destination india

Friday, October 08, 2004

high flying hyderabad

Situated in the Eastern part of the country, Hyderabad is the capital of Andhra Pradesh. Also known as the cyber city, it has attracted MNCs as no other city has done in the recent past, thanks to the lead taken by the Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu. He even introduced the concept of e-governance. The high degree of commitment in the methods of governance in Andhra Pradesh can best be illustrated by a recent news item in one of the local language dailies. The A. P. Government plies around 20,000 buses for commuting passengers and are able to show substantial profits. On the other hand, a neighboring which runs only 1100 buses has to survive on Government subsidies!! Whereas the AP buses earn Rs 25.00 per bus on an investment of one liter of diesel, its neighbor can earn only Rs 11.00. On an average, there are seven workers per AP bus whereas in the second case, there are as many as ten.

Despite such situations, the heated debate continues to rage unabated over which Southern city offers more options to an investor. Whilst one city boasts of a temperate climate throughout the year, the other does not have to face disputes of sharing the river waters. Whilst one is proud of its idli and dosa, the other has its expertise in Moghlai cuisine like biryani.

I was fortunate enough to visit Hyderabad briefly in 1999 – out of my three day’s stay, I managed to squeeze in one day for a local sightseeing tour of the city conducted by the ITDC. The program started at 9 in the morning from the Hussein Sagar Lake, located in the heart of the city. Famous for an enormous statue of Lord Buddha located right in the centre of the Lake, the venue hosts different types of water sports.

In the course of the day long tour, we managed to take in the Golconda Fort, Char Minar, Zoological gardens and Salar Jung Museum apart from some shopping outlets, especially of Hyderabadi pearls!

The Golconda Fort is a marvel of a monument – the remnants of the drainage and sanitation systems one sees on top of the mountain, built for the exclusive use of the Badshah and his begums are architectural wonders. Similar to the acoustics and ventilation systems present even today throughout the dilapidated fort! One wonders at the engineering knowledge and expertise that were available to our ancestors.

The Salar Jung Museum, like any other museum houses hundreds of exhibits but the most outstanding of these is the full size statue of a girl draped in a wet costume revealing each and every curve of her body carved out of a single piece of stone. The wrinkles and creases are so prominent and natural looking that you may, for a moment, take them for real! Hats off to the sculptor who had produced such a wonderful specimen of artistic work. The second out-of-the-world exhibit is the musical clock that chimes the hour. Seconds before the hour, a tiny mechanical doll comes into view carrying a hammer. Exactly at the hour, it lifts the hammer, strikes the hour and retreats into its den in the rear!! A unique creation that has stood the test of time.

The latest addition to the must see spots of Hyderabad is the Ramoji Film City.
Built on the lines of Disneyland, it is spread over a large expanse of land measuring approximately 2500 acres and offers facilities for the shooting of films and TV serials. It boasts of surroundings that bear striking resemblances to actual foreign locations! The setup also provides special package tours for honeymooners.

A trip to Hyderabad would be incomplete without a trip to Ramoji Film City.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

mind your bails

English is a very confusing and complicated language. Some aspects were dealt with by Dharmendra in that super hit film ‘Chupke Chupke’ where he co-starred with the legendary Amitabh Bachhan. Dharmendra had problems with pronunciations of similarly spelt words like ‘but’ and ‘put’. However, in other areas also confusion prevails. Even when words are spelt same, they convey totally different meanings. This is probably one of the reasons why English speaking classes are mushrooming all over the countryside and is considered to be a lucrative business with the minimum of investment!

Let us take the case of a word ‘bail’.

To the commoner, it denotes a temporary escape route from the clutches of the Law. Ordinary thieves, pickpockets and other lowly criminals seldom enjoy this benefit. To them, leniency via this channel is non-existant. ‘Bail’ is basically for big time crime and criminals. ‘Anticipatory bail’ is one step ahead and is a favorite of super operators. This type of bail, as its name suggests, is in anticipation of a situation that may arise when the criminal is likely to be confronted by the Law. Once he gets wind of it, the person simply telephones his lawyer who arranges for the necessary papers. As a result, when Law does descend on the scene, the criminal smiles and flaunts the ‘anticipatory bail’ papers. Checkmate. A very familiar scene of Bollywood cinemas.
The other ‘bail’ is an even more important one. Sometimes, the sentiments of a complete Nation depend on whether the bail is in place or not.

Yes, I am talking about the bail that forms an integral part of a wonderful outdoor game called cricket. Long long ago, it used to run for five days at a stretch. Nowadays, an abridged version has become extremely popular.

The game is played on a stretch of the field. There are two sets of wooden stumps placed vertically in the ground at each end of the pitch. On top of these stumps sits the pair of bails – one pair for each end. These bails are made of wood and are as smooth as egg shells. The spin bowlers try all sorts of tricks to entice the batsman to come out of the crease and hit the ball. In case he misses, the wicketkeeper standing behind the stumps can collect the ball and dislodge the bails. The batsman can, then, be declared ‘out’ so that he can return to the pavilion and try to analyze what actually went wrong. The pace bowlers, on the other hand, try to pitch the ball in the corridor in front of the bat so that, if the batsman misses, the ball can ‘kiss’ the stump and dislodge the bails on its way to the wicketkeeper. Once the bails are down, the batsman is out. Yet another scenario is when the batsman attempts a run and the fielder is quick enough to collect the ball and throw it at the stumps – again to dislodge the bails. In order to determine whether the batsman had his toes in the crease and whether his bat was grounded before the bails were dislodged, we take the help of precision equipment and accessories like the snick meter, the stump camera and a whole lot of other cameras located strategically all around the field. An incorrect decision by the on-field umpire means adverse criticism – hence, refer to the third umpire for safety. At the end of it all, we have animated display boards to declare whether the batsman is ‘out’ or ‘not out’.

A simple pair of bails can provide so many opportunities to so many persons to capitalize upon. Protecting the bails sure is big business!!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

the z factor

In our childhood, we would struggle to find words starting with the last letter of the English alphabets namely ‘Z’. Our minds would be blocked after zoo and Zulu. The former being a large enclosure, suitably protected by fences and gorges where four legged animals was on view for the benefit of their curious two legged counterparts. The zebra was one unique specimen that remains a mystery even today – does it sport white stripes on a black background or vice-versa? The second word, Zulu, would be used as a common noun to denote tribal characters who roamed the jungles of Africa, their ears and nose pierced with tiny human bones signifying that they belonged to a tribe who relished human tit-bits for breakfast, lunch and dinner!!
As we grew older, we learnt about a person called Zorro, a master swordsman capable of hiding his identity by just putting a patch over his eyes. With a sudden swish of his sword, he would leave his trademark imprint of ‘Z’ on all those who dared cross his path. Then there were the zombies – human shaped robots controlled by unseen elements. They were there before anyone thought in terms of ‘Star Trek’ and the likes.

In our youth, we were fascinated by the zip.

It was associated with fasteners and, starting with purses and bags, these one day graduated to become a part and parcel of our apparel. Pant buttons were outdated, jackets and evening gowns switched over to zips. It was more convenient to use and, when rust posed a problem, the manufacturers introduced nylon zips! Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. How right they are!! The latest zip is, of course, the zipouch – keep the veggies inside, zip up the pouch and store it in the fridge!

The word zip carries a different meaning to the computer geeks.

‘Zip a file’ means to compress it into a fraction of its original size. As and when required, the file can be ‘unzipped’ to its normal size.

Zap is another favorite of computer pros – it means deleting the contents of a file while retaining its database structure.

After zip and zap, we naturally come to zoom!

All TV sets have the options to view the offerings in either the normal or the zoom mode. Zoom means to magnify. It is still too early to comment on the magnification that can be achieved by ‘Zoom’, the latest entertainment channel to enter the Indian homes. In keeping with the growing popularity of the letter ‘Z’ (examples are aplenty in the automobile industry), it can be safely said that ‘Zoom’ need not struggle to survive – it is here to stay!!

Monday, October 04, 2004

the game of bridge

When someone mentions the word bridge, we immediately visualize the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge or the pontoon bridges used by the Army or the Konkan Railway Bridge. We are also reminded of the award winning cinemas ‘Bridge on the river Kwai’ or ‘the Bridges at Toko-ri’ or our very own black and white oldie ‘Howrah Bridge’ which propelled Helen to fame. The unforgettable foot tapping dance number ‘mera naam chin chin choo’ is a popular one to the youth even today – proof is in the remixes. While discussing bridges, we cannot forget the generation gap and efforts of psychologists to bridge that gap. But, the bridge of all seasons still remains that beauty of a game involving a pack of cards.

Yes, a game of bridge can be an absorbing, engrossing and entertaining one with enlightenment thrown in for good measure - especially when the experts discuss the pros and cons of certain deals or methods of play with open books to prove their points.

I first learnt the ‘primitive’ form of the game viz. the auction bridge when scores used to be kept in two vertical columns ‘we’ and ‘they’. Vulnerability was never predetermined and there were no boundaries defined within which to operate. Subsequently, I ventured into the territory of contract bridge and became acquainted with the modern system of maintaining the scores. I also tried to understand and evaluate the different bidding systems like Goren, Precision, Joshi, phony clubs etc.. Simultaneously, I began picking up terminologies like ‘discard loser on loser’, ‘finesse the Queen’, ‘drop the opponent’s singleton’, ‘engage in dummy play’, ‘end play the opponent’, ‘squeeze the opponent in the minor suits’ and so on and so forth.

My learning also extended to both the versions of the game – the ‘pair’s event’ involving only one pair and the ‘duplicate event’ involving a team of four i.e. two pairs. In the duplicate events, one of the pairs sat in the open room, where enthusiastic persons could watch the progress of play and pass comments. The second pair would sit in the closed room and were not permitted to move into the open area. The deals played in the open room would be played in the closed room also, the difference being that the players would sit in opposite directions. In the beginning, all this seemed confusing but, with the passage of time, I became more and more knowledgeable.

Our local Officer’s club used to organize friendly games on Sundays.

We would assemble after lunch in the club hall and, for the next four hours, would try to bid and achieve three no-trumps if not slams! My partner and I used to experiment a lot. We evolved a bidding system of our own and tried it out in local tournaments. We even tabled it in the Joshi Memorial Bridge Tournament conducted by the Mitra Vihar club of Nasik in 1981. We were granted Special Leave to participate in the Tournament; unfortunately, we were nowhere near to players like Jimmy Mehta or the Tolanis. But, we did get an opportunity to see them in action. The brightest stars of Indian bridge who regularly attend International tournaments.

There is a saying in Bengali – ‘tash, daba, pasha/shakal karma nasha’ (‘cards, chess and dice are games that ruin your working potentials’). Yes, these are bad if one becomes an addict. Basically, all these games are examples of ‘hope springs eternal in the human breast’. When one is dealt a set of cards which does not promise much, one gets disheartened. He prays to God Almighty for a better deal next time and, the next time may not come quickly enough! Once addiction sets in, cards like any other intoxicant can be equally destructive.

It is recommended to use it judiciously, in small measures, to get the required kick!!