We took the MRT from City Hall (Raffles City) to Changi Airport. Singapore
has this wonderful policy - turn in your tranport card (EZlink) and they
refund a $5 deposit AND the unused balance. We had enough for a couple of
coka colas from the local 7-11 shop in the airport and a box of After 8 mints
Chennai is best characterized as real life chaos. The story is still unfolding
We arrived in Chennai about 10pm from Singapore with a welcome drop in
temperature. Raj met us - and straight away we were at the Madras club in
our old room 7. Monday we started doing the essentials - purchasing a new
SIM card for my GSM phone (AirTel); closing our Bank of America account
(the BofA has decided to increase its profit margin by closing
non-commercial account - I'll tell this delightful story below - a tale
of economics with Mr. Srinivasin); opening a new account at another bank;
and reconnecting with IIT.
First the pleasant surprises. The Singapore airport (Changi) has an
active wireless system what was open for demonstration. So we were able
to sit in one of their comfortable chairs, turn on the laptop and read
email. The first one was from Raj - asking for our flight arrival info. I
tried to phone Raj (I purchased a Sinapore Telecom SIM card) but there was
insufficient balance. But I was able to send an SMS message to him which
he received and replied with another SMS message. In the mean time, I found
a shop with cards to "top up" my mobile phone credit - so I purchased this
and phoned Raj to finalize the details. We flew to Madras and surprise of
all surprises - my SingTel account still worked - with international
roaming. Next surprise, when I purchased the AirTel SIM card - it included
international SMS as well as international email. Moreover there was an
email address (email@example.com) so that our kids could send us email.
So getting reconnected, by GSM mobile phone was really pleasant.
So here is the first day in Chennai (Madras) - riding on the back of Raj's
motorcycle. These are street scenes just to give you a taste of this place -
a variety of transport styles, police guys with large stomachs, and of course,
her Bigness, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Perhaps the most interesting
discovery, was to continue my study of video CDs. In Singapore, these were
available for almost nothing - perhasp 50 cents to $1 - recent movies
as well as a variety of Chinese and Indian presentations. I downloaded
XINE while waiting for our flight at Changi airport, and found that xine
(run as a linux application) could play these. So when I was downtown in
Chennai - I looked for some more, to continue testing the price and
availability. No region coding, no DSS, just pure entertainment for a
So we start with our place of staying, the Madras Club - started, as I
understand, by the East India Tea Company in the mid 1800s. Here is the
front and back - and the best part - probably the worlds only 500 meter track.
front and back
and my 500 meter track
There is plenty of fresh food available - fresh chicken and fresh fruit.
The small bananas are particularly tasty - about 20 cents/12.
To get around - you have several possibilities - an autorickshaw, a machine
of uncertain origin, usually equipped with bicycle horn, driver and a place
to sit. You sit behind the driver, and if he has a friend, you listen to
100 km/hr nonstop Tamil.
In addition, there is riding on a motorcycle, my preferred mode.
Then there is the ancient tricycle, the real rickshaw.
And there are newer and older variants for transport of "stuff"
Then there is the trusty Ambassador - unchanged in styling since the
British left in 1947 - a car that is virtually indestructable.
There is only one way to characterize traffic and driving in Madras (Chennai) -
chaos. There are 3 rules for driving successfully:
1) don't collide with what is in front of you
2) don't think about what is happening behind you
3) and if "it" makes a noise louder than your vehicle's noise, then "it"
has the right-of-way (the law of large noises).
India is multi-modal in its transport.
Count all the different modes of transport in this pohtos - and note the
discipline, orderly flow of traffic and pedestrians and animals.
Of course, there is traffic contrl, always under the watchful
eye of the local policeman - who
all appear to enjoy eating and standing in profile, to demonstrate the results
of their eating. Again, closely examine the traffic pattern (or absence).
Real brownian motion.
Then there is politics and movies - the two main sources of entertainment
in Chennai. Shown here are different presentations of Her Bigness, the
chief minister of Tamil Nadu - Jayalalithaa - a sometimes attraction at
local entertainment centers. Whether politics or movies - the entertainment
value is always the same.
I particularly like the above shot - Its Christmas time, and it seems only
appropriate that Her Bigness watch over her flock by night - simply to
protect them from Veerappan, the forest bandit.
Indian politics is wonderful entertainment. Usually lots of words and
unattributed pronouncements: the centre stated this or "he" stated
unequivocally that. The high degree of intangible rhetoric,
posturing, etc - compared with the absence of tangible strategies
and results simply
fills your day with chuckles and laughter. I noted this last January when
Pakistan and India collided at the Kathmandu conference. Press descriptions
gave vivid descriptions of Musharraf's statements - attributed to him. But
Vajpayee? No attribution to any "real" Indian person appeared from my readings,
with respect to the border tensions in the Kashmir region whereas there were
endless attributions to specific Pak individuals. So great was the contrast
in "reporting" and so absent was US reporting on this contrast, that you wonder
where all our "objective" reporters were :). In addition, so little reference
was made to the destruction of the Muslim Temple in Ayodhya (that, in my
opinion, fired this latest increase in border tensions). We were residents
here in 1993-1994 near the time of the Mosque destruction. So much made of
the Taliban destruction of the Bhuddist statutes in Afganistan, but very little
made of the Vajpayee complacency with respect to the Mosque and its replacement
by a Ram Hindu temple.
The recent meeting of Putin and Vajpayee is a great
example of this. As reported in India Today (Dec 16, 2002).
A reality check:
"Putin's strong words against Pakistan's machinations, joint working group on
terrorism, new delcaration to boost economic relations and convergence on Iraq."
"Stagnation on trace, bottlenecks in defence deals, corrupt bureaucracy,
strategic triangle with China seen as unrealistic, and racial violence
against Indians in Moscow."
Note that the upside is all words while the downside is all deeds.
The unpleasant surprises - closing our account at BofA, and being told that
the "cost" for inconveniencing us with the forced closing had just gone up.
It was not enough for us to close our account, but now we had to pay some
fees for this privilege. Hmmmm - If this reflects BofAs operating policy,
then sell their stock - there operating costs are about to skyrocket!
A Construction Symphony - Parallel processing
at its best
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