Catch-22 at the reservation counter

The Tambaram Railway Station likes to be almost disabled friendly. For a long time they had a ramp for people to wheel up, except the ramp seemed to be blocked for use, there was one of those big traffic control barriers across it. Now the barrier is gone, but the ramp is a sight, the handrail rises at a funny angle so that at the bottom the ramp it’s at the level of your ankle and at the top it’ll be at the height of a standing person.

Another example of their almost-helpful policy is the following sign. How Nice!, one would like to say.


There is a problem, of course, the sign is on the first floor. You can get to the first floor only by using the stairs. This is a classic Catch-22! If you can get to the sign, you aren’t eligible for the ‘priority’ because you aren’t disabled and if you’re disabled you’re eligible but you can’t get any ‘priority’ because you can’t get up there in person. The Railways has quite the penchant for black humour.

Getting back home – Raja Hamsa

Kempegowda Bus Terminus - A blurry photo Being incredibly lazy, P, S and I didn’t book our train tickets back home. So, Thursday night we found ourselves at Kempegowda Bus Terminus with a confirmed ticket for an ‘Executive Class’ bus arriving at 10:21. We got to the terminus by travelling by auto, and man the place is wild. It’s like a giant bus dumpyard or something, they’re just everywhere and in every direction and in lots of colours and with route plates in all sorts of languages.

We managed to get to the appropriate platform much ahead of time and spent our time looking at the Volvo buses and wondering if they were worth the extra 150 bucks. They look pretty damn awesome. So how this Bus Terminus works is, each bus arrives and the conductor dude starts yelling the time that the bus was meant to arrive at and that’s how people know which bus is which. They’ll wait lots of time and call out for passengers that haven’t yet arrived. So while we waited, we saw 10:10, 10:15 go by and alarmingly, 10:30, 10:35 and 10:50. Naturally, every bus but ours had arrived on time and left. I blame Pipe. You can always blame Pipe. It’s usually his fault and he’s very blameable. Actually, in this case, he was the one who went and got the tickets so I get to blame him however much I like.

The seats - thumbnail At around 11 our bus arrived and we boarded it and promptly made our seats lean back the most we could, reclining peaceably and drinking apple juice. The bus left half empty and so we asked the conductor if any more people would be coming, and after he said that 12 more would be waiting at another stop we grabbed the last row of seats. The good thing about this last row is that the seats are contiguous and so you can use them as a bed… or so we thought. Anyway, the thing is these buses have a button that you press to recline. The problem is that this button is placed between seats, so it’s rather uncomfortable unless you manage to miss those buttons. Just takes a little practice. I managed to sleep at 1:30 that night, not strange considering I had one of those reasonably decent espressos at Café Coffee Day. We reached CMBT at around 6 in the morning. Not bad, pretty quick. Enough time for me to get home, unpack, get ready for college and fall asleep instead. Pipe managed to get to college though. Typical. Though he did collapse that evening. That’ll teach the fellow. Simbly roaming here and there.

Some other pictures:

Sitting at the window - Master of the Blurry photo
Guy carring weapons at Kempegowda
Pipe reading Catcher in the Rye

Getting back home – The Auto Driver

We stayed over an extra day in Bangalore and walked about around where we were staying, checked out some chicks from Stella Maris, ate some cheap and good chicken biryani, had a couple of espressos and generally lazed around. Here’s a little fact for you: Bangalore has lots of traffic signs. Really. Lots.

Anyway, in the evening when we decided to leave for the station we caught an auto. Now this auto fellow wasn’t normal, and he was driving without a headlight. Naturally, we chose to travel by his auto. R’s mom had already told us that one particular road was blocked and so the autorickshaw-wallah was told, so he claimed the other route would be longer and he would have to charge us more, so we said fine. Then, he decides to take the shorter route after all, and has to turn right back when it turns out that the road was blocked after all. Meanwhile, Pipe strikes up a conversation in Hindi with the fellow, and since I can’t speak Hindi, I listen. The conversation goes something like this: (I’ve made lots of changes because otherwise you have to brink the rest of the conversation in and I don’t remember it all)

Pipe: Bhai, how come you don’t have headlight?
Driver: Forgot to pay the electricity bill.

Driver: I want to meet Goundamani, Vadivel, Senthil, they’re really funny. Them and… Jayalalitha.
Pipe: Ah, Jayalalitha, they say she has 400 pairs of shoes.
Driver: She uses them instead of clothes or what?
Pipe: They say she has lots of saris too.
Driver: She’s so big, I bet they weld more than one together for her.

Driver: Before you, I had to transport a couple and then suddenly halfway through she started crying really hard. I wanted to ask her why she was crying but then she’d probably cry even more.

Pipe: Why do all the buses here have only Kannada names on the boards?
Driver: In TN, all the buses are in Tamil, it’s just the same. […something about English…]
Pipe: […something else about English…]
Driver: There was this Nepali, when I took him to this place to which it would cost Rs. 49 my meter showed Rs. 53. He started complaining, he said, “You see, I see…”. What is this UCIC? Some new bank or something?
Driver: He said he was going to file FIR with the police, I told him, “What FIR? Here, police? Go back to Nepal and file it.”. He’s probably a cook or a servant or something anyway. Finally he gave me Rs. 50, so I said, “The five rupees is a tip.” Ha ha, I gave him a tip. Ha ha.

Crazy fellow, all that talk and he finally charged us Rs. 120 for the journey. Not too bad, I suppose. Ah well.

Monthly link post

For things that I can’t seem to describe properly enough. Here’s just the links:

  • ingimp is a modified version of GIMP that you can use to send usability data. Just download it and use it like you would use the GIMP, it’s the same program after all…nearly.
  • An Offline Wikipedia. You’ll need to download the Wikipedia archive which is a couple of GB in size without the images. It’s useful for when other people claim funny things and you can’t correct them because they don’t understand you. For stuff like “you can’t use a normal parabolic dish for mobile phone signal, you need to optimise it for that wavelength”.
  • Motion, a motion-detecting program, useful with a camera that can output video directly to your computer. Like this guy did.
  • Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen: An interesting martial art from Indonesia (sort of). One particular part of it (Kun Tao) focusses almost entirely on defense and some schools actually have an entire belt ranking system for just that.
  • Do we need an Open Source Hardware Licence: Completely unrelated talk here, go check out the OpenSPARC project. Sun released the specifications and source to its UltraSPARC T2 as soon as it was released. Parts were under NDA, but I think they’ll be freer later. The licence used is the GPL 2.0, though they seem open to the GPL 3.0 as of now.
  • Ubuntu Hardware Compatibility List: A nice database to which you can submit reviews on how your hardware works under Ubuntu and check other people’s reviews to see if it’s worth buying the piece.
  • A CC Science Fiction book. Have a look see.Ventus, published by Tor (the same guys who published JOR’s works) is somewhat about ecology. That’s what interested me.

EDIT: And also because I forgot it, the Peru meteor incident. Did someone say ‘Andromeda Strain’?

Spandan – JIPMER’s cultural fest

Right, so we left for JIPMER last Tuesday, on a crowded bus. Crowded buses are MCC’s preferred method of travel. JIPMER is in Pondicherry, for those who don’t know, and it’s a medical college which is to say, it’s pretty cool. Ever noticed that medical colleges are the only sensible colleges around here? Weird. So anyway, we got there on Tuesday near midnight just as it started to rain. Don’t get me wrong, it was hot as hell, but it was raining. It was like being in the Amazon rainforest.

The ice-cream stall guy recognised us from CMC Vellore’s Culturals and so we all crowded into his stall to remain dry. Bikram sent the first years off to see if the room was okay. I wonder why he did that. Lucky he did, though, because some guy had left the tap open and the rooms were flooded. By flooded I mean there was water everywhere and that meant there was no place to sleep. Everyone made hurried plans to solve this problem and finally decided to sweep the water off (that meant, make the juniors sweep the water off). I think my idea was better: Make a pontoon bridge of some people and I’d sleep on top of them. They lie face down in the water, of course.

The Story Mélange:

Anyway that night we went to sleep in partly wet surroundings but work up the next day ready to do our job. MCC’s job is usually to provide participation. We’re like those people at political rallies, you know, those people who come because there’s a free lunch. We did that part nearly to perfection. Then Pipe and I accidentally won 90 seconds. By accidentally, I mean purely accidentally. We even asked them to check the scores because it didn’t make sense at all. The music events also had some MCC places, naturally.

Anyway, that first day went by quickly and by night we stayed up doing nothing interesting whatsoever. The next morning we all got up all late and all and I can’t recall what happened at all. Can’t recall the night either, except that we got new rooms and that sitting on the terrace yelling at passersby gets old quickly and that sleeping on the terrace doesn’t work when it rains. Our rooms were in the Staff Quarters or as a not-quite-sober bong I know put it The Quarterstaff. “Dude, our rooms are in the quarterstaff !“. We had fun there.

I fell ill that night and spent the next two days sleeping, waking up to bug the CMC people (nice fellows) and forgetting to have breakfast until 6 in the evening then compensating by eating lots of bun-omelette (a bread omelette variation) and drinking lots of coffee and shooting down Crocin like it was E. The last night I went to sleep early because I was feeling sick (I fell ill in a bloody hospital!) and I was woken at around midnight by invading armies of fellow MCC people. Before I knew it everyone had crowded into one room and the aforementioned bong had started doing a crazy dance. It was surreal. Then the next morning we had to leave because the dance team that wasn’t selected for representing our college had come to Pondy, got drunk and got into a fight with the rest of us (not including the sleeping me). One of our juniors socked a JIPMER dude nicely before escaping into the MCC scrim because the JIPMER dude broke his watch. We were pulled back, too bad. It was quite crazy, I wanted to see Pondy on the last day, ride around the place on a rented bicycle or something.

JIPMER is this crazy place. It’s got half exploded babies suspended in formalin in cylinders, it’s got weird silent-movie fights between drunkards, and drunks throwing bottles here and there. Let’s take that slowly:

Half exploded babies:

Alright, do not walk in here stoned. You’ll freak out. We went there after the JAM prelims and it was crazy man, like some alien experiments lab or something. It was pretty cool too, except for the PoP model of a ear that was titled “10 day old embryo”. Nice try, but we got you. The babies are crazy, they’re of all races so that makes for an even representation. I bet in a different part of the hospital they put microchips in the babies and make them walk and talk and then people adopt them and then they’re like a spy in that household. Evil place.

Silent Movie Fights:

Imagine a fight in a silent movie, without the exaggerated speed at which the characters move. That’s what we saw, there was a little melee at the gate to Lister House during one of the events and then two characters emerged with curious security personnel following. Then the fight started, with punches and shoves but with no sound, not even grunting or cursing. Even better was how the security personnel took the cue and also acted in silent movie style. It ended without a sound too, one of the fighters was pushed into the gutter where he fell rather comically. It was like a Charlie Chaplin move, hands and legs in the air. Then he got up and was restrained by a security dude. The other guy was pushed back into Lister House, also silently. It was one crazy event.

Random drunks:

There were random drunks everywhere. True to MCC tradition, some of us were sitting near the gutters near Lister House when this guy appeared with a bottle. He was tottering but managed a bold swig from the bottle before flinging it right at us. It smashed near our feet and the place started smelling of cheap liquor, a disgusting smell. So we left. Then another time, while we were walking, Bikram was nearly hit by a speeding drunk dude. It was crazy. Bikram gave him his most Sikkim stare and that fellow melted under the gaze and everyone was happy. No, actually that guy just went into reverse, spun the Indica around Batmobile-style and sped down the road again. Weird.

All in all, it was one crazy experience and parts of it were like a Kafka short story, making no sense at all whatsoever. Never mind, we had fun, for a short while atleast.

PS: It’s Oct 16 now and I still haven’t gotten my prize money. I’m also broke. I could really use that money right about now!

On a completely unrelated note:
I’m running out of time, I’m 19 already!. I just had to post that and since it didn’t deserve a post of its own I just put it at the bottom here.

Department Tour – Bangalore, Mysore and Coorg

Tomorrow we leave for Mysore for the first part of our department tour. I missed the last one because I just didn’t feel like going but this being the last year for me and all I thought, “Why not?” . So here I am, all paid up and ready to bunk my requisite two days of college. I was hoping we’d spend more time in cooler places (the original plan was Darjeeling), but I wanted to see Bangalore anyway and was planning to go this past weekend except when the time came I was broke. In any case, I’ll be leaving on the 14th, arriving on the 20th, so that’s 4 days of stuff to do. Yay! I like travelling, it’s lots of fun. As usual, I’ll be accompanied by my trusty still film Canon with rolls that cost 100 bucks each. Yeah, I can feel the pinch now

It’s been a very busy month, what with coming back from CMC Vellore at the beginning and then having to write exams that day and then going for the Fresher’s Auditions (some smart people there) and the College Auditions (this was nuts) and some other stuff. Seems like I’ll be missing Independence Day, but then I never put much store by that pointless ritual of saluting the flag. I’d do it, if only I didn’t have to do it with all those liars and thieves that claim to serve the people. Spoils the fun.

We’ll be back Monday morning and if I know my department they’ll be trying to get us to attend college that day. And if I know my classmates, they, the girls atleast, will. The guys probably won’t, except for one or two dedicated chaps. There’s this fellow who hates one class, so he attends every other class always, on time, never loses attendance and then when he’s calculated the number of days left is reasonable, he just won’t attend that class. Actually that was in the first year, with the Allied Physics class. Fascinating fellow. Clever. I tried that once, it ended with me just missing lots of classes because I used the “If I bunk this, no point attending that” logic which isn’t logic at all.

Anyway, see you on Monday!

UPDATE: Coincidentally, Marc has just posted saying that he won’t be going on his class tour because he doesn’t like the company. Ah well. Poor chap. My sympathies, Z.

The Slow Train to Calcutta

Remember when you were a kid, and the teachers used to tell you to write about “What you did this summer”. Of course you do, it was annoying. Anyway, that’s what I’m going to do. This summer I went to Sikkim, Kodaikanal and Ooty. I was supposed to go to Yercaud too, but unfortunately my experiment to cause a spacetime rift resulting in a duplicate of me occupying another place at the same time as me failed. To get to Gangtok we had to reach Calcutta Howrah and then take a train from Calcutta Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri (NJP). It took us a couple of days to get to Calcutta from Chennai Central, but fortunately we’d got tickets in the AC Three Tier coaches.

Inside the train. The train was quite comfortable, and the AC nearly managed to cope with the horrible heat. The cups in our hands once contained tomato soup, better known as ‘flaming lava that will burn your throat to a cinder’. Notice the view outside the window, it almost seems like a temperate landscape, except that it’s all due to the fact that our window alone (out of all the windows) was heavily tinted. Oh well, it preserved a nice feeling through the trip. Sharing that particular compartment were another family (a mother and two kids, one hyper active). The little boy kept stealing our pillows, and claiming that Bikram was intelligent but that I was not intelligent. His words, accompanied by a wagging finger. Thank you, boy, for your on-site instant IQ evaluation. I think the journey was two days. At this point in the trip I was thinking two days is a lot to be stuck on a train for. I mean, sure I’ve travelled by train lots but these multi-day journeys weren’t common. I wonder how Bikram, Suraj and I managed to stand each other for so long. Oh yeah, we didn’t.

Random station

Somewhere along the trip the train stopped for some 12-15 minutes at a tiny station. Wondering what was going on we stepped off on to the platform only to find that we couldn’t pronounce the name of the station. I can’t recall where it was now (in time or in space) and the only way that I can identify it is by mentioning that it had an odd platform which after a while (behind the camera in the shot) it did some strange things. To illustrate using ASCII, it went something like this:
=====\____/---- except smoother and without the extra parts sticking up above platform level.
Some drunk platform designer.

This photo also illustrates the difference between an Indian and a Nepali, Bikram the Indian is doing a “Ha ha, the train’s starting and you’re going to miss it.” while Suraj is telling me to get on. I’ll get you for that, Bikram! Also worth observing is that Bikram has an extra arm and leg of different complexion. It’s true, the stories about the campus hospital. I knew it! Anyway I did manage to get on (obviously!) because the train started surprisingly slowly. I wonder what would have happened if I’d missed the train. I don’t think I had enough money in my pockets to get to Calcutta (only some 300 rupees). That place was hot, as in the temperature there was higher than normal. I feel sorry for the poor souls who had to live there, it looked lost and lonely and there was a bulldozer in the background. Bulldozers are always a bad sign.

There were also a couple of middle-aged guys who got out of the train and went on rambling about something or the other. It was total rambling. I think they were Malayalis. That may explain it. Ramblers. And a fruit seller with only rotten plantains. It’s a conspiracy, you can get nothing but junk food and flaming tomato soup anywhere.

And because I can’t think of enough to fill up the rest. Here’s the other two photos from the trip.
1. At Vishakpatnam, where we paid for juice that tasted like crap and then threw it away. We nearly missed the train when it started because it went in the opposite direction. Hopeless!
2. The Mahanadi? Or the Godavari? No clue, in any case, it looked much more impressive in real life, like.


GeoURL is this huge ( some 1.4 million ) database of sites and their geographical location, and it’s searchable so you can find all sites based near a certain place. Be aware that it isn’t the location where the server is located but where the site is about. For example, though my server isn’t located in India,‘s location is listed as 13.0449056°N, 80.2514083°E .

Naturally, something like this is just asking to be integrated with Google Earth, but since that isn’t possible, we’ll take the next best thing. A little application located here makes a KML file that you can import into Google Earth. Of course, there are the usual liars who’ll place their sites in Antarctica. What brilliance! They are l33t haxxørs who’ve owned the system! Kudos to them for having broken into such a secure system. But, unless you really want to know what sites are about people from Antarctica, I don’t think you should have any trouble there, yes?

I’m back, but I’m going again.

As you can plainly see, I’m in Madras once more. However, that is only temporary. I shall be visiting Kodaikanal now. In another hour I shall be leaving. So now, before I forget, I think I had better mention what happened this morning.

As soon as I woke up, there was this image plastered in my head. Pretty funny. It showed this cow looking up out of a ditch and two stick figures looking down at it from the edge, while sitting with their legs dangling over the edge and then one of them turns to the other and says, “A bovine in a ravine.” and the other says, “Cravin’ for savin’.” I think it’s an omen. As Marc’s blog once said, “Cow, I am dog.” .

Good, now some mention of something needin’ attention, here we go. There’s this radio place that actually works for me. How happiness! Much is link giving. So is link giving now.

Many thanks to these peoples and many victories to Simon and Garfunkel. “…the words of the prophets \ Are written on the subway walls \ And tenement halls. ” Truth that. :D

Goodbye, and fun having!

Oh and, please disable your adblock when here, will ya? That’s what’s paying for my subsistence (read: computer equipment) .