Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Mysore City

The city of Mysore cannot be ignored in any discussion about Bangalore.Mysore and its environs have been a hot bed of history for several centuries. Bangalore can be said to be a derivative city of Mysore as Bangalore emerged from Mysore in many ways.

The center of action of the bygone era focuses on the egg shaped island of Srirangapattana around fourteen kilometers from Mysore. The cauvery splits at a point up-stream into two rivulets and merges again six kilometers down –stream forming the island of Sriranga pattana. By the very nature of the place it must have held strategic importance as it gives natural insulation against enemies and could have been a prime point in the running of administration. The importance of this place must have further accentuated by the Ranganatha temple within the fort and the river Cauvery being seen as sacred by many communities.

mysore palace

The Vijayanagar empire ruled over the entire of Southern India for several centuries and had a viceroy stationed at Srirangapattana. I think the Vijayanagar kings must have had some role in building the fort at this place and the construction of the Ranganatha temple. By the first half of the 17th century the Vijayanagar empire began to totter and finally loose control of its dominions and about the same time the Wodeyars attack the Viceroy of the Vijayanagar empire stationed at Srirangapattana and become the rulers. This must be not later than 1650 and many of the Nayaks or chieftains of the Vijayanagar empire began to assert themselves and take privy control of the kingdoms over which they were caretakers.

There was relative peace at Srirangapattana for about a century thereafter and the newly formed fiefdom shared many characteristics of the Vijayanagar Kingdom from which it emerged. Dasara celebrations were held year after year at the place where the Daria Daulat palace stands today and the kingdom must have been wealthy by many standards.The problem faced by the Wodeyars were attacks by other sinister forces around and largely the Marattas. Marattas always demamded a huge tribute from the vanquished and the Wodeyars also were in such situations trying to mobilize large sums to satiate the invaders bringing people like Hyder Ali a noted warrior of the Wodeyars into prominence.In events resembling a modern day coup aided by fortuitous circumstances Hyder Ali imprisons the Wodeyars and becomes de-facto ruler of Sri-Rangapattana. Hyder Ali must have imprisoned the Wodeyars in iron cages as had been his practice. Again the Marratas in various forms and shapes deter the designs of growth of Hyder Ali . Hyder attacked Malabar to largely loot the wealthy kingdoms as he had to pay a large tribute to the Marattas losing to them in Shimoga. Hyder Ali gets into conflict with the British as he controlled the key sea ports in Malabar and they were possibly taxed boiling over into a full fledged conflict over time. This era ends in 1799 with the British taking control of srirangapattana and restoring the Wodeyars back into the saddle of power under the overall supervision of a Regent. General Arthur Wellesley decides to make Daria Daulat palace as his home where he stayed for a couple of years. For the Wodeyars Srirangapattana had changed irreversibly and the place had brought misery to them and for few other reasons decide to relocate to Mysore which is around eight miles from Srirangapattana. Malaria was rampant in Srirangapattana because of the mosquitoes in the cauvery basins and the place was deserted for all practical purposes by the British later . Thus is born MYSORE as is known to the modern man and a city that began to steadily rise in importance there after owing to the synergy between the British and the Wodeyars. Much of prosperity in this belt can be traced to this synergy and thus emergred an important corridor in southern India in the fiorm of Madras-Bangalore-Mysore-Ootacamund also called Ooty and also note that barring Ooty which is difficult to access due to its rocky terrains the other three cities are complementary to each other and became a hub of activity both administrative and technical. Mysore actually means Mahishasurana Ooru largely referring to the large statue of Mahishasura upon the Chamundi hill. It must be noted that on being handed back the Kingdom by the British to the Wodeyars which must to have come to pass by the involvement of Gen Arthur Wellesley the Wodeyar queen made a thankful statement in “ As long as the Sun and the Moon exist we would be indebted to you…….” reflecting largely the difficult circumstances the Wodeyars had been for few decades.

Mysore is a mother city for Bangalore. After independence the erection of the Vidhana Soudha and its splendour surpassed any structure in the city of Mysore thereby increasing the technical importance of Bangalore and putting Mysore in the Shade. But the city of Bangalore will share aplenty the largely derived heritage of Mysore and its tryst with history during various periods. Also note that Mysore city is called Birmingham of India.

I have had a special fascination for Mysore. It was a natural destination for an excursion for any student studying in Bangalore. I have visited the palace many times and fondly remember trying to touch the golden throne of the king as a school student only to be reprimanded by the palace security staff and let off as being a small boy incapable of malice. Mysore is a transit point for anyone trying to reach Calicut where I studied for some time and I have enjoyed the nocturnal view of the Mysore palace in the still backdrop of a motionless night. I used to wake up suddenly fro my sleep in the bus when I faintly heard the word Mysore only to have a glance of the palace only to fade back top sleep immediately thereafter.

A guide to any one trying to visit Mysore both for education and entertainment. There are scores of people who visit this city from around the world. There are bacially four places which many visit in Mysore over a 12 hour interval. They are the Mysore Zoo; The Mysore Palace;The Chamundi Hill and The Krishna Rajendra Sagar(KRS) also called the Brindavan Gardens.

Saying you start at 10:00 Am the Zoo would be the right place to visit and it takes around two hours to see the zoo. Break for a good lunch that preferably should be pre-ordained and should take an hour and a half. Reach the palace aroung 2:00 post noon and the palace can be seen in an hour. For the more devout visit the temple near the palace. Exit the palace premises around 3:30 for a drive uphill to the Chamundi hill which must take half an hour. Spend an hour at this place and also visit the temple upon the hill. On descending the hill there are few points which give an amazing view of Mysore city and stop over for a few minutes at these place to take a full view which is truly arresting. Assuning you exit the foot of the hills at 6:00 PM it is a hour and a half drive to KRS. Spend an hour at this place or more. At 9:00 turn your steps back to your place of stay in Mysore and the entire venture should take about 12 hours and a truly worthy one that will longlast in anyone's memory for years to come.

Television Comes to REC (NIT) Calicut

Television came to REC CALICUT on 16th June 1984.What a historic event. Most of us had not seen TV till then. Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister and one of her major acheivements was in launching TV broadcast stations all over the country in quick succession. The common rooms of all the hostels got a 20inch Keltron TV and one of the first institutions in Calicut to have this luxury.

I beleive the strike of 1983 would have never happenned in the first place had there been TV's in the campus as students would have been busy watching them with little or no time to participate in events that precipitate a crisis.

TV changed our lives in many ways. There was education as much as entertainment. Almost around the same time Siddharth Basu came out with his quiz contests "Quiz Time" with colleges from around the country participating in them and was a avidly watched program adding to education and increased awareness. Chitrhaar on thursdays;Humlog;Lucy Show;Sorry;Nukkad; Yeh Jo hai Zindagi;Jewel in the Crown; Ek Do Theen Char; Mickey Mouse ; Cricket and soccer matches were many of the broadcasts that had some spell on the student crowd. The Common Room where the TV was kept was open upto 10:00 in the night. Chitrahaar drew the maximum crowd. Amitabh Bachchan movies not to be left behind.

One of the key world event of our times was the 1984 Benson and Hedges cricket tourney in Australia where India emerged winners and was of continued interest for all. Every match had the hostels spell-bound and euphoria when Krishnamma Chari Srikkanth or Sandeep Patil hit a four when only one run was needed to win. I think this was one tourney where India gave consistent cricketing performance only losing the inaguaral match against Australia. Ravi Shastri emerged Champion of Champions but for once.

Note that there was only one channel in operation at that time namely DD-1 and there was no scope to switch channels. I dont know what is up today and the cable network must have made in-roads into the campus.Another notable event of our times was the news telecast on the 31st of October 1984 about the assasination of the Prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi taking over as the PM. Miss Shrivastav used to be the most favourite anchor among the students on DD and many would come just to hear her speak and smile. Programming on DD was good at that time with a good combination of educative programs and entertainment. james bond

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Dual Heritage and identity crisis of an NIT (REC) Product

REC products of the bygone era have a dual heritage or a bifurcated lineage. The institute that has sponsored them and the institute where they study. This has been a source of confusion to many, peers,employers and in-laws in that order.The inter-state quota has to be explained and much of the truth about the situation gets drowned in the deliberations and explanations.

I wanted to study at KREC but could not get a seat of the state quota and got Calicut on the inter-state quota. Possibly the happiest day of my life should be collecting the admission order from KREC now called NIT-K meaning National Institute of Technology - karnataka at Surathkal near Mangalore for admission to NIT Calicut. Sometimes and quite often I visit NIT-K may be as a subconcious thanksgiving for having given me a seat. My brother and father had accompanied me during the admission process to NIT K and we stayed at Vasanth Vihar hotel on K S Rao road in Mangalore. I will compare these two NIT's in another write-up. Note that both these places Calicut and Mangalore are almost equi-distant from Bangalore and to my experience travelling to Calicut is a more enchanting experience considering the travel is through the steepest part of the Western Ghats and the Bandipur forests. Calicut is not very far from Ooty and must be around 5 hours by bus and many of my friends used to visit ooty when the attractions of calicut become surfiet.

Though may not be relevant but still it would be consistent to mention that there are three approach roads to NIT Calicut from Calicut city. The one through nadakavu into the wayanad road and into kunnamangalam and then to chathamangalam where the institute is located. All government buses take this route.To get on to this route turn left from mavoor road at Baby Memorial Hospital. Yet another route and possibly the shortest is through medical college-karanthur-kunnamangalam and NIT. Most private vehicles take this route. The most circuitous one is through mavoor but you get to enjoy the rustic beauty of Calicut as you take this route but a highly time consuming one. The beauty of Calicut is the many hills that surround the place and sadly so many of these hills are being tonsured of their natural flora a phenomenon that must be contained. IIM K has come upon one such hill and the view from IIM K is truly breath-taking.

The social population at an REC (NIT) of our days was truly heterogenous with a uneven scatter of students from across the country and creates some kind of a culture shock for a sizable duration of time and students do take some time to adjust in. Some of them do not have this problem but in the shadow lies such a scenario. The students from the local state always have an advantage in that they get a large posse of students from their like -minded domain and so do people from the hindi belt . Take the case of a student from Assam studying at a south indian NIT who finds himself in a minority and a huge challenge ahead of him to acclamatize with the collective. This can sometimes be painful for some time but becomes a treasure in the form of a unique experience of having tided over a cultural gap. This kind of transitions and transformations are what make REC products truly different and unique from students from any other institution. This is what makes an REC product priceless in many social contexts. REC concept must have truly contributed to national integration AND KEEPING IN VIEW THE DIVERSE BACK GROUND FROM WHICH THEY EMERGE MUST BE preferred for SOME TECHNICAL AND NON TECHNICAL assignments of the government.

I think to a large extent a REC product must be allowed to retain the identity of the sponsoring institution alongside the institution where he had presented himself. This can put many a ambiguity in perspective. This means he successfully combines to purposeful use his dual lineage. For an instance a student who has graduated from Durgapur on being sponsored from Silichar could project himself prima facie as a Silichar-Durgapur product and the identity of the REC that sponsored him must be removed from the background and projected upfront without delay to settle with urgency the dual nature of his nurturing. I also feel from experience that REC products must be given and tried at managerial positions rightaway on their exit from their institute and not to while away in functional jobs at the outset as a sizable amount of maturity and toughening being inbuilt by default by the nature of the circumstances through which he has emerged. Some law of this nature must have been enlisted in the NIT act atleast or else some injustice of a serious nature is meted out inadvertently on these products and their unique capacities not harnessed and made futile.

I have visited personally only three rec's in my life. Calicut and Surathkal out of purpose and REC Nagpur out of spite. REC Nagpur or MVNIT as it is called now is almost in the heart of nagpur as against the other two which are away from the mainstay. However I have visited almost all the NIT's on the web post internet era and have atleast an inkling of what a particular institute looks like thanks to the internet. May these institutes blossom and so must its products and all blessings and priveleges that are directly and indirectly due may accrue upon them aplenty is one of my fervent wishes and all the trials and tribulations through which a NIT product passes to which I was a personal subject and witness may not go into waste but bear fruit for himself and the community. On having passed through an NIT I have a solemn feeling which I carry every day the pride which is uniquely ours of having got a kind of education that is truly unique, different and special and the joy of an ever complete education not yearning for any more leave alone the Harvard Business School.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cinema Halls near NIT (REC) Calicut

There were many cinema halls near REC Calicut of our times and this was one of our unplanned entertainments meaning that the decision to see a movie was taken at the spur of the moment. We had an audio-visual club which was fairly active and I have seen many classics thanks to the A-V club as it was called. Madhumathi, Sadma, Tootsie, Double trouble; Super snooper;Masoom to name a few. One end of the auditorium had a screen and the hall was well designed with an enclosure for the projectors. The lady folk were seated on the dias and for the men folk the chairs were strewn all around and one could make oneself comfortable on a chair and position himself to his convenience any where in the hall. The auditorium would work in a reverse format when movies were screened. Rarely in the auditorium when the audio works the video wouldnt and vice-versa and the A-V club was sometimes called the Audio or Visual club.

Malayalam movies were a hot favourite among many for obvious reasons and though the hindi crowd didnt understand the language an iota were regular visitors for these movies and were more restless when the posters of these movies were stuck on college walls and trees. The malayalam movie that created the maximum ado was Uthpathi . I couldnt see this movie but have only heard of its attractions. My class mate Manjeet Singh Rekhi who rarely saw any movie also seemed highly excited the day after he saw the movie and was going around explaining the scenes sometimes hugging and clasping a fellow student venting extreme emotions.

The cenima halls around NIT -Calicut were as follows in the order of increasing distance. Dhanya talkies near Kettangal, Sindhu theatre in Kunnamangalam and another talkies in Kunnamangalam whose name I forget and another talkies in Mavoor and a theatre in Mukkom. Kunnamangalam is 07 kilometers from the institute and Mavoor and Mukkom must be around 10 kilometers. Dhanya talkies was walkable from REC and had maximum visitors from REC mostly for the second show. I have been weaned by many a friend to see a movie at Dhanya though seeing a movie was simply not on the agenda- just for the sake of company. I was on my way from kattangal where I went to purchase something only to be coerced by some and before long I found myself in Dhanya talkies with many batchmates and friends. Abdullah, Raftaar, Great Gambler; Thiruvilayadal and not to mention many malayalam movies were seen by me here. Actually I loose count but there were many. I cannot forget the movie killungatha changallagal- the first movie five of us who were staying at B315 saw and from then on started the saga of visiting Dhanya talkies. The mood was jolly and when you are in rome be a roman. I fully patook the gaeity at REC and pity people who could not revel in it for their own reasons. I beleive we should not loose any oppurtunity to laugh and be merry especially when life and heavens presents such circumstances to the exclusion of other concerns. To that extent I feel a sense of contentment when I look back to my days spent at this place that I did precisely what one should be doing under such unfettered and joyous environment. Such a situation would never present itself again in life is a reality and there are no regrets in having made merry for once in a place that largely presented the ground for the same and any shortcoming so resultimg could be ammended.

The best part of seing a movie at Dhanya talkies is the walking back to the hostels in the moon lit night. It was a very splendid feel with hardly any one on the road barring a few of us occassionally breaking into peels of laughter that rented the air. Most of the Indian languages could be heard from Bengali to Oriya to Assamese not to mention Hindi. The discussions revolved around the scenes in the movie. P V K Mohan from Bombay was there when we saw Abdullah. Friday evenings were the ideal time to visit Dhanya theatre as Saturday and Sunday were holidays and the friday night used to be an open night. After seeing the movie at Dhanya theatre the night is simply not over as some of us would assemble at the mini canteen again discussing many things over cups of tea upto 2 AM. (The tea at Mini-Canteen was special ;quickly manufactured in a dramatized set of sequences -filled slightly more than half full into a cleaned glass tumbler with few ants big and small on the surface which has to be carefully done away with and had a rare and differing taste on every occassion but was almost an addiction for many. Some of the students clubbed it with a cigarette and were not to be disturbed enjoying the deep enlightenment of the combination).The discussions would range from assignments to be submitted , lab records to be written and sometimes into philosophy and life not to mention the attractive species of the institute. As a matter of procedure no discussions of any kind are complete without the attractive species (female students or the opposite sex )of the institute being a subject with various kinds of nick names discussed and given to the more flamboyant in an instant flow of creativity.

I have seen Amar Akbar Anthony; Majboor; malayalam movie kinnaram etc at Sindhu theatre in Kunnamngalam. IIM-K students must be visiting this theatre more frequently now because it is only a stone throw away from it. After seeing a movie one evening my room mate Giri and myself had walked the entire 7 kilometrs to college just for the fun of it. Sindhu theatre was a full fledged theatre and not a talkies. I have seen the movie nakakshathangal in the talkies in Kunnamangalam. Note that the bus stop in Kunnamangalam came up in 1984 prior to which there was no full fledged bus stop. Every time I travel on this road I take a quick glace of the Sindhu theatre and it is still very much there hale and hearty as usual. We could not hoot and howl in Sindhu theate as we did in Dhanya talkies because we were simply not in our core territory. There were instances in Dhanya theatre where the ongoing movie was stopped for some particular scene to be re-shown with some of the students making menacing gestures threatening to break a few chairs if their desires were not obliged and the manager of the dhanya talkies had no other go but to recast the reels. This was the sway we had on Dhanya theatre. It was for all practical purposes our private theatre or takies what ever one would like to call it. The movies had parallel dialogues and commentories from students that were more enchanting than the dialogues of the movies itself. In one movie the hero averred to the heroine " come to me " as I have cleared 24 paper and got a BA and Martin my senior sitting in the rear commented vociferously that the had just finished the final exam thereby completing almost 58 papers to his count and that he was a better suit for the heroine. This was the uncontrolled free- for -all inside the talkies. There was a country arrack outlet near the talkies and the less temperant of the lot had a stomach full before they entered the talkies and their mannerisms and mood governed by the spirit with some of them shamelessly vomitted the extra that was forced down their throats within the talkies creating a scene. Lady students visited the talkies only for the afternoon show secretly sneaking in and sneaking out without a flutter and knew very well the conscequences of a publicised visit. They visited the talkies in large bands and carefully negotiating the road to the talkies that ran along side the hostels and the men made merry catching their glance from the hostels and making a list of all of them they could identify from far.

Waqt ke shehzade; Blue Lagoon were movies I saw at Abhilash theatre in Mukkom the first one in 1983 and the latter in 1985. I saw the movie Andha Kanoon in the talkies in Mavoor with my batch mate Gautham Balram Hendre.

These are the tents and theatres around REC that formed a part of our lives and the narration was about what happenned at them. Crown theate and Blue Diamond were two theatres frequently visited in Calicut town. Blue Diamond came up some where in 1984 and I have seen Ardh sathya and Akhri rastha here not to mention the scores of english movies seen at Crown theatre.

In retrospect I feel the authorities of the institute must not let film posters to be stuck within the campus as in the ultimate analysis it sets a downward precedent. Educational institutions must be isolated and insulated from environmental noises of any kind for the process of education to progress in its sanctity and students must land up invariably reading journals and text books of the subjects that they study or else they simply land up being a Roman in Rome which may not be their designated trajectory.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Strike at NIT Calicut of 11 Nov 1983

There was a strike or student unrest at REC-Calicut in november 1983 . How can I forget this event ? It was the first time I was witness to such an incident in the first place and was a mute witness to the happenings all around with no power to change the course of events which were not to my approval to say the least. But this event has had far reaching consequences on NIT-Calicut and the student populace.

Dr. S U Pillai had just taken over as the Principal and our batch was in the third semester and classes had just begun and the junior batch had joined and some of my batch mates were booked in a ragging case and suspended for an year ,which was not taken kindly by our batch which expressed solidarity with the suspended students ;some of them who claimed to be innocent and with the principal on the other side with an iron fist to stamp out this menace called ragging in any form however miniscule. This was a stand-off and a compromise seemed unforthcoming and elusive. The date was 08 of November 1983.

The hostels wore a look of a nation at war with several parleys and meetings among various students and student bodies and some of them using the oppurtunity to visit the ladies hostels to discuss the matter and get an opinion of the women folk as a matter of tradition and some of them over did it visiting the ladies hostel more than a dozen times sometimes at odd hours. But there is a serious problem at hand and every one understood the gravity of the situation and the seriousnes attatched in not letting their brotheren down in their hour of crisis.

Mr. Bopaiah Chowdhury a softspoken gentleman being the leader of the union suddenly found himself catapulted to centre stage and was in a confusion as to what should be done and could feel the push and pull from all directions. Should there be a strike or shouldnt there be one ? Many of us did not know what a strike meant in the first place and possibly the mild mannered leader of the union too didnt ;who seemed to me a very studious lad suddenly forced into pretending to be a political strategist. By 12 in the night it was decided that students would go on a strike.

The hostels of NIT at that time had a special facility in a public address system. Speakers were tied to trees with a control room in the C hostel with a microphone ; a grammaphone and an amplifier. They were traditionally used to play songs and music every evening for about an hour with a signature tune played at the onset and the end of the one hour duration. Any one passing the way would register a song he would like to hear which was played. The formula followed was three malayalam songs followed by two hindi songs and a song in any other language.

On this night suddenly the signature tune was played at mid-night and there was pin drop silence in every quarter. The mood was as if a newly sworn in prime minister was going to address the nation. The leader of the union made it official and passed his decree and announced that there would be a strike with effect from the moment until the orders of suspension were not withdrawn.For all practical purposes it meant no attending classes.
9 th and 10th of November 1983 went without any incident with columns of students walking through the various corridors shouting slogans most of them directed at the Principal. But there was an important happenning on the 10th afternoon with police entering the campus for the first time and whisking away some students who had the principal in a gherao. Things began to get more murkier complicated and serious. I was given special instructions from home not to fish in troubled waters and would simply not be a party to obstructive activities.

The above event triggered hostilities even further. On the 11 th of November 1983 students as usual were in a procession with the Principal in the middle floor of the Departmental Building surrounded by a cauldron of police. Some aggressive students of the lot tried to attack the principal and order was given for a lathi charge and hell was let loose. I was standing near the library and could view the lathi charge and I rushed into the A hostel and therafter to my room in the B hostel. I could see pitched battles between students and the police from my room. News paper reporters sensed trouble and reached the place going around taking photographs of injured students in the lathi charge. Some of the injured were being carried to the hostels and being interviewed. Many of them had a good number of their bones broken and could barely walk having felt the intensity of kerala police in full fury.

The local police handed over the case to the CRPF whose vehicles encircled REC Calicut. The time must have been around 2:00 in the afternoon announcing on the microphone asking students to vacate the hostels within an hour. I was in the mess and on return found my room locked. When I went about searching for my room mates one of them happenned to open up a small part of the door dislogding the plywood making just enough space for a person to enter and exit. I entered through this crevice and collected all the immediate possessions that would be needed and proceeded to the bus stop and so did many in the hostels.

Students went haywire with many of them not knowing where to proceed. I had a local guardian in Capt. K T Sreenivasan and there I went. Captain asked me what transpired. He contacted the CI of Medical college police station Mr. Vijayaraghavan and introduced me to him and told me not to bother . On the 12th of November 1983 in the morning my father landed up at the place and was glad to see that I was secure. The same day with my father I revisited to hostels to collect my remaining belongings from my room making way through the crevice and exiting through it.

The institute remained closed for about a month and a half and reopened in january 1984 the movie Manchali of Sanjeev Kumar shown on the first day of our return. Note that all the students convicted did not have therir suspensions withdrawn but had to undergo the sentence.

Such incidents should never form the part of any education process. They must be prevented . Students must always be monitored and disciplined in preventive ways so that they do not lead to awkward situations which would need defanitive solutions and bringing the police to maintain order should be the least of the prerogatives at any cost

The Cross Country Race at NIT Calicut

There was a cross country race and the only one during my stay at NIT in early 1984. I was party to it trying to explore my running skills and stamina. Nityananda Kamath who now owns a hero honda show-room at calicut and a senior at NIT was one of the organisers.

The track for the cross country race was as follows. Starting from the main building the track would exit into the main road from D hostel gate into Kettangal from where you take a left turn to papachan and left again at papachan straight into the main road to the temple to the LH (ladies hostel) to the guest house to the farther end of the mini valley down through the valley and back to the Main building through the canteen gate. Should be some 5 kilometers in all.

I was dressed in a shorts and T-shirt and there must have been some 100 runners in all and behold the race began and I ran as fast as I could only to realise before long that I have embarked on a difficult venture. At papachan I had a small stop over for few glasses of water. Many of the more spirited runners were already much ahead in the race. I realized early that even getting the tenth position would be a distant dream. The reality drew on me quite early and the focus shifted to completing the race in right earnest. There were few others who had resigned like myself to this reality and we had almost formed a truce and were running in unison and one of them to my consolation was the deputy to the physical instruction director.

I did complete the race walking sometimes to gather steam and bolting in front of the Ladies Hostel to show that I was something and slowing down again into a walk. Nithyananda kamath who was supervising the race on a motor-bike offered me a lift but I politely refused. Nityananda kamath was a gentle man and met him once in his office at Calicut much later. The best part of the race was descending into the mini valley from the faculty quarters through ferns and bushes and ascending again into the main road in a quick sprint but behold when I finished the race I was one of the last few but I was happy that I completed it.

One of my juniors Binod Ramakrishnan Nair was one of the victors and i dont remember the names of the other winners. I have always tried to follow the philosophy of completing things even though it takes extra time and may be that is what being persistent is all about.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

china and global manufacturers

Is China Still Competitive for Global Manufacturers?
Having served the world as a manufacturing base for decades, is China still competitive for manufacturers? A number of factors indicate that its competitive lead will be chipped away, not least if the renminbi is allowed to appreciate against the U.S. dollar and costs rise. Some experts predict that low-value-added exporters may be driven elsewhere while manufacturers of high-value-added, complex products for domestic consumption will face even stiffer competition to thrive. Against this backdrop, as a new survey suggests, manufacturers in China are learning quickly about staying competitive in this ever-shifting landscape.
It certainly doesn't help matters much that there's uncertainty and tensions brewing on a number of fronts. Among the foreign IT industry, for example, the ugly exchange between Google and China, and a new rule that stipulates sellers of high-tech goods must contain Chinese intellectual property as part of an "indigenous innovation" campaign, have rattled nerves.
Yet despite all this, experts say there's much that's working in China's favor. Costs are still low and the skills level is high. Meanwhile, the pent-up demand of a potentially huge domestic market combined with improving IT, infrastructure and regulatory regimes all put China well ahead of other low-cost countries.
While the recent announcement of China’s first trade deficit since 2004 makes it unlikely that the renminbi will be allowed to appreciate against the U.S. dollar much soon, March's $7.24 billion deficit is also a sign of the fast expansion of China’s domestic market. The auto sector, for example, was up 170% in March from the previous month.
China's burgeoning domestic market is indeed a very important allure for many firms, according to the latest China Manufacturing Competitiveness Study published by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and management consultants at Booz & Company. More than 80% of 202 manufacturers surveyed said their primary motive for being in China is to provide products for the Chinese marketplace, up from 71% two years ago.
While booming local markets are key, there are other reasons for China's appeal, including political stability. A couple of years ago, companies were hedging their bets and adopted a "China plus one" strategy, so that they set up operations in China and in one other nearby country. Many chose Thailand as the second country and the current strife is bad news for businesses there.The stable currency has also been helpful, adding an element of predictability to budgeting and keeping costs down. Two years ago, the AmCham study found that the rising RMB was the most serious worry for the companies surveyed, but since then government policy has calmed those fears. The AmCham study also notes that “although factories in China are generally still in the early stages of implementing innovative manufacturing practices, these lean techniques and processes are even less prevalent in surrounding low-cost countries.”
Lian Hoon Lim, partner and manufacturing expert at AT Kearney consultants, says companies are benefitting from what he calls "the cluster effect,” The big three clusters in China are the Yangtze River Delta region around Shanghai, the Pearl River Delta region running from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, and the region around Beijing and its neighbor Tianjin. In these areas companies have access to a “skilled labor, an experienced local managerial workforce, material and component supply, and good infrastructure,” says Lim. “If you took those four factors and looked at the countries in Asia, including in the subcontinent, you would find that quite a lot of them lack one or more of these four points.”
People Power
Yet China continues to grapple with one of its trickiest growth challenges: Attracting and retaining top employees. The drop in global demand for exports from China during the economic crisis meant layoffs and a softened labor market. But by the end of 2009, as China’s economy re-accelerated, labor was again in short supply. In the fourth quarter of 2009, labor demand growth in major cities outpaced supply for the first time since the second quarter of 2008, according to JP Morgan Global Watch Data. As a result, manufacturers have had to hike wages to attract workers.
“The increasing costs and tightened labor market are driving companies to consider other options for their lower cost, export-driven operations,” observes Stephen Li, a principal at Booz.
The AmCham study found that in 2009, the costs of labor and logistics as well as labor availability were viewed as less competitive in China than they were than two years ago. Yet 28% of the companies surveyed last year said they plan to move or expand within China in the next five years, compared to 17% in 2008. Cities in southwest and central China, such as Chongqing, Chengdu, Wuhan and Zhengzhou, are among the new destinations cited. For companies considering moving outside China, more than half said they wanted to stay in Asia, identifying India and Vietnam as their top choices. Latin America and Eastern Europe ranked a distant second and third.
But for companies staying in China, the study shows that they are readjusting their arsenal of tools to attract and retain staff, offering higher pay and training. Most respondents -- 79% -- said they are providing training and career development rather than relying on compensation to attract and retain workers. “Leading companies are recognizing that attracting and retaining talent in the post-downturn [environment] will mean refreshed value propositions incorporating growth and development opportunities,” says Li.
Case by Case
But despite all of China's appeal, foreign companies are right to exercise caution, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of being based in the country accordingly. AT Kearney's Lim says that of the six clients he has worked with over the past three years, only two gave the country a vote of confidence.
Lim reckons that the business case for investing in China has changed for many companies in recent years. “If a firm wanted to expand in 2007, it was a 'no brainer' to go to China.” Along with the rising costs, he notes the “viability of long-distance supply chains” as having “prompted a rethink” in how firms view China as a potential manufacturing location.
One of the six -- an industrial-goods firm -- wanted to set up a joint venture but couldn’t agree on the terms with the potential partner so did not go ahead. Another -- an aerospace components manufacturer -- set up shop elsewhere due to intellectual property concerns in China. A third client, who was in the medical industry, decided the return on investment in China would not be worth the effort, while a fourth didn't go ahead with an investment in China, for undisclosed reasons. However, a plastics manufacturer did because of the high demand for its goods in China, as did a maker of industrial equipment because it expects China to be a hub for its sector in the future.
China is competitive for textiles, says Lim, but less so where the value-added and complexity is low, such as bed linen. Men’s shirts, on the other hand, are "quite complex; you need to cut many different pieces, the stitching and sewing is complex, and you have cuffs, buttons and collars, and many different sizes.”
Then there are white goods and consumer electronics. According to Lim, the competitiveness is a function of the combination of labor costs that are relatively low but at skills level that is relatively high. “A company could set up elsewhere -- say, Cambodia -- where the cost of labor is very low," says Lim. "But the productivity and familiarity with the industry is not there, and most of the raw materials would have to be imported."
Made in China
The catalyst causing many companies to re-thing their China strategies started when oil went from $40 to $150 a barrel. Suddenly, transportation costs for goods from China to Europe and America became markedly more significant. Despite the fact that the price of oil has stabilized, “people are more sensitive to the risk of it spiking again” says Lim.
To address the challenges, companies are devising “long-term strategies, which focus on product competitiveness and their supply chain,” says Li.
But whatever the sector or supply chain, another on-going challenge, meanwhile, will be to please China's consumers, who are unpredictable and have varied tastes. As Edward Tse, chairman of Greater China at Booz, writes in the analysis of the study, “Although China’s markets are open to global products, they are also extraordinarily local, rooted in traditional customs and tastes, with extreme variations from one region to the next…. With markets and tastes continuing to change, it is difficult to predict what kind of path China’s consumers will follow.”
The result, he says, means that “companies seeking to take advantage of the Chinese market cannot be complacent but must upgrade processes, retain talent, keep a tight reign on costs and get to know their customer.”

Monday, April 12, 2010


I spent more than four years of my life here and became a man from a teen-ager. I count myself fortunate for having been given an opportunity to study at this place and thank heavens for the same every other day. I liked this place and to a large extent a life full of fun ,games and frolic - away from the binds of home. I must thank my father for having sent me all the way from Bangalore to this place to study which not many a parent would endeavour.

REC presently re-christened as NIT was culturally very very different both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is a socially different place as we find students from all over the country and abroad. Social learning is a challenge to an intelligent mind as much as technical learning. The setting is simply different from any other institute. Recently the government has done away with this policy of admitting students from various states and has gone into a national merit list and the NIT of today will be a totally different place from the REC of yesteryears. There were many tanzanian students during our days. The International hostel at REC was inaguarated in 1983 by the then chief minister of Kerala Shri K Karunakaran. He started his speech in Malayalam and with the hindi crowd uncomfortable with the language switched over to English. The foundation for the F hostel was laid in 1985 by the then Education minister Shri T M Jacob. At the place where the F hostel stands used to be a tract with bushes on either sides leading to the Mini-Canteen. The Mini-canteen was thence shifted to the present location to give way for the construction of the F hostel.

I believe somewhere NIT Calicut has a problem called the "crisis of entry point". Even today I have not been able to perfectly pin-point the main gate of the institute.Technically the institution's confines starts at the temple towards the end of the chathamanagalam hills and runs all the way to the edge of the E hostel at Kattangal which should be around 3 to 4 kilometers. At both these points there are no gates that should prevent extraneous elements from making an entry into the institute. For all practical purposes the institute's main gate is the one seen near the canteen leading to the main building and other key structures further leading to the hostels. This could well be called the student zone or the academic zone. This area in its entirety must be around 10 acres of land including the sports feilds which are for practical purposes used by students. I have not been to NIT of-late but have come to know from several quarters that many more buildings have come up in this zone. The irony of the situation is that though the campus is on 400 acres the effective student area is as mentioned thereby the area per student is effectively much lesser than what could be.

The best view of NIT Calicut is the one from Papachan hotel ;especially the true majesty of the departmental building appears from this angle and view. Many a visitor to the institute returns without a view of NIT which is truly majestic. When we approach the Departmental building from the Main building we encounter a land surface which is in a downward gradient and the true majesty of the departmental building lies camouflaged so to mention due to this uneven nature of land.

The class rooms at NIT are very spacious. We used to have our first year classes in the left wing of the Main Building on the first floor; the III sem classes in the ground floor of the main building and most of the other semester classes in the various floors of the Departmental building except for the V semester where we came back to the ground floor of the Main Building.

From a strategic view point I beleive that the entire land mass of NIT must be put to better use through some process of fundamental redesign. The good and bad aspect of NIT is the road that winds through the campus with many private vehicles finding a thoroughfare. The next generation NIT should be able to stop this in some way which protects the interests of the institute and at the same time does not put the public to inconvenience. As a initial recourse to such a situation the road could atleast be made a one way road. Vehicles approaching NIT from Calicut could take a deviation at 12th mile towards the left and use the stretch to reach kattangal. In the long run a fly-over would be one of the possible solutions from the temple point to kattangal thereby bypassing the institute aerially and serving long term purposes. Even other wise no mode of transport other than college buses must be let beyond 12th mile. This could create inconvenience to lady students who would like to reach their hostel but a diagonal road could connect 12th mile to the lady hostels forming a short-cut.

When I visit IISc at Bangalore I witness a very novel venture in the form of an underpass that links the institute to the JRD Tata auditorium. To me this is an unique civil engineering effort and very effectively links and integrates both the parts of the institute. Right away one such link could be considered at NIT too which links the hostels to some point near the guest house making the yonder part of NIT easily accessible to student community bringing the kind of synergy that is needed and at the same time increasing the land area per student that was being discussed. The residential area of faculty could be fenced and made a private area with minimum trespass from students if necessary .

The beauty of NIT is the two valleys. One yonder to the faculty quarters and the other seen behind the guest-house. When we were students in the first year the valley behind the guest house was accessible to us. One fine day when we returned from vacation we found the entire patch of land sealed by the forest department for afforestation. During our first year we used to walk down into this valley the corner of which had a ground with the resemblance of a cricket field and have played some cricket matches there. What a good feeling? I think this patch of land must be re-opened for students if it has not been done so.

Iam concerned that the breath-taking view of Departmental Building as seen from papachan be fully tapped as one of the measures of making NIT look even more formidable. A full fledged gate could be constructed at this point. I have walked down the road one evening from papachan towards the river which at that time was a desolate stretch but now must be more occupied and utilised. By constructing such a gate a parallel joint like kattangal could come up in the vicinity in some form thereby reducing the dependence of students on kattangal for various reasons. At all open points around the boundary of NIT barbed fences must be constructed.If possible the exit at Kattangal must also be sealed fully or partially.

To my observation the library at REC of our times was congested and condensed.Though it is a majestic building with books housed in the ground floor and the upper floors used for administrative purposes.But it seemed microscopic for a large student populace that engulfed the institute.Students will feel like using a library only if it is well lit, spacious,has some ambience,silence,seating comfort and properly trained and oriented staff.Note that an Engineering college there are multiple branches and it is sometimes like many independent colleges functioning under one roof.If a college does not have an endearing library students will spend time in non -productive activities.Preferably boys and girls must have separate seating enclosures.It must be centrally located and must definitely have an audio-visual section for imaginative learning.One such library must be envisaged for NIT and the present library converted into a museum with one of the sections displaying the photographs of key contributors to the growth of the institute since inception.Visitors to the campus must have an opportunity to see the musuem. It would not be totally in congruent if a photo of  Rajan is displayed in the museum for good or for bad..for at the end of the day he was also one of the student flock who fell into unfortunate circumstances with the law and vanished.

NIT I beleive needs to strategically redefine itself as it enters the new era. Note that when we were students communication facilities like telephones were non-existent. We could hardly make phone calls to our homes and there were no STD booths and writing letters were the only source of communication. Compared today we are in the mobile and internet age where any one could be got on demand at point of time and at any place, What a transformation. As a precursor to development at NIT an accurate high altitude geographic re-modelling of NIT must be done in some form so that it is accurately positioned to provide high quality services and at he same time gallop into upcoming avenues with ease and least discomfort.

Friday, April 9, 2010


From the year 1982 I have been associated with Calicut also called Kozhikode and is an important city in Kerala so to say. Since I did my graduation from this place and spent a very formative part of my life here, Calicut has a special place in my life though I might not say the years spent here have been the best.

The journey from Bangalore to Calicut needs explanation . During that time it used to take 09 hours to complete the journey which must have reduced by about an hour now due to better motoring conditions. Strictly speaking the journey fro Bangalore to Calicut can be split into three phases that take 03 hours each namely Bangalore - Mysore ; Mysore-Sultanbattery; SultanBattery - Calicut. Sultan Battery was known as Ganapattivattom in earlier times.

Something about Calicut. Calicut seems to have a priced past and is not a city to be tken in the passing. It was the head-quarters of the Malabar district under the Madras presidency. Vasco-Da - Gama landed here in 1498 thereby establishing a sea link between Europe and the Indian mainland and key claim to fame for Calicut in world history. It was an important trading post of medeival times and a centre for art and culture. The calicut port is mentioned in many manuscripts of the past. Many british officials were posted at Calicut during the Raj days and had their initial exoposure to Indian socio-polity here and many of them travelled to calicut from Britain as an entry point into India.

During the early 1980's the Bangalore -Mysore stretch of road was a narrow state highway. In the early 1970's vehicles plying on this road were sparse. The film Sholay was shot in the hilly terrains that skirt this road. The traffic began to increase indiscriminately in the 1980's through the 1990's making accidents an every day affair and at present there is a world class two lane road. It used to take 03 hours to cover this stretch of road and even today motwithstanding the new road the journey takes almost the same time. Ramanagaram ,Mandya and Srirangapattana are key towns that present itself on this highway. There were many ghasty accidents on this road even in the 70's. A bus overladen with people fell into the visweshwaraya canal near Mandya not to mention the many isolated incidents involving personal transport. Due to public fury the road was broadened and divided for to and fro traffic arresting the wanton occurrence of accidents. The Bangalore -Mysore road is a key stretch of highway with enoromous significance as it serves as one of the links to the two adjoining states of Kerala and Tamil nadu and almost jets straight into the vast expanse of the Western Ghats. Some kind of an overhead flyover must be built between the two cities to reduce the travelling time by atleast half.

The next leg of journey between Bangalore and Calicut is from Mysore to Sultanbattery and a promising and fascinating one. The most important hub on this stretch of road is Gundlupet. In the past it used to be a cemented road and a very narrow one at that with many trees swinging down dangerously over the highway. Things have changed now with the roads and bridges broadened and tarred. Mysore to Gundlupet takes around an hour and a half and Gundlupet to Sultanbattery also takes almost the same time. From the checkpost at Gundlupet you turn right to hit upon the Calicut route and you get to see many hills and mountains in the back-drop. (When you travel staight you reach bandipur , Gudalur and thereafter Ooty). Gundlupet to Sultanbattery is the most fascinating part of the journey because before-long one enters the Bandipur forests and on either stretch of the road is unending forests and once in a while you catch herds of elephants not far from the road. I was witness to many such scenarios during my vast experience travelling on these roads. Once in 1986 there was a tusker stationed aggressively on the sidewalks creating commotion in many a driver on the route warning the advancing vehicles of the menace. Almost around this time I saw a bull with her calf not to mention many sitiations where elephant herds were crossing these roads at various points. A day time travel on this road is soothing and is pure driving pleasure. The Karn ataka - Kerala border post is within this forest and before long you hit upon human civilization in Sultanbattery.

The most challenging part of the journey between these two cities is at the western ghats which one encounters almost an hours drive from Sultan-battery. (Ganapativattom is the original name of Sultan battery which was changed by Tippu Sultan as he stationed a battery of soldiers here for a considerable period.). The entire Ghat section is 12 kms in displacement and takes around 3/4 th of an hour to complete because of the various hair-pin bends ;nine of them to be precise. The ghats are a bottle neck and the kind of swirling of roads seen and the gradeints are rarely encountered except in very few situations and this being one. In the 80's the roads were ill-kempt, narrow with potholes and irregularities abound. The govt of Kerala has made a concerted effort in transforming this road over the past few decades using civil engineering skills to broaden them in an otherwise forsaken terrain and location. It must be pointed out with haste that these roads and their initial framework was laid by european traders who used them for their pepper trade. There are many such arteries so to say hidden in the this place called Wayanad and many of them put to use connecting the heights of Wayanad to the depths of the coast. Had these roads and their initial nurturing not been done motoring through them today may not have happenned at all. Thank god that some initial design has been bequeathed to posterity which only needs to be developed and fine tuned.

Once the ghats are crossed the road opens into a flat and even stretch at Adivaram. Adivaram to Calicut must be about 75 minutes drive and at some places the roads forming a sudden curvature.

IIMK and NITC come on this last stretch of road. Kunnamangalam is the nodal point for both these institutions. IIMK (Indian Institute of management Kozhikode) is in Kunnamangalam itself and NITC (National Institute of Technology Calicut) is at chathamangalam aroung 07 kms from this node.