Archive | February, 2015

A visit to Mughal Gardens – Rashtrapati Bhawan

28 Feb

I love visiting well maintained big spread out gardens. After the magnificent gardens in Srinagar, the beautiful Botanical Parks in Ooty & St Louis, The Lalbagh of the past and many more  – one garden on my must visit list for long was the Mughal Garden at Rashtrapati Bhawan. I did visit this on 27th Feb and would strongly recommend a visit to this beautiful well maintained diverse garden. Here are some details that can help visitors


The Mughal gardens are open to the public in the month of February-March every year and specific dates, times are announced every year. Visitors are allowed entry to the garden on all days except Mondays. Timing is from 10 AM to 4 PM. The gardens may remain closed on other days also in case of a function in the Mughal gardens or during the visit of a VVIP during the said period. The dates are made known to the public through various media. The entry and exit into the gardens is regulated from Gate No. 35 of the President’s Estate, which is located near the North Avenue, at the western end of the Church Road. On an average over 5 Lac visitors the Garden every season – weekends are jammed , and its always better to go during weekdays.

There is no entry charge, no way to reserve a ticket –  and you walk past two levels of security. The male / female Q’s are separate and you meet at the entry of the garden. No bags / purses / cameras / Food Items are allowed – all you can take with you is your cell phone & wallet. We left our stuff in the car – but they have places to deposit if you came by public transport.

The entire trip is a walk thru – takes about 60 minutes. You cannot sit down on the grass or have a picnic – keep walking or stand for a few minutes to admire the beauty. There are restrooms , and water facility available at a few points along the trail.

You start with the the large Herbal Garden which has every herb you can think of and then reach the Bonsai Garden. A few hundred Bonsai Plants on steps.


You walk past a few shady Banyan Trees and then reach a musical fountain before entering the main garden. This is designed a bit like the Taj with two waterways with fountains along the centre. Extremely well maintained the Garden is a treat to watch. Well manicured gardens , flowers in every shape and colour its a treat for your eyes.


You walk along the big rectangular patch of a green garden Trail that  takes you very close to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and then make a turn. The photo below shows how close you can be to the Presidents House.


As you head back past the Main Gardens you reach the Rose Gardens. You walk past a central walkway with rose gardens on both sides. The garden has more than 250 celebrated varieties of roses, which makes it one of the best Rose Gardens in the world. It has roses like Bonne Nuit, Oklahoma which are nearest to being black. In blues it has Paradise, Blue Moon, Lady X. We also have the rare green rose.  The list is endless and the spectacle delightful.


Just after the Rose Garden is another magical sight awaiting you – the sunk butterfly garden that is a riot of with a beautiful round sunk fountain in the centre. The walls of this sunk masterpiece are adorned with bright orange hanging flowers. 


The last stop is the Spiritual Garden which has every tree that is mentioned in the Spiritual books of all religions. Would have loved to sit here early morning and meditate but that was not to be.

The Spiritual Garden is the last stop and then you head back to the exit. It took us 50 min – it was not empty and the Trail was full ( But not jammed) – I would say about 500 – 1000 people on a Friday late afternoon. Lots of Tourist buses and school kids. The splendour of places like this go up when its empty and calm and you can relax quietly ( Thats why I like the Badami Bag at Srinagar so much ) – but asking for this in New Delhi is high expectations.

I am glad we could make it – Friends who have tried to come on a weekend have been disappointed with the massive crowds and have had to head back. Today is Feb 28th – you still have two weeks to try it and catch this Garden Visit in 2015 – so plan for it.

Understand that there is a way to get online registration and visit the Rashtrapati Bhawan interiors for a guided tour – thats next on my plan.

Some More Photos (All photos shot on my amazing iPhone 6)





Hey Dad Let’s Talk – 6

27 Feb

Hey Dad – Let’s Talk is a series of activities that allows Dad’s to spend time and bond with their kids. They include a variety of Creative activities from Riddles, Puzzles, Information Tit Bits, Trivia, Quiz, stories etc. Activities that you can discuss, stuff that is interesting and exploratory. Each activity should take 20 – 30 minutes and the best time to spend time with your kids is before you tuck them to Bed.

This session is on 20  Riddles – some very easy some a little tricky – have Fun!


1. Is an older one-hundred Rupee note worth more than a newer one?

2. There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters?

3. What building has the most stories?

4. Railroad Crossing without any cars. Can you spell that without any R’s

5. Without fingers – I point,without arms – I strike, without feet – I run. What am I?

6 Thirty men and only two women, but they hold the most power. Dressed in black and white, they could fight for hours. Who are they

7. No matter how terrible things get for the people of the Arctic, they will not eat a penguin. Even if they are starving ( People living in Arctic are not vegetarians and eat all sorts of meat) Why not?

8. A truck driver is going opposite traffic on a one-way street. A police officer sees him but doesn’t stop him.Why didn’t the police officer stop him?

9. In a pond there are some flowers with some bees hovering over the flowers. How many flowers and bees are there if both the following statements are true: 1. If each bee lands on a flower, one bee doesn’t get a flower. 2. If two bees share each flower there is one flower left out.

10. I’m in everybody but everybody still wants me.I won’t feed you but I’ll feed the tree.What am I?

11. You are awoken at 3 A.M. by a knock on your door. Your parents call you to let you know that they are there for breakfast. You are confused but quickly think of what food you have. You have bread, jam, butter, and eggs. What do you open first?

12. Which is correct  “The yolk of the egg is white” or “The egg yolk is white?”

13. How do you make the number one disappear by adding to it?

14. I am the beginning of the end, the end of every place. I am the beginning of eternity, the end of time and space. What am I?

15. What number do you get when you multiply all of the numbers on a telephone’s number pad?

16. A man is sitting in his cabin in Chennai. 3 hours later he gets out of his cabin in New Delhi. How is this possible?

17. If a white house is white and a yellow house is yellow, what color is a green house?

18. I go up and I go down, towards the sky and the ground.I’m present and past tense too,Let’s go for a ride, me and you. What am I?

19. Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday?

20. Timmy’s mother has three children. The first was named April. The next was named May. What is the final one’s name?




1.  Yes – Its 100 Rs the other is 1 Rs

2. Day & Night

3. Library


5.  A Clock

6 Chess Pieces

7. Penguins Live in the Antarctic

8. Truck Driver is walking

9. There are 4 Bees & 3 Flowers

10. Water

11. The Door

12. Neither – the Egg Yolk is Yellow

13. Add the letter G – then its Gone

14. The letter E

15. The number Zero

16. He is a Pilot

17. Colourless – its made of Glass

18. A See Saw

19. Yesterday , Today & Tomorrow

20. Timmy

Hey Dad Let’s Talk – 5

23 Feb

Hey Dad – Let’s Talk is a series of activities that allows Dad’s to spend time and bond with their kids. They include a variety of Creative activities from Riddles, Puzzles, Information Tit Bits, Trivia, Quiz, stories etc. Activities that you can discuss, stuff that is interesting and exploratory. Each activity should take 20 – 30 minutes and the best time to spend time with your kids is before you tuck them to Bed.


Try this with your kids at the next Birthday Party. Give them a newspaper and ask them to fold it 8 times. They will struggle after folding it 2 or 3 times

The myth: You can’t fold a paper in half more than eight times.* The reality: Given a paper large enough—and enough energy—you can fold it as many times as you want. The problem: If you fold it 103 times, the thickness of your paper will be larger than the observable Universe: 93 billion light-years. Seriously.

How can a 0.0039-inch-thick paper get to be as thick as the Universe?

  • The answer is simple: Exponential growth. The average paper thickness in 1/10th of a millimeter (0.0039 inches.) If you perfectly fold the paper in half, you will double its thickness. Things get interesting quickly.
  • Folding the paper in half a third time will get you about the thickness of a nail.
  • Seven folds will be about the thickness of a notebook of 128 pages.
  • 10 folds and the paper will be about the width of a hand.
  • 23 folds will get you to one kilometer—3,280 feet.
  • 30 folds will get you to space. Your paper will be now 100 kilometers high.
  • Keep folding it. 42 folds will get you to the Moon. With 51 you will burn in the Sun.
  • Now fast forward to 81 folds and your paper will be 127,786 light-years, almost as thick as the Andromeda Galaxy, estimated at 141,000 light-years across.
  • 90 folds will make your paper 130.8 million light-years across, bigger than the Virgo Supercluster, estimated at 110 million light-years. The Virgo Supercluster contains the Local Galactic Group—with Andromeda and our own Milky Way—and about 100 other galaxy groups.
  • And finally, at 103 folds, you will get outside of the observable Universe, which is estimated at 93 billion light-years in diameters. 


High school student Britney Gallivan dispelled the popular myth by resolving the mathematics and successfully folding a single roll of toilet paper twelve times in a record-breaking feat.

And the current record was created by some high school students. The biggest times is 13 times.

It may look like a prank but these mathematics students from St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts aren’t toilet papering the famed infinite corridor at MIT. Using intricate choreography and brute force, they’re breaking a paper-folding record by completing 13 folds, a challenge that students at the school have been tackling for seven years with the help of teacher James Tanton.



Hey Dad Let’s Talk – 4

19 Feb

Hey Dad – Let’s Talk is a series that allows Dad’s to spend time and bond with their kids. They include a variety of Creative activities from Riddles, Puzzles, Information Tit Bits, Trivia, Quiz, stories etc. Activities that you can discuss, stuff that is interesting and exploratory. Each activity should take 20 – 30 minutes and the best time to spend time with your kids is before you tuck them to Bed. 



This edition is based on Puzzles with Shapes. Arm yourself with a box of match sticks sit down on the floor and get started. One puzzle may require some coins. The answers are below the last question.


1. You see 5 equal squares, Can you leave just 3 squares by taking away 3 sticks




2. Here are 6 equal squares, can you leave just 3 squares by taking away 5 Sticks



3. Can you leave only 2 complete squares by taking away two sticks from pattern below.




4. Thirteen sticks from 8 triangles ( 6 small and 2 large ones) can you take away 3 sticks and leave only 3 triangles





5. Can you rearrange the 5 sticks to make 2 equal triangles



6. These ten copings form a Triangle pointed upwards – Move only 3 coins in a manner that the Triangle points downwards.


7. These 15 sticks form a spiral, can you turn this spiral to two squares by moving 3 sticks.


8. Can you draw this house in one stroke with lifting the pen or moving on the same line more than once.


9. By moving only two sticks, change these three equal sized squares  into four equal sized rectangles


10. Can you rearrange these 3 sticks to make 9


11. And finally – think and see how many triangles you can spot in this diagram.  If you found 24 great job !



1. Forming 3 Squares by removing 3 sticks


2. Forming 3 squares by removing 5 sticks


3. Forming two squares by removing two sticks


4. Forming 3 Triangles by taking away 3 sticks


5. Forming 2 Equal Triangles by rearranging the 5 sticks


6. Moving 3 Coins to make the Triangle point downwards


7. Converting a spiral to two squares by moving 3 sticks


8. Here is how you can draw the house in one stroke without lifting the pen or moving on the same line more than once


9. By moving only two sticks, these three equal sized squares can be changed into four equal sized rectangles


10. Rearranging 3 sticks to make 9


11. Watch this You Tube Video – to see how there are 24 Triangles in that Diagram

Deciphering Real Estate Pricing in India

18 Feb

You see a full page Ad for a beautiful Apartment complex – looks so inviting, and the price does look competitive at Rs 6000/- sft. You do the Math for a 1800 sft 3 BHK flat and say 6000 * 1800 = 1.08 Crores – thats manageable.

Most NRI’s & first time buyers fall for this trap. Builders have been taking Indian buyers for a ride for many years – And even a progressive BJP Government has developed cold feet on setting up a Real Estate Regulator.  In the absence of a regulator – The reality is you would have payed 40 – 50% more than 1.08 Cr before you finally get to move in to your house.

Lets look at how the numbers Add Up

Quoted Rate for Bare Bones Flat = 1800 * 6000 = 1.08 Cr

Cost of 1 Car Park / KEB/BWSSB/Khata/ Legal Charges/Generator Charges/ Club House Charges/Corpus for Maintenance / Corpus for Sinking Fund/ Fixed cost for Gas Pipeline from main bank …. all of this easily adds up to an additional 20 %  or Rs 20 Lacs

The Govt earlier charged you only Registration Tax – now they charge you VAT and ST on Construction Cost  thats 4 + 4.94% = 8.94 %. Since the undivided share of land is very small you end up paying this Tax on almost 80% of the cost = 1.6*.0894*.8 = Rs 7.58 Lacs 

Most people have two Car Parks so a second Car Park is a must – thats Rs 4 – 5 Lacs (Although the initial one may be priced a lot lesser) = Rs 4 Lacs 

Registration Costs is approximately another 8%. Some Builders state that this is only on the undivided share of land – while some builders insist on the total value of the property = Rs 8 Lacs 

Woodwork cost can vary – but good quality wood work can put you back easily by 10 lacs for a 3 BHK apartment = Rs 10 Lacs 

So Add up all the extras which the builder never talked up  20 + 7.58 + 4 + 8 + 10 = 49.58 Lacs 

Your initial prices you had in mind after seeing the Ad was 1.08 Crores , now this looks more like 1.5 Crores. 

Thats nearly a 50% increase on what you had planned …. and you are yet to add the interest cost that you have borne for the 3 – 4 years that the construction happens , this is if the builder completes the project in the committed time (Most rarely do).

So be aware of what you are getting into the next time you see a full page Ad promising you the sky and moon. Trust is a lot different.

PS – Lookout for my next Blog on why we need a Real Estate Regulator and the ten imp questions you need to check out before buying a Flat



Deciphering Petrol Pricing in India

17 Feb

Crude prices have come crashing down – but what we have seen as benefits trickling in is a fraction of what the reduction inc most has been. How is this possible when petroleum prices are supposed deregularised and are supposed to follow market economics.


A Barrel of Crude consists approximately of 159 Litres. In a typical indian refinery the product pattern based on weight basis is about 4% LPG, 13% petrol (MS), 50% Diesel and remaining products such as Naphtha, kerosene, Fuel oil, pet coke, sulphur etc.

With the above typical configuration the production will be such as petrol approx 20-30 Lit per barrel of crude, Diesel 80-90 Lit and remaining will be the other products. That leaves a balance of 37% for all the other distillates.

Lets take a look at the Numbers 

  • 1 Barrel of Crude at Todays Market price = $ 57 (Brent Crude) =  Rs 3534
  • Cost of 1 Litre of Petrol in Bangalore = Rs 62.81 / Litre
  • Cost of 25 Litres of petrol generated / Barrel = Rs 1570.26
  • Cost of 1 Litre of Diesel in Bangalore = Rs 50.72/ Litre
  • Cost of 85 Litres of Diesel generated / Barrel = Rs 43112.20
  • Total Cost of Petrol + Diesel generated / Barrel at current Market price = Rs 5881.46 
  • We are already at a price that is higher than the cost of 1 Barrel of Crude by Rs 2347 ( 66%)

I am yet to calculate the sales proceeds from Kerosene / Naptha / LPG / Sulphur / Jet Fuel etc – all of which contribute to 37% by volume ( We mentioned earlier that Petrol & Diesel are only 63% of the output from 1 Barrel of Crude)

Lets assume that all of this 37% of 150 Litres (I assume 9 Litres of wastage in crude processing/ Cost of refining etc ) is sold at the subsidised  price of  Rs 20/Litre

37% of 150 Litres = 55.5 Litres * Rs 20/Litre = Rs 1110

So on a conservative basis the total income generated from 1 Barrel of Crude Oil = Rs 6991.46 

And whats the Cost of 1 Barrel at todays price …. Its only Rs 3534/- 

Someone is making a whopping profit after adjusting for subsidy of Rs 3457 / Barrel. So from a simple calculation the cost of Petrol & Diesel can actually go down by another 50%. 

Normally in India, the pricing of fuel varies by state, though central taxes still are part of the pump price of fuel. The Central and state government’s taxes make up nearly half of petrol’s pump price. Most States charge taxes that are higher than than the Central Tax. (Goa is an exception). States like Karnataka even charge an extra 2 Rs / Litre towards funds for building the metro. As a result, approximately 50% of the pump cost goes to the government in the form of different taxes. On the contrary, the dealer (shopowner) earns a paltry 1–2% of the pump price as his earning.


When the price of Crude came down from $110 to $50 –  consumer prices have come down by less than 20%. Why is our price so high? Why are Mamta and Sitaram Yechury and Arvind Kejriwal not talking about this ? Why is Barkha not hosting a show on We the People – highlighting this discrepancy. Why is the Tax rate on Fuel so high – when millions of Aam Aadmi use this for their transportation daily – its not luxury or comfort its a necessity given the poor public transport we have in the country.

In  City like New Delhi where you drive long distances – you fill up your tank worth Rs 2500/- almost 4 times a months – thats a 10K expense on Fuel , a 50% reduction would have saved millions in Delhi Rs 5K / Month or Rs 60,000/- a year – thats a lot more than what we can expect from additional Tax savings in a budget.

Is it right for a Government not to pass on benefits that are entitled to consumers. Can a PIL be filed by Prashant Bhushan on this – under the MRTP act – Isn’t the Government the monopoly (or almost monopoly) supplier of Oil to this country. Can the Media and the opposition raise this as an issue and earn some good will.

Hey Dad Let’s Talk – 3

12 Feb

Hey Dad – Let’s Talk is a series of activities that allows Dad’s to spend time and bond with their kids. They include a variety of Creative activities from Riddles, Puzzles, Information Tit Bits, Trivia, Quiz, stories etc. Activities that you can discuss, stuff that is interesting and exploratory. Each activity should take 20 – 30 minutes and the best time to spend time with your kids is before you tuck them to Bed.


This session is all about Lightning – an amazing spectacle of nature that creates both awe and fear. 

What is Lightning ? 

Lightning is a powerful burst of electricity that happens very quickly during a thunderstorm. Lightning is caused by an electrical charge in the atmosphere that is unbalanced. The movement of rain and ice inside a thundercloud creates an electrical charge, with the negative charge (electrons) forming at the bottom of the cloud and the positive charge (protons) forming at the top.Opposites attract so the negative charge at the bottom of the cloud seeks out a positive charge to connect with. Lightning can occur inside clouds, between clouds and from clouds to the ground. When lightning strikes the ground it seeks out the shortest route to something with a positive charge, this might be a tree, a tall building or if they’re very unlucky, a person.

What is Thunder ? 

Thousands of years ago philosophers such as Aristotle believed that thunder was caused by the collision of clouds. But its actually caused due to a different reason. The intense heat from lightning causes the surrounding air to rapidly expand and create a sonic wave that you hear as thunder. The hot air moves up and the cold air gushes in – causing a huge sound that is Thunder.

Lightening striking near Merdeka Square

Interesting facts about Lightning 

  • The Earth has nearly 100 lightning strikes per second – thats 3.6 billion per year ! Lightning strikes usually last around 1 or 2 microseconds. The Earth has about 2,000 active thunderstorms at any point of time. Without thunderstorms, the earth would lose its electric charge in less than 1 hour.
  • Rwanda, Africa is the lightning capital of the world, receiving nearly 2.5 times the amount of lightning as Florida
  • Florida is the Lightning Capital of the U.S. Central Florida, from Tampa to Titusville is “Lightning Alley” in the U.S.. Lightning is the #1 weather killer in Florida – more than all other weather deaths combined.
  • Most lightning strikes occur either at the beginning or end of a storm.
  • The average temperature of lightning is around 20000 °C (36000 °F) – that is a more than twice as hot as the Sun
  • Lightning is only 1 inch in diameter and has been observed over 100 miles long.
  • An average lightning flash has the energy of a 1-kiloton explosion. Lightning voltage can be up to 300 million volts.
  • Since the late 1980s, there have been several attempts to investigate the possibility of harvesting lightning energy. None have been effective. A solution here can solve the world of its energy crisis.
  • Lightning current averages 30,000 amps, but ranges from 10,000 to 200,000 amps – 100 To 1,000 times as strong as a steel welder.
  • Corded telephones are not safe and should not be used during thunderstorms. The usual way that current enters a telephone is through the wire. Cloud-to-ground flashes tend to hit tall objects such as utility poles. When a pole is struck, its current enters a building through the wiring, then to the phone, and then straight to your head. Cell phones and cordless phones are safer, but be sure to stand away from the cordless phone’s base as a strong current can possibly arc a few feet from the base to the handset.
  • Lightning damage to home electronics usually occurs when lightning strikes to nearby utility poles or wires, then enters the building through power, phone, and TV wires. For direct or indirect hits, the only sure way is to pull the power, phone, and cable plugs on sensitive electronics before thunderstorms threaten. Never touch wires during a thunderstorm, even to unplug your equipment. People have been electrocuted while unplugging their electronics during thunderstorms. Better your computer than you!
  • Greek and Roman temples often were erected at sites where lightning struck – They worshipped the gods here in an attempt to appease them.
  • If you are in the mountains and lightning begins to strike, you should quickly get below the treeline and get into a grove of small trees. Make absoulutely sure that you are not standing next to a tall tree when you are in the mountains. If you are standing next to a tall tree, you are more likely to get struck by lightning that you are if you are in a group of small trees.
  • Lightning rods (also called conductors) are metal rods or similar objects that divert lightning safely to the ground, they can often be seen at the top of tall buildings.
  • Most lightning occurs over land rather than oceans, with around 70% of it occurring in the Tropics.
  • Thunder is the sound caused by lightning. Because sound travels slower than light you hear the sound of Thunder later. After you see a flash of lightning, count the number of seconds until you hear the thunder. (Use the stop watch or count “One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi, Three-Mississippi,” etc.) For every 5 seconds the storm is one mile away.
  • Lightning is usually produced by Cumulo Nimbus clouds that are very tall and dense.
  • Lightning puts 10 million tons of nitrogen into the Earth each year.
  • Lightning can also occur during volcanic eruptions, dust storms, snow storms, forest fires and tornadoes. Check out this amazing video of volcano lightning   Video Link : ( This may not be a clickable link You may have to paste URL separately in your browser)volcanolightning
  • The study of lightning is known as Fulminology and Astraphobia is the fear of thunder and lightning.
  • In Indo-European cultures, the Thunder God is frequently known as the chief or king of the gods, e.g. Indra in Hinduism, Zeus in Greek mythology, and Perun in ancient Slavic religion; or a close relation thereof, e.g. Thor, son of Odin, in Norse mythologyZeus_Jupiter_Greek_God_Art_06_by_GenzoMan


  • As Fast as Lightning is a commonly used speech – but the truth is Lightning travels slower than the speed of Light.The bottom tip of a lightning bolt traveling from a cloud to the ground does travel rather quickly, although it travels at much less than the speed of light. A lightning discharge consists of electrons which have been stripped from their molecules flying through the air. They are accelerated by a strong electric field, a consequence of the big voltage difference between the cloud and the ground. They crash into air molecules on their way down and free other electrons, making a tube of ionized air.

    The “leader”, the first stroke of a lightning discharge, actually proceeds in steps – lengthening by about 30 meters at a time, taking about a microsecond (one millionth of a second) to do each step. There is a pause between steps of about 50 microseconds. The whole process may take a few milliseconds (one-thousanths of a second), providing enough time to perceive motion. Most of the charge flows after this leader makes electrical contact with the ground, however. A powerful “return stroke” releases much more energy. That’s not the whole story, however – a lightning flash may have only one return stroke or may have several tens of strokes using the same column of ionized air. It may seem to flicker.