December 21, 2014

The Phoenix

I died every night,
To be resurrected every morning.
The pains were gone,
Only to be brought back with more gnawing.

The shadows of yesterday,
Are long lost by tomorrow.
It is a river that casts her spell,
And absolves the sorrow.

The dreamworks of Neverland,
Were lost in the mist.
The gale was strong,
As the flags fettered at half-hoist.

For once I thought,
My wings would burn in the flame.
Later the soul realized,
Freedom is part of the game.

June 27, 2014

Mahabharata


What is here is found elsewhere,
What is not here is nowhere.
- Mahabharata I.56. 34-35
In 2013, I got an opportunity to read the following four books on Mahabharata along with countless online posts and articles.

  • Jaya : An illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattnaik
  • The Difficulty of Being Good - On the Subtle Art of Dharma by Gurcharan Das
  • Yuganta - The End of an Epoch by Iravati Karve
  • Ajaya by Anand Neelakantan 

Mahabharata is an extremely complex treatise on humans and relationships. Rules when reinforced in one chapter are broken in the very next one. Tolerance being espoused in one context is totally frowned upon in the other. By the end of it, you are pretty much confused, for the subject does not clearly lay down rules for the common man to follow. Unlike in Ramayana, where Ram clearly follows the 'rules'(dharma), Mahabharata is scattered with characters who are imperfect in their own and also in the larger moral ecosystem. A quick jab on Ramayana here is that Ram who is supposed to be 'mariyada-purushottam' is frowned upon when he leaves Sita in the forest. The context has to be understood. That, Ram leaves Sita in the forest for he does not want his wife to live with a tainted tag with him. Though he can live with Sita as-is, his love for Sita is visible when he states that he cannot see his 'praja' question him on this subject. 

Lord Krishna in one context wherein he advises Arjuna on the righteous path of dharma and truthfullness, also directs Bhima to attack Duryodhana under the belt. Many of these sacrosanct beliefs have been hushed under the carpet of Dharma. The common man does not understand the concept of Dharma with so much vagary as in the context of Mahabharata. The confusion is only built up more when you read different perspectives by different authors. But this confusion with different perspectives should be actually understood and appreciated and reflected upon more.

Dharma in its simplest definition is :
"One should never do to another what one regards as injurious to oneself. This, in brief is the law of Dharma" - Mahabharata XVIII.113.8

As Gurcharan Das states,
The political ideology of Mahabharata rejects both the amorality of Duryodhana as well as the idealistic position of the earlier Yudhisthira in exile.  
The epics tentative world of moral haziness is closer to our experience as ordinary human beings in contrast to the certainty of the fundamentalist. Its dizzyingly plural perspectives are a nice antidote to the narrow and rigid positions that surround us amidst the hypertrophied rhetoric of the early 21st century.
It is not dharma or right conduct that the Mahabharata seems to teach, but the 'subtle' nature of dharma - its infinite subtlety, its incalculable calculus of consequences , its endless delicacy
In the present world, wherein there is a fad to label themselves as a 'rebel' and give up everything and go to the Himalayas, Mahabharata defines "Nishkama Karma" and states that life is not about going to the Himalayas, but about living self-effacingly in the world like Bhishma.

Ajaya by Anand Neelakantan is an extremely potent book for I have not heard of many other books who treat the subject from Kaurava's view point. The author lays a very strong foundation and the questions asked by Suyodhana and his moral rigmarole make a very interesting talking point. Highlighting Suyodhana as a lover of romance is something that no other author has tried so far. Ajaya is not a book if you are new to Mahabharata for it can lead to a very wrong impression of the treatise - DO NOT read it if you do not know the story of Mahabharata.

Claiming that I have become wiser by reading these books would be a joke as I have just started my path towards 'Understanding' the values implied in each of these treatises. One needs experience coupled with theoretical knowledge to gain higher echelons. And I am happy that I just started scratching the surface with these readings. The question is not if I am going to reach my destination , but the path itself is challenging to me.

To quote GD again, Mahabharata is a continuing repository of crisis in the public discourse of classical India.

June 19, 2014

Book Review : Dalit Millionaires

Dalit Millionaires by Milind Khandekar

(Book Review was published in the Business World Magazine Dated 30-June-2014)

Success is not served in a platter. One has to work hard and stumble on numerous hurdles and overcome them, before one sees the light of the day. Though this is ‘global-gyaan’ in almost all the management and self-help books on entrepreneurship,  the problems are exacerbated if one belongs to an under privileged class in a country like India with a diverse community set. Bring together the life stories of successpreneurs from such an underprivileged class and what you get is similar to Milind Khandekar's 'Dalit Millionaires' - a collage of 15 Dalit entrepreneurs who have carved their own niche in the society by becoming millionaires and leading their own business empires.

Probably the best symbolism of the success can be seen in the very first chapter on Ashok Khade who owns two pens - one which he bought 30 years back for Rs.3.50 and the Montblanc pen that he owns now for Rs.80,000. The protagonists in each of the chapters recount their own struggles with the 'system' and how they have sometimes benefited and how most of the times their resolve has been their biggest asset which has led them to bigger glories during their journey of life. Be it the 'Food King' Sarath Babu who had to lie to hide his poverty or Devjibhai Makwana who couldn’t buy a plot of land due to the discrimination that he had to face in the society or Savitaben Parmar, who sold half-burnt coals from cloth mills to support her family but is now known as Savitaben Koylawallah to whole of Gujarat, ‘hard work’ is an ingredient that each of our Dalit Heroes keep referring to when asked about their ‘success mantra’.

The story of Kalpana Saroj is probably the most captivating as she sprouts back to life from a suicide attempt after being married off at 12 and harassed by her in-laws, and then almost trampled over in the busy Bombay, was on the cross-hairs of the gangsters, but now owns Kamani Tubes Ltd. Women in The ability of the phoenix to come back to life from its own ashes is a repeating theme in all these stories.

The author is careful enough to point out that, of the 15, only 3 or 4 have benefited from the reservation in place during admissions into the academic institutions or getting a job. And follows it up by saying that almost all the heroes benefited only post-1991, that is the era of liberalization when our economy was opened up for the world market. Though the latter observation is interesting, but is questionable and is probably out-of-place.

The author has interviewed all the heroes at the end of the chapters with the same set of 10 generic questions. The book is an easy read for all those who are thinking of starting something of their own. The author has a small recipe at the end of the book which will help you ponder on your abilities and also some of the processes that needs to be adhered to.

Overall, the book is a quick and easy read and it’s best to read one chapter at a time and relive the lives of the protagonists in each of the chapters. The world of business and entrepreneurship truly honors these heroes.

The book has been translated by Dr.Vandana.R.Singh and Reenu Talwar from Hindi book by the same author titled 'Dalit Karodpati'.

June 01, 2014

Top-5 Videos Watched in May-2014

(In no specific ranking order)

1. Admiral Bill McRaven's Commencement Speech at University of Texas at Austin 

U.S. Navy Admiral and University of Texas at Austin alumnus Bill McRaven returned to his alma mater last week to give seniors 10 lessons from basic SEAL training when he spoke at the school's commencement. McRaven - the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and organized the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Do not mistake this as just another 'commencement talk'; if India respected our soldiers and had the notion of 'commencement speeches' in our colleges, then am sure we would be hearing some of the best experiences from our borders, but till then, lets resort to the most developed nation doing the honors.




2. Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) at IBM Connect 2014 
On the topic of success, based on his new book: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

Cartoonists are the new self-help gurus/motivational speakers with no sugar-coating and full of sense.




3. Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last

Why are leaders so so awsum? And why you should know the difference between 'leadership' and 'leader' and 'authority'.




4. 'What-If' by Randall Munroe (of xkcd)

Web cartoonist Randall Munroe answers simple what-if questions ("what if you hit a baseball moving at the speed of light?") using math, physics, logic and deadpan humor. In this charming talk, a reader's question about Google's data warehouse leads Munroe down a circuitous path to a hilariously over-detailed answer.

Something that many of us lack : Curiosity, Power of imagination and rational thought-processes.



5. Mike Monteiro - How Designers Destroyed the World

Profanity that makes so much sense! A must-watch for all 'makers', 'creators', 'innovators', 'designers' etc.



Bonus video:
Alberto Cairo(author of 'The Functional Art') , at Tapestry-2014, hits hard at the present day world of journalism and data-visualization.



May 31, 2014

Visualizing - Executed Offenders in Texas

I happened to stumble on this thread in HN, which was trending. The thread is on executed offenders in Texas since 1982. It has totally 515 persons in its list and the sheer number of people in the last few decades was what surprised me, and that too in a single US state. My personal interest in tracking crime in India(viz coming soon) led me to do a quick analysis of this data and some of the numbers were interesting(not to mention 515 in itself!).

Note that this is purely an experimental visualization and my intentions are not to play with the numbers of the dead. Also, I would highly recommend the readers of this post to read the comments in the original thread at HN to get some very interesting view points.

Now off to some charts...I hope all of them are self-explanatory and do not need any commentary.

Number of people executed in the Age Group

People Executed by Year

Top-10 Counties with maximum executions

Tag Cloud of the Last Names of the executed people

Executions by Race (Note : I do not know why the data contained this facet!)

May 21, 2014

Visualizing Funding of Companies in India

It all started with me trying to understand the funding scene in India and how companies are getting funded - at which stages, how much, from where and who are the primary investors. With this, the hunt for data started and culminated in the Crunchbase Exports(as on 1-Apr-2014). The data was structured well, but OpenRefine was used to cleanup the data - cities with typo in their names and different cases were clustered into simple buckets. Other than this, no other manipulations were done. The data, for India, mainly starts off from Jan-2005(and ends at Mar-2014) and there are a total of 1150 records contains various details of the investments made. I do not think this is an exhaustive list, but it was a good start to looking into it and getting answers to some of my questions.

Lot of cool visualizations can be done to capture the various insights from the data, but I think histograms do a pretty good job and are readable to a vast majority. Lets proceed...

The first was to understand the spread of companies across cities, and without even thinking twice, Bangalore simply wins with the maximum number of companies. A slightly distant second is Delhi(this includes Noida, Gurgaon etc - if the details matter to the reader).



It is imperative to know the funding obtained across cities, and here too Bangalore wins with 4.6B$ and Delhi comes a close second at 4.4B$.


Fortunately, Crunchbase contains the details of the funding type and the other associated details. The spread of funding - as in, the type of funding and the count of it was an interesting thing to see and followed the expected patterns of Angel being in the top-slots.


But, it is important to know how much money do these different funding types bring to the table, and the patterns just got reversed with Angels going off from the top slots. I think, it would be extremely useful if Angel occupies the top-slots - this would signify that the startup ecosystem has no dearth for money and many startups are getting benefited due to angels; it is to be understood that the quantum of money involved in one particular round of Series-b(and above) is substantially more and is not to be compared with that of Angels.


The following chart would be useful as it superimposes the number of companies with a particular funding and the sum of the money raised in that type.



Probably, the following chart would best show the point above. It average money involved in a particular fundting type and shows the average and the maximum in such a category. Seriec-C+ has an average of 45M$ and the max is 200M$ (Tokyo's SoftBank investing in InMobi); whereas Private-Equity has an average of 49M$with a maximum of 300M$ (USA's Quadrangle Group in Tower Vision).



The top investors are listed in the below viz with Tiger Global Management(TGM) being in the first slot with 718M.



But the above number starts making more sense when the reader knows that TGM has invested only in 10 rounds whereas IDG ventures has invested in 48 rounds.




Half of the investments(7.5B$ out of the 14B$ invested since 2005) are primarily coming from USA, with India itself coming a close second and many other developed nations occupying the tail.


With the above, it is an added bonus if we known when the investments came in and does this have any bearing. Though I have not yet done any correlation of when the investments came in(i.e which quarter) and the eventual success of the company, it is interesting to observe the pattern in the following chart. Q1 clearly is the winner with the maximum funding and also the max companies getting it.


And finally, if that was a histogram(bar-chart) overdose, lets use a Sankey Diagram to visualize the money coming from different countries and flowing into companies situated in different cities in India. This graph is actually interactive and width of the arcs shows the amount of money involved in the funding round and clicking on it takes to details - but for the sake of this blog post, a screenshot of it should probably end this analysis.


Click on the Image to view it in  full size.



May 15, 2014

Elections - Lok Sabha 2014 Analysis : Trivia


Word Cloud of Candidate's Family/Last Names

Word Cloud of Candidate's First Names

Word Cloud of the Political Party Names


Youngest Candidate : 
Ravikant Yadav  . IND. 21 years. JAUNPUR, UTTAR PRADESH .
Oldest Candidate     : 
Ram Sundar Das . JDU. 93 years. HAJIPUR, BIHAR

Youngest Crorepati : 
Farooq Khan . BSP . 25 years. JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN.
Oldest Crorepati     : 
Lal Krishna Advani. BJP. 86 Years. GANDHINAGAR, GUJARAT

Constituencies with Max Candidates  : 
42 each in VARANASI &   CHENNAI SOUTH
Constituencies with Least Candidates : 
2 in TURA (MEGHALAYA)
Candidate with the Longest Name:
Venkata Swetha Chalapathi Kumara Krishna Rangarao Ravu [ 54 Years old. YSRCP. Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh ]

Also,you might like:

Elections - Lok Sabha 2014 Analysis : Criminal Cases



Total Number of Candidates : 8234


Number of Candidates with Criminal Cases : 1398
Assets Held by Candidates with Criminal Cases 

Rs. 10,734 crores


Number of Convicted Candidates : 29

Assets Held by Convicted Candidates : 

Rs. 112 crores


Top-10 Candidates with cases against them (party and education mentioned along)

Cases vs Party
Clean and Accused Candidates in Parties

Percentage of Candidates who have cases Pending against them across Parties

Convicted Cases across Parties

Top-10 States with maximum number of Cases
Top Constituencies with Max Cases (Kanyakumari and Thuthukudi, which are the top-2(with 350+ cases) - candidates belonging to AAP, have been removed for easier readability)

Cases vs Education of Candidates

Gender and Age vs Cases

May 14, 2014

Elections - Lok Sabha 2014 Analysis: Money Power


Number of Candidates: 8,234

Total Assets Declared

Rs. 40,300 crores or Rs. 403 Billion

Total Liability

Rs. 3,255 crores or Rs. 33 Billion

Number of Candidates by Age-Group

Assets Declared by Age Group

Top-10 Richest Candidates
Spread of Assets by Education
Assets Declared by Gender and Age-Group


Assets Declared by Gender


Assets by Party

Top-10 States by Assets Declared


May 12, 2014

Book Review : Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating by Paul Oyer

[This article was published in The Hindu Business Line on 12-May-2014]

When apples cannot be compared with oranges, is it pragmatic to compare and learn about economics from the world of online dating? Can the adventure of finding a prospective spouse online follow the trends of supply and demand? Does the process of buying and selling have any correlation with the way you choose your date? How do you think a book could be structured where there is no talk or special treatment of commodities, and economics is explained in a context where no money is being transferred?

"Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating" is a result of what happens when an economist and a Professor who teaches and sees economics everywhere sits down and correlates his experiences and observations with the world of Online Dating.  Paul Oyer, the author of the book, is a Professor of Economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business and has around two decades experience in economics training.  The book published by the Harvard Business Review Press is divided into ten chapters wherein the author reflects upon different facets of online dating and economics in simple terms. Key microeconomics concepts like search, signaling, adverse selection, cheap talk, statistical discrimination , thick markets and network externalities along with apt story telling makes it a mellifluous read.

At the very beginning of the book, the author is careful enough to assert that the partner market is one where both sides have to settle for each other, just as in the job market. It's different from grocery shopping, as in the latter the groceries don't have to love you back. Lying, the non-cooperative part of game theory, coupled with exaggeration is often seen on dating websites. Factors like appearances (especially height and weight), income often digress from the actual, and there is an honest attempt where everyone wants to seem as attractive as possible and not fatter, poorer and uglier.  When talk is cheap and profile inflators have incentives to tell lies, then would you lie to beat your competition? Without getting into the morality of this practice, and the questionable veracity of the information, the author points out a few examples of offline verification in China and Korea which generates the right 'signal' for the prospect but also is an expensive process. Companies under pricing shares at an IPO to signal quality and make it easier to raise more cash in the future is one such that signals you really mean what you say.
  
Demand, the most crucial concept in economics, is driven not by the product but by other users, and hence demand is driven by demand, and this phenomenon of network externality is best cited using the example of an online dating site where no one wants to be the lone user using the website. A product has a network externality if one added user makes the product more valuable to other users, very similar to malls and singles bars in the physical world. And hence size of the market also matters, in what is being termed as 'thin' and 'thick' markets where the options available in the market also drive the buyers and sellers suitably. Wider set of opportunities leads to shopping around and the author introduces us to the sly technique of 'exploding offers' which can lead to some interesting dynamics.

Oyer calls the entire world of online dating to be a game of hidden information and 'statistical discrimination' - people invariably end up hiding information about them which can lead the reader of their profile to be judgmental, but he is careful enough to point out that people act in a manner that hurts members of a certain group though they have no negative feelings toward that group. He cites examples in the real world from locking your car while riding through a poor neighborhood to racial profiling in airport security, where some sort of statistical discrimination continues to exist and can work in people's favour at times. This is primarily due to statistical relationship and correlation rather than the individuality of the person involved. But before you cringe with the examples, he cautions and observes that the detrimental effects of stereotyping are pervasive and substantial. 

The chapter on Positive Assortative Mating is probably one of the most interesting chapters in the book wherein the author states by citing various research methods that the 'best' always pair of with the 'best', when it comes to physical attractiveness, income, race, education etc and this is essentially a non-random scheme and can be easily ordered. Though we might end up being paired with people who are more like we are in terms of characteristics, the author gives us insights into negative assortative mating, wherein people at the opposite end of spectrums might end up being productive for the organization when paired together as guilt and shame can come into the frame forcing high-output from even a poorer performer.

The author talks about good looks, education and higher salaries in what could be a controversial penultimate chapter and states quite bluntly that 'it pays to be attractive' as studies show that attractive people end up getting paid better. There are brilliant insights in this chapter on how completing a year of education can actually lead to better pay and how education indeed has a big causal effect on the money that you bring back home.

Author's sense of humour is reflected all throughout and especially in the last line of every chapter. His treatment of the subject is highly compassionate and the light hearted story-telling makes it a worthwhile read. The lack of a prescription to succeed in the world of Online Dating and anecdotal evidences all the way from online advertising bidding wars to dynamics in a homosexual couples, keeps the reader engaged even if the reader is clueless with the dating lores. The formatting of the book necessitates credits as it is done in way such a way that understanding is not an afterthought while reading. The multi-paradigmacy style is often seen as a winner in contemporary books and the author has furthered his analytical repertoire by cross correlating economics with other societal practices and structures. 

Selected Lines:  
When picking a life partner, I don’t get to pick the best one available. I get to pick the best one available who picks me back. In this way, the online dating search process is much more similar to the job search process than it is to the house hunting process.
My partner is truly wonderful. If I kept looking, I could probably do better. But I have to earn a living, make dinner, practice the piano, and do a bunch of other stuff. So I’m going to settle for this person and move on with life. It could certainly be a lot worse.

April 12, 2014

Quick Analysis of 2014 Indian Election Manifestos


BJP Manifesto
- 'Development'(77), Government(65) and Technology(54) are the Top-3 words 
- 'Muslim', 'Hindu' appear exactly once; and there is no direct reference to 'Hindutva'
- Loads of emphasis on technology(for eg. broadband, internet, computer etc) to implement suitable measures.
- 42 Pages,16892 Words
- my Note : Thanks to the publishers as it was easy to get the txt from the PDF.

AAP Manifesto
- Government(39), Education(37) and Security(34) are the Top-3 words 
- ''Muslim' appears 14 times; Hindu' appears exactly once.
- No clear emphasis on any theme.
- 24 Pages, 9806 Words
- my Note : Please publish your content in such a way that it can be consumed. Cannot extract txt from the pdf.
Word Cloud of BJP 2014 Manifesto

Word Cloud of AAP 2014 Manifesto




Word Count of some of the top issues in the respective party manifestos


February 25, 2014

Lakshmi Narayana temple at Hosaholalu

(This article was published in the Deccan Herald - Spectrum dated 25-Feb-2014 )

Nestled inside our villages and towns are some of the best remains of our brilliant history and its magnificent temples with their own intricate architectures with excruciating details. Probably among all the rulers who ruled different parts of South India, the Hoysalas have a very niche area, as their winning exploits are not known very widely but what they constructed during their reign has been a testament to their glory and showcases their artistic and cultural superiority.

A few kilometers away from the town of Krishnarajapete is a small village of Hosaholalu. Known as 'Hosa Horalu' in the past, the name of the town is believed to be a result of the gems and precious stones that were found buried under the ground. In this tiny village lies a beautiful temple built by King Vira Someshwara around 1250 AD. The temple with the main deity as Lakshmi Narayanaswamy follows the tri-koota or trikutachala style of architecture and facing east, rests on a raised pedestal, a characteristic of many of the Hoysala temples. After having visited Somnathapura, I believed that tri-koota meant that there also supposed to be 3 gopurams along with 3 sanctum-sanctorums(garbha-grihas) but I was corrected here and was told that trikoota essentially refers to the latter. Hoysalas ruled from 11th to 14th century AD and the construction of this temple is supposed to be during the zenith of their reign. The local legend also states that during some excavation in the bazaar area, an 'oralu' (vessel made of stone, used for beating and splitting grains) was found and hence this place came to be known as 'horalu'. Also, it is believed that a sprawling town used to exist in this region, with majestic forts. Remains of a mahadwaram(gate) still exists around the north-eastern side of the temple.


As one enters via the small lane that ends in the temple, one cannot but get confused as the fa￧ade does not look like that of the Hoysala architecture. But as they say 'do not judge a book by its cover', a corollary to it can be coined as 'do not judge a temple by its facade'.  The front portion of the temple seems to be cut off or rather built in a distinct Vijayanagara style. The ornateness and the intricate work is missing, and this I was told, was to ward off any raiders from harming the temple as they would mostly shun away from a not so good looking temple. Also, am not sure whether the Vijayanagara rulers changed the front part of the temple for  any particular reason, as the frontal portion dates to only 17th century AD.



Beautiful pillars shining in the tube-light welcome me as I enter the temple. Venugopalaswamy is on the left, Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy on the right and Lakshmi Narayana is in the middle garbha-grihas. All the three idols have been established here by Ramanujacharya. The main deity here originally was Nambi Narayana but in 1953 Goddess Lakshmi was placed and from then on the main deity has been known as Lakshmi Narayana. The present idol of Venugopalaswamy statue in the sanctum on the left is not the original one and is supposed to be stationed in recent past after the original was removed from its place. The lintels above the doors on each of these sanctums carry a smaller replica of the idol inside it, and one can see a marked difference between the sculpture on the lintel outside the garbhagriha of Venugopala swamy and the actual idol installed now. Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy is seen with Bhakta Prahlada.

The Navaranga, which is to be used a nrithya-mantapa(dance), is in the middle of the temple connecting each of the three sanctums. Flanked by four lathed pillars in a classic Hoysala style, the navaranga has many intricate details that can be easily missed if not explained by a trained eye. Beautiful apsaras or dancers flank the pillars - one is seen decorating herself by looking at the mirror while another is seen holding a messenger parrot. One can also spot majestic lions with one paw in the air and the other on an elephant below them, proving their might. You will most likely miss a monkey sitting and drinking out of a coconut. This is on a pillar in the navaranga, the one on the right near the Lazhminarayana sanctum, and is supposed to be the 'ksehtra palakar', someone who takes care of a holy place or temple like this. In Kannada, this is referred to as 'hebbettu anjaneya' and is supposed to signify that even a monkey knows the importance of a coconut. 

Only the pillars in the navaranga have the horizontal designs in the forms of rings whereas the other pillars inside the temple have vertical edges. There is a particular arithmetic progression as you can see pillars with 16, 32 and 64 vertical edges. One can also see 'Sala' in different postures - in one, he is fighting with one lion whereas in a few he is seen with two lions and here too in different positions and with different kind of weapons.  The sculptors have also left a small piece of rock without any designs for the later generations to show their craftsmanship. The ceiling is probably something that can be best appreciated by the eyes only and not just words. There are 9 different designs inside the temple ceiling forming a grid of 3x3 with the one above the navaranga being the biggest. 



It is believed that the 'bhuvaneshwari' - a structure jutting out in the form of a banana flower from the ceiling was meant to act like a ventilator and could be screwed out despite being made out of solid stone. Each of the bhuvaneshwaris again look very different with few even having a tapered edge and with designs at the end instead of being conical.

If the interior of the temple was not enough to impress you already, the exteriors just blow your mind away. As you step down from the main temple and come to its side, you are presented the beautiful intricate designs, which enthrall you all the way as you exit from the other side.

There are 6 strips of running frieze around the three sides of the temple. The bottom-most frieze carries Elephants and the strip above that is that of horses with men on them. The horsemen look like cavalry and a few of the horses have decorations in the form of a more elaborate seat, and these probably denote the commanders of their regiments. A running creeper or some form of floral embroidery forms the strip above it. The one above the floral frieze is probably the most interesting strip as it carries scenes from The Ramayana for 60% of the length of the frieze and scenes from the Mahabharata continue the rest. The scenes are in chronological order and can be understood best when circum-ambulating the temple in the usual clockwise direction. The details being carried on in this running strip is of immense importance and I was getting goosebumps when our guide explained them. Above them is the series of the imaginary animal - Makara-Shardula. Makara-Shardula, a variant of leogriff , is a mythological animal having a pig's body, lion's legs, elephant's eyes, crocodile's face and the posterior of a peacock. The strip above it carries the beautiful swan (anna-pakshi or hamsa) as a continuous block-print. 



The panel, almost 2-2.5 feet wide, above the running friezes carries the images of many gods and goddesses. The panel consists of interesting images of Natya Saraswati, Darpana Sundari, Visha Kanya, a standing Narasimha Swamy(known as Prasanna Narasimha) and also of one who looks like a foreigner. The imagination skills of the sculptors who carved out these from stones needs to be appreciated as one looks at this panel of deities who are in perfect proportion and are highly detailed. The classic Hoysala emblem at the top of the gopuram is missing here but is carved on the left side of the gopuram.

Made of soapstone, the pillars in the navaranga still have their sheen on whereas the exteriors have seen the travails of time and people. One can also spot bleak traces of the gold and red paints in some of the sculptures on the exterior wall that still remain. 

The left most part of the exterior of temple probably has some of the best preserved parts with interesting images like Bheeshma during Uttarayana and Dakshninayana  and a lion showing its might and bending a pillar on the outer wall along with Vishnu's Dasavatharam.

My belief in the artistic achievement during the Hoysala's reign was reaffirmed after visiting this beautiful temple.  This temple along with many others found in the region, presents to us the tremendous knowledge of the temple designs along with their artistic finesse during the reign of the Hoysalas.




Book Review: The Nanologues by Vanessa Able

(This story was published in BusinessWorld Magazine Issue Dated 27-Jan-2014)

Horn OK Please / Safety on the Road is Safe Tea at Home

In a land where driving on the roads has no associated Vulcan logic, a British lady drives the World's cheapest car covering 10,000 odd kilometers around the country, alone. With a car named Abhilasha, GPS named Delilah and Ganesha on your car's deck and loads of advice from fellow friends and well-wishers, chances of going astray are very rare. The author, former editor-in-chief of Time Out Magazine, nevertheless, takes her chances with her steed - a yellow Nano LX - in this adventurous journey spanning the length the breadth of India. 

The author recounts her experiences with doddery trucks, shifting gears, rear view mirror chronicles, blaring horns and high-beam horrors as she tries to keep sanity intact on the road and her resolve constantly put to test. Author has interjected her experiences with loads of journalistic story telling. The story of the production line of the Nano, rendezvous with Ratan Tata, kids running around her car or a Maharaja who wanted to buy her Nano, figure along with her travails of finding places for a loo-break in this beautifully narrated travelogue. Her literary excursions with the sign 'Horn OK Please' painted at the backside of trucks and various other road signs tickle the funny bone somewhere. 

Ms.Able also gives a brief introduction to behavioral economics wherein she talks about 'aukaat' and 'jugaad'. The pecking order of the road does place Nano at the bottom of the highway-pyramid, and so does the mindset of a middle-class family when she succinctly states 'who wants to be seen driving the cheapest car on the market if you're trying to show yourself as being on the up?'

On her return to Jersey, the author compares herselves to a cat amongst the pigeons as her maneuvers are something of an errant on Orwellian roads. Her skills acquired subconsciously in India are reflected rather hoarsely when she honks rather impatiently at a pregnant woman in a car park.

The author's three month long journey is converted into what she claims as this 'over-sentimental silent eulogy' as she whizzes and zooms past vehicles by the end of the journey. The book is an enjoyable read and is littered with Brittishisms all throughout. The latter along with adequate research on each of the places infuses a much needed vigour in this travelogue than making it sound as if the author is driving from Point A to Point B. 

The US/UK version of this book is being released under the title 'Never Mind the Bullocks' in 2014.
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