May 8, 2016

The day I became JK

This happened 13 years ago. Jayakrishnan was an eighth grader in a school in the nice South Indian city called Trichy. During his seventh grade, he had a cat – a lovely, fluffy cute cat. He loved it. And his proclivity towards the cat caused him a fungal infection called “polyps” which led to tissue growth in the nose almost blocking his entire right nose. It seemed he was allergic to cat fur. His dad’s homeopathy doctor friend assured he could cure this. After 6 months, the tissue growth only seemed to grow more, effectively blocking his right nose and partially affecting his hearing. This meant, he struggled with his class lessons. He was at his academic low. His teachers had a condescending look for him every time the test papers were distributed. Friends, if any, were few. They called him “Jaya”. Of late, someone pointed out that “Jaya” is a feminine name. (It’s one of those thing with the Indian names; when combined with a male name – “Krishna” it becomes a male name in totality) He thought he was better off with the name his dad christened him initially – Vivek Rasdan, after a then Indian cricket player. “Jayakrishnan” was the name that his Astrologer-cum-Sanskrit scholar granddad christened him, based out of astrology and also half his name, which was Ramakrishnan. Some bullies caught upon the feminine part of his name. Scared, he tried to avoid schools on any possible occasion. On lonely days when he bunked schools, he used to solve crossword puzzles in the Young World paper which comes on Saturdays. He also maintained a dairy, where he noted down his observations, witty cartoons by Keshav in the Hindu, pictures of fast trains and the German landscape from the German News magazine which his dad had subscribed.  He particularly loved the cover stories on LTTE and other major national events which were illustrated creatively in the WEEK magazine. He used to wonder why India Today magazine always wrote articles supporting a major national party a.k.a BJP. He never spoke about these to anyone except to his dairy. His dairy was his only true friend. His dairy was the only one who would know what that boy was and what went through him. He was an introvert, at best. The only good thing that happened to him that year was that his parents decided to go with allopathic surgery to remove the fungal growth in his nose. And this put him on wheels of normalcy. Yet his introverted character remained the same.
He entered the eighth grade. He had chosen Hindi as a second language earlier when he was in sixth grade. But Hindi students were a minority. So were Catholic Christian students in his school. The school decided to put these two groups together in a same class for reasons best known to them. This was where he first saw Nancy Perira. She was a legend in that school. He had heard stories about her from his friends. She always gets the first rank; she has never known what a second rank is, in her entire life – that was her legend. She had a fierce competitive look in her eyes. And she was damn smart- the speed with which she talked made her seem extra smart. He looked at her with an awe and felt like a lowly being when she walked past him. Once, he was standing near the classroom door, unknowingly blocking her path. She said, “Hey, stupid, move away!” He felt bad for a moment, but gave her way immediately. He conceded to the adjective, the smartest girl in the school just gave him, because he thought it was his fault.
Arockyasamy, his social sciences teacher was his class teacher. Arockyasamy seemed different in his approach of teaching. He too had a legend – he normalized the social science marks of his students to 90%. The rest 10 marks would come from the Social Science notes that he asked his students to maintain. And legend has it that no one ever got those 10 marks; students who get 2.5 consider themselves lucky. This was because, the notes he asked his students to maintain was not book based. It was like, an entire chapter in Geography should be summarized in just 2 pages with any fact about the chapter NOT presented in the text book – all the extra details one can lay their hands upon. And he substituted Civics sections with GK sections and solicited newspaper articles for the Civics part. History chapters should be substituted with in-depth historic event analysis. Civics section carried 5 marks, History and Geography 5 together. He actually started teaching us at the end of first mid-term only. But he implemented his system no sooner. Nancy was even asking Arockyasamy on ways to get the full 10 marks.
The First mid-term exams were just conducted. Jayakrishnan got the 7th rank. This was the highest rank he could imagine getting in a long time. Of course, Nancy got the first. But before the ranks were computed, it was time for evaluation of the social science notes by Arockyasamy. Nancy got 2.5 on her coverage on Historic analysis. Arockyasamy called Jayakrishnan out. He said, “Good work. You’re the first person to get 7.5 marks in the Social Science notes”. He got the full 5 in GK section and 2.5 on Geography. The GK section he covered was on a crucial judgment the Supreme Court had passed on the Ayodhya issue. Many students had the newspaper clipping of that judgment pasted in the GK section. But Jaya drew a timeline across two pages, demarcating the important events that led to the current judgment. A separate section was delineated at two different corners listing the key parties involved in the conflict. The other two corners listing the rationale and basis of the conflict as submitted by the conflicting parties. As far as the Geography section was concerned, he pasted a single stamp of the country that was being dealt, that he got through a philatelic exchange with some his friends the previous year. He explained the cost of the stamp. And a small box on the local currency and how it compares with the rupee and the dollar and Yen. He then explained the person on the stamp, the first prime minister after independence. A small box shows political system followed by the country and the current leaders. And two other boxes on the climate, it’s geopolitical influence on its neighbors and how it influences its economy. He felt so happy that day. He looked though his notes the whole evening and the words, “V.Good.. 7.5/10” embellishing the page. He wondered why Nancy gave a hateful look at him when returned with his note to his bench.
After that, Jaya was the one to answer the GK questions and current affairs questions posed by Arockyasamy to his class. It felt nice for him. And he made no mistake the second time. He got the full 10 marks in Social Science notes section, breaking his own record. He improved his rank by securing the 3rd rank. But at the same time, he was being hated by Nancy like never before. Now, she knows him by name. But nevertheless, she found new situations just to call him “stupid”. He didn’t know how to react to that. Because every time, it was someway his fault. She was the ‘class monitor’. Persons who get the first rank get to become the monitor and she was the monitor by default, always. She wrote the name “Jaya” every other day on the board which lists the students who misbehaved during the absence of teachers. This ensured that Jayakrishnan got punished for a crime he grasped hard to understand when he committed. But it must have been his mistake; he never defended himself for any of that, because he was still scared to speak out to his teachers.
The school conducted an assembly every week. And every week, one class must host the assembly. And during each assembly, there’s a small speech on a topic. It was his class’ turn to host the assembly. The topic for speech was ‘The Crown and Glory of Life is character’. Arockyasamy, chose his favorite student, Jayakrishnan, to give the speech. Jayakrishnan was scared to death. He didn’t even dare to speak a complete sentence to his teachers. His dad penned his speech. Arockyasamy decided to conduct a mock trial in front of the class. Jayakrishnan never looked at any of the students while he spoke. He spoke looking down. And he couldn’t complete three sentences properly. Nancy was smiling at the sorry figure he cut for himself. He was sweating profusely. He gave a pleading look at his class teacher and cried, “I can’t.. I’m sorry”… He said, “It’s okay, we’ll do another session in two days”.
Two complete days of speaking with the mirror and his sister, he probably realized he could make it. The second time, he completed the speech with occasional stammering, but he barely looked at the audience.
Arockyasamy called him aside and gave a great piece of advice. “You’re doing well, but no one will listen to you if you don’t speak TO them. If you’re scared about looking at the audience, don’t really look at them. Just sway her head at all the audience constantly.” Jayakrishnan took the advice and during the third trial, he did exactly the same. It turned out well. But speaking before 60 students and before 2000 students is different. Jayakrishnan knew that.
On the day of speech, Jayakrishnan was standing behind the stage, wishing that the Master of Ceremonies would pace out their introductions; he literally prayed for each delayed second. Finally they called out, “Now Jayakrishnan from 8-A will deliver a speech on the topic, ‘The Crown and Glory of Life Is character”. Jayakrishnan waited for five seconds after he was called for. He realized that the entire school was ready to laugh at his folly. He wanted to run away from the place. At that time, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked back at the tall figure of Arockyasamy smiling at him. He said, “The school is waiting to hear your great speech”. This brought a wide smile on his face. He decided, come what may, he is not letting this man down. He tread the stage towards the mike for the first time in his life. His first word was over amplified; someone came running to push the mike a bit away from his mouth. IN this process, he forgot his customary salutations which should invariably begin with “Revered Principal,…” Instead, he started with a line, he never rehearsed to speak about.
“When I was given this topic, I didn’t even understand what it meant. In fact, it was my dad who wrote this speech”. The whole school burst into laughter. After the laughter subsided, he continued, “But I’m here just for one thing, or rather for one person – Mr.Arockyasamy, my class teacher and guide who believed in me to deliver this to this august audience. So here I am to speak about the topic, which I now feel is so meaningful”.
When the speech was over, the 4000 pairs of hands clapped – all the sound directed at one person that was overwhelming for him. Arockyasamy patted his back. He smiled back at him. Back in the class, Arockyasamy distributed the Half-yearly rank cards. When Jayakrishnan’s roll number came, he called out, “Mr.JK…” (Jayakrishnan wondered that this is the first time someone called him JK, but it certainly felt nice), “You get the first rank this time. And that was a good speech by the way, I forgot to mention..”, he smiled as he handed him the rank card.
The whole class clapped except for the one girl. But then, at that moment, he realized, it’s not always his fault. And that he’s not a stupid. That day Nancy didn’t write down his name on the board even though he was talking happily with all his friends in the ‘absence of the teacher’ which was categorized as misbehavior during many such earlier instances. Just then he realized that he is the monitor from the next day. Remember, persons who get the first rank get to become the monitor.
That was the day Jayakrishnan became JK. Till this day, he carried that name as a remembrance of his first mentor. He became the monitor. No names on the board ever as long as he was the monitor. From then on, he grabbed any and every opportunity to give a public speech. Won some state level speech competitions. Be it Independence Day or Republic day, JK is solicited to give his passionate patriotic speech. And of course, participated in many quiz competitions and won some. He replaced Nancy as the person who never knew what the second rank was. Nancy tried to insult me by accusing him in front of the class he got the first rank by using ‘bit’ in exams. He still couldn’t defend himself or shout back at her. But he didn’t feel sorry. He was able to smile back at her. But none of that was important than the fact that none of this would have happened if Arockyasamy never believed in him. One person changed a boy's life. And that person was able to changed his outlook. By just believing in the other person. 
JK is still secretly an introvert. But when occasion arises, he can be the best extrovert around. And when the bullies tried to call him "Jaya" the next time, he retorted back, "There's no space between Jaya and Krishnan, you ignorant fuck…"
~~~~~~
Dedicated to all genuine teachers who are transforming young lives for the better…
~~~~~~~

Apr 22, 2016

MY OLD PUBLISHED WRITINGS :: NOSTALGIA



THE HINDU YOUNG WORD – VII Std (2002) (MY FIRST PUBLISHED WRITING)





THE HINDU METRO PLUS MADURAI EDITION (2004)


"VOICE YOUR VIEWS COLUMN" – IX STD TITLE : PROBLEMS IN POWER DISTRIBUTION



SCHOOL MAGAZINE – IX STD (2004)

                   “RELEVANCE OF GANHISM IN MODERN WORLD”



THE HINDU METRO PLUS CHENNAI EDITION
VOICE YOUR VIEWS COLUMN (2007)

“CHOOSING PROFESSIONAL COURSES - IS IT TRUE CHOICE?”

It is a fact that TamilNadu is having sufficient number of engineering colleges to satiate the demand. However, in medical field it seems to be limited. And regarding non-professional courses the situation is satisfactory. When it comes to specific branches in professional courses the availability is not satisfactory since it is not decided by the choice of students but by extraneous factors like management perceptions, parents’ ambitions and the current job market demands. This will neither help the students nor the nation. Also the choice factor must be weighed with cost factor to decide true availability.


JayaKrishnan,V I Yr. B.E. (Geoinformatics), CEG,Anna University.


THE HINDU METRO PLUS CHENNAI EDITION
VOICE YOUR VIEWS COLUMN
Meltdown and the changing job scene

Some economists had foreseen and predicted the economic meltdown in the western countries and the ‘bursting of the bubble’ in the financial and the IT sectors. This meltdown will help to bring a balanced view in career selection. It is better that we turn our attention to jobs related to our own country. Let us consider this meltdown as an ‘Oorvasi Shaba’ which will ultimately bring good to our country by bringing sanity in the youth. Let us hope that the government services will attract more talented and innovative people in future.

II year, B.E. (Geoinformatics) (2008)


THE HINDU METRO PLUS CHENNAI EDITION
VOICE YOUR VIEWS COLUMN

HAS TIME TAKEN A TOLL ON TRADITIONAL FESTIVITIES

Festivals to life are like lubrication between moving parts of machines to avoid friction, heat and wear outs. The grinding schedules of our work, the location of the work place and educational centers, travails of travel etc forbid us from festivities. The nuclear families in place of the traditional families, alienation from the native society and the general degeneration of youth who are in mad chase of material and monetary gains are some other reasons. Where is the simple man with his roots intact keeping his sensitivities and aesthetic mind ruminating the nostalgic feelings about our traditional festivities?
2nd year, CEG (2008)


THE HINDU METRO PLUS CHENNAI EDITION

VOICE YOUR VIEWS COLUMN

DISABLED CHILDREN MUST BE ADMITTED IN MAINSTREAM SCHOOLS

There are no legal hurdles in admitting disabled children in mainstream schools. The mentally retarded, blind and deaf may not be admitted because of the inherent difficulties. In all other cases there need not be a problem for such children to be a part of the mainstream. Only thing required is a little amount of compassion and special arrangements for the seats, vehicles, etc. Instead of looking at them with sympathy they should be treated as equals and the school authorities and teachers must imbibe these qualities amongst the students. They are not ‘disabled’ but ‘differently abled’.

II yr., CEG (2008)

THE HINDU METRO PLUS CHENNAI EDITION
VOICE YOUR VIEWS COLUMN
ROAD SAFETY

The roads are one of the important infrastructures of a country. It belongs to all like air and water. The concept that roads are engines for economic growth and the stress is on speedier vehicular traffic. The roads must be useful to pedestrians and cycles riders. Very often it is the elite and educated class with their private vehicles who are defying the traffic rules with impunity. The traffic regulators keep a Nelson’s eye towards such violations. A lot of students, many of them minors, drive motor vehicles recklessly. The system of issuing driving licences itself is riddled with corruption.

II yr., CEG (2008)

Apr 18, 2016

What's up with your life? Nothing Much...

When someone asks you, "What's up with your life?" or just, "How's your day?", have you ever tried telling the truth assuming the person asking the question really wants to know about you? We are much comfortable giving a meaningless answer such as "I'm doing fine" or "Nothing much", but is that really what your life and day is all about? I feel we take things for granted. There must be a hundred awesome things around us for any person at any given time.
  • Try to wiggle your toes just as you wake up and feel the minute electric impulse running down your spine. 
  • Try to brush your teeth using your other hand and give yourself an extra wide smile after doing that.
  • Try to bathe in extra cold water and shiver a bit by turning on the fan - when your dry yourself; you'll feel extra comfy - the cold bath is worth it.  
  • Try feeling the fabric of your cloth before wearing it. (Woah! the smell of the fresh detergent on the old linen shirt I'm wearing right now - ecstatic!). 
  • Try to add a lil ginger in your tea or may be palm sugar in your coffee and try to deliberately savour the difference. 
  • Try to read a quote by some dreamy poet before setting out to work. 
  • Notice the first flower or patch of green. 
  • Use a pencil and paper to write down the task list for the day; the bolder the pencil lead, the better. 
  • Run your fingers over your keyboard and feel it before you fire up your laptop. 
  • Smile at your co-workers like they told you a happy news, every day. 
  • Lunch with your friends; change the location every other day. 
  • You may have a car, yet try to use your bike(bicycle) often for smaller distances. 
  • When calling your mom, start with, "Hey gorgeous..."
  • When your junior calls you, ask them about their work, and say, "I'm proud of you!". And of course, mean it. 
  • Endeavour to learn something new every day. Anything is fine. And log it somewhere. 
  • Endeavour to cook your meal, at least once a day; eventually you'll get better at it even if you don't know to cook. 
  • Plan for an awesome life-time vacation and learn everything about that place. 
  • Install the Duolingo app and start learning foreign language - it's so intuitive. 
  • Track your sleep; aspire for a good sleep and be happy in the morning if you got a good nigh't sleep. 
  • Prepare a map of all the places you've visited and annotate it. Pin this at your work desk. 
  • Step on a lush green grass barefoot wherever you're allowed to. 
  • Celebrate the lil successes of your team members. 
Your life is awesome. Start noticing it. And the next time someone asks you, "How was your day?", surprise them with your answer. 

Jan 5, 2014

10 reasons y 2013 is a serendipitous year for me

  1. Mumbai Meri Jaan in Jan
A few days after Bal Thackeray deprived us of his company, I was a month old resident of one of the greatest cities in the world named Mumbai during the new year day of 2013. In my earlier blog, I’ve described Mumbai as the the city of life coz Mumbai is where you can see life in action. This is a city which teaches you that ‘life moves on’ despite the terrorist attacks, despite the excruciating traffic, and despite the pervasive chaos. Also, I loved the breeze-laden moderately sunny climate of Mumbai.  But there’s one more thing that I reminisce about the city. This makes me nostalgic about the city. I was working as GIS Consultant for Reliance Infotel and the office starts at 10.30 (I read it as 11.30). And that was convenient for me as a chronic late riser. All my roommates would have left by the time I’d wake up. And you know the thing that wakes me up - the pigeons at Shree Ganesh Housing Society. On the first day, it was a bit scary. If you’ve heard the cooing of the pigeons, you’ll probably understand that. But soon, it became the music which woke me up in the morning. There was a pigeon which gave birth to cute little squab in the small verandah just outside my bedroom window. My morning ritual involved in watching the mother take care of it’s kid, rain or shine. I used to feed it a little since the mother never flew out for almost two months. Those mornings when I heard only the a gentle sea breeze fluttering my window panes along with the cooing of a pigeons would haunt me as well as make me nostalgic.


  1. In the Garden City of Bengaluru
Though I stayed in Bengaluru for more than 3 months, I’ve never visited Lalbagh to praise it as the ‘Garden City’. But the lush green spaces at the ‘Silicon Valley enclave’ in the Electronic City Phase II of Bengaluru, where I stayed with my bff Delvin and five other awesome guys made up for all that. The climate was adorable and salubriously cool. Among the metros I’ve been (Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru), I’d vouch, Bengaluru has the best climate. I miss jogging around the the enclave through the parks with Pitchumani, my then roommate and an electrical engineer from my college, now working at Robert Bosch. The only difference was that, whenever Pitchu jogged, he made a 10 kilometer stretch, whereas my target was just 20% of that.


  1. Met the Girl Next Desk
In my earlier blog, I’ve written about the Girl Next Desk and about the things that made her incredible. But the big take away for this year was that we were arch enemies turned awesome friends. Recently she visited our Singapore office on an official visit. She has a way with work - it’s simple, elegant as well as robust. Lately, I saw a macro developed by her which pops out at the end of the day to record her timesheet activities to an excel sheet, which is normally a painful process to fill up at the end of the month. It was simple, yet impressive.


  1. At the Queen of Hill Stations with family
Taking out your innocent glib tongued mom and the unconventional genius dad for an holiday vacation is a perfect retreat and a really memorable moment. And you know the best part - you realize that your mom isn’t as naive as you might think. She actually explained how clouds can form below the cliffs without using jargons like precipitation and stratospheric condensation.


  1. Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin Todenge
For all the stupid things we did, for all the fun we had, for all the awesome moments you gave, for all the meal we shared, for all the path we tread, you guys will always make up the best moments of any year.
From Right to Left: Sathyesh, Ashok, Damodaran, me, Bharath, Sambath, Delvin
Thanks Ashok, Bharath, Damo, Delvin, Kabil, Manoj, Sambath, Saravana, Gopi, Petchi, Deepa, Queen, Archana, Dhivya, Revathy, Vijaya, Arun, Pitchu, Subashini, Ganapathy and Ashwini. “Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin Todenge”. Promise.


  1. In the Lion City
By the second half of 2013, I reached the ‘Lion city’, Singapore. The city nation impressed me in many ways. It was nation where crass commercialization never gave way for the environmental degradation. The city is abound with parks and lakes and nicely maintained with boulevards. Walkways and cycle paths have as much importance as the vehicular roads. This is a city which encourages public transportation than private transportation. They encourage it to the point where a metro ride into the Central Business district at peak hours is made free. And buying a private car is one of the most expensive things to do in Singapore. The license to own a car is almost five times the price of the car in many cases! I also like the hundreds of air bridges across the roads, which connects apartments from either sides of the roads. Apart from the things usually noticed about this city, I have three things that make up my nicest moments here:









Marina Bay Sands








The Bedok Reservoir - 500m away from my apartment is a serene park surrounding a lake with small water activities, jogging tracks, eatouts, and lots of green landscape. A refreshing place, whether you go there out with a buddy or alone.



The paper windmill outside my house - Once I step outside my house, I see these rainbow colored paper windmill stuck to pot plants. This sight invariably reminds me of how colorful the day is.

The wide windows in the hall: Gives an awesome view of the Pan Island Expressway as well as a steady inflow of breeze.


  1. The Story of Mr. And Mrs.Udhay
Udhay is known as the Rajinikanth of our office. He’s so gregarious and keeps any group engaged. But behind all his gregariousness, is a melancholic story of strife to win his love, Revathy. I can’t do justice to that story writing it in this blog. Long story short.  His love story is 8 years long and faced all kinds of problems imaginable. He was chased for days together for trying to marry his love. He had to handle the police, immigration, corrupt registrars, thugs, communally fanatic relatives, all within a span of few days. But he received help from unexpected quarters. Friends of friends, who barely knew him, bet their lives, money and brains to get them married.

Now they’re happily married and blessed with an angel named Amizhthini (one who is like ambrosia). Udhay still faces a lot of problems due to factors he has no control over. But that never makes him less cheerful anyday. And that doesn’t make Udhay and Revathy any less than the best couple I’ve ever seen. Not surprisingly, I and Santhosh celebrated the new year night at Udhay’s place along with anni (sister-in-law) and kutti devathai (little angel).  


  1. Met the Queen of Singapore
It was always a pleasure meeting the Queen, my classmate, friend and now a PhD researcher at NTU, Singapore. She’s fantastic for various reasons. One, she’s gonna be a doctorate by the age of 25. She’s a hassle-free organizer. She assumes a leadership position, wherever it is, be it in CEG or NTU WITHOUT throwing around much weight. She’s a girl who learns the Indian classical instrument, Veena in a foreign country and she’s already made a stage show here. Above all that she’s an awesome friend. Her parents named her so right. She is a Queen, wherever she is.


  1. Travelled to Indonesia
Four crazy guys went to the equatorial indonesian island of Bintan this year. Thanks Jyoti, Anwesh and Sathish for the awesome moments.
From Left: Sathish, Jyoti, Anwesh and me




  1. Lohith says hello to Planet Earth
On the 27th of August, 2013, Lohith receives the first rays of sun and says hello to the Planet Earth. I wanted my newborn nephew to be named like me. Any name with ‘krishna’ within it was my demand. It was granted and he was christened ‘Lohith Krishna’ soon. But soon after, I began to call him ‘KunniKuru’ rather than calling him by the name I wanted for him. Kunnikuru is a bright small waxy red seeds with beautiful black-dot in it and is considered to be auspicious in Kerala. His little tender body and his bright inquisitive eyes reminds me of kunnikuru
Kunnikuru
He’s a green lover. Anything green catches his attention. Be it coconut leaves or the mango tree, the hibiscus or the palm leaf, he stretches out his head in the intention of making friendship with the green soon. And he cries only for one reason. Food. He needs to be fed at the right time, not a second before, not a second after. German made pacifiers won’t do the trick. He needs to be fed on time. Period. And then he’s a sweetheart once he’s fed. And you better should read the language of his eyes when he’s not wearing a diaper. He gives a fair notice with eyes before he pees. And he’s gonna be a gregarious dude and an explorer (like me :P). If you think that you’re gonna have a tough time  controlling his crying in a crowded place like a mall, he proves you wrong. He’s more curious in carefully studying the anthropological traits of the people around him and gives an occasional smile to the ones who strike a chord with him. And there are certain problems he has to face from his creative mom, who happens to be my sister. Everyday, he is made to wear a fancy costume - some self stitched, some altered and some bought. One day he’s the Krishna, the other day an emperor; a priest one day and a Santa yet another day; a cowboy one day and a Parisian the other. Once he was adorned with a big moustache and then recently he turn into a girl! It’s too much for a acquiescent four month old. Spiderman and other superheroes are on cards.






May 28, 2013

WHY CHENNAI SUBURBAN TRAINS SCORES A FEW BROWNIE POINTS OVER THE DELHI METRO


Why am I even comparing the world class Delhi metro trains with the conventional Chennai suburban train system? Well, for one, I was recently in Chennai, the place where my parents are staying for the past five years. And so I had an opportunity to revive my memories of travelling in the Chennai suburban Electrical Motor Unit (that’s the actual name for it) daily from my house to the college during my undergraduate engineering years. Still what kind of comparison I am trying to make here? I mean the Delhi metro system is one of the most modern and efficient engineering metro rail projects in the world. The security system is intact, the safety during travel is ensured by auto closure of doors, the ticketing system is automated (and hence avoiding ticketless travel as well as the Ticket Checking Inspectors) and the compartments are air conditioned. And when it comes to cleanliness, it’s on par with the best maintained airports in India. In each compartment, the next station is conspicuously displayed on a digital board along with an orange LED glowing over the route map; plus a recorded voice announcement makes sure the relevant information is available without the necessity to enquire your fellow passenger (this is a feature I adore since I need not nag the fellow passenger nor I need to peek through the windows or doors in a crowded train during each stop to know whether my destination has arrived or not,). The metro is handicap-friendly and the passenger convenience is enhanced by the use of elevators, lifts and sleek over-bridges at appropriate places. The train frequency is adequate and is ‘unquestionably’ punctual.
So I don’t want to sound like a Luddite by trying to find flaws in the Delhi metro system and establish the banes of a modern technological system. No, that’s not my point. In fact, I adore the Delhi metro and would rate 9.5/10. The reduction of 0.5 points is to only to encourage non-complacency (as if the DMRC care about my ratings). Any comparison of the Delhi metro with the Chennai suburban metro against the features that I mentioned would be grossly imbalanced. Right in the first line of this blog post, I’ve used an adjective, ‘conventional’ to describe the Chennai metro system. It’s my belief that, anything ‘conventional’ or ‘traditional’ would carry an inherent intangible value to it. And so, I’m just trying to explore those values that it offers.
Cost: I don’t want to put the cost as the first parameter of comparison, but yet, it matters. A roundtrip travel of 25km each (say, a travel between the terminal stations in the same route) could cost up to Rs.50 in the Delhi metro, whereas it wouldn’t cost more than Rs.14 in the Chennai metro. And if you’re a season ticket holder, you can make the same travel within almost Rs.3. But, there’s no such thing as the season ticket or the free pass in the Delhi metro. I myself was a ‘First Class Scholar pass’ holder till the completion of my studies thanks to my dad who works in railways. Whereas the only discount the Delhi metro system offers you is a 10% discount on each travel if you opt for the use of prepaid metro card instead of the token. Even if Delhi metro offers a totally worthy ride for the ticket cost, it still would burn the pocket of an individual with limited means. And ironically enough, these people are the ones who have the most frequent travel needs. So Delhi metro seems to be prohibitive as a travel option for such people.
Time of operation: I’d like to put the time of operation as my second parameter. Though the Delhi metro is adequately frequent, the time of operation is just between 0600 hrs and 2300 hrs, whereas the first service of Chennai suburban metro system would start at 0400 hrs and the last service extends till 0030 hrs in the midnight. In my first year of engineering, while my parents hadn’t yet moved to Chennai, I used to visit them, and while returning, I would reach Chennai (Egmore station) in the wee hours of the morning, around 4 A.M. And guess what, I had a metro train waiting for me at that time to drop me at college.
Schedule: Delhi metro doesn’t publish a time schedule for their services, but Chennai metro does. This is really a hazy comparison, because, even though Delhi metro doesn’t have a published time table, the trains are frequent and I’ve not waited for any train more than 10 minutes at any time. But the published time table of the Chennai metro did help me more than once to plan some emergency travel requirements where a minute or two would matter the most.
Time of stoppage: Though the time of stoppage is almost comparable in both the cases, (20 sec for Delhi metro and almost 30 sec. for Chennai metro), in practice, the time you get to entrain/detrain is more in the case of Chennai metro. I mean, I really don’t want to put this as a point, but the fact is you can entrain/detrain a Chennai metro train even while the train has started moving (mostly while it has started to accelerate). It’s definitely not safe to do that, but surely you can’t say that you missed a train by a ‘fraction of a second’. This happened to me more than once in the Delhi metro, wherein my companion who was one feet ahead of me got in, but I didn’t, just because I was a fraction of a second behind him. This could never have happened in Chennai metro. You could get into the compartment even upto 15-20 seconds after the train has started moving. It’s unsafe and unadvisable to do that, yet the adrenaline rush felt good when I had to do that a half-dozen times to catch the train.   
The local charm factor: Though air-conditioned trains are a boon for the Delhi climate, but I prefer the open natural air and light you get while travelling in the Chennai metro. This is particularly suitable only in Chennai since the Chennai climate isn’t as extreme as Delhi. There’s a charm to experience the surroundings through the open windows and doors rather than experiencing it behind enclosed glasses. I mean, it’s not the ‘heritage Ooty train’ or the ‘magical Darjeeling toy train’ kind of charm, but yet, there’s this local charm; you can feel the dampness of the air during the monsoon, the cool breeze during the winters, the sweat during the summer, the blaring sounds from the temples and political propagandas during all the seasons, and maybe the smell from the local coffee shop or biriyaani stall (not to mention the notorious malodour from the famous ‘Coovum’).
The Delhi metro may soon be upgrading to unmanned robotic drivers and Chennai may soon be developing its own replica of the Delhi metro system. While I’m looking forward for such technological improvisations for the betterment of the public transportation infrastructure, I’ll fondly miss the suburban trains I once travelled through. 

May 25, 2013

THE GIRL NEXT DESK

Prelude:

Most of you guys might have a girl next desk in your office. But how much does she influence your daily routine?

Tomorrow (the 26th of May 2013), some of my friends would be giving their Civil Services examinations. The protagonist of this story (The girl next desk) as also one of my closest friends named Deepa and my buddy Damodaran (who already had tasted success in one stage of this prestigious examination) are some of them giving it this time. I know you have it in you to crack it. My sincere wishes for you guys.


Another friend and classmate of mine was successful in securing an $80000 p.a. internship at Shell as a Geoinformation Analyst which sounds super cool than a normal IT job offer in the US. I derive this vicarious joy of the success, because when I say to someone that “GIS has an incredible scope”, I know it’s true. 


I congratulate all my classmates who are graduating this year from prestigious universities like University of Arizona, Texas A&M University, University of Michigan Ann Arbor and Nagoya Institute of Technology (Japan). In particular, I'd like to congratulate Aishwarya, who has started her PhD work too. 


Also my heartful wishes to Balachander, Vijaya and Sambath for cracking the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS) Exams and for entering into the exciting career of becoming financial managers. 


And another of my classmate is entering the IIMs. Of course, that comes as no surprise. I prophesied that she would, at least three years ago.
Kudos to you all guys! Really proud of you.


The Story:

Delhi is five times as far from Chennai as it is from China; the Euclidean distance to the nearest Chinese border from Delhi is just above 360 km. So you could understand how a Madrasi (as a ‘South Indian’ is popularly known as elsewhere in India) like me; that too a proper Madrasi with his house at Madras (present Chennai) would feel like, staying in the national capital for more than one year. I survived a 2 degree low winter and a 47 degree Celsius hot summer there. Not to mention that I was deprived of staple food items such as Idli, Dosa or coconut chutney (added with fried curry leaves and mustard). If not for the cherubic Subashini (or ‘Suba akka’ as I would call her), my life would have been drab at Delhi.           

But this didn’t go on for long. During the summer of 2012, I was transferred to Mumbai. Again, Chennai was farther from Mumbai than Karachi was from it. My only point about dragging Karachi and China into the picture is to show that the Mumbai transfer didn’t make much of a difference in terms of travelling time to my home. I still had to eke out my half-month salary to make an urgent round trip from Mumbai to home. Also my first day in Mumbai was legendary – the day I landed in Mumbai, Bal Thackeray was no more. For those who didn’t know B.Thackeray, he was like the Vito Corleone of Mumbai. And thanks to his demise; anything that had wheels did not run. Anything which had doors was not open. But some things got better as I came to Mumbai. One thing is that my dark complexion didn’t render me a Madrasi by default.  I can be a Marathi too, if I chose to shut my mouth. Also, even in December, the average daytime temperature was 30 (plus or minus 1 deg C), which was in no way indicative of the winters. But a breeze-laden moderately sunny 30 degrees is perfectly fine for a Madrasi.  And God! A plate of Medhu vada soaked in the delicious sambaar topped with coconut chutney (yeah, added with fried curry leaves and mustard!) cost me just Rs.10 almost anywhere in Mumbai. Not that the Aloo Tikki from Delhi is anything less tasty, but man, you got to bow down to the Medhu Vada- Sambar-Thenga chutney combo.

Mumbai has many epithets – the financial capital of India, the city of dreams, the Bollywood city, among others and more recently (and increasingly) - the terrorists’ target city. But I prefer to choose an epithet – the city of life. Coz Mumbai’s where you can see life in action. This is a city which teaches you that ‘life moves on’ despite the terrorist attacks, despite the excruciating traffic, and despite the pervasive chaos. It’s said that life moves fast in Mumbai – such that years roll like days. Hardly had I stayed there for four months, when I got my next transfer to Bangalore (or Bengaluru).  That was too short time for feeling nostalgic about Mumbai. So this post isn’t about how I miss Mumbai, rather about my next work location – Bengaluru. Of course I miss the Vada Pav and the wonderful people I met there, especially my brother, Shankara Raja; Ashwini, the person who provided me lunch on the day when Bal Thackeray died (even the hotel where I stayed denied me food that day); and awesome friends like Poonam (who by a very young age, completed her masters and went on to do a PhD at IISc, but returned to professional workforce after an year and gained 2+ years of experience; and she’s just about my age).

And things fell in place when I finally settled down at Bangalore. My closest buddy from college, Delvin stays here. I get to stay with him in a duplex in the adorable ambience of Silicon Concorde Valley in Electronic City. Our enclave has lush green spaces, gymnasiums and cricket courts. And more remarkably, we have a cook to cook us food and a washing machine to dump my dirty apparels. (God, how I hated washing clothes with hand) My present office is just a 15 minute ride in a point-to-point bus. And the funny part is my direct manager doesn’t sit here. He is sitting in his Singapore office and my delivery head at the Delhi office. After the first day introductions at office, it was time to get introduced to the girl next desk. Actually we didn’t need introductions. Because she’s my undergrad classmate, colleague, and presently, the girl next desk.



I didn’t inform her of my transfer to B’lore, as I doubted whether she might apply for a transfer if she knew about my arrival. But the fact is that she got the news through our common friends. I’m happy that, she still chose to stay at B’lore despite the piece of intelligence she received. After briefing me about the TO-DOs and the DON NOT DOs of the Bangalore office (things like you can’t bring coffee to your desk and things like how many weeks I’ve to wait before getting required software installed), we went to work. At coffee break, she introduced me to other Tamil friends in the office like Deva (I used to reckon him as Devasura meaning God-Demon) and Ajey. Devasura was a cool handsome guy from a Geological background and Ajay is a humorous and intelligent dude from Civil Engineering background. Commensurate with the bro-code, Devasura pointed out the desk-locations and spelled out the names of the pretty ones among the young ladies in the ODC. But he also added that almost all of them are engaged, married or taken, making the previous piece of info unusable. So our recent discussions deviated to things like amalgamation of GIS with Geology for 3D subsurface exploration mapping and such stuff.


After the coffee, we would return to our desks. The girl next desk was browsing some current affairs website for about 10 minutes before starting to code for the 4G project from Singapore as well for the Karnataka Forest web application.


“Hey, you know one thing. Y.V. Reddy is set to head the 14th Finance Commission”, she alerted me.


We both were giving an exam in the banking sector in two weeks from then.  And we had hardly started preparing for it.


“There’s a pattern to the kind of questions they ask.” she added. “If you see the last three sets of question paper there are 12-13 questions from economics, 12 from Current affairs, 13 plus or minus 1 question from Computers/IT and 13 from Marketing in the General Awareness section alone.” Saying this, she opened a website and said, “This website gives a detailed blueprint of the questions asked over years, categorizing it into the respective field and citing materials from which the portion could be studied.”


I was like “Wow! With this kind of blueprint, you can easily crack the exam with one-month prep”. I too have googled two months ago for similar material and then dropped my effort. So I was wondering how she perfectly stumbled across the right material from a deluge of dump out there in the internet.


“It seems to be very useful for anyone giving the exam”, I said.

“In that case, we can put these links in a Google Drive folder and share the file to whoever needs it”.

And so a Google Drive folder replete with resources for any competitive exam evolved with 85% contribution from the girl next desk alone. And we shared it with at least 10 others.

So every other day, she’d come up with filtered little comprehensible bits of info on the budget, 5 year plans, economy, markets, beauty pageant winners, F1 winners, etc.


During lunch, we would join Ramya if Devasura is not in office. Ramya was married recently and one could expect some familial trivia from her. Sometimes, the stories of the Mainframe programmer gets interesting as she reveals her little scuffles with her hubby. Her hubby also possesses this awesome talent of downloading the latest movies within 24-hours of its release, from Torrents. I mean I appreciate that, since I’m bad at doing. Even when I need to see a movie badly, I still rely upon YouTube or my roommates. So I have this great opportunity to listen to all those stories of the newly released movies from Ramya.


Oh, I forgot to explain the geographic advantage of being in Bangalore. It’s equidistant, from my hometown, which is Palakkad and as well as from my home, which is at Chennai; it’s just a 5-6 hour drive to both the places. And a round trip journey to Chennai in a sleeper class train doesn't cost me even a half-day salary. And guess who my travel consultant would be? A frequent traveller, she would give prompt consultation on which mode of transport to choose and the most efficient and hassle-free way to get a ticket booked to travel from Bangalore to Chennai and vice-versa. If you need a train ticket for Friday evening, she knew that the best time to book it would be exactly at 11 o'clock the previous day morning (taking into account the unreachable IRCTC server during the one hour window after 10 o'clock when Tatkal quota ticket booking opens). She knew that a GKWL (General waiting list) < 20 is equivalent to a confirmed ticket. She knows the advantage of boarding a train at Yeshwantpur railway station rather than from the Bangalore Junction sometimes. She knows that a waiting list of 30 in a point-to point train is better than a waiting list of 20 in Guwahati Express. And if cost is your priority, she’d suggest you to take a ride to Hosur and then board a bus from there to Chennai, which could easily save you 100 rupees.  Karnataka State Road Transport Corp (KSRTC) buses are more comfortable, but a wee bit costly and be prepared to settle down for the last row seats if you book late in it. Whereas Tamil Nadu State Transport Corp (TNSTC) buses are cheaper, but you’ve to put up with the immovable window panes. She also warned that a long bus trip such as to Mumbai, even in the KSRTC’s semi-sleeper Multi-axle VOLVO bus would cause a 24 hour inflammation to the legs for a person like me who’s not used to bus travel. And yeah, I walked with inflammatory legs for a day. And if everything else fails, she would suggest that a Rs. 1000 air-ticket to Chennai would still be fine bet.

“Have you seen awesome this movie?” or “Did you happen to read that novel?” would be the regular format of our conversation during the 4.45p.m coffee break. Wait, a minute. Why is she taking just half a cup of whatever beverage she is taking? Be it black tea, or filter coffee or milked tea, 70 ml is her measure. I used to wonder why, but I never asked. Surely, there’s no reason she’d be following a diet plan; coz she’s already lean, though not much, but yeah she is. So during one such coffee time, I was querying whether she’s watched some 4 particular English movies that I've watched. I got a negative response for each. Then just to give a climactic punch, I asked with surprise, “You haven’t watched any of these!?” in a tone which meant something like, “You missed it dude :(.”  Calm, unruffled, she replied, “ You've not watched ‘Dead poets Society’, have you?” in a tone which sounded like, “You missed something more, bozo!” I knew the story of ‘Dead Poets Society’. It was adapted into a Malayalam movie without distorting the beauty of the original story much, I believe. But I’m yet to watch the original movie in English which is said to be a classic.


“An android phone without an internet connection! Can you believe that?” I sighed. I got an AIRCEL SIM in Bangalore and topped it up for a 3G internet net package. I got a confirmation message for the same. I got my mobile configured for the new internet settings. Even after two days of doing these, I still couldn’t access internet or any applications running with an internet connection. After five calls to the customer care proved fruitless, I made the above statement. I was even considering buying a new SIM. The girl next desk asked me what the problem and I explained her. Listening to me, she turned towards her screen. Seems, she was working on a deadline, so didn’t bother her further telling my stupid problem with net connectivity. Within a minute, she showed a Google search page detailing the Aircel proxy name to be set in case of a problem with AIRCEL connectivity. I thought to myself, “As if changing the proxy name could solve a problem which even the AIRCEL customer care executives couldn't fix.” At the same time, I did change the proxy name to see if it made a damn difference. For a millisecond nothing happened.  I looked up to the ceiling in despair. Suddenly, I heard the Whatsapp message tone. Then came the next tone indicating the net connection has been restored in my mobile. With wide open eyes, I looked at her. I saw a momentary halo around her head.


With a restrained smile, she quipped, “It’s the first search result on Google.”


She’s sometimes my socialist guide. I remember she once saying,

“We should only earn enough to satisfy our basic needs; but we should make sure we’re pursuing our passion, where money would take a backstage.” Her socialist bent of mind is well evident from her recent display of interest in starting a e-magazine highlighting the social causes using geospatial technology, such as using  ‘deprivation  maps’ or a ‘geopolitics-poverty regression map’ to portray a bigger picture. It seems that Sainath, a socialist writer from ‘The Hindu’ is her inspiration. Nevertheless, her pedigree has its own influence on her. Her brother quit a plum job in corporate sector to study Master of Philosophy in Political Science. And her family had been sheltering and taking care of a person for the past 40 years (I guess), who had run away from his home in his late teens. But the way she put it was that the person took care of her and her family for all these years. I thought that that kind of attitude is just noble and something to be cultivated.

She’s not a great fan of my crazy creative designs, I guess. Our cafeteria wall is full of paintings by small children of our company staff. So when I got two color wall marker pens, I went near the coffee vending machine and drew something like this.




After seeing it for two days during the coffee break, she said
Yaarum paakala” (No one’s seeing that).

A 15 minute coffee break is not enough to come to conclusion like that, but she’s statistics major during her higher secondary; so she might be right about taking 15 minutes as the representative sample interval which could be used to estimate the total value. But my point is that I don’t create such things so that others would like it or see any value in it. Of course, I’m just an amateur in creative art and in writing. There’s no assurance that it would be great. I just do it for the joy of creation. 

But for a true artist, the major take-away in creating something is the joy of creation itself. The other things such as recognition and appreciation are secondary. And monetary benefits are sometimes but annihilators. I believe every human being should express themselves to the fullest, in whatever form he chooses. I’m not that great at spoken word as I don’t possess a glib tongue; but I’m fairly good at the written word and sometimes at the expressing abstract ideas as art designs and sometimes as maps. So expressing oneself shouldn't considered as ‘not being modest’ unless it hits someone else’s ego. I believe that it’s perfectly great to say that, “I’m getting better at this stuff” but it’s flagrantly bad to say, “I’m getting better than him”. Nevertheless, I have a lesson or two to learn in humility from the girl-next-desk.

On the day of the bank exam, I opened the cover; went directly to the dreaded General awareness section. Question #2 was,
“Who is the chairman of the 14th finance commission?”

Thank you Archana, for letting me know that Y.V. Reddy is the answer for the above question. I also owe you for getting me familiar with at least twenty-five other questions that appeared in the General Awareness Section in that question paper that day. I also owe you for being my socialist and humility guide, for restoring my mobile internet, for being my colleague, coffee-friend and sometimes my lunch-mate  for being my Bangalore-Chennai travel consultant, for sharing the same passion for GIS as I do, for being the co-editor of our upcoming magazine, and most of all for being THE GIRL NEXT DESK.