To do that ... I happen to write!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

A Soldier's Letter to Home

Well, not the perfect occasion for this kind of a post, but still couldn't hold it back after I somehow reached the homepage of Captain Vijyant Thapar (Gold Medalist of his time, in Water Polo at Indian Military Academy, Dehradun)

He was given The Vir Chakra, sadly though - posthumously. He died fighting at 16,000 feet - in the Kargil War at the age of 22 in 1999. His birth date is 26th December.

His 2 letters are what I wanted to show:


Letter 2:

Robin was his favorite child hero.

"War for all its glorification is an dirty business. Ultimately, it is business of death. The sooner it ends, the better for all of us"
- Editor in Chief, India Today, July12, 1999

Full article here

Visiting the place he had fought during Laddakh trip - here
Tribute by his Mother
Story in Sun

Friday, 18 December 2009

When I first spoke

The whole school was watching. I had practiced and practiced.

A few minutes ago, I was standing in the corner, going over my 'morning news' silently, whispering every now and then, waiting for the morning assembly to get over. The teacher standing near me chose to help me out. I nervously recited the news to her. She gave me a few pointers and told me to pronounce Bangladesh without accenting it ( I was like Bengle - desh, she was like - Bangla - desh).

There were atleast 6000 students, teachers and others listening. Birds stopped fluttering and settled silently on the balconies. The toddlers standing with their mothers on roofs of distant houses overlooking our school stopped crying - even the incorrigible chatterboxes turned silent...all waiting for me to speak...I turned to look at my pretty co-news reader - who too was waiting anxiously for me to start.

Even just after finishing my part I did not know what I had spoken (except that I had indeed said Bengle-desh, and saw the frowning image of my teacher in my mind). My legs were shaking as if I was left without clothes in sub zero degree temperature. They continued to shake with same wilderness the whole day. I didn't dare to look up lest my eye's meet those of others...

A few days later I dared asked my close friends how bad did I speak. It was then, I realized - No one had even listened to my '
1 minute to fame' speech. Who listens to them, after-all! The shock of it changed into a flooding relief as I realized with joy that all the pressure that I had created was self-imagined!

Every time I go in an interview or get on the stage, I think of the time when I first spoke...

Related: Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the book 'Eat Pray Love', speaks on how to avoid getting crushed under the pressure of performance in a Ted Talk here

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Cuban Missile Crisis

Story is Short -

Russia plants Nuclear Warhead in Cuba which is 90 miles from US. What should US do? If it goes for an attack, a nuclear warfare could start. If it does not, it would be a big political defeat for Kennedy.
Somehow the crisis resolves, as we can see. But it came to be known only in 2002 after the secret military information was declassified that it was not Kennedy (US) or Khruchshev (Russia) who saved the world. It was an unknown submarine officer.

Cuban Missile Crisis (Thanks to Wiki and My guide at RBS)

09/1962 - 27/10/1962 - 28/10/1962 - 23/04/1963

During Cold War (matches with the dates of Sino-India conflict)

US Prez - John. F. Kennedy
Russian Secretary - Nikita Khrushchev (This is a guy's name!)

Movie and Book: Thirteen Days

What Happened - In short

1. US is likely to invade Cuba

2. Russia plants nuclear warheads in Cuba and then lies to US that the equipments at Cuba are defensive and not offensive

3. US is all furious. In its first meeting decides that cuban invasion is the only option, but Kennedy is skeptical and says that this would clear the way for Russians to Attack Berlin, and pose Americans as 'Trigger Happy Cowboys'

4. McNamara (US def. Secy) says that putting 40 extra warheads does not change the military balance at all. However, it was observed by Kennedy and other that it changes the apparent political balance which would then threaten the real political balance (US - Russia)

5. The earlier imposed blockade of naval vehicles to Cuba (pt. 3) was converted to quarantine which is known in international terms as WAR

6. It was suggested that US removes the missiles it has in Russian neighborhood - Turkey. Though this was genuine, it was known as a trial balloon for a long time

7. US moves to DEFCON 2 for the only known time in history

8. Friedel Castro on the other hand was all set for a full blown nuclear war against US at the first sign of US invasion

9. Turkey meanwhile continuously stated that they were unhappy with this 'missile withdrawal thing'

10. Meanwhile Khrushchev made it clear that the US missiles in Turkey was THE thing. Russia will vacate Cuba and US should vacate Turkey. On the previous day Khrushchev had offered that Russia would withdraw from CUBA if US agrees to never attack Cuba again.

11. On 27/10 a US U2 plane was shot down while surveilling over Cuba. US had decided that in such case it would go for all out war, but they thought it might have been a mistake and decided against it. Russia after a short while confirmed that it was a mistake and ordered no more shooting down of U2s

12. EXCOMM pursuaded Kennedy to make the first offer to Russia - that of never attacking Cuba again. After much deliberation Russia accepted it and the crisis ended

13. Cuba was unhappy of the whole development as the entire conversation was b/w US and Russia and their opinion was not taken. This lead to sour Russia-Cuba Relationship in years to follow

14. The entire crisis was viewed as a political defeat of Khrushchev. However, it was because the US commitment of removing missiles from Turkey was kept Secret.

15. It was learned by the world in 2002, that it was on 26/10/1962 that the USS Beale had tracked and dropped signalling depth charges on the B-39, a Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine which was armed with a nuclear torpedo. Running out of air, the Soviet submarine was surrounded by American warships and desperately needed to surface. An argument broke out among three officers on the B-39, including submarine captain Valentin Savitsky, political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and chief of staff of the submarine flotilla, Commander Vasiliy Arkhipov. An exhausted Savitsky became furious and ordered that the nuclear torpedo on board be made combat ready. Accounts differ about whether Commander Arkhipov convinced Savitsky not to make the attack, or whether Savitsky himself finally concluded that the only reasonable choice left open to him was to come to the surface. One of those

p.s. incidentally, these dates collide with the India - China war of 1962. More details on the war to be found in my Laddakh post here

Saturday, 12 December 2009

3 Marriages

3 extremely interesting Indian marriages that I had chance to see off late:

Marriage No. 1: Up, Up and Away

The stage is decorated as a star studded night sky with moons and clouds and all. The bride and the bridegroom both appear from the two ends, from behind the clouds, seated in their planes! Yes, oh yes, they are in planes and they get closer and then up there, high up in the sky, under the gaze of thousands of people with fallen jaws - they garland each other. Suddenly it is raining on them - not water: Roses!

Marriage No. 2: Sita Style

Royal Stage, almost looks like a Maharaja's palace. And then the land parts away and the bride and the bridegroom both appear from the two ends, in their horse drawn chariots, oh yes, oh my god, horse drawn chariots from under the ground - and they get down and in front of eyes exploding with amazement they garland each other (and then the same flower rain!)

Marriage No. 3: Quick Fix

So my Mom goes to drink water in the Kitchen only to come all excited, and takes me to the window...across the road there is a teeny tiny temple. And near the temple is a makeshift Mandap - the boy and girl with 20 other people, quietly get out of their cars, get married in like 15 minutes, throw the rice, touch the feet, get in their flower studded car and then drive smoothly in the nearest building leaving me amazed, bewildered and flummoxed (boy, that was quick!)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Through Chandani Chowk, Old Delhi on a spicy food trail

12 Noon Gujju: "Yaar kahin chalte hain"

1 PM Me: "I am going to insti, come when you free"

3 PM Me: "Coming?" , Gujju: "Ya, in an hour"

4 PM
Gujju: "I've started from hostel" Me: "Ok"

5 PM
Gujju: "Chal - I'm here. Kahan chalna hai?"

Me: "chal momos khate-khate sochte hain"
Chotu and Chachha also join us...

Me: "Chandani Chowk chalte hain"
Chotu: "Nahi CP"
Gujju: "Achha jo bus pehle aa jae usmein beth jaienge"

7 PM Chandani Chowk - Trail begins...

Me: "Areey jalebi - khaein?"
Gujju: "Spicy Trail ki shuruvat to meethe se hi honi cahiye :D"

Awesomest jalebis that I've ever eaten, almost felt like Malpuas. A little costly, priced at Rs 300/kg. Each one of us ate 25 gms, so it was fine. It was a nice tit bit to start our trail with.Me: "Metro Station kahan hai?"
Chotu (a little phyched) "Peeche reh gaya yaar wo"
Me: Looking sharply across the road, "Ah, there it is"
Everyone: "What"
Me: "Just follow me"

Extremely crispy Aloo Tikkis with khatti meethi chatni, dotted with pomegranate. I needn't mention the Dahi Bhallas, afterall the name of the shop is Natraj Dahi Bhalla. It is listed in Times Food Guide, but still is such small that you would surely miss it. And add to that the fact that the 2 feet space between the shop and the next shop serves as the lane to the Chandani Chowk Metro Station (throughput of the lane: 2people/second)

Me: "Next stop Kake Di Hatti"
2 Amritsari Naan between 4 people is enough to fill you almost upto the neck. Ask for a Dal Fry to wet your throat and whet your appetite. Don' drink the normal water they serve, go for the packed one. (all in 85 bucks)

Gujju: "I will eat full faluda"
Me: "Let's take 2 faludas and a pineapple shake - then we will take one more if possible"

Adjoining Kake di Hatti is Giani di Hatti. Awesomest rabri faluda you will get in the entire world. The quantity is just too much. One full glass and you are done for the night. And Man-o-Man the size of the large glass of pineapple shake! The shop also sells Moong ki Daal ka halwa and other such Indian Delicacies but we were too full to even look at them. Giani is one place you just can't miss. Cost 40 bucks for each shake/drink.9:30 PM:Back in Lab :D

Read Spicy Trail Part 1 here
Need directions?

Monday, 7 December 2009


These days are same as the days after I gave my JEE: They have suddenly lost their meaning, the clock no more shrieks with every passing second, the heart beat is normal at 70, and I have the luxury to sleep for more than 6 hours, again!

What was the first song I heard after I got the job (noticed - the!) - Freebird (remember Forest Gump!). Who were the first persons I called after I got the job? Who were the second? Who was the third (I texted this one, though!)? Why did I jump up and down, and was really happy only 3 days after I got the job!

The feeling is nice. The feeling is that of completion. The feeling is that of satisfaction, but the feeling is also of a lot of responsibility. Responsibility towards those who have really made it possible for me to stand where I stand today -Family and Friends: who have always stood like a rock, who have been the place where I can go anytime for anything, who have known me inside out and sometimes even better than what I know myself.

Mentors and guides: who's experience have allowed me to look at life from several angels telling me which way I would like to shape mine into!

Sometimes even total strangers, or people who I have met just a few days, weeks, or months ago, those who have come in like a gush of fresh wind and have reinstated my confidence in self.

The society - something abstract, in my view, but something which is the foundation of everything we do, see, feel, touch, hear, smell - in how we perceive our life and how we grow to be intellectuals!

And most importantly those who have given me the opportunity to prove myself, and prove I will when the time comes, till then let's do some interesting things! (they will unfold slowly)...