Sunday, January 21, 2018

 

In Hit Refresh, Nadella scores runs all across the park

The title's like that coz he's an ardent cricket fan- apparently keeps a Kookaburra ball in his office which he toys around with during conference calls. With the addition of 'Hit refresh', I am quite proud of the business 'Biographies' rack of my book shelf, books I've read over the past year and a half.



First heard about the book when I read about SN doing a presser with Kumble as a book launch. So I picked it up during some time at Mumbai airport. Frankly, the book did not get off to a great start in my head, because the one book Testimonial on the book is by Bill Gates (I mean, no reviews such as this: "Nadella's story is remarkable, prose is captivating, and vision sees far - Financial Times' , or this: 'From Cricket to the Policy framework for the future, Hit Refresh is a whirlwind tour of the world today' - NYTimes. Such stuff you'd expect would grace a book by the CEO of the 3rd biggest market cap co of the world) Also, the first quarter has an overdose of how Microsoft is revolutionizing everything, which I thought was advert-like. However, now that I think of it, Microsoft is right up there with Apple, Google, Amazon in the league of tech heavy hitters, but I feel it gets much lesser mention in the press - atleast the press I see. So it's probably OK, that the book has an element of PR.

However, my opinion is well and truly changed. It's a great book in terms of the 'what' it talks about and the 'how' it does it. In terms of themes touched upon (the what)- right from an interesting story of his school days in Hyderabad, to his times - both professional and personal in the US, his life story is interesting to read. His story of transformation at Microsoft is an interesting blueprint for any large company which is treading water. He has given a good perspective of the key acquisitions of Microsoft over the past decade- LinkedIn (I had forgotten) and Minecraft (I did not even know about Minecraft) And lastly, his take on the world at large from the august chair he sits on (as CEO of one of the most global MNCs) is quite enlightening. And the way he does it (the how)- his literary references add a dash of color, and he calls into the living room an impressive array of experts to add credence to his conclusions. He has written out so many clean 'frameworks' to address big questions- it's almost like a slide deck we might use in a Strategy case at my current employer. He actually says MS loves making huge decks for every topic, and when I told a friend he reacted saying- 'Of course, it's the maker of Power Point we are talking about!' . Apart from the 'array of experts', also like all the material he has referenced- reading through all of that will be fun and a worthwile activity. For example, just a few minutes ago I chatted with MS' chatbot 'Zo' , and read about this Indian start up co. called Enlightiks which does health care analytics.

Aside: There's also this interesting QZ piece on how Silicon Valley's new wave of leaders are much more of 'listeners' than the more take-no-prisoners first wave.

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Here is a whirlwind tour of some of the frameworks in the book I alluded to in the previous para:

3 'missions' for MS outlined in his speech at his first MS Global summit as a CEO- 1) Reinvent productivity and business processes, 2) Build intelligent cloud platform, 3) Move people from needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows.

3 Principles of culture change at Microsoft: 1) Need to obsess about customers, 2) Actively seek diversity and inclusion, 3) One company and not a confederation of fiefdoms.

3 principles of leadership for anyone leading others: 1) Bring clarity to those who work with you, 2) Need to generate energy, 3) Find a way to delivery success and make things happen.

3 Cs framework from Steve Balmer for building a robust Org culture: 3 concentric rings: 1) Outer ring is Concepts, 2) Capabilities, 3) Culture

4 ways for companies to participate in Digital transformation : 1) Engage customer base by leveraging data, 2) Empower own employees by enabling mobile and collaboration/ digital world of work, 3) Optimize process and 4) transform Products and services . SN says 'every company is a digital company'. This also ties in to what Ram Charan said in his book Attacker's advantage- any company that is not a 'Math House' (a term he has coined) will go extinct over the coming few years.

Way a large companies could avoid being trapped by The Innovator's Dilemna: Look at investment strategy across three growth horizons: 1) Grow today's core business and tech, 2) Incubate new ideas and products for the future, and 3) Invest in long term breakthroughs.

3 breakthroughs that are accelerating AI from Sci-fi to reality: 1) Big data, 2) Computing power, and 3) Sophisticated algos.

3 layers of AI: Bottom layer is Patter recognition, Middle layer is perception, and highest level is cognition.

3 levels how AI will scale: 1) Bespoke (in the hands of those atop ivory towers), 2) Democratized (in the hands of everyone), 3) Learn to learn.

MS' approach to building AI, on the lines of Asimov's laws of robotics: 1) Build AI that augments human abilities and experiences, 2) Build trust into tech, 3) Inclusive and respectful to all.

Skills which kids today should prioritize:1) Empathy, 2) Education, 3) Creativity, and 4) Judgement and accountability.

Managing his time as a CEO: 25% each towards Employees, Customers, Products and Partners.

3 leanings from sports to business (from his days in the school Cricket team): 1) Compete vigorously in face of uncertainty and intimidation, 2) Importance of putting team first ahead of personal stats, and 3) Bolster the confidence of the people you are leading.  This really resonates with me because i really like the alternate world of trust which is built up in team sports, better than any other activity in the world. In fact, more than cricket, it's in games like football, where every individual contributes much more to the end product (than in cricket). All said and done, Cricket still is a highly individual game, based on my experience.


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He's also put some great quotes and literary references: 'Technology is nothing more than the collective soul of those who build it', from Tracy Kidder's 'The soul of a new machine'. SN later ties it to his grand framework of how AI should be built (not just the conception of ivory towers of Silicon Valley but also incorporating the sensibilities of say the bustling bazaars of Cairo). I loved how he referred to the 'metaverse' from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, since I've read it. FB is more and more becoming the 'metaverse', and now if you add a layer of Hololens or Oculus to FB, that's what the metaverse was, after all. Nietzsche- 'He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how'.  Goethe- 'He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own'

****

There's a good tour of the cool new stuff happening at MS and in the industry at large. MS: The Holo lens, and the story of the founder of it and his mission (to make machines that perceive the real world), a babel fish (from Hitchiker's guide!) - a real time language converter, Cortana, Zo, Minecraft.... While all of this is of course MS marketing, it's a good peek under the hood. Industry at large: reshoring of jobs due to robotics. The example he gives is Bicycle Corporation of America bringing back mfg from China to US- read here . Apparently the robotics aided manufacturing is getting 2x the productivity of offshore manufacturing, which probably offsets the cost benefits of low labor. I read somewhere that India's nascent gains in car manufacturing could also be curtailed due to this wave. On the optimistic side for India, he's talked about 'India Stack', a stack of tech building from Aadhaar which can enable transition to cashless and to more broader digitzation of Indian citizens.

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In terms of the 'way forward', he's talked about four landmark cases which have posed deep questions about the role of government in technology- Snowden's expose of vast governmental snooping, The government co ercing Apple to reveal data from the iPhone user behind the San bernandino attacks, North Korea's hacking of Sony as retaliation for the movie 'Interview' which satirized North Korea, and lastly the US govt's order to obtain files stored on a server in Ireland, despite Ireland being another country and thus the order violating sovereignty.

In the last section, he's also talked about how 'the bigger a company is, the more responsibility its leader has to think about the world, its citizens and their long term opportunities'. Yes, I think in this borderless corporate world, the CEOs of Microsoft, Apple and so on are as powerful and responsible as Presidents and Prime Ministers of big countries.

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He's talked in depth about events in his life and himself as a person, too. He talks about how the multi cultural background in Hyderabad Public School and the hostel shaped him. I also felt the multi cultural background at my undergrad hostel in Bombay was quite illuminating, for me. I feel that there can be much more appreciation in India for the diversity factor which we inherently possess as a country, and there can be much more cross learning from the vast cultural gaps there exist, between say a Kannadiga and Delhi ite- the unfortunate spat bw Kumble and Kohli is an example, and is covered in R Guha's article here. Kumble's tenacity and background in sports analytics (a company he formed) combined with Kohli's aggression and visceral desire to win could have helped India really become a world champion team and prevent the debacle in South Africa we are witnessing. In India, we need to appreciate diversity instead of mocking it, as I feel is the norm. Nadella's paras about life in HPS hostel offer a good example on those lines.

His descriptions of cricket are fun, including how he was in awe of Jaisimha's on-field presence- his fashionable upturned collar and distinctive gait. I remember having a discussion with VB when he said Azhar left a similar impression on him; VB- Jaisimha is probably the inspiration for Azhar! Actually, Hyderabad seems to have declined as a cricket powerhouse. Anyway, Badminton and Olympic medals have replaced it, which I feel is totally fine. By the way, he's creating a full size cricket stadium in the Microsoft campus, which is good for the game. Cricket needs to be an Olympic sport.

He's given an account of his love story, which is heart warming. He later talks about the travails of having a kid with severe disabilities, and how that experience has shaped him to be much more empathetic to people with different needs.

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Summing up, some of the points of resonance for me:
Business leadership
Technology
Cricket
Literature (references to Snowcrash and Netherlands, books I've read!)
Technology meets human meets government
Diversity in India
Sci fi/AI
A few small things, like his life in Mussoorie in the company of Nanda Devi- a month ago I too shared the company of Nanda Devi!

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

 

A post post the Post

Spotlight (a fab movie on a similar journalistic scoop) and the Post will always be spoken of in the same breath, I suppose. In terms of cinematography, the Post is a more melodramatic, 'Spielbergized' version of Spotlight- more star power (Hanks + Streep is a 1-2 sucker punch), more dramatic camera angles -camera switching often between two scenes- and more music. One of those "two scenes" is classic Spielberg- camera doing different angles and positions of the 'boiler room' of the newspapers- show first the type-setting, then the printing presses, and pan to all the other large machines. Frankly, I felt the boiler room shots were overdone a tad. Spotlight, for example, had none of this. The 'human interest' angle was much more in this movie, definitely- the story of Meryl Streep family, for example. Sounds like me dissing human interest angles, and a vague inner voice criticizes me for doing that.

The Documentary to Human Melodrama scale below. BBC Planet Earth's 'Life in the Air' is excellent- a documentary on quirky birds. I added 'Human' before melodrama because 'Life in the air' does have melodrama, but not human- only of the avian kind.  
   

The Post saw the Supreme Court in its 6-3 ruling, and a united Media (NY Times+Washington Post), come together as one - involved in a show of strength for the 'check and balance' side, in the democracy. Good job, yo, media and jury. 

In the US consciousness, this movie probably comes at a good time- the zeitgeist of the press bashing from Trump and the Metoo movement being represented in the movie by the attitude of Nixon towards the press (his sentences on the white house silhouette shots mirror those from a certain famous twitter handle), and Meryl Streep's rise.

It was also interesting for me that the lawyer team of two in the movie stars two actors who I recognize from some of my infrequent dalliances with Sitcoms- Jared from Silicon Valley and Robert Daley from 4*1 Black Mirror 'USS Callister.

Oh and this was the first movie I've gone to a theater watched alone. But, in my social self's defence, the theater was 750 m away from my house and I booked it just an hour in advance, and I did reach out to a large-ish whatsapp group.

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

 

Deoriatal lake and Chandrashila summit (4,000 m) - a walk to remember

I went with India Hikes this month on the Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek, and I dive right into the stories. There's so much to say, that I think this post will get constant small additions going forward, and there can be a long edit history at the bottom, like a wikipedia page!

S and son- Remarkable story of father carrying 4 Yr old kid through the trek. And there I was using cheat codes to play the game- I “offloaded” my backpack on to a mule for the longest day – the 14km. However, quite a few others did it, and in hindsight was a good decision- allowed me to enjoy the long walk, the last part of which was through inches of snow. Deliberations with D helped, and in the end P too was happy to have offloaded. How to win next time without cheat codes- don't need the two extra layers I had taken, and do core exercises at a friendly neighborhood gym.   

Uttarakhand is the "abode of gods"- godliness is bound to happen because it's slightly cut off from the lowlands and because of its natural splendor. The majestic Trishul peak, the river confluences “prayags” and the pristine and powerful Ganga. Mythology abounds- for example giving “Roop” kund lake its name (Parvati saw her Roop there, using the lake as mirror). And Deoriatal, our campsite? That’s the lake where Yaksha asked Pandavas his questions which knocked out all but Yudhisthir. The fount of Hinduism, is Uttarakhand.

Mighty Ganga and mountains overlooking religious practice - evening Aarti


Got to see who's who of mountains, from the Chandrashila summit. Nanda devi (7,800 m), Hardeol (7,100 m), Chaukhamba (7,100 m), Trisul (7,100m)- more here.  The view from the summit- quite a stunning panaroma. On one side is NandaDevi and friends, and on the other side is Chaukhamba and friends. You could really look through the binoculars forever and ever at the mighty Chaukhamba and Trishul and Nanda Devi. Trisul was majestic- it is shaped like a giant seat and has a vast expanse. Nanda Devi, in fact, despite being the highest of India, is dominated by the Trisul. Trisul has a vast horizontal expanse while Nanda Devi just sticks out sneakily behind it. Kedar dome is spectacular too- literally a dome shaped mountain. All these mountains look pleasing in different ways - morning white rays, evening pink rays, and under the bright mid day sun. It's all another world, really. What if all these mountains came to life, like the Ents did in the great war? 

View from Chandrashila  (Trishul, Nanda Devi, Dronagiri, Hardeol) (somebody referred to it as brother of Sunny Deol. Yeah but Sunny Deol's probably stronger)


The mighty Trisul from Chopta view point

The mighty Chukhamba from Deoria tal view point- trek leader Y brews his own wine, so we suggested he name his wine "Chaukhamba". Other options- he can mix four drinks for it (Chau) and sell it in a bottle (Khamba). Further, the ice for the drink will literally be "on the rocks" (joke credits to H and P); to Chaukhamba's right is Mandani 

To the left of Mandani- Kedar Top, Kedar dome and Gangotri (Ganges' source)


The forest walk was enjoyable- the longest day was largely through 14 km of forest territory. Birds were largely elusive firstly because it was cold so they may be hibernating and secondly due to my bright blue down jacket which is exceedingly photogenic but must be quite a red flag for birds. We missed seeing the Monal (this region is a Monal spotting zone) which is a peacock like beauty (also the state bird of U-Khand). There's the tradeoff between Snow and Flora fauna. When it's really cold in the winter, there's all the beautiful snow around, but that comes with dry trees (More colors in other seasons: Rhododendron red-pink-orange in March-April, Maple red-Orange-yellow in September) and lesser number of birds.  I however did catch the Himalayan Magpie (large, social and pretty), soaring Himlayan Griffon vultures and a Brown and Black UFO.

Himalayan Magpie on my phone camera


People were interesting. Group was diverse and as the trek leader said, almost representative of India coz there were people from South, North, East and West. It was nice to have in the group an ex Mngmt Consult person P - similar work-life experience to talk about- on the long walk back from the summit, had a long fun chat about life and times at work during which I made my work strategies for 2018. P (II) really pushed for Rishikesh and it was thanks mainly to her initiative that the three of us (including A) ended up doing rafting after the trek. M was a hit with the fauna and ended up getting up close and personal with a Marten. H brought dry fruits in zip lock packs for the entire party- hats off for this initiative. While I pelted D with multiple small snowball hits, he scored a massive smack on my face. I suppose if it were a boxing match, I was notching up the points steadily but he delivered the knock out blow so my points did not count in the end. As sis put it, I got a "white eye" from this particular boxing match (below). Mafia, Fuzzy Duck, Contact, "Pass the numerical message via fingers" game, the "name volleyball" games were good fun. Though that evening I was a bit dazed after 3 kms of super heavy lifting of the backpack. 

White eye after the knock out blow administered by D


There were 2 camp sites were we spent our three nights- one by the Deoriatal lake and the other beside specks of snow at Chopta, close to the "market" which was the entry to the path that led to the Tungnath temple. But we spent close to one hour per day just changing- adding and subtracting layers. Sleeping bags and the fleece layers that were provided were really warm, during sleep time. All those mighty layers, therefore, are required only in the night at the camp- because you typically set off nice and early in the morning, which means you get warmed up, and during the wee, cold hours you are snug inside the sleeping bags with your warm tentmates closeby. At night, we had fun with deliberately loud cross talk and leg-pulling across tents. The most memorable moment was when we loudly let out wolf howls and dog yelps and all kinds of noises in the anonymity of the night, led by leader of the pack A. It felt like such a release! Our tent was AAA Company, on one side was Hello Brother Company, and on the other side was Bong Company. Hello Brother company joined in our animal cries. Other fun camp routines were- 1) the constant post-dinner bugging of local guides N and A in the warmth of the kitchen tent to give us some mythical/horror stories about the places we were visiting (they always obliged- eg: Roni Bugyal named after the lost shepherd girl whose Rona (crying) was heard for years, the legend of Roop Kund (see last para)), 2) The constant jokes about successes and failures in "doing your business" in the freezing cold (The Coldplay song Fix You with the lyrics "When you try your best and you don't succeed..." is representative of many people's troubles. Oh and Coldplay was also invoked at night in another context- Starry night described by "There's a sky, there's a sky, full of stars". Even Yellow, with "look at the stars, look how they shine for you" is apt. Also, the band itself, "Cold"play- was very apt. I mean, they had a number called "Shiver", too!)

AAA Company- Squadron leader of Wolf Pack is rightmost (Squadron leader has undergone Paramilitary training), with Subedar A1 and A2

Base camp Chopta, with Blue being dining tent and White being kitchen tent. In the background looms our constant companion, Chaukhamba


Got a lot of induction into other high altitude Himalayan treks from veterans (S and S who summited the previous day itself - no rest day which we mere mortals had! (S slipped away to the Kuari pass trek from here), M, N, S- among whom Kedarkantha, Brahmatal and Har Ki Dun were covered, and trek leader Y), and have built up a good data bank. Some of these mountains have so many stories and people know so many of them that there can be a legit round of "Himalayan treks" at the Bournvita Quiz contest, at the above people can team up. Top on the next list are: Sandakhpu in March due to rhododendrons and birdwatching due to meadow walks; Har ki dun due to long, quite meadow walks; Kashmir Great Lakes because, well, it's the best trek eva. Got hold of S's Google album which has snapshots of his gazillion treks, so that and IH website serve as a good guide.

The entire wolfpack, at Chopta base camp


Further reading, and watching: Meru, the movie, which CK suggested as a must-watch. It ain't no Everest, but it was summitted only very recently, and the movie's on that.  There's the story about the lost nuke on Nanda Devi- a spy story from the cold war times- to be read here  . Also, can rewatch and relisten to the wonderful Rammstein rock ballad "Ohne Dich" - set in high altitude trekker context. And the "Roopkund mystery solved" here.   

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Monday, December 18, 2017

 

After an AR Rahman concert, musings on the music and beyond

I went to an AR Rahman concert at Brabourne. 

Music good; some new numbers unrecognized

I recognized most of the old numbers; but of the recent ones (Highway, for example) I did not know. My favorite ones from the night (and in general) were; Swades,  Urvashi.  There was a bass guitarist girl who was good- was it Mohini Dey? Need to figure out more (This post is to be updated). I feel concert energy levels wise, Shankar Ehsaan Loy take the cake. However, it depends so much on the mood you are in, of course (mine today: phlegmatic). Further, see below:

Not exactly within touching distance of the maestro

Sound quality was a bit muffled because we'd scrimped on ticket costs (1,500 per head) and bought far off seats- 20th row from the ground level, at Brabourne stadium (if you've ever been there). In terms of watching a cricket match, it was close enough-  pitch was close- but AR Rahman was near the sightscreen area, and I was at deep point (20 rows behind). CSS  had an interesting point when she said that she'd decided that she'll go for concerts only if she buys the real pricey tickets where you can get up close and personal with the artist, else she prefers MP3s at  home. Maybe it goes hand in hand with the life philosophy of do a few things well vs. do a bunch of things ok-ish.

Another maestro is summoned; slightly ridiculous stage props; and cricket

Often, when there was a gap, people started shouting "Sacheen, Sacheeen", which was amusing. The sight of one maestro reminded the crowd of the other? Not really, I think cricket ground and shouts of Sachin go hand in hand. Some of the stage props I thought were  bit ridiculous, like a girl dancing inside a bubble. It was like Filmafare awards meets India's got talent.  Oh, and they had respectfully cordoned off the pitch and nearby areas. I was imagining a bunch of flippant lads actually playing cricket while the concert was on, completely oblivious of their surroundings. They would have restricted ARR's motion on stage- movement near the sightscreen!

India's got few music-alone stars- most are Bollywood

In India, there are few mainstream music "stars" who have made it big without Bollywood. AR Rahman, SEL, Lata Mangeshkar - all are movie driven. I'm keeping classical music aside. The western music scene is just replete with singing mega stars, across genres, who have no connection whatsoever to Hollywood. I wonder, will this change? Hope some of the more music attuned folk will reply below. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

 

Weighty matters at work- a 1 kg dumbell

If Satya Nadella can fondle a Kookaburra cricket ball at work during his conference calls, I need a sporty accessory too -I got this friendly looking 1 kg dumb bell as a companion at work and home.



Further, I will have to take it in to work. Now Himalayas (Deoriatal) beckons in two weeks, and lugging this boy around for the next two weeks in my Samsonite backpack will be good practice for my back.

On Saturdays, it will help my upper body get some action during the Carter road runs- leg muscles do so much work while arms are flailing along uselessly during all those 5Ks. Shoulders, tricpes and biceps were crying for some action- and I have given them this gift. With the cellphone strapped to my arm and this red fella at my hand, I will be the coolest cat running Carter road.

They should just give a 1 kg dumb bell today to all "knowledge workers" to keep at their table. Part of induction kid. All the upper body exercise we get is our fingers- going pat-pat-patter on the keyboard. This one's way better than a stress ball.

Think your cubicle is a cage? Well, get CAGEY at work, then.






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Saturday, October 21, 2017

 

1100 AD Hoy!Sala times, Karnataka farming, VR-self drive

Belur Halebidu- Getting there, and what lies therein

We set out on a road trip to Belur Halebidu - 240 kms west of Bangalore- on a road trip. Weather was co operative, but the innards of the car were not. A wheel alignment issue arose 100 km into the journey- While we bore westward towards Hassan district, the car if left to its own would have gone to Mysore, which is south of Bangalore. In other words, the steering wheel was tilting leftward. Now this gave the car an unnerving wobble- causing us to limit ourself to 60 km. The road was the best highway I have driven on*, but unfortunately we had to live life in the slow lane, and thus I could not play "Life in the fast lane" by The Eagles on the car stereo.

Belur and Halebidu, Hoysala temples, have been recently crowned UNESCO world heritage sites. They were Capitals of the Hoysala kingdom. Interesting apocryphal story- Boy named Sala studying with guru and classmates, Attack by marauding tiger, Guru shrieks "Hoy" which means "strike", Sala bravely strikes and kills the tiger with sword, and grows up and forms the Hoysala kingdom, which takes his nickname. They should name companies this way, today, after some apocryphal story of the founder. Anyway Hoy!Sala has a millennial seeming exclamation mark in the middle of name, also, like a social network handle or something.

The empire flourished between 10th and 14th century, spread across entire Karnataka, and segued into the Vijayanagara Empire.

                                                               Hoy! Sala, go get that tiger 


Marvellous sculpture work 

Marvelous sculpture work on display at both sites. The sculptors seem to have wielded the stone like clay. Below is probably the piece de resistance.

Probably the most iconic sculpture in B-H: woman admiring herself in mirror

Apart from the god-related sculptures, which is probably common temple fare (leaving quality aside), interesting thing was that there was a lot of work depicting life of the plebs- a hunter, a trader with his weighing scales, women with 600 hair styles in various sculptures across the Belur (gender sterotypes here, but its 1000 years ago so please excuse brave young Hoy!Sala and his descendants).

From top left: a) Two hunters- one pleased prolly after successful hunt, second a bit pensive, b) a scene from general life- teenager falls in love with a donkey because a teenager can fall in love with anything (apparently), and lastly that's me subtly appreciating the quality of art


Below are walls lined with seven rows of sculptures - bottom most is elephants for strength, second is lions for bravery, fourth is horses for speed, (strength + bravery + speed = Hoy!Sala).  Third and fiftth are general artist swag in the form of curly patterns. Sixth is scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata, seventh is general war scenes, eight is swans, and so on. Top most row is the life of common man, in the Hoy!Sala times. On the right, is further general life- pleb woman drying her hair (not royalty, not divine or anything- just a lay person).

Nice wallpaper- do you want at your home? the gaps in the wall above look Taj Mahal ; General pleb girl drying hair (she has one of the 600 hairstyles on display in the temple)


The pillars are also a highlight, too. Much elaborate work. See below.

                                                                      Whattapilla!

In trying to compare Cambodia (Siem Reap) with Belur-Halebidu - I think while scale is awe inspiring in Cambodia (the massive three face sculptures in Bayon, and the spires of Angkor Wat seen from miles away), here the elaborateness of the work is higher. Macro vs. micro. 

Farmative experience 

We drove (at our enforced gentle pace ) through roads on either side of which lay the verdant farmlands of Hassan district. We saw lots of crops, all identified by agri expert D, and we covered all parts of a basic meal- rotis made of Maize and ragi, Arar ki daal, and Ladies finger curry. We also later inspected Ginger and Chillies, to add a dash of spice. Hope to cement these learnings and thus have more fruitful road trips in the future, by gazing intelligently at the crops. Also, Interstellar connect below- Okra and Maize are the last crops to survive on earth. I don't know when the blight is coming, but these pictures with Ragi and Arar ki daal could get famous later. 

Anti clockwise from top: Ragi on my left and maize on my right for rotis, Maize with corn cob zoom in, Ladies finger curry, Arar ki daal - 100 Rs for the meal- anyone wants?


Self drive and VR section 

Since there has been a throwback to 12th century architecture and to farming, both ancient vocations, this para is to set right the balance of the ages in this post. Further, allows me to put Self drive and VR in the title, as a classic click bait or reader bait for insecure readers (such as me on many days) who want corporate/megatrends gyaan in everything they read.

During the highway drive (my first highway drive in 10 months)- I really felt the need for self drive. Driving on highways is fairly mechanical- no gear changing, limited direction changing- just gotto drone on and on at a constant speed with limited need for manual interventions. And the roads are smooth. In India, while there is chaos is the city, self drive can probably first take off on the highways.

And VR. Well, now that I've visited B-H, I really want to re visit some parts of it - the wall near the Southern gate of the main Halebidu temple, with the seven rows. I am especially interested in the pleb life. But it's 250 km away! I want it in my VR goggles. VR goggles could also have a guide, built in. India tourism could take it up big time- especially maybe as a bait for foreign tourists since we want to ratchet up that number anyway. I'll probably tweet it to them just now.

KA tourism FTW

I saw in a recent TV news panel discussion (starring Rajdeep S and some tourism heavy hitters), that to really get tourism to take off, GoI should focus on two states and make it "model" and really successful, so that others can follow. They had actually suggested KA as one of the two model states. KA has size, history, mountains (albeit no snow), beaches (Gokarna's Kudle beach is as good if not better than any Goa beach, I say basis experience when I went there with NP and DG), big cities (Blr) and town steeped in history (Mysore), and good weather. Therefore, I quite buy that logic on KA. 


Appendix
*probable reason (credits to D): limited heavy vehicle traffic

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

 

Two trek mind- Gorakhgad and Irshalgad

I completed two treks over two weeks, about which I’m quite pleased. Some thoughts for your kind consumption below.

This para not just for reading pleasure- 1. An Optimal template for a Western Ghats trek; 2. Small Steps adventures

After being on two treks in sweltering heat (Kudremukh (Ktaka) with NP and SS, and Gorakhgad, with G, N and S), I went on Irshalgadh on a night trek template- get to the base camp after a night trek, thus avoiding the sun; sleep in at night; and get going to the peak early morning, thus again avoiding the sun. And keep in mind that apart from the monsoons, it’s very hot in the Western Ghats. Also, on both occasions, I went with Small Steps adventures- the trek leaders were fun and it was well organized- so check ‘em out. In fact, TL K was also on the second trek, so it was quite fun reconnecting.

Weekend 1: Perilously exciting Gorkhgadh in blistering heat

The first of the two was Gorakhgad. This is an hour’s ride in a big auto rickshaw from Kalyan railway station. After customary facebook and whatsapp group splashes, I found three unsuspecting victims G, S and N- two first time trekkers and one second time trekker, and because the description read “Easy – medium”, I assured them that this would be the start of great trekking career- a career that would take them to great heights. Well, it turned out to be “Medium-difficult” (in the 5 point scale for treks which seems the norm), while the weather was “Difficult” on that same scale. Sweltering and humid. We started off on the climb only at 9 30 AM odd, so that compounded matters. And unfortunately, the poor weather is the overwhelming, uppermost memory of the trek. The next “uppermost” memory is also uppermost in terms of altitude, on the trek- the experience of getting to the peak of Gorakhgadh. You get to a point- The caves- where you can either chill out (the caves are quite cool) or you can choose to fight the next battle- rock climbing to the top. People pondered over it, and after some backed out, the brave/foolhardy (latter is more right) including me decided to undertake it. 

Decision point: is the steep near vertical climb worth the risk?


Kind souls have cut grooves on the fairly vertical rocks, into which you you maneuver your fingers and boot, and use that first to clamber up and then down. That is, you can feel groovy. 

Groovy trek



This went on for about 20-30 meters. Fairly perilous, but quite exciting. And on getting to the top, people did feel a sense of release, which they expressed in the form of an energized photo shoot. It’s such a thing isn’t it, the photo shoot at the top of a trek. (Digression: Like how they have beach photo shoot etc, for pageants, they should have trek top photo shoots. Also, only the models making the top qualify- thus making it an interesting and “real” fitness test- instead of gym-shaped “unreal” physique based fitness).  Photo shoot involved everyone jumping et al, but I can't find em so all I can find is this egotistic picture of me alone: 

Mortal Kombat with invisible foe


The climb down was sapping as hell, but just as sapping the climb down was, enervating the food was. It was Bhakri (rice rotis) and traditional Marathi fare – by itself quite tasty, made sumptuous by our sapped state.  

G’s very fair point- he imagined a trek to be much more of stand and look around and admire the view, rather than just a non-stop arduous climb. It’s probably a balance that has to be struck- hard work vs. sit-back-and-relax. Can’t do too less or too much of the other. See picture below.

What makes a good trek


Weekend 2: The one that did not happen- Kaas plateau

Few of us from weekend 1 started doubling down on a drive to Kaas plateau – the deccan plateau’s own valley of flowers, to rival the more famous cousin up north. However, a landslide on Tuesday, spotting adroitly by one of the conspirators, forced us to abandon this plan.

Weekend 3: Friendly Irshalgadh under overcast skies (which snuffed out the “star power” of the trek)

The trek starts from Thakurwadi village, which is an hour’s ride from Panvel station. We set off at around 7 PM, and got to Irshalwadi (base camp) at 8 30 PM after a torch light guided hike. (Digression humor- if Wadi means small town, then there’s this town itself called ‘Wadi’. As it grows and turns into a city, they’ll have to rename it. But why is there a town called Wadi; it’s like a city called City or town called Town)
Night trek with Panvel city lights in the background


I learnt that the village of Irshalwadi (around 40 households), which overlooks the vast twinkling landscape of Panvel city, itself does not have power. Apparently, the “powers that be” assured them the power is on its way after Diwali (a week away) but the homeowner is skeptical. Dinner was at the hut; while the fare was decent (chapatti, bhaaji, rice, daal), it wasn’t a plate-polisher like Gorakhgad.

Once we set up camp, I was really keen on seeing (Skyscanner app) and capturing some Galaxies on my all new Galaxy S7 phone. However, the evening downpour meant that clouds overran the sky and the poor stars were left unwitnessed. I was the only star my trek mates were able to see that night (note that Ashwin is the name of a star in ancient India naming scheme). However, there was a bonfire, and the accompanying banter - everyone recounted embarrassing stories. Some common themes were excess inebriation and tight trousers tearing on the way to work.

Also re-picked up some basic Marathi – Paus, Ghasargundi - a blast from the past from the old primary school Aurangabad days. I was the only non Marathi speaker on the trek, and though trek leader O, a jolly and loud chap, helpfully kept exhorting people to switch to Hindi, there was some Marathi doing the rounds. No complaints, really.  

Next morning was the hike to the top. Weather was great and I enjoyed doing some Leptopodotrism and also spotting one UFO (probably a hawk). There was of course the customary photo session at the top. While we were hiking down, it started getting really hot at 9 30 odd- I could experience waves of heat hit me.  I could see the fear in the eyes of the poor folk who were jut clambering up, and I could hear the envy in their voices, when they said- “oh, you did this as a night trek?”. Overall, it was much easier than Gorakhgad (excluding the weather factor), and thus I term it “friendly”.

Gotto do random pose at the top: Meditation on rock (pun intended)


Hat doff to employer for enabling connect with new people I meet

Little hat doff to my current and past employers here (more the current), for enabling me to connect with folks from different walks of life:

Weekend 1 FMCG: Was sharing the backseat of the big auto rickshaw with 2 folks from Nielsen and 1 from a FMCG firm. FMCG lady mentioned that my kind employer was working at their place, and she also mentioned that she used Nielsen data all the time, at which the Nielsen folks perked up. So it was an interesting connection. I also remember Nielsen from old Equity research days- their retail store data is the bible for companies and for analysts.

Weekend 2 Quadraple whammy- Wham 1: one of the trek leaders was a Steel sales manager, who mentioned by the bonfire that JSW’s plant in Vijayanagar is fascinating looking (I should have probed more). I had some context due to my own Steel company project days, Wham 2: The hut owner talked about elusive “electrons”, despite laid “poles and wires”- something I know from the rural electrification project, Wham 3: An equity research analyst whose firm does not do PMS and Brokerage, but only sells research for a fee- connect from old equity research days and from current project with a brokerage firm.  Wham 4: A mason contractor from Panvel; I thought how cement companies must be vying for his attention, key influencer that he is- something based on a past project in the cement industry.

Addenda

1. Sir RSP (Honored by "Sir" in this post for his astute observation and contribution to the Trekking Experience Curve) has proposed a modification, as below. He has introduced terms such as GPG limit and MEETICCIATWEM which are valuable for a deeper understanding of the problem at hand. I salute him for his valuable inputs. My response to it is below.

RSP's modification to the curve


However, the curve RSP has drawn will vary from person to person, because the GPG limit is defined for every person. However, the original curve is valid for all people- different treks lie at different points in the "Optimal experience window" (For example, Mt Everest has a high x,y co ordinate and random neighboring hillock has a low x,y co ordinate), and a person picks based on his or her GPG point. Therefore, the original curve is true in general, and RSP's curve is true for an individual.

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