The Science of Everyday Life-Book Review

Marty Jopson is the author. Apparently British, as he calls a biscuit a biscuit- and not a cookie. One of his most interesting takes is about the difference between a cake and a biscuit- if it turns hard when you leave it out in the open for a day or two, it is a cake; if it turns soggy, it's a bisuit.

Also, he explains  how an induction top works, in language that anybody (I) can understand. Also, the GPS and how its use for locating anyone (through your mobile phone) is based on Einstein's theories.

He's got a lot of stuff about food and drink (my favourite chapters), bathing and why it causes wrinkles if you dip too long in a tub, why teapots/kettles dribble and how you can stop it (applying butter to the spout can do it!).

Other interesting things as to how the ice being less dense than water is responsible for us being alive as a species on earth, and so on. Why we all dream, but only some of us remember them, why all sweat does not smell bad (deo customers will be able to 'defogg' themselves), why paint needs a quickly evaporating substance to be mixed in it- this also has something to do with the shape of coffee stains.

Well, some other interesting things to know- including simple ones such as how a refrigerator works, and why Alternating Current (A.C.) is used in transmitting electricity over long distances-and why Fall colours like Orange and Yellow and Red appear on tree leaves in colder climates like the U.S. Lots of humour in it too. Recommended.

Some Mundane Fantasies

The subjects of my fantasies are as mundane as clean roads, people with civic sense, governments with vision, and so on. The top few-

  1. Accountants who say yes, rather than no. I know that's not possible ever, but that's what fantasisies are about, right?
  2. Enough check-in counters based on the number of flights - is that too much to ask? Simple maths is all that is needed.
  3. A government office that believes its job is to serve people, and not obstruct them (and practices it)-refer to point 1 above.
  4. Actors (particularly actresses) who can act- Katrina, are you listening?
  5. Directors who can direct, editors who actually do some editing- like the above.
  6. Students who take an elective course because they are interested in working at it/on it.
  7. Speakers who know how to...SPEAK, and not be the same as the objective of a role model drill- a BORE.
  8. Journalists with sense, interviewers who keep shut after asking a question.
  9. Facebookers who are not always holier-than-thou.
  10. A magician who can make Donald Trump vanish from the face of the earth-Mars needs colonizing!
Now tell me, am I asking for too much?

Service- An Experience with KIMS Hospital Hyderabad

As a part of surgery for my mother, I had an experience (as a customer) of the services of KIMS, a hospital in Hyderabad, recently. From the insurance coordination office, to admission, to the patient care, to the rooms, I found it superior to may other hospitals-some of the bigger or more reputed.

In particular, the nurses and their lowly assistants (the ayahs, ward-boys), were very caring and efficient. Most were smiling, which helps a lot when you are under stress as a patient or relative. But also, they were firm in what they had to do, on time, and without fuss. They were also multi-lingual, (speaking in Hindi, Telugu and English), which helps. Service providers have to be, I think.

What I thought was particularly good was that the process for doing anything (admission, discharge, billing, buying medicines) was written down on the walls, and reduced anxiety. Also, there was a lack of the usual confusion that prevails at the receptionin most hospitals-that I think is remarkable. Information flow within the hospital was also good, and the use of I.T. was in evidence.

The ICU staff was also friendly but firm about not disturbing patients too much. As a bonus, the food was good too, for a South Indian at least-fresh and filling. The room for the post-operative stay was well-designed, with enough space for an additional person, and to store belongings. A fridge and microwave was useful, as were the tissue paper and lots of disposable glasses.

Health services are different from other types, because they involve a critical being- a human- at the centre. If the provider can preserve the humanity and remember that it is a care-giving service above all the jargon and the medical procedures, it would serve him well, and the patient too. 

Gasping- A Brilliant Play

Air is about the only thing that's available to us for free. But why shouldn't a corporate sell that too, and make profits out of it?

Gasping, a play by Ben Elton (1990), is a brutal, brilliant satire on a company's quest to do exactly that. The Pot Noodle (a term for making money where none existed before- without any existing product selling less than before, meaning consumers are spending more than before for your product) that they discover is a machine that is called Suck and Blow. It sucks in oxygen from freely available air, and blows it out for paying customers (who have bought the machine) who want Pure Oxygen.Unsurprisingly, the machine is called Suck & Blow!

There are brilliant lines throughout the play, which hit home hard. The marketing and advertising industry (including PR or Public Relations) is a major target, but also the corporates, and the free market economy in general, and its lack of scruples. Sample this (about the PR industry)- " Free lunch is what keeps the mighty cogs of PR turning. Why, without free lunch there would be no more magazines, no more pop records, no more TV programs, no new estate agents, ..without free food London would stop moving, we'd be a Third World country in a month."

Or this (On bosses, by a boss to his junior)- "One of the little perks of being at the top, Philip, is being respected as well as that. Respected by people who really know how to respect.."  Or the line justifying taking over oxygen from natural air and selling it.." Imagine if nature started producing cars, what would happen to the British Motor Car industry?"

The exploitation of the African and other backward countries is also the subject of some Black Humour (pun unintended). So is the takeover of Native (Red) Indian lands by White Settlers in the U.S.

There are some side-shows, such as the sycophancy of corporate types, and a romance between the ad agency girl and one of the executives of the client firm "being groomed" by the originator of the Big Idea (his senior marketing man). There is also an undelying assumption that anything can be sold with the right advertising campaign.

Will leave you gasping for more.

Reforms in Governance

This is wishful thinking in areas of governance that give the common citizen great amounts of irritation, if not angst.

All government services must be home-delivered at the customer's (citizen's) convenience. The government can employ people with minimum levels of education and lots of common sense to do the home-delivery, and charge customers for it if necessary-if the fee already charged is not enough. This can boost employment tremendously-it does not have to be in rural areas/farming. Could be a part of the govt. employment schemes, too.

There must be a fixed time period in which the delivery must happen, if not, the service should be free (or discounted appropriately).

There should be visible penalties (like a transfer to the boondocks) for non-compliance by the government official responsible.

No citizen should stand in a line begging for any favours. Approval of most things can be done online, or not depending on merit. A copy of the request can go to the Lok Pal of the respective jurisdiction, and maintained for a certain period until the window for complaints runs out.

You will see wonders happening, and bureaucrats lose their swagger in no time.

Reforms and Women

Why aren't there more women reformers? We had Manmohan Singh (as Fin Minister) and Narasimha Rao, way back in 1991, and Sreedharan (Konkan Railway and Delhi Metro), Verghese Kurien (Amul), and a few other good men (Sam Pitroda), thrown in. But where are the women?

I say, find more women reformers. They have the natural flair. They are completely immersed in improving their surroundings. They want to perpetually clean their abodes, and things within the abodes. They will go to great lengths to wash clothes, and iron them and loook good in them. Often, this extends to making others around them look better than they otherwise would (children, husbands?).

The trouble arises only when they want to reform their husbands. This is the only animal who is beyond redemption. If they would just concentrate on the community, environment, neighbourhood, the globe, etc., they would do exceedingly well. The parliament could do with some more grace, in general, and they can bring that to it. The GST would get passed in a jiffy. And jewellery, clothes, eating out etc. would be less expensive.

The downside? The (self-and-spiritual improvement) babas of all types may go out of business. The babes would take over.

Book Review- Mr. Majestic by Zac O'Yeah

Yes, the author's name may sound stranger than that of the book. He is a Swede settled in Bangalore. This is his second book I have read, thanks to a friend who gifted it to me. The first was something about Scandinavistan.

A good read, and an original style of writing. This guy, Mr. Majestic, is a small-time crook and a tout in a seedy area of Bangalore (named CD Road, quite appropriately). In fact, like Asterix comics, the names here are quite revealing of the character. So you have Gundajee alias Rhino, a bigger crook, Mensinkai (chilli in Kannada), a medium-level crook with more experience than Majestic, and assorted other crooks with colourful names.

The humour is pervasive, dark at times, sardonic at others. The author abviously likes to explore the underbelly of Bangalore, where forgers, touts and louts have a field day. Some of them, like our hero, indulge in cybercrime too, in collaboration with the Nigerians.

There is also Jagatprasiddha, the demi-god actor who can cause riots just by falling sick, and cows on the road who can stop even him. In fact, the nuances of Indian reality lend authenticity and punch to a narrative that in itself is not a great mystery. There are a few twists to the storyline, nevertheless, and Majestic, named after an old cinema hall, resolves them with panache, just like the Sandalwood (Kannada film industry) heroes.

You will get more out of it if you are familiar with Bangalore, and a bit of Kannada, but even without that, it's an enjoyable autorickshaw ride, pot-holes and all.

Jai Gangaajal - Film Review

I probably wouldn't buy a ticket and see it. It's actually a well-scripted movie with a taut screenplay, barring a couple of flaws-but then it's a Hindi film. But I just don't dig the violent movies with a politician-policeman nexus anymore. The reason may be that I have seen too many of them with the same theme.

The best in the genre that I recollect is Ardh Satya. A policeman played by Om Puri is the protagonist in that one. Out here, the only novelty in the theme is Priyanka Chopra playing the lead as a do-gooder honest cop in a sea of corruption. Her performance is good, and that of the guy who plays W Pandey too.

Not bad if you have nothing better to do, or you haven't seen any of these kinds of films with a Bihar/U.P. setting before. The plot is pretty stale. The violence is unavaiodable given the plot, but it's not to my taste.

Typically Indian Songs

Some words used in Hindi film songs are typically Indian, non-global ones. Some songs featuring such words-

Beedi jalile jigar se piya from Omkara. Beedi is very commonly smoked in India. Made Bipasha Basu famous.

Kajra re kajra re tere kaare kaare naina...kajra is an Indian tradition, for the eyes. Other songs have also emphasised the word, such as Kajra laga ke, gajra saja ke..Gajra is also a flower decoration for hair typically used by Indian women.

Sharm is another such word..Sharm aati hai magar aaj yeh kehna hoga, is a song using the word. Sharmilee was a whole movie based on the idea, with a title song that went O meri, o meri o meri sharmilee,...

Panghat is a place where water is filled, typically by women in villages. Recently used in the song Radha teri chunri in Student of the Year.

Organic Food Mela

Went to an organic food mela (gathering) that happens in Indore every Sunday, thanks to a friend in the know. For anyone interested, it is just off the bypass, close to Vidyasagar college. Good time to go there is around 9.30 am, though it is on for a couple of hours after that too.

Organic vegetables are available, from growers who travel some distance to be there. There are also packaged organic products such as spices and grains, honey, an indoor display. A band also played a range of songs while we were there, some good and some not so. But the ambience is nice, and you can always have some breakfast (poha, thalipeeth, bhajiya) and tea, or cane juice. And some home-made goodies. Or exotic juices. In fact, you could go there just for the food, though the range is limited.

I think the fruits range sold can be improved to include some more seasonal ones (we got some Ber, which were nice), but otherwise a nice place to chill out for an hour or so.

Quick Ways of Becoming a Hero

Some ways of becoming a hero, then, now and in between.

Pre-independence India: Sacrifice all you have. Sometimes your life.

Post-independence India: Work hard, build the nation, without looking for rewards.

Post 1991: Work hard, set up your own company. No license needed.

Post I.T. : Study, Become a coder, regardless of your qualification. Work hard.

Now: Kill somebody on the road, speak about intolerance, give speeches without any regard for what you are saying, be born into a privileged family that thinks they own the country, lead an agitation for anything that will get media attention- a new state, or a reservation for a caste, or better still, be a media man who shouts everyone down in debates.

These are just a few ways to become a hero,  faster than you can say Maggi.

Hindi Film Dance Numbers

Choreography in Hindi films is very different from that in Western films, where different dance forms are used. We have dances steeped in our tradition, including classical, but also other forms adapted for Bollywood. Western forms have also been used by many music composers, with good results. Here is a list of some of my favourite dance numbers from Bollywood, starting with one of the latest.

  1. From Bajirao Mastani, the high-energy dance by Ranveer playing Bajirao..Malhari.
  2. Muqabla, muqabla,..Laila..from Humse Hai Muqabla, which I saw in its Telugu version titled Premikudu. AR Rehman's music is awesome, so is the dancing by Prabhu Deva.
  3. O haseena zulfonwali..from Teesri Manzil. Shammi Kapoor, Helen and RD Burman.
  4. Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche har zabaan par..again, Shammi, with Mumtaz this time. Bramhachari was the film.
  5. Rishi Kapoor in Bachna aye haseeno lo main Hum Kisise Kam Nahin.
  6. Lekar hum deewana dil, from Yadon ki Baraat..Tariq and Neetu Singh.
  7. She is very pretty, from the film Priya. Tanuja with Jalal Agha.
  8. Main sitaron ka tarana , from Chalti ka Naam Gaadi. Madhubala and Kishore Kumar
  9. Hum the woh thi aur samaa rangeen samajh gaye na..from Chalti ka Naam gaadi..Kishore Kumar with Mohan Choti and Anoop Kumar.
  10. Jaane-jaan, ..nisha from sanam Teri Kasam, with Kamalahasan and Reena Roy.
  11. Mauja hi Mauja from Jab We Met..Shahid and Kareena Kapoor.
  12. Jaan pehchaan ho, jeena  aasaan ho..from Gumnaam.
  13. Hum kale hain to kya hua dilwale hain.. Mehmood and Helen, again in Gumnaam.
  14. Mera naam chin-chin choo..from Howrah Bridge.
  15. Ek pal ka jeena from Kaho na Pya Hai..Hrithik Roshan, Lucky Ali's voice.
  16. Duniya haseenon ka mela..from Gupt, with Bobby Deol.
  17. Jeena bhi kya hai jeena..Mithun with Salma Agha, one of his best dance Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki.
  18. Tu mujhe jaan se bhi pyara hai..from Wardaat, Mithun and Kalpana Iyer.
  19. Mast baharon ka main aashiq main jo chahe yaar karoon..Jeetendra in Farz.,,and 
  20. One of my all time favourites, Shola jo bhadke dil mera dhadke with an endearing pair- Geeta Bali and Bhagwan is the link if you haven't seen this cute number.

Non-teaching Staff- A Tribute

Academic life has its pluses. Lots of reading time, opportunity to feel young in the company of youngsters who are full of life, etc... But it also has another angle. A lot of staff (non-teaching) who you get to work with. This is a tribute to some of them, from IIM Indore, IMT and Kirloskar Institute, Harihar that I feel fortunate to have worked with. The immediate trigger is the wedding yesterday of Neha, who works at the MDP office at IIM Indore.

Some really good officers have helped run the MDP/Training office here, like Pradeep, Manas and Bhupendra earlier. They worked untiringly to keep the training programs going efficiently, leading to a lot of repeat customers, and significant new business. I also had the good fortune of having a wonderful academic assistant (Saumya Sharma) and two secretaries (Limaye before, Naresh at present) who are a great help.

IMT Nagpur was a place where I headed the institute, and therefore, the role of the staff was extremely important for me. From Archana, my secretary, to Group Capt. Nath, a smiling ex-serviceman who headed admin, to Kamal Nayak and Vinod in accounts, to the ladies in the PGP office, to the guys who served tea and the drivers, Anand the mess manager, and Pankaj in transport, all of them performed their duties in a pleasant and efficient fashion. IMT N remains on my list of Best Places to Work, in no small measure due to all the staff. Similarly, Gaurav at IMT Ghaziabad and Aparna Dey. Raju Pujari at IFIM also I can never forget for his resourcefulness. And Somanna in accounts/admin. The Research Associates at IMTN were all hardworking, and I remember Tripti Shrivastava (who handled a conference all by herself) and Abhinav in particular.

KIAMS was an idyllic world, inhabited by some of the friendliest staff I have ever seen. Rajesh and Raghavendra stand out, along with Gururaj, Veena, Mehboob, Dr. Gopi, Srinath, Nagaraj, Umesh, Yuvaraj, Pavan, many of whom remain good friends to this day, and I look forward to meeting them, several years after I left Harihar.

These are unsung heroes who keep the institutes going, sometimes after faculty have left.

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