Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Maharaja is back home

When a government decides to privatise something it owns, there is usually lots of protests from different quarters. 

Among the fears are that either it will go to wrong hands who will mismanage it or it will turn into an elite establishment accessible only to the wealthy.

Last week, when India government finally completed the privatisation process of its national airline -- Air India -- there were hardly any murmurs of disapproval. On the contrary, it was sort of a celebration! 

The primary reason: the airline has now gone back to its original owner -- the Tata group, a company founded in 1869, by a Parsi entrepreneur named Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata. 

The cost: ₹18,000 crore or around $2,387 million.

The Maharaja is Air India's mascot.

The famous Amul butter advertisement said it the best:

(Amul butter is arguably the most famous in that category and the ad campaign - like the one above - that plays on words, has been running since 1967 pegged on current events, and is very popular.)

As a government enterprise, Air India hasn't been able to keep up with the cut-throat competition in the private sector, and it is in the red. 

I think on various counts the Tata Group is the most successful Indian company. We will get to that in some other post.

Suffice to say that they have been around for as long as 152 years and they have a presence in such a diverse portfolio of products and services -- from salt, steel and software to jewellery, hospitality and aviation, and more!

Hopefully, the Tatas will be able to nurse the airline back to the glorious days. 

ONCE THE BEST IN THE WORLD

Air India was founded in 1932 by J R D Tata (Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata), the 4th chairman of the Tata Group.

Tata was the first person in India to get a pilot's licence, and he flew India's first aircrft. It transported mails during the British time, and later began India's first passenger flights.

Air India was born as Tata Air Services which was renamed later as Tata Airlines. In 1947, soon after Independence, the government acquired 49% of stakes and in 1953, the airline was fully nationalised.

With the airline flying to international destinations, it was not just a company growing its business, it was also the image of India abroad, as Tata saw it. 

The legend has it that Tata, a perfectionist, got on to the flights, and looked closely at the reactions of the passengers and took down notes. He then passed them on to the staff appreciating them or pointing out areas that need improvement. 

He didn't want any complaints from the passengers, and he didn't want any airline that was better than Air India in the world. And he achieved that to a great extent.

J R D INTERVIEW 

In the 1980s, Rajiv Mehrotra ran a very popular interview programme on the national broadcaster Doordarshan. (India in those didn't private TV channels, the only channel was the government one.)

One of the interviewees was J R D Tata. Here it is. 44 minutes long.



In those days, Tata Steel brought out a series of very popular TV jingles titled "We also make steel". It spoke a lot about how the company saw itself. Here it is: 


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Visit to Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad

We were in Ahmedabad for 6 years - from 1990 to 1996. It was one of the most memorable periods in my life.

After 19 years, in March 2015, we were back in that city for a few days' visit.

We caught up with our friends; went back to the place where we had stayed; and to the streets from where we used to shop.

We also went to the Lucky Restaurant in Mirzapur. It hadn't changed much.

They had the very same popular maska bun and tea. (Maska is butter; and bun is a small thick roll of bread. The bun is sliced, and served with butter and jam inside.)

The same taste. The same ambience. So reminiscent of those good old days!

GANDHI JAYANTI

Yesterday was Gandhi Jayanti (birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi). He born 152 years ago, on the 2nd of October 1869.

During our visit to Ahmedbad, we went to Sabarmati Ashram, the serene enclave on the banks of the Sabarmati River, which was Gandhi's home from 1917 to 1930 -- the most significant period in India's freedom struggle.

(Ashram is a religious or monastic retreat. Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, where he worked as a lawyer, in 1915. India became independent in 1947.)

Yesterday, we remembered our visit to Sabarmati Ashram. Here are some photos taken during the visit to the ashram.

Sabarmati River, on the banks of which is the ashram.

Hriday Kunj


Gandhi's work place

Gandhi's wife Kasturba's room

If you would like to know more about Sabarmati Ashram, here is the link.

The webiste has a virtual tour of the ashram.

There is a video tour on the Ashram's Youtube channel.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Une surprise / A surprise

(English translation is at the end.)

De nos jours, il fait très froid la nuit. C’est parce qu’il pleut. Aujourd’hui, il a beaucoup plu.

Bengaluru a deux saisons des pluies – de juin à septembre et novembre - décembre.

Parfois, il y a le tonnerre et la foudre.

Quand il pleut, on ne peut pas sortir. C’est très ennuyeux!

Aujourd’hui, j’avais chez moi. J’ai cuisiné, regardé la télé, envoyé des e-mails, et nettoyé ma chambre.

L’après-midi, il y avait une surprise – j’ai reçu un paquet en ligne via Amazon.

Immédiatement, je l’ai ouvert. C’était un cadeau de mon ami – la biographie de Roger Federer!

J’étais très heureux, et je l’ai appelé pour le remercier.

Il m’a dit : « J’ai vu ce livre en Amazon. Je sais que tu aimes beaucoup Federer, et tu n’as pas ce livre. Alors, j’ai décidé de te l’offrir. »

C’est très gentil, et j’ai dit : « merci beaucoup! »

===============

Nowadays, it's very cold at night. It's because it rains. Today, it rained a lot.

Bengaluru has two rainy seasons - from June to September and November - December. Sometimes, there is thunder and lightning.

When it rains, we can't go out. It's very boring.

Today, I was at home. I cooked, watched television, sent some emails, and cleaned my room.

In the afternoon, there was a surprise - I received a packet online via Amazon.

Immediately, I opened it. It was a gift from my friend -- Roger Federer's biography!

I was very happy and I called to thank him. 

He said, "I saw the book on Amazon. I know you like Federer a lot, and that you don't have that book. So, I decided to gift it to you."

How sweet of him! I said, "Thank you, so much!"


 


Friday, September 24, 2021

New lease of life with double lung transplant

(This post is a part of the monthly We Are The World Blogfest that goes out on the last Friday of every month to highlight the positive stories around us. On Facebook and on Twitter.)

In the midst of all the Covid-triggered gloom and doom, there are happy stories too, of people who have battled their way out.

One such is from here in Bengaluru, that of Dr Sanath Kumar, a 30-year-old anaesthetist, who contracted Covid on May 8 this year, while working with patients at a hospital.

His condition deteriorated to acute lung damage, and he had to be put on mechanical ventilation. Doctors determined that there was no option but to go in for a 'double lung transplant'.

They waited for a suitable match, while Dr Kumar's life was sustained by connecting him to an ECMO (Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), which is a machine that does the work of the lungs and the heart.

He was on ECMO support for four weeks before a suitable match was eventually found, and the transplant was done on June 21.

After a three-month-long recuperation, he was discharged from the hospital on the 16th of this month.

This is what Dr Sanath Kumar said:  “When I tested positive and started taking medicines, I thought I would recover soon. I had never imagined that my health would deteriorate so much and end up having a lung transplant.”

Incidentally, in December last year, a patient from Haryana, whose lung function had similarly deteriorated because of Covid survived for as long as 53 days on ECMO, that's almost two months, at a hospital in Hyderabad, before doctors there could do a double lung transplant on him. 

Apparently, this is the longest duration of ECMO support for a lung-impaired patient in India.

Source:

The Hindu, India Today, Pixabay

Monday, September 20, 2021

Visit to a bank

Image courtesy: Pixabay

Recently I went to a bank to clarify some doubts regarding closing a second account I have with them.

It is a salary account, which was opened when I was working at a different office. That account is now practically inactive because there is no money coming into it now.

At the bank, I explained to the executive the doubts I had about closing that account. She didn't have all the answers and consulted one of her colleagues. 

Meanwhile, she had a look at my other account (not the one I wanted to close) and suggested that I open a fixed deposit. 

(Money in a fixed deposit account earns a slightly higher rate of interest, depending on the duration of the deposit, compared to the normal savings bank account.)

I was a bit taken aback by that suggestion since I was at the bank to resolve an issue and not to open a fixed deposit account.

I told her that there's not much money in that account to make opening a fixed deposit worthwhile. 

But her argument was: even if it is not much money, why do you want to let it just lie there? Why don't you move it to an account that will get you more interest?

I said I would think over it, and that if I needed to open one, I shall do that myself later at home, at my convenience, via internet banking. 

I also quickly reminded her if her colleague could make any progress with the doubts that I had. She said her colleague was busy and that I would have to wait for five minutes. 

I said that's fine, and that I am in no hurry.

Meanwhile, she broached the topic of the fixed deposit again. But this time, she was more upfront.

"I will get some points if I open a fixed deposit for a customer," she said with a smile.

What she was referring to was: every account she gets opened would fetch her a point, which might help her at the time of periodic performance assessment, and who knows, if she is really successful, she might even win an award!

I thought for a moment. Anyway, it wouldn't entail any loss for me. If at all, it would only be some small gain by way of interest for that pittance I have in that account.

She was evidently pleased with my acquiescence and enthusiastically went through the process of opening my fixed deposit.

So, what about closing that account, for which I come to the bank? 

Well, that didn't happen. Because I was told that I have to sort out some other related issues before I can close it. Maybe in a couple of weeks, it'll be done.

I exited the bank with a sort of satisfaction that it wasn't an altogether wasted effort. If not mine, someone else's work got done.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Djokovic's dream crumbles

Source: US Open/Twitter

(This is a continuation of yesterday's post)

As I had planned, yesterday I went to bed early, kept the alarm for 5 am, to catch the final moments of the Novak Djokovic - Daniiel Medvedev match.

My hope was it would be an intense battle between the two, which would stretch well beyond three hours.

When the alarm rang, I checked the BBC Sports app, to see how the match was progressing. 

The match was over! Medvedev, the new US Open Champion.

I went back to sleep. I only wanted to know how quickly Djokovic capitulated.

MEDVEDEV SHOW

I watched the highlights, first thing in the morning. 

The 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 match of the Grand Slam Final lasted a mere 2 hours 15 mins. That's just 24 minutes more than the two sets of the women's final yesterday! I couldn't believe that! 

It was a one-sided game - but for a change, it wasn't Novak who was hogging the limelight.

The Serbian -- who had said a few days ago that he would play the final as if it was the last match of his career in order to achieve the goal of the Calendar Slam -- was a pale shadow of his former self. His body language, for some reason, wasn't of one who was gunning for a historic title. 

It's quite possible that he got weighed down by his own expectations. Medvedev, who had nothing to lose, just let his game flow. And he was brilliant. He had the ball fully under his control. 

Especially when moved to the net, he clearly knew where to land the ball. Each of those passing shots and drop shots was exquisitely timed and placed. Djokovic looked simply stranded. 

The numbers bear out what played out. Novak had 38 unforced errors. Though Daniiel too was off the mark with 31 unforced errors, he had 38 winners in comparison to 27 of Novak. Russian sent down 16 aces, while the Serbian had just 6.

WHY MEDVEDEV HAD TO WIN THE CUP

If it was Calendar Slam that drove Djokovic, it was something else that motivated Medvedev. Watch the video below:

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The New York fairytale teen party

Emma Raducanu
Source: US Open/Twitter

I am glad I stayed up late in the night, till 4 am this early morning. It was a sheer joy to watch some high-class, scintillating tennis. 

The US Open Women's Singles final -- between Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez -- was a class apart.

A straight-set victory needn't be a one-sided damp squib. The 6-4 6-3 scoreline doesn't say it all. Till the final moments of the second set, there was not more than a lead of 2 games for either of them. 

That just indicates how close the match progressed. No wonder these two sets took almost two hours, 1 hour 51 mins, to be precise.  

Leylah Fernandez
Source: US Open/Twitter

AN UNUSUAL FINAL 

When we think of the final of any tournament, what comes to mind are senior players. Because we think it's the seniors who are more experienced, and therefore they automatically have a higher level of skillsets.

Here we had two teenagers -- Emma Raducanu born on the 13th of November 2002, and Leylah Fernandez born on the 6th of September 2002. (Yesterday was 9/11, and when 9/11 happened they weren't even born.)

Both were born in Canada. Their mothers are both Asian.

Emma's parents are Ian from Romania and Renee from China. Leylah's father is Jorge from Ecuador and her mother is Irene from the Philippines.

Emma's family moved to England when she was two.

TENNIS AT ITS BEST

Yesterday was the culmination of the fairytale progress of two remarkable tennis players.

Leylah Fernandez's route to the final was probably more impressive. Among those she beat were Osaka, Kerber and Sabalenka. But there were many three-setters and tie-breaks. 

Contrast that with Emma Raducanu's route: Bencic and Sakkari were among the players she beat. But she didn't drop a set. All straight sets. No tiebreaks. 6-4 margin was the closest.

Yet, either of the two teenagers could have been holding the trophy, but Emma took her unbelievable dream run, which she has been having over the last three weeks, to its logical conclusion. 

Both rallied. Both held serves. Both broke as well. 

Neither gave the other the wide margin that would have made the match very predictable. 

Forehand and backhand crosscourt shots sent the opponent scurrying from one end to the other. Some were taken. The others ended up as top-class winners. 

Either way, it was tennis at its best.

ONE JARRING MOMENT THOUGH

The most crucial and exciting bit was at the end of the 2nd set, with Emma at 5-3 short of just a game to become the champion.

From 0-15 down, she moved up 30-30. She served. Leylah returned cross-court. Emma sent it back cross-cross again. 

Then, Leylah sent one down the line, forcing Emma to run to the left to take it. But she slid, legs bent.

She scraped her left knee on the ground but recovered quickly to rush to the other end and take the shot. But that went long, much to her disappointment. 

That got Leylah ahead, 30-40, just one point away from getting a breakpoint. 

Source: ABC (Australia)

Emma found that her knee was bleeding. She said later at the press conference that she wanted to play on lest it would break her rhythm. But the umpire, on probably seeing blood oozing, said the play had to stop.

As her team got to cleaning the wound and plastering the cut, at the other end, Leylah thought her rival was taking an unjustifiably long break. She complained to the umpire, and it went on for a while. 

Source: ABC (Australia)

Quite possible that Leylah didn't know the extent of injury that Emma had suffered. Rules are very clear that if a player has sustained a cut that is bleeding, the match has to be stopped. And the physio can request a medical timeout.

I am sure this would have been explained to Leylah, but she seemed to be persisting with her complaint. Probably in the heat of the moment. It looked like very poor sportsmanship. This is what she said later at the post-match presser.

"I honestly did not know what was happening with Emma ... I didn't know how serious her fall was, so that's why I went to see the official and ask her about it. ... It was just too bad that it happened in that specific moment with me with the momentum. But it's sports, it's tennis. Just got to move on." 

Emma got back on the court. She scored to make it 40-40. Then it went like this: 40-AD, 40-40, AD-40, and then an ace, the winner.

IT'S ALL FORGOTTEN

But at the end of it all, on the podium, it was all forgotten. Unlike some of the seniors, they didn't seem to be rivals. The body language was like that of friends -- the camera did catch them smiling at each other and chatting. 

Leylah Fernandez sounded naturally disappointed but she was absolutely gracious. She looked forward to more final matches with Emma. And she paid glowing tributes to the resilience of the people of New York during the past 20 years.

 
AMAZING RECOVERY

This was Emma Raducanu's just second Grand Slam tournament, after appearing in the Wimbledon. On the 6th of July, after playing for 1 hour 15 mins, and trailing Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 0-3, she retired. 

She was so overwhelmed by the expectations of a roaring home crowd that she apparently had breathing difficulty. Some said it was an anxiety attack. What a tearful exit from her first Grand Slam appearance it was.

There was no automatic entry for her to the US Open. She had to play qualifying matches. Not quite sure of her chances, she had apparently booked her flight ticket back to Britain.

I am sure she must have put her mind and body into getting out of such a low depth she had plunged into. And what better proof of her resilience than the victory yesterday.

THE FUTURE

It's not the first time youngsters have won a major cup after defeating experienced players. But that's one thing. What matters finally and defines true class is consistency.

Staying on top is far more difficult than reaching the top.

Both Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez will know that in the coming months and years. The world's focus will be on them once again coming January when they are at Melbourne for the Australian Open.

Wish both the very best, and hope they have a long and enjoyable career. And they continue to regale fans like me.

MEN'S FINAL

In a few hours, the men's final will begin. It will start at 1.30 in the night Indian Standard Time. I have decided not to sit through the night.

All eyes are on Novak. If he wins it would be the first time in 52 years, since any male player has won all four Grand Slams in one calendar year. 

If it's a one-sided damp squib, then it's a sheer waste. 

If it's a tough duel (what I would actually want to watch), then it's going to drag on till 5 o'clock or even 6 o'clock in the morning.

I am planning to go to bed early, and hope to get up early. So, maybe I will be able to catch the final thrilling moments.

Let's see how it goes.

(Next part of this post tomorrow)