Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bizarre Bangalore weather

It is bizarre weather out here in Bangalore. It is winter now, so evenings and nights are understandably cool and even cold. But strangely, late mornings and afternoons are not just warm but actually hot. One doesn't find this amount of variation in climate in north India.
I have a feeling that this sort of weather is not good for our health. And not surprisingly, many people are falling ill, because their system is not able to take in the wide fluctuation in temperature.

In this sort of situation, it is extremely important to keep our body fit as a fiddle, with good and timely food and proper exercise. It will also be a good idea to have regular vitamin supplements especially B and C, just to make up for the shortfall in our normal daily diet. 

Also it's important to wear adequate winter clothing and make sure our body is not exposed suddenly to extremes of climate suddenly. For example, after having a hot water bath one should not expose oneself to cold suddenly. Come out the bathroom fully covered.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sweden's Sex-Crime Problem

Despite having the freedom to dictate their sexual encounters, Swedish women face a troubling fact: Sweden has by far the highest incidence of reported rapes in Europe, and one of the lowest conviction rates in the developed world. (More from Time)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jan Ahaar, a let-down.

Ernakulam Jn (South) railway station has a new neat-looking Jan Ahaar restaurant of IRCTC. When I checked half an hour back, it had nothing listed in menu, except idly-vada. Not surprisingly, there were no customers. Misleading menu is a big put-off. Nearby restaurants had much more & were crowded. Bad show by IRCTC here, though I am quite impressed by IRCTC's online reservation system. I am a big admirer of IRCTC, so this Jan Ahaar was a big let-down.

Monday, November 15, 2010

TIME article -- Why more infrastructure isn't enough for India

An interesting article from the lastest issue of Time.... especially in the context of Obama saying that India is "not just rising, but it has risen". 

"It's a source of constant conflict and great contradictions, explaining why gleaming highways rise up effortlessly while decent sewer lines do not. There's a risk that infrastructure asset bubbles will form -- overfunded, underused toll roads, for instance -- while basic services languish. How this tension is resolved will determine what kind of economic superpower India will become."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

North-East tour -- Day 5, Nov 3


The highlight of today was a visit to the Kohima War Cemetery. This is in memory of the soldiers of the Allied Forces who lost their lives fighting the Japanese Army during the World War II.

There are stone inscriptions of over 2,000 soldiers, who successfully stopped the advance of the Japanese troops at the Garrison Hills after a bloody battle in 1944. Relatives and friends — from abroad too — come to pay homage here.

We found flowers, and black and white photos placed at one tombstone: a very moving site. We go into a contemplative mood in the sombre air of the memorial wonderfully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.


Dog is said to be man’s best friend, and I have noticed that an anti-dog remark can excite people so much they can become emotional, angry and probably even violent! So don’t read further, if you are a passionate dog-lover!

Nagas are meat lovers: and the flesh of two animals they enjoy are that of pig and dog. Pork is popular elsewhere in India, but not dog meat. I am told it’s very tasty.

We went to a market in Kohima, popularly called the ‘kheeda market’ where we saw frogs and worms of various types kept for sale. There was also a rabbit, and flesh of dog and deer.

On the other side of the market were the more familiar tomatoes and potatoes. There was also the Naga mirchis, said to be the hottest in the world, having beaten a Mexican one reacently, I am told. I did get to have a bite at that yesterday: the tiniest of the bit set mouth aflame, as it were.


In the evening, we reached Dimapur. This railway station is the only one in Nagaland: a good, small one. The train to Guwahati was half an hour late. Tomorrow morning we reach Guwahati around 5.30; then we head back for Bangalore.

A delightful holiday is coming to an end. Got to see a lot more than we ever expected to. This entire region holds so much for a tourist. We rush off to foreign destinations for holiday; but the north-east reminds us that there’s a lot to see, explore and enjoy within our own India.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

North-East tour -- Day 5, Nov 2

We keep hearing about Nagaland, but mostly all negative news. But today, after getting to know about the history of the state, about the tribals, their culture and traditions, I realised how ignorant we are.

We got an opportunity to see the typical manner in which Nagas welcome guests. Naga men dressed in their typical costume with head gears and spears demonstrated their war-cry. A group of six young girls dressed in what resembled a school uniform, performed a a captivating musical dance. Music is so much a part of every Naga.

We went to the heritage village where we saw models of houses of different Naga tribes. Then we went to the home of a Naga family, where the gracious hosts offered us rice beer, that’s nothing but fermented rice water: too light to get you intoxicated. There we saw the huge container in which they store rice. Rice is their staple diet and they love meat. ”They eat anything that moves. And dog meat is a delicacy,” we were told. For a typical Naga, there’s nothing like a vegetarian diet!

The state has tumultous history; sort of an unsettling contrast when we see the beautiful landscape all around the place. Currently the entire region is in a transition stage. The local people are being integrated into the mainstream in a manner that is acceptable to them; with the result there is peace all around. It’s hoped that the new generation will carry on bringing about the change and usher happier times for this entire region.

Zakhama, some 25 km from Kohima, was a too cold, colder than Shillong. Must be 15 degrees or thereabouts. We were told that yesterday was sunny and bright. But today, the whole place is covered with mist. Visibility is as low as 50 to 100 metres. We were told that during winter, if you keep the door open, you’ll have thick mist right inside the house!

Tomorrow, lots more to see and know about the local traditions and customs here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

North-East Tour - Day 4, Nov 1

They say a journey becomes more interesting when the destination is a mystery or mysterious. We were told that Mawlynnong, in East Khasi district, 100 km south of Shillong, is a must-see. It's the cleanest village in Asia. But we kept wondering what's so special about this village to get this tag. It sounded quite mysterious to us, and heightened our excitement to be at that place.

We started off from Shillong at 7 am, and passed through a number of villages. Virtually the entire journey is beside hillocks with green-carpeted steep precipice on the other side. It's a breathtaking view of green landscape some of which in captivating formations. It's amazing the way Nature presents itself.

It's hills all over, either we are going up, or going down, moving from one hillock to the other. There are just no plains on the way. As we go, we realise that green hills have been chipped to create roads. From afar the road looks like a step.

At a number of places we could see waterfalls, big and small. At some places there were just the trails of water on dry rocks.

The cleanest village is... indeed clean, very clean. People are obsessed with cleanliness. Don't be surprised if you see people always cleaning the premises.

Adjascent to this prestigeous village, there is a bridge across a stream. It's an unusual bridge: it's made of live roots of a rubber tree! Then nearby there is a balancing stone -- a natural marval: a huge rock balanced on a much smaller rock.

Since we had to catch the 10.30 pm train to Dimapur, we were in a hurry to return to Shillong. We reached back around 3 pm.

Big or small, any city is congested. Shillong's city Centre is choc-a-bloc. Narrow roads, lots of people and cars all over the place.

We reach the Meghalaya Transport Corporation bus stand around 3.30 pm. Chances of getting a bus looked really dim. Since taxi operators were still on strike, we had to hunt around for a private car to take us to Guwahati.

Finally, reached Guwahati railway station at 9.15 pm. Now, in the train heading to Dimapur, Nagaland, where we will spend the next two days.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

North-East Tour - Day 3, Oct 31


It's awfully cold here in Shillong. Temperature around 17 degree Celsius. We were warned about this, and we did bring adequate warm clothes. We are told only in Shillong it becomes this cold, mainly because it's in such high altitude of about 1,500 metres above sea level. To the credit of White Orchid Guesthouse, where we are staying, it has top-quality blankets. You wouldn't like to get out of it!


After breakfast, around 9 am, we set out for Cherrapunji, the name we are familiar with since school days, as one of the wettest places in the world. More of that later.

On the way to Cherrapunji, we went to Elephant Fall. The legend goes that the Khasi people here called the place 'Three Steps Fall' since the water falls in three steps. Later the British called it Elephant Fall since one of the rocks beside the waterfall resembles an elephant. But this rock was destroyed in an earthquake in 1897.

Here tourists were lining up to stand on a few small rocks for a photoshoot with the fall in the background. Never found such a rush to pose in front of a waterfall!

I have, of course, taken pics, lots of them. They all will be put up next week, when I am back in Bangalore.


After Elephant Fall, we stopped at a number of places, popularly called here as viewing points. They are nothing but vantage points that offer a tourist breathtaking views of waterfalls or of the lush green subtropical forests of Khasi hills thickly covered with diverse vegetation.

This area -- Cherrapunji and nearby Mawsynram -- is among the wettest places because it receives both southwest monsoon and northeast monsoon. And not surprisingly there are a number of waterfalls, big and small, bringing the Meghalaya Tourism Board lot of revenue.

But I only wish some part of that revenue is invested in tarring the roads and bettering other infrastructure. Roads are pathetic in many places. I simply don't understand why something as important as roads are so low on the priority list of our officials and politicians.


Immediately after Elephant Fall, we stopped at Duwan Sing Syiem View Point. Then we went to Nohkali Falls. Here at one point we could see the rainbow in the waterfall. Then we went to Mawsmai Eco-park. There were a few swings and see-saw; but couldn't quite understand what was eco about this place. From there we can see barren fields of Bangladesh.


Then we headed for the Mawsmai Cave. We can walk through it. Not quite recommended for people who are claustrophobic. A portion inside the cave is narrow. So fat people will also have to step aside.

After the cave visit, we got into one of the many restaurants there for lunch. It has a peculiar system of placing the order. We go upto the desk, tell the lady what we want. She writes that down in a book, along with our name. She copies that on a piece of paper and sends it to the kitchen. A few minutes later a boy or girl with the food comes out to the dining area calling our name. We raise hand to attract his or her attention. Never have I found the customer's name being noted down while ordering food!

We then went on to Thengkarang Park. It's just that, a park and a well mainained garden and fountain. And then to Khoh Ramhah, from where one has a better view of Bangladesh.


One aspect about this region that's difficult to get used to is the shortness of daylight hours. Dusk sets in around 4 pm, and by 5 pm it's darkness. It's quite a task to convince hourselves that it's not 8 pm and only 6 pm! The region does indeed need a different time zone.

Retiring for the day early as we need to leave for Mawlynnong, some 100 km south of Shillong -- widely known as the cleanest village in Asia.

North-East Tour - Day 2, Oct 30

A delay of more than an hour in our departure to Shillong proved to be a bit costly, at the end of the day. Why, you will learn later...

We had booked a taxi and we were supposed to leave at 9 am. Shillong is around 130 km from where were staying and it takes around 4 hours. But we later came to know that taxis aren't plying between Guwahati and Shillong.

The strike is in reponse to a call given by the Greater Shillong Tourist Taxi Association in protest against the district administration's decision to shift the taxi stand from in front of the crowded Police Bazar and allot the place for parking private vehicles.

So yesterday the taxi operator had arranged for a private car to take us. He charged Rs 500 over and above the Rs 1,500 that was agreed upon, with the excuse that strike has made their jobs really difficult. Since we were short of time and thus the option of bus wasn't viable, we agreed. But as there was some delay in getting the car, we could leave only at 10.25 am.

The weather was mildly warm, the terrain dry and air dusty. The road wasn't as bad as I had been told. There is plenty of greenery. Could spot plenty of coconut trees. The landscape at some places reminded me of Western Ghats.

I noticed that petrol price per litre was only Rs 38.69 at Dharapur. In Bangalore it's at least Rs 21 more.

We didn't get into the Guwahati city, saw a portion of Guwahati University though as we passed in front of it. At Chalukbari junction we took a right turn to Shillong, going straight would have taken us to Guwahati city. From Khanapara, it's mostly uphill and hair-pin curves to Shillong which is 91 km from there.

As we crossed the bridge over Byurnihat river, we entered Meghalaya. At Nongpoh, we stopped to have coffee at Zen Cafe, which had artistically laid out seats with thatched umbrella shades over them. Small road-side kiosks and even small houses were made of wood.

Barapani Lakeside, a beautiful expanse of water, is a must stopover for all tourists heading to or from Shillong. It's some 15 km from the capital.

We reached Shillong around 2.30 pm and checked into the White Orchid Guesthouse at Malki Point. Rs 1,600 for a spacious and neat triple occupancy room was very reasonable. After lunch we went straight to Shillong Peak. At 2000 metres, it's the highest point in Meghalaya, and from the peak one gets a breathtaking view of the city. The spot has some historical religious significance.

Next stop was supposed to be Elephanta Falls. But we had got late. By 4.30 pm it was dusk and by 5.30 pm sun had set and it was darkness all around. The place would have closed by then. This is when we regretted the delay of over one hour. Now we hope to see the place tomorrow.

Putting the rest of the time to some good use, we went to Gloria Plaza and Vishal Market for some shopping.

Shillong is a town with narrow roads in most places and a few congested localities mainly shopping areas. It's a hilly terrain. There are no glitzy shopping malls or highrise apartment complexes. The hilly terrain doesn't allow any archetectural exhibitionism.

The city virtually shuts down by 9 pm. In fact, the Chinese restaurant we were in at that hour had downed its shutter at 8.30 pm and we were the only customers there. The food there was very economical for the large quantity they offered.

A full day of sight-seeing tomorrow.

Friday, October 29, 2010

North-East Trip - Day 1, Oct 29


Kolkata airport may lack the swanky look of Bangalore airport, and the first thoughts of a tourist from India's tech capital would inevitably be that it could easily do with some image building to get rid of that 'old' look.

But step back a bit, and the old-world charm would start sinking in. The plaster of Paris on walls, deep grey cemented floors and steep steps, fans perched on thick pillars -- you begin to realise this is Kolkata, a repository of rich heritage. Soon, those sepia images begin flooding the mind, in a flashback as it were.


Had lunch at one Saptagiri restaurant outside airport. Flies were a major put-off. There was this no-fly zone, the air-conditioned enclosure for which there is a 20% extra charge. But surprisingly, there were few takers for it. Almost everyone, including well-dressed staff of well-known airlines found flies just a part of the Kolkata ambience. In fact, in the airport lounge too, there were a few flies marking their presence.


The 6-hour transit halt at Kolkata did tempt me to step out of airport premises to get a feel of this world-renowned metro. Did briefly contemplate rushing to Dakshineshwar temple, on the suggestion of a friend. But quickly abandoned the plan as taxi fares being demanded were as much puzzling as exorbitant.

The first cabbie spoke of Rs 500. Then, a person sitting at a desk under a tree, who we were told is a 'pre-paid counter' said the trip would cost us Rs 700. Then, a few cab drivers followed us, with each of them slashing the others' fare by Rs 100! The whole thing sounded quite funny and scary in equal measure.

To be fair, there is indeed an authorised, well-designated pre-paid taxi counter, where I am sure we would have been offered a reasonable and straightforward deal. But, Kolkata wasn't a part of my tour itinerary at all, and there was no plan to see any place. Also, there was this highly inhibiting thought about massive traffic jams. Many of my friends discouraged me from going out to the city.


In a way, it was good I stayed put in the airport, for it enabled serendipity to play out in a glorious fashion. After lunch, at the lounge I was killing time with the mobile. And momentarily I looked up and around. I noticed a very familiar face, and I couldn't believe myself when I realised it was the very same person I'd have missed on my trip to Shillong.

We were travelling in opposite directions, and Kolkata was the transit halt for both of us; and never did we realise that we would run into each other in this crowded airport.


Touched down at Guwahati airport at 7 pm. What a contrast in comparison to Kolkata. Much smaller and virtually deserted. I was quite impressed by the sensor-operated taps in the washroom; Kolkata had the very ancient variety.

Tomorrow we travel to Shillong. There's a lot to look forward to, I am told.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vidyarambham today

It is Vidyarambham today... a day when children are initiated into learning. This is a very unique Kerala tradition, wherein litterateurs and scholars as much sought after to handhold kids into world of letters.

Kids on dads' laps, writing Hari Sri on rice. Some confused as to what's on, some crying, but many enjoying attention!

The function is held either at home or in temple. At home the person who initiates the kid into learning may be the parents or grandparents. At temple it could the priest.
The son a distant cousin of mine, and the son of a colleague went through this traditional ceremony today.

And interesting point that I saw on Twitter was: "Since twitter is were I write most, let this Vidyarambham begin here."... Another friend commented: "Twitter, facebook, etc can be the new rice pad for kids on vidyarambham ;)"

Link: Many throng temples (Mathrubhumi)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Holiday season

Though today is Friday, I have a feeling that today's Saturday! That could be because tomorrow is a holiday: Mahanavami. There's already a sense of holiday in the air. I am sure a lot of people are planning to drive out or take an extended break. I haven't planned anything as of now.

It's also the season of holidays. Soon it will be Diwali or Deepawali, and then Christmas is in the air; and then then the New Year...

Today morning, my wife and I went to the nearby Ayyappa temple and placed a few of study material for Saraswati Pooja. This is a unique Kerala tradition. Since textbooks and notebooks are kept for pooja, most children enjoy this time, since no one will ask them to study. The books are taken back on Sunday morning, on the day of Vijayadashami. That's also the day when children are initiated into learning.

Just wondering what to do tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A lot to cheer about...

A day's break from the unseemly political drama in Bangalore. But it's all set to resume tomorrow when chief minister B S Yeddyurappa will seek a trust vote for a second time within a week following instructions from governor H R Bhardwaj.

But, it was wonderful day today... a break from the sickening politics.

It was such a pleasure watching on TV the gripping table tennis men's doubles match in which India won the gold. The match had me, like all spectators, on the edge of the seat... I had goosebumps as Sharath Kamal and Subhajit Saha clinched the gold beating top-ranking Singapore players Gao Ning and Yang in a nail-biting match.... 9-11, 12-10, 11-4, 5-11, 11-8 .

Then in far-away Chile, at the San Jose mines, 33 miners are being brought out one by one in a dramatic rescue effort that has involved weeks of careful planning. An amazing testament to, not only human endurance, but to human scientific accomplishment.

There's a lot to cheer about in this world, if only we look around.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Bangalore in the making

That Bangalore is congested is nothing new. There are more vehicles on narrower roads. But what most people aren't seeing is the New Bangalore that is in the making.

In less than six months, Metro Rail will start running. That will change the face of Bangalore. Because any city is only as good as its transportation system. Once Metro is commissioned, bus system will also be changed.

I don't understand why people try to compare Bangalore with other cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. The Bangalore that we see today is only at the most 15 years old -- nothing in the life of a city.

Like a human being a city grows, and it's not often a smooth affair. What we need to do is to be supportive, and not cynical. We need to help the city grow well not obstruct. It goes to the credit of people and the media that the growth has bee in a very organised manner, keeping the essence and character of the city intact.

Let us all ensure that the city achieves great heights and becomes the best one not just in India but the entire world.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Id, Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

Hope tomorrow will be a peaceful day, when people will spend their time -- if not in calm spiritual reflection at least -- in the comforts of their home or where ever, watching movies, having good food, or in some sort of harmless fun.
Hope no one will try to mess up other people's lives and also make this world uninhabitable, more than what it already is.
On one side it's the anniversary of 9/11. And to make matters worse, as if it already is not, some one is planning to publicly insult people's personal beliefs and faith, in a manner that makes me shudder, thinking of the consequences. How one person can actually mess things up so badly is shocking.
In India, coincidentally, Muslims and Hindus will have their religious festivals of Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi on the same day, tomorrow. Not in the recent past such a thing has happened.
It will be an opportunity to show the world that in India different faiths can live peacefully and in harmony. I hope people keep their religious faiths to themselves, to their private space; and there's no undue public flaunting of individuals' personal beliefs and faiths.
Hopefully tomorrow there's no attempt by anyone to test other people's tolerance levels. Hope the festive season heralds peace, happiness and prosperity.

Friday, August 27, 2010

India has least number of women using mobile web

The US may be leading in the use of mobile phones. But it is second only to South Africa when it comes to the number of women using the mobile to access internet. South Africa leads the world in the category with 43.4%. It is followed by the US with 35.6%, Russia with 32.4% and the UK with 31.5%.
The number of women world over using mobile web has gone up steeply — a whopping 575% in two years, says the latest Opera’s State of the Mobile Web Report released this week.

India has the least number of women mobile web users, 4%, behind Nigeria (5.4%), China (11.6%) and Vietnam (17.9%). Ukraine and Vietnam have the most users under 18 (34.8% and 23.7%, respectively), while the US and and the UK have a lot of users who are 38 and older (26% and 21%, respectively).

To the question, "Do you have online friends you’ve never met in real life?", the most number of "yes" came from Nigeria (87.3%), Indonesia (83.7%), and Ukraine (83.1%). And the least number of "yes" came from United Kingdom (64.6%), United States (65.6%).

Google and Facebook compete for the top spot in several Southeast Asian countries. Opera Mini users in Southeast Asia tend to prefer Nokia handsets, while the Apple iPhone is the most popular handset used by Opera Mini users in both Singapore and Myanmar.

Commenting on the survey, co-founder, Opera Software, Jon von Tetzchner, said, "Mobile web is all about breaking down barriers to access. Seeing more women on the mobile web is important to ensuring the mobile web remains the rich tapestry of ideas it is. Further diversity can only improve things for everyone."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pause and proceed on information highway

Mobile phones, laptops and internet: they are gadgets of convenience alright; but we have also been willy-nilly transported on to an information superhighway where we are zipping at breakneck speed. Life has become too fast. The over-speeding on the infobahn has imperiled our lives. (More)

Sainik School alumni meet tomorrow

Bangalore-based former students of Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Kerala, will have a get-together at the Officers' Mess of 147 AD Regiment (Jet Busters) located near Ayyappa Temple, Banaswadi, Bangalore, from 11 am tomorrow, that is Sunday, July 11.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Man on a Wheelchair

A hospital is a place where lives are saved and smiles are brought back. But it’s also a place where one finds people in all forms of discomfort.

It’s a place where sometimes nothing is in anyone’s control. I say this with due respect to doctors, nurses and other support staff, who do a thankless job.

There’s a limit to which even specialist doctors can push. Often they themselves say, ”We have done all we can, now let’s hope for the best.”

How much ever great we are, how much ever renowned we are, how much ever rich we are, ultimately it’s not we who take the final call on matters of human life. It’s a humbling thought.
I am at a speciality hospital in Bangalore, where my 70-year-old uncle has been admitted for a health check-up after he complained of breathing problem. There are many like me, relatives and friends of patients, who are sitting out hoping everything will get fine, and we can be back home and resume our normal chores before long.

It’s around 11.30 am. A man in late 50s is being wheeled in on a chair. Two women accompanying him are worried and talk alternatively on the mobile and to hospital staff. A couple of relatives or friends too have joined them.

I gather later that the man suffered a serious heart attack and the doctors said they couldn’t give any assurance about his recovery.

In the next few hours specialist cardiologists are on the job in the operation theatre. Outside, a couple of men too join the small anxious group.

It is quite apparent that the man isn’t out of danger. Kith and kin are being updated on the progress, or rather the lack of it.

Around 4.45 pm, obviously upon a cue, one woman breaks into tears. Immediately the next, and the next. A heartrending sight. One of them, later I realise, the wife, collapses sobbing inconsolably. A few relatives/friends totally dumbstruck by shock are in no better position to lend a shoulder.

One man finds the wall just as good to lean on and shed tears. Two children, may be aged under 5, have puzzled, curious looks on their faces, unable to fathom what has befallen the women.

Around 7 pm, a woman with a kid in her arms, and man, walk in. Emotions breach all barriers once again. A few others, who are in no way related to the bereaved family, too can’t help being overwhelmed.

The man has bid goodbye to the world. Why this goodbye is so tragic is because the world does not get even half a chance to wave back. It’s the suddenness, here-now-gone-now situation that’s benumbing. He is gone, never to return.

We simply don’t know what all have come crashing down with his departure – a prop emotional as well as material, a  security that nothing will ever go wrong: and on top of it all dreams, and more dreams.

Nothing can bring back a life; nothing can resurrect all that have collapsed. If ever there’s something that can heal the suffering, it’s time.

May his soul rest in peace. May the bereaved have the fortitude to tide over the tragedy.

(Crossposted from Kaleidoscope)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bandhs don't achieve anything

Yesterday's Bharat Bandh was quite a success, depending upon what one means by the word success. It was called by Left and BJP (a unique collaboration) to protest against the recent fuel price hike.

By success, do we assume that fuel prices will be brought down? Today's hardship to many people was definitely much more than what people endure with higher fuel prices.

Less than a fortnight back, we were stuck at Aluva railway station because of an LDF-sponsored bandh again the same issue. Kerala shut down today for a second time over the same issue. Less said about the damage done to Kerala's well-being due to hartals and bandhs the better.

Yesterday, we had to take my ailing 70-year-old uncle to hospital as his condition worsened. We were worried if our vehicle will be attacked. Since public transport was off, commuting became difficult.

My argument is not that the government should endlessly increase the fuel prices. The ripple effect has definitely derailed home budgets, and of course, we all want cheaper petrol, diesel and cooking gas.

A more constructive approach would have been an attempt to walk the talk by opposition-ruled states. Karnataka is ruled by BJP and Bangalore is among places where fuel is the most expensive. And a good chunk of the fuel price a Bangalorean pays is state-levied taxes and surcharges. And public infrastructure definitely doesn't match up to the hype about the city.

The pricing structure of fuel is not as easy as opening and closing the shutter of a shop. If political parties are genuinely concerned about, not just fuel prices but, our overall standard of living, they need to be less destructive in their policies. Development and progress can't just be lipservice, as it's just now.

Hope we won't see these bandhs and hartals again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Germany dominated Argentina

Yesterday's world cup matches were simply among the best so far. The Germany-Argentina one was billed the final before the final. If it was disappointing it was only because it didn't turn out to be as nail-biting a cliffhanger as many thought it would be. 

The popular wisdom was Argentina will win. But I have been swimming against the current and as of now I am floating! 

The German goal in the opening minutes was a shocker to many, but set my heart aglow. And quite surprisingly for even German supporters there was a goal rush after that. Not that Argentinians didn't play well, but simply it was not their day. Poor Maradona. And, I didn't like the hype around Argentina. 

I thought Germany played to a plan. Their tackling and passes stood out and they seemed to be more in control of the wayward Jabulani. Perhaps the only moments of concern for the Germans were in the early part of the second half. May be goal difference might have been narrower, but Germany was the clear winner over Argentina.

Spain just managed to end match decisively against Paraguay, who must have been left cursing that brief moment when the ball found the post. And what a goal that was! That match was more evenly poised than the previous one.

More fun to follow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Five mistakes Tharoor made

Shashi Tharoor -- the flamboyant novice of Indian politics who got pitch-forked to the corridors of South Block -- has got out.

He played a smashing innings that will be remembered for the big hits which got him neither sixes nor fours but just a few singles with great difficulty.

There is no doubt Tharoor walked into the Indian political pitch with great promise, commanding support and encouragement of his bosses. The way he humbled seasoned politicians in Kerala's political hub in last year's Lok Sabha election raised hopes of a new beginning for a state overtaken by the inertia of political stereotype and rhetoric.

But before long he began showing signs of getting distracted. Evidently his strengths were getting diverted. He retained the grit and conviction to bat on relentlessly against unfriendly googlies and bouncers. But all his efforts didn't seem to be fetching him or his team any dividents.

The junor foreign minister was living on the edge. On a few occasions he got himself trapped, but got away with the benefit of doubt. Finally, the innings has ended.

Tharoor's supporters and well-wishers hope this is just the first innings. He has many more chances to prove his mettle. Whether there will soon be a second innings or not, it may be worthwhile to examine, in retrospect, a few of the mistakes he committed:

1. He should have reaslised he is a greenhorn in Indian politics, which isn't an easy turf to play on. With the goodwill he earned, he should have made a quiet and steady beginning with the aim of scoring, and not lobbing catches to the opponents.

2. He should have meticulously studied how Indian politics works, evenwhile focusing on his ministerial responsibilities.

3. He should have curbed his proclivity to be judgemental and opinionated. One thought that he was a diplomat, but there weren't many indications of it.

4. He should have realised that the number of followers on Twitter didn't mean much in real life. It's no indication of how many tweeps actually follow him.

5. He should have realised that promoting cricket in Kerala was never his brief; and also that IPL is quite a different ball game altogether. He should have thought twice before padding up for it. Any injury on the field would affect his official work.

Wounded badly, Shashi Tharoor will surely ponder over what lies ahead and which way he should move now. All is not lost for him. His brilliance and scholarship have been proved beyond doubt. And there will be umpteen occasions for him to put them to good use.

There is one mantra he would do well to keep in mind: even if you don't rub someone the right way, don't rub them wrong way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bangalore Twestival 2010 on March 25 at Opus

Twitter was conceptualised as the web equivalent of SMS. But in its four years of existence, the microblog has grown way beyond even what its founders imagined. Millions of people use it in some way: to follow breaking news, to keep in touch with friends or to give expression to their emotions and opinions.

When a few Londoners in 2008 decided to leverage the power of online networking to steer social projects, they were breaking new ground. The thought was elementary: if a million people could network online, why can’t a few of them get together offline? And, thus w as born the idea of Twestival or twitter festival.

Twestival Global 2010 will be held in 175 cities around the world — including Bangalore — on March 25 in aid of international charity, Concern Worldwide. The proceeds will go to its worldwide education projects. Besides Bangalore, six cities — Chennai, Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Kochi — will host Twestival this year. Each city will have its own fund-raising programme, conceptualized and organized by volunteers,
 on that day.


The Bangalore festival will include a rock show by Galeej Gurus, Repsychled, and Nakul Shenoy’s Beyond Magic, at Opus, Palace Road, from 7 pm onwards. “If you are on twitter and in Bangalore, this is a must-attend to meet your twitter friends as well as to contribute to a social cause,” said Vaijayanthi K M, regional coordinator for India. There are plans for a secondary fund-raising inter-corporate cricket match on March 27.

Jason Alexander, who manages Galeej Gurus, said: “We strongly believe in the cause of education that Twestival is supporting this year. We would like to do our part in giving back to the society & community, through what we do best…making & performing music.” Shalini Mohan, a bassist for Repsychled, is excited. “It’s a festival that’s happening all over the world on the same day. Nothing like joining hands for supporting a cause.”

Vaijayanthi says people are now more aware about Twestival. “We do not have to explain the entire premise, the motive and our intention. Companies/sponsors are also more forthcoming and willing to support us because they have seen the impact.”

Founder of Twestival Amanda Rose feels there is no shortage of people who are passionate and want to help. The challenge is coordination, not participation. “Organizing online and gathering offline allows Twestival to harness the incredible communication power of twitter to propel participation in real events. By using social media platforms such as twitter, Twestival is able to connect hundreds of independent local events into a powerful global initiative.”


Concern Worldwide, in aid of which Twestival 2010 is being held, is a 40-year-old Ireland-based international humanitarian organization working among the deprived to improve their standard of living. With a staff of about 3,200 people of 50 nationalities, it operates in 28 countries. In September last year, Concern celebrated 10 years of its work in India.

An estimated 72 million children worldwide are not enrolled in school, says Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide. “Concern is committed to reaching those left behind, giving them access to learning and the chance to break out of the cycle of poverty. Twestival Global is revolutionizing the way concerned citizens all over the world connect to benefit the poorest among us. We are thrilled to have been chosen, and we’re rolling up our sleeves to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity,” says Arnold.


A group of London tweeple (people who use twitter) hosted an event called Harvest Twestival in September 2008. The objective was to meet up, have some fun and in the process help a local charity organization. They held a raffle, pooled in donations and canned food for a non-profit called The Connections in Traffalgar Square which supports the homeless.

The messages went out on twitter, the event was planned in two weeks, and sponsorships were pooled in from twitter users. The organizers expected not more than 40 to attend, but people had networked online and around 250 showed up at the venue! The Harvest Twestival was a thumping success. While on one side The Connections got the support it was looking for, the event demonstrated the power of twitter as a platform to network and rally for a social cause. The enthusiasm led the way for holding the first Twestival Global, preparations for which began with the first tweet on January 8, 2009.

A month later, on February 12, over 1,000 volunteers got together in 202 cities, including Bangalore, to organize events to raise funds for water projects around the world. Over $250 was raised in one day through events and online donations; resulting in 55 wells benefiting more than 17,000 people in Uganda, Ethiopia and India.

Says Vaijayanthi, “In 2009, Twestival India was able to raise over Rs 90,000 for the non-profits. Considering the ever-increasing number of Indians taking to twitter, we expect to more than double this amount in 2010.”


It was on March 21, 2006, at 9.50 pm PST, that Jack Dorsey, founder of twitter, sent out the first tweet: “just setting up my twttr”.

(This article appeared in The Times of India, Bangalore, on March 22, 2010)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Should there be more IPLs?

A proposal is doing the rounds among the cricket bigwigs on holding more than one IPL in a year. The idea is to take it abroad to places like the US and the Gulf, where there is a huge concentration of Indians.

There is no doubt IPL -- the 20 over-a-side, eight-team Indian Premier League Championship -- is a roaring success. It has now come to symbolise cricket, eclipsing not just the sedate 5-day Test version but even the shorter 50-over-a-side One-Day Internationals or the ODIs.

Success begets success. It's also said we shouldn't sleep over success, but look far ahead to reap more out of success. It all sounds good, ambitious, enterprising and what not!

But the plan overlooks an aspect of IPL that's so crucial -- the players. Did anyone consult them, before publicing the 'more of IPL' plan?

It's players, coaches, managers, umpires and a whole lot of support staff who have made what cricket, or rather IPL, what it's today. They are all under tremendous pressure to perform round the year. Their body and mind are stretched to the maximum. They have little time for relaxation or for their personal and family lives.

What about all of us who watch cricket and enjoy it. Already I have heard of many people who are sick and tired of their favourite sport and pastime. Strange, is it not, if one has to be fed up of something that he or she likes!

Well, there's definitely an overkill of cricket. How many matches will one see? Cricket may actually be under threat of losing its entertainment value. Even now, even during a T20 match many people, come to see the match only during the last 3 or five overs of each innings.

Cricket is much more than winning. It's about style as much as strategy. Great innings. Great bowling spells. Great catches. Great stops. Great field placements. We have all enjoyed that as much as the winning shot of our favourite teams.

Let's not dilute the significance of these fascinating facets of this great game.

IPL once year is more than enough. We would like to look forward to it once every year. Because what happens after a longer wait gives us unrivalled pleasure.

Let us not kill the goose that lays golden eggs.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

'Time and Tide' is back on Ugadi

To everyone, who has been reading Time and Tide, my apologies for the hiatus -- 20 months and 4 days -- it has been a long time. I wasn't able to post anything here, and I owe a Big Thank You to those who helped me resume my blogging here.

What a day to be back. Today is Ugadi -- the New Year Day festival in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The day is celebrated as Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra. It's a festive occasion for Sindhis around the country, who celebrate the day as Chetti Chand or the Sindhi New Year. The Tamil, Malayalam and Bengali equivalents of this day come next month. India is such a complicated nation when it comes to religious festivals!

It's indeed an auspicious day to re-enter the blogospere. Please do check back. Thanks a lot, for staying on with Time and Tide patiently.