AMA on Thursdays – Rahul Shaw

Today’s AMA is with Rahul Shaw, he’s a relatively new friend of mine and a colorful personality who just won’t shut up. Don’t get him wrong, he’s a soft spoken person, but isn’t afraid to take a stand. This trait of complaining and wanting the world just right is what intrigued me to take a deeper look into Rahul and probe around his way of life.

Q. Since poetry is on my mind, I want to know when and where did your poetry writing begin?

First of all thanks for having this AMA session with me. Feel really important and happy to be part of this. So I first started writing in 2010 after getting job. I was placed in Bangalore, far from my native Kolkata. I used to get up early and when everything was so silent, I used to get different ideas and feeling, which I started expressing in words. So that is when I started writing poems.

Q. You’ve actually published only after you started working, is it because you have more mental and financial means once you have a job or is there any other reason why you published your work after getting a job?

Well when I started writing, I never thought that I would be publishing a book. But after it had been a while and I had written more than 50 poems, I thought why not publish a book. It was a very personal decision and I did not think about making money. It was more of a personal achievement for me. Down the line, when I look back, I am pretty sure it will make me smile.

Q. That’s a really nice back story, I’m sure there are lots of people among us who might find themselves in similar positions and may have the gift of writing, do you have any personal suggestions to them to take it to the next level? And can you also take some names of publishers or agents who can help us publish our first book?

Yes, I feel any kind of productive work is beneficial for the person or the society. And as we all know “Pen is mightier than the sword__Rabindranath Tagore”, we can use it to change our society and bring relevant situations or topics in front of everyone. Publishing books is definitely one of them. I had published my Book with Partridge, but I have heard about other Publishers also, but am not sure if its good.

Q. Are you working on anything new currently? Can we expect another book to come out soon?

Yes I am writing new poems, but am not sure when I can publish a new Book. Previously I used to write often, but now I don’t get sufficient time to write, so I will definitely take some time for me to publish my next book.

Q.You told me you’ve been doing some astrology, is this out of self interest of do you want to venture to build something monetizable?

Astrology is something I was interested since my childhood. I started with palmistry, when I was in 8th or 9th standard and then slowly as time went by, I became interested in Astrology. Once again after starting my professional career, I started getting involved more in Astrology. I started learning palmistry and astrology because I was interested in knowing my future, which most of us are, but then slowly I gained some knowledge to start predicting for others. But I feel its a gift from God, that I am able to predict the future, so I don’t charge money from anyone, but I take my time and the situation of the person and his behavior, before doing these analysis.

Q. Where can we find your book? online or any libraries in town?

You can find my book “Whisperings of a Common Man” in amazon.in, amazon.com, Google Books. You can also find them in Atta Galata in Koramangala and Just Books Library. I would recommend reading the hard copy as the feel and design will give a much better experience than an ebook

Last question: Kya Aap Aam Khate ho?
Sorry, bad joke, because I’ve only been asking questions to make you look good, it felt I should ask you about the aam.

No Answer

Q. When someone has a hobby for a long time, people say that in course of time they will have some achievements.. do you think this is essential? to have some measurable achievements attached to your hobbies?

Well yes, its true. To be honest, during my MBA interview when I was asked about my hobbies, I could tell about my book, astrology and playing in different TT tournaments and I cleared the interview. So yes any productive activity will result in positive outcome if the proper path is followed and if we can continue with it for a considerable amount of time

Q. Just a small follow up.. do you think these achievements are required? can someone not paint just for their joy and leave it at that?

Yes why not?? I used to write for myself and never knew that I would publish. So people can definitely do things which make them happy and give them a breather from their daily mundane tasks.

Rahul’s book is available on Amazon.in and at popular libraries in town. He is also a guest author on this site and posts poetry from time to time.

~*~

Scooters Come Back

In the AGM held in August 2018, Rajiv Bajaj, the MD of Bajaj auto was subjected to the ever-present question by the shareholders. When will Bajaj scooters make a come back? This question had become a permanent fixture in the AGM’s held by the Pune based automobile maker. Every meeting, someone or the other would ask this question and Mr. Bajaj would duck or dodge the question. Not this time. This time he lost his cool and said “I will make scooters when Royal Enfield makes scooters”.

I will make Scooters when Royal Enfield makes Scooters.

Source

The less than composed outburst made headlines. We do like our punch lines don’t we? Mr. Bajaj went on to elaborate on his illustration. His point was, no one can be the best in all segments. Bajaj is the 4th largest manufacturer of the two wheelers in India. The two wheeler industry itself is a huge mix of scooters, motorbikes, sports bikes and elite high power bikes. His idea is, no one can be the champion in all the segments. OK, so does Bajaj lead in any segment? Yes, actually the three wheeler category is where Bajaj shines, the Autos. Its not the only segment; Bajaj Pulsar is a household name and one of the most selling two wheeler motorbikes in the country.

Two Wheeler Market

He also explained that the scooters first of all, are a small part of the two and three wheelers segment, secondly Honda is way ahead in the scooter game with the Honda Activa selling more than 100 thousand units a month.

So to sum up, he wasn’t interested in going into the scooter segment because:
a) He didn’t think the scooter segment was profitable enough – given that scooters sell for far less than a motorbike and that the margins are low, it seemed a low hanging fruit.
b) The scooter segment is already over crowded with Honda doing too well and TVS fighting hard to make the numbers.

Ok, now let us look at his statement. How can he say I will make scooters when Royal Enfield makes scooter? RE never made scooters, but Bajaj did, and Bajaj made great scooters. What the shareholders are asking is for a come back of the scooter. The Scooters of Bajaj are emotionally etched to the Indian psyche. A feel good factor, a nostalgia of the 90s and 80s when our fathers owned a scooter is what is making everyone ask for a scooter.

Bajaj Chetak

Emotions are not the only thing involved in the idea of bringing scooters back, of course its a huge risk. The scooters of Bajaj were of a different generation. Today’s scooters are mostly grearles automatics used by children or women who want to drive a lightweight, automatic two wheeler. Not the kind of Scooters that Bajaj made or the kind that the market wants Bajaj to bring back. Infact, except for LML in Punjab, today there are hardly any geared scooters in the Indian market today.

Aren’t there examples of old brands making a come back? The biggest example in the world is the Volkswagen Beetle. The 1938 model sold for nearly 40 before phasing out in the 70s. The model was so loved that when the company reintroduced it in 1998, it was an instant hit. It sold in the a hundred thousand units annually for nearly 10 years! Of course the numbers started falling again, and VW introduced a newer, more masculine version in 2011. The car has been out of fashion in 2019, but was one of the greatest comeback stories of the century.

Beetle 1998

Talking more closer to home, Royal Enfield itself is a comeback story. The chivalrous motorbike maker typically made motorbikes for the military and paramilitary forces, and very few owned the bike. It wasn’t till the 2000s that the bike started making a comeback. People wanted to own the Bullet, look tough and be part of the movement. The movement is still going strong and RE is making quite a buck.

So why can’t Bajaj bring back scooters? It’s not like Bajaj didn’t try its hand at selling the new generation gearless scooters. There was a model called Bajaj Kristal that was released in the 2000s. This model failed and with that Bajaj ended it’s venture into scooters. Which is really really sad.

Red Ocean

The fear of entering an already competitive market is not a sign of a good business. Its not just being risk averse, but its just throwing in your towel without getting into the ring.

The best example for this is the entry of TVS in the three wheeler market. The auto rickshaw market. Bajaj has historically owned this place. Even today Bajaj owns more than 50% of the market share in this segment. Yet TVS ventured into this market in the late 2000s and has since been chewing away market share. That is a sign of positivity and intent from a business that we as investors and shareholder look for. Why can’t Bajaj take cue from this move by TVS and take a change at entering the scooter market?

Three wheeler Market

The entry of TVS is not the only example of a new player entering an already saturated market. In the second decade of 2000, electric three wheelers have also come into the forray, and as a pleasant and path breaking news, the sales of electric three wheelers has for the first time surpassed the sales of petrol/diesel/CNG/LPG vehicles.

TVS Three Wheelers

As per data shared by the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), the apex lobby body for electric vehicles, sales of electric three-wheeler segment grew 21 percent during 2018-19 to 630,000 as against 520,000 sold in 2017-18. In 2018, sales of petrol, diesel and CNG-powered passenger three wheelers grew by just 10.6 percent to 572,400 units, compared to 517,400 units sold in 2017-18, according to data shared by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

King of the Hill

As we already saw, Bajaj is not the king of the hill. It comes off as a distant 4th when it comes to manufacturing and sales of two wheelers in the country. The bike that is on top of things is the Pulsar, but even that has stiff competition with other street bikes like the TVS Apache and Honda CBR. So where then does Bajaj see the money to be so adamantly stuck only in the motorbike segment of this huge market?

The partnerships. KTM has been a famous name in the domestic motorbike segment. KTM RC 200 and KTM 390 have been selling hot on the streets of the bigger and smaller cities of India. KTM has a manufacturing and marketing partnership with Bajaj. Hence is eating off a fair slice of action. KTM is not the only partnership game of Bajaj; not so long back they had partnership with Kawasaki, and the most recent partnership they’ve announced is with Triumph. Do these partnerships mean Bajaj can make enough money and move up in the market share? Not likely.

Partnerships

Of the top 10 bike awaited bike launches in 2019-20 FY, there is just 1 Bajaj bike – the Bajaj Dominor 400, and 2 other bikes from partnerships. Yamaha is planning to launch 3, Hero, Aprilia and RE are planning to launch 1 bike each. So clearly, Bajaj isn’t really pushing too hard to make it to the top.

So what do we have now?

  1. Bajaj isn’t the best in motorbikes and isn’t likely to be anytime soon
  2. Entering an already saturated market is not unheard off
  3. Brands that have had a special place have made successful comebacks

Why after all this does Bajaj want to stay out of the scooter segment? Because its too little money? or because its too much work? or is it because it’s just not fashionable anymore? Its here that we must recall that Rajiv Bajaj is not the one who made the company.

This reminds me of a line from Psalm 37 –  The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. Unrelated question: Who’s the righteous one here? Rajiv Bajaj or the Scooter that we loved so much?

~*~

Hoping Against Hope

On the auspicious day of the official FIFA world cup qualifier draw, we were hit with some bad news. Goal.com which is literally the mouthpiece of IMG Reliance and FSDL made a post speculating the exit of Bengaluru FC from their home ground of Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. It was a jolt! This had been our home since 2016 when we bid adieu to the smaller and astroturf-ed Bangalore Football Stadium since the number of fans had outgrown the 8000 seater.

Without going into details, lets understand that the news is not new that the Athletics Association of the Karnataka and Bengaluru FC have been fighting a turf battle in the Kanteerava. Now Kanteerava is a multipurpose stadium – most stadiums in India are. Hence the athletes of different track and field sports need the stadium to practice. When Bengaluru FC or BFC for cuteness, has a game coming up, it takes over the pitch for 2 to 3 days. This obviously creates problems for the athletes of other sports and hence the tiff. There has recently been a court order by the High Court of Karnataka that the stadium needs to be used only for athletics purpose and BFC needs to make way.

I just couldn’t believe it. Many couldn’t believe it. Staunch BFC supporters and fans were in disbelief and then in denial that we could actually lose our home. Many went on to create social media petitions and tried to spam or slander with FSDL, IMG reliance and even AIFF.

But inside, there was a hope that things will be fine and we will find a way through this. We will still play at our home ground. But what’s the reason behind this mad hope? Well nothing. The case as it stands doesn’t allow us to play in the Kanteerava stadium and the case will come up next for hearing only in October, by when our season would’ve already started. So why this hope? Why this belief of things are going to be good? I looked it up.

Apparently there is something called the Delusion of Reprieve. It was first found in Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl.

The condemned man, immediately before his execution, gets the illusion that he might be reprieved at the very last minute.

Source

Basically, Mad hope.

This struck me hard. Not the meaning of Delusion of Reprieve but the fact that it happens so frequently in our lives. The earliest of examples I can think of from my life is when we first moved to the suburbs. There were only 2 buses to our house and it took a full hour to make the round trip. We would wait at the school bus stop waiting for the bus. It would get late, real late and we would know the bus isn’t coming this hour, but yet we would stand there and turn up at every sound of a heavy vehicle.

It also happens on a bad day at poker. It happens to everyone that you’re just dealt with bad hands. You check, bet low and fold time and again, and yet you continue to play. Hoping, and earnestly believing that the next hand is going to be good.

The easiest example that everyone will be able to relate is school. Don’t we all remember the days when hoped against hope that a certain teacher wouldn’t turn up at school? they wouldn’t check the homework books? just before reaching school had the feeling that there would be a board saying its a holiday?

Today it happened again, even though we have a court order against us, and on us for quite some time so that it has actually sunk in, we still harbor a secret hope. Hope that at the last moment some miracle man would save us, some miracle from god would bend the rules for us.

The trickiest part of the this effect is actually defining it. Because in the bare sense, delusion of reprieve is nothing but hope. And isn’t hope a good thing? a virtue to possess? Yes it is, and the trick lies in understanding when Hope turns into the delusion of reprieve. I’m not gonna try to define the line of distinction as its a changing line based on context and relevance. It is different for all of us, but what’s important and the actual objective of this post is to realize there exists a place to which we can descend into, where hope becomes insanity. So the next time you are locked in a box, ask yourself, is this hope tingling under my skin or is it the insane delusion of reprieve leading me to the fool’s paradise?

~*~

Part 4: Jodhpur

The Blue City

Google maps is a life saver. It helps lost souls find their way. But on a bad day it can easily go the other way. We left from Jaisalmer just as the sun had started going down. It had thus far been a great day. Good places, good people and great food of Jaisalmer had left us wanting. But as plans go, we had to move on. Next stop Jodhpur – the Blue city. We were eager to get to Jodhpur, and in our eagerness made the one mistake that made subjected us to one of the hardest commutes we’d seen so far. We turned on google maps destined to Jodhpur while still in Jaisalmer city limits.

The Wrong Way

The main route taken to reach Jodhpur is the one that goes via Chandan, Pokhran and Dechu. This is a 4 lane highway and has tolls on the way. I’m not sure what google thought of us but she showed us a non-toll route that went through the countryside and maybe even through a forest. It was a single road – just two lanes with no clear onward and return sides. Over that we have a bizarre incidence where saw the carcass of a cow or some big animal like a deer or a camel right in the middle of the road. We slowed down, there was no one on the road, no vehicles, no homes, no people, just that carcass. Maybe it was a trap laid to get us? We didn’t stop, didn’t click photos, just escaped.

As on the previous day, we reached Jodhpur in the middle of the night. Our hotel had a wonderful view of the Mehrangarh fort, but sadly that meant the hotel was 125 feet below the fort and right in the center of the town – a town of narrow streets and open drains. It was frustrating enough that the hotel wasn’t perfectly pinned on google, but the midnight traffic was what got us really riled up. At 1 AM in the mid night people are riding around in their bikes at top speed! It was insane, insanity that we endured and finally found the hotel. It was a residential building modified into a hotel, and the promised parking was on the road – which our expert drivers struggled to mitigate.

Our day started with a visit to the central clock tower. Natives called it the Ghanta Ghar. It’s a tall tower in trade mark Jodhpuri architecture. The tower is surrounded by markets on 3 sides, including street markets that sold cloths, leather articles, plastic and wooden toys and a lot of things that looked like souvenirs for tourists. There isn’t much to talk or appreciate about the clock tower except that its a popular local land mark and though its right in the middle of the street, it makes for some decent photos.

Next on the list, the Mehrangarh fort. The fort itself is an awe inspiring site. The lofty towers, the thick walls and the shade of age on them makes it as imposing as it can get. There is another monument called Jaswant Thada close to it. It’s practically in the same premises as fort but very tranquil and serene in comparison to the fort. Given the fact that the monument is basically a place built to offer homage to the kings gone by, it is practically a tomb, just that there are no dead bodies in the place – perhaps because they were all hindu kings. There inner hall of the monument has photos and biographies of the kings, and is surrounded by a quite garden with bougainvillea trees and a serene lake on the outside. We saw a couple are artists trying to sketch the monument, so we stood for a while to catch them in action. It is said the Thada continues to serve as the cremation ground for the royal family. One of the interesting and humorous things about the place was the numerous No Selfie Zone signs.

The Mehrangarh fort has huge entryways and huge double doors which would’ve made for beautiful photos if not for the never ending hoards of people. There were also school trips and pilgrims among the crowd. Like most forts and palaces, this is also a huge museum. The exhibits can be categories as pictures of royalty, models depicting battles and other history, armoury of the royal army, and a special section of the museum dedicated just to the turbans! The fort has long corridors lined with photos, and a lot of rooms showcasing all the different remnants of the royal family and their lifestyle. There were numerous gift shops and other pop up shops in the fort. Rajasthani poppets, cotton cloths, turbans, exhotic metal utensis among other things.

The fort also housed a temple of ma chamunda devi. It is said that one of the kings of the province was a devotee of the goddess and had made the temple in the fort premises. The temple is in the compound of the fort, but is to be approached via the roof. The roof in itself is a showcase. It houses numerous canons of different time periods and makes for good photos. The view of the city from the roof top reminds us why this is called the Blue city.

Jodhour is known for its sweets. Jalebis, Ghewars, barfis and laddoos of a million kind. Unfortunately we had no time hunting down authentic places to eat as the fort had taken up nearly 3 hours and it was almost 2 PM. Sticking to our ambitions plan meant we would have to leave the city in less than 2 hours if we were to reach Jaipur before nightfall. We did find a Haldirams and ordered some delicious Raj Kachori to end our day in Jodhpur on a sweet note.

~*~

PS: We missed the Umaid Bhavan palace. Though the palace is visible from Jaswant Thada, its not like actually visiting the place, is it?

A Girl in Red

It was the weirdest part of the trip. What was supposed to be a 4 nights 5 days trip in the himalayas was gonna go wrong. OK calm yourself, no one died, no one broke anything and no one was lost.


It so happened that my company had taken on a stupid stupid client and we were trying make a lending software for this hard nosed stupid ass. I was the BA leading the calls and I messed up. Well, that’s another story, maybe for another day, but for now there was a stupid stupid client that I couldn’t drop and I was in the Himalayas.

With regret I had told my guys I was gonna stay back in Mcleodganj. The initial plan was to drive up to Manali from Mcleodganj, try skiing and any other adventure sports available and maybe play in the snow! But I couldn’t. So the guys went ahead to on the trip and I stayed back alone in the hotel room with my laptop. There was no heating in the room and there was no room service in the hotel.

The guys left for Manali early in the morning, at around 5:30 AM. I just woke up to see them off and went back to bed. No one was gonna be in office before 10. I don’t need to log in at 5:30 to prove anything. To my pleasant surprise, when I woke up by 9:30 AM, there was snow! It had started snowing in Mcleodganj in the 4 hours that I had been asleep since the guys left! The gods must really like me to have made it snow so that I didn’t miss seeing snow! It was the first time I saw snow in my life and it did feel new and fresh and unique. I walked out to the front porch of the hotel and stepped on the snow. Took a couple of steps and turned around to see my foot steps in the snow. The feeling was surreal. I had just taken 3 steps on flat ground in front of the hotel and it got me excited. So weird!

The kids who were manning the hotel started playing in the snow. A couple of them started making snowballs and throwing at each other. The 3rd kid wrote a girl’s name in the snow and was taking selfies with it. They were not kids per say, they might’ve been 18-20 years old but they were playing in the snow like they were 8 year olds! Snow is the beach of the highlanders I suppose.

I asked if breakfast was available, there was nothing in the hotel. Not even noodles or eggs or bread or even chai. I was asked to walk down to a small town center, a center circle like the town plaza which had a line of shops. I decided to take the chance. It’s not like I was hungry, but I liked the snow and a walk in the snow and a spicy fried egg seemed more inviting than drafting lengthy unconvincing mails.

I wore literally all the cloths I had with me. I hadn’t packed mustang, so I wore my thermal inners, 3 layers of cloths on top and then the only jacket I had. Gloves, socks, shoes and the cap too. I started walking down, the snow wasn’t think and since it was the first day of snow, there was no frost and it was easy to walk. I walked down to the plaza and found a neat eaterie. It had colorful interiors and looked like a library cafe. I picked up a political magazine, quite an anomaly in the otherwise “love all – no boundary nation ” theme of the cafe.

As I walked in I noticed there was no one else in the cafe. I was afraid I was gonna be turned down, but thankfully not. Another 18-19 or 20ish kid came up and took my order. I ordered a masala egg and cup of hot latte. He wrote it down, turned on the music to loud blast, gave me smile and ran down. It felt good, I was important. Perhaps in the himalayas when there is snow and bad weather all around, even a single customer ordering a single egg is important.

I ate my egg slowly sipping the latte. It had stopped snowing and there was noise outside. It was a Monday, so children had started going out to school. Few other eateries started playing music and other shops and establishments started opening up. Each with one or two guests.

A few kids, again 20ish kids had started playing cricket in what looked like a small park. There were some younger kids and some older ones. In fact the older ones were the kids who were running these cafes. They all played together but ran different cafes. Seems strange at first, but guess that’t the life in mountains.

I walked back to my room shivering in the snow. A girl in a red knee length coat was walking down towards the plaza. She was alone and didn’t look like a tourist. Our eyes locked, I nodded as a way of wishing the morning and she gave me a smile. I never saw her again, but the memory of this split second exchange of warmth still keeps me warm on cold lonely nights.

~*~