Monday, August 27, 2012

Driving Lessons

The title of this post has no connect with the movie of the same name. So any one who has wandered here by accident hoping for a movie review may stop reading (or not).

Driving a motorised vehicle is an idea which terrorizes me, for reasons which I am yet to fathom. I have had lessons in driving a 2-wheeler and have done quite a few miles on it but still never went beyond the learning stage. With lack of personal vehicular mobility becoming a minor hindrance in commuting and embarrassing as well, have finally decided to take matters into own hands (rather fingers). Have decided to blog about the issue here. Hoping that putting it on a public forum may finally overcome that unsourced fear.

So the first few learnings which came about, even though I wasn't the one driving are here.
  • No point in being embarrassed. Tackle things head on. 
  • Do not drive alone at first. Having an extra brain in the vicinity helps.
  • Refer the manual. Keep it handy in case of a new car.
  • New cars have lots of safety features. Follow them. 
  • If a beeper is going on and on, there is some issue. Stop the car and try to find out. Me heard a beeper. Found that it was due to the hand brake being engaged. Disengaged it (Press button, pull up and release). So Lesson #1 - Disenegage hand brake when you start. And keep it engaged when parked.
  • Lesson#2 - Try to learn about the millions of buttons which are present all around. The switch for the fuel and rear boot are located near the driver's door.
  • Lesson#3 - The power windows come with a child lock. Make sure its ON/OFF as required.
  • Lesson#4 - And above all, keep yourself as cool and calm as possible. Rational thinking at all times is the biggest help.
  • Lesson#5 - Ask for help. Petrol pumps are a good place.
1st lessons done. More will come as I finally tackle it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Podcast - London 2012 Review

Last week through a twitter conversation, me and a couple of friends decided to record a podcast reviewing the Indian performance at London 2012. In itself it was a big topic for discussion and we managed to digress from the subject as well, many a time :). It was more like a Saturday evening get-together but only on Skype done over 3 cities (See we are using modern technology to the fullest).

Let me introduce the other participants:

So this is our first ever podcast experience/experiment. Won't know about any other readers but the three of us certainly had fun recording it.

Here is the link

Karthik was good enough to make an index as well, which I shamelessly copy-paste here.
The podcast is arranged as below in case you need to skip to specific sections:
0:00 Quick thoughts on VVS Laxman’s retirement
1:30 Introduction and twitter handles
4:00 General thoughts on the London 2012 olympics
8:30 India at Olympics 2012 roundup
8:30 Judo, Swimming, Rowing, Weightlifting, Table Tennis
12:45 Analyzing the Hockey and Tennis disappointments (The margin was 16-14 and not 20-18 at Athens)
19:00 Archery and Atheltics
24:15 Badminton
30:30 Boxing
36:30 Shooting
39:15 Wrestling
42:00 The missing gold
45:00 Thoughts on Ajay Maken
47:30 Football, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and other random thoughts
51:00 Thoughts on India at Rio 2016 and signoff
54:00 Chariots of fire theme outro

We got a neat review as well, from a sports website refusing to publish it citing the following 
"dead air, background noise and a teensy bit of swearing thrown in. Besides not being gripping enough, it's too informal and banter-ish to publish"

So listen at your own risk & Comments & feedback welcome.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

India @ 65

15th August is here. Our Independence Day. And also time for me to blog about the state of the nation. An annual tradition which is now going into its 6th edition. (Previous editions are here: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007).

When I had written the 1st such post back in 2007, the inspiration was the India themed logo on Orkut (Remember the social networking pioneer!). 5 years down the line Orkut has all but disappeared while Facebook and Twitter rule the roost with even "revolutions" being orchestrated through Facebook. A Facebook "Like" is all that  is needed to voice your opinion on topics ranging from Anti-Corruption movement to Sachin Tendulkar's retirement (or not) to Poonam Pandey's clothes (or the lack of them).

Olympics are the flavor of the season. Before Beijing '08, if someone had said India would win 6 medals in a single edition of the Games, the person would have been a fit case for psychitatric help. Now a 6 medal haul has still left people with a sense of slight disappointment. We are not exactly world beaters yet but things have begun to look up (read - increased awareness) for the other (read non-cricket) Indian sports . All that these sports bodies require now is to be stop being the fiefdom of certain politicians and to gain a stronger footing on the world governing council. Lessons to be learnt from BCCI.

India has a new President. Not that it affects anybody's life. The rest of the government stays same, with real power in the " hand" weilding the remote. The day more than half the country suffers a power cut, the minister in charge is promoted to the home ministry. Guess this alone says a lot about the state of our governance. With each passing day, the government finds new and new ways to go lower in the public opinion. How they are surviving remains a continued mystery. Of course, a bungling opposition party helps the case. And as the experience in West Bengal is showing the alternative, if any, to the current regime may be akin to jumping from the pot into the fire. The anti-corruption forces are not helping their own cause by getting distracted through their own nit-pickings. A fit case for a "Dark Knight" rising here but will we get one?

And in general the public is in outrage mode, without bothering about the details. Issue comes up. Lots of air time taken up. Lots of social media outrage. Outrage flounders. Next issue comes up. Cycle repeats. Issue could be anything - high profile crime, violence in a region, corruption, celebrity death, terrorist activity, some comments on Indain culture (?), any random media-generated controversy. Whatever the scale the cycle remains same.
Television had one new offering. It was fresh, it was different and it was a little gut-wrenching. Some harsh truths were presented like never before. Satyamev Jayate did bring something good on the idiot box. Otherwise we have either the "Breaking News" media, the "Paid media" and the increasingly unreal "Reality TV" showing channels.  As for the movie something different is being attempted every few weeks but none are really working.

In general, a dark picture emerging. But we can always hope for a better tomorrow.

Happy Independece Day

Monday, August 06, 2012

Close Encounters of the Corrupt Kind

You need a Sarkaari Document. You research about it on the internet. Find that the necessary items for getting the paper in the due process may not be feasible or are too troublesome to get. In a fix. So you try to use a shortcut i.e. an agent to do your bidding. And the agent takes you for a ride. Guess - Pretty familiar story.

So there was I in a similar situation. A document was required but not very urgently. So thought why not get it made. Having done some research on it, tried to go and get it. But given the conditions and paperwork involved, thought about using an agent to do the job. Unfortunately, dealing with the agent started to prove nearly as cumbersome and painful as the one which was being avoided. Dealing with the agent and an advocat whom the agent had brought in contact was enough to make anyone wish to break their own head. Finally went directly to the government office itself. And found a very helpful person who directed us to the right place, which turned out to be quite different from the one which the agent-advocat duo was sending us to.
Went to the said office. Spoke directly to the person concerned. Most documents were found to be in order. And the government official gave the alternate routes for the remaining ones. Though some persuasion, in the form of few Reserve Bank certifcates helped the cause. The final documentation was put in process and my Sarkaari paper was on the way.

  • Sarkaari work is not that complicated. If you have the correct documentation.
  • Try avoiding agents as much as possible. If nothing else they just increase the corruption index and money involved.
  • Do NOT pay the agent any advance. And if you do take a receipt.
  • Government officials are helpful. Only try finding the relevant one beforehand.
  • A few Reserve Bank certificates can make the system move very rapidly.
  • Advocats can lie at your face without even blinking an eye. Probably get the training in college itself?
  • Corruption as a form of governance is highly efficient.