Tuesday, 1 May 2018

AS SUN SETS AT RADCLIFFE LINE......

Ceremonial Change of guards take place at many places around the world.Almost all of them I understand are colorful military drills, enjoyable to all, while I have seen myself some of them.Similarly Beating Retreat is a ceremony that calls patrolling units back to their bases.At different but few locations we have beating retreats at the borders of different countries but the most exciting, eventful, colorful one in the present world is undoubtedly at Wagah border between India and Pakistan.

As the sun sets each day, the soldiers of both countries march, trying to outdo the other side in style and perfection. The respective steel gates are opened at the same speed, at the same time- in a haste I would say.The two flags are lowered simultaneously , then folded and the ceremony ends with a quick unfriendly handshake between the soldiers. What makes this ceremony stand out is peoples participation on the Indian side. Singing and dancing of performing Indian youth- men and women alike- to the tunes of old patriotic songs, with occasional loud chanting of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'(victory for Mother India) and 'Vande Matharam'(Mother, I bow to thee), while the whole spectators in thousands from all over India including oldies like me, join them waving the tri color flags is a rare emotional  experience I have gone through in such contexts.One of its kind among all beating retreats or change of guards anywhere in the world, I would say.

Come what may - peak of summer, icy winter or torrential rains-the event rather a ritual is taking place at the dot of time every day without much interruptions ever since 1959!No wonder international tourists also witness and enjoy this event in large numbers.



Grand Trunk Road to 'Zoaq'....
It took some time and skill even for Jaspal Singh, seasoned Punjabi driver of our exclusive Tempo Traveler to come out of unruly and commotive traffic of Amritsar town, like any other typical town of India for that matter, to join the Grand Trunk(GT) Road. Jaspal had been driving us -four elderly couples who are close friends,around the hilly terrain for the earlier week from Chandigarh-Shimla-Kullu-Manali-Amritsar with stop overs as required.Though we reached Amritsar previous night, my mind was not fully awake from the hang over of the beautiful snow clad mountains of Manali.

However the name Grand Trunk Road brought me an avalanche of thoughts silently.The GT road is not only one of the longest and oldest roads-over 2000 years old,2500 kilometers long in India but remains a life line all these years.And it passes through Bangladesh,Pakistan and Afghanistan as well.Right from the days of Chandra Gupta Maurya,Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great,Mughals,Shershah Suri.....GT Road remained mute witness to making of this country.It is 28 kilometers to the border from Amritsar on the Indian side while it is 24 kilometers from the border to Lahore on the Pakistan side. In fact Wagah is in Pakistan now where as the closest Indian village to the border is Attari.

I dont know why but 'Zoaq' came to my mind when I read the board which named Lahore. Zoaq is a Pakistani restaurant in Doha owned by a friend of mine Ahmed.About 8 years back it was opened with handpicked chefs brought  from Lahore,I remember him telling me. The venture was an instant hit. It remains very popular  to date because of the quality of its food-various authentic Lahori dishes.

Soon we reached the border- known as Radcliffe line in the world history.

India and Pakistan celebrated independence in 1947 without knowing their own boundries!
I am sure that most of us may not know much about how literally the partitioning process was completed by Britain between India and Pakistan in 1947.Sir Cyril Radcliffe was appointed as Chairman of Border Commissions - one for Punjab and the other Bengal.Though there are 4 members in the commissions, two each representing Indian National Congress and Muslim League, the decision making power remained with Radcliffe. Interestingly Radcliffe who was a lawyer did not know India at all or never visited the country even once prior to the appointment.In hindsight I think the British authorities wanted such a person for the job!

He came to India on 8 July 1947.More or less within a month he completed his job!!Simple as that!!But his decisions were kept as secret for a week  until published.Officially Pakistan was born on 14 August 1947 while India on the next day- 15 August 1947.But both countries celebrated independence without knowing their own boundaries!!Hardly few know that on the very same day Radcliffe left India for good after handing over the award to last Viceroy!

On 16 August at 5.00 PM Indian and Pakistani authorities were given advance copies of the final details of the border while it was officially published on the very next day with no room for changes.Riots and killings on both sides had started earlier to that, before Radcliffe left India. Finally, above a million people were killed while another 12 million people were uprooted from their homes!!No one knows exact figures.History books say that Radcliffe never collected his fee of Rs. 40000 which was offered on his appointment.It seems he was appalled by the killings that he left in a hurry.He knew what would follow if his own boundary line is implemented!!

After 70 years since both countries got independence, when one look back I am of the opinion that it was a blessing in disguise for India.Two undisputed factors lead for this thought.One India has become a fully matured democratic country.Second India would not have achieved the way it has progressed economically and otherwise for the last 20 years or so, if it was one country. People can differ with me,I know.

Spectacular show...
As we are about to reach the border for the ceremony, all the vehicles were stopped for security reasons except those who are having VIP entry passes issued by Border Security Force(BSF).All others have to walk almost a kilometer.Thanks to Manohar a colleague of mine who took the efforts to get those passes for us , we could reach the venue or view the ceremony without any difficulty.For others too it is stream lined well, I have noticed but one has to walk a bit and probably has to come early as well to get a seat.But it is amazing that everything is being done absolutely free by BSF.

We sat in the well laid out amphitheater made of concrete meant  for the viewers on the Indian side.The heat was generous since the setting sun was directly falling on our faces.Nevertheless our spirits were lifted as a crowd of ladies- young and old- came to the center stage and started singing and dancing to the tunes of patriotic songs.Moments one may feel emotionally.Being abroad I was missing this all these years!

This was followed by parades of well built BSF soldiers who are in khaki uniforms, starched and pressed, with colorful orange fanned hats.All the time they were making heavy foot stomping or goose steps which will keep one on the edge of the chair.Definitely they must have been well trained.As some part of the ceremony synchronized in time and actions with Pakistani side I think  it can never happen so unless both countries cooperated.

As Indigo Airlines took off from Amritsar airport the next day noon to take us back home, my mind was full of Golden temple, the show at the border and 'alu parantha'( a bread dish stuffed with mixture of mashed potato and spices) offered by Ramada for breakfast.


Monday, 2 April 2018

Musings from Doha: WORLD OF FLOPS....THE RACE IS ON !

Musings from Doha: WORLD OF FLOPS....THE RACE IS ON !: It is 3 weeks back that Japan officially notified her intention of recruitment of 200,000 IT professionals from India.Japan also to issue...

Sunday, 1 April 2018

WORLD OF FLOPS....THE RACE IS ON !


It is 3 weeks back that Japan officially notified her intention of recruitment of 200,000 IT professionals from India.Japan also to issue green cards to them to help them settle down in that country!The live first hand feed back readily available on performance of Indian professionals deployed in almost all the developed countries in the world including Japan must have given right  impetus in reaching such a decision.Politically also India is having an excellent relation of all time high with Japan currently.  After all Indian labor-highly skillful and comparatively cheap- is good value for money for the developed and most countries of the world.

I am exposed to doing business with the Jap businessmen while in Qatar.They generally come to conclusions after very extensive negotiations and considerations unlike European or American counterparts.Definitely it is a win win situation for both the countries,I presume.

The current status that India being one of the lead countries in the world in Information Technology/computer software and related technology is not obtained by luck or accident.Thanks to selective few among the political visionaries,large number of dedicated, brainy professionals  and some of the great educational institutions of the country, India is catching up fast with the top notch in the scientific world. Here I am sharing what comes to my mind now -  how India developed the first indigenous super computer in 1991 against many odds and challenges........hardly known facts  even among young Indian professionals and others.....




A change I was longing for.....
My first job abroad was in 1977.I was 27 then.It did not last long,only 2 years before I rejoined my Govt service in India.But when I made the second sojourn, this time to Qatar in 1984, it got stuck ever since.From a career that of an engineer in civil projects, it went to other fields and levels in which I never thought I could thrive!No doubt  what the international business exposure I could gain through out my career abroad gave me is tremendous.Many years esp while in the west,nobody was aware about India more than its poverty, population explosion or rarely on Nehru or Indira Gandhi. Most of them thought Indira is daughter of Gandhi!!But it changed dramatically towards the end of the last century from my own first hand experience.

I was in Frankfurt,Germany in late 90s to visit ACHEMA.It is an international trade fair, one of the best of its kind in the world,if not the best, in chemical and Process Industries.I was on hunt of some good pump manufacturer to be represented in Qatar commercially. On my first day on my way in a taxi to reach the venue, the German cab driver asked me in broken English whether I am an Indian.But such an inquiry is just routine anywhere.His second question was a sort of an unexpected one.Instead about 'poverty in India he asked me "Are you a computer engineer?" I was glad that  Germany had already identified India with  computers .....That was in 1999.

Why India was denied a super computer?
Credit of introducing the first super computer in the world goes to Seymour Cray,an American electrical engineer.That was in 1962 and the computer was named Cray CDC 66000. Obviously the invention took the scientific world by storm.By 1985 India wanted to import a super computer from Cray Research International, a firm floated by Cray himself, mainly to boost weather forecasts more scientific that existed then in the country.

The firm was willing but the US Govt was not.More than political reasons US administration thought that India will use the super computer in the design of missiles and nuclear weapons than weather  forecasts.The Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who made a visit to US  had to return empty handed! Russia(USSR then) too was arm twisted by US admin not to sell such a computer to India.To best of my knowledge IBM too wanted to enter India but was stopped by the US Govt.Since the super computer was built only by those two countries India did not have no other immediate option!

Have seen only picture of a Cray....but Yes, we can.......
When all efforts failed to get one imported super computer, instead of more begging India wisely thought of exploring possibilities to make one herself.In 1988 India set up Centre for Development of Advanced Computing C-DAC with Vijay Pandurang Bhatkar as its head. When the Prime Minister met him for the first time, there took place an interesting recorded conversation which I shall reproduce in verbatim.Quote
"Can we do it?"asked Rajiv Gandhi.
"I have not even seen a super computer but only a picture of the Cray.But yes, we can do it"answered Bhatkar.
"How long it will take"?
"Less than it will take us in trying to import Cray for us".Unquote.He also promised that related costs including building such a facility will cost less than a Cray!
Govt of India went ahead with the program with a very tight budget it could afford those days.



India rolls out its first super computer but....  China outsmarts all!
Within 3 years, by mid 1991 first Indian indigenous PARAM 8000 was rolled out.Most of the scientific world were even doubtful about the claim. Thats when India decided to take PARAM prototype to a major international conference and exhibition of super computers. In fact it was the second fastest of its kind in the world then, with a much lower price tag.The US company Cray had to slash the prices to be competitive!!One US newspaper gave a title for the event aptly -Denied super computer angry India does it!




India has to go a lot forward and fast in this field where China's TIANHE-2 is the fastest with a speed of 33.86 peta FLOP.FLOP stands for Floating Point operations per second,the measure of the speed of computer performance. Their version  3 is expected to be launched in 2020.China was no where in the world of supercomputers till 2000 where  as US venders like Hewlett Packard,IBM,Cray,Dell..  still keep 90% share  among the top 500 systems to date.This is excluding people like Google,Facebook,Apple,Yahoo who may have very advanced super computers which they may not reveal.....                                                   

Thursday, 1 March 2018

COACH 2419 D.......on track of little known history!

"History is written by the victors".Origin of this famous quote which surfaced  soon after world war II is unknown.Could be true but it could have come from a loser as well, I presume.

When one goes through hundreds of historical events, known to everyone about the WW2,one incident remains not that known but has played a major role not only in WW2 but well connected to WW1 as well.It took place at Compagnie, a large town situated north east of Paris.One can reach the place,on the edge of a forest in 1h 30m by car. Though not frequented by a lot of tourists, Compagnie has many historical places and churches of reputation. But what I am to write is about  a railway wagon preserved over there to be exact...about a dining room which turned to a war room.

This wagon 2419D was built by the French in 1914.Made of Oak it was used as a dining car for the next 4 years or so.Then it was converted to be temporary office of Marshal Ferdinand Foch of the French forces during the WW1. Towards the end of the war,Germany requested France for a meeting to negotiate possible surrender by them.Marshal chose the venue on  a railway track in Compagnie forest, possibly for secrecy it required...........



 


Scenario 1
Germany was defeated by France in the First world war.A ceasefire agreement- armistice- was signed between France and Germany, on request of later, in November 1918 which ended the war within few hours thereafter.I think France chose the time and date of 11.00 hrs on 11 th day of 11th month of that year is not by an accident- a date to be remembered.Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France used his office, a converted railway dining car wagon at Compagnie as the venue for the dictated negotiations to be followed with the signing 'ceremony'.

Thereafter the railway wagon was displayed in Paris and few other places in France for the people to see before it was placed inside a protective building at Compagnie. Subsequently The Armistice Memorial -  a fallen eagle(Germany) killed by a sword(French) on one end and a statue of Marshal Foch himself at the other end were erected with a concrete platform where the railway wagon stood in between.It remained as a monument to the defeat of Kaiser's Germany!!

Scenario 2
France was attacked by Nazi Germany during Second world war.Finally France sends a request for an Armistice to Germany.Hitler might have rejoiced over this request as he ordered the same  railway wagon at the same location as the venue.When he was advised that the wagon was kept inside a protective building, he ordered the same to be brought out breaking the building!He wanted to give back to France what was done to Germany in the first world war.

Hitler himself visited the wagon with his deputies.He sat on the same chair Marshal Foch sat while one of his assistants read out the terms of the armistice to the reps of the French forces.France did not have any room for negotiations and they agreed readily.At that point Hitler left the scene deliberately.He wanted to humiliate France further leaving the formalities and signatures to his subordinates! 

Once again an agreement was signed on 22 June 1940 between Germany and France but the seats were swapped!!      



                        Railway wagon was brought out of the building!

Scenario 3
Hitler ordered the same wagon to be transported to Berlin and exhibited before the people. Later he ordered to break the Armistice memorial -en eagle killed by a sword- to be bulldozed! Obviously Hitler wanted to avenge the defeat meted out by France in the First world war in the same degree!!

But towards end of Second world war in 1944, the wagon was ordered to be moved to central Germany and kept under protective forces.When he came to know of advancing US army to Germany,Hitler ordered his infamous  SS men  to destroy the wagon which was done promptly!He might have feared a back lash in the same coin again from the allied forces!

Scenario 4
Victorious French Govt wanted to keep the wagon  in the same place and venue after WW2. Since the wagon was destroyed beyond trace, they made an exact replica of the railway wagon and kept it in the same museum, as it is seen now!




Hopefully it may rest there for good now.But only we can wish so!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

SAINT MARY MAGDALENE MUST BE SMILING....!

It is one year since India made space history launching 104 satellites in one go- from a single rocket.Out of them 101 belonged to other countries-96 from the US,1 each from UAE,Israel,The Netherlands,Switzerland and Kazakhstan. The event broke the world record of 37 held by Russia.Again just 2 weeks back-on 12 Jan 2018- India has launched its 100th satellite along with 30 others from different countries including US,Canada,Finland,France,South Korea and UK.

Considering the fact that it is only 70 years since India got changed to an independent India from a colonial past, the events are epoch making in the fields of scientific space explorations.The technology and science so mastered by ISRO-Indian Space Research Organisation where few of of Engineering classmates also have been working-will have direct repercussions on the present and  futuristic overall development of the country.While people like me take undiluted pride in these matters,also I understand that there are many especially in the western and developed world who are sarcastic and critical about these events, if cartoons that came across some of their newspapers on those days are  any indications...but that is their privilege .

It was in 1963,while I started my high school classes, that India could launch its first rocket.To the best of my knowledge the rocket- Nike Apache- was made and supplied by NASA,US while only the launching was done by Indians.I am sure that but for the selfless efforts taken by those honest and brilliant scientists-  Vikram Sarabhai,Abdul Kalam and a host of others- India would not have achieved that.I am here to share something more..strange but pivotal role of a small church in launching India's first rocket to space.Along with top notch scientists and other limited dignitaries watching the first launch at permissible distance there was a bishop too keeping his fingers crossed.......




Thumba has similarity to Tampa only in name....
It was in 1962 that Indian National Committee for Space Research was formed. Father of Indian Space Exploration Vikram Sarabhai was entrusted to find a suitable site to establish a rocket station.His search was finally zeroed on Thumba.If there is a similarity of this name to Tampa,Florida close to which Kennedy Space Center is located, it is purely coincidental.That was in 1963.

Thumba , not far from Thiruvanathapuram,capital of Kerala was a little known fishing village by the side of Arabian Sea.Residents were mostly poor fishermen and families, living in thatched huts with an old church-St Mary Magdalene church- in the centre. Dr. Sarabhai was particularly interested in this location since it was close to magnetic equator and matched other parameters he was looking for. Interestingly the team consisted of Abdul Kalam also, who later became India's missile man,President of the country and ultimately one of the excellent human beings modern India has produced.He was a scientist junior to Sarabhai then.


Two Great Indian stalwarts in Science
Once the site of approx 600 acres was located finally, the problem was how to acquire the land and properties- that too of an old church and a Bishop's house, since the scientists were on a fast track mission.Land acquisition for public projects is a real problem even now since the state is among the mostly densely populated states in the country. When such a situation involves a prominent temple,mosque or a church, it becomes much complex even today anywhere in India.Instead of going through Government agencies Sarabhai and his team decided to meet the Bishop themselves.In hindsight I would say it was a brave and wise decision.


                    The church which was acquired by the Government     
                  in 1963 is preserved now inside ISRO campus showcasing
                      a space museum named as "ALTAR OF SCIENCE"

Church becomes a workshop...Bishop's house a design and drawing office!
Sarabhai visited the Bishop Rt.Rev Dr.Peter Bernard Periera,who later became an Archbishop, on a Saturday it is recorded.One should remember that at that time space exploration even in US or Russia was in infant stage.Only in 1969, 6 years later that a man could be sent to land on moon.In India hardly anything existed in the matter.

The Bishop listened to him patiently but instead of giving a yes or no, Sarabhai  was asked to be in the church the next day for the prayers during which the Bishop would ask parishioners their opinion.Abdul Kalam has vividly written the scenario of the visit of Sarabhai to church in his book 'Ignited Minds:Unleashing the power within India'.I shall quote here what he has written in verbatim.

Quote:"the Bishop told the congregation,"My children,I have a famous scientist with me who wants our church and the place I live for the work of space science and research.Science seeks truth that enriches human life.The higher level of religion is spirituality.The spiritual preachers seek the help of the the Almighty to bring peace to human minds.In short, what Vikram is doing and what I am doing are the same-both science and spirituality seek the Almighty's blessings for human property in mind and body.Children,Can we give them God's abode for a scientific mission?" There was silence for a while followed by'Amen' from the congregation, which made the whole church reverberate".Unquote.I am sure that the Bishop might have done a lot of home work for that outcome since these matters are complex to be solved.

In another 100 days flat, Thuma Equitorial Rocket Launching Station(TERLS) was made operational, a forerunner of present VSSC-Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

 The first rocket takes off...church is preserved as "Altar of Science"!
That was the time when India was struggling financially.Going round the wealthy nations with a begging bowl occasionally was not unusual- pet named as 'aid'.US cargo ships carrying wheat and milk powder docked at Indian ports were always welcomed and used to a news item in newspapers!As such one can imagine the plight of TERLS as little funding and facilities were available. Probably the cartoonists and editors of those western press who are critical of India's space missions now may not be aware of a changed India or worse, do not want to be aware of!!

Sarabhai and the core team,working against time and material, decided to use the church building as the prime workshop and laboratory, while the sacred altar was well preserved, typical of India's proud heritage.The Bishop house was used as an office for designing and drawing.They did not leave even the existing cattle sheds it seems.They were used as stores!Abdul Kalam has confirmed in his book that the first rocket was assembled in the church and transported to launch pad by truck but the pay loads for the launch on bicycle!!

I shall conclude with two photos reproduced below.The first one shows Abdul Kalam and his colleague working on a rocket inside the church.The second one shows the first rocket take off at TERLS with the church building as silhouette..

India's first rocket taking off....

Saint Mary Magdalene must be smiling!!  



Photos:Courtesy ISRO/Google













Monday, 1 January 2018

A HORSE AND BULL STORY!

Good Morning! It is the first day of the new year 2018.Wish a very happy new year to all my readers world wide!At the same time I thank you for your continued support since you have been the driving force behind posting an article on first day of each month since November 2011.


While on my job in Qatar, I used to drive many hours daily, especially during my early years there.Visiting project sites,attending meetings with clients and consultants were very regular during that time.Many times it was literally race against time in the busy Doha traffic since I wanted myself always to be  punctual. One thing which I enjoyed during these drives is observing latest models of quality cars that I came across.In a country like Qatar, the richest in the world on per ca pita basis, one can imagine what sort of rare and expensive models of cars I can see on the roads...Maybach,RR,Porsche,Bugatti...Koenigsegg,Pagani the list is incomplete,though the most popular among Qataris  always remained Toyota Land cruiser and not any models of Mercedes or BMW or American cars.


Ferrari and Lamborghini too are  two famous manufactures of super cars that can be seen in Doha roads.They  have a lot in common to a person like me, who never owned or have driven them even once.Both are Italian,have  animals in their logos-in one it is a horse while in the other it is a bull.Both are flashy,sporty,luxurious and comes out in sleek models,anyone would like to own.Technically both are quite different as I understand,but still rivals in business.what I am to write here is not comparison of salient technical features but how they became business rivals literally.....A horse and bull story!



                                     Ferrari and Lamborghini logos



Tough..tougher...toughest! Business opportunities knock at your door in the last hours of working week!
Any business is a complex and tough world.Establishing and running a successful  business is not every one's cup of tea.It is tougher.The toughest could be the ability to steer the company/corporate to glory with more and more profits each year-something the investors surely are more interested in!This could be full of challenges and uncertainties. It requires hard and timely decisions and above all, acumen to identify the opportunities as a visionary and work on them without looking at own watches or own wallets!!And opportunities never comes out as shining stars or even as stars.Mostly they do not come to you at all but you have to be after!Most likely opportunities or challenges happen towards the end of your last day of the working week.While you are  about to leave the office for a weekend break, it knocks-to put it in a lighter vein but true in my humble exposures!When I look back how one could manage this situation, I think it depends a lot on one's life partner as well!

Books say that successful business ideally runs on a high-demand-low- competition market.But I do not think such a market exists anywhere for long.Once a product hits the market, similar products are sure to pop up quickly.Business competition is good,they also say, if it is healthy.But it is never healthy,I can assure you.I am sure you have heard of cola wars,coffee wars or even burger wars!Business competition is not limited to FMCG but it is there in all fields whether it be commercial aircraft or computer hardware or construction. In few cases business competition can get into business rivalry where it is more personal. Competition between Ferrari and Lamborghini came out that way, which has no such parallel in automobile corporate history........

From a POW to an entrepreneur in tractors....
Members of Lamborghini family were traditional grape farmers in Italy but Ferruccio was not.He was interested in Mechanics instead, who attended a short technical course in the subject.Before he could gain some experience in the field of his liking, he had to join the Italian Air Force to participate in the WW2,where he was taken as a prisoner of war(POW) by the British. The British put him as a POW to work in their military services in the  motor dept where Ferruccio could work and gain experience first hand for the first time on automobile mechanism!

Once the war was over,he returned to his native town to pursue his dream.He purchased some of the old military machines and reconverted as tractors.His business with brand name of Lamborghini tractors was successful and soon he became a wealthy man.When he became wealthy he did something which anyone does in that context.He purchased some expensive cars including a Ferrari since he was interested in racing....

Being a mechanic himself,Ferruccio found out some short comings in the Ferrari car he owned.Too noisy and bumpy,clutch requires repairs very often, he noticed.He decided to meet Enzo Ferrari himself to air his views, both from the same region of Italy-Emilia-Romagna. Ferrari motors had established in 1929 itself and was basking in glory in 1963 by the time Ferruccio decided to meet him.




Birth of Lamborghini race cars...
Enzo did not like  the comments brought up, it seems.He could not digest the observations of a 'tractor mechanic'!He was sort of rude to Ferrucio,it is told."If you wanted a better car,you can make yourself" was the answer. Ferruccio could not digest the insult inflicted either.He decided to to work on a new car.He completed design in 4 months, fairly fast considering the fact that it was precomputer days.He introduced the first Lamborghini race car in the motor show of 1963!He chose the logo of a bull for the new car.It is not to rival horse, the logo of Ferrari but I understand that Taurus was his star.

In the first year he could sell only 13 cars but kept up the production to compete with brand Ferrari.Soon Lamborghini became a full time car manufacturer, eventually stopping their tractor business.Ferrari had a new rival!!The rest is history as we all know....

Ferrucio Lamborghini died in 1993.To best of my knowledge the Volkswagen group now owns Lamborghini along with Bentley,Bugatti, Audi, Ducati, and Porsche brands.Nevertheless this will not be the last corporate war in the automobile industry........

Friday, 1 December 2017

COMFORT WOMEN .....REMIND US HOW BAD HUMANS CAN BE GIVEN A CHANCE!

It was while in Seoul,S.Korea in 2016 that I heard a serious allegation about the subject first hand.The friendly face of the tourist guide over there changed to grim while explaining days of Japanese occupation over their country.   When he tried to describe the plight of 'comfort women', he was highly emotional!He didn't try to hide his hatred towards the Japs for all the atrocities they committed in occupied Korea.

This instantly reminded me then another interesting matter in history which I read in 'Readers Digest' few decades back.Soon after Pearl Harbor attack by Japan, many Japs in US used to be physically assaulted by the Americans during the days to follow.Koreans looked the same as Japs for the Americans, hence got wrongly attacked.In order to sort out the problem Koreans used to wear big badges/banners on their shirts.The badges read-"I am from Korea.I hate Japs more than you do".I left the subject when I left Korea few days later.

A small news of unveiling a memorial for 'comfort women' just few weeks back in San Francisco which I came across again brought the subject to my mind.......A sad and cruel episode which took place in the world about which many of us may be still ignorant.How over 200,000 women were abused with no such parallel in history......


  

How and when..
Imperial Japan had a lot of victories in the WW2 initially,we all know.Japanese army occupied over a dozen - countries in Asia and Far East from 1931.The first 'comfort station'-sex slave station- was established in occupied China in the same year.Some of the Japanese army think tank thought establishment of such stations will lead to solution to one of the problems-rape,committed by their military men in occupied areas.They also thought that in such a scenario close interaction of their men with local girls will be reduced considerably, thus chances of leaking out of military secrets could be stopped!Effective prevention of venereal deceases among their army men was another objective.


Majority of such women were recruited from Korea.Other countries include Philippines,Indonesia,Burma,China and a small number from Japan itself.No definite number is recorded but not less than 200,000 women were deployed from the year 1931-1945 in various countries occupied by Imperial Japan!Records indicate that as big as 2000 comfort stations were set up where in women between 11 and 40 were 'employed'.Many of them were forcibly recruited where as many were lured by offering jobs in factories!To put it in legal terms, they were recruited by-deception,coercion and force.

Embarrassment to Japan...
After the war, Japan once again became a rich nation after few years.But the subject of comfort women had been an embarrassment for the Japanese Govt to this day.Strangely South Korea and Japan became allies politically.But the issue of comfort women has long dogged their other wise good relationship.In and outside United Nations the issue of comfort women were brought many times by Korea and others to the discomfiture of Japan.

In 2015,Japanese Government apologized to Korea on the subject.They also gave  8.3 million US dollars for the creation of a South Korean Foundation to support the surviving victims in that country with medical and nursing services.In turn Korea agreed to end all criticism of Japan on this issue.In spite of this agreement the problem lingers since Korean people cannot emotionally accept what the Japs did to their women...



Comfort stations in India?
Many forget the fact that a part of India too was under Imperial Japanese army occupation.That happened on 23 March 1942 when the island of Andaman fell to them while the British were ruling India.The Indian leader in exile,Subash Chandra Bose raised the flag of Indian Independence in Port Blair in 30 December 1943 on a flying visit to this island.Of course that was with the help of the Japs.But I believe he never knew that here too comfort stations were established for the Japanese military men with girls from Korea, Burma and Malaya!




Comfort women memorials..
Once the war over in 1945, when the world came to know about plight of thousands of women thus abused, the civilized world stood stunned.One common thing that happened thereafter was erection of so many memorials for comfort women all over the world.Over 60 memorials are there in USA,Germany,China,S.Korea,Australia.....the number increases each year to remind us how bad humans can become given a chance......

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

BUBBLE OVER BULB! How the first economic bubble took place ever in the world.

Tulips are synonymous with love in general.Each colour of this flower symbolizes some thing different. Red tulip symbolizes true love, while white one says "I am sorry" but there are few others as well which I do not know!

As we all know, The Netherlands is the largest producer and exporter of tulips and Petunia world wide.In Doha where I have been working, during autumn and winter, it is very common to see public and private gardens flooded with Petunia with varied colors, imported from Holland though Tulip is not grown there since climate is not favorable.

It was during our visit to Istanbul,Turkey few years back,that I knew Tulips originated from that country- not The Netherlands- which is the national flower to this day. In almost all the  wall hangings and painted porcelain tiles, sold on the pavements the beauty of this flower is very commonly displayed.It was from Turkey that Tulip was exported to The Netherlands by 1600, where it was an instant hit.

Having said about the beauty and popularity of this flower very few of us know that tulip- in fact bulb of the plant- is also related to the first 'economic bubble' the world has seen! The first economic crisis ever happened  in recorded history... forerunner to many crashes in stock market or real estate...now regarded widely as a recurrent feature of modern economic history.


                                                       Tulips
                                          
Booming economy in Amsterdam..
The Dutch East India company- first ever IPO- was formed in 1602.The intention was to trade  with Asian countries such as India,Indonesia and Far East where spices and other commodities of resale value were there.The Dutch traded with Kochi, my home town as early as in 1663 mainly for pepper.The company was very successful which led to a booming economy in Amsterdam and other cities in The Netherlands.The people who invested in the company shares made a fortune.They started looking for similar opportunities of making 'quick money'.

Tulips enters Amsterdam...
Tulip introduced to Amsterdam found an instant welcome by the rich in the society. The bright colored petals of the flower along with the fact that the plant can withstand harsh north European climate made it very popular among the people.Tulips which heralds the spring season, are the first flowers to blossom each year, some times while there is still snow on the ground.

Tulips contracted by a virus....start of a mania!
Around the year 1634, for unknown reasons Tulips were contracted by a virus in certain areas.It was non fatal to the plant but pattern of the flower altered.Instead of one color the virus inflicted plant produced stripes on the flowers!People liked the altered flowers better than original.More the stripes, the value of the flowers went up!!Soon the prices of these particular bulbs went up in the market!!!


                                                striped tulips

Tulip mania........few bulbs cost more than a house!!
Was it a natural obsession of people over striped tulips or an engineered one, it is never recorded in history.But people became almost mad over those bulbs which produced the striped tulips!Prices of the bulbs of the plants went up day by day.Finally it reached unbelievably high levels.In one month there was an increase of prices 20 times!!It is recorded in history that some bulbs of the plants cost more than that of a luxury house of that time!!A single bulb of the type Semper Augustus was sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman of that time!The Dutch Government tried to intervene and tried to outlaw the commerce practiced but failed.  



                                                    Semper Augustus, one of the most expensive sold.
                   
Between 1634-37, not only the rich the madness spread to almost  everyone in Amsterdam.People of all professions and trades- white collared and blue collared or without any collar- started growing the bulbs!

Finally the inevitable happened. Over supply lead to lower prices.The tulip market crashed!People who invested heavily lost their money.So also dealers for sure, who went bankrupt!By 1640 the mania was completely over.Since then, as we all know hundreds of economic bursts- large and small- might have happened all over the world.I am sure this will continue in one form or the other since greed for money among humans cannot be stopped.

Courtesy:google photos

Sunday, 1 October 2017

WHAT IF GANDHI WAS NOT KICKED OUT OF THE TRAIN?

Pietermaritzburg..a bit difficult to pronounce,at least for an Indian.This is the place in South Africa where Mahatma Gandhi was forced to change his style and outlook towards life he had thus far......It was at this place that he decided to fight racial discrimination, he and other Indians faced in day to day life in South Africa of those apartheid days....ultimately to take the leadership of India's freedom struggle.Fetching freedom of India, that too peacefully, was an epoch making milestone in the history of the world which reverberated through out second and third world! He instigated the movement of decolonization in the world.

In hindsight when I look back,everything followed one after the other spread through six decades after Gandhi getting thrown out of a train with bag and baggage at Pietermaritzburg railway station! I would say this is where he literally kick started his journey of turning himself from Mohandas to Mahatma.....What would have happened if Gandhi was not kicked out from the train by the ticket examiner?Would Gandhi still fight the racial apartheid he would have faced?Would India have got independence through him? Would the philosopher,leader and writer in him  have come out to influence millions world wide?The question is a hypothetical one.I am trying to find an answer here on this occasion of his 148th Birth anniversary, which falls tomorrow(2 Oct 2017).......



                                  Railway station at Petermaritzburg

A 'post independence Indian'
I am a 'post independence Indian'- a person who is born after 15 Aug 1947, the day India became independent from British rule. Obviously I was not  an ardent fan of Gandhi like any typical 'pre independence Indian' who had to live as a 'coolie' class citizen in own mother country.Even I was critical of Gandhi's certain policies in my teens.But my decades of life abroad and close interactions with hundreds of non Indians including British made me to understand Gandhi better.I can vividly visualize how difficult it would have been for him those days but how cleverly he could successfully negotiate for India's freedom.Sheer vision and determination.That is what made the difference.At peak of his fight against the British, he was ridiculed as 'half naked fakir' contemptuously by Winston Churchill. Even Nobel Foundation of Sweden did not honor Gandhi for obvious reasons, the most popular man of peace ever lived in this modern world!But surprisingly it did not matter at all.In the end he became  the 'Mahatma'-great soul- for the whole world, while his popularity increases as time goes by.Since then the Nobel Foundation comes out very often with apologetic explanations of 'how-we-missed- him' and may continue to do so, where as Winston Churchil is on the way to the dustbins of history 

Shy,timid...with three vows to keep...Gandhi off to England
Gandhi comes from an upper class Hindu family.In spite of that background, young Gandhi-Mohandas was his name- had an ordinary upbringing  and was an extremely ordinary student in studies.He was thrilled when he got a chance to go to England to become a barrister.His mother was a very religious person.She gave the nod to him only after he was forced to take three vows in front of a monk.Not to eat meat,not to indulge in sexual relationships(he was married already and had a son) and not to consume alcohol!!!But this did not stop him to be in western attire to join the ship at Bombay docks which took him to England.While in the ship he could hardly mix with fellow passengers being shy.As a strict vegetarian he did not take any chance with any unknown food available in the ship either.Being a sort of introvert he reserved himself to be in his cabin in the ship, eating mostly what ever brought from home!!

However after reaching England,Gandhi decided to look as an 'Englishman' keeping the three vows in tact he had with the monk.He brought well tailored fashionable suits and hats,took lessons in dancing, violin and in French.Everywhere either he failed or he did not like to continue .Few months later he decided not to ape English manners any more and decided himself to be a serious student.In June 1891 soon after he was admitted as a barrister he decided to return to India.Only major extra curricular activity he enjoyed during this period is that he became an active member of the local vegetarian society!While Gandhi was back in India as a lawyer also I do not think that he showed anything extra ordinary.He happily took up a contract to perform legal services of a wealthy Indian merchant in South Africa.

The fateful day.... 
Gandhi was travelling in the first class coach having a valid ticket.The train was running between Durban and Pretoria.A white man objected to his presence in the compartment and complained to the ticket examiner.Gandhi was asked to move into another ordinary bogie at the rear of the train meant for the non whites to travel.He refused.Gandhi was thrown out to the platform at Peitermaritzburg with bag and baggage.Richard Attenborough has well pictured the scenes in his film Gandhi(1982) which is given below for those who have not seen that.For those who have already seen it could be a nice repeat.




Gandhi was hurt and humiliated.It could have been a shocker having spent few years even in London.He moved to the retiring room waiting for the next train to come.It was at this time that his life changed.He was hurt mentally than physically which made him to think over the unexpected incident.He reviewed the situation all through the chilly night.Come what may,he decided to fight out racial discrimination faced by Indians in South Africa.This was  the start of his long journey which will be remembered even for centuries to come. The fateful day was 7 June 1893.

What if Gandhi had not been kicked out of the train?
Of course this is a hypothetical question.As absurd as asking what if apple did not fall on the head of Issac Newton.Having read about Gandhi reasonably well,I am of the opinion that he would have remained as a loyal servant of British India on his return from South Africa.I don't think that Indians would still be singing "God save the Queen " either now.Shall we thank the ticket examiner who threw him out of the train or even better, the white man who objected Gandhi's presence in the first class compartment?


Courtesy: Mr.Richard Attenborough's movie Gandhi.
                Google

Friday, 1 September 2017

BEYOND A2 + B2 = C2.......

 Each island in the archipelago of Greece is enchanting,picturesque and graceful in its own way.Only 3 out of 225 inhabited islands I have visited so far.But that experience has acted in me as an appetizer to visit more of these mesmerizing landscapes,given a chance.

Ancient Greece-main land and islands- has produced a lot of great people who have influenced the rest of the world right from Alexander the great and host of  great philosophers and scientists.Among these, one of the Greek islands named Samos has produced a great mathematician whose name is very very common even among school children anywhere in the world to this day - Pythagoras. His theorem A2 +B2 = C2 is universal and being applied in millions of contexts each day.But what most of us may not be aware is that he was more a philosopher than a mathematician during his time!  

Beautiful island of Samos has also produced few other world known personalities like Epicurus and Aesop.While Epicurus was a philosopher, Aesop, the ancient story teller who is popular to this day, was a slave who got freedom from his master.More about Pythagoras who said"Shortest words yes and no are those which require the most thought" about 2500 years !

If you get a good wife it is fine, if not......                                                                                   
I do not know about the authenticity of a hilarious saying credited to Socrates over which we all chuckle-men little more -" By all means marry.If you get a good wife,you will be happy.If you get a bad one,you will be a philosopher."I am sure that is not the reason why ancient Greece has produced hundreds of renowned philosophers.One of the earliest philosophers ever lived in Greece is none other than Pythagoras.That was in around 500 BC, before Socrates who lived about 100 years after him. 

No doubt that as we all know,three most famous Greek philosophers are Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.Interestingly all the three were Athenians-from Athens- and knew each other.But few knows that it was Thales along with Pythagoras who lived earlier to them who influenced to form Greek philosophy to take its western  form later as we know. Pythagoras who was a known scientist,musician and philosopher of his time became popular in the world later as a mathematician only.From his island of Samos in Greece he traveled to other few centers of knowledge accessible to him- to Italy, Egypt and Babylon.It is recorded that he interacted with a lot of learned people of his kind to produce his school of thought.


Pythagorean school of thought....
Pythagoras is believed to have been the first person to coin the word -philosopher in the world.It is based on the meaning 'lover of ideas'.Apart from Maths and Science, Pythagoras is believed to have started a sort of secret group or cult with their own beliefs or philosophy.They-both men and women- walked barefoot and had long hair.They were celibates,vegetarians(except eating beans which was a taboo for them!) and believed in reincarnation of life and religious mysticism.






Pythagorean cup..
I am not aware whether Pythagoras used to drink alcohol or not regularly.But his desire to design a cup for the purpose 2500 years back shows that he was aware of the regular problem of those who indulge in that- to keep oneself within the limits.Interestingly he scientifically designed a cup which forces the drinker to consume alcohol in moderation.A certain level is marked inside the cup.If the user of the cup fills alcohol maximum to that level he can enjoy the drink.If he happens to be a greedy drinker and pours more than the marked level, the cup will spill its entire contents through the bottom.I could not fathom the level of popularity of such a cup in his days but seems to be getting very popular world wide these days.Otherwise this cup might not have got listed even in online sites including Amazon or Flipcart! However it is high time that people in my own state of Kerala should take note of this!!

Courtesy;Google images.