Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Roach rage

Apropos to Jabberwock’s diatribe against Blatta orientalis (that’s what your scientists call us dude), I would just like to say that no matter how ugly we are and how repulsive you find us, we will be around long after you guys have blogged and bombed each other to oblivion.
Also, Rubaru, you pathetic pen pusher with Dave Barry (puhleeze!) ambitions, listen: 'Don’t call me Babe'.
Cocky Roach
P.S. Hey this is creepily critterly coincidental. Just as I was posting this, guess what I see??? THE ROACH. It was crawling menacingly past, and that too, a week after I mentioned it in my last post. I am not making this up, I swear. Jai you can come over and see for yourself. THIS IS ONE BIG ENTOMOLOGICAL COINCIDENCE.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

My office and other animals
As I sit here typing in this blog, there’s a cockroach baby (they have a name, but I forget it as the only thing worth remembering in biology school texts was the diagrammatic details of the human reproductive system), crawling around on my desk. No, I don’t work in a shack, neither am I a garage entrepreneur. I work in a pretty swanky office of what I would like to believe is a reputed national business daily. And even as I was writing the previous sentence, Baby Roach plucked up the courage to crawl right over my keyboard, forcing me to halt typing this piece and do a Gulliver and blow it out of harm’s way. And no I am not the PETA types either, but squishing little bugs is not an activity I revel in. Hey, Baby Roach seems to have taken a liking for me. It has crawled the Baby Roach equivalent of a 10-storey building from the floor all the way up the sunmica surface back to my desktop and is endearingly flicking its antennae.
But Baby Roach is not the only fellow animal which has come avisiting. Every other night at office, for I am in the newspaper business you see, Little Tommy Tittle Mouse gets a kick out of startling me half out of my wits by suddenly scurrying past my feet.
What gives me a kick is the fact that despite my office having a strict no-food policy to keep the sterile, air-conditioned interiors reserved only for homo sapiens like me, there’s this amazing fauna flourishing under the very noses of the hawk-eyed administration.
Which reminds me, I need to bring back some mouldy bread tomorrow for Baby Roach.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Come again!
It’s funny the amount of bull that does the round of TV nowadays in the garb of serious discussion. Even as DD’s panel of sports commentators expressed their unanimity over how the rain gods had robbed cricket lovers of a thrilling finish to the second India-Australia Test match, the conversation drifted to how the powers-that-be were daft enough to schedule the Chennai match at a time when the region is lashed by the retreating monsoons. When Atul Wassan, India veteran for a grand total of 4 Tests and 9 ODIs, Delhi P3P at large and last-minute inclusion on any cricket panel, piped up: "You know with all this global warming and stuff... there’s always a chance of matches being disrupted by rain." Well, it seems that Mr Wassan has been reading to much about El Nino and La Nina and suchlike and wanted to let the audience now that his learned self is aware of goings-on beyond the limited sphere of cricket.
The knives are out for the cherubic Parthiv Patel. The way Atul Wassan and Charu Sharma were going on and on about his poor show behind the stumps and the repeated telecast of Patel’s myriad misses seem to point to the fact that he will have to do more than flash his dimpled smile to stay on in the team. Unless, of course, Captain Ganguly differs.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Trains… potting

Lalu Prasad, in his avatar as rail minister, has managed not to screw up the Indian Railways the way he did his home state. Surprisingly, services seem to have improved since he became rail mantri. How do I know? Well, if you happen to have sundry relatives dropping in at your place for the better part of the month, the frequency of your interaction with the biggest public sector employer in the country tends to be a trifle more than is good for your mental health. Which is why I had been nursing homicidal thoughts towards the owner of the voice that would sing-song; "Namashkar, railway enquiry, sabhi operator vyast hai, kripya thori der pratiksha kare". Every time I called up 131 to enquire about train arrival timings, this voice recording would play a trillion times, pushing me to imagine things that would make even Hannibal Lecter blanch, before a bored voice (a real one this time) answered. On the other end, a voice would gruffly enquire why I had dared to disturb him from contemplating the consistency of his snot. And before I could mumble my question he would have rattled off his answer and banged down the phone.
Imagine my surprise then, after having dialed the number and steeled myself for another assault on my sanity, I get a prompt answer from the other side. The female voice sounded helpful instead of being harried. She heard me out, and let me know that the train was on time.
I reached the station at the appointed hour, singing hosannas to Lalu’s administrative skills. And then the PA system crackled to life: “Train No 2313 Sealdah Rajdhani, coming via Gaya, Mughalsarai, Aligarh is running late by 2 hours. The inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.”
Oh yeah! Well, I’ll make sure you regret it, you b****!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

More on the oil front

It seems I was right after all. We are consuming way too much cooking gas. And here’s the proof: According to a PTI report, LPG consumption jumped by over 9 per cent to 0.83 million tonnes in September 2004 from 0.76 million tonnes in September 2003.
I did some number-crunching and here’s what I found: 56 million LPG cylinders were consumed in September. Now, 56 million is quite a number you know. In fact, according to a New York Times report the United States was home to 56 million foreign-born residents and children of immigrants in 2000. Just imagine, we are talking of the entire immigrant population in the US! Can you imagine an US without Sabeer Bhatia, Phanish Murthy, Sikh taxiwallahs in New York, Tam Bram software professionals in Palo Alto, Antonio Banderas, Arnold Schwarzenneger, your uncle twice removed and that nerd from college who got lucky and a green card...? That’s how big 56 million is.
On the other side, oil prices continued their upward surge. US crude set a record $54.45 a barrel, marking a sixth successive day of all-time peaks.
Heads of government the world over are shitting bricks.
The International Energy Agency today said high prices are beginning to slow the world economy and encourage energy saving measures in China.
Which reminds me that I have still not got around to ordering that solar cooker.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Hurray! the aliens have arrived
Object sighted on Himachal glacier had human shape
New Delhi, 11 October
The bright white object seen by a team of space scientists on September 27 near a glacier in Himachal Pradesh had more or less a human shape, according to Anil Kulkarni of the Space Applications Center in Ahmedabad.
"It had what looked like legs, arms, neck and a head," Kulkarni, who was leading an expedition to the Samudra Tapu glacier near Chandratal, said over phone. "It had the shape of a humanoid," he said.
The photo of the object looks like a bunch of balloons, but Kulkarni said the fact the object moved against the wind suggested it was not a weather balloon.
He also ruled out the object being an optical illusion or a ball lightning - a phenomenon where the lightning appears like a ball moving just above ground surface.
Officials at the Indian Space Research Organisation headquarters in Bangalore were not available to comment on the unusual sighting made more than two weeks ago.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Gutkha guy gets glam gaadi

Pan masala tycoon first Indian to own Maybach
New Delhi, Oct 7

Pan masala tycoon Manikchand Dhariwal has forked out an astronomical Rs 5 crore to become the first Indian to own a Maybach, the country’s most expensive car. The keys of the nayarit silver- and mid grey-coloured super luxury saloon was handed over to Dhariwal by DaimlerChrysler Managing Director Hans-Michael Huber today at the company’s Pune plant.

Interesting, huh! Pan masala tycoon beats software czars, steel magnates, chit fund chieftains, petroleum pashas and sundry Old Economy oligarchs to one of the most coveted status symbols. Great branding exercise Mr Dhariwal, isn’t it all about 'Oonche log, oonchi pasand’.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Gas-trick juice
I think it’s time I invested in one of those solar thingamajigs... you know the ones that cook your food and keep it warm and stuff. My visit to the local gas dealer’s office yesterday was enough to convince me that it won’t be long before we run out of fossil fuels. I had to wait a good 10 minutes before this chappie, who was doing the bookings, even deigned to look at me. I don’t blame the poor sod. He was being inundated with calls from hapless customers like me, who probably had been threatened/cajoled/harangued by their wives/significant others/live-in girlfriends into fulfilling this hunters-gatherers duty. Within a span of 10 minutes, he must have disposed off 10 such calls, which means a demand for 60 more LPG cylinders every hour. Multiply it by 8 for the number of hours they work in a day (oops, you have to subtract 1, for it’s the lunch hour. And there can be nothing more sacrosanct than this in a government undertaking in India.) Anyway 60 LPG cylinders x 6 days means 420 a week. Mind you, this is the figure for Mayur Vihar Phase I alone. Also, it does not include the numerous unregistered connections. Anyone can get a cylinder by paying a premium of about Rs 20 above the Rs 261 you normally shell out. A rough estimate would easily put the weekly demand for LPG cylinders in and around Mayur Vihar at above 1,000. And the fact that these numbers are not cold statistics became evident when I went to the local Acharya Niketan market and couldn’t help but notice that almost everyone, from the local dhabawallah to the Agarwal Sweets fellow was using LPG as their prime source of fuel. Guess what, that’s not all, I had gone to the market for the express purpose of getting my chhota cylinder, a remnant of my bachelor days in Mukherjee Nagar, filled. (Comes in handy when you get back home at 1 am and find you can’t heat your TV dinner because the normal 14.2 kg domestic cylinder has run out.) If you start adding the number of the chhota cylinders… I am not even trying... you will get an idea of what the situation is like. And this is only Mayur Vihar I am talking about.
If you are reading the business dailies, you will know that this is precisely why the government is running up a sweat seeing crude oil prices heat up. (LPG is a byproduct when crude oil is refined). And global crude prices have been hovering around $50 a barrel — high enough to blow a big hole not only in the economies of many a country but your pocket as well, because the government will not be able to keep cooking fuel prices artificially depressed for too long.
So, unless you want fuel prices to set your posteriors on fire, click on this site now. I ain’t gassing you know!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

In case, you forgot Belsan

RAFAH, Gaza Strip, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Israeli soldiers shot dead a 13-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday after she approached an army watchtower in a tense border zone, witnesses said.
An Israeli military source said the girl was shot inside a restricted area when soldiers suspected she had a bomb. Palestinian medics said she had been hit by 20 bullets.
Iman al-Hams and two other girls, all of them wearing school uniforms, passed a watchtower in Rafah refugee camp near the Egyptian border, a scene of frequent violence in a 4-year-old uprising, Palestinian witnesses said.
“Israeli soldiers stormed the area, the girl left the bag and tried to run,” said one. “Bullets hit the bag and then soldiers opened fire on the girl.”
An Israeli military source said the girl entered an area that was clearly marked with no-entry signs at a time there had been shooting from Rafah.
Soldiers opened fire towards her after she dropped her bag and ran. They suspected that the bag contained a bomb, the source said, but had not yet checked.
“She was peppered with bullets, in the head, chest, legs,” said Iman’s brother, Ehab, 25.
Rafah is well away from the northern Gaza Strip, where Israeli troops have killed 67 Palestinians in a six-day-old offensive launched after a rocket fired by militants killed two children in an Israeli town.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Make water, not war

“Politics is the most concentrated expression of economics and war is the most concentrated form of politics.”
I remember reading an article, a couple of years ago, which spoke about how water and the struggle to control this fast-dwindling natural resource could trigger World War III. The article was written in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact a Google search turned up a pretty detailed site ( ) on water being the spark for conflict in the region.
A story moved by Reuters today further underlines how ecological degradation is becoming the flashpoint for similar conflicts globally.
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Many conflicts in war-torn Africa are rooted in increasingly parched and degraded land exacerbated by global warming, the first of a series of U.N. regional checkups of the planet's health found.
"From food security to health we see climate change as a very big threat right across Africa," said Crispian Olver, director general of South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
A new study, entitled the Southern African Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (SAMA), reveals a striking connection between ecological stress and social conflict. The problems include water shortages, grain crop scarcity, livestock overgrazing, woodfuel shortages and deforestation.
Areas that have three or more ecological stresses include parts of South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province, where "faction fighting" over scarce land for cattle grazing has killed many. Such stresses are also seen in heavily populated central Nigeria where nomadic cattle rearers and peasant farmers have been locked in conflict over scarce land for decades as the Sahara Desert encroaches further south.
Analysts say there are often vicious cycles.
Population growth strains the earth's capacity to provide as forests are hacked away and land is overgrazed by livestock, leading to turf wars over scarce resources. Global warming can heat things up by parching an already strained soil. Throw existing ethnic tensions into the mix and armies of bored young men and the results can be explosive.
The SAMA study shades big parts of Burundi, Rwanda and eastern Congo in yellow -- to signify areas with two major ecological problems -- or red, meaning three or more are located there. All have been wracked by genocide, civil war and extreme ethnic stress over the past decade. Large swathes of crisis-ridden Zimbabwe are also shaded in yellow and red. Move northwest to the steamy oil-rich Niger Delta and environmental stress also seems to be fueling violence.
Ten years after Robert Kaplan wrote a seminal article arguing that the environment would emerge as the security threat of the 21st century, the "Coming Anarchy" he spoke of could be creeping across the map of Africa.

Moral of the story: The next time you flush, remember, you may just be pushing the button on some future conflict. Which is why, I don’t.
Here’s a peace haiku: ‘Be a peacenik man/ don’t pull the plunger/ after you use the can/ take my advice, after you spray/ use a bucket to wash it away.’

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