Saturday, December 29, 2007

Two's company, three's a fine, and six's an accident waiting to happen



















Click on the photo to see a larger image.

I shot this sign at a traffic signal under a flyover. According to it, "Triple Riding" has a fine of Rs 250. It is very common to see three youngsters riding on a motorcycle, or a family of two adults and two kids, usually without a helmet. I don't quite know what "Lane Crossing" is in the sign above. I assume it means you are crossing the line at the signal, not really "lane". There is absolutely no lane discipline anywhere.

The building in the background is the Secretariat, where the state government offices are located. The other day there was quite a scare in this building as one young man was seen throwing his cell phone and three small paper bags. People who saw the man dump his cell phone ran fearing there must be a bomb somewhere as cell phone activated bombs are used in most bombings in the country. Police ran after the man and apprehended him outside and everything became clear. It turned out that three people had lost their jobs somewhere in the state and they had come to the Secretariat with some cash in paper bags in the hope of getting their jobs back. Two of them had left their paper bags with this one young man and went off for a cup of tea. The remaining young man was watching a blue film on his phone and when he saw some cops he got scared that they would catch him with it. So he dumped the cell phone and the bags along with it.


In the photo below, which a reader of the popular local newspaper Deccan Chronicle shot, not three but SIX people are riding on one motorcycle, none of them with a helmet. I wonder if there is a fine for this, or they just confiscate the license or bike....... Anyway, the fines are usually "settled" on the spot by paying a smaller amount and you don't get a receipt.
























"Do you know anything on earth which has not a dangerous side if mishandled and exaggerated?" -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Land of Mist



Thursday, December 27, 2007

Auto Rickshaw













This Times of India photo shows auto rickshaws waiting in line to get digital fare meters installed. December 31, 2007 is the last date after which they will be fined if they don't have digital meters. According to a court order this should have been done by Dec 2006! However, as things stand in India, the auto rickshaw drivers unions protested and dragged out things till now. The auto rickshaw is used by many in most Indian cities because public transport such as buses are not convenient or are too crowded. The new digital meters are supposed to be tamper proof, but some auto rickshaw drivers themselves say that they are not. Auto rickshaw drivers all over India are known for using tampered meters, charging exhorbitatnt rates. Now that they are legally forced to install digital meters, which will show not only the fare but also the distance traveled, the auto rickshaw drivers want their minimum fare and the fare per kilometre increased quite a bit!! These auto rickshaws, called 'auto' for short, are chartered to ferry school kids back and forth to school. According to law maximum 6 kids can be seated (crammed) into these autos, but it is common to see 9 or more hanging out, which has been responsible for many an accident. Policemen are stationed near the schools to fine auto drivers if they carry more than 6 kids, but the auto drivers "outsmart" the police by dropping off the excess kids a little distance away from the school. This tendency of skirting the law can be seen in pretty much all aspects of life here, but most of all in traffic rules. The autos have different color schemes in different cities. You can read a lot more details about the autos here.

A variation of the auto rickshaw is the tuk-tuk, which plies in Thailand. Some foreigners who come to India like the auto rickshaw so much that they buy one to take home! If you are the adventurous type, you may want to participate in the Indian Autorickshaw Challenge.

For language enthusiasts, as mentioned in my World Tourism Day blog entry, the word
rickshaw is short from Japanese jinrikisha. jin = man, riki = power, sha = carriage.

"We cannot solve out problems with the same level of thinking that created them." -Albert Einstein

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas



















Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings to all my online friends!

You have all enriched my life by enhancing my knowledge of the world, and by your kind and encouraging words. I am grateful for this!

Taking a break from the usual series of photos, here is a photo of a huge cake in a local bakery. The photo is from Times of India. Isn't it mouth-watering? :)


Friday, December 21, 2007

Hazardous job



















A young man painting poles. These poles are 30 foot or more in height. This guy was sitting on a makeshift swing. Another guy is holding the other end of the rope and lowered it bit by bit. This guy climbed up the pole with his bare hands and feet. The rope was swung over the horizontal bar that houses the lighting unit at the top of the pole. He was not wearing any gloves, helmet or eye protection. His hands and arms were covered in the silver paint he was using to paint the pole. He was using some rags instead of a brush. He dipped the rags in the can of paint and within a few seconds he was painting almost a couple of feet! It is common to see young guys painting the rapidly growing new buildings without any safety harness.
Some of the reputed builders provide their employees safety harnesses. Due to the rapid growth, all the skilled people (electricians, carpenters, plumbers) and even most unskilled people are able to find jobs easily. Some of the skilled people are able to upgrade their skills because the bigger companies that employ them use modern equipments and tools which they would not be able to learn otherwise. I am not sure if there are safety laws, but from what I have seen around, it seems that there aren't any, and even if there were, it would be extremely difficult to implement them.

"New legislation has just been adopted by the International Labor Organization on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, such as bonded labor, prostitution and hazardous work." -Carol Bellamy

"Some companies now have their own codes of conduct against the use of child labor. The problem is monitoring their implementation." -Carol Bellamy

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Moving House




















Looks like someone is moving to another house. The auto rickshaw has "Horn Please" written on the tailgate. Most, if not all, goods transport vehicles, such as trucks, have this written on the back. On the left side you see a scooter and an auto rickshaw moving on the wrong side of the road. Increasingly, the roads have dividers now, so people have to travel to the next intersection and make a U-turn. But some people just drive on the wrong side of the road and go in the other direction endangering pedestrians (there are hardly any sidewalks), other vehicles and themselves. People do this even if there is no divider, if the distance they are traveling in the opposite direction is "short" (in their view). What we need is spikes!

"
I broke my arm folding bed. It wasn't the kind that folds." -Steven Wright

"Some guy hit my fender, and I told him, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' but not in those words." -Woody Allen

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'Near Misses' is not a term to unnecessarily worry about
























Click to view a larger image.

This message issued by the DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation - the equivalent of FAA in the US) appeared in the newspapers during "Air Safety Week". Air traffic has grown considerably in Hyderabad from just a few flights a day to over 125 per day. The current airport, called Begumpet Airport, is also shared by an Air Force station. In March 2008, Hyderabad is scheduled to get a world class airport (although the road connecting to it is not going to be completed by then!!) It is a well known fact that the current infrastructure is inadequate to support such a rapid growth. As airlines continue to buy more planes, they are trying various ways to find people to fly them. One of the ways this shortage is addressed is by hiring pilots from abroad. Some of the foreign pilots from Eastern Europe, Brazil and Indonesia are rejected because they are not proficient in English. On the other hand, pilots above 60 who cannot fly in their own countries find jobs in India because the DGCA has raised the age limit to 65 because of the shortage of pilots. (Just this week the US Senate also passed the legislation to increase the mandatory retirement age to 65.) Another way this is being addressed is by reducing the required hours from 250 to 200 to qualify for the Commercial Pilot License!! You would think you need more experience to deal with increasing traffic, not less! It is common to see reports of near misses in the newspapers. You also see TV images of planes that have skidded off the runway. Every winter (which is now) you see TV reports of hundreds of domestic flights grounded at the New Delhi airport which is fogged in because most of the domestic airlines don't have pilots trained in using the Category III Instrument Landing System which is used in fog. Once in a while you read reports of one plane clipping the wings of another while taxiing. The DGCA itself has less staff as compared to 4 years ago when there were fewer airlines and fewer flights. There is dissatisfaction among Indian pilots because foreign pilots are being paid much more (you don't want a dissatisfied pilot flying your plane, do you?) Many Indian students are rushing abroad to get a license (and a disproportionate number of them are dying in accidents). After they get a commercial license, they are required to get certified here. Recently, an "examiner" who certifies them was in the news who charged a hefty amount to these students and certified them without even asking them to get into the cockpit or to take an exam! If you knew all these things are going on, would you feel reassured by reading such "informational messages"?

This site has a lot of news items about Indian aviation. To read about the safety issues, enter "safety" in the search box there.


"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather... not screaming and yelling like all the passengers in his car." -Unknown

"Flying isn't dangerous. Crashing is what is dangerous." -Unknown

Tower: "Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o'clock, 6 miles!"
Delta 351: "Give us another hint! We have digital watches!"

Control Tower to a 747: "United 329, your traffic is a Fokker, 1 o'clock, 3 miles, Eastbound"
United 329: "Approach, I've always wanted to say this... I've got the little Fokker in sight."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Milkman




















A milkman with a can of milk on a scooter. Most people buy milk in sachets from the dairies now-a-days. Milk is not sold in bottles anymore. Either someone drops the sachets door to door in the morning, or people buy it at the grocery stores. But some prefer to buy fresh from milkmen such as the one in the photo. I have even seen a guy who brings his buffaloes to his customers. One of these days I hope to get a photo of that guy. Most milk is buffalo milk, although in some places cow milk is also available for a premium. Traditional Indian Medicine (Ayurveda) prefers cow milk for its medicinal properties. The scooter is an old one based on the Italian Vespa scooter which has the engine on the right side.

"Truth, like milk, arrives in the dark
But even so, wise dogs don't bark.
Only mongrels make it hard
For the milkman to come up the yard."
- Christopher Morley, Dogs Don't Bark at the Milkman

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Free Parking
























A Deccan Chronicle photo

If you build, they will come - and fill it up in no time! The new flyover built for solving the traffic problem is filled up as soon as it was opened for traffic! The city is trying to catch up with increased traffic by widening the streets and by building such flyovers, but with the number of new two-wheelers and new cars coming onto the streets every day you sit in traffic jams for 1-2 hours. And even if you don't sit without moving, it is common to spend 30-45 minutes to travel 6-8 km. This picture is from the popular local newspaper Deccan Chronicle.

In spite of emission tests, vehicles (especially buses) emit a lot of smoke. It is just horrible to travel on two-wheelers and in auto rickshaws as the smoke from the exhaust hits you right in the face, especially when the traffic is moving very slowly. Things are really bad for the traffic policemen who man the street crossings. They are exposed to vehicle exhaust and blaring horns. Recently, I read a news item that said the traffic cops will be provided oxygen but they have to go into police stations to get their dose. There was talk of banning air horns but it hasn't happened yet. Even if they ban, it would be one of those laws that cannot be implemented, and there are quite a few of those. In cities like Pune, women who ride two-wheelers cover their head and face with a large scarf and they wear long gloves that cover their arms to protect themselves from the exhaust and dust, but for some reason the girls here don't do so.


"Modern technology
Owes ecology
An apology" -Alan Eddison

Sunday, December 2, 2007

You honkin' at me? You honkin' at me?














A Times of India photo

Traffic slows down with buffaloes on the street. The buffalo behind the car has a rope tied to its neck, the other end of which is tied to its foot. This is to prevent him from running away. It can only move very slowly in this position. Sometimes there is a wooden log or a wooden pole attached by a rope to the neck to slow the animal down. This photo appeared in the Times of India.

"The buffalo isn't as dangerous as everyone makes him out to be. Statistics proves that in the United States more Americans are killed in automobile accidents than are killed by Buffalo." -Art Buchwald

"
Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
..." -From the Official Song of the State of Kansas

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dancing Dervishes
















A Times of India Photo

Whirling Dervishes perform the sema ceremony (mystical dancing) at the Taramati Biradari on a hillock near Golconda Fort last week. This photo is from the Times of India. The "biradari" is a pavillion built with Hindu and Persian architecture as a tribute to the renowned dancer Taramati in the court of Qutub Shahi kings.

"Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn." -Sweetpea Tyler

"Dancers are the athletes of God." -Albert Einstein

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Road Widening



















A building in the process of being demolished can be seen on the other side of the road, just beyond the silver SUV. All the buildings along this road have had the front parts demolished in order to make way for road widening. The guy in the blue shirt is about to cross the road. There is a road divider but he will cross it, putting himself in danger and also at the risk of causing an accident to the vehicles as they try to avoid him. There are no convenient pedestrian crossings (either zebra crossing or foot overbridges) . The road surface itself is of good quality, but a ditch can be seen where the road has not been carpeted because there is a manhole cover there.

Sorry, I have not been able to post pics nor been able to visit other DP blogs in the past week due to circumstances here. I will try to post when I can and visit when I can. Sorry about that.

“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.” -Stephen Hawking

P.S. I read that people dodge speeding vehicles in Teheran while crossing the road and that the vehicles there usually drive at much higher speeds than here. However, the author wrote that if an old person is trying to cross the road, even on a red light for the pedestrians, the vehicles respectfully stop for him to cross the road. Drivers here would do well to learn something from that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Clock Tower



















This is the Secunderabad Clock Tower. Hyderabad and Secunderabad are twin cities. This tower was inaugurated in 1897.

My cousin's gay, he went to London only to find out that Big Ben was a clock.
-Rodney Dangerfield

Enemy fighters at two o'clock!
Roger. What should I do until then?
- Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tank on the Tank Bund



















An old tank captured in the 1965 Indo-Pak War is on display on the Tank Bund. The Tank Bund is a bund on the Husain Sagar lake connecting the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. I don't remember which tank it is, but perhaps it is an M48 Patton Tank. I took the photo while going past the tank.

"
A day will come when a cannon will be exhibited in museums, just as instruments of torture are now, and the people will be astonished that such a thing could have been." -Victor Hugo

"In Pakistan anti-American protesters set a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on fire. The protesters mistakenly thought they were attacking high-ranking US military official Colonel Sanders." -Unknown



Friday, November 16, 2007

To pee, or not to pee, that is the question



















Can you guess why these religious symbols are on the wall here? The first symbol from the left is an "Om", the second, of course, is a Christian Cross, the third is an Islamic Crescent Moon, and the fourth is a swastika. If you are not able to guess the reason, look for the answer in the pic below. (You will have to click on the pic below.)



















It is common for men to relieve themselves against walls, so by placing these religious symbols on the walls, they want to discourage people from doing so. New public toilets have been constructed where you pay a nominal fee to use them. Now there are fines for relieving in public.

"What is the difference between the American and Indian democracies?

In America you can kiss in public but not pee;
in India you can pee in public but not kiss."



The above comparison was seen in the Times of India when there was a controversy over Richard Gere planting a kiss on an Indian actress (Shilpa Shetty - people in the UK may recognize this name) in Mumbai during an AIDS awareness program earlier this year. It was all blown out of proportion, and a judge from Rajasthan (a Western state in India) even issued an arrest warrant for Gere!! The judge was later transferred for this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November 14 - Children's Day



















A Deccan Chronicle Photo

A child ragpicker lifting a huge sack. November 14, the birdthday of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is celebrated as Children's Day in India. UNESCO's Universal Children's Day is on November 20. This day is filled with fun and frolic for most children, but some kids like the one above have to work every day for a living! Although the government has policies and laws against child labor, it is quite common to see kids employed in small shops. At traffic signals kids are seen begging or selling confectionery or nicknacks. Some time ago a racket came to light in which some elements of the society in collusion with unscrupulous doctors amputated kids and made them beg on streets!!

I usually see ragpickers a bit older than the above boy, but I felt very awkward taking a photo. There are some NGOs helping organize and settle the ragpickers, a majority of whom are women. Although they seem like a nuisance (they empty the dumpsters and sort through the contents and leave the garbage outside the dumpsters), according to an article I read they are actually providing a service to the city in that they help recycle things (by salvaging plastic, metal, etc and selling it), and also they are useful in some big cities where the services provided by the City are inadequate for garbage removal.


"Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives." -Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." -Angela Schwindt

"Sex education may be a good idea in schools, but I don't believe the kids should be given homework." -
Bill Cosby

"Childhood: the period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth - two removes from the sin of manhod and three from the remorse of age." -Ambrose Bierce

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dial-A-Tanker

















The Hyderabad Metro Water Board has set up a number to dial a tanker. It costs Rs 250 (approx USD 6) for a 5000 ltr tanker. During summer it costs more because of black market. The above tanker is probably not through this service though, because it does not display the "Dial-a-tanker" logo and number. The above tanker is providing water for the apartment complex behind it. The water supply is sometimes not enough to fill the underground sumps of the apartment complex. So people order extra water through tankers. During summer it becomes a necessity to order water through tankers. Even though you dial the number and they take your information, sometimes the tanker does not show up for more than 12-24 hours because some people just go to the place where the tankers are getting filled up and pay the driver some money and "hijack" the tanker. Even though the Water Board claims that the water is clean, it is doubtful that they actually inspect the condition of the tank or enforce any cleaning of tanks. Therefore, it is always safe to filter and boil water before using for drinking and cooking. When traveling it is always better to carry bottled water bought from a reputed or reliable shop, because even bottled water available in some shops and railway stations is said to be duplicate!! There are many such "duplicate" things including medicines as some consumer oriented TV channels keep warning their viewers. Talking about bottled water, there was news on TV which said India will be exporting mineral water from the Himalayas to the USA and other countries.

Water supply is for a few hours a day or every other day in some areas. The Chief Minister has promised a 24-hour water supply. Things were not always like this. Many years ago the city used to get water 24x7, but over the years things have deteriorated to this level.

As India and China are the most populous and most rapidly developing countries in the world, by 2015 they will be severely water stressed. The CIA predicts that water shortage will contribute to ongoing conflict in this region. This is an entirely believable scenario looking at how neighboring states fight for water within India, but more so because of unstable countries such as Pakistan, which also possesses nuclear weapons and is distributing the technology to its cronies or to those who pay for it!

"Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over." -Mark Twain

Monday, November 12, 2007

Water Pump



















There are water pumps like this for public use. In some places you see public taps.
The street is littered with garbage from firecrackers from the night before.

There are multi-storey (typically 4-5 floors) buildings pretty much all over the city. One of the first thing that the developer does is dig a borewell to access groundwater. After the building is finished, the residents continue to use the borewell, usually with the help of a water pump. Groundwater has been going down due to inordinate amount of construction activity. Recently rainwater harvesting has been made mandatory for all new buildings, and this replenishes the borewells to some extent.

Coca Cola is responsible for depletion of water in the southern state of Kerala causing the residents hardships, and where its plant had to be shutdown, but it is criticized for its water usage in other states and countries as well.

"When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water." -Benjamin Franklin


"In their efforts to provide a sufficiency of water where there was not one, men have resorted to every expedient from prayer to dynamite. The story of their efforts is, on the whole, one of pathos and tragedy, of a few successes and many failures"
-Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains

"Till taught by pain, men really know not what god water is worth." - Byron, Don Juan

Friday, November 9, 2007

Diwali - 2
















"Lakshmi bomb"

Today was Lakshmi Pujan (propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi). Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and today was the most important day of Diwali. People clean their houses thoroughly as it is believed that Lakshmi enters the house on this day. In the evening people do the puja (worship/propitiation). Even though it is a holiday today, the stock market is open in the evening for one hour during Mahurat Trading as trading is considered auspicious today.

There is irrational exuberance in the stock market as it (Sensex) touched a new high of 20,000 this year. On July 6, it was at 15,000 and on October 29, it reached 20,000! So many foreign institutions want a piece of the pie in the rapidly growing maket that the Government has had to try to slow down the inflow of foreign funds by placing curbs on Participatory Notes. The realty market has gone through the roof as well and people have made a lot of money. All this is reflected in the mad shopping spree.

People light firecrackers of all sorts during Diwali. There are some firecrackers named after Hindu deities, such as "Lakshmi bomb" or "Vishnu bomb". It is strange to see that people would buy these because when the firecracker blows up, the image of the god/goddess is blown to pieces with it. Only very recently some organizations have woken up to this and tried to unsuccessfully stop such images appearing on the crackers. Another strange thing seen today is that gambling, which is considered a vice, is considered "OK" by a few today and people indulge in it, especially the nouveau riche. Their justification - it is auspicious to win any amount today.

Religion has been used by mankind to discriminate, to abuse children and even to wage wars. Here we have air and noise pollution in the name of religion. There are no strict laws regarding where people can light firecrackers and fireworks. A few years ago it was legally banned to manufacture and sell crackers that produce more than 80 db sound, but papers report sale of crackers producing 120 db. The manufacturers/sellers simply print the month of manufacture so that they can pretend that they were manufactured before the law went into effect. Such loud noises cause various problems - blood pressure shoots up, irritability increases, it is not good for people with heart problems, breathing problems worsen, not to mention loss of sleep. Some people have started to buy their kids noiseless fireworks, but these still cause air pollution. Can you imagine the noise and smoke produced when millions of people light firecrackers/fireworks? Some people used to leave town to avoid these problems, but according to the newpapers this is not a solution anymore because traces of metal and other harmful chemicals can still be found in the air days later. Once in a while someone is caught employing children to make firecrackers illegally, which is yet another problem. Some enlightened people and NGOs are starting with the kids and educating them about these problems so that they can ask their parent to simply light lamps and not buy fireworks. All homes look magical when lit with a lot of lamps.

"Cleverness has limits, stupidity has none." - Unknown


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Diwali

















A Times of India photo

Sorry I have not been able to post daily. The above photo appeared in Times of India. Diwali or Deepawali is the Festival of Lights. People hang these decorative lanterns outside their houses at the doors and in the balconies. They come in many shapes and sizes. At night they are lit up with an oil lamp or an electric bulb. Now-a-days, we get decorative lanterns from China as well.

Of the two big lanterns, the one on the right has a swastika in the middle, flanked by the Sanskrit letter "Om". The swastika is an ancient and universally positive symbol, although due to its subversion by, and association with the Nazis, it has become an objectionable symbol in the West. The swastika is usually drawn in red and can be seen on many buildings in India.

For those who like to see similarities between cultures, it is interesting to note the similarity to Christianity. In Hindu philosophy, "Om" is considered the primordial sound at the beginning of the universe. ("In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." -John 1:1). Some say that another similarity is that the Swastika is like a cross.

"Let us remember .... that India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all." -Will Durant. The Case for India

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A hole in the ground



















The cast iron manhole cover has been stolen as iron fetches good price in the market. Someone has removed a stone slab from the sidewalk and placed it on the hole, or rather in the hole. (The other debris is from digging up of the street for laying electric cables.) This serves as a "warning" that there is a hole in the street surface. There are many such holes, even on streets with a lot of traffic. One of the newspapers carries photos of such holes in an attempt to shame the authorities into action and it lists the number of days since the pic has appeared in the newspaper. It seems to be working and holes are being covered. The streets here have both square and round manhole covers. Most of the square ones are made of cement concrete.

The photo inadvertently came out in sepia as I tried to figure out the "manual" mode instead of the usual "auto" on my camera.


"This is the only place in the world where the pavements consist exclusively of holes with asphalt around them. And they are the most economical in the world, because holes never get out of repair." -Mark Twain

Friday, November 2, 2007

State Legislative Assembly















A Deccan Chronicle photo

This photo appeared in the Deccan Chronicle, an old and popular newspaper in Hyderabad. This is the Andhra Pradesh State Legislative Assembly. Hyderabad is the seat of the state government and capital of AP, the fourth largest state in India. The building was lit up on the occasion of AP State Formation Day which was on Nov 1. The mainly Telugu-speaking state was formed on Nov 1, 1956. In spite of its religious pluralism and cultural pluralism, India was divided into states based on languages (!!) after independence from the British. To get an idea about India's amazing cultural diversity, please read this article.

Do you recognize whose statue that is?

"
A man's wife has more power over him than the state has." - Ralph Waldo Emerson (attributed)

"If we moms can push 9-pound babies through our bodies, some of them with heads as big as bowling balls, surely we can push legislation through the halls of Congress." -Donna Dees-Thomases



Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Internet Mania



















An ad for an Internet Service Provider. There are several ISPs and most of them route their cables using the telephone and electric poles, adding to the unseemly jumble of cables that seems to be ubiquitous in the city now. There is intense competition and once in a while the linesmen of one ISP cut off the cables of their rival and it takes hours to fix the problem! The other time we lose Internet connectivity is when they take huge Ganesh idols for immersion.


"Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks."
-Unknown

"
Warning: the Internet may contain traces of nuts." -Unknown

"
A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click. " -Unknown

" You can't take something off the Internet - it's like taking pee out of a pool." -Unknown

(The last quote is referring to the fact that websites are archived. If you are not able to find an old website, you can look for it at the WayBackMachine.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Digging Up Everywhere



This boy, who seems younger than 18, is digging with a pneumatic jack hammer. They have dug up the street to lay electric cables underground. The young guy is wearing flip-flops and no protective gear such as work boots, gloves, protective glasses, or a hard hat. The jack hammer is powered by a compressor on a tractor. The hole to the right of the tractor has been dug up for the new pole which is supposed to be used for the underground cables. Of the two poles seen, one is a telephone pole and the other one is for a high intensity street lamp which has been turned off to save on power, and they are back to the old incandescent lamp (which is on another pole!!). Obviously aesthetics is not high on the list. After the cables are in, they don't resurface the street; they just push in the dirt that was dug up and it is not quite level with the street. Shoddy work is the norm, and there is no accountability.

"No man is born into the world whose work
Is not born with him. There is always work,
And tools to work withal, for those who will;
And blessed are the horny hands of toil. " -James Lowell, A Glance behind the Curtain.

“You'll never succeed in idealizing hard work. Before you can dig mother earth you've got to take off your ideal jacket. The harder a man works, at brute labor, the thinner becomes his idealism, the darker his mind.” -
D.H. Lawrence



Monday, October 29, 2007

Telephone Booth



















Telephone booth of a different kind. This makeshift booth was set up in front of a telephone shop. You can see makeshift booths on streets displaying/selling all kinds of stuff - mobile phones, water purifiers, and so on.

The cell phone subscribers are growing at the rate of 5 million per month!! India already has 250 million cell phone users. The huge number of subscribers has caused a frequency crunch and according to the newspapers service providers are jockeying to get larger spectrums.

"Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance." -Ambrose Bierce, Devil's Dictionary

"Mobile phones are the only subject on which men boast about who's got the smallest." -Neil Kinnock

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Knock, and it shall be opened to you - NOT !



















A huge faux door on a building of jewellers. "Gehna" means jewellery. Jewellery and precious stones business is booming. Within the last 12 months, an Indian company, Gitanjali Gems has bought one US-based company, Samuels Jewellers, and bought a majority stake in another US company, Tri-Star worldwide, continuing the global buying spree of Indian companies.

"There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel." - Bible (Proverbs 20:15)

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Drive By Shopping

A Deccan Chronicle Photo

Vegetable vendors right in the middle of traffic. If that is not crazy enough, take a look at the video (below) of traffic in the city. The photo is from a local newspaper and the video is from youtube.


We don't need no stinkin' drugs to get a high. Life here is a reality show and driving in traffic is one big rush. ;)




"I hooked up my accelerator pedal in my car to my brake lights. I hit the gas, people behind me stop, and I'm gone." -Steven Wright

"If everything comes your way, you are in the wrong lane." -Bumper sticker

Friday, October 26, 2007

Top Heavy?



















An autorickshaw carrying of a load (of mattresses?). Bicycles, autorickshaws, scooters, buses all sharing the same road. "Mininum clearance" is not in feet, but in inches or centimeters, if at all. Almost all cars are dented or scratched. Horns blare incessantly, not only to overtake but also to let others know of their existence.

"Natives who beat drums to drive off evil spirits are objects of scorn to smart Americans who blow horns to break up traffic jams." -Mary Ellen Kelly
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Flyover



















One of the new flyovers being built. Many flyovers have been built as a measure to reduce traffic congestion. The other measure is to widen the streets. It only worked initially but now the number of new vehicles coming on the road is so high that traffic jams are a daily problem. These flyovers don't connect to any expressways/highways. You just get onto it and fly over intersections below. That is all. But now you see traffic jams on the flyovers as well!! All kinds of vehicles on the roads (bicycles, rickshaws among cars, and 2-wheelers) and no lane discipline, as well as poor or no proper design of lanes, turnouts, islands, etc. all contribute to traffic coming to a complete standstill. In such circumstances (when traffic stops) sometimes the policeman can be seen standing on the sidelines rather than directing traffic. It is probably too overwhelming. In a study done, most of the traffic policemen were found to have suffered a permanent hearing loss due to the din of the traffic and blaring of horns.

A couple of months ago a section of a flyover collapsed after heavy rains. It was being touted as "terror proof" but came down even before its inauguration!!

"The shortest distance between two points is under construction." ~Noelie Altito

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Helmet Law



















These guys have been stopped by the police for riding their motorbikes without a helmet. "Negotiations" are going on, and people are let off after money changes hands, and by that I don't mean that the guy pays the fine and gets a receipt. Many people ride without helmets even if they have them because it is very hot, or because they want to talk on cell phone!! The law does not require the pillion rider to wear a helmet!! Policemen wait on streets in groups to catch helmetless riders. When they see one, they waive him down. Sometimes the riders speed up instead of slowing down and are able to get away. But at other times, the policeman tries to hit the rider with his stick if he tries to speed up!! In one such incident a youngster lost his life after falling from his bike. There were several minor accidents due to this crude approach. Now the police are beginning to issue an e-ticket (called an "e-challan" here) which arrives by mail after the policeman notes down the number or gets a video. They do this for several things including driving/riding while talking on cell phone, for riding without a helmet, and more recently for driving with number plates which have fancy (difficult to read) lettering. The other day I saw a policman with a small video camera filming the number plates of vehicles at a stop light. But some people have fake licences or fake addresses, so they don't get these tickets. If they have given a fake address, they get caught when they go to renew their licences and have upaid fines. The DMV (Dept of Motor Vehicles, which is called RTA here - Road Transport Authority) is quite modern now and waiting time is said to be less than at the DMV in the US! But I keep hearing that it is still possible to get a license without taking a test (either written or driving), as long as you show up to get your picture taken, if you find a right broker.

When the helmet law was put into effect, there was a mad rush to buy helmets. But they did not have enough helmets and so they were being sold in the black market at a premium. Even in helmets there are fake ones!! There was an uproar when people got fined when enough helmets were not made available at the dealers. So they extended the deadline - several times! Only helmets that bear the ISI (Indian Standards Institute) mark are said to be genuine, although I don't know how anyone would know if the fake ones also carry that same mark....

The motto of the traffic police painted on the red pedestal reads: "For You With You All Ways" (sic)

"It is a great mystery why the kamikaze pilots wore helmets." -Unknown

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

No Free Parking

If you are not able to view this pic, please click here.

The guy in the green shirt is a parking attendant and is carrying a small machine which prints out receipts. He is having an altercation with the guy on the left who does not want to pay because he "just went to deposit a check in the bank" (meaning did not park long enough).

If you click on the photo you can see a guy in a black t-shirt with blue lettering holding hands with a guy in black shirt. In India if you see guys holding hands, or a guy with his hand around the other guy's shoulder while walking or chatting, it does NOT necessarily mean they are gay!! Beyond them there is a kid in orange shirt riding on the gas tank of a motorbike. The guy riding the bike is carrying TWO more kids behind him, but in the photo you can see only part of the leg of the kid sitting right behind him; there is one more kid behind that kid! Needless to say it is illegal for more than two people to ride a bike but it is a common sight to see three youngsters on one bike. It is also a common sight to see people walking in the street as there are hardly any sidewalks left, but even when there are sidewalks, you can still see people walking on the street causing traffic to go around them or causing traffic to slow down. Every day a few pedestrians are injured or killed. Walking is a risky activity.

The municipal corporation has invited tenders from developers to build parking lots, but NONE have come forth so far because the land prices are exorbitant. The municipal corporation should ideally build and operate parking lots but they are more interested in selling land at exhorbitant prices.

"A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works." -Bill Vaughan

"There are two kinds of pedestrians - the quick and the dead." -Thomas Robert Dewar


"Ah... so many pedestrians, so little time...." -Robin Williams

Monday, October 22, 2007

Acronym Bazaar

Do you want to learn SAS, SAP or ABAP? Or perhaps you want to get certified as a CCNA, CCNP, CCIE, or MSCE? (yes, strictly speaking the latter ones are abbreviations, not acronyms) Then you have come to the right place. On both sides of this street are numerous buildings with all kinds of computer related classes.

I hope you will excuse me for posting more than one photo today.


This building is on the main road, not on the street pictured above.

There are no strict zoning laws here which separate businesses from residential areas. So in a building like this, typically the ground floor and the first floor are set aside for offices and businesses, and the floor above for residential flats/apartments. But in this case, even the floors above have been occupied by businesses as can be seen from the sign boards. In some of the flats/apartments where there are no signboards, you can see laundry hung out to dry.


The right side of the building above. (I don't know how to "stitch" these photos together).

There are computer classes all over the city, but here there is a concentration of them. And then there are national chains (not in any of these pictures). Education is big business in India - from English and computer classes to Engineering schools, all are minting money.

Students who enroll sometimes have no clue about which classes to take. They go by someone else's recommendation about what will help them make more money, and it doesn't always work out that way because the quality of the classes and the student's own lack of proper educational background can mean that the student has wasted the money on these classes. Some of these classes offer "live experience", which means they put the students to work on projects which have been outsourced from clients.

Most companies here look for at least 1-2 years work experience when they hire people. And when people don't have that work experience, some fake it on their resume. Companies have gotten wiser and in order to weed out the fake ones in the interview they ask not only academic questions but also questions about the exact location (e.g. which floor) of the company where the candidate claims to have worked, and not only the salary they got there, but also how much tax they had to pay on that salary!!! Recently one of the big IT (Information Technology) companies here let go over 500 people because the company found that they had doctored their resume.

" "Technology" is what we call whatever didn't exist when we were born."
-- Alan Kay, computer scientist at Xerox and Apple

"Incomprehensible jargon is the hallmark of a profession."
-- Kingman Brewster, diplomat and president of Yale University

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Westward Ho!




















Many companies have sprung up offering assistance to people who wish to go abroad. After 9/11, the number of students going to the US had temporarily dipped, but has picked up again. Universities from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France and Germany are sending their representatives to India to showcase their universities, and they are offering financial assistance. Earlier students used to mainly go to the US and also UK, but now a large number of students go to other countries as well. Interestingly hundreds of students are now going to China for medical education (in English). On the other hand, management graduates of IIMs (Indian Instiute of Management) make headlines every year for being hired by foreign companies for higher and higher compensation, the latest being for around $250,000! Another indication of global opportunities is that Americans and Europeans now come to India to get experience in IT and MNCs (multinational companies).

Did you notice that the glass facade has windows in it that can be propped open? Many new buildings are coming up with reflective glass facades. The overhead cables from telephone, power, cable and Internet companies are an eyesore throughout the city.

"Go West, young man, and grow up with the country." -John B.L. Soule

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tamarind Man



















What looks like a heap of dirt on that cart is actually tamarind. Tamarind is used in Indian cooking. Many people buy tamarind paste and packed tamarind from the grocery stores. The word "tamarind" comes from Arabic tamr hindi, lit. "date of India." In spite of the name, according to some sources, tamarind is native to tropical Africa and was introduced into India long time ago.

"They sharpened my teeth till I could have shaved with them, and gave them a "wire edge" that I was afraid would stay; but a citizen said "no, it will come off when the enamel does"--which was comforting, at any rate. I found, afterward, that only strangers eat tamarinds--but they only eat them once." -Mark Twain, Roughing It

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Security Check



















Looks like something strange is going on, but if you click on the photo you can see that the bank guard is checking the bag with a metal detector. This is the first time I have seen this happen at a bank. While I was clicking one of them came by and asked me what I was doing. I think it is not very smart to be taking photos like this because there is a lot of paranoia given the recent bombings. I am tempted to get a cell phone with camera so that it is not too obvious when I take photos in such situations. People are taken in for questioning if they are found in "suspicious" circumstances. Even though India recently complained about the treatment given to an Indian doctor in Australia while he was being questioned in connection with the Glasgow airport incident, according to local newspapers, there are thousands languishing in Indian jails without any specific charges. That is scary.

"Because that's where the money is." -Willie Sutton, American bank robber when asked why he robbed banks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

No Parking



















There are two signs. The big one says "No Parking-Towing Zone" and the small one says "Parking at owners risk" (sic). There are TWO rows of two-wheelers parked here! If you are parked in the first row, good luck getting your bike out when you leave! The big sign is by the traffic authorities and the small one is by the bank. There is a huge rush at the banks and there is no proper parking space provided. Once in a while the enforcers make a round. While I was there a policeman came by and talked to the "security guard" at the bank who went in and made an announcement that the bikes are going to be loaded onto the tow truck. Out came a large number of people and they scrambled to move their bikes temporarily to another place. Banks are so crowded that it took us more than 30 minutes just to deposit a check. There are drop boxes, but there was some problem recently with checks dropped in drop boxes and some people prefer not to use them. Banks are giving good interest rates - a fixed deposit for 500 days gets over 9% interest.

There was no forethought about the growth that India is experiencing and as usual policy plays catch-up as huge number of new two-wheelers and cars come on the street every day. It will get worse as a huge number of new small cars hit the street. TATA, an automobile company, is coming out with a car that costs Rs. 1 Lac (lac = hundred thousand; 1 lac= USD 2525 or Euro 1780). Incidentally, TATA is bidding for Jaguar and Land Rover as Indian companies continue to go global, while Mercedes and BMW have set up their manufacturing units in India.

"Politics ain't worrying this country one-tenth as much as where to find a parking space." -Will Rogers

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Eid Mubarak - Happy Eid



















A big banner greets commuters on the recent occasion of Eid (the Islamic festival which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan (spelled "Ramzan" here). If you click on the photo, you can see the Chief Minister of the state donning an Islamic cap. The CM himself is a Christian. Although India is predominantly Hindu, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh is a Sikh, the chairperson of the ruling coalition, Sonia Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi) is a Catholic, and the ex-president who just demitted office very recently, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam is a Muslim. The politicians world over seem to please their constituents by donning their garb and participating in their festivals and making sure that others see it. All through the month of Ramzan, there are "Iftar parties" in the evening. "Iftar" is when the devout Muslims break their fast in the evening. Newspaper photos show local, state and national level politicians holding their own "Iftar parties". Even Iftar has been politicized. The sorry state is reflected in a recent cartoon which showed a bureaucrat asking a politician -"Shall we also invite some Muslims to the Iftar party, Sir?"


"It's clearly more important to treat one's fellow man well than to be always praying and fasting and touching one's head to a prayer mat." -Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian author and the 1988 Nobel laureate for literature

Monday, October 15, 2007

Forbidden (custard) fruit



















A monkey eating a custard apple. A group of monkeys visits every few weeks around this time of the year. They pick fruits off the trees, and throw them at us or the dogs! They are pretty bold. Monkeys stealing fruits is one thing, but even people do it. Around here, some people don't consider it necessary to ask for permission. They just pick fruits and flowers off the trees, pulling the branches in order to get to them while standing on the other side of the compound wall, and in the process sometimes breaking the branches. The botched prune job on the bouganvillas can be seen on the left. The "gardner" used a sickle because he did not have a pair of garden shears.

According to one research article, Chimpanzees steal fruit to impress the lady Chimps!

"You are what you eat. Avoid FRUITS and NUTS." -Bumper sticker

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Let the games begin!





















Ad from Deccan Chronicle

The Military World Games began here today. Members of the US team are participating and security is extremely tight as there have been blasts in the city in the past few months and India remains on Al-Qaeda's target list. Because of the security ordinary citizens cannot view the games! I wish they would at least televise them. In the bottom left corner of the ad you see the famous landmark of Hyderabad, the Charminar (char = four, minar = tower), which was built over 400 years ago.

"It's not whether you are knocked down, it's whether you get up." -Vince Lombardi

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Lion



















A lion soaking in the sun at the Nehru Zoological Park.

"The lion and the calf will lay down together, but the calf won't get much sleep." -Woody Allen
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Friday, October 12, 2007

International Convention Center

















Hyderabad International Convention Center - HICC. This is a world-class state-of-the-art convention center. Now that Hyderabad is on the world map, it really needed something like this. Recently the 58th International Astronautical Congress was held in this center. Another indication that Hyderabad is on the world map is that the World Military Games are going to be held here in the next week, and in Jan 2008, the sixth SIGHAN workshop on Chinese Language Processing will be held in the city!!

"If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India." -Max Mueller

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Saraswati

















A statue of goddess Saraswati in the Crafts Village (Shilparamam). Saraswati is regarded as the goddess of knowledge, music and the arts. She is depicted in white clothes with a stringed instrument called "Veena".


"Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great goddess? "- Ludwig van Beethoven