Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Origins of The Secret

In The Secret, Rhonda Byrne, in the introduction writes:

I'd been given the glimpse of a Great Secret - The Secret to life. The glimpse came in a hundred-year old book, given to me by my daughter Hayley.

Does any one know the name of this "hundred-year old book"?

I find it kind of strange that this book (or for that matter, its author) is not acknowledged.

There are, of course, four possibilities. The section on Biographies at the back of the book, The Secret are 4 dead people (the rest are alive and kicking!). These are:

Genevieve Behrend, who wrote Your Invisible Power and Attaining Your Heart's Desire
Charles Haanel, who wrote The Master Key System (believed to be the secret of Bill Gates's riches - aaah! Now you are interested! Aren't you?)
Prentice Mulford, who wrote Thoughts Are Things and The White Cross Library
Wallace Wattles, who wrote The Science of Getting Rich

So, which one is it?
I think, not explicitly acknowledging the author of the book that is at the root of the phenomenal success of The Secret is ingratitude. Wouldn't you say?

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are Antioxidants Good?

If you thought anti-oxidants is a recent discovery then you are wrong by about 50 years. In fact, the antioxidant theory of aging was first proposed by Denham Harman in 1956. It is only recently that the marketing people have caught up.

But wait. Before you jump onto the bandwagon have a look at what Scientific American May 2009 issue has to say about it:

Companies have started putting antioxidants in goods as different as face cream and soda, claiming that they clean cells, prevent cancer and even stave off death. ...

Synthetic antioxidants have failed to show any clear longevity benefits to humans, and that has been a problem for Harman ever since he conceived the theory. Although anti-oxidants definitely prevent damage, there is no consensus on how much they forestall aging

Who wants to live for ever anyway?
Age in a dignified manner and die, I say.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Impala is a car

We did not even know the Fortune is a magazine; but we knew that General Motors is the top Fortune 500 company. This was when I was in school / college - my memory does not take me back to the exact point when I got interested in world beyond me and exactly when I heard of GM. But before than there was the Impala. In our childhood this was the ultimate definition of a luxury car.

"What cars do filmi heroes drive?"
"Impala!" would be the prompt answer.

Impala was the status symbol. This was the early seventies. The India of Ambassadors and Fiats.

We did not even know that Impala is actually an animal. To us it was a car. I remember when I told a few of my friends that Impala is actually a deer, they laughed.

Then some years ago, I heard that a Japanese bank had dethroned GM from the top of the Fortune 500 list. For about two years or so. I think GM briefly regained its position but if someone has to fix a date when the slide began it was then.

But in my mind the decline started a few years before that. I happen to meet an ex-colleague's relative who worked at GM India. I was naturally thrilled. The first question I asked him was - can you believe it; how dumb could I be - "Have you heard of Alfred Sloan?" I guess I was trying to impress him. After all he worked in GM. His response: "duh?"

"You mean they don't tell you about Alfred P. Sloan during your induction training."
"Who is Sloan?"
I thought I had mispronounced his name. So I tried different versions of 'Sloan'.
Blank face.

In my mind, a company who had forgotten Alfred Sloan was already in decline.

The past half a decade has been filled with GM struggling. So it is no surprise that today they are the verge of bankruptcy. Kind of sad. But my memories of GM will always be fixed to a White Impala driven by a Bollywood hero wooing his lady with a romantic song.

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Plan your trip to South India with a friend

What do you do when you plan a trip? You Google. Buy up available literature and you talk to friends. Hopefully your friends would know someone (a friend of a friend) who has traveled before. All tiny bits help.

I just realized that I could be the friend of a friend. And before the modern mind is filled with skepticism, I hurry to state that I am *not* a travel agent *nor* a tour guide. I do not have any commercial interest in any place that I recommend.

And this comes absolutely FREE.

I travel the south India whenever possible. Besides, I am surrounded by friends and colleagues who belong to the 'South Indies'. They have friends who have friends who have traveled ... you get the idea.

So, if any one has any questions on ...

(i) Which route will fetch you the maximum ROI?
(ii) Where to stay (a) in style (b) in comfort?
(iii) Confirmation of tiny little facts that do not show up on Google search.
(iv) Mode of travel.
(v) anything at all.

... please feel free to write to

I will send you a personal response within a week and we could interactively decide on the best option.

This should help those who travel from the North of India or those living outside India.

So what is stopping you?

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The joy of selling

Having worked for all my adult life in an extreme niche industry, I find the job of selling extremely difficult. Especially, since industrial selling demands incredible patience. And though we have a long list of customer, I am still not sure what makes an industrial customer tick. I guess pedigree helps. If I have 20 customers, I must be doing something right. So, the 21st is not that difficult. It is getting the first one that is difficult.

Internet gave me the chance of trying my hand at selling. I am not talking of selling as in selling on e-bay or something that I have authored or created. It is what I would call 'selling by impression'. How does it work?

I love reading books. And I write about them. Some of the readers who happen to read my reviews may order the book on Amazon through my lens. And I like to think that my review gave them the final push to order for the book. I, of course, would never know who bought it. But I would know how many bought through my pages.

And I finally did it. I managed to sell the first book through my Squidoo lens. Someone ordered The Go-Giver from The Go-Giver Book Review

Am I thrilled? You bet I am. It is not the money that comes for getting someone to buy the book. I get a few cents. It is the thrill of influencing someone's decision. Someone, somewhere, read my review and decided to buy the book. That gives me joy. Pure joy.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mr. Obama, You need Lessons in Economics

Mr. Obama,

Chances are that you haven't read my open letter to you, posted some while ago. Chances are that you will not read this too.

In my previous letter I had a tiny paragraph on banning protectionism. For your convenience, here is the extract:

"Ban protectionism. Open up world trade. Will make you unpopular in America if you do it immediately. But has to be done and will happen whether America likes it or not. If the world has to prosper. Your call."

I am sure you are surrounded by economists of repute who advise you on important matters. I am therefore surprised how you could even dream of taxing outsourcing. The fact that you have been mentioning Bangalore quite often shows you are being misled. The roots of the US economic meltdown does not lie in Bangalore. Nor does Outsourcing to Bangalore or Beijing cause US misery.

One does not have to an economist to understand this. I am not. Fortunately there are many pop-economics books in the market that are very good. I would recommend that you go no further than Tim Harford's The Undercover Economist. Here is an excerpt:

A more extreme example may clarify things further. Think of a country whose government is very keen on self-sufficiency. 'We need to encourage our local economy,' says the Minister of Trade and Industry. So the government bans all imports and patrols the coast to prevent smuggling. One effect will be that a lot of effort will be devoted to producing locally what was once imported: this certainly is encouragement to the local economy. But another effect is that all of the export industries will quickly shrivel and die. Why? Because who would want to spend time and money exporting goods in exchange of foreign currency, if nobody is allowed to spend spend the foreign currency on imports? While one part of the local economy is encouraged, another is crippled. The 'no imports' policy is also a 'no exports' policy. And indeed, one of the most important theorems of trade theory, the Lerner theorem, named after the economist Abba Lerner, proved in 1936 that a tax on imports is exactly equivalent to a tax on exports.

Still wish to go ahead with taxing outsourcing, Mr. Obama?

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Tiled Roads

Of all states Tamil Nadu is most geared for encouraging tourism. Ooty is in perhaps in decline, but Kodaikanal is not. It is perhaps the cleanest and neatest of all Indian hill stations. While it will take a tremendous effort to reach the standards of say, Interlaken, I must say, given the general Indian standards of public hygiene, Kodai is pretty good.

Roads impressed me most. Most of the roads I traveled on are regularly maintained. Even the hill roads! As I climbed the Hill Road to Kodai I was first amused and then intrigued by patches of tiles on the road - the kind you would find on the side walk of big roads in cities. It took a while but then I realized what was going on. The authorities who maintain the roads do not wait for the whole road to be broken. Since, it would be foolish to haul up a road-roller every time a tiny patch of road breaks, they replace the broken piece of road with tiles. And it works just fine.

Now that is ingenuity for you.

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Is Fountainhead being replayed in Mumbai?

Ayn Rand's Fountainhead seems to be converted into real life drama in Mumbai. The following extract is from Suketu Mehta's incisive piece of journalistic triumph, Maximum City.

Rahul Mehrotra, whose architectural projects - particularly the combination of low- and high-tech material in his buildings - are praised by critics, is in his tenth year of working in Bombay. More than half of his work, the unpaid part, is in an urban planning institute in Bombay. He talks to anyone who'll listen - governments, journalists, Rotarians - about what needs to be done in Bombay. ... Rahul traces the deterioration of Bombay to the late 1960s. In 1964, a commission headed by the architect Charles Correa - Rahul's father-in-law - proposed New Bombay, a 'magnet city' for Bombay, a pressure valve. It would be located right across the bay, just to the east of the island city.


But in the late 1960s, the state government backed out of a commitment to move its offices from the Nariman Point Reclamation, on the southern tip of the island to New Bombay. Private businesses followed suit. ... Rahul identifies the five builders who, along with the V.P. Naik government ruined Bombay: the Makers, the Rahejas, the Dalamals, the Mittals, and the Tulsianis.


Bombay grew along a north-south axis; people live in the north and commute, in inhumanly packed trains, to the south. Its future depends on the axis being reoriented in an east-west direction.


The reason the builders took over Nariman Point instead of New Bombay was simple: "The greater you skew demand and supply, the higher the prices rise. The five boys must have met and had tea and decided to corner it all in a smaller plan.'

Will Howard Roark triumph this time?
Do you live in Mumbai? Can you confirm the above extract?
The book was written in 2004. So perhaps things have changed in the last 5 years. Or so one hopes.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Must Have Travel Books For South India

People travel all around the world. They have what is called the wanderlust.

I will be happy if I manage to cover, in one life time, the whole of South India - just the four states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. And I am restricting myself to only those places that fall on the tourist map. South of India is sufficiently rich to last me a life time.

Restricting myself to the south also means that I get to drive to my destination.

I depend mainly on two books for all my travels. And I would recommend this to anyone.

The first is part of the 'Outlook Traveller Getaways' series. It goes by the name 'Weekend Breaks From Bangalore'. Unfortunately the name 'Weekend Breaks From Bangalore' is misleading. Many tourists from the north and outside India may not use this book as they are more interested in a been-there kind of trip. That would be a mistake. Of all the books that I have checked at the local bookstores, this one is perhaps the best. The book dedicates at least 4-5 pages (or more) for each destination. The pages cover maps, routes, best way to get there by car, bus and train, where to stay, where to eat while traveling and at the destination, local interests and places of interest around the destination. I wish they would come up with the next edition soon. My book is getting tattered from use and the next edition would give me the excuse to buy it again.

Outlook Traveller also has dedicated travel books on Goa (I have) and Kerala (need to buy).

The second book I refer for all my trips is the India Road Atlas published by Eicher GoodEarth Publication. I hate maps that need unfolding and refolding (and in any case you can never get the folds neatly back again). The Road Atlas is a book that is of size that is little bigger than A5 and little smaller than A4 size paper - very convenient. There are two built in bookmarks that helps you navigate easily from one page to another. The map is sufficiently detailed. And even if you do not wish to travel by road, buy this Atlas. It is fun to trace roads on the map.

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Sound of Silence

Now I am sleeping and now I am wide awake. Just like that.

I try to figure out what happened.
Was it some bad dream?
A noise?
Then I realize ... there is no noise. In fact no sound. No where.
I stay awake trying to listen to any sound from anywhere. Nah!
The entire hill station of Kodai goes absolutely still at around 3 a.m. in the morning.
This happened to me the first two nights I spent at Kodaikanal.
I now know what is meant by 'deafening sound of silence'
I feel like a zen master :-)

Or rather like Kamal Hassan in the movie Pushpak Vimana. He cannot sleep in the 5 star hotel. So he goes back to his room that is next to the cinema hall and records the loud noise. Back at the hotel he plays the tape recorder and snores away to glory.

Have you seen the movie. It was released in the north as Pushpak. There are no dialogs in the movie. It is not required. Unfortunately, it was not a box office hit. I wonder why wasn't it India's official entry at the Oscars. Anyways, click on the above link to know more about the movie. And if you haven't seen it, go ahead and get a copy from the local video library. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Coming back to my experience of total silence at Kodai ... I was disappointed that I did not wake up in the middle of the night on the 3rd and 4th day. I sort of started enjoying the experience. There is a kind of peace in total silence.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bangalore to Kodaikanal by Road

It has been a dream holiday. Just back from a road trip to Kodai. And in spite of burning a big hole in my pocket by staying for 5 days and 4 nights at the Carlton, I would love to repeat this holiday in about 3 years time. Why? Read on.

The Route

A search on Internet reveals that there are multiple routes from Bangalore to Kodai. A route that is highly recommended is

Bangalore - NH7 - Toppur - at which point you get off NH7 and take Mettur - Bhavani - Perundurai - Kangayam - Dharmapuram - Palani - Kodiakanal

Personally I prefer the National Highways. So I took the following (slightly longer, but faster) route:

Bangalore - all the way on NH7 to Dindigul Bypass - Vattalkundu - Kodaikanal

NH7 is under construction but it is not like that the entire stretch is dug up or something like that. Throughout the trip there is at least one lane that is operational. So the speeds drop a little but you should still be able to manage about 70 kmph on an average.

CAUTION: You will know when you will need to take diversions to the other lane but you will never know when the traffic from the other side gets diverted to your lane. So, try not to ride on the faster lane. I would advise that you stick to the left.

I would like to think that the NH7 will be fully operational in about 2 years time. I would therefore love to drive down again in 3 years time.

Yeah! I just love to drive my Scorpio over loooong distances.

We covered the entire stretch of the 455km in approximately 10 hours. This included one break for a heavy breakfast and an hour's stop at a field, where the farmer climbed up the tree to get us Tender Coconut Water - no straws.
tender coconut - straight from the tree

Drinking Tender Coconut - no straws
We managed our return trip in 9 hours, with one stop for lunch.

(I drive slow with kids in the car - never exceeding 100 kmph. Other cars were zipping past me. So it is possible to make the distance in shorter time, say 7-8 hours. The road is that good.)

We took breakfast (onwards) and lunch (return) at Ghar. This chain of eatery belongs to Adyar Anand Bhavan (Who inspired them to shorten the name to the moronic A2B, I say?) Very neat and clean. The toilets were clean and so were the wash basins. There is one 'Ghar' just after Hosur and one after Krishnagiri (as you go from Bangalore to Kodai). Very convenient.

The 'Spicy Spoon' at Sulagiri (where we had breakfast on my last trip to Mahabalipuram) was not prepared to receive visitors at early hours. SO I missed out on their Ghee Roasts.

The Stay

The Carlton

We stayed at The Carlton. Yes it is expensive. But if you are willing to splurge here's what you get.

(i) A view to the Kodai lake. So you open you eyes and you are instantly transported to heaven.
(ii) Complimentary breakfast and dinner, every day. The spread is sumptuous and you will not need to have lunch.
(iii) A half-day trip to the tourist spots.
(iv) A complementary shikara ride. (If you are staying for a longer time and you bargain you will get another).
(v) The hotel has its own Boat House. No need to stand in long queues waiting your turn.
(vi) And all the other features that a five star hotel is expected to have (Billiards, Bar, Games room, Library ... stop ... this is not an advertisement for The Carlton.)

Recommendation: Ask for room no. 422. It has a huge balcony (none of the other rooms have this) apart from a sit out. So you get two different views to the lake. The room is strategically located and nearest to the lake (as measured by crows). I would prefer this room to the cottages. This room also had a bathtub. The adjoining room (#421) did not.

The stay was extremely comfortable and that is an understatement.

The Routine

Get up at 6 a.m.
Go for a walk around the lake - at a moderately brisk pace, it should take you about 45 minutes
Have breakfast.
Go visit the tourist spots (On the first day, take the conducted tour. Revisit the places you like on your own) - I loved the Pine Forest. The Suicide Point is breathtaking. Croaker's Walk is hyped.

Pine Forest

Have another round around the lake in the evening at a more gentle pace. The milieu completely changes in the evening.
On some days go horse rising. (The rates are fixed by the authorities, so the pain of haggling is eliminated).
Go to the main market, adjacent to the bus stand.
Have dinner.
Enjoy the rest of the evening - late into the night - on the lawns looking out at the now dark lake (a few flood lights glitter - this adds to the charm.)

The Surprise

What is a vacation without a surprise pack. We had two.

Just next to the Carlton, there is the Kodai International School (KIS). My wife teaches. So obviously she would love to see the school from inside. One evening as we were returning from the main market, we met a couple who became very friendly with us. Turned out that they teach at KIS. They invited us to visit KIS the following day. It was a delight.

Second, one morning when we woke up we saw a bunch of Tibetans / Tibetan looking people at the hotel lawns. There was also a film crew. We were told that this is some sort of Tribal Shooting. By evening it was clear that Surya (non-Tamil cine-lovers would know him as husband of Jyothika who is Nagma's sister; aaah, now it rings a bell), Nayantara, Saroja Devi, and a host of Tamil film stars were staying at the hotel and this was a proper commercial film shooting. I always wanted to see a film shoot. I expected the shoot to be very noisy. It wasn't. It was a nice experience to watch the entire film crew working out. But after a few takes and retakes, it becomes quite boring.

Film Shooting

Do not miss these

Do not miss out on ...

Lotus in Kodai Lake

... the beautiful birds that frequent the lake - the best time to see them is in the morning
... the wild flowers that cling to the rocks on the mountain
... the lotus in the lake
... Danish Display - a curio shop in the main market; they have some amazing stuffs
... Chilli Bhajjis, Home Made Chocolates, Masala Puri and Masala Tea sold on the track round the lake

To summarize, we had a ball.

having a ball

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Supporting IPL Teams

Watching IPL - whenever I get the time - is turning out to be a medical problem.

I simply do not know which team to support.

I am from Bangalore, so I should support the Royal Challengers.
I am a Bengali so people expect me to support the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Since Preity and Shilpa are involved, my heart belongs to Punjab XI and Rajasthan Royals.
I am a big fan of Tendulkar, so I would like to support Mumbai Indians.

To eliminate the risk of Multiple Personality Disorder, I have decided to go ball by ball and follow these rules:

(i) When an Indian is bowling to a non-Indian batsman, root for the bowler.
(ii) When a non-Indian is bowling to an Indian batsman, hope the ball goes for a six.
(iii) When an Indian is bowling to another Indian, support the underdog.
(iii) When a non-Indian is bowling to another non-Indian batsman, don't give a damn.

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My Library