The Whisper of Winter

The wind whispered my name today as I was walking with my lonely melancholy. The air was crisp, filled with the fragrance of some far away song. The trees were like old men stooped over their chairs to keep track of life walking on by. My eyes strayed up to the sky where clouds collapsed into words of polite wonder. The path led on without a bend or a rent. My senses were filled with the desire for life. I took off my spectacles to look at the world around me through a blurred inspiration.

Sometimes one sees the door but not the distance up to it. The silent signals of another world wheeling away on the outskirts of a solitary society.

There were many holes. Too many that needed to be plugged to staunch the flow. In some ways it was a lost cause as new leaks sprang up as soon as an old one was fixed. Where did those holes come from? Why did they cause so much torment?

I touched her cheek to seek reassurance from the warm blood flowing beneath. She was beside me, wrapped in dry dreams. The distance between our minds separated our hands. But the words that existed in our hearts somehow slipped out from between us into the cold around like marbles from a child’s hand and formed footsteps in the endless snow.



Fuji Neopan 400

Begin rant. I’m so irritated with the people I sent my 7D in for repair. They took about 5 weeks to send me a repair estimate. I consented to the repair costs (costing more than the camera!) and then sent back the repair estimate within a day or two. Now, roughly two weeks later, I got my camera back all dusty and unrepaired with them claiming that they never received my consent for the repair. Arrgh! So they basically took 7 weeks to do nothing but waste my time. And here I was all eager to use the camera again. Totally pathetic. I’ve half a mind to dump the camera in the dustbin! End of rant.

Nandigram: Left is Right

For the last 11 months the Nandigram saga has been unfolding. It is a fascinating insight into the use and deployment of power by a party that has lost its ‘radical’ moorings and now is THE establishment; The insidious ways in which power is deployed to maintain monopoly and crush dissent and the justification offered for the naked use of aggression.

A quick recap: the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led West Bengal government decided to acquire 25,000 acres of land in the Nandigram block a year ago to set up a chemical hub for the Salim group of Indonesia. A notification was issued to this effect without any formal communication, the worst possible way to go about it. Nandigram is prime agricultural land and around 8,000 families stood to lose their only source of livelihood. Naturally there was resentment, especially since there was no clarification from the government about compensation for land, alternative livelihoods etc. This resentment broke out into a full fledged ‘civil war’ when the local residents organised themselves into an organisation called the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Samiti (BUPS) or Anti Land Acquisition Committee. The BUPS was a militant coalition of political and religious parties. Overnight, roads were dug up, blockades erected and CPI(M) supporters were driven out of their homes into refugee camps. Nandigram became a ‘no go’ area where the government’s writ ceased to function, a ‘liberated’ zone. This was an unprecedented challenge for the CPI(M). In the 30 years that it has ruled West Bengal, it has cultivated a strong network of cadres that have been deployed to ruthlessly crush all opposition within Bengal. The CPI(M) came to power riding on the back of classic Marxist rhetoric: power to the working classes and peasantry, treating the comprador industrial/capitalist class with suspicion and cultivated working class militancy. Never in its wildest dreams could it have imagined that the very political climate that it had cultivated could be used against it.

The matter got further politicised when the main opposition party, the Trinamul Congress, and a host of religious organisations led by the Jamiat-e-ulema hind sensed an opportunity to shore up their support base in what was considered a CPI(M) stronghold.

This volatile mix resulted in the inevitable political stalemate. Attempts to resolve the issue resulted in tragedy when police fired on a protesting crowd on March 14, 2007. Estimates of the number killed vary from 14 (official) to 19.

Trimax Reloaded

I. Origins

The world slowly swam into focus. The light first dissolved into multi-colored blurs and later solidified into vague shapes. The surroundings wavered and then acquired distance. He was in a room filled with what seemed like the technological detritus of late twenty-second century. He felt lighter. His body felt smaller too. There was a tingling sensation on the back of his neck that receded slowly. Who was he? He had a name, didn’t he? The details of his surroundings floated in like a supply ship docking on a service port. He was in a store room of some sort. It looked as if the room was used by service bots to repair security clusters. There were vast stacks of unopened sub-routines and looped commands. There were piles of highly redundant firewalls. In between all this, sprinkled like dew, were the thin trails of data transmission tubes. Yes, now he knew why he was there. It all came rushing back in a streak of silent white noise.

He needed to get the cube.

The contact had been made a few months back by a mysterious caller who never gave her name. But when pressed she had asked to be referred to as Trin. In fact, he was not certain that Trin was a woman but from the beginning, for some reason, he always assumed the caller was a woman. Normally, he never took on anonymous jobs as they were too risky. He made an exception for this one as he had been intrigued. Trin had used a voice masker to hide behind a machine voice. That itself was not surprising as many who contacted him did the same thing at first. But what surprised him was her refusal to meet in person and the vast amount of money he was offered for the job. Yes, the job she wanted him to do was extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible, but the money was really good and even though he hated to admit it the money offered made the job look sweeter.

After all, giving credit where it was due, he was the best in the business. Few people could afford his services. In fact, nowadays, it was only the megacorps that contracted him. He had made his bones at the beginning of the digital age. He hid behind impenetrable barriers and searched for chinks in the primitive armors of the early cyber databases. He had learnt a lot then. He had also acquired his famous (or infamous based on the viewpoint) handle then, ‘Trimax’.

The job she gave him was curious too. She wanted a data cube copied from the main database of the Bangalore based Hive Consortium. Hive was a low profile company involved in robotics and AI. He checked up on them to find that they were heavily funded by the Indian Army and did a lot of highly secretive research into mechanized warfare using AI. He was not surprised to find that their databases were heavily guarded but not in an obvious manner. Surprisingly, no one in his circle knew anyone who had tried hacking into their database. He admired how they had managed to maintain such a low profile even in an age of high level scrutiny. Trimax remembered Trin’s highly specific instructions.

“The data cube cannot be found using ordinary search routines as it is not indexed unlike all the other data cubes in the cluster. You will have to come up with a new routine to find it.”

“Then that is impossible. I do not even know what to look for, leave alone where to look for. Hive’s database is huge. I need at least a tag.”

She paused for a few seconds and replied, “Will a third order tag be sufficient?”

It was better than nothing. He would still need to work fast but he was confident that with a third order tag he could localize the cluster the cube would be in easily. After that it was only a matter of seconds while he narrowed down the search and found the correct cube. So he had said yes and a few days later she sent by secure mail the third order tag. The tag had an innocuous label ‘matrix hive mind access’.

The next few days he spent writing a search routine to ferret out the cube. There was no way to test the routine before the hacking run. The risk of the routine being copied and spawned was too great and she had given strict instructions not to use it in a trial run. So he had to be pitch perfect. One wrong caller function or inexact algorithm and he could kiss his life goodbye. The geisha would be on him in an instant. To increase his chances of staying undetected during the run he also purchased elaborate decoys from a very reliable dealer out of Tokyo. The dealer had assured him that they never had been used and would fool any security drone in the world. The decoys would be crucial in fooling the geisha and buying him some time while his search routine got executed.

Justice Prevails

ICICI Bank has been fined Rs 50 lakh by the Delhi Consumer Commission for hiring goons to recover loans in a landmark ruling. Read more here.

The commission used strong language to condemn the flouting of rules by ICICI Bank by continuing to hire goons to recover a few thousand rupees. I hope this ruling will go a long way to reign these banks in who even after a Supreme Court ruling continue to employ these recovery agents who often use brutal and unlawful methods to recover the money. Until now the banks were washing their hands off by claiming that they were not responsible for the methods employed by the recovery agents. But the Consumer Commission categorically stated that it is the bank’s responsibility to make sure that the recovery agents do not resort to unlawful methods to recover loans.

This ruling should now prevent banks resorting to exploiting legal loopholes to get away with human rights abuses that often resulted in serious injury and tragically even drove some people at the receiving end of such forceful loan recovery tactics to suicide.