October Sky, movie that reminded me of the Passion of building

October Sky is a movie that portrays achievement of four boys, who passionately worked to build rockets. The four went on to complete their college education and do well in life. This movie reminded me of my Engineering days and how how passionately a few people came together to build and install Hydro-pneumatic shock absorber. The project got me sponsorship to represent my college at the university in Salem. Having watched the movie, I felt I should share my experience and more importantly appreciate the people who came together and helped me in this pursuit. It is because of them that I had such a fantastic time building it.

The ambition to build the hydropneumatic shock absorber sprouted after I got dissatisfied with performance of shock absorbers in scooters. I had heard many elderly people complain about back pain on frequently using their scooters and I wanted to do something about it. I felt that building an awesome shock-absorbing machine would not only solve this problem but also make riding a joyful experience. With this dream, I started reading about shock absorbers and started building my own. The first step in the process was to design. The second was to find right fabricators to fabricate prototypes and the third was to test the prototypes.

My role model APK Abdul Kalam once said “Dreams are not what you see when you’re sleeping, dreams are those that don’t let you sleep“. My dream gave so much energy that I could do many night-outs studying various options and upskilling myself on different subjects of engineering and maths that helped me understand how various fields of engineering needs to come together to really solve a single problem. Page after page, design after design , finally I arrived at a design that I was happy to fabricate and test. But when I started finding cost of fabrication of a few prototypes, I realised it was simply unaffordable! At such stage in life I generally turn to my friends, help arrived from a very dear friend, Ali.

Ali and I go back many years. So many that I have now lost count but guess that gives you an idea. He worked for his uncle in a factory and he was happy to help. He got me an appointment with his uncle, Saleem, a noble man who has lifted many hundreds from poverty and gave them good life. Saleem Uncle gave me permission to work at his factory and I stuck around. I used to observe how operators use lathe machine to turn and I realised how highly skilled the job is. It takes years of practice but nevertheless I tried my hands only manage breaking the bits (tools). So when you cannot do something, what do you do? you beg! So I prepared myself for this next stage started asking for favours. I am very grateful to the operators at HydroFab who extended their helping hand. They toiled day and night at the factory to finish their job and helping me in between their work. Now that I think about it, I can understand what a prick I was. Nevertheless they did and my parts were all done.

Searching for small parts for completing the product was another memorable event. Kailash and I would search Shop to shop is Bangalore market for the precise materials we wanted. It was here that we stumbled upon so many things that were much more interesting than things we were actually looking for.

In any such engineering projects the most difficult part is testing. In my case, it was expensive too! So for testing, I wanted a scooter on which I can fix my shockabsorter. Help came from my Sister Beenu 🙂 She was generally happy (or she just tolerated) to offer her scooter to me with tank full of petrol. In one particular instance, I had to get two parts welded together and return home quickly to hand the scooter back. I was in such a hurry that I just took the hot welded parts and slid it into the front storage compartment. It was only when I reached home that I realised that the compartment was made of plastic and the hot welding had melted away parts of the storage compartment… I know Beenu was mad at me but I don’t remember she showing her anger on me… lucky me. Anyways, coming back to testing I finally took the scooter to a mechanic and asked him to replace the original shock absorber with my prototype. The prototype was designed to suit her scooter and so with some adjustments we were able to fit it ok.

Really estatic, I sat on the scooter and asked the mechanic to push me… I was so glad the shock absorber didn’t give up.. the mechanic, who was very skeptical at first was very impressed! He asked me to start the scooter and go for a ride and so I did… And the ride … The ride was the best I have ever had! Later the mechanic also sat but after a few metres, I realised the ride was getting rough… I realised the seals were giving up and the oil in the shock absorber was starting to leak. The mechanic helped me switch back the shock absorbers.

I was so happy those days building the shock absorber that I can remember every bit of it even today… 15 years later! It’s like every critical information that went into building it is so fresh in my mind. For example did you know that all gasses don’t compress equally with changing weights. Some compress more such as CO2 and some less like Nitrogen. My shock absorber had co2 filled in it.

I would like to thank the following people who supported me and helped me with such beautiful experience:

  • Prof. Kubsad of Production engineering, Adhiyamaan College of Engineering, for his constant encouragement
  • My dad to help me with reading all those heavy books and checking my maths 🙂 also for endlessly listening to me and guiding me
  • Ali for always being there and helping me
  • Saleem uncle for being so kind to use his facility
  • Beenu for caring for my dreams more than even her expensive scooter that she loved so much
  • My team who came together: Anup, Partha, Kailash
  • Balu for helping me with 2D and 3D CAD (computer designs)
  • My college and in particular my department HOD and Principal for giving me opportunity to represent them in Salem
  • All the people who helped me with fabrication and installation: talented people at Hydrofabs, outside specialist agencies, mechanics

Shooting games with mind

Our mind is a thinking machine and it comes up with thoughts all the time and most times it is just random. Random thoughts just keep going in circles and keep us from focusing and achieving our objectives or worse still, keep us from living in real world! Ancient Hindu scriptures liken mind to a monkey that jumps from branch to branch for no real reason.

If this goes out of hand, then it becomes our master rather than we using it as a tool to live life better. Now wait, you may believe your thoughts are you… Isn’t it? Spoiler alert! Your thoughts aren’t you. Every single human brain would get similar thoughts in similar situation. of course no two people ever are is exactly same situation with same background and this could have impact on thoughts but hypothetically if two brains are exposed to same situations from many years then they would have same thoughts. So brain is like a computer, and like all computers will return same output for a given program, brain too would give same thoughts.

So if you aren’t collection of your thoughts then who are you? Well this is a big topic and it’s for another blog. Great king of Mysore, Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar had funded a study in late 18th century and a book was published to study this aspect. What it says is that chooser of the thoughts is you.

So if you are not your thoughts and you are the one choosing the thoughts then how to tame your mind? I personally like shooting down thoughts that don’t seem to matter. It’s a hobby I am developing and it helps in de-cluttering my mind. Just the moment you realise you have a thought that doesn’t help you solve a problem you need to solve in next 30 days… Simply shoot it down in your mind. This may sound like Marie Kondo; and has same impact but not on your house but on your brain…. Even better right!

Even if you achieve a little in de-cluttering your mind and kill a few random thoughts, it will have super positive impact on your life! So what is that? It will help you be more charismatic! How? The formula for charisma is

Charisma= Presence*Power*warmth

By killing random thoughts, you can improve your presence. When people are talking to you, you can really be there to listen. And the boost in charisma can help you greatly achieve your objectives!

So start shooting your random thoughts! Be present and be charismatic and successful! 🙂

Cut ‘WHY?’ from your life

Human mind always asks the question why. It is a way for mind to understand the world. Mind has some schema and every new information is is made consistent to the existing schema and until that time human mind keeps asking why. Asking why comes at a price; every new phenomenon has to comply with existing schema and if it doesn’t, then the mind just doesn’t accept. Thus not allowing human to learn more. Cutting out ‘why’ from our vocabulary and replacing it with ‘what’ is key to engaging with life in much better way. It allows life to be appreciated for its complexity and doesnt force it to be simplified into existing schema of mind. What always asks for a specification thus allowing knowledge acquisition while why simply asks for explanation. The explanation may not be true. Infact a true explanation that is not in line with existing schema will not be accepted and a false that is in line with schema is accepted.

Japanese kamikaze pilots flew into US ships. What they did allows US sailers to take right steps. But if we start thinking about why they did so, then we are paralysed and unable to take action. There could be so many reasons.

Let’s try to see how futile ‘why’ is with this example: why laxman played awesome only against Australia; especially in Australia?

While the question might seem genuine, what it does is it allows mind to run wild. We wear our blue sky thinking hat and let our imagination take us anywhere without a target to achieve. It essentially will return with a bunch of reasons that our existing schema will be happy to settle with. But will that help? No! It only paralyses you during those moments.

We have been asking ‘why’ from our childhood and it’s going to be super duper difficult to cut it out of ur vocabulary. Nothing in fact is more difficult to tell your mind that you are going to stop thinking why you were passed on for the promotion or why that stock you bought never raises in price… It’s natural that ‘why’ questions will keep propping up in mind. But key is to recognise when they do and take a cautious decision to not try answering your mind. Not try asking why to your colleagues or friends.

Digital Strategy Execution with Infosys Wingspan

Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners, famously quoted “Your organization’s biggest strategic challenge isn’t strategic thinking — it’s strategic acting”. Peter went on to say that execution is a people problem and that it’s ten times harder to get people to execute on a strategy than it is to devise a smart strategy… Read the whole article

Getting Driving Licence In Britain

I have been driving in India since I was 18 and must have done at least 100,000 kms over 20 years. But when it came to applying and getting a British Licence I was skeptical about my chances. I found the government website quite useful in understanding the procedure. I spoke to several folks to understand challenges in each stage and i mitigated them when it came to my application. I wanted to share them with you hoping you would benefit from them:

Provisional Licence: Indians can driving in UK for 12 months with their Indian Licence however they need to apply and undergo the regular process to get a British Licence. essentially, we don’t have the privilege of submitting out Indian Licence to get British just as many other countries including Zimbabwe do. They key challenge here is that your BRP needs to be sent to DVLA for background check. it would take about 2 weeks for DVLA to return it so if you are expecting any travel abroad… beware! Also when you are submitting the documents, you can sent it as a registered post so that you would get an acknowledgement. Don’t use the envelope that DVLA would sent you in response to your application.

Theory Test: Once you get your provisional licence, you can apply for theory test. Don’t hurry onto it. It takes some reading to be able to pass comfortably. I will recommend an App ‘Theory 4 in 1’ app. this is about £5 but invest in the mobile app.

Theory Test: For the multiple choice questions, just keep taking the questions and the ones you get wrong – mark them for revision later. Once you finish taking all questions then you would be left with questions that you got wrong the first time. You could easily revise it one more time since you marked it the first time.

Hazard Perception Test: This is tricky and its good to watch a few YouTube tutorials before you start taking the tests.

Practical Test: Once you clear the theory test, you could go for practical test.

You will need an instructor and I will highly recommend AA since they have good cars and well experienced instructors. You will minimum need 10 hours of instruction so go for it in one go and you could save money.

Selecting right test center is key. Central london has very low pass rates while some of the others outside have better pass rates. you could check the pass rates near your home before applying. for instance the centre I selected was Isleworth which has 42.4% of tests resulted in a pass between 2017 and 2018. While that’s below the UK average of 46.3%, it’s not bad considering it’s busy urban location.

Once you get your instructor and center; you have clear plan for getting trained. while you learn from the instructor, here are a few videos that i found very good

Navigating a roundabouthttps://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yuqlfM-MX7g#dialog
Driving with road signhttps://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7c0MtRaWobw
Nearside to nearside turninghttps://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rEjhB6n55lk
Video on correct signallinghttps://youtu.be/e7uYp0sUq3o
Show me , tell me questionhttps://youtu.be/89q5qJzikwo
Top mistakes in driving testhttps://youtu.be/_JvfvCeuu2Y

Some of the areas I was going wrong were:

  1. We are expected to see Mirror first and then signal. However I was putting signal and then seeing mirror
  2. In India, we typically use breaks quite harshly. perhaps this is to ensure no one takes the space between us and the car ahead of us… whatever be the reason, this is not appreciated here
  3. As learner in UK, we tend to slowdown and give way even in places where we have priority. This is not good and can fail us. so if you have right of way, you must take it
  4. When entering main road, I used to jump in if I saw a large gap but you don’t do that. Especially if you see a cyclist – just stop!
  5. If you are taking reverse, and you see pedestrians or other cars – just stop and observe. even if they are safely far, don’t take chance during test.

All the best for your Licence!