Thursday, October 16, 2014

End of Eternity- Book review

All these years’ time travel looked like a ludicrous topic and any novel based on this was promptly shunned by me. It was only last month that I chanced upon a blog by a Bangalore based writer, wherein he had put out a list of his favourite sci-fi novels, judging that the writer had more literary common sense than me, I decided to  give the first novel in the list a shot. The novel was End of eternity by Isaac Asimov.
Asimov is a name very well-known and the reason for his being so famous came across while reading the book. Creating a world well into the future seems to be a task as difficult as walking on the edge of a blade, every sci-fi writer is an inventor in his own way. Foresight into possible technology developments and the ways in which it will influence the society keeping into account the sensibilities of the readers is an unenviable job. Asimov manages to maintain this fine balance with flying colours.
Harlan is an Eternal, the group which controls trade between different centuries as well as affect any changes in reality if bad things happen. Thus the Eternals try to weed out catastrophes such as wars and other disasters by going back in time and rooting out the cause. Harlan is a hard core Eternal and Eternals are not allowed female company, in fact the Eternals are solely comprised of male population pulled from different centuries. As is bound to happen, Harlan falls in love with a beautiful dame when he is on a mission (Seems like Salman’s Ek tha tiger has some reverberation with the story hereJ). The love blossoms and Harlan starts breaking the rules of the Eternity one by one. In spite of the fact that his misdemeanour could jeopardise the existence of eternity he continuous in his quest to save his love. Where will Harlan’s love lead him to and whether Eternity manage to save itself from the madness wreaked by its rules forms the crux of the novel. 
Time travel through more than one lakh centuries (the number made my eye to pop out, luckily the sockets were strong J) and questions on evolution of mankind based on past actions, whether it be good or bad raises some thought provoking questions. Overall, even though the novel is completely fictional, it is a very cerebral work and I would recommend it to a general audience as well and not just restrict it to sci-fi bozos.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

US Visa and all that jazz

Flicking the slowly forming beads of sweat, I looked at the crowd. Like it usually happens in a Bangalore traffic jam, people were shouldering each other to be at the front. I was not expecting this dance of democracy after having obtained an appointment, but here I was, standing on the street outside the embassy with my bowl. My backpack was stacked with piles of proof regarding my antecedents accompanied with a furrowed brow, hoping against hope that I had not missed anything.
After about an hour of jostling in the crowd, I figured out the reason for the swelling crowd, people who had appointments much later in the day, in their enthusiasm to see the holy shrine had queued up earlier. Seeing the situation going out of hand, a security guard came around shouting out the time of the current appointment, suddenly the waves parted to the sides and like Moses I moved ahead smiling. Another security guard checked my appointment document before letting me in through the temporary barricade erected on the footpath. My sense of relief of having made it through a hurdle was soon dampened with the second queue I was confronted with.
After a wait of 20 minutes, the queue started to move slowly, after a series of pat down’s, I was finally into the den. The den had an array of glass windows with Americans safely enscounded behind them. I was ushered into a line by the visa facilitation guy(vf#), surprisingly these guys called one another as visa facilitators as if calling names would compromise their security. Others ahead in the queue had a smooth sailing with their finger prints scanned at the end of it. When my turn came, the American just kept tapping at his keyboard, after a couple of minutes, with my heart in a state of fight or flight mode, The American nodded at the vf1. Vf1 promptly scratched a number on my card and directed me to another counter, when I asked why my finger print was not taken, I got a curt reply “you will have to come back here”. I was now perspiring, my US dream however small it was, was now quickly fading away. In the other queue, an Indian was diligently tapping away at the computer, when I presented my Passport, he wrote an number at the top of the slip and I was back again at the original queue. This time, the guy didn’t nod his head and finally took my finger print.
I lumbered back and took a seat waiting for the next interview. A local businessman was trying desperately to make sense of the American accented English questions in one of the counters, finally the exasperated American shouted out at the Businessman for more clarity and finding it not forthcoming, the meeting  ended  with businessman being shown the door. In another counter, a college aspirant was happily chatting away until it was noticed that he had dropped his passport in water, he was promptly booted out. One more aspirant had an unknown destination written down in his form which his agent had filled in for him, In the interview he was diffidently mentioning a different destination, finally he was also shown the door. All in all, a significant rate of aspirants were booted out from their America dreams.

Finally my turn came, suddenly I had a deja-vu effect, my lab viva exams during my Engineering days flashed through my mind. The guy with a bald head, looked menancingly like my viva teacher, Luckily it was a false alram and without any hard questions, things moved smoothly and I was out within 5 minutes.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Transfer of ownership for four wheeler in Bangalore RTO

I transferred my company leased vehicle (CLV) that I was using to my name after the expiry of the lease period. Since the Car was originally registered with Electronic city RTO and I live under the jurisdiction of Jayanagar RTO, I had to get a clearance certificate from the former. My company had provided me with all the required documents. The documents required to obtain the clearance certificate are as follows, I guess it is possible to download and take a printout of these documents and get it signed from the original owner.
Form No 33, RC Card, Insurance, Emission Certificate, No objection letter if car is on Lease from company, Address proof
I went to the Electronic city RTO and encountered a very friendly lady who was sitting at the front desk. She asked me what I wanted and when I informed that I wanted to get the ownership transferred, she asked me to give her the documents. Quickly she stacked up the documents in some order and asked me to go to the cash counter and pay an amount of 135 rupees, I went to the cash counter and got the receipt, once back, the lady directed me to get a self-addressed envelope with 17 rupees postage stamp affixed to it. She indicated that the envelope could be obtained from a shop outside the RTO building. Following her directions I saw a shop selling the envelopes. The guy charged me 30 rupees for the envelope and I paid it grudgingly. Once back, I was directed to another lady sitting in the same counter at the front desk, she again checked the details and gave me the acknowledgement for having taken the documents. It hardly took me 45 minutes to get the job done.
I received the clearance certificate along with the old RC card in 25 days from the date of submission.
Now I prepared the second set of documentation, which I had to submit at the Jayanagar RTO. The document list is as follows
Form No 29, Form No 30 ( In case of Leave vehicles), RC Card, Insurance, Emission certificate, Address Proof, PAN card copy, Clearance certificate from previous RTO.
At the Jayanagar RTO, the going was slightly difficult as the front desk person was not very forth coming in giving directions. She indicated to a group of desks at a corner and I had to double check with a couple of RTO employees before finding the right person. The lady here, took her time in examining the documents, she then directed me to pay an amount of 300 rupees at the cash counter. After waiting in the cash queue for 10 minutes, as I was about to pay the cash, the guy in the cash counter gave back the documents and asked me to get the data entered and indicated to an old guy sitting in the far corner. I went to him and he in turn directed me to a young lady to get a number, by the time I was back to the old guy there was another guy getting his data entered. The other guy’s data entry took 15 minutes as he was transferring his vehicle from Jharkhand. My data entry took around 10 minutes and finally I managed to pay the cash after standing in the queue.  Thinking that I was now almost done, I went back to the first lady, looking at the receipt she asked me to get a self-addressed envelope with 12 rupees postage stamp and also directed me to get the documents verified by the Assistant RTO officer. I went out of the building and found a guy selling the envelopes for 25 rupees. After forking out the change, I went and stood in a queue outside the ARTO chamber, my turn came in 5 minutes, after a cursory glance of the documents he signed it and gave it back to me. Finally the front desk lady took all the documents and gave me an acknowledgement. It took close to 2 hours to get the process done. Since I had gone on a Saturday at 10 in the morning, I was done by 12 and it so happens that the RTO cash counter also closes at 12, so it is always good to reach the place when it opens up.
Even in Jayanagar nobody demanded bribes and if you are proactive in asking what to do next, they usually wave their hands to the right person. I finally felt as if the dense cob web of bureaucracy was opening out to the common man to get his work done without much of a problem.

I received the RC card with my name printed on it after about a month.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

No Easy day – Mark Owen

It is a grim life interspersed with adrenaline pumping action for the Navy SEALs whereas for normal mortals like me it is a grim life interspersed with adrenaline pumping action when I try to cross the Outer ring road in Bangalore on foot. Facts apartJ, Hunting down the most wanted guy in the world is no easy job and the book gives a first-hand account from the SEAL who shot him down or rather pumped bullets into an already dying fellow (I wouldn't grudge it though, some guys are better dead than alive). If you have seen the movie “Zero dark thirty “then you have seen it all. In fact the movie manages to give a good account of the whole tracking process of Osama bin laden, whereas this book laps over the five year tracking process in a single paragraph.
 The first half of the book tries a hand at giving an erudite description of the hard and lonely struggle that a Navy SEAL would have to put himself through. This part has more personal anecdotes than any significant information about the training process. Maybe Hrithik in the movie Lakshya managed more sighs in this aspect from the viewers. However, some parts do manage to shed some light on how the rigorous process takes a toll on the personal life of the SEAL’s.
DEVGURU is the group comprised of the best of the best SEAL’s.  The author being part of it is suddenly called back from his vacation to take part in an important mission (In my line of work, it can mean only one thing, the firing squad is ready). Detailed description of the three weeks training process with a mock setup of the target building to the actual mission is well elucidated. The mission ends with Osama reduced to a body bag and flown back to the base with the tired SEAL’s seating on him for comfort. Being a high profile target, the tension experienced in the mission even for SEALs who had undertaken tens of such missions before is understandable.

Finally, it is every nation’s dream to have a military force that can undertake such an operation in the enemy territory. But after reading the book, I got a glimpse of the human side of such a military force. Maybe the movie failed to capture this facet while the book managed it well (But still go for the movie J)