October 30, 2010

An Open Letter... to Mr. Kalmadi, President, IOA

Dear Respected Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, 

I am writing this letter to let you know what I think of about this whole CWG issue going on, fully knowing that I may not have the all the wisdom to talk about it, but still having the right to do so, being a concerned Indian. 

First of all, let me congratulate you for staging such a successful (at least for me) Common Wealth Games. I know that this wasn't done because of your efforts only. There was hard work and patience of numerous other people also involved. But since you were the head of this whole project, my first wishes are for you. 

Delhi got the Common Wealth Games 2010 hosting right in 2003 only. But, I was too small/ignorant to know about the significance of that at that time. I only came to notice about it at around 2006, when Indians went to Melbourne CWG to showcase their performance and invite the world to come to Delhi, India 4 years later. I was happy not only because India was staging a grand event, but also because the Government was promising a lot of dreamy projects in conjunction with Games. More roads, more flyovers, newer better buses, expansion in Metro network. Then there was mono rail project, renewing the Ring rail and beautification of whole city in general. And this got me salivating, after all people like me were going to take advantage of this later.But alas, many of these promised things either weren't delivered at all or were under-delivered. Of course, this isn't your fault, I know. 

2 years back, when media suddenly woke up to the reality that people under you were sleeping and working at a snails pace, then only I got to know about the whole issue of things to be done in order to stage the event successfully. But like typical Indians, I was hopeful that we will be able to do everything right at the end. And credit goes to you and other heads involved with the Games, who regularly kept on coming in open reassuring us that everything is fine and everything will be fine. But, things started to look a bit bleak when Mr. Fennell, President of CWG started to express serious concerns over the state of preparedness, there was even talk of shifting the event. And then there was that ugly cold war between you and CWG officials. Thankfully, you got it resolved on time and I felt that everything will be alright. Now I realise that like you, I was also trying to solve the problem by ignoring it. 

Anyway, as the time passed on the media became more and more hyper. Now, I don't watch news channels but the one paper that I zealously read seemed to be hell bent to prove that the Games are over before they even started. The horror news of all things bad started coming in the open everyday. For a moment even I got doubtful about the organization of Games, with deadlines after deadlines getting missed, unusually long rainy season, threat of Dengue and other diseases, bridges collapsing, corruption allegation, officials fumbling with their statements, negative publicity in the international media, athletes refusing to come, countries expressing apprehension over the security issue in the backdrop of a 'small' terrorist incident, people showing lack of interest in the Games, apprehension by sponsors et al. And it was disappointing as well as confusing. Everyone seemed to be against you. But you kept a brave face and refused to stand down till the whole thing was over. I truly respect what you did at that time. 

And finally the show arrived. I haven't had the opportunity to watch too many opening ceremonies in my life, but the one we organized will remain in my memory forever. It was heart warming to see the glory of India been shown in such a fine fashion. The roar of the crowd in the stadium filled my heart (and million others) with pride. And as we usually have, everything was forgotten quickly and temporarily to focus on the good part (finally!). I went to see a few games along with my friends and we had a great time (though we didn't win much!). But, the performance of Indians throughout the Games was exciting to watch. The Closing ceremony too was equally majestic. Now, I wonder, how would all this be possible without we organizing the Games. 

I believe that media has been biased against you. Your have been blamed for a lot of mess that wasn't yours. A lot of things going bad was because of the multiplicity of working agencies who were not ready to work in tandem and maintained a tendency of delaying things till the end. Even your own countrymen went against you because of hearing all the negative things about you. I didn't like you getting booed during opening and closing ceremonies. Thankfully, you didn't show any negative emotion then. 

But, even you will agree with the fact that, we could have done a lot of things better. The budget went to an astronomically limit reaching over 15 times the original estimate. While some of it is understandable, with inflation and procuring better facilities, but mostly money could have been saved with some smart management. It was amusing the hear about spectators being shown 'houseful' signboards but the stadium still going empty. But, you and your team were so busy taking care of million other things. 

And now that the show is over, the real show begins. You are being showcased as the real culprit, and seem destined to be trialed like Kasab. I don't have any special affection for you but I feel you should be acknowledged for what you did and should get a fair trial. If you are proved guilty than each and everyone involved must get a stick. It is so easy to criticize from a distance, but one should not forget that organizing event of such large magnitude isn't a mean task. Being made a scapegoat, is the least you deserve. I don't think you will get another chance, but you tried your best to get 2014 Asian Games into Delhi and are partly responsible for projecting a good image of India and brightening its chances to bid for 2020 Olympics.

I wish you could have resigned just after the Games. Here is wishing you good luck. 

Yours Delhiate 

October 20, 2010

Me and Autowallah(s)

First a short story: 

Last summer, I had to drop off one of my family member to the Old Delhi Railway Station. And family didn't want me to go in bus (along with the luggage). So unwillingly in the sweltering heat I left home in search of an auto. Now its well into noon. So, spotting auto was anyway difficult. But I tried and kept on asking one autowallah to another to go to the station. Everyone kept refusing: one said they won't go there, one said no petrol, one was too tired, one didn't even stop, one said he had prior commitments, one was charging astronomically high (so sad, his meter also wasn't working that day). After 6 unfailed attempts, and running around for about 2 kms, I finally got an auto to go there, that too by meter. And the reason he agreed was because the fare charges had increased that very day. Anyway, I took the auto back home and we started the journey to the station. All around the route, I thought he was taking alternative routes in order to take us for a ride. But I overlooked it, and kept my eyes on the kms travelled and doing fare calculations all the way (the meter wasn't updated with new fares). In the end the fare turned out to be 20 Rs. less than what the autowallah was originally asking. But then, he started asking for 10 Rs. luggage charge for 2 bags that were so light, that even I could carry them! So we haggled for sometime and didn't give him any 'tip'. End of Story 

Well the above incident is not one off. In fact, this is more the norm than an exception for me (and for many others I am sure). And that's where I hate travelling by autos. 

OK, I understand that CNG prices are rising day by day and the autowallahs have to spend a tonne in the maintenance of their carrier. And so periodic revision in auto fares is justified. What I don't understand is that even when the fares rise, they don't get ready to go by meters but instead start asking for more money. I would always want to go by meter even if it costs me more in the end. Whats fare is fair. At least, that way I will be saved from the headache of quarreling for fare. 

Another problem is that they simply refuse to go at some places, may be because they won't get another 'savaari' from that area or may be its too close/far off. But, doesn't auto come under public transport? So why do they think of it as a private vehicle in which they are doing us a favor by giving 'paid lift'. 

Yet another problem is their misbehavior. Now, all these problems may appear to be copied from the local newspaper, but I am writing these after experiencing them first hand. Many a times, they simply ignore the passenger. If you ask to go by meter they will bluntly refuse. In case you go on and say you will complain, then better watch out for those expletives. 

And well autowallahs isn't the only guilty party. Their poor cousins rikhshawallahs are even worse. Yeah, I know these are not good old 90's days where you can travel 3-4 kms for just Rs. 5. So, the minimum a rikshawallah will ask is Rs. 10 even if its for 1 km. The prices they quote (no really, they quote!) show undigestable variance. This Sunday only, one rikshawallah asked for 40 Rs. to go to a place where I went by giving Rs. 20 just 2 days before! For autos at least the govt. fixes the fare. But what about rikshaws? 

Now, the simple solution to all these problems is to simply ignore auto and rikshaws and use other means of transport, right? Well, that's exactly what I do. The distance that the rikshaw usually covers is < 3Kms. And I prefer to jog/walk my way till the destination. The autos usually cover a larger distance. But more often than not, you can get buses/metro also close to your destination. Yeah, they can be crowded, but I prefer physical discomfort than mental one (I admit, I am not the best in the world when it comes to bargaining). One less vehicle on crowded road because of you is an added bonus. And not to forget the large sum of (pocket) money you are saving doing this! 

But, alas, sometimes you don't have a choice. Some elderly person may be travelling with you. Someone might be too tired/weak/sick to walk with you. Or you may have to reach your destination at the earliest (not knowing exactly where to go). In all these conditions you have to return to bad old auto and rikshawallahs. Now, I will be fare (fair!) and say that I have met a few rikshawallahs and autowallahs that were kind enough to go by meter or whatever price you tell without much group discussion. But those ones are an endangered breed. 

So, God either give me strength to fight this unfare treatment from autowallahs or give them some brains, so I have one less thing to maunder about. 

PS: One friend of mine once said, "if you can't resist molestation, enjoy it." (it wasn't exactly 'molestation' he said). Another friend of mine, once told me an inspiring story of how a semi-literate man built a mini empire of sort by buying and running rikshaws. What I get from these two anecdotes is that, since I have suffered a lot due to rikshaws and I am not great in studies either, I should probably buy a rikshaw and become a rikshawallah. That way auto and rikshaws won't be a pain but competition! After all, Be the change you want to see.

October 10, 2010

My Experiments with -Truth- Life (during exams)

Well 3 weeks ago I had my exam week. But hey, every student has exams. Whats so special about them? Well, exams days are special to me. Because during these days only, I don't know why, I do all kinds of experiments with my life, exams. Some of these experiments are pretty trivial like using black pen rather than usual blue ones, but some of them are so weird, I better not discuss them here. So, what all experiments did I perform during these exams? Lets see them:

Well, for all I know, the biggest time wasters for me are newspapers, Google reader, Gmail and Buzz. So, this time I decided to ditch them for the whole week (I repeat all four of them for the whole week ). Here are the results:

1. Newspaper: Well, ditching newspaper was actually the hardest thing to do of them. I have been reading newspaper since I have been reading. And I feel incomplete without going through them once in the day, no matter whether I have exams and a mile of syllabus to cover. Well, later I rue the fact that I spent I 90 mins on the newspaper, which could have proved to be golden if utilized for revision. This time also, I almost failed the experiment on the first day itself. Thankfully, I controlled myself and was able to successfully go without newspaper for the whole week. (And as luck would have it, I have been super-busy since, so haven't been reading newspaper regularly). 

Cheating: OK, I wasn't allowed to read the newspaper, but I can hear the news! So, spent 5-10 mins listening to news while having breakfast. 

2. Google Reader: Google Reader is the latest fad for me. Its almost rare that I go without having a look at the latest feeds any day. And if I don't control, I can go on spending hours reading blogs and bookmarking stuffs. But amazingly it turned out to be quite easy to ditch Reader for the week. (But had to lose on a lot of feeds for the week, as reading 1000+ feeds in one go was simply impossible later).

Cheating: I use Reader to follow the latest in the tech. Well, that can be done using newsletters too. Thank you Gmail!

3. Gmail: If my browser is open, most probably Gmail would be open in one of the tabs. Now, it wasn't practical to let go of Gmail for the whole week. So, I decided to have a look at mails only once in the whole day that too not for more than 15 mins. And well, though it wasn't easy I was able to do that.

Cheating: Well, I won't lie. I did fail in this experiment. On Thursday, I didn't study anything for exams. So, had a lot of time. As a result, did spend a lot of time inside Gmail. Lets not include Thursday into this experiment, OK!

4. Buzz: Another Google product that I use diligently and can spend a lot of time sharing stuffs here. I had tried to ditch Buzz for one week earlier also. And like last time I used Twitter only during the week. But unlike last time, I didn't turn off Buzz inside Gmail. As a result the no. of unread buzz post kept piling. It reached 14, but I resisted my desires to see what others were saying/discussing. Oh, how proud I feel.

Cheating: Actually on the first day itself, I tried to take a sneak peak into one of the Buzz post (just to find out the replier) delivered in the inbox (by right clicking). Couldn't actually see the content but the post got registered as read. Damn it. 

Well I stayed away from the above mentioned things to save some time to study. But wasted the saved time on other stuffs (why don't I fall short of reasons to waste time). But, what I got from performing these experiments is that, ' If I want, I can live without the above mentioned stuffs. They are not necessary for my survival '. Anyway, there were a few more experiments that I tried:

5. Programming: I tried to do/read about programming everyday (and you thought everything I write in my posts are just for namesake). Well, to tell the truth I could manage to do that on 5 days only. But the main aim was to get myself back on track as far as programming is concerned, which I think was accomplished to some extent.

6. Stationery will remain Stationary: Every exam week, I lose some of my stationery because of sharing it with my benchmate/neighbours, who blissfully take it with them after exams get over. This time I decided not to share anything, and to keep track of things in case I had to share. Curiously, I got to share stationery of my benchmate this time (kept mine under wraps, hehe)! But holy hell, I did lose my pencil this time too, not in the examination hall but at home. Damn it. So, as you can see none of the experiments was executed with 100% accuracy. But ask teachers, they will tell that 100% accuracy means you are cheating!

The CommonMan Games: Part 2

Venue: Major Dhyanchand Stadium Date: 07.10.2010 Time: 4 PM Event: Hockey 

We were a 'small' bunch of 7 8 friends who - after much some brainstorming the night before - decided to reach near the stadium over 100 mins. before to avoid last minute rush. We had to meet at Rajiv Chowk Pragati Maidan Metro Station at 'exactly' 3.30 2 2.30. I left home at much, much before 2.10 (promising to be home by 9.30), picked another friend en route and we were there 'exactly' 'before' 2.30. But as it usually happens, someone had to get late, and someone did get late. Started from there at around 4.15 3.30. And now it was race against time. Since we didn't know about the location of the gate we were supposed to enter the stadium, we DID NOT ask a few volunteers for direction. Amazingly no one told us a different direction (since everyone was so sure about the one direction they were heading!). As a result we didn't had to run from pillar to post (quite literally!) marching for < 2 kms, taking wrong right gates and going through a rather strict security checking. 

So, here we are. Its 5.15 4.15 (what the event.. had already started) and we could see the stadium from outside. And how fine 'jhand' it looked. I mean it looked pretty ordinary to be called a National Stadium. But wait, we aren't inside the stadium yet. So, again we started asking didn't ask the volunteers but they forcefully told us to go in some direction. Anyway, at last we reached our section of seats. We searched for a suitable row and gave our bums some rest. I looked at the watch and it was 'exactly' 5.30 4.30 (my watch was working properly). 

Anyway, the first match was between England and Canada, which was already under way and we weren't much interested in it. Since it was a smaller stadium, crowd/seat ratio was good and crowd kept pouring for the 'real' match. The match ended at around 5.30. It remained a 1-1 draw in the end but Canada celebrated it like a moral win. But now there was a 30 minute before the next match (holy shit). Anyway Australian team arrived soon after and started practicing. Watching them practice, it looked like they were here to win. Just after Indian team also arrived with the biggest of roar from the crowd. By this time empty seats became a rare sight. 

The game started and as I knew/feared the Aussies did 2 early goals and got the lead. But from there on Indians tried their heart out. Every time they went near the opposition goal posts we jumped on top of our seats (now I know, why all the seats were dusty!). The anticipation, excitement, disappointment, all were moments to savour (well, its difficult to get the same excitement alone watching TV even if its cricket). And when India did score a goal, the atmosphere inside the stadium was electrifying, you could sense the adrenaline gushing inside the veins (that moment was worth more than the price of ticket). Who said hockey can't be exciting? Oh, sorry, it was me! But I was wrong. 

After half time, Australian again attacked hard, but this time Indians could reply properly. As a result they faced goal after goal. It was amusing to see spectators starting to cheer Aussies after the 4th goal. Once they scored the 5th goal, a section of crowed applauded and immediately started heading back home. But, we decided to watch the match fully (we should be good losers also). At the dying moments India finally got a penalty corner. Though the time got over, referee allowed to complete the penalty corner. And India scored a goal!! Well, we lost 2-5 but then it wasn't surprising, Australians are no. 1 in Hockey. We still had a good time and that's what it mattered. 

So, this day was certainly more exciting then last one. We danced, jumped, clapped, sang our heart out. That's exactly what I wanted when I made the plans. And the last 2 days wouldn't have been as memorable sans friends. So thanks friends! Only shameful thing was that none of us could tell the names/recognize more than 2 Indian players (out of all, at least I was expected, since I do follow some of Hockey). 

After that it was routine, ate lunch dinner, checked mails/buzz, made a few didn't make any calls and crawled to the bed. 

PS: The security guy at the stadium told me something that I won't forget for the rest of my life. But lets keep it secret. 'Purush Prasadhan' at both the stadiums were top class. Thankfully it wasn't 'Sulabh', it was free. Now, I know where so much money was spent. 

The End

October 08, 2010

The CommonMan Games: Part 1

We are having CWG in India this time (now thats Breaking News!) and there was no way I was gonna miss being a part of it. After all these games are being organized for me(read an Indian) by My country (that's India stupid). I got the opportunity to be at 2 different stadium, on 2 different days, for 2 different events (with 2 slightly different sets of friends!). So, how was the experience? There you go: 

Venue: JLN Stadium Date: 06.10.2010 Time: 5.30 PM Event: Athletics 

We were a 'small' bunch of 7 friends who - after much brainstorming the night before - decided to reach near the stadium over 100 mins. before to avoid last minute rush. We had to meet at Rajiv Chowk Metro Station at 'exactly' 3.30. I left home at 2.10 (promising to be home by 9.30) and was there at 'exactly' 3.30. (I still can't believe I reached at 'exactly' 3.30!). But as it usually happens, someone had to get late, and someone did get late. Started from there at around 4.15. And now it was race against time. We kept on hopping from one train to another. Since we didn't know about the location of the gate we were supposed to enter the stadium, we asked a few volunteers for direction. Amazingly everyone told us a different direction (and everyone was so sure about their direction!). As a result we had to run from pillar to post (quite literally!) marching for about 2 kms, taking wrong gates and going through a rather strict security checking. 

So, here we are. Its 5.15 and we can see the stadium from outside. And how fine it looked. Had seen JLN from outside before, but this time it looked something else (majaak majaak me kafi paisa kharcha ho gaya). But wait, we aren't inside the stadium yet. So, again we started asking the volunteers and again they started giving wrong directions (If volunteering means misguiding, try me, I can do a better job). Anyway, at last we reached our section of seats. We searched for a suitable row and gave our bums some rest. I looked at the watch and it was 'exactly' 5.30! (was my watch not working properly?). 

Well this was my first experience to be inside a stadium of any kind (I have been to cinema, lecture & examination halls!) and the scene was mesmerizing. A big steel stadium, blue streaks of seats all around, brownish track and green field, darkening sky, white flood nights, and colorful athletes in between. Oh yes, there was some local (read mawaali) crowd, men with guns all around, dusty seats, rubbish strewn around the stadium, all kinds of insects over flood lights etc. too! But its all right, after all its My country (Welcome to Incredible India!)

Only regretful thing was that the stadium wasn't even half full (half full?). I mean, I went there to see whats it like when 60000 odd crowd cheers for India, but had to settle for around 15000 or so. And that can be attributed to fact that the event was Athletics which isn't much popular in India (confirmed by only handful of Indian participants), that too qualifying not finals. But it felt good to cheer for the odd Indian participants that came to give their all. 

There was 100m heats for men and women, and it was quite easy to predict who was going to win just by seeing the country of participants (Jamaica, Nigeria, Ghana). Indians sadly remained at 4th, 5th places. There were hammer throw and shot-put events also that were going on at the same time but none of the attempts was close to Games/World Record (was it because it was qualifying or was it because the quality of participants wasn't top class?).

The event was till 8.40, but half of us decided to leave at 7.25 (though I wanted to stay) since we had to reach home before it was too late. The journey back home was also sort of an adventure. The food at the stadium was world class (read obscenely expensive), one place we decided to eat said no food available. So hungry, feeling tired, I hopped into the metro back home (good bye mates, see u tomorrow). But the trains were jam packed. The place I got to stand turned out to be a nightmare. Someone's travelling bag behind me, and surrounded by three young paajis who were discussing all sorts of things, standing at an angle of about 105 degrees. Lets not relive the nightmare, OK. Anyway, I reached home at 9.31 (promise kept, brilliant!!) 

After that it was routine, ate lunch dinner, checked mails/buzz, made a few calls and crawled to the bed. 

PS: Why was every time I was getting out of stadium, there would be huge noises inside? Was it because people were relieved I left the stadium or was it because Indians were too shy to perform before me?