Act do not react! 

Newton’s third law is, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects”; the size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object. The keyword is “opposite.”

The statement is on the techy side, and I also get worried when somebody makes such statements. So, let us talk in the language that all of us understand. In our life, some event or the other is always happening. There are meetings and discussions galore. There are smooth and hot discussions. Many times, we react to what someone has said. Sometimes the reaction is correct, and at other times it is incorrect because of different reasons. The second case is when a person has not explained correctly, or we have misunderstood what is said. But in both cases, we should not react. We should act. In the business scenario, such things can create business issues. In personal matters, we can suffer.

In the olden days, I used to work in an Aluminum foundry. We had a large compound. It was summertime, and in the empty area, the grass had grown and become dry. In the same place, our furnace oil tank was located. I was going from a building to another building and saw a cloud of smoke, fire, and commotion. Ours was a small factory, and I realised that we were not equipped to handle such fires. Our maintenance head was trying to extinguish the fire. I told him, “We need to take outside help.” The leader said, “Have you ever fought fires?” I said no, but I did not react or argue. I ran to our telephone room and called the fire brigade. I also decided to call Tata Motors and explained to them the situation. Within ten minutes, five fire tenders arrived and extinguished the fire. Tata Motors fire brigade chap said, “Good that you called us. We avoided a disaster.” I took him to the chief and told Tata person, “We acted as per his guidance.” Tata person congratulated the maintenance head and went away. Later, when we were having tea, the boss said, “Thanks, Pramod.” I smiled. The action helped, reaction from my side would have led to disaster.

US Airways flight 1549 took off from New York’s La Guardia airport on 15th January 2009, around 3.25 pm. It had 150 people on board. Within minutes it had a bird hit. Both engines of the Airbus 320 shut down. The primary pilot Sullenberger took charge, and the copilot Skiles was trying the SOP (standard operating procedure) to restart both engines. Within minutes they realised that the engines were not going to start again. They took a call to come back to the base and declared May Day! La Guardia asked them to come back to the airport and stopped all other flights as an emergency procedure took over. But by the time the pilots knew about the situation, absorbed it, analysed and acted upon it, precious time was lost. They did not react and never got into an argument with the ATC at the airport. They worked upon the prevailing conditions and declared that they would try for Teterboro airport instead. They were given clearance for that too. Within a short space of time, they realised that even that was not possible and informed the ATC that they were going to land in the Hudson River. They did it successfully without the loss of a single life.

In this event, both ATC’s and Pilots did not react but acted. They both had different parameters available to them and kept on taking decisions on the fly without arguing with each other. Even a thirty-second argument could have resulted in a major disaster as the time was at a premium. It was a classic case of acting instead of reacting, which saved the situation!

respond-dont-react

The slide above gives step by step information about acting and reacting. US Airways flight is the classic case of two sets of people handling the same situation differently. They were both correct in their perspective of the problem. They had a specific but different set of parameters available to them at their disposal. They were communicating with each other based on these details. The pilots were the ones who were in control of things, physically. Pilots and ATC’s are trained to discuss and behave calmly in the worst of the situations. By doing so, they argue less, with no raised voices. They are giving each other updates as well as the suggestions. By acting on each other’s advice and acting instead of reacting, in many cases, disaster was avoided.

The process of sharing information with another person is critical. It should be done in such a way that the sender’s message is understood as he intended it. Unless the sender and receiver are on the same page, they have not communicated effectively.

There are some critical points to be remembered when communicating with others. It could be personal communication or formal communication.

  • Do I have the facts, right?
  • Is my timing, right?
  • Is my attitude, right?  Am I trying to help the other person?
  • Are my words positive?
  • Do I need to seek counsel from someone else before I try to resolve this problem?

These are essential aspects of communication. One of the reasons why the start of the second world war was a surprise to Britain was that Prime Minister Chamberlain did not understand what Hitler was communicating to him. In his smooth way, Hitler was indicating to Chamberlain that, if required, Hitler would take over Britain. Chamberlain did not act on the soft threats and reacted by telling his people, “Oh! Do not worry. Hitler is not going to do anything nasty!”

What does a reaction do? The reaction starts the stress cycle for both sides. What it does is to create a situation where avoidable discussions start. These discussions are led more by ego rather than the desire to resolve the problem. Instead of this, both must find an escape route.

Years back, during my career, I used to work in a factory. We were having a discussion, and my senior said that a process should be handled in the way he explained to me. I was quite confident that he was incorrect. I said, “Ok! Sir, I will do it the way you have suggested.” It was an overnight process. I did it the way I knew, and the results were excellent. I told my senior the results. He did not ask me what method I had used. He was happy the results were good. The action was better than the reaction!

Communication-interesting stories about words! 

Dr Satyanarayan was our Head of the Department when I was studying Metallurgical Engineering; he did his PhD in the UK and was a keen sportsman. He was darling of the students because he understood the student’s side of different issues. Once a few of us went to his office for some concern regarding the sports facilities. One of my friends started speaking in Marathi. After a few moments, I realised that Marathi was not the Doctor’s mother tongue! So, I said, “Sir, I hope you understand Marathi!” In his typical way, he smiled and said, “At least I don’t misunderstand! 

I have read that many of the problems in the world are due to miscommunication or misunderstanding of communication. My experience over a period has told me that most of the issues get resolved if there is F to F meeting (face to face). In the last couple of decades, many buzz words have come into our communications. U gt wat I mn (oh that is the latest language of messages- translation- You get what I mean!) Ok is written as K and thank you is written as ty! Now I am probably too old to learn this way of communication, or I am orthodox! I know that the language evolves over a period. Now we don’t say “Thou art”! But the changes that happen are gradual, and they follow the rules. The rules may be different, but they exist. If you want to change English quickly- yes, “U gt wat I mn” is supposed to be the abbreviation of English words.  

Well, people communicate differently. There is a village in Turkey where people interact with each other by whistling. 

Germans lead the people travelling the world over. When you are passing through some woods or in some distant village in Ethiopia, you will suddenly hear the words Guten TagGermans have become the globe trotters of the world.   

And Germans have several words that reflect their love of exploration. They gave us the word wanderlust, which combines the German words “wandern, meaning to wander, and lust, or desire. Its this word that was liked by the English speakers with a yen to see the world, and the English language borrowed it from the German and have taken it as its own. 

But what if our lust for travel causes us a deep yearning pain, an ache that reminds us that we must get out and see the world? What if we’re trapped inside our homes because of some reason like illness, and we feel despair that we simply cannot travel at all? 

Meet the wordfernweh. Marrying the words fern, or distance, and wehe, an ache or sickness, the word can be roughly translated as distance sickening or far woe – a pain to see far-flung places beyond our doorstep. Think of it as the opposite of Heimweh (homesickness). Its an ache many of us have felt, but we didnt have a word to describe it. We do now. 

English has been a language, which is openended and openminded; it absorbs words from different languages. It becomes more vibrant because of this absorption. 

Langar1

Above tweet is shared by Mr Anand Mahindra on Twitter. (You can see the video on Tweeter) It shows the Langar run by our Sikh brethren in the Queens Village, New York. Fiftyfive volunteers are going to cook and supply thirty thousand plus meals.  

Langar (kitchen), is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. The free meal is always vegetarian and sometimes vegan. People sit on the floor and eat together, and the kitchen is maintained and serviced by Sikh community volunteers.  Jaya and I have eaten Langar food, years back, at the Golden temple.

The word Langar is already in the English language; it is a unique service provided by the Sikhs, the world over. I know many surgeons, bankers, senior officers and many luminaries who work at Langars when they get a chance to do so. The work they perform includes cooking, cleaning utensils and sweeping floor; in short, it is any work that is essential to run the Langar. All these luminaries do this work with humility. They think that all the people are the same in front of God. Why not call all such kitchens Langar in future?  

Many words from Indian language are absorbed in English. Another such word is Juggernaut.  

Jagannath, a form of Vishnu, mainly worshipped at the Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha where during Rath Yatra festival thousands of devotees pull three temple carts some 14m (45 feet) tall, weighing hundreds of tons through the streets. These carts seat three statues of the deities meant to be two brothers and their sister for a ‘stroll’ outside after the ritual worship session. They are fed by thousands and thousands of worshipers with holy food as if the icons were living. Early European visitors witnessed these festivals and returned with—possibly doubtful—reports of religious fanatics committing suicide by throwing themselves under the wheels of the carts. So, the word became a metaphor for something immense and unstoppable because of institutional or physical inertia; or impending catastrophe that is foreseeable yet virtually unavoidable because of such inertia. 

Pyjama is another word that has come from the Hindi language into English. It is a set of loose-fitting sleeping clothes, consisting of jacket and trousersthe pajama spelling is used in North America. The word entered English in the 19th century. It derives from the Hindi word payjamah, meaning leg (pay) and clothing (jamah). 

Punch (An iced mixed drink usually containing alcohol and prepared for multiple servings; typically served in a punch bowl). Origin of the drink (named as paantsch) that was originally made with five (derived from paanch (five) in Urdu/Hindi) ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. 

The last one but an interesting one is Baniya, spelt in English as Banyan. A Hindu merchant, or shopkeeper. The term Banyan is used in Bengal to denote the native who manages the money concerns of the European and sometimes serves him as an interpreter. At Madras, the same description of a person is called Dubash, which signifies one who can speak two languages. 

To me, Juggernaut, Dubash in Madras, Punch were big surprises. I have a friend Dubhashi who is a Maharashtrian, but I never imagined the word could have evolved with this difference. Punch is another such word. I assumed that its evolution would be from the meaning, punching someone. So, when you sip the potion, you get a kick or a punch!  

Words and their evolution are a big subject. I will surely come back on the subject. In the meanwhile, please share with me some such words that you might have come across. 

 

 

 

 

 

Instant Heroes! 

Darwin must be smiling in his grave! His theory is proving right.  

Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution developed by the English naturalist Charles Darwin (born in the 19th century) and others, stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce.  

Lately, it seems that humans can achieve things much faster and at a very early age. I remember Nadia Comaneci attain great heights in gymnastics at the age of 14 by scoring ten on ten in an event in the Montreal Olympics. Sachin Tendulkar started to play top-level cricket at the age of 16 and went on breaking all the records in the world by playing till he was forty.  

But these examples show the physical evolution of humans. But lately, it seems that intellectual growth is also happening very fast. Or is it really happening? Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg have suddenly become the intellectual instant heroes of today’s time. At the ripe old fourteen and sixteen, these two girls appear to have become prime experts about girls’ education and environmental issues. Malala has reached the top as she was awarded Nobel prize at the ripe age of 17 along with India’s Kailash Satyarthi! I call them social media heroes. Kailashji has done his work for water conservation for more than 45 years.  

Malala started writing some blogs about girls education. According to me, it was an essay, at the age of eleven or twelve. She wrote it anonymously. I am sure it was a good essay commensurate with her age. She wrote it on BBC Urdu. The subject of the piece was her life under the Taliban Occupation of Swat in Pakistan. The following summer a New Yorkbased journalist made a documentary on her. She lost her anonymity. Sometime later, while going to school on a bus, Taliban shooters attacked her. A bullet hit her in the head. Pakistani authorities airlifted her to a hospital in Rawalpindi. She was stabilised there and was further taken to Birmingham, England. By god’s grace, she survived. My question is there are so many such attacks by the Taliban in Pakistan, why only Malala was airlifted to Rawalpindi. I am happy for her that she survived. Then a German newspaper took fancy for her story. In Pakistan, many such Malala’s and Yousuf’s get hit by terrorist bullets; some survive, and many of them die. But why did people took up fancy for the media and social media stories! Is it because we lack good news in today’s times?  

I have no issue whatsoever that she got the best of the treatment and survived. Many more such actions should be taken to save lives. The German newspaper called her the most well-known teenager in the world. Somehow she got permission to continue living in the UK. Some NGO took her cause and created Malala fund for Right to Education with the help of the organisationAt the age of sixteen, she coauthored a book, I am Malala. Well, we know the meaning of coauthoring. The NGO and the author use Malala’s name to make her famous and “intellectual”She was awarded Nobel prize in 2014. She was in the list of most influential people of the list of Time magazine for 2013/2014/2015. The Canadian government gave her honorary citizenship. Now living in the safe climate of the UK, she provides “advice” or gives her expert opinion on how things should be done in Pakistan. How is India wrong in applying changes in article 370 on Kashmir. It is good that the Indian government ignored her comments. Who is Malala to tell India what to do? Is Malala a real genius? Do you get the world view on serious matters because the Nobel prize committee thinks that you are a genius?  

Now take the case of Greta Thunberg from Sweden. She was born in the year 2003 and first understood about environmental issues in the year 2011. Well, well! At the age of 8 if you know such a complex problem as environmental issues, then you have to be a genius. Darwin is proven right again. For two years, she challenged her parents about the environmental footprint. A book recounting this story of this family was published in the year 2018. 

In late 2018, Thunberg began the school climate strikes and public speeches for which she has become an internationally recognised climate activist. Her father does not like her missing school but said, “We respect that she wants to make a stand. She can either sit at home and be unhappy, or protest, and be happy”. Thunberg says her teachers are divided in their views about her missing class to make her point. She says: “As people, they think what I am doing is good, but as teachers, they say I should stop.” In July 2019, Time magazine reported Thunberg was taking a “sabbatical year” from school, intending to travel in the Americas while meeting people from the climate movement.  

It looks as if no one else is doing any work on this subject. Thunberg gets an invitation to speak at a UN conference! She gets to lead an environmental protest march in Montreal, Canada where 50000 people took part in the march. Greta gets awards from Sweden, France, Germany. She is amongst the 100 most influential people in the world. December 2019, she is on Time magazine cover.  

I am all okay with this. Is the world looking for instant heroes? I am surprised that she is not yet been awarded the Nobel prize. Some organisations and individuals are doing a lot of work in this area. But awards are suddenly being given to a sixteen-year-olds! Darwin is again proven correct! Is it?  

She understands the subject, and she is an excellent speaker. But does that mean that she has contributed so much that the whole world is giving her awards! She is a sixteen-year-old with a lot of enthusiasm and good oratory! All the other people working in this area for a long time have not contributed anything, it seems.  

Very similar things are happening about CAA/NRC in India. How many people know about what is happening? Suddenly students from some universities have started protesting against the same. I am happy about protests, but I am not pleased about protesters who do not know the subject. They go by Facebook messages and WhatsApp messages. These social media messages travel fast. I am very confident that 95% of the students do not understand the subject. They start protesting with half-baked knowledge. It took me a few days of detailed study to understand these subjects. The students go by the herd mentality.  

Social media makes instant heroes out of the student’s protests these days. But I am of the firm opinion that Nadia, Sachin is rarity any field You may add Boris Baker to this list.

But Malala and Greta are creations of the media and social media. NGO’s and some author has used Malala’s name for their benefit! The same thing appears to be happening in the case of Greta! Darwin or no Darwin, I don’t think that children start to understand complex things from the age of eight, ten or eleven!

Please share your views on this subject with me!  

Car? No, I would instead take the horse carriage! 

You must be wondering what I am talking about. I am saying that cars will go out of fashion soon, and will be replaced by horse carriages. Technological changes are developed over a period, but once they reach the tipping point, technology spread can be breathtaking. Okay, I was joking!  What I want to say is that IC Engine cars will be replaced by Electric Vehicles!

The photos below were taken 13 years apart. It’s 5th avenue in New York. The first picture was taken in the year 1900, and the second one was taken in the year 1913. Production of the Ford T model started in 1908, and by the year 1930, the equestrian age was over for all practical purpose. Such is the power of disruptive technology.

We can replace these years by the current relevance of electric vehicles; replace the year 1900 by 2010, 1913 by 2023 and 1908 by 2018 the trend looks very similar. IC engine vehicles will be replaced by 2040 if we replace the year 1930 by the same logic. Are you surprised? At least I am not surprised. In the first 30 years of the last century, there were many battery-operated vehicles, but somehow the research in battery technology lagged far behind other developments. IC engine cars took over.

The year 2019 has seen dramatic sales drop in Indian Automotive sector. Sales are down by about 10 % in two-wheelers, by average 25% in cars and 35 to 40% in the commercial sector. Is the point of inflexion in the automotive sector reached? Nobody can explain why this is happening. The only sector where sales are doing well is high-end cars. In this range, people buy cars when they want, recession or no recession!

According to me, there could be many reasons. For the first time in the car segment, the number of second-hand cars sold was more than the new cars sold. Millennials would rather buy a second-hand Corolla instead of buying a new I 10. Or they may not buy cars at all and use Olas and Ubers.  According to me, two-wheeler production has reached a saturation point.  Add to the woes of automotive sector, Metros are getting operational in many large cities; their introduction is also a game changer.

In the commercial sector, many things have happened in the last five years. Roads all over India have become much better. The stoppages of these vehicles at various hurdles has reduced to one hurdle, the toll plazas. Most other checkpoints have gone away because of system changes. Because of this change, the turnaround time of these vehicles has improved drastically. Computerisation, GPS and other such systems have helped to keep track of the vehicles easily. Now toll collection all over India will also become automated in the next few months due to mandatory implementation of RFID technology. It will further reduce the time wasted at the toll plaza! The overall efficiency improvement has resulted in a reduction of the commercial vehicles required by the industry.

Carriage3

On top of this scenario, Electric Vehicles are slowly being introduced. What direction it will take is difficult to predict. But it appears that many Metro cities are trying to introduce Electric buses.

carriage4

In Nagpur, Ola has introduced 200 Mahindra Electric cars. Raipur has introduced 200 Mahindra autos. It appears that established companies are coming into the market strongly. Bajaj Auto has declared introduction of Chetak Electric scooters.

Tata Motors is talking about introducing Electric cars for individual customers. MG Motors and Hyundai have introduced high-end Electric SUV’s, with good range per charge, in the Indian market.

So, the similarity between horse carriages/cars and IC Engine cars/EV’s is not far-fetched! Another strong variable getting into the market is driverless cars. Looking at traffic in India, we feel that it will be impossible to introduce such cars in India. But in the developed countries this technology has been developed, and it is said that driverless vehicles will come on the roads by the 2021/2022. How will this development affect the car segment? Consider a journey which costs Rs 100/ today. If Ubers and Olas of this world introduce driverless cars, the cost of the journey will reduce by say, Rs.30/. Further, they introduce Electric driverless vehicles.  Assume that the running goes down by Rs.20/. The same trip will cost you Rs.50/. When the costs go down so much, will you buy a car? At least I will not buy one. There will be lots of Ubers and Olas on the road at any time.

As the battery costs go down, and as the production is scaled up, the running costs of cars will go down. Even at today’s running costs of EV per km  is less than that of IC Engine cars.

About Electric cars, we forget one thing. The batteries are going to replace petroleum products. Currently, petroleum products are delivered finally through petrol pumps. But there is a huge ecosystem which has come up over a period of one hundred years to reach the fuel to petrol pumps.

Similarly, “the new petroleum products” also need a delivery system. The delivery system is the charging station like the petrol pump. For charging we need Electricity- “the new petroleum”. Increasing electricity production is also equally important; it is equivalent to oil wells. Non-conventional methods like Solar, Windmills and Nuclear power stations are the way forward. In the time frame that I have mentioned above, the required infrastructure will be in place.

What about the scaling of battery production? It is already happening. Tesla is in the process of setting up a Giga factory. Part of this factory is leased to Panasonic. Panasonic brings their raw material and processes it, and produces battery cells. These cells are  handed over to Tesla on the same premises, and Tesla do the final assembly.

Similarly, Volkswagen is also in the process of setting up its own Giga factory for battery production. I am sure other serious players will follow suit. In India, Toyota and Suzuki have joined hands with Toshiba to manufacture batteries in a plant in Sanand. Suzuki will make Electric cars for both themselves and Toyota in India, using Toyota technology. Toyota has joined hands with Mazda in the US!

Unless you make your own batteries, the cost of electric vehicles will not come down. Costs will further come down on scaling. But smaller players will have a disadvantage with the cost of batteries.

I am not an expert in this field, but I have been in the automotive components field all my career. So, my comments are based on my gut feeling. Electric vehicles will spread faster in small developed countries like Norway, Sweden. In large countries, they will spread into the market in regions. For example, in the US, it can happen quickly in the bay area or areas around New York on the East Coast. The introduction will be faster in areas where average daily commute distance is smaller; people anyway will have home chargers.It can happen around London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt and so on. China anyway is way ahead of others in EV production. 50% of EV’s in world are currently made in China.

In India, I feel that it will happen faster in buses, taxis, rickshaws and high-end vehicles. In high-end vehicles if per charge distance covered is decent, price hardly matters. Total moving parts in IC Engine cars are 2000, and the same in Electric Vehicles are 20. Hence commercial vehicle maintenance cost will be reduced drastically. Once “new petroleum” infrastructure is in place, the numbers will go up exponentially in cities for local transport like buses, rickshaws. Small cars will be initially costly because of battery prices; hence, their spread will be slower.

Car? No, I would instead take the horse carriage!

Oh, my title was wrong!  I would instead take a Driverless Electric Vehicle!  

Are we a nation of petty people?

ISRO, Large computer literate population, Recent jump to power surplus nation though distribution is an issue. India as a nation surprises people with extremes; we have extremes in the number of major languages written and spoken, extremes in rainfall variations, extremes in average temperatures. India and the Indians are an enigma. People world over find it tough to understand India and Indians.

Even I find it challenging to understand our own people. From the early 90s of the last century, economic changes started happening in India, leading to the creation of wealth. The changes led to the creation of a massive group of middle-class people. The story continues; inflations, deflations are always there, but the large number middle class has become a fact of life.  This group of people has started travelling on holidays in India as well as in foreign countries. The subject of the title is how Indians are getting infamous on the travel circuit. I had written an article on a similar subject a few months back.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/03/07/how-well-do-we-travel/

There are many examples of petty-minded behaviour of Indians on the tours. How does this happen? Why does this happen? Have we not overcome the shortage era of the 60s and 70s of the last century? Indians sometimes travel in large groups. Ages back, we were taking a flight back from New York to Mumbai. There was a group of fifty people on the plane. It was a direct flight. The noise and chaos they created on the flight were to be seen and heard to be believed. Finally, when we landed in Mumbai, they clapped and danced for five minutes, as if they were on a charter flight. They did not follow the instructions of the crew, not to stand up while the plane was taxiing. The pilot finally announced that he would stop the aircraft unless people sat down. Okay, you are in a group having fun, but what about others?  What about basic decency?

Petty1

Recently, I have read two new items about people stealing items from the resorts and pinching apples, cakes, and scones from the breakfast spread; this was done to save money on lunch later during the day! A hotel in Switzerland had put a notice specifically for Indian guests. It is humiliating, and industrialist Harsh Goenka formally protested against it. After many more protests, they removed the notice. But why did they put it up? They must have seen our brethren taking away food items for later consumption.

A group of 1300 hundred Indians, dealers of an organisation, were taken for Sydney harbour cruise. The total number of passengers on the cruise was around 2500. The group created so much ruckus during the cruise that others were fed up. They troubled the staff too, but staff had to continue with a smiling face. The chaos was in the food area, the bars, and the play area. Where ever they went situation went out of control. The issue was reported to the management of the cruise company. At the end, when the cruise ship came back to the harbour, all the passengers other than the group were given an apology letter. They were offered a full refund or a coupon which could be used in one year’s times, for the same cruise. Can such acts of rough and rowdy public behaviour be justified, ever? Why did this group behave this way? I have no answers.

A recent viral video that showed Indian guests getting caught stealing hotel items in a Bali resort, triggered controversy in India and abroad. While many Indians acknowledged that Indian tourists had received a bad rap in the West for misbehaviour, many others argued that the family caught stealing in no way represented Indians in general. The resort was a high-end resort, so the people who stayed there had loads of money. That does not mean they behaved better; it is simply in their DNA.

Petty2

In the video circulating on the net, members of the Indian family are seen arguing with the hotel staff. But that didn’t stop the security man from opening every suitcase and taking out things that were stolen from their room – such as towels, electronics, decorative pieces, and other stuff. “We are really very sorry. It is a family tour. We will “pay you.” (bribe?) Please let us go because we have to catch our flight,” one of the women is seen telling the man.  Other security officials are also seen frisking their baggage in the video. “I will pay,” one of the family members exclaimed,  but the man from the hotel refused to “take” money (offered as a bribe) “I know you have a lot of money, but this is no respect.”

There are a couple of other methods people follow to save on the expense. When we go to some museums or monuments, there are guides on hire.  These people follow a group who have hired a guide. They stay a couple of meters behind and can hear everything!

One more method used by these people is when they want to use the loo! Many washroom areas have the main door which can be opened on paying the money. When the door opens, as many people from the group as possible will barge in at the cost of a single payment. Poor show?

Is this a modern trend? Is it a new style? In olden days only rich people would fly internationally. I knew someone who used to mint money. He used to travel to Europe 3 to 4 times a year for work. Once he invited us home for a cup of coffee. I had never flown in those days. I saw many small pillows of different types and shapes. I asked him where did he get such lovely pillows? He said, “When I fly to Europe, every time I bring a couple of them from the plane!” Wow, he used to steal them but was he proud?

I am aware that shop-lifting is a sickness. This sickness is called Kleptomania. But from the examples discussed above, none of the people seems to be a Kleptomaniac. Is this behaviour justified when a person is short of funds? The thoughts that come to mind are about why do people try and do something which is not correct!

Let me end this with a sad story. An IT engineer stayed at a five-star hotel in Hyderbad for one month, about 15 years back. In those days large, flat TV’s had just started coming to the market. He was a very talkative person and had shared the details like his flight number, back to Pune. He checked out. After he went away, to the horror of the staff, the TV from his room was missing. They managed to reach the airport as he was at the check-in counter. He had hidden the TV in one of his bags! Well, I cannot even think of explaining such behaviour. He had a high salary and could have easily afforded the TV, still why he did it? Kleptomania?

Self-help books.
Self-help books.

Man and the Machine!

I read about a flight that was required to land in the Hudson River in New York. US Airways Flight 1549 was an Airbus A320-214 which, in the climb out after takeoff from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, struck a flock of Canadian geese, just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and consequently, lost all engine power. Unable to reach an airport, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane to a ditching in the Hudson River off Midtown Manhattan. All 155 people aboard were rescued by nearby boats and there were few serious injuries.

This is the animation video of the incident. While reading about the incident and after watching the video and the video clip from the movie Sully (2016), questions came to my mind how far can a machine (based on AI- Artificial Intelligence-) take over human jobs and are they good enough to interpret the tricky situations. In this case, the incident occurred at the height of 2800 feet which is considered very low to handle such incidents. The pilots showed fantastic skills and managed to land in the Hudson River in very chilly conditions.

When various parameters were analyzed by different agencies, they used data from the black box and created simulations based on the data retrieved. Initially, they concluded that there may have been a pilot error because the auto simulations proved that the pilots should have acted differently and could have landed on either of the two airports which were in the vicinity. Both these airports had cleared the flight for emergency landing. But the pilot declared that he could not make it to the airports. Then data was loaded on simulators and two pilots “flew” the aeroplane, based on data captured. About 13 such pairs “flew” the plane on the simulator. Seven pairs could not reach the airport.

But when the pilot Sully was being interviewed, he said that he did not agree with the findings because the findings were applied to the situation, immediately instructed the pilot to turn towards the airport. But when the actual bird hits happened, the pilots were stunned and by rough estimate did not react for 35 seconds. The plane ultimately landed in the river 218 seconds after the bird hit. Out of this, 218 seconds 35 seconds were lost in the pilots recovering from the shock. Another important aspect was that the procedure stipulated by the plane manufacturer Airbus had written it with the assumption that the flying height would be 33000 feet at such times. At this height, humans have enough time to react. But at 2800 feet height, time left to react was less than four minutes before either landing or crashing. When 35 seconds of “no action”  time were considered in the simulation tests, the results matched with the pilots’ actions in deciding that not enough time was left for them to go back to any of the airports. Both pilots were honoured by many authorities for their heroic efforts which saved all 155 lives. See this interesting clip below, from the Movie “Sully” based on the incident with Tom Hank in the lead road.

Now the question comes to mind who is better Man or Machine? Would machine have required 35 seconds of reaction time? Maybe no. But unless this real-life situation was available in the database for the AI system, how would a machine have reacted? The pilot could see that there was the river Hudson around, which he thought would have become a spot for “soft landing”. At any other place in New York or New Jersey, the aeroplane would have simply crashed into buildings and maybe exploded. Would an AI system have known at the time of the incident, the option for a soft landing? Another question that comes to mind is how many combinations would be required to be present in AI database, for the system to understand that combination of 2800 feet height, time remaining of (218-35=) 183 seconds, wide enough river Hudson being around and there were no taller buildings in the path etc, etc. By analyzing hundreds of such options, the AI system would have arrived at a conclusion, what would be the “safest” option to save lives and the aircraft. At least in this case, with the current level of technology, the human decision was a superior decision.

The way humans react, their mind thinks out of the box! AI system decides only based on what data is available with it. The human mind applies its thoughts and extrapolates to arrive at the correct conclusion. It automatically does the risk analysis and tries to take the best possible decision under the circumstances. How far AI systems will be able to extrapolate, it is difficult for us to judge. 50 years hence, who knows?

I will share another example from the Aviation field. The incident is known as “Gimli Glider”, this happened in 1983 and the plane was Boeing 767 used by Air Canada. There were series of errors in the measurement of fuel, manual, gauges, dip stick, at every stage. There was a transition going on from the FPS system to MKS system in Canada at that time. One thing led to another ending in the incident. See the link below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider

Incident is too technical to be explained here. But the end result was all the fuel tanks were suddenly empty, half way to the destination. We can say that all these errors and complications probably could have been avoided by AI. Yes and no both because AI stuff takes time to “learn everything”! After many such incidents, AI would become “an expert” in this area. But what happened later is where human intervention will show us the limitations of AI over human intelligence. When the pilots felt some issue, they decided to do an emergency landing at Winnipeg. But when they realized that there was zero fuel, the copilot and the pilot started thinking fast. The pilot was a gliding expert and he calculated that the plane could glide 16 times the height at which the plane was flying. The copilot was from that area, and he had worked on a Royal Canadian Air Force Station in the area. He judged the parameters and decided to land at that Ex-air force station at Gimli. Only problem was that both the pilots and air traffic controllers were not aware that the station had become a racing track. But it was only because of the knowledge of the pilots and the way they applied it sensibly, the plane ultimately landed safely with no major injuries to anyone on the flight as well as on ground.

This brings out the same question, AI or Humans who are better? This discussion is going to go on forever but AI systems will become better and better but nobody really knows what is stored in the Human brain and what the humans will retrieve from their brain, is going to be really difficult to judge. But we should not forget one thing, humans are the ones who are creating an AI system!

I read somewhere about the movie Sully! The copilot  Skiles is asked in the end what you would have done differently if the same incident were to occur! He smiles and says, “I would make sure that we landed in Hudson River in July and not as we did in January!”

Is this Popcorn or Caviar!

I went to the airport the other day to pick up my delayed bags. While coming back from airport, I again used Ola cab. There was a difference of Rs.35/ on the same trip, the return trip cost more. I checked the invoice and found that they had charged, airport pick-up charge. Ola and Uber both now have stands at the Pune airport. For this facility they pay yearly fees to the authorities. They are passing it on to the customers. At a time 8 to 10 cabs are always waiting at the airport!

The other day, we went to a multiplex to watch a movie! I did my booking on the website. Besides buying high priced tickets, I was charged convenience fees above the price of the tickets. I asked my young friends, who are savvy in such things! A friend suggested that we should use the website to check the tickets availability; if plenty of tickets are available, simply go the multiplex and buy the tickets. No convenience charges are applied.

So far so good. While watching the movie, we thought that we must follow the tradition and decided to eat popcorn, sandwiches and coke (diet of course!)  Popcorn was freshly made, sandwiches were ready to eat; probably made in the kitchen near the back office. Coke was from the fountain. None of the product sold were legally “packaged” food. “Packaged”  stuff under the law of MRP!  Non packaged products do not have MRP and there is no need to “declare” it price!

(MRP) Maximum Retail Price is a maximum price which can be charged to the consumers in India, as specified by the authority. Under the Consumer Goods (mandatory printing of date of Production and Maximum Retail Price) Act, 2006, consumers cannot be charged more than the MRP mentioned on the packing of the products.

When my card was charged I realized that there was not a single packaged item. Hence there was no MRP for whatever I bought. I realized that the multiplex owners must have had robbers as their ancestors! They simply robbed me on food prices, and there was nothing I could do about it. The total cost of food was much higher than the price of movie tickets. Since the items did not come under MRP laws, they could charge me whatever they wanted! Mind you there was a big queue to buy stuff and apparently people have money and do not mind spending money on entertainment. I asked my young friend later, the trick to overcome this issue. I asked her, if we could take stuff from home to eat. She said that we are not allowed to take outside food in the multiplexes due to security reasons; and that is the law! My theory about ancestry was proven!

So far so good, the movie was nice so we did have a good time in spite of meeting the  robbers! Now what is the law on this? Somebody has recently taken these multiplex guys to court. Arguments are going on in the court. The court has made an observation that when we go to five-star hotels, we pay whatever they ask for the food! We never expect the prices to be similar to other smaller restaurants. Similarly, I know that the prices of movie tickets in single screen theaters are much lower than what multiplexes charge. I am sure pop-corn, sandwiches also cost much less in single screen theaters. The court will check only the legality of billing done for food, if needed. Compliance of taxation will be checked by tax department! But nobody can tell them at what price they should sell the food!

The stories apart, is the high price for food charged by multiplexes justified? I am not sure but the multiplexes are projects by themselves and there is a lot of investment made in each such project. The movie business is unpredictable in general, so sell of tickets will depend on how popular the movie becomes! Their earning from movies is also unpredictable. The movie tickets are priced from Rs.80/ to Rs.400/ plus, for morning shows to most popular movies later in the day. I am not aware of their earning per ticket. So, what they are charging us for food is as per their business model. We are going to five-star movie theaters where we have fancy theaters, escalators and all the modern things. Prices will be high and we will have to accept them.

In India, when we travel by railways, we don’t pay extra luggage charges. But when we fly we are required to pay additional fees to the airlines as per rules. On some airlines they provide food free because the price of tickets is inclusive of the food. But on some low-cost airlines, we are required to pay for the food. Recently on our first leg back to India, on Seattle to Toronto flight, Air Canada was charging for food but they were serving coffees and cokes free, though it was an international flight! They probably decide based on the duration of the flight. On New York- San Francisco flight we were served food, since duration was 6 ½ hrs. So, each of the businesses have their own business model! We shouldn’t crib about it. We choose whatever is suitable to us, itinerary wise and price wise. So, we have options to see a movie in a multiplex! We have choices! Single screen theaters, YouTube, Netflix. We have to decide ourselves, nobody is forcing us.

What is the solution to this issue? For me there is no solution! But yesterday a party known for its rough politics, man handled a restaurant manager in a multiplex, for selling popcorn at  “high” price. Is it the right way to handle things? What can the manager do about it? The prices are decided by the management! Taking law into your hands is never justified whatever the reason!

There was one new Ranbir Kapoor movie being released! In the second week when the ticket prices are down, we can go for the movie. Tickets are on me, food is on you! Offer open only for multiplexes!  Are you game?

Father Time

This is the description of father time on Wikipedia page: Father Time is usually depicted as an elderly bearded man with wings, dressed in a robe and carrying a scythe and an hourglass or other timekeeping device (which represents time’s constant one-way movement, and more generally and abstractly, entropy). This image derives from several sources, including the Grim Reaper and the misattribution of Cronus (not Chronos) as the Greek Titan of human time, reaping and calendars, or the Lord of Time.

fathertime

Typical statement that we make casually about Time is “for next xx hours/days I am just going to laze around and do nothing”. This of course is essential to recharge our batteries or sometimes plain necessity if we are tired. But I feel that in this beautiful world Time is the only finite thing that we own and it is depleting every second. The beauty is that we do not know how much time we have and so we do not have time to waste! In this scenario I feel that we should handle time more carefully.

We treat time very casually and most of the time we feel that Time can be bartered with money. If you are a doctor or an engineer or a scientist, you should be spending more time doing things in which you have the expertise and interest. We do not learn to delegate things and waste our time in doing mundane things. I will give some examples under Indian scenario. I know of people who go and buy their milk every day, though at a very nominal fee milkman delivers milk at home. Laundry man comes home to take clothes for ironing but our friends will go to his shop for the same. What is the value addition?  When things can be bought online we go to shops and purchase items there. If we are buying branded stuff it is easier and faster to do it online. It is ok to go to malls/shops if you want to have fun time and eat out. When cars are to be given for servicing, dealers provide facility for pick up and dropping the car back, at a nominal fee.  Most don’t do it and waste their time as dealerships are far. We had a friend in Canada a real expert in engineering field; once we went to his house and he was irritated that he could not do his research as he was forced to perform mundane things at home, which were very expensive to outsource. What I have said is about better time management but there are more important things than that.

We all have our dreams. But in drudgery of day of day things, we put our dreams on back burner. Dreams may be small, they may be big but dreams are dreams! This is where the finite Time comes into picture. We forget this finite element of the Time and always think that we will follow our dreams later. Does that later ever come? We need to learn to find golden mean within the parameters of work, making money, life’s other responsibilities.

Dreams can be from eating a meal at a fancy restaurant in New York, to laze on beaches in Australia. It could be visiting Taj Mahal or going to the Moon. But dream practically. Your dream may be to climb Mount Everest! Age and physical fitness come into picture. Again never follow the dictum, “My friend is doing so let me try”! Never do that because circumstances are different. One important aspect is that we should think about your spouse’s dreams too! You may be able to withstand a drive through Saharan desert in summer but your spouse may not be fit enough!

All said and done, don’t postpone your dream to tomorrow. Because tomorrow may be too late. I am not saying that you will not be around tomorrow but circumstances can be different tomorrow. Some are lucky to have ideal situations almost till their finite Time is over but many are not that lucky. There can be variety of reasons that will not let you follow your dreams.

Here is a story which I read on the net.

 A lady who was a painter at heart was travelling with her boy-friend. They met a man whose vehicle had broken down. When they were helping the man, the co-traveler told them his story. Traveler had a lifelong dream to make an overland trip across and around the whole of the Australian outback.  Husband & wife both worked jobs they didn’t like, saving all the money that they could and foregoing holidays each year, all the while planning their perfect journey. ‘The holiday of a lifetime’ he called it.

Finally the day arrived.  They had the best equipment money could buy and a pair of first class tickets. On the flight, they had sipped champagne, as giddy as children.

The problems had started the very first night.  They had driven out and pitched their ‘top of the line’ tent.  But his wife’s arthritis had instantly flared up, and the humidity didn’t agree with his lungs, so sleep would not come.  From there on things had only gotten worse.  So much worse that by the end of the first month his wife had given up on their dream, changed her ticket and flew back home without him.  He had stubbornly vowed to complete the trip but admitted to himself that he was having second thoughts about it. 

It had come on fast, like a rush of cold water on the lady, as they were driving away and watching the traveler recede downcast, in their rear view mirror; her heart had broken a little and, in that exact moment, she’d decided to give painter within her (the thing that she had always secretly wanted to do but had always put off until ‘later’) a real shot. After the lady reached her destination, she chucked everything and just decided to become a full time painter!

Every decision is a trade-off.  What you choose to focus on will determine the very shape your life and your character; for good or for ill.

Everything, everything comes down to time.

So come now, do not delay!

It is much later than you think.