Episode 7: Parenting License

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


I watched The Dead Poets Society today. It’s about an English teacher who tries to teach his students how to live. Go watch it.

The Dead Poets Society struck a chord with me because I have been thinking about the same issues it talks about for the past few days. What got me thinking was a conversation I heard at a party last week. This is how it went:

Kid: But mom, I don’t want to eat right now.

Mom: It’s lunchtime. You’re going to eat that chapati right now.

Kid: Okay, ma.

Mom: Why are you using your left hand to eat? Can’t you do anything right?

(At this point, my mom goes over to talk to that annoying lady.)

Mom: Say namaste to aunty. Have you forgotten your manners?

… and so on …

The conversation itself is not offending. In fact, I clearly remember being told to eat with my right hand when I was a kid (a piece of advice that still doesn’t make sense to me). What offended me was the fact that the mother was barking orders, in a way that made me want to put my fork down and leave the room. That kid could not have been older than ten. Show some love, lady. You’re supposed to be his mum. Oh well. What goes around, comes around.

Another story. A guy we (we = my family) know just enrolled his ten year old son into a boarding school. The reason? “He is unruly. We can’t take care of him.” Yeah, right. Do you expect military-style discipline from a ten year old? As far as I know, ten year olds do not want to take over the world (yet). Their curiosity gets them into a lot of trouble, but whatever they do is well intentioned. My parents were visibly shocked.

No one without a parenting license should be allowed to raise kids.

Episode 6 ½: Chromium on Mac

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


I have only used Google Chrome on Windows for a few minutes. That was a few months ago. Since then, I have been waiting eagerly for the Mac version.

The wait is (almost) over.

xAbhishek points out here that Google has finally started releasing Chromium binaries for the Mac, which means you no longer have to build from source. Note that these are nightly builds, which means pre-alpha quality.

Here are some observations:

  • “Inspect Element” and “View Page Info” crash the browser.
  • Most of the preferences are grayed out.
  • Chromium doesn’t play well with Spaces. If I have Chromium on space 1 and I switch to space 2, clicking on the Chromium icon on the dock should automatically switch to space 1. Unfortunately, this is not what happens, which is pretty annoying.
  • I still can’t grasp what the maximize button in Chromium is supposed to do.

Besides these little problems, Chromium is a well behaved Mac app. I expect the final release date for Chrome on Mac is very close. Oh, and here’s a screenie:

Update (May 13): I clobbered together a quick hack (in Python) to download and install the newest Chromium build on Mac OS X. Download it here. I take no responsibility for deaths, injuries or nuclear explosions that might result from the use of this script.

Usage: type this in Terminal:

sudo python <PATH TO SCRIPT>/chromium_updater.py

… and hope that nothing bad happens.

Episode 6: Getting Things Done

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


I’m currently on a mission to increase my productivity up to a respectable level. Right now, I don’t know about any metric that can effectively measure productivity, so I’m using a very simple metric of my own. Out of the total time not spent on life-sustaining activities (eating, bathing, bathroom breaks etc.), how much time do I spend on things that matter? Things that matter include: learning stuff, reading articles online (the news.YC kind, not the Digg/Reddit kind), programming, reading books, blogging, relaxing, pondering the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, and spending time with family and friends (talking to friends on the phone is not “spending time” with them). Right now, the measure of my productivity should be between 5% and 10%. I want to get my productivity levels up to around 50%.

Some of the steps I’ve taken to increase my productivity are: 

  • I have cut down on useless RSS feeds. SlashdotMacworld get the boot. Planet Python kept me updated on the latest going-ons in the Python community, but it was low on the kind of content I enjoy. So, Planet Python gets the boot, too. I feel I should remove some of the Cocoa blogs I read from my RSS reader, too.
  • I am keeping a TODO list in my OS X menubar and reviewing it before I go to sleep. I’m using a slick app called Anxiety which integrates nicely with iCal.
  • I have stopped whining. You will see no more rants here on SUE. If you are following me on Twitter, you will see no more whiny tweets (although I will continue to point out genuine problems I have with the software and web services I use).
  • I’m fighting the urge to correct people all the time. I’ve spent countless hours correcting people on Reddit/news.YC/Twitter. None of that now.
  • I’m getting into the habit of putting my MacBook to sleep when I’m not using it for something productive. No more Wikipedia marathons, no more Amazon explorations and no more AskReddit.
  • I have written down exactly what I want to achieve this year on a piece of paper and stuck it on my wall. Whenever I catch myself doing something useless, I evaluate whether it gets me closer to my goal and then decide to continue with what I’m doing or to drop the task.

I’ve also added a productivity blog to NetNewsWire: 43Folders. I don’t have any particular affinity towards the self-help “industry”, but I find that some of the content on 43Folders is actually pretty good (none of that “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” bullshit that sounds nice but doesn’t really help). Another blog that looked interesting was ZenHabits, but I was put off by some of the cheesy posts I saw on the front page (”5 Foolproof Ways to Produce a Burning Desire for Your Goals”. WTF?).

Right now, my mind is less cluttered than it was a week ago. I’m much calmer, and I got a lot of work done today (got through a lot of dry Objective-C documentation, wrote this blog post, spent a lot of time with my parents and still had time left over for other stuff). This routine suits me. Now the only thing I need to fit in here is some light exercise.

Episode 5: Something to Do

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


First things first. Python and Django programmer for hire this summer (June and July). If anybody in or around New Delhi needs something built, I’m your man.

Now, on to the trivialities.

The results for Google Summer of Code 2009 came out on April 21, and I failed to make it. According to my mentoring organization, I was one of their top picks, but failed to get in because I didn’t submit as many patches as the other students. No GSoC work means I have no commitments this summer. Akshay is trying to get a RoR job somewhere, and I think Apoorv has something planned, too. I feel I ought to start making my own TODO list now.

I have spent the past few weeks thinking about how much time I waste on worthless activities (something which led to a fight between me and Apoorv – he’s absolutely certain he’s not wasting any time). The agenda for April is to cut out all the time-sucking activities from my routine. I’ll probably read up on time management and check out what the GTD hype is all about. Also part of the agenda is keeping my workspace clean. Right now, I have a single table for everything – study, web browsing, movies, programming and food. I’m going to have to try and keep my work and fun areas segregated so that when I sit down in my work chair, my mind goes, “Okay, time to work. No more distractions.”

lut4rp tells me I need to get some code “out there”. A lack of Objective-C knowledge is preventing me from delving deeper into Cocoa, so I will be spending some time writing ObjC code and putting it up on GitHub for everyone to see (and laugh at). I really wish I could spend more time with Python, but I want to go indie with a few desktop apps and that’s something which Python fails to do well (at least on OS X). I want to push the limits of ObjC, just to see how dynamic it really is (so far, I’ve used it like a spiced up version of C). In my experience with the language so far, I have felt it is nothing compared to heavyweights of the dynamic world – Ruby and Python. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

The next logical step after Objective-C is to sharpen my 1337 Cocoa skillz. The strategy this time is to leave the more advanced technologies for later. What’s the point of getting into CoreData or Keyring Services if I never plan to use them? As an aside, the Hillegass book is awesome, but I don’t think it’s written for people new to Cocoa. It reads more like a cookbook than an introduction to OSX programming. I’ll be using Apple’s docs + online tutorials (and refer to Hillegass if the need arises). Since I’ve already covered more than 50% of what is required to write decent OSX apps, my next steps are mostly going to center around getting familiar with the libraries available to me.

My one-post-a-day idea bombed, mostly because exams kept me busy. I had two weeks of exams, followed by a week of semi-rest, followed by a week of practical exams. Another round of practicals begins on Monday, which will be followed by ten days of semi-rest and another two weeks of exams. The last two months of the semester are always like this at IPU. I’m used to it now, so no worries :p 

Episode 3: Ergonomics, Thou Art a Bitch

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


Update [March 31]: Added a pic of my setup.

Owing to Google Summer of Code 2009, I have been spending more time using my MacBook than ever before – hanging out in IRC channels, building Haiku (the project I applied to), writing code and doing a lot of reading. The result? The entire last week spent dealing with severe back pains, shoulder pains, wrist pains and irritable eyes. I have never had these pains before. I remember days when I would spend eight hours in front of my PC without any kind of discomfort. Why now?

After some Googling, I figured out poor laptop ergonomics was to blame. In the past, I have felt some discomfort while working with my MacBook, and I have taken some steps to eliminate that. I got myself a new chair, and reduced the height of my desk by sawing off its legs. Apparently, it wasn’t enough. The problem with laptops is that if you manage to set up the screen in a comfortable position, using the keyboard becomes difficult and if you set up the keyboard in a comfortable position, you can’t read the screen.

With a desktop, you’re usually sitting up straight, with your head in its natural position and your eyes looking straight ahead of you at an angle of 90º. Your elbows, too, are positioned at an angle of 90º with your body and the keyboard is below the level of your chest. If you have a good chair then it supports your lower back, thus reducing back pains. When using a laptop, on the other hand, you’re sitting in a hunched position with your neck bent down. Since the keyboard is so small, your hands are placed unnaturally close to each other, resulting in wrist and shoulder pains. You have to bend forward to type, which kills your lower back.

An overwhelming majority of people who use their laptops as desktops recommend separating the keyboard and the screen. One way to do that is to buy a new screen. Since I don’t have that kind of money, I went with the second alternative – use a USB mouse and keyboard instead of the built in trackpad and keyboard. I already had a portable Logitech mouse, so I headed to the nearest Croma and picked up a Logitech Ultra Flat keyboard for Rs.649 (I know I could have had it for less, but the pain was too excruciating to bear for even one more day). Let me digress from the main post so I can tell you how awesome my new keyboard really is.

The Ultra Flat is smaller and more compact than the regular Logitech Classic keyboard. The keys are placed very close together, but that’s not a problem since they are much larger than the keys on a Classic. They are also softer and much more responsive. There seems to be some kind ’shock absorber’ at the bottom of each key, which slows it down as you press it. Whatever it is, it feels very comfortable. The entire experience of typing on the Ultra Flat could be summed up in one word: smooth. Oh, the best thing about the Ultra Flat? Spring loaded keys! There’s nothing more a geek could ask for.

Okay, back to ergonomics. There’s nothing much to tell now. The next step was to raise the height of the laptop to prevent neck pain. Introduction to Algorithms and The MINIX Book came to my rescue, and now my laptop is standing on the shoulders of giants. As of this writing, I have been working with my new setup for about 5 hours without discomfort. No more pains!

Update [March 31] : I just installed a nify application called KeyRemap4MacBook which allows me to remap several keys on my USB keyboard. The default layout of the bottom row on a regular keyboard is something like this: CTRL | WINDOWS | APPLICATION | ALT | SPACEBAR | etc. On the other hand, the default layout on the MacBook keyboard is like this: FN | OPTION | COMMAND | SPACEBAR | etc. I used a screwdriver to pop-off some of the keys from the UF, and rearranged the bottom row to this: CTRL | APPLICATION | ALT | WINDOWS | SPACEBAR | etc. Then I used KeyRemap4MacBook to remap the ALT key (listed as OPTION_L in the prefpane) to COMMAND_L and the APPLICATION key to OPTION_L. I also remapped CAPSLOCK to CTRL, and checked the ‘Use Keypad as Arrow Keys’ option. After installing KeyRemap4Mac, the DEL, HOME and END keys have started functioning properly, too. Finally, I have my Windows keyboard set up (almost) exactly like my MacBook keyboard.

Nevermind the floral pattern.

Now get off my lawn.

Episode 2: What Grinds My Gears

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


Buzzwords. This is what Wikipedia has to say about them:

A buzzword (also fashion word and vogue word) is a vague idiom, usually a neologism, that is common to managerial, technical, administrative, and political work environments. Although meant to impress the listener with the speaker’s pretense to knowledge, buzzwords render sentences opaque, difficult to understand and question, because the buzzword does not mean what it denominates, yet does mean other things it ought not mean.

Twitter has a crisp, concise sentence on their homepage that describes exactly what their service is all about. Someone must have worked hard coming up with that description. Here it is:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

I’m going to take that description and have some fun with it.

There seems to be no mention of Web 2.0 there, so I’ll put that in. I’ll also toss in “real time”, because I can. The sentence now reads:

Twitter is a Web 2.0-based real time service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

What about “empower”? I think I can squeeze that in somewhere. Since “friends, family, and co–workers” sounds too normal, I’m going to replace it with “end users”.

Twitter is a Web 2.0-based real time service that empowers end users to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

“What are you doing?” is too easy to understand. It has to go. These days, “core competency” seems to be the hot new term in town, especially among entrepreneurs. I’ll re-phrase the blurb so I can throw that in, too.

Twitter is a Web 2.0-based real time service. Twitter’s core competency is empowering end-users to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What activity is the said end-user engaged in?

Something about “rich media” would be nice. “quick, frequent” can be replaced by “holistic, crowsourced” and “question” becomes “query”.

Twitter is a Web 2.0-based real time rich media service. Twitter’s core competency is empowering end-users to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of holistic, crowdsourced answers to one simple query: What activity is the said end-user engaged in?

Change “stay connected” to something better, like “allowing them to initiate a synergizing convergence of thought and action”.

Twitter is a Web 2.0-based realtime rich media service. Twitter’s core competencies are empowering end-users to communicate and allowing them to initiate a synergizing convergence of thought and action through the exchange of holistic, crowdsourced answers to one simple query: What activity is the said end-user engaged in?

And that, folks, is what grinds my gears.

Episode 1: Perspective Shift

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


Somewhere in the depths of my hard disk, lies a small RTF file titled “Goals for 2009″. It has largely been forgotten. It was an ill conceived idea, anyway. The RTF said: “write at least 150 blog posts this year”. Evidently, whoever typed in that number did not belong to civilized society. Want to smell my feet?

I, too, had dreams. I dreamt of an age where man does not suffer from writer’s block, where little children have no trouble coming up with blog posts containing just the right balance of bad advice, irrelevant anecdotes and mindless drivel, where tiny flying hippos put clever words right into your mouth while Douglas Adams explains the exact meaning of the number 42 to Why the Lucky Stiff on the radio. I realized my quest for such a world was futile. To write, you must think. Unfortunately, on average, I have only two modes of thinking. They are:

  1. Mmmmmm … wha? Bugger off.
  2. def writeBlogPost(clevernessFactor):
        # TODO: figure out a better algorithm for this.
        for word in randomize(oxfordEnglishDictionary, clevernessFactor):
             blogPost += word

Now my perspective on life, the universe and everything has changed. I have have realized that pure awesomeness is not a substitute for good thinking. That means I’m not qualified to write clever articles that provide wholesome entertainment for the entire family. I ask myself: what, then, will you do with this blog you paid Rs.4500 for?

This is what: I will try to post here every day. Even if it’s mindless drivel. Even if it leads to invisible sock-pixies spreading chalk powder over my toenails. Even if nothing I write makes sense. This is the perspective shift. I don’t need to write deep, insightful, Hacker News-worthy posts to justify my investment. Something that was meant to be an outlet for thoughts, emotions and opinions seems to have become a dead weight I need to carry around. No more. I shall now write for the sake of writing, not for the sake of making a point or getting more hits.

Episode 1 ends here. You may now be awed.

Thoughts on Using a Mac as a Development Platform

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


This post was inspired partly by this Reddit post.

Take my opinions on the Mac as a development machine with a grain of salt, since I’m neither a professional programmer, nor do I contribute to any major open source projects. I’m still in the early stages of hackerdom, and most of the code I write is either for learning, part of simple scripts I write to automate tedious tasks or, more recently, part of small desktop apps I write using the Cocoa libraries. Even though I haven’t written or worked on any complex piece of software, I grew up using Linux and open source software and have been exposed to many different programming languages (before I settled on Python as my language of choice). I installed Fedora Core 1 (or was it FC2?) just for fun when I was 14 and ended up using various Linux distributions for about four years before I bought my MacBook.

I bought the MacBook about 8 months ago, and started learning Cocoa for writing desktop apps for the Mac, and I’m loving every bit of it.

All right, here’s my list.

The Good Parts

  • Mac OS X is UNIX under the hood. Heck, launch Terminal.app and have fun playing with awk, grep, sed and friends – the same stuff one would use under Linux. OS X also comes with Perl pre-installed. I have no idea if Python and Ruby are parts of the core system, but they’re definitely parts of Apple’s Developer Tools package.
  • You can grab all your favorite editors and languages off MacPorts, which is very similar to Debian’s APT (actually, it’s closer to Gentoo’s emerge tool).
  • Most Linux applications run perfectly on Mac OS X. In fact, many of the lesser known apps have Linux and Mac OS X ports, but no Windows ports. The Transmission BitTorrent client is one example.
  • I believe the UI of my OS has a profound effect on my productivity. The OS X UI has been designed to not draw attention to itself unless you look very hard. Contrary to popular belief, OS X does not have any eye candy, unless you consider smooth transitions from boot screen to login screen to the desktop eye candy. Exposé and Spaces look like eye candy to someone who has never touched a Mac before, but they are productivity features which just happen to be beautifully designed. A stock Ubuntu system with Compiz has much more intrusive eye candy than a stock OS X system.
  • If you’re looking for a new programming language and a new set of APIs to learn, then there’s no better choice than Objective-C and Cocoa (this is exactly what I’m learning these days). After having written a few apps using Cocoa, you will never want to go back to writing apps for Windows or Linux. The API is consistent and well designed, and contains classes for the most common tasks you might wish to perform in a desktop app. Interface Builder is awesome in the true sense of the word, and unlike most other IDEs, XCode is fast, responsive and almost a pleasure to use (almost, because I still prefer the editing capabilities of Emacs over any other editor).
  • No tinkering with config files, no hardware driver issues, minimal maintenance, no slowdowns over time, no malware issues and not having to do an apt-get upgrade every three hours. The it just works nature of the Mac has given me more time to work on my own code, rather than spending most of my time finding ways around other people’s mistakes.

The Bad Parts

  • If you’re writing commercial applications, then Windows is the way to go. Apple will never have significant market share on your average desktop, since both Windows and Linux can run on anything from a Rs.25000 ($500) Zenith desktop to a custom built, Rs.65000 ($1360) gaming machine, whereas the Mac OS runs only on Apple hardware.
  • Macs don’t play well with other operating systems. Installing Windows using BootCamp works fine and dandy, but running it for a long time causes my MacBook to heat up to over 65ºC. While installing Linux on a Mac is easy, it’s not officially supported by BootCamp, and getting it to play well with the hardware requires many hacks and workarounds.
  • Customizing a Mac is not easy. Linux allows you to customize every aspect of the OS, and even Windows allows a certain level of customizability, but the Mac allows none. Be prepared to either install unsafe hacks that mess with the OS or just STFU and follow the One True Way of Steve Jobs.
  • Be prepared to pay for quality. The software-wants-to-be-free culture of the Linux world is not acceptable in the Mac world. If you can’t pay up, then have fun using unstable ports of clumsily put together GTK apps under the X-Server.

Even though the Mac has its own disadvantages, I’d rather use a Mac than a Windows/Linux machine for development any day.

Airtel’s Dirty Secret and My Letter to the TRAI

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


Update: The petition failed. My letter to Airtel was ignored, and TRAI thinks the Airtel Customer Care guys are qualified enough to do something about the new FUP. The new limits have already been discussed to death here. So much for net neutrality.

Update: TRAI seems to not really care. They replied to me with a link to a page containing Airtel’s customer care numbers and a few email addresses, along with a few office addresses. It looks like Airtel have noticed the IBF petition, though. I haven’t seen an advertisement for over 24 hours, and my speeds are back to normal. I’ll email a link to this post, as well as a link to the IBF petition to Airtel just in case (thanks to @ankurb for pointing out the email addresses.).

Two days ago, Airtel Broadband was probably the best ISP in New Delhi and the NCR, not because of the monthly plans they offer (the plans are expensive ) but because Airtel cared about their customers. That was, of course, two days ago. For the past two days, the Airtel folks have been intercepting their users’ HTTP requests to show them full page ads of their DTH services. Here’s one, if you haven’t seen it already.

If you’re thinking that’s bad, wait until you hear what they did next. After you have used a certain amount of bandwidth in a month, your internet speed is halved. This happens only for users of the exceedingly overpriced “unlimited” plans.

A few disgruntled users over at India Broadband Forums have started a petition. You can sign it here. I also sent off an email to the TRAI requesting them to take a look into the matter. Even though I haven’t had good experiences with trying to contact government offices via email, I believe it was worth a try. It would be fun to see how they react to IBF’s online petition. What follows is the full text of the email I sent to the TRAI.

Subject: Complaint Against Malpractices by Airtel Broadband

Thousands of Airtel Broadband (the broadband service provided by Bharti Airtel) users have noticed that after having used a certain amount of bandwidth, the speeds of their so-called “unlimited” broadband connections are halved. This clause was not mentioned in the original Airtel ToS (Terms of Service), and the customers were not notified of the change. Airtel have also been intercepting users’ HTTP requests to show them large, full page ads before they allow them to continue to their requested destination. This is an invasion of the users’ privacy, and another change in the original ToS which the customers have not been notified of. More details of the issue are available here: http://afup.broadbandforum.in/

As a college student, I rely heavily on the Internet for course related information, the majority of which is in the form of audio and video which requires several gigabytes of unrestricted bandwidth per month. Letting this issue go under the radar will mean thousands of college students who use Airtel Broadband will suffer. People also use their broadband connections for bandwidth intensive tasks such as video conferencing and VoIP, collaborative software development and content distribution. If Airtel is allowed to continue with their anti-consumer practices, thousands of users who rely on a fast, cheap Internet connection for their livelihood will be inconvenienced.

I request you to kindly file a formal complaint against Bharti Airtel.

Thanking you,
Ankur Sethi

I urge anybody who has contacts in TRAI to try and make a formal complaint against Airtel. Everyone else can still contact them at any of the email addresses or telephone numbers mentioned here.

My Adventures at the Zonal Transport Office

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


Whenever I hear someone mention a government office of any sort, I find myself thinking of middle aged women who look strangely like that distant aunt of yours who likes to give you unsolicited advice because “.. youngsters like you need the guidance of your elders.”. I associate government ventures with forgotten, derelict buildings and old Wipro computers running Windows 98. If I’m feeling particularly depressed, I conjure up terrifying visions of office chairs from the last century which have been patched up so many times they’ve started looking like abstract art. Equally frightening are the visions of their owners, who have been sitting in those demented pieces of office furniture for so long that the furniture has morphed to acquire the shape of their bums, as a result of which nobody else can ever be expected to use the same chairs unless they have the same bumprints.

When I walked into the zonal transport department this morning to apply for my learner’s license, this is exactly what I expected. I was relieved to find out how wrong I was.

The first thing that hits you when you walk into the office is the fact that there are no middle aged women who look like your distant aunt. After you’ve had a mental victory dance, you realize that the place isn’t as dreary as you would expect a government office to be. It has a strange sort of cheerfulness. Not the “Yay! I’m so happy!” kind of cheerfulness, but the kind of cheerfulness you find in workplaces where every employee is satisfied and prides himself on a job well done. The computers are all HCL workstations (with LCD screens!) running Windows XP (not really something you can be proud of, but at least it’s better than Windows 98 ). You can see ergonomic chairs behind every desk. A large LCD television adorns one of the walls. The lighting is top notch, and the tiled floors make the ambience even brighter.

(The office also seems to have a competent sysadmin. I first realized he was competent when I saw him getting frustrated at the guy at counter 3, who couldn’t get something very simple to work. He swore in the glorious sysadmin tradition, “What did you motherfuckers eat this morning?”, drawing curious glances from the people near counter 3, and a glance of deep understanding and appreciation from me.)

The only thing that reminds you it’s still a government office you’re dealing with is the long queue at counter A, where you have to submit the filled in license form along with an ID and a proof of address. Since I was early, I didn’t have to stand in queue for too long, but others were not that lucky. At counter B, a young girl took my photograph, signature and fingerprints, a procedure that took 30 seconds. I was told to go to counter 7 for a few tests.

The person sitting at counter 7 first gave me a color blindness test, which was basically an Ishihara Color Test. After that, I was given a simple questionnaire. It was nice to see that the transportation department has a sense of humor. Here are a few questions that struck me as hilarious –

Q: Why should one give more room to cyclists while driving?

  1. Two wheels are unstable
  2. They might turn anywhere, anytime
  3. They have a right to more space on the roads
  4. None of these

(I couldn’t figure this one out.)

Q: While driving at night:

  1. Drive slow and look out for cyclists and pedestrians
  2. You reach your destination faster
  3. Cyclists and pedestrians don’t come out at night
  4. None of these

Q: While driving at a high speed:

  1. You reach your destination faster
  2. One must adhere to the speed limit
  3. You have more fun
  4. None of these

Q: Two wheelers can carry:

  1. Only one person
  2. Two people – one in the front and one in the back
  3. As many people as you can fit on it
  4. None of these

Q: There are different speed limits on the road because:

  1. Everyone is in a hurry
  2. Buses take up too much space
  3. Most people don’t drive in their own lanes
  4. There are many different kinds of vehicles on the roads

(Another one I couldn’t figure out, so I marked option 4 because it was the most rational.)

The rest of the questions dealt with road signs, driving skills and road laws. There were total 30 questions.

The test took less than ten minutes, and the entire process took less than an hour (including the time it took for the person at counter A to fix a broken printer). This is the first time I’ve gone to a government office and haven’t spent the day there. It seems like the Indian government has realized that lengthy procedures actually cost them money. I just hope other government offices take a cue from the transportation office.

In other news, I finally get my very own car. It’s ten years old, doesn’t have an air conditioner and has a radio that works only when you’re not in the mood for music. But the features don’t matter. What matters is that I finally have a car. Take that, environment friendly public transport!