Friday, September 3, 2010


my fav song "oru rajamalli vidarunne pole.."

It was uthradam day, and I was coming home after a long gap of 8 months. The freshness and joy of Onam was in the air .But I was unpleasantly surprised not to see a Caesalpinea(Rajamalli in Malayalam) shrub which I planted 7 years back in our courtyard (muttam). I was told that the shrub was cut to make way for an earth mover -JCB as part of the renovation work. It was inevitable, they said. To make up the loss of 1 shrub, they have got 3 new saplings and is planning to plant two of them on the two sides of our gate. I said ok no problem. 3 for 1, better! I was in no mood to argue with my beloved parents. Instead I would thank them and my ancestors for planting a wide variety of trees/plants and maintaining our place ultra green.

So what's the big deal with that caesalpinea?

I spent one year of my life at Thrissur in a hostel.It was a virtual prison in fact.No TV, no entertainment, no sleep more than 6 hrs.. the wardens used to wake me up . I used to sit in the balcony of our hostel while studying. There was a ceasalpinea shrub at the courtyard of the hostel. Often I daydreamt, gazed at the sky and the beautiful flowers which the shrub bore. The effect of mother nature was so tranquilizing. After doing this for almost 10 months I felt some sort of attachment with that shrub. When I came back from Thrissur, I took a dozen seeds and planted it at my home. But only one of them survived. A few months later it started flowering. I felt as if I ve become a dad. :-) I seeked amma's help to water and nurture it till it become stout and strong. It grew along, attained almost 3 m height and was undoubtedly the eye catcher in our garden. I loved it!

Now hoping that the saplings grow soon and start flowering!

one of the saplings, ready to be planted.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ending my Aestivation

Was I aestivating?
Yes ,aestivating in blogosphere to be precise. 5 months were a bit too long. What happened to the blogger in me? Did I get preoccupied with too many things? Or devoid of topics?

Laziness,2 cut flexor tendons and 40 stiches played their parts.
Now the summer has gone and raining has started. Mother nature and my inner self started downpouring, ending the frustrating 'summer'.

I am back!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Men who eat Iridium-192 for dinner!

A few days back, I attended a certification training in Industrial radiography along with some of my colleagues . Its somewhat similiar to clinical radiography. Doctors check for cracks in bones and position of internal organs, we check for defects like cracks, porosities, slag inclusions etc in welds. Both the parties need to interpret the radiographs, arrive at conclusions and take remedies. On both the cases, the equipments will be handled by trained technicians. One of the major differences in clinical and industrial radiography is that - apart from X rays, Gamma rays are also used for industrial purposes.

During our training, I asked the facilitators whether we can see the equipment if they have got one with them. They said no and gave a list of reasons like-its bulky, we dont have it here etc.. It never bothered me. The only practicals we need to do was the interpretation of radiographs and moreover I have seen the X-ray equipment during my final year B-tech project. There the radiography took place inside a darkroom which had thick lead and concrete walls and the controls were outside the room. It was ensured that no X-rays came out of the room by putting detectors outside.

The next day after my demand, the tutor came shouting " hey guys, equipment and operators have come , they will demonstrate". All of us went to the backyard to see it. There was a Maruti Omni parked and two men were standing near it. Both of them had similiar physical features, they looked somewhat tired,had sunken eyes and brown hair. They opened the back door of Omni and took out some equipments. " Hey this doesn't seem X-ray equipment" I told Ramzi. " It has got long tubes" he replied. "F**k man , its the Gamma ray source, stay out of it, come on we ll move" I said and we virtually dragged each other out of the place. I was shocked! The Gamma ray equipment never came even in my weirdest thoughts. I thought they brought the Xray equipment for demonstarating how the operators setup the current and voltage parameters.

Why did I run? There wasn't any danger unless they switched it on by cranking. The capsule was enclosed in a lead box which prevented the radiation from leaking. One of the operators had a detector to find out radiation leakage.But I know well that the Gamma ray sources are unpredictable and the radiation is invisible.The monsterous trefoil symbol (radiation warning symbol) on the equipment really frightened me.

Radiography using gamma rays is done usually in the night, when no other people are working nearby. But in fast track projects like the one which I worked last, it was even done during daytime, evacuating all the personnel working over there. We used to go to a base camp which was 2 km away from the site to avoid getting exposed. Though gamma ray radiography was used in our project, I never saw the equipment, infact I have seen it only in pictures.

But what about those guys who operate the equipment? Aren't they humans? Don't they have the right to live in this world without getting exposed to harmful radiations?

They do it for money. They get 5000-10000 Rs per month. Most of them are illiterate and are from financially poor background. They are mostly ignorant about the ill effects of radiation poisoning. There are standard safe practises which need to be followed, they should even use a protective apron and dosimeter, but in industry they neglect it.We had a chat with the operators about their experience with handling the equipment and its ill effects. They often get radioactive doses. Only after prolonged exposure, they will come to know that they got exposed. They feel dizziness,itching ,tendency to vomit etc. They either go to a physician and take some medicines(wont be of much use) or take refuge in alcohol . But knowingly or unknowingly they are killing themselves. On the other hand,they virtually save lots of lives-if they find cracks and defects present in the welds of pipelines and pressure vessels which would have caused gas or steam to leak and lead to explosion that would take 100s of lives.

Shouldn't the use of gamma rays be stopped ? It is a kind of non-destructive testing (NDT), but it is a destructive test as far as our mother nature is concerned. NDT techniques like ultrasonic testing can be supplemented to find the weld defects, I say much effectively using methods techniques like pulse echo method and TOFD (time of flight diffraction) method. This technique is being effectively implemented in offshore pipelay vessels(ships or barges that lay subsea pipelines ). Some of the codes and standards insist to go for 100% radiography for certain welds. The guys who write them never get exposed to harmful radiations and it will be the poor operators who will suffer. The codes and standards should be modified and the usage of gamma ray radiography should be stopped. Why should we still bank on a century old technique with hazardous effects when new techniques are available?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Ek Dham"

When somebody asks about the status of some action or work assigned, I reply "oru vidham aai" in Malayalam colloquially,if I have completed most of the work and only a small percentage is left. Somehow the phrase "ek dham" in Hindi got in my mind as the equivalent for "oru vidham aai". A couple of days back,my colleague ( hes also a Malayali) pointed out that I was using the word inappropriately. Usually the usage in Hindi is "ek dham bekar"(damn bad), "ek dham achcha" (damn good) and so on.It means the speaker is pretty sure . I used the word lavishly without knowing its meaning. Now I understood the reasons why some people looked at me with confused faces hearing the phrase in my speech.

So what might have made me think "ek dham" = "oru vidham aai" ? I did some analysis and my discovery was "ek" in Hindi and "oru" in Malayalam means 'one'. "dham" and "vidham" sounds similiar. Thats it. :-D

Some time back , one of my senior colleague asked me to make a report. A couple of days later,the guy came and asked me about the status . By the time I had almost finished it. He asked "Alen, woh report ban gaya kya ?" (Is that report ready), I replied " woh, ek dham bangaya hai, lekin thoda aur bacha hai" (Its perfectly complete, but some more is left)..ha ha isn't it too confusing??? From his facial expression, I understood that he got confused, but I hardly knew the reason. He replied "ok".

But the greatest victim of "ek dham" was my guitar teacher. After each lesson he used to ask me, "Aap ka ho raha hai??" (Isn't it going well??).. Though my intent was to say that its goin on, I say "ek dham ho raha hai"(going perfectly).. then the guy tells "teek hai, aap baja ke dikhaawonaa" (ok you just demonstrate) expecting that I ve completely mastered the lesson)... and I start chang cha chang cha chang.. off rhythm.. and the guy looks me with a 'lost' expression and asks to continue my practise.

My endless honeymoon with Hindi started with the first Hindi word I learnt which was "paranthu" ( meaning but) from B.R Chopra's 'Mahabharat' in the late eighties, when I was in K.G.The character 'Shakuni' used the word so frequently that I asked my grandfather why shakuni was talking about kites( parunthu in Malayalam means Kites :-P)The second word I learnt was "seedha" ( meaning straight). That time I was in senior K.G and heard my dad instructing a taxidriver at Dubai "seedha javo" (go straight). I wondered why he told a lady's name "Sita".I thought for a few seconds, then asked my dad "who is Sita?" , he replied " Sita?, Who is Sita?". My mom was looking at him ,eyebrows raised. I told "just heard you telling the driver about Sita". Dad and mom burst into laughter.

Yeah I will master Hindi b4 i leave this 'Mahanagar'. That too ek dham achcha Hindi.

PS:I ve studied Hindi at school in 6th, 7th and 8th standards as 3rd Language (the syllabus was of 1st,2nd and 3rd std).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Three questions !!!

What all things come to our mind when we hear the name of a place/country? The geography,people, famous personalities, monuments,food,culture,climate etc. Take the case of Australia, the moment we hear it, a virtual slide show happen in our minds comprising Kangaroos, Sydney opera house, the great barrier reef,the cricket team etc. If its India, it will be Mahatma Gandhi, Taj Mahal,curry etc. Definitely the picture will be different for people who had been to a place and who had not been.

Whenever I get opportunity to interact with people of other nationalities, I share thoughts about culture,history, lifestyle etc. During such a conversation,I got a few questions from an English guy which really 'shook' me. He was a friendly guy with a good sense of humour.He worked in almost all deepwater oil hubs (Gulf of mexico,North sea, West africa, middle east,SE Asia ,NW Australia etc) and had a fair amount of knowledge about history and culture across the globe.It was his first assignment in India and was working for a project management consultant to my company.

For ease, let me call him Mr.H.. here goes his first question.....

Mr.H: Why do Indians shit publicly on road and all?
Me : Who told that?
Mr.H: I ve seen people doing that.
Me : Ok , I guess you might have seen this at Kakinada, right? If you go to rural areas like that, It ll be a common sight. The people over there are very poor and mostly are peasants and are illiterate. They don't have enough money to built a toilet.
Mr.H:To your surprise ,I ve seen that in a city, Vizag. If the people are too poor, then why dont the government do it?
Me : If you take the case of my state Kerala, you can hardly find a house without toilet. You know why? The people are educated and through local self govts,poor people got aid .I think the governments should educate people on this regard and aid them.

Shame on the govt!! Can you imagine even in your weirdest thoughts ,people shitting publicly in Singapore or Paris?

Lets move on to his next question.He thought that I was a christian and asked me whether I was one.Hearing that I am a Hindu he went on like this.

Mr.H: I ve heard that the Hindu society is divided into 4 classes. Whats the need to divide your society?
Me : You re talking about the caste system. To be frank I don't really know why it still exist.
Mr.H: So which class do you belong to among the four?
Me : I don't belong to any of those.
Mr.H: Why?
Me : My forefathers were said to be Buddhists. Somewhere in the history, they converted to Hinduism. It wasn't a sudden conversion, but a gradual one and they weren't allowed into the mainstream Hinduism. Historians have got different versions of this story.
Mr.H: Ok,I guess the classes are based on profession.
Me : Yeah, it was based on profession, but don't know really why people carry caste and subcastes even in this age. Let me tell my family history, from maternal side, my grandfather was a businessman, he was into textile business in my hometown. His dad was the manager of a transport company in erstwhile Travancore. From my paternal side, My grandfather was a farmer.My dad was a coating/painting inspector in the Middle east, now he is into books/stationery business.
Mr.H: Dividing the society on such basis doesn't do any good.
Me : People should realise that. Nobody is superior or inferior to others.And funniest thing is that nobody can convert to another caste like religious conversion. ha ha.
Mr.H: thats effing funny.

As an Indian,I really felt ashamed . I read in Abhilash Sir's Blog about a Korean Buddhist whom he met commenting about casteism in India. For me casteism is no different from apartheid.

And his third question was about arranged marriages.

Mr.H: I am unable to digest the concept of arranged marriages.How could you do that.It seems like a business.
Me : Its simple as well as complicated.ha ha. The life partner is being foundout with the help of parents. A few decades back, the age at which people used to marry was well below 18. They weren't mature enough to find their partners their own.That may be one of the reasons .Apart from that, people never allowed intercaste marriages to happen. But I too really don't know why people still hold these concepts.

I am quite confused.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Destiny ???

What the hell is destiny??? Everything that will happen in future???
Whatever good or bad or ugly that happened??? Is everything prewritten somewhere??? and are we just playing our parts???

Definitely not !!! I dont believe in fate or destiny. The word destiny was framed just to put the blame on . In the psychological point of view, it may give some sort of consolation to people who believe in it. But doesn't it make the attitude of people negative??? We Indians even predict our future with the help of a 'great science', Astrology.

Yeah, I should tell a real life story here... It happened to a man who believed too much in Astrology and stuff. Once he went to see an astrologer for predicting his fortunes/misfortunes. Though the astrologers themselves doesn't know what will happen in their lives, they are pretty much certain about the lives of others. The astrologer took a wooden board, drew some squares , wrote cha, che, chu etc and started playing with small shells over it. After that he started predicting the problems that the man would face in future and its relation with celestial bodies. According to the astrologer, the man was having 'shani' and the so called infection would be there for 12 long years, there weren't any remedies or solutions to avoid it, but some poojas could reduce the effect. The man became pessimistic after that. He started putting the blame on shani and his fate blindly for almost everything that happened in his life. " I am having 'shani' and its not a good time for me, whatever I do, I won't succeed!" , he used to say like this . Bull shit !! You know, after those effing 12 years, his pessimistic attitude vanished. Don't know how people digest astrology and all ,even in this 'information era'. Its almost impossible to change the attitude of the older generation, to erase things which got into their minds during their childhood. Let them continue with that, why should we disturb the mental consolation or whatever they get from it. But my generation, don't you realise its time for a renaissance???

In future when I plan to marry (say an arranged marriage), the horoscopes will be analysed and the percentage match will be found out with the help of Astrologers. Absolutely ridiculous !!!

Its will be quite ironic that even after talking against astrology, I may succumb to the pressure from people who believe in it. I talked this topic with my parents, according to them ;" ok you dont want to refer horoscope, but who will make their daughter marry you without refering that, unless its a love marriage?".. Yeah I was dumbstruck. Anyway the chances for a love marriage seems remote.(destiny? no way). But infact I am very happy to see guys belonging to my generation getting married without the help of horoscopes and stars. [:-)].

Back to the topic destiny again. Who is responsible for the events happening in ones life? The man himself. It is the result of actions or a chain of decisions he chose among lots of alternatives.I have to agree that there is a factor of uncertainty in the events happening in ones life and lots of external factors also play their part.(eg: other humans, pathogens etc.)

Dear readers please dont mix up destiny and God. I believe in God but not in destiny.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pilot to Mechanical engineer-the story so far.

"What do you want to become when you grow up, a doctor or an engineer?" asked my grandpa when I was a four year old. A question that evolved from a typical malayali mindset. Most of the mallu kids are taught to reply either doctor or engineer if somebody asks. My answer was pilot. A couple of trips to Trivandrum airport and my favorite toy aeroplane might have struck the spark in me. The 'pilot bug' gradually died down as it was replaced by police,inspired by some action movies.

I imitating a policeman ( Cops never aim & salute simultaneously :-P)

Quite ironically another movie which I saw when I was 7-8 years old, made me quit the desire to become a policeman. The movie was 'Nanma niranjavan sreenivasan' ( a Malayalam movie, Jayaram starrer). The hero of the movie was a police constable and in one particular incident the hero had to guard a deadbody, alone throughout a night. The next morning he was shivering with fever. That scene made an impact on my 'weak heart'.

I fell in love with science @ school in 3rd or 4th standard. I dreamt of becoming a scientist . I stood odd in my class when teachers asked about ambition. The funniest part of 'scientist story' was that I did some experiments hoping serendipity.I still remember trying to burn various shrubs and grasses to discover biofuels when the hyped story of Ramar Pillai's biopetrol was at its peak. Though I wanted to become a scientist, my mind wandered between astronomy, biology and geology.

I wrote the entrance exam for admission in Sainik school (9th std) and got shortlisted for the interview and medical checkup. To be frank I was more interested in the discipline , the sports and games and the huge campus, than becoming a defense personnel. The 'scientist bug' didn't leave me. It was time for the interview and I had to strike a balance between 'scientist' and 'defense personnel'. The interview panel consisted of three people, all of them defense staff. They shot the 'ambition question' and my answer was scientist in defense sector. They asked " what do you mean ?" . I answered " just like A.P.J Abdul Kalam". Pokhran II and my interview happened in the same week and I went not stop about fission, fusion etc. They asked "what will you do if you don't become a scientist?". I replied " I will join the defense services". It didn't convince them and finally I didn't make it. They were interested in future soldiers, not scientists.

My grandpa's question again came back when I finished 10th standard. This time from my parents. I changed my mind to engineer from scientist, but my parents wanted me to become a doctor( guess they were attracted by the social status and moreover my grandpa's wish). I was in a reluctant mood , wrote the medical entrance and ended up in failure. After that I went for 1 year medical entrance coaching at a reputed coaching center . I neither gave 100% commitment to it nor dishearten my parents by saying a 'no' to the medical stream. I couldn't get enough rank the second time also. The truth was that I often went in a 'stealth mode' practicing some maths problems which helped me fetch a fair rank in engineering entrance exam. Now there weren't many options left other than joining bachelors degree course in engineering. I never blame my parents for the 'lost' 1 year, In fact I say I am responsible for the good or the bad that happen in my life.I should have taken a bold step. People (friends, relatives etc.) call it 'lost' year , but I never felt so and moreover learnt a couple of lessons in life.

Now it was time to choose the branch of engineering. The general trend was choosing electronics and communication . I was also in the mood until I got enlightened about Mechanical engineering by Dr. S. Jose , my relative and academic guru. Himself being a Mechanical engineer and Asst Professor, threw insight to the various aspects of mechanical engineering and I never thought twice to choose my stream. Mechanical engineering, being a 'broad' stream of engineering rendered me numerous options to choose- energy sector,oil and gas ,automobiles, aeronautical, aerospace,thermal.

I never had an interest in computer programming. I still remember, how tough the C++ programming was in 3rd semester for me, just managed to fetch a pass in that subject. 90% of the companies which came to my college for campus recruitment were IT companies. All the placement activities started in 7th semester. Though I wasn't interested, just for the sake of attending tests and interviews, I participated in the drives. 3-4 companies came and I didn't manage to get 1. Finally I got a job in a reputed IT company .I never wanted to join that company and told my intentions to parents. They advised it will be utter foolishness if I don't join the IT firm, without having another job in hand. I was mentally preparing for a fight with them, thought of firing all guns to get a job in core field. I continued writing exams and attending interviews, and got a job in one of the fields which I dreamt of getting into- Oil & gas industry.My parents were happier than me. Thanks to all. Presently, striving hard to achieve my goals, and will be writing a part 2 to this post some years later. :-)