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

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Path not Taken

Summer in Europe has come to an end. This is the last time one (by one, it is implied that it is an Indian who is used to temperatures as hot as Arnab Goswami's temper) could take a long bike ride in the nice evening weather in Germany. Cycling through a forest is great. It provides one with fresh air, good exercise, great scenery and improves reflexes, since one has to be quite agile, lest a boar should run full on to the fahrad. In short, biking through the forest in the south-western region of Germany is fun and the end of August is the best time to undertake this journey.

Good cycle, good headlights, good taillights. Enthusiastic driver. Time to go home. Enter the forest. Then two roads diverged into the green wood and the driver cannot travel both.
She must choose and choose wisely. It is time to go home, but an enthusiastic driver. What to do.
She looked at the one road and looked as far as she could.
Far she could see, to where it bent in the undergrowth.
But nay, she is the enthusiastic biker and she took the other path, just as fair,
because it was grassy and wanted wear.

Little did she know that Robert Frost had mentioned an Autumn climate, rather than the sweet summer. She now has a lot to face in the dense canopy of the forest which is so thick that it came to be called the 'Blackforest.' She has boldly chosen one and has to go ahead. Cycle she does, coolly at first and quickens her pace in a moment. The only source of light is that tiny diode on the front of her bike and the occasional firefly that kept hitting her face. The canopy felt like the vast sky, just without the bright moon and the twinkling stars which were blanketed. Few minutes into the ride, came they. No one who ever traversed the path near the forest had gone without tasting one of them. The eyes were not spared either. Squinting her eyes, she wanted to reach the end as fast as possible. But the forest never seemed to end. The little diode was still the only source of light. She rode at maximum power since she got well nourished after swallowing a million of those insects.

And then came the end of the road. She hated road endings but not today. She cherished it and felt happy that the forest ended, only to enter the farmland which was infested with enough insects to fill a boeing cargo! But back came the moon light under which she looked at her body, covered with insects like in the movie, Mummy.

She shall be telling this with a sigh
that she took the road less traveled by
the reason for which she now knows why

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Plant and do not forget!

"Monsoon finally! I feel as relieved as drinking sweet lime after biting into a chilli." said Mahati's friend. The summer this time was so hot that some Indians went to the Sahara desert to chill out. Added to the heat was the disappointing loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final. Hence only after few rains did things cool down. Mahati and her friend were on the terrace enjoying the monsoon rains which are much awaited for, in India almost every year. The Indian Meteorological Department failed again to accurately predict Indian monsoon and hence, as they always did, they rolled dice everyday to predict the weather forecast and the amount of rain. Today they said it would be overcast. It started raining in the evening. Close enough!

Mahati's body was in the state of a thermal gradient, with her feet experiencing intense heat being radiated from the floor of the terrace as the air above it got cooler. As it rained, the first rain drops to touch the floor got vaporized instantly, sacrificing themselves to take the heat away from the floor so that the next generation of drops can land peacefully. As the temperatures dropped and the air got denser, with more oxygen to breathe in, Mahati and her friend heaved a sigh of relief and decided it was time to enjoy a walk in the rain and went downstairs. As they reached the gate of their apartment, they saw the watchman who decided to enjoy a beedi in the beautiful rain. He just finished the beedi and was putting it out against the trunk of a tree which was sprouting fresh leaves. "Balram, it is not good to smoke, especially in such a weather and on top of it, you are hurting a tree?" asked Mahati. The watchman, bewildered at the fact that he was hurting something made of wood said, "This is how I have been putting out my beedi for the past ten years madam!" Feeling disgusted, merciful and amused at the same time, Mahati and her friend went on just as the watchman plucked out some fresh leaves to chew them.

Salutes to the brave women of the Chipko movement 
"People need to change. They need to plant more trees. Otherwise, this guy is going to chew all the fresh leaves, killing them all! It is monsoon time and Vanamahotsav is round the corner. In the academic year, this is the first ever festival that school kids need to celebrate. They should go on a sapling planting drive. I heard that in a temple courtyard recently, they planted 3000 plants. That is great!" said Mahati. Her friend asked casually, "How many of them survived?" Mahati replied, "You are so pessimistic. It does not matter how many survived. In the 3000, even if 30 make it t become fully grown trees, it is great, no!" Her friend asked, "then why can't they have simply planted 30 plants and made sure they all made it to become trees? Let me explain. Once planted, a sapling needs the care that one takes, for a baby. It is not at all practical to take good care of thousands of plants. Planting saplings is not a photo opportunity. It is the duty of the people. Vanamahotsav means 'The festival of trees and forests.' It is not enough to chop down a tree to make way for a politician to plant a flowering plant and pose for photos. That was not why it was started by K M Munshi and actively endorsed by our first PM Pandit Nehru in 1950. This is a drive to conserve forests and make sure there are more trees around us. It is not necessary to plant 3000 saplings in the hope that 30 will survive. It should be that 30 saplings should be planted and made sure they grow into trees, apart from conserving the existing trees. Plant and take care of it. Do not forget and leave the plant to rot. That is the idea of a festival of trees!

They kept on walking on the street in the potholes of which rainwater was settling down, not knowing where else to sink into the ground. "Still, something is better that nothing, right." Mahati said. Her friend stopped suddenly and pointed at a huge banner hung on the side of the road. The banner read, 'Planting drive to plant a million saplings by our beloved chief minister - Vanamahatsav celebrations, 2016. Jai Telangana'
Right below the banner, there was evidence of the planting drive. Ten neat holes were dug and fences constructed around them to protect the saplings. The saplings dried up and died. The banner continued to flutter, stronger than ever.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Puppy Shame!

It was Friday night and Mahati invited her friend home for dinner. She finished garnishing the pulihora and bisibelebath and they both were setting up the dinner table when her flatmate stormed into the room. She was coming back from her office and was visibly upset, angry and both. A concerned Mahati said, 'What's up? Anything wrong? I invited my friend for dinner and made a Andhra special.' Her flatmate did not quite notice Mahati's friend. She asked, 'How can people be so mean?' Mahati quickly put all the dinner in a hot pack.

'The guy that my parents wanted me to marry rejected me saying I am too thin for him.' said her flatmate. 'How can people judge someone based on their looks and physique? Is that not mean and hurtful?' Mahati replied, 'Absolutely. But what you should actually be doing is feel happy and grateful that you would not be married to someone who did not even interact with you to know about you. He let the weighing machine weigh your character. Obviously you would not want to marry a person like that. It is good news. Let us be happy for that, no.' 
Her flatmate did not cool down yet. 'Yeah, you are true, I should be happy. But what if all the people I know and will know in the future are like that? That is because, now that I think of it, girls who I thought would befriend me for what I am and of course, all the elderly aunts in my family also are the same. They judge me because I am thin. How correct is that? I am sure that some aunty lady would have told the guy that "look she is too thin. she is not suitable to marry." In fact, some so called friends are worse, whenever we go shopping for clothes, they direct me to the kids section. Is it my fault that I am thin? Is every one of them perfectly shaped? Does every woman need to have a so called curvy figure? Why can people not just be themselves and not indulge in bashing others for something they have no complete control on!'

Mahati understood her flatmate's agony and tried to console her. She said, ' Try not to think of all those. You might have only a handful of friends or people who like you for who you are. Only worry about those. Do not bother about others. When friends do such body shaming, it generally is in a very friendly manner, try to think of it that way. And when relatives say so, well, they are all relatives after all, what more do you expect.' she winked. 'However, even relatives try to tell for our "own good" you know. We do not realise it but we also do it quite often. After all, we are relatives for others too, is it not. None of us are Buddha or Gandhi. We do hurt others unknowingly. Just try to only take from what you hear, what you really need. All this might seem to be a way to escape the taunts of the society and not stand up against it boldly. But trust me, you would achieve nothing out of standing up. Nor do I say that you should start eating and exercising once someone comments on your skinniness and start dieting once someone starts bashing you for being a kilo heavier. Whatever others think of you, you do know that there always is someone who knows what you are. Don't let go of them! And now, enough of philosophy and let us eat before thermodynamics starts working on the imperfect hotpack!'

Mahati's friend who was listening all along laughed and asked, 'But what about me?'
Mahati's flatmate, who in her furore have not seen him till then, had a look at him.
He was five feet, three inches tall!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bucketing Down with a Shower

Well, yes, the title is a cheeky way to say that water is wasted when using a shower. But before starting any argument, let me confess that I use a shower daily, not because I like it, but because I have no luxury of using a bucket (In the west, you would find a lot of wastage of resources and energy). But somehow, there are a lot of people who are convinced that a shower wastes less water than a bucket bath. I do not think so. India has been facing water shortage since times unknown and we have come to a conclusion that using a bucket is the best way out. I support this 'tradition.' By the way, California too has just realised it. Maybe in few years time, we would be seeing buckets in every bathroom in California atleast.


One Quora explanation tells us to plug the water in the bath tub, take a shower and compare the water levels with the volume of a bucket. It is absolutely nonsense. Probably the writer got confused between a bucket and the bath tub (I am scared of the wastage created by a tub bath, so I will not even talk about it). I decided to do a simple experiment in a hostel bathroom in India. The reason for choosing a hostel bathroom is because generally in hostels, the shower faucets are clogged in most of the pores (the reason for this is a research problem no one has ever probed into) and thus I am literally using the slowest possible shower faucet. I filled a one liter mug with the water from the shower. It took me a bit more than 12 seconds for the mug to fill. That would mean 5 liters per minute and assuming 5 minutes for a bath, it consumed 25 liters of water. Assuming that those who believe that they are conserving water by taking showers will also bathe very fast, I cut down the bath time to a very very modest 3 minutes which brings down the consumption to 15 liters. Now, according to Milton, selling its products on Flipkart, the common bucket is 18 liters in volume, thus making a shower bath better, mathematically (in reality, it is not, you know! :-P)
However, to give an edge to shower faucets, I have made a lot of assumptions above. I have also not considered the initial wastage that generally occurs while using a shower and also the fact that a bucket is never filled to the brim (even the volume is calculated likewise).

Now, instead of my calculations, I look at the American "Faucet Flow Rate Regulations" (yes, there are such regulations), framed in 1994 (I really wonder if the US knows about a bucket! I am kidding, it does, Amazon.com sells them). According to the regulations, the maximum allowed flow rate is 2.5 gallons per minute which is about 9.4 liters per minute. The aim is to bring that down to 1.2 gpm but that is only in California but let me assume this is the norm everywhere. Even though it is a huge, huge assumption, let me go ahead and say that every shower faucet in the US urinates 1.2 gpm or 4.5 liters per minute, rounded off. An average person showers for 8 minutes. That would mean 36 liters of water in total. Phew! Again, the 'conservationists' who believe shower bath is good would let's say bathe for only 5 minutes which makes the count 22.5 liters of water. Again in the shower's defense, let us assume that a common bucket has a volume of 22 liters. The shower still uses more water!

However, I am showering no praises on bucket bath. That is because in the true defense of those in support of a shower bath over bucket bath, I have always taken into account that those who go for bucket bath only use one bucket of water which might not be true. Using two or more buckets of water makes it way water consuming than a regular shower bath. But hey, I have assumed so much for the shower players, I can make this small assumption as well. Just keep in mind that there are millions who are still thirsty while we bathe daily/weekly. Overall, "a" bucket bath is way better than shower in the present circumstances at least! Also, c'mon, with a bucket bath, one can reach any particular spot on the body but that is not possible with a shower bath. Most importantly, you can take your time in a bucket bath without having to worry about turning off knobs. What is the point of taking a bath if one cannot stand and wonder or recollect the lyrics of a really long song!

Some disturbing links:
https://www.unicef.org/drought/drought-countries.htm
http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/06/global-tour-7-recent-droughts
https://www.drought.gov/gdm/current-conditions
http://www.seametrics.com/blog/global-water-crisis-facts/

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Other Side of the Moon!

After a hard day at work, Mahati also had a hard time at home. The air in the apartment that she was sharing with her fellow Indian friends was full with unpleasantness. Mahati wondered what would have come up this time. "It is always difficult for us Indians to live in countries like this" her friend was saying. Mahati quickly realised the gravity of the situation and completely agreed with her friend and joined her in bashing the western world because she knew that if she did not, there would be no dinner and she was hungry. In the canteen the next day, her friend brought up the topic again. Confident that there is no problem with regards to food, Mahati freely spoke her heart out this time. 'Why are we unhappy?' she asked. 'Because we are not given the opportunity to be happy.' Mahati wondered whether it was the salad, because she was not happy with those huge lettuce leaves in whose pockets were hiding one or two tomatoes.

She realised that the salad was not the problem. 'Why are we not allowed to explore and express ourselves?' 'Who is stopping you from expressing yourself?' Mahati asked. 'We are discriminated by our looks, color and language. These are no reasons to discriminate. Why should we not be allowed to explore?' Mahati now understood. Something at the workplace or the salary slip, she decided. 'We come here for opportunities, yes,' her friend continued 'but we also work hard. We are here not because we have no opportunities back in India. We are here because, these countries are rich enough to have enough opportunities in every field of work. And since we do well in our work, we deserve to be respected on par with the locals.'

'Agreed. But I do not think that these are reasons enough to be unhappy about. We are all lucky that at least we are given an opportunity to prove our talents, to be able to eat food whenever we are hungry and sleep when we are tired. We also come from a country where there is enough food for everyone even though some individuals get food equivalent to a hundred people and some go hungry for days. Still there is food for everyone and hence most households are full of laughter. Maybe not every household, but every one who go out of India for these so called better opportunities all have a home to which you can look forward to going to and there is always some one looking for you to come home. What more can one ask to be happy? There are millions who cannot define what their home is. No matter what, we know that we can always go home, right, unlike many others.'

'Yes. But why on Earth should we not be allowed to be happy when we are away from home? Should I be happy only thinking about home?' Mahati replied, 'Nobody is stopping you from trying to be happy with your life, are they? Just try to enjoy life and be thankful.' 'Yeah sure. Thanks. Aah. See, look how happy that girl seems. She is fair and liked by everyone here. She has no reason to be unhappy like us.' he was saying, Mahati's friend. Mahati got up and went to the girl and introduced herself. 'Hi. Nice to meet you.' said that girl.
'Which part of this country are you from?' Mahati asked
'Oh no. I am not from this country. I have come here in search of some opportunity to work.' the girl said.
'I see. You were so nicely mingling with the people and seemed very ha..I mean, we thought you are from this country itself. Why did you come here then?'
'Oh, you see, I did not want to come, I had to come.' the girl winked.
'Where are you from?'
'Syria'

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nothing but the Best!

A time capsule is defined as 'historic cache of goods or information, often intended as a method of communication with future people.' This would help the future anthropologists and historians. Emperor Asoka's pillar inscriptions of Sarnath is one example. Even though not even as close to being significant or historic like the Asokan pillars, the time capsule at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, Germany is useful for the common man to understand the shaping up of one of the world's largest economy. Yes, the museum devoted to exhibiting the development of the brand Mercedes, just like any other museum begins from the origin. But what is exciting comes after the origin. The way the company has taken shape and the way the entire country has developed as the automobile developed is explained quite brilliantly and that is the best thing about the museum.

The journey begins with the display of a superb model of a sports car. Probably that is the indication about the grandeur of what is about to come further. An elevator to the top floor from which the journey of the automobile starts is not just any ordinary elevator. It is the time capsule. As it goes to higher floors, there is a fast recap of videos visible on the wall opposite, thus taking us back in time along with it. At the entry, there is a statue of a horse as if to thank the animal for serving mankind so well before the automobile revolution. It could as well mean that the service of the animal stopped just at the entrance of the automobile. Either way, the horse is happy. It can have a life of its own.

Whether a coincidence or competition, it is a wonder that both Mr. Daimler and Mr. Benz had developed their own automobile in the year 1886. If Daimler modified a horse wagon, Benz made a carrier of his own. They both ran on gasoline. Thus started the journey. It goes on to show how the ambitious men that they both were conquered every part of the transport and logistics sector. The breweries in Germany were more than happy with the arrival of the automobile and were among the first customers. Later, an Austrian businessman, who wanted to win the annual vehicle race in France got a customised car made for the very same purpose and named the car after his daughter, Mercedes. After Benz and Daimler came together, they retained the name. Interestingly, it is only around the late 18th century that Germany as it is now has grown in popularity under the iron chancellor, Otto von Bismark. If this is a coincidence, then the crucial role played by the automobile companies during both the world wars is no coincidence. 



Once the war ended, west Germany, especially Bavaria grew in the automobile sector. Now, every fourth car on the road is a German car. Due to the destruction left by the war, nation building, like the breweries earlier required good transport and logistics facilities and Mercedes was in the forefront in grabbing that opportunity. So much did the car and their speeds develop that the group had to focus exclusively on safety at a point of time. Thus came the 'airbag.' No, the seat belt was invented by Volvo. Towards the end, there is a proud exhibition of the Formula One race cars, the suits worn by different drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Juan Manuel Fangio. Surprisingly, Micheal Schumacher does not feature anywhere. There are also exhibits of the original cars used by celebrities like Pope John Paul II (someone) - basically the papal car, the car used by Lady Diana, the truck that carried athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympic games, the car used in Jurassic Park etc. There is also a souvenir shop and a car showroom, into which people generally go to sit in the car and click photographs.

Any normal human being whose heart beats at 72 cycles per minute wishes to travel at least twice in that time capsule. This museum is a perfect reflection of the motto Mercedes-Benz: Best or nothing. It is nothing but the best!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Politics and Cricket: Bullying a Bully

As India immerses itself deep in challenging cricket and landslide electoral mandates in politics, it could be the right time to think about politics in cricket.
There is one more thing that Indians love, apart from cricket and politics: movies. Indian movies somehow tend to show that the rich guy is the villain, even the 'high budget' movies. For the common man, the relation of movies to cricket is quite simple. The Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) is rich. And hence, BCCI is the villain. And anyone who can tame the bull(y) by its horns is a hero, even an otherwise hated person. It probably is the human nature. Not many ever support the Tiger when it chases its prey. This brings us to the question, why the hatred? Even if there is no hatred, there definitely is no love. BCCI is not loved like FIFA by the fans. Is it all because the BCCI, within a span of very few years grew from an underdog and a sidekick to being the boss in cricket? Well, that should make the average cricket fan in India be fond of BCCI. It just is not loved just as same as cricket in India. Maybe the movies do have an impact on the people.

On a serious note however, it is quite sad that many a man has conveniently forgotten the tremendous changes that BCCI brought into the game in India. The board had over years transformed the face of cricket in India and made heroes out of people who know nothing more than hit a 22 pound sphere with a three foot stick. And when a jobless, retired supreme court judge decides that the BCCI is bad and requires a changeover, he is welcomed as a hero. The bull has been brought down onto its knees by its horns. Many would argue that the BCCI had made a lot of money and hence it is bullying other countries and boards. Well, it would be great to know how the world of cricket got ruined by that. BCCI per se does what the United States of America does to the entire world. And we all love America and carry no love towards BCCI. The board was registered as a society in Tamil Nadu way back in 1928 and why did we have to wait for over 80 years to realise that it is wrong for the board to be a society and not pay taxes? Just because it is the only board running in heavy profits? How come we then don't bat an eye that Education Testing Services (ETS) in the name of SAT, GRE, TOEFL and GMAT is robbing millions of dollars from Indian students who wish to go abroad for higher education and yet, ETS is a non profit organisation. But when BCCI which is lifting hundreds or maybe thousands of players and those related to cricket, there occurs a problem for it to continue as a society.

The seasoned quitter!

It is probably because of lobbying, in which India is earning quite a name in the last few years. In Indian cricket, the Mumbai lobby is the strongest. And when met with opposition from people like N. Srinivasan from the south, we all know what happened to him. A major portion of his downfall is his own doing. However, when things did not quite work out at the BCCI, the lobby sent its representative to the ICC. It seemed like he waited for the right moment to attack the BCCI and the moment came in the form of the recommendations of the Lodha committee. The outcome of these recommendations might definitely help city boards like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. We have to understand that we will all see more of Kohlis, Rahanes and Nairs and cricket in India will be the same. But what about the Mahendra Singh Dhonis, the Kedar Jadavs and the Ravindra Jadejas? How come Maharashtra and Manipur have the same say in cricketing decisions. A single vote for Maharashtra would mean complete Mumbai dominance and it is not good. No wonder Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri are quite happy. Even electoral colleges keep in mind the population and popularity in mind while deciding the vote share. Not even a competitive lawyer like Kapil Sibal could make the court understand this simple logic.

The advisory committee! How on Earth did a sensible person like Ramachandra Guha agree to be a part of it? If being a cricket historian takes one to the advisory committee, then should P.N. Oak had been made the Endowment minister or Arundhati Roy the principal secretary? Going by this logic, the appointment of Gajendra Chouhan as the chairman of FTII can also be justified. Guha should have followed example of Dravid in politely rejecting honours. Instead he chose his idol, Sachin Tendulkar in readily accepting jobs which he is not capable of fulfilling. By the way, Harsha Bhogle was ousted by the BCCI. Does that not make him the topmost contender to the advisory committee?? He would have truly been a wise choice! Whoever the advisor is, he/she should remember that nothing or nobody is above the game. Protecting the interests of Indian cricket should be the priority of the board, which it of course has been doing quite nicely for years, until the Lodha committee entered.

In their entire life, the Lodha committee members would have spent more time in the cafeteria in the district court that on a cricket ground, or knowing about cricket. While I do acknowledge that a judge does not necessarily need to be highly knowledgeable about the things that he reports on, I feel that they have gone too far into 'changing' BCCI for the better. They should have been content when the majority of their recommendations were implemented. All the problems stemmed from the IPL spot fixing for which the BCCI had done enough amendments. The thing is...The newly appointed CoA do not know how to play! And if they want to do well, the BCCI has to function the way it always functioned. Yet, the committee finds faults entirely in BCCI and not at all in the law and order maintenance! Just like what they did their entire life, they simply punished the easy target. And when the BCCI is at its weakest, Shashank Manohar at the ICC is attacking from the outside. The result: The bully BCCI has been bullied into doing things!