Company in Comatose

January 22nd, 2010

I recall my Hindi teacher late Ms Vijayakumari who used to tell us every now and then after a unit test or our term-end exam: “Nakal karte samay toh apne akal ka istemaal kijiye.” (Roughly translated: Use your brains at least while copying.)

A global IT major sent out a release that spoke of their presence in more than 10 cities across the country. Among the cities it was present in was Comatose.

So, “we are now in Comatose.” Wonder what the customers would think of their products. If the company is in Comatose when will it wake up?

After going through the facts of the geographical spread of the company, you realise it was Coimbatore the company meant to say. But, our dependency on technology is so much, we seem to trust the computer and software more than our brains. The person who did the spell-check was probably ‘comatose’.

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Dude, You Missed It

January 18th, 2010

The day of the solar eclipse was a dream I would like to relive many times more, and more frequently. Being able to walk on the road on a weekday in the morning peak hour without much worry about the traffic on the road or the noise from vehicle horns.

I wished such days came much more frequently. It will force all the pseudo-civilised motorists indoors for the pseudo-rationalists to enjoy some of the modern day luxuries, such as driving without having to negotiate noisy traffic. A pseudo-rationalist that I am, I decided to enjoy the less potent sunlight.

The shadows it created were just out of the world. Alas, I could not enjoy ‘my day out’. There were no shops or any eateries open. Everyone seemed to be under the influence of grandmother’s tales. No one wanted to take on grandmothers’ wisdom.

The venerable TV channels that people swear by only helped induce more fear into the hearts and minds of the citizenry with their “balanced” reporting which seemed to tilt the balance in favour of those who swear by grandmothers’ tales.
While some people advised to avoid cooking, eating and drinking during eclipse period. The myth behind this is some bad rays enter earth during eclipse and it could be harmful.

There are strict warnings for pregnant women. They are refrained from any stitch work and other household works. It is believed that it can lead to deformities in the foetus.

The astrologists advised people to chant regional rhymes to reduce its effect. They also advised Ganga Snan (Ganga bath) when eclipse is over (Perhaps, teleportation would have been the only solution).

As the annual solar eclipse falls on the second holy bath of Maha Kumbha Mela, people thronged to Haridwar to take holy dip after the eclipse.

But, the scientists were given some news space by the channels who sear by Gods and Godmen most of the time. But, people always find the words of scientists less credible.

While everyone concentrated on how the sun looked when partly covered by the moon, I wonder how many observed their shadow and how different it looked.

I hope all my science teachers will be proud of me. But, then… a science teacher of mine I met a day later looked out of sorts. She said, “I am yet to recover from my fast during the eclipse”.

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Counterfeiter, me?

January 11th, 2010

At the single-window operator where I pay the utility bills, I was put through the ultraviolet light scanner (that’s what I felt). At a place where you can’t use cheques to pay your bills, you have no choice but to pay cash.

Beware if you hand out a currency note of a higher denomination, especially Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 notes. Before the notes are scanned, the people at the counter give you a full-body scan, but with their eyes though. I wondered if their eyes had ultra-violet vision like a few of the birds.
I hand over the currency notes and even before the person counted it, she gave a look like I am a possible counterfeiter. Trying to convince them saying I had just withdrawn the cash from an ATM, she said: “All people who hand over fresh notes here say the same thing.”

The UV machine used to detect counterfeit notes failed to find anything amiss. But, the alphabet series to which the notes belonged matched the series of the counterfeit notes that are known to be in circulation. So, no amount of protestations cut ice with the people at the counter.

Then, one of them offered to help me and said: “Let me ask my boss. If he finds nothing amiss, we will accept. Or, you will have to come back again with some other notes.”

Phew! She gave the green signal to accept the notes. She probably decided that I did not have the toughness of a possible a counterfeiter, or that she found my protestations too feeble. All this cost me time though and had to skip a chore.
I promise to pay in Rs 10 notes from the next time I visit the single window operator or perhaps in Rs 5 coins or maybe even Re 1 coins. I would not like my character put through an UV violet scanner. Let them count the notes or coins.

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A Nobel Rendezvous

January 6th, 2010

Having collected enough details (as I believed) on the Nobel laureate, I was sure I was nearly prepared to listen to and , if lucky, perhaps ask a couple of queries as a journalist of course.
I set out with all the gadgetry that you find journalists nowadays use, to catch every word being spit out by a speaker. Here I was near the venue. Whoa! It seemed like I was outside a stadium in a queue waiting to enter for watching the Rolling Stones. I have had this habit of counting the number of people in front of me while waiting in a queue, which helps me roughly calculate how long it would be before I would be in.
I tried again and again and I seemed to lose track of the number of people in front of me, about half way through. With the security being tight, there were some men in khaki mostly with lathis. We Indians being fatalists, that may be all the security that was required. After I had passed through the metal detector, which I believe worked (many of those I see nowadays at many places are generally switched off, though you may be asked to walk through that), I was in, yes, IN. But, only in the complex which houses the auditorium which was a few metres away. By then the lecture had begun.
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his pioneering work on ribosome, a cellular machine that makes proteins, was speaking and all I could make out was some garbled echo from outside the auditorium. The sound boxes placed at many locations in the auditorium complex were no more than useless. A person, who I believe was a professor, was heard muttering: “Can’t they not at least ensure that he can be heard? Why else should they invite him here?”
Dr Ramakrishnan, the physicist, had won the award “for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome”. My endeavour to gain more knowledge on ribosomes from an expert fell through, thanks to the huge crowds that seemed to give a rock star-like reception. I tried to hang on to as many words as possible of Dr Ramakrishnan being spit out by the sound boxes. But, alas I had to give up.

My endeavour to gain some ‘knowledge’ on ribosomes ended there. But, I had to be content with the knowledge that there are enough number of people working on making human lives better with trying to understand functions of human body.
The crowds were almost all made of research scholars and scientists.

I was out just as ignorant of ribosomes as I was when I walked in through the metal detector.

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