Minidebconf Tamilnadu 2023, Tinnitus, Cooking, Books and Series.

First up is Minidebconf Tamilnadu 2023 that would be held on 28-29 January 2023. You can find rest of the details here. I do hope we get to see/hear some good stuff from the Minidebconf. Best of luck to all those who are applying.


During the lock-down of March 2020, I became aware of noise in ears and subsequently major hearing loss. It took me quite a while to know that Tinnitus happens to both those who have hearing loss as well as not. I keep running into threads like this and as shared by someone nobody knows what really causes it. I did try some of the apps (an app. called Resound on Android) that is supposed to tackle Tinnitus but it hasn’t helped much. There is this but at least for me, right now pretty speculative. Also this, and again highly speculative.


After mum passed away, I haven’t cooked anything. This used to give me pleasure but now just doesn’t feel right. Cooking is something you enjoy when you are doing for somebody else and not just for yourself, at least that’s how I feel and with that the curiosity to know more recipes. I do wanna buy a wok at sometime but when, how I just don’t know.


Have been reading books quite a bit. And due to that had to again revisit and understand ISBN. Perhaps I might have shared it before. It really is something, the history of ISBN. And that co-relates with the book I read, Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. Raising Steam is the 40th Book in the Discworld Series and it basically romanticizes and reminisces how the idea of an engine was born, and then a steam engine and how actually Railways started. There has been a lot of history and experiences from the early years of Steam Railway that have been taken and transplanted into the book. Also how Railways is and can be successful if only it is invested wisely and maintenance is done. This is only where imagination and reality come apart as maintenance isn’t done and then you have issues. While this is and was in the UK, similar situation exists in India and many other places around the world and doesn’t matter whether it is private or public. Exceptions are German, French but then that maybe due to Labor movements that happened and were successful unlike in other places. I could go on but then it will become a different article in itself. Suffice to say there is much to learn and you need serious people to look after it. Both in UK and India we lack that. And not just in Railways but Civil Aviation too, but again that is a story in itself.


Apart from books, have been seeing web-series that Willow is a good one that I enjoyed even though I hadn’t seen the earlier movie. While there has been a flurry of movies and web-series both due to end of year and beginning of 2023 and yet have tried to be a bit partial on what I wanna watch or not. If it has crime, fantasy, drama then usually I like it. For e.g. I saw Blackout and pretty much was engrossed in what will happen next. It also does lead you to ask questions about centralization vs de-centralization for both power and other utilities and does make a case for communities to have their utilities apart from the grid as a fallback. How do we do over decades or centuries about it is a different question perhaps altogether. There were two books that kinda stood out for me, the first was Ian Rankin’s ‘Naming of the Dead’. The book is about a cynical John Rebus, a man after my own heart. I am probably going to buy a few more of his series. In a way it also tells you why UK is the way it is right now. Another book that I liked was Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. This is one of the books that Mum would have clearly liked. It is pretty unusual while at the same time very close to 1984 and other such dystopian novels. The main trope of the book is what color you can see and how much you can see. The main character is somebody who can see Red, around the age of 20. One of the interesting aspects of the book is ‘de-facting’ which closely resembles the Post-Truth world where alternative facts can be made out of air and they don’t need any scientific evidence to back them up. In Jasper’s world, they don’t care about how things work and most of the technology is banned and curiosity is considered harmful and those who show that are murdered one way or the other. Interestingly, the author has just last year decided to start book 2 in the 3 book series that is supposed to be. This also tells why the U.S. is such a precarious situation in a way. A part of it is also due to the media which is in hands of chosen few, the same goes for UK and India, almost an oligopoly.

The Great Escape

This is also a book but also about experiences of people, not in 19th-20th century but today that tells you slavery is alive and well and human-trafficking as well. This piece from NPR tells you about an MNC and Indian workers. What I found interesting is that there barely is an mention of the Indian Embassy that is supposed to help Indian people. I do know for a fact that the embassies of India has seen a drastic shortage of both people and materials even since the new Govt. came in place that was nine years ago. Incidentally, BBC shared about the Gujarat riots 2002 and that has been censored in India. They keep quiet about the UK Govt. who did find out that the Chief Minister was directly responsible for the killings and in facts his number 2, Amit Shah had shared that we would do 2002 again in the election cycle barely a month ago. But sadly, no hate speech FIR or any action was taken against Mr. Shah. There have been attempts by people to showcase the documentary. For e.g. JNU tried it and the rowdies from ABVP (arm of BJP) created violence. Even the questions that has been asked by the Wire, GOI will not acknowledge them.

Interestingly, all India’s edtechs have taken a beating in the last 6-8 months including the biggest BJYU’s. Sharing a story from 2021 where things were best and today all of them are at bottom. In fact, the public has been wary as the prices of the courses has kept on increasing and most ‘case studies’ have been found to be fake. Also the general outlook on jobs and growth has been pessimistic. In fact, most companies have been shedding jobs truckloads, most in the I.T. sector but other sectors as well. Hospitality and other related sectors have taken a huge beating, part of it post-pandemic, part of it Govt’s refusal to either spend money or do any positive policies for either infrastructure, education, medical, you name it, they think private sector has all the answers which has been proven to be wrong again and again. I did not want to end on a discordant note but things are the way they are 😦

Hearing loss, pandemic, lockdown

Sorry for not being on blog for sometime, the last few months have been brutal. While I am externally ok, because of the lockdown I sensed major hearing loss. First, I thought it may be a hallucination or something but as it persisted for days, I got myself checked and found out that I got 80% hearing loss in my right ear. How and why I don’t know. Is this NIHL or some other kind of hearing loss is yet to be ascertained. I do live what is and used to be one of the busiest roads in the city, now for last few months not so much. On top of it, you have various other noises.


I also experienced Tinnitus which again I perceived to be a hallucination but found it’s not. I have no clue if my eiplepsy has anything to do with hearing loss or both are different. I did discover that while today we know that something like Tinnitus exists, just 10-15 years back, people might mistake it for madness. In a way it is madness because you are constantly hearing sound, music etc. 24×7 , that is enough to drive anybody mad.

During this brief period, did learn what an Otoscope is . I did get audiometry tests done but need to get at least a second or if possible also a third opinion but those will have to wait as the audio clinics are about 8-10 kms. away. In the open-close-open-close environment just makes it impossible to figure out the time, date and get it done. After that is done then probably get a hearing device, probably a Siemens Signia hearing aid. The hearing aids are damn expensive, almost 50k per piece and they probably have a lifetime of about 5-6 years, so it’s a bit of a expensive proposition. I also need a second or/and third opinion on the audiometry profile so I know things are correct. All of these things are gonna take time.

Pandemic Situation in India and Testing

Coincidentally, was talking to couple of people about this. It is sad to see that we have the third highest number of covid cases at 1/10th the tests we are doing vis-a-vis U.S.A. According to statistical site ourworldindata , we seem to be testing 0.22 per thousand people compared to 2.28 people per thousand done by United States. Sadly it doesn’t give the breakup of the tests, from what I read the PCR tests are better than the antibody tests, a primer shares the difference between the two tests. IIRC, the antibody tests are far cheaper than the swab tests but swab tests are far more accurate as it looks for the virus’s genetic material (RNA) . Anyways coming to the numbers, U.S. has a population of roughly 35 crores taking a little bit liberty from numbers given at popclock . India meanwhile has 135 crore or almost four times the population of U.S. and the amount of testing done is 1/10th as shared above. Just goes to share where the GOI priorities lie . We are running out of beds, ventilators and whatever else there is. Whatever resources are there are being used for covid patients and they are being charged a bomb. I have couple of hospitals near my place and the cost of a bed in an isolation ward is upward of INR 100k and if you need a ventilator then add another 50k . And in moment of rarity, the differences between charges of private and public are zero. Meaning there is immense profiteering happening it seems in the medical world. Heck, even the Govt. is on the act where they are charging 18% GST on sanitizers. If this is not looting then I dunno what is.

Example of Medical Bills people have to pay.

China, Nepal & Diplomacy

While everybody today knows how China has intruded and captured quite a part of Ladakh, this wasn’t the case when they started in April. That time Ajai Shukla had shared this with the top defence personnel but nothing came of it. Then on May 30th he broke/shared the news with the rest of the world and was immediately branded anti-national, person on Chinese payroll and what not. This is when he and Pravin Sawnhey of Force Magazine had both been warning of the same from last year itself. Pravin, has a youtube channel and had been warning India against Chinese intentions from 2015 and even before that. He had warned repeatedly that our obsession with the Pakistan border meant that we were taking eyes of the border with China which spans almost 2300 odd kms. going all the way to Arunachal Pradesh. A good map which shows the conflict can be found at which I am sharing/reproducing below –

India-China Border Areas – Copyright 2020

Note:- I am sharing a neutral party’s rendering of the border disputes or somebody who doesn’t have much at stake as the two countries have so that things could be looked at little objectively.

The Prime Minister on the other hand, made the comment which made galvanising a made-up word into verb . It means to go without coming in. In fact, several news sites shared the statement told by the Prime Minister and the majority of people were shocked. In fact, there had been reports that he gave the current CDS, General Rawat, a person of his own choosing, a peace of his mind. But what lead to this confrontation in the first place ? I think many pieces are part of that puzzle, one of the pieces are surely the cutting of defense budget for the last 6 years, Even this year, if you look at the budget slashes done in the earlier part of the year when he shared how HAL had to raise loans from the market to pay salaries of its own people. Later he shared how the Govt. was planning to slash the defence budget. Interestingly, he had also shared some of the reasons which reaffirm that it is the only the Govt. which can solve some of the issues/conundrum –

“First, it must recognize that our firms competing for global orders are up against rivals that are being supported by their home governments with tax and export incentives and infrastructure that almost invariably surpasses India’s. Our government must provide its aerospace firms with a level playing field, if not a competitive advantage. The greatest deterrent to growth our companies face is the high cost of capital and lack of access to funds. In several cases, Indian MSMEs have had to turn down offers to build components and assemblies for global OEM supply chains simply because the cost of capital to create the shop floor and train the personnel was too high. This resulted in a loss of business and a missed opportunity for creating jobs and skills. To overcome this, the government could create a sector specific “A&D Fund” to provide low cost capital quickly to enable our MSMEs to grab fleeting business opportunities. ” – Ajai Shukla, blogpost – 13th March 2020 .

And then reporting on 11th May 2020 itself, CDS Gen. Rawat himself commented on saving the budget, they were in poor taste but still he shared what he thought about it. So, at the end of it one part of the story. The other part of the story probably lies in India’s relations with its neighbors and lack of numbers in diplomats and diplomacy. So let me cover both the things one by one .

Diplomats, lack of numbers and hence the hands we are dealth with

When Mr. Modi started his first term, he used the term ‘Maximum Governance, Minimum Government’ but sadly cut those places where it indeed needs more people, one of which is diplomacy. A slightly dated 2012 article/opinion shared writes that India needs to engage with the rest of the world and do with higher number. Cut to 2020 and the numbers more or less remain the same . What Mr. Modi tried to do is instead of using diplomats, he tried to use his charm and hugopolicy for lack of a better term. 6 years later, here we are. After 200 trips abroad, not a single trade agreement to show what he done. I could go on but both time and energy are not on my side hence now switching to Nepal

Nepal, once friend, now enemy ?

Nepal had been a friend of India for 70 odd years, what changed in the last few years that it changed from friend to enemy ? There had been two incidents in recent memory that changed the status quo. The first is the 2015 Nepal blockade . Now one could argue it either way but the truth is that Nepal understood that it is heavily dependent on India hence as any sovereign country would do in its interest it also started courting China for imports so there is some balance.

The second one though is one of our own making. On December 16, 2014 RBI allowed Nepali citizens to have cash upto INR 25,000/- . Then in 2016 when demonetization was announced, they said that people could exchange only upto INR 4,500/- which was far below the limit shared above. And btw, before people start blaming just RBI for the decision, FEMA decisions are taken jointly by the finance ministry (FE) as well as ministry of external affairs (MEA) . So without them knowing the decision could not have been taken when announcing it. The result of lowering of demonetization is what made Nepal move more into Chinese hands and this has been shared by number of people in numerous articles in different websites. The wire interview with the vice-chairman of Niti Ayog is pretty interesting. The argument that Nepal show give an estimate of how much old money is there falls flat when in demonetization itself, it was thought of that around 30-40% was black money and would not be returned but by RBI’s own admissions all 99.3% of the money was returned. Perhaps they should have consulted Prof. Arun Kumar of JNU who has extensively written and studied the topic before doing that fool-hardy step. It is the reason that since then, an economy which was searing at 9% has been contracting ever since, I could give a dozen articles stating that, but for the moment, just one will suffice. The slowing economy and the sharp divisions between people based on either outlook, religion or whatever also encouraged China to attack us. This year is not good for India. The only thing I hope Indians and people all over do is just maintain physical distances, masks and somehow survive till middle of next year without getting infected when probably most of the vaccine candidates have been trialed, results are in and we have a ready vaccine. I do hope that at least for once, ICMR shares data even after the vaccine is approved, whichever vaccine. Till later.