Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Story of Rossetta and Philae

So you are thinking who are these people and why should we be interested in their story. Well firstly, they are not people. Maybe that’s what makes this an interesting story.

Humans have always been fascinated by space. We have wondered about our own solar system, Galaxy, the Universe and are constantly looking to explore. With our curiosity and the technology that we now posses, we send missions to nearby objects.

Rossetta and Philae were sent on one such mission to the Comet 67P a.k.a Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Rosetta being the spacecraft that would make the journey to the comet and orbit around it; and Philae being the probe that would land on this comet. The plan was for Rosetta to carry Philae near the comet, and drop it such that it lands at the desired site on 67P. Then Philae could do some science on the surface of this comet and communicate with Rosetta, which in turn would communicate back to earth. This is the first mission to ever land a probe on a comet.

Smaller objects like comets and asteroids are interesting bodies, as they give us insight to the origins of our solar system; and possibly, even answer key questions to origins of life.

This mission started in 1996 and the launch spacecraft was on March 2004, and Philae was able to land on Comet 67P on November 2014. That’s right, this trip took a decade. It wasn’t a linear trip from Earth to 67P. On its way, Rosetta had to perform few gravity assist flyby’s; one with Mars and rest with couple of asteroids. Their journey itself is epic, and highlights the amount of effort it takes for space travel.

So on reaching closer to Comet 67P, Rosetta (carrying Philae with it) started orbiting the comet for few days to align it to make the drop. Keep in mind that, Comet 67P travels at 135,000 Km / hr. Eventually, Rosetta had to let go of Philae so it could land. However things do go wrong, and Philae was not able to secure itself to the original site as planned on the comet. In fact, due to 67P’s speed and the drop velocity of the probe, Philae bounced 4 times on the surface and landed on the side that was facing away from the Sun. Damaged by the landing impact and unable to charge its solar powered batteries, Philae did send back signals and data it could collect from 67P until its primary batteries lasted, and then went into silent-hibernation, unable to communicate with Rosetta.

Although they were just a spacecraft and a probe, but they had been together for a decade, making a journey into the unknown, and in the very next moment there was total silence, no contact whatsoever. Can imagine how that would feel if they were real people.
How would the scientists who worked on this mission have felt?
So there it was, Rosetta kept orbiting Comet 67P, searching for signs of Philae. Those working on this mission had concluded that Philae would never contact back, mainly due to its impact upon landing. However, few months later, in June 2015, Philae did make contact with Rosetta, as it faced the sun and charged its batteries. There were only 8 intermittent contacts though from June to July, before Philae finally stopped communicating.

And during its time of activity, Philae was able to do some science and found 16 organic compounds, few of them being acetamide, acetone, methyl isocyanate and proionaldehyde. Out of which the last one is a compound found in our DNA. There were also traces of molecular oxygen (which is very rare to find in space) and heavy water (has isotope of Hydrogen i.e Deuterium).

After sending all these interesting information Philae went silent and hasn’t spoken since.  Rosetta is still orbiting Comet 67P from a distance of 170 to 200 km from its surface. This is how the Comet 67 looks when viewed by Rosetta; or click here

Well the mission funding will be over soon, and the question is what should be done with Rosetta. The plan for now is, it will continue to orbit 67P and gather information. And soon, for its end of life, would be made to land on the comet; which wasn’t the original part of the plan. Things are being worked out as to how to make a soft landing and not crash it.

So the final resting place for Rosetta would be where Philae is, on the surface of Comet 67P. Who knows, how the re-union would be.

This is why I love Astronomy. There are stories, there is wonder and there are possibilities. It’s one kind of poetry.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

That Tiny Spec !!!

Finally had clear skies after the on and off grey monsoon clouds. Got my telescope pointing towards the sky and well, even though there were no clouds, could hardly see any distant objects. Guess its the city pollution. After tens of minutes of rigorous sky searching, was able to see this. (check the image below)

Yup, just a tiny spec ! Rather a tiny dot. And oh yeah, thought I need to mention this here, that its not a star :D

Its the galaxy M-13, also known as NGC 6205. Read that again. It is not a star, but a Galaxy ! Compared to our own Milky Way galaxy, it is very small. M-13 has only 300,000 stars (thats 300 thousand.......and yes i said only) within it. Milky way has more than 100 Billion stars, so yeah hardly a comparison. But the wonder and excitement for me was to see what appears a tiny dot in the night sky, is actually a galaxy with about 300,000 stars inside it :). M-13 is 145 light years wide. So light takes about 145 years to travel from its one side to the other. And it is just 25,000 light years away from our Earth :D. So that image I just clicked of M-13 is of the light it emitted 25,000 years ago, which means how it looked that many years ago. And how it is right now, shall know after 25,000 years. ...... too complicated?? or interesting?? :) Universe is vast, can make one truly wonder !

So when we look at the sky everything that shines need not be a star or a planet. Who knows how far that object is, and how many magnificent worlds it has within it.

There was one more dot in the image attached, to the right of M-13, but was so faint that could not be captured with my camera. That too was a galaxy 'M-91', which is about 63 million light years away from Earth. So technically, if we could travel there right now and look back at earth, we would see the extinction of Dinosaurs !!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Press that your finger!!!

Elections have started and for once there is a topic that is more popular within the country other than cricket. The entire country seems to be interested and everyone appears to be an expert advisor. News channels are all at it with sophisticated opinion polls, spicy attention grabbing debates, sting operations and what not. Well, that’s their job, and let them do it.

But we, the people have an even bigger job. To Vote! No No……….let me take that back. I think the bigger job is to decide; whom to Vote! We have so many parties (political parties) and so many candidates. India is a diverse country and this reflects in the fact that we have so many political parties, each with their own agenda catering to the diverse people.  However, not to forget, the fate of India for next few years will be decided during this election; and its best if we all together come out and caste our vote, to only those political parties, that are capable of governing  India(I choose my words carefully……..its governing…...and not ruling).

Although we have plenty of choices as to whom to vote, we have very little choice of right and able candidates; or even political parties for that matter. Only 2 parties come close to whom we can say have the resources and are able to be forming the government. – BJP and Congress. Well, I’ll include AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) as well, since they are the latest buzz. Let’s make it 3 able parties then – BJP, Congress and AAP.

Now if we consider India, a nation with 28 states (count may even increase by the time I finish this sentence) and 7 union territories, and more than a billion people; it needs experience along with resources to govern.

AAP did start off with a noble and honest intention (it still has), but has proved to be a disaster, nothing more than a finger pointing system. I have full respect to Mr. Arvind Kejriwal for having the guts to take on political heavy weights in style, but it’s just childish propaganda that AAP has achieved. No serious work executed responsibly. It’s so clear that AAP cannot govern, they are incapable of governing. A national capital is in Presidents rule because of them. They had a chance to govern and do good work in Delhi. Instead, they quit; and now they want India. AAP is a party that has fooled people and made full use of people’s sentiments and emotions of bad governance by past governments. I still feel they have the right intentions, but would want to see them do well at state level and then contest for country. As everyone gives school exams, clears it and then attempts a college exam. No one simply goes to college or a degree without schooling. So capability wise, AAP gets a big zero.

About Congress well, I wouldn’t waste much time talking about this party on my blog. We all know the truth. There are thousands of other blogs that criticize or praise Congress. They definitely have the people and resources to govern India. But Congress is more interested in ruling; not governing. And I still do not understand why Rahul Gandhi is given so much importance. The school going kids from my society can challenge him for an open debate and defeat him left right and center. He is just another incapable person who is there in limelight just because of Luck by Chance; that surname – Gandhi!

Now time for some BJP bashing. Always labeled as a communal party, and why not, many of its leaders do give rubbish statements in media. They too have resources and people to govern India, but more than anything else, they have an able performer – Narendra Modi. Credit should go to the BJP that a low level person selling tea can now be contesting for the Prime Minister’s office. All this because of his work and proven record, atleast at state level. Not like the Congress dynasty where the ticket to be the party chief or PM is to be born in the Gandhi family. Is Modi a clean man? I don’t think so. No one is a clean man! Not even Kejriwal (the self proclaimed…… I am right others are wrong type)! But Modi is certainly most able of the lot. In the past BJP has had their fare share at forming a government and many agree they did do decently; atleast much better than Congress has in more than 50 years.

Voting for the right candidate is tough. Especially when you want someone to be a PM, but the local candidate from that party is not worthy. For instance, in one of the areas in Mumbai, the list of contestants are – Rakhi Sawant, Manish Manjrekar, Kamal Khan, Gurudas Kamath, Mayank Gandhi, and a dozen more. This looks more like the Big Boss nominations J

To Vote is similar to going out to a restaurant with your friends and ordering food.
Kaise? Dekho Aise-
Once in the restaurant you look at the menu (candidates in your constituency). Then based on your need, you select an item to order (voting a candidate). Often people look at what others have ordered and copy that. May happen you or your friend does not order anything (increases chance of bogus voting). So to just give company to your group, you order a light snack, or a juice (Nota - None of the Above). Everyone orders something. Same way, during these elections, ensure you and your friends press a button and mark your finger.

Like I said earlier, unfortunate that we do not have much choice as far as good candidates are concerned. But my only hope is that we all Indians come out and Vote; take that extra effort; have the larger context in mind, to make a better India and caste our vote to that candidate; not whom you feel is the best, but for that candidate, who is capable and can govern well!

Let us all as united India, get out of our homes.........and Vote!!! Jai Hind.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Identity Crisis !

Note - Wanted to write tonnes of material in this post, however due to time constraints have managed to use minimum words to convey the topic. I am sure many will not understand it. All i can say is Happy reading and hope it makes sense.

It all starts with Male and Female. That’s the first level of separation or identity of our kind, the Homo Sapiens.  Over the years, we humans have evolved in a manner where we like to identify, label and categorize everything.

We identify ourselves based on our religion. I am a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew ….endless
For centuries we were rigid about our religious beliefs that every other religion apart from ours was considered wrong and evil. There’s a gradual shift in most of our ( when I say ‘our’, it represents we as a whole, the entire human race) mindset where in we are now tolerant to other faiths. Some are still not. And until those ‘some’ feel theirs is the only right religion or path in life; hate will remain, shootings will take place, bombs will explode, and innocent people will die.

And bombs will explode also due to another identity of ours that we dearly hold on to. Our patriotism; which makes us ( when I say ‘us’, it represents we as a whole, the entire human race) so arrogant that every person feels  their nation is always right with respect to other. Do we need this? Do we want to be associated with a small piece of land, or do we rather prefer being associated with this magnificent planet called Earth. Are we not Earth citizens rather than country citizens? All of us, including you and me, are part of this ever expanding, seemingly infinite Universe. So to think about it at such a grand scale, the Earth itself is an insignificant spec.

Let us take a look. This picture is of our Galaxy, the Milky Way (and i hope those reading do understand what a Galaxy is).

I know; its impossible to even spot our Solar System in here, let alone Earth. And this is just one galaxy. Let us look further.

Each dot is a Galaxy (yup, those are Not stars! ). Real Beauty........isn't it! Sigh!

Such is our Universe. Its so huge, that the word 'huge' itself is insignificant in this context. Now where are you, me and we in it?

And here we are, until 2013, with our identities of religion, organizations, nations; and fighting over issues that are insignificant when compared to the nature of our universe. This Identity Crisis will however remain for a long time, but we as the most intelligent beings around (i hope so), can raise our consciousness, to be universal citizens and; be good do good. 

PS: Wishing everyone a Happy 2014 :)

Thursday, October 03, 2013

That Funny Feeling

Its pitch black outside and stunningly silent. The only sound I can hear right now is of the insects. (its something like a high frequency kkkkkkkkrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr).
Inside, the TV is loud and family glued to it, getting ready for dinner to be served. Some of them talking about good old times. I however; prefer sitting out in the dark and hitting my laptop keyboard hard and fast (to type this down). The place is my hometown Mangalore, the time is 10pm, its few hours before my train leaves for Mumbai, and its That Funny Feeling again.

I have always enjoyed traveling to Mangalore. This was one short [totally unplanned] vacation trip and like all trips, it’s almost over……….well not yet though, but almost over. This Funny Feeling will be over too, I guess once I reach Mumbai, so thought might as well capture it here, before it vanishes after seeing the crowds and busy streets of Mumbai.

It’s “That Funny Feeling” which always comes up as any vacation nears its end. However short and unplanned this vacation maybe, I am going to miss this place, the people I met, the food I relished and all those small moments that were enjoyable and relaxing enough to unwind me from my daily work routine. Cheers to all!

The kkkkkkkkkrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr volume is increasing, guess they are attracted to my laptop screen in the dark. Its time to go indoors and continue, since I haven’t captured “That Funny Feeling” yet.

Drifting slightly from the main topic (the insects diverted my mind I guess)…
The only complain I had from this trip is meeting so many relatives in such less time. Well, simply meeting them was not actually a complain; in fact was good to catch up with so many of them. The real annoying aspects of meeting relatives were the two questions that were constantly bombarded at me at each house. 1) What’s your age, and 2) when are you getting married? Puffff !!! I am immune to it now. During my 4 days here, I think it was asked exactly 137 times each. One more question came close third and was asked about a moderate 43 times. 3) So you came to Mangalore to see proposals is it?
Well I am not going to answer any of the above here. Although I do remember I gave a different answer for each instance any of those questions were asked.
Apart from these annoying instances, everything else is a well cherished memory.
And I wish to be back more frequently and quite often.

Before I log off….Treat yourself to this spontaneous poetry.

Change is the only permanent thing they say,
And that feelings in this ever changing world no longer stay!
But it’s That Funny Feeling which keeps coming up every now and then.
Especially when the train leaves tomorrow; and now its 10!
What attract me most to my hometown are the colors of nature – lush Green acres of fields, Red soil, Blue skies, White beach sand.
In my city however, the colors still exist, but not of nature; only artificial by man.
Here, every sound, smell, touch, sight is soothing!
There, most of it is polluting.
Words fall short to express what I have to say
Feel free to interpret this in your own preferred way.
For the rest of this night me going to shut off my thinking,
And prefer being a little while longer with That Funny Feeling.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Chickened ......... Out !!!

Monsoon 2013 behaved like a good student isn’t it? Started exactly in June and was not one day late for schoolJ. Rains in Mumbai invoke the tourist in us to get out of the city and explore nature. Few weeks back went out of for a short road trip. Awesome scenery, serene landscapes, pleasant winds were all part of it as usual, but this post has nothing to do with the trip; more about it maybe some other time.

Well after that candid introduction; let me jump in straight to the topic. We left Mumbai at early morning to avoid the weekend rush, but got stuck for awhile at the Mumbai – Pune express way. Not a packed traffic jam, but good enough for an expressway. Ten minutes later, realized that a chicken truck (the one that carries chickens J ), had stopped in the middle of the road and few Express way cops were investigating it.  The cops and few local villagers pushed the vehicle to the side and started clearing the traffic. 

Meanwhile, the driver walked towards back of that truck and opened the cage; and whhhooooossssssshhhhhh. Like a pack of cards, all the chickens fell out. Yes, you read it right, its ‘fell out’ and not ‘flew out’; since they were all dead…….khalaaasss. The truck driver, owner or whoever; too was surprised to see all of them dead. There were maybe 200 – 300 approx. How did they die? Maybe because of the heavy rains, being cramped in cages, some flue, infection or who knows what. He started panicking and explaining the cops that they were alive when he last checked. He then handed over few dead chickens to the cops and villagers [chicken bribe ;)] and asked them to help load back the truck.

The villagers were happy to get free chickens. You could tell from their excitement. They were holding them by their legs and waving in the air like a prized achievement. But I wonder what would happen of the remaining dead bodies…………I mean the dead chickens. Probably they would still end up at their destination – some slaughter house or a hotel. And still be served to the end consumer; that is we humans.
The sight of the dead chickens lying on the road and then being loaded in the truck was pretty awful. I am a veggie and it does not bother me much. But I had others with me who love eating chicken and were disgusted by the sight of it. It was a short moment of realization for all of us that we enjoy eating chicken when cooked and fried; but for it to get on to our plate, we don’t even bother or care to know how much suffering That life has to undergo to entice our taste buds.

Like the famous magicians Penn and Teller (total respect for their magic) would say……’s only a god dam chicken!!! (no respect for this statement of theirs). Some may also counter argue saying:
1.       Even plants have life, so what about their suffering when the vegetarians eat them?
2.       Its survival of the fittest buddy.
3.       There are so many chicken in this world, why not make use of them by eating them.

Case 1: Let’s take a situation where no one is going to serve us food for one day. We have to get and cook our food all by ourselves. There is a living chicken in front of us and potato plant (or any other veggie plant). Would you kill the chicken, cut its throat, pluck its feather, chop it into pieces and cook it OR pluck the vegetable, cut it into pieces and cook it?
My choice would be to pluck the veggie and cook it. If I cannot harm or kill a life myself, I prefer not eating it as well. Your choice may differ and you have the right to stick by it.

Case 2: Question of Survival arises only when there is a threat. What threat do chickens have for humans? In fact it’s we humans who are a threat to these species …maybe they should fight back J.

Case 3: True, so many chickens. Most of them we have forcefully grown. But if that’s the argument, then why stop at chicken? There are so many crows around. Why not consume the crows as well and make use of them? J

I haven’t posted any pictures in this post; did not want you all to feel disgusted by it. But next time you eat food, would be wise to spend a moment to ponder on what has it taken to prepare that meal for you.

This post is not to debate about veg or non-veg food. What we put into our mouth is entirely our choiceJ…………food is anyways a personal choice. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

If Only Advertisements Could Be Like This...

Advertisements or TV commercials are a bunch of false promises…..or simply put, plain lies. Specially the cosmetic advertisements. Everyone is trying to sell something that they themselves do not use.

Superstars, Good looking models, cute Kids, even dogs promote products they never use :)

Sample punch lines could be -
‘Apply cream X and become whiter by 10X’ – ‘Drink this and get wings or increase your height’ – ‘Spray this and girls will come hunting for you’ – ‘Eat this and the more you eat, the more weight you loose’………….and what not !!!

TV commercials these days are popular for their entertainment factor rather than genuineness of the actual product. It’s good to see that most consumers are intelligent and do not fall for these false promises. We buy what we need………….or …..Do we?

For the first time I have come across a commercial / advertisement, in which this brand doesn't focus on selling the product, neither does it mention the name of the product even once……….rather, it chooses to focus on the issue that their product promises to improve. (In this case…….it is beauty)

Hats off to Dove for creating this sort of a commercial! …………..If only more advertisements could be like this :)

PS: prefer watching it with your headphones........i'm sure you would watch it more than once!

PPSS: If unable to see the embedded video below, click on this

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ship of Theseus

Had never heard about this movie until couple of days back, and was unsure if I would be watching ‘Ship of Theseus” on a big screen. I checked its trailer and teasers on YouTube, and then was absolutely sure that I’ll not be missing this one :)

The intention of this movie is revealed by three stories that appear disconnected until the last 2 min’s or so. Three different stories have three different characters that mesmerize the audience with their almost real to life performances. First story is about a young intuitive photographer who gets back her eye sight but has to deal with its aftermath. The second is about a monk who lives life by his principles but later faces a choice that challenge the very ideology he believes in. The third is about a young stock broker who offers to help a poor stranger; but later realizes how intricate morality and ethics could be. Each story gets connected in the end, like a poetic thriller; and you only realize that the movie is finished when the audience starts clapping :)

I couldn't pick a favorite story or character. All were superb! This movie follows the life events of these characters but at the same time, paints a bigger picture about morality, beauty, purpose of existence, and our beliefs.  At some point, it appears as if the makers are trying to convey that everything in this existence is interconnected; no matter however diverse and different it seems. Maybe that’s why the poster of the movie is depicted as:

This is definitely not main stream Bollywood cinema, where there is loud entertainment, boy loves girl, item numbers, cars flying all over the place. This is high quality world cinema. The cinematography, background score, dialogues, acting by entire cast is refreshingly different for an Indian film. Also it’s even surprising to know that the entire film was shot with a Canon DSLR!!!

Naham Janami is one song that plays in the background during the monk story with beautiful lyrics that captures the essence of life.

Do yourself a favor and watch it on a big screen if possible.

Oh and by the way, just because the name suggests Ship of Theseus does not mean there are any Ships in the movie. At the most you may see a plane and few cars :)…….. Jokes apart! Ship of Theseus refers to the Theseus Paradox. That if a Ship (or any object for that matter), has all its parts replaced, is it fundamentally the same Ship (or object)!................. Thinking already?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Saathi Salaam...

So I was travelling back from work with Pranav driving my car; and me sitting in the navigator seat, enjoying the varied range of music being played from his mobile. While scrolling through his playlist, I randomly clicked a song titled "Saathi Salaam", not knowing if it would be a good one with all this traffic around.
I heard it........and it happened to be much more than a song; it was an experience........and the experience was elevating. It just takes you to a higher state of consciousness.

Often people ask "hey who is your fav artist?.........or.........what kind of music do you listen to?". Its tough to give a reply. I love music but don't have a favorite artist. And as far as kind of music is concerned, i like any music that makes one feel good. Saathi Salaam  is surely such kind of powerful music that will make you feel different after you listen to it.

On returning back home, I youtube'd Saathi Salaam and saw the recorded video performance, and kept on seeing and hearing it. Found out and saw all possible videos I could about this piece of music creation. Researched a little to see how the artists collaborated such wonderful music. The lyrics are a little tough to catch, but it doesn't matter. Once you get hold of the lyrics, you'll love it even more :). Love it when the lyrics  of a song give out a spiritual insight.

To reveal a little bit more, the song is a fusion of old folk poetry and modern music. And in this poetry, the poet asks a man where is he going. The man replies I am going to God's house. To which the poet replies.......Oh, He is my friend, give this letter to Him. That's why, the poetry / song is .........Saathi Salaam.

An interesting comment on youtube about this song says....... "not one word, not one word did i understand...but i danced, i cried, i laughed, i died...i lived" And that's exactly how you too will feel.

Hope you all too love it :)

PS: the real star of this song is Sawan Khan.

PPSS: notice i haven't given any links or embedded the video here :). its for you to search the internet and find out on your own. God bless. Have fun listening.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Heaven and Hell

Does it really exist?

Well, “Who all want to go to heaven after death?” ask this question to a group of people and I bet almost all will raise their hands J. Change the question just a little and ask “Who all want to go to hell?”, be assured not one hand will come up.

Heaven and Hell! Interesting this concept is………..ever realized that?

Religions have always portrayed Heaven to be filled with happiness, peace, joy, bliss. Where every wish will be fulfilled, all the angels and fairies will take care of you, everything will be available in abundance, and you will be with Gods and Goddesses.

And in contrast, Religion says Hell is where the Devil greets youJ. It’s a place filled with fire, where you will be fried and punished, and dragged and beaten and left to rot. It’s the place where all sinners are sent to.

Christians, Judaism call it ………Heaven and Hell
Muslims ……….. Jannat and Jahaanum
Hindus ………. Swarg and Narak
Zoroastrians ……… Paradise and Hell

Every child is taught about someplace distant up in the skies, where all the good guys go. And someplace underground where all the bad guys go. (ahem ahem....thinking which one you are? ;) )

People from different religions even fight and argue with each other as to whose Heaven is better.  Isn’t it?
I’ve met people from different walks of life and many times they ask me if I believe in Heaven and Hell? And my blunt answer is ……. NO !!! J. I see this concept from a different perspective.  I feel all Religions teach this concept of Heaven and Hell just to induce fear in minds of people and to control them. It is just a carrot.

Heaven is not some place above; neither Hell is some place below. They both are…..Here and…..Now!

Whenever we are calm and peaceful, happy, making others around us happy, sharing and doing some good, spreading smiles………..then Heaven is right there.
And whenever we are miserable or spread misery, when we get angry, when our words and actions hurt others……….. then Hell is right there.

To understand the deeper meaning about Heaven and Hell as taught in various Religions worldwide , a Spiritual outlook is necessary in life.

Forget dreaming about going to Heaven or Hell after you die. Who cares anyways where you go! We have a choice, and capability to live either in Heaven or in Hell……………..right NOW! J.

Let us choose wisely!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Just a Thought

Before they came, I was free.
From stone age to bronze age to the Vedic period, Peace and Knowledge prevailed on all.
There were saints, sages, scholars...........and Human Values.
Those who lived had all the wealth - health and happiness. More importantly, I was safe ..... I was free.
I was in my prime and it was my golden time.
And then they came, one by one, disguised as friends.....but only to loot.
Persians were the first, sometime in 550 BC. Then it was the Greeks who followed.
And a race began.....
Romans......Mughals......Portuguese......Dutch......British......French, they all arrived in their own style.
I was captured, abused, raped, cut into pieces, looted, cheated, vandalized by by one.
And soon the wealth was gone, the saints and scholars diminished, my safety at risk, and my freedom no more.
When they took all they could, their greed satisfied, they left me and I became happy for a while. They said I was free.
But that was not to be!
They are gone, but now its my very own, my dear ones who loot, cheat, kill, abuse, misuse power, become corrupt, rape me.....over and over......again and again!
I am your Mother, your Daughter, your Sister, your Guardian......your Country!
"Can we have better Human Values this year?" ....... is what I ask myself every year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Poem for my country

Poem by Farhan Akhtar, after the horrific gang rape in Delhi! Really makes me wonder..............What is this country that I live in ?

What is this country that I live in?
With no equality
And the quality of life
Differs from husband to wife
Boy to girl, brother to sister
Hey Mister, are you the same?
Contributing to the national shame
Replacing your mothers
With the bent ideology of another's
perception that women have a particular role in society
Fills my heart with anxiety
Where is all of this going?
What will emerge from these seeds that we're sowing?
It makes my head spin
But I'm not giving in
Will keep asking the question 
What is this country that I live in?

What is this country that I live in?
That takes away her right to love
Brutalises her with an iron glove
Rapes her without fear
of there being justice for her tear
We've demeaned our goddesses
Gone back on all our promises
Become a gender distorted nation
Given our conscience a permanent vacation
what do I tell my daughter?
That she's growing up to be lamb for the slaughter
we've got to make a change
Reboot, reformat, rearrange,
and never give in
no matter how much our head may spin
Just keep asking the question
What is this country that I live in? 
Here to help. Love. Farhan. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Know Your Traffic!

The term “Traffic Update” is usually associated with FM Radio where jazzy RJ’s keep yapping about daily traffic jams in the city. It’s a good thing they do, but the major drawback is –
  • You need to wait and keep listening to the radio for traffic updates
  • You cannot ask for an update on your route
  • You don’t get the update when you want it. Correct?

In a city like Mumbai, we always wish there would be a real time traffic update system that lets one know which roads are congested and which are free to travel. Well, the wait is over, as Google has nailed it!
Google Maps shows real time traffic updates in major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Chennai and it’s awesomely accurate. I have tested it on various routes while travelling in the city. It helps plan the best possible route.

On your phone (ofcourse you need a phone with Google Maps installed on it), launch Google Maps. There is a “Layers” option, mostly in the application Menu. Select “Traffic” there, like in the screen bellow –

Launch Google Maps - Select "Layers" from Menu
And Eureka! You have the city traffic update in your hand.

Know the color codes –
Green – Free flow. Few vehicles. Zooooom with ease
Yellow – Moving traffic. A little more vehicles
Red – Lots of traffic. Slow moving
Dark Red – Bumper to Bumper stop and slow moving traffic
No Color – No traffic update…..yet

Check out few screens below.

Traffic on Western Express Highway
near my home - Today, 10PM
Traffic at Bandra, Sealink - Today, 11PM

Now check out the traffic at Marine Drive, Queens Neckless today at 11PM in the screen below. All roads in this screen show no traffic but Marine Drive shows Red, indicates traffic jam or slow moving vehicles. Can you guess why? Common...Guess Guess! (Answer below the screen)

Marine Drive Traffic today at 11PM
Its Diwali season, so people at this time bursting firecrackers at Marine Drive. So many cars stop by to see firecrackers, hence the slow moving traffic jam J

Isn’t it amazing we have the entire map, with live traffic feeds in our hands!  Well this piece of technology is not something recent or new. It’s been used in USA, Europe, and many other countries. But this is one thing that Mumbai really needed........isn’t it? J

So now you can plan / estimate your travel times with ease. But as we use this service or technology, its a wonder to know how Google manages to get these updates? What method do they use to calculate traffic at real times? Let me know what you think. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Oye......Gaadi Rok!!!

We have so many traffic rules…….. we hardly follow few…….. and never bother to know them all J.
I was driving on the highway once on the leftmost lane. Saw a signal turn red and halted like a responsible citizenJ. There was a left turn at the signal, but I didn’t want to take it as I had to go straight. The signal light turned green, and I accelerated, only to find a traffic cop blocking my way and ordering me to park at the side.

As I turned the wheel left to park I started to think if I had jumped the signal, and maybe that’s why he asked me to stop. But soon realized that I did see the signal turn green. Nearing my side of the window he asked in the usual Mumbai Police istyle “chala license kaada”. I handed him my license and asked what fault I did.

Just then I got a phone call (I didn’t notice it as my phone is always on silent when I drive). The cop saw it and smiled quirkily “You broke 2 rules – One is you were on the left lane when you wanted to go straight and Two is that you are using your phone and getting calls while driving” .  

Well rule one did make sense and I agreed he can book me for lane cutting. But the second rule was simply hilarious J J J ……. Another cop came near and started to write a receipt for a fine. And below is the transcript of the exact conversation:

Cop 1: Book him for lane cutting and talking on phone
Me : (with a naughty smile) Sirji, you know that I was not talking on the phone. Yes I was on the wrong lane, so I’ll pay the fine.
Cop2: You seem like a bright kid. But you see, if I give you a receipt, then I take your license and you have to come the next day to collect it. So much trouble to you.
Me: So what should we do? (I knew where this was heading J )
Cop1: He was talking on the phone!
Cop2: You tell me what should we do?
Me: No you tell me!
Cop2: Ok. Your normal fine is Rs200. Pay me less here and leave.
Me: (Thinking…….shall I give him less and leave …….. or……… damm….tough choice)
Me: Sirji, I don’t feel its right so you can take my license and write me a receipt.

He then started to write a receipt. But a similar incident happened when I was in South Africa with my uncle. So taking some tips from there I bluntly requested the cop, “Can you let me go please? I haven’t committed a grave offence. I usually follow all rules and I am sorry I was on the wrong lane. Can you let me go please? “
There was no reply. He simply handed over the license to me nodded me to leave. Wow! That was a relief………and an instant learning as well. - If you don’t ask……… don’t get !!! J

And when I was all set to leave, the cop who caught me said “You seem like a good man. Pray for us”. We don’t like to take bribe either. But it’s a tough job that we do”

I wished him luck and left. It was so true what he shared. Traffic policemen are never respected by citizens. All we think is that they take bribes. But that’s not true. Imagine what would happen if Traffic cops went on strike for a day…………would be total Chaos in the city right! They do work, and it is indeed a tough, tiring and thankless job. Hope the government provides good facilities to those who make sure our travel is easy. But till then, would be nice to just wish a traffic cop next time you meet one. A “Namaste”, “Good Morning”, or festive wishes, or just one statement of praise like “you’re doing a really good job”. He too will feel good for that one moment you greet him J

Thursday, August 18, 2011

'Q' bole to....Quilling! ....part 2

If you missed my previous post ....... do read the earlier blog on Quilling

And its Quilling with double 'l's and not Quilting. If one searches Quilling on google, it asks back "Are you searching for Quilting" .

Well my friend keeps surprising me, and many others with her new Quilling creations :). Yeah just gets bigger......better! The new designs have evolved from an envelope to photo frames to birthday cards ....... and who knows what next :) . Well, we can only wait and watch.

So as I had mentioned earlier, the wonder still continues :). And its so nice to see so many people ordering the Quilled artwork from her. Well, in this post i won't write much, but will leave you with many more pictures for you to enjoy and comment upon. If you have any creative idea, or would like to have any of the Quilling creations, do let me know. Enjoy the pictures of the Photo Frames , Envelopes (Ganesha and Rakshabandhan special), B'day Cards.

My personal fav here would be the Peacock design on the photo frame, but the Butterfly Park frame is also a close contender :)

Also one of the pic is of the Quilling art from my car, that's called a it has the shape of a tiny particle of Snow. (i guess writing a blog and posting pictures is much easier than Quilling :P .....pun intended! )

PS: I had ordered the frame with wooden finish, and the person whom I gifted it simply loved it ! :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jumping from a Plane!!!

Had written this article a long time back. Thought of sharing it on this blog....

Summer of 2008, Oulu, Finland
Heights have never been my strengths. Friends who really know me well can vouch for it. It’s not that I am afraid of heights, but kind of a phobia where in I get a tingling sensation in my legs when I look down from few feet above ground. And if I am standing on a rooftop and looking downwards, then I need something to hold on to, else, I’ll never go near the edge J
So here I was in Oulu during the winters and while exploring this new place, found out a skydiving school nearby. Upon enquiry, they told me there are two types of jumps:
1) Self jump, that needs a training of 7 hours and one can jump on his own from a height of 1 km’s above the ground. (3281 feet)
2) Tandem jump, needs just 30 min’s of training and one can jump along with the instructor, but from a height of 3.7km’s above the ground. (12139 feet)
That’s it. I just enquired and thought, let it be. Not something I should get involved in J
One fine summer day, few others who were working with me started planning for skydive and asked me if I would like to join in. They were just pulling my leg…….they knew my height disorders ;)
However, I agreed to their request. It later on so happened that the others where a little chickened out and I had to really convince them to go for it J. So out of so many of my friends, only 4 agreed to go for it.
Now the next question, Self jump or Tandem? I opted for a Tandem, simply because it was from a greater height. Well, it’s not that I was all brave to challenge myself. But the Tandem jump had a greater free fall time. Free fall as the term implies, is that part of a skydiving jump, where you just fall before opening the parachute. For Tandem jump it was 50 sec’s and for a Self jump it was 3 sec’s.
So I opted for 50 sec’s ;). I still don’t know why, but it was the best choice I made.
I made the bookings and visited the facility. The instructor was Petteri Korhonen, a Finnish local, who by profession is a Software Engineer, and does this as a hobby. He had done about 5000 jumps then. Wow! Could you believe that…… many jumps and he has still survived. Guess that made me feel more safe and put aside all the nonsense thoughts I had in my mind.
Then there was a brief training session that had me lying down on my tummy on a skateboard with arms and legs in air so I could balance my body against the aerodynamics during the jump. A little bit of theory about the parachute and how it needs to be handled.
Cool, so training was over and we headed for the jump site. I had a personal camera man too who would jump with me and record it. We got into the small Cessna plane, ready to take off. My final instruction given by the instructor was simple…..”Roland….don’t do anything silly. Just Jump!” J
As the plane gained altitude, I started to have a strange sensation in my tummy. The pilot and my instructor kept asking me how I felt. I just smiled like an idiot and said I am fine, enjoying the view. In reality……..I was not fine. I was nervous and scared. I just pretended like I was calm. Thought of asking them, “Well, can we take a U-turn and go back please, I don’t think I can do this”. But I didn’t. And thank God I didn’t
I closed my eyes for few moments and talked to myself “Come what may, I will jump. With total trust, let’s jump”. Then I started to enjoy the awesome view around. There was land and sea all around. Everything seemed so tiny. The skies were clear with few clouds around. From the window, I could see the vast horizon. All I could hear was the engine of the Cessna, like the starting of an induction motor from 3 idiots.”DDhhurrrrrrrrrrrrr…..”
It took us nearly 20 min’s to reach the height of 3.7 km’s. They opened the plane door. My instructor did a final round of checking that the parachute was correctly attached to him. He checked the four hooks with which I was attached to his body. Yes, that’s all that would hold me until we landed……..those four hooks.
The altitude gauge showed a reading of 3.7 km’s and a temp of -4 C.
I slowly moved to the open door, one baby step at a time. The wind was gushing at my face. It felt refreshing but the fear I had earlier, returned. The more I moved closer to the door, the more my mind started looking for reasons to not jump. My cameraman was already out holding on to one of the plane wing ready to shoot my jump. I managed to get to edge of the door with my one leg outside by now, hanging in air. I had to gently getup and standup with my instructor behind me and move outwards near the plane wing. That’s when I looked down upon the earth. Well it did look all gorgeous and beautiful, but it didn’t interest me then. My feet were shaking, my tummy was tingling. Slowly, taking support of the plane wall, I managed to reach the wing.
I was facing my Ultimate Fear! Then I heard a count “1……2……3……jump”
And………… can’t explain
We somersaulted and I could see the plane fly past away from us. And I was falling at speed of 220 km’s/hr.
And that was it. Fear had been kicked out. Then there was total ecstasy during the fall. It felt like ultimate freedom. Everything seized to exist in those moments of free fall. I couldn’t feel my body though I was breathing, my mind was clear, and the intellect wasn’t doing anything, felt like there was no memory of anything before the fall. All I could feel was that Moment.
Everything felt like it just vanished. No thoughts, just being with the fall. It was bliss!
While having a fall from that altitude, one has nothing to lose, nothing to hold on to. All I remember I had was happiness. Yes I was scared before I jumped, but a small push was indeed needed for this experience J
Then I heard one more count “1………2…….3……parachute”
And Whooosssshhhh……the parachute opened and pulled us upwards due to the air pocket it creates. That’s when I realized the beauty of the skydive………”You fall first, and later enjoy the view J
Everything around was serene and pure beauty. We guided our parachute to the nearby clouds, then moved swiftly over the nearby sea. I was still attached to my instructor with those four hooks J. We then made way to the landing area, and bump, we were on the ground. I looked up and thanked for this experience.

Summer 2010, New Jersey, USA
Again I got a chance to jump in New Jersey on 4th of July. This time from a height of 5.4 km’s (17717 feet) and free fall extended to 70 sec’s J.
It’s not that my height phobia has gone away and that I am not scared during skydiving. I still am. And every time fear is only the moment I stand at the open plane door. Once I jump, it all goes away and it is freedom. The experience is worthwhile. :)
Check out the video:
Skydive in Oulu
Attaching few pics.