Thursday, July 30, 2009

Travel - Part 1 - Planning

It has been a really long time since I visited some places for the sole purpose of touring. So it all started when I got the idea of visiting Tirupati during summer vacations. Since it had been 3 years while I had been residing in Hyderabad, so Tirupati seemed to be a place to at least pay one visit. I promptly informed home and mother seem to be willing to visit with me. Later the whole tour was expanded again and again to include 5 places. I had no qualms to visit 5 most famous religious places in India. I was more than happy to being able to go to new places and it would be a wonderful getaway from the college. So the places we decided to visit were Sai Baba temple at Shirdi, Tirupati Balaji, Rameswaram, Kanya Kumari and Madurai.

I was to do all the planning and my thought was that starting from Delhi , I would like to end my journey at Hyderabad with mother proceeding back to Delhi. So our itinerary was roughly like this Delhi to Shirdi , Shirdi to Rameswaram, Rameswaram to Madurai, Madurai to Kanya Kumari and back to Madurai, Madurai to Tirupati and then from Tirupati to finally Hyderabad for me and Delhi for mother.
Now it was a challenge to plan this tour in a fashion ensuring that we have sufficient time to visit and stay each place and also it was not a good idea to be spending a lot of time at each place which will result in it becoming boring if we have just pass away our time. First I tried to find what all places we have to got to see at each location and decide how much time to devote to each location. After that it was time to decide how to reach each location. My philosophy was that Shirdi to Rameswaram was the longest leg and it was best to get a train between these places. Luckily there is a direct train Okha-Rameswaram Express between these places. So I scheduled the whole tour centered around this train.

So initial plan was like this
Leave Delhi on 19th afternoon and reach Manmad on 20th morning. From Manmad reaching Shirdi will take around 2 hours. The Okha-Rameswaram Express starts from Manmad on 22th morning so we will be having around one and half day at Shirdi. We will reach Manmad in the night of 21st itself for catching train early next morning. Then we will reach Rameswaram on 22th evening and I planned 4 days to totally spend in total at Rameswaram and Madurai and then catch the train from Madurai to Tirupati on 28th evening. Reach Tirupati on 29th morning. Going to Tirumala will take max 2-3 hrs and hopefully we will have darshan in the same afternoon-evening and will return to railway station in night to catch train to Delhi on 29th morning.

Later I realized that Rameswaram does not have so much to offer and decided to include Kanya-Kumari in our itinerary.

Later events did not turn out as expected as we did not get reservation in train from Manmad to Rameswaram, so after a lot of planning again I decided to take Mumbai-Chennai Train from Pune on 20th evening(after reaching Pune from Shirdi by bus- 5 hrs) and then a connecting train from Chennai to Rameswaram on 21st evening. Plus points we will be arriving in Rameswaram 12 hrs earlier. Negatives , will be changing trains ,bus etc and most importantly schedule became quite tight. We got delayed in any one of the things and we will miss the next connecting travel.

All set and done for the departure from Delhi.

On the oversight this was the first journey I was planning and I wanted to be prepared exhaustively to the point that it became a pain :). I checked WikiMapia of each city we were to visit, checked the locations of bus stands , railway stations which we might need to travel to. Went through lot of travel related documents of these places. I even thought I would calculate how many pairs of clothes I would need !! and how much minimum luggage would be required. In my grand scheme of things I thought I would go to Delhi and buy a Hand book of Tamil and Telugu to help me talking to people at these. I have already mentioned that I found how much time would it take to reach from one location to another and tried to keep some spare time for each journey. I also decided i will take some pairs of spare dry cells for my Digicam , so that I never run out of juice while I am clicking. I had also packed my swimming costume for the Ocean swim I was so much looking forward to at Rameswaram.

My Encounters with Science as a School Kid

This is one part of my childhood I very fondly and vividly remember. Even then I have never ever shared these with anybody before and I don't feel inclined to do so in the near future, because it might appear that I am trying to boast about myself. So I decided to write these down here , so that these might remained remembered and maybe a few some people might accidentally going through these pages will go through it. These events are true to my memory of them and they are apart from the regular experiments and things that a normal school child do.

While in school , I don't remember having anything too much to do and as a consequence life was a lot boring. To fill the time , I used to hungrily go through all the old books of my parents trying to find any book that might be understandable by me ( and these included literature, history, geography, home science, law, military strategy and campaigns, philosophy etc etc...). I remember that when ever we got new books for new year I used to eagerly read all my and my brothers book in a few days(and then read them a few times over). One of the good part was the science books.

The first little " scientific experiment" I remember was when I was very very small , not even going to school. I used to put 2 wires to a plug , the other end of which used to be joined together and wind around it a lot of paper and put this thing under a wooden block . When I used to turn on the switch , there used to be a small bang and I used to thing that that was a sort of cracker and so I used to try this several times over. I was too little to understand what was going on and at that time the wiring was such that short circuit would not fry up the wiring of the house(there were no circuit breakers then !!).

Once I read in a GK(General Knowledge) book of my class that if you drop a mouse and a cat from a tall tower, the cat will die but the mouse will only feel only a bit confused but will be safe. Well so I promptly caught a mouse in my house and took it outside and threw it high up (to recreate the dropping from the height thing). I guess the person who wrote that never tried it out because the mouse probably got fractured legs :( but it still ran away.

The next incident was quite dangerous. I had read quite a lot how harmful mercury is to human health. I had read in Chemistry books the physical properties , MP, BP , inertness of Hg. Also the disease like Minamata surely put a scare in your mind. now we all know that thermometers have mercury in them and in my house thermometer was the only scientific instrument present. So one day I put thermometer into fresh boiling milk just to see it. I observed that the mercury quickly rose in the capillary and as soon as it reached the top, the bulb of thermometer broke and all the mercury in the thermometer flowed out into the boiling milk. I thought I was screwed. I was all in 7th grade then and was staring in front of me the prospectus of poising everyone with the mercury mixed milk. I distinctly remember the fact that Hg can result in effecting the mental abilities of a person. I was also scared to admit that I had caused that to happen. I though of finding a solution to the problem. Since Hg is liquid at room temperature and it is not supposed to react/dissolve in milk which might be around 100 degree. so I carefully removed all the milk and took out Hg and stored it with me. Looking back to this event that happened around 10 years back , I don't think the mind of anyone in my family got affected anyhow :P( I am still keeping my fingers crossed).

The next one is again about rats. At that time I was expert at catching rats by bare hands. So one day while catching one of them , the unfortunate soul got hurt and eventually died.
At that time I had a biology book of class 9. The book was good and in one chapter it had a internal diagram of a dissected rat/mouse. Now I had a dead rat with me and a diagram of the internal parts of its. It didn't take me any time to decide that I was going to do a dissection of this dead rodent. Well now there was the logistics problem. I didn't had knives, gloves , dissection table etc. I knew about flues and many epidemic spread through rats so I was not going to take a chance there by unsafely exposing myself. So I took a razor blade as my knife and polythene bags as my gloves and dissection table. The book mentioned that for vertebrates we dissect the body from bottom(or stomach side) and the non-vertebrates animals from the top side. I proceeded by first removing the fur kind of covering on the body(I deduced that all animals have a similar arrangement in which if we remove the fur we get a kind of water tight membrane, inside which everything is there). Then I cut the membrane to see all the internal organs. I didn't get any blood spilling out(strange !!).
The internal organs were just a beauty to see. The rat's body is so small and inside it so many things are packed so efficiently that there was absolutely no empty space. The organs were so small. I could find and identify lungs, heart, liver, intestine(with little green food) etc. Unfortunately I was unable to openup the brain and that was the part I missed. Finally the corpse and equipment of postmortem were safely dispensed.

After reading in 10th class chemistry books a lot of reactions involving NaOH, I wanted some NaOH so that i could myself perform some of those reactions. So for that I thought that if I get some Sodium metal and just put it in water will produce NaOH. The problem was to get sodium. Now table salt is NaCl , so I thought that maybe strong heating of table salt will give sodium. I took some salt in a spoon and kept that on gas burner. It turned out that salt slowly turned black from white and the individual crystals started to jump just like corn jumps while preparing popcorns. The spoon got so much burned and blackened that it was never to be cleaned again. I lost hopes of making NaOH by this way(as it turns out NaCl has one of the strongest electrolytic bonding and no way is normal heating sufficient to break it). Next I thought electrolysis of water seems pretty straightforward , so I started for that. First I prepared a supersaturated solution of NaCl in water by dissolving more and more salt in water by constantly heating it(maybe this way for making NaOH somehow , but I don't remember exactly). Then I put a transistor's AC power cable into this solution and switched on power. There was a lot of sound and within a few seconds water became hot. Later I filtered this blacky liquid using blotting paper, but I don't think this procedure produced anything new or useful. By this I realized that for electrolysis we need DC supply not AC .
At that time I was pretty fascinated with Hydrogen. One of its property that I don't think I will ever forget is that it burns with a 'popping' sound. This fact was mentioned in every textbook and I just wanted to see that happen with my eyes( and ears). But for this I needed Hydrogen and electrolysis seemed to be the answer for that. So I took some water with a little NaCl dissolved into it , then I took a AC-DC converter , a ball point pen. Hydrogen is lighter than water so it could be collected by downward displacement of water, so I filled my ball pen with water and kept it in inverted position over the '+' of AC-DC converter , when I turned on power, I could visually see the formation of O2 and H2. WoW !! There were bubbles forming and coming out from + & - terminals. At one terminal bubbles were forming at twice the speed so I deduced it must be H2 and collected that in ball pen by downward displacement of water. Now I just wanted to hear Hydrogen gas burning with a popping sound. So I opened the mouth of ball pen in front of fire. Phew !! no popping sound, though I was sure , I had collected Hydrogen gas(maybe because the thing continued to burn by itself , proving that it was a combustible gas). In place of that something totally new happened. I observed that the ball pen was burning and producing fiber like smoke i.e. the smoke was having carbon in form of around 1 cm long ' fibers '.
I had never seen or read about this thing before . Some weeks later the coaching class that I used to go for 10th class science, the teacher suddenly asked us what is 'particulate matter' as this was present in a chapter on pollution. Now the best part was that I was good at guessing. I had never heard of ' particulate' before and though I was well read considering class 10th standards, I had never read about this 'fiber' before. Immediately it clicked that maybe this new term was the new thing I had seen. I told the teacher the same. Phew ! I had just hit bull's eye. The teacher was totally impressed and he asked again and again that how did I knew. So rather than telling him that I did some experiments in my house, I told something gibberish and still he was totally blown away :D.

Apart from these one of the favorite things I used to do was to open up things and look what's inside them. be it radio, watches, TV, washing machine, walkmen, scooter etc etc. It was a pity that I didn't had proper tools for these exercises , otherwise I bet I would have disassembled each & each thing that I could to its elemental form. I just has 1/2 worn out screwdriver and some things more, so my handy tool was a kitchen knife which I used as a screwdriver. Unfortunately my reputation was pretty bad in my home and it was a generally believed that anything that I touched to open it would never work again. To my defense I attributed this fact to the lack of proper tools :P.

Now a little about geography. When I was in around class 3/4 , my mother used to ask me to draw maps which were given in books like Map of Japan, Australia, Italy, Europe, France etc. Slowly I picked up this and drawing maps became my past time. Once I made a pretty accurate map of India on whole of ans A2 size paper. For making that I divided the map given in the Atlas into grids and also divided my drawing paper into grids. Then I drew the map grid by grid to make it proportional. Finally the end result was good and so I copied the Master copy of Map using carbon paper. Then on each copy I marked things like Mineral distribution , political map of India, physical features of India like mountains, rivers plateau etc, food grain production, industries and so on. I also used to read geography books with lots of interest. Geography was a subject in which you could read things and understand them logically something like Physics. Also the plus point was that you could learn new things about so many places .These made geography interesting for me. Once when I was in 6th giving final examination, next to me sat a girl who was in 9th class. her's was geography paper . She was supposed to mark some simple things on Map of India and Asia, but she was messing up everything I felt bad for her and started telling her where to mark what. After sometime the invigilator saw us and thought that I was taking help from her and gave me punishment. So much for helping others :P.
I class 6th once it was geography class. In the book things were written that in Egypt wheat , barley, corn etc is grown. I knew what is wheat , barley , corn etc meant in Hindi since I had already been told by mother. Some guy asked the teacher "mam what is barley ?". I simply replied the Hindi translation of it. then he asked for others and again without much thought I gave the answer. Now i was not expecting that when the teacher asked me to stand up asked me my name etc and then for next 5 mins she kept praising me. Then onwards when a lesson was to be read in class she used to ask me to do it.
Well as far as geography goes I continues to help my neighbors in their examinations wether they be in higher class or lower. I discontinued the map making exercise , but still very much continue the practice of just staring at a map and seeing what all things,places are present.

Looking back I fell that maybe if somehow I could have utilized that spare time more to such self learning activities , I could have been better at these things. As a side thought maybe this drought of having something interesting to do made me inquisitive and motivated me to do all this and this things that I now fondly remember would not have been like this if there was some external help. Sometimes I think if I had asked for better tools and other things I would have been better off , but maybe i would not have become a somewhat resourceful person. after all when you are deprived of somethings then you innovate and finds ways where there are none.

What has been done could not be undone and I am sure reading this many of you will surely feel that if you could have done a few things like this , rather than playing and watching TV(which was banned for good or bad in our house ), both of which I got to do the least.


Prof R N Biswas came to IIIT-H in 2008 and in 2009 he left , but will be coming as a guest faculty for one more semester. The one year for which he devoted his time to IIIT-H , he helped change a lot of how ECE is and how it should be taught at UG level. Though he is around 70 yrs old , he brought in fresh thoughts and the latest ways of how ECE curriculum should be designed and conducted.
His most visible contribution has been to establish a new lab for courses like BEC and DLP. This lab is a single hall with good quality oscilloscope, function generator , power supply and a Digital Test Kit (designed by him). But what I feel his most important contribution of his has been to attack the whole philosophy behind the courses like Electronic workshop 1/2 etc( which were totally unstructured and conducted in ad-hoc fashion) though this particular one is not so visible, but I believe that he put in a lot of effort and energy to change the iron clad thinking which was considered so holy before he came. He must have organized a lot of discussions and meetings to design a new curriculum and so finally from this year onwards fresh UG students will find a changed curriculum in place. I am sure that now students will find more interest and value in the courses of the new curriculum and the credit of this should definitely go to RNB.

Now a bit of what I knew about him. The first thing that turns me on is that he is PhD from Univ of Calif. Berkely that too in 1960's. There is no doubt in my mind about how a top-notch place UCB is and I am sure it would have been legendary place in his time to get a PhD from. Then he worked for some years in US itself and after that he returned to teach at IIT-K. He was at IIT-K till 1992 and during this time he headed several posts like HOD of EC Dept. and several others including Chairman of JEE in 1987. I would love to hear from someone who gave JEE that year. After IIT-K he became director of CEERI Pilani, established a company , worked in some major VLSI company fro some years. In 2002 he joined DAIICT and worked there for 5 years. He came to IIIT-H in 2008 and from 2009 he will be joining NIIT Univ Neemrana.

No doubt IIIT-H has some really good Prof. who have long chequered teaching career like Prof PRK Rao, Prof B Yagnanarayana, Prof VU Reddy. All these three are one of the best teachers in their field atleast in India and have done work which had definite positive effect in their respective areas. But these three are like big giants(no pun intended) which a normal mortal like us cannot approach easily and be comfortable with. With Prof RNB the case is different. He is also one of the giants. In fact he is totally accessible , he is a person who likes to talk(this is what I guess) and he can talk about a lot of things but his favorite items are Electronics, VLSI, . At times you can find him speaking like a real visionary about Engineering education. sometimes he also talks about politics(ie India & world, Budget etc !!). He is a hard core fan of Lawn Tennis and vividly follows all Grand Slam Tournaments. He loves non-veg food.
One very striking fact about him is that even though he is about 70 years old, he is more active ( physically and mentally ) than faculty members who are in their 40's. He is full of energy and enthusiasm. He is a strict disciplinary and I don't think anybody dare to be complicity in front of him. If you do something sloppily , you should be expecting a through dressing down even though you might be a student , a T.A. , a lab assistant or even a faculty member!!!(well I have been at his receiving ends for the first 2 cases and have been eye witness for the others).

In short I find that his overall personality is just a huge iceberg of which I had the rare privilege to knew a speck of it. It is such a humbling experience to be able to say that I knew one such person who has done so much and changed the lifes of who know how many peoples.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Holidaying!!!

The long and eventfull summer of 09 will finally be over now and that too by a trip to a lot of places. I am totally looking forward to that.

Lots to be posted once I return back.

Monday, July 13, 2009

AVR development Board and USB Programmer

I sometimes used to wonder how and why life is sort of a boring. In the sense that why I never encounter situation that would just make a great story. Now after I started this blog , I feel that stories are just around us , you just need to be looking for them.

This is the story of how the idea of a commercial product was born and how it was finally conceived , all the way from designing to implementation to finally launching and marketing !!!

After the after shocks and hangover from Robocon 09 had subsided , an idea came to me and Sujith that we can very well design and market an AVR Microcontroller based development board as well as a USB programmer for AVR Microcontroller. The technical experience was there with us , we just have to design a layout of the above circuits and get them manufactured. Well this is what I initially thought this whole exercise would require. Never knew what was in store for us !!!

So it started by searching and analysis several designs of AVR development board available online. Based on our own experience and ideas , we came up with the basic list of functionality the board should be having i.e. power supply unit, power control to modules, LED's, LCD, keypad, Reset/Ext. Interrupt switches , USB programmer, Max 232 ckt for Serial communication, L293D motor driver and place for ATMega16.

This happened in April 09. I called a meeting of 2nd yrs and 1st yrs students to form a group which will formally take up this activity of developing robotics/electronics products. There was a lukewarm response and it was decided that these development Boards(kits) and USB will be done well before Robocamp started so that the launching could be done during Robocamp itself.

So the things cooled down a bit from there and it was May 18th when finally everything of the previous semester got over. Sujith was getting more and more busy with Robocup preparation , so he sort of deveoted his time there.
Then suddenly I got a wind of the news that some other people were also planning to develop a similar AVR Kit. Now this was hilarious , can you imagine two different set of people in the same institute trying to work on designing a similar product(Its a different story that we finally won the race and got the opportunity to finally develop our idea. Though later we realized that there was no way on earth that the other group could have done anything substantial.)
Now hearing this news , I buckled myself up and immediately started designing the PCB Layout in ExpressPCB (the interesting story of the PCB layout software deserves another blog post !!), since I was new to drawing layouts, it took around a few days to finally complete it. In the mean time I rallied several 2nd years students to be a part of this endeavor. A mail was also send to the faculty that we have this plan of launching these products.
In the mean time we were still struggling with getting the USB programmer and it was only on 1st June that it finally worked. Now finally we were able to go to the PCB manufacturing guy only on 5th June. Time was fast running out and we desperately wanted to order the PCB ASAP and start the testing the Kits.
When we talked to the PCB guy , we got two shocks of our lives:- first whatever we had done in ExpressPCB was not compatible with their procedures since they needed Gerber Files of the Layout which ExpressPCB did not generate :( , I felt totally cheated with ExpressPCB, so much time spend on doing that and we reached no-where. Secondly we were told that it would take around one week to actually have the PCB ready , with legend Printing, Green Masking and a few more mumjo-jumbos. I was in a fix, I decided that I had to learn a new Layout software and get the whole PCB layout designed in 2 days. Fortunately I found FreePCB which was just fit for the purpose.
Finally we went on Monday(8th) and asked the PCB guy to make the layout in their software by seeing our ExpressPCB layout. So it was Wednesday when finally everything was ok and we ordered first set of PCB's for testing purposes.

Since we required one PCB urgently, so we asked one PCB to be done without Legend printing and green masking , since this meant we could get our PCB in 2 days. We received our First PCB on 11th June, some initially testing was done and one bug was discovered and one was left undiscovered !!!! :( .

So with just 5 days to go before the starting of Robocamp we ordered the total order of PCB for both USB Programmer and AVR Development Kit.
the situation was very tricky , we had a deadline to meet and we were rushing through the things. It was like a disaster waiting to happen.
As Edison has said "Long experience proved that there were great drawbacks found generally before they could be got commercial" , this is what precisely happened to us !!! Thanks Edison uncle for you sound advice, will always keep that in mind .

So finally after much wait we received the PCB on 24th , in the midst of Robocamp. I learned an important lesson from this. I could have received PCB 2 days earlier had I paid money from my pocket, since I waited for getting advance payment from Institute. In the end I ended up paying from my pocket and the thing was delayed by 2 very crucial days, which could had made all the difference.
Now on the first day I along with our Lab assistant and some 1st year students sat till 3 am in the morning doing soldering the boards. This is precisely when we found a big time bug. The USB connector in the PCB was present in a way that was opposite to the actual configuration. This setback was sufficient enough for us to have the whole lot of PCB being unusable. We improvised and to overcome decided to solder th usb cale directly to the board.

One of the team member got totally discouraged by that and I did not see him being effectively involved in the Kit activity after that. This is one thing that totally pisses me off. Man if you have committed to something then have the guts to see through that the thing is taken to its logical ending. Some people have the tendency to start an activity with great enthusiasm and when going gets tough , they just leave it. Well I could not afford to do that reason being that this activity of developing Kit was I wanted to do and so there was no way I would just leave it because of some setbacks came our way.

So now it was the time to take on this challenge to get the kits ready before Robocamp ended. I decided to overcome it by sheer brute force. I was willing to put more time even at the expenses of anything to achieve the target. Fortunately our Lab Assistants were very helpful and both of them Ms Kanika and Mr Vivek put their best effort in getting the Kits ready. They kept on working till most of the work was done.
Well surprises never ceases to ambush you just before you reach the destination. It turns out that the 5 pole DIP switch that we had to use in Kits was no longer available in market( Now I grudgingly remembered what Prof RN Biswas has said that once you are making a product you have to stock the components so that in case they are no longer available you can still manufacture and service it. At that time I thought , I am not making circuit using some obscure transistor or likewise , that we need to stock things.)
Fortunately Vivek got DIP switches from Electronics lab , and thus finally soldering was completed on Friday just before the last day.
But the work pressure was full time high on me. The organization of Robocamp was almost chaotic and this created additional workload on me also. Add to the fact of the constant worry of the Development Board and Programmers. Not only this I wanted (and it was pretty necessary ) that we had some Manuals and Tutorials ready by the time we are giving away the AVR Board and Programmers. This goal created additional pressure on me.

In short even after I tried my best , we didn't had the Kits tested to be able to hand over to the people willing to buy. Nor were the documentations completed. So the only thing we could do was to give a short intro of our AVR Kit and USB Programmer to the students. At the end of Robocamp we took several orders both for AVR Kit and USB programmer.

After Robocamp ended then it was time to deliver the Kits to people who had paid the money. The irony was that now when there was no more other major work, I alone had to slog to try getting the things finally working. It again took a few more days. There were constantly deadlines to deliver the Kits. But finally I am writing this blog on 12th and we had already sold out all AVR Kits.

So this was just the end of a beginning of how a commercial product was developed and finally sold.

When I look back and ask myself this question, was it really worth doing all the "menial" jobs like soldering , testing and other small small things which apparently don't add much to your skills. These menial jobs are not intellectually stimulating and they do not seem to have the same impact as say trying to do research work as the junta of IIIT focuses on. I could have just done my BTP and would have been a happy man. What really do you gain from going through all this mentally, physically and sometimes emotionally tiring exercise? Then I reflect back and try to convince myself. Even though all these small small things were not really meaningful, even though I am not gaining so much even after putting so much effort , but I gain one thing if not anything else. i feel that when you have made a commitment , then you have got to keep it even if heaven or hell comes your way. As they say "when going gets tough, tough gets going". Going through this kind of self tortures again and again make you mentally tough, it develops in you a character , a spirit that say " never say die". You develop an attitude that when you set out to do something you have to complete it.

When I was small my mother sometimes used to recite me this poem

वीर तुम बढ़े चलो
धीर तुम बढ़े चलो

सामने पहाड़ हो
सिंह की दहाड़ हो
तुम निडर,हटो नहीं
तुम निडर,डटो वहीं

this sometimes gives me inspiration that makes me try my personal best even in situation when my team mates leave. Wishing that all this will not go in vain, someday I will find people who share the same passion that I feel about some of the things.

But another fact is that I only feel this type of very strong feeling only about a few things and not about everything I do , even then I feel its fair enough for me.

Finally I feel I should thank my Maker for destining all these things for me. He only knows what is good for whom and only the best happens to us.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Civil Unrest in China

Well no doubt China is a big country with a billion people. Maybe some people in India thinks that only India is a big multi-cultural, multi-ethnicity country which today faces the challenges of internal security threats like Maoists, insurgents in NE states not counting externally motivates terrorists etc.

In case of China , it has grown imperialistically in the days of Mao when its "annexed" states like Tibet, Xinjian. I will not go in the argument if theses states were historically part of Chinese empires. But clearly culturally these states were totally remote from the Han culture of mainland China. Now that was history i.e. 60 years back. The events that are happening in these regions are a result of unsound policies followed over the last 60 years by the Communist Party of China.

Since the regions of Tibet and Xinjiang were totally culturally distinct from the mainland China, Communist party devised a policy to slowly trying to change the demographic profile of such regions which are administered "autonomously". In the past 60 the Han population in Tibet and Xinjiang has been increasing so that China has more firm control over these regions. China has pumped in money from its rapidly rising economy in these regions establishing semi-military government organizations like XPCC (Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps). Qinghai-Tibet railway is also an instrument for the same purpose , though its benefits and strategic implications are numerous.

The reason these two states are important for China is that Xinjiang is rich in Oil and other mineral deposits. Tibet has its own strategic importance , it is not for nothing that Tibet is called "the roof of the world".

The main cause of unrest in Xinjiang is that the ethnic majority of Muslim Turkic peoples like Uyghurs have not received equal treatment as the settled Han people have. This is partly because there is language and other social barriers for the Uyghurs people have made them second class citizens in their own land. The ever increasing population of Han people in Xinjiang has alarmed Uyghars. There is constant crackdown on any kind of protest or attempt by Uyghars to voice their discontentment.

If we see how China deals with any protests then some patterns emerge. First the government try to control the unrest using armed police force and enforcing prohibitory orders. This results in more stronger form of protests , resulting in local authorities retaliating and in case of Xinjiang it resulted in around 185 dead and several thousands injured according to some reports.
Not only this China has a well oiled state machinery which start demonizing the protesters as soon as some unrest starts. Mouthpiece of Chinese Communist party tried to project that Uyghars and one of their organization has links with Al-Qaida. Rumors where spread in Xinjiang resulting in direct clash of Han and Uyghar peoples in Xinjiang.
Though Chinese premier sensed the urgency of the situation and returned back home from G-8 summit.

The importance of Xinjiang is quite high when we consider the location and resources of this autonomous province. Xinjiang is rich in oil and mineral deposits. Its geo-political location is also quite important. It borders Tibet, Russia, Tajakistan, Kazakistan, Krygystan, Afganistan, Pakistan. This location is sufficient reason that might lead to raising the interest of superpowers.

In short the whole policy of Communist Party to change the demography of a region is affecting the aspirations of local population. To make matter worst the government has no avenue for peaceful settlement of genuine issues of its citizens.

It is an irony that the money that communist party is pouring into such endeavors is resulting in weakening internal security situations in different provinces.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Man and the Ship

A ship once it has tasted the sea, returns to shore, trembles and longs to return to the sea , but unfortunately it is held back by the weight of anchor so it longs for freedom , remembers the carelessness, the anticipation and the mixed feeling of fear and joy. It remembers that there was a time when it wanted to loose its old self and be a part of the sea.

Once the anchor is lifted it again sails for the sea and then without any expectations it just flows into the lap of sea. It does not care if the sea embraces it or forgets it. The ship does not want to irritate the sea by again and again trying to tell the sea how much it wants to be one with the sea. Now it does not have any burden of its own wishes, it just waits for the sea to come to it.
When the sea comes calling it just accepts and rejoices its fate.

Once I felt just like this ship. Even though longing to become free , the weight of anchor was holding back. Then after much efforts this anchor was lifted when I wrote back what I felt should have been said much earlier. Then it was like I was liberated. It was not for me to worry what would happen next. It was not for me to care about if I would sink or float. And finally when I received back a reply I was rejoiced the fact that the effort to lift the anchor was more than worth , even for whatever small measures of happiness it gave me. Now it is just sailing in the sea winds for me. Maybe sometimes there will be storms and winds. There will be times when I would thing what made me do all this silly stuff. But I will finally say that yes I sailed into uncharted waters for the first times and going to a new destination was the aim.

Whatever may happen next is immaterial. There were no expectation at the beginning nor do I have any now, nor I hope will be there in the future.