Friday, August 17, 2018

Atal Bihari Vajpayee - poet, orator, politician, statesman, Prime Minister

Photo courtesy: The Hindu
India is in mourning. The nation lost one of its greatest leaders, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, yesterday evening at 5.05, at the age of 93.

He straddled the Indian political scene for nearly 60 years. He was elected to parliament for the first time in 1957; he was the foreign minister from 1977 to 1979, and later the Prime Minister thrice between 1996 and 2004. In 2005, he retired from all public activities and politics.

UNUSUAL GENTLE POLITICIAN

One reason why the sense of loss is extremely heavy is because Vajpayee was the type of politician, we all miss today, not just in India but in many other nations. He belonged to a political party, the BJP, which has always been perceived as radically nationalist, sectarian and divisive.

But, he transformed the image of that party, and made it acceptable to a huge majority of people. As a result, not only the BJP came to power, but Vajpayee, leading a coalition of over 20 parties, completed his tenure of five years - the only non-Congress party prime minister ever to do so.

POET, DIPLOMAT, ORATOR

There are multiple reasons he endeared himself to a vast section of people.

He used his deft diplomacy, poetic way with words and arresting oratorical skills to powerful effect turning adversities into strengths, and setback into success.

He was a great consensus builder. And he was a politician last.

He was willing to give respect and space even to his arch political rivals. The way he fought elections without indulging in personal, below-the-belt-level attacks on his competitors is well known. He proved that politics can also be practised by adhering to certain basic human values. There is no need to make it crass and ugly.

RARE MAGNANIMITY

There are many anecdotes that illustrate the person Vajpayee was:

When India got its first non-Congress government in 1977 (after 30 years of rule by Congress party), Vajpayee was appointed as the foreign minister. When he entered his office, he found that a photo of the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru (of Congress party) had been removed. Evidently, someone thought that it was only appropriate the photo should be removed as the Congress had lost power. But, Vajpayee got the photo back in place.

Here is another one. India embarked on its historic economic liberalisation during Congress rule in 1991. Economist Manmohan Singh was the finance minister. In a parliament debate, Singh faced harsh criticism of his liberalisation policy from the opposition, especially Vajpayee. Soon after, a hurt Singh went up to Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and submitted his resignation. When Vajpayee got to hear about this, he called Singh; and advised that in politics such debates and criticisms should not be taken personally, and urged him to stay in office.

How many politicians today would have such magnanimity.

TUMULTUOUS PREMIERSHIP

The five years he was the Prime Minister from 1999 to 2004 was momentous. Some of the significant events during those years were:

  • The rise of India as an Information Technology super power; 
  • The nuclear tests, and how India survived the international sanctions without a scratch
  • Strengthening of India's relations with the US and many other countries
  • Vajpayee's outreach to Pakistan by extending a hand of friendship even though it was fomenting trouble in Kashmir.
  • Kargil war, and Pakistan's defeat
  • Hijack of an Indian Airlines plane, planned in and directed from Pakistan
  • Overthrow of the civilian government by Pak army
  • Pak-sponsored terror attack on India's parliament. 
  • Vajpayee's continued efforts at friendship with Pakistan, by agreeing to a summit with Pak President Gen Musharraf, who had engineered the Kargil war.
  • A host of development schemes for different sections of the people across the country.

In spite of Vajpayee's popularity and good performance, his party BJP lost the 2004 election to the Congress, and Manmohan Singh became the PM.

In 2005, beset with multiple old-age related ailments, he retired from politics and public life.

Vajpayee was, more than anything, a good human being. He had his fair share of successes and setbacks; but there was never any doubt about the spirit and objectives of his actions. He played straight from his heart. A glorious life, of multiple hues, has come to an end.

Rest in Peace.

REFERENCES AND VIDEO CLIPS

The news in BBC, The New York Times and The Guardian

"Never Thought I Would Be A Politician, Always Wanted To Be A Poet"


Atal Bihari Vajpayee Wasn’t Jealous, Or Insecure, Says Arun Shourie


Vajpayee's Best Speeches & Poetry


Vajpayee's "Here Comes My Resignation, Mr. Speaker" speech in Parliament


Pokhran II- Atal Bihari Vajpayee's major nuclear initiative


Vajpayee's speech in Parliament after Pokaran Test

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Reduce pollution with seed flags on Independence Day

Photo courtesy: The Times of India
Today is Independence Day in India. It's 71 years since the British left the subcontinent in 1947. Like in any other country, here too the air is awash with patriotic fervor, with parades, speeches, songs, cultural programmes, etc.

During this time, it is common for many people to buy small and medium-sized national flags. After a couple of days, they just end up in garbage bins. And since they are usually made of plastic, all of that add to the pollution.

Now, a biotechnology engineer in New Delhi, Krithika Saxena, has come up with the idea of flags made of paper which have seeds embedded in them. The obvious intent is that instead of just throwing the flags, you can plant them.

Ever since she spread the word on social media, there has been a huge demand from schools and corporates. She says she has so far sold 14,000 such flags to people in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Lucknow.

A good, positive step towards reducing the growing pollution around us.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Friends, spouses, parents on hire

Photo courtesy: The New Yorker
Yes, one can get a husband, wife, father, mother, boyfriend or girlfriend on hire .... in Japan.

I didn't know this, until I heard a documentary in the Outlook Weekend programme on BBC World Service. This family rental business is thriving in Japan, where this extraordinary practice of getting a fake relative began in 1990s.

The programme features Yuichi Ishii who runs a company called Family Romance. Over the past nine years, he has been a husband to a hundred women and organised 8,000 fake weddings.

This is a perfectly legal commercial arrangement, and the actors ensure that everything goes off perfectly, with no chance of the impersonation ever being exposed.

At the end of the programme, there is an interview with a mother who hired a father for her little daughter, who was missing her real father since he had been divorced by the mother.

Though this is common in Japan, it's not an easy business: one, the moral issues arising out of living a real life based on a lie, and two, the emotional complications ensuing from the real-fake relationships.

This 30-odd minute programme on BBC World Service is very well made, and is worth listening to.

Later, I did a web search on this amazing phenomenon, and found that there have been articles on this in many publications like The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Sydney Morning HeraldThere is also a Wikipedia page on Rental family service.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Kerala Diary 2 - Ordering food in Hindi

Most people in Kerala (the small state tucked away in the southern tip of the Indian peninsula) speak their local language of Malayalam even if they know English. Many locals might understand Hindi (the most widely spoken language in the country) but they aren't comfortable speaking it. Which means, basically it's Malayalam that's the predominant language of communication in Kerala.

So today evening, at a restaurant in Ernakulam (in central Kerala) when I had to speak in Hindi to order food, I could not help thinking how drastically this state and its people have changed.

Over the few years, there has been a number migrants from the north of the country (who know only Hindi) moving in to Kerala because of increasing job opportunities.

It's only a few months since this waiter in the restaurant, who is from Darjeeling, in West Bengal state, has been in Kerala. He says he can understand Malayalam but not speak fluently. I switched to Hindi when he replied to me in that language.

I spent some time talking to him, a very affable person. And for a moment I wondered if I was in some north Indian city!

I am sure he will soon learn to speak Malayalam, just as many locals, who know only Malayalam, can now speak Hindi very well.

Incidentally, I spotted menu in some small hotels, written in both Malayalam and Hindi.

This shows how a society enriches itself with migration and consequent intermingling of people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets.

Rains abate

It was a relief to see sun shining bright today morning while I travelled by a bus from North Paravur to Ernakulam. News also came in that rains have abated, water levels in dams across the State of Kerala have seen a drop. That's a major consolation.

However, the National Disaster Management Authority of India has warned that there are possibilities of rain in as many as 16 States across the nation in the coming few days as a depression develops over the Bay of Bengal.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Kerala Diary 1 - Raining misery

It's an eerie feeling being in North Paravur - about 120 km north west of Idukki reservoir. The shutters of the Cheruthoni Dam in Idukki (central Kerala) have been opened, following incessant rain, letting out huge quantities of water into Periyar river which is now overflowing into some human habitations.

While grim visuals of the havoc caused by the rain are rolling on the TV screen, here it's mostly only overcast sky and an occasional heavy rain but water seeping into earth.

I have been here since Wednesday night when the clouds opened up unleashing a fury not seen in recent times. I was woken up around 2 am by the sound of the strong force of the downpour. Didn't quite realise then what it had wreaked mainly in north and central Kerala.

Next morning onwards, the only news on local news channels has been the mounting death toll and untold hardship of whoever was in the way of the recklessly gushing torrents of water.

Such has been the downpour across Kerala that shutters of 24 of the 40 dams in the State had to be opened. Twenty two people have lost their lives in the last two days. Idukki area is still witnessing heavy rain.

Tomorrow, I am scheduled to travel down south to Ernakulam, which is closer to areas that have been badly hit. Hopefully, the ferocity of rain would have abated by then, and situation is better.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Friends and so-called friends on Facebook

Photo courtesy: BBC
In many nations, including India, today (the first Sunday of August) is celebrated as Friendship Day, though the United Nations General Assembly has dedicated every July 30 for celebration of goodwill and affection among people. Not quite sure why different nations celebrate the same day on different dates.

I got a few Happy Friendship Day greetings today. But I saw plenty of them, quite strangely, floating around on social media.

Whenever I think about the word "friends", I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg spoiled that word. Imagine, people having hundreds of friends!

WHO IS A FRIEND? 

I don't know if there is an exact or true definition of it. But I guess, a friend is someone with whom we don't have any inhibitions in sharing something that is personal; with whom we would open up and show them our personal albums; whom we readily trust; and with whom we have a healthy give-and-take relationship of wise counsel and support.

Can we actually have hundreds of such people as friends? I really don't think so.

According to a Pew Research study in 2014, an average Facebook user has 338 friends. But are they really 'friends'?

DUNBAR NUMBER

Well-known British anthropologist Robin Dunbar made a correlation between the size of our brain and the size of our social group. He then came up with what is called the Dunbar Number which is 150. That is the maximum number of people we can have in our social circle. Our brain simply doesn't allow us to have more than that.

Dunbar also said that these 150 fall in four layers or circles. It is called the Dunbar Layers. At any point of time, the innermost or intimate circle of friends has just five people. The next circle has 10 more; the next another 35; and the last layer of a person's social group has another 100 - altogether making up the total of 150.

SO-CALLED FRIENDS

Since Zuckerberg is counting everyone in my Facebook contacts as 'friends', I have created a separate List, called Close Friends, in which there are just about 50, who form my friendly social group. Any personal posts are shared only with them. The rest are all acquaintances, colleagues, schoolmates, professional contacts etc.

Sometimes, when I look through my contacts (so-called friends) on Facebook, I find some whom I can barely recollect, who they are, or where I met them. I check the so-called mutual friends. And if I am still clueless, I remove them from my list.

I guess, Robin Dunbar is right. What do you think?

Monday, July 30, 2018

The only time I write nowadays

Photo courtesy: The Huffington Post
The other day I had to write a few sentences. I mean actually write with pen and paper; not type on a computer.

I was shocked to realise; one, how difficult it has become to write; and two, the handwriting -- which, long back when I was in school and college, was reasonably good -- had become so horrible that the words, when written fast, are illegible, looking more like a mass of shapeless, undulating lines.

I wound my memory clock back to find out when was the last time I wrote at least half a page of something. Those were the days before email and personal computers.

It was in 1999, I got my first email ID, a Hotmail address. Till then, I used to write letters to my friends. Once email came, letter writing completely stopped; except to one very good friend.

I began working on a computer word processor for the first time in my office in 1989. But I got my first computer at home only 10 years later.

With computers at home and office, writing gradually came to a grinding halt.

The only time I write now is a letter of three to four pages to Henry, a friend who lives in England. He is also the only person who writes a letter to me. He is in his early 70s, and not at all computer savvy. He doesn't even have one. Nor does he have an email ID.

The reply to his last letter is long due. I have consciously decided not to type out the letter. Because it will look formal, lacking personal touch.

It is not easy to write. But the effort is worth it. I must write slowly, lest what I write become illegible.

Let me stop typing out this blog post and publish it. Then, I will take an A4 paper and pen, and start writing my letter to Henry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

‘I don’t have time’

Photo credit: Titan
In an office I worked previously, many years ago, there was a colleague, who was once told to do a particular task by his boss.

Here’s how their conversation went:

Colleague: I am sorry, I won’t be able to do it.

Boss: Why?

Colleague: Because I don’t have time.

Boss: You can’t say you don’t have time. …

Colleague: I am not kidding. I simply don’t have time for what you are asking me to do.

Boss: Then who will do it?

Colleague: I am sure you will find someone else who will have the time to do it.

Boss: Tell me … do you have time to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Do you find time to watch a movie? Do you find time to have a shower? Do you get time to chat with your friends? 

If you say you don’t have time, how do you expect someone else to have time, since all of us have the same amount of 24 hours a day.

Don’t tell me you don’t have time. Tell me, the task I gave you is not a priority for you. If it is a priority for you, you will surely find time to do it.

Colleague: I get what you mean. But what I am trying to tell you is precisely that. I have more important commitments; so I won’t be able to do what you are asking me to do.

Boss: I know! I was just kidding!

The topic of their conversation shifted to something else; and someone else ended up doing that task.

When we say: “I don’t have time,” that can sound a bit insensitive and curt. It could also indicate a disinterest in the task we have to do. The boss is right in saying if there is some inclination to do it, we would surely find some time.

If there is genuinely no time, it is better to phrase it this way: “I am too tied up with other equally important work, so I won’t be able to do it within the specified time.”

After this, I always check myself before blurting out, “I have no time.” (Unless of course I am telling someone very close to or in an informal context.)

The most recent occasion was when a friend asked me: “You were so feverishly blogging - one post a day - in April, what happened now?”

I told him, ‘I don’t have time.” (Since he was a close friend of mine.)

His immediate retort: There is no challenge now. That would be more accurate!

(He was referring to the A to Z Challenge, in April, just in case you are wondering what he meant by 'challenge'.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

An eventful fortnight around the world

If one were to look across the world, the past fortnight has been unusually eventful. 

THAM LUANG CAVE RESCUE

Photo courtesy: BBC
Nothing of this sort has happened any time in the recent past. Amazing story of human endurance and resilience. On the 23rd of June, 12 members of a junior football team in Thailand and their coach enter a 10-km long complexly structured cave, which has, among other things, narrow passages and a permanent stream inside. As bad luck would have it, unrelenting rains ensue. Advancing waters drive the team inside in search of drier areas. Only on July 2, a team of British divers find them stuck deep inside the cave. On 8th, a rescue mission is launched. In four batches, all are brought out; the last one on 10th. There will surely be a film made on this.


JAPAN FLOODS, OVER 200 DEAD

Photo courtesy: BBC
I just couldn’t believe that as many as 200 people have lost their lives (over a few days) in torrential rains and consequent flooding in western Japan, the worst weather-related disaster in 36 years. The fact that it has happened in a developed nation which has good infrastructure and technological tools to predict such catastrophic weather changes, makes it all the more striking.


BREXIT TURMOIL HITS THERESA MAY

Photo courtesy: BBC
David Cameroon while electioneering in 2016 says if elected to power he will hold a referendum on Britain’s continuance in the European Union. And, see what has followed. Cameron wins; is reminded of the referendum; orders it; and to his surprise, Britain votes to leave the EU. The mess that followed hasn’t cleared still. A new low was reached when on July 8, Brexit Secretary David Davis quit and on the following day Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson quit, saying PM Theresa May is diluting the earlier Brexit promises. She has narrowly fended off a leadership challenge. 


US-CHINA TRADE WAR BEGINS

Photo courtesy: CNBC
US President Donald Trump, in his mission to make America Great Again, has been complaining to everyone in the world that America is being wronged in global trade, and that the US is losing while everyone else is gaining. (Let us not get into a discussion on that here.) One of his measures to right the past wrongs is to impose heavy duties on imports of many goods from China. Thus, on July 5, US tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods kicked off. The impact of that will be long-drawn out and felt across the world.



 FIFA WORLD CUP SEMIS SANS BIG TEAMS

Photo courtesy: The Hindu
Surprises are common in sports. But not the way it has happened during the ongoing World Cup football in Russia. Predictions of who will win and lose, have gone horribly wrong. For the first time ever, the semifinals were played without top teams like Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Spain, Uruguay etc. We will now have a final between France and Croatia on Sunday.

2018 FIFA World Cup (Wikipedia)

EXIT OF TOP SEEDS IN WIMBLEDON

Photo courtesy: BBC
Not just World Cup Football, Wimbledon too had surprises. For the first time ever, none of the top-10 seeded players reached the quarterfinals in the women’s section. Arguably the best player, Serena is there, but she is seeded 25. Today she is playing the final against Angelique Kerber.


ANYTHING MISSED?

So many other important / interesting events might have happened across the world. Have I left out anything?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Should we take vitamin supplements?

Photo credit: Medical News Today
During conversations with family members and friends, whenever the topic of vitamins comes in, invariably the issue of supplements also crops up. There is always one group which says that there is no harm in having supplements, and there is the other group which argues that there is no need to.

WHAT ARE VITAMINS

Vitamins are needed for metabolism (the process in our body that involves breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients for our growth and energy).

Our body does not produce it (unlike dogs that can synthesize enough vitamin C). So we need to get it from food or from vitamin tablets.

If our body doesn't have enough amount of vitamins it can result in medical conditions.

TYPES OF VITAMINS

There are 13 vitamins, each needed in different amounts for different reasons.

Some vitamins dissolve in water, some in fat.

Water-soluble ones are: all B vitamins and vitamin C.

Fat-soluble ones are: A, D, E and K.

Fat-soluble vitamins can stay in the body: they get stored in the fatty tissues for use later.

Water-soluble vitamins don't stay in the body: they go out via urine.

VITAMINS IN FOOD

Vegetables and meat have different vitamins in different quantities. So, if we have a well-balanced, varied diet we will get all the required vitamins in the required quantites.

Usually we take it for granted that the food we eat has enough vitamins, and there is nothing to worry. Only when some medical condition surfaces, our physician would say that there are symptoms of deficiency.

Vitamins are sensitive to heat and water. Cooking reduces the amount of vitamins. Water-soluble ones get lost in water, and fat-soluble ones in oil.

VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS

We can get our vitamins from syrups and tablets. We need to take them when we have a medical deficiency of vitamins or in cases like pregnancy when our body does need enhanced levels of vitamins. Doctors will recommend the dosage.

DO WE GET ENOUGH FROM FOOD?

Anything cooked in high temperature or for too long will have less vitamins.

It is lost in water and oil. One way to salvage a bit of it is to consume the water that has been used for cooking. That is why some people suggest to cook in less water and not to drain away the water after cooking.

Cooking in microwave might be better than boiling from the vitamin standpoint.

Raw vegetables are good, but run the risk of presence of pollutants and lack of hygiene.

SHOULD WE EAT SUPPLEMENTS?

Supplements are not substitutes for the vitamins that we get through food.

 They can just make up any shortfall if any. So, our primary source of vitamins has to be food. But since while cooking lot of vitamins get lost, there is a case for having supplements.

Without any lab tests or visible symptoms one can't conclude that there is a deficiency and therefore a need for supplements.

Excess of fat-soluble vitamins can turn toxic, and therefore harmful, since they get stored in the body.

We tend to fall short of water-soluble vitamins since they don't stay in the body. Also, vitamins like C easily get lost while cooking. So, if at all one is looking at supplements, then it's water solubles ones that need replenishing.

All said and done, vitamin supplements are not a guarantor of good health. They are not magic pills.

HOW MUCH VITAMINS WE NEED

We need vitamins in small quantities. But we need them always. This table in the WebMD website lists out the required and maximum dosage for vitamins and minerals.

It would advisable to consult a doctor on how much of supplement we should take and in what frequency.

MY TAKE

As advised by my physician, I do have vitamin and mineral supplements, of low dosage, at wide intervals, just to make up for any possible deficiency.

REFERENCES

Vitamins: What are they and what do they do?

Nutritional Effects of Food Processing

Cooking and Vitamin and Mineral Loss

Studies Show Little Benefit in Supplements

Which Supplements, if Any, May Be Worth Your Money

The Claim: Microwave Ovens Kill Nutrients in Food

Vitamins and Minerals: How Much Should You Take?

Friday, June 29, 2018

An afternoon ride in an autorickshaw

#WATWB - This post was linked to
We Are The World Blogfest
Yesterday afternoon, something quite unbelievable happened. Nothing eerie or scary, but very pleasant and feel-good.

I went to Lavelle Road on an official assignment. After my work there, I wondered if I should book a cab or hire an autorickshaw, to go to office which is on Infantry Road.

(For those who aren't familiar, an autorickshaw is a very common quick mode of transport in India. It's a three-wheeler which can seat three passengers. It costs about ₹30 for a ride of 2 km in Bengaluru.)

Since there were many autorickshaws lined up, I thought I would check them out first. Also, I thought, if I book an Uber or Ola, it might take a while for the cab to arrive.

Here is a little background to how autorickshaws operate generally in my city, Bengaluru.

Though all of them have meters, and drivers are supposed to accept only the fare the meter shows, not all of them conform to the rule. Instead, some of them, on being told where to go, would do a quick mental calculation, and come an approximate figure, which invariably will be more than what the normal fare would be. (By the way, some people interpret this as only a crude version of the sophisticated "surge pricing" that the mobile-app based cab services adopt.)

The autorickshaw drivers resort to this tactic because one, they think they can cash in on the high demand, and two, many passengers might not know what the ride to their destination might actually cost, and they might just agree to pay the asked-for fare, without knowing they are being charged more.

Photo credit: Whitefield Rising
Not to my surprise, the first autorickshaw driver I spoke to quoted a figure of ₹100, which I knew was around double of what the normal fare would be. I told him so. I also suggested that I would rather go by the meter, and pay him a tip of ₹10. He didn't agree to that. I asked a couple of other drivers there too, but none agreed to go by the meter. So I walked a little ahead.

May be about 100 meters down the road, I flagged a vacant autorickshaw that was passing by. I told the driver, "Infantry Road", and he promptly gestured me to get in. He didn't switch on the meter, as I thought he would. But he told me, "Give me ₹30."

I thought I heard him wrong. Probably he was saying I should pay ₹30 more than what the meter would show. But he hadn't put the meter on. I was confused. So, I asked him, "₹30?" He said, "Yes."

Now I was curious. "Why? Normally, it should be ₹40 to ₹50, by the meter, considering the distance, is it not?"

He replied, "That's fine."

He didn't look like a very conversational person, and I didn't prod him further.

At the destination, as I exited the autorickshaw, I gave him a currency of ₹50, said thank you, and was about to walk, when he told me to hang on, and I saw him taking his wallet out. He handed me the change of ₹20.

Now, it was my turn to say, "It's fine. Consider the excess as my tip!"

But then he insisted that I accept the change of ₹20, which meant the ride cost only ₹30. He put the wallet back in his pocket, and rode away with a smile, saying, "I had a good day today!"

(For the Facebook link to We Are The World Blogfest posts, click here.)

Monday, June 25, 2018

'The video has gone viral'

(Sorry, if you were expecting to see such a video.)

I am so tired of hearing the word 'viral' for messages or audio or video clips that have been forwarded or circulated by a large number of people in a short span of time.

The word is such a cliché.

Isn't there a synonym for 'viral', or a single word to describe such messages or videos?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

June 21, a unique triumvirate - Giraffe Day, Yoga Day and Solstice

I don't know if all animals have days earmarked for them. But today is World Giraffe Day. It's an initiative by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to not only celebrate the world's longest-necked animal, but also to create awareness about the need to protect it.

According to Live Science, a giraffe's neck alone is 6 feet (1.8 meters) long and the animal weighs about 600 lbs. (272 kilograms). The animal's legs are 6 feet long. Its tongue is 21 inches (53 centimeters) long, and feet 12 inches (30.5 cm) across. Lungs can hold 12 gallons (55 liters) of air. In comparison, the average total lung capacity for a human is 1.59 gallons (6 liters).

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, giraffes are a common sight in grasslands and open woodlands in East Africa, where they can be seen in reserves such as Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Amboseli National Park.

There are giraffes in the Mysore Zoo (one of the famous biological parks in India). The two photos alongside were taken during a trip to the zoo in 2013.

Their numbers are dwindling, and they have been add to the vulnerable list, with their population going down from 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, says BBC.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation website gives you more details about World Giraffe Day and how you can contribute to the
protection of the animal.

INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY

Japanese lawmakers practising yoga
Photo credit: The Hindu
Though yoga, a form of physical exercises that involve stretching of the body along with deep breathing, originated in ancient India, over the past few decades it has gained global recognition and is now practised world wide.

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to celebrate globally International Yoga Day on June 21.

Read more about yoga on Wikipedia.

Today, across India, various institutions are organising events to mark the day and highlight the benefits of yoga. Live Updates

Incidentally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is 67 years old, is a great fitness enthusiast. On June 13, his office put out this video of his morning exercises and yoga, at his official residence on 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi.

LONGEST DAY AND NIGHT

Thousands gather at Stonehenge for longest day
Photo credit: BBC
Today, the day is the longest in the northern hemisphere, and the shortest in the southern hemisphere. This happens because of the Earth's tilt of 23.5 degrees on its axis and the revolution around the sun.

Today is the day when the sun is the farthest to the north. It's directly over the Tropic of Cancer. That is the reason why people in the northern hemisphere experience the longest day, and in the southern hemisphere, the shortest day.

Also, during this time, in the north pole, there is sun light through out the day, and in the South Pole, it's dark through the day.

There is a good explainer on what summer solstice is all about in this NBC News website.

In some countries, solstices are associated with traditional beliefs concerning matrimony and fertility, as this CNN report says. According to a Swedish ethnologist Jan-Öjvind Swahn, a lot of children are born nine months after Midsummer in Sweden.

A UNIQUE DAY

Though one might be aware of many anniversaries, it might not be on top of our mind always. Though I have been hearing about Yoga Day preparations for some days, only yesterday I remembered that the day also coincides with World Giraffe Day and Summer Solstice. While I read a few articles about these "days", I got to know a lot of interesting details about giraffes, yoga and summer solstice.

Do you practise yoga? I incorporate a few yoga postures during my morning workout. But I can't claim that I practise the entire set of exercises.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Early morning habits and routine

Cubbon Park in Bengaluru.
Photo courtesy: K. Murali Kumar/The Hindu
A good start to a day always makes a difference. It sets the tone and tempo for the rest of day. (Here we are referring to, roughly, the first one hour of each day after we wake up.)

Different people begin their day in different ways. There are also people who begin every day in a different way.

Some of the common activities generally practised by people are: having coffee or tea, reading newspapers, going for a walk or a run, playing games, visiting a nearby place of worship, meditation, listening to music, cooking, household chores, etc.

Of late, I don't keep my mobile phone on the bed. But still one of the first things I pick up is the mobile phone -- not to check or read messages, or surf social media; but to listen to some songs, especially old ones, or instrumental music, which make me feel good, right at the beginning of the day.

While the music plays, I also check for any news breaks; if something important happened while I was asleep.

I used to have coffee or tea. Now I have given that up, and I drink two glasses of plain water. Some people say, it's good to have lukewarm water mixed with lime and honey.  I am yet to begin that. Then, a few minutes of quick glance of different newspapers.

I step out for a combination of walk, jog and light stretching, aerobic exercises. Sometimes a few minutes of meditation too. The whole thing lasts not more than an hour. By the way, I don't take my mobile along.

After I am back, while I shower, I listen to music or some podcasts I am subscribed to. The podcasts or music continue while I make breakfast and have it.

Simultaneously, I glance at the news scroll that runs on different channels of the TV. I don't listen to the broadcasts (TV will be in mute), unless there is something live and important happening somewhere in the world.

It's generally suggested that we keep off technology and gadgets, in the morning hours. But I guess, what matters is for what, and how we use the gadgets. I don't think we can keep off gadgets completely always. (For me, the mobile is mostly a substitute for radio, newspapers, magazines and books. Calls, messaging and social media, comprise a lesser proportion of usage.)

This is more or less my usual early morning routine. How does it play out for you?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Surprises galore at FIFA World Cup 2018

Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson saving
a penalty kick from Argentina's Lionel Messi
Photo credit: Marca
With the FIFA World Cup on in Russia, there is at least one good match to look forward to everyday till July 15, when the final will be played.

I come from a state in India, Kerala, where people are so crazy about football. All are united as one, when it comes to interest in the game, and no conversation is complete without some reference to the ongoing World Cup matches.

Eleven matches were complete till yesterday; and if there is one theme running across all of them, it is how it has been hard time for the favourites.

On June 15, Portugal, in spite of having Cristiano Ronaldo, were held to a 3-3 tie by Spain.

On June 16, Argentina, in spite of having Messi, were held to a 1-1 draw by, of all teams, Iceland.

On June 17, Germany suffered a shock defeat by Mexico 0-1, and Brazil were held 1-1 by Switzerland.

Of course, in every tournament, there are surprises. It's good they are there, so that we don't have predictable, and therefore boring, matches.

Today evening, England will face Tunisia. And, I am wondering how that will go. The tournament is wide open.

YOUR PREDICTIONS?

Which four team you think have the highest chances of winning the cup?

I am placing my bet on Brazil. The other three in the order of probability are: Germany, Argentina and France.

If I can add two more, I won't be surprised if Spain and even England make it to the top four.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle -- the golden 3R Rule for resource conservation

Image courtesy: University
of Southern Indiana
It is extremely heartening to see that in many places people are practising the golden 3R Rule for conserving natural resources -- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

A number of things that we use in our daily lives can be minimised by using smaller quantities, so that there is no wastage. If something is not needed, instead of putting it in the garbage bin, it is better to pass it on to someone who might need it.

Water and electricity

These are two things that we tend to take so much for granted. We can easily reduce the amount of water and power that we use. I make it a point to open the tap only as much, so that too much water doesn't flow: basically just the required amount.  Very often we tend to open the tap to such an extent that more water than what is necessary flows out, which is of course wasted. No wonder, there are grave warnings of water running out.

Same is the case with electricity. Air conditioners, fan and light often remain switched on even if we don't need them. We take availability of electricity for granted. If we can reduce the consumption,

Paper

If my observation is any indication, there is at least some reduction in the use of paper, with most of the routine communication now online in soft copy format. This is not to undervalue of the importance of having something written on paper, or reading something written on paper. That can be the subject of another post.

When I swipe my card in a store, a paper trail of the payment receipt is generated by the point of sale machine. I always tell cashier, I don't need the customer copy, because I have already got a conformation via a text message on my phone. I have seen some stores not taking out a paper receipt for themselves too. When I asked them, why they weren't taking one, they said, it's logged in the system, and there is no need for a paper receipt.

My late father always reused available pieces of paper (like the reverse side of bills, envelopes and advertisement flyer that come along with newspapers, or dropped in our letterbox) to write anything that was not formal, and didn't require taking a new sheet of paper.

A non-government organisation, Youth for Seva, in Bengaluru, has launched an initiative called 'Give Paper Back', which involves collecting notebooks that have unused pages in them. The idea is to take these unused sheets, stitch and bind them to make new notebooks that are distributed in rural schools for students.

Clothes

The trend is catching on, and it's not just paper.

In the city of Thiruvananthapuram (capital of south Indian state of Kerala), outside a shopping mall, there is a red box, which resembles a letter box, in which you can drop old clothes, or even a new ones. This is an initiative by a non-government organisation called Support 4 Society. They are planning to install such "dress banks" outside other shopping centres as well.

Plastic

Though plastic is very useful, and not all plastic is harmful, there is plenty of it that is needlessly used and harming our ecology. The South Western Railway (of Indian Railways) has, in partnership with a private firm, set up bottle-crushing machines at train stations in the city of Bengaluru. They were earlier introduced in Mysuru. They are there in Ahmedabad, Pune, and Mumbai, stations as well. As a token of appreciation, if you enter your mobile number in the machine, you get a cash back of Rs 5 in your Paytm wallet.

Spectacles

Various organisations like Lions Club, Red Cross etc collect used spectacles send them to recycling units. Some opticians too accept old specs.

These are really heart-warming initiatives, which not only need all the support and encouragement, but also are worthy of being emulated.

What about you?

Do you consciously make an effort to reduce and reuse? Are you aware of similar initiatives?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Shrinking job opportunities for seniors

Climbing up the career ladder, gives a person more experience and brings in more wages. But the flip side is higher one goes, narrower become chances of getting hired. My impression is not based on any research, but on purely anecdotal evidences.

One tends to find more job openings for younger people. The younger crowd tries to experiment  and explore different careers. There is a lot of churning in that level, and naturally, job vacancies keep coming up in the lower rungs of an organisation.

In the middle and senior levels, many people tend to stick on to their jobs. They are averse to taking risks since they have various commitments like expenditure for their children's education, many loans which they need to pay back monthly etc.

Another reason is that employees at lower levels are paid lesser. There is a heavy cost burden when organisations recruit staff at higher levels. So, the probability of getting hired at senior levels become lesser.

Seniors tend to come to an organisations with a heavier baggage than juniors. They might also be less amenable and flexible, compared to a junior who might be willing to experiment and learn.

The seniors are usually counted for their experience, broad perspective, insights and ability to make very informed and mature decisions. In this context, a news item that I read a couple of month ago, comes to mind. 

A Mumbai-based startup, Truebil, which is a virtual market place for pre-owned cars, is hiring interns who are over 60 years of age to work at middle and senior level managerial positions. Two advantages here: one, helping elders understand how new, niche technology works; and two, putting their maturity and experience to good use to mentor the employees of the startup who are mostly in their mid-twenties.

But all said and done, as we grow older, we need to understand and accept the fact that we have had our heydays; and that there are younger, brighter, smarter men and women who would be more efficient. 

But, if someone wants to count on our skill sets, maturity and experience, like that startup, we are always there.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
Right from the moment Donald Trump threw his hat into the presidential contest ring, I have been following updates about him. So, when I got to know about this book, I naturally wanted to read it.

Unlike other books, the problem with this one was that, the most explosive or sensational points had already become headlines in major global news platforms, even before the book became available for purchase. So, when I bought the book and read it, it didn't have the sort of impact it should actually have had.

Almost all persons connected to the Trump administration figure in this book. It is all about how he dealt with them, how they dealt with him, what they did, what they didn't do, how he hired them, how he fired them, what they thought about the President etc. And, Michael Wolff adds his own interpretations to all of that.

If you have been following news headlines related to Trump, a lot of pages of this book will just evoke a feeling of deja vu. You would get a little more of insights into those controversies, their contexts, and implications.

There are references to Trump as a person, and his habits as well. Apparently, he reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor. And he said, “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.”

Wolff writes about Trump, "Personal dignity — that is, apparent uprightness and respectability — is one of his fixations. He is uncomfortable when the men around him are not wearing suit and ties."

After a point, the book becomes boring and predictable, with lots of details of intrigues, deals and strategies. As I reached the end of the book, I was wondering if Trump doesn't have any pleasant side to him at all. I don't know if he doesn't really have; or the author hasn't been able to get that out, or he didn't want to highlight that in the book.

If Trump is a person who has no quality worth writing home about, then how did he reach the position he is in now?

View my list of books on Goodreads

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Don't let loneliness make you feel sad

All parents are happy to see their children grow up and be independent. But, ironically, the fact that the kids are confident enough to venture out into the world on their own triggers sadness.

We are talking of "empty nest syndrome", which is not a disease but a feeling of loneliness, when the only child or the last of the children, leaves home for higher studies or on work. If we are not conscious of the symptoms, they can gnaw at our well-being.

(Even if you are not a parent, whose child has left home, there could be occasions when you feel lonely. So, you can carry on reading the post.)

When unchecked, some people turn cynical, sarcastic, and critical of anything and everything around them. Some others become short tempered and snap at every other person. In extreme cases, people could even turn to substance abuse like alcoholism.

What we should do

  • Accept the fact that the child had to relocate, and the consequent loneliness is an inevitability. 
  • There is nothing to feel sad about; instead we should find companionship. 
  • Speak on the phone to people who you are comfortable with, connect with such people on social media, emails etc.
  • Do some physical activity. Walk, run, exercises are good options. 
  • If you like cooking, get into the kitchen. 
  • Clean the house. 
  • Don’t put all clothes in the washing machine, wash some manually. 
  • Do some craft work, or paint. 
  • Do anything that involves the movement of your limbs.
  • Give your mind some work. Solve puzzles, read, write. Do something creative.
  • Do some good to people. No need to look around for opportunities; there are so many occasions in our daily routine, when someone needs some assistance. Be conscious of such opportunities, and reach out to them.

What we did

Our turn to face loneliness came when our son left home for another city for his post-graduation. Needless to say, the emptiness in our house is very palpable. Not just one person is not around, there is silence since we no longer hear the music my son plays on his mobile. The chit-chats, and the playful pranks are missing. And he isn’t with us now, for us to take care of.

One immediate thing, my wife and I did straightway was to ensure that we both had our weekly off day from work on the same day. (I have my off on Sunday and she had it on Wednesday.) She spoke to her boss, and got it moved to Sunday. 

We thought it was better for both to take off on a weekend rather than on Wednesday, because that will give us an opportunity to catch up with our friends, or attend some social functions, which we generally used to miss. So, now we have been meeting up with friends, watching some movies etc. 

Since we both are employed full time, we are occupied most of the waking hours. When we retire, we will have to seriously look around for something to be occupied with.

What are you doing?

  • Have you faced empty nest syndrome? 
  • Or do you know people who have facing this condition?
  • If you have been affected, how are you overcoming it?


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Do you talk or type?

Credit: Apple
You can not only talk on the phone, but you can also talk to the phone.

It is common knowledge -- at least among people who regularly use smartphones and other handheld computing devices -- that there is an option to speak to the phone, instead of typing.

Ask Google

For example, if you are looking for something on the Internet, you don't have to key in words into search engines likes Google or Bing or Yahoo. You can tap on the small microphone icon, within the search box, and speak to your phone.

Actually, some mobile keyboards give you the option to switch to voice commands, which means you can actually dictate an email rather than type it out.

You can also unlock your phone by speaking into it.

What is the weather today?

There are also voice-based digital assistants. Google has one called Google Assistant, there is Alexa Echo from Amazon.

Alexa is particularly useful. You can get advice on what the weather would be for the day, so you can decide what dress you should wear; or you can ask Alexa to add cheese to your shopping cart.

Then, why type when you can talk?

Very often talking is easier than typing, is it not? But when I look around, most people are typing on their phones, and not talking to it.

If talking is easier, then why is everyone typing?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Usher in new ideas, and accept them

Everything around us is changing at a fast pace. Forget 50 years ago, even 20 to 30 years ago, the world was so different.

While technology has made our lives easier, there are plenty of depressing things happening. There is no end to violence and killings; there are many instances of financial deceits; and physical intimidation, covert and overt. There is a lot of suffering and pain undergone by people, because they have been wronged.

In such a situation, it's only natural that many of us could be despondent; depressed with the new ways of the world, as it were. To pull our spirits up, we need to cut through this negativity; and keep reminding ourselves the good old phrase: 'Every cloud has a silver lining'.

The 50+ age group

Though pessimistic and cynical people can be found in any age group, there are many in the above-50 age bracket, for the simple reason that they have a long past to feel good about. There are many old people who keep saying, "In those days .... ", or "When we were young ... " The subtle hint in those statements is: "The past was better than the present."

I have also heard some old people making comments such as: “Look at this generation, How disorganised and careless they are. Moral standards and value systems have taken such a beating ...” These are people who find it hard to adjust to the different value systems of the younger generation.

About a month ago, some of us friends were having a discussion on how bright, smart and enthusiastic youngsters are today; and also on some of the successful startups (from Facebook to some lesser known ones) that are headed by young people. Then an old person amongst us, in his late sixties, made a comment that was very sarcastic, belittling the youngsters.

He said, “We struggled so hard for years together to reach the positions that youngsters are enjoying today without much effort." His complaint seemed to be: “I had to suffer so much, but these kids are having it so easy.” (But the fact is that youngsters are also putting in a lot of effort to be successful.)

Needless to say, such an attitude is not encouraging at all. Actually, it reeks so much of negativity.

Need to stay positive

I am not saying that everyone who is above 50 is low-spirited. There are so many people in that age bracket who are so cheerful and brimming over with positivity. They have so much of hope and trust in the youngsters.

One example of this was the gentleman whom I saw in the metro train recently. I blogged about him  last week.

There might be downsides, but in many ways, today's world is far better than what it was in the past. The youngsters may have different value systems and priorities. It might not be always possible to relate to the new dynamics. It might be also difficult to agree with everything that youngsters say and believe in. But that doesn't mean, all of us are hurtling towards disaster.

Change is inevitable

I think we should give space to the new ways of thinking, and new models of working and lifestyle. Afterall, as someone once said, 'the only permanent feature is change'.

Let us also not forget that when we were younger, our way of thinking was different from that of our parents' generation. So, it is only natural that the norm today is different from what it was many years ago.

As Alfred Tennyson wrote in Idylls of the King, "Old order changeth yielding place to the new."

Let us accept and embrace change.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Karnataka election - a contest that no political party won

(This post has multiple updates at the end, added on May 16, 17, 18, 19)

In any democracy, the most exciting part is the elections, and the announcement of the results.

Virtually the whole of yesterday, I spent tracking – on television and social media – the results of the election to the State Assembly in my State, Karnataka.

Most of the exit polls on the day of polling, on May 12, had predicted a hung Assembly (a House in which no single party gets a majority). And true to that, the election produced no winner yesterday.

The BJP, which was steadily picking up seats at the start of counting, finally stopped its march at 104 (112 is what the winner should get). Its tally however had improved substantially from 40, what it had got in the previous election five years ago.

The Congress, the party of the outgoing government, ended up in the 2nd place, with its tally down from 122 to 78.

The JD(S), a local party, came in third, with its tally down by two: 38 this time, against 40 five years ago.

Instability ahead

Elections around the world throw up such verdicts. And, what follows is usually a period when parties try to strike deals with one another to cobble the required numbers. (Just to cite a recent example, Germany got a government only last month, six months after elections.)

Here in Karnataka, there is a very interesting situation.

In the seats tally, the top spot is for the BJP which doesn't have the majority: they are 8 short. But the No 2 and the No 3 combined (an alliance that was formed by two parties that were opposing each other till yesterday) have a majority.

Why this is controversial

In such situations, it is not very clear in India's Constitution, whether the governor (the head of state) should call the single largest party or the single largest coalition (that too a post-poll alliance in this case) to explore the possibility of forming a government.

If the alliance was a pre-poll one, there would have been no controversy. The alliance would have emerged winner and formed the government.

If one were to look at precedents, there have been cases of both.

Those who are interested can read the following links:

Karnataka election results: For governor, no scripted path, only precedents and conventions (Hindustan Times)

With no clear rules for Governors in hung verdict, BJP & Congress cite precedents that suit them best (The Economic Times)

Karnataka election results: It's now over to governor's 'subjective judgment' (The Times of India)

Anyway, the quick alliance between two parties (the Congress and the JDS) that were till yesterday hurling barbs against each other, generated lots of mirth, with memes and jokes flooding social media platforms.

Who should be invited

Someone has to be invited to form a government. Right now, both the BJP (the winner) and alliance of Congress and JDS (the runners-up) are staking claim to form the government.

Logically looking at it, the mandate evidently was for the BJP. And my personal opinion is that it must be given the first shot at forming a viable government, and given not more than two days to prove their numbers in the Assembly.

If they fail, the let the post-poll coalition can be given the chance, and given not more than two days to prove their strength. This looks the most fair way.

Though the runners-up seem to have the numbers, as they claim, my objection to them being called in first is: one, they didn't contest polls jointly. So, their alliance, in order to claim the mandate, is not fair. Two, going by the sheer number of seats Congress and JDS got, they are way behind the BJP.

Update

2130 hours: Governor invites BJP's Legislative Leader B S Yeddyurappa to form a government; and gives him 15 days to prove majority in the Assembly. Swearing in tomorrow at 9 am.

That is too long a time. If not two days, which I think is ideal, it shouldn't have been more than five or seven days.

2200 hours: The Congress has approached Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice Deepak Misra to hold an urgent hearing in the night and cancel tomorrow's swearing-in.

2300 hours: Supreme Court admits Congress and JDS petitions.

May 17

0015 hours: Chief Justice decides that a three-judge bench will hear the petitions at 1.45 am. Only once before the Supreme Court has had such a midnight hearing: on a petition challenging the death sentence to Yakhub Memon.

0200 hours: Supreme Court begins hearing the case.

0400 hours: It's two hours. Arguments still on.

0430 hours: Supreme Court says it is not inclined to stay the swearing in of the new government. But arguments on other aspects raised by the petitions are still on. The court says that its observation is subject to the outcome of the petition. Which means, the swearing-in is only an interim measure.

0900 hours: Yeddyurappa sworn in as chief minister. No ministers. Opposition Congress and JDS are protesting outside the Vidhana Soudha (the central government office complex).

May 18

1130 hours: Supreme Court resumed the hearing, from where it left off in the wee hours of yesterday. It ordered the day-old Chief Minister Yeddyurappa to prove his majority in the Assembly at 4 pm tomorrow.
Now speculation as to how he and his party, which has only 104 lawmakers, will cobble the magic figure of 112.

1600 hours: Now a fresh controversy. The governor, Vajubhai Vala (who is a political appointee of the federal government, which is ruled by the BJP) appointed a lawmaker of BJP, K G Boppaiah as pro tem Speaker. By convention the government recommends the seniormost lawmaker to the governor to be appointed as the pro tem Speaker, who will conduct the initial process of constituting the new Assembly, administering the oath to the new lawmakers etc.
But the controversy is that the the long-standing convention of having the senior-most lawmaker as the pro tem Speaker. Now Congress-JDS is objecting to it, on two counts. One, that Boppaiah was partisan towards BJP once when he was the pro tem Speaker. Two, many senior MLAs were bypassed. They are even planning to move the Supreme Court.

2000 hours: The Supreme Court says that the petition challenging the appointment of Boppaiah as the pro tem speaker will be taken up for hearing tomorrow at 10.30 am.

May 19

1145 hours: The Supreme Court dismissed the Congress-JDS plea against Boppaiah. The court said, one, there have been instances in the past of lawmakers, not the senior-most, being appointed as the pro tem speaker. Two, if the petitioner wants Boppaiah's suitability to be considered then he too will have to be issued notice, and the assembly session and trust vote will have to be postponed, which the court implicitly wasn't in favour of.

1430 hours:  Rumours flying thick and fast that Yeddyurappa is considering resigning after making a speech, since he hasn't been able to cobble up the required number. There was no provision for making a speech in the original agenda. But it looks like that it's been made.

1630 hours: Yeddyurappa makes an emotional speech, saying till his last breath he would fight for the welfare of the people of the state; and that he and his party will come back with big majority next time round. And, he says that he is tending his resignation.
One chapter in the whole saga has now ended.

2000 hours: H D Kumaraswamy invited to form the government. The day of swearing in still not known.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A rare act of kindness

The other day I was in the metro train, travelling to my work place.

At one station, a young man, dressed in formal wear, might be in his mid-twenties, ran in, and managed to board the train just before the door closed. The train wasn't crowded, but there were no vacant seats. He stood in front of where I was sitting.

He was breathing rather heavily, indicating that he might have been walking briskly, and had run up the escalator. Obviously, it looked like he was rushing to some place, on some urgent business, and didn't have time to wait ten minutes for the next train.

Then, a very strange spectacle unfolded before my eyes.

An elderly man, who was sitting beside me, and probably in his early 60s, got up, and vacated the seat for the young man. Gesturing him to take the seat, the elderly man told the young man: "Please sit down. You need some rest."

The young man, was taken by surprise, and didn't seem to understand what the elderly man was saying. Quite natural. People vacating seat for someone itself is rare. And rarer still is an elderly man vacating seat for a young man.

Once he understood, the young man said with a smile, "Thank you.. But, no sir ... You please sit." He then placed his right hand on the shoulder of the elderly man and nudged him gently to sit down. Like me, he too must have been wondering, why this elderly man was vacating his seat for him.

By now, this unusual incident had caught the attention of a few other passengers too, who were all curiously looking at the two men, each seemingly trying to be more polite than the other.

Then came a surprise.

The elderly man said, calmly but firmly, in a manner that was measured, and quite laden with a sort of wisdom that only years of lessons in life would give anyone.

"Listen, young man, I appreciate your respect for me. There was a time when I worked like you, running from place to place... Now my time is over. It's your turn now ... Please sit, and relax, so that you regain energy for your work... Good luck, and do well."

I couldn't believe what was happening.

The elderly man slowly moved away from the seat, turned, and gently nudged the young man towards the seat, almost forcing him to sit down.

"Please, please, sit ... I will be getting off at the station after the next one. It's fine ..." He smiled, and a look of total contentment seemed to illuminate his face.

The young man had clearly been outdone; didn't know what to say, and sat down in the place the elderly man had vacated. He looked up at the elderly man, and brought his palms together in a gesture of reverence, and just said, "Thank you, sir."

The train was approaching the next station, where I had to get off. I got up and moved to the exit.

That elderly man's gesture and profound words will never fade from my memory.

I have no clue who that elderly man was.

But surely, he is a very rare human being.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Gadfly CitiHub -- Know your elected representatives and connect with them

This post will be of particular interest to readers in the US and Canada, besides India.

It's about an app called Gadfly CitiHub, which is available on iOS as well as Android, developed by a startup based in Delhi called Wabi Tech.

What you can do with with the app

  • When you switch on the app, it automatically detects your location and tells you, who your elected representatives in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of national Parliament), State Assembly and the local city municipal corporation are, along with their details. 
  • You can change location manually to find out who the representatives are for other places as well. 
  • You can contact them via phone, SMS, email or any other medium they are on.   
  • The app gives the social media feed of the elected representatives and also the feed of the news articles in which they figure.

Why this app

  • The founder of the company Nikhil Bapna decided to develop this app because he felt in India it is very difficult to not only easily find out who your elected representatives are, but also contact them to convey any information or views regarding governance issues or feedback.
  • The app is available in India, the US and Canada. The information regarding elected representatives in the US and Canada are still being updated.

Related links