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


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


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