pendrive without scanning for viruses.
  • Two, never click a link unless you know it's genuine. 
  • Treat forwarded emails and links on social networks with scepticism. The mails or the posts may be from your friend, but the attachment or the link may not be one that he or she created.  
  • Test the link if it's safe by typing out the URL on https://safeweb.norton.com/ or http://www.siteadvisor.com/
  • Test the attachment by downloading, and running a virus scan. Open only if it's clean. Or else delete it. Make sure your antivirus is updated to the latest second.

These procedures are painful. But worth it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to back up your mobile phone contacts


With so much data residing on the phone, it has become important to back them up. Contacts, easily the most valuable information, can be backed up on an external device or in the cloud.

One simple way is to connect the phone to the computer, and copy the contacts to the PC. They get saved as .vcf file. These vCard files can be imported to email clients like Gmail.

Most phones come with a computer software CD or you can download it. For example, Nokia Suite, Samsung Kies and BlackBerry desktop software. Connect the phone to the PC and sync data.
Another easy way is to back up on the memory card.

Storing in the cloud is convenient. Android users can automatically back up their phone numbers, addresses, notes to Gmail, by enabling ‘account sync’. It works the other way as well: changes done on Gmail contact on the web will automatically reflect in the phone. For Windows Phone users, a similar backing up can be done in their Outlook account by signing in.

Some phone security software like Norton and McAfee too provide options to back up contacts.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

US tour III -- Detroit



I was quite surprised on seeing a deserted and virtually dark arrival lounge in Detroit airport as I arrived around midnight on Feb 28. I asked my cousin why it was so. He told me most of the traffic winds up around 10 pm. After that there are very few flights arriving or taking off. The airport is quite far away from downtown Detroit. It'sn't a very safe city either. So airport authorities don't want people to commute so late in the night.

Detroit goes through the 10-year crest and trough when the city looks up and goes down. The recession and hard times the automobile industry faced during the latter half of the last decade hit the city badly. A huge number of people quit their jobs in major automobile industries and left the city, taking in the compensations package they were offered. The good news from Detroit is that the automobile industry is recovering. The Big 3 of the city -- Ford, GM and Chrysler -- are doing well and standing up to the competition posed by Toyota and Volkswagen.

Detroit was very cold. It was almost always below zero degree centigrade: going down to minus 15 during night and barely going over zero during day. So, there wasn't many opportunities to go around, other than to shopping arcades and eateries.
Detroit was very cold.
I went to the Henry Ford Museum. Obviously automobiles comprise a major section. There are mind-boggling range of cars right from the very first automobile. There is a separate section of presidential limousines. There you have the one in which President Kennedy was shot, and so too Ronald Reagan. Anyone who is interested in cars will thoroughly enjoy this. Besides this, there are other sections dealing with mechanical engineering. There is one of the oldest printing presses.


Fosters Printing Press of 1853 at the Ford Museum.
Another attraction is the Allegheny Locomotive, the largest steam locomotive ever built. That was in 1941. This was used to pull coal wagons over the Allegheny mountains of West Virginia. We can enter the engine, right at the place where the driver steered behemoth weighing 600 tonnes.
The Allegheny Locomotive at the Ford Museum
There is also the yellow bus, in which -- on Dec 1, 1955 -- the famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks, travelled and refused to vacate her seat for a white man, as ordered by the driver in accordance with then existing law. She was arrested, she challenged the segregation law, called Jim Crow law. Nearly one year later, US Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional. There is also the bus stand in which the blacks and the whites had to stand separately.
The bus in which Rosa Parks refused to vacate her seat for a white passenger.

The museum has the chair in which Abraham Lincoln sat when he was shot while he was watching a play on April 14, 1865. You need a full day to see the museum, like all museums in the US. They have a priceless slice of history.

Returning to Bangalore tomorrow, via Frankfurt.

Friday, March 1, 2013

US tour II -- Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam



If you come up to Las Vegas, then you must take a day out to go to Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Most tour operators ply trips to the two destinations on two days. And I just couldn't decide which of the two I should go for, which I should forgo. While discussing the tour plans with the concierge of Caesars Palace, I chanced upon the Classic Combo package of Pink Jeep Tours, that combines both destinations in one single day. I wanted to see the famous Skywalk; and luckily this package includes the West Rim where it is built. It cost me $304. But it was totally worth it.

There were three couples along with me on the tour in the jeep. Surprisingly one of them was expatriate Indians from Kerala. They migrated to Canada in 1970 and were on a tour of Las Vegas. One couple was from Manchester, UK, and the other from the US. We had an excellent tour guide Mike, very well informed and articulate. Started from Vegas at 7 pm. Mike gave us a running commentary, enlightening us about various interesting facets of those historic places on the way, always peppering with anecdotes and humor.
The Boulder Theater on way to The Grand Canyon
It takes about 3 hours drive from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon. Soon after leaving The Strip, all that we kept seeing was the arid land that forms part of the Mojave desert: quite a contrast from the glitter and buzz of  Vegas. We passed through Boulder City. The city was constructed for the thousands of workers of Boulder Dam (that was later named as Hoover Dam). The dam was constructed on Colorado River for flood control and electricity generation.

We also got a glimpse of Lake Mead, formed by the dam. This is the largest reservoir in the US. As much as 90 percent of water in Vegas comes from this lake. All traffic to Arizona used to go over the Hoover Dam. But after 9/11, the dam was declared a sensitive location and traffic banned. A 90-mile long highway was specially constructed as a detour. On the way, we saw a number of Joshua trees, which are typical of the Mojave desert. There is a Joshua Tree National Park in southeast California.

I couldn't find any street lights on the highway that looked very deserted. Night traffic does happen on the stretch, though. Mike told us that many people do come on the highway from Vegas to see the clear night sky bereft of light pollution. One can even see the spectacular meteor showers.

Around 10 am we reached the border of Hualapai Nation. The people of the Hualapai or Walapai tribe, one of the 14 tribes in the region, were the original inhabitants of northwest Arizona. They live in the mountains. The entire Grand Canyon West area is owned by them. The area is virtually an autonomous region. Private vehicles are not allowed. The tribals are exempted from a number of Arizona state taxes. They have a separate constitution, administration and courts.

From the border, we boarded a bus to the Eagle Point. That's where the Skywalk is. The entire area is an amazing visual delight. The huge precipice and the deep gorges through which the Colorado river runs is as much frightening as enchanting. You need to be extremely careful, because there are no railings. No signboards warning tourists to be careful either. Being curious and going to the edge to get a beautiful photo could end in a fall to nowhere. It's very dangerous. You need to particularly cautious if you have children who tend to run around.
The Grand Canyon
Just be wise, stand at a safe distance and soak in the beauty of nature. Definitely this is among the most beautiful creations of nature. We need to pay separately to get to the Skywalk. It came to $32 including taxes. Skywalk is an engineering marvel. It's a semi-circular projection 70 feet from cliff at a height of around 250 metres. A part of the floor of the skywalk is made of glass.

A look down from the Skywalk can just be mind-boggling
The view from Skywalk through the glass right down is an unparalleled experience. Cameras are prohibited, and you need to engage the services of a professional photographer to click your pictures; and buy them. You can pose at will and get many photos clicked. They will put it all in a pen-drive and hand it over to you for $70. If you want three of them printed out, you need to pay $110. Very few will get on to the Skywalk and come away without a few photos being clicked.  It is one way of gaining revenue from tourism.
The view of Grand Canyon from Skywalk is breathtaking
From Eagle Point we went to Guano Point. There is a small peak from where we can get a 360 degree view of the Grand Canyon. That's a breathtaking view. Guano in Spanish means droppings of cave-dwelling animals like bats. It has high contents of nitrogen and phospherous. It has applications not only as fertilizer but also in the making of gunpowder. There was an entire industry involved in the mining and harvest of guano.

Around 1 pm we headed to the Hoover Dam, built in early 1930s. We reached there around 3 pm. Never before has such a huge concrete structure been built that too in such a remote area. A whole new city was built for the workers, who laboured 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while America reeled under severe recession. The workers had just two holidays, on Independence Day and Christmas Day. Many worked on those two days as well. The project was finished two years ahead of schedule.

View from the Hoover Dam
Two tunnels were built to divert the Colorado River, and powerful grenades were used to blast the rocks. The story of dam construction is worth reading. At the site there is a memorial for lives lost. There was a dog that stayed along with the engineers and workers. Most tragically, he was run over when one of the engineers backed up his truck. The US government gave special permission for the place where the dog was buried to be turned into a memorial. We went down and saw the turbines and generators.
The turbines and generators of Hoover Dam
We were back at Vegas Strip around 6 pm. On Feb 28th I was off to Detroit.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

US tour I -- Las Vegas


T​here was no mistaking the city I had landed. As I exited the airplane and entered the brightly lit arrival lounge, around 8 pm yesterday, the unusual sight of rows of slot machines greeted me. It was much later that I saw the Welcome to Las Vegas board blinking high above my eye level. I was in the entertainment capital of the world on an official assignment.

The ubiquitous slot machines.
The place most tourists come to is not the city of Las Vegas, it's the 6.8-km-long Las Vegas Strip, where most hotels and entertainment centres are located. The Strip falls in two towns of Paradise and Winchester. I was in Caesars Palace hotel, one of the tallest and big ones in the area.

Late February, the weather was chilly. At night, the temperature dipped up to minus five, in day time in climbed to around 10 degree centigrade. Thanks to good sunshine, it wasn't biting cold. The city lights up in the night. It's an amazing experience to walk along The Strip and gaze at colourfully illuminated skyscrapers. Most people on the street are tourists.
Huge high-rise amusement and shopping centres 
There are plenty of shopping complexes and restaurants. There are many hotels as well, and you don't have to pay anything to get into them. You can just walk around inside, may be try your luck at the machines, or dine at the eateries, or empty your purse at the shops.

The Strip is all glitter at night
This is might be the only city where it's legal to walk around with liquor. So, no compulsion to sit in the bar and drink. The most acclaimed attractions are the fountains in front of Bellagio, the Sirens of TI at Treasure Island and the Volcano at the Mirage, all within a few minutes of each other. There are plenty more, big and small.

The Gondolas at The Venetian complex.
There are umpteen adult entertainment hubs as well, like nightclubs and nude strip clubs. In the so-called Sin City, prostitution, ironically, is illegal. That's in the city of Las Vegas which is in county Clarke. Didn't quite understand why in a place where there is so much freedom for indulgence, so much as to get the moniker Sin City, there is such a ban. But many other counties of Nevada state have legalized it.



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Smart, untethered, floating in cloud

That’s what we will increasingly become this year. It’s New Year’s Day today; and like every year, time to stick our necks out to make a few predictions on what will rule cyberspace and gadget shelves in the coming months. Here we go:

Internet of thingsPhones are smart, most things around us too will soon be. Televisions have made a beginning. There will be a better fusion of TV and internet, and it will get more popular. Next will be camera. You will be able to upload and share better quality photos. Soon Kwon, MD, LG India, says, “Home appliances like refrigerators are all set to become the next generation of smart devices by adopting new, interesting features like Calorie Counter and Smart Shopping.” Imagine getting an SMS while in office that your son has just taken the last egg from the fridge and you will need to replace the stock before you reach home. Another possibility: a box that reminds you to have the medicines on time.

Personal cloudMore people will have multiple devices that are interconnected, move to the cloud and use applications like Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive and Dropbox. Instead of copying files on portable devices like pen drive and passing on to another person, people would rather prefer to share files on cloud platforms. As Sunil Dutt, MD, RIM, says, “Spurt in smartphone adoption, increasing use of tablets and growing comfort levels with technologies such as cloud are making it easy for consumers to access data from anywhere at any time at seriously low costs.”

Mobile TVWatching TV channels on mobiles will gain huge traction. “Many people have moved away from ‘appointment viewing’, and are consuming content at their own time, convenience and on the device of their choice,” says Vishal Malhotra, business head, New Media, Zee Entertainment, which has the Ditto mobile TV app. Now, you don’t need to be at home to watch TV. G D Singh, director, Digivive, that brings out nexGTv app, says, “Mobile TV adoption is expected to grow with advent of 3G and 4G airwaves, better screen resolutions and affordable mobile phones.”

Design-driven devicesForm-factor will rule the roost. Multiple permutations and combinations of specs will tailor devices to user needs. Phablets (phone-tablet combo) and convertibles (tablet-laptop combo) will become more popular, blurring distinctions between devices. Harish Kohli, MD of Acer, feels, “Designers will be more in demand than engineers.” The USP will be the options for the consumer to use any device any time depending on need. Prices of convertibles are high as of now, but as they become popular, the increased volumes will drive the prices down.

A Leap aheadClick progressed to touch; and soon you wouldn’t have to do even that. Your laptop will understand your movements. A small device, called Leap, set to be released this year, will make a dramatic difference to hand-free motion control. Leap creates an 8 cubic ft area around a laptop. Inside that area users can interact with their PC with gestures. The ability to detect movements with an accuracy of a 100th of a millimeter, makes it the most powerful 3D motion-sensing device. "Moulding clay took 10 seconds in real life but 30 minutes with a computer. The mouse and keyboard were simply getting in the way. Since available technology couldn’t solve our problems, we created the Leap Motion controller," says the company website.

Edge of seat gamesThere is considerable speculation on how the gaming segment will pan out this year. Every big player is scheduled to come out with a new console, though there is no authentic official word on it. All the buzz is around Play Station 4 and the Xbox 720, that are due to come out this year, to replace the earlier ones that run on old platforms. Xbox 720 will have an eight-core CPU and support Blu-Ray, 1080p 3D and DVR functionality, says online journal IT Article. "Media critics believe Xbox 720 will be at least 6 times more powerful than the Xbox 360. This is one of the gaming consoles to watch out for in 2013," it says.

(A version of this appeared in The Times of India, Bangalore, today.)