Category: People

Dhanushkodi: Annular Eclipse

Moon's shadow on EarthWas my first time at an annular eclipse (with 100% contact – have been in partial contact once in 2005). Just to be clear, an annular eclipse, contrary to a total eclipse, does not induce darkness due to the increased distance of the moon from the earth. To understand further, you might want to see this image (preview on the right).

Pavan (an active volunteer of BAS) was accompanying me and Raghu on this trip. We drove to Dhanushkodi via Madurai and Rameshwaram (the oncoming two/three wheelers on your side of the lane deserves a separate post). We almost got killed by an oncoming Ambulance. A day’s stop in Madurai on Jan 14 and Jan 15th saw us in Dhanushkodi (DKD). DKD is right across Pamban bridge, some 10 Kms from Rameswaram. It’s a small island, surrounded by the ocean on two sides and extends to the last point of India that just touches Sri Lanka.

Annular Eclipse Phases - (click to view larger: in a new window/tab)

Contrary to expectations, DKD was free of an enormous crowd. The Tamil Nadu Science Society was organizing an event there (and quite a few folks from Assam – the Guwahati Planetarium, Gujarat, Bengal etc. were to be seen). Photos were being clicked as the “Media” approached us and we shyed away. Though we were carrying a telescope, due to lack of a filter we could not set it up and missed  the oppurtunity to use it. Pavan got a filter for his camera right on time (though I carved out something with an X-ray sheet, but the mylar sheet filter was definitely a better bet).

First contact of the eclipse was at 11:15 AM – as we put on our eclipse viewers, the sight was stunning.  The intensity of the sunlight decreased by as much as 75% (approximately) and the temperature certainly decreased by at least a couple of degrees (if not more). The sea wasn’t very rough, but the tide certainly had increased a lot more than what it was in the morning.

At about 1:20pm, we saw the ring – a beautiful sight as I kept gazing at it. There’s still a lot of light around you, just that it is white and not the usual yellow light and the intensity is nothing like a sun in a clear sky. The sky was spotless during the maximum eclipse around the sun, but it felt like there’s a cloud covering. Something very unusual, but a characteristic property of an annular eclipse on the ground. To understand how the eclipse traces the path on the ground, see this image.

We came back to Rameshwaram, stayed on till night and hopped back home the next day.

Interestingly, Raghu pointed out that I ended up following the popular superstitous Hindu activity of:

  1. not eating anything during the eclipse (though I drank some water and ate peanuts – which he discounts as: “even monkeys eat them“),
  2. taking a bath post-eclipse (we found a room at Rameswaram only in the evening, so I took a bath ASAP),
  3. visiting a temple post-eclipse (we went to hog – but couldn’t find anything since Rameswaram halts between 5pm and 6.30pm – so we had to go into the temple to make the most of our time)
  4. eating only after a bath (we were forced to take another 22 baths in the Kunds in the Rameshwaram temple – and then we hogged Dosas).

Heh, I broke (1) though, while Raghu/Pavan somehow broke (1) and (2). So glad I am.

Intezaar

One of those things that nobody likes. Something that irritates the hell out of humans. The one thing that usually brings an end to relationships. It’s waiting for something or someone. Dadi had tremendous patience whenever I saw her waiting for an event. It took years for certain things to happen, and she waited on. Somethings never happened while she was alive, although she still waited for them. They didn’t happen even after she died.

There was this crazy talent-finding bug I had caught where I’d try out different things to see what I was good at. I was trying hard to be a good artist and made Dadi sit for about an hour (may be longer) so that I could sketch a portrait. She sat there waiting for some result. I am one of the worst people at anything drawing or related to art. At least that is one thing I am sure I will never be able to do. After spending about an hour something, I told Dadi that all I did in this whole while was her face. She looked at the crap I had produced and of course thought it was the best piece of art ever. I looked at it again and kept it aside until she went back to doing whatever I had interrupted her in. My agony suddenly increased not at the vacuum of art in me, but at how Dadi was unnecessarily waiting for something she was least interested in.

A few years later, she had a wish to come back home to Lucknow. She waited for it all that she could. When she told me about it, I knew that she probably wanted it more than anything else ever – and she had waited for it to happen for about nearly an year and half. It was the simplest wish ever: get back home. Doesn’t take more than a few thousand bucks and just one night. But, as humans, there are complexities involved – and people have priorities. Finally, her wait came to an end as my mother fulfilled her wish. Probably her last.

One of the simplest goals in life: to see everyone around happy, was what I learned from Dadi. Well, there were hiccups in achieving that, but it is incredibly simple and effective – and requires patience obviously. Although it meant that people misunderstood her at times, but she persisted on what she did – making sure she didn’t make herself look stubborn, and giving in at the right time. Even for patience, she made sure that it was truly patience and didn’t extend to lethargy or procrastination – efforts where needed. Some lessons I picked up.

Today marks the 6th year since Dadi was over phone with me the last time. Yep, I can still hear that you are alright.

Daughters!

Pretty recently, three people I know became fathers to their lovely daughters. I feel so joyous about this fact that I couldn’t help writing it up here. About an year and a half back, another close colleague fathered his daughter and that gave me unbound joy.

The scientific fact is that daughters are beneficial to the society in more ways than one (if you can please keep your sexist prejudices aside). This article from NY Times talks about how an increasing male population of the society can actually harm the internal stability of a country. Not surprisingly, both India and China feature in the top two such societies that want more male population than female. Uneducated people are not the only ones though, it’s the socio-cultural fabric which makes this demand from the people. There are highly skilled people who would prefer male over female because of social and religious shit.

There are some spurious (or seemingly so may be) studies too that say that “attractive people are more likely to borne daughters”. This article from associated content talks about one such study and it’s numbers. I feel the numbers are too convoluted and the theory is too good to be true. This other article talks on how evolution is going to make women more beautiful. “But the forecast isn’t so rosy for men.” Heh.

Well, for the close friends and colleagues, I am confident that these daughters would take their families much further ahead than anybody else could. May they always prosper, grow and beat all the guys! (BTW, I don’t have anything against guys. Just that my preference is for the girl child.)

I love India – why?

The question is  more about “how and for what you define your love” than the actual “why”. Why do we love India? Why are we proud of it? Are the words in the constitution making me proud? Is the rich history enough to give me a kick? Or the lands and it’s mountains?

I raised this question at a local platform and got various answers with vivid points of view. If anyone has seen the “Discovery of India” tele-series, this question was beautifully answered by the character of Nehru played in there. (I am not really sure if that was indeed the answer Nehru gave, so I am just being politically correct here).

That answer seems correct to me as I long pondered over the question before finding the same answer somewhere else.

So here it is, the answer. The reasons behind why you love your country could actually vary a lot. The fact is, the real reason should be the country’s people. If you really do love your country, you should respect and love all it’s people without any prejudice. Blind love for one’s country means blind love and respect for all the inhabitants there. You work for them and their goals and that is when you can really say that you are patriotic and love your country truly.

Patriotism actually comes without the drums and music. I saw it in an old man walking along the intermediate ring road (Bangalore) wishing “good morning” to everyone jogging past with an occasional “how are you?” or “why are you sad?” (True story).

I really am looking forward to a day when everyone looks at their fellow people with respect and dignity. I have heard that there were pockets of our country which cultured this, and they used “patriotism” to instill this. In the long run, a lot of us were left with patriotism which is either meaningless or means dying in a war of some sort.

YSR

Someone: Not the right time to talk on his allegations. 63  people died across the state so far some are heart attack and some are suicide cases.

Me: How can I be so sure that the person was shocked because of a certain death or any other ailment he had?

To take this further, shocks happen when you have absolutely no clue of the news and you suddenly get that “X” happened. In this case, there was a build-up of a missing helicopter for over 24 hours and hence any shock that someone is dead was not supposed to be a shock. If they were so concerned, they were closely following the news and probably already had the idea that the people are dead. That is not to say that people didn’t really get shocked, but it is highly unlikely. To get media attention, there might have been wrong reports and wrong attribution.

Someone: We are nothing to do with his newspaper and news channel and steel plants rather than some employment to the public.

Me: Why so? There should be a thorough investigation into where the money came from to start up a news channel. I am not able to build a bloody room for myself and people go setting up their own steel plants? If I stopped paying the taxes that is being used in ways I don’t know (leading to Naxalite activities), I could at least think of loaning my own house. That steel plant is profiting from your money. Everyone has the right of question.

This is not just about Andhra Pradesh or this particular incident. This is about how we go about justifying actions about anyone who is dead. Going to the deathbed doesn’t mean you automatically become an angel and escape scrutiny.

We really need to change this attitude – “blah opened up two hospitals and three schools” and so they must’ve been really nice. Come on, you can’t stay in power by just building elephant figures and your own statues everywhere. You have to achieve public work, and almost every politician achieves that by merely following what the bureaucrats tell them to (so that they remain in good books).

I don’t trust media’s conclusions – they are biased, tilted and most of them have a single source, so there’s no cross-verification. That doesn’t mean we all go out in our own chartered helicopters, but that we don’t form any judgments and always remain in this fuzzy state of stupidity where we really don’t know what the exact truth is.

Excuse me, I can't vote

Now if you’ve run out of reasons why you can’t vote, here are some more to save your day. Just toss in these excuses when someone asks you. Be sure to screw your country – do it proudly.

  • Reason No. 3:  The black mark they will put on my finger would make me look like Goga Kapoor. I am afraid I’ll lose my identity.
  • Reason No. 2: I am a Shakladwipi Brahman (or a Mayuri Kumhar, or a or a Suryavanshi Rajput or some sub caste/caste) and the voting booth is across a stream and we are not allowed to cross water streams on Tuesdays. Plus, the stream is coming right from Kailash and will flow into the Bay of Bengal so by the time I go around it, the voting would any way be closed. Unless I go missing for two days.
  • Reason No. 1:  We have a family of 8 (or 6 or 4 or 2 or some even number) – and half of us would vote for Congress while the other half for BJP. So it cancels out each others’ votes – so we decided to have a mini election at our house and not go bothering the Election Commission. See, how socially responsible and extra smart we are?

Yes you are. Let’s get together and f**k this nation by not voting and finding more excuses. Thanks!

"India, make up your mind" -Stephen Cohen

Stephen Cohen does not have a standing in the Asian world (that includes a section of the Pakistani diplomats and journalists too). There are sources (search keywords: stephen cohen india pakistan) that would prove how this guy dabbles – his sole objective is to clean up the creases in the US media and smear blame on everyone else. As always, there are people in the US media who question Cohen’s objective analysis, which sways mostly in their favour without any capacity to be fair.

Cohen has always been against India (in a few exceptional circumstances not involving Pakistan as a subject) and the Indian diplomacy. It would be fair to say that India’s diplomatic standpoints are almost always ridiculed, no matter how much of a good effort has been put into it. There are indeed blunders committed but as I see, Indian foreign relations have seen a new high in the past fifteen years (with the beginnings mostly in the Vajpayee Ji’s era). Of course, Cohen would not like to see subtelities to his disadvantage. I would never pay attention to him again. Ever.

Those Who Don't Speak

So how do you know if something out there is going to solve your problem? You would do a search across the web with keywords that the search engines would recognize, match with content and based on popularity (at least the major algorithms run that way) you would get results. Not all the results would apply to you and out of the handful few relevant ones, there might be little chance of pure success. Happens all the time.

Consider this. You work with some really smart people. You’ve got a problem and after you have unsuccessfully tried out web searches, you go out to these people. You would either mail a list or you might even go personally finding out answers from folks. The latter recourse is not in the best interest of everybody but it certainly helps you out. You get the answer from the guy who never speaks out on lists, Internet, doesn’t have a blog and might not even join group discussions happening nearby. He only speaks when there’s a one-on-one and he definitely knows stuff. The vessel is full and doesn’t make much noise.

This is incorrect. One-on-one is good for the two people involved but then there is a void for everybody else. Unless the other guy documents what he knew from the silent alpha-omega, things would still remain the same. It doesn’t happen everyday that you get to know something really critical and you write it up on the wall. Then how do you fix the roots?

Make the alpha-omega come out with their ideas in open. Help them speak up and let them voice their opinion when they speak – even if it is irrelevant for the first few times (understand public/stage fear). That would be in the best interest of not just the other guy but you and your group too. Mutual benefits mutliply profits. Even though short term gains of taking credit for something you didn’t do/know might help you up the ladder (it doesn’t always) the longer perspectives would get broken. You know what I mean. Being mean is not in.

So help the silent know-all guys. The best things are made out of co-operation and everyone feels good when it’s out.

Chetan's Hello

One night at a call center is finally a film called Hello. It’s an amazing feat for an author who started off only a few years back and one who writes just like you and me.

The Indian literati are pissed off with this and are calling names on Chetan’s work. I wouldn’t second them on being pissed off (jealous anyone?) but for sure, you would find loads of grammatical mistakes and not-so-correct statements in his works. I read “One night..” in one night. What I didn’t read were the utter useless side stories he filled in between (which were jerky, long and out of context).

I am not in the least surprised about his story being made into a movie. Thing is, all his works correspond to the Bollywood way of making films: a love story, some utter sexual crap (which is not in the least sensuous) and some damn bloody action. Combined with it is a number of characters with the lead being played by multiple people. That makes sure that a novice reader doesn’t have to concentrate on being with a single player – ease of switching.

I would never read his novels again for I hate watching movies with plots of the ’90s and special effects in the 2000’s. Disorientation at it’s best.

Have You Been AmWaylaid?

This has been going on for a lot of days in Bangalore (and most other parts of the country). People, part of the Quixar/Amway family, would be around you in a mall, book store, super market or any heck place. It starts like this; they’d come up to you asking about something as general as an ATM around the place or may be a comment on the book you’re looking at.

The conversation begins with a hand shake, where do you work, what do you do (information gathering on whether you have enough money and enough will to earn more) and how long you’ve been around. Different people have different approaches, but the end goal is just one. To get you to a meeting with a lot of other potential candidates who can be sold Amway kits (or products) and made members out of. Those guys would then go about direct-selling among their friends/relations and strain their good will. Amway is generally seen as an untrustworthy brand in India, and these tactics to get people to start working for them makes it more so.

Another attempt to cook me in was that I got a call from a guy who claimed to have gotten my number from an old-time colleague. That guy talked me into it saying that they were going to open up a new e-business company and needed some technical help. “What kind of e-business?” I asked. “We’re doing a start up, so come over and have a look.” Turns out the e-business was yet another Amway shop with not a bit of technicality involved. Just another duped Sunday for me.

The last shot in my arm leaves me bleeding with this post. Mrs. Pande decides that she should get a personal consulting session from a skin specialist doctor who met her at the footsteps of yet another mall. The doctor turns in at our place, sweet talks all over. Skins get looked at, charts get drawn. And what have you! “Artistry has the best cleanser and toner that you should definitely try,” goes the doctor. Now that someone is inside our house, I can’t be rude – and for all the information that the so-called-Amway-doctor has been feeding us with for the last two hours wasn’t all that bad either. I figured it out quickly that she is yet another trapped direct seller in the Amgang and posed as a doctor to get started.

Finally buying off a few products from the Amdoctor, I tell my wife about the whole thing and clear out the clouds. She realizes the truth, but takes solace in the fact that a lot of information and a few bottles of cleansers/toners ain’t bad after all.

Damn.

Update (27 Sep ’08 12:44pm): Video – Amway/Quixtar Scam / Amway/Quixtar Scam (Part 2)