Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Life

A hot, strong cuppa.
Now going lukewarm
A third cup for the day
What is so brewing?
To guzzle up on coffee?
Nothing my friend
Just the boredom
Zapping energy that’s little left
Resigned and accepting
of the monotony.
Oh! There are highs and lows
Phases are like sine wave
Riding high on unexpected joy
Drowning in unexplained sorrow.
What would be life
With only joy or sorrow?
A masterpiece called LIFE
At times abstract, transcends  
understanding. Purpose of life;
I brood over it. Time and again,
this recurring question
is a stepping stone to
discover myself further.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mighty Mekong

Down the river; on a slow boat.
Slicing the water as the motors propel it forward
The muddy red waters; splashes and crashes.
Eddies dancing around; spraying at times
Water drops hit my face; and I shut my eyes
Like hide n seek; we play again.
Watching the countryside views as the boat cruises.
Orange robes clad monks on the river bank.
Run to the river; and take off the clothes.
The river does not care if you are skin and bones
Or if you are plump and chubby.
And few throwing pebbles and chasing others.
Serene, disciplined monks showing their inner self
The child within them.
See those white little birds occasionally;
Soaring high, always in pairs. One follows the other;
Wherever they go, they are together.
Not a sunny day; its cloudy and breezy
Yet a lovely day.
Weeds float by, thriving and encroaching
Of what use? To the fishes and men?
The boat man steers away carefully
Avoiding them. Of what use, are they?
A woman in dirty clothes and straw hat
Grubbing in her tiny patch of land.
Chillies or beans? Potatoes or cabbages?
My thoughts wander.
Sweeping hair off her face; the lady beside me
Tries to click a snap or two
Of broken yet colourful wooden boats,
Marooned on the banks.
A calming presence away from the crowds.
The water current smooth; silently passing
One view to be enchanting than the previous.
Upon the steep banks; logs of wood
Strewn around; slapdash.
Once giant age old trees; lifeless now.
Waiting to be thrown away on the river
For the current to carry them.
Couches and beds and shelves will they become.
For my and your insatiable lifestyle.
Men’s lecherous greed, raping nature shameless
When will it end?
A man at a distance; squatting with a fishing rod
Trying to catch a fish or two for family’s supper.
Kids watching from the deck of their house.
Few clamouring on the wooden rickety ladder.
Waving at the slow boats passing by
Muddy mighty Mekong
Lifeline to thousands.


PS : The scenes as I saw when I went on a boat and back for 4 hours on Mekong while visiting a cave 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Smoke

Shrouds of smoke;
Spreads as if there is no boundary.
Raises up; engulfing the entire space.
Lacking discipline; without a thought for anything else.
I sigh! I fume! What do I do?
Let it rise up and choke?
Or run away to an eternal freedom?
The smoke; its enticing.
What is it that attracts me?
Like a moth attracted to a flame.
There is nothing but destruction.
Is it glamorous to play with danger?
Or the rush in head for thrill?
Choking on the words that I so wanted to say.
Drowning in the thoughts that was never shared.
But it seems that I love everything
That will kill me gradually.
An unseen scar, an unheard whine.
Knowing all the while; it will kill.
Its alluring; to be burnt away
Like an incense; holy it seems.
Serving a purpose; however I know
It’s a suicide.
I will still enjoy till my last breath.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Self Driving Truck Delivers Beer

Read this news two days ago - Otto driver less truck delivers beer in Colorado. 

An autonomous truck piloted itself 120 miles on Colorado freeway to haul around 51,000+ cans of Bud beer. This is the first time in the history of experimenting with self driving vehicles to let a huge rig drive itself. This truck was fitted with cameras, sensors, lights, radars and the needed technology to self drive itself on a freeway for a good 120 miles. Now anyone who can get their hands on one of the can of beer can brag about how it reached them.

So, are we ready for the driver-less vehicles yet? This has been debated around a lot already. But with technologies developing at a rapid rate; it's not the technology that we ought to be worried about; but about the ethical dilemma associated with such. It is of course very tempting to have someone else do the job for us; be it a person or a program while we sit back and relax or do something productive like answering emails or writing code.

But how about making decisions that involve morality and ethics? These are debatable and very perspective. These depend on lot of factors like the environment we are brought up in, culture, beliefs and social and moral responsibility and thus judgement might differ from one person to another. I was interested in this bit more and started digging up few topics to read.

Learnt a couple of new things. Trolley problem - its an experiment in ethics. In summary; there is a trolley running down a track. Ahead of the track; five men are tied to the track and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight. You are standing few distance ahead next to a lever; if you pull the lever, the trolley will move on another track where one person is on the track. What do you do? Do nothing and let five people die or pull the lever and switch the trolley to another track and let the one person die? Which is the most ethical choice? It poses a life or death situation where depending on the action you take ensures death of certain people and an alternate action means death of several others.

There are so many arguments and discussions around it. And this puzzle determines human psychology. The Trolley problem so far remained a philosophical conundrum but now has become the basis of breaking their head for these autonomous vehicle software designers. Driving is a social responsibility; onus being completely on the driver. The driver is solely responsible for what happens; what the vehicle does. You hit a pedestrian because you were texting while driving; you are responsible.

But with software algorithms taking over the job of "driving" for you; you are also cleared of such social responsibilities. These algorithms respond based on pre-written rules; there is no cognitive process involved here. This is where it gets tricky. This is where your ethical and moral reasoning comes into picture. Let's say you are driving a vehicle and a kid jumps on the road; would you go straight ahead killing the kid or swerve and hit a barricade which ensures you'd end up getting killed?

Every other automaker is experimenting with autonomous vehicles. Seems few vendors have taken a different approach. In this case; the vehicle will plow right into the kid. The reason being as a brand; the product has meant safety, security and other privileges for more than a century. So its automated software will choose to protect its passengers above all others. Of course; who wants to buy a vehicle which might choose to kill you in any given situation, right? And its not difficult to see every other vendor opting for this approach. So we might end up with a fleet of self driven killers who would choose to save their passengers/customers over good of the society.

Imagine; these are not far fetched. But on the flip side; can it get worse than humans? Distraction have always been an issue with us humans. And these autonomous vehicles might end up with a better driving record. And there may be counter technologies to save from a disastrous situation; like limiting speed, an air bag kind of equipment around the vehicle or a scoop up kind of utility on the front hood which will pick the pedestrians instead of hitting them. We don't know yet. While technology is picking up; it is really amazing to see them being used to drive efficiency and assist human beings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Walk

A dark skinned non-oriental feature lone woman walking down the street. Shabbily dressed; a pajama and a T shirt, trainers and a worn-out hat to get some respite from the evening sun rays; looking around, taking in everything the eyes can register. From the distinct aroma of noodles and grilled meat, old men slouching on chairs and some crouching doing nothing, the muddy waters of the river, kids playing with sticks and lump of mud; unkempt and not a care for the world. I wonder when was the last time I saw kids entertaining themselves with nothing but their creativity. Not seeing them glued to a TV or a smartphone or a tablet was kind of shocking.

The twilight was contemplating; whether to arrive or just let this moment linger on for a little bit long. Centuries old Wats(Buddhist temples) stand alongside modern patisseries offering free WiFi to be connected with the world. The courtyards of the Wats are unassuming providing the perfect contrast to the gilded roofs and walls of red and gold of the main temple. Monks clad in bright orange robes trying to go about their ascetic ways; now seemingly tough what with too many things to indulge in. A young monk walked with a broom and started sweeping the street. Another one started taking snaps of the monk in action. It was amusing to watch and I so wanted to know if those monks who live an austere life by seeking alms every morning and evening have a social media account as well? Chuckled at the thought of Buddha's no desire principle clashing with Mark Zuckerburg's stay connected venture.


The heaven tries to open up; yet its hesitant. It decides a drizzle is good enough and the dampness in the air still does not budge. As I walk; crossing scenes after scenes - it occurs to me its all similar. There is sanity; if you observe amidst the cacophony and frenzy. Yet; in that sanity lies the confusion and madness. Thoughts in my head, two personalities debating over which one is true. Out of reverie; I see a tuk-tuk driver expectantly waiting to be asked to be hired. He asks - Tuk tuk? I smile and say no, thank you. On my right; is a public school compound. Empty; school for the day is done. And then; a knock on my head. I look up; a tamarind tree just decided to drop a tamarind on me. I bend down and pick the tamarind and contemplate what to do with it? I carry it with me; did not realize when and where I lost it.


As the twilight set in; the roads came alive with more activities. Street markets, street food stalls and more. Locals and visitors walking around alike. I walk to a nearby stall and inquire the price of a stack of handmade paper. The haggling starts; a couple of minutes later; price agreed and my item is packed. The lady then asks "You from?" I say - "India". "Oh!..with you?" to which I respond "just me". She asks "one?" I say "yes, just one. Me, alone." What did I see? A sense of pity on her face. She feels sad for me. "Oh! why? alone?" I smile and say "I like". I think she got my point. She then asked "You happy?" I smile and nod.

I continue my walk..

PS : This is one of my evenings at Luang Prabang, Laos.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Airport Diaries

The aircraft just touches the ground; "click" click" goes the many seat belt buckles being unbuckled simultaneously; in spite of the "Seat belt on" sign. Few get up from their seat and open the overhead baggage compartment and  hurriedly get their luggage down. A beeline is made already....the aircraft is taxing. The pilot announces that we are ahead of time and the gate is yet to be vacated. People are restless; bags shuffling, pushing and jostling as if they don't get out of the aircraft in the next 20 seconds it lands, the air plane will again take off without dropping them. You will actually start to feel awkward if you don't join the crowd and instead remain seated......

I love to travel; you guys know that by now. I try to make at least 2-3 decent trips every year and so airport is if not integral; a decent part of my life. The above one is one of the many amusing and irritating incidents I've come across while flying. These anecdotes warrants a dedicated diary. Its more amusing than irritating when most of them participate and when you are not privy to such an action; you get conscious of being the awkward among the group. Err..yeah! try it once. Try being calm, continue sitting even for a minute after the aircraft lands; the person beside you will definitely stare at you even if he/she does not utter a word. 

I get intimidated when I fly; when I wait at the gate; when I walk around the airport. Why you may ask? Not because of the unfamiliarity of the airport and the practices (I must admit I was scared..very scared during my initial travel days, not anymore); but because of the swanky gadgets and travel "necessities" that people around me carry and I feel so barren. Very recently; I saw 2 kids not older than 5 years having iphone 6s and playing games on it. I felt so ashamed to be "flaunting" my dented iphone 5s; I actually hid it deep in my bag. And those huge Beats headphones that kids have to listen to all those crappy music that's being made these days makes me go "whoa!!" . So yeah, I am made to feel how poor I am during these moments. 

Freebies! yeah yeah! who does not want one? That man beside me who flew from Hong Kong to Bangalore demanded extra wine; drank it and passed out! He was falling on my shoulder and I had to keep nudging. He passed out after just 2 glasses of wine! These are typical Indian behaviours; sorry folks, I am an Indian too but yeah we can drink even phenol for free. And how we demand those freebies as if its our birthright! and complain if its not satisfactory. Heights no? 

Another Indian trait is to push and cut the queue. While I was flying back from Srinagar; there was this "uncle" who kept pushing his trolley to be the first during baggage check. He had already knocked off an elderly woman and was now pushing my suitcase that could fall on the person in front of me. When I confronted; he had a shameless smug look of being "the man". I have no words for such morons. 

I do sound like a whiner! Well, we often remember things that are bad isn't it? I have had good things happen as well. Like the lady at the counter who let my baggage checked in without extra cost in spite of being overweight. She was very kind; yeah. Or the airlines that obliged and let me board their flight in Guatemala though I just rushed in just 3 mins before the take off. What bowled me over was they offered a pack of chips, a pack of cream biscuits and juice in that flight! Wow! I did feel like a queen. 

Fellow passengers have been kind too; especially if you are travelling alone and have to lift 25+ kgs of baggage. A Japanese man not only offered me a candy; he helped me with my baggage at the airport and left me with a pat on my neck long ago while flying from San Francisco. A person beside me picked up a conversation while I was flying to Casablanca, Morocco and actually gave me enough directions for me to get to the hotel from airport in the most efficient and cheapest way possible.

It doesn't end here....but these are few that I can recall. I am sure I'll have more interesting encounters in the future. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pleasure Trip

The sun throws his final rays,
Glorious specks of gold,
Glistening on the lake.
Occasional boats pass by
Disturbing the calm waters.
The others tied to the quay; rocking to and fro;
They would all night; until set free in the morning. 
Beyond; the trees and the mountains
Form a silhouette; dark outlines, blurring details.
Are they sad? Seeing the sun go down?
A pup plays fetch; tail wiggling,
Jumping into the lake with glee,
His bum twitching and twerking,
As his owner throws the big orange ball.
His world so simple yet magical.
Night life starts along the waterfront. 
Food and drinks; in abundance.
Friends sitting by the edge, chatting. 
Lovers cuddling and stealing kisses.
Every few minutes; I see the drama of the sun
Displaying an aura of a master
Who has orchestrated the evening
And now ready to sleep.
I am here; in my own world
Watch the scene; sitting by myself.
Munching on tortillas; 3 of them with "no carne". 
Why am I here; alone? 
Should I've been with my partner?
Holding hands while watching the sunset together?
Should I've been with friends? 
Cheering up over beer? 
Why am I taking a pleasure trip alone?