Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Chinese New year

Happy Chinese New Year !!!!
Well you know what the chinese are upto when you are in Japan. Yesterday was chinese new year's eve, so I made plans to visit China town near Yokohama which is japan's biggest china town. Wnated to visit it last time I was at yokohama, but could not. So I made plans with a friend, and off i was to yokohama again.
To get to chinatown you take a train from yokohama to Motomachi-Chukagai Station, the terminal station of the Minato Mirai Line. We reached there and it started drizzling a little. Sure, china town was huge, but it didn't somehow seem like new year's eve. We went to the usual street side shops and lots of restaurants. Nothing beats Indian chinese food though. The rain was still pouring and we had not found anything interesting other than a few bruce lee full size posters and a 100 yen charge for a toilet to take a leak. There was also a temple in here, but not too many people around. Didn't quite feel like new years !!
Decided to skip back home much earlier than usual. Hope the chinese have more fun in china on new years !!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Aye Aye Captain

Spent a whole day sailing on saturday!! Well not much sailing as the ship was pretty much docked at the port. But it was great fun to be on board the centaurus leader. A childhood friend ( he kept introducing me to everyone as
"Bachpan ka dost" !!!) is the chief officer and had arranged for me to visit the ship when it would be at yokohama
port for a day. It seems you need a customs pass to board the ship, and you can do that only when the ship is
docked on a public and not a private berth. The agent was really helpful, he sent the pass by e-mail and the
directions to get to the ship. We decided to meet for lunch and then maybe my friend could get shore leave so that we could come out in the city at night.
So off I was on saturday. There was not much of a journey to do, Had to reach tsurumi station which was around 30 minutes from shimbashi, direct on the keihintohoku line. The tough part was to take a cab from the station to the port, but I had come prepared bringing the address written out to me in japanese by a colleague. I guess a bus would have cost me much less, which it would have as I later found out, but I wasn't planning on reaching real late. The cabbie knew the port so was there in no time, and surprisingly took me right to the ship. That was a bit unusual, I thought I would have to walk atleast a bit, but for all you know, the cab could have driven straight in the ship and got off at the cayman islands where the ship was next headed. It would not have been as easy as i make it sound, but the point I am trying to make is that I ended up getting out of the cab real close to the ship. I wonder If i could take a cab right to the ships at the bombay docks. On that note, I do not remember going to the docks in mumbai to see a ship, although grandpa worked in a merchant shipping company and dad still works at the naval dockyard. Should do that sometime.
I got out of the cab to be greeted by my friend who was at the top of the ship, asking me to come up. Now, up was a nice 13 floors up and I could hardly see him. I was escorted to the top by a junior officer in an elevator which is supposed to be used only when the ship is not at sea. Chief officer was lowering the deck for the cargo to load in. Nice job I think for a guy who is second in command of the ship. But it seems he has to do a lot of these mundane jobs on the ship. The total crew would not have been more than about 15, half of them engineers and half sailors. We got finished lowering the berth, and set off for lunch.
On our way to the ship's dining room, we stepped into the captain's office to meet him. It's the captain's ship, guess he has the right to know who's on board. The captain got up to greet me and my friend did not sit down till the captain did. He kept adressing the captain as "sir" and it felt a bit out of place to me. I have worked at a lot of places, small to mid-size companies where you would need to address your immediate supervisor as "Sir". But ever since in my current job in an M.N.C, the environment is quite open. It's common for men in uniform to have a certain code of conduct. I do not believe imposing rules would guarantee respect, But it sure makes it easier to establish ranks. You know who is the boss, so there is no confusion when out at sea. I found it quite amusing when the other crew addressed my friend as "Sir", and I was the chief officer's friend, and the "royal" treatment was being passed on to me as well. I almost stop one of the blokes and ask him to call me by my name, cos the queen has not yet officialy conferred the title upon me. But i was on someone else's ship, guess you need to play by the rules.
The lunch was the closest to home cooked food I have had since i got to japan. The fare was nothing fancy, steamed pulao and a beans curry with flavoured yogurt for dessert. But because of almost the whole crew being Indian, and also the cook on board, meals are usually Indian, i am informed. After finishing off lunch, I was off to a guided tour of the ship. We first took a halt in the chief officer's cabin, stopping for a smoke. The small room is pretty decent complete with a refrigerator and a laptop. We then proceeded to the front of the ship, where all the navigation controls are. The captain was on a break leaving my friend in charge and I took to helping him out at his tasks. The first thing to do was to level out the ship. It was slightly tilted towards one side, not so much that you could not notice, but a small arrow hung upside down on the wall indicated so. So my friend proceeds to empty water from some large drums at the bottom of the ship from one side so that the ship levels out. We don't have go down and open taps where water starts gushing out and then close them when they are done. It is done in the usual way, by pressing a few buttons on the keyboard and few clicks of the mouse. Next, he shows me the radar. Now, I have been fascinated by this little piece of equipment for a long time. I always wanted one when I was in school, so I could hide my comics and start studying once i knew my mom was in a 100 metre radius. I always wondered how tiny dots on screen could help you know exactly what was in front, but using it first hand it seems real helpful. I also got to blow the horn of the ship to scare the birds away a couple of times, before my friend figured out I was not going to stop until he asked me too. The migrating birds, it seems regulaly use the front deck for their morning duties, and the junior crew has to spend cold mornings cleaning the deck.We then proceeded towards the engines which were at the lower decks(where else??) Even when the ship was not moving, there was a lot of noise cause of the refuelling going on. My friend gave me some technical jargon, which was lost in the din. The chief officer then had some to chores to complete while I waited in his cabin. He finally managed to get some shore leave and about 5 we were off to the city for a few drinks.
We reached yokohama by bus, the fare being 500 yen for 2 people 1/4th of what I paid for the cab while coming. Found an english pub and caught up on old times. The ship will be sailing to the west now, to the carribean islands and i guess my friend will reach India about the same time I do. We do the usual promises of keeping in touch and meeting up In bombay soon and part ways. It was a day well spent, with an old friend and an old fantasy of sailing far far away to distant land.
It's back to the usual cut, copy, paste from monday. Sometimes, I think of all the professions I considered when I was younger. Enrolling for the merchant navy was topmost on my list. I even got through the same time this friend of mine joined, but as they say, life is what happens when you are making plans for it. So it's writing code, for me. For now. You never know what's in store. And anyways, whatever I would have ended up doing for money, I would have hated it, cos i would have to do it, no choice. That's where work stops being fun for me, when I have to do it and do not want to do it. And I guess knowing me, I cannot stick to anything for too long. So crib I shall and crib I will.
By the way, zero points if you could not guess what was the cargo on the ship being taken from Japan to faraway lands. TOYOTA COROLLA.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Maha Palika

I hate writing about politics. I really do. And I sure don't have all the information to comment. But who has all the information anyway. The mumbai B.M.C elections are over. And the party in power has been re elected. They have been on it for the past five years.
In a time where the number of slums has doubled, so has the number of Legal slums . ( Quite fascinating term, "Legal slums")
In a time where garbage collection and disposal sytems have nearly collapsed.
In a time where infrastructure has gone from bad to worse.
In a time when floods ran havoc in the city.
In a time when floods ran havoc in the city. Again.
In a time of power crisis in the city for the first time that I know of.
In time where almost every transport project in the city is facing inordinate delays.

I mean, come on, these guys stood with us through all these times. Sure, by the way things are shaping up, there will be real tough times ahead. And who better to carry us through all that. They stood by our sides then, they sure will be standing at the sidelines again. With the people, always.
Kudos to the ruling party. Cheers !!!
Before i get real emotional, I am signing off.
I just hope I get back to mumbai before the floods this year. Who doesn't like a day off from work to play in the rains.