Saturday, October 20, 2007

I am soooooo excited!!!

Here it is!!! Finally a season fans of Formula 1 have been waiting for!

It was 20 years in the making. No championship fight has gone to the final race for the past two decades! A mouth watering array of permutations and combinations can unfold in the race tomorrow! What makes it very interesting is that three drivers are all in with a chance! With what happened to Lewis Hamilton in China, anything is possible.

Whoever wins the championship tomorrow deserves it as much as the other two who didn't make it. It is one of those cases where you are good enough to win the championship but there are others who are as good fighting for it. Michael was lucky for a long time. He did not have any serious competition till Alonso got a good and reliable car to take up the Ferrari gauntlet.

Anyways coming back to the race tomorrow. It is an exciting race in its own right. Even if you take the championship fight out of the equation Interlagos is a challenging and entertaining race. I put my money on Kimi to win it. Happy viewing :)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Whither Men in Cricket?

The entire country was blinded by the success of the Indian Cricket Team in the Inaugural Twenty20 World cup. So much so that they worshiped Dhoni. Put him on a pedestal where he had the gall to pass remarks and judgment on the "Seniors" (Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly are being grouped under this exalted title). In my opinion, the win in the final was a lucky break that India could have done without and Dhoni an unworthy hero. He has to realize that Jingoism and bravado are for the newspapers. On the field you need raw talent. That is the only thing that counts.

Twenty20 is an exciting format. Without doubt it will do to One Day Cricket what it did to Test Matches a few decades back. It is faster, more power-packed and obviously very exciting. As the length of the game shortens, so does the impact of talent on a match. You can get away in a Twenty20 match with wild heaves and mid-wicket slogs. If two come off you have anyways done your bit and if you get out! Hard luck! Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a good captain. He rallied his bowlers well and then was lucky with some bowling changes. Though questionable they were indeed lucky. You can do with mediocre talent. India were blessed with a few fearless youngsters like Robin and Rohit chanced their arms and got away with it. But their technique and cheekiness leaves a lot to be desired in the One Day format.

One day Cricket is an entirely ball-game altogether. Luck is not as important. You have the same number of wickets as you do in a Twenty20 match. Its just that you have to make them last two and a half times longer. You need the skill and stamina to last long and also make runs while you are at it. The performance in the ongoing series against Australis is as ridiculous as it can get. Especially from these "young guns" India has now discovered. Robin has got out to all rash and needless strokes. Yuvraj's six sixes in an over are a distant memory. He has to focus on moving his feet and stop feeling for the ball outside off. Harbhajan has to learn how to flight the ball. Sree Santh just needs to learn how to bowl. He is neither as big nor as fast as Andrew Symonds so he has to stop emulating him. He has to stop jeering and making a clown of himself. If he carries on like this maybe that is a profession he will have to pick up for himself.

Sachin has once again showed the class and talent he is made of. In the face of some hostile bowling and exceptional fielding by the world champions he has held his own. He has shown the boys how the men play cricket. Sourav and Rahul have a few matches to emulate the little master and stamp their authority on this very exuberant and immature India Cricket Team.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Flying high!!

Thank you!! Thank you!! ......

To all my friends who have called me for offering their congratulations on my prediction coming true. I have been for close to an year talking about the imminent entry of Kingfisher into the world of Formula 1. I am glad that it has happened sooner than I had anticipated.

It all just fits in beautifully. Mallya is flamboyant and likes rubbing his shoulders with the ultra elite upper crest of the society. He likes to be among beautiful people and in the news! He likes fast cars and his love for racing is no secret. He has one of the most impressive collections of vintage and classic sports cars. His collection includes Jagaurs, Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, Le Mans Racing, Indy Car, Formula 1, Mercedes, Rolls Royce and Porsches including a 1913 model Silver Ghost. Throw in a few high end bicycles from Hummer, Harley, Lotus and Mercedes and you have a very very expensive collection!

Formula 1 is a platter set out just for him. I hope his entry in this sport will also see him investing in making this sport more popular in India. The Spyker Ferrari team needed the large funds to invest in development of a better car.

It is quite possible that given the right time and resources this team can do much better than their current last position. Maybe Karthikeyan will return to the erstwhile Jordan team in the new avatar and Chandok might get a seat in Formula 1 sooner. Lets pray for the best.

I am now inking another prediction I made sometime ago. Much sooner than later you might see Dr. Mallya buying a top English Premier League soccer team.

I am not sure when but definitely feel that he will. It just fits in with his product positioning. Soccer & Beer hmmmm..... need I say more. Then you throw in the Goa factor! Soccer is an increasingly popular sport in India and Internationally the most watched sport. I am sure that the benefits of entering the world of football will be tremendous and will far outweigh the costs.

Keep watching this space.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Overwhelmed

There is so much going through my head right now! There is so much to think about, there is so much to feel about, there is so much to write about that I am actually overwhelmed and am not sure where to start. I guess putting this down itself has been not so easy. Anyways, with the headlines everywhere oscillating between the two Bomb blasts in Hyderabad and the discovery of several more throughout the city, I guess it is important to get your bearings right.

What is the objective of Terror?

The US Department of Defense defines Terrorism as
"the unlawful use of -- or threatened use of -- force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives."

The League of Nations Convention (1937) defines Terrorism as
“All criminal acts directed against a State along with intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public.”

The European Union in 2002 defined "terrorism" as any act which results in
"destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country."

Section 3 of our own POTA defines a "Terrorist Act" as
"an act done by using weapons and explosive substances or other methods in a manner as to cause or likely to cause death or injuries to any person or persons or loss or damage to property or disruption of essential supplies and services, etc., with intent to threaten the unity or integrity of India or to strike terror in any section of the people."

The underlying theme in all these definitions in different words is "fear", "intimidation", "instability" and "terror" which more or less mean the same end result. A scared and broken down society. Let me ask myself this one question. After the blasts in Varanasi, Delhi, Mumbai and now in Hyderabad, do I as an individual feel any of these? The answer is a big NO! I in fact feel very angry and hurt. Deeply. But terrorized? Definitely no. Now does my answer reflect the sentiments of the society, the larger population and the government. I would venture a YES.

What this is doing is uniting the different segments of our large social puzzle. We now have all leaders of the society and our political framework united in one voice. The voice which says we have had enough. We will strike back if we have to. Unfortunate incidents like these acts of "cowardice" unite us more than breaking us down or destabilize us.

I am venturing another guess. I say that the intelligence bodies in our country have a very good idea of who has done it. For what purpose they are not coming out in the open is best known to them. However, I am sure when the timing is right we will all know. Maybe it is time we pull out a leaf from the US Book on anti-terrorism.

Moving on to other things on my mind...

Massa won the Turkish Grand Prix; his first double whammy of consecutive wins at this very demanding track. Raikkonen came in a close second. It is quite heartening to note that Kimi now wants to finish races than foolishly challenge for more points against a strong opponent. Massa's and Raikkonen's rivalry is more fun to watch when they are equals on the track. Lewis is showing signs of crumbling under pressure. At least his tyre did! Alonso's Joy couldn't have been any more when he saw Lewis's car limping on his left when he overtook him. The fight for the 2007 Championship is so close that each one the remaining races is going to be crucial for these four drivers. To ensure that I don't miss out on any of the action I have subscribed to a Tata Sky connection couple of days back.

Moving onto cricket: The BCCI & ICL circus is heading nowhere. It is time to ask the Indian Cricket Players again. Do they represent the BCCI or the interest of Cricket and India. I only hope the Government steps in and creates another independent body which is regulated by the Parliament on the lines of the IIMs. It may not be very efficient but it will not be as one-sided as the BCCI.

India scraped through the second one day. Quite reminiscent of the beginning of the test series where they horribly lost the first test and nearly lost the second and then went on to win the series. A trend maybe? Les hope so.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

In good company

Hi there!

For those of you who visit my blog frequently, I have some interesting news to share. I had written a post just before this entry about the third and final Cricket Test in England recently. I was gladdened no end when I read "Shashi on Sunday" in the TOI today. Shashi Tharoor's thoughts and points were the same as mine. Not that it matters, but it does make me feel good! :)

Link to My article (Published on August 14, 2007): http://kartikagarwal.blogspot.com/2007/08/catch-22-or-was-it.html
Shashi on Sunday article (Published on August 19, 2007): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/S_Tharoor_Are_we_afraid_of_risks/articleshow/2291609.cms

Do post your comments and keep coming back.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Catch 22? Or was it?

My hearty congratulations to the Indian Cricket Team for winning the three test series in the cradle of Cricket. For the Indian Cricket fan, I have only my condolences to offer. Why? Read on....

What business did Mr. Rahul Dravid have to throw away his chance at a very possible win in the third and final test at the Oval? Why did he not enforce the follow on and go for the kill? A 2-0 series victory is better than 1-0.

After reams after limitless reams written on this subject here are my two cents worth.

Well, experts have asked this question in newspapers, on TV and on the Radio. Rahul might have a perfectly plausible theory on the "tired" bowlers and the "body language" of the team. Gavaskar, Shastri and a few other International cricketers that I heard on this topic were very blunt about what they thought about the decision!

Rahul went for safety and that's that. He was maybe afraid that England might erase the deficit, put on a few more runs and then make India bat on day 5 against the guile of Monty on a dusty & crumbling Oval pitch.

Would an Andre Nel or a Shane Watson not have jumped at the chance of going back and attacking a team 319 runs behind? What would Australia or South Africa or for that matter even Sri Lanka have done in the same spot? Enforce or not Enforce? England were down and out! Their morale was low. The Indians had bowled for just one day! What could have made them so tired? We had more bowling options than England did. Tendulkar was spinning the ball well. Ganguly was bowling well wicket-to-wicket! You had three quickies and one specialist spinner! Did Monty, Anderson and Tremlett not bowl their heart out on the fag end of day two? It was baffling to see India come out to Bat.

OK! even if we accept the logic of not enforcing the follow on, what was happening when we were batting? Rahul scored the third slowest strike rate of his entire career! The focus was making enough runs so that England cannot reach it. The batsmen did not seem in any hurry to pile on some quick runs and have more overs to bowl at the English. In the bargain, I feel India lost the plot. I don't know about Rahul but I definitely felt the pinch when the last session on Day 5 was going India's way.

I guess winning a Series has become more important than winning a game. I am sure it was the other way around in the good old days. Winning a series was incidental to you playing some great games and winning them.

Why do we accept this mediocre and risk averse approach from our National Cricket Team. On the eve of our 60th Independence Day I pray for all Indians to be blessed with some more gut and the freedom from being afraid of failure.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Discovery of Hyderabad 3.0

Wow!

After one whole day of visiting the Tombs and the fort we were ready for the Salar Jung Museum and the Chowmahalla Palace. Special guest for the day was Ravindra's son Rahul. :) He was looking forward to the trip as much as we were.

We first went to the famous Salar Jung Museum. The experience was mind-blowing. My last trip to this lovely museum was quite a while back. So long back that I had forgotten how exquisite and expansive the collection was. That too housed under one roof! It is still hard to imagine how rich this one dynasty was to have amassed so many wonderful things from all corners of the world!

Ketu was quite angry with the management of the place and the way some of these priceless treasures were left unprotected from the weather and hands of inquisitive visitors. After we saw the famous gong strike twice we left for the Chowmahalla Palace.

On our way was a brief stop at Charminar. Long enough to soak in the architecture of the old city and take some pictures of the Mecca Masjid, Nizamia Hospital and the Charminar itself.

Chowmahalla was as beautiful to watch in the day as it is in the night! My last visit to this palace was a few months ago and it was sheer splendour. I started clicking as soon as we reached the main gate. The pictures are in the slideshow below:



The walk through the palace left me speechless. The detailing, the royal luxury and the effort put in towards maintaining the Palace is quite remarkable. I will let you do the exploring yourself. The photographs say it all for me!

The saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words". Believe me in this case, I am not sure if a thousand words could do justice to any one of the pictures :)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Discovery of Hyderabad 2.0

Starting from where I ended my previous entry in this blog...

We reached the Golconda Fort just before noon. Knowing it will help us in understanding the place better, we engaged a Guide this time. We were fortunate to get Shaik Nabi, whose family has been doing this for generations. He himself has been doing it for 35 years he claimed! Ketu was as eager as a beaver could be! I was still feeling strongly about the Tomb's fall from grace. We started our upward trek catching glimpses of the entire fort at various points. Nabi was an expert at his craft. He had a decent sense of humour as well. It was a pleasure hearing him interjecting current satire into his captivating tale of what happened at the Fort centuries ago.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable climb till we reached one third of our way up! From then on the lack of exercise started telling on me! The weather was perfect. I am sure we could not have any better conditions to make this climb up the Fort. We reached the top of the fort, admiring how the architects had come up with ingenious solutions for important problems! From supply of water up the hill to the flow of air in the royal court, it was marvelous to experience it all! Especially the first "telephone" without the wires!

We heard stories of how various kings and dynasties ruled the lands. The stories of love, betrayal and prosperity! It was a history lesson I loved revising. It made me feel proud of being a Hyderabadi all over again.

Amidst all this we kept passing one structure to another, capturing the essence of these places in our minds and our pictures. As usual, Ketu kept pointing and I kept clicking! :) I added a few of mine as well! By now I was beginning to get the hang of this. There were a couple of places where the stench of Bat feces was very strong but we had to bear it.

The climb down was much more easy on the tired legs. We were shown how the King and Queen came down the hill on special stairways built for their comfort. How the experts ensured that their palanquin or "Palkhi" does not tilt even when on an incline. The graffiti was prominent here as well but not as ubiquitous as at the Tombs. The Golconda Fort was much better maintained. We heaved a sigh of relief when we reached the foot of the hill on which the fort was built!

Ravindra decided to celebrate this with ice cream! A Kwality Walls vendor was conveniently located inside the fort campus and we gorged down one each sitting on the lawns of the Taramati Masjid. Lunch was an assortment of Samosa's, Lays and Soft Drinks hence this Ice Cream provided us with some more energy that we badly needed after this climb. The album of the pictures taken at Golconda Fort is embedded below:



After we finished the tour of the Golconda Fort, it was time for us to go to the Falaknuma Palace, which is now under the management of the Taj group of Hotels. After entry was denied, Ravindra made some calls and pulled a few strings and we were allowed a chaperoned visit to the outer parts of the palace. The Security officer in charge who accompanied us sweetly but firmly declined us permission to take any photographs. It was a day of Discovery! Re-Discovery of my beloved city of Hyderabad for me.

Discovery of Hyderabad

When my boss summoned me to his cabin yesterday; I ran up the stairs preparing for all the questions I thought he was going to ask me. What came at me was something I was totally unprepared for! He asked me to take our Architect Coordinator on a trip of the old city of Hyderabad. Show him the historical sites, palaces and tombs that dot the city. There was not much I thought about this trip; then or later. Today morning when I was driving to the office, I wondered whether things would be the same as I remembered them. After all, I was going to "see" them after a long while. 7 years to be precise!

Ketu (Architect), Ravindra (GM-Commercial) and I left office at around 10:30 and after a short discussion decided to go to the Qutub Shahi Tombs and the Golconda Fort first and then think about what we were going to do next. Once we reached the Qutub Shahi Tombs, we were greeted with a huge iron gate which was locked. Cars are not allowed inside anymore, they said. After the bomb blast at the Mecca Masjid in May. Anyways the weather was just perfect and we didn't feel the pinch. As we walked the first few meters, the first tomb came in full view. It was a magnificent sight! Greenery all around, birds chirping and a elegant tomb rising high above! Then the dismay crept in! What hits you at first is that you can see the wear and tear crying out for attention. Absolute lack of maintenance or restoration of Sultan Abdullah Kutub Shah's tomb was shocking. Then you had the graffiti artists show casing their art! Horrible. Anyways, we were quickly swept away by the grand arches, intricate detailing and charm of this building.

Ketu led the way, obviously engrossed, explaining to us about all the difficult and impressive things the masons and the architects of those times did! It was a lesson in architecture for us! We then went and saw the tomb of Hayat Bakshi Begum. This one was quite well preserved and looked in good condition. The graffiti though was present on every square inch of the walls! From proclamations of love to just guest book style entries, names were everywhere. We then saw a few other tombs and the mosque where Aurangzeb is believed to have offered prayers during his stay at Hyderabad. Ketu kept pointing and I kept clicking with the camera! The album is embedded below:



Once we were done with the tombs we then started for Golconda Fort. I left the Tombs with a feeling of awe and disappointment. Awe for the masterful skill with which these tombs were conceived and built. Awe for the materials used and their success in passing the test of time. Disappointment because of the general apathy shown by all of us; visitors and the government alike towards this heritage monuments. I can only hope we can do something to save them before it is too late!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Awesome Threesome

It was an evening of great cheer! An evening in the making for a good 6 weeks. Sriram invited Abhijit and myself for a reunion of sorts and we decided to stag it out on a Friday evening. First choice Firnagi Pani at the City Center Mall was ruled out coz we were three stags too many with no "hinds" along. A fair amount of deliberation ensued on phone about the place to spend this highly anticipated evening. Neither of us had met since Abhijit's birthday in early June.

From dhabas on Medchal road to Terrace Bay all names were thrown. One wanted to go to a "dhinchak" place and the other wanted a quiter environment where we could speak. Well as providence would have it we got both! Read on.

I suggested we go to the Zafraan Exotica on Road # 12 in Banjara Hills. I was there this Tuesday and could not get enough of the place. AGreement! We reached there in one piece (This was after Sriram decided to "muscle" the Scorpio around the busy roads of Banjara Hills.) It was payback time after what Abhijit did to Sriram's WagonR a few minutes before that. From the passenger seat both the rides were fun for me! :)

While the valet was pulling out I saw the entrance to Afterlife and suggested that we spend some time there and then go up to Exotica for Dinner. Agreement again! This was turning out to be a fun night. After the special discount on the cover charge we entered the pub to be greeted with some pulsating techno music. The crowd was thin but that didnt mean the DJ was taking it easy. I guess it was DJ Amit. He played some neat tracks and shifted from Trance to House and to some Hip Hop before we decided we had enough of the music. The place is definitely a "must" for those who love good trance / house music. The best part for me was that a special arrangement with Exotica meant that you could order snacks from the Exotica Menu while enjoying drinks and music at Afterlife.

Exotica was a vision of peace and tranquility after the "afterlife" experience!:) We were very promptly and courteously seated in table of our choice and we enjoyed a good dinner over the sound of some oriental music and water flowing. A lot of catching up to do meant we were talking till well past closing time. We should do this again and soon! A tribute to the "Last Man Standing"

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gaurang's first birthday party

Gaurang's first birthday was a blast! In all the possible ways! :)





The occasion was made happier with Richa and Rohit coming together for the first time before both our families. The decor was good, the food was awesome and the kids had a great time, especially Yodhin! All in all it was a party that we will all cherish.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

To buy or not to buy

To be or not to be: that is the question

Shakespeare could not have put it better even after hundreds of years!

The recent boom in the economy and the spurt in the Real-Estate prices, especially in Hyderabad, have individually fueled my predicament. And, I am sure, for thousands of prospective buyers like me across the country.

Not long ago, in the late nineties, a flat at a particular price range was a good buy but not "affordable". Thanks partly to the "lower" income levels and partly due to absence of easy funding options of today.

As I grew along professionally so did my purchasing power but alas the quality of construction left a lot to be desired and not many projects were coming up in areas one would like to buy. What ensued was a period of lull when the pace of growth was stable but steadly building-up. This was the "Golden Period" for the real estate market. Some good quality projects in decent areas came up. Many struck the right balance in quality and price, the proverbial SST (Sasta, Sundar & Tikau) variety and got lapped up quickly. Banks were also waking up to this opportunity and loans were getting easier to obtain. What I was waiting for was to settle down and a good project to fall into my lap. Anyways, the point is that I did not buy real estate when I could have. The fault is solely mine. Period.

The prices have been escalating, nay, elevating! their way out of my reach. It was as if a divine conspiracy was unfolding to deprive me of an opportunity to buy a house for myself. From a figure of 800-1100 per square foot the prices are now in the range of 3500-7000 per square foot and this in a only a matter of few years.

Have the prices topped out!? Has the market stabilised? When is a good time to buy? Is this a good price to buy? Will I see any appreciation in the next few years?

To buy or not to buy: that is the question!

Moving on 2.0

Hi!

Moving on seems to be a good thing to do when you are not sure of where you are and whether it is right for you. You know it inside you when things are not going the way they should. Despair, disappointment and diffidence start creeping in.

The best way to tackle this tag team is to catch them by the scruff of their necks and throw them out of the ring. Now! is it possible to do so in every part of your life? Professional? Personal? Social? I say yes! It is.

I recently quit the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad and joined a premium Real Estate Development company. Things are settling down and I am quite enjoying the challenge of working in a near start-up company.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The streak ends!!!

Hmmmmmmm.........It had to end! didnt it? It was too good to be true! A fairytale debut for a rookie driver in the ongoing Formula 1 season. Who would have thought that the driver brought in to replace Juan Pablo Montoya as the team's second driver would be so successful!


Lewis Hamilton became an overnight celebrity. From a new kid on the block to a Championship leader. The transition was swift.. flawless and nearly lethal. Spread over nine races, Lewis racked up an awe-inspiring 70 points, making it to the podium in all the nine races. A good lead of 12 points over senior team-mate Fernando. Alonso, a two time reigning world champion did not know what hit him and from where! Within the first few races he was trailing behind his team-mate who was just getting his ears wet!

Divine providence for McLaren fans? yes it was! A particular friend of mine is a McLaren devout and he was dubbing this as the return of the "Silver Arrows" as the McLaren fans fondly call their fav team.

Anyways! Coming back to the streak... You have to hand it to both McLaren and Lewis. They were as a team very very reliable, flawless and consistent! (Alas! If only Kimi can better his DNF percentage!)

Life at 300 kmph is a challenge and it was the first time we saw Lewis make a mistake. A mistake that he took in his stride and managed 9th even after being a lap down by going off the track! He has shown tremendous skill, determination and flair for doing what he loves doing! If anything he lacks the humility that Great Champions before him possess.

I wish him all the best and hope he will provide for some interesting races and racing! That's why we all watch Formula1, don't we?
Copyright © Kartik Agarwal - 2007