A generation grows up, finally

24 November 2013 @ 2:09 pm

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when it was sacrilege to say anything against Sachin Tendulkar. Unless of course, you were the parent or grand parent of a boy who ignored school, sleep and all else when India was playing. It was then acceptable to needle the son with “How much did Tendulkar hit? Nothing? Is that what you stayed up all night to watch?” The boy would be stung by that comment and would decide not to watch the fourth day’s play of the test match against the West Indies at Bridgetown, Barbados. Until the game started at 7.30 PM. This time Tendulkar would score a hundred albeit in what would eventually be a losing cause. It made staying up until 3 AM worth it. Even if the next morning his father would look at the late city edition of The Hindu and say “As usual! India can’t win when he scores.” The boy has another ephemeral episode of sanity and decides not to watch the first one-dayer. Until, of course, the game starts. Another sleepless night, punctuated by his dad’s comments when he wakes up to go to the loo : “What’s the score?” To the boy’s rotten luck, Kumble would have bowled the first full toss in 7 overs. “Oh! They’re hitting sixers! Go to sleep, India will lose!” or later on “Tendulkar in the 90s? He’ll slow down. Go to sleep, India will lose!”

Within one week, the boy is exposed to the three most common accusations of Tendulkar’s frailty:

1. He doesn’t always score.
2. If he scores, India loses.
3. He slows down in his 90s and consequently causes India to lose.

Of course, the person making these accusations is doing it not because he doesn’t like Tendulkar or cricket but because he is concerned about his son’s unhealthy interest in cricket. Because, as I said earlier, this was back in the day when even Sanjay Manjrekar could only wax eloquent about the man he called “Teyndoolkar.”

Times have changed now. The younger guns started to make their mark, India started winning whether he scored, didn’t score or slowed down in the 90s. And ever since he struggled to get that purely statistical landmark of the hundredth century, more and more people started questioning his presence in the Indian team. The recent modes of dismissal only served raised the decibel levels of those that didn’t want him anymore. It also made the arguments of those who still wanted him shrill and purely emotional. But very few made compelling arguments one way or the other. They either appealed to emotion or cited anecdotal examples to make their cases. But this was a different kind of criticism, fueled more by Tendulkar-hate than concern about children’s interest in cricket. Because, by now, people stopped caring as much about Tendulkar. Kids weren’t bunking school to watch him play anymore. His arrival at the crease did not raise the pulse of the entire nation anymore. His dismissals weren’t resulting in switched off television sets.

Until the Wankhede test last week. It was the same exhilarating feeling as he arrived at the crease. The same butterflies in the stomach as he prepared to face his first ball. The same missed heartbeat as he played at and missed a wide half-volley. It was the 1990’s all over again. I was a little kid again. Tendulkar was a prodigious talent again. If that wasn’t enough, it was the same crestfallen feeling and desire to turn off the TV as he got out. And if that wasn’t enough, it was the same anger rising up inside expecting the dad to come by and ask “Did Tendulkar get out before getting a century? To an unknown bowler? Ha!” But that didn’t happen this time.

An era had ended. A generation had finally grown up.


A Random Rant

23 November 2013 @ 9:16 pm

I hate cliches. Despise them, actually. Almost as much as this guy hates runners. But there are times when you are too tired to come up with clever titles for faux-intellectual posts about life, universe and everything else pretentious.

These are the times when you realise why you really have a blog - your own space to rant, vent, spew venom and make unsubstantiated claims, all in an annoyingly public forum that lets everyone who knows you on facebook, twitter, tumblr and gmail that you just wrote a new post.

This is one of those times. Hence the cliche of cliched blog post titles, “A Random Rant”. That it is alliterative is no saving grace. It doesn’t even hold a candle to “Obsessively Obsequious”. But I digress. I am tired. And this is an angry rant filled with hatred.

When I read the aforementioned article on WSJ, I was struck by two things -

1. What kind of journalistic standards or lack thereof permit articles like this to make the cut?
2. What kind of messed up person spews this kind of vitriol on people who are just running to stay healthy?

Answering the first question will probably need a post of its own. But the second question turned out to be rather easy to answer.

You don’t need to be a messed up person to hate something as innocuous as running, or runners. Or bikers for that matter. Yeah, that’s where this post is heading. I hate bikers. Almost as much as I hate those damn cliches. Not all kinds of bikers. Just the ones who race down sidewalks. And mow down pedestrians. Like me.

I got hit by a biker. From behind. On a sidewalk. I was knocked against a wall and then down, in the process acquiring plenty of bruises that continue to hurt more than a week after the accident. My first reaction? “I @#&!ing hate bikers!” Here was a biker, no helmet, no lights, no reflective clothing, racing down the sidewalk filled with people on his bike, mowing me down and all he gets is a slightly bent front wheel? Where’s the justice in the world I ask you? No, he did not have a bell nor did he call out that he was behind me. Nor was I the only person on the sidewalk.

Maybe Stakos was mowed down by a runner as he walking on the sidewalk one day. Or maybe he is just a #@&*. But I understand irrational hate.
So, you morons, stop biking on the sidewalk. If there’s no space on the road, don’t take your hate out on us poor pedestrians. Specifically, stop crashing into me. I don’t like it. And it detracts me blogging superciliously
about energy policy and property tax regulation. And worse, it makes me resort to terrible cliches.

The world can do without more cliches. And poorly-written crap like this. And disjointed and grammatically-puke-inducing sentences.

End of A Random Rant.


Indian Wind Industry Gets … uhm … Second Wind

6 September 2012 @ 9:46 pm

As of April 2012, the accelerated depreciation benefit for wind energy projects in India was discontinued. This was expected to hit the industry hard. This fear seemed real enough until some developers recently figured out that they didn’t have to depend on turnkey solutions from wind turbine manufacturers anymore. How did this happen?

For many years, the major reason for the growth of the wind energy sector in India was the accelerated depreciation benefit. Captive consumers, as industrial electricity consumers are referred to, were the majority of the wind project owners. For industries such as the cotton spinning mills, investing in an electricity producing asset depreciating its value at 80% annually was an extremely attractive option. Since they didn’t seek to build large wind farms but just erect one or two turbines, their needs didn’t quite make an attractive proposition for wind energy developers. So wind turbine manufacturers such as Suzlon, Vestas and, in the past, NEPC stepped in to offer turnkey wind solutions to the mill owners. They would take care of land acquisition, permitting and grid interconnection, and obviously the turbine manufacturing and installation.

Since the primary incentive was the accelerated depreciation benefit, neither the mill owner nor the turbine manufacturer cared if the turbine generated any electricity or if the grid had capacity to evacuate that power. To counter this perverse incentive, generation based incentives were introduced. The power producer would get paid Rs. 0.50 (US $0.01) for every kWh of electricity generated. While this increased the number of entrants interested in more than accelerated depreciation to about 30% of new projects, it still did not incentivise the utility companies (now transmission companies) to provide the necessary infrastructure to evacuate the power.

To counter this, the government introduced Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO) mandating that a certain percentage of electricity purchased by each utility be from renewable sources. After this, the government also decided to remove the accelerated depreciation benefit and the feed-in tariff and instead introduced a Renewable Energy Credit trading exchange.

While everyone feared it might sound the death knell for the wind industry in India, especially with solar energy getting a boost through the National Solar Mission and individual state solar missions, wind energy developers realised that they could take advantage of the drop in turbine prices worldwide. A few developers, like Green Infra, Greenko Group and Mytrah Energy, decided to discontinue the existing model and instead develop the projects (acquire the land, take care of permitting and interconnection) themselves and turn to the manufacturers to just order the turbines.

As the Bloomberg article points out, companies like Vestas, Gamesa and Suzlon, were still charging high prices for projects despite the fall in turbine prices, citing high development costs. Breaking the vertical integration by decoupling turbine manufacturing from development, these developers are now able to realise the monetary benefits from falling turbine prices by ordering from manufacturers like GE and developing the projects themselves.

With turbine prices falling and coal prices still rising, many more wind developers might do what these three developers did. From this case, it seems like the New and Renewable Energy Ministry hasn’t yet been infected by the policy paralysis that the other ministries seem to be caught in. Having the right kind of incentives in place and letting the private sector figure the best path ahead seems to have worked here.

And oh, pardon the lame pun in the title. I haven’t been blogging lately and the rustiness wears off really slowly!


An Open Letter to Markandeya Katju - Part 1

30 January 2012 @ 5:55 am

Dear Sir,

I want to congratulate you on your not-so-recent appointment as the Chairman of the Press Council of India. Since taking over, you’ve done some amazing things, some of them so amazing that I cannot help but resort to hyperbole while describing your achievements. So please excuse me if this letter seems a little sycophantic. I really mean this, every word of it. Just like you did, last year.

Also, I write this in several parts because I admire you greatly and have a lot to write to you about, and could not possibly write the whole letter in one sitting.

Hardly a few days after you took over the Chairmanship of the PCI, your dynamic and bold nature was on display in your op-ed. You hit the nail on the head with your three-point summary of the problems with the media in India.

Your first point particularly resonates with me. The media focus (or focuses, if I were to consider media to be a singular noun, like you do) on trivial things. I share your pain when you say :

"To give an example, I switched on the T.V. yesterday and what did I see? Lady Gaga has come to India, Kareena Kapoor standing next to her statue in Madame Tussand’s, tourism award being given to a business house, Formula one car race etc. etc. What has all this to do with the problems of the people?"

I too have, on several occasions, turned on the TV, skipped past Doordarshan and Discovery Channel to go to Star Cricket, NDTV, CNN-IBN and other such trashy electronic media and been depressed by their focus on trivial content. I am sure millions of other Indians who watch these channels agree with you that they had no choice but to watch the trash on air and let the media think that’s the content they wanted. If only they had the choice to turn off the television.

You hit another nail on the same head when you lament about the importance given to astrology in the media. You say:

"Many T.V. channels show astrology. Astrology is not to be confused with astronomy. While astronomy is a science, astrology is pure superstition and humbug. "

What is most appreciable here is that you not just state obvious facts, but you also state the impeccable logic behind that statement.

" No doubt most people in our country believe in astrology, but that is because their mental level is very low."

I couldn’t agree more with you. Most people in India indeed have a very low “mental level”.

Where you differ from armchair critics (By the way, I think you should address and lambast them in a separate article) is that you provide solutions and demonstrate their efficacy with brilliant statistics.

" These will […] be […] informal get-togethers where we will discuss issues relating to the media and try to resolve them in the democratic way, that is, by discussion, consultation and dialogue. I believe 90% problems can be resolved in this way.”

My belief is that 80 per cent people who are doing wrong things can be made good people by patient persuasion, pointing out their errors, and gently leading them to the honourable path which the print media in Europe in the Age of Enlightenment was following.

Admirably, you even back up your personal beliefs with statistics. How many people in India can do that? Very few, since we know that most Indians’ mental level is very low.

Yours Sincerely,
Arvind Balachander

End of Part 1.

Coming up: Your penchant for facts. And your rightful sense of outrage. And your belief in democracy.

First World Iyer Problems

12 October 2011 @ 3:09 am



Whattey Bulb!

2 October 2011 @ 2:15 pm


800 Million Indians ready to pay more for renewable energy?

27 September 2011 @ 4:55 pm

Yes! Apparently, that’s how popular renewable energy is in India, if you go by articles like this that are reporting on a survey by Mercom Capital titled the Indian Renewable Energy Awareness Survey.

Sounds incredible, right? Right! If, by incredible, you mean not credible. Let’s dig into your report a little.

There seem to be two major claims in this statement.

  • Claim 1: 71% of Indian consumers are ready to pay more for renewable energy.

    So, 39% said yes, 32% said maybe and you think with education, we could convert the maybe’s to yeses? That makes total sense. I buy your 71% number now completely, Mercom.

  • Claim 2: 71% of Indian consumers are ready to pay more for renewable energy.

    Proof: Now that you have convinced me about the 71% number, tell me more about these Indian consumers. They’re from all over the country, right? A representative sample, right?
    Absolutely right!

    Perfect! From around Bangalore and Mysore. For those without an idea of where these places are:

    Image source: World Geographics

    That clearly is very representative of the whole nation! Well done, Mercom!

    Oh wait, you said 71% of Indian consumers. How many did you survey?

    A total of 509 respondents were interviewed for this survey.

    You managed to survey 509 out of 1.1 billion. That’s about one half of one hundredth of a percentage point (0.000045%). Can’t get any more comprehensive than that!

    To break it down, 198 of the 509 people said “Yes, we’ll pay more for renewable energy”. 163 people said “Maybe…”. Wow!

    361 = 800 Million. Hence Proved!



18 August 2011 @ 6:03 am

That’s Ladakhi for Hello. That’s what they speak in Leh. That’s where I am right now. 12,000 feet above Mean Sea Level.

Day 1 : August 14, 2011 : Chennai

6.00 PM : We set off on a trip on time. How did that happen? Right, we forgot to print our return tickets. Dhristi Pariharam - Check!
See a VW Beetle on the way to the airport.

6.25 PM : No traffic jams. Reach the airport in just 25 minutes. Of course, there’s the idiot who’s late and demands to be allowed to bypass the security queue. Of course, he’s allowed to.

6.35 PM : Check in all our naphthalene-ball-scented winter clothes and get our boarding pass to “Lee”. “No oxygen there!”, I am informed. Oh no! “No problem, just hold your breath and save the oxygen in your lungs”, comes the solution. Humour from the airport staff, thanks to the lack of crowds.

6.50 PM : Dinner! Packed idlis and molagai podi. See a couple of people buy idli and sambar for exorbitant prices at the airport. Ha!

8.20 PM : Plane takes off at the scheduled time. What’s happening? Amma finally gets the window seat. To our surprise, dinner’s part of the package in the plane. Dang! If only it weren’t Gayatri Japam!

Day 1 : August 14, 2011 : New Delhi

11.10 PM : Plane lands in Delhi on time. What’s happening, really?! Terminal 3 - seems posh and big. Really big. Thankfully we get a ride on the airport vehicle. All of you who pushed past me in the plane to get out and still got to the exit after we did - SUCK IT!

11.25 PM : After a bit of searching, we find the transfer section. Delhi Airport Recycles (atleast Terminal 3 does), but unfortunately I don’t get to use it. :|
The departure are is pretty sweet! There are even long reclining seats meant for the overnight stopover at the airport. Atleast, we decided that it was.

We even had pigeons for company!

Day 2 : August 15, 2011 : New Delhi

1.00 AM : Unfortunately some airport staff decide that the seats next to the ones we’re sleeping on are meant for midnight airline gossip. “Happy Independence Day”, I wish them as we relocate to another spot in the airport to try to get some sleep somehow. These recliners are even more fancy. Curved to comfortably fit your back or your big backside.

2.30 AM : Paavi pora edam paadhalam - Some other airport staff decide to load and unload some cartons very noisily a couple of feet from where we are still trying to sleep. “Happy Independence Day”, one of those guys wishes me.

4.00 AM : Brushing my teeth in the restroom. Some Caucasian-looking dude walks by, gives me a dirty look and tut-tuts in disgust. Oh really? It’s on!

“Yes? Did you say something?”
“Huh? What?”
“You said something?”
“Er… I don’t think this … is the place … for brushing…”
“You have a problem? YOU HAVE A PROBLEM?
“No… No… No… Sorry!”


4.45 AM : Boarding starts, 20 minutes before schedule. We could get used to things happening according to plan! Friendly Caucasian dude is one row ahead of me. Doesn’t turn back for the entire duration of the flight. Ha!

5.45 AM : Plane takes off. Of course, on the dot!

Day 2 : August 15, 2011 : Leh, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir

6.45 AM : Beautiful views of the Ladakhi landscape - dry sandy plateaus, rocky/andy mountains, some snow-capped peaks and green valleys - as the plane descends. Plane lands, ahead of time! Waits ten minutes to get a gate position. 13 C! Brrrr!!! And oh, yes, the checked in baggage comes out on time in good shape. The guy from Hotel Cho Palace is waiting for us with a placard. The hotel is just 5 minutes from the airport. Looks great on entry. “Hayya! Apples!” - Amma is clearly excited! Room’s perfect too. Running up the stairs in the Himalayas is not a good idea. We’re all terribly out of breath by the time we come to our room.

7.45 AM : Bathe in cold water. Refreshing!

9.00 AM : Breakfast - corn flakes, oatmeal, sliced bread with jam and butter and finally the local dish - aloo paratha. Still don’t understand how people can have stuffed parathas for breakfast. Masala Chai is excellent, almost as good as mine!

10.00 AM : Crash! Finally shut our eyes to sleep. Dreamless slumber.

1.00 PM : Wake up and get ready for lunch.

2.30 PM : Done with lunch. Excellent - hot, tasty and super fast service.

3.00 PM : Meet Singchey Wangchuk - the guy we spoke to over the phone for reservations. Knowledgeable, polite and honest. Make travel arrangements for tomorrow. Repeatedly advises us to not do stupid things like going for a walk on our first day in such high altitudes. For some reason, the lack of oxygen reminded me of Michelle Bachmann’s love for CO2.

3.30 PM : Another cup of excellent masala chai.

4.00 PM : Appa and I ignore Singchey’s advice. Set out on a walk towards the airport. Get past crazy furry cows and crazy furry dogs. Turns out my fear of dogs has not been conquered. Damn! Interesting architecture - stone compound walls for every single plot of land. People store water in drums that are locked. Clearly, oxygen isn’t the only thing in short supply - serious water and trust deficit.

6.00 PM : YET ANOTHER cup of still excellent masala chai to celebrate the completion of our long walk.

8.00 PM : Hungry and waiting for the dining hall to open for dinner. Finish typing out the Day 1 and Day 2 report.


Of people, glass houses and stones

12 August 2011 @ 11:44 pm

Really, America? You want to play this game? What if the headlines tomorrow read :
No? Not to your liking? You get to do business with totalitarian regimes that crush popular dissent with force, but we can’t? These kind of double standards don’t work anymore. Maybe if you were a country with a AAA credit rating…