Thursday, May 2, 2019

How To Travel in Bangalore

I've been traveling extensively in and around central Bangalore for the past 6+ months. I have experimented with various modes of transport and various tools that assist finding the right transport in these journeys. Today when I met Nishan on his first day of a new life in Bangalore, I realized I have been traveling long enough to give some travel advice.

Disclaimer: This may not apply to all parts of Bengaluru, especially the Electronic City side (which actually should come under Chennai metro)

What is the best way to travel in Bangalore? It depends. What time is it? Where are you going? How much time do you have?

BMTC is the most connected public transport system in Bangalore. The frequency of buses is usually inversely proportional to how badly we want to reach somewhere quickly. But, if we leave enough time to wait for the right bus, there will always be a bus. 

The BMTC app on play store is a hit and miss. If you've used it successfully in a particular route and if the time is before 8pm there is a high chance that the "Trip planner" will show buses that actually are plying. In fact, in such situations the information is so accurate (location, bus number plate, etc.) that I've been thinking about an Uber like service on top of the BMTC app.

There is a monthly pass if it works for you. For ₹1100 in ordinary buses and ₹1700 in AC buses you can travel wherever you want how much ever you want for a month. These passes can be got from any of the bus stations. There is also a daily pass which can be got from bus conductors.

Namma metro is simple. It either goes where you are going or it doesn't. Indiranagar, Jayanagar, Majestic, Mysore Road, Yeshwanthpur - these are best connected by the metro. The unfair advantage metro has over any other means of transport is that at 7 o'clock when the entire road network is jammed up, the metro rail just flies over the traffic.

In rush hour, if possible, always choose metro.

Get a metro card. It saves 15%. It can be recharged online. And it can be kept in wallet which allows you past gates by waving the wallet over them.

Uber and Ola are for business class travel. Also, when it is late night and there is no other way to travel. Rapido is for teenagers who aren't afraid of dying. Avoid all these unless absolutely trapped.

Google maps
The only tool you need to figure out the best route to anywhere is Google maps. It may not always get the timing right (especially for buses), but it always calculates the quickest route. Use the public transport tab. Use options and choose "subway" whenever there is a chance. Experiment with the starting/ending point a bit and there may be more convenient routes.

When using Google maps for planning travel, always be mindful of the time of day for which the calculations are made. Change this in the "arrive by" or "depart at" setting.

To conclude, traveling cheaply in Bangalore is possible. The secret is in planning and timing. Use the tips I've laid out with your own judgement and enjoy traveling!

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Making Time

Yesterday Swathi and I visited Anivar and Joshina and their kids. It has been at least 5 months since we started planning this visit. And we finally made time for it, yesterday.
The moment we stepped inside Noonu and Ilan were on us - showing their toys, making us read story books, laughing at jokes, jumping, dancing, and purely enjoying. I burst out laughing at one particular joke in Balarama and could not control myself for half a minute. We had lots of food for stomach and mind.
I had asked Joshina about her work some time in the recent past. She told me about her current life philosophy which resonates with what Anivar told about his life philosophy a few weeks back, both of which struck a chord in me. The following is what it boils down to.

The society will expect superhuman things from you. Whenever you do something, there will be a few people to ask you about that next thing that you haven't done. If you keep trying to satisfy all these "next things", you will never be able to keep up. Because it is humanly impossible. But more importantly, you will be happy only if you are doing the things you want to do and those are things that bring you happiness.
A few weeks ago, I had said to myself "the secret to getting things done is to have more things to do". I think I was not entirely right. The focus should never be on getting things done. The focus should be on finding out things worth doing.
Today, coincidentally, I read Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day (affiliate link). I started it today and I made time to finish it today. And now I have made time to write this blog post today. The book gave me a strategy to implement the theory I learned in The One Thing (affiliate link).
The idea is to focus on life and not let it wither away. To focus on things that make sense to you. Things that are meaningful to you. Things that you will regret not doing. Make time for those things.

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

On (Not) Judging People

Human beings have an in-built sense of "morality" that they routinely apply against everything that they come across. There are multiple ways one's sense of what is moral and what is immoral emerges - including religion, upbringing, exposure, rationality, mental health, and so on.

Is morality necessary?

Morality is necessary. Not just because it allows people to live together without killing each other. But also because it helps an individual answer their own questions about what to do in any particular situation. It is the moral compass that often shows the direction to forge.

Should we use morality to judge others?

A distinction needs to be made before answering this. When "judging" someone, are you judging the person or their action? The answer matters a lot.

When you judge a person for a particular action, you are labeling that person as "good" or "bad" based on that action. For example, if you see the CEO of a company scolding an employee for a "small" thing and judge the CEO to be a bad person, you may be making two mistakes.
1) You do not know the reasons why the CEO is scolding the employee. It may even be for the good of the employee in the long term.
2) By labeling the CEO as a bad person, you have created a barrier between you personally and them which might make it difficult for you to work with them.

There are several cases where reason 1 does not apply at all. For example, say the CEO is actually doing something, say, being corrupt, which they themselves might not be able to defend.

But reason 2 is more important for someone who is trying to get things done. People are not dispensable. Human resource is hard to come by. If you start judging people by a few of their actions and dismiss them as "bad". If you make it impossible for you to be working with them. Then you have one less person to work with. And when we are all humans and everyone will have some or the other "follies", especially when you are viewing them through your sense of morality (which, having been formed by your own unique experiences in life, is going to be different from anyone else's sense of morality), judging people will soon leave you with nobody you can work with.

In other words, every human is different. If you keep looking for people who think, walk, and talk exactly like you to forge teams, you will never be able to move forward.

But, does it make sense to judge actions? Yes. As long as the judgement does not spill over to the person as a whole. In fact, judging actions is natural and direct consequence of morality. But extrapolating that judgement to an entire person is human bias.

But what if someone is wrong in all areas of their life? I think it is quite right to be mathematical here. The total value of a person is the sum of all their individual values and the added value that interaction of values give them.

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Friday, December 28, 2018

[jog-journal] Track Change

Four months, quintals of biriyani, and almost fainting inside the metro day before yesterday because I darted to catch it and came to a standstill immediately. It took me these to realize that I should take care of my health even if Bangalore isn't as enticing as Mysore to go for morning jogs.

There is Jayaprakash Narayan Park near where we stay. It does have some water body inside it, but not a lake. There are brick lanes throughout the park and a sand lane that runs through the perimeter. So, today morning when I woke up at 5:40 after ten minutes of my alarm ringing, I decided that I shall resume jogging. Since I'm not a big fan of the calendar days I didn't have to wait till new year for making a resolution.

There was a pup about 2 months old tied to the gate of my neighbour's house. It jumped up and caught my calf with its tiny paws two days back when I saw it. But today it was sitting still, yet vigilant. The Rajapalayam which roamed third main road was sitting in front of its owner's gate. The German Shepherd (also known as Alsatian, a fact I came to know now when I searched "difference between German Shepherd and Alsatian") inside was not near the gate and so didn't bark at me like it usually does. The obese dog at the corner was walking today, for a change. It usually is always sleeping. Maybe it too had a realization today morning.

By the time I came back even the two Indian Pariahs right next door were up. And the Pomeranian was walking behind the newspaper boy for getting its well deserved pat. The pup had broken its meditation, raised its paws and reached out as far as the leash would allow it to.

Did you notice one thing? There were no cats around. I've never seen a cat do morning walk. Neither one that actually eats cockroaches. Cats are everything that humans should not be - lazy, selfish, and enigmatic about what their thoughts are. And dogs? Dogs set the ultimate standard that humans should strive to reach - persistent, caring, and down to earth about their feelings. You now know why I love dogs more than cats.

The primary care fellowship and infectious diseases case based learning series are both set to start in January. I remembered it because just yesterday in JeevaRaksha JALS workshop at NATCON 2018, we met some wonderful young doctors with idealism not lost and that spark remaining in their eyes. Hopefully the day after we will meet again and discuss the heroism of incremental care, the wonderful life without "specializing" and the rat race, and a different style of learning and practising the art and science of medicine.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

11 Years of Blogging

I am on Blogger since November 2007. It is 11 years this month.

When I began, it was just me exploring the Internet. Everyone was making blogs back then. And I had to make one too.

I made one. Then I made another, and then another. I have created some 36+ blog on blogger. I made one for my village, for my city, for my school, for my other school, two for my college, one for my university, one for pre-med preparation, one for physiology, one for biochemistry, one for anatomy, one for boss linux, one for scouting, one for APJ Abdul Kalam, one each for all subjects that fascinated me. The vast majority of them are bare barring one or two posts.

Facebook, Twitter, and others took the crowd away and in turn the publishers. I have written countless posts on Facebook only to lose them all when deleting my account.

But it wasn't about the medium. It was about the act. Expression of an opinion. Free speech. Archiving thoughts and information for posterity. In fact, the latter is the philosophy behind my website

Thank you @freephotoscc for sharing these awesome photos on for free! 🎁
Blogging helped me develop a perspective on things. It made me think more concretely and in depth about whatever I wrote about. And I wrote about a lot of things.

It also gave me a rare confidence of accomplishment. I was creating things rather than consuming. And on the internet, the creators are one rung above the consumers. It is this confidence that propels me on a path of building things.

I am excited about this milestone. And the result is going to be more things from me for you to read.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Photograph 51, Bangalore Little Theatre rendition

In my 6+ years in Mysore, I've seen around 6 plays. 2 plays that I don't remember, and 4 times "Madhyarathriya Thiganegalu" by Rangayana.
Come my second week in Namma Bengaluru, I witnessed a 1 hour 30 minute spectacle called "Photograph 51" by Bangalore Little Theatre. Oh, where do I start about this heart warming, yet insanely funny and intellectual play?

The venue was JRD Tata Auditorium. There were scientists and senior citizens taking up majority of the seats. The stage was set as a dimly lit Chemistry lab. The story of Rosalind Franklin.

"The play is about the race to solve the structure of the DNA and the role of Rosalind Franklin who provided the critical evidence for this. For a long time, she never got the credit and this play highlights her efforts in science at a time when the doors of science were not open for women."

The introduction by the director and his daughter set the tone for what was about to come. Photograph 51 is that image of the DNA taken by Raymond Gosling and made the mystical thing a little less mystical.

As soon as the cast walked on to the stage, the narration started, by none other than the actors themselves. This is one of the many exciting things about the play. There is no narrator. But there are many narrators. And they are all part of the play as well. The narration is sometimes weaved through dialogues. The fourth wall gets breached many times, but what do you call the wall between the narrator and the actor?

Then there is the wit. If I were to put the play in one genre, I would choose comedy over history, feminism, and science. But it is not a comedy play. The wit never bothered the story. Wit was always self-contained either in soliloquies or in quick exchanges between the actors.

There is love. There is passion. There is heartbreak. There is reality. This play is a must watch.

And for that matter, they are performing it one last time on 29th September in Bangalore. Head over to BLT's website for more information.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Understanding the 1/5 Unconstitutionality of Aadhaar and What You Can Do About It Today

What is the difference between a monarchy and a democracy?

I am Tipu Sultan. I rule the kingdom of Mysore. I ensure that my kingdom flourishes. In order to ensure that, I will make certain rules. I will punish those who do not follow the rules. Welcome to Mysore.

We are the people of India. We will decide what happens in India. We will elect representatives among us to make rules for India. We will keep changing these representatives. We will ensure there is social, economic, and political justice; that there is freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship; that there is equality of status and opportunity among us; and we will promote among ourselves fraternity assuring the dignity of each of us and the unity and integrity of India.

Which of these places would you want to be born in? Mysore or India?

I was born in India. I was not born when India was in hundreds of pieces and ruled by different kings. Neither was I born when India was under the British emperor. I was born after Indians came together, said "enough is enough" and claimed India for themselves, and having drafted for themselves the Constitution of India, decided to live by it as a democracy where justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity will prevail. Thank goodness I was born in a democracy.

Here is a picture of the constituent assembly. Whatever they discussed while drafting the constitution is available on the Loksabha website. Reading through the constituent assembly debates is in my bucket list as well. 
Anything more than incremental change is hard. Except during revolution. During revolution, change is the norm. India's independence from Britain was a revolution. Because of our experience with monarchy, we chose democracy as our governing moedel. A strong constitution is fundamental to the survival of a democracy. We drafted a strong constitution taking inspiration from various strong democracies. We set that in stone. We set our democracy in stone.

The beautiful thing about principles is that well-thought principles rarely need to change. For example, Mahatma Gandhi made truth and non-violence his principles. He could live his entire life on those principles. It is principles that give rise to many of the organizations we see around us. When the principle dies down, the organization too. The way we operate, the rules we follow, the things we do, everything can change. But the principles won't. Indian constitution defines the principles of our nation. Whatever happens in our country should be in line with the principles laid down in our constitution.

Think about it for a second. The constitution is the foundation of our democracy. If we do not uphold the constitution, we are destroying our democracy, we are giving up on all the principles that the constitution stands for. Hold that thought.

The constitution alone is not sufficient to run a country. Which is why the constitution allows for setting up of legislative, judiciary, and executive branches for the democratic government. Legislative to write laws. Judiciary to read laws. Executive to execute laws. (Like Unix file permissions). And there is clear power separation between the branches on who can do what.

The distinction between branches work well when everyone is doing just what they are supposed to. Law gets passed by legislature that from October 1 people should ride their vehicles on the right side of the road. Police fine or even arrest people who are riding on the left side on Gandhi Jayanthi. They are produced before the court and the court gives them the punishment prescribed in the act.

Things get murky when the constitution is involved or invoked, though. Vrinda Werkijal who was arrested on October 2nd, goes to the court and says "It is my constitutional right to ride on the road as I please. Rather than punishing me, you should strike down the law that says I can't ride on the left side." Then the court would be happy to point out to Werkijal that there is no constitutional right to ride on any side of the road and put Werkijal in jail.

But, imagine the law was about free speech. Say UP passes a law tomorrow that says people should not use the word "beef" in the state. Abhish Mathew could go to the court even before he gets arrested and argue that the law is against the fundamental right of freedom of speech and therefore should be struck down. Easy peasy.

Wish everything was so black and white. Many laws are huge. Huge in terms of the components in it. Take Aadhaar Act itself. It has 59 clauses spread over 8 chapters. And many of these are complicated compounded sentences with multiple sub-clauses. When an unconstitutionality claim on such a thing is claimed, it will indeed take months of litigation and thousands of human hours to decide on constitutionality.

In short, there is only one argument against aadhaar: it ensures surveillance while claiming to ensure welfare and does not even ensure welfare.

Let us imagine. What does it take to decide on this case? Even for a person who is not influenced by politics and not corrupt, it takes deep and philosophical understanding of:
  • the constitution
  • how surveillance damages democracy or how privacy is important in democracy
  • the disproportionate power that entities with access to big data obtain
  • the technology that is running behind aadhaar
  • the reality of welfare delivery in our country
Unfortunately, superficial understanding of these won't do. Someone with superficial understanding would say things like, "hmm, aadhaar will help catch terrorists", "hmm, we can save money by removing fake accounts in the PDS", "hmm, you don't have to worry about surveillance if you have nothing to hide".

But if you go read the critiques of aadhaar, you can hear deeper perspectives on how biometric authentication is probabilistic and how arbitrarily a threshold setting configured on a software can either declare you undeserving or deserving for your fundamental rights; on how design choices enabled illegitimate enrollment which has lead to ghosts and fakes in the database - the very thing you set out to weed out; on how democratic voices are stifled in a surveillance state; on why Rajya Sabha is indeed a part of the parliament; and so on.

Relevant section from Supreme Court judgement on Aadhaar's constitutionality

So, why would someone feel like aadhaar is unconstitutional while others don't? Why is it 1/5 unconstitutional? You know the answer, don't you?

If you would like to spend more time crying over spilt milk, read from page 568 onwards of this PDF file.

What you must do now

As a citizen of India, it is in your own best interest to ensure that the democracy continues unharmed. The best way to do so is to elect representatives wisely. That is not an everyday choice though. But you do have a choice every day to engage with the government. For example, ministry of electronics and information technology has invited feedback on a draft personal data protection bill. The bill is riddled with issues. First, read analyses of it. Here are a few links:

Looking at loopholes in sections of the Bill pertaining to data ownership, RTI and more
Loopholes pertaining to empowerment of children, consent and surveillance State
India’s data protection draft ignores key next-generation rights

Then, write to the ministry with your comments.
Through Ministry directly
Through Maadhyam

Be a good citizen. Live in a strong democracy.

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