Saturday, December 31, 2005

The year that was

As 2005 comes to an abrupt end, I must start with a congratulatory note. I congratulate myself. Mainly because this blog which yesterday had 2 hundred hits, has grown. In size and stature! In fact when I started only three people were reading this blog, today 2 months later thanks to the amazing effect it has had on people my unique readership has grown to an outstanding total of eight readers, and this does not include 2 colleagues at my office, whom I force to read my posts, some of which are incredibly boring (my posts, not my colleagues).

Apart from 200 hits, I achieved another personal milestone in 2005. Two of my credit card companies had good thoughts about my credit-worthiness. Both of them doubled my credit limits, which is not speaking much, considering that even the doubled amount won't fetch me a holiday in the Sri Lankan island of Baticaloa.

For last post of the year, I have a message that I once wrote in a letter of mine:

If you enjoyed reading my posts half as much as I enjoyed writing them,
then I enjoyed twice as much as you did !

Goodbye 2005 !!!

for my tooth fairy - for record, Baticaloa is not my ideal holiday destination.
for ppl who owe me money - credit on card does not mean money. I still need dough.

Friday, December 30, 2005


FoxTrot and Dilbert, in that order, are my favourite cartoons after Calvin and Hobbes. For those who are ignorant of this offbeat and wonderful comic, I use my blog spread the message.

It revolves around the Fox family. Parents are Roger and Andy. Roger is so lacking in even the basic skills of living, that the only job he's capable of holding is middle management in a corporation, while Andy is relatively sensible except for a tendency to get a little goofy about her passions, which include healthy eating. The two older kids, Peter (a high school junior) and Paige (a freshman) are relatively normal, considering they're teenagers, only more so. 10-year-old Jason is a computer genius, and one gets an impression he could take over the world if he thought it was worth the effort. Jason is the one who keeps Quincy, the iguana as a pet.

It's a character-driven strip, in that humor tends to arise more from the interactions of the characters themselves, rather than the situations they find themselves in. Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes, in his introduction to one of more than two dozen paperback collections of the strip, called this aspect "refreshing", and added, "This gives the world of FoxTrot a veracity other family strips lack. The Fox family has the resonance of honest observation."

This blogger's personaly recommendation, click here and subscribe to have the strip delivered daily to your mailbox.

A true story

My previous post was a generic view about my experiences with train journeys in India.. But these readers' opinions (vox populi??) makes me think that I should write something specific, which I intended to do the last time, but inexplicably was held by some paranormal forces. Nah! I was just being lazy.

This happened sometime in 1998, but is burnt in my memory like it happened a few months back. I had to gone to Kanpur for one day to attend to some academic matter, and was returning by the overnight train. It turned out to be a rather adventerous journey. Not the kind of adventures where you get abducted by pirates or you face a charging rhino. But this is what happened:

The Lucknow-Jabalpur express was packed with commuters. The train was moving at a lazy pace because of the January fog which engulfs north India at that time of the year. Midnight was just falling and some people were dozing, but most of the passengers were noisily chattering about their days. You can recognise the Maru traders when you hear the conversation, and there were plenty of them that day. Somewhere around 12 at midnight the train suddenly stopped with no station in sight. Which is not very unusual in Indian trains. Specially in UP & Bihar where the railways are known to render personalised services. You can actually get down on the road closest to your house- sometimes even near your house. Raiways provide a special tool for you if you want to avail this service. It comes in form of the emergency brakes - the red chain which you can pull to make the train halt. Whats more - if you are beneficiary of such service, you generally don't have to buy a ticket !!

Anyway, when the train did not budge for around 10 minutes, people became curious. A couple of them went to the door and started peeking in the vast darkness outside. Suddenly we heard yells and shouts from the adjacent compartment. Then they started growing louder. You could distinctly hear women shouting and crying and voices yelling at them. And then we heard sound of a gun-fire. The train was being robbed!

Our compartment was under huge panick. The doors and windows were snapped shut in like 5 seconds. People started to switch off the lights so that if there were more dacoits out there in the dark, our compartment might not attract attention (??). A stupid idea, but in such situations, you just do what comes to your mind. On the seat opposite to me, a lady was travelling with her teenage daughter. She was desperately trying to shut her side of the window which was somehow stuck. After a little trying the girl started weeping, frightened of the bullet that might come in from the window. I got up and a small manoeuver with the lock, it snapped. For the next 5 minutes the girl's mother kept showering blessings on me.

My initial reaction was panic. But then I thought I was hardly carrying anything valuables with me, so I needn't worry. But after the noise of the firing, I was back to panic again. Anyway we could hear the noises from the adjacent compartment, with no sound or light in my compartment, and doors and windows shut from all sides. After sometime the cries and yells died, but our compartment stayed in the same state for next two hours. Whenever some curiuos bloke wanted to go near the gate other passengers would snap at him. Nobody knew what was going on outside. At around 3 am, the train started moving, and then it sank upon us, that probably it was over. Lights came back, people started to peep out of the doors of the moving train. At the next station, we came to know that the train was robbed by dacoits. That part of north India near Jhansi, is infamous for the Chambal dacoits. Ironically those robbers were un-armed and they had snatched the rifles from the Railway Police Force guards.

The morning newspaper carried a small section about trains being late on that route because of the train robbery. I reached home late and tired, but eerily happy to be safe and alive.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The great Indian rail journey

It is said that Indian Railways is one of the cheapest mode of long-distance transport in the world, probably after hitch-hiking. With the number of people traveling without ticket, WT, as it’s popularly known as in my home-town, I guess an Indian-railways journey is not much different than a hitch-hiked trip for some.

We see all kinds of people, those who have never traveled in trains, those who hate to set foot in them, and others, like this writer, who travel in trains for obvious reasons (-see the first sentence). But those who have traveled in trains cannot disagree that every experience has something unique and memorable in itself.

I have had my share of long voyages, considering that I did my studies (and then worked for a while) in Mumbai, which is around 19-22 hours of rail-time away from my home town, and then am stationed in Chennai since last 1.5 (light) years, which again is 30-35 hours away from my hometown Satna. My fond memories include exchanging my comic books when I was a kid, looking for female passengers in the chart when I was a teenager and meeting a variety of people from equally varied places & cultures. My not-so-fond memories include searching for an upper birth when my height over-took the size of the side-upper berth in the compartments, and hoping some solace and quietness when I wanted to read a good book in front of a noisy co-passenger and infinitely delayed schedules. Overall, it has been a fulfilling and generously educating experience.

Like most of the people I have lots of stories about my journeys to share. But will wait for a better occasion (basically when I can summon the zeal to ink the interesting ones down). I feel proud to be a part of this system every time I see the Mark Tully documentary on Indian Railways, but on the other hand I also feel miserable at some point every time I travel.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ego search

An old concept for jobless egomaniacs!! This time with a slight modification ... saw it at a friend's blog..

Google "Your_Name loves" and see the results. Mine:

Sanjay loves:
  • to admire women
  • his mother's cooking
  • entertaining and it’s never at A restaurant
  • her desserts too
  • walking around in the woods, yoga and philosophy
  • practicing martial arts
  • to write brutally honest reviews
  • being an older brother (??!!!)
  • to shoot pictures and has a vast collection of photographs
  • to watch movies, play basketball and tennis
  • us, not the spammers
  • Madhuri Dixit and sacrifices his love for his friend Salman
  • (this one's a killer..) whoever he sees

Lemme know if you find more interesting stuff :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

When nature calls...

Found this board hanging at an ATM near my office !!!

And this one in Kodaikanal

Sunday, December 04, 2005


From Anna Nagar to Anna university (via Anna Salai)

It had poured like mad in Chennai last week. A rather uncommon sight in otherwise sleepy, hot and incredibly humid Chennai. Rains normally bring out two extreme facets in you - either you want to go out to enjoy rains and drench yourself, or you become the lazy bloke who curses rain Gods. Either way your willingness to do serious work and productivity, both suffer.

On Saturday I decided to venture in the rains - by chance, not by choice. It was an extraordinary sight. I had do drive my brother from Anna nagar to Anna University, two almost extreme corners of Chennai. What we encountered in this 45 minute bike ride was like a cross between a scene from a hollywood action-thriller and being inside a video-game.

Uprooted trees, blocked roads, boats inside the city, people saving each others' lives, properties & pets. It was strange how that bike ride amidst that calamity gives me a reason to ponder on countless fascinating insights on the city.

Cant help but notice the uncanny number of Wine shops all around. I have seen 3 wine shops almost in a row. Judging by the number of people in evenings in the past (and sometimes even in mornings !!) they all do brisk business. Speaks a lot of raging spirit of the city. As Cyrus Broacha would put it - We live in terrible times, but all the blame cannot be put on Britney Spears.