The Road to Gandolfo
I think I had read this book almost 10-12 years back and somehow ended up reading it up again. Apparently, he had put this fiction, story, book under some other pen name earlier. It is possible that I might have read it under that name and hence forgotten all about it. This book/story is full of innuendo, irony, sarcasm and basically the thrill of life. There are two main characters in the book, the first is General Mackenzie who has spent almost 3 to 4 decades being a spy/a counterintelligence expert in the Queen’s service. And while he outclasses them all even at the ripe age of 50, he is thrown out under the pretext of conduct unbecoming of an officer.
The other main character is Sam Devereaux. This gentleman is an army lawyer and is basically counting the days when he completes his tour of duty as a military lawyer and start his corporate civil law with somebody he knows. It is much to his dismay that while under a week is left for his tour of duty to be left over he is summoned to try and extradite General MacKenzie who has been put on house arrest. Apparently, in China there was a sculpture of a great Chinese gentleman in the nude. For reasons unknown or rather not being shared herein, he basically breaks part of the sculpture. This of course, enrages the Chinese and they call it a diplomatic accident and try to put the General into house arrest. Unfortunately for both the General and his captors, he decides to escape/go for it. While he does succeed entering the American embassy, he finds himself to be person non-grata and is thrown back outside where the Chinese recapture him.
This is where the Embassy & the Govt. decide it would be better if somehow the General could be removed from China permanently so he doesn’t cause any further diplomatic accidents. In order to do that Sam’s services are bought.
Now in order to understand the General, Sam learns that he has 4 ex-wives. He promptly goes and meet them to understand why the general behaved as he did. He apparently also peed on the American flag. To his surprise, all the four ex-wives are still very much in with the general. During the course of interviewing the ladies he is seduced by them and also gives names to their chests in order to differentiate between each one of them. Later he is seduced by the eldest of the four wives and they spend the evening together.
Next day Sam meets and is promptly manhandled by the general and the diplomatic papers are seen by the general. After meeting the general and the Chinese counterpart, they quickly agree to extradite him as they do not know how to keep the general control. During his stay of house arrest, the General reads one of the ‘communist rags’ as he puts it and gets the idea to kidnap the pope and that forms the basis of the story.
Castel Gandolfo seems to be a real place which is in Italy and is apparently is the papal residence where s/he goes to reside every winter. The book is written in 1976 hence in the book, the General decides to form a corporation for which he would raise funds in order to make the kidnapping. The amount in 1976 was 40 million dollars and it was a big sum, to be with times, let’s think of say 40 billion dollars so gets the scale of things.
Now while a part of me wants to tell the rest of the story, the story isn’t really mine to tell. Read The Road to Gandolfo for the rest. While I can’t guarantee you much, I can say you might find yourself constantly amused by the antics of both the General, Sam and the General’s ex-wives. There are also a few minute characters that you will meet on the way, hope you discover them and enjoy it immensely as I have.
One thing I have to say, while I was reading it, I very much got vibes of ‘Not a penny more, not a penny less’ by Jeffrey Archer. As shared before, lots of twists and turns, enjoy the ride 🙂
Webforms are nothing but a form you fill on the web or www. Webforms are and were a thing from early 90s to today. I was supposed to register for https://www.swavlambancard.gov.in/ almost a month back but procrastinated till few couple of days back and with good reason. I was hoping one of my good friends would help me but they had their own thing. So finally, I tried to fill the form few days back. It took me almost 30 odd attempts to finally fill the form and was given an enrollment number. Why it took me 30 odd attempts and with what should tell you the reason –
- I felt like I was filling the form from 1990’s rather than today because –
- The form doesn’t know either its state or saves data during a session – This lesson has been learned a long time back by almost all service providers except Govt. of India. Both the browsers on a mobile as well as desktop can save data during session. If you don’t know what I mean by that go to about:preferences#privacy in Firefox and look at Manage Data. There you will find most sites do put some data along with cookies arguably to help make your web experience better. Chrome or Chromium has the same thing perhaps shared under a different name but its the same thing. But that is not all.
- None of the fields have any verification. The form is of 3 pages. The verification at the end of the document doesn’t tell you what is wrong and what needs to be corrected. Really think on this, I am on a 24″ LED monitor and I’m filling the form and I had to do it at least 20-30 times before it was accepted. And guess what, I have no clue even about why it was selected. The same data, the same everything and after the nth time it accepted. Now if I am facing such a problem when I have some idea how technology works somewhat how are people who are trying to fill this form on 6″ mobiles supposed to do? And many of them not at all clued in technology as I am.
I could go on outlining many of the issues that I faced but they are all similar in many ways the problems faced while filling the ‘NEW’ Income Tax forms. Of course the New Income Tax portal is a whole ball-game in itself as it gives new errors every time instead of solving them. Most C.A.’s have turned to third-party xml tools that enable you to upload xml compliant data to the ‘New’ Income tax portal but this is for businesses and those who can afford it. Again, even that is in a sort of messy state but that is a whole another tale altogether.
One of the reasons to my mind why the forms are designed the way they are so that people go to specific cybercafes or get individual people to fill and upload it and make more money. I was told to go to a specific cybercafe and meet a certain individual and he asked for INR 500/- to do the work. While I don’t have financial problems, I was more worried about my data going into the wrong hands. But I can see a very steady way to make money without doing much hard work.
Hearing Loss info.
Now because I had been both to Kamla Nehru Hospital as well as Sasoon and especially the deaf department, I saw many kids with half-formed ears. I had asked the doctors and they had shared this is due to malnutrition. We do know that women during pregnancies need more calories, more everything as they are eating for two bodies, not one. And this is large-scale, apparently more than 5 percent of population have children like this. And this number was of 2014, what is it today nobody knows. I also came to know that at least for some people like me, due to Covid they became deaf. I had asked the doctors if they knew of people who had become deaf due to Covid. They basically replied in the negative as they don’t have the resources to monitor the same. The Govt. has an idea of health ID but just like Aadhar has to many serious sinister implications. Somebody had shared with me a long time back that in India systems work inspite of Govt. machinery rather than because of it. Meaning that the Government itself ties itself into several knots and then people have to be creative to try and figure a way out to help people. I found another issue while dealing with them.
Apparently, even though I have 60% hearing loss I would be given a certificate of 40% hearing loss and they call it Temporary Progressive Loss. I saw almost all the people who had come, many of them having far severe defencies than me getting the same/similar certificate. All of them got Temporary Progressive. Some of the cases were real puzzling. For e.g. I met another Agarwal who had a severe accident few months ago and there is some kind of paralysis & bone issue. The doctors have given up but even that gentleman was given Temporary Progressive. From what little I could understand, the idea is that over period if there is possibility of things becoming better then it should be given. Another gentleman suffered a case of dwarfism. Even he was given the same certificate. Think there have been orders from above so that people even having difficulties are not helped. Another point if you look in a macro sense, it presents a somewhat rosy picture. If someone were to debunk the Govt. data either from India or abroad then from GOI perspective they have an ‘agenda’ even though the people who are suffering are our brothers and sisters 😦 And all of this is because I can read, write, articulate. Perhaps many of them may not even have a voice or a platform.
Even to get this temporary progressive disability certificate there is more than 4 months of running from one place to the other, 4 months of culmination of work. This I can share and tell from my experience, who knows how much else others might have suffered for the same. In my case a review will happen after 5 years, in most other cases they have given only 1 year. Of course, this does justify people’s jobs and perhaps partly it may be due to that. Such are times where I really miss that I am unable to hear otherwise could have fleshed out lot more other people’s sufferings.
And just so people know/understand this is happening in the heart of the city whose population easily exceeds 6 million plus and is supposed to be a progressive city. I do appreciate and understand the difficulties that the doctors are placed under.
Mum’s Birthday & Social Engineering.
While I don’t want to get into details, in the last couple of weeks mum’s birthday was there and that had totally escaped me. I have been trying to disassociate myself from her and at times it’s hard and then you don’t remember and somebody makes you remember. So, on one hand guilty, and the other do not know what to do. If she were alive I would have bought a piece of cake or something. Didn’t feel like it, hence donated some money to the local aged home. This way at least I hope they have some semblance of peace. All of them are of her similar age group.
The other thing that I began to observe in the earnest, fake identities have become the norm. Many people took elon musk’s potrait using their own names in the handles, but even then Elon “Free Speech” Musk banned them. So much for free speech. Then I saw quite a few handles that have cute women as their profile picture but they are good at social engineering. This has started only a couple of weeks back and have seen quite a few handles leaving Twitter and joining Mastodon. Also, have been hearing that many admins of Mastodon pods are unable to get on top of this. Also, lot of people complaining as it isn’t user-friendly UI as twitter is. Do they not realize that Twitter has its own IP and any competing network can’t copy or infringe on their product. Otherwise, they will be sued like how Ford was & potentially win. I am not really gonna talk much about it as the blog post has become quite long and that needs its own post to do any sort of justice to it. Till later people 🙂