Car broke down on the road

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.

Diwali in Allahabad

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.

Tremor hits Sikkim again on anniversary

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.

There was no power in the evening!!

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.

Deadly bombings rock Baghdad today

A wave of apparently co-ordinated 14 explosions struck during the height of morning rush hour in Baghdad, has killed around 60 people and injured nearly 200, as reported by various news agencies.

The bomb attacks are the worst in months and follow the withdrawal of US troops, which may be a mere coincidence. Some of my bank colleagues escaped the explosions while coming to the bank in the morning. They were lucky as the bombs exploded just after they crossed the location. One explosion was quite close to our bank and it shook the doors and windows.

Iraq’s year-old power-sharing government is in turmoil after an arrest warrant was issued this week for Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi on terror charges. These seemingly coordinated explosions are raising fears about the security situations in the country amid political upheaval that threatens to undo Iraq’s government.

I strongly condemn any type of terrorist attacks that targets innocent men, women, and children. May the soul of the dead victims rest in peace and the wounded victims recover soon.

Earthquake jolts Sikkim

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.

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.

Mumbai attacked again, what for?

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.

My bed crashed last night :-(

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.

New Battery for my laptop not getting charged

The adapter/charger of my laptop burnt off on 20/10/2010 when the AC power came back. Zaid of IT Department was there at that time. I asked for its replacement to IT Helpdesk via email. He brought the replacement on next day on 21/10/2010. It is working since then. However, the charger is not the original Dell charger.

On 30/01/2011, the original battery of my laptop suddenly expired. It was showing zero charge. I requested by email to IT helpdesk for its replacement as it was working only on AC power and when the power goes off, the laptop used to get shut down. On my arrival from vacation on 20/02/2011, I received the new battery.

Yesterday, I noticed that it is showing 51% charge. So, I put the laptop on charge for the entire night hoping that the battery will get charged 100%. However, in the morning, it is showing 50% charge. Zaid of IT Department came to our department today. I showed him this problem. He checked and found that the charger is not charging the battery. When the power is off, the battery is showing discharging and when the power resumes, the battery status is showing “idle”.

It seems that the problem is because of the duplicate charger. The original battery may have become dead because of lack of charging. I have again asked IT Helpdesk to get this issue resolved ASAP otherwise I wonder that this new battery will also meet with the same fate, shortly and it may cause damage to the laptop or the data stored in it.

Although my Dell laptop is 3 and a half years old, it is working perfect otherwise.

Twin car bomb attack on our office

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

We were 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.

Shattered office

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

Devastated building of TBI Head Office

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.

Cars destroyed in the blast

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.

Shattered department

We all rushed out of the bank and our bank’s security men drove us  to our home for safety.

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