The English Food, Mexico’s Central Heating, and the Egyptian Uprising

Paul Krugman wrote (link) about the “stubborn persistence of bad food in England.” Paraphrasing the article, the quality of food in London dropped significantly due to rapid urbanisation that preceded good transportation system that brought fresh food from the farms. This created a big demand for canned food-based diet, and soon the demand for quality food dropped. This resulted in London being stuck in a bad equilibrium, where good food was not supplied because good food was not demanded. Enough critical mass needed to demand good quality food was created only after many Londoners were able to afford frequent foreign trips.

Krugman also noticed (link) that Felix Salmon attributes (link) a similar reason (among others) for lack of central heating units in Mexico. A given Mexico dweller (including the rich) does not have central heating because other Mexico dwellers don’t have central heating. This “path dependency” creates a bad equilibrium, where one gets through the short-spanned Mexican winter without central heating.

Time columnist, Fareed Zakaria, explains (link) that reforms and revolutions often go hand-in-hand in oppressive regimes. He says that the most dangerous phase in an autocratic regime is when the dictator decides to reform the economy. Reforms expose the citizens to new possibilities and create a demand for better governance. When the government is not able to meet the demands, revolutions occur. This account (link) articulates the line of thought expressed by Zakaria. Zakaria also states that stagnant countries like Syria and North Korea have remained more stable. Thus, a lack of knowledge creates a bad equilibrium.

So, what is common among the English food, Mexico’s central heating, and the Egyptian uprising? They follow a demand-driven economic model, where a bad equilibrium is possible.

Vagrants in the Valley

Update: After reading the post and surfing through the pics on picasa, lemme know if you are jealous of me πŸ˜‰

Me and six friends of mine along with two others had been to Manali for a 6-day trek to Kalihani Pass guided by Mr Kaushal Desai of above14000ft. Easily, it was the best 6 days of my life. I will let the pics do most of the talking. The trek costed us 7.9k. Travel to and from manali and two days’ food at Manali extra. The title of the post is inspired by Ruskin’s novella of the same name. Best pics from my cam are available at here. More pics are available here, here, here and here. Some videos here and here

On day 0 we went water rafting on the Beas River. Cold water (5-7 degree C) being spalashed every now and then when we enter tubulent rapids was chilling to say the least. the 14 km rafting costed us abput Rs. 700 including taxi.

Beas River, Kullu

First day was relatively easy, we trekked for nearly 5 hours and reached the base site. There were horses that carries most of our luggage, glossaries etc. They were extremely agile, almost twice as fast as us.

There were three dogs named Maggie (the mom), Bikki and Scrawny (the puppies) which belonged to our guide. Here’s a video of them.

Day 1 and 5 camp site

Day 1’s campfire was awesome as well. It rained on day 2 just as we were 15 minutes into the trek. We saught shelter under a huge rock. That was the day when we had our first encounter with snow. None of the newbies were spared, we all slipped and fell.

This day was also the most hectic day and the 4-5 hour trek became 10 hours because we got lost in the clouds and this shepherd found us our way.

day 2 and 4 camp site

In terms of scenery, day 3 was the best. These pics will testify that.

Green carpet of grass sprinkled with purple and white flowers and studded with rocks

This is the best pic I have ever taken so far

day 3 camp site

We also had our share of fun with the snow πŸ™‚

Day 4 was when we reached 14000 ft. The changes in temperatures was quite apparent during the trek. Also that was noticeable was the lack of oxygen at higher altitude. For ever 10-20 steps I took, I had to breath for 30 seconds to pull myself together for next 10-20 steps.Above 14000ft

Day 4 onwards, we retaced out steps back to manai. We, unfortunately, couldn’t trek upto kalihani pass owing to hostile weather. But we had our share of fun.

The trek: 7.9k
Tickets to delhi, then to manali, and back: 5k
camera: 10k
Memory card: 1k
Pic of this intimidating rock: Priceless


(Slogan courtesy: Aziz)

Best pics from my cam are available at here. More pics are available here, here, here and here. Some videos here and here.

Here the entire group of trekkers sans the horses and the dogs

all of us

Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur Videos

Here are some of the videos I took in Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur. We lived in Hilton Tokyo Bay which is on the Disney Resorts. As it can be expected, the whole place is a fantasy come true. This video was taken on the Disney resort line.

Shamisen is one of the Japanese stringed instruments which gives a rather bass sound similar to that of percussion instruments. This video was taken during the opening ceremony of ACM’s International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC).

This folk dance was also part of the opening ceremony

These acrobats performed some good stunts during the closing ceremony aka the acm world finals celebrations.

This performance by the Scandinavian was easily the highlight of the show making nearly 30 successful pickpocket/watch stealing attempts while on stage. With his excellent presentation skill he was the talk of the party. No one knows if the last part of the performance (not in video) was staged but he managed to take a man’s undergarment with just couple of strings (of course, the pants were in place). The victim claimed he had no clue how that was done (obviously he would say so). Observe the host steal the tie and the belt. He couldn’t take the tie of one of the volunteer because it was tied with a double knot, he reaveled right after.

This comedy juggler performs mostly in Las Vegas and is supposedly one of the most watched comedians on You Tube. Here he performs a keyboard piece using ping-pong balls and also juggles the ping-pong balls in his mouth.

This video is from Kuala Lumpur Tower where the artists performed for some five minutes. Traditional Malaysian music.

Postcards from Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur

For the whole of last week, I had been to Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur for ACM’s International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals. The contest did not go as favorably as we would have hoped. We secured 44th position among 88 teams. Nevertheless, we (me and my teammates with our prof.) had a great time in Tokyo and also in Kuala Lumpur as transit passengers.People:

Just as we landed in Narita Airport, the customs process was smooth. No long queues, no wait for baggages to arrive and only 10 minutes wait for the train to arrive. We boarded the train and after a couple of minutes, our prof. realized he had left his back pack in the station. Couple of people assured us that the bag wont be taken away by anyone. As we got down from he train to go back to the airport station, couple of women called up the station and asked them secure the back pack. I can only wonder if such helpful people can be found outside Japan. We did not even ask them for a favour. They just noticed us talking about it and came forward to help us. Japanese are known for their manners and helpful nature. We had already got a glimpse of that in just 30 minutes of our arrival. This was not just an isolated incident. Through the four days, I never had trouble traveling in Tokyo. Of course, I had the map of railway system there; even otherwise, some people actually walked me to the place I wanted to visit. Many of them know reasonably good English. Those who didn’t, try their best to communicate with the limited English they knew.

Train Network:

In Indian cities, we don’t have a train network. We just have a line or two running from north to south or east to west. I was impressed by the network they have in Tokyo. Over a hundred stations and many junctions. They have many lines run by different organizations, intersecting at different stations. More efficient than any bus service in India, they provide the best means of public transportation. Electronically controlled trains means no delays. They have arrival times like 7:14 PM and are seldom late, not even by a minute. With a map in hand and aided by annoucements in both English and Japanese, its hard to get lost.

Some trains have zillion ads which are a visual overload. No complains as long as keep the prices low. Strong currency of theirs, Yen, makes a small stay in Japan very expensive for Indians. It will cost an average Rs 300 for two hour commute in the city involving changing the lines at the ‘junctions’.

Here an interesting observation. On escalators in subways etc. people with lot of time on their hand move to the left, while people in a hurry climb the stairs of the moving escalators on the right. This norm was followed almost every where.


Close to 10 people asked me about girls in Japan claiming they are drop-dead gorgeous. Well, here’s my opinion. It is great to them all working. The ratio to women to men is more than 1 during the work hours. Women look real good in the business attire. When it comes to how hot, sexy or beautiful they look, i am saying the ratio is as mush as it is in India. It is not that apparent in our country because of poverty. If you dress all Indians up in good cloths, we will find as many pretty women as in Japan or any other country for that matter. It is not a magic that, all hot girls spring up in MG-Brigades. It is just that they have money to spend on looking good. Kimonos look awesome by the way.


Given very limited time we had on our hand to spend, I managed to steal some to go to the Buddhist Temple in Asakusa. Never having been to a Buddhist temple before, I have no clue of the customs that are followed there. If anyone knows what they are, please explain them to me. I got to capture some good pics of the place. Bought some keychains and other Souvenirs for collection.

The Entrance

Shopping Arcade

5-Floor high Pagoda

The Temple

Pagoda Again

Adjacent Structure

They used the ladle to wash their hands

Similar to Mangalaarathi in Indian Temple I guess

The above pic: I have no idea what it is. They took a brush like stick and looked at the number there and then opened the corresponding box. In there was a manuscript in Japanese. I am guessing it is some sort of astrology or prediction of fate or something

This was outside one of the structures

Ginza, Akihabara:

They were the two other localities we visited in Tokyo. Akihabara is famous for electronic goods shopping while Ginza is top notch locality for premium items like Gucci’s etc. In the streets of Tokyo, people follow rules. Pedestrians dont cross the street if the pedestrian light is red and automibe wait for the pedestrians to pass. Given that mass transporation is on trains, there is hardly any pollution traffic on streets.


Got to see some interesting stuff there.

I got myself a caricature from the artist πŸ™‚ Sponsored by IBM

Kuala Lumpur

We had a 24 hour transit in Kuala Lampur. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) hits you as you enter it. It is damn beautiful. Rated as world’s best airport in one of the ratings, the architecture of the place makes you rant on the hapless situation of Indian Airports. Chennai Airport is dirty to say the least. Both Narita and KLIA are well maintained, clean and organized. KLIA is way better though.

Awesome Architecture

We visited KL tower and Petronas towers while in Kuala Lumpur. Got a bird’s eye view of the city from 84th floor at KL tower. Brought some souvenirs from here for collection. Some pics follow

Bird’s eye view

Petronas from KL Tower

Traditional Music being played

KL Tower

Petronas … just outside

To make some people envy me, I am posting pic of the place we stayed in Japan and Kuala Lumpur and also the desert I had on one of the days there. πŸ˜‰

Hilton Tokyo Bay

Holiday Inn, Glenmarie Residence, Kuala Lumpur

Next Post:

Unable to upload videos on youtube because of the newly authentication process which isn’t working all that well. Will upload some videos of the events organized by IBM after the worldfinals. It includes some Japanese music and a comedy juggler who played key board with ping-pong balls and also juggled the ping-pong balls using only his mouth. Will also upload some traditional Malaysian music as well.

Hampi, Jog, Goa, Coimbatore

Here are a few pics from places i have visited in last two months which are Hampi, Jog, Goa and Coimbatore. Most pics are here courtesy my brother, Srikanth. Hampi is a world heritage site declared by UNO. One look at the ruins scattered all over the place (350 sq kms) , you will know that it will take days just to see all the ruins present in there. Click on the pics to get a larger image.Hampi

The famous Stone Chariot in Hampi. The stone wheels could rotate.

Water Canal System way back in 15th Century

Queen’s Bath

Trading place (?)

Disfigured Narasimha Statue

Vittala Temple (from top of a Hill)

Gopuram of one of the ruined Temples

Elevated Stage

Market Place

Delicate Balance

Scattered Ruins of temple perhaps

Queen’s Palace

Arches inside Elephant’s Stable

Jog Falls

A burning tree near Jog Falls (Don’t ask why, what etc. I have no clue)

Jog Falls looks lot more majestic than what it seems in this pic


From the ‘DCH’ Fort

Trek Near Coimbatore at a place called Top Slip

I thought the structure blended well with the surrounding woods

Bald Tree


Missed Flight, Delayed Flights and Air Deccan

I have written about things that are wrong with South India too (2 or 3 posts at that). Please do not treat this post as some kinda “North vs South” post. No offence meant.

At the end of last post, I wrote about on a week long travel for a programming contest in IIT Kanpur and Coimbatore. The programming contest went great; we came second (lost first place by three minutes). If the documents come through, my team will go to Tokyo for world finals of the same event in March. Wish us luck :). But the journey as worse as it could get. The journey was well planned to accommodate delays with our flights and trains. If anyone even hinted on what could happen with delayed trains and flights, i would have remarked, “surely, you are joking Mr. Murphy”

The journey to Kanpur and back well planned. Flight from Chennai to Delhi, Train from Delhi to Kanpur and retrace the same route back. Chennai to Delhi flight was delayed by twenty minutes. That did not effect me at all. The flight was suppose to reach Delhi at 6:45 PM and the train was at 11:50 PM. The flight was delayed nevertheless. Took a taxi to New Delhi railway station, hunted out a decent restraunt in about 40 mins, had my dinner and went back to the railway station. The train arrived on time. I was surprised about pre-recorded messages over the public announcement system in New Delhi railway station for delayed trains. Never heard such pre-recorded announcements in Bangalore or Chennai Railway Stations. I figured, if Laloo and Nitish Kumar keep adding train from Bihar /Jharkand to Delhi, this was bound to happen. Next day, when I woke up, I was told that the train is late by about 3 hrs to Kanpur. The contest was on following day, so no harm done here either. For the record, both the train and the flight were delayed.Return journey was eventful to say the least. The plan was simple, leave Kanpur by 9:15 pm train, reach Delhi at 4:10 am, catch the flight at 9:00 am and reach Chennai at about 11:30 am. I reached the Kanpur Station at about 9 pm. The board display the train delay by 30 minutes. After that, it become 1 hour, then 1 and a half hours and finally the train arrives at 11:30 PM because of engine failure at Laknow, it was running on Diesel Engine. It leaves Kanpur at 12:30 am. Owing to initial delays, it stops at every station to let the “on-time” trains pass by and the train is pushed back further on schedule. I wake up at 7 am and co-pasangers tell me that train wil reach Delhi only at 11:30. I grew increasingly frustrated as a train makes a stop for 1 hour to let seven Rajdhani express pass. Missing the flight was inevitable as the train is limping towards Delhi. Finally, it reaches Delhi at 12:30 PM.

I rush to Airport to find out that only the taxes in the flight ticket can be reimbursed. I made inquiries about cost to fly to Chennai. Thankfully, I had just about sufficient money to travel to Chennai. I find that Go Air has one ticket left but they do not accept Debit Cards. I rush to an ATM and by the time I get back, that ticket is taken. Yet again, I go back to ATM and withdraw some more to book flight for a little costlier Air Deccan. The flight was suppose to leave Delhi at 7:55 PM. Tired and frustrated, I wait all alone for about 4 hours in the Airport hoping nothing worse happens. But….. it does.

I wait for an Hour or more in the Lounge, waiting for Air Deccan to announce boarding. The flight is suppose to leave at 7:55 pm and at 7:50 they announce a delay of 30 mins. I wait for 10 mins more, and get on the bus. The bus goes to the Aircraft and they say that it is being cleaned, please get back. The bus comes back, I wait for 10 more minutes in the bus and then it goes to aircraft again. This time we (me and other passengers) board the air craft. Again, they announce the delay of 30 minutes to correct a technical snag. Fifteen minutes later, they annouce that they are going to abandon the aircraft. I don’t know, but I have never heard of air craft being abandoned and passengers asked to change airplanes. I mean, It’s not a bus. We get down, board the bus again and the driver leaves us at domestic arrival. Even before I could inquire about being dropped in domestic arrival, all the other passengers leave the bus. Having no clue, I follow them. The CISF refused the permission to go out of the same gate. Meanwhile, some other passenger start shouting at the helpless Air Deccan official without getting any work done. Left without any choice, we get out of airport and get back in through the departure gate. We were reissued boarding pass and went though security check again standing in the queue for over an hour. When the plane took off, it was 11:30 PM. It was suppose to reach Chennai at 10:30 PM. Despite asking for a complementary food after all this, the air-hostess refused. I reached Chennai at 2 am i guess, and I was in my hostel by 3 am.

I also happened to read the Air Deccan’s cost cutting techniques in one of their in-flight books. I find it “ok”, if they don’t serve food in a 3 hour flight, or rent their spaces in the cabin for ads. But, they also claim that they keep the planes flying as much as they can to avid the rent to paid to the Airport to keep the planes. This time the technical snag was found and air deccan is fairly new, three years. What about next time? Most of disasters that happen is due to poor maintanence of the Aircrafts. I would mind paying thousand bucks more if they can assure me that the plane will not crash. I am really apprehensive about flying in a low-cost airline again. Not matter what, Air-Deccan in particular is out of question. They claim 98% flight run on time. On time is delay of up to 2 hrs. The average flying time in India is 2 hrs. People take flight to save time. These low cost carriers simply do not serve the purpose. From what I hear, this is not an isolated incident. Air Deccan has had their expertise in annoying passengers since their inception. The funniest one being a Techie who received an sms saying he missed a flight even with a boarding pass in hand. Seriously, do not even consider flying Air Deccan when you plan a journey.

Some other experiences from the travel:

In the first flight from Chennai to Delhi, I happen to sit beside a Navy guy working in Car Nicobar islands. He kept a good company. Beside him was a woman in her 40s. She was sitting up-right though out the journey. The navy guy asked her to lean back when she talked about a accident she had some years ago because of which he can’t lean. If she does, she can suffer from a shooting pain in the back which last last upto a week. It was indeed a sad way to begin a journey. Then in the next train to Kanpur, I was with a family in which an elderly couple were talking about a case of cancer that one of their relatives in suffering from. Apparently, it was a cancer int he stoamch which had spread to the liver. The patient had under gone 12 operations and a chemotherapy. Though I did not speak to them, I did keep me depressed until i went to sleep.

In Kanpur, to go from railway station to IIT Kanpur, I boarded a bus. I paid 10 bucks for the ticket, and the conductors gives me a ticket for 1 buck. I asked him for a ten buck ticket. He claimed that what he gave was a ten buck ticket. I showed him “Ek Rupay” and “Re 1” written clearly there. He argued back saying that the minimum fare is 3 bucks, one rupee ticket got printed by mistake and it is worth ten bucks. I argued with him for nearly five minutes telling him that he was corrupt. He did not listen. I ended the argument saying him and i both know that he was cheating. Seriously, I have had such experience before in Bangalore but it been with 1 rupee tickets. It has never happened in Chennai. The conductors are too prompt. But here, I was cheated off 9 rupees. I may be generalizing here, but the fact that South India is more developed than the north doesn’t surprise me at all after this incident.

Coming back from IIT Kanpur to railway station, i hired an auto. Mid-way two policemen stepped in and got out when their destination had arrived with paying the driver. When I asked driver about it, he replied, “Kanpur hai, kya kare? (it’s kanpur, what can i do?)” I have never seen traffic cops or any other cop do this is Bangalore or in Chennai. India is lawless, but North India is way more lawless than South India.

Had been to Coimbatore (another venue) for for the same programming contest couple of days later. Then Hampi and Goa for the new years. After that to Coimbatore again for a trek. Saarang happened in my college for last 5 days. Will post pictures if possible. Till then, cya!

PS: Never travel Air Deccan