Thursday, June 16, 2016

Two surprises

A few days ago, I wanted to withdraw some cash and reached the ICICI Bank ATM in Kasturinagar.

It was the third one I was coming to that morning: one wasn't working, and the other had a long queue. 

There was one person already waiting, and another was inside the kiosk.

On seeing that there wasn't anyone in front of the SBM ATM, which is very close by, and I went there. But the sensor on the screen didn't seem to be working. I came out, and headed back to the ICICI ATM.

The man who was in the kiosk was still inside. Probably, he was making multiple transactions, or facing some problem. Anyway, a couple of minutes later, he came out, and it was the turn of the person who had arrived before me, to go in.

But that young man surprised me with this suggestion: "Why don't you go in? I need to generate PIN, and it might take some time ..."

Though I was taken aback, I told him, "Thank you so much. You are very kind," and I walked in.

It didn't take me more than a minute to withdraw some cash.

As I stepped out and exited, I thought, there was no need for him to make that offer. He could have gone in, and I would have waited for, may be, a few more minutes.

Parking fee

Yesterday evening, I had to make a few purchases, and I parked my car at a paid parking lot in Kamanahalli. I was handed a small red slip of paper with the time written on it, by a young man who guards the place. The fee is Rs 10 per hour for two-wheelers and Rs 20 per hour for four-wheelers.

I finished my shopping and was back in 15 minutes. Just as I was giving the attender Rs 20, he said, "Rs 10."

I was surprised. He then said, "You just came.. " Meaning, I had parked the car for only a short time.

I said, okay, and put back the Rs 20 in my purse and gave him Rs 10.

As I drove back home, I wondered: he could have taken Rs 20. What was the need to give me a concession?

Or should I have insisted on going by the actual rate, and paid him Rs 20, instead taking a discount?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

What Orlando shooting means

Worst mass shooting in the history of the United States. Fifty killed and scores wounded, many critically.

The victims were in an LGBT nightclub Pulse. The killer also swore his allegiance to Islamic State, in a call to 911.

Thus this is a homophic, terror attack. First time we are seeing one like this.

Since the killer has been killed we don't know what exactly his motive was. He has been identified as Omar Mateen, an American citizen of Afghan origin. It is no-brainer to figure out in which direction the needle of suspicion would point.

The fact that the target was an LGBT congregation makes one suspect if the killer was homophobic. In fact, CNN is now quoting sources to say that the family of Omar told police that he had anti-gay feelings.

Since this single shooter opened fire on an LGBT club, it also raises doubts their security. Freedom to be oneself, and to live and let live, also seems to be under threat.

Security sources are saying that the killer has been on an FBI list of IS sympathizers. But apparently there wasn't anything to indicate that he was about to commit such a crime.

If the terrorist connection is established, there will be a whole lot questions asked. If he was on a watch list, why did he go unmonitored?

But having said that it's also practically impossible to keep a 24/7 watch on a huge number of people who could be on such lists.

Apparently the killer called 911 during the attack and said he has been inspired by IS. CNN also says he referred to Boston bombers.

The terror link also gives an implication that this is an attack on American homeland and an attack on the values that Americans cherish.

There will also be questions raised on the ease with which people, especially those with suspect credentials, can obtain deadly arms. Once again there will be a debate about the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution that gives right to carry arms.

This being the second worst terror attack after 9/11, one can expect some tough restrictions coming into a liberal and tolerant American civic life.

Someone said the killer could have been inspired by radical ideology. If that is true, we should seriously introspect as why such radical messages are finding followers. And we have seen that some of the people getting swayed are people who are financially well off and also who are well educated. Really something is wrong somewhere.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How to handle examination-related stress and fear among students

Another girl has tried to end her life, frustrated over her school examination tribulations. This happened in front of The Goa University Vice-Chancellor yesterday. The V-C declared the examination the students took null and void, as they didn't have the requisite attendance in classes.

Attendance issue is a common problem. But if the way the problem has been handled has led to a student trying to commit suicide, then there is something drastically wrong in the way in the whole manner the issue was handled.

It is not the first time, that students have attempted suicide. Mostly it relates to poor performance or fear of examination.

According to this news item in Huffington Post earlier this month, 57 young students have taken their lives on Kota. That is the city in Rajasthan which is renowned for the private education centres that coach students who are preparing for various competitive examinations in order to get into prestigious institutions like IIT, IIM etc.

Here is another news item from May 2008, which says that exam pressure is leading students to commit suicide.

Hopefully the one that happened in Goa will be the last.

Examinations, especially in school, are notorious for the amount of stress they give not only for the student but also for the parents, who take leave from office when their children have examinations.

I am not trying to argue that parents need not bother about their children's academic performance or they should just turn a blind eye when kids get very low scores.

What is driving mad these children is not the examination but the amount of pressure parents, relatives and the immediate friends' circle puts on them.

They all should help children rather than torment them. For example, if kids aren't interested in studies, parents should explore ways to get them interested. And also tell them, nicely but firmly, that studies and examinations are important, and shouldn't be ignored.

Parents should not force children to get high marks. Different children are endowed with different capabilities. Every parent should know their children very well.

High marks are good. But if a child doesn't get high marks, that doesn't mean that her future is doomed. Most parents, wrongly and with disastrous consequences, convey that view.

If children get low marks, parents, instead of shouting and screaming at them, should be with them, helping them out. Tell them, "You have done your best. It's not the end of the world. We shall see where and why you lost marks. We will make up, and show everyone, that I am able to get good marks."

If parents think that they aren't able to handle the situation, they must reach out people who can assist them. There are plenty of professional counsellors who can help. Sometimes, children tend to listen to what some others say rather than what their own parents say.

Let us hope that this alarming trend tapers, and finally no child ever has to take her or his life because of examinations.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

RIP, Muhammad Ali - Greatest boxer, champion of human rights

It is just about an hour since news broke that Muhammad Ali is no more. And it is already trending on Twitter and Facebook. I thought the present generation, the ones who are mostly on the social media, might not know much about who this great man is. But I am wrong.

Muhammad Ali was a name that many in my generation grew up with. That he was a World Heavyweight Boxing Champion was just one of the reasons. He was Black. And like any Black in those times, had to face huge struggles to live like a normal human being.

Photo credit: BBC
We all kept hearing and reading stories about how this man, who was born Cassius Clay, stood up for people who were being persecuted merely for the colour of their skin. He converted to Islam, took the name, we all now know him as. And most famously refused to join the US Army to fight against Vietnam. He was later stripped of the World Boxing Championship title he had won.

He set the trend for many Black American sportspersons. He taught them that their colour wasn't anything to be ashamed about. He taught them to look beyond such things and believe in their sporting skills.

He later came to be celebrated as a great human being, feted by George Bush in 2005 with America's highest civilian honour.

Muhammad Ali's India connection

Boxing in my school

In school, we had boxing as a sporting event. In fact, my alma mater Sainik School, in Thiruvananthapuram, was the only school in Kerala that had a professional boxing ring. All of us had to learn boxing as a part of sports, and take part in bouts. The best among us represented the House in the Boxing Championship. There was such aggressive competitiveness in that tournament every year that it became so prestigious. And, we were all inspired by Mohammad Ali in some way.

Rest In Peace, The Greatest

Signing off with one of the popular songs on Mohammad Ali. I love this so much.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

ESPN launches multi-sport India-specific website and mobile app

Sports websites are dime a dozen; and one of the popular ones is ESPNCricinfo. But it is only about cricket. Early today, ESPN launched an India-specific, multi-sport website and mobile application.

The website is branded SONY ESPN but the URL is and the app, available for now on Android and iOS, is called ESPN.

The ESPN mobile app existed before. What has changed today, with an update, is that it's got India-specific content too, besides the hitherto, predominantly American content.

It's like the ESPNCricinfo website, but it has got a much sleeker look, and has got a whole lot of content, drawn from the huge data repository of ESPN, which has only gotten much larger after its collaboration with Sony. So besides cricket, football, tennis, there are also NFL, NASCAR, shooting, chess, hockey, badminton, wrestling, kabaddi, etc.

Like all good websites and apps, this too can be personalized. Once signed in, we can choose our favourite  sports, leagues and teams. We can go to the favourites tab and follow scores, news, images, videos etc related to them. And like all the other good websites and apps, the selections sync across all the other devices -- mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop.

Besides all this, both the website and the app, will stream live sports events for which Sony has the broadcast rights. This is in association with Sony LIV. We can look forward to live video of the UEFA Euro 2016 on the website and also on the app, besides of course Sony ESPN TV channel.

ESPN International has 26 television networks and additional businesses like radio, print, internet, broadband, wireless, consumer products, and event management, in over 61 countries. Globally, it is headquartered in Bristol, and in India it is headquartered in Bengaluru, with offices in Mumbai and Delhi. ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., which is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The rest is held by The Hearst Corporation.