Category Archives: India

Kaun kaun conned?

Early morning drive

Photo at Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/anksy06/1468067099/

 

A very strange incident has been happening to me for the last two days and I am sure that I am not the only one who has experienced this!

 

It happened day before when I was coming back from work with a colleague of mine, M. He was driving his car and we were having a little chat as well. Battling the heavy Mumbai evening traffic, we got on to the Ghatkopar Mankhurd link road. Now for the uninitiated, this road passes thru a slum like area. Its quite a wide road and is used primarily by trucks and motorists who want to avoid the crowded suburban road (which happens to be quite prone to jams, by the way!) So, we get on this road, merrily chatting away to glory and stop at a signal. Suddenly, this guy crossing the road from in front of the car points to the engine and says something like “Sparks”. It just so happened that we were quite engrossed in the discussion at that point and didn’t pay much attention to him. We’d hardly gone a couple of meters when a tall fellow standing at the other end of the crossing points frantically to the engine and says that the engine is sparking. Now at this point, another guy weaving from between the traffic comes around from the back of the car and suggests we take the car to the side and check the engine.

 

Now me and M really get worried. His car is new. It’s not supposed to have problems and the area is not really conducive to stopping and changing a flat tire! But we do pull over to the side and M switches the air conditioning off. A seemingly friendly guy emerges out of nothingness and tells us once more that the engine is sparking. Now M opens the bonnet and the ‘seemingly friendly guy’ peers in it. M joins him at the front and peers in as well. Apparently, he can’t locate the source of the trouble. That’s when the SFG (seemingly friendly guy) asks him to throw some light into the engine. M takes out his cell phone and flashes it inside. What he detects is a small spark. Then, he comes and switches off the engine. The SFG puts his hand into the engine and M joins him at outside. By this time, a small crowd of SFGs (read 5-6 guys) gather around the car and start peering inside. Inside the car, not inside the engine!!!! M was worried not just about the car but about me too. And I am thinking, there are mobiles, laptops in the car. What if, someone tries to snatch one and run away! Then the original SFG says that we could tape this wire. There is a mechanic available close by. Initially, M said “Haan haan bulao, mechanic ko bulao” But then he decided to risk the remainder of the 20 minute drive and snapped the bonnet shut.

 

We spent the remainder of the ride in razor-sharp tension and kept looking at the pedestrians to see if anyone else notices the sparks and points them out to us. Apparently, none were looking in the right direction. I also checked the reflected surfaces of the vehicles ahead of us to see if there were any sparks reflecting there. M tried to make some small talk about not wanting to get stranded and how I could get onto a bus and ride home if the car stalled. He even jumped a red light coz he felt the car was stalling. He didn’t want to halt even at a red light, lest the car stop running at all. Anyway, we made it home and after about half an hour, M calls me and says, “Anks, we were just about to be conned! It seems there is a gang operating in that area. They pull out some small parts of the new cars and replace them with old ones.” I was like, Oh thank God there isn’t any big trouble. We had a small laugh about it and then ended the call.

 

Next day, M relates this incident to others at work and 3 others claim to have been conned in the same way at the same spot. Two people even asked him if there was a female sitting next to him! That apparently is the MO of the SFG gang – they target new cars with female passengers. So that evening when we were getting back, M asks me if we could take the ‘Sparks’ road again. I said, “Why not? This time we are prepared for them!”

 

And sure enough, when we reached that signal a guy casually crossing the road says, “Gaadi se parking nikal raha hai. Aag laga hoga” and he moves on to the other side of the road. Now M and me look at each other and start laughing. M says, “I happened to glance at this guy. He was standing at the side of the road and didn’t proceed to cross as soon as his light turned green. He was looking at the cars that stopped at the red light. He glanced at me first and then at the car. Then he started crossing the road. I felt like telling him that kal bhi hua tha sparking!”

But this is no laughing matter. The way this gang is conning unsuspecting motorists. I can’t believe that the police or the papers haven’t caught on to this…

 

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Creek

Bridge over the creek, originally uploaded by anksy06.

Grey… The world becomes grey when I move over the creek. The rail track a dark grey, the water a light grey, the sky a lighter grey and the mist surrounding me is the lightest, almost white grey. The horizon is blurred; the sea and sky go from being one to another at no definite point, almost as if one flows into the other. The buildings on the far end are hazy at best and the clouds hanging low over a small hillock just add to the chimerical atmosphere. But I think it is the mist that does it. It is the soft mist that casts a clock of surrealism on everything around, making me feel I am in transit between two worlds and this short stretch is a walk with my inner self. A walk where I become oblivious to the people around me, to the jostling, pushing and to the incessant babbling din that can only be the result of hundred or so women crammed in a space meant for fifty. And yes, I do become oblivious to all that. When I look at the rippling water flowing under the bridge, I sometimes think of life, sometimes of death, sometimes of dad, working so hard to keep all of us happy, sometimes of mom, who has made us her world giving up everything for our slightest joys. I also think sometimes of death, the 50 feet drop to the water below you can do that sometimes… It also makes me think of things I have deliberately pushed to the back of my mind, an introspection of sorts…

And on other days, it’s bright and beautiful with a breeze that ruffles your hair and refreshes you completely – draining all traces of a hard day at work. Nature, they say has a strange way of connecting with you…

When anks changed professions- yeah, again!

The old visitors of my blog know how i went from being an engineer to a marketeer… Well a lot of others know it too… The self obsessed person that I am, I keep talking about it. And an interesting tale it makes too, so keeps the conversation flowing. But this post is not about that.
This is about the time changed professions again- albeit for a day!

Was in Ahmedabad was the last three days. Actually I am still there. This post is being typed on my cell phone as I wait for check out. Thank God for T9! Was in the city for an event apparently there was a lack of local man power (read grey matter) and so two of us from Bombay were to come down and help them. You wouldn’t believe the frustration levels we went through in the two days that were meant for all the preparations. Oh God, I’m turning this into a crib session, and that wasn’t on the agenda at all. So let’s cut to the evening of the event.

It was a campus rock idol zonal finals and we had a cool stall with a swanky touch screen kiosk and loads of colour handsets to give away. All we needed was a couple of good looking chicks to pull the crowd to the stall and direct them and direct them to the kiosk. Now how tough could that be? Apparently- very..! The girls we got weren’t exactly Miss India material, but they were ok. So we chose them. Prob began when they reached the event. Those girls didn’t speak at all. They just didn’t speak. The entire crowd seemed to be passing us by and one of our two ladies just stood like they were out on a picnic. The other one tried, but she wasn’t getting the people enthused. The other one said ma’m an anchor can do this. We are promoters. Yeah right! Why the hell didn’t you say any of this when I’d briefed you before the event? After about ten thousand briefings to them, I decided to take matters- read mic into my own hands. And that’s when I told the one who was trying lady, you get the crowd here, I’ll manage it. For the next two hours, I got college kids to scream, sing, do sit ups, shout their fav band’s name, their girlfriend’s name, say tongue twisters, play antakshri and do God knows What…! I would tell them to do the first thing that came to my mind…. And shouted myself hoarse by the end of the event. There was no competing with the professional mc’s who were at the nearby stalls, but I think I managed all right, especially with the support I had… God, I can’t stand inactivity… And coming from a lazy person like me, that’s quite a contradiction.

But if you ask me why I did it. The answer is simple. I was enjoying it. Really… And without being modest, I know I did a decent job… So there, I tried another profession… Now I think its time to try being a radio jockey… What do you say, huh?

It’s a season of protests!

In this Sunday’s Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi writes that Indians love to protest. Give them a cause and they will protest it! Can’t refute that now. Can we? Given that its has been a season of protests. From Narmada Andolan to Reservation policy to da Vinci Code – there are protests galore. When I thought about why we protest so much, I couldn’t help thinking of my history teacher in class ten. She had categorically told us during a bandh that the bandhs and protest were the legacy of the father of the Nation himself! Mahatma Gandhi in his non violent protest routes, showed us Indians, the power of Satyagrah – when the protestors stopped work and sang bhajans under huge banyan trees. No doubt that it served the purpose. The British factories were closed and the Raaj suffered losses. The method continues still, though the loss is borne by Indians. And so, we learnt to protest from Gandhiji (but forgot to learn his discretion on what to protest about!) and are now protesting away to glory!The three most high profile protests in the last quarter have been Medha Patkar led Narmada Bachao Andolan, the medical students led protest against reservation and the protest to ban the release of Da Vinci code in India. I have to say about the protesting catholic groups that I am quite impressed by the way the protest has been carried out. Signature campaigns and reaching out to the right authorities is much better than shouting slogans and burning effigies. And now they are ok with the release provided it carries a disclaimer that the film is a work of fiction, which for fans of the book comes as a relief!

The med students used a more active approach. What with protest rallies all over the place. The laathi charge in Mumbai was an unfortunate incident and the YFE (Youth for Equality) is enraged about it. You can read their blog here. I heard a radio show yesterday in which 3 YFE members were participating and two things they said made real good sense.

First is that they are not against reservation per say, but they want the reservation to be economic need based. They want a committee to define the deprivation & economic need and allot reserved seats to those who really need it and will benefit from it as against the creamy layer who just take benefit of the system. The point they made is that someone can be deprived of education at the secondary and higher secondary levels, and thus need reservation to get into a grad level or a professional course. But once the said person is in it, the same facilities are extended to him or her as an ‘upper caste’ student. Then how can this person still claim deprivation and seek admission in the post-grad courses? I agree completely! Now, to placate the protesting students, the govt is now saying that the number of seats will be increased. Tell me, will that not load the educational institutes? Will they be able to cope up with the additional load on their resources??? With many institutes unable to provide the basic infrastructure and facilities to their existing base, we are only going to degrade the quality of education by increasing the number of seats. Has the government not thought of this??? I doubt that they would have missed out on this point. If they still wish to increase the seats, them are they not worried about the quality of education that we impart to the coming generation?

The second point that the YFE made was regarding the reservation in jobs. Now the govt can increase the number of seats in colleges, but how will they generate jobs? And imagine what it will do to the morale of the country if deserving candidates are passed over because of their caste! And al those of us who think this probably does not concern us, think again… will it never affect you, even in the smallest of ways? And if you still say no, remember that

“The consequences of our actions is so complicated, so diverse that predicting the future is very difficult business indeed”

J K Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

So if you feel about these issues and feel they will not concern you in any way, don’t be certain about it. It may affect you – so speak out about it. That’s the least you can do.

GIGO!!!!!

GIGO, as any soul enlightened to the inner works of the machine called computer will tell you, stands for Garbage In Garbage Out. What it means is that if you feed trash into a system, what you’ll get out of it is also trash.There was a story in today’s Hindustan Times about a paradoxical situation – a growing demand for engineers in the industry, and the growing number of unemployed technical degree holders. (I can’t bring myself to call them engineers!!!!) I read a comment that “only about 30% of the technically trained are worthy of getting a job!” Is that right, I wondered and went back to my classroom where half of our professor’s rant zoomed past our heads at super sonic speed, where we became expert copiers from books, guides and fellow classmates assignments. Were we thinking like engineers? Absolutely not!I whole-heartedly agree that not all technical degree holders are worthy of engineering jobs. Reason? They don’t think and act like engineers. Or to put it simply, they lack the necessary quality one must have for every job – Aptitude. For entrance into most engineering colleges, aptitude is never a criteria for consideration. And it is the lack of this very aptitude, that makes students miserable in engineering colleges (yeah, in spite of the exuberance of college life.) There is no escaping the feeling once they land a job that they don’t enjoy.So what has this to do with the GIGO phenomenon, you ask? Simply that we feed in inapt students to the engineering colleges and inapt engineers come out of them. GIGO you see, Garbage In, Garbage Out. These students, who turn into inefficient (and sometimes unemployed engineers) are the worst hit. They are expected to take life-defining decisions at the age of fifteen, with little or no help provided to them. How in the Heaven’s name can a tenth class student decide to be an electronics engineer when he hasn’t so much as heard of a diode? How will a girl of fourteen know she can make a good neuro-surgeon when she has never laid hands on a scalpel? Is it really the fault of these young students to opt for engineering or MBA following the lure of overseas positions and MNC jobs paying high salaries? Their parents, their teachers all talk about future prospects in a particular field, who talks to them about aptitude? Who tells them that for every one person who has excelled in the field of engineering and medicine, there are ten others who have not, who are unhappy and dissatisfied? Who tells these bright ambitious middle class students that there are so many career options available? When I was a teenager about to choose a field, other career options like teaching, architecture, interior designing were ‘soft options’ or for those who could not get into professional courses. There was a social stigma attached to these careers. That, combined with the lack of aptitude evaluation led to basically two choices – medicine or engineering. Why do we take such blind risk with our lives? Why can’t our school courses include aptitude evaluation?Wouldn’t it be great if we were tested for our natural ability to do things as well as ability to learn? And then shown the direction our life could take. So that when we walk into a college, it will be towards a career, not a meaningless degree. So that every professionally qualified individual became an asset to our country, not a liability joining the throngs of the unemployed. So that all of us loved our jobs, leading contented lives. So that all of us found our happiness within ourselves.