Wednesday, August 30, 2017



Serendipity is not a word usually associated with Golf and Golf Courses.  However it was serendipitous for us to spot a golf course in the middle of the most uninhabitable tract of wasteland.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the sign board and I had to take a photo at this unique spot.

However I was denied the pleasure of a round of golf as it is said that the course is so tough that “Only the Devil could play Golf on its surface”  Needless to say that even ‘Preferred Lies’ would be unplayable due to the rough texture from the large halite salt crystal formations.
The Devil's Golf Course is located in a large salt pan on the floor of Death Valley, located in the Mojave Desert within Death Valley National Park. The park is in eastern California and is one of the most hottest and dry region on our planet Earth. Temperatures have been routinely recorded at over 115C / 46C.

Another View of The Devil’s Golf Course

Another site off  the beaten tourist path is an out of this world spot.

                    Ubehebe Crater (pronounced YOO-bee-HEE-bee

Ubehebe Crater is located at the north tip of the Cottonwood Mountains quite close to the Devils Golf Course. The crater is about half a mile (one kilometer) wide and 500 to 777 feet (150 to 237 m) deep. The age of the crater is estimated from 2,000 to 7,000 years old. It is a relatively young volcanic crater and likelihood of it erupting in the near future is a distinct probability.
This area is extremely rugged and resembles a rocky planet similar to what may be found on Mars. Hence it has been used to test the Mars Rover Vehicle prior to its launch and exploration on Mars.

Now to get back to the purpose of this article.  Northern Californa (NorCal) has some beautiful Golf Courses consisting of private exclusive country clubs and municipal public golf courses.  The private golf clubs are pretty expensive and can be upwards of $250 a round.  Pebble Beach is one such course and available only for guests resident at the resort.  A weekend package costs a bomb and needless to say that one didn’t enquire about reservations and tariffs for a vacation.
However I did partake of an excellent brunch and explored the course for a photo opportunity.

                              Brunch at the Club House @ Pebble Beach

                          @The Locker Room in front of Tom Watson’s locker

Jack Nicklaus’s locker


                                                         View of the course

                                                  Another View of the Course

I had the privilege of being a Marshal at the Ellie Mae Classic Golf Tournament at TPC Stonebrae, Hayward, CA.

As a scoring marshal I had to walk along with the players and mark the scores of the players on a hand held PDA.  The PDA was a Samsung smart phone with the software built in.  It had the players names in each group and information about the course.  The scoring marshal has to key in each player’s stroke as well as the club used. Around the course were laser beams which would track the trajectory of the golf ball and measure the distance travelled.  The information from the PDA and the Laser beams would be recorded at the central server located at the control room.  The information then would be relayed live to the Television Broadcast Van.

This is how the Television commentators are able to give detailed live information on the game.

One of the guidelines given to me was to watch out for rattle snakes and immediately report it to the control room!

The course is extremely difficult with lots of bunkers and unforgiving roughs outside the fairways. The view is magnificent as it overlooks the San Francisco Bay and is surrounded by the Hills around Silicon Valley. It is also elevated and requires walking up and down steep slopes.  For some of the elevated holes the players were provided with buggies to take them up the steep paths, apparently they have special permission granted by the PGA.

I enjoyed playing golf at quite a few courses around the San Francisco Bay area. I played at the Redwood Canyon golf course near my house.  A lovely 18 hole course which is close to the a national park and nature trail.  It has a driving range where one drives the balls into a lake.

Another reasonably priced golf course is the Monarchbay Golf Course a public municipal course.  It is a links type of course with the San Francasco Bay on two sides.    The fairways are quite broad and the greens are very good and true.  One can celebrate a closing putt even five feet from the pin.  The fairways are quite soft and a divot happens without having to punch the club.  The course is quite friendly with very few hazards or trees.  Speaking of hazards it was a little disconcerting to be confronted by coyotes. Quite a few coyotes appeared especially as the twilight progressed and a nip was in the air.

                                   Driving at Monarch Bay, San Francisco 

                Coyotes on the course

Golf in California can be enjoyed all year round.  The weather is pleasant and never extreme.

 What can be better than “Golf in God’s Own Country”.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

VIKILEAK-Selective leak #1

A few decades ago I was a frequent business traveller to Russia. Those were the days of stapled visas and hence my passport does not record the trips. Therefore my revelations cannot be verified, unless the the Indian agencies cables are compromised. But then who would be interested in the activities of a commercial manager in an exposition of electronic products.

It was a trade fair in Moscow wherein yours truly was representing the electronics industrial products of the state such as push button phones, televisions, hand held wireless equipment and other such items which were considered hi tech.

The other Indian exhibitors were manufacturers of foundry & furnace equipment, surgical instruments, textile equipment etc,. Language was a major issue as most of the Russian visitors could not speak English and hence we were dependent on the Indian student community who acted as our interpreters for a small fee. Surprisingly the most common language was Malayalam.

I came to understand that many of the communist party politburo members' children received free higher education in Russia. Many of them turned entrepreneurs indulging in selling contraband items like personal computers, walk mans and other electronic items smuggled into Russia. It was lucrative business as I was told that a personal computer bought in India for about Rs 40,000 sold at about 60,000 Roubles!!! at a time when one Rouble was officially pegged at Rs 30. Make your own calculations...

One frequent visitor was a dapper little fellow, smartly turned out in a dark suit with a dark overcoat, a rakishly angled fedora and black gloves. He was multi lingual and spoke to us in a plethora of Indian languages like Hindi, Bengali, Gujurati, Punjabi etc (no Southi lingo though).

He was not part of the Indian delegation or exhibitors, nor was he formally introduced to us.
Though uninvited he was a welcome visitor as he was fluent in Russian and very often translated for us when we had some Russian visitors.

This guy introduced himself as something like "Captain Sharma". His business card was very simple, it simply said "Resident Director" with a local address and phone number.

I was a little curious and asked him as to which company he was the director of. He dismissed my query nonchalantly with a simple response as "Oh! several of them".

I was not one to be dismissed so easily, however discretion being one of the quivers in my armoury decided to let it wait. The opportunity came a few days later.

It was about 10 PM when I had returned to the hotel after having taken my Indian student interpreters to an Indian Restaurant called "New Delhi". A fairly expensive meal but I think the youngsters thoroughly deserved it after a hard day of interpreting to some thick headed delegates from a rural agrarian factory who were probably being rewarded by a trip to Moscow to visit the exposition.

The ubiquitous Captain Sharma chanced to bump into me at the lobby and after some pleasantries we decided to retire to the watering hole. Soon the tinkle of the little bell announced the last drinks order and hence closing time. I invited him to my hotel room and soon the scotch had done its duty and we were fairly well lubricated.

He then let me know his background. It appeared that he had done a bachelor of Arts degree from a vernacular college in Delhi and then joined the army. He rose to become a captain, however due to a leg injury he was discharged. He then commenced his career in the commercial sector and hence he was currently a director in several companies.

I was quite dumb founded. Here I was a post graduate with a premier B School MBA struggling like a flunkey and here is this smart aleck...

Something snapped and I blurted out "Sala thu spy hai! are you a RAW agent?"

(Some info for the uninitiated...RAW innocuously stands for Research and Analysis Wing the undercover agency of the Indian Government.)

Captain Sharma was visibly shaken...he didn't say "How do you know?"

He said "What makes you think so?"

"Look, I said, this is a typical 'Le Carre' scenario."

"I have read many spy books and know the standard operating procedure working. Here you are a typically unimpressive individual, you wouldn't stand out in a crowd. An Armed forces background, been given the cover of a business director. Under normal circumstances you wouldn't be employed by an Indian MNC as you do not have the qualifications, experience or family connections."

I then continued "I do not know why you have taken the trouble of tailing me, and the way you casually bumped into me was far too studied for me to think that it was accidental."
I started to laugh.

He was not amused. He left his drink unfinished, picked up his overcoat, gloves and hat and disappeared. Needless to say I never saw him again at the exhibition.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Volkswagon AD

Recently there has been a lot of buzz about the Volkswagen Ad. The media including the advertising fraternity seems to think it has created a lot of attention and considers it a creative landmark.

There have been other reactions as well that as such it is a nuisance, creating pollution (noise, safe disposal etc).

But my issue is that does Volkswagen need to advertise in this fashion. Does the media & content match the product profile?

We all know that Volkswagen is a world class German engineered car. It is quite expensive and positioned at the upper echelon of society. Has the ad campaign not disparaged the sensibilities of this clientele?

Let me tell you of my experience in a similar situation. Quite some back I was a manager in a two wheeler company whose flagship bike was and continues to be a legend by itself. Powers that be in the marketing department decided to do some rural marketing and hired an event management company to do what they called rural marketing.

I went for one such campaign conducted in a rural town close to a pilgrimage centre deep in Tamil Nadu. The propaganda van was parked in a central place and a television set was blaring cinema songs with the dark glasses hero romancing a plump heroine around the proverbial bushes. Then after the song & dance sequence an ad for the product was aired.

With much amusement I was observing the spectators; there were urchins, bored village belles and a motley lot of the great unwashed.

Everyone was happy. The hoi polloi enjoyed the free show, the event managers for the billing and the marketing department of the company for having taken some initiative and undertaking some activity.

However there was a serious dissension from the dealers. They were livid. They were unhappy that this campaign belittled the product. Their contention was that the product is a status symbol in those regions and the owners are a proud lot. This campaign was undermining the product and more important the image.

The same applies for the Volkswagen ad.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Peepli Live

It was with great trepidation that I started watching the movie " Peepli Live". I had read that its a movie by Aamir Khan on farmer's suicides. I thought to myself "thats it !!!" it must be a depressing movie like in the the bad old days of the fiftees and sixties. Scenes of famine, starvation, bankruptcy, pawn brokers hassling farmers and finally farmers committing suicides.

Why bring reality into my bedroom. I preferred watching light hearted comedies, sitcoms, sports etc. I didn't wanna shed tears and remember my own financial woes.

Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. Aamir did a "Aamir" on us. It was a spoof on all present day movers and shakers. He spoofed the media, politicians, bureaucrats and all the holy cows of the Indian ethos. There were no scenes of heart rending grinding poverty, instead it was a delightful comedy on the rabid media, crass politicians and indifferent bureaucrats. And oh yes the farmers were mere bystanders as the manipulative and conniving milked the situation for all it was worth.

I will not go into the storyline, theme or any philosophical review, I would just like to say that Aamir must be laughing all the way to the bank.

I also read in the newspapers that our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was shown the movie at a special preview privately for him, his family and some special invitees. I suppose they too were worried as how their kin would be portrayed albeit as heartless manipulative Machiavellian politicians, leaving helpless farmers to their unfortunate and inevitable dishonorable hara kiri.

After seeing the movie Iam sure they must be secretly laughing to themselves and the PM thankful that the movie is not going to create any social upheavals.

However my dissenting note is that it has trivialized the tragedy of farmers suicide by making it a farce and finally the story line is a plagarizaton being a clean lift from Frank Capra's 1941 movie called "Meet John Doe". (

Sunday, February 28, 2010

India of the Maharajas and British

Lord Maculuay's statement in the British Parliament.

The daughter of an Indian Maharaja celebrates her Panther Shoot


Just read what INDIA was as per LORD MACAULAY on his statement on 2nd February 1835 in the British Parliament. Please read it carefully it will really shock you. please Read the article Carefully.

******** My Comments*************

These photos and Lord Macaulay's address to the British parliament seems to be quite factual. I have seen in an erstwhile aristocratic family's house in Andhra a family tree tracing their ancestors to about the twelfth century. It is full of photos and remarks that so and so Raj Kumar(i) shot their first tiger at the age of 8 or 10 or that another one of them shot 10 tigers in four hours. For one thing they decimated our wildlife and it was considered not just macho but the norm.

After the break up of the Moghul empire there were several small chieftens and India did not exist politically but as a loose conglomeration of local Rajahs and a common thread of Hinduism.

It wa the British through the East India Company which annexed territory by waging modern wars against aristocratic and under prepared Rajahs and their armies. The British also signed treaties with pliable Rahas and created a political India. There were Rajas at every nook and cranny, for example there was and still is a Raja of Venkatgiri (200 Kms from Madras) the palace is rundown and a shame to preservtion of heritage buildings ( I have a photograph which I can share to those interested, A Raja of Cuddapah (150 KMs from Madras), one at Mylavaram (400 KMs) and so on so forth. They were given rights to ownership of the lands and to collect taxes on behalf of the British.

It is surprising that most of them have not been able to develop their properties and the second/third generation are howering around poverty levels. A case in point is the Raja of Venkatgiri. They owned large tracts of property in Mount Road, Saidapet etc. The Satyam Multiplex complex property belonged to them and they started the group of theatres. Today the family does not know how they lost the (Satyam) property as well as other prime locations in Madras. If you go to Gymkhana Club you will see a large portrait of the Maharajah of Venkatgiri in the lobby stating that he donated the land to the club. Today let me assure you with authority none of the original family are members of the club or even if any one of them them have stepped into its domain in the few decades.

I have some more information about the aristocratic lifestyle and if anyone is interested I can share it

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happiness Formula Equation

My school yahoom group is pretty active. Everyday there is a constant stream of mails with jokes (all kinds), news, snippets and friendly and sometimes not so friendly banter. Initially it started out quite naughtily and many years later has sobered down into quite an informative forum.
Recently there was a mail forward from the group about happiness and Kushwant Singh's prescription for being happy. Iam reproducing below the mail forward and my response to it. Please read on.

reasonably contented life, I was musing over what a person should strive for to
achieve happiness. I drew up a list of a few essentials which I put forward for
the readers' appraisal.
1. First and foremost is GOOD HEALTH. If you do
not enjoy good health you can never be happy. Any ailment, however trivial, will
deduct from your happiness.
2. Second, a HEALTHY BANK BALANCE. It need
not run into crores but should be enough to provide for creature comforts and
something to spare for recreation, like eating out, going to the pictures,
travelling or going on holidays on the hills or by the sea. Shortage of money
can be only demoralizing. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning and lowers
one in one's own eyes.
3. Third, a HOME OF YOUR OWN. Rented premises can
never give you the snug feeling of a nest which is yours for keeps that a home
provides: if it has a garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and
flowers, see them grow and blossom, cultivate a sense of kinship with
4. Fourth, an UNDERSTANDING COMPANION, be it your spouse or a
friend. If there are too many misunderstandings, they will rob you of your peace
of mind. It is better to be divorced than to bicker all the time.
5. Fifth, LACK OF ENVY towards those who have done better than you in life; risen
higher, made more money, or earned more fame. Envy can be very corroding; avoid
comparing yourself with others.
descend on you for gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel
exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering.
7. Seventh, CULTIVATE SOME HOBBIES which can bring you a sense of fulfilment, such as gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music. Going to clubs or parties to get free drinks or to meet celebrities is criminal waste of
8. Eighth, every morning and evening, devote 15 minutes to INTROSPECTION.
In the morning, 10 minutes should be spent on stilling the mind
and then five in listing things you have to do that day. In the evening, five
minutes to still the mind again, and ten to go over what you had undertaken to

I have a simpler philosophy. Its actually an equation.

"Happiness is when Reality meets Expectations"

Kushwant Singh has given his list. Obviously all his expectations have been met. He is happy.

If one is able to list and quantify one's expectations be it wealth, fame, partner, hobby etc and if it has been achieved one will be very happy. The real problem happens when one is not sure of one's expectations and keeps chasing moving targets/goals.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Are We Happy

I dont know.
Were we happy earlier or will we be happy in the future?
I dont know.

It reminds me of a Woody Allen Cartoon.

Woody on the couch and the shrink (goatee, prinz nez and all)

Shrink: "My notes say that you you were experiencing the most unhappy period of your life last week."

Woody: ' Oh no, I was much happier then, its just that I didn't know it."