When will we learn?

Of all places, I found an article on reddit about a girl born with eight limbs on the outskirts of Bangalore.

Lakshmi is one of those conjoined twins where one twin did not develop completely. What makes her case especially interesting (medically) is that the two bodies are fused in a mirror image at her pelvis. Soon, she will be operated upon in an attempt to remove the extra limbs and re-align her internal organs.

But what really shocked me in that article were the fact that the girl is 2 years old and has been repeatedly refused treatment at the government hospital near her village as well as at Delhi when her parents painfully scraped up the money to take her there! What’s worse is that people have been lining up for her blessings assuming she is the reincarnation of her namesake, a goddess of wealth! Sigh.


Irony is…

… an Indian company out-sourcing jobs to the US!

Update: Apparently the newspaper site I linked to doesn’t believe in permalinks. Here’s a page at the Inquirer that summarises the article.


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. 🙂


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.


Stars twinkle only in western skies!

The state of Madhya Pradesh is on such a determined “anti-western” drive, that they’ve decided to remove nursery rhymes like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” from the text books of primary schools.

Funnily, it’s not been explained what is implicitly western in these rhymes other than the fact that they’re in English.

Over at Reuters’ Oddly Enough, the state Education Minister is being quoted as saying:

We want our children to have value education in local color


Stir crazy

I wrote this piece a while ago for a newspaper that wanted articles on “hostel life.” They never expected something like this and eventually didn’t publish it.

I just dug it out recently when I needed samples of my past writing to bolster my c.v.

In the aftermath of the Godhra massacre and the resulting riots across Gujarat, a curfew was imposed in the cities of Baroda and Ahmedabad. At the M.S. University of Baroda, it meant that the students living in the vast hostel complexes had to remain cooped up, three to a room and couldn’t even venture beyond the hostel campus gates.

The inevitable had to happen. As the saying goes, a lie can run halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on, rumours sparked across the thirteen boys’ hostels, “mobs 5000-strong are marching to attack the hostels!” “students are being killed elsewhere in the city” “the family living across the street is plotting the torching of the hostel” and so on. Groups of students in a frenzy splintered much of the furniture in the hostel common room to make clubs. Bricks, sticks, stones and even a couple of drums(!) were stockpiled. Far from “mobs” coming to attack us, it appeared that we would form a mob and go on the offense. At nights, some students, from behind the safety of the campus gates and in the cloak of darkness would taunt the policemen stationed outside the gates. And when the policemen reached their breaking point, they opened the gate and drove in, dressed in full riot gear, lashing out with lathis and spewing abuses… not a pleasant memory at all.

The second night of the curfew, is the one that remains painfully burned in my memory. For whatever reason, the policemen in their jeep were not stationed outside the hostel gates. Students, once again from behind the safety of the gates and the walls, began stoning and torching the vehicles of a Parsi family that lived across the street as well as the carts of a couple of vendors just outside the hostel. Those same vendors that provided us with breakfast and tea every morning now bore the pent up aggression, ire or frustration of students.I woke up the next morning to find “Jai Shri Ram” chalked all over the hostel walls. Down the corridor from my room lived a Muslim medical student. He had left the hostel after he was “warned” that he was not safe there. I still remember him as a quiet, studious chap. I remember his room. While we all had posters of movies stars or musicians on our walls, he had a large poster of the Kaaba, a map of India and the Indian tricolour. On that morning which apparently some people thought was a victory of Ram, I peeked into his room, the poster of the Kaaba was ripped to shreds. In its place was “Jai Shri Ram.”


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! 😀


How terrorists win

Bangalore, the city my parents live in, was shocked on the 28th of this month. A man brandishing an assault rifle fired indiscriminately on scientists attending a conference at the J.N. Tata Auditorium, across the road from the Indian Institute of Science(IISc). One scientist was killed and at least three others injured. Later investigations also found that grenades were hurled too, but luckily one didn’t have its pin removed and the other didn’t explode. Obviously the number of people killed/injured would have been more if either or both of them exploded.

This is the first time that something like this has happened in Bangalore. Two days later, it still isn’t clear what was the motivation behind the attack, nor which group, if any, was responsible for it. The police only today have released a sketch of the man based on accounts from some of the injured. There is still some uncertainty about whether there were more than one attacker and how he/they made their escape. On the day of the attack it was reported that he/they got away in a white Ambassador car. Now it appears that there may not have been any car involved.

In the aftermath of that incident, various threats have been received apparently by fax, threatening celebrations at hotels on New Year’s Eve, the Chief Minister’s residence and even a mediocre college named Oxford College (completely unrelated to the UK University.) Obviously the police have to take such threats seriously and investigate but what silly is when people start locking themselves in their homes refusing to go out because they are scared. Noises are made about how the security at the IISc is terrible. I was really happy to see Dr. Balram, the director of the IISc, come on national TV this morning and say that the very purpose of an academic institution will be defeated if it is turned into a fortress. He did agree that perhaps institutes need to be more alert, but did not think that a lockdown is needed.

Which brings me to the point I want to make. How do terrorists win? Killing a random individual is hardly going to make a difference to a nation. They win when they succeed in terrorising people. If a bomb is exploded in a market before a busy festival season and people stop celebrating or shopping, they win. When people are afraid to go on living their normal lives, they win. Sure, we need to worry a little more and be a little more careful, but locking ourselves up doesn’t work. Terrorists shouldn’t be given that satisfaction.


Taking a few steps backward

It’s bad enough that non-issues are used for publicity and even taken to court, now even Ministers of the Union Government decide they should tell us about sexual mores!

The whole Khusboo incident (read a bit about it at Kate’s blog) has been blown so hugely out of proportion its not funny! And yesterday, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, the minister for Health, whose department runs an anti-AIDS programme has been quoted as saying pre-marital sex is not ok.

…it is wrong to say that pre-marital sex is alright.

I’m not sure if he was voicing a purely personal opinion or spoke for the Government, or for his party. In any case, it boggles my mind.


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!