Friday, December 28, 2007

Wrong gate

Ever wondered what happens to a intruder who came in through the wrong entrance ? Ask me. It was a normal day and a normal routine, but this time my BMTC bus turned right before reaching the ITPL main gate. This meant, I have a rather long walk to the main gate. It could be easy to just walk through one of the side gate, I thought. At least , we did come out for evening tea by another gate on this side.

There stood the first gate full open without a security person in sight. Good for me, though I did have my identity card hanging down my neck just in case. A couple of strides into ITPL and here comes our dear guard asking me to walk back and take the main gate. No way mate..I don't want to take the long route now that I am quite 'in' ITPL. Guard not amused, while I walk ahead to my office building.

In an instant , here comes another guard (backup I believe) walking just behind me. He asks about my company , my name and the identity card. But he does not want to leave me. The escort continues until the building lobby at which point I did thank him for his escort. Not over yet. Someone on the other end of his walkie-talkie want to talk with me. Sure.

The new guy (must be a manager - no uniform noted) wants me to detail things until now , my name, company etc etc.. I provide him my identity card so that it would easy for both of us. Another security guy walks in and wants the details. No mate, I don't want to repeat the story again. Which is exactly what I told him.

Oh no...its the walkie-talkie of the manager this time that is cracking. The supervisor (one level up) want to meet me! Oh God. After a brisk walk with the manager, we meet the supervisor. He doesn't initially want stories, but talks about the security in place at ITPL and finally asks me what happened. While the stories move slowly with me filling in the gaps, the first guard too join us. I ask this guard where exactly he stopped me - outside the gate or while I was inside ITPL. Must be the two tier of managers standing next to him which made him answer "outside". Sadly, that was not right. Anyways, our dear supervisor takes control of the discussion and summarises that I should have walked back when the guard asked me to. Perhaps yes. For counter argument , I ask him to either put up a no-entry sign or put a guard AT the gate. Team Dispersed.

Whats observed:
1.) Security, just like any other Indian firm is hierarchically organised, while the top managers do not wear uniforms.
2.) The process is not too smooth. There is haste while too many fellows try to take control of the situation.
3.) Do what the guard ask you to do. Unless, you want to blog the experience.
4.) The guards do not understand English, which could frustrate you.
5.) Overall though, the security team appears to do their job effectively.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Recipe - Fish curry (Kerala)

Thought I should start blogging few of my experiments in the kitchen which went right (things that tell me it went right - tongue says its good, the vessels get empty soon , the stomach doesnt complain even 8 hrs after consumption and most importantly, I live to blog this)

All good. Now for one of my recent experiment which I had wanted to perform since long - Kerala style fish curry (red) with tamarind. The one which every mallu should be familiar with - the one your mom or wife cooked each day and you ate. This time, I took over the kitchen with much anguish to my wife. Its a different story that the taste of these dishes cool her down ;)

Things you need:

Sliced fish pieces (preferably seer or pomfret) with the skin removed - 1/2kg
Red chilli powder - 3 tablespoon
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tablespoon
Pepper powder - 1/4 tablespoon
Fenugreek powder - 1/4 tablespoon
Ginger garlic paste
(dabur works for me) - 4 tablespoon
Curry leaves - around 8 leaves chopped
Mustard - 1 tablespoon
Cooking oil (coconut oil preferably) - 4 tablespoon
Dry tamarind - 4 or 5 medium pieces
Salt - to taste
Water - 5 cups (we need to sink the fish the first time we put them in)

Getting there:

Though its best to cook this in an earthenware which appears to change the taste tremendously, you might as well cook it in any of the medium sized kadai/vessel you have. Heat the oil till it smokes a bit before you put the mustard in. Mustard usually burst quick if the oil is hot enough and all of them turn silent once they are done with their bit of bursting. Its now time for the ginger garlic paste to make their sounds and they take around 3 minutes to calm down. They usually turns light brown at this point.

Put the red chilli powder , fenugreek powder, turmeric powder and pepper powder into the mustard+garlic paste while bringing the flame a notch down. Once you get the smell of the hot chilli powder in a few moments, its time to pour in the water and up the flame. Layer the fish pieces into this water base and let it come to a boil.

When the water is boiling good, put the tamarind pieces, curry leaves and salt. Leave the vessel closed and on medium flame for another 10 mins.

Once you start to get the smell of the cooked fish across the room, you would want to lower the flame such that the gravy thickens to your liking. Be careful not to overcook the fish in this case - you definitely want the fish to retain its shape while serving.

All good. Its time to experiment your food on anyone around. If you did follow until here, you have in vessel an authentic Kerala fish curry. Simple ain't it?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bangalore BMTC - A different route

Travelling by the local bus is not what anyone might want to do in Bangalore. But, the hectic car drives and the resulting frustration everyday led me to try the bus experience first hand and it definitely was different from the expected.

The dents, the rather frequent verbal fights, the unstopping honks and the resulting agony every day had reached the peak last week when I decided it was best to try the local buses. This meant making sure I got off the house with my wife each morning such that she could drop me off at the nearest bus stop (about 2 kms away). All good; she didn't appear to mind.

'305' BMTC was the first bus which came around in under 5 minutes of the wait. Hai! empty seats all the way! Surely, it could not be this easy a travel? In fact it got better. Once you made yourself comfortable, you had around 30 mins of total free time which could be spent on anything from reading books, more sleep or just watch the fanatic car owners drive by. Peace reigns while thoughts take a different route when thinking about the rather active life around you. You start to observe the fellow passengers and the local life you see outside. You start getting the odd feeling of being one among them, though the language still appear to be a barrier. A smile appeared to bring down the strangeness before you kicked off your local language skill with the youngster beside you.

It was still better when you travelled after the days work. This appeared to be one great place to unwind each day. Thankfully, I appeared to find a free seat each time and settle down soon. The only cause of worry was the 2 km walk from the bus stop to home in case my wife had left her office earlier (could she not wait a bit longer ?!). But then, I could always take the auto-rickshaw if the walk got too tiring.

This travel has got more to offer while bringing down the traffic & pollution and peace at home & work. In total, you are exposed to a new world of life which you would have never imagined during your ritual honks and curses. This bus travel has a lot to teach everyone and think.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The man with the lantern - a short story

The walk was around nine furlong away and Thomas ettan wanted to get there before the 9pm movie. Hard luck, I thought. He must have had at least two servings of full plate rice with the usual delicacies which Amma made. Personally, I hated this walk trips from one house to other; perhaps they would not have done this if my Mom and her siblings stayed a bit further away from each other.

"Look out for the weeds down here" shouted ettan. He was the man with the light and our guide for the night. He appeared to have changed from a brother to the lead when amma gave him the larger-than-life lantern. He knew that he was the responsible and his stern voice now appeared to confirm this. I would have reverted with a "Yes Big-Boss" if he wasn't in charge today. Everyone seemed to obey him.

I could have travelled back by the 6pm bus with Uncle, but then I would have missed this beautiful view. The houses with lanterns far across the horizon appeared like fireflies, while the only sound other than ettan was the field-crickets. It never looked this beautiful in the broad daylight with tens of men in loincloth across the fields.

There was nothing consistent about the pathways here in Haripad. If you got lucky, you get to walk on these pavings built centuries ago by some considerate. If you are left behind the pack in this pitch dark, you could end up knee deep in clay or left in the thorns. The beautiful lady in white Saree with long hair which Akki used to be afraid of, was a different story altogether. "Nearer,My Lead, to Thee" for the moment; I thought.

Most of the days, us kids had to sleep at our uncles place since there wasn't any place at his sister's. Moreover, this ensured that he got his dinner packed in plantain leaves from Amma everyday, delivered efficiently by the kids. We loved this job and to see his face when he received the packet from ettan. "Did Sethu come your way today ?" he would ask indirectly to find whether any fresh fish was delivered today. This assured him of a fry to go with his brand.

It wasn't until Akki started with the song that ettan's mood lightened and he took the song ahead. It didn't matter that he couldn't sing. We loved our lead and his song. It was sometime after the third song and giggles that we heard the bark. It was Kichu, our favorite dog who came first running towards us. Ettan had lead us home once again.

Someday, I would be the man with the lantern.

ettan = big brother
Amma = Mother
Akki = Younger sister

Monday, July 30, 2007

Walk - a short story

He had begun to like this English weather. Though he missed lying in the scorching sun back home in India, there was something exotic about walking in this weather. He enjoyed strolling in the drizzle in his rather over sized Barbour and his favourite handled umbrella. Though it was the middle of the noon, it appeared more like the late evenings in Kochi.

Today he felt like visiting his old mate, Matt who sold burgers by the dock. Without the bike, it was going to take him around an hour to get there. Perhaps a quick drop at the local on the way back; he smiled at the thought of it. Nothing better to complement the weather than a warm Guinness at the old bell inn.

Though there was an air of uneasiness about the lonely pathways, he had got accustomed to this. Predictably, Jim was the first guy he came across by the docks since he started from his small apartment at the quaint stokebridge maltings; an 18th century maltings converted into flats. Jim was always around feeding the pigeons at the dock bridge on a good weather. With no pigeons out in the wet, Jim had settled in his humble shed by the river Orwell. A bit too much of the Ale on Jim, as he could see.

Time appeared to stand still when he walked through these paths; there stood Wolsey gate with a great story to tell. History stays still; he thought. Back by the calm Orwell and no sign on Matt, he headed towards the boats. Chris should be on his boat; has been a a while since he met Chris. Chris should be back from his round the Island trip now that trawling has been banned for the season. Yup. There was his boat and he could see his shadow by the mast. Chris always had a story to tell; some about his family back in London whom he dearly missed and sometimes a bit of history. Always interesting. Especially after a shot of whisky. Perhaps someday he too would travel round the world in a boat with all the time to himself like Chris.

With enough time spent he decided it was best to leave Chris on his own. For the quick walk back, he took the unpaved paths now all sludgy by the rain. At this moment, the only thoughts were the caskets of beer at Old Bell Inn.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pratibha Who?

Pratibha Patel? Tried googling for her? Try hard. Other than the various allegations and scams, you wouldn't find anything worth mentionable about her. Sadly, this lady is the UPA nominated presidential candidate. The detailed wikipedia entry too does not bring out any great achievements in her name. She appears to have been in the news for the wrong reasons all the time. Just another Indian politician with the right amount of allegations and scams; from purdah controversy, bank scam'S, murder allegation against her brother and her role in helping him out among others. Nice!

To summarise her profile, her loyalty to the Gandhi family during her half decade political career appears to have paid off more than once. Pratibha appears to have made the right political choices and has definitely climbed the political-ladder right!. The question to ask here would be - if you start your political career now, stay loyal to Sonia and other bigwigs in the lead now, have your list of successful scams, can you become the president of India in another 50yrs? Perhaps!

Have we run out of clean candidates who has had some achievements? Why would be want a candidate like Pratibha for the President's role? An office where greatest thinkers/leaders/achievers of all times like Dr.Rajendra Prasad, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, K.R Narayan, Dr.Abdul Kalam have occupied, definitely needs a great candidate.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

In Bangalore - Live, not Survive

Everyone appears to just about survive. It appears the car drivers earn Rs3000/- per month whereas his employer usually earns anywhere between Rs50000 and Rs200000 per month. Strangely, the driver appears more in control of his life. Nearly every IT professional seems to be struggling with life and stress. Life for these fellows revolve around the work, the pay, the savings, the luxury s/he is experiencing - the house, the car. The materials.

We should have treated the work and the materials as just another part of the life. Work should have revolved around life and not the other way around. How did this happen? We, the middle class appear to be molded into the "better job" philosophy, sadly. Is this the reason no IT professional ever complains when she stays until 1am fixing the last of the previous days bugs? Don't let the work drive you - you just lost your life.

Everyone want to break free. Unless you realise that life is not all work, there is no way you could peep into the other side. Only if you start thinking & reasoning philosophically. For a start, read the Geetha in addition to the Grisham's and Dahl's. Ponder over what Geetha is trying to convey and not just its literary meaning. Dedicating yourself into one interest area should make you realize about life outside the work. Each interaction with a fellow human itself leads into more insight and by itself should be treated as an experience.

Crucially, keep the other thoughts flowing. You just might get an answer to live the life rather than just the routine surviving. That's why they said "Higher the thoughts , simpler the life"

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Barber shop in Bangalore - Would we ever rise ?

The visits to the local barber shop back in Kerala is usually an experience with the local gossips, the blaring radio and talkative barbers.

The trip to the nearest barber shop here in Bangalore had been rather a disgusting affair. If you ignore the lumps of hair lying around the shop, you might adjust to the one hour you spent there.

But, what struck me was the armpit shaves after the haircut. Its weird to watch guys dressed up in their best of denims and apparels lifting their shirts off for the barber to shave their armpits. That's Gross! What have we come to? Not sure why the barbers even do this ! Can't the barber association just decide that they would not do this henceforth ? All barbers, please respect your profession and yourself!

Compare this with the local barbers (hairstylists) abroad - you have scheduled time slots when you can visit them and they command respect for their profession. Out here, they appear to be treated like slaves.

Guys, get a disposable shave-set available off the counter at most medicals and do it yourself in the privacy of your bathrooms please!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why AirDeccan makes sense

Travelling in the low-cost airline is not quite an experience you could write about. But then, the Air Deccan flight does make sense since its primary objective is to take you from point A to B, which it does good (if you ignore the many delays and the odd rumours surrounding it - from engines switching off during flight and the cold air blown into the plane before take-off since there is no air conditioner. sic).

A few stuff which you might notice:

No helping ground staff: You don't get helpers while boarding any bus. So why here? Its quite obvious on where to go next. If in doubt, 'ask' seems to be the logic.

No seat numbers: The immediate problem with this is the rush in getting into the carrier bus which takes you to the plane and the final rush before getting into the flight. Though this process by Deccan might sound a bit primitive, it is not so if the passengers themselves were a bit more polished.

No free refreshments/snacks : Yes, you could have charged more to serve more. But, we should be able to adjust; since if you are really hungry, you could always buy your food! The purpose/effectiveness of serving food in other airlines appear to keep the passengers engaged; most of them feel irate after sitting down for a while doing nothing. No wonder this pilot announced arrival at the destination 20 min's prior to actually getting there.

But then, they could definitely have served free drinking water. A 500ml bottle cost you Rs10/ in-flight. To think about it, the poorest of Indian would treat you to a tumbler of water anytime! (perhaps its a bottle of water the Deccan's common-man had in his backpack )

No hype/glamour experience - No tight short skirted air hostess with heavy make-ups, no in-flight video/audio (unless you count the pilots announcements), no heavy western accented and tight lipped staff.

Overall, the airlines is definitely trying hard to make air-flights accessible to the common-man and perform the job of carrying the passenger to their destination.

Perhaps, it /was/ an experience to write about.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Remember those days?

The many visits from far and near, neighbours and relatives, vendors and friends is a routine familiar with most of us at our homes back in Kerala. Wonder how the next generation would get to know about the many wonderful experiences we had...from the sprawling acres to explore, the 'discoveries',the variety of mangoes, the ponds, the paddy fields, the gossips, life, the church goers, fishing, the bath by the well, the odd games we played, the explorers. Oh God, what a life we used to live.

What an experience we had - a novel. Perhaps we would return another day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Play God?

Would we be able to play God ? That is, arrange the basic infrastructure for 'life' to evolve by itself.

What if we setup an environment for the heterotrophs (believed to be first life form) to flourish ? Wonder how these would adapt and evolve to humans[?] Thinking about this, remember that thoughts for these life form itself would evolve over the decades, starting from near zero. Perhaps if we find a promising planet which could sustain life, we should transport the algae/heterotrophs and watch if Darwin's theory proves itself?

Can we setup machines and robots which can adapt, create new machines/robots and completely evolve in thoughts and its application ? We would want a basic machine which knows how to evolve, think, create new machines.

About us
Thinking further, could earth and the life surrounding it could be an experiment? In this case, the scientist who got this right could be named God.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Smart-City : a deal near missed

Smart-city agreement appears to be nearly through and if everything goes good, we should have the papers signed in two or three days.

For the unawares - Smart-City is a Rs 15 billion venture between Kerala government and the Dubai based promoters 'Tecom' to setup a IT based infrastructure in Kochi, primarily to attract MNCs looking for a Asia base.

The project was initiated during the UDF government and after years of talk, it’s interesting to note the many terms&conditions the current LDF government has managed to turn around, into Kerala advantage:

1.) InfoPark, a government owned IT Park was supposed to be handed over to the Tecom.

Not sure why anyone would do this ? Sounds "I shall give you a lot of stuff for low cost and also give you a fully functional revenue generating enterprise for free."

2.) Other IT companies can come around Kochi now. Under the initial plan, it appears no new IT firms could start in Kochi, except within smart-city.

I guess UDF thought everything would end once this smart-city is in place? Never thought what after smart-city?

3.) The 246 acres of land would now be priced at Rs 104 crore (from Rs 26 crore fixed during UDF term)

Signs of early acceptance to get the project through?

4.) Under the new terms, this land would not be owned by Tecom but would be leased to them for 99 years.

Smart move from the government negotiators.

5.) The government stake in the project has gone up from 9% to 16%, which would further go up to 26% after 5years. Effectively this also means that the number of persons in the director board would go up from 1 to 3 in 5 years.

6.) The Chairman for the venture would be decided by the Government.

The above two terms is yet another smart move - this means more control over the govern ship of the project.

7.) The number of jobs the project should generate is now fixed at 90,000 in 10 years instead of the planned 33000 jobs after 7 years.

More the jobs, more the better for numerous unemployed graduates.

Another point worth noting is that the government could take over the project if the terms are not met. Much has been commented on the UDF haste to get the project signed during their term. But, for the moment, LDF appears to know its stuff and do well. It is going to be one great watch for all Keralites; when the first phase is completed in the year 2010.

God bless Kerala and her people.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Driving in Bangalore

Just like any other Indian driver, I picked up my customary verbal fight with the taxi driver who kept blasting his tweaked up horn every fraction of the second. The audio system inside my car and the pulled up glasses did not appear to help me out this time. The usual sentences were flamed out. While for him, it appears I was not driving fast enough. Hello, I cannot fly over the tens of vehicles in front of me. Anyways, as expected both returned customarily to the car and moved on.

Driving schools appear to teach only to drive the mechanical device and use the horn. But, there is definitely a difference between 'driving' and driving.

What they should have taught:

a.) Driving Habits - Not sure how this could be taught. But, waiting for a few seconds to let the other guy go at an intersection/traffic-block will not kill you. Moreover, you would rather feel good! The same applies when you are waiting in a queue. Blasting your horn is not going to help dear. Try the old sequence of counting 1 to 10(0).

b.) Unwanted horns - I think this device could safely be removed from all vehicles. You would not need to use this thing if you are driving proper. Even if really necessary, think thrice before you use it. Maybe you adore your 'horns', but not others.

c.) Minor Accidents - Minor accidents happen all the time in the business of the city and could lead to small scratches and dents. There is no point spending the next 1/2hr trying to figure out whose mistakes it is such that the other could possibly squeeze his wallet. Again, mistakes keep happening; be brave enough to accept ..a sorry makes a big difference! Move on mate.

Everything adds up to patience and courtesy I guess. Safe drive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Doctor Who

The nagging frequent headaches and the sudden blurring of vision with pressure in the eye took me once again to the neurologist at a prominent hospital. "The blood flow is OK", said the neuro after examining my head with his hands. All good, but he seemed worried about my headache; the way I do?. MRI+EEG appeared to be the problem hunter tool for the doctor,since he had no clues to what is happening. The near perfect EEG and MRI reports confused the doctor more and the only reported "inflammation in the middle ear" was the candle at the other end.

The recommended-ENT doctor at the same hospital was more clueless than the neuro. His reports (impedance test and another odd one) too appeared mute and he did not want to shoot in the dark. With no way in the dark, the only direction appeared to be the migraine for this ENT even when I specifically mentioned that neuro had ruled off migraine.

Now what? Neuro finally confessed that he had no clues to what is happening. Nice. So, he would rather change my usual medicines. Why? I don't know - don't think he does either.

Had asked him once why a migraine occur - strangely same answer again - no clues. What they do know is to reduce the frequency of attack, reduce the aura and the accompanying pain. But dont ask for the details.

Relaxing at home, the small note tightly wrapped up in the medicine carton seems to say a lot many interesting things: (This 'beta-blocker' was supposed to reduce frequency of migraine attacks )

a.) high chance for depression and suicidal tendencies.
b.) Manufacturers have no clues to how this medicine work. Sic!
c.) Ocular pressure & acute myopia is nearly guaranteed.

Nice! Could the blurring be the acute myopia? ocular pressure is eye pressure! Its written in black and white! These are effectively the problems I have! Wish I had read this before visiting the doctor.. I could have shown him.

Perhaps he did know about this, when he asked me to change the medicine. I would rather prefer a doctor who is frank and knows what s/he is speaking. We are all humans.

Failed Solution & Verdict
Effectively, after around 10k Rs spent, I had to come to the verdict that the experience of these doctors does not match the long list of acronyms attached to their name. They do not appear to think outside their box (read specialisation) and seems to easily pinpoint the other wing with the problem after they are done with their long list of tests. The listed side effects does make you feel like a guinea pig and the doctors have no worry in prescribing the most weirdest of chemicals.

Planned Solution
General Medicine Practitioners/Physicians - Its all good to consider the word of the specialist and their prescriptions. But, in these cases, its best to cross check and co relate with a family doctor or a general medicine practitioner who has some really good experience and name. They do appear to think outside the box.

As for me, I have stopped all of these medicines and for the root problem (migraine), I am now going via the classical route - heavy doses of paracetamol on the outset of a migraine. At least it worked OK until the previous generation. Should also start thinking about alternate medicines (Ayurveda and Homeo)

Effectively, think more about the medicine which go in and always reason with the doctor - most of them are not as smart as they appear.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

MRI devices are primitive.

No, they are not. The detail of information you get from the MRI machine is tremendous. Though you can peek into the human body without a surgical procedure, from the patients perspective there are some disturbing facts:

1.) Its not the most comfortable place. Sticking your body in a barely fitting tunnel with an odd mask for 15-20 minutes without moving is itself challenging. Once in, your face is just about 2-3 cm away from the top of the tunnel. Afraid of closed spaces ? This is not the place to be. Miners might feel at home. Why couldn't they make this tunnel any bigger ?

2.) Alone. The 20 minutes might appear lonely for the miner too. Not sure why there isn't a mechanism to communicate between the caved-in fellow and the operator outside - a status update would always do good.

3.) Noises - This rather complicated modern machine grumbles like a bad boy each time it works. Grumbles for the machine turn out to be noise for the patient. Again, can't this ear-drum breaking buzz be avoided?
The operator might suggest sleep as an option. Sure, if your entire life was spent in the engine room.

4.) Exit path - No procedure is in place for the caved-in fellow to exit in case of an emergency - say when you feel real frustrated and you just want to get out. A red button with an arrow would be nice.

Though the results from machine are of great help, we appear to have a long way to go in terms of the MRI technology. A small wearable device which does the job in under minute should be perfect? Yeah. Lucky grand-son.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Time Travel - a short story

This was Anand’s first visit to Tamil Nadu, rather to India. His parents had left India for the better more than two decades ago and his only images of India were the shots from National Geographic and the odd sequences from the very odd Hindi movies.

Anand had never thought about traveling by a bullock cart until now. His maternal uncle appeared to have a plan already in place, with the house cart going off to Dharmapuri for the monthly ration.

He did not know whether to say yes or no. “With more than enough reading, a travel should do me good” he thought. The 'familiar' cart appeared as a strange object to Anand with driver Chinnappa already at his place in the front. Anand joining him had made Chinnappa uncomfortable.He had his face turned towards the road while Anand got into the back of the cart.

The details of the cart intrigued Anand. Two rather large rounded wood with a touch of rubber made up the wheels. The wheels were connected to a wooden half open box. The extension from this box was placed on the necks of the two bulls which in turn were controlled by the rope Chinnappa had. Steerings.

No suspensions meant he had to sway left right with the cart. Once thorough with this sequence, he could actually look out into the open fields, which seemed to extend till the horizon. He wanted to pick up a conversation with Chinnappa, but was worried about his accent soaked tamil and moreover Chinnappa appeared engaged in driving.

This road from Krishnagiri to Dharmapuri would take them atleast three hours and was different to the one the motor vehicles took. Except for the sound of the wheels and the bells off the bulls, the only other sound was Chinnappa mumbling. Taking the curved roads were rather difficult for both Chinnappa and the bulls since there were no parts which could bend. A rather strange sequence happened at each curve. Chinnappa made the first bull turn, then the second, all the while himself making the oddest of sound. Could they not just make the head of the cart out of two wooden piece which could turn easier ? Anand wanted to ask.

The beautiful landscape with few people at the fields, the cool September breeze, empty kutcha roads seemed to enclose him into a different world. A world where time stood still. Strangest of feelings appeared to wrap him. There was nothing to bother him; no mobile, no TV and most specifically no Amma. He could travel forever on these roads. He took note of all the objects he saw, places got imprinted in his mind and some on the camera film.

It was the thirst that caught up with him and broke the trance. Chinnappa had the water provisions all ready and some dried fruits too. The smile across Chinnappa’s face at this moment was the key for Anand to start talking while he moved to the seat by Chinnappa.

Chinnappa has been handling carts since ages and has not seen places further than Chennai, but he appeared to be the happiest. Anand could not help thinking about the people back home hurrying around in their coats with a burger in one hand and mobile in the other. He concluded that everyone should do a bullock cart travel and perhaps meet fellows like Chinnappa atleast once in a lifetime.

Repetition of the heavily accented words, more dried fruits and the silences in between made way to Dharmapuri.

With Chinnappa gone across the street to get the provisions from the regulars, Anand felt over the top of the world alone in the cart. He tried holding the rope but let go when the bulls started to move.

Anand couldnot wait to travel back.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Home - a short story

It has been more than a year since they moved to this house. Raman still remembered the first time he came down with Ambujam to see the house just before their marriage. They had visited a lot many before this but none appeared to please them like this one. It was either the odd shapes of the rooms or the parking spaces across the street or the totally misplaced pooja room which caused them to look further, until this house.

With the wedding and the ceremonial visits to the relatives done, the last year saw them planning the house arrangements; especially Ambujam with her spare time at the new home. Though she could barely turn around freely in the smallest of kitchens, she had made the best of it by arranging everything into place – “cute little kitchen” as she called it.

Slowly the once empty house filled up with carefully planned items right from a mini aquarium to the TV. They still talk of the times when they slept on the floor which Ambujam would have mopped each day and the times when they ate sitting down on the floor before the dining table arrived.

Though the guests could not avoid noticing the common door which separated the bachelors staying on the next room, the tiny toilet and kitchen, they seldom mentioned this, taking into consideration how Ram & Ambu were happy around.

“Ambu, did you hear that the tenants have vacated from the first floor? After a long eight years of stay, they managed to buy a flat at Madiwala”. Ambujam in the midst of grinding the dosa batter wondered if it was the doctor family or the Aiyar family. ‘Should be the Aiyar family” she thought. She knew that doctor was on a financial crisis and could not afford a new flat.

The next day when their house owner came down, he asked them if they would be interested to shift down to the vacant house, on the same rent. The house down had a single bedroom with spacious hall and a large kitchen. The house owner appeared to like both of them; why shouldn’t he, they never appeared to cause any sort of trouble and cheque appeared at his door step every last day of the month without a fail, just like the predictable bill collectors. Though the bill collectors collected money instead.

They visited the vacant house out of interest and this time to have a detailed look, unlike the visits while the previous tenants were around. The house looked like the way a ‘house‘should be, with everything well defined – a spacious hall, a rather large kitchen, a bedroom with balcony and a big toilet.”Amma would definitely like this spacious place” Ambu thought. Amma would no longer need to take the rather steep steps up one floor with her ailing back pain. This appeared to be the perfect house to rent out next!

In the meanwhile, Raman was thinking about where each item from the present house could be moved. There appeared to be too many which would need to shifted down - fridge, TV, washing machine, the extra cot, the music system, the clothes dryer… but he did have a plan & place for all the items in the large house.

House owner had promised them he would definitely confirm with Raman before he signed an agreement from any other prospective tenants. This left Ram and Ambu to think deeper on the plan for some time.

The next few days saw Ambujam and Raman planning the different positions and places for the items in the vacant house. Ambujam appeared to have an insight into the minor details like where the guests would sleep and whether they would need a separate door to the only toilet and also the mailing addresses which would need to be changed.

But, as the days passed off, the interest in the new house seems to come down for both of them. The topic did come once during dinner today when they again debated over what is good in the vacant house. But, the possible trouble in settling down while adjusting to the new place, finding the best place for each item, the bathroom access via the bedroom, the yet to be decided place for the dining table etc made Ambujam decide against the vacant house. They were actually rather happy in this cramped up house and everything had a proper plan & place. “Perhaps another year at this home, before we move to a bigger home” thought Raman.

“No Sir, we would not be interested in moving this time; perhaps next time. Thanks” Ambujam heard Raman speaking over the phone.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Perfect Knowledge Base?

My immediate problem is this - all of my colleagues have their set of know-how on a vast set of topics. How do I apply that onto a problem to derive the solution ? Of course we cannot expect all of them to review or apply their time and effort in each case to solve this, which is not the least practical. In this scenario, I am worried only about the amount of data contained in each minds - not how effectively the data gets applied or utilised. (IQ can wait)

Known solutions
Knowledge Base (KB) - Assuming everyone is able to put down their entire knowledge into a knowledge base, knowledge bases could be the solution to solve the problem. But sadly, KB's of today do not satisfy these since:
a.) There is no way to transfer the entire stuff the brain holds into a central DB from everyone. The best they can do is write articles , best practises and the like, voluntarily.
b.) The various KB's around appear to work on 'keywords' or 'similar problems' and does a full-text search to return the result. This should work for troubleshooting a bug or a known issue or a predefined set of problem with a different set of input, but not applicable for a generic problem in hand.

And in the Mystic World -(AI of the future ) ?
In the mystic world, this would translate to a big brain of some kind which is capable of collecting knowledge from the various human minds in addition to :
a.) holding large amount of data
b.) able to process the data based on the requirement
c.) and finally return the best result.

Would this be ever possible ? Perhaps once the brain is deciphered completely, we should be able to create our dear KB brain. Until then its the standard KBs and lots of meetings & emails. Hmmm.