With the first swine flu death reported in my city of Pune, I thought I’d provide some Swine Flu related information specific to India.
Swine Flu India is the central website for all information and updates.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has an information page for Swine Flu.
This MS Word document supplied on the above page has contact information and details of the Control Rooms and Nodal Officers/Doctors for ALL states in India. Here is the information for Pune and Mumbai:
|Control Room||Nodal Officer|
Room No.137, First Floor,
Swasthaya Bhawan, Mumbai.
Office of the Joint Director (Health Services), Central Building , Pune
Dr. Suresh Bohatre
Please do your bit to spread information, not panic. Thanks!
A few weeks back, when I realized that the world’s largest automaker was heading towards bankruptcy, I did a nostalgic photo-post of General Motors World Headquarters at the Renaissance Center and Detroit. This week, Six Flags, one of the world’s largest amusement park company in the world announced that it is filing for bankruptcy. It seems that in this economic downturn, people don’t want to spend their hard-earned money to get amused. So here is another nostalgic photo-post of a day at an amusement park that was loosely affiliated with Six Flags.
Cedar Point at Sandusky, Ohio currently holds the world record for the maximum number of roller coasters, one of which is the world’s second tallest and second fastest roller coaster. It has been voted The Best Amusement Park In The World for 11 consecutive years (yes, over Disneyworld in Florida). This is how the park looks from the air (not my photo):
It was a cloudy, rainy day that we went to Cedar Point. We were anxious, but the rides were fortunately open and running. Click on any of the pictures to get the higher resolution.
The cable car runs through the entire length of the park, since walking around the whole day can become quite tiring!
It was a bit difficult to get good outdoor photographs because the light was poor in rainy conditions.
The Top Thrill Dragster has been the most thrilling experience of my life. Paragliding at the foot of the Himalayas didn’t come anywhere close. 0 to 120 mph (193 kmph) in 4 seconds. A 90 degree climb up to 420 feet (~ 50 stories) and a 90 degree straight fall while spiraling 270 degrees. All over in just 17 seconds. I managed to capture a train climbing, at the top, and descending:
Yesterday’s news about GM cutting 21,000 more jobs and killing the Pontiac brand evoked nostalgia and some mixed feelings. So this is a photo-sequel to my almost two year old post about life in Detroit.
For two years, I lived, worked, breathed, ate, and slept in the shadow of this landmark. General Motors World Headquarters, the Renaissance Center, affectionately known as ‘RenCen’. RenCen is one of the world’s largest office complexes, totaling 5,500,000 square feet. It is so confusing inside for newcomers, that I had made a PowerPoint presentation for guiding our new team members.
The red monorail is the ‘People Mover’ – a public transport system in downtown ‘World Auto Capital’ Detroit.
These are views from my apartment window.
A few snaps of Detroit downtown at night. Just like the darkness of the night, and unlike the men of the Renaissance Era who brought the light of reason in our lives, GM’s Rencen is headed back to the Dark Ages.
The year was 1995, the place, Berlin. The Berlin Wall collapse was still in public memory, and a personal wall was collapsing for me in the form of my first stay abroad. As a twenty-something year old young man, this trip opened new doors for me – exploring the WWW, developing personal friendships with Europeans, attending live classical concerts and an Opera, and buying 50 western classical music CDs to bring back with me (as they weren’t available in India then).
There are many unforgettable memories of those days. My partner from India was a Jew, and we once searched for the only synagogue in the capital of the Nazis. On wandering unsuccessfully in the area near the address, we finally gathered courage to ask a couple of security guards outside a government building. The guards were holding the most lethal weapon I had ever seen up close, and since my partner couldn’t speak German, I had to do the deed. We finally discovered that that building itself was the synagogue, and it was closed on a Sunday, and the guards were part of routine 24×7 security.
I made many friends during my stay. Wild weekend partying with a couple of graphic artists who spent half the year working in Germany, and the other half partying in Goa. A French colleague who programmed, cooked, sailed his yacht in the Atlantic, with whom I discovered common interests like astronomy, philosophy, and quantum mechanics. A gentle German friend who played the Moonlight Sonata for me in his living room, and showed me videos of Herbert von Karajan rehearsing with his orchestra. Techno music was the ‘in-thing’ in Europe at the time, with all the pubs and discos grooving to it.
Another colleague, Stefan, told me that he too played the Tabla, and I was taken aback. It turned out that he had it as one of the instruments on his synthesizer, which he had also hooked up with his PC. When I visited him, I fiddled with the keyboard and soon my Dhumali bhajan taal (rhythm) had his curiosity piqued. He added a cool techno beat to it. I then added some Tambora with a twist, and he added some drums. A flute, some vocals, and some techno sound effects completed the track. It was Stefan who finally used software to edit and give structure to the track, but this was my first (and only) experiment with composing music!
I recently played a real tabla after a very long gap of over 20 years, and realized that if I wanted to play anything worthwhile, I’d have to give up working and blogging!
This is a low fidelity MP3 version created from a 1995 audio cassette, using the recording and noise filtering technique described in my first article on MakeUseOf.com. Now, I couldn’t pass up plugging that could I?
Disclaimer: This techno-bhajan is not meant to offend the religious sentiments of any ultra-conservatives, including all types of human or ape ‘Dal’s and ‘Sena’s. Clicking the Play button absolves the author of any moral transgressions.
I am amused by people who say they have no dreams. When even animals dream, how can people not? An evil thought comes about subjecting such people to dream deprivation, if only to advance scientific understanding.
I dream both in color as well as in black and white. As with most people, I have recurrent dream topics – school/college journal submission/examination, flying, fast trains, accidents/disaster, etc. But most of my dreams are pretty straightforward and predictable. A college friend of mine had dreams with distorted metaphysics. Once he lived in a world where consciousness and physical bodies were randomly exchanged and he spent dreaming that his body was searching for his consciousness and vice versa.
I have often dreamt of my blogger friends. I once received Krish Ashok at Chennai when he was about to arrive from abroad. After he came, we had some interesting experiences negotiating with rickshaw drivers in Chennai. In another one, Ashok and I were at a conference-cum-exhibition, and we were discussing the latest software web trends. I and Nita have once received a group of tourists from China, and we were their tour guides in the Mumbai-Pune region. I remember being amazed by how Nita was impressing them with statistic after statistic, fact after fact, about Indians. More recently, I was explaining to my wife how Rambodoc is going to monetize his SixPackDoc blog by adding ads and selling services. See? Straightforward and predictable.
Nita had once commented, ‘Born to fly – these words seem to be entrenched in your heart’, and that shows. I have come very close to fulfilling this dream when I para-glided in the Himalayas. In my dreams, I don’t need no paraglider! An interesting observation in my numerous flying dreams is that if I hesitate and doubt my ability to fly, I can’t take off. It is only when I do so with full conviction, that I am able to successfully take off. I have flew several times over several areas of Mumbai, Pune, San Diego, and San Francisco.
As dreams are connected with long-term memory, my ‘home’ in my dreams is still the place I grew up in Mumbai, even though I left it 12 years back. Dream incorporation is also pretty common with me, where doorbells or ringtones become assimilated in the dream sequence. I’m a déjà vu addict – I always try to predict what’s going to happen next, but I fail every time. I used to talk a lot in my sleep when young, and there is only one reported incident when I went sleepwalking!
A couple of unusual dreams come to mind. One was a nightmare. During an examination, my fountain pen began to leak. And surprisingly, it began to leak in red (I always wrote in black)! Aghast, I got up and the red trail began following me all around. I ran out of the classroom, outside on the roads, where I realized that the trail of red was not ink but blood. Gasping for water, I reached for my water bottle, only to find it contained blood. Panicked, I decided to rush home, managed to reach VT station in Mumbai (it will always remain VT for me), where there were many other people all drenched in blood to varying degree.
In an other recent dream, I was telling my wife that I thought that I was not really myself. Me, as I am today, was just a concoction, an illusion, role-playing a script written by someone else, Matrix-style. And being aware of this made me feel very lighter, since there was nothing I needed to take seriously in life. I was waiting for the day when the director says “Cut”, and I snap back to my real, original, self.
But the best part of my dreaming is that I am fortunate to be a lucid dreamer. Though not as successfully as in my younger days, I am still able to do it sometimes. Controlling your dream script is a fantasy come true. Now don’t ask me what I write in that script!
I decided to add this prologue after the first few comments to this post. This post uses an incident in India, but is actually universal in nature and focuses on the moral, philosophical, and ethical decision-making involved in an emergency.
Imagine you’re traveling from Mumbai to Pune by train, which is full to capacity, as usual in India. An additional engine is added to the train to climb the ascent of the Western Ghats from Karjat at sea-level to Lonavala at a height of 2000 ft. above sea level. Your train trudges laboriously upwards and reaches Lonavala after 1.5 – 2 hours. You enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Sahyadri ghats. It stops at Lonavala for a while and everyone gets back on board, ready to proceed.
Suddenly the train starts inching backwards. There are smiles, giggles, and wisecracks about what antics the drivers are up to. Some wonder if they’re simply changing tracks or if some engine replacement or something had to be done. The ‘inching’ turns into ‘crawling’, and soon enough, ominously, the train is now really ‘moving’ backwards. There is puzzlement all around and you are amused as to what’s happening.
There is no let up however, as the train starts getting momentum, accelerates further, and starts gaining speed. Amusement disappears as you and everyone else realize that something is seriously wrong. The train gains further acceleration and you’re already cruising at a reasonable speed. Everyone is peering out the compartment doors and windows only to find people from other compartments doing the same. “Has the driver lost his mind?” you wonder, as people start voicing obscenities at the train staff.
“But, was the staff (driver and guard at opposite ends), on the train when it started off at Lonavala?” someone asks and nobody really knows. The worst possibility comes to your mind – you’re on a runaway train, downhill, with no one at the controls.
By this time, the train is so fast that it would be dangerous to jump off. Panic and confusion all around you. You calm yourself and start thinking rapidly. You visualize the laborious twists and turns of the track as it winds down the mountains. You imagine a full-speed, no holds barred, runaway train hurtling across those tracks and overturning into the picturesque Sahyadri valleys. Is this how you were destined to die?
Point A: Question 1
At this point, if you jumped off, you assess your chances. Let’s say there’s a 70-80% probability that you’ll get seriously hurt, and a 20-30% possibility that you might die in the process. Will you jump off?
Point A: Question 2
Assume you don’t, and cling on to hope, that there will be some miraculous intervention and that you will be saved. After all, when one lives in a civilized and moderately developed society, it is a rational expectation that there will be systems and processes in place to deal with such emergencies.
Some people are seriously doubtful however. They’re contemplating jumping off. Will you discourage and/or prevent people from doing so?
Meanwhile, the train has reached a breakneck speed. The sparks from the wheels are now of alarming proportions and reaching the windows. People from another compartment come rushing into yours as their compartment catches fire. The ghat section, where the real twists and turns begin, is just around the corner. People are screaming, women are crying in hysteria.
Point B: Question 1
At this point, there’s an almost 100% probability of serious injury, including permanent handicap, and a 70% probability of death. Will you jump?
Point B: Question 2
Assume you don’t, and still have hope that you will be saved. However, there are people who are getting ready to jump. Will you discourage/prevent them, just because you have hope even if they haven’t?
The above situation is not hypothetical. This is what happened to the Indrayani Express in the 1990s, when my cousin brother was on the train. During a normal return journey from Pune to Mumbai (downhill), the train used to descend the height of the ghat section in approximately an hour. That day, it ran the same track downhill in 11 minutes. The train did not overturn. Few people who jumped off were seriously injured. There were no major casualties. My brother urged dozens of people not to jump and ended up saving them in the process.
Is Pune living up to its claim of being the “IT hub of Maharashtra”? At least some initiatives point in that direction.
Better Roads in Monsoon
Pune is notorious for its bad roads, and the monsoon season is pure nightmare. Both the PMC and the IT geeks-based “Better Roads Group” have teamed up to make this monsoon a different story:
For this, the PMC ensured that roads were repaired before the rain and even set up a monsoon helpline for citizens to register their complaints about potholes, waterlogging and choked drains. The PMC also gave the cellphone numbers of all 14 ward officers so that complaints could be sent through SMS.
To give this idea a big push, the civic body has roped in a group of young technocrats working for Better Roads Group, to monitor the operations of the helpline. The group will initiate immediate action on the complaints received through SMS.
Appaled by the condition of roads last year, the group decided to do something concrete, said Amit Kadam, who works for Persistent Technologies. The group had also filed a public interest litigation last year in the Bombay High Court on the bad condition of the city’s roads.
To register a pothole / manhole / water logging problem: Call Monsoon Helpline at 2444 5555.
Civic Complaints via SMS
Citizens will now be able to register their civic-related complaints just by sending SMSes to their local ward officer, ward medical officer, medical inspector, deputy city engineers or junior engineers.
Complaints pertaining to problems like irregular water supply, breach in pipelines, potholes, broken footpaths, uneven lids on manholes, garbage clearance, illegal hawkers, cleanliness of public areas and street lights can be made by citizens.
You can view the mobile phone numbers of the ward officers at PMC’s E-Governance Website.
Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has also tied up with the Citizen Empowerment Forum to register their complaint through the Internet.
The system would enable the citizens to file their complaint online and the complainant can check the status of the complaint on the net.
Visit Citizen Empowerment Forum’s site to lodge complaints.
Well, so many initiatives – it remains to be seen how effective they really turn out to be. But at least, it’s a start!
“For two months they stayed away from home, quit jobs and risked their lives and limbs climbing to dizzying heights and faced nature’s challenges. For, propelling these 20 youth, was their devotion to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Their mission: To photograph and document over 200 of his forts in the State.” For what, you ask?
The Largest Web Based Digital Interactive Encyclopedia
on the life and times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj
- 20,000 plus pages of historical information
- 1,85,000 plus photographs of 280 forts & places
- Satellite coordinated GPS monitored maps of all forts
- Interactive visual tours of forts
- Pictorial biography of Maharaj with 100 exclusive stories 2,500 colour paintings on his life & times
- The site will cover a span of 127 years of Maratha History
- 128 professionals from different faculties
- Biggest website ever developed on an individual
- Biggest trekking expedition ever organised
Visit their site for updates on their impressive progress so far.