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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chp 152. Double Rainbow

October 31st: Updated with new Pictures!

Featuring my first YouTube video displayed below, this post is a precursor to the many upcoming posts here at “illusionaire” on the breathtaking sceneries of Mizoram. The ILP and RAP may make it difficult for tourists and foreigners to visit Mizoram, but bloggers worldwide cannot be denied such an idyllic view of Mizoram thanks to the internet.
Related Post:
Chp 102. Pics: Sunrise from my Room.
Here you go, the rarely occurring phenomenon of a double rainbow, right here in Mizoram.



I took this short 30 seconds amateur clip on September 2007 from my room with a Sony Digicam. It was right after a brief winter monsoon shower in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram. The clip, short as it already was, further lost its clarity when I converted it from .avi to .wmv because I’m new at YouTube and I don’t know how to upload .avi files (is it possible to do that?). I then filtered out the noise and superimposed a different music track, one of my all time favorite songs and a song that I feel perfectly matches the scenery: “Return to serenity” by Testament.

Testament – Return to Serenity.

I’m gonna take you
To a place far from here
No one will see us
Watch the pain as it disappears



No time for anger
No time for despair
Won’t you come with me
There’s room for us there

This innocent beauty
My words can’t describe
This rebirth to purity
Brings a sullen tear right to your eyes



No time for anger
No time for despair
Please let me take you
’cause I’m already there

I’m so alone
My head’s my home
I’ll return to serenity



Explanation for a “double rainbow” is given at “The Double Rainbow”.
Every once in a while, if you get lucky, you may see a second rainbow on the outside of the first, brighter rainbow. This is the "secondary rainbow" which occurs when raindrops high in the atmosphere refract and reflect light back to the viewer.

These raindrops are higher than those which cause the "primary rainbow" and are special because they internally reflect the incoming sunlight twice rather than just once.

Updated on 31st October :

Since my dear friend Sowmya was talking about what lies at the end of the rainbow, I thought I will display this other set of pictures taken around the same time as the “double rainbow”.

Given below is a picture of Ramhlun Vengthar Presbyterian Church. Note the magical rainbow!







Of course under the maximum possible zoom, the rainbow doesn’t look as splendor and grandeur as before. It kinda looks more like some weird photo-film exposure during its development or something like that.



I guess to the Christian faithful, the architect, the artist, the naturalist, and the conspiracy theorist, that Church could very well be a metaphor for the mythical Pot of Gold. But be it a doctrine on theology or a secular implication, one can’t help admiring the spectacular scene.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chp 151. Puppies for Adoption!

Being on a work sabbatical because of an important exam coming up, I usually spend my days and evenings going over to my girlfriend’s apartment to study whenever she is not there, so as to babysit our new puppy. It is more quiet over there as I am alone at her place, unlike my apartment filled with UPSC coaching friends discussing about issues and subjects that I cannot afford to take part in right now.

There are actually two puppies, one is ours and the other belongs to my good friend Tawia (Zorema) who can’t keep the puppy with him for the time being because he is still busy currently relocating. And of course I am just shamelessly using the pronoun “our” even though technically they belong to my girl (and I miserly never spend a dime on their expenses like food, milk etc) because in a relationship, everything becomes “our” “our” “our” and “our”, like “our newspaper bill”, “our gas stove”, “our water supply”, “our eyeliner” And of course my girlfriend asks, “If everything is “ours”, then how come you never spend anything on OUR puppies?” and I would look deep into her eyes and softly whisper, “I love you”.

Because of my exam, I cannot afford to socialize. And with my girlfriend always at work, these two puppies have become the perfect companion one can ask for. The only time they ever disturb me and my studies is when I would spend a couple of minutes just looking at them, admiring them, the way they sleep, the way they play, the way they behave, the way they learn… they are so human and adorable.

For 2 months I have watched them grow up now. 2 months I have fed them their meal, cleaned their crap, wiped their pee, scolded them when they are naughty, hugged them when they act cute, walked them at the park, shared their pain when anyone steps on them, and tried my best to toilet-train them. In two months, I have gone through that fatherly nostalgia every dad goes through. Because they are not even 3 months old yet, and they are already sooo big! It’s like looking at evolution on a fast-forward mode.

2 months ago, while searching on the net for puppies to buy, we came across one such advertisement. Malleka Gupta. From that day onwards, our life has changed forever.

Malleka’s one of the sweetest person I’ve ever met online. When I called her up and asked her about the cost of the puppies, she surprised me by saying it was free! I then had to answer a barrage of questions ranging from what I do for a living to how experienced I am with pets! It felt like one of those “good cop – bad cop” interrogations on those American TV Cop shows, except that she was playing the role of a “bad cop” most of the time. Lolz Nah, it wasn’t that bad, but she was extremely concerned about her puppies and wanted to be a cent percent convinced that her puppies will be in good hands.

So while I was in Mizoram last September, my girl and two other friends of mine met Malleka and were given three lovely "Indian" puppies. I heard a lot about them over the phone and finally got to meet them when I got back to Delhi.

Love them!

Since then, Malleka had become a very good friend and we would talk over the phone about pet and stray issues here in India. There is still one puppy left for adoption. It’s a female, and she already got her first two vaccinations, is properly toilet trained, understands some of the basic commands and is a whole lot of fun and excitement.









It will also save you so much trouble of dealing with all those irritating crying in the middle of the night or uncontrollable bladder release anywhere they please. And at the same time, the puppy is old and clever enough to give you all the companionship and love you can wish for. And the best part is, it’s free!!!

So what are you waiting for? Contact Malleka immediately on the following details given below. Plus this will also be a great chance to get to know all the other wonderful people who have taken her puppies up for adoption, as Malleka plans on conducting an “Adopters get-together” party sometime later in the upcoming future, a BYOP (Bring Your Own Pup) party . Yes, even Malleka herself doesn’t know about this plan of hers yet And oh guys, did I not mention Malleka’s very sweet and cute too?

Name: Malleka Gupta.
Residence: Sarita Vihar, New Delhi.
Phone number: 011-26940653.
email: guptamalleka@gmail.com
Orkut id: Adopt Me.
All together, she gave us three puppies. One for my girlfriend, one for Tawia, and one for nu Mateii’s family. My girlfriend named our pup “Tawia”, and Tawia named his “Michael Scofield”. But since we are looking after both of them, both the puppies respond only to the name “Tawia” and they now think it is both their names! There is nothing more funny than Tawia having to call his own puppy “Tawia”

The original “Tawia” is our favorite one, because he is extremely dumb! He is stupid in that very cute way. I mean he is clever enough to recognize me and stuff, but he does a lot of really really stupid things. Like for example, when I play with the dogs, I cannot fool Tawia’s dog with the same trick at one stretch. But I can fool our puppy with the same trick over and over again, and he will always fall for it. If I cover Tawia’s dog with a sheet and call him, he removes the sheet first and then comes running to me. If I do the same on “Tawia”, he comes running towards the sound of my voice with the sheet still over his head, banging on anything that lies in his path!

Tawia’s dog was disciplined much earlier than “Tawia” because we never used to scold “Tawia” as much as we scolded Tawia’s dog, as “Tawia” simply never used to do anything bad. Eventually, when he did started doing bad things (chewing on the cable wire, tearing newspapers) etc, it was nearly too late because if we slap him, he thinks we are playing with him, and he would roll on the ground in that cute way, making it impossible for us to act as if we are angry and scolding him. Sigh!

This was when they were small. Picture taken 2 months ago. Now one of them doesn’t even fit inside the cardboard box.





Yes, aren’t they just adorable? The one on the left with the black nose is “Tawia”. The dumb one. The one on the right is Tawia’s dog, “Michael Scofield” [of Prison Break]. What a stupid name for a dog



And of course we are the victim of many smart-ass remarks because of the sign we put up below our door. Like, our dear friend u Mafaka (of Delhi Mizoram House) who comes regularly to our place, and on seeing the puppies exclaimed, “Oh my God! You’re puppies are soooooo cute! Are they, by any chance, cute puppies?”



Another reason why I love him so much. He sleeps in a very unorthodox position, always!



Hence the reason why I just love Malleka’s little puppies, and am ever grateful to her for making our lives so much brighter, exciting and full of fun. I pray that our puppies’ sister will also find a warm loving home soon.

-------------------------------------------------------

Breedism: A form of non-human racism.

The other day we walked into a pet shop, a reputed pet shop at Khan Market, to buy food and accessories for our extremely adorable new puppies. We walked up to the counter.

“Good afternoon sir, good afternoon madam.”

“Good afternoon. Uhh… we are looking for some food, collars, food tray and all the other stuff, you know, for our new puppies.”

“Of course we have all the things you require, Sir. What breed is your dog?”

“Indian.”

I noticed the immediate raised eye-brow. His smile disappeared for a fraction of a second (probably less than 1/100 of a second, if I was allowed to exaggerate), but it felt like eternity to me (no exaggeration this time). He of course immediately reverted to his calm and cheerful self. His eyes and smile lied, but that brief moment of facial expression betrayed everything.

That’s the problem here in India. You say “Indian breed”, and the most common reaction one gets here is of utter disgust. Because Indian breeds are always held synonymous with stray dogs. I don’t blame them, after all, that’s the breed stray dogs here in India supposedly belong to.

I really used to hate those so called "dog lovers" who put on a theatrical “awwww chhoo chweet” expression whenever they see a well groomed expensive pedigree, but immediately show a disgusting “ewwww” at a malnourished street dog. I wondered how such people could call themselves “DOG lovers” and I used to think they were better off carrying the snooty tag “High breed Pedigree Lovers” rather than “dog lovers”.

But when you really think about it, I guess it all boils down to “one man’s Indian is another man’s Pedigree”. A self-acclaimed “food lover” (or “foodies” as the P3 calls them) need not necessarily love EVERY food, and are usually crazy about only those exotic dishes. Likewise, a so called “car lover” won’t even look twice at a rickety old ambassador, or how a “bike lover” is in love only with the imported ones.

But one fact remains clear: Indian breeds are called strays because of us. None of them ever wished to become strays out of their own volition; it is society that makes them strays. If only there are more people like Malleka Gupta, then we can truly rid India of all its strays.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Chp 150. Mizoram: The Church.

Related Reading:
Life in a Christian Majority State: The Truth.
Life in a Christian Majority State: The Denominations.
Life in a Christian Majority State: The Church.

There are 2000+ local Church/Corps/Parish in Mizoram. And from the small balcony of my room, I can see at least 20. For my Mizo visitors out there, I would greatly appreciate it if you can tell me the names of the Church that are not mentioned below, and also correct me if I have made any mistake in labeling them.

My tiny room, perched on the green hills of Chaltlang (Chaltlang South), has one of the best view-points in our locality. That spot has served as a great inspiration when I wrote my poems such as Mizoram, My Mizoram! and other Mizoram-centric articles. It is also the same balcony from where I published my Sunrise Pics from my room post.

Looking around, I decided to photograph some of the Churches that I can see from there. I have zoomed as much as I could and labeled them accordingly. Please do help me out in completing the list. Thanx.

The moment I step outside my room, three Churches are immediately visible below.


1. Ramhlun North Presbyterian Church.
2. Ramhlun Vengthar Presbyterian Church.
3. Chaltlang Baptist Church (I think).

This next picture is a new construction that came up recently. We are not sure if it is a Church or a community hall…


4. ???

On my immediate left, are the Chaltlang Presbyterian Church and Salvation Corp. I was once a member of the Chaltlang Presbyterian Church, until our Church elders decided that there were too many members coming to such a limited space Church (natural Population explosion), so they split us into Chaltlang and Chaltlang South Presbyteries. But till today, many members who are now a part of Chaltlang South, still go to Chaltlang Church, not heeding the elders’ words. Their justification is that since they’ve been a member of Chaltlang Presbytery since its inception, they don’t want to change. The Church elders too simply acknowledged to such wishes. Hence another interesting topic for discussion.


5. Chaltlang Presbyterian Church.
6. Aizawl Theological College.
7. Chaltlang Salvation Corp.

Looking on my right, at the Laipuitlang slope, I can spot two Churches. And then I saw another one, which I think may or may not be a Church. Anybody from that locality can confirm it for me.


8. Laipuitlang Presbyterian Church.
9.
10.

In front of me are Zemabawk and the surrounding areas (Thuampui etc). I have no idea what localities are those and what Churches are they. Here too, I will really appreciate it if you can help me out.


11.
12.
13.
14.

On my far right, beyond Laipuitlang, I see a couple of Churches. Do fill me in on this section too, because my knowledge about those areas/localities are all mixed up That whole area from picture number 15 to 21, is that side of the slope of Aizawl facing Zemabawk.


15.
16.
17.
18.


19.
20.
21.

This next snap, I couldn’t fit any other Church pic along with it because they weren’t coming in one frame. So I am posting it here by itself. I thought it is Ramhlun South Presbyterian Church, but my friend here is saying it is Ramhlun Venglai Presbyterian Church. Which is correct?


22. Rahmlun (Venglai/South) Presbyterian Church.

And last but not the least, my Church


23. Chaltlang South Presbyterian Church.

The small picture in the top left corner is a picture of my Church taken last year. However, as you can see from the new picture, my Church is no longer visible properly from my balcony because of the construction of the Presbytery.

The other smaller picture at the top right corner is a picture of my nephew (cousin’s son)! He along with a couple of other courageous volunteers climbed the precarious zenith of the Church to clean it for the upcoming Easter celebration. If you squint your eyes real hard, you might be able to make out my nephew holding a mobile phone. He called me up and asked me to take a picture of him while he’s up there! And then I cracked a joke and told him to wave at me. He didn’t laugh.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chp 149. Mizoram: The Denominations.

Related Reading:
Life in a Christian Majority State: The Truth.
Life in a Christian Majority State: The Denominations.
Life in a Christian Majority State: The Church.

People here in India look at Christianity as one religion. Stuff like, “Oh he’s a Christian”, “Our professor is a Christian” etc. And when it comes to denominations, some people do know/notice the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants etc. Because in India we Christians behave as a single entity. Many of us go to Churches that we do not belong to and that does not bother us, after all, we (usually) treat them all to be the same.

I met my new friend Jason over the blogosphere, and when I asked him (casually) about his denomination, he mentioned that he was “denomination-less” and that he believes in all Christian practices. That is the answer many Christians here in India would give today.

I have taken part or browsed through enough Christianity discussion forums on the Net to know that things aren’t like that outside India. Take for example this thread, one of the many such discussion forums. On those forums, one can easily summarize the discussions as:

  • My Church is real and yours is fake.
  • My Bible is thicker than your Bible.
  • My Jesus loves me more than your Jesus loves you.
  • My Christian God performs more miracles than your Christian God.
  • I’m a Christian while you’re just a Bible & Jesus believing non-Christian.


And the list goes on.

I always used to think such incidents never happen in India because we Christians are a minority (2.3% as stated in my previous post), and we all know how important it is to stick together. But then, taking the instance of Mizoram, it is a Christian majority State with various denominations, yet there has never been any incident of such “denomination-bashing” as seen in other Christian dominated Nations. Wars have even been fought on the grounds of different Christian beliefs.

In Mizoram, according to the Statistic Handbook earlier published here [Statistics of Mizoram], the break-down of the main Christian denominations [2005-06] are as follows:

DenominationNo. of local Church/ Corps/ParishTotal members# Percentage
Presbyterian Church of India109351137066%
Mizoram Baptist Church41012058515.6%
UPC (Mizoram)358426935.5%
Salvation Army*207*500056.5%
7th Day Adventist173168582.1%
Roman Catholic17178642.3%

* Denotes the year 2004-2005.
# Rough percentage because I calculated the percentage of the (2005-06) figure based on the 2001 official population report. Since they are all relative anyway, I figured the variation from the actual percentage won’t be that much.

Pastor Greg Albrecht of Plain Truth Ministries mentioned in the Q&A section:
There is no one true church that is incorporated under human leadership. The body of Christ is made up of many parts. That does not mean that all those who call themselves a Christian church are in fact just that. If you care to know more you may click on “Ask Greg” – then under Churches and Denominations where we answer similar questions about the historic and orthodox teaching of the body of Christ – what the basic, fundamental, and core teachings of a Christian church are, and what they are not.

Ironically, one of the core teachings is that the body of Christ is universal, that it is not solely represented in any one human organization. Therefore, any church that claims that it and it alone is the one and only true church has disqualified itself from being part of the body of Christ. Such a church is in fact attacking the body of Christ and calling it less than what it is.
Sure, feel free to disagree. Just remember that any “denomination-bashing” comments will not be published here.

My friend T has an interesting take on why there has never been any sectarian clash among Christians in Mizoram. She said it’s solely because of the YMA (Young Mizo Association) to which each and every Mizo is a member of. It is an NGO which cuts across all denominations and binds everyone together. Now that is certainly a penny for our thoughts.

My theory on the other hand, is that people have intrinsically realized that there is no point in fighting over which ritual to perform, which dress code to follow, which sacrament to take etc. when in fact, it all leads back to the same end result. Another Mizo friend P, a theological student from Bangalore, had his own concept though. He claimed that there are no sectarian clashes in Mizoram purely because there are not many differences between the two largest groups, the Presbyterians and the Baptists (the main difference being “infant baptism”).

Click here [Religion Fact] for some of the other main differences between the major Christian denominations of today, based on facts, beliefs, practices etc.

There are over 9000 Christian Denominations in the World today. To catch a glimpse of how many denominations are present, you can visit World Christian Database. I have taken the data from there and represented it at MS Excel sheet. India ranks second in the World when it comes to the number of different denominations present!



On the lighter side, you can actually select which religion/sect/denomination you want to belong to by answering a simple questionnaire at this fantastic website given below:
Religion Selecter:
“With just 20 questions, our goal is to provide a fun and informative activity to explore world religions and belief systems. We've included a sampling of more than two dozen world religions, belief systems, or belief categories.”
So, just as there are many Christian denominations in the rest of India, like RC, Jacobite, Church of South India, El Shaddai, Adventist, Syrian Orthodox etc, there are also various denominations in Mizoram. The characteristic of each denomination will be updated later here, so do keep watching this space.

With that, I leave you all with a small joke I found at John Mark Ministries. You gotta appreciate the guy who came up with this joke

How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Depends.

Charismatic: Only one. Hands already in the air.

Pentecostals: Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None. Lights will go off and on at predestined times.

Roman Catholic: None. Candles only.

Baptists: At least 15. One to change the light bulb and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.

Episcopalians: Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old bulb was.

Mormons: Five. One man to change the bulb and four wives to tell him how to do it.

Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists: Undetermined. Whether your light bulb is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb or tulip bulb. A church-wide lighting service is planned for Sunday. Bring a bulb of your choice and a covered dish.

Nazarene: Six. One woman to replace the bulb while five men review the church lighting policy.

Lutherans: None. Lutherans don't believe in change.

Amish: What's a light bulb?



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chp 148. Mizoram: The Truth.

Related Reading:
Life in a Christian Majority State: The Truth.
Life in a Christian Majority State: The Denominations.
Life in a Christian Majority State: The Church.

India is a secular country, with the majority being Hindus. According to the 2001 census of India, Hindus constitute around 80.5%, followed by Muslims at 13.4%, and Christians at 2.3% [source: censusindia]

2.3% of Christians would be around 24 million. Kerala has the highest number of Christians (6 million) followed by Tamilnadu (3.7 million). All in all, 10 States have a Christian population of over 1 million (Mizoram ranks 13th in this break-up).

Percentage wise, there are five “non-Hindu majority” States in India: Punjab (59.91% Sikhs), J&K (66.97% Muslims), and three Christian majority States: Nagaland (89.97%), Mizoram (86.97%) and Meghalaya (70.25%).

There are various articles on the Net lambasting the Christian Mission here in India. Many people still firmly believe that the terrorism in North-east is sanctioned by the Church, and that non-Christian organizations like the Naxalites and ULFA are actually funded by Christian missionaries to kill those who won’t convert to Christianity. You can find such articles at Crusade Watch and Christian Aggression websites.

In order to prevent such debates and discussion regarding those topics over here, these series of posts will be based only on Mizoram, land of the Zo Braves, and my home. Comments regarding other neighboring Christian States or RSS propaganda etc will be disapproved of, and may even be deleted.

One main reason why the Church of Mizoram has flown under the radar of most propaganda is because the Church has always been in favor of being a part of India since Independence [source: Embattled Frontier]. In 1947 when we got Independence, the various Churches of Mizoram (back then, not a State or even a UT yet) proclaimed that violence must be avoided at all cost, and peacefully become a part of India. The Mizo community obediently obliged. Other ethnic groups (Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur etc) on the other hand refused to become a part of India from the very beginning. Hence Mizos actually became “Indians” long before most other Indians of “Princely States” [Refer Manorama Year book 2007, or “Constitution of India” by DD Basu], although ironically those are the same people who are not accepting us as Indians today merely because of our looks!

Then what’s with the Church of Mizoram sponsoring “terrorism” and “ordering every Mizo to kill Indians”?

Those are just baseless propaganda spread by you-know-who trying to make this great Country a 100% you-know-what Nation. Plus, they probably got us mixed up with the on-going problems in other North-eastern States, after all, I don’t blame them for their ignorance, considering their shallowness and narrowness regarding such issues.

Sure, Mizos did rebel against the Indian Government once, but that was way after we agreed to become a part of India. Every scholar, researcher and historian who made a study in those areas knows the real reason why the Mizos rebelled. It had nothing to do with Christianity.

Mizos rebelled because the Indian Government never paid heed to the Mizos incessant plea for food during the Great Famine (1958-60) that occurs every 48 years in the Mizo Hills due to the large multiplicity of rats caused by the flowering of bamboos. Bamboo, as we all know, constitute around 30% of the forest cover in Mizoram.

The Indian Government back then did not take any action, and scores of Mizos died every passing day. One unconfirmed report stated the number of deaths to be more than half the population of the Mizo tribes back then, while another popular saying is that, when the Mizo representatives met the Indian Government officials, they were crudely asked why we require food since “we eat each other” anyway… I may dismiss the second statement as just hearsay, but one fact was obvious: None of the Mizos wished to remain a part of India then, regardless of what the Church asked them to.

The MNFF (Mizo National Famine Front) was formed by Pu Laldenga in 1960 to battle the famine, and he easily won the heart and support of every Mizo. The MNFF became the MNF (Mizo National Front) in 1961, an underground movement with a separatist agenda from India, converting the Mizo hills into the bloodiest revolution the North-east has ever witnessed.

The magnitude of the movement was so immense that unlike other places in the North-east which saw a fair amount of people not supporting their respective movements, Mizos witnessed a more or less total resentment towards India, with memories of India’s laissez-faire attitude towards them during the Famine fresh in everybody’s mind. There was nothing the armed force could do against such totality, except bomb the entire area like a full-fledged war between two Nations. Hence Mizoram earned the infamous distinction of being the one and only Indian Territory to be bombed by the Indian Air Force.

A news quote from newslink.in, which is now defunct after it split into aizoltimes.com, can be found here at ultrabrown.com:
“In the afternoon of March 4 1966, a flock of jet fighters hovered over Aizawl and dropped bombs leaving a number of houses in flames. The next day, a more excessive bombing took place…” Hunter and Toofani fighters were deployed for the Aizawl bombardment, which became the first and only aerial attack India has carried out against its own people. The fighters came from Tezpur, an IAF air base in Assam…

“The Indian Air Force deployed Hunter and Toofani jet fighters to carry out the mission; it was the first time India used its air force to quell a movement of any kind among its citizens. Goa was a different story, it was a move to drive away the Portuguese…”
Of course, would a person who firmly and stubbornly believe in the “Missionary conspiracy theory” ever believe all that? Nah. To them, it’s only a case of crazy gun-wielding Christian priests shooting up all non-Christians in a guerilla warfare Rambo style, and that the “famine” and “air force bombardments” in Mizoram are just fictions and lies created by the evil Missionaries so that they can convert the whole of India into evil Christianity.

Hence this series of post is only for all my friends and other broadminded individuals out there, regardless of any religious background, who might be interested in knowing about how life is like in a Christian majority State here in India. These posts are not about Christian ideology/doctrine posts (for my non-Christian friends and secular readers), but rather just a simple look into the life and custom in Mizoram.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Chp 147. Eid Mubarak

Happy Eid-ul Fitr !!!! Or as my blog friends Marzie, Emila, Zublin, NAFASG Team and the others in Malaysia and Singapore say it, Happy Aidil Fitri !!!!



It isn’t Eid yet here in India until tomorrow (Oct 14th), but nevertheless I would also like to wish all my other Muslim friends here in India right from school throughout college, including all my friends from Hyderabad a wonderful Eid Mubarak. Enjoy this weekend!



I love exposure. I love mixing with different communities and understanding them. Because it is only when we don’t understand others, that we start stereotyping and assuming what they are not.

I’ve had my fair share of Muslim friends here in India. But it was only after I moved to Hyderabad and had Arab neighbors, that I realized what I knew about Islam then, was only that they don’t eat pork, slaughter goats during “bhakrid”, wear a “kufi” white cap on some occasions, and say their prayers too loudly in the morning over the loudspeakers of a nearby Mosque, waking us all up. That was it. Because my Muslim friends and I never used to discuss about religion. Never. Maybe it was India’s secularism at work, or the sensitivity of the nature when it comes to religion here in India, who knows. But it was always like, “Hey I’m a Christian, you’re a Muslim, so do you listen to Iron Maiden? Cool, even I don’t like Manchester United.”

No discussions on religion, ever. But Hyderabad changed all that.

I still remember one of my first discussions with my Arab neighbors in Hyderabad. We were discussing about Christianity at the YMCA Basketball court @ Secunderabad (where we used to play everyday), and when I mentioned “Jesus Christ”, Hyder immediately muttered “salallahu alayhi wasalaam”. I was familiar with that particular sentence by then, which means “Peace Be Upon Him” (PBUH for short), a term they use every time they mention Prophet Mohamed’s name.

It was then that I found out other differences and similarities between Christianity and Islam. Soon we all moved in together to a gigantic 3 bedroom apartment in Masab Tank next to Mehdipatnam. I learnt a lot from them. Differences between the sunnis and shias, traditions, namaz, haraam, the position of Jesus and Mary according to Islam, hajj, halaal, shariat, jihad etc I love learning about other cultures and religions, and no, all that never shook my belief and foundation in Christianity.

When we speak of Islam, most of us immediately think of extremism. I loath fundamentalism of any kind, be it Islam, Hinduism or Christianity. And I will certainly stay away from such people. My Arab friends were definitely not the extremist kind.

When I first told my mom that I was moving in with my new Arab friends, she got quite a shock. After all, she had never had a Muslim friend in her entire life, and the only news she had seen on the TV in Mizoram about Muslims are suicide bombers. See, that’s exactly the point I’m trying to make. Lack of interaction gives rise to delusional stereotypes. It was only when I convinced her about how much more I will be able to concentrate on my studies in my new apartment that she finally gave me the green signal.

Living with Arab roomies was a great fun. We laughed a lot. And oh, we had a really tough time searching for an apartment initially. India boasts of secularism, but in Hyderabad, a Hindu looking for a flat to rent in a Muslim dominated area or a Muslim looking for a flat in a Hindu area will see a very low success rate. That’s reality, folks. And I had a first-hand experience on that. In a way, I think we Christians are the luckiest group here in India when it comes to apartment leasing. Nobody hates us or is felt threatened by us

My roomies were Hyder (Iraq), Alaa (Syria) and Mohammad (Yemen). Amazing bunch of guys. I still remember one really funny incident back then. Our apartment, as mentioned before, was in a strictly Muslim-dominated area. Everybody knew I wasn’t a Muslim but since I was with those guys, nobody really cares. So one day my roomie Alaa left his mobile phone at home as he left for work. We were on the fourth floor, so I rushed to the balcony and I could see him just about to leave at the apartment gate. I shouted as loud as I could without thinking what his name actually sounds like, “Alaaa… mobile phone… Alaaaa…” And then I suddenly realized what I was shouting and saw all the stares from the people on the street and I was like “OH SHITTT”. Fortunately, nothing happened, but my best friend Kini, another Muslim, still takes my trip about that incident even today.

Why am I reminiscing so much about those Hyderabad days? Because it is Eid and I had a really really really good time during Eid back then. Everyday during Ramadan (Ramzan), all the other Arab friends of my roomies would come over to our apartment and they would cook this really scrumptious meal to break their fast. And I would be the official taster, to see if the food they are cooking is too salty or not, too spicy, too sweet etc. And after they say their prayers and eat the dates, we would all sit in this huge circle and eat all the dishes we cooked. I of course would eat the most, shameless me, even though I was the only one not fasting. Hehehe. I really miss those days.

The other Muslims in our apartment, the Indian Muslims, actually didn’t get along very well with my Arab roomies though. Because that was during 2003, the Cricket World Cup. All the Arabs of course cheered for Pakistan, so in order to muster support I would call over Pawan, Kini, Akram, Adonica, and all my other Indian friends to cheer for India, and we would all have these harmless fights and taunts every time India or Pakistan plays. One day, I was in the lift alone with Syed, one of my nice neighbors in that apartment. He asked me directly, “Do you like them?” and I was like… “Yeah… why do you ask?”, and then he told me about the way they would cheer so loudly for Pakistan and that it was because of Muslims like them that people in India think all Muslims cheer for Pakistan.

That is deep!!!

Makes you think a lot huh? Especially after that recent comment by the Pakistan Captain Shoaib Malik urging all the Muslims in the World to cheer for Pakistan, which was of course taken in extreme bad taste by the Muslims of our great Country. It’s funny how some people declare themselves to be a spokesperson for a particular community without even considering the welfare and opinions of the others in that community.

Anyway, I will leave my racial topic posts for another day. Right now, this is a joyous post dedicated to all my Muslim brothers and sisters wishing you all a wonderful Eid. I hope you eat lots of Haleem I don’t know if there is Haleem in Malaysia & Singapore, as I read it is a Persian dish brought to India a long time back [source: wiki] Me and my friends were crazy about Haleem back in Hyderabad (Paradise, Abids) and Bangalore (Fanoos) during the month of Ramzan. You can find the recipe for Haleem here. It is really tasty, but fills you up pretty quickly. Shawarmas too go really well with Haleem. Sivayyan is another Eid dish I really love which you must try if you can get your hands on it.

Have a great weekend once again everyone, and Insha’Allah.

This Post is also specially dedicated to Mr. Mohamed Elias of Trichy, Tamilnadu, former Indian National Basketball player, and my personal Coach & friend for over 10 years, transforming me from the scrawny, bespectacled, “always looking down while dribbling” basketball player wannabe, to the dunking, energetic, ever-sharp, “one of the most feared point-guards & 3-pointers” in South Indian basketball (during our era). Sir, you have made the greatest change in me and here is wishing you a fantabulous Eid Mubarak.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chp 146. Rules for a Personal Computer

My 10 Commandments for a “shared” Personal Computer.
For most of you who come over to my blog or visit other websites, you probably come online from:
  1. A Cyber café.
  2. Your office work desktop.
  3. Your personal computer at home that you share with just one or two persons (hubby/wife/children).
  4. Your personal computer at home that is also used by a hell lot of other friends.
I belong to the fourth category.

I can’t live without a broadband connection. Had one since 2003 (Hyderabad), then 2004-05 (Bangalore), 2006 (Mumbai) and 2007 (Delhi). And every where I go, it’s always the same. Tons and tons of my Mizo friends come over to my place to surf the net.

In the midst of all these, it is of utmost importance to make my own set of rules regarding the utilization of my computer. Yeah, some people call me a jerk and a stingy bastard for such rules, because in our community it is taken for granted that we should be as generous as possible with each other.

But if you weigh the consequences of reinstalling Windows every time some fool opens an .exe file sent to his email from a “Kirsten Schafer” about enlarging his “you know what”, or formatting my entire hard-drive just because another friend disabled my firewall as he couldn’t browse through those porn sites “properly”, yeah, I really really don’t mind being called a stingy bastard

Below is a set of rules that I stick at the side of my monitor, with a strict message that anyone not following such rules will no longer be allowed to touch my computer. Yeah you gotta be harsh sometimes, because some people just don’t realize the pain of reinstalling Windows or the agony of mulling over precious lost data files.
  1. Thou shalt not browseth serials/cracks/patch/cd keys websites.
  2. Thou shalt not installeth Limewire.
  3. Thou shalt not browseth pornography.
  4. Thou shalt not chateth at IRC.
  5. Whilst downloading from Torrent, thou shalt vieweth the “comment” section first.
  6. Thou shalt not installeth any programs without command.
  7. Thou shalt scanneth thine pen-drive anon.
  8. Thou shalt not changeth my settings.
  9. Thou art recommendeth to clicketh “remember thine passwords”.
  10. Thou shalt not enlargeth thine penises.

1. Do not visit serials/cracks/cd keys websites.
This is the main source of infection on my comp. Guys come over to search for a crack/patch and other illegal wares online from my computer because the hacked software they are using has expired. Search on Google for such cracks and chances are you will see a result of pages which will infest your computer with worms and Trojans if you download from them. Even sites such as astalavista.box.sk and asta-killer.com have such infections (personal experience). And yes, even free password sites are strictly banned from my computer.

2. No Limewire.
Ok I will not get into the technical side of why I don’t allow this software to be installed into my computer, simply because I don’t know the technical reason . Limewire always screws up my computer. It works well in other PCs, but never in mine. Some people say it’s because other P2P softwares like Ares, DC++ and uTorrent are running at the same time and it’s because they share the same port. But even when such applications aren’t running, any file downloading in Limewire slows down my system resources like Hell. Hence, simply put, NO Limewire.

3. No pornography.
If you want porn, then dude you’ve come to the wrong place. Porn is strictly forbidden from here, not because of any moral reasons but simply because of the, once again, high infestation of virus, worms, spywares and Trojans at such sites. Back in Bangalore, I did allow people to download porn through P2P applications from my computer then, but “teens porn” was strictly forbidden even then, as I was playing my bit as a responsible netizen fighting against Child Pornography (Have you seen some of those “barely legal” porn???? Some of them look even younger than teens! Sad.)

4. No IRC.
I am quite an anti-IRC. Chatting with friends on yahoo messenger or msn is okhay, but going into a Chat room and spending a huge amount of time socializing with strangers? That’s a big no for me. Because from my own experience, I don’t find anything constructive (other than the Trivia/Quiz sections) about IRC chatrooms. My good friend [IRC chat id Akillathug] got addicted to IRC chat in 2000, and till today he hasn’t completed his engineering degree, simply because he cannot clear the semester due to lack of attendance, the lack of attendance due to chatting the whole night at IRC.

I know so many other Mizo youth who fell a victim to IRC and screw up their entire future in the process. For an adult with a stable occupation and income, I don’t find anything wrong with it, but I sincerely feel that students should not be encouraged to chat while they are still in schools and colleges. Hence I play another role as a responsible adult by not allowing any of my student friends to chat at IRC from my computer. (Yes, William aka bekang^roll of mizoserver.com, I know you are reading this, and no, I still won’t allow you to install IRC when you come over this weekend )

5. While downloading from Torrent, please check the “comment” section first.
A lot of people search for files at Torrent sites and download them immediately without checking the comment page. I have come across many instances where some nice concerned person post a comment informing the others not to download the file because it is wrongly labeled or it is a virus. Always check the comment section first before downloading it.

6. Do not install any programs without permission.
First of all, I may already have a much better software to perform what you wish. Secondly, it crowds up my task bar, program files folder, start menu etc with softwares I find unnecessary. Thirdly, my C: drive (default location for any installation) is small and some people come and install a huge 3 GB Game at that particular drive without even checking how much space will be available after the installation. Fourthly, the codec you are installing can conflict with my existing codecs. Fifthly, I may have my own personal reasons for not wanting to upgrade a particular software, because in some softwares, there are things one can do with an old version that one can’t with a new version. Just don’t touch my program files please.

7. Scan your pen-drive first.
We now live in an age of “easy data transfer”. I still remember those days when I bought my first computer with a 1 GB hard disk! Now 4-8 GB pen-drives are easily available and every tech savvy person sports one. The problem is, most pen-drives are infected with viruses. It’s like AIDS. When you insert your pen-drive into so many different computers, you are bound to be infected, which will infect other computers. Fortunately, unlike AIDS, it is curable. So please run an Anti-virus scan on your pen-drive immediately when you insert it into my USB drive.

8. Do not change my computer settings.
Don’t you just hate people who use your computer and change all the settings like screen resolutions, background images, fav winamp playlist etc just because they feel more comfortable with it as it is the settings they use on THEIR computer? This is MY computer. Please do not change any of MY settings. You do not find me coming over to your house and changing YOUR settings, do you?

9. You are recommended to click “remember your passwords” option.
Other than personal email accounts, if you and I frequently log in to the same site that requires user-name and passwords (example: blogger.com, orkut.com, myspace.com etc), it is most desirable that you let my browser remember your login details like I do, for easier access. No I am not interested in checking out your account or logging into your account while you are not here and scandalizing your reputation. There is nothing more irritating than somebody urgently wanting to check his/her orkut messages while we are in the middle of a movie, and then that person taking his own sweet time to slowly type his user name and password (comes close to killing him if he ends up typing a wrong password!) whereas that person can easily select his remembered login details while logging in and saving a lot of time.

Guests and other friends who are not regular at using my computer are of course not expected to let my browser remember their details. But those people who are always here, who always hog up my internet time and bandwidth (but magically disappear when its time to pay the monthly internet bill) should by all means let my browser remember their login details.

10. Do not enlarge your penises.
The last commandment in my list. Do not open mails from people you don’t know, that has a subject like “Gaining 5 more inches”. No, now is the wrong time to be curious, what do you think the person means by gaining more inches? Fingernails? And yes, my dear friend Tawia (zorema), I pity you and you have my heart-felt compassion, but trust me, you will not find your answer in such emails.

Any suspicious emails, please delete them immediately or report them as junk/spam. Because eventually in the end, it is going to be me and me alone who will pay for your folly.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chp 145. Be careful what you post…

…even if you delete it immediately! Big Brother records everything once you click on that “publish” button.

Sure we have heard numerous advices about putting any incriminating photographs on the web, because anyone can lay their hands on it. But what about blog posts? Yep, that is also vulnerable to our spying eyes.

But what about blog posts that you wrote out of a brief moment’s anger or passion, and then realized immediately after publishing it that it is too embarrassing, and deleted immediately? Hell yeah, THAT is also available to us!

You don’t need to be a tech wiz or a freckled hacker to read such deleted posts. Simply subscribe to their post feeds, and viola, you have the power to black-mail such people! lolz.

My good friend BlackWhite (Jimmy), the Admin of lawrkhawm.com made such a post 2 days back. When I read his post through my bloglines feed, I laughed my ass out and immediately went over to his blog. But he had already deleted his post by then.

Given below is his deleted topic. However I would advice you not to do such a thing to people you know. I’m only doing it because Jimmy is like a brother to me, the brother I never had, one of my closest friends, and we take each other’s trip this way. It may be considered a very mean thing to do on my part by people who don’t know the extent of my relationship with Jimmy, but trust me, this is how we pull each other's legs.
I crib a lot about the time I spent in Poona. Whenever I'm asked about that place, I have a smirk, and a smile in my face.
"Poona's a great place, I loved it!...it's a different thing, but I was quite lonely out there :)"
"Oh, you didn't have friends or what?"
"Yeah, kind of...I was quite lonely out there" *weary smile :)*

Now that's what 'I USED' to think of loneliness as...No friends, no family next to me.

When I think of it now, I guess I was never lonely, i JUST 'felt' lonely and I was making myself THINK that I was lonely...Why? I was missing a person who never missed me. Sad eh?
That’s his deleted post. The link is this but you will only get a “Page not found 404 error” if you click on it since he deleted it.

Why did he delete it?

Because of the obvious reason that people like Jimmy belong to the category of males who consider being sentimental as feminine, and that a guy shouldn’t say all those stuff because it’s against the very principle of masculinity and machismo.

Don’t blame Jimmy. Blame the system.

I laughed at him because it was soooooo not him to write such a “senti” and “cute” post. But if we can look beyond the humor of all these, there is the serious issue of him being lonely. The internet revolution brought people closer to each other, and so let us show him that as an online community, he shouldn’t be feeling lonely or sad all alone in his little pad in Chennai.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then please drop in at his blog nohiddendepths and leave a short message, just a short, simple and sweet message to cheer him up, and let him know that there are caring strangers all around ready to make him smile any time.

You can leave the comment on his latest post, or his shoutbox. Tell him that missing somebody who doesn’t miss him back is painful, but it’s also natural for people to experience that. Tell him that’s life. Also tell him that there’s nothing wrong in being “senti” about one’s love and emotion, even for a guy. Show him love, brothers and sisters.

I would greatly and deeply appreciate it if you do that. The mizohican graciously thanks you in advance.

Over all, there is another important lesson to be learnt from all these. Never mix alcohol and blogging!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Chp 144. Designing a Template

I’ve finally updated my template. Also finally upgraded to the new blogger template. I stuck with the classic template because for an old-school HTML/XML designer like me, I am more comfortable with the direct commands and functions. The new template (widget friendly) has a lot of commands I don’t understand.

But after a lot of hesitation and surfing on tech sites, I realized that the new template is way much more powerful than the simple classic template, and cautiously clicked on the upgrade button three days ago. I spent the next three days browsing through various templates, and testing each one, but eventually selected a blogger “official” template.

After a lot of visualization and “virtual designing” and planning in my little head, I finally selected the “Rounders 4” template design by Douglas Bowman. My good friend Sundancer is using the exact same template, and below is a snap-shot of her blog:



One might wonder how my blog came to this from that! I will explain the process briefly, but first, a song! To be sung to the tune of “November rain” by Guns & Roses, one of my all-time favorite songs, this altered lyric of mine says exactly what’s been going inside my head these past 3 days. Try singing along. Lolz.

When I look into my blog,
I can see a code disarray.
But darlin’ when I decode you,
Don’t you know I feel hopeless.

Cause no scripts last forever
And we both know platforms can change.
And it’s hard to add a widget,
In a blogger classic template.

We’ve been through this such a long long time
Just trying to fix the bug.
But language always come and language always go
And no one’s really sure what to use today,
Coding away…

If I could take the time to compile my own,
I could rest my hands
Just knowing that it’s like WYSIWYG,
WYSIWYG…

So if you want to blog now
Then darlin’ upgrade your template
Or you’ll just end up bloggin’
With limited options and no track-back.

Do you need some scripts… for more traffic
Do you need some scripts… for enhancement
Everybody needs some scripts… for more comments
Don’t you know you need some scripts… for more visits.



I came across this really hilarious “10 Commandment for bloggers” while I was browsing randomly on template upgrade topics. It’s from Dummies Guide to Google Blogger (Beta) :
The Ten Commandments for Bloggers:
  1. You shall have no other blogs but me.
  2. You shall migrate to the new Blogger, for it is a land of milk and honey.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of Google your God.
  4. You shall upgrade to the new template to seek salvation for your blog.
  5. You shall submit your blog to the search engines and ping them after every post.
  6. You shall not delete a blog lest it be taken over by spammers.
  7. You shall not copy-paste old blogger templates into the new Blogger layout.
  8. You must not steal content even though you may be “inspired” by it.
  9. You must back up your template BEFORE and AFTER any changes to it.
  10. You must not be envious of your neighbor’s blog or his template.


Converting/modifying Blogger template.

First of all, the “Rounders 4” template is tricky. The curved/round edges that you can observe in Sundancer’s blog, are actually image files (transparent .gif files) as there are no HTML commands that will execute such a command.

So the first problem was, when expanding the width of my template, the image files do not change in size. I use a width of 900 pixels because the Google analytics report of my blog showed that around 80% of those who visit my blog use a screen resolution of more than 1024x768. Hence why use a template with width meant for 800x600 screen resolution? With more width, one can add more/larger elements at the side and shorten the vertical height.

But after I expanded the width, because of the round .gif images, the entire layout became very ugly. The .gif images are used as a background image using the wrapper command with “no-repeat” option.

So the first step was to identify all the image files in the “Edit HTML” page and remove/replace them. Below is a list of the “curved” image files in a “Rounders 4” template.

http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/corners_main_bot.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/corners_main_top.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/corners_cap_top.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/corners_cap_bot.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/corners_prof_top.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/corners_prof_bot.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/corners_side_top.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/corners_side_bot.gif

You can either remove them or put a design of your choice in its place. Just remember not to put large image files as the space used for such images are small. Otherwise you will have to expand the padding of each function, which again will make your blog more ugly.

On my side-bar, the “box” lines that you can see surrounding it, is a small image file I designed, which I pasted in place of the image file below.

http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/rails_side.gif

The banner image file at the top of my blog (Mizoram scenery), is again used as a background image in the header-wrapper section and it is not an image that is inserted directly. I replaced the file given below with the above banner.

http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/bg_hdr_bot.jpg

Likewise, the banner at the bottom of my page follows a similar step. Apart from all those files I replaced, I stuck with the four files given below because they really go well with my layout.

http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/icon_comment.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/icon_profile.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/icon_arrow.gif
http://www.blogblog.com/rounders4/icon_arrow_sm.gif

Once all that is done, modifying the other HTML codes is not difficult. I use javascripts for the “mouse roll over” button above and also for the drop-down menu. And of course I can still use all my CSS scripts from my previous blog (classic) template.

Now the problem for me starts. I still have no clue how to modify the widget commands that looks like “[ b : widget class]” or something like that. My friend “Sercop” (Henry), a computer science engineering student, said he will help me out with it, and I plan to use most of his wonderful scriptings which you can observe at his blog kanlab.blogspot.com

Just remember that your template design is as important as your blog content too. It’s like eating ice-cream in a 5 star hotel. You enjoy the ice-cream AND the ambience of the hotel. Sometimes an ice-cream may be too good that you don’t care about the ambience, but never-the-less, a good ambience will always score extra brownie points. Peace.