Thursday, 30 June 2011

Tatkal travel and Stale Comesum food

I am a fairly regular traveller by train and nowadays I use tatkal more than the normal ticket mostly because I am not sure about which mode of transportation I plan to take until 1-2 days before I actually travel. Tatkal suits me quite fine and I have travelled using that option on more than a few routes - say, some 10-12 different routes and both by Sleeper and AC.

I am appalled by the kind of coaches one gets while getting into the train through a tatkal ticket though. A few are infested with cockroaches and a more apt name for those coaches would be co"ckro"aches. I find them to be regular companions, who happily nibble at our leftovers and also playfully buzz around our ears and legs to mention their heartful thanks, in the Andhra route and even after innumerable complaints to the TTE the words fall on deaf ears.

The bangalore-chennai route has the special malodorous smell of putrid urine that greets ones nostril from far away like a special bosom friend.

But then, to the credit of the railways, the AC coaches arent so bad and I am not usually a complaining type. I also notice that the Garibrath and the Shatabdi are managed quite impeccably.

Unfortunately, I also notice a pattern. Its mostly only the tatkal sleeper coaches which are fully-loaded with these features. Which brings me to a question I pose to myself and you all - Are tatkal coaches specially discriminatory? I understand that tatkal coaches are attached at the last moment depending on requirement / demand or some vague thing like that... but does it have to be especially bad that one cant sit inside without getting a feeling of being comfortable stagnated in ditchwater? Railways definitely doesnt have to treat people who book at the last moment in such an unfortunate way

I initially thought this cant be so and I have a prejudiced view - but then, each time I go along to other coaches to see if my theory is right and, believe it or not, each time I personally feel that the other coaches dont smell so bad. I probably might be wrong, but the point holds... atleast for me.

In case you wonder about the veracity of the statement, I urge you to try out what I just mentioned. I welcome your views too if they concur with mine / refute mine.

On a side note, why does Comesum serve such stale food? I thought they used to be atleast a bit better earlier.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Great read on Indian Economy and the challenges ahead

One of the most elaborate literature about the Indian economy I have seen or read in recent times. Exhaustive and well written.

"As a result of this posture India’s economy may, he accepted, expand by only “around 8 percent” in the financial year through March, a reduction on the 8.6 percent he previously estimated, and significantly short of those double digit growth rates India must be aiming for in the near term. In fact most forecasters agree with Subarrao, and see India’s growth dropping back from last years sweltering 10.3% pace, indeed the majority of commentators are agreed that in the very short term this would be no bad thing. India’s inflation is structural, and needs containing so the economy can accelerate to its full growth potential, which I personally estimate to be well into the double digit zone. I have felt and been arguing so for some years (see me berating the Economist on this very topic of India’s growth potential here in 2007 and here in 2006). It is highly likely India can easily fact break all those earlier Chinese records when she really gets going, such is the country’s potential, but that potential can only be realised if the old phantoms which haunt the economy are hunted down and eliminated. High on the “hit list” here has to be the inflation curse."

Read more:"

Time to invest in coal?

Been reading a fair bit of articles on how Coal price is surging ahead and there is still a lot of upside in the prices.
We have just seen a bull run on almost every commodity man has ever known and almost everything enjoyed a significant upside the last 12-18 months.

Lots of compelling articles which mention that Coal looks very lucrative and its demand is sky rocketing given the general prevailing conditions.

Significant factors amongst these:
a. EM's (India, China and the growing economies) are growing smartly at a decent clip and need a lot of Coal to take care of their energy needs
b. Australian miners are lobbying against their government to introduce carbon taxes in 2012. A crucial meet in scheduled for sometime this week to decide on these matters.
c. Demand far outstrips supply which would obviously lead to higher prices.

For ppl interested in the entire article, the link is here

Coal India is up quite smartly ever since it started trading sometime last year. Currently the stock is up about 70 odd % in some 3 Q's which is excellent whichever way one looks at it.
So, is it time to dirty one's hands (euphemistically speaking) and dig deep into Coal? What say ye?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Excellent post on Keynesian Economics

Krugman has an excellent paper up at A thought provoking paper as always from him.

Wonkish, though!

Link here

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Skinny dip in the name of science

STRIPPING naked and plunging into an icy sea with two huge creatures of the deep is not for the faint of heart.
But Russian diver Natalia Avseenko, 36, has done just that - in the name of science. She attempted to interact with two beluga whales in a unique experiment in the White Sea, off Russia's far northwest coast.
Natalia stripped for her swim in -1.5C water because marine experts believe belugas do not like to be touched by artificial material such as diving suits.
And the belugas - famed for the way their faces seem to convey expressions - enjoyed the experience, happily frolicking with their naked friend.

Link here 

Yercaud and Hogenakkal

Friend and I did a road trip a few weeks back to Yercaud and Hogenakkal on a 3-day weekend.

Though Yercaud seems quite touristy and a run of the mill hill station which almost everyone goes to, there are lots of places there which are quite verdant and unexplored for the adventurous... if only they care to try those places.

There are a few schools in and around Yercaud which have long winding roads and interesting scenery.

View of a big ground of the school which houses both their football, cricket and track field games.

The route to Pagoda point is full of the sweet smell of coffee flowers in the flowering season. We could see quite a few coffee plans in full bloom and they looked real pretty and form quite an impressive picture in one's mind.

But the best, as the saying goes, is saved for the last. The best route we tried was the route which took us to an Estate [If you plan to try it, just ask people to point to the road which takes you to cauvery peak. We did this while coming back from the Pagoda view point. Alternate route is to take the left in the main junction from Yercaud city and immediately go straight so one can take the loop and come back to the junction through the road on the right]. The route is fairly empty and surprisingly free of smell of petrol fumes. When we went there, it as the flowering season for all the coffee plants and we were welcomed with resplendent views of the coffee flowers in full bloom further accentuated by the intoxicating smell of the flowers. The route is mind blowing and has flowers of almost all varieties, thick woody foresty type scenery and the ride is quite spell bounding.

Was one hell of a ride!

Pics here 

Friday, 17 June 2011

Global Housing pursuit info-graphic

Insanely brilliant info-graphic!

via Global pursuit 

Brain gymming

Came across a decent site for some serious brain exercise.

Try it here

Lovely post on savings imbalances

Michael Pettis has a lovely post on savings imbalances and how countries suffer because of choices which are forced upon them due to the choices and the policies of other countries.

"It might help to explain why this is the case if we call all the high-savings countries “Germany” and all the high-consuming countries “Spain”.  Giving them these names may seem a little provocative, and will probably generate some hate mail, but I guess less so than calling them “China” and “the US”.
It turns out that domestic policies by the German government can explain both high German savings and low Spanish savings.  For example assume that Germany has an undervalued currency, low wages relative to productivity, high explicit or hidden consumption or income taxes (repressed interest rates, for example, or environmental degradation), and high quality infrastructure subsidized by these taxes."

A nice easy read here

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Monkey's day out

love this bit:
In her 2007 book Baboon Metaphysics, University of Pennsylvania primatologist Dorothy L. Cheney confirms that in the late 1800s railway guard James “Jumper” Wide lost his feet in a train accident and sought help with his work as a signalman at Uitenhage on the line between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. He encountered a young baboon that had been trained to drive an ox wagon, bought him of his owner, and trained him to work as a signalman:

Each track was assigned a different number. If the driver gave one, two, or three blasts, Jack switched the signals in the appropriate manner, altering the direction of travel so that oncoming trains would not collide. If the driver gave four blasts, Jack collected the key to the coal shed and carried it out to the driver. His performance was so unerringly correct that he earned the name ‘Jack the Signalman.’
Cheney writes that when an astonished passenger complained, Jumper and Jack were dismissed, but then Jumper convinced the officials to test Jack’s skills rigorously, and he did so well that he was rehired and given daily rations and an employment number. He (Jack) died of tuberculosis in 1890.

Read more here

Masinagudi - a lovely road trip

Nestled by the Nilgiri range on all sides, Masinagudi in the foothills of Ooty is a picture perfect little town. Thick woods and very foresty, the place boasts of having one of the best forest areas in the neighboring region. Masinagudi is one part of the much bigger Mudumalai Forest range and houses many animals like the endangered Indian Tiger, Indian Elephant, Guar, Chital, Antlers, Bison. The range also houses lots of exotic Indian birds and critters. 

Happened to be there a few weeks back and got to stay in a place in Bokkapuram and had a lovely time there. 

Bonus: Saw elephants while travelling from Bangalore to Masinagudi enroute. One female elephant near the Bandipur range and one little tusker while on the way to Masinagudi. The best sighting was during the night in the homestay we stayed in. A bold tusker walked almost into the house premises  - just less than 50 ft away in search of a light after dinner snack. Guess he felt a bit hungry seeing us all eat piping hot home food. 

The next day morning, the home stay owner - a Mr Horace Cunnigham, was very nice to take us along in a walk skirting the edge of the deep forest area. We saw a lot of does, fawns and antlers in a frivolous mood posing for us and being curious about what we were upto in their land. Horace was also nice enough to give us cacti flowers to suck on. We gorged on them greedily. We also saw a dilapidated Tipu fort. While coming back, we passed through a watering hole which the animals visit to quench their thirst. Sadly, we couldnt sight any animals near the watering hole except a small tiny green snake slithering away from us (possibly in fright?). 

We left to Ooty sometime mid afternoon on my bird and did the 36 hairpin bends quite comfortably. The road is quite steep and not much of traffic is found in it as its a lot more steeper than the route from Gudalur. So, buses and heavy vehicles prefer that less slopy route instead of travelling through these steep, winding roads. It started raining sometime after we reached Ooty and we got real drenched and came down via the Gudalur route, dripping in the rain. There are quite a few nice places to watch along the way to Gudalur - 2 shooting points and one dam. Worth the time spent walking up each of the knolls to get a panaromic view of the neighborhood. 

A must visit for nature lovers and people who want to take a nice vacation. If you need the contact of the homestay we stayed in, feel free to ask for the same.

My Pics: Flickr set of Masinagudi
Friends link: Masinagudi

Update: Friend feels I should add the directions too. 
From Blr: Blr->Mysore->Gundlupet->Bandipur->Masinagudi

Do remember that the section from Gundlupet to Bandipur is insanely beautiful as its a road inside the wildlife region. Its open only between 6AM-9PM and the actual timings sometimes change. One usually shouldnt drive at a fast clip at these places - limit speed to 30kmph. Well worth driving through these roads. One can feel bliss and also sight a tiger or a rare wild animal, if lucky!

Update: Happened to go to the place again in end of Dec 2012... and my thoughts havent changed even a bit. More pics uploaded. If only the Supreme Court decides one way or the other about the core area of the forests.

Moon and Six Pence

Been reading Moon and Six Pence by W.Somerset Maugham. A stunning page turner from him, like always. 

I love the way Maugham depicts the gray and the black side of life as clearly as the whiter shade of life. He is a past master at describing people and their deep innermost thoughts.

Its a story about a middle aged family man Charles Strickland who works as a stockbroker. He is initially depicted in the book as being a "philistine" and being unremarkable. The story proceeds to show how Strickland finds his artistic calling, so to speak. He leaves his family in search of his true passion - painting, and has no remorse about leaving them behind. The story moves ahead to give a glimpse of how his life moves on in the advanced years of his life. The story is spoken from the view of a third person who is also a friend of Strickland's estranged wife. It takes us from countryside England to the streets of France and moves on to Tahiti as Strickland moves from one place to next to find his true passion. Strickland comes across as a person who is quite sensual yet cruel to the point to being devoid of any compassion towards his fellow beings and being particularly cruel with those who especially care for him. The author does an excellent job, through the narrator of the story, of probing into man's deepest anxieties, fears, jealousies and depicts true passion of the very highest level - one that is raw and all-pervading. Strickland continues to devastate people around him - deviates from his originally not uncomfortable path of married bliss with a wife and two children he is devoted to, to philander with the wife of a person who genuinely supported him when he had a life threatening condition, only to leave her too after his original aim of painting her as a model is completed. Strickland goes on to paint masterpiece after masterpiece... some of the best of his generation. Critically acclaimed by critics and admirers alike. 

An intriguing novel that makes one sit up and think. Though the book is in a lot of ways a story about a person who has nary a care for anything apart from his passion and deliberately shuns all kinds of comfort in his life, it does teach us good lessons on what true passion and a drive to do something can really do in one's life... hopefully, without the non-compassion that Strickland showed.