Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ads with a difference...

Thank God the zoom was invented (Kodak)

I think this Ad is powerful because it gives the messages that anyone can take professional pictures without getting in harms way and thus the camera gives one more opportunities.

Ad for the Australian Red Cross

I think its the simplicity of the Ad that makes it so different. A lot of people these days want to do good but they substitute money for "real" stuff and this Ad wants people to donate something that is as easy as putting few quarters in a money-can.

The copy says "Reach out to children with autism"

This Ad is so creative because all these kids need is a helping hand.

The copy says, "Harry's bread. Nice and soft." Indeed.

I found this Ad very cute :)

Ad by Cancer Patient and Association

This Ad is something that will get everyone's attention because it gives a wrong premise in bold but get to the real message in fine print.

The small byline at the bottom says, "Don't Abort the Girl Child."

This is one of the most powerful Ads I have seen but don't know how many people who needs the message will get this Ad.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Man Who Met Mahatma...

It was supposed to be a regular client visit. I knew she was Indian because her name was Pushpa. It was sunny saturday afternoon and her house was in this beautiful private area, mostly for retirees. I met her, we worked on her system problem. She introduced me to her husband, Kris. After I was finished with her, I went to meet Kris in his basement, as he had some technical questions. I solved his problems and he told me that he is working on publishing a book. As we were taking the stairs towards their dining area, I curiously asked,

"Are you working on some fiction book?"

"No, I am writing about my experiences with Bapu", he replied.

"Are you referring to Mahatma Gandhi?", I asked curiously again.

"Yes, I am talking about Gandhi", he replied with a wry smile.

"What are your views on Mahatma?", was my instant question as I myself have very strong views about him.

"I have mixed feelings about Bapu, both good and bad", he replied while showing me the chair in his beautiful kitchen overlooking Mt. Washington.

"I think current Indian generation identifies more with the likes of Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar than Mr. Gandhi", I said assertively.

"Interesting. Its actually more interesting for me to know that current generation still remembers us because I thought we freedom fighters were a forgotten lot", he said with a genuine smile. He added, "I was there in Lahore when Bhagat was hanged. Old Lahore was a city with narrow alleys and I still remember that every alley was jam packed with people shouting Bhagat's name."

"But he was hanged one day before his due time, right", I added.

"Yea, and that was a big mistake that English made because no one should be killed before he is due", he added.

"Don't you think Sir, that Gandhi could have stopped it?", I questioned

"But he didn't wanted to stop it. He had a very different ideology, which was against say the likes of, Netaji's or Bhagat's ideology. My cousin was a top lieutenant in Netaji's INA. While, I decided to choose Bapu's path even though I didn't agree with him on number of key issues", he said.

"Yea, I have lots of respect for Netaji because I think Gandhi got us independence a bit too late because most countries were already independent by 1940s", I gave my views.

"Yes and that's where I disagreed with Bapu. My views were that if each Indian kills one Britisher, they would have been wiped out in a week. But Bapu had "something", when he said that we would only use non-violence, people listened and so did I. We would go on our knees saving our head when the Britishers would come and beat us with sticks. They would even come to our Universities and beat us even though we were always peaceful. Although, today when I look at corruption in India, I think if it was all worth it.

"Yes Sir, I think every Indian has come across some form of corruption in our day to day lives. It has become part of Indian life. Although, things are improving but not fast enough", I said with a slight shame in my voice.

"I am glad but its improving for people like you and me. I think an average Indian living in small towns and villages still faces the situation everyday", he said with a tinge of sadness in his voice.

I had no answer to his observation. By this time, Pushpa, his wife, came with garma garam samosas.

"Eat something too because he could go on and on about this", she said.

We continued our talk. He talked about how there was one issue he agreed upon with Bapu and that was about partition. India should not have been partitioned but Nehru and Jinnah had their eyes set on leading their respective nations and by that time Bapu was a liability for both of them. He told me how he left for US dejected, came back and worked for Homi Bhabha (but he never met APJ Abdul Kalam, as mentioned in the story, which was fictional). He left India for Canada and has been here since then.

He went to India recently when he was honored by a honorary degree by Benaras Hindu University but was dejected to see corruption everywhere. He narrated me one incident when he met a Japanese professor and booked his tickets with him from Delhi to Benaras. On the way a Railway TT came to check tickets and told Kris that the ticket of the Japanese professor was not confirmed. A couple of students were accompanying them and so they took TT on the side, came back and TT said that the tickets are confirmed, he had made a mistake. Kris was skeptical but one of the students told him to not ask what happened. The only thing the student could say was, "Its a shame on our country". Kris never told this incident to that Japanese Professor, who is still one of his good friends and always talk about the good time he had in India.

It was evening by the time we finished talking. He asked me if I plan to goto India after finishing my degree and I told him that I am applying for jobs in Canada, US and India, but working in Canada is my first priority. He looked at me and said, "I achieved a lot in my life, worked all over the world, published 30 books, 100s of papers, made great friendships but I still consider everything I did outside India as my failure. It never gave me 100% satisfaction. I am comfortably retired but that's not everything to life".

I told him how privileged I was to meet him. He promised to give me a copy of his book on Mahatma whenever it will be published. I shook his hands and left the place.

For all its worth, it was good to meet Kris and share my views with him. I found it interesting that it is still intriguing to meet someone who has met the Mahatma.

I came home and started writing the story, which came out a bit random but that's what life is, a series of random incidents, where we all try to make sense of it by putting them in sequences at the end of it.

"Yahoo!! Pipes" are here....a new techinical post up at Creative Minds

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mahatma's own country... (Final Part)

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and I took my time to wake up. Jenny woke me up with a cup of chai, like always. I looked out of the window and the day seemed perfect, perfect to finish up my story. My mind wandered off to the cold and wet morning more 30 years ago, when I landed to a typical rainy morning of Vancouver...

It was raining hard when we landed in Vancouver. This time I didn't promise anything while leaving India because I hated making promises I couldn't keep. The first thing you notice when you land in a western country is the freshness. The fresh air fills your lungs to the core and you know you are in an alien world. We went through the security and then proceeded towards the immigration. The immigration officer checking our papers was a balding white man, probably in his 50s. He checked our papers and then told us to wait couple of minutes. He went inside a small office and came up with an envelope. He handed the envelope to me.

"Sir, this is for you. It has $1200 cash and a key to Vancouver International Hotel. We were told by embassy officials to pass it onto you", he said looking pleased.

I opened the envelope, took out the key to the hotel and returned the envelope back to him.

"I have enough dollars to live for this month and I will be getting my paycheck after that. I don't want to start my life in this country by being a burden on its society. Give it to back to the embassy officials with my sincere thanks. I will take the key to the hotel for one week and return it after I find a place of my own.", I said.

The officer looked at me for few seconds, then got up, extended his hand and said, "Welcome to Canada, Sir. We need people like you."

We moved to a rented place within one week and I started my work at Univ of BC from the very next day. I was a professor by day and researcher by night. The initial years were tough for both me and Jenny because we were settling to a new country but our previous experience in US helped us settle quickly than most people. There were a lot of punjabi people in Vancouver at that time but most were uneducated laborers, working in mills and farms. It was hard for me and Jenny to assimilate among them as most punjabi people didn't identify with educated people. We were considered as outsiders among our own people. On the other hand, my job was very satisfying for me personally. Jenny was also working as a social worker and day to day life kept us busy. Over time, I published lots of papers, books and was even featured in the national newspaper. I gave lectures all over the world and was honored by few universities including the Benaras Hindu University back in India. All this was very satisfying.

Few years back, I retired from the University and started living a quiet life in Victoria. It was then I started thinking about my life so far. What did my life meant? How did I lead my life? What did I achieved and most importantly was I successful in leading the life I always wanted to live? I knew that I led a good life, maybe even privileged one compared to so many people. I achieved a lot in my life, personally and professionally. I fought for my country, I fought for my job, I fought for my love and sometimes I won, maybe not the win I always wanted but a win nonetheless. But was my life successful? I have thought hard and long about it and my answer is No. I consider myself a failure. I worked hard all my life, achieved a lot but could not achieve the success I always wanted. I may have won individual battles but overall there is something missing and the sad part is that I know what it is and how to get it but still something is holding me back.

This is the last chapter of my book but I don't want to end the chapter of my life as a failure.

It was one of those hot dusty afternoons of Sabarmati, when I found myself in company of Bapu, who was spinning the wheel very slowly. I craved for such moments of solitude with him because he always seemed to be surrounded by people. I took my chance and asked him,

"Bapu, you were living in South Africa and had started the fight for your rights there. Why did you came back to India? You could have fought there itself, considering that people in that country were more oppressed and needed you more than here"

He looked at me as if he was waiting for someone to ask this question for a long time. He stopped spinning the wheel, gave me a smile and started speaking very slowly like the spinning wheel, "There come moments in one's life which changes one's path. The train incident in South Africa was one such moment for me. I fought for my rights but over time I realized that my soul in the fight was missing. I came to India to see what I can give back to India but instead India gave me back something, my soul. I now truly believe that your soul lives in the country you are born and you can live and work anywhere in world but it would never give you full satisfaction because your soul is missing. I came back and found my soul back. I don't say that don't goto other countries. Go, explore the world, learn from them but do come back because you may not need your country but your country always needs you. "

Note: This is a fictional story where most characters are real including the protagonist but the situations, conditions, interaction between characters and incidents are a work of fiction. Any inaccuracy in the historical data is due to my limited knowledge.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mahatma's own country... (Part IV)

I woke up to the sound of waves crashing to the rocks. Wind was blowing hard and the nature was showing its fury. I had a slight cold and even though Jenny told me to take some rest today, I went to my computer room. The noise of wind took me to Miami, where I landed with $5 in my pocket...

Mr. Joydas Ganguly, a jolly bengali professor, came to pick me up at the Miami International Airport. I went to work from the very next day. Life in America was good. My research work kept me busy. Although there was intolerance for having different political views. Communism was a no-no word and even though I had minor arguments with my fellow professors about the same, I kept my views to myself. I was a guest to the country and was always conscious of the fact. As the time passed, my promise to return to India, was relegated to obscure part of my brain. My research work took most of my time until I met Jenny.

Jenny and I had opposing views on a number of issues but always respected each other's opinions. It was that respect for each other which lead us to marriage. We had a baby boy with my blue eyes and her nose, a year later. Day to day life kept us busy until the day I got that letter.

A letter from India. There was no name of the sender only a faded print of Indian post on a stamp of Bapu. I opened it up without any curiosity. It was a handwritten letter on the Government letter pad. On the top it was typed in blue ink, Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. It was signed by Homi J. Bhabha, Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India. The initial part of the letter was a formal introduction to himself, although I knew Mr. Bhabha from pre-Independence days, when I considered him to be my Draunacharya. The last paragraph of the letter was directed to me...

I know you have been doing research in Atomic Energy field. It will be my honor if you could come back to your country to serve it further. I know that you have already given a lot to the country but your country needs you back...

I didn't had to read any further before I told Jenny that we will be moving to India in a month. It was my time to fulfill my promise. I wrapped up my research work in US before taking the flight to my country.

India hadn't changed much in last 10 years except that corruption and bureaucracy was visible everywhere. I had to fill a 10-page form just for the re-entry into my own country and the immigration officer still expected some chai-panni, for faster process. I took the tonga to the research centre where Mr. Bhabha himself came at the door to receive me. He gave me the keys to the guest house and showed me around the research center. I came to work the very next day.

Mr. Bhabha called me to his office the first day of work and told me about his vision and ambition, to make India a truly independent state by exploring nuclear energy. He told me to help him establish research labs all over India. It was a big responsibility considering I was the youngest person in the organization but I took it as a challenge. It was after I started working there that I was exposed to a new malice in Indian society, casteism.

Atomic Research Centre was dominated by Brahmin South Indians from Subramaniums to Swamys to Balakrishnans. I was the only non-Brahmin Punjabi among the top ranks. I was never given the kind of respect that one expected from such position. There were a lot of things that made me an outsider. Firstly, I was the only one who came from outside India, I was the youngest among the lot, I was given a big responsibility at such a young age, I was not a yes-man to Mr. Bhabha and I was still the favorite of Mr. Bhabha. Infact, Mr. Bhabha used to call me his blue-eyed punjabi scientist. All this didn't go well with the neo-conservatives that were in the research center. I was challenged on a number of issues and when I spoke against them, I was called a rebel and trouble-maker. I was fighting bureaucracy and casteism half the time. I kept working against all odds and helped create research centers all over India but the constant fight for recognition was taking its toll on me.

I went to Mr. Bhabha and told him that my job was done. I told him that I was a scholar at heart and it was about time for me to return to the quiet life of US to do more research work. I had served my country to the best of my ability. Mr. Bhabha was a fair man and knew about my struggles. He told me that he will make sure that my journey back to US would be without further hitch. And then he asked me for a favor.

"Can you do me a favor?", he asked politely.
"It will be my honor, Sir", I replied.
"There is an intern who joined recently for some experience. Can you take him in your wing by the time you wait for your visa"
"Sure sir and Thank You for giving me the opportunity to come back and serve my country".

The intern joined in the next day. He was a very shy young man but very bright. He had a twinkle in his eye that reminded me of my earlier young days, when everything was possible. He would come on time everyday, get instructions from me and by the end of the day complete his task with utmost sincerity. At times he would spend his nights in the institute. His dedication to work was infectious. Working with him was one of the best experience of my time in the institute. I wanted to train him further but my plans my changed suddenly.

I was attending a Diwali function when I was introduced to the Canadian high commissioner. I told him about my plan to move back to US, when he took me to a corner.

"How much time will it take you to go to US", he asked.
"The visa takes about 3 months, so 2 more months at the very least", I replied.
"Can you please come and meet me in the office tomorrow. I may have a proposition for you", he said while passing me his card.

And so I went to meet him next day with Jenny. He told me that his Government will be honored if I could instead come to Canada. He can arrange my visa in a week, if I was ready. I looked at Jenny, she nodded and we were on our way to Canada within 10 days.

As I was switching through the TV channels, I stopped at CBC news. The host was talking about the visit by President of India to the nation's capital, Ottawa. And there he was, shy young man, Abdul, taking the royal guard of honor. It was a proud moment for me...

(To be continued....last part coming soon)

Garden of Love...a new picture up @ kaarindah...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mahatma's own country... (Part III)

It's a beautiful summer morning. The smell of daffodils in our garden seep through the window sill into the room. The fresh morning air fills the room with the new day. Although, no morning can compare to that day...

We were all glued to the All India Radio when Mr. Nehru said those words, the words of freedom...

"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity..."

Those words had spurred a nation. I woke up early on that beautiful morning. There was something in the air, it smelled of freedom. There was something in the flowers, they had the smile of the new nation.

I left for my college on my cycle. Streets were filled with people distributing sweets, singing vande mataram, kids flying the kites, people hugging each other. Although, it all changed the moment I picked up the paper. Another train filled with charred bodies arrives from Lahore. I am sure my friend Bismillah Khan must be reading about the train that left Delhi with butchered bodies. I was not sure whether to enjoy this freedom or not, because it didn't seem right or maybe we were expecting too much.

I was a researcher of physics and atomic energy was a hot topic of research in those days, although it got bad name in the last big war. We didn't even had chairs and would sit on chowkis in our labs and work with whatever equipment was left by the British. All we had was a jazba to do something for our country because we were the ones shaping it. We had the task of laying the foundation of the nation for the future generations to build on.

Mr. Nehru was very interested in developing atomic energy for peaceful purposes. He wanted India to develop the energy without outside help. I didn't agree with all the policies of Mr. Nehru. I agreed that we needed to become self-sufficient nation but closing our doors to the world was not the way to do it. Western world had surged ahead by the time we were fighting for our freedom. We needed their support esp. in the research field but all we got was a licensing raj. As an academician, this license business was frustrating but still I was ready to fight it for my country. I was getting invitations from Universities around the world but this was my home untill one day...

We were standing in line at a checkpoint. An old, poor lady was infront of us. A sub-inspector was checking the passes at the checkpoint. He asked her for pass but she didn't had it. He told her that she cannot go ahead unless she can pay for some chai-paani.

"Pachas rupya lagega", he said
"Pachas rupya kahan se launge babujee. Mujhe apne bachon se milna hain", she said.
"Pachas rupya nahin hain toh pass le ke aa, jaa"

She turned away when he stopped her.

"Kya hain iss potli main tere"
"Churiyan hain sahib"
"Chal abhi woh hee dede, jaa mille apne bachon se, tu bhi kya yaad rakhege"

She gave it hesitatingly, mumbling something about the dahej of her young daughter. It was our turn. We had our passes but there was a signature missing in mine.

"Aap toh padhe likhe lagte ho sahib. Signature missing hain. Par you are educated toh 100 rupee se kaam chal jayega", the sub-inspector said.

My blood was already boiling by this time. I took the papers from him.

"You know you are a BASTARD. You are worse than the people who were ruling us. Atleast they were not screwing their own people. I saw what you did to that poor woman before us. Do you think this is why we fought for our independence?", I shouted at him.

"Who told you to fight? Who told you to get independence for us? We were better under the British Raj. We had better salary then. The day they left, we got demoted and all the top level jobs were given to the Brahmins. You didn't do any favor to me by fighting for this independence. I blame people like you everyday for my misfortunes, sahib", he retorted

My father stopped me before paying 100 rupya and told me not to say anything. My father was a high official in Government and did not want me to insult another Government fellow. As we moved away from the checkpoint, I turned to my Baojee, as I would call him, and said, "I have decided to leave for America. I have been offered a research position in the University of Miami. I don't want to live in this thankless country anymore". My Baojee didn't say anything.

I left India after 3 months but promised myself that one day I will return to serve my country...

I sometimes still think about checkpoint incident. Did we really fought for every people of our country? What if we were wrong? What if Britishers were indeed good for our country? Also, sometimes we people think of everything in black and white. Truth is that Britishers indeed did a lot for the country which goes unnoticed. They connected the whole country through rail-lines, they build buildings with some of the most beautiful architecture, the gave us the language of the world that has helped India become a strong country over time, they had less corruption in their rank and file and much more.

The thought of that beautiful day of 15th August, 1947, gives me the answer to my questions. Yes, we did the right thing. Yes, we fought for everyone in the country.

The sweet smell of that day, is still stuck between the pores of my lungs and keeps me alive...

(To be continued...)

The Hundred Dollar Laptop...a new technology post up @ Creative Minds