Thursday, February 04, 2016

The one thing you should see in the Auto Expo this year

99% of auto expo will appeal to your vanity, 1% of it will appeal to your intelligence.
If you have patience only for ground breaking original stuff.. straight go to a certain corner in Hall no. 2 (besides the TVS extravaganza).
There you will find this unassuming duo with afro hairdo and a patented technology that they are eager to sell to automobile majors.

I am not much on an engineer, (because I am (with a degree) but not really (because I don't work as one)) so I am not in a position to validate what they were saying. But what they said sounds very very interesting.
They have made a working bike with no valves, no chains, no cam shaft... as a matter of fact, their engine has only 32 moving parts.

Yes. An engine with only 32 moving parts. 

Apart from that, the engine can make use of various kinds of fuels (hydrocarbons) apart from petrol.
I still have to get to know their offering better, but this sounds exciting. Imagine the service, economy and efficiency improvements this technology can enable.

They still need to figure out quite a few things yet - they don't have a website or even a flier to start with. They also will need to improve the design and finish of the model for their Geneva ambition.

But here's wishing them the best of luck.
Check them out. They call themselves - 'Beast-Bird Motor Cars'.

Apart from that, here's a few things I observed.

1. All automotive brands want to become lifestyle brands

Mahindra started 'Mojo Tribe' yesterday. Which seemed odd actually. A ready-made club for a brand.. seems kinda bleh. a force fit. the club even has an anthem, the genre of which is 'blues'. I understand Mahindra's love for jazz and blues, but a bike anthem in blues? really? 
Usually, clubs are made of people. Clubs are even better if started by the people themselves. I don't know of actual clubs started by brands that have any real impact. well, here's wishing the best of luck to Mojo.
Most brands had merchandise that was given prominence. Nexa watches anyone? Tata's 'OK TATA' bag, I can buy though.

2. And the lifestyle is 'outdoors'

I am really thrilled with RE's Himalayan. I probably will buy it too. It is the first proper off-roader for India. Though RE was not participation in the expo, the theme of off-roads and outdoors was all pervasive. From Mahindra's Thar and Mojo Tribe to Mercedes's monster 4x4 and even a feeble attempt by Renault with its Kwid Climber (with that ground clearance, what outdoor activity would it really do?). 

3. Cutomisability

From Honda's Navi to Renault's Kwid versions .. there was a concerted effort at urging people to get creative with their vehicles.. to turn their vehicles into a canvas for their identity. That already happens to an extent and guess its a symptom of the category maturing with people spending more and more on their vehicles.

4. Caucasians flown in for cleaning cars :P

5. Models with feet instead of wheels, obstructing the view of cars/ bikes :P way too many of them.

6. Terrible displays

UM is not a well known brand. One would expect it to put signs and displays about its models, its credentials. The problem persisted with most brands ranging from no display information, bland printout of specs to unimaginative ipad videos of the model. These were the only three modes of communication about the products. All terrible. It is amazing that brands that spend upwards of tens of crores can't spend a little more in communicating core propositions and details about vehicles. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

I scored 54!

in cricket.
So the day before I played in a tournament organised by the company I work for where I made a cool 54 runs not out in probably 25-30 balls. I even won the man of the match award. Unprecedented. Unbelievable.


Apparently, I hit 5 sixes and 4 fours. ya.. quite unbelievable. I don't remember ever scoring beyond single digits ever before. unless it was an underarm match against kids younger than me. (oh yes, i remember playing with my younger cousins 15 years ago and scoring 200+. It just so happened that we were playing in our attic, and not on the ground. but hey.. we had 'one tappa out' (one bounce out) as well. so that evens out. i hope. i chose to believe.)

Typically I bowl. More specifically, I don't bat. I suck at batting. My hand-eye coordination is as bad as that of Snake's. Well, at least a snake has the excuse of not having hands. I don't. And yet we languish at the same tail end of team selection. If I and a snake were left last to be chosen in a team, the snake has a better chance - since it can at least slither fast between the wickets.I was a decent bowler. But in cricket bowlers are second class citizens. Everybody wants to be Tendulkar. Who wants to be a fucking Kumble? (I don't follow current cricket so don't know current references.. apart from that guy who is Anushka Sharma's boyfriend.)


For the most part of my last 30 years, I had not played cricket. Mostly because I am not much of a team sports kinda guy. But more importantly, I sucked at batting. As a kid, with my super pester power, I could go and open batting for my brother's team. But I used up the pester power-ups fairly quickly. Soon enough I had to make do and eventually find peace in batting at 7th or 8th position. Which was alright. I was fairly decent in bowling. As long as you have at least one thing going for you, you don't mind playing. So I didn't mind playing if any one asked. I don't remember ever proactively stepping a foot on a cricket field.


The last time I played cricket was around 7 years ago in MICA. I came to bat last. We needed 4 runs to win. We only had 3 balls remaining. The batsman at the other end was begging me to just touch the ball and give him the strike. And I earnestly wanted to honour his wish. He knew what he was doing. I didn't. I trust people who know what they are doing when I don't. I think it is a sound principle to live your life with. Makes life much simpler. It hits off target sometimes. But what the heck. You get to live a lighter life. Imagine a life where you try to master everything that affects your life. It will drive any reasonable person insane; and unreasonable persons to become annoying middle management.
Anyways. So there I was facing the second last ball of the match. Very much a tense situation. All around me were people who took these games seriously. I never could. I pathologically can't. But anyways, I can feel pressure from others who do. So I held the bat fairly high even before the bowler started charging towards me, in anticipation of a hit. The bowler started running up towards the pitch. The tense moment dissolved into a bored moment before it turned into a panicked moment. The bowler had an awfully long run up. By the time he arrived to bowl, my mind was wandering somewhere else. Perhaps to beyond the ground where I had parked my bike and I was wondering if I had parked it on main stand or side stand. If someone was sitting on side stand to watch the match, then it might snap. That would be funny. Fair and funny. I thought. And the ball wizzed past me while my slow reflexes directed my arms in a useless stroke.
"Shit." The man at the other end was visibly crestfallen. But he was trying to be mature. He knew the match was almost lost. But he didn't visibly weep. Anyways. So, I stood facing the second last ball of the match. I was trying not wander. I was trying to keep my eyes fixed on the ball in the hands of the bowler. All through the awfully long run-up, through the weird arm action, through the throw.. and then a blur. I just swung the bat like I knew. The ball went rocketing to the boundary. 4. We had won. No one could  believe it then too. It was a bloody lucky shot.

7 years past that match, the day before I hit 5 sixes and 4 fours. All of those can't be luck? Can it?
I have been trying to figure this out. Can it be luck? The god of cosmic accidents (GOCA) has smiled on me on playground for the first time in a long while? I had day dreamed of playing like this a few times. Perhaps GOCA listened to my dreams? to my childhood wishes?

Anyways. What did I do different this time?
I consistently took a small break between each ball that I faced. Partially because of the sweat in my palms and brows. To clear it I had to take a break. So that gave me time to slow down and remind myself to look at the ball. To not wander. So most balls, I was looking at the ball intently.

But that can't be the reason alone. I suck at hand eye coordination and I know it. I tried playing tennis once. I had the fastest serve in the court. But I hardly ever managed to hit a ball coming from the other side. I could look and follow the ball pretty well. But my hands could hardly make sense of the data that my eyes were giving to it. Even in cricket, all that my co not ncentration enabled was a sense of timing. I knew well when to swing the bat. But not how. Admittedly, all my scoring shots were of the same kind. I hit all the sixes and fours in the same place. So essentially, I know one stroke well. and if the ball came favourable for that shot, it would go for the boundary. And the bowlers perhaps were not good enough in figuring out the pattern?

Secondly, there was  awesome EDM music in the background. While fielding, I was dancing more often than fielding. At clubs or parties, I dance with a drink in my hand. And I do dance. well enough. and hard. But I never let the drink fall. Maybe through the years, I have inadverently trained myself to be in super control of myself while dancing to dance music?

Maybe the usual absentminded careless graceless idiot turns into a somewhat bearably in-control human being while dancing? i will check out this hypothesis.

Lesson learnt: Listen to music and dance + observe the ball as much as I can. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

'What will our life be like in 2065?'

This entry is in response to a quora question - What will life to be like 50 years from now?
Future gazing is tricky because, we can affect it to an extent. And 'we' don't act unilaterally, and 'we' don't comprehend the 'extent' of our acts and our limitations.

Having said that, here are some trends, in no particular order, which might continue for the next 50 years.
1. Climate change: Humanity has dug its own grave with 2 of earth's 9 ecological boundaries in the red zone. Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet.
There is no doubt that our efforts of survival against climate change will shape our life in future. Again, since there is no unified ‘we’, we humans compete against each other. So there will be winner and there would be losers. Rich have an upper hand – escape from shrinking shores, access to machines to compensate for toxic weather (Air purifiers and ACs for example), money to buy scarce resources (water, food etc.). The poor will undoubtedly suffer the most. The next big wars would be fought for survival.
So if you are rich, your life would be lived in well-defined cocoons of some sort. If you are not so rich, a major part of your life will be spent in hospitals/ working overtime to pay the bills/ being an eco-refugee.

2. Globalisation
Globalisation has far reaching consequences. It is now irreversible and entrenched. The power is increasingly getting concentrated in the hands of fewer people.  ‘Interests’ of a few corporates, financiers and nations now dictate global flow of money and events. Many of today’s events (rise of ISIS, middle class’s rising prosperity, disenfranchised aboriginals across the world, weakened labour forces, secret global deals and so on) are directly an effect of Globalisation.
Read Noam Chomsky for better appreciation of what has been happening. Start here.

Effect on life: Your life will be affected by people and events far removed from you. For example, the economic meltdown in US had a direct impact on my paycheque six years ago. This trend will only strengthen.
You might have to go farther and farther in search of jobs, as disparity between wealth of people from metros and non-metros widen.
New technology is being continuously created in service of the richer class. The benefit to the poorer people is largely accidental.
Read ‘A brave new world’ by Aldous Huxley for a taste of the world we are heading to. It is a bit dramatized and extreme vision of the trends, but a good indicator of our life in future.
3. Rising Inequality
Globalisation enables the middle class to prosper on one hand, while making the workers/ labourers more vulnerable. It is easier for the rich to get richer, quicker. The access to tools (such as internet, public transport) while democratising to an extent, is leveraged more strongly by the more powerful. (Internet was a haven for minorities and persecuted in its infancy. Now it is the eyes of the big brother governments and worse, the giant corporates.)

Effect on life: Disaffection with life. Rise of media, drugs and such other opiates to keep the masses from revolting.
If you are from a marginalised community, your identity will be eventually ‘sanitized’. The future is one massive mass of homogenous people.

4. Loss of privacy
Prism surveillance program
Ever present and larger powers (governments, corporates) will control individuals and know about your thoughts, actions, routines, interests and so on. If you are inconsequential, then this might not bother you, but if you are in some way annoying to the global system, then the lack of anonymity will be the noose around freedom’s neck.
Check out the excellent, albeit dark, TV series ‘Black Mirror’ that paints a grim picture of our lives in future.

5. Rise of the machines
a. Humans will rely more and more on machines.
b. Humans will become redundant in most of the workplaces. HBR’s article on AI
c. AI will be integral to the system of the globalised world
d. Reduction in human dignity, empathy

6. The Culture is dead. Long live the culture.
Most likely new interactive technologies will be leveraged by the powerful to homogenize identities and your experiences. What I mean by that is, cultures will be flattened, and there will be less number of languages, customs, and rituals. You will belong to either of the handful of religions. You will be speaking in one of the few hundred languages. You will share the same holidays with the rest of world.  (Bye bye gudi padwa, hello Christmas.)
New immersive Medias and interactions will create new global rituals and experiences. People across the world will live in identical cities, eating identical Mcburgers, dying of identical cardiovascular diseases.
False identity markers must be created to give a sense of solid identity to individuals. And this is where brands and marketers will come to play. Supermarkets are the new temples. And brands are the chosen gods of affirmation. My career as an advertising guy has a bright future. (Well, almost.)
Here’s something to read about the future of ideas.                                                                                               
7. Connected and opiated mind
These days we are most fascinated with advancement in Interface technologies... touch screens, virtual reality, 3d printing, and tactile sense transmission and so on. The sum total effect of it will be for you to be ever connected to your job, your government, and your brands. You will be inured to the experience of bondage. You will expect and want your thoughts being governed by these large gratifying forces.

8. Man will be root-less.
Globalised world is corrosive to simplistic myths and beliefs that help men make sense of their world. He is reminded every day that what he knows is incomplete and wrong. His heroes, customs, symbols are under threat. To protect his sanity, he will either fight or become root-less - adrift in the all-consuming vortex of globalised despair.

9. Health
Rich will live healthier and far longer. The poor might live longer too, but pollution, lack of public support will run down most poor people of the world. Rich people will have AI enhanced bodies and minds.

10. Powerful Corporates subverting national structures
Corporates will become more important than nations. Few billionaires would have outsized impact on policy making through either direct interference (what is called 'lobying') or through philanthrocapitalism

11. Demographic spanner in the wheels

Read this excellent article from WSJ about demographic trend of the world through 2050.
My broad stroke implications from that work :
a. Rich countries will have elderly people living with robot assisted services. Indians and Africans will make up a sizable chunk of labour for these advanced nations.
b. Poorer countries such as India and African nations will face demographic pressure - large population, inadequate infrastructure, low productivity of labour. If education and skill building becomes a priority, then perhaps these countries might grow in influence, with improvement in lives of people. Otherwise, the under prepared young would be ready fodder for sectarian/ identity/ resource based skirmishes, wars, agitations and what not.

So in sum,
You will be root-less, consequence less, in search of meaning. You will be heavily under the influence of opiates of some kind - either concerns about sport teams, music, movies or buzzfeed listicles. (And drugs too, obviously. A root-less (spiritually bankrupt) man must dissolve himself in spirits.) What this means is, you will most probably find purpose in abstractions, the finer things in life, while your actual life is being completely out of your control.
You might enjoy a few technologically advances, but the more powerful will always have a stronger leverage on that technology than an individual.
But all is not lost. What one needs to appreciate is the fact that we now have the power to define the course of our future, to an extent. Fight the forces NOW for your right of privacy, of dignity, of access to good health and education. What you must do for a better life tomorrow is fight today.

About bullet riders

 This was written in response to a Quora question.
 The question was "Why trend to purchase bullet bikes increased in India?"

I think bikes (as most other things) are bought not only for its functional relevance but for its psychological relevance. (If you can commute ably with a 35k bike, why would you spend a lakh more on a bike which essentially is a bulkier, less advanced machine?)

The purchase of bullet is purely a matter of fulfilling a psychological need. So the question is - what is the psychological need being met by Bullets and why are more people in India feeling that particular need?

Bullet is uniquely manly. While Pulsar is 'definitely male', it is also immature. Pulsar is boyish, bullet is manly.
Most fared bikes are positioned to younger audiences. They answer the need of adrenaline rush.. what we call 'potency needs'. Its the quintessential teenage need to feel on the edge. Bullet is not for these men (boys).
Bullet has been traditionally used by people in armed forces, government services.. so it has a connotation of authentic power. When modern bikes were introduced as being 'definitely male' and such for the teenagers-at-heart, the bullet automatically got positioned as the 'authentic' men's bike, due to its lineage. Substance v/s show. 
Bullet - less advanced, heavier, slower, louder.
New fared bikes = advanced, lighter, faster, refined.

Bullet has a stronger 'physical presence'. slow, heavy  and loud = a more assured and solid rider imagery.
New bikes, even if they are technologically better, being quick and light - they seem (to people with masculine anxieties) as less robust and less manly.

The reality is most Indian men are still boys. not completely responsible for themselves, and proud of it. afraid of women, yet dreaming of 'conquering' them. Depending on parents well into late 20s (if not later too.) essentially, incomplete men. Pose them a real challenge in life and they would rather leave for Himalayas.

In a world of youngsters facing identity crisis, Bullet gives an unambiguous Indian identity of rugged macho.
In a world of sanitised skyscrapers and sedentary lifestyle, Bullet fills the need to belong to the rawness of Bharat, the earthen macho.
In an increasingly risk-averse society, the bullet lends an identity of the ready-for-any-reality macho, to the rider.
The signature loud (annoying) sound of the exhaust, announces presence of the rider. It fills the need of the less-loved men to imagine them having a 'presence'.

Essentially, a bullet enables a person to feel good about himself when he is concerned about the inauthenticity and emasculation of his modern identity. Bullet frees him from masculinity anxieties.

Monday, November 02, 2015

The world is being overrun with zombies

The rabid in 21st century do not get a Rabies shot. They get to run the nation.
The zombie apocalypse is already here. foaming at mouth. brains rotten. fangs out. Out to destroy the civilisation (as we dreamed of in 20th century), unmindfully. The zombies have worn different colors through the centuries and eons, so don't let the color fool you. Saffron, Green, red, cross.. all colors and symbols are rendered in blood of innocent people. The blood of weak ones who refused to become zombies.

Hatred is forced through the empty minds and hearts of the gullible through the television sets and newspapers. The TV set is the scalpel and hammer that is used in the mass lobotomy. The talking heads on TV eat out the faculty of reason and empathy from the brains and hearts of the weaklings. All that remains is a tangled mass of raw twitching nerves. 

They rove the country in search of other gullible idiots, whose brains they can infect with sordid tales of imagined hurt sentiments. Stoked with imagined slights and outrages, the gullible are forever sent to war with each other. The warring masses are a comfortable diversion for the powerful to continue their loot of the nation.

The zombie masses, clutching their breasts with smouldering hatred, are out there to defend the all powerful. The small, the marginal, the weak, the oppressed are their targets. These weaklings in their minds are the danger. The all powerful leaders are apparently the victims. Orwell already.

"Give us pain, give us righteousness, give us a meaning". and so they are given. and so they are ruled. and so they are driven to the ground.

Don't be a zombie. kill the brain eating ideas. save your brains.