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- As I have argued in past, in addition to the current network, India needs a parallel high speed railroad network connecting major hubs and based on completely new technology. This will help take the load off the current network from long distance point-to-point services. It will also make traffic between long distances faster and hence, the journey, more bearable.
- Modernization: Railways need modernization in almost everything, from signaling systems to tracks (read: train speeds) to toilets. Where will the money for this come from? Let's face that fares are going to rise, whether due to modernization or due to hidden costs of not modernizing; for example cost of accidents or the cost of spare part inventories, or increasing cost of cleaning staff employed by Railways. It is a choice of what route to take in using the revenue that comes from fares.
- Privatization: Already large set of services in railways is actually in private hands. Catering for example is in hands of IRCTC which in turn hands over contracts to private contractors. Then why not explore the option of privatizing some trains altogether? Just like the government dis-invests its stake in certain public sector units, why can't the railway dis-invest certain trains, like the premium ones - Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi? This can bring in some disinvestment money to railways which can be used in modernization and also help bring some world class amenities to Indian trains such as on board WiFi, working lounges, premium dining cars etc.
- That thought brings me to my last point - Indian Railways needs to get into premium services which will not only add pleasure and comfort to rail travel, but help railways make more money which can be used to fund the deficit from running subsidized services. Such premium services can range from adding an AC coach to local trains to adding a dedicated dining and working lounges to long distance trains or simply adding a slick Coffee Shop to select coaches in intercity trains.
India entered its second phase of development post 1991 - however Indian Railways has not evolved much except some half-hearted incremental changes such as starting irctc.co.in or experimenting with Bio-toilets in some trains. It's high time that railways underwent a more revolutionary transformation helping the nation in its next phase of development.
Increasingly we see more arrogance than humility - whether its the traffic queue or the mall or in a workplace. Many people today thrive on being arrogant (often termed as 'dynamic and demanding' in the workplace).
And the emergence of Narendra Modi is also a part of the same culture we are promoting. While from the same political party - the biggest chasm that separates Atalji from Modi was his humility.
And Sachin, the maestro belonged to Atalji's category. His strength and wisdom, apart from his cricket genius is in his humility. Many of last decades' titans - from ICICI's Kamath to Infosys's Murthy are known for their humility as much as they are for their business acumen.
It is, hence, worth pondering if - as a nation, as colleages, as companies, as a society, and mostly as individuals - we want to promote arrogance as a way of working or as a bevahiour which is encouraged.
|Image from Facebook - credit unknown|
In case of social networks like Facebook, even if a new platform with some differentiating features comes up, your relationships are very difficult to migrate to another platform. Hence, users will not switch from one social network to another unless there is a generational shift in the features between the old and new one (ex. migration from Orkut to Facebook in India), because of the effort needed to migrate all relationships to the new network again. In fact, this is one of the reasons Google plus is finding it so difficult to grab users from Facebook even though critics claim that Google Plus has a better conceptualized social networking features.
However, P2P messaging apps like Whatsapp, Line or Viber - lack any such stickiness because the relationships reside in your own phone address book, unlike a social network, where it resides with the social network. Hence, the moment a Viber offers better voice calls, users can immediately switch to using the service with other users in their address book - no waiting time to "add a friend" and wait for them to "accept" et. al.My theory above is about to be tested. Finally after a long wait BBM is now available across Android and iOS. Facebook is awash with messages of 'my BBM PIN' and cartoons like the one shown above rediculing the whole charade. But, the point stands that BBM has three advantages over Whatsapp:
- It has had a loyal fan following - Blackberry was the smartphone of choice years before Android and iPhone. Though it hasn't kept pace but many of today's iPhone or Android users have been BBM users in past
- BBM has an long experience of messaging - many of its features and its UI has been refined over years of usage. A friend of mine said that he found BBM easier to use than Whatsapp or Viber.
- BBM has built in calling and messaging facility from the beginning.
- Whatsapp has created some stickiness factor in its service by introducing "groups" - yes unlike P2P messaging, your relationships in Whatsapp "Groups" does not reside in your address book but with Whatsapp.
- BBM needs a BBM PIN and does not work on a phone number. So if I have your number stored in my phonebook but don't have your PIN, I will not be able to message you until we exchange PINs. Whatsapp instead works on phone numbers so it matches phonebook with users and makes it easier to discover existing networks
- BBM might gain popularity among older generation of users many of whom are still on Blackberry and even if they migrate to iPhone or Android soon, they'll continue to remain on BBM.
- BBM might also become popular in privacy conscious societies like Europe because of privacy offered by the PIN. You can't find me on BBM even if I share my phone number with you, but not the PIN.
|New Yahoo Logo || Source: Razilabs|
Recently, Yahoo revamped the UI for its (still) most relevant service Yahoo Mail along with a populist looking gift of 1 TB storage. Mayer was probably borrowing a page from her ex-employers' book by offering a bonanza storage along with some other features copied from its service GMail. As Times of India puts it:
Yahoo's free email service is becoming a bit more like Google's Gmail as part of its second makeover in less than a year. The similarities to Gmail probably aren't coincidental. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer helped design some of Gmail's features while she was a top executive at Google.My take on this latest roll out is that it's not going to work! There are several reasons for this - the prime being that most of it is too little too late - introducing "threads" now, which was introduced by GMail when it launched (which it calls conversations) way back in 2005, is really not going to cut any ice with the power users. Also, its too little and too diagonal to the direction of the tech world as such; there's no juice or attraction left in storage space now, because most heavy attachments like photos etc are no longer sent by mail - they are all on Facebook or Picasa or Flickr etc.
That apart, there are Yahoo Mail has 3 big problems to surmount:
- Interface - those who love GMail for its filters, its slick, clean look don't find the new YMail interface good - its clumsy, slow and most of all, non-intuitive.
- Spam - I was using my YMail account for almost 5 years after I started using GMail; at least for non-newsgroup 1-to-1 communications and banking alerts etc. But the reason I moved 100% to Gmail was Yahoo's inability to control Spam.
- Stickiness - I don't use Yahoo Mail also because there is no reason to come back to YMail if I don't get emails - this is more true for the new generation of users like today's teens. For GMail there's Google Plus through which Google is now head on with Facebook (and other upstarts like Whatsapp). Yahoo had (and in a minor way still has) that ability to combine its most loyal platform eGroups and other services like Flickr etc to leverage the audience across platforms on a single platform. To do that, they need something like Google Dashboard to start with and then move on the further integration between these services. I had thought that would be the first leaf Mayer would pluck out of Google's book - but they haven't implemented any integration between services till date.
However, in the movie's climax, Marcus even after realizing his true identity of being a machine, sides with the humans assisting Connor in saving hostages in SkyNet's custody and also finally helping Connor destroy SkyNet. The plot of course, written to please the masses, takes an optimistic's view of which squad Marcus sides with upon being made aware of his identity as a machine. The plot assumes that Marcus sides, not with his identity but his beliefs - his belief in shared human values, in the "goodness" of human race and "evil" in machines.
While the talk of a cyborg, being faced with an identity crisis sounds too far fetched; the philological principles in question are closer home to today's sociopolitical context. The conflict between our identities and our beliefs has never been more prominent in the history of the human race than today. May be it would be more prominent in future but this is the first time such conflict has come out so clearly.
Come to think of it - we all today face this conflict. We are all being brought up to believe in the modern principles of freedom, democracy, independence, libertarian thoughts, egalitarianism and religious tolerance. Our identities in the internet connected world is defined by our use of technology and tools which are a gift of the modern civilization to us.
However, we also have faith systems - an alternate set of beliefs belonging to a deprecated world - which today serve as "Identities" for us: identities such as Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Paris etc. The faith in creationism, faith in destiny over science, faith in religious supremacy, faith in age old sacred myths and age old traditions binding us to our identities of belonging to a religious sect, community, may be caste or creed; and nationalities.
We constantly face the conflict between our identity and our beliefs - we are faced with it when we are told to consult some religious guru to suggest a cure to a disease instead of going to a doctor; we are faced with it when we are told to respect the institution of marrying within one's community / caste (and for Hindu's outside one's Gothra); we are faced with it when we are told that X place is the birthplace of your deity and hence a temple should be constructed at the site; we are faced with it when one is told that our religious scriptures describe same-sex relationship as unnatural or that slavery is a natural state; we are faced with it when one talks of bombing fellow citizens because they don't belong to your religion.
In this conflict of our beliefs in modern institutions of freedom and libertarian thought (which I am assuming are built through the modern education system) and that of our identities as Hindu, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists or Jews - mostly our beliefs win. Most of us remain committed to the modern world principles.
But there are times when our identities win over our beliefs. A David Headley and Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev brought up in the modern secular liberal American society; a Yasin Bhatkal brought up in contemporary, multi-cultured, secular India; and several educated Indian followers of Tantriks and other quacks are isolated but socially costly cases where identity has won over beliefs.
Louis Fischer wrote of Gandhi - 'Gandhiji's ideas can be ascribed to some inner quality of his mental eyesight that kept him from seeing people as a mass. He never saw or judged Indians or Frenchmen or Christians or Muslims in millions. He considered each human being too holy, too important to be the mere instrument of a remote impersonal terrestrial power called state." - See more at: http://www.nikhilkulkarni.in/2006/02/individuals-advocate.htmlJust like Gandhi, we also must strive to think in a way where our beliefs continue to win over our identities and we can create a cohesive, tolerant and vibrant human race without conflict.
|Image by Sean MacEntee|
From: firstname.lastname@example.orgOf course I am not interested in MONARCHY RESOURCES (heck! I don't even know what it is) - but no one can argue the logic that any more warmongering by US (or its protege NATO) will only end up increasing the cost of oil and drive up the prices of everything. In fact, if one argues that had the US not attacked Iraq (and may be even Afghanistan), we probably would never have faced the 2008-present day crisis.
Sent: 01 September 2013 20:55
Subject: More to Come?
Do you want to become rich due to armed conflicts? It`s the verytime to do it. As soon as the military attack Syria, oil prices willrise as well as MONARCHY RESOURCES (M O_N K) share price! Go makeprofits on Sep 2, grab M O_N K shares!!!
Whatever! Mental hypothesizing aside - reading such stuff in spam is a unique experiment.
- What does the public want?
- Accept and understand your fears
- Get yourself a mentor
- Take action
- Patience is a virtue
If you happen to have a personal blog, take advantage of it and start asking your readers about their needs and what a great online business could offer them to satisfy these. Think of your blog readers as potential clients of your future online business. If you don't have a blog, another idea is to use Facebook and create a poll in which you ask your friends about their opinion. The third option is to check a free-classified website like sahipasand.com or a Q&A site like quora and take a look at what people are advertising the most, what are their needs? What are they looking for?
It is understandable that you will experience a whole host of different emotions when creating a business online. You are likely to doubt your abilities and worry for your future, so it is advisable to keep a more reliable job when starting out in this field. In doing so, you will have something to fall back on should your online business not be as successful as hoped.
It is incredibly useful to find a mentor who you respect and can draw inspiration from. This person will be able to advise you and steer you away from making any inconvenient errors.
Now it is true that meticulous planning is key, but you must also act and motivate yourself. Otherwise your online business will just be an intelligent idea on paper and will never become a reality. Follow the steps to start a business plan, fix yourself short-term and long-term goals and work at your best to meet all of them step by step.
Yes, the old saying really is true. You cannot expect miracles immediately and therefore, you must be patient if you hope to succeed in this field. Decide on a working sector to open your online business that excites you, as even if you don't make a lot of money, you will still be enthusiastic about your job. Note that even if your business is bound to be a success it'll probably take at least 6 months and a lot of work to start making profit from it. Don't give up if you see it's not growing at the pace you'd wish! Remember that big things take time!
Get organised and do your research to find out how you can use contemporary online viral tools such as YouTube, social networking sites and free classified websites to your advantage in order to market your company and in turn, create a successful online business.
As luck would have it, we reached the monastery just when it started getting dark (after which usually the doors are closed to visitors), but chanced to get entry into the main gate. However, to my disappointment, the doors of the main temple were closed by the time we climbed up. We were about to turn back when my brother spotted a young lama, in his teens, looking down from his room in the premises of the monastery towards us. My brother quickly ran up to him and asked him if the temple could be opened.
I had started tying up my shoe laces again, expecting a nigh in reply - but to my surprise the young lama agreed, and came to open the temple door. We went inside, prayed and then when we were about to leave, the lama called up to come up to their rooms. The rooms were built exactly like the Mumbai Chawls - smallish and side by side; each room meant for one student lama. The small size also possibly helped to keep them warmer in the extreme cold weather of Ladakh.
When we went up, it was getting dark and as is usual in Ladakh, the temperature was dropping a degree every few minutes. The young lama called us in, and then started heating some tea for us - we were pleasantly surprised! We also saw another boy, with Caucasian features, sitting in the same room. On talking to him we discovered he was an Italian student and had come to Ladakh as a tourist. But he had become good friends with our host and had been living with him since past few months.
The young lama was a Ladakh resident, he studied Buddhism as it is preached in Ladakh - he was studying to become a priest and looking at the thickness of the books in his room, it looked like a uphill task requiring extreme discipline of mind and the soul - the physical hardships of living an ascetic's life being apart! I wondered if this young boy even knew about the world outside of Ladakh and more importantly the "joys of life" outside the monastery. If he knew what it meant to live in a city, what night life was, how much and what all he could learn if he logged on the internet, what was the fun in watching movies etc. Probably, for him ignorance was bliss - but I also wondered if he was lucky not to be exposed to all these distractions of the worldly life and to be without being exposed to them, pushed comfortably into an ascetic life; or was it unfortunate that he would become an ascetic without ever discovering what he was missing (or what he was not missing or what troubles he was escaping), by becoming an ascetic.
Philosophy aside, today when I reminisce back on that evening of a few hours, I figured that I learnt many things that day:
- Life gives you chances only if you dare to take them. We could have walked back that day without even entering the temple, leave alone have a unique experience of seeing a lama's little alcove from inside and having tea with him and his Italian friend - but for the chance that my brother took of running upto him for permission.
- When you ask, you often get more than what you ask for! We simply wanted to enter the temple and pray to Maitreya Buddha - the deity of Thiksey Gompa. But the lord blessed us with a bonus experience which none of us would forget for life.
- Life is all about odd experiences! Had we just gone to the Monastery once or during day time, we would have clicked a snap there, remembered the place as a beautiful building and forgotten. But with the unique experience we had - we will never forget the place and the unique hospitality.
- Rules are not always universal. Yes there was a rule that one doesn't enter the monastery after dark, yes there's a rule that the lamas do not usually interact with tourists - but both were broken that day. And it didn't feel unholy in any way. The world is composed of two kinds of rules - the ones made by nature - which if broken lead to disaster, but the second set of rules (which are far larger in number and pervade our lives more multifariously) are made by humans, and these rules can be broken. In fact, such rules also need to be broken once in a while to set into motion a new order of the world - that thought of course is worth a full blog post sometime else.
- Its not about how much money you have or who you are, its always about being in the right place at the right time. Here I let out a secret - part of the reason the lama was generous to us was because my brother was posted in Ladakh then, and he hence could relate to him in some manner. Yet, possibly even an Amitabh Bacchan could not have landed into this kind of an experience as we did. It was sheer stroke of luck! So in conclusion - life is all about taking your chances!
The fact that I am writing about this small incident after more than 18 months is testimony to how deeply it is now imprinted on my memories.
Since then, my schedule has been pre-decided for every weekend - a compulsory travel to Indore every fortnight, and spending many (or rather most) in between weekends in Pune with my parents (except the few when they came over or I had too much office work piled up to manage a Pune trip). So much so that, this Friday, when I told the maid to come on a Saturday, she gave me the look for the boss who asks you to work during a pre-approved leave!
Anyway - the expressway ends finally! This is my last weekend alone - the next weekend, I travel to Indore but to get Divya and Navyaa back, though to Pune first and in a week or two to Mumbai. Finally! And I am not just relieved but almost ecstatic - how life changes you!
I had contemplated that living alone would be something I'd enjoy - after all I enjoyed all my bachelor days! But I hadn't imagined that living as a Bachelor before marriage is as enjoyable as unpleasant the same is after you get used to a Grihast (ग्रहस्त) lifestyle.
For starters, the whole charade of managing the maids, the bills, the presswallah, and other routine - alone - is quite gruesome. Second, you (at least I) can no more tolerate as much outside food as you used to (possibly a sign of ageing :-| ), which as a corollary means you should take care of the chores of buying grocery etc every week - but this time, all alone, without anyone to help or even accompany you. I recollect, I had met a friend's friend at the wedding, who was still a bachelor, and since I was yet to "start" my new bachelor life then, and to his credit, he had warned me about all this while we were chatting at the airport on our way back.
The second part of the problem comes from your habits and those of your friends - which have changed. I can't really put a finger to it - but due to a combination of the fact that I was never available over weekends and also that Divya was not with me - I haven't been to a movie since October last; I would have visited a mall possibly once and that too because I cousin wanted to buy a laptop; and I tend to spend more time at the office on weekdays. So, the whole old way of life is somehow looking like a distant past :-).
Another thing that I wonder is whether something changes physiologically after you cross 30? But this article tells me it does not - so I guess the only other explanation is probably social changes around you. For one - you don't have company. Before you get married, you have friends for company, who have as much free time as you do, and who have the same habits as yourself. As you approach the 30s, almost everyone around you gets married (so do you probably!), and so everyone's habits change. And in between this period, if you happen to have to stay alone again, you become - temporarily - a misfit of sorts in your social circle. That doesn't mean your friends avoid you, to the contrary, I have had more invitations for dinner and lunches in the past 6 months than every before. But more than the attitude of others - its something inside you which makes things not so enjoyable, alone.
Anyway - there are some of the things which I did enjoy. Cooking - I am a bad cook - and I say this from experience! But my cooking skills have improved in the past 6 months; I can make an omelette confidently now, I am even able to make a sabzi - though doesn't taste great and no two preparations have been consistent. I have also started enjoying YouTube more than TV - and the credit goes to a combination of absence of 'family TV time' and 'working on the laptop till late night after which nothing comes on TV'. I have also enjoyed occassional evening runs in the local park - alone listening to music (on weekends when I was in Mumbai).
All said and done - its been an interesting half year for me, of course also momentous as I became a father! And starting the next weekend, the real fatherhood will now begin and I am really looking forward spending time with my daughter and 'again' with my wife (as a bonus, my mom's going to be with us for the next few months!).
I am sure there are several commuters who pass this point every day at this hour and get stuck in this jam daily. There is a very simple way indeed to avoid this route, though. If you take the previous right turn before my house, take the next left, you will end up back where this main road otherwise takes you - and this route at 8:15am is quite free. And even then, every morning, here they are, the daily commuters honking their way to glory than take the alternate route.
It may look like I am simply blabbering my frustration out because this affects my morning, but no - that's not the point I am making. Just like this troubled lane beside my home are several arterial roads of Mumbai - the Western and Eastern Express Highways, the JVLR, the Peddar Road, Babulnath lane, NM Joshi Marg, Ambedkar Road aka Tulsi Pipe road etc. - all these roads experience similar mayhem at specific hours of the day. Some of them are ill fated, they are possibly the only ways to get into and outside specific parts of the town (ex. parts of WE Highway) - but many of these roads have alternatives, there are by lanes, alternate roads and of course you always have the option of traveling off-peak hours if your work schedule permits.
And its not just roads, the local trains are also jam packed between 7:30am and 10:30am! Same here - there are alternatives. Some of us can leave homes early and take buses - trust me I see many buses (even AC buses) plying half empty in rush hours. Or you can take trains after 10am or before 7:30am.
But alas, the average Mumbaikar is plagued - s/he is plagued by the fact that everyone else honours the secret Mumbaikar code and if you don't, you'll be singled out as lazy, inefficient, not capable of hard work, sometimes even untrustworthy. Yes - Mumbai loves to struggle; even if there were ways of making our lives simpler and more comfortable, we struggle - wade through waters, carry an extra shirt in our backpacks, cling on the the mere 2 inch vacant space on the train's door, sometimes rush into an incoming train at VT so as to get that coveted prize of a window seat!
To be sure, the city is deficient; its is deficient in urban transport supply - there are times when everything from buses to trains will run packed; it is deficient in roads - however you may try, you'll never find some parts like Kalanagar signal bereft of traffic; it is deficient in amenities - there are no dustbins at train stations or bus stops, the rainwater evacuation is not yet smooth. And the city administration is corrupt - contractors maintain island city better than suburbs, repairs are fake .... the list is endless!
BUT, these problems exist in all large cities of the world; even though they probably may be proportionately severe in Mumbai. Nevertheless, what keeps the Mumbaikar struggling is not the deficiencies alone but the deficiencies coupled with her resolve to avoid common sense, to prioritize timeliness over convenience, her resolve to beat the weather or beat the other commuter on the road ... if it was her day, even beat God - to reach office on time!
I think, this needs to stop - Mumbaikar's need to stop celebrating their spirit and get to their senses. There are better ways to live in this city. If you can, change your habits, change your routine, change your driving routes or your commuting methods. Living a life is a choice which is available only to those who choose to accept it over the choice to struggle!