Jun 15, 2014

Social media, Anti-social repercussions

A young techie got murdered in Pune over some Facebook post. I have deliberately avoided writing ‘Muslim’ because blogs don’t have TRPs. Nor do I interrogate people for knowing what they had for lunch under the pretext of saying that the nation wants to know it and then interrupt them while they speak because my opinions are called conclusions. Moreover, as the epic subtitles in a pirated DVD of a Nana Patekar film say, ‘Look Hindu Muslim blood same same’.

I remember the time when social media existed solely for ‘fraandshipss’ and was not taken seriously by anybody. Orkut was the market leader and anonymity that time meant uploading a shirtless photo of Salman Khan as your profile picture while keeping your original name and sometimes IQ too. From those days till date, the evolution of social media has been phenomenal. Lots of social networking sites have come up, vanished, stayed or went unknown. Between ‘look ma, what I made’ and ‘just prepared yummy pasta, yay’, we grew up, and so did the reach of social media.

As the rule of the universe goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. (For the ‘cool’ guys, poison refers to actual poison, and not your drink in a shallow glass which costs you a kidney and a human sacrifice at a bathroom sized pub in a city which never sleeps because an SUV can run over you any time if you sleep). Once the reach of social media increased, it started becoming a new way of getting noticed and heard. Flaunting muscles in front of the mirror is now replaced by a check-in at a gym. Praying to the Lord before food is now replaced by uploading a mandatory picture of the dish on Facebook and consuming it only after someone comments ‘yummmyyy’ on that picture. According to a survey done by nobody, every third person on social media either owns a DSLR or guitar or is a voracious reader who loves black coffee and dark chocolate or is a shopaholic or is a metal junkie or a combination of multiple things thereof.  You might be disowned by the ‘cool community’ if your Facebook profile doesn’t have albums named Sunburn, Metallica, Honeymoon, Goa and the mandatory ‘New Yearzzzz Eve picssss’.  Starving kids in Africa would have been dead if some of us hadn’t contributed an X amount of likes to a picture of a cloud in the sky which looked like Sai Baba because the journalists at India TV thought so. Posting a R.I.P. message miraculously makes the deceased get a fully furnished 3-BHK in the heaven with a high speed broadband connection and a Macbook so that all he can do is to look at your post and thank you.  Every time you post a good morning message, a rooster somewhere strangles itself to death.   

The trouble with us is that, our brains instantly think of destructive ideas whenever we see something free, public or unguarded, be it a state transport bus, Indian railway coach or social media. Morphed pictures and memes of famous people have been doing rounds on social media lately. Depending on your IQ, you can be the one who posts funny stuff or you can be at the other end of the spectrum and lynch such people because you think you are the ultimate savior of the universe.

Grow up guys! A legendary ruler who had won several battles single handedly is not bothered by your opinions nor does he need you by his side to kill people and protect him.

For the ones posting the funny stuff, hold on till the government releases a detailed annexure of topics on which you will be legally allowed to crack jokes. Till then, troll responsibly and keep cursing yourself for being born in a country where a terror bombing attack by a neighboring country is just ‘condemned’ and a Facebook post faces a strong action instantly.

Now kindly excuse me while I go and pimp about this blog-post on my Facebook profile.

Jun 12, 2014

Why you don’t need to study

The recent board results came as a surprise to many of us. Lots of innocent kids have scored percentages which most of us have only seen in the progress bar of a download manager. They will now slog hard for the entrance exams to get into the factories that produce engineers and doctors. It will be an intense competition, with the clear rule of survival of the fittest. If you carefully observe the scores of these students, the only thing that would vary is the digit in the tenth decimal place. 

There is a second category of kids who will suddenly emerge into the race track from the bushes near the finishing line while you are almost confident of your victory. Before you even know, they would be kissing the medal and doing a victory dance. You suddenly realize you got fooled. You might have been born intelligent and hardworking, but they were born reserved. If you belong to the latter lot, you must stop reading here and continue to hate the former lot for no reason.

Indian parents spend more time deciding the academic qualification and profession of the kid than a good name for him. That’s why the country has engineers called Jimmy, Tony, Pintu and Rocky. Our society conveniently differentiates individuals on the basis of their academic qualifications and professions. The B.A. or B.Com. guy hardly gets tea or coffee offered at a relative’s place. Not to forget, the one who is pursuing distance education is  disowned by the entire society. This is the same society which made ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and ‘3 Idiots’ churn huge numbers at the box office. But back home, it is always Sharma ji’s son who is a superhero.

This builds up peer pressure among the parents, and the kids also get a taste of it. A relative’s son studying abroad is the best ever measurement metric of success for the Indian parents. The kid is put under constant pressure from the first day itself and is shown a ‘carrot and stick approach’. ‘Study hard for the 10th exams, and you are set.’, ‘Study hard for the 12th exams, and you will get a good college.’, ‘Study hard for the college exams, and you will get the job of your dreams’. This just doesn’t end here! The carrots keep on changing with time, and the stick keeps on growing longer. In the process of having a constant focus on the carrots, one doesn’t realize when he hits a wall called death.

 Most of the things that they teach in schools never find their application in real life. Twelve years since I passed out of school and I still don’t remember the last time I used a differential equation to calculate my grocery bills. The invasion of India by the Mughals has not affected my love for Mughlai dishes in any way. But I still regret not being taught financial management in primary school. 

After all this slogging and getting degrees with jumbled alphabets, you get the biggest blow of your life. The guy who used to steal your homework and tiffin in school now owns a company and he might just hire you so that you now get paid for doing his homework or counting his money because he was bad at maths. The guy who your family never let you play with because he was an ‘arts’ guy now has a bestseller novel in his name. Worse even, the guy who dropped out of the school and introduced you to Naughty America is now a youth president of some XYZ political party. 

In the blind race of grades, you kept on relating achievement and purpose with education. You were busy acquiring knowledge when the others were busy sharpening their skills. You were running to win, and they ran for staying fit. They are fit, and you are now struggling to fit in.

Note: If you realize during your childhood that you are not exceptionally talented or gifted, get formal education. Don’t stay uneducated hoping that you’ll turn out to be Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Dhirubhai Ambani. Stay hungry if you wish, but don’t be foolish.

Jun 10, 2014

Don’t let curiosity kill the cat

Recently I watched ‘Balak Palak’, a Marathi film released in 2013 directed by Ravi Jadhav and produced by Riteish Deshmukh, Uttung Thankur and Ravi Jadhav. Balak-Palak in Marathi primarily means Child-Parent(s) and the title is deliberately abbreviated to BP, which refers to Blue Picture / porn secondarily.  

This film deals with the most critical and sensitive topic of sex education in children and adolescents. It is a story of 4 school friends who are entering their teenage and hence have a natural curiosity for exploring the unknown and forbidden.  As a part of the natural curiosity, they try asking questions to their parents but get thrashed by them instead of getting proper answers. Naturally, they try looking for answers to the questions in X rated literature and films. They are helped and guided by a boy who is a typical mischief monger and the kids get guided towards porn. At the end, an elderly uncle in their neighborhood makes them understand the boundaries between the right and the wrong and asks them not to get trapped in the world of X-rated content.

The movie has a strong message for all the parents who have teenage children at home. The more you avoid a question from the child, the more he will try to explore and find an answer. Many a times, parents avoid talking to their kids or answering their questions. Worst even, children get slapped sometimes when they pose such questions to their parents. This is where they fall prey to anyone who offers information on those questions. Curiosity is natural to children and any source of information that satisfies their curiosity is welcome for them. This source may or may not be providing information the right way.

A child comes into contact with a lot of other children in school or during play. In the process, he might learn certain unwanted things as well. It is the duty of parents to communicate with the child and educate them about the right and wrong ways. Suppressing their questions would only make their curiosity stronger.

It is quite imperative to include sex education in the curriculum of school, but till the time the authorities do it, parents have the responsibility of imparting this sensitive education to their children at the right age before they turn to seek information from misinformed sources like pornography.

Balak-Palak is a must watch for all the parents who have teenage children. There are subtitles as well and language doesn’t become a barrier for this film. 

While hormones do their work, parents should continue with the communication. Satisfy the curiosity, and no cats shall be killed.

Jun 8, 2014

Ownership review: Royal Enfield Bullet Electra 5s

Made like a gun, goes like a bullet. The machines that the Royal Enfield factory manufactures still reflect the legacy of the weapon manufacturer in their build quality and performance.

In 1956 Enfield India started assembling Bullet motorcycles under license from UK components, and by 1962 was manufacturing complete bikes. Since 1995, Royal Enfield production, based in Tiruvottiyur, Chennai, continues and Royal Enfield is now the oldest motorcycle brand in the world still in production with the Bullet model enjoying the longest motorcycle production run of all time. In May 2013 Royal Enfield started a new assembly facility at Oragadam, Chennai.  Eicher Motors manufactures and markets the Royal Enfield motorcycles for the premium motorcycle segment in India.

Royal Enfield Bullet Electra 5s is a famous and one of the largest selling models from the Royal Enfield family. And of course, it has the least waiting period. It is a 350 cc mean machine with 5 speed gears and UCE petrol engine.

It has been more than a year I have been enjoying riding my Bullet Electra 5s and it has been a pleasure indeed to own a classic machine. What follows is my account of the ownership review. My ODO reads 8100 Kms as of now.

7th May 2013 is the day when I finally got the ownership of my bull. The drive from the showroom to my home is around 16 Kms and during that drive, I made a decision to never part with this machine ever in my entire life. Being an MBA, I prefer going bullet-point wise when I describe my ownership review.

Handling: When it comes to handling, Electra wins it hands down.  Be it the city or the highway, you never get a feeling of insecurity at any speeds. There are minimum vibrations, and the bike moves like a breeze! The front and rear shock absorbers make sure that you don’t have a hard time. While the shock absorbers are not too hard as in the other versions, they aren’t too soft either that they will bottom out. The wheelbase is amazing and hence you get a stable ride at high speeds, but when it comes to turning, you need to be careful enough in avoiding sharp cornering. The braking power of front disc and rear drum are adequate enough to bring the 186 kg bull to a halt when needed. Well, but when it comes to the tyres, you get disappointed to see thin front and rear tyres for a bike of this weight.  You have to be extra careful on wet roads since they tend to drift easily by torque and braking. The new stepped seat is much better than previous versions, and has an adequate space which doesn’t exhaust you even after long rides. The foot brake pedal is placed too conveniently and the only downside is that when you apply the brakes over a bump, the pedal tends to touch the ground. 

Build quality and component design: Electra still retains that old school, traditional look and looks classic with that simple design. The paint is glossy and the finishing is simply great, especially on the fuel tank. However, the inner sides of the tool boxes have a tendency to catch rust very soon. The engine looks quite neat yet raw and has a great impact on the overall looks of the motorcycle. The headlamp, tail light, side lights and brake lamp are decent enough. 

Engine performance:  This is one area which has been researched too much by the company and it shows. The heart of the Bullet Electra is 350 cc air cooled, four stroke, single cylinder, twinspark engine that generates a stunning 19.8bhp at 5250 rpm and peak torque reaches 28Nm at 4000 rpm. The Electra has TCI (Transistor Coil Ignition) which is a major refinement which the earlier models lacked. The TCI system is more reliable and makes it easier to start the motorcycle than the conventional points type system. The engine is a UCE, which means the gearbox is integrated into the engine, whereas the earlier models had a different compartment for the gearbox. This makes it easy for changing oil and maintenance and since it is made from aluminum alloy, it reduces the overall bulk of the motorcycle, giving it a pretty good mileage. However, this has an impact on the exhaust sound, or the thump’ as motorcycling enthusiasts call it. The thump isn’t much powerful since the new Electra comes with a new long glass-wool fitted silencer which reduces heat and noise pollution and is compliant with the Euro III norms. The engine feels powerful and it retains the original raw power of earlier bullets. The torque and acceleration both are taken care of, thanks to the new improved gear ratio. My personal record is 0-60 in 6.5 seconds. The top speed has also increased and I have recorded 120-122Kmph on the highways. An important point to consider here is the false neutral, which you encounter during every gear shift. This means you can feel the gear shift going like 1-0-2-0-3-0-4-0-5. However, this is a trick you can master over time and finding the neutral becomes easy then. The electric starter makes it easy to start the bike and the old problems of oil leakage have been eliminated in this model.

Fuel consumption: There is no formula for a perfect mileage, and it varies due to different parameters. However, the average fuel consumption of Electra goes around 30-35Kmpl with a mixed spread of city and highway drives. With a tank of 13.5 liter capacity, this mileage is not a problem even for long rides. Anyways, you never look at mileage when you buy a Royal Enfield!

Well, now let’s look at some tips on upgrade, modifications and maintenance, purely from my experience with the bull.

-          The tyres are too thin for such a heavy bike, and I recommend you to replace them with broader ones in the market. This might reduce the mileage by some Kms, but the impact on ride quality would be remarkable.
-          For all those looking for the old school thump, unfortunately it can’t be replicated due to the new aluminum alloy engine, but fitting an aftermarket short bottle exhaust pipe will help you get close to the old school thump. However, any exhaust modifications should be done only after crossing 3000 Kms or else the torque and mileage will be affected.
-          The horn is hardly audible for a bike with such a magnificent first impression. Go for roots horn pairs with relays from day one. If you wish to reduce the braking in city, good horns are a must.
-          If you intend to go on long rides frequently at night, get a pair of fog lamps fitted in the front to increase visibility.
-          Get a front crash guard of good quality fitted on the bike even before you take it to the temple. God helps those who help themselves, and safety is paramount.  
-          Strictly follow the run-in instructions as per the manual. Even though the 350cc engine tempts you, never exceed the recommended speed limits during the run-in period.
-          Maintain the discipline of getting the bike serviced at intervals specified in the manual, since a heavy machine needs good care to get going.
-          Before commencing a long ride, pay a visit to the workshop and get the bike thoroughly checked. Getting stranded on the highway isn’t too romantic with a bullet.
-          Finally, don’t modify things so much that they cease to look original. A bunch of engineers are being paid by the company to deliver the design and specifications. They know it best.

Overall, the Electra 5s is a good rollout from the RE factory which resolves all the problems that earlier models had. The price factor is a small concern, but then there is a reason they call it Royal. The sheer joy of watching the boys on plastic toys look at you in awe at the traffic signals is priceless. There is a special connect I feel with the machine whenever I ride it, which I haven’t till date felt with any other machine I have owned. The machine loves you back.