Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Australian Open - Day 3 - A day of turnarounds

What a way to spend the day - riveting action on Day 3 at the Australian Open. Some really scintillating display of roller-coaster games where top players nearly crashed out.

119-Jana Fett vs 2-Caroline Wozniacki

Fett, making her Grand Slam debut, won the first set, 6-3.

She lost the 2nd, 2-6.

In the 3rd set, she was on the brink of creating history, when she was serving for the match at 5-1.

And then the unbelievable turnaround. She lost control, letting Wozniacki claw her way back.

Fett lost 5-7.

6-3, 2-6, 5-7

The way Wozniacki picked her points in the last games of the deciding set, gave me a feeling that she loves to be on the edge, and knows how to find her way back to safety.

51-Dennis Shapovalov vs 15- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

I joined this match when it was two set all, and in the fifth set Tsonga was on the defensive, down 2-5, and on the verge of losing the match.

But another turn around. He battled his way back to win the decider 7-5.

6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 5-7

186-Mackenzie McDonald vs 3-Grigor Dimitrov 

McDonald won the first, 6-4; lost the 2nd, 2-6, lost the third, 4-6, but won the fourth 6-0.

When the fifth set began, excitement mounted with the hope that he will carry the momentum, and edge Dimitrov out.

This guy, who was on the verge of creating history in a Grand Slam, had played just four tour-level matches, and lost in the first round in all of them. And he was playing in an arena as big as Rod Laver Stadium for the first time. But then, he seemed to have everything under his control.

But Dimitrov held out in the deciding set. It was 3-3. Then it became 4-3 Dimitrov. It was back to 4-4. Then, McDonald made it 5-5. Then Dimitrov edged ahead 6-5. McDonald levelled it 6-6, but then he slipped, letting Dimitrov make it 8-6.

A match that the world number 3 just managed to survive and move into the third round.

6-4, 2-6, 4-6, 6-0, 6-8

25-ranked Daria Gavrilova vs 36-ranked Elise Mertens

It was just a minute short of 6.30 pm; means a minute short of midnight at Melbourne. The last match of the day began.

One interest in this match was that Gavrilova is a local Melbourne girl. And it looked she will just wrap this match up in jiffy, as she led 5-0 in the first set.

Then suddenly the match began to come alive. Mertens picked up one game after another, and in no time, the scores were level; and then she unbelievably won the first set 7-5, after trailing 0-5.

The level of Mertens' game seemed to have dramatically improved. She was making Gavrilova sweat for each point.

In the second set, from two games all, Mertens reached 4-2.

Then, Gavrilova got into an argument with the chair umpire. When she was trailing 2-4, she challenged a point. But the umpire, Aurelie Tourte, said she was late in raising the challenge, and that she was looking at her box in the stands.

But Gavrilova insisted that she wasn't late, that she had raised her hand, and that she was actually looking at the screen.

The umpire retorted, "No, you were waiting."

"No, I wasn't," the player shot back, and walked back to her place quite dejected.

She never recovered after that.

Mertens moved up to 5-2, and finally she wrapped up the match at 6-3.

5-7, 3-6

What stood out was Mertens' composure. Gavrilova seemed to be getting distracted from the moment she lost a point in the first set after noticing a feather drifting into the court.

And after the post-match shake-hand, Gavrilova climbed up the chair of the umpire, and argued about the earlier challenge. Not surprising, considering her disappointment of having lost on her home ground. Luckily for her, there were not many in the stands, and most Australians will only wake up tomorrow to know that their local player has crashed out.

The day also saw Nadal beating Mayer, which I missed.

On the whole, a some really entertaining tennis.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year, 2018

It's been quite a while since I posted something here.
Have been thinking what to write, though there are a few interesting thoughts to write about.
But quite hard pressed for time as well.

Stuck in office, like last year, on New Year's eve.
Missing the party in my apartment complex.
One consolation is that I am not alone.
There are plenty people out there who are missing the fun, since they are at work.
Factory workers; hospital staff; security officials; bus, train and airline employees are just a few of them.

Any New Year resolutions?
It's tempting to have one.
But in practice, any other day is also good to take a resolution, is it not?
Nevertheless, the turn of a calendar year is significant in its own way.
If nothing else, the festive air has a rejuvenating effect.

Wishing you the best of times in 2018 ... !!!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Saurashtra made all the difference for BJP in Gujarat

Post election results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the BJP, the winner in both the States, has plenty to pause and rethink.

Gujarat was showcased as the battleground for various reasons, and BJP's victory there, ironically, leaves nothing much to cheer about. It aimed 150 seats, and is ending up just close to 100. They have just about 20 MLA more than Congress. While BJP's number in the Assembly has come down, that of the Congress has gone up.

The big loss for them in Saurashtra region of Gujarat. where BJP lost 13 seats and Congress gained 15 seats. In the rest of the State, BJP lost three seats and Congress gained four. This area has high density of farmers (73%) and Patel (55%). The numbers indicate that a good number of that section of society was angry with BJP.

Himachal Pradesh has always alternated between the two parties. So, to that extent, the BJP win was expected. But importantly, their chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost.

What next

For BJP, it is not enough that they talk of development and roll out grandiose schemes. There has to be changes for the better on the ground - real development to talk about. No room for complacency.

For Congress, the Gujarat result gives them lot of hope. It also shows that they are a force to reckon with. How that will play out in next year's assembly elections in eight states will depend on how they consolidate their gains and convince the people that Congress is still a party they can rely on.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sindhu misses World Superseries title

After a long, long time, I watched a thrilling, edge-of-the-seat badminton match. PV Sindhu vs Japan's Yamaguchi, who is the top seed and currently world number two, battling for the Dubai World Superseries Finals.

Such a hard fought game.  Felt quite bad when Sindhu, after coming so close to victory, lost so narrowly.

The first set was Sindhu's. At one stage, she picked up eight points in a row, to gain a five point lead of 13-8. Again she picked up six points consecutively to reach 20-13. Then Yamaguchi gifted the game to her  - 21-15.

The second game was tough. Sindhu started off well picking up the opening five points. After that she could never keep up the same momentum. After leading 8-7, Sindhu never had the lead. Yamaguchi overtook her. Sindhu trailed 11-16, and then finally lost the game 12-21.

The third game was tougher and the best. It was a neck and neck progression, with neither able to get a solid lead over the other. Again Sindhu took an early lead 4-0. Yamaguchi kept chasing Sindhu, who kept the lead - though never with a gap of over two points - till 14-13, which was the culmination of one of the most toughest rallies I have seen.

Yamaguchi then overtook Sindhu, who managed to level the score at 15, then at 17 and finally at 19. But Sindhu could never overtake, and finally lost the game 19-21.

There were many long rallies. But the significant aspect of it was that, it was  always Yamaguchi who won them finally. That could be an indication of Sindhu not being able to keep her nerve and making the mistake of handing over the point to the opponent.

But there is nothing to suggest that Sindhu did badly. It was such a close contest, and Yamaguchi managed to nudge ahead of Sindhu just in time to win the game and the match.

Why Sindhu falters at the last moment is something that she and coach Gopichand will have to ponder over.

All said and done, really proud of Sindhu. Congratulations, for a fabulous and gritty display of badminton.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Rahul Gandhi -- the new Congress president

Source: NDTV
So, the much-expected elevation has happened. A few hours ago, Rahul Gandhi, took over as the president of Indian National Congress.

I don't think anyone even in their wildest dreams thought Congress would have a different person - someone not in the Nehru family - as the president of the party.

There have been many non-Nehru family persons in that position. The most recent one I can remember is Sitaram Kesri, and before him P V Narasimha Rao. They followed Rajiv Gandhi and preceded Sonia Gandhi.

The shadow of Nehru family on the party has been particularly imposing in post-independent India, though there has been lot of discussion and debates on the subject of how the Congress should not be a party controlled overtly and covertly by the Nehru family members. But that simply hasn't happened.

Is there anything wrong in a Nehru family member being the party president?

Theoretically, no. But it's a well-known fact, though not articulated by any Congress worker, that any Nehru family member is the first among the equals. That would have been less objected to, if the person, Rahul now, had a wealth of experience in politics and / or public service. His only qualification is that he is a member of the Nehru family. Shouldn't the Congress president have a more robust resume?

Not many ardent Congress supporters are happy about this development. They all wish that more competent and accomplished persons should be given a chance to helm India's oldest political party. Everyone just accepts what is happening as nothing but a fait accompli.

Why is the Nehru family not taking a back seat?

The only reason I can think of is a deep sense of insecurity. They have been in this comfort zone for far too long, and they can't even vaguely visualize a time when they are just ordinary members in a party they tightly control.

However, the earlier the family realizes that their stranglehold on the party, isn't helping, the better.

Now that Rahul is at the helm, what should be his strategy?

Adding to the problem of the family's overarching hold on the party, is the fact that Rahul doesn't have a good strategy to take on the BJP, and Narendra Modi. He has been basically only criticising Modi; and those criticisms aren't quite convincing either.

Aadhaar and GST, are two major policy decisions over which Modi is being hauled over the coals. But those aren't even BJP's or Modi's ideas. They have been in the works right from the time UPA was in power. Modi just carried it through and implemented. Could Modi have done better. May be, but Congress isn't telling how.

Congress says Modi's administration is only all show and noise, that nothing much has changed, on the ground. But Congress hasn't been able to prove that nothing has changed. So, since politics is all about perception, people are generally happy, that "Modi is doing a lot".

What Rahul could have done, and should do, is showcase his government's achievements in the states where Congress is ruling. Showcasing deeds done, works better than running someone down relentlessly.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Children's Day thoughts

Last Sunday, in the apartment complex where I reside, there was a cultural entertainment programme, an annual programme that is held during the Deepavali season. One highlight of that evening was the amazing, scintillating performance of talent and creativity by teenagers, pre-teens and tiny tots. They not only staged dance performances and sang songs, but also took the initiative to organize the event and conduct it so impressively. Though the elders were all around guiding, inspiring and training them, at the end of it all, the youngsters stole the limelight, giving us hope of a bright future.

Yesterday, a group of Mass Communication students from St Xavier's College, Goa, were in my office as part of their educational tour of Bengaluru. As I always do, while interacting with students, I let them ask questions, rather than give a long lecture. Some of the questions they asked showed how bright the new generation is. I have got the same impression during guest lectures at Christ University too. The standard of students today is much higher than, say, some 15 years ago.

Every Sunday, at 10 am, on the India Today TV channel journalist Rajdeep Sardesai conducts an hour-long unique quiz contest for schoolchildren, based on current affairs. It's been running for a few weeks, and those who have access to this channel should watch it. Outstanding, is an understatement to describe the caliber of some of the children. There is a section wherein contestants are shown a video clip, and on a few occasions the kids answered correctly even before seeing the clip, by taking a cue from the question. That one hour gives you an idea of the high standards of children in different parts of our country. 

Children today are growing up with radically different points of references. While one might say that today's advantages that children enjoy have hidden dangers as well. But, I would say that today's children are equally smart to know what is right and wrong for them. They are articulate, expressive, self-confident and raring to go.

This day is a reminder for elders to provide the right environment and opportunities for children, so that they can put their knowledge and skills to good use, and bring their dreams and aspirations to fruition.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The new public transport in town -- Ola Share and Uber Pool -- reducing congestion, pollution

Pic credit: Uber
Hiring cabs for commuting from point A to point B, was considered a sign of luxury. The hoi polloi took the bus, even if it meant waiting for half an hour or even one hour. A taxi was for that rare emergency.

There was a reason: the cost. Cabs were expensive, and simply not affordable.

Then came the technology that enabled a virtual aggregation of thousands of cabs which could be hailed remotely sitting at home, or wherever. One can even see the cab that is on its way to pick you up.

Uber, Ola and a few others, basically technology companies, became cab operators by even not owning a single cab.

The operational pattern changed, and prices dropped. Cabs became preferable.

Then came a tweak to the technology that enabled booking of the same cab by multiple people, who are headed in the same direction.

Prices dropped further, so much so that even if it was costlier than the bus, the convenience combined with the saving of time, made cabs a still more preferable medium of commute.

Besides pricing, cab services took the form of public transport.

Amazing technology

The way passengers are booked on to Ola Share and Uber Pool is a remarkable piece of technology. The algorithm knows the seating capacity of four, and after a ride has begun with the first booking, the remaining seats are filled as and when there is a booking by anyone who wishes to travel in the same direction the cab is headed.

On many occasions, the cab I travelled in had its full quota of four passengers most of the time, with a new passenger being added within minutes of one being dropped. A driver once told me riders were being added continuously for nearly four hours, he switched off the booking option so that he could take a break and have some snacks.

When I use Ola Share or Uber Pool , I get a feeling that the mode of transport loosely resembles commuting by bus. Instead of physically waving your hand at an incoming bus in order to board it, here you book via an app. Like in the case of a bus, there are people getting in and getting out.

However, unlike a bus, I don't have to wait without having any idea of when the cab will come; I can actually see on a map the cab approaching. And secondly, bus routes are fixed, but the cab route is flexible enough: I am able to get off precisely at the point where I want to go.

Don't take your car, book ride-sharing cab

My suggestion is, as far as possible, take a ride-sharing cab instead of either taking your own car or booking one for just yourself. Not only you save money, but you reduce traffic congestion, and thereby pollution too. Of course, an Ola Share or a Uber Pool might take 15 or even 20 minutes extra compared to when travelling alone, but that is a small sacrifice for the many benefits. Remember, it's still a lot better than bus, is it not?

It was so shocking to see government in some States (Karnataka, Delhi, Tamil Nadu) either banning carpooling or thinking of it. I hope the government recognizes app-based ride-sharing cab services as a public transport service on a par with buses, encourages it as a matter of policy; and perhaps even launches one of its own.

There will be fewer cars on roads, there will be lesser pollution, and people will be able to travel more comfortably and reach their destinations faster.