Random Reflections by Dr. Rajesh Tandon – August 2017

Dear Colleagues,

Here is another round of random reflections for your perusal:

  • Chinese people are on the move--- around the world. And, they move in large groups together. If you happen to pass through Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia or Heathrow airport in London, groups of 50-100 Chinese workers, students or tourists can be found. Because many of them are traveling out of the country for the first time, and do not have fluency in European languages (like English or French), they naturally move in ‘herds’ and remain huddled together. If you look at reactions of other passengers then, you wonder why they seem to be irked by this phenomenon? Isn’t China the second largest economy having largest population in the world today?
  • Monsoon has a special meaning for most Indians. As kids, we used to enjoy bathing in rains, eating mangos. Farmers look up to good monsoon for their agricultural productivity, still the most important factor in Indian agriculture. City-dwellers, however, get anxious when it rains these days. Water-logging, flooding of streets, risk of drowning in open manholes, contamination of drinking water (infections and diseases then), and perpetual traffic jams--- urban India faces the fury of monsoon daily these days. And, now floods—half the country is facing floods! It happens every year, and seems to be creating more havoc over the years. Different feelings about monsoon now?
  • Human history is mystery, many a times. Sardinia island of Italy was home to Nuragic civilisation which thrived during 1000 BC to 2nd century AD. Roman invasions and conquests later wiped out those communities. What still remain in Sardinia are hundreds of Nuragic homes, built with heavy stones. These structures—2-3 stories with winding galleries and staircases—have been built by arranging stones weighing 2-300 kilos each, without any sealant in between. What technological sophistication Nuragic civilisation had acquired two thousand years ago? And what happened to that knowledge?
  • Two stories last week puzzled me. First, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, became the richest person in the world, with personal wealth of nearly $90 bn, over-taking Bill Gates. Second, Amazon made a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in the second quarter of 2017, cumulative annual losses running into billions. Company makes loss, its founder and largest share-holder becomes wealthier? A further inquiry suggests that most such recent tech businesses---Uber, Ola, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Airbnb, Oyo---have continued to run in losses, their expenses far exceeding their revenues---all their business life. Founders and owners of all these companies are celebrities, rich, revered; and the valuations of their companies continue to increase. How? Another bubble about to burst?
  • Sassari is one of the oldest towns of Sardinia, and its University is 455 years old. Earlier communities on the island lived mostly in the central forest hilly terrain, away from the coast, with sheep and other small animals. The food habits thus developed to support such life-style, especially food that shepherds can carry with them. Thus cured meats and cheese were ‘invented’ and popularised in Sassari, and other regions of Sardinia. Interesting that food choices, preparations and habits evolve depending on locations and life-style!

Best wishes, and sincerely

Rajesh Tandon


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