Monday, January 29, 2007

Photo of the day...

One of my photographs from recent Xinjiang trip was chosen as the Photo of the Day for 30th January 2006 by Imaging Resource. If you visit the above link later than 30th Jan, you can find it in the Winner's Gallery. Here is that photograph "WAVY SANDS":


My previous Photos of days are here:
Apr 15 2006 Proud peacock:


Dec 4 2005 The Right Move:

Laptop sales in China

As you approach nearer to Zhangjiang metro station, you find few irksome and annoying men trying to impudently sell stuff, everybody uttering the same punch line in a typical Chinese accent "Computer Laptop IBM Toshiba - lukku lukku, vely guddu". Finally devoured by curiosity we planned to give it a shot. One fine afternoon instead of ignoring them, as we used to do everyday, we inquired about it with one of them. With his beaming countenance he asked us to follow him and he guided us to the second floor of KFC. His demeanor gave us a feeling that it was a stolen laptop, but what the..., we are in China and all we need is a laptop for cheaper price, atoning for stealing is his problem. This demeanor is actually a selling point for them.

He pulled out the laptop from a transparent cover with patches of girlish stickers here and there which clears our doubt about the laptop being stolen. After a quick adjustment of battery the laptop is powered on. It was a Toshiba laptop, very handy and light, Intel Centrino logo on the left of touch pad, Microsoft Windows XP logo on the right, a barcode on the bottom right of the screen. The flash screen "glorious" Microsoft XP shows up and quickly a desktop cluttered with icons with Chinese text appeared. He conveyed that the OS is Chinese and we did not really give a damn about it. He handed over the laptop for scrutiny and naturally first thing I did was checking the configuration. An unspeakably alluring and satisfying configuration I must say...Intel Centrino Mobile over 1G CPU speed, half a gig RAM, 40 gig hard-disk, some damn video card, a DVD drive...everything after a quick bargain settled for a grand of renminbi. Who on earth wouldn’t need such a thing, Siva was on his toes and I gave my consent about the configuration. The peddler was a bit too unhappy about the deal, when we were about to leave, he signalled that he needed money to eat. Gracious and generous Siva pulled out a note of hundred and handed over.

He could not do anything with that laptop for a couple of weeks till I got him an English version of Windows 2000 Professional edition, duly copied and copyrighted by the Xangyang lu Softwares, a sister concern of Microsoft and other software companies. Me being an OS installation expert I advised Siva that we’d copy the CD contents onto the hard-drive for faster installation. The most widely used windows command ctrl+c and ctrl+v resulted in an error "Insufficient disk space", what the..., the logical partition onto which I was copying was a huge 20G with no other data. A glimmer of suspicion struck me and I went to command prompt and executed the good old "dir" command and my suspicions were confirmed. The actual size of the logical partition was a disheartening 4 MB. When I used the same command on the primary partition, it was more disheartening, the 40 gig hard-disk all of a sudden shrunk to 1G. For some reason I was unable to enter BIOS, I continued installation from CD and realized that the memory was a meager 32MB, and worst of all the Intel Centrino processor transmogrified into an Intel XT 80* series, older in age than Siva or me. We started the installation late in the evening and the progress bar was snail-pacing at 50% the next afternoon. I was very much saddened about it, but Siva, despite losing money somehow took it quite sportively.

I was surprised, I must confess, by the skills of the peddlers or whoever it is, the theme they used to deceive us was extremely infallible. The system was running on a Windows 98 with a foolproof XP theme. These laptops are not stolen from anywhere, but they are refurbished in a certain junkyard. This happened almost an year ago, even now, in this biting cold winter, the IBM and Toshiba sales persons keep rambling about Zhangjiang station, bothering us with the same impudent trick and hackneyed punch-line.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sixteen hours sojourn...

Sixteen hours sojourn...

I've visited places with most exotic landscapes - deserts, mountains, valleys, marshes, and beaches. I've visited places that made me exclaim "Ah!!! This is the most wonderful place I've seen". I've been to places that are of historical significance, of geographical miracles, of ethnical importance and of spiritual prominence. But one place that gave me a feeling of déjà vu, that took me to my childhood days despite being my first visit, that made me determine that I had to visit again, that hurt me when I had to depart, is a tiny village by name "Hemu" in the Northern Xinjiang Autonomous region of China.

Our trek started from Jiadengyu, another tiny village. We had to hike mountains with glittering yellow birch trees, cross deep blue rivers, walk along snow capped peaks for two days to reach Hemu. It was about three in the afternoon, the whole team was almost wearied by the daylong trek. One more peak was all we had to cover to reach the hamlet. With almost all the water bottles empty, that final hike, even though not very high, was an exacting one and lumbering over the steep was quite a task. Few cottages started to unveil as we reached the summit and we now had to descend and walk for about a kilometer or so. The appearance of the cottages raised our spirits and gave us a much-needed kick to rush towards them. We crossed a small bridge across a stream and walked for fifteen more minutes before we approached the banks of Hemu River. Hemu River, the source of water to town, flows very next to the village. The water was crystal clear and freezing. Most of us quickly unlaced our shoes and relieved our blistered legs in the ice-cold water, the act that I think, would have dirtied such a lucid river. We did not have enough time to spend by the riverbanks, we headed towards the wooden bridge that crossed the river and formed the gateway to Hemu village. My camera quickly saved some wallpaper-esque shots at this juncture.

Dark untarred roads, speeding horses giving rise to ghostly dust smoke, pretty cottages made of birch woods and classy country jeeps are the first few things which most visitors encounter, apart from healthy, beautiful Kazakh ethnics. The youth hostel, the place where we stayed, was not very far from the entrance of the town. After unloading backpacks and taking a short break, I set out to explore this pretty little hamlet. I saw a herd of photographers juxtaposed themselves on an embankment seeing the village through their lenses. I made my way up the embankment and copied their action for a short duration, and then I turned towards a sort of main road (which again was not asphalted) and strode along briskly to make up more within the available time. My team members had given me a walkie-talkie and had told that I should return upon receiving their call.

I saw a very pretty Kazak lady in her red shirt resting her elbows on gate, I requested for her portrait shot using the universal symbol language, she refused twice and third time she nodded to indicate acceptance and gave a beautiful smile. As I was strolling through the streets, I came across a very chubby and cute little girl, playing with a lamb. Suddenly she noticed me and she was surprised to see a foreigner in her town I guess. I called her, she approached nearer to me and my camera was fast enough to get some nice shots of hers. I could get some wonderful portraits of the people, a candid family portrait, some nice street shots and few landscapes before I got a call on walkie-talkie. I was almost near the embankment, the evening winter sun was still pouring his golden light on the town, out of the blues a herd of horses led by two men appeared in front of me giving rise to a brown dust storm. It was very artistic in fact and without getting irked by the dust, I captured this moment. It was almost time for sun to reach his home in the west; I clicked some more shots at the sundown time (I regretted for not carrying my tripod), rushed to youth hostel for dinner. The dinner consisted of varieties of typical Chinese cuisine, cooked vegetables and meat. A bony mutton cooked in onions was something new for me and it tasted awesome.
Had a short stroll on pitch-dark roads, just for digestion sake. A hot shower terminated the day; hit the sacks with my mind full of glimpses of this exotic village.

Got out of bed by seven in the morning, rushed towards the neighboring hill. Lots of people were on the way along with us, some were already atop the hill and everybody’s task now was to await the sun god to wake up. It may be surprising for the readers that I said I was out of bed by seven and by this time the sun would already be up, but remember that Xinjiang province is located on the extreme western part of China and to simplify things, China follows single time zone. To make things clear, I was in Indian time zone following Beijing time. Within an hour, there was a huge assemblage, everybody equipped with a camera and waiting like a bird waiting for spring after winter for the sunrise. The cameras ranged from pocket sized Sonys and Casios to gigantic medium/large format Hasselblads, Mamiyas and Sinars. Most SLRs were equipped with gigantic lenses mounted on hefty tripods; there were Canons, Nikons, Minoltas and many more. Everybody patiently waited for the sun to pour his divine light over the town. When it was fifteen minutes to nine, the sun god finally unveiled from the mountaintops and the town was truly blessed with splendid, mild morning sunrays. This particular moment is the most priced one and travelers come to Hemu just for witnessing this. The whole village, surrounded by mountains with yellow birch and alpine trees, thin white smoke oozing out of chimneys from the cottages, gives a feeling that if there is something called "Heaven", this is it. I have not seen a more elegant sunrise than this. Even though I took quite a lot of photos, I spent more time in relishing this aesthetic scenery before my eyes. It was as short as butter melting away, the beauty slightly reduced as the sunlight became stronger.

We descended the hill, had a sumptuous breakfast of rice porridge, egg, peanuts, breads and salads. Started the journey towards Kanas without any delay. We had to ascend one of the hills to head towards Kanas. I felt so much pain to depart from this village that I kept seeing backwards more than the rocky, steep road up the hill.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

CCTV9

For most expats in China, without satellite TV, the only means of "TV ENTERTAINMENT" is China Central TeleVision 9, codenamed CCTV9. Albeit I parodied it to Crappy Channel on TV, I watch it thrice a day during meals. I said its the only means of entertainment as this is the only English channel among 75 Chinese ones.

Every morning I watch the second half of the news, 8:15 onwards, which mostly consists of non-news parts which may include elephant race in Chang Mai, marionette show in Jodhpur, a philharmonic orchestra in Berlin or a life of folk artist in China.
This is followed by the weather report, surely requires special mention. The report on China exactly spans thirty seconds, and it usually sounds like this, "Snow fall in the north and north east, rain on the east coast, warm weather down south, cold temperatures in central and western China" and I could sense the joy on the anchor's countenance, who I presume is an American, as he says "Now we focus on North America". No reports from neighbouring countries of Asia, no reports from Europe or Australia, don't even think of Africa and South America. The report from North America, read USA, is so detailed that even Americans can tune into CCTV9 for weather report. It is accompanied with a flashy graph showing temperature trends in New york, the depression in Montgomery, the temperature fall in Tennessee, hurricane speed in Pensacola, expected heatwave in Texas and whatnot. It almost takes nearly four minute's for the anchor to get out from North America, immediately after which, the temperatures of Chinese cities are shown. Most times, due to lack of time, this, the most useful part is taped off, but never the North American weather report.

Culture express follows the news. From past one year, it opens with the same worn out host with his same worn out opening dialogue "I'm Ji Xiaojun in Beijing, welcome to another edition of Culture express". No change in his intonation, pitch, timbre or expression from past one and a half year and I'm sure it will not change in the decades to come. Contents of this program is exactly what I had seen in the second half of the news, same elephant race in Chang mai, same marionette show in Jodhpur and same philharmonic orchestra in Berlin. Its the exact same report, no elaboration, no shortening.
The contents of this program has the highest repetition rate than any other in the world. The interviews with the various artists has been televised so frequently that I can answer faster than the artist does, really.

Afternoon sessions, I switch it on exactly at 1'O clock and turn it off by half past one. I cant spare an extra minute, if I do, I miss the bus. This half an hour time of my day, is tortuously bored by one pale looking, glum faced Mr. Yang Rui. The content of Dialogue is sheer boredom, the length of question, by the weary anchor in his quavering voice, is of five long minutes minimum. Guests will be lost in their reveries by the time the question is completed and a hapless "Can you please repeat the question?" follows, many a times. The questions are so carefully formed, with so much of media control, that, as one of my friend was speculating, the anchor will have a bomb set under his chair, any violation of content may lead to the explosion. I would request the anchors and program directors to have a look at Karan Thapar's show, thats how a talk show should be, daring and screwing. I guess thats the beauty of democracy.

Dinner time, is the worse among all. It starts off with the same Dialogue (which repeats next afternoon) and changes over to News.

These days I switch to sports channel, which has a non-stop, incomprehensible Chinese commentary. I mute the television and play Mandolin Maestro U Srinivas' collection and watch the sports. Though a bad combination, it is better than CCTV9 by many folds.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

We became famous


City Weekend (Shanghai) made us stand in front of lens and published our photos on cover page and a small article on us, Flickr photographers.

List of items

Hi le...
these are the list of items ...
1.Canon S3 IS + 1GB/2GB memory card (sandisk)
2.iPod 4/8GB with guarantee or UNIBIT X-958(but est GB ide anta gottaglilla if its extra to be bought then buy 4/8GB mem card) or any full featured model like mpg4 /fm/extendible mem slot
3.buy one 2GB memry card for NOKIA CELL PHONE.. SD Memory Duo PRo (Sandisk).
4.DiskMan player with audio/vcd/mp3 /CDR/CDRW format support. (fwd /seeking function)
5.Small FM scaner that u got for ur dad..
6.some small good utility kinda things like battery less torch ..etc
7. Card reader (do u suggest this for future usage)
if something that is good aprt from this let me knw ...i will tansfer money or give it to when ur here..!!
reply me if u have any better suggestions /products ok
NOTE : if u cant buy me camera then get me the mem card atleast



P.S. A mail sent to me, by my friend, stating the list of articles he wanted me to get from China. I hope he did not reckon me a smuggler or mooncurser.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chinglish...

"I sink, last time you go to my place, I'll serve kitchen roast"
"Tomorrow I had sought of calling you"
"My sister sanked you very much, he was very glad that you come"
"Please join me for dinner, yesterday afternoon OK??"

Pondering over these statements??? You wouldn't, if you're in China for a considerable length of time. A discourse on Chinglish, I thought, would serve dual purpose - useful for people travelling to China, and for the Chinese people, if willing, to correct themselves. Now the Chinese guys may shoot back, we don't want to learn Chinese by some jaded little Indian, who himself cannot speak good English, we've got lot of good books. Well my point here is, I'm not trying to teach you guys, so called, Good English. At the same time, I'm trying to point out, not even correct, some of the mistakes that you guys often make.

The first obvious observation that a foreigner make is the replacement of "TH" by "S". This is replaced universally, without any exception.
Thanks - Sanks
Thinking - Sinking
Thought - Sought
Nothing - Nosing
Three - Sree
Author - Ausor
I remember, quite often, I've told my close Chinese friends, you guys have sank so deep that you can never float.
Once I had been out with one of my female colleagues, and she invited me to her place for checking out her DVD collection, finally when taking leave she says, in a very feeble voice, "Sanks". You know how that would have sounded for an antsy, debauched guy like me. I said "Pardon me", she again says "Sanks". I was getting more and more restless, finally the fourth time she said "Sank you", I grasped it, bid her goodbye and left.
The teacher in salsa class, rhythmically says "One two sree, one two sree, one two sree!!!"

Chinese are very bad when it comes to genders. No matter what sex, they address by a unanimous "HE". You would not believe, sometimes I had to correct my friends thrice, back to back, in a single sentence. Sister, mother, girl friend, aunt, niece - everybody has the same pronoun, "HE".
My friend gave me a brilliant idea once. He said, instead of just correcting them, he asked me to say "Hey you said HE when talking about your sister? Back in India, for girls we say SHE and for boys HE". I tried this once and my friend got slightly offended.

Another blatant mistake is the usage of COME and GO. When you invite a person, you always say "Please come to my place", but Chinese say "Please go to my place". I've tried to explain this case with umpteen examples, but all those efforts were in vain.

They get erratic and confused between TOMORROW and YESTERDAY; NEXT and LAST; CHICKEN and KITCHEN; LUNCH and DINNER. If there is any valid reason why they are unable to speak proper English, its their reluctance to speak English. At the same time, they do not have good reason to speak English, the language support is so well established, that English, absolutely is not a necessity but a luxury for them.

Please do correct me, if I make mistakes, when speaking for I have been under Chinglish influence for two winters.

Engrish in Shanghai

For the sake of improving English, the restrooms in few of the offices will occasionally have a passage of text, of length designed for the duration of pissing. I found one such interesting piece, if you can figure out what it means, revert to me please.

Hurl them with Oranges

To understand this excerpt, you guys gotto read my previous passage titled "Warning: We are Israel". To make things a bit more clearer, Israelis and Arabs have signed a 30 days truce and at the expiration of that, both parties are intending to start the war again. King Abdullah gives a try to avoid the war......


From O Jerusalem:

King Abdullah invites Lebanon's Riad Solh, Syria's Jamil Mardam, Egypt's Nokrashy Pasha and Arab League's secretary general to his palace to persuade others to join him in avoiding the war.

Abdullah reminded them that they had all accepted ceasefire because their ammunition was running low. They knew during past four weeks their enemies had received enormous quantities of arms. He suggested other leaders might indicate what new provisions they had received to justify going back to war.

Riad Solh exploded. They had to go back to war. Their people wanted it. Arab pride, honour and dignity demanded it. If they lacked grenades and ammunition, then, he declared, "we shall pick oranges from trees and hurl them at Jews to fight and save our honour"

A silence followed his impassioned words. Abdullah sighed.

"Thank you, Riad Bey," he said, "for your sentiments and such a delicate expression of our national spirit. I must, however, remind you of something you seem to have forgotten. We are now in the month of July. There will be no oranges on the trees of Palestine before September"


Friday, January 12, 2007

Warning: We are Israel

This one is an excerpt from "O Jerusalem". It explains the fact why countries don’t screw up with Israel and explains how they're surviving with Arab countries all around them.

For the uninitated, after the British Mandate in Israel Arabs and Jews were fighting bitterly. Jews faced a terrible set back in Lathrun and Old City of Jersusalem and were running dangerously short of food and ammunition, Arabs were on their verge of victory. Suddenly the Arab commander Abdullah Tell receives a 30-days truce order. The below passage explains how much ammunitions were shipped into Jersusalem violating the truce orders.

O Jerusalem Pg. 453:

The supplies rolling up the Burma Road to Jerusalem were a mere token of things to come. At last the arms David Ben-Gurion had promised his colleagues May 12 were beginning to pour into the country in considerable number - and, evidently, in open violation of the terms of the cease-fire. On June 15, one of the Yehuda Arazi's ships delivered ten 75mm cannon, ten Hotchkiss tanks, the first real armor to reach Israel, nineteen 65mm cannon, four antiaircraft guns and 45000 shells. A second ship delivered 110 tons of TNT, ten tones of cordite and 20000 detonators.
From Mexico, the S.S. Kefalos brought thirty six 75mm cannon, five hundred machine guns, seventeen thousand shells, seven million rounds of ammunition and, as an extra dividend, 1400 tons of sugar used to hide its real cargo in case the British tried to seize the ship at Gibraltar. Materials for Palestine sent from the US included two boatloads of war-surplus jeeps, trucks and half-tracks, bombsights, chemicals for the production of explosives, a radar set and the machine tools required to manufacture bozookas. The indefatigable Yehuda Arazi also bought thirty surplus Sherman tanks in Italy.
In Prague, Ehud Avriel continued his purchasing activities. During June alone, he bought eight million rounds of ammunition, twenty-two light tanks and four hundred machine guns. The air force which had started out with a handful of pleasure plans now possessed fifteen C-46s, three B-17 Flying Fortresses, three Constellations, five P-51 Mustang fighter, four Boston A-20 bombers, two DC-4s, ten DC-3s, twenty Mersserschmitts, seven Ansons and four Beaufighters. Begun by a letter to Ben-Gurion from his next-door neighbor, the Haganah air service had become in less than six months the most powerful air force in the Middle East. In Israel, the miniature arms industry bought surreptitiously in the US by Haim Slavine was in full production, turning out, among other things, nine hundred mortar shells and six thousand bullets a day.