May 29, 2011

Gender (in)difference

"Do not sit on the left side of the bus. Those are for the ladies", said the father of a ten-year-old lad, to his son.

"But dad, these seats are empty"

"Maybe, my son. But those are ladies seat. See what is written here" his father replied pointing out to the written instruction on top of one of the seats. "It says Magalir, which means Pengal. Now, what does Pengal means?


"You are correct. So you and I cannot sit on those seats", said his father in a closure tone.

"Give us two tickets to Adyar", asked one of the two ladies to the conductor. They were seated in front of my seat, about two rows ahead from where the father and the kid were sitting. "Dad", the lad brought his father's attention to those ladies, "then why are those ladies sitting on gents seats?"

"No, my son. There is no 'gents' seat. There are seats for ladies, and the rest are general. Anybody can sit in these seats"

"Oh! But why are there special seats for ladies alone?"

"Hey kiddo, you are not supposed to ask these questions" snubbed an old man seated behind the two. As expected, the kid went silent for a while. The bus came to a halt in one of its stops and the kid saw that some more gents got into the bus and were standing, though there were some ladies seats unoccupied.

"Dad, why do they have separate seats for ladies? Why can't male who are standing, can occupy one of those seats?" the kid asked with a low voice, apparently afraid that the old man may overhear.

"Son, ladies have separate seats because they are better than men. Didn't you hear on yesterday's news that girls came on top in SSLC exams?"

At this point, I was expecting the kid will say "if men were given separate seats, will they too fair well in studies?". Instead, I was taken by surprise when the kid asked: "give me one more example other than education for why they need separate seats?". Man! this lad is thinking way beyond even me! Or am I not thinking at all?

"Son, gents can stand for a long time. But ladies get tired soon. So they need seats where they can sit and have a comfortable journey", explained his father.

"Gents get tired too! In what way are we different?". It appeared to me that the boy was in a determined mood to find out the real reason behind the gender (in)difference.

At this point, a Swift that vroomed past our bus while it slowed itself to the edge of the road to halt, caught the lad's attention. I was getting myself ready to get down in the next stop, which is my destination. I will be missing the kid's argument with his father, I was thinking aloud when I heard the lad asking his father, "what is the speed at which that car traveled?"

Kids! How quickly they get diverted! I glanced my view towards them as I got up from my seat and proceeded towards the exit. The father seemed to be relieved when the kid shot the new question. Of course, the speed of the car is relatively an easy question to answer!

The conductor called for my bus stop. I got down when it came to a halt, and cycled my way to Cauvery, one of the "boys" hostels in IIT Madras.

May 26, 2011

Why some people choose begging as their means of living?

I saw him the moment I stepped out of the ticket counter at Saidapet railway station. I wonder if he had made that place his home, for every time I go buy a ticket I could always see him there, wearing the same torn white shirt which looks more soiled, and a blue lungi with stripes of different shades. I often wonder if that's the only garment he possess!

His eyes looked somber and it seems he had lost any sign of energy that day. Fearing if he had caught on with fever, my compassionate heart went out for him. "Are you OK?" I asked him with a sympathetic voice. "Ya...", he mumbled. He did not raise his alms plate which I found to be empty, and so I lowered myself and dropped a coin. May be its a bad day for him.

He declined my offer to buy him a meals. "Should I buy you some medicine? Are you feeling the heat?" I asked him. My concerned voice had softened him it seems, he suddenly opened up himself. "I got my today's quota of alms. So I am not worried about begging anymore for today!" he said. I left him there then, and minded my own work.

But I could not stop contemplating on what he said. First of all, what made him to choose begging as a means to live? Does not we have enough job to live a dignified life?

A visit to T.Nagar, a cynosure of shopping, located nearby Saidapet showed just the opposite! I could see thousands of poor people toiling their day to earn bread for their family which is at hundreds of miles away from here. Having no family to take care of is actually a boon for such people because they feel less pressure of their responsibilities and be able to spend their earnings for themselves. The poor beggar could work on one such shop, I thought aloud.

What made him to choose begging as a means of living? Contemplating on that question again, I walked to my mess today to have my dinner. My mess manager was sitting outside of the mess hall to collect the mess cards and mark my presence on it. Its a routine for him to mark our mess cards thrice a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner during vacation. On his table was a huge fruit basket filled with bananas. A banana is usually given to all students daily during dinner.

While I was picking up my banana, something caught my attention. A spotted deer was standing few feet away from the table, drooling at the sight of bananas in the basket. It did not show any sign of attack to take away the bananas, nor did it show any sign of fear due to the presence of humans!

"Our campus has lots of deers roaming around freely, but I had seen that they are generally shy in the presence of humans", I was conversing with my mess manager. He said, "a couple of days back, one of the students who came to dine at this mess offered a banana to this deer. It has now started begging for its food here daily!".

I now understood why some people choose begging as their means to live!

May 22, 2011

Think simple Mr. Google, says Yahoo!

Few years ago, my brother explained me how to think simple with a real example which, at that time, I thought was a joke.  The example was about how NASA, the US of A's space organization, came up with a million dollar pen which writes even in zero gravity, when the Russian astronauts used pencil to solve the writing-in-space problem.

I thought it was a joke until I heard about it in the 3 idiots movie. But then, Indian films are not subjected to peer reviewing process like scientific journals, and so what ever they say need not be true! Nevertheless, the idea of think simple is well communicated with this example.

But nothing can teach us the way our personal experiences does! 

My brother's daughter turned two today and we celebrated it with cake cutting and all. I do not remember how I celebrated my second birthday, because cake cutting was not a normal thing  in our family those days. Nor was taking photographs. I believe my parents would have celebrated my birthday by taking me to a nearest temple and worship the deity by performing special puja. 

But with the advent of technology, and with change in life style, today I can capture the precious moments with my digital camera, and can show it to her when she grows up. And that I did. I took snaps of the Happy Birthday chart decorated with balloons, the cake cutting, blowing candles by kid's parents, happy birthday wishes from relatives, and the fun time we all had on the occasion which brought some of us together after long time.

After transferring all the pics to my laptop, I thought of various options to share them with those who attended the birthday party. Since I had already used my picasa quota of 1GB, I opted to send the pics as attachments using my gmail id, which was made possible due to their ever expanding storage capacity. But the 25MB limit made me to split the whole folder into 13 parts, with 6 photos ~ 25MB each.

After sending about ten mails, I faced an issue. Google thought I am spamming since I sent about ten mails, each with attachments of about 25 MB, in a very short span! I was not able to share the remaining pics as I kept getting "Unusual activity detected, and so your mail id is suspended for 24 hours".

Though I am a die hard fan of Google, I do have a Yahoo account. I decided to send the remaining pics from my Yahoo account  instead. While I was sending the 13th part (3rd part by Yahoo! mail), Yahoo detected an unusual activity!

But unlike Google, Yahoo did not suspend my account with immediate effect. Instead, they used a simple word verification technique to make sure that I am a real person and not a bot spamming their users with my mails! This is such a brilliant idea, since there is a way to verify that I am a real user, and so I can continue to use my mail account! Whereas, suspension will only end up in not allowing me to send or receive most important mails for the next 24 hours!

May 14, 2011

Vazhndhu Kaattuvom

"Ennamo Aedho" song from the recent Tamil flick "Ko" is in the top list since the movie was released a couple of weeks ago. The success formula of this romantic song is its captivating tune spiced up with hitherto unheard Tamil words such as "kuviyamilla", which makes it linger longer than usual in one's mind.

In order to avoid getting trapped in to infinite loop of listening, I decided to divert my mind through random browsing, when I chanced upon "Vazhndhu Kaattuvom", a Government of Tamilnadu's initiative with help from World bank, to eradicate poverty and uplift rural people's life.

Interested readers can get more information about the project from their official website. While browsing through the site, one thing gained my attention - the link to some audio songs, propagating various schemes, set in folk tunes which the government believes is the right channel to reach them.

The songs are recorded in mp3 format and are available for free download from here. The details of the music composer and the lyricist are not known, while the names of singers are listed in the website. But for Anuradha (Sriram), I have not heard other voices ever!

The folk tunes mesmerises the listeners from first-time-listening onwards, no wonder why it is rooted with our tradition. In particular, I loved the "Uthamare" song, which is about child labour. The singer of this song M.R.Divya has a beautiful voice and excellent articulation.

"Vazhndhu Kaattuvom" is one of the successful project with Govt. of Tamilnadu initiative to uplift rural population. To see its success, one need not even go to a village if they are not comfortable with. Vedanthangal, the haven for birds, is one of the village where this project is implemented.

PS: I remember seeing the "Vazhndhu Kaatuvom" board at the bird sanctuary when I went there last November. However, I could not find an official link proving the same.