Thursday, November 24, 2011

Look up, Look down

There is the perpetual battle between status and humility in our lives. To succeed in our careers, we need to be brutal at times. We are supposed to command respect and people should look up to us as a successful person. To be humble in a career today is akin to being a pushover. Times are moving fast and people cannot afford to stop and smell the roses for fear of being left behind in the rat race.

Then contrarian view is the purpose of why we are here in the first place. I mean, sure, we’ve done this, done that, made money, accumulated wealth, saved for the succeeding generations, age and finally die. The death part would have come anyway without even trying hard. So all that was done in between birth and death would be irrelevant if the purpose of existence has not been fulfilled.

People always say walk with your head held high. Supposedly, people who look up and walk are high on self esteem. They are independent, can take decisions and unafraid to face the world. They are proud of themselves and in short, what we term successful. This is the psychologists’ point of view after detailed analysis had been done on thousands of people studying their behavior.

People who walk looking down are deemed not confident. They are afraid to look anyone in the eye because they may have a complex about themselves. They are low on self esteem and just want to get to their destination without being noticed. Again, this was arrived at after a detailed study. Let’s agree that a trend analysis using theorems does bring out patterns and helps us profile people.

But what about the concern for our fellow creatures? How many insects and other creatures have we killed or harmed by walking over them because we refuse to look down? It could be unintentional but it happened anyway. Benevolence in life extends to all of God’s creations. It is always about doing the right thing, even if it seems wrong at the time. It is also about looking at Mother Earth as she supports every footstep you take. She holds you up and helps you along.

All habits we create are out of practice or upbringing. We can practice being proud and ultimately it becomes us. We can practice being humble to a point where it becomes us again. If life is only about succeeding in the material world, it is easy because we are all doing it to a level by striving for it.

But practicing humility is harder. Because you have to be aware of everything you do and ensure that you do not hurt anyone or anything. It also means understanding the egoistic side of you. It is hard because it needs patience during anger, during upheavals. It needs awareness of one’s emotions all the time. We quietly brush the virtue of humility to the side because it is easy or because we do not have to face ourselves.

So do you look up or look down when you walk? And is it for the right reason? Confusion in perpetuity.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Female Infanticide

11.11.11 is a hallmark day for womanhood in India. The high court in Punjab has given the death penalty to a father who killed his 3 day old girl baby. While many a citizen would be happy with this judgement, there is finally justice served for atleast one life.

How a parent can look into the eyes of his/her own flesh and blood, a 2.5 kilo squealing bundle of joy, only to kill her after that is beyond me. I mean, there are still human rights issues regarding abortions in the first trimester but the argument can be made that there is no foetus formed yet. But to steel the heart, look at the helpless, new born, trusting child and then snuff it out is possible only when premeditated and well into the cruelty domain.

Hopefully, this judgment should act as a strong deterrent for those planning the same act. But as the country is too large and many births go unregistered, more girls will be killed after birth without anyone’s knowledge. And many of these are done by the elderly ladies themselves. The very same gender that brought forth the family carries out the act or dumps babies in dustbins without dignity.

But nature always has her ways to maintain balance. Grooms in Punjab find it difficult to obtain local brides as there aren’t too many left. Over time, the law of demand and supply will prevail. Too many men and too few women will tip the favor on the side of the women who will get to choose their partners at will and hopefully reduce the burden of dowry. The law will have to get stricter to save the few existing women or else face the danger of a gene pool getting wiped out. But on the flip side, rapes and sexual harassment incidents will increase and more safety nets will be required for women.

A fact needs to be mentioned here. The British government examined the statistics of the abortions being done within the UK. They were surprised to find that the trends clearly shows the direct proportion of abortions on the rise once the Indian families found out the foetus was a female. There is no PNDT in the UK and the sex of the foetus is openly shared as they do not discriminate between the sexes. The native British did not abort on the basis of gender.  This adds to the complexity of bringing in a new law which cannot be applicable to only Indians living in the UK.

What can be done? In cities, the process of change is already underway with more girls getting educated than before. Treating either gender with equality will go a long way. Enforcement of dowry reduction will also help. Most importantly, the laws need to be enforced quickly. Its only when the government shows its seriousness that people start changing, atleast out of fear. Another change should be to empower women and bring them up as independent thinkers, to be unafraid of their decisions and stand by them as family when they need support.

That said, the judgment passed is hopefully the first step on the long road to eradicating female infanticide. I wonder what Durga Mata or the Virgin Mary has to say about this.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Olympus PEN EE2 in Cochin

If you’re interested in the camera’s history, read on. Otherwise, skip to the photos below. These are rescanned photos from hard copies taken in 1993.

My father bought this camera in 1977 when I was 3. He gave it to me when I was 10. It has served me well till now for 28 years and continues to generate outstanding photos albeit the good old analog way.

The PEN series was a breakthrough from Olympus. These were the first half frame cameras produced which became such a rage that they were copied later by all other manufacturers. A half frame camera utilizes only half the space on the film roll. As a result, a 36 frame roll will generate 72 snaps from these little devils. During their day, they were great value for money and their miniature size was a revolution as it fitted into anyone’s pocket.

Designed by Maitani Yoshihisa, the PEN was introduced in 1959 and was the smallest camera made then to utilize regular 35 mm film rolls. The name PEN was given as it was supposed to be as portable as a pen.

The PEN EE2 was made from 1968 to 1977 and was a real point and shoot with manual adjustable settings and had a 28mm f/3.5 lens. No batteries required. The EE series is easily recognizable by the selenium meter around the lens. The camera did not come with a built in flash but could still take photos in low light situations by adjusting the aperture settings.

This camera has traveled with me across India and the Gulf in some of the worst weather conditions from the 50+ degrees in the Rajasthan summers to the soggy humidity of Pondicherry and Kerala down to Kanyakumari. Below are a few precious photos taken in 1993 in Cochin giving me great memories to last this lifetime.

The scanner that was used to scan these hard copy photographs had an old lamp giving it the jaded retro look. The hard copies are otherwise very good.

Sunset at Kanyakumari – This was a heart warming photo that didn’t need any words. Standing at the tip of India, we could see the waters of the Arabian sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal all coming in from 3 sides and merging together at the tip. The sun was setting and this glorious once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was not to be missed. My roommate and I made a pact then that we would each bring our soulmates to this location again. He hasn’t kept his pact and I don’t think I will be able to either. So this photo goes out to the soulmates who can view this on their desktops.

Adirampalli Falls, Kerala

Malampuzha Park – This photo was taken from atop the dam


Suruli Falls – My roommate and I (tiny blobs) took a little while to get up there for the grand photo.

Cochin Harbour – A catamaran lazily drifts over the water. The fee to the island was Rs. 1 on a boat!

Malampuzha Dam and Park – Half an hour from Palghat, the picture captured a good scene. Cable cars, boat rides, clear water. This photo was taken from a rope bridge and for the life of me, I struggled to keep the camera steady and I was bobbing up and down. Behind me was the Malampuzha dam.

Sunset at Cochin – A clear sky and a warm breeze greeted us at Cochin. This photo was taken along the Marine Drive. I missed the sun but captured the streaks of orange.

Thekkadi, Kerala – I can’t believe how quiet the place was back then. I’ve heard is so commercial now that this photo is a forgotten reminder of how beautifully pristine the place was

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Why Cycle in India?

Because it’s the only form of cardio that does not mess with our daily routine. We have to go to work everyday. We have to transport ourselves. With petrol prices reaching the stratosphere and the government making its usual false claims that “The prices are the same here as everywhere else”, we all know that the salaries are not the same here as everywhere else to purchase precious fuel. And petrol prices in India as on today are the most expensive in the world.

Of course, there are other forms of cardio. Walking, swimming, tennis, squash, jogging, gym, treadmill etc. But all of these need you to take precious time out of your already stretched lives. And it becomes the least priority with the first thought being “I’m busy today. No time. Have a major delivery. Have to go to office quick. I’ll surely start tomorrow”.

To go to work, one has to step out of the house. And what better way to achieve this than the cycle?

So think about this:

  • A bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation invented by man. The humility with which it works in unison with our bodies to transport us is to be respected. It transmits power with negligible loss from our thigh muscles to the crank, then the chain and then the rear cartridge and finally the wheel. All other mechanical engines that run on organic fuels have significant losses along the combustion process in the form of heat, piston ring leakage, poor valve seals (wear and tear)
  • The fuel used in cycling is our burger, pizza, bajji and samosa laden calories which are put to good use for a change. This is the ONLY vehicle that makes us healthy in the process of transportation.
  • A bicycle is actually faster than other modes of transport in city traffic.
  • A bicycle strengthens us in the process instead of the opposite wear and tear in other mechanical engines.
  • Least of all, we’re doing mother Earth a favour. Less carbon di oxide, less air pollution, less weight on the roads. If you believe in Karma, you’re contributing here, even if it is miniscule
My office is 5 kms from home. Sounds small. And it is. I take a lengthier 10 km route to have fun and exercise. So I did an experiment. I walked, rode, biked and drove to the office to see how it would be. And following are the results:

Walk: It took me close to 40 minutes. Not much sweat. But a lot of time wasted. I could have jogged which would have made it in about 30 minutes but still a waste of time getting overly sweaty.

Cycling: It took around 15 minutes from door to door which was good.

Bike: Around 10 minutes from door to door. And spent about Rs. 12 worth fuel one way.

Car: Over 30 minutes. But oh boy! It was so comfortable. Air conditioning, music on, tapping on the wheel etc. And about Rs. 40 worth fuel one way through traffic and lights.

Looking at the above, the most value for money and the healthiest option is the good ol’ cycle. No nonsense and unstoppable.

A little update on our bodies now. As long as we’re below the age of 30, the body heals faster and recuperation happens. Above the age of 30, the body loses about half a pound of muscle each year and if they have not been exercised, then the loss is permanent. It is imperative that the heart and muscles are constantly exercised even if it is only 15 minutes a day of intensity.

Cycling is a stable and steady form of cardio which gently accelerates the BPM and promotes constant metabolism of fats and cholesterol. It is easy on the knees and for women, it is a fantastic way to delay arthritis post menopause.

Any form of cardio reduces the risk of lifestyle diseases by over 50%.

Just imagine for a minute, that a heart attack attacks a main bread winner at the age of 40. This is the age where there is a spouse, 2 children and ailing parents. The chart below will give a snapshot

Monthly status before heart attack
Monthly status for 2 months during and after heart attack
Groceries, Edibles, Rent
School Fees
Maid, Elec, Gas, Water, Utilities, Incidentals
Hospital Expenses



As you can see, the most dangerous aspect here is that the monthly income is reduced to zero (unless insurance is available) and the expenses go through the roof with the entire lifestyle thrown into jeopardy. Many a middle class family need to make permanent changes to their lifestyle if the bread winner succumbs to a debilitating disease.

Having good health is the first and foremost priority for anyone. When this is easily achieved by making one good change in our daily lifestyle then why not?

Yes, yes, the first thought will be “What will people think when they see me riding a cycle to work?”. Well, damn them. You’re not cycling to keep them happy. You’re cycling to keep yourself and your family happy. You’re doing this to keep fit and live a long healthy life without seeing the insides of a corporate hospital.

The advantages I am experiencing are:

  • My stamina has really improved. I am doing well with 6 hours of sleep.
  • I am able to run with children for a longer time as they’re upto it.
  • My blood cholesterol and lipids are well in control.
  • My heart is healthy. My lungs are taking deeper breaths.
  • My energy levels are fairly constant throughout the day.
  • I’m saving money on fuel.
  • I am NEVER stuck in a traffic jam. Haven’t been for 3 years now.
  • No bandhs, petrol strikes, etc affect me.
  • Vehicle maintenance requirement is at an all time low.
  • My neighbourhood kids have started calling me “bro” instead of “uncle”. This could interest you if you’re really age conscious. Me, I’d rather age gracefully.
  • My family is proud of me.
  • My BMI is at a perfect 21.9
  • I can break traffic rules and get away to some extent. I would NOT advise this though
  • I can run for a kilometer without panting. The BPM returns to normal in about 7 minutes.

Cycling helps release hormones called endorphins which release stress and make you feel good. It also releases adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. These together help the body feel happy, reduce the effects of pain and very importantly, recover from mild depression.

Cycling like any other cardio/athletic activity increases the sex drive as it promotes blood circulation to every nook and corner of the body. Skin sensation is heightened and the overall increase in stamina helps in the act. I write this here because there have been numerous studies done to see whether cycling causes impotence or injuries in men due to the possibility of injuries on the genital areas because of the hard seat. Such statements are unfounded till date.

Cycling helps people stop smoking. The endorphins which are naturally secreted by the body act against the impulse to pick up the tobacco stick. For those who give up smoking, cycling helps them increase their lung capacity and overall intake of oxygen.

So get out there, get a cycle if you have a sedentary work atmosphere and get that heart pumping. You’ll never go back, I promise.