Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Running along Kaveri water...

When I first heard about a run along Kaveri river, I was intrigued. Opportunities like this are limited in Bangalore where I usually end up running in MNK park or Lalbagh. That itself is a privilege since I stay in Basavanagudi. So, even though we had to drive 120 kms to Srirangapatna to take part, me and my friend Bipin went for it opting for the 10k distance.

We were up at 5am and made it to the Fort view resort well in time to catch the buses to the starting point of the run. The half and full marathon(42k) runners had started at 7am itself. We were flagged off at 9am from a point some ways further along the road to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. 300 runners made quite a crowd for the 10k. The trail is pretty much a cart track alongside the canal all the way to end. We got to see the actual river only at the starting point. So, my suggestion is to change the name of the event to "Kaveri Canal Run" :). Though a bit gravelly and narrow in parts, it was quite comfortable to run in the muddy ruts. The views were very scenic with paddy fields and hills on one side and the gentle flow of the canal water on the other. Green Bee-eaters, King-Fishers were around as were plenty of Ibises flying overhead, no doubt to or from their home at the Sanctuary. At the end, the organizers had some bananas, biscuits and water to get our energy back. We chose to board the next bus and got back to the resort by 11am. On the bus, got to meet a 21k participant, Surya, who had come all the way from Auroville, Pondicherry to take part! Got few nutrition tips from her, one of which is that a concoction of mashed apricot, jaggery and honey gives nice energy boosts along the way. Hmm....got to remember that if I ever go for half or full marathon!

Back at the resort, we got to see a Flameback (black-rumped?), Great tit, Dove and few other birds. Too bad that we didnt have a couple of hours to spare for some bird-watching. It was early lunch and on the road to Bangalore by noon. We reached our homes around 3pm. Overall a nice, fun event and well organized. For more information on the organizers you can go to the Runners for life website.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Origins of Indians anti-community behaviour

This is a topic which pops up often for me, either when talking to friends or when I observe some obnoxious behaviour somewhere or when reading an article discussing it. That is, why do a large percentage of Indians, including yours truly, tend to behave in some level of anti-community behaviour. When I mean anti-community behaviour, I am talking about behaviour that are beneficial to self but clearly cause an issue or hindrance to others in the community. A lack of civic sense. Very common examples are: Jumping a line sneakily or clustering around the window trying to be first even though you just came, illegally parking in places you very well know will obstruct others, driving on the wrong side forcing opposite traffic to move over or stop, throwing litter everywhere, honking unnecessarily, speeding past pedestrians including pregnant women, elderly & children even when they are on pedestrian crossings, talking loudly in public and tourist places, etc., and yes, sometime or other I would have been culprit on some of them too, if not directly at least by looking the other way when the group/person you are with behaves poorly. Now, this kind of behaviour is there in *all* countries only in not that high of a percentage and not *all* Indians are like that only they are too few.

I am so obsessed with this topic that I immediately purchased the book "Games Indians Play: why we are the way we are" by, V. Raghunathan, academic from IIM as soon as I saw the cover page thinking, wow, now I will know it all. But, the book uses Game theory and concludes that we are like this only because it is beneficial to us! Well, duh. It never answers why in other places people are not like this most of the time, even though it is *clearly* beneficial there also! So, my search continues...

I have come across many and varied reasons or should we say excuses for our behaviour. a) Britishers screwed up our brains during their rule b) over population leading to too much competition c) suppressed sexual urges looking for outlets d) it is the only way to get things done e) our religious background with heavy emphasis on fate does not encourage community based thinking or object to the bullying person f) we are ruled by people who themselves lack civic sense and ethics so what do you expect? and so on. Each one of these can be argued for and against with examples. Maybe it is a bit of all these and others I have not listed. Whenever I have the time I like to approach a person misbehaving and question them. A true incident: elderly person was peeing under a cluster of trees inside Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. I asked "Sir, do you not know that children play here?", his response, "Are you perfect? Don't you do anything wrong? Correct yourself and don't question others!". Philosophical! So he accepts he is wrong but does not like others to point it out. Another one: People parking inside a ground obstructing games instead of outside. When asked: "Will you replace it if I park outside and it gets vandalized?". How to respond to this type of argument?

My main interest is what are the ways in which we as a community start turning it around. Again many ideas are out there .... a) start teaching early to the kids. But who? Most parents who should set the best example are themselves irretrievably unethical and lack civic sense. Schools? Some try but most schools ignore it. TV? we hardly have a single good Indian children's program which teaches civic sense. Of these I feel TV is the best medium and hopefully somebody will get to it. b) More policemen to punish the offenders. I always felt, we can have at least 200 traffic policemen who can easily get their pay by ticketing all the traffic offenders! c) Lead from the top. Our politicians setting the tone on proper civic sense by not abusing their power and following the laws as ordinary citizens whenever possible. OK. Now I am day-dreaming! :) d) our public figures in films, sports, arts etc showing the way. I know a lot of them already do but how can we impose this among them? Also, a high percentage are themselves very poor role models.

I feel that things can get better only when each and every one of us wakes and follows some semblance of civic sense and ethical behaviour and expects others they interact with to do the same. Sometimes you may be at an disadvantage when you do so but you should not let that affect you and fall into the same trap.

Please share every suggestion and opinion you may have....

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Story of a Wishful Donkey

I have always wanted to write good children's stories. Posted one on sulekha.com and they found it good enough to make it a featured story which, to me at least, was a great compliment. Somebody read it and thought it good enough to ask others to read? Enough for me! :)


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Food, taste and hunger

A friend forwarded a link to this short film, Chicken-a-la-Carte by Ferdinand Dimadura, made for the category, "Food, taste and hunger", at the 56th Berlin International Festival. It won the top prize. The film looks primarily into how we waste food when there are people who desperately are looking for nutrition. This message is delivered using a very simple story with considerable impact.

It should be made mandatory viewing here in India as it is quite appalling to watch people waste considerable amounts of food at buffets and marriage halls. In both situations it is not difficult for the person concerned to gauge what they want and how much they can eat and get served accordingly. To me, most of the times the wastage is inexcusable. I wonder if even 50% of this wastage was reduced how much that could make a difference to those in desperate need of food.

My theory is that if we reduce waste, the amount of food saved will eventually trickle down to those that require it the most, assuming the food production is kept the same for the basic items such as rice, wheat, vegetables, etc., Something to keep in mind before you pile food on your plate even though you are not that hungry or you dont know if you will like some item or not and then dump 1/2 of it into the garbage pile...

The movie link:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Greed and Capitalism....

A Washingtonpost article by Steven Pearlstein (and I am sure many many more) was posted today on the question of additionally taxing bonuses at AIG and other companies which received American Tax payers money. The author argued against it. This prompted me to put down some of my thoughts on this subject which I have been ruminating on for some time. I agree that taxing specific bonuses is not good but not for the reasons which the author mentions.

Capitalism is about greed. This has been said many times already. So, it is not a surprise that those in the finance industry go for high paychecks which are compensation based and motivates them to take as much risk as possible. How can the American Government which is the bastion of Capitalism restrict how much money a person can make? The fact that it is tax payers money does not matter because it is being provided to AIG to keep it afloat for very selfish interests (avoiding a collapse) and not to push some kind of a social reform. Therefore the Governments interest should primarily be in ensuring AIG gets back on its feet and not how much pay/bonus it can give. Once America starts setting such terms, they are no different from a communist or a dictator run country. You cant have your cake and eat it too.

The problem I feel is not that they are asking for obscene amounts of compensation/bonus for a job badly done, it is that it has become part of the culture now. There is no feeling of guilt when you get that package and you know that you don't deserve it or you try to avoid any kind of accountability or real measurements put in the compensation clauses through legal talk to ensure you get that obscene bonus whatever happens to the company. Does the CEO or other executives really think they are that smart or that hard working compared to any other employee that they deserve 1000 times more salary? I think they do and therein lies the problem.... with American type of Capitalism. It goads all to strive to reach that top where you can demand those obscene salaries and once you get there look down and ignore all others. If you are still down, don't complain, just try to get to the top and you will be fine as then you will be looking down at others.

Somewhere along the way, on its momentous journey to the top of the world, American Capitalism has lost its soul. I don't think Government legislation or taxes on bonuses is going to help get it back. It might be better to let AIG and other greedy capitalists fail and let the events set the course for some healing.

Don't tax their bonuses, just let them all lose their jobs!