Saturday, May 26, 2007


Yes, for eleven weeks. It better end soon.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The "Dream" Act

There are a few ways to be a part of the great American dream if you are not born an American. You can study hard, go through the the incredibly uncertain procedure of applying to the American universities from abroad, get through with some luck, get financial support from the school with some more luck, and land up in the land of opportunities. Then struggle in an unfamiliar land to successfully finish you degree and hopefully get a job - which would eventually help you to become a citizen after lengthy intermediate phases. The other way would be to get a job here, or at least pretend to, and then hope to get lucky in the "great h1b visa giveaway lottery".

Or you can just immigrate illegally. At least that is what the "Dream Act" (The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, in short, coming up in Congress soon) named so appropriately tells you to do. In a nutshell, it says if your parents immigrated illegally, but you do not have any criminal record (immigrating illegally is certainly not criminal any more) and if you went to high school for a certain period here, you would be considered legal resident. No luck factor involved. You can then join the army - I am sure they need more people to maintain world peace. Not just that, you would be paying discounted in-state tuition if you go to college. What is so bad about that? Most of the Americans from different states or "legal" non-American students do not get to pay in-state tuition automatically. So moral of the story is, immigrating illegally is not so bad after all - in fact it may lead to some "dream" rewards later.

Somehow, just a year before the presidential elections, the theme sounds all to familiar for us, used to seeing politicians hell bent on handing out preferential treatments to certain sections of the people arbitrarily. No points for guessing where the eerie similarity is.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Alabama:1250 miles in 4 days

Sleeping at home during the weekends is always a fantastic idea, and I never seem to get enough of it. However, this being the summer break week, and a desolate town tempted me enough to hit open roads and drive to Birmingham in Alabama. Now I must agree that Alabama is not a really enticing place overall, in the middle of deep south it feels more like midwest, with sheer nothingness for miles and miles.

The rapidly spreading forest fires made northbound freeways smokey. In fact while coming back, I could not use them at all and drive all the back using obscure state roads. I decided to make my pit stop at the quiet little town called Eufaula in Alabama, just across the Georgia border. This is one of the few towns in the these parts which were left alone by union troops during civil war, so this still town is home to an unbelievable number of grand old mansions and walking past them is a different experience altogether. Travelling northwest from Eufaula, I came upto Montgomery, the state capital and drove a little while on the highway 80, which goes upto Selma, the town better known for the civil rights movement demonstration and marches.

Driving further north, a part of it in blinding rain, I reached Birmingham, the biggest city in the state. Like most of southern cities I have seen, it is unevenly parsed with magnificent architectures and not so inviting areas. And it kind of has an identity of its own - the industrial revolution which made it the so called "magic city", the tumultuous civil right movements in the sixties which shaped the city's character and later came the University. The civil rights institute in downtown should be a must visit attraction for anyone interested in that part of of American history and the adjacent Kelly Ingram park houses often disturbing sculptures depicting the violence from the movement. A giant statue of Vulcan towers over the city atop the hill, and a view of the downtown from high up there is pretty neat. The restaurant scene (well, good food is a must in any of my trips!) is pretty vibrant and diverse too, specially the "Fish Market" was awesome.

After exploring the city, it was time for some outdoor activities. Little river canyon and De Soto state park was an hour or so up northeast and provided some nice scenic views and hiking trails in the forest. Nothing extraordinary, but a pleasant nevertheless. The drive back to "home" was pretty uneventful, passing through little sleepy towns with perhaps more churches than shops, and sometimes with funny names like Ty Ty.

The photos tell the story, and they are at, as always,

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A couple of gems from Indian media

I was pleasantly surprised to see Indian mainstream media covering NFL draft - since just a few months back I was frustrated looking for college national championship game live telecast. For the uninitiated, draft is where the professional teams select players from college teams. Here is the screenshot from NDTV's website. Looks all good, but wait! What is with that black and white soccer ball?

If that sounds too American-ish to you, here is one from our own Telegraph. This is a a letter to the editor in today's edition, right at the top.

Loo and behold
Sir — Even if every Indian household was to be provided with plush toilets and running water, it is doubtful if Indians would ever stop urinating and defecating in the open (“After trillion, target No. 2”, April 28). The reasons are historical and biological. The high fibre-content in Indian meals and the water intake, owing to the hot and humid climate, make Indians defecate more frequently than their Western counterparts. Indians also suffer from perpetual stomach ailments because of the inferior quality of potable water. As they cannot live in the comfort of their homes throughout the day, nor use public toilets as and when required, they often need to relieve themselves in the open. The sight of people defecating along railway tracks in the morning is distasteful no doubt. But one should remember that most occurrences of cracks in the railway track (caused by contractions in the metal because of changes in temperature) are reported by these people, thus saving lives and railway property.
Yours faithfully, Tapan Pal, Batanagar

Here is the link, for those who actually think I can create a masterpiece like that.