February 25, 2008

The Measure of a Man: Waist to Hip Ratio

The Waist to Hip ratio, or WHR for short, is a useful metric for quickly sizing up the overall health, fertility, and desirability of an individual. Calculated by taking the circumference of the waist and dividing it by the circumference of the hips, this heuristic cuts through boundaries of time and culture. Whether a society prefers a full figure or a waif-like one, the desired ratio still remains the same - 0.7 for women and 0.9 for men. Surveys in many different countries have trended towards this 0.7 value. Research has shown that there is a link between a mother's WHR and the cognitive abilities of her child, making it an useful metric for ARNABride candidates. The hourglass figure and the vital statistics of 36-24-36 all allude to this magic number that acts as a rule of thumb for calculating the fecundity of a female.

A gentlemen must also pay attention to his WHR. The WHR gives an idea about the distribution of fat around the abdominal area. Belly fat is a key indicator of chronic health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. While measuring myself for a custom tailored shirt, I had collected all the values required to calculate my WHR. A regular in annual IT industry publications lists of sexiest software engineers, when I first returned from India I had the ideal male proportions of 0.9. Since starting my new job, my metabolism has been unable to keep pace with my enviable work ethic and my WHR has slipped into the 98th percentile. In the past corsets were used to artificially alter a person's WHR, but I find this to be an unappealing remedy.

February 17, 2008

Mysore to Ooty

Soon after my narrow escape from the clutches of death, my parents decided to drop by to see me. As the elderly are not as suited to handle the rigours of independent travel as our rugged protagonist, I arranged for an organized tour to the capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore and to the scenic hill station of Ooty. I avoid these tours as they usually spend more time parked outside of restaurants and stores that paid them for their visitation rather than at actual sites of interest. Before arriving at Mysore, the tour bus we were on pulled into Srirangapatna, the stronghold of the legendary ruler of the kingdom - Tipu Sultan. A temple and ruins of the fortifications were all that remained.

About 140 km away from the hubbub of Bangalore, Mysore is a much more relaxed city with no tall buildings blocking the sunlight and little traffic. The roads are wide and the buildings majestic, especially when lit up at night to recreate its former glory days. Mysore is located at the base of the Chamundi Hills, which has a few temples located at the peak. I was equally shocked to see the gigantic statue of the demon Mahishasura atop Chamundi Hills and the many bottles littering this officially designated "plastic-free" zone. Undoubtedly, what makes Mysore's a must visit is the magnificent Mysore Palace. Completed in the early 1900's by Wodeyar kings, the palace combines many architectural styles seamlessly and is guarded by stone leopards at its gates. Satyam's bitter rival Infosys has a pineapple shaped training centre in Mysore that can house over 4000 employees at a time. It is the world's largest corporate training facility. As Bangalore becomes even more saturated, the IT industry will continue to expand into Mysore, whose relaxed atmosphere now reminds many people of what Bangalore was like 20 years ago. Another highlight was the Brindavan Gardens, situated beside a dam and decorated with dancing fountains and tourists.

A winding trip through some crusty roads, a border crossing between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, some sari shopping, eating of vegetarian food, and an encounter with wildlife at Bandipur National Park occurred in quick succession. Before we knew it, we were some 7500 ft above sea level in Ootacamund, or Ooty for short. Aside from some spectacular views of the lands below, the 'Queen of Hill Stations' offers a cool climate to escape from the summer heat, relaxing walks in the botanical garden, and boat trips on the lake.

The other members of the tour were mainly newlywed couples of different shapes and sizes. About half of them were lost in Mysore, so our tour bus shrank in size into a much smaller one. My head brushed the thoughtfully carpeted rooftop even after I bent down. We were running behind schedule on the return journey. When we had retraced our steps to Mysore almost everyone in the city had fallen asleep and only one eatery was open. Idlis and dosas were eaten. The delay propagated through to our arrival in Bangalore, which was delayed from late night to somewhere around 4 am in the morning. The bus pulled over beside a gas station on the outskirts of Bangalore and an awkward hour was spent in silence on the bus, before it proceeded further into the city as dawn arrived. The passengers were then released into the arms of eager auto rickshaw drivers waiting to take them away.

February 11, 2008

Bangalore Riots: Aftermath

A narrow escape from death affects even the most stoic of men. Amid the chaos and rubble, I emerged unscathed save some cuts and bruises, but not everyone was as lucky. One child was killed and many others were injured. Store windows were left shattered and auto rickshaws were set ablaze. Curfew was enforced for the next several days and groups of people were not allowed to congregate or loiter around the streets together after 7pm. Lathi charges were carried out by the police. During this exercise, officers systematically proceed throughout many city blocks applying batons to buttocks to enforce law and order. A sense of unease permeated every crevice of the city, with tensions high and nerves on edge. It took more than a few days until life was back to normal. After examining my wounds my colleagues expressed deep sympathy for my ordeal. None of them had met with the same misfortune as I and were impressed at my survival skills. Later on they would chuckle at my narrow escape from a well deserved thrashing, but their immediate concern was touching.

Weeks later, tensions were again running high. This time the battleground was not religion, but the ownership of the water emanating from a river - the Cauvery - that spanned several neighbouring states. A Supreme Court decision was pending on who would get access to how much water, and regardless of the outcome many would be left unhappy with the decision. I was sent home early from work and told to remain inside so that the disgruntled masses would not get another chance to make mincemeat out of me. A statewide work stoppage (a bandh) was scheduled in advance for an upcoming Monday. With sufficient warning I was able to orchestrate my escape from Bangalore and spent the long weekend relaxing in my stronghold of Hyderabad.