Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lost and Found

I forgot my bag in a crowded part of Cubbon Park for close to a couple of hours, and found it right there when I came back looking for it. Here are some theories
* The dull green colour served to camouflage it.
* People's paranoia about unattended luggage ensured that nobody ventured near it.
* The park was so crowded that there was always someone near it, and hence people didn't realize it was unattended.
* Maybe my pessimism about people is unfounded.
* The universe was feeling extra benevolent to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Eureka moments on Bangalore water


Today was earth day. We were surrounded by the endless motifs of lost-cause-ness that modern environmentalism brings to the fore. Even the prescriptions of those little constructive mini-steps -such as biking or recycling- are depressing in their insignificance. Every new finding, every new study, every new insight seems to just add to the cynicism. That's why it's always a little brusquely surprising when some data proves that things may not really be all that screwed. These are some of my favorite eureka moments from the several water related discussions we've had over the week.

* I always thought that we were irresponsibly draining our aquifers, and that underground water was drying up faster than we can hope to replenish. Turns out that that's not the case. In some parts of the city, like in several other modern cities in the world, the water table is actually rising! The reason for this, however, is not so encouraging. We lose a large portion of water in the distribution network (upto 40% if you believe some stats). That combined with the seepage from all the sewer contributes to the rising levels in ground water.

* I've always considered that one of the perquisites of living in a western country was the potable water that gets delivered in every tap. That seemed to me like the ideal to aspire for. I am being forced to reconsider. Considering that only about 1% of the water delivered in all the taps is actually used for drinking, all the remaining water has to needlessly go through the really elaborate purification routines. It's like using your aquaguard water to wash your car! The western system might be unsustainable in the long run. The method of localized purification that the Indias and the Chinas have adopted, where only the water meant for drinking is purified, might just be significantly more energy-efficient.

* I always thought that using ground water was an undesirable but unavoidable fallback option, when the state administration is not good enough to organize a proper distribution network. Turns out, with a proper replenishment infrastructure in place, individual borewells might be a lot more efficient than centralized distribution. It costs Rs 37 per kilo liter to get water from the Cauvery, and only Rs. 3 if you get it from an open well (and roughly about Rs.8 for a borewell).

Glad everything's not lost yet.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Picture source

Test cricket, one of my favorite forms of professional sport, is surely going to be a victim of Twenty20. We're soon going to see the end of the richly layered plots, the idea of the honorable draw, the triumph of aesthetics over competition, the epic demonstrations of concentration and perseverance, and all those other archaic values that Tests used to symbolize. Yet I'm not in favor of artificial intervention to keep something alive just to keep purists happy. Despite my allegiance, I admit test cricket is a waste of time. But the death of tests is not the only cause of my T20-anxiety.

I recently had the chance to moderate a group discussion on whether the IPL is beneficial to us or not. Unfortunately, given the shortage of time, the group never really scratched the surface. The advocates talked about the increased employment opportunities, the unquestionable recreational value, the very visible CSR gestures and so on. The detractors brought up the ethical issue of the misplaced resource allocation (should we have power cuts at the cost of the IPL games), the loss of productivity, the grossness of the expenditure, and the extent of commercialization.

For me, there are other issues that I'm struggling to make up my mind about. I see people spend all their energy talking and tweeting about the IPL games. A bulk of the lunch table conversations that I overhear in office are related to the previous night's games. How does the cost of this misplaced (IMHO) passion compare against the purported "psychological benefits"? Are there studies that analyze if massively popular sport movements like the IPL revitalize the economy or further concentrate wealth in the hands of a few? What about the power of the IPL in forcing even the normally sane Tharoor to resort to such jingoism and waste his time on something that's not closely relevant to his ministry or his constituency? Chomsky summed my apprehensions in "Manufacturing Consent" .

"...sports -- that's another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it offers people something to pay attention to that's of no importance. That keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it's striking to see the intelligence that's used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in -- they have the most exotic information and understanding about all kind of arcane issues."

Right now I don't have the answers or the data and I'm probably taking this issue too seriously. However, for me, T20 is guilty until proven innocent. I'm sticking with my boycott.