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Archive for October, 2010

Chinese buses and tough questions

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Sneha’s spirited travel blog (, carries a writeup I wrote specifically for the blog, here. I am crossposting it here, below. I call it, “Chinese Buses and tough questions”.

Chinese buses and tough questions

I do not know, how much is the Chinese presence in the transport services sector in this country but the two long distance bus journeys I have done, were all operated by the Chinese (and mostly used by Indians, but that’s another story). I went to Baltimore and it was a 3.5 hours ride, one way. The plan was impromptu so I had to run around between the various avenues of 34th street, in Manhattan. I had lost almost all hopes of getting a bus until the man at Starbucks told me to go to 34th Street, between 7th avenue and Broadway, for the buses to Baltimore. Turned out, even the locals call it the “Chinese buses”. Why did I go to Starbucks when I was short on time? Free wi-fi. Caf, Decaf, tall or grande, latte or black, flavored or not– tough questions to answer at the Starbucks counter when all you need is to know the bus stop you should be on, in the next 5 minutes.

For whats it worth, Baltimore was a coming of sorts. I used to work for a Baltimore based company, my first American clients at work. We worked for more than 2 years, nurturing a product that was very dear to us only to be told, one fine morning in India, that the company had gone bankrupt. Before that, our folks from India (not me) had been there, worked from that location and sent pictures and videos of the place. The office overlooked the harbor and it was a beautiful sight. Today, with the same colleagues, I went there and had coffee (Starbucks, again) and stared at the magnificent World Trade Center Building that once had our office (the one I had never been to). Its funny, how life comes a full circle. Here I am, I thought, 5 years after a debacle that almost derailed my career, staring at a building and trying to locate the 17th floor, where I got instructions from, for such a long and important part of my career as a software fresher. Who would have thought I’d do this one day? Not me.

Coming back from the same Chinese bus, a middle aged man (possibly Indian, I thought), chose to sit next to me. Turned out, he was from Pakistan. For the most part of the journey, he chatted about how the politicians have rotted his country (and mine), his hatred for Mountbatten and Bhutto and teachings of Mao Zedong. Apart from a brief while when he gave me a mini lecture suggesting me to embrace Islam, talking with him was very insightful and even interesting. For the very little while that it was not, I have learnt to politely nod my head to talks about religion and the propaganda. This is not the first time and this won’t be the last, but I can only hope that I am not subjected to talks of these kind on a bus journey. I have heard the Church’s propaganda at Madison Square when Korean teenage kids came to me and explained how Christ is the answer to all my problems and I have this man, on the left now, who is telling me, point blank, what I should be doing to avoid getting my handsome face burnt in Hell. I find it strange that people think it is okay to propagate on something as sensitive as religion despite being aware (?) that at least for the past few centuries religion, as we know it, has poised more difficult questions than given explanatory answers. Questions at Starbucks, ah, they were easy.

Written by aditya kumar

October 8th, 2010 at 11:07 am

Posted in Personal


with one comment

My wife’s maternal grandfather was once the Vice Chancellor of Jammu University. It was a long time ago but recently, exercising his capacity as a retired educationalist, he wrote an open letter to the Kashmiri separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Obviously, it is an outcome of the pain he has experienced because of what the Kashmir valley has gone through in the past few months. I am reproducing the letter here, as is.

An open letter to Mr Geelani


Geelani Sahib, I have to say with anguish that your rigid political posture is doing more harm than good to the peace-loving people of Kashmir. I think Pakistan played the most cruel joke with the people of Kashmir by foisting a proxy war on them and now you are shooting your darts. Instead of placing computers and loptops in the hands of the youth of Kashmir to prosper, you are placing stones in their hands to perish.

When you came out of your detention from Chashmashahi hut, you advised the people not to resort to violence. You said to them, ‘‘If you have taken out a procession and you are stopped by the police, you adopt the strategy of the sit-down protest in the Gandhian way without having a violent confrontation with the police. ’’ Everybody welcomed this change in the mode of protests. But, unfortunately, this change did not last long. Again, there was the vicious circle of stone-pelting, firing, loss of a valuable life, a funeral procession, again stone pelting….

If you swore by Gandhian ways of non-violent struggle, you should have halted your agitation at this juncture. The moment there was violence, Gandhiji would withdraw his agitation. He would not wait for 100 youth to die to take this decision. Starting an agitation is easy, but withdrawing an agitation when it is going in a wrong direction, needs courage.

Why are you asking for azadi so passionately ? The dignity and honour of the people of Kashmir are safe in India. Moreover, a Muslim majority State becoming a willing part of India will strengthen the secular character of Indian Democracy which is in the interest of the Indian Muslims. Your stance of azadi gives the impression that Indian Muslims are in India on account of compulsion because they have no other choice. Where they have a choice, they want to opt out of India.

The greatest casualty of the disturbed situation in Kashmir has been the education of the children. And as an educationist I feel concerned about it. During militancy in 1994 I went to Srinagar once. As I passed through Lal Chowk on my way to the Secretariat, I saw children going to schools in their uniforms with bags on their backs. I thought Pakistan had not been able to kill the spirit of the people of Kashmir. What Pakistan could not achieve, you have achieved. The schools and colleges are closed and studies of the students are suffering. Many of them are roaming about in Jammu with their parents and knocking at the doors of local educational institutions seeking permission to attend the classes. What a pity !

And now, Geelani Sahib, I seek a personal favour from you. When I was Director of Colleges from 1973 to 1975, you were an MLA you used to come to me to seek favours for your voters. Now, in turn, I seek one favour from you.

I am told Assalam-o-Alaikum means ‘peace be upon you’. I request you to just say Assalam-o-Alaikum to the people of Kashmir.

Yours etc…
Prof M R Puri
Vice Chancellor (Retd)
Jammu University

Written by aditya kumar

October 2nd, 2010 at 4:55 am

Posted in Personal