Sunday, November 27, 2005

War Games

Troops Who Burned Taliban Face Discipline says the yahoo news headlines. Now that is an interesting thought. Imagine a soldier who has burnt a dead Taliban man being court martialled.

Enquiry Officer (EO): So, how many Taliban men did you cremate?
Soldier: None Sir!
EO: Bad boy!!!, tell the truth or I will confiscate all your matchboxes.
Soldier: Ten sir!
EO: Ok, now for that voluntary admission you do 100 sit ups and no Playboy magazines for one whole week.

Is that how they plan to “discipline” offenders in the US army? Not that I have any hate or love for the Taliban or the US troops, but the reporter who wrote this headline must have had his tongue firmly in cheek to describe the severity of punishment that awaits US troops who cremated dead Taliban militants.

A military spokesperson in this article is quoted as saying that the offending troops will not be prosecuted ( just disciplined) because their action were motivated by “hygiene reasons”.

Now that is even more interesting. Now getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth and burning a Taliban militant will be considered as good hygiene. Bad breath? Burn a militant. Body odor? Burn another militant. And so on and so forth till you are absolutely hygienic and smelling wonderful.

I must admit this headline woke me up from my Sunday hibernation mode to instant alert mode.

“The U.S.-led coalition's operational commander, Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, said broadcasts about the burned remains, while "designed to incite fleeing Taliban to fight," violated military policy.

This is a very strange war tactic indeed. You have the enemy fleeing and victory in sight and you goad them to come back for more? Consider this “scene”.

Sergeant Tim: The Taliban is fleeing Sir!
Kamiya: Oh nooooooooo!!!! How can they do this to me? Come back you cowards and fight like a man!!!
Sergeant Tim: er..general, they have vanished.
Kamiya (recovering composure): “Ok it’s time for my pet Foolhardy Strategy No. 457 that will make the enemy fight like a man. Call the video cameraman!!”

Kamiya to video camera man: “ Burning Scene No 658940,Lights,Camera, Action!!!!”

The shot is canned and sent for broadcast.

Flushed with the succes of his strategy, Kamiya has since resigned and has opened the School of Creative Military Tactics in POK.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Has anyone here been to a homeo doc? Well, I have been several times, as my parents have great faith in Homeopathy. During my numerous childhood visits I never noticed the questions that the doc asked my mom. The scores of small bottles that lined the shelf and the smell of alcohol and Lactose pills that hung in the air would fascinate me and I spent many happy hours exploring the clinic.

Recently I had to go to a homeo doc near my office for a persistent cough that I had developed after getting drenched in the rain. For the first time in my life I faced the questions of a homeo doc on my own. By the end of the case taking I felt I had been through a methodical KGB style interrogation! Before I proceed any further let me assure you that I have utmost faith in homeo meds. However the questions that a homeo doc asks you, can drive you crazy.

Homeo Doc (HD): When did u notice you had a cold.
Me: When my nose started running and I started coughing.
HD: Exactly what time did your nose start running?
Me: er......I don't remember
HD: You don’t remember? Does this happen often?
Me: Does what happen often?
HD: These memory lapses
Me: No no no my memory is perfectly fine, it's just that I didn't notice when my nose started running.
HD: ( looking at me with exasperation) How can make a case study if you don’t give me an approximate time?
Me: hmmm I think it was morning!
HD: Ok, was it between 1am and 3 am or 3am and 6 am or 6am and 9 am?
Me: er...I think it was between 6am and 9 am.
HD: Please be sure. These things are important you know.
Me: ( itching to make a dash for the door) Yes, I am sure.
HD: Was it cold or foggy that morning when your nose started running?
Me: I dunno
HD: What do you mean you don't know? Didn't you look around?
Me: I don't get up that early.
HD: But you just said that your nose started running between 6 am and 9 am. Then you would have noticed the weather.
Me:( in a hurry to get this painful exercise over) It was definitely foggy.
HD: Describe the nose run.
Me: Huh?
HD: (patiently) Was it clear, green, white thick or thin?
Me: I think I want to puke.
HD: So you have nausea too?
Me: No, but if I have to describe my snot I think I will puke.
HD: Suit yourself, but don’t blame me and make statements that homeo meds don’t work if I get the diagnosis wrong because of our non-co-operation.
Me: (meekly) Ok, It was clear and running like crazy.
HD: Ok, so when did the cough start?
Me: Oh my gawd do I have to go through this all over again?????
HD: Yes.
Me: groaaaaaaan

At this point of time I was hoping that an Allopathic doctor would appear miraculously with a lethal injection in hand to put me out of my misery.

And er..."NO"...the injection is not for me!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

P C Hell !

“God could not be everywhere so he created System Administrators”
Not so ancient saying

There is this enduring legend in IT companies. It’s called the Legend of the System Administrator(sysadmin). Everyone has heard about him but no one has actually seen him. And like the other people in this company including the management I have never seen him. There are random reports of sightings, which are however not confirmed to be actually a sysadmin. The management is sure they have hired a sysadmin. The Security guys complain that someone keeps slithering in and out of shadows and stairwells. The Housekeeping guys have reported that they have seen something move in the wiring. In fact Muniyamma from Housekeeping performed a Pooja to smoke what she termed was an evil spirit in the Network cables. Whatever was in there coughed up a storm making the systems crash.

It is rumored that he comes out in the open in the nights when no one is around to attend to our complaints. Of course this is a rumor mind you. A lot of people here believe that He is our God keeping an eye on our Network, PC’s and protecting our data. And like God, we blindly believe in Him and His abilities to tackle our problems. We have even kept aside several auspicious days where we offer ritual sacrifices to appease Him. Last Monday we created a Folder called Network Problems and sacrificed it by Shift + Deleting it. Then we sang His praises and went back to work.

This week the sacrificial folder is called systems_not_rebooting.

Next week I anticipate a sacrificial folder filled with complaints called: oppenoffice_is_driving_me_crazy_somebody_please_helllllllllp.

Of course there are doubting thomases in our company too. These infidels do not believe in the existence of a sysadmin and say that the Network is a result of a big bang though I must admit it usually looks like a big bang did take place in the networks! These unbelievers do not understand that like God the sysadmin tests your faith and patience in him from time to time by frequent Network crashes. It keeps us on our toes and makes us believe in the mortality of our labor and frequent back ups on removable drives.

We even believe that there is a PC Hell to which we are confined if we are bad and spared if we have been good.

Bad behavior according to sysadmin is:

1. Sending mails to the sysdamin asking for help. (It disturbs his concentration while playing Solitaire)
2. Changing the settings on your PC and making it crash. (because he has to leave the cricket match commentary and come to attend to your PC)
3. Mailing him with complaints about the EPABX (Because by force of habit he will come down to repair the EPABX and then realize that it does not come under his job description)
4. Swearing at the computer when it hangs and thus abusing his profession (Because he thinks no one likes him and everyone pokes fun at him, which is actually true)
5. When you send huge attachments to everyone jamming the mail server etc.( because he realizes that he was not in the mailing list)
6. Mailing him probing questions about your PC problems (because he himself doesn't know)

Good behavior according to a sysadmin is:

1. Never asking for help
2. Using Do-It-Yourself-Manuals or Online help
3. Waiting for his help for five seconds and then calling the AMC guys of your home PC for help
4. Doing a short course in System Administration so that you can help yourself
5. Sending him occasional e-cards telling him how much you appreciate his services.

Those of you who fall in the good deeds category will be left alone in peace to deal with your PC problems. But those of you have been naughty and have troubled your sysadmins, will experience the horrors of a PC Hell.

P C Hell is described below for the uninitiated.

1. Messengers do not work your system and the sysadmin replies to your mails saying that he will look into it in a year so, because he has important things to attend to now.
2. You cannot access your Yahoo Mail, Rediffmail or any other free of paid mail services that you are using for no apparent reasons. But you get regular mails from the sysadmin informing you how much he has enjoyed the jokes in your various personal mail accounts.
3. You also get mails expressing sympathy at your bank balance.
4. You are mailed complicated instructions to Install OpenOffice like “ Take a deep breath, Exhale, do this for twenty minutes then mail me again for further instructions”
5. You are tersely informed via mail that for the security of your PC you will now have to use 45 character passwords.
6. Every site you try to browse invariably leads to

Never mess with your sysadmin.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A life so precious snuffed in seconds

During Diwali hols an ex colleague of mine, VK was driving home on his motorbike when his bike handle grazed against a stationery truck hurling him onto the road. As he picked himself up from the road, a BMTC bus which was coming from the opposite direction ran over him. The BMTC bus was a good 15 meters away, but the driver was allegedly chatting with a friend to notice the road. VK died instantly, his body cut into half. He was 24. The driver was arrested. The news was reported in the newspaper and VK became yet another statistic. VK leaves behind a young wife and a two year old daughter.

In his office, the news came as a jolt, especially since VK was a very well loved person with his ever ready smile and sincere nature. The whole office was enveloped in gloom. It was difficult to deal with the fact that VK was no more, and more difficult to comprehend his wife and daughter's future as VK was the only earning member in his family.

During the police paperwork of the case we learn't some startling facts.

1.If you kill someone with a vehicle it is considered an accident. All you to do is pay a fine and if the Judge is in a bad mood a couple of months in prison.

2.Only if you kill a person with a knife or any other weapon is it deemed a murder.

3.In an accident the bigger vehicle is automatically deemed guilty. Therefore you have no choice but to plead guilty even if you were hit from behind.

4.And if the bigger vehicle's owner was indeed guilty, then a pre determined amount will be paid by the Insurance company to the wronged party. The sum is not even worth mentioning here.

5.Investigations of accidents are never carried out. A case is registered so that concerned parties can claim insurance.

Can anyone in the higher echelons of power comprehend the terrible loss suffered by VK's family? If they could they would have definitely made the roads a safer place for the ordinary citizen. The fact of the matter is that no one cares. It doesn't matter that VK's young daughter will never know her father and that his wife will perhaps have to struggle for the rest of her life to bring up her daughter and support her old in laws.

A death in the family has many repercussions. Do we need to spell this out to the authorities?? Or are we lacking as citizens in blindly following the archaic laws laid out in the last century?

Somehow I feel that we have all failed VK by remaining mute spectators to such preventable tragedies.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

A cracker of a start to Diwali hols!

Two weeks back my Dad surprised us with the news that he had booked a holiday for us in Goa after our visit to Kerala for the Diwali hols. This was an unexpected windfall as I really needed a break after last months hectic work schedule due to the IT.In. My jaded mind was too numb to even manage a smile when my Dad made the announcement. Proof enough that I badly needed a holiday. I was too tired to even pack till Friday night just before departure. I left work around 5 pm and headed straight for home to finish my packing. Now, my family is a seasoned bunch of travelers and long years of traveling with the pack has wised me up to certain eventualities that happen before/during/after the travels.

Packing for the journey is a mutlipronged activity with each family member unique in his or her packing habits. My Dad packs the fastest. Two bottles of scotch and a couple of bottles of Vodka thrown carelessly into his suitcase and he is ready to leave. My mom will then, patiently fill the suitcase with not-so-essential material like underclothes, toiletries, clothes etc. My Dad doesn’t waste too much time on the mundane.

My eldest brother ‘G’ is more organized. He starts packing at least a week in advance. He is the person we will most likely turn to in the middle of nowhere for an Antacid or an earbud. Mom and me are a close second to “G” in packing efficiency.

This leaves out a very interesting packer in my household. My second elder brother 'M’ who everyone says is a classic example of a Bohemian born into a mallu family. He is even more prudent than my Dad in packing. Dark sunglasses and a tube of hair gel thrown into the suitcase is all that he needs to hit the road. For the past several years I have done the not so enviable job of packing his bag, to avoid the inevitable confusion when my eldest brother realizes that his shaving kit is missing in the morning or when my Dad realizes that his Bermudas and Tees have somehow migrated to his second son’s room. M also wears and discards clothes at the rate of three pairs a day. Which means I have to mentally calculate the number of days we will be out with the number of clothes he will wear. After some complicated mathematics, I simply empty his cupboard into the suitcase/s.

My Dad goes into hibernation the moment we leave Bangalore and leaves all decision making to ‘G’. This leads to lot of snide comments from ‘M’ (for my ears only of course, for he has a healthy respect for Chetan) about favoritism and nepotism and all other isms that he can think of which may be totally unconnected to the situation like ‘communism’. The fact that he cannot even decide whether he should shave or not before leaving is ignored in the feeling of righteous indignation.

Both the brothers share driving duty. Prior to departure ‘G’ would have stored all his favorite numbers into his MP3 for his stint at the wheel. He is also a very safe and able driver and the first half of the journey will go uneventfully. It is when ‘M’ takes over the wheels that the atmosphere inside the SUV changes dramatically. My Mom removes her rosary beads and talks wistfully about seeing her grandchildren before she dies. My Dad looks like he has just been told that he has only a few hours to live. I usually say a silent prayer and adjust my hair and makeup incase I have to enter the Pearly Gates in a hurry. (I better look good to cover up for my vast multitude of sins).

Past experience has taught me that a sober collection of music will make “M” drive at a steady speed of 60 mph or so. Heavy metal makes him do crazy things like trying to take hairpin bends at 90 kmph. To avoid total decimation of the family I have to perform the vital task of loading his MP3 player with a collection of music that will ensure that we live another day to see yet another sunrise.

Friday night, just before we left I sat down and carefully chose some not so raucous numbers for M’s MP3 player. While waiting for them to transfer I decided to finish my packing, dinner etc. Finally we left after my Mom had made us say the mandatory prayers and we had handed over the house and dogs to my aunt. We reached Coimbatore by midnight and spent the night at my Uncles place. Next day after breakfast M took over the vehicle for the next lap to Cochin. ‘G’ as is the practice switched places with me and migrated to the back, so that he could better control the itch to snatch the wheel from M every time he swung the vehicle like a madman on a suicide mission... which he usually does once every half an hour.

M, after adjusting his sunglasses and smoothening an invisible lock of hair into place, drove out like a pilot taxing to the take off point. We left Coimbatore and cruised on the Highway. The speedometer showed a comfortable speed level and I sat back to read the newspaper. After 100 kilometers or so the vehicle screeched to a sudden violent halt. M looked like he had seen a ghost. The entire family ( except Dad who was sleeping like a lamb) looked around to see the cause of this sudden stoppage in the middle of the road. M then slowly removed the headphone and turned around and glared at me with black murder in his eyes. He pointed to the headphones and said “ there is a cat wailing in here !!!!!”

Perplexed I took the headphones from him and listened. The mellifluous voice of M S Subbulaksmi (MS)wafted into my ears. She was hitting a particularly high note of some carnatic raga. But how the hell did she get in here ?!?!

Now... a mixture of MS Subbulakshmi and M is a more volatile combination than candle and gunpowder. They have a particularly violent history since the days my Dad would insist on putting on an MS tape in mornings. After several unsuccessful attempts by Dad to get the family to appreciate MS, M finally got fed up and threw the tapes over the fence. M has developed a virulent hatred for anything to do with Carnatic music because of the force fed diet of such music in his earlier years. I realized that my Dad must have loaded some of his favorite MS numbers onto the MP3 not realizing it was M’s.

The culprit was fast asleep. M was fuming because he felt that his ‘rhythm’ was disrupted. My mom was giggling hysterically when she realized what had happened. I was holding my stomach trying not to laugh my guts out, while G’s face was contorted as he unsuccessfully tried to stop the paroxysms of laughter.

M watched us in disgust for some time and grouchily went back to the wheel when he realized that it would take some time for the laughter to subside. He drove in a black mood till Ernakulam and then to his utter delight and our utter dismay found a heavy metal CD in the glove compartment. A collective groan arose from us as we realized that we would have to endure some heavy duty noise for the rest of the journey.

However the look on M’s face when he switched on the music is something I will remember to my dying day. Instead of heavy metal music, Daler Mehendi bellowed lustily “hogayi thi balle balle, hojayegi balle balle”.

The culprit was fast asleep.

(The less said about M and his relationship with Daler Mehendi the better! Suffice it to say that they don’t share a very cordial relationship.)