Colors of life

This happened a few years ago. My friends Sri, James, Milind and I decided to go to Goshaini, a remote place in Himachal Pradesh. As I didn’t have any rainproof jacket with me, I did some shopping and bought a cheap green translucent raincoat for myself from a Chinese product store in Lajpat Nagar which sold everything for Rs. 99. As usual, later, the others, looking at the rain-sheet (it takes some imagination to call it a jacket, really!), wanted one each for themselves, and asked me to buy them. As a loyal friend, I went and bought the jackets, but as luck would have it, they were out of the green sheets, so I bought pink translucent ones! Ok, I admit, they were not out of stock on those green jackets, I did it on purpose: I couldn’t resist to dress my portly friends in pink translucent rain-sheets :-P

Cut, to a few weeks later in Goshaini, we all enjoyed our stay there and one day we went for a trek to Jalodi Pass. Now, the way this one day trek happens is… you catch a morning bus to a drop point on Jalodi Pass and then trek to a Mandir besides a lake a few miles away and come back to the same point and catch a bus back to Banjaar. The catch is, there are only two buses in a day. One at noon and the other at 3 p.m. So, we went there, enjoyed the trek to the lake and enjoyed the views, and started our trek back. Now, the twist in the tale: it started drizzling!

Out came the green rain-sheet and the three pink rain-sheets! We draped our tired bodies with fashionable rain gear and re-started our march back. After a few minutes, I somehow gained some distance on the others, and looking back couldn’t see them anymore. The visibility was low anyway, so I stopped for others to join me. I waited for them, my body started to cool down, but there was no sign of my friends! I waited for some more time, I started getting shivers (from the rain, not out of fear, I swear), but still, no James, no Sri, no Milind! Then I started back tracking, and suddenly, as if they were waiting for me to retrace my steps, they appeared out of the white mist! Looking tired, troubled and almost as if they were coming back from Everest summit (I have heard, never been there myself). I asked them about their delay, but they remained silent.

We rushed back to the bus stop and finally caught the bus, but it was so crowded, we didn’t get to talk. Finally, when we reached our guest house, came the truth. On their way back, they faced a big black bull, which blocked their way. I passed the same bull, but the bull never even glanced at me. But with them, the bull made sure, they couldn’t pass. They took a detour, which they claim required some rock climbing, and rejoined the marked trek path! Damn those pink rain coats!

Weak Week

Lets look at some of the breaking news from India this week:

  • There were protests over Nandigram everywhere including the Lok Sabha.
  • A protest over Taslima Nasreen's visa renewal went wrong and its curfew time in Kolkata.
  • Serial bomb blasts in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Tribals clash with locals in Guwahati.

Is there a point in all this? Is there a end to all this? These numb my thought process. I can't watch the news channels on TV anymore. I am avoiding reading the newspaper front page. I start with the last page of the main paper (Sports page: an old habit) and stop somewhere in the fourth or fifth page and move on to the supplements. I have shelved all non-fiction books, and am reading Harry Potter. Its much better reading about the schemes of you-know-who of the wizard world against Harry Potter than you-don't-know-why-things-are-happening in the muggle world.

Mobile Number Portability

Hoorah! Soon there will be no more mass mail / SMS to inform change of number. I hope it also brings better service from service providers for increased customer satisfaction.

In the last three years, I have had to use three mobile phone numbers. No, I don't have a fancy for numbers (someone from Ludhiana recently paid Rs. 15,50,000/- for a VIP number!!!). Nor do I believe in numerology! I had to change my number, because I moved from Delhi to Bangalore, and then from Bangalore to Kolkata. Now, thanks to the new regulations, I don’t have to change my number even if I shift to another city! I hope it is implemented soon.

Us and Them

Us, and them
And after all we're only ordinary men.
Me, and you.
God only knows its not what we would choose to do.
Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died.
And the general sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side.
Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who.
Up and down.
But in the end its only round and round.
Haven't you heard its a battle of words
The poster bearer cried.
Listen son, said the man with the gun
Theres room for you inside.

- Pink Floyd
"Us & Them" from The Dark Side of the Moon

Have you heard of Nandigram? You may not have: it’s only a remote village in a remote corner of West Bengal. I, born and raised in Kolkata, a few hours away from Nandigram, had never heard of it, till last year, when there was a proposal to set up a Chemical hub there. As with most change in West Bengal for various reasons, this one met with protests. The government announced that they will not go on with the project there, earlier this year. Everything there should be normal by now, the end of the year, right?

Wrong! Because while the protests were going on, some of the opposition parties in West Bengal formed a Bhumi Uchhed Protirodh Committee (BUPC), literally: Committee opposing people being uprooted from their land. They clashed with cadres of CPI(M), the largest party of the ruling Left Front in West Bengal. People from both sides were uprooted from their land, and people who were not aligned to any side were the hardest hit. Both sides seized villages and posts. Some people were killed, the area turned into a battlefield. The local police was hopelessly inadequate to control this, so the government called for Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). So, CRPF arrives, takes control of the situation, and bring things back to normal, right?

Wrong again! Because, while the CRPF is on its way, CPI(M) armed cadres formed formidable battalions and took control of most of the area. All in a day. The police were supposedly ordered not to interfere. The Chief Minister, Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s reaction to that? “They have been paid back by their own coin”!

Who are they, Mr. Chief Minister? Aren’t they part of your state? Aren’t you responsible for their welfare? Is anyone who is not part of your us (the left front), they? I am politically non-aligned, am I also they?

More than 30 years of ruling a state is a long time! Perhaps this gives the ruling party and its Chief Minister a sense of invincibility! Perhaps he thinks he is almighty! I say, when a man thinks he can do or say anything and get away with it, those are the sure signs of decadence, hence ultimately downfall. This is not communism, this is not democracy, this is organised ochlocracy! And this simply cannot go on!

It's your life!

My second cousin suffered a heart attack on Sunday and is in the hospital. Fortunately, he is out of danger and stable now. He should be back home after a couple of days of observation. But I am not writing this to let you know about his condition, or about the good job Ramkrishna Mission is doing with their hospital. I am writing this because my cousin's story is eerily similar to many people I know:

He is 33, married (no kids yet), moved in to his new apartment recently, and loves driving his car. Recently he changed his job and joined one of India's biggest banks with a good profile.
He was also obese, went on crash diets, and smoked. He didn't "get time" to eat at regular times, and definitely didn't get time to exercise.

My friends: I can't think of anything more important in this world than one's own body! Please take care of it. I am not asking you to build muscles like Arnold or starve yourself to look like Heidi Klum! All I am asking you to do is find a few minutes to work out, re-look at your eating habits and make corrections to them, and be healthy. If you can't help yourself, take help from professionals. But please, don't neglect your body; act now!

Ten years of Net

I am celebrating ten years of using Internet! Just realized that while talking to my sister about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Phew! That's a long time!

It was all a new, big, confusing thing (and really slow thing) those days. I remember preparing a weekend course on Internet for Aptech students, since it was not part of the course then. We used to explore things like Gopher, PINE, Finger and Archie. And yeah, no e-mail server with 5GB space, so big files were uploaded through FTP protocol. I remember I searched Yahoo! a lot then along with Lycos and Altavista (no Google :)). E-mail meant a client called PINE, and later hotmail and Yahoo mail. No "social networking sites", no photograph sharing (not with that speed!), no online shopping, no tabbed browsing, no blogging...

One question: Does anyone know how to retrieve the date when one opened their hotmail account? I would love to know that - that was my first email account, and its still active :-)