Thursday 15 December 2011

Not so Smart Phones

I love my iPhone.  I love being able to access my email anywhere.  I love being able to look up any information I need on the web.  I like listening to podcasts while I travel and do the gardening.  I even like the odd game of solitaire.

There are of course some downsides.  Smartphone users are absolutely lethal when you're out running.  They are usually in their own little world, wandering all over the pavement and totally unaware that a runner is approaching at a speed where avoiding a random-walker is not so easy (even at my speed).

But the saddest thing I have observed is that parents out walking with their infants or pushing them in buggies are most often either talking on the phone or consulting the screen for some other reason.  Communication with the child is zero.  Playing with the child is non-existent.  Surely the whole purpose of taking your child for a walk is to communicate and have some fun together.  (I remember many tired Sunday mornings when that was not exactly easy, but once started the fresh air usually worked wonders!)  Are we in danger of bringing up a generation who have been neglected for a phone?  How sad is that?

Saturday 9 July 2011

Goodbye Mumbai

I’m leaving Mumbai for possibly the last time tonight, sitting in the airport lounge and reflecting on my experience here in the last year.  It has been about 13 months since I started my adventure with RIL and I’ve spent half of that time in India.

Like everyone I had quite a sensory shock on arrival in Mumbai, even though I’d been in India three times before.  It’s amusing to look at the same streets, the same traffic, the same chaos now and find it all perfectly normal.

What do I think of Mumbai?  I love it.  I love the chaos, the traffic, the way people drive, the people getting by on nothing, the monsoon, the slums, the noise, the optimism, the vegetarian thali in the work canteen, the restaurant food, the Kingfisher beer (but not India wine), the mis-spelled shop signs, Marine Drive, Chopatty Beach, the Anglican Cathedral, Gandhi’s House, VT Station, Malabar Hill, Banganga Tank, Colaba, Leopold’s Bar, the Culfi Shop at Chowpatty, InOrbit Mall in Vashi, the autorickshaws, Jet Airways (but not Air India), the cricket madness, India winning the World Cup, my driver Abhijit, and my friends at RIL. 

The Mumbai Marathon in January was amazing, and I’ll never again be 3rd in my age category (unless there are less than 5 people in the race).  Sally and I had two wonderful holidays in north India and Kerala to top it all off, and she saw enough of Mumbai to fall in love with it too.

But it’s time to go now. Reliance Industries was an amazing (crazy) place to work, unlike anything I’d seen before, and I think unique even in India.  Maybe I’ll be back at some point if the right opportunity arises.

I would recommend India to anyone who likes new experiences, for a short holiday or a long stay.  It’s a very special place. In some ways it’s the future where Europe is the past.  Soon it will be the most populous country on the planet and there is tremendous growth, obsession with education and optimism for the future.  As well as the future it’s the past with ancient civilisations that make a mockery of the tiny period when the British (sort of) ruled here.

There are deep rooted problems.  Politics is rotten and corruption is rife.  The start of the Commonwealth Games was a fiasco and India’s subsequent athletics triumphs are now proven to be drug tainted – there’s a surprise!  But, hey, being number one in world cricket is much more important.

So I’ll leave with a tear in my eye and determined to return and see more.  Watch this space.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Robert Burns

Burns Night is on the 25th of January.  I was born on the 26th of January and my mother tells me I would have been named Robert Burns Bradbury if I'd been born a day earlier. Mind you, my mother says a lot of things to wind me up.  It might have been quite nice though.

If you're a Scot Rabbie Burns is a part of your life.  You may not notice it, but he is.  In my home town of Arbroath there is a big statue of RB outside the public library.  The nation's bard is there to inspire us all to enjoy literature.  It always seemed a bit subversive to me that the focus of civic pride, opposite the Auld Kirk (old church) in the centre of town, was a statue of a poet who fathered countless illegitimate children.  It was a good lesson in life that you don't have to be conventional to be a genius.

Today I took my complete works of Robert Burns from the shelf and took a trip down memory lane.  There, on the page, was the "Address to the Haggis" I so painstakingly learned for a recitation at the school Burns supper when I was 16.  I can still recite the first two verses if you need a haggis addressing.  Neurones are funny things.

But more importantly there was "To A Mouse" with the timeless warning:

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes 
o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought 
but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

and then "To a Lousewhich identifies the greatest gift of all, self knowledge.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!

But more than any other poem, "A Man's a Man for a' That" is a powerful statement of the dignity of the common man that makes Burns immortal not only in Scotland, but all around the world.

I was reluctant to pick a verse because you really should read every word, but let me give you the last verse, and hope that the optimism you so seldom hear these days will live with you even for today.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.