Monsoons and Mumbai

 

Every year towards the end of May, the city of Mumbai begins to change. People start to prepare for the coming of the Monsoon, which is itself derived from the word “mausam” in Arabic which roughly translates as a season. Perhaps in no other place than Mumbai, the might of monsoon is felt by such a large and varied section of people. All the residents, in all the areas of Mumbai, irrespective of their class do prepare for the annual coming of the monsoon. In Mumbai, everywhere you would see temporary structures being erected, plastic sheets of many colours and the most prominent blue tarpaulins being used to cover myriad of houses. It seems that the city itself is getting ready to greet the incoming monsoon. The various preparations done by people of all classes reminds one of festive preparation that families do. Some buy waterproofing for their bodies, some for their homes and shops and some for their vehicles. Some, who are very rich, even buy waterproofing for their pets. Government bodies like the BMC clean up the gutters and nallahs, which were freshwater rivers once, hard to believe when you look at their present states. You can see piles of cleaned up garbage and debris stacked neatly alongside the gutters manholes and nallahs. They say it helps in preventing floods. So, every year, like a seasonal change, you will see people cleaning them, and stacking the filth accumulated in these water bodies, both above the ground and underground in neat stacks.

Business establishments erect skeletons of bamboos and timber around the areas which are not covered. This happens in the case of hotels which have open-air seating areas. Then on these skeletons, they apply sheaths of water-proofing materials. At the end of it, the area is ready for use even in the heaviest rains. Shops which would sell, clothes and other stuff in other seasons, have umbrellas in their display. Even the street and traffic signal vendors start selling them. The umbrellas come in a variety of sizes, colours and designs. Males mostly carry black ones, while the females carry ones with a variety of colours. The umbrella is the protection of the commons against the rain. In the crowded local trains and buses, it is not seen kindly if you wear a raincoat and enter and transfer your wetness to others in the process. Umbrellas, on the other hand, can be folded and kept inside your bag. These are the kind of umbrellas, which are compact are the ones which are most common. The price range generally indicates the number of seasons that an umbrella will last. Also, the cobblers, who double up as umbrella repairers can be seen fixing broken ribs, handles and mechanisms of old umbrellas. Then there are the large ones, which you need to carry in hand, for they are larger than any bags you would usually carry. I myself carry one of the largest sizes available. Because when it really pours, the compact ones, though easy to pack and carry, aren’t going to protect you from getting wet in the Mumbai monsoon.

Then there is the rain footwear. The idea is that in the rains leather (even faux leather) will get damaged. Hence one should wear something made of rubber or plastic which is not affected by the rains. All the branded footwear companies have a stock of rainwear, which people buy as a preparation for the rain. But this is not for the real elite, they will wear their suedes even in the rains. From the by-lanes of Kurla, there emerge cheap replicas of the designer rainwear which are sold at less than 10th of the prices of the originals. They are sold outside the stations, on the streets, and in the shops. Each year, the designs, patterns and colours change depending on what is in vogue in the market.

People also buy protection for their mobile phones and wallets. Just before the rains pavement sellers, who sell a plethora of mobile trinkets and accessories, also start with selling waterproofing for the mobiles. Same is the case with the bags that working people and school children carry. Those not well off use covers of plastic to cover the valuables inside their bags. Good quality plastics are always in demand for such things. But now with the ban, we don’t know what will happen. Others purchase rain covers for their bags. Even with all these precautions mobiles and stuff inside the bags do get wet. And they get damaged.

They say when you are already anticipating something, the shock value isn’t that much as you would expect. But in the case of Mumbai rains, it is not so. Amongst the places I have lived in, the longest has been in Mumbai. Even then, I consider myself alien to this city, an outsider. I have seen and explored parts of it, yet I do not consider myself as a Mumbaikar. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is that even though after staying for more than a decade, I don’t use public transport for my daily commute. Neither the train nor the bus I use regularly. The two major forms of transport in Mumbai. So far, I have not stayed very far away from my place of work. Hence I do not have to suffer [safar?] daily travel. The other reason is that I have not yet made myself at home with the rains. It is not that I do not enjoy the rains, I do, but only for the first few weeks. Then it becomes torture. A melancholy if you will. The sunless skies for weeks on end are depressing enough, and then you have to prepare for the wetness. No matter how hard you try, the rains will get you. There hasn’t been a season where I haven’t got completely drenched. I have given up.

In case, I am caught unawares, without umbrella or any other protection. I just let the rain do its thing. I don’t fight it. But the city itself is fully prepared for it. Unless it is a literal flood, the city continues its routine as if, nothing has happened. All the supply lines will be working as they are supposed to. Waterlogging will produce delays in traffic and trains, but that is about it. If half the amount of rain that lashes Mumbai every season pours into any other metro it will come to a standstill. But Mumbai has made sure that the services operate despite this amount of rain. It is because of anticipation and will of the people to work.

The area of Mumbai is about 600 \, km^{2}, and the average rainfall in Mumbai is about 2200 \,mm. This essentially means that we have rainfall equivalent to about 2.2 \, m water present on the entire surface of about 600 \, km^{2}. So the total volume of water that Mumbai receives each year is

V_{Rain} = 600 \times 10^{6} \, m^{2} \cdot 2.2 \, m = 1.3 \times 10^{9} \, m^{3}

As a first approximation we can consider the rain drops to be of uniform size, and the diameter of the drop is about 1 \,mm = 10^{-3} m. So the volume of the drop is about
V_{Drop} = \frac{4}{3} \,\pi \,(0.5 \times 10^{-3} m)^{3} = 5.2 \times 10^{-10} \,m^{3}

Hence in each year the number of raindrops on Mumbai would be

N = \frac{V_{Rain}}{V_{Drop}} = 2.5 \times 10^{18}

As a better approximation we can take into account the fact that not all raindrops have the same size. We can then make a distribution of the raindrops according to their size. We can have a distribution of the raindrops according to their size as follows:

Type of
Shower
Diameter
of drops
(mm)
Percentage Volume m^{3}
Drizzle 0.5 15 6.5 \times 10 ^{-11}
Normal 1 70 5.2 \times 10 ^{-10}
Thunder 3 15 8.1\times 10 ^{-9}

So the total volume of our rail gets distributed according to the above table. Now we calculate the number of drops for each type of shower:

V_{Drizzle} = \frac{15}{100} \times 1.3 \times 10^{9} \, m^{3} = 1.9 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3}

Hence the number of drops in drizzle are:

N_{Drizzle} = \frac{1.9 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3} }{6.5 \times 10 ^{-11}} = 2.9\times 10^{18}

Similarly for normal shower we get

V_{Normal} = \frac{70}{100} \times 1.3 \times 10^{9} \, m^{3} = 9.1 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3}

Hence the number of drops in normal shower are:

N_{Normal} = \frac{9.1 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3} }{5.2 \times 10 ^{-10}} = 1.75\times 10^{18}

Similarly for thunder shower we get

V_{Thunder} = \frac{15}{100} \times 1.3 \times 10^{9} \, m^{3} = 1.9 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3}

Hence the number of drops in normal shower are:

N_{Thunder} = \frac{9.1 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3} }{8.1 \times 10 ^{-9}} = 1.1\times 10^{17}

So if we add all these up we get the total number of drops:

N = N_{Thunder} + N_{Normal} + N_{Drizzle} = 1.1\times 10^{17}+ 1.75\times 10^{18}+ 2.9\times 10^{18} = 4.7\times 10^{18}

This is not very different from our first rough estimate.

Storms Heralding The Monsoon

Continuing with our last post, about the monsoons this is another entry from The Charm of Bombay, an anthology of writings in praise of the first city in India (1915) edited by Rustomji Pestonji Karkaria 1869-1919.

Storms Heralding the Monsoon

Storms Heralding the Monsoon.

Sir George-Birdwood.

In the afternoon sullen thunder began in the North-west, where clouds had all day been gathering in towering piles. As they thundered the clouds moved slowly down across the North Konkan, and about four o’clock gathered against the jagged crest of Bava Malang. To the North, and all along the Bava Malang range the sky and land were filled with lurid clouds, thunder lightning, and rain, the Kalyan river flowing back as ink through a scene of the most striking – desolation and gloom, South of this abrupt line of storm, the country from Bombay to Khandala was full of pure calm light. Every village, every hut, every road and forest-track, even the bridge over the river at Chauk, came clearly into view. The trees and groves looked magically green; and the light picked out the most hidden streams and burnished them into threads of molten silver. The Panvel and Nagothana rivers shone like mirrors, and the sea was scored with bars of vivid sunshine. Suddenly at about five, the storm-rack poured over Bava Malang like a tumultuous sea, and swept into the deep valley between Matheran and Prabal with furious blasts and torrents, awful thunder, and flashes of forked lightning. When the clouds had filled the valley, the rain and wind ceased and the storm stood still, and, in dead stillness, the thunder and lightning raged without ceasing for an hour. The thunder mostly rolled from end to end of the valley, but it sometimes burst with a crash fit to loosen the bonds of the hills. At six o’clock the storm again moved and passed slowly south over Prabal towards Nagothana. Another enchanting scene opened in the South. Every hut, tree and stream grew strangely clear, the rain-filled rice fields and rivers flashed like steel, while fleecy clouds lay on every hillock and slowly crept up every ravine. As the sun set behind Bombay the air was filled with soft golden light. Westwards towards Thana the hill-tops were bright with every hue from golden light to deep purple shadow, while, among them, the winding Ulhas shone like links of burnished gold. Then, the moon rose, brightened the mists which had gathered out of the ravines and off the hills, and cleared a way across the calm heavens, while far in the south the black embattled storm-rack belched flame and thunder the whole night long. The next day (Tuesday) passed without a storm. On Wednesday, the 8th, eastwards towards Khandala vast electric cloud banks, began to gather. At two in the afternoon, with mutterings of thunder, the sky grew suddenly black and lurid. At half-past two the storm passed west moving straight on Matheran. A mist went before the storm, thickening as it came, first into trailing clouds and then into dripping rain, with muttering thunder all the while. At three the valley between Matheran and Prabal was filled with storm. Thunder rolled in long echoing peals, and flashes lightened the dense fog with extraordinary splendour. The fog lasted with heavy rain till 3-45, when a light wind swept it west towards Bombay, where about four the monsoon burst. These appalling electric outbursts end serenely. The storm clouds retreat like a drove of bellowing bulls and their last echoes die beyond the distant hills. The sun shines again in majesty, in every dell the delicious sound of running water wakens life, and the woods are vocal with the glad song of birds.

London Times, Jan. 1880

Apud Bombay Gazetteer Vol. XIV pp. 247-248,

Monsoon Cometh..

Now that Some parts of India are experiencing a heat-wave, people are looking forward to coming of the monsoons. Which mark an end to the annual saga of heat. This post has some descriptions by a British of how coming of the monsoon is experienced in Bombay.

This is from The Charm of Bombay, an anthology of writings in praise of the first city in India (1915) edited by Rustomji Pestonji Karkaria 1869-1919.

Monsoon cometh
BURST OF THE MONSOON.

Henry Moses

The day at length arrives when the windows of heaven are to be opened, and man’s anxious doubts and fears are to be dispelled by this gracious provision for his wants. Dark clouds towards noon, gather in the south-west, and gradually steal over the azure firmament, casting a gloomy shadow upon the earth, and obscuring the intensity of the sun’s rays as they flit over his surface in their onward progress. A current of cool, strange air now denotes some remarkable atmospheric change. The ocean is unusually agitated; the waves are lifted up hurried onwards as the breeze increases — the angry waters come foaming and roaring towards the shore, and are broken with violence upon the rock ; receding but to break again with redoubled force. Distant peals of thunder echo among the lofty Ghauts far down the coast, and vivid streams of forked lightning illumine their peaked summits. The dry leaves of the lofty palms rattle overhead, and the forests are agitated and shaken as the hurricane roars through their solemn vistas, and breaks in upon their profound stillness. The soaring kite flaps his outstretched wings, as he rises alarmed from his lone perch, and is hurried away upon the storm. The cattle on the plains congregate together, as if driven by some irresistible impulse to seek the shelter and protection of each other, and lie down with their heads close to the earth, as if conscious of approaching danger; and the poor Hindoo wraps his muslin kummerband tighter around him, as the cool air expands its many folds, and exposes his delicately formed limbs to the chilly blast. The skies become darkened, and sheets of blazing lightning, followed up by the roar of deafening thunder, succeed each other with fearful rapidity; and, though in broad day, the eye can scarcely bear to look upon the flaming heavens, so in- tense is their brightness.

The elements are indeed at war. Large drops of rain begin to fall ; and falling, raise up, in consequence of their weight, a cloud of dust ; and then, within a brief space, the mighty clouds descend upon the thirsty land. The tempest is terrific to behold, and man trembles beneath the storm. He seeks in haste the shelter of his mud- built cabin, and mutters a hurried prayer to the stone idol which he has set up. The high houses in the Fort of Bombay vibrate with every clap of thunder; doors and windows, and walls and floors are shaken by the loud artillery of heaven. Torrents of water pour down from every roof, and bound over, in broken streams, the sounding verandahs below them, sweeping the various streets as the flood rushes onward, laden with mud and rubbish, towards the sea.

To those persons who have but just arrived in the country, and who, having never experienced the setting in of this remarkable season, have formed from description but an imperfect idea of that change, the scene is pregnant with horror of every kind. The newly-arrived Englishwoman in particular suffers exceedingly at this period, being scarcely able to divest herself of the impression, that everything around her is about to be destroyed or washed away; yet it is very seldom that accidents occur or that property is seriously injured. Occasionally we hear of exposed houses being struck by lightning on the Island, of old palm trees blown down, and of leaf roofs being dispersed to the four winds of heaven ; for woe be unto him who lives in a bungalow with a bad roof, or in one whose spouts are out of order; but with these exceptions, Europeans on shore have but little to be alarmed about for their personal safety.
Myriads of mosquitoes, now driven in by the rains, fill your apartments; and your lamps at night, if not properly covered over with a glass shade, are liable to be suddenly extinguished by the large green beetles that have sought shelter from the storm without. Flying bugs almost poison you with their fetid effluvia, and contaminate every article of food upon which they may chance to alight. The musk weasels dart in under your China matting, and find their way into your wine-cellars, and every cork they touchy every bottle they spoil. That nimble and really useful reptile, the house lizard, climbs your walls in all directions, and comes out so regularly frorrt under your table after dinner, to feed upon the flies attracted thither, that you quite look for the active little creature as a matter of course, to amuse you during dessert time; and if he fail to appear, express regret, as I have heard an old gentleman do, at its non-arrival. The loathsome centipede gets into your cooking-houses, and  hideous spiders, with hairy bodies and long legs takeup their quarters in every available corner and door-way They are not content with staying; at home quietly like our own respectable, though small species, and of taking their chance of what may be sent them ; but they must make daily tours all over the establishment, as if it were expected that they should pay visits to one another, now that the season had brought them into town. In fact, all the. entomological tormentors of India appear to have a design upon your house and happiness. A continual buzzing is kept up a- round you day and night. Ants creep up your legs, while fleas irritate your body; and farewell to sleep, if your gauze curtains display any rents at bed-time. The punkahs or swinging fans suspended in your rooms, now have rest from their labours, for the atmosphere is sufficiently cool without any artificial currents of air. The sweet-scented cuscus mats, or tatties, hung outside between the pillars that support your verandah, and kept wet, in order to lower the temperature of the heated breeze before it enters your house, are now taken down and laid aside; and quite a change takes place in all your little plans within doors.

Sketches of India, 1850, pages 84-88.

Surreal Night!

Surreal Night!.

Yesterday night was *really* surreal. As we were about to sleep at 2ish in the night. We heard aloud crash, with two or three huge blasts. and we saw a tanker rammed against a tree on the side of the highway. We could hear lot of HISSSSSSSSSSS sounds. The tanker was on the other side of the highway.

Vehicles were passing by the accident, and we also saw two people going towards the tanker. As we were watching events unfolding in disbelief, Smita pointed to a a white carpet formed on the the nalla that our bedroom oversees. And we could see the white carpet moving and spreading along the channel. Though we could not smell it then, but it clear that something was definitely was not right. That time I had thought that the accident must have opened up some pipeline, but as it turned out later it was not the case.
And in the mean time we saw another tanker pass by this one. And then we could smell the gas, being on the second floor, it took its time to come till there. And we thought of calling the fire brigade….

Then suddenly, BOOOOMMMMMM….

The fireball unfolded before our eyes. And it sort of came towards us, as they show in the movies….
It must be about 10 stories high, the overhead wires of the huge towers, also sparked…
The entire building was shivering from the blast, windows making sounds, and the room became too bright even without the lights on….

Fortunately the window panes were not shattered, neither the flames reached us….

The enitre nalla was on fire, it was as if we were seeing a river of fire…

The trees were burning, and quite long way along the nalla the fire had spread….
The immediate reaction was to run out, as we thought the building would itself catch fire, given the intensity of the fire that rages.

And as we were going out, all other people who were just awakened by the sound and vibrations and the fire, were getting out too, most of them not knowing what had happened…

Many, as we came to know later, locked themselves out in panic, fortunately we left the door open. As we were running down the stairs, heavy smell of LPG was omnipresent…

What I had feared was that the ground floor parking itself might be at risk, fortunately the wall along the nalla, prevented the gas coming to the parking.

People were just coming out of their houses and pouring on the streets…

And in the meanwhile we could hear more blasts in the fire that was raging…..

Lot of people from Mankhurd village started to pour in as well, and some went crossing the road to witness it.

I was really impressed by the response time of the fire brigade, within 5 minutes they were already there. And they dared for their lives as they fought the inferno raging… Tt took them few hours to bring the fire under control.

Then the police came in and the crowds were dispersed and the road was cordoned off to traffic, which it is still so as late as afternoon.

And the water tankers were just too many to count…

We came back to our room around 5ish, the fire was still raging, but in control.

It was only in the morning that we saw the extent of the damage. Most of the ramp leading to the nalla was burnt. And many trees also were burnt. Some of the manhole covers which open in the nalla were thrown  out of their place, and most of the grass that grows in the nalla was blown out…

And we also came to know how fortunate we were, most of the inital blast and subsequent fires were contained in the concrete walls of the nalla. So only way they could go is up.

And then all the questions of what could have been….

If at all the tanker had fallen on this side of the road, just next to our house, then?

If the tanker had not fallen in the nalla, but just on the road then?

And if the blast would have occurred when the other tanker was passing by, then?

Or if the blast had occurred after, 20-30 minutes, of the accident, and gas spreading to a large area then?

Had the fire spread to the building then…

This experience just showed how fragile we and our constructs are, and all we have can be wiped out by just a freak event…

Smita and D

Some photos here:

The tree on which the tanker slammed (taken in the morning):

The tree on which the tanker slammed.

The Firewall

The Firewall

The Compound that saved us

The compund that saved us.

Calling for help

Calling for Help.

On and below the Bridge

On and below the bridge.

Below the bridge (in night)

Below the bridge (in night).

Below the bridge (in day) tanker can be still seen, and they were watering it still…

Below the bridge (in day).
(Last one from our kitchen)

PS: this report tells that the fire also spread the nearby slums, which were on the otherside of the road.

Though I think there is a strict control over the flow of the news, as the event is not showing up at most news sites.

Public decency and morality

This is what Supreme Court of India had to say when petition was filed to lift a ban in 1964 on Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence:

It is convenient to set out s. 292 of the Indian Penal Code at this stage:

“292. Sale of obscene books etc. : Whoever- (a) sells, lets to hire, distributes, publicly exhibits or in any manner puts into circulation, or for purposes of sale, hire, distribution, public exhibition or circulation, makes, produces or has in his possession any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure or any other obscene object whatsoever, or

(b) imports, exports or conveys any obscene object for any of the purposes aforesaid, or knowing or having reason to believe that such object will be sold, let to hire, distributed or publicly exhibited or in any manner put into circulation, or

(c) takes part in or receives profits from any business in the course of which he knows or has reason to believe that any such obscene objects are, for any of the purposes aforesaid, made, produced, purchased, kept, imported, exported, conveyed, publicly exhibited or in any manner put into circulation, or

(d) advertises or makes known by any means whatsoever that any person is engaged or is ready to engage in any act which is an offence under this section, or that any such obscene object can be procured from or through any person, or

(e) offers or attempts to do any act which is an offence -under this section,

19(1) All citizens shall have the right-

(a) to freedom of speech and expression; (2) Nothing -in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of public order, decency or morality”

No doubt this article guarantees complete freedom of speech and expression but it also makes an exception in favour of existing laws which impose restrictions on the exercise of the right in the interests of public decency or morality.

Condemnation of obscenity depends as much upon the mores of the people as upon the individual. It is always a question of degree or as the lawyers are accustomed to say, of where the line is to be drawn. It is, however, clear that obscenity by itself has extremely “poor value in the-propagation of ideas, opinions and informations of public interest or profit.” When there is propagation of ideas, opinions and informations of public interest or profit, the approach to the problem may become different because then the interest of society may tilt the scales in favour of free speech and expression. It is thus that books on medical science with intimate illustrations and photographs, though in a sense immodest, are not considered to be obscene but the same illustrations and photographs collected in book form without the medical text would certainly be considered to be obscene.

“I think the test of obscenity is this, whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deperave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall. . . . . it is quite certain that it would suggest to the minds of the young of either sex, or even to persons of more advanced years, thoughts of a most impure and libidinous character.”

He wants us to say that a book is not necessarily obscene because there is a word here or a word there, or a passage here and a passage there which may be offensive to particularly sensitive persons. He says that the overall effect of the book should be the test and secondly, that the book should only be condemned if it has no redeeming merit at all, for then it is “dirt for dirt’s sake”, or as Mr. Justice Frankfurter put it in his inimitable way “dirt for money’s sake.

We need not attempt to bowdlerize all literature and thus rob speech and expression of freedom. A balance should be maintained between freedom of speech and expression and public decency and morality but when the latter is substantially transgressed the former must give way.

The taboo on sex in art and literature which was more strict thirty-five years ago, seemed to him to corrode domestic and social life and his definite view was that a candid discussion of sex through art was the only catharsis for purifying and relieving the congested emotion is.

“The law seeks to protect not those who protect themselves, but those whose prurient minds take delight and sexual pleasures from erotic writings.”

via | Ranjit D. Udeshi vs State Of Maharashtra on 19 August, 1964

The word “obscene” in the section is not limited to writings, pictures etc. intended to arouse sexual desire. At the same time the mere treating with sex and nudity in art and literature is not per se evidence of obscenity.

Exception. – This section does not extend to any book, pamphlet, writing, drawing or painting kept or used bona fide for religious purposes or any representation sculptured, engraved, painted or otherwise represented on or in any temple, or on any car used for the conveyance of idols, or kept or used for any religious purpose.”

This was I think long back, but the views have not changed ever since the. The idea that somethings are bad for everyone is something which all cultures adhere to, and it is very hard for people, especially people in power to let this notion go. This is another way of controlling people. This is what is common to fundamentalism and democracy. The notion that our past was a golden one, and anything new will harm it and jeopardize the future of the culture. From what I feel is that there was no golden past, it just was.

And thinking about morality, though they say that there are some universal principles, everyone does not subscribe to same ones. In his theory Kohlberg, outlines these differences. But that said, he does not talk about obscenity, which I think it is highly cultural. For example a burqa clad woman is a common picture in certain Islamic communities, or a woman with ghunghat is all but common in certain Hindu communities, but at the same time some people might be find it too restrictive. And a woman in short skirt might be a common scene in the urban areas in certain countries, but it might be a great taboo for some others. There are no universal standards for what counts as moral or decent.

 

 

Freedom of Expression in India

This is a meta blog, as it is a blog about this blog.

About 10 years back the GoI decided that there were a lot of dissident voices from the North-East on Yahoo! Groups which were harmful to the health of the nation. The result was that there was a blanket ban on Yahoo! groups. Then people who were using Yahoo! Groups other than what GoI thought was harmful, suffered too. It was a classic case of complete misunderstanding about the nature of how the internet works. Of course then as now people had means to go over the blockade. That was 10 years back, net penetration was not that much, so we could forgive the bureaucracy over such things. Claiming disease called ignorance.

10 years have passed, one would have expected that the babus and their political masters would have learned (something) about how this new technology works and how it is fundamentally different than other mass media. If not the old babus, the somewhat younger generation which replaced them. (Oh, but I heard babus never retire they are kept on the job as part of this or that committee.) In a sense of deja vu, this time also the trouble was in the North-East. After the violence there, and its strange aftermath in Bombay (Middle-West) thousands of kilometers away and also in Bangalore (Down-South). Then began the blame games and it was discovered that the social networking sites were the culprit. So what is the quick fix solution? Ban all of them.

ना रहेगा बास ना बजेगी बांसुरी .

So this blog and my other blogs were not accessible through my humble Photon+ conncetion. It just refused to open these sites. I thought it was some problem with my connection. Only today I came to know the grim reality, that they had actually blocked WordPress, completely! Though other ISPs as of now have not, but it may not be long before they do that. This is akin to banning all printing presses as someone prints something objectionable to someone. And in a democracy, someone will get offended by whatever you say. But it might be just that the babus are also executing their freedom of speech, by giving orders to ISPs for blocking other people’s Freedom of Speech. Here we are in paradoxical situation.

Can Freedom of Speech of one person supersede the Freedom of Speech of other? But the constitution says that all people are equal, then how is this possible?

Orwell comes to our rescue then when says:

All are equal and some are more equal than others.

This cuts the knot for us, and we can perfectly make sense of the things that are happening around us.

Maybe someone needs to  put up a PIL in SC against such blanket bans in the future, to uphold the Right to Free Speech! And I sincerely hope that person who makes such a PIL is more equal than others.
And may be not all of you will be able to read this, as wordpress is blocked…

Caffeine…

Caffeine is the source of new ideas. - Anon (in Fortune)

My day starts with a cup of coffee, and this cup mostly fulfils my daily requirement for caffeine.
Long gone are the days of instant coffee and now I do brew my own.F or this purpose I mostly rely on two of Bombay’s best coffee shops that I know of; namely Philips Coffee and Tea and Mysore Concerns (The Coffee People since 1939).

Both shops I discovered quite accidentally. Philips Tea and Coffee has registered office near Khadi Bhavan on D. N. Road in Fort. Naturally curious I enquired, but there was no sale there, and they guided me to a Sale store down the lane towards Strand Book Shop. There are two varieties of coffee beans available with them the Highlander and Peaberry. Peaberry which I prefer is priced at Rs. 420 a kilo and Highlander is a little low, maybe Rs. 380. The best part is that they grind the beans just in front of you and the aroma that is generated is too good to be described in words. Since I have a “fussy coffee machine” it is not very happy to brew when the powder is too fine, so they grind it as per my requirement, a bit coarse. They have chain of shops throughout Bombay, I mostly take my stock from the Chembur which is close to where I live, but sometimes also from the Fort shop, which is where I visit to hunt for books. They also sell a variety of teas and stock a few magazines many of them Mallu.

The Mysore Concerns shop I discovered quite weirdly. I was on my BEST-bus tours of Bombay some years back, and suddenly near Maheshwari Udyan or King’s Circle I smelt coffee. It was a strong one. And just as the bus passed over it went away. Anyways I was supposed to get down at the stop, as I was on a book hunting mission. I just could not resist myself from finding source of the smell. And the source turned out to be the Mysore Concerns shop, which keeps on grinding coffee beans throughout the day which produces aroma which wanders along the streets. They also sell Coimbatore butter which I have never tried. But this was too good to resist. The price is lower as compared to Philips Rs. 340 per kilo and AFAIK they do not have any variants in the coffee they sell. But going to Matunga all the way to get coffee was not practical many times, but then someone told me that you get it in Chembur too. Although the pack says there is NO BRANCH as opposed to Philips people.

I have collected quite a number of different cups ~ 20 for the morning coffee ritual, and the milk is mostly got from the canteen, I do not as yet like black coffee, I want it with lots of milk (preferably buffalo) and no sugar. Some of the more costly ones are from Chimp and the logo of the brand a Chimp printed on the inside of the cup seems to enjoy surfing the sea of coffee as much as I do.

I had a fortunate visit to a spice garden which belonged to a friend near Bangalore, and I saw there coffee plants ,the green beans and the fragrant white flowers for the first time. They tell me that till you roast the coffee beans you don’t get the aroma of coffee from any other part of the plant.

 

And remember always: a bad coffee is worse than no coffee…

And interestingly the science behind the coffee rings, though not the above one, is explanied.

Humans as Fermions

Humans as Fermions

* The Fermions

  Fermions are one set of fundamental particles and the other one are
  bosons. The distinguishing factor between bosons and fermions is
  that the fermions have half integral spins, whereas the boson have
  integral spins. Their names suggest that the bosons were discovered
  by S N Bose, an Indian physicist and fermions by E Fermi. Now
  another this is that the fermions follow what is known as the Pauli
  exclusion principle. That is to say you cannot have two fermions
  which have all the quantum numbers same.

The Pauli exclusion principle is a quantum mechanical principle formulated by the Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli in 1925. In its simplest form for electrons in a single atom, it states that no two electrons can have the same four quantum numbers; that is, if n, l, and ml are the same, ms must be different such that the electrons have opposite spins. More generally, no two identical fermions (particles with half-integer spin) may occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. A more rigorous statement of this principle is that for two identical fermions, the total wave function is anti-symmetric.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauli_exclusion_principle

And electrons are fermions It is this principle which decides the electronic
  configuration in atoms. The filling up principle or the aufbau
  principle works according to the exclusion principle. So when near
  to each other the electrons will tend to have different quantum
  numbers. If all the quantum numbers are same for a given pair of
  electrons, then they must have the spins opposite. But now if a
  third electron is to be arranged in the same orbit, it simple cannot
  be accommodate; it has to go in a different orbit. So that the
  electrons behave, as if they do not like the proximity of each
  other.

* Local trains
  Now when observing humans when they are in a crowded environment
  like a local train in Mumbai, I feel that the humans do behave
  exactly like fermions. That is to say that they do not like the
  proximity of each other, just like the electron do not like
  proximity of each other in the electronic orbits. I have observed
  this many a times in the local trains. Usually the trains are very
  crowded. Even to get a position to stand comfortably is a privilege,
  especially in the peak hours.

  When you board the train at the starting station like the VT, then
  what follows is closely analogous to filling up of the electronic
  orbitals in the atom. The seats that are usually taken first are the
  window seats. In the atom it would correspond to the first filling
  of the principal quantum number. In the window seats also the
  preference is to the seats for the windows which face the incoming
  air, that is facing towards the direction of travel.

  Then the seats are filled in the order of least occupancy. People
  want to sit at the seats which are least occupied. Normally the
  seats can take 3 people, and 4 with a bit of difficulty. But the
  norm is that 4 people are seated on a single seat. Once all the seats
  are filled up to 4 occupants, then people tend to stand in between
  the seats. The analogy does not extend to the people who are
  standing at the doors, there it is more like an ensemble of free
  particles, which are jumping in and out of the compartments.

  So coming back to the seating arrangements what I have observed is
  that once the seats are filled with 4 occupants. That is the maximum
  that our ‘seat’ orbital can take. The rest are occupied in between
  states. They are like virtual states, ready to jump into the empty
  seats as soon as one gets empty.

* The Law of 3 
  Lets assume that the people standing in between are like the
  electron sea in metals. Now lets assume a situation in which there
  are a few people who are standing in between seats and all the seats
  are seated by 4 people. Now lets see what happens when one of the
  person who is sitting stands up to get off the train. As soon as the
  seat gets empty, one of the persons who is standing goes to fill in
  the empty seat. As more and more people get off, the people who are
  standing take up their seats. Finally we reach a state when there
  are no more people who left are standing. Now all the seats have
  four seated occupants. Now if a single person gets up. There is one
  seat with just three people, but people don’t tend to move to that
  seat. It just not worth the effort, by going from a 4 seated seat
  again to a 4 seated seat, you don’t gain much. So you remain seated
  where ever you are. But if you are one of the people who are seated
  on the seat where the person just left from, you surely feel
  relieved.
 
  Now let us try to visualize the situation if 2 people from a single
  seat leave off. Two people leaving from 2 different seats will not
  help. It has to be 2 people who were seated on the same seat. After
  this what we have is that, there is a seat where only 2 people are
  seated and rest of the seats have 4 people seating on them. As soon
  as this happens, a person from a 4 seater, will try to get to the 2
  seater seat. This results in two 3 seater seats, whereas the rest
  are 4 seaters. Even more if 3 people from the same seat go away, the
  resulting changing of seats by people results in maximizing the
  number of 3 seater seats. This is the law of behavior of people in a
  local train ;). I call it the Law of 3. This just also touches on
  the idea of what is called in psychology as personal space. We
  are comfortable only within a certain distance from each other. And
  make it a point to bring this into existence we make the movements.

  Well this is just a vague analogy, to the actual behavior of the
  fermions is much more involved, but nonetheless the analogy is worth
  observing.

A long due rant…

Writing after a long time…

A long overdue rant…
Now a days I find a lot of hoo-halah going on about saving energy for a greener future and all that. They say it is the need of the hour. I don’t disagree with them. But there are somethings which are basically wrong in implementing the saving electricity in the current norms. Saving electricity would also mean, not to use it when it is not really needed. I will elaborate a bit on what I mean.

Rich get to eat, the [little bit] less rich do not…

I live in Mumbai, the erstwhile Bombay. Maharashtra is facing an acute shortage of power, they tell us. But Mumbai, being the financial capital of the country, needs to be lighted up, 24×7, 365 times in a year. I am told that people here can pay for the electricity that they use, it is much more needed here. Do they mean people elsewhere in the state cannot pay and they do not need energy? They do pay, and they do need energy too. Then why this bias, against the people who are not in Mumbai. Whereas Mumbai gets an UPS, the Un-interrupted Power Supply, the other cities are getting the IPS, not the Indian Police Service, but the Interrupted Power Supply. Ok. Granted that Mumbai is the financial hub and needs to be powered 24×7, but are people in Mumbai even bothered about the kind of power that they waste. Compare this with 12 and 14 hrs of load shedding in the villages. The entire life cycle of people there is now regulated by the cycle of load shedding. They need to water their farms in the night, as during day time there is no electricity for them to use.

Power in Mumbai is wasted because, they can afford to waste it, they know it has an UPS. In similar logic none of the metros should suffer, but this does not happen. All others except Mumbai suffer.

And what happens in Mumbai, huge billboards, flashing the products of corporate houses are lighted through the night. Why the hell should other common people suffer, in distant lands, so that the corporates can show off their products in the night time. Having the billboards itself is an eyesore across the city. A billboard bathing in flood lights is like poking the eyesore. Just shut the lights off the billboards. This is sheer lavish way of spending the sparse energy way we have. Another similar phenomena is the lighting that is put up on the hotels and shops and the neon signs on the building. Needless to say are the customers moths, who go to neon-lighted stores? And during Diwali and New Year times this particular phenomena reaches the peak. Just get over it.

And the ACs. They say 40% of the total power is consumed by the ACs. Most of the office buildings are dotted with ACs. The more you have better it is supposed to be. Are they must? Throughout the year? Maybe sometimes the heat is unbearable but isn’t weather in Mumbai ever good enough that we can just survive on humble old ceiling fan? Many of the so called modern constructions, especially buildings with glass faces are worst of the lot. They just lock the heat, making it a green house, which makes it harder to cool adding to the energy woes. This might be a good design for the Europeans and Americans but for us is it? Since the Europeans were tie and coat, we also do, and it is considered to be elite. Whether it suits our weather conditions or not is another issue altogether, about which few bother…

The centralized AC does not provide any flexibility to the end users, whether they want such conditioned air or not. It is just imposed upon them. The temperature is kept less than what you would find comfortable at 17 or 18 C. Then people who are working inside wear warm clothes; sweaters, jackets, caps and all the woollens. Is this rational? First you cool the place, so much that it becomes unbearably cold, then you put on clothes to get warm again! I was told that at an elite academic institute, the temperatures are so low, that users had to put electrical heaters, below their chairs, in order to be able to work, apart from the woollens and jackets!!

Mighty Magnificent Malls…

They say that so-so mall is the largest in Asia. This one has so-so features, this one has so many stores blah blah blah… To tell you the truth, all the malls I have visited across the country look the same to me. I mean from outside they may have varied designs, but from inside they are all the same. And why shouldn’t they be, they all serve just one purpose. Selling. And selling to you. In this case the form differs [at least externally], but the function remains the same. And what do these offer. Well almost all the malls offer the same things. They are statistically similar objects. I mean here and there, there will be variations, but on an average, they are all the same. They are also same for another reason, they are the most obscene wastage of scanty electrical power that we have. The entire mall is air-conditioned, they tell you! What the efff? Just think about how much power must be fed to the AC plant to cool such a huge place. And that too for what? So that some shopkeepers [mostly corporates] can sell their stuff to you! And you are paying the price, by purchasing the items in the mall. Why can’t they just keep the shops, air conditioned, that will surely save a lot of energy. Why the hell do you need the corridors, open spaces and the toilets air conditioned? Then they have escalators too. Are all of us too old to climb a few stairs? The normal stairs are hidden somewhere in the huge complex of the magnificent mall. So that they make it a point that you have to use the escalators!
One of the ways in which this can be salvaged somehow is that, each mall must keep one day in a week off. This will surely take some load off the main line.

Another point that I want to make is the sports matches. Why cannot we have all the matches in broad daylight? I think daylight, on a normal cloudless day is good enough for any sport. Are the players afraid of getting sun tan? I don’t think so. Just to fill coffers of a few, we are again spending our precious electrical energy on these activities, which can be easily avoided.

Smarter buildings and homes…

We now live in a digital society. By that I mean almost all of us are surrounded by electronic devices. Even if you think you are not a tech freak, which I am, just count the number of electronic devices you use daily. It can be cell phone, a music player, a digital camera, a handy cam, a computer, a laptop. The list will be different for you, but the same story is repeated almost with everyone. Now when you have so many devices, they need power to work. Alright most of them have a rechargeable set of batteries, which you can charge and use. And then for each of these devices, you have an adapter, which you have to put in the mains to use. The mains in India is at 230 V AC, most of the devices, that I use at least, are working at much lower DC voltages 3, 5, 9 and 12 V being the common ones. The adapters covert the AC of the mains line to DC. This is basically a step down transformer with a bridge rectifier. Now what happens to the excess power from the mains? This is just lost as heat to the ambient! How hot does your charger get at times? Now that we have so many devices which require DC power supply, won’t it be a logical solution to provide for a DC power line also. This will save so much power from the mains, being just used to heat the adapter. The power requirement [read wattage] of the DC line won’t be high. So this need not be even provided by the state. One can have independent inputs for each building. Fixing solar panelson the terrace, and then driving the DC line through these panels will an effective way. The new buildings that are coming up, can be made mandatory to have this structure. This will achieve two goals, as I see it. First one, it will make the load on the main line, by at least some amount. If you just take the cell phones, they say there are more than 10 crore of them in India. Each one of them charges the other day, and this continues throughout the year. Even with a small wattage requirement for charging of just one cell phone, when scaled to a national level, the number is rather large. And then we say we don’t have enough power. The second one is that it will make the users independent producers of their own power. The initial cost maybe high, but in the long run, this will certainly pay off.

 Some of the chargers, adapters that I have.

Apart from devices mentioned above, don’t think that your regular desktop computer is not wasting any power. Any regular desktop has a SMPS [Switched Mode Power Supply]. These are really devices which are the adapters for your desktop. They take in 230 V AC and convert it to 12 and 5 V DC supply. With CRT monitors it was almost impossible to have a complete DC system for desktop computers. But now with LCD and LED monitors, we can have a complete DC machine architecture. When you are using the normal UPS on a desktop machine, you are triply wasting power. First when you are converting 230 V AC to the 12 V DC in the battery [most of the UPS that I have seen have a12 V DC battery] in the UPS batteries. Secondly when the mains is off you are coverting 12 V DC  into 230 V AC. Thirdly then you again convert this 230 V AC, which you have just now converted from a 12 V DC, to 5 and 12 V DC. Great! And this is how you want to achieve efficiency. Simple solutions to basic problems like these can cause a lot of energy to be saved…

Now I will divulge a bit from what I have said till now. Now the theme is a bit different…

The Problem of Vidharbha…

I come from Vidharbha, the land in the central part of India. The Eastern part of Maharastra. And also the powerhouse for the state. Most of the thermal power plants are in Vidharbha. The plight of people here is the worst. With so many power plants around, the region still faces acute shortage of power. The reason, the rest of the state has to be supplied the power. And mind you most of the ministers of the state are not from Vidharbha, so the people here are in the bottom of the priority list. Just remember the suicide of the farmers and what the state has done about it.
In my last visit I could see a paradoxical situation, which has been etched on my mind. I saw a thermal power plant, burning all its coal, giving out all its steam, producing all its electricity and transfering it all to the main power lines. But… But from where I was standing and watching this huge power plant fully in operation, there was no power. The load shedding was ON. The irony was that one could watch the power being generated in the plant, but it was not for the people whose land, air and water were polluted, it was for the elite people in the West…