Tuesday, March 30, 2010

God proposes, Man disposes!

Even as I write this, I can't believe that this has actually happened.

We were at the Drakensberg mountains a couple of weeks back, hiking our way to the top of a peak. We were a group of ~25-30 people (five of us from India, and the rest from other parts of the world), among whom were two pretty young ladies on a holiday to South Africa - one a Canadian named Annie, and the other from Colombia. The latter's name was Anna Maria, and one of my friends (with all respect due to my good friend, let's call him Faggot for this post) started circling around her as soon as we started our gruesome hike to the top, helping her in clicking her own photos, crossing the river, etc. After hours of diligent work, they only became what can be called one step behind friends (Event1). The day passed soon, and we came back to our camp. We headed back for Johannesburg the next day, and their story ended here, seemingly.

Luck had something else in the store, however. Two weeks later, we were at Cape Town, staying at Long Street Backpackers. On the second day of our trip, me and Faggot went to a nearby Internet cafe, to get the photos and videos on our cameras' memory cards burnt to a DVD. And then the height of coincidence happened - there was Anna Maria at the very same time on the very same date in the very same Internet cafe of the very same city (Event2)! As I was busy surfing the Internet (yawn...), my friend struck a conversation with her, and managed to exchange phone numbers. Before parting ways, Anna asked my friend to meet her at the V&A Waterfront, at seven in the evening (Event3)! What more could've Faggot asked for! We left the cafe and came back to our room, and everyone was excited that Faggot was gonna go on a date with a Colombian chick this evening. Luck had something else in the store, however. When the clock struck 19:00 hours, Mr. Faggot was busy gulping Indian food at a restaurant in Cape Town, fully cognizant that Miss Maria had summoned him for a date! It's unbelievable that he screwed up this opportunity-of-a-lifetime... (Event4)

Not the end of the story, however. We were back in Johannesburg on 22-Mar-10, and on Thursday, the height of coincidence happened a second time. Miss Maria SMSed Mr. Faggot that she would be in Johannesburg (Event5) on Friday, and that they should meet up and do something (Event6). We were all dumbstruck at what was going on, and we pushed Faggot to not screw it up this time. Anyways, I slept over the weekend, and on Monday (i.e., today), when I asked another of my friends as to whether Faggot had gone to meet Anna Maria, I was left speechless as I heard that he did not (Event7).

Let me assign a probability each to Event1 through Event7, based on my subjective judgment. Event1= 0.75; Event2= 0.001; Event3= 0.02; Event4= 0.001; Event5= 0.001; Event6= 0.02; Event7= 0.001

Using basic rules of probability, the probability of this chain of events is 0.0000000000000003, meaning that the impossible happened.

I still can't believe that he actually didn't go, twice. I told him just this - dude you'll bitterly, bitterly regret this a few years down the line...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Carlton Centre, the shame of Africa?

The Carlton Centre - a 50-floors, 223 meters tall skyscraper in the CBD area of Johannesburg - is considered as an object of pride in South Africa. I remember a cheerful man who emphatically uttered "Top of Africa!" at us, as we were about to enter the skyscraper last November. For good reason, as this is the tallest building in whole of the continent of Africa.

Some of the photos I clicked on 7-Nov-09. More here, here, and here

I, however, am of a different opinion, especially after having seen both Dubai and Cairo last December. Buildings (much) taller than the Carlton Centre are commonplace in Dubai - a tiny emirate of UAE. And here we are talking of a large continent with 53 countries, with an area ~7,400 times the area of Dubai (the emirate). The grimness of the situation becomes more clear when one realizes that the Cairo Tower - a mere 187 meter tall tower in Cairo - counts among the tallest structures in Africa, and that the Carlton Centre doesn't count among the 100 tallest buildings in the world.

I would rather call Carlton Centre the shame of Africa, or a reminder for Africa - an engineering and symbolic achievement for sure, but a stark reminder of what all still needs to be done. African people should be proud of it, but whenever they look at this skyscraper, they should also remind themselves that their billion-strong continent has just one of these megastructures...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Remembering the days when I used to play Holi

It's Holi today. And I'm remembering those days when I used to play Holi as a kid, studying in school. A few days before this one-of-the-best festivals, I used to buy a few packets of balloons ("gubbaare"), some amount of dry color ("rang" or "gulaal"), and one or more pichkaris. I also used to buy some amount of semi-permanent colors ("pakke rang"), and sometimes also the large-sized balloons (the ones you inflate with air).

I used to wake early to start filling the balloons (each balloon was precious - I remember counting the balloons to make sure that a packet which claimed 50 balloons indeed had as many), and used to dip them in a bucket full of water (to slow the outward flow of water). After this was done, all of the arsenal was carefully placed just behind the gate (in the behra, or verandah), and I used to venture out of the gate, looking for my prey. I frequently used to team-up with some of my friends, and we used to together attack others.

And it would happen sometimes that we would be hit with eggs or grease, by elder guys on bikes. Sometimes someone would overturn my bucket (and I would do the same sometimes).

I also remember the time when I would come back home, all colored and drenched, and mummy would ask me to rush straight to the bathroom. I remember using shampoo to remove color from my hair.

All that is past now. It's been years since I played Holi this way. I don't even have a picture of me-a-kid playing Holi. And as I sit here at my office in Jo'burg, I'm remembering those beautiful days when I played Holi, and I'm missing them.