the great secret behind chennai roads

The rains are up (except the fact that there were sudden showers last night) and the summer is fast approaching. As is the case every season for the past few years now, as a Chennai-ite, you’d be treated to a dazzling display of new tar roads freshly laid by the corporation of Chennai. This is an elaborate process involving many labourers, uninterrupted burning of rubber in order to obtain hot, molten tar – this, despite the government itself asking people to stop burning plastics, rubber and other harmful materials – and a noisy rolling of the famous road-rollers which are invariably yellow in color for some reason that I’ve yet to fathom.

Why is the road being laid every year? Why can’t there be roads that withstand the hardships at least for three or four years? Why is the corporation so excited about laying the roads every year or at times, twice within an year? Why are the roads so weak and pothole ridden by the time the rains that batter them vanish?

These are some of the pressing questions that every household discusses every time one of the members of the household sees a road-roller or a fresh coating of tar road over the existing, damaged one. Luckily, an expert who’ll remain unnamed – for no other reason than the fact that there’s no such expert (which is because this is a work of fiction) – has the greatest answers revealed for us. Here they are for your perusal.

1. Why is the corporation laying roads every year? Doesn’t this show that the roads are quite weak and of inferior quality?

A: Well, that’s how the public sees it, but there is a huge process and good-will behind this phenomenon. By laying roads every year, we are creating such huge employment that is simply outstanding. Such measures are being lauded by the Centre and are therefore being followed every year without fail. This does not mean that the roads are weak – rather, it just means that we instruct the labourers, the supervisors and others in charge to lay roads that would peel off at the slightest instance of rain. These days, we want to make sure even a drizzle would be enough to scrape off the road so that more employment opportunities are created.

2. But then, doesn’t this post a very heavy budget every year?

A: Interestingly, yes it does cause a strain on budget but the sole motive is to make others earn money.

3. Earn money? You are referring to labourers and the workers employed?

A: Oh no no, of course not. They do earn a very meagre sum as wage – half of which returns back to us through our TASMAC shops. But the people I am referring to here is the officers and other white-collars. The constant laying and re-laying of roads means we need contracts. This means there’d be a huge cash flow. About 60% of this money goes for road-laying expenses and the rest is accounted as miscellaneous expense – which means, a car, a house, hot cash in suitcases and other things that the general public refers to as ‘bribe.’

4. Getting to the technical aspect – relaying roads over laid ones is an obviously bad idea. The right way, I guess, is to remove the old layer and then lay the new one. But why is the new road being relayed simply over an existing one?

A: This is really good question. But the answer to this is very important and critical so listen carefully. Firstly, as most people think, this is not because we want to siphon off large sums of money under miscellaneous expenses but because of two specific reasons: One, only such an idiotic relaying would ensure our first motive – that of being able to make the roads weak which in turn causes more employment opportunities. Two – and this is the most important one – is due to Global Warming.

6. Global Warming??

A: Yes! As strange as the connection sounds, the main idea is this: if we keep laying roads over old ones, sooner or later, the land levels would become higher than they presently are. At the current trend of global warming, sea levels are going to rise rapidly. Chennai, being a coastal city, runs the risk of being submerged, losing some of the land near the sea-shore and other such catastrophes. The only way to avoid this is by elevating the city’s altitude from mean sea level. This is why, each year, roads are laid over existing ones. We hope to make Chennai’s altitude at least 1250 metres by the end of 2020. So in a way, we are saving humanity from a catastrophe.

After that, and especially after that last statement, neither the “expert”, nor the guy who asked the questions were to be found. Apparently, the former has been allotted a room in a famous hospital in Kilpauk. The latter’s whereabouts still remain a mystery. Nevertheless, road-laying is in full effect this month for employment guarantee, miscellaneous expenses and avoiding the effects of global warming.

(This whole blogpost is pure fiction. Except the stupid facts that new roads are being laid over old ones, roads are weak and burning of rubber, none of the other things are to be taken as serious and true depictions of facts. And most importantly, the author is not to be held responsible for any factual errors, defamation and misrepresentation. photo-credits – here)

long live the gregorian

(photo credits – DailyFunStuff.net)

One of the things that has always happened with me, almost every time without fail, is that whenever I look at the night sky, and find a full moon, I ask my mother or father if the day is a full-moon day (termed Poornima in Sanskrit and other daughter languages of it). Invariably, Poornima would either be the day before I asked that query or the day after I had asked the question. Tonight, as my dad and I were returning home, the sky was bereft of anything other than the imposing full-moon (or as luck would have it, almost-full moon) and a few scattered stars. I made my query and – not to my surprise – Poornima was yesterday.

This got me thinking, not about the strange Providence which never lets me ask “is it Poornima?” on the day it really is, but about the whole system of dates, days, weeks, months and years we have. There have been many calendars in the world – many still being followed in their respective regions and few reaching prominent utility in more places than one and at least one calendar reigning supreme throughout the world – the Gregorian Calendar, that is said to have come into effect on some day in February, 1582. This calendar is what many of us call, the Christian Calendar, and this is what almost every household follows.

But as with most things the world follows – blindly or not – there is a superficial level of intelligence and a core level of stupidity in the calendar which we have come to accept as an international standard. Before I embark on a journey of saying what’s so impressively not-so-impressive about the Gregorian, first, let us undertake a simple journey through the components of calendars, and the utility of the same.

The basic calculation for the calendars can be broadly said to be of two types – lunar: this is based on the moon’s revolution around the earth and sidereal: this is based on the earth’s revolution around the sun. One complete revolution of the moon around the earth takes about 29 days and some more hours (which I am too lazy to access and quote here) and one complete revolution of the earth around the sun takes 365 days and some hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds, microseconds, nanoseconds and others (of which, again, I am too lazy to access and quote).

 

So, a month, more or less becomes a lunar calculation and an year, more or less again, becomes a sidereal calculation. This is the superficial intelligence of the Gregorian Calendar. There are months and there is an year. And things do seem to happen in a routine, cyclical, annual fashion.

But here’s the plum that draws our attention:

  • The “apparently, initially, historically, lunar-based” months of the Gregorian Calendar are not equally distributed. January has 31, June has 30 and February has 28 or 29. This did not come up randomly – this was done after due consideration; which means to say that, after much deliberation, a bearded astronomer, who got quite bored looking at the empty sky (apparently, it was Amavaasya, new-moon) decided that nothing can be done here. If the moon began revolving the earth randomly – like our months – I am sure earth’s seas would get pissed off.
  • The concept of leap year is as simple as it can be – ninety-seven leap years every four hundred years and no leap year if the year is divisible by 100 – except when it is also divisible by 400. If this statement looks even a wee-bit complicated, you should stop looking at this post and look at the calendar – one day at a time.
  • Septa, in Greek or Latin, means seven, but September is the ninth month. Octa is eight, but the tenth month. Same applies to November and December where each is an equivalent of nine and ten but come out as the eleventh and twelfth month every year. I have heard words transforming their meaning into something related or unrelated over a period of time due to misinterpretation, but people doing this even when they knew the meaning is simply stupendous and deserves a pat on the back.
  • The above point comes actually because Julius Caesar and his nephew Augustus decided to take their reign of supremacy and prowess to the then existing calendar with due consultations and considerations from expert astronomers and astrologers (probably) – who were again bearded. They added the month of July and August, in order to get a collection of lunar months to coincide seamlessly with the solar year without causing much trouble – at least in their lifetime – but adding two to Septum (and making it ninth), two to Octa (and making it tenth) and so on.
  • The Gregorian tries to achieve a higher sense of accuracy in matching its sidereal year (annual year) with the exact time period of earth’s revolution. In the process, however, the lunar concept is thrown out into the space, no damned pun intended, and that is how you end up having a February that has no clue as to why it suddenly bulges once every four years – expect the one divisible by 100 and not by 400, mind you.
  • Interestingly, these “days”, the typical day starts at 00:00, when Sun’s in deep sleep (for the part of the world where it’s 00:00) and the typical night, should, therefore start at 12:00 (afternoon) when you can make omelets on bald heads. This means day is not a day in the typical sense, nor is night a night. Never get confused there.
  • And finally, the greatest thing about Gregorian is that, very impressively, Einstein popped up suddenly and said that the paths of the planet were not constant and static either – but that the very elliptical path was moving around the sun. This means, if you draw the ellipse of revolution around the sun (denoting the path of the earth around the sun), besides the earth, the ellipse itself would seem to be revolving around the sun, although at a snail’s pace. How much fluctuation this might cause – is something I am not ready to even think of. Gregorian has caused enough confusions as of now.

Despite all its seemingly idiosyncratic behaviour, the Gregorian is the one we will follow, till a calendar system with more weekends comes up. The other calendar systems of the bygone era – most notably, the Indus-Aryan Calendar and the Chinese Calendar, which are lunisolar in nature (having lunar months and solar years) – have attained prominence during their times and have a very sound and solid reasoning, scientific application and logic. At least there has not yet been a Chief Minister or a Premier who added a whole month in his name. Not yet, that is.

Anyway, I sign off saying only one thing. I might have been making fun of Gregorian. But this is what I will be using, at least for some more “sidereal” years and “lunar” months. Till then, I will happily say, Long Live Gregorian. Long live, till some heads figure out a better calendar system, and the rest of us are herded again towards a new dawn.

data love and data loss – simple tragicomedy

People love their data. Photos, music, videos or playlists, albums, collections – people are so much in love with their data that one would probably think they are married to it rather than to any mortal human. A guy, in all probability, would be more in love with the picture of his girlfriend – located probably at “D:/Photos/My_Fifth_GF/girl.jpg” (for Windows users) or may be at “file://home/johndoe/Pictures/the-fifth/girl.jpg” (for Linux sweethearts) – than his actual, mortal and real-life girlfriend.

A few weeks back, one of my close friends lost a ton of data. Last week, I lost some. That “some” was actually the only data I wanted to backup – a collection of my most favorite soundtracks that would help me shut out the sound of my mother scolding me for not eating breakfast on time, or on other occasions, would help me pace up my work during the evening.

Now, whoever said Shit Happens probably did have the future (read computer data) in mind. From big companies to school-going children, everyone’s got something on their computers which is dear, near and precious. And no matter what, at some point or the other, that piece of data would either become a piece of excreta (synonym, starting with s, four letters) or become lost – gone with the wind. And they want data-backup.

Let me profess a simple exercise for those who have data-backup – look back at that pile of folders, documents and stuff you have saved up as backup. Chances are, one year from now, most of it you are never going to look back at, and much of it is not of any use any more. Photos, movies, ebooks, files, documents – you name it.

It’s a well-known fact that people love data too much and you don’t need me to talk about that. Oh yeah, John Doe buys 1 TB external HDD and stores up all his important files. Two months from now, he is gonna start deleting some of the files on it – because the space ain’t enough. Then? Oh, he’s gonna get tired of deleting unimportant “important files” from very important files. He’s gonna prioritize more seriously – backup very very important files only, and wipe off every other <insert any four letter obscenity here> from the 1 TB external HDD.

Well, whether the above scenario happens or not, shit happens and Murphy predicted right when he declared that if something could go wrong, it most certainly will – especially with hard-disks that sit within the system cursing its owner for making it rotate at 7200rpm, or that sit outside the system, cursing the USB sticking up its behind.

The only data you need to worry about is in your brain. If you lose it, then there’s something more to worry about than the actual data lost because if you lose memories, names, places, events that are going to be important, you should either work on your memory power or consult a brain-specialist – who knows a little more than the fact that the brain is not located in the abdominal region. As for your computer data, be happy it’s there but don’t be sad when it’s gone suddenly. Or, have someone to remind you that shit happens and console you through text messages – like my sister who did that for me! 😉

(comic strip credits – Don Hill Online.)