Wednesday, 1 August 2018


Athens is not like London, Paris or Rome.It is unique in many ways to this day comparing to other European capitals or even other Mediterranean cities. At least that was the impression I got when we- Geetha and I- had a chance to visit the place.May be because it is the oldest living city in Europe and for that matter one of such places anywhere in the world.

Athens can boast of its many contributions which have made the ancient and modern world a better place to live.I think nobody can challenge that fact. We all know that it is the birthplace of recorded history, theater,philosophy and many aspects of Mathematics and Science.Nobody can forget the fact how Olympics originated and revamped in 1896, with its first and majestic Panathenaic stadium in marble which is kept at Athens to this day.But what I would give the best of all the contributions of Athens made to the rest of the world above all, is democracy! Demokratia in Greek from where the word democracy originated means peoples rule!

Athens has given birth to at least three great philosophers ever lived- Socrates,Plato and Aristotle.Here I think I have to note that Athens also gave a very infamous person-Draco.If one cant recognize this name of the person all of a sudden, I wont blame anyone because it is not him but what he made became so infamous.'Draconian' laws anywhere to this day is blamed after old Athenian lawmaker  Draco who lived 2600 years back!Few musings from Constitution Square,Athens...

                          Greek Parliament clicked through a glass door from the hotel room

The Grand Bretagne....
There is a central square in the city of Athens which is interestingly named as Constitution Square.This is also where the Greek Parliament is located.We had the chance to check into a pretty old but good hotel The Grand Bretagne, almost diagonally opposite to the Parliament building.If it was in other countries including India, we would not have got such a place to live so near to a Parliament building because of security reasons.Anyway we could enjoy the sight of the Parliament building in day and night  including the famous change of guards which happens every hour of the day and night.In the night the building looked more serene which forced me to take a click.The above photo was clicked in the middle of the night from our room through the glass door leading to the balcony,overlooking the Parliament!No doubt Athens is a very friendly location for tourists.From the roof top terrace coffee shop of the same hotel one can enjoy stunning view of Acropolis.

Back to democracy of ancient Athens...
I shall go back to 'democracy'.Many basic political terms commencing with the word politics itself originated from Greek language.Monarchy,Aristocracy,Oligarchy,tyranny and of course democracy...all have roots in Greek.

Draco was the first recorded legislator of Athens who lived in 7th century BC.He was requested by the aristocrat citizen of Athens-mostly rich and the privileged- to chalk out a written code of laws to be enforced replacing the prevailing oral laws.Draco did his job but was characterized by its harshness.He gave death penalty for most of the offences whether trivial and serious crimes.His name became synonymous with brutal,harsh,severe laws which lingers to this day as 'draconian' laws!  

Thanks to Solon and few others,in 5th century BC,in and around Athens, the first known democracy came to existence.It is definitely a wonder how the people of Athens thought of this great idea and implementing into a democratic form of Government when rest of the world was under mostly autocracy or in wilderness.It had few short comings such as women and slaves were not permitted in the voting.Instead only Athenians who owned landed property had the right to vote.But the great thought of democracy centuries back is what I admire about Athens... 

Democracy now in the world....and in India
It is said that if a nation conducts free and fair elections,it can be classified as a democratic nation.Of course different political parties with varied interests should be able to take part in the elections.While India is considered to be the largest democracy in the world with its teeming population of 1.3 billion, it is yet to top the list in quality- as per chart of democratic index.According to the same index Scandinavian countries like Norway,Iceland and Sweden are the most democratic ones as stands on date.They are reaching perfection in this matter with scores of 9.87,9.58 and 9.39.

India has a score of 7.23 against US 7.98,France 7.80,Greece 7.29 and Pakistan 4.26.It is understandable considering the large population of India consisting of different classes of people.But it is to the advantage of India that democracy has taken deep roots in the system while economically the country is getting richer year by year. India is one of the richest nations in the world while a lot of poor remain in the country.But I firmly believe that only  when this richness of the country  goes to people and reflect in their standards of living, only then the true democracy triumphs.It may take few more decades but sure to happen.

courtesy second photo-Hotel Bretagne

Sunday, 1 July 2018


Jeans was designed for the greasers-working class youth initially.There after it became sort of symbol of disobedience, largely used by youth in general.But since professional jeans were patented in 1871 by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss in US, jeans became one of the most popular and fashionable  dresses world wide, if not the most popular. It is a  unisex dress used by all classes and ages, as we all  know.I still love it at my age.One type of jeans is  fading jeans- guaranteed to fade or already faded!But I am sure hardly anyone knows that there are cotton- non denim- shirts which are guaranteed to fade!It is named 'Bleeding Madras'!!

Bleeding Madras, as the name indicates, come from India.Bleeding Madras was once the fashion craze in US-especially in the 1950s and 1960s in California and New York.They were marketed with a guarantee to bleed and fade!Like Jeans, Bleeding Madras was used initially by the poor working class of the Madras(Chennai) region of India.But the west took it to a different level in fashion- a status symbol of the wealthy!!

Textile history of India is as rich,vibrant and different as its own  history.Modern world is unaware of India's contributions of past though Indian textiles is one of the most preferred world over now. Most popular international brands like Wrangler,Marks and Spencer,Adidas,Puma,Timberland....the list will be very long.... all use Indian textiles.....


Calico to Dungaree Jeans...
Calico originated in Calicut(presently known as Kozhikode),South India as early as in 11th century.It was a thick cotton cloth woven by local spinners.But it was British traders who arrived in India in early 1600 s who identified the fabric as a commodity to be traded.The East India Company promptly took it to Europe named it as Calico.

Dongri is in Greater Mumbai now.Once it was a dock side village. People over there- largely improvised-used to make a special type of cotton cloth for them in the 17th century.It was cheap,coarse,thick which was known as 'dungri'.The English rulers of India then were interested and exported the same to England for making working clothes for the workers.During 1st world war the same clothing was used even for British Navy to withstand the wear and tear of the environments they were working while the name 'Dungri' clothing changed to 'Dungaree' to suit English phonetics.The British were clever to re export it to other parts of Europe and US. Soon it was a hit everywhere. Dongri villagers and Indians never knew the popularity of their own making!Even now, I bet.The Americans including Levi Strauss started using Dungaree for Jeans along with Denim from Genoa,Italy!

I am always amazed and amused by the different ways the British took advantage- exploited could be a better word- India while they were in control!Yet they managed to the appreciable level that they shook hands with Indians as friends before they left the country!!Even today the relationship is warm.I don't know whether the credit for this should go to the clever British or exceptionally tolerant Indian!!

Bell bottom days.....
I had my first bleeding Madras shirt in 1969, when I was doing my Engineering.I knew that it was then a fashion craze among the youth of city bred Indians like me but nothing more.Those were pre TV days.India was not opened up.Forget about international brands, any ready made garments were hardly found or used in the country regardless national brands of Raymond and Zodiac were there.Bell bottomed pants and big dog collared shirts were in the fashion for men but all stitched or custom made to size!To be honest I never knew at that time that Bleeding Madras- more popularly known as just Madras- was a fashion rage among the youth of US. Instead I was under the impression that it was an impact from some Bollywood stars. 

Bleeding Madras.......    
 Fabric of Madras in cotton was originally designed and made for the peasant class of Madras region in South India from 12th century.Multi colored dyes that were not colorfast were used, may be to avoid getting soiled fast.It resulted in bleeding and fading of colors that gave the fabric a new look each time.The color bled into the water during each wash and hence it is called Bleeding Madras.The exclusive color pattern of the fabric was so influenced by the tartan pattern of the Scottish Regiment stationed in that region in 1800s it is commented at times.However it became a hit in California and New York by 1960s, first and thereafter the rest of places          

It is told that American novelist SE Hinton portrayed Bleeding Madras as the dress of the rich in her famous novel 'The Outsiders'.The novel was later filmed in the same name which was a Hollywood hit.Anyway not only as the shirts but blouses,beach shorts,skirts and aprons came out in the new cotton patterns all over America including in Hollywood.Bleeding Madras originally intended for the poor working class in India caught on even the footwear of the men and women of US alike!!!

Though used by a lot of international brands,Indian textiles is yet to take central position of the world with own brands as in case of many other Indian products.Allen Solly,Louis Phillippe,Peter England,Raymond and Zodiac are all purely Indian brands.The deceptive names to sound western so selected shows the lack of confidence of Indian manufacturers to market their products even in 
India to this day..If Indians can manufacture and export to west one of the best single malt whiskies in an Indian name,this seems to be much lesser task!!

Friday, 1 June 2018


Recently, citizens of Cuba got a new President-Miguel Diaz Conel. Cuba is neither a rich country nor powerful, politically or militarily.Yet the world press gave a good coverage to this news.Miguel is the new face to steer the country after Castro brothers-Fidel and Raul who have been ruling Cuba since 1959. Fidel Castro headed the country till 2011 when he stepped down due to poor health.He died in 2016.

Cuba under Fidel Castro has been 'apple of my eye' for few nations while many others thought just the opposite.Fidel remained a hero for some- my own state Kerala included- but at the same time a villain or even tyrant for others!Strategically positioned very close,almost in the lap of US,Fidel Castro led an armed revolution which toppled the Govt of Batista in Cuba in 1959 which was against the interests of US.The event and the policies of the new Govt thereafter had many repercussions both in the national and international fronts about which we all know.

But what many of us may not know is that over Cuban affairs the whole world stood still for 13 days fearing break out of a nuke war.Worse,the Presidents of US and Russia(erstwhile USSR) kept their fingers on nuke buttons since there was no hot line then.Americans call it as 'Cuban missile crisis', Cubans calls it 'October crisis 1962' while former Soviet Union named it as 'Caribbean Crisis'...the word crisis was common among them....Read more to know about the pivotal and catchy role played by a football court in Cuba in the context, many of us are not aware of....

The event as I remember...
1962.I was in my early high school classes when the event took place. I don't remember anything other than that a third world war was in the offing.And the fight was between US and USSR(popularly known to us as America and Russia) over nuclear missiles placed in Cuba.I do also remember having read a lot about Kennedy, much less about Khrushchev and hardly anything about Castro in the newspapers!Those days India was more depending on news supplied by Reuters or Pravda than anywhere else.I had to read at least headlines and sub headlines of two newspapers delivered home everyday compulsorily.That was the rule at home.One was in English and the other in Malayalam.When I look back I think I have to thank my appa and amma (father and mother) for that.....

More or less at the same time, India was facing a major problem on her borders-Chinese aggression.This could be also a reason why I have been covering the newspapers those days.

The event as actually happened.......commencing with failed Bay of Pigs invasion
Birth of a communist regime headed by Fidel Castro in 1959 in Cuba, a tiny country within arms reach of US-about only 90 miles- was intolerable for them.To make matters worse the communists had toppled a  Govt which was very friendly towards US, if not a puppet one.

Under the direction,training and funding of US, a group of Cuban exiles in US made an abortive effort to overthrow the communist regime.For obvious reasons the misadventure was organised from Guatemala and Nicaragua through Bay of Pigs closer to Cuba.That was in April 1961.Castro himself personally lead the counter attack and finally won.But he knew that every time he cannot be the winner against the mighty US. That's when he looked out for a permanent solution from his advisers and supporters, the Soviets. 

Why the Soviets decided to place nuclear missiles in Cuba
The Soviets were very uncomfortable since US installed nuclear missiles in Turkey in 1959, a bordering country.In few minutes some of the cities in USSR could be decimated, that was the situation.When Cuba asked the Soviets for help for the very existence,Khrushchev thought it is a chance to kill both birds with one shot- to counter installation of nuclear missiles in Turkey and to deter further adventures of US on Cuba.And they also wanted to show the world those days that they care for ' newly born communist babies' under any circumstances.

USSR and Cuba jointly decided to have the nuclear missiles planted in Cuba but wanted to do such an installation discreetly.The Soviets launched a secret operation named 'Anadyr' for the purpose.And the first phase was successfully over but then...

They love baseball in Cuba than soccer....
As we all know the whole of South American countries love Football or soccer as Americans call it.But with an exception of Cuba.'Beisbol' as baseball is known in Cuba is the most popular and official sport of Cuba to this day.

On 14 October 1962, a US spy plane on its routine reconnaissance over Cuba noticed construction of a modern soccer(football) field.It gave a ring in somebody's brain because not only that soccer is not popular in Cuba but very popular among Russians.Going after such a clue before long the US could identify some of the missile sites already progressed by the Russians in Cuba.

On 22 October 1962,President Kennedy addressed the nation and rest of the world about the presence of the missiles in Cuba.He also conveyed his decision to enact a naval blockade around Cuba,demanded withdrawal of the missiles already installed  and announced deployment of US military force to stop further,  if need be.

24 October 1962....That was the day world expected a spark!
A naval quarantine set by the US unilaterally came to force on this day.Soviet warships bound for Cuba neared the line of US vessels enforcing the blockade.This was the day the whole world expected a military confrontation between US and USSR which could have instantly escalated to a nuclear world war.But the Soviet ships stopped few miles short of the firing range of US ships in the  blockade!!The world heaved a sigh of relief!!

The tense stand off between the super powers continued for few more days.Finally USSR agreed to remove the missiles installed in Cuba against the assurance of US that it will not invade Cuba.US also had to agree to the removal of missiles installed by them in Turkey against USSR.But US wanted this to be kept as a secret between the two nations. For reasons best known to Khrushchev, USSR agreed for that too.World press made Kennedy a hero out of this episode. Khrushchev who could come out equally with a win win situation had to face criticism from communist countries since the removal of US missiles kept in Turkey had to be kept as a secret as per negotiated terms with US!!Cleverness in negotiations always win!!


Tuesday, 1 May 2018


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


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


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 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


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


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......