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It’s all so clean!

I can understand why the Abrahamic god relied on floods. The morning after all the rain in Bombay and everything looks so clean! Well, there are the random spots where all the muck and random trash gathered up, but the roads, the paving blocks, the sidewalks, the trees were turned from a uniform grimy grey-brown to their real colours. (Which in the case of the roads was a different grey-brown but anyway.)

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The Future is Safe!

…or something like it.

This morning while I was on the bus to work, I saw a little kid, maybe about 8 years old, returning home from school with his heavy backpack and all get up and offer his seat to an old lady that boarded the bus. While he was trying to do this, the lady had already asked another schoolkid, a girl, to get up. So the boy gallantly makes the girl take his seat!

That wasn’t all, there was another boy on the bus who at one point in the journey got up on his seat to yell across to someone else or look out the window, I’m not sure what, and when he did that, he had his feet on the seat. So the gallant kid whacks him on the head and tells him he shouldn’t have his feet on the seat since he was dirtying it up for others!

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Follow up on “Cell phones and lightning”

I’ve done some more Googling and I can’t find any news articles online which talk about the cell phones in that story. Even the newspaper I read it in originally doesn’t have it on their website.

Also, the professor from IIT, Bombay giving his “expert” opinion is actually a professor at the Industrial Design Centre and specialises in Ergonomics. I’m not sure how this makes him an expert in lightning strikes, but I could be wrong?

I have grumbled in the past about crap journalism. 🙂

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Cell phones and lightning

A girl walking on the beach with her friends was struck by lightning and killed yesterday.

Apparently she was carrying the mobile phones of most of her friends in her bag and the newspaper I read said that this might have been why the lightning struck her.

As it was raining, the Bhavans College students had given their cell phones, wrapped in plastic, to Sakori, who had placed them in her purse. The group were walking along the beach in the rain when they were struck.

Investigating officer Santosh Sawant and sub-inspector Salim Sheikh, who gave the group first aid, say the mobiles may have acted as some kind of a magnet for the lightning bolt.

An expert in the field did not rule out the possibility. Professor Gaur G Ray of IIT Bombay said, ““The metal casings of the mobiles could have acted as an antenna and attracted the lightning bolt. Mobile phones do emit electro-magnetic waves but it will have to be ascertained if that could have also precipitated the strike.”

This just doesn’t make sense to me. A quick Google search pulls up enough pages that explains this is just an urban legend.

What’s a likelier explanation, according to me, is that she must have been the tallest person in the group and was probably walking barefoot.

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Travelling on Bombay locals means…

…no matter how empty the train is, your feet will get stepped on an average of two times.

…when you decide to sit under a fan in a crowded train, about three people will stand around you, not only blocking out the fan, but also blocking all light, so forget about reading that book/paper.

…not only will they stand around and chat loudly over your head, but they will chew paan and tobacco and so fill the air with that stench.

…if you’re really unlucky, the juice dribbling down their mouth (or spraying all over when they guffaw at whatever joke) will fall on you.

…elbowing or being elbowed out of the way when trying to board a train on a good day.

…being yanked backwards by the collar/scruff of your neck and virtually ejected from the train on a bad day.

…the smelly old man sitting next to you will fall asleep on your shoulder.

…the same smelly old man will sit with his arms akimbo and poke you in the ribs.

…despite being asleep, the smelly old man’s arms will successfully resist attempts to push them away.

…never being able to talk on the phone since you use a crappy phone service that won’t work on the train.

…people will ask to read your morning newspaper before you’ve finished reading it.

…looking at advertisements for “Body Massages” (with “home service”) and wondering why they’d want to put that in a train since everyone gets a free all-over body massage standing in a crowded train anyway.

…if you’re sitting in an aisle seat, the guy standing in the aisle will decide to rest his butt on your shoulder.

…you’re thankful he doesn’t decide to rest his groin on your shoulder as others are wont to do.

…being late every now and then since there’s always some “rail roko” by “public-minded” groups protesting some inane cause.

…learning to forget you ever had personal space.

…this list will go on! 😀

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Das Bounce

With all the time on my hands (sounds messy, doesn’t it? ok, ok, don’t groan!) and with no friends willing to help me spend it, I’ve been trying to figure out someway to kill it alone.

Usually I end up going for a movie, grab a bite to eat and head home. But all the movies showing are quite blah. Top of the blah list being “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” which I actually spent money on last week (including the super expensive snacks in the theatre.) What happened was I sat cramped in a corner seat surrounded by townie kids, and got bored through most of the movie except to appreciate the special effects. (Though I kept expecting the dragon to talk in Sean Connery’s voice, but all it did was bleat a bit. Oh, ok, it roared.)

So here’s my great idea for this weekend (and don’t tell me you thought of it already!) I’m going to bounce around the city on the local trains. Maybe pack a thermos of coffee and book and just sit on the train reading it. Since I have a season ticket, it won’t cost me anything. I don’t have to be worried about someone telling to get out (like they do in crowded cafe’s once you’ve finished your coffee) and I still get to see interesting people. That is, since its the weekend, I assume it won’t just be the yuppies going to the stock exchange to make their next million.

So that’s my plan for Sunday. Expect a post here saying what a stupid idea it was next week. (Of course, I’d expect comments telling me its stupid idea, but no one really comments here anymore.)

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Sorry, I’m a bit tied up at the moment…

Hands free sets (wired and wireless) for cell phones are really popular with the population in Bombay. Mostly because the Nokia phones which everyone (except me) owns allows you to listen to FM radio through them.

So there’s everyone walking around with wires dangling from their ears or with the Jabra-type headsets looking like agents from the Matrix (or the Secret Service?) And its very disconcerting to see a person in a car apparently talking to thin air animatedly or a person strolling down a street yelling at no one. But I don’t really have anything against it, since back in the US I made a lot of use of a hands-free headset too. (Although not because I was all busy and working, but because I was usually chatting on the ‘net simultaneously and so needed both my hands free to type!)

Among the funnier things I see with headsets is how they hold up the microphone (which is dangling from a wire) to their mouths to speak. Thus defeating the purpose of “hands free!” Today though, I saw something that really made me guffaw. There was this guy with his handsfree head set wrapped around his face (honest!) so that the microphone was held tightly against his upper lip and he was talking through it! What an idea! *snicker*

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Bah! Diwali!

Diwali, the festival of light in India is supposed to be a fun festival. It represents the triumph of good over evil. All in all, a good thing, no?

But no, Diwali means I get woken up at 6:30am everyday by the kid next door firing a cap gun incessantly. It also means I can’t sleep early at night because kids elsewhere are bursting firecrackers. Its a festival of light, where did the damned noise come in from? And, if the dust in Bombay was not enough to irritate your nose, lets add some acrid sulphur dioxide! Bah!

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Water (b)logged!

So there I was, happily plonking away at a keyboard at work, while people around me ran helter skelter and started leaving for home. Yeah, the rain outside seemed a tad on the heavier side, but I didn’t think anyone needed to panic. It was just rain after all. Then came the announcement over the PA system that all further classes were cancelled for the day and students were advised to go home. Hmmm. That seemed serious then.

But so what, I’ve survived heavy rain before. Not a big deal. What can Bombay throw at me? Ha! Most people seemed to just melt away. I was left alone with a couple of the students doing a small experiment. They lived close by and so they didn’t worry about getting home. We finished up our work and I sent them home. I was the only one left in the lab and the rain was pouring down. It wasn’t just raining cats and dogs, but lions and tigers too.

Around 4:30pm or so I decided it was time to venture to the local suburban railway station. The rain seemed to have abated a bit, but water flowed all over the roads and umbrella in hand, I sploshed my way through since there seemed to be no sign of the buses.

Floods!

In about 20 minutes I got to Nana Chowk which had turned into a little lake with cars marooned in it and people resolutely making their way to the station. I waded through the waist deep water, taking care to avoid the open manholes which were marked with little red metal posts.

The station was packed with people. Announcements were being made that trains were cancelled until further notice due to flooding of the tracks. The lighting at the station, the rain and the cold made for an eerie feeling. Couple that with vendors yelling that they had fresh, hot batata vadas and it was the most surreal I’ve felt in a while.

Grant Road Station

People were slowly making their way along the tracks from the Churchgate terminus heading north even as the water levels on the tracks built up. I watched for a while, waiting with the milling crowds on the platform wondering what to do next.

Eventually, I decided what the heck, so many people can’t be wrong, I might as well walk with them too!

I trudged slowly mixing with the crowds that seemed to only get larger, until we got to the next station, Bombay Central. There the water levels were too high on the tracks and people were scrambling to climb over a wall and get off the tracks. By now I’d given up trying to protect myself with an umbrella and had put it away. I joined the near-stampeding crowd and managed to get over the wall with not too much trouble. The brand new jeans I had worn that day escaped without any damage. Yay!

Grant Road Station

Once I got out onto the road, I decided it was time to try and call some friends. But apparently the cell phone networks were busted too. I could barely get through to any numbers. With some luck, I managed to get through to a friend who worked at Prabhadevi and had a bike. He told me to make it to his office and we could bike it to his home from there.

I still didn’t know or realise how serious things were. I thought I could easily get a taxi to Prabhadevi. But once I began asking them, I noticed the long lines of vehicles stuck on the road. Nothing seemed to be moving. Some of the cabbies had rolled up their windows and were taking naps on their front seats!

Some more walking I guess. I walked, waded and semi-swimmed through Tardeo, upto Haji Ali. Traffic was still clogged up although along Haji Ali it seemed to be moving a bit at least. This was a horrible part of the walking, the wind blowing in from the sea carried with it raindrops and that stung. I was surprised that they didn’t raise any welts!

Worli Naka was flooded in parts and people formed gangs that were directing the others safely past holes, ditches, fast flowing water and open manholes. Pretty neat, that they organised themselves so quickly.

I got to Prabhadevi and my friend’s workplace around 7:30pm. Three whole hours after I’d left home. What followed was a mini-adventure too. The security refused to let me into the office saying that it was after hours. Even after my friend came down, they said I couldn’t be allowed in since I could just stay overnight at the office and that’s a no-no. It boggled the mind. A little convincing and they allowed me go upstairs. I dried off as best as I could, uploaded the pictures I had taken to Flickr and we decided it was time we attempted to get home.

We left (to the relief of the security guys) and headed towards Bandra. Traffic jams, flooded roads and intermittent rains that soaked us, or me at least since my friend had rainwear, followed us all the way. At Mahim, the water flowing into the bike’s fuel tank and engine was just too much for it and it gave up on us. As tired and worn out as we were, we were forced to wheel it along to a service station in Bandra (an ordeal in itself since it involved lifting the bike over a road divider, sloshing through more water, etc) A little fuel in the bike and she roared back to life!

The next problem we faced was that neither of us had a change of clothes and we were hungry! It was now close to 10pm. A quick bite at a small restaurant and another miraculous call to another friend that lived close by who I could borrow clothes from rounded that part of the evening off.

We headed to the other friends home, and I decided I might as well stay there for the night. I managed to dry off and change into fresh clothes. A soggy unread newspaper was removed from my backpack, my camera was still intact if a little wet and the bag itself was soaked through.

I tried to sleep after reading a couple of chapters of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (not interesting enough to keep me awake!) but like what I’d been through was not enough, I picked up a fever overnight and could barely sleep longer than 20-30 minutes at a time.

Thus ended my 26th of July, 2005…

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Of Spectacled Bears and Señor Free

As grouched about in the last post, I wanted to sit somewhere peacefully (not home, since current home is a little depressing) and read a book. Obviously, since I had left home with just umbrella in tow (the monsoon is in full swing in Bombay) it meant finding a book first.

Which meant wandering around the British Library aimlessly for a bit. And out of some sort of obligation I had to glance at the shelves holding the biology textbooks. Slight shock to see a colourful hardback, the author one Stephen Fry. I picked the book off the shelf immediately.

Rescuing the Spectacled Bear seemed interesting, so I borrowed it and left. Hours later at night, I was still reading it. The spectacled bear (so named for the yellow markings around and on its face) is a bear native to South America. Yep. There are bears in South America. Stephen Fry (or Señor Free as the Peruvians called him) was drafted into being the narrator/presenter for a program on them. This book was the journal he maintained the few weeks they were in Peru and Chile. Filled with beautiful still photos and great (and hilarious) writing that I always expect from Stephen Fry, I loved the book. The proceeds from this book go towards a foundation to help found a reserve for the spectacled bears in Peru. What are you waiting for? Go buy the book! 🙂