Monthly Archives: November 2015

Proud Heritage Structure of Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore

Heritage Structure of Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore

Vidhana Soudha which houses the Karnataka state Legislature and Secretariat is the most magnificent and majestic stone building in Bangalore and perhaps in Karnataka itself. It is said that when a Russian delegation felt that Bangalore was full of European buildings and asked the then chief minister Kengal Hanumanthaiah, “Have you no architecture of your own?”

This inspired Hanumanthaiah to plan a building and the result is the Vidhana Soudha, an epitome of Hindu architecture and a synthesis of Dravidian, Hoysala, Chalukya, and Vijayanagara architectural features. Its construction began in 1952 and was completed in 1956 at an estimated cost of 1.75 crores under a team of experts headed by the chief architect B.R. Manikam. More than 5000 laborers and 1500 skilled sculptors worked on this prestigious project.

Main Dome of Vidhana Soudha The entire structure covers an area of 720 x 360 ft. In the center is an open quadrangle measuring 260 x 250 ft. It is an imposing three storied building with a cellar. Though the building can be approached from all the four sides, the eastern entrance is majestic with 40 ft.-tall columns and flight of steps. The western side has a facade of Rajasthan palaces. The four corners have four towers supporting domes topped by glittering metallic kalashas (inverted pitcher pots.) The main dome is very elegant and has the Indian National Emblem of four Asiatic lions standing back to back mounted on a circular base on the kalasha. Though grey granite is used for exterior, green, bluish, pink and black stones have been used for decoration. The interior of the Vidhana Soudha consists of a banquet hall, Legislative Assembly Hall, Legislative Council Hall, and Cabinet meeting hall in addition to many rooms for the ministers and high officers.

Illuminated Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore

The wood work is another great attraction of this building. Particularly noteworthy are the carved doors of the office of the chief minister, cabinet hall and legislature hall. They show the Karnataka School of wood work at its best which is still a living tradition. Thus Vidhana Soudha is a proud heritage building built in the 20th century testifying to the architectural and sculptural tradition of ancient Karnataka. This building is an eloquent testimony to the continuation of ancient architectural and sculptural tradition of Karnataka as practiced by the Chalukyas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagara rulers. Thus this is a modern building in ancient style of Karnataka. That is the uniqueness of this elegant building.

Any visitor to Bangalore cannot afford to miss this magnificent building, a proud heritage structure of Karnataka, particularly when it is illuminated.

Posted in Travels and Journeys

How To Fail Successfully

How To Fail Successfully

If you’re going to be a skillful sailor, you have to weather some storms. We build and expand skills by testing them, and that means that failure is an essential ingredient of success. It’s the weight that we lift for one set of repetitions but not three that we should be tackling in the gym. After we succeed at one weight, we seek the next weight that will ensure our failure.

The key to mastery is failing successfully. We fail successfully when failure does not take us out of the game (risk management) and when failure sparks adaptation and innovation. If we want to become a world class skier, we can’t remain content with tackling small hills. But we also can’t start at the highest peaks. In conquering trading hills we prepare ourselves to master the mountains.

Source: Brett Steenbarger

Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Ben Graham and Warren Buffett on Temperament in Investing

  • “We have seen much more money made and kept by “ordinary people” who were temperamentally well suited for the investment process than by those who lacked this quality, even though they had an extensive knowledge of finance, accounting, and stock-market lore.”
    Ben Graham, Father of Value Investing and mentor of Warren Buffett
  • “Success in investing doesn’t correlate with I.Q… Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.”
    Warren Buffett
Posted in Investing and Finance

Sam Walton Saw No Need for Unions at Walmart

Pro-Union Activists Protest Against Walmart's Anti-Union Policies

Walmart has always been criticized for its policies against labor unions. Supporters of unionization efforts blame workers’ reluctance to join the labor union on Walmart’s anti-union tactics such as managerial surveillance and pre-emptive closures of stores or departments that choose to unionize. Leaked internal documents show that Walmart’s strategy for fighting to keep its workers from forming unions includes instructing managers to report suspicious activity and warning workers that joining unionizing efforts could hurt them.

Walmart’s management has contended that it’s employees do not need to pay third parties to discuss problems with management as the company’s open-door policy enables employees to lodge complaints and submit suggestions all the way up the corporate ladder. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart wrote in his autobiography:

I have always believed strongly that we don’t need unions at Wal-Mart. Theoretically, I understand the argument that unions try to make, that the associates need someone to represent them and so on. But historically, as unions have developed in this country, they have mostly just been divisive. They have put management on one side of the fence, employees on the other, and themselves in the middle as almost a separate business, one that depends on division between the other two camps. And divisiveness, by breaking down direct communication makes it harder to take care of customers, to be competitive, and to gain market share. The partnership we have at Wal-Mart—which includes profit sharing, incentive bonuses, discount stock purchase plans, and a genuine effort to involve the associates in the business so we can all pull together—works better for both sides than any situation I know of involving unions. I’m not saying we pay better than anybody, though we’re certainly competitive in our industry and in the regions where we’re operating; we have to be if we want to attract and keep good people. But over the long haul, our associates build value for themselves—financially and otherwise—by believing in the company and keeping it headed in the right direction. Together, we have ridden this thing pretty darned far.

Source: Sam Walton’s autobiography, Made In America

Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators

Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

Oliver Sacks was a renowned British-American neurologist

Oliver Sacks was a renowned British-American neurologist. He served as a professor of neurology at NYU’s School of Medicine.

In an 1995 interview with Charlie Rose, he said that the brain was the “most incredible thing in the universe.” Sacks became popular as an author of best-selling case studies about his patients’ disorders. His his books adapted for film and stage, most prominently as the movie Awakenings (1990) starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.

In February 2015, he wrote an essay in the New York Times about learning he has terminal cancer.

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate—the genetic and neural fate—of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

Oliver Sacks died on 30 August 2015 at age 82.

Posted in Health and Fitness Philosophy and Wisdom

Rustem Pasha Mosque, A Unique Treasure in Istanbul

Rustem Pasha Mosque, A Unique Treasure in Istanbul

Istanbul is celebrated for its mosques, and rightly so. It seems there are inspiring mosques on every corner in this city, contending with each other in their magnificence, the number of minarets they have, the height of their domes, the opulence of their treasures, and their architectural brilliance.

Rustem Pasha Mosque is tucked away in a labyrinth of bustling backstreets by the Spice Bazaar near the Golden Horn that goes about its day-to-day business, quietly unconscious to its beauty. The mosque is small in comparison with the others. The exceptionality of this mosque is that it is filled with gorgeously elaborate Iznik wall tiles.

Rustem Pasha Mosque, in Hasircilar Caddesi, is smothered in brilliant blue and white lznik tiles that make those in the Blue Mosque look faded and tired. It dates back to the mid-sixteenth century, when the famous architect Sinan designed the mosque for Rustem Pasha, the son-in-law and grand vizier of the great Ottoman Emperor Suleyman I, “The Magnificent.”

Blue and White lznik Tiles, Rustem Pasha Mosque The way in to the Rustem Pasha Mosque is a small stairway concealed among shops full of activity and selling everything from household goods to cheap T-shirts. It is easy to fail to notice, as if it has been designed to intentionally dissuade visitors, and it seems to do the trick. There is no steady murmur of visiting voices here, no persistent reminder of visiting crowds, just peace and stillness. Walking up the stone staircase to the mosque’s main patio, you are greeted by a multitude of patterns—every arcade and every wall seems to be festooned with distinctive designs of tiles as if you are walking through an enormous kaleidoscope. This composition is very pleasing and has a unambiguous architectural harmony.

Daylight streams in through the many honeycomb patterned windows surrounding its dome, highlighting the colors and their effervescence. It is a dramatic example of the proverb that small is beautiful, and is the perfect place to dodge the noise and mayhem of the city, if you can find your way to the entrance, that is. In addition, if you’re looking for a break, surrender to the Turkish baths at Cagaloglu Hamam and its barbershop-quality shaves.

Posted in Travels and Journeys

To Allocate Capital, You Need a Good Search Strategy

At the 2009 CNBC Town Hall Event called “Keeping America Great” at Columbia University with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (video here), Buffett said that to allocate capital, you need a good search strategy. Developing this strategy requires a lot of hard work, “turning pages” as Buffett calls it:

If you are going to spend a lot of time on investment, you know I just advise looking at as many things as possible and you will find some bargains. And when you find them, you have to act. … And you have to find them yourself. The world isn’t going to tell you about great deals. You have to find them yourself. And that takes a fair amount of time. So if you are not going to do that, if you are just going to be a passive investor, then I just advise an index fund more consistently over a long period of time. … Good businesses are going to become worth more over time. And you don’t want to pay too much for them so you have to have some discipline about what you pay. But the thing to do is find a good business and stick with it.

It is not possible to pick the bottom. Learn how to value companies, practice until you get good, and buy when you find a good business that you understand, with good management, available at an attractive price.

Posted in Investing and Finance

Differing from Conventional Wisdom & Going Against the Stream

Christopher Hitchens in an interview with Charlie Rose show summing up his life:

It’s not for everybody. Not everyone wants to always be an outcast or out of step or against the stream. But if you do feel that the consensus doesn’t speak for you, if there’s something about you that makes you feel that it would be worth being unpopular or marginal for the chance to lead your own life and have a life instead of a career or a job, then I can promise you it is worthwhile, yes.

Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

Devils Tower in Wyoming: A Monument to Lift the Spirit

The Devils Tower National Monument

Reaching for the heavens as it rises out of the sage brush, pine trees and sparse prairie grass of northeast Wyoming is a scarred monolith that overwhelms the neighboring landscape. To scientists and tourists this is the core of an ancient volcano. To the many indigenous tribes who lived, and live, on the northern plains of North America, it is a sacred place.

Devils Tower or Bear’s Lodge is actually the core of an ancient volcano. The site of vision quests and sacred ceremonies for native tribes, the monolith has many associated legends.

Once, in ancient times, seven girls were picking berries when a vicious bear began to chase them. Fleeing to the top of a small hill, the girls huddled in terror and prayed to the Great Spirit for rescue. The Great Spirit answered their frantic pleas by raising the hill higher and higher until the girls were safely out of the bear’s reach. The infuriated beast tried in vain to climb up after them, scratching and clawing with growing fury at the sides of the hill, which had now become a tall mountain. Ultimately, the bear gave up and slunk off, and the Great Spirit carried the girls safely back to their village.

Devils Tower or Bear's Lodge, Wyoming One tells how it sprang up to save seven girls from a great bear who was chasing them. The grooves in its sides are said to be the marks left by the bear’s claws. This, according to one Native tradition, is how the vast protrusion of igneous rock known as Devils Tower came into being. Native tribes have known it by many names, including Bear’s Lodge, Bear’s Lair, Aloft on a Rock, and Ghost Mountain. The bear’s long, deep claw marks can still be seen in the form of the strikingly regular columns of igneous rock that give all sides of the mountain its remarkable appearance, like a colossal scratched tree stump—hence another of the Native names, Tree Rock. The official name, Devils Tower, derives from “Bad Spirit Mountain”, a 19th century mistranslation of Bear’s Lodge, the most familiar name of the site among Native tribes.

The mountain—which was declared America’s first National Monument in 1906—has long drawn visitors for its absolute breathtaking beauty. Standing nearly 1,300 feet above the prairie floor, it has near-vertical sides that are a stark challenge to any of the thousands of rock climbers who come here every year to test their skills and fortitude. In June, however, most—but sadly not all—recreational climbers stay away, respecting the desire of Native peoples not to be disturbed in traditional sacred rituals and ceremonies at the foot of the mountain, such as the sun dance, sweat lodge rites, vision quests and prayer offerings. For countless generations, and long before any human climber thought to scale its heights, diverse tribes have performed rites at the base in order to honor the Great Spirit and reiterate their primordial tenderness to the mountain.

Whether in groups or as individual pilgrims, many Native people still go to Devils Tower to meditate, seek out guidance, meditate, and connect with the Earth and the heavens. In my view, and as the legend of the seven girls vividly acknowledges, Devils Tower has one common effect: it lifts—both literally and figuratively. Whether your journey to the mountain is a recreational or spiritual one, whether it causes you to lift your eyes to its summit, or climb its sheer walls, or offer prayers to be sent upward, it will leave you with the distinctive sense of having approached closer to a higher realm.

Posted in Travels and Journeys

India Will Not and Must Not Become a Superpower

Indian historian and environmentalist Ramachandra Guha speaks of why India will not and must not become a superpower.

I broadly agree with Guha’s analysis about India’s last 60+ years since 1947, especially in the arena of inclusion/exclusion of communities in development process (e.g. tribals being mostly excluded), also the growing Maoism factor, and the polarization of religious communities who, unfortunately can have a foothold in mainstream politics with their religious agenda (e.g. Sangh Parivar via the BJP or the Muslim Parties such as the recently launched one by Akbaruddin Owaisi in Hyderabad).

But Guha is cautious not to completely belittle India’s progress in the last 7 decades and is in fact very hopeful of India’s future. This comes across in most of his writings.

India Flag As for Guha’s reasons why India should not become a superpower his talk mentions something to that effect. He is suspicious of superpowers because the 20th century’s experience with political/economic superpowers (Britain, USA, Russia mainly) is by and large not a good one when you see the record of colonial and post-colonial 20th century. Africa and all parts of Asia were left in tatters and the effects are still unfolding especially in the Middle East and South Asia (Indo-Pakistan conflict/ Hindu-Muslim communal rivalry).

However is it possible to define a superpower differently? Can India become a superpower of a different kind? There is no answer to this question since the model does not exist for the 21st century of such a superpower (EU is a close alternative but EU is historically unique and cannot be replicated). But the model being pursued by India since the last 20 years or a little more does not lend itself to an interpretation that India, even if it became a superpower, will be different from China or USA. And hence my opinion would be in agreement with Guha that India is better off not being a superpower but taking care of its internal issues as best as possible. This does not mean that we cannot unleash Indian potential. The day we unleash Indian potential by and for Indians will actually be the day India might actually claim “superpower” status. (There you go! a new understanding of what it means to be a superpower!)

Posted in Global Business