Mausaji, Samosaji

mausaji
Mausaji, Never born — Never died, Always in the heart.

Dear Friends,

I have shared a few times that I had a privileged childhood. I never had led a hand-to-mouth existence but more than that I was privileged to have made the acquaintance of ‘Jaipur wale Mausaji’ while I was very young. I have been called miserly by my cousin sisters whenever they write letters to me and I don’t answer simply because whatever I feel for them, words feel inadequate and meaningless. The same thing applies in this as well. I am sharing few bits here as there are too many memories of a golden past which will not let me go till I have shared a few of them.

First let me start by sharing the relation I had with him. By relation he was my mother’s-sister’s husband. In English, he would probably be termed as ‘Maternal Uncle’ although he was much more than that. My one of the first remembrances of him was during ‘Madhu Didi’s ‘ Shaadi (marriage). Madhu Didi is uncle’s daughter and I would have been a impish 4-5 year old at the time. This was the first time I was gonna be part of ‘The Great North Indian Wedding’ and I didn’t know what was in store for me as I had grown in Pune.

I remember finishing my semester tests and mummy taking me to Pune Station. I was just excited that I would be travelling somewhere and had no clue what would be happening. We landed in Agra, took another train and landed in Jaipur in the middle of the night at their home at Sangram Colony.

While I had known few of the cousins, I was stumped to see so many cousins jumping out of everywhere. The look on my face was one of stupefaction and surprise . The only thing which would closely resemble that would be Bilbo’s 111st Birthday party in Lord of the Rings (Part 1). In fact, by a curious quirk/twist of fate, I came to know of a Naniji or somebody like that who by relation was far elder to me, while she was either my age or below my age. As was customary, had to bow down sheepishly.

As a somewhat alone boy, to be thrown in this rambunctious bunch and be the babe in the woods, I was quickly chopped and eaten up but had no complaints. I would get into trouble onto a drop of a hat. While Mausiji would threaten me, Mausaji would almost always defend me. While Mausiji could see through me, the twinkle in Mausaji’s eyes used to tell me that while he knew what I was upto, for reasons unknown, he would always defend me.

Mausaji’s Sangram Colony’s house became my cricket ground, football ground and all and any ground to play and be. Mausaji and his brothers used to live near each other and the lane they had, had hardly any vehicles on it, so all the cousins could play all they want with me being the longest, perhaps unconsciously trying either to make for lost time or knowing/unknowing this was too good to last. Today’s Pokemon generation might not be able to get it but that’s alright.

They also had a beautiful garden where Mausiji used to grow vegetables. While playing, we sometimes used to hurt her veggies (unconsciously) or just have shower with the garden hose. Mausaji used to enjoy seeing our antics. One of the relatives even had a dog who used to join in the fun sometimes. When mummy and Mausiji expressed concern about the dog biting, Mausaji would gently brush it aside.

One of the other things in Didi’s marriage is we got a whole lot of sweets. While Mausiji tried to keep us in check with sweets, both Manish Bhaiya and Mausaji used to secrete sweets from time to time. When I was hungry and used to steal food (can’t wait till the appointed time) either Bhaiya or Mausaji would help me with the condition I would have to take the blame if and when we got caught as we invariably did.

Mausaji’s house had a basement where all the secreted sweets and food used to get in. Both me and Manish Bhaiya would be there and we would have a riot in ourselves. We would enjoy the adrenaline when we were ‘stealing’ the food. As I was pretty young, I was crazy about the Tom and Jerry cartoons that used to come on Television that time. I and Bhaiya used to act like Jerry and/or his cronies while Mausiji would invariably be the Tom with Mausaji all-knowing about it but acting as a mere bystander. I remember him egging me for many of the antics I would do and get in trouble in but as shared would also be defended by him.

The basement was also when I was becoming a teenager where Manish Bhaiya showed me ‘his collection’ and we had a heart-to-heart about birds and bees. While whatever little I had known till that time was from school-friends and my peers at school and I didn’t know what was right or wrong. Bhaiya clarified lot of things, concepts which I was either clueless or confused about. When I look back now, it is possible that Mausaji might have instructed Bhaiya to be my tutor as I used to be somewhat angry and lash out by the confusing times.

As we used to go there for part of holidays, I remember doing all sorts of antics to make sure I would get an extra day, an extra hour to be there. I never used to understand why we had to go to meet the other relatives when all the fun I could have was right there only, couldn’t Mummy know/see that I used to enjoy the most here.

Mausaji was a ‘clothier’ as we understand the term today and a gentleman to the core. He was the co-owner of Rajputana Cloth Store in Jaipur. Many VIP’s as well as regular people used to visit him for getting clothes designed and stitched under his watchful eyes. I never saw him raise his voice against any of the personnel working under him and used to be a thorough gentleman to one and all. Later, as I grew up I came to know and see that people would phone up and just ask him to do the needful. He would get the right cloth, stitch it right and people used to trust him for that. He was such an expert on cloth and type of clothes, that by mere touch he could talk/share about what sort of cloth it is.

One of his passions was driving and from the money he had saved, he had got an Ambassador Car. Every day or every other day or whenever he felt like it, he used to take either the gang or me with mummy or me with anybody else. Each ride used to be an adventure in itself, with a start – beginning and an end. I always used to watch out for the car-rides as I knew we would get sweets or something as well as he would regale us with stories about a place here and there. There was a childlike curiosity and interest in him which was infectious to one and all.

The only weakness that he had was he liked to drink wine once in a while. When I was a kid, I was never able to give him company, only few years back, for the first time I was able to share wine with him which was also a memory I treasure. Those who know him closely knew the many up and downs that he went through, but as a gentleman he never let on the hurts he had or didn’t curse his fate or anything else that we do when things go bad from our perspective.

While there is much to write about him, it will not accomplish anything that is not known about him. I’ll add with the private joke that was between him and me. When I was little, I used to call him Mausaji, Samosaji for a) I liked Samosa and b) Samosa has a bit thick skin outside and underneath it’s all gravy. In reality though, he was butter all the way.

I miss you Mausaji and wish I could turn the clock back and come with Mummy to visit both Mausiji and you. I hope your new journey takes you to even further heights than this life. Savouring the memories – mummy and I, hope we meet you again in some new Avataar πŸ™‚

Trains, Planes and the future

Swacch Bharat - Indian Railways Copyright: Indian Express
Swacch Bharat – Indian Railways Copyright: Indian Express

Some of the content may be NSFW. viewer discretion advised.

I have had a life-long fascination with trains. One of my first memories was that of 5-7 year old, clutching my mother or grandmother’s hand seeing the steam engine lumbering down whistling and smoking at the same time. I was both afraid and strangely drawn to the iron beast and the first time I knew and then slowly understood that if we come with luggage and the steam-engine comes, it means we are going to travel.

I have travelled some, but there are lots to explore still and I do hope that I cover some more of it during my lifetime. The reason I am writing about trains is an article which caught my eye couple of days. Besides seeing the changing geography, the variety of food one can get on train and in stations is one of the primary reasons that Indians love to travel by trains. It is one place where you could have incredible conversations over cup of tea or favourite food and unlike air travel and the famed IFE (In-flight entertainment) people are actually pretty social even with all the gadgets. For those who are wondering, the author was travelling between Jamshedpur, Gujarat to Kolkatta, a train ride which has now gone on my bucket list for the delectable items the author has described πŸ˜‰

To add to the above, it is still cheaper than air travel, although that is changing a bit as Indian Railways seeks to modernize Railways and make it into world-class bullet trains.

Indian Railways has a long, rich culture and some of the most interesting nuggets you learn over time adds to the fascination of the Railways. For instance I’m sharing this letter which I read first in book and then saw in the New Delhi Railway Museum. The letter I am sharing below was written by a certain Shri Okhil Chandra Sen to the Sahibganj Railway Office in year 1909, almost 38 years before India became independent.

“I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with ‘lotah’ in one hand and ‘dhoti’ in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on plateform. I am got leaved at Ahmedpur station.

“This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train five minutes for him. I am therefore pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report! to papers.”

If it were not for Mr. Okhil Chandra Sen we would still be running with ‘water bottle’ (improvement) and jeans/shorts/whatever (again improvement) while the possibility of falling over would always be omnipresent in a hurry. Now we do have toilets and some of the better trains even have Bio-toilets which should make things better as well.(/NSFW)

For the plane bit, most of my flights have been domestic flying. Some of my most memorable flights is when flying from Mumbai on a clear sky overlooking the Queen’s necklace, loving it and landing in Bangalore during mist or rain or both. Delhi is also good as airports go but nothing much adventurous about it. It was only with the experience of my first international flight, I realized the same feeling again, nervousness and sense of adventure as you meet new people. Nowadays every week I do try and broaden my horizon by seeking and learning a bit about International Travel.

Copyright: National Geographic Magazine
Copyright: National Geographic Magazine

In this I came across an article on National Geographic site which also evoked similar feelings. While I can’t go back to the past and even if I did (in distant past before I was born), I wouldn’t want to improve my financial situation at all (as otherwise I would hit the Grandfather Paradox or/and the Butterfly effect (essentially saying there’s no free lunch), it still makes you wonder about a time when people had lot more adventure and lot more moving parts. I do wish they had a much bigger snapshot of that plane so I could really see how people sat in the old aircraft. The low-resolution picture doesn’t do justice to the poster and the idea of that time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Sound_of_Thunder for an implementation of Butterfly effect.

The Grandfather Paradox has been seen plenty of times in fantasy movies like the Back to the Future, Planet of the Apes and many others so will not go there.

For the average joe today, s/he has to navigate security,check bags, get her/imself processed through passport control, get boarding pass, get to the gate on-time, get to the aircraft via bridge or bus, get to the seat, somehow make it through the ascent and use your IFE and get snacks and meals till it’s time to touch-down and re-do the whole drill again as many times you are connecting. I really admire Gunnar Wolf for the tenacity he showed for the x number of connections he made both ways.

The world's 10 best airports Copyright: Changi International Airport
Photo – Courtesy Changi International Airport, Singapore

While leafing through the interweb today, came across an article . While you can slice and dice the report anyway you want, for me if ever I get a chance again for an International Travel, I would try to see I get a layover at these three airports in order of preference (this is on the basis that none of these airports need a transit visa for the activities shared) –

a. Changi International Airport – It is supposed to have shower amenities, has a movie theatre (+1), free tour of the city (+1) and of course as many Indians do go to Singapore as a destination in itself would have multiple vegetarian options (+2) so would be nice if I need to layover.

b. Zurich Airport (ZRH) – “For passengers with an extended layover, Zurich Airport offers bicycle and inline-skate rentals and excursions to the Swiss Museum of Transport Lucerne.” – From business-insider.com. While I’m not much of a bicycle and inline-skating freak, if the Swiss Museum of Transport Lucerne is anything to the scale of Isiko Museum which I shared in a blog post sometime before, it would be worth by itself. I haven’t tried to find the site but can imagine, for e.g. if it has a full-scale model of a submarine or train engine, either steam-engines or ones like SNCF or any of the other bullet-trains and early aircraft, it would just blow my mind. When you are talking about transport, there is so much science, business, logistics etc. that I’m sure I’ll overload with information, photos and any trinkets they have to buy.

c. Central Japan International Airport (NGO) – “It has a 1,000-foot-long sky deck where passengers can watch ships sail into Nagoya Port. There’s also a traditional Japanese bathhouse where you can have a relaxing soak while watching the sunset over the bay.” – BusinessInsider.com

Not a bad place to be if you need a layover. Just sink yourself in the bathhouse and see the bay and ships coming in. Luxury indeed.

Honourable mention –

d. Munich Airport (MUC) – “A nearby visitors park features mini golf and a display of historic aircraft.” – Business-Insider.com . Now this would have made my list but I guess one would need a Schengen visa to access the visitors park but then if you have that, then why just stay in the Airport itself, could travel through Europe itself and have a longish stop-over.

So all in all, it’s indeed a fascinating time to be alive, dreaming and just being. Till later.

Update – I had forgotten to share one more reason why I was writing this article. Although somewhat of a cynic, am hopeful that Pune metro happens. Also, if I had just waited a day, would have been able to add couple of wonderful articles that would make people wanderlust more πŸ™‚

My letter to Government of Maharashtra on Real Estate Rules and Regulation Draft rules

While I try to minimize Politics and Economics as much as I can on this blog, it sometimes surfaces. It is possible that some people may benefit or at least be aware.

A bit of background is necessary before I jump into the intricacies of the Maharashtra Real Estate Rules and Regulation Draft Rules 2016 (RERA) .

Since ever, but more prominently since 2007/8 potential homeowners from across the country have been suffering at the hands of the builder/promoter for number of years. While it would be wrong to paint all the Real Estate Developers and Builders as cheats (we as in all tenants and homeowners hope there are good ones out there) many Real Estate Builders and promoters have cheated homeowners of their hard-earned money. This has also lessened the secondary (resale) market and tenants like me have to fight over morsels as supply is tight.

There were two broad ways in which the cheating is/was done –

a. Take deposits and run away i.e. fly by night operators – Here the only option for a homeowner is to file an FIR (First Information Report) and hope the culprits are caught. 99% of the time the builder/promoter goes somewhere abroad and the potential home buyers/home-owners are left holding the can. This is usually done by small real estate promoters and builders.

b. The big boys would take all or most money of the project, may register or not register the flat in your name, either build a quarter or half-finished building and then make excuses. There are some who do not even build. The money given is used by the builder/developer either for his own needs or using that money in some high-profile project which is expensive and may have huge returns. They know that home-owners can’t do anything, at the most go to the court which will take more than a decade or two during which time the developer would have interest-free income and do whatever he wants to do.

One of the bigger stories which came up this year was when the Indian Cricket Captain, M.S. Dhoni (cricket is a religion in India, and the cricketers gods for millions of Indians) had to end his brand engagement and ambassadorship from Amrapali Housing Group. Apparently, his wife Sakshi was on the Board of directors at Amrapali Housing and had to resign

The Government knew of such issues and had been working since last few years. Under the present Government, a Model Agreement and a Model Real Estate Rules and Regulation Bill was passed on 31st March and came into force on 1st May 2016.

India, similar to the U.S. and U.K. follows a federal structure. While I have shared this before, most of the laws in India fall in either of three lists, Central List, Concurrent Lists and State Lists. Housing for instance, is a state subject so any laws concerning housing has to be made by the state legislature.

Having a statutory requirement to put the bill in 6 months from 1st of May, the Government of Maharashtra chose to put the draft rules in public domain on 12th December 2016, about 10 days ago and there were efforts to let it remain low-key so people do not object as we are still in the throes of demonetisation. By law they should have given 30 days for people to raise objections and give suggestions.

The State Government too could have easily asked an extension and as both the State and the Centre are of the same Political Party they would have easily got it.

With that, below is the e-mail I sent to suggesstionsonrera@maharashtra.gov.in

Sub – Some suggestions for RERA – biggest suggestion, need to give more time study the implications for house-owners.

Respected Sir/Madame,

I will be publishing the below mail as a public letter on my blog as well.

I am writing as a citizen, a voter, a potential home owner, currently a tenant . If houses supply is not in time, it is us, the tenants who have the most to lose as we have to fight over whatever is in the market. I do also hope to be a home buyer at some point in time so these rules would affect me also somewhere in the hazy future.

I came to know through the media that Maharashtra Govt. recently introduced draft rules for RERA Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 . I hope to impress upon you that these proposed Rules and Regulations need to be thoroughly revised and new draft rules shared with the public at large with proper announcement in all newspapers and proper time ( more than a month ) to study and give replies on the said matter.

My suggestions and complaints are as under –

a. The first complaint and suggestion is that the date between the draft regulations and suggestions being invited by members of public is and was too little 12 December 2016 – 23 December 2016 (only 11 days) for almost 90 pages of Government rules and regulations which needs multiple rounds of re-reading to understand the implications of the draft rules .

Add to that unlike the Central Building Legislation, Model Agreement which was prepared by Centre and also given wide publicity, the Maharashtra Govt. didn’t do any such publicity to bring it to the
notice of the people.

b. I ask where was the hurry to publish these draft rules now when everybody is suffering through the result of cash-crunch on top of other things. If the said draft rules were put up in January 2017, I am sure more people would have responded to the draft rules. Ir raises suspicion in the mind of everybody the timing of sharing the draft rules and the limited time given to people to respond.

E.g. – When TRAI (Telephone Regulatory Authority of India) asked for suggestion it gives more than a month, and something like housing which is an existential question for everybody, i.e. the poor, the middle and the rich, you have given pretty less time. While I could change my telephone service providers at a moment’s notice without huge loss, the same cannot be said either for a house owner (in case of builder) or a tenant as well. This is just not done.

c. The documents are at https://housing.maharashtra.gov.in/sitemap/housing/Rera_rules.htm under different sub-headings while the correct structure of the documents can be found at nared’s site
http://naredco.in/notifications.asp . At the very least, the documents should have been in proper order.

Coming to some of the salient points raised both in the media and elsewhere –

1. On page 6 of Part IV-A Ext1.pdf you have written

” Explanation.-The registration of a real estate project shall not be required,-

(i) for the purpose of any renovations or repair or redevelopment which does not involve marketing, advertisement, selling or new allotment of any apartment , plot or building as the case may be under
the real estate project; ” – RERA draft rules

What it means is that the house owner and by the same stroke the tenant would have absolutely no voice to oppose any changes made to the structure at any point of time after the building is built. This means the builder is free to build 12-14-16 even 20 stories building when the original plans were for 6-8-10. This rule gives the builder to do free for all till the building doesn’t get converted into a society, a process which does and can take years to happen.

2. A builder has to take innumerable permissions from different authorities at each and every stage till possession of a said property isn’t handed over to a home buyer and by its extension to the tenant. Now any one of these authorities could sit on the papers and there is no accountability of by when papers would be passed under a competent authority’s desk. There was a wide belief that there would be some
rules and regulations framed in this regard but the draft rules are silent on the subject matter.

3. In Draft rule 5. page 8 of Part IV-A Ext1.pdf you write –

“Withdrawal of amounts deposited in separate account.-(1) With regard to the withdrawal of amounts deposited under sub-clause (D) of clause (l) of sub-section (2) of section 4, the following provisions shall apply:-

(i) For new projects which will be registered after commencement. – ”

Deposit in the escrow account is from now onwards. So what happens to the projects which are ongoing at the moment, either at the registration stage or at building stage, thousands of potential house owners would be left to fend for themselves. There needs to be some recourse for them as well.

3b. Another suggestion is that the house-owners are duly informed when promoters/builders are taking money from the bank and should have the authority to see that proper documents and procedure was followed. It is possible that unscrupulous elements may either bypass it or give some different documents which are not in knowledge of the house-owner, thus defeating the purpose of the escrow account itself.

4. On page 44 of Pt.IV-A Ext.161 in the Model Agreement to be entered
between the Promoter and the Alottee you have mentioned –

“(i)The Allottee hereby agrees to purchase from the Promoter and the Promoter hereby agrees to sell to the Allottee one Apartment No. ………….. of the type ………….. of carpet area admeasuring ……………….. sq. metres on ………… floor in the building __________along with (hereinafter referred to as “the Apartment”) as shown in the Floor plan thereof hereto annexed and marked Annexures C
for the consideration of Rs. ………………. including Rs. ………………. being the proportionate price of the common areas and facilities appurtenant to the premises, the nature, extent and description of the common/limited common areas and facilities which are more particularly described in the Second Schedule annexed herewith. (the price of the Apartment including the proportionate price of the limited common areas and facilities and parking spaces should be shown separately).

(ii) The Allottee hereby agrees to purchase from the Promoter and the Promoter hereby agrees to sell to the Allottee garage bearing Nos ____ situated at _______ Basement and/or stilt and /or ____podium being
constructed in the layout for the consideration of Rs. ____________/-

(iii) The Allottee hereby agrees to purchase from the Promoter and the Promoter hereby agrees to sell to the Allottee Car parking spaces bearing Nos ____ situated at _______ Basement and/or stilt and /or ____podium and/or open parking space, being constructed in the layout for the
consideration of Rs. ____________/-.

The total aggregate consideration amount for the apartment including garages/car parking spaces is
thus Rs.______/- ” – Draft rules.

What has been done here is the parking space has been divorced from sale of the flat . It is against natural justice, logic, common sense as well-known precedents in jurisprudence (i.e. law)

In September 2010, the bench of Justices R M Lodha and A K Patnaik had ruled in a judgement stating developers cannot sell parking spaces as independent real-estate units. The court ruled that parking areas are ‘common areas and facilities’. This was on behalf of a precedent in Mumbai High Court as well.

http://www.reinventingparking.org/2010/09/important-parking-ruling-by-indias.html

This has been reiterated again and again in courts as well as consumer
forums http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Cant-charge-flat-buyer-extra-for-parking-slot/articleshow/22475233.cms

and has been the norm in several Apartment Acts over multiple states –

http://apartmentadda.com/blog/2015/02/19/rules-pertaining-to-parking-spaces-in-apartment-complexes/

5. In case of dispute, the case will high court which is inundated by huge number of pending cases.

As recently as August 2016 there was a news item in Indian Express which talks about the spike in pending cases. Putting a case in the high court will weigh heavily on the homeowner, financially and
mentally http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/more-cases-and-increased-staff-strength-putting-pressure-on-bombay-high-court-building-2964796/

It may be better to use the services of ‘National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission'(NCDRC) where there is possibility of quicker justice and quick resolution. There is possibility of group actions taking place which will reduce duplicity of work on behalf of the petitioners.

6. There is neither any clarity, incentive or punitive action against the promoter/builder if s/he delay conveyance to the society in order to get any future developmental and FSI rights. To delay handing over conveyance, the builders delay completion of the last building in a said project. there should be both a compensatory and punitive actions taken against the builder if he is unable to prove any genuine cause for the same.

7. There needs to be the provision with regard to need for developers to make public disclosures pertaining to building approvals. This while I had shared above needs to be explicitly mentioned so house-owners know the promoter/builder are on the right path.

8. There needs to be a provision that prohibits refusal to sell property to any person on the basis of his/her religion, marital status or dietary preferences.

9. There is lot of ambiguity if criminal proceedings can be initiated against a promoter/developer if s/he fails to deliver the flat on time.

The developer should be criminally liable if he doesn’t give the flat with all the amenities, fixtures and anything which was on agreement signed by both parties and for which the payment has been given in
full at time of possession of a flat.

10. Penalties for the promoter/builder is capped at 10% in case of any wrong-doing. Apart from proving the charge, the onus of which would lie on the house-owner, capping it at 10% is similar to –

A teacher telling a naughty student, do whatever you want to do, I am only going to hit you 5 times.

Such a drafting encourages the Promoter/builder to play mischief. The builder knows his exposure is pretty limited. Liability is limited so he will try to get with whatever he can. Having a high penalty clause will deter him.

11. There was talk and shown in the Center’s model agreement the precedent of providing names, addresses and contact details of other allot-tees or home-owners of a building that would have multiple dwelling units . This is nowhere either in the agreement or mentioned anywhere else in the four documents.

12. An addition to the above would be that the details provided should be correct and updated as per the records maintained by the Promoter/builder.

13. Today, there is no way for a potential house-owner to know if the builder had broken any norms or has any cases in court pending against him. There should be a way for the potential house-owner to find out.

14. A builder can terminate a flat purchase agreement by giving just a week’s notice on email to the buyer who defaults on an instalment. But the developer can refund the money without interest to the
purchaser at leisure, within six months.Under MOFA (the earlier rules), the developer could cancel the agreement after giving a 15 days’ notice, and the builder could resell the flat only after refunding money to the original buyer. Under the new draft rules, a builder can immediately sell the flat after terminating the agreement.

15. The new draft rules say a buyer must pay 30% of the total cost while signing the agreement and 45% when the plinth of the building is constructed. The earlier state law stipulated 20% payment when the
agreement is signed with the developer.

16. The Central model agreement and rules proposed a fee of INR Rs 1,000 for filing complaints before housing authority; the state draft has proposed to hike this fee to Rs INR Rs. 10,000/-

17. Reading the Central Model Agreement, key disclosures under Section 4 (2)and Rule 3 (2) of the Central Model Rules have been excluded to be put up on the website of the Authority. These included carpet area of flat, encumbrance certificate (this would have disclosed encumbrances in respect of the land where the real estate project is proposed to be undertaken), copy of the legal title report and sanctioned plan of the building.

Due to this house-owner would always be in dark and assume that everything is alright.

There have been multiple instances of this over years –

Some examples –

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140920/nation-current-affairs/article/builder-encroaches-%E2%80%98raja-kaluve%E2%80%99

Surat builder grabs tribal land using β€˜fake’ documents

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/bmtf-books-exmayor-wife-for-grabbing-ca-site/article7397062.ece

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thane/24-acre-ambernath-plot-usurped-with-fake-docus/articleshow/55654139.cms

18. The Central rule requires a builder to submit an annual report including profit and loss account, balance sheet, cash flow statement, directors’ report and auditors’ report for the preceding three financial years, among other things. However, the Maharashtra draft rules are silent on such a requirement.

While the above is what I could perceive in the limited amount I came to know. This should be enough to convince that more needs to be done from the house-owner’s side.

Update – Just saw Quint’s Op-Ed goes in more detail.

The wine and dine at debconf16

For the wine connoisseur
FOR the Wine Connoisseur

All photos courtesy KK . If any deviations, would put up labels sharing whose copyright it is.

Before I get into all of that, I was curious about Canada and taking the opportunity of debconf happening there in a few months, asked few people what they thought of digital payments, fees and expenses in their country and if plastic cash is indeed used therein.

The first to answer was Tyler McDonald (no idea if he is anyway related to the fast-food chain McDonalds which is a worldwide operation.) This is what he had to say/share –

You can use credit / debit cards almost everywhere. Restaurant waiters also usually have wireless credit / debit terminals that they will bring to your table for you to settle your bill.

How much your bank charges depends on your Canadian bank and the banking plan you are on. For instance, on my plan through the Bank Of Montreal, I get (I think) 20 free transactions a month and then after that I’m charged $0.50CDN/piece. However, if I go to a Bank Of Montreal ATM and withdraw cash, there is no service fee for that.

There is no service fee for using *credit* cards, only *debit* cards tend to have the fee.

I live in a really rural area so I can’t always get to a Bank Of Montreal machine for cash. So what I usually end up doing, is either pay by credit and then pay of the balance right away so I don’t have to pay interest, or when I do use my bank card to pay for something, I ask if I can get cash back as well.

Yes, Canada converted to plastic notes a few years ago. We’ve also eliminated the penny. For cashless transactions, you pay the exact amount billed. If you’re paying somebody in cash, it is rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cents. And for $1 or $2, instead of notes, we’ve moved over to coins.

I personally like the plastic notes. They’re smoother and feel more durable than the paper notes. I’ve had one go through a laundry load by accident and it came out the other side fine.

Another gentleman responded with slightly more information which probably would interest travellers from around the world, not just Indians –

Quebec has its own interbank system called Interac (https://interac.ca/en/about/our-company.html). Quebec is a very proud and independent region and for many historical reasons they want to stand on their own, which is why they support their local systems. Some vendors will support only Interac for debit card transactions (at least this was the case when I stayed there the beginning of this decade, it might have changed a bit). *Most* vendors (including supermarkets like Provigo, Metro, etc) will accept major credit and debit cards, although MasterCard isn’t accepted as widely there as Visa is. So, if you have one of both, load up your Visa card instead of your MasterCard or get a prepaid Visa card from your bank. They support chip cards everywhere so don’t worry about that. If you have a 5 digit pin on any of your cards and a vendor asks you for a 4 digit pin, it will work 90%+ of the times if you just enter the first 4 digits, but it’s usually a good idea to go change your pin to a 4 digit just to be safe.

From the Indian perspective all of the above fits pretty neat as we also have Pin and Chip cards (domestically though most ATMs still use the magnetic strip and is suspected that the POS terminals aren’t any better.) That would be a whole different story so probably left for another day.

I do like the bit about pocketing the change tip. As far as number of free transactions go, it was pretty limited in India for few years before the demonetization happening now.

Few years before, I do remember doing as many transactions on the ATM as I please but then ATM’s have seen a downward spiral in terms of technology upgradation, maintenance etc. There is no penalty to the bank if the ATM is out-of-order. If there was significant penalty then we probably would have seen banks taking more care of ATM’s. It is a slightly more complex topic hence would take a stab at it some other day.

Do hope though that the terms for ATM usage for bank customers become lenient similar to Canada otherwise it would be difficult for Indians to jump on the digital band-wagon as you cannot function without cheap, user-friendly technology.

Cash machines: Uneven spread, slowing growth - Copyright Indian Express

The image has been taken from this fascinating article which appeared in Indian Express couple of days back.

Coming back to the cheese and wine in the evening. I think we started coming back from Eagle Encounters around 16:30/17:00 hrs Cape Town time. Somehow the ride back was much more faster and we played some Bollywood party music while coming back (all cool). Suddenly remembered that I had to buy some cheese as I hadn’t bought any from India. There is quite a bit of a post where I’m trying to know/understand if spices can be smuggled (which much later I learnt I didn’t need to but that’s a different story altogether), I also had off-list conversations with people about cheese as well but wasn’t able to get any good recommendations. Then saw that KK bought Mysore Pak (apparently she took a chance not declaring it) which while not being exactly cheese fit right into things. In her own words “a South Indian ghee sweet fondly nicknamed ‘the blocks of cholesterol’ and ‘reason #3 for bypass surgery’.” – KK

So with Leonard’s help we stopped at a place where it looked like a chain of stores. Each store was selling something. Seeing that, I was immediately transported to Connaught Place, Delhi

Connaught Place, Delhi

The image comes from http://planetden.com/food/roundabout-world-connaught-place-delhi which attempts to explain Connaught Place. While the article is okish, it lacks soul and not written like a Delhite would write or anybody who has spent a chunk having spent holidays at CP. Another day, another story, sorry.

What I found interesting about the stores while they were next to each other, I also eyed an alcohol shop as well as an Adult/Sex shop. I asked Leonard as to how far we were from UCT and he replied hardly 5 minutes by car and was shocked to see both alcohol and a sex shop. While an alcohol shop some distance away from a college is understandable, there are few and far around Colleges all over India, but adult shops are a rarity.

Unfortunately, none of us have any photos of the place as till that time everybody’s phone was dead or just going to be dead and nobody had thought to bring a portable power pack to juice our mobile devices.

A part of me was curious to see what the sex shop would have and look from inside, but as was with younger people didn’t think it was appropriate.

All of us except Jaminy and someone else (besides Leonard) decided to stay back, while the rest of us went inside to explore the stores. It took me sometime to make my way to the cheese corner and had no idea which was good and which wasn’t. So with no idea of brands therein, the only way to figure out was the pricing. So bought two, one a larger 500 gm cheap piece and a smaller slightly more expensive one just to make sure that the Debian cheese team would be happy.

We did have a mini-adventure as for sometime Jaminy was missing, apparently she went goofing off or went to freshen up or something and we were unable to connect with her as all our phones were dead or dying.

Eventually we came back to UCT, barely freshened up when it was decided by our group to go and give our share of goodies to the cheese and wine party. When I went up to the room to share the cheese, came to know they needed a volunteer for cutting veggies etc.

Having spent years seeing ‘Yan Can Cook’

and having practised quite a bit tried to do some fancy decoration and some julian cutting but as we got dull knives and not much time, just did some plain old cutting 😦

The salads
The Salads, partly done by me.

I have to share I had a fascinating discussion about cooking in Pressure Cookers. I was under the assumption that everybody knows how to use Pressure Cookers as they are one of the simplest ways to cook food without letting go of all the nutrients. At least, I believe this to be predominant in the Asian subcontinent and even the chinese have similar vessels for cooking.

I use what is called the first generation Pressure Cooker. I have been using a 1.5 l Prestige Pressure Cooker over half a decade, almost used daily without issues.

http://www.amazon.in/Prestige-Nakshatra-Aluminium-Pressure-Cooker/dp/B00CB7U1OU

Prestige 1.5 L Pressure Cooker
1.5 Litre Pressure Cooker with gasket and everything.

There are also induction pressure cookers nowadays in the Indian market and this model

https://www.amazon.in/Prestige-Deluxe-Induction-Aluminum-Pressure/dp/B01KZVPNGE/ref=sr_1_2

Induction base cooking for basmati rice
Best cooker for doing Basmati Biryanis and things like that.

Basmati is long-grain, aromatic rice which most families used in very special occasions such as festivals, marriages, anything good and pure is associated with the rice.

I had also shared my lack of knowledge of industrial Microwave Ovens. While I do get most small Microwave Ovens like these , cooking in industrial ovens I simply have no clue.

Anyways, after that conversation I went back, freshened up a bit and sometime later found myself in the middle of this –

Collection of Wine Bottles
Random selection of wine bottles from all over the world.

Also at times found myself in middle of this –

Chocolates all around me.
CHOCOLATES

I tried quite a few chocolates but the best one I liked (don’t remember the name) was a white caramel chocolate which literally melted into my mouth. Got the whole died and went to heaven experience :). Who said gluttony is bad πŸ˜‰

Or this –

French Bread, Wine and chaos
French Bread, Wine and chaos

As can be seen the French really enjoy their bread. I do remember a story vaguely (don’t remember if it was a children’s fairy tale or something) about how the French won a war through their french bread.

Or this –

Juices for those who love their health
Juices for those who love their health

We also had juices for the teetotaller or who can’t handle drinks. Unsurprisingly perhaps, by the end of the session, almost all the different wines were finito while there was still some juices left to go around.

From the Indian perspective, it wasn’t at all exciting, there were no brawls, everybody was too civilized and everybody staggered off when they met their quota. As I was in holiday spirit, stayed up late, staggered to my room, blissed out and woke up without any headache.

Pro tip – Drink lots and lots and lots of water especially if you are drinking. It flushes out most of the toxins and also helps in not having after-morning headaches. If I’m going drinking, I usually drown myself in at least a litre or two of water, even if I had to the bathroom couple of times before going to bed.

All in all, a perfect evening. I was able to connect/talk with some of the gods whom I had wanted to for a long time and they actually listened. Don’t remember if I mumbled something or made some sense in small-talk or whatever I did. But as shared, a perfect evening πŸ™‚

Eagle Encounters, pier Stellenbosch

Before starting, have to say hindsight as they say is always 20/20. I was moaning about my 6/7 hour trip few blog posts back but now came to know about the 17.5 hr. flights (17.5x800km/hr=14000 km.) which are happening around me.

I would say I was whining about nothing seeing those flights. I can’t even imagine how people would feel in those flights. Six hours were too much in the tin-can, thankfully though I was in the aisle seat. In 14 hours most people would probably give to Air rage .

I just saw an excellent article on the subject. I also came to know that seat-selection and food on a long-haul flights are a luxury, hence that changes the equation quite a bit as well. So on these facts, it seems Qatar Airways treated me quite well as I was able to use both those options.

Disclaimer – My knowledge about birds/avian is almost non-existent, Hence feel free to correct me if I do go wrong anywhere.

Coming back to earth literally πŸ˜‰ , I will have to share a bit of South Africa as that is part and parcel of what I’m going to share next. Also many of the pictures shared in this particular blog post belong to KK who has shared them with me with permission to share it with the rest of the world.

When I was in South Africa, in the first couple of days as well as what little reading of South African History I had read before travelling, had known that the Europeans, specifically the Dutch ruled on South Africa for many years.

What was shared to me in the first day or two that ‘Afrikaans‘ is mostly spoken by Europeans still living in South Africa, some spoken by the coloured people as well. This tied in with the literature I had already read.

The Wikipedia page shares which language is spoken by whom and how the demographics play out if people are interested to know that.

One of the words or part of the word for places we came to know is ‘bosch’ as is used in many a places. ‘Bosch‘ means wood or forest. After this we came to know about many places which were known as ‘somethingbosch’ which signified to us that area is or was a forest.

On the second/third day Chirayu (pictured, extreme left) shared the idea of going to Eagle Encounters. Other people pictured in the picture are yours truly, some of the people from GSOC, KK is in the middle, the driver Leonard something who took us to Eagle Encounters on the right (pictured extreme right).

Update – I was informed that it was a joint plan between Chirayu and KK. They also had some other options planned which later got dropped by the wayside.

The whole gang/group along with Leonard coming from eagle encounters

It was supposed to be somewhat near, (Spier, Stellenbosch). While I was not able to able to see/figure out where ‘Eagle Encounters’ is on Openstreetmap, somebody named Firefishy added Spier to OSM few years back. So thank you for that Firefishy so I can at least pin-point a closer place.

I didn’t see/know/try to figure out about the place as Chirayu said it’s a ‘zoo’. I wasn’t enthusiastic as much as I had been depressed by most zoos in India, while you do have national reserves/Parks in India where you see animals in their full glory.

I have been lucky to been able to seen Tadoba and Ranthambore National parks and spend some quality time (about a week) to have some idea as to what can/happens in forests and people living in the buffer-zones but those stories are for a different day altogether.

I have to say I do hope to be part of the Ranthambore experience again somewhere in the future, it really is a beautiful place for flora and fauna and fortunately or unfortunately this is the best time apart from spring, as you have the game of mist/fog and animals . North India this time of the year is something to be experienced.

I wasn’t much enthused as “zoos” in India are claustrophobic for animals and people both. There are small cages and you see and smell the shit/piss of the animals, generally not a good feeling.

Chirayu shared with us also the possibility of being able to ride of Segways and range of bicycles which relieved me so that in case we didn’t enjoy the ‘zoo’ we would enjoy the Segway at least and have a good time (although it would have different expenses than the ones at Eagle Encounters).

My whole education about what a zoo could be was turned around at Eagle Encounters as it seems to be somewhere between a zoo and what I know as national parks where animals roam free.

We purchased the tickets and went in, the first event/happening was ‘Eagle Encounters’ itself.

One of the families at Eagle Encounter handling a snowy eagle

Our introduction to the place started by two beautiful volunteer/trainers who were in charge of all the birds in the Eagle Encounters vicinity. The introduction started by every one of us who came for the ‘Eagle Encounter’ show to wear a glove and to have/hold one of the pair of snowy owls to sit on the glove. That picture is of a family who was part of our show.

Before my turn came, I was a little apprehensive/worried about holding a Owl -period. To my surprise, they were so soft and easy-going, I could hardly feel the weight on my hand.

While the trainer/volunteers were constantly feeding them earthworm-bits (I didn’t ask, just guessing) and we were all happy as they along with the visitors were constantly playing and interacting with the birds, sharing with us the life-cycle of the snowy Owl. It’s only then I understood why in the Harry Potter Universe, the owl plays such an important part. They seem to be a nice, curious, easy-going, proud creatures which fits perfectly in the HP Universe.

In hind-sight I should have videod the whole experience as the trainer/volunteer showed a battery of owls, eagles, vultures, Hawks (different birds of prey) what have you. I have to confess my knowledge of birds is and was non-existent.

Vulture at the Eagle Encounters show

Vulture, One of the larger birds we saw at the Eagle Encounters show. Some of the birds could be dangerous, especially in the wild.

The other trainer showing off a Black Eagle at Eagle Encounters

That was the other Volunteer-Trainer who was showing off the birds. I especially liked the t-shirt she was wearing. The shop at Eagle Encounters had whole lot of them, they were a bit expensive and just not my size 😦

Tidbit – Just a few years ago, it was a shocker to me to know/realize that what commonly goes/known in the country as a parrot by most people is actually a Parakeet. As can be seen in the article linked, they are widely distributed in India.

While I was young, I used to see the rose-ringed parakeets quite a bit around but nowadays due to probably pollution and other factors, they are noticeably less. They are popular as pets in India. I don’t know what Pollito would think about that, don’t think he would think good.

Trainer showing off a Hawk at Eagle Encounters

As I cannot differentiate between Hawk, Vulture, Eagle, etc. I would safely say ‘a Bird of Prey’ as that was what he was holding. This photo was taken after the event was over where we all were curious to know about the volunteer/trainer, their day job and what it meant for them to be taking care of these birds.

Update – KK has shared with me what those specific birds are called, so in case the names or species are wrong, please take the truck with her and not me.

While I don’t remember the name of the trainer/volunteer, among other things it was shared that the volunteers/trainers aren’t paid enough and they never have enough funds to take care of all the birds who come to them.

Trainer showing Hawk and background chart

Where the picture was shot (both this and earlier) was sort of open-office. If you look closely, you will see that there are names of the birds, for instance, people who loved LOTR would easily see ‘Gandalf’ . that board lists how much food (probably in grams) did the bird eat in a day and week.

While it was not shared, I’m sure there would be a lot of paperwork, studies to get the birds as well as possible. From a computer science perspective, there seemed to be lot of potential for avian and big-data professionals to do lot of computer modelling and analysis and give more insight into the rehabilitation efforts so the process could be more fine-tuned, efficient and economic perhaps.

Hawk on stand

This is how we saw the majority of the birds. Most of them had a metal/plastic string which was tied to small artificial branches as the one above.

I forgot to share a very important point. Eagle Encounters is not a zoo but a Rehabilitation Centre.

While the cynic/skeptic part of me tried to not feel or see the before and after pictures of the birds bought to the rehabilitation centre, the caring part was moved to see most of the birds being treated with love and affection. From our conversations with the Volunteer-Trainer it emerged that every week they had to turn away lots of birds due to space constraints. It is only the most serious/life-threatening cases for which they could provide care in a sustainable way they would keep.

Some of the birds who were in the cages were large, airy. I wouldn’t say clean as what little I read before as well later is that birds shit enormously so cleaning cages is quite an effort. Most of the cages and near those artificial branches there were placards of people who were sponsoring a bird or two to look after them.

From what was shared, many of the birds who came had been abused in many ways. Some of them had their bones crushed or/and other cruel ways. As I had shared that I had been wonderfully surprised by seeing birds come so close to me and most of my friends, I felt rage about those who had treated the birds in such evil, bad ways.

What was shared with us that while they try to heal the birds as much as possible, it is always suspect how well the birds would survive on their own in nature, hence many of these birds would go to the sponsor or to some other place when they are well.

The Secretary birds - cage- sponsors-adopted

If you look at the picture closely, maybe look at the higher resolution photo in the gallery, you will see that both the birds have been adopted by two different couples. The birds as the name tag shows are called ‘Secretaries’.

The Secretaries make a typical sound which is similar to the sound made by old typewriters. Just as woodpeckers make Morse Code noises when they are pecking with their beaks on trees, something similar to the sound of keys emitted by Old Remington typewriters when clicked on was done by the Secretaries.

One of the birds in the cage,

This is one of the birds in one of the few cages. If you see a higher-resolution picture of the earlier picture, the one which has ‘Secretaries’. Also as can be seen in the picture, there is wood-working happening and they are trying to expand the Rehabilitation Centre.

All in all, an excursion which was supposed to be for just an hour, extended to something like 3 odd hours. KK shot more than a 1000 odd pictures while trying to teach/converse in Malyalam to some of the birds.

She shot well over 1000 photos which would have filled something like 30 odd traditional photo albums. Jaminy (KK’s partner-in-crime) used her selfie stick to desired effect, taking pictures with most of the birds as one does with celebrities.

I had also taken some but most of them were over-exposed as was new to mobile photography at that time, still am but mostly it works.

Lake with Barn Owls near Eagle Encounters

That is the lake we discovered/saw after coming back from Eagle Encounters. We had good times.

Lastly, a virtual prize distribution ceremony –

a. Chirayu and KK – A platinum trophy for actually thinking and pitching the place in the first place.

b. Shirish and Deven Bansod – Metal cups for not taking more than 10 minutes to freshen up and be back after hearing the plan to go to Eagle Encounters.

c. All the girls/women – Spoons for actually making it to the day. All the girls took quite sometime to freshen up, otherwise it might have been possible to also experience the Segways, who knows.

All-in-all an enjoyable day spent in being part of ‘Eagle Encounters’ .

Day trip in Cape Town, part 2

Debconf16 logo

The post continues from the last post shared.

Let me get some interesting tit-bits not related to the day-trip out-of-the-way first –

I don’t know whether we had full access to see all parts of fuller hall or not. Couple of days I was wondering around Fuller Hall, specifically next to where clothes were pressed. Came to know of the laundry service pretty late but still was useful. Umm… next to where the ladies/gentleman pressed our clothes, there is a stairway which goes down. In fact even on the opposite side there is a stairway which goes down. I dunno if other people explored them or not.

The jail inside and under UCT

I was surprised and shocked to see bars in each room as well as connecting walkways etc. I felt a bit sad, confused and curious and went on to find more places like that. After a while I came up to the ground-level and enquired with some of the ladies therein. I was shocked to know that UCT some years ago (they were not specific) was a jail for people. I couldn’t imagine that a place which has so much warmth (in people, not climate) could be ‘evil’ in a sense. I was not able to get much information out of them about the nature of jail it was, maybe it is a dark past that nobody wants to open up, dunno. There were also two *important* aspects of UCT which Bernelle either forgot, didn’t share or I just came to know via the Wikipedia page then but nothing else.

1. MeerKAT – Apparently quite a bit of the technology was built-in UCT itself. This would have been interesting for geeks and wanna-be geeks like me πŸ™‚

2. The OpenContent Initiative by UCT – This would have been also something worth exploring.

One more interesting thing which I saw was the French council in Cape Town from outside

The French Council in cape town from outside

I would urge to look at the picture in the gallery as the picture I shared doesn’t really show all the details. For e.g. the typical large french windows which are the hall-mark of French architecture doesn’t show its glory but if you look at 1306×2322 original picture instead of the 202×360 reproduction you will see that.

You will also the insignia of the French Imperial Eagle whose history I came to know only after I looked it up on the Wikipedia page on that day.

It seemed fascinating and probably would have the same pride as the State Emblem of India has for Indians with the four Asiatic Lions standing in a circle protecting each other.

I also like the palm tree and the way the French Council seemed little and yet had character around all the big buildings.

What also was interesting that there wasn’t any scare/fear-build and we could take photos from outside unlike what I had seen and experienced in Doha, Qatar as far as photography near Western Embassies/Councils were concerned.

One of the very eye-opening moments for me was also while I was researching flights from India to South Africa. While perhaps unconsciously I might have known that Middle East is close to India, in reality, it was only during the search I became aware that most places in Middle East by flight are only an hour or two away.

This was shocking as there is virtually no mention of one of our neighbours when they are source of large-scale remittances every year. I mean this should have been in our history and geography books but most do not dwell on the subject. It was only during and after that I could understand Mr. Modi’s interactions and trade policies with the Middle East.

Another interesting bit was seeing a bar in a Sprinbok bus –

spingbok atlas bar in bus

While admittedly it is not the best picture of the bar, I was surprised to find a bar at the back of a bus. By bar I mean a machine which can serve anything from juices to alcoholic drinks depending upon what is stocked. What was also interesting in the same bus is that the bus also had a middle entrance-and-exit.

The middle door in springbok atlas

This is something I hadn’t seen in most Indian buses. Some of the Volvo buses have but it is rarely used (only except emergencies) . An exhaustive showcase of local buses can be seen here . I find the hand-drawn/cad depictions of all the buses by Amit Pense near to the T.

Axe which can be used to break windows

Emergency exit window

This is also something which I have not observed in Indian inter-city buses (axe to break the window in case of accident and breakable glass which doesn’t hurt anyone I presume), whether they are State-Transport or the high-end Volvo’s . Either it’s part of South African Roads Regulations or something that Springbok buses do for their customers. All of these queries about the different facets I wanted to ask the bus-driver and the attendant/controller but in the excitement of seeing, recording new things couldn’t ask 😦

In fact one of the more interesting things I looked at and could look day and night is the variety of vehicles on display in Cape Town. In hindsight, I should have bought a couple of 128 GB MMC cards for my mobile rather than the 64 GB one. It was just plain inadequate to capture all that was new and interesting.

Auditorum chair truck seen near Auditorium

This truck I had seen about some 100 metres near the Auditorium on Upper Campus. The truck’s design, paint was something I had never seen before. It is/was similar to casket trucks seen in movies but the way it was painted and everything made it special.

What was interesting is to see the gamut of different vehicles. For instance, there were no bicycles that I saw in most places. There were mostly Japanese/Italian bikes and all sorts of trucks. If I had known before, I would definitely have bought an SD specifically to take snaps of all the different types of trucks, cars etc. that I saw therein.

The adage/phrase ” I should stop in any one place and the whole world will pass me by ” seemed true on quite a few South African Roads. While the roads were on par or a shade better than India, many of those were wide roads. Seeing those, I was left imagining how the Autobahn in Germany and other high-speed Expressways would look n feel.

India has also been doing that with the Pune-Mumbai Expressway and projects like Yamuna Expressway and now the extension Agra Lucknow Expressway but doing this all over India would take probably a decade or more. We have been doing it since a decade and a half. NHDP and PMGSY are two projects which are still ongoing to better the roads. We have been having issues as to should we have toll or no toll issues but that is a discussion for some other time.

One of the more interesting sights I saw was the high-arched gothic-styled church from outside. This is near Longstreet as well.

high arch gothic-styled church

I have seen something similar in Goa, Pondicherry but not such high-arches. I did try couple of times to gain entry but one time it was closed, the other time some repairing/construction work was going on or something. I would loved to see it from inside and hopefully they would have had an organ (music) as well. I could imagine to some extent the sort of music that would have come out.

Now that Goa has come in the conversation I can’t help but state that Seafood enthusiasts/lover/aficionado, or/and Pescatarianism would have a ball of a time in Goa. Goa is on the Konkan coast and while I’m eggie, ones who enjoy seafood really have a ball of a time in Goa. Fouthama’s Festival which happens in February is particularly attractive as Goan homes are thrown open for people to come and sample their food, exchange recipes and alike. This happens around 2 weeks before the Goan Carnival and is very much a part of the mish-mashed Konkani-Bengali-Parsi-Portugese culture.

I better stop here about the Goa otherwise I’ll get into reminiscing mode.

To put the story and event back on track from where we left of (no fiction hereon), Nicholas was in constant communication with base, i.e. UCT as well as another group who was hiking from UCT to Table Mountain. We waited for the other group to join us till 13:00 hrs. We came to know that they were lost and were trying to come up and hence would take more time. As Bernelle was with them, who was a local and she had two dogs who knew the hills quite well, it was decided to go ahead without them.

We came down the same cable-car and then ventured on towards Houtbay. Houtbay has it all, a fisherman’s wharf, actual boats with tough-mean looking men with tattoos working on boats puffing cigars/pipes, gaggle of sea-gulls, the whole scene. Sharing a few pictures of the way in-between.

the view en-route to Houtbay

western style car paint and repair shop

Tajmahal Indian Restaurant, Houtbay

I just now had a quick look at the restaurant and it seems they had options for veggies too. Unfortunately, the rating leaves a bit to be desired but then dunno as Indian flavoring is something that takes time to get used too. Zomato doesn’t give any idea of from when a restaurant is in business and has too few reviews so not easy to know how the experience would have been.

Chinese noodles and small houses

Notice the pattern, the pattern of small houses I saw all the way till Houtbay and back. I do vaguely remember starting a discussion about it on the bus but don’t really remember. I have seen (on TV) cities like Miami, Dubai or/and Hong Kong who have big buildings on the beach but both in Konkan as well as Houtbay there were small buildings. I guess a combination of zoning regulations, feel of community, fear of being flooded all play into beaches being the way they are.

Also, this probably is good as less stress on the environment.

Miamiboyz from Wikimedia Commons

The above picture is taken from Wikipedia from the article Miami Beach, Florida for comparison.

Audi rare car to be seen in India

The Audi – rare car to be seen in India. This car has been associated with Ravi Shastri when he won it in 1985. I was young but still get goosebumps remembering those days.

first-glance-Houtbay-and-pier

First glance of Houtbay beach and pier. Notice how clean and white the beach is.

Wharf-Grill-Restaurant-from-side-and-Hop-on-Hop-off-bus

You can see the wharf grill restaurant in the distance (side-view), see the back of the hop on and hop off bus (a concept which was unknown to me till then). Once I came back and explored on the web came to know this concept is prevalent in many a touristy places around the world. Umm… also By sheer happenchance also captured a beautiful looking Indian female πŸ˜‰ .

So many things happening all at once

In Hindi, we would call this picture ‘virodabhas’ or ‘contradiction’. this is in afternoon, around 1430 hrs. You have the sun, the clouds, the Mountains, the x number of boats, the pier, the houses, the cars, the shops. It was all crazy and beautiful at the same time.

The Biggest Contradiction is seeing the Mountain, the beach and the Sea in the same Picture. Baffled the mind. Konkan though is a bit similar there as well. You have all the three things in some places but that’s a different experience altogether as ours is a more tropical weather although is one of the most romantic places in the rains.

We were supposed to go on a short cruise to seal/dolphin island but as we were late (as had been waiting for the other group) didn’t go and instead just loitered there.

Fake-real lookout bar-restaurant

IIRC the lookout bar is situated just next to Houtbay Search and Rescue. Although was curious if the Lookout tower was used in case of disappearance. lost people, boats etc.

Seal in action

Seal jumping over water, what a miracle !

One of the boats on which we possibly could have been on.

It looked like the boat we could have been on. I clicked as I especially liked the name Calypso and Calypso . I shared the two links as the mythologies, interpretation differ a bit between Greek and Hollywood culture πŸ™‚

Debian folks and the area around

Can see few Debian folks in the foreground, next to the Pole and the area around. Also can see a bit of the area around.

Alone boy trying to surf

I don’t know anything about water sports and after sometime he came out. I was left wondering though, how safe he was in that water. While he was close to the pier and he was just paddling, there weren’t big waves still felt a bit of concern.

Mr. Seal - the actor and his handler

While the act was not to the level we see in the movies, still for the time I hung around, I saw him showing attitude for his younger audiences, eating out of their hands, making funny sounds. Btw he farted a few times, whether that was a put-on or not can’t really say but produced a few guffaws from his audience.

A family feeding Mr. Seal

I dunno why the birds came down for. Mr. Seal was being fed oily small fish parts, dunno if the oil was secreted by the fish themselves or whatever, it just looked oily from distance.

Bird-Man-Bird

Bird taking necessary sun bath

typical equipment on a boat to catch fish-lot of nets

boats-nets-and-ropes

People working on disentangling a net

There wasn’t much activity on the time we went. It probably would have been different on sunrise and would be on sunset. The only activity I saw was on this boat where they were busy fixing and disentangling the lines. I came up with 5-15 different ideas for a story but rejected them as –

a. Probably all of them have been tried. People have been fishing since the beginning of time and modern fishing probably 200 odd years or so. I have read accounts of fishing companies in early 1800s onwards, so probably all must have been tried.

b. More dangerous one, if there is a unique idea, then it becomes more dangerous as writing is an all-consuming process. Writing a blog post (bad or good) takes lots of time. I constantly read, re-read, try and improvise till I can or my patience loses out. In book you simply can’t have such luxuries.

hout-bay-search-and-rescue-no-parking-zone

No parking/tow zone in/near the Houtbay search and rescue. Probably to take out emergency vehicles once something untoward happens.

hout-bay-sea-rescue-with-stats

Saved 54 lives, boats towed 154 – Salut! Houtbay sea rescue.

The different springbok atlas bus that we were on

kraal-kraft

The only small criticism is for Houtbay – there wasn’t a single public toilet. We had to ask favor at kraal kraft to use their toilets and there could have been accidents, it wasn’t lighted well and water was spilled around.

Road sign telling that we are near to UCT

For us, because we were late we missed both the boat-cruise as well as some street shops selling trinkets. Other than that it was all well. We should have stayed till sunset, I am sure the view would have been breath-taking but we hadn’t booked the bus till evening.

Back at UCT

Overall it was an interesting day as we had explored part of Table Mountain, seen the somewhat outrageously priced trinkets there as well as explored Houtbay sea-side as well.

The Anti-Pollito squad – arrest and confession

Disclaimer – This is an attempt at humor and hence entirely fictional in nature. While some incidents depicted are true, the context and the story woven around them are by yours truly. None of the Mascots of Debian were hurt during the blog post ;). I also disavow any responsibility for any hurt (real or imagined) to any past, current and future mascots. The attempt should not be looked upon as demeaning people who are accused of false crimes, tortured and confessions eked out of them as this happens quite a lot (In India for sure, but guess it’s the same world over in various degrees). The idea is loosely inspired by Chocolate:Deep Dark Secrets. (2005)

On a more positive note, let’s start –

Being a Sunday morning woke up late to find incessant knocking on the door, incidentally mum was not at home. Opening the door, found two official looking gentleman. They asked my name, asked my credentials, tortured and arrested me for “Group conspiracy of Malicious Mischief in second and third degrees” .

The torture was done by means of making me forcefully watch endless reruns of ‘Norbit‘ . While I do love Eddie Murphy, this was one of his movies he could have done without :(. I guess for many people watching it once was torture enough. I *think* they were nominated for razzie awards dunno if they won it or not, but this is beside the point.

Unlike the 20 years it takes for a typical case to reach to its conclusion even in the smallest court in India, due to the torture, I was made to confess (due to endless torture) and was given summary judgement. The judgement was/is as follows –

a. Do 100 hours of Community service in Debian in 2017. This could be done via blog posts, raising tickets in the Debian BTS or in whichever way I could be helpful to Debian.

b. Write a confessional with some photographic evidence sharing/detailing some of the other members who were part of the conspiracy in view of the reduced sentence.

So now, have been forced to write this confession –

As you all know, I won a bursary this year for debconf16. What is not known by most people is that I also got an innocuous looking e-mail titled ‘ Pollito for DPL ‘. While I can’t name all the names as investigation is still ongoing about how far-reaching the conspiracy is . The email was purportedly written by members of ‘cabal within cabal’ which are in Debian. I looked at the email header to see if this was genuine and I could trace the origin but was left none the wiser, as obviously these people are far more technically advanced than to fall in simple tricks like this –

Anyways, secretly happy that I have been invited to be part of these elites, I did the visa thing, packed my bags and came to Debconf16.

At this point in juncture, I had no idea whether it was real or I had imagined the whole thing. Then to my surprise saw this –

evidence of conspiracy to have Pollito as DPL, Wifi Password

Just like the Illuminati the conspiracy was for all to see those who knew about it. Most people were thinking of it as a joke, but those like me who had got e-mails knew better. I knew that the thing is real, now I only needed to bide my time and knew that the opportunity would present itself.

And few days later, sure enough, there was a trip planned for ‘Table Mountain, Cape Town’ . Few people planned to hike to the mountain, while few chose to take the cable car till up the mountain.

First glance of the cable car with table mountain as background

Quite a few people came along with us and bought tickets for the to and fro to the mountain and back.

Ticket for CPT Table mountain car cable

Incidentally, I was thinking if the South African Govt. were getting the tax or not. If you look at the ticket, there is just a bar-code. In India as well as the U.S. there is TIN – Tax Identification Number –

TIN displayed on an invoice from channeltimes.com

Few links to share what it is all about . While these should be on all invoices, need to specially check when taking high-value items. In India as shared in the article the awareness, knowledge leaves a bit to be desired. While I’m drifting from the incident, it would be nice if somebody from SA could share how things work there.

Moving on, we boarded the cable car. It was quite spacious cable car with I guess around 30-40 people or some more who were able to see everything along with the controller.

from inside the table mountain cable car 360 degrees

It was a pleasant cacophony of almost two dozen or more nationalities on this 360 degrees moving chamber. I was a little worried though as it essentially is a bucket and there is always a possibility that a severe wind could damage it. Later somebody did share that some frightful incidents had occurred not too long ago on the cable car.

It took about 20-25 odd minutes to get to the top of table mountain and we were presented with views such as below –

View from Table Mountain cable car looking down

The picture I am sharing is actually when we were going down as all the pictures of going up via the cable car were over-exposed. Also, it was pretty crowded on the way up then on the way down so handling the mobile camera was not so comfortable.

Once we reached up, the wind was blowing at incredible speeds. Even with my jacket and everything I was feeling cold. Most of the group around 10-12 people looked around if we could find a place to have some refreshments and get some of the energy in the body. So we all ventured to a place and placed our orders –

the bleh... Irish coffee at top of Table Mountain

I was introduced to Irish Coffee few years back and have had some incredible Irish Coffees in Pune and elsewhere. I do hope to be able to make Irish Coffee at home if and when I have my own house. This is hotter than brandy and is perfect if you are suffering from cold etc if done right, really needs some skills. This is the only drink which I wanted in SA which I never got right 😦 . As South Africa was freezing for me, this would have been the perfect antidote but the one there as well as elsewhere were all …bleh.

What was interesting though, was the coffee caller besides it. It looked like a simple circuit mounted on a PCB board with lights, vibrations and RFID and it worked exactly like that. I am guessing as and when the order is ready, there is an interrupt signal sent via radio waves which causes the buzzer to light and vibrate. Here’s the back panel if somebody wants to take inspiration and try it as a fun project –

backpanel of the buzz caller

Once we were somewhat strengthened by the snacks, chai, coffee etc. we made our move to seeing the mountain. The only way to describe it is that it’s similar to Raigad Fort but the plateau seemed to be bigger. The wikipedia page of Table Mountain attempts to share but I guess it’s more clearly envisioned by one of the pictures shared therein.

table mountain panaromic image

I have to say while Table Mountain is beautiful and haunting as it has scenes like these –

Some of the oldest rocks known to wo/man.

There is something there which pulls you, which reminds you of a long lost past. I could have simply sat there for hours together but as was part of the group had to keep with them. Not that I minded.

The moment I was watching this, I was transported to some memories of the Himalayas about 20 odd years or so. In that previous life, I had the opportunity to be with some of the most beautiful women and also been in the most happening places, the Himalayas. I had shared years before some of my experiences I had in the Himalayas. I discontinued it as I didn’t have a decent camera at that point in time. While I don’t wanna digress, I would challenge anybody to experience the Himalayas and then compare. It is just something inexplicable. The beauty and the rawness that Himalayas shows makes you feel insignificant and yet part of the whole cosmos. What Paulo Cohello expressed in The Valkyries is something that could be felt in the Himalayas. Leh, Ladakh, Himachal , Garwhal, Kumaon. The list will go on forever as there are so many places, each more beautiful than the other. Most places are also extremely backpacker-friendly so if you ask around you can get some awesome deals if you want to spend more than a few days in one place.

Moving on, while making small talk @olasd or Nicolas Dandrimont , the headmaster of our trip made small talk to each of us and eked out from all of us that we wanted to have Pollito as our DPL (Debian Project Leader) for 2017. Few pictures being shared below as supporting evidence as well –

The Pollito as DPL cabal in action

members of the Pollito as DPL

where am I or more precisely how far am I from India.

While I do not know who further up than Nicolas was on the coup which would take place. The idea was this –

If the current DPL steps down, we would take all and any necessary actions to make Pollito our DPL.

Pollito going to SA - photo taken by Jonathan Carter This has been taken from Pollito’s adventure

Being a responsible journalist, I also enquired about Pollito’s true history as it would not have been complete without one. This is the e-mail I got from Gunnar Wolf, a friend and DD from Mexico πŸ™‚

Turns out, Valessio has just spent a week staying at my house πŸ™‚ And
in any case, if somebody in Debian knows about Pollito’s
childhood… That is me.

Pollito came to our lives when we went to Congreso Internacional de
Software Libre (CISOL) in Zacatecas city. I was strolling around the
very beautiful city with my wife Regina and our friend Alejandro
Miranda, and at a shop at either RamΓ³n LΓ³pez Velarde or Vicente
Guerrero, we found a flock of pollitos.

http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=17/22.77111/-102.57145

Even if this was comparable to a slave market, we bought one from
them, and adopted it as our own.

Back then, we were a young couple… Well, we were not that young
anymore. I mean, we didn’t have children. Anyway, we took Pollito with
us on several road trips, such as the only time I have crossed an
international border driving: We went to Encuentro Centroamericano de
Software Libre at Guatemala city in 2012 (again with Alejandro), and
you can see several Pollito pics at:

http://gwolf.org/album/road-trip-ecsl-2012-guatemala-0

Pollito likes travelling. Of course, when we were to Nicaragua for
DebConf, Pollito tagged along. It was his first flight as a passenger
(we never asked about his previous life in slavery; remember, Pollito
trust no one).

Pollito felt much welcome with the DebConf crowd. Of course, as
Pollito is a free spirit, we never even thought about forcing him to
come back with us. Pollito went to Switzerland, and we agreed to meet
again every year or two. It’s always nice to have a chat with him.

Hugs!

So with that backdrop I would urge fellow Debianities to take up the slogans –

LONG LIVE THE DPL !

LONG LIVE POLLITO !

LONG LIVE POLLITO THE DPL !

The first step to make Pollito the DPL is to ensure he has a @debian.org (pollito@debian.org)

We also need him to be made a DD because only then can he become a DPL.

In solidarity and in peace πŸ™‚

Air Congestion and Politics

Confession time first – I am not a frequent flyer at all. My first flight was in early late 2006. It was a 2 hour flight from Bombay (BOM) to Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore, BLG) . I still remember the trepidation, the nervousness and excitement the first time I took to air. I still remember the flight very vividly,

It was a typical humid day for Bombay/Mumbai and we (me and a friend) had gone to Sahar (the domestic airport) to take the flight in the evening. Before starting the sky had turned golden-orange and I was wondering how I would feel once I would be in air.We started at around 20:00 hours in the evening and as it was a clear night were able to see the Queen’s necklace (Marine Drive) in all her glory.

The photographs on the wikipedia page don’t really do justice to how beautiful the whole boulevard looks at night, especially how it looks from up there. While we were seeing, it seemed the pilot had actually banked at 45 degrees angle so we can have the best view of the necklace OR maybe the pilot wanted to take a photo OR ME being in overdrive (like Robin Williams, the Russian immigrant in Moscow on the Hudson experiences the first time he goes to the mall ;))

In either way, this would be an experience I would never forget till the rest of my life. I remember I didn’t move an inch (even to go the loo) as I didn’t want to let go of the whole experience. While I came back after 3-4 days, I still remember re-experiencing/re-imagining the flights for a whole month each time I went to sleep.

While I can’t say it has become routinised, but have been lucky to have the opportunity to fly domestic around the country primarily for work. After the initial romanticism wears off, you try and understand the various aspects of the flight which are happening around you.

These experiences are what lead to file/share today’s blog post. Yesterday, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, one of the leaders of the Opposition cried wolf because the Aircraft was circling the Airport. Because she is the Chief Minister she feels she should have got precedent or at least that seems to be the way the story unfolded on TV.

I have been about 15-20 times on flight in the last decade for work or leisure. Almost all the flights I have been, it has been routine that the flights fly around the Airport for 15-20 minutes before landing. This is ‘routine’. I have seen Airlines being stacked (remember the scene from Die Hard 2 where Holly Mclane, John Mclane’s wife looks at different aircraft at different altitudes from her window seat) this is what an Airport has to do when it doesn’t have enough runaways. In fact just read few days back MIAL is going for an emergency expansion as they weren’t expecting as many passengers as they did this year as well as last. In fact the same day there was a near-miss between two aircraft in Mumbai airport itself. Because of Ms. Mamata’s belligerence, this story didn’t even get a mention in the TV mainstream media.

The point I wanna underscore is that this is a fact of life and not just in India, world-over it seems hubs are being busier than ever, for instance Heathrow has been also a busy bee and they will to rework air operations as per a recent article .

In India, Kolkata is also one of the busier airports . If anything, I hope it teaches her the issues that plague most Indian airports and she works with the Government in Center so the Airport can expand more. They just got a new terminal three years back.

It is for these issues that the Indian Government has come with the ‘Regional Connectivity Scheme‘ .

Lastly, a bit of welcome news to people thinking to visit India, the Govt. of the day is facilitating easier visa norms to increase tourism and trade to India. Hope this is beneficial to all and any Debian Developers who wanna come visit India πŸ˜‰ I do hope that we also do get reciprocity from those countries as well.