Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Born Again

What would you do if it was the eve of your birthday? Would you have a lot of friends or relatives at home? Party hard till midnight? Booze? And perhaps that's the way you celebrated most of your birthdays so far. Frankly, I have never had a birthday when I had been surrounded by people who joined me to celebrate my birthday the previous night. It has always been me and only me, counting up to twelve o'clock and suddenly out of nowhere, at the stroke of midnight, people start pouring in their birthday wishes to me in the form of calls and messages. Duh, it was the same this time too. I had hoped that at least this time, Ganesh and Vandhana, my cousins and my best buddies would come over. Unfortunately, as my birthday fell on a Friday, Ganesh had to go to his workplace and couldn't take a day off. Vandhana, on the other hand, had other commitments as well, and she too couldn't turn up. So this year's birthday was like a deja vu of the previous one. Parents sleeping off by 10.30p.m and I'm alone in my room, just like what happened last year. Two of my friends called up at 11 or 11.15 and wished me because they felt so sleepy that they couldn't hold themselves awake any longer. At around 11.30, Ganesh sent me this text : "Advanced bday wishes re .. I might sleep off .. I am very sorry if I don't call u at 12 .. ". Now, it was almost 12a.m., and Ganesh called up and wished me. I was delighted that he was awake for me and I sensed that he was already half asleep by the tone in which he was talking to me. Exactly at the same time, Vandhana's text arrived. These were the exact words : "Happy birthday Gautam makada :) Wish you all success :) Enjoy life :) My fav cousin, you're sweet. Be the same, don't change :) Computer Boy You Rock :p ". The word "Makada" translates to "Monkey" in English. After reading this, it brought a big, broad smile on my face! Among friends, Kartikeya Agrawal, one of my close friends at school and even now, was the first to call me. This has been a tradition for the past three years, that he has been the first person to call me on my birthday. Many other school mates and college mates called up and wished, and I was so surprised that they still remember my birthday. Now, I was expecting a call from Vandhana, which never arrived, who instead chose to wish me by sending out the text I mentioned earlier. I was a bit sad for it, although I did not mention it to her, because I didn't want her to feel bad. The call rates started dropping by 12.45a.m and I kept attending calls till 1.15 a.m when there were no more calls after that. This brought a close to the eve of my birthday.

The next day I rose at 7a.m., and according to our tradition, one is supposed to wake up early in the morning (say at 4a.m) and apply oil on the hair and have a bath in the morning. On this day, me being the birthday boy, defied all these and had bath only at ten. Chuck it, I was talking about the time I woke up. My Mom and Dad were the first ones to wish me in person. My 'Athya' or aunt who lives with us, followed up and then came my granny who wished me too. I went downstairs to my uncle's house, where my cousins Srilatha and Sriram, who are only 7 and 4 years old, wished me. I was now brimming with happiness when my uncle and aunt wished next. Vandhana had told me that she would come home and we'd go for shopping. As my birthday falls on the 24th of June, a day wich comes when the schools are usually closed for summer vacations, in the 12+ years of my school life, I haven't celebrated my birthday at school more than a couple of times. It pretty much means that birthday is more or less like a normal day for me, just that on this day, people are nice to me and I don't get scolded by my parents! But this day was different. And two people made the difference, one among whom gets the maximum credits. Vandhana chose to travel a distance of 20 kms by public transport, and all by herself to reach my place at 10.30 am. She had got me a wrist watch, which looked really expensive and wonderful, which I've treasured at my home. In my room, I showed her some things that I had preserved, which meant a lot to me. I showed her the shells that we collected at the beach in Mumbai ten years ago, when we were kids. I also showed her the autograph book that she had bought me when I had visited her house during my summer holidays when I was around 14. Another thing that surprised her was when I showed the beads which I collected around 4 years ago, with which, back then at Ganesh's place she had arranged them in such a way that it spelt 'Van', the first three letters of her name. This are only some few things that are souvenirs from the past.

We left home after two hours to purchase a few things that I had planned to buy as my college was due to reopen on 29th of June and I had not bought any civil supplies to sustain my life there. In the course of buying, I took her to the length and breadth of Anna Nagar, twice or thrice, over and over. After that, we went to Nungambakkam to shop for clothes. She selected a shirt for me that looked really good (That is according to what people tell me, as I don't know to judge clothes by looking at them) and I selected a tops for her, which looked really cute on her. We had a filling lunch at a Rajasthani Dhaba at Anna Nagar and later, we left for Nanganallur, to Ganesh's house. As soon as we arrived, both of us left for the famous Anjaneya Temple at Nanganallur and had a great Darshan. I made that poor kid walk all along the way, and she did complain, but I dragged her along!

At around ten pm, Mr. Ganesh Gururajan came home. As soon as he saw me, he shook my hand and wished me happy birthday. Now, there's a reason why I spent the night at Ganesh's house. I've been a Chennai for ten years now, and for all these ten years, I've spent all my birthdays with him, except two, when he was at Singapore for his MBA. It's become a customary practice for me to spend my birthday in his presence, for he's my mentor and a great source of inspiration. I've been with him since my childhood and each and every action of his has inspired me and I really enjoy his presence and spent almost all my summer holidays with him. It feels really great to be with him, for he has always got something to say that makes me laugh. So I badly wanted to see him on this birthday too, and it happened! Now, there was another reason why Vandhana and I had been to Ganesh's place that night. We wanted to discuss certain 'business strategies and ideas' that both of us had discussed and speculated all day. We told him a couple of ideas what we had thought and he gave some insights of why certain businesses flourish and why others perish. Vandhana and I just gave glances towards each other as Ganesh used certain technical words here and there which made us feel that he was doing justice to his MBA degree. Later, we retired for the night and decided to sleep, as it was 12 am. I sent one last text message to Vandhana, who was sleeping in the next room. The message said "My birthday is over :( ".

Well, I guess a birthday can be more than a party or booze or having tens of friends gathered around you. It can be better just by spending time with some of your best buddies. This day was wonderful to me and I was a happy man at the end of the day. Thanks to Vandhana and Ganesh, they are the best people I know on earth. Time flies when I spend it with them. And poor me, I'm jailed at this college that is more than 300 km away from them and I get to see them like for one day or two in a month. Sorry for the delay in posting this one, as I had to think and write a lot for it, and blame the lack of time. I must have posted this a month ago, but I couldn't, but I was sure that I will not fail to do it as I felt that I haven't had a better birthday than this one. I felt I was born again.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Mumbai Serial Blasts, The Role of Twitter in helping the victims and The Spirit of Oneness among Mumbaikars

It was so wonderful to see the Mumbaikars helping each other out today, in the wake of the bomb blasts. The first blast happened around 6.30 p.m IST, and at about the same time, I had logged into Facebook and Twitter. At about 7.15 p.m, I had to reload the twitter page as my internet had got disconnected. After the reload, I found that the topic #mumbaiblasts was trending, so I hastily scrambled through it to find out what was wrong. Twitter handles of CNN, NDTV and Times Now reported that there had been three serial blasts. In no time, a new trending topic crept up : #here2help. So I checked it out, and found that scores of people had already come to know about the incident and had tweeted them. I ain't in Mumbai, I'm struck at Thanjavur, a place in Tamil Nadu, a place which a Mumbaikar might not even know! From here, I was helpless, and all I could do was to RT some tweets that I thought might reach someone in need of help.

The point is, this incident is what really made me write this post. The tendency of all the people of Mumbai, their willingness to help people in need, and their unity that they showed in the case of this terror attack. I haven't seen any precedence to this sort of response to such an incident ever, in India. That really impressed me. I would like to share some posts that were marked with the various trending hash tags:

Let's start with those who needed help, these people tweeted with a #needhelp tag or otherwise needed help. Here are some of their tweets :

@RakeshTheKumar: Everybody #here2help from Dadar, join Prathamesh. He needs people to move the blast victims to hospital 9768957812

@sakshijuneja: RT @b50: RT @Nakulsud: Stranded in the rain near Gandhi hospital.. No cabs. Anyone around? Call 9920722186.. going to mahim #needhelp

@mgirotra: @vandanaprasad #needhelp at Parel. Koi hai waha??

@Praneethz_: RT @rahulkatragadda: My friend @kushaldave needs to reach International Airport from Chembur. #NeedHelp (cc: @sidin @venkatananth ) Plss RT.

@ni_nad: RT @Rohneet: RT @tejas_tamhane: Anyone going towards Andheri, can you pick me up from Opera House? #mumbaiblasts #needHelp

@beeayeanoowhy: anyone? RT: @SamuraiSingh: Anyone from inorbit mall Malad heading towards Dindoshi in Goregaon east? I could do with a lift. #needhelp

@blahssome: #NeedHelp (also which area is this in?)RT @Decloned_iTaz: Anyone works at Directi? Please RT #urgent Need to see if my bro is there and safe

@ni_nad: RT @zeylovers My frnd's dad in B'bay cnt contact him. She's nt sure where his off/hotel is His name is Arun Gopal. #needhelp

@venkatananth: RT @RoaringCrab: Not getting cab/rickshaw/bus/train 2 go back home if u can reach chembur I shall host u #mumbaiblasts #needhelp #Here2Help

@nkan25: #needhelp RT"@ghaatidancer: Does anyone know an aakanksha khanna, sister of rishabh khannaTryin to get in touch with her.She was at Dadar

@ikaveri: #mumbaiblasts #needhelp RT @sangvoel Friend stuck in fort. Anyone there? My train isnt moving. People jumping off n walking.”

@ghaatidancer: Just spoken to KEM. B-ve is required. Go to the hospital by 9.30 tomorrow to do your bit. #Here2Help #Mumbaiblasts Pls RT

@BloodAid: B-ve donors needed tomorow after 10 am, KEM Hospital, Parel, #Mumbai contact the hosp. blood bank at 022-24135189/24107421 #blooaid

Now, I would like to mention those people who were ready to help or offered some helpful information. This is a really staggering number, so please bear with me. I was so surprised to see these many people offering help! Here goes:

@KiranKS: #Here2Help for #MumbaiBlasts affected people. RT @MrsSonaL I am near Dadar TT... If anybody need help contact me on 09323324177

@Shikhashikz: RT @gauravsaha: RT @Sengupta: Near Dadar, the closest hospital is Hinduja (near Mahim): 02224452222 #mumbaiblasts

@DreamsCentral: RT @silv3rglee: #Here2Help #MumbaiBlasts RT @alimaxout: Anyone needing help in Jogeshwari area. Sms/call on 7208180539 / 9773510256.

@b50: RT: @oldmonk_says: Going to bandra from colaba.anyone need any help or a ride let me know on 9821555774 #mumbaiblasts #here2help

@puneet86: Seriously, people. Blame Pakistan/terrorists/whoever else you think is responsible later. Go help someone first. #Mumbaiblasts

@KiranKS #Here2Help for #MumbaiBlasts affected people. RT @alimaxout: Anyone needing help in Jogeshwari area. Sms/call on 7208180539/9773510256.

@brijwhiz: #here2help RT @rohanlilani: Anyone stranded in town, and needs a place near Metro/Marine Lines, call me 9503019001 #mumbaiblasts

@ibnlive: Hospitals: KEM (022-24136051), Nair (022-23085379), Harkishandas (23855555 / 30095555), Saifee (22 6757 0111) #MumbaiBlasts

@ikaveri: RT @mokshjuneja Anyone who needs to take a breather in Chembur,welcome to be hosted at my place call me 9322121170 #mumbaiblasts #Here2Help

@jacobrohan: Anyone stuck in Bandra West, feel free to call me @ 9773352262 for a safe place. #mumbaiblasts

@mithunk: If you need any help of any kind you can call me, my office is at Matunga, my number 9920099923, I can email/tweet etc for you #mumbaiblasts

@qtfan: I am a doctor. Text me on nine eight two zero zero two one four nine two, if you need any medical help. Or call JJ Hospital on 022 -23735555

@GaayathriRaj: RT @RanjibMazumder: To hire or rent a car - bit.ly/pd9Av1 #MumbaiBlasts #Here2Help

@MihirBijur: Will reach worli in precisely 10 mins. Have place for 3 in the car. Any1 needs a drop anywhere in town? #here2help

@mihirfadnavis: RT @shaaqT RT @_vishalg RT @R113 leaving frm lower parel to andheri east at 930pm by car have place for 3 if needed #mumbaiblasts #here2help

@anuradha_kush: #mumbai #here2help RT @parapraxist: If anyone is stuck in matunga or dadar, i live in a udct hostel and can easily find room. 9619243263.

@ekta06: RT @beeayeanoowhy Anyone stranded in Borivali/Kandivali area..call/sms/ping me on 9768886457. food/acco not a worry #Here2Help #mumbaiblasts

@sacredeastwind: “@maheshmurthy: open to all RT @Pinstorm: Need to stay in Bandra tonight? Ask @Netra for access to our guesthouse #MumbaiBlasts” #Here2help

@KiranKS: #Here2Help for #MumbaiBlasts affected people. RT @neerja15: Anyone stranded at borivli W @Neerja 9820751559 any help

@silv3rglee: #here2help #MumbaiBlasts RT @Joydas Taxi's Might be off the Road Post 12 Midnight. If u need accomodation for the Night, any area, lemme knw

@Amit_Gujargoud: Will reach worli in precisely 10 mins. Have place for 3 in the car. Any1 needs a drop anywhere in town? #here2help RT @MihirBijur

@TulikaP: Anyone need help near Kurla or Chembur reply to my Tweet #here2help please RT

@zainabkakal: Call Binit Vasa 9920123963 if you are stuck near Ruia College/Dadar His office is open and you can stay there #here2help

@confuzzled_19:If anyone needs help in and around Bandra, I'm #here2help

@sureshnakhua: Will reach sion circle in 10 min any1 needs drop till ghatkopar/chandivali/powai/sakinaka/andheri e - pls ctc - space for 1 - #here2help

@Vikasnowal: Anyone needs help in Andheri west, pl buzz me... #here2help #mumbaiblasts

@MeShopoholic: Any1 around Matunga(king's Circle), dadar & sion who can't/wont go back 2 affected areas, u can stay at my place. #MumbaBlasts #here2help

@PeculiarBlend: I'm waiting at the Mira Road Station If you need any help let me know. 98191-81219 Later Be right back. #here2help

@GhoshalUnplug_D: #Here2Help #MumbaiBlasts #NeedHelp I stay 5 mins from Kabootar Khana.. Anyone needs help/food/cab, let me know - 9820233387

@gsurya: Since no taxis, will go downtown past midnight & drive back to Andheri to pick up anyone stranded. 4 seats to fill. #MumbaiBlasts #Here2Help

@drhitesh: #here2help call 9967712807 for any assistance

@ADKStreme: At mahim now call on 99209nineeightfivrzeroeight. #here2help

@TheNiravShah: Anyone needing any help near Opera House / Charni Road I am #Here2Help - +91-9870837970

@poo_sud: +1 RT"@ghaatidancer: My blood group is B- and I know it's quite rare. If anyone needs it, please let me know. #Mumbaiblasts #Here2Help"

@KiranKS: #Here2Help #MumbaiBlasts RT @jayblawgs: In S Bombay, there’s a hostel in Byculla called Seva Niketan. 23092934, 23093025, 23093057, 23093257

I understand that you cannot read each and every entry there. But I couldn't leave out people without giving them credits for what they did. I feel that everyone who tweeted or RTed about the blasts deserves applause.

That's the power of social media. And the people of Mumbai put it to the best possible use. I want them to stand united for any such incidents(which I pray must not happen) to come in the future. My heartiest condolence to everyone who lost their near and dear ones and prayers to their families. Celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Madhur Bhandarkar, Priyanka Chopra, Shahid Kapoor, Ritesh Deshmukh, Sonam Kapoor and Anupam Kher condemned the attack on twitter and offered prayers. I think that they put their twitter handles to the best use tonight. My humble request to everyone is to put technology to good use by helping out people whenever/wherever/however possible. Kudos to the residents of Mumbai who have shown the spirit on oneness. If you give a close look on twitter about the topics #needhelp and #here2help, the later had at lease 10x more tweets! Which means, there were more people ready to help, than people who needed help.

P.S: Any personal information in the above post must not be misused. The sole intention of including them in the post was to describe the helping tendency of the people of Mumbai.