Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Centralized intelligence gathering

I keep reading about a National Investigation Agency in the lines of America's FBI being setup in India. It will have sweeping powers over the jurisdiction of a State's administration and police force. Unlike the CBI which requires the state government's consent to investigate a case, the NIA will receive directives directly from the centre.

I do not understand why we need another investigative agency. Why cannot we make CBI efficient and elevate it with the powers of NIA? Though important in investigating an offense after it has been committed, it is a waste of our politician's sparse[sic] time discussing and tabling this in parliament.

We need an agency to prevent attacks from happening. We have two such national agencies in IB and RAW for domestic and foreign intelligence and a multitude of state agencies. What we need is something in the lines of America's Department of Homeland Security which coordinates the efforts of these intelligence organizations. It is the mother ship that collects and analyzes information from all its subsidiaries and constantly innovates to meet new threats.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Proactive research on terror

A biological terror attack is likely soon says an expert panel created by the US Congress.


What are our politicians doing on studying our current and future terror threats? We usually hear of commissions and investigations conducted AFTER a terror event has taken place. These investigations are slow and the event is long forgotten (pardoned?) before it is made public. To make things worse, the lax politicians do not take these reports seriously and go about their usual vote bank politics.

We need proactive research and willpower from our leaders to seriously follow through.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dealing with the problem

The nightmarish events unfolding in Mumbai is almost apocalyptic. So far, the terror attacks in India have been serial bomb blasts targeting the general public. Overwhelmed India with the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts and fizzled in terms of public reaction with the Malegaon blasts.

The terrorists aim to distrupt normalcy and more the chaos the merrier for them. This may not end and things could only get worse. We definitely need better intelligence and sensible security.

Problems are dealt with at various levels and some problems do not have answers. We have problems managing our large and diverse population, securing our land mass which also includes porous borders, gathering foreign intelligence, etc. Research throws light and there is a constant endeavor to find answers. There is a need to better equip our country with such research institutions that not only help in our approach to tackle the issue but constantly adapt with trends.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Flight delay confusion

It is the Diwali break and we are at the Pune airport waiting to board our Kingfisher flight departing to Chennai at 3:15 PM. My flight which was scheduled to leave tomorrow got canceled and I had to reschedule it to today, a working day. I took half a day leave from office considering that we had to report 1.5 hours before departure. So here I was at the boarding gate waiting for the call to board the plane. Then comes the announcement of a delay of 1 hour 45 minutes due to the closure of the runway as it was being used by the Indian airforce. The airforce base is very close to the Loheghad airport and the runway is shared for civilian and military use. I found this fishy because such closures are scheduled well in advance and I suspected other reasons for the delay. To kill time, I go get myself a chicken sandwich, at the only counter selling any food, for a whooping Rs.80. A coffee costed Rs.40. Rip offs! Just when I finished my sandwich, I hear another announcement to collect snack boxes for Kingfisher passengers. Jeez, they could have announced earlier! To kill some more time, I go and get their snacks. Eating food to kill time is a dangerous leisure activity. Amateurs, do not even try! Then to my utter surprise, I see Indigo passengers proceeding to board their flight followed by a prompt announcement from Kingfisher. The flight is delayed by another hour and this time because it is stuck in Mumbai due to of ATC (Air Traffic Controller) reasons! I see a sudden rush of passengers towards the Kingfisher counters seeking answers. There are many who need to catch connecting flights from Chennai. The staff were totally in the blue and could not help them. It was almost 6:30 PM and after departures of two latter Kingfisher flights, we got our boarding call. Releived to be in the flight we hear the Captain apologizing for the delay. He attributed the delay to a tire burst on the Pune runway of some prior flight which led to the diversion of this flight to Mumbai. Three different stories and we were glad to be off the plane in Chennai.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ride to Neelkanteshwar

October is almost like a second summer in Pune. The monsoon has just ended and the temperature hovers around the mid 30s C. I went shopping the previous night looking for a dry fit shirt and pant. I did not find a Nike dry-fit full arm shirt and so settled for a Adidas climacool for Rs. 1500 and a Nike dry-fit track pant for Rs. 1200 from Planet Sports, SGS Mall. I lost the buckle on my helmet and so went hunting for one but to no avail. I went to Prime Sports on MG Road, the shop I purchased my helmet from, and asked them if they had a replacement buckle or strap. The owner was terse in replies and wanted me to just buy a new helmet! I would not have expected them to have spares of products they distribute but at least could have been friendlier or have pointed me to someplace I could get one. I reached home at around 10:30 PM in the night to at least get some sleep but the electricity had just busted. It has become a common problem now in Pune with frequent power cuts at unusual times. I just pray that the nuclear deal starts producing results soon. So instead of sweating it out at home, we decided to celebrate with dessert :) It was not till 2:00 AM before I could sleep! These set of ad hoc events had serious repercussions on my ride.

It is 4:30 in the morning and I was frantically looking for my cycle pump. I had checked on my tires late last night and the tires were almost flat. Not been doing justice to cycling lately! I then remembered that I had given the pump to a friend during a previous ride. I could not get through his number though. It was also getting late. Our group from Magarpatta had to meet the Pune Cycle Pratishthan (PCP) group at Kothrud at 5:40 AM. It was already 5:15 AM and was desperately seeking solutions. Luckily a friend of mine had bought a LA Diesel yesterday. So I borrowed it and along with a couple of riders cycled furiously to catch up with the rest of the folks at Kothrud. The new bike needed adjustments to suit me. I could raise the seat easily but did not have the tools to raise the handle bar. I had to compromise on the seat height and raised it as much as my back would not hurt. My legs were never on full stretch and that was a big drain on my energy. We the latecomers reached Kothrud around 6:15 AM and the group was waiting patiently for us. This is a big lesson learn t for me. I should never have mixed up on priorities and ignored checking my bicycle the day before.

The group ranged from a young 10 year old to the young at heart senior citizens :) The wide variety of bikes around from Doodhwalas (Hero Jet / Atlas) to Trek 6 series were photo moments. There were first timers, regular office commuters, national and local racers and seasoned cross country veterans. I felt wonderful riding with such a group. We cycled from Kothrud to Shivne, crossed Peacock Bay before stopping for a break. The ride was scenic along the Khadakwasala dam's backwaters and the picturesque hills in the backdrop.

Vada pav break

Hill around Khadakwasala

Half laid road before Neelkanteshwar base

The support vehicle brought us vada pav and then we rode on towards Neelkanteshwar base. My mileage clocked around 50 Kms when we reached the base. The climb from the base of Neelkanteshwar was a steep trail filled with mud and stones of all sizes/shapes. The very look of the climb was discouraging but got inspiration from others who took it on. I tried too and was surprised to find how gears can simplify the efforts. Pardon the novice me but this is my first long distance ride on a geared cycle! I went along but it only got tougher with the worsening trail filled haphazardly with huge stones. Half way though, my thigh gave up and cramped when I was negotiating a climb over a rock. I went flat down and was reeling with pain. I remembered to stretch and drink water but the pain fudged my thinking and I stretched the wrong side! Yulas, the group leader, offered me tablets but I am usually averse to medication and so did not take it. I stretched again, this time right! Drank lots of water and rested for a while. I pushed the cycle rest of the way up till the point where the trek starts to reach the temple uphill. We were offered buttermilk and rested for a while.

The trek up went fine. Refreshed ourselves with the cool water in the temple, took some more rest and then climbed back down to where our cycles were parked.

View from Neelkanteshwar

Trek downhill

Now started the downhill ride on the stony trail. The bike and the body took a beating and my hands were all sore and bruised by the time we reached down. A stark reminder to wear gloves next time! We then crossed the backwaters on a boat. This boat ferried people across on a regular basis and had a very unique way of propelling. There is a rope tied between and the boatman pulls the rope and navigates the boat across.

Boat ferrying the cycles

View from the boat on Khadakwasala backwaters

After crossing over we had a pit stop to have lunch. Delicious poha with freshly grated coconut and coriander was served. There was also an abundant supply of bananas. This is where we introduced ourselves and was amazed to know the background of each and everyone in this group. I truly admire the enthusiasm and fitness levels of every individual in the group where age or skill drew no barriers.

We started cycling back towards Donje Phata, which is also the entry point to the famous Sinhagad fort. This route was unfamiliar to me and the very fact that I did not know what was coming drained me completely. I saw uphill climbs after every turn and this went on endlessly. We somehow made it after many puffs and pants. We were offered refreshments there and seeing our state of despair, Yulas was kind enough to offer us a ride on the support vehicle. However we felt that we had to give ourselves one final thrust and complete this. I would not get a good nights sleep otherwise. This is one route we had done many times before. Though circumstances were totally different now, we had to do it. So we rode and rode like zombies forgetting all about every nerve in the body that was complaining. We took a few breaks for water and to stretch. We saw some of the other riders breeze past us. I am in total admiration of their fitness levels. I had a bad experience with the Adidas Climacool Tshirt. I was sweating profusely inside and felt very uncomfortable. The Nike dry-fit pant worked wonders though.

We finally reached home after traveling 40/45 Kms back which gave us a feeling of tremendous satisfaction!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mumbai Pune private Volvo buses

We had been to Mumbai over the weekend. My car's spare tire needed to be replaced and it was just the two of us traveling, so we decided to use public transport. We had a longer than usual wait at the MSRTC counter Saturday evening because our scheduled bus had a breakdown and we had to wait for the next bus to get ready. The train is a good option but our plan was adhoc and we could not have gotten train tickets. We were against private buses because of prior bad experiences.

So we reached Mumbai after a smooth ride and had a nice time there. Our trip back was a different experience. MSRTC buses ply from Dadar and have their ticketing counters there. Dadar was far and so we decided to give private buses from Chembur a chance.

We did get the tickets and got into a waiting bus fairly quickly but thats all the nicety we experienced. The bus was supposedly a Volvo but it had a suspension poorer than an auto
rickshaw. In spite of us sitting in the middle rows, we had to absorb all the shocks which probably also helped prevent the roof from flying off. The windows had no curtains and it was a night ride through the expressway. So figure the high beams staring at someone who is trying to sleep. The AC was hardly functioning inside the bus sealed like a nuclear reactor. We were gasping trying to breath through the minuscle vents above us that spat molecules of air which was absorbed by everything living and non living. The only positive we took from the ride was that it had less halts and did not even stop midway through the expressway. Unusual for private buses and good for the well prepared but pity others who were counting on the mid ride break to let go. We felt releived reaching Pune but felt heart fully for the others that got into the bus for a further 12 hour ride to Hyderabad!!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Last couple of weeks had been hectic with office work and working on the backstage of a play that my company was participating in. The backstage involved a lot of sets and properties managed pretty well by the backstage team. The play turned out well and exceeded our expectations. We expected a few prizes including one for backstage but was not to be to our disappointment. We could not introspect to find out the reason as we heard that the organizers of the event are not very forthcoming on their decisions. Overall left a bad taste on our mouths specially after all the hard work that was put in and watching the mediocre backstage of the other performances that got nominations.

World is not fair, yes, but it is hard to accept it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I was passing through the pantry when I heard some new joiners referring to their flat owners as land lords.

I am not sure what is so Lord about them. We curse them more than we worship them. We convert our devoutness from one to another so very often. When our pockets are deep enough, we elevate ourselves to become one of them. Then we look around and feel so very common amongst the myriad Lords and crave to become an Overlord!

Jeez, can you please stop calling land/apartment owners Lords?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Around Ladakh

We spent a night at Ladakh's own valley of flowers named Nubra valley. It borders 100 Kms from Pakistan and also leads to the famous Siachen glacier.

To get to Nubra we had to cross Khardungla pass, the highest motorable road in the world
@ 18380 ft.

Wind me down

Sandunes of Nubra.

Off roadie commander

Smooth tarmac bisecting the desert.

We also visited Pangong Tso lake, the largest lake in Asia, 25% of which is in India and the remaining in China.

A spectacle with rain, mud, water, green, sunshine, mountains, snow, blue sky, clouds.

Snowfall at Changa La pass @ 17800 ft

Pangong Tso lake @ 10 Kms from China.

Our very affable Ladakhi driver Baldan told us that traders used to cross over this frozen lake onto China during the winter. There are talks going on between the governments to open up the border. Manasarowar lake and Mt. Kailash, the abode of Lord Siva are very close from here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Manali - Leh road trip

A trip to Ladakh had been in the top of our to-travel list for quite some time. The movie Lakshya which portrayed the Kargil war showed some breathtaking shots of the place. A couple of years back a retired army colonel chalked a biking trip to Ladakh and just reading about it was jaw dropping. Some of the highest motorable passes in the world are in Ladakh. It is one place where a frost bite and a heat stroke is possible on the same day!

We spent a day at Manali(6000 ft) to acclimatize before the trip to Leh(11500 ft).

A shot of the Beas river.

We drove from Manali - Leh over a span of two days covering around 450 kms of mountainous terrain.

Rohtang pass (13500 ft).

The horses take you far of the road to scenic view points. Trekking takes a couple of hours and lots of effort considering the high altitude with less oxygen.

The landscape changes from green to brown after this.

Near Baralacha la pass (16000 ft).

Red mountains before Pang.

Morey plains. Desert at 15000 ft! We got stuck in the sand and had to wait for a bus to tow us out.

View from Tanglang la pass ( 17600 ft) and on the second highest motorable road in the world.

Cute Ladakhi kid and his sister. He was super excited to be photographed :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back from Ladakh

We spent around seven days there and witnessed some of the most scenic landscapes averaging altitudes of around 15000ft. The land of the lamas was at its exotic best.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tennis draws

After a frustrating French open men's final, Wimbledon has really come alive. The match between Ivanovic and Dechy was nail biting with a net ball preventing an upset of the French open champion. Djokovic who was in the semifinal draw of Federer had a very poor game against the unpredictable Safin. Roddick lost a chance to meet Nadal in the semi final with a loss against Tipsarevich. The troubled Davydenko had an early first round exit.

The top four men's seeding in order are Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Davydenko. Though it no longer matters, I wondered why Federer was pitched to play against Djokovic in the semi final and not Davydenko. Here is what I found out about the rules for constituting a draw. The top two seeds constitute two different halves. The next two seeds are placed in different halves chosen randomly constituting a quarter. The next four seeds are placed in different quarters chosen randomly and so on.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

People of Indian origin

I was reading news of Bobby Jindal as a possible republican vice presidential candidate.

In recent times there has been extensive coverage of the Louisiana Governor in the Indian news media. He has been proudly shown as a person of Indian origin who has risen stupendously at such as an early age to the top of American politics. He has been elected as the Indian Abroad person of the year in 2005.

BTW, here are some of the things he believes in:

- Opposes human embryonic stem cell research and abortion in any form.
- Denounces gun control legislation
- Favors teaching of 'intelligent design' in schools as an alternative to evolution.
- Committed to the Christian religious right
- In 2006, Jindal sponsored the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, a bill to eliminate the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling. His rating on environmental issues is amongst the lowest in the congress.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Flight paths

I used to wonder why do planes take a route along the land mass when flying long distance. There were theories floating around such as the availability of land in case of an emergency, the strength of radars, etc. The correct reason is because it is along the path of the great circle i.e the shortest distance between two points on a sphere. Planes take the great circle route unless there is a jet stream in the direction of travel.

The shortest path between Tokyo and San Francisco would be along the great circle route. However when flying from Tokyo to San Francisco, planes fly along the jet stream route and flight times are much shorter.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weight gain!

I have restarted cycling and went to the base of Sinhagad last weekend. Around 80 Kms to and fro. We started late around 6:30 AM and had to bear the brunt of the heat and traffic on our way back. Next time, we plan to start early around 4:00 AM.

I did some shoulder and triceps weight training yesterday. The disappointing thing is that I am not putting any bulk in spite of increasing good power lifts. The cycling and running has reduced my weight big time. The only healthy way to counter this is by having a good diet.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Weight loss solutions

Saw this board at Kothrud the day before yesterday and instantly clicked.

Wonder how do they plan to do it?

Liposuction: Take out all the fat you want, but why limit to 5kg/month?
Formula 1 racing: Heard you lose around 5 kg after a race. But then the board should read 5 kg/race.
Run away with your money: Most likely and yes you would definitely lose weight.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Whats next

There is a void left after you have finished something specially when there was a lot of enthusiasm leading up to it. Enduro did that to me. But not for long.

The annual 170 Kms Mumbai-Pune cycle race has been postponed to March 23. So that would give us ample time to recuperate from Enduro and start training for this. There will be many of India's top cycle racers participating and our goal would be to just complete the race. The race details are hard to come by. When I spoke to one of the organizers, he asked me to look out for news about this in the media sometime this week.

The no gear DTB cycle that I have would not be of much help. I will need to see if I can borrow a sleeker faster cycle.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

We competed well

Enduro3 2008 is over and our team has completed the race albeit not in any of the top three prize winning position. Kanti had cramped early on the race within an hour of cycling. He had to keep stretching right through the two days. I am amazed at his resilience to complete and compete in spite of all this. We definitely needed better trekking practice. This time there was a lot of trekking involved. We got lost a number of times and slowed down on difficult trails. There was mandatory rest time of around 4 hours after the end of Day 1 before we restarted at 2 AM the next day. It did not help our team because we did not carry any blanket/sleeping bag to fight the cold. We were shivering right through that period! Before end of Day 1 there was rope river crossing across the freezing lake water. Kudos to Kanti for standing up and doing it for the team in spite of his soreness. Nitin's energy and motivation kept us going right through the two days. Thanks to him for introducing us to this event and preparing us for it. Without him we would have been in the blue throughout the race.

Today evening is when we get our participation certificates at a ceremony.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

2 days to go

Enduro3 is almost there and our practice team is down with injuries. Prateem pulled his groin muscle while climbing up Sinhagad in the wee hours of Sunday morning the week before last. It was diagnosed to be a muscle inflammation that needed 1 month rest to heal by a sports medicine doctor. I felt bad for Prateem as he had been regularly practicing for a month and now he has to pull out of the race. Riyer got sick with flu for a whole week that has not yet healed fully. So he had to pull out too. Some of us are still recovering from illness due to the extreme climate change and hopefully there will not be any more incidents before the race starts. I am trying to be real careful by not eating outside food and taking adequate rest. I still need to work on the cycle for some alterations and servicing. I need to purchase some mandatory items that every participant needs to carry during the race.

Wish us luck!

Friday, January 25, 2008

More practice

Last weekend we had cycled to the famous Purandar fort. It is famous for the war between the Marathas under Shivaji and the Mughals under Aurangazeb. The Killedar(fort keeper) commander of Shivaji, Murar Baji Prabhu fought valiantly against the combined armies of Aurangazeb's general Dilir Khan and Rajput king Jai Singh but perished in the ensuing battle. It is said that the Killedar was far outnumbered before putting up a brave fight. His statue rests inside the first fort entrance. Purandar is also unique to have a fort inside a fort. To take control, both the difficult forts would have to be breached. Located at the summit of the inner fort is a Shiv temple.

We had a completely different experience this time round. After cycling the usual long distance we came across a road that climbed a hill all the way to the top. To reach Purandar,we had to cross this hill. We had to drag our cycles along the road for more than an hour to reach the top before we came downhill the other side. We encountered long stretches of gravel road along the way which was tough on our cycles and slowed us down considerably. After reaching the base village we parked our cycles and started the trek. We lost our way a couple of times before reaching Dilli darwaza(entrance to the first fort). This area is now an army training camp. We had poha and nimbu pani there before the climb to the inner fort. We decided to go to the temple located at the summit after we reached the inner fort. This was a good walk along a ridge with steep slopes on either side. We lost our way again before we made it to the top. The view at the summit was fantastic! We could spot no other hill taller than us and we could see a 360 degree view of the horizon.

We descended quickly and then started cycling back under the blazing sun. Prateem's cycle got punctured along the way while he was negotiating a stone road just after a down hill ride. We got it fixed and decided to go on a different route that had a better road. Prateem had be careful as the puncture had also ripped a part of his tire. In spite of fixing the puncture, he kept losing air gradually along the way and we kept pumping it up once in a while. We reached home at 6:00 PM. I was extremely tired and this was the most tortuous effort for me up to now.

Tonight we guys are planning to go back to Sinhagad fort. This time it is an all-nighter with a lot of walking. We plan to only cycle 12 Kms one way before we start the walk of around 30 Kms to reach the base village. We would climb up and come down before we walk back 30 Kms. We would then cycle back to reach home hopefully by 6:00 AM in the morning!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Enduro practice

Enduro is nearing and we have started our practice sessions.

Couple of weeks back we had cycled around 40 Kms to the Sinhagad fort, trekked up 2600 foot, came back down then cycled back home. We started around 5:00 AM in the morning and returned home around 1:00 PM i.e around 8 hours of rigorous physical activity.

This was good for a start considering Enduro spans a continuos 24 hours of cycling, walking, rope river crossing, rowing and rifle shooting. According to a friend of mine, there used to be rappelling but because of some accidents was scrapped.

We have a team of three and are participating in the corporate category. Our team leader has done this twice before and his experience has kept us motivated and prepared.

Last weekend we had been to Neelkantheshwar temple located on a hill. This was more rigorous compared to the Sinhagad trip. We cycled 50 Kms which included many uphill climbs. The last leg of cycling involved dragging our cycles up a steep climb till we reached the base village that was located half way up the hill. We parked our cycles and started a very steep climb to reach the steps of the temple. We took darshan at the Shiv temple, had some Kanda Poha after which we started back down. From the base village, we cycled with a lot of braking down the steep path filled with stones and sharp turns along the corners of the hill till we reached the bottom. our cycles took a lot of beating in the process and I lost one of the bolts attached to my pedal. It was peak noon by the time we started cycling back home. This was a big effort for all of us and spanned 12 hours of activity from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM. We have achieved the Enduro cycling limits with this practice.

Next week we plan to scale 2300 feet to reach the Purandar fort after 40 Kms of cycling to reach it. The fort area is very broad and it includes a 1 hour walk along a ridge to reach a temple located at the summit. This should test our walking skills as it involves around 4 hours of up and downhill trekking.

More on it next week.