Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Death of John Sheppard-Barron - Inventor of ATM

It is sad to know about the demise of John Sheppard Barron who invented Automated Teller Machine (ATMs) in 1960s. It is interesting to know that he was born in Shillong as quoted by the Shillong Times (English Daily) on 24th May 2010, page 3 under Shillong Jottings.  It read as -

ATM inventor John Sheppard-Barron died recently at the age of 84. Though his death may not be a matter of great loss for us here in Shillong, it is interesting to know that this great soul was actually born here. His Scottish father was the chief engineer of Chittagong Port Commissioners while his mother was a tennis player. He got the idea of a cash dispenser while lying in his bath after finding his bank closed in 1965. That’s how the ATM was conceived. And indeed it is one of the greatest inventions of all times. Thanks to the ATM, today we do not need to carry cash around even while travelling. It is easier to draw smaller amounts from ATMs and deal with our purchases. Moreover, ATM cards are today accepted as legal tender in most stores. Humankind has indeed come a long way from the days of bartering.

May his soul rests in peace.... Shillong is really a Scotland of the East...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Manipur Diary

It was a learning experience visiting Manipur during 10-12 May 2010.  Thanks to Rajmani who could make my maiden visit possible to Imphal (Manipur).  I was skeptical after receiving the invitation whether should I go or leave it as Manipur is one of the most disturbed state in India and so much so for the North-East India.  There have been militants' attack and agitations against the government as well as the military setup specially on the Assam Rifles.  There have been cases of innocent killings by Assam Rifles which has instigated the public to go against this force.
Recently NSCN leader Muivah's visit has been the issue of distress and disturbance in Manipur.  Muivah, a known NSCN leader who had talks with the union home minister (P Chidambaram) and other inportant leaders in New Delhi, who agreed and allowed him to visit his home village situated in a district called Ukhrool in Manipur.  The demands of NSCN have been primarily establishment of greater Nagaland which should expand present Nagaland to the territory of Manipur and Assam where Naga tribe people reside and secession from India resulting in full sovereignty to Nagaland.  Muivah has strong followers base in Nagaland as well as all the areas where Nagas reside.  The home minister while allowing him to visit his hometown did not take Manipur Government into confidence which claims that Muivah's visit is not just a visit of a person to his village but it is to do with series of meetings with the activists as well as people for the cause of Greater Nagaland, which Manipur would never like.
Having green signal from the central government, Muivah tried entering Manipur through NH 40 which connects Dimapur and Imphal and while on the way the Manipur government as well as people signalled warning that they would not allow any such activist to enter Manipur who propagates the division of Manipur.  AS a response to this, Muivah supporters blocked the highway and declared ECONOMIC BLOCKADE till Muivah is allowed entry.  And it has affected the lives of almost all the Manipuries who depend on the supplies through this highway.  So there is no entry to Manipur through this road.  And I am visiting Manipur during this chaotic situation.
My flight is right on time which takes me from Guwahati to Imphal on 10th May,  Rajmani comes to pick me up and I am on my way to Manipur University.  I look around the roadside while in the vehicle, am reminded of lot of things which my father use to share with us when we were small and he was posted in Manipur.  We use to look forward for his annual leave and he would tell us the conditions in Manipur, that was sometime in late 70s and early 80s, Ukhrool, Monn, Mokokchung, etc etc. are the names I heard from him only.
I check into the guest house of the university, the ambiance of the university and the guest house is good, I am told I have to be ready at 10:30 AM so that I can attend the Silver Jubilee celebration of the department of commerce at Manipur University, Imphal.

We are there at the venue at the given time but the Vice chancellor comes after around 45 minutes with all his security guards, so the function starts late.  I am glad that this department has completed 25 years of its existence.  Many of the oldies of this department are know to me directly or indirectly.  The Profile of the department is released today at the function which reflects on the achievements of the department as well as the present status.  I carry a copy of the profile back home.  Two books are released on the occasion one authored/edited by Dr Tejmani singh (Head, dept of comm) and another one edited by Dr Rajmani Singha on 'Commerce Education in North-East India' and I have a paper in that book on Commerce Education in India-its past, present and future.  Prof Sunil Kumar Gupta (SKG), Vice Chancellor, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla is the Invitee Speaker, who spoke on the status of Commerce Education in India, I dont quite agree on his views.  I shall be writing to him about it through Email.
The function is organized nicely and after the function is over, I get back to the guest house for lunch.  Both of us (SKG and I) take lunch, he proceeds to take little rest and I join Rajmani in visiting different departments of the university as well as commerce department.  There seems to be some problem as to the maintenance of the university buildings, furnishings etc however Manipur University is able to make a mark amongst the universities of the north-east india.  This university has a very different past, first it used to be a campus of JNU and in 80s it became full-fledged state university and till 2005 it functioned like that, however in 2005, it was declared as Central University.  One can see lot of constructions coming up in the campus which shows the flow of funds from the centre to the university.
We are taken at around 4:30 pm to the Imphal city, we walk through the market fully run by manipuri women, we follow a thorough way towards Aloo Road where I heard an old song being played...tu hindu banega na musalman banega, insan ki aulad hai insan banega...kudrat ney to bakshi thi bas'ek hi dharti hamney kahin bharat kahin iran banaya. (तू हिन्दू बनेगा ना मुसलमान बनेगा, इंसान कि औलाद है, इंसान बनेगा.... कुदरत ने तो बक्षी थी बस एक ही धरती, हमने कहीं भारत कहीं ईरान बनाया).
It was raining all through our visit to the city, the market looks like any other city market.  Imphal is a huge valley sorrounded by hills...4/5 part of manipur is hills comprising of 5 districts, remaining 4 districts are in the valley/plain area... We are taken to a hotel (Nirmala - if I correctly remember the name) for dinner, the time - 6 pm, because the shops get closed by that time so it is advisable not to be around after 6:30 or so. We are seven of us there, 4 opting for veg food and 3 for non veg.  The food is ok, we are then taken back in the same vehicles to the guest house. 

It rained heavily in the night.  The electricity has played foul and after the tiring day I depart to sleep....
11th May 2010
I am taken for Breakfast at Prof Prasain's place alongwith SKG, the breakfast is good and then afterwords while we are on our way to the airport to see off SKG, we go to a hindu temple which is one of the oldest temple of Manipur, further we also visit ISKCON temple on our way.  After leaving SKG at the airport we reach back to the university and I take lunch at the guest house and get ready for the Viva of a doctoral student of Rajmani.  WE meet the Dean (Prof Amar Yunam) and conduct the viva in his office.  Interesting study on the university accounting systems and comparison between State universities and Central Universities in North East India.  It all gets over in around one and half hour. 
I visit International market with Rajmani and did some small shopping.  I take dinner at Rajmani's place and get back to the guest house.  There is no electricity the whole night,,,, it is dark, terrible and still it is raining.
The next day I am called by WC Singh for breakfast and then taken to the Imphal Airport.  On the way I see 4-5 kms que of 4 wheelers on one side and around 1.5-2 kms of two wheelers on the other side of the Petrol pump (which is fully guarded with security personnels) for the want of petrol/diesel which is scarce at present in Manipur.  I am told Petrol is sold around Rs 150 per litre, LPG is more than Rs 1000. 
I make some simple observations as follows:
- Culturally, Manipur is very strong state.
- I find relatively more shops of medicines in the city, all across places.
- Generally, the sight of a smoker is not very common as compared to Guwahati, Dimapur, Kohima, Aizawl and Shillong.
- Residents are distressed, the glow on the faces is missing.
I reached back from Manipur visit to Shillong on 12th May 2010...
some more details coming....

Sunday, May 09, 2010

150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindra Nath Tagore

Lets remember this great luminary Rabindra Nath Tagore who composed our national anthem and these few lines cited by many, many people, we have studied these lines in our school days.....

Where The Mind is Without Fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
         domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
         dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
        and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Lets contribute our bit for the betterment of the country, system, institutions (that we belong or otherwise) so that we grow better.

We remember you Thakur Da for all that you contributed for the cause of betterment of humanity....

Thursday, May 06, 2010

26/11 and the decision on Kasab

It is just alive in my memory lane when I was in the hotel in Thimphu, Bhutan just reached back after the busy day of conference, wanted to see what Indian cricket team is doing... Instead learnt that Taj Hotel in Mumbai is hit by the terrorist attack, on the other side there were extremist's siege at Bangkok International Airport, Bangkok, the flights were cancelled, and our other friends who had come to Thimphu to attend the conference, had to spent a compulsory halt at Thimphu.  I started back the next day as scheduled, reached Gedugg, where I was to spend the night, the live telecast was still on as the terrorists were still continuing their spree at the Taj.  We watched it live on TV, kept discussing the issues involved, next day I reached Phuntsholing and met some old students, Sonam Dorji (RICB) and Ugyen Namgyel (Bhutan Lotteries) and Kundan/Chandan Negi (HGS alumni), kept talking about what was going on in Mumbai, watched live even in the restaurant where we had lunch.  Took train to Guwahati from New cooch behar, reached Guwahati and then to Shillong..... the massacre still continued, watched it live on TV.... It was the most tragic saga being telecasted.
The terror shooters were not knowing what they are doing, or they were knowing pretty well, what they are doing, they must be having their own justifications of their actions, but any action of such nature needed condemnation from my heart....
Kasab, being one such terrorist, is sentenced to death today....