Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Drive away Global Warming

Did you know who the real geniuses in the world are? Not Stephen Hawking, Abdul Kalam or any of our scientists. No... Not you. Obviously, not me. These are our unsung heroes we see every day in life. I bet you wouldn't have scolded anyone else more in your life time. Yet they keep doing their duty with no half measures. They are our very own Indian Auto Drivers. If I told you they are the most environmentally responsible people in the world, will you agree with me? If you think I am joking or being sarcastic, you must read on to appreciate the value they bring to mankind and life on earth in general.

Global Warming is a true threat to earth. The predictions are that the ice caps will melt and many cities would drown in sea. There would be extreme climates with either drought or floods. Onset of an ice age seems possible. Well there are so many movies on this theme and by now everyone is familiar with Global warming. For the rate at which green house gases have increased in earth in the past decades, the raise in temperature should have been much higher than what is observed now. Well, this is where the Indian auto driver has contributed. He helped reduce the effect of global warming to the extent he possibly could. You still don't believe me? Read on.

A quick recap... What is Global warming and Greenhouse effect? Earth will absorb heat from sun and radiate it back. Some gases in earth's atmosphere absorb this heat which earth is radiating and sends it back to earth. So, heat gets trapped in earth's atmosphere and the temperature across earth increases. Ask any scientist how you decrease global warming; they will come up with number of suggestions on how to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. You ask the auto driver this question, he will give you an all together different perspective.

Global warming = sun + greenhouse gas. A scientist tells you how to decrease greenhouse gas. Our auto driver tells you how to reduce sun's brightness. Isn't he a genius? So, how exactly does he achieve this? Use any combustible liquid other than petrol in a petrol engine. This creates a lot of smoke. Smoke is the perfect dimming agent. It makes sure that not all of sun's radiation enters the troposphere. Naturally, there is less heat radiating from sun. Scientists finally re-discovered this effect as Global Dimming; years if not decades after our auto drivers discovered it.

Historically, solutions to westerner's problems were discovered by our ancestors ahead of time. This is a classic case of history repeating itself.

Would you not attribute our monsoons to these noble souls? Aren't they the most environmentally responsible people?

On a serious note, global dimming seems a viable option to reduce the effects of global warming. It is true that greenhouse gas emissions must stop. But, there is enough gases already present to increase global temperature over the next few decades. Scientists say our galaxy has moved to a comparatively cooler neighbourhood, which unfortunately wouldn’t be sufficient to maintain earth’s temperature. Global dimming agents when found in troposphere might combine with rain and cause drastic effects; but when moved to stratosphere, the effects on earth’s surface would be very little to no effect.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Why do dogs chase cars? It is programmed to do so.

When was this programmed? When the brain started developing, even before birth.

What is the purpose? Survival.

Why don’t human beings chase cars? Who said so? every Tamil movie has a car chase sequence.

Ok, let’s be specific; why don’t human beings chase any random car? The program is missing. Somehow there is a different program which tells which car to chase.

When was this programmed? After birth, acquired from incidents and is reprogrammed every second.

What is the purpose? Survival.

Does this mean human beings are not pre programmed? No, they are partially pre programmed.

What do you mean? Hunger, pain, sex drive and so many other features are pre programmed. Why? If not for hunger, there won’t be a motive to eat and indirectly stay alive. If not for pain, there won’t be a motive to stay out of danger and indirectly stay alive. If not for sex drive, there won’t be a motive to reproduce and indirectly continuity of species.

If survival is the key, why this parity? A human baby is the most vulnerable at birth; it takes years to learn enough survival skills to live independently. This is in stark contrast to a calf which starts walking minutes after birth. Human babies have the luxury to be vulnerable and still survive. This luxury gives enough space for learning and adapting to the environment, with which comes intelligence. Intelligence of an animal can be measured based on how much it can learn after birth. Animals with no natural predators and in the top of the food chain have the luxury to grow intelligent. This must explain why dogs and cats are more intelligent than goats or cows. Elephants, Dolphins and Whales show exceptional intelligence as well.

Is there anything left for evolution? The increase in the number of homosexuals is by itself nature’s way of limiting excess population. Since, survival is the theme; there is definitely scope for evolution.

Why did our ancestors try to master hunger, thirst, pain, etc...? I don’t know. But, that might as well be the next step towards evolution. Super human powers, controlling involuntary actions.

What if human beings evolve and get the power of controlling (what is now) involuntary actions (by natural means or invented). Breathing and salivating is though involuntary, can be controlled by us. What if we can control some more of such involuntary actions?

What if I can program my brain to absorb only certain milligrams of fat every day? I need not have to worry about my tummy while posing for matrimonial snap.

What if I can make my brain ignore pain signals from my fractured hand when required? I need not have to be careful while crossing the road and keep letching at hot babes.

What if I can control where beard grows in my face? I can sleep those extra minutes I spend on shaving.

Hmmm... man turning into a robot!!! new concept... Please pay me royalty if you are inspired and plan to make a movie out of this ;)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Like poles attract each other???

A taxi pulls over in the parking lot. A young man in his twenties, his parents and two of his close buddies get down from the taxi. The driver helps them unload two American Tourister bags from the back of the car. The driver then hands over a blank bill to the lad. He is dressed in a jean, an overcoat, a pouch around his waist and a heavily loaded backpack. Well... He is any other Indian software engineer getting ready for his maiden voyage across the globe. Even as he is boarding the flight he has his agenda ready; He should visit the statue of liberty and more than anything, the Niagara Falls. As a matter of fact one would see more Indians in these two places than the locals there. If you are a bachelor your trip is not complete without a visit to a strip joint. If you have not visited one you are considered a disgrace to manhood. Apart from this, what does he do during his stay? He works, of course, he cooks, eats, shops, surfs and sleeps. What does any foreigner do on a visit to India? Goa, Taj Mahal, five star hotel room, swimming pool and the closest mall. There are some people on both these ends who explore beyond these boundaries and get to know the real land, real people and the real culture.

When Kevin invited us to a party at his house, I was hoping to cross this cultural boundary and understand the US way of living. I had no clue on the events that were to unfold. What Kevin had in store for us was way beyond my imagination and that of those who accompanied me.

The year was 2008. Burger King Corporation in Miami after 6 in the evening would transform itself into an Indian market place. Hindi slangs would fly in the air non-stop. It doesn’t matter to me though; American English and Indian Hindi were the same, I can understand neither.  Single guys, girls, newlywed couples, families with infants, families with kids and even a married guy whose wife visits him every weekend, together it was a nice big Indian family in Miami. Mine was a three month long visit and was not a long enough time to get home sick. In the back of my mind I wanted more exposure to the local culture than the Indian parties what I am so used to.

 Kevin was a local and worked in the same team as Farooq. Kevin comes across as a man in his late thirties with striking white hair and a reserved but cheerful personality. He had invited Farooq over for family parties at his place twice in the past year. Farooq never had a good company to accompany him. Farooq was single then and I was sharing his apartment along with Nagesh. Kevin had invited Farooq for the third time and the guilt was bogging him down now. When he asked me and Nagesh if we would go with him, I was thrilled by the idea and readily accepted the invitation. Nagesh did not want to be left alone over a Saturday evening and he too accepted to go with us. Sidharth was also invited by Kevin and he decided to join us. So, the four of us were all set for our first American family party.

First stop, liquor shop. Farooq explained us how people must buy liquor when attending a party. After memorizing the names of all the alcohol bottles and cost we were still undecided on what we would buy. Champagne, whisky and vodka were our discussion points, finally we agreed on Tequila and Margarita. The store keeper breathed a sigh of relief when we finally left. The GPS was reciting the path and I was deciphering the lanes when Farooq finally drove us to Kevin’s house. The car park was crowded when we reached. We did all Indians proud by reaching late as usual. As it turned out we were not the last, which was a consolation. The house was huge, even for American standards with swimming pool and a big garden. The backyard was overseeing a huge lake with houses around the shoreline. Few houses even had ports on the lake with yacht tied to them.

Kevin announced that it was a Mexican night and the theme starting from the decoration of house to food and music were in line to the theme. Our managers and senior managers were present with their husbands and wives, so were our peers. We were the anomaly there until late in the evening when some of Kevin’s personal friends arrived. The evening started with lot of humor and food; the food was good from the outset, while it took some time and effort to understand and appreciate their humor. There was one person in particular who was stealing the show, the husband of one of our peer, Chuck. Must be a man in his mid forties, he was explaining us why Obama will lose his campaign and how John McCain would make a better president. He was sighting the foreign policy stands and so many other intelligible arguments. I was amazed at how no one had counter arguments and finally realized that others were too preoccupied with their food. Sitting right opposite him in the big dinner table and with zero knowledge in current affairs, I realized how the monkey must have felt when N!xau advises him in “The God’s must be crazy” about the empty coke bottle.

Kevin served us with Tequila and Margarita on crushed ice. Nagesh rejected the offer to Kevin’s disappointment, while the rest of us accepted. Chuck continued on his childhood travels to parts of Asia and how he loved those countries. By now Kevin was showing everyone around his house and that was an excuse to move away from the table. The duplex house appeared like a palace and Kevin introduced us to a tall balding man in his late thirties as his partner. Kevin then explained the real estate boom and why he bought such a big property near Miami. Almost everyone there explained how they were not natives of Miami and how they moved in from different states of America. I am sure most people in Bangalore or Chennai would have such stories.

Chuck found me again and this time a more interesting conversation started. (A conversation, nevertheless). It was about our views on religion and spirituality. Being more inclined toward science, I found his views on Christianity a stark contrast to my beliefs. Both of us entered a mode where we felt we had to teach the other some sense. Farooq who was initially interested in the subject left us after a while, when after an hour we were still discussing he came back to avert any disaster. Singing and dancing started and we became cheerful spectators as couples rushed in to take part in the action. Few ladies were generous enough to invite us for dance, but we sucked big time and decided we do what we are good at, watch.

After an hour of singing and dancing the younger couples decided to hit the pool. We moved towards the smaller tables in the garden when Kevin introduced his friends to us. They were not taking part in the dancing frenzy and were having silent drinks. We sensed we might have finally found some likeminded guys in the whole of Miami, since it was the first time we saw a group of guys together without a girl. They all appeared in their late thirties and early forties. The guy to my immediate right introduced himself as a male nurse and everyone else introduced their self. Kevin with a final look at them which appeared like a warning left to attend the other guests. We were touching on general subjects like Indian culture, our hobbies and stuff.

The guy to my right explained that most of them in that group lived together in a similar house and had their own personal swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. He even invited us to their house and complimented us of being very friendly and good natured. In my friend’s circle I am called 8085; 8085 is a very old modelled processor and is comparable to a sodium vapour lamp for its speed. But even my processor was quick enough to realize what was happening when Farooq announced over the table that we were all straight (Now you know what an 8085 is?). An unfamiliar twinge started running over my body all of a sudden and I wished I was in Farooq’s apartment eating some Chinese food. Suddenly everything was becoming clear; why Kevin introduced a guy as his partner, why these people did not mingle with the rest and why they were interested in us.

Keeping myself as casual as possible I reached to the buffet table, grabbed some steak and moved to the poolside where everyone was back to one more round of dancing. A game was then played where one was supposed to break a toy horse filled with goodies with a base ball bat. The horse was controlled by Kevin’s partner who held the other end of the hanging rope over a branch. He would pull the horse up and down when people try to hit it. (Yes, similar to the south Indian game where people break pots blindfolded). When it was my turn I had no difficulties in breaking the horse, thanks to match fixing. Finally, people started leaving one after the other and Kevin suggested that we are welcome to spend the night in his house. Giving no thought to sound apologetic we bluntly refused and left the house before we end up alone with the guys, rather gays.

That night I could not stop wondering about the experience of the evening and how it came to a shocking end. I have seen guys hitting on girls; never had I imagined that I would be in one such receiving end. The thought of one of the guys trying to seduce us showing his tattoo was haunting me for some time. I never really understood the concept of being a gay. The concept of monogamy seems to be absent in such relationships. People should be left to decide how they want to live, agreed that is freedom and democracy. So it is... the duty of every individual to keep in mind the greater good, peace and harmony in human civilization for which certain age old rules were defined. (I know, I know... I shouldn’t comment on something I don’t fully understand, couldn’t resist the temptation).

Anyways, thanks to Kevin, we had a glimpse at American life style. I may not be attending his party again as a bachelor, but, the families who had come were perfectly aware of Kevin and they have no reservations for another party. I surely did cross the cultural boundary :) was it worth it? Yes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Rise and Fall

The Great War is nearing its end with just six countries still left in the race, it is four against two now.  The fate of the defeated countries is rather pitiful, there is no room for surrender and there are no prisoners of war. Adults are executed mercilessly and the little ones are banished. This is nothing like a war of a nuclear era; no nuclear weapons, no exploding bomb shells and strictly no landmines. These are not trained armies, rather civilians carrying light weapons and invading the streets of enemy countries. The war was an inevitable outcome at the end; the habitable area has been shrinking steadily and cannot support the entire population.

A group of 30 astronomers are researching on a planet completely covered with ice and snow. The astronomers are trained for this unusually high gravity, but they are leaking energy very fast. They have to continue to research if this planet can support their life. The first step is to create a habitable environment. Krak gives commands to the others and they set out to construct the protective shield against solar radiation. They have 5 hours before sun rise; if they fail to complete the construction, they won’t stand a chance for more than half an hour in the open. Dwava along with two other scientists is collecting samples of the planet’s surface and conducting tests.

Back home the diacs are winning the war. The danics and diacs are the two dominant species of Mars. They have coexisted until this war, but now only one can remain. The area around the equator is becoming more susceptible for solar radiations, with the magnetic field gradually decreasing in intensity. Both the species are equipped to generate their own energy by photosynthesis. They generate energy during the day while sleeping and spend them during the night. When the two major tectonic plates of Mars merged, the two species came into contact and there is a history of war between them, but nothing to this great extent. Diacs still have hope; they have successfully launched their astronomers to earth. If earth is habitable they can migrate there and start fresh. For now they have to survive in Mars as long as they can.

The astronomers have managed to construct the protective shield. They can rest now and hope they can regain their energy. Dwava and Krak exchange looks; they have been together for long enough to read each other’s thoughts. They have supplies for only 15 days after which they have to start generating energy on their own. Their cells are not capable of synthesizing energy in this atmosphere; their only hope is that the drug hexone can mutate their cells to adapt to this environment. The first pair of test subjects will be tested with hexone - variant 1. Every other day a new pair will be tested until they succeed to get the right drug.

Krak has been transmitting findings for the last 10 days with no breakthrough. The mars day length and earth day length are similar; there is only 5 days left for the mission at this rate. Should they ask Krak and Dwava to abort mission or is it going to be their ultimate sacrifice for the good of the entire diacs? The victory over danics is complete but a lot depends on this mission if they were to survive for long.

Day 15, Krak and Dwava go to sleep looking at each other knowing this might be their last. Thoughts of their last twenty years together started running through their minds as the drug started taking effect.  A major wave of uneasiness started taking over their bodies. They did not lose sight of each other as their bodies began to shiver.

The transmission has ceased in Mars and so has their hope.

4 billion years later ‘Mars Rover’ lands on Mars and earth is searching for martian life.

Mars - Artist's conception with water and atmosphereMars - Now

1. Earth was completely covered in ice several times in the past. See
2. Earth did not have a magnetic field in the past. See
3. Mars does not have a magnetic field now. Evidence suggests existence of magnetic field in the past. See

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The knotty problem

I prevent solar radiations from hitting your skin; prevent sweat from falling into your eyes; prevent dust from entering your nose; provide more surface area to evaporate your sweat to cool your body; prevent body from radiating heat away when the surrounding is cold and so much more. But what do you do? You use me for silly metaphors like, “Pull a mountain by tying a hair to it. If you succeed you will get a mountain, if you lose you will lose only a hair”. Only a hair you say? Ask Harsha Bhogle and Virender Sehwag about it.

Some people say he is dead and he serves no purpose; some people say mankind lost the tail to evolution; but he is longer on us than any other animal, so just because we don't understand doesn't mean he has no purpose. I am not going to debate on this further. I am making a decision on behalf of Solomon Paapaiah, “Though hair is an integral part of human body, it is considered insignificant by our people”. Before I get to the point, let me narrate my experience with my hair.

As far as my memory goes I had very short hair as a youngster, growing up in the hot and humid climates of Pondicherry with “summer cuts”. My earliest memory of my hair is my neighbour telling me that I have two curls (tamil: suzhi) and that I would have two wives. It took me another two years to realize that it was a lie and what a disappointment that was. It was a matter of great pride for me when people admire the density of my hair. But, my dad was always there with a grin “your time will come, you have my genes” showing his balding head. I was hoping it was my mom’s genes outside my head and my dad’s inside; but nature had other plans.

I started experimenting with hairstyle only after I completed college. Drawing inspiration from Jason Gillespie and partly from my younger brother I started growing my hair long. I still can’t forget the look on my mom’s face when she saw my hair when I visited home after a long break. She did not like it, but didn’t want me to feel bad and she said “super kanna” when I asked her how it was. Later she slowly asked me as if to sound casual, “so, when are you planning to cut the hair?” Dad came to my aid saying “Paapaa, this is the age to experiment. After few years even if he wants to, there will be nothing left to experiment with”. I decided not to take that as an insult and looked at it positively saying to myself that my dad is supporting me.

My colleagues find it very enjoyable to ask silly questions, “What are you saving money for? By not going to a barber” “Is MindTree not paying enough money for even a hair cut” some of them even started a relief fund for my hair cut. Little did they know about my hardships? I stopped driving my bike to office since a helmet would spoil the hairstyle. I had to drive my car, which meant more fuel. I can’t keep the car windows down, since the wind would spoil my hairstyle. Window up, AC on, pocket empty. More the length of the hair, more the cost for maintenance. More itching, more shampoo. On top of all this, I had to cope up with these self proclaimed humor gods.

General reponse to my hairstyle

If people in Bangalore think I am a weirdo, what would people in Thippanampatti think? [Thippanampatti is a remote village in TamilNadu and happens to be my mom’s native.] I could see my younger relatives visiting my grandpa’s house discussing secrets, looking at me and giggling. An aged granny asked me innocently, “Is this how everyone in Bangalore is?” I tried Rajnikanth’s method, just smile if the question is hard to answer, trust me it worked. I had become an outcast to them.

Sleeping in the night and walking in the wind were the biggest challenges for me in life for long. I always end up with hair inside my eyes, nose, ears and mouth. I have no clue how the girls manage this without any fuss. Then there were some people; I had to hide behind trees or pillars to escape from. There is one in particular who till date thinks I have cut my hair because of his philosophical preaching.

There were many people who appreciated my long hair style and there were fans too. But, what fascinates me is to see that majority of my well-wishers were so disturbed by such an insignificant contradiction of mine to common societal belief. When Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo claimed sun is at the centre and not earth, they were considered outcasts [million times bigger than my case though ;)]; In reality all that people had to think was “Why is every heavenly body rising in the east and setting in the west and not even one in the reverse direction?” If a cop says he would not take a bribe, I have no doubts that his/her well-wishers would consider him an outcast too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Passion and Obsession

This is an excerpt from a speech by the CEO of Coca-Cola, Brian G. Dyson. “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - Work - Family - Health - Friends - Spirit, and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls -- family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

This is a story I heard in the Belur and Halebidu temples of Karnataka. “A sculptor was once working on a piece of art, which had to be placed on a tower which is about 30 feet high. It took him days to sculpt the rock. One day when the sclpture was almost complete, he noticed a tiny mistake he had made. Disappointed with himself, he started working on a new rock for the same sculpture. His co-worker was puzzled by this behaviour and asked him “the mistake is too tiny to be noticed from 30 feet below, who would know that there is a flaw?” For which the sculptor replied “I will know” and continued working on the new rock.” These temples are epitomes of Indian architecture and the attention to details of the sculptures were just mind blowing.

These two stories carry two different messages which I think is very essential for this generation corporate employees. The first one talks about work-life balance and the latter about passion in work. Does this seem contradicting? I think not. I know a friend who is passionate towards football; he screams when his team scores a goal and becomes silent when they concede one. He plays the game with same passion; he is passionate about his work; he is passionate when he discusses current affairs; he is passionate when he discusses world history. Again, I have not seen a long lasting effect on him just because his team has lost or won. That for me is the difference between passion and obsession. Don’t work just for the money; work is not everything in life.

This is a real life example to show these subtle differences. I was part of team developing software for a semiconductor packaging company. The hierarchy of the development team was a project manager at the top, a technical lead below him, two module leads reporting to the technical lead and ten developers under the module leads. I was one of the module leads. Bala, the project manager is a no nonsense guy and an example of a true professional. He is very passionate about his work and expects similar commitment from his team. Inspired by the leader, the team too stretched from the usual working hours quite often. The application we were developing was very ambitious and challenging; we knew it would be quite an achievement at the end.

One of my close friends, Vimal’s marriage was around the corner at the time our development was nearing its peak. I had applied for just a day’s leave while many of my fortunate friends could afford more days to help him out. The day before the marriage Bala called me into a meeting room and asked me if I could attend the marriage in the morning, come back and work during the day and go back to attend the reception in the evening. I had some valid reasons why I couldn’t do that. Then he told me “I had to miss the marriage of my paternal aunt’s son the week before since we had work. Vinoj (our technical lead) had postponed to visit his mother-in-law who was diagnosed with brain tumor because of work. I want you too to be an example for the team.” I calmly told him “Bala, everyone has their own priorities. Work is yours, friend’s marriage is mine. I am sorry I will not be able to work on that day”.  I still think I set the right example to my team

[The project was a great success and has become a show case project for winning many clients.]

Monday, August 30, 2010

Do you wanna fly?

Americans are long known for their partying culture. Every city in America will have few streets or sometimes a considerable area dedicated for late night parties. There is but one place where the entire city is dedicated to partying, the name is Miami. When my practice head called me and asked me if I can travel to Miami to get knowledge transfer from our clients Burger King, I answered “Well... hmmm... yeah... I am OK” He just agreed to pay money for eating honey, did he expect me to say no?

A month and a half had gone by, working (you kidding me!) and partying (mostly staring at disco lights like a rabbit caught in head lights). Jude Vimal, my closest pal from college was in the US for three years and he had decided to visit Miami during a four day long weekend. We started planning three weeks in advance. The list was endless; Key West, Everglades, Snorkelling, Parasailing, Tampa, Miami Beach and what not. When we were discussing over the phone, I was casually mentioning how I knew a lady in my office who does sky diving. I had done it; me and my big mouth. There is no way I am going to talk him out of this, I must admit I was equally thrilled with the idea, me and my best pal jumping out of an aircraft simultaneously.

The next few days went by with me exploring various drop points (point from where divers jump off the aircraft). The most scenic ones close to the oceans were booked in advance for the long weekend. Nevertheless we were not the only lunatics around. Eventually, we had booked our suicide point, oh what? Sorry!! Drop point. It is a couple of hours drive into central Florida. So, the countdown had started for us to experience one of mankind’s greatest fascinations, the power of flight. Jude finally arrived with his friend at Miami and I had rented a fabulous dark blue Volkswagen Jetta for the weekend. We had visited multiple places in the first two days of his visit.

Me driving my Jetta

Tomorrow is the big day and we went to sleep very early. How would it feel if someone told you on the day of your English exam that it was actually maths exam that day? How would it feel to constantly have that same feeling of shock and despair for hours together? Well!!! Enrol for sky diving and try sleeping the previous night. I could see my parachute not deploying as if I were seated inside a 3D movie theatre; next second I am in the bedroom. I was weighing my options, loose $200? Or risk life and loose $200? It is not too late; I can act as if I have flu in the morning (I don’t want to be seen as chickening out). I woke up to a loud screech from the alarm. What a heartening sight to see the same ghost in Jude’s face and when we exchanged looks we knew we were sailing on the same boat.

The breakfast was in utmost silence and no words were spoken during the two hours of drive. As our GPS alerted of the final right turn, I knew for sure that was the wrong turn. All the courage had disappeared when we sighted a distant object falling in a clear blue cloudless sky. We exchanged nervous looks as we saw a man land in front of us in his parachute after a minute. Am I inside some Hollywood movie stunt? The next step was to sign lot of documents; disclaimers, insurance waivers and many more formalities. Why did I get the feeling of a goat walking itself into a butcher shop? 5 hours of waiting was not doing any good to the butterflies trapped inside my stomach. Professional sky divers would walk into the room we were waiting with deflated parachutes, assemble them very carefully, have a brief rest and get ready for their next jump.

What are we looking at?

Oh!!! That...

Did I hear my name being called? Damn right, I did! I was advised that I would be buckled to an expert diver and there would be one person jumping with us to capture the video. I had put on my diving gear and the thrill of flying got me all pumped up. The aircraft was waiting for us to board; A Cessna 206 with its engine rumbling. As I stepped out of the air conditioned room, I could feel the warmth of the early summer afternoon and the nerves seemed to ease out. After a final wave to Jude and his friend, I stepped into the aircraft (They would jump next round). The aircraft was nothing like the luxurious KingFisher flights, it had two parallel long seats (like our school benches) to either side and a few handrails for support. There was one young girl on her first jump and several more experts doing their routine jumps. We were all seated on the benches with legs to either side like mounted on a horse one behind the other. I was seated right in front of my instructor who was repeating the instructions for safe jump. The altimeter showed 5,000 feet (1.5 Km) when he started buckling my gear with his and he handed over a hard plastic protective cover for my eyes. I watched the land beneath through the window and the huge water body, Lake Okeechobee, one of the largest fresh water lakes of US. The altimeter showed a climb to 10,000 feet (3 Km) and my heart beat was climbing with the altitude.

As the flight settled at 13,500 feet (4 Km), the experts started moving to the door of the aircraft. I could not take my eyes of the person in the front of the queue as he positioned himself at the door. Blink of my eye and he is gone and that could have been my first unreported heart attack. I was watching one after the other everyone vanishing into thin air. My photographer positioned herself near the wings of the aircraft and I am seated at the edge of the door buckled to my instructor with my legs dangling off. My instructor was speaking into my ears “don’t look below when you jump, pose to the video camera”. I nodded my head in agreement and he said “Ready... On Count of three... One... Two... Here we go...” and he pressed forward and we went into a somersault and I could see the sky and the next second we were flying (falling) with my body facing the earth and the instructor on top of me.

Within seconds we were accelerating up to 200 kmph; I could feel the wind striking against my face in particular and the noise of wind was tearing through my ears. [200 Kmph is the terminal velocity for sky divers]. Within seconds my photographer joined us and was teaching some acrobatic moves. Against my assumption, I could not feel the fall (the land was not getting bigger, it appeared static) and I appeared to be flying than falling. My instructor signalled at a distant object in the sky; it was the young girl and her instructor falling. He signalled to me and deployed the chutes; with a sudden jerk, I felt myself being pulled up into the sky and my photographer vanished below my feet. I could see the other pair deploying the chute and their photographer too disappeared in seconds; the stark contrast at the falling speed of their free falling photographer and them with a parachute made my heart freeze once more. (The photographers landed earlier than us to capture our landing in video)

With the parachute deployed and we drifting relatively slowly, my brain started to function more clearly and I could finally admire my flight and the scene below me. Now with calmness finally restored, I could hear my instructor speaking, he taught me to steer a parachute, to turn, to brake and accelerate and he let me take partial control for some time. I could see fields below me and I wanted to ask him if we were going to land on the field but decided against it. He seemed to accelerate the chute away from the field and suddenly the runway was below me and we had arrived back at where we took off. He was steering us exactly to a spot filled with sand and a team standing to receive us. He asked me to lift my leg high, so that he could land with his feet and not mine. I could not guess our altitude from the land below, it wasn't until we landed that I realized we were so close, but the instructor seemed to know exactly where we were and what he was doing. He pulled the flaps of the chute and we came to a complete halt on the air and we landed so smoothly exactly in the middle of the landing spot (how he steered us there, only he could know).

I thanked the well trained team and realized how my fear was baseless. Every time I saw the replay of the video, I could still recollect the awe I experienced with the dive. It is somehow impossible for me to capture in words the thrill of sky diving. If you have not done sky diving before and you are indecisive, I would strongly recommend you to try. Make sure you have a well trained team in place. My tried and tested team, Skydive Air Adventures

Video of the jump,
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Friday, August 27, 2010

My first love - Cricket (Part 2)

With a massive win in the first match, we needed just one more victory in two matches to enter the next round. Thanks to my convocation, I had missed the second match of the tournament. The team had lost a very close encounter defending a modest score. A must win match in the Indian Air Force grounds; we fought a valiant but losing battle. Absent minded, I was looking at Manu Tayal nursing a wound in his left hand from a full length dive in front of the sight screens at frightening speed. The team showed such commitment and drive to win, yet we had failed.

Why did we fail to win? Every time I asked this question to myself, I could come with a handful of answers. If only Vimal had restrained himself from not getting caught after hitting the first three balls of the innings to boundary. If only I had bowled one bouncer to that little brat who drove me to two consecutive boundaries. If only we had saved the two boundaries which went through the hands. Four years and tons of defeats later I am still asking the same question, why did we fail to win? I don’t care to answer that, I am bored. My roommate doesn’t ask me the result after the match anymore. My sister starts consoling without even asking the result. A consolation win every now and then doesn’t taste good anymore.

Ten kilos, constant knee injury and a torn stomach muscle later, I had decided to retire prematurely as most fast bowlers. The previous line to be read as “plenty of 50 runs partnership in 4 overs with my bowling partner (yeah, yeah, when I was bowling), plenty of angry stares from my captain and bowling as first change bowler later”. I had not played for two weekends and the feeling of missing the action didn’t help. I told my then captain Jagan that I am taking a break for three months. I had been planning for four years, finally I started working out every day; swimming, simple exercises, dumb bells and some jogging was the routine.

Three months later, I was with the new ball in my hands, the familiar adrenaline rush and Jagan is padded up. I raised my hands with the ball, shouted at him “New Ball” and started running gently towards the bowling crease. I had released the ball on good length, a swing and a miss. Nervously I picked the ball and went back to the start of my run up. 15 minutes later Jagan came back from the nets with a bruised leg and stomach and said “I had not seen a fiery spell from you like this in the last few months” I secretly knew I had him dancing with my bowling and I am ready for my second innings.

At around the same time Hari and Uday were coming up with some extra ordinary performances opening the batting. Jagan had made Hari and Vijayanand as captain and vice-captain. No more 50 runs partnership of my bowling, the team is not getting let down by me again. Suddenly, the team looked like a battle unit, not afraid of any opponents. My roommate and I speak in length about the matches. My sister still thinks I am lying. Yes we had started winning and for the first time in these five years I am really excited about my cricket. The team had won 6 of the last 7 matches (5 consecutive victories) en route to the first finals. A close defeat in the finals after a rare batting collapse (me top scoring with 36 :) ) meant we had to settle for second place this time.

This is by no means the end of the journey. The platform is all set for a take-off.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My first love - Cricket (Part 1)

Two months into my training period with MindTree, I finally got details of the cricket team's captain and my first mail to him marked my first steps into what would be a fascinating journey for me over the next five years.

Very new to the corporate world and brain filled with fear as much as my dreams, innocently and tentatively I sent a mail, "Sir, please let me know if I can join the MindTree cricket team". The then captain Nagaraj Inamati had replied "Rajesh, Good to hear you are interested in cricket. Are you a bowler or a batsman? Have you played for your school team, college team, under - 16, club or divisional teams?” I could see my dreams disintegrating in my computer monitor. I had not represented a team in any of these categories.

It wasn't until 2nd year of my college when I started playing with cricket (leather) ball. Just because every class in our college had to have a cricket team, we too formed one. The biggest challenge for us then was to catch, for that matter to even stop a cricket ball on the playing field. (We realized why our 90's Indian cricket team preferred to run behind the balls rather than stopping it). Our bowlers were those who can produce 6 legal deliveries in less than 9 attempts, which translates to, anyone who can bowl the ball inside the mat consistently. It is a mystery, yet all Indians are batsmen by birth. Our top order batsmen are the dare devils who are not afraid of fast bowling; lower middle order batsmen are those who can slog and tail-enders are those who go into the field like stuffed dolls. The team is active for two to three weeks in a semester.

My real experience as a cricketer was with my "Colony Team" in Coimbatore right after I completed college. Youngsters from Maharani Avenue (name of the colony) falling in the age bracket of 21 - 30 comprised the team. Our family moved into Coimbatore when I was in my eighth grade and I played my first tennis ball match when I was in my ninth grade. Until then I was used to playing gully cricket with my brother and other younger kids, bossing around. So, when the captain refused to give me bowling, I spoiled sport and walked off the field with the ball (which was unfortunately mine). My subsequent endeavors weren’t any better; I never got to bowl or bat and I can’t blame my captain for that. All my team mates were physically dominating me at that age. I had no chance of getting to bat with a large queue always waiting. I was better off bowling, which way I could be amongst action. By the end of college though, things were different. I had outgrown most of my team mates and my increased height meant my bowling was more effective and increased muscles meant more pace. For the first time I was a regular in the team 11. The team had moved from tennis ball to cricket ball, color dress to cricket whites. Every weekend we would play against some local teams and our cricket kept improving, until I moved to Bangalore to join MindTree.

With no confidence of making into the MindTree cricket team, I replied to Nagaraj that I have not played for any of the teams he had noted and that I am predominantly a fast bowler (to my then standards). Nagaraj sent me a reply that the team would be practicing every weekend and I can join them and If I can prove my worth I would be given a chance. Later that week we were immersed in our training and Vimal Kanth was lecturing on “SQL programming”. To add salt to injury he also conducted an assessment. At the end of the assessment he called me for a word outside. Numerous thoughts were running in my mind, “did he spot me sleeping during the lecture? Is he going to punish me for helping my neighbor during assessment?” Vimal casually said “Gokul, we have our cricket practice tomorrow at 6 ‘O clock. We will be leaving from office 10 minutes prior to that”. There were multiple emotions, relieved that it was nothing about the lecture, happy to join the cricket team and nervous to prove my potential.

I was at the office by 5.30 in the morning, staring at the deserted roads, lone dogs barking in the chilly Bangalore winter. First signs of life appeared well beyond 6.15 when a man in mid twenties arrived in a bike wearing whites. I was relieved that I was not forgotten after all. He introduced himself as Nagaraj and sized me up to see if I could pass for a cricketer. We took the kits and headed to the grounds were Monish was waiting. The ground was water logged from overnight rains but the nets and run-ups were protected. Slowly rest of the team arrived and after a round of warm-up exercises and fielding drills I was up against Vimal with new balls in my hand. Adrenaline was rushing into my body to an extent which I had only previously experienced before 100 metre sprint. I ran in, released the ball and watched Vimal lazily leaning into the drive while the ball crashed into his off stumps. Nothing great with the delivery but Vimal had not woken from his sleep yet. How does it matter, people took notice and I was pleased. Sometime during the practice, I overheard people talking “I think we got our opening bowler”. Pumped up I was bowling my heart out throughout the entire practice session watching some of the best drives and cuts from the batsmen.

Two weeks later, I was playing my first corporate tournament. MindTree vs. Caritor; the stage was set for a 25 over encounter. For the first time I was playing in a lush green outfield. MindTree decided to bat in a sunny afternoon. After a top order collapse, Nagaraj powered the score to a decent 130 runs. It was time for us to bowl. Nagaraj opened bowling and took a wicket in the first over. Second over, I could feel the same adrenaline rush as I was waiting at my run-up. I approached the bowling crease gently and released the ball full and the batsman got beaten. Growing more confident I ran in for the next ball with more speed and released the ball with my full potential and saw the stumps uprooted. We ended up bowling them out for 70 and my first match with MindTree was a massive victory.