Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Tea or coffee?

Image courtesy: Cliparts Zone
It is said there are as many varieties of tea as there are people who want to drink it. It just means there is no one single way of making tea, and everyone has his or her preference on how the drink should taste.

This is one reason why I often choose coffee when I am asked if I would like to have tea or coffee. The taste of coffee doesn't vary too much irrespective of the way it is prepared, at least for my palette.

Whether it be tea or coffee, I don't like it too strong or too light. Ideally, it should be a fine balance between the two, but a bit on the lighter side is way better than being on the stronger side.

The first cup of drink in the morning is two glasses of plain water. Then, a little later coffee without milk. Then after a bit of workout, along with breakfast, tea with milk.

India is the second largest producer of tea in the world, after China. A number of places in the state of Assam, which produces the largest amount of tea in India, Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal, Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, Munnar in Kerala, Kodagu in Karnataka are some of the major places where we find tea plantations in India.

Coffee is more popular in south India, and tea in north India.

There are umpteen ways of making tea. But in India most people let the tea leaves or the tea dust brew in boiling water or in very diluted boiling milk.

How strong or light the tea would be depends on many factors like: 1. how much tea leaves is added, 2. how much milk is added, and 3. for how long the mixture of tea and water/milk is allowed to boil.

This is the most tricky part, because all this varies depending on the brand of tea. So it is all a lot of trial and error until one gets the right combination.

We at home decided to try out a new brand. And I think I got the right combination with the tea I prepared this morning. Finally!

How about you? You like tea or coffee? With milk or without milk? There are many people who don't take either; they prefer just plain water.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

3,550 steps, 9 kilometres to Tirumala

Tirupati is a town in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Here, atop one of the seven hills is the very famous temple dedicated to Lord Sri Venkateswara, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, one of the main deities of Hinduism.

The belief in the power of the deity is so widespread that anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 people queue up every day -- for as many as two to four, or sometimes even five hours -- to offer their prayers, making it probably among the most-visited holy places in the world.

The picturesque town is known not just for the temple but also for the rich flora and fauna -- Sri Venkateswara National Park, spread over 353 square kilometres, housing about 1,500 plant species of 174 families; and Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park, spread over 22 square kilometres, having a wide variety of animals.

October 27

I, along with my wife and her sister's family of four, reached Tirupati in the afternoon. While my wife, her niece and I came from Bengaluru by bus, her sister, brother-in-law and nephew came from Bhopal by train.

We checked into one of the budget hotels, Shri Sai Tirumala Residency, near the Nandi Circle, which is not too far from either the bus stand or the railway station. We had lunch at the Orion Restaurant, a very nice place to dine -- a good variety of south and north Indian dishes, good ambience, and fairly priced. We had thali.

Thali means a plate, and in this context, comprising several vegetable dishes along with rice, chapatis (pancakes made of wheat) and a sweet -- considered a wholesome meal.

Kapileswara Swamy temple
In the evening, my wife, her sister and I went to Kapileswara Swamy temple, very close to the Nandi Circle. It's one of the popular temples in the town. It is also known as Kapila Theertham temple. Theertham means holy water. There is a waterfall that springs from one of the cliffs at the foot of the Tirumala Hills. The water is considered holy and people stand under the waterfall and have a shower. There is a pond as well in front of it, in which many people take a dip.

We had light dinner, a couple of chapatis and curry, at a small nearby restaurant.

October 28


800 steps done, 2,750 to go
Either one can drive along the winding road up the hills (it's about 20 km) or walk up 3,550 steps over around 9 km. My wife, niece, nephew, and I chose the latter; while my sister-in-law and her husband decided to come by road. There are frequent buses in addition to jeeps that ply up and down the hills.

This is the third time my wife and I are climbing up the hills, while it's the first time for my niece who is 23 years old and her brother who is 16 years.

950 more to go.
We started the climb at 7.35 am. The footpath is concrete paved and is covered overhead. Roughly, the initial and the final 500 steps are a bit steep. The rest are gradual. There are plenty of small eateries that serve snacks and drinks on the way. There is also a medical dispensary, where the service is free, just in case one feels too uneasy and needs medical advice.

The climb does test one's physical as well as mental endurance levels. With plenty of rest on the way, snacks and water, we covered the entire distance in five hours, reaching the Tirumala township where the temple is located around 12.30 pm.

We had lunch at the Saarangi Fine Dine Restaurant, an above-average, swanky place that serves a wide variety of vegetarian food. There is buffet as well as a la carte, we went in for the latter, as we weren't in a mood to eat too much. We just had chapatis, rice and a couple of dishes of curry.

As we nearly reached the top,
the view below was breathtaking
We had booked online the time for darshan. (Darshan is when one is at the sanctum sanctorum in front of the deity to offer the prayers). The reporting time was scheduled for 4 pm. But we ended up there at 3.30. Footwear and mobiles have to be deposited at a counter. They are securely kept in a barcoded container. The photo of the person who deposits the items is captured, which is then matched when the person goes to collect them from the counter near the temple complex exit.

At a distance, beyond the open ground is the actual temple complex.
The photo was taken while we were exiting the premises.
Before joining the long queue to the temple sanctum sanctorum, we had our credentials matched with what was entered when I booked the darshan timing online. We joined the queue around 3.45 pm. The line moved slowly. There are benches along the way for those who feel too tired to sit. We had our darshan at around 5.30 pm. The wait was not comparatively too long. One reason could be it's Diwali festival season, and many would prefer to be at home with relatives and friends.

Around 7.30 pm we were back. We came down by road. We had dinner at Orion Restaurant and hit the bed by around 10 pm after quite a tiring day.

October 29

While the three of us who came from Bhopal left by train around 9.30; we three returned to Bengaluru by bus. We were back home in the evening.

It was a good, enjoyable outing, which was a family reunion, a good trek, and spiritual getaway, all combined into one.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The new plastic currency

Photo credit: BBC
We all know the harmful environmental effects of plastic. For quite a few years there has been a campaign, the world over, to dissuade people from using plastic, especially those single-use ones that we use and throw.

Five Ways That Plastics Harm The Environment (And One Way They May Help) - Forbes

Recently, in India, the campaign got a fillip when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on October 2, the 150th birth anniversary, exhorted the people to put to practice the idea of reducing the use of plastic.

Actually, there was a plan to ban altogether single-use plastic, but that was altered and the government has been urging people to consciously reduce. One of the reasons being spoken of is that a total ban would be too disruptive a step for the fragile economy (Report in The Print).

BROUHAHA OVER MODI PLOGGING

Photo credit: Indian Express
Last week, the whole proposition got on to the centre stage when the Prime Minister released a video of him picking up plastic waste (BBC report) from the beach in Mamallapuram (in Tamil Nadu state in South India) on October 12. (The PM was in Mamallapuram for an informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.)

It is a different matter that the video prompted the appearance of a misleading collage of photos -- which were called out by the media -- suggesting that the Prime Minister's act was a carefully stage-managed publicity stunt. (How the media busted the wrong sequence of photos)

PEOPLE ARE USING LESS PLASTIC

There is no doubt that the campaign has been having quite an effect. None of the stores in my neighbourhood pack products for customers in plastic. They have a board at the entrance urging shoppers to bring their own bag.

To discourage people from throwing away plastic, recently many institutions launched various programmes, including one under which people could swap plastic material with something useful -- plastic becoming a new currency of sorts!

Here are some news items that appeared in the last few weeks:

  • Metro commuters in Noida and the general public can deposit 20 plastic bags (of size 6” x 10”) or 10 plastic bottles (of 1-litre capacity) at any designated metro stations and get one jute Bag in return. (The Quint)
  • A Garbage Cafe has come up in Chhattisgarh state which provides food in exchange for plastic waste. (DNA)
  • Railway passengers with plastic carry bags arriving at the Hubballi Railway Station were in for a surprise on Thursday as a group of women approached them and gave them cloth bags with an appeal to say no to plastic. (The Hindu)
  • Traders in Pune are providing cloth bags for free if they give 1 kg of polythene bags or plastic to a retailer for recycling. (Pune Mirror)
  • There is a Facebook page by activists in Andhra Pradesh that is pioneering efforts to collect plastic and distribute food. (Deccan Herald)

    Abroad too ...
  • Italy's capital Rome (where rubbish has become an unmanageable problem) is offering travellers a way to exchange their waste plastic bottles for tickets on its public transport system. (Euronews)
  • Bayanan village in Muntinlupa City in the Philippines launched a program in September to improve waste management by letting residents exchange their plastic trash for a kilogram (2.2 lb) of rice. (Vice)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Key elements of Gandhian thought

Source: Gujarat Vidyapith,
founded by Gandhi in 1920
Today is the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who led the independence movement in the Indian subcontinent in the 1930s and 1940s through means like non-violence and non-cooperation that were, if not unknown, definitely not popular then.

In the more than seven decades since those days, our lifestyles have dramatically changed. But the world largely has remained the same -- in the sense that there is no dearth of either the good or the bad.

There are so many kindhearted souls around doing wonderful things for the world around them. At the same time, on the other side, we still have many life-threatening health issues, conflicts and deaths.

It's pointless trying to imagine how Gandhi would have reacted to some of the present-day political, economic or social situations. Nevertheless, some of the key elements of his personal philosophy are everlasting. Some of them that come to my mind are:

1. Be truthful. What one achieves through deception and lies is temporary. This was the basis of Gandhi's agitation called 'satyagraha'.

2. The force of pacifism is enlightening but that of weapons is blinding.

3. Practise what you preach. That is the way to bring about change in society. Gandhi tried his best to follow this to a tee. It's not easy because it involves a lot of sacrifices. The extent to which Gandhi was able to achieve is simply amazing.

4. Avoid wastage. Everything has a value of its own. Make the full use of whatever we have. Don't let anything go waste. Today we are constantly exhorted to 'reduce, reuse, recycle'. But Gandhi practised it. For example, he would write (how much ever important it was) on the reverse side of envelopes.

5. Give up and gain peace. The more we amass, the more the burden. Let us be driven by our needs and not the wants. Abjure what is not necessary.

There are so many books and movies made on this great man, besides numerous articles available online. Some of my recommendations are:

1. Gandhi, the film directed by Richard Attenborough with Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. Not just that it's a very well-made movie it's so inspirational.

2. Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. The book is about the runup to the Indian independence on August 15, 1947, and has so many well-researched references to Gandhi, giving us good insights into that amazing human being.

3. Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-1948 by Ramachandra Guha. This book explores the complexity of Gandhi's views and throws light on also how others around him viewed him.

Mahatma Gandhi with Albert Einstein
Source: Open Culture that brings together free of cost
high-quality cultural & educational media

I guess nothing best sums up in one sentence on who Gandhi was as Albert Einstein's tribute: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Absent-mindedness

Image courtesy: Cliparts Zone
I am quite absent-minded. More often than not, I forget something -- keys, pen, wallet, or specs -- when I leave my house; and I have to invariably go back in to get it.

I have also applied the shaving cream on the toothbrush, only to sense a strange burning taste of the 'toothpaste'!

The biggest fear I have while travelling is whether I have boarded the wrong bus or the wrong train, even though I have boarded it only after seeing the display board.

In the case of flights, the biggest reassurance that I am at the right boarding gate and entering the right aircraft are display boards, the announcements, and the multiple checks by the airline and security staff.

There have been two occasions, once while travelling by bus and another while travelling by metro train, when my absent-mindedness played havoc.

INDORE, 1989

The first one happened long ago, 30 years ago, when I got a new job and moved from Bhopal to Indore. I was a bachelor then, and all my belongings could be packed in three boxes.

As I boarded the Bhopal-Indore bus, the boxes were kept in the luggage compartment at the rear of the vehicle.

When ​the bus reached Indore, I alighted at a stop near my house, which was two stops before the Indore bus terminus, the final destination of the bus.

I moved to the rear of the bus, picked up my luggage, and headed home in an autorickshaw.

Within a couple of minutes, I realised that out of the three boxes, I had taken only two of them. And the bus had already moved.

My first thoughts were as to what was in that box. It had all the important documents, like the original certificates of my school and college examinations, and also my two-in-one radio-cum-cassette recorder.

I immediately told the autorickshaw driver to go to the bus terminus, since I had forgotten to take one of my bags from the bus. He was a very nice man, and he said not to worry.

My concern was whether, by the time I reached the bus terminus, the bus would be there, or it would have moved elsewhere. Also whether someone would have walked away with my box.

When I reached the terminus, I saw that the bus was right there, and some pieces of luggage were still being taken out of the compartment.

I told the autorickshaw driver to wait for a while, while my eyes roamed all over the place looking for my box. I was so relieved to see it was indeed there as if waiting for me to pick it up.

I told the conductor that I had forgotten the box when I had got out of the bus at the earlier stop. He told me that he had kept the box aside because there was no claimant for it.

I was extremely happy and relieved that I got it back.

NEW DELHI AIRPORT METRO STATION, 2014

​There was another similar incident. This was five years ago at the New Delhi Airport Metro Station. I had gone to Delhi to witness the Republic Day parade: the first time I was going to witness the colourful ceremonial celebration of the anniversary of India becoming a republic on January 26, 1950. 

I reached Delhi by flight from Bengaluru. After exiting the airport, I took a shuttle bus to the airport metro station.

After clearing the security check, I reached the platform and kept my suitcase and the backpack on the platform as I waited for the train.

When the metro arrived, I took my baggage and boarded. About 5 minutes later, I got a strange feeling that something was amiss.

I realised that I had taken only the suitcase, and had left the backpack on the platform. The only expensive item in it was the laptop. But that was valuable enough. The other things were my shoes, socks and toiletries.

The other passengers understood my predicament and asked me what had happened. They suggested that I alight at the next station and contact customer care.

Meanwhile, since the train was running underground, the mobile signal was feeble and I had trouble calling my friend, who would have been waiting for me at the destination station. Somehow, I managed to call him, tell him what had happened and that I would be delayed.

I got down at the next station and went to the customer care section, where an executive asked me the colour of the backpack and some identification marks.

They checked with their counterparts at the airport metro station, who said nothing had been brought to their notice. I began to give up hope, thinking it would have been picked up by someone.

I was ready to resume my journey to my friend's house and gave my mobile number to the customer care executive telling him to give me a call if ever they got the bag back.

Just when I was about to leave the station, ​​the executive received a call from the airport metro station saying that they had indeed found a black backpack abandoned on the platform.

I was relieved but my fear was that quite probably the laptop would have been taken away by someone leaving just the bag behind. Hoping against hope, I took a train back to the airport metro station.

As I walked towards the area on the platform where I had left the bag, I was happy to see that it was exactly at the same spot where I had left it.

But what surprised me was that there was a group of policemen holding some appliances and equipment with them, near the backpack.

It didn't take long for me to realise that the next day was the Republic Day parade (a very high-security event in the nation's capital), and that explained why the policemen, probably with bomb-detecting devices, had checked my backpack.

Just when I reached there, the policemen took the bag and asked me if I was the owner. I said I was, and sheepishly I told them that in a hurry, I had left the bag behind.

They asked me to follow them and took me to a room, which looked like a place where they kept all the lost and found items.

The policemen emptied all the contents of the bag and thoroughly examined them. After convincing themselves that there wasn't anything dangerous in it, told me to enter my name, address and mobile number in a register. I then put everything back in.

One of the policemen also told me to be calm and not to be stressed. He said people forget things because they are stressed out and that their brain doesn't work properly.

I thanked them all, for everything, including that gem of advice; and once again began my journey from the Delhi Airport Metro Station to my friend's house.

My friend told me, no one will ever pick up anything that is left unattended, especially if it's in crowded places like a railway station. Instead, they would alert the police. So, you will always get back what you forgot and left behind.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Breaking free of mindset

Image courtesy: Clipart zone
Our lives follow a routine largely determined by mindset, is it not? Not quite sure if "habit" is a synonym, but mindset is a set of beliefs or thoughts that guide the way behave. A pattern that has become habitual.

We have preconceived notions not only about ourselves but also about different people, objects, places, issues, events etc around us. These notions decide how we react to them. Owing to our mindset, we behave in a predictable or stereotypical manner.

Since I work late, up to around 1 am, I wake up only by 8 or sometimes even 9. And I found it extremely difficult to go out for a walk or a jog or do some exercises after 9 am because for me, 9 am was sort of an "outer limit". After 9 am means it was "too late". The result was I began to miss my workouts on many days.

I realised that this 9 am fixation is largely an issue of my mindset. Why not go out for a walk or a jog, even if it's past 9 am?

So I went against my mindset, and irrespective of what time I woke up, I decided to go out for a short workout. I shifted the goal post, as it were, and I made myself free till about 11 am before I freshen up and get into some reading or writing or some such stuff.

It's working! And working well!

There are plenty of other examples in our daily lives. If need be, for a good cause, we must be flexible enough to change our mindset, make a course correction, and follow a different path. It might work, it might not. We can always improve upon it.

It's all in the mind, after all.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Kudos, Isro scientists!

Fifteen minutes of anxiety-filled moments late last night.

Those were the 15 moments when scientists of Isro, the Indian Space Research Organisation, would make complex manoeuvres from their earth station in Bengaluru to guide Vikram, the unmanned, robotic lander, into making a soft landing on the south pole of the moon around 1.50 am -- a feat no one had achieved so far.

Three of my colleagues and I were glued to the live transmission.

1.35 am. Vikram began its descend and the scientists were reducing the speed progressively, in order to enable the soft landing of Vikram, the lander, on the moon.

Close to 1.50 am, everything seemed to be going perfectly well, just about a couple of minutes or so for the touchdown. Fingers crossed.

THE WORRY, THE SILENCE

But then as moments passed, the cheerful faces of scientists in the mission control room seemed to be filled with anxiety. There was silence, and an announcement came on the air that we were awaiting further updates.

We saw the chairman of Isro K Sivan walking up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi (who was at the tracking station in Bengaluru to witness the event). Moments later Modi got up and left the room after telling Sivam something and patting him on the back.

We got to hear that the communication from the lander had snapped. Many feared that either the lander had crashlanded because the speed of the descent couldn't be reduced to the required level or Vikram had landed but we hadn't got to know about it since the communication was off. 

Around 2.15 am, Sivan made an official announcement that the communication got snapped when the lander was 2.1 km from the surface of the moon and all the data are being analysed.

No one had yet said that the lander had crashed. But that was what it looked like.

SO NEAR YET SO FAR

Nevertheless, this was a mission that nearly succeeded. Only three nations -- the US, Russia and China -- have so far managed to land an unmanned craft on the moon. And that too after many failed attempts. The success rate of such efforts has been just around 40%.

No nation had landed a craft on the south pole, an area where scientists believe has minerals and water.

Yet, the fact that Indian scientists made this attempt and managed to get the lander as close to the moon as 2.1 km is indeed a great achievement.

The entire capsule called Chandrayaan 2 -- orbiter, the lander and the rover -- was launched on July 22.  On August 14, it left the Earth's orbit, and it entered the moon's orbit on August 20.

Meanwhile, the orbiter is still going around the moon and the payloads on it are working well.

SPACE EXPLORATION IS COMPLEX BUT VITAL

The Prime Minister was all praise for the scientists when he returned to the command centre this morning and spoke to them for nearly half an hour. "This was an experiment, and we make progress with experiments. We are with you," he said.

We will know in the coming days as to what exactly happened and why the lander couldn't make the soft landing as planned.

To say that failure is the stepping stone to success sounds a bit cliched. But that's a fact. No one has ever succeeded in doing, especially very complex tasks, without a few failures. And space is a complex and challenging area. Everything is remotely controlled.

Space explorations and the success of the scientific community the world over is what has given us many comforts -- from modern communication technologies to our ability to understand the climate patterns, helping us understand our earth better.

FURTHER READING

Friday, August 30, 2019

Turning WhatsApp into cardiac helpline

Spread positive information
Technology is what we make of them. WhatsApp can be used to spread falsehoods or to help people.

A cardiologist in Mangaluru, Karnataka, Dr Padmanabha Kamath, has chosen the latter by turning the messaging app into a free helpline.

Of course, this is not a substitute for a doctor. It only serves as a guide for someone who needs help.

For example, you have a particular symptom, and you want to get quick advice on what needs to be done. Or you have a medical report and you want a doctor to interpret it and suggest the future course of action.

This guidance is often what a number of us who have health issues are eagerly looking forward to.

The service that Dr Kamath runs is called Cardiology at Doorstep, and the WhatsApp number is +91-9743287599.

Considering that this messaging platform is arguably the most popular and effective medium of communication, there is immense potential for extrapolating this model on a bigger scale by corporates.

Read more about this initiative here.

(This post is part of the We Are The World Blogfest, which aims to spread positive news on social media. WATWB on Twitter and on Facebook.)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Sindhu, Stokes made my Sunday

P V Sindhu, the world badminton
champion (Pix credit: Outlook)
You won't believe, yesterday I was glued to the television from 5 pm to 10 pm. Never, at least in the recent past, have I watched TV at a stretch like I did yesterday.

India's badminton star P V Sindhu's match against Japan's Nozomi Okuhara, in the final of the BWF World Championships, was coming up at 5.10 pm.

Sindhu had been in tremendous form in the tournament, yet I didn't have much hope. Because she has a history of reaching the finals and losing.

Thus she had to settle for a silver in the 2016 Olympics, 2017 and 2018 World Championships, 2018 Commonwealth Games, and 2018 Asian Games.

But, as the match progressed, I was pleasantly surprised. Sindhu was racing ahead of Okuhara. Halfway through the first set she was leading 11-2. She smashed her way to wrap up the first set 21-7 in just 16 minutes.

It was very unusual of Okhuhara to make so many unforced errors and lose a set so badly. I thought she will recoup herself and there would be a tougher fight in the second set. After all, their head-to-head record is quite even. Of the 15 matches they had played against each other, Sindhu had won 8 and Okuhara 7.

But that's not what happened. More aggression from Sindhu. I haven't seen Sindhu like this. She has deft movements and placements. But her smashes were not always the ones that are powerful enough or placed well to be winners.

Sindhu with the gold medal (Pix credit: BBC)
But in this tournament, she was in a totally new form. She wasn't allowing herself to be complacent. Unlike most of her other matches, in which she and her opponent go neck and neck to finish so close at the end, here she was not trailing at all but taking an early lead and building on it.

The second set (21-7) lasted 20 minutes and she won the world championship. On top of the world. She richly deserves this.

As India's national flag went up and India's national anthem played, she couldn't hold back tears. My eyes too welled up.

CONSOLATION FOR JAPAN

The women's final was followed by the men's final.  Kento Momota of Japan was taking on Anders Antonsen of Denmark. Momota is the top seed and had been in great form. This match too was one-sided. Antonsen didn't pose many challenges and the match ended 21-9, 21-3.

This was some sort of consolation for Japan, considering Okuhara lost the women's final.

DRAMATIC VICTORY CHASE

Ben Stokes, England's saviour
(Pix credit: Cricbuzz)
After badminton, I switched channels to see what's happening in Leeds in the Ashes series. It was a little after 6.45 pm. The match had entered an interesting stage, I realised.

England had been set a target of 359 to win, on day 3 (the day before yesterday). That means more than two days for them to do the task. But considering that in the first innings they folded up at 67, the odds were not exactly in their favour.

They lost the first wicket at 12 and the second at 25. It was Joe Root who steadied the ship, ending the day with his score at 75 not out and England at 156 for 3.

Yesterday was Day 4, and many thought England won't be able to stay put, handing over the Ashes to Australia. When I joined the match, the score was 259 for six. That means England needed exactly 100 runs to win with just four wickets remaining.

At 261, Chis Woakes got out for one. Three wickets remaining and 98 runs needed.

Jofra Archer belted three fours and I thought he will stay around for some time. But he didn't and got out after repeating a lofted on-drive and getting caught. He made 15. England slumped to 286 for 8. Two wickets remaining and 73 runs needed. Any hope of England saving the match was disappearing fast.

Stuart Broad walked in, and after facing just two balls, he got out without scoring. Score 286 for 9. Only the most diehard optimist would ever have thought England would win.

Australia needed just one wicket and England needed 73 runs.

Ben Stokes was keeping the hopes alive; and he was joined by Jack Leach, a slow left-arm orthodox spinner, whose career batting average is under 20. It shouldn't have been difficult for Australia.

But Stokes and Leach both seemed to have planned it well, as they ensured that Stokes always retained strike at the change of over.

They kept us all on the edge of the seat, as Australia came so close to taking that wicket, with chances for catches and runouts. With fours and sixes coming in at regular intervals from Stokes' bat, the required number of runs came down and down, and an unimaginable scenario of an England victory was gradually emerging.

And it finally, it happened. The match was tied at 359 and Stokes hit a boundary and ensured England not only registered an unbelievable win but also kept the Ashes alive.

The last pair faced 61 balls. Out of that, Leach faced only 17 and scored just one run. The rest 44 balls were faced by Stokes and scored 72 runs. His 135 not out, came in 219 balls, with 11 fours and 8 sixes. Stupendous performance.

Though the hero is Stokes, we must not forget the role Leach played. He hung on, keeping the match alive and allowing his partner to get the runs. He was like hanging on the edge of the precipice, waiting for his friend to save them both from a calamitous fall.

The moral of the story is, never give up hope, never lose cool, stay calm.

The fourth Test begins on September 4 at Old Trafford.

INDIA BEAT WEST INDIES

India was playing their 1st Test match against West Indies at Antigua. And the Indian bowlers were right on top, and the prospects of an Indian victory was looming. But I had little energy to sit through another cricket match!

The match would have got over around 2 am Indian time. India bundled out Windies for 100 winning the Test 318 runs, with Jaspreet Bumrah returning amazing figures of 8 overs 4 maidens, 7 runs and 5 wickets.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Loneliness & communication revolution

No one to talk to?

They are all just a tap (on-the-screen) away, aren't they?

Look at the ease with which we can connect with friends and acquaintances.

There is no need to write letters, go to post office, buy stamps, stick them and post the letters.

No need to even make telephone calls.

There are non-intrusive messages that we can send: long or short or anything in between too.

But are we really making use of these easy communication tools to keep in touch with our friends and relatives?

In WhatsApp groups, I find more of monologues in the form of 'forwards', than conversations.

These groups are like people sitting in the same room. How odd it will be if no one spoke to one another.

Let us make use of technology to initiate conversations, share happiness and sorrows, and exchange views and ideas.

It's not difficult to break free of loneliness.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Hope scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir's special status will usher in a new era there

The right-wing Union government led by BJP's Narendra Modi, today took a hugely important decision regarding the status of one of the most sensitive states in the country, Jammu and Kashmir.

It's a decision that no previous government in the 72 years of independent India has dared to take: to revoke a provision that was incorporated into the Indian constitution in 1954.

That provision, contained in Article 370, conferred on the state a huge amount of autonomy, so much so that the state, unlike the other states of the Indian Union, had its own constitution and its flag. There were also limitations to the applicability of the Indian federal law in the state.

Basically, the provision enabled the state of Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of India but without having to follow all the laws of the Indian government.

WHAT DID THE GOVT DO

Today, the government delivered on its good-old promise, and revoked the provision, stripping the state of the preferred treatment it enjoyed all along, ever since it came into being in the late 1940s.

The government went beyond just that: it split the state into two Union territories: Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature, and Ladakh without a legislature.

A Union Territory is an administrative division of India, wherein the federal government holds a lot of administrative powers, unlike in the case of States which have far more administrative powers.

The sensitivity of this momentous decision can be gauged from the preparations the government did over the past week in J&K. There has been a huge induction of Indian Army troops, yesterday the government snapped all telecommunication networks - landline, mobile and internet - and late last night, it placed major political party leaders of J&K under house arrest; and declared curfew in Kashmir.

Not surprisingly, the government move has set the cat among the pigeons.

THE PROS AND CONS

Three key arguments for keeping the special status

- The provision was part of a solemn guarantee granted to the people of J&K considering the special circumstances surrounding the way the state became a part of the Indian Union, immediately after the British left India in August 1947.

- People and its leaders value the autonomy that came along with the special status, and removing it should have been done only with the concurrence of the people.

- Jammu and Kashmir state is not like any other state in India; it has a different history and that must be taken into account while deciding the policies of the state.

Three key arguments for removing the special status

- The special status created a dichotomous situation wherein J&K, a sensitive border state of India, is a part of Indian Union but had its own administrative and governance mechanism thereby limiting the control of the Indian government -- be it for security or for the development of the state and its people.

- There was a context in which the provisions were incorporated into the Indian constitution. After many decades, those situations have vastly changed, thereby necessitating a new look.

- The autonomy provision was a temporary one incorporated into the constitution with a purpose. It has not been able to bring about peace in Kashmir, and it can be said that the provision has failed to achieve any purpose.

MY TAKE

For me, today's development is just another turning point in the tumultuous journey the state, its polity and people have had for close to 80 years, pre-dating the exit of the British.

What has happened today is only a change in the law; what finally matters is a change in the hearts of the people of the state. How they take the changes remains to be seen.

Hope the new law will help the Union government to bring in the much-needed reforms in the governance of J&K and thereby bring about the required change in the hearts of the people.

We all know that there is tacit support from a section of the people of J&K for the decades-long militancy. Will it end with the development and prosperity of the people? Only if that happens will we be able to say that what the government did today was right.

As of today, we can't totally blame the government for exploring an out-of-box solution to find a way out of the problem that has been simmering for decades, costing hundreds of thousands of lives.

We have to just patiently wait and watch.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Kerala trip - Day 3, 4 - Old Boys Day

July 12-13, 2019

(This post has got delayed, and I have been off Blogger because my laptop wasn't working and it had to be given for repair. It's back in good condition.)

Every year, in July, my alma mater - Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Kerala - celebrates its Old Boys Day. This year, there is an added importance, it's 50 years since the Old Boys Association was founded, in 1969.

For me personally, it's a bit emotional too: the alumni group was founded by my late father, N Balakrishnan Nair, or NBN Sir, as everyone used to call him.

These public schools, which focus on military-style discipline, were started since even after many years after India won independence, there was no pan-Indian representation in the defence forces as a good majority of the soldiers and officers were largely from the north of the country, that too from a few states.

In order to correct the imbalance, the then defence minister V K Krishna Menon came up with the concept of Sainik Schools in every state of the country. Kerala state got its near Kazhakootam, a small town some 25 km north of the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram. The primary objective of these schools was to train students to join the defence forces. Though not many of us ended up in the forces, the training we got has always stood us good stead.

My dad was among the first group of teachers who were recruited. After the first batch passed out in 1967, he felt that the school needs to continue its association with the alumni since many of the students would one day reach eminent positions and the school, its staff and students should not squander the opportunity to learn from them. Secondly, the alumni should also have a way of connecting back with their school.

For my father, the OBA Day was a like an annual pilgrimage: he longed to see his students and they longed to see him. Even after retiring from active service in the school, he continued to attend the event, until 2012. I have also been attending the Old Boys Day quite regularly. This year, the event was over two days, because it's the golden jubilee.

On the 12th, among the events were a motorcycle show by an Army team; and a helicopter show by an Indian Air Force team. There was also an impressive rifle drill by an Air Force team and an Army dog show.

That night, we all got together at the Army Officers Institute in Thiruvananthapuram for dinner.

On the 13th, there was a homage to the martyrs, the old boys who laid down their lives in combat; a tribute to the teachers (called Guruvandanam), general body meeting of the Old Boys Association, and lunch.

All these events got dwarfed when compared to the interactions we all -- the alumni -- had with each other, and with our beloved teachers, past and present. Some of the alumni have been very regular at the Old Boys Day but some others have come after many many years. There were some friends whom I met after nearly 10 years.

Altogether it was a very energising couple of days at my alma mater.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Kerala trip - Day 2 - Train timing, friends, relatives

A pleasant surprise early in the morning. The train reached the Kochuveli station, our destination, 25 minutes ahead of time - instead of 6.35 am it arrived at 6.10 am.
Thanks to the transportation requirements of the British Empire, they set up a wonderful railway network in India. It's one of the largest in the world. And running it is a mind-boggling operation.
Trains especially long-distance ones were known to run late. But in the last few years, they have been keeping time, possibly because of advances in technology. But reaching the destination this early was quite a surprise.
That reminds me what a friend once told me about airline timings. I was told, I am not sure if it's true, that the airlines add a few minutes to the expected arrival time at the destination, so that passengers are impressed that they reached their destination ahead of time. Also, just in case there is any unforeseen delay on the part of the airline, passengers won't scream at the airline for wasting their time; because the flight would have still landed on time!
The first engagement of the day was meeting an uncle of mine. He runs a school for autistic children in Thiruvananthapuram, and we met him there this morning.
Now there is a lot of advancement in the way differently-abled children are looked after. I was quite impressed with the thought that has gone behind the way the school has been designed and the various facilities for children. It was such a pleasant sight to see children play with different types of toys, which are designed specially for them.
We then went to meet a cousin of mine and her family. It's nearly two years since we met them last.
Then in the evening, we headed to the Thiruvananthapuram office of the media organisation I work for. I have a good friend there - we were colleagues in another media organisation as well, at the beginning of our careers some 30 years ago. So we ended up chatting about our other friends and some memorable days of yore.
A big surprise was that a colleague of mine here had worked with my wife, again long back at the beginning of their careers some 30 years ago!
Media circle is a small world... You talk to someone and it turns out that he knows a good friend of yours, or he has worked with someone you know.
Though we all could have chatted for hours, we didn't want to cut into their work hours. My and I then went for some shopping, had dinner and headed back home.
It was a day well spent, catching up with relatives and friends.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Kerala trip - Day 1 - Train journey

I am in a train along with my wife. We are heading for the annual alumni meet of my alma mater - Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Thiruvananthapuram district, south Kerala.
For my trips to Kerala, often in the past, I have taken the flight, owing to lack of time. It's just about an hour by air from Bengaluru.
But this time, we decided to take the train. It's 15 hours by rail. Since the climate is quite pleasant now, we chose the non-air-conditioned coach.
If I have the time, I always prefer the train to flight. And if the climate is good, nothing like the non-a/c cars. Unlike in a/c coaches, I don't feel claustrophobic.
Open windows that provide unfiltered view of the landscape -- lush greenery, undulating plains, hills and valleys, lakes and rivers. And the cool breeze that blows in makes it all the more worthwhile. The close proximity to nature: It's extremely refreshing.
The sound of the train racing on the tracks provides a sort of feeling of travel or movement. It takes a break only when the train stops at stations: the brief pauses in a journey.
If the halt is for some five minutes or more, it's also a chance to step out, have a look around the place, quickly grab a cup of tea or coffee, and then hop back in when it's time to move.
It's nearing 10.30 pm. Most of the lights in the coach are dimmed, with passengers reclining on their berths for a good night's sleep.
I am posting this via Blogger app. And I can't see an option to post photos, unlike on the website.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Crown, Sports and Blockchain

I took a three-week break from Blogger and visiting other blogs. We all need a break, don't we?

So, what have I been doing? Well, quite a bit.

Watching movies, cricket world cup, reading books, listening to lots of music ...

THE CROWN

Matt Smith as Philip and
Clair Foy as Elizabeth / Netflix
One day I was giving a search on Netflix to see if it has the 1984 British TV Series 'Jewel in the Crown'. It is about the final days of the British reign in India.

I don't think it is available on Netflix. What showed up instead right on top was another British series The Crown.

I have been reading a lot of positive reviews about this epic of sorts, a biopic of Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch.

Without much ado, I began watching it. Soon, my wife joined me; and we have been restraining ourselves from getting into binge watching.
It's addictive, not without reason. Top class acting, direction and photography. At the last count, the film has fetched 15 awards under various heads.

Great performance by Claire Foy as Princess Elizabeth and later the queen, Matt Smith as her husband Prince Philip, and Vanessa Kirby as her younger sister Princess Margaret.

We have completed Season 2 Episode 3. The third season, with different actors as Elizabeth and Philip, is to be released later this year. There will be six seasons of 10 episodes each.

It's as much about the queen's life and British politics as much as it is about her sister's. What a contrast between the two siblings!

The innate personalities of the two, how the rigid royal rules come in the way of their personal lives, the role of the monarchy in the evolving world -- it's all portrayed so well and powerfully in the series.

SPORTS

Two weeks of tennis extravaganza / Wimbledon
There is so much happening in the sports arena. Today the third Grand Slam of the year opens at Wimbledon.

While it will be the predictable trio of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafel Nadal in the men's section, it will the new world number 1 Ashleigh Barty who will be the cynosure of all eyes.

Cricket World Cup is inching close to the semifinal stage. India lost for the first time yesterday against England.

Of course, I would like India to bring back the cup, which they have won twice. There will be stiff opposition from England, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan. Let us see how it goes.

BLOCKCHAIN

Blockchain is a new type of internet / Equinix
Blockchain and bitcoin are not the same. Blockchain is like internet and bitcoin is one application like email or Facebook.

I had the good fortune of attending a two-day conference on this fledgeling technology.

It's already working quietly in the background of many services and product companies. But it's yet to take off in a big way.

It is a new way of computing or a new type of internet, wherein participating members of a network communicate to each other rather than via a central authority.

It's like sending an email directly to another person instead of routing it through Google or Microsoft or sending money directly instead of via a bank.

Another property of blockchain is it's immutable - data once approved and sealed, can't be tampered with. In case, someone breaks in, each member of the network gets a notification. This property is finding application in digitizing land records, medical records etc.

The third property of blockchain is what is called the 'power of provenance'. Which means the entire history of all activities is logged in and recorded.

Imagine, when you shop for fruit in a department store, how would you feel if you could scan a barcode and get to know, how was it cultivated, when and where the fruit was harvested, what fertilizers were used, where the commodity was stored, from where was it transported and all such details.

Blockchain is finding applications in many areas, especially in the retail business, empowering customers, and serving to increase the trust people have in the companies and the products they sell.

This news report says the French retailer Carrefour has seen in an increase in the sale of some products after they began using blockchain, customers now trust the products more.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ashleigh Barty, confidence personified

Ashleigh Barty. Photo source: Tennis World
There were plenty of sporting action during the past 10 days that kept me hooked to the television. Besides the French Open tennis championship and the Cricket World Cup, the ones that I was following keenly, there was also the Women's Cricket World Cup and Women's Football World Cup.

The biggest takeaway of the tennis tournament was the astounding display of determination and skill by a lady from Australia, named Ashleigh Barty. She is now ranked number two in the world, just behind the Naomi Osaka.

When the tournament started, not many had Barty as a favourite. But she quietly emerged to be in the reckoning and finally walked away with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.

The victory of Barty is not just the triumph of her tennis abilities, but also about her supreme confidence. I was looking at her biodata. She trained from childhood in tennis and did impressively in different matches. She turned professional at 14 and got into the Grand Slam circuit a year later.

She began to make her mark in doubles, and in 2012, at the age of 16, she became the youngest finalist in Australian Open since 2004; and as a team, she and  Casey Dellacqua became the first Australian duo to reach an Australian Open women's doubles finals since 1977.

TENNIS TO CRICKET AND BACK

But the best and the most interesting part of her career graph is that in 2014, she quit tennis and took to cricket, and even played in the league games for Brisbane Heat.

In 2016, she thought she was done with cricket and came back to tennis. The point to be noted here is that it's not easy switching from one game to another like this. In spite of doing that to win a Grand Slam tournament like the French Open is truly an amazing feat! 

CRICKET WORLD CUP

The World Cup cricket is on, and we have seen some very interesting matches. England, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies and India are I guess the favourites.

In a bad coincidence, both the Wimbledon final and World Cup cricket final will be on the same day, July 14. Not the first time. Last year, the tennis finale clashed with World Cup football final.

In a big dampener, the matches yesterday and the day before got washed out because of rain. Nothing like bad weather interrupting an interesting match or tournament. Hope the weather over different match venues clear up and we will have interesting matches.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Beth French: The importance of knowing when to give up

This blog post is a part of the
We Are The World Blogfest
This is an amazing story, one which will make us stop, ponder and introspect.

Some of you might have already read about British swimmer Beth French. Even if you have, her story is so inspirational that it's worth going over it again and again.

At the age of 10, Beth began to feel very weak and tired. It progressively got worse. Finally, at the age of 17, she was diagnosed with ME or myalgic encephalomyelitis, also called chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS.

Beth French in an interview
to ITV's Lorraine 
Things were so bad that she couldn't lift her hand to brush her hair, and a day came when she couldn't even get up to sit on the wheelchair.

TURNING POINT

The condition ME is a collection of symptoms and there's no proper cure. Her mom took Beth to an alternative therapist to find out if they could find some way to improve things.

Beth had to take a totally new look at herself and her life. Drawing up a bucket list was one way -- achieving each task would give Beth a sense of fulfilment and hope.

Beth loves water
The bucket list helped. She fought against her conditions, both mind and body, and she ticked off one after the other. There was some improvement but things weren't fully okay.

There was one more in the list -- to swim to France. She achieved that by swimming for 15 hours. By the way, as a child Beth liked water, and swimming almost came naturally to her.

She was working and a single mother. She wanted to not only challenge herself with harder tasks but also demonstrate to her child Dylan that anything is possible. The best part was Dylan was always with her not just physically but also emotionally motivating his mother.

NEW TURNING POINT

She now decided that she would swim the seven of the world's most dangerous ocean channels, called Ocean 7, in one year. She completed four, but things were not okay at home as Dylan, who was then close to eight years, was showing signs of autism.

In a disappointing turnaround, Dylan began telling her mom not to swim. His anxiety levels went up so much that Beth couldn't leave her son even with her mom.

This made Beth think. We are always told never to give up, but she realised that after a point, we all have to make a choice.

Listen to this extraordinary story of Beth French on BBC's Outlook, on the importance of knowing when to give up.

Beth succeeded at first by not giving up and later succeeded by giving up. She chose her son over swimming because she had proved her point, to herself more than to anyone else, what she can achieve. Now there was another challenge.

She realised that she had reached her destination before the finishing line. She says it is so empowering to make a choice -- her choice to take up the challenge and now the choice to give it up.

MORE READING

Beth French's website

Beth French on BBC News Points West (a programme for the West of England)

Beth French on ITV's Lorraine


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Reasons for our likes and dislikes

Image courtesy:
Driver's Handbook
It is interesting to follow different strands of arguments. Someone has half a dozen reasons to do something. Someone else has half a dozen reasons to do something else.

Logic drives our actions, and we find a dozen reasons to justify why we are doing it.

A new logic makes us do something else. And we find another dozen reasons to justify that too.

HENRY AND RUBY

Henry and Ruby are discussing which car to buy. Henry likes Brand Z and Ruby likes Brand Y. He has his reasons. She has hers. Both aren't able to convince each other. Why?

Because the preference for the brand is preconceived, moulded by some logic, some reason, which both Henry and Ruby are holding firmly to.

It's not just with cars.

NORA AND LILY

Nora prefers to be single and has been ignoring the suggestions of her close friends and family on why she should get married. She has reasons to be single.

But every time her closest friend Lily manages to persuade her to give marriage a thought, Nora has her own reasons to say why all the guys A, B, C, D and E  are simply not the worth the trouble sharing her life with.

Lily is actually finding reasons to push her point of view. And Nora is finding reasons to stay single.

Will Henry ever like Brand Y and will Ruby ever like Brand Z?

Will Nora ever get married?

Not unlikely.

SO, WHAT HAPPENED?

One day, it finally dawns on Henry that his preferred car Brand Z is actually way too expensive and the financial jugglery, which he elaborately planned, will simply not work. He finds merits in Ruby's arguments. They both head to the showroom to buy Brand Y.

What about Nora? She gets married to William.

"William?" wonders Lily. "Why William?"

"Why not? I like him," says Nora. "Moreover, I am tired and bored of being alone. And there are so many other reasons why I thought I must get married."

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Narendra Modi stays as India’s Prime Minister: 5 reasons why

The leads began trickling in some time after 8 am today, and the trend didn’t change at any point during the last 5 hours. The incumbent NDA (National Democratic Alliance, comprising the BJP and its allies) are ahead, and there is no way it will now change.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is back in the Prime Minister’s chair, leading an aggressive campaign of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party or Indian people’s party). Their focus areas were corruption-free governance, taking India ahead, the security of the nation, stability of the government, etc.

The BJP faced a spirited fight put up by a galaxy of opposition parties, over 20 of them, all regional parties, except the Congress, the only national party, whose stock had plummeted to a historic low in the previous election. The major opposition alliance was the UPA or the United Progressive Alliance.

THE ONLY SURPRISE

It was generally acknowledged that the BJP will be back in power, but considering the intensity and ferocity of the opposition campaign, there were doubts about whether the BJP would get a good majority or not.

The surprise, if at all there is any, is the big lead the NDA has gained over the opposition. Clearly, a good majority of Indians are happy with the way Narendra Modi government has ruled over the past five years, and they want status quo; and they don’t find any reason to give the opposition a chance.

WHY OPPOSITION LOST

Here are a few reasons why the election results have gone the way it has:

1. No corruption allegations: That was what the BJP promised five years ago when they took on the Congress-led government which faced a spate of corruption charges. The BJP clearly delivered on that promise.

There were allegations of crony capitalism though, which the opposition highlighted very vociferously. Either people didn’t believe in them or they didn’t care.

2. Stability factor: If we look back at the previous elections, Indians don’t like unstable coalition governments at the federal level. There have been a few, and the people have voted them out as quickly as possible and they stayed with stable governments.

In the absence of a strong national opposition party (the Congress today is a pale shadow of what it was once), the opposition is a combination of over 20 parties. It doesn’t look like the people wanted to risk giving them a chance.

3. Strong leadership: India doesn’t elect a prime minister. It elects a party, which then elects a leader who is appointed as the prime minister. But for all practical purposes, the prime ministerial face matters a lot. Modi comes across as a strong leader, who takes bold decisions.

There was no prime ministerial face in the opposition to take on Modi. If the opposition were voted in, there was a risk of at least half a dozen opposition leaders squabbling to become the prime minister. Not worth it.

4. Poor opposition strategy: Their main focus was the removal of Modi as the prime minister. But they didn’t project who could replace him.

Congress party president Rahul Gandhi kept harping on the theme that the “prime minister is a thief”. I think that went against him because he had nothing substantial to back his claim. No money trail or any illegal transaction of funds could be showcased.

It must be said that the BJP was very smart to convert major attacks against them into an advantage.

5. National vision and policy: The incumbent NDA government had enacted a slew of new policies and rolled out many welfare schemes for different sections of people, both in the urban and rural areas. It is all there on the government website https://www.mygov.in/

The opposition slammed them as mere misleading claims and numbers but they didn’t have anything concrete as an alternative. I guess people have either been benefited by these government policies or, if they have not been, they have given the government the benefit of doubt.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Election surveys go wrong in Australia

Once again, pollsters have gone wrong, this time in Australia.

Surveys conducted mainly by Newspoll, YouGov/Galaxy, Ipsos, Essential, and Roy Morgan over the past three years, consistently (except on a few occasions) put the Labor Party ahead of the Coalition (Liberal-National Party).

But the results are now just the opposite, with the LNP winning a third time in a row.

This Wikipedia page gives you a good idea of what the opinion polls projected over the past few years, and how it all ended up today.

The result has been aptly summed up by the winner, incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said, "I have always believed in miracles."

Not the first time pollsters have gone wrong, especially in the recent past. The Brexit referendum in June 2016, American presidential elections in November 2016, are the most famous ones.

WHY POLL SURVEYS GO WRONG

Surveys, in general, are a tricky game. It's actually a very specialised statistical science. It not just about talking to some people and coming to a conclusion about how the wind is blowing.

The fact that very reputed polling agencies like Gallup in the United States have got it wrong on a few occasions points to how error-prone the whole operation is.

One reason poll results tend to go wrong is that the sample selected is not a "representative" one. One common misconception is that the larger the sample, the more accurate the projection is.

It's not the size, but how representative is the sample determines the accuracy. Of course, when it is representative sample size is proportionately big, the errors get cancelled out providing a more precise result.

Then, of course, there are always possibilities of people saying one thing to the pollster and voting the opposite way. Either because of a perceived fear factor or a desire to sound politically correct, people might not be truthful about sharing their choice with the surveyor.

INDIA AWAITING RESULTS

Today, India votes in the last of the seven phases. Within a few hours, TV news channels will go all out with the results of the exit polls.

In India, publishing of results of opinion polls or exit polls is banned while the election process is on.

The popular perception is that the ruling coalition led by the right-wing BJP will be back in power. But no one is sure of how big or small majority they would get.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Pressing the button - once in five years

Electronic voting machine
Photo credit: Election Commission
While democracy vests in people the right to vote, there are many people who prefer not to exercise their franchise. My father, who was an erudite teacher, was one.

He had contempt for politicians, though he was never vocal about it. He always felt politicians were poor role models for the citizens, especially the youngsters.

There are many who share that view. Even I do. So, I always wondered if I should vote or not. Most politicians are always busy "playing politics" rather than governing.

MY FIRST VOTE

When I turned 21 and became eligible to vote, I decided to go out and choose the representative of my area. I was in Kerala then. Though I shared the cynism of the democratic process, the reason I cast my ballot was I wanted to know how it was like inside a polling booth and how it felt like having voted.

A few years later, I left the state for the north of the country when I got my first job. After that, I didn't vote for many years, since I never took the trouble to enrol myself as a voter in the places I lived.

The next time I voted was many years later when I moved to Bengaluru. (On November 1, 2014, the city changed its anglicised name of Bangalore to its original name in the local language.)

AN EASY TASK

The reason I voted for the state assembly elections was, I thought voting is the simplest and the easiest way (and probably one of the most important ways) to keep the democratic system of governance alive.

When I accuse the politicians of not having done their job, I should have done mine, is it not?

Especially when it is so easy to actually go to the voting station and make the choice, though choosing whom to vote might not be as easy.

I have exercised my franchise in all the elections since then, including on April 23 when Bengaluru voted in the third phase of the general election that is currently on. One more phase is remaining. That is on May 19.

The process has become easier and simpler over the years, and the Election Commission and the federal government should be given due credit for ensuring that the whole process -- right from enrolling oneself in the voters' list to finding the voting station to actually casting the vote -- is a breeze.

AWAITING THE RESULTS

Voting is not compulsory in India, where the votes are cast electronically -- the voter presses the button against the name of the candidate on an electronic voting machine, commonly called here as the EVM.

The once-in-five-years national elections to choose a new parliament is being held in seven phases over one and a half months, considering the enormous scale of the exercise -- there are as many as 900 million voters -- the biggest in the world.

We will know the results on the 23rd of this month. We will know which party will get the majority in parliament and who will be the next prime minister.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Have you voted? Do you always have good candidates to choose from?