Monday, April 30, 2012

Bangalore Traffic survival guide

Everybody has heard about the pains of driving in Bangalore traffic. For few of us who are Bangaloreans we face it everyday. For me, it has been about two months of driving and i can positively say that i am no longer as bothered as i was when i started driving. Here are my tips to survive the traffic woes -

Tips about driving -
1. The time slice rule: Leave to office early, leave for home early. Beat the traffic, beat the weather. Life is good!
2. Drive in the right lane. In Bangalore, on a road with two lanes, there exists a middle lane. I didn't knew this fact when i started. If you know you are going straight, drive on the right lane. It may take little more time as compared to if you optimized switching lanes but it will definitely be more peaceful.
3. Leave space for a two wheeler to pass on your right. Do not drive just next to the divider.  Leave some space so that bikes can overtake from right. Left overtaking bikes are very difficult to spot. A space on right makes them happy which makes you happy.
4. Use indicators while changing lanes. Bike-wallahs are very careful about indicators, they always respect it. And indicator is always a good defense if you get into trouble.

Tips about car -
1. Buy automatic car. I cant stress this enough. Mankind invented anesthesia so that there is no pain when you go to dentist/surgery. Similarly automatic transmission was invented to take the pain of stick-shift away. It is worth the extra money before car buying and it is worth the extra mileage cost that it brings.
2. Make sure that your car has a music system - fm/am, cd player and an aux port.
3. Invest in a good cell phone charger.
4. If you have money, buy a car which has steering mounted audio controls. (Mine doesnt has and i am regretting it now)
5. The car should have cup holders (two is better than one)

Now, comes the main part, what to do while the traffic is moving slow.  This is the breeding ground for pain, frustration, anger etc etc. Here are things that will keep your cool -

1. You must have a smart phone or smart device (ipad/ipod). Without this, you are screwed.
2. Download apps that can download podcasts. Apple devices have iTunes. Android has Listen (and many more but i am happy with listen)
3.  Always have 10 hrs of podcast handy when travelling. Here is sample of a list that i follow -
(a) Planet Money
(b) This American Life
(c) Moth
(d) Prairie home companion
(e) Educational podcasts from law schools.
(f) All Music considered and any good music podcast.
(g) Any other NPR show that you liked :)
With the above in hand, listening to them is a joy and soon, you are no longer stuck in traffic, you are listening to podcast. Driving becomes secondary, podcast is primary and then everything fells into place.
4. Good radio is important. I hate almost all bangalore radio channels, they are horrible RJs talking great things about horrible songs. But then there is 106.4 FM which has a show called EarthBeats  which is aired from Netherlands and that has total NPR appeal.  Love the show, it comes from either 5-6 pm or 6-7 pm.
5. Have good cds. Indian ocean, swarathma, ennio morricone, dylan, kabir etc etc. I need to buy a good cd box in car.
6. Audio books - I have not tried it yet (podcasts keep me busy all the time) but audio books is soon going to be an experiment.
7. Coffee mug - Life is good whenever you have coffee in your coffee mug. Those cup holders were made only for one reason - to hold delicious coffee in coffee mugs.

Spiritual tips -
(Advisory note - Although these have been tried but they have failed to work on me.)
1. The Zen approach - There is no traffic. It sounds great in theory but when you see the clock and realize that you have only travelled 4 kms in 40 mins, the zen goes outside the window.
2.  The Denial approach - The traffic is not slow, infact it is quite fast. Doesn't work -  Period
3. The "Its not you, its me" approach -  It may work while breaking up relationships but doesn't work when the taxi driver will persistently honk you knowing full that there is no space ahead to take advantage off.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poor economics

Book : Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty 
By - Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo
Wikipedia -
Official site -

Poor Economics was April's book for Bangalore politically inspired book club. I enjoyed reading it. Here is my review -

Poor Economics talks about various steps taken by institutions to eradicate poverty. They first describe the approach taken in detail and then go about analyzing its impact. They bring the idea of randomized trials into economic development to assess whether the approach is actually making a positive impact and by how much.  The idea of randomized trial is that people are divided into groups randomly and given different degrees of help, this data is then analyzed over a period of time to see if things have actually improved or not. In contrast, previously people were just given help but there was no ways to measure whether the help provided was useful or not.  So, theirs is a more scientific process and based on these experiments, they come up with conclusions and these conclusions are quite startling.

The book along the process analyzes things under the two realms of economic thought - demand-wallahs and supply-wallahs. The Demand-wallahs argue that there should be no need to provide anything until there is a demand for it. For example - there should be no need to provide education in a poor village if the people living there do not demand it. On the other hand, the supply-wallahs claim that people generally do not have an idea on how things can help them, so first we supply and then demand would follow. For example - In Africa, where people are dying because of malaria, if we supply mosquito nets, fewer people would die and people will start buying them automatically creating demand. To the education argument, the supply-wallah claim that lets educate people, then they will realize that their standard of education has improved by education and hence they will demand for it in future.

Indeed, i found both the arguments to be very convincing. Before i jump into my thoughts, i would like to talk more about the book conclusions. The book takes several cases and sometimes it justifies the demand-wallah's argument and sometimes the other one. So, the book (or the authors) claim that every situation is different and so is every solution. To summarize the book - it says (a) that the economics of poor is very different than what we think, so before we take any solution, we should understand the ground reality very well. (b) It also argues that there is no universal solution to the same problem. Solutions are very contextual, hence policies which are global tend to fail. So, there are cases when demand-wallahs win and there are cases when supply-wallahs win. (c) Lastly the book emphasize that every solution should be studies by the methods of these randomized trials to test its efficacy. Blindly putting solutions is a waste of time, money and efforts and mostly ends up in disaster.

My thoughts -
I was very impressed by the description of demand-wallah and supply-wallah line of reasoning. I had thought like that at some point or another but was never able to put it so precisely. My thinking is that if this would have been an ideal world, i would go with the demand-wallahs. And i base this based on my reading of tribal people. Tribal people, be the ones that i heard at Coonoor, or the ones that are living in Africa or the north east tribes, these people had lived very close to nature, they have their own medical practice, their own systems and cultures. These tribes have survived so far and hence as Darwin said "survival of the fittest", these tribes are fit to live on their own and hence require no outside intervention unless  they desire for it.
But we live in today's world where we are pretty much growing at the expense of nature. The very same nature which in my tribal example is the livelihood of tribal people. So land is taken away, water is going and there is climate change all around us. So, in today's world one needs to understand how to survive and one has to adapt in order to survive (Again darwin theory). And thus there are two  options that i see -
Option 1: The demand-wallah would argue that the adaptability would come by itself. If people can not adapt, they will perish, those who survive will be better off.
Option 2: We all need to survive together, we need to help others to survive. We need to share whatever we know off so far to survive, and hence this is the supply-wallah's argument which enforces/provides certain things.

In light of the two options above, i think we are increasingly going with option 2, so that most of us will survive. When we say that we need to educate poor, all we are saying is that they should understand the world we live in and hence should have a say in it. Otherwise, it will be a plunder (as it is already happening) and the poor will be trampled. In order to avoid it, we need supply-wallah.

As a disclaimer, having said the above, i would like to clarify that i do agree that contextual solutions are still the way to go forward. The case of supply-wallah is not applicable for every argument, because many a times, there is a capitalistic greed behind them. So, one needs to be astute enough to apply/follow them.

But as a general theory, i only support supply-wallah(wherever applicable) just so that everybody is on equal standing and can contribute to the future. For example, i support education to poor but when it comes to health care, i think it should be either (a) optional or (b) demand driven. I feel very sorry for the tribal people who had no idea what has just happened in last century and how suddenly they are living in a different world altogether.

About the meetup -
The meetup was ok. Total attendance was up to three, so yay! but the two people other than me came without reading the book which was a let down as then there was not much of a meaningful discussion. But nothing to get discouraged. We shall persist, the next month's book is equally interesting - The God delusion by richard dawkins.   I, being an atheist, am having just too much fun reading it !

My house pics and more

I love living in my house @Bangalore.  Let me list the reasons why i like living here -

(a) Trees: Directly opposite to the Purvankara park, so when i sit reading newspaper early morning, i can see big green trees. It feels i an living on some kind of national park for those few moments :)
(b) There is space to park my bike right in front, something that makes me very happy :)
(c) Location - centrally located. Everything (except office) seems close from here. So very happy. I can go to alliance de francaise, and max mueller bhavan almost in no time.
(d) Close to cubbon park - For me to go for a run, i need to minimize the excuses. A km away from cubbon park atleast takes that out of the equation. :D
(e) Cauvery water - Yes, i know who would have thought that this will be an issue but it makes me so glad that i get cauvery water :)
(f) And in general, spacious bedrooms, furnishings etc etc.

This is the biggest place that i have rented so far,  i think the sheer size plays a big role in my excitement. Although that means that there is more surface area to be cleaned. But 1.5 hr in  two weeks is not a high ask. Anyways, here are the pics -

Indian indie music

The last post with a tag of songs is dated late November last year. This does not mean that music has been lacking. In order to justify, here is a post dedicated solely to music, awesome music that i have been listening -

1. Swarthama - I have attended two of their concerts so far. Both of them have been awesome. Their songs have a mix of strong message and a diversity of instruments all under a reasonably melodious tune to make it come together. Their concerts are very lively and entertaining. My fav songs so far are Pyaasi, Khul ja re, Aaj ki taaza fikr, Bhoomi and devotional atyachar. Devotional atyachar is one of the best spoof names that i have seen recently. Here is pyaasi's video -

2. Depths of the ocean - This solo album by Shusmit Sen (of Indian ocean fame) has quite melodious songs. My favourite is called City Lights which also features Shubha Mudgal. Here is a small preview -

3. Gulaal - Well Gulaal's music was a recent discovery. Gulaal's music captures the angst, the helplessness and the sense of revolution all at the same time. Piyush Mishra's voice suits the mood very well. There are two songs that just blew me away - Duniya and Raat ke musafir. Duniya is a new take on the classic Guru Dutt song which also features the famous line - "Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye toh kya hai?" Piyush Mishra's take is refreshingly different and brings a new interpretation altogether  -

Raat ke Musafir is sung by Rahul Ram(Again indian ocean fame) . The lyrics are so depressing that had it  not been the slow singing of Rahul, upon just reading them, i would have never liked to read them again. But the slow singing with pauses in between brings some sort of humanity to the song. Lyrics even though they are depressing are very well written.

4. I got the new album by Rabbi, Rabbi III listened to it for some time but need to listen more before commenting on it.

5. Going to a concert tonight by Laal, a Pakistani band. So in order to get a feel, started listening to them and so far they are quite good, atleast in terms of choosing their songs. THey mostly sing political songs written by poets et al. Here is a one of their songs -

6. And it seemed that i had not posted about the Indian ocean album - Khajoor road. It is a cult album, i like all the songs in it, best one being zindagi se darte ho. But these two are very close seconds -

And this one is -

Its amazing that sometimes the best things are never talked about here, it is just assumed that this is part of my life and does not need to be documented :)

Anyways, music spirit is very high these days!!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

सत्यमेव जयते

सत्यमेव जयते

तू बोल चल, तू बोल चल
सत्य वचन तू बोल चल
सच में ही है वीरता 
सच में ही सुकून है
सच में ही है धैर्यता 
सच में ही संयम है 
सच बोलना है आसान 
सच बोलना कठिन भी है 
सत्यमेव, सत्यमेव जयते

हम तो  है चल पड़े 
मंजिल का न कोई अता पता 
यह जो रास्ते  के हैं  किस्से 
बातें करीं जो अपने आप से
देख लिया, खोज लिया, 
घूम घूम के अब समझ लिया
हर यात्रा का अंत तो अपने घर में है  
सच्चे राही की मंजिल इसी में है 
सत्यमेव, सत्यमेव जयते

जहाँ जहाँ भी हम गए 
अजूबे शहरों में जम गए 
अजनबियों से जुड़ गए 
सत्य वाणी में हैं कुछ ऐसी मिठास 
मामूली भी बने है ख़ास 
सत्यमेव, सत्यमेव जयते

आगे आगे बढे हैं हम
तकदीर अपनी  लिखे हैं हम 
करियर में, व्यवसाय में, समाज में
ज़िन्दगी की भागम - भाग  में 
सर हमारा हमेशा ऊपर रहा 
सच जो हमारा हमसफ़र रहा 
सत्यमेव, सत्यमेव जयते

अपने से पहले दूसरों के लिए जब सोचे हैं आप
दूसरों की सेवा में जब तत्पर रहे आप 
दिल से जब आप करे प्रणाम
माता पिता का जब करो सम्मान
छोटे छोटे कर्मों में है सच 
ज़िन्दगी की हर ख़ुशी में है सच 
सत्यमेव, सत्यमेव जयते

कहाँ खो गयी है तेरी मुसकुराहट
कहाँ चला गया है तेरा चैन 
देख अपने अन्दर आखिर क्या है गढ़ा
पायेगा तू वो एक झूठ है काफी भारी पढ़ा 
अरे खुद को तू अब पहचान ले 
दो बात तू मेरी अब मान ले 
सच ही तेरा खुदा, सच ही तेरा मीत है 
असत्य में होनी है हार और सच में ही जीत है 
सत्यमेव, सत्यमेव जयते

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Life in Mar 8 - Apr 8

Welcome to the latest and greatest of this month. If there is one to describe the last month gone by, it would be "explore".  Many many things to explore. Here are the highlights -

~ Bought my car. Its Hyundai i10 with automatic option and electric red in color. I never thought that i would ever buy a shining car but here it is now.

~Went to Veena Strores for idli today morning. Veena stores was rated #2 place for best idli in bangalore after Brahmin cafe. Brahmin cafe was visited with Nikesh when we came to Blore in Oct. Veena idli had a long queue in front and had to wait 20 mins before placing the order (Sunday morning!). The chutney and idli were really good.

~Visited places at Bangalore (Other than the cafe hopping blog post) -
-- Java city cafe - Very nice cafe on Lavelle road. Loved the coffee there.
-- The Biere club - Mainly a beer place but the food is good too. Nice ambience.
-- Indijoes - Well known for its sizzlers. Quite good but not great.
-- Fava Mediterranean food - Decent food, not close to the sunnyvale downtown one.
-- Food Hub - Not expensive place to to buy breads and other rare delicacies.

~ Movies:
Deool : The national award winner for this year's best film and actor. Liked the movie a lot. Nice satirical take on religion, globalization and morality. sums my thoughts quite nicely - "a movie every Indian should be proud of". Personally i think any movie on religion as a subject is quite a bold attempt. The fact that people still make that good regional films makes me very glad about India in general.

Gulaal: Yes, i have seen Gulaal now.
Thass: There are some movies which have a waiting time. I have the movie but i wait for the right mood to watch it. There are many such movies in my life. And then a fine day comes when it feels like that today is the day to watch this movie and life is as good as it can get. Or sometimes the desire to watch that movie grows so much that the wait is unbearable and it has to be seen at the earliest. Gulaal fell into the latter category, i had waited almost 6 months for it but after watching Rahul Ram video where he sings that song from Gulaal, it had to be seen.
Loved the movie especially the songs and acting from Piyush Mishra. I think Gulaal threw many surprises at me, almost every 5 mins, the movie took a turn that was not expected and the story was quite unique, especially the whole patriotic element in story, cant remember seeing this in any other Indian movie (but often in US series). And again music/score is a delight. It is a good watch.
Hunger games (review written)

~I have to write a post on many ecommerce sites that i have tried/explored in India. Loving the diversity and spirit of entrepreneurship here.

~ Saw IPL match live at Chinnaswamy stadium. It was Bangalore vs Delhi and Bangalore won. I am a strong Bangalore supporter and this season i am cheering for either Bangalore or Rajasthan(Rahul Dravid). I am totally an emotional guy when it comes to supporting a team, no matter whether the team is good or bad, i support them because of some reason that i like.  Watching the match live is a very different experience. Participated in a mexican wave at the stadium, quite excited to see it live.

~ Have joined Runner's high for running training now. Have registered for TCS 10K happening on May 27. Ran 8K yesterday, feels good to be back into running. Love living close to Cubbon park now.

~Went to Dr. Gideon's place to get my Terrarium and have asked him to make that awesome acacia lamp for me.

~Delhi trip: Went to Delhi over last weekend to visit Amit bhaiya. Quite a good family function. Also, met Aman, Nandini and Gurshi. Liked going to Hauz khas village. Visited Kunzum cafe (very highly recommended) and Yoda book store. Bought more books and cds. Have to finish up now. Hauz Khas village overall is a very nice thing to have happened, a collection of all local, little artsy, and unique shops. There is more to delhi than that meets the eye :)

~ Watched the play Good grief @Alliace de francaise. Didn't like people talking in two different accents and overall didn't like the play itself. But (a) Got a 1K coupon for a salon as a gift on lucky draw and (b) The cafe at Alliance de francaise is still awesome.

~ Watched the play Tango with Gurshi at Ranga shankara. Quite an interesting play, political subtext but played inside a family. Very different.  And yes, the RS cafe is also very good.

~Cooking: Made Thai green curry, Tabouli salad, Panna at home. More to try in cooking experiments.

~ Attended yet another Swathama concert with Divya at Hard rock cafe bangalore. Great concert! Big fan of swarathma now. Love the songs - Khul ja sim sim now. Need to buy their cd. A more detailed blog post on new music discoveries is also on the todo list.