Monday, December 18, 2017
The picture above is a snap of the front page of yesterday's Sunday Supplement of Malayala Manorama, the number one newspaper in India published both in print media as well as in digital online form. (Those who can read Malayalam language may click the image above to open the online page to read the content.)
I was surprised when I read the full page story with illustrative graphics and pictures because the hero depicted in the story is none other than my own great uncle who who left this world to his heavenly abode two decades ago.
As I started reading the story, my surprise and curiosity both began to rise. There were reasons for that.
I was reading some hitherto unknown things about a person whom we thought we knew well. I knew my late great uncle was a pilot of the Royal Air Force during the World War-2 and a commercial pilot with the erstwhile Tata Airlines which got nationalized as today's Air India later.
Besides, I was very close to Late Shri K M Daniel during the times when he was no more a serving pilot. He was younger brother of my grand mother late Mrs.K.M.Annamma . As a teenager, I was very fascinated with airplanes and the men who piloted those flying machines and obviously this uncle was my hero during those days. I remember spending several nights together listening to his adventure stories which he used to share with me.
But those were things of the past. Except we the old timers, hardly any one from the new generations had a chance to know about this pilot of the world war times. And the news paper now carried certain things which he never told me. Had I known those, he would have been a greater hero for me and perhaps I had known more interesting things of his life first hand!
For the benefit of my readers, let me briefly tell you his life history from the things I had known and also from what the newspaper now told:
K M Daniel was born and brought up in a village called Kumplampoika, few kilometers away from the present day Pathanamthitta city in Kerala. He was a couple of years younger to my grandmother who was born in 1902. They were a total of 11 siblings, sons and daughters of late Kulanjikombil Mathai, the founder head master of the present day CMS High School Kumplampoika.
My great uncle began his career as a teacher in the same school after his graduation. The family had plans to make him an ordained priest and hence he had attended some time in a seminary too.
But he was a sports enthusiast and aspired to serve the Royal Air Force and did not know the way by which he could do so. But he tried his luck by writing a plain letter to the Air Force Command that operated from Madras (present Chennai)
As luck turned in his favor, he was called for the selection process and selected. He got trained as a fighter pilot of the Royal Air Force. There were several times he saw death face to face, but escaped unscathed.
One interesting episode is his solo flight of a single engine air craft with a cobra emerging in the cockpit, enough to make any one to loose his cool. But he took the plane to the base and landed safely and the incident made him to be known as 'Cobra Mathews' among his mates later.
There are several stories that he told me personally during the days of the war and later. I brevity, I am leaving those here.
After the world war, he retired from the RAF. He was in the rank of a Squadron Leader at that time, quite a senior position of those days. But he had never mentioned this to me. Perhaps, he thought this not so important.
Being a rare breed of experienced Indian pilot of those days, he was soon absorbed by the pioneering private airline company of India, the Tata Airlines which later became Air India.
He was the pioneering commercial pilot from India who got trained by Boeing company to fly Boeing jet planes. He had told me that it was he who took delivery of the first Boeing aircraft from USA and flew it to India way back in the 1960.
Being the pioneering international pilot from India in the Nineteen Fifties and early Sixties, he was the pilot of choice for Indian leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru. He had told me that it was he who flew the first non-stop Air India flight from Delhi to Moscow which took Smt. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit there as the first Indian envoy to USSR way back in 1947.
But he had never told me about his closeness to great leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru or Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India. I remember him referring these names casually during our talks. But only after reading yesterday's newspaper story, I knew how close he was with these great men of the last century. He was one among the three who was invited from India to attend the marriage of the daughter of Lord Mount Batten in England!
Later in his life, he became a Christian preacher with several people flocking to listen to his preaching and prayers. It was a life quite contrary to his flamboyant previous life as an elite air force officer or an international VIP pilot. During that period, he hardly ever talked about it. I remember him writing letters to me when I joined Bhilai Steel Plant as an engineer. He was more concerned with spiritual aspects during that period. I remember him talking very detailed spiritual things with me when I became an young professional just as he had talked about his adventurous and glamorous past life as a pilot some years ago during my teenage days.
And to be very frank, I could hardly fathom the depth of his talks then, though I was a patient listener to him. As I was a novice in spiritual matters, I could hardly ask him any questions either. I lost a great opportunity!
I am glad that he left this worldly abode as a contented man, not in fame or wealth, but as one who was drawn to God transcending all ways of the world and the material glory!
I have now started understanding the difference!
Just a wishful thought. Had he been living now, he would have been one person with whom I could have discussed about my book of life guidance!
Friday, December 15, 2017
Unlike the times when I purchased my first car way back in the 1980's, the present situation in India is quite different. In those days there were only three or four options for any one who thought of buying a car. But now there are hundreds of options.
Almost all leading car manufacturers in the world have entered the vast and growing Indian market with their car models to satisfy the demands of Indian customers from all economic classes, very rich, rich, upper middle class, middle class and even the lower middle class.
Expensive cars costing several millions of rupees and entry level cars costing fractions of a million have now flooded the Indian space with glamorous car show rooms of car retailer companies showing off their presence in the peripheries of most big and small Indian cities and towns.
Used car retailers too are a common sight now.
To aid and woo the potential car buyers, there are scores of car buyers' mobile apps and websites giving all possible information on various makes and types of cars such as car comparison, car features, technical specifications, car pictures, videos, expert and user reviews, basic and on the road prices from place to place, offers, car loan options and the like.
But too much of car models with all kinds of information has been causing confusions in the minds of the average, not so tech savvy users.
Added to the confusion is the common Indian mind bias of imitating the bigger group. Many people simply avoid taking rational decisions of their own. Instead they prefer to go after crowd opinions and likes. Car marketing companies know this weakness of the Indian public and some of them successfully exploit this to their advantage.
Cars are conventionally a status symbol rather than being a transport convenience for most people. Hence, car pricing has more to do with status rather than its usefulness.
Car manufacturers, therefore, produce scores of variants of the same model car with minor add on features with differential costs. Often the additional costs they charge for the extra features are not commensurate with the additional features.
Most expensive cars used as a status symbol signature of the user are neither value for money nor fuel efficient. Since they are mediums for showing off the affluence of their respective owners, I do not want to say any thing about those, here. Let the affluent class spend their money the way they want. It will not make any difference to them, but by spending they do make some difference to the economy. So, I feel they should be encouraged to spend as much as they can!
But that is not the case with people like me who come in the so called middle class or lower economic class. They have limited incomes and they need to spend their money with caution. They should get value for their money when they buy some thing like a car.
My first car that I bought in 1984 was an Ambassador Mark-IV petrol car. In those days, petrol prices in India used to be around Rs.5 a liter and it still pinched our pockets as this car hardly run 10 kilometers with one liter petrol. The limited option car then costed around Rs.60000/-
Both cars and petrol prices have been steadily rising over the years as is the case with most other things. On a like to like basis, fuel price rise in India has been more than the car price rise.
More over, the new car models have better design features and fuel options. Petrol, diesel, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) are the automotive fuels available in India for the car users. Electric Battery Operated Cars and Hybrid type cars are also available, though not very common. LPG and LNG are only available in select pockets and areas in the country.
Thus, petrol and diesel are the two common fuels available for all automotive users across the nation.
Now the question is which type car one should go for, petrol or diesel?
Petrol and diesel engines use slightly different techniques for burning the fuel inside the engine cylinders for extracting power. Petrol is a petroleum fuel that can be easily converted to vapor form. Hence, in petrol engines, petrol vapor mixed with air is compressed and ignited using electric sparks. On the other hand diesel fuel does not vaporize easily. When it is injected as a spray to highly compressed air in the diesel engine cylinders it automatically ignites with an internal explosion to push the pistons.
The internal pressure that a diesel engine has to withstand is much greater than a like powered petrol engine. Thus diesel engines have to be made with thicker metals to withstand the higher compression. So diesel engines are naturally more heavier. The body of a diesel car has to be made with better strength to withstand the heavier engine and its higher torques.
In the older times small diesel engines were not so perfect. As they develop more internal pressure and torques, diesel engines used to be bit noisy, heavy and not comfortably felt as smooth.
But diesel engine technology has evolved much better now-a-days.
The newer diesel car engines used for entry level cars are much sophisticated than their old versions.
Unlike petrol, diesel fuel contains more chemical energy per gram and diesel engines are more efficient in converting this chemical energy to mechanical energy. Thus diesel engine gives more mileage and more power as compared to a similar sized petrol engine.
For ignition of the fuels, petrol engines need high voltage generated and supplied at the right time. So petrol engines need an electric ignition system connected to a reliable battery and electronic ignition management system. The spark plugs in the engine have to be maintained without carbon accumulation for good and trouble free starting and running of the petrol engines. If moisture or water enters the electrical system in a heavy rain or flood condition, petrol engines may give problems of starting and running. Such problems do not normally arise in diesel engines.
In short present day diesel engine cars are more reliable, fuel efficient and less prone to frequent servicing. Most entry level diesel engine cars give more than 20 km per liter with air conditioners working as compared to less than 15 km per liter for their counter part with a petrol engine.
In India, diesel is marginally cheaper than petrol. This is due to governmental policy and may not continue that way always. Even when the costs are equal, diesel engines give more mileage due to their higher efficiency.
Another advantage of diesel engine is its higher torque and power delivery even at lower engine speeds. Diesel engines are less likely to stop in a traffic jam and on a hill climb.
Diesel engines are a bit noisy and have more vibrations. But newer versions of diesel engines have mostly over come this and they are as smooth as petrol engines at least from the inside. At the outside, they may be a bit noisy at idling speeds. But during idling this same feature gives enough confidence to the driver in the reliability of the engine some thing a petrol engine can never give.
The car manufacturers typically price the diesel versions higher and typically in the entry level models a diesel car is costlier by around Rs.100000/- than the petrol version. But yet, my feeling is that it is worth going for the diesel version.
I had considered all these when I went for my fifth car an year ago. I do not repent on that decision. I am fully satisfied.
The car I chose was Ford New Figo Titanium Diesel. This car is the most powerful in this range with a 1.5 L diesel engine and much cheaper when compared on a like to like basis. It is a very reliable vehicle as well. On road it costs around Rs.800000/- now. It has two driving modes-fuel saving economy mode and power drive mode. The fuel economy certified is 26.2 km per liter, but what I had obtained in real road drive condition is 19.5-23.5 km per liter with air conditioner running.
The least expensive and the best diesel car now available in the Indian market is perhaps Tata Tiago Diesel XM(O). On road it is available in the price range of about Rs.600000/- now. However, this is not as powerful as Ford New Figo (D).
Both cars are good value for money in the entry level diesel range. For city users, the Tata Tiago may be a good choice considering its compact, yet useful size and cost. It is reported as giving a fuel economy of 27 km per liter of diesel. It is having a 1.03 L, 3 cylinder engine with enough power for city and long drives.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
No doubt, democratic form of governance is the best that we humans can have. Nevertheless, democracy can lead to stupid governance or government when the majority people have not attained the desired levels of mind development.
When the majority people are not in a position to correctly assess the quality of their would be leaders and exercise their democratic voting rights judiciously, democracy often leads to the choice of evil leaders. Often, this would hamper the development of good governance and pull the nation's progress backwards.
In this context, I would prefer to share with my readers the caution that my favorite book of divine guidance has to say about democracy. Let me quote: