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Life Blog Series (Why I am talking to myself) – Part 12 – ( Lonely Planet ? )

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Caveat: This can just flip you out because you travel and possibly have traveled way less than the guys I’m talking about in this blog. So don’t flip out mi amigo!

Since Google’s Blogspot has no such feature such as reblog for me to write a referral post, I will just copy-paste the content of the article I found amazing and it made me fall flat on my back for a moment and think. The content that is to follow is snapped out of a blog which has been written by 2 German brothers who completed a close to 7000 Kms. of hitchhiking journey through the fuckin’ Silk Route. When I talk about Silk Route from now on, you should immediately keep a reference of this picture (below) in your mind.

800px-Silk_route

Without me even trying to provide you with a vivid and comprehensible way in which they achieved this feat, I will just ask you to delve deeper into how they did this and refer to their blog for more details. Life Blog Series feels proud to have featured this piece.

———————-Content Begins—————————–

7000 Kilometers. 107 Lifts. 5 Countries. 2 Brothers. One Road.

 It’s was bound to fail: Four weeks time to prepare for one month of hitchhiking along the Silk Road – today’s most dangerous and both politically and infrastructurally difficult route.

But yes we did! Thumbing up truck rides in the hottest desert on earth, got lifts with public bus through Kurdish Iraq, hitched a hotel, Germanwings and longtail boat. We put up our hammocks in picturesque moon-like landscapes and onlonely Thai beaches. We hitch-hiked the newest BMW and Indian tractors. We explored Istanbul with crazy CouchSurfers, enjoyed tasty Bakhlava in Southern Anatolia and zero-g-forces in Northern Iran. We played futsal in Shiraz and learned how to wash before prayer with Furkan. We were thumbing the road for more than 5500 kms together. Craig topped the 7000-kilometer-mark hitching to his second home Malaysia.

Everywhere, one of the first questions we heard was: “Isn’t it dangerous?” – No. It’s not. To go by car in the first place is the dangerous thing. Hitchhiking is as safe as you make it: We only go with people with who we feel comfortable. Other questions centered around the feasibility. Despite all adverse conditions (low population density, Iranian don’t know what is hitching) Iran turned out to be the best country to thumb up lifts. Even the other countries were far easier to hitchhike than Germany. With one exception … India.

We had an awesome time hitching Indian tractors etc. but we would rather go for the unforgettable train rides on future trips. Autostop in India is exhausting: Sometimes it takes you more than half an hour to only explain what you do. Other reasons: Extreme cheap public transport and scarce long distance traffic on roads. Can you imagine that one of the four principal highways leaving 20-million-Mumbai is a two-lane (!!!) road?

To all fellow hitchhikers who want to stage the Silk Road and those among them who have the dream of doing a full overland route – like we wanted in the first place: You need far more preparation time, approximately three weeks more than we had. You’d need to be fine with four days of desert only. Trust us: Desert is nice to see – but only for some hours. Another bound-to-fail-challenge: Try to make friends with somebody in the Pakistani embassy to get a visa for overland entry – otherwise it’s currently impossible. Then you’d need to change and expand the route significantly going for China since there is no usable Bangladesh-Myanmar land border crossing and heaps of difficulties to get required permits for India-Myanmar border crossing let alone for the troubled Indian border state Manipur. In plain English: It’s today’s most difficult route to prepare and realize.

Sometimes people ask us if we go with no money. In our opinion the idea of zero-expenditure-travel is nuts and close to scrounging – and that is not what you want your hosts to think of you. It’s also not practical: Perhaps we’d to bribe a border officer to enter a country. Sometimes you are simply hungry and need a Kebab or Samosa 😉 The currency you pay with while hitchhiking is entertainment.

Anyways you can still expect to enjoy a breathtaking fun time with a mini budget. We spent 100€ each to India (museum fees etc.) and another 50€ for Craig to reach Malaysia.

It’s however not our financial situation that inspired this trip. It was our lust for adventure and serendipities: Meet people, see places and go beyond frontiers. As we make friends along the Silk Road we advance cultural understanding and global peace.

We’d like to express our appreciation for all the people who helped us: The gay Dutch, the Thai policeman, Germanwings for the VDB, Hennessy Hammocks for the awesome hammocks, the CouchSurfers, our Mama and Papa, our friends Felix, Dany & Robert, Craig’s Malaysian family and anybody who made this trip possible.

Some people ask: “What comes next?” … Well, perhaps ‘Urban Tourism in the Bronx‘, ‘Parachuting over North Korea‘ or ‘Riding through Mongolia with only a donkey and a fridge‘.

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Life Blog Series (Why I am talking to myself) – Part 11 – ( Caravan of Terrible Dejection )

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Caveat: Caveats are a ruse. Missing them is in itself like a fix to the incomplete jigsaw. So try and miss most of them. I write and I keep writing till I’m sure my reader can connect the dots looking backwards at the piece. I may not explain my position in full throttle. At some points, I may just leave the point it as it is, like the way I just did.

It’s a little bit off track from what I decided to write upon 5 minutes ago due to the recent developments hereby. I have been a humble provider, learner and exchange-r of knowledge in my university for the last 4.5 years and I have not seen such a state as I am today. I never liked the word “throng”, though it doesn’t mean anything very bad but whenever it’s used in my context or I’m anyhow related to the context of usage, I feel a gust of wind of negative connotation uprooting me due to its condescending implications. It according to Merriam-Webster means “a densely packed crowd of people or animals” and mind you, it doesn’t have to signify a purpose as to why. It hit me today that my peers had lost the purpose of their education by selling themselves to the top recruiting firms who visited my university for job placements today i.e. Monday, 1st December 2014.

I don’t want to suppose a moral high ground as I was a significant part of the process till I got rejected by the 2 firms I had enamored a small dream of getting into but as usual, rejection at times can trigger an eclectic variety of emotions as opposed to success. “If you want something, it can be done if you really want it”. Well, how many of you agree with this statement? I hope you all do but it deserves an analysis from the vantage point of someone who failed despite trying hard. Doesn’t it?

I thought that rejection and the dejection following it deserve a mention in the ongoing life blog series. So I am writing this piece at 4:45 AM (Indian Standard Time) after a very fruitful interaction with my colleagues who sat for the interviews, some of them who were hired and many of them who are facing impending rejection in the results about to be declared in a few hours from now.

Preparing yourself for a job is indeed the same simple basic notion with which industrialization began in the world, which is briefly defined as the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial one. An industrialized society need either those people who are ready for the job, or those who are willing to get ready for it. Individual dreams other than being a live working contributor to the industrialized society is a different pursuit altogether. You’re welcome to be led astray(as they say) but it will be a tough fight and a long shot that you will make something out of yourself.

How convenient our system has become! Our recruiters pitch in front of us in the following manner and sequence. We have everything ready for you, they say. We provide you schools for education. We provide your parents a job in order to educate you in our schools. Then we provide you opportunities to work with us so that you and your progeny can exit this cycle. Those who can’t make through the only exit route have to keep continuing working small time jobs living the life we decide for them by implementing, affecting and manipulating grand policy decisions which have far reaching and deep rooted, sometimes inconceivable impacts on our economy, hence on our lives.

This doesn’t mean that I turned tables on our recruiters. I’m as curious to know about job life as those who applied for top notch jobs hoping they could make that cut being among the 50 odd people who would be the stars of tomorrow by grabbing fat pay cheques from them but unfortunately(not sarcasm) couldn’t. I hail from a middle class background like many of them from my university who after the recruitment process finishes, will own up to the fact that competition between us itself has failed the very purpose of this institute, the very integral part of which was peer learning.

We learn to compete. Well, that statement doesn’t sound very well to me. Does it to you? I want to stop at this juncture so that the reader can draw his/her own conclusions from the piece. My motive is not to drive a certain kind of anti-passion towards recruitments but a proper analysis at your part will give you an articulation of your purpose in looking for a job. Even if it’s only for pursuit of money and nothing else, It doesn’t disqualify you from being in the position of thinking for yourself. Does it?

I am very sure that many readers of this blog have no clue of what I am talking about but since this topic is as close to me as Ganges river to Gangotri glacier, I supposed that I should give it a mention in the ongoing series.

Stay Tuned for Part 12!

Never before has a boy wanted more

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“God has not given the foreigners the capacity to comprehend the magnanimity of the joke he has played with them by not giving them the goods to appreciate how Indians live in the present setup.” Reading the foreigner’s account of my nation gives me the global perspective of how we are seen as living entities. The piece of writing I am sharing over here is something which connects with every Indian Individual persisting to make a mark in order to live in an atmosphere undesirable or perfect I know not. Go forward and have a read.

Visiting India defied any tidy, one-sentence quip I could think of. It left me a mix of enchanted, bemused and horrified – often at the same time.

The first thing you notice is the people. Not as individuals, but as an overwhelming force of numbers, spilling over the streets like a river. This is a place where the population increases by 200 million every ten years.

Such growth in numbers seems to be pushing society to limits a visitor can struggle to comprehend. I’ve travelled around tribal huts in Africa and slums in South America, but this was something else.

Poverty I expected, but it’s the side-by-side contrast of rich and poor that made my eyes melt. Lamborghini’s drive nonchalantly alongside cattle. Ancient monuments stand in the midst of collapsing shanty towns. Pristine colonial palaces overlooked children walking through the garbage.

In some places, I saw hoards of immaculately suited Indian teenagers, with perfect hair, tapping on their iPhones. They would look overdressed in Italy. Across the street a man with two withered legs would carry himself on his palms across the sand. Later, our jeep would overtake an elephant.

In the cities, virtually every hotel, tourist attraction and many restaurants all had metal detectors outside. The funny thing was, everyone set off the alarms, and guards would just bow and usher you through. At the Red Fort in Delhi, hundreds flowed through the detectors every minute with no-one even present to check them. Somewhere, there’s a very rich Indian selling metal detectors.

The city of Agra is home to the Taj Mahal and a wealth of other attractions that probably feel like their pretty sister gets all the attention. The foreigner admission fee for the Taj plus two other monuments is just 750 rupees ($14). That’s 40 times more expensive than the domestic price (20 rupees) but it’s still cripplingly low. Flanked by barbaric poverty on every side I want to scream: for the love of God, raise your prices.

Indeed, the western entrepreneur in me desperately wanted to run the place for a day. The best photos I’ve seen of the Taj are from the river behind it, yet there’s no way to get there? Build a bridge, and charge me to cross it. Offer overpriced boat tours. Collect donations from tourists. Build a proper museum, adorned with the finest of Indian culture. There were countless people hard-selling art we didn’t want to buy – I would happily pay just to walk round and look at it. And somebody, open a damn gift shop. 2 million people come here a year. Earn some more money.Please.

Whilst the Taj was predictably spectacular, for me it took a backseat to Delhi’s Akshardham Hindu temple (above). I’m about as non-spiritual a person as you’ll ever find, but strolling through this ageless gem, lit by the setting sun, I was sincerely moved. Their musical fountain would shame the Bellagio. It’s a work of staggering, unique beauty and a ringing endorsement of what India can achieve; the 86,000 sq ft complex was built by 11,000 workers in under 5 years.

Yet it seems wherever you go in India, garbage surrounds you. It gathers like fatty residue in the arteries, clogging the edges of roads and buildings. Sometimes it spills high into waste mountains that people scavenge, set fire to, or stroll over like a parkland.

Imagine if all of the waste tips and bins in Europe were emptied into the streets. Then multiple your population density by 10. Even with pictures, it’s incomprehensible.

India is possibly the most resplendently colourful place I’ve ever seen. It seems baked into their cultural DNA – from glorious clothing, to painted vehicles to technicolour buildings – and the strong sun make those shades even more striking. The only thing that ever tones down the hues is a haze of dust and morning fog.

Everywhere new buildings are rising, and it looks like they’re struggling to keep up with demand. In a hotel in Jaipur, the softly illuminated glass and wooden interior would be impressive in London, were it not for one detail: none of the light switches lined up. In one glorious, ancient palace the chandeliers dangled precariously from half unscrewed fittings.

People here sell like nothing I’ve ever known. I was given a pitch to buy a $6 shirt that would shame any America car dealership. No problem sir. Everything looks great on you. We can have it tailored for a dollar. Their eagerness to move heaven and earth to sell is truly impressive, if a touch disconcerting. One shopkeeper sent his 10 year old daughter to follow a tourist back to their hotel, because they didn’t have money on them to pay for a dress.

It can be frustrating as well. One shopkeeper tried to sell us earrings for 4,500 rupees ($83) that we saw earlier on the street for 300 ($5). The price is determined more by what you look like, than by what you’re buying. On numerous occasions, a tour guide would lead us conveniently into the depths of a rug or jewellery store. Once seated and offered tea, his ‘friend’ would deliver a finely honed presentation to a captive audience. I might have walked off in disgust, if only they hadn’t been so damn good at it. My girlfriend remarked “I didn’t want to buy a thing, but now they’ve spoken, I do”.

I wish that talent was better placed though. When that same passion gets put into something bigger than selling rugs, the world had better watch out. There’s a tidal wave of new Indian entrepreneurs building here, and it’s only just starting to reach our shores.

What can I say about the people? They’re impossibly diverse. 1.2 billion people with 22 official languages – they have nearly double the population of Europe and speak nearly as many different tongues. I met delightful and horrible people. Many were proud of their nation, others bitter. All generalisations seemed worthless.

That said, travelling with my girlfriend we did perceive a fair whiff of sexism. Sometimes in a queue, with her in front of me, a man peered around to address me first, and then other men. Served at a dining table, I would be asked what the lady would like. With the exception of a few western hotels and the airport, we never saw any women working outside of the home or fields.

With the relentless hawkers, beggars and sellers, you soon develop a shield, and for me this was one of the most unpleasant things about my trip: how it changed me. Near the end of my journey, as a group of us clamoured into a jeep, a young woman approached. Showing us the twisted stumps where her arms should be, on cue, she began to cry. Everyone in the jeep looked at each other, paralysed. My mind was racing – I knew this was contrived, but surely I should give her something? We’d turn down countless beggars before, but this woman has no arms. A couple of seconds later our tour guide slipped 10 rupees (about 20 cents) into her pocket and we drove off.

I felt many things as we drove away. Self loathing that I couldn’t overcome my wretched beggar-shield to give this woman – what – two paltry dollars? That could buy her 10 meals. Anger that I’d been hardened into someone who could do such a thing within just a week. Fury that a country with 20 nuclear reactors and a billion dollar space program can allow any of their people to exist like this.

I think a holiday can tell you as much about yourself as the place you visit. India made me very grateful for many things that are too easily forgotten. As a holiday it was an unforgettable experience and one I intend to build upon – I know I only had time to experience a tiny speck of this vast land.

For all the frustrations and the horrors, I came away greatly impressed by India. It’s easy to feel despair at the scale of the problems they face, and to feel like any amount of time or money would never fix them, but that’s not my impression. The land buzzes with potential, mostly untapped, and it’s growing up fast.

At a train station I saw people building up piles of sand with shovels to extend the platform. It might seem like a small thing, but it made me smile. One day, that platform will help carry millions to work, to build businesses across the globe, to travel to their airports where some will probably fly to visit quaint ol’ England, long past its prime. The future belongs to these people, and it’s incredible to see it coming together, one shovel of sand at a time.

Courtesy For Account : Oliver Emberton

Sino-Indian War: Why did China invade India in 1962? – A Lucid treatment

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Sino Indian War = Mapping error + Clueless, old Indian leadership + belligerent China that was trying to prove something.

Both China and India were great nations with a long history and after the European colonization in 19th century, both were rebuilding in the mid 20th century. But, both the nations could not decide how far their borders went as the nations waxed andwaned at various times. China and India had two border issues.

  1. Aksai Chin in Kashmir (Western front) — Johnson line
  2. Arunachal Pradesh in North East India (Eastern Front) — McMahon line
  • Western front:

Although I consider myself a patriotic Indian, I believe this is a serious case of India screwing up. We were fighting against a major power over a territory (Aksai Chin) that has virtually nothing to do with India. It was neither inhabited nor strategically important to India. OTOH, for China this territory is their major connection between their two main western provinces – Xinjiang and Tibet.

The genesis of the war lies in the Johnson line of mid 1800s that put the map of Ladakh far into the China’s province of Xinjiang. Although neither the terrain nor its history bore any evidence of a connection with India, a civil servant at the Survey of India put the region with Kashmir.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ori…
Later, British & Chinese agreed on the more feasible Maccartney-Mcdonald line that put this region in China.

However, the Maharaja of Kashmir still didn’t want to give up the region and had it in their map. Having took over Kashmir, Nehru kept it in India’s map.

When Chinese authorities pushed back, Nehru tried to defend the indefensible line. The fact that India could not put a single human into the 30,000sq.km region while China was building a massive highway, itself should have pointed to the actual claimant of the land.

But, Nehru was too headstrong and he was emboldened by the fact that China was in enmity with both the world powers – US & USSR at that time. Nehru thought that he could get away with his claim and China dare not attack India. The old man’s gamble failed and China wanted to teach India a lesson while still sending a powerful message to the rest of the world.

India lost the war and China took back its territory.

  • Eastern front:

On the eastern front, the story was tricky. Both China and India have a claim over the land (Arunachal Pradesh & Sikkim as it is known internationally and Kham holdouts/Southern Tibet as they are known in China) – although the geography and culture favor India’s claim. India considered Himalayas as the natural boundary and it was also defensible. During the war, India held its territory and didn’t lose much. It was also aided by the fact that India had a sizable air force based in Calcutta and any major advance into the plains of Assam could have put the Chinese troops in major disadvantage facing India’s air attack.

IMO, India should have negotiated and given up Aksai Chin while firmly putting an end to China’s claims on the eastern side. That would have been fair to both sides & we could have avoided a nasty war.

  • How significant was Cuban missile crisis in the happening and outcome of India-china war ?

Both events (Cuban Crisis & Sino-Indian war) occurred in the exact same period (last week of October 1962). Nehru indeed assumed that he will receive assistance from both US & USSR in its war against China. Indeed, the Yanks had a few ships ready to help India, although we never got any help.

The Cuban crisis took the entire world’s attention and most of the world didn’t care about a fight between two dirt-poor nations. I guess China timed their aggression perfectly. They used the right window of opportunity to teach us a lesson. Various articles such as this in Indian Express suggests that China used the Cuban crisis to get USSR backoff from supporting India. http://www.indianexpress.com/new…

That said, both US & USSR were wary of any direct confrontation with China. US had already fought China in the Korean war in 50s and that war had already boosted Chinas morale. They might not have wanted to engage in another major war, especially given that India was not an ally of the US.

Also, Nehru was plainly hypocritical when he pledged allegiance to the NAM (Non Aligned Movement) while still expecting both US & USSR to come and rescue him. He tried to play a silly game using the superpowers to exert control over a land (Aksai Chin) that was never a part of India. With the poor state of our armed forces, our bluff could only go so far.

  • What became of the 3,968 Indian soldiers captured during Sino-Indian War?

Most of the Indian prisoners of war were released unharmed. Here is a link to a first person account of the Indian signals commander, who was among the senior most officers captured during the war.

Remembering a War: A PoW in Tibet

Another first person account here:

Captured by Chinese, Indian PoW had Lata’s voice for company

  • How responsible was Nehru for the Indian defeat in the Sino-Indian War?

This book, The Himalayan Blunder is an eye-opener and talks about all the mistakes on everyone’s (who was involved) part and solutions (which should have been applied but were not).

Even the Chinese Army men confessed this after war, that INDIANS NEED EVERYTHING EXCEPT COURAGE. 

What more can one ask for than your enemy praising your guts.

Courtesy: Quora – Sino-Indian War