Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm Only Sleeping!

Last night on my way back home from office while waiting at a traffic signal on the E.M. Bypass, this strange scene caught my eye. Actually stared me in the face is more like it, as I was parked right next to this man sleeping in the Traffic Police Man’s Pedestal in peak hour traffic. I don’t know what was more hilarious; the use he had put the pedestal to or the fact that he was fast a sleep in the midst of that cacophony.

As I clicked this picture on my mobile and drove off, several thoughts started to go through my mind; is this the state of our Police Department, sleeping while crimes go unabated, or is this how callous they are with the resources provided to them, is this the reason citizens have lost faith in those that have the responsibility to serve and protect…

As the mounting thoughts about the apathy of the Police Department started making me dizzy, I changed the train of thought to things more exciting and meaningful. I thought of reaching home in a couple of minutes to my wife and then about what I was going to build next.

I’m sure a lot of you have been wondering what’s been cooking as I haven’t put up any of the pictures of my new builds. Well I’ve decided to do that after things started shaping up on the mini city that I have images of in my head.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Lesson from the Tragedy on Park Street

Our office and I guess every other office in Kolkata is still buzzing with opinions and debates about the fire at Stephen Court on Park Street; finger pointing et al. I say it's a tragedy and let’s accept it. What could have been and should have been is all left to speculation. Let’s just accept that this is the tragedy that has occurred and how such tragedies can be averted in the future.

I say while everyone is pointing fingers at the Administration, what do us citizens do to avoid such tragedies. We are the one's trying to bend the rules to suit our own selfish needs; flouting building norms; saving every penny by not installing even basic firefighting equipment; so scared for our lives that we lock our selves into our little pigeon hole apartments, that when disaster does strike, we're locked in our own fiery graves; no basic knowledge of do’s and don’ts when caught in disaster situation.

When I look back in retrospect, imagining the thoughts going through the minds of the victims and for the few fortunate who survived from up on that ledge, I'd have jumped to my death too in all probability. Imagine having a raging fire in the room behind the wall you are backed up against standing on a narrow ledge nearly 100 feet high and looking down at a street filled with thousands of spectators, and a few brave people risking their own lives, who are making attempts to reach up to you by any and all means possible.

Well the thoughts going through your head at that point would make you believe that you are in immediate and grave danger and any second longer spent up there on the ledge would mean a certain fiery death. You’d also probably take your chances with gravity rather than fire.

So the first point of action in such situations would be crowd management. I’m not requesting the Administration or the Police for their abilities in crowd management, but conscientious CITIZENS to stand back, if they’re not going to be part of the rescue operations and let those trying to save lives get on with their business. Also by not being mere spectators and multiplying the fears of those trapped in these situations, trying to be resourceful and think of ways and means to be part of the rescue.

Oh the wishlist is quite utopian, but this is the real world and we have to live with some things, but I would like people to ponder on what I've said and see how they can change the way they react to situations and make the world a better place.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mid Day Tragedy on Park Street

I had gone down the road from my office to an ATM to draw money. As I approached the ATM, I noticed black smoke billowing out from the adjacent street into the sky above Park Street just above Music World.

I quickly rushed to the corner and saw a sea of people gathering around witnessing smoke engulf the top three floors of Stephen Court.

What followed was simply tragic and inspiring.

The entire crossroads of Park Street, Free School Street and Middleton Row was like a sea of humanity, each witnessing the fire spreading through the top floors of the building. Policemen were at a complete loss trying to control the public which also hindered movement of Fire tenders, well at least the 2-3 of which had arrived at the scene.

The tenders could only be put to use, once the people, several of whom were out on the ledge of the building were rescued. Witnessing the rescue operations commence just made me realise how selfless people in Kolkata are. What we call lowly street people were the first to arrange ropes and ladders and even went to the extent of climbing up pipes to reach those people stuck up there.

The firemen had no equipment save their short ladders which were more than inadequate for the mammoth task ahead. The monolithic fa├žade of this historic building would require more than those puny ladders if they wanted this operation to succeed. Not withstanding the challenges and obstacles in their path a couple of young men tied together a couple of ladders and managed to scale the side wall up to an external AC several feet below where the people were stranded. Then started the task of putting together rope and throwing it up to the ledge just above. They did manage to get a lady and a young man who in sheer desperation jumped down but luckily landed on the ladder and slid the rest of the way down into the hands of the people below.

The drama took a turn for the worse and flames leapt out of both windows on either side of the middle aged man in a blue shirt who was the last one up on the ledge on this side of the building. Three others had managed to flee to the Park Street side but were still stuck up there. All eyes were on the man in blue. As the young man below threw up the rope the first time, the crowd below held their breath and heaved in disappointment as he missed it. The crowd were now getting eager and the man in blue getting more engulfed in black and grey smoke. People urged the man below to throw the rope up quicker and he did for the second time. And again the man in blue missed it.

By this time people’s hopes were beginning to shake as the man in blue kept disappearing behind the clouds of smoke. And then in complete disbelief, as the smoke cleared we all witnessed the unbelievable. In sheer desperation, the man held on to the grill and turned around and lowered himself over the ledge, the young man below looked and tried his best to get a grip and then the unthinkable happened. The man in blue lost his grip and fell. Though I was recording all this on my mobile phone, I couldn’t believe what I just witnessed and lowered the phone in disbelief as the man plummeted down to the floor. I could see firemen below racing and trying to get under where he was falling, but with no cushion or net, I would believe the worst had occurred. In the split second that I had realised that I was also recording all this and I had lowered my phone and pulled it back into position, the worst had occurred right before my eyes.

There after, the crowd got even more agitated and rescue operations went into feverish pace for the remaining three stranded on the safer side of the burning building. Ladders were commandeered off fire tenders and young men started climbing up pipes to reach these three men above. Again, tragedy could have struck when the first man in sheer desperation, made an attempt to climb down the make shift arrangements. Some nylon ropes put together and a ladder half way up to them. He just went for it and gripped the rope with all his might and came sliding down and was somehow caught by the people below. His palms had the skin burnt off.

The next lad waited a bit longer and as the ladders reached closer, he decided to climb down gripping the rope till he reached the ladders and then climbed down to safety. The third fellow was now standing up there nervously. The young man in the red vest had managed to climb up just below him and beckoned him to make the effort and use the rope to climb down to the ladder just a couple of feet below but he seemed to nervous to attempt this.

Finally as though god had heard his prayers, from opposite sides of Park Street with lights flashing came two of the hi-tech rescue Vehicles with the crane arm. So as one went down to Middleton Row, the other positioned itself squarely in front of Flury’s in the middle of Park Street and then the arm started extending towards the young man up there on the ledge. Once the fireman reached up there and the man stepped into the pod safely beside him, there was a loud cheer from the crowd below. As the arm came down and the young man was back on the ground, the cheering crowd greeted him.

Meanwhile Firefighting Operations were underway on the burning side of the building.

I finally switched off my recorder and nearly broke into tears after witnessing the drama that had unfolded on the Kolkata’s Capital Street of Entertainment.

As I walked down the middle of Park Street back towards my office, I kept looking back and seeing how a tragedy could just take lives and yet bring a city together in the face of such trying circumstances. Common people rose above the adverse circumstances and performed uncommon acts of bravery.

This is why I LOVE KOLKATA. Truly a City that gives you Joy even in the most tragic situations.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How was your day today?

Well I’m sure all of us married people get this question asked of us and we ask our better halves the same at the end of the day “How was your day today?”

Well on this particular day I had a hilarious story to narrate to my wife. Well I don’t know if it’s something one should blog about, but I just think it deserves a place in the recorded history of my life.

So I got into office in a hurry today and had to go to the loo there. So I went to the loo and locked it from inside, obviously!!!

Finished with sitting on the pot and when the time came to get out, the lock handle went free and I couldn't open the door. I was locked in. I had very little time to act, my mobile phone battery was dying on me and I had been hearing the constant beep all the way driving to office. So I immediately called Kabir (office Admin person) on my mobile and told him of the situation and told him to send the electrician with a screw driver. So he sent him, well not before he told the entire office that I was locked in the toilet.

The electrician came with an entourage and he opened the lock thingy from outside while there was running commentary from the rest of the people outside. I just told him to pass me the screwdriver from under the door so that I could unscrew the hinges on the lock and let myself out. When he realised nothing was going to be possible from the outside, he finally did.

In 30 seconds I unscrewed the hinges and came out.

When I finally came out of the men’s room, people were all asking me how I was et al; as though I had just survived a 'Kandahar" situation.

While I narrated the story my wife couldn’t stop laughing at the hilarious start to my day. And I kept thinking to myself, I’m sure you didn’t expect that story at the end of the day.

'Men At Work' make people stop on the Street

Well I'm not talking about the singing 'men at work', but the actual labourers sweating it out on a sweltering afternoon on Park Street laying electricity cables. Well this particular scene caught my fancy as I stood on the pavement devouring an Egg Chicken Roll. I noticed how people who were walking briskly with purpose would suddenly stop join the group observing intently these guys working on and electricity junction box. Each one looking carefully as though they doubted those thick cables could be bent and attached to the terminals in the junction box and so had to see if it was possible for themselves.

Some stood for a couple of minutes and then moved on, some stood there all the while that I spent on the roll which was followed by a coke. So I finally clicked a few pictures on my mobile phone before I left.

Somewhere I thought to myself as I walked back to my office building, its not possible for any city in the world to say its all done; there will always be digging and building and demolition and repair work.

I guess its all part of the daily life in a city.

I just wonder how many people actually stop by to watch and appreciate the ‘Men at Work’ that make all our great cities better places to live in?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week 'Ends' at Piccadilly Square

After spending the entire day at home, watching TV and building my paper models, we decided to head out for dinner.

After several options, we decided to head to Piccadilly Square near Minto Park. Parking would be a problem and joy of all joy, my wife as suggested we bike it there. The Kazi rides again. Well the Kazi has been out quite a bit of late, but every time I get to ride my Hero Honda Karizma, its sheer joy.

So off we rode into the city. As we approached Piccadilly Square, my wife threw the option of French Loaf which we were passing on our side of the road, but a plan was a plan and so we stuck to it and headed to Piccadilly Square.

Once we were there and I had parked the bike, we realised that the little eatery must do really well because it was packed and over-flowing. So I headed in and asked how long it would be before we got a table and was told about 5 minutes. Good thing that it didn’t even take 5, else we’d have gone to plan B, which was French Loaf across the road.

So we got our table and a menu and then my wife pointed out something amazing. This place, as “Phoren” as it did sound was a completely vegetarian joint. Yeah I realised that after sitting and having a look at all the people around us. They had “VEG” written all over their appearances.

Ok ‘so what’ we thought to our selves, we didn’t have to eat meat for it to be a good meal and went out on a limb to give the place a try. My wife popped in and took a look at the salads and ruled those out as the salads didn’t look to exciting, and so we ordered a Mixed Berries Shake while we mulled over what to order.

Finally we decided on a waffle and a wrap and when they came one by one, we just savoured them. The Creamy Mushy Mushroom Waffle was just mind blowing followed by a Popeye’s Pick wrap which was covered in white sauce and stuffed with spinach and a whole lot of other stuff.

I had place for just about one more item and so we decided to make it sweet and the Waffle Dublin Mudslide with a scoop of Ice-cream just made me slip-slide-away into complete bliss.

I’m definitely coming here more often.

Creamy Mushy Mushroom : Rs.95.00
Popeye's Pick : Rs.90.00
Mixed Berries Shake : Rs.70.00
Dublin Mudslide : Rs.115.00

Total : Rs.370.00
Vat 12.5% : Rs.46.25
Amount with Tax : Rs.416.25
Less Round Off : Rs.0.25

Net Amount : Rs.416.00

Piccadilly Square
15B, Sarat Bose Road
Kolkata - 700 020

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dinner at the new Gossip

After I spent the day out, I got back and my wife and I decided to go out since she had been home all day. We decided to take a stroll down to the shopping complex just outside our apartment complex and try out the new ‘Gossip’, aptly named “More Gossip”.

Well new in the sense that it was opened as an extension to the existing place just opposite to the existing one, though it has been around for a while.

So after watching the Kolkata Knight Riders losing their second match in a row we headed to More Gossip. It’s a decently done up place with very basic tables and chairs and more tuned for a dining experience than the one opposite which more like a pub. Of course the stairway inside leads to a floor above, this has a lounge with sofas and low tables. Well we settled for the table on the lower deck because we had dinner in mind.

A couple of beers and some great side dishes kept us company as we watched the second IPL match of the day between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers. I’m not sure which was more exciting the food or the exciting match we were watching on big screen.

We finally ended up ordering several beers to keep us going till the end of the match which was won by the Royal Challengers.

As far as the food at More Gossip goes, well we went for most of the continental starters which was filling enough and very unique in its taste and presentation. I was still wowed by the candle in the Capsicum.

Bread Crumb Fried Fish : Rs.140.00
Chicken Cheese Fried Blues : Rs.180.00
Black Pepper Mutton : Rs.190.00

Total : Rs.510.00
Vat 12.5% : 64.00
Total : Rs.516.00

The drinks were:

03 Kingfisher (Large ) : Rs.345.00

Grand Total : Rs.861.00

More Gossip - Your neighbourhood restopub
UNS 59, Unnayan - The Commercial Complex,
1050/1 Survey Park
Kolkata 700 075
Phone : + 91 33 24188348

Gyaan from the Guru of Photography

I was so looking forward to attending this workshop by Mr. Raghu Rai. Thanks to Canon and my friend Mr. Anup Kanodia of Capital Photo Service, I managed to get an invite for this once in a lifetime opportunity to get some tips on Photography from the man who has captured India through his lenses like no other.

Being an avid traveller I wanted to understand what it was that one was supposed to capture in a frame that would make a good photograph and great photograph.

Through the session, Mr. Rai humoured us with his anecdotes and a lot of humorous photographs. As he went through the session and showed us one photograph after another, the audiences wowed by each, just made me realise why there was such a packed hall. People were sitting in the isles trying to get a glimpse of the master’s portraits. Later I heard people had queued up since 8:00 AM to get front row seats for this workshop and it was definitely worth the effort.

I finally got the answer to a question that was nagging me in the back of my mind “How does a person looking at a photograph actually feel the emotion that you felt when you clicked that photograph?”

Well the answer was that “if the person can’t feel the emotion of the moment depicted in the photograph, then it’ll always be a photograph for you. But if you want a photograph that can actually evoke the same emotions and feeling that you experienced at the moment you clicked that photograph, well that is a photograph”.

That said, I learned one of the toughest lessons at the session; to be able to look back at the pictures without emotion of being the one who clicked them and then pick out the ones that are “photographs”.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Karthik Calling Karthik

Farhan Akhtar: Karthik Narayan
Deepika Padukone: Shonali Mukherjee
Ram Kapoor: Mr. Kamath
Shifaali Shah: Mrs. Kapadia

This is an interesting film delving into the subject of schizophrenia. Our protagonist Farhan (Karthik) is brilliant in portraying the character. His bong bombshell love interest Deepika (Shonali) is slowly coming of her own as an actress. Ram Kapoor (Mr. Kamath) his cheating, swindling real estate company owner boss plays the character to the tee. Shifali Shah (Dr. Mrs. Kapadia) does a decent job too in her endeavour to uncover the truth behind Karthik’s condition.

All in all the plot is decent, acting is also fine, just that I felt the end could have been made much more interesting rather than the typical Bollywood run-of-the-mill “they all live happily ever after”.