Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Five of 2008

Ending the year on a high- Five things from 2008 that we would love to remember:

1. IPL

The Indian Premier League (IPL) totally changed the way cricket was played, and viewed. Short and exciting Twenty20 format providing the adrenaline-rush, cheerleaders, and Bollywood beauties adding the glamour quotient and real big money on offer made sure the entire nation was hooked on to it till late nights. And it was total paisa-vasool stuff. Who can forget Harbhajan-Sreesanth slap-show and Preity Zinta's jadoo-ki-jhappi antics working wonders for her team! By the way, just for the record, Shane Warne's One-man-army Rajasthan Royals won.

2. Chandrayaan

India aimed for the moon (quite literally) and got there too, with absolute precision. No technical glitches, no reschedulings, just clinically perfect flight taking the Indian Tricolor (and a dozen scientific equipments too) to the Moon marked a begining of new era- India had joined the elite club of just five nations to have undertaken a successful moon mission. Hats off to ISRO!

3. Tata Nano

Agreed the first car is not yet out on the road, but Tata kickstarted the project that aims to give the Indian aam-aadmi a gaadi of their own- the Rs 1 Lakh Tata Nano. After hitting a major roadblock in the form of Mamta Banerjee in Singur, Tata took the smart decision of shifting lock, stock and barrel to Sanand in Gujarat rather than giving up the project.

4. Olympic Gold

After decades of wait, India finally managed an Olympic Gold Medal when Abhinav Bindra shot his way to the podium in Beijing. This also happened to be the most successful Olympics for India with the boxers bringing in bronze medals as well. Ofcourse the shameful dressing goof-up at the Opening Ceremony was forgotten after this!

5. The Common Man Awakens

The most memorable event of 2008 is definitely the Common Man of India waking up from indifference and taking a stand for his rights. Be it the simple Right to Information Act, inspiration from A Wednesday or the collective anger and frustration post 26/11, the citizens of India have sent across a strong message to the neta-log: Enough is Enough!

Let's hope the flame keeps burning in 2009 bringing about a positive change in our lives!

Wishing everyone a safe, happy and prosperous New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Light at the End of Tunnel

Genre: Travel

I get into an elevator that takes me to a huge concourse below. I get my token and swipe it against the sensor. The gate opens and allows me in. I take the escalator further down. Once there, within a minute, a four-coach train quietly enters from one of the tunnels and comes to a smooth halt. The automatic glass doors open and I enter the air-conditioned coach. Within half a minute, the doors close and we speed off into the darkness of the tunnel.

Seems straight from a sci-fi Hollywood movie? It is not. Welcome to Delhi Metro!

Clean, convenient, cheap, classy- just some of the adjectives that can describe this modern day wonder that has totally changed the way Delhi travels. And how! Ask any old-time Delhi-ite how much time, money and effort would it take a tourist new to the city to go from Akshardham near Indraprastha to Chandni Chowk at the other end of the city in the evening hours and he would be flooded with images of rickshaw-drivers trying to fish out exorbitant fares, shabby Blueline buses prowling across the streets like roadside monsters, red-light wielding neta-log holding the traffic to ransom at will, bumper-to-bumper traffic spewing out noxious fumes and finally he would just suggest that the tourist gives up this plan and go somewhere else. But not anymore. This is what I did- board the Metro from Indraprastha, cruise over Pragati Maidan on the elevated tracks, alight at Rajiv Chowk underground, take the connecting service headed to Vishwavidyalaya from another Metro line running right below the earlier one and intersecting it, alight at Chandni Chowk station, take the escalator up and bingo! I was right in the middle of the bustling bazaar in 20 minutes flat! That too in air-conditioned comfort for a meagre Rs 17!

Delhi Metro has not only made travelling easier but also brought about a paradigm shift in the general behaviour of the travelling junta. At Rajiv Chowk (which is nothing but the famous Connaught Place renamed to satisfy some political bigwigs) station, I found dozens of passengers standing calmly in queues in front of markings on the platform showing the location of every door of every coach of the Metro train, waiting for their turn to board after the alighting passengers have made their way out. A bigger pleasant shock awaited at Chandni Chowk where no less than five hundred office-goers were waiting in a single serpentine queue extending from the underground concourse, up the stairs, right upto road level, for their turn to swipe their Smart Cards and enter the Metro. No line-breaking, no shouting, no nagging!

These scenes brought out an interesting question- can this happen in Mumbai? And my answer is- Highly unlikely! There are reasons why I feel so-

Firstly the amount of crowds that Mumbai Metro will have to deal with (the day it comes into existence) is far more and densely concentrated compared to Delhi. While Delhi is spread out in all directions and as a result the population is spread out, Mumbai is a narrow strip of land with all businesses tucked away down south. As a result, almost the entire traffic will be jostling on the all-important north-south corridor virtually choking up Churchgate and CST Metro stations, if ever they are made that is. Also worth noting is the fact that Mumbai is a city that never sleeps. So while at Chawri Bazar, I found my Metro train stopping with not a single passenger alighting and boarding at 9:45pm, I do not see this happening at ANY Mumbai Metro station at any time of the day!

The second (probably amusing to outsiders) reason that may be detrimental to Mumbai Metro emulating the Delhi model is the fact that Mumbaikars are born restless. They are used to jumping into trains even before it can stop, grabbing seats in seconds and jumping off the locals at their destinations the moment the train enters the platform. In fact, I myself got frustrated on my first Metro journey when the train came to a halt at New Delhi Metro station and for five seconds the doors did not open, even wondering "Why is the bloody door not opening?" only to realise that this is the norm on the Metro!

A third, and possibly trivial reason why Mumbai Metro may never reach the standards set by Delhi Metro is the fact that while Delhi Metro runs on state-of-the-art trains from Bombardier, Germany, Mumbai Metro is to run with cheap Made in China coaches. The notoriety of both- Chinese products and Reliance makes me skeptical, though I would love to see Ambanibhai proving me wrong!

It is said that strict policing on Delhi Metro has brought about this remarkable change in passenger behaviour there. I so much hope the same happens in Mumbai too, though it seems too much to ask for. But there is hope. I am banking on only one factor- If junglee Delhi can do it, why can't my Mumbai?
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PS
: The photos (from Top to Bottom) show 1) Underground concourse of New Delhi Metro Station, 2) A Metro train going towards Central Secretariat on the 'Red Line' enters New Delhi, 3) Interiors of a Delhi Metro train running from Indraprastha to Dwarka on the 'Blue Line', 4) A 'Yellow Line' train speeds off from Chandni Chowk station.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shame on You, Delhi!

Genre: Current Affairs

Just when I was thinking that India is united in grief after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, I happened to visit North India for a week and got a taste of the Delhi reaction to Mumbai attacks.

Sample these-

Hindustan Times, Delhi. 10th Dec. 2008. Page 8. Letters to the Editor.
* Mumbai is over-reacting to this incident. The kind of reaction seen in the past week are childish and immature.

* Starting non-cooperation movement against the Government is not the right thing to do. It is wrong to blame the Government for the attacks.

* How can the citizens of Mumbai say that they will not pay taxes? Why don't they realize that this will only hamper the development of other parts of India?

Yeah, without the money from Mumbai, how will the development of Delhi take place? No wonder these guys are worried!

Hindustan Times, Delhi. 13th Dec 2008. Page 8. Dialogue.
"Hey, the people of Mumbai organised a human chain to show their unity against terrorists. What a great thing to do!"

"Yeah, I read about it. I thought it was some sort of gay rights parade."

Yes, this is the chauvinist Delhi. Taking out candle light march at India Gate to get justice for Jessica Lal is fine but Mumbai getting united against terror is compared with gay rights parade.

Shame on you, Delhi!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Scare

Genre: Life

As I took the 4:52 Churchgate Fast from Malad, I found that everyone around me was headed to the same destination that I was- Gateway of India. The occasion was to assemle at Gateway at 6:00 to show solidarity to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and raise a united voice against the incompetent government and from the response in the train itself I could sense the magnitude of the event.

I got down at Dadar from where my friend Jessica was to accompany me to CST- one of the sites of attack, before heading to Gateway. However, at the last minute I was informed that my classmates Alice, Jennifer and her friend Rosa were also joining in and we had to wait at Dadar itself for everyone to assemble. We waited, first for Jessica who arrived as late as 6:00 and then for Rosa who met us only at 6:15.

The 6:21 CST Fast arrived at Dadar almost totally empty and I asked the girls to accompany me but they insisted on travelling by the Ladies compartment. Alone in the General compartment, I was enjoying the evening breeze standing at the door when my phone first rang just as the train departed from Byculla. Mom called in to inform that two bombs had been recovered from CST station and were defused by the Bomb Squad just minutes back. Immediately I took the decision to abort the Gateway plan and return home as soon as possible. But that was not my only concern. There were four girls with me and I had to ensure their safety as much as mine. Without a second thought, I called up Jessica- the most understanding among the present and informed her about the turn of events and our further plans and hung up hoping that she would deal with the other girls.

Just as our train halted outside Sandhurst Road due to a red signal, Jessica called up frantically informing me that the girls were getting panicky and even thinking of stopping the train midway. I don't know how that would have helped but girls being girls, you don't confront them on logic in times of crisis! Thankfully better sense prevailed and the train was allowed to pull into CST on time. I had informed the girls to vacate the Ladies compartment and rush back to the General compartment where I was waiting and they obliged. Our plan was to stay put in the same train and return to Dadar. The train started its return journey in five minutes as 6:43 Titwala Fast and the regulars sensing the tension on the girls' faces suggested that we get down at Byculla itself as alighting at Dadar in an evening peak hour Titwala Fast would be a Herculean task.

As the train pulled into Byculla, we hurriedly got off and the girls, led by Jessica and Alice ran out of the station premises on the west side. Byculla West is not an area anyone of us is familiar with and hence I suggested going to the East instead from where we could get buses to Dadar. But the girls, fearing getting caught ticketless on the Foot Overbridge, objected. After ten minutes of deliberations, I enquired with the policemen at the station who, considering the situation at hand, allowed us to cross the railway bridge without tickets and go to the East side.

Once on the highway, it was time for second round of deliberations. Jessica did not want to take a train ahead because she feared Dadar station might be bombed anytime. Alice was also against train travel, not due to bomb scare but because she believed she would not be able to alight at Dadar in the crowd. Jennifer was adamant we take the train and was willing to take up the responsibilty of making the girls safely alight at Dadar. Rosa, a stranger amongst us, watched the spectacle quietly, willing to take the route decided by majority.

This was proving to be quite an experience in disaster management! Finally it was decided, though not unanimously, to go back to the station and take the train to Dadar. While myself and Jennifer were keen to reach Dadar at the earlist, Jessica and Alice were still skeptical. Thankfully Jennifer persuaded all the girls to board the Ladies coach of an Ambarnath Slow while I got into the General compartment. Alice spent the train journey sitting uncomfortably, still scared and unsure, while Jessica prayed for her own safety all the way till Dadar.

Thankfully the ride to Dadar was uneventful and contrary to prior fears, the girls managed to alight comfortably. I escorted Jessica safely out of Dadar station from the backdoor avoiding the crowd she badly feared and returned to continue my journey back home. It was then that a fellow commuter got an sms who broadcasted it to the entire coach in Marathi- "CST वर दोन bomb सापडले! Police ने defuse केले!" Without wasting a second, a voice spoke out from behind- "Defuse झाले ना? आता काही tension नाही! ठीक आहे रे! " This is Mumbai! Life goes on!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Maharashtra Government cha Maths

Genre: Blabber

Maharashtra Government seems to be using a number system that is totally unfathomable to common citizens like us. See this two examples-

1) On Thursday, the central government dispatched 80 NSG Commandos to Mumbai to fight the terrorists followed by another batch of 90 Commandos. When Maharashtra CM was asked how many Commandos were pressed into service, his reply- 350.

So, in Maharashtra Government Number System,
80 + 90 = 350

2) On Sunday, Mumbai Fire Brigade Chief declared that 160 dead bodies were recovered from Taj, 60 from CST station and 10 from Leopold Cafe. Even after this, in the press conference, Maharashtra CM and his Deputy stressed repeatedly that the total number of casualties in the Mumbai attacks is 172.

So, in Maharashtra Government Number System,
160 + 60 + 10 = 172

Earlier I used to doubt our neta log are illiterate, now I am sure!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Now What Next?

Genre: Blabber

Mumbai has been finally liberated from the dozen-odd terrorists who held the city to ransom for three full days. Though they called themselves "Deccan Mujaheddin" (Raj must be happy- see they included the local culture in their name), the evidence is enough for even a blind donkey to tell that Pakistan is involved in the attacks. So, the obvious question on everyone's mind is the same- "Now, what next?"

All the customary "strong steps will be taken" bullshit ain't gonna work anymore. It will take just two bold steps to end this forever-

Step 1: Nuke the Pakis. Five nuclear warheads...on five Agni/Prithvi/Akash missiles... fire simultaneously... Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan. Don't give them any time to react. A conventional war against Pakistan will only result in Mumbai and/or Delhi being nuked by the gobar-headed donkeys who control Pakistan Army. Don't give them this chance at all. It has to be One Shot on the Dot and game over. Na rahega Pakistan, na rahenge terrorists. As far as US reaction is concerned, there is no need to fear- Uncle Sam is too busy trying to get itself out of the quicksand of economic depression. There is absolutely no way they can afford to get to war with India as a "revenge" for their best friend Pakistan.

Step 2: Catch hold of ALL politicians, ruling and opposition (this shouldn't be difficult at all considering the fact that half of them can't even walk on their own, forget running away or hiding), hole them up in one big room (Parliament House will do) and blow it off! It's high time to undertake India's biggest pest-control operation.

India needs a messiah. Who will it be???

Meet The F_ckers

Genre: Current Affairs

Enough has been said about the bastards who held Mumbai to ransom for three days starting this Wednesday and all the abuses one can use are cumulatively not enough to describe them so I will not get into that. What has been more shameful and irritating are the actions and statements by the vote-hungry assholes who rule India. Check this out-

On Thursday, 27th Nov, in the Press Conference, Maharashtra State Government issues a statement - "We were not told by the Central Government that such an attack is going to happen. So, we were unprepared."
Ok boss. Point taken. Next time onwards we shall ask the terrorists to send an official notification of every planned attack to you seven working days in advance so that you can be prepared.

The same evening Narendra Modi says that Gujarat ATS had warned Mumbai ATS about a possible strike in Mumbai seven days ago. Caught red-handed, in a desparate attempt to save their reputation, on Saturday, 29th Nov, in another Press Conference, RR Patil proudly announces "We had intelligence information that such an attack may happen since the last two weeks."
If that is the case, what was the Maharashtra Government doing? Sitting over the information and hatching eggs?

The Central Government is no better. On Thursday, Mannu Singh and Advani visited the attack sites in two separate chartered planes while the 200 NSG Commandoes were made to wait for two hours because "there were no planes available at Delhi airport". Finally an ancient IL-76 plane which took a grand three hours to fly from Delhi to Mumbai was assigned to these commandoes.
What priorities!

As if all this was not enough, that ass RR Patil even dares to say- "Bade bade shehero me aise chhote haadse hote rehte hai".
Inspired by DDLJ? If this is a "small incident", what is big?

When the media and citizens of India asked Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to step down, he blatantly says- "There is no need for me or RR Patil to resign. Nothing that demands such a step has happened."
Yeah right. After all, 200 innocent people getting killed is not big enough a reason to give up a chair that is the gateway to earning hundreds of crores of rupees.

Finally, a ray of hope came when Mannu Singh declared that "strong steps will be taken against Pakistan" but that vanished the moment the 'strong steps' were elaborated. The steps to be taken are as follows-

1) Indian Government is going to request Pakistan to stop terrorist activities.
How nice! And what do they expect? Like a goody goody little kid, Pakistan will reply- "Ok sir. Give me one chocolate and I will not do this from tomorrow."???

2) India is thinking of stopping cross-border trade and terminating bus and train services to Pakistan.
What the hell is there to think in this? Anyways the only major commodity that India gets from Pakistan through cross-border trade are terrorists.

Now I do not know whom I hate more- the terrorists or the politicans.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dark Reality

Genre: Current Affairs

After spending enormous time, efforts and public money on creating a feeling of hatred for everything North Indian, especially Bihari, Maharashtra Government has has been hit by the perfect irony- the state’s thermal power plants have coal stocks that can meet only one day’s power generation requirement! So, unless Maharashtra's six thermal power plants continue to receive a steady supply of coal on a daily basis to meet daily needs, they will have to shut down eventually resulting in a complete grid collapse!

So, where is this daily supply of coal coming from? Like it or hate it- Bihar and Jharkhand! Trainloads of coal from North-East India's Coal Belt is keeping Maharashtra "power"ful. Perfect time for Biharis to hit back at Maharashtra- stop these coal trains from going to Maharashtra for just one day and see the fun - total Maharashtra in darkness!

Alas! Lalu is no Raj Thackrey!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Where is the Money?

Genre: Current Affairs

USA is crying hoarse about wealth being swept away, Germany has already declared recession, Indian investors are crying over all the money being drained out... if everybody in the world is losing money, where is all the money going?

The Large Hadron Collider is to blame. The fear has come true. The dreaded Black Hole has indeed been created and all the money of the world is being sucked into it!

Amen!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Divide And Rule!

Genre: Current Affairs

All views expressed herein are entirely mine and it is not necessary that you may agree to the same. Healthy discussion through Comments is welcome, however personal attacks will not be tolerated and such comments shall be summarily deleted. If you are not comfortable with what is written here, please use the Back button on your browser.

This is a three-part inter-related post.

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MAHARASHTRA V/S OUTSIDERS
Justify Full

Some steps that need to be immediately taken to protect Maharashtra from North Indians and other Outsiders-

* Ban all Hindi movies from cinema halls across Maharashtra since most of the actors such as Amitabh Bachchan and actresses like Preity Zinta and Priyanka Chopra working in those films are North Indians.

* Ban the sale of all Maruti cars in Maharashtra since they are manufactured in Gurgaon in North India by Outsiders.

* Cancel all long distance trains from Maharashtra, including Rajdhani Express since it plies to Delhi which is in North India. All trains starting from stations in Maharashtra must necessarily terminate within Maharashtra so that no Outsiders can enter Maharashtra.

* Cancel all flights from airports in Mumbai, Pune and Aurangabad whose destinations do not fall in Maharashtra. All international flights should be cancelled too.

* Let Mumbai reel under eight hours of power cuts daily. Stop Reliance Power to buy electricity from Meghalaya which is in North India.

* Demolish all temples of Lord Krishna in Maharashtra since he was from Vrindavan in North India.

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SOME QUESTIONS FOR MR. RT

If you justify your son studying in Bombay Scottish and choosing French over Marathi saying "it is a matter of his personal choice", why are the shopkeepers across Mumbai forced to write their signboards in Marathi? What about their personal choice?

If you are so much against outsiders, why do you use a foreign made Ford Endaveour? Why can't you use a Made In Maharashtra car?

If you call Rahul Raj who threatened to kill you a "Bihari mafia", what are your own men who go around ransacking shops and beating up students? Are they not "Marathi-mafia"?

If you claim to be a Marathi manoos, why did you make such a big fuss requesting for an English loo while in jail?

If you force everyone to learn Marathi and use Marathi, why do you call your pet dog "Bond"? Didn't you get a Marathi name for him?

Hypocrite!

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SOLD

The recent spate of violence across Maharashtra and the police inaction has raised some serious question marks over the integrity of Mumbai Police.

When MNS goons beat up North Indian students who had come to Mumbai to appear for the Railway Recruitment Board exams, the policemen present there just wielded their lathis in the air and stood by as mute spectators. Okay, one may think this was a one-off incident but what was shocking was Mumbai's Police Commissoner issuing a statement the next day that "there was no violence in the city and the exams went off well". Yeah right!

A few days later, a young Bihari youth named Rahul Raj who entered a BEST bus and threatened to kill Raj Thackerey (who was not even onboard the bus), he was shot dead by the police. Home Minister R R Patil justified this police action stating that it was a "bullet for bullet" approach. If that is the case, why is the same approach not used when dealing with the terrorists who bomb Mumbai at will at regular intervals? If Rahul Raj who only threatened to kill Raj Thackerey and shot one passenger in the thigh is shot dead, why aren't the terrorists who kill dozens of innocent citizens tied together with a bomb and blown up in public? Why no "bomb for bomb" approach there? Just because terrorists kill the Stupid Common Man while Rahul Raj threatened to kill their beloved Raj Thackerey?

As if this was not enough, a couple of days later, a group of dozen MNS men beat up a group of North Indian laboureres in a local train, leaving one of them dead. Next day, statement from Mumbai Police read "This was not a hate crime. They just fought over window seat and one of them was killed." You want us to believe that? Every single day in Mumbai, almost 2300 local trains run with close to 20,000 coaches and 500,000 window seats yet never do we see passengers killing each other over it.

The very next day, a group of MNS men entered the house of a reporter with Navbharat Times in Malad(whom my mom knows personally), flung the girls in the house on the floor and beat up the other family members. Mumbai Police's version next morning- "This was not a hate crime. The reasons for the attack are unknown". Great!

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally lambasted Maharashtra Chief Minister and Mumbai Police for giving too much free hand to Raj Thackerey, Mumbai Police promptly replied that 63 cases have been registered against him. Well, if that is the case, why is the guy sitting nicely in his Shivaji Park duplex? Shouldn't he be in jail? Not only this, the High Court banned Raj from making public statements for two months but within a week, Mumbai police allowed him to speak to the media stating that it was "undemocratic" to stop someone from expressing his views! How shweet!

I have lived in Mumbai for the past 21 years and have seen Mumbai Police accepting bribes, raping young girls while on duty, faking encounters for personal gains and all the time forgiven them thinking that it must be one-off incidents. But this time around, it has been far too much. My trust in Mumbai Police has been shattered. As one fellow commuter in a local train quipped the other day- "Jab akhkha police force hi bik chuka ho, saala aadmi bharosa kispe karega?"

Monday, October 27, 2008

America Me Aisa Kya Hai?

Genre: Life

Ever since I made public my plan to go to USA next year for my higher studies, I have been bombarded with queries on my reasons for the same. Before the next round of "America me aisa kya hai jo India me nahi?" is fired, let me clarify my position. My reasons for MS in US can be divided into three broad categories-

1) Educational-
Justify Full
The campus placements that begun a couple of months back have been a real eye-opener. Whatever little faith I had in the education I received at VJTI came undone during the interviews- it finally dawned upon me (and a lot of others too) that the four years that we pretended to be studying engineering was actually a royal waste of time! Even after scoring 8 and 9 pointers in exams, what I have actually LEARNED is practically nil. And it is not because I ignored studying and spent the time partying. I did what everyone else does- blindly copy assignments from the class nerd at the eleventh hour before submissions, pretend to "perform" experiments on non-functional appartus and run out of the lab at the earliest and cram up a dozen xeroxes a week before exams and vomit it out on the answer paper. No wonder then that the companies coming for placement offered us salaries lesser than a call-centre job- as if trying to remind us again how useless and unprepared we are.

It is my own fault that I did not write all my assignments on my own and did not bother performing experiments seriously, right? Maybe yes. Maybe no. After all, the education system here has been such that year after year students have adapted themselves to working this way simply because the system (atleast in my college) gives no credit for practicals, the emphasis is only on submitting assignments on the specified date and time and not on the content in them and out-of-the-box answers in exams get a ZERO because the professor wants answers only from a specific textbook.

Moving out of this grind, higher education in USA will give me an opportunity to study what I want to, and not what some so-called panel of educationists pre-decide for me. Access to state-of-the-art infrastructure, learned faculty alongwith liberal funding from the government for education and research will help in developing the intellectual skills to survive in the cutting-edge industry- something which I should have acquired in my four years of undergraduate studies itself. (Ofcourse, if Indian universities did take education as seriously as USA does, I would have never thought of moving out).

2) Political-

It is a well-known fact that the education system in India has gone to the dogs after certain Delhi-based donkeys (known as politicians) began to use it for vested interests. The introduction of caste-based reservations in institutes of higher education has had a two-fold effect- firstly it has made getting into premier institues highly impossible for the unfortunate Open category boys like me and even if by a stroke of luck I manage to get into one, the presence of half class-ful of students looking as confused as a kid in a strip club deteriorates the intellectual atmosphere in the class. If this sounds haughty, let me clarify that I am NOT insulting students who are lesser intelligent but I have observed from my personal experience at Agrawal Classes and VJTI how being in a class of students with similar intellect levels stimulates healthy competition and the desire to succeed. On the other hand, in a class with mixed-breed population, the intelligent students have to sit through dumbed-down lectures while the not-so-bright students suffer from inferiority complex and end up screwing their own lives. The result- everybody suffers.

As if this is not enough, caste-based reservation for faculty proved to be the final coffin in India's higher ednucation system. Studying for four years under professors who cannot write two sentences in grammatically correct English or cannot distinguish between a website and an email is enough. I cannot bear this bullshit anymore.

The universities in United States of America will provide me with the intellectual environment that I am yearning for- a place where merit is honoured, education is valued and politics kept firmly outside the iron doors of the colleges.

3) Financial-

Like it or hate it. You can't ignore it. A graduate degree from USA is access to big money. The $1=Rs 50 exchange rate makes the equation all the more lucrative. A typical graduate fresher from a US university starts with a pay package of anywhere between $65,000 to $85,000 per year. Subtracting the living costs which come to around $25,000 per year, it still amounts to a savings of close to $50,000 a year- yeah, Rs 25 lakhs! Even If I work in USA for just three years, I would have managed to gather enough moolah to return to India and be able to buy a decent house and a luxury car for myself, if not more. Lucrative, na?

And for all those who are thinking of starting preaching me on stuff like "Money is not everything etc etc", please dont even bother. Why make it known to everyone that you are working for peanuts?! :P

All said and done, I am not one of those blinded-by-American-way-of-life teenagers who wants to shift to USA lock, stock and barrel. After completing my studies and gathering some moolah, I will be back here- to enjoy the vada-pao and local trains, and probably light up an electric bulb a la SRK in Swades!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Changing Priorities

This is a conversation I overheard at the Municipal School behind my house-

Scene: A teacher, holding a portable music player in her hands, is scolding a student in shabby uniform, presumably coming from a poor household.

Teacher: Ye kya hai? Isko kya bolte hai?
Student: (slowly, almost crying) iPod
Teacher: Khud ka hai ya chori kiya?
Student: Khud ka hai
Teacher: Kitne ka liya?
Student: (hesitates at first) Baarah sau (1200) ka
Teacher: Paisa kahaan se aaya? Chori kiya ghar se?
Student: Nahi madam. (stops for a while).. mazdoori kiya
Teacher: Mazdoori karke kamaya saara paisa isme daal diya?
Student: (teary eyed) Haan Madam.

This more or less surmises the state of India today. Everybody wants to directly leap to the top rather than taking one step at a time, forgetting the fact that missing a step in between would result in a tumble straight down.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Waah Wall-E!

Genre: Entertainment

It is not often that you come across an animation movie that is cute and at the same time carrying a social message. And even rare is to find such a movie winning hearts of audiences world over. Wall-E is one such once-in-a-blue-moon wonder! All critics who claim that a successful movie needs strong dialogues must have been left speechless (pun unintended) by this almost-silent movie that carries itself solely on the basis of amazing animation and vivid facial expressions.

It is hard to miss the wide array of social messages so subtly incorporated into the storyline. Besides the obvious reference to the problem of environmental pollution and accumulation of hazardous waste which forms the essence of the story, there is a lot to look out for- over-dependence on machines resulting in obese lazy humans incapable of doing even the most basic chores, mechanical lifestyle resulting in we humans drifting away from emotions (remember, Captain asking his computer to "Define 'Dance'") and last but not the least, that undescribable happiness and nervousness on finding someone with similar tastes (remember Wall-E trying to hold Eve's hands but hesitating at the last moment!).

Besides the effortless storytelling merely by facial expressions and flawless animation, what makes this movie truly adorable is the way Wall-E intermmitently squeaks- "Eevaaa". So cute!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tata.. Please Go to Gujarat

Genre: Current Affairs

As Ratan uncle finally says tata to Singur, one question that is on everybody's mind is - where will the Nano factory finally come up? As expected, almost half a dozen states are in the fray to attract Tata with Maharashtra and Gujarat being the forerunners.

I so much hope Tata does not make the mistake of moving to Maharashtra- not because I do not want development in Maharashtra but because the moment Tata goes to Maharashtra, Raj Thackerey and other similar-minded jerks will come out with outrageous demands such as reserving 80% jobs in the Nano factory for people from certain caste/creed/religion/place of birth, "order" Tatas to write टाटा नैनो only in Marathi on all cars and such other shitty crap and eventually force the closure of the factory to gather some cheap publicity. In short, all the reasons why Tata opted out of Bengal will come hounding back. It makes better business sense to rather shift to Gujarat- a state with industry-friendly government and enterprising people. Shift to Savli in Baroda district with Bombardier of Germany for company, shift to Mundra Port SEZ or shift to any of the other dozen-odd industrial centres in Gujarat but please dont shift to Maharashtra.

Now if only Ratan Tata reads my blog...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All Xs are Ys

Genre: Blabber

All politicians are corrupt.
All policemen are bribe-hungry.
All Hindi films are masala movies.
All English movies are dirty.
All bearded men are Muslims.
All Muslims are terrorists.
All states north of Maharashtra are UP-Bihar.
All people from UP-Bihar are bhaiyas.
All South Indians are Madrasis.
All Madrasis live on idli-dosa.
All guys looking for a gf are despos.
All girls who've had more than one bf are bitches.
All foreigners are Americans.
All Gulf countries are Dubai.
All veg food is ghaas-phoos.
All non veg food is mutton-machchi.
All IITians are nerds.
All SoBo residents are snobs.
All Gujjus eat only khaman-dhokla.
All outings involving a guy and a girl are dates.
All bloggers are wannabes vying for attention.

When will this stereotyping end????

Monday, September 22, 2008

Reliance Sucks!

Genre: Experiences

This is that month of the year when every Tom Dick and Bihari wanting to go to The Big A give their TOEFL tests and I am no exception to it. I took 21st September as my test date, long after most of my class buddies were done with it. I was forewarned by them that the Reliance test centre at Chembur sucks bigtime and that I should change my test centre even if that means paying an additional $50. But, I decided to go ahead with my original plan.

As I reached the Reliance World at Chembur at 8am, I was greeted by a lone sleepy employee sitting behind half-closed shutter of the shop. The reporting time was 8:30am and true to Indian standards, the process started only at 9am. Out of the 30 candidates present at the venue, 16 were accomodated in Lab 1 (which is the fancy name given to the standard cyber cafe there) and the remaining 14, myself included, were asked to wait.

This wait went on and on and on. After two hours we were told that there was a System Error and the Reliance engineers were trying to fix it. All through, the staff at the centre was busy chatting and giggling amongst themselves. Obviously this was adding salt to our wounds and by 12 noon, tempers rose and the staff came under the line of fire of the students with a healthy sardarji leading from the front. At this point, the staff decided to bail themselves out and suggested that we take a "30 minute lunch break" and return for the test.

This test centre happens to be in the most un-happening part of Mumbai and there was no food joint around. Finally, we (myself, a wannabe-rockstar type of dude, a bored-with-Indian-job guy and a pretty looking I-am-lost kind of girl - complete strangers but united by the ordeal) managed to find a Restaurant-cum-Bar that was obviously devoid of drunkards at this hour of the day who agreed to serve us some food. Returning to the centre, the situation had not improved. We once again gheraoed the Branch Manager lady who locked herself inside a Video Conferencing room to avoid further questioning. Finally, at 1pm, we were asked to register ourselves in a hurry and get ready for the test. In this chaos, the staff took a really ugly photo of mine in which I am looking darker than the darkest African and assigned me a computer terminal.

After the five hour wait, I was in no mental state to concentrate but I had no choice. I instructed the computer to start the test. At first go, it didn't. I realised that the mouse given to me was really stubborn and only if I hit it real hard, it would click. So, there I was- hitting the mouse button so hard that everyone around was staring at me. Finally the test began at 1.15pm. Thankfully, the first reading passage that appeared was titled "American Railroads". Thank God!! This interesting topic ensured that I got into the exam mood forgetting the earlier ordeal. I dont know what would have happened if the first passage would have been something on Black American History or Romanticism and Neo-classicism. (I encountered both these topics in Listening section).

The Reading, Listening and Speaking sections went off well but as soon as I began the Writing section, it was trouble again. The Space Bar on my keyboard just won't work and the idiots at Reliance World who had never bothered checking the keyboards earlier now decided to change my keyboard. The timer was running all this while and thanks to these idiots, I could start my essay writing only when 17 minutes 30 seconds were remaining out of the allotted 20. Nevertheless, I managed to complete writing my essay in time,so no damage done.

Finally, when I stepped out of the exam centre, I was barely in a position to talk or stand. I desperately looked around for a Feedback form where I could vent out all my anger, but the asses at Reliance are smart- they did not provide any Feedback form probably because they already knew whet "feedback" they would get!

Never had I expected that my TOEFL would end up being Test Of Endurance upto Frustrating Levels.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Friends For Life

I first thought of making this album on Orkut but that unfortunately does not give me the opportunity to give an Introductory Speech to the Album. So, here we go-

This Album is special to me because the people featured in it are special to me. They are the ones who have been with me through thick and thin, shared the joys and sorrows, trusted me and cared for me, unconditionally. If you find yourself in this album, consider yourself lucky to be one amongst the elite few. If not, there may be two reasons to it-
(i) You have been mean/self-centered or taken me for granted.
(ii) There is no good photo of yours which I can display.
Which of the above two reasons apply to you, you know best.

The inspiration for this album came from here-

एक दिन ज़िन्दगी ऐसे मुकाम पर पहुँच जाएगी
दोस्ती तो सिर्फ यादों में रह जाएगी
हर कप coffee याद दोस्तों की दिलाएगी
और हसते हसते फिर आँखें नाम हो जाएगी
Office के chamber में classroom नज़र आएगी
चाहते हुए भी proxy नहीं लग पाएगी
पैसा तो बहुत होगा पर उसे लुटाने की वजह ही खो जाएगी
जी ले खुलके इस पल को मेरे दोस्त...
क्यूंकि ज़िन्दगी इस पल को फिर से नहीं दोहराएगी.

FRIENDS FOREVER









Note: This list is not comprehensive. There will be regular additions and subtractions depending on prevalent circumstances.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ferroequinologism

WAP4
Semaphore
BAMY
Co-Co
Catch Siding
Tigerface
Barbie Doll
WCAM1
3xx
SMB
Jumbo
AK Raj
MUed
DQ
Loop
Baldie
Turnout
PSR
OHE
1 in 37
Off-link
LHF


Confused?
Can you find out how ALL of the above words are related?

A word of caution: Ferroequinology is not for the weak-hearted!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Phone is Better than iPhone

Genre: Technology

While the whole world goes gaga over the Apple iPhone, raving about its oh-so-sleek looks and innovative touchscreen interface, I decided to look at the other side of the coin and voila! the cat's out of the box! When compared to my current cellphone, the "feature-rich" iPhone loses out on hordes of features. And I am not even comparing the iPhone with some top-end hi-fi cellphone (I leave that to the dozens of "compare your stuff" websites)- my reference is my own good old mid-range Sony Ericsson k550i costing around Rs.7,000 only. And yet, my phone is better than iPhone.Here's why-

Starting with the most basic bloopers- the "super-cool" iPhone's camera does not have a video recording facility (my phone, and virtually all camera cellphones have it by default) nor does it have a digital zoom feature in it's camera. Also missing is a flashlight to take pics in the dark and there is no setting to adjust White Balance, Night mode, Brightness etc (ok, not a big deal, but my k550i has ALL these features!)

All you sms freaks out there- for some strange reason best known to Mr Steve Jobs, your iPhone does not allow you to forward an SMS! Nor does it segregate your messages into Folders like Drafts, Sent Messages and Saved Messages! (Needless to say, my phone has it all) Also, it does not tell you when your sms length overflows beyond the stipulated 160 characters (my phone does!). If you think all this is too troublesome and instead decide to call up your friends, be ready for another shocker- the iPhone does not have a Search function in the Address Book! So,all those who were raving over the so-cool touchscreen interface can keep on scrolling to their heart's content till they manage to find their desired contact from your Address Book! (Needless to say, my phone and even the basic thousand-bucks cellphones have this feature!)

The iPhone which is claimed to be the "coolest iPod" does not allow you to connect a portable Bluetooth headset to listen to music without interfering wires! What's more,even though the iPhone has Bluetooth, you cannot send images or music files to other cellphones via Bluetooth! (What the heck is the Bluetooth for then?) Not just this, the iPhone does not play videos if they are in any other format except Quick Time (my good old cell plays both 3gp and mp4!)

Ok, all this is about the peripheral functions. The main function of any cellphone is making and receiving calls and the iPhone fails miserably here too- there is no Voice Dialling, no facility to keep Personalised Ringtones for different callers and in fact, you can't even keep your mp3 songs as ringtones! (My k550i has ALL these facilities and moreover I can also keep Video Ringtones and even assign different display photos for different callers, let aside personalised ringtones!). The iPhone does not allow clubbing contacts to Caller Groups and when you select Call Forward, all calls get forwarded- there is no facility like Forward when busy, Forward when unreachable etc which is a default feature existing in my current phone as well as the one I had earlier!

Then, what does the iPhone have? Hype- lots and lots of it! And looking at the fact that it is sold at $199 (around Rs 8k), I may think of forgiving the makers for not including some of the features. But wait, is it really sold at Rs 8k? Not if you are in India!

Some super-greedy guys at Airtel and Vodafone decided to act smart and make the full use of the initial hype surrounding the iPhone and priced it at an astronomical Rs. 36,000 hoping that the gadget-loving Indian junta would go mad at the prospect of possessing an iPhone and flock in droves to grab it up the very first day, whatever be the price! But as always, the consumer turned out to be smarter than the seller. The result- compared to 70,000 iPhones sold in Japan on its launch day, Airtel recorded a sale of a grand 85 pieces of iPhone on Day 1!!! Someone gotta tell those guys at Airtel/Vodafone the story of The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Journey Of a Century..er.. Shatabdi

FOREWORD: Though it appears so at first look, this post is NOT about trains or railfanning. Non-railfans may safely go ahead and read it.

Adventure, it seems, has become synonymous with all my trips of late. What else can explain a mundane one-day trip to meet relatives in Baroda turning into a once-in-a-lifetime experience? The original plan was pretty straightforward- take the Shatabdi Express at 7am from Borivali, reach Baroda at 11am, spend four hours with my US-return sister, catch the Shatabdi Express from Baroda at 4pm and reach back home by 9pm. As simple as that. Or so it seems. Destiny, however, had different plans for me. So here we go-

As per original plan, me, Dad and Mom reach Borivali station early morning and board the Shatabdi Express at 7:00am. Amidst drizzling showers, the Loco Pilot does a clinically perfect job of hauling the Shatabdi according to its reputation, pulling into Vapi at 08:35 am, 150km in 1 hour 35 minutes flat! By this time, we had been served Tea, Biscuits, and breakfast consisting of Upma and Bread-Butter-Jam followed by a mango juice. All this nicely stuffed inside my stomach, (it's FREE food, how can you let anything of it go waste?) I was feeling sleepy just when the trouble began.

Our train was made to halt at a wayside station called Bhestan for a good 15 minutes. Maybe some technical problem, we thought. But then, we crawled upto the next station- Udhna where the train was again stopped. By this time, my friend in Baroda had sms-ed me that due to flooding at Makarpura near Baroda, rail services have been disrupted. At Udhna, dozens of suited-booted businessmen (who comprise a majority of the Shatabdi crowd) were out on the platform waiting anxiously for the signal ahead to turn green. One gentleman, around four coaches ahead, was animatedly shouting into his cellphone- "Tereko samajh me nahi aata kya b******. Idhar ruka ke rakha hai saala. Abe c*****, aa jaaunga main thode time me...". However, the crowd, except me, was in no mood to enjoy this free-show!

After a brief wait, we pulled into Surat. We were greeted with announcement- "2009 Shatabdi Express ke sabhi yaatri dhyaan de- ye gaadi agli suchna milne tak yahaan ruki rahegi." Damn! Boredof sitting indoors, almost half of the the train's 1000-odd passengers were out on the platform now. The food-stall owners, sensing a big business opportunity, started preparing huge quantities of bhajiya, khaman, toast sandwiches, vada pao and so on. I walked upto the engine and enquired with the Pilot. It turned out that flood waters were flowing above danger mark at two bridges near Baroda and as a result, till further notice, no train was allowed to go further. After an hour's wait, it was announced- "Platform Number 1 pe khadi Shatabdi Express ke sabhi yatri apna sthaan grahan kare. Ye gaadi kuch hi samay me nikalne ki taiyari me hain". It was nice on their part to give this advance warning but it turned out to be a hoax call. Fifeteen minutes later, same warning was repeated and this time we actually departed at 11:15am, after spending an hour and half at Surat.

The Loco Pilots showed a sense of urgency and speeded up the train upto the maximum limit it could and everything was going well when we were given an unscheduled halt at Miyagam Karjan Junction at 1:45pm. The kilometre stone outside read- "376". Dad remarked how my sister had come 20,000 km from the USA but we may miss meeting her by mere 20km! So near, yet so far! The passengers were now restless (and hungry) because breakfast was served five hours ago and lunch would be served only after Baroda. Most of them had now resigned to fate and were seen making the most of the unexpected delays by getting out on the platform and socialising. Some enterprising ones even went to the market outside the station and brought some hot kernels of corn to savour in the drizzling rain! Half an hour into the stop, Sayaji Nagari Express pulled into Miyagam from Baroda side and we rushed to their passengers to get a first hand report of what lies ahead for us. "There is water, water everywhere.It took us four hours to cover this 20km distance. Your actual journey will begin now", quipped one youngster, sending a wave of shock across our train!

After an hour, when it seemed that we may have to wait here for longer than expected, the catering staff of Shatabdi decided to throw the rules to the dogs and serve lunch to everyone (generally, lunch is served only to Ahmedabad bound passengers and not to Baroda ones). This brought in some reliefas everyone spent the next half hour savouring their packed lunch in the air-conditioned comfort of the coaches. Good news came at 3:15pm when we were given the green signal. But this was short-lived. At the very next station named Kashipura (this was the worst of the lot and did not even have a proper platform) we were made to wait again. The journey resumed at 03:45pm and now everyone was curious to know how grim is the flood situation ahead. Our train was put on the Up line as the Down line was appearently damaged by the floodwaters. Rules state that all doors of high-speed trains like Shatabdi should be kept closed throughout the journey but who cares! The curious passengers had opened all doors of all coaches and and occupied every inch of available space in the doorway to get a "good view"! (Ofcourse, I was one of the front-runners in this movement!)

The flood situation, it turned out, was much worse than what I had expected. Brown mucky waters all around, trees under water, people perched on rooftops of buildings partly submerged under water- scenes we normally see only on news channels were right in front of me. A certain bridge on a river called Dhadhar had been damaged by the raging floodwaters and workers were toiling to repair it as soon as possible. A goods train was made to halt on the damaged track on the bridge so that its weight can prevent the bridge from being washed away by floodwaters! This left only one track open for traffic from both sides and this is what had caused the massive pile-upof trains. Finally we reached a half-submerged Baroda at 4:45pm, after a five and half hour delay in a four hour journey! But there was no time to rest- our return tickets were booked in the same train and we needed to confirm as to what time wouldthe return train leave. The enquiry counters at Baroda were overflowing with hundreds of stranded passengers. This is when Dad decided to take the easier (though not exactly legal) way out- he approached the Station Manager directly and managed to get a cofirmation from him that the return train would arrive by around 8pm. One does not expect a person holding such a high office as The Station Manager of Vadodara Junction to answer such trivial queries but it was a kind gesture from him in time of crisis.

We finished our social nitty-gritties in the four hours we had at hand and returned to Baroda station by 8pm. Our return tickets were Waitlisted and had got confirmed only last moment, so we did not know our seat numbers. Again, we took the same route- asked the Station Manager about it and he calmly directed us to a couple of swanky touchscreens in the main foyer where one could enter the PNR number and get reservation status! Unluckily, the machine was hell bent on not giving us the required details. Thankfully, there was a dinosaur-era black-and-white computer placed the the Reservation counter for the same purpose. This one promptly gave the display- "Seats confirmed. C5-11,17,20". Announcements were made that Mumbai bound Shatabdi Express would arrive at 21:35. We went to the air-conditioned waiting room to spend the one hour at hand but it was overflowing with harried passengers so we walked back out and decided to "enjoy" the chaos on the platform. Finally, as promised, at 9:32pm, I boarded the first-ever "Overnight Shatabdi" for the return journey.

This time, my coach had LCD screens like the ones found in airplanes for our entertainment. However, there was one rider- it would show onlyone channel and that too pre-decided by the catering staff! We were subjected to half an hour of torture of an old episode of "Hum Paanch", followed by an even torturous episode of a serial called "Kitne Kool Hai Hum" (Yeah, Ekta!). Thankfully, this was followed by "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa" challenge and I decided to take a nap listening to the India's future singers belting out popular numbers (and crying for votes). After a coupleof songs, I heard "Whenever, Wherever" and I jolted out from my semi-sleep expecting to see Shakira on screen! But, it was some behenji-trying-to-be-modern imitating Shakira in pseudo Latino-American accent. Shatabdi's rules state that snacks be served as the train departs Vadodara and not showing any concern to the fact that it was 10pm now, the catering guys enthusiastically brought in plates of samosas, masala peanuts, a sweet and a mango juice for the passengers. This was followed by "evening tea" at 11pm. Finishing that off, just as we were trying to go to sleep, the catering guys barged in at 12 mindight with tomato soup and bread sticks with butter. Grudgingly, we finished off that too and like everyone else in the coach, went off to sleep. But this did not last long. As we departed from Surat at 1:15 am, the catering guy came and poked each of the sleeping passengers- "Sir, aapka dinner!"

The reaction on everyone's faces on hearing this just cannot be described in words! This was heights of abiding the rules- dinner is served at Surat every day so it must be done today also, so what if it's wellpast midnight! Ofcourse I was not hungry at this hour but seeing Paneer Mutter in the dinner tempted me a bit and I had a few bites of it, returned the plates and decided to sleep- once again. But, no! At around 1:45am, a loud screeching sound of Emergency Brakes and a heavy jerk woke everyone up with queries of "Kya hua? Kya hua?" From my numerous previous experiences, I knew our Loco Pilot had run over some animal or human. (the latter seemed unlikely- which idiot would be crossing the tracks at this unearthlyhour?) My doubt was confirmed by a catering guy who ran across the coach shouting "Aise sabko udaate rahega to Mumbai kab pahuchega?"

The matter was resolved soon and after an hour of not-so-peaceful sleep (after all, how can you sleep comfortably in a Chair Car coach?), I saw outside the window- a signboard showed "Vasai Road" and the LED clock next to it showed "02:44". This served as a wake-up call for everyone and we were finally out on a completely deserted Borivali station with the clock reading "03:06", ending what turned out to be a Once In a Century (or should I say, Shatabdi) journey!


Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Struggle for The First Job of My Life

7:30 am: I start my day. Not willing to get crushed in the peak hour office crowd early in the day, I decide to take a detour via Borivali to reach Dadar.

9:00am: After a comfortable train journey, I reach college. Today’s is the fourth company coming for Campus Placement and the atmosphere is similar to the earlier three occasions- the entire VJTronix class is present, decked up in formals, looking like senior executives. SS and AS, who had not registered themselves for this company, now decide to sit for it. But immediately they are shown the door in no uncertain terms by the Placement Officer, Mr G. The class watches in stunned silence.

9:30 am: Two representatives from Wipro VLSI arrive for the Pre-Placement talk (PPT). One is a young lady of around 25 and another is a middle-aged man looking like an overworked scientist. A brief slideshow showcasing the achievements of the company is followed by a video titled Life@Work, which is received with a huge round of applause. A few question-answers follow. An unexpected surprise pops up- the company is asking for a 15-month bond! Nobody knew about this earlier. A few minutes later, a wave of surprise sweeps across the room once again when we are informed that the company provides accommodation for seven days only! Yeah, you heard that right-only one week!

11:00 am: The two company representatives try to arrange the students on one-student-per-bench basis for the written test but the rowdy crowds that we are, a few students always end up sharing the bench with their friends! Finally, a third representative of the company- a beautiful young girl, pitches in and after 15 minutes of harsh talk, finally manage to get the entire class in order!

11:15 am: Papers are distributed for the Aptitude Test. We are pleasantly surprised to see CAT-style OMR sheets being distributed. Heights of professionalism! The instructions to fill the OMR sheet and other warnings take up a considerable time. Before the test can actually start, another surprise is thrown at us- all those who sit for Wipro VLSI today shall not be allowed to sit for Wipro Infotech next week, even if they don’t get selected today! An option is given to the students to leave at this moment if they wish to sit next week and PB, DA, SG and a few others take up this opportunity and walk out.

11:30 am: The question papers for the Aptitude Test are finally distributed. We are to solve 50 questions in 60 minutes- 20 on Verbal, 20 on Quant and 10 Technical. The paper has no negative marking but has sectional cutoffs. The questions in Technical section leave me flabbergasted as they ask things about Unix and Data Structures! Other sections are challenging but workable.

12:30 pm: Aptitude Test ends and we are informed that the results would be out in an hour. So, we settle down to have lunch in the TPO itself in our usual fashion- with half the guys climbing onto the desks to form a complete circle.

01:00 pm: Somebody complains about the students “misbehaving” in the TPO and Mr.G comes around to have a look. Unfortunately, at this very moment, I am the only one sitting on the desk and as a result I am made the ‘bakra’. Mr. G takes away my I-card and threatens to report to the Director about my “misbehavior”. By this time, Aptitude Test results are out and it turns out that 50 people have been short-listed for interviews. Interviews are to begin in half an hour and I am second on the list. A note at the bottom of the results page states “Carry your College ID with you for the interview”. Shit! Now I am in trouble! I go to Mr. G and ask for my I-card but he is in no mood to relent. He even threatens me that he “will ensure that your placements are affected” as according to him, there is no place for such misbehaving students at VJTI. Yeah, right- after all there isn’t a more grave crime in the world than sitting on a desk na! Depressed and angry, I go to the washroom to get ready for interview and ascribe quite a few chosen profanities to Mr.G.

01:15 pm: I write a Letter of Apology and hand it over to Mr. G who has mellowed down by now. However one of our SSC-fail type “professors” who is sitting in Mr. G’s cabin suggests “Students like this should be permanently black-listed”. Yeah right, you ass****. Did you even bloody sit through one interview process in all your life to know what “black-listing” means? I get back my I-card and return to TPO. This entire nonsense wastes a valuable half hour of my time which I had decided to devote to preparing for the Tech Interview.

01:30 pm: Interviews begin. Three students are called randomly for technical interview.

02:00pm: First student returns from technical interview. So, it’s time to reveal the suspense. He is made to spit out all the questions asked during his interview. Based on this info, the others get busy with last minute studying. After a couple of interviews are over- a trend is seen- some candidates are handed over a bio-data at the end of the interview while some are not.

02:30pm: The suspense of the bio-data is clear by now- only those who have been given the bio-data can proceed for the HR interview. The others wait wondering what next…

03:30pm: My name is called out for technical interview. I am taken to a room where that middle-aged scientist-uncle is sitting alone. The first question thrown at me has me perplexed- “You stay in Malad, right? So, tell me which bus goes directly from Matunga to Malad?” What kind of “technical” question is this? A couple of casual questions later, he asks me about my Microcontroller Project and interrogates for about 25 minutes on it. This is followed by random questions on topics as diverse as Instrumentation Amplifiers, Clippers and Clampers, 8085 and 8086 Microprocessors etc. Finally.45 minutes into the interview, he decides its enough and hands over the bio-data to me.

04:15pm: I return to the class- happy to get the coveted bio-data- the supposed indication of clearing the technical interview. As expected, I am bombarded with “What were you asked” type questions. Answering them, I sit back to fill in the new bio-data. By this time, the class has found some humour in the tense environment and the class is now being divided into three categories- the “Confirmed Tickets” (those who got bio-data), the “RAC” (those who gave interview but were not given bio-data) and “Waitlisted” (those who are yet to give their interviews). Each student coming back from the interview with the bio-data now began to shout it out “Confirmed ticket mila!”

05:00pm: I finish filling up the bio-data and go for the HR interview. The lady who gave the PPT was to interview me. Sitting next to her is a beautiful young girl of around 25- fair, cute looking, green eyes and golden hair! I spend the first minute admiring her. (Yeah! Guys will be guys!). The interviewer looks at my bio-data and stops at the “Hobbies” column. I have purposely written in-depth about my railfanning craze to divert the talk into my favourite topic. And bingo! She falls for it! First question shot at me- “So, what is this Indian Railways Fan Club and what do you guys do?” From here, it is my territory! For the next ten minutes, I talk at length about IRFCA and she sits quiet, listening in excitement. I show her the Times Of India article featuring me. She looks at it and asks, “What are you guys photographing? A TRAIN?”. “Yes, ma’am.” Hearing this, she pokes the beautiful babe who was busy noting my replies on her laptop and exclaims- “Look at this!” and both started giggling loudly. After this, she just asks one question- “Don’t you want to pursue a full time M.S./M.B.A.?" Not the one to get tricked, I reply cunningly- “You said in the PPT that Wipro will take care of my further studies. I am looking forward to that!” She decides it’s enough and allows me to leave.

06:00pm: Tired and hungry, I walk down to grab some snacks and a drink and return hurriedly. By now the number of “Confirmed tickets” have increased quite a lot and around half a dozen “RACs” are waiting, unsure about the future turn of events.

08:00pm: The technical interviews and HR interviews are going on slowly and boredom creeps in big time. Nobody is studying anymore. Everyone just wants it to end. We count the number of “Confirmed Tickets” and the score is 22, and bound to increase! This sets in a feeling of panic- it may happen that quite a few with “Confirmed Tickets” would miss the train! After lengthy deliberations, we settle at a conclusion that the count would be probably cut into half finally.

08:30pm: The last guy emerging out of the Technical Interview is Mr AR. He takes an eternity to fill the bio-data and go for HR Interview. Once inside, again he takes ages to emerge out. We all finished our HR Interviews in 10 minutes each and this guy is inside for 30 minutes! Something is fishy!

09:00pm: The HR ladies come to the class and drop a bombshell- “We have selected EIGHT candidates!” A stunned silence fills the class. After the 12 hour wait, 16 out of the 24 people will have to go home empty-handed! She starts announcing the names one by one and hands over a red cap to the selected candidate. Six names are done, I am not on the list. She speaks out the seventh name and voila! It’s me! The long wait pays off! I collect my red cap, thank the interviewers, accept congratulatory handshakes from friends and proudly walk out of the college- having secured The First Job of My Life!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Music and (No) Lyrics

Over the past few months, our Hindi song-writers have shown amazing creativity in composing the lyrics of some of their best songs. Presenting a few of the gems-

The foundation of this Creative Lyrics Movement was laid by none other than the venerable Gulzar with this one-

Tu rani hai France ki,
Main baansuri baans ki,
Hamaari society mein yeh chalta nahin.

No no monsieur, no no,
Itna simple nahin.
Chal dafaa ho kahin.
Oh, lauta de mera Ticket to Hollywood.
(Movie: Jhoom Barabar Jhoom)

Waah! Kya arz kiya hai! Kudos for successfully managing to use four different languages in a paragraph, but for heaven's sakes, can somebody explain me what is this supposed to mean?

Going one step further, a little-known lyricist Asif Ali Beg came up with this masterpiece-

Krazzzy with a K

thats the way..
Say K R A Zeee Zee Y
Do it anyway just put the K
in K R a Zee Zee Y
(Movie: Krazzy 4)

Whatever!

But the one that takes the cake (the entire cake-dish infact) is this absolutely original number from Aditya Dhar (again, I have no clue who this person is.)

One two three

One two three
One two three
And one two three...
Tedhi medhi, medhi tedhi,
Duniya ki A B C D.
Arre, sau sau mausam jhele hain
Har paudha ban-ne ko tree.
(Movie: One Two Three - yes, such a movie actually exists.)

Wow! What a thought! No Comments.

PS: Readers are welcome to add their own 'candidates' to the list.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Indian Patang League

Genre: Humour

First came the Premier Hockey League (PHL), which was followed by cricket's Indian Premier League and now from this November, its gonna be Indian Tennis League (ITL). However coming next January to beat them all will be the Indian Patang League - the world's ultimate kite-flying competition.

According to the details chalked out, the event will comprise of eight teams of eight players each with a maximum of two foreign players allowed per team. Also, every team will have to include atleast two under-12 players. The experienced kite-flyers will be auctioned to the highest bidder. The response to the League has been outstanding and already three teams have registered themselves for the innaugral season- Kal-kaata Kite Riders, Dheel-de Daredevils and Maanjabhai Indians.

The kite-flying matches will be held across eight cities in India with the Finals in Ahmedabad. All teams will have to participate in one daytime match and one night match which will test their kandeel flying skills. For the entertainment of the crowds, cheerleaders will be present at all venues and will dance on garba tunes every time a kite is cut. The player cutting maximum number of opponent's kites will be awarded the Orange Firki after every match. Global Bids have been invited for Exclusive Advertising rights on the back sides of patangs and on sides of firkis. Official Indian Patang League merchandise including team kites, firki, maanjha and other accesories can be bought from www.indianpatangleague.kaun

When informed about this league, Vijay Mallya said, "Yes, I very much intend to buy a team and this time I will myself select all players. I have decided the name of my team as well- Firki Force India Royal Challengers." All attempts to contact Mukeshbhai have yielded no reply. His secretary, however, informed us that Mukeshbhai is busy on the terrace apperently practising how to shout "Kaaypo Chhe..."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Main Bhi SC/ST Banna Chahta Hoon

Genre: Current Affairs

Over the last week thousands of protesters belonging to a certain Gujjar community have camped themselves- lock, stock and barrel on the railway tracks in Rajasthan holding India's economy and peace at ransom. Latest reports suggest that the Indian Army has laid a siege on the protesters from both sides and cut off their food supply lines and communication links. This type of strong action is usually associated with a war but here the "enemies" thet the Indian Army is fighting against are Indian citizens themselves. A shameful day for India indeed!

What forced the Army to take such a tough stand? People who say that after all it is just one railway line that the protesters are blocking do not realise the socio-economic implications of this move. The blockade has forced dozens of trains on the busy Mumbai-Delhi trunk route cancelled every day and effectively left tens of thousands of travellers in the peak holiday season in the lurch. But this is not the major problem. This railway line sees a heavy traffic of an average of thirty container freight trains per day which carry a major chunk of India's imports from JNPT in Mumbai to Tughlaqabad depot in Delhi from where it is distributed all over India and in the other direction bring a huge percentage of India's foreign exports to JNPT to be loaded into waiting container ships for their trans-oceanic journey. Blocking this link is in effect blocking India's economic aorta.

More than the way of protest, what is interesting is the reason for protest- the Gujjars supposedly want a Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for themselves. Now, why on earth would someone want oneself to be declared "Backward"? If you are in India, there are more reasons than one. The host of undue advantages that the SC/STs get thanks to the votebank-oriented myopic caste-based reservation policy of the dungheaded Indian Government makes it very lucrative to be a SC/ST. Ironically, the reservation policy which the dumb pigs sitting in Parlaiment House justified as "a means to bring the Backwards Class into the mainstream" is encouraging more and more people to count themselves as "Backward Class". And if the Government budges in this case and gives in to the demands, starting tomorrow we will have any Tom, Dick and Harry going out on the streets, uprooting railway tracks and refusing to move unless their caste is also declared as SC/ST/OBC. Then what next? Declare the entire population of India as SC/ST?

The solution to this problem can be arrived at only by cancelling all caste/creed/religion based reservations that have been introduced year after year by creepy chair-loving vote-begging politicians; but the question is- who will bring about this reform? In the present state of anarchy that India is going through, the need is ripe for a strongly nationalist Leader who can mobilise the masses, take a few tough decisions if required, inject a feeling of strong patroitism and nation-building among the citizens and possess a charisma which would make the whole nation look upon him with trust and respect. Has there ever been such a leader in the past? Yes, you guessed it right- Hitler.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Gastronomic Gujaratis

Genre: Life

A word of caution: Please do not ask for English transliteration of the words mentioned in italics in the narration below; not because I dont know them, rather because they simply dont exist.

Tell the two words- "Gujarati" and "Food" to anybody and immediately the third word that will come out as reply is "thepla". However those who think Gujarati food starts with thepla and ends with dhokla- think again.

The variety of food found in Gujarat and Gujaratis probably surpasses that found in food all over India combined. A typical Gujarati spends his morning jogging for an hour followed by a feast of jalebi-fafda, eventually consuming twice the calories he burnt while jogging! However if the person happens to be in Surat, the breakfast will invariably be locho- a speciality not to be found anywhere else in India. To a person who can barely distinguish between a khaman and a dhokla, if I tell that a locho is something that can be classifed between the two, he will only end up pulling his (or my) hair! But that's how it is- Gujaratis have made such a huge number of gastronomic inventions that the variety is eventually mind-boggling.

If there is one area which has seen maximum number of innovations by Gujaratis, it has to be Chinese food. Ofcourse all Gujarati Chinese food is pure vegetarian, there is Gobi Manchurian, Chinese Samosa and even Chinese Bhel! Feed any of these dishes to a Chinese guy and he will surely faint. The innovations do not stop here- while everywhere else in India, pani-puri (which is same as golgappa of the North Indians and puchka of the East Indians) is served with a teekha pani and a meetha pani, Ahmedabadis would have none of it. So here we have pani-puri served with a variety of no less than seven different flavours of pani. You name it, we have it! Even the humble vada-pao of Mumbai has not been spared. While the original variety simply has a vada stuffed inside a pao with dry and wet chatni thrown in, the Ahmedabadi vada-pao comes with a pao fried in liberal amount of butter and lasoon chatni and the vada dollopped with tomato ketchup!

There is no doubt about the fact that food brings out the best in Gujaratis- one visit to Law Garden in Ahmedabad or Chowpatti on the banks of the Tapi in Surat or any other khau-galli in Gujarat or Mumbai for that matter will prove this fact. Food unites Gujaratis cutting across age, caste and economic status. So, you will find local farmers sharing space with hip teenagers in their swanky Hondas and Skodas at the traditional bullock-operated sugarcane juice centre near Maroli Sugar Factory on the state highway at an hour's drive from Surat. So famous is this non-descript joint that travellers on the National Highway take a detour to visit it and families from Surat and Valsad specially plan an outing to this place in sugarcane-cultivating season. And the popularity is not unjustified- after all here you get the freshest possible sugarcane juice extracted in the traditional way and served on cots laid under peepal trees in a tranquil field; and at Rs. 2.50 per glass, it's a steal! The same is the case with the bhajia wala at Tithal Beach- once the Gujaratis get attractes to a place, the attraction lasts for generations.

It is this love for food of the Gujaratis that has made even the multinational companies take special interest in keeping them happy. So, on entering a popular mall on the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway, you will come across a huge signboard of McDonalds- written in Gujarati and Domino's and Pizza Hut outlets serving Jain Pizza. It is for same reason that a sleepy town like Valsad which is till date struggling to have one good cinema hall or a shopping complex, already has a US Pizza outlet!

Gujaratis may have been experimenting recently with international cuisine but that has certainly not changed the love for the native dishes. Even today, a visit to Surat is never complete without a dish of Undhiya or nobody who visits Baroda misses to have the Cold Cocoa- an ingenious chocolate based cold drink that originated here and grabbed the attention of the entire nation when Amul started selling it in tetra-packs and cans; however anyone who has tasted the real thing once will swear that this commercial variety does not taste even half as good. The same goes for goti-soda and malai gola- both having their origins in Rajkot.

It is this undying love that distinguishes Gujaratis from everyone else and at the same time unites Gujaratis from all over the world. While others eat to live, the Gujaratis live to eat!

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