About the Blog

This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

November 20, 2011

Bengaluru, Bangalore, Bengaluru: Imaginations and Their Times



The word Bangalore or Bengaluru evokes different feelings and opinions among different people. While many have lived here and experienced the city first hand but many more by the perception & reputation it has built over the years . I for one belong to the former category and have personally witnessed the massive makeover of the city between 1994 and now. So in that sense a book on the city and its history evinced my interest and I picked it recently.

The 16th century history provides the early backdrop of the city and its founder Kempegowda emerges from the political fog of the Krishnadevaraya’s rule of the period. The early parts of the city, Pete’s (markets) divided on the basis of caste and later the emergence of the British cantonment that heralded the earliest recorded migrations to the city makes for interesting reading. How the early migrations induced language and not class conflicts particularly evokes interest.

Tracing the roots of a city and its various facets spanning a 500 year period is no doubt arduous and this book will disappoint those seeking scholarly depth. However many interesting & informative nuggets on the various aspects of the city can be found here and the book covers in a manner that juggles between documentary, academia, and coffee table reading .






September 25, 2011

The Sky (Lab) is falling


In the summer of 1979, a kind of hysteria gripped my neighborhood. For a non precocious 8 year old it appeared to be the end of the world. All thoughts similar to 2012 were being conjured up, and as a part of a small motley crowd of youngsters i was particularly an impressionable kid then. For days on end this group would animatedly talking of a thing called ‘Skylab’ - a huge monster up in space that was about come crashing down to earth in a fiery ball. But the catch was this; the Skylab of all places could most probably fall in India and a sure shot destination would be my hometown (Belgaum). 

Maybe the hysteria was fueled by the fact that until the final hours nobody (including the Americans) had a clue where it would eventually fall. And in its orbital path lay some of the world's most populous areas, including all of the U.S., much of Europe, India and China.

The 77 ton monster did come crashing down, and due to miscalculation error it landed in western Australia rather than south Africa. The size of this space station - about 9 stories tall had fueled all kinds of wild stories then… a period when there was no 24 Hours live television or  internet streaming , word of mouth (call rumour in this case) was a powerful tool then, and  this group made me believe that it was indeed a time for a  prayer and bid goodbye. 

The chances of getting hit by a debris weighing upto 90 Kgs from a falling space satellite, it has now been estimated, is  2,50,000 time more unlikely than  humans winning a lottery

As news of a similar event appeared in newspapers today (6 tonne NASA satellite falls on earth, place unknown), I cant help but chuckle at the thought of it being such a non event. On second thoughts maybe the world is such a noisier & turbulent place now and amidst all this deluge of information, a wondrous event like this does not evoke the same kind of awe and wild imagination as it did in the summer of 1979.

August 7, 2011

The Untouchables

Early last week I met one of the men behind the explosive report of the Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde  on the illegal mining in the state. I was waiting at the Secretariat complex to meet the e-governance head at his office when Vipin Singh ambled by. When I congratulated him, he replied in his characteristic style ‘ Kaahe ka congartulations yaar, itna kharab report niklaa hai’.  Maybe the final report was not satisfactory by his standard but in a short span of time he and his team had uncovered  a large web of illegal activities and their modus operandi  that had robbed the state to the  tune of 13000 odd crores of rupees. What he meant was had they enough time on hand they could have dug deeper like the huge mine  pits that now dot  the landscape  of bellary and the extent of uncovered  loot could have doubled.  But the Ammo on hand was enough for Justice Hegde & he had to fire it before taking the final bow as the Lokayukta.

I had extensively interacted with this career IFS officer during a project execution with the forest dept. At that time he was in Bidar and his territory  was one of the 4 pilot divisions selected for the project. His name then had cropped up several times during my meeting with the Sr officials & I had quickly gathered his  reputation as a sharp no-nonsense IT savvy official in the  dept.  An alumnus of IIT , he had done some excellent work in the e-govenance areas while on deputation, notably setting up the citizen service initiatives like  the BangaloreOne delivery centres.  When I first met him,  I wondered what a guy like him was doing in a far flung place like Bidar ? In his characteristic nonchalant way he replied that it was a conscious decision and he wanted it that way . Maybe  he had opted  to be ‘far from the madding crowd’  after a heavy duty assignment that  had him in the quagmire of  politics ,  and murky administration . ‘Khoon Jalana padta hai’  I recollect he had said about the nature of work. Our interactions over the next couple of days was intensive & meaningful and then I was back in Bangalore. 
Soon  I heard that he was once again recalled to Bangalore to head the state SWAN (state wide area network) initiative. I chuckled at the thought  that hard as wanted to be out of the limelight  it dragged him into it.  Later several times I had passed by his new  office but found it conspicuous by his absence . Strange I felt till the time I saw this recent article in ToI 
It now  emerges that he was one of the 5 people picked by Justice Hegde  to  have a go at the mafia. Exactly the way  Kevin Costner (Eliot Ness) goes about  in the movie ‘the Untouchables’  - a special team of agents handpicked for their courage and incorruptibility, nicknamed by its title. 

And undercover they went about their new assignment while they held to usual official positions on paper . Another official, Bishwajeet Mishra who was a part of this team , and whom I had interacted on few occasions even attended one of my workshop in his official capacity of a DFO . He probed me with some searching questions during the workshop & little did I realize then that he was into something else. 

These officials worked discreetly , put their lives & limbs on the line of fire (and as Justice Hegde mentioned in an interview on NDTV the other day – he even feared for their careers) and away  from the glare & glimmer of limelight.  Unlike Hegde they have not walked into sunset,  they will still be around (for greater things perhaps) but their collective  reputation like the ‘ The Untouchables’  will hopefully be remembered for time to come. 

May 28, 2011

Predator on the prowl

This year RCB has been propelled by sheer Gayle power. In many a matches of IPL that featured RCB pitch report has been inconsequential, what has mattered is the weather report which many a time has warned about the impending Gayle storm. And struck it has with brute force like in yesterday’s match (against MI) where  the opposition was numbed by the onslaught. 
Yesterday my friend Shaz made a prediction based on numbers (termed  Numbo-Jumbo) that said ‘Prepare for the Gayle-storm on Friday the 27th, a D9C9. His name number adds up to 27, and his tee reads 333'.

By the 5th over the result had been scripted and as one of the commentators mentioned ‘it was already showing on the body language of the Mumbai Indians’.

Watch this guy closely, when he walks on to the crease along with his partner the difference in physical attributes is not the only thing striking. His imposing frame apart, with the helmet on and his beaded hair streaming out at its sides I cant help but imagine of the Predator in the 1987 flick. In the movie the creature (that looks a bit like horseshoe crab) has a mask on with hair like appendages struck to its skull. This creature is supposed to be ‘a  member of a warrior race which hunts aggressive members of other species for sport’. 

Exactly  what appears to be happening with Gayle vs others in this edition of IPL.

May 8, 2011

Trudge


A fine Victorian era poet and his soulful lines left an abiding impact in me as I sat reading some of his poetry on a lazy weekend. One of it particularly made sense of my situation 

We cannot kindle when we will
The fire in which the heart resides;
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides.
But tasks in hours of insight will’d
Can be through hours of gloom fulfill’d
                                                  -Mathew Arnold

(It is difficult for man to have inspiration at his beck and call. Tasks proposed when inspired shall have to be carried out patiently even when inspiration has passed away  and weariness has prevailed upon man)

April 8, 2011

Remembering 'Uncle Pai'


Uncle Pai had passed away a month back. I got to know of it when a small postcard invite fell on my doorstep from his  hometown of Mangalore to attend the 12 day ceremony. Another Uncle Pai (of Amar Chitra Katha fame) also passed away almost in the same period. To me these two Uncle Pai’s had something in common; they left a legacy - a body of  work with a lasting imprint on the minds of the elderly & children respectively. 

The Uncle Pai (Kulyadi Madhav Pai) I am referring to is related from Wifi side and I regret I couldn’t attend his last rites due to some commitments.  But the time I spent with him & his memories will be cherished. With a small note he religiously book posted whenever the  newer editions of ‘Kaggokti Sampada’ hit the stands. The Book and its series were an illuminating body of work on decoding one of  the great literary works in Kannada literature by D.V.Gundappa (or DVG as he is popularly referred as) 

DVG was a literary colossus & his Mankuthimmana Kagga is considered a Nobel prize winning material, if it had been written in English. This was followed by  Marula Muniyana Kagga which Uncle Pai had translated . The beauty of this work ( and there lay in it its greatness he used to say)  is that- it makes the reader see himself through the poems, to interpret the thoughts of the poet in his own way. 

Kagga is a beautiful and profound collection of 945 poems. Each poem is of four lines. Some of the poems are in old Kannada style (Halegannada). Kagga poems are profound, and poetic and like a bee attracted to the flower Uncle Pai was drawn into it. 

An instance (roughly translated to English):

Life is a Horse driven cart, Fate its driver
You're the horse, Passengers - as allotted by God
Sometimes rides to a marriage, sometimes to a graveyard
When stumbled, there's always the earth - says Manku Thimma




In  his book preface Uncle Pai  writes ‘DVG’s Marula Muniyana Kagga’s   beautiful play of words with profound meaning of life  urged me to interpret in a layman’s language. It was a long journey though, it started when I by-hearted a few kaggas; the meaning of which took some to sink in. I later took some more & the experience was overwhelming. Based on my initial experiences I began to write but was not happy with the outcome.   So I discarded the effort and waited for the next couple of years to truly imbibe the work for an accurate representation’
 
Finally egged on by friends & encouraged by the “Samyukta Karnataka” newspaper he began compiling the works which went into 7 volumes by the time of his death.

R.I.P Uncle Pai



March 13, 2011

Morgan Stanley & the pursuit of Happyness


Remember Will Smith in the Pursuit of happyness? The first time I saw the movie, the telemarketing tactics adopted by Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith), the intern stockbroker, struck me more than the storyline about his struggle for livelihood. 

As a single parent he has to achieve the same results and better in 6 Hours where everyone else has 9. He calculates that it would save him 8 minutes a day if he did not put the phone down between prospecting calls. So he keeps the handset up and uses his finger on the button so that he doesn't get distracted. He also doesn't  drink much water to avoid wasting excess time in the bathroom.

Why? The company, Dean Witter,  where he is earning his spurs has ingrained him with a simple idea:  "X number of calls equals X number of prospects, X number of prospects equals X number of customers, X number of customers equals X number of dollars." 

The movie not only makes a statement of the hyperactive competition of the US Financial markets of the mid 80’s but also how telemarketing became an integral part in the growth of the financial services Industry  (in India this phenomenon was observed about 15 years later)  

Dean Witter had an interesting tagline "We measure success one investor at a time" and much like the Business it was into i.e, M&A(mergers and acquisitions) it too underwent mergers (with Reynolds)  and was finally acquired by Morgan Stanley which adopted its tagline. 

Another iconic name is soon set to join the ranks of Dean Witter;  Smith & Barney. Ironic for another legacy company whose tagline was  “They make money the old fashioned way. They earn it”. 

In case you missed the Irony part , it too is being gobbled up by Morgan Stanley whose role in the subprime mortgages & creation of other toxic assets healthily contributed to the US financial crisis.

February 20, 2011

gallows on wheels

The train chugged into platform #3 at 9:45 pm, it was supposed to depart at 10:15 pm and I was boarding the train to Coimbatore for a client meeting last week. At the back of mind I was aware that for once I had beaten the Bangalore traffic estimate and reached the station almost an hour early. The good thing about the late evening trains is that you just hop in, get done with the ticket collector and hit the bed right away. Early evening trains and one has to bear the usual headaches; tea/coffee, biscuit vendors, the dinner caterer and the usual beggars in between (especially in the less privileged class). Worst are the co-passengers who many a time strikes up a conversation that goes well into the night like some late night chat show.

As I entered my berth in coach B2 I was mightily surprised to find a lower berth LB allotted (I almost felt like I had hit a jackpot with a roll of dice) Yae! I was about do an invisible Hi5 when 3 Gujarati speaking ladies entered the cabin. And soon enough the youngest among these, a cute looking lady requested me to exchange the lower birth to the middle one for her elderly mother. The request was laced with too much sweetness and I just nodded my head trying hard to keep a straight face. 


A few moments later a similar request was made by the lady to another guy who had occupied the other LB. It was for the aunt now who had been allotted the upper birth. The guy looked a bit crestfallen , he said he had nasal problems (did not specify what it was at the time) but offered to adjust with the middle birth guy (which was obviously me because the lady occupied the other middle birth). So with two unwitting promotions i found myself on the upper birth and this passenger just below me. There was nothing unusual about him, except for a piece of flap (a kind of dog ear) that came right behind his head and covered his ears.

I guess the guy had been traveling earlier (the train was coming from Mumbai) for he hit the sack pretty soon and began his deep guttural sounds. The nasal problem he had mentioned earlier seemed to be a mild statement in passing. THERE WAS SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH THEM; sounding like the twin exhausts of a rundown sports car. More specifically like the Spitfire engine of WW2 Jet fighter hovering around as he went into deeper sleep.


The sound had a particular acoustic effect on me as I was right above him, a dog fight like situation every now and then where this slam-dunk fighter pilot come right under and created one hell of a turbulence (being struck down once and for all would have been a better option though) . I frenetically tried to beat the problem;  reached out for my Philips Gogear (portable media player) to thrust it as far as i could in my ears but as if lady cruel luck was smiling upon me, i could only find the MP3 player without the earplugs.

I thought of plugging in cotton buds but it was like holding an umbrella in a thunderstorm. So helplessly  tried to draw my mind away from the problem but very often this guy would break into different rhythmic cycles of grunts & snores that became too difficult to ignore.

Every passing minute now seemed to bring in added agony. I stepped out of the AC cabin hoping the TC was still around and Voila! (bless the almighty Railways) he was still around immersed in the reservation chart. I explained him my problem and requested for another berth. He muttered something in Tamil and started to run through the list while I held my breath and made a quite prayer. 


After a while he said B51 was available . I almost felt like hugging him for releasing me from the torture chamber. I quickly made a dash to the ill-fated berth and picking my belongings waded through the cold and dark railway bogey (which by now resembled a morgue with several dead bodies wrapped in white sheets). Finally I located B51 which again seemed to be an upper berth.

There was a bigger problem waiting for me though: this section had 2 snorers who were already in their elements by the time I had arrived!

Imagine my state when I landed in Coimbatore the next day morning.

February 6, 2011

admitation

IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY -  a phrase usually said ( ironically though)  when someone tries to gain attention by copying someone else's original ideas. I am not sure whether this highway restaurant guy (whom I encountered recently) got the right attention or not but his copying of the ‘ No Admission ’ with a twist was certainly flattering .

January 23, 2011

Banking by design

Recently  I  landed up at the offices of several banks headquartered in Bangalore & Mangalore . Each presented me a study in contrast, in the way they expressed their character and brand values through their front offices. And the script ran on familiar themes;

Public sector banks have this - no frill, sedate & dull almost to the point of boring you to death types of receptions. One (Canara Bank) resembled a check-in counter at the airport, complete with uniformed staff manning a X-ray baggage checking machine next to the receptionist. Another (Vijaya Bank) had large showcases of what appeared to be several large trophies & awards around its reception area. I don’t know where & how they won so many but it certainly reminded me of my school & college receptions. Corporation Bank had this wooden box like reception area that resembled a ticketing  counter of a 70 era cinema theater. 

Private sector banks were much more refined in their presentation. One bank (ING Vyasa)  had revolving glass doors and a large steel art piece hanging like a chandelier as one approached its front desk. It appeared straight out of an art gallery. Another (Karnataka Bank) had a minimalistic approach, several layers of transparent glass corridors leading from the security to the reception.

Essentially the style and substance in presentation speaks a lot of the banks, and it seems only the private sector banks used it as a calling card and a sophisticated way of differentiating from peers. Given the bad reputation and some stigma facing the industry it made a lot of sense for banks to trade goodwill and reputations through their corporate front offices.

Years back when I was working with ICICI Bank I used to marvel at its BKC headquarters, a place for our frequent visits and meetings. It appeared as jewel-de-paragon on the Bandra-kurla complex which during the initial years of its completion stood out against the monolithic blocks of concrete buildings as one entered the complex from Bandra side. I couldn’t differentiate these buildings from the fort (some called it residence named Matoshree) of the aging tiger (Bal Thackeray) who lived on the other side of the road. Several other organizations sprung around ICICI Bank  later each trying to outdo the other in architectural splendor.

Magnificent as was it from outside contrast  the reception where loud and bawdy Marathi speaking manoos’es who many a times doubled up as security and receptionists undid most of sophistication that Kamath had tried to portray as a dynamic universal Bank. 

Few years later I was frequenting Mahalakshmi where Centurion Bank (CBoP) had converted a portion of a old rundown mill into its Corporate HQ. While on the exterior, the building exuded some charm of a heritage building the interiors were all glass and gloss.  There was one small glitch though, a secretarial college rubbed shoulders with CBoP as its neighbor in the same complex.

Finally to understand how size can be one’s own undoing one can visit the head offices  of NABARD in Mumbai. You will be reminded of how it would have been like while being swallowed by a 10000 pound dinosaur.

January 5, 2011

A nature trail & the new Year

I am penning my thoughts after a 2 week break which took me to  a wonderful Nature park near Madikeri and the pristinely clear water beach of Maravanthe in Karavali district. Amidst this I also had the luxury of mixing a bit of Business with pleasure ,so on the way I addressed a good gathering of Govt officials in Mysore , a few Business calls In Mangalore  and a bit of follow-up in Dharwar after that. All in all  1650 Kms of sojourn it was and with all  the hectic driving & the body creaking of exhaustion I was  back in Bengaluru yesterday. 

Eventful it was but it had not prepared me to lose my mobile during the trip which I did in Mysore. I thought I was ensconced in a secure area (the  old sprawling Govt bungalow which is the official Guest House of the Forest Dept is surrounded by  high walled  compound & a security post at the gates) and during the evening sit out on its sprawling veranda facing well manicured garden  I left my mobile  on the chair only to find it missing in the morning. The Vodafone service (or disservice) after the incident  is better left unsaid for it will fill the rest of the article. 

After the Mysore schedule I drove down to Kushalnagar where I stayed at Nisargadhama (nature park of the Karnataka Forest dept) for a day. The Mercara district forest officer had invited me to stay over before visiting their Mercara offices.  This island  in the hub of the river Cauvery is a scenic & serene place  and tourists can also stay in one of the few (only 4-5 thankfully) cottages at a very reasonable price (I payed zilch though as I was the official guest of the KFD). After entering the island through the rope bridge, we were ushered into the ‘Kannika” cottage where  we just slept through the afternoon amidst the distant  noise & chatter of the thronging visitors. However by 6 in the evening  the area fell into deathly silence (after the park closed for visitors) and this  lively  nature park is  best experienced during this period. Sitting by the river side & with a riot of noises around  I penned the following lines to describe the experience;

A  drooping  cottage by the river
Stands high on a pile of bamboo pillars
Perched on its banks, its small veranda
Reaching out to kiss the river
Water by the side , in a haze of light green
Whispers as she flows through the rocks
Bamboo stocks, aplenty
Crackle  sporadically  in mystified voices
In between the  chitter chatter of the thickly wooded park
Telling us something , about  nature’s  benign voice
As do the fishes, playfully  whipping up  the surface of the river
Birds in the surrounding woods , do the real tweets
Oh!....Nature trails are so sweet.

Christmas eve was spent in Udupi & we did manage to visit one of the church in town on 25th but all the pomp & revelry had gotten over the previous evening. So much so that not a soul was visible in the church on the Christmas day.   

And  New Year ushered us at the old Deccan Gymkhana club in Dharwar town, next to it was the sprawling KC (Kittur Channamma) park where two  colorful  water fountains sprung  to life randomly in  colors of green blue & red symbolically reminding us of the hope, joys and sorrows that lay ahead in 2011.   
    
 Wishing all my readers a Happy & Prosperous New Year.

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