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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Anti-Alcohol Drive Kills One

Nooria Haveliwala was in the news today because she was driving after drinking and ended up killing two people. Ironically one of them was a bike rider who was being tested for alcohol level. The news report does not say whether they did find any alcohol or not. If not, it is really sad that the poor guy lost his life because of some moron stopping him without reason. Secondly the woman was apparently driving at 120 kmph on a road which is pretty straight. What was the traffic police (five of them) doing? None of them saw the speeding SUV from a distance and made any attempt to slow it down or stop it. How is it possible? Unless, they were too busy harassing the biker and trying to maximize their night duty earnings.

I am in no way trying to condone the Girl's act. She was drunk and needs to be punished, not only for being drunk but also for killing people. Do I feel sad for the policemen? Yes, of course. But doing something for the heck of doing it goes much beyond sanity. It is the manner in which we go around trying to implement rules which makes me feel that everyone around me is stupid. When they catch someone who is drunk the guy walks out after a couple of hours and the fine is laughable.

So is the Government going to take some responsibility? I doubt it.Just like they didn't in the earlier cases. In the past many accidents have taken place when pavement dwellers were killed due to people losing control of their vehicles, more famously amongst them Salman Khan, Puru Rajkumar, Alistair Pereira. Now the government never bothered about the fact that in their regime people are sleeping on pavements. How come sleeping on pavements is not a crime? I mean forget about being drunk, there can be an accident with perfectly sane, not drunk people who lose control of their cars. A simple error of judgment, a small accident, becomes a major deal because there are people sleeping on the pavement. No one thinks about that and people continue to sleep on pavements.

It is not any different with people walking on the roads. They walk as if the roads are made for pedestrians. Nobody ever fines them for jaywalking. No one objects to anyone flouting all rules of crossing roads. No one even considers the possibility of the driver of a vehicle being innocent whenever accidents involving pedestrians take place. It is a crime to be a motorist, eh!

Coming back to the accident yesterday. People will be more careful if they sight traffic policemen regularly. But here the traffic Police people hide behind trees and corners and other vehicles so that they can catch people making mistakes and make some money out of them. If the girl in question knew that there would be traffic Police on the way she wouldn't have dared go upto a speed of 120 kmph. If she had sighted a single traffic Policeman from Breach Candy to Marine Lines, she would have been much slower. And here we had Five Policemen standing together at a single place. What were they waiting for? Another Ajmal Kasab driving by? Or does the Government ask the Police to move in groups to avoid any embarrassing situations.

It is high time the government takes some responsibility for their action or is it inaction? For such cases the investigation should not be limited to the accident but also to the circumstances leading to the accident. Here I mean the collateral damage due to policies and their execution of and by the Public servants.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Copy And Paste - Hits Global Warming Too

I guess it starts early in life. Infants and kids alike are designed to copy the actions, accents, behavorial instincts from their mothers and fathers and also any other human being in hand. I have not observed small kids with pets in their homes, but I bet the toddlers try to copy the actions of the pets they spend their time with.

As they grow up they start copying their friends and heroes, who in turn again, have ingrained (copied and pasted) the habits from their parents.

When they go to school the teacher tries to tell them to copy the alphabet she writes on the board. For most kids writing the alphabet, like rest of the learning process, is a dull chore, when they could be playing in the mud. The straight lines are still fine but the curves are difficult. It gets more difficult when our education system considers every child to be an potential calligraphist and the lessons on cursive writing start. I remember telling my child to "draw" the alphabet instead of writing. Copy and Paste!!

We are inculcating a habit of copy and paste in our children. I have seen parents scurrying around to get data on issues like Global warming and UNO etc. And this for second grade students!! Ultimately the parent, who himself has forgotten everything about these issues, not having been in touch with the issues, browses the Internet in the offices, takes out a couple of printouts on the relevant subject and hands them over to the kid. Copy and paste. The unassuming kid understand what his father has done and learns the way to solve things. Copy and Paste.

I had heard of 'Catch ém young' but some of us have mistook it for 'Hatch them young'. Why can't learning be a slow progress and kids be allowed to take it easy. Why do we all want our kids to be know all irrespective of what he/she is interested in.

Anyway the learning continues. The teachers due to our education methodology inadvertantly tell the kids to copy and paste. The child learns that understanding a law or a theorem is of no use as long as you can't reproduce exactly what the teacher or the book says it is. Copy and Paste.

In college too, the copy and paste part continues. There are entire thesis available on the net. There is an immense amount of information available on the net on almost all the subjects. Who cares for new research then? Just copy and paste. Change a few words here and there not from the point of view of education or learning, but out of fear of being charged with plagiarism.

The doctorate done, the guy gets a job and continues with his skill of copy and paste, since no one in the organisation wants a change. He is told to retain the formats of reports, letter writing etc. So he copies the earlier letter makes the changes and voila the job is done to the complete satisfaction of his superiors. The man becomes senior and by then knows all the tricks of the trade which he unknowingly thinks is his development since he is so used to copying the work of others and claiming it as his own. Even if he does not, his subordinates surely think that the methods are the boss's trademark. The cycle continues and the copy and paste method prospers.

The method is not without danger. I remember one of my colleagues having developed a form for filling up the Income tax return on an excel sheet. So while I was still slogging with pencil and rubber our man smirkly told me that he had finished. I was tempted and gave in. I copied the file on my computer and made sure all the names and figures had been changed. Just that I over looked a small certification column which mentioned the father's name. My return that year went as - I, son of xyz.... whi was not my father by any chance and I was definitely not his son. Fortunately everyone in the world is very tolerant of the copy and paste method. I am sure some IT assessing officer had a few good laughs, shared it with his friends and then stamped the return as correct and done with.

Lately Mr RK Pachauri and the IPCC must have also realized the dangers of taking short cuts like copying and pasting stuff without verification. Maybe it was the deadlines or the normal interest in controversial and shocking statements but the fact is that at least two issues have been included in the report which were not subject to scientific scrutiny. Maybe there are more. But can you blame Pachauri. Like he said he and almost everyone else has been trained in this method of copy and paste write since their infancy.

I think we should forgive Pachauri and IPCC. Afterall it was his and his team's natural instinct to copy and paste as explained above. And if homosexuality can be acceptable as a natural instinct, why not copy and Paste.

I can almost see Tiger Woods jumping up in the air pleading the natural instincts to be the reason behind his conquests off the course. Erm.. He had to putt, when he saw a hole.

Monday, January 25, 2010

India Shines - 'Phir Mile Sur' Mera Tumhara - Watch Video

The iconic anthem "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara", written by Piyush Pandey, is being reinvented and brought back in a new avatar as "Phir Mile Sur" and will be will be revealed to the nation on 25 January 2010 in Mumbai. The earlier version "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" was based on national integration that used to air on Doordarshan TV in 1988, had become very popular with all the Indians. Watch the video of the original song "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" here: Get Song Lyrics

This video featured a supergroup of popular Indians - Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty, Jitendra, Mallika Sarabhai (Dancer), Mario Miranda (Cartoonist) Mrinal Sen (Filmmaker) Sunil Gangopadhyay, Annadashankar Ray (Author) Bhimsen Joshi, M Balamuralikrishna, Lata Mangeshkar, Suchitra Mitra (Singers) and sportspersons Narendra Hirwani, S Venkataraghavan, Prakash Padukone among many others.You can download this song for free from these links:

Its sweet melody and different tunes and ragas incorporated from the various parts of India made one feel instantly proud and gave a sense of belonging and a patriotic fervor that stayed in the minds and hearts for a long time. It is the perfect time for "Phir Mile Sur" to remind people again of those same feelings of national integrity and unity.

The original song was created by the Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad, and the new one will be produced by television channel Zoom from the Bennett, Coleman stable. The song will be unveiled on Monday, a day before India gets ready to celebrate it's 60th Republic Day, by the Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni. So don't miss this...

The new version of the popular song is composed by Louis Banks who had also composed the 1988 version of the song along with late P Vaidyanathan and it will also feature other popular musicians like Shankar - Ehsaan -Loy, Shaan, Shreya Ghoshal, Mika, Bhojpuri singer Kalpana, among many other personalities from sports, arts, entertainment and music.

Some of the stars that feature in his new version are Amitabh Bachchan along with his son Abhishek and Aishwarya, Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Shilpa Shetty among many other personalities from all walks of life...

I am definitely looking forward, very eagerly, to hear and see this new version of the song and am sure that it will be as good as, if not better, than the older version!!

Finally it is here. The much awaited new tunes to the iconic anthem "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara". The video has been shot in the various important landmarks of India with all the National icons in it that represent India from all parts, regions, languages, fields. Personally, I think it would have been great to see some politicians of all the various parties singing, "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" to show the true patriotic Spirit of India, Unity and National integration!! But, I guess that is asking for too much..

Watch Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara on You Tube - Part 1

Watch Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara on You Tube - Part 2

Friday, January 22, 2010

Watch Hope for Haiti Benefit Concert Live on You Tube

Top Hollywood actor, George Clooney is hosting a charity telethon "Hope for Haiti Now" that has been signed up with MTV, in an effort to raise funds for the relief of the earthquake victims in Haiti. This charity function "Hope for Haiti Now" will be aired at 8:00 Pm ET on several network channels.

This star studded event will feature some of Hollywood's most elite and biggest stars from the music industry; Of those who are slated to perform from the Los Angeles stage are Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Dave Matthews, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, and Taylor Swift, with a "group performance" featuring Keith Urban, Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.

The show also features: Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Shakira. From London stars like Rihanna, Bono, Coldplay, Jay-Z, and The Edge will also take part.


for more information on how you can help

Where to watch:

You will be able to watch the "Hope for Haiti Benefit Concert with U2, Jay-Z, the Boss and More" Live on You tube on January 22nd at 8:00 PM ET. This concert has been hosted by the Hollywood actor George Clooney as a charity event to raise sufficient funds for the relief of the Haiti earthquake victims. This event is a start studded one, with big actors, musicians and singers getting together to give a grand performance tonight...This event will be aired live on several networks including MTV (the host) among many others...

Hope for Haiti Benefit Concert with U2, Jay-Z, the Boss and More: Live on You Tube Here:

You will be able to watch the "Hope for Haiti Benefit Concert with U2, Jay-Z, the Boss and More" Live on You tube on January 22nd at 8:00 PM ET. This concert has been hosted by the Hollywood actor George Clooney as a charity event to raise sufficient funds for the relief of the Haiti earthquake victims. This event is a start studded one, with big actors, musicians and singers getting together to give a grand performance tonight...This event will be aired live on several networks including MTV (the host) among many others...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Holiday Packages - Save Money By Doing It Yourself

Holiday packages seem to be the best way to travel to a country or a city in your own country. The holiday packages promoted by various tour operators do give the customers a hassle-free holiday in the sense that the customer does not have to plan anything, other than, of course, the destination, the travel dates, the period of the holiday and the amount of money which he is willing to spend.

Besides that, the holiday packages are designed by the tour operator as per his own understanding of the place. It is like, the customer would actually be seeing and visiting the places that the tour operator thinks the customer should. The marketing department of these tour operators makes it sound like that they are covering the entire city or a country whereas in effect they are covering only the places which the discerning cutomer will recognize and get the feeling that all the important places have been covered.

The customs, traditions and the culture of a city or a country are definitely not going to be visible in these so-called important tourist destinations, so to start with, be ready to go to a city or a country like you would, going to a new market on your shopping trip.

First place the costs are cut is the flight timing. In order to achieve maximum cost reduction the tour operator books you on a flight which starts late at night or very early in the morning. Considering the distance to the airport and the one /two hour before the flight check in time, things get worse. Starting a holiday not sleeping well the previous night is definitely going to take a lot out of fun and enjoyment off your holiday. Moreover be prepared to sit away from the windows on the flight. If you have kids that is a problem.

The tour operators don't want to give one a chance to think while he / she or their family is on the Holiday package, lest you start asking uncomfortable questions. Therefore, they will cram up the day schedule for the entire duration of the package. At the end of the hectic day one would be dead tired to do anything but hit the sack in the anticipation of the next day. One thing the holiday package makes sure is that you would hardly relax during the trip and in fact would be more tired after the holiday than you were before you embarked on the journey.

The all inclusive packages rarely include everything. The fine print says it all. Visa, airport taxes, travel insurance, park/museum tickets, one or two meals, tips to guide / bus driver / bell boy etc will have to be borne by the customer. The hotels may or may not be the ones they specify in the itenerary. Many people are surprised at times and wonder how the particular hotel ever got the star rating it does have. The location of the hotel also does have a bearing on your level of enjoyment. The view from the room and the location of the room in the hotel may also be a dampener.

From my research, everything, starting from the flight fares to the park tickets, is available for much cheaper than the amount quoted in the holiday package. So it stands to reason that if one was to do some research, puts in an effort, he can save a lot planning his holiday by himself. These days everything is possible online. Tickets can be bought online, hotel bookings can be done online, there are websites which sell tickets to various places of interest online and throw in the pick up and drop complementary. In any case it is best to buy tickets for such places only after you have reached the city/country as most of them are available over the counter. You can also plan the places you want to visit as per your tastes. In most places local transportation is good enough for everyone. Give yourself a lot of time to savour the local culture and the way of life. In the end, that is what you will remember and cherish for the rest of your life.

So, if you have lots of money or just want to put a "been there" tag on a map, go for a holiday package. Otherwise, if you don't want your dream holiday to turn into a nightmare, plan it yourself with your family and make it a holiday to remember.

Planning a holiday yourself will give you a headache in the planning stage, but trust me, it wouldn't be more than what a normal work day would give you. In return you will be able to save a lot of money and have the holiday, full of relaxation and enjoyment, of your life.

Admission Tests/ Entrance Tests - A Way To Solicit Success

Education for all is a buzzword in almost all the countries in the world. In India too it has been gaining prominence for a while now and in Aug 2009 the government finally passed the Right to Education bill which guarantees free and compulsory education to all children between six and fourteen years of age.

But there are two glitches and major ones at that. First is the fees being charged by the schools. Besides the state sponsored schools, which have a common fee structure across the board, other schools are not governed by any common criteria. The unaided schools can charge as they like irrespective of the facilities available. The well to do people can afford most of these schools and are anyway sending their kids to reasonably good schools, hence they are not the ones to really benefit from the Right to Education bill. They can benefit if the fees are standardized and maybe then they can send their kids to schools which thus far were beyond their reach. For example the International Schools which are cropping up faster than the kids dropping out of schools charge anywhere between Rupees One to Seven lakhs. The middle class which, by the way, is much smaller in numbers than the lower income group can not afford these ridiculous fees for education. Yesterday only the Home minister P Chidambram said that institutes should not become money minting machines, not realizing that the successive governments of India, with their policies, are the ones which have caused such factories to be established.

As a result the kids who do get the admissions in these schools are those who would anyway not require the education considering that their parents are going to leave them a hefty inheritance and maybe a business too. Take for example the kids of Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar. Do you think it is going to matter much to them which schools they passed out from. But Dhirubhai Ambani International school can justify their high fees to other students just based on the premise of being colloeagues of these star sons and daughters.

The second major stumbling block is the entrance tests for school admissions. At a higher level an entrance test is still understood which can be used to gauge or establish a student's ability to cope with the curriculum. But admission tests for second and third grade, when the child barely understands the purpose of education or for that matter tests, is asking for a bit too much. The admission tests at this level, in my opinion, serve only one purpose. Filtration of the weak and financially unsound kids. Essentially all the schools, in their bid to enhance their reputation and subsequently the fees, are ensuring that no weak child, academically or financially weak, is admitted to their school so that can continue to showcase the good results of their students. Is there any purpose solved by such a school which takes the credit of the brilliance and efforts of their students to position themselves as a good school?

What ever happens to the fairness in the system? Education for All!! A report says that the dropout rate of the students is so high that only 12% of the students make it to a college. The global average is close to 40%. Can we blame the students for that when in school itself the institutions start filtering out the students by way of admission / entrance test or by imposing a high fee structure on the student. The students which benefit(?) from the Right to Education bill are those who will probably get admission to state run or municipality run schools which incidentally are the ones which fail to nurture the students or create an interest in them to pursue studies.

Talking of Admission tests, if a child fails to secure admission in a particular school, shouldn't the previous school/s be taken to task for not being able to bring him to a standard where he could clear an admission test based on the same syllabus. Or are we accepting the failures or the inability of our schools to provide agood standard of education. How can we give fair and equal education to all if we have already accepted that some institutions will be better than the others? We can not shirk away from our responsibility by just providing free admission to kids in a school which does little towards education and providing free lunches to the kids.

Right to Education means nothing. The bill will have a meaning if it is made Right to Quality Education.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Two Celestial Treats For Our Eyes - The Blue Moon and The Solar Eclipse

There were two celestial treats to watch and observe that were an absolute rare phenomenon to occur so close together in a span of two weeks, the New Blue Moon on 31st December and the Annular Solar Eclipse on 15th January.

The New Blue Moon: Seen on 31st December 2009.

Apparently a Blue Moon is a rare phenomenon that occurs once in a while and therefore the saying "once in a blue moon" originated. This blue moon is an extra "full moon" that occurs only in the years that have thirteen full moons, and the year 2009, happened to be that fateful year to give us this celestial treat to see on the New Year's eve.

What made this phenomenon even more rare and extra special a treat was the fact that it also had a partial eclipse on that night. See this picture:

This was the 13th Full Moon of 2009.
It was a Blue Full Moon the same night that it turned a new decade.
The next Blue Moon NYE will occur after a span of 19 years on December 31, 2028. 

I was fortunate to witness the full glory of this spectacular phenomenon on the eve of New years and tried to capture the beauty and radiance of the moon that night with my Nokia camera. (Picture above). However, I think the picture has not done full justice to the beauty and radiance that I saw on that night as the sky was lit up brightly, like never before seen, and the moon looked so bright and a little blue. It was a real sight to see and I am glad that I did not miss this event.

The Annular Solar Eclipse: 15th January 2010.

This was the second celestial treat that we got to witness in a span of just two weeks, the solar eclipse of January 15, 2010. This was an annular eclipse, a very rare phenomenon, that normally occurs when the Moon's apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun, causing the sun to look like an annulus (ring), blocking most of the Sun's light. What made it even more delightful and spectacular was the fact that it was also one of the longest eclipse of the millennium.

 In most parts of the world the solar eclipse was visible only as a partial eclipse, but in parts of south India it was seen as a total eclipse. Many people gathered to witness this phenomenon as it occurred in the afternoon hours and specially all the children could also get to see this rare delight.

On Friday, 2010 January 15th, the annular eclipse of the Sun was visible from within a 300-km-wide track that traversed half of Earth, and ended in China. The Total Solar eclipse occurred over the Indian Ocean. This eclipse was witnessed between 11:00 am onwards to 3:00 pm in all parts of India.

I was fortunate enough to have this whole event take place right in front of my balcony and could witness the various stages of the eclipse as it happened, in Mumbai. However, unfortunately, it was only a partial eclipse here and we could not witness the real glory of the annular ring that was seen from other parts of south India.

All the news channels showed this phenomenon live on the television and that is where I too saw the total eclipse. The picture above is as taken in one of the earlier stages of the eclipse as it began.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Encounter with Employment Scam

God, this world is getting more and more dangerous. If nature by itself was not difficult enough to live with, People around one make sure that one could never take his guard off. Now some genuine scamsters have taken the “people” danger to a new global level. Welcome to the Employment Scam I went through.

It started with me putting up my resume on a couple of web sites, purely on an experimental basis, to see how good those were . The going was good and I generally did get relevant offers. Then one day I get a letter from another prospective employer apparently from Dragon Oil, UK, asking me to send in my detailed updated CV, which I dutifully did. A couple of days later I get a response from the same guy telling me that they have found my resume to be interesting and asked me to answer a questionnaire attached with the mail. The questionnaire was intelligent and looked like it was from a reputed firm. So I spent some time on it and forwarded the answers as requested in the mail.

Five days later, I get a response indicating that they were happy to inform me that I was selected for the Job and that I was to be a General Manager with the company at their new Project at Republic of Benin. My pay - $ 19,000 a month. I was told to contact an attorney at Benin for further relocation and immigration formalities and that all my expenses towards the attorney were to be refunded. For good measure, the appointment letter was attached signed by none other than, Hussain M. Sultan, Chairman and CEO of Dragon Oil.

The offer was quite attractive and it took me some time to get back to mother earth and realize that I had better do some checking out on Dragon Oil. I visited their website and found that Hussain M. Sultan was indeed the Chairman and CEO of Dragon Oil. However their primary interest and projects were in Cheleken Contract Area Offshore Turkmenistan, in the Caspian Sea. There was no mention of Benin. Neither did their recruitment page have any positions listed.

I thought of getting to the bottom of the matter and started my research on the Internet. Here I came across the 419 scam a.k.a the Nigerian Money transfer fraud. The number "419" refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: "Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating") dealing with fraud.

There are various versions of the scam. However I found a web site which allows one to check the email or the document online. So I cut and paste the e-mail and checked it out. The answers were not very comfortable since it told me things I ought to have known, at least some of them. This is the advise I received:

(a) The word Barr. (barrister) mentioned in the e-mail was outdated and was generally referred to in the 419 scam mails.

(b) The e-mail used was a free web mail address. Any company worth it’s salt would have their own website and would use that instead.

(c) The location Cotonou (in Benin) had been used for many scams in the past.

(d) The email listed mobile phone numbers. Use of such numbers is typical for scams because they allow criminals to conceal their true location. They can receive calls in an Internet cafe from where they send you emails, while pretending to be in some office.

a. +447024074399 (UK, redirects to a mobile phone in another country)

b. +22993473212 (Benin, probably a prepaid mobile phone)

Lastly for any kind of immigration activities I should have been contacting the local embassy of the country and not some Barrister in Benin.

Cute stuff. I felt like going to Nigeria or Benin or wherever the scamster was and give him one solid punch. Unfortunately going to Nigeria would cost me more money than I would have lost as a result of falling for the scam. But the thought is dangerous. Imagine someone spending around $ 1000 in attorney fees only to realize he has lost it. Worse, someone actually giving up the current job in order to prepare for the move.

This was news to me and i think not many people are aware of this in my country. Anyways I guess it is best to tell family and friends so they don’t fall for it. The following sites describe the scam and its various versions in good detail.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

India Shines - Maharashtra Supports Motherhood - Allows Mother's name in School Forms

Yet another story that caught my attention was the headline in the "Mumbai Mirror" of January 2nd that screamed "Mom's the Word". It was a moment of triumph and happiness for all the single women with kids, divorced women and also single women who adopted kids to know that they no longer needed to fill in the "father's name" in a school form.

Our country has been a patriarchal society for decades and in a very bold step, the Maharashtra state government broke this tradition by changing the definition of guardianship. The government accepted the demand to allow schoolchildren to use their mother's name as the middle and last names instead of their father's name.

This change was one that was the need of the hour as the definition of relationships in today's world is changing rapidly and women are becoming more independent. There are many unmarried single women who are taking to adopting children, like Sushmita Sen who has adopted two girls. Modern and working women are more comfortable with a "live-in" relationship rather than getting married. Divorced women prefer to take care of their children on their own.

Maharashtra has indeed taken a stride in the right direction for the upliftment of woman's rights and this will hopefully wake up the other states or the central government itself to make this change in the code of the schools all over India.

According to this new rule, "the change in the school code would make it binding on the schools to accept requests by such mothers to have their names included in the form. This change will be implemented in the week to come. This also means that the education certificates and forms will have to make provision for the mother's name."

It is stories like these that give us hope that India is truly a developing nation and taking strides in the right direction...Way to go!

India Shines - Indian Villagers Show the Way by Building Their Own Railway Station

Reading the newspaper daily makes one feel depressed most of the time, as most of the news items are related to dirty politics, scams, scandals, filmy gossip and as if all that was not enough, it adds to one's depression when we read news of students committing suicide for some vague reasons, molesters getting away with bribe, and what not. (I have decided to highlight such news items in this month that brings out a ray of hope for the people of India and shows that India is truly shining...Let us celebrate this year's Republic Day of India, 26 January, with Pride. Let us show the world what India is truly capable of. This series of news items will be labeled as "India Shines".) Read on...

But, today I saw a ray of hope in one particular news item tucked away in the sidebar of the 16th page. The news headline, " Villagers build own railway station" caught my attention and my curiosity was piqued to know more about this.

The villagers of Tajnagar near Gurgaon showed the true strength of the "Village Panchayat" and the "Gram Sabha" by passing a resolution to build their own railway station for the convenience of the people who had to travel long distances. The villagers had lobbied for a railway station in their village for 25 years, and when their demand was not met, they decided to take matters into their own hands and build one for themselves. They collected a sum of 21 lakhs from the people of the village and started work on it.

They then asked the railways if they would stop a few trains on this railway station, and the surprising thing is that they agreed. The railways has promised seven passenger trains, in both directions, to halt at the station if it was built as per the specifications required.

The Villagers showed the rest of India how they could carve out their own destiny and make development happen in their village. These people have made us all proud and we hope that their project will be a success. Hopefully, more and more people will learn from this and take steps to bring about development in their own villages, cities, towns etc..

Way to Go. We would love to read more such stories in the newspapers everyday!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Castor and Pollux - The Story of My Life!

These two people I know are in the process of ruining my life. Taking turns, one by one, casting a shadow on me all the time, always contradicting each other. I really don’t know how I have survived the 40 odd years of my life, despite them. Or, Have I?

God knows what makes them do this to me but somehow or the other they always succeed making me feel like a complete idiot. And guess what, if they were ever on the same side, I would know which side to take. But, as luck would have it, they have always managed to have differing opinions about everything.

Being around these two has its advantages too. I am bright, witty, logical and entertaining. I am generally optimistic and enthusiastic like a child. I enjoy everything, never settling down for one. I am good at expressing myself, have good communication skills, and am versatile and good with my hands, adaptable and clever. The unknown intrigues me. I can do more than one thing at a time. I am a free soul. I perceive life as a game. I have the zeal of a sportsman. The intellect dominates me, constantly interacting with the environment, investigating, learning, knowing and exchanging ideas.

However my association with these two gentlemen in question has made sure I don’t stick to one thing for long. One of them introduces me to something and the moment I get interested, the other person jumps up and says that he has lost interest and that he wants to see or try something else. As a result I have never been able to pursue something with my whole heart. Never going deep into any subject, just skimming the top of it. Courtesy these two, most of the time I am just thinking of what I am missing, or what I am not doing rather than what I am doing at the moment.

The people I know, think, that I am restless and fickle minded. I can’t blame them. I myself think of me that way at times. When I was younger people used to laugh it off saying that I would settle down. But now thanks to these two guys, all aspects of my life are suffering.

As an individual it feels great, but otherwise I feel like a flipped coin most of the time, never knowing which side would show up. I am brilliant and irresistible at times and inconsistent and irrational at the other. My relationships have hardly gone beyond the superficial level. These two are again to be blamed. One of them makes me take a stand, voice an opinion, decide on an option and then the other one forces me to completely change my mind the next instant. To others I come across like a Chameleon, changing colors every instant, selfish and confused. Frankly, people have told me, I am exasperating and that they can never be sure, what I am thinking about.

People say that morality and values don’t have any place in my life and irrespective of how straightforward, honest, courteous, affectionate, generous and thoughtful I am, it’s all put to waste because these two would not let me stick to my convictions. Ultimately it seems to others that I am driven only by one thing that is my self interest, even though that is not the case.

For my own sanity in this social world, one of them has to go. I still have not made up my mind as to which one.

It’s either Castor or Pollux.

Sad part and the tough one too, I don’t think I will be complete without either of them.

I am a Gemini.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Universe In A Year - Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan, the American Astronomer had come up with a cosmic calendar as a way for people to understand the history of the universe.

He put the entire period starting with the Big Bang till now into an earth year (all relative) with the human history crowding in the last five minutes. Interestingly the earth formed after nine months in the cosmic calendar in the month of September.

The homo sapiens appeared in the last five minutes of the day and the last five hundred years have happened in the last second which continues even now.

If you see the calendar it becomes easier to comprehend what happened when and how long it took relative to other events.

Have a look at the Cosmic Calendar:

01 Jan - Big Bang , universe formed
15 Mar - Galaxies and five stars formed
01 May - Our own galaxy, the Milky Way formed
08 Sep - Our Sun Formed
09 Sep - Our Solar System formed
12 Sep - Earth formed
13 Sep - The Earth's moon formed
20 Sep - Earth's atmosphere formed
01 Oct - First life form appears on earth
07 Oct - Earliest fossils
18 Dec - first Multi-celled life form appears
19 Dec - First fish appears
20 Dec - First insects and land based plants appear
23 Dec - First reptiles appear
24 Dec - Earliest Dinosaurs
26 Dec - Earliest mammals
27 Dec - Earliest birds
28 Dec - Earliest Flowering plants / Dinosaurs are extinct
31 Dec (23:55) - Modern Humans evolved

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