Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Of Boilers and Columns

The words pumps, pipes, reactors and filter-dryers are not typically words associated with poetry! But as it turned out, these very bulky pieces of equipment ended up etching a new memory point in my mind!

Long long ago, the benzene ring had caught my fancy and several years ago, this fascination led me through the doors of chemical engineering. Years passed. Life meandered through different curves and routes and then suddenly I saw myself looking at the face of a reactor! I saw a filter-dryer assembly. I saw the brightly colored, color coded maze of pipes all the while inhaling the queer smell that is characteristic of the CHEMICAL PLANT.

And the memories came back.

The visit to a sulfuric acid plant many many years ago. I remembered how the plant had its own captive power generation unit. I remembered the caustic soda plant where we realized that Solvay was a guy and not some suave process name that said that soda was made the 'solvent way!' The Linear Alkyl Benzene plant that was our project for a whole year. The early morning trips to the last stop on Mumbai's Harbor Line railway. The running out of the station to catch that company bus that would ferry us to Patalganga! Missing that bus once, and having to go through a route via Mopada in a vehicle called a Vikram! The wild cow in a rain puddle full of muck one day. The Patalganga river which we later found out was in effect a nallah for carrying effluents. The drongo, the snake, the striped tiger and the crazy guy who tied these entities into a story.

If that was not enough, then just looking at the equipment, gave me a thrill. Not because they were actually beautiful, but because all these pieces of equipment did not look arcane to me. I'd spent a year drawing them complete with nuts, bolts and flanges in some remote part of my life. I knew how thick the walls must be for a certain temperature and pressure. I knew the secret behind the color coding of the pipe mazes. I knew what happened in a milling machine. I knew what a jaw crusher was - and I knew that it wasn't a tool used by the mafia to aid them in their nefarious acts! I loved seeing the process chemistry and analytical chemistry labs, since HPLC meant High Performance Liquid Chromatography to me and not Himachal Pradesh Liqor Corporation or some such random term! I knew. I understood. I identified.

The Chemical Engineer felt alive again...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

All hell breaking loose on Japan - blame it on their history

At times one wonders what Japan has done to get hit from all quarters. First of all they have been living in a recession since so long. They had a lost decade and now they don't seem to have found any respite. Then the doyens of Japanese industry, Toyota got hit, first with safety concerns of sudden acceleration. This was followed by public outcry over their apathy towards this issue and their lack of a quick response. And now,the patent fight for Prius' technology with Paice, the supposed holder of the patent for the technology that translates electric energy and energy from burning gas into torque. So as per a settlement, they now need to pay $98 per car as royalty. That means, $1.4 mn for June alone, and apparently Paice had spent $20 mn on the technology! Does that royalty figure seem fair? When in reality, it has been proven that the technology being used in the Prius has been developed by Toyota's own research. Just because the technologies are in effect the same, one should not ideally subject the auto major to such a huge royalty payment! So why in effect is Japan suffering this way? Could the answer lie in ancient Japanese history and culture?

Japanese peoples over the years have been a sheltered and protected community. They're not overly aggressive. In the early part of Japanese civilization, they were subservient to the Chinese. The very first mention of Japan is in China's Book of the Later Han, around AD 57, where Japanese are referred to as the people of Wa, comprised of close to around 100 tribes who used to come regularly and pay tribute to the Chinese. The Japanese king Suisho was also known to have presented Japanese slaves to the King An of Han in China'.

And then as the years progressed, in the Edo period, Japan began to notice effects of Western influences on its people. They got afraid of being subjugated by the 'West' and imposed a seclusion that lasted more than 2 centuries, only to be broken on gunpoint, almost! But in the subsequent Meiji period, Japan woke up. The need to prove themselves better than the Western Powers that made them open up to trade at gunpoint became all too important. A strong wave of nationalism swept through the nation.

Another undercurrent was the overall mild mannered nature of everything Japanese. In ancient times, the IRAA which was supposed to safeguard democracy and the Meiji constitution ended up being titular. Again, they were dragged into the first Sino - Japanese war. They seldom ever showed aggression, and Chinese and Russians routinely flirted with Japanese borders in the olden days. Again, while the world has been ravaged by religious wars - the crusades, wars between Islam and Christianity and the ever-present dissent between the Shias and Sunnis amongst Muslims themselves, Japan is an example of how 2 religions - Shintoism (the native Japanese religion that worships forces of nature, people, kings and so on) and Buddhism that originated in India and spread through China to Japan have co-existed.

And in a way all these cultural aspects have come to the fore in modern day Japan. Corporate culture is known to be mild, in fact too mild, such that people are wary about calling a spade a spade! They are in love with the status quo. In fact, I learnt from some Japanese that they revere Mt. Fuji because of its symmetric nature, that denotes stability! In the wake of a recession, therefore, sweeping reforms, like the kind that were needed a decade ago were totally missing - they privatized the post office as a way to get out of a recession! Anti - public sentiment measures are impossible. And now, as the world has been reeling under the Great Recession, Japan is staring in the face of yet another lost decade. Besides, one can see the after effects of the seclusion, in that they still keep themselves away from the glare of spotlights, and keep to themselves when it comes to their research or technologies or even plans and emotions!

Now, trade has been hit, and the Yen seems to be strengthening compared to other surrounding currencies and the Government is being persuaded to do something about the fiscal policy fast. Whether they will take the supreme step of loosening monetary policy is yet to be seen. Years ago, Japanese, not having any avenues to invest within the country started stocking up on American properties. This blew up Japanese real estate into a bubble. And now apparently most Japanese banks are busy buying up stake in American banks. Where is this trend going to lead them? Only time will tell.In the mean time, their industry seems to be suffering - from apathy, lack of innovation, shrinking local demand and more importantly bad luck. The only way out would be get themselves a makeover in attitude!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Goldman Story

The whole Goldman story has been nothing short of a Bollywood potboiler over the past couple of years. And the best part is that there are no good guys and bad guys here. The more the saga unfolds, the more interesting it looks! But it has brought to the fore the very duplicitous nature of business and regulation, both!

When the whole sub-prime season was on, Goldman beat the Street, so to say. And suddenly people were looking to Goldman to lead the way and show the world how business is done despite a slump in the sector, and a slump in the economy. The CEO was lauded, the world looked in awe as Citigroup was brought down to its knees and almost nationalized and Merill was rescued by the Government and BofA, while in the midst of this carnage, Goldman kept looking extremely strong.

And while all this has been happening, comes news that the CDOs that Goldman had been marketing had underlying instruments that had been chosen by Paulson & Co. a hedge fund that had intentions of shorting these same securities. The implication? Imagine sailing on the high seas in a boat knowing that the boat had a hole in the hull! And now, after the SEC has sued them and there has been sufficient hue and cry over the lack of governance laws, there has been an out of court settlement of sorts. The heads won't roll, the penalty will be at $550 million, and the core issue has now been reduced to a lack of completeness of marketing materials. All this, after Goldman initially denied any of these allegations. How then suddenly did they acquiesce to a settlement at all?

And then comes the insider aspect. Stephen Friedman, former Goldman Chairman and then audit committee chairman was accused of picking up Goldman shares when he was chairman of the Federal Reserve. All this while the Government was busy bailing out AIG and paying people caught in AIG's tentacles. So while the Fed clearly perhaps knew that such a bailout was imminent, they perhaps also knew that Goldman would be a key benefactor! How then could Friedman pick up shares that resulted in him netting a cool $3 mn in paper profits? The case is feeble, since they are looking at a possible exception. But reasoning begs that one understand how a legal exception can preclude common sense! Even if the law allows it because of a loophole, wouldn't a Fed Chief who knows about an imminent windfall not be making use of this inside information when he nets a cool profit through this benefactor? Another lapse in judgment came when another former director let slip news of Berkshire Hathway's $5 bn investment in Goldman. At least he didn't stand for re-election to the board!

While all this has been happening, people have wondered about the law. On one hand, one can see glaring errors of judgment. But they can also see massive loopholes in the law that allow one to simply commit the transgression and still skip away free. So who is the bad guy here? The transgressors themselves, for not having a conscience? Or the lawmakers for leaving laws so lax? We can argue both ways. One can say that transgressors will always exist. And it is up to the regulators to ensure that they don't run riot. But then, what happened to the Classical theory of Economics, that needs the least Governmental intervention? Can that theory effectively be put to rest having fallen prey to the machinations of the human mind?

The debate will forever go on. But till then, the media will have a circus to pry on. Had Merill not gone under, someone would have covered John Thain's multi million dollar loo as a Wall Street Heirloom, rather than glossing over the 'John Fiddled while Wall Street burned' image of Thain. But I guess this is indeed the flip side of capitalism - amazingly good as long as the going is great, but at the ebb of gloom when things go a bit awry.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inception - Fabulously phenomenal to say the least

Inception. I'll be honest. The first time I saw the name and the tag line - 'Your mind is the scene of the crime', I imagined another Matrix. Zany stunts, psychedelic imagery, and a concept so abstruse that you need to keep Wikipedia open in parallel to understand what's happening. But then, there was this nagging hope that because this movie is directed by Christopher Nolan of 'The Dark Knight' fame, it might be understandable and the directorial pedigree meant that it had to be really good. In stepped IMDB and 9.6/10 with 2000+ reviews bode well and we took the plunge. And I came out calling the movie fabulously phenomenal to say the least.

The concept itself is out of the world - all to do with dreams, psychology and the sub conscious mind. A difficult premise, and decidedly very easy for anyone to lose touch with reality while making a movie on such a delicate yet arcane concept! But having seen Batman Begins, where the movie is all about Bruce Wayne's struggles with his own psychological demons and more recently the Dark Knight which was more a movie looking into the evil psyche of the Joker, one can understand that the Nolan would make a movie that has the potential to explore the intricacies of psychology, all the while keeping a strong plot in place. In a gist, as perhaps the summary itself shows, the movie is about manipulation of the sub conscious mind. It begins with a psychedelic sequence in some oriental place, and you wonder what's going on. Suddenly there are flashes of another place and a few moments later, you can link the two. Every now and then, there is this mystery lady who shows up and you are intrigued about her role in this whole charade. The movie begins in perfect Pulp Fiction style, with a standalone scene that has little semblance to anything. And once it grips you, you're there for the whole two and a half hours, glued to the screen. Part of the reason for this is that the editing is perfectly crisp, enough to make you quickly fill in the conjunctions while you watch the movie itself! Letting out more about the plot, would perhaps kill the fun in the suspense.

The Dark Knight won a lot more because of the evil portrayal of the Joker assayed by Heath Ledger. Here, though we have Leonardo di Caprio, fresh out of yet another psychological thriller Shutter Island, one can't say that the movie is awesome just because of one leading man. The whole story is very neatly woven with threads of the plot, the concept and an additional track covering a side story involving Leo's own life. Not once in the movie do you find a disconnect between any of these threads or a redundant scene. And this is what makes the movie even more interesting. If you are even a slight bit inclined towards the arcane nature of the human psyche, you will not only enjoy the two and a half hours but also the numerous hours you might spend post the movie, thinking deeper about the concept and trying to piece all the ramifications of the taut storyline. And the music - Hans Zimmer works his magic all over again. The haunting dream signal tune stays with you forever and the background score is an integral part of the story line.

All in all, a must watch. Don't let this one go. After watching this, you'll perhaps lose track of which is reality and which one's is a vivid dream.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Football and the European Crisis

Once upon a time, there was a colony of ants that was slogging it out on a hot sunny afternoon collecting and stocking up on food. While the ants were toiling thus, a grasshopper who was making merry and singing away to glory. The grasshopper ridiculed the ants and their toils in the hot boiling sun, while the ants just kept about their job. In a few months, winter set in. The ants were happy eating the stocked food, in the warmth of their ant hills. Suddenly there was a knock on their door, and the grasshopper was outside, asking for some food. The ants replied, "You sang all summer and didn't show foresight. You made fun of our work, so now spend winter dancing."

A fiercely capitalist ideology would perhaps hold on to this notion of pure meritocracy. Indeed the whole concept of 'too big to fail', that has been dealt with at length in several news articles over the past couple of years and also mentioned several times right here on the lilac avenue is criticized by economists. They are of the view that this whole backing of large corporations by the government or bailing them out of bankruptcy is in a way condoning their faults and gross mismanagement. And that gives a signal to industry that once you bloat up in size, it's your way or the highway.

So when Greece teetered on the brink of collapse, and several Eurozone nations looked rather precarious, (they were called the PIGS - Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain), people started worrying about the Euro. They looked towards Germany that has been steamrolling its way towards becoming a strong force to reckon with. Their laws are robust. Their industry is solid. Other statistics are strong as well. Indeed, having paid reparations through 2 World Wars, battling hyperinflation and having almost a generation of people wiped out thanks to the wars, taught them the fine art of fiscal balance and thrift. So they didn't go about borrowing and spending their way to progress. They were the ants in this story!

The PIGS were the grasshopper. Greece is rumored to have debts = 150% of their GDP. Thrift or spendthrift? And so, when all hell began to break loose, and people started looking at the country, they realized that this bubble needed to burst. Having burnt their fingers once through the sub-prime balloon that looked bright and yellow for a while, before a ghastly blast, people realized that the kind of social security measures, the benefits, the lax labor laws, all were pointing towards economies that were living way beyond their means. So they dropped Greece as if their hands were smeared with grease! And pretty soon, IGS followed.

The world worried whether Germany, whose progress looked like it was in a way not being allowed to reach it's full potential thanks to being bogged down by the Euro, might want to break away and restart with the Deutsche Mark. It looked like a very tantalizing proposition. Indeed there were discussions happening to that effect! But then, here being fiercely capitalist and meritocratic may not really be the right option. A corporation is one model and a country is yet another. A corporation can fail, and cause temporary pain to some people, maybe even an industry, resulting in long term gains achieved through improved legislation and measures. But if a country like Greece failed, or rather was allowed to fail by Germany, Germany would have faced dire consequences. Germany's growth is to a large extent dependent on exports, especially to other European countries. So, if one of those countries failed, Germany would lose a large chunk of her GDP! So in a way, condoning the past follies of these countries and propping them up, seems like the best option for the greater good of European humanity.

That said, in a way Spain winning the FIFA World Cup is good news. No doubt Casillas and Co are a happy lot, having won Spain's maiden World Cup. The mood in Spain is upbeat too. Rafa won the French Open and Wimbledon after a one year hiatus. And now Spain has the World Cup. So people would be happy. Happy people perhaps would spend, and boost confidence in their economies and that might just be the point where the European economy turned the corner towards the good! Weird thought, but worth the cogitation, right?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

9th July 2010 - Another unique birthday memory

Oh yeah! It's that time of the year again. Once you cross a certain age, every added year looks like a millennium. All of a sudden, ankles, knees and everything begin to act up. And you realize - it's your birthday. But then, you have the life you've built around yourself over past years that ends up making your day go beyond just those creaking joints. It's all about being remembered by different people, who've had or who have some stake in your life, who in many cases, have perhaps not been in assiduous touch with you, but still remember and make the day special for you.

As usual, it was my favorite cousin who started it off. Her agenda was not to just wish me, but rather to ensure that she disrupted my sleep and that I was awake thanks to her! And then it was the ever dependable friend of mine from the Eastern part of the world, who had the privilege to wake up a few hours ahead of us Indians. But unlike me, who woke him up in the middle of the night at 3 am, just because it was still his birthday in my part of the world, this guy decided to just message me and prevent getting expletives from a sleepy me!

And then for the second time in a row, here I was bringing in my birthday at a new place of work, where no one knew that today was the day I graced the earth so many years ago. I kinda liked the incognito method of operation, because I feel that there are perhaps some things better left to zero publicity. And leaving some things out of Facebook perhaps holds on to some of the fun of anticipation! So, my oldest friend all the way from school, my closest friends from my first work place, some from undergrad, some others from various other walks of life all added that zing to my day. And the best part was being remembered and wished by my very first boss at work, and my very first super-boss as well, who've consistently remembered through all these years. And even better was the fact that my dear ex super boss promised me an i-pad. (Yup, now the promise is set in stone hehehehhe..:D :D)

So two rounds of cell phone charging later, I thought that my one year hiatus from Mumbai had not in any way diminished the spirit of kinship between me and my pals and felt very good about it all, as the day drew to a close. The weekend dawned and I decided to go visit my very first friends in the corporate world, at a place that still gladdens my heart with each visit. Little did I know what was awaiting me. All said and done, it has been 2 years since I stopped working in that place, but my closest friends there, my ex-boss included, decided to throw me a surprise fare, with my favorite black forest cake, and all my friends incidentally showing up at the pre-decided cubicle! And the cake cutting was in a typical ceremonial fashion, just like old times, and all my protests against having white cream smeared on my face fell on deaf ears. It just didn't end there, but rather a date with Tom Cruise followed.

Knight and Day - well - a cross between Mission Impossible and Jerry Maguire. But, ever since Top Gun, TC is a treat on any day, especially after sooooo long. The wrinkles have begun to show, but the smile still is as infectious as ever! The story was feeble, and like Teeps said, the movie should rather have been called 'battery', although when the titles began to roll, RB wondered whatever happened to the central character - the battery! But then again, a mindless movie starring a couple of lookers is the perfect definition of a weekend, especially this weekend!

The titles have rolled, the taste of black forest cake still lingers in my mouth. Yet again, a bunch of my friends have added another new memory to the event called my birthday. Thanks a lot guys, I really feel special!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The real reason why Germany lost yesterday...

I first saw them coming on to the field dressed in their conventional garb of white on black. And maybe I should have gotten the hint.

The contenders were the same as those of the Euro 2008 final. Germany vs Spain. Back in 2008, Spain was a strong team. Now, a fraction of that genius team remains supported on the able shoulders of Casillas. But then somehow, after the showing against Argentina, the German side looked infallible! Fine, so you trounced England 4-1. But in comparison, England was a weak side. And then you beat the side that was expected to win the World Cup 4-0. And that was when the dream got ignited. I rooted for Germany even before the Euro final, and spent a day after Germany's loss feeling very sad. I flew the German flag on a car, spent hard earned money buying a German jersey. I believed in the team. And then came Paul!

Now, Paul the traitor German octopus, who perhaps has a bigger audience than the German team itself, had been correct in all its predictions thus far. But if you looked at precedents, he had predicted a German victory in the Euro final and he had been wrong. So when newspapers screamed of Paul predicting a German loss, I felt that maybe he was half German and half Spanish, and so, his psychic powers were going skewed when it came to choosing between Germany and Spain. I felt that he was wrong in 2008 and maybe he would end up being wrong this year. My flag and the use of my jersey sooooo depended on his being wrong.

And then they turned up not in their black on black garb, but rather in their conventional white on black outfit. Red flags and panic signals went off there and then. I wondered why. If the black on black clothes hadn't been washed, big deal at least the stench might have kept the Spanish defenders away! And then it appeared as if the German team wanted to prove Paul right. It looked as if they had a duty towards ensuring Paul was right. As if Paul had pleaded to the team saying, "Please let my projection be correct, or my owner will sell me off to the sea food restaurant." And I must applaud the compassion of the German team. Man, had Maneka Gandhi or PETA seen their resolve towards protecting Paul the octopus, they may have received the Magsaysay award for social good! And they managed to keep Paul alive, by losing pathetically to a Spanish team that in a crunch match played like a team possessed. Although thus far, their game had been strictly mediocre, suddenly yesterday, they stepped up their game to the 'Germany-Argentina' level. And complacence or compassion ensured that Germany played football with only foot and no ball!

At the end of the day, my jersey is still tucked in, as good as new, with no occasion to wear it. I don't want to walk around wearing it with people saying, "Oh they lost soooo badly to Spain!!!" I've had enough of derision and sympathy on Facebook to want any more in the real world. The flags, however are still flying on the car, not because of any reason, except that no one can find any more Spanish or Holland flags at any store anywhere! And Germany still cowers with pain at the mention of the word Spain.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Muy Bien Rafa! Way to go!!!

I should perhaps get bored of writing about Rafa and his victories. But somehow, each tourney is special. And surprisingly different.

So this time it was Wimbledon. And 2008 was wonderful, since at the peak of his form, Nadal won the championship by defeating his arch nemesis, in Fedex's own favorite turf. And that was some match indeed, a gruelling 5 setter interspersed with rain, and a nail biting finish. After all, the pretender was keen and the emperor was ready to go flat out!

But this year, there was no such drama. Rafa sat out all of last year, and as aptly described to the interviewer, it was the most difficult task to watch Federer win last year, as he sat helplessly nursing busted knees and fighting to get his psychological stamina back. And many, I included, post Roland Garros, wished to see a Rafa - Fedex battle again. The kinds that we had in 2008. 2008 saw Federer fight it out with Rafa on the clay courts only to let the king of clay prevail. 2008 also saw Federer fight to hold on to his stranglehold on the grass courts, only to let the pretender snatch that privilege rather harshly from him! So, I would have been happier, post Nadal's regaining his form, to have seen a duel much like the one we haven't seen since the Australian Open 2009. But that wasn't to be. In a surprise defeat, Fedex was knocked out, and it looked as if once Nadal surpassed his French Open 2010 rival Robin Soderling, he almost had the gilded trophy in his hands.

People expressed awe last year when Federer won French Open. A few Nadal enthusiasts, me included pointed out that it was one thing to beat a king in his own territory and a completely different story to usurp a kingdom when the king is incapacitated or away! In that respect, Rafa's Wimbledon 2008 was a well-earned victory, where he beat Federer in his own turf fair and square and earned the title. Likewise, even Wimbledon 2010, where he beat Federer's assailant and proved himself to be a grass champion as well. In my view, using that logic, Federer winning French Open 2009, was not so momentous, since the usual suspect or the expected victor, was pretty much missing in action! No matter what the case may be, 2010 is a year of good sport action. Rafa is back, his mental acuity, and on-court agility are as high as they have ever been. He has been able to match every player stroke for stroke and emerge victorious.

And then again, we have the football world cup in Africa. But I won't dwell too much on how ethereally beautiful the men in black were on the field, since I've all of spent a whole post on that. But I saw this rather interesting article in the Globe and Mail near the start of the world cup, (look here) and I must say, that for the greater good of humanity and to be able to stave off a double dip recession, please God let Germany win the World Cup!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Black beat Blue, black and blue

Black beat Blue, black and blue! Argentina was touted to lift the World Cup and get the golden trophy back to Latin America. Maradona declared that he'd go dancing naked on the streets! YIKESSSS! I guess the cosmos wanted to spare humanity that horror and made Argentina meet the Men in Black for the quarter finals.
(Pic courtesy The Globe and Mail).

Anyone who had seen Germany had perhaps discerned that the team had a certain spark about themselves. But all along, no one spoke about them. Then they said Argentina was a sure shot. Lionel Messi was Magical Messi. The Maradona - Messi combination was supposed to be the next best thing since penicillin! Each time I'd tell anyone I know that I rooted for Germany, they'd say 'Boo... Argentina is the team to watch out for.' They even said England were favorites! But I admired the German team. One of the youngest squad of the lot, with Mueller being just 20! The oldest player in the squad is perhaps 26! Before being tackled by Ghana's Boateng in the FA cup, Ballack was supposed to be playing. And then when he was ruled out with a busted ankle, I was devastated. According to me, Ballack is one of the best captains the sport has seen and I must say, Lahm has lived up pretty well too. And then Germany lost to Serbia and people started telling me 'Podolski kicked a penalty shot into the goalie's arms! And you fly a German flag on your car????' But I stood my ground and then the match against England happened.

4-1, and the German team suddenly came alive. And today, they beat the best football team in the world, a team that was supposed to be unparalleled, a team coached by the legend Maradona. And that too, 4-0! The German defence was made of concrete! Even Magic Messi couldn't get close to getting anyone to score! Maybe the German goal in barely 3 minutes by Mueller rattled the guys in blue. But technically World Cup winning hopefuls shouldn't let their nerves get to em, right? And as for the goals? Well, Klose was missing in the game against Serbia, which was my reason as to why they lost. And true to thought, Klose scored 2 goals today and that too with inch perfect precision! It was a treat watching them indeed. This match was perfect testimony to the power of team work. Not one person looked to score for himself, unlike in case of Argentina, where passing for scoring was not seen as often as in the case of Germany. Mueller, Klose, Klose and Friedrich, all scored as if adding a cherry to an already perfect icing!

So the German octopus Paul was right. Again. (Look here). Wonder what it's prediction will be going forward. But this Indian says - 'It's been Deutschland this far. And the journey has been nothing short of dramatic.' Go Dramatic Deutschland!!

Bambai ki Baarish

This one is for the rains of Mumbai. The other day I happened to talk to a friend who recently moved to Mumbai. I told her that she has come at the perfect time to Mumbai, since Mumbai rains are nothing short of poetic. She in turn told me that she hated the rains and that she preferred hot weather! But I felt that she was missing out on something in life, by not really savoring the icing on the cake called Mumbai.

For me, the rains are synonymous with cloudy, dark skies, pouring rain, a calm, chilled weather outside, rainwater trickling down the long clear glass window panes, a mug of piping hot coffee in my hand, a good book in the other and perhaps Enigma, Enya or Yanni playing in the background. And then living in a city by the sea, rains mean huge tidal waves that lash against the wavebreakers off Mumbai's sea coast. Rains bring on those huge waves that send in misty sprays all over Marine Drive and Worli Sea Face. A picture of a rainy day would perhaps be incomplete without the swaying coconut trees and mellow, non-bright afternoons.

This does not mean that the rainy season is a period of vacation for everyone in Mumbai. But rains bring out the quick-dry synthetic outfits, the all-season footwear, the psychedelic umbrellas, kids in bright colored rain coats, squeaky clean looking cars (thanks to a free car wash), and everything left looking as fresh and clean as new. The leaves of trees that had been covered in soot all along would suddenly look clean and green! And of course, rains bring out the coal-powered segris and with them, the ever-enjoyable corn, called Bhutta in Mumbai. The corn is roasted on the coal stoves, and then garnished with lemon, salt and chilly powder and a bite of something as delicious with the salty monsoon winds billowing against one's hair is nothing short of beautiful. And topping it off with a sip of 'tapri chaai' or the piping hot roadside tea while standing under the canopy of the chaiwallah's electric blue plastic sheet - ETHEREAL!

Some of my friends complain that I love Mumbai to the extent of almost condoning everything that is not so good about her. And so, in an honest effort to be unbiased, my favorite rains do bring along a flip side. Heavy rains, though lovely, remain so as long as they are being enjoyed in the cosy confines of a house or an office building. The very thought of commuting in such weather is enough to bring out the groan from every Mumbaikar, even the kattarpanthi enthusiasts like me. Water-logging in places is a reality, although I'd like to believe that the volume of water logging has come down in the recent years. Trains get delayed and sometimes, water logged tracks in the heart of the city cripple train transport. Water-logged roads cause vehicular traffic to literally grind to a halt and the already dreadful traffic becomes unbearable. Walking in potholes and puddles is annoying for adults, although these are the highlights for kids!

Now that the 'unbiasing' is out of the way, I'll get back to the beauty of the rains. Imagine sitting inside a car watching the raindrops trickle down beautifully down the windscreen. Or imagine seeing the occasional raindrop clinging on to the tip of a clean, green leaf or the petal of a flower. Or sit by the window and look at the drenched crow trying to shake itself dry! And while seeing all this, just smell the scent of mud freshly soaked in rainwater. And then decide whether rains aren't a thing of beauty to be enjoyed and savored as much as you can!