Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hernando Cortes (1485 - 1547)

Hernando Cortes was one of most the daring and brave leader of the 16th century who conquered a massive and rich Empire of 5 million people with a small force of 600 soldiers, 20 horses and 10 small canons. How he did it and what he did is what that follows in my little essay.

Cortes was born in 1485 to humble and noble Medellin family in the southwestern Spain. As he grew up he briefly studied law after which he sailed away from his country to seek his fortune at the age of nineteen. After working as a farmer in the Caribbean island, he moved over in 1511 and joined the military expedition of Velazquez that captured Cuba. Cortes became the mayor of Santiago after the conquest of Cuba and the seeds of a great leader had been sown in under the tutelage of Velazquez.

In 1518 Velazquez probably under the thoughts to expand his empire asked Cortes to form a small force and sent him on an exploration mission to Mexico. Cortes seized the opportunity to fulfill his ambitions and traveled westward with a fleet of 11 ships ignoring the mission to Mexico thus dishonoring the instructions of Velazquez. Cortez had little trouble in subjugating the native islands of Yucatan and Tabasco which where of little value but which is where he learnt about the massive wealth of the Aztec Empire.

Cortes thus made conquering the Aztec empire as his dream mission and sailed towards its capital. He defeated many small native tribes on the route to the capital but interestingly had the ability to turn his foe into friends by forming an alliance with them to achieve his dream mission.

The chances of defeating such a huge empire of 5 million people remained bleak and impossible to achieve with his small force of 600 soldiers. The odds was heavily in favour of the Aztec army as a single Cortes soldier had to face a massive 600 soldiers Aztec soldiers. However Cortes remained undaunted by these facts and started to dig in for the Achilles heel of his opponent.

Cortes learnt about the Aztec myth of light skinned, bearded God-King named Quetzalcoatl who according to a strong Aztec belief was the one who taught them about Agriculture and Government and whose return they were to welcome with a great ceremony.

As all his soldiers were pretty much similar to the much acclaimed God-King image of the Aztec society, Cortez planned to strategically attack his opponent but even then he was apprehensive on a possible retreat by his own soldiers just at the sight of a massive Aztec army. Hence to counter the apprehension he planned to do something that was unprecedented in the history of Wars.

On the D-day, Cortes with his fleet of 11 ships, 600 soldiers, 20 Spanish horses and 10 small Canons landed on the Aztec capital. Cortes immediately ordered his soldiers to burn all their ships sealing off even the slightest thought of retreat in the minds of his soldiers thus leaving them no option but to win to survive in the war. This strategy happened to be a double blow as the Aztec leader Montezuma and his soldiers began to get scared at such a huge confidence of their opponent. Added with the fact that opponents used Big Spanish horses, Canons and also that they looked similar to their Quetzalcoatl God-King where all unprecedented and put the Aztecs in a quandary.

As a result, the Aztecs offered little resistance and surrendered meekly to the Cortes led army thus writing a new Chapter in the history of Wars as being the first army with such small numbers in them to conquer a huge Empire with a large army and massive wealth.

Truly, Hernando Cortes was a leader par excellence and bravado.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


The other day when i was talking to Charu about ERP, i told her that I would find the total market worth of ERP alias Material Resource Planning (MRP) as how it was previously know. But once i started to dig into it, I can’t help but gape at the mind-blowing potential of the field that she is working on because to find the total market value ERP I will have to find out the total number of organizations in U.S be it govt., non govt, private, public and even a small or large organizations since ERP has an important role to play in each of them.

An ERP is critical because it brings in a lot of efficiency into the organization since it integrates all the data and process of a company into a unified system. In other words it integrates the different departments like Manufacturing, supply chain management, financials, HR, Customer Relationship management and data warehouse of a company into one thus eliminating the usage of different applications for different departments that are not compatible or say communicate to one another.

In U.S for designing or providing ERP solution for a small scale company earns revenue about 30,000 USD and for a multi national or say a large scale company will bring in about 500 million USD. Plus they will also have to pay a gross sum for maintenance of the software.

SAP which is the largest European software company, Oracle applications, Saga groups, Microsoft dynamics and SSA global technologies are some of the big global ERP vendors. These organizations hold more than 50% of the global market share in which SAP alone holds about 28.7%. Infact, I was surprised to see Ramco Systems to be the biggest ERP vendor from India which earns revenue of roughly $60.1 million.

The toughest part of ERP seems to be implementing the ERP software since this is where experienced pple and specialists are needed. A company seeks the help of ERP vendor or a third party consulting company for 3 areas of professional service and they seem to be

· Consulting
· Customization
· Support

I guess you are currently working on customization and support but I have a feeling that consulting is where you see some big money since that is where business as a whole is taken care of.

Consulting for a big ERP project involves 3 levels; they are System Architecture, Business process consulting and technical consulting.

In System architecture you will have to design the overall data flow of an enterprise and will also have to see to it that it has scope for modifications and expansions in the future.

Technical consulting involves programming while Business process consulting seems to be a comparatively easier job where one has to study the organizations current business process and match it with the corresponding process or model in ERP system.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Solar Photovoltaic Technology

When everybody is looking at nuclear energy here is someone who looks at Solar Photovoltaic technology to satiate our energy demands. The estimated solar energy radiation falling over India is about 5000 trillion kWh a year which is enough to provide us 90kWh per capita, even if 1 % of the 5000 trillion kWh is harvested fruitfully. This technology looks at large the best technology to invest for our future energy demands considering the fact that there will always be a never ending supply of solar radiation which is highly unlikely in oil or even in nuclear energy.

As per the December 2005 records, there are already 13 lakh SPV systems with an aggregate capacity of 245 MW which is functioning in our country.

The flip side of this technolgy is the common silicon based SPV panels which are not only costly, it also has a conversion efficiency of only 10 %. In other words it needs 100 watts of electricity to create just 10 watts of SPV capacity. Added to it is that there is a acute shortage of pure silicon.

Ofcourse no one can discount the belief that these problems can be pretty much solved by determined research.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Breaking the 40 line barrier

There are sensible speculations that rupee which has already appreciated to 39.60 per $ will appreciate further to the range of Rs. 33 - Rs. 34. Here are a couple of strong reasons :

1) RBI is looking to increase the CRR by another 50 basis points by this year end to wipe off some liquidity to contain inflation within 4 - 4.5 % range

2) The Federal reserve is looking at a 1 basis point cut from the current 4.75 % to 3.75 % by mid January to increase liquidity in U.S.

As we look at the 1st reason, an increase in CRR (cash reserve ratio : which is the sum that every bank has to park in RBI) will mean wiping out a certain amount of money close to a $ 3 bn out of the system ---- > this will increase the demand for money and as a result lead to rupee appreciation against dollar.

The second reason which primarily concerned with the economies of U.S will increase the liquidity in U.S and as a result FII money will flow into India. ----> This again will lead to demand for rupee which will result in rupee appreciation.

Added to this, a bit of recession in the economy of U.S and subprime crisis has led the dollar to weaken against all currencies world over,another reason that can lead to rupee appreciation.

Lets look at a few strong factors for dollar appreciation :

We can expect the RBI to interfere and artificially depreciate the rupee to help the IT , ITeS and export companies but the RBI is giving some strong signals to the export companies to evolve and cope up with the appreciating rupee ever since rupee had broken the 43 line barrier.

The other factor that can lead to dollar appreciation is when the Indo - U.S Nuke deal gets operationalized since then a lot of money will flow from India to U.S. But then again with the Indian politics playing so much against the Nuke deal, we can expect operationalising the deal to be put off for another year or so.

So as of now you can just sit back and look at dollar tumbling over.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Significance of 108

" I have told you a 108 times not to do that and why the hell did you do it. ", this was one of the most common statement of the yesteryear and i have often wondered why pple specifically pick 108 to express something or sometimes anything, i thought 100 was much more a wholesome number than 108 but little do we know the significance and profoundness of such a number, rarely do we understand that 108 is the base for everything.

Now let me start my explanation with an interesting tale associated with 108.

108 Pitha { Sacred Placed }

Long ago, when Lord Shiva was in deep and incessant meditation, his asceticisim was creating a great heat all over the Universe. As a result, everything that then existed were in a huge peril of being destructed, so Lord Brahma to save the Universe requested Maa Shakthi, the mother of the Universe, to use her strenght and wile to seduce Lord Shiva. Maa Shakthi was then born as Sati, the daughter of Shri Daksha. Years passed by and Sati turned out to be a girl of extraordinary beauty and asceticism. Lord Shiva was so attracted by Sati that he took the form of a human and married Sati. The nuptial knot brought about a huge surge of happiness in Lord Shiva and so was it with Lord Brahma as the tryst with destiny saved the Universe.

A few years later, at a feast, Shri Daksha insulted Lord Shiva. Sati felt so humilited by her fathers act that she began a deep meditation in a sacrificial fire which eventually led to her immolation. Lord Shiva was completely hurt by Sati's act and rushed to pull out as much of his beloved's body as he could grab from the sacrificial fire and ascended to the heavens. As he ascended, bits of Sati's body, 108 bits to be precise, fell in different parts of earth. In time, these places were acknowledged and worshipped and were considered to be extremely sacred.

Now that story was interesting wasnt it, though am not very sure of its authenticity.

Lets brush up with some of the facts that adds significance to 108

1) The diameter of the Sun is approximately 108 times the diameter of Earth. There is a belief that life exists at approximately 108 times away from any source of energy or say any star.

2) Consider the powers of 1,2 and 3 in maths : 1 power 1 is 1, 2 power 2 is 4 and 3 power 3 is 27 and when all of them are multiplied (i.e) 1 * 4 * 27 it would give 108.

The logic behind this is that 1 represents 1 dimensional reality, 2 represents 2 dimensional reality and similarly 3 represents 3 dimensional reality, when all three of them are multiplied it would encompass the whole of existence.

3) The 9 planets travelling through 12 signs constitutes the whole existence
(i.e) 9 * 12 = 108.

4) The 27 nakshatras spread over the 4 elements (fire, water, earth and air) or the 4 directions north, south, east, west constitutes whole of existence which again gives 27 * 4 = 108.

5) The Universe is made up of 108 elements according to ancient texts.

6) The number 9 represents wholeness and 108 when the digits of 108 are added it would give 9. Similarly anything that is multiplied by 9 does sum up to 9. The logic behind this the number 9 represents wholeness or God and anything that is multiplied God times only results in God since God is all there is !!!

7) There are 54 letters in Sanskrit alphabet and each has a masculine and feminine form, Shiva and Shakthi, 54 * 2 = 108

8) There are 108 points that define the human body.

9) In Islam, the number 108 is used to refer God.

10) In Jain, 108 represents the combined virtues of 5 categories of holy ones (i.e) its the combination of 12, 8, 36, 25 and 27 virtues respectively.

11) The Sikh tradition has a mala of 108 knots tied in a string of wool.

12) The Chinese and Taoist use a 108 bead mala, which is called su-chu, the mala is divided into 3 parts of 36 beads each and they represent past, present and future respectively.


108 Gopis of Lord Krishna
108 Holy places of Vaishnava
108 beads of hindu mala
108 Upanishads


All Buddists accept the Buddha footprints with its 108 Auspicious illustrations. These areas are considered to have been marked on Buddha's left foot when his body was discovered.

JYOTISH SHASTRA { Vedic System }

The Universe is made up of 5 elements namely
air, earth, water, fire and space, from these elements came 3 attributes namely :

Raj (birth)
Sat ( protection)
Tam (death or destruction)

The mathematical or the geographical evidence proves that a circle is 360 degrees in space. When we wonder why this circle or the wheel of life is considered to be 360 degrees only then the logic can be observed if the circle is divided using the remaining 4 elements and its 3 attributes.

The circle itself is considered the element of space since a circle consumes space when we draw one. In this space, the 4 remaining elements and 3 attributes creates an idea of time. The circle is divisible by the product of 4 elements and 3 attributes. By moving 3 times, each element completes a revolution.

So now we have the number 12 { 4 * 3 }, this division gave us the 12 months and also the 12 horas ( 1/2 of a day or ahoratri). We can further divide the wheel of time, there are 27 fixed stars (nakshatras) and along with the 3 attributes it would give us 30 degrees for one part of a wheel or say for a single month. But this is only for the days of a month and the night is unaccounted for. So when this 30 degrees is multiplied with 2 it would give us 60 degrees and thats the reference that we take as 60 seconds in a minute.

Thus the 360 degrees * 30 degrees would give us 10800. For practical purposes only 108 is used eliminating the last two zeros. Using the number 108 we co ordinate with the rythmn of time and space and we remain in harmony with the spiritual powers of nature. The idea of a total universe is represented by the number 108. Offering 108 times anything, the devotees believe that they are showing ultimate or complete respect to the sumpreme !!!

So the next time someone uses the number 108 better dont question its significance.

Hope you guys enjoyed my enlightenment.


Etymology is the study of origin and development of words.

Here are a few interesting picks ..

1) Laconic - means short, concise and to the point.

This term actually originated from the people of Greece called Laconians, they are believed to be very brave and courageous and always speak short and to the point. Once in a confrontation between the Laconians and the Athenian herald, the herald said "if we come to your city we will raze you to the ground" for which the Laconians replied just " If " and walked off.

2) Spinster - an unmarried women.

Back in the 16th and 17th century, the women before marriage used to spin yarn in their spare time. But when a women doesnt get married beyond a certain age she was called a spinster which meant she was still spinning the yarn.

3) Nemesis - cause of ruin or death.

Nemesis was a greek goddess who had been a goddess of retribution, anyone who committed sin or any wrong doings had to face the wrath of her big sword.

4) Hat trick - a feat performed thrice consecutively.

Back in the late 19th century when pple played club matches, any bowler who picked 3 wickets in 3 balls were presented a hat for their feat. It was thus termed hat trick later on and pple started using this term in other sport also.

5) Broke - A person with no money or a person who is bankrupt.

Banks in the post Renaissance Europe issued small, porcelain tiles to borrowers in which the customer name and the credit limit was imprinted. When a customer needed to borrow money he had to show this tile to the bank teller, the teller would then check the credit limit on the tile and the amount that had already been withdrawn. If the amount withdrawn exceeded the credit limit, the teller would "broke" the tile on the spot, signifying that no more money should be credited for that person which later on took the meaning as a person with no money.

6) Serendipity - means to discover something accidentally.

Long ago Serendip was the name given to Sri Lanka, Serendipity refers to the three princess of Serendip who on a venture discovered 3 countries accidentally. But i have a feeling this story is a bit fictitious.

7) Maudlin - tearfully sentimental, shed tears for little or nothing.

According to bible, Mary Magdalene was freed of her evil spirit by Christ but the classical painters have displayed her with red and swollen eyes due to some heavy crying for the sins she committed. Eventually this term was used for shedding a tear for little or nothing.

8) Malapropism - ludicrous misuse of words.

Mrs. Malaprop was actually a eighteenth century fictional character in an British comedy
"The Rivals" who constantly confused words and it turned out to be funny in the end. Like in one of her speeches to the nearby countries she addressed them "dear contagious countries" rather than contigious countries which brought a huge uproar of laughter .. Please dont mock at me if that doesnt sound funny to you, after all its comedy of the 18th century.

9) Alarm - ( i dont think you will need an explanation for this word)

The French military needed a laconic term to quickly inform the soldiers about a sudden attack from the enemies, hence they used "all' arme" which meant to get armed. This term later on caught on with the pple and was used to send a red alert to the pple.

10) News - (oh pls dont ask me for a meaning ..)

Well, News is an acronymn for North east west south .. if thats your speculation then you are absolutely wrong. Acronymns are basically a 20th century phenomenon and there are hardly any evidence of its usage before 20th century. So as your normal guess would have been, News is derieved from new which means something that has not happened before, something thats timely.

11) Salary - ( pls ask your boss..)

This word is derived from the greek word "Salarium". Centuries back salt was considered to be extremely valuble and was much in demand in Egypt and the other African countries. The extreme heat in most of the African countries made pple lose a lot of salt in their bodies and thus monthly payment for the work done was given in a form of money that can be used to buy salt, this was called Salarium. Later on this word caught on as salary and is now frequently used.

12) Baker's Dozen - adds up to a sum of 13.

The medieval law specified a weight for a loaf of bread and any baker who shorted that for any customer would have to face dire consequences. Hence a baker would include an extra loaf in a dozen just to be on the safer side. But this story is only partly true, the actual fact was that, during good harvest the bakers were able to make more bread than they could sell hence they would sell all the extra loaves to middlemen. The bakers would give a thirteenth loaf for each dozen to the middlemen and this extra loaf served as the middlemans profit.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Nuke deal or No deal ?

On March 2, 2006 in New Delhi George Bush and Manmohan Singh signed a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, following an initiation during the July 2005 summit in Washington between the 2 leaders over the Civil Nuclear Cooperation.

Before we understand the deal lets first reason out why such an agreement has to be made.

India ’s fast growing economy has increased the demand for energy all over the country to huge extents. Alarmingly our coal reserves will last only for the next 86 years and the oil reserves will burn itself out in the next 23 years, we do have huge hydroelectric potential in the North and North-Eastern regions from where we can harness around 1,50,000Mw of power but our total installed hydro capacity uses only 26,910 Mw of hydro power which constitutes merely 18 % of the total potential.

Even harnessing the full potential of the hydro power will not be sufficient to satisfy the growing energy needs of our country of 1 billion people. This has made it mandatory for the government to push for alternate source of energy which will suffice the huge energy demands of our country and obviously it has to be the nuclear energy.

India has 8 million tones of morazite deposits along the seacoast out of which half can be mined, to yield 2,25,000 tonnes of thorium metal which will give us our much needed energy and last for more than 5 centuries. At present, we have 14 Civilian Nuclear Rectors which produces merely 4 % or less of the total electricity consumed in India . Thus the Indo- U.S nuclear deal was signed to improve the functioning of the 14 nuclear plants and for importation of new technologies, inputs, fuel and whatever else that will be required to increase the amount of nuclear energy produced in India .

Alright now we know why a nuclear deal between India and U.S is required but why is it called a 123 agreement?

Well the Section 123 of the United States Atomic Energy Act of 1954, titled "Cooperation with Other Nations", establishes an agreement for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear deals between the US and any other nation. Such an agreement is called a 123 Agreement. To date, the U.S. has entered into roughly twenty-five 123 Agreements with various countries.
Some of the countries with which the U.S. has or had a 123 Agreement:



Japan (with automatic re-processing rights)

Euratom (with automatic re-processing rights)

China (with re-processing rights, requiring approval per each request)


India (draft completed, requires signatures from U.S. and India - the agreement is witnessing opposition within India from parties of the Left Front)

What’s the disadvantage of 123 agreement?

The agreement makes it explicit that if India conducts nuclear tests, the nuclear cooperation will be terminated and we will be required to return all equipment and materials we might have received under this deal. But there are a few provisions to test nuclear weapons if our neighboring countries test their nuclear arsenal. It is debated by the opposition parties that there is a clause in the 123 agreements which says that the agreement should be consistent to the Hyde act.

What’s a Hyde act and why are the opposition parties apprehensive about it?

The Indo-U.S. nuclear co-operation was renamed as the Hyde Act of 2006 on consensus by both the houses of U.S congress after the legislation for the co operation between the two countries was finalized. This Act will soon be signed into law by the U.S. President, and all future agreements will have to conform more or less to this law.

Why do the opposition parties fear about the law that is not yet signed?

The U.S will obviously not have any intensions of doing any favours or provide service to our country or for a matter of fact to any other country, it will just seek to maintain its position as a global powerhouse. Hence the opposition fears that we might be pushed to a position where we will have a weak arsenal protection since we will not be able to make any nuclear tests for the sake of our civil energy demands or we will encounter a huge economic crisis as the U.S will pull out of its nuclear agreement if we test the nuclear weapons.

Either way we will be pushed to a position of weakness and this is what that makes the opposition apprehensiveThe opposition fears that on pretext of conforming to the energy needs of India , we might lose our sovereignty to conduct nuclear tests.

When our neighboring and developed countries proliferate their nuclear armament, India cannot afford to stand still and watch them grow powerful since at some point of time in the far future we should be able to defend ourselves in case of a nuclear war.

Its a very tough decision to make since it happens to be a catch 22 situation and its upto the ruling party to negotiate further and draft out an agreement that conforms well to our interests.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The trip to Delhi (5th - 11th Aug 2007)

A trip to Delhi can always be as exciting as one can expect it to be and that too when done with half-baked hindi it just adds a bit more spice to the fun and frolic, thats exactly what myself and appu experienced. We boarded a 4:45 pm flight to Delhi and were warmly greeted by 3 cute looking airhostess to whom we definitely would have looked like two clumsy characters for just the manner we carried ourselves (we couldnt control our excitments you see ...). I still can't forget how we gulped and munched everything the airhostess gave us in a fruitless and senseless attempt to catch their attention. The two and a half hour comical flying experience came to a halt at the Delhi airport. We immediately caught a blueline bus that took us through all the centre places of Delhi and landed us near the New Delhi metro station. With whatever hindi we knew we managed to get the directions to go to the Delhi metro station which was metro of an amazing standard, the metro has really redefined the experience of travelling within Delhi. Once in the station, two tickets to Vishwavidhyalaya was taken and we were on our
destination in not more than 20 minutes.

But by the time we reached our cousin Aravind's hostel, it was almost 9 pm and a huge panic had setin amongst our parents for not calling back as soon as we reached Delhi (they still think we both are 2nd grade kids u c ..), raising the tensions and temperature of Aravind. Instead of a warm hug we both were strongly rebuked for the priorities that were not prioritized. It took about 40 minutes for everything to settle down and as soon as it happened we set forth on our usual prattles which sparked off a series of uncontrollable laughter amongst us.

With Aravind not able to accompany us for the next two days, we set forth on our mission to explore Delhi all by ourselves. Armed with a Delhi map, we headed to a few places of interest and tourist attraction namely the Jama masjid, Qutib minar, Cannaught place, India gate, Red fort, Akshardam temple and Bahai worship place or much more famously known as the lotus temple. All the places were good but i was specially impressed with Bahai temple for it's architectural brilliance and simply an amazing piece of engineering. Though the other places also has its own significance and greatness it was the Bahai that caught my attention. As we came to the end of our two day exploration mission, we headed back to our room to catch the train to khatgodam from where we were destined to go to Nainital.

The three of us boarded the 10:40 p.m train which was supposed to get us to Khatgodam by 5:30 in the morning, well it was supposed to be but what really happened was that we landed in khatgodam at around 2:30 in the noon making it not less than 14 hours of one of the most bugging journeys that i have ever been into. But then again its these kinds of unexpected incidents and upsets in plan that makes a trip pretty interesting and interesting in its own ways, after all whats the fun when everything goes according to the plan. On reaching the Khatgodam station we caught a taxi to drive us up the hill to Nainital, which we he did in about 2 hours time. We scanned through a few lodges that could satisfy our necessities and finally zeroed in on the one that offered us Garama garam pani (hot water) 24 hours. As almost the entire day had elapsed we just caught up with boating in the evening and prepared to get ready for our first trekking experience deep in the forests the next day.

At about 7:30 a.m the next day, armed with a loaf of bread, butter, jam, sauce and half a dozen puffs, we started our trekking expedition, walking for about 2 hours on the outskirts of the town before we actually got to trek into the forests. Trekking is by no means an easy expedition and that too when its done on a hill, it really can make you huff and puff, which was precisely what happened to us as we set off to conquer the 700 meter high 'Cheena Peak'. The inclination was roughly about 10 to 13 degrees through most of the climb and in a few places it rose to about 20 to 25 degree which made it all the more difficult. Ironic as it may sound, it was the difficulty that made trekking an enjoyable experience as we put our endurance to test. Around 12:30 at noon we rejoiced on reaching the Cheena peak and munched up all that we had brought to eat. After relaxing a bit on top of the hill, we started our stroll down the hill not knowing what we were to about to encounter.

Relieved on knowing the we dont have to climb anymore and thinking that it would be more of a cake walk down the hill, we continued on our trek with a great deal of enthusiasm. Our enthusiasm levels surged higher as we witnessed the real deep forest scenery with no clear path visible to us but just managed to keep up with the tracks with the help of our much experienced guide. We enjoyed every bit of the forest experience until we realised what really surrounded us and every inch of our path. It was after some half an hour's trek down the forests when i happened to be the first victim to realise something getting on to my legs, when i removed my slippers to see what it was, i was shocked to see three leaches sitting right on top of my foot sucking the much needed blood that it wanted from me. Acting immediately with some salt i was able to get rid of the leaches but from then on having witnessed the villian of the forest it was just sprint for all the three of us, as we just couldnt bear the thought of leaches sticking on to us. As comical as it could get, the inevitable did happen and Appu happened to be the victim this time as a pair of leaches got on to his legs and in the act of getting the leaches out of his legs, he threw one of his slippers down the slopes of the forests, to the utter disbelief of myself and Aravind, we never knew a pair of leeches can pull out such extreme reactions. Neither me nor Aravind were ready to take the risk of plunging down the slope to get his slipper as we could be encountered with further more leaches and there was even a chance of slipping down the slope. As the dangers of walking without an footwear lurked large, he was rescued by our guide who volunteered and picked the other footwear much to the relief of Appu.

For the next 1 hour the three of us simply ventured into a spree of dangerous running down a narrow path just to be out of the hold of those leaches, overlooking the much more grave danger of falling down the slope. Luckily nothing of that sort happened and we were safely out of the forest in one single piece. Once out of the forests we entered a small hotel that served some wonderful paranthas and a steaming cup of tea for all of us.
Having had our fill, we ventured down the 15 km road to Nainital but luckily found a jeep midway that gave us one of the most exciting journeys of the trip. The three of us sat on top of the jeep as it was packed on the inside of it and down we went in one of the most realistic roller coaster ride that one could possibly experience. This exciting journey on top of the jeep lived out for 30 minutes after which we got down to walk further down to our room in Nainital.

The trip being as tiresome as it proved to be, we slept the rest of the evening and at about 9 p.m we packed our bags to catch our bus to Delhi. Although we were totally sapped out, the sight of two charming girls right infront of our seats made us lively again as we set forth on our attempts catch their attention with unbridled energies. But things didnt last rosy for long as the movement of the bus down the hill arouse a vomiting sensation within me and induced the same in Aravind and in one of those girls. For the next one hour or so the three of us set forth on a vomiting spree that never seemed to end as far as the bus was going down the hill. When the bus finally reached the plains, we felt releived but horribly embarrassed for our attempts to make a style statement infront of those girls were ruefully spoiled. Luckily Appu didnt experience any such sensation and had an excellent chance to impress those girls especially since both his competitors happened to be out of contention. But Appu being Appu, the chance didnt make much of a difference as he was pretty content in sleeping the rest of the journey peacefully with us. " Appu analum nee romba nallavan da ... he he "

The following day happened to be Friday and we were left with just 2 more days to return to Chennai but the tiresome trekking combined with the dreadful bus journey made us a bit apprehensive on our expedition atleast on that day. So we decided to let that day pass
with no real outing and waited for Aravind to return from college to plan our trip to Agra on the final day. But our dear cousin's late night appearance and confession that he would not be able to accompany us to Agra almost jeopardized our final plans to Agra. It was already 2'o'clock the next day morning and we had a flight to catch on the same day at 7 p.m, so if we wished to see the Taj and also catch the 7 p.m flight the only one possible way was to book a taxi right away and head to Agra at the earliest time possible, luckily we were able to find one in the middle of the night.

With our plans set and the taxi booked we started to Agra at 4 in the morning, it was a pretty smooth ride down the Delhi - Agra road as we smoothed near the Agra fort at about 9:30. It was a fort of architectural marvel, a fort from where the Taj could be seen and a fort which was designed to protect the king and his subjects in times of war. In about 40 minutes we came
out of the Agra fort and headed to the Taj in not so quick but certainly an enjoyable Camel ride. The Camel dropped us near the Taj, we then decidedly employed a guide and headed into the magnificient and timeless Taj. The Taj by all means is an excellent piece of art, symmetry and architectural brilliance, no wonder people are allured to it from all parts of the world. One can only be awestruck by a timeless piece of creation by Ustad Isa Khan for as long as the existance of humans on earth continues, the Taj will be looked at and remembered as a chaste symbol of love.

Precisely at about 1:30 at noon we were on our way to the Delhi airport being a bit tired due to the scorching heat and the taxing journey. The journey went about without much of a drama and we reached the Delhi airport around 6 in the evening. We checked in and boarded the flight but both of us were a bit disappointed as for the lack of an attractive hostess this time around. As being the case, the return flight to Chennai went about without much of an activity and comical stuff from our side on pretext of impressing the hostess.

Apon landing at the Chennai Airport we became aware of the hard fact that the six days of unending fun has finally come to an end but the reminiscence of the Delhi trip, the fun and frolic that came along with it will always put a smile on any of the three of us. At the end of it all what makes the trip enjoyable is the people with whom the travel is made and on that count a huge credit does go to Appu aka Varun for making it one. His continous stream of witticisms be it non-sense or less sense always kept the mood of the trip to be lively and fun filled.

In true sense of my words, the trip to Delhi will always be a trip that will be cherished and remembered in all our life time.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Subprime loans and Hedge funds

With the debacle of U.S subprime mortgage loans looming large over the Indian bourses and causing substantial negative impact in the Indian markets, a lot of investors are looking at hedge funds for an escape. Now for all the amateurs, here is an explanation on the U.S subprime mortgage loans and hedge funds.

What is subprime mortgage loan ?

There are 2 kinds of loans in U.S, they are the Prime and Subprime loans both are handled by private banking sectors in U.S.

Lets just focus on subprime loans for the moment.

The Subprime loans are the loans given to people with poor credit history. A lot of private banks in U.S had given a huge amount of subprime loans (the total amount is still not known) for the housing sector on instructions from the U.S government for reasons best known to them.

So what the hell is the problem ?

The history has repeated itself and a large number of debtors have defaulted in their repayments resulting in a large liquidity crisis for the U.S banks.

Why should this affect the Indian bourses and other global bourses?

Thats the beauty of 'Macroeconomics', ours not an independent economy and is dependent on the economies of a lot more countries other than India but primarily dependent on economy of the U.S. The magnitude of the dependence may vary from one country to another and impact of the dependence will vary accordingly.

Now coming back to the question as to why the U.S subprime crisis should affect the Indian bourses is because the FII's (Foreign Institutional Investors) who are mostly private banks from U.S have invested a huge amount of money in Indian and other global markets and have set themselves in a selling spree to increase their liquidity. This resulted in roughly about 2,00,000 crores of money being washed away from the Indian bourses. Though it constitutes only about 5 to 6 % of the total market capitalisation of the Indian bourses, it still is some big money.

The figures given below will show you the impact of the U.S subprime crisis in Indian markets.

On the start of Aug 1st 2007, the SENSEX was hovering around 15550.99 points and today Aug 17th 2007, the SENSEX has plummeted to 14131.84 points, thats a fall of about 1370 points and roughly about 8.8 % fall in 12 trading sessions swiping away more than 2000 billion crores from the Indian markets.

Alright we are definitely headed a downhill movement in Indian markets but why does Hedge Funds come into play ?

Hedge funds are private investment vehicles that are not regulated but are known to perform well when the markets are set for a steep fall or a steep rise like it is at the moment. They take big bets on a wide range of assets and specialise in sophisticated investment techniques.

Who runs them ?

Hedge funds are run by former bankers or traditional investment managers who set up their own funds. They are known to make a lot of money by their sophisticated investment techniques and charge roughly about 2 % for management fees and 20 % on profit.

Does hedge funds incur a loss ?

Yes, some of the hedge funds have incurred a big loss by betting the wrong way on recent market movements. A few of them have made losses by buying complex packages of debt that contain many of the U.S mortgage loans that are now turning sour. There are no regulators to bail you out in case of crisis and the full blow is apon the investors if the fund goes bust but then again the higher the risk the higher will be the return and its always been the case with the stock markets.

How big are the hedge funds ?

There are thousands of hedge funds in existence accounting for trillions of dollars of investments worldwide. They have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years as investors have tried to diversify their assets and increase their returns.

Hope a bit of enlightenment helped you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

School education or Rote education ???

I recently read an article by Mr. Pillai in The Hindu Open page and the subject was "Does real learning take place in schools ?" (the link for the same is provided above) and given below is my reply to him and my perceptions on it...

Hi Pillai,

Your article today in The Hindu Open page "Does real learning take place in schools ?" was spot on. I have similar perceptions on education at school level and you were right in saying that education at school is more about memorizing than learning or understanding the concepts. That is a stark reason as to why Indian education doesnt produce excellent scientists and there is a huge dearth of talent in the research domain in any field in India. The education system in India is extremely mark based and exam centric which pushes the students to a false perception that obtaining high marks is the ultimate goal in school life and added to it the high number of subjects and higher number of topics covered in each subject only augments the problem by pushing the students into bad habits like memorizing. There is no emphasis on the application of a concept which fails to trigger the ability of student to relate what they study in a real-world situvation.

There are quiet a few reasons as to why this happens in education in Indian schools, the primary reason is that there are a millions of youngs minds in India to be educated and not many teachers to cater to the intellectual needs of those students. This results in a single teacher being assigned to teach atleast 60 to 70 students in a class which makes it close to impossible to cater to the needs of all those students. To further more compound the problem the teachers are paid a meagre sum even in good schools which declines the already depleted quality in teaching and drives away people from picking up teaching in schools as a profession.

But even the above mentioned reasons is no excuse for having such a faulty education system. The core problem is the objective of the school education which happens to be marks and only marks. As long as this happens to be the objective we will only be grumbling, like you said "of our fault-plagued school education system".