Monday, April 29, 2013

Smokes, Mirrors and other Normal Stupidity

"Its all smokes and mirror," screamed an oversmart audience to the magician on stage. The magician looked at the over smart spectator and said, "You sir, will join me on stage for my next act."
"As if," said the over smart spectator.
"And for my next act," the magician said, "I am going to make this man disappear."
"As if," the over smart spectator said.
He was told to inspect the box, which seemed fine.
"I am going to expose your trick," said the sceptic.
"And now ladies and gentlemen for the magic," he asked the sceptic to step inside the box, "Abracadabra..."
Puff, a big ball of smoke surround the box. Someone coughed.
The box opened and the sceptic was not seen anywhere. Encore, claps, claps, Once more, once more, screamed the audience.
Everyone was too busy to notice the sceptic walking outside the magicians tent counting money in his hands.

India on an whole is a funny country. You are walking down the street minding your own business, usually wearing a nice pair of boxers or eating a bunch of boiled peanuts and suddenly, out of blue a random stranger pops out wanting to have a detailed description of the choices you have made in life and give his opinion about them.

I am still looking for the ten strangers who had detailed interest in my life since childhood.

There could be a rape going on in the house next to you but that's normal, either because the girl is married to the man, arranged by her own relatives or she would be a painted or dented girl who deserves it. No that is not the pressing issue at the moment. If they don't like it, they can commit suicide, an option that saves dignity, honor and a lot of electricity.

No matter how many people jump off the tall buildings of IT companies, which are built on the land whose original owner was a farmer that incidentally committed suicide a few years back. But that's normal, because government says it's normal. Infact it is so normal that anyone saying it is not normal is shot by cops.

The cops, they are also normal, considering the fact that they believe rape is another myth like the boogeyman and honest politician. They are sure there is no rapist under the bed of any girl, lurking and waiting and no one is 'picking' up girls who are waiting at the bus stop. Cops are busy doing their duty slapping the protesters, that may include women as well. But that is normal, they probably deserved it as well. Or as many Indians still like to believe, it could be because of some sins of previous life.

It really does not matter if a four year old is dancing or singing to the tune of 'munni badnaam hui' without understanding the implications of what she is dancing to, because that is probably what being human means. I wonder what being normal means?

The most pressing issue grasping this large and equally crazy 'normal' republic is that of people jerking off at night watching some low light movie, shot using an handy-cam in a single location and single shot that has multiple shots and commonly known as porn.

They say porn is not aligned to real world. People learn a lot from porn and it is directly responsible for rise in rapes. Is that the reason why they make bollywood movies so dumb that no one in his right mind would take life lessons from them? I find no other answer.

According to petitioner, people are learning a lot of wrong things from porn which should be stopped. There are people who hate sex ed courses for the children and adults which is also normal. Porn is a daily necessity of life, it teaches us Doctor, Patient, Teacher, Pizza delivery boy and the cable guy are some of the best professions in the world.
Obviously woman and child welfare ministers are allowed to watch the porn because it is their duty.

Another pressing issue of nation wide debate in the country, who is responsible for rise in rapes? So far everything from Porn, MTV, America, small clothes on woman, large clothes on women, no clothes, babies, small girls, walking at night, staying home at night, neighbors and the breathing is held responsible for making a man rape a girl. Obviously, if the rape happens near a temple or a bar is normal, it should not be considered rape because she deserves it.

The government of Goa has banned drinking on the beach. They have finally got tired of chasing naked and drunk strangers on the beach. The final year ritual of puking outside Tito and the Facebook bromance photo albums are feeling threatened.

Well its only fair, Goa was the last place in the country that had any liberal sanity. Whenever anyone mentioned they are off to Goa, you had to brace yourself for the Dil Chahta hai type poses or bromance pictures at Calangute beach (which incidentally is the only beach anyone remembers others are only beaches they saw on the way to somewhere else). No more sex on the beach drinking on the beach.

So bottom-line  India is a normal country... crazy normal country. Water gate opened the floodgates in American history, there are multiple tape gate, coal gate, mobile gate and what not, but the only thing that shakes the government into action is a teenagers Facebook status update.

Only relief in this normal world is eating boiled peanuts sitting on the park bench watching the Pigeons giving PDA for the whole world to see. That is also normal, I guess.

We live in interesting times.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Prophecy of Indian Railways

The thing about prophecies is, they tend to start a war more than prevent it. If Kansa never heard the prophecy of Krishna we would never see the battle. If Voldemort never knew about the potter boy, we would be saved seven horrible movies. But the thing about prophecies is that they exist.


Over the period of time, I have come to believe that someone somewhere is jotting down prophecies about me in an language illegible by human. You know something is amiss, and bam that thing is amiss right then and there.

There is not a single moment of doubt in my mind about the prophecy of railway and me. Murphy had once said, if there is a fifty-fifty chance of getting something right, there is a ninety percent guarantee you will get it wrong.

During my junior college days there are people who sleep on the railway platform who used to watch me run after a train almost every day. Sometimes I even ran after it from front. This made one day, a homeless guy come towards me and said, 'You are never going to reach the platform on time.' Now that I think about it, his prediction would have been different had I given him some more money but that is another matter. But the worlds were etched, I can never reach the platform on time.

The traffic, lazy friends and missing socks helped fulfilling this prophecy time and again. Just when everything was going on time, they were joined by confusing phone calls, flat tires and one time, a cow, yes, a cow sitting in the middle of the street. The Universe does not play nice.

My first job was in New Delhi, which is so far the most confusing capital of the country.

It thus happened on the fateful day, I was busy drinking Ginger Chai dipping cream-roll on the new Delhi railway station, waiting for my train,'Sampark Kranti Express', to arrive.

The thing about Indian railways is that they do not obey the general laws of time. They have their own set of rules, if you arrive at the station an hour early than the departure, there is a guarantee that the train will be an hour late. Following the trend, you decide to relax a little and come a little sooner than the departure time and the train would be on time, causing you to rush inside it. Obeying this law, I had dutifully arrived an hour early. Had judged for fifteen minutes to decide if I should test the capability of my stomach to digest the chinese noodles near the railway station. Stumbled on two passengers sleeping, yes sleeping, on the platform. And finally settled for tea served in a cup that was questionably clean.

My train was busy following its own timetable and taking her own time to arrive. As I dipped the final piece of cream roll in my tea, there was a public announcement. A bored little clerk behind a mike announced, 'Rajdhani express is scheduled to depart on platform number 1'.
Platform number 1 was were I was waiting for my train. If Rajdhani was on platform number 1, where was my train?

There was fifteen minutes left for my train to depart and there was no train. No announcement and no information. I rushed to the train time table on the platform (it occurred to me that I could have done this an hour ago). The train time table, following the laws of railways, has its own laws of motion. It did not have my train on it.

I pulled out the ticket which contained a blurry writing of my train journey. Time of departure, check. Train of departure, check. Time of arrival, check. Platform number, check. And finally it dawned on me, a little late, station of departure, Nizamuddin Station and not New Delhi.

Without thinking a lot, I bolted out of the station to catch a local taxi. The taxi meter calculations in Delhi are done using a complex scientific calculator. And are further multiplied by an imaginary number. He spoke the arbitrary amount which I was not in any mood to argue with (if you argue well, you can subtract an imaginary number from the amount and negotiate it less than 50% of what he says but no time for that). Just told him to press on the accelerator.


View Larger Map

If they are ever looking for replacement for speed racer, this taxi driver could nominate himself. We raced to the street of Delhi and reached the Nizamuddin station in fifteen minutes.

Just when I was thinking I have missed the train, I saw her standing in great majesty at platform number 1. I took a deep breath and put one foot forward, the train started moving on.
And again, the old prophecy hit me, I was running behind a train godspeed.

I did catch it, yet again. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

An auto-rickshaw in need is very costly indeed.



India is a land of spiritual getaways, people from all over the world come to India to getaway from their life, wife, boss and sometimes they just visit to create albums on Facebook. The tourist love to see the Taj Mahal, they want to visit the Himalayas. There are multiple brochures printed in colorful ink of thousand spiritual getaways in India. The tourism and spiritual brochures miss out on one big spiritual one can partake in this crazy country is riding in an auto rickshaw.

One small journey in an auto rickshaw will give you the spiritual enlightenment that sages get ages to attain. The biggest philosophical discovery of modern India is how does the auto rickshaw meter changes its value for same distance depending on the country of origin of the passenger or the state of origin of the rickshaw driver. Just like the Knight Bus (from the Harry Potter) these rickshaw will come to your assistance whenever a witch or a wizard or anyone with money needs them.

There is a well known curse in modern India that the auto rickshaw driver will be fluent in the language you have no clue about. Like in Bangalore if you don't know Kannada, the chances of first rickshaw driver knowing Kannada are greater, the second and third one will definitely know Kannada along with Telugu or Tamil. The forth guy will put a good effort in speaking English with you but then halfway along will give it up.
The fifth guy won't stop. You won't wait for the sixth rickshaw.

Don't act surprised if a Gujarati rickshaw driver comes to your aid in Mumbai. The Marathi one would be in Ahmedabad. Its globalization, nothing else.

One of the biggest spiritual journey happened to me on a stretch of road that was, by the look of it, built to get dug up every fifteen days. I believe they roll a dice between different departments to get dibs on who gets to dig first. The road was build, dug up, patched up roughly, dug up again, patched up roughly again, dug again and so on. Till what looked like a track for dirt biking. The rickshaw driver with all his infinite wisdom and dexterity of an Ninja ignited his engine and drove on. 

I hung on tight to the ceiling as life speed past me, also did the potholes, a vegetable vendor and... huh... an elephant. That rickshaw ride brought me in full circle with life. There is a theory that says that the moment you understand the rickshaw meter, they replace it with something completely random. 

The auto rickshaw is always with you, for you wherever you are, until you desperately need one. A rickshaw in need is very costly indeed.

No one really knows how one came up with the concept of rickshaw. Was that a bad idea to make a big scooter or someone missed out to put one tyre into a four-wheeler, we will never know. What makes a rickshaw meter tick, we may never find out.

But whenever you visit India make sure you experience this spiritual experience at-least one time. Ride an auto-rickshaw on the streets on India and suddenly you will feel the sense of fulfillment encompassing your entire life. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Living in the Cloud

This is cross posting from my tech blog with few additions.
During a drinking session with a friend, we got discussing how everyone is taking about cloud. I pointed out that soon cloud is going to replace a computer and he said that was not possible.

Computer will still be needed for many professional work like movie editing, photo editing, animation and a lot other things. But what about personal computing? Can I use only cloud systems and survive for many days?

The short answer is 'yes' I can. The long answer is this blog post. The challenge was accepted, that for seven days I will use only cloud services for my personal computing needs. Funny part was, I ended up continuing using those services way beyond seven days. Enlisting the top ten things I needed a computer for and how I used only cloud services for them.


1. Editing my novel
Thats the easiest thing anyone can relate to. How do I create documents, the dreaded excel sheets and powerpoint presentation. The common answer would be Google Docs but somehow in past few days, I am not really in Moodle for Google (neither am I switching back to the old nemesis microsoft). I used Zoho Writer to edit my novel online. I preferred their services much better than other online tools.


2. Create Graphic for the blogs
This was a tricky one. If you look at the header of this blog or on the sidebar, you will see many beautiful icons that I created using photoshop.  I could not believe any online provider could provide me the beauty of a photoshop editing. None of the offline tools came close to offering what photoshop offered. However, to my delight, I found the online editor Pixlr.com to come in handy. It can be using for cropping, pasting and editing pictures. The new banner for my blog (http://sidoscope.co.in) and my wifes blog (http://thecanvasplatter.blogspot.in) is created using pixlr. This startup was taken over by autodesk and is one of the best thing that has come up in the crowd.

3. Creating presentation
When I am not doing anything, I am busy creating presentations. I love those things that move around. You can see some of the things I created on my site showcase. Most of the presentations on the page are created using Prezi.com the online 3D presentation maker. Prezi gives an extra dimension to the presentation and that wow factor helps.

4. Making Infographics
I have used many corporate tools for making infographics. The best one was obviously illustrator, adobe knows how to do stuff right. But then can I make infographics online? I tried with pixlr but since there was a screen limit with their editor, making a long infographic like the one for cloud computing was a tedious job. Just when I thought, I am losing the challenge, ta da, Cacoo.com came to the rescue. Cacoo has an easy to use interface where you can create beautiful graphics for free. They offer 25 diagrams on the free license which is really cool.

5. Sharing files and photos
One of the many things you need a computer and those little USB drives is transfer of files. During my college days when I did not have a computer, I used to carry a rewritable CD in my bag and borrow CD writers on my friends computer to burn disc. Things changed and we now have those USB drives. So the real question here was how do I transfer more than a GB of file? Now in real world scenario there are very few things that are more than one GB, however lets say I wanted to transfer a heavy file? And there Dropbox came to rescue. What was more with the camera upload feature, I did not have to do anything. When I took photos, they were safely upload to dropbox and all I had to do was share it with my friend.
With Samsung Promotion on Dropbox, I got 96 GB of extra space (I have four devices) along with multiple camera upload spaces. So my total dropbox space was way beyond 100 GB (which was ironic since my first computer, I had only 40 GB of space)


6. Watching Movies
When was the last time you stepped into a DVD store and purchased a nice DVD, picked up a bottle of whiskey and made some pop-corn. If you never did, I highly suggest you do. Anyways, so since this was a post computer world, the best alternative I found online was bigflicks.com. It is a on-demand movie site that streams bollywood movies. It also streams selected english movies. A quick google search also brought me to the cinemanow.com that streams english movies in USA and Canada. There are many other on-demand movie site for other regions. Since cinemanow does not stream in India, I could not test it. If you are using any other service mention it in comments below.

7. Listening to Songs
Listening to songs while doing stuff is one of the many things one can do. However, iTunes has already brought those on  cloud. Just like movies, listening to songs is also a regional thing. One of the best service I use regularly is Dhingana.com. It streams not only bollywood but also regional marathi songs.
If there is any such internal service which is popular, mention it in comments below.

There are many other services that are available online like Games, e-Learning courses and many more.

I won the challenge very easily. There has been a paradigm shift in the way we look at software and computers. The bulky DVDs are now used only to watch on a DVD player (which ill be selling on ebay soon). There is a big shift from the way we conceive social notion.

This change is good or bad, I do not know but somewhere I have heard, some governments are already building their cloud army.  An army of hackers who will bring down the internet and countries along with it.

Disclaimer: None of the services mentioned above have paid me to write their names here. These are the services I use daily and is a personal choice not determined by merit.


Have you read my book yet?

Have you read my book yet?
An epic adventure across space and time