December 28, 2007

Is Lalu magic for real ?

While everyone has been quite generous in heaping praise on Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav - the Hon'ble Minister for Railways, Govt of India - for the amazing turnaround that he has been credited for bringing about in the Indian Railways, I quietly tend to disagree.


The general public and the press have been almost tom-toming and singing praises of Bihar's favorite son. Here are a few things he has done to the railways that he should not have. Each reason seen individually might not seem to account for much. Add up the money saved/earned by these methods and u will know why IR has started making profits.


  • Increase in Tatkal Quota.
    This one is double edged. While enabling the last minute traveller to get confirmed reservations more easily, it also adds up to the money box. Each Sleeper Class/Second Class reserved passenger shells out Rs 150 extra while an AC traveller has to shell out Rs 300 extra. Only in the 'Non-peak' months of July-Sep this is halfed. That too only for a few 'unpopular' trains. Initially when Tatkal was introduced, it used to be 10% of the carrying capacity of each class. Today in most of the popular trains it is half the carrying capacity while in all others it is a quarter of it. Count the bucks.


  • Enhanced Reservation Fee.
    If you book a ticket from a station which is not the originating point of the train, you are charged Rs 10 or Rs 20 extra per ticket for Non AC / AC classes respectively. This means that if you book a Mumbai to Kolkata ticket at Delhi, you are charged extra. Infact, this also applies to return journeys. Booking a ticket from Hyderabad to Delhi at Hyderabad will not attract premium, but booking your return journey ticket together with it will do so. Add up the cash!


  • POH period enhanced.
    Each coach which carries passengers on IR undergoes what is termed as Periodic Overhaul (POH) every 12 months. You can find at the back of each coach the date markings of the date when POH was done, and the scheduled date of return for the next overhaul. Technically, this should be 12 months. But a lot of coaches are actually marked for 18 months. Some are marked 12, but it is commonplace to find coaches which have exceeded that. This means that instead of every 12 months, a coach undergoes overhaul every 15-18 months. If a workshop was servicing 50 coaches a month (example) a couple of years ago, it is still doing the same even though a number of new coaches have been added to stock. So instead of 60, it still does 50.

    In a POH, the broken parts are repaired, light bulbs/tubes replaced, torn seats replaced, suspension overhauled, batteries replaced, wiring repaired if needed, additional charging plug points provided and the coach is repainted. It costs the IR about 3-4 lac rupees for POH of each coach. Add up 4 lacs for each of the 10 coaches per week per workshop. There are atleast 2 such workshops in each of the 16 zones on IR. The Annual figure is staggering.


  • Increase in Freight charges.
    This is one area the passengers will not clammer about. The freight charges on IR are one of the highest in the world. The only reason the system runs is because the customers find it faster and cheaper by rail considering that most roads in the country are in shambles, lack of good high capacity trucks and the fact that interstate goods transport attracts so many taxes and long detensions by officials and police to extract moolah.


  • Coach Carrying capacity to be increased.
    For a couple travelling by train, the side berths have been the most convinient. Whether it is Sleeper Class or AC 3 tier, the side berths are the preferred berths, unless one can give Amitabh some competition in height. You gotta forget that soon. Thanks to Lalu's new innovation - The Side Middle Berth (SMB). As in the main bay, even the sides will have 3 berths soon. The Side Upper is going to be raised to a height which will leave only a couple of inches above your face while sleeping! The extra person is going to sit in the main bay. So in the main bay, instead of three on one side, there will be four. Whether you are in the main bay or the sides, you are cramped for space. This adds up 9 passengers per coach in Sleeper and 8 in AC 3 Tier. Add up the fares and u can dream of getting rich!


  • Dummy Superfast Trains.
    Approximately, about 450 Mail/express trains (excl Rajdhani/Shatabdi) run on the Indian Railway network. More than 250 of these are termed 'Superfast'. That means that they achieve an average speed of 55kmph in both up and down journeys. Now, out of these 250, atleast 150 of these have their average speeds in the range of 55.1 - 60kmph. In other words, if these trains get late by a few minutes, their average speeds go down below 55, which is below the SF mark specified by IR. Atleast 50 such trains exist which would loose their SF tag if they are late by even 5-10 mins. Considering the legendary non-punctuality of Indian trains, its more a norm that they run late. An example of a train which I frequently use. The 2747 Guntur-Vikarabad Palnadu express takes 385mins to cover 354kms at an average speed of 55.16kmph. If this train gets late by even 2 minutes, its average speed dips below 55kmph. I have never ever seen this train reach VKB without a delay of atleast 20mins.

    Now, why am I giving this description? Because for every superfast train ticket, a passenger pays Rs 8 for Second Class, Rs 20 for Sleeper Class, Rs 30 for Ac 2/3 tier and Rs 50 for AC 1st Class over above the basic fare structure. If one books a Tatkal ticket, that premium applies too. Go figure out how much IR gains by this method.

As of now, these points do come in mind. Will add more when I contrive upon more such methods adopted by IR/Lalu. Till then, you can keep adding up the figures and tell me if Lalu really deserves to be patted on his backs and felicitated by the 'top' management institutes of the country for bringing a turn around in the Indian Railways.

-

December 26, 2007

Fwd: US Politics FAQs

US Politics FAQs: A Child's Guide to US Foreign Policy

Q: Daddy, why did we have to attack Iraq?
A: Because they had weapons of mass destruction honey.

Q: But the inspectors didn't find any weapons of mass destruction.
A: That's because the Iraqis were hiding them.

Q: And that's why we invaded Iraq?
A: Yep. Invasions always work better than inspections.

Q: But after we invaded them, we STILL didn't find any weapons of
mass destruction, did we?
A: That's because the weapons are so well hidden. Don't worry, we'll
find something, probably right before the 2008 election.

Q: Why did Iraq want all those weapons of mass destruction?
A: To use them in a war, silly.

Q: I'm confused. If they had all those weapons that they planned to
use in a war, then why didn't they use any of those weapons when we
went to war with them?
A: Well, obviously they didn't want anyone to know they had those
weapons, so they chose to die by the thousands rather than defend
themselves.

Q: That doesn't make sense Daddy. Why would they choose to die if
they had all those big weapons to fight us back with?
A: It's a different culture. It's not supposed to make sense.

Q: I don't know about you, but I don't think they had any of those
weapons our government said they did.
A: Well, you know, it doesn't matter whether or not they had those
weapons. We had another good reason to invade them anyway.

Q: And what was that?
A: Even if Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction, Saddam
Hussein was a cruel dictator, which is another good reason to invade
another country.

Q: Why? What does a cruel dictator do that makes it OK to invade his country?
A: Well, for one thing, he tortured his own people.

Q: Kind of like what they do in China?
A: Don't go comparing China to Iraq. China is a good economic
competitor, where millions of people work for slave wages in
sweatshops to make U.S. corporations richer.

Q: So if a country lets its people be exploited for American
corporate gain, it's a good country, even if that country tortures
people?
A: Right.

Q: Why were people in Iraq being tortured?
A: For political crimes, mostly, like criticizing the government.
People who criticized the government in Iraq were sent to prison and
tortured.

Q: Isn't that exactly what happens in China?
A: I told you, China is different.

Q: What's the difference between China and Iraq?
A: Well, for one thing, Iraq was ruled by the Ba'ath party, while
China is Communist.

Q: Didn't you once tell me Communists were bad?
A: No, just Cuban Communists are bad.

Q: How are the Cuban Communists bad?
A: Well, for one thing, people who criticize the government in Cuba
are sent to prison and tortured.

Q: Like in Iraq?
A: Exactly.

Q: And like in China, too?
A: I told you, China's a good economic competitor. Cuba, on the other
hand, is not.

Q: How come Cuba isn't a good economic competitor?
A: Well, you see, back in the early 1960s, our government passed some
laws that made it illegal for Americans to trade or do any business
with Cuba until they stopped being communists and started being
capitalists like us.

Q: But if we got rid of those laws, opened up trade with Cuba, and
started doing business with them, wouldn't that help the Cubans become
capitalists?
A: Don't be a smart-ass.

Q: I didn't think I was being one.
A: Well, anyway, they also don't have freedom of religion in Cuba.

Q: Kind of like China and the Falun Gong movement?
A: I told you, stop saying bad things about China. Anyway, Saddam
Hussein came to power through a military coup, so he's not really a
legitimate leader anyway.

Q: What's a military coup?
A: That's when a military general takes over the government of a
country by force, instead of holding free elections like we do in the
United States.

Q: Didn't the ruler of Pakistan come to power by a military coup?
A: You mean General Pervez Musharraf? Uh, yeah, he did, but Pakistan
is our friend.

Q: Why is Pakistan our friend if their leader is illegitimate?
A: I never said Pervez Musharraf was illegitimate.

Q: Didn't you just say a military general who comes to power by
forcibly overthrowing the legitimate government of a nation is an
illegitimate leader?
A: Only Saddam Hussein. Pervez Musharraf is our friend, because he
helped us invade Afghanistan.

Q: Why did we invade Afghanistan?
A: Because of what they did to us on September 11th.

Q: What did Afghanistan do to us on September 11th?
A: Well, on September 11th, nineteen men, fifteen of them Saudi
Arabians, hijacked four airplanes and flew three of them into
buildings, killing over 3,000 Americans.

Q: So how did Afghanistan figure into all that?
A: Afghanistan was where those bad men trained, under the oppressive
rule of the Taliban.

Q: Aren't the Taliban those bad radical Islamics who chopped off
people's heads and hands?
A: Yes, that's exactly who they were. Not only did they chop off
people's heads and hands, but they oppressed women, too.

Q: Didn't the Bush administration give the Taliban 43 million
dollars back in May of 2001?
A: Yes, but that money was a reward because they did such a good job
fighting drugs.

Q: Fighting drugs?
A: Yes, the Taliban were very helpful in stopping people from growing
opium poppies.

Q: How did they do such a good job?
A: Simple. If people were caught growing opium poppies, the Taliban
would have their hands and heads cut off.

Q: So, when the Taliban cut off people's heads and hands for growing
flowers, that was OK, but not if they cut people's heads and hands off
for other reasons?
A: Yes. It's OK with us if radical Islamic fundamentalists cut off
people's hands for growing flowers, but it's cruel if they cut off
people's hands for stealing bread.

Q: Don't they also cut off people's hands and heads in Saudi Arabia?
A: That's different. Afghanistan was ruled by a tyrannical patriarchy
that oppressed women and forced them to wear burqas whenever they were
in public, with death by stoning as the penalty for women who did not
comply.

Q: Don't Saudi women have to wear burqas in public, too?
A: No, Saudi women merely wear a traditional Islamic body covering.

Q: What's the difference?
A: The traditional Islamic covering worn by Saudi women is a modest
yet fashionable garment that covers all of a woman's body except for
her eyes and fingers. The burqa, on the other hand, is an evil tool of
patriarchal oppression that covers all of a woman's body except for
her eyes and fingers.

Q: It sounds like the same thing with a different name.
A: Now, don't go comparing Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis
are our friends.

Q: But I thought you said 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11th
were from Saudi Arabia.
A: Yes, but they trained in Afghanistan.

Q: Who trained them?
A: A very bad man named Osama bin Laden.

Q: Was he from Afghanistan?
A: Uh, no, he was from Saudi Arabia too. But he was a bad man, a very bad man.

Q: I seem to recall he was our friend once.
A: Only when we helped him and the mujahadeen repel the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan back in the 1980s.

Q: Who are the Soviets? Was that the Evil Communist Empire Ronald
Reagan talked about?
A: There are no more Soviets. The Soviet Union broke up in 1990 or
thereabouts, and now they have elections and capitalism like us. We
call them Russians now.

Q: So the Soviets ? I mean, the Russians ? are now our friends?
A: Well, not really. You see, they were our friends for many years
after they stopped being Soviets, but then they decided not to support
our invasion of Iraq, so we're mad at them now. We're also mad at the
French and the Germans because they didn't help us invade Iraq either.

Q: So the French and Germans are evil, too?
A: Not exactly evil, but just bad enough that we had to rename French
fries and French toast to Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast.

Q: Do we always rename foods whenever another country doesn't do
what we want them to do?
A: No, we just do that to our friends. Our enemies, we invade.

Q: But wasn't Iraq one of our friends back in the 1980s?
A: Well, yeah. For a while.

Q: Was Saddam Hussein ruler of Iraq back then?
A: Yes, but at the time he was fighting against Iran, which made him
our friend, temporarily.

Q: Why did that make him our friend?
A: Because at that time, Iran was our enemy.

Q: Isn't that when he gassed the Kurds?
A: Yeah, but since he was fighting against Iran at the time, we looked
the other way, to show him we were his friend.

Q: So anyone who fights against one of our enemies automatically
becomes our friend?
A: Most of the time, yes.

Q: And anyone who fights against one of our friends is automatically an enemy?
A: Sometimes that's true, too. However, if American corporations can
profit by selling weapons to both sides at the same time, all the
better.

Q: Why?
A: Because war is good for the economy, which means war is good for
America. Also, since God is on America's side, anyone who opposes war
is a godless un-American Communist. Do you understand now why we
attacked Iraq?

Q: I think so. We attacked them because God wanted us to, right?
A: Yes.

Q: But how did we know God wanted us to attack Iraq?
A: Well, you see, God personally speaks to George W. Bush and tells
him what to do.

Q: So basically, what you're saying is that we attacked Iraq because
George W. Bush hears voices in his head?
A: Yes! You finally understand how the world works. Now close your
eyes, make yourself comfortable, and go to sleep. Good night.

December 21, 2007

Half a foot, maybe !




It all began on the most eventful day in the history of IRFCA (Indian Railways Fan Club). 26th February 2006. The First IRFCA Convention. In the final session where we discussed the future of IRFCA, I suggested a mid-year railfanning session at some convinient location.

A few weeks ago, Pune Gangman Ashish Kuvelkar re-ignited the spark and planning for the same got underway over the world wide web. Plans were made by Ashish, PVS Praveen and our TT man VSP. Ultimately the date for the Jumbooree was fixed. A weekend and a second saturday to boot. That gave VSP his much deserved holiday. Invitations forwarded, plans finalised, booking for the journey and accomodation were all done by PVS, VSP and Ashish.

Ultimately it was the Gangmen from Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune and Chennai who decided to converge at Guntakal for the First IRFCA Jumbooree.

Unfortunately it was getting increasingly difficult for me to get a leave on the said day as a couple of my colleagues were already backpacking somewhere abroad. However, there came a lifeline in the form of a trip I needed to do to Bangalore . The SBC trip was a last minute planned one and I left by bus. After finishing off my work by late afternoon at SBC, called up VSP who accused me giving them a 'haath'! And then I let him know about my whereabouts and informed him that I would make it to GTL after all.

I booked myself on an APSRTC bus till Gooty, and proceeded to meet a friend near Yelahanka. I was scheduled to board the bus at 9PM. The bus turned up at 9.30PM. The journey was uneventful till Bagepalli, where we halted for a light dinner at around 11PM. The bus was scheduled to reach Gooty at 2.30AM, but considering the half an hour delay, I guessed it would be 3AM when it touches GY. I had a light nap, and when I awoke, we were almost near GY, but the time in my watch worried me. It was just past 3.30AM. Finally we reached the bus depot at 3.55AM My plan was to take the Hampi express from GY station to GTL. SBC mates Vivek Old Man Pillay, Bizzy Mishra and Ravi Sundarajan were aboard the same. Took an auto-rickshaw and raced towards the railway station. However, reached the station only at 4.10AM, and by then the Hampi had already departed from GY. I was casually informed that the next train to GTL was at 8AM. I had already enquired about the bus service, which too was at 6AM.

// I went and met the station controller, with whom I had made contact the last time I was there.. and he put me in the caboose of a twin GY WDG-3A led freighter which was on its way to Hubli via GTL. We started at 5AM and by the time I made it to GTL, it was 6AM. The train was halted for quite some time at GTL outer, and I was on the mobile communicating with Vivek Pillay and VSP about my co-ordinates. As the freighter approached GTL station, I could spot VSP, Vivek, Tejender, Kamesh and Bizzy with his cam eagerly peering out of the balcony of the GTL retiring rooms. As soon as I was spotted by them, I could hear a cheer and a wave.. and as I exited the freighter, could also spot the flash in front of Bizzy spotlighting me! The look on the face of an RPF Inspector who saw me waved off the the freighter and turned to see the eager IRFCAns waving was seen to be believed! //

After a round of complimentaries and general updates from the above mentioned, and ascertaining that PVS, Ravi, Bharath and the Pune gangmen were cozying in the official resthouses on the other side of the station and that the Madras gang had withdrawn enmasse; I proceeded to get ready for a day that had already started in such a befitting fashion.

6.45AM and we were all set to embark on the First IRFCA Jumbooree. VSP Sir informed us that the Tea Stall at the Station entrance was serving some hot n delicious Upma which Roopesh was already warming his throats with; and so, with 24 bucks paid, myself, Vivek, Bizzy and VSP Sir filled ourselves with Upma worth travelling all the way to GTL for..

6.55AM saw us reach platform 2 of GTL where a cool blue GTL YDM-4 was waiting for us, ready to depart with the GTL-PAK passenger in tow. Spotted Taad-ka-jhaad PVS and around him were Ashish Kuvelkar and Apurva Bahadur. John Mani was busy snapping the relics of the old steam shed and some MG wagons n coaches that probably will not see the light of the day come 2007; while Ravi was trying to find his GPS device a cool position. Bharath Bhai Moro was nowhere in sight. However, he mysteriously appeared bang in time for the departure.

Yours truly and VSP wanted to relax our gullets with some coffee which seemed refreshing in PVS's hands, but 2 minutes before departure, we faced the 'stock over' board. The major discussion that engulfed all of us was the positions that we were to take in the MG coaches. Nothing seemed perfect till VSP Sir managed to have the luggage van of the SLR opened up exclusively for us.

The YDM-4 bluebird gave an ecstatic cry as it chugged off the Jumbooree! Off we were.. some of us cheering, some of us shutterbugging and the Bluebird smoking along. We quickly picked up speed as Ravi managed to find his GPS and himself a good spot. We passed Hanuman Circle where a sizeable crowd made itself home in the 5-coach rake. One of the coaches was marked SR and was in the Vibgyor livery while another one was marked SWR! Incidently the SLR made up the middle of the rake rather than the ends.

The route was splendid with some amazing curves, and as we doorplated the SLR with our legs dangling, me and Tejender wondered how close our feet were to the ballast. Half a foot, maybe..

At one of the stations, we got a coffee vendor on board.. and he served us the best coffee we had in days.. nothing to beat strong n hot coffee.. hmm.. the taste of that is still lingering on my tongue, precisely a week since I had that. Each one of us had two cups of the same, while me and VSP had half a cup extra!

At Khaderpet - the last station before BG meets MG - we were put on the loop to allow the DMM-GTL MG passenger snake into the station. There were a few villagers who had boarded the luggage van we were travelling in, and one of them had a basket of tomatoes with him. PVS promptly bought half a kilo and we had some nice succulent tomatoes to compliment the soft n dull scenery of the Penukonda ranges. This area is a rocky one with hills jutting out of the ground more than trees, but still we were quite amazed to find a lot of land under cultivation, even though finding a farmer on-field seemed more difficult than finding a tiger in the forests of Bandipur..

MG meets BG just before Kalluru, and soon we bridge the Pennar. It was still the monsoon season, but there was not one drop of water under the twelve piers that span the Pennar. Speaks something about the rains in the region, which is widely regarded as one of the desertlands of the South Indian peninsula. Kalluru served us some amazing Idli-vada, although PVS almost swore by its non-existant Upma.

After a 10 minute halt, we clambered in to the SLR aided by Tejender, who was pulling all of us up. And hence began the last stage of our MG journey that day to our destination, Garladinne. Ravi was constantly being pinged by all of us in turns wanting to know if his GPS could match the accuracy of our old-fashioned methods of calculating speed.

Garladinne station did not have too much activity and as soon as the MG passenger train was waved off / seen off / snapped off by the 13 lunatics who descended there, it seemed as though all activity at Garladinne came to a halt.

A dozen of our ancestors climbed down from the trees to see how their future generations might turn out to be. They spotted half a dozen crazy people with some small silver coloured boxes in their palms pointing towards them.

The return trip was to be by the more modern cousin.. the obese guage.. and we awaited the Hindupur-Guntakal passenger to arrive at Garladinne and transport us to Gooty, which was to be our next destination. After rounds of snappography practised by the dozen, we procured the tickets for the journey. Incidently, the same were issued only after the train had left Anantapur, a distance of 18kms, which according to the station master, the passenger train covered in 12 minutes.

We were keeping our fingers crossed and wanted to see the GTL former Beauty Queen 16200 lead the passenger.. but then it wasnt to be.. anyways, freshly coated in the new striking GTL livery was our chief, and no sooner had the 13 lunatics bade farewell to Garladinne, did the long tone sound the start of yet another BG journey. Almost all of us took up positions at the doors of the first coach, while PVS decided to give company to Ravi who seated himself in a side seat with his antenna affixed on the outside of the blue coach.

The journey was uneventful, and the shutterbugs came to the fore when we approached the famed GY curve, and on the RU arm at the bifurcation was a WDG-4 awaiting our entry into GY. As we disembarked at GY platform at around 11AM, I chuckled at the thought of being at the same spot exactly 5 hours back waiting to hitch a ride to GTL !

GY brought us some amazing spottings. The highlight were the dual WDM-2A locos from way up north, nicknamed Prabal by their home shed Lucknow. A pair of KZJ WDG-3A locos were being attached to a freight rake, and on the other side of the island platform, were a trio of GTL WDM-2 locos, a Jumbo heading the pack. Incidently, there was no GY loco in direct view! However, a cursory glance towards the Diesel Loco Shed brought us in contact with a bevy of them. And off we were to the GY DLS, the first Diesel Loco shed in South India; a shed that has over the past forty-plus-years has acquired a name for itself in terms of keeping the locos fit-n-fine. The same has been recognised officially with the shed having procured ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications for itself.

We were greeted at the DLS by the Senior Mechanical Enggineer Mr M Srikanth, who turned out to be an admirer of the snaps that are posted on one website meant for crazy people like the 13 who sat before him. He was not just gracious enough but also eagerly willing to answer the querries posed to him like a barrage by PVS, Ashish, Apu, Ravi and myself, while Roopesh and VSP were trying desperately to keep their eyes open! He gave us enormous info on the past, present and future of GY shed.

He also confirmed that GY would still be holding onto a few WDM-3A Baldies for use in the Briganza Ghats and retain their beautiful liveries. This was one of the best news I had heard in a long while. He also introduced us to his Chief Information Manager, who explained to us the various processes that happen at a Diesel Loco Shed. Being there first hand was an amazing experience. Not to be missed.

It was time to give our hungry stomachs something to brood on. We headed to a small eatery near the station, not before having some delighted moments with models of WDM-2 (18207, the first WDM-2 alloted to GY), WDG-4 and a WP plinthed outside the station. However the place was full and also too small to accomodate the 13 of us. On PVS's advice, we decided to proceed to GY town, about 4kms away and got ourselves comfortable in the AC Dining Hall of a decent restaurant. And thence for a surprise.. Dear Old Ravi Sundarajan decided it was the right time to get his name etched in the memory of a dozen railfans. And he did that by announcing that the lunch was on him! We had some delicious Andhra Style Meals amidst talk of and only of trains.

We had decided to take a passenger train from GY to GTL, but our great man from the Babudom of Andhra Pradesh - VSP - decided that he would confirm the punctuality of the same from some contact of his. Unfortunately for us, it wasnt on time. Hence we decided to take a bus to GTL. Outside the hotel, we found ourselves a 7-seater autorickshaw, but just about managed to fit in 13 lunatics, the driver and his assistant into the same. How we all fit in is still beyond my imagination. As we reached GTL bus station, we found ourselves a NEKRTC bus bound for Bellary awaiting us, and into it we got in, occupying the back benches of the same. And like true back-benchers, we made noise and had fun. Our CDAC representative, Ashish, was pretty inquisitive about the hand held electronic ticket dispenser which the conductor used to issue us the journey tickets. He followed it with a few snaps, probably interested in replicating the device at work!

At GTL, we proceeded to the Cozy Railway Guest House and made ourselves comfortable. Apu, Ravi, VSP, Tejender, Kamesh were all in slumber in one room, while myself, Bharath, PVS, VSP, Roopesh, Bizzy and Vivek engrossed ourselves in banter which ranged from food to tech-talk to jobs and of course.. Railways! At around 6PM, we all decided to head to the overbridge at the point where the line to Dhone branches off. Mr Time Table had informed us about the MYS-JP express that would wind its way up the ramp towards DNC at 1820 and we waited in anticipation of the same. Close to 1840, the 13 railfans were given the treat that they longed for. Apu could not hide his delight behind his wide grain when the ex-GY and now GTL homed rebuilt WDM-3A pulled out the 9775 from platform 3, cruised past two points and chugged away to glory on the DNC line leaving behind a huge plume of smoke outlined by the rays of the setting sun, and a bunch of railnuts sweaking in delight and heading over to see what the scene looked like in each of the digicams that captured the moment for posturity !

It was dark now, and as a WDG-4 led a freight into GTL and another GTL loco led out the express to MAS, we took a hike along the tracks into GTL station. We headed to the Refreshment Rooms on platform 5. While most caught up on some Biryani at the NVRR; myself, Kamesh, PVS and Bharath headed to the VRR to have some awesome Pongal n Vada that was served there. There we bade Goodbye to the Organiser-in-chief of the trip - VSP - who took a bus back to GY to catch the 7652 KCG-MS express to TPTY and get himself a darshan of the Almighty who adorns the seven hills.

We then headed back to our rooms to pack ourselves up for the return trip. Ganged up on platform 4, where the CBE-LTT exp which was to take back the Pune Gang back home arrived three quarters of an hour late. In the meantime, we were in touch with VSP, who just made it in time to catch 7652 at GY. We were booked in 7604 which arrived almost an hour late. Ravi had by then made himself comfortable in the FC of the NED-SBC Hampi Link express, while Vivek and Bizzy gave us company till 7604 reversed out of GTL. All of us were asleep within 5 minutes of the train chugging off GTL.

Not for a moment did I wake up, and when I did, we were cruising past Falaknuma and reached KCG 20 minutes late. Tejender bade us Goodbye at the station, while PVS and Bharath hitched a ride till Vidyanagar, Kamesh and me till Begumpet, while Roopesh was sheduled to disembark at Hafeezpet.

Took an auto for the last leg of the journey of 1km from BMT to my place to end one of the most enthralling trips of my railfanning life..

It was an awesome trip done under - as Apu aptly put it - No Catenary !

December 13, 2007

Solar Powered Railways....?

I was just wondering about how much the Indian Railways can save in electricity bills if it opts for solar power. IR has huge areas of land vacant which can be used to install solar power recievers. Probably the initial costs might be more, but running costs would be negligible and the setup would become self financing in a couple of years.

This would not only cut the bills, but also have a tremendously positive impact on the environment.

In areas where land is at a premium, the solar power recievers could be positioned atop the OHE masts themselves.

In the long run, if excess power is generated, IR can sell the same, the very same way it is selling out its railtel networks.

I know that it would be a huge investment initially, but it can be done in phases. In sections where electrification is in progress or scheduled, this can be taken up along with that.
 
 

December 12, 2007

Shifting to this home now...

Folks

I have now shifted my main blog base from http://o3.indiatimes.com/vrij to this page. The older home will also be visited, albeit sparingly. This is a test post using the Email-posting tech that this place provides. o3 had that option but it never worked. So lets hope this one will.

You can also view the latest cricket scores on ur right. Will try to make this place more habitable soon.

The older posts were more or less test posts, so I have safely deleted them! And anyways, I still exist on www.vrijilesh.com

Ciao !

November 07, 2007

10 Reasons for a Cracker-free Diwali

Here are 10 good reasons why you should have a Cracker-free Diwali...

10. Crackers are very costly.

9. You are encouraging Child Labour by using crackers.

8. Most of the shops you buy these from, do not adhere to the Excise Dept guidelines.

7. Crackers release a lot of Ultra-violet and Infrared radiation, which are harmful to the eyes and the body parts.

6. Diwali (Deepavali) is a festival of lights, not sound. Crackers can cause deafness.

5. Maximum number of Burn cases are reported in the Diwali season due to the improper use of crackers.

4. Humans might be able to protect themselves, but the crackers have a deep physical and mental impact upon animals.

3. Most crackers do not adhere to the Govt guidelines on Noise pollution and the sound of these crackers is above the permitted levels. In short, many are Illegal.

2. Levels of Air pollution, which are already high in India, reach astronomical levels on Diwali and can be very harmful to the human body.

1. Crackers and Fireworks are the single largest cause of respiratory diseases like Bronchial Asthma, Chronic Bronchitis and other Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases, and also a major cause of fright amongst the elderly which can lead to disastrous consequences on their health.


So, hopefully, you would have a fun-filled, beautiful and cracker free Diwali.

HAPPY DEEPAVALI TO ONE AND ALL !!

October 10, 2007

Bluelines should emulate Setwin

Hyderabad had its own version of Blueline buses till a couple of years ago. Only that they were not private, but run by an organisation called SETWIN (Society for Employment Promotion & Training in Twin Cities). They run these buses under the self employement scheme.


Till a couple of years ago, their buses were the perfect definition of the word 'khatara'. And an extended definition of the word 'danger'. They were colored white and blue, but most people wanted them painted red. They were the cause of innumerable road accidents in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. But one fine day, their luck ran out. A Setwin bus rammed into a few two wheelers and an auto-rickshaw at a busy junction which was also the site of a flyover collapse a few weeks back.


There were public protests, people blocked these buses, the court asked the Govt about it and ultimately these buses had to go off the potholed streets of Hyderabad.


But what is deemed as a very heartening turnaround, Setwin re-introduced itself onto Hyderabadi roads in late 2006, this time armed with a batallion of brand new Swaraj Mazdas and Tempo Travellers. No more khataras on the roads. Their drivers were given lessons on better road manners, and today we see people happy with Setwin. In fact, the state transport buses are notorious for skipping stops in peak hours, halting a few furlongs away from the bus stop, but to Setwin's credit, their drivers have shown much better mannerisms.


The recent banter about Blueline buses in Delhi made me think if the Setwin model could be implemented in Delhi too. Well, if it can be done here, it can be done there too.


So what are you waiting for M/s Blueline, go the Setwin way !

September 16, 2007

Can the selectors think out of the box ?

Rahul Dravid's painful run as the Captain of Indian Cricket Team has come to an end. Painful... because if he was in form the team wasnt, and if the team did well, his contribution wasnt enough. Plus the hungama over Chappel, the Ganguly episode that initiated it all, the disastrous world cup saga and the rise of ICL during his reign.


The Five Wise Men meet for Tea and Snacks and probably even lunch or dinner on Tuesday the Sept 18 and in between the gastronomic embellishments, they might also find time - hopefuly - to discuss the rather trifle matter of who the next man standing would be.


All TV Channels worth their salt in gold seem to suggest that Sachin Tendulkar with all his 18 years and three generations (of cricketing experience) of experience would be given the reins of the country's passion. The current T20 skipper MS Dhoni seems to be having an outside chance, while the Old Fox Saurav Ganguly is being mentioned but not being giving too much importance.


Personal Opinion: If you are looking at the old guard, then it HAS to be Saurav Ganguly and not Tendulkar. Not for anything but I feel Sachin plays better when he has no headaches, and he is a little bit too soft for my liking. You have to be a street fighter which Ganguly is. Experience also counts. But the downside with either is their longevity, or rather the lack of it !


But do the Indian Cricket Selectors have the ability to think out of the box? They had taken a step on the correct tarmac when they made MS Dhoni the skipper for the slam-bang version. Can they do the same with the longer and the not-so-long versions?


Dhoni is today an automatic selection in any Indian team. Batting apart, his wicket keeping skills have been good and more than adequate without being spectacular. His batting has enthralled one and all. He has not only shown the agression needed for the shorter forms, but also the maturity that is needed of the longer. Ian Chappel wants Dhoni for the ODIs and Laxman for the tests, a decent suggestion, but since Laxman is in no particular certainty in BCCI's scheme of things, I would prefer Dhoni as the leader of the pack in all versions.


I would also want Sachin Tendulkar to be made the 'Playing Coach' or 'Mentor' of the side. He can actually thus help Dhoni in getting the team to gel together. We would not need the Wrights or the Fords or the Greg Chappels anymore then. None of those can better the 18 years of experience that Sachin brings in. And that experience is well, up-to-date and not two decade old.


I think thus, but do the Five Wise men?


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You can follow T20 Live action at www.vrijilesh.com
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September 06, 2007

Idli, Vada, Dosa... Uthappa !

Idli, Vada, Dosa, Poori, Chapathi, Bonda, Uthappa !


Not quite in your top five when it comes to the menu card of any South Indian or Udipi style restaurant. So is the case with the namesake of this delicious onion-filled-laced-with-sesame-ground-pulse-batter-pancake when it comes to talking Indian Sports. And in India, sport is generally associated with Cricket.


Robin Uthappa showed on Wednesday night why he should not be relegated way below Ganguly, Tendulkar, Gambhir, Dravid, Yuvraj, Karthik, Dhoni et al. Had it not been for his flair with the bat and coolness of head associated with Karnataka's pride Jog Falls, India would have handed over the Natwest to the Brits. As it now stands, Lords beckons the Colonel and the Colonial for a battle royale at the Holy Lords.


Its not about what he did with the willow on Wednesday as it is with what coolant he uses in his attic. Never have I seen this Zaheer Khan look-alike sporting a disturbed mane. Always cool, whether packing a punch or walking back with a quack.. one quaility he has displayed in ample measure is serenity. You will never get that 'Oh shit, it was the pad and not the willow' look that symbolises Dada, or the “Oh.. once more in the 90s” look that seems to have become synonymous with Tendliya.


Energetic in the field, enthusiastic off it and serene in the middle, this opening bat from Bengaluru reminds me more of Justine Henin more than Rafael Nadal. I do not know why this explosive batman is not considered above Gambhir and Karthik. He is more like Sehwag and can destroy any attack on his day. No doubt Gambhir is a good bat, but I would rate him higher in the longer version of the game. Karthik is at best an honest trier, committed player and a grinder, but take out the wicket-keeper from his persona and he becomes rather dispensable.


Robin Uthappa is like his name. The Robin flies high easily, and the Uthappa flattens all others.
Robin would be an ideal number 3 in my ranks to follow SG and ST. Yuvi and Dhoni can continue where he leaves along with Dravid and Gambhir. If only Agarkar and Zaheer contribute a bit with the willow, we have a wining combo around.


Over to Lords !

August 29, 2007

Queen of Multitasking

No, I'm not referring to the multidimensional posts of fellow blogger Frenchita !!!!


Here I refer to someone infinitely bigger in public stature. She is the President of India's ruling party, chairperson of the ruling coalition, supreme advisor of the Govt of India, Leader of the party in the Parliament, Member of the Planning Comission and officially the head of umpteen academies, societies which bear the name of her late husband and long departed mom-in-law.


She is also the unofficial 'Mother of the Nation' and the 'real' Prime Minister, President and Vice-President of the Nation. She is the 'real' Speaker of the Lower House of the Indian Parliament, the Universal Advisor cum key-decision maker for all Ministries of the Indian Government, all departments and divisons of the bureaucracy of the Indian Administrative system. She is the Supreme Commander of the Governments of more than a dozen states, supercedes the Governor of most states.


When the Defence Minister of the country goes on a visit to a foreign country for an arms deal, he tucks behind this lady like the pug in the Hutch commercial. Every banner, poster or cutout erected by this party in any part of the country on any occasion, however mundane, has to have the smiling face of this great lady.


Over and above, she is also a mother, mentor and political guide to one 35 year old political kid and a young lady who looks more like her grandmother than her mother. She also happens to be the Mother-in-law of a person very very ordinary until he became her son-in-law and now bosses over everyone like noone cares. Indeed MIL and SIL are the only two people who in their individual capacities have the exclusive privilege of exemption from security checks at Indian domestic airports.


In one phrase, she is THE most powerful person this part of Planet Earth. How she manages it is beyond my imagination. Hats off, SG, hats off !!!! ;)

August 15, 2007

Ab tumhare hawale watan saathiyon...

Folks,


Wish U all a Very Happy 60th Independence day!

On this day as it stands, I envision a not-so-bright future for the nation, thanks to the few thousand a**h**** we have elected to various assemblies and to the parliament in New Delhi.
So, here's is a 10-point agenda that I would like to put forth for the betterment of this country.


10. Free and Compulsory Education. Education should be made compulsory and free for all citizens. Atleast till the +2 level. All higher education is to be subsidised. The commercialisation of education to be banned. Education system should aim at all-round development of personalities rather than making super human mathematicians and nerds.


09. Healthcare for All. Primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare maintenance facilities should be provided in all areas with populations of 200 persons and above. Access to healthcare is a fundamental right. Proper transit hospitals should be established by the Govt along the highways and not just in major cities. Whoever heard of a CT scan in villages of remote India? A large corpus of funding should be introduced and special emphasis on Preventive healthcare should be provided.


08. Good Connectivity. Roads should be made to last atleast a decade and not just till the next monsoon. Contractors who do not abide should be given a lifer. Most of the exchequers money is spent in relaying of prime roads every year leading to underdevelopment of feeder routes and village pathways which do not come under the category of roads.


07. Don't play with the Govt. All government contracts should be alloted by Open bidding and not by sealed tenders to bring in transparency and root out secrecy. This would also help in scooting out the political hand. No kickbacks. If defiency in the same is noticed, no further contracts to be given to the same agency or to any agency with same promoters.


06. End of party time for political groups. No Government funding to be provided to Political parties. No constituency fund is to be provided to MPs and MLAs. All expenditure should be accounted to the national treasury. Any person convicted of a criminal offence anytime in his life should be debarred from holding a public office for life. Anyone chargesheeted but not yet convicted should not hold office till acquitted.


05. Freedom to live comfortably. Public nuisance should become a criminal offence of high nature. Blaring music, relieveing oneself on the roadside, spiiting along the pavements and in the corners of staircases, shitting on the railway tracks should be dealt with strictly.Public toilets should be contructed in all possible places and access to those should be made free. Public should be encouraged to use them. This helps in keeping our surroundings clean and healthy.


04. Power Revolution. Huge impetus should be given to alternative sources of energy. Electric farming using wind mills and magestic solar panels should be introduced. Hydro power should be given a major boost. Use of Nuclear energy for power generation should be emphasised. Thermal power generation which puts a premium on the environment should be reduced. 03. Go Green. Tampering with the environment should be stopped. Whether it is deforestation or rape of the rocks or excessive mining, it leads to nothing but disaster and it should be stopped.


02. Zero Kickbacks. Anyone indulging in corruption or kickbacks should be given a lifer and debarred from holding any public office or Govt job.


01. Hum do Hamare do. Strict enforcement of the 'Hum do hamare do' law. Anyone violating the same would not be eligible for any benefits the country offers to its citizens. They would have to pay double the taxes for their entire life.


Mera Bharat Mahaan !

Ab tumhare hawale watan saathiyon..

Folks,
Wish U all a Very Happy 60th Independence day!

On this day as it stands, I envision a not-so-bright future for the nation, thanks to the few thousand a**h**** we have elected to various assemblies and to the parliament in New Delhi.
So, here's is a 10-point agenda that I would like to put forth for the betterment of this country.


10. Free and Compulsory Education. Education should be made compulsory and free for all citizens. Atleast till the +2 level. All higher education is to be subsidised. The commercialisation of education to be banned. Education system should aim at all-round development of personalities rather than making super human mathematicians and nerds.

09. Healthcare for All. Primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare maintenance facilities should be provided in all areas with populations of 200 persons and above. Access to healthcare is a fundamental right. Proper transit hospitals should be established by the Govt along the highways and not just in major cities. Whoever heard of a CT scan in villages of remote India? A large corpus of funding should be introduced and special emphasis on Preventive healthcare should be provided.

08. Good Connectivity. Roads should be made to last atleast a decade and not just till the next monsoon. Contractors who do not abide should be given a lifer. Most of the exchequers money is spent in relaying of prime roads every year leading to underdevelopment of feeder routes and village pathways which do not come under the category of roads.

07. Don't play with the Govt. All government contracts should be alloted by Open bidding and not by sealed tenders to bring in transparency and root out secrecy. This would also help in scooting out the political hand. No kickbacks. If defiency in the same is noticed, no further contracts to be given to the same agency or to any agency with same promoters.

06. End of party time for political groups. No Government funding to be provided to Political parties. No constituency fund is to be provided to MPs and MLAs. All expenditure should be accounted to the national treasury. Any person convicted of a criminal offence anytime in his life should be debarred from holding a public office for life. Anyone chargesheeted but not yet convicted should not hold office till acquitted.

05. Freedom to live comfortably. Public nuisance should become a criminal offence of high nature. Blaring music, relieveing oneself on the roadside, spiiting along the pavements and in the corners of staircases, shitting on the railway tracks should be dealt with strictly.Public toilets should be contructed in all possible places and access to those should be made free. Public should be encouraged to use them. This helps in keeping our surroundings clean and healthy.

04. Power Revolution. Huge impetus should be given to alternative sources of energy. Electric farming using wind mills and magestic solar panels should be introduced. Hydro power should be given a major boost. Use of Nuclear energy for power generation should be emphasised. Thermal power generation which puts a premium on the environment should be reduced.
03. Go Green. Tampering with the environment should be stopped. Whether it is deforestation or rape of the rocks or excessive mining, it leads to nothing but disaster and it should be stopped.

02. Zero Kickbacks. Anyone indulging in corruption or kickbacks should be given a lifer and debarred from holding any public office or Govt job.

01. Hum do Hamare do. Strict enforcement of the 'Hum do hamare do' law. Anyone violating the same would not be eligible for any benefits the country offers to its citizens. They would have to pay double the taxes for their entire life.
Mera Bharat Mahaan !

August 13, 2007

Hameed Ansari Who ?

A couple of weeks after the most dramatised elections for the post of the First Citizen of Hindustan culminated in a female being given the votes that matter thanks to another woman who has hypnotised... naah... mesmerised the political circles across this nation; there was another election for the job of the Second citizen which went rather unnoticed, undiscussed and without any of the shenanigans that were part and parcel of the first drama.

Abdul Hameed Ansari takes over from Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as the new Vice-President of Hindustan. R K Laxman's common man had never heard of this name when it did pop up a few days before the election was due. But as the old hindi saying goes.. har kutte ka din hota hai!
I would beg pardon from anyone and from Sri Ansari for using this proverb, but then it is the one that comes to mind when I think about what transpired last week. This weekend might have been the sweetest that the Ansari family had had in a long time.

With the qualification of a distinguished personality, Hameed Ansari who served as an ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, UAE and as a High commissioner to Australia, he will represent country good will (!) and friendship mission to other country. With his understanding of international politics and learned personality he is going to be a responsible guardian of the house... hopefully!

Time has come to move on for Najma Heptullah and Rashid Masood. Incidently, it was an all-muslim election, which took place at the time a Muslim political party openly threatens to eliminate another Muslim from a Muslim country! Phew!

July 28, 2007

The Spicy Omelette !!

Spicy? An Omelette ? How ?

I do not think many of you would have come across an omelette thats spicy and tangy. Well, here’s your chance for tasting just that. And nah, I’m not going to show up the recipe for some exquisite dish. We go simple.

The idea is to make it spicy with what is generally available at home.

Take an egg (or two or three..) and beat the contents thoroughly in a decent sized bowl. Use a spoon and not an egg-beater. Somehow, the fun of beating an egg lies with the use of a spoon!
Once your base (the beaten egg) is ready, now you have to let loose your imagination. The best thing to do is chop a few fresh green chillis into very small bits and add them. Do not feel shy while doing this. Add a few shreds of grated carrot if you desire. A small quantity of chilli sauce and a couple of drops of soya sauce does add sting to the omelette. If you have some jalapeno left over from your last pizza order, do not let it go waste.


Remember to add enough salt to taste and a pinch more than that. A little bit of extra salt does a world of good to the tanginess. I also add some finely chopped coriander to the mix. Beat the mix again so that all the stuff gets mixed properly.

Now, onto the frying pan. A spoonful of oil on a pre-heated pan, and after a few seconds more heating, the beaten egg goes onto the pan. Spread uniformly, and toss and turn till the omelette is golden in color.

Omelettes are best when eaten piping hot, and of course, spicy!

June 14, 2007

Are the present day Gynaecs cheating ?

I remember my aunt talking tales about her Gynaecologist predicting the ‘due date’ accurately each time she was pregnant. She has four daughters and all were normal deliveries.

But today, the incidence of normal deliveries seems to have down the spiral. Doctors contend that its the lifestyle habits of the population to blame and the fact that our yound women are figure and fitness conscious. Thats ok in a small percentage of population. What about the masses? What about the rural population where a caesarian section birth is still rather uncommon.

Whats happening nowadays is that the gynaecologists are not able to predict the due date with accuracy. And when one gets to that date without any ’signs’ of labour, the gynaec promptly advices a CS citing the fact that the baby’s life might be endangered otherwise. No wonder there is a rise in CS numbers.

Now, here’s what actually happens. A pregnant woman goes to a Gynaecologist who assesses her and predicts the due date. If the real due date is say Oct 15, the doctor tells the woman that it is Oct 10. When the pregnant woman does not experience labour pains by Oct 10 or even 12, the gynaec suggests a CS and the family falls prey. The gynaec knows that a delivery 2-3 days before term would not have any impact on the child. And anyways the scans can show up any abnormality.

And why is this done? A normal delivery is charged less than Rs.5000, while a CS is charged anywhere between 20000-25000 at a minimum.

So, are the Gynaecs cheating? Or maybe they are plain inept!

Disclaimer: Of course I am talking about SOME and not ALL Gynaecs here.. there are white and black sheep in all coomunities n professions

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