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August 11, 2018

Bhajan at Nareguda

Filed under: agriculture, India — neosurya @ 19:59

It was a Monday night. Like most software engineers, I was coding with my colleague, Naresh. Around midnight, we decided to take a break from Django, and stepped out to rest our tired eyeballs.

Naresh heard the sound of Bhajan. He said – “Sir, there seems to be bhajan playing nearby. Let us go there”. I disagreed, and suggested that we should finish our work and then go to bed.

Naresh persisted and said “Let us go sir, it will be fun. We may get prasad”. I hopped onto the car. We drove for a about a kilometer and then switched off the car engine. The Bhajans were quite some distance and over the din of the massive 3 liter diesel engine, we could hardly hear anything. We did not want to miss out the location.

In the dead of the night, the direction of the loudspeakers was very clear. We reached the site of the bhajans in no time. In the dim street lights near the Poolapalle village temple we could see two farmers standing beside an empty tractor trolley. Naresh had  hoped for a much larger congregation. The two standing farmers lazily looked at our car, wondering where this SUV with a Indian flag came from. They were curious with the very Govt-looking flag, but did not look surprised. Maybe they have experienced all kinds of happenings in their long lives, or maybe they did not want to expend the energy required to change expressions. Disinterest is a useful facial expression in villages – it works for all conditions.

Inside the temple, there were six elderly farmers, all draped in lungis and banians. Their musical equipment was substantial: a dozen or more metal castanets, two harmoniums, a tabla, a microphone. The arrangements indicated that the temple had seen much larger congregations in the past. The rich prasadam that Naresh had hoped for was not to be. This was a very modest outfit, and we could probably not even expect tea.

Like most temples in India, this one also had an open layout, otherwise the passionate singing would reverberate off the stone walls, at least doing some damage to the hearing systems.  When we entered the temple and bowed down to  the lord, one of the farmers gave out theerth, put kumkum on our forehead. He then folded his right hand in the form of a mudda, brought it to his mouth, indicating the gesture of eating food. He asked – “Did you eat?”.

I was struck by the simple question: “Did you eat?”. Myself and Naresh had just arrived in an SUV just a few minutes after midnight. We looked well fed and alert from our bearing. It was evident that apart from these six people singing the bhajan and their two colleagues outside, most of the village was already in the dream world. If I had answered in the negative to his question, he may have been obliged to provide for food.  Providing food for us at that ungodly hour may have been a lot of trouble for the Bhajan singers.

After a few more minutes, we introduced ourselves as the people who teach computers at Nareguda. The farmer then told us – “We are praying for rain.”. Later we also learnt from them that none of the younger generation was interested in farming, much less the prayers. The men lamented that in earlier years, more people would be part of the congregation.

We left around 1:30. A few photos from the gathering:



January 23, 2018

Different title, same content

Filed under: India, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 10:17

The same news article with a different title can give readers very different impressions to readers.

For instance, take this article in the Indian Express of Jan 23 2018. The title is:

Original version used by IE (Version 1): SC panel chief Ram Shankar Katheria ‘threatens’ cop in audio clip gone viral: Are you challenging Yogi? [This is clearly against the minister and favors cops]

Instead of this, let us change the title to the following:

Version 2: SC panel chief takes exception to cops who clear local SC/ST bazaar – Says Minorities commission will take action against errant officer. [For the minister, but paints cops as anti-SC]

Version 3: SC panel chief vs cops enforcing anti-encroachment. Who is correct?  [Borderline neutral in comparison with V1 and V2, but favors cops]

Version 4: SC panel chief pulls up cops who cleared minorities from the local bazaar. [Borderline neutral as compared to V1 and V2, but against cops]

Let the content be exactly the same, the title will totally change the readers perspective. And in these days of 100 media channels, who reads the article? At least in case of this specific article, it is mentioned that the minister was chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Caste. I have seen articles that much worse in taking journalistic liberties.

Disclaimer: I am not against or for any specific party, person. But I do feel media is wielding undue influence. The article is reproduced below for those who wish to read the whole thing:

In An audio clip that is being shared online, a voice, purportedly that of National Commission for Scheduled Caste chairperson and Agra MP from the BJP Ram Shankar Katheria, is heard threatening a policeman.

The clip begins with a man addressing Sub-Inspector Mahesh Pal Yadav, in-charge of Bodala outpost in Agra. He claimed he was calling from the “MP’s house”, and that several people had arrived there complaining that Yadav did not allow them to hold a bazaar in the area. He seemed to be referring to an anti-encroachment drive in the area earlier. The S-I is purportedly heard saying he was merely following instructions of the SSP.

The man then ostensibly hands over the phone to Katheria. “Mahesh Pal Yadav-ji, Yadav ho tou gunda to nahi na ho tum. Yogi ko challenge karte ho?… Naukri kha jaunga aur jail bhej doonga dubara bakwas ki to (You maybe a Yadav but you are no thug. You dare challenge Yogi?… You will be dismissed and sent to jail if you do any mischief again),” the voice is heard telling the S-I.

Jis SC ki tune pitai ki hai usse application likh kar commission se tere khilaf FIR karke jail bhej doonga aise gundai dubara ki toh. Woh ro raha hai jisko danda mara hai. Commission me likh kar usse application likha le to zamanat nahi hogi aur naukri mein kabhi promotion nahi hoga. (Will get an application from the SC person you assaulted and send it to SC Commission to register an FIR against you and send you to jail, if you try that again. The victim is crying… You will not get bail if he sends an application and you will never get a promotion.)”

A voice — purportedly S-I Yadav’s — is then heard saying that he had not assaulted anyone and neither did he have anything against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. SSP Agra Amit Pathak said an inquiry will be conducted into the audio.

Despite several attempts, The Indian Express could not reach S-I Yadav or Katheria for a comment.





November 9, 2017

Science Exhibition

Filed under: education, governance, India, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 16:03

I was invited to judge a science exhibition today. I never realized that this innocent participation on my behalf would be a Pretoria moment. Students had to prepare mock ups on one of the following topics: Software development life cycle, Innovation in computer science, Different types of software systems, eGovernance, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Networking, Real life uses of computers, Innovation using computers, evolution of operating systems. The students had to prepare posters describing the topic, speak about it, and then demonstrate any working prototype, if they had one. The posters were very colorful and meticulously prepared. Barring few, all the students had parroted a script and were repeating whatever was written on their respective posters. However, many students did not even know the meanings of the terms they had used.

The very first team I had spoken to was from Andhra Pradesh. There were two children manning the poster. I asked the name of one girl. “Sharada (name changed) sir, from ABC school.” I asked the other girl for her name. She showed a shy smile and took a step back. Sharada said: “Sir, she is just there to hold the poster”. I said: “It is OK, let her give the name”. Mahita, it was. Sharada started with her demonstration on the evolution of operating systems. She got stuck several times in between. For a student of class 8, it was a bit odd that she had not tried to learn the basics of what she was presenting. A lot of effort had gone into designing cardboard models of computers, paper mache models of an RTOS, several Android phones, and even the scale model of a city. But she clearly lacked knowledge of the topic. Unfortunately for her, the poster holder Mahita also ended up answering a question. Sharada was peeved, not at her own lack of depth but at the ignominy of a “helper” answering her question.

Raj, a student of class 9 was presenting on eGovernance. His presentation covered a slew of ideas: eBanking, eHospitals, eRegistration, eLearning, eEverything. I asked him: “Are there any disadvantages of eGovernance”. Raj: “People are losing jobs due to eGovernance and Govt has to provide replacement jobs. Govt cannot provide jobs anymore. Google is doing a project along with TCS to replace education systems. They will covert everything to a e-Sysytem, and provide jobs”. Clearly surprised, I asked: “Son, who gave you such information?”. Raj: “Sir, you may not know everything. My father is a professor in the computer science department at AU in Vizag. He told me all this”. I asked: “What is his name?”. “Sai Bhaskar” came the reply. I asked: “Dr Sai Bhaskar?”. Raj replied: “No sir, only Sai Bhaskar. He was a professor, now he is not a professor”. After we left his table, he came up walking towards us and said – “Sir, how do we prevent hacking? What can be done to prevent people from taking money from ATM machines after hacking them? I heard that hackers can use ultrasound to break into computers. Flipkart once crashed because of this.”

Sukesh from Bangalore, participating in the innovation section spoke about “LiFi”. In his demo, the audio out of an android phone and a 2.5v battery was connected to an LED. The LED was shining brightly, likely from the 2.5 v battery. The audio out was also connected to a small computer speaker. The speaker was getting power from the mains, and also had a solar panel taped to it. His claim was that when the LED was on, and placed close to the solar panel, the speakers were having more amplitude. I asked Sukesh: “How do you know this is due to LiFi.” Sukesh hold the speaker up, close to his ear and says: “Hear it sir, it is louder”. I did not have the heart to even correct him.

There were other bloopers in the science meet, but Sukesh was the most jarring. I could not comprehend how the school teachers could allow such shallow presentations to come to a regional competition. I dont know if it is a failure of the system, parents, or some strange phenomena within children. I am seriously terrified of the future prospects of my nation.

This is the first school exhibition I attended. Over the next few weeks, I will try to attend other science meets. I hope there will be some succour to be found.

PS: All names and location details have been changed.

April 27, 2016

Three politicians in a Bombay local train

Filed under: bombay, democracy, governance, India, jaago rey, politics — neosurya @ 17:42

Three politicians got into a fast local as it was pulling out of Kalyan headed towards CST: Left, right, and Congressi.
Stop 1. Kalyan: Hardly any people sitting on the seats, mostly empty train.
Left:   This is an abomination. In the name of development, the Govt has stolen land from farmers to build useless trains.
Right:    Can we sell the empty seats to Reliance?
Congressi: All hail Indira. The train should stop at minority railway stations like Thakurli, Diwa etc.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
Stop 2. Thane: All seats had been taken.
Left: What about the poor farmers outside Bombay? These trains have never created any benefit for the poor people outside Bombay.
Right: Can we sell the standing place to Reliance?
Congressi: All hail Rajeev. What do you mean the train is fast? How do the other stations develop?
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
Stop 3. Ghatkopar: There are four people sitting on each bench that is meant for three. More than 50% of the standing space has been taken up.
Left: This is a class struggle !!! How can the trains have seats for only three people when clearly the public demand is for four seats.
Right: Can we remove the seats completely, and sell them to Adani?
Congressi: All hail Sonia. We have to protect the interests of minorities in Ghatkopar. They rarely get a window seat. There must be reservation and special law for all stations after Thane.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
Stop4. Kurla: All the standing space is taken up.
Left: This is clearly the time for revolution !!! Farmers and villagers have spilled their blood for the train, now they have no space left.
Right: This train is not serving the purpose. Let us invite consultants from private sector to build a new train.
Congressi: All hail Rahul. Rahul baba will come to supervise the conditions of trains. He will connect with the youth and the marginalized.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
Stop 5. Dadar: There is no place in the compartment. People hanging for dear life from outside the train.
Left: We have to open the eyes of the world to see this oppression !!! We will write editorials and documentaries about the unjust Indian society, culture and history that has lead to this sad state of affiars.
Right: We will build a bullet train from Kalyan to CST, covering this distance in 10 minutes. There will be no crowds, and it will not stop at any of the pesky stations on the way. It will cost 6000 crores which will be repaid over the next 50 years.
Congressi: We have convened a national convention that has recommended common minimum seat demand. Accordingly, we will have a high power commission that will commission separate trains for each station. There will be reservations for each station on each train. There will be separate ticket collectors for passengers from each station.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?


Last stop. Between Dadar and CST: There is a blast in one of the compartment.
Left: This violence is the expression of people supressed by fascist, regressive policies. We stand in solidarity.
Right: Attack Pakistan. Enter Burma.
Congressi: We realize your pain. Gandhi family also made a huge sacrifice for the nation.
Common man: Will I get to work and return to my family after work? Can someone please kill these three politicians?


Distance between Kalyan and CST is about 70 Kms. There are about 25 stations between Kalyan and CST. The fast local trains in Bombay stop at about 6 of them. Slow trains stop at all stations. People from all religions and walks of life travel in complete peace and harmony. A banker rubs shoulders with a dabbawala, and a student all in the same compartment. There are rarely any fights, and certainly not for seats.

Kanhaiya Kumar spoke about “fights” for seats in the local trains of Bombay. I grew up in the lovely city, went to school and college. I travelled in these trains and BEST buses for a major part. Politicians like Kanhaiya can only fabricate divisive issues. It is a sad state of affairs that the common man gets crushed between these selfish interests.The media routinely replay words from these politicians. Who will replay the true emotions of people?

April 16, 2015

Awesome money spinning methods or Skimming of customers

Filed under: India, law, market, personal, social change — neosurya @ 12:00

Interesting call with my mobile phone service provider:

Me: I got this internet usage bill for Rs 700 for March and Rs 300 for Feb. What is this?

Rep: Sir, 2G internet usage sir.

Me: I use a Nokia 1616, it cannot have internet usage. —- For the new-gen folks who have only seen smartphones, this phone has buttons, 255-colors screen, you get the drift —-

Rep: Yes sir, my system shows you are using Nokia 1616 as we speak. But sir data is switched on in the phone.

Me: How can a Nokia 1616 use 400 MB of data?

Rep: I dont know sir. Maybe some app is running.

Me: Look, can you please disable 2G service on this connection?

Rep: No sir, 2G comes free with every mobile phone connection.

Me: Dude, Rs 700 a month is not free. And you tell me you will not switch it off?

Rep: You will have to move to a different service provider. Our company will by default provide you with 2G enabled connection only. — In other words, we paid a lot of money to TRAI to license this shit. Money has to be recovered from somehwhere. —

Me: OK. — Facepalm —

Rep: For the charges, you will have to visit our store. — A polite way of saying, You will have to go there and shout —

Me: OK. Thanks.

—————————————End of call————————————-

One of my friends used to work for a leading mobile service provider. One strategy to get more money was to call unsuspecting customers to install ring-tones, or other “value added services”, but not inform them that these services would have a costly monthly subscription, or that these services would be delivered over 2G. Maybe we fell prey to one such scheme. Maybe there was indeed some app on the phone that is accessing data. I dont know.

I did not like the business practice of cashing in on users not being able to switch off services. But, a lot of modern services run that way. Individuals who create such plans and schemes also make the most amount of money in corporate orgs. Of course, technical people make money. But it is peanuts compared to the money made by such planners.

Makes me retch. But who knows how I would behave if I wanted to buy the good things money can get, and I had only an MBA and a sales job to get me there?

September 2, 2013

New Austerity measure: Govt to shutdown Govt between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM

Filed under: India — Tags: , , — neosurya @ 11:44

In a new austerity measure, the Govt declared that all Govt departments would be shut down between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM. This closely follows an announcement by the petroleum ministry to close petrol bunks during night times [1]. The department of personnel and training (DoPT), which will be responsible for implementing this measure refused to either accept or reject this measure. One highly placed anonymous official suggested that it was being seriously considered and quoted: “Many people in the department believe that this is indeed a great step. As it is, we do not have very much to do, what with the frequent political interference in our work.”.

We were able to get a sound byte from a political representative: “A brilliant idea by the leadership. This will also solve the corruption problem permanently. It will also let us focus on the more important duty of chamchaagiri.”. The opposition quipped: “This is wholesale fraud by the Govt. It is our God given duty to disrupt the Govt proceedings, and make it impossible for the parliament to do anything. This is a conspiracy by the Govt to take away our rights. We will protest by conducting a walkout of the remaining parliamentary sessions.”.

A recently recruited junior Govt staff was asked if the decision effected him: “No problem. A few colleagues and I are planning resign service and do a startup. We are calling it “Fuel Fill”. Private sector employees will be working between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM, and will have difficulty filling petrol. Our staff will go around with 30 and 40 liter cans to fill petrol from bunks. Those who want fuel after hours can get it from us.”.

Our representatives hit the street and decided to have a live call with “common men” from the four corners of the country.

Mr Mehta from Mumbai: “Ye commodity market ke liye accha time hai. Pyaaz Rs 80 ho gayaa hai. Futures market me aag lagi hai. Govt gayi tel lene. Chal bhai, Dahisar kaa 8:18 nikal rahaa hai. Late huaa to boss bom maregaa.”

Translation: This is a great time to be in the commodities market. Onion is Rs 80 a kilo. Futures market will be set ablaze with this announcement.  Govt has gone to get fuel . To *ell with the Govt. Ok dude, I got to go. If I miss the 8:18 local train from Dahisar, the boss will shout at me.

Mr Chaudhuri from Kolkata: “Amor jaaani… Yes sab maoists ki mili bhaati ho. The true revolution will come. Didi will get justice for all.”

Translation: I/We know, the Maoists are behind all this.

A Bengaloorian over the phone: “Mr Reddy, erada taannu steel aaktivaa? Ido Yelahankaa nalli new development project sigtaayide….”

Translation: (Mr Reddy, can you get me two tons of steel rebar; there is a new development here at yelhanka. Our anchor interrupts him about the Govt shutdown.

A Bengaloorian (Turns towards camera): “Yaavude kashta illa. Everything taken care of. No Govt. No problem.”

Someone strolling the malls in Gurgaon: “Abe thand rakh. Diesel generator daa power, Private guard daa body guard, Appolo daa hospital. Itthe gal hui to Mama in UK”.

Translation: Take it easy dude. We have power from Diesel generator, private security guards, Appolo hospital, and if things get too bad, my maternal uncle is in UK and we can all go there.

====================== End of story ========================

The above is satire, and like all satire, it is also not true. But if you do realize the problems we are facing, and if you want to change something, please consider joining politics and cleaning it up: AAP or Sone Ki Chidiya.

August 30, 2013

Officers Demand Payment in Dollars and Onions

Filed under: India — Tags: , , , — neosurya @ 04:20

Given the uncertain future of our currency, officers are now suggesting that payments for services rendered be made in dollars or in kind. One source familiar with the traffic police quoted: “With the rapid slide in the Rupee, amounts collected in the morning dropped in value by afternoon. We cannot demand one rate in the morning and another in the evening. We are open to payment in kind – e.g.  two kilos of tomatoes for a red light, and about 4 kilos of onions for a fender-bender.”. The official insisted that payments against a challan still had to be made using Rupees, though he sees fewer people carrying the currency these days.


Departments that handed larger payments ruled out the possibility of payment by kind and insisted that the new mode is payment by dollars. A revenue official we spoke to insisted: “If we accept in kind payments, a small truck would be needed at minimum to lug around the proceeds. That would not be very discrete. A significant percentage of our customers are NRIs anyhow, or have some expatriate links. By accepting payments in their home currency, we are also customer-friendly. We do accept in kind payment for smaller matters like the EC.” A sliver of officials were seen with bags of onions, spinach, and tomatoes, but it was not sure if this was payment made by citizen, or purchase from the local store. One official beamed: “Collecting in kind means that a trip to the local market could be skipped. Wife is happy since we are home a bit early. This also makes it difficult for the anti corruption folks to lay traps.”.

One of our correspondent met with the ACB to investigate if the department was aware of the new payment modes. We found that the department was not only aware of the challenge, but had already come up with solutions. An official quoted: “In order to trap corrupt officials, we have worked with leading research labs to bring out tainted vegetables, dal, pulses, and grain. See, these are not the original product, but they look very much original. The modus-operandi is that the citizen shall pay the concerned official with the tainted dal, grain or pulses. We shall nab him because only the Govt can supply fake Dal that cannot be consumed.” We are planning to suggest that the FCI use these to implement the food bill on the ground. Now, this is one great collaboration between departments.


The above article is a satire, and must not be taken seriously. Corruption is a serious problem, and one of the contributing factors to the mess we are in.

November 15, 2010

Wonderful one-liner: China, Tibet and Jammu in one line… equals trouble…

Filed under: India — neosurya @ 19:31

Apparently, on Nov 15th 2010 [1, 2]:

“Our minister (Krishna) referred to the need to show mutual sensitivity and that the Chinese side needs to be sensitive to our concerns in J&K like India has been sensitive to Chinese concerns on Taiwan and Tibet.”

There are other news reports that do not mention this statement at all [1], and it was only Nirupama Rao’s words. But even then, it is a patently stupid thing to say. I so much wish no one from our diplomatic setup had said this. Give the Chinese a foot, and they will encroach no less than a mile. I am reminded of another Krishna who made much worse mistakes in the 1960s – Krishna Menon, one of the many reasons responsible for our military and diplomatic debacle against the Chinese.

October 26, 2010

India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha

Filed under: book, election, India, politics, social change — Tags: , , — neosurya @ 06:32

A must read for anyone remotely interested in Indian democracy. Guha does not go left, right, center, or anywhere else except trudge along the path of Indian democracy from 1947 all the way up-to 2000 (The date the book was published). Where the events demanded, he also went a little bit before 1947, for example to explain how the Lahore convention of the Congress was where the Muslim League was born. The references make for more interesting reading, but I followed up only a few of them.

Some reviewers say that the book should have had some analysis of events. But this book was meant to have a historical or journalistic flavor, and getting into an analysis mode is incredibly academic in nature. Most books out there wax eloquent on their preferred political leanings. Once Indian historians start writing an analysis, they end up making holier-than-thou statements. The reader is hopelessly lead into a particular view point, and the event itself is lost in the melee. Very few tell the story as it happened, and in words that the common man can understand. Guha rises up to the occasion in this book.

The book reads fast, and I could not put it down once I had picked it up. This may not be the book for individuals seasoned in contemporary Indian history. They may already be familiar with most its contents. However, this would be the book I shall recommend my daughter to read instead of the history textbooks that muddle our brain cells in school.

October 1, 2010

Please extend the SMS ban.

Filed under: India, news — neosurya @ 09:11

22nd Sept – More than 30 SMS messages on my phone “The best deals in town” “Dinner for two at Rs 150” “Incredibly cheap homes only 26 lakhs (in the middle of  nowhere)” “Problems with your boss, wife, girlfriend? Call ABCD” “Get masala girls for cheap” WTF.

23rd Sept – Two messages. (The Govt. had banned Bulk SMS messages ahead of the Ayodhya verdict [1])

24th Sept – Two messages.

25th Sept – Two messages.

and so on….


30th Sept – Two messages.

The verdict is out [1, 2]; most cities seem calm [1, 2]. It seems like the SMS ban will now be removed, and I will have to contend with the regular stream of people trying to sell me masti, Desi girls, food, and everything else under the sun. This is my humble request to the powers-that-be to restore the ban.

I know it wont be heard though :-/.

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