Jul 23, 2010

Kamala Basti, Belgaum

Sunday July 18th. Rohini my cousin and Venku her husband had invited me for a get-together at Belguam. Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti had called for Belguam Bundh. After lot of deliberating I decided not take a chance. I went to office to check on broadband lines, all 3 networks were fine. As I locked the office and walking down the steps, my aunt called me to give an update about the situation, it was normal, just like any other day. Fine. I went home, changed and drove to Belgaum. I met my cousin & family after many years. In fact this was the first occasion I saw them together. We chatted and had lunch. I said bye and left.

I had decided to see the inside of Belgaum fort. The entrance is really narrow and Durgadevi temple is right there after the gate. The temple is different ...would call it an open temple. Clean and tidy. On inquiring with the priest, I found that within the fort are two more places to see- Ramakrishna Ashram and Kamala Basti. Barely a minute's drive I could see Ramakrishna Ashram on my left and then right next to it is Kamala Basti.

There are two temples almost size size but different shapes and quality of carvings.

The second one is a rough creation. At present this serves as the care-taker's office.

The care-taker seemed to be enjoying his post lunch sleep.

The place is really peaceful and serene. Ramakrishna Ashram has time restrictions for visitors. I did not want to wait till 4PM. I'll come visit Belgaum fort again and explore it completely.


Jul 19, 2010

Lesson learnt at Kakinada

Few years into my electronic weighing career, I had learnt little about making load cells and weigh scales. Late 70s dad started off the business as EFGE Load Cells (EFGE > FG > Foil Gauge > Strain Gauge) at our first home in Bangalore at a rented house in Banashankari II stage. Business grew and moved to bigger place in Jayanagar II block and then to Peenya Industrial Estate mid 80s. Then came the downward slide ....crash! Our business was back in Banashankari II stage but a different place this time. Now I was in charge of managing the business; production, sales & service, research & development and commercial aspects. Dad took care of marketing & sales and R&D.

Product/price inquiries still kept coming to the first address. One of the inquiries was for a hermetically sealed 100kg load cell from GFCL, Kakinada. GFCL had sent a drawing of the load cell. This load cell was not a part of our product range, it was not available in Indian market. We decided to develop it. The challenge lay in sealing it hermetically ...neither did we have the facility nor it was available anywhere in Bangalore. We sent our quotation and to our surprise we got the purchase order in matter of days.

The load cell was similar to HBM Z6. We made 10 elements of which 2 or 3 did not survive heat-treatment. Finally we made 5 load cells and calibrated the output- 100kg ~ 20mV ~ 2mV/V, 350 ohms impedance. We needed a bellow to seal the load cell. The only solution in sight was a fabric bellow and we got some samples made and tried them. The load cell was functionally OK but aesthetically it was ugly, and scary too.

We got on call from GFCL, they wanted the load cells badly. We decided to deliver the load cells personally. Praveen and I reserved berths in Coramandel Express. The train left sometime evening and we were enjoying journey ...seeing new landscapes. One of the co-passengers spoke business nonstop; it seems he was running a garment manufacturing unit and created employment opportunities for several 100s of people. Impressive. He would look at anything and everything in the business perspective. A teenage boy selling ready-made paan came by and was thoroughly interviewed. Not just interview ...his trade secrets were thoroughly dissected. The paan leaf stayed fresh for 3 days. Of any remaining stock, the leaves were replaced with fresh leaves and sold again. I cannot remember the number of times the supari inside got recycled. Better not to think about it. The hawker was cool enough and endured the interview. He would be seeing these people for few hours and chances of seeing them again was slim. The bridge across river Godavari was really long. The train ran considerably slow on the bridge. The river was full and flowing with good speed. We could see 3 or 4 more bridges spanning the massive river. I think we reached Kakinada late afternoon. We checked into Hotel Tourist, the street was a busy one but one feature did make it unique; two wheeler parking was in the middle which acted like a road divider also! A portable road divider, it's there when it's actually needed. Surely this would be local people's idea.

Next morning we went to GFCL. We saw heaps and heaps of sand around the factory. That's when we learnt that sand is the basic raw material for Urea. We went to the stores, we got directed to instrumentation department where we met the chief. As expected, he was not very happy with the load cells' appearance but he had our load cells replace the damaged original load cells in the UK made automatic packing machine. The engineer had trouble calibrating the system. That's when we looked into the specifications; electrical specifications just did not match. Impedance requirement was some 120 ohms, excitation voltage was 12V and full scale output was something else. That's when it flashed that we never bothered to go through the PO properly. Praveen and I were embarrassed. Since the Chief was senior to us in age he knew a solution could be found. Finally, the load cells were accepted, invoice was presented to the purchase department and we left the factory back to the hotel.

We reserved our tickets for our return journey, settled hotel bills and we were all set to travel back home. Our carelessness bothered me; how could we not read the PO before taking up the work. Frankly speaking I did not enjoy the return journey.

Back at office dad did some calculations and drew a Wheatstone bridge with shunt resistors in place which would help match customer's specifications. We purchased specified MFRs and dispatched them to GFCL. Finally the problem was solved and the load cells were functioning ...may not be exactly as required but near enough to keep the packing machine running. We received the payment without delay.

This was a big lesson for me and Komal Process Controls. Ever since, we changed the way we worked, not that we did not make mistakes but we tried never to repeat mistakes. Thanks to the Chief for dealing with us patiently and placing trust in us.

Coming back to the load cell, we named it KPC T6 just like HBM Z6. We discovered there was a great demand for T6. Over the years, with minor changes on the element and fabric bellow being replaced with aluminium bellow, the load cell looked good and worked even better. We did not have to worry about prospects getting scared. As an Industrial Engineer, I played my role in streamlining production activities; right from procuring material to production planning & control to inventory control. I also learnt that customer satisfaction was extremely important and the most easy way sustain the business. Deepak joined the team. Dad introduced Kaizen. I tried Honda philosophy- Stay close to your customers, Understand their needs, Exceed their expectations. We could implement it to an extent. We took up bigger projects, executed them smoothly, and most cases kept up to the delivery schedule. As a result we got more business from word of mouth. I thoroughly enjoyed working in weighing field. I learnt so much- 1991 to 2004 was an adventure packed working holiday.

...for some strange reasons I had to come out of our business. Now I work in a completely different field which has it's own set of demands. I do enjoy my present job but I miss load cells & electronic weighing. Hope to get back to them in a big way...


Jul 12, 2010

Gandi and Devunikadapa

Some time 1992 to 1994.

During one of the many trips to Chilamkur Cement Works, I got an opportunity to visit Gandi an important pilgrim place in Kadapa region of Andhrapradesh. Mr.Pulla Rao, one of the company employees with whom we worked closely wanted to visit Gandi on particular day which was supposed to be auspicious. Our visit coincided and dad offered to take our van ...which meant I had go. I was expecting one family 2 adults + 2 kids. Next morning ...the van was packed, 7 adults and 2 kids.

I think we left by 8AM ...it was pretty warm by then. Roads in Kadapa region were terrible as it is. After an hour's journey, we had to leave the main road and took smaller roads. The roads got worse, I remember a kilometer or two stretch of road under repair had cricket ball sized stones spread out. I had no choice but to drive over them. SUVs are the right vehicles for these roads. Anyway we ploughed way deep into the country. The van's battery terminal was loose, I had to fiddle with the cable to close the circuit ...and because of bad roads the terminal would get loose more often. What a a journey- driving in hot weather on terrible roads with a loose connection which killed the engine when it felt like.

I was getting impatient. The terrain was changing, we could see hills now. Also the traffic was increasing ...people visiting Gandi. We were close to the first destination of the day- Gandi. Interior Andhra roads barely have bridges across major streams and even some minor rivers. Roads actually pass over just a few feet above the stream/river beds. One storm these streams flow rapidly. There's a saying in Kannada- nadi nambabohudu aadare halla nambabaradu -which roughly translates to "rivers are predictable but streams are unpredictable." It's true. Gandi is on a stream bank and road passing through the stream bed was under repairs. It was loose soil and I had a tough time driving this short stretch.

Wikimapia screenshot

pic by cvsharibabu

At last were reached. I'm not the type to go into crowded temples, while my passengers went to the temple, I hung around near the van looking at the hill rising above the temple. Monkey population was considerable. Pilgrims kept them busy by feeding them coconuts and banana. I could see people walk across the dry stream bed to another hill. It seems there was another temple. I liked this place, it would be fun to visit during rainy season. Mr. Pulla Rao et al were done with their pooja & prayers and ready to leave. While we had pooja prasada Mr.Pulla Rao told me that monkeys here turn taps to let out water, drink water and turn it back. Some humans need to learn from monkeys here.

Our second destination for the day was the Devunikadapa Venkateswara temple on the outskirts of Kadapa town. Mr.Pulla Rao told me this temple is considered as the gateway to Tirumala temple and pilgrims visit this temple before going to Tirumala. The word 'Kadapa' is supposed to have been derived from Gadapa- threshold in Telugu. This temple was peaceful with just few people. I remember seeing a man totally sloshed and rolling on the floor ...combined effect of alcohol and sun is something else. We had lunch, typical Andhra dishes- rice, dal, pickles and chatnis. We rested for a while and headed back towards Chilamkur. Back at ICL staff colony my passengers thanked me for the safe journey.

Research shows that there are many places of historical importance around Kadapa such as Gandi Fort, Ameen Peer Durgah, Masjid e Azam, Khajpeta, Bagwan Mahaveer Museum, Chand Peera Gumbadh, Sri Lanka Malleswara Wild Life Sanctury and many more.

Even though we have passed through Kadiri several times never once did we visit the ancient temple. Some where between Kadiri and Chilamkur I remember seeing an ancient well with steps leading into it. These must have been made to make journeys comfortable for travelers of those days. The view from top of Kadiri hills is lovely ...not much greener around but it has it's own beauty. During one of our night journeys we had stopped at the top. It was silent, clear sky full of stars sans moon, fresh cool air ...we just stood there taking in the wonderful feeling.

I want to tour Andhrapradesh once ...starting with Belum Caves.


Jul 5, 2010

Day out at Saundatti

I was disturbed with some happenings at office. I wanted to go out and clear my mind of all thoughts ...something like clearing history and cookies from a browser. I was done with my routine Sunday morning chores by 10. I packed my camera, two bottles of water and a pack of cookies (real cookies). I was dilly-dallying between Hebbali and Saundatti. I had heard that Hebballi is filled with ancient temples. Again I was confused if it was Hebballi or Shivalli. I thought Mohan mama, my mom's brother could clarify my doubts. Mohan mama was not sure. I decided to head towards Saundatti. As I was about to leave Suresh mama turned up, another maternal uncle. I asked him to join if he was free. Yes.

We drove past Inamhongal, Aminbhavi, Harobelvadi... I neither saw much sowing activity nor fields with tender green rows of newly sprouted plants. Lack of rains had delayed much of sowing activity. I wish it rained for farmers' sake. We drove past Saundatti up the rocky hill road, then the flat stretch on the rocky plateau. It was quite windy up here. Soon the temple was in our view, in the shallow valley to our right. Straight ahead was a larger valley. The hill on the other side of the valley was covered with windmills.

We got two coconuts, incense sticks, turmeric and vermilion ...offering for the Goddess.

I avoid crowded places, temples included, but I do not know what made me visit Yellamma temple. We bought special tickets Rs.20 each and stood in the line waiting for our turn for a view of the gharbha gudi sanctum sanctorum. I noticed a 3' x 2' board with two images of a man with palms together and some lines of Kannada text. The board explained the proper way of doing 'namaskara' in two steps and the benefits of doing so. When palms are joined together the thumbs have to be slightly away from the index fingers.

Step 1 - Bend neck & head slightly forward with palms at the forehead level. Stay in this position for 2 minutes (not sure about the duration).

Step 2 - Bring down palms down to chest level, neck & head still bent forward. Stay in this position for a minutes (again not sure about the duration).

These two positions are supposed to direct cosmic energy to our body and helps the body absorb it fully. I was really happy to see this board. Appreciate the person who conceived the idea of educating people in spirituality. If photography was permitted I would have snapped it. Normally one can see boards with a list of different poojas with prices for each of them. Madness!

We got Devi's Darshana, I did step 2 namaskara. We went around the temple ...on the sticky oil coated terrace.

Went to another smaller temple close by.

On the way back to the car park a local woman with a cane basket in her arms was peddling food- jolada rotti, chatni, palya, mosaru. I was tempted to try but resisted the temptation. We did not go back the way we came but took the other road to Saundatti which passes by the reservoir.

Driving downhill, we saw the reservoir filled to it's brim. We stopped at a junction; straight ahead to Saundatti and right turn to Gokak and Navilteerth. I asked mama if he had visited Navilteerth Dam. No. We decided to check out the place. A kilometer up th road, we took the left fork, towards Gokak. We could see a hill range ahead of us with more windmills turning gracefully. As we drove closer, we realized how huge each of the windmills were. I was toying with idea of climbing the hill and a get a closer look at the windmills...

Navilteerth Dam Gate. We were not sure if public was allowed in. A local confirmed visitors were allowed. We drove down the narrow road, parked close to the gate, bought handful nerelehannu from a hawker, they seem to have a cooling effect in warm weather. They tasted great! Wind was blowing from the reservoir on our left. We walked down the path, we saw some families picnicking, few young couples trying to get some time for themselves but the dam was not in sight. We walked down some steps and there was the little dam.

A typical 70s construction, this brought back my childhood memories of a visit to Lakkavalli Dam when we lived in Bhadravathi. I learnt that Navilatirtha is said to be where Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji meditated in 1932. I remember seeing the Swamiji sometime 1984 or 1985 at the ashram Tapovan, Dharwad.

Of the 4 gates, one was open letting out a steady stream of water which flows into the narrow valley beyond our sight.

On the way back we checked out some old construction equipment. Looks like a mortar mixer and tar heater.

I liked this place. We decided to head back towards Saundatti. Near the gate I noticed a old vehicles; roadroller, tipper and a bus.

We drove back to Saundatti, visited the fort, it's more of a children's park inside. At the peak is Kadsiddeshwara Temple.

We spend about 20 minutes, got bored and decided to head back to Dharwad.

Even though cookies were cleared my mind was still disturbed. The problem was more like a virus, it required some amount of action...