Dec 29, 2008

Kerala again, a year later!

Thanks to the Hydventura team at Hyderabad, i signed up for a trip to Wayanad during the Christmas long weekend. And it so happened that i was in Mumbai the day before this started and hence went straight to Kozhikode the night before. Staying on the beach at Kozhikode that Christmas eve and savouring the sights/smells of the beach was a bonus! Watching the waves come and go, I felt an inkling of what the first half of January would hold for me!

The next day I enjoyed a 6k run along the beach and after a Kerala style breakfast, left for the hills in a red colored KSRTC bus. On the way i stopped at the Pookode Lake - the water was clear and fresh and the boating serene. By the evening I reached the rendezvous point where the rest of the team led by the charismatic Srikanth Spiky Perinkulam landed.

The next morning we geared up to climb Chembra, the tallest peak in Kerala. The climb showed me just how underdeveloped my quads and hamstrings were! We spent the next day at Edakkal caves, yet another place that highlights the disaster that Indian Tourism is. There was a very scary climb to the top there, one that triggered a mini-vertigo at each turn. Felt relieved after I hit terra firma. That day we also hit the Soochipara Falls where the water was cold but refreshing. The night ended with a late camp fire.

The last day of the trip was a straight drive back to Bangalore via Ganpathivattom (Sulthan Bathery), Bandipur Wild Life Sanctuary and Mysore. We sighted a wild elephant on the way and had exceptionally delicious tender coconut water at a village named Khagradondi. I also sighted two Colnago bicycles mounted on an SUV, that was part of the Tour of Nilgiris contingent (still agonising on my bike decision :-) Finally after lunch at Kamats, we stopped at the Ranganathittu Bird Santcuary (a familiar place) on the way. At Bangalore Sharmas Travel provided a comfortable Volvo bus that took us to Hyderabad on time the next day.

See Spiky's blog for more on the trip.

Dec 16, 2008

Post Mumbai Thoughts

Here are some thoughts post Mumbai:
  • Un-Partition of India?
  • Re-Partition of Pakistan?
  • The idea of Pakistan and its unwinding
  • Anti-feudalistic undercurrents in Pakistan donning mask of religion
  • The Infinite Patience of India
  • 'The Thing' - source in Wahabbi fundamentalism, 
  • The New Great Game - Afghanishtan & FATA
Each bullet above could be a whole post in itself, but just letting these thoughts linger

Nov 30, 2008

Hyderabad Runs For Mumbai, My First Half Marathon

Hyderabad ran today in support of Mumbai! The Hyderabad 10k and Half Marathon event that had over 25000 registrations this time had a large turn out inspite of a drizzle, with people chanting slogans in support of Mumbaikars, 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vandemataram'. What really scares terrorists is people not getting cowered down and not leaving hope! India has shown that in ample measure, if today's run at Hyderabad is anything to go by. On the political side too things are changing with a usually thick-skinned political leadership rolling heads and sacking bureaucrats.

For me personally too, the day was significant with me logging my first half marathon. All of 21 kilometers in about two hours and thirty six minutes. The pace was slow but steady and though i went too slow in the first half, wanted to play it safe to avoid injury (the course was all asphalt, as opposed to my training on dirt trails and grass). 

ps: I watched the movie 'Wednesday' today which tells the story of a Mumbai citizen fed up with the spineless politicians and engineers the termination of four dreaded terrorists all by himself. The movie is highly topical in the backdrop of Mumbai.

Nov 28, 2008

Mumbai Attacks: A Diehard Optimist's View

Much has been broadcast, blogged, twittered about the dastardly acts in Mumbai. And much has this been depressing, i am trying to see the silver lining in the dark clouds that hand over us. Heroism: by the army, NSG in particular and the valiant Tatas and their dignified staff in the Taj who demonstrated professionalism of the highest order. There is more than a faint hope that Indian political establishment will wake up. If not a deeply concerned Obama who is focusing on the Afghan-Pakistan situation will surely help. These attacks are surely a spill over.

The terrorists (AlQaeda, LeT, JeM etc) are deeply concerned that their cup of hate will get empty if India and Pakistan continue to get friendly (leading to a potential Kashmir solution). They are scared by the elections this month which have had a big turn out in Kashmir. If things get normal on Kashmir, who will get recruited? And if the benefits of India's growing economy get to all its people, then who is left to get alienated? Hence the carnage. 

Interested neighbours that seek strategic depth in India for their own reasons have fueled such carnage (read China, Saudi Arabia). Pakistan was assertive in fanning fires before but has hollowed out now as its Frankenstein monsters are now fully unleashed. Most big attacks in India have always been in the backdrop of an improving peace situation. We now have to hope that our venal and geriatric politicians do not play into the terrorists' hands by fanning violence or blaming the Pakistani people. Though the perpetrators originated in Pakistan, the situation is delicate in Pakistan which itself has violence on a daily basis.

Hopefully smarter people in Indian establishment will emerge to handle this. No wonder Home Minister Shivraj Patil is seen nowhere! Absolutely nowhere! Instead we have the old Pranab Mukherjee addressing the press, mouthing nonsense. We need to create a department of Homeland Security. Station more commandos in all major cities. Young people like us have to get into politics and get rid of this geriatric muck that rules our country - not a single leader under 50!

Oct 19, 2008

Back in the Running

After a bout of sickness and a  subsequent recovery due to travel (both vacation and business), I hit the treadmill this weekend with a couple of 5ks. Two days ago I did a tentative 3k to get the legs loosened up a bit.

The biggest lesson i have now learnt about running is to NOT over-stretch oneself. Last month i thought i was doing well with the simple Hal Higdon training schedule and completed four weeks of it. Well, almost. Then a  long run with the Hyderabad Runners group happened and when I was supposed to run 5 miles, i got inspired (perhaps overconfident) and ran 11.2 kms (7 miles) with a big part of it on a hard surface. This naturally weakened the body more than what was 'scheduled' and some careless eating proved to be the tipping point. Some more business travel in the following days did not actually help in the recovery. So here i am having lost two to three weeks of the schedule but perhaps a bit wiser!

Oct 10, 2008

Temples in the Godavari Districts

Temple tourism is a great way to explore India and take a peek into the cultural mystique that is diverse yet permeates all of our country. In my third and final post of my Godavari  travelogue, I will now cover a few temples we visited. 

Antarvedi is a small temple village located close to the point where Godavari 
(it's Vasishta distributary) meets the sea. The temple is dedicated to Lord Nrisimha and is more than 500 years old. We reached the place around 8 am when the once-a-day abhishekham puja happens to the nija roopa vigramaham (the stone idol without any decorations). The poojari (priest) was friendly, methodical and impressive in his conduct and handling of the pilgrims. With the temple thing done, we next drove to the beach which is a popular place for the locals. The beach was pristine and definitely on par with the beaches at Vizag or even Goa. There is also an old light house nearby; from its tower gallery one can have panoramic views of the sea and the river meeting it. I recalled my trip to the same place more than eleven years ago when I had taken a ferry ride across the river, an auto rickshaw to the village and then rented a bicycle to go up to the beach. Now it was a cab ride all the way from our resort at Dindi!

Ryali is a unique temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu's Mohini form which is feminine. The idol is very unique, made out of single soft stone and appears to be in the Hoyasala style of Karnataka (very reminiscent of the exquisite sculptures in Beluru, Halebidu and Somnathpura). The temple charged five rupees as entrance fee into the sanctum sanctorum which appeared strange initially as most temples in India necessarily have a free darshan scheme. We soon realized we got our money's worth when the priest conducted a tour of the temple sanctum sanctorum and thoroughly explained each facet of the highly detailed sculpture. 

When our cab crossed to the west of National Highway 5 to get to Ryali, I immediately noticed a stark difference in the socio-economic landscape of the area. While the area on the east appeared prosperous with good roads and some signs of  affluence around, the one on the west appeared decrepit and had pot hole riddled roads. This difference was almost like West and East Germany! What was constant throughout though were the countless hoardings proclaiming support to Chiranjeevi's newly launched Praja Rajyam Party.

Draksharamam is a famous temple on the Shiva pilgrimage circuit of Asia. We visited this as a day trip out of Kakinada a port town on the east coast of India.  This temple is also one of the five major Shiva temples located in AP. While the temple is very special and steeped in history, it was a bit of a disappointment to see the priests there abusing their position to extract money from the pilgrims

Kotipalli is a temple just ten kms away from Draksharamam and hence we extended our drive further south. The temple hardly had any visitors but the local person was keen on charging a hefty parking fees for the only vehicle that came there. The temple was nice and the unique thing about this is the Shiva's lingam being submerged in water that oozes out of the ground. This lingam is actually housed a bit away from the main sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Just outside the temple, there is a large lake with a huge Shiva statue situated in the middle. 

There are other well known temples in the Godavari districts that I did not cover in this trip, but had a chance to visit many years ago. These include Annavaram, Palakollu, Bhimeswaram and few more. More about them in a later post after I revisit them.

Oct 9, 2008

More of River Godavari - Dindi Resorts and House Boat

In continuation of my last post, I now write about the rest of my week long travels around the districts of Godavari.  We returned back to Rajamahendri after the Papi Kondalu Trip a bit tired. The next morning after a heavy breakfast at the River Bay, we took a cab to Dindi a quaint little village along a distributary of the Godavari where the AP Tourism Department has recently built a resort. En route to the resort, we stopped briefly at the Dhawaleswaram Barrage a structure built more than 100 years ago that completely transformed the economy of the Godavari area, making it the rice bowl of India! One can see many statues saluting Sir Arthur Cotton for the hugely noble feat; it is also a coincidence that Cotton was an evangelist and one can see continuing symbols of conversions in the Godavari areas. 

Once we got onto the National highway connecting Madras to Kolkata, we also saw hundreds of plant nurseries that export decorative plants of all kinds lined up along the road. After stopping at one of them and checking it out, we reached the resort at Dindi. Being a government managed resort there were issues like the restaurant menu being very restrictive and the lawns not shaped up well etc (worst part was the dirty bath area adjoining the swimming pool). But on the positive side, the rooms were spacious and provided basic service. Our intent was to stay the night there and board the house boat the next morning.  

We found the house boat somewhat dilapidated from the outside and the maintenance was poor. The rooms inside were well maintained though and the deck upstairs was also just about okay. The railings along the boat were not in the best of condition and god forbid an accident waiting to happen. Our cruise along the river did make up for these shortcomings. We first went on a pre-lunch ride from Dindi all the way to Narsapur which is the last major town before the river's confluence with the sea. The ride was slow, idyllic and all we saw was water and millions of coconut trees. After returning to the resort, and finishing lunch we then proceeded on another cruise in the opposite direction to an island named Sivakodi Lanka

The sun was setting - a pretty sight in itself, and the breeze cool and gentle making this ride even more memorable. We alighted at the island and saw ruined structures that were used for tourists as overnight lodges. For whatever reason, they are no longer in use. The island had lots of tall green grass and several milkmen were cutting it away, packing it into bales and ferrying them across the river to their cow yards. We finally turned back to the resort and actually had a target to reach there by six pm. There is a government regulation about not having vessels ply after six in the evening as fishermen take over the river then. We spent the night in the houseboat and except for the occasional swaying of the bedroom it was pretty good. 

Oct 7, 2008

Trip to Papi Kondalu along River Godavari

My long awaited vacation finally started with a cruise along the river Godavari to the scenic Papi Kondalu hills in Andhra Pradesh. The previous day we checked into the excellent River Bay Hotel in Rajamahendri (Rajahmundry as the Britishers renamed it).

We took an early morning bus to Pattiseema where the cruise started from. The upstream journey was wonderful with the river gracefully snaking its way up the plains into the thickly forested hills. The climax was the stretch where we entered the famous Papi Hills where the hill ranges are so closely spaced that it actually looks like the river is removing curtain after curtain in its relentless journey. The river here gets to just 150-200 metres wide, a fraction of its girth at Rajamahendri where the rail cum road bridge itself is 5 kms wide.

We took the 200 air conditioned seater from Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) manned by a dutiful and polite crew. Unfortunately the whole booking and boarding was messed up by the management and we heard that the cruise day before had to be cancelled after starting off as they realised the boat was over-crowded. Though the journey was beautiful, the boarding and ticketing process was mis-managed. APTDC still follows a manual booking process that complicates booking and cancelation big time! The boat was also slow (one felt someone jogging along the bank would have moved faster) and the journey was about 10 hours long! For someone wishing to cover this, I would recommend a trip to Kunavaram from Bhadrachalam, a famous temple town in Khammam district; from Kunavaram one can hire a boat and complete a round trip to the Papi Hills in about 4-5 hours.

Eleven years ago, I had an opportunity to do this journey but from the other way. I took a bus from Bangalore to Hyderabad and from there a connection to Bhadrachalam. After a day or two there covering places like Parnasala and Kinnerasani Wild Life Sanctuary, I moved to Kunavaram and stayed overnight paying a princely sum of eight rupees for renting a cot! The next morning I took the daily passenger motor launch to Rajamahendri that costed rupees thirty inclusive of lunch. That journy was special - I ended up spending more time on the roof of the boat and we touched almost every village on either side of the river. Looking back it almost has a 'Swades' movie like touch to it. I recall seeing so many kids splashing about in the water and this time could not spot a single soul frolicing in the water! I am told that the demography along the river has somewhat changed and people have moved on to the cities where more opportunities beckon in the risng economy of India. In a few years the ambitious Polvaram project will dam the river a few kms north of Rajamahendri transforming the economy of the whole state and also displacing several thousand villagers. That will change the demography more abruptly and take away the beauty of Papi Kondalu for ever.

Sep 21, 2008

"Go Kiss The World"

Two books in a month is fast reading when compared to my regular pace. It also means that my regular  spend on money is actually yielding some returns.The latest book i managed to finish is another biography, written in a friendly and fast pace. In 'Go Kiss the World', Subroto Bagchi writes about his life, what has shaped him and shares several useful nuggets for any young person.

Several things about Subroto and his book immediately struck a chord as i share the same background or context. I too spent most of teen years in Orissa, changed four schools and loved the experience. The open spaces at our township in Paradip, my schooling at Kendriya Vidyalaya, the library that exposed me to great English novels which eventually helped me crack b-school exams with ease. I have sometimes wondered if that was a blessing or a curse since I was not exposed to enough competition that led to spectacular failures in competitive exams right after my Class XII. Fortunately things turned for the better once a stint in big city academia and the ruthless competition there exposed all my weaknesses. I think most people who grow up in small towns indulge in this self doubt.

Bagchi admits that he was not cut out for a military career and though he was selected as the best NCC Cadet in the country, stayed away from it. He was fortunate to get some frank advice from a military person he later calls an angel. Later his first job was as a Lower Division Clerk (LDC) in the Orissa government. If not for some perhaps  misplaced overconfidence, I too would have ended up as an LDC in my first job.  After my own  experimentation with a military career, one of my relatives was keen that I take up some job and sent me several application forms for exams conducted by the government for selection into LDC positions. I promptly said No, though at that time i was not aware of what i would end up doing. I had no angel like Bagchi's when I was teenager and ended up wasting a couple of years of my academic career! But I found my angel later in final year of graduation (one Capt. Parthibhan of Pentafour Software in 1995), and this man who had then just returned from Singapore pointed me in the right direction. The book underscores the need to find good mentors and also be available to others as a mentor.

On a TV interview I happened to see while reading this book, Bagchi answered to a question, that one company that he really admires is Infosys. He calls  Infosys an institution and not just a company. Building a company is not a big deal, but building an institution is! I couldn't agree less having seen this company for quite some time now.

One of the things I liked is the perspective of a career spanning thirty or forty years and not a few years or the current job. I found myself giving similar advice to a group of youngsters couple of days ago! He also debunks the romantic myth several IT professionals hold about early retirement; I take that as a timely advice. I really wish I had read a book like this before I started my career - could have done a few things differently.

Sep 6, 2008

Fortune mag on Business Coaches

The September 1, 2008 edition of Fortune magazine carries a review of three business coaches and their methodologies. Stephen Covey, David Allen and Jim Loehr - all three charge an arm and a leg but promise nothing short of salvation ('meet your life's ultimate mission'), though in different ways. The author obviously does not announce a winner or recommend a method, but does provide a good inside peek, having interacted with the messiahs themselves and then their trained 'facilitators' .

I have flirted with the methods of the first two and learnt something from each over the years.  Covey's book was read almost nine years ago and I still remember it having left a distinct and almost inspiring touch on my psyche. However that it did not last long and I did not take it fully forward (guess my life would have been different otherwise!).

I came across David Allen's "Getting Things Done" this year and liked it very much. I now use it to keep mail box clean and lean. Am still struggling to integrate Outlook tasks with 'Next actions' in my inbox. And still have to the higher things in life that he promises will happen.

Loehr's theory is somewhat new but then not entirely new. He is a sports psychologist and much of what he says is also said by Lance Armstrong in his biography. In a way I have recently begun to do what he espouses. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you would have guessed by now that i am into running with a goal to complete a half marathon by this year end. What you would pay Loehr thousands of dollars to learn in person is already encapsulated in this training workout schedule by Hal Higdon, which is helping thousands of clueless novices like me achieve running goals!

Link to Fortune magazine which actually doesn't help, read another review here.

Sep 5, 2008

Google Chrome shines

Do I need a new web browser? Not really but i still downloaded Google Chrome and played with it. A fast and neat browser, but I won't make the switch completely yet as I love my FireFox browser extensions (feedly and meetimer) which are also newly installed! Call it fancy for a new thing if you would. What I like about Chrome is that is stable and hence saves minutes of browsing time each day. The browser is not 'in the face' and does not get into the way of whatever you are browsing.

Now Chrome is new but still underscores the importance of a developer community, which Firefox seems to have mastered. Google will surely attract developers who will mimick or create more Firefox like add ons. Microsoft must be wondering what to do, now that Google has opened up yet another flank in its ongoing war.

Sep 3, 2008

Ganesha Shopping

September is when the Hindu festival of Ganseha (Vinayaka Chavithi) comes. One the most colourful and enjoyable aspects of the Ganesha festival is the streets decorated with various puja items. Figurines and statues of various sizes, shapes and colors line up the streets. Heaps of stems and green leaves of various trees and plants, called patri and banana shoots turn the streets a riot of green. Fruits ranging from velakkayi, apple, guava, corn etc are also sold - these make up a palavalli (small ceiling made of bamboo sticks). What i enjoy the most is buying these from the hawkers and vendors who mostly come from nearby villages. Their rustic demeanour and simplicity is perhaps the reason. One such occasion at Gudivada (my home town) eleven years ago is still fresh in mind. I had spent a lot of time speaking to the kids on the street in the process of buying the stuff. Perhaps what keeps this occasion still relatively free from commercialisation is that this comes only once a year, and the ad-hoc suppliers are from the villages.

Aug 31, 2008

Nike Human Race

Nike has organised a world wide 10k race today touting this as the largest such race ever. Those not in the chosen 25 cities can run on their own, and need to sync their runs using the Nike plus ipod kit. Nike is raising $50 per runner and donating $5 to charity, wonder what the cost breakup is. Some experienced runners found this run amusing, but the sheer scale of this and the technology driven nature makes this unique.

I chose Indira Park in Hyderabad for my run - approximately six and half laps. I am still recovering from my comparitively long runs and somehow managed to complete it. It felt good and the fact that lakhs of people world over are running meant something. It was also a proper 10k i ran with some restraint and carrying a water bottle throughout. So i do not feel as terrible as last week.

Aug 30, 2008

Computing on Cloud 9

I happened to run into two live events on a technology topic this week. The topic is Cloud Computing, something that promises to stop companies from worrying about technology infrastructure and scaling it up. The first event involved an Amazon guy who made a strong pitch to IT Services companies to help them take this trend to their customers. The second event (held today) was a technology barcamp at Hyderabad. Two guys from Google talked about the Google App Engine (GAE), but I was more impressed by an unassuming entrepreneur who demoed Amazon Web Services (AWS) in action. Unfortunately his map making product is likely to be eclipsed by Google's Map Maker even before it hits the market. But he showed how AWS was far more flexible and powerful than GAE.

This trend is particularly relevant in Indian context as it has a potential create vast economies of scale in computing thereby making Information Technology accessible at low price points. IT adoption in India is at a world class level in the big corporates, but SMEs have not embraced it yet due to price and maintenance issues. Cloud Comupting could free up all of that and jumpstart the productivity of the Indian economy.

Chiru throws a party

Popular Telugu film star Chiranjeevi launched a political party with fanfare this month. Motives are to do-good and 'clean up' the much system. He claims former President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam as his inspiration among others. What remains to be seen is if his coterie of family and friends will help him in his or will they help themselves. People though seem willing to give him a chance.

This throws the political equations in the state of AP awry and no one knows who will win the elections next year. But having another strong regional party will definitely help the state; just see how Tamilnadu manages the federal setup no matter who is in power on either side.

Aug 28, 2008

Recovery and Run

The Sunday run took its toll on me as i ran without any water or an eat! The weather was not very cool either. Even after i got home, breakfast and refill were not on my mind. So the next four days I spent recovering from sore muscles and finally this morning went to Indira Park for a 6 km run. I am deliberately keeping my pace slow (it is anyway fairly slow) to avoid injury.

Rahul Varghese wrote a very nice article "Wake up call from Beijing" exhorting Indians to take up more running. See it here. I like his missionary zeal which was on display ten days ago at the Hyd Marathon.

Aug 25, 2008

Mangalampally Balamurali Live!

Last night i had a wonderful opportunity to listen to the legendary Mangalampally live at the Ravindra Bharati auditorium. I am not big into Carnatic music - cannot make out the nuances of ragas but can somewhat understand the language (mostly Telugu) and the devotion (Bhakti) that makes a composition. As a child, i grew up listening mostly to MS Subbulakhmi and Balamurali on the gramaphone record though i had no schooling in any form of music. My favourites composers are the famous Tyagaraja, Annamayya, Shyama Sastri and Ramadasu. Balamurali sang from the works of all of the above and more! The legend sang the famous 'Endaro Mahanubhavulu' upfront and later 'Paluke Bangaramayena' - two of my big time favourites!

At the beginning of the program, he was magnanimous enough to call Dr C Narayana Reddy as his manasika guru, one who inspired to him start writing compositions himself. He was also gracious enough to respond to the audience's requests. S Janaki requested 'Devi Brova Samayam Idhe' and he responded 'Idhena?' as if she herself was the 'Devi', before singing it. This somewhat contradicted a notion that he is a pompous artist; I found no traces of that yesterday.

Aug 24, 2008

My first run with "Hyderabad Runners"

Today i had an opportunity to run with the Hyd Runners group at KBR park. We did the inner loop (4km) first and then the outer loop (6km). The much more experienced runners (several had multiple marathons under their belt) were gracious enough to let me run along with them though i am still a rookie. Rajesh egged me on and pulled me through the inner loop of 4kms. They then took off for the outer loop and i followed, miserable most of the time but determined to finish. The outer loop was almost 6 kms and had several steep ups and downs (some were just steps with no trail). I was surprised to see a very beautiful lake hidden inside the park, from one of the peaks in the outer trail. Was happy to eventually finish in 1 hour 09 minutes.

Apple Mac gaining

Last week, I ran into two fairly successful professors who came from the US to Mysore to teach a course. What was common between them that they both used Apple Macbooks. That is not enough to make a trend per se, but I believe there is more to it than just coincidence.

The ipod has been setting scorching sales records and now it looks like Apple is also gaining on the computer sales front. Check this out to see that Apple is very strong on the retail sales front; Windows continues dominate OEM and institutional sales but Apple is approaching a critical mass. The Apple Mac ads have been a rage and now Microsoft is forced to counter them in a big way and has signed up Seinfeld himself for that!

Apple iStores have made their appearance in India - there is one in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad - giving Indians a closer look at the sex appeal of an Apple Macbook Air, to pick just one product. Apple also made a big launch yesterday of the iPhone tying up with Airtel and Vodafone - two large telcos in India.

Aug 23, 2008

"It's not about the bike!"

One of the few books I have managed to finish rapidly in the recent past, is Lance Armstrong's autobiography "It's not about the bike". A hugely inspiring book - Lance makes no bones about how he grew up, raced, became a world champion, faced cancer, beat cancer, came back to win the Tour de France and became a father. I will soon cite some key snippets that impressed me the most. Lance's Texan style of writing is open, in the face yet friendly, and very transparent.

Would strongly recommend this book to anyone especially those Indian athletes now looking to beat the world post Beijing Olympics with London as the target.

Hyderabad Runners organise a great Marathon

The Hyderabad Runners group, led by the resourceful Rajesh Vetcha, organised a marathon run last week, in association with the Hyderabad 10k foundation. I got to do a bit of '"squirrel's service" (ఉడుత భక్తి) as a volunteer in the UOH leg of the race (a squirrel had deposited grains of sand when Lord Rama was building a bridge over the sea to Lanka).

The event pulled together about 600 runners from all over the world and included the Grey Hound contingent from AP Police too. A very well organized run that drew appreciation from one and all. Hoping for more such events in Hyd and I look forward to run in them in addition to cheering from the sidelines.

Aug 18, 2008

More cribs about BIAL

Two days after my post comparing the Bangalore (BIAL) and Hyderabad airports, Deccan Herald has published this interesting report citing that a team of the civil aviation ministry will visit BIAL tomorrow and inspect the facilities to see if the cribs are indeed true. The Airports Authority of India has already reported that the airport was facing severe capacity constraints putting passengers in great inconvenience. Against the allotted 12 to 20 per cent of space for commercial utilization, BIAL has used up to 30 per cent of the space! This has severely affected the passenger amenities particularly in the security hold area (SHA) where there is even lack of adequate space for toilets.

Aug 14, 2008

A Tale of Two New Airports

The two new airports at Bangalore (BIAL) and Hyderabad (GMR-RGIAL) were much needed: traffic at Bangalore will touch 10 million this Fiscal Year and Hyderabad is expected to touch 7.5 million. The airports have now settled into steady state and one can compare the 'character' they begun to acquire. I personally find that on almost every count Hyderabad scores over Bangalore; and I am not saying this just because I am from Hyderabad.
  1. Let us start with the time taken to commute to the airport. The commute from Electronics city to the Bangalore airport takes two to three hours. A similar journey from the Hyderabad IT district takes less than ninety minutes. Hyderabad is also building a huge 11 km expressway from Mehdipatnam to the highway from where the airport will be a smooth ride. Bangalore has no similar infrastructure in the works.
  2. The approach roads are both comparable and 'world-class' but the landscaping along the road at Hyderabad is arresting and done very nicely. Even the round abouts closer to the airport at Hyderabad give a touch of class and lend a character to the entire edifice. Bangalore has nothing of this.
  3. BIAL has both arrivals and departures at one single level which causes some confusion and clutter outside the airport. Hyderabad has two levels which streamlines inbound and outbound traffic and creates a lot 'space' and 'depth' to the structure.
  4. Check in at both places is smooth. However after clearing security at Bangalore you run into this strip mall kind of atmosphere which is highly cluttered with lots of shops jostled next to each other. People queuing at the gates run into each other, in fact anyone going anywhere runs into each other and doesn't know here he is going. The Hyderabad sitting areas is much more spread out and has a lot of greenery with indoor plants decorating the place.
  5. The colour schemes and layout of various buildings at Bangalore airport are not in sync with each other unlike Hyderabad.
  6. The aerobridges at Hyderabad are all transparent gives a pretty neat feeling whether you are looking from outside-in or inside-out. Bangalore aerobridges are opaque (perhaps to place more ads inside), adding to the already claustrophobic feel you get at the departure gates.
Hope these two airports continue to compete with each other as they evolve and grow. After all traffic is expected to eventually take off further, not withstanding the dampening effect of the recent oil crisis.

Aug 12, 2008

Are we becoming more selfish?

Not sure if this is enough anecdotal evidence on the loss of our collective 'Good Samratinism'. Over the last few months I have done several train journeys and usually things come together such that I get the responsibility of escorting senior lady citizens. Trains have sleeping berths in three tiers and the reservation systems somehow do a very poor job of allocating the lower berths to those who really need them - old, frail, disabled, pregnant etc. Most people perhaps just plump for lower berths even though they may not really need them.

And once you get onto the train, requests to fellow passengers for a lower berth exchange usually meet with a smirk and stare as if you are begging for alms. Perfectly healthy middle aged people pointedly refuse an exchange claiming they have a backache or leg pain, though they can clearly see the state of a 80 year old woman. Trying 25-30 people finally yields one positive result and the search is closed (a 'courtesy-hit-rate' of 4%). Last month, my mother met a pregnant lady who was requesting a lower berth and finally when amma agreed, she had to move to an altogether different compartment . The lady must have asked 75-80 people, a courtesy-hit - of 1.5%! What has been your experience with courtesy-hit-rates?

Aug 11, 2008

Gold, at last

Today there were two sports headline news. One was India losing the third cricket test against Sri Lanka at Colombo. Nothing very surprising there in a game that eats up 95% of the country's attention and money. For all you know some bookies would have made huge money with kick backs to you-know-who.

The second less probable but infinitely more welcome news was an Indian finally winning an Olympic individual gold medal in shooting. It is fitting that in a country that has produced the like of Arjuna the mighty archer, a related sport brings us glory. I was just about write about the national humiliation that we are beginning to undergo at the Beijing Olympics and here come Abhinav with his outstanding performance. Now this one gold has gotten the monkey off our backs and the effect on other sports persons is already visible.

I've always held that India has a chance of winning gold most individual sports, funded by corporates, given our relatively poor 'team playing skills' and the huge scam the political-sports establishment is. Winning a gold at Olympics involves much more than raw talent - conditioning, grooming, medical attention, advanced equipment, careful diet and nourishment etc.

Let us hope this sets the trend for sports in India as a whole! In hindsight, the cricketing news should not have even made the headlines!

Jul 21, 2008

Interesting Times.. and somewhat empty roads!

The times are surely interesting since I last posted on this blog! The government is close to running a very tight trust motion in Parliament two days from now. The ostensible reason is the nuclear deal with US which has kind of 'polarized' the Commies in India onto one side. Other smaller parties are busy trying to fish in troubled waters. My intuition and hope is that the governments gets the nuclear deal through. After that even if it falls a few months later, no sweat!

Oil has sky rocketed leading to numerous consequences for various people and governments, and the above is surely one of them. Nuclear energy even if it comes several years later, will reduce dependence on Middle East oil which will be good for us. Meanwhile there are supply cuts leading to queues at the fuel stations, and to somewhat empty roads. Not an entirely bad prospect for the traffic weary Hyderabadi!

Apr 9, 2008

Free Tibet!

Something had to bring me back to this blog and break the silence going on for a while. And it is the chicken'ery by the Indian government on the Chinese crackdown in Tibet. India has been dumb for decades in its foreign policy with China - even while China annexed Tibet, invaded India impudently and even of late needles India with overt pacts with Pakistan and sermons (sic) us over human rights in Kashmir.

One's blood boils to see Tibetans with their backs to the wall, trying to make a feeble attempt to highlight their cause. Time is running out for them as soon the Chinese Hans will change the demography of Tibet forever. The Americans did it with the Natives in the 18th and 19th centuries, Australians with the Aborigines and now the Chinese with Tibetans and Uigurs - have the times really changed? Are we living in a modern free world at all?

Feb 21, 2008

More 'Aaraha hoon India' ads

Six months ago, I wrote about an ad which shows a youngster chukcing his US visa to stay back in India, of course riding a Hero Honda bike. It is very exciting to see a few more ads in this genre:

  • GMR the Infrastructure major has a series of ad that simply announce India to the world. One of these shows an elderly couple waiting in tension for the result of their son's US visa appointment. The son knocks the door and bursts into a dance and is all smiles. Turns out he did not get the US visa and is celebrating the opportunity to stay back in India!
  • Saakshi (సాక్షి) a Telugu newspaper being launched this month, has some interesting ads about kids and youth who have there dreams centered in India. One shows a girl wanting to be a world famous Kuchipudi dancer, another has a girl dreaming to become an astronaut and my favuorite finally is the one showing a youngster riding a boat (a la Shah Rukh Khan in the movie Swadesh स्वदेश) and imagining a scenario where foreigners queue up to obtain a work permit in India!

Something simply unimaginabe just a few years ago is now being visualized and projected to the masses! Needless to say if these ads reflect what the popular imagination is, then India as a country is indeed seeing a turning point in its history. Let me know if you come across more such ads.

Feb 10, 2008

Nike+ Goals

Some more on the Nike+ coolaid I have been drinking of late. Here's my Nike+ goal that is helping me get into those running shoes more often.

Jan 27, 2008

What next in IT Services?

The blog post here by Basab in 6ampacific captures well what is going on (wrong) with the Indian IT Services industry. The stock prices of Indian IT biggies have taken a massive drubbing while the Sensex in general has been going from strength to strength in 2007. The recent market meltdown impacted IT stocks the least, partly because they were already beaten up black and blue.

With the rupee appreciation, larger volumes and the expected recession in the US the future is certainly not so rosy. What could turn around the futures of these companies? One or more of the following:
  • Some bold and aggressive acquisitions in the global market place taking their reach to new markets. Indian companies in general (not just IT ones) have a huge potential to acquire inefficient operations overseas and use their low cost models to deliver significant improvements in gross margins.
  • The rupee reaching a level of Rs 40 again on the back of a potentially deeper stock market correction, could mark a psychological threshold. With elections in India round the corner and the global recession there will be enough volatility around to make that possibe if not probable.
  • Launch of some bold IT products may still take some time, but that could kick in big time non linear revenue streams and not on mere head counts. TCS is already more than 100k heads, a humongous number and I clearly don't see them replacing the Indian Railways as the world's largest employer.

Jan 24, 2008

Nike Plus Rocks!

I have been using Nike plus for about a month now and feel compelled to write this. Nike plus is an excellent example of a social network engineered by Nike and Apple together. The gadget itself is a combination of a Nike+ sensor and an ipod nano accessory. Of course you also need a ipod nano and a Nike+ capable running shoe that has a built in socket to hold the sensor.

Once you are set up, the sheer joy of integrating your music/podcasts with running is beyond words. Each time the ipod syncs, the run data goes to the website where one can track the runs, goals, challenges, resolutions, trophies, route maps etc. The route map feature is great - noticed though that Hyderabad did not have as many maps as Bangalore and went about creating a few myself. All the running related activity has been superbly organised, letting one focus on getting motivated and staying the course. I am now close to completing my target of running 40kms this month and hope to set more targets in the coming months to eventually accomplish my goal of completing a half marathon.

Joker In The Pack - Life at IIMs

One of the few books I managed to complete last month is titled "Joker in the Pack". It is a racy read and gives a pretty good glimpse about life at an IIM startign right from the graduation days to preparing for the CAT entrance exam and then cracking the interview. The story of how the protagonist then unleashes all the tricks in the trade to get ahead in the crazy rat race is well written. Of course he finally lands a plum job in a consulting firm though ends up losing out on his pre-MBA romance (only perhaps to go on to 'greener pastures'). The shamelessly opportunistic streak exhibited made me squirm at times but clearly the protagonist believes that any price is good as long as you win.

Bottom line: I will recommend the book to any MBA aspirant for the big picture view it provides for succeeding in life at an IIM.

Jan 13, 2008

Tata Launches Nano

It is finally out! The Tata Nano is almost as cute and sexy as the Ipod Nano and holds the promise to revolutionise the way automobiles will be driven in India (potentially even the world). It portends a significant socio-economic revolution in the smaller towns of India and will potentially spur the development of more roads and allied infrastructure in the remote corners of the country. While that will take quite some time, be ready for crazier traffic in the big cities and saturation in the smaller ones. Some argue this is retrograde and screws up the environment but then one could argue development in general is bad? As long as this growth in mobility for the masses is balanced by better roads and infra, things should turn out well.

My admiration for the Tata Motors and Ratan Tata runs even deeper now post this launch. This Nano has established India solidly in global arena of automobile design. The perseverance of Ratan to hold on in West Bengal is admirable in the face of the daily brinkmanship by the vested elements to shut down the Nano factory. The guy is out to do good for Bengal by letting industry take roots once again. Let us hope that 'common people' in their thousands drive out to Singur a year from now with their little Nanos to express their solidarity and gratitude.