Saturday, 4 August 2007

Hoping I am back again

Yeah!! That's the truth, the plain and simple truth, which of course, as the great Oscar Wilde pointed out, never is. Well, the thing is that I am now at a college amidst the great slopes of the Himalayas in the tiny state of Sikkim, studying (absolutely against my wish) for an engineering degree. Presently I am typing this sitting in the cyber cafe of the college (without the coffee of course). Getting a seat here is extremely difficult, considering the fact that is the only point for accessing internet for miles around. As I said before too, this college is too literally on the slopes of the Himalayas (with the sherpas for company). The nearest town is Rangpo (I would rather call that a village), about 15 minutes ride from here.

To my surprise, I found the seniors quite helpful, and there was only nominal ragging (which even we enjoyed!!). And yeah, one thing that I was forgetting to tell you was that, the river Teesta flows right by the side of the hostels. A sheer 20 meters away!

Anyway, got loads to tell (or rather type), but the time does not allow me any more liberty. Will post soon...

Monday, 18 June 2007

A President for India

It's time that Kalam steps down and a new person steps up for the post of President of India. And it's really sorry to see the present nominees for the post.

"We need a good President this time." said the Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi.
"Yes, of course Madame." said her humble servant Shivraj Patil.
"Not a person who thinks."
"Of course, Madame."
"What is the head for?", asked Sonia Gandhi earnestly.
"For scratching madame."
"Right. You will make a good President. At least you won't take time thinking before signing, when important bills are sent to you."

At that moment the Left Party representative got up, and in the most earnest voice possible (by his standards) said before the assembled audience, "This is absolutely not possible. How can we accept a person who believes in Sai Baba as the President of India? It's against the great secular fabric of the nation."

Sonia Gandhi eyed the representative apprehensively for a moment and then turned to her secretary, "Those are our allies right."
"Err...yes madame."
Then she turned her gaze to a portly and bald fellow sitting in the far corner. "Ah, you can be a good President too. You belong to the enlightened group of non-thinking individuals and you are pretty much powerless too, plus you would surely be acceptable to the Left parties."

"Aye", nodded the Left Party representative approvingly.

"But madame we need Pranab Mukherjee in the Cabinet. His prowess in securing extremely profitable deals is known far and wide. His absence would be a great loss", remarked her secretary anxiously.

"A loss for the nation?"
"Terrible loss for the party madame."
"Ah, then it's terrible I guess."
"Absolutely madame"

"It seems that we have a shortage of Presidential matter", declared Sonia Gandhi most gravely.

"Aye", nodded the Left Party representative approvingly.

Suddenly the secretary (who was, by the way, her political adviser as well) leapt up in the air and exclaimed, "But of course we have the esteemed Mrs. Pratibha Patil. Silly me, I actually forgot."

"Who's that?", asked Sonia Gandhi in total surprise.
"Nobody, but perfect for being President."
"What does she do?"
"No I meant apart from that what does she do."
"Oh. Well when last seen or heard she was the ...err...well...ah yes, the Governor of Nagaland."
"I thought she was the Governor of Rajasthan", said a concerned onlooker.

"Hmmm. What was the name?", asked Sonia Gandhi with a unmistakeable glow in her eyes.
"Pratibha Patil."
"Pratibha Patel?"
"Oh no, it's Patil with an 'i' ".
"I see".

"Can I see her now?"
"Of course madame. I had her specially called in", added her secretary and then in a hoarse voice called out, "Mrs. Patillllll...".

There was no answer. He called again. Still no answer. Now he went out of the room to see what's the matter.

Back inside the room Sonia Gandhi was biting her lips in thankful anticipation. A little later her secretary entered with the sudden Presidential candidate Mrs. Pratibha Patil.

"What took you so long?"
"Last minute jitters. Was in the toilet. You can surely understand the situation, madame", replied her secretary speaking on behalf of the speechless Presidential candidate.
"Surely I understand. That's why I am not the Prime Minister of Italy....errr...I mean India."

"Aye", nodded the Left Party representative approvingly.

"Being in the toilet shows that you can be a perfect President. Do you speak?", asked a smiling Sonia Gandhi.
" mean...errr", said the Presidential hopeful.
"Good! Do you think?"
"Very good indeed! Have you ever done anything good for this country?"
"Good things? err...MLA...err....MP too."
"Excellent! People who have done something good for their country always make dangerous Presidents", Sonia Gandhi affirmed firmly.

"Aye", nodded the Left Party representative approvingly.

"So ladies and gentlemen I am glad to announce that at long last we have found our President. But before proggressing...". At this moment Mrs. Gandhi's speech was stopped by a sudden exclamation from the BSP supremo Miss Mayawati.

"We won't support her", declared Mayawati.
"Why so?", asked a worried Sonia Gandhi.
"Because I am still stuck in corridors."

Seeing the lost look on the Congress supremo's face her secretary whispered into her ear, "She is referring to the corridor case."
"Which corridor?"
"The Taj Corridor."
At this information she turned a bright red and whispered furiously into her secretary's ear, "What is she more concerned about? Corridors of the Taj or the corridors of Rashtrapati Bhavan?"
"But madame that is actually a corruption case. And to her disappointment it is being investigated by the CBI."
"Doesn't the CBI have better things to do? And what is Funmohan doing?"
"Funny things."
"Such as..."
"Trying to build roads and increasing the economic developement rate."
"Well ask him to transfer his attention to this problem and remove the CBI from this case. Make those guys investigate Godhra again."
"You are sooo clever madame."

"So Miss Mayawati I hope that you will support our candidate now as there will be no CBI to bother you."
"Of course. You are indeed sooo good", said a beaming Mayawati.

"But we still don't support", said the Shiv Sena representative.
"But sir", whispered his aide, "She is a marathi and a hindu too."
"OK. We support."
"Good...", said a relieved Mrs. Gandhi.

"At least everybody present here will agree that we most certainly don't want another Kalam as the President. The President should always give his attention to Dalits, Muslims, Christians, SCs, STs, OBCs etc. and not towards children", said a confident Congress head.
"Absolutely right madame", added her secretary earnestly.
"Aye", nodded the Left Party representative approvingly.
Mrs. Gandhi continued, "They give you votes. But do children give votes? Never."

"So before leaving the meeting, a cheers for the new President of India. Hip Hip Hurray!!"
"Aye, Aye".

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Lazy Me in Good Times

Ah, it's been quite a time I last wrote a post. No excuses. Just a lazy me, a very lazy me. But at last I picked myself up for some 'work'. Indeed this period does seems like total bliss (well sometimes not so 'bliss', especially when the results come out). Nowadays I have practically nothing to do. No responsibilities, no worries (for most of the part though). So these days you are most likely to find me reading some novel, or just listening to music, or at some friend's house, or maybe just fiddling around.

But I do have some plans for this time, and I will indeed try my level best to do them. And that does include some more posts in good time.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

It Ends...Finally

After 6 whole months of trials and tribulations (and that too under the worst conditions imaginable), at last I can see the bright red of a brand new dawn. I can feel the dewy freshness right on my skin, permeating through my senses right to the soul. The mind is light, freed of the heavy responsibilities, expectations, hopes and aspirations of a past generation. OK...Stop!

I was getting a bit carried away maybe, but why I shouldn't be? At last I am free. Free! Free! Yes freed from the damnable season of exams. Because today was the day when I gave my last exam. Yahoooo! At last it's all over.

This hell began in the cold month of December. First came the 'First Pre-Board' exam, and along with it some rather uncomfortable severe pain in my poor old tummy. Understandingly the first thing that I did after my discharge from the exams was to get charged into the DSP General Hospital up here. It was a case of Cholelithiasis or Gallstone.

January arrived with the stones in my gall bladder, tension in my head, and the 'Second Pre-Board' examination in my school. And you can bloody guess how great was this combination. Considering the extreme pain, I was lucky to pass the exam. After the exam ended I made my way to a Kolkata hospital. And quite luckily I even made it to the farewell function in our school (that's another story).

February came with a ever growing dilemma. To give the boards or back out. I was against dropping all throughout, but my teachers, parents and relatives had quite the opposite opinion. Anyway at the need I prevailed.

Gave my practicals in February, and started with the Board exam in March. The last exam was on the 4th of April. And after that started the competitive exams. IIT-JEE (Mom's folly), WB-JEE, AIEEE, Manipal UGET, COMEDK all were in the list.

Well till how long can a person keep on poring over study books. I was exhausted. But my 15th of August is today. Maybe life begins now...

Thursday, 31 May 2007

My Initiation Into Rock

Nowadays anybody who knows me personally has ample knowledge of my madness about a peculiar phenomenon usually known throughout the world as Rock Music. But yes, there was a day when I was completely ignorant about this whole business of rock, when Beatles and Elvis were merely some names that appeared here and there like thousands of other names. So how did Animesh the Ignorant became Animesh the Enlightened? Let's find out the answer.

My family was always into music, especially my dad. When I was young, he would almost sit daily with his harmonium and engage in another round of Rabindra Sangeet. But whether this really had any effect on me, I don't actually know, as until class 7 when I was about 12, I had almost no interest in music. As far as I can remember now, the virus of music began to infect me from class 8. The pioneer virus (as I would like to stylize it) was the music of the incomparable Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, composed by the great maestro Satyajit Ray himself (I intend to write something on this in the future). And that was the record which pulled the trick. I had all the songs in a single cassette (which was actually a legacy of my mother) and I remember playing it over and over again in that Sanyo cassette player. Well, 5 years down the line and it's still among my all time favourites.

In the same year I began exploring western pop songs (all from cassettes still) which included some Backstreet Boys, a little of the Beastie Boys and a sprinkling of Cliff Richards as well. The reader may note that at that time these names mattered very little (if indeed anything at all), and all that mattered was that I was listening to English songs!

Class 9 came and with it came my computer and it changed my whole life forever. Accessing music was no problem now (provided I stopped playing games on the comp). Classes 9 and 10 were spent drowned in the music of Backstreet Boys, Westlife, Michael Learns To Rock (MLTR) and some other pop groups. The only rockers in my life at that time were maybe Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, and a peeping Linkin Park. But class 11 saw me leaving the false fa├žade of pop and pop culture and embrace rock and its ethos, especially DIY. It was not only the musical aspect that precipitated this change, but the ideology associated with real rock (a little of which tallied with my own independent thinking).

By this time I was completely into Rock music. Slowly in a span of 2 years I discovered Aerosmith, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Limp Bizkit, Metallica, Pink Floyd, Queen, R.E.M., Scorpions, The Police, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N' Roses, Green Day, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Nirvana, Rolling Stones etc etc...

So that's my story. Maybe by western standards I am not that ardent rock fan, but by desi Indian standards indeed I am.

Hail Rock!!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Broadband from Toilet??

Yes man, what you are reading is very, very true if Google is to be truly believed. The new Google TiSP(Beta) provides in-home wireless access by connecting your commode-based TiSP wireless router to one of thousands of TiSP Access Nodes via fiber-optic cable strung through your local municipal sewage lines. TiSP stands for the Toilet Internet Service Provider. Google TiSP project is a self-installed, ad-supported online service that will be offered entirely free to any consumer with a WiFi-capable PC and a toilet connected to a local municipal sewage system. Google TiSP takes advantage of pre-existing plumbing and sewage systems and their related hydraulic data-transmission capabilities for delivering data from local networks into individual homes. Full home self-installation kit is provided to the users who sign up online for the TiSP system.

What an extremely brilliant idea. Especially for those who do their best thinking in their toilets!

These are some excerpts from the installation manual designed to help customers install TiSP in their bathrooms :

#1 Remove the spindle of fiber-optic cable from your TiSP installation kit.

#2 Attach the sinker to the loose end of the cable, take one safe step backward and drop this weighted end into your toilet.

#3 Grasp both ends of the spindle firmly while a friend or loved one flushes, thus activating the patented GFlush™ system, which sends the weighted cable surfing through the plumbing system to one of the thousands of TiSP Access Nodes.

#4 When the GFlush is complete, the spindle will (or at least should) have largely unraveled, exposing a connector at the remaining end. Detach the cable from the spindle, taking care not to allow the cable to slip into the toilet.

#5 Plug the fiber-optic cable into your TiSP wireless router, which has a specially designed counterweight to withstand the centripetal force of flushing.

#6 Insert the TiSP installation CD and run the setup utility to install the Google Toolbar (required) and the rest of the TiSP software, which will automatically configure your computer's network settings.

#7 Within sixty minutes -- assuming proper data flow -- the other end of your fiber-optic cable should have reached the nearest TiSP Access Node, where our Plumbing Hardware Dispatchers (PHDs) will remove the sinker and plug the line into our global data networking system.

#8 Congratulations, you're online! (Please wash your hands before surfing.)

They even have some more offers for you. They go something like this :

Professional Installation Service
You can also choose to request our professional installation service, which dispatches an army of factory-trained, sub-contracted nanobots from the TiSP Access Node. The nanobots travel with exhilarating nano-speed through the sewer system and into your home to perform the installation service, which should be complete within 15 minutes. Note: For your own physical safety and emotional well-being and in consideration of the nanobots' working conditions, please make absolutely certain that your toilet is unoccupied at the scheduled appointment time.

In-Commode Package Delivery
With professional installation service, you can also have your Google Checkout purchases delivered directly through the sewage network into your bathroom. Each package comes pre-sealed in a watertight and nanobot-resistant bag made of biodegradable corn-based plastic. For a limited time, TiSP subscribers who sign up for a Checkout account will receive free bathroom delivery on their first ten Checkout purchases.

And if all this wasn't enough, there is some more in the FAQ section :

How can Google offer this service for free?
We believe that all users deserve free, fast and sanitary online access. To offset the cost of providing the TiSP service, we use information gathered by discreet DNA sequencing of your personal bodily output to display online ads that are contextually relevant to your culinary preferences, current health status and likelihood of developing particular medical conditions going forward. Google also offers premium levels of service for a monthly fee (see below).
Note: We take your privacy very seriously. So we treat all TiSP users' waste-related personal information with tremendous discretion, in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Is this offering a tiered service? How does Google's position on Net Neutrality effect TiSP?
Although we understand that there's a lot of crap on the web, we also believe strongly in providing equal opportunity access to all our users. While we won't limit your surfing choices, we do offer three levels of TiSP service:


The #2

Royal Flush

Download speed (max)

8 Mbps
(10X basic DSL)

16 Mbps
(20X basic DSL)

32 Mbps
(40X basic DSL)

Upload speed (max)

2 Mbps

4 Mbps

8 Mbps





Actual speeds will vary, depending on network traffic and sewer line conditions. Users with low-flow toilets may simultaneously experience a saving-the-environment glow and slower-data-speed blues.

Is Google TiSP safe and reliable?
Google TiSP ensures reliable throughput through the power of fiber, which has been proven through extensive research to effectively facilitate consistent data flow with minimal latency. And you can rest assured that under no circumstances will the TiSP system ever expose your privates.

What are the system requirements?

· Windows XP/Vista (Mac and Linux support coming soon)

· Internet Explorer 6.0+ or Firefox 1.5+ with the Google Toolbar

· Round-front or elongated toilet providing at least 1.0 gallons per flush

· Use of automatic toilet bowl cleaners is not recommended

To view the official website you can click here. I guess I will be applying for it the moment it is launched in India.

PS: This shitty PS is only for the stupid guys out there who think that Google got the better of me.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Rock N' Roll's 15 Most Embarrassing Stage Antics

So as I promised yesterday, I am back today with the second part of the series. Hope you guys enjoy this one as much as you did the first part. But in case you have missed the first part of the series, don't worry, be happy and just click here.

9. David Bowie was forced to leave the stage 20 minutes into a 2004 show in Oslo after he was hit with the thin white stick from a lollipop, hurled by a fan, which lodged inside his left eyelid. Ah that is really sad.

10. Shock rocker Alice Cooper "retired" the huge snake that had been in his show for decades after an incident at the House of Blues in L.A. during which the snake pooped, and pooped some more. "I never expected there to be eight piles the size of a Doberman pinscher," Cooper later told Rolling Stone. "My whole stage costume was covered, and it smelled so bad I was gagging." Now this is what I call snaky shit!

11. Singers forget lyrics all the time, but preferably not in front of the President of the USA. During a Kennedy Centre honours tribute to Dolly Parton, Jessica Simpson abruptly stopped in the middle of her performance of Parton's big hit '9 to 5.' "Dolly, that made me so nervous," she blurted before running offstage.

12. The Who have always been one of rock's most fiasco-prone bands. No one held a candle, however, to the late Keith Moon, whose piece de resistance was the explosion he rigged to go off during the band's 1967 appearance on 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.' More powerful than planned, it propelled the drum kit and Daltrey airborne. See the video below

13. Fleetwood Mac celebrated their status as the world's biggest band by incorporating a 70-foot penguin into their act. The problem with this particular enormous plastic waterfowl was that it was always flaccid. "It would never fully inflate," recalled Lindsey Buckingham. "This thing was always limping and floundering at the back of the stage."

14. At Woodstock '94, Green Day took the fabled festival's legendary history of muddy conditions to the punk-rock extreme, starting an epic mud-fight with the audience. With the stage filled with muck-covered fans, bassist Mike Dirnt was mistaken for a trespasser by a security guard, who leveled the musician, knocking out several teeth.

15. It was a travesty of a mockery of a sham when U2, the world's BIGGEST band, got trapped inside a 40 foot lemon shaped pod when it malfunctioned, trapping them inside, during the 1997 Popmart tour.

The series is concluded, and I sincerely hope that you guys liked it. And as usual, comments are welcomed!

Monday, 21 May 2007

Rock N' Roll's 15 Most Embarrassing Stage Antics

Many independent publications have regularly brought out things like 'Most Embarrassing Moments', 'Pop Music's Worst Moments Caught on Tape', 'Embarrassing Moments in 2006' etc etc. But here I found a rather unusual list, and man sure it is funny!

1. First on this infamous list is the Black Eyed Peas. The day after a Peas concert in San Diego, the Net was packed with pictures of Fergie on-stage with a huge wet spot on her crotch. Initially her publicist claimed that the stain was just "sweat," but later on Fergie finally confessed that she'd had a few drinks before the show and "didn't think to go to the bathroom" before they went on stage. "We were jumping around . . . it was all very rock 'n' roll. And my bladder just started . . . you know."
Shame Shame!!

2. Lip-syncing poster boys Milli Vanelli were busted on a 1989 MTV tour when the tape jammed as they mouthed 'Girl You Know It's True.' The public later learned that the duo hadn't sung its own vocals in the studio, either.

3. Kurt Cobain may have had a self-destructive streak a mile wide, but it was bandmate Krist Novoselic who put himself in harm's way during the 1992 taping of the MTV Video Music Awards. Near the end of the song 'Lithium', Novoselic tossed his bass in the air. The guitar hit him squarely on his head, and the dazed musician stumbled offstage.

4. Onstage in Mansfield, Massachusetts, in 2004, Cyndi Lauper threw her head back to hit a high note -- and took a direct hit from a defecating bird flying overhead. Holy shit!!

5. During Ozzy Osbourne's 'Diary of a Madman' tour a giant catapult designed to look like a hand was set up to fling raw calves' livers and pig intestines into the audience. At one gig, the slaughter fell far short of its destination, landing on. . .Ozzy's head.

6. Sean Diddy tried to pull a page from the grunge playbook when he attempted a stage dive at a nightclub in Ibiza, Spain, in 2005. Instead of catching the rapper, fans moved away, and Diddy slammed to the floor. Wham!!

7. The Band's 'Last Waltz,' their farewell concert at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving 1976, was extravagant: a Who's Who of guests (Dylan, Clapton, Neil Diamond), and, by all accounts, a backstage smorgasbord of illicit substances. During Neil Young's appearance, the oblivious singer had a gob of cocaine clearly lodged in a nostril.

8. The Rolling Stones' massive 1969 concert in London's Hyde Park became an impromptu tribute to their fallen mate Brian Jones. Mick Jagger read from Shelley's elegiac 'Adonais' before releasing thousands of butterflies -- most of which were already dead.

This is part one. I will be posting the second part soon. Till then enjoy this one, and of course, comments are welcomed.

PS: To view the second part click here.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Cool Blog Tools

Since I started blogging about 6 days back its been quite a journey. I searched numerous sites on effective blogging. Initially my stress was not really on generating more traffic (didn't know about that aspect at all!). It was all just to make my dear little blog look a bit better. But as I delved further into the world of blogging, to my amazement I found it to be quite vast and profitable.

So here I give some cool blog links that I found to be quite good, and useful too. Of course a lot remains about which I still haven't come to know. But for starters like me, these are just great. So enjoy!

(The sites have not been listed in any particular order)

1. : Simply a great storehouse for stock photos. Excellent for guys searching for some great images for their blogs or websites. And the best thing about this is, it's all free!

2. : A good site where you can form blog communities, and get some widgets for your blog.

3. : If you are Indian and blogging, this is the place to list your blog.

4. : This is the BEST site to get extremely high rated widgets. But the worst thing about this is that you need to pay for this. But you can have it for a limited time period for trial purposes. I recommend you to at least check it out once.

5. : This site has many small enhancements for your blog, though most of them are quite silly. But it does have some good things, you just got to find it out.

6. : A site where you can submit your articles, and hereby increase the traffic to your blog. But this is for the really capable and serious guys.

7. : Highly recommended!! Here you can build up your own virtual library and show off your literary tastes with the help of a nice widget provided on the site itself.

8. : A really cool site. Just sit back and choose some images that really appeal to you and lo! your whole 'Visual DNA' is ready, and also ready to be placed on your blog. Recommended!

9. Google Analytics : A must for every blogger! Another excellent service (it's free!) from Google. Here you will get a plethora of information about from blog, from the number of visitors, to the loyalty percentage, detailed maps, graphs etc etc...just ask for it.

10. ClustrMaps : Another great blog tool which displays dots on a world map from where you has visitors. Though it's update frequency is real slow, but still it's a nice utility as it comes for free.

These are some of the great sites that I have come across in the last few days and found to be quite useful. You can try them out, and if you have questions feel free to ask me. Any other comments are also welcome. If you think that I left out real cool site (which I must have) please do let me know. Maybe I will be listing more sites as I come across them in the coming days.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Islamic Bicycles??

It's seems that Iran's an innovative palce, and it's mad mullahs quite creative after all! Not a day seems to pass without the (so called) leaders thinking of new and exciting ways to control the people. What are they so worried about? Read this, and then get a load of the new bike.
Iran is to start manufacturing "Islamic bicycles" for women that conceals their figure, the government newspaper of Iran reported on Thursday. "This bike has a cabin which conceals half of the cyclist's body," the newspaper said. Elaheh Sofali, an architect of the project, told Iran it would encourage women's sports in the Islamic republic. Faezeh Hashemi, a daughter of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was instrumental in encouraging women to take to the saddle in the 1990s when she was in charge of women's participation in the Olympics. But she was opposed by Islamic hardliners.

Well really, that's what happens when you hand over the reins of power to a couple of madmen. Imagine yourself in a cabin on your cycle! My, my I would die laughing. But certainly this is not a very humorous thing back there in Iran. The question is whether the bicycle will be mandatory for women or merely an optional alternative. If obligatory, then "Islamic bike" will take civil rights restrictions in Iran to new lows.

Well as far the reports go, it all seems to be another 'Islamic' decree. But some rather funny conspiracy theorists have already started blaming some 'mad businessman', who according to them, is trying to monopolize the bicycle market!

Well, any guesses for the next 'Islamic' decree? Even while walking down the road, cover yourself in tin boxes (apart from the burqa of course)! More 'protection' you see...

PS: Iran's human rights case is already too famous to be talked about. The exact context of the video below is not clear. But it is apparently a woman being arrested as part of the "wear your hijab correctly or else" crackdown in Tehran. Note the nice kick at the end. Such videos are abundant in mighty Youtube

Lightning? Get Wet!

I know its incredible, but that's the truth. And its not me who's saying, but some really knowledgeable people on Discovery.

Yesterday, at the usual dinner table fight over the remote with my mother (my father prefers to fix his attention on the food only), it was I who came out trumps (quite surprisingly). So instead of Virrudh, it was now Drama on Discovery. The subject of the show, as I understood, was lightning and its probable effect on a human being (unfortunately I had already missed the first 30 minutes of this incomparable show). Anyway, something is always better than nothing. The 'Drama' revolved around a person (Ah! forgot the guy's name) who was a victim of a thunder strike. And the thing of wonder was that this guy survived! But certainly with huge handicaps. He now walks with a limp, and lives with a severely affected nervous system. The magnitude of the devastation wrought on his nerves was so much that, as an experiment revealed, he could not feel electric shocks of 400 volts whereas a normal human being will jump out of his chair at 30!!

And so, the mission of the team was to find out how he survived, maybe with severe disabilities, but still the guy survived. How? The answer to this question proved to be quite elusive as several hypothesises failed to provide any satisfactory solution. At last, a professor of physics (a bald guy with a Russian name), provided the theory that would ultimately solve the mystery. He elucidated that when lightning falls on the body an extraordinary phenomenon takes place known as 'flashover'. Flashover is an unintended high voltage electric discharge over or around an insulator, or arcing or sparking between two or more adjacent conductors. In layman's language it means that most of the lightning falling on your head is disbursed around you by being conducted to the ground by the skin, leaving only 1%, which goes right through your body. Now even that 1% comes to be around 5 Amperes, which is more than enough to kill you right on the spot. Then how did the guy survive? Surely not just due to 'flashover'.

At the time when the cruel lightning struck it was raining cats & dogs, and he was literally dripping, soaked completely in water top to bottom. And this is what precisely saved him! As further experiments in the University of Manchester proved, 'flashover' is greatly facilitated by water, which makes the skin a better conductor. Thus most of the current flows outside the body and only the tiniest part actually enters the body (well, even that 'tiniest' part isn't that tiny after all). So friends, if it's lightning and you are in the open, make sure that you get wet first!

PS: These shows make TV something more than just an 'idiot box'.

Again PS: I found this link while surfing on the net. This is about a man, Roy Sullivan, who was struck by lightning an incredible 7 times, but managed to survive each time!!!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Asansol Junction

I was to go to Bangalore, the premier city of Karnataka, on the 3rd of May. We had to board the train from Asansol. Catching a local train from the Durgapur Railway Station in the evening, we reached there at about 7 p.m. (it's a 45 minutes journey), one and a half hour before the scheduled departure of the train. So in the free time with nothing better to do, I took upon the task of strolling and exploring the station.

It's an old station and quite dirty too (like most good old stations). But still a railway station is always a fascinating place, given the huge number of different hues and colours you get to see. So I was there, standing right at the edge of the platform observing the train that had come to a halt on the opposite track. Then suddenly set apart from the crowd that was jostling its way all around me, came a figure, a very slim figure if I am allowed to add, with a unsteady walk, almost like that of a dead man, and with a pair of hollow, dead eyes. He was very dark, almost as dark as the coal which passes through the Asansol Junction to end up in the boilers of the Ruhr of India. Needless to say, his clothes were ragged, torn and shabby. But the strange thing in all of that was an innocuous little pair of sunglasses wound around his neck! Seeing such reckless extravagance on such a poor body, I shaked my head, and the bubbles of sympathies that were forming in my heart burst soon thereafter.

The man, or should I use another word, for he must have been no more than 20, kept moving in my direction. With the bursting of the bubbles, and seeing such a dirty fellow moving towards me and with no intention of changing his direction, I endeavoured to change my position. After all I had to get away from this terrible 'scum'. But suddenly, it almost seemed involuntary, he changed his direction and leapt on to the tracks, and made his way to the sides of the train of which I have spoken of earlier. I took it for granted that he is going to get up on the train and go to the next platform (these people often do like that) or maybe he's going to beg in the sleeper coaches of the train. But contrary to my expectations he kept moving alongside the still train, with his eyes fixedly on the ground. The ground, as I had spoken of earlier, was extremely dirty. It can better be defined as a garbage dump (coupled with a drain carrying the most obnoxious materials possible). And from that literal garbage dump, he picked up the tiniest bit of a shingara (hindi translation samosa) and ate it!!!!! My God, he ate that!!!! that!!!!! He then proceeded to pick up another fungus infested sweet packet and lick the remaining fragments and bits of sweets!!

My whole mind, my whole soul, my whole heart came crashing down. Thud!! The stone platform never suddenly seemed to so hard. I wanted to cry, to shout out, "NO". But I couldn't. I have seen poverty, poverty of the lowest rungs (or I thought), but never this. This was appalling. I hated my new jeans. I hated the unreal arrogance with which I viewed him. I hated the rupees in my pocket. I hated the ice-creams, soft drinks, the pastries that i ever ate in my whole life. I was ashamed of my extravagance.

Why does he live? Why does he keep on continuing his living under such conditions? Why doesn't he kill himself? A man lives for his hopes, a hope that his hopes will one day come true. But what hope does he have? He knows he is destined to be God's forgotten child all his life. Then why does he live? Why doesn't he kill himself?

Why do I live? Why do you live? Why there is disease? Why their is savage hardships, savage injustice? Why do we keep on living knowing that old age awaits us. Miseries await us. Nightmares await us. And finally Death awaits us. Why do we still live in this hell?Buddha became enlightened. He attained nirvana. He understood the world, and its paradoxes of happiness and miseries. Maybe that's life. He became the blessed one. While we the ignorant continue to burn in this hell...

Soap Blues

Can you tolerate them? No, I can't. Never. No. They cause headaches, they cause me to hate my dinner (most of them come in the 8-10 slot), and cause almost daily fights between me and my mother. The Ekta Kapoor factory is spewing out loads of poison and millions of people (mostly housewives) are gulping it down as if it is 'amrit'.

Well don't think I just dislike them for the sake of disliking, 'cos I have got some extremely valid arguments. Now, tell me honestly, is there even an inkling of logic in the stories of soaps be it Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki or Kyunki Sas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi?? So now allow me to raise some of the points that irritate me highly :

1. These serials claim to project the common Indian household. Utter rubbish!! Each of these soap families are easily multi-millionaires. They talk of Rs. 50 lakh with as as much ease as the common man talks of Rs 500. And think of the average Indian household being millionaires.

2. In the highly irritating soap opera Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, main protagonist Parvati started off as a 32 something women (considering the fact that she had a daughter aged 10-12 years). After that the soap has undergone two 'leaps' of 20 years each. So that makes her age in the serial about 72 years!!!!! But does she look like a day over 30????!!!

3. Doubles or humshakals are as easy to find as trees in Sunderbans.

4. Whenever a man/women is shown driving a car an accident is imminent.

5. Even the dropping of a feather causes complete memory loss, but which comes magically back after the application of a well-timed slap.

6. The background score is enough to scare away even seasoned metal musicians.

7. Song and dance sequences that look worse than C grade movies.

And you can go on writing like this, it will never stop. And nor will the soaps. They will just go on....crazy kiya re (in the most derogatory manner possible) !!

PS: (on a more fantastic note) I am just waiting for the day when some true lover of the TV will shoot Ekta Kapoor down.

Absolute Friends

On my recent trip to Bangalore (on which I propose to write soon), I came across a bookshop on M.G. Road which was selling some books at a discount. Lucky me, and couldn't stop myself from picking up three books, much to the chagrin of my father ("Have you come to Bangalore to buy books???!!!"). One of the books was Absolute Friends by John le Carre of The Constant Gardener fame. And I don't think I will ever regret it.

The timeline of this novel is quite vast, and the story writing unlike any spy novel I have read so far. Its a tale of loyalty, betrayal, and international espionage that spans the lives of two friends from the riot-torn West Berlin of the 1960's to the grimy Cold War Europe to the present day of terrorism. There's even an sprinkling of India-Pakistan Partition in the beginning, as the main protagonist Ted Mundy was born in Lahore (where his father was an officer in the British Indian Army) and left Pakistan only in 1956.

This is le Carre is his finest form. The anger, the disappointments run cold and clear. The pacing of the story is sharp, with an irresistible snap, the wry social observation is bite and the background knife-play deadly. But I think the greatest thing in this novel is that he shows us without sentimentality or self-righteousness that a deeply moving, deeply personal story can be alloyed with a powerful political argument and that a single novel can express both an immediate sense of grievance and the melancholy perspective of an old man looking back on a long life lived in a tragic, tumultuous century.

The few tears at the ending are a fitting tribute to the memory of Ted Mundy and his absolute friend Sasha.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Reliance Fresh gets a Dosage

I had been thinking for quite a time whether this new phenomenon of huge companies foraying into the retail sector is good or bad. Somebody said this, and somebody said that. But still the questions remained. Is it good for the common man? Is it good for the country?

Lately, I think I have got a answer. You see, I have got some socialist tendencies, and thats why it makes it a little more difficult for me to take a stand on this situation. But now I think I am indeed in favour of this. And the reason is this :

"H.G. Narendra Babu at Bangalore’s Koramnagla and Sobti Medical Store in Delhi’s Janakpuri claim that sales have dropped by 20 per cent ever since Subhiksha opened an outlet across the road. Rohan Swaminathan has been struggling to stay afloat next to a Food World store in Bangalore for the past two years. A study by Anuradha Kalhan, professor at Mumbai’s Jai Hind College, says that sales declined in 71 per cent of small businesses and among 72 per cent of hawkers who operate in the vicinity of big malls in the city. Similar studies will show more evidence of displacement, says Prasenjit Bose, economist at the CPM’s research cell. Indeed, the first ICRIER study notes that in Latin America both domestic and foreign chains took over independent retailers and regional chains, while many local players had to shut shop in Thailand. The ability of large chains to buy in bulk and transport products more efficiently will, Gibson Vedamani, CEO of the Retailers Association of India, agrees, enable them to sell products cheaply. Subhiksha cuts out the retailers’ margin of 13 per cent on medicines by dealing directly with the wholesaler. Prices of fruits and vegetables increase by 125-150 per cent between the farmer and the consumer. It’s not just intermediaries, but inefficient transportation and wastage that push costs up. Big chains, say consultants, do this more efficiently and pass on the cost cuts to consumers. Still, Ranjan Biswas, head, retail and consumer products leader, Ernst & Young, the consultancy firm, feels small shops won’t die out entirely, as they have the advantage of being conveniently located. Besides, small shops are also fighting back. They’re joining hands to procure supplies on economical terms, sprucing up their stores and even charging big consumer companies to put their products on their shelves. Some have chosen to become franchisees of big chains (all of Reliance Fresh’s 145 outlets are franchises). “The smarter retailer will survive,” says Biswas. Similarly, ITC’s pushcarts scheme, says S. Sivakumar, chief executive of ITC’s agri-business, plans to involve existing hawkers. In fact, a micro-finance organisation Basix has approached ITC to help women headload vendors switch to pushcarts. Subramanian can’t understand what the fuss is about, since big chains are more efficient. “We did not cry when Maruti put Ambassador and Padmini out of business; why cry for these guys?” Well, the numbers involved are far bigger in this case and many of them are poor. “The idea that savings for 1.3 billion consumers are to be blocked to save 4 million traders is insane. PCOs shut down when mobile telephony expanded; can we block mobile telephony for that,” retorts Subramanian. Contends Malay Dave, CEO of the Ahmedabad-based Consumer Education and Research Centre, “The good old corner shops have been taking Indian consumers for a ride all these years.” He believes that the entry of big chains will discipline the market, bring in choice and quality and better prices."

Quite right too, couldn't disagree with it. Its time for everybody to sit up and take notice, and in haste too. The days of complacency are gone. And yes, its a harsh harsh world...


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