Sunday, April 18, 2010

IPL and My trip to Mars

I heaved a sigh of relief as Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik got married and vacated the front page. The vacant space was immediately occupied by Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor. I would have preferred Sania and Shoaib. As it is I had a biased opinion about IPL and the distaste is only increasing. In one of my earlier posts I had mentioned that IPL was no sport and I see many others expressing similar opinion. It is 10%cricket, 20%bollywood, 30%money and 40%more money. We are mad about cricket and bollywood. The combination multiplied the madness. Those who knew how to cash madness, did it. A politician is never far from money and they zoomed in. The garbage bin is being emptied for our pleasure on the front pages. If you like garbage as I do, swallow an anti emetic and follow it.

“Volcano in Iceland spews ash. Airspace blocked. Thousands of flights cancelled” would have received as much attention from me as “Hydrogen traces found on Mars. May lead to finding water”. As far as I am concerned, passengers in Frankfurt airport and hydrogen on Mars are almost same. But I had to read the news in detail this time. I am expected to pass through Frankfurt airport next month and happenings there are a concern. I never thought that I would go to mars in my life.

I do not know what made me decide to make a trip to the US. It costs a lot of time and money (both of which I could have utilized better) apart from the hassle of getting a VISA which I feel is as hyped as IPL. But the human mind is irrational and I possess one. There was no other option. So, the decision is made, VISA is approved and the tickets are booked. Bombay-Frankfurt-Detroit 27th may. Suddenly Frankfurt feels like Margao.

Apart from sponging out my sister in law’s resources I do not know what I will be doing there but if anyone in the US is keen on getting my signature on a print out of any of my posts, I am willing. You don’t know what will make me famous and when. One day you may be pleasantly surprised to read “Sotheby’s auction autographed blogpost print out for record price”. You will be a millionaire! I will stop before someone says “what rot!” and try to locate Detroit on Google map.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Assorted items of the week.

After the elephant appeared in front of my house and made me post its picture and a small piece, nothing else came about and I kept quite. Moreover, our Ponda taluka library got a copy of Aravind Adiga’s booker prize winner ‘white tiger,’ and I had to read it. I am yet to finish it. From what I have read till date, it is not really my type of a book. For that matter, most of the ‘prize winners’ are not. If you ask me what ‘my type’ of a book is, I may not be able to offer a satisfactory explanation other than saying that it will be the one which makes me pick it up again and again till I finish it, even making me postpone some appointed cases by giving vague excuses, at the cost of my reputation and earnings. If I am talking to you face to face, I may be able to give detailed explanations and examples and make you understand what I mean, but it is difficult to put it in writing. Why anyone should be interested in knowing my version of ‘my type’ of books is an altogether different question. This is one of the books which I feel compelled to finish since I have read half of it, and I will. Booker prize, yes. Raghunandan prize, no.

Many news items during the past week made me react within myself and in front of my wife. “You, your views and your ideas. The world does not think like you. Thank god.” is what I got back. I was asking her why should the Times of India devote front page space to Sania mirza and Shoaib malik’s ( have I spelt it right?) marriage and the associated controversies. “It sits on my nerves to see that on front page everyday” I said. “From what I read, that fellow is either a fool or a rogue depending up on what he is saying is true or false. This lady again is a bigger fool or I don’t know what. They have a right to be what they are and do what they like. But of what consequence are they to our life?” was my question.
“They publish it because people want to read it. You have also read it in detail. If you are not interested don’t read.” My wife is very sensible when she advises me.
I agree. I can ignore the news or stop getting that paper. But I have already paid a year’s subscription which at Rs 400 is cheap and I have no intention of missing my daily dose of Beau peep, Peanuts and Garfield. I need their outlook and wisdom. I used to be equally eager to see ‘Mr Citizen’ but it is only a pale shadow of what it used to be. Even though Sri R K Laxman’s name is still there, I feel either the sketches are not his or he has lost his touch. Most of them are repetitions of ideas and neither the lines nor the words are sharp. I am a great fan of R K Laxman and have all seven volumes of his Mr Citizen collection. I keep going through them again and again. I do not want to see his cartoons going low. I feel it is time for him to stop.

“China bans import of low grade iron ore” was an item in yesterday’s paper which cheered me up a bit. If I were a resident of any other state, I might have not even read what was written below the heading. There are a dozen such news items everyday. But this news, if it is true and if Goan ore exporters do not find ways of getting around the ban, may just save Goa from destruction. I am interested in it and will follow it. I can’t help dwelling up on it in a bit of detail.

Iron ore mining and export has been one of Goa’s major economic activities. Goan ore was traditionally being exported to Japan, and Japan only imported ‘high grade’ ore. Some mines in Goa produced high grade ore which was directly exported to Japan. But a large number of mines had only ‘Low grade’ ore. Low grade ore producers imported ‘higher grade’ ore from Karnataka, mixed it with their low grade ore to get ‘high grade’ ore and then exported it. A case of “betty butter bought a bit of better butter to make the bitter butter better”.

So iron ore mining was one of the major contributors to Goa’s economy but along with it came irritants like dust pollution, traffic congestion, depletion and contamination of water resources, deforestation and so on. All these were at ‘nuisance’ level and were being tolerated.

God knows what happened to the Chinese and they started buying ‘low grade’ iron ore like hell. Export price of iron ore jumped from about 20$ a ton to 150$ a ton. There was no need of ‘better butter’ anymore. ‘Bitter butter’ could be directly exported to china. Everybody excepting fools like yours truly, who stuck to dentistry, minted money by involving themselves in iron ore business. I wrote sometime back how a friend of mine who sometimes took petty loans from me, became a millionaire after starting ore transportation business. They own a Benz, an Audi and a Range rover today. There are thousands like them who acquired new mining leases, revived abandoned mines, acted as middle men or made money just be letting their unused land to store iron ore. Mining spread into forests and into villages. Rivers got clogged with mining refuse and roads got clogged by mining trucks. Mining was not a nuisance any more. It was destruction of Goa. People grumbled, protested and fought. But nothing could stop the money power. Moreover, most of the people around mining areas were involved in it one way or the other.

Miners from Karnataka, who used to send their produce by train to Chennai and from Chennai by sea, were no more dependent on low cost rail routes. With profits jumping by 700% they could transport just not themselves but even their ore by helicopters. I wish they had. To our misfortune, they hired thousands and thousands of huge trucks and sent their ore by road to Goan ports. They wanted to export as much as possible, utilizing all available routes. They could afford transportation costs.
In no time they destroyed the road from Hubli to Goa beyond repair.

Even if the roads were Ok, there was no space for our cars and so, we travelled to Hubli when we had to, Via Karwar. Additional 100 kilometers. Once the Hubli –Goa road reached a stage where in even the mining trucks could not ply, they took the road to Goa via Karwar and destroyed that also.
We took a further deviation, forgot Hubli and travelled to Bangalore via Mangalore, about 200 Kms extra. After destroying the Hubli - Karwar- Goa road, the miners diverted their trucks to Mangalore port and finished the Goa – Mangalore road too.

That was when I started offering a prayer every morning requesting the gods to somehow influence the Chinese to stop buying iron ore. I was not jealous of miner’s profits, Audis and helicopters. I only wanted a chance for my ‘Maruti’ to use the road too. After about ten years, some minor god seems to have heard the prayer and is trying to do something. I do not know if this god is greater than the Goan exportes and the Chinese importers. From what I have witnessed till date it will not be easy for him/her to compete against the mining lobby. Whatever it is, I was happy to see a silver lining around the clouds, however temporary it may be.

I did not have intentions of writing so much about this. But I had very strong feelings and no one to listen to them. Got a chance to put out most of it today. Please bear with me.

Last piece of the day is about the SEBI ban on companies issuing ULIP policies. I subscribed to one of them - a single premium policy - last week and today I see this news. If my money is hard earned I will get it back. If I have hoodwinked some gullible patients and grabbed their money, I will lose it. From what I read in the papers it appears to be a conflict between SEBI (security and exchange board of India) and IRDA (insurance regulatory and development authority). But if anyone suffers, it will be the policy holders like me, who will have put in their savings in the hope of getting good insurance cover and reasonable returns.
The Kannada adage says “kONagaLeradum hOre giduvinge mittu”. Meaning “Two bisons fight and the plant gets trampled”. How true!

There are other things to mention too. But I can’t take your patience for granted. Still, I will take just another chance. Felt bad about dozens of CRPF jawans losing their lives to naxal’s bullets. My sympathies to their families. I look at everyone in uniform with awe. I did not have the guts to become a soldier but tried to join the army as a dentist in ADC. Passed the interview and failed the medical – unfortunately due to a wrong diagnosis. I feel very bad about it even today. But that’s how fate works. I could have been Col Raghunandan by now. But I remain “oh, only a dentist.” There is a small incident behind that statement. But enough is enough. I will keep it for next post.
Bye, finally.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Neighbour V/S Neighbourhood

This is yet another of my neighbours.

She stays a little away on the other side of the main road and advertises her address thus.

She is employed in a spice farm near my house which happens to be a tourist destination. Her job is to remain lying half submerged in a stream in front of a board which says “Give bath to elephant – take bath from elephant – Rs 200." ‘Foreign’ tourists, for whom a trip to India is not complete without an elephant, part with Rs 200, apart from an entry fee of Rs 500, with pleasure and pour buckets of water from the stream over her. She in turn sprays water on them from her trunk.
Her keepers scout around Ponda for her food and when they spot an edible tree, cut it up to feed her. Today was the turn of the jackfruit tree in front of our house. One of them was cutting the tree while she stood in the shade of my garage and had a bath from my hose for a change.

Then she had her lunch and carried the packed dinner on her back.

In the process, my neighbourhood which looked like this

before her lunch, looked like this afterwards.

This neighbour is eating up my neighbourhood.