Friday, November 12, 2004


Today was good. Started by waking up very very late, special diwali food in the afternoon, a kolam (or rangoli as they call it here) competition, diwali fireworks ending with special diwali dinner.

My friend and I teamed up to take part in a rangoli competition. We chose a simple-looking design from Everything looks simple on paper. We rushed to the hall and saw that 5 other people had already started their's about 45 minutes ago. We had very little white powder to start with though there were a lot of coloured powders. While we went for a traditional Tamil kolam, the others had chosed rangoli, where you draw the otline first and then fill it up with coloured powder. So, our's looked very bland in comparison. This was the final result. The picture was supposed to be symmetrical; it is for the most part, except for the colours.

Later, fireworks started. Some guys said that they paid close to half a lakh this term alone and this was their chance to get their money's worth. Two and a half hours later, a few thousands of rupees ('s worth of crackers) had gone up in smoke. The fireworks in the sky were spectacular, though.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Idli Vada Sambar

Last night the tam gang here went out for some real food - idli, vada, sambar etc etc. Wherever Tamils go, they all have this one restaurant named 'Woodlands', like the one on Cathedral Road. We all planned to start at 6.15 but some could leave only very late due to difficulty in arranging transport as this place is far away from humanity. If there is one thing I hate about this city, it is the roads (same all over India). More potholes than craters on the moon. I feel that whoever is riding a bike or driving it, should wear a cup. That is one reason why I prefer staying within the campus.

Yesterday was diwali eve, so there were a lot of fireworks shops lining the roads from here to there. We could see the Indian concept of synergy throughout - fireworks shops on both sides of the road, naked flame lamps before the shops, kids and adults alike playing with fireworks alongside. Miraculously there was no mishap.

Woodlands - we get some of the best dishes in that place - idlis like in hotels back home, thick coconut chutney, crispy vadas and dosas dipped in smooth sambar. One dish, cheese dosa, was amazing stuff! We all had our stomachs full. The road we took back was a smooth highway connecting one Taj with another. If the previous government did something good, it was laying some of the best roads this country has ever seen. The bike ride was like knife cutting through butter.

Since I hadn't slept in over 32 hours that day, I hit the sack within a few hours of coming back and did not wake up till a couple of hours ago when three or four IMs were waiting for me saying that Kanchi shankaracharya was arrested and a few more sending me the same link - Apparently, half of USA is sorry that Bush has been reelected and they would try to rectify the mistake in 2008. Let us hope that the world is still there in 2008. What I could see from this election was that USA wants only a Dick (Cheney) and a Bush (GWB ) coming together, not two Johns (Kerry and Edwards). How homophobic . More emails about Arafat being dead at 75. Now that he is dead, the Israelis would not have any more trouble taking care of those 'terrorists'.

India and Technology

You might have heared of chain letters, chain emails and chain faxes, even chain IMs. Have you heared of chain SMSs? I received one today! from this number 0044782563. Which country? Likely the UK going by 0044. It goes (in Hindi)

Lakshmi mataji ki kripa aap pe hamesha bani rahe, Msg ko 5 logo ko bhejiya aur paiye Lakshmiji ka vardaan. Na bhejne par bura ho sakta ha. Jai Lakshmi mata!

It means:

Let Mother Lakshmi's blessings always be upon you, send (this) message to 5 people and be blessed with her blessings. If you don't send bad things will happen. Ave Mother Lakshmi!

Is this what they call adaptation of a foreign technology to local conditions? Before email came to India, we used to receive (sometimes we still do) a lot of such post cards and photocopied letters after 'xerox' centres sprung up all over the place. When my school got a fax machine, the number got spammed by such faxes. I still get many emails in a week from some 'well-meaning' friends. Superstitious engineers, go figure! Now, this has started. Viva India, Viva Indians, Viva Indigenisation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Diwali is the festival of lights. It comes from the words Deepa and Avali meaning 'row of lights'. Year after year my school essays on Diwali would start the same way, as mandated by the English teacher. I would write similar essays everytime and have red circles around the same words every year; just around the words Diwali, Deepa and Avali, starting from the title itself. I still don't know why I got these words wrong. Till class 9 or so, I loved diwali; one day when you eat loads of sweets streaming into your house from the neighbourhood, and do nothing but play with firecrackers starting 10 days before till the big day. At some point of time, I realised that Diwali meant nothing but air pollution, noise pollution and littering of the streets; literally millions of rupees going up in smoke in just one day. Also, this industry is the biggest in India which employs child labour without the government being able to do anything. I realised this and stopped buying, bursting crackers or even getting them as gifts.

Chennai was very dry during the year and for a couple of weeks it would rain, for the monsoon and the cyclone. Diwali was one of the few holidays that experienced rain. Every year the neighbourhood kids would get up early in the morning for bursting crackers and just when sun comes up, it would rain heavily and we all would run home crying. We would always ask why it rains only during diwali and not on the other days. Nowadays it doesn't rain even during diwali in Chennai. It was also the season for new clothes. Since my birthday used to come at the same week as Diwali (now there is atleast a three week gap), it was a bummer when I could wear new clothes on two days and only one would get noticed.

Diwali is in 2 days and it rained very heavily for about 15 minutes today here, bringing back memories. Wishing you all a very happy and safe diwali. Just remember this, each cracker you are playing with was made by a 12 year old kid who is being held in bondage and is not allowed to go to school, even if the parents are willing. I don't know how the fireworks units in Sivakasi export to the EU and USA employing children.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bad Airtel

Airtel has started sucking big time for the last 4 or 5 months. It all started when I came back from my summer training and found out that I could not send text messages for a long time. Complaints did not seem to make it work. Then I got spammed with 'advertisements' from Airtel, advertising the local newspaper/television channel. A month ago, I forgot to renew my connection (a prepaid one) and they promptly cut me off from receiving or sending messages or calls. But the spam did not stop. Over a period of 3 weeks when I did not recharge, they sent me just 2 remainders to renew my connection but around 5-6 spam messages per day. This was even when I could not receive any messages from my friends. And today, I put my phone in silence mode and found out that in 2 hours, the spam from Airtel had completely filled my inbox which can hold only 12 messages. I know this is a small thing. I have the option of changing my SP to another one or Reliance. But this seems to be only in this place, I don't have any problem in my hometown while the first SP doesn't provide service there. Second, I don't want to change this number. Or, I could change over to Reliance, but I don't want to do business with crooks. Some of my friends have regretted getting a Reliance connection in the first place, while some regret changing over from Airtel/Orange/Aircel/whatever to Reliance.