Sunday, August 1, 2021

Le premier blog article en Français / First blog post in French

On April 14, last year, I said, "Maybe one day, there will be a blog post in French!" I thought I shouldn't delay that début any longer.

But before that, there was a problem. Though the English and French alphabets are the same, French has five types of accents above the letters. The pronunciation of a letter with and without an accent are different. 

The five are:

L'accent aigu (é)

L'accent grave (è)

L'accent circonflexe or "chapeau" (â)

La cédille (ç)

Le tréma (ë)

I needed French a keyboard or some method by which I could get these accents.

Windows 10 has an option to have keyboards of different languages. I enabled the one for French. 

But the problem with that was that the keys aren't the same. Like for example, where we have 'a', it's 'q'. So, if I type out femme on a French keyboard, it'll turn out to be: fe,,e.

I went to Youtube and searched how I could get French accents on Windows English keyboard. I found that there are so many methods one could do that. But the one I liked, the simplest one, was this.

This is the keyboard shortcut. 

é = Cntr ' e 

è = Cntr ` e

ê = Cntr Shift ^ 

ë = Cntr Shift ;

ç = Cntr ,

But it works only on MS Word; not on Blogger Draft or Notepad. 

So, here I go. Needless to say, I typed this out on MS Word and then pasted it here. The translation is below that:

*************

Bonjour! Comment ça va?

Je m’appelle Pradeep, et j’habite á Bengaluru en Inde.

J’apprends le Français alors j’essaye – pour la premier fois – écrire un article sur mon blog en Français.

S’il y a des erreurs, pardon, s’il vous plaît.

Aujourd’hui, c’est le premier jour d’août.

C’est dimanche.

C’est un jour férié donc je ne dois pas aller au bureau.

Hello! How are you?

My name is Pradeep, and I live in Bengaluru in India.

I am learning French, so I am trying -- for the first time -- to write a blog post in French.

Please excuse me if there are errors.

Today is the first day of August.

It's Sunday.

It's a public holiday and I don't have to go to office.

*************

I am sure to get some usages / prepositions wrong, which I guess will get better with more exposure to the language.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Super Sports Sunday

6.30 am. I woke up, switched on the TV. 

Late in the night after 3. I switched off the TV, went to bed.

Three matches -- two football and one tennis -- during the course of the day. 

All together over 7 hours. 

COPA AMERICA 2021 FINAL

Image courtesy: The Guardian

The blockbuster Brazil and Argentina match kicked off at 5.30 am IST at Rio's Maracana stadium. But I managed to wake up only an hour late. By that time Argentina had scored. 

The scoreline stayed. A bit surprising, because Brazil dominated the game. 

Brazil had 59% of the possession; 13 shots (Argentina 6), and 4 corners (Brazil 1).

Anyway, the win was huge for Argentina, and Lionel Messi. 

That goal ended their 28-year-long wait for a victory in a major tournament. But a big disappointment for Brazil's Neymar who is yet to win a major international.

WIMBLEDON MEN'S FINAL   

Image courtesy: wimbledon.com

Back in front for the TV at 6.30 pm. 

The result was expected. Novak Djokovic finally caught up with what his two seniors -- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal -- achieved: 20 Grand Slam titles. 

But Italy's Matteo Berrettini ensured that it was not a cakewalk for his opponent. At one point it looked like the match could go either way. I am glad that was some drama.

It was fascinating tennis stretching 3 hours 23 minutes. When Djokovic lost the first set 4-7 in the tie-break, I thought this will stretch to a five-setter.

But he seemed to be setting the tone as he won the first 4 games of the 2nd set. Berrettini held the serve to make it 4-1. Djokovic held the next and had a chance to wrap up the set. 

But Berrettini gave a stiff resistance and caught up picking up the next three games in a row to make it 5-4. The 10th game was Djokovic's serve and he finally closed it at 6-4.

Berrettini seemed to have lost a bit of the momentum in the 3rd set and Djokovic won that without much difficulty with the same score.

Image courtesy: wimbledon.com

The fourth set, in which Berrettini took a lead with a win in the 1st game, was a bit more challenging for Djokovic as he had to wait till the seventh game to get ahead: 4-3. From then on, the path was clearer and his job was done as Berrettini made an unforced backhand error.

Now all eyes are on the next matches that Djokovic will play. There is something called the Golden Slam, which only Steffi Graf has achieved in 1988, with a victory in all the four Grand Slams and an Olympic Gold Medal. 

But now whether the World Number One can do that is in doubt as he seemed to have been put off by the tight restrictions in the Olympic Village, and he is in two minds if he would go.

If he wins the US Open, which will start on Aug 30, he will get ahead of Federer and Nadal, and he would sort of establish himself as the GOAT or the Greatest Of All Time.

INDIA VS ENGLAND WOMEN'S T20

Image courtesy: Twitter/ICC

While the Wimbledon was on, the 2nd T20 cricket match between India and England women's team was being played at Hove. I kept checking the score on the BBC Sports app. 

India notched up 140 for 8 in 20 overs, and England fell short of the target by 8 runs. 

It was a thriller which I missed. 

The third match is tomorrow.

EURO 2020 FINAL

Image courtesy: BBC

After the tennis match, I took a one and a half hour nap before getting back in front of the TV at 12.30 am for the next epic encounter, at Wimbley.

It was a match truly worthy of a championship final as England and Italy battled hard. 

Within just two minutes of the start, the game got charged up as Luke Shaw scored for England. It should have remained like that at least. 

But in the 67th minute, Leonardo Bonucci equalised for Italy.

As expected the match went into half an hour of extra time and then the penalty shootout.

Though in the back of my mind I had a feeling that Italy might win, I was supporting England. And it was such a heartbreak to see Harry Kane's team fall behind by the thinnest of margins. 

It must be said that barring the initial few minutes, Italy was generally in control of the game, and they were constantly sniffing at opportunities to score.

They had 65% of the possession and had as many as 6 shot on target in comparison to just 2 for England.

In the penalty shootout, for England, Harry Kane and Harry Maguire scored; but the shots of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka failed to find the target.

It's sad that the England's three were subjected to racial abuse on social media. The flipside of our ubiquitous online world.

For Italy, Domenico Berardi, Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi scored; while the shots of Andrea Belotti and Jorginho were saved. 

And thus the quest of England for a major international win continues 55 years after their last triumph in the 1966 World Cup at the same Wimbley stadium.

England didn't win. But I enjoyed a thoroughly vigorous and enthusiastic contest.

The time was well past 3 am when I hit the sack.


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Barty Party

Dream come true for Ashleigh Barty
Image courtesy: Wimbledon.com

I was rooting for Ashleigh Barty, the plucky 25-year-old Australian, and I am so glad that she made it.

She adds the Venus Rosewater Dish to the Suzanne Lenglen trophy (the French Open) she won in 2019.

Initially, I was worried this would be a one-sided damp squib, as her opponent, 29-year-old former world number 1, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic seemed to have given up right from the word go.

DULL START

Pliskova conceded the first 14 points to Barty who seemed to be having a free run picking up the first 4 games. A semblance of some fight followed with Pliskova picking up the next game after securing a break.

She again broke to make it 2-5 and held the serve to make it 3-5. But Barty wrapped up the set at 6-3.

GRIPPING 2ND SET

The 2nd game was the best. Barty's crafty backhand slice and Pliskova's powerful serve were in full display, with a number of well-timed and well-placed strokes making the set absolutely gripping as the two players moved ahead neck and neck.

After losing the opening game which was a Pliskova serve, Barty broke the 3rd and held the fourth to move ahead 3-1. Pliskova caught up to make it 3-3 and moved ahead again 4-3. The game ended up in a tie-break, with Barty losing 4-7. 

BARTY SEALS IT

With one set all, it was start over, and fingers crossed. Barty opened the set and raced ahead to 3-0. Pliskova picked up the 4th, 6th and 8th game by holding her serve. This set was very much like the first one. The early advantage that Barty got stood her in good stead. She was well and truly ahead and closed the set with the next game at 6-3.

Well played, Karolina Pliskova
Image courtesy: Eurosport

HISTORIC

Barty's win comes exactly 10 years after she had won the junior Wimbledon title; 50 years after an Australian (Evonne Goolagong Cawley) won the cup in 1971, and 5 years after a world number one (Serena Williams) won the title in 2016.

It's no surprise that Barty was so overcome with emotion. After that Wimbledon Junior title victory at the age of 15, she went on to play for another three years. Then she felt the stress too much to handle. 

She quit active tennis. "It was too much too quickly for me as I've been travelling from quite a young age ... I wanted to experience life as a normal teenaged girl and have some normal experiences," she told Cricket Australia.

When Barty switched to cricket in 2014-16
Image courtesy: Cricket Australia

She switched to cricket, and with no prior experience in the game, in just one year she made a mark for the Brisbane Heat team in the Women's Big Bash League.

After two years with cricket, she returned to her first love and began chasing her dream. 

And it became a reality today.

WIN FOR AUSTRALIA

Barty's win also means a lot for Australian sport. She traces her lineage, via her great grandmother, to an indigenous Australian group of people called Ngarigu. 

Coincidentally, Barty's friend, inspiration and mentor, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, now 66 years old, the Australian who previously won the Wimbledon Singles Trophy in 1971, too belongs to an indigenous community, the Wiradjuri people.

SUPER SUNDAY

Tomorrow is going to be a great sporting day. 

There's the final of Copa America at 5.30 am IST, between Brazil and Argentina.

In the evening at 6.30 is the Wimbledon Men's Final, Djokovic vs Matteo Berrettini.

Late in the night at 12.30 is the European Championship, Euro 2020, final between England and Italy.

I am not sure if I will be able to wake up as early as 5.30. Maybe I will be able to catch 2nd half. Let me see.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Fully vaccinated

Image source: Pixabay

I am now fully vaccinated. I got the second dose of Covishield yesterday. 

That's the very popular Indian version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured here by Serum Institute of India, the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines.

I took the first dose on April 9.

Earlier, the gap between the two shots of Covishield was smaller, I think between 28 and 45 days. Later, in the face of a massive shortage of vaccines, the government widened the gap to 84 days.

The other popular vaccine in India is Covaxin, a completely Indian product manufactured by Bharat Biotech. The gap for this continues to be a minimum of 30 days.

AT APARTMENT COMPLEX

I took the jab at a vaccination camp held in our apartment complex. A remarkably smooth process.

All that we had to do was carry our personal identity document and the code that was generated when we registered for vaccination on the government portal CoWin

The hospital personnel at the site upload the particulars to the portal and soon after the vaccination, we get a message from the government's Health Ministry stating that we have govt vaccinated. From the portal, we can also download a certificate.

Incidentally, the Indian government is holding a global conclave later today on leveraging technology in vaccination management.

ADDITIONAL COST

Many resident welfare organisations and private companies are taking such initiatives in partnership with private hospitals, which is a good move, considering that it increases the number of people who are inoculated.

The cost is a little higher though. I paid ₹1,100, while for the first one at a private hospital, I paid ₹750. 

The extra cost, over and above the government-stipulated price, is presumably for the favour of coming over to our residential complex, something that everyone would appreciate since it's risky to go to a hospital in these times. 

Some private hospitals agree to send vaccinators to even residences, but again at an extra cost.

The government on June 8, issued an order capping the maximum price for Covishield at ₹780, for Covaxin at ₹1,410 and for Sputnik V at ₹1,145.

The vaccination is free of cost at government hospitals and public health centres. The local corporation is not quite enthusiastic about coming over to residential premises.

ROLE OF PRIVATE HOSPITALS

I think for a large country like India, it's perfectly okay for the private sector to be given some leeway to manage such massive operations. So that the government resources and money can be channelled to the people who can't afford the cost. After all, nothing comes for free.

A positive outcome of the active involvement of the private sector is that a large number of people, who can afford to pay the cost, do get vaccinated, and thereby slowing down the spread of the coronavirus.


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Queue-jumping

Image courtesy: Pixabay

The post A Page from the Past by SG reminded me of an incident at a small neighbourhood store near my home. But before that, let me give you some context.

In India, while in big department stores customers queue up while checking out, in smaller shops, where customers ask an employee to get them what they want, there is no queue system.

The pandemic brought in some change, and customers queued up keeping some distance between one another. But then if there are just two or three people, they stand one beside the other, trying to get the attention of the storekeeper and be done with the shopping as soon as possible.   

So, when a new customer comes, the shopkeeper would ask him what he wants, even while the other customers are being attended to. Thus, some people, who have many items to be bought, end up being overtaken by customers who have just one or two articles to be purchased.

ONE VIEW

If you are wondering why the shopkeeper is allowing some people to jump the queue, he has a reason: why should someone who has just one item to be purchased be forced to wait until everyone who came before him (who probably might have many items in the purchase list) finished their shopping? 

Also, the shopkeeper risks losing such customers, who have just a single item to be bought; they might just move to another shop.

THE OTHER VIEW

How much ever logical that sounds, I remember my father, who was a stickler for discipline, hating this system. Even if he had just one item to be purchased, he would refuse to be attended to before people who came before him were. 

I have seen shopkeepers, finding that very odd. But then, that's how my father was, and because of this what he called "an unfair" system, he used to avoid such stores or shop at off-peak hours or go to a bigger department store where there is a queue system.

My father too had a reason, which we would understand if we are the ones who had to wait for a long time to go through our shopping because we were overtaken by a few others who came later. 

A bit of that trait has rubbed off on me as well. I get irritated when others jump the queue, or they are allowed to jump the queue. And, I feel guilty when I am allowed to jump the queue.

MULTITASKING AT ITS BEST

Recently, at home, we ran out of tea leaves. So, on my way back from the morning walk, I was at one of those smaller neighbourhood shops.

The shopkeeper, as usual, asked me what I wanted. But there was one other person already making some purchase. So, I told the shopkeeper to finish whatever he was doing. 

But then, he told me that the customer had four or five items and it would take some time. I said it's okay. Then the shopkeeper asked me again what I wanted. 

It didn't make sense anymore not to tell him what I wanted, or I should have left the shop. So I told him I needed a packet of tea leaves. And even while he was getting something for the other gentleman, he got me my packet. Multitasking at its best.

Though I felt bad about this queue-jumping, I sort of consoled myself that the person ahead of me didn't suffer any delay, since the shopkeeper was quite efficient, serving us both simultaneously.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Novak stops Rafa

Courtesy: Twitter/Roland Garros

I am yet to recover from the impact of last night's exhilarating, stratospheric level of tennis that two champions brought on to Court Philippe Chatrier.

To say that there has never been a match like this would not be quite accurate. But for sure there has never been one like this in the recent past.

The scoreline 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 doesn't say it all: the way world number one Novak Djokovic ended the reign of world number 3 and King of Clay Rafael Nadal.

What set this match apart were not just the shots that were played (every match has plenty of them) but more importantly the way they were all taken by each of the two players who covered the length and breadth of court in an exquisite display of athleticism, stamina and mental endurance. That's something that we don't find very often.

There were drop shots that sailed over tantalisingly close to the net, which drew in the opponent who took them, lobbed the ball back, but only to see the ball being brought back to play!

Novak, who had nothing much to lose here, was cool. 

Rafa on the other hand -- who has since 2005 played (till this one) 107 matches on this court and lost only two -- seemed to be weighed down by the burden of his past successes.

Nadal played some brilliant forehand down the line winners. But they weren't enough.

Rafa made 55 unforced errors and 8 double faults in comparison to 37 and 3 by Novak.

Rafa said this at the post-match press conference: “These kinds of mistakes can happen. But if you want to win, you can’t make these mistakes.”

But that is not to take away the credit Novak richly deserves. If there was one person who could get the better of Rafa it was only Novak, and he raised his game to a level that made it possible.

And Novak said after the match, "It was one of these matches you can remember forever. It was one of the top three matches in my life."

It's impossible to condense a match that lasted 4 hours 11 minutes into 6 minutes 31 seconds. That's what this highlights video is. Watch it. Better than nothing.

Just in case you would like to read the match report: on tennis.com and on BBC

O, I forgot the final of the French Open is yet to be played. That's tomorrow. Djokovic will take on Tsitisipas. 

And today evening is the women's final: two unlikely contenders: Barbora Krejcikova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Also forgotten yesterday were: 

one, the other semifinal in which Tsitsipas beat Zverev; 

two, Euro 2020 kickoff, the biggest sporting event after pandemic changed our lives; 

three, the second day's play of 2nd Test between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston; and

four, the second day's play of 1st Test between West Indies and South Africa at Gros Islet, WI.

Some welcome pleasant distraction in these times!

Friday, June 4, 2021

Naomi Osaka's exit and mental health

This is a long post. If you are familiar with the issue of top-ranking tennis star Naomi Osaka pulling out of the French Open this week citing mental health issues, you may skip the first part and scroll down.

Source: Yahoo Sport

Naomi Osaka is a 23-year-old Japanese tennis player. Her first big win came when she was 16 -- when she beat Samantha Stosur, a former US Open champion, in the Stanford Classic in 2014. 

She burst into the limelight less than three years ago, with a sensational victory over Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open. (I blogged about that match that became controversial for other reasons.)

Ever since that she has been doing extremely well in the game and is now among the top-ranked players in the world.

On May 27, in the runup to the ongoing French Open, she said she would not be taking questions from the media after her matches. 

That's one of the contractual obligations players sign into.

Her reason: Many of the reporters are insensitive. When a player has a lost a match they keep asking questions about that match which is akin to being kicked when one has fallen down. 

In a nutshell, she wasn't in a frame of mind to talk to the media.

Her decision was seen more like a refusal to play by the rules and a move to impose her personal views on the system.

On the opening day of the French Open on Sunday, May 30, Osaka got off to a winning start defeating unseeded Patricia Maria Tig of Romania, who has WTA singles ranking of 56, in straight sets: 6-4, 7-6.

But, Osaka boycotted the obligatory post-match media conference. She was fined $15,000 and was threatened with expulsion from the tournament and other Grand Slam matches if she continued to boycott the media interactions.

The very next day, she made the disclosure -- which stunned the tennis world -- that she was pulling out the French Open. She prefaced it with references to how she has been suffering from depression for the last three years.

WHAT WE KNOW

Naomi Osaka is known to be introverted, and nervous about facing crowds. 

During the 2018 US Open, which she won when she was just 20, she was loudly booed by the crowd, forcing her to tears.

That year she spoke about depression. "I am feeling depressed. I don't know why."

The next year, she said the media's focus on her and their questions were her biggest problems.

Every highly performing player -- who willy-nilly gets a celebrity status -- is under intense media glare. That's not easy to handle. 

The pressure to perform and win every match, especially when one is at the pinnacle, can be excruciating.

Players, especially as they climb up the ladder, have a battery of advisors and counsellors to guide and help them.

Big tennis organisations have their own facilities to address players mental issues.

It's the job of the media to ask questions, even if uncomfortable. One can request them to be sensitive and phrase them more appropriately. But it wouldn't be right to tell them not to ask questions.

Having said that, it's true media can be very insensitive. We have seen so many examples of how celebrities have been tormented by paparazzi.   

WHAT WE DON'T KNOW

Though Osaka has spoken about her mental pressures, it's not known if she had officially communicated it to the organisers. 

It's also not known if tennis organisations had taken note of her public statements and reached out to her with assistance.

Also, one doesn't know if the specific issue of "questioning by media" has been raised with the media themselves and organisations and discussed. 

WHEN IS FEELING LOW ACTUALLY DEPRESSION

One doesn't know. That's the whole problem.

There is no point in saying, why Osaka didn't talk about it earlier? We didn't know. That's true. But that's not her fault.

I don't think there is any person who hasn't felt low, down in the dumps, who has struggled to get up and get on with one's life ... 

When is that really a problem?

I have read articles, books and spoken to people who handle mental health issues. This is what I have understood.

Depression is an emotional issue. It's not a physical issue. Others can't see it. Others can't feel it.

The feeling of depression -- which is very common -- normally doesn't last too long. We are able to distract ourselves soon and carry on with our normal routine.

A rule of thumb is that if something unusual is so persistent as to disrupt the normal routine consistently, then it's an issue that needs attention.

That rule applies to the feeling of not being emotionally or mentally well. We don't really know, probably not even Osaka, when the issue has begun to affect her in a detrimental manner. 

OSAKA NEEDS SUPPORT

A mental scar is not like a physical scar. Unfortunately.

Players, when physically injured, pull out of matches. Just yesterday another top-ranking player Australia's Ashley Barti pulled out of the tournament because of a physical injury.

So in the same vein, if they aren't mentally well, or depressed, is it okay for them to pull out of matches or not fulfil contractual obligations?

Are sports tournaments more about matches or about talking to the media?

Is the ability to handle the media also a part of the celebrity package?

Surely there are issues, and something seems to be broken.

It's quite possible that so many players have felt like Osaka has, but they, for whatever reasons, never took a tough stand like she did. 

It's unfortunate that her feelings couldn't be addressed earlier in a more conciliatory manner.

WAITING FOR OSAKA TO BE BACK

It's never too late. She has expressed willingness to talk over the issues and sort things out.

Not just tennis, but other sports federations too must look at these contractual obligations and see if they are all fair to players, especially if there are aspects that are tied to mental health.

What matters most is on-court performance.

Noami Osaka is a gifted player. 

Tennis needs her. 

I hope she will be back on the courts soon. 

On the green lawns of Wimbledon.

Here's wishing her well.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

What wasn't intended happens, and that leads the life of an ambitious journalist, Ellis Reed, on a totally unexpected track.

The setting of this historical novel is the post-depression US of 1931. 

Ellis had taken a picture of two children standing beside a signboard that read "Children for Sale". He took the photo because what he saw triggered memories of his own dark past.

The photo reaches his boss who finds the picture newsy because it was symbolic of post-depression life in the US. He wants Ellis to do a story. 

There is a hitch though. (I won't reveal that.) But Ellis finally manages to write the story, which moves the conscience of everyone who read it. Ellis's career takes off in a spectacular fashion. 

But just the opposite happens to the two children whose photo appeared along with Ellis's article. 

Overcome by guilt, he launches himself on a quest to find the two children. 

Along with him is Lillian Palmer, the editor's secretary, who is also looking to become a journalist. An unwed mother, she can relate to the predicament of the two children, and also to the plight of Ellis.

The novel is all about the efforts that Ellis and Lillian undertake to find these children. 

It's also about the life during those days; lives of children who are with a mom who can't support them versus children, who are separated from mothers, living with rich families.

Author Kristina McMorris was prompted to write this story after seeing an actual signboard of children up for sale.

I liked the way Kristina has weaved the plots in the novel and the poignant manner in which she has been able to bring out the emotions that tug at the hearts of people who are struggling to simply live.

Since the main protagonist is a journalist, there are a lot of historical newsroom scenes in the novel, which I found quite interesting.

At times, the narrative is a bit long-drawn-out, but I really liked the book.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Is it, or is it not ... ?

A few weeks ago, one of my friends had a sore throat, occasional cough and he felt mildly feverish. He went to a doctor. 

While the physician diagnosed it as a case of pharyngitis, he advised my friend to undergo a PCR test for COVID-19. (That's almost the norm now.) The test returned a negative result.

With medication, his condition improved and he resumed his normal routine.

A few days ago, the occasional cough returned. 

So uncertain are our days and lives now that the seeming indications of some sort of problem with the respiratory tract sent the alarm bells ringing in the family, resulting in discussions on the need to call on a doctor again.

But my friend fended off the suggestions, citing lack of any other symptoms like fever or throat pain.

Don't take anything lightly these days, came the chorus of warning.

His nephew who is a doctor in the US got roped into the discussions and he asked his uncle to get a blood test done.

The results indicated two parameters above normal. Sensing something wrong, the doctor asked his uncle to get a CT scan of the lungs done.

The results came negative for COVID-19. But the doctor and his pulmonologist colleague found in the images of the lungs indications of very mild coronavirus infection.

Not leaving anything to chance, my friend is now under medication for COVID-19 and has isolated himself at home, with no symptoms other than an occasional dry cough.

He found his predicament very strange -- no COVID-19, but there is COVID-19!

This sums up the situation right now in India. Uncertainty, doubts, anxiety. 

Lack of any clarity on how the virus -- which seems to have a mind of its own -- behaves is only making matters worse.    

CT SCAN

People -- who have tested negative but are suspected to be infected, because they have some symptoms -- are asked to get a CT scan of the lungs done. This is a trend that has started this year. 

The proponents say a swab test result could be inaccurate because the annoying process of taking the samples from the throat and nasal tract makes the person move back resulting in the collection of an inadequate amount of sample.

They say if there is an infection, there will be tell-tale signs in the lungs which the scan unmistakably captures.

However, the exposure of the body to radiation isn't advisable, and doctors have been warning against indiscriminate use of CT scan to detect COVID-19.

But radiologists and many general practitioners feel the benefits outweigh the risk.

LOCKDOWN

Prime Minister Narendra Modi this year resisted demands -- from even Anthony Fauci -- for a national lockdown. Instead, he left the decision to individual state governments, saying the incidence of infection isn't uniform across the country.

Now almost all the states in India have some form of lockdown in place. And as a result of that, the numbers are steadily declining.

Here in Bengaluru, the lockdown was earlier scheduled to be lifted today. But it has now been extended for another two weeks, till June 7.

That's the only thing that is certain.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Back in British Council Library

The books and magazines borrowed from the British Library, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, have been a constant companion ever since my father got me a membership there, after my tenth grade.

Image courtesy: Pixabay
As I moved to cities like Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad and then Bangalore, where I am now, I transferred the membership.

Meanwhile, in 2008, the library in Thiruvananthapuram and many other cities shut down following a paucity of funds. There were some hopes that the one in Kerala would be revived. But the efforts didn't fructify.

BRITISH LIBRARY, BANGALORE

My father and I regularly used to visit the library here to sit and read for some time as well as borrow books. When it became difficult for my father to travel owing to old age, I alone went and borrowed books. 

Then, gradually -- around 10 years ago -- my visits too stopped for various reasons. One, time constraints owing to the heavy load of office work. 

Two, the range of books in the library began to dwindle as the centre focused more on students aiming to appear for various English language examinations like IELTS (International English Language Testing System). A good IELTS score is mandatory to take up courses in countries like Britain, Australia, New Zealand etc.

And thereby my membership expired.  

DIGITAL MEMBERSHIP

Recently, while scrolling through my Facebook timeline, I saw an advertisement of the British Council Library's digital membership. 

In no time I landed on this page and without any second thoughts I signed up for a membership. Annual fee: Rs 1,800.

I immediately received an email acknowledging the receipt of payment. It was followed by another mail mentioning my membership/card number and a link that took me to the library website.

In August of last year, British Council Library in 16 countries including India tied up with MyLOFT, a digital library platform.  

The email had also mentioned that I would soon receive an email from MyLOFT with instructions on setting up my digital library. Owing to some technical issues, I didn't get the email even after waiting for a few days. 

LIBBY

Quite impatient, I searched the British Council website to see how I can borrow books and magazines. It took me to the website of Overdrive, a Cleveland, Ohio-based company that distributes digital magazines, books and movies. 

One can access the Overdrive resources using a library card membership. I searched for "British Council", chose India, and it took me to the library website, where I entered my credentials.

However, to borrow and read books one has to either download the Libby app or go to the Libby website. It was done without any problems. 

And there I was back in the British Library. I felt so good browsing books and magazines. I couldn't find newspapers though. That's okay.

Strangely, I can keep a magazine for 21 days, but I can keep a book only for 7 days. Normally, I won't be able to finish a book that fast. I am not sure how many times I can extend the due date. I have to figure that out.

Currently, I am reading a historical novel Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. It's set in the early 1930s in depression-hit America, and one of the main characters is Ellis Reed, a newspaper journalist-photographer.

There are lots of good magazines - Time, Newsweek, Guardian Weekly, Readers Digest (various continent-specific editions), New Scientist, India Today etc. 

MYLOFT

A few days later, after reaching out to the library's customer service, I got a mail from MyLOFT. The digital library setting up process was a bit long-winded but managed to do it. 

The app is a bit more complicated than Libby, probably because it has access to a lot more resources of the library than Libby, because of the direct partnership both have. Unlike on Libby, here I can access IELTS material, research journals, watch movies etc as well. 

MyLOFT takes me to Press Reader where I can access thousands of newspapers from around the world. That was amazing! However, I am unable to access the Press Reader app via the British Library membership credentials. Reading the papers on the web wasn't a smooth experience.

So far so good. Unlike earlier, when I used to visit the library once or twice a month, now I am in the library even multiple times a day!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Stupid questions (Repost)

This is a post I wrote on December 13, 2004

This afternoon I went to the Barton Centre. (That's a commercial complex housing shops and offices on M G Road in Bangalore.)

As I was coming down the lift from the seventh floor, I overheard this conversation between two young women who were standing beside me.


(I have disabled comments here. Please key in your comments on the original blog post page.)

Monday, May 10, 2021

Movie - 10 Jours En Or

Image from Netflix

I recently watched this 2012 French comedy-drama, 10 Jours En Or (10 Golden Days). It's about the road trip of a man and a young boy that becomes a turning point in their lives. 

Marc Bajau's (played by Franck Dubosc) stressful job as a sales professional involves a lot of travelling. He is a carefree guy and indulges in one-night stands during his road trips. 

On one such occasion in a hotel, the woman he was with mysteriously disappears. Not only she is gone, but one of Marc's pair of shoes is also missing. 

There is a note in the other shoe that the missing shoe is in a particular room of the hotel. He goes there and finds a young boy, Lucas (Mathis Toure) with Marc's shoe.

(The preview is in French only, but the film has English subtitles)

Marc goes with Lucas looking for his mom. But not with any success. And he has no option but to take the kid along on his road trip. During his journey, he meets an elderly man, Pierre (Claude Rich) as well as a young woman, Julie (Marie Kremer). 

The journey changes the life of Marc as well as Lucas. 

Though the film packs a lot of funny moments during Marc's road trip, the underlying theme is a serious contemporary issue, which you will realise at the end.

Worth watching.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Pandemic facts and emotions

Everyone is trying to distract themselves. So I didn't want to do a post on this. But then the dominating theme has been -- for now almost one and a half years -- what else!

There have been numerous calls and messages asking us how we are doing. So far so good. Thanks. 

Well, as you might know, things aren't looking good in India. 

Here are some figures drawn from Worldometer, an independent research group based in the US. Figures are as of 1310 IST today.

India reported the maximum number of new cases in the world yesterday -- 355,828; followed by the US -- 39,767; Brazil -- 36,524; Turkey -- 24,73 and Iran -- 20,732. India is way ahead, and that says it all, why we are currently in the spotlight.

As of yesterday, the US had the most number of active cases at 6.7 million and India was the next with 3.4 million. Brazil, France and Iran followed. 

The fact that India is the second-most populous nation in the world with 1.39 billion people, after China with 1.43 billion, and ahead of the US with 332 thousand, gives a different perspective to the numbers.

In India, there are 14,573 people in one million who are infected in comparison to the global figure of 19,779. Slovenia has 116,336, the US 99,903, Sweden 95,903, and France 86,490.

WHY INDIA IS IN THIS STATE NOW

Before that, we must remember that every nation has suffered in the same way sometime over the past one and a half years. The only difference is the way governments have reacted at various stages.

Every nation has also gone through subsequent phases of the infection after its first encounter.

India registered its first case on Jan 29 last year. Daily fresh cases touched a peak of 97,570 on September 12, and it dipped to its lowest of 9,110 on February 9. (Source NDTV)

Like everywhere else in the world, here too people were waiting to clutch that thin straw of hope. And when it came within their reach, they did; in fact, they rushed into it, with a huge sigh of relief.

People rushed out to resume their "old normal" lives. Politicians declared victory. Everyone thought the worst was over and looked forward to the massive rollout of vaccination.

Except for one group of people. That was the scientists, doctors, epidemiologists, virologists etc. They warned of a possible second wave. They pointed to the variants that had surfaced in the UK, South Africa, Brazil etc., in addition to mutations happening within the country itself. 

They warned the people, and the state and central governments not to let the guard down. 

But to no avail.

People, with and without masks, began crowding public places. Cinemas allowed full occupancy. Buses and most of the train services resumed.

Campaigning for State assembly elections in five states and one Union territory went on as if nothing had happened in the world.

So we are back to square one, in a really bad state, battered and bruised.

STRANGE GOVERNMENT LETHARGY

We all knew India's medical/infrastructure won't be able to cope if there is a massive explosion of cases. That precisely was the reason why the Prime Minister ordered a national lockdown last year. 

National lockdown did hurt the economy and people's lives. So that's next to the last option now.

But there were many alternatives -- like local/ district/ regional lockdowns depending on the number of cases. 

And, everyone missed the point about the supply chain of medical oxygen to hospitals. That's at the crux of the oxygen crisis, mainly in Delhi, but in other states as well.

But for some strange reason, the sense of seriousness or urgency, which was evident last year, is sadly this year.

EMOTIONAL DRAIN

Most of the families in India are grieving because someone they know -- a blood relation, a friend or an acquaintance -- has left too soon or is in a hospital.

Last year, when there was a national lockdown, without any warning, the abiding images were of migrant workers left in the lurch, of them walking all the way to their homes.

This year, when there is no lockdown, the abiding images are of long queues of ambulances and mass cremations and burials.

There have been criticisms of the media showing these images. But then that's the reality.

All the news media are full of distressing information. Most people are not following the blow-by-blow account of the deteriorating situation. 

Bengaluru, where I am, is in the midst of a two-week lockdown. The situation is bad but the medical infrastructure is holding up somehow. The lockdown will end on May 12, if there is an improvement in the situation.

I hope we have learned lessons from the mistakes, and the government and the people will not let their guard down, at the slightest sign of improvement in the situation.

Friday, April 30, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Zoomcar

This is the last in the month-long series -- Blogging from A to Z April Challenge -- one post a day, except the four Sundays. I was posting on features related to my current place of residence, Bengaluru, formerly called by its anglicised version Bangalore. 

A big thank you for stopping by and keying in your comments. I'll follow up on the blogs and posts that I have missed as we get on the road trip from tomorrow. 

See you soon! And take care!

Zoomcar is the first self-drive car rental company in India. It was founded in Bengaluru in 2013, not by Indians, but by two Americans, David Back and Greg Moran. It's like the Zipcar services in the US.

That was a time when many Indians, who had gone to the US for studies and then worked for some time there, were returning home with entrepreneurial dreams and founded startups. 

One of the early examples was Anshuman Bapna, who did his MBA from Stanford, later quit his job with Google in New York, and moved back to Bengaluru to start Mygola, a travel planner in 2009. 

Mygola in a few years was doing so well that some of the world's biggest venture capitalists like Blumberg Capital and Helion Venture Partners were pumping in money. After six years Mygola was acquired by Makemytrip and all its employees moved to the new firm.

Even Americans were moving to India to set up companies, and among them were David Back and Greg Moran, who had met at the University of Pennsylvania from where they graduated. 

This what David Back had to say in a programme on PBS in 2014.

You know, it's being separated from our parents. For me, it's being– separated from my girlfriend for a year and a half. I think that's the real opportunity cost. It's still worth it, though. The scale of the opportunity here, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Greg Morga said:

I mean, we are still young. We're both under 30. We're not married. But we were very fortunate in the fact that for us at least, it was the perfect time in our lives.

Two years later, David Back resigned from the firm and returned to the US.

Zoomcar started with seven cars and now they operate in 28 cities with over 6,500 cars, with an average of around 3,000 rides daily. 

There are many other players too: like Driezy, Carzonrent, Ola Drive etc. But Zoomcar is pinning its hopes high. In this interview last week, Greg Morgan says:  

We are already seeing a 400% rise in demand and we expect this to settle down at 200-300% over the next few months. People are now looking for shorter-term mobility access as opposed to a long-term investment. As people would avoid public transport to keep themselves safe from contracting the virus, the need for rental cars will only go up.

(This concludes the A2ZChallenge.)

Thursday, April 29, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Y2K Bug

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Remember the madness, 21 years ago?

For the uninitiated, we are referring to the presumed computer glitch that sent the world into a tizzy in the run-up to the dawn of 2000.

The fear was that everything that is connected to a network of computers -- like banks, flight schedules, even actual flights, railway networks, all types of factory operations, telecom networks, etc. -- would grind to a halt immediately after the midnight of December 31, 1999.

The basis for this fear was that in computer programs, the year was represented by the last two digits. Like, 94 for 1994, 99 for 1999 etc. When the new millennium would dawn, after 99 it would be 00. Computers, it was feared, would read it as the year 1900. And also, 00 is not one more than 99, and that would disrupt all calendar-related operations.

There were many other software-related issues too. And all those gave rise to a huge global industry trying to reformat dates and calendar data. 

An electronic signboard in France
incorrectly displaying 2000 as 1900
Courtesy: Bug de l'an 2000 
In the late 1990s, big Indian companies like Infosys, Wipro (both Bengaluru-headquartered), TCS etc swung into action to make various systems -- of their Indian as well as their global clients -- Y2K compliant. 

A number of small companies came up in Bengaluru cashing in on the huge global opportunity. Education entrepreneurs jumped into the fray and offered 
short-term courses on this unique problem. 

Companies in the US and Europe turned to India, and in a way that set the stage for the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry. 

"Besides the war room in Bangalore, Infosys set up similar Y2K rooms in Fremont, Calif., and Boston and posted coordinators in Europe and Japan to resolve Y2K issues sent to Infosys by its clients," says this article in Computer World.

According to this paper by Devesh Kapur and Ravi Ramamurti, "By 2000, India's software sector's output had grown to $8 billion and exports had risen to $6.2billion ... The US accounted for nearly 60% of India's software exports, followed by Europe with 23.5% and Japan with just 3.5%."

Of course, nothing of those fears came true. Though there might have been a few cases of not much significance where computers miscalculated the date change.

(Tomorrow, the last post in this series)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - XIME

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

When one thinks of a course in management studies, it's the reputed federal government-owned IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) that has multiple campuses in the country that come to mind. But there are many others in the private sector.

One of them is Xavier Institute of Management & Entrepreneurship. Next month on the 28th, it completes 30 years of its inception. From the day when eight founders met at the residence of Bangalore's Archbishop to take the first steps of setting up the institution, it has come a long way. 

They started off in a small building measuring 3,000 sqft within the St. Martha’s Hospital premises in Bangalore. Now they operate out of 165 thousand sqft campus in Electronics City. The second campus came up in Kinfra Tech Park in Kochi and the third one in Oragadam in Chennai. XIME says they are "the biggest private-sector B-School in South India".

Bengaluru is also a major educational hub. It was the Wadiyar family rulers in the 19th century who introduced Western education which then supplemented the existing schools run by religious leaders. Among the earliest institutions are Bangalore University set up in 1886 and University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering founded in 1917. 

An all-India survey conducted by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2018 said Bengaluru had the most number of colleges in the country, at 893. In 2nd place was Jaipur with 558 colleges.

(Tomorrow, we look at a strange computer glitch that sent Bengaluru into an overdrive) 



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Wadiyar family

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

This is a feudal dynasty that ruled the kingdom of Mysore from 1399 when it was founded by Yaduraya Wadiyar. 

From 1399 to 1565, Wadiyars ruled Mysore as vassals of the Vijayanagar Empire. Then from 1565 to 1761, they ruled independently. 

From 1761 to 1796, they ruled under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. From 1799 to 1947 they were under the British crown.

In 1947, when India became independent, the princely state acceded to the Indian union (to become the Mysore State). 

The Mysore Palace, the home of Wadiyars.
Image courtesy: Mysore Palace.
The website has a virtual tour of the palace

However, the then ruler Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar continued as the Maharaja until India became a republic and monarchy was abolished in 1950. 

He officially continued with the title of Maharaja until 1971 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi abolished the royal titles and privy purse of over 560 maharajas across the country. The current head of the family is Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja, since 2015.

Dasara festival in October is a major event in Mysore, and it was started by Raja Wodeyar I who ruled the kingdom as an independent ruler from 1578 to 1617.

Needless to say, the Wadiyar family over centuries contributed significantly to every aspect of Mysore: administration, education, health infrastructure, irrigation, electricity etc. 

They played a key role in social reformation movements like the abolition of child marriage, and encouraging widows to remarry. Music, both Indian and Western, enjoyed great patronage from the dynasty.

Monday, April 26, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Visvesvaraya

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya (1860 - 1962), or more popularly just Visvesvaraya or Sir MV, is among the most renowned civil engineers of India. 

(Mokshagundam is a village in present-day Andhra Pradesh, but he was born in Muddenahalli on the outskirts of Bangalore.)

We are told that he was a man of very few words immersing all his time in academic and scholarly pursuits. 

Courtesy: News18
It's best illustrated by an anecdote from his 100th birthday celebrations in Bangalore in 1960. (He lived for another two years.)

At the function, apparently, speaker after speaker heaped praises on him. And when his turn to speak came, he just said, "Thank you."

This is how the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru described him in his centenary tribute: “Dreamer, thinker, and a man of action, not lost in the past but always thinking of the future, living an integrated life, bringing into existence and giving shape to dreams not for himself but for India and the people of India”.

He was also the 19th Diwan (an equivalent of prime minister) of Mysore from 1912 to 1919.

Sir MV with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
Courtesy: Deccan Herald

He steered several irrigation projects that not only helped provinces fight flooding during rains but also utilise water efficiently. His counsel was sought for the building of dams in various states, including Mysore's Krishna Raja Sagara dam.

While he was in the administration of Mysore, he pioneered the setting up of a slew of institutions from banks and schools to factories. Like for example, Bangalore Agricultural University, the State Bank of Mysore, Mysore Soap Factory, Mysore Iron & Steel Works (presently Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Limited), University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering, etc.

He received the Knight Commander of the Indian Empire from King George V in 1915, while he was the Diwan of Mysore. 

Many educational and engineering institutions are named after him and his birthday, September 15, is celebrated as Engineers' Day.

(Tomorrow, again we go back in time to look at something historical)

Saturday, April 24, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Ulsoor

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

I moved to Bengaluru in 1999 from Hyderabad. Before that, I had been to this city only a few times for job interviews and as a part of college outings.

Ulsoor was the first locality in this city I got familiar with because in its neighbourhood was a friend with whom I stayed initially. An uncle and family too lived nearby.

Right on the next day of my arrival, I went to the Ulsoor Post Office to send a letter to my parents back in Kerala. (Those days, I used to post letters, most often postcards, twice a week, usually Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday, just to let them know I am doing well. My dad also used to write to me twice a week.)

Ulsoor Lake. Courtesy: The Hindu

Ulsoor is also one of those very old areas of the city developed in the early 16th century during the rule of Kempegowda, the founder of the city. There is the Ulsoor Lake -- one of the largest in the city spanning over 120 acres -- built by his successor Kempegowda II. Nearby there is a park, a jogging track, a swimming pool and facilities for rowing.  

This area abuts the Cantonment the British developed. Even now, there are many Indian Army establishments in Ulsoor and its neighbourhood. The Madras Sappers Museum and Archives at the MEG (Madras Engineering Group) Centre is a rich treasure house of history going back to nearly two centuries.

There is a typical old-style market where one can get anything from clothes to books to provisions to household articles, especially traditional ones.

There are many cultural associations and Ulsoor is a hub of different religious festivities. On the banks of the Ulsoor Lake is the magnificent Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara.

The area underwent considerable change in its topography when the metro rail came up. There is a metro station at Ulsoor on the Pink Line that runs from the east to the west of the city.

(On Monday, it's about one of the most celebrated engineers of Karnataka.)

Friday, April 23, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Texas Instruments

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

This Dallas, Texas-headquartered semiconductor firm is just one of the big electronics and IT companies in the world that have offices here. 

But I thought of including it in this series because of not just the alphabet but it is also the first multinational company to set up a software division in India, way back in 1985 in Bengaluru. 

Many think this set the pace for the city specifically and India in general to become an information technology powerhouse.

Apparently, there was a lot of criticism regarding TI's decision to set up a full-fledged software R&D centre in India in those times when the nation's political, economic, social landscape didn't even have the faintest resemblance to what it is today.

One of those abiding images from those days is of everything from satellite dishes to servers being transported to TI's Bangalore office in bullock carts! (Photo below) The satellite dish helped the company to have a 24-hour communication network with its Dallas headquarters, something inconceivable in those days.

Photo courtesy: Deccan Herald

In an interview with The Times of India in 2010, the silver jubilee of TI coming to India, Bobby Mitra, then president and managing director, who was among the first recruits, on being asked why the firm chose Bangalore, said: 

One reason was the science and engineering institutions. We wanted to collaborate with public sector units which were the important companies of the time. ... They were building electronic systems. We worked very closely with them and many of them have over time launched very sophisticated and innovative systems.

(By the way, in 1991 -- a couple of years after the Berlin Wall was broken down and the USSR crumbled -- India, which then had a minority centre-left Congress government, in a pathbreaking move, allowed large-scale privatisation of the economy.)

After Texas Instruments came in, a slew of multinational companies followed suit. Now of course every big IT company in the world has an office in India, and some of them are the biggest outside their home country.

(Tomorrow, we visit one of the oldest localities in Bengaluru, also the area I lived in first when I moved into the city in 1999).

Thursday, April 22, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Someshwara Temple

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

This is one of those very old temples in Bengaluru, dating back to the Chola era, and is located in Halasuru (formerly called Ulsoor), within the CBD. 

The Chola Dynasty is considered to be one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the world -- from 3BC to the AD 13 century.

Not much is known about the origins of this temple where Lord Shiva is the deity. Most people say it was built by Kempe Gowda, who is considered the founder of this city sometime in the early 16th century, during the Vijayanagar empire period. But it's generally believed that it has been there for many centuries before that.  

The temple has impressive pillars, carvings and inscriptions. Here are some photos sourced from Wikipedia.

Temple entrance.
Courtesy: Dineshkannambadi/Wikipedia 

Inside the temple.
Courtesy: Dineshkannambadi/Wikipedia

The pillars.
Courtesy: Dineshkannambadi/Wikipedia

(Tomorrow, we look at one of the major IT companies, which has a bit of historical significance associated with it.)


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Raagi Mudde

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

This is perhaps one of the simplest meals and very popular in Karnataka, and parts of Andhra Pradesh. Raagi is finger millet and mudde is a lump.

It's made by adding water to finger millet flour and steam cooked and later rolled into soft lumps. Though it sounds simple apparently you need some experience to get the right consistency for the mixture.

With good content of fibre, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron, it is considered quite nutritious and is commonly had as a wholesome meal along with some curry like sambar or chutney.

It's claimed that it helps in controlling diabetes, anaemia, improving bone density, etc.

Interestingly, this was once considered "the poor man's breakfast cereal" but now is a very popular dish across social strata.

There are plenty of websites that tell you how to make it. A couple of them are this and this


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - QSRs

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Quick Service Restaurants. That's the food industry term for what is popularly called fast food joints.

They are of course not unique to Bengaluru. They are all over the world -- the likes of KFC, McDonald's, Subway, Burger King, etc.

There now numerous Indian versions of these that can be found wherever there is a good gathering of people. Some of them are big chains but a vast majority of them are very small outlets doing business in only a particular area. 

The first QSR in India arguably came up in Bengaluru, long before the city transformed itself into a crowded metropolis. 

An entrepreneur named Prabhakar R -- who got inspired by the fast-food chains during his trips abroad -- incorporated the QSR model at his brother-in-law's Cafe Darshini in Jayanagar in south Bengaluru in 1983, says this article in The Times of India.


It later closed down and then came the Upahara Darshini. The word Darshini later became synonymous with fast food joints in Bengaluru. So we have Indira Darshini, Amrutha Darshini, Vaibhav Darshini, Ganesha Darshini, etc.

Ever since that there has been a revolution of sorts in the Darshini sector, especially from the late 1990s, when the IT boom struck the city. And now there are many that don't have the word Darshini in the name of the restaurant.

The menu in a Darshini is a vegetarian fare -- generally, idli, dosa, vada, upma and other rice or wheat-based dishes, plus tea or coffee; and they are served quickly and are very affordably priced. 

Most of them have very limited seating capacity, and you will have to have the food standing at a table that is shared by others. 

It is also a sort of social leveller as one can find people from all social strata at a Darshini, quickly grabbing a bite and moving on.

(Tomorrow, we look at a very popular wholesome meal.)

Monday, April 19, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Palace, Pete, Pensioners' Paradise

This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Before I start today's post, I must thank everyone who has been not only reading all my posts but also taking the effort to key in interesting and elaborate comments.

I must also tender an apology for one, not being able to acknowledge all their comments and two, not being able to make a return visit to all their posts; and even if I have, not being able to post a comment. I hope you would understand that this month has been really hectic.   

The city has a massive palace too to boast of. The huge 45,000 square feet mansion belongs to the Wadiyar family, the erstwhile rulers of Mysore. The Bangalore Palace is one of the major tourist attractions of the city and it has an interesting history. 

The property was bought by Chamarajendra Wadiyar X, the 23rd maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore in 1873 from Rev J Garrett, principal of the Central High School, now known as Central College.

(The following three photos were taken by me when I took my friends from England and Germany to the Palace in 2014.)

The maharaja was then a minor, and he used to come to Bangalore for various training activities in the run-up to his ascension to power in 1881. The property was refurbished into a palace for him to stay during his Bangalore sojourn.

REGAL SPLENDOUR

The 35-bedroom mansion was built in Tudor Revival style architecture. There is an open courtyard, a ballroom, and a durbar hall, where the king used to address the assembly, besides a number of articles and furniture used by the members of the royal family. The interiors are adorned with highly artistic lamps of various sizes and shapes, and the walls sport many paintings.

Here's a description of the palace by Late Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, 26th head of the erstwhile royal family and a former member of Indian parliament, in an interview in 2007.

My great grandfather lived in the South-West wing of the palace and my father lived in the North-East wing. I also grew up in the rooms on the first floor in the Northern-Eastern wing.

Standing in the heart of the city, near Vasanthnagar, the palace is a regal slice of medieval England and its architecture. The structure has fortified towers and its interiors embellished with elegant wood carvings and Tudor-style architecture, complete with aesthetic Gothic windows, battlements and turrets. The interiors have awesome floral motifs, cornices, moulding and relief paintings on its ceiling.

MUSIC CONCERTS

Near the mansion is what is now known as the Palace Grounds, which is a popular venue for cultural programmes. There is an amusement park called Fun World here.

A number of famous international music bands have performed here, like Iron Maiden (2007), Black Eyed Peas (2007), BoneyM (2008) Backstreet Boys (2010), and Lamb of God (2010). 

The performance by Metallica in 2011 was the last musical event in Palace Grounds as the government shifted such mega concerts to the outskirts of the city.

PETE AREA

On another side of Bengaluru is one of the oldest commercial areas, the Pete, which means market in Kannada, the regional language of Karnataka of which Bengaluru is the capital.

It refers to a large swathe of land set up and developed by Kempegowda, a chieftain of the Vijayanagara empire, who is widely believed to have founded the city in 1537.

It ran 2.5 km from east to west (called Surya beedi or what is now the Chickpet Road) and 1.5 km from north to south (Chandra beedi or what is now the Avenue Road). It was protected by a mud fort wall and a deep trench around the perimeter.

The Pete was divided into many smaller areas known by different names depending on what was predominantly traded. For example, Akkipet (rice market), Cottonpet (cotton market), Kumbarpet (clay/pot traders), Upparpet (salt traders) etc. (The -pete suffix has got anglicised to -pet.)

Chickpet last year soon after it was reopened
after the lockdown. Courtesy: The News Minute 

After the Kempegowda rule, came the Adil Shahis of Bijapur and then Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan of Mysore. During this time, Pete suffered from a lack of attention and finally lost out to the Cantonment set up by the British.

With gradual urbanisation, the mud walls and trenches around the Pete vanished. 

According to Dr S K Aruni, Deputy Director of the Indian Council for Historical Research, Bengaluru, in an article in The Hindu, "Amazingly, all the houses of the old capital town are now shops or commercial establishments. Nowhere else in South India can such an example be found of an entire old city being converted into a commercial area."

Even today, in a sense, Bengaluru continues to be a commercial hub, trading in everything related to the ubiquitous Information Technology.

PENSIONERS' PARADISE

This is one of the many sobriquets for the city. That's because of the salubrious climate the city has, owing to its unique geographical location: somewhat halfway between the east and west coast on the Deccan Plateau, at an altitude of 920 meters above sea level.

That combined with the extremely quiet, laidback pace the city had made it an attractive destination for many people post-retirement. 

However, since the late 1990s, the city has rapidly transformed into a fast-growing burgeoning metropolis with concrete structures chipping away at the greenery the city was always known for. 

In spite of this, the city is still a very popular destination for students, various professionals, entrepreneurs, besides, of course, tourists and senior citizens.

(Tomorrow, we turn to food again.)