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A getaway to the gateway of Kerala

August 4, 2017 Leave a comment

I am just back from a short holiday to the gateway of Kerala – Kochi.   I had a fun-filled reunion with my family at the picturesque Mahindra club resort at Cherai beach.

Located to the north of Kochi, Cherai Beach is a idyllic place with the Arabian Sea on one side and backwaters on the other.  There are many activities arranged for guests that make it a great holiday destination for the entire family.

Club Mahindra Cherai Beach resort is spread over six acres surrounded by greenery,palm trees, tropical plants and coconut groves. Amid this landscape are luxury cottages and suites equipped with modern amenities.  There is also a spa, gym and activity centre. So if you want to take a long walk, a bike ride, take a houseboat ride on the backwaters or getting a soothing massage, you can avail all of these during your stay at Cherai.

After our stay  at the resort, I took a ride on the Kochi Metro.  It has many unique features and I enjoyed  the smooth ride from Alwaye to Palarivattom.

  • It has been commissioned in a record time of 45 months as compared to other metro services in the country.
  • The Kochi Metro has a strong commitment towards clean energy, and it is the first metro service in the country to leverage solar power to meet a quarter of its electricity requirements. With every one of its 23 stations having solar panels, which can generate 2.3 mega watt (MW), and a 4 MW solar plant, plans are underway to meet as much as half of its electricity demands through solar power.
  • Also, every sixth of the 4,000-odd metro pillars will have a vertical garden which will use recycled municipal waste. The metro is also offering bicycles for free at every station for passengers to roam around the city.
  • Kochi is the first metro and the first state-owned company in India to “officially” offer employment to a large number of transgenders.
  • Kochi metro service, once completed, will be the first in India to have a workforce that comprises 80% women.
  • Apart from offering mobility solution, the Kochi metro also plans to offer boat rides with water transport envisaged as a feeder service to the rail corridor. The Rs819 crore “water metro” project is in the works to connect the metro to the 10 islands of Kochi, with the first phase of the water corridor expected to be operational by end-2018.

 

 

Another project that I got to see in Kochi was the Kochi International Airport –
Terminal 3.

  • Cochin International Airport  is the first green field airport  in the country built with public-private partnership .
  • It is the first fully solar powered airport in the country
  • Planned and constructed from scratch, the airport has been acclaimed for setting a novel idea in infrastructure development. The astonishing public participation, relentless support from NRIs and an effective leadership have made CIAL, the company that built and operates the airport, an international brand.
  • V.J.Kurian IAS is the founder managing director of the company and the project itself is  his brain child.
  • Ever since commercial operations started on 10th June 1999 with International flight to Dammam.,CIAL, has grown rapidly becoming the 4th largest International Airport in India in terms of international passenger traffic in just four years. The company showcases a sustainable business model  which always adheres to people, community and culture. The balance sheet also is sound as the profit ratio exceeds 35%. It is now the only airport in Kerala, which handled five million passengers a year.

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Categories: Books

A weekend getaway to coffee land –‘Chikmagalur’

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Last weekend we took a trip to the coffee land of Karnataka – ‘Chikmagalur’.    For a change we booked a homestay in the middle of the coffee plantations.   We started from Bangalore at 6am and reached Chikmagalur around 11am (the distance is ~250km).   We had hired a car for our round trip.  After reaching our homestay and unpacking we immediately set off for our first day of sightseeing to Bababudangiri and Mullyanagiri mountain peaks.  We also spent some time at the beautiful Jhari falls.  Cars can go up almost near the peak.  After this there is a jeep service to take you to the waterfall.

On the second day, we first visited the Veera Narayana temple in Belavadi.   Belavadi is said to be the place mentioned in Mahabharatha where Pandava prince Bheema killed the demon Bakasura and protected the village and its people.This ornate trikuta (three shrined) temple was built in 1200 C.E. by Hoysala Empire King Veera Ballala II. The material used is soapstone (steatite). This stone is extremely easy to chisel, but attains iron-like firmness when exposed to the atmosphere.  To maintain the shine of the temple, the stone is treated with a chemical wash and then wax polished once in ten years.  Each of the three shrines has a complete superstructure (tower on top of shrine) and is one of the largest temples built by the Hoysala kings. While the famous temples at Belur and Halebidu are known for their intricate sculptures, this temple is known for its architecture.

It is believed that Veera Narayana Temple was constructed in two phases.  The temple is exquisitely crafted and is one of the architectural marvels of India.

This is a Vaishnava temple and all three shrines have images of the Hindu god Vishnu, though in different forms (avatar). The central shrine (older shrine) has an 8 ft (2.4 m) tall image of Narayana with four hands and is considered one of the best examples of Hoysala art. It is well elaborated with ornamentation and stands on a padmasana (lotus seat). The southern shrine has an 8 ft (2.4 m) tall image of Venugopala (the god Krishna playing a flute) including a garuda pedestal and the northern shrine has a 7 ft (2.1 m) tall image of Yoganarasimha, sitting in a yoga posture. Decorative sculptures such as kirtimukhas (gargoyles) are used to make the shrine (vimana) towers ornate.  The Archaeological Survey of India has voted the idol of Lord Krishna here as the most beautiful of all Krishna sculptures in the world.

 

 

After that we visited the Chenna Keshava temple in Belur.  The magnificent shrine is dedicated to Lord Vijayaanarayan, one of the twenty four incarnations of Vishnu.  This temple was built to commemorate the victory of the Hoysalas over the Cholas in the great battle of Talakkad.  According to historical records, it took over 103 years to complete this profusely sculpted masterpiece of Hoysala architecture.  The huge temple complex  enclosed by high walls has a garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum), a sukhanasi (vestibule) and a navaranga mandapa.  There are two gateways, but only one is crowned by a gopuram.  The brackets outside the temple are adorned with voluptuous beauties (Madanikas) in different dancing and ritual postures.

 

Our last stop was the Hoysaleswara temple in Halebeedu.  The shrine is very similar to the Chenna Keshava temple at Belur, but its figures are more profusely carved. James Fergusson, an art and architecture expert was mesmerized by the beauty of the shrine.  He remarks that the temple “may probably be considered as one of the most marvellous exhibitions of human labour to be found even in the patient east” and compares Hoysaleswara with the famous Parthenon in Athens.  The temple complex consists of two identical temples each with its own array of navaranga and sukhanasi and Nandi mandapas.  Both the sanctums have a characteristic star shaped ground plan.  The two temple halls are joined by a common verandah creating a spacious columned interior. Thousands of intricately carved sculptures depicting scenes from the mythological epics Ramayana, Mahabharata, puranic legends, beasts and beauties etc. adorn the temple walls.  There are about thirty five thousand sculpted pieces in the shrine, noted for their breathtaking beauty, but the south doorway unrivalled for its filigree work is considered to be a masterpiece of delicate carving.  Both the sanctums enshrine an east facing lingam, preceded by a Nandi mandapa with a huge statue of Nandi bull, the celestial vehicle of Lord Shiva.  Behind the Nandi are the large figures of Lord Suryanarayan with seven horses and Arunadeva.

 

The homestay experience was also refreshing.  Breakfast and dinner were provided by our courteous host Subhada.  There was a nice spread of delicious Malnad style food.  She was also very friendly and took good care to see that we were comfortable.

 

Categories: Books

The birth of ideas

December 11, 2016 Leave a comment

A very interesting TED talk on “Where good ideas come from” by Steven Johnson.  Ideas according to him are not just individual “Eureka” moments.  His fascinating tour takes us from the “liquid networks” of London’s coffee houses to Charles Darwin’s long, slow hunch to today’s high-velocity web.

Categories: General Tags: , ,

Protest

December 8, 2016 8 comments

Write a new post in response today’s word ‘Protest’

Her tender arms
Could not resist
The brutal force
Of animal instinct

The lecherous look
Of a trusted relative
Scared her to death
Beneath the sheets

Gagged by social stigmas
No one dared speak
A silent protest
Wearily fell asleep

The morning sun breathed hope
And a new resolve
She would be slave no more
To a heartless enemy

A new strength, A new voice
A freedom, A choice
Wiping tears of self-pity
She crushed fake loyalties

A silent protest became a storm
Truth had gathered an army
Of brave soldiers
A leader was born!
© copyright skm 8th Dec 2016

Other interesting posts in this category:
1) https://unravelingtheheart.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/healthy-protest/
2) https://pryvateparts.com/2016/12/07/brittle/
3) https://authoranonblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/736/
4) https://plaridel.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/from-gandhi-to-sharmila/
5) https://shwetaspree.com/2016/12/07/daily-prompt-protest/
6) http://dippingintotheheart.com/prevent-injustice/#sthash.3MuEJKLq.dpbs
7) https://sasha1010blog.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/what-is-life/
8) https://msethi272.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/protest/
9) https://keerthanagaganna.com/2016/12/07/protest/
10) https://dinamicdynasty.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/daily-prompt-protest/

Categories: Poetry Tags: , ,

Fish

November 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Write a new post in response to today’s one word prompt : ‘Fish’

cichlid

 

I have tried rearing fish at home several times until I finally gave up the hobby.  I would have to say that watching fish swim in the tank is a very relaxing feeling. I have reared goldfish, angelfish, neon tetra and African cichlids.

I had this Cichlid tank in 2010. Cichlids are very interesting fish that are very active and aggressive.  So, the tank can be setup with coral sand at the bottom and some rocks (cichlids love to hide in the holes of the rocks and also love to spit sand and alter the look of the tank).

So, after cleaning up the tank, I filled the tank with coral sand upto 1.5 inches from the bottom.  Then, I placed the rocks and filled the tank with water.  After the pump was started the tank was allowed to run for 1 week until the water was clean.  Then, the fish were introduced.

We named our cichlids: Phelps, Goldy, Sweety, Softy, Master, Spotty,  Blacky and Lovely.  Initially , Phelps was the most aggressive and liked to chase the others around.  But, after few days it  calmed down.  About 10% of the water in the tank has to be changed every week.

However, the maintenance of the tank is one of the reasons I gave up the hobby.   The main reason is that I did not want to see fish die due to improper care or something I had overlooked.

 

Categories: General Tags: , ,

Who do you think will win the US election?

November 8, 2016 Leave a comment
Categories: General Tags: ,

Public speaking & Leadership workshop for children

October 30, 2016 Leave a comment

screenhunter_225-oct-30-21-34

Categories: Books

My experiments with RaspberryPi 3

August 25, 2016 Leave a comment

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny and affordable computer that you can use to learn programming through fun, practical projects. These single-board computers were developed in the United Kingdom by the RaspberryPi Foundation®  to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries.

All models feature a Broadcom®  system on a chip (SoC), which includes an an ARM compatible central processing unit (CPU) and an on chip graphics processing unit (GPU, a  VideoCore IV). CPU speed ranges from 700 MHz to 1.2 GHz for the Pi 3 and on board memory range from 256 MB to 1 GB RAM.

The little computer has controlled robots, reached the upper atmosphere in a weather balloon and become the building block for almost any gadget the mind could dream up.

The Foundation provides Raspbian, a Debian based linux distribution for download, as well as third party Ubuntu, Windows 10 IOT Core, RISC OS, and specialised media center distributions. It promotes Python and  Scratch as the main programming language, with support for many other  languages

The 3rd generation Raspberry Pi® comes with:

  • A 1.2GHZ 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU
  • 11n Wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4 USB ports
  • 40 GPIO pins
  • Full HDMI port
  • Ethernet port
  • Combined 3.5mm audio jack and composite video
  • Camera interface (CSI)
  • Display interface (DSI)
  • Micro SD card slot
  • VideoCore IV 3D graphics core

This is an  ideal computer for use in schools to teach students the basics of coding in a fun way.

raspberrypi3 RaspberryPi3 with casing

I have played around with the Sonic Pi® which can be used to create music using simple commands.

Here is a screenshot of Frere Jacques played on the SonicPi®.  Students can play around with the settings and tinker with the code until they are familiar enough to create the music for their own songs.

SonicPiB

Scratch is also a very interesting program to understand coding.  Students can use the drag and drop interface to perform various actions using Scratch or create their own games, demos, stories or music. Here are some examples of programs created by Scratch users.

ScratchB

Besides these, students can learn Python programming, and also use coding to learn about science and mathematics in a fun way by creating their own demos, games and stories.

The 40-pin GPIO interface is a great learning platform for  IoT .   From turning an LED on and off to controlling temperature, humidity sensors, RF modules, GPS, and other sensors students can experiment and learn a great deal.

Here is a simple example of a LED circuit and the Scratch program to configure the GPIO pins (courtesy: RaspberryPi.org)

finished-circuitpin17-on-off

The 10 Traits of Successful Leaders

July 4, 2016 1 comment

Leadership7

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” —Jack Welch

The question of whether leadership skills are innate or acquired has been debated for long and evokes strong opinions on both fronts. We have seen how certain people stand out among the crowd and are born leaders.  And yet there are others who through observation, learning and focus have developed leadership traits with experience over time.

Here are 10 traits which I believe a successful leader should cultivate:

  • Integrity: A leader works inside out.  He/she first works on self-development – cultivating qualities like integrity, communication, empathy and resilience.  They have strong faith in their core values – what is right and wrong. At the same time, they are open to feedback. Only when a leader is able to conquer himself can he inspire others.
  • Direction: A leader has to have a clear sense of direction in conveying the vision, mission, values, goals and plans to the team. A leader without direction is like a ship without a captain.  Without a clear direction, the employees will be lost and eventually lose enthusiasm.
  • Example: A leader has to lead by example. He/she has to walk the talk.  This is one of the most difficult traits to cultivate. Employees who see their leader stand up and lead will be engaged and willing to perform to their best potential. A leader who shows vulnerability and believes that he is one with the team and working with them together will be respected by employees.
  • Empathize: Empathy is putting yourself in another person’s shoes to understand how they feel. A good leader not only listens carefully but also responds with care and concern. An employee may forget what you say or do but will never forget how you made them feel.
  • Empower: A leader delegates authority and gives an employee the power to take risks and make decisions. This develops confidence in employees to take initiative and increases their learning curve. Empowering an employee fosters open communication and recognizes their contribution. This works better than controlling or micro-managing their behaviour.
  • Collaborate: Traditional top-down leadership approach is being replaced in the modern workplace by a collaborative style which blurs the lines between the boss and the employee. Such leaders openly share information with the team, facilitate brainstorming and encourage feedback from team members. A leader is also a coach who guides the team members to achieve superior performance.
  • Inspire: This trait is often held as a mystery. Some leaders have a natural ‘charisma’ a magnetic appeal around them which attracts followers.  But there are ways in which this trait can be developed for example ‘expertise’ in a subject, being ‘warm and approachable’, ‘exuding  passion and enthusiasm’ and being a ‘role model’ for others to follow.
  • Communicate: A leader spends most of the time meeting people, so interpersonal communication is regarded as one of the most important traits to develop. A good leader clarifies the goal of the message, delivers the message clearly and with conviction and makes sure that the listener has understood the message. He/she is also open to constructive feedback and sees it as an opportunity to grow.
  • Decide: A leader has to be confident to take different types of decision based on the situation. It can be a command decision-making where decisions have to be made in split-seconds without consulting the team.  This applies to war and crisis situations.  Then there is the consensus style where the team votes and arrives at a decision.  In the collaborative style of leadership the leader invites feedback from the team but makes the final call.  A leader also  the team to make the decision in certain situations to empower them and develop their confidence.
  • Risk: Being over-cautious and indecisive is an impediment for leadership. A leader has to take risks and encourage innovation and creativity in the workplace.  This in turn develops the employees into confident risk-takers and encourages a culture of learning.

 

Categories: Books

Bustling Bangkok

I had the opportunity to visit Bangkok during the last weekend with my cousin and I found it to be an amazing and bustling city with something for every type of traveller.

On the first night we visited the tallest rooftop bar in Bangkok atop the Baiyoke hotel.  From the 84th floor one can have a breathtaking view of the city.  The revolving floor offers a 360 deg view of the Bangkok skyline.

baiyoke

On the 2nd day I took a short half-day tour of the city covering the Grand palace, the Wat Pho temple of the reclining Buddha and the Golden Mount temple.

grandpalace2

Wat Pho2

buddha

In the evening we went on a Chao Phraya river cruise.  This is a memorable cruise of 2 hour duration.  During buffet dinner on board the passengers are treated to a live music and dances.  One also gets a view of the the Wat Arun temple and the Grand Palace.  The transport to and from the hotel is also included in the package.

cruise3

The city is bustling with the shopping malls  and other tourist attractions attracting visitors from all over the world.

MBK

Categories: Books
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