The Star Killer

Gold is known as the King of Metals  owing to its intrinsic value due to the relative scarcity and that shiny hue. But the aam aadmi of the Metal family better known as Iron, has a very interesting story from its formation to its availability for our usage. First thing I’d do to Iron would be to rechristen it, giving it the cool name of “Star Killer”, the story behind the title shall follow.

 

 

 

 

 

The story for the day starts with Hydrogen being the only element present in the universe and the universe still being a hot burner, what with big bang just a few million years past. About 200-500 million years after the big bang (which happened 13.7 billion years ago), the universe got its first production plants. The 1st generation of stars which came into being around that time comprising majorly of Hydrogen with only a few traces, if any, of other elements. The stars, under the force of gravity and the heat around started the first constructive process in the universe. Hydrogen atoms under the intense pressure undergo the process known as “Nuclear Fusion” to form the Helium atoms, the 2nd heaviest element in the universe. The process keeps moving forward, smashing the proton particles against the existing elements to form newer elements, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen and so on. These factories  were working very well and the universe was slowly being introduced to newer elements with increasing atomic numbers.

 

Then, the inevitable happened, a Manganese atom bombarded by another of those free-flowing Hydrogen atoms would have produced the newest kid on the block, our very own Iron. This is, where the story changes. Iron, being a heavy element went out-of-bounds for the Star system, the nuclear fusion process didn’t have enough energy to break the Iron chains. The creation of first Iron atom in a star system is the beginning of its end. Slowly the star, having consumed all its fuel in the form of Hydrogen and left only with the heavy elements died its own death. The manner of settling of the dead bodies in stars, unlike humans, is based on size. Thus the largest become Supernova, some become neutron stars, some become red giants. The red super giants was the last stage of most of the stars at that time. The red supergiants crumbled under the gravitational force and scattered off the heavier elements in violent gushes, spreading them far and wide, making up the source for the iron used by humans 13 billion years later.
Thus, almost every piece of our very common Iron, which we use in our daily life, was formed about 13 billion years ago, long before the Earth, the Sun and the Moon could even be conceived of. And not only the antiquity of Iron, but the most interesting thing about Iron is, it defines the natural boundaries of a star. No heavier element is ever produced in the course of the natural production activity of the universe and its arrival sounds the death knell of its founding star. No wonder, the star killer has had such utility in human lives.

Tsar Bomba

Exploring, and then shattering the known horizons has been the biggest passion of the most entrepreneurial of humans. It is this unending drive that has taken human civilisation to the insurmountable heights. But, there come times in the advance of human civilisation that the logic finally overcomes the blinding passion and makes humans to think, pause and wait. There are two such interesting examples, while one concerns biking, other is about “the single most physically powerful device ever deployed by mankind”.

Tsar Bomba, a Hydrogen Bomb tested on 30th October 1961 by the erstwhile USSR at the peak of their powers and the peak of the Cold War, remains the most powerful detonation achieved by human society. The scale of power generated by the single event was awe-inspiringly obnoxious. Power delivered by such atomic, nuclear bombs is measured in Kilotons/Megatons of TNT equivalent. The blast yield of Tsar Bomba was 57MT TNT, just for comparison, the strongest such weapon tested by US was 15 MT. The Tsar was 3800 times more powerful than Little Boy, the bomb dropped at Hiroshima which was measured 15 KT TNT. While the Pokhran tests in 1998 by India had a max yield of 43-45 KT still 1/1300th times the power of TSAR, a feat achieved 37 years later.

To get an idea of the conventional power of the TSAR, the energy released by that one single explosion in Oct 1961 was 10 times the combined energy of all conventional explosives used during the course of the World War II. Everything within a radius of ~35 kms was razed to ground, houses were destroyed 100s of kms, there were partially broken windows even upto 900-1000 kms from the test site. Yet, the m6ost other worldly thing about the Tsar for me, was the height of the Mushroom Cloud. Through all my studies and general awareness of Geography, anything human related, after breaching the Troposphere (the layer of atmosphere closest to earth surface) is only restricted to Stratosphere, a layer which extends upto 50 kms. But Tsar’s Mushroom cloud breached the natural barrier, extending into the Mesosphere acquiring a peak height of 65 kms, a new horizon breached by humans, something the USSR Scientists could be very proud.

Yet, here comes the interesting story. The Tsar had a maximum theoretical yield of 100 MT but after testing the 57MT mega bomb, finally the USSR scientists decided that enough was enough and a bomb any more powerful would pose severe existential crises in the form of fallout risk and escape of the carrier, thus saving our earth to an extent.

Thus, a bomb which was 10 times more powerful than the whole of World War II, still had a lot of gas remaining in the tank, thankfully for human civilisation, even the human greed can encounter some limits at times.

The Winter Tales

My first memory of winter must be a good 20 years ago when I saw the most beautiful white sun. It was an Uttarkashi winter sun. Winters in hills are quite enjoyable, unlike the Ganga plain, hills have sunny winter  days when you can savour the true joy  of dhoop sekna. Most days are like this, but then there are some which are cold, and this, the aforementioned one was such a cold one. The sun unable to break through, sat smarting behind an overarching sheet of clouds, looking like a shiny white halogen light. The clouds and the sun were, amongst the more beautiful afternoons one will see. The literal icing on the cake though, was the first snowfall in my own city. I had seen  snow, many inches of it in places nearby. But, this was my 1st snowfall, that too in my own backyard. A day, I will never forget.

 

My second memories, belong to the last of my school days, those amazing days of class XII, when instead of being all tensed about our careers, we were a bunch of teenagers, having the best innocent fun of their lives with an amazing set of friends. In such fun times, do I place the winters of 2003-04 of Lucknow. Hard gruelling classes of preparation for IIT finished around 8. Wrapped in jackets, some of them wearing mufflers or caps, all picked up their vehicles, ranging from the TVS Scooty to the stylish lucky ones with bikes, there was only one thing on our minds, soon as the class got over. Drive from the coaching centre to our destination was hardly 5 mins, but the hands were almost freezing by the time we reached our destination, the Samose wala bhaia in front of Nabard gate. Piping hot samose with the chutney, both khatti and meethi, were the warmest of hug one could have in the cruel foggy Northern winter. A whole lot of ganging up, leofying, and occasional dose of 2nd samosa, if someone was feeling rich enough to afford it, whole lot of coins were jangled, pockets searched to come up with notes of Rs. 5 and 10 later, someone paying for the other with a grudge and an occasional abuse. Finally, brought a fulfilment to the chilly cold day. 11 years later, after being recruited to NABARD, going to the training college, finding the samose wali shop was one of the first thing I did.

 

Lots of living in hyd left me pining, looking and hoping for some chill every sad, silent winter night! But, my ghumakkad life, thankfully landed me up to deal with the Dilli ki Sardi. There are a lot of nights and days to be remembered, yet the most memorable would be the first day of 2013. 31st December 2012 was a wild drunk night, the morning after was full of headaches and black tea along with sutta, there was a fear of one of the flatmates jumping down from his balcony. All in all, it was a typical boys night out new year who were all set to be sober for a few days. But, the delhi winter seemingly had different plans. The temperature starting dipping appreciably, by the time sun set, our bengali flatmate was trying to warm even his glove adorned hands with hot tea. Those, the north indian ones of us, were almost shaking even in the 2-3 layers of clothing we were wearing. The cold was absolutely bone chilling, poor UPSC students couldnt even think of a heater/blower, Until… The brilliant idea stuck one of us, “Old Monk“, the Dilli ki lifeline. And lo and behold, the guys who were blaming ‘Signature’ in the morning were, 10 hours later, sitting with pegs all in their hands. And slowly, as the Rum started kicking in, the sardi became our muse and thus started a  winter full of rum, joy and life and a life long love story with Dilli ki Sardi.

 

4 years later, I see these pic of my parents in snow of Munsiyari
Winter Snow

 

And me poor chum is stuck in Mumbai, of the three quarters and full shirts fame.
Oh my dear winters, someday… Someday, We shall meet again!

Historical T20 XI

Last few months, since the preparation to World T20 cup began with India’s T20 series down under. We have had too much of T20 cricket to be able to actually digest and when you can’t digest properly, you either shit or vomit, me I hope do a little better in the following lines… This underlying is the result of me having too much of T20. A list of players, who played before T20 age but could have been more than a handful in the shortest version. We can only think, fantasise and romanticise but watching this team play a T20 would have been a mouth-watering, eye blinding sight.

I restricted the list taking the God standard, only the people who started and mostly (finished) their careers before Sachin were considered for the compilation.

  1. DG Bradman – He would score daddy hundreds, he would score them at as fast a clip to with the usual shots and he would score them in every innings. The fact that Kohli’s IPL run could be as close as anything we could have seen to the Don, makes you wish. If Only we could have seen his scores in IPL!
  2. Barry Richards – It’s almost impossible to find a cricket ‘What if’ XI with his name not being in a serious contention, all that for a Total of 508 Test runs could seem weird and unfair on some accounts but then Barry was magic cricketified. He once played an entire innings off the outside edge of the bat just for the fun of it. 9 centuries before lunch on day 1 do no harm to his T20 credentials.
  3. IVA Richards – The Universe Boss might be left scurrying if the real swag ever came into play in the T20 cricket. The original blaster could make the huge Australian grounds look like Chinnaswamy with his power hitting if he would have ever come to it. He bullied, brutalised, lorded and owned the bowlers all around the globe. The fact that his record of fastest century in Test Cricket stood the test until Jayasuriya bettered it in ODIs make him the most demanded player for T20s
  4. Graeme Pollock – Judging by the Bradman Gold Standard, he is statistically the Silver of World Cricket, an average of 60.97 puts him next only to the Don in Test Cricket. His batting seems to be an amazing perfection of batting style of the two modern left handed boundary hitters, Yuvraj’s timing and Warner’s power and placement and yet more than the sum of both.
  5. Garry Sobers – Bradman might be the best batsmen ever and forever, but a bigger cricketer is yet to set foot on cricket grounds across the globe than Sir Garfield St Aubrun Sobers. He held the record for highest individual innings for 40 years, most career runs for almost 10 years at an average higher than anyone who has scored in excess of 7500 a full 400bps higher than the God, he bowled left arm medium pace, left arm orthodox, left arm chinaman and was the 6th highest wicket taker when he retired. Variety is perhaps the biggest call in T20 cricket and this guy defined variety.
  6. Ian Botham – He was the ultimate prototype for a T20 bowler. Play hard, Party hard, he would have been the ultimate mercenary T20 player plying his trade in different parts of the world. Bowling fast and hitting far without any concern for reputation or situation, he would turn a test match by virtue of his batting or bowling alone, taking a T20 by the cuff of its throat would have been child’s play for Botham.
  7. Imran Khan -Batting average of 40, Bowling average of 19 in the later parts of his career. His reverse swing would have been the biggest asset in the slam bang fest. With Imran Khan also comes the charismatic, Inspring, Uniting leader that any team of such amazingly talented individuals would need.
  8. Alan Knott –  By almost all records, Alan Knott is considered arguably the best wicketkeeper in International Cricket.  5 Test centuries and 30 Half centuries don’t do much harm to the batting reputation of a keeper who played in the 60s n 70s. Best wicketkeeper might be an arguable opinion but best Wicketkeeper-batsmen before the date of 5 November 1999 might not be as easy to find.
  9. Erapalli Prasanna – The off spinner and leg spinner is the one thing you’d desire when you have such talent pool. The very few times when spin had such major an influence before the arrival of flummoxing the batsmen with spin and drift as in T20 was when the Indian Quartet brought teams down with the help of Sunil Gavaskar to take the shine off. Prasanna as the Off Spinner is as canny as any representative you’ll get from the group.
  10. Sydney Barnes – He was fast, he was nasty, he didn’t like giving runs, he liked collecting scalps in heaps. Sydney Barnes was a leg cutter more than a spinner, making cricinfo term him as medium pace. He could be better understood as a mix of Warne and Kumble with the pace of Shahid Afridi. His fast pace might make him an easier target in some views. But you didn’t target Barnes, he devoured you!
  11. Malcolm Marshall   – A fast bowler who can snare wickets at the top with his mean fast bowling is as much an asset for you in T20s as it is desired in Test Match Cricket. Malcolm Marshall is perhaps the best of the WI fast bowling battery. He possessed a mean bouncer which could shock people not attempting to hoick every delivery out of the ground. In T20 cricket, he would have felled many a batsmen trying to smash him out of the ground.

The True Drunkards

One
Two pegs
Three pegs down
Some tipsy, some sound
Party runs deep into night

Drinks abound more than a few more round
Fun ,  gaiety   making   the  room   go  round
Mere   acquaintances   turning    into    bhais
Sex to philosophy , topics  gradually  change
A peg  goes  to  floor many more in the gulp
Stray   cigarettes  burn  and blacken the bed

Four,
Six, Eight
How count goes
As come pegs more
Slowly the drunk ones start
Falling senseless on bed and floor
Puking in bathroom starts in due time

Some people still sitting with pegs  in   hands
Finishing  the   bottle  being   their   only  aim
Unwavered , they  have seen  and  done it all
True  drunkards , who  can  hold  their drinks
Few and far, do come such meetings around
The  ones  who  can drink through the nights
Through  the  drinking  decade I  have  spent
Such  are the people  I have  treasured  most

So
The verse
A heartfelt tribute
To the ones standing
The people who hold enough
The drinkers who keep party alive
Are too the ones who’re cleaning mess
The real heroes of every such spirited night
The true drunkards I respect,always hard to find

The Silly One

Paul is a core romantic, thats a fact well documented in any annal of rock music history. But there is a dimension in Macca’s romance that I haven’t seen much elsewhere . So many times Macca seems an outcast in the world of Beatles and the contemporary rock scene in general. While Stones were giving us Sister Morphine, Lennon gave us Revolution and Harrison gave While My Guitar Gently Weeps Macca at similar times was chugging out Yesterday and When I’m Sixty Four (admittedly an old composition).

Two of the more prevalant trends in Rock music can be seen as,
a) Poring into the darker side or express change/angst/anger/rebelion or else
b) going into the real world things bringing them to life and music instead of the more abstract relations and feelings. [Time, Money, Car, Sea, Guitar, Drugs etc] {This obviously is among the oldest concept in poetry writing}
Paul thus comes from such a background which valued material things and the changing times more than the usual old concepts of love and romance.

True to the soul of rock music, Paul also presented a counter. But his counter was of a different breed than most rock artists around. An analysis of some of his lyrics presents a counter but with love and happiness against negativity/sadness or such feelings. By the virtue of him written on so many topics, it can be a crime to brand him or his songs belonging to a particular line of thought. For my analysis thus, I will chose few of his songs which stay true to my hypothesis. His stories so often start with a sad thought or a heartbreaking event.

At the end of the end – The End of the End
The grand old painter died last night – Picasso’s last Words
When I get older losing my hair many years from now – When I’m sixty four
They say that people have had enough of silly love songs – Silly Love Songs

Paul! Perhaps more than the experimental Beatle,was and to date remains a Pop star, a fact brought forth much better on listening to his solo work or the albums with Wings.

The lyrics mentioned above clearly don’t present the loving rosy picture as would be expected from a pop artist. Instead they have all the makings of a rock song beginning, the ideal platform to burst into tirade accompanied by a solo or two and some ingenuous drumming.

And thence comes perhaps the most beautiful part of Paul’s song writing. The light seems more enriching and enticing when its coming from the end of a dark tunnel and that’s where Sir James Paul McCartney brings a different life to his songs. The depressing situation created, shall be rebelled against, with hope shining out of the travesty.

Thus come the later lines of the songs I’ve mentioned in the first place which show the light coming after the darkness of the first line of his songs

Is the start of a journey to a much better place… On the day that I die, I’d like jokes to be told – The End of The End
Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink anymore – Picasso’s last Words
I could be handy, mending a fuse… Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight – When I’m sixty four
Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs….
‘Cause here I go again – I love you, I love you – Silly Love Songs

Of these songs, the one that has inspired me most is the one called “Silly Love Songs”. It can be quite obviously seen that the rock fraternity at the time was against the Pop artists and the trend of writing Silly love songs as a rockhead would term them. And yet here comes Paul, supposedly one of the Messiahs of Rockheads daringly rubbishing any thoughts harboured by the people and fans of his ilk (rock world). This song, thus, presents Paul as a rebel, rebelling against the original rebels (rock musicians) presenting the ideas of equality, universal acceptance as against the high handedness of the people. A clever retort whose point is well taken by Rolling Stones (magazine).

He mourns the death of the greatest painter of the age, he talks of his very own end, the senility and disabillty of the old age is pondered upon or he just gives a big fuck you to the rockheads. And yet the most inspiring thing is, all this, still comes in the sweetest of wordings and the nicest ‘pop’ular music full of love, laughter . 🙂

Modiji : If Only!!

16 May 2014 is a memorable day in recent Indian history. It was a day of collective national orgasm, even the people who couldn’t differentiate an ‘o’ from a ‘a’ were orgasming at the Namo chant. For the right wing which forms a major core of his vote base and might find the word orgasm a tad offensive, I can say, the nation was in a hysteric frenzy, highly hopeful about the future, expectant of a wide gamut of changes. I too was hopeful
More than a year has passed, the Govt has been analysed by a variety of more than competent voices, pens and keyboards. I am but a tiny, nondescript voice in this whole sea, BUT a voice nonetheless
Modi the Ideologue? – Modi had come to the scene as कर्मठ  politician. He was the doer, the implementer we had been waiting for ages. India has had a rich history of spiritual-cultural gurus through its history. What we need rather is a British (or to generalise Western) tenacity, orderliness and diligence, the work ethic what we call. The first call which came with Modi was “Swachha Bharat” definitely a much needed one, kudos to him for the initiative. Man ki Baat was an interesting initiative, although I didn’t much favour a PM spending quite sometime every week to basically do BC on Radio. Par theek hai Modi sahab apne thoda zyada  bolte hain. Then came a whole lot of foreign visits. Activity in India corresponded to World Yoga Day. Everybody around me has felt happy and encouraged by the initiative except the doctors who had to go to early morning yoga under the orders of Dept of Ayush. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the initiative except some Muslims protesting. But we already had a Baba Ramdev, and this work could better be left to him rather than the PM and the official government machinery. Health improvement initiatives are not the right or duty or the territory of government, it should be more concerned with providing the sustenance, even which many Indians are lacking.
I had these points rankling my brain but the straw on the camel’s back was #SelfiewithDaughter. Its as noble an  initiative as ever. But the PM, (who himself actually left his wife stranded) should be formulating and implementing policies on ground which work for betterment of girl child rather than tweeting about it. The fact that the fathers who are actually tweeting the pics would have families which would provide atleast  superficial equality to their daughters.
Modi in one of the pre-election interviews had said, ‘Kuch banne ki mat socho, bas karne ki socho” and right now he only thinks (atleast acts) only to banana or banna, Bharat ko mahan rashtra, Yoga ko world icon, India ko tourist hub. If Only!!
HRDDD!!! – If there is an issue more important than administering or policing a nation, it is educating a nation. As I would like to say, this world has been a knowledge society from paleolithic to today. The one thing which we need to focus most in this mechanised, industrial, scientific age is education. The decision to appoint our Tulsi Bhahi to the post reflected all that was intended to about the importance of the ministry, and the value of education, a decision even the Modi fans regret about.  In no analysis of mine have I ever marked Modi as criminal rather ascribing things like Scams, Black money, land bill and stuff as guilt in conduct at max. But his neglect of education is the biggest criminal assault on the future of India he is committing. Schools are pathetic, libraries are absent, secondary education is fraught with cheating. And all Mrs. Irani is giving more and more of taxpayer to bringing up more IITs & IIMs, quite a colossal waste in whose details I wont even go.
Its not that he doesnt have the people. He has Maneka Gandhi, the lady who is associated with bringing out humane and far reaching changes wherever she has committed herself. She is the in-charge of Women and Child empowerment agreed but where did the talks of merging ministries and cutting red tape go. Child and Education together can be the best option. If only!! Mr. Modi would listen?

Handling of Myanmar – 18 Indian Army jawans were killed in Manipur inside India. India’s response was, to enter the territory of another sovereign nation and conduct army raids there. Indians got a hashtag #56InchRocks, PM Modi became the No-Nonsense PM, Parrikar the bad ass Defense Minister. But, is there any point of view which could convince me that this was the ideal step to take, in such a situation. Instead of taking it as a national insult or a terrorist attack, this should first of all be seen as a huge failure of the intelligence agencies for people to come from across the border and stage such planned outrage. Second, what would happen in case some such attack comes from Pakistan or Bangladesh, we can’t storm in there. Congress inaction was a big no no but the BJP/Parrikar knee jerk reaction and chest thumping “We don’t keep the army to preach peace” isn’t much of a positive twist either. Even the mighty (read US) can’t sustain and succeed in the wars of this age, leave aside a lowly India. There was no mention of intelligence failure or the need to develop preventive, resistive capabilities and we got a chest-thumping-making-fool-out-of-himself-previously-respected-defense-minister. If Only!!

I haven’t really gone into the points mentioned so brilliantly in the following article which were my initial thoughts.
Indian Foreign Ministry – I had decent respect for Sushma Swaraj, then she was assigned the role of a Sarkari Babu in Foreign Ministry. The poor lady had not much say in policies and implementation I can fairly assume. So bored with nothing to do at office, our honourable FM took to twitter with her personal handle being used as the SOS contact, Indians stuck in different countries ping the foreign minister of our country with the honourable minister even replying to the tweets. I had heard a lot about Modi’s micro management but that involved a foreign minister doing the work of a Secretary or Assistant was not what I had expected it as. To top it, these instances were pushed to the public timeline by the BJP bots as the example of the ‘Most Badass FM we ever had’. Head—Wall :Bam: #redefinition-of-duties-of-foreign-minister-max. It would have been so much more prudent of Modi to keep the ministry (AS he has obviously has to fulfill the ambitions of a global leader) and utilised Sushma Swaraj elsewhere. If Only!!
Schemes –  Chinnaswamy stadium receives less DLF Maximums in an IPL season as perhaps the number of new schemes launched in recent times. Make in India, Bullet Trains, Smart Cities, Jan Dhan Yojana to name a few. Make in India was an interesting concept, I am still much hopeful about it producing results. Bullet trains is as ghastly a suggestion as Marie Antoinette asking people to eat cake if they can’t have bread.
Smart cities seems a dream too far when you realise, Chennai a major Indian metropolitan(?) city got its first metro train today and that there were 70cr Rs alotted to a city, a pittance if you try to work it out. Lets first make our cities and then we can think of smart cities.
A very succesful practice adopted by China and most prudent people is to start a scheme on a small scale try and find out the weakness, strong points and implement a better tested out alternative on a larger scale. The Jan Dhan schemes launched which include opening tiny accounts,  giving basic insurance cover are perfect examples of good gone bad. Most of the benefits are availed of by the educated, middle class rather than the actually needy villager. Instead of the bank based model, we need to focus on the Banking Correspondent based model targeting the villages instead of the cities if we actually want the schemes to bear fruits. But
If Only!!!