Friday, November 30, 2012

Scuba at Netrani Island

Beaches mostly never enticed me . The reason being, I hail from near-coastal (not exactly coastal) region. So have been seeing the beaches since a kid. Also the humidity & the heat associated with coasts was a turn-off, especially after being in pleasant Bangalore weather for nearly decade now.
So beach – ordinary wooden fishing boat fitted with a diesel engine  - few life jackets – Burning sun overhead was never exciting anyways as I sat in the boat to do the scuba dive. The hour long boat ride with just a canvas providing the shade didn’t help either. Yes, I was set out to just tick off one of the to-do-things in my list – the SCUBA diving!

Place – Netrani Island, 11 Nautical miles off the coast of Murudeshwar, coastal town in Karnataka.
The briefing on the boat was like listening to a guide in a tourist place. Since young we’ve always been listening, from parents, teachers & now at work, we listen from managers & bosses! Thats lot of listening! So I was lost in myself & the vast sea around me as dive master Kiran briefed about what to do / what not to do during the dive as we sailed through waves into more calm sea. Few friends who were kind of not used to sea, felt seasick & started finding peace within themselves by meditating :)[sleeping]. I continued gazing at the vastness of blue-world around me. The subtle thing I noticed was the sea-water had much more turquoise tinge than waters we generally see. But it was not very obvious.
After about an hour or so, we anchored on the shores of Netrani Island. Though could not set foot on the island, it seemed beautiful with complete thick green cover, eagles flying high,  gulls squeaking around. Interestingly the island is also called Pigeon Island – as it has loads of pigeons it seems. Funnily I couldn’t spot a single pigeon!
Time for action. We had just 5 certified divers to take us below. Note that unless you're certified by passing the advanced diving course, you can’t dive alone. So each of us would be escorted by certified diver. Since we only had 5 divers in the boat and about 10 seeking the thrill, we were told to wait and go in batches. Few of my friends went on the first batch, while I thought I will explore the sea with my snorkelling kit! I jumped into water just around the boat trying to snorkel , drank few gulps of salt water in the process. I realised I was doing something wrong, indeed I was. Thanks to my indifference during the instruction session by Kiran on our way to the island. It was just wrong breathing technique! But then since it is not a rocket-science, could manage it well within few minutes. As I gazed down from the surface, wow! The water was pretty clear and the beauty underneath was amazing! Remember it was still very shallow as we had anchored the boat near the coast. Yet I saw lot of marine life, colourful fishes which was exciting. I said to myself – not bad. This is nice! I also helped my few of my friends in snorkelling and after 15 minutes, felt it was enough and got back to boat, waiting for friends who went to scuba to re-surface.
One by one they surfaced, all excited and explaining how beautiful it was! I was like ok good, I am going to enjoy too. It was time to wear the scuba apparatus. Mind you, it’s near 30 Kgs you wear on your body. So they ensure that you sink :) There’s a weight belt around your waist and then there’s a steel air-tank(not oxygen, just plain compressed dry air) on your back with a regulator, mouth-piece and strange looking gauges! I am sure that alone weighs about 20+Kgs, So with such a heavy gear, it is little hard to even stand up, let alone float! I was wondering if I will be able to enjoy with all that! You get near the edge of the boat and fall backward. It looks impossible and feels requiring special skills to fall backward and surface correctly head-up! (like you see James Bond doing stylishly with his jet-black diver suit). But truth is it just happens so naturally that as you don’t even realise you just did that! All the respect for Sean Connery for that act gone down the drain! ;)
I was pretty happy with what I just did, fall backward, flip around and come head-up to the surface! First few minutes the diver makes you acclimatised , checks your goggles, mouth piece etc and asks you if everything is comfortable, asks you to put your face down and start breathing(through the mouth of course)! Thanks to the crash course of snorkelling, I could easily do it right this time ;). Funnily I realised, how we were being told as kids that we should always breath through noses and breathing through mouth was unhealthy. I am sure every parent would have taught this to their kids. Atleast mine did :). I was told how nose filters the air, cleans it from dust etc, and sends to our lungs. And if you breathed through mouth, there’s no filtering and you’ll fall sick! Well, when you dive into sea with scuba gear, you throw your dad’s advice into sea and do exactly the opposite! :). You breath-in through mouth and breath out through nose!
All perfect, the diver deflates your airbag and slowly starts descending you down into water. Forgot to mentions again, the Kiran all through instruction session, emphasized how important it is to equalise under water. Equalise is a process where you close your mouth and pinch you nose close and blow the air to free the pressure in your ear. You hear a blast-like sound in your ear and it’s done. You would have felt your ears blocked at times like when you take off in a flight, go through ghat sections or high altitudes. Exact same thing happens underwater, but with double the pressure. I was told the pressure under water is double that of outside . So every meter that you go down, the pain becomes unbearable. I hardly had descended few feet and my ears started hurting realyl bad. For few seconds I tried being a hero, by bearing the pain ;) but just seconds and it was so bad that I could bear it no more! I started making the signs that Kiran taught - to signal problem and seek help. It is basically hold your palm near your face and shake it. Similar to how you would signal average, so-so, ok-ok when someone asks how is the place/movie, etc. if you were speaking in sign language! I showed the sign and asked Kiran I want to go up, using sign language again – Thumbs up is to go up! Kiran has dived more than 4000 times ,So I am sure he had seen many like me. He didn’t budge and asked me to equalise :( when there was no sign of going up, so I had no option but to EQUALISE like he said! I blew my ear there a funny blast sound, alas, the pain vanished! I learnt the trick! :)
Now I started looking down, left right , behold! I saw a new world down there! I was so awestruck that I forgot to breath. Luckily I didn’t open my mouth with astonishment that the mouth piece falls off! Soon enough I started gasping for breath and I remembered that I should breath! What I saw beneath is so beautiful that words aren’t enough to explain the beauty. Fishes of all kinds, size , swam all around you. The sea scape I saw was simply unbelievably dramatic. There were rocks, caves, with all kinds of marine life.. The fishes of every colour that you can imagine are seen inches away. Best part is, they care less about you and swim right across your face. I saw several large fishes in beautiful colours and some in even weird shapes and sizes. Some waited in stealth to hunt, you would confuse them for a rock! It was so much of beauty, drama, life all around, you just couldn’t have enough of it. You even find blinking a waste of time when down there! Note that the pressure beneath is so high that you need to 'equalize' every minute or two to avoid the unbearable pain in your ears.
We swam up, down, around place, every sight was so breathtakingly beautiful, every turn gave you sight you didn’t see before or marine life you thought didn’t exist! I fall short of lines to explain what I saw there. You need to see it to believe it! It was time to come up :( given a choice, would have stayed there.  I came up after a good 30 minutes of dive, feeling fully satisfied, exhilarating experience which showed me a new world out there. And I have fallen in love with that world and want to get there whenever possible.
Of course there were few minutes of photo-shoot under the water. I was very keen on it, so that I can flaunt it on FB ;) which I am still doing!
As I came to the surface I realised why my friends were that excited when they came back to the boat, and I was no less! Now the line on the t-shirts of the diving team( that took us – “If you have not dived in Netrani, You have not lived!”, made all the sense.
What you see in some pictures is just a snapshot.. What you see there is a beyond you can explain or capture in a camera! The view you see down there is much more clearer than you see in pictures! The most underrated(good in a way) place just an overnight journey by bus from Bangalore. Though I have heard, places like Andaman/Lakshadweep, Krabi, or off the coasts of New Zealand and Australia are the best place to do a scuba! Imagine a place in your backyard that is budget friendly, still gives you an experience of life time with breath-taking marine life, astonishing sea scape ! ;)
Dive in sea , be there and judge for yourselves! I can predict what will be the outcome - you’ll fall in love with the new world down there that you just saw! I can bet my life on it!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

FDI In Retail - Regressive Indian Policy

About a fortnight ago the central govt initiated a big reform & that was in the booming retail segment. It was decided that India opens up its domestic markets for global retail majors to invest directly. Until now foreign players could only enter India either through a joint venture where the Indian company had major stake or enter as wholesaler, But not sell directly to customers! As a major step forward, the central govt was all set to change this policy! Though I am not big fan of the UPA & its functioning, yet this news really made me feel, finally there was something good! for once I felt after all, there is most respected Mr Manmohan Singh & Mr. Chidambaram in the govt who were instrumental in opening the Indian economy to the world in ealry 1990's. The result is here to see, today if there is any respect to India or India being the part of BRIC (Brazil. Russia, India, China) that is because of that reform in 1990's. The 4 economies (BRIC) were touted to be the emerging economies & the 21st century was said to belong to us :)

But then, it was not how it was supposed to be! The ugly politicians of India in their dirty wisdom feel otherwise. There was a huge hue & cry against this move. Everyone was the harbinger of hope of the next door kirana store, the saviors of the farmers! Where were these politicos when the farmers were committing suicides due to bankruptcy & failure of crops? The result was the non-functioning of more than the half of winter session of the parliament & the U-turn by the ruling govt. The FDI reform was put on hold!

What happened when India opened its economy some 15 years ago? there were detractors then too. But today probably I am writing this thanks to that reform. The developments are inter-linked. when the multi-nationals come, they need resources, they bring expertise & employment. when there is need for skilled people, there is demand & when there is demand, naturally people catch up & get educated in streams that's eventually feed into the MNC's. so who is benefiting eventually? If people are employed & there is enough spending power in people? It is India. We must realise India is not like oil-rich gulf which can just survive on oil-money. The gulf countries can survive even without taxing their citizens & yet live with flamboyance. Can we? If people can not pay taxes, India will be up for grabs! Can we afford to keep our borders safe? Can we deter the infiltrators? We have to remember that we're anyways blessed with such wonderful neighbours from every side! :)

coming back to retail reforms, imagine the expertise & organized trade that companies like Tesco, Carrefour, Wal-Mart, Target can bring into India? The efficient supply chain, distribution, choice to consumers & value to suppliers (read domestic industries - farmers, textiles, etc). Why is Indian farmer resorting to suicides? because he is taken for a ride by the middle-men. The farmer never gets his due. He is always poor. Have the so called Kiraana stores who are claimed to loose out in this, done anything to farmers? They still source the goods through middlemen who make all the profits. Anyways the local Kiraana shops or mom & pop shops will never loose their customers. Competition always enhances efficiency & never hamper the growth. The likes of Walmart & Tesco anyways are not competing with 10x10ft shop next door. They come with stores spreading hundred thousands of square footage. You'll still have to hit your store next door for quick pack of milk or cigarette or can of coke. The major retailers buy directly from suppliers & farmers, this has been their practise world-over. I bet they wont make an exception when they come into India. They will also bring in expertise in efficient distribution , stabilise prices, employ thousands & also eventually be instrumental in setting up of support industries like consulting & analytical solutions which is crucial to run operations of this scale & yet be efficient. Do the detractors of this policy even know the scale at which these MNC's operate?

In my opinion, these MNC's even will contribute to lesser corruption. I believe so. Imagine the corruption involved in when an individual gets the permission to set up the kiraana store. From bribing the munciple corporation, trade associations, the beat cop to the local rowdy! Imagine Wal-Mart or Tesco with such bargaining power & status can get things done legally & a local hawaldar or goon can do nothing against them. Isn't that nice? Also they are more efficient, a visit to any supermarket/hypermarket will open one's eyes to level of customer service, cleanliness & hygiene & choice they offer. When you visit local kiraana store all you get is a huge rodent sitting next to the cash counter enjoying his share of food :)

The govt by holding back the policy reform has just shown how regressive its policy making is. The politicians have proved yet again that India is an investor friendly economy, but a nightmare to do business here! The govt & politicians have let down the corporate India.

The sentiment of the world is summed in words of O'Neill who oversees almost a trillion dollars in assets at Goldman "All four countries have become bigger (economies) than I said they were going to be, even Russia. However there are important structural issues about all four and as we go into the 10-year anniversary, in some ways India is the most disappointing. They shouldn't raise people's hopes of FDI and then in a week say, 'we're only joking'," O'Neill said. "India's inability to raise its share of global FDI is very disappointing," he said.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Cricket vs. Hockey In India

I read about an interesting logic recently as to why these days Cricket is popular in India than Cricket which is relatively new to India. It quite amused me and to an extent could well be the reason.

It all has to do with media attention. Today the entertainment media is mainly dominated by Television. And this very media probably is the reason for this divide...

India won the cricket world cup in 1983 and the whole country rejoiced and such an unprecedented event and sporting victory Kapil Dev's team. Naturally India began showing interest in Cricket, to be precise the Indian Public. In 1984 color television was introduced in India by the Doordarshan. This was the time of Commonwealth (if I am not wrong) games in 1984 held in Delhi. Later on all broadcasts were in color and the era of black & white picture ended. Naturally this revolutionized the television culture in India and people began being glued to the television. Cricket was followed by a larger section of India with this broadcasts and this made the game a public madness.

At the same period if we see the situation of Indian Hockey, it was a gloomier picture. India began seeing the dusk at the horizon for Hockey. India won its last gold at Olympics for Hockey in early 1980's. It’s in 1982 if I am not wrong. Later on it was only down slide for Indian Hockey. When India was its zenith of performance in '60s & 70's Indians had least access to viewing it. It was never a possibility to be broadcast to the public. So the inspiring performance of eight consecutive gold at Olympics hardly could excite the public in India. And when the public had the access to broadcasts, free fall for hockey had begun.

Naturally people would like to cheer and associate with the winning side and deserted the loosing side. from early 1980's it was the uprising of Indian cricket and so was the people following it. 1990's saw likes Sachin, Saurav bringing glory to cricket while old hero's Gavasker and Kapil reined on.

While Hockey in 80's & 90's saw defeat after another. We saw the Indian team even fighting and struggling for 8-9th position in a tournament. This continued for decades which was a complete turn off. Youngsters never picked up a hockey stick nor did they cheer the ones who picked it!

So can you see a link for the popularity of two games? I guess I can see. None is to be blamed. When India was at its glory that never touched us and when it did, we hardly touched the glory! An irony or a bizarre twist of fate!

Reservations on Reservation

There is yet another reservation debacle... The ruling UPA govt. at the centre in India is considering adding Muslims to the 27% OBC reservations! The govt is doing everything it can carve out a share in the existing 27% reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the central govt jobs. Notice the timing of such enforcements! Uttar Pradesh & Punjab are soon to go for general elections! Though this reservations bill may not have major impact on Punjab elections, It will have a huge impact on the UP elections. The ruling Congress-led govt is trying to woo the vote bank by such populist measures. It has to be already noted that Muslim population already enjoys the "Minority" population quota/reservations. The govt plans to reserve about 6% to Muslims in the 27% OBC quota/reservation! This quota-within-quota concept is definitely baffling...

The whole point I am raising is about vote-bank politics & divide & rule policy along with the whole idea of need for reservation! The political parties in last 60+ years have only tried to divide the country by regional / religious sentiments. Is there really a need for a quota / reservation? The ones who want seldom use it & incompetent people use the quota through malicious ways. The reservation-less class of people loose out in the race because their merit is of no use against many who come with a reservation certificate (probably fake). The people with merit who have reached the selection process through hard-work & efforts feel totally dejected & may turn against whole system in the long run.

there has been huge outcry against the reservation itself. Though this is a contentious subject, what is true is the the benefits do not reach the one who it intend to serve. Once this is implemented the govt too is least bothered to effectively administer it. It is just worried about milking the benefits in the elections. Already there is a huge set of so-called intellectuals & politicians who find it fashionable to turn a blind eye to anything minority community has done, be it crime, anti-social activities, but do not think a second before shouting over the roof over any minor issues against the "minorities". There are thousands who are homeless, had to abandon their livelihood & live as refugees, but none is bothered. But there is huge cry over human right violations, withdrawal of army, fake encounter case, some govt's involvement in a riot. There are couple of states in the North-East of India which the ruling govt seems to have forgotten. Forgotten that they even are part of India. How else any sane person can explain the 120-day shutdown in Manipur? Fuel had reached a price point of Rs 300/litre during this economic shutdown. There was no essential goods, medicines/ food, transported to Manipur! Yet there was no action of any sort to resolve this issue. I am sure several lives were lost in 120 days due to starvation, lack of transportation, lack of essential good/medicines! But do we care? We have the general election coming up next year & UP election date will be announced in a fortnight. I bet this is more important than the poor Manpipurians dying! Anyways Delhi is too far away Imphal for the stench to reach!

It is time India woke up, the strength of India is the youth who constitute the majority in the population. But how many care? There is a youth Mr Rahul Gandhi making scripted drama before the media & hailed as the next PM candidate! He is busy staying in villages , posing for pics with the most fragile village folks they can find. I am sure Congress does lot of pre-work on this & has a team to identify such photo-appealing people So that Mr. Ghandi has good PR profile.

Time to say enough is enough. Stand up & get counted. Say no to reservations. Even Muslims who may seem to be ones benefiting must realise that this is purely a gimmick & not fall prey such populist measure. In the end none comes to save us, but us! It we who have to fend for ourselves. Wake up India , wake up!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Do I Want?

Life has been confusing these days... I always thought I was in control & 'mostly' knew what I wanted! However past couple of months things have been 'weird'. Not even sure if that is the word I can use.

There have been pleasant times, unpleasant times, times when I have felt I need to break-free. Yet nothing really drastically changed, not atleast to the 'external world'. They all saw the same old happy-go-lucky guy busy in travelling & clicking GB's of pictures :)

Yet in mind I have fought battles.. The battles over my day-to-day things, what should I do with my present & future! Past is something i though brood over at times, just let go. I know it is hard, but then I really have no other choice! I have thought what I wanted in my career, is this is the job I want, is this the place I want to be. How good or bad the place was, will it take me to the place where I want to be?

I have no answers to these questions yet.. I do not know if I ever will have answers. As always I will do what I feel right at this point in time. May be I will regret them in future .. May be not.. The time will tell.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Black Drongo

Black Drongo, originally uploaded by Prashanth.Dengody.

The Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus), also known as the King Crow, is a small Asian passerine bird of the drongo family Dicruridae. Previously considered a subspecies (Dicrurus adsimilis macrocercus) of the African Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis). It is a common resident breeder in much of tropical southern Asia from southwest Iran through India and Sri Lanka east to southern China and Indonesia. It is a wholly glossy black bird with a distinctive forked tail.

Feeding on insects, it is common in open agricultural areas and light forest throughout its range, perching conspicuously on a bare perch or along power or telephone lines. The species is famous for its aggressive behaviour towards much larger birds, such as crows, never hesitating to dive-bomb any birds of prey that invades its territory. Smaller birds often nest in the well guarded vicinity of a nesting Black Drongo.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Landing

The Landing, originally uploaded by Prashanth.Dengody.

Little Black Cormorant

Spot Billed Pelican In Flight

Pelicans being larger birds fly quite low. Another reason here it is flying very low is, its fishing :). Thanks to this, the light reflecting off the lake has created nice effect on Pelican's Belly!