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.


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.


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.


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.


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,


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.


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.


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.


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