Month: September 2011
It is a well known fact. The RTOs are cess pits of corruption.
There are several ways to fight this legally and I am optimistic that we will eradicate this in a couple of decades or when we outsource this to foreigners, which ever happens first. It is a pity that neither Anna Hazare nor ‘yours truly’ will be around then.
But the war that cannot be won is not the corruption of money but the corruption of integrity.
Every half baked driver these ba*%@$ds let loose on our streets is a license to kill.
I have been driving since I was 15 years and that was 3 decades ago. I have driven and ridden all over the country, all terrains, most cars and bikes. Yet, I have never had a major accident, never broken a bone. A nudge and a scratch here & there are my only proof to infamy.
My first license was obtained without even seeing an RTO office. This was confiscated within the first 2 months and I have never owned a license since then.
I have been fined a few times and I have willingly paid a fine but never applied for another license because
1. The entire exercise of the cops checking you for a license is to levy a fine and hence a commercial venture. So I too contribute to the cause.
2. I REFUSE TO BE JUDGED BY AN INFERIOR.
Will you agree to a commerce graduate correcting your engineering answer paper? Why would any sane person willingly submit to the humiliation of a nincompoop in uniform asking you inane questions and subjecting you to a pointless test, when you eventually have to pay to pass.
It is an insult to my ability as an intelligent, sane, blemish free, thinking, caring, conscientious driver to own a driving license in India.
My heartfelt condolences to their family notwithstanding, the above statement is true. I really hope this post will save many more wannabe street racers.
Ayazuddin was riding a 1000 cc Suzuki. Even though I have not been able to get the exact model of the bike, the following holds true to all bikes.
There have been some halfhearted attempts to explain the cause of the accident and most of them are non-technical. The usual theory is that high speed, in excess of 200 kmph, is what killed them. True. But these bikes are built for such speeds. What really killed them is the bike’s STEERING GEOMETRY and a lack of understanding of this very important feature.
There are two important factors called Rake angle and Trail. The figure below illustrates what these are.
The basic understanding is that a longer trial offers more stability (lesser steering control) and a shorter trail offers more steering control (lesser stability). Any bike, built for a certain specific purpose, has a rake angle / trial to suit just this purpose.
A bike built for cruising long straight highways have greater rake angle, longer trail (like a chopper). This offers more straight line stability and reduces hand fatigue.
A racing bike needs more steering control as against a street legal bike and hence have lower rake angle and lesser trail. These bikes are very unstable at low speeds and need space and experience to make turns.
A racing bike like the one Ayaz was riding is essentially steered by leaning into the turn. It is important to understand that these bikes are raced on tracks specifically built to accommodate this factor. That is why race tracks have wide, long, winding turns unlike streets which have sharp turns.
Ever noticed how a race driver moves to the very extreme opposite edge of the track, leans into a curve and makes a long turn. This manoeuvre offers the extended radius essential to turn these bikes at high speeds.
Regular bikes are capable of much sharper turns owing to their steering geometry and lower speeds.
Ayaz was doing just the reverse. Riding the wrong bike on the wrong road.
Easy as it seems to a casual spectator, race drivers put in years of practice. They are also masters of the tech specs of the bikes they ride.
Ayazuddin paid with his life for not knowing this important fact.
You can find more technical info at
THE DAY WE INDIANS REALIZE AND PRACTICE THIS MANTRA, IMPROVEMENT IS INEVITABLE
The lack of perfection in anything we do is the reason for the chaos all around us. Nothing fits anything, nothing lasts. Total anarchy.
The Indian concept of a good design is very superficial. We care more about the paint than the foundation.
This sweeping statement is bound the raise the hackles of our ‘designers’. But let me explain.
We design on computers. Even the most inexpensive CAD program is capable of a high degree of precision. The question I am oft asked – Where then is the lack of perfection in our designs?
PRECISION IS NOT PERFECTION.
During one of my lectures, I had asked the audience of “interior designers” several basic questions on the methods of carpentry. The answers were, to say the least, totally inadequate. They were of the opinion that their responsibility ended with the paper they handed over to the carpenter.
I then presented them with a very simple drawing, simple on a computer, that is. Their challenge was to get their carpenters to fabricate it.
It is a very simple six sided flower pot. For this exercise we discarded the bottom. I also saved them the embarrassment of assembling the six pieces. All they had to do was produce the individual pieces.
The results were 100% FAIL.
I then asked our future interior designers to explain the IDEAL process on paper.
The results were 100% FAIL.
The problem? “Elementary, my dear
We don’t have a tool to measure 120 degrees. This is the shameful fact. As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, we are a skill based society. We don’t believe in carrying a large tool kit. It insults our ability. He who walks in unencumbered by tools is a true skilled worker.
I will again excuse the worker, for he is illiterate and knows no better. But what about our “Designers”? What does such ignorance, about their own profession say of their abilities. A serious flip side to this ignorance is that our designers are street smart and in perfect sync with their work force. They take great pains to ensure that they never design anything their worker cannot produce.
In the end it is the consumer who suffers.
Its been a week since the blasts in the Delhi high court and, Yipee, and we have something to debate about other than corruption. The hot topic now is why and how the Indian cops / security / intelligence (oxymoron) agencies, in spite of their awe inspiring acronyms have not been able to prevent or solve even a single terrorist attack for 10 years. The reference to the US and its post 9/11 success with curbing terrorism was expected. But what was unexpected was the Indian government seeking their help – yet again.
There are many theories being bandied about on TV talk shows on why our cops fail. And it is all the usual tripe. So I won’t waste your time repeating it. But what is heartening is the consistency our cops show. They are just as bad and inefficient in solving almost any other case too. A look at their success rate will prove this point.
But there is one major reason why they can take credit for solving or preventing some cases at least.
This is because our criminals are stupider than our cops. This should come as no surprise as, apart from them being on opposites of a very fuzzy line, there are a lot of similarities in their logic, complacency, thought process, lack of initiative, under exposure to modernity and progress in their respective fields etc. This list will be incomplete if I don’t mention they are both Indian.
I have so much to say that I am worried this post will get out of hand, so I will lay the ground by initially writing about the stupidity of our criminals and security guards. I will follow up later with many others.
In the dock this time are the private security guards, their agencies, their employers and the criminals. The traits they collectively exhibit are no different from the real cops, NSA, NIA, CBI etc etc.
PSG’s, a minority about 10 years ago are prolific today. Apart from the non-critical areas of their employment, mostly like gate keepers, they have migrated to a more critical area of service. Those of guarding our banks and the money vans utilized for ATM refills or inter branch money transfers. Needless to say the agencies are contracted by the banks which makes them eligible to be mentioned here for condoning stupidity. I will absolve the actual guards as they are generally poor, rural, illiterate people.
Aping the mindset of the real police, instead of any real training or equipment, they too rely on jazzy uniforms (cross belts, berets, epaulettes et al), pot bellies, facial hair, ex-military tag etc in a poor bid to portray efficiency. Unfortunately, it seems to work too. Else any criminal worth his pound of chakki would have taken advantage of this charade.
The grist of this post is another prop utilized by these security guards – the gun they mandatorily carry. It is impressive enough to deter any criminal. Indian criminal that is. But why am I being so harsh?
If you know anything at all about guns, and I really mean anything, you will agree with me, close your bank account and bury all your money in your backyard.
There are essentially two categories of guns based on their ammunition. One uses a bullet (L) and the other uses a cartridge (R).
The Bullet firing rifle is exclusively used by the police etc (non-civilian) and the cartridge firing gun is used by the security guards. Since it is near impossible for a civilian to obtain a bullet firing rifle license in India, they are forced to use the latter.
But the interesting fact is that these guns are useless, yes, utterly and completely useless in the hands of the security guards for the purpose it is intended. This is because of a major lacunae, unknown to most Indians.
Let us begin by understanding the projectiles. The bullet fires a single, solid projectile. The cartridge fires several shots (or pellets) which are very similar to ball bearings (Hence the name Shotgun).
A shotgun is predominantly used for hunting small game like birds or rabbits. That is the reason a civilian is able to obtain a license for such guns. Let us imagine we are trying to bring down a bird, either flying solo or in a flock. Given the small size of the target and the fact that it is moving, it is impossible to take perfect aim and hit it with a single bullet. You are bound to miss, scare the prey and go hungry unless you are a marksman. The cartridge, firing not one, but several bullets offers a better chance. One of them is bound to hit the target. Add to this the fact that these pellets diverge after exiting from the barrel as in the picture below.
That is, they spread out increasing the chances of at least one pellet hitting the target. So, the farther they travel, the more they disperse. This pattern image shows how wide and randomly they disperse at a distance of 30 yards (approx 100 feet).
This is perfect for hunting. But what about our use?
A security guard has to use it on a human. The problem is not that the velocity of a cartridge pellet cannot kill or injure a human. It is where and how it will be used.
Imagine a bank robbery or a money van heist in India. During the robbery or once the deed over, the criminal is bound to be surrounded by a crowd of innocent bank employees or civilians
How can the security guard fire a shotgun expecting to hit only the criminal and not the innocent bystanders? It is impossible. Have you ever seen the cops teargas an individual in a crowd?
The big question now is:
Does the guard know this fact about his gun? If yes, then the public are safe, even though the gun becomes a mere prop and the day our stupid criminals realize this fact, they will have a free run of our money.
But what if even one guard does not know this fact? If in a real situation, he does fire into a crowd, what are the consequences? Who is to blame? The government for their antiquated license laws? The Police and the rest of us for not putting an end to this widespread threat? The illiterate guard? Or the gullible Indian?
Gun licenses are issued by the cops. Aren’t they supposed to be experts on fire arms? Don’t they know how a shotgun works? The very reason a civilian can apply and obtain a license is because these are not to be used for anything other than hunting. The application also requires you to state intent of use. Any other type of fire arm is classified as capable of being used on humans and hence the irresponsible Indian is ineligible to own one. If so, why are they allowing PSG’s to carry them, with the intent to use, in public areas?
Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
*AND THAT’S ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT*
There are several instances where we Indians meddle in affairs that don’t concern us. And I am not talking world affairs.
We are not a practical race and we don’t have a history of technology. We also don’t realize that every step in the evolution of a product has been well thought of and has a very practical aspect to it. Since we have never been a part of this process, we don’t value it. So when we act as interlopers, and meddle, the result is disastrous.
Look at our currency coins. These were time honored designs, manufactured using imported technology, on imported machines. All was well as long as were just minting new figures with new fonts, changing layout etc. We even got away with changing the composition of the metal. But then some whiz kid with a sheaf of design degrees, not satisfied with the cosmetic changes, must have thought of re-designing the whole coin.
What resulted was a faux pas of monumental proportions.
Lets do a small test. Take a new 1 or 2 Rupee coin, place it on any glass surface like a table top (imitating a cash counter). Now pick it up – in one go. It is near impossible. After a few futile attempts you will end up sliding them off the table. This would never have happened with the earlier coins. Have you experienced this? Do you know why this happens?
We, in our infinite wisdom and childish ‘lets-show-the-west-what-we-Indians-are-capable-of’ attitude did away with the very important grooved serrations on the edge of the coin which helped us grip the coin with our finger tips, nails or no nails.
Why did this happen? This is because we give more importance to aesthetics than to utility. We have been bred on eons of art and never on practical science. Our concept of design is appearance and very cosmetic.
But what is astounding is the fact that this has escaped the notice of a Billion+ Indians for more than 10 years. I doubt if there really is any Indian who hasn’t handled a coin. Rich or poor, we all have. Then is it that we don’t care? Are we so up in the clouds with IT, BT & whatnot, that we feel such thoughts are beneath us?
I spoke to a couple of lay men, after I subjected them to the same test. The feedback is very insightful.
1. We are a very egotistical race. I can criticize my country as much as I want. But if it comes from another, Indian or foreigner, we will go tongs and hammer to defend our country’s honor, right to the point of being absurd and inane. Some even blamed the country which is supplying us with the coins, maybe even Pakistan, and were most reticent to accepting that we design and mint them locally.
2. Several numismatists refused to comment. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money. May be they were insulted by a rank outsider questioning their competence.
3. Every one felt that it could not be an oversight. Oh no. Not by us Indians. And racked their brains to justify the error in the hope of salvaging some national pride. A few ‘Technical’ people argued that it was omitted to save on the cost of manufacturing. When asked how it was manufactured, they went mute. I was almost expecting them to take refuge under the ‘Official Secrets Act’.
*AND THATS ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT*
Bored with city life, I once decided to move to my farm on the outskirts of Bangalore. Before any activity began, the first priority was to make arrangements for water. This meant tapping for ground water, always a risky and costly endeavor.
I did the necessary research and spoke to experts in the geological department on scientific water divining. They were of the opinion that there was no guarantee irrespective of scientific or conventional water divining and success was left to chance. One person was more forthcoming and assured me that in spite of the scientific method being more accurate, success depended on the drilling company. He did not mention any specific cause for failure.
Owing to the lack of clarity and based on several recommendations we decided on a conventional water diviner. Watching a diviner in action, running all over the farm with a coconut in his hands was like mumbo jumbo and not in the least assuring. But this spectacle, as usual, attracted attention and soon there was a healthy crowd of neighboring farmers. Their initial whispering and murmuring was ignored as a natural reaction to the antics of the diviner.
Then one old guy came over to me and said that the whole exercise was a waste as he had a farm, not far away, which looked as if it had been invaded by rabbits. It was his way of telling me that he had tried 14 times to find water and all he got was the holes in the ground.
But I had to sink a well as I was hell bent on moving away from the city. The diviner finally placed the coconut over a spot and announced with a flourish that we would hit Ganga Jal at a depth of 400 – 600 feet.
The big day arrived and the impressive rig moved into position. It was 6 AM on a misty farmish morning. It took a bit of maneuvering to get the big Ingersoll Rand rig to position exactly over the spot identified. Given my love to machines and the fact that I was once a supplier to Ingersoll Rand (I had seen these majestic beasts being built) I was tingling all over.
Once the drill head was over the exact spot, the dirty, mud caked machine extended its hydraulic stabilizers. The wheels rose off the ground. The drill mast lazily extended to its full vertical height. Hissing, the drill head rose to the top, a shaft with a drill bit was attached. And with a roar of its diesel engines revving at max, the rotating drill neared the earth. But something was wrong.
Give my apprehensions about the spot picked by non-scientific methods and the reputation that area had with dry wells, I was hell bent on trying to turn the odds in my favor. I wanted to ensure that no human error (except the diviners) would scuttle the project. Frankly, another attempt would cripple me financially and jeopardize the entire project. Bye bye chirping birds and fresh milk and lazy days.
Tailoring. Would you call tailoring, skill or technology? It is a subtle combination of both. If we are talking of custom made clothing, you still need a human to skilfully take measurements, mark and cut. Then technology takes over and helps sew it all together. But before sewing was mechanized, there were seamstresses who possessed the skill of sewing and knotting.
But not so long ago in India, tailors had to have another skill. A skill which would take several years to master. This was the skill of cutting cloth. Not the measuring or the marking, but the very simple act of using a scissor on a piece of cloth. But how did this become a skill? We all do a pretty good job of it today on the very first try.
We Indians never thought of scissors as a machine deserving a high degree of precision. For us it was just 2 pieces of some metal, sharpened at some angle and connected with some bolt or rivet. There were only 2 sizes available for the 2 well known uses. A bi-metal giant, 10-12 inch long, for tailoring and a narrow one for cutting hair.
The bolt or rivet would always loosen after the first few uses and this was when you needed skill. Lots and lots of it. It really was an art, needing all the dexterity possible by human hands – and then some more.