Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cops and Karmas

This is yet another "It happens only in Mexico" kind of incident. The other one is here. In contrast with the latter one where the cops were at the height of idiocy, the former one makes them look more sound and sensible.

I was driving with few of my friends towards Cola de Caballo. Speeding on Carretera Nacional, I knew, was very vulnerable to clandestine cops and I religiously stuck to the speed limits. The road off the Carretera Nacional highway, narrowed down to almost quarter the width, with just 2 lanes. It was curvy, mountainous and snail paced. Unfortunately, we happened to encounter a fully-loaded mammoth bus which one could overtake easily by, forget walking, crawling. But the road was just 2 lanes and overtaking was deadliest crime.

I followed the bus for a while and it was getting on my nerve, it was so slow that I couldn't pull the gear to second. It was a curve to the left and I could clearly see that there was no on-coming vehicle. I turned the steering wheel, pressed the gas and the vehicle revved rapidly overtaking the bus in no time. As I heaved a deep sigh of relief, I was disturbed a cacophonic honk. I cursed the bus driver for that ugly noise and see in the rear mirror. What the !!!!!!

Transito, the transit police, who normally pounce on the highway was blinking his lights indicating me to pullover. Darn!!! I pulled over. Unlike the Indian police who would have greeted me "yaako boLi magane", he was a lot nicer and kinder. He came to me, shook hands and politely said "Buenas Tardes" and asked me to walk out of the car. They asked me show my license and I showed the colour photocopy of the Indian driving license I had. He asked me if it was really license, for he couldn't read English. He then asked me for tarjeta de circulacion, the registration card of the vehicle. I told him I forgot to get it, but luckily there was a receipt of car repair which bore my name and it matched with the name on driving license. Thankfully, he was convinced that I was the owner of the car. He then asked me if other passengers were Indian and I said, "Si, falta una, pero no pueden hablar Español".

He told me that they're confiscating my license and I had to go to their office in Santiago any day from Monday to Friday before 8:00PM, cough up the fine and collect my license. I pleaded to them not to do so in my broken Spanish, "Señor, es muy deficil para mi porque tengo mucho trabjar" (Sir it's very difficult for me, I have lot of work). He then asked if we can show them Indian currency since they had never seen it. I asked my friends if anybody had an Indian currency and Siddiq pulled out a hundred rupee note and handed over. I showed them the note pointing to Gandhi and told them the Mexican equivalent. Annie voluntarily pulled out a 20 renminbi note to show them some Chinese currency too. They saw both of them and returned them to me and asked me to see them on Monday.

I pleaded more and told them that I can pay the fine right away. Unfortunately they had not got their "ticket" book and they didn't want to accept dirty money without issuing me a ticket. They spoke something among themselves feebly, like a quick conspiracy. No!!! They were not planning to accept a huge bribe or something, but instead they were working out an alternative. They didn't want to trouble a foreigner to come all the way to pay the fine and at the same time they didn't want bribe. I was impressed by the way he solved the issue. With slight hesitation he said, "Is it possible for you to give each of us a foreign currency so that we can keep that as a memorabilia for catching a foreigner? It would be a kind of gift for us which we would remember forever and you can take your license".

I asked Siddiq if he had 4 notes, he had three. They agreed for three Indian bills and one Chinese bill which together cost me 100 pesos equivalent. It saved me 400 pesos (the fine I was supposed to pay was 500 pesos) and the painful task of driving back all the way on a weekday, finding the office of the transit police and paying up.


As I was half way through this article, I was, unfortunately, caught by cops again!!!

I was heading for lunch with my lunchmates in an unknown colony. As I turned left from the signal and sped my car, a guy who didn't look cop made me stop for revving the engine in a 30Kmph zone. He asked me to pullover and asked me for licensia and tarjeta de circulacion. After the previous incident, I had kept them in the car. This time I had my Mexican friend Izkalli sitting next to me and she did most talking, though I could follow their conversation.

He told her that I need to pay 800 pesos as fine and obey all the traffic signs that were to follow. She tried convincing him that I'm a foreigner and was not aware of the speed zones over there. He said that it didn't really matter if I'm from India or Afghanistan, the traffic signs are the same everywhere. He then asked what do we all do? Where were we heading to? Izkalli replied to him that we were going for lunch.

Now comes the twist in the story. He then asked Izkalli, "Where is my lunch?" Izkalli told him that we can get him lunch from where we are going to eat. He then said, "No I want it now". Izkalli turned to me, "Do you have some money?"
"Yeah I do"
"Gimme some"
"How much? 200?"
"No 100 should be enough."

He then handed over my license to her and she neatly folded the 100 pesos bill, placed it underneath the license and handed over to him. He promptly returned the registration card and license and asked us to drive carefully.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Matter of Consistency

This is what I call "consistency". From past 3 years, without failing on single day, no matter sunny or rainy, normal or cataclysmic, working or vacationing, I receive this mail:


Its been more than 6 months since you last updated your Skill information in Peoplesoft
Log into the system to update the changes.

This E-Mail Brought to you by PeopleSoft WorkFlow Technology. Please do not reply.

Being bugged by this crap, I promptly logged into the tedious system once and updated my "SKILLS". But to my dismay the mails didn't stop. The system which sends this mail should understand that my skills haven't improved considerably that I update it every day. Worse still, it not only spams my inbox, it spams my manager's too, keeping him in copy. Two of my managers (current and ex) complained to me that they are being spammed because of me, I replied to them, "Just delete. I've been spammed for past 3 years."

There is another system in my company which is equally consistent, but thankfully, the frequency of it's spamming is less. Once a week I get this mail:

Subject: PERFORCE: Unused Clientspecs

Hello sachin,
The following Perforce clientspec(s) owned by you, have not been
used for more than 120 days.
Please delete these clientspec(s) if they are not needed anymore.

The beauty of this mail is that I never used the Perforce tool during my, almost, 5 years of stint in this company, which means I was never a Perforce client. That makes the whole tool mysterious making me to ponder if it is really Perforce tool or some anti-Microsoft spamming tool. I remember replying to config-management admin to delete my clientspec, I swear my heart that I don't use any clientspec. I was wondering why the mail stated that I have not used the client spec for more than 120 days, it should have been nearly 1800 days.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Men!!! Beware!!!

Beware all you men. The very fact that you're men may just be destroyed by a single touch of sorcerers. Till now it's only in Africa, hope it does not spread. Click here for more information and stay away from magicians.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The "G" Factor

People do get confused by foreigner names but this one excels.

My friend Pau came to me asking which Geetha is she supposed to send the mail. There were half a dozen Geethas displayed in her Outlook address book. I was not really sure which one, for I didn't even no a single Geetha and couldn't really help her out. Then comes my friend-cum-manager Benji to whom she asks the same question. The fat and happy Benji is confused as to why she had to send a mail to Geetha in the first place, for Geetha was in no way concerned with the matter for what Pau was triggering a mail. After a quick contemplation he asks, "Do you wanna send mail to Gildas? Coz he is the point of contact for all our support and not any of those Geethas".

My suggestion for you Pau: Don't read just the first and last letters, read stuff between them too.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

TV9, The News Channel

I don't know when exactly it was conceived and born, but I noticed during my recent trip to Bangalore that our TV, most of the times, was tuned to a channel TV9. It instills an intense fear in me as I write this article for the reasons you'll know soon.

It is one of among those plethora of Indian news channels which is more entertaining than being informative. The best part of this channel is that it transmogrifies the news into something that resembles soap operas. The logistics of the channel is very unique, it saves money on the reporters' salaries by turning the public into reporters. They give the telephone number to which the public can call and report any local news. Sounds interesting isn't it? Public acting as journalists!!!

But as mentioned earlier, it's one of the best entertainment channels beating the shit out "The Great Indian Laughter Challenge". The sort of news broadcast on this channel includes the infamous nalli jagaLas (ladies fighting at the tap for collecting water) or wives of a polygamist beating him up in public or child getting stuck inside the bore-well or illegitimate affairs of a temple seer. Trivial as it may seem, each of these so called, news item is dragged, repeated and hackneyed for hours and at times, days together. I still remember watching "wives of a polygamist beating him up in public" case. He was despised so much by the reporter and the wives were pummeling, kicking and bashing the guy in public tearing his shirt and calling names. The very next day I was amazed to see the same guy condemned by the wives, was dressed like a gentleman in the studio of TV9 channel and was now the hero of the whole episode. It seems the wives who were supported by the media the previous day, were a bunch of criminals known for such acts!!! No mames wey!!!

Apart from such conflicting news, another feature worth mentioning about this channel is "Repetition Rate" and "Drag length". The video report shown for a particular news, you get a feel that the broadcasting device is conked-off and repeating the video over and over and over and over again. You can try the first seen, close your eyes, count 10 pulses, open your eyes...I bet you will be watching the same scene. The reports will be sometimes nagged for days. When a boy had fallen inside a narrow bore-well, the whole report was shown live...rescue team arrival, discussion, digging the earth, having lunch, digging further, parents praying, grandparents sobbing, having dinner, reaching him, rescuing, happy parents, happy friends, happy grandparents, happy rescuers, bidding good bye...which was followed by expert's opinions on bore-wells and children's safety for next couple of days!!!

I guess as long as there are watchers there will be news channels broadcasting loads and loads of quality crap. There are better things in this world to be talked and discussed about. If you're wondering what they warming, election campaigns, snail paced road constructions in name a few. And again, please don't talk about these for days together. Make quality news with lesser'll be more appropriate and appreciated.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Kingfisher rocks!!!

I know the entire multitude of India and foreigners to a certain extent would nod in agreement if I were to be talking about the...Oola la la la Oole Ooo...KF beer, but the current article is about Kingfisher airlines.

In a nutshell, Kingfisher airlines is NIIIICCCCCCCCEEEEEEE (like Borat says).

Right from check-in to alighting I was impressed. The check-in counter, was not so crowded and the check-in happened in a wink, without slightest hassles. The boarding was fast and smooth, welcomed aboard by a lady dressed in dashing red attire with a pleasant smile on a pretty face.

The fuselage was aesthetic with red silky upholstery. Each seat was equipped with personal TV monitors screening most of India's leading channels (watching "Laughter challenge" up in the air was a different experience altogether). The stewardesses, needless to say were a treat to eyes, were tiptop in manners and etiquettes. Vijay Mallya, it seems, has hand picked the stewardesses for Kingfisher airlines and I couldn't suspect that statement, atleast in this particular flight. The food was sumptuous and sufficient for the journey which lasted an hour and a half. Add to all this are the freebies and goodies you can pocket-in, a pair of KF earphones and a pen. Though not that great, Continental charges $1 for the stupid 2 pin earphones.

Thinking of my connecting flight which was 16 hours long, I was seriously hoping that Kingfisher airlines start international flights. Kudos Mr. Mallya, whether beers or flights, you and your brand rock!!!

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A Matter Of Concern...

At the check-in counter of Chatrapathi Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, I was appalled by the security grill I was subjected to. First of all the lady over there was surprised by the fact that I was travelling on B1!!! What the heck? Secondly she was even more stupefied by the fact that I was transiting via america to a country called Mexico. She started asking typical questions like...How many checkin and carryon baggages do I have? From where you're coming? Where are you heading to? What does my baggage contain? If someone has given something to carry apart from what I've packed? If I've bought something at the duty free? If the baggage has been opened since I packed?

The time she took to scrutinize my American visa was enough for me to actually finish this write-up. Probably because the field 'Place of Issue' contained Monterrey and she was wondering where in this whole India was Monterrey. She then asked me the visa for entering Mexico. I showed her my FM3 whose Spanish text made her head reel with chaos of confusion. She didn't know what to say, she asked me to wait a minute till she checks with her boss. She then crossed the demarcation belts and spoke with her boss showing the document and pointing at me. They both came and asked me for the proof of my working in Mexico, I told them it's the one they have in their hand, the green coloured FM3 document. He asked me for something more, I handed over my company's ID badge. He asked me for appointment letter, I said I don't have. After a brief scrutiny of my ID badge, he was in a state of absolute perplexity...there was one card of my company, another of my customer, a third card below the badge which gives access when flashed across the door. He asked me what each of those cards were and then he asked how long is my work permit valid? I had to translate the Spanish sentences and show him the date of expiry. He then asked me that the badge I have has an address of Indian company, how come I was working in Mexico? I had to tell him the whole history of me getting transferred to Mexico. The whole team went discussed something in isolation holding my passport, FM3 and ID badge; finally came upto me and said that I can checkin my baggages.

This is the kind of formidable and profound security check that happens when one is JUST TRANSITING america.

After spending next 16 painful hours in the flight, I reach the so called, dreamland, america. At the immigration counter in Newark airport, nobody even cared to ask for any document that I possessed to enter Mexico and the same happened in Houston airport too. So technically I could have entered Mexico without any visa and got stranded in the airport of Mexico. It's the height of being selfish and selfcentered. Every damn country on this planet should scrupulously do the security check before sending their citizens to america, but america does not give slightest damn to people visiting other countries.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

PM Swimming Center

Long time back I had wrote about Zhangjiang swimming pool where I used to practice swimming regularly during my days in China. Now it's the PM Swimming Center's turn to make an appearance in my blog. There are two PM swimming centers in Bangalore, one in Jayanagar III block, fondly called, Jaynagara swimming poolu and the other in RPC layout, Vijayanagar. The one under discussion here s the latter pool in Vijayanagar.

An extremely well maintained pool of international standards, crystal clear water, apt amount of chlorine (one could swim without goggles), nice ambiance, sufficient life guards...overall a 9/10 kinda pool. But what makes the pool rather interesting, as in the case of Zhangjiang swimming pool, is the people coming there rather than the pool itself. There is no age, caste or creed bar but definitely a sex bar exists. The people from Mars and Venus are never allowed to swim at the same time, there exists different batches only for women.

This is how the whole thing works. Loosely it's pretty much like a movie theatre - join the queue, buy the tickets, show it to the scrutinizer, undress, hit the shower (optional), dive into the pool, stop at the whistle, hit the shower again (optional) and exit. But each of these actions requires attention and explanation.

The queue is normally short, but if it's summer vacation time, then the queue may get annoyingly long and noisy. Rule breakers are umpteen in number, they are blind after some part of the queue and join somewhere in the middle without seeing anybody behind them. And there are few brave ones who enter the ticket counter in the direction exactly opposite to the queue (the queue is lateral to the counter) and are profusely subjected to verbal abuse of the highest order. The queue is composed of kids discussing about their homework, their strict miss in the school and certain teenagers talking about the figure they saw in the park or their friend's broken elbow.

The scrutinizer is a happy soul with the rare passion of shredding papers. He smiles at you, tears the tickets into two, hands over the bigger part (which forms the major part of litter around the pool, he can might as well keep both parts or trash them) and occasionally asks questions, "Why so late?"

Safe lockers are passé, leave your belongings under the open sky, be it sunny, be it rainy. A board reads "Enter pool with swimming costume only" which is as ineffective as "Smoking is injurious to health". You see people entering pools dressed with desi brands of undis - Ponni, Poomer, VIP, Rupa, Tantex - you name it you find it. There is yet another board as ineffective as the previous one, reads, "Take shower before entering the pool". Few of them disobey religiously and the others who respect the board, shower as though they're in a desert trying to save water. Not even an inch of their body would get wet, they just pass through the falling water and jump into the pool.

The deep (10 feet) and shallow (3 feet) ends are separated by 50m and a demarcation thread to indicate the start of depth at about 5 feet. The shallower side of the thread is a perfect visual example of population explosion. The crowd is so much and the space is so less that the purpose of your visit, swimming, could just not fulfilled. Wait a minute, I was not very precise in the previous statement when I mentioned that swimming was the purpose, but there are lots for whom it's a chance to bathe too. Good deal, isn't it: Pay for swimming and get shower for free!!! Also there is much of playing and less of swimming in the shallow end. Kids take run-up, leap high and enter into the water...if a video is shot excluding water surface, it looks pretty much like an athletic long jump. Pranksters are no less either, pulling undies and legs, splashing water are normal scenes. You maybe asked to lend your goggles by some inquisitive kids. I remember lending mine to one such kid, who wanted to know how it looks from inside the goggle, he swam without immersing is head down!!! There are also certain self-learners whose futile efforts (shallow end) to learn swimming would look as though they've been thrown in the middle of the lake crowded with hungry crocodiles. First of all they seldom immerse their head in the water, secondly there is no arms-legs-breathing co-ordination, thirdly they splash their arms and legs so rapidly that they're exhausted before swimming a few meters. Amidst all this chaos, there are lovely fathers teaching their lovely kids, some peaceful, tired souls sitting on the bank thinking weather to swim or not and few others flaunting their courage by crossing the safety thread once a while.

The deeper end is, thankfully, less crowded. Normally veterans keep wading the breadth (occasionally coming in the way of length swimmers) in this place and they're fewer in number. This place again is not completely devoid of entertainment. There are few swimmers who would want to exit from diving board, like those international guys...but invariably they fall into water like a pig dropped from a certain height, splashing a gigantic wave. Instead of forging ahead rapidly due to the dive, they drown down almost half the depth and then come up gasping for breath. Few of them seek entertainment by making others to compete. They would force you in the teeth of your decision to take part in the competition and have fun by cheering the winner and pulling the leg of loser.

The whole session is supposed to last for an hour - they start issuing tickets at 9, you end up in the pool by 9:10, the whistle is blown at 9:30, getting out of the pool, bathing and exiting would need another 25 minutes. So effectively, you swim for 20-25 minutes. Now that explains the herd of non-swimmers at the shallow end - no time, no space and no instructor.

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