Sep 112011

After pampering him for 10 days, Mumbai is finally ready to bid adieu to their favorite lord, the Ganpati, on the day of Anant Chaturdashi.800px-Anant_Chaturdashi The slogans, “Ganpati Bappa Moriya, Pudhachya Varshi Laukar Yaa”(O lord Ganesha, come again early next year) will be in the air the entire evening.

In the evening, all the Ganesh idols around Mumbai and other places in India will be immersed in water. Water is believed to be the bridge between the heaven and the earth and the immersion of Lord Ganesha in water symbolizes his return to the heaven.

The departure of Lord Ganesha is an emotional even for the people of the house who have served him, looked after him, loved him for ten days. They will be eagerly waiting for him until next year while their heart keeps on resounding, Pudhachya Varshi Laukar Yaa.

Aug 152011

Few years back when I was sailing as a marine engineer, a colleague on one of my ships had bought a laptop from the USA. It was the thanksgiving season and the stores there were brimming with free gift and discount offers for most of the products. A core 2 Duo laptop was an object of desire back then, and the configuration that he bought would have cost him about 50-60 thousand rupees easily in India. But after discount, he got it for 650$ which came to around 28000 Indian rupees back then. Along with that he got few free items like a carry bag and a usb TV tuner card. For me, it was kind of an offer of the century. For anyone residing in USA, this was a daily affair. Sad thing was that my friend was an Indian, not a resident of the US, because the laptop had a very good money back offer if returned within few months.

Yesterday I read about a very good offer on Samsung LED TVs in the newspapers. So I went to check out in a well known local store. The very first disappointment I had to face was due to the fact that even though it is a very reputed chain of stores in my city, they did not stock the latest model of the television that I had in mind. They were an entire generation behind in TV models. Secondly, the staff was not sure what TV I was talking about and they had to keep on asking the one “expert-knows it all” guy that the store employed. I came back home and decided to call up the the customer support number that was given in the advertisement in the papers.

The phone was answered by a lady, who seemed to be harassed by repeated phone calls. She informed that this was nth number of times that she had informed that it was a wrong number which we were dialing. Then we called up few other store numbers that were given. One of them informed that the TV was not in stock but he could get it for me. He quoted the price as 81500 rs. which I knew was the fair market price, as I had done some enquiries before. Then I enquired about the offer and I was shocked to hear that the offer was only valid if I bought the TV for the maximum retail price of 1,01,000 rupees. Also the seller informed that 18 months finance scheme was available, while the advertisement informed that they had a 10 months finance scheme.

I called up another vendor given in the list and he seemed to have the model, but quoted a price of 94,000 rs. I asked him that another shop had quoted 81500 rs and he informed that the other store might have quoted without the offer. He was selling the TV with the offer for the M.R.P. of 94,000 rs. This was another shock to me as the M.R.P., which is printed by the manufacturer, Samsung in this case, was being quoted differently by different shopkeepers.

I had enquired about the price previously and I deduced that Samsung is bundling out some of their products along with the products sold on large scale, using the cheap market tricks which are bring used in India since a long time. Samsung delivers the TV to the sellers with price much less then the M.R.P., but is anyone wants to avail the offer you need to shell out the M.R.P. So what do you deduce from it? There are no free products in India. If anything is free, or if the products have been discounted, the prices are already increased for that product before they are sold under offer. I saw the M.R.P. for that TV on Samsung official website. It is 99,900 rs. None of the figures quoted by the sellers I spoke to, were anywhere near it. Infact the one person who quoted close by, actually quoted above the M.R.P. which is a crime by consumer laws in India. The M.R.P. for the TV on Samsung official site is way above the price a which it is sold in shops. The difference of about 15,000 rs. is not at all justified, since it gives a free hand to the sellers to loot the consumers at their will.

This is total Chaos in Consumerism. People are being cheated at all walks of life. I always do some investigation on the internet before buying any product with higher price. But not the millions who fall for such “offers”. I have seen people buying at huge price because either the product is being bought by millions or the chain of stores is well known or the offer is valid only for a short interval. But no one ever uses the tool, that we call the internet, to avoid being cheated. The people in USA have been effectively using internet to avoid being cheated. Websites like ebay, walmart, bestbuy, amazon sell out almost everything a person needs, with heavy discounts, free gifts and lots of guarantees about the genuineness of the product. People rely on this sites for half their shopping. Not so in India. We would buy from the few select chain of stores and get cheated rather then make an informed decision through the internet.

If anyone wants to have some fun, here’s the product link on Samsung’s official website. Go ahead, make some calls..

Jul 302011

Botanically called as Saussurea obvallata, or the Bramha Kamal as we call it, is a rare sight in it bloomed state. Named after Bramha, the Hindu God of creation, this night blooming flower with a once in a year appearance is said to be an indication of an auspicious event. People in India believe that only those people who believe in the auspiciousness of the occasion, have the luck to view the flower in this state.

I do not claim that I am the only lucky person to have seen it when its delicate petals were opened, but as soon as I got the chance today, I clicked some pictures which I wish to share with you all. So here they are.

I have used a white source of light, place at some distance to create the luminescence effect. Pardon my photography with a normal point and shoot camera.




Jul 252011

Press the shift key and the * key together. Then press the Space Bar once. Now type out the word BASIC. Press the Return key and then the break key”.

Those words were the milk on which I begun my nourishment in to the digital world.

The year was 1992. The Gulf war was on. The stock markets had crashed. I was in class VIII. And to escape the agony of the drawing class, and explore the new thing in India, the computer, I had got myself enrolled (paying exorbitant fees) into the computer class in lieu of the drawing class. I had no idea, neither did lakhs of people who tried to embrace this technology, how far this invention would advance. But there I was, listening ever so attentively to the instructor, as she dictated the steps we had to follow, in exactly those words. I never got the heads or tails of what I was doing, but following her instructions, I could display “Hello” or even my name as the output of the ‘program’. I was thrilled. I continued computers for rest of my school years, during which I learnt DBASE, WordStar and missed out on LOGO as I was ill during those classes. Then they taught PASCAL.

By now, I couldn’t understand what was going on. Where were we going to use DBASE, or WordStar, or why would we buy a costly piece of electronic equipment just to add two numbers? And what was this Pascal all about? But I always scored good in the computers exam since I was good at memorizing or learning “by heart” as we called it.

The real breakthrough in to understanding what programming was all about, came when I was in the junior college. As it happened, I opted for computer science since I was scared of dissecting cockroaches and rats in the lab. And as it turned out, I was scoring poorly in computer science as well. Then I joined extra coaching with a particular teacher from another junior college. And my God, that guy was amazing. He explained how exactly LOGIC was to be applied in to programming and then taught us the syntax(grammar) of PASCAL and later C. I started seeing computer programming in new light by then. 386 machines were just so common and the 486 machines were admired and envied. Windows 3.1, with its “colorful” desktop was just arriving. On the rarest of the rare occasions would we get a peek at a machine with such configuration.

But my heart was in to machines, those moving assemblies which we could see and predict and with very little guidance, I picked up Mechanical Engineering as a branch to make career in. I successfully pass through the course, within the minimum possible time for passing the examinations(no failures, straight success). Programming did taunt me from time to time during engineering studies, and I picked up FEM/CAD/CAM(Finite Elements Methods/Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing) as a vocational subject.

That was the time when it struck me that I had not learnt enough of the programming. The above vocational subject involved designing using C++ programming, and I had stopped short at C during my junior college days. I tried to apply the concepts of C while programming in C++ and I passed through, miserably though.

And by the time I completed my engineering, I got my first personal computer, with the latest configuration at that time. It did cost my dad a fortune, but with the Pentium III processor, 64 MB RAM, and windows 98 running on it, I was not complaining. The year was 2000. I did learn lot of things on it. I learned how to use windows, how to install OS and other software, how to play games, rip music, watch videos. I learned to use the internet using the dial up connection, which cost my dad a fortune on telephone bills each month. I learned to assemble a computer from scratch, troubleshoot the operating system, rectify the problems. I learned a lot.

The only thing I forgot to learn was any specific programming language. I had the brains to apply the Logic properly, but didn’t have the guts to change my field from hardcore mechanical engineering to software development. Few of my friends changed, and they did succeed. I, meanwhile, was comfortable with the machineries, since they were physical, real and visible to naked eyes.

Due to lack of any good job opportunity, I finally choose marine as my career path and then invested some six years of my life into it, with good returns in monetary terms. The world meanwhile moved on from Pentium IV to hyper-thread to dual core to Core 2 Duo. Microsoft dished out Windows ME, XP, and Vista. By the time I decided to leave marine, I was a proud owner of a Core2 Duo laptop with windows vista and 4 GB of RAM. Alas, I hadn’t known how soon it would turn obsolete. Core ix series and Windows 7 was just around the corner.

I was good at computers while onboard. With almost none of them having any knowledge of troubleshooting a PC, I was the doctor whenever any PC related problem crept onboard. On ship, I was the God of that small machine. Onshore, I was way behind. I missed out on many issues of Chip, the technology magazine on which I fed for information and by I used to swear. I missed out on lots of technological advances while onboard. But then I had submitted to my life and being a genius in computers was not an option.

Now I have left marine life since about 3 years. I work onshore and my work keeps me glued to computers for about 8 hours a day. I am sure that it has become an integral part of my life. And I am even more sure that I am not making the most of it. I could have been a genius computer programmer, had I chosen to be that at a certain point of time in my life. I could have been the one who wrote the blog editing programs instead of being a lame blogger who uses it. It would have been so much different. It would have been so great to see people surrounding me using my program for their daily use. Like I do now.

But then, I wouldn’t have got the time for my blog. I am sure I would have envied those bloggers, as the programmers envy me now. I would be just a faceless programmer, unknown to the outer, real world and not a blogger with friends in that circle. Life wouldn’t be like what it is now.

And you know what, I am happy with my life now. So, even if my 18 years of close contact with computers didn’t make me someone great in in that field, I don’t care. My Odyssey is still digital, but the destination is different.


Also I have some lessons from my experience which I would like to share with you.

  • It doesn’t matter what path you choose in your life. Stick to it and make it lead to your destination, and,
  • Technological turnaround cycle has become very short, so wait for the right moment before you buy your computer. And anyway, your machine will go obsolete in six months.
Jul 142011

17 souls lost? More than 130 injured physically, more psychologically? Was this a déjà vu of 7/11?

Rewind back 5 years and 2 days.

11/7/2006 the date. 11 minutes 7 bombs, the attack. For them it was a number game. But for the 209 killed, it was the day they didn’t meet their family one last time. For the 700 injured, life would never be the same again. The world condemned the attack, as it condemns even today. But that’s what politicians do. Meanwhile, people were too shocked to react. Carrying out routine work had turned out to be dangerous. The fear for life haunted the people, not only in their dreams but for real. Mumbai was paralyzed for few days. It stumbled back to life. The incident was left behind, but not the scars.

Fast forward to 2008. Armed with sophisticated equipment, a group of terrorist entered the city through its least guarded entry point, the sea. The took the city at gunpoint, sparing no class of people, be it rich or poor. 164 were lost to this one side battle, 308 wounded. It took three days to bring the situation under control, with just one of the 10 terrorists arrested alive. He languished in the prison, which has been turned into fortress of a kind, at the expense of the tax payer. Meanwhile, the world condemned the attack, promised all the help, gave none, made a fool of India, its politicians and its people. Mumbai was paralyzed. It took a while to recover. But we were back on our feet.India meanwhile managed to handle this case disastrously, and the people gave up hopes of any justice. Then it became business as usual. The scars of 7/11 had vanished, so had those of 26/11.

Fast forward to present. The attack was as well planned as the previous two, and countless others carried out in past. The desired results were achieved by terrorists. The world condemned the attack. One Mrs. Clinton even said that no matter what these people try, they won’t succeed in their intentions. I failed to understand what other intentions these terror outfits could have other than killing innocent people, which they seem to achieve quite comfortably. Meanwhile, the people in the vicinity took note of the attack. They seemed to be very angry on the television. But they didn’t seemed to have been scarred by this event. They did help in the rescue efforts. But the events didn’t paralyze Mumbai. Trains were on time. No one left office early for the fear of another attack. No one stayed back at the office for the fear of same. In the morning after the attack, all the regulars of the train were present. There were no heated debates about who were responsible, or the chronology of the events, or how our security could be improved and where we went wrong. It was the usual talk about collecting the monthly train group fund money, or arranging a picnic that weekend. The trains were as full as any usual day. They were on time. No one skipped office due to fear of another attack.

Mumbai seemed to not take much notice of this incident. It had found some medicine for its recurring injuries. And the medicine was good. Mumbai had healed fast. It was life as usual.

Jul 042011

Who says we are a country full of poor. Just look at the vast amount of wealth, and I mean legal wealth owned by individuals without being involved in scams and without having any corporate links. If you have been following the happenings of past few weeks, you will be amazed to know the amount of wealth we have bestowed upon our Gods and Goddesses.

My God!! A trillion rupees hidden(though not with any wrong intentions) in the secret vaults below the temple!!! I had been to this temple. I had seen it’s grandeur. I expected it to be the last place with an yearly budget of a state hidden under it. This treasure has been collecting under the temple for many centuries now, and the royal families didn’t ever touch it, even during the hardest of times. Their intentions were noble. But what use are such intentions if the money is not put to a good use for the people. The Gods and the Goddesses desire no piece of this earthly treasure. So what’s the point of preserving it for them, while the people who donated it need to go abroad, separated from their families for a long time, to fill their hungry stomach? Why let this wealth rot under the temple, while people who parted with it, are without three meals a day?

Forget the scamsters. You can’t get the money back from them. But Baba Ramdev, Satya Sai Baba trust, Sree Padmanabha temple trust, Sabrimala temple trust, Tirupati temple trust, Siddhivinayaka temple trust, Divine retreat centre, Tabor Ashram and many other religious trusts who make such kind of money, can’t you all come together and do something for the society who has bestowed, whatever little they had, upon you? Bypass the government. Build your own schools. Build your own hospitals. Fund your own industries so that the unemployed get work.

God will never want this earthly possessions. He always wants you to love each other. Help each other. He wants you to live by his teachings.

Apr 272011

As the title suggests, it was one summer night. Just one like this one today. The only occupants of out two-storey house were me, my wife and my younger brother. My parents were out on a 15 day long tour, and I was the “Man of the House”. Things were going on smoothly, with we three going to work in the morning and coming back home in the evening, cook something, dine and go to sleep. We were enjoying life, since parents were away and we had the total control on the kind of food we could have.

Anyway, as I said, it was just another night as today. After having our dinner and some T.V. shows, we went to sleep. My brother occupied the room on the ground floor, while me and my wife on the first floor. Falling asleep was not a problem due to all the travel we had to do for our jobs. Somewhere along the night, I started dreaming, the details of which, I don’t remember. But I do remember one thing. It ended with a shatter. Literally!! In the dream, someone broke a glass pane near me, and the noise was so loud the I woke up with a start. The room was dark. Except for the slow humming of the air conditioner blower, I could hear no sound. But me sleep was lost, and thinking of that, I let out a sigh. “Did you hear that?”, asked my wife. So she was awake too. “What did you hear"”?, I asked her and she said that it was like someone broke the glass. My hear skipped a beat. his was not good. Either we both had the same dream at the same time, which was highly unlikely, or someone/something had actually broken some glass article on our floor.

My mind went blank. But I couldn’t afford it. As I said earlier, I was the “Man of the House” and needed to take charge of the situation. Lying on the bed I tried to analyze the situation. The first floor windows did not have grills, and the living room, had a glass pane sliding window, the size of a french window. An easy entry point for burglar. By now I made up my mind that there was someone on the first floor. I needed to alert my brother about this. There was no direct communication between bedrooms. We didn’t have my mobile with us in the room. So it was up to me to get out of bed.

And I did that. But I needed a weapon. I don’t normally keep any stick or knife or such things in my room, for the fear of my wife using it on me(And she doesn’t read my blog so I am safe after using this sentence). The best thing I could find was the heavy Maglite torch. I didn’t want to alert the thief, so I did not light the torch. My wife started asking all the unnecessary questions at that very moment, loudly. I asked her to shut up. For once, she complied. With my ear to my bedroom door, I tried to stop my breathe and my heartbeat(though a futile exercise), so as to hear even the slightest sound. And I stood in that position for about 5 minutes. Nothing heard.

Without making even the slightest of the noise, I unlocked the door. Now opening it meant creaking hinges, or even worse, finding someone standing on the opposite side of the door, ready to attack. But eventually I opened it, fearless of the consequences. I was the “Man of the House”. Time to light the torch. And the other bulb in the passageway. But that meant alerting the person, so I had to be quick in searching the other spaces on that floor and then the ground floor. I switched on the light and and searched the other room. No one there. I quickly checked the living room. No one there. I moved fast to go downstairs, and froze in my path.

Flashback : As a wedding gift, I had received a very beautiful wall piece. Being a mechanical engineer, I had mounted it myself on the wall. That this wall piece would become a nightmare one day, I never thought then.

There in the corner of the living room lay the wall piece, with its glass shattered to pieces, after it’s mounting hook had come out of the oversized hole that I had drilled.

I learned a lot of lesson that night. Couple of points may be useful to you.

1. Keep your mobile with you when you sleep.

2. You may be doing the profession related work at your workplace, but don’t try it at your home. At home, you tend to not use the correct formulas applicable for such work.

3. Keep your windows grilled. That way you rule out lot op possibilities.

4. I have come to a conclusion that I should keep something to defend myself, but I still tend to rely on the heavy Maglite torch.

5. Maybe, keep the T.V. on under such circumstances. That way you are assured that the burglar knows that someone is awake.

Mar 082011

Today is the Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lent period, is a day to express mourning and is a day of repentance in the Christian calendar. Today, Christians all around the world will have their forehead smeared with the sign of cross, made from the ashes of the palm leaves of the palm Sunday.


This is done to remind the man that he is made from ashes and will go back to ashes. Mankind is called upon to ask forgiveness for his sins on this day. In olden days, it was a tradition to smear oneself entirely with ash as a way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults. The priest, while applying the ashes says one of the following.

Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.

Urn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

Repent, and hear the good news.

On this day, fast is observed such that, any person between age group 18 to 59, health permitting, is required to take only one full meal, with a supplement of two smaller meals which together will not amount to a full meal. Some people go to a length of observing a complete fast on this day or surviving only on bread and water.

As I said earlier, this marks the beginning of the Lent period of 40 days, until Good Friday, symbolizing the fast and the suffering of Jesus in the forest for 40 days, during which he was tempted by the devil himself. Jesus did not fall to any temptations and the people following this period are expected to do the same. This is a period of total abstinence from all the temptations of the world.

At the end of the Lent falls the Good Friday when Jesus was nailed to the cross, and he sacrificed his life to save the mankind from destruction.

Mar 082011

It’s 8.30 in the night and I am sitting on my front porch, overlooking the road. It’s dark on the road, due to the dim street light. I have switched off the lights on my porch, so it’s like a vantage point for me, offering an unobstructed view of the passing vehicles and people, while being invisible to them.

I am trying to connect to a telecom customer centre, and I know my attempts are futile. But I still persist, as I don’t like accepting loss so easily. Not at least in arguments. I hear a rustling sound nearby. It’s a coconut tree branch, dried, dead, which has fallen across the road. A bike comes at it’s majestic speed, brakes near the coconut branch, rides over it, and is gone in a flash. I get up from my seat to clear the road off the obstruction, but stop halfway.

I have enough time at hand since I am trying hopelessly to connect to the customer care, and I know that I have an opportunity here. The opportunity to observe the behaviour of the road-smart people who pass by. I know that the the branch is on a straight road, and poses no immediate danger to any biker, as they can see it from miles. But how they react to it, will be a subject of observation. I give about half and hour of road time to the branch, after which I will remove it myself and clear the road.

I sit back, with my eyes on the road. The customer care centre no longer interests me. A bike is coming along the road at good speed. It’s slows down, crosses over the branch, and speeds away. Another bike does the same. Then it’s a car, and an auto rickshaw,  another car, a bike. All drive, avoiding it by riding on the very edge of the road, or slowing down. A bicycle rider comes along, ringing his bell. My hopes soar high. At last, I might witness some sense of social responsibility. The bicycle rider, doesn’t need to even slow down. He wouldn’t care less. Worst of all, a man who comes walking after that, does the same. It’s the man from the neighboring village. This is as much his road as mine. But he doesn’t seem to even notice the branch.

It’s almost 20 minutes past since the branch is on the road. I am tired of being bitten by mosquitoes, so I get up to clear the road. Then I see in a distance, a door to door fruit vendor, pushing his cart, with his unsold stock, back home. He has walked in this manner the entire day. At the time when I like to be at home, fresh and relaxing, he is still miles away from his home. It’s a long, tiring walk back home, which he takes day after day, along the same road. And this coconut branch will always be a big obstruction for a man tired by walking. He crossed the branch and moves ahead. I give a sigh of disappointment. A few paces ahead he stops his cart. He goes back, picks up the branch, moves it along the side of the road, and continues home. The next person won’t know that the road had had any kind of obstruction a few minutes back.

I just wonder. All these people are my villagers. They have passed in their expensive cars, and swanky bikes, proclaiming all along that this village belongs to them. That they are the real population of this village. But no one cares to do something which might benefit others. On the other hand, the fruit vendor, who does not originally belong to this village, who is always looked down upon and is called a “bhaiyya”, which means brother in Hindi, but is used like a racial abuse, has already crossed the obstacle but cares enough for other to remove the obstacle from the road. No matter what his mindset is in moving this branch, he is not to gain from the act today, so his act shows a sense of social responsibility.

And he is not the one who cares for our village, as some people feel.

This reminds me of a story where a king placed a big boulder on the road, and observed from a vantage point that all the rich and powerful people of his kingdom abused the king and the governance for not moving the stone. Meanwhile a poor farmer came along the road, and moved the boulder away, and found a pouch full of gold coins under it, which were kept by the king and meant for anyone who moved the boulder.

I wish to been a king. I want to gift the fruit vendor for this act of social responsibility.

Mar 032011

I read this news article in “The Times of India”, and was surprised to know that a compensations equivalent to what are given out in the USA can be got in India. Quite some years back, this swimmer has slipped on a pool floor at a Delhi hotel, and was paralysed waist down. After a long struggle in the court, the swimmer has been awarded a compensation of rs. 5 crore. Though not as big an amount as anyone would have got in the USA, this is still a respectable amount, and I don’t think that such an amount has ever being awarded to a person in India, who has been wronged for life.

I just hope that this is not just for a foreign citizen, but such a practice is followed in case of Indian citizens too. There are numerous cases daily, where a person loses his life, or his future due to the negligence of someone else. Let’s take an example of the terrorist attack on Mumbai. That was the negligence on the part of the government, the security agencies. But I think the poor who died at the Chatrapatti Shivaji Terminus, were awarded a few lakh rupees, a very small amount considering the soaring inflation. And I think many might have not yet received the compensation. Meanwhile, I am sure that Susan Leigh Beer will receive it promptly.

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