The lost cities

Warning: Very long post, bit heavy with personal rants and may not be interesting for planet readers

I had read this blog post by Shobha De sometime before my planned trip to Guwahati and Shillong.

She writes:
There is very little pink left in the Pink City, which now resembles an ugly, impersonal,concrete urbanscape, devoid of any character or charm.

I had been anticipating before the journey that the memories of my childhood would be shattered beyond repair once I landed at Guwahati and then further pain awaited me at Shillong, where I was born and lived the first 10 years of my life. My ancestral paternal home was in Guwahati and most of immediate family (on both my father's and mother's side) lived in these two towns. My memories of Shillong are dotted with the beautiful meandering roads with pine trees on both sides, the blue city buses with their chimneys, walking to the Laitumkhrah market in the evening to collect the day's newspaper (we got them in the evening those days, and i learnt much later that newspapers generally come in the morning) and groceries. There was this Khasi lady who sold fish at the market and always insisted my dad to let her adopt me, as she did not have any daughter to pass on the family fortunes. I also remember getting lost while playing at the parking lot of the Nazareth hospital and at the ripe age of 5, walked myself home down mainstreet. Every sunday, it was a ritual to visit the Lady Hydari park, ride the swings and the slides, feed some chickpeas to the monkeys and bamboo leaves to the deer or feed the fishes from the wooden bridge over Ward's lake. There were some weeping willow trees in the park and daddy made me stand at a particular angle to take photographs. Every other week we also went to the State Library, where I used to choose from the rows and rows of Ladybird books in the children section. The year we decided to leave Shillong, we visted all these places and clicked pictures which are still in the family albums.

While Shillong was the daily grind of school, home, rains during school hours, Guwahati used to be the most fun place of this Universe. And the center of this Universe was the beautiful wooden cottage proudly announcing itself to be the residence of Advocate K.P.Bhattacharjee (later this has been changed to simply "Bhattacharjees"). The wooden gate opened into a quaint little garden which led to the biggest rooms, smelling of the incense from the thakur-Ghar and tamul (raw betel/areca-nut, smells foul beyond belief). Inside there was a courtyard and a verandah, where everyone used to sit cross-legged on the floor for meals at lunch and dinner times. A wooden staircase led to the other building, which was also made of wood and used to shake during the thunderstorms. Next to the thakur-ghar was the room with a magic black box - the telephone... oh yeah! When I had no corner to explore or trees to climb or worms to poke or goodies to stuff myself with, I would hover around the telephone waiting (and hoping and praying and sometimes scowling) for it to ring. This house also saw a steady stream of visitors - some came for a few hours and some came to stay for days. It never felt like a house where anyone seemed to live a regular life. It was forever 'festival time'. And the best part was the ride in the cycle-rickshaws, a loud announcement that we were now in the plains. We seemed to go everywhere on these massive cycle rickshaws. There were very few cars (Bijon-kaku had one and used to drive us to his house in it) and buses or any other vehicles. The only buses I seem to remember are the State transport buses that took us back to Shillong. The other important must visit place was the Shukreshwar Ghat, where I used to gape at the massive Brahmaputra river.

I had last been to Shillong in 1998 and to Guwahati in 2002. Those were the trips where my memories got their first jolts. Shillong had changed drastically. The city buses were gone, taxis were swarming the city and suddenly there seemed to be a lot of people everywhere. There was an ugly building in the middle of the city center and roads were dirty. And horror of horrors, there were buildings all over the place. I could not believe that the hill I was staring at from across my old house was the very same one, where we used to often see small fires burning amongst the thick cover of trees. It used to be difficult to spot the two lonely houses on the hill, because they had green tin roofs. The numbers had nearly reversed.

This time the roads seemed narrower. The buildings had grown bigger, uglier and spread in all directions. I visited my school, but no one seemed to be around and I dragged Sankarshan along on my pilgrimage from - old home - beat house - laitumkhrah police point - old school - Don Bosco square - the majestic 'White' Church (which btw has an ugly shade of grey-blue, but we still call it the White Church)-Nazareth hospital. Our plans to go visit the Lake and the Hydari Park were cancelled, perhaps to let my best memories still remain untarnished.

Our house at Guwahati had to be pulled down due to massive damages to the structure and in place of the cottage there stands a concrete building. And same goes for the rest of the locality. The hills around the town used to be visible earlier, but these days one would only get to see rooftops. The "wide" lane that led on to the house seems no bigger than an alley. The roads around the city are choc-a-bloc with traffic, wierdly piled malls and buildings add to the disfigurement and the green cover seems to be reducing very fast.

Like Shillong and Guwahati and Jaipur (and even Pune), perhaps there are more cities and towns in India which are shedding their identity and character to match up with the metro cities. Once inside an assembly line churned apartment home, one can hardly distinguish anymore which part of the country it stands in. And it does'nt seem likely to change anytime soon.

However, nothing can beat a homecoming. A generation has moved ahead and these days instead of songs emanating unexpectedly in my older Uncle's voice, the tinkle of my young niece's phone can be heard. But there still is the hulla-balloo of the "Bhattacharjee" residence. The food still tasted the same and my aunt continues to make sure everyone is well fed, goodies of every shape and flavour could be "accidentally" found in various jars around the kitchen, the visitors still trooped in at every hour, endless cups of tea floated in and out of the kitchen, more books and shelves have been added, heated arguments about politics, literature, movies, etc shatter the silence and the 'festival still continues'.



Its that time of the year again when frantic efforts are underway for yet another Fedora release. Version 12, code named Constantine. Due to a turn of events, this time I got to be part of quite a few intricate processes - involving schedules, process changes and some amount of coordination. All for the Fedora Localization Project of course. As per the Release Schedule, the translation deadline is today - 10th September 2009. However, this time the FLSCo and FLP have been coordinating with Fedora Engineering to help us review the translations directly on the User Interface, by building test packages before the final freeze. Thankfully, FESCo gave us a nod on this and probably right after the translation deadline ends we would be ready to start talking to the package maintainers to get started on the package builds.

Although working on each of these challenges have been mind-numbing at times and mostly late at night after long hours at the day-job, its been immensely satisfying and fun. Probably, I got to experience a very microscopic fraction of the many complications that are very much part of an OS release and I can only try hard to imagine the entirety of the challenges faced and wrestled to the ground each day by people like John Poelstra. There are lots of people all over the world working very hard and for them Fedora is very personal.

(no subject)

If I had the means, at this moment with a really heavy cluebat in hand I would have been looking for the person who was responsible for sending in McCullum to bat along with Gayle in the Superover yesterday and then choosing Mendis to bowl. C'mon guys, I am not so enlightened about the techniques of the game but is'nt it common sense to choose the guy who was batting like a man-possesed until one ball back and was prolly still in the tempo, instead of the Phoren Captain who has consistently been missing his beat. And Ajantha Mendis for the bowling! Waah! I am still wondering, if getting a spinner/slow bowler for the Superover (a potentially more explosive one than the Slog Overs[1]) was the most intelligent of moves, why did Shane Warne himself not come to bowl? Probably its another earth-shaking theory after the multi-captaincy one that only the KKR head honchos have figured out. I hope Sourav Ganguly keeps playing more innings like the one yesterday. He is the icon player and no one can ever replace him from that position for a Kolkata (Knightriders) team.

Meanwhile I completely agree with what GreatBong has to say about the Fake-IPL-Player.

[1] Slog overs : the final 10 overs (particularly the last five) in an ODI match during which batsmen play aggressively scoring at a very high rate. (from here)


(no subject)

Last night my dad called up to narrate a pretty disturbing incident. A senior lawyer colleague of his (an elderly gentleman of 80) was travelling between Kolkata and New Delhi for a case hearing, by Indigo Airlines. While boarding the flight, he managed to trip at the top of the stairs and stumbled inside the plane. A few bruises and cuts resulted due to the fall. After settling into his seat, he called for the stewardess and asked her if she could provide some First Aid. He was shocked when the stewardess replied that they did not have any facility to provide First Aid. He then asked for a band-aid. Not available was the answer. In a last attempt, he asked her if she could provide cottonwool and Dettol. Not available either. More than the cuts themselves, this conversation left him more battered.

Apparently my dad advised him to take a bus next time to Delhi.

I am not sure if this is a one-off incident or a regular thing. I sincerely hope so, as I especially like travelling by Indigo.


The Short(cut) story

The following is a mail written long time ago justifying the usage of the English shortcut keys for localized Bengali applications.

Hi everyone,

Deepayan Sarkar wrote:

I'm slightly confused about this. There are two types of shortcuts,
one in menu items etc (indicated by _ or & in the translated strings),
and one like CTRL-Q to quit an application. Which ones are we talking
about? The first type are activated by pressing ALT. Where does the
CTRL key come in? If we are talking about the second, I didn't even
know that they could be translated. Can they? How?

First up to clarify matters, this issue concerns the alt+hotkey combinations. the ctrl+key combinations as far as I am aware cannot be translated. atleast I have never come across it ever. Hence for saving a file: alt+f+s is different from ctrl+s.

Currently, I use a system with bengali locale and interface as my primary production system. The input method I use is IIIMF. This is an application specific input method switcher. Same goes for SCIM. i.e. these two do not change the keyboard for the entire system. Earlier I have used setxkbmap which was a system level input method switcher and looks like most people in the thread are familiar with this method.

What I have come across regarding alt+hotkeys during my regular work are as follows [along with details]:

#1. Dysfunctional

I will not call the hotkeys non-functional, but dysfunctional. Reason being:


-> En shortcuts work as alt+en key even when the active keyboard is a bengali keyboard [ i use probhat] -> bn shortcuts like alt+bn key do not work even when the active keyboard is a bengali keyboard.

@ setxkbmap

-> bn shortcuts work as alt+bn key or alt+shift+bn key [in case of a character like ফ] with an active bn keyboard.

-> en shortcuts work as alt+key with an active en keyboard

additional info: ctrl+s types shortcuts [which cannot be translated] did not function with an active setxkbmap bn keyboard. but functioned with an active bn keyboard on IIIMF and SCIM.

#2. Inconsistent

Duplication of top-level menu hotkeys as well as submenu hot-key under the same top-level menu item. for e.g. in gnome-games mines বৈশিষ্ট্য -> পূর্ণপর্দা and বৈশিষ্ট্য -> পছন্দ both have hotkeys as alt+প.

#3 Partial Implementation

Now there are two offspins from this one.

@ gtk overrides [for gnome]:

this is specifically for the gnome desktop. as golum was kind of confused about it let me explain in detail. currently in gedit.po file Cut (_C) is translated as কাট করুন (_C), whereas in gtk+ file it is translated as কাট(_ট)। But when populating the menu items for gedit, in some cases instead of the translation being used in gedit.po file the one from gtk+.po file is being used. []. I use a .mo file compiled from the original .po file and the same thing looks as this image. []

@ application related:

this is for applications that do not have a text editor on its primary interface. Again using the example for gnome-games mines [alternatively same game]. this application uses alt+bn key hotkeys.

** IIIMF and SCIM: bn keyboard for this particular application cannot be activated, because there is no text entry box on the primary interface. hence alt+bn hotkeys do not work. alt+en hotkey works. a text entry box appears only when the user is allowed to write in his/her name for the score.

** setxkbmap: alt+bn hotkey combination works on the main interface as setxkbmap sets the system level keyboard to bn.


The reasons for the above mentioned behaviour is unknown to me and I can only comment about them as observations from the perspective of a user. Whether geeky or not, one cannot assume the requirements of a user. sometime back while doing an installation on a test system i had to resort to the hotkeys due to a malfunctioning mouse. at that point of time the shortcuts on anaconda did not function as they were in english and the keyboard used during installation is en. and unlike the gedit solution I mentioned earlier, hacking on installers is not really an available option. This issue has been resolved and I mention this only to highlight the fact that requirements from users can be varied and at times maybe due to unexpected circumstances.

Secondly, the issue regarding consistency between KDE and Gnome. Barring contexts I guess issues for both the desktops ought to be dealt with separately. Yet, known issues in gnome can be used to reference any similar issues arising in KDE and vice versa. I guess kcontrol would be apt example in this case where multiple backend files are being used and consistency is a key element. Similar to the gedit+gtk scenario.

Given that we have come across multiple results, it might be a good idea to go behind the scenes to figure out where exactly things are going wrong. Whether using en shortcuts is a regressive step backward is somewhat fuzzy as of now. Currently, the bn shortcuts are comparitively more dysfunctional and inconsistent. If we need to implement bn hotkeys successfully, first we need to get our homework done and check in the inconsistency factor. Secondly, given the fact that most distros are shipping with IIIMF and SCIM as the default input method framework for localized versions can we afford to promote a bengali desktop that shows stark flaws on the primary desktop interface. [refer #1]. To conclude, imho, it is always better to provide a functional interface that would be open to change and improvement in the future rather than restricting usage in the present.


Incidents of the day

WTF incident of the day

Ok.. so the following incident happened this evening.

I went to this computer peripheral shop, called Rainbow Peripherals in Behala market with my cousin to get a new keyboard for his computer. Since I had a few minutes to kill I thought of having a general conversation with one of the two guys manning the shop. Rough transcript below:

Me: আপনারা অ্যাসেমবল্‌ড কম্পিউটারগুলি যে বিক্রি করেন, তো এতে কোনো Linux ডিস্ট্রিবিউশন যেমন Fedora, Ubuntu... প্রি-লোড করেন কি? (Do you pre-load any Linux distributions likes Fedora, Ubuntu... in the assembled computer units that you sell?)

The guy: (Turns up his lip and Shakes head) না, একদমই নয় (Not at all)

Me: একদমই নয়? একটিও না? (Not at all? Not even one?)

The guy: দেখুন আসলে কি জানেন, Linux প্রোডাক্টটা কোনো কাজে সেভাবে ব্যবহার হয় না। সারা পৃথিবীতে হাতে গোনা কয়েকটা কোম্পানিতে এটা ইউজ হয়। কেউ তো বিশেষ ব্যবহার করেও না, কোমারশিয়ালিও কোনো সাকসেস্‌ হয়নি। কিছু স্টুডেন্টরা ইউজ করে কারণ তাদের কোর্সে পড়ায়, তা ছাড়া তো এটা সেরকম কিছুই নয়। (Well you see, actually the product called Linux is not used for anything at all. There are only a handful of companies in the world where it is used. No one uses it at all and commercially also it is not a succesful product. Some students use it because its part of their curriculum, besides its not really anything important.)

Me: :O (open-mouthed and dumbstruck at this sagely sermon)

(sankarshan and I used to patronize this shop earlier when we stayed in Kolkata, because during those days it was the only half decent computer peripherals shop in this part town.)

FTW incident of the day

After completing all the scheduled work for today, sankarshan treated me to a lunch at park street and then we went all the way to the Milan Mela grounds - a common fair ground developed by the West Bengal government - to visit the West Bengal handicrafts fair. This is my second favourite fair (after the Kolkata Book Fair) and this was my first visit in 5 years. Craftsmen were selling terra-cotta pots and lanterns (etc.), scrolls, jute products, hand embroidered sarees, Chhau masks, wooden dolls etc. Even delicate looking little camels, elephant and swans made out of the fish-scales were on display. I got quite a few little bits and pieces for our home in Pune and gifts for friends. A fun afternoon well spent.


Resurfacing with a tag

First up.. Wishes for a Happy Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri, Bhogali Bihu and all the nice things that are being celebrated today. I was up till nearly midnight last night trying my hand at making "pithe" (পিঠে). Nothing fancy, just the commong "churi-pithe" (চুড়ি পিঠে) that looks similar to "samosas", albeit flatter. Its called "Karanji" in Maharashtra. The fun bit was, I could not make the zig-zag design on them, when I tried the way I had seen my mum do it. So I had left that bit for later and went on with the stuffings. Later on, I picked one up again and this time I could do it, sort of okayish. The reason was, my mum was primarily left-handed and I am not. So I was trying to emulate what I had seen her do and failed miserably when I tried it the first time. The next time, instincts kicked in and voila! Anyways, pictures/procedures would follow soon on my recently started food-blog.

Well, things that happened since the last post include:
1. A whirlwind trip home and spending some nice time with daddy.
2. Saw the most obscenely big mall in South City, Kolkata (courtsey: ishita+surajit) and had some lovely food at Prince (courtsey: sayamindu)
3. A biker decided to dislodge the rear bumper of our car
4. Mad rush with finance management for the entire family (includes me+husband)
5. An enjoyable sprint for KDE 4.2 to complete the required bits translated
6. A potential Firefox 3.0.6/3.1 release for bn-IN
7. A one-day trip to Lonavala with ramkrsna, rakesh, kashyap. (Fultoo fun)
8. Started an itsy-bitsy terrace garden. Hopefully, by the end of the year it would grow much larger (and if those pigeons from the neighbourhood stop eating the plants)
9. Playing around with poterminology
10. Some more events, both in the personal and professional front that makes 24 hours seem just too short a time.
... can't remember the rest. Its been a bit hectic for a while and I just decided to gift myself around 2 hours of time today, to catch up on the pending things-to-do list. (An update in the blog update was one of them)

I might have put off writing this post, if Pike had not tagged me. Ok so here goes:

The rules:

  1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.

  2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.

  3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.

  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

Seven things:

  1. /me once got lost in the streets of Shillong when she was in Kindergarten (but she figured out the way to get back home.. and thankfully one parent was home to inform the other parent, who was still searching frantically.)

  2. /me secretly wished for specs since childhood. Result: stuck with a pair with complicated trappings since sometime of the end of the aforementioned childhood.

  3. /me NEVER played/plays Holi, but likes coloring pictures even now!

  4. /me does'nt know how to swim. (Although the school I went to promised that they would teach us how to)

  5. /me has never lived in a hostel

  6. /me is terrified of snakes (Even on television. I get nightmares just by the thought of them)

  7. /me detests dill leaves and has learnt atleast 3 names (in sylheti, bengali and marathi) for it, to make sure she does not eat it by mistake.

Ok and now for my shikaars!

  1. pradeepto

  2. ramkrsna (This would be too interesting)

  3. Barkha

  4. santhoshtr

  5. Mdious (In the hope that he makes a post in his now hibernating blog)

  6. Ankita

  7. Aanjhan

Note: Folks, feel free to break the chain. Its totally up to you. :-)


Eight annas....

Looks like the Unicode Chart for Bengali does not contain the symbol for Bengali 8 annas (half a rupee).

The following 3 in this particular series for currency calculation are however available:

4 anna (quarter rupee) = U09F7 (Described as "BENGALI CURRENCY NUMERATOR FOUR")

12 anna (three quarter of a rupee) = U09F8 (Described as "BENGALI CURRENCY NUMERATOR ONE LESS THAN THE DENOMINATOR")

16 anna (one rupee) = U09F9 (Described as "BENGALI CURRENCY DENOMINATOR")

Could someone perhaps please validate if this is indeed the case.