Monday, March 30, 2009

Good friends we lose, along the way

On the morning of Saturday, the one that went by, I was on a call with Mom, when a bunch of cronies from the local municipality armed tooth and nail appeared out of nowhere and randomly chopped off some tree branches on the roadside citing concern to traffic!

It was a sad and repulsive sight to see some of these last remaining wonders being unceremoniously hacked off from what had been their homes for several decades.

I was instantly reminded of the Chipko Movement that made waves in Uttarakhand during the 70s and the 80s.

I took some pictures of the grotesque scene and walked back home, feeling like a hypocrite, not having been able to do a thing about it, yet selfishly wondering if those exquisite birds would still sing their blissful melodies to me every morning as the day breaks!

We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction - Aesop

The road to tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth - Bill Clinton

A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent - Elie Wiesel

Friday, March 27, 2009

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, that together we succeed in building a better world through human under-standing and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings.

-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
On 10 December 1989 at the University Aula, Oslo
On the occasion of being conferred the Nobel Peace Prize.

Oh blessed and wise one, who taught me the way of peace,
You shall forever be a guiding light from the heavens,
for the will and courage that You possess with limitless compassion,
that can be likened to the mannerisms of the Gods!

Inspiration and Optimist, like none other, You will always be,
in the spirit, minds and hearts of a billion souls,
during times of tribulation and joy alike,
for the emissary of goodwill and honour, that You have always been.

With You, I have shrunken many a wild storm,
and emerged stronger and more willing to adhere,
to the blissful ways of a wondrous life,
with a supreme sense of contentment and joy.

I seek Your blessings and all good things after,
in the endeavour for a world of peace and justice.
In Thee I see the door to heaven and pray,
that God shall keep his flock together!

Today is Gudi Padwa, the Marathi new year! This festival is supposed to mark the beginning of Spring. According to the Brahma Purana, it is on this day that Lord Brahma created the Universe after the deluge and time began to tick forth on this day.

I'd like to wholeheartedly wish my Marathi friends a very happy new year, one ushers in a great deal of peace, prosperity and good times!


The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
50 years in exile
Image Courtesy - Hollywood Today

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mir's last sigh

8 years ago, on 23rd March 2001 at 05:50:00 UTC, an object weighing 124,340 kgs entered the Earth's atmosphere and moments later ceased to exist.

5,519 days and 3,638,470,307 kms later the Mir space station had become etched in history as one of the most widely known and the 'world's first consistently inhabited long-term research station in space.'

On the occasion of its death anniversary, I thought it worth to mention a few interesting facts

1. The station was in orbit for more than 14 years
2. It orbited 225 miles (362 kilometers) above Earth - about the distance from New York City to Boston
3. It circled the planet about 16 times a day.
4. It moved at about 17,500 m.p.h. (28,163 kilometers per hour).
5. It consisted six modules carrying 11.3 tons (11,481 kilograms) of equipment
6. Overall, the complex weighed about 130 tons (132,080 kilograms).
7. It included 6 modules arranged in a T-shape.
8. Mir was home to more than 100 cosmonauts, astronauts and other visitors.
9. Cosmonaut Valery Polyakov set the record for the longest stay in space and on Mir -- 438 days in 1994-95.
10. Equipment on Mir was manufactured in 27 countries.
11. More than 16,500 experiments were conducted on the station.
12. Some 24 international programs have been realized on Mir during its life in orbit.
13. The station's development resulted in more than 600 new technologies, which later turned out to be useful to industry; and
14. Mir in Russian means either Peace or World! (I prefer peace!)


List of Mir Expeditions
List of Mir spacewalks
List of spacecraft and crews that visited Mir

Image Courtesy: NASA

Friday, March 20, 2009

Samby comes to Pune

I had not once before met someone from the blog world and when Samby told me of his impending visit to Pune, I was excited! I was happy that I was going to be in town and made sure that I had nothing to be bothered about on the designated day! I hadn't much to do at work either, with my boss on vacation during the week!

But then, I had not factored in the possibilities of Murphy's law. While at work, on the afternoon of March 3rd, I received an email from the training team stating that I had been nominated for a certain workshop, the subject of which is still very new across my organization. I was to travel to Mumbai for a three day session which began on 6th and ended on 9th! I couldn't help mutter a curse! I was contemplating how to inform Samby of this development while still being at loss for words and thoughts! And suddenly it dawned on me that Mumbai wasn't too far apart for me to travel back to Pune since Sunday was not part of the training calendar. I then wrote to Samby, that "come what may, I will be available in Pune" on 8th to meet with him!

On the morning of 8th, I met Samby in Pune! I'm tempted to divulge details of his harrowing trip from Lonavla to Pune, but then that being specifically marked "Classified Information, Ears Only", I'd be well guarded against spilling the beans!

It took me just an instant to understand that Samby was a traveller in the truest sense and in the realm of life itself. He is somebody who is very passionate about life and work, somebody who is never hesitant to call a spade a spade and more importantly someone who is very mature in his reflection of thoughts and actions, even after a few beers ;-)

While he recounted some parts of his life in the services, I reflected on my past and wondered how so much I too, as a teenager, wanted to be a part of this ultra elite assemblage. Today, it gives me great pride, pleasure and a sense of privilege to be associated with someone from the armed forces, a group of highly disciplined people who do not hesitate to sacrifice their lives, so that we live in peace, as was the case of Major. Sandeep Unnikrishnan who attained immortality, fighting islamic terrorists, as part of Operation Black Tornado, during the 26/11 incident in Mumbai last year.

March 8th, was a very short day, fun-filled, interesting and very informative to me as I had the wonderful opportunity of learning a few lessons from someone much younger and for having been able see the world as he did. They say every meeting is historic for the experience it provides. Unquestionably sure, I was!

As a finale, the picture was taken. Now, Samby, what did you do to make me look so unphotogenic?

Monday, March 16, 2009

United We Stand?

Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.

Human Rights perhaps is the most debated subject in modern times along with being among the worst abused of all! Civilizations, cultures, education, compassion and the fact of being fellow human beings have still not put an end to violence and untold hatred among communities due to the mere reason of being different from one another!

Resolution A/RES/60/251 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 15th March 2006 gave birth to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which came into being without the support of the United States, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Israel! Although the world hailed this as a big step forward in the path to uphold and maintain the sanctity of human rights across all places, a lot needs to be done to ensure that ground realities change in many geographies especially in Tibet and Africa! Which brings me to the Godsend Paul Rusesabagina. If the name does not ring a bell, I'm sure Hotel Rwanda does! The movie is based on a real-life remarkable story of how one man ensured the safety of 1,268 people during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.

Scores of other such inspirational accounts remain and yet on the other side, numerous instances of human rights violations remain unreported and unnoticed. I do not know of a remedy for this scourge, but I do want to see my world and that of my unborn children safe, peaceful and conducive for a good living. I don't believe I'm asking for much, from fellow human beings!


Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The United Nations Human Rights Council - Wikipedia

Images Courtesy: Wikipedia & The United Nations Human Rights Council

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Welcome to Mumbai

"We build our computer systems the way we build our cities, over time, without a plan and on top of ruins."

-- Ellen Ullman

Mumbai is many multitudes intricately woven into one! It is a system more than a place, one which is extremely fast paced, chaotic, frenzied yet interesting! Living up to its ominous reputation, it is a city that never sleeps or pauses as the world saw during the grim incidents of 26/11 last year.

It's intricately woven roads, snaking in between layered over bridges and sky hugging buildings makes one feel that even the lifeless is full of constant life. It is a city of stark contradictions, of extreme poverty and supreme opulence laid right next to one another, and in utterly happy coexistence.

Huge milling crowds that could rival a division of soldiers makes one feel the superficial purpose of human continuance with which aim every human sets foot into this seeming bewilderment!

Woes are a plenty, especially when one is on the road, set to reach a destination! What would otherwise be a journey of a few minutes could well take up an hour due to the absolutely chaotic traffic which moves at lesser than snail's pace! And if you are one of those people who'd be overwhelmed by the sight of a few thousand people and pondering how easy or difficult it is to jostle and rub shoulders on a walk, you better think twice before calling Mumbai your destination!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Being Me?

Have you ever felt in contravention to your inner-self? For the sake of resolving a conflict which you felt should have happened the way your conscious thought of rather than the way your mind wanted?

Life is not always black and white, there are many shades of gray in between. Some we see, some others we do not know they exist, let alone not being able to see!

Contradictions exist in every stage of life! They are a natural occurrence! It is important to recognize them rather than fight out their existence!

All roads lead forward, but our actions often do not! The result is a great deal of sorrow, disappointment, regret and pain, and a mix of all of them as if each of them were not potent enough already! Why? Isn't it only one life here?

Gaining terra firma is an art, aided with astute judgment, wisdom and patience! Who's gonna come around, when you break?

What is apparent is not usually recognized! The truth is out there, waiting to be known, felt and experienced, but the truth is a dangerous thing, for it is bitter, painful and strange! You just can't go on....but you have to!

If I fall along the way, pick me up and dust me off, and if I get too tired to make it, be my breath so I can walk
- Bent, Matchbox 20, April 18, 2000

I'm scared of loss! I'm anxious of the future! I'm worried of time slipping by! I'll be pained to envision the bygones! Will I be broken again? Will this end? I don't want it to! Is this Being Me? Can I get put back together? But I started out clean! And, what is that the English say about the end? A good beginning makes a good ending?


These pictures were taken, using a mobile phone camera, during my trip to the Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand during the winter of 2005! An account of this memorable trip is here!

Monday, March 02, 2009

F-WTSS 001 - Autorisé à décoller

It is 2nd March, but 1969, forty years before today! The place, known to avionics veterans either as TLS or LFBO and located 6.7 km northwest of Toulouse just south of Blagnac is the Aéroport de Toulouse - Blagnac, better known to the outside world as the Toulouse Blagnac International Airport, in France, witnessed history in the making when an Anglo-French plane bearing registration number F-WTSS, designated 001, took off and hovered in the air for 27 minutes before its commander decided to bring it back to land!

Powered by four Olympus 593 engines, built jointly by the Bristol division of Rolls Royce and the French Snecma organisation, the Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde had for the first time "lifted off" ground amidst thundering applause from a battery of personnel, cameramen and journalists who had gathered to watch the maiden flight!

Eventually, only 20 of these super-birds were ever built and the supersonic carrier was withdrawn from service due to a host of problems ranging from finance to environmental impact! F-WTSS, 001 itself flew only 812 hours before being retired on 19 October 1973! It is currently on display at Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace (The Museum of Air and Space), Le Bourget, France.

The last concorde, G-BOAF 216, was retired on 26 November 2003 after 18257 hours in flight, thus bringing the concorde era to an end!


Image Courtesy: The BBC
Other inputs: Wikipedia