31 October 2009

Flying Over

Since ancient times, roads have been central to the growth of civilisation. The ancient Romans were the first to realise the great opportunity of growth and development that roads offered and as a result, the Empire was criss-crossed by numerous highways that even today stand as a testimony to Roman Engineering.

The modern world too depends excessively on roads, which provide vital links from ports to inland cities, from commercial hot spots to residential complexes, from isolated hamlets to bustling cities. Roads are indispensable and their growth inevitable.

In cities, thousands commute to and fro from their homes to offices. In big, cosmopolitan cities of the world, despite the presence of alternative means of transport (like the Tube in London, Subway in New York and the Metro Rail In Delhi), a major chunk of the population still relies on roads for its day to day movement and with more and more cars getting on the roads, the volume of traffic on roads worldwide has reached mammoth proportions. In India too the situation is far from rosy and Indian cities are inarguably host to some of the worst traffic jams in the world.

Predictably, the state governments were for a long time oblivious to the worsening situation on our roads. When they finally woke up, they gave way to a bigger folly of constructing flyovers.
It’s amazing to see how myopic Indian authorities become when it comes to long-term planning and making flyovers id just yet another classic example of this costly short sightedness.

Flyovers undoubtedly increase the net available road area; when you can’t widen a road, you can atleast build yet another one over it. So for the time being, everybody celebrates when a flyover is constructed over congested roads.

However, in doing so, our authorities as well as our people are ignoring some very serious implications.

Firstly, flyovers are constructed at a fantastic cost to the exchequer. Their construction is usually delayed and with material thrown helter-skelter, construction sites more often resemble devastated war zones. Moreover, prolonged delays in construction aggravate the traffic situation.
Secondly, by increasing the net available road area, what flyovers really do is to just make way for more and more private cars to ply on roads. What would we do when the number of cars increases the available road area (as it has during the past decade)? Build flyovers over the existing flyovers?

Thirdly, despite the best attempts to introduce Bharat II systems in cars, vehicular pollution is bound to increase if there are more cars on the roads.

The real solution to our present traffic problems then lies not in increasing road space, but in upgrading our public transport system. This is not just about making Metro rails all over the country, but also about completely reviving our buses so that instead of just the lower middle classes, even the upper middle class begins to consider buses as a feasible means of transportation.

To ensure this, the first and the utmost priority must be to establish Bus Driver’s Training Academies all over the country so that all drivers can be taught basic traffic laws and common ‘driving’ sense, something which most of them lack today. This will not only benefit the drivers, but also the common man who might then be assured of a safe journey in buses. Secondly, Transport Corporations (like the D.T.C.) must go in for an image makeover and transform themselves from mundane loss making bodies to energetic, profit making corporations. Thirdly, the existing fleet of rackety-rickety buses must be scrapped and new, disable and senior citizen friendly buses must be introduced in a time bound framework.

It is more than obvious that the current rate at which flyovers are springing up all over urban India would lead to more congestion in not too distant future. The media, which is only too quick to pounce on the minutest of errors that the government might make, has surprisingly been bamboozled into believing that flyovers actually do good for our roads. The sooner we realise that this is not so, the sooner we stop flying over the real solution, the better will it be.

15 October 2009


To Ananya Borgohain:
Muse, friend, model


There are some things which are typically you…you know, things which embody your essence as an individual…like, it’s typically Jonathan to be snide…or typically Abhimanyu to crack smart one liners...things which once you do or say them, others can look up and say ‘Ah! That was so typically you!’

Typically you…

I think it was typically me to install malware on my own computer.

Yeah, well, that’s right. I installed a debilitating virus on my own system: gave it sanction with my own hands- and merrily at that!

Now now, I’m not bonkers. It’s not that bad: certainly not that simple…there’s more to it…

Simply put, the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t your everyday virus…it was quite a malignant malware…a devil in disguise…a smooth talking fiend…

A Kaliyugi virus.

Bilkul. A Kaliyugi virus to the core.

Aur kya? Is it not written that in this dark age the forces of evil will multiply to infringe upon the last remaining strongholds of good, and slowly batter them down till all righteousness disappear from the world of men? That that one quarter of piousness too shall vanish and plunge the world into the night of sin?

Ay, so has been decreed! What surprise, then, if viruses too come robed as guardian angels?

Indeed, that’s how it was! A fell design, to trick simple, gullible folk to ruin!

This is how it happened…

One fine afternoon I opened my computer and checked my email. All fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. That done, I logged out of my account and was about to shut the computer as well when a window popped out of the blue…

‘Inflow of viruses detected onto your system. Would you like to scan your computer?’

‘Hmm? Yes, ok.’

‘Preliminary scan has revealed a massive virus attack on your system. Would you like to continue?’

‘Yes, of course, go on!’

‘There are some 400 viruses on your system. Would you like to do something about it? Would you like to install Personal Antivirus?’

Personal Antivirus. How reassuring. How comforting. There’s such a soothing consonance to the term…personal antivirus: a software specially designed for you, to cater exclusively to your own needs, to resolve all your problems…

To lull you into complacency and whisk all your data.

Kaliyug mein paap bhi punyatma ki bhanti vesh dharan kar vicharega, aur sansar mein bhagwan ki satta ko nasht karega…

Nasht ho gayi meri satta mere hi laptop pe! Cha gaya andhkar, jeet gaya paap!

We had a Council then. Had to. Of course we had a council. Papa, Mamma and me, and Bhai as the conscientious objector from abroad.

‘You freaking idiot, I can’t believe it! You actually installed a frigging malware on the system!’

‘Kaam kharab karma aata he bas, aur phir baithe rehte hain yunhi maaze mein!’

‘Aap log poori baat samajhne ki koshish nahi kar rahe! Inhone…’

‘Tum hi ne bigara he! Faltu kaam karte rehte hain…’

‘Why can’t he use his brains for once? Why!’

‘Aise hi hain…’

‘Baat ko samajhne ki koshish karo…’

‘Anyway, shut it out! Can’t do anything about it now! Best to reinstall Windows now…you never know…clear away everything!’

Hmm…clear away everything…clear away everything…

Aur jab paap ka ghara bhar jayega, jab shristi mein punya aur sachai trahi trahi kar manav ka tyag kar dengi, tab mein Kalki roop dharan pralay ka tanday karunga! Tab iss shrishti na nash hoga, aur jeevan ka chakr phir aarambh hoga!

Clear away everything…clear away everything…

I could see myself rise up, go beyond and above…to godhead…

Even as the Destroyer will reduce all to glowering ash, so will I unleash the fury of my wrath on the arrayed virus! Bit by bit will each corrupted file be consumed till none be left alive! Then, just as the primeval waters will drown the dead cosmos in one overpowering deluge, so will I submerge the corrupt mother board with my missionary flood. And once this debris has subsumed into the general scheme of things, into the overwhelming torrent, then, from the dark, empty, chaotic bits shall arise a new, pure Operating System! This virginal land I alone shall people with the chosen few, the elect software and programmes which shall be the denizens of a glittering golden age!

Rudra, Narayan, Brahma and Vishnu, I shall be all! Unfurl the standard, blow the conch…let there be war! Mahaaaaaaaaaaavirus!