Thursday, November 25, 2010


For the past one month of my stay in India, I have found that this country offers numerous ways to develop your patience. Here I list a few which I encountered or I have heard from my friends.

1. Getting a passport: Getting a passport in this country can really count as an accomplishment worthy of being cited in your CV. First hurdle is to submit your form which itself can take one full day. And in this total day you can encounter anybody from touts to rude passport officials. After this comes the guys for inquiry. The local police and the intelligence who will invariably require some tips for expensive tea and sweets. After this if you are lucky we will get the passport and when you get it it is already three to four months since you submitted the form. But wait, your chance to gain a little more training is not yet over. You can get a passport where your father's or mother's or both names can be of a person you have never heard of. So, you again go back and forth few times to get it corrected. At the end you are one frustrated, pissed off patient guy.

2. Get your Voter ID: A small piece of laminated paper needed to exercise your democratic rights. Well what to say? It is also a wonderful training opportunity. First you have to submit your form, the mandatory first step. So, you have to go to some center where they will collect your form. You queue up for your turn. The office will invariably open half an hour to one hour late. By this time the queue is a mile long and you are probably half a mile from the office gate. Generally if people don't jump queue your turn should come after an hour or so. But, this won't happen since every other person in this country is VIP. So, these VIPs will come with some VVIP and try to get their forms submitted out of queue. So your time needed get upscaled by a factor of two or three. Now, this process has to be repeated twice or thrice depending on your luck to get your ID. Twice or thrice I say since after your form is processed you have to submit your photograph and then still mysteriously if your card does not arrive you have to submit your photograph again. Lets move one to other methods now.

3. Sending a registered letter through Indian Postal Service: Over here the queue jumpers are less in number but still it does not deprive you of your chance to test your patience. Over here you will encounter many times people who are given a computer to speed up the process but they are so inefficient in handling the device that sometimes you might feel that the computer is a devil which you should not install in government departments. I don't want to elaborate here the real challenge since they are similar to the ones above this one.

4. Traveling in suburban trains during rush hour: Well this one is not only the test of your patience but also the test of your ability to squeeze yourself in a volume half the total volume of
your whole body. Believe me this is possible. And on top of that the time you will take to reach your destination will go up exponentially as you get closer to your destination. How this is possible, is still a very difficult question to answer for me.

5. Doing a PhD: This is probably one of the best patience training ground. People have written numerous treatise on this subject hence I am not able to add anything to this subject.

6. Having a Tata photon whiz in non metropolitan city: I am not able to comment on other service providers of wireless internet but this one is really amazing. In the advertisement of another similar product from the same company on TV they show the sign of infinity in the end meaning it is infinitely fast. But believe we should not miss the point its not infinitely faster but the opposite. INFINITELY SLOW. Infact it is so slow that probably I should put infinite "O" s in the word "SLOW" before I even think of putting the "W".

Of all the above you would see that except for the last one all others have to do something or the other with the Government. So, you want to improve your patience just deal with some government department. Here I end this post with due apologies to Indian Judiciary System.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yes Professor....

To start with I started writing this piece long back and at that time I did not complete it which still is unfinished but still I post it here with an ending not intended at that time.

Well for the past few days I had been thinking how best to describe the day to day life of such a student who is doing a PhD and then again not doing it. I had started this business of doing PhD and not doing it a little earlier then my peers not quite understanding what to expect. I say a little earlier because I happened to take a wise decision of taking a package deal which gives you both masters and doctors bunched together in one. Well lets call this bunched together entity as moctors. If you stretch your imagination a little more you might chance upon the fact that moctors can be like mock + actors with k and ac missing for the two words. Oh! my my, first you are an actor and above that you are a mock actor. With my limited wisdom I can see the Khan's from Bollywood or the numerous names from Hollywood being real actors. But the moctors are the ones who do the acting in the mock but never get to play a part in the real movie. Now I am confused. If one is playing in the mock then why the hell is he not in the movie or what the real actor is doing when the mock is being played? My dear friend that pretty much sums up the thing I am doing for last few years. Now I leave this open to interpretation as to who is the mock and who is the actor when a moctor is concerned. By now I am pretty much confused as to what I am writing, well not to worry I don't even know why I am writing. When I took the deal I hadn't yet had the opportunity to chance upon the famous British TV series `yes minister'. Had it been the case I might have taken a second look to the package. Well its a very simple package only the rules of give and take apply. The beneficiary of the package or in other words the acceptor of the package, since it may not be quite true that the acceptor is always a beneficiary, has to commit or give few years of his life to the package regulators and the regulators in turn will take whatever is left of the acceptor. So you can see a simple give and take. Well, after this give and take business I started my journey to the end of a long tunnel which after few years I realized doesn't have an end. It does not mean that it does not have an end at all, its just that the end is created when the regulators wish to do so. So, its kind of like this, I am a trying to be a moctor for movie named "The Eternal walk" with Count Dracula being in the lead even in the mock. Now, you are confused, so am I...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Jokes that are not joke and the obvious that is not obvious

The first one that started this series was actually thought to be a joke which turned out otherwise. I am talking about some jokes that are not jokes as told by my joking friend.

1. A guy goes home in the evening and tells his wife that I have a very special letter for you which I will give you after dinner when we go to bed. So he gives the letter to his wife after dinner, as promised. His wife opens the letter and they both read it. (end of joke)

The second he started a little melodramatically. It was regarding getting money out of ATM. In most ATMs in France you are given money in multiples of ten starting from 20 euros. So, some guy says that once he tried taking out 17 euros but nothing came out except for a hand from where the money is dispensed and almost slapped him. So, then my friend chips in saying that he knows one funny incident with ATMs. That will be joke and not a joke number 2.

2. This guy goes up to the ATM and put his debit card in. The ATM beeps a few times and asks him for his passwword which he gives and then the ATM dispays the amount option. This guy at the ATM goes for 20 euros and guess what happened. He gets the twenty euros and goes away. (end of funny incident)

The above two jokes which are not jokes did have a profound effect on the surroundings. Few people like me were actually laughing and one in the audience was trying to throw something big at the joke teller for telling such extermely good jokes which are not jokes. Another effect it had on the joke teller is that whenever he tried to tell a real joke people would guess the obvious and try to finish his real jokes which most believed will not be a joke and in the process the joke teller would forget the joke he was trying to tell which in most cases would not be a joke. But then this joke teller would try to ask some questions with obvious answers which we were not able to answer because the obviousness of the answer was not so obvious to us due to the obvious reason of we being void of our obviousness in the midst of our day to day obvious life. For example he asks a guy "Do you know why Gandhi is still famous?". The other guy who did not have any obviousness tried many things before he was told the obvious answer "He was a freedom fighter".

Well these are I guess some new kind of jokes which are not jokes but under certain circumstances people might laugh or get hurt. Well, thats all for now. I do not remember any more of the jokes which are not jokes but may be in future if I find any joke which is not a joke and not at all obvious and it does not get lost in the obviousness of the surrounding I will write on this wall.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Update on Workers' Situation at IITK

This post is mainly for spreading the information on the efforts put by few diligent people for the upliftment of the neglected. Personally I have contributed nothing except for signing a few petitions here and there.

Dear Fellow Alumnus,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for signing the petition “STOP Violating Contract Workers’ Rights at IITK" contract_ worker_rights_ iitk/ and update you with the workers’ situation.

The petition with 1017 signatures was delivered to the Director on June 9, 2010. Same petition with 500 and 150 signatures was also delivered to him on March 14, 2010 and February 3, 2010. So far we have had no response from IITK Administration.

Here is what the update on workers’ situation:

1. A team from Regional Labor Commissioner of UP and Uttarakhand visited the campus on 30th Nov, 2nd Dec and 9th Dec 2009 and interrogated workers engaged by 17 contractors. Serious violations of Labor laws were documented in the report submitted by the team to the Labor Commissioner. This visit transpired due to a complaint filed by 25 workers who were fired by a contractor when workers demanded that they be paid their full wages.

2. The Labor Commissioner himself visited campus on May 7, 2010. In spite of the orchestrated visit, he was able to see contract workers hiding in the bushes and fleeing the campus in open trucks. We do not know yet what action if any Labor Commissioner’s office will take against IITK.

3. On April 1, 2010, 16 contract workers from Visitors Hostel (VH) with 7 to 14 years of experience with clean records were arbitrarily fired by the new contractor. It was also discovered that the old contractor had been deducting Provident Fund (PF) from workers’ wages for the last several years but not depositing neither employee’s contribution nor employer’s contribution with the PF Commissioner. IITK had failed to monitor contractor’s activities with respect to PF deductions and deposits. The fired workers have now been re-instated due to pressure from various sections of IITK community. IITK Legal Cell has so far not resolved the PF issue.

4. Instead of improving the working condition of contract workers, Dr. Dhande, as an immediate response to the VH issue has issued a circular on June 15, 2010, giving full powers to contractors to hire and fire any worker they feel like. This is not only unlawful, it is also against his own Office Order of September 16, 2007 where he instructed contractors that the worker once hired can only be fired if: (a) the work is over as certified by IITK before the expected time period or (b) worker behaves in undesirable ways. In this case, the termination must be recommended by the Grievance Committee.

While you enjoy the Golden Jubilee celebrations, please keep these workers in your prayers. Please do not hesitate to pass on your suggestions on how we can encourage IITK to obey the laws of the land and grant these workers their legal rights who are forced to survive on about $2 per day – half of what they are entitled to!

Workers would greatly appreciate it if you could continue to apply pressure on IITK administration through your e-mails, phone calls or by asking questions on this issue when attending any IITK related events. Should you need contact information to reach key administrators at IITK, please let me know at


Ashok Gupta (BTech, IITK, 1972)

For more information you can visit these sites.  (For various reports in the above email.)   (A general article outlining the problems and the various solutions possible)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jouez moi

I never imagined that I will come across anything like this. I had heard of many things public like the bus, the tram, the streets even the bicycle but a public piano is beyond my imagination. For me the piano mostly existed in movies. So, when for the first time I came across a piano on the streets of Toulouse I thought probably someone wanted to dispose of the piano. Though it was written in large bold letters in French "Jouez Moi" meaning "Play me" I did not take it seriously. It was only when I came across this gentleman in the park playing the piano with the same words written on it, it occurred to me that this city has public piano like many other public utilities. Playing it is free and even if you do not know how to play it you may give it a try completely at your own risk. So, if ever you visit Toulouse and you come across a piano on the street, just let your imagination fly.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sambre et Meuse

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This sculpture is known as "Sambre et Meuse". I tried looking for it everywhere but never found it on the net, hence this entry. This artwork is in front of the tourist office in Namur, Belgium. I went to Namur in February 2010 and clicked this picture. I did not care to note down the name of the statue at that time thinking I will find it on the net. But no, I could not. So, eventually I wrote to the tourism office in Namur and they told me this sculpture is called "Sambre et Meuse" and was created by Hungarian sculptors Sonogkyi and Keren. Interestingly Namur is also the confluence of rivers Sambre and Meuse.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Footprints on the sands of time

Just a few days back I turned thirty. It is true nothing much changed in my life but I somehow got the inspiration to drop by the pages of my own history and revisit the times I once lived. I remember some instances from early childhood. Take for example the day when I broke my feeding bottle and my mother decided I had enough of the bottle. And then started the era of drinking out of a glass which had various forms of liquid till date starting from simple liquid like water. Then I fast forward myself to my first day at school which for most kids is painful but for me it was a big party with some glitches which I would skip here. After that we moved a few places and finally landed up at a place where my parents spent the next 23 years. There I had my whole school life. There are a lot of instances which I remember quite clearly but I would mention only a few here. First being the moment when I got my first cycle. It was a BSA champ. May be I should say that it was my first bicycle because before that I had a tricycle. The part of the memory where the cycle enters my life is quite hazy but somehow it became a integral part of my existence. The best part was, it had side supports which made it easy for me to drive and stop as I pleased. Another incident that I remember quite well is the time when we got our refrigerator. It was in the year 1985 and the fridge is still part of our household though the working parts may have gone through complete replacement. My mother was particularly delighted to have it. I remember it for the wonderful food it always had and the ease with which I could steal them. Then I remember my leg operation in 1987, the same year my grandfather died. Well that was kind of a very painful memory for me but the doctor told my father the operation probably saved my leg. In the same year my father got his scooter. That became a permanent sitting place for me when ever I had free time and the scooter was parked on our ground floor balcony. The years passed and came 1989 when we had our first television. At that time only channel available was DD1 and sometimes if the weather was good we could get DD2. I remember the first day the TV was installed. I watched every program that was being aired that day. Through that little idiot box I came in contact with the world outside our little residential campus. My favorite at that time being "The world this week". I still remember keeping a note of all major personalities. The 90s came and suddenly the world changed around me. The Gulf war happened, Margaret Thatcher resigned as the prime minister of Britain after a series of riots, Manmohan Singh opened up the Indian markets, the babri masjid fell, the cable TV invaded our homes and overnight the famous TV antennas disappeared from our skylines. Well, the cable TV was a very interesting thing. Initially it did not enter the Indian market with all the censorships of the 2000s. I particularly remember my friends telling me about the unedited version of late night movies on Star TV, which, I could never watch while being at home, since late night TV was strict no-no in our house. Then I got busy with my testing years. It was the years I was taking my 10th, 12th school year exams and my college admission exams. Then I had a difficult choice, my father wanted me to become doctor, so that I could serve humanity and my mother wanted me to become an engineer, so that I could fix her food processor or the refrigerator if it broke down some day. I became non. To be frank I tried hard to be an engineer but somehow I did not make it. Instead I went to study the intricate details of the world around us, that is, physics. College was a different world for me. By this time the larger things in world like Gulf war, or the London riots, or the break up of Soviet Union got lost in the midst of my struggle for survival. College gave me, apart from my degree, some of my best friends. The most memorable moments in college being the illogical class bunking, the cold coffee at the campus temple, the numerous hours spent only chatting with friends, the numerous rounds of the card game called 29 to name a few. The college years are still vivid and it seems like it was only yesterday that I traveled to Benares for my admission. I graduated in 2001. The world was changing quite fast. I went to Kanpur for my higher studies and that same year I had my first computer. At that time my computer was one of the few in the whole hostel. By the time I got my PhD in Physics every room in the hostel had a computer and in some cases even two, a desktop and a laptop. It was at Kanpur that I had my baptism with fire, that is, I encountered the real world with all its odds and evens. I saw the last of Kanpur in 2009. In the eight years I was associated with Kanpur I saw the place change at a pace unthinkable in the 90s. By this time my father had retired and he had moved back to the place where he spent his childhood and I had moved to France for my post doctoral research. Well, the reader might say, the history really lacks the presence of any feminine character except for my mother. Well, to be frank a few beautiful people from the feminine community do figure in my history. Mostly, because of my friends who missed a beat the first time they came across the beautiful people. Well thats a story for another time. Here I am writing my own history of sorts. Coming back to Kanpur, it has a special place in our family history as well. It was the place where my father started his professional career back in 1967 and so did I. I think I will stop here. Someday, somewhere at the evening of my life may be I can add many more beautiful things to this post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What came to my mind

Its a long time since order has left my life and chaos has set in. Whether, order was at all there is again a matter to debate. But, I thought it was there. This chaos has also set in a sense of helplessness in me. I know it is there but am unable to do anything to remove it. It feels like one of those dreams where your hands and legs are bound and nothing moves. Take for example this small piece I am writing. I have many things in my mind to write but I keep writing about the chaos and its effects. I do not know how to phrase into words what I am thinking. may be its a good idea that I come back later and write something of what is there in my mind.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just a thought

You never know how high you can fly until and unless you try to reach the sky