Sathyamurthi's Blog

March 21, 2014

Natural disaster damage & Climate change – Correlation does not imply causation

Filed under: Chennai — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 4:40 am

Before I read this article why disasters cost more, I would emphatically told you climate change is causing more powerful disasters but after reading this I was nodding my head and was wondering what made me change my mind so quickly …

First a short story, I have a vivid picture of flood in Chennai in 1984 (did not recollect exact year, so used this page to guess), I did one KM walk with one of my elders cousins to watch Adyar river crest in the below area of the map. For those who are familiar with this area this a pillayar temple  right before Kasi Theater, Basically my recollection is water touched the temple but did not flood it (kind of black line)! I saw boats used to rescue folks on roads I would normally ride my bicycle and this left an deep impression in my young mind. Another reason why I remembered this well was at that time one my classmates Sundar lived in that area but I did not know where, so I left anxious thinking about him and until School reopened did not know their house flooded ground floor and even some water in first floor and he lost even some school stuff!


Next I was living and also running my own software consultancy in this very same area in 1996, when the next big cyclone stuck. With 1984 disaster vivid in my memory, I was following flooding news and one of the anecdotes I remembered from 1984 was they opened flood gates of Chembarambakkam lake without warning folks in low area and that is why lots of folks where caught unaware. By 1990s a huge flood wall was built along Adyar river ostensibly to prevent flooding but I instinctively knew 1984 kind of flood would mean the place I stayed would flood and everything we have would be destroyed by water. So when heard they were about to open the lake floodgates again without hesitation, I rented a mini-van moved all our belongs – Fridge/TV(we were a bunch of bachelors ) to slightly higher ground where we rented our office. All my neighbors where puzzled and maybe some even thought I was crazy (I generally come across as a bit reckless person but I am very pragmatic and cover my risks)! Guess what – River Adyar flooded again the same night and the place I rented was 7-8 foot deep in water, I was so relived.  Incidentally my friend Sundar also still lived in that area, he had moved his two wheeler out of the area and since they live in first floor not much damage. When we compared notes we felt 1984 flooding was worse than 1996.

Why this story ? It my belief that life experiences shape who we are – when I was wondering why I changed my mind so quickly it suddenly dawned on me that I have experienced life events that helped me, let me elaborate.  Probably 1984 caused a few causality but property damage was not huge, not many of those homes had Refrigerator, TV or two wheeler. Relatively in 1996 the damage would have been higher and if similar level flooding happens today the damage will be even higher, so the story resonated with me.

BTW I am firm believer in the science behind climate change and it is irrefutably caused by humans.

Ability to read diverse set of news and form opinion is important skill and being a news junkie, I have a pretty broad view on happenings around me and generally around the world.

PS It usually takes me ages (multiple days & sessions)  to compose and post a blog, an attempt to share a quick thought (it took me about 45 minutes in 3 sittings to finish this one)


March 16, 2014

Thrill of bicycle ride

Filed under: Chennai — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 6:22 am


Finally the week of 3/3/2014 ended-up being the time when one of my long cherished thoughts finally happened – “Anand & Aparna rode their bicycle to school on 3/3/2014” !!

Basically my childhood recollection is all filled with me cycling around Chennai. I remember learning to cycle first time  while visiting village  during summer vacation and I over ran and disturbed paddy organized after harvest  and got away without any trouble. But had to return home next day.  So for next few weekends I would religiously trek half a km  to rent “hour cycle” and enjoyed cycling in the neighborhood, I slowly transitioned from smaller cycle to normal sized cycle. When I was in 5th Standard I got my first BSA SLR and  was soon permitted to go to school on Cycle. I was  also tasked with taking my younger brother to school on pillion, that used to not go that well!  I started cycling around in about 10 Km radius from our house  and graduated to doing quite a bit of house chores after school or weekend – transport gas cylinders, Rice bags, ration purchase, vegetables from MGR Nagar market.  When my friends from school meet even today one of the stories that get narrated is how I conned everyone to cycle all they way from KK Nagar to what today is Padi flyover to play a cricket match with another team there! Cycling gave me independence and because I used to cycle so much I ended-up not being comfortable riding in crowded  city bus.  I would not have survived my college days in  Trichy or Coimbatore without a cycle, for me cycling is what made me who I am period.

So I was eagerly waiting for Anand to be of appropriate age, so that I could get him started on riding a cycle to school and as with most things Anand initially did not like the idea and I refused to give-up and finally something interesting happened. Every day Anand & Aparana use School organized private VAN for return to home segment alone. Since there was only handful of working days in March & April, Anand did not want to pay whole month of fee for  March & April.  I tried to explain to him that it is fair to pay the Van drivers the whole month because for services like these you cannot pick and choose which month you will use services and they make money only if Van is full. So he started proclaiming he will cycle to school if we did not pay  for the Van. We were in stalemate. Finally Navadisha made the decision to give a long break summer vacation from March 8th to June 10th 2014, so it came down to one week of school in March. So I stuck a deal with Anand that if both he and Aparna use their cycle then we will not use the Van for March. Once Anand accepted I had to coax reluctant Aparna to join in the fun. Finally they both cycled to school on 3/3/2014 and I led them on Scotty.

As an affluent parent living in India one of my concerns have been that my children are living in a protected bubble and how do I enable them to learn “life skills”. It is tough to know what is safe for your children. A twelve year old riding cycle alone  to school today is probably slightly more complicated than in 1980s but we see kids of all ages from more improvised background still independently walk in busy roads, ride bicycle  in traffic heavy roads etc. So lot of times it is our apprehensions that makes this protective bubble larger than it needs to be. It is easy to second guess others but hard to make these decisions when it is your children!   I have shared route map for their bicycle ride – here. Not sure if I would have taken this step if their school was in busy Velachery Main road. These hypothetical questions are hard to answer and I try not guess what I might do …

After the first day Anand said he will go school independently and so on the second day I ended riding another bicycle along with Aparna. Anand independently went to school and returned on 2 days and on the third day as he was about to start to school, he encountered his first flat Tyre! Now we are actively considering if he should go to school on cycle everyday. As I have written before I want to equip my kids with two things – ability to value fellow Human beings and develop life skills . With these two I believe  they will be equipped to deal with uncertainties in their chosen field and have chance at leading a happy life. 

To end this post thought I would share some comparisons –>  Anand is about 3 years behind me on cycling to school and Aparna is about year ahead of me!  My School ride was slightly more than 1 KM theirs was slightly more than 2 KM.

February 5, 2014

Golli Soda

Filed under: Chennai — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 3:49 am

I watched Golli Soda yesterday and at the end of the movie, when Kavitha said “it was an Avg movie what was fuss about it being good movie”, I kind of nodded my head and said “yeah” but that did not fully summarize my feeling …

Movie has a very simple message “anyone can get ahead of life if they can dream and work hard and there is an helping hand or stepping stone , that provide a small advantage that they can use to propel themselves” . This movie summarized my political leaning and philosophy in life very neatly. It also made me think and reflect so that is what I liked about the movie.

It is my firm belief that Indian movies are actually a snapshot of  current happenings pictured and  obviously colored thru maker eyes and imagination, In that sense movies like  “Golli Soda” ,  “Angadi Theru” depicts life of folks who are less fortunate and their struggles. We are surrounded by these hardworking souls and we are most part indifferent and oblivious to their plights and exploitation.

When I was about 17 years of age, I realized I was fortunate to be born in family where you had a stable household, in which I did not have to care about basic needs (sure we had our struggles but it was never about life/death kind of struggles) and this was a huge advantage, so I started out being very empathetic about need for Reservation though I was  disadvantaged. This got re-enforced when I went to do my under-grad in Trichy and my masters in Coimbatore and to see my friends from those days move their generation a notch or two higher and most of the time it was combination of reservation system in TN + some nurturing individual. But I am not sure reservation as it is implemented today makes any sense, we need political will to change this, so that disadvantaged are the ones who benefit from this.

 I came claim I am self-made man but it will be naive  to deny advantage I had  growing-up in Chennai to upper middle-class family. So I am reflexively annoyed with Ayn Rand follower Libertarians who preach Libertarian in its purest form while conveniently discounting huge edge someone gets because of their berth and lineage and claim with  government out the way markets will ensure that  with effort and smarts anyone can be successful in life. I believe it should not be government/society  role to tell me what I should believe in, what I wear or whom I enter into relationships, how many children I have, where I live etc.   I am somebody who is firmly to the left of center but also someone who thinks if we make governments do less and do things efficiently then it will be better.

October 13, 2013

International day of the girl – 11th Oct

Filed under: Chennai — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 3:04 am

I got to this blog – The Day of the Girl by Gautam Gal about 2 days late  but it got me thinking …

It is important we all in India think about what is that we as society define role of women, Most of the time it starts with how we treat our mother, wife and daughters and also women we meet professionally …

I admire my mom for they way she lead our family and forever indebted to my wife to let me continue to do what interests me and do as little as required for home.

Here are things I challenge everyone who reads the blog to think about

  • Do we really treat our wife as equal partner in life?  our children really model around our behavior!
  • For those of us blessed to have son and daughter, do we really treat them as equals ? — Daughters will see thru how Hippocratic we are when we talk about lofty common day happenings but treat them different because they are Girls
  • Finally can we inspire our daughters to dream and become whatever they want to but at the same time prepare them to face the society as it is today …

BTW Gotham Gal has completed 10 years of blogging and every time I read her blog I remind myself blogging regularly is about creating an habit and discipline and I need to get more regular at this!

September 22, 2013

Thanga Meengal

Filed under: Chennai — Tags: , , — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 6:51 pm

When I first heard the song “Aanandha Yaazhai” , I was floored by the song and intrigued by the movie Thanga Meengal .  I watched the movie this weekend as I was pretty sure it may not continue to be screened when I return from my Business trip !

Well made movie that brings out various aspects of raising a child. I love watching these kinds of movies that portray strong emotions and stark reality. I was half expecting over the top histrionics  by doting father, instead was taken back by a father doing his best to be there for his child and provide for her. The movie starkly brings attention to

  • how our schools are ill-equipped to deal with students with different learning ability
  • just because some did not get good education does not mean he cannot be intelligent or teach certain things well.
  • children do understand a lot more than what adults care to acknowledge
  • it was hilarious to watch the child’s imagination of what is her “dream school”

It also positively highlights

  • that all a child needs to have complete childhood is caring parents
  • caring teachers can transform even a struggling child

Having started my education in one of the premier sought after school and forced to move to an avg school because of “poor performance”, I can relate to what happens to students in an Avg school. It is not that teachers are bad or mean, they do their best given their talent and aptitude for teaching. Long ago, I figured that there  is nothing great about a school that recruits students from upper middle class and eliminates bottom performers and then claims to be place of excellence! It actually  par for course . If  you take children who are not well endowed and make them into productive and well developed student on consistent basis then you earn my respect as educational institution.

As I became a parent, it has been time of thinking and second guessing lots things I did or did not do for my children. Then I realized almost every parent wants the best for their children and there is no one golden rule for raising children. What is basic amenity for me, is nice to have for someone else and luxury for another set. I am blessed to not worry about providing my children the basics + more but still the burden of shaping my children future by my action (or non action) is just too overwhelming,

At the same time I am conscious about not imposing my dreams on to them while making critical decisions for them until point they are set-up to do things on their own.

There is no well threaded path to follow, we need to go make our own  using our life learning and filters we have developed to deal with life. And results will be there to see after many years …

September 6, 2012

August 21, 2012

Passport Seva Kendra

Filed under: Chennai, Infrastructure — Tags: , , — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 6:09 am

Today I went  to get my mother’s passport renewed, the experience was overwhelmingly positive. My son Anand filled the on-line application form on Sunday 8/19/2012 and we were done in about 30 minutes. We learned for senior citizen, there is no need for appointment and from the website figured-out working hours was 9:30-4:30pm. So planned to arrive around 9am and as we neared the Saligramam PSV centre, it was a pleasant surprise to see a private  car park next to  Centre. As I was parking I noticed they had opened the centre around 9am and early birds were streaming inside.

As we entered and showed the the online application form, they allowed us to enter the hall and wait in queue. There is an initial document check and they issue token, I had not photocopied second page of Passport, so I came out and in the reception area they have a Photo-copier vendor handily situated. Then we were issued Token and a file with necesary docuements and asked to go to first floor. As we exited the elevator there was an attendant and he directed us to open counter – A7!

The counters have two chairs and dual monitors (one facing the applicant), the young lady manning the counter instructed my mother to sit without disturbing the chair (a digital camera was strategically placed). She quickly got the originals, and walked us the thru the passport application making sure the entries had correct spelling etc. There was some confusion in my mothers address proof, voter Id did not have street address, ration card had wrong nagar listed, so after some discussion the young lady said she cannot accept street name and removed it from the Address. They took picture and figure print scan digitally, in parallel the young lady was scanning the documents and attaching them efficiently. She collected Rs 1000 cash, made a reciept and asked us to wait before counter B. Within  10 minutes we went to counter B7 (there are screens indicating which token is next-up and assistants guiding applicants quickly) and our first encounter with Govt Servant, he correctly pointed out the address in Ration card was not clear and we shot ourselves in the foot and now we need to get a police clearance. I said ok (I was tempted to make a smart-ass comment “this is freaking Id issued by Govt and they not have a standardized way of entering address” but kept my mouth shut). This person also cancelled the old passport

Next we were directed to wait in front of counter C, after another 5-10 minute wait we went to Counter C5 and the Lady official was polite and explained that the passport will arrive first and then followed by police verification. Then we were directed to final  counter where they collected the Token slip and got the fee reciept, scanned it and quickly printed an acknowledgement slip and stapled it together and were told we had completed the process. They had feedback slip, I dutifully filled it and gave we good feedback. When we exited the building the time was 10am.

After all the delay, I think TCS has got all parts of Passport Seva Kendra right and I could not think of any improvement to the process they have implemented!! Clean office space with fully air conditioned, necessary chair. No shouting, no jumping the queue. Trained security and attendants. As I exited they even had a waiting area for those who showed-up at the Centre before their appointment (something for American consulate and German Consulate in Chennai to think about).

I understand there are still issues with getting appointment slot for general folks but this whole step-up is easily scalable and as they open more Passport Seva Kendra things will easy-out. I am super optimistic this is the way forward and most of our other goverment related services will get there in next 4-5 years.

As a bonus, I went from Velachery to Saligraman in 25 minutes and on the way back in 45 minutes( there was nasty traffic because of truck break-down near Chennai trade center, otherwise might have made it back in 30 minutes).

June 11, 2012

Goal for this week …

Filed under: fitbit, Self — Tags: — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 2:13 am

I have had fitbit for more than 18 months, never been able keep at 10K avg per day for more than 6 weeks in any stretch. Determined to break the trend starting with week of 10th June. Will keep blogging every week on progress.

June 10, 2012

Spelling Bee and Indian Americans

Filed under: Chennai — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 1:03 pm

I was reading about this article –  Why Indian Americans are Best at Bees . 

Pretty decent article, somehow when Indians start winning it “rote learning” becomes a big factor, . What this article fails to acknowledge is that these are early teen kids, who perform under extreme pressure and come-out on top. 

Somehow folks keep railing against the Indian education system, keep forgetting that they were fortunate enough to get the roll of dice that meant they were born into families that could college educate their kids 30 or 40 years ago, when  big slice of population struggled to keep their kids even alive into late teens. 

June 9, 2012

The corrupt invent new tricks …

Filed under: Chennai — Sathyamurthi Thambusamy @ 4:05 am

I read this one start-up tax origins by Deepka Shenoy  and looks like corrupt politicians have figured out a new way to get money and make it semi-legit. But here is the brighter side, if we have impartial judicial system, these guys will get caught sooner or latter. Because Quid-pro arrangements can be clearly explained and prosecuted, the fact that someone paid money cannot be denied or witnesses bought-off, its all clearly documented.

I think only reason Jagan got caught was he did the stupid mistake of thinking he somehow could challenge the ruling party at center and get away with it. When you have thousands of crores you have also taken care of few thousand, who are willing to do anything, hopefully all those poor folks who thought YSR was good, realize he was a great indian politician  and nothing more.  Here is hoping they just put all those who paid bribe also in Jail for a few months and take away all the money that is ill-gotten.

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