E-ticketing and New Age Travels

I plan to spend New Year’s in Ahmedabad. I will have a separate post for what I did there after I return. But, preparing for the trip itself deserves a blog post. I prepared for the trip solely on phone calls with Manoj Pai, an amateur astronomer in Ahmedabad with whom I am in touch with since 2004 but have never met a single time and cleartrip.com, a site introduced to me by Kirk in December, 2010.

The Indian Railways earlier this year introduced the concept of having electronic tickets (the official note is here). This meant that you could show tickets on your mobile phone and you did not need to carry an actual paper ticket in your hand. They claim they can save 3 lakh A4 size papers if this idea is implemented. A worthy environmental effort and I support it. I have travelled paper-less on Indian Railways.

The problem arose when I book a ticket through a travel agent such as cleartrip. I love the formatting that cleartrip does for the ticket of Indian Railways. However, they sent me an .html attachment of the ticket and I did not have a .pdf document printer on my laptop nor did I want to buy from Adobe.

To solve this problem, I installed CutePDF writer and Ghostscript. With their powers combined, I got a .pdf printer for my computer. The CutePDF website has pretty straight forward instructions on how to use and set it up. This solved my .pdf printing problem.

asked the question on Twitter on whether the email from cleartrip could be used as an e-ticket. @MumbaiCentral@akisaxena@girishmallya and @basrur replied and provided answers that ranged from yes to maybe. I did not get a convincing answer based on real experience. @MumbaiCentral suggested that I try this out but carry a .pdf backup – just in case. This is what I hope to do today.

M H Chalmers’ Walks

This post originally appeared on http://pradx.posterous.com on December 25, 2011. Found the post using the Wayback Machine.

While exploring the website of the Geographical Society of India – I found these gems in what is written as the history of the Geographical Society. An English gentleman, M H Chalmers, then an employee of the East Indian Railways gave three talks on what he titles as “walks”. I do not know if he means them literally or not, but these were given to the Calcutta Geographical Society back in 1934.

They are:

  • “A Walking Tour from India to England” by M. H. Chalmers on January 13, 1934
  • “A Walking Tour through Kashmir and Middle Tibet” by M. H. Chalmers on April 9, 1934
  • “A March through the Sacred Shrines of the Himalayas” by M. H. Chalmers on 21 April 1934

I would love to read a copy of these talks or see some of illustrated pictures that Chalmers showed off at these talks. Even more, I would love to meet others in the area around Bharuch in Gujarat who love to share such stories. Perhaps you can do something similar in your town too?

Vertical Urbanism

This was originally posted on my blog http://pradx.posterous.com on December 25, 2011. Found this post on the Wayback Machine.

For the last few days, I have been hunting for two things – various clubs/hang outs/societies related to Geography and how I can become a professional geographer. In my search, I found out this beauty of a website that speaks about the geography of flyovers and walkways of Mumbai. The website is an effort to document these features by Andrew Harris of the Urban Labs at the University College London.

It contains lots of photographs and sound recordings from various parts of the city.

Hello World!

This was originally posted on https://pradx.posterous.com on 24 December, 2011. Found again using the Wayback Machine.

Last week, I re-discovered my love for geography. Here are my evolving 
thoughts and how I hope to move from the pursuit of geography from my 
background in mechanical engineering.

Don 2

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

It was a quick decision made a little after we boarded the company bus heading to Bharuch. We would watch Don 2. The back rows of the cinema hall was booked and the cinema house had taken the opportunity to hike ticket prices. We got a middle row seats for 9.45 pm show. We managed a dosa before the show by way of something to eat. As the show began, we found more colleagues from work.

Watching a movie here is an interesting experience. People are not inhibitted from whistling, passing comments loudly or clapping. Quite different from the sophisticated cinema goers to the multiplex in a city like Mumbai. But, here it’s sort of in a good way and it adds to the experience rather than subtract from it. I think if you watch a movie with opinionated Indians, you have to bear with some of their opinions as well.

The movie itself, despite the reviews I heard was very good. It was awesome. The storyline kept rolling, there was an element of mystery involved and in the end, the jigsaw puzzle is solved for us. The camera work really added in keeping that element of mystery while trying to find out how the hero managed to pull it off at all. The director (I like Farhan Akthar’s movies and believe in the auteur theory of cinema) does do us a service by not trying to force song and dance sequences where they do not fit in. I enjoyed the car chases (though not up to Hollywood quality) and the action sequences in the filmas well. The only bit of criticism that I can offer for the movie was its lacklustre sound track and that there seem to coincidentally seem too many Indians in Germany.

South of the Border, West of the Sun

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

Title: South of the Border, West of the Sun

Author: Haruki Murakami

Translated: Philip Gabriel

Publisher: Vintage International

ISBN: 978-0-679-76739-8

Pages: 213

Source: K J Choksi Public Library, Bharuch

Rating 4/5

I first heard about Murakami’s name in 2008 while reading Hugh MacLeod’s blog, gapingvoid. He had written a book about his experience as a marathon runner called, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running“. I had looked for a book by him in libraries in Mumbai without any luck. So, it was really stunning to find this book in a library in Bharuch. I finished this book in three days flat.

The story is simple. The changes in the man’s life are complex. The feelings of a man even more so. The man, Hajime’s feeling swings were almost similar to me although Hajime seems to be more lucky with the girls. It was interesting exploring these things myself and by myself. I do not think that these explorations bear sharing here.

I do not know how different these books are in Japanesse, the original language it was written in but the English translation is pretty plain. Perhaps this is what I found beautiful in this book. It does not try to be really exquisite about everything and is a rather average telling throughout.

It was a nice catch and an interesting self-brooding read. There are other Murakami books here as well and I hope I can get my hands on them soon.

A day in Baroda

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I have been thinking of visiting the Planetarium at Vadodar/Baroda for the past few weeks. I have either overslept or haven’t been in the mood over the past few Sundays. A power cut early today morning woke me up and didn’t allow me to sleep any longer.

I reached Baroda a little after mid-day. An amateur astronomer and friend, Manoj Pai from Ahmedabad, had advised me to walk it up from the railway station since it was only a kilometer away. As I walked down a road (I just chose one randomly), I spotted the grand building that was the M S University. It blew me away. No photograph I took did it any justice (a repeating theme on this trip). I did not take any. I had admired the buildings that stood on the grounds and then had totally forgotten the reason for my being there. I took a right turn and reached what was a bridge. A small bridge made grand by ornate Mughal (I think) guard rooms. Below the bridge was a canal, now transformed into a nullah, an open drainage stream. A bunch of steps ran down a steady slope. They widened a little at the bottom. My mind almost got into the mode of reprimanding India’s lack of concern/respect/preservation/conservation of these beautiful structures but stopped myself.

Crossing roads in Baroda is more tricky than in Bombay. Here, vehicles don’t slow down and the turns are graceful. Such was the chaos on the roads that I was surprised that they moved aside for a passing ambulance. I had a sumptuous meal at Aangan restaurant. Now full and armed with the location of the Planetarium, I went towards Sayaji Park.

[The original blog post contained photos that I am not sure if I have or not. Will try to locate and recover.]

Sankalp Bhoomi
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On my way back in the train I saw an awesome instrument – made of a brown coconut shell and a stick. It seemed like an instrument that Kirk Kittell purchased from India when he was here earlier this year. It made an awesome monotonous and lonely music.

The Gemenids

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

It’s stunning how two streaks across the sky can fill up your heart with so much joy! Standing in my balcony in the cold climes of Bharuch with mosquitoes buzzing around, that was what my heart felt – pure joy.

Every December, the asteroid 3200 Phaeton causes the Gemenids. The meteor shower this year was thought to have been spoilt by the Moon light. This did not deter me from going out into the balcony at 1130 PM and look out at the sky. The sky was clear, the light from Bharuch was slightly obstructive to the viewing, the brightly lighted industries in the west, did not help matters either. I was able to see Orion clearly, though.

As I stood there, brushing away mosquitoes on my neck and slightly shivering in the chilly December air, a meteor streaked right across the sky. It was the first meteor that I had spotted – ever, in my life! Another streaked past barely ten minutes later. Then, for a long time there was nothing.

As the clock creaked past, 0030, I went back to bed, slightly disappointed that I did not see (missed, rather?) any more but happy to have sighted a meteor shower.

An Atlas of Impossible Longing – Anuradha Roy

I read a few pages of the hardbound copy of this book every morning last week. On Saturday, I finished it in a marathon reading session. It was done. I had got back to the habit of reading books, again. I had crept away from the habit citing lack of books as the problem. Then I found a library – a public library on Facebook – in Bharuch.

An Atlas of Impossible Longing is a book by Anuradha Roy. Her debut book. The story straddles several genres – reverse migration from cities, nostalgia, romance, loneliness, partition stories, a tale on generations of a family, and much more. It doesn’t work seriously towards fitting into any genre and this is what endeared me to this book at first. I read through this book in fits and starts, through early morning bus rides cutting across small villages that dot the road between Bharuch and Dahej. As industries rise up, I am reminded that it is time to close the book. It is for running this industry that the lead character in the first part of the book comes to a small town.

As the story unfolds in the later two generations, it turns to romance and towards loneliness. These aspects take up more time of the central character. The story also moves from the very simple and the very practical to the very complicated and the very romantic. In a way, it traces the generational differences between the several Indian generations into the seventies and the eighties. It explores how as we get more and more crowded we become more and more lonely and yearn for company.

These are two themes that I noticed developing through the length of the book. The author must be applauded for some very descriptive settings and for some new analogies. I would have prefered a paperback to a hard bound copy of the book. I also felt that the male characters weren’t as well-developed as the female leads. Something to work on, I guess.

I now have a copy of Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi in my hands.

JK

I have not been too well to blog. I was also working towards my last exam this semester. Life’s getting pretty lethargic.But, I read these words by JK on what should be the role of a teacher:

“Surely, when the teacher regards each student as a unique individual and therefore not to be compared with any other, he is then not concerned with system or method. His sole concern is with ‘helping’ the student to understand the conditioning influences about him and within himself, so that he can face intelligently, without fear, the complex process of living and not add more problems to the already existing mess.”

When you read works by JK, one of your first instincts is: “Easier said than done.” Well, but if you look deep enough, then what we’re doing is actually delaying the final outcome of a process.

A very simple example. You live in a place where the river’s water level is rising. What do you do? You build a wall around your house. As the level of the water rises, you raise the level of the wall. At some point, you reach a limit and you can no longer raise the level of the wall. What do you do then? Move.

That was a philosophical example, if you understand what I mean. This is what we are tend to be doing. Just a word of advice, if you plan to read books on philosophy or personal opinion of people, please make sure that you do not read books seperated by a lot of time. People have written these books and experience changes many of the things they may have stated while they were younger.