Writing is like T20 batting. If you block, you might as well retire to the pavilion! -- Pete Langman
Expat in Germany

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Indian movies of the 80's and 90's had a unique feature. Birds stop flying, tidal waves halt and trees cease to sway the moment there is a shocking scene. On a sad, quiet evening, Mahati felt such signs. Everything and everyone were in motion but nothing seemed moving forward. The Delhi based media as usual felt that South Indians are 'below the belt' and had no clue about the things happening down here. Still, Mahati felt that something in the world order was not in place. How would it be! Music froze for a moment, unable to believe that Carnatic maestro, Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna passed away.

Murali Krishna, a child prodigy earned the title 'Bala' at the age eight and mastered all the 72 melakartha raagas soon. He was also the creator of many raagas one of which is the inspiration for her name, Mahati realised. Even an acclaimed mathematician would be awed at the new project that he had taken up which involved the tala system and the creation of thousands of newer raaga from the multiple probabilities using the 72 melakarthas. Surely, he must be the pioneer amongst those many musicians in the modern era who took Carnatic music to the masses through his wonderful works like Tatwalu. He truly sings about the beauty of life and death which come unannounced in Tatwalu. His contributions with the help of many others only have opened up Annamacharya and Ramadasu to us. Music would be proud of him, with his thorough understanding of the field and his many many innovations, the world would be proud. Find his music journey here.

His close friend and his jugalbandhi partner, late Pt. Bhimsen Joshi was awarded with the Bharat Ratna literally on his hospital bed. When asked whether he deserved the highest civilian award of the nation, Balamurali just replied that he can buy his own first class rail ticket (Bharat Ratna recipients are given Indian railway concessions). His music had won him not only the best awards for art in India but in France as well. He was honoured with Chevalier rank by the French government in 2005. That is because he sang in French! His music has garnered enough support worldwide in the form of his friends, number of concerts and awards and importantly his disciples.
The country is proud of its best actor, kamal Hasan who is a proud student of Balamurali. Hasan refused to appear in the video of the patriotic song, 'Mile sur mera tumhara' unless he was shown listening to his teacher that is Balamurali Krishna. P.V.Mohan Krishna would remind us of Balamurali himself.

The entire world gave a teary farewell to Micheal Jackson. Balamurali Krishna deserves nothing less. He did receive such an honour. He was certified to be great enough to be awarded the Bharat Ratna by none other than Selvi Jayalalitha herself. That assures his greatness. Yes, music had only frozen for a moment. It continues to flow in its path with numerous other contributors emerging like the mighty Ganga with its hundreds of tributaries. Yet, there is some void, an unfillable one, like a gap formed when four wheels are brought together. Those lucky to have listened to the 'Sangeetha Virinchi' live in concert are the content ones. The humble arrogance in his beautiful compositions, his smile and his voice which all remained same over the years (like Yesudas's voice), are going to live on, forever.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dandi March to Mars: old 500 to new 2000

Hundreds of people must have had a sleepless night yesterday. Vijay Sekhar Sharma is one among them. Unlike many who were sleepless due to anxiety, Vijay Sekhar would have had a night of joy and excitation. His company, Paytm would have skyrocketed in valuation. By taking a bold step in withdrawing its guarantee on 500 and 1000 rupee promissory notes, the government of India has made all Indians shift focus on themselves rather than some elections happening in a far away land.

Black money is the prime reason behind the fall of rupee value. As long as the rupee minted in India and the currency notes printed in India, stay in India and circulate, it is fine. But if they cease to circulate, it creates a gap in the wealth of the nation. This can happen by either stashing away the rupee in form of dollars and gold bonds abroad or by creating an excess of currency through counterfeit notes, which are all actually a form of warfare on the Indian economy since it is still predominantly an economy which deals in cash. A gap can also be created by suffocating circulation by hiding lots of large denomination notes under bedroom tiles and buffalo sheds (if you take it literally, stop watching Indian movies for sometime!). It is right time for those who can, to move towards digital transactions because they are perfectly safe and now are actually safer than currency transactions. RBI has published FAQs on this matter.

Who will benefit from this: a common man's view

A popular TV channel rushed to ATM centers in cities like Mumbai and Kolkata and towns like Bhatinda and interviewed people standing in long queues. Almost everywhere, people resonated the same idea that they are ready to face hardships for a day or two if 'black money' is controlled because of this move. Just three and a half hours before midnight, the prime minister announced that high denomination notes cease to be legal tender from midnight. This has shocked common people but the move was quickly welcomed because HONEST PEOPLE HAVE GOT NOTHING TO LOSE if not gain.
One need not worry about traders, small or big and the middle class. They are well informed (social media made sure everyone knew the news in no time) and have enough time to deposit all their legal money in the banks in time by December 30, 2016. In case the deadline is missed, they can go to RBI branches until a later date. 
Those who wish to exchange all their money would be getting four thousand rupees and a withdrawal of ten thousand per day is possible until November 24, 2016 which would be good enough for the small traders. For larger transactions, cheque transfers, NEFT and everything else is still the same. Those who are scared that all the black money will be exchanged into hundred rupee notes, no, it cannot be.
All those farmers, teachers and middle class people who generally get paid and deal in cash have to walk to the banks and wait in long queues to deposit money [sic]. After all, when we support nation wide bandhs, why not this. That in one stroke is going to increase the money in banks and thence their lending capacity of banks for which they have been waiting for like a drought struck land waiting for rains.
In the end, the commoner is going to benefit from the wealth that can be saved from illegal money.

A win-win situation

Suppose a person has jewellry and some of his friends, unknown to him got fake jewelry made, it would be a disaster for the person if he plans to exchange the jewellry with other commodities because the jewellry value is not what it should have been. Counterfeiting money is one form of indirect war on the country and needs to be put in check. Second, all the excess money generated through hawala transactions or tax evasions or by skipping large loan repayments is being used to fund terrorism, example of which is influential people buying gold and lands, thus making black into gold. Putting this money in check would first bring down the amount of gold being smuggled into India. If gold purchases drop in this country, it will reap gold for the common people. Say no to Dhanteras more than crackers during Diwali.

As for the government, the timing and the secrecy behind the move is absolutely applaudable, especially in a country like India with so much population. If all the good that is supposed to happen, happens, it is great. Either way, the big political heads who have illegal money stored and ready for disbursement during the UP elections are hit hard. Obviously, two months from now, life is going to be the same for the common public who are now happy that government has taken a courageous step considering the history of demonetization in other countries. They will forget that they all stood in long queues but the PM can go back to voters and tell them he tried.
New five hundred rupee notes will soon come into circulation and daily routine will be the usual. The new two thousand notes can be used for higher transactions, better than the earlier one thousand notes. Maybe this is required. After all, the times of Marching to places like Dandi are now replaced by race to planets like Mars through the likes of Mangalyaan.

However, it is still not a lost situation for people like Vijay Mallya i.e those with accounts in the British Virgin islands and other such places. The Enforcement Directorate tirelessly continues to try and fish out all it can from the wealth that Vijay Mallya had accumulated.


It is a great thing to know that we are concentrating on two things connecting exclusively India: air pollution and black money. While we have to congratulate the judiciary, legislators, economists, RBI and the GoI for such a bold step, the big doubt does remain as to how long the new notes will stay put from being counterfeited. Maybe it's time that the old dons and criminals are done with and new blood has to come up. It is important that black money in any form, needs to be wiped off, in and out. We all should do our bit facilitate this. Until then, rest assured that those 500/1000 notes which are buried in the politician's and businessmen's backyard remain buried forever.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

97/118 ...Not a Rational Number

Italian mathematician, Giuseppe Peano defined a rational number as the fraction of two integers. A proper rational number means that the denominator of the fraction is greater than the numerator. The fraction 97/118 would have fallen into that category. The fact that India ranked 97th of 118 in global hunger index makes the number only improper and completely irrational. This might be an obvious number, considering the fact that India, once called Sone ki chidiya is racing to the top in the number of people born on its soil.

About 20 crore (200 million) Indians are hungry and undernourished. This is roughly the same as Brazil's entire population. Ironically, India and Brazil compete against each other in every aspect like growth rate, GDP and poverty! While growth rate and GDP feature regularly as topics of discussion and in the headlines of newspapers, poverty seldom finds any reference. Should the newspapers then have a separate section devoted to poverty like the business, cinema and sports sections? Politicians are busy, executing the needs of the majority, appeasing the minorities and making news whereas people, with their artiodactylic behaviour let the 'shepherds' dictate what they should be bothered about. Journalists on the other hand are also busy, with some of them trying to glorify the surgical strikes and some others doing all possible research so as to discredit the strikes. India is home to 15% of the world's poor people. Does this not find enough fuel for the politicians, journalists and people to discuss about? Definitely, debate moderators who out shout debaters will have a lot to tell the nation about its poverty.

Improved or improving??
India is the largest producer of fresh fruits, tropical fruits, fresh vegetables, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, brinjal (eggplant), cow and buffalo milk, rice, wheat and mainly pulses. India exports about 10 billion dollars worth horticulture produce, second only after China. How is that both the countries are also placed top two in the number of hungry mouths? Is India exporting all its produce without feeding itself first? A hungry man can never satisfy other's hunger. Even though India is the largest producer of pulses, we import pulses from countries like South Africa and Mozambique. Why? And why, with so much surplus of pulses, the fares are so high and people are still hungry? People are still eating spiced up, flavoured Biriyani with Mirchi ka Salon garnered with rich cashew. Food grains are being stashed away so that prices go up and since rice and pulses are the staple food, people are going to buy them, whatever the cost. But what about those who cannot afford the prices? Good business can be done honestly as well. Lee Iacocca and J.R.D. Tata would have loved to explain on that. As said by the historian, Ram Guha who obviously picked it from Mahatma Gandhi, "A true nationalist needs to accept the dirt in his country so as to clean it up."

On the bright side, India has become better in the past decades. Poverty has fallen from 36% of the population in 1990-91 to 15% now. The hungry mouths however have increased. Thus comes into picture the biggest menace in the country, over population. Can we find an answer to this problem?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

M.S.Dhoni: No Story Told

In Ramoji film city, people click photos with their head jutting out of the face of one of Ravan's ten faces. Some people photoshop themselves shaking hands with Amitabh and Sachin or hugging Deepika Padukone. This is how one feels when he sees Sushant Singh Rajput's face morphed into Dhoni's when he is surrounded by other Indian cricketers. We do not know who to feel sorry for. Dhoni or Sushant. Apart from such morphological changes, the movie, MS Dhoni: the untold story has other routine, illogical stuff like a failed love story and a hasty marriage both which are in the movie for an obvious reason: songs. The movie is more about Sushant's imitation of Dhoni than the story of Dhoni himself. It is very good as a movie, a three hour magic well weaved by Neeraj Pandey but it somehow does not look like a great biography. That makes one think whether Dhoni's life achievements so far have content enough to fit in a bollywood movie.

Seriously, the way we in India are making biopics is not satisfactory. Are we so short of legends that we have to make biographies of young cricketers or are the players scared of the eventual thing that is being forgotten by people? Today, not even a cricket aspirant would recognise G.R.Viswanath if he even enters the Chinnaswamy stadium. While it is Attenboroughs and Browns who make movies on legends like Gandhi and Ramanujan, we in India make movies on olympic bronze winning and cricket world cup winning athletes. Every person has his/her own story and every athlete has immense hard work and perseverance behind success. It would not be a surprise if tomorrow a movie is made on the life of Hardik Pandya or Sania Mirza. It is quite shameful that no Indian film director could make a movie on our first prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. None of the people care because we are all too engrossed in trying to find evidence for something the army had done to protect us. Of course, when the public has such volatile memory, why do movie producers want to dig old stories when they can make money on existing 35 year old 'legends' who successfully captained winning teams. It would be an easy way out for Dhoni as well because, thirty years down the lane, it is highly unlikely that a film director would consider making a movie about him.

The known story
Having said about the unnecessity of a movie on M.S.Dhoni, the making of a fine movie needs a mention. MS Dhoni: the untold story is any other movie with an added feature that it is about Dhoni. While the first half of the movie talked about Dhoni's passion towards playing cricket for India, post interval was all about what people already know about. While time was devoted to show his achievements as a captain like the 2007 world cup final and 2011 final, the movie fails to show many other memorable victories that Dhoni had brought us through his batting talent. He was a wicket keeper-batsmen before he became a captain. The movie also showed his feuds with senior players but neglected his friendly character and his extraordinary show of respect to elders in his first test match as captain. Music did the magic for the movie. The background score brings in more passion on the part of the audience towards Dhoni. There should have been more time devoted to the way Saurav Ganguly selected Dhoni to the playing XI for the India-Pakistan match at Visakhapatnam. There is no mention about his wicketkeeping talent nor his father selling his scooter to buy Mahi his first cricket kit.
Yes, there was no story told about MS Dhoni. It is just a recollection of some of Dhoni's old and famous matches with a good background music and excellent imitation by Sushant Singh Rajput. Dhoni will be a happy man. So will be his fans.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Morgan Effect

Back in 2004-05, when Sachin Tendulkar was facing continued failures, mainly due to his tennis elbow problem, Indian fans condemned him and some wanted him to quit cricket. We know what all he achieved after that! Ten years later, when a Russian tennis star confessed she did not know who Sachin was, the entire nation exploded. Forget Sachin, Sharad Pawar who is a living legend for the corrupt, was supported by one and all in India when he was pushed from the stage by the Champions trophy winning Australian team in 2006.

We Indians are a funny lot. We are so patriotic that we let not one bee sting our country and its integrity. But among ourselves, we love to do that one thing: stab one another in the back nicely. Well, India's got talent too, Mr. Morgan. Lets not blame him, it is a natural wonder for any person to see one and a fourth billion people celebrating two medals. But Piers Morgan does not know the Indian way in which we are used to sharing one Roti over ten people in a household and we love the bonding. There is similar bonding in the country men after two Indian women succeeded at the wonderful sporting event that is the Rio olympics, a true banner-man of  world peace and health.

Health reminds us of two unhealthy things about India. India has a gift (?) of population, the best renewable source of energy. Those people have gotten themselves a beautiful gift of laziness, the enemy of sports. Sports is human nature but laziness isn't a human virtue. We Indians eat a lot of sweets. That is probably the reason why PV Sindhu failed to win the gold medal, she is too sweet to snatch away victory from the Spaniard. But seriously, does she require so many gifts? Crores of rupees, BMW cars, plots for house. Do we want to turn her into a cricketer? What are we encouraging? medals or sports? It is one thing to encourage players to win medals and another to encourage people to play sports. If one had followed Deepika Kumari in the archery re curve, one would have known the amount of focus that she had. But no one remembers her because she has not won any medal. It is like our athletes are remembered only once in four years, during the Olympics. Can we imagine Kohli's name chanted only once in four years for the world cup? Talking about cricket, even though Sachin has come out of other sports now, why could he have not done that while he was an active cricketer?

Missed the BMW target!? :(
It is the medal that got them the BMW, not their passion!

How can other sports pick up in India? Unlike cricket, many of the sports are post-independence games and it is true that we need more time before India becomes a strong presence in every game. We have enough coaching academies; maybe not; but still, focus should be on developing the players physically and mentally; For example, what do the archers need? better focus. Mental training is required than physical - mental training to tune the body physically; This would prove to be quite cheap and in fact quite indigenous. We fail to identify the greatness hidden in our backyard. The US athletes do yoga whereas ours pray to gods; they have a control over their physique whereas we eat junk food - all possible junk food. Since, we are an open minded nation, we eat the junk from every corner of the world: Mexican, Italian, Chinese and of course, Indian.
We should encourage sports and sports players than medal winners - that might be good in another sense as well that is, with more competition at home, there is better quality from the country. Star sports is taking good steps towards this. This might get us more medals. Because, in the end only medals matter!! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Out through the mouth!

88*28.317*3600 = 8970825.6
This is the amount of water that flowed into the sea in a day from the Godavari river! In words, that is nine million liters of water. Nine million! In just one day, 88 cubic feet of water rushed into the sea per second from the river. And the figure is just calculated over just one hour. Not two months ago, in the same regions that the Godavari flows through, 25 trains carrying a total of 5 million liters of water were busy trying to moisten the drought dead lands. Politicians and activists were debating whether the Indian Premier League should be held at all or no, as a solution to tackle the drought. Surprisingly and not so surprisingly, not many seem to bat an eye and the river is interested only in mixing with the salty sea water.

Well, what would one expect? The Indian cricket team is in the West Indies and ProKabaddi does not seem to need any water to maintain its 'turf.' Politicians are busy solving their conflicts over river water sharing but not the flood water management. Courts are busy deciding under whose jurisdiction justice falls into. People in the lower regions of the river and near the delta are anyway used to displacement due to floods. Be it Assam or East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, people expect floods every now and then. Why should they be deprived of their habits? Governments are happy to spend a little sum on effective displacement of those people. For benefits to be reaped every five years, there should be such floods every two years at least. Rivers like Brahmaputra and Godavari are difficult to control. There have been irrigation projects on them but no flood management projects. Is there no way to save all that water from going waste? Ground water levels are low with land ready to absorb any amount of water and hold like a sponge, reservoirs are at dead storage levels with dams strong enough to hold water to the fullest. Surely there can be ways found to use the flood water.

It is very sad to note that the Jayakwadi dam which serves the Marathwada region which was plagued by the drought is still running at its lowest water levels. Also, the Ujjani dam on Bhima river near Solapur has a huge capacity which was not completely utilized during the floods. River water has many uses. Irrigation is only one of them. Catchment areas are useful for groundwater replenishment and water diversion as well. If canals cannot be constructed for diverting flood water to smaller tanks for irrigation, there are other methods like lift irrigation which can be used to divert water to wherever needed. When states have MoUs between them about river water sharing, certainly they could discuss possible flood management solutions.

The Jayakwadi dam is the largest irrigation dam in Maharshtra and is not full

The solution could be anything. Multiple river integration is a distant dream. For now, probably the thermal power plants, papermills and sugarcane factories could be where the flood water is diverted to, a jump from the usual in which water meant for irrigation is diverted to those places. It is quite easy to do so because the infrastructure to divert water to those places is already there, unlike cultivated land. How much hydro electric energy can be derived from the floods while keeping them at check. What about small check dams at strategic places? For once, low cost projects which help people rather than contractor alone can be constructed. Have we forgotten how to make barrages? That is probably a good solution. Should the nine million liters only enter the sea along with hundreds of homes and property? Can there be no canals dug only for flood crisis? Or maybe not. Because when there are no floods, these canals will be used as dumping areas only aggravating the flood!!

In the words of Amitav Ghosh, "Solutions to such problems cannot be dealt at individual level. Government alone can take initiative when it comes to disaster management."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Human shield - an Easy Target

It was September of 2011. The entire nation was discussing the mesmerizing, valiant effort that Rahul Dravid put up in the England test series. Everybody praised that poster boy of the gentleman game for having his name on the Lord's honors board. No one cared two hoots about the fact that the then Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor, D. Subbarao's term was coming to an end. People did not take to Orkut, Facebook and Twitter to raise support for an extension of his term. It was however, of course extended understandably by Dr. Manmohan Singh. In fact, it is to the credit of D. Subbarao and the Prime Minister during his term, Dr. Manmohan Singh, a former governor himself, that the post of RBI governor has gained popularity.

Why do people now so want Prof. Raghuram Rajan to continue badly? He of course is a firebrand officer, keen to bring about changes and tremendous reforms. It is very true that Dr. Rajan has brought beautiful reforms like bringing down inflation and reviving the banking sector among many other things. Bringing about such reforms is the purpose of the Apex bank of India. Is Dr. Rajan being glorified for doing justice to his job honestly? But why not D. Subbarao back then. In fact, Duvvuri Subbarao is credited to have steered India safely through the 2008 Great Depression even though he had to tackle with it right from day one at office. Does that not demand similar glorification?

They steered change


This is no political campaign for elections nor is it a cricket game, for us to glorify a single person, support him and pray he works well or plays well. No, this is the head of an institution which more or less controls the economic policy of the country. No, the RBI governor is not a representative of the people. He has got higher responsibilities and of course requires to be highly qualified for that. He is unique among people. He understands things which common man cannot. A daily wage labour has no clue what inflation means and how it happens. All he is worried about is, Why is the tamaatar that I bought for thirty rupees a kilo two months ago is now hundred rupees a kilo? Now, just because we have information at hand easily, let us common men not pretend that we understand how Dr. Rajan brought about the real wonderful changes so well. In fact he definitely is dynamic, especially as he talks about Make for India to boost Make in India: a brave explanation. But no, we do not understand what CPI, WPI, NPA, LA etc mean. He spent years understanding economics. We did not. So, people, let us not pretend that we support Dr. Rajan for the reforms he dutifully brought about.

Swamy and Swaminomics

So then why is that people support Dr. Rajan fervently and want him to continue even after he himself expressed to go back to teaching? Definitely it is because of one person: Subramanian Swamy. Giving importance to his claims is as bad as giving importance to Donald Trump's claims about making America great or Gautam Gambhir's claim that he will make a comeback to Indian team. Or are people scared that Subramanian Swamy can convince people with his claims? Anyone who know the professor Rajan would say how good his credentials are. He is capable of making the common people understand the subject through is teachings. Definitely he is going to do very well there. He at least will stay away from fake admiration. Here, people have stooped to levels as low as glorifying Dr. Rajan for watching a cricket match from a non-vip gallery. It is interesting to see Amartya Sen speak for Dr. Rajan. Other 'dignified' people like Swaminathan Aiyar, economist brother of Mani Shankar Aiyar says that Raghuram Rajan gone is billions of investment gone. All this is only a way to get back at Swamy. If Dr. Rajan is being glorified just because Subramanian Swamy opposes him, and is being used as a human shield and made an easy target, it is an insult and disrespect to one of the finest economic thinkers in the world at the moment. It would be an insult to the nice economists the country has in plenty if people are convinced that investments won't come without Rajan.

He steered the ship like a true captain

The prime minister, in an interview recently, very rightly said that the appointment or extension of an RBI governor is an administrative matter and need not attract media attention. In his address to the U.S congress, he praised Paul Krugman, a possible hint that Rajan is not wanted by his government. Who the government appoints is, like it always has been, upto the government. It would of course be their downfall if they don't appoint someone as competitive as Dr. Rajan or D. Subbarao or Y.V. Reddy or many other well deserved governors we had. This is no fashion or cinema related institute. Of course, certainly with the appointments of the Chauhans and the Nihalanis, it is quite natural for the common man to be scared!
It would be wise for the one-eyed king to not poke himself in the only good eye!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Speed Thrills!

"Wooooo!!" Mahati heard her friend who was riding pillion on the motorbike that whizzed past their scooter. "Shit, shit, shit!!" she also heard her friend on another scooter who was already throttling at maximum after regretting slowing down. Just as she was being nudged by her pillion on the scooter, "Cmon, accelerate, go after them," another friend on a 250 cc motorbike overtook all the three bikes in the front. All the friends were enjoying themselves. They were all returning from a weekend party organised in a pub in a swank locality in the city. The pub was one of the few places in the city that was open till late in the night. They stopped while returning at a restaurant famous for its Biryani which also stays open late into the night.

Mahati and another friend who were sober took driving charges. They were well in the speed limits when a policeman stopped the group. The sober ones did the talking. The high ones did the acting. They convinced the policeman that they came to have food and went into the restaurant realising that they really were hungry after the dancing and a lot of dehydration. They were energetically charged and still high. The sober ones took to riding scooters, not realising the huge mistake they made, that is to give 250 cc motorbikes to drunken drivers, when they could instead be given 110 cc scooters. It all started when one scooter and started a fun race with a motorbike. Mahati was in the front, oblivious to anything happening behind her when the race intensified and people sped past.

On the last bike, the drunk guy and his even more drunk pillion were humiliated being in the very end, that too possessing such a motorbike. They decided to show who the boss was. As they sped past Mahati to overtake others and lead the race, she could only see them as a blur, a streak of black and red in the bottom and bright colours on the top. Fourteen kilometers were covered in a matter of ten minutes. The road was narrow and unimportant in the peak of the day. So the police never bothered about it, even in the night. The signpost bearing the speed limit only stood there as a mute spectator, as an unwanted piece of scrap, as if it did not belong to that place. The non functional CCTV camera stood there, like a scarecrow, hopelessly trying to control a few who respected its presence.

The road gave no room for them to overtake, so they decided to take the 'royal' route. They found a gap in the median and jumped into the opposite lane, easily speeding past the rest of their friends, booing them, booing their scooter and a mediocre 180 cc motorbike. The function of a vehicle is no longer easy transportation. It is the style and the looks (added to the Indian obsession of mileage). Just as they found another gap in the median so as to enter the race track, a truck came into view from the curve onto the road. The 250 cc motorbike's brakes were good enough for the price spent on it. The tires were as good as they are being advertised during cricket matches on TV. The sudden brake resulted in a wheelie by the 250 cc motorbike and overjoyed by this achievement, the biker shifted to the race track and sped away, winning the race, justifying the bike.

Mahati was not happy. She just spent time alone. She stopped talking to her friends. They did not bother. They had important things like Johnny Walker to deal with right then. They all slept through the day. They were all too preoccupied to read the morning newspaper which read, ".....................The fatal accident occurred when the car driver had no time to apply brakes when the truck stopped abruptly, because of a rash motorist breaking rules."

Friday, April 1, 2016

With attention comes motivation

22 April 1998,
In the heat of Sharjah, there was a storm, popularly called the ‘Desert Storm.’ The epi-center of this storm was a twenty five year old cricketer, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Amidst the chanting of ‘Indiaaaa Indiaa’  and ’Sachiinn Sachinn,’ as he stormed upon the bowlers, charged and lofted spinners for sixes, pulled fast bowlers for fours, he took the world of cricket by storm. People were not only stunned but mesmerised by his unique straight drives, cover drives and late cuts. VVS Laxman, on the other end would have felt wonderful for having partnered Sachin in the show. The Aussie bowlers would have thought why on Earth it had to be them on the receiving end. The spectators would have felt more than satisfied for what they had paid for. Cricket freaks would have been like, ‘Maybe it is time we call him God.’ And fifteen hundred miles East of Sharjah, young cricket aspirants would have padded up, inspired to go on to the field and prove themselves. MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli are two among those hundreds of cricket bhakts.
If one asks Sachin what inspired him to take cricket seriously, he definitely mentions the 1983 world cup victory by the Indian team led by Kapil Dev. Surely, that is a milestone in the history of sports in India. No sport is followed as passionately as team sports. Because it is a team. In an individual sport, one can only like a single person but to support a team is more exciting because one gets to support an individual as well as the nation/team one loves. Maybe if India had won the FIFA world cup before winning the cricket world cup, those hundreds of youngsters would have gotten inspired to take up football and who knows, we would have won the 2010 football world cup! It is that spectacle of winning a huge sport event for the first time that led Indians to get motivated towards something. That created a hope that we could dominate and rise on the world platform in some form to prove ourselves. That moment of pride led to India loving cricket like it does now. This however though, eclipsed another moment of pride for India: an Indian-born had won the Nobel prize that year!

Sachin took the Aussies by a storm and Indian cricket to a higher level

25 March 2016,
In the heat of Mohali, amidst the chanting of ’Indiaaaa Indiaa’ and ’Viraatttt Viraatt,’ a twenty seven year old Kohli stormed upon, once again, the Aussie bowlers. The way he paced his innings, running singles when his partner Yuvraj was injured, converting the singles into doubles once Dhoni came in, then going after the bowlers once he got the momentum was what a well matured cricketer would do. People were not only mesmerised but stunned by the way he constructed his innings. Rohit Sharma who got out cheaply must have felt why he is unable to play such well-tempered innings despite having immense talent. The Aussie bowlers might have thought, ‘Why we??’ The audience, reiterated why they love cricket and cricketers. Cricket freaks are like, ‘Maybe it is time we call him God.’ Young cricketers are padding up, inspired to go to the field and prove themselves.
Once in an interview, Rahul Dravid, a true mascot for cricket mentioned that the difference between a cricketer and a nurse is that the cricketer appears on the television. Well, that does make a huge difference, does it not? The media is interested in cricket because people are playing well and cricketers are playing well because the world is looking through the media. With greater attention, comes greater motivation. Why else would players, be it Sachin, Saurav, Dravid, Dhoni or Virat always thank audience for their support. In fact, Virat Kohli mentioned that the audience kept him going. Definitely media attention is what creates stronger teams for the country. And it is not that attention inspires people to play more. It is the vice versa, inspired people receive a lot of attention. With great motivation comes great attention!!

What an innings! Virat stunned the cricket world

What an innings! Virat stunned the cricket world
What an innings! Virat stunned the cricket world

It is good to know see women’s cricket being given importance by the media. It might be the first time that post match shake-hand of women’s cricket in India was shown on TV. That is a good sign even though the prize money for women’s cricket is peanuts. Will the attention lead to a rise in the pay-check?

Hopefully in the future,
In the heat of Gwalior, the fort city of Jhansi Laxmi Bai, amidst chantings ’Indiaaaa Indiaa’ and ’Mithaliiii Mithalii,’ the cool headed Mithali Raj would be playing her signature cut shot and the straight drives, disrupting a strong lined Aussie bowling like it is nothing. The crowd and the nation will go berserk. Somewhere in those millions, few hundred girls will be inspired to pad up, inspired to go to the field and prove themselves!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

From Mukhi to Talkie - Gravitational Waves

We have seen in the James Bond movie, Golden Eye when Sean Bean falls to death on the huge antenna in Puerto Rico. 'For England!' He fell onto the largest dish antenna in the world. It is a radio wave detector and works exactly like the Direct to Home dish antennas that we have at home. This type of an antenna is very powerful over the traditional rod antennae in that the gain is quite high due to its parabolic shape. To detect electromagnetic waves, fractal antennas are used (open up your phones, you will find one) and are efficient apart from being space efficient. But these are not the only waves that are discovered. Scientists in the future are going to face a crisis, for the amount of knowledge one should possess about a subject is increasing enormously. Exactly a hundred years ago, one of the greatest men to have ever lived, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of a new set of waves called the Gravitational waves and the doubts were confirmed in 1993.

Celestial bodies in space-time
 The universe is so huge and old that time and space are certain dimensions (to know more, do not contact the author, contact your nearest library). The best illustration for this is the famous stretched plastic sheet on which heavy objects when placed, create a curvature. However, the universe is not just a plane and this sheet or the space-time is everywhere, say. Now if there is a disturbance, just like ripples in water, there would waves created, called Gravitational waves. The mathematics behind it is much more than just four lines in English as above. It is quite easy to visualize this in terms of ripples in water when two bodies revolving around each other merge to form a single mass. Gravitational waves were first asserted to a binary pulsar (basically two star collision). This was 1.3 billion years ago, roughly when the Earth was learning to form continents. It is exciting enough to know what happened to Netaji Subhash Bose not more than hundred years ago. Now imagine if you could know what happened much before San Jose formed!

LIGO confirms G-wave
To understand optical interferometry, one should understand light (of course, no one did completely). What we all know about light till now should be revisited, forgotten and changed. Light can be defined using two things: phase and polarisation. Phase would be enough for now. When two light waves of same wavelength with a constant phase difference meet, they interfere constructively or destructively. This is the principle essentially used by a Michelson interferometer. The two arms in a Michelson interferometer are not of the same length. This extra length in one arm provides extra distance for light to travel through it and when it hits a mirror, it goes back 'later' than light from the other arm. This gives rise to temporal coherence, i.e phase difference due to time. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a huge Michelson interferometer. The gravitational wave when it reaches the interferometer, distorts the space dimension, thereby changing the relative length of both the arms. This gives rise to temporal coherence which is observed when laser is passed through both the arms and thus the distortion in the arm length can be found out which gives all the information one needs to know about the gravitational wave. Indeed it would be like un-muting a talkie movie. From a silent movie (mukhi) to a talkie movie! 
Ironically, one can call this an achievement of the optics community.

LIGO Livingston interferometer. Each arm is so long that both dont fit into the same frame 

Actually, more than the gravitational waves, the interferometer is a scientific and engineering wonder. The mirrors literally are suspended in thin air. The up-gradation to the present LIGO is like replacing a two gear system with five gear system, it dramatically increases efficiency. Same thing with the mirrors, they were improvised from a single pendulum to four pendulum. The arms are as long as 4 Km because the distortion created would be so small that it is tough to identify it. Even the laser used has a high coherence length. To avoid noise from Earthly things like traffic, dogs barking and men sneezing, two non local interferometers are built to corroborate the data which happened recently. Both the interferometers in Hanford and Livingston gave the same readings. There are similar projects VIRGO in Europe and IndIGO in India(coming soon, say in just eight years by which the entire universe could possibly be mapped).

The confirmation of gravitational waves not only proves Einstein to be a super human, it also helps mankind in its understanding of the universe and encourages generations to come to be curious without consequence.
For Curiosity!   

Friday, February 12, 2016

That Thick Line Difference

Just like the gravitational wave detection has given renewed energy to science, it would have been a huge boost for technology had Lance Naik Hanumanthappa lived. It would have been a boost for human perseverance, a boost for the hopes of an entire nation whose people are constantly quarreling on issues which on any other day are considered unnecessary. It is humanly impossible to survive under 30 feet of snow for six days and equally impossible to find the human who did the impossible. Kudos to the men.

On the very same day when the country is mourning the tragic death of nine of its soldiers and praying for the recovery of one brave soldier, it is quite unfortunate to see students protesting for a convicted and punished terrorist and even more, threatening to destroy India. The word, students is to be highlighted here. These are students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of the most progressive and prestigious institutions of the country and they have not obtained permission for the same protest! It is one thing to raise voice against the suppression of the people of Jammu and Kashmir or even have separatist demands but it is a nonsensical thing to threaten the country which is taking care of the education of the students, giving them complete freedom to express their ideas. The students are expected to have the minimum intelligence to differentiate between the freedom given and the freedom to be taken.

Is it that they protested capital punishment? Is it that they felt that the terrorist who planned the attack on parliament was given an unjust punishment? Is it that they wanted to protest in solidarity with the people of Kashmir even when Kashmir is time and again given privileges? Is it that they are protesting against the Indian army without whose presence in the valley, there probably might be no human beings living, forget living peacefully? There actually is a very thick line of difference between protesting against unjust punishments and protesting for anti-nationals. Any sensible person would know the difference. Even in case of any of the above options, the protests showed no such signs. The only message the students sent was that they are proud of the path taken by the terrorists!! Even the separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani who has come out in support of those students have never made such derogatory statements. Why would he? When he never wanted a separate Kashmir in the first place!!

This protest is no different from the protests and prayers that happened in the University of Hyderabad for another terrorist. Before protesting, people, especially students should introspect if they are protesting against capital punishment or if they are praying for the terrorists! One could have always asked, 'Why not similar punishment to Aseeemananda?' or protest when Ajmal Kasab or Ram Singh were hanged. It would have been legible but this kind of passive support to terrorism is not a good thing since if the students of JNU, who the nation looks at as intellectuals do such a thing, what would the common man know about what is right and wrong?!  

Friday, January 1, 2016

Water, Water Everywhere...a Resolution

I have never taken a new year resolution. Why, I never even took a resolution. I just took decisions influenced by my surroundings and inspired by people. It is time I have my influence on my surroundings and maybe inspire people. A new year resolution might be a nice one to do that. A resolution, not regarding my character, attitude or habits, but about what and how I can do to change something for good this year.

Mahati is not used to going to the fast food restaurants for dinner. For her, like many other Indians, the occasional dinner outside was in a Udipi or a North Indian restaurant, where she would order Chinese noodles. The waiter asks if she wants mineral water or regular for which her reply would be regular water, which is served for free along with the dinner. However, she one day went to a fast food restaurant to eat chopped vegetables stacked between two bread pieces for an amount at which she could go to Mumbai, buy those vegetables and return. Used to drinking 'regular' water during dinner, she asked for it. She got a reply that she has to buy bottled water only. She asked for just tap water, not even the fancy RO-UV protected and filtered water. The restaurant which boasts of baking their own bread apparently did not have a tap in their kitchen! The regulatory authorities should take a look into this matter: A restaurant's kitchen not having a water tap.

Not a drop to drink!
Not only there, an ice cream shop which has items ranging from pasta to pista ice cream on its menu had only one glass to serve water in. A bakery which had seating arrangements could not afford to have a water dispenser. A pizza shop which earlier had a water filter removed it. In fact, the same shop provided a Pepsi  for free with the pizza but could not give a glass of water. Poor workers. They get water from their home. Well, a waiter in a restaurant gets his own water bottle from home! What's happening to the country?

Is this all to facilitate the sale of packaged drinking water. Water that is filled from the same kitchen tap and sealed, added with some salts which the person about to devour a 2000 calorie burger does not require?? Of course, the sale of bottled water will rise. Not every one can remain adamant like Mahati and not buy bottled water. People are made to buy them . The surroundings are arranged accordingly. The advertisements are created to scare people into buying tap water filled and stored in plastic!

I am not sure if there is a law in India that mandates all eateries to provide free pure drinking water. If there is, it is not working. But I am sure there is enough water to satisfy the needs of the people. We are just unable to use it properly and are wasting it. This is my resolution. I will join those who seek 'Free Basics.' The basic elements of air and water to remain free at least (purity has gone down the drain long ago). I will spend money for those added salts if I want to. But otherwise, I want water for free. Maybe Zuckerberg will join and support Free basics too.

Another day, Mahati went to a stationary shop to buy color pencils. She felt thirsty. The boy in the shop gave her a glass of water from a pot he kept in the shop!