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Archive for the category “Miscellenous”

I need to speak up now X – Economics

Dear all,

This would be a longish blog post (as most of mine are) compiled over days but as there is so short a time and so much to share.

I had previously thought to share beautiful photographs of Ganesh mandals taking out the procession at time of immersion of the idol or the last day of Durga Puja recent events around do not make my mood to share photos at this point in time. I may share some of them in a future blog post or two .

Before going further, I would like to offer my sympathies and condolences to people hurt and dislocated in Hurricane Irma , the 2017 Central Mexico Earthquake and lastly the most recent Las Vegas shooting as well as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico . I am somewhat nonplussed as to why Americans always want to name, especially hurricanes which destroy people’s lives and livelihood built over generations and why most of the hurricanes are named after women. A look at weather.com site unveiled the answer to the mystery.

Ironically (or not) I saw some of the best science coverage about Earthquakes or anything scientific reporting and analysis after a long time in mainstream newspapers in India.

On another note, I don’t understand or even expect to understand why the gunman did what he did 2 days back. Country music AFAIK is one of the most chilled-out kind of music, in some ways very similar to classical Indian singing although they are worlds apart in style of singing, renditions, artists, the way they emote etc. I seriously wish that the gunman had not been shot but caught and reasons were sought about what he did, he did. While this is certainly armchair thinking as was not at the scene of crime, but if a Mumbai Police constable could do it around a decade ago armed only with a lathi could do it, why couldn’t the American cops who probably are trained in innumerable ways to subdue people without killing them, did. While investigations are on, I suspect if he were caught just like Ajmal Kasab was caught then lot of revelations might have come up. From what is known, the gentleman was upwardly mobile i.e. he was white, rich and apparently had no reason to have beef with anybody especially a crowd swaying to some nice music, all of which makes absolutely no sense.

Indian Economy ‘Slowdown’

Anyways, back to one of the main reasons of writing this blog post. Few days back, an ex-finance Minister of India Yashwant Sinha wrote what was felt by probably millions of Indians, an Indian Express article called ‘I need to speak up now

While there have been many, many arguments made since then by various people. A simple search of ‘I need to speak up’ would lead to lead to many a result besides the one I have shared above. The only exception I have with the article is the line “Forty leading companies of the country are already facing bankruptcy proceedings. Many more are likely to follow suit.” I would not bore you but you ask any entrepreneur trying to set up shop in India i.e. ones who actually go through the processes of getting all the licenses for setting up even a small businesses as to the numerous hurdles they have to overcome and laid-back corrupt bureaucracy which they have to overcome. I could have interviewed some of my friends who had the conviction and the courage to set up shop and spent more than half a decade getting all the necessary licenses and approval to set up but it probably would be too specific for one industry or the other and would lead to the same result.

Co-incidentally, a new restaurant, leaf opened in my vicinity few weeks before. From the looks it looked like a high-brow, high-priced restaurant hence like many others I did not venture in. After a few days, they introduced south-Indian delicacies like Masala Dosa, Uttapam at prices similar to other restaurants around. So I ventured in and bought some south Indian food to consume between mum and me.

Few days later, I became friends with the owner/franchisee and I suggested (in a friendly tone) that why he doesn’t make it like a CCD play where many people including yours truly use the service to share, strategize and meet with clients.

The CCD joints usually serve coffee and snacks (which are over-priced but still run out pretty fast) but people come as they have chilled-out atmosphere and Wi-Fi access which people need for their smartphones, although the Wi-Fi part may soon become redundant With Reliance Jio making a big play.

I also shared why he doesn’t add more variety and time (the south Indian items are time-limited) as I see/saw many empty chairs there.

Anyways, the shop-owner/franchisee shared his gross costs including salary, stocking, electricity, rent and it doesn’t pan out to be serving Rs.80/- dish (roughly a 1US dollar and 25 cents) then serving INR Rs. 400/- a dish (around 6 $USD). One round of INR 400/- + dishes make his costs for the day, around 12 tables were there. It’s when they have two full rounds of dishes costing INR 400/- or more that he actually has profits and he is predicting loss for at least 6 months to a year before he makes a rebound. He needs steady customers rather than just walk-ins that will make his business work/click. Currently his family is bearing the costs. He didn’t mention the taxes although I know apart from GST there are still some local body taxes that they will have to pay and comply with.

There are a multitude of problems for shutting a shop legally as well as they have to again renavigate the bureaucracy for the same. I have seen more than a few retailers downing their shutters for 6-8 months and then either sell it to new management, let go of the lease or simply sell the property to a competitor. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is probably the first proper exit policy for large companies. So the 40 odd companies that Mr. Sinha were talking about were probably sick for a long time.

In India, there is also an additional shame of being a failed entrepreneur unlike in the west where Entrepreneurs start on their next venture. As seen from Retailing In India only 3.3% of the population or at the most 4% of the population is directly or indirectly linked with the retail trade. Most of the economy still derives its wealth from the agrarian sector which is still reeling under the pressure from demonetization which happened last year. Al jazeera surprisingly portrayed a truer picture of the effects demonetization had on common citizen than many Indian newspapers did at the time. Because of the South African Debconf, I had to resort to debit cards and hence was able to escape standing in long lines in which many an old and women perished.

It is only yesterday that the Government has acknowledged which many prominent Indians have been saying for months now, that we are in a ‘slowdown‘. Be aware of the terms being used for effect by the Prime Minister. There are two articles which outlines the troubles India is in atm. The only bright spot has been e-commerce which so far has eluded GST although the Govt. has claimed regulations to put it in check.

Indian Education System

Interestingly, Ravish Kumar has started a series on NDTV where he is showcasing how Indian education sector, especially public colleges have been left to teachers on contract basis, see the first four episodes on NDTV channel starting with the first one I have shared as a hyperlink. I apologize as the series is in Hindi as the channel is meant for Indians and is mostly limited to Northern areas of the Country (mostly) although he has been honest that it is because they lack resources to tackle the amount of information flowing to them. Ravish started the series with sharing information about the U.S. where the things are similar with some teachers needing to sleep in cars because of high-cost of living to some needing to turn to sex-work . I was shocked when I read the guardian article, that is no way to treat our teachers.I went on to read ‘How the American University was Killed‘ following the breadcrumbs along the way. Reading that it seems Indians have been following the American system playbook from the 1980’s itself. The article talks about HMO as well and that seems to have followed here as well with my own experience of hospital fees and drugs which I had to entail a few weeks/month ago.

Few years ago, when me and some of my friends had the teaching bug and we started teaching in a nearby municipal school, couple of teachers had shared that they were doing 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. I don’t know about others in my group, at least I was cynical because I thought all the teachers were permanent and they make good money only to realize now that the person was probably speaking the truth. When you have to do three jobs to make ends meet from where do you bring the passion to teach young people and that too outside the syllabus ?

Also, with this new knowledge in hindsight, I take back all my comments I made last year and the year before for the pathetic education being put up by the State. With teachers being paid pathetically/underpaid and almost 60% teachers being ad-hoc/adjunct teachers they have to find ways to have some sense of security. Most teachers are bachelors as they are poor and cannot offer any security (either male or female) and for women, after marriage it actually makes no sense for them to continue in this profession. I salute all the professors who are ad-hoc in nature and probably will never get a permanent position in their life.

I think in some way, thanx to him, that the government has chosen to give 7th pay commisson salary to teachers. While the numbers may appear be large, there are a lot of questions as to how many people will actually get paid. There needs to be lot of vacancies which need to be filled quickly but don’t see any solution in the next 2-3 years as well. The Government has taken a position to use/re-hire retired teachers rather than have new young teachers as an unwritten policy. In this Digital India context how are retired teachers supposed to understand and then pass on digital concepts is beyond me when at few teacher trainings I have seen they lack even the most basic knowledge that I learnt at least a decade or two ago, the difference is that vast. I just don’t know what to say to that. My own experience with my own mother who had pretty good education in her time and probably would have made a fine business-woman if she knew that she will have a child that she would have to raise by herself alone (along with maternal grand-parents) is testimonial to the fact how hard it is for older people to grasp technology and here I’m talking just using the interface as a consumer rather than a producer or someone in-between who has the idea of how companies and governments profit from whatever data is shared one way or the other.

After watching the series/episodes and discussing the issue with my mother it was revealed that both her and my late maternal grandfather were on casual/ad-hoc basis till 20-25 years in their service in the defense sector. If Ravish were to do a series on the defense sector he probably would find the same thing there. To add to that, the defense sector is a vital component to a country’s security. If 60% of the defense staff in all defense establishments have temporary staff how do you ensure the loyalty of the people working therein. That brings to my mind ‘Ignorance is bliss’.

Software development and deployment

There is another worry that all are skirting around, the present dispensation/government’s mantra is ‘minimum government-maximum governance’ with digital technologies having all solutions which is leading to massive unemployment. Also from most of the stories/incidents I read in the newspapers, mainstream media and elsewhere it seems most software deployments done in India are done without having any system of internal checks and balances. There is no ‘lintian‘ for software to be implemented. Contracts seem to be given to big companies and there is no mention of what prerequisites or conditions were laid down by the Government for software development and deployment and if any checks were done to ensure that the software being developed was in according to government specifications or not. Ideally this should all be in public domain so that questions can be asked and responsibility fixed if things go haywire, as currently they do not.

Software issues

As my health been not that great, I have been taking a bit more time and depth while filing bugs. #877638 is a good example. I suspect though that part of the problem might be that mate has moved to gtk3 while guake still has gtk-2 bindings. I also reported the issue upstream both in mate-panel as well as guake . I haven’t received any response from either or/and upstreams .

I also have been fiddling around with gdb to better understand the tool so I can exploit/use this tool in a better way. There are some commands within the gdb interface which seem to be interesting and hopefully I’ll try how the commands perform over days, weeks to a month. I hope we see more action on the mate-panel/guake bug as well as move of guake to gtk+3 but that what seemingly seemed like wait for eternity seems to have done by somebody in last couple of days. As shared in the ticket there are lots of things still to do but it seems the heavy lifting has been done but seems merging will be tricky as two developers have been trying to update to gtk+3 although aichingm seems to have a leg up with his 3! branch.

Another interesting thing I saw is the below picture.

Firefox is out of date on wordpress.com

The firefox version I was using to test the site/wordpress-wp-admin was Mozilla Firefox 52.4.0 which AFAIK is a pretty recentish one and people using Debian stretch would probably be using the same version (firefox stable/LTS) rather than the more recent versions. I went to the link it linked to and it gave no indication as to why it thought my browser is out-of-date and what functionality was/is missing. I have found that wordpress support has declined quite a bit and people don’t seem to use the forums as much as they used to before.

I also filed a few bugs for qalculate. #877716 where a supposedly transitional package removes the actual application, #877717 as the software has moved its repo. to github.com as well as tickets and other things in process and lastly #877733. I had been searching for a calculator which can do currency calculations on the fly (say for e.g. doing personal budgeting for Taiwan debconf) without needing to manually enter the conversion rates and losing something in the middle. While the current version has support for some limited currencies, the new versions promise more as other people probably have more diverse needs for currency conversions (people who do long or short on oil, stocks overseas is just one example, I am sure there are many others) than simplistic mine.


Android, Android marketplace and gaming addiction.

This would be a longish piece so please bear and play with tea, coffee, beer or anything stronger that you desire while reading below πŸ™‚

I had bought an Android phone, a Samsung J5 just before going to debconf 2016. It was more for being in-trend rather than really using it. The one which I shared is the upgraded version (recentish) the one I have is 2 GB for which I had paid around double of what the list price was. The only reason I bought the model is that it had ‘removable battery’ at the price point I was willing to pay. I did see that Samsung has the same ham-handed issues with audio as previous Nokia devices use to, the speakers and microphone probably the cheapest you can get on the market. Nokia was same too, at least on the lower-end of the market, while Oppo has loud ringtones and loud music, perfect for those who are a bit hard of hearing (as yours truly is).

I had been pleasantly surprised by the quality of photos Samsung J5 was churning even though I’m less than average shooter, never been really into it so was a sort of wake-up call for where camera sensor technology is advancing. And of course with newer phones the kind of detail it can capture is mesmerizing to say the least, although wide-angle shots still would take some time to get right I guess.

If memory serves me right, sometime back Laura Arjona Reina (who handles part of debian-publicity and part of debian-women among other responsibilities) shared a blog post on p.d.o. where she had shared the troubles she had while exporting data from the phone. While she shared that and I lack the time or the energy to try and find it ( the entry is really bookmarkable, at least that specific blog post).

What was interesting though that I had gone few years ago to Bangalore, there is an organization which I like and admire CIS great for researchers. Anyways they had done a project getting between 10-20 phones from the market made of Chinese origin (almost all mobiles sold in India, the fabrication of CPU and APU etc. are done in China/Taiwan and then assembled here). Here what is done at the most is assembly which for all political purposes is called ‘manufacturing’ . All the mobiles kept quite a bit of info. on the device even after you wiped them clean/put some other ROM on them. The CIS site is more than a bit cluttered otherwise would have shared the direct link. I do hope to send an e-mail to CIS and hopefully they will respond with the report and will share that here as and when. It would be interesting to know if after people flash a custom rom if the status quo is the same as it was before. I do suspect it would be the former as flashing ROMs on phones is still a bit of specialized subject at least here in India with even an average phone costing a month or two’s salary or more and the idea of bricking the phone scares most people (including yours truly).

Anyways, for a long time I was on bed and had the phone. I used 2 games from the android marketplace which both mum and I enjoy and enjoyed. Those are Real jigsaw and Jigsaw puzzle HD . The permissions dialog which Real jigsaw among other games has is horrible and part of me freaks that all such apps. have unrestricted access to my storage area. Ideally, what Android should have done is either partition or give functionality to the user to have private space for their photos and whatever media they have and the rest of the area is like a public park. If anybody has any thoughts on partitioning on Android phone would like to hear that.

One game though which really hooked mumma and me is ‘The Island Experiment‘ . It reminded me of my younger days when gaming addiction was not treated as a disease but thankfully now is . I would call myself somewhat of a ‘functional addict’ as in do my every day things, work etc. but do dream about the game as to what it will show me next. A part of it is the game is web-based (which means it needs constant internet connection) and web access is somewhat pricey, although with Reliance Jio an upcoming data network operator having bundles of money and promising the moon, network issues at least on low-bandwidth game which I and mum are playing hopefully will not have any issues. I haven’t used tshark or any such tool to analyze the traffic but I guess it probably just sends short messages of number of clicks in a time period and things like that, all the rest (I guess) is happening on the mobile itself. I know at sometime I probably will try to put a custom rom on it but which one is the question as there are so many and also which is most compatible with my device. It seems I would have to do lot of homework before I can make any choices.

Couple of months back, a friend of mine Akshat who has been using Android for few years enabled Developer Options which I didn’t know about till he shared that info. with me. I do hope people do check Akshat’s repo. as he has made/has quite a few useful scripts, especially if you are into digital photography. I have shared with him gimp scripting few days back so along with imagemagick you might see him doing some rough scripts in it. Of course, if people use it and give feedback he might clean the scripts a bit so it gives useful error messages and gives statement like ‘gimp is not installed on your system, please install it or ask for specific version’ but as it works in free software it is somewhat directly proportional to the number of users, bugs and users behind it.

A good example of what I mean is youtube-dl . I filed 873853 where I shared the upstream ticket. Apparently YouTube again changed few days back and while upstream has fixed it, the youtube-dl maintainer probably needs to find time and get the new version up. Apparently the issues lies in –

[$] dpkg -L youtube-dl | grep youtube.py

Hopefully somebody does the needful.

Btw, I find f-droid extremely useful and especially osmand but sadly both of them are not shared or talked about by people 😦

The reason I shared about Developer Options in Android is that few days back I noticed that the phone wonks off and has unpredictable behaviour such as not letting me browse the web, do additions or deletions using the google play store and alike . Things came to a head when few days back I saw a fibre-optic splicing operation being carried by some workers near my home by the state operator which elated me and wanted to shoot the video for it but the battery died/there was no power even though I hadn’t used it much. I have deliberately shared the hindi version which tells how that knowledge is now coming to the masses. I had seen fibre-optic splicing more than a decade and a half back at some net conference where it was going to be in your neighbourhood soonish, hopefully it will happen soon πŸ™‚

I had my suspicions for quite sometime all the issues with the phone were not due to proper charging. During course of my investigation, found out that in Developer Options there is an option called USB Configuration and changing that from the default MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) (which is basically used to put or take movies, music or any file from the phone to the computer or vice-versa improved much better behaviour on my android phone. But this caused an unexpected side-effect, I got pretty aggressive polling of the phone by the computer even after saying I do not want to share the phone details with the computer. This I filed as 874216 . The phone and I am guessing most Samsung phones today come with an adaptor with a USB male socket which goes in to the phone’s usb port. There is the classical port for electricity but like most people heavily rely on usb charging even for deep fully powered down phone for full charging.

One interesting project which I saw which came in Debian some days back is dummydroid. I did file a bug about it . I do hope that either the maintainer gives some more documentation. I am sure many people might use and add to the resource if the documentation was/is there. I did take a look at the package and the profile seems to be like an xml pair kind of database. Having more profiles shouldn’t be hard if we knew what info. needs to be added and how do we find that info.

Lastly, I am slowly transferring all the above knowledge to my mum as well, although in small doses. She, just like me has and had problems coming from resistive touchscreen to capacitive touchscreen. You can call me wrong but resistive touchscreen seemed to be superior and not as error-prone or liable to commit mistakes as is possible in capacitive touchscreens. There may be a setting to higher/lower the threshold for touching which I have not been able to find as of yet.

Hope somebody finds something useful in there. I do hope that Debian does become a replacement to be used on such mobiles but then they would have to duplicate/also have some sort of mainstream content with editors to help people find stuff, something that Debian is not so good at currently. Also I’m not sure Synaptic is good fit as a mobile store.

Composers are not given due recognition

Update – Some youtube links are not viewable or even seen on planet.debian.org. Seems p.d.o. tries its best to remove external links, sorry for the breakage.

Beware – some youtube-links would be shared in this entry, sorry couldn’t find a better/easier media platform to work with. If anyone knows any other platform or wants to suggest, feel free to either mail me or let me know in comments.

I want to start today’s sharing with a picture of Ganesha I saw today. It is and was public art hence sharing it without an issue.

Sketch of Ganesha/Ganapati

This is starting of festivities time in India and Ganesha or Ganpati is looked up as a good omen in India.

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi would be starting on the 25th of August and is a sight to behold. Just like Rio has its carnival, Ganesh Chaturthi is also a carnival. We also have parades where people come with Pandals (or temporary structures)

The mythology says he has a sweet tooth (hence lot of distribution of sweets, especially modak) and anything which might be troubling people, he creates solutions for them.

Here is one video of how people celebrate his immersion in India. This is from my home-town few years ago, every year the madness and the celebrations are becoming more and more. People from far off come to see how we celebrate and see how different people make their Pandals. While some are with music, others are with social messages. Usually people start going to see these structures after dusk and return home way after midnight or early morning. I hope to do this endeavour after many years. One is drunk from hearing all sorts of different kids of music, decoration, messages, a feast and a strain to all the senses.

Ganesha immersion celebrations – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjWfpGUryho

If one is interested one can find more info. at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganesh_Chaturthi

After quite a bit of time, I wrote an article about various foss internships which I knew besides GSOC over the years. I finally penned them down at https://itsfoss.com/best-open-source-internships/

Interestingly, I was amazed to see that all FOSS U.S. projects (outside of GSOC) are for students who are either living or studying in U.S. and have a student work visa (which from private discussions I came to know is lot harder to get nowadays than before). Except for the National Science Foundation (NSF) which probably has U.S. defence relations and hence they might be sensitive, I fail to understand other institutes preferences for only getting people from the U.S. and hence having a lesser talent pool of people. This also affects the growth of the projects themselves. Just think how limited Debian would have been if it had decided to only have people from only any one community develop it. Dunno if this is due to the present President Trump or these policies had been there before. It would be nice and interesting if people in the know can share.

What has also been interesting to watch is Mr. Trump blaming low-cost manufacturing centres like India and China when as far as I recall, lot of manufacturing, specifically auto-mobiles manufacturing was shifted out of the U.S. to Ireland and other places years before which are relatively high-cost places (at least compared to India). I *believe* the change was as early as in 1980’s itself where India was insulated and had a limited market for everything (similar to Russian communism as shown in popular media but not so bad.)

Interestingly, it took almost a month for the perl 2.56 to make the transition smoothly. It took quite a bit of time for all the components to work together and be installable.

Also saw this few days back http://fortune.com/2017/04/12/auto-industry-decline/

While Tesla is expensive even by American standards the idea of lesser parts, lesser complexity and hence lower costs to use, maintain is good. I do hope that he and his team or any of the competitors do overcome the significant challenges. Any significant improvement in battery technology is bound to have huge impact in almost everything that is used in 21st century.

Two recent articles tell me the future may become present very quickly.


Toyota could finally start mass producing electric cars thanks to China

I do hope to see EV being prevalent before the next decade is over otherwise we don’t have any hope due to climate change.

As for my health, I am much better than before. Just to share some stats, before my “illness” for lack of better word, I was 120 kgs. , when I was kept in the hospital for about 2-2.5 weeks I came down to 95 kgs. and now back upto 108 kgs. Do go for exercising every other day and trying to get back the strength, stamina and increasing a bit of both. Doctors have given me another 4-5 months after which a brain scan will reveal if there are any remaining blood clots in the brain or not.

Lastly, while it has become somewhat of a sensitive issue to love Muslims or to talk about their work in any field in the current political climate, there are 4-5 music pieces I listen whenever I can, especially before going to bed. While almost all the pieces have been sung and written by Muslims, sadly I don’t know who the composers of these beautiful songs are.

While it is much easier to get the names of the singer and the lyricist, one of the more important roles in my view is the composer or/and music arranger. Without them, the songs would not have the same haunting quality that the songs have. While I have been lucky to find the names of the composer/music arranger for the pieces below but this is not the case if and when the songs comes on television. I do remember in old times at least on Radio they used to mention about who has given the music as well, dunno in modern times.

I am sharing the songs, and hopefully will also share the translations if I find on the web, please see the lyrics. The numbering is for convenience only and am torn in these 4-5 songs which is the best. Just to share these are all sufi love songs except the last one which I am sharing.


Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehqN6oTpmb8

Translation with video of song – http://www.bollynook.com/en/lyrics/6443/aaj-din-chadheya/

While there probably are stories with each song, I was lucky to find the story about this one. The lyrics of the song are actually a love lost Punjabi poet who writes in the memory of his beloved to which he could not marry and he pens those when standing in line for his liquor. The story goes on that he marries a girl later in life who bears a resemblance to his beloved whom he couldn’t forget till his dying day.


Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTC_2c83qn0

The same song has been sung by different people and I love them all the more for it.

Another video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G7Qg4LJ7WE

Another video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOsvNuR3m5Y

Translation – http://www.bollynook.com/en/lyrics/10703/o-re-piya/


Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG7Kms_YA5Q

The translation – http://www.filmyquotes.com/songs/885

The translation of the song is a bit crude but then translations are supposed to be crude 😦

Anyways, the above song is what would be called a perfect Sufi song. I hope people enjoy the longing and the silence which follows this piece.

Another classic one


Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ube5XhN_lpM

English translation – http://www.ardhamy.com/song/aye-dil-e-naadan

While the song is from the movie Razia Sultana and was a flop as the movie was about Race and controversial then as it probably would be now. As seen in the other songs of the same genre, it has strands of longing, loneliness as seen of the above.


Lyrical song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv242qOnHJA

This one is not a sufi song but I love all the women and the girls and the way they enhanced the song. I dunno how much they must have practised as it’s a very fast and peppy song and doesn’t give time to the singer to breathe except for that one section which has a bit of Carnatic music.

At the very end I would like to share http://www.globalrhythm.net/ I have found some interesting sounds on the site. Hope the site enriches you as well. FWIW I have no links with the site except as somebody who likes to diversify his music listening.

Lastly, for a long period of time, I had been hearing the criticism, especially for FOSS games that they don’t have AAA quality assets. Recently I came across a game called Starship Theory (sadly its only for MS-Windows)

Game video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imaL2pjNURg

You look at the game and see the number of videos the guy has made. What FOSS game developers can learn from this, you don’t need high-end 2.5/3d models, clipart will do but need depth in gameplay which can make FOSS games be popular and also earn a pretty bundle. I do hope some FOSS game upstream developers take note and use that game’s inspiration to bring more depth.

That doesn’t mean games like 0ad are not liked by people but it takes huge amount of time and resources.

0ad video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHx5XBtypcQ

Hope you have a good time with all the ideas, anecdotes and videos I shared above.

Debian 9 release party at Co-hive

Dear all, This would be a biggish one so please have a chai/coffee or something stronger as it would take a while.

I would start with attempt at some alcohol humor. While some people know that I have had a series of convulsive epileptic seizure I had shared bits about it in another post as well. Recovery is going through allopathic medicines as well as physiotherapy which I go to every alternate day.

One of the exercises that I do in physiotherapy sessions is walk cross-legged on a line. While doing it today, it occurred to me that this is the same test that a Police inspector would do if they caught you drinking or are suspected of drunk driving. While some in the police force have now also have breath analyzer machines to determine alcohol content in the breath and body (and ways to deceive it are also there) the above exercise is still an integral part of examination. Now few of my friends who do drink have and had made expertise of walking on a line, while I due to this neurological disorder still have issues of walking on a line. So while I don’t think of a drinking party in the near future (6 months at least), if I ever do get caught with a friend who is drunk (by association I would also be a suspect) by a policeman who doesn’t have a breath analyzer machine, I could be in a lot of trouble. In addition if I tell him I have a neurological disorder I am bound to land up in a cell as he will think I’m trying to make a fool of him. If you are able to picturize the situation, I’m sure you will get a couple of laughs.

Now coming to the release party, I was a bit apprehensive. It’s been quite a while I had faced an audience and just coming out of illness didn’t know how well or ill-prepared I would be for the session. I had forsaken/given up exercising two days earlier before the event as I wanted to have loose body, loose limbs all over. I also took a mild sedative (1mg) the day before just so I will have a fit night sleep and be able to focus all my energies on the big day. (I don’t recommend sedatives unless the doctor prescribes) and I did have a doctor prescription so was able to have a nice sleep. I didn’t do any Debian study as I hoped my somewhat long experience with both Ubuntu and Debian should help me.

On the d-day, I had asked dhanesh (the organizer of the event) to accompany me from home to venue and back as I was unsure of the journey as it was around 9-10 kms. from my place and while I had been to the venue about couple of years back, I had just a mild remembrance of the place.

Anyways, Dhanesh compiled with my request and together we reached the venue before the appointed 1500 hrs. As it was a Sunday I was unsure as how many people would turn up as people usually like to cozy up on a Sunday.

Around 1530 hrs everybody showed up

The whole group

It included couple of co-organizers with most people being newbies so while I had thought of showing how to contribute via reporting bugs or putting up patches, had to set that aside and explain how things work in free software and open-source world. We didn’t get into the debate of free vs open-source or free/open-source/open-core as that would have been counter-productive and probably confusing for newbies.

We did however share the debian tree structure


I was stumped by /var and /proc . I hadn’t taken my lappy as it is expensive (a lenovo thinkpad I love very dearly) and I was unsure if I would be able to take care of it (weight wise). Dhanesh had told me that he had Debian on his lappy + zsh both of which are my favourites.

While back at home I realized /var has been relegated to having apache/server logs and stuff like that, I do recall (vaguely) a thread on debian-devel about removing /var although that discussion went nowhere.

One of the bugs that we hit early on is that nobody had enough space on their hdd to have Debian comfortably. It took a while to get an external hdd and push some of the content from somebody’s lappy to the external drive to have space for the installation.

I did share the /. /home, optional swap while Dhanesh helped by sharing about having a separate /boot partition as well which I had forgotten. I can’t even begin to remember the number of times having a separate /boot partition has helped me in all of my systems.

That done, we did try to install/show Debian 9 without network but were hit with #866629 so wasn’t able to complete the installation. We had got the latest 9.0.1 as I had seen Steve’s message about issues with the live images but even then we were hit with the above bug. As shared in the bug history, it might be a good idea to have the last couple of RC’s (Release Candidate releases) as pre-release parties so people have a chance to report bugs and get them fixed. It was also nice to see Praveen raising the seriousness of the bug shared above.

The next day I also filed #866971 as I had mistaken the release to be a regular release and not the live instance. I have pushed my rationale and hope the right thing happens.

As installation takes a bit of time, we used the time to share about Google’s Summer of Code and absence of Debian from GSoC this year. I should have directed them to an itfoss article I wrote sometime ago and also shared that Debian is also looking to having a similar apprenticeship within Debian itself. There were questions about why Debian would like to take the administrative overhead, my response was that it probably had to do with Debian wanting more control over the process. While Debian has had some great luck getting all number of seats that it asks for in GSoC, the ball is always in Google’s court. Having that uncertainty off would be beneficial to Debian both in short-term as well as long-term. One interesting stat that was shared with me was that something akin to 89 students from India had been selected this year to GSoC even with the lower stipend and that is a far cry from the 10-15 students who are able to complete GSoC every year. Let’s see what happens this year.

One of the interesting fact/gossip I shared with them is that Google uses a modified/forked Debian internally which it probably would never release ever.

There were quite a few queries about GSoC which resulted into how contributions are made and how git had become the master of all VCS (Version Control Systems). While I do have pet bugs about git (the biggest one being for places/countries having not big bandwidth git fails many a times while cloning). I *think* the bug has been reported enough times but haven’t seen any improvements yet. There is a need of a solution like wget and wget -c so git just works even under the most trying circumstances (bandwidth wise)

We also shared what a repo is and Dhanesh helpfully did a git shortlog to show people how commits are commented. It was from his official work so he couldn’t show anything apart from the shortlog.

I also shared how non-technical people can help with regard to documentation, artwork but didn’t get into any concrete examples although wiki.debian.org would have been a good start. I also don’t know if it’s a fact or not but it seems/seemed that moinmoin (the current wiki solution used by debian) seems to have got sectional edit feature which I used sometime back. If moinmoin has got this feature then it is on par with mediawiki, although do know that mediawiki has lot more features going for it.

Dhanesh did manage to install a Debian 8.0.7 (while 8.8.0 was the last release) which might have been better. The debian-installer (d-i) looks the same even though I know there are improvements with respect to UEFI and many updated components.

There are and were many bugs which I wanted to share but didn’t know if it was the right forum or not, for e.g. #597176 which probably needs improvements in other libraries along with the JPEG 2000 support #604859 all of which I’m subscribed to.

We also had a talk about code documentation and code readability, python (as almost everything in Debian is based on python) I had actually wanted to show metrics.debian.net but had seen it was down the day before and again checked to see it is down now as well, hence reported it, will hopefully come on Debian BTS some time soonish. The idea was to share that Debian does have/uses other programming languages as well and is only limited by people interested in a specific language and be willing to package and maintain packages in that specific programming language.

As Dhanesh was part of Firefox OS and a Campus Ambassador we did discuss what went wrong in Firefox OS deployment and Firefox as a whole, specifically between the community and Mozilla the Corporation.

In this there were lots that was lot that I wasn’t able to share as had become tired otherwise would have shared that ncurses debian-installer interface although bit ugly to look at is still good as it has speech for visually differently abled people as well as people with poor sight.

There is and was lots to share about Debian but was conscious that I might over-burden the audience and my stamina was also stretched.

We also shared about automated builds bud didn’t show either travis.debian.net or jeankins.debian.net

We also had a small discussion about Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and how the outlook for people coming in Computer Science looks today.

One thing I forgot to share we did do the cake-cutting together

Dhanesh-Shirish cutting cake together

Dhanesh is on the left while I’m on the right.

We did have a cute 3-4 year old boy as our guest as well bud didn’t get good pictures of him.

Lastly, the Debian cake itself

Debian 9 cake

We also talked about the kernel and subsystem maintainers and how Linus is the overlord.

Look forward to comments. I am hoping Dhanesh might recollect some points that I might have missed/forgotten.

Update 07/07/17 – All programming languages stats. can be seen here

Dreams don’t cost a penny, mumma’s boy :)

This one I promise will be short πŸ™‚

After the last two updates, I thought it was time for something positive to share. While I’m doing the hard work (of physiotherapy which is gruelling), the only luxury I have nowadays is of falling on to dreams which are also rare. The dream I’m going to share is totally unrealistic as my mum hates travel but I’m sure many sons and daughters would identify with it. Almost all travel outside of relatives is because I dragged her onto it.

In the dream, I am going to a Debconf, get bursary and the conference is being held somewhere in Europe, maybe Paris (2019 probably) πŸ™‚ . I reach and attend the conference, present and generally have a great time sharing and learning from my peers. As we all do in these uncertain times, I too phone home every couple of days ensuring her that I’m well and in best of health. The weather is mild like it was in South Africa and this time I had come packed with woollens so all was well.

Just the day before the conference is to end, I call up mum and she tells about a specific hotel/hostel which I should check out. I am somewhat surprised that she knows of a specific hotel/hostel in a specific place but I accede to her request. I go there to find a small, quiet, quaint bed & breakfast place (dunno if Paris has such kind of places), something which my mum would like. Intuitively, I ask at the reception to look in the register. After seeing my passport, he too accedes to my request and shows me the logbook of all visitors registering to come in the last few days (for some reason privacy is not a concern then) . I am surprised to find my mother’s name in the register and she had turned up just a day or two before.

I again request the reception to be able to go to room abcd without being announced and have some sort of key (like for maintenance or laundry as an excuse) . The reception calls the manager and after looking copy of mother’s passport and mine they somehow accede to the request with help located nearby just in case something goes wrong.

I disguise my voice and announce as either Room service or Maintenance and we are both surprised and elated to see each other. After talking a while, I go back to the reception and register myself as her guest.

The next week is a whirlwind as I come to know of hop-on, hop-off buses similar service in Paris as was in South Africa. I buy a small booklet and we go through all the museums. the vineyards or whatever it is that Paris has to offer. IIRC there is also a lock and key on a famous bridge. We also do that. She is constantly surprised at the different activities the city shows her and the mother-son bond becomes much better.

I had shared the same dream with her and she laughed. In reality, she is happy and comfortable in the confines of her home.

Still I hope some mother-daughter, son-father, son-mother or any combination of parent, sibling takes this entry and enrich each other by travelling together.

Seizures, Vigo and bi-pedal motion

Dear all, an update is in order. While talking to physiotherapist couple of days before, came to know the correct term to what was I experiencing. I had experienced convulsive ‘seizure‘ , spasms being a part of it. Reading the wikipedia entry and the associated links/entries it seems I am and was very very lucky.

The hospital or any hospital is a very bad bad place. I have seen all horror movies which people say are disturbing but have never been disturbed as much as I was in hospital. I couldn’t help but hear people’s screams and saw so many cases which turned critical. At times it was not easy to remain positive but dunno from where there was a will to live which pushed me and is still pushing me.

One of the things that was painful for a long time were the almost constant stream of injections that were injected in me. It was almost an afterthought that the nurse put a Vigo in me.

Similar to the Vigo injected in me.

While the above medical device is similar, mine had a cross, the needle was much shorter and is injected into the vein. After that all injections are injected into that including common liquid which is salt,water and something commonly given to patients to stabilize first. I am not remembering the name atm.

I also had a urine bag which was attached to my penis in a non-invasive manner. Both my grandfather and grandma used to cry when things went wrong while I didn’t feel any pain but when the urine bag was disattached and attached again, so seems things have improved there.

I was also very conscious of getting bed sores as both my grandpa and grandma had them when in hospital. As I had no strength I had to beg. plead do everything to make sure that every few hours I was turned from one side to other. I also had an air bag which is supposed to alleviate or relief this condition.

Constant physiotherapy every day for a while slowly increased my strength and slowly both the vigo and feeding tube put inside my throat was removed.

I have no remembrance as to when they had put the feeding tube as it was all rubber and felt bad when it came out.

Further physiotherapy helped me crawl till the top of the bed, the bed was around 6 feet in length and and more than enough so I could turn both sides without falling over.

Few days later I found I could also sit up using my legs as a lever and that gave confidence to the doctors to remove the air bed so I could crawl more easily.

Couple of more days later I stood on my feet for the first time and it was like I had lead legs. Each step was painful but the sense and feeling of independence won over whatever pain was there.

I had to endure wet wipes from nurses and ward boys in place of a shower everyday and while they were respectful always it felt humiliating.

The first time I had a bath after 2 weeks or something, every part of my body cried and I felt like a weakling. I had thought I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the physiotherapy session which was soon after but after the session was back to feeling normal.

For a while I was doing the penguin waddle which while painful was also had humor in it. I did think of shooting the penguin waddle but decided against it as I was half-naked most of the time ( the hospital clothes never fit me properly)

Cut to today and I was able to climb up and down the stairs on my own and circled my own block, slowly but was able to do it on my own by myself.

While I always had a sense of wonderment for bi-pedal motion as well as all other means of transport, found much more respect of walking. I live near a fast food eating joint so I see lot of youngsters posing in different ways with their legs to show interest to their mates. And this I know happens both on the conscious and sub-conscious levels. To be able to see and discern that also put a sense of wonder in nature’s creations.

All in all, I’m probabl6y around 40% independent and still 60% interdependent. I know I have to be patient with myself and those around me and explain to others what I’m going through.

For e.g. I still tend to spill things and still can’t touch-type much.

So, the road is long, I can only pray and hope best wishes for anybody who is my condition and do pray that nobody goes through what I went through, especiallly not children.

I am also hoping that things like DxtER and range of non-invasive treatments make their way into India and the developing world at large.

Anybody who is overweight and is either disgusted or doesn’t like the gym route, would recommend doing sessions with a physiotherapist that you can trust. You have to trust that her judgement will push you a bit more and not more that the gains you make are toppled over.

I still get dizziness spells while doing therapy but will to break it as I know dizziness doesn’t help me.

I hope my writings give strength and understanding to either somebody who is going through it, or relatives or/and caregivers so they know the mental status of the person who’s going through it.

Till later and sorry it became so long.

Update – I forgot to share this inspirational story from my city which I shared with a friend days ago. Add to that, she is from my city. What it doesn’t share is that Triund is a magical place. I had visited once with a friend who had elf ears (he had put on elf ears) and it is kind of place which alchemist talks about, a place where imagination does turn wild and there is magic in the air.

nerve expanding, spasms and no muscle control

This is for all parents and people who might be going through the same.

I’m comfortable with sharing part of the story and not all at this point of time, as I get better I would share more details.

About 2 and a half week back. suddenly at night I started having spasms . I was basically hitting myself, mainly the arms . In an effort to comfort me & prevent me from falling down from the bed, my mum put me on the floor with a blanket underneath and over me. In my state of fear and confusion, I pushed myself underneath the bed from where it was impossible for her to retrieve as I’m obese. I pleaded with her whole night to get am ambulance which irritated her a lot. She also knew that getting an ambulance was easy, getting people to transport me from first floor to the ambulance would need people which is not easy to get in dead of night. I didn’t want to call friends as all of them live pretty far off and have their own lives.

Then at 5 a.m. mother relented and asked for an ambulance from a reputed hospital which is close by. It took half an hour for the ambulance to arrive for reasons unknown. Seeing the look of terror on my face and seeing my body structure, he knew he needed more men. Meanwhile, mother also contacted my neighbour above who also came down and went to fetch more men. About half an hour later or more, around 6-7 Samaritans came and with the help of them I was transported to the ambulance.

Meanwhile I was drifting in and out of consciousness. Reaching the hospital, apparently the doctors had a debate as they felt the case could become complicated. And every hospital tries to have less number of deaths just like every police station tries to have less crime records.

I was referred to a second hospital with which they had collaboration saying they had better facilities and better equipment and could deal with any eventuality. The doctors shared my case history and when the hospital agreed, my mother, a doctor and the ambulance driver took me to the second hospital. So another half an hour or so I landed in the second hospital. There I was admitted. stripped, put in hospital dress. gave a urine bag , an RT which somehow they inserted through my mouth to my stomach which I have no recollection of. It must have been painful and irritating as it was while it was taken out, but again have no memory. They also inserted a knob like thing just above my left wrist as they saw/found out that it was not easy to find my vein. I felt a lot of shame but knew that this was necessary.

The first day nothing happened, the second day spasms happened again where I alerted the nurse and she in turn alerted the doctors, one of whom took a video and shared on telephone with the senior doctor under whose care I was that I was alert the whole time. Much, much later I came to know that the fact that I was conscious through the whole time changed the doctor’s opinion that I could be treated through medicine alone and wouldn’t need an operation.

Although I’m curious, I haven’t pressured the doctors to share that video as I’m still in recovery mode and the doctors have told me 3-6 months for recovery depending on how much physiotherapy I do, body’s own healing powers, medicines and plain old luck.

I am stopping here as it’s too tiring for me now to continue. I am curious how the scene would have unfolded in a first class country, especially the golden hour.

If there are any questions from either parents or people going through the same/similar journey please write and share I do intend to put at least couple of follow-ups and perhaps more as and when I become more ‘normal’

Till later.

Advice for people registering for debconf

Let me start by sharing the nice offer I got from Qatar airways today –

Qatar airways discount offer

Unfortunately it doesn’t work for me as the offer ends way before the conference will happen. I am guessing this is slack time for Qatar airways hence they are introduced this offer. I would have gladly taken this up if it was there in July end, August mid-week but guess that’s when international tourist season might start :(.

Now onto other business, while I’m glad of the response generated by my blog post about Debconf which was published about a week back I am in much the same boat as everybody else so connecting with me wouldn’t be beneficial at all. While I know the rough criteria that is used to evaluate applications, everybody has a fair chance. While I have shared some advice/insight for new people making proposals and a somewhat longer version in a mail the best way IMO is to take lots of care during the registration process.

Think of the registration process as making a GSOC application, rework and reiterate the application as many times as possible till you yourself are not satisfied with the application although May 10th is the cut-off date for bursary applications.

Having shared that, Debconf and Debian likes to have varied crowd, hence both fresh people who may be curious and have shown a slant of contributing towards free software has as much as a chance as seasoned Debian Developers.

From the numbers shared, it seems something like 109 odd bursary requests till about 2 days back and while around 28-30 odd bursary requests would be fulfilled. So it’s a pretty unenvious position for the people who are going to be making the choices.

That does not mean one should lose hope as some people cancel their bursaries, the easiest being if the visa is denied then obviously the person whose visa is denied can’t travel, other reasons might be work/business plans changing, death in the family etc. everything and anything that life can throw on you. Usually then the bursary moves on the next person on the list.

Even if you are not selected this year, don’t lose heart and try again next year. The beautiful thing about Debconf is each time the circumstances differ, for e.g. next year in Taiwan the accommodation is free from the University so it’s possible that more people would be there in Debconf18.

One contribution that people can easily do/make and doesn’t need a lot of Unix skills is the Debian SSO documentation , you could do in the Debian wiki or if mediawiki is your tea then the Debconf wiki is also welcoming which uses mediawiki. The current documentation is text-based, it would be an improvement if we have the same thing with help of pictures showing how you get the certificate and add it to your favourite browser. Let somebody who is new try it, if nobody steps up say in a week, then will do that documentation myself.

So best of luck on your applications and hopefully we will all meet either in Debconf17 or Debconf18. Till later.

India and the Agricultural Economy

Indian farmer ploughing a field in traditional style - Wikimedia commons

I was in two minds when I read Ritesh’s blog post about the Indian Economy. I was angry with Ritesh as he seemed to selectively take facts and present it rather than taking it whole. Even if he had searched even a little bit, he would have got much more better material and everybody would have been the gainer.

I have to also admit, I feel very much like a hypocrite as I have never slaved in a farm so my understanding and conclusions are a mix of media and limited interaction with farmers some years ago. There is also lots of local customs and politics that come into the picture and it’s not as straight-forward as Ritesh thinks. What he has failed to share/account for is the far worse bad and stressed debts for the industry so just saying farm loan waivers are bad without sharing any of the context makes it seem much more worse. This is when our Current Chief Economic Adviser states about loan waivers to corporates “You need to be able to forgive those debts because this is how capitalism works. People make mistakes, those have to be forgiven to some extent”

Let me start though with words from a book I read sometime back –

“On —– a peasant uprising erupted in —— . The farmers were angry with high interest rates, high taxes, high inflation and low-government prices for their crops. The system had let them into debt, and debt had meant foreclosure and loss of their fields to the land barons. ”

I intentionally have made a fill in the blanks as both the dates and places was true in India 100 years back and even today, the only difference between the two is the absence of taxes. Many people would think I’m talking about Champaran whose tale while well-known in India is sadly a stub-class article in wikipedia 😦 with quite a few citation needed tags as well 😦 but is also true today as will be seen below.

Interestingly, there is/was a remark by some unknown person who said ‘gora sahab gays, bhura sahab aaya’ meaning the white officer has gone, in his place the brown officer has come. The evidence of this is very much in the Telegraph Act and the story about its usage and its place in Indian politics

Surprisingly, sadly and coincidentally, the quote minus the dates and place didn’t happen in India but also in Cambodia. The above quote has been taken from ‘for the sake of all living things‘ by John M. Del Vecchio. The quote itself appears in the first 10 odd pages (historical summation) of the somewhat 1200 odd pages book. I actually got an old edition which tops out at 900 pages so probably some more updated input/news isn’t available but it still packs a powerful wallop. I want to dedicate a separate blog post for the book itself so will not say more on that book and what it shares.

`Sadly and coincidentally, there were news reports yesterday itself of farmers agitating for better prices just yesterday.

Some of the interesting work if you want to understand the farmer’s indebtedness is to study the ‘Income, Expenditure, Productive Assets and Indebtedness of Agricultural Households in India‘ done by NSSO.

Again, one does not need to read the whole report, there were some of the analysis shared by the Hindu here and here. This was also echoed by Logical Indian

It really boggles the mind to know than an average farming household earns around INR 200 per day. Even if you take a family of four people that comes to INR 50/- per person. Most rural joint families at the very least have 3-4 kids at the very least. Sadly Agricultural incomes do not keep sync even with the inflation index as there is no fair minimum age and wage for the Indian farmer, the concept does not exist for her(im) 😦 . Just me and mum going onto a restaurant and having one dish each easily can run anywhere between INR 200~250 easily . Cooking in the house is the same if you add/input the labor (which is usually not calculated) used to make lunch/dinner.

There was the idea that contract farming might be a solution but even that was corrupted by Multi-national companies such as Pepsi and others that the Government is showing movement to have a “model contracting law” . There are loads of stories on downtoearth magazine which deals with the above and all sorts of issues the farmer faces.

I should talk about Maharashtra and even here there was/has been an irrigation scam with figures given from 35k to 70k crores or 350 to 700 billion INR . The latest finding by the PAC has been shared here.

I will cut the blog post short as I find the whole thing personally very depressing. As far as local customs go this was from one of the farmers interaction some years ago where me and some other friends had gone across a village and came to know that all of them grew the same crop with some minor variances. When asked why is it so, while many said its fate, one of the elderly gentleman shared an experience where a farmer had planted some other thing. The gentleman prospered while the other villagers were suffering from glut of whatever they produced. Knowing he prospered, the other villagers damaged his crops and all sorts of unlucky things started happening for the farmer. In the end he realized his best bet is to follow the ways of the other villagers, at least they would be in peace.

What I have shared isn’t either unique or even unknown, even Toronto Star of Canada reported on the issue some years ago.

At the end of it all, the story is one of no education and limited skill-set and I don’t see it changing any time soon. There are some who are earning big figures, but majority of the farmers will always be in the red

An outing

I am part of a writer’s meetup but haven’t been able to go to one of the meetups in the recent months/days due to schedule on my end. So this is my attempt for ‘short story’ entry with two probable endings.

The story is dedicated to the CRPF Jawans who just died in the Sukma Encounter .

What's your story

The Outing

It was just like any other day. I, along with the Principal, a teacher, a driver and a cleaner/attendant was taking approximately 55 students of Nandurbar Tribal Girls High School, Nandurbar to Bharwani Girls High School to inter-mingle with the students there. The idea was to exchange life-stories, play with each other and generally have a good time.

As the last few days I had been furiously working cajoling and getting permission slips from fathers and mothers for the trip, I was dead tired as hadn’t had enough sleep the last few days. Also as it is summer and no electricity meant you somehow just survived it.

The distance between the two places is approximately 200 kms. .On a good motorable road the distance could be covered in two, two and half hours. For those new to such places, both places are inaccessible and it’s not just like they are, they are 7,000 + villages which lack proper roads since independence. Anyways, while officially the route should take around 4 ~ 5 hours, it’s more like 6 odd hours. These places do not have good communication facilities and the only way to figure out things is to have and share landmarks with each other. I had shared the landmarks, told him from where we needed to divert from the main road in order to be at Bharwani. I had also instructed him to wake me up when we reach the diversion and slumbered on to dreamland.

Come 14:00 hrs. and I’m awakened by a rude jolt and find myself in an unfamiliar forest road. The girls, the principal, the driver and his attendant just had lunch and hence were full of merry. The driver and attendant were singing some of the local songs, many of which had double-entendres or double-meaning lines. The girls were pink but as many of them also knew the local songs, some of them had also joined. Not wanting to sound alarmist although the back of my neck was telling me we were in the wrong place, I had my lunch and gently enquired with the driver as to why he hadn’t woken me up at the diversion and from where he diverted. Asking him gently and persistently came to know that he had turned at some wrong place. As this was the hinterland with possibility of wild animals, naxalities and all kinds of anti-social elements, I knew we could easily land ourselves in full-blown crisis mode. I asked the driver to park in a shaded place and asked all the men to come down and shared that we have somehow landed in some wrong place. I asked the driver and attendant as to our reserves of petrol and was told that at least there we were good, we had enough to drive for 4-5 hours but no more. As there are no petrol pumps in such places, you had to have reserve fuel when taking a journey such as this. The driver or the attendant, one of the two told me that they had read a sign just sometime ago of a ‘dak bungalow’ or a government rest house sometime ago but they hadn’t seen one till yet. I asked all the people present as to what they think we should do, some wanted to go back, some wanted to go further to the dak bungalow and some wanted to stay there itself, all the three options were not to my liking. In such places, the sun goes down very quickly and I knew that the sun will go down at around 17:00 hrs. hence we needed to be at a place where we could rest as well as defend if need be and a bus seemed to be a very vulnerable place.

I knew we would quickly reach stalemate and this was something that I could not be part of. Hence, in the interest of taking a decision, I quietly shared that we should also involve the girls in the decision and let them have an equal say. While the others protested, I quickly explained the predicament and they realized that it’s the girls who are the most vulnerable. I asked the girls to dismount the bus, freshen themselves up and come to a nearby large shaded tree in a round group . Fifteen-twenty minutes later, they all came and sat themselves in a group. Meanwhile, they had grown curious as they had seen our interchange and were curious as to what was it all about. I quickly and quietly told them about our situation and shared the situation about our petrol, spare tires (we had only one), food and water (water we had some but we hadn’t planned for food) and shared the three options with downsides to each action –

1. Going back – We were two hours or more from the main road, getting back meant we would miss the daylight and it’s possible to miss the main road and end somewhere worse of. Also two hours of driving back meant that much lesser petrol. Hitting the highway/main road the chance could be slim and it was also no guarantee that we would be safer than where we were.

2. Going forward to the ‘Dak bungalow’ – Going forward meant that we would be going further into this unknown forest and the ‘Dak Bungalow’ sign was only seen by the driver or the attendant and we had no clue whether it was there or not or even if it was there, whether there would be correct people around (meaning government officials or/and the government caretaker/s).

3. Doing nothing – This also had the downside that we don’t know where we are, we might be in the middle of some wild animals route or worse humans

So laying down the three options, I asked the girls what they thought we should do. If they had any ideas, this was the time to share them. There were few suggestions but all of them half-formed and didn’t lead to any satisfactory solution. I saw 2-3 of the most shy girls talking animatedly with each other. I went to them and gently enquired what was the matter? It came to be known that 2 of the girls had also seen the sign-board for the ‘dak bungalow’ and quickly it was decided to move ahead towards the ‘dak bungalow’.

Now as we knew that we had only a single spare tire, it was also decided that each of the men take turns , get down and sort of walk a bit ahead of the bus. We couldn’t afford a break-down and also enforced a strict code for water usage. I also asked the girls to chat and blow off steam as having more pressure, nervousness would simply add to the situation rather than remedying it. The driver and attendant cottoned to the idea and again started some of the those songs targeting some of the girls which evoked some embarrassed laughter from the targeted girls as well as the other girls as well. We proceeded with the plan to try to reach this elusive ‘dak bungalow’ and our speed which was slow had become slower still. The idea was simple, the man who would walk would walk for around 100 metres, if everything was ok, he would whistle or shout and the bus would come in. The next 100 metres were done by the next person and in such way we were making sure that neither of the people were too tired or nervous and we were able to inch forward a bit as well. If there were any hurdles or any other issue he would shout in a particular manner, it was the job of the person who went ahead to warn us against any such eventuality. We just had couple of iron bars (which are/were used in case of a breakdown) and couple of hammers (all of which were part of bus repair kit) to defend ourselves and that is what we did.

Slowly, we inched forward and were able to make the ‘dak bungalow’ in a distance just as soon as the sun was setting. We were again at a cross-roads here, we didn’t know if the ‘dak bungalow’ had decent people and if we could trust them. The bus was still about 100-150 metres out and the wind flowing at cross so the only hope was that they hadn’t heard the bus and one of us should go and enquire if we could get food, drink, place to sleep or just use of the grounds and directions to get back tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, all of us (the men i.e.) had started getting splitting headaches as we were all under pressure and realized that we were in hands of fate. The job of being the interlocutor was quickly given to me. I asked the driver and the girls to get down and push the bus manually further away to a largish mango grove which we had passed sometime earlier. I got down, changed myself from shirt and pants, freshened myself a bit and changed to the only spare clothes I had, a dhoti, kurta and gamcha or gamucha as it’s known in various places. I also asked them to be patient as I had no idea of who would be there and it is possible that I may be away for quite sometime.

gamcha being used as a headscarf

After the transformation, I put up some dirt in my hair and on the dhoti and specks of dirt on the kurta. I was already tired with all the pressure so I didn’t need to act that part, my eyes had already become red with all sorts of foreboding. Asking them to be vigilant and silent and ensuring that all the men patrolled silently around the girls, I slowly made my way to the ‘dak bungalow’ . I slowly ventured towards the ‘dak bungalow’, went to the gate and shouted to ask if somebody was there. Not hearing an answer, I slowly unlocked the gate and went inside still, ask in a slightly louder voice if a chowkidar or somebody else was there. After a while, a voice came out asking who is there, I said I was a poor villager who had somehow forgotten the route and had no idea as to where I was. I wanted to have some water and some place where I could lie for few hours and tomorrow morning I would try to figure out where I had to go.

A little while later, a door opened and I saw a person, somewhat around my age coming with a tumbler filled with water and a bit of onion and bread. Thanking the gentleman earnestly, I proceeded to have a small bath with the tumbler of water, eating the onion and bread, thanking profusely for both the water as well as the onion and the bread. Through the conversation, I enquired whether they were any ‘sahabs’ or government people who were around. The chowkidar/caretaker replied there were indeed two-three people from the government who were staying but were presently had gone to a ‘daura’/ tour and would either come tonight or come tomorrow morning. He indicated towards his quarters which I could share with him or showed the car-shed either of which I could use to lay down.

The car-shed was built a little to the side of the main building and the chowkidar/caretaker’s quarters were not easily seen by it which worked for him as well as for me both ways. I Asked for a bit more bread, few onions and a bit of water in case I felt hungry at night, he asked me to wait and came with a bit of local bread, few onions, a plastic water bottle to spend the night with. I again thanked him profusely, told him my name and asked him to call him when the ‘bara sahab’ or government officer comes in. I would like to offer my thanks to the ‘bara sahab’ as well as offer my services for the night in lieu of being allowed to sleep in the verandah which would be more comfortable.

After an hour or so, as the night came in, I slipped from the car-shed, went back to the mango grove, shared the bread and the onions, the bread and the water bottle I had with me. I asked them to have only one onion in among 60 odd people at a time and try to savor the onions and the bread with them throughout the night as that might be the only food we may get at this point of time.

I also proceeded to tell them that the ‘dak bungalow’ is occupied and the ‘bara sahab’ (big man) might come tonight. Depending on whether he/they are likable or not, would try to share the troubles we are in or just somehow spend the night and try to go back tomorrow morning to the main road asking the caretaker for instructions.

I will leave the story here as there are two conclusions here. Because it is dedicated to a sad chain of events which happened recently, I am loath to put either of the endings here.

I ask people to share their views and hopefully we will have an ending soon, look forward to your comments, views.

Debconf 17 in Montreal

Debconf Montreal 17 logo

Before I start, debconf registration opened about a week back depending upon what time-frame you are in. So, if you have used and contributed to Debian or are curious to know and try out Debian, this would be right time to register for the conference. For those who are either financially weak (like yours truly) or those who are a minority in any way can avail those
sponsorships, more information about the sponsorship/travel bursary can be found here. Also make sure that you read, understand and accept the Debconf Code of conduct before trying to register.

Even if Debconf does give the bursary, getting a visa for Canada might be tricky but then what would be life without any challenges. In the hierarchy of wants and needs, I would say attending debconf would come in the ‘want’ category and not the ‘needs’ category as needs are simply food, clothes and roof over one’s head, thankfully all of which have been there for as long as I remember or know. ‘To dream’ is necessary for life and being part of debconf would be part of that dream.

While I have put up couple of talks, I have asked if somebody would be willing to tackle/share some basic things in Debconf 17 as well. Let’s see if I’m able to get any response to that. There was a recent Debian BSP in Montreal. While I don’t know how many bugs were fixed, although UDD shows only 32 bugs remain to be fixed before Stretch could be released.

Indian cricket team

To put things into perspective, I had gone to a friend’s place at Market Yard and came to know of a local cricket league which is being played in the city on the likes/basis of the IPL . The amount they will get is INR 88,000 (which is 1,361 USD, around the cost of ticket to and fro from Pune to Montreal and back as of date) and similar and 10 teams of 11-15 people are vying from it. The winning team will get that amount along with a trophy and signed certificates. Of course at the highest level i.e. the IPL, each night the players would probably earn a million or more for each play. One IPL season pay is what 90% of the people don’t/can’t earn in their whole lifetime.

Montreal Metro image from Wikimedia Commons

Apart from the conference, I have shared about the northern lights and the snacks on stand thing, there is one thing more to explore and that is the ‘Montreal Metro‘ . While I was re-reading the wiki entry today I was very much reminded about Pune Metro and Metro Samvaad that I attended couple of weeks before. That too as it was not held too far from my house, around 500 metres so could attend. The only hitch I see is the question mark on fate of 6,133 trees . I have shared one probable solution but then it has its own challenges . In the end, Metro is the need of the hour as vehicles in pune are reaching the 5 million mark while residents are around 3 million plus something depending on whether you chose to believe the 2011 census or the more recentish world population review . In either case/scenario I do not see any improvement unless consistent public transport is available. While Buses don’t run on time, it is hoped that the metro would run on time.

Some of the similarities between the two system, apart from the fact that from what I read Montreal Metro is mostly subway while Pune Metro would be mostly elevated. There is the idea/thought of having POI (Points of Interest) and free shows etc. in order to attract young and old to travel to destinations to and fro. There are a lot of theatre groups, stand-up comedians, rock and roll as well as classical musical concerts for which people like me would be willing to travel week-ends to attend such shows. Of course, this is all in the head, we will know the reality starting this May and commercial journeys if everything goes as planned in end 2018.

single person cult-based political parties

Summer heat

Summer heat

I would like to start with sharing is the mercury has been shot in recent times to record temperatures. For instance, Pune has been recording temperatures between 41 and 43 degrees consistently. The result of that has been a massive reduction in volunteer activity on my part as well as some reduction in work activity. The body wants and needs to conserve energy. Even my mobile phone’s lithium-ion battery becomes too hot and I have to turn it off in the crucial time from 12 – 17:00 hrs after which the weather cools down a bit. I am curious to know if I’m the only one or there are others like me.

I have seen quite a few construction, re-construction and renovation projects taking quite a hit by this incredible heat wave. If it isn’t climate change then I don’t know what is. And this is not limited to Pune but the whole of Western Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and quite a few parts of North India too. In Pune we are expecting it to hit 45 degrees pretty soon. And I don’t see this ending anytime soon, at least till July when the rains comes and we have some relief from this weather.

Balasaheb Thackeray, Founder Shiv Sena

Balasaheb Thakre/Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena in/around 1966. While he was cartoonist by trade, most of his cartoons were anti-migrant in nature. The target was the urban, unemployed Marathi youth based mostly in Mumbai and the suburbs. The Shiv Sena vandalized properties run by South Indian businessman, Gujaratis. The Shiv Sena and Balasaheb Thackeray were also responsible in part due to the massive closure of cloth mills in South Mumbai. While the workers struggled to make ends meet, some whose wife and children died, fell into prostitution, drugs or whatever they could to make ends meet while the party and more important Mr. Balasahab Thackeray prospered. In spite of the many threats, there are and were many South Indians who prospered inspite of Shiv Sena’s threats. Gujaratis on the other hand went back to Gujarat and now Surat rivals Mumbai. Another decade or so and Surat and not Mumbai would be the financial capital of India, the way Gujaratis are working towards it.

Then in the 90’s people from U.P. and Bihar came in search of livelihood, again the same rhetoric and even attacks were done against people from U.P. and Bihar. The only thing that was missing for all these people is a domicile certificate which you can get only after living 15 years in Mumbai.

The only thing that they and other political parties have been successful is murdering journalists. I’m sad to report that Maharashtra, my home state has a very bad report card in preventing such murders. And it’s both the State and the Centre who have to share the blame equally.

Come to 2017 and Shiv Sena doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Balasaheb Thackeray is no more, his son didn’t inherit Balasaheb’s fiery character and the nephew has now another outfit called Maha Navnirman Sena. Also, all those who were one-time outsiders are now residents of Mumbai (with the domicile certificate) and hence registered voters.

There is another angle to it as well, Marathas for far too long thought that people they will elect from their community will do something from their community just like auto rickshaw drivers thought that educated unemployed youth from their community would be better than the agents who rip them off whenever they have some work in the local R.T.O. (Road Transport Office) . Similar to auto rickshaw drivers, the Marathas realized that none of the leaders whom they elected would ever do the work. This is why when last year there were huge Maratha rallies all over the state (peaceful demonstrations all around though). I just shared Pune as am most concerned with my city although similar rallies were held in Mumbai (Khargar), Nagpur, Solapur among other places that I know of. But as shown on youtube

there was no central leadership (a.k.a. leaders) and still they were the most disciplined lot.

While the Marathas may say one thing, in part they are also culprits of their own past. My interactions with few Marathas was that they are still smitten by what happened in the second and the third Anglo-Maratha War . It is sad because I do see them adding lot of value provided they keep a cool head as I have seen some do. Business or service is the game only for cooler heads.

Things came to a head though about couple of weeks back when Mr. Ravindra Gaikwad, a Shiv Sena M.P. assaulted some elderly Air India Staff. While things have cooled down since then, it only belittles both the person and the party.

If anything, Air India can be accused of being to gentleman like in the whole case. The only crime of its own making is it has been looted since the beginning by Indian MP’s and their relatives with over-staffing and old age of the planes and being over-priced in an extremely price sensitive market. It doesn’t have any low-cost options but all of that is another story altogether.

Converse to this, the current Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi and Malcolm Turnbull enjoyed the ride of the Delhi Metro. In Politics as well as in life, symbolism scores big. That showed where Mr. Modi’s priorities lie and where Mr. Gaikwad’s.

In the end, the writing seems to be on the wall for not just the Shiv Sena but I would say all single-personality based parties. They need to widen both their political scope and activities and have prominent personalities with strong leadership taking the country along rather than being petty-minded.

The queen is dead … long live the queen :)

I acknowledge that images are sensitive materials and have much more potential to harm others than just plain text, and while I’ll be even more careful in the future, I hope I do get the wisdom to make correct choices.

Veena - an instrument used in classical music

I am reminded of Cole in Mr. Holland’s Opus . Cole is the son of Mr. Holland and he is totally deaf. It is probably apt as although not known by many people, I am totally deaf (100%) in my left ear and some loss of hearing in my right as well.

I say it is apt because one of the divas of classical singing, perhaps one of the old greats Ms. Kishori Amonkar is no more. I do not know whether or not she knew in her life-time that all copies of her photograph are copyrighted so there is not a single photo of her which is CC-by or CC-by-0 or whatever. This is the reason her wikipedia page is bereft of her image. For most Indian classical vocalists, the Veena is the instrument for both riyaz (practice) as well as for performance, hence have used that picture to pay her tribute.

So in a way it’s good that a partially deaf person is able to give homage to one of the greats. I have seen and heard her only once, about a decade ago. As have shared in earlier posts too, I have been lucky at times to have friends who have had variety of interests. Of course, as in life we drift from friends but whatever we learn in their company remains forever. My first hearing of classical music was with group of friends around a decade and a half.

One of the ghats in Varanasi

I had gone to Benaras/Varanasi and till that time my education in music was pop, rock, thrash, heavy metal, filmi songs, bit of ghazal and unplugged. Unplugged was due to MTV unplugged. I was in Varanasi for over a month in a palace (it was a slightly run-down palace) just next to the ghats. Ghat/s is what you call the riverbank. In the picture above the steps that you see going into the river and the in-between levels you see those are ghats.

Varanasi is one of the strangest cities if you stay a while as you will burning corpses sent to the river, ashes of people being thrown on the river, people bathing in the same river and people asking priests to bless newborns. So you see death and life at the same time and this all happens on the river-banks. Apart from that, the city is also famous for classical music of all hues. Many of the nights I slept listening to the voice of somebody playing either the veena, the shehnai played in a very cool manner or the flute. Both during sleep and being awakened by the same sounds early in the morning at 0500 hrs.

Hence I can totally understand why when Ustad Bismillah Khan sahab as well as some of the other greats when being offered by moneyed people to migrate to the States or somewhere else did not want to leave Varanasi. For those who love music, the unplugged kind, Varanasi is paradise. For those who don’t know Bismillah Khan sahab died in abject poverty. The irony is that while he added richness in thousands and millions of his fans, he himself chose to die in poverty. While I never learnt any of the musical understanding as I believe knowledge and understanding either in music or moving pictures (film) lessens the magic a bit. But that month or/and month and a half I developed a somewhat ear to classical music.

While I’m not much of a betting man, I would say that anybody who spends any amount of time in Varanasi, they would be transformed by the music which beats there. While like everywhere else, there are hindu and muslim areas, I found the Azaan to be more lyrical than anywhere else I have heard in India. You go to the temple or the mosque and you will be transported to some other world. If somebody who has skill with live sound-recordings come to Varanasi and records the kind of voices and instruments there are, her(is) hands will be full and its sure to be success wherever s(he) screens that. There is lot of varied soulful singing and instrumental there.

This is the same thing I observed or rather went on a journey with her. While Ms. Amonkar was infamous for her tantrums, she was equally beautiful when she was in her flow and more than that, once she started singing, soon your eyes would be closed and you are transported to some other world. The same quality I have seen in some of the other great artists too.

The best thing of her show and shows of other classical artists who perform late at nights, the audience, at least the Pune audience has learnt the art of soundless clap. ‘Soundless clap’ means after the performance is over, you leave in silence. Instead of clapping, the silence is more treasured by the artists who understand the significance. The same thing happened with her, I was out of this world, when I came back I found I was only one is the entire auditorium and there was nobody else. I came out and while there were street vendors doing brisk business, most of the business was without sound as if nobody wanted to break the magic spell. I went to a tea vendor, by signal asked him for tea and something to eat, paid him and slowly came back home and slept.

The next day I shared this story with my grandpa, my mother’s father and he shared he also liked classical music in his time and in their time, the people had more time. There used to be such musical festivals which went for days 24×7 . That was one of the first times I felt a tinge of regret that I was born today instead of some 50-60 years back although he had his fair share of challenges in his life as well. He had been a witness to the British and Indian rule. He’s no longer with us, god rest his soul.

In the end while Ms. Amonkar left us too quickly and suddenly, I do wish and hope that she did enough that she goes beyond this karmic life and death dance . If however, there is still some more things to be worked out, I hope she is again born a woman with the same passion for classical singing as before. With that I bid adieu the queen of musical spell πŸ™‚

The fatalistic attitude

Sorry - Rose - pixbay

A week back I published a post which unintentionally hurt some people and some people had some painful memories re-surfaced. My intention was not to provoke and hence am SORRY for any unintended hurt caused.

Now last week there was another conversation which was about accepting the possibility of death whenever travelling by any mode of transport. I was told/nay accused of having a fatalistic attitude.

Now for people unknown to the word, it means somebody who believes that all events are subject to fate or inevitable necessity, or determined in advance in such a way that human beings cannot change them.

Now, while for other things I believe in free will, for travelling purposes, I chose to believe in what will be, will be and be at peace with whatever happens. The reasons are simple enough and I will share for all three modes, road, train and air.

Accidents in India - wikimedia

a. In roadways, in India 157,000 people died last year. I don’t know driving hence have to rely on drivers and most bus-drivers just know how to drive rash. Most vehicles are not maintained. Ideally either in a government or a private vehicle, the name of the driver, photocopy of his driving license detailing since when he is driving (number of years) and when was it last renewed, age of the vehicle, its PUC (Pollution Under Control Certificate), maintenance certificate of the vehicle and when it last happened should all be on board of such a vehicle. If one digs deep enough, I am sure there would be a law stating that but it’s rarely something that is put into practise.

Apart from that practises such as lane and speed discipline are something that people have heard of but never adhere to. Besides bad and drunken drivers, faulty road design also leads to a heavy price. Interestingly, last week the Honourable Supreme Court ruled that no bars or restaurants serving alcohol would be within 500 metres of State and National Highways.

In a step right out of a nightmarish movie, most states denotified state highways to urban roads. This actually would also have the consequence that the urban roads would not get either the same funds or maintenance as they were getting before they were deemed highways. You can tell how powerful the liquor lobby is by the mere fact that they were able to get the order modified within 24 hours of the first order.

163536 Bengal train accident 2010

b. Railways – While I love Indian Railways I have to be a bit fatalistic as it’s a network overburdened and I don’t see it changing during my lifetime. If we were to quadruple the existing network and also make it a semi-high speed one, say something on the range of between 200-250 km/hr .

While the Indian Government is saying it will do unprecedented doubling and electrification in 2018 it can only happen if Indian Railways ends it exclusive relationship with loss-making SAIL to get rails. There are indications it might happen. But there are other bottle-necks such as litigation on taking private land and changing land-use both of which are challenges for it. In short, I don’t see the situation happening soon.

Indigo plane shown just for illustrative purposes - wikipedia

c. Airways – My friend is and was under the impression that all is well with the Indian Airways or Indian airlines in general. But the Government’s own records show that there were close to 35 near-miss accidents in 2014-2015 which is roughly around 3 accidents per month. Interestingly, there are no figures of similar nature in 2015-2016 . The figures however do share that airways in India is going through an unprecedented growth phase. Given the infrastructure crunch that is there now and will be for the medium future, accidents and near-misses would only become more as airport expansions are a bureaucratic nightmare, hence very slow .

There is a policy though to have secondary airports all over the country. If this becomes a reality, it would de-bottleneck the metro airports as well as cities like Pune, Nagpur as well. Pune has been having between 20-25% growth rate for the last 2-3 years but as it has a low base and just recently has got some more space and timings to grow it will take time for it to be noticed nationally. And it is in such cities the possibilities of accidents is much more due to unprecedented growth rate happening as well.

Now while I have shared of the above three travelling ways, I sincerely believe and pray before each journey ‘if an accident has to happen, pray I’m not hurt, if I’m hurt, I hope it’s fatal’ I wouldn’t want to be much more of a responsibility to my mother than I already am. This is my personal belief for myself. This doesn’t mean I don’t either respect or don’t do hats off to differently-abled people who just by being alive and struggling each day are heroes and inspiration to us all.

It just means if somehow I could influence the outcome I would like to be in one outcome so others don’t go through pain much.

d. Media – The first movie which doesn’t talk but is all about fatalism is the ‘Final Destination‘ Series. While the movies have been categorized as horror, for many Indians it probably is ‘Que sera, sera’ .

There were also two South Korean disaster movies which I saw earlier in the year ‘Tunnel and Pandora‘ both beautifully made but both show a certain fatalistic attitude towards how the events happen and the acceptance of people. While both the movies show positive ends as most movies who want to do commercially well do, reality might have been more pessimistic, who knows. Pandora in particular seemed to be very much based on the Japanese Fukushima nuclear accident which happened in 2011 and in fact mirrors exactly what all I heard, saw and read in the news at that time. As India is and was too thinking of having Nuclear reactors for our power needs, that might have been the reason I gave it much more attention.

Another movie which in part shares the blame for under-investment in Indian Railways is the movie ‘Burning Train‘. It is a beautifully shot movie giving a slice of how Indians make a riot and laugh at themselves when travelling. The only trouble with the movie that it planted the seed of fear in both the railway-using public as well as the Railway Board and we had chronic under-investment for 3 and a half decades and a bit more. Now the present government while dreaming (as shared above) however much they do I don’t think we could recover from the 3 and a half decades of under-investment anytime soon. We would have to invest at double or even quadruple the rates at which money is being invested in today’s Indian Railways to just fulfil expectations of yesterday, forget today. But again ‘Que Sera Sera’ to the rescue as this again is outside my hands for though, even if we somehow get the money, getting land to railways for its projects is another big challenge. There have been claims of inadequate compensation by farmers and such cases take years to clear up.

In the end, ‘Que sera sera’ is the only way we can live with uncertainty that both the present and future brings to us. It doesn’t mean we don’t strive for our rights or strive for a better future for us and people beyond us.

I would love to know what people think and if there is a better way than this to make peace, have your sanity and still live with the uncertainty that life brings.

The tale of the dancing girl – #nsfw

Demonstration of a Lapdance - Wikipedia

Demonstration of a Lapdance – Wikipedia

The post will be adult/mature in nature. So those below 18 please excuse. The post is about an anecdote almost 20 years to date, The result its being posted is due to dinner conversation where my friend thought it would make for an alternate view rather than the status quo shared by most people. The conversation was though about being young and foolish in which I shared the anecdote. The blog post was supposed to be about ‘Aadhar’ which shocked me both in the way no political discourse happened and the way the public as well as public policy was gamed but that would have to wait for another day.


I left college in 1995. The anecdote/incident probably happened couple of years earlier so probably 1992-1993. At that time, I was in my teens and as a typical teenager I made few friends. One of those friends, who would remain nameless as since we drifted apart, and as I have not take permission from him, taking his name would not be a good idea.

Anyway, this gentleman, let’s call him Mr. X as an example. Couple of months before, he had bought an open jeep, similar but very different from the jeep being shown below. The Open Jeep had become a fashion statement few months back (in those days) as a Salman khan starred movie had that and anybody who had money wanted one just like that.

Illustration of an open jeep, sadly its a military one - wikipedia

Illustration of an open jeep, sadly its a military one – wikipedia

Those days we didn’t have cell-phones and I had given my land-line phone number to very few friends as in those days, as the land-line itself was a finicky instrument and we were under the belief that if we use it more, it will get spoiled/broken soon.

One fine morning, I get a call from my friend telling he is going to come near my place and I should meet him at some xyz place and we would go for a picnic for the whole day and it is possible that we might return next day. As it was holidays and only a fool would throw away a chance to have a ride in open air jeep, I immediately agreed. I shared that my friends had organized a picnic and giving another friend’s number (who didn’t know anything) got permission and went to meet Mr. X. This was very early morning, around 0600 hrs. . After meeting him, he told that we would be going to Mumbai, take some more friends from there and then move on.

In those days, a railway ticket from Pune/Shivaji Nagar to V.T. (now C.S.T.) costed around INR 30/- . I had been to Mumbai few times before for various technical conferences and knew few cheap places to eat, I knew that going via train, we could go and come back spending at the most INR 150/- and still have some change left-over (today’s meal at a roadside/street vendor easily passes that mark).

The Journey

I shared with him that it will be costly and I don’t have any money to cover the fuel expenses and he said he would shoulder the expenses, he just wanted my company for the road. Those days, it was the scenic Old Mumbai-Pune highway and we took plenty of stops to admire that ghats (hills and valleys together). The only way I can describe the experience was it was fun and yet breath-taking at the same time. Spring-time on Pune-Mumbai Old highway was magical. At times we were parallel with the Pune-Railway railway line and we would think of ourselves as Rajesh Khanna and his sidekick wooing an imaginary Sharmila Tagore on the Railway line –

That journey must have taken us around 7-8 hours while today by the new Expressway, you could do the same thing by 2.5/3 hours.

The Hotel

Anyhow, we reached to some swanky hotel in South Mumbai. South Mumbai was not the financial powerhouse that it today is, there was mix of very old buildings and new buildings like the swanky hotel that we had checked in. I have no memory nor any idea whether it was 1 class, 3 class or 5 class and could have cared less as had been tired from the journey. We checked in, I had a long warm water bath and then slept in the king-size bed with curtains drawn for a long time. Eventually, evening came and we took the jeep and picked up 2-3 of his friends who were from my age or a year or two older and we went to Nariman Point. Seeing the Queen’s necklace from Nariman Point at night is a sight in itself. Whenever I am in Mumbai and if I have the time, I make it a point to spend at least some time at Nariman Point/Marine Drive/Queen’s necklace whenever I can. While the rest of the city is humid due to the moisture from the sea, Nariman Point/marine Drive always has a gentle breeze. Before the turn of the century, when I had much more of a free time I would go to Mumbai, book a lodge near Marine Drive and just sit at the edge for hours together. While I don’t know swimming, whether it was the call of the sea or just the sound of the waves breaking against the stones that used to get me in zen-like/serene state after being few hours there.

How Nariman Point/Marine Drive looks

Keeping with the innocence, I was under the impression that we had arrived at our destination, at this our host, Mr. X and his Bombaiya friends had a quiet laugh saying its a young night still or something to that effect . We must have whiled away couple of hours, having chai and throwing rocks in the sea.

The Meeting

After a while, Mr. X took us to another swanky place. My eyes were out of my sockets as this seemed to be as elitist a place as could be. I saw many White European women in various stages of undress pole-dancing and lap-dancing. I had recently (in those days) come to know the term but was under the impression that it was something that happened in Europe and States only. I had no idea that lap-dancing was older than my birth as according to Wikipedia. So looking back now, I am not surprised that in two decades the concept crossed the oceans. Again, Mr. X being the host, agreed to bear all the costs and all of us had food, drink and a lap-dance from any of the dancers on the floor. As I was young, somewhat confused seeing all the beauty and probably shy (still am) I asked Mr. X’s help to pick a girl/woman for me. The woman whom he picked was auburn-aired, was either my age or a year or two older/younger to me. IIRC entrance to the place ensured one or two lap-dances as well as appetizers and couple of drinks or something similar to that.

What proceeded next was about 20-30 minutes of totally sexualized erotic experience. While he and all his friends picked girls to go all the way, I was hesitant to let loose. Maybe it was due to my lack of courage or inexperience, maybe it was not in my city so couldn’t predict the outcome, maybe was just afraid that reality might mar fantasy or maybe I was not ‘man enough’ to do the needful I dunno till date. Although we kissed and necked a lot, I guess that should count for something.

The conversation

After all my friends had gone to the various rooms, sometime after I excused myself, went to the loo myself, peed a bit, splashed cold water on self, came out and had couple of glasses of water and came back to my seat. The lady came back and I shared that I was not interested in going further and while she was beautiful, I just didn’t have the guts. I did ask her if she would give me company though for sometime as I didn’t know anyone else at that place. Our conversation was more about her than me as I had more or less an average life upto that moment. There were only three unorthodox things that I had done before meeting her. I had drunk wines of different types, smoked weed and had a Magic Mushrooms experience the year before with another group of friends I had made there. Goa in those days was simply magical in those days but that probably would need its story/own blog post.

When I enquired about her, she shared she was from/around Russia and she rattled off more than half a dozen places around the world where she had been to. This was her second or third stint in Mumbai and she wasn’t at all unhappy about the lifestyle and choices she was leading. I had no answer for her as a young penniless college-going student. Her self-confidence and the way she carried herself was impressive, with or without clothes. During course of the conversation she shared a couple of contacts from whom I could get better weed at slightly higher price if I ever went to Goa next.

Few months later, I found those contacts to be true.

Back to the present though, after sometime, Mr. X took all the women and ourselves, around 8-9 people in his jeep (how he negotiated that is beyond me) and we went to a hygienic Pani puri and Bhel (puffed rice mixed with variety of spices typically tomato, potato, coriander chutney as well as Tamarind Chutney among other things) place and moved them to tears (the spices in bhel and Pani puri did it for them) and this was when we had explicitly asked the bhel-wala guy to make it extremely mild with just a hint of spice in it. Anyways, sometime later, we dropped them at the same place, dropped his friends and came back to the hotel we booked and got drunk again.


Few years later, it came in the newspapers/media that while India had broken out of financial isolation just few years back (1991) and were profiting from it, many countries of the former USSR were going the other way around and hence there was huge human trafficking and immigration that had taken place. This was in-line with what the lady/woman/Miss X had shared with me.

The latest trigger

The latest trigger happened couple of months back where I learnt of a hero flight attendant saving a girl from human-trafficking.

Till date, I am unsure whether she was doing it willingly or putting a brave smile in front of me, because even if she had confided me in any way, I probably would have been too powerless, penniless to help her in any-way. I just don’t know.

Foolishness thy name

While my friend took advantage of my innocence and introduced me to a world which otherwise I would probably not know exists, it could have easily have gone some other way as well.

While I’m still unsure of the choices I made then, I was and am happy that I was able to strike a conversation with her and attempt to reach the person therein. Was it the truth or an elaborate fabricated lie to protect myself and herself, this I will never know.


I understand the fact that as a ‘customer’ or somebody who is taking part in either of those performances or experiences it isn’t easy in any way to know/say that whether the performer is doing it wilfully or not as the experiences are in tightly controlled settings.

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