Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Maharaja is back home

When a government decides to privatise something it owns, there is usually lots of protests from different quarters. 

Among the fears are that either it will go to wrong hands who will mismanage it or it will turn into an elite establishment accessible only to the wealthy.

Last week, when India government finally completed the privatisation process of its national airline -- Air India -- there were hardly any murmurs of disapproval. On the contrary, it was sort of a celebration! 

The primary reason: the airline has now gone back to its original owner -- the Tata group, a company founded in 1869, by a Parsi entrepreneur named Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata. 

The cost: ₹18,000 crore or around $2,387 million.

The Maharaja is Air India's mascot.

The famous Amul butter advertisement said it the best:

(Amul butter is arguably the most famous in that category and the ad campaign - like the one above - that plays on words, has been running since 1967 pegged on current events, and is very popular.)

As a government enterprise, Air India hasn't been able to keep up with the cut-throat competition in the private sector, and it is in the red. 

I think on various counts the Tata Group is the most successful Indian company. We will get to that in some other post.

Suffice to say that they have been around for as long as 152 years and they have a presence in such a diverse portfolio of products and services -- from salt, steel and software to jewellery, hospitality and aviation, and more!

Hopefully, the Tatas will be able to nurse the airline back to the glorious days. 

ONCE THE BEST IN THE WORLD

Air India was founded in 1932 by J R D Tata (Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata), the 4th chairman of the Tata Group.

Tata was the first person in India to get a pilot's licence, and he flew India's first aircrft. It transported mails during the British time, and later began India's first passenger flights.

Air India was born as Tata Air Services which was renamed later as Tata Airlines. In 1947, soon after Independence, the government acquired 49% of stakes and in 1953, the airline was fully nationalised.

With the airline flying to international destinations, it was not just a company growing its business, it was also the image of India abroad, as Tata saw it. 

The legend has it that Tata, a perfectionist, got on to the flights, and looked closely at the reactions of the passengers and took down notes. He then passed them on to the staff appreciating them or pointing out areas that need improvement. 

He didn't want any complaints from the passengers, and he didn't want any airline that was better than Air India in the world. And he achieved that to a great extent.

J R D INTERVIEW 

In the 1980s, Rajiv Mehrotra ran a very popular interview programme on the national broadcaster Doordarshan. (India in those didn't private TV channels, the only channel was the government one.)

One of the interviewees was J R D Tata. Here it is. 44 minutes long.



In those days, Tata Steel brought out a series of very popular TV jingles titled "We also make steel". It spoke a lot about how the company saw itself. Here it is: 


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Visit to Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad

We were in Ahmedabad for 6 years - from 1990 to 1996. It was one of the most memorable periods in my life.

After 19 years, in March 2015, we were back in that city for a few days' visit.

We caught up with our friends; went back to the place where we had stayed; and to the streets from where we used to shop.

We also went to the Lucky Restaurant in Mirzapur. It hadn't changed much.

They had the very same popular maska bun and tea. (Maska is butter; and bun is a small thick roll of bread. The bun is sliced, and served with butter and jam inside.)

The same taste. The same ambience. So reminiscent of those good old days!

GANDHI JAYANTI

Yesterday was Gandhi Jayanti (birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi). He born 152 years ago, on the 2nd of October 1869.

During our visit to Ahmedbad, we went to Sabarmati Ashram, the serene enclave on the banks of the Sabarmati River, which was Gandhi's home from 1917 to 1930 -- the most significant period in India's freedom struggle.

(Ashram is a religious or monastic retreat. Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, where he worked as a lawyer, in 1915. India became independent in 1947.)

Yesterday, we remembered our visit to Sabarmati Ashram. Here are some photos taken during the visit to the ashram.

Sabarmati River, on the banks of which is the ashram.

Hriday Kunj


Gandhi's work place

Gandhi's wife Kasturba's room

If you would like to know more about Sabarmati Ashram, here is the link.

The webiste has a virtual tour of the ashram.

There is a video tour on the Ashram's Youtube channel.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Une surprise / A surprise

(English translation is at the end.)

De nos jours, il fait très froid la nuit. C’est parce qu’il pleut. Aujourd’hui, il a beaucoup plu.

Bengaluru a deux saisons des pluies – de juin à septembre et novembre - décembre.

Parfois, il y a le tonnerre et la foudre.

Quand il pleut, on ne peut pas sortir. C’est très ennuyeux!

Aujourd’hui, j'étais chez moi.. J’ai cuisiné, regardé la télé, envoyé des e-mails, et nettoyé ma chambre.

L’après-midi, il y avait une surprise – j’ai reçu un paquet en ligne via Amazon.

Immédiatement, je l’ai ouvert. C’était un cadeau de mon ami – la biographie de Roger Federer!

J’étais très heureux, et je l’ai appelé pour le remercier.

Il m’a dit : « J’ai vu ce livre en Amazon. Je sais que tu aimes beaucoup Federer, et tu n’as pas ce livre. Alors, j’ai décidé de te l’offrir. »

C’est très gentil, et j’ai dit : « merci beaucoup! »

===============

Nowadays, it's very cold at night. It's because it rains. Today, it rained a lot.

Bengaluru has two rainy seasons - from June to September and November - December. Sometimes, there is thunder and lightning.

When it rains, we can't go out. It's very boring.

Today, I was at home. I cooked, watched television, sent some emails, and cleaned my room.

In the afternoon, there was a surprise - I received a packet online via Amazon.

Immediately, I opened it. It was a gift from my friend -- Roger Federer's biography!

I was very happy and I called to thank him. 

He said, "I saw the book on Amazon. I know you like Federer a lot, and that you don't have that book. So, I decided to gift it to you."

How sweet of him! I said, "Thank you, so much!"


 


Friday, September 24, 2021

New lease of life with double lung transplant

(This post is a part of the monthly We Are The World Blogfest that goes out on the last Friday of every month to highlight the positive stories around us. On Facebook and on Twitter.)

In the midst of all the Covid-triggered gloom and doom, there are happy stories too, of people who have battled their way out.

One such is from here in Bengaluru, that of Dr Sanath Kumar, a 30-year-old anaesthetist, who contracted Covid on May 8 this year, while working with patients at a hospital.

His condition deteriorated to acute lung damage, and he had to be put on mechanical ventilation. Doctors determined that there was no option but to go in for a 'double lung transplant'.

They waited for a suitable match, while Dr Kumar's life was sustained by connecting him to an ECMO (Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), which is a machine that does the work of the lungs and the heart.

He was on ECMO support for four weeks before a suitable match was eventually found, and the transplant was done on June 21.

After a three-month-long recuperation, he was discharged from the hospital on the 16th of this month.

This is what Dr Sanath Kumar said:  “When I tested positive and started taking medicines, I thought I would recover soon. I had never imagined that my health would deteriorate so much and end up having a lung transplant.”

Incidentally, in December last year, a patient from Haryana, whose lung function had similarly deteriorated because of Covid survived for as long as 53 days on ECMO, that's almost two months, at a hospital in Hyderabad, before doctors there could do a double lung transplant on him. 

Apparently, this is the longest duration of ECMO support for a lung-impaired patient in India.

Source:

The Hindu, India Today, Pixabay

Monday, September 20, 2021

Visit to a bank

Image courtesy: Pixabay

Recently I went to a bank to clarify some doubts regarding closing a second account I have with them.

It is a salary account, which was opened when I was working at a different office. That account is now practically inactive because there is no money coming into it now.

At the bank, I explained to the executive the doubts I had about closing that account. She didn't have all the answers and consulted one of her colleagues. 

Meanwhile, she had a look at my other account (not the one I wanted to close) and suggested that I open a fixed deposit. 

(Money in a fixed deposit account earns a slightly higher rate of interest, depending on the duration of the deposit, compared to the normal savings bank account.)

I was a bit taken aback by that suggestion since I was at the bank to resolve an issue and not to open a fixed deposit account.

I told her that there's not much money in that account to make opening a fixed deposit worthwhile. 

But her argument was: even if it is not much money, why do you want to let it just lie there? Why don't you move it to an account that will get you more interest?

I said I would think over it, and that if I needed to open one, I shall do that myself later at home, at my convenience, via internet banking. 

I also quickly reminded her if her colleague could make any progress with the doubts that I had. She said her colleague was busy and that I would have to wait for five minutes. 

I said that's fine, and that I am in no hurry.

Meanwhile, she broached the topic of the fixed deposit again. But this time, she was more upfront.

"I will get some points if I open a fixed deposit for a customer," she said with a smile.

What she was referring to was: every account she gets opened would fetch her a point, which might help her at the time of periodic performance assessment, and who knows, if she is really successful, she might even win an award!

I thought for a moment. Anyway, it wouldn't entail any loss for me. If at all, it would only be some small gain by way of interest for that pittance I have in that account.

She was evidently pleased with my acquiescence and enthusiastically went through the process of opening my fixed deposit.

So, what about closing that account, for which I come to the bank? 

Well, that didn't happen. Because I was told that I have to sort out some other related issues before I can close it. Maybe in a couple of weeks, it'll be done.

I exited the bank with a sort of satisfaction that it wasn't an altogether wasted effort. If not mine, someone else's work got done.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Djokovic's dream crumbles

Source: US Open/Twitter

(This is a continuation of yesterday's post)

As I had planned, yesterday I went to bed early, kept the alarm for 5 am, to catch the final moments of the Novak Djokovic - Daniiel Medvedev match.

My hope was it would be an intense battle between the two, which would stretch well beyond three hours.

When the alarm rang, I checked the BBC Sports app, to see how the match was progressing. 

The match was over! Medvedev, the new US Open Champion.

I went back to sleep. I only wanted to know how quickly Djokovic capitulated.

MEDVEDEV SHOW

I watched the highlights, first thing in the morning. 

The 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 match of the Grand Slam Final lasted a mere 2 hours 15 mins. That's just 24 minutes more than the two sets of the women's final yesterday! I couldn't believe that! 

It was a one-sided game - but for a change, it wasn't Novak who was hogging the limelight.

The Serbian -- who had said a few days ago that he would play the final as if it was the last match of his career in order to achieve the goal of the Calendar Slam -- was a pale shadow of his former self. His body language, for some reason, wasn't of one who was gunning for a historic title. 

It's quite possible that he got weighed down by his own expectations. Medvedev, who had nothing to lose, just let his game flow. And he was brilliant. He had the ball fully under his control. 

Especially when moved to the net, he clearly knew where to land the ball. Each of those passing shots and drop shots was exquisitely timed and placed. Djokovic looked simply stranded. 

The numbers bear out what played out. Novak had 38 unforced errors. Though Daniiel too was off the mark with 31 unforced errors, he had 38 winners in comparison to 27 of Novak. Russian sent down 16 aces, while the Serbian had just 6.

WHY MEDVEDEV HAD TO WIN THE CUP

If it was Calendar Slam that drove Djokovic, it was something else that motivated Medvedev. Watch the video below:

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The New York fairytale teen party

Emma Raducanu
Source: US Open/Twitter

I am glad I stayed up late in the night, till 4 am this early morning. It was a sheer joy to watch some high-class, scintillating tennis. 

The US Open Women's Singles final -- between Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez -- was a class apart.

A straight-set victory needn't be a one-sided damp squib. The 6-4 6-3 scoreline doesn't say it all. Till the final moments of the second set, there was not more than a lead of 2 games for either of them. 

That just indicates how close the match progressed. No wonder these two sets took almost two hours, 1 hour 51 mins, to be precise.  

Leylah Fernandez
Source: US Open/Twitter

AN UNUSUAL FINAL 

When we think of the final of any tournament, what comes to mind are senior players. Because we think it's the seniors who are more experienced, and therefore they automatically have a higher level of skillsets.

Here we had two teenagers -- Emma Raducanu born on the 13th of November 2002, and Leylah Fernandez born on the 6th of September 2002. (Yesterday was 9/11, and when 9/11 happened they weren't even born.)

Both were born in Canada. Their mothers are both Asian.

Emma's parents are Ian from Romania and Renee from China. Leylah's father is Jorge from Ecuador and her mother is Irene from the Philippines.

Emma's family moved to England when she was two.

TENNIS AT ITS BEST

Yesterday was the culmination of the fairytale progress of two remarkable tennis players.

Leylah Fernandez's route to the final was probably more impressive. Among those she beat were Osaka, Kerber and Sabalenka. But there were many three-setters and tie-breaks. 

Contrast that with Emma Raducanu's route: Bencic and Sakkari were among the players she beat. But she didn't drop a set. All straight sets. No tiebreaks. 6-4 margin was the closest.

Yet, either of the two teenagers could have been holding the trophy, but Emma took her unbelievable dream run, which she has been having over the last three weeks, to its logical conclusion. 

Both rallied. Both held serves. Both broke as well. 

Neither gave the other the wide margin that would have made the match very predictable. 

Forehand and backhand crosscourt shots sent the opponent scurrying from one end to the other. Some were taken. The others ended up as top-class winners. 

Either way, it was tennis at its best.

ONE JARRING MOMENT THOUGH

The most crucial and exciting bit was at the end of the 2nd set, with Emma at 5-3 short of just a game to become the champion.

From 0-15 down, she moved up 30-30. She served. Leylah returned cross-court. Emma sent it back cross-cross again. 

Then, Leylah sent one down the line, forcing Emma to run to the left to take it. But she slid, legs bent.

She scraped her left knee on the ground but recovered quickly to rush to the other end and take the shot. But that went long, much to her disappointment. 

That got Leylah ahead, 30-40, just one point away from getting a breakpoint. 

Source: ABC (Australia)

Emma found that her knee was bleeding. She said later at the press conference that she wanted to play on lest it would break her rhythm. But the umpire, on probably seeing blood oozing, said the play had to stop.

As her team got to cleaning the wound and plastering the cut, at the other end, Leylah thought her rival was taking an unjustifiably long break. She complained to the umpire, and it went on for a while. 

Source: ABC (Australia)

Quite possible that Leylah didn't know the extent of injury that Emma had suffered. Rules are very clear that if a player has sustained a cut that is bleeding, the match has to be stopped. And the physio can request a medical timeout.

I am sure this would have been explained to Leylah, but she seemed to be persisting with her complaint. Probably in the heat of the moment. It looked like very poor sportsmanship. This is what she said later at the post-match presser.

"I honestly did not know what was happening with Emma ... I didn't know how serious her fall was, so that's why I went to see the official and ask her about it. ... It was just too bad that it happened in that specific moment with me with the momentum. But it's sports, it's tennis. Just got to move on." 

Emma got back on the court. She scored to make it 40-40. Then it went like this: 40-AD, 40-40, AD-40, and then an ace, the winner.

IT'S ALL FORGOTTEN

But at the end of it all, on the podium, it was all forgotten. Unlike some of the seniors, they didn't seem to be rivals. The body language was like that of friends -- the camera did catch them smiling at each other and chatting. 

Leylah Fernandez sounded naturally disappointed but she was absolutely gracious. She looked forward to more final matches with Emma. And she paid glowing tributes to the resilience of the people of New York during the past 20 years.

 
AMAZING RECOVERY

This was Emma Raducanu's just second Grand Slam tournament, after appearing in the Wimbledon. On the 6th of July, after playing for 1 hour 15 mins, and trailing Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 0-3, she retired. 

She was so overwhelmed by the expectations of a roaring home crowd that she apparently had breathing difficulty. Some said it was an anxiety attack. What a tearful exit from her first Grand Slam appearance it was.

There was no automatic entry for her to the US Open. She had to play qualifying matches. Not quite sure of her chances, she had apparently booked her flight ticket back to Britain.

I am sure she must have put her mind and body into getting out of such a low depth she had plunged into. And what better proof of her resilience than the victory yesterday.

THE FUTURE

It's not the first time youngsters have won a major cup after defeating experienced players. But that's one thing. What matters finally and defines true class is consistency.

Staying on top is far more difficult than reaching the top.

Both Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez will know that in the coming months and years. The world's focus will be on them once again coming January when they are at Melbourne for the Australian Open.

Wish both the very best, and hope they have a long and enjoyable career. And they continue to regale fans like me.

MEN'S FINAL

In a few hours, the men's final will begin. It will start at 1.30 in the night Indian Standard Time. I have decided not to sit through the night.

All eyes are on Novak. If he wins it would be the first time in 52 years, since any male player has won all four Grand Slams in one calendar year. 

If it's a one-sided damp squib, then it's a sheer waste. 

If it's a tough duel (what I would actually want to watch), then it's going to drag on till 5 o'clock or even 6 o'clock in the morning.

I am planning to go to bed early, and hope to get up early. So, maybe I will be able to catch the final thrilling moments.

Let's see how it goes.

(Next part of this post tomorrow)

Saturday, September 4, 2021

A welcome change

My brother-in-law and family had to travel out of Bengaluru for a few weeks. That would have meant my mother-in-law, who stays with them, would be alone at home. She asked us if it was okay for us to move in with her so that she would have company. We said yes, and moved in on Aug 19.

It's about 15 km from our home. But being here is a wholly different feeling altogether. Different locality; different surroundings; different routes for my morning/evening walks; different work-from-home settings ... It's not necessary to travel far away for a change!

Coincidentally, last week, my sister-in-law and family traveled down to Bengaluru from Bhopal on some work. They too joined us for a few days. It's been quite a few years since we met them. So, it was a good family time. 

How much ever video calls have succeeded in "reducing the distance" between people staying miles apart, nothing like being in the same room and talking to one another. 

After the short sojourn, we are returning home tomorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

India in Olympics

Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony (Source: Olympics.com)

One of the reasons I didn't blog for almost a month was the Olympics. I wasn't checking blogs either during that time. 

I was totally engrossed in the live telecast of so many events, both in which India was participating and those in which India wasn't.

SIMULTANEOUS LIVE FEEDS  

Sony was the official broadcast partner for India, and they did a really good job. There were separate live feeds of almost all the events. There was a separate channel for events in which India was participating.

Every evening, I picked the events that I wanted to watch the next day and made sure I kept myself free, as far as possible. With so many events being telecast live simultaneously, I had to constantly toggle the channels!

The official Olympics website and app were also good with live updates of all the events. I used to keep a watch on that as well so I could switch when an event became interesting.

The only constraint was the timing. Japan is three and a half hours ahead of India. So on some days, it was a bit of a struggle to wake up early after a late night at work.

RISE AND FALL OF HOCKEY

The only game in which India was good at in the Olympics was field hockey. India won its first Olympic medal in 1928 when its hockey team won the gold. It remained unbeaten winning six gold medals consecutively till 1956.

Then it was silver in 1960, gold in 1964, bronze in 1968 and 1972, nil in 1976 and gold in 1980. All in hockey. Then onwards India hasn't done well in the game.

RISE OF OTHER SPORTS AND GAMES

India had to wait till 1996 when other sportspersons began making their presence felt and began picking up medals.

1996

Leander Paes - bronze - tennis

2000

Karnam Malleswari - bronze - weightlifting

2004

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore - silver - shooting

Abhinav Bindra. (Source: India Today)
2008 

Abhinav Bindra - gold - shooting

Vijendra Singh - bronze - boxing 

Sushil Kumar - bronze - wrestling

2012

Vijay Kumar - silver - shooting

Sushil Kumar - silver - wrestling

Gagan Narang - bronze - shooting

Saina Nehwal - bronze - badminton

Mary Kom - bronze - boxing

Yogeshwar Dutt - bronze - wrestling

2016 

P V Sindhu - silver - badminton

Sakshi Malik - bronze - wrestling

THE BEST SO FAR

Neeraj Chopra (Source: Sportstar)

This year was the best so far. Compared to all previous years, India competed in the most number of events (18), sent the most number athletes (70 men and 54 women), and got the most number of medals (7).

Neeraj Chopra - gold - javelin throw

Mirabai Chanu - silver - weightlifting

Lovlina Borgohain - bronze - boxing

P V Sindhu - bronze - badminton

Ravi Kumar Dahiya - silver - wrestling

Bajrang Punia - bronze - wrestling

Team - bronze - men's hockey 

NARROW MISSES

Two events in which India lost the bronze medal match but won the hearts were one, in bronze in which young Aditi Ashok finished fourth after staying tied in 2nd place for almost three days; and two, the women's hockey team that fought so hard in the bronze medal match but lost to Britain.

Besides these two:

Vinesh Phogat lost in the wrestling quarterfinals

Mary Kom lost in boxing pre-quarterfinal

Deepika Kumari (world No.1 in women's recurve category) lost in the quarterfinals

Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary lost in shooting 2nd qualification stage

BRIGHT PROSPECTS

There are many reasons why India hasn't generally done well. 

One is the lack of good global-level infrastructure for athletes to train; two, lack of resources for them to go and stay abroad for long durations to train; and the third is the traditional attitude among Indian parents putting more emphasis on their children's studies rather than in sports.

All of these have been changing in the past decade or so, and that's getting reflected in India's performance on the global stage, not just in the Olympics, but more importantly, in many other world championship events.

And I am sure the best is yet to come.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

From Feedburner to follow.it

Pic source: Pixabay

Finally, I made the transition. This has been pending since April when Google announced that they were winding up Feedburner's email subscription service for publishers.

I searched the web for options, and there are quite a few of them. Finally I chose follow.it as the alternative to Feedburner. I was also encouraged by this post of my blog pal Liz who too opted for follow.it. 

By the way, follow.it is spelt with the first letter 'f' in lower case and not capitals.

follow.it has a simple user interface; and, there are links to good explainers for people like me who are transitioning to a new service to offer feed subscriptions to readers.

The first step in the transition process was to download the list of my email subscribers from Feedburner. Not quite unexpected, only 15 out of 370 email IDs looked genuine! The rest seemed to be bot-triggered spam.

The readers who had subscribed via Feedburner have now been moved to follow.it. If I have missed anyone, please do re-subscribe to the feed via follow.it.

follow.it has a few additional features that I didn't find on Feedburner. One of them is that readers can set filters, like specific tags or keywords or even go by popularity to customise their experience. 

There are multiple ways in which the email subscriptions can be received, like single email, or multiple emails as and when new posts are published. There is an option to see these feeds on follow.it. One can also get the feeds on Telegram by linking it to follow.it. 

Apparently, more features like Chrome extension, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc are in the pipeline.

These are all available in the free plan. The paid option opens up a few more features like detailed analytics of subscriptions.

This is the link to follow my blog. Or you have the widget on top of the right panel on this page.

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. The pronunciation of a letter with and without an accent is 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!