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Tale of two countries, India and Canada

Apologies – the first blog post got sent out by mistake.

Weather comparisons between the two countries

Last year, I had come to know that this year’s debconf is happening in Canada, a cold country. Hence, few weeks/month back, I started trying to find information online when I stumbled across few discussion boards where people were discussing about Innerwear and Outerwear and I couldn’t understand what that was all about. Then somehow stumbled across this Video, which is of a game called the Long Dark and just seeing couple of episodes it became pretty clear to me why the people there were obsessing with getting the right clothes and everything about it. Couple of Debconf people were talking about the weather in Montreal, and surprise, surprise it was snowing there, in fact supposed to be near the storm of the century. Was amazed to see that they have a website to track how much snow has been lifted.

If we compare that to Pune, India weather-wise we are polar opposites. There used to be a time, when I was very young, maybe 5 yrs. old that once the weather went above 30 degree celsius, rains would fall, but now its gonna touch 40 degrees soon. And April and May, the two hottest months are yet to come.

China Gate

Before I venture further, I was gifted the book ‘China Gate‘ written by an author named William Arnold. When I read the cover and the back cover, it seemed the story was set between China and Taiwan, later when I started reading it, it shares history of Taiwan going back 200 or so odd years. This became relevant as next year’s Debconf, Debconf 2018 will be in Taiwan, yes in Asia very much near to India. I am ashamed to say that except for the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the Chinese High-Speed Rail there wasn’t much that I knew. According to the book, and I’m paraphrasing here the gist I got was that for a long time, the Americans promised Taiwan it will be an Independent country forever, but due to budgetary and other political constraints, the United States took the same stand as China from 1979. Interestingly, now it seems Mr. Trump wants to again recognize Taiwan as a separate entity from China itself but as is with Mr. Trump you can’t be sure of why he does, what he does. Is it just a manoeuvrer designed to out-smart the chinese and have a trade war or something else, only time will tell.

One thing which hasn’t been shared in the book but came to know via web is that Taiwan calls itself ‘Republic of China’ . If Taiwan wants to be independent then why the name ‘Republic of China’ ? Doesn’t that strengthen China’s claim that Taiwan is an integral part of China. I don’t understand it.

The book does seduce you into thinking that the events are happening in real-time, as in happening now.

That’s enough OT for now.

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Population Density

As well in the game and whatever I could find on the web, Canada seems to be on the lower side as far as population is concerned. IIRC, few years back, Canadians invited Indian farmers and gave them large land-holdings for over 100 years on some small pittance. While the link I have shared is from 2006, I read it online and in newspapers even as late as in 2013/2014. The point being there seems to be lot of open spaces in Canada, whereas in India we fight for even one inch literally, due to overpopulation. This sharing reminded me of ‘Mark of Gideon‘. While I was young, I didn’t understand the political meaning of it and still struggle to understand about whom the show was talking about. Was it India, Africa or some other continent they were talking about ?

This also becomes obvious when you figure out the surface area of the two countries. When I had started to learn about Canada, I had no idea, nor a clue that Canada is three times the size of India. And this is when I know India is a large country. but seeing that Canada is thrice larger just boggled my mind. As a typical urbanite, would probably become mad if in a rural area in Canada. Montreal, however seems to be something like Gwalior or Bangalore before IT stormed in, seems to be a place where people can work, play and have quite a few gardens as well.

Rail

This is one thing that is similar in both the great countries. India has Indian Railways and while the Canadians have their own mountain railway called viarail. India chugs on its 68k kilometre network, Canada is at fourth position with 52k network. With thrice the land size, it should have been somewhere where Russia is or even better than them. It would be interesting if a Canadian/s comment about their railway network and why it is so bad in terms of reach.

As far as food is concerned, somebody shared this

Also, have no idea if Canadian trains are as entertaining as Indian ones, in terms of diverse group of people as well as variety of food to eat as also shared a bit in the video. I am not aware whether Via Rail is the only network operator and there are other network operators unlike Indian Railways which has monopoly on most of the operations.

Countries which have first past the post system - Wikipedia

Business houses, Political Families

This is again something that is similar in both the countries, it seems (from afar) that its only few business houses and more importantly political families which have governed for years. From what little I could understand, both India and Canada have first past the post system which as shared by its critics is unfair to new and small parties. It would be interesting to see if Canada does a re-think. For India, it would need a massive public education outreach policy and implementation. We just had elections in 5 states of India with U.P. (with respect to area-size and population density) and from the last several years, the EVM’s (Electronic Voting Machines) tries to make sure that nobody could know which area which party got the most votes. This is to make sure the winning party is not able to take revenge on people or areas which did not vote for them. Instead you have general region counting of votes with probably even the Election Commission not knowing which EVM went to what area and what results are there in sort of double-blind methodology.

As far as Business houses are concerned, I am guessing it’s the same world-over, only certain people hold the wealth while majority of us are in hard-working, non-wealthy status.

Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis

Apart from all the social activities that Montreal is famous for, somebody told/shared with me that it is possible to see the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis can be seen in Canada. I dunno how true or not it is, while probably in Montreal it isn’t possible to see due to light pollution, but maybe around 40-50 kms. from the city ? Can people see it from Canada ? IF yes, how far would you have to go ? Are there any companies or people who take people to see the Northern Lights.

While I still have to apply for bursary, and if that gets ok, then try getting the visa, but if that goes through, apart from debconf and social activities happening in and around Montreal, Museums, Music etc. , this would be something I would like to experience if it’s possible. While I certainly would have to be prepared for the cold that would be, if it’s possible, no offence to debconf or anybody else but it probably would be the highlight of the entire trip if its possible. This should be called/labelled as the greatest show on earth TM.

Trains, Planes and the future

Swacch Bharat - Indian Railways Copyright: Indian Express

Swacch Bharat – Indian Railways Copyright: Indian Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright: National Geographic Magazine

Copyright: National Geographic Magazine

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

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

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

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

The world's 10 best airports Copyright: Changi International Airport

Photo – Courtesy Changi International Airport, Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

Honourable mention –

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

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

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

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