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I loved you,

I gave my heart to you,

I gave my soul to you,

I walked through hell for you,

I did everything for you,

I broke down because of you.

But none of them meant a thing to you.

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Thailand Trip

So, today we are going to talk a little about Thailand & its capital city, Bangkok. I recently had the privilege of visiting the country, where I underwent vigorous training and knowledge-transfer for Unilever Fast Moving Consumer Goods Products Registrations. I am employed by Accenture and Unilever as a global brand, has outsourced the whole of Latin America along with United States of America Registrations and Artwork to Accenture, Bangalore (My current location right now).

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Since the last few months, the Unilever head-quarters at Holland have been toying with the idea of outsourcing South-East Asian countries like Burma and Thailand too Accenture too. Outsourcing of the Latin American nations has been quite successful and Unilever has been looking to expand its contract with Accenture. However, there was one big problem. The Latin American nations speak Spanish (Espanhol) and Portuguese (Português). Spanish speakers in India are quite easy to come by. With the Delhi University and the Foreign language University of Hyderabad offering full time graduation & post-graduation courses in Spanish, the number of Spanish speakers have doubled in the last decade. Portuguese speakers on the other hand are not so abundant, but still can be found with some difficulty (I myself being one of them). However, Burmese and Thai speaking people in India are very rare. The only Thai speakers at Bangalore are the masseurs working at The Thai Spa & their knowledge in computers is almost zero or negligible.

Faced with this problem, Unilever management decides to send a couple of guys out to Bangkok and another couple to Rangoon, to learn the registration processes of those respective countries. The idea was to get the knowledge-transfer from them and then pass on the knowledge to Accenture, Beijing, where a considerable number of South-East Asian migrants work. I, on my part, was chosen for Bangkok, Thailand.

We departed from Kempegowda international airport (Bangalore) on the specific day. The total duration of the journey from Bangalore to Bangkok was supposed to be close to 4 hours. The Thai Air-Asia air-hostesses were chic & smart. However, little did I know that communication with them & my other “smart” colleagues at Thailand is going to be so difficult.

I had ordered for Thai chicken curry and sticky rice, inside the flight. I have a habit of taking my food with a pinch of extra salt. I had a very, very difficult time making the air-hostesses understand what is “Salt”, because I speak no Thai. Initially, the announcements made by them over speakers were in fluent English, albeit with an accent. However, I later on came to understand that they keep on making these same announcements in English every day and that is why they do not face any problem with that part. But, if you go out of the line and ask them a question in English, 6 out of 10 times, they will stare at you blankly, ask you to repeat your question and finally come out with an answer for some question you did not ask!!

Reaching Don-Mueang international airport, I was disgusted. There was no law & order, people running everywhere, all sign-boards either in Thai or Chinese (from the script, I guessed it was Chinese) and the restrooms were terribly dirty. Immigration took close to 2 hours & by the time I cleared it, I was absolutely exhausted as I hardly slept during the night-flight. We checked out of the airport & took a cab. Bangkok city was amazing. With tall skyscrapers everywhere and wide and broad roads, the city was a completely different picture from the inside of the airport.

Climate of Thailand is hot. Summer has not even set in & during daytime temperatures can soar up to almost 40 degrees. Add with that the extreme humidity. It will definitely make you sweat a lot.

Driving at Bangkok highways is rash and when I say “rash”, I literally mean it. The speed limit is 90 km/h but no one abides by that. Our driver was driving at well past 100. Even then, bikes and cars were speeding past us. I had dozed off for a few minutes maybe and when I woke up, to my horror, I saw that the car speed was almost 110, but the driver was not even paying attention to what lays ahead. He was busy texting someone on his phone. Here in Bangalore, texting is a very far off term, if you are caught even speaking over phone while driving, you can be stopped & fined by the traffic police. I was terrified at what the driver was doing and asked him to stop texting & pay attention to driving at once. He replied back something in Thai & again got busy with his texting. It was a frightful journey to my hotel from the airport & when I finally reached my destination in one piece, I could not but help being all jittery & nerves.

Thai food is mainly non-vegetarian. They like to eat a variety of stuff, starting from beef, pork & chicken. Seafood is a delicacy for them. Vegetarian food is very difficult to find in Bangkok city. My friend who travelled with me, was a Punjabi Brahmin & a strict vegetarian. He literally had to survive on liquid diet.

Food at the restaurants & hotels is expensive. A simple meal of crab fried rice or pork with sticky rice can cost you anywhere between 140-160 Baht, which is almost equal to 300 INR. Street food is comparatively cheaper, but you need to be daring to try out what they sell. Colorful octopuses of different sizes, strange looking insects & scorpions would take some guts to consume. I tried out fried octopuses on a couple of occasions but did not dare to try anything else. The octopuses were served with a very hot red chilly sauce. I like my food hot & spicy, but this particular sauce literally brought water to my eyes.

The knowledge-transfer at the Unilever office of Bangkok was far from being smooth. My trainer spoke very little English & what was to be completed in 4 days, remained incomplete with only about 60% of the total training being imparted at the end of the 4th day. Language, on our parts, was a huge barrier. How I wished that I spoke & understood at least the basics of the Thai language.

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Thailand is infamous for its red-light districts. The biggest brothels are located at Pattaya, about 2 hours drive from Bangkok. However, Bangkok has its own share of red-light areas too. If you step out of your hotel after 6:30 in the evening, no matter in which part of the city you are, you are bound to see prostitutes lined up by the sidewalks. You can see prostitutes late at night at Bangalore too, but not in so huge numbers. Last, but not the least, many of these prostitutes are trans-genders, who are also called as “Ladyboys” in their language. On my first evening out, I was actually almost manhandled by one of the prostitutes, who stepped out of the sidewalk & caught hold of my arm.

“1,500 for short time & 2,000 for whole night” she told me!! “Why the hell you telling me all these??” I thought. Did I even ask you your rate?? I am not even interested in a conversation with you!! I was stunned & did not know how to handle the situation. She might be a prostitute, but at the end of the day, she was a lady. I cannot fight a lady, for Christs sake!! From my South-Asian looks, she had easily figured out that I was a foreigner & must be loaded with cash. Took me several minutes to jerk my arm off from her clutch and evening walk concluded for good. Thereafter, I decided not to step out of the hotel alone after darkness for the rest of my stay at Bangkok.

Quality of cloth material is not good at Thailand. They are cheap & colourful, however after one wash, the cloth is likely to shrink in size. The floating market of Bangkok was an hours drive from my hotel. It’s a busy & crowded place. Stuff is cheap there. I got some spices like Cardamom & Lemon-Grass, the latter not being available at India easily. Also, I got hold of some Saffron, which was very cheap as per Indian standards.

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The Siam-Miramit show is expensive. It tries to portrays the Thai culture and history over the ages, but will most probably make very little sense to you. In a nutshell, it was a show of people wearing a lot of colourful dresses performing on the stage with animals. Not worth it!!

One of the funny parts of the trip was while travelling by car one day. I was coming back to hotel after office. My driver was calling someone on his mobile..someone called “Dog”!! WTF, I thought. This guy bought his pet-dog a mobile phone, so that he can converse with his dog while on duty?? But in which language are they going to converse?? Has my driver learnt doggie language?? But then I heard him speak in Thai. Wtf again!! His doggie can speak Thai???? I was dumbfounded. But I did not question him anymore about this, because of the same language barrier between us. Much later, on my departure day, I learnt that the bald-headed hotel manager´s name was actually “Dog” & my driver was calling him up that day :-/

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The return journey was smoother. The departure area of Don-Mueang airport was far cleaner and spacious than the arrivals. I was tired & looking forward to sleeping in peace at my Bangalore house. Thailand was an enriching experience. Not very sure if I would want to go back to the country very soon again, but the short 5 days trip was indeed an eye-opener about South-East Asian culture!!

                                                                                                                                          Written By

                                                                                                                                            Ark Dey

Jupiter

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Apart from being the fifth planet in our solar system, Jupiter is also the largest planet amongst them all. Consisting of dozens of moons, Jupiter is a gas giant, just like its neighbouring planet, Saturn.

The planet has been popular with astronomers since the Roman civilization. They named the huge planet after their own god, Jupiter. According to ancient Roman mythology, Jupiter or Jove, was the god of the skies and thunder. Jupiter was the official deity of the Roman religion, throughout its empire, until Christianity started taking over in the second century A.D. Since he was the god of thunder, he is seen with a thunderbolt in his hands and his sacred animal is the eagle. Hence, the ancient astronomers of Rome, named this huge planet after their own god.

Jupiter is the third brightest planet in our skies, just after the moon and Venus. It is so huge, that on clear night skies, it can actually even be spotted with naked eyes. The atmosphere of Jupiter consists of about 84% Hydrogen and 15% Helium. Small amounts of Ammonia and Methane can also be found. Unfortunately, life possibilities on the planet are zero, not only because of lack of Oxygen in its atmosphere, but also because it does not have a solid surface!!

It is being said, that Jupiter is not originally from our own solar system. After the “Big Bang” took place, planets of almost three or four times the size of our own, collided with Jupiter, which was located much nearer to the Sun back then. As a result of these collisions, the planets broke down into smaller fragments and one of those fragments is the very planet we live on now. As Jupiter came nearer to the solar system as a result of collisions with other planets, it was sucked into the system due to gravitational tugs.

Jupiter has very powerful storms, often accompanied by lightning and thunder. There is a very strong upward motion of air, which leads to the formation of bright and dense clouds in its atmosphere. It should be kept in mind that the lighting strikes in Jupiter are hundreds of times stronger than we have here. If struck at human body, the same would be reduced to ashes in a fraction of a second!!

The atmosphere of Jupiter can be divided into four segments, in increasing order of altitude, namely the Troposphere, Stratosphere, Thermosphere and Exosphere. The lowest atmospheric layer, that is the Troposphere is made up of fluid, as it lacks a solid surface. But when I say fluid, I do NOT mean water!! The atmospheric pressure of Jupiter is way above the critical point for Hydrogen. This signifies that there is no definite boundary between the gas and liquid states. Hydrogen converts to a state of “Super-critical” fluid, which is a state of half gas and half liquid. It is very similar to the Exosphere of the Earth, where there is no defined boundary between gas and liquid.

The clouds of Jupiter, located in a very high-pressure range, are mostly made up of Ammonia ice. Due to the unusual pressure range of Jupiters atmosphere, a lot of Airglow and Aurora is created, which we call Polar-Lights on Earth. These can be usually viewed from the Arctic and the Antarctic regions.

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Image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot from Voyager 1, 1979 data

If looked at Jupiter with a strong-lensed telescope, one can notice a big Red spot towards the Equator of the planet. It was first observed by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli, in 1631, with the help of his unusual telescope. He insisted that they were nothing but Anticyclonic storms. Anticyclonic storms usually occur in high pressure regions accompanied by very cold weathers and they result in a lot of snowstorms. As mentioned earlier, heavy lightning and thunder accompanied by very violent snowstorms are not unusual in Jupiters atmosphere, making any possibility of life existence on the planet, virtually impossible!! Hence this Red spot on Jupiters body has come to be known as The Great Red Spot, which is basically a persistent anticyclonic storm going on and on non-stop, since almost the last four hundred years. The speed of the storm is so fast, that it orbits the massive planet in about just six Earth days in the anti-clockwise way. Scientists are of the opinion, that this storm is increasing in size and is already big enough to gobble up at least two planets of the size of Earth. What are the causes of the dark red colour of the spot is not exactly known. Scientists suggest that it might be because of red phosphorus.

Space expeditions to Jupiter have been on since as early as 1972 withSpacecraft “Pioneer 10”. Since then, seven different expeditions have been sent with mixed outcomes, because of several technical difficulties, including the huge distance of the planet from our own Earth and also because of Jupiters harsh radiation environment. And unlike Mars, the lack of a solid state inside the planet, makes it technically impossible for astronauts to make a landing and go out in search of rock or soil samples.

The only Spacecraft which had partial success in invading the harsh atmosphere of Jupiter and getting in, was the “Galileo Spacecraft”, in 1995.  It sent us several photos of the Jupiters moons and even traced a very thin atmosphere covering them from the sides. It also suggested the possibilities of liquid water beneath their surfaces.

NASA has been toying with the idea of mining the atmosphere of Jupiter, which is rich in Helium-3. This is an isotope of Helium and is extremely, extremely rare on Earth. It could actually come in very good use for Thermonuclear fuel. The factories stationed in outer space could mine the gas and hand it over to the visiting spacecrafts. However, this would take considerable time, because in order to do the mining, the factories need to be close to Jupiters atmosphere. Given the extreme radiation of its atmosphere, it would take just a matter of a few minutes for the factories to break apart and melt down, not to mention the strong gravitational pull of the planet, which can suck the factories down from several hundred miles away in the space. Hence, the chances of potential colonization of Jupiter in the near future, seems to be very, very bleak!!

 

 

The History of China

I really do not think any kind of introduction is required for this country. Its massive size and monstrous population speaks volumes for itself. Home to over 1.36 billion people, China is the most populous country of the world. It is also one of the most economically progressive countries of the world. However, we have to keep in mind that all these people did not land up in China in one day neither is its massive economy the result of a few days work. The history of China dates back to several thousand years before Jesus Christ was born.

The first archeological evidence found is that of a fossilized teeth belonging to the race of Homo Sapiens, dating to 1,30,000 years back. A group of fossil specimens, namely the “Peking Man” were dug out near Beijing in 1923. Carbon dating suggests that they date back to a staggering 8,00,000 years, when prehistoric creatures like the dinosaur and the mammoth were still roaming the Earth.

According to Chinese legend, the first dynasty was the Xia, dating back to almost 2,100 years before Christ was born, which suggests that proper civilization might have started in ancient China at around the early Bronze Ages. They were succeeded by the Shang dynasty. The Oracle Bone Script introduced by this dynasty, is the oldest form of any kind of Chinese writing ever found and is the direct ancestor of modern day Chinese characters. The standardization of Chinese characters took place much later, during the reign of the Qin dynasty, around 221 BCE. The state of Qin conquered several other Chinese warring states and laid the establishments of the first ever unified Chinese state, covering almost the same territory as that of modern day China.

The most powerful dynasty ever in Chinese history was that of the Han dynasty, popularly misspelled as the “Huns”. Their reign stretched from the third century BCE till almost the fourth century AD. The Han dynasty was a military dynasty, expanding the Chinese territories considerably. Under them, the Chinese empire reached till Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Central Asia and even the southern parts of Russia. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world. The famous Silk Road was constructed under the Hans. The state religion of Confucianism was enforced upon the subjects of the empire. After the fall of the of the Han dynasty, there was political unrest in China and the empire fell apart literally for centuries to come. It was only in the eighth century, under the reign of the Song dynasty, that China was unified again.

The Song dynasty was the first government in world history to issue paper currency. Chinese trade flourished under the dynasty as the state also financed a navy for trading with South Asian countries like India and Mesopotamia. The population of China doubled between the tenth to eleventh century, due to surplus production of food grains and stood close to a hundred million people, making it the most populous country in the world, even at that age.

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In 1271, the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan invaded Song China and devastated the country. Before the invasion took place, the total population of China roughly stood at a hundred and twenty million. At the turn of the fourteenth century, the Chinese population was almost halved to only sixty one million people and gradually China was sucked into the Mongol empire, which lasted almost a century, before a peasant called Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Mongol yolk with a popular uprising. The middle ages of China shows a lot of political unstability and unrest resulting to petty feudal states and it was only in 1911, after the Xinhai Revolution, that the modern day Republic of China was found.

My Bucket List

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  1. Learn to drive
  2. Make someone else’s dream come true
  3. Complete my PhD
  4. Travel to Alaska
  5. Skydive
  6. Learn a new Language(Spanish & German)
  7. Scuba Diving
  8. Write a book
  9. Own my house
  10. Go to the airport and buy a plane ticket to the first place I see
  11. Adopt a child
  12. Travel more of Europe
  13. Live in Paris for a year
  14. Learn to play Guitar
  15. Learn to play the Piano
  16. Pet a tortoise
  17. Ride a camel through the Pyramids of Egypt
  18. Learn to apply black eyeliner
  19. Attend the full moon party in Thailand
  20. Go on a gondola ride in Italy
  21. Attend a concert at Sydney Opera House
  22. Visit Hawaii
  23. Ride in a double decker bus
  24. Go on the bullet train, Japan
  25. Go to the Carnivale in Rio
  26. Own a polaroid camera
  27. Get a tattoo
  28. Trek through the jungle on the back of an elephant
  29. Send a present to a soldier
  30. Take a spontaneous road trip
  31. Go white water rafting
  32. Cuddle under the stars
  33. Send a letter to a random address and see if they write back
  34. Own a pony
  35. Read every book I own
  36. Go to a hockey game
  37. Walk through the streets of Paris at night
  38. Sail across the Atlantic
  39. Visit Pakistan
  40. Eat street food in Vietnam
  41. See a basket ball game