Sunday, December 28, 2014

Getting Lost on the Highway

After a 2400 Km drive spread over 8 days, I can say that the road travel in India has become far simpler and safer with divided highways.

On the highways (NOT in the towns we passed through), driving shows greater discipline and courtesy than I would have expected. But one has to accept that it is perfectly safe, or even safer, to overtake from the wrong side:) The driver should just accept it and not feel any guilt for violating the road laws - no policeman in India is likely to give a ticket for it.

I got lost once but it was my own stupidity. After Jaipur, the next convenient halt was Bhilwara. I got on the road to Ajmer. I was pretty sure I was on the right route - it was going to Udaipur and the route I had selected, thanks to Google maps, was the shortest/best route to Udaipur from Jaipur. After a while, I noticed signs indicating the distance to Beawar - it seemed a little nearer than I had expected Bhilwara to be.

My mind had made a discovery - given the fondness of our politicians to change names, Bhilwara's name must have been changed to Beawar. I was so convinced about this discovery that I did not think it worthwhile to stop and confirm it. I had not noticed any major turning, so this route had to be right.

On reaching Beawar, I tried to find the hotel, only to discover to my embarrassment that I was a 100Km from where I was supposed to be. A state highway connected the two - it was narrow, often very rough road, occupied frequently by goats.

I had missed a turning - there was a sign for going to Shrinager. But how was I to know that it was not an exit to a small town but a exit to a highway?

A lesson learnt!

Moral hazard of going to a Goan Wedding

It was in 1964 at the wise age of 14 influenced by the flower generation, I became a vegetarian and have remained so for half a century. I had found solace in G B Shaw's statement
  “I do not want to make my stomach a graveyard of dead animals.”    George Bernard Shaw

Yesterday, I became aware of having eaten a tiny chicken sandwich soon after eating it. I drowned my sorrow with another glass of beer.

I can't help but wonder would it have been so hard for the wedding organizers to have an option of a vegetarian snacks plate? Or am I being unduly difficult?

Anyway, I was mentally prepared to leave before dinner knowing that the buffet won't open till well after my bedtime and I did :)

However, this is the wedding I am not likely to forget because I ate a chicken sandwich!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The start of disillusionment with Delhi Metro

I just returned from Delhi. In my last trip, I was amazed at the ease with which I could visit my relations using the Delhi Metro and at my age. It was particularly impressive to see young people get up without being prompted and offer me a seat - seeing my grey hair - for the seats reserved for old folks. Only once did I need ask(I was tired and the journey was long) but the guy pretended not to listen. Sadly, the person sitting next to him gave me the seat and it did not seem appropriate for me to insist that the impolite guy get up.

I did notice crowding at times. However, on this trip, at 12NOON on a Sunday, I found the train packed like the Mumbai local. I just could not have gotten down at, say, Rajiv Gandhi station. A youngster just ignored the senior citizen standing close to him. It is very difficult to be polite if there is no standing room :(

The congestion seemed significantly worse just after a few months.

Given the goodwill of all Delhi citizens for the Metro, I can't think even a single person would object to an additional charge on petrol and diesel to compensate the Metro for making the citizens' journey more comfortable.

I was surprised that the train frequency is not being increased. On many routes not all trains are 8 coaches. Why not make them even longer? Why do we need to have people packed like sardines? Is maximising the money from public transport so important a consideration?

My disillusionment grew by this news today about a scandal in the order for Metro trains.
At an internal meeting, Naidu was of the view that the contract be cancelled immediately, but sources said that Secretary Shankar Aggarwal explained to him that cancelling the tender would delay the project by at least two years, which would reflect poorly on the government.
These are coaches for the 3rd phase! If an improvement in frequency is desired for existing phases, we should expect a minimum gap of two years after a decision is taken.

Meanwhile, I ended my journey by taking an auto to go to the station. It was 4PM, office traffic would have started and I just could not take the risk.

I have never liked Delhi. Our old area reminds me of a prison with gates and fences on public roads.

I am even less inclined to visit it even as a tourist in the future. I will let the money in my smart card lapse.

 I will probably not praise and brag about the advantages of Delhi Metro to any one any more - and I feel extremely sad about that. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Helplessness about events like the Bhopal Tragedy

The article by Indira Jaising was a grim reminder of the past. I think I became conscious of the scale and implications of the Bhopal tragedy only after I had seen the Yes Men Fix the World a few years ago.

I saw their prank on BBC  again. The sadness is about the drop in the stock price of Dow after the prank was broadcast. By a coincidence, I watched Chabrol's The Story Women yesterday and was struck by the statement of one of the characters - "Once you have a little money, you want more".

Increase in the value of my investments makes me happy though with little awareness about the reason for their growth. Investing via mutual funds makes the distance between my 'wealth' and corporate actions even more far removed :(