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.

Feb 162011
 

It’s been a long time since I pondered upon the state of affair in India. Scams and scammers, available by plenty. Corrupt governance, rising cost of living, failing PSU(and I am not talking about Air India. Today I read it in the news that BSNL is on brink of exhausting it’s cash reserves by the end of the year, and will be a total lossmaking company owned by the Indian government.), constant threat to the security and high handed, blackmailing politics, has led the people to write off India as an unsuccessful country. I had hopes in it. I had hopes in the current government. The statement of the prime minister made me sad. He said that since there was a lack of clear majority for any single party to form the government, they had to make sacrifices. After all, he said, we can’t have elections every six months. The ill effects of these “sacrifices” are quite visible and open at this moment.

This country has termites at it’s core. Literally!! There is corruption everywhere. To fill the coffers of a select few, the basic rights of a human being are being taken away. Just few examples(and this list can go on and on) to prove how India is rotting deep within.

The Hill View

Our office has just recently moved to a new location in navi Mumbai, and the location has quite a good scenic beauty. We have a lake on the front, and hills(which turn green on the our back. The Dow chemicals plant  on the side looks good, especially since it had shut down. Our pantry faces the hills and we have enjoyed the beauty for quite some time now.

Now, a sudden change in the scenery has been itching into my eyes since a few weeks. The hill is being replace by air. Stone quarries have come up on the foot of the hills, and large portion of it has been excavated in very short time. The section has turned to gray, the colour of stone. At the pace the work is carried out, I am am afraid that by next year, there will be a plateau instead of the hill.

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Is there no impact in environment due o this large scale excavation?Are there any environmental clearances obtained before starting to destroy a hill!! As a colleague explained, the officials deal with the traders of the stone. Up to a certain height, the hill belongs to the government, and above that, the hill is sold for digging. If that is true, we will have no hills in Mumbai, in about 50-100 years(considering that India itself, as a country, exists at that time).

If this kind of excavations happen all over India, then combined with the Pakistani and Chinese incursions, we will have a new world map.

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Pakistan and china will have bigger territories to dictate upon, and sri lanka will be without a neighbor.

The Lake View

The lake is one beauty in front of our office. I make it a point to view out of the window once in a day to view the calm lake and relax my mind. It’s quite helpful, believe me. Especially since all the noise of the traffic is not heard from our fourth floor.

The picture shows the Thane-Belapur road, which is the lifeline of the industrial belt in this area. An earth moves can be seen digging out the road shoulder. This is not the first time that this work is being carried out. The road had already been dug about a month back. The second picture will show clear signs(not tell-tale signs, but clear signs) of the previous operation. Forget about paving it back to it’s original state, the dug up area has net even been leveled out. This is not a one off example. This happens all over Mumbai, and I guess, all over India(I am not sure if I can include Gujarat). Roads are dug up, then filled back after the work(usually laying down pipes) is completed. Then someone remembers something, and they are dug up again, this time, either damaging one pipe, or the underground phone lines, which too pass exactly through the same area. No one in the municipal corporation seem to know where the underground cables are laid, and this results in broken communication system. And no one seems to bother at all to lay down tar on the damaged section of the road. This happens all the time and people have got used to it. In a busy Mumbai life, no one seems to take notice. And the corrupt go on a free rampage.

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My Beautiful Vasai

Many times in this blog I have posted about how beautiful my place of birth and current residence is, and how it is being robbed of its natural beauty and space by a nexus comprising some ministers, members in the government, and few local goons.  And the development authority has chipped in with their contribution in destroying the environment.

trees

This was the structure of the area where I live. The circles(irregular shaped), on both sides of the road(parallel lines) are trees, not stones. There were trees all along the road from Bolinj village to our green belt. Suddenly one night, and emergency operation was done and next day morning we find this!!

no trees

This was done to facilitate the road widening project by the MMRDA(Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority). All it has managed to do is destroy a part of the beautiful green belt. That part, which was kind of a welcome gate to the villages. Now we have wide road from one end of Bolinj to Agashi, and other end of Bolinj to virar. Sad part is that Boling itself is a bottleneck. The widening project is hindered here due to lots of houses right near the road(as shown by small boxes inside the big box).  Whatever road is available for vehicles is occupied by the traffic nuisance, the auto rickshaw. And the authorities are unable to bring them under control.

And today I read that thousands of more trees are to be “relocates” to widen more roads in our region. I think we should kiss mother earth goodbye, till we have some time.

Feb 122011
 

How many times did you wake up in the middle of the night, sweating? It’s 2 o’clock in the night and you can’t figure out what happened. And a realisation through a weak memory dawns upon you, that it’s a dream. The details of which you can’t remember because you woke up with a start. No matter how hard you scratch the brain, it won’t reveal your dream at that moment. You sleep again and in the course of the day, you get some weak images of your dreams. But it gets difficult to recollect and piece together the exact scenario.

But sometimes, the dreams are remembered the moment you wake up. Such dreams, stay engraved on your memory, for a lifetime.

Dream would have been an unaccepted phenomenon in this world, had it been experienced by a select few. But it has never been a subject of taboo. That’s because, everyone dreams. And I am speaking about those particular incidents that happen while one is asleep. There are other forms of dreams, like the day dream of a person who does no work. Or even the dream of making it big in this world. But the dream I speak of, occurs when a human being enters the state of sub-consciousness, while resting, exploring the unexplored section of mind.

Dreaming

Everyone dreams. Everyone wishes of sweet dreams. Few times, you have them. But most of the times, you have nightmares!! Such kind of dreams will always relate to the happenings around you, or all over the world. This is because, a section of the brain stores in to itself, what you want to forget. And when you attain the subconscious state, the rascal part of your brain, plays this trick of rewinding the tape of your thoughts, and replaying them, at the exact moment you have attained a deep slumber. But this is scientific stuff, and I dare not divulge deep, given my poor knowledge of the subject.

Anyway, sweet or nasty, those dreams which stay in to your memories, are hilarious most of the times. Sometimes you feel shy to reveal to others your funny dreams. But it does no harm. Here of some of mine :

This one, I dreamt(I mean the rascal part of my brain rewound this one) when I was a kid, may be about 5 years old. My grandmother had told us a story about how a tiger had wandered into our village and killed one of the women, before being captured(or killed it think it was, I don’t remember that part). That night I dreamt that I had just come out of our house on to a veranda, which was at a small height and had three steps to it on one side. I saw a tiger sleeping some distance away from the house. Seeing it asleep, I jumped down from the veranda to take a closer look. The noise of my footsteps, woke him up, and I was terrified. I knew that the steps were on the other side so my only chance was to climb up on the veranda from where I was standing, as quickly as possible. I tried, but the height of the veranda was too much for me. I saw behind, the tiger was on it’s feet but not moving. I took a step towards the stairs, keeping my eyes on the tiger continuously. It took one step towards me. I stopped, fearing an attack, and it stopped in it’s place. Time went by and it did not move. I took another step ahead, and it did the same. I got a weird feeling about this, and just to check out a doubt in my mind, I took a step back. It took a step back too. I tried it a couple of times, and the tiger did exactly what I did. I felt that there was no end to it, and didn’t want to be stuck in that position for ever. So I cried for help to my Mom. And my mom woke me up, asking me what was wrong and why was I shouting. The scene in that dream are still very fresh in my mind.

During the course of my life, I dreamt many more of them, some pleasant , but most of them nasty ones. Many of them had had the theme of exams. Many a times it has occurred in my dreams that I wake up late on the day of any important exam, and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get myself to hurry up. And in the middle of all this frantic exercise of getting to the exam hall on time, I check my watch(in dream) just to find that it’s already time for the second paper of the day. And I am nowhere near the exam centre. These are the dreams which I get more frequently. When I wake up in the middle of them, I feel glad that it was just a dream, and I still have enough hours left for sleep. Of course, for the fear of getting up late in real life, I can’t sleep anymore.

Here is another gem. This was on my first ship. Now, during our training period, it is engraved upon us that it is a sacred duty of a junior engineer on a ship to be down in the bilges of the engine room, checking out how the pipelines flow, and keeping the bilges clean. The bilge is projected as the most horrifying place on a ship. It is the lowermost portion of the engine room, where there is limited access for mankind. On old ships it feels like the pipes are routed more with the purpose of blocking the access to the bottom floor of the engine room. It gets very dark down there when the electrical engineer on the ship decides not to change the constantly fusing light bulbs in that portion. Anyway, on my first ship I dreamt that, I was sent to the bilges of the engine room to check something, and I went to the aft most portion(the back portion of the engine room) where the propeller shaft rotates and goes out to the sea. At the precise moment that I went down, the power went off, and the ship blacked out. I couldn’t see anything. I had placed my torch on the ground, and to retrieve it, I squatted down(least the propeller shaft hit my head) and begun my frantic search of the torch on the soft, spongy engine room floor. I couldn’t find it, and I panicked. And in this state of panic, I woke up in my cabin which was completely dark. I didn’t know that I was out of the dream, and I started feeling suffocated(Amazing isn’t it? You can’t see air, but you need light to breathe it properly). I tried to reach sideways(I didn’t get up, least I bang my head on the shaft above) to find something to hold to. But all I felt was soft panel of the walls. Then I calmed myself. Soft floor, soft walls…….I was in my cabin, not in the bilges. I was relieved, and slept a peaceful sleep then on. I did get those bilge dream once or twice after that.

In the state of dream, you become helpless. It becomes impossible to lift your arms, you can’t breathe properly, an elephant may as well be squatting on your chest. And if in this subconscious state you do manage to move your limbs, you are bound to wake up with a jerk, because, the limb which you have lifted up, does not defy gravity forever. Also, there may be other things you want to do during a dream, but it becomes physically(or virtually) impossible to do them.

This one I had very recently. I was roaming around in my neighborhood, when all of a sudden, I heard a big roar from above. I looked to the skies, and saw a very big and beautiful, red plane very close above.(If ever I dream of planes, I would love to dream of those shiny white ones with red engines.) So this plane was moving very slowly, just above me, and I noticed that it was a very different kind of plane, with three very big engines, and a small cabin area. As it keeps on moving slowly, I realised that it had just taken off from an airfield, and I was surprised that they have constructed an airfield near our house. Suddenly I realised that the plane was going to hit the electric pole in front of it. I think the pilot realised the same at that precise moment, and lifted it’s nose to take it above and avoid the pole. But the destiny of the plane was written, and the tail wing did hit the pole, and ripped off. The plane went very high up in the sky, and then started coming down, nose first, to crash in a field not far away. A tragedy, which could not be averted anymore, was to happen. And the mourning would began soon. But for now, it was time to shoot this and upload it to you tube, and become famous. I pulled out my Samsung wave, and pressed the button to start the camera. That bloody thing took like hours to start.(See, I told you, some things become impossible to achieve in dreams, when you most need to do them.) I started the recording just moments before the impact, and then I couldn’t get the bloody thing to stay stable in my hands. My hands were shaking, making it impossible to record the good quality, impact video, that I was hoping to get. I was planning to go to the crash site and record some good videos(the rescue operation would be carried out by others who would arrive soon), precisely at which moment, I woke up.

All I wanted to do at that moment was to go back to sleep, and complete the video.

Jan 222011
 

The Indian railways network is one of the largest rail networks in the world with highest number of employees as compared to any kind of organization in this world. Millions of people use this mode of transport for their day-to-day travel, it being the cheapest mode of travel for the people in a country where more than half the population just manage to survive.

The suburban rail networks in the cities of India are used for daily commute to work, just like in any other city in this world. Out of these networks, the Mumbai suburban rail network, carries the largest number of people to their work, and back home at the end of the day, everyday. Due to previous higher industrial growth, and the presence of one of the biggest film industry in this world(Bollywood), millions of people come to this city, with a hope to make it big. This large population influx from various small towns all over India, known and unknown, has led to an increase in the commuter density in the suburban trains. The load on the trains, and the crowd on them is ever increasing, resulting in less space for people to stand, leave alone seating. In a normal suburban metro train in other countries, the trains are quite empty, and hence there is not much interaction between commuters. They keep as much distance from each other as the train offers. Not in Mumbai. There is no distance between two people. This leads to heated body and some hot brains, which leads to heated arguments, fist fights, all kinds of swearing etc. People holding the ticket for second class regularly travels in first class, without the fear of the ticket examiner, who dares not board these crowded trains. People even fake disability by using plasters just to travel in and empty couch meant for disabled and cancer patients. For the women’s compartment, I would like to say that it’s just horribly packed.

But people on the Mumbai local trains have all kinds of attitudes. Some are kind and accommodating, understand other’s problems and adjust. Some just fake being new to town and try to extract some sympathy. Some go for the threatening language. Some even give it a communal colour to meet their demands. Some just climb the rooftops to stay away from this chaos inside and attain nirvana, or even pose the Jack-and-Rose-on-the-titanic-bow-spreading-arms pose. But they die a fiery death if they touch the overhead cables.

Mumbai Crowded Train

So there are all kinds of people and all kinds of incidents. I have blogged about some previously. Here are some more incidents which I have come across while travelling on a Mumbai suburban local.

  • I travel first class, since it is very difficult to even board the train in second class if you do not want to risk your life while boarding. The condition in first class is not that good either, but one manages to get pushed inside without much damage to vital organs. This incident occurred in a train on a particular afternoon, when normally people have enough room to read their newspapers in standing position, and people don’t mind if you do not keep your shoulder bags on the luggage rack. I was standing, as usual, since I don’t risk my life as I said. I had to stand for about three quarters of an hour before I could get a seat. Any by that time, I was just quarter an hour away from my destination, but still I blessed the person who offered the seat(in my heart, not through words). At the next station, a ticket examiner entered the compartment. Almost all the people had a valid tickets with them. I say almost, because three guys did not. They had a ticket to second class journey, but were travelling first class. The examiner immediately informed they have to pay a fine of 350 rs each, upon which they argued that they were first timers in the city and didn’t know what the classes were. Infact, they said that it was the day that they had landed in the city from Nepal. Which was a lie in itself since even though their faces had some resemblance to some distant Nepali relative, their language and their dialect was perfectly India. The argument would not hold good with the ticket examiner and he informed them that there were clearly written signs on the couches to declare it to be first class. He took them out of the couch at the next station, and I am sure he relaxed some rules, made some sacrifices on behalf of railways, and pocketed a small amount for himself as a negotiations. It left me wondering. Since these guys were sitting in the train even before I boarded it, while I and few other valid ticket holders were left standing, were we not cheated off our rights? I didn’t know what kind of reaction to have towards those “Nepali” guys who were offenders, but still would get away cheap. I say “would getaway” because there might be few ticket examiners who would not bend any rule to fill up their pockets. There might be. But then, what about me? Did I buy the pass at a very high price, just to save myself from embarrassment of being taken out of the couch by the examiner, once in a while?
  • This brings me to another incident. Same Mumbai suburban rail, different train. I was travelling and the train was hardly crowded because I was going in the direction opposite to the rush hour traffic. At one particular station, a man with his wife and mother boarded the train in first class. As the train started, the man noticed something amiss, and realised that he was in the first class. He panicked and tried to alight with his family. But that being dangerous, a young man standing next to them told them not to do so. Other people joined in and stopped them. By the time the train picked up speed. The young man who had stopped them turned out to be a ticket examiner. Seeing a genuine case of a person being in the wrong couch by mistake, he had shown some humanity and allowed them to travel. But now was the time to do his duties. He asked them to show their tickets, expecting a second class ticket. What he found out surprised him and the people around. These people were travelling without ticket, and the man was flashing a government ID card, expecting a free ride. That was a ticketless travel as per the rules, and with a sense of fairness, the examiner informed him that the ID card would not do, and if they did not have a second class ticket, they would have to pay fines equivalent to second class travel. More surprised came when the man refused and started and argument. The mans wife tried to calm him as she knew what was fair, but the mother joined with the son to fight back. The young ticket examiner requested the old women to stay calm, and also reduced the fine. He said that since it was his mistake showing consideration towards them, he was ready to let go the mother, but they had to pay the reduced fine for at least two people, to which they did not agree. He remained again that he was not charging the fine for first class but for the second class which is less. He also informed that when they get down at the next station, there would be waiting ticket examiners who would surely charge them full amount for first class and he would have no say in that. On the other hand he would be scolded for being lenient. But they did not pay up even after a few passengers asked them to do so. Finally they got down at the next station, which was my stop too. I saw that the other ticket examiners on the platform caught them and stared arguing with them. I was behind time, and had had enough drama for the day, so didn’t wait to see the results. But since the mother had got herself involved, I don’t think it ended soon.
  • Early in the morning as the train reaches Virar station, people jump in to it, to catch seats. Now people outside Mumbai might find it difficult to visualize how this can be accomplished, but it is a trick every Mumbaikar must master, if he wants a seat(when a train has some left). Once I had dared enough to catch a moving train and got myself a window seat. An achievement equivalent to some of the highest national awards. A person sat opposite me keeping some space between him and the window. One more person sat next to him and the third person tried to fit himself in, considering the carrying capacity of the seat being 3, but couldn’t find enough space. By this time the train had come to a complete halt, and a school going kid came in the coach. He sat opposite to me, next to his father who had “reserved” the seat for his son, and the man who was trying to fit himself on the seat, was left without any space at all to rest his bottoms upon. He had taken a huge risk by jumping in, and now he didn’t have a seat in the entire coach, while the people who had jumped in after him were seated. He was angry and tried to mumble few things, but found it to be a waste of time an energy, along with starting the day on a bad note. So he just moved away and stood near the door. After sometime, the man sitting in front of me said something to his son, and the son went to this man at the door and offered the seat. But the man refused with as smile and everything was normal. The son alighted after few stations and the seat was occupied by another man. What happened to the man standing at the door(well, I don’t mean he died or committed suicide or something), I can’t say, as the train was crowded in next few stations, and I couldn’t see him. Had the father been sensible enough to offer his own seat to the man and himself stand for a while till his son went, a small but awkward situation, which was a potential tense situation, would have been avoided. But a cool tempered man, against whom some injustice has been committed, did not allow the situation to be tense. By the way, if you come to Mumbai for the first time, and see that seats are reserved for some friend who is yet to come, while other people stand, don’t try to lecture about rights and morality and sensibility and such things. You will loose the battle. This is the law of Mumbai trains.
  • Life and death is a part of our living. And the trains contribute a lot in balancing the equation. There have been incidences of a child being delivered on a moving train. But the instances where people are killed in some way or the other with a train involved, far outnumber the birth instances. Everyday someone is mowed down, or fall from an overcrowded train. People choose trains for suicides though that doesn’t guarantee instant, painless death. In some instances, the pain is high but the death refuses. Terrorist find the trains to be soft target to carry out their acts and have succeeded many times due to our lax security measures. One incident which I remember, was when a person was electrocuted while travelling on rooftop. There have been lots of awareness drives regarding the dangers of travelling on rooftops. But youngsters continue to do so. During a ride back home on a particular night, the train approached a station and we heard a loud bang and a big flash of light, lit up the entire area momentarily. At first I thought it was a bomb and my heart skipped a beat. But within seconds a burning smell engulfed the compartment, and we knew what it was. Two men, sitting on the roof were electrocuted by 25,000 volts of current carried by overhead wires. People rushed to see the burning men. I do not have the stomach for these kind of scenes and also did not want to spoil my appetite. Hence I remained on my seat. But there were people who took this opportunity to enter a short film contest on mobile.While as if an Irony of fate, while those men were passing to other life, the automated announcement system in the train was blurting out the prerecorded warning,”Overhead wires are charged with 25,000 volts of electricity. Do not travel on the roof tops as it is dangerous  to your life”. Within 20 minutes the corpse’s were taken away, and our onwards journey to the destination began again. The dead men were forgotten in no time.

That’s life. Life on a Mumbai Suburban Train.

Jan 062011
 

I stay with my family. 5 people living in one house. As years pass on, me and my wife feels that the house is bit crammed for space. We find it difficult to stay together, not in terms of personal relations, but in terms of space. Finally I decide to separate out. My family welcomes the decision. It will not only help me to find more space for my family, but will also make me independent in terms of decision making, and financial responsibilities. Me and my family are happy. Separation, a good decision.

My geographical state is in state turmoil. Some part of the population of this state is of the opinion that they should have in independent state. I am of similar opinion since I know the benefits of separation. I join the agitation actively, in support of one leader, who influences us with the idea that the much needed separate state can be formed by using different methods of agitation, wrong or otherwise. So after many petitions, agitations, hunger strikes, work strikes, property destruction and a loss of few innocent lives, we finally get the separate state we wanted. Our leader is elected as the chief minister of the state, by popular verdict through polls. Everyone is happy.
Separate state, a good decision.
…….for now.

Two years on, our chief minister lands in the nets of the CBI for a scam amounting to hundreds of crores. That was the climax, since the ministers of his cabinet were found to be highly corrupt during the last two years. A minister who lived in shanty prior to separation of the state, own a palatial bungalow in prime location. He also has my dream car, a Mercedes. Similar is the case with the entire cabinet. I, meanwhile, continue to stay at my house, paying off the loan I had availed, for the house. The interest rates have increased, so pay more now. The road tax has increased, but my scooter tires continue to wear at a higher rate, year on year, since the condition of the roads degrades as time goes by. I pay more maintenance charges in electric bills, but the street lamp in front of my house continues to sleep, as it did before separation of state. I look around. Nothing has changed. Taxes have increased in the name of funding the development, but the promised infrastructure has not come up. The living conditions have not improved, rather degraded. Everyone is dissatisfied. Except for the  ministers. I now realize that separation was just a farce. The real reason behind it was generation of income for a selected few.

I now realize the truth, but too late. If I had to live in a state full of scamsters, I was better off in the old state. I would get enough of them there. Why the separate state? Don’t you think that these ministers have picked up some tricks from the books of the British rulers, the policy of “Divide and Rule”. The only difference being that the British rulers helped India progress industrially and educationally, while they looted it.

Give me name of one state in India which has shone with noteworthy achievements after separation? The only achievements were scams and money laundering.

It’s for you all to decide whether a separate state is required to improve conditions? A separate state seems to be detrimental to the progress of our country.

Dec 312010
 

The recovery from one of the biggest financial crisis. The revelations by wikileaks. Rise to fame of Paul the octopus, and the fall of the greats at the FIFA world cup. 2G and 3G making waves in India, for all the wrong reasons. The 50th test century scored by the living legend of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar. The crowning of the youngest formula 1 champion. Death of Chinese hostages in Philippines. The Haiti earthquake.

2010, saw it all. Bared it all. And now it says goodbye.

Should we welcome 2011 with a happy wish? Why? This seems to be just another day!!

Nov 072010
 

India is a democratic republic. Democracy, the type of government followed in India, is defined as the government of the people, for the people and by the people. But with the way things are being run in India since independence, it has got all the wise and educated people of India thinking. Is democracy the best form of government?

As the US president Obama makes his trip to India, lots of talk is going on in the media about how these two nations can learn from each other about democracy. But is India really a successful democracy? When after sixty years of independence, we find 90% of the people below poverty line, can we say that democracy is the best form of government? I saw on tv an open session, with students questioning the US president about many issues including governance, ethics, religion and humanity. And I felt an urge to be there and ask a simple question. Though I don’t understand why I should be asking him this question, I would ask, “Which, out of democracy, communism, socialism, monarchy, dictatorship to name a few, is the best type of govenrnment?”

We are better of without dictatorship, since that means our hand are tied, legs are bound with invisible chains, effecively dissolving our freedom. Communism is very detrimental to progress. Monarchy is something we fought against for 150 years. And democracy is a combination of all these types of government, a government by many, though many’s a crowd. It does have a feel good feeling in it though.

So what choices are we left? Should we stick with lesser of all evils? Or go back to the old anarchy, since no form of organised government seems to work?

A fellow blogger Magali, has written a very thought provoking article about this. Read it here.

Oct 102010
 

At first, he didn’t mind the barking dogs. It was a daily affair. He had somehow gotten used to it. The dogs didn’t insult him, because they were just the lesser intelligent species. It was the humans whose regular insults, and rejections were the hindrance to his normal life. He was looked upon as an outcast and never allowed in the high class vicinity. All he was trying to do was salvage something useful from the rich folk’s garbage. But a ragpicker is what he is, and it seemed that even these stray dogs had understood that.

He picked up a stone lying on the sidewalk, and threw it at one of the dog. But the dog was quick to avoid it by stepping aside and it landed with a metallic clunk in the garbage bin behind the dog. He picked another one, and his shot was on the target. A loud moan from the dog, was enough to disperse the entire pack away. Left alone, exhausted by the noon sun, he sat in the shade of a tree nearby, to have a gulp from his water bottle, and think about his life as usual.

It was an empty neighborhood road, as the people preferred to stay in their cool houses. Except for a black car, which slowed down near him, but didn’t stop. It went ahead down the street, and took a turn in the right hand alley ahead. When will I get to ride in such a car, he thought. Never, was his answer to himself. With the kind of money I get by scavenging these bins, I am sure……….wait!! Something is amiss. What is it exactly? He reversed his mind to a few moments, may minutes back. Something was out of place, he knew. A car had passed by, nothing unusual. The dogs….dogs were barking………he had stoned one………….first stone missed and hit inside the bin with a metallic sound….Metallic sound!!

His mind rushed faster then his feet. What was the metallic object. Plastic garbage bins don’t make metallic sound. My be another table lamp he could sell as junk? Or something else more useful? The 40 feet wide street somehow seemed miles before he reached the bin. A look inside revealed a black garbage bag, nothing more important for him. But the stone that he had thrown was on that bag and he needed to look further for the source of the sound. He lifted the bag to find something in it, something light, and rectangular boxy shaped. He remove it out of the bag, and it was a metallic briefcase, the kind used by scientists or engineers to store precious equipment. It was surprising, because people never threw briefcases in garbage bins.

The case was not heavy, so he assumed that it was empty. But he couldn’t get it opened, as it had a combination lock. A briefcase like this will surely fetch me a couple of dollars, he thought. But he had to get out of this neighborhood. Anyone could sight him and would want to reclaim back the case. He walked a few yards down the street, and took a left turn in to an alley. It was the quickest way to his place. After a few quick paces of excitement through the alley, he heard a voice from behind. “There he is”, someone said. Two pair of footsteps, broke into a run, following him. He looked back with confusion in his eyes. Two men, fit to be wrestlers, were following him, and had just broken in to a run, to catch up with him., or may be catch him. Many a times he had been shooed away. Youngsters and kids had scared him in such fashion. But never had grown up men followed him.

His instincts for survival overpowered his body and mind, and he broke in to a run. He had an advantage. The advantage of knowing this alleyway like the back of his back. His bare feet gripped the cobbled path much better then the leather shoes of those men. He knew that the right turn after the next left would lead them all to a 3 way junction, and a little luck would confuse those men to a wrong path. He took the next left turn, and then the right in few steps. He headed straight for the path leading to his home. He didn’t look back. The sound of the following steps subsided. It had worked. He had shrugged them off. But there was no slowing down until he had reached home.

In due time he reached his shack, on the outskirts of the town. Only when he had settled down in his chair, the broken one which he loved so dearly, he realised that he had been carrying a briefcase all along. It struck like a lightening that those men were after the case, not after him. He racked his brain and remembered that one man was sitting on the passenger’s side in the car that had passed on the road while he was resting. He was good at remembering faces. He had just one look at the man in the car, but he remembered that the man had a big scar on his left cheek, the kind made by a knife in a fight. One of the men following him in the alley, had exactly the same features and the same scar on his cheek. His mind raced faster. The car had slowed down and seemed like it was about to stop, but had not. It had slowed down exactly near the garbage bin. They were supposed to pick up this case!! Oh My God!! This case was valuable. There was something important in it. Something that could change his life. Was it money? Were there drugs? Was it some vital information? He had to open it up to know.

He brought out the crowbar, one of the few objects that he had scavenged, but not sold. With quite some effort he was able to break loose the lock. The briefcase top lid flew open and he found himself staring at few packs of 100$ bills and a small black pouch. He had never seen so much money all together. In fact, if he counted all the money he had earned in his life, it would turn out to be a small amount as compared to what he was looking at. He quickly counted the number of packets and the number of bills in each packet. A quick calculation informed him that he was richer by 50,000$. That wouldn’t help him move to the king’s neighborhood, but he would be comfortable throughout his life.

His vision caught the black pouch again. What was it doing there. It couldn’t carry currency, so small it was. May be loose change. He picked up the pouch. It had a draw string which tied around its mouth to seal it. He carefully removed the string, all the while feeling something with the shape of small stones. His fortunes opened up with the pouch. On emptying the contents on his palm, he found himself holding few transparent, colorless stones. Diamonds!! He couldn’t believe his eyes. So this was the valuable thing that the men were after. Yes, they surely were diamonds. The couldn’t be anything else. He saw himself booking the Rolls Royce, the silver ghost which he had a fancy for.

Suddenly, reality struck him. He was a no-one in terms of earning such a huge fortune. He had no source of income. He couldn’t sell these diamonds in open market, as the government would notice. So would the people who were after this case. He couldn’t deposit this money in to his only bank account, as that would be noticed too. He didn’t know if the money was marked, or hot. He was lucky enough to acquire such a fortune, but was not in position to use it all of a sudden. He was in a fix.

He had to find a solution to this. He knew a pawnbroker who bought from him regularly. But this was not something junk. Nevertheless, the pawnbroker was the only option he had at the time. He took some time, relaxed, and thought it out. He would shift to some other town to spend his life. He could spend his money there. But he had to evaluate the value of the diamonds at the pawnbroker. He couldn’t risk showing them to anyone else in the town. It was evening, and if he started now, he could make it to the pawnshop before closing time.

With that thought, he hid the case with all the cash in a well hidden place, which he had used in past for his precious things. He took the pouch of diamonds in the inner pockets of his pants to keep them safe. He took out his spare dress, so that he wouldn’t be recognized if those men who had followed him, happened to pass him. All the while along the road he kept whistling at his fortune. He had never expressed happiness so openly throughout his life. All the while along the road he kept on planning and replanning his future. It was near closing time when he reached the pawnbroker. As there was no one in the shop, he showed one stone, which he had taken out of the pouch before entering the shop, to the pawnbroker. He also informed that given a good price, there were more stones from where this one came. With a glitter in his eyes, the pawnbroker examined the stone. He said that it was a diamond, but he wouldn’t know the value until the next day. as it was closing time. The pawnbroker asked him to come back the next day at noon time, when he would have the exact price for the stone.

With a boost to his joy, and his whistle, he walked the road back to his house. The next day, he started early to reach the pawnbroker. The road was isolated as usual. Along the way, he sensed that he was being followed. Looking back he saw few men walking their own separate directions, nothing unusual. Along his way he reached an isolated place with no houses on the roadside. The road itself was empty. His sight landed on a tree at some distance. He saw someone standing by its shade. As he came closer, he recognized the person to be his pawnbroker. At that moment two men came out of an alleyway ahead of him. These were the men who had chased him yesterday. He turned back to run. There we three more men standing in a group, staring at him, as if waiting for him to make a move. He had nowhere to go. A chilly realization ran up his spine. The pawnbroker had sold him out. That was the reason why he had asked him to come the next day. A trap was setup for him. There was no escape. The two men behind him came closer and put a mask on his face. Everyone of those five men tried to hold his one body part or the other. They pinned him to the ground. One of them asked in a stern voice, ”where is it?” He did not reply. He thought that his silence would buy him freedom. Maybe some vehicle would come down the road, which would scare these people. But he was wrong. He felt a heavy leather boot lodge in his stomach with a heavy blow. More blows started raining. He started feeling the pain. He wanted to shout, but couldn’t. He tried say something, but his mouth seemed to have lost the voice. He felt helpless, and pleaded to God that this be a dream.

The kicks stopped. Then he heard few dogs barking. He opened his eyes. The mask was gone. The afternoon sun looked straight in his eyes, blinding him for a while. A few feet away, he saw stray dogs barking at him. He looked around. The men were nowhere to be seen. There was no pawnbroker in sight. A realization of joy came upon him. It was all a dream. There was no briefcase. There was no money, no diamonds. Sigh!! But this was all a dream. He wouldn’t be found murdered on the sidewalk. He got up happily only to be barked upon by the dogs more loudly and vigorously. He picked up a stone and aimed for one dog. The dog dodged it and it landed in the garbage bin with a metallic clunk. He picked up another stone and aimed at the dog with success. And then he froze!! Déjà vu!!

A chill ran up his spine as the metallic clunk reverberated in his ears, while a black car came towards him down the road, slowing down.

Sep 272010
 

Do you think you have that knack for writing, but didn’t have any motivation to go ahead? Here’s something that might be a booster.

I always felt that I should be writing something. Lots of thoughts in my mind. Few ideas. But never took out some time to pen it down. Then a gradual introduction to blogging by my friend Jimmy, unleashed the crude writer in me. I stared blogging. And somewhere during the time, I wrote a letter to my favorite technology magazine, IC Chip. Guess what, even though my letter was nothing of revolutionary kind, it was featured as the star letter of the month(July). And I was promised a gift hamper from them. I received it today. And look what it contained!!

Gifts from chip magazine for letter published

A Multimedia keyboard, two laptop mice and a desktop mouse. And a set of earphones with cool pouch!!

The gifts, though may no be much in cost, are of great value to me, as this is the first time I have been rewarded for writing.

So do you have it in you? If you think so, start writing, and you will be rewarded suitably!!

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