Dec 31, 2009
Dec 29, 2009
After croquet, the final event of Junglethlon was river bed running. We trekked a bit to get to the river and then ran some 6 to 8 kms. Parts of the river were very scenic. I found a few trees in the dry riverbed that had massive bulbous roots, trunks and even branches making them look like they were made of potatoes!
We rose early, not to miss our appointment with Mr Sher Khan in the Pench forest. Rudyard Kipling spent his time in this forest and this is where he wrote the famous Jungle Book. Having read this story to my daughter several times I was all familiar with Bagheera, Baloo, Mowgli, Kaa and others – the area is full of their pictures on various signboards.
It was a trip that was made in the usual year end tradition that I am developing now. Go out into the wilderness, commune with nature and challenge oneself with a trek in the second half of a December. The trigger this year is a reflection of how the internet is impacting us - I found the event and the organisers on Facebook! The destination was Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh (MP) and the event Junglethlon.
In the following travelog posts, i will provide more details on what transpired each day.
- Day 1 – Ramtek
- Day 2 - Junglethlon Begins, Machan making
- Day 3 - Safari, Fire making, Cycling
- Day 4 - River bed running, Wrap up
Aug 30, 2009
A big bummer was that i took the 'carb loading' thing too seriously. I must have overate yesterday and when I got up this morning, realized the tummy was not feeling right . Things could have gone worse, but i managed the run at a sedate pace and refrained from eating much (contrary to what is advised). The foot injury sustained in a charged-up Karate class was not helping much either. Overall I managed to still shave eleven minutes from my previous HM and clocked 2:27:38. I hope to improve this with better prep next time around.
I must thank the Hyderabad Runners group for the encouragement and guidance without which i could not have imagined running these kinds of distances. In my later teenage years i had sustained major shin injuries and any kind of running was fully out of question. The group led by the highly motivated Rajesh Vetcha, Satish Mandalika, Devyani Halder, VV Prasad, Vasu (vnug), Anirudh Pandey, Divya and many more, is a great example of excellence combined with humility.
The event itself is becoming more and more popular. This year there were several people from Kenya (where else, of course!), USA, South Africa etc. Several old men were running briskly easily beating people forty years younger to them! Many ladies and girls were also doing very well. Overall the run was well organized with lots of volunteers . Special mention to Riyaz, Srikanth who biked down from Habsiguda to Hitex, Sumanth who biked from Yousufguda, Deepthi who travelling from Fatehnagar and stayed at a hostel overnight, many more from my workplace. Let's hope this run gets a much bigger crowd next year.
Jul 23, 2009
Tweets on the other hand, demand neither preparation nor perfection. You can tweet any time (the phone is always there), and there is no edit - once out, it is out; unless it is so bad that you have to delete it (you are allowed to!). There is a sublime beauty in the 140 character limit!
Jun 27, 2009
Now the artist/singing fraternity is fairly politicized (which fraternity is not?) and fragmented. However it was impressive to see many of them come together onto one platform and pull off this event. There was a grassroots movement too, by people in many villages, towns, schools and corporates to learn the songs. Since some Good Samaritans at my work place (Rambabu Kaipa - a CSR champion, Srinivas Prabhala - an accomplished artist) took the lead, it was easy for me to venture slightly beyond bathroom singing. On the big day, my eighty year old grand mother and I made it to the venue, amongst the milling crowds and savoured the occasion. There was a spring in my grandma's step despite a nagging knee injury, and she handled the crowds like a charm! The only thing amiss was the real sound of 160k voices which was drowned out by the blaring loudspeakers relaying the artists on stage (G Balakrishna Prasad and his son).
The event clearly brought out, the deep hunger people have to learn and enjoy Telugu classical music. Hope music in the state get a big boost with this Guinness record making event!
Jun 9, 2009
What caught my eye on the first day of the twelfth year, was this article by Ramachandra Guha on his reflections about the India of the last eleven years! He talks about how India is experimenting on various dimensions all at once - nationalistic, democratic, industrial, urban and social. I somehow remain utterly optimistic about how this evolution will culminate!
May 2, 2009
I grew up reading a lot of war fiction by Alistair McLean, Desmond Bagley, Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth etc. Mukul's military thrillers are clearly in this genre and he easily ranks well in this peer group. Strongly recommend!
May 1, 2009
This man was an exception, he smiled, and even politely enquired me about the elections. I told him about Loksatta the new party, and how it could win a few seats in Hyderabad. He nodded saying, "Well there are few educated people who will vote for them, especially in the Jubilee Hills constituency". When I suggested most other politicians are crooks, this young man (all of twenty years) concurred but added, "It is the Indian public that is to blame, we vote for them after taking money, we accept their biryani feasts and liquor packets and vote for them. We deserve their rule as we break the rules of civic engagement. We are the bigger thieves!". "Why, the other auto wallas demand Rs 20 for the same ride, isn't that too thievery?", he asked.
I came home feeling good about meeting one man with clarity of thought. He aptly summarised, what took an IIM professor a full book.
Global terrorism traces back to the Cold War political tussle between USA and USSR, when the latter invaded Afghanistan. The US cynically exploited religion to defeat the Soviets, by funding terrorists and the Pakistan Army (which got radicalised thanks to General Zia and created the Taliban). Pakistan has been using both the funding (very cleverly procured and blackmailed, it is now clearly an art) and the terrorists as a weapon against India (since it has no other Raison d'être), leading to attacks such as 26/11. Now this Frankenstein monster is turning against Pakistan and threatens to destabilise the South Asia region. Destabilising effects will likely be more terrorist attacks in India and deeper trouble in Kashmir, as these terrorists and some Pakistani Army elements sort out their immediate issues and refocus on India.
It is ridiculous to see this desperate search for Indian 'equivalents' for the AfPak terrorism patterns, and blame them as the causes, all just to sound more 'secular'.
Apr 30, 2009
- New generation parties like Loksatta have emerged on the political scene - these seek to mirror the aspirations of the first time voters seeking change, and have enhanced the voter turnout.
- Movements such as Letsvote.in have added to this momentum, the turnout at the Hyderabad walk was large and showed the enthu among the IT crowd.
- Not to mention Jaagore which caused quite a stir in mobilising voter registrations. I was impressed with their CRM like approach to voter databases; however THE missing part was ensuring voters confirmed their names in the electoral rolls - this alone could have saved a few lakh votes, given the scale of their campaign targeting One Billion Votes.
- http://www.pollingbooth.in/ - check your name in the rolls 3-4 weeks before the election data, if it is missing, immediately raise a request to the election office in your jurisdiction. In my case, I found my name but failed to notice the change in the polling booth; so on the election day, had to rush to the new booth i was assigned, some 4 kms away from my home.
- http://www.ceo.ap.gov.in/ - same as above, or the local equivalent
- http://www.ceoandhra.nic.in/Final_erolls_2009_II.html - same as above
- http://myneta.info/ - a wonderful tool comparing the profiles of the candidates in your constituency. This link showed me the picture for Secunderabad before i voted.
Apr 26, 2009
After months of poking with the idea of buying a bike, i finally took the plunge last month and bought a Firefox Target, my first ever geared bicycle. The motives were many - get some exercise, make an eco friendly gesture, do something other than the plain old running that i fall back to, explore nature (atleast the green university campuses and cantonments in the twin cities), go on some long rides, splurge on myself (which I am not that good at) etc. The beautiful beast (no oxymoron) looks something like this:
I am well over the post purchase dissonance phase which thankfully was short. There are pricier and fancier bikes, but this is just what i need now. I did one brief lap in wilderness hidden within the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) campus (under the watchful eyes of HBC ace Sunil Menon), and several short road trips closer home.
I love the smooth ride of a bike, the almost noiseless way in which it rides the road. Cruising on the bike is next to the feel of a bird gliding! I plan to tweet about my bike escapades in the coming days. A distant but highly ambitious wish would be to complete the TFN this December.
We all hate bondage, no need to go all the way back to the Dark Ages of Slavery or Karl Marx's exhortation about 'nothing to lose but your chains'. How about the wires that comes with gadgets and appliances? Do they count as bondage?Name a single gadget that comes with no wires (do not skip the power cable)! The following is a view of a typical office desk:
- Laptop: Power cord, Ethernet cable, Blackberry charger cable,
- External key board connector cable, external mouse cable
- VoIP phone with its own power cord and ethernet cable
- External monitor with power cable, video out cable
The view at home is not much different, add more cables for the broadband - modem (ethernet cable, power cord, adsl splitter with two telephone wires) and wireless router (power cord, ethernet cable). So we have almost ten cables that help connect one to the world? More like ten chains around my limbs that get in the way of easily moving my machine to wherever i want to and work from where ever i wish.
The view from the street, especially in an Indian city or town would be one infested with the cable that brings home Cable TV. They literally grew overnight with the cable TV boom that happened in the early nineties. Another eyesore is the electricity poles and wires seen all over the country.
So the wish is for a chain free world - one where devices communicate through wimax, bluetooth, infrared, wi-fi whatever protocol you name it, but lose the wires please. What about electricity and the ubiquitous power chargers? Arguably electricity heralded the tyranny of the black wire and by now the earth is mired in billions of miles of it. Technology promises a way out - there is talk of space based power stations that harvest the sun and beam the energy via microwave streams. California and Japan are already on this path. Hopefully the world will one day have something common with what was two hundred years ago - no obscene wires lurking around.
Fortunately i spent my childhood in the coastal cities of Visakhapatnam (aka Vizag) and Paradip - as a child i remember awaiting our weekly trip to Ramakrishna Beach in Vizag. In Paradip, our school gang used to tear up the beach after every major exam. The tremendous feeling of post-exam-mania release would always find its vent near the Bay of Bengal. And the summer holidays had numerous bike trips from our township nestled in Paradip Phosphates, were always to the deserted beach. But all this was raw energy with absolutely no supporting infrastructure for sports like sailing, yachting, parasailing, canoeing etc. The same is true even today though some sports are faintly picking up in places like Rushikonda near Visakhapatnam. Indians are slowly waking up to a more active lifestyle, what with increasing global exposure of the IT generation: groups focused on Running (eg: Hyderabad Runners), Cycling (eg: HBC), Adventure (eg: www.hydventura.com), etc have emerged speaking of only one place - Hyderabad.
Now coming back to the coastline theme, India has all of 7,517 km of it, and except for pockets such as Goa or a few kilometres of beachfront property in major cities like Mumbai, Cochin, Madras, Visakhapatnam there is not much of Real Estate activity. Even the big boom of the last five years did not differentiate Coastal areas per se, as a hot zone. In my home state of Andhra Pradesh, the big Coastal Corridor project that was hatched by Chandrababu Naidu in his term and then continued by the Congress government was dropped due to political pressure - the government could not figure out an easy way of compensating the displaced and since it was an election year, they developed cold feet and scrapped it.
Big development is required in the coastal areas - to attract industry, the services sector which bring in jobs and hence people who will spur demand for quality houses on the beaches. Such demand will also carry a niche that demands quality coastal living.
Apr 5, 2009
The election fever is surely on in India and people are hotly debating potential scenarios after what could very well be the most closely fought election so far. No one's got a clue of who will win at the country level, or in states like Andhra Pradesh. The pendulum could swing any way making the results highly unpredictable.
My hunch though is that the BJP may just be able to pull ahead as the single largest party in Parliament. The reason is that the Congress may cede ground in AP, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi (though they just won the state elections) and Maharashtra. Orissa and WB may not make up for the loss. A BJP government in an era of failing and strife torn neighbor states (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka) is slightly better than having Congress steer foreign policy.
Newsweek has an interesting article titled "The Post Christian America" - more than 10% of Americans now identify themselves as non-believers. This trend if indeed true has major ramifications in a world increasingly getting polarised by religious hatred and divisions.
It is possible that a similar trend is being played out in the Islamic world with the mega-trend of globalisation creating a similar feeling of 'openness' among people. This would have led to a huge backlash by vested interests (read Wahabbi Saudis) using religious fervour as a weapon to beat everyone around into submission. For instance the recent Taliban moves in Swat Valley and the overall context of Taliban in Af-Pak going back 25-30 years could be just part of that context.
In the longer run, this trend could point to a world where well, religion isn't all that matters. If one doesn't care what religion the other person claims to (or doesn't bother to) follow, then the world could definitely become a more peaceful space.
The election scene for 2009 is slowly unfolding and though i was unusually aloof in the beginning, the excitement is catching up and i now find myself scanning news and even volunteering for a new political party. A significant development this time has been that people instead of shrugging their shoulders at the dirty political landscape, are actually wanting to do something. Baby steps abound, examples include:
- Leveraging the Net to share information on criminal backgrounds of politicians (http://www.nocriminals.org/)
- Professionals like Meera Sanyal (a banker in South Mumbai) contesting the elections
- Professionals across cities launching the Pledge to Vote campaign (http://letsvote.in), the Hyderabad event just happened today morning near the Hussain Sagar lake with thousands participating
- The Jaagore campaign titled One Billion Votes India, which has been running for several months now and supported by leaders like NRN of Infosys
- Eminent entrepreneurs like Rajesh Jain forming support groups such as Friends of BJP (that can also act as pressure groups) with leading political parties.
- Hectic usage of Orkut for canvassing which is perhaps the Social Network with the largest penetration in India.
But the most impressive of all developments is the launch of Lok Satta Party as a political movement. Launched by a former IAS office, Jayaprakhas Narayan this is the only party with clear cut plans on removing poverty rapidly in 5 years, building infrastructure etc. Obviously they are not promising dole outs that make beggars out of voters. Loksatta has picked up momentum with several professionals joining them and supporting them as volunteers. You can check their web site and Twitter site to know more about what they are doing.
Other events that have fanned these embers include Obama's election in the US last year, demonstrating that nothing is impossible in politics. The 26/11 attacks in Mumbai too have stirred people into taking some action.
These steps will only pick up momentum and I clearly see a strong working alternative emerge that will capture 8 to 10% of the popular vote next time around. Our politicians, smart as they are will soon start to appeal to this voter base which will mean a true change in politics. The virtual circle will progress leading to a more mature polity in 10-15 years from now.
Mar 18, 2009
I always had a fascination for Linux and Open Software and last month finally push came to shove and i made the move on my home laptop. The trigger was a 'yahoo lover' worm that wriggled into my Windows XP laptop somehow and started creating huge problems. So i ditched Windows lock stock and barrel and installed Ubuntu Linux. The installation was not a very simple affair but i persevered and am enjoying the benefits now. The system boots well, i have most of the software i need and the performance is pretty good. Firefox ran well until i realized it had issues with Flash movies which means no YouTube. Opera came to the rescue and i am already loving this browser compared to Firefox (almost as much as Linux over Windows).
The only pending issue is getting iTunes to work on Linux; Apple is never going to release a version for Linux and i am trying alternatives. Most can do basic iTunes stuff but i need something that syncs podcasts well. I am not that worried about the Nike+ runs which i will sync manually or write a small script if i am upto it.