Category: Uncategorized

Chaos on Indian Roads

Image of Indian roads at night
Image of Indian roads at night

The Indian government has recently significantly increased the fines levied for driving offences. It’s still early to judge the effectiveness of this, but there is no doubt that it’s a step in the right direction, even if very delayed.

I have been fortunate to have lived abroad and, as much as I love my country, the one thing that almost always gets me angry and upset is the absolutely appalling attitude of drivers on Indian roads.

People say that the two things that unite our vast and diverse country are Bollywood and Cricket. I would add, to those two, our road sense, or lack of it. Even a casual observer of Indian driving would observe that the only rule of driving on Indian roads is to break all rules! Breaking a traffic signal, who doesn’t do it? Going down the wrong way on a one-way street, everyone does it. Parking at No Parking zones or blocking other traffic, sorry, what’s that? Wearing of seat belts, only when a policeman is ahead! The latest – driving a bike on a footpath and having the temerity to ask people to step aside!

What is it that makes us such poor and inconsiderate drivers? Manu Pillai in his recent article on Livemint suggests two possible reasons:

  1. The poor state of Indian roads means that we do not respect them
  2. Indians love chaos

The second is a very interesting observation and I am beginning to realise that it’s probably right. However, I disagree with him on the first point. I have seen, and I am sure that I am not the only one, people not heeding rules even on the best Indian roads. How many of us have not seen vehicles being driven down the opposite side of the road on the best of Indian highways? Or heavily overloaded trucks trundling on the fast lane? Overtaking on the left, that’s par for the course! Forget adhering to speed limits!

No, I do not believe that we will change our behaviour even if we have world class road infrastructure. There is just something in our nature that believe rules are meant to be bent, if not broken outright.

I am very positive, in general, of the future of our country and its citizens. However, the one aspect that I am afraid might take a long time to change, if ever, is our road sense. I sincerely hope that I am proven wrong.

Palakkad (or Palghat) Gap

Palakkad (or to call it by it’s previous name, Palghat) is a small (by Indian standards!) town in Kerala, close to the state’s border with Tamil Nadu. This town, famous for its banana chips, also gives its name to one of the more curious features of India’s geographical landscape.

The Western Ghats is a mountain chain that runs for 1,600 kilometres in an almost unbroken line all along the west coast of India. I say, almost, because just outside Palakkad, this range suddenly disappears, to be replaced by what is called the Palakkad gap. At an average elevation of just 140 metres, this gap with a width of around 25 kilometres is really not high enough to be called a pass.

And it’s not that this is pretty much the only such gap in the Western Ghats that makes it a curiosity. It’s also the fact that the gap appears at the very place where this 1,000 mile long chain has its highest peaks. About 80 kilometres to the north of the gap is the 2,637 metre (8,652 feet) high Doddabetta peak. And roughly a similar distance to the south is Annamudi peak. At 2,695 metres (8,842 feet) above sea level, this is the highest peak in India outside of the mighty Himalaya range in the north.

For a very long time, this gap was almost the only way in and out of the state of Kerala by land for the majority of the country. People in the extreme south of the state could travel to the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu around the beginning (or end) of the ghats. While people towards the north could travel onwards to Mangalore and Mumbai along the narrow strip of land between the mountains and the Arabian Sea.

The opening up of the Konkan railway in the 1990s has opened up another rail link to the state, but the Palakkad gap continues to be the main channel for the majority of road and rail traffic to enter and exit the state.

I have crossed this gap numerous times (by rail and road), but always in the middle of the night. However, a change in circumstances during my most recent trip to Kerala meant that I had to reschedule my train journey out of Kerala from the original night train to a day train. And this meant that I was finally able to see this curious (and magnificient) sight by the light of day.

A few pictures below. Not the best as these were taken from a moving train, but hopefully it gives a sense of the landscape.

Palakkad Gap 1
Palakkad Gap – looking north
Palakkad Gap 2
The lush landscape of Palakkad Gap

The Dreaded Weekend emails

There was an article in the WSJ recently about the impact of sending emails on weekends to employees health. Many of us in corporate jobs would know the experience – receiving emails from your bosses, senior executives outside of working hours – which compel us to stop doing whatever we were at that time (or planning to) to get to work and reply to the email.

The problem has now become even more severe because we are constantly connected. Our personal and professional communication device is now one and the same. Even if one tries to, it is very difficult to completely eliminate checking in (or being made aware of) a message or email that has arrived in your work channel. And it takes an extremely strong-willed employee to say that I am not going to pay any attention to it.

But most employees aren’t like that. And therefore, in my opinion, leaders should ensure that they are not sending any emails out outside of normal working hours. Such behaviour is observed and will soon become the norm. The article spoke about an email tool developed by an organisation that diverts messages sent after a certain time to a queue and only releases it to the recipient’s inboxes at a more suitable time. I believe this should be adopted by all organisations. This way, people who like to work outside of the usual working hours can still do so as usual, knowing that any emails sent to team members are not going to interfere with their personal lives.

I believe that this also raises questions that organisations would find themselves grappling with more and more. With the inexorable rise of ‘gig’ economy workers and remote working, organisations are going to necessarily have to work with people remotely and working different hours to the standard ‘9-to-5’. It’s going to be vitally important that organisations are prepared with processes and policies to ensure maximum productivity from their globally distributed workforce.

Bird watching – Pench National Park

I posted recently about my visit to Pench National Park. Here is the full list of birds that I observed during my visit (all names as per ‘The Book of Indian Birds – Salim Ali’):

  1. Indian Cormorant
  2. Grey Heron
  3. Indian Pond-Heron
  4. Cattle Egret
  5. Median Egret
  6. Little Egret
  7. Painted Stork
  8. White-Necked Stork
  9. Black Stork
  10. Oriental White Ibis
  11. Black Ibis
  12. Brahminy Shelduck
  13. Northern Pintail
  14. Spot-Billed Duck
  15. Eurasian Wigeon
  16. Black-Shouldered Kite
  17. Oriental Honey-Buzzard
  18. Shikra
  19. White-Eyed Buzzard
  20. Changeable Hawk-Eagle
  21. Crested Serpent Eagle
  22. Greater Grey-Headed Fish-Eagle
  23. Indian White-Backed Vulture
  24. Painted Spurfowl
  25. Red Junglefowl
  26. Indian Peafowl
  27. Pheasant-Tailed Jacana
  28. Black-Winged Stilt
  29. Stone-Curlew
  30. Red-Wattled Lapwing
  31. Yellow-Wattled Lapwing
  32. Marsh Sandpiper
  33. Common Sandpiper
  34. Little Ringed Plover
  35. River Tern
  36. Yellow-Legged Green-Pigeon
  37. Blue Rock Pigeon
  38. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  39. Spotted Dove
  40. Little Brown Dove
  41. Rose-Ringed Parakeet
  42. Alexandrine Parakeet
  43. Plum-Headed Parakeet
  44. Brainfever Bird (heard)
  45. Asian Koel
  46. Greater Coucal
  47. Mottled Wood-Owl
  48. Eurasian Scops-Owl
  49. Jungle Owlet
  50. Crested Tree-Swift
  51. White-Breasted Kingfisher
  52. Small Bee-Eater
  53. Indian Roller
  54. IndianĀ  Grey Hornbill
  55. Black-Shouldered Woodpecker
  56. Lesser Golden-Backed Woodpecker
  57. Red-Rumped Swallow
  58. Rufous-Backed Shrike
  59. Eurasian Golden Oriole
  60. Black-Headed Oriole
  61. Black Drongo
  62. Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo
  63. White-Bellied Drongo
  64. Brahminy Starling
  65. Grey-Headed Starling
  66. Common Myna
  67. Indian Treepie
  68. House Crow
  69. Jungle Crow
  70. Common Woodshrike
  71. Large Cuckoo-Shrike
  72. Red-Vented Bulbul
  73. Common Babbler
  74. Jungle Babbler
  75. Asian Paradise Flycatcher
  76. White-Browed Fantail-Flycatcher
  77. Streaked Fantail-Warbler
  78. Jungle Prinia
  79. Oriental Magpie-Robin
  80. Pied Bushchat
  81. Indian Robin
  82. Great Tit
  83. Chestnut-Bellied Nuthatch
  84. Brown Rock Pipit (?)
  85. Tickell’s Flowerpecker
  86. Yellow Wagtail
  87. White Wagtail
  88. Large Pied Wagtail
  89. Purple Sunbird
  90. Yellow-Throated Sparrow
  91. House Sparrow

Bird watching – Wayanad

I had written previously about my trip to Wayanad. One of the things I was looking forward to in the trip was to do some bird-watching and hopefully see some of the birds that are primarily found only in the Western Ghats region.

I am delighted to say that I had a very enjoyable few days of bird-watching where I got to so a few birds that have been on my ‘to see’ list for a while now! These include the Vernal Hanging Parrot and Malabar Barbet.


The full list below (all names as per Salim Ali’s ‘The Book of Indian Birds’):

  1. Little Cormorant
  2. White-necked (Woolly necked) Stork
  3. Brahminy Kite
  4. Unidentified Sparrowhawk
  5. Changeable Hawk-Eagle
  6. Falcon
  7. Grey Junglefowl
  8. Indian Peafowl
  9. River Tern
  10. Spotted Dove
  11. Blue-Winged (Malabar) Parakeet
  12. Indian (Vernal) Hanging Parrot
  13. Unidentified Swift
  14. Malabar Grey Hornbill
  15. Crimson-Throated (Malabar) Barbet
  16. Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
  17. Common Golden-backed Woodpecker
  18. White-Cheeked Barbet
  19. Black Drongo
  20. Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo
  21. Ashy Drongo
  22. Bronzed Drongo
  23. Grey-Headed (Malabar) Starling
  24. Common Myna
  25. Jungle Crow
  26. Scarlet (Orange) Minivet
  27. Gold-fronted Chloropsis
  28. Red-Vented Bulbul
  29. Red-Whiskered Bulbul
  30. Black (Square-tailed) Bulbul
  31. Verditer Flycatcher
  32. Blyth’s Reed Warbler
  33. Indian Blue Robin
  34. Oriental Magpie Robin
  35. Indian Blackbird
  36. Great Tit
  37. Oriental Tree Pipit
  38. Grey Wagtail
  39. Large Pied Wagtail
  40. Purple-Rumped Sunbird
  41. Small (Maroon backed) Sunbird
  42. Loten’s Sunbird
  43. Purple Sunbird
  44. Oriental White-Eye