Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Fight the Good Fight Startups!

2014 is coming to a close.

It has been a very interesting time for Startups. A Government change, with it expectations, a rising economy - which in turn will benefit startups.

Billions of VC money flowing into the ecosystem. Traditional investors become Angels.

Here is my wishlist for Startups - new and old for 2015 - to Fight the Good Fight.

Gain Customers, not Facebook Likes

No Short Cuts please. Gaining traction, gaining customers is not easy. This is the most important metric for any Startup. Not the Facebook likes, Alexa ranking, Twitter Followers - these will come automatically once customers start signing up.

To gain customers - you need to have a kickass product. Not a 80% almost there product, but a 200% going beyond the wildest customer expectation product.

To reach there, it takes lot of hard work, lot of iterations - there is no short cut. 

Do not start a clone 

There are so many problems waiting to be solved. If you have 2 ideas - one which is never tried before ( like a Music Lyrics Translation site - for Indian Movie Songs across all languages ) against doing the same thing a Startup X is doing ( an E-Commerce, Grocery Delivery etc.) - do the one that has never been done before.

There is no guarantee either of the ideas will succeed - but with the never been tried before - you get the first mover advantage, there is a good chance you will get noticed, you can get Media to notice you, a team will form around you and will dream the dream you have.

Go the Distance

The biggest differentiation I see between US and Indian Startups - is not in the area of Technology. We are as technically advanced as US Startups.

The area where US Startups shine is they go the distance. They give an end-to-end solution - always. They do not stop short of solving the entire problem.

I see many startups who have reached 80%, and do not complete the entire 100% or go beyond 100%.

For eg. Dropbox - they did not stop with just Windows and Mac - but created installers for Linux - how much ever small the marker share for Linux was. Or Uber - the end to end seamless workflow they have built - something which our Ola, or Meru has not been able to do yet.

Customers - Trust Us, Refer Us 

This message is for Customers - start trusting us. Do not view Startups with suspicion. Transact Online, Pay Online, Give a chance to an idea, try that carpool, download that app, provide feedback - if the Startups succeed - so will you.

And please - please - pay for the value you receive. Just because FlipKart gives huge discounts do not arm twist Startups to give discounts. Not all startups are Flipkarts. Most are broke eking out a living and every Rupee you pay us is valuable - and we will give you 100X Value in return. 

And last request - you love our product - tell your friends, share it in Facebook, Tweet it, email your colleagues. Most of the startups do not have the budget to put a hoarding on a Billboard or play an Ad on TV - but your kind referral will take us a long way.

Big IT Company Employees

This message is for the Brilliant Techies sitting in the Big IT Companies, reading Rashmi Bansal  and attending Startup Events - put in your resignation papers and Start Up - or join a Start Up. We need you more than the Big IT Companies.

We have a huge pool of Technocrats in India - locked up in the Big IT Companies - and this base is larger than Silicon Valley.

Imagine if we all start hacking and forging new ideas - imagine what we will create!

Here is looking forward to a happening 2015 - a Bigger, Better, Beautiful StartUp World.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Switched from Nike Free Run 3 to Puma Mobium

After the Vibram law suit, I got disillusioned with Bare foot running. Also running on Mumbai Roads, bare foot is not practical - it is dangerous.

I ran barefoot for about 6 months ( on Sports Authority of India's track in Kandivali), then switched to Bata shoe... which got worn out pretty quickly.

Then I switched to Nike Free Run 3, and for the last 2 years this has been my running shoe. I have clocked close to 930Kms on this and the soles have worn off pretty well.

I enquired about Nike Run 5, and it was close to 9k. I literally stopped on my tracks - this is crazy.

Couple of weeks back, San pointed to a Sale in the Puma shop next to our office. I looked around, and found this interesting shoe - the Puma Mobium.

The sales guy knew about running and said this is not a heels strikers shoe, but more of a front to mid foot runner's. This is the ideal way to run from what I have researched.

This was also 9k, but they had 40% off. Did a few trial runs in the store and liked it.

I have been running 5ks the last few runs, and today went for 8.6Kms ( wanted to do a 10k, but stop signal came to brain and I couldn't over come it ). It is quite good. I find I did not do heel strikes anymore, and I was landing more on the mid foot. With Nike, if I do not focus, I will invariably do a few heel strikes before I realize and remind myself to land more on the mid foot.

The pace is slightly better.. don't know if it is a placebo kind of thing, or the new shoe did really help a bit.

Also, this shoe breathes well - on windy stretches I felt the wind inside my feet. Will know once the summer arrives - if this will prevent blisters.

The shoe is a bit flashy - a few years back I would have said ewww.. but I am getting younger you see - got appreciation from Prithvi's school friends while we were waiting for the School Bus.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sudarshan Kriya Effects

It has been 4 months since I started practising Sudarshan Kriya - I learnt in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Guruji's Art of Living course.

I do some deep, slow, fast, medium paced breathing.. as per the instructions - for some half an hour - almost on a daily basis. And have got some wonderful effects.


It is a goner. I don't outrage anymore - like I used to. I do feel I am a little slow when I am confronted.  But it gives me time to think and react - instead of just shooting from the hip and later feeling bad for having reacted the wrong way.

I can think back how I was 4 months back - where I was stressed and frustrated most of the time - and how I am today - a world of difference. I don't know if people around me can see it, but internally I feel I am more in control, patient and at peace.

Clarity in Thought

If you are a full time wearer of corrective glasses, and once in a while when you wipe it clean the whole world looks sharper. It is a similar feeling. The world looks clearer and beautiful - I see the sky and sun more often and admire its beauty. The plants in our balcony, and the Apartment Complex's landscape are more greener and visible all of a sudden. The kids, stray dogs - all look cuter. The world has always been the same, but looks much different, much beautiful and loving.

Single Tasking

Part of my frustration earlier was I could not do all the things I wanted to do. Even while I work my mind will be planning the next few tasks - or I will keep switching tasks and will end up doing nothing - and will get more frustrated.

All this has changed the last few months. I do only few tasks - high priority ones - and do them one at a time. The task that I am doing, I do it with full attention. Even if a few tasks do not get completed, I do not get frustrated.

End of the day I feel I have accomplished a lot, and my productivity / throughput has increased tremendously.

Living in the Now

Earlier when I used to play with my kid, my hands will be throwing or catching the ball and I will be doing it mechanically. The mind will be off somewhere thinking of a bug, or a feature to be written, or outraging on some twitter post I read. Nowadays I give him the full attention and play whole heartedly just like a kid. I have read so much of being mindful - and wondered will I ever be able to do it like how they describe - well I am slowly getting a hang of it. Still far away from being totally in the now - but with lot of practise I can get to it. There are so many tasks that I perform in a day to practise and become good at it.

The best state of mind I ever had was immediately after the 4 day Art of Silence course I attended. The effect lingered for almost a month, and slowly dissipated. Nowadays I briefly get into the same state mostly after doing Sudarshan Kriya and will last for sometime but not the entire day. Might have to go for one more 4 day course to recharge and find out how to be in this state all the time.

Art of Living Course is the find of 2014 for me. Thank you Guruji for having created this course.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Art of Silence

I attended a 4 day Art of Silence course - conducted by Art of Living foundation.

It was mind blowing.

Day 1 

I was one of the very few newbies. 95% of the participants were repeating the course - some even for the 14th time. This course happens every week in Bangalore Ashram. In Mumbai it is conducted twice a year - it is like a special program for the busy bodies we Mumbaikars are.

We do some mini games, some gyan, getting to chat up with the fellow participants ( 58 were there in total ) - bank executives, marketing specialists, students, young professionals, retired gentlemen, elderly ladies - what a mix! Then slowly gradually Sangeeta Didi ( she is one of the earliest disciples / teachers with Guruji Sri Sri Ravishankar ) introduced us to the concept of silence and gave a practical suggestion to call home and inform before hand - that when I come home I will not communicate - not even a nod of the head, or SMS, or email or chit of paper. Also was not supposed to read a book, listen to music, watch TV - or any distracting activity. Have to fully be with me, myself and my mind.

I turned off Cellular access, Wifi on my phone - so no notifications will show up and distract me.

Day 2 

I pick up a headache early in the day which will just not go away. One after the other meditations followed - all were guided meditations. My mind was going nuts. It was jumping with  joy - of getting the entire stage and that too with the entire limelight, infinite red bull supply, a nice comfy sofa for it to sit and a nice quiet auditorium - with just one audience who has to listen to everything and anything it wanted to think,sing,speak - ugh.

While I was undergoing meditation it was comforting. Moment it was over the chatter will start to give me a head splitting headache.

They had arranged for a nice SatSang - the only time we are allowed to open our mouth and sing - but  mostly it was only Chants. For a brief while when I immersed myself in the singing the headache went away - but moment it was over the headache was back.

That night I had a tough time going to sleep. But had a nice deep sleep once I fell asleep.

Day 3

When I woke up I checked - there was no headache. Reached on time ( 7 : 00 AM ), did the yoga - Padmasan - for the first time in my life - then Sudarshan Kriya - and felt great.

Had to eat food quietly. Since I cannot make eye contact with the other person sitting in the table I had to stare into the plate, the spoon, the food - and eat. Quiet mindful eating. And the Satvic food (no onions or garlic ) tasted so good. Loved it in fact. It was all Marwari and Jain dishes and enjoyed fully.

Then more guided meditation one after the other with short breaks inbetween. No headaches - I was at peace with that mind fellow and it was being in bliss the entire day. There was one meditation in motion - which was so painful but yet so wonderful when it was over. Actually the coach - Sangeeta Didi - was so encouraging and I was able to pull it off. I will not spoil it if you are going to attend this course some day. Ask me in person I will show how it is was done.

Meanwhile the back started hurting. I stand the entire day at work nowadays so thought my back was strong, but sitting all day on the floor started giving me trouble. I saw quite a few folks have a yoga chair. Actually on day 1 they brought it for sales - I the brave thought - huh - this is for oldies. I am this fit guy and nothing can break me. And I oh so wanted the yoga chair. Think of a chair without any legs. You can nicely comfily sit on it for hours and hours and medidate. Grrr.

Anyway - coming back to the story. Evening it was Satsang. I was very much at peace. Was in love with the world. Wrote a letter to myself - which I can read when I go back to the wild world.

The chants started. The live tabla, the guitar, the melodious voice - all started some reaction within me. I was so grateful - like I have never been ever before. For my parents, for Sangeeta Didi, for Sangeeta, for Guruji - for everyone - and I wanted to badly go thank Sangeeta Didi while she was leaving - but remembered I am not to speak - and I choked literally. And   tears started flowing. Islands don't cry and neither do I. It was weird. I was smiling at myself all teared up but did not want the emotion to go away so switched off the mind who had started its ego game and just bathed in the moment.

I end the story here.

It was an amazing adventure. There is a whole lot of mystery waiting to be uncovered.

Before I close had to thank Sangeeta. ApartmentADDA had an unexpected front page coverage in Times of India, Mumbai on Monday and demos had filled up like anything over the weekend. I volunteered to skip the course and do a few demos ( was looking for an excuse as I was not sure if I can cope 4 days of silence and the unknown) but Sangeeta was stern that I attend and I am thankful for her. She said she will handle them. And she was giving marathon demos that weekend when I was sitting in bliss - and Sunday evening when I met her she had lost her voice.

And by sheer co-incidence, Sep 18, 2008 is when I wrote the first line of code for ApartmentADDA. This silence course started on Sep 18, 2014. Makes me wonder is it all pre-programmed?

Jai Gurudev.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oh Chennai!

I was reading Madras Day celebrations everywhere and was feeling nostalgic on Chennai. There are so many memories in that hottest city on the planet.

I remember bike rides - on those long beautiful stretches between Guindy and Mount Road via Kotturpuram bridge. And the nice shady stretches at TTK Road. And the curvy road at Beasant Nagar  ( last I visited they had bumpers on the curve - bummer ). And the last few years before I left in 2000 - the Velachery to Shollinganallur stretch via Medavakkam and the god awesome crash I had on Mahabalipuram road trying to see how far the needle goes in a Splendour. ( It did not go beyond 85kmph )

And food. The Ponnuswamy's and Anjappar's - alas - I might not be able to indulge there anymore having turned a meeto-taller ( like teeto-taller - you will see it in oxford dictionary next year :D ). The   bread omlette at High Look bar - next to IIT - at night 2am. The kotthu porrotta at Mangudi mess. The Fried rice at the Road side Chinese shop. The Saravana Bhavan mini meals - and the coffee.. which elevates you to heaven at every sip.

Fruit Shop on Greams Road and Qwikys. Have spent hours with friends discussing on the future and ideas and nothings.

Eloor lending library. Spent a fortune there. Read the entire Calvin & Hobbes collection.I had gone to say hi to a school friend of mine ( how I met him is a puzzle - no phone, no email, no facebook those days ) - he was a copy writer that time - he gave me a photocopy of Calvin & Hobbes and it piqued my interest. Through him had an opportunity to attend an oscar like awards ceremony for Advertisers.

The temples. The one at Beasant Nagar on a sea shore with the sea breeze and jasmine flowers and gaudy sarees. The one at Mylapore which is like a journey through time. The live carnatic music and the pious looking sincere faces.

Central. So many pickups and drops.  Blue mountain - the most sought after train to and from Coimbatore - and the groggy eyed trips to CEG from the station on a Monday morning.

The Beaches. Have so many memories. Everytime I go they all come back flooding to me. I have visited Beasant Nagar beach  so many times - with so many of my friends and family.

And CEG. Met so many humble smart intellectuals. Made so many friends. One of them turned to become more than a friend and later my life partner. Went from an introvert to someone who can pass off as an extrovert ( still I am an introvert at heart ). CEG put the mojo in me - that I can pull off anything.

The wife calls ourself as Banjaras and we are never rooted to any place. Every few years we pack our pot and kettles and move.  She has a kind of love hate relationship with Chennai. But mostly its love I believe. Chennai still tugs my heart - despite the heat withstanding. I keep seeding her now and then - why not Chennai for the next stop.

Oh Chennai, my Chennai - stay young and conservative and don't change - I love you the way you are.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hacking Spirituality

Here is my journey so far - how I have been hacking spirituality - still not knowing fully what I want or what I am doing.

1995 - I learn TM

Good grades the flyer said. I did not know the word hack that time - but now when I think about it - that was what I tried to do. Hack my way to good grades to earn a BE in EEE - while studying less and having a good time  at CEG.

I learnt the techqniue - from a ThermoDynamics prof. But I did not practise after that. Perhaps my grades would have been better.  Later - even today - whenever my stress level shoots up - I would get into my TM mode to soothe my nerves. It works pretty well.

2000 to 2006  

I would rate this stay in USA as a spiritual void. Was living the materalistic life. Was I happy in this period? When I look back - nope. Perhaps I never fitted in with that world. Perhaps it was because I was made to feel like an alien with a number and a ticking clock - this is how long you can stay here. Perhaps I did not get my dose of spiritual quota filled. The visits to Indian temples were only to feast on Indian cuisine.


I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Then I read every book of Paulo Coelho. This could be my initiation to the Spiritual realm - through fiction. I start getting many questions for which I do not know the answers or do not know whom to ask.


I meet this elderly gentleman when I go to sell our software, and we end up chatting for 2 hours. He introduces me to Conversations with God Parts 1,2 and 3. I read them all and the definition of God in my mind gets redefined.


I read up on Dalai Llama, Tibetan books.


Read Autobiography of a Yogi - and saw the parallels with Conversations with God. We shift to Mumbai. And here every second person is religious. I see a flyer for Sahaj Yoga ( Started by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi ). Attend a few sessions and learn the techniques. But I remain unsatisfied. I have way too many questions and the teachers there were not interested in them. They wanted to raise my Kundalani. I was not sure if that is what I wanted. I dropped out.


I become a Buddhist in my mind. Give up meat. Lap up on Buddhist philosophy. I like the find for yourself philosophy and not follow me and do as I say philosophy. I read up Big Toe - a Nuclear Scientists Spiritual journey, and  Eckart Tole's writings.


I attend Art of Living Part 1. The Pranayamas and Sudarshan Kriya. Liked some of the all round physical and meta physical development. Apart from the yoga, the teachers encouraged to do Service - something that has been making me uncomfortable the last few months - that I am not doing my part for this universe.

So where am I in my path to hacking Spirituality. Still lost like before - not knowing what I am doing or what I want :)

Am I happy? Am I closer to the truth? Do I even know what is the question I should be asking?

This reminded me of a small exchange between a waitress and Dalai Lama when Dalai Lama visited US for the first time.

The waitress asks the Dalai Lama - what is the meaning of life.

Dalai Lama replies - The meaning of life is happiness. However this is not the hard question. This is an easy one to answer. The hard question is - What is happiness. Is it money? fame? big house? - no it is compassion and good heart. This is the real question everyone should ask oneself - what makes true happiness?

Perhaps this is what I am after? - True happiness.

If I find the secret to true happiness - perhaps I would have successfully hacked Spirituality.

Peace and love.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bangalore to Mumbai on a Thunderbird 500cc - Part 3

This is the concluding and final part of this road trip. If you haven't you should read and Part 1 [ ] and Part 2 [ ]

I woke up to a cloudy sky. There was a shower in the night. I dont enjoy riding in rains and I still had another 500 Kms to cover and the last stretch will be quite tough - had to pass through Pune and  Mumbai evening / night traffic.

While having breakfast was reading about the death of new Minister in Modi's cabinet - Mr. Gopinath Munde in a car accident. We checked out and hit the road around 9am - peak hour traffic in Belgaum - there were a few vehicles on the road - what a blessing to live in a small town. 

The nice Belgaum stretch continued for sometime and suddenly the road started becoming little bumpy and potholish. The temperature was increasing. When I was riding the bike I did not feel the heat. But whenever I stopped I could feel the heat. 

When we started the fuel indicator was slightly less than half. After couple of hours of riding I noticed that the fuel had plummetted to the E and E was blinking. I stopped at 2 Petrol Bunks but they had only diesel. Wondered why we call them always as Petrol Bunks!

I saw one on the right side of the road, took a U turn and luckily they had Petrol. I filled for 1000Rs and that was exactly what I had. Not a single rupee more in my purse. On these highways there are hardly any ATMs. Should remember to carry reserve cash next time. 

The ride was uneventful and the temperature was rising. We stopped at a Kamat around 1:00ish and parcelled rice - plan was to stop somewhere on the way and do a road side picnic.

Around 2:30pm I was hungry and signalled San to pull over somewhere green to rest and eat. We drove for another half an hour and could not find a good spot. It was all dry and treeless. Finally we stopped at a small shade - which happened to be near a highway food court we had lunch on Sunday when we went from Mum to Bang. 

We resumed our trip and the stretch was quite boring and bad roads. By now my bottom started hurting - after sitting on the bike for almost 16 hours. And it was super hot. And the traffic was increasing. I could feel sweat inside my jacket. 

Usually the last stretch is always the toughest. Be it running, riding cycle, product release. Said to myself - just have to keep going. Didnt want to show my uncomfort to San - she too was tired and bored out of the monotony of driving at slow speeds.

We crossed Satara and suddenly a Tunnel came up. I have -5 Power and have a powered sunglass. Moment we entered the Tunnel I became totally blind. Luckily San turned on the blinkers and I followed it with heart in my mouth literally. We were going at 80 and still there were some crazy fanatics overtaking at us at 100 or so inside the tunnel. It was crazy. At the same time I could not stop admiring the twin dials which were glowing blue in the dark - and the blinker of San's car ahead - it was a surreal moment - my life was not in my hands at that time yet it was thrilling and joyful. 

We came out of the tunnel and the first thing I did was to change to my plain glasses. We crossed one more tunnel and there was a humungous bridge close to Pune. It is an engineering marvel - built to connect 2 mountains. 

And I felt a jolt all of a sudden and heard a twick near my neck as the bike went into a pothole on the bridge. Let out worlds most common curse word which I had not used in ages. It did not hurt but it scared me as the full body underwent a jolt. And even before I could recover went into one more. I slowed down after this. Both the potholes were unnoticable. Later San said she also got an unexpected jolt. 

Then entered Pune and there was this beautiful cruiser on a hoarding - Hyosung - saying - Say hi to the real cruiser. I smiled and said hi! 

We stopped to fill petrol and also grabbed coffee from a CCD. We had a debate whether to travel together or split - as bikes are not allowed in the Mumbai Pune Expressway. We decided to travel together and continued on NH4. It was evening 5ish. There was quite some traffic - I thought it will be deserted. And the roads were well maintained.

We reached Lonavalla around 6:30 bought the sugar candies and caught the Sunset at Kandala. Made a mental note to investigate why the same sun looked so huge the evening before and today it was so small and so distant. 

After Kandala we joined the Expressway briefly and went through a tunnel. At the other end saw a fork - one said Mumbai through Koppoli. San did not take the exit and continued on the Expressway. I waited at the fork and was not sure whether to take Koppoli exit or go on the Expressway.  Then a bike guy approached and he took the Koppoli exit - I waved at him and he waved come this way. I took the Koppoli exit - it was a  narrow road. I dont know what the consequence would have been had I taken the express way. They will send me back or charge me toll?

I SMSed San that I have taken the old highway and said we will meet at Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. Now it had become quite dark and the bike had powerful headlamps - the first time in my life I was confident on a bike in the night. 

I felt I was approaching civilisation and saw directions to Dadar. However I wanted to go to Navi Mumbai. Now the ritual began - stop bike on side, open gloves, unzip side pocket, pull phone out - check directions, put phone back, zip side pocket, put on gloves - became tiresome after a while - as I had to keep checking for directions. Wish I had Google glass. 

One of such stops I noticed I had touched 1000 kms. New Personal Record!

Reached Kharghar finally and had dinner at the Little World Mall there. It was Prithvi's last day of Summer vacation and his school was reopening the next day. We took him to a 9D ride. We were in no hurry as we did not want to be caught in the night return peak hour traffic on Western Expressway. 

We had another 40kms to reach home. Any other time we will be helping each other in the car but this time it was not possible. Also it was difficult to follow one another. Soon we lost sight of one another and I came to a fork with no signboards. I was doing a pull out the phone routine at the fork when San pulled over next to me. We consulted the phone and same time we saw a Borivalli bus pass by and saw how it went - it took the bridge at the fork on the left. 

There were directions to Airport we could easily follow and touched Western Express way at Bandra. After that it is a straight rode home and traffic was moving gently and there were no hold ups thankfully. 

Finallly reached home around 11:30 PM -  a distance of 1050 Kms, covered over a period of 2 days on  a bike. We gave a high five to each other on the completion of bringing the MH bike home mission. 

New level unlocked in the game of life :) 


Friday, June 06, 2014

Bangalore to Mumbai on a Thunderbird 500cc - Part 2

Continuing from where I left off - [ Bangalore to Mumbai on a Thunderbird 500cc - Part 1 ]

I was exhausted and sleep deprived - and the moment the head hit the pillow I dozed off. It felt as if just a minute had passed when I woke up the next day morning. I got excited thinking about the ride ahead. A journey of 1000+ Kms awaited me. Bangalore was Bangalore that morning - the night rain had cooled it considerably and it was just perfect.

We packed stuff and hit the road around 9AM. This time we were heading to Nice road away from the peak hour madness and the traffic was light. I stopped at a Puncture shop to check the tyre pressure. The mechanic asked me to put center stand since he could not reach the back wheel's inlet. I just couldn't do it. I tried the standing on the stand technique but the bike wouldn't budge. He helped me put the center stand.  Even though the bike weights 200Kgs, I did not feel the heaviness - till this instance.

We then entered the Nice road. Paid Rs.48 till Tumkur Exit - the only Toll I would pay. Bikes ride free on NH4. For Non-Bangaloreans - NICE Road ( Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises ) creates a big ring road around Bangalore.  NH4 is the double lane highway - which is part of the Golden Quadrilateral Vajpayee had envisioned.

The Nice Road was empty and I shifted gears to a good speed.. and could feel the power and for the first time I experienced wind like never before - it was loud and howling. Having a heavy bike helps I guess - I did not have to lean to offset the wind push or anything. Moment I went to high speeds I could hear the wind scream all around me - what an experience. This will continue for the next 2 days! The good riding jacket was a blessing.

Prithvi boy was very excited - and he rode with me for sometime in the front. I gave him the old helmet - which doesn't have a visor - and he enjoyed the wind hitting his face real hard. After sometime I put him back in the car - he was satisfied and was smiling like crazy!

I was plain thrilled like the first time I experienced a Roller coaster ride and did not quite think much about the ride or bike - just let it flow over me the very experience.

After taking Tumkur exit and joining NH4 and riding at various speeds - I finally realised why these RE bikers are all mad about their bikes. I don't know if I am letting out a secret of RE riders.

I was cruising smoothly and somewhere between 80 and 90kmph I hit the sweet spot. The wind was quite loud and I could not hear the engine noise. The bike was smooth and had no vibrations. I could only see the road and the sky - and the little round dash and the handle bar disappeared.

I felt as if I was flying close to the ground. I kept getting this feeling again and again throughout the trip - whenever I could hit the right speed.

I stretched the bike till 110Kmph once in a while - but felt I was going way too fast - partly because of the wind noise and also the bike started giving new vibrations, so I settled back to the gentle 80 kmph. The speedometer needle is at 12'O clock position at this speed so I could keep an eye if I was speeding. Also after half a day or so even without looking at the speedometer I knew when I was riding around 80kmph - because I will get the feeling of flying :)

Also whenever I had to over take I would raise the throttle a bit and could hear the sweet bud bud sound come and the bike will surge ahead. Felt like a kid - and I did it so many times and never got bored of it!

We reached Chittaradurga around 1:30 PM and stopped for lunch in Naveen Restaurant. Every now and then a toll will come - and I will go through the bike lane and San will get stuck up and she then had to catch up with me.

One side effect of 80kmph was Honda City gave amazing fuel efficiency at this speed. When we came from Mumbai to Bangalore we filled the tank twice. Return it was just once. I have to tally the bills to find out how much petrol we really saved.

It was uneventful till we reached Hubli. San was fighting boredom following me at low speeds and we bought few CDs from a shop for her - Kishore Kumar, mid 80s and latest. I cannot imagine a road trip without songs - but never felt the need for songs while on the bike. The bike ride was entertaining enough. It was evening and the sun was setting. For another 60 or so KMs, NH4 becomes a shared road  for both oncoming vehicles. It was the good old game of over take and hide after the slow moving vehicles and this was lot of fun.

And all of a sudden the twilight sun made its appearance when I went down a hill and what a sight it was. I thought it will make a great photo shot to take the bike with such a large sun so close to the ground - but I was too busy drinking in the moment - and did not want to spoil it. Kept riding and was in awe of this Star.

You cannot time certain things in life - it will just happen by itself. This stretch of the ride was like that. Had I reached this point a little earlier or little late - I would have missed this awesome spectacle.

The original plan was to get to Kolhapur, but it was getting dark and we decided to find a place to stay in Belgaum.

Now it became pretty dark. The medians and the edges were all well lined with reflectors and they all lighted up when I pointed the headlight. The roads had no pot holes or imperfections. The entire stretch till Belgaum is a 3 laner. The road curved well, and I could lean the bike without losing any speed - and it felt so natural to ride this way. I would vote this as the best stretch of the entire trip.

We reached Belgaum around 8:30 PM and checked in to Hotel Eeffa - they also had complimentary breakfast and it was a good deal. A similar hotel in Bangalore or Mumbai would have costed a bomb.

Finally - will answer the question you all have in mind. How was my body after a day of riding? Did my back, arms, bum hurt? - Not a bit. I felt little exhausted as I was alert and excited throughout the day - but had no pain anywhere. This is what cruisers are all about I guess - can keep riding for hours at a stretch.

We slept off watching Hindi Enthiran. Remember seeing the Robot's dance last. ( To be continued..Part 3 )

At the Beginning of the long ride. 

2 Happy Kids!

More than Tolls, this guy delayed us a lot

Some jain temple in the middle of nowhere. 

This is how you get on a bike! 

Waiting at a toll

Mandatory Selfie. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Bangalore to Mumbai on a Thunderbird 500cc - Part 1

Yep - Did a crazy ride from Bangalore to Mumbai.

Here is the full story.

On May 23rd ( the night before we released the new UI - product plug 1 - ), I was doing QA on the site.

I stumbled upon this Classified on Buzzar ( product plug 2 : an open post-it area for buy / sell related stuff for ApartmentADDA Users ) about a Bangalore dude trying to sell his MH Thunderbird. As part of testing on the new UI I clicked I am interested and sent him a message. Immediately I got a call from him - and we started chatting.

If you know me - I am not a biker. A biker is one who grows a thick moustache, has a beer belly, has a tattoo on his biceps, can explain to you what the C in CC is in layman terms, and can fix his own motorcycle. I am none of the above.

I love the idea of riding a cruiser - like a Thunderbird, or a Harley or a Triumph. I drool on all the pictures in Top Gear, or Team BHP. I would read the stories of solo rides, long rides, crazy rides and imagine.. some day.. some day I can do these trips.

And then I  read about the horror stories of the bikes from Royal Enfield. Oil leaks, clutch cable getting cut, vibrations above a certain speed - and the fanatic RE fans.. who like Apple fanboys phoo phoo any criticism of their bikes - and I would drop the idea and go back to my life.

Now the dude I was getting the bike from is an avid rider. Has gone to Ladakh, Bhutan, Mum to Goa and in this very bike he was selling - had just done a trip to Kanyakumari. The bike was well run and he offered a good price. I thought this is like buying a trained puppy.

Not only that - the bike was in Bangalore - and I had to go there to get it. I was bit by the idea of a long ride.

It came to convincing San, the wife. Actually it was easy. I told her - I am getting old - there will come a time when I have the time and money but I will not be able to ride a bike. And my soul wants this badly. Sold.

Bike guy came to office the next saturday, he gave some useful tips and we signed the papers.

I booked a bus immediately to Bangalore. But then the forces who love me started working against me - send it through packers, you crazy or what to ride it back? Thankfully San was behind me. We had to move some equipment to Bangalore and back and also wanted to checkout the new office the Bangalore team is moving into - so it was decided that we will drive down - and I will ride the bike back,  and San will escort me in the car.

Started on a Sunday morning and when we stopped for lunch - around 2PM I had my devil1 creeping into my head. You sure Venkat? - this is so damn hot. You will get cooked in this heat and you have never ridden a Thunderbird before. But again another devil2 whispered - isn't this a nice challenge? Should you not push yourself to the limit - how will you know what is your limit then? Throughout the drive I kept listening to the arguments of these 2 devils.

Reached pretty late on Sunday night - and couldn't sleep. Was listening to Queen title song full blast on the way - and it kept running in my head and the thought of Thunderbird and was imagining how it will be to finally ride it.

Woke up pretty groggy.. and planned to go to Cramster shop first - this was a brand the bike guy had suggested. The wind hits you pretty hard on long rides and if you do not have a good wind cheater -  it tires you out. He swore by this brand - said it also has elbow, spine protection. Decided to check it out. This shop was in Cunningham road, and had to wade through Bangalore Traffic from Bannerghatta Road - from San's sisters place where we sheltered - a Route drawn in hell.

We go there and the shop is closed. I had checked the website twice before going. Luckily the cleaning lady said - Bharthaarae ( they are coming ).. so I waited and kept avoiding the question San asked - did you call to see if they are open? which I hadn't. The shop guy came finally - and tried out the jacket. 5k - worth every paise. Picked up gloves too.

Then went to Whitefield to pick our colleague and also meet the bike - it was parked in at her home. And it was disappointment at first sight. The Thunderbird I see in Top Gear and all auto magazines look stunning. And here was this dusty bike with no glitz or glamour. I did not show my disappointment, but kept a fake enthu face - oh its just dust. Then went away to the office meetings and got sucked into it.

By 6:30 was out of all engagements and noticed it was raining really bad and all the roads were jammed. By 8 we reached her home and borrowed a cloth and dusted it off the bike and finally started it.

It did not sound like the heavy thump of a bullet - which I like and dislike ( when it wakes me up in the night ). But it rattled a bit. I am used to riding Japanese bikes  ( Sleek, Splendour and Unicorn ) - and they are all silky smooth. Felt perhaps this is how REs are - very rough and unfinished.

Then went to the Petrol Pump ( the E was blinking in the digital display - you bike guy... grrr.. ) and took it for a spin in AECS layout. It was dark and was raining. I did not know what gear I was in, did not see what speed I was in - tried to change gears and it was clunky - my disappointment grew. It was really hard to ride it at low speeds.

Then started from AECS Layout to Bannerghatta road - via Kundalahalli gate - Route drawn in Hell just got revised -  on a rainy day around the time all the 2nd shift ITPL shuttles return,  on a bike - which does not ride well slowly. It was an inch by inch traffic. And to make matters worse - I did not have the gloves - and the rain and gripping clutch made my hand numb and the palms started itching with all the vibration. I never touched more than 60 kph. Doubt if I went to even 5th gear. It was not fun. Devil1 was laughing its head off.

At home everyone was asking - how is the bike. Said could not really ride the bike well, there was too much traffic. But did say that the bike feels rough - and gave some explanation of how cool this is or whatever. I think they all felt sorry for me.

Depressing so far right - hope things will turn for the better tomorrow. ( To be continued...  Part 2)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Fad #1 - Juicing

I am starting on my Fad Series.

Well now and then I hear a crazy idea and try it out - sometimes it sticks to me ( like running, buddhism, meditation, vegetarianism ), sometimes it remains a fad.. like my standing desk.. which is yet to become a full time habit.

Whenever I try something weird - I get challenged - oh is this your newest Fad. I say yes - and now onwards will blog about it - so when I look back I can see how many Fads became habits.

Before I begin - I checked what "Fad" really means.. 

"an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived; a craze."

So the Fad of the moment - Juicing 

South Indian Vegetarian Fare is actually not that healthy. We boil everything, use a tank of oil, and use lot of salt and masala. There are so many of my Uncles and Aunts - who are vegetarians - and yet suffer from Diabetes, High Blood Pressure etc. 

Have been reading about Juicing - how the vitamins and minerals are not murdered by boiling, how it is all preserved etc. and how the raw fiber is good and all that. 

Decided to give it a try. I assembled the following : 

2 Beetroots
3 Carrots
1 Apple
1/2 inch Ginger
1/2 piece White garlic

I washed them thoroughly and scraped the outsides without any mercy - wasted quite some good "meat" - cannot take any chances you see - pesticides and all that.  Put them all in a "mixie" and some water - and it became pulp - not exactly a juice. 

What came out was - hmm.. not as delicious as a milkshake.. but got an interesting taste - a little rough on the throat but sweet. I also got my soy milk to wash it down. Prithvi was munching on Nacho chips watching me eat....I borrowed 2 to neutralise the good effects of this preparation! 

Btw - I had gone for a 1 hour run in the morning and this was quite filling. I did not feel hungry till lunch. Also I had made close to 800ml. I put half of it in a small container and took it to office. Had it in the evening for snacking. It did not go bad - was just sitting in the pantry - not even refrigerated. People used it like Chutney with Neer Dosa that had come to office in the evening. 

Side effects - people at home warned me - be prepared you will get loose motion. Nothing like that happened - felt perfectly normal like any other day. 

Next to try out more combinations - and perhaps try and make a juice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Continuing as a Vegetarian

For an ex-meat eater the temptations are there all around me. However I have not relapsed - it has been more than 10 months now since I shunned meat.

Heard of buyers remorse? It is a similar thing - once I stopped eating meat I started reading more on Vegetarianism. And the more I read, listened to podcasts - the more I was convinced and did not fall back to eating meat.

Here is some of the stuff I gathered.

1. Eating fear.

This one I picked up from the movie - August Osage County - 2 of my favourite Hollywood Actress - Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep have acted in this. A teenage kid who shuns meat, while eating in the dinner table has this to say. When animals are killed, at the moment of their death, cortisol gets released in their blood. This is the same hormone that gets released when we are stressed. Its bad for our health. The meat when we eat, we are eating some of the stress hormone in it. The poor kid is laughed at and they make fun of her - "I am eating fear", someone in the dinner table jokes putting a morsel of steak in his mouth.

2. Death is painful. 

I am reading Buddha by Osama Tezuka. In one of the chapters, the Buddha to be prince - falls into a deep slumber and remembers his past life as a bird. In another chapter a Saadhu puts the prince into the body of a rabbit about to be killed. Both the bird and rabbit die - and the prince experiences death.    The graphic accompanying the words is scary and left a mighty impact in me. The pain / fear of death is the same - be it for humans or animals.

3. Mindful Eating.

I picked up this habit of mindful eating a few months back. When I am eating alone I think of food.  The components. How it got planted somewhere by a farmer. How it got harvested, transported, picked up from a grocery store, how it was cooked and mixed with other ingredients. The flavour, texture, smell. If I try mindful eating a Chicken Biryani - I would not be able to eat it anymore in a mindful manner. Because I will have to think of the way the Chicken would have died, how its parts cut. I dread to even think of it.

4. Leaving a light Carbon Footprint.

I cycle to work now. If its cyclable distance, I will cycle, even if its in the hot sun. I want to leave behind a very thin carbon footprint. Plant based diet is in tune with the ecosystem. It takes more water, more land to manufacture meat. Each bite of meat I take has used up way too many of the earth's resources - which is finite and scarce.

5. Usher and Greg Chappel.

I was listening to an interview of Usher - the TV celebrity, Songwriter. He is an Australian and a vegan and an ultra marathoner. When he was growing up he got inspired by Greg Chappel's Handbook for Man. Greg Chappel - the famous cricketer ( and also ex-coach of Indian Cricket Team ), turned vegan at the age of 50 and narrated how he felt better than he was during the peak of his career. This inspired Usher to kick off meat from his diet. Its fascinating how someone in a Meat based culture can turn a Vegan. It is a no brainer for me to turn Vegetarian. Tasty Veggie food is available wherever I turn in India - except perhaps Meating joint - the last place I ate meat.

So there you go folks - if you are an ex-meat eater it is not that hard to continue being a vegetarian. And if you are planning to go easy on meat - don't think too much - it is not as hard as you think.

And for my next goal is turning a Sugar Free Vegan.

I am reducing intake of Paneer and Dairy. Can't still kick off the morning filter coffee. I am reducing Sugar intake drastically. Found that Sugar is bad from every angle.

Peace and love.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I love Arvind Kejriwal

Yes, this is a fan boy post. You can skip - or continue reading to take pot shots at it.

Scroll back in time. To a really long long time.

Perhaps to the age where there were a few crazy nuts named Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose were getting started.

You and I are in a cushy job working for the British. And this Gandhi and Bhagat Singh are creating a ruckus. We both read and laugh at Tweets and FB posts about these people who do not want to join the system but want to trash it. They are questioning the status quo - and are trying to destroy the comfortable life we now have living under the grace of the queen.

I don't see much of a difference to today. We have grown used to gross in-efficiencies in the system. Corruption has become part of life. We pay high utility bills, taxes without questioning. We slow down for every pot hole on the road, and let it injure the spine.. and not complain. This is India - this is how roads are done. Poor contractor, he has to also make a profit after paying the corporator and inspector - and has to cut corners of course.

Today Kejriwal is creating a ruckus - and we are all laughing at him. At his follies, at his dharna - and we label him as an anarchist. Very much how the intellectuals would have called Gandhi or Bhagat Singh or Bose.

Later  the intellectuals joined the Anarchists - and we all know the story now. When history books were written - Gandhi and Bhagat Singh were made heroes. But just before the intellectuals joined -  perhaps they were also labelled as anarchists and laughed at. If Twitter, Facebook, Blogs were there that time we could have browsed and found what the intellectuals were thinking.

Perhaps 50 years from now, Arvind Kejriwal would be written as a hero - who brought important changes in the country - brought down corruption, brought in accountability, destroyed dynastic and   family politics - infused a new breed of entrepreneur politicians - with no money muscle but sheer determination and will power to create a positive change.

I may be entirely wrong or right - but what excites me is the very idea of it is intoxicating - what if this crazy Delhi CM can bring in the change in the system and remove all in-efficiencies? How wonderful it will be?

And for this very hope I root for Arvind Kejriwal and his crazy party.

ps : For you future historians researching on Arvind Kejriwal - you can use this post for reference. You are welcome.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

2013 Books Roundup

I do this yearly roundup of books I have read. [ Here is the 2012 list2011 list and 2010 list ]

I let myself be influenced by books. And for this reason I choose books carefully!

Books made me a runner. Books made me a honest salesman. Books made me a Vegetarian. Yes - books are dangerous :)

Black Swan - The Impact of Highly Improbable

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I did not get to the end of the book. Dropped out somewhere in the middle. However it was an eye opener. It made rubbish of the expert analysts - in every field - especially economists. This book resonated with Tim Ferris's philosophy ( 4 Hour Work Week ), that it is futile to read news daily - and to read magazines instead - as the news gets consolidated and refined. When World War 2 was being fought - no one called it World War 2 when they were in the middle of the war - the historians later christened that phase as World War. 

I doubt if there is any useful takeaway from this book other than the fact that it is foolish to trust Expert Analyst Reports on anything - as they are as wrong as a layman - and base your career or investment on that subject. 

In Search of Schrodinger's Cat

by John Gribbin

Somewhere in 2001 I met a Masters student who had a Graduate Assistantship in Physics Department of LSU and had the opportunity of going to Antartica for a field study - don't remember if he made the trip. I got bitten with the thought of exploring Physics further and thought I will do a dual degree on Astro Physics - but I was lazy and wasn't daring that time - and let a good opportunity pass by. The curiosity of the outer space is what is pushing me to explore spirituality. Perhaps I will enrol myself as a student once again and explore the unknown. 

Coming back to this book was an interesting journey through Quantum Physics and how scientists are slowly unravelling the mystery around us.  If you are a science head - you will love this. 

Snow Crash

by Neal Stephenson.

I heard about this book in 2006, and searched in Strands Book Store in Bangalore - but couldn't find it. Finally got hold of this through - and accompanied me through almost 2 months of my runs and long local train journeys ( bad for the ear as I have to keep full volume on my phone ). This book is all about Virtual World and some major history lesson on languages and its viral nature. Tough one - kept losing interest but since I run listening to this had no option but to continue listening through the boring parts. 

Clockwork Orange

by Anthony Burgess

The movie by Stanley Kubrick is based on this. Its a book of violence and gore - not for the faint of heart. The language is very British - once you get the hang of it you can start enjoying the flow. This book is captivating in a weird way and perhaps might explain how some can commit crime without any remorse. 

Eat and Run - My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

By Scott Juke

Even if you are not a runner, not interested in running or ultra marathon ( crazy sport of running for 24 / 36 hours at a stretch through forests and deserts ) - you should read this book. He makes his super human feats look so human - I brimmed with pride listening to his exploits - much like the feeling you get when you read about Man stepping on the Moon.

And it will make you rethink about food - like it did for me. One of the primary reasons me turning vegetarian [ Rest Easy Chickens ]

I can attest for the dietary change and how it impacted my running positively. After I quit meat I can run for a 10k and still go around that day without any pain and go for a run the very next day. It was never possible before - plants heal me faster and helps me recover quickly.

My Big Toe Awakening

By Thomas W Campbell

This is a very tough book. He is a nuclear physicist. He tells all the secrets from the other side. Could it be true, or it is just his imagination. We will never know. Fascinating nevertheless. 

Thinking Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman

Our Brain is made of 2 parts - System1 and System2 - the Left Brain and Right Brain. One is parallel, one is sequential. One is emotional, one is analytical. One works on Gut, one works on Facts. 

This book is like reading a research paper. Study after Study on how both these systems work and how they are different. 

I couldn't get to the finish - as I kind of got the idea after a while and also lost interest. There is only so much of case studies my Systems can take. 

Enders Game

By Orson Scott Card

Brilliant Book. If you dig Science Fictions you should definitely read this. After Dune by Frank Hebert - this book captured my imagination and kept me in Enders World for the period I was reading this book.  A movie based on this book also came out in November but I missed it. 


By Deepak Chopra

This is more of a fiction and less of spirituality. The story takes one through the formative years on how Siddharth became Gautama and then Buddha. After Buddha became enlightened he lived for 40+ years - and gave countless discourses - this book does not go into that - just till the day Buddha got enlightened - which is itself an interesting journey. 

This book triggered my curiosity on Buddhism and I started reading more on Buddhism. 

Awakening the Buddha Within

By Llama Surya Das

This is the book I am currently reading and here is where I am now. [ Buddhism. ] Its a difficult read as it is dense on the Buddhist philosophy - but its practical and logical - which I like and appreciate. 

Buddhism is not demanding and does not force one to accept the spiritual truth blindly - but lets you analyse and internalise it.  

Thats it folks for 2013. 10 books. Not bad when I look back - a few books have changed me tremendously. Like I said before - books are dangerous :)