Nothing sporting about this – Sauna championships

Competition is an inescapable part of life in Mumbai. World Gazetteer records Mumbai as the 2nd most populous city in the world and 5th when it comes to density of population. A disproportionate ratio of claimants to resources is how competition must have begun. Just watch a Mumbai suburban train pull into a train station and if you choose to be a spectator, which I do, it’s entertainment I would pay to watch. Hey! There’s an idea for you, ‘Live streaming of rush hour activity on Mumbai stations’. ESPN will certainly jump at this idea. If they can find a way to spin money off of pre-teen kids spelling words nobody cares about (Spelling Bee), then why not this?

Mumbai local train contest
Mumbai local trains – better than mountain climbing.

Rick Reilly, a columnist for ESPN The Magazine, participates in another arguably pointless competition – Sauna World Championship. Finland is a nation of 6 million people with 1.6 million registered saunas. These guys take their heat and humidity very seriously. There are only two logical parts to this story 1) The World Sauna Championships are held annually in the town of Heinola in Finland since 1999. 2) All the winners in it’s 12 year run have been Finnish nationals; this despite the fact that participants are attracted like moths to flames from 130 countries.

Rick shares his experience with us on ESPN The Magazine’s website (All links in Credits section). It is an extremely witty piece. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite.

Continue reading

Saved by Aundha – part III

Darkness had descended by now. We decided to take a stroll around the temple complex before beginning our hunt for a local dining experience.

The weather this far into our trip had been nothing short of perfect. Early morning rides through the crisp, fresh and dry morning chill of the plateaus had been unexceptionally pleasant. Daylight would spread around us as if the heavenly blanket was being withdrawn tantalizingly slowly to reveal the beauty sprawled underneath. Daytime temperatures were tempered by the winter axis of earth. The clear day sky spilled into nighttime, painting a twinkling ceiling and making the evening ritual of exploring the town on either side of dinner that much more special. Lack of precipitation meant that the humidity levels were comfortably low. Tonight was no different.

The Aundha Naagnath temple
The Aundha Naagnath temple.

We followed the sparse crowd into the temple complex. The token presence of state security police at the gates was not as pronounced as the ones we encountered at Pandharpur two noons ago. Two police constables were sitting on an elevated platform near the gates, next to the ubiquitous walk-through frame of metal detector. The metal detectors were switched off, the constables even more so. Their monotonously dreary responsibility of safeguarding the complex and visitors without any clear intelligence directives had produced the inevitable effect. While most constables found solitary pursuits in reading news, some others found activity in helping out the temple staff in their duties. In a few cases their assistance hid ulterior motives as I was to discover later. None seemed approachable and almost all presented a courteous but curt facade. Their expressions hinted that they would welcome some human interaction but on the other hand the risk of loosing their carefully crafted pretentious respect restrained them.

Continue reading

Rajiv Gandhi Speaks Against Nuclear Weapons – Part II

In the second part of this speech, Rajiv Gandhi Speaks Against Nuclear Weapons, Shri. Rajiv Gandhi presses home the point of the futility of nuclear arms race. He outlines a process, which if adopted by the U.N. and the masses, would bring about complete elimination of nuclear arms from the face of this earth by 2010.

Alas, it is as much a reflection of the lack of leadership as it is about the dearth of a universal platform for masses to organize, that the race has only intensified by new entrants seeking to secure this invaluable diplomatic bargaining chip. India and Pakistan having already underlined their philosophy by the tit-for-tat tests in late 90’s it’s now the turn of Iran (to be clear Iran’s claim has always been it’s pursuit of nuclear technology for power generation) and North Korea.

Rajiv Gandhi
Shri. Rajiv Gandhi

This section of the speech is dry on emotions and full in procedural outlines. The need to hold an audience’s attention during such sections is a critical challenged faced by speechwriters, especially in speeches with such an ambitious objective. Shri. Rajiv Gandhi’s effort is satisfactory in this regard.

In this part of the speech Niels Bohr, Gandhi and Nehru’s quotes make an appearance. It ends poignantly, relying on a quote from Dhammapada.

Continue reading

Google – Little evil is healthy

Google’s initial spell on an uninitiated user during it’s toddler years of early 2000’s was one of freshness. Freshness in presentation, freshness in efficiency and economy, freshness even in it’s ideology. It’s efficiency in delivering super-fast results and it’s boldness in thought at organizing and prioritizing search results was an instant hit. No other search engine of the time came close to churning relevant data to the top like Google. Google’s ideology, even though not something that was stage managed by the corporate, was perhaps the most impressionable aspect. Especially to us working in IT at the time.

Google’s loyalty to it’s official motto “Organize worlds information and make it accessible” was transparent to most of it’s consumers. Without any real ideas about how to monetize this incredible platform which was attracting users by the millisecond, Google’s unofficial motto “Do no evil” was also easily accepted by the world. Even during the months on either side of it’s IPO, Google continued to maintain it’s reputation, although by then they had solved the problem of monetization. By successfully mimicking what had figured out initially, it started selling ad-space based on words. In it’s subsequent and unrestrained thirst for profits it created other innovative avenues to sell ad space. Through an idea ingested by corporate acquisition, it launched the Adsense service which could be embedded in any site’s content where it would display a text-only advertisement that was also relevant to the content of that page. With this innovation in marketing, the landscape for digital billboards became limitless.

Continue reading