Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quality Check and Plagiarism

Another example of how lightly we take quality and plagiarism. Here's the latest ICICI Bank Speak of the Week mailer - spot the problem!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Delhi Carnage and Our Reactions

The most heinous of crimes and the perpetrators upon conviction deserve the maximum punishment permissible under law.

Having said that, I also feel people demanding change of law and also promises of change of law being made is nothing but knee-jerk reactions. And somehow a lot of policy lately has been knee-jerk reaction; which is not how policies are made.

A more important aspect we are missing out is a thorough revamp of our laws and regulations. The Indian Penal Code, the Companies Act to name a couple. These laws are outdated, and the enforcement machinery outdated, disillusioned and painfully slow.

How about our police force? Is there salary and respect at a level that will prevent corruption. I was at Baroda Railway station last evening and it was a poor site seeing soldiers from paramilitary platoons sleeping in the open on the porch of Baroda Railway Station? And then we do the lip-service of saying, we need to sensitise our law enforcement machinery. Didn't Maslow say self-actualisation and similar were the higher needs that got fulfilled as soon as the lower needs were fulfilled?

How about the law itself, laws as archaic as 1860, 1885, even the 1950s were made then. Considering the socio-economic situations of then. Not this date. We can manipulate and change all we want. That won't help! What might help are focus groups and more importantly the will to redraw the entire skeleton.

Finally, justice. Crimes against women will now be fast-tracked. Is this not knee-jerk? All cases need to be fast-tracked. No don't work 24x7; but can we not go out of the box in scaling up? I am sure experts will have a lot of valid inputs and keep giving those. For example, Justice Katju's blog. Read it and we can find his inputs coming through.

An inside out approach, an overhaul is what is needed. Not just changes. Those won't help.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mandu Tritiya - The Journey Back!!

Day three of our trip to Mandu was again a relaxed morning, with Pooja, Simba and me off on an early morning walk exploring the ruins around our resort. The Dai ki Chotti behen ka makbara, the caravan serai and Dilawar Khan's masjid. Again the same story of Hindu and Mughal architecture, expansiveness, intricate designs. Wow!!

After completing our checking out formalities and delaying our departure with as many alibis, cups of tea and sandwiches, we decided to take a longer route back to Baroda. Go on the Dhar route for about 30 kms and then turn towards Indore Mumbai highway, took us through one of the most scenic routes we have been for a while, deep valleys, streams, greenery for about 20kms on a road on which one can cruise between 40-60 kph. An hour from Mandu and we hit the busy Indore-Mumbai highway at Dhamnod.

View Larger Map

Continued on from Dhamnod towards Thikri on NH-31, we crossed the Narmada, us driving southbound to Thikri 5kms away.
The Narmada at Kalghat, Thikri
At Thikri, we turned eastwards towards Barwani and on to Kukshi. The drive from Thikri to Barwani took us along the Barwani Sugar Mills and a whole lot of sugarcane farms along the route. These sugarcane farms then gave way to cotton and chillies being dried. Stopped enroute where Pooja picked up her momento from the trip - a bag full of dried red chillies.
The white is cotton being dried

Pooja with her red chillies

From Barwani we again turned northbound to cross the Narmada about 50kms downstream from the Kalghat crossing.

Maa Narmada at Barwani

The Bridge over Narmada
Another 30kms and we reached Kukshi, from where we were back on the same Kukshi - Alirajpur - Chotta Udepur - Pavi Jetpur stretch. Given the poor stretch at Bodeli, we decided to take the inside route from Pavi-Jetpur to Jambhughoda by-passing Bodeli. Along, the Pavagadh - Champaner bypass, Halol toll road and we were at Baroda at seven. Ending a relaxed and eventful weekend. 

Google Sync and BIS

This post is for all those of us who are dependent on Google Sync for keeping Blackberry contacts synchronised with your Gmail or Google Apps accounts. Google had announced earlier this year discontinued support and later an end of life for Google Sync on Blackberry. Google Sync stopped working a couple of weeks back for Indian networks.

So, I tried spending this week, trying to synchronise my contacts and calendars between Google Apps and my Blackberry, connected on an Indian operators Blackberry Internet Server. Matters came to a head earlier this week, when I uninstalled Google Sync from my phone and all contacts downloaded from my Google Apps accounts were no longer visible on my phone. Quite a situation.

I logged on to my BIS account and couldn't see option for Synchronise contacts or calendars as an option. Quite a bit of fretting later, I called my operator support as a shot in the dark. And wonder, for the first time, a technical issue with the operator got resolved.

The solution is that if sync contacts and calendar is not available in your BIS configuration interface, delete your email account and then re-add your account. On adding the account, one can in the options, select Synchronisation options for Contacts and Calendar. You will then need to authenticate your account from your BIS and upon authentication, the Google Apps / Gmail calendar and contacts get synchronised with the Blackberry handset. Voila!

p.s. I think this is available only for Blackberry OS 5.0 and higher only.

Mandu Part Deux - Romance and Technology

An extremely hectic week, a slow Saturday, the wife on holiday, synchronised / restored my Google Apps contacts on the Blackberry (Sync not working for the last few days, and my uninstalling it erased the Contact  List from phone the last few days) and the last 30 minutes of Deewar. A day well spent! Wait, maybe part two of the trip to Mandu.

Around 11 after a leisurely breakfast; and delaying all we could, we hired the guide services of Qureshiji. The father of a government approved guide, Qureshiji is one of the oldest guides in Mandu area. Places of interest at Mandu are spread around a 3-4 km of radius of Mandu Resort, and so we decided to hire bicycles from the Resort. So Qureshiji on his bike would tell us where we needed to meet him next, and we would leisurely cycle to the place of interest, taking in view the beauty of the place enroute. There is a monument almost every 200-300 meters; so after the first few halts, we decided to bike along a little quicker and not test the ever patient Qureshiji.

Our first guided tour halt was at Baaz Bahadur Palace (Placeholder B on the map); the palace he built where he and Rani Roopmati would hold their Riyaaz and also, from where Baaz Bahadur would address his over two lakh subjects. A water channel that would fill the swimming pool inside impressed us, till we were told that this technology was just the beginning of the wonders we were to see. An impressive rectangular hall, with an enclosure on each end of the hall was where Rani Roopmati and Baaz Bahadur would hold their musical evenings. We heard Qureshiji's rendition of Jashn-e-Bahara instead :-). And then on to the porch from where Baaz Bahadur used to address his 5 lakh + subjects on the plains about 200 mtrs below. A normal loudness conversation carried to the plains down below.
With Qureshiji at the Steps to Baaz Bahadur Palace, Mandu
Our next stop was the ever famous Rani Roopmati Mahal (placeholder C on the map), at probably the highest point in the Malwa region. Rani Roopmati Mahal, legend has it was built because Rani Roopmati as a condition to be wedded to Baaz Bahadur wanted to see the Narmada, that presently flows about 20kms from Mandu, every morning. And in the early morning on a clear day, one apparently still can. Days that she could not see, she would visit the Rewa Kund. Another legend has it that Narmada Parikrama by devotees is not complete till they visit the Rewa Kund. A beautiful palace, this palace had a rain-water harvesting system. Channels that would collect rain water and after filtering (more on this later), store this for consumption. And we are talking about the 15th century A.D. here.

Rain Water Harvesting at Roopmati Mahal, Mandu
After a few glasses on nimbu pani, we were rehydrated, and back on the road; to Jahaz Mahal, our next stop. Place holder D on the map.

On the road again!

View Larger Map

Oh, what an impressive sight, the Jahaz Mahal. Built like a ship with water reservoirs on both sides, Jahaz Mahal sits proudly as the crowning glory of the civilisation that was. The steps seen in the picture below were built by Jahangir. In today's world Pooja and I walked down those stairs holding hands. In years of the yore, you might have been punished for standing where the royalty tread. 15,000 consorts of the king, yes, 15,000 stayed in the precinct of the Jahaz Mahal.
Jahaz Mahal, the Crowning Glory of Mandu
An intricate system of multi-layered water filtration, chambers below, use of gravity, charcoal, sand to filter water is what is done by the Aquaguards of today. Sloping roofs, water being collected and channeled from a height, fountains made due to varying thickness of pipes, air conditioned rooms two stories below earth and cooled through an array of water channels. Makes one wonder, we abuse the world live in. Those were the technologists, who co-existed and leveraged what Mother Earth gave them, without, gorging into the eco-system with little thought for tomorrow. Food for thought for us. Let's be a little civil (sic!) and stop the ruthless plundering of our planet. Let's coexist!
Water filteration at Jahaz Mahal, Mandu
Perfectly circular pipes, from 15th century. A concealed water supply system.

Guess, the star-lit hamam (Turkish bath) and Qureshiji's photo-op for Pooja. 
After, seeing some of the other wonders in the Jahaz Mahal precinct including a hamam (Turkish bath) with  steam bath and hot and cold water supply, swimming pools, and admiring the ASI's efforts, we then left for our last stop of the day, Jami Masjid (stop E on the map).

The Jami Masjid, said to be the inspiration for the Taj Mahal, is built in a compound having a caravan serai, built in a dharamshala style, columns having lotuses, a huge medley of Hindu and Mughal architecture, how each ruler contributed to build our historical heritage. It's an eye-opener. Buildings of today are a shame! The size, the grandeur of the India of then can just be imagined. This makes one just figure it would have meant, when we say, that before the British we were over 80% of the world's trade and today, a mere 2-3% (or lesser?). Pride and adulations!!
Entrance to the Jami Masjid, Mandu

The Tomb at Jami Masjid.
p.s. Thanks, Pooja, for your wonderful anecdotes of the days yore and interest in our historical heritage. Made History fun!! 

Google Zeitgeist - Gangnam Style

So Google got Gangnam Style as the second most searched item for the year 2012.

In the span of an hour today, I got two spoofs on Gangnam Style.

And spoiler alert, but another one:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The winding road to the land of music, romance and bloodshed - Mandu.

Anything vaguely related to history; gets my personal history encyclopaedia, aka Pooja, rattling off facts and stories at speeds unknown. So, naturally a lot of our holidays (not that we take too many of them) have a historical perspective to those.

So, this one, that we took on the second weekend of December to मान्दवगढ़, popularly known as Mandu was a relaxing weekend away. About 300kms due east from Baroda, the drive to Mandu takes one through the culturally rich, agrarian tribal belt of the Chhota Udepur region and upstream the Narmada.

View Larger Map
A planned 6am departure, was delayed to half past noon, owing to a sleepless night spent managing one of our servers, but we were in no rush; and started our journey along the quick Baroda - Halol toll-way; and then further on to Bodeli along the Jambhughoda wildlife sanctuary was a breeze, doing those 70kms in about an hour.

A 7km hardly carpeted stretch just after Bodeli failed to dampen our spirit about the smooth roads much; and soon after our completing that painful stretch, we were back at cruising speed all the way to Chhota Udepur, where we stopped for lunch.

That was Simba's first stop out of the car too; and our man, well, dog, didn't much but went to sleep under Pooja's bench.

Simba hiding under Pooja's bench
A leisurely, more than ample, 45 minute lunch break later, we were back enroute Mandu; wondering what sunset would get for us; and worried about the road quality, but the next 100kms to Kukshi; was an unexpected discovery. A road that could be smooth enough for you to sip coffee from a glass without spilling it. And spotting a lovely valley here, some drying chillies there, we were at Kukshi by sun-set; around 6 in the evening.
Chhota Udepur - Alirajpur - Kuskhi Stretch

Chillies being dried; shot nearing sunshet

And many more such curves

Lets not get too happy, the road post Kukshi, about 80 kms left for Mandu; was just about the opposite. Couldn't take pictures for the night, but well, the last 80kms, including a 25km stretch, which was again good quality, took us another 3 hours. So that's about two and a half hours for the remaining fifty odd clicks.

The Kukshi - Singhania (20kms) - Manawar (20kms) stretch was under construction and the Safari was the smallest four wheeled vehicle we could spot on the road. This portion was a little pain in the bum, literally. The Kukshi - Singhania section is under construction, so hopefully by mid next year it should be good to drive through. And so was the Singhania - Manawar route, slightly better, but patches that made one brake hard. Later, I heard that its the soil in this area that's soft and which makes road not stay too long.

At Manawar, there was a direct road to Taraghati (the start of the climb to Mandav), but we were advised to take a 30k de tour, via Dharampuri and then 15km to Taraghati and another 9km to Mandu. The Manawar - Dharampuri stretch was again good, like the earlier Alirajpur route. But turn from Dharampuri to Taraghati; and you knew it was a long 25km ahead. A single lane (both-ways) road; wide just enough for just one vehicle in any direction to be on the road, or whatever of it was left took us about 45 minutes to Taraghati and commence the uphill drive to Mandu. If we thought, the road could get any better, well, we were in for a surprise; another six kms uphill, which we did at not more than 10kph. The last three kms to Mandu were slightly better and after an enjoyable relaxed drive with Pooja and Simba were finally at the Malwa Resort (read my review on Tripadvisor) for a good night's rest.

So much for the long blog hiatus. Hopefully, will post soon two more blogs, one of Mandu and the other one of the drive back.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

And we all go down, again!

Refer my post of a few weeks back regarding our jhingoistic government. Here's yet another even that makes me wonder. Wonder who is Manmohan Singh and what right does he have to be a Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world? Come on, yesterday, you call the Railway Budget forward looking; and then do a dramatic volte face, just because your coalition partner arm twists you?

What a prostitution of democracy this is!! What right do you have to be in power, if all you are doing is going through with populistic demands just so that you can remain in power? 

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Peeved with Barodians

Quite peeved with those who talk on their cell while driving!!

All us so-called literate people of Baroda. Do you even think twice before warming your ear while driving and then putting your phones in your lap; as soon as you near a round-about where the traffic cops are standing? Forget the fine.

Why should I be responsible for your one-handed, half concentration driving while talking on the phone? I don't know you. You are not a near or a dear one for me; that I should be bothered about you. I wish you meet with an accident with your phone getting destroyed and your insurance company does not cover the repair damages.  (But I still pray, that it doesn't injure you, because its your near ones who would suffer because of your foolishness!)

Go spend fifty bucks and atleast get yourselves a headset for heaven's sake!!

Buzz off, you bird brains!

My Spring Friend

This little enigmatic bird with its shiny dark-prussian blue colours pays me a visit every spring.

Any idea what this bird is called?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Business Jargon

KP just sent me this link about Forbes' Most Annoying, Pretentious and Useless Business Jargon. The name says it all. Two of my un-favorites from the list are:
  • Core Competency
    This awful expression refers to a firm’s or a person’s fundamental strength—even though that’s not what the word “competent” means. “This bothers me because it is just a silly phrase when you think about it,” says Bruce Barry, professor of management at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Business. “Do people talk about peripheral competency?  Being competent is not the standard we’re seeking.  It’s like core mediocrity.”
  • Take It To The Next Level
In theory this means to make something better. In practice, it means nothing, mainly because nobody knows what the next level actually looks like and thus whether or not they’ve reached it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Losing the Plot

How does the below qualify as a test cricket shot?? Mandate a specific number of First Class matches for each international test player in a year.
MS Dhoni

Monday, January 30, 2012

Vijay Dinanath Chauhan....

Two masterpieces, first by Mukul Anand and then by Karan Malhotra. What a poem!

वृक्ष हों भले खड़े,
हो घने, हो बड़े,
एक पत्र छाँव की
मांग मत, मांग मत, मांग मत!
अग्निपथ, अग्निपथ, अग्निपथ!

तू न थकेगा कभी,
तू न थमेगा कभी,
तू न मुड़ेगा कभी,
कर शपथ, कर शपथ, कर शपथ!  
अग्निपथ, अग्निपथ, अग्निपथ!

ये महान दृश्य है,
चल रहा मनुष्य है,
अश्रु, श्वेद, रक्त से
लथपत, लथपत, लथपत!
अग्निपथ, अग्निपथ, अग्निपथ!

-स्व. श्री हृवंश्रई "बच्चन" श्रीवास्तव

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Meek Submission!

Lions at home; meek rats outside.
Whitewash at England; alright, could be a one-time.
Australia; our performance falling as the matches progress. Second innings, extras was the fifth highest scorer. Last four wickets fell at the same score! Meek submission. Heads need to roll; and this is not knee-jerk. Vindicates my stand, Kapil Dev's team is still the best Indian team so far. They won not in our back-yards to tailor made pitches; but when they were the underdogs. Remember those were the times when cricketers were not yet superstars endorsing brands and playing starry IPLs. But were sportsmen. Here's what I feel should be done:

  • Defunct the IPL; Pup Clarke focuses only on Tests, First Class and ODIs. No T-20s for him.
  • Get John Wright back; or have Ganguly as the coach. Even Kirsten. Someone who can lead by example. Kirsten would himself run 9k every morning.
  • Remove anyone who takes his place for granted. Sehwag between the England and Oz  Series has an average of 15. Dhoni for the same series has an average of 23!
  • Get back to basics. 14 wickets in the last 3 innings fell to no leg work or flashes outside off stump.
  • Have a player rotation policy. Max X tests; 1.3X ODI; 0.6X T-20s, 0.5X First Class in a year.
Let the carnage continue. Will we have no heads falling?