Disaster


“No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”

Random

Car Broke-down on the Road


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As per the Iraqi visa rules, we have to undergo a blood test for AIDS and report to Iqama office about our return to Iraq. When they issue the exit & re-entry visa, they take the Residency ID and return it back to us upon our reporting them with blood test certificate. This procedure is required in Iraq even though we have valid one-year Iqama (Residence Permit). Although it’s seemingly a redundant process but this gives us an opportunity to move around the city.

When I went to the Blood Testing Center at Al-Salhiya, I found many young Indian women sitting there. I talked to them. They all were from the south Indian state of Kerala. They are nurses and were working in various hospitals in India in Delhi, Mumbai etc. They have been recruited by Ministry of Health, Government of Iraq. They are 86 in number. They have arrived about a week ago. They are being placed in various government hospitals in and around Baghdad in batches consisting of 4/5 women. They were there for mandatory blood test.

I didn’t have to undergo blood test this time as I was tested within a period of three months. So, they issued a certificate for this. Then we went to Iqama office to get notify my arrival, deposit blood test certificate and take back the Residency ID.

While returning from the Iqama office, our car suddenly started knocking and came to halt near Al-Zawra National Park. It slowly drudged towards the intersection. But just before that it stopped and refused to budge. There was a statue inside the park of a multi-handed man balancing a broken monolith column.

There was some problem in the fuel pump, may be due to impurities/dusts in the fuel. I was hoping that we may not have to push the car like that statue. In a baking hot summer afternoon in Baghdad when the Sun is spewing fire and the temperature is hovering around 47° Celsius, it’s definitely a no-no. After some prayers and efforts for around 20 minutes, the car obliged us by started moving. Thank God!

The monument of saving Iraqi heritage – A statue of a multi-handed man balancing a monolith column at Zawra National Park in Baghdad to restore to its original position. It was designed by the late sculptor and artist Mohammed Ghani Hikmat and built in 2012.

The driver slowly drove the car back to office. It’s good that we reached office before it was closed. Yes, we managed to reach 15 minutes before the end time.

Celebration, Culture, Family, Festival, Friends, Religion

Diwali in Allahabad


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Jit left for Baghdad to resume his duties. Babai left a week before Jit. Naturally, I would be feeling very sad, so Jit planned for my visit to Allahabad to my parent’s house for 10 days, so that I can attend Diwali, Kali Puja and Bhai phota there.

Boudi and I spent the Kali puja night at the Kalibari as this puja begins around midnight and it continues until it’s almost dawn. We also visited the house of my aunt – Kakima and cousin brother. We also went to see a horror movie in one of the nights – 1920 Evil Returns. I also met my college friend Lakshmi, who also stays in Allahabad. Boudi and I went to her house to meet her and then to the house of Babua, brother of Boudi.

Lost my Debit Card!

We went to Civil Lines area for some shopping and dining. As I was to pay at the shop, I found my HDFC Bank Debit card missing. OMG! I last used it at an ATM of HDFC Bank two days ago. May be I misplaced it there. I paid at the shop in cash. I felt damn disastrous.

We rushed to that ATM but the guard said that no card was found there. He also checked the register. Next day was Diwali and so it’s a bank holiday too. We went to the HDFC Bank. The officer was a nice gentleman. He advised that it was too late for him to do anything and advised us to call him on the next day after Diwali. We went to him in the morning. He checked his records and found that there was no such card reported lost so far. He then helped me to hotlist the debit card and immediately issued me a new Platinum debit card, which would be activated after 48 hours.

Bhai-phota

Diwali is a five-day festival starting with Dhanteras and ending with Bhai Dooj or Bhai phota. I could not realize how the days went by and the last day of Diwali came. The last of Diwali celebrations is the day dedicated to the bond between brothers and sisters. On this day known variously as bhai dooj, bhai phota, sisters pray for the long life of their brothers, by performing the ‘tika’ (red mark on the forehead) ceremony. In return brothers give gifts to them. It’s a day of bonding for brothers and sisters.

Maa & Baba

The origin of the festival is not too clear but popular legend says that after killing the demon, Narkasur, Lord Krishna visited his sister Subhadra, who welcomed him with sweets and flowers. She also applied ‘tika’ on his forehead. Another legend says that when Lord Yama (God of death) visited his sister Yamuna, she applied a ‘tika’ on his forehead and offered him sweets and special dishes. The day is also known as Yama Dwitiya.

I performed bhai phota for dada and my other two cousins. We had a party at our house yesterday on the occasion of Bhai phota. It’s a family affair. Also, Babua, brother of Boudi joined us with his family.

I am leaving for Ranchi today as I have to attend a wedding near Kolkata on Sunday. I am feeling sad to leave my parents. The elder daughter Monika of our “gurubon” Nupurdi is getting married on Sunday. Nurpurdi and we have common guru.

I am planning to visit Allahabad again in February 2013 to participate in the Maha Kumbh Mela with Jit and Babai. I hope that the God will make everything possible as we are planning.

Nature

Earthquake Hits Sikkim Again on Anniversary


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A 4.1 magnitude earthquake hit Sikkim today exactly a year after an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale causing widespread devastation, killing around 80 people and leaving about 350 injured. Coincidentally, today’s tremors were felt within 15 minutes of the time of last year’s earthquake. It seems that the Mother Nature was observing the earthquake anniversary!

I was sleeping on my bed in my hostel room on the 9th floor at SMIMS. Suddenly, I felt that my bed was tossed up. I jumped out of my bed and started running down the stairs to the ground. I found my friends there and we all are safe!

I was panting then. I called my mom to inform her about the earthquake. My mom and dad called me to know the details. They were naturally worried for me.

There are no reports yet of any loss of life or damage to property as a result of the earthquake. Thank God, it was moderate this time!

Candlelight vigils were planned in Sikkim in memory of the last year earthquake victims at several places. We also had a candlelight vigil at our SMIMS in the evening.

Friends

No Power in the Evening!!


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Today at around 4.45 pm, the power went off. We have 24 hour generator backup at our residence, it being inside the office compound.

Normally the generator starts almost immediately. Today also it was to start almost immediately, but it didn’t. I waited for it for sometime but it didn’t. It is a bit unusual. I went out of the bed room to our living room and peeped out of the window and saw our technicians are working on it. So, I thought it may start early as people are working on it. Little did I know then that it may take 5 long hours in the hot summer evening!

We had some coffee and still power was not restored. So, we went up to the roof. I missed watching the Iraq-Oman World Cup 2014 qualifier match. Luckily, the security people were listening to the commentary on radio, but it was in Arabic. However, from the flow of the commentary and the reactions of the listeners I could manage to gauge the pace of the match.

Slowly, the day turned into night and still there was no sign of power. We went down near the gate. All other residents – Faris Kamal, Abdulkhaliq Muhtasib, Faisal Shinde and Ahmed Zaki were also there. We were gossiping there standing near the gate of the compound while waiting for the technicians to fix the problems. They, in fact serviced almost the entire things replacing many switches and cables.

At last, they fixed the problems and power was restored around 9.45 pm. We returned to our homes. Then we cooked our dinner. It’s almost 4 hours that we were on our feet standing and waiting for the power.

Well, it’s all well that ends well. The power is restored now and hopefully we can sleep peacefully under air-conditioners in night. Also, it was good that we all were out in the evening and having a nice gossip. This normally doesn’t happen here. We talked about many things, excepting the bank, of course.

Family, Nature, Travel

Earthquake Jolts Sikkim


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A severe earthquake rocked Sikkim on Sunday evening resulting in at least 20 deaths and injuries to several others. The earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale which hit the east and Northeast region, was the biggest in 20 years. The epicentre of the quake was 64 km from Gangtok in Sikkim, causing major damages in the area. Aftershocks measuring 6.1 and 5.3 on the Richter Scale were also felt around Sikkim 20 minutes after the earthquake. This is the fourth earthquake in India in this current month of September 2011. Three earlier earthquakes hit Manipur, Haryana and Gujarat in September 2011.

There were also reports of landslides following the earthquake in areas around Sikkim and also Darjeeling. It was raining heavily since yesterday and this has made the situation worse. Two major landslides have been reported from Sikkim’s capital, Gangtok cutting off the National Highway. Several buildings have also been damaged in Gangtok. Mobile connectivity and power supply have also been affected in the quake-hit areas.

I was very much tense and worried for Jaya and Babai. They were traveling to Gangtok. As I sat with lunch after returning from office at around 4.00 pm Baghdad time, I opened the TV and saw the breaking news. I forgot my lunch and started calling both Jaya and Babai. The line was busy and no call could be established. I sent sms and it was delivered! But, still there was no response. In the evening I felt relaxed when I received a short call from Jaya and Babai that they are safe in a hotel in Siliguri. The quake caused the network and power black-outs. The same was also being reported in the TV but I was tense as I was not getting any info.

They were on the way up the mountain. Suddenly they felt shock and the driver thought that it was a case of tyre burst. He got down to check. The tyres were ok. People there told them that was an earthquake. The driver parked the car on the side as it’s not advisable to drive during earthquake. There was a long queue of traffic due to the tremor. There were reports of massive landslides on the way to Gangtok.  It was getting dark. They were very fortunate that they were not caught between two landslides otherwise they would have no option other than to spend the night in the car until the road is partly cleared. They decided to turn back and reached Sliguri and checked in a hotel waiting for the road to be cleared. It would probably take 2 days to clear the stones and debris on the road.

Thank God that Jaya and Babai are safe. Let us pray that people of Sikkim are safe. It’s truly the gorgeous part of India.

Random

Mumbai Attacked Again, What for?


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The serial bomb blast attacks again on Mumbai, yesterday, were not only cowardly but also very dastardly acts. It is only a human being amongst all the animals can do like this on its own species. This is hardly known what objectives do such acts accomplish!

It is said that the date 13 is probably some code for a terrorist group called Indian Mujahideen. Their attacks have been on 13th days of the months! No religion of the world propagates killing of innocent people. These are possible only at the height of insanity. Such acts are a shame on the people or the group of people who planned it and executed it.

My heart bleeds for the poor family members of the victims and also for those who were hurt in these blasts. May the Almighty give them the strength to overcome the grief, the shock and the pain. May the God also give some sanity to those who masterminded these attacks and executed them. Also, Indian government needs to be extra vigilant to avoid such mishaps. Security lapses must be investigated and the necessary steps should be taken immediately to prevent such incidents.

Weird

My Bed Crashed Last Night


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Last night while I was asleep, suddenly my bed crashed down in the middle of night. :-( Thank God, I was not injured. Then I managed the night sleeping on the bed balancing on two small tables. I had one such table in my room and brought another from our living room downstairs.

In the morning, I called Mahmood Tabaan. He fixes the things in our house. The bed is balanced on some boards with no proper beads. He nailed the boards and then put some empty Quaker cans to support and avoid the bed crashing down again.

Hope this ‘jugaad‘ will last longer and I can have some comfortable sleeps. Jugaad literally means an improvised arrangement or work-around, which has to be used because of lack of resources, sometimes pejoratively used for solutions that bend rules, or a person who can solve a complicated issue. This term is widely used in India and by people of Indian origin around the world.

Adventure, Random

Twin Car Bomb Attack on Our Office


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There were twin suicidal car bomb attacks on the Head Office of Trade Bank of Iraq, Baghdad at around 11.00 am today.

I was at the basement of the building. As usual, it was a normal business day, being the first day of the week. Suddenly, there was a huge explosion and false ceilings and facades started falling down, glasses started flying and people started crying, shrieking out of fear.

By the time, we could find out the cause, the second explosion occurred.

There were two suicidal car bombs that hit the blast walls outside the Bank premises on the road. Some said that bomb may be loaded in some cars parked there. Nobody has yet claimed the responsibility.

Thank God, we all are safe. However, 5 poor guards were killed in these explosions. I feel sad for their family members and condole their untimely death. The news agencies reported death of 26 people and injury to over 50 people, who were around there. It’s a busy thoroughfare.

Suddenly the bank became a heap of dust and debris. We all rushed out of the bank and our bank’s security men drove us  to our home for safety. It was a catastrophe!

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” — Isaac Asimov, Foundation

Adventure, Family, Travel

Ranchi to Hazaribagh


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On the day of Diwali eve, we set for Hazaribagh from Ranchi. My uncle & Aunt-in law stay there. We started in my Maruti car. We had traveled to far off places like Kolkata, Puri, Allahabad, Lucknow in that same car. It never gave me any trouble.

But on that fateful evening, we were faced with lots of obstacles. The distance of Hazaribagh from Ranchi is barely 100 km. As we reached Ramgarh about 45 km from Ranchi, we found that the right rear tyre was flat. Somehow, managed to find a puncture shop and got the puncture fixed. We started after waiting there for about 1/2 hour. Then at Ranchi Road, the tyre burst. I got the stepney changed and moved forward.

After another 25 km, near Mandu the stepney burst. We heard crackers bursting sounds but unfortunately, it was my same tyre. It was pretty dark by that. Most of the shops were closed or are open with very dim lights. Still, with the grace of the Almighty, we could locate a puncture shop. We were utterly helpless as there was no more spare tyre with us. But that man was like an Angel to us. He managed two old tyres and new tubes as replacements. We got the tyre and the stepney changed and moved from there after almost one hour uttering “Jai Guru”. With His grace, we could reach Hazaribagh at 9:30 pm, covering a distance of 100 km in 5 hours!!

We thanked the Almighty and our Guru to save us from the difficulties by helping us to locate the puncture shops and the Puncture Shop at an obscure place like Mandu at that odd hour with old radial tyres as replacements so that we can move on.

Adventure, Family, Friends, Travel

Close Encounter with Dacoits


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It was a new year – 2002 – the first week of the year. Recently our results for promotions were out. I stood second!! My colleague, Sanjay Prasad and I were to visit some branches in Jharkhand; we both being posted in the Zonal Office so it is a part of our duties. One of the visits was to be in Deoghar, which is also famous for Lord Shiva temple – Baidyanath Dham. This is a ‘jyotirlinga’ – a shrine where Lord Shiva is worshiped in the form of a Jyotirlingam or “Lingam (pillar) of light.” There are twelve traditional Jyotirlinga shrines in India. Deoghar happens to be one of them.

As we were promoted as Senior Manager just a week before, we planned to take our family also with us to pay our reverence to Lord Shiva. We traveled in an Ambassador car. We were returning via Giridh. We had our lunch there at the famous “Bewaqoof” (Idiot) Hotel. It was getting a bit late. We thought that we may stay in Giridih and start next day but then changed our views and proceeded for Ranchi. The security situation in that area is very bad. Nobody moves there in night out of any city. The area there and neighborhood districts are practically under the control of Maoists, called Red/Liberated Area.

We safely reached GT Road (NH-2). Nothing happened! It boosted our confidence on our luck as we crossed the most dangerous zone safely. There were lights also. Again, we were at a dilemma to reach Hazaribagh via the straight road or take a long route via NH-2 and then NH-33 from Barhi. It would delay us by around 1 hour. As it was not dark then, we decided to take the straight road, which would reach us to Hazaribagh in 30 minutes.

We were going smoothly and reached the Narayangarh forests. Suddenly at a turning we found some vehicles are lined up. We smelled problems and tried to turn the car back and return. It was a narrow road with ditches on both the sides. It’s around 6.30pm by then. Little did we know that the dacoits were in huge numbers and they surrounded our car. They were armed with guns, pistols and grenades. We knew that we are caught so we had no option then other than to obey their diktats. As directed, we also lined up there.

They fell a trunk of a big tree across the road and were robbing vehicles on both the sides. They were masked/covered their faces. They came to us and put a gun near my left ear and another one went to the other side to Sanjay. He had grenades in his hand. They demanded all the valuables from us. As we found that we were trapped, we though much of cash under seat of the car. We gave our watches, cash from purses. They also took the gold earrings, chains, bangles from Jaya, wife and daughter of Sanjay. Everybody were very much scared, we quietly gave them the valuables and were praying to the Almighty for our life and to get away from there as soon as possible.

They came to our car to check it. That was the scariest time as if they could find that we hid cash & ornaments from them then they could do anything to us in revenge. What was very peculiar that they were talking to us with respect! One of them came to the Sanjay’s side and asked him to stand out of the car so that they can check. They said to him “Sir, will you please come out, we will check the car”. Luckily, another car came then and joined the queue and that diverted their attention. They went to that car. It was the MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) of Hazaribagh. He had an armed escort, but one escort cannot do anything while they were more than 50. So, he too meekly surrendered to them. Those dacoits also snatched the gun from his escort.

It was quite dark by then. We were all scared, horrified and out of our wits. We were waiting there fully surrendered us to their whims. Who can dare to do anything against a large gang of armed criminals? Every minute passed were like ages to us.

After sometime, we saw them vanishing into the darkness of the forest. We saw some people in police uniforms coming and asking for them. We were silent and did not say much as we did not know whether they were police of Maoists. Maoists also move in police fatigues sometimes. The policemen asked us to go back. There was a huge trunk blocking the road. We decided to go ahead instead of turning back. Some people from buses, trucks and we all volunteered to move the trunk. It was very heavy. We moved it so that one vehicle moves. We went ahead against their advice as we said to the police that by then everybody on the road had come to know that we have been robbed. Nobody robs a pauper! So, nothing would happen to us. It all happened what we were thinking to avoid all throughout.

As we said, the news spread that we were being robbed, we found some buses, cars etc waiting at the motel for clearance about 2km from that area. We informed them that they were safe and then they could proceed as we are coming from there robbed.

We reached Hazaribagh and collected the cash & some ornaments we threw and hid under seats of the car. We did not hid everything so that the dacoits did not feel cheated and start checking the car or hitting us. We crossed Ramgarh and Chuttupallu ghati. A ghati is a small valley. There is a good motel there. We stopped there and had whiskey followed by dinner. We just went through a harrowing nightmare.

We called our respective house and informed what happened. They were also worried as we were getting late. They also felt relieved that we returned safe although we lost some valuables. At that moment, nobody cares for items howsoever valued it may be. Everybody was happy that we returned safe and unharmed.

But it left a very bad psychological effect on the women. Jaya was scared of the darkness for many years. She could feel their eyes through their masks/covers. Thank God that she is alright now.