Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Strange Meeting

The shack stood at the bank. The clear water of the Volga had frozen to create a smooth pathway; even smoother than the roads. Desolated in the darkness, the place was seldom clustered with tourists, or even the locals. But now, there stood a vehicle. A shiny Bentley; complete with government plates, tinted windows, and bulletproof glass; and it was the automobile of Victor Petrov-one of the most influential men of the country.

The dim light from the hut just touched the vehicle as it stood there alone in the cold. Screams and groans of ecstasy pierced the silent night air as the man and woman inside moved to the tune of each other. It had been 7 years since Victor had visited the place. And today, he had returned. He had been forced to go back; back to his old life. Because he had relived his past, a past he had not wished for. And he did not wish for it to return. He wanted to end everything…and that would happen…today.

The shriek of the telephone slashed through the dream. It had been a sunny day, and he had been sitting with Ilyanova; flirting and charming her with his dialogues. The shrill intrusion brought back the real world back to him. The clock on the stand beside his bed shouted out the time-0435 hrs! Accustomed to these interruptions, his hand moved mechanically in the darkness towards the ringing contraption, and as he heard what was said, he jumped up in bed-shocked. “No! This cannot be happening again,” he exclaimed hysterically into the night as he banged the receiver and hurried to the bathroom to put on a fresh suit.

“I am extremely sorry to disturb you at this unearthly hour sir, but this emergency requires yours and the Politburo’s instant attention,” Victor said courteously into the phone even though he wanted to scream it out.
“Just get it out of your mouth, you idiot,” the voice at the other end said insolently.
“An American aircraft carrier has just been detected 2500 nautical miles from our borders, sir. It has the military capacity to annihilate the whole of the capital or any of our towns. The General has ordered an emergency meeting at the Cave at 0600 hours. I am just doing my duty of informing you about this catastrophe,” Victor replied, his voice strained with anger.
“I will call the others. We will all be there. You better be on time Petrov, we do not want Mother Russia to be insulted because of a minor snag caused by you.” And the line went dead.

The drive in the Bentley unfortunately took more time than expected. Even though he drove recklessly through the slippery streets of St. Petersburg, Victor reached the Cave an enormous 17 minutes late.

“I told you to reach on time, you blithering idiot! We have been sitting here without knowing what the exact situation is for 20 minutes,” bellowed the Army General.
“I apologize profusely for my lateness, but I was hindered by the slippery roads. USS Eisenhower has been detected by our Kilo Class submarine just 2500 nautical miles from our shores. On being contacted, the ship’s commander has informed us that this is just a routine exercise and that the carrier means no harm. This carrier is the largest the United States Navy has, and at this time, it is carrying weapons that could wipe out a whole nation,” informed Victor.

Sighs lined the air which was heavy with blue smoke from the imported cigars smoked by the Politburo.

“We need to mobilize the entire Baltic Fleet at once! This is an emergency! We are again at war with US of A. Violent jerks, all of them. Let’s blow them all up at once,” said the General. This dialogue was welcomed with claps, and almost all of the members agreed at once.

“We should think of this from another angle as well. This may really be a training exercise. The rough weather in the region north of the Bering’s sea proves extremely suitable for naval exercises. This strip has attracted navies from all around the world, and it is we who have started using this region for this specialist reason,” conflicted Victor.

“You know nothing of this lad. This country has been very well-known to attack on the pretexts of exercises. This was visible to the world when they invaded Afghanistan. You have provided us with the information, now you may please shut your mouth and attend the whole meeting or you may get out of our sight at this moment,” bickered the already enraged Army General.

Looking on for a moment, Victor stood in silence. The meeting reconvened, and the muttering recommenced.

His voice thick with anger, Victor roared,” You old General, you have lost your touch. Why should we sacrifice the precious lives of our soldiers? Why should we again get provoked by them? Why should we fight with them again and that to without concrete knowledge of the situation? I have just returned some years prior to this day and I have seen the condition of our patriotic comrades. But you have not seen a battlefield since 2 decades. They live for days in the immense cold, without proper food, drink or shelter. But why do you care? You just have to be politically correct with your decision.”

“Get out of my sight right now. And do not return. Or I will have you shot for treason,” bellowed the General at this angry lecture.

“Of course I will. But I promise you that after this imprudent decision, there will be nothing left for me to return to. Because the US Navy won’t leave anything. We won’t be able to defend our nation; because they are stronger,” replied Victor as he headed for the door.

The day had passed as he thought about what he should do about this decision. He had to do something. He cursed, swore abusively, and even cried at his helplessness. At last he thought of visiting one of his old comrades. Someone who had supported him at all times; had been successful in cooling him down and seeping the frustration out of him. He jumped into the Bentley and drove off to the shack near the Volga, to meet his old darling. He hoped she would recognize him. And she would help him…for old times’ sake. He just hoped…

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Greatest Challenges Facing our Generation

Being a part of the youth of this generation, as are almost all those present here, I have experienced the impact of a lot of obstacles which have hampered the generation in a lot of ways but have also had a small number of benefits to society. There have also been others which have had absolutely no positive impact on society but have acted as dilemmas from the time they have appeared. The obstacles in the way of mankind have had a sudden boost in the past Century. They have materialized over a long period of time and have been cultivated in the hearts of man. In my opinion I would state these brutes to be technology, crime, corruption, the importance of money, and the human values of anger, pride, envy and greed. I am going to discuss about just a couple of them at length as I feel them more important compared to the rest. The first of the hindrances I would like to address is one which we exercise in almost all of the tasks we carry out: Technology.

The rate at which technology is pulling this world and its people is flabbergasting. Mobile phones, laptops, and all of the time-saving machines have sure worked to increase industrial productivity but have also worked against humanity by decreasing the inventive and memory skills of humans. People in the current world have ceased to remembering phone numbers and addresses, as the storage systems and memory capacities of the laptops and mobile phones are colossal and they promise to last long compared to the “fragile human brain”. I would like to ask all those present here a simple and easy question - How many of us remember their home numbers to the last digit? The presumable answer for the teens and even the elders is no. The simple explanation to this is the fact of the presence of mobile phones in each and every hand. We feel that these objects have helped our world speed through a lag phase faster, but is that so? Aren’t these metal bodies impairing the human brain and slowing it down to infinitesimal levels?

I think so and this is the precise justification I find worthy of bestowing technology in its current state.

Pace. Speed. The words defining the advancement of life in today’s world. Racing around bends at high-speeds, the vehicle of today’s generation does not wait for anyone, falling off at the bends or getting yanked away by the vacuums of emptiness left behind by this high-pressure vehicle of today’s life. Exceptionally high levels of stress due to work have infiltrated into the lives of people and are hollowing out the satisfaction which used to be the earlier incentive to work. Satisfaction being replaced by money has had a gargantuan effect on the pinwheels of life. Being turned at the hands of the wealthy compared to the brainy has had its toll on all the cars of life being turned by that giant pinwheel.

Increasing suicides, heart attacks and other stress disorders depict that in the simplest form available. Witnessed in age groups all over the population curves, this disorder is immune to all sorts of treatments. Ordering life to move faster, the importance of money is one hurdle which will take a really long time to clear, all thanks to the other demons it has brought out which shackle the progress of mankind progressively. Progress during the 1970’s was reaching the moon, but that “giant leap for mankind” has turned into the “small step for man” if I may quote Neil Armstrong.

One of the devils brought out by money is crime. Seen and experienced at various times and in various places, this demon has transformed into the right-hand man of money. Its roots rising right out of the foundation of wealth, this evil sprite has inflicted serious damage to the factory of life and has handicapped it to magnanimous altitudes. There has also come a certain point of time, when this sprite has reproduced to give smaller but fast-emerging strains of itself in the name of terrorism, cyber-crime when coupled with technology, and scams along with corruption. These beasts have surfaced at numerous places in this world, one among them being my own country India, which has tried its best to control and harness this beast back. But can mankind control them? Is it so easy to manipulate the conspirators? The answer given is the best reason why they are put across as destroyers.

(One of the most surprising nominations for the award of the most damaging barrier is nature. I take the silent whispers to be those of shock. Yes, that’s what it is. Giving to man one of the most dangerous and destructive weapons is nature itself. Drugs, radio-active materials, and the virtual divides between nations are all derived from this entity we call nature. Addicting people to itself, drugs have been known to cause more than 36000 deaths in the single year of 2008. But are these virtual emotions caused by drugs expressed genuinely from the hearts of man? Killing for and by this form of nature is clearly appalling!)

Natural boundaries created by nature are an international issue which is a touchy subject but the other more damaging subject is resultant from the radio-active materials. Made into weapons and also used for electricity, these reactive materials are highly-destructive. Causing wars and other environmental and political disasters, these materials may be a sign of the ending world. Chernobyl, the twin blasts during the World War, and the problem at the Fukushima plant of Japan have had so large an effect on the people of the place that all of the countries involved have repented the doomed decisions. All of this has been made possible with the provisions of nature, and that makes us realize the real capabilities of nature, at least some parts of it.

These thoughts which I have presented and evaluated are my own. They may be different for anyone and everyone present here. Freedom of thought is the legislator sitting at the head of the table during this discussion and it proclaims itself to say that there is nothing wrong in people thinking in their own way and not being manipulated or coaxed into submission by the various fallacies of this world.

But the point to be thought out the most is the plan of action to be used in combating these evils plaguing our current generation and most probably the next upcoming generations as well. And for taking successful action to shape our future into a favorable environment for the following generations, we need to join our hands and form a congregation of believers to plan of ridding the world of these malevolent monsters. Whatever caste, creed, color, gender or age. We need to link up together and help ourselves and our future.

That’s all I have to say. I hope you felt my views significant enough to be presented to you at this honorable contest. I thank you all profusely for listening keenly to my ideas and spending your valuable time to sit through my speech. Thank you.

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Country, My Pride

Good morning to one and all present here. I feel extremely honored to welcome this whole throng today. Dear students and respected teachers, please put your hands together for the troupe from Cambridge University.

Atithi Devo Bhava- the guest is God. This Sanskrit verse from the Hindu scripture has become part of the code of conduct for not only the Hindu society but for the whole Indian nation. The Ministry of Tourism recently endorsed this verse in their campaign to improve the treatment of tourists in our nation. We hope we adhere to this tradition and offer you intense care and make your visit in our country memorable.

Our country is home to one of the oldest civilizations of the world- the Indus Valley civilization. As time has passed, India has grown with the world and has kept up pace with the major nations all around the world. But, what keeps us at a different level from the world is our diverse culture.

Supporting a population of 1.2 billion people, India is one of the most populated nations. Comprising of 28 states and 7 union territories, our nation has several, and by that I mean a huge amount, languages which are used on a day-to-day basis in petty conversation by people. But, I would say that even though this nation is divided into around thirty parts, the people always stand united; be it for the fight for independence or be it against the black evils of corruption and terrorism.

The religious hub not only for Hindus, our nation is home to almost all of the religions in the world. Four of the major religions have originated in this country- Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism- and the other religions of Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism made their way into this nation soon after that. This is the only nation in the world, where every human has several Gods in which he believes from the bottom of his heart.

India has not been at all backward in the regions of the arts. Carnatic and Hindustani music are the major streams of music which evolved in India and are now practiced by renowned musicians all around the world. But this is only the music side. Frescos and other visual art forms have also been omnipresent in our country since historical times. Rock temples and unique sculptures have been excavated and uncovered at each and every place in this country. Bharatnatyam, Kathak and other extraordinary dance forms have also progressed to rule the dance world globally. There are troupes like yours which are attracted to these vivid arts and they approach our nation to get knowledge of these unique dances.

As I move on to the scientific history of this nation, I can proudly say that Aryabhatta, a fellow countryman was the brain behind the zero. In the current labour market, it is statistically confirmed that India is successful in producing the best engineers. Also, medical treatment in India is world renowned and people from high and low visit our country to get treated from varied ailments.

Last but not the least; the Indian economy is one of the countries which recovered from the global recession some years ago. A nation developing at a rate faster than many nations, India manages to employ a major part of its population rather than be faced with unemployment issues. A major hub for the software industry, India earns in earnest.

Unity, harmony and peace. These words signify what is important for each and every Indian. We live for our country. We care for our guests and treat them like God. We are present at every stage in the production process, from agriculture to the services industry. We try to be happy and to keep others happy and that is evident as we have one of the largest tourism sectors all around the world.
I hope you all enjoy your stay in our diverse nation, and feel our treatment satisfactory. Thank you.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Can we ever be equal??

Equality. A word with various ambiguous meanings, equality signifies a different thing for every different human on this planet. Divides on the basis of gender, race, age, origin, caste, income, property, language and religion infest this world. But can these divides be eradicated so as to bring forward a notion of equality throughout the world? I do not have an optimistic lookout towards an equal socialistic tomorrow. But is this true?

There has always been discrimination on the basis of gender. Women have always been subdued, and they have not got the respect they deserve in society. In some of the developed and developing countries, the last couple of decades have been covered with struggles to promote empowerment of women; and after great strain, this hurdle has been budged ( at least in some nations). But this problem still persists in a huge number of nations all around the world. Women are still treated like servants and their working conditions have worsened. Can this divide ever be completely breached? The global vastness of this dilemma works just to direct my view to the negative side, and I do not think social equality will be reached in the near future.

As the world has progressed, the life of the human race has developed to extremely high levels. Due to this, the age factor has started playing a major role in life. The newer and younger generation-with better technology- has been offered the world in their hands; but the older generation has been used to working manually to satisfy all their needs. This difference in mentality has worked to create in divide in both of the generations minds. This gap has magnified in the last decade, and now I feel it is too herculean a task to be managed. The only way this gap can be bridged is by a change in mentalities of people, but as we all know, the human race is too obstinate. Thus I feel change cannot be brought about.

Diversity has always been important in the rulebook of life. Diversity is the only reason why people around the world differ in their physical characteristics. It was nature’s desire to create the human race in various forms, but humans have found in it a new way to be higher than their other fellow human beings. Discriminations on the basis of race, origin and caste arise from the depths of this law of nature. As there exist a vivid variety of races and castes in this world, I feel it will take an eternity to establish equality between all of these variations.

God. The Creator. An image printed in all of the world’s populace, He has countless different faces. Christ, Allah, God and the list goes on. Believing in the Divine One is always dependant on people’s beliefs, and each and every person on this planet is entitled to pursue their own belief. But, the human race has been divided again in the name of God. They kill, murder and torture people due to their beliefs. All of this has been made possible by minor wrong interpretations of the Holy Books. This has lasted since a long time, and it is unclear whether or not these problems can be shifted aside. I feel they cannot as they exist between every two people living on this planet. And as the populace on this planet is too high, it is highly impossible to resolve issues between every two human beings.

On the whole, the problem of social inequality has troubled the world since a long time. As we look up into the horizon about where this problem will go, all we can see is a world with continued inequality. The issues of people are enhanced day-by-day and solving these issues will be a very big problem. Thus I feel social equality cannot be reached in the present world.

The Day Trip

Everything had gone wrong. The trip had been good, but the outcome, it had turned out to be a catastrophe. The only thought which surged through Jack’s mind was,” What will I tell everyone! And how am I supposed to get out of this cavern in the first place! I don’t have no phone, and I don’t have food; how will I survive? Damn you Dr Jurgen! I take a vow: I will get out of this mess, and I will find you, and I will get my revenge. How, I know not, but I will.” The expedition itself had started on a bad note and the sunny morning had ceased to provide them any light about the matter.

The jeep groaned to life as the horizon glowed pink. Scrambling into the back of the ancient vehicle, Jack and Dr Jurgen settled themselves uncomfortably. Facing each other, they exchanged pleasantries under the din of the well-worn-out mechanism; and after that there was silence. The sound of hard rock blaring from Jack's headphones flooded the silence as his tab vibrated to life. "Who is free enough to talk to this guy so early in the morning? It's astonishing that this monkey has any friends! Coming on an excavation trip with a tab, the doctor retorted.

The journey seemed unending. The surroundings raced by at a rapid pace. Sand dunes blanketted the view, and there wasnt another living creature visible. Not near. Not far. And this would help the unscrupulous motives of the German. A smile flashed on his face and the sight of it made Jack fabricate a mystical expression. The confused look did not last long though. Demolished by a huge bang, the silence vanished all of a sudden; and the jeep veered off on a random track through the sand. Dr Jurgen raised his arms in surprise and Jack rushed out of the back door of the running jeep, the bewildered expression replaced by a look of shock and panic.

The only calm person in the vicinity turned out to be the driver. Serenely getting out of the vehicle, he glanced at the right front tire and sighed. “What we have here is a punctured tire. Y’all can choose to wait here for me to change the tire, or y’all can start walking; I’ll catch up as soon as I can,” Khan said. Cursing angrily, the teenager in him evident even at the age of twenty-five, Jack switched off the tab and started walking. Stopping all of a sudden, he spat out a stub of chewing gum, and in the motion ate another one at the same time. “Doc, you coming? I want to get this over with and I’m going walking. Will you join,” he asked while moving farther away. Even with his old arthritic legs resisting the speedy movement, the old doctor waddled after young Jack; after all he had a mission to complete.

The hike turned out to be extremely tiring and the two men reached their place of interest, the Cave, exhausted and with no strength left in them. But it seemed the worst was left. Uncovering the ciphers was utterly time consuming. The tab had been rendered useless in the journey, its battery consumed by the voices of Metallica and Eminem, its main purpose not complied with at all. The task which should have taken a couple of hours turned out to take thrice the time, and the exhausted men sat down fatigued yet exhilarated after the tedious deciphering.

Abruptly, the sky visible out of the entrance of the cavern turned dark. Thunder echoed around the place and lightning shone all around. The wrinkled doctor got up, and shuffled towards the protected stone insides of the fissure. Jack glanced up, and rose to follow the older man into the safer confines. “Let’s take the medallion and go. We should study it first and get enlightened about its secrets, and only then should we give it to the government,” Jack stated.

“You young fool! There was never us, it’s always been me, and that too alone. I just needed you to help me through the hurdles of this trail. And the government will never know of this artifact, ‘cause it’s mine. And I am never going to give it to anyone, let alone the government. Sayonara Jack boy, there seriously was never a chance that you would get back home. I’m sorry, but everything ends here for you,” the doctor sneered. Shocked, Jack just stood defenseless as the doctor struck him on the head. And everything went black.