February 14, 2010

Bomb Blast in Pune: Another wake up call to all of us in deep sleep

I was shocked not by the attacks that took place today in my hometown Pune, but by the response shown by most of my friends - "Pune is no longer safe", "Why Pune", "Pune destroyed by blasts" .... My friends are responding in the way the terrorists want them to -- be terrified. Further, it appears that the media has succeeded in making most of us dumb as most of us are increasingly becoming more interested in the page 3 gossip of who is sleeping with who and not on news items that matter the most. It was a matter of time that such a blast would have happened in Pune given that the LET was suspected to be giving training its cadres near Kondhwa, Pune, and the latest meeting of JUD had mentioned Pune and Kanpur along with the so called liberation of Hyderabad.

Further, despite such warnings, the police was busy dancing to the tune of vote bank politics and protecting the cinemas for the release of My Name is Khan, and acting like guard dogs in the parks, pubs, discos, and malls to enjoy the chaos which has become an annual event during valentine's day, thanks to the fundamentalists of all religions.

I am not worried about these attacks as these are slowly becoming a way of life because the administrators have long been well oiled and show no accountability and politicians are busy playing games of divide and conquer such as reservation, and vote bank politics.

We the people are also to be blamed. I am not sure how many stupid and utterly useless candle light protests will be performed, before the masses forget such incidents and get back to the self feeding cycle of giving and taking bribes for all the things from the birth-certificate to the death-certificate; performing activities to ensure that loop-holes that allow such attacks exist for another attack. If a terrorist is caught, he will be allowed to make a joke of the people who lost their lives catching him and make a mockery of the judicial system while proving Nani Palkhivala statement that the closest thing to eternity are the cases running in our courts.

Sadly the solutions to, or the measures to protect people from, such problems -- education, responsibility, and accountability -- are manipulated by the myopic aspirations of the people and especially by those in power. So, as long as we continue with an irresponsible life based on the statement "शिवाजी जन्मावा पण, शेजारच्या घरात" (may Shivaji be born but let him be born in the neighbors house), and wait for a rebirth of Mahatma Gandhi, we should continue to expect such attacks.

February 11, 2010

Buzz!! - My reason for disabling it

The word Buzz reminds me of the shaking message windows from the good old days when I used to use Yahoo messenger. However, the new buzz from Yahoo's arch rival Google did more and zapped me instead of the web browser.

I logged into gmail yesterday from INRIA and I was asked if I was interested in buzz. I clicked on disable Buzz as I thought it was just another gmail labs feature. Opening google reader just after lunch showed me that I had 11 new followers. I was amazed, as most of the followers were ones whom I had last contacted a few years back. I was unable to understand as to why these people were all of a sudden, in the same day, interested in the blogs I read. I ignored it and got back to work. The gmail was still active in some firefox window and when I logged out at night there were no signs of buzz in gmail. Later at night when I connected to google reader from my residence, I saw the same stuff, but this time even more number of followers. At first I thought it was an attack and when I opened gmail, I saw buzz written in bold with a 1 next to it just below inbox. I thought I had disabled it as I clearly remember that my gmail session at INRIA did not have buzz. It showed I was following 30 people and about 40 people were following me. When I clicked on one my old friends name (whom I was following for no reason), I could see the names of all the people he was following.

This scared the hell out of me. I could virtually see almost all the contacts of my friend; some of whom which I believe he would have liked to hide from me :). Anyways just as I could see his contact list, I believe someone else could see all my contacts and the list of people whom my account was forced to follow without asking me any questions. The disable buzz, which my friend told me today, was nowhere to be found in the settings tabs. Now my gmail shows me the last 100 emails and I never scroll down; I should have scrolled as the disable buzz was placed right next to disable chat. I had to manually unfollow all the accounts I was following and disable all the sites such as google reader and picasa which were being shared by me.

I disabled buzz today and as of now I do not have any regrets. I am not very active on social networks and most probably I will not be in the near future. 99% of the time, I am not interested to see what videos my friends are viewing or what they have in mind. This is the very reason why I do not have a twitter account. I use google reader to read blogs and to see which blogs my friends found worthy of sharing; I use orkut and facebook (I still use and prefer the old orkut in low bandwidth mode) to connect with my friends and classmates. I use picassa and flickr to upload the photos and manually send the links to my parents and friends using email; the links to albums of the places I visit are shared using facebook and orkut. I am fine with using multiple web-tools to share my data. I don't mind logging into these handful of website as this decentralized approach gives me some virtual hierarchical structure to organize the stuff. And most of all I am not comfortable sharing my email contacts to every tom-dick-and-harry of this planet.

So buzz is disabled and I believe it will be disabled for some time to come, at least till google sorts out this privacy issue which I believe most of us are facing.

February 7, 2010

Beautiful Sights in France: Heart-warming sights of goodness

Here are few of the beautiful things I saw in France. Being in the French-riviera, beautiful scenes implicitly implies the snaps of the sea and the Alps; however, the most beautiful sights I saw are based around the good deeds of the bus drivers in this region.

1. Lady Bus-Driver at Garbejaire :
The first month I had to stay in a hostel called CIV, which required me to take the bus from a stop called Garbejaire. Children going to the schools near CIV also used to get down at this bus stop. One day, after the other passengers got down, I saw kid jump from the bus. The kid began to run towards the direction of the woods and it appeared he had no intent of talking the walking path leading to the school. A matter of seconds later, the bus which had gone a few meters ahead stopped, a beautiful young lady jumped from the bus, ran behind the kid, caught him with his bag and escorted him a few meters in the walking path. A few words with the parents escorting their children to school might have given her the assurance that the kid would in-fact go to school. She adjusted her hair and dress while walking back to the bus, got back in the bus, started the engine and drove the bus away. Yes, a public transport bus driven by a lady, who stopped the bus to run after a kid to make sure he goes to school.

I felt ashamed that I could not help the lady, but I was proud of the responsibility showed by her. No one would have questioned her if she had left the bus without stopping the kid. She didn't think twice before stopping the bus beyond the bus stop having its front end in the middle of the road. She did what she felt was right, and that is the very reason why these few seconds have made a permanent impression in my mind.

2. Helpful driver at Templiers:
The bus number 11 had stopped at the Templiers bus stop; about ten seconds after the door had opened, the first passenger who was trying to get down could be seen. A small kid with a box covered with shreds of gift wrapping was trying to get down from the bus, one step at a time. His mother was helping him in the last step as he was having a tough time balancing the gift (which he refused to give to his mother) in one hand while trying to descend. After he was standing on the foot-path, the mother went back. I could see the bus driver helping the mother get down with a baby pram with a toddler gurgling and playing with gift-wrapping paper. When the pram was on the footpath, he helped the mother adjust the wheels of the pram, which had been jammed apparently when it was in the bus. All this time, the bus was stopped. None of the passengers complained about delay, and the driver did not give petty excuses, such as get down quickly -- you are delaying the bus. It was a really simple but beautiful gesture of helping a mother with two kids.

I had seen such similar behavior of goodness when I was a kid in Pune. The most striking one was when my mother came to pick me up for some reason. One of the teachers, who taught in the secondary school and who knew I used to take the school bus, stopped my mother. After confirmation from me that the lady taking me was my mother and the similarity in the faces made her smile, followed by an apology which was was not necessary. My mother still uses this incident as an example while recommending my school to her colleagues.

I realized that such good incidents used to happen around me all the time, however, for reasons unknown I used to ignore them. The ones doing such good deeds do not required explicit encouragement; they do it because they know it is the right thing to do, and they will continue to them; however, a simple gesture such as a smile to acknowledge their goodness can be a really useful source of encouragment.