Monday, July 30, 2007

Wanna be a daredevil???

Yeah!!! You read that right... And I have not gone crazy (yet)!!!

I have to make a confession. I am a rash rider. I go wild when I listen to the roaring sound of an engine. It just takes senses out of my mind and I feel like flying on my bike. It thrills me taking my 150cc bike to 120 kmph on curved roads. I love the feeling when the person sitting behind me gets scared :-). For the records, there has been just one person who was never scared of sitting behind me! Thankfully, I have very good control on two-wheeled vehicles and have a very good record of avoiding accidents or at least reducing the impact to a minimal.

While I was in Mumbai, things like crossing lanes, applying sudden breaks, tilting the bike as opposed to using the handles for taking turns, wheelie (okay... I didn't do that too many times) etc were fun but I exercised them only when there were no (or very few) vehicles or cops :-) on the road. And I used to call them stunts and I thought I was a daredevil. Nevertheless, I was a happy rider with a bit of guilty feeling of not following some of the traffic rules.

There has not been much of a change since then.I am still a rash rider. I still take my machine to 120k. I still love to take wild turns and scare people sitting behind me. But there is one thing that has changed. And that one single change has made doing any of the above mentioned things almost impossible. And that one little change is -

(insert mystery music here, dramatic entry)

- I am in Hyderabad.

You may be thinking its not possible for me to all my favorite stunts (I need to reconsider use of this term now) because traffic rules are strictly followed in Hyderabad. Let me make a correction to your thoughts - You are absolutely wrong!!!

The fact is - any rule that you read in your driving school does not apply. Hyderabad has its own set of traffic rules and people (including traffic cops) follow them religiously. Here are a few rules that people do follow

  • You should see road-signs (do we need to follow them??? Oh.. I thought they were there for decoration)
  • Somebody had a lot of extra white paint and spilled it on the road. Some fools say they are lines to indicate lanes. Why on earth do you need lanes when you have roads. Idiots!
  • Traffic cops are not cops... They stand there on the roads for all emergency purposes... such as - when you meet with an accident, or to clear the roads when a minister (or any VIP) arrives.
  • You have all rights to take turns anytime and anywhere. All the vehicles behind you must watch your moves (and not your indicators. indicators are a nice way to host a small little light show. why should I use them for turns?)
  • You don't have to stop at signals. God knows why they waste so much of electricity on those flashing colorful lights. You know... we must question the government for spending tax-payers money for such light shows.
  • One way??? What the heck is that??? Don't try to quiz me man... I see a road. And I am going to drive through.
  • You must follow all the above rules. You can append this list with any new fancy rule that you discover (provided it is not a rule in the government's book)

I am not a racist. And I have nothing to hold against people from any particular region or state. I don't want to hurt anyone's sentiments. But I must say this - I am sick and tired of this place. People have absolutely zero civic sense. They don't understand what discipline is. They have no respect for human life. Coming from a place like Mumbai, these are certain things that we take for granted in a citizen. These are core values that I grew up with.

I get speechless when someone compares Hyderabad with Mumbai. I have no words do describe how I feel. The best description for Hyderabad that I can for is - It is a village that is trying to become a metropolitan very fast. A metropolitan is not just about tall buildings or bunch of IT companies or for that matter a lot of money. The word metropolitan identifies a culture. It comes up with a lot of social responsibilities and moral values. Mumbai became what it is in more than 300 years. Please don't insult Mumbai and Mumbaikars by comparing Hyderabad with Mumbai.

I have not seen too many places and have been confined pretty much to the limits of Mumbai city for a long long time. Maybe rest of the country is like Hyderabad. I don't know. But if that is the case, we must stop feeling good about ourselves. It is our country and we must take the responsibility of making things right.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Visual Studio 2008 beta 2 launched

July 26th was quite a happening day at Microsoft. As outlined in my previous post, Microsoft launched "Open Source at Microsoft" to connect better with the Open Source Community.

On the same day, Microsoft launched beta 2 of Visual Studio 2008 and .net framework 3.5. Also, there came an announcement that Silverlight 1.0 RC will be available for public download in the next couple of days.

For further details on Visual Studio 2008, you can see go to Visual Studio 2008 Downloads website.

Open Source at Microsoft

I know exactly what's on your mind. Is this some kind of a joke??? Well! your reaction to the unexpected title is quite expected. Generally, developers (or in general software users) do not relate Microsoft and open source in a positive sense.

But Microsoft has shown time and again that it is committed to the evolution of software platforms and to sharing knowledge via various open source/shared source initiatives. On July 26th 2007, Microsoft took one more step to reaffirm its commitment.

Bill Hilf, General Manager, Competitive Strategy at Microsoft announced plans to submit the Microsoft Community License (MS-CI) and Permissive License (PL) to the OSI. Both these licenses are available as of today.

Additionally, Microsoft launched a new web property Open Source at Microsoft that contains information like how to get engaged with Microsoft in various shared source initiatives and updates on what Microsoft is doing in this space.

I remember I heard of Rotor (commonly known as SSCLI) several years back. I am amazed to see people still getting amazed by the fact that Microsoft has such an initiative. In fact, that precisely is the reason why the title of this post startled you. Probably we were not able to build a proper channel to connect with the open source community. The newly launched initiative will sure help bridge this gap.

BTW, you see... I wasn't joking :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2007


No! Its not another 'i' from Apple :-)

We all listen to mp3 and we can select from a large number of portable mp3 players out there in the market. But, if you are someone like me, you also want to sing those songs and probably record your own voice with your favorite music and listen to it. Yeah.. I know I can do that with so many Karaoke systems that are available. How about having a single device that helps me do both - listen to mp3, act as a karaoke system and record my own voice with my favorite music.
i-Singh does just that. "It's Outrageous", one of the entertainment companies in the US has launched the world's first interactive, handheld MP3-Karaoke player, that allows users to sing along to their favorite tunes, listen to top hits, and record their own voices all at once. This ultimate portable device brings together MP3 and Karaoke technologies like never before.
Watch the video below

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The ultimate fan

I have a news. Its kinda strange but definitely pleasant. least to me :-).

Let me ask a question. How big a fan you are of Microsoft? I know there are quite a few Microsoft fans around here and they will have all sorts of things to justify that they are the biggest fans. But wait... the fan that I am talking about is definitely the biggest fan of Microsoft.

Microsoft MVP Bil Simser named his daughter "Vista Avalon Simser". I don't have to say what Vista is. Avalon was the codename for Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). And Simser ofcourse is Bil's family name.

There is something more to it. If Bil had had a son instead of a daughter, he says, he would have made sure that his son's initials read as DOS (the first name being "Dev").

Geeks do all sort of things (which may sound weird but trust me, we have our sentiments attached to things we do). This is just one of them. I am now waiting for more of these. How about having names like - Zune, Linux, iPod, William 2.0(instead of Willuam Jr.)

For those of you who still don't believe me on this story, Bil runs a blog titled Fear and Loathing on And here is the post that introduced Vista Avalon Simser to the world. You are already famous baby girl!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Remembering 11 minutes of disaster

Today marks first anniversary of what I remember as the worst day of my life as a Mumbaikar. Exactly one year back, 7 bombs exploded within a span of 11 minutes in local trains at different locations across the western suburban line of the city claiming 209 lives and injuring over 700 others.

Thinking of the portentous day, memory of each moment makes my heart heavier. I do not have words to describe how much I love Mumbai and the people out there. It’s a city that taught me the way to live life. And it was really really painful to see my city losing its pulse.

As I got the news, my heart stated sinking. It was not more than a year ago that rains lashed Mumbai claiming hundreds of lives. And now a terrorist attack... Why is this happening to my city? I had fair bit of an idea that the telephone networks would soon get either suspended or they will be very congested as it happens on every disaster of this scale. I immediately tried calling home and ensured everyone is fine there. Then I tried calling my father but his cellphone was unreachable. It wasn’t too unexpected as his network provider doesn’t have a very good network. But still, my father being untraceable was something that added to my fear and grief. Hoping for the best, I called up at his office and got to know that he had gone out for a meeting and should have finished with it now. In my mind, I tried to calculate the time it takes to reach from the place where the meeting was to the bombing spots and I was quite sure he was not in any of those trains. I was a bit relieved. Then I called some of my friends to ensure everyone was fine and to inform that I was fine.

Having got to know that my father was not on any of the bombed trains, but still was untraceable, I decided to take onto the roads and go to the place where he had gone to attend the meeting. I started from my office at Kandivli at about 6:45 PM. I had a long way to go (more than 40 kms) to reach Churchgate. And I knew it was not going to be easy. All the local train services were shut down. And anyone who is familiar with Mumbai would know the huge number of people using local trains as major mode of transport. It happened during peak hours and the sheer thought of millions of Mumbaikars travelling on road was scary.

All the while, I kept picking up people and kept dropping them. No traffic cop stopped for having 3 people sitting behind me on my bike. I could see thousands of stranded people trying to get into any vehicle that could help them get to their homes.

Seeing my city so helpless was painful. And the pain was very intense. I didn’t realize when I started crying. All I remember is that I stopped the bike in a corner and cried like hell. I could not handle it anymore. Somehow I gained some courage back and I started my journey again. When I reached Bandra, I got a call from my father. He said he was fine and he was at a family friends place in Wadala.

In the next two hours, I reached there and picked him up. Coming back home was no different. We had about 50 kms distance to cover (from Wadala to Bhayander). Still the same kind of traffic. The only thing that was different was that now we had people on the streets helping others who were stranded in whatever way they could. Some were offering water, some were distributing biscuits. Everyone was ready to help others. I again had tears in my eyes. But this time, it was not just out of grief it was more out of a sense of pride, a sense of belonging.

I kept riding until I reached Malad. It had been almost 6 hours that I was riding my bike. I took some rest there for about 30 minutes and then started again. We reached home at about 3 AM.

News channels across the world were airing the footages of the blast sites. We could see it all... Blown off trains, rattled bodies, shaken people, some crying some still in shock. I specially remember that it was raining. Kept raining for the most part of the night. Seemed like nature was mourning at the sacrifice of martyrs of Mumbai.

The calendar on the wall says it was one year back, but even now, all memories are still fresh on my mind. I want to forget it but I just cannot. It rarely happens to me but I am falling short of words to describe what I am feeling right now. May the souls of the martyrs rest in peace and god give strength to all the families that lost their loved ones. I wish and pray to God that such an inhuman thing never repeats anywhere in the world.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good news for Windows Live Search

A recent study by revealed that Live Search increased its query volume by 67% from May and 48% from a year ago. Quoting the entry on Compete Blog,

Google finally has a competitor join it in the (until now) exclusive, positive-year-over-year-growth club. MSN/Live increased their query volume by 67% from May, and 48% from a year ago. Search volume was up all across the board in June and took most everyone else in the same direction.

Now, that's impressive!!! Cheers!!!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Yet another Grand Slam for the king of Grass

It was pure beauty to watch the Wimbledon men's final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal yesterday. It was for the first time after 2001 that a Wimbledon final had gone for five sets. It was real pleasure watching the two legendary players fight for each point.

I could not see the whole match as I had gone out to meet some friend. I saw it from the fourth set (Federer was leading with 2 sets to 1; and in the fourth set, Nadal had broken Federer's first serve). Nadal was at his best in the fourth set. Smashing the ball around, making Federer stretch himself to the maximum limits. At several occasions, Federer seemed to loose confidence. Specially at a point when Nadal challenged a decision and the decision was reverted to favor Nadal. It was quite evident that Federer was loosing it. At least I felt so. I am sure nobody wanted to see a champion loose his temper. But a champion that he is, he made a magnificent return in the fifth and the final set. Remarkable is the only word that comes to my mind. Towards the end of it, Nadal almost cried.

It was fifth time in a row that Federer won the Wimbledon title leveling the record of Björn Borg. You rock Roger!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A thing called (bad???) luck

My sister's 10th grade results came out last weekend. She got 86 percent. Pretty impressive (better than mine)!!! This was a big occasion in my little sister's life, so I decided to visit her back in my hometown of Mumbai. I booked "Bus" tickets for both ways (It is a 14hr journey from Hyderabad to Mumbai in a bus). Anxiously waiting for Friday evening somehow slipped through the week. I had no idea what was in the store for me. This was going to be a journey of a lifetime.

Day - Friday June 29th, 2007. Time - 6:30 PM. After finishing my day-job, I went to Rahul's office (he also works with Microsoft, but in a different location). We left his office at about 7 and reached the bus stop by 7:30. We kept talking, sometimes taking a look at the TV that was airing 2nd ODI cricket match of the Future Cup between India and South Africa. Slowly time passed and I was ready to leave. 8:30 PM sharp, the bus started and I was headed home!!!

The night was pretty dull. Though I didn't have any expectations of "a night in a bus" to be exciting, it was way too boring. The bus stopped by a "Dhaba" at about 11 PM and I had my dinner. After coming back into the Bus, I started listening to my favorite songs on my Nokia 6280 (I realized later, this was one of the biggest mistakes I made). Don't know what time did I sleep but I do know that I woke up somewhere in the middle of the night and turned my phone off (with hardly any charge remaining).

Day - Saturday June 30th, 2007. Time - 7 AM. I woke up due to some noise. Realized that we were very close to Pune and the bus had stopped because someone had to get down. Felt really happy. Closer to home. The bus started again. Nothing significant happened until we reached Pune. That was when I called up home and got to know that it was raining heavily in Mumbai and local trains have stopped.

This was no shock to me. It happens many a times in Mumbai. But, I wasn't prepared for it. My cellphone was terribly low on battery. There were no trains running. It was a flood like situation in the city. And that flood hit city was where I was going!!!

I kept telling myself - calm down, don't panic, everything is going to be just fine. Things could have gone fine but as my luck had it, the bus broke down due to some weird technical problem (as described by the staff). I was about 70 kms away from home. Stranded. With a phone that will work only for 10 minutes if I kept it ON, a bag that had my laptop, and (very) heavy rains.

After an hour of marathon effort, I got an autowala agreed to drop me till Vashi (some 20 km from the place where the bus broke down). The auto driver was really gutsy. He drove through fully submerged roads and took me till Vashi Railway Station.

There was another setback waiting for me. No trains (in straight direction to my home) were operational. There was one route (Vashi-Thane) which was operational but that will take me even further from my home. And, at that time, it was known that there are buses running from Thane till my home. I had two choices, wait at the station for the regular route to become operational; or, go the other way round and try to reach home before the weekend gets over. I chose the latter.

The train wasn't too crowded but still pretty much over-occupied as compared to other days on that route. Anyway, this part of the journey was very smooth. I spoke to a couple of people in the train. We discussed a lot of things - rains, government, politics, corruption, pretty much everything that a common man in a local train would discuss. Once I reached Thane, One of the folks that I was talking to explained to me the directions to the Bus Stop.

One more bad news was waiting for me at the Bus stop - there was a landslide on the way and there won't be anymore buses to Bhayander. Whoops.... what the heck should I do now... I spoke to some of the people out there and the idea of hiring an auto to get closer to home seemed nice. But there was no autowala ready to go there. Kept waiting there at the bus stop for nearly 2 hours. And then came the first good news of the day - the road has been cleared and soon there would be a bus coming in. There were about 250 people waiting for that Bus. I wondered how was I going to get into it. Still kept waiting for soon to get over. After nearly 1 hour, a bus came with Bhayander written on it. Despite me having disliked ST buses the most, at that moment, it seemed to be the most beautiful thing in the world.

People stormed in. ST buses have a single door which is used for entry and exit both. There were 250 people trying to get into a single door all at once. The only phrase that can come close to describing the situation is -"Perfect chaos". Suddenly I saw something amazing. Someone had spotted the emergency exit door (which is at the back of the bus) to be open. That seemed like end of trouble, some of the young guys (including me) took on to the adventurous job of climbing up to the emergency window and pushing our bodies inside the bus.

I sat on a window seat and throughout the way, I could see devastation. Stranded people, broken roads and vehicles. I took a couple of snaps on the way. Will post it here sometimes. But thankfully it wasn't as bad as July 26th 2005. Usually that bus takes about 30 minutes. But that day, it took more than an hour to reach my place.

I reached home by 5:30 PM. almost 8 hours late. Still, it was a big relief for my family to see me.

And yes... my return bus got cancelled and I had to extend my trip for one more day and took a flight on Monday evening back to Hyderabad.

I look at it in two ways - on one hand, it was a bad experience going completely off the pre-planned schedule. On the other hand, I could spend one extra day with my family and off-course got the taste of Mumbai monsoon once again :)

Good luck or bad luck. Whatever you call it. Was definitely a trip worth remembering.