Help find 8 year old Tejas from Panipat – kidnapped in December 2008

For any parent who has lost track of their child (be it for a minute or a few hours), you might begin to understand the heart-wrenching plight of a mother (Neena Gaba) whose 8 year old son Tejas was kidnapped 17 months ago in front of her eyes at gunpoint! Please read her personal appeal below and do your utmost in spreading the word. Time is of the essence.


On 12th december 2008, time 7:35 am, I drove to the bus stop to drop my son tejas for school.It was like any other normal day for us.But suddenly something happened.A masked man came from behind ,snatched him from me and pushed him at the backseat of a honda civic/accord in front of my eyes..When i tried to stop him,i was fired at,by him.What followed was a series of ransom calls.But they did not give me proof of my child and he has been MISSING since then.

 

NOW I APPEAL TO MY COMMUNITY AND CALL ON ALL OF YOU TO HELP ME FIND MY CHILD. WHOSOEVER GIVES INFORMATION OR CLUE THAT HELPS US REACH TEJAS WILL BE AWARDED ”50 LAKH”. No questions will be asked to the person who helps in the recovery of my child. It has been 17 months and we do not know what physical or mental trauma my son has been going through.WHAT WAS THE FAULT OF AN INNOCENT 8 YEARS CHILD TO HAVE DESERVED THIS IN HIS FOUNDATION YEARS OF LIFE?

THIS IS VERY MUCH GENUINE, AND TO CONFIRM THE SAME,KINDLY VISIT THE FOLLOWING WEBSITES:

www.tejasgaba.com

www.savetejas.com

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The darndest things you see in India – Part 2

The previous post of this series is The darndest things you see in India and the next is The darndest things you see in India – Part 3.

Lessons in user interface design. Remember - avg vehicle speed on Indian roads VERY low!

Gotta admit Boca Grande has one of the cleanest loos in town!

Is the Avon brand marketing manager a genius? Worthy of a dedicated blog post...

If not for sale, why list name? Bcos owner wants to be notified if someone begins building something...

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An asthmatic’s ignominious (first) running story

I had originally posted this story in my Xaviers Bokaro alumni mailing list back in Sep 2006. If you’ve read the post Running the Course – Mumbai Marathon 2010 and are wondering about the back story to my running fetish, this story might offer some clues. I made a few minor edits to the email, anonymized the identity of my two classmates (A and C below), and tweaked the ending based on a recent recollection. Loreto house (blue) and Carmel house (yellow) are two of the four sports houses of St. Xaviers Bokaro.

Haile Gebrselassie (a contemporary marathon legend who still needs to battle asthma)

For those of you that remember me, I was rarely (if ever) seen on the athletic field. I had a bad case of asthma during my formative years. Anyway, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. During the 8th or 9th Standard, my loyalty towards Loreto house reached epic proportions and  I decided to  participate  in the only sports event that  didn’t require selection or qualification – the venerable cross-country race. Never mind that I’d never run a distance longer than 5m before. Outfitted with a freshly-dusted pair of tennis shoes (keds, if we must be accurate), blue singlet, shorts and an ardent fervor in my heart, I stepped on to the field. If I had had seen Chariots of Fire, its music would have been resonating in my head. In reality, what I sorely needed was an albuterol inhaler to combat my asthma. I crouched at the race start with two equally loyal Loreto compatriots – A and C.

The gun went off and behold my dismay when I saw the entire crowd “take off” (or so it seemed). I was thinking to myself, this is a cross-country race (for crying out loud!) – why are they running so fast already? I calmed myself down and decided to stick to my plan of “pacing” the race (having a scant little clue how long the race was). Lucky for me, my dear buddy A was giving me company as we brought up the sparsely populated rear guard.

As a token of my gratitude, I entertained A with the rhythmic music that only tortured asthmatic lungs can produce. I think C must have raced ahead because I don’t recall seeing him after the starter gun went off. Anyway, after an eternity and thousand deaths, we completed the trail segment of the race and reached the entrance to the school field – the final 400meter beckoned to us. At that crucial stage, a couple of things happened..

  • A began to  break free  (his 2nd wind probably?) leaving me in sole possession of last place.
  • I heard Voice#1 from the sidelines “Quick! you are almost there! Just 400 meters more!”.
  • Then I heard Voice#2 from the sidelines “I think they award points only to runners who finish within [X] minutes!”

Ultimately the combination of voice#2 and A’s late burst was too much for my tender nerves to bear. I was probably fine completing the “victory lap” jointly with A but I could not withstand the ignominy of being in sole possession of last place. I had no Garmin (or even a regular watch) so I had no way of knowing how close to the cutoff I was. So I did the dastardly act of throwing in the towel thus leaving A in sole possession of last place. Dear A, I’m sorry for denying you the ‘official’ last-but-one spot! But at least you got Loreto house one extra point.

Unfortunately, there’s a final sad twist to the story. That was the year Loreto house tied for 3rd place in the overall standings with Carmel house! Had I completed the race and secured an additional point, Loreto would have been in sole possession of 3rd place. I recall C being very sore on this point and guilted me on several occasions “had you got that one point, Loreto would have…”

Shame is temporary. Quitting is permanent! (Not sure who said this)

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R2I Profiles – Launching a New Category

My WordPress dashboard stats tell me that a lot of organic traffic comes from folks searching for “nris returning to india” or “indians returning to bangalore”. When I started this blog in 2008, this was the primary target group I had in mind. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know that we moved to Bangalore from SF Bay Area when our kids were 5 and 2.5 and that our kids are attending school at NPS Koramangala (a CBSE board school, not an International/IB school). You may have also noticed that most of my posts in the second year are categorized under Settling Down instead of Returning to India.

Sure – I’ve written about how we picked schools for our kids, our escapades with the drivers and of becoming one with the Bangalore traffic. But that’s merely one perspective. What if you are considering Hyderabad or Delhi/NCR because you have family there? What if your older kid is 10 years and you are wondering if you’ve waited too long? When to keep a cook and driver? and when not to? When does it make sense to send your kids to a CBSE school vs. an international school? Answers to these questions can only come from the hordes (yes “hordes”) of Indians with heterogenous profiles who have returned before and after us.

Without further ado, I present to you R2I Profiles (short for Returned-To-India Profiles) – a new category that shall feature interview-style posts with other folks who have made the bold (or foolish) move back to the motherland. Stay tuned! (Hopefully not for too long)

….

And the posts have started to come in…

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Hum do humare do…bina exhaust ke

2-day old Blue Reva fresh after car-puja – in kissing distance of older sibling (SX4)

Title translation (for non-Hindi readers): Hum do humare do is an old 1970’s era government initiated family planning slogan to promote  family of four (hum do = we two, humare do = our two). Bina exhaust ke = without exhaust.

So… two months shy of our 2nd year anniversary of returning to India, we purchased our 2nd car – a blue REVAi. If you’ve not been tracking electric car trends, RECC (REVA Electric Car Company) has been selling REVAi electrics in India since 2001 and in UK since 2003. For possibly a few more years, RECC remains the only company in India selling electric cars. The wikipedia entry for RECC accurately describes REVAi as an urban electric micro-car seating two adults and two kids. Did I say accurate? I meant ‘nearly accurate’ because it should read two adults and two kids (under the age of 10).

Now that we’ve established how small the REVAi is, let’s move to other specs. For this, I shall borrow liberally from this 2006 review of the REVAi in The Hindu…

The first thing that hits you when you look at the car is its size which makes you think of yourself as Gulliver, the giant when you sit inside. The steering is a wee bit too close to your chest and the A pillars close in on you.

Ok – so I wasn’t done talking about the REVA’s size. If you don’t step in gingerly to the driver’s seat, you could easily brush the lever to make it high beam. If you turn your head around suddenly (to see what your 4-year old’s doing in the back seat), the rear-view mirror would need readjusting.

The Reva’s a full metre shorter than the Maruti Suzuki Wagon R but around 100kg heavier than Maruti Suzuki 800. The body is built of hard ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) plastic and a tubular space frame holds everything together. Eight deep discharge batteries sourced from leading American golf cart battery maker, Trojan, sits in the middle of the chassis, with the controller and energy management system parked under the rear section of the car. The motor itself, a Bulgarian 13KW DC unit from Kostov, sits beneath the chassis and powers the rear wheels. The job of the energy controller is to make sure current is drawn equally from the batteries, especially during high load requirements and there are no surges and spikes.

The golf cart lineage certainly shows with the quiet humming of the motor. Our li’l one’s take on that humming sound – “it feels like we are in an airplane on the runway”. By the way, the rest of the comments in The Hindu review are slightly dated since the new batteries are supposed to extend the driving distance to the 70-90k range depending on your use of air-conditioning).

The REVA buying decision was somewhat analogous to our returning to India decision. There are a lot of reasons why one would NOT want to buy this car and only a few reasons why one should. Turned out those few reasons were crucial.

Reason #1: (Zero emissions) This is a dead-obvious reason but needed to be stated. Until public transportation becomes a viable option in Bangalore (will it ever?), we needed a 2nd car and it just couldn’t be a traditional petrol/diesel one.

Reason #2: (Automatic transmission car) Ever since our adventures with The Janus Man came to an end, we haven’t employed a full-time driver. I’ve  become scarily comfortable driving the SX4 in various types of Bangalore traffic conditions but the kids’ dropoffs and pickups from school, ferrying them to after-school activities has required a combination of part-time drivers from EZiDrive and auto-rickshaw rides. P has been on the threshold of to-hell-with-these-drivers-but-I-cant-drive-a-stick-shift-car. Getting the REVA is expected to be a watershed moment for her. First the learner’s license, then driving in Sunday traffic, then driving in Saturday traffic, then driving solo on weekends, and…voila! one day she goes solo on weekdays as well. We are not sure if she or the kids are more excited with this prospect.

Reason#3: (Minimalism) What’s the smallest car that can get us around and keep the kids protected from the air pollution? Turns out the only answer in 2010 is REVAi. Small is indeed beautiful.

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The things you can learn from an auto driver…

Taxi drivers anywhere in the world are a chatty bunch. Well, guess what? Auto drivers in India are no different. Below is the exchange between my wife (P) and the auto driver (AD) after the younger one had been dropped off to school. The conversation took place in Hindi but I’ve transcribed Hindi & English for AD’s dialogues and English only for P.

AD: Is school ke liye kitna donation lagta hai? (What’s the donation to get a child into this school? School in question is NPS Koramangala)

P: This school doesn’t require any donation.

AD: Kya? Donation nahin lagta? (What? No donation?!)

P: No, thats one of the good things about this school – one of the reasons why it is in demand.

AD: Fees kitna hai? (How much is the fee?)

P: Annual fee for first year is Rs. 7o,000 but, for subsequent years, the fee actually reduces.

AD: Acchha. Maine Rahul Dravid ko teen bar dekha. Uska beti yahan jaata hain nan? (I see. I saw Rahul Dravid thrice recently. His daughter goes to this school, right?)

P: No. His son goes to this school. It’s Kumble’s daughter who also attends this school.

AD: Aakpo pata hai Dravid kahan rahta hai? (Do you know where Dravid lives?)

P: (vaguely recollecting) Indiranagar?

AD: Nahin. Indiranagar mein to uska maa baap rahta hai. Dravid to Forum ke pas bada building main rahta hai. (No. It’s Dravid’s parents who live in Indiranagar. Dravid lives in Koramangala, near Forum).

P: I see. At the Prestige Acropolis?

AD: Haan. (Yes.)

AD: Kumble to Basavangudi mein rahta hai. (Kumble lives in Basavangudi)

P: (exclaiming) Wow! he comes to drop his kid from that far?

AD: (continuing) Jis building mein Kumble rehta hai, woh usi ka hai. (Kumble owns the building he lives in)

P: (now impressed) Is Dravid a Kannadiga or Tamilian?

AD: Arre! Dravid to Madhya Pradesh se hai. Bas – uske maa baap yahan aake settle ho gaye! (Dravid’s not even from this area – he’s from Madhya Pradesh – his folks came and settled down in Bangalore!)

AD: Haan! Kumble yahan ke lagte hain! Kannadiga hain. (Kumble, on the other hand, is a bonafide Kannadiga)

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The darndest things you see in India

1 year 10 months and 3 non-SLR camera phones later, below is a partial collection of India-defining frames I’ve found interesting.

Yes – there ARE parking signs in Bangalore. Just need a modicum of luck & a Holmes gleam.

TVS Moped with less than regulation (i.e. 20%) load

This is a glass-half-full kinda kid – “look at all the traffic we are AHEAD of!”

Where else in the world do we have Midnight Marathons? Venue: Whitefield Road, Month: Jan

This may seem like graffiti but it’s NOT – I insist that this plot is NOT FOR SALE!

One sign, two messages! For some strange reason, reminded of that famous pre-Independence sign “Dogs and Indians not allowed!”

Sign inside Bethany High School boys

If at first you don’t spell it right, you must try and TRY again!

In case you haven’t noticed, India’s spelling bee champs have all moved to USA.

How many spelling mistakes can you spot?

Indians love to pun.. really!

A yr after being commissioned into service, this stainless steel vessel one day just gave up! 7 vertical cracks appeared simultaneously after a rasam production!

Wish we had this sign in OUR apartment complex..Then we could fret about dog owners ignoring it.

It’s not just the BMW and Mercedes you’ll see on Bangalore roads. Toyota MR2 for the discerning.

Time to visit the optometrist? Don’t bother. Any of these store signs can be used for vision check.

The next post in this 4-part series – The darndest things you see in India (Part 2).

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A blogger’s lament

One of the challenges I face at the beginning of many new posts is the realization that a prequel needs to be written first. I would argue with and convince myself “but there’s this background I need to provide..” The background becomes the first paragraph and before I know it, it becomes chunky enough to warrant its own post but … the prequel post still isn’t ‘done’ so, you see, I can’t hit the PUBLISH button. Meanwhile, the original post still sits unfinished in the Drafts folder (actually my ‘handwritten notes’ courtesy my relatively new Lamy fountain pen). Talking of the Lamy, I must mention that I acquired it in early April from William Penn after a year of hobnobbing with my pen connoisseur/friend (Aunindo Ghosh) who, by the way, has just written this amazing post about a walk in the forests of Wayanad, Kerala. Returning to the Lamy, I ought to mention that the inaugural handwritten post I wrote is entitled The keyboard of the nineteenth century — it’s two pages long and nearly complete (which means that it needs a final ink writing session before the WordPress.com upload/edit).

When I started this post (on WordPress), the title was Of ABCDs and FOBs, a post which I had nearly completed (on Lamy ink and paper). After typing the first two sentences (which weren’t present in the original ink draft), I realized that I wasn’t going to complete it tonight so one thing led to another… The Of ABCDs and FOBs post itself was going to serve as a prequel to another post that’s been in the hopper for… (Err..Let’s see) a mere 6 months – Indian Born Confused Desi (IBCD).

So I end yet another weekend where I promised myself that I’d publish one of the 3-5 half-finished posts and…broke my promise. Yet I managed to write this lament and, surprisingly, had fun with it. Moreover, next weekend is another weekend (thank you, Scarlett O’ Hara – thou queen of all optimists!)

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I am Bihar (an ode)

Bihar District Map (courtesy topnews.in)

Back in Nov 2009, we had a big reunion of St. Xaviers Bokaro alumni and their families. If you haven’t bumped into anyone from Bokaro (formally known as “Bokaro Steel City”) yet, you need to know that the mere mention of Bokaro is enough to send them into raptures and wax eloquent about this utopian steel township in a part of Bihar that’s now Jharkhand. For all the Bokaro alumni, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and I daresay the non-Bokaro spouses had a decent time too. A few mini-reunions later, I heard about Bihar Foundation from one of my classmate’s husband. Ajit Chouhan’s blog post Bihar Foundation – Connecting Biharis Worldwide does a good job outlining the foundation’s charter and ambitions.

For a variety of reasons, Bihar doesn’t rank high on India’s list of states (on many indicators – be it socio-economic, literacy, or governance). When I found this ode (authored by Mayank Krishna), it felt like a gust of fresh air. I present to you – I am Bihar (a proud and optimistic ode on Bihar)!

(Reproduced with permission from the author Mayank Krishna)

I AM BIHAR

I am the history of India,
I gave the world its first Republic,
I nourished Buddha to enlightenment,
I gave world its best ancient university,
My son Chanakya was the father of Economics,
Mahavir came out of my womb to found Jainism,
My son Valmiki wrote Ramayan, the greatest Epic
Rishi Shushrut, the father of surgery, lived on my soil
My son Vatsayana wrote Kamasutra, the treatise of love ,
My son Ashoka – The Great was the greatest ruler of India ,
I gave birth to Aryabhatt, the great ancient mathematician ,
I gave Ashoka Chakra that adorns India’s national flag ,
My son Dinkar is the national poet of India ,
I gave the world its first Yoga University ,
I gave India its first president ,
I am the land of festivals ,
I am brotherhood ,
I am humility ,
I am the past ,
I am the future ,
I am opportunity ,
I am revolution ,
I am culture ,
I am heritage ,
I am intellect ,
I am farmer ,
I am power ,
I am literature ,
I am poetry ,
I am love ,
I am heart ,
I am soul ,
I am yoga ,
I am global ,
I am inspiration ,
I am freedom ,
I am force ,
I am destiny ,
I am Bihar ,
…Come with your dream
I will make it a reality

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