Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Birth Of A Railfan

Trains- Tell this word to any normal Mumbaikar and the first sight that will come to his mind is of jam packed dirty brown and cream metal boxes that run up and down the city- yes, the Local trains of Mumbai, the Lifeline of Mumbai. But these locals are just a drop in the vast ocean called Indian Railways- an ocean consisting of thousands of trains, stations, bridges, tunnels, and what not. This is the ocean that I am passionate about!

I have no idea when did this passion actually begin because my first memories of love for trains goes back to as far as I remember.. right from the time when i was a little kid, I used to run every evening to the tracks to admire the Rajdhani Express blast at high speed. It used to give me a high! Not just this, every time i went to Valsad, my native, I used to spend evenings at an unused platform on the outskirts of the town, mostly used by people for evening walks, to sit and watch the trains of enormous variety- from the slow packed passengers to fast running Expresses and from heavily puffing mighty long goods and tanker loads to the colorful container rakes pass by. There was something mystical about it, something that cannot be expressed in words that used to bring me back asking for more. But my 'passion' was limited to just that- just seeing and admiring my favourite beasts and going back to normal chores at the end of the day.

That was until a couple of years ago when while surfing the net I stumbled upon this amazing site called the Indian Railways Fan Club or IRFCA which is essentially a group consisting of more than 6000 members having one thing in common- Love and Passion for anything and everything about trains and railways. Essentially a discussion forum, the site encourages its members to share their railway experiences, pictures and videos of trains and railway journeys which are then seen and appreciated by other crazy nuts! This site provided me a platform to converge two of my biggest passions- trains and photography. And this is what sowed the seeds of the desire to follow and capture trains and railways on camera- an activity that IRFCA calls "Railfanning".

It was only after coming in contact with IRFCA that I began to get more interested in understanding and appreciating the workings, operations, technicalities and other aspects of trains and railways rather than just admiring them as models walking down the ramp! It completely changed my approach towards my favourite trains. A small example will make this point clear. Till recently, like all other normal people even I used to consider railway engines (or 'locos' in technically correct words) as just a 'thing' connected at the begining of a train to pull it but after going through talks and facts at IRFCA, for the first time I realised that there is an amazing variety of locos in India, each having its own specialities, highs and lows, and interesting history associated with them, and also the fact that they are not randomly roaming creatures but well organised beasts very easily identifiable by simple 3 letter codes clearly written on them which reveal everything about them. Slowly and steadily, as I got to know more and more about them, I began falling more and more in love with them! And this is just the Tip of the Iceberg. As time passed, I began to click pictures of trains whenever I got a chance, began to look out for locos specifically and kept a tab on what's happening around, began to actively take part in discussions with other crazy nuts out there... I began to crave for more..
more pictures, more information and trivia, more experiences

And ofcourse, a very significant contribution of IRFCA was that it brought me in contact with people of various age groups-from 15 year old kids to 80 year old veterans, people from as far as bangalore and Thiruvananthpuram to as near as Borivali and Dadar but all with same passion and interest! And thus, after years of nameless wandering, my hobby gave me a new tag, a new identity- "Railfan"! And this is not the end. This is the begining! Begining of an exciting journey into depths of my favourite hobby and I hav miles to go......

And yes, one final point. I am not endorsing IRFCA nor does IRFCA give me any money for writing this article! This can be considered as my acknowledgment to the substantial role played by IRFCA in making me fully involved in pursuing what I love doing!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Journey Through FoodieLand

   Someone rightly said that "Way to a Man's Heart Is Through His Stomach". And if you wanna reach my heart, here is a comprehensive list of 'short-cuts'!

   Here I present some of the Best hangout zones for a varied variety of delicacies, each one of them famous (and in some cases, not so famous) for something or the other. While the assortment is enormous, one thing which is constant about all these foodie hotspots is the fact that I have personally tried and loved each and every speciality mentioned.

    So, Lets begin the roller coaster ride into the Foodie World... Here comes the ever-increasing list of hotspots that have captured my heart through my stomach!

In Mumbai...

* Pav Bhaji at SARDAR PAV BHAJI, Nana Chowk, Tardeo, Mumbai.

* Vada Pao and Bhajji Pao outside KIRTI COLLEGE, Off Cadell Road, Shivaji Park, Mumbai.

* Softy and Sundaes in Waffle cones at SEVEN ELEVEN, Maheshwari Udyan, King's Circle.

* Pani Puri at ELCO MARKET, Hill Road, Bandra, Mumbai.

* Pizza and Pasta at PITA WICH, Outside Malad Railway Station, Malad (W), Mumbai.

* Veg Chinese delicacies at NANCY'S, Opp. Milap Cinema, Kandivali (W), Mumbai.

* Punjabi Dishes at HOTEL VISHWA BHARATI, Opp. Mulund Station, Mulund (W), Mumbai.

* Variety of Dosas especially Paneer Chilly Dosa opposite THAKUR CINEMA, Kandivali (E), Mumbai.

* Ice-Cream in Waffle Biscuits at K RUSTOMS, Brabourne Stadium, Churchgate, Mumbai.

* Masala Papad outside INDRAPRASTH SHOPPING CENTRE, S.V.Road, Borivali (W), Mumbai.

* Chocolate Cakes at RIBBONS AND BALLOONS at Maheshwari Udyan, King's Circle, Mumbai.

* Pizzas and Sandwiches at OVENFRESH, Ranade Road, Shivaji Park, Dadar, Mumbai.

* Dosas and Idli with Filter Coffee Opposite SOUTH INDIAN TEMPLE, Matunga (C.R.), Mumbai.

* Malai Gola Opposite Milap Cinema, Kandivali (W), Mumbai.

More to Come later...

Now Let's See Some Out Of Mumbai too...

* Vada Pao at Platform 2-3 of VALSAD Railway Station, Valsad, Gujarat.

* Chhole Bhature at AMBALA Railway Station, Punjab.

* Veg. Puff at Puff Man, Ellora Park, Vadodara, Gujarat.

* Gujarati Kathiyawadi food at HOTEL KRISHNA, On NH-8, Valsad-Dharampur Junction, Gujarat.

* Aloo Poha on Platform 1 at KOTA Railway Station, Rajasthan.

* Cold Cocoa, a unique Chocolate Drink, All Over VADODARA city.

* Traditional Gujarati Food at Hotel MADHULI, Valsad, Gujarat.

Keep Checking This List.. It Only Keeps Getting Longer..........


Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Right Reservation Formula

  Today, India stands divided. On one hand is the Central Government going ahead with implementing caste Based reservations in institutes of Excellence like IIT, IIM etc; a brainchild of the myopic Human Resource Minister, Mr. Arjun Singh. On the other hand stands the student community, the future of India, dreaming of making a Progressive Developed India, united in cause, completely against dividing India on basis of Caste.
But the main question that matters is- Is there a way out? Yes, there is one. And one which both- the Government keen on introducing "Reservation" in any form as well as the students who do not want their hard work to go down the drain with their seats going to 'Reserved' students. Here is the plan in short-

   The Government introduces 50% reservation for Backward Class students in all schools, public as well as the private ones, at entry level ie at standard 1. This will ensure that all students from deprived sections also get equla opportunity to get into the so-called prestigious private schools. After having access to same infrastructure, same teachers and same crowd as the richer students, at the end of ten years when the entire batch clears SSC/ICSE exams, there will be no way to identify which student is 'open' and which is 'reserved'.

   If the Government's argument that for preparing for competitive exams like CET/IIT JEE/CAT, the backward class students dont get access to private tution classes which the 'privileged' students get, the Government should start specialised training classes only for SC/ST/OBC students to prepare them to take on the prestigious entrance exams. This move will certainly cost only a fraction of the cost the Government is doing on increasing seats and the result of this move will be that all students- open or reserved, will have a level playing field to show their strength at the entrance exams. After this, there is absolutely no need to reserve any seat for any category of student as no one is "under-privileged" at this stage. All seats can be filled purely on merit and all those 'reserved' students who have got their basics right will be able to secure a seat for themselves.

   This move will ensure that only the capable 'Reserved' students get into IIT/IIM. This move is about giving the weaker section students the right weapons in their hands and preparing them for the fight and win over the enemy rather than giving them backdoor entry into enemy territory. This will also ensure that the Best Institutes have only the Best students in their campuses thereby creating a positive environment for the teachers as well as the students. Also, it will save the lives of scores of students who get into these high-profile institutes just because they have an easy access available inspite of knowing that they are not ready to face the tough times ahead, get entangled in the stress accompanying the life at prestigious instititutes, lose interest in life and end up committing suicides, thereby ruining their own and their family's lives.

   How we all wish that our Government had the kind of people who could think in a similar fashion and foresee the overall growth and progress of India that is dependent to a great extent on the bright students of India rather than just wasting their time in votebank politics trying to pacify their vote-banks and in the process leading India to an impending disaster!

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My World...My Views by The Blue Indian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.