Monday, September 26, 2005

The Hostage Crisis and the Rodent

It was Entebbe all over again. The four hostages had been transferred to the garage. The main garage door was shut; it was made of solid steel five inches thick and was virtually indestructible. Of course, rescue forces trying to break in would end up killing the helpless hostages with the blast, so that entry was barred. There were two other entrances, one from the corridor connecting the garage to the house, and the other the ventilator, which could be accessed from the outside by jumping onto a pile of boxes and breaking it open. This would create a fair amount of noise, which would attract the attention of the terrorists. The rescue mission was thus pretty complicated to begin with. Four hostages, five terrorists and five rescuers!! The contest was even.

The five members of the SWAT team checked their gear. Three of them carried the M4 carbine; the other two had sniper rifles. All of them also carried grenades and flash bombs. They had discovered the existence of a subterranean tunnel which opened up behind the house. Two of them, Eddie and Jake took this route. The other three, Will, Aaron and Fred were to assault from the front. They started moving into position.

Inside the house, the terrorists had discovered the presence of the intruders. They armed themselves with the standard AK-47’s that are so popular with their kind that some believe they are born holding them. Unfortunately, the terrorists’ names are not known. Hence they shall be known simply as X1, X2, X3, X4 and X5. X5 was the sniper expert and he climbed onto the roof and got into position. The other four spread and got under cover as well as they could.

Will was a little to eager to get into combat. The worst mistake one can commit in warfare is to rush into an unknown area without knowing who is waiting for you, and it is a mistake one can commit only once. X5 licked his lips the way a tiger does when he sees an antelope separated from the herd and prone to attack. He adjusted his sights, and pulled the trigger. An instant later, it was raining Will-brain on the ground as the bullet shattered through his cranium. Aaron was more cautious and more experienced. He had a sniper rifle too, so he crouched and got into position looking for any movement on the roof. But X5 was too good for him. Barely half a minute later, Aaron had joined Will in the queue leading up to St. Peter’s.

Move over to the subterranean tunnel. Both sides flashed each other, and in the course of the few seconds in which everyone was blinded, X3 had shot and killed three people, Eddie and two of his teammates. He swore, and at the same time shuddered at the thought of meeting his dead comrades in the afterlife. During these moments of indecision, Jake killed him, and to add insult to injury (or in this case death), he killed him with a knife. He was enjoying himself, and his path was now clear. He exited the tunnel behind the house, climbed up the ladder and reached the roof. He was pleased with the sight he saw. X5 was lying down, scanning the ground below for signs of Fred. He slowly and deliberately changed his weapon to pistol, and emptied the bullets into X5. One more to go, he thought. That one more turned out to be just behind him, and Jake realized this a split second after the bullet entered him. The terrorist returned into the house, went to the garage, and waited in ambush for Fred to come. A few minutes passed. Then he heard footsteps approaching. He raised his gun, hoping to kill the man before he could get his bearings. Fred came into sight, but instead of the headshot he had wanted, the terrorist aimed only at the corner of the ceiling. Fred shot him. The hostages were saved.
Immortalized by famous characters like Mickey and Jerry, this creature has evolved fairly rapidly and has shown tremendous adaptation skills throughout the course of history. But thanks to the global concern floated by a bespectacled kid in the US who was caught for breaking speed limits in his youth, this creature evolved into a totally new species, which of late has developed visionary traits. These traits enable it to move easily, but at the same time might cause occasional jerks in movement.
“Damn this optical mouse,” swore the avid gamer, as his opponent (codename Fred) shot him. The CT squad had won the clan match 7-6. (For the ignorant, clan matches are fights between two teams playing as terrorists and counter-terrorists in the classic multiplayer game Counter-Strike).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Capital of the United Tribes

Move to India to a southern metropolis which is known as the Eastern Silicon Valley. A student of a top B-school who has landed a job in the main financial institution of Allemagne is asked, “What is the capital of Afghanistan?” She says, “Taliban”. This is followed by gasps from all who heard this statement. “Don’t you even know that it’s Kabul?” some ask. I beg to differ. When a country is as volatile as this one, and has so many parts all of which claim the right to rule, setting a capital is an almost impossible task. What is a capital anyway? It’s a star on the map of the country. If you observe closely, the capital on the map often looks like the Star of David. That means the country is either Jewish or subscribes to the monthly newsletter of the Priory of Sion. In the latter case, it implies that the country believes in equality for men and women. This is clearly not the case here. So Kabul cannot be the capital. What then is the capital of Afghanistan? Some would say the letter ‘A’. Speaking in a literal sense, this is true, but it feels a little weird. Going by this logic, Bush’s country would have three capitals and most country capitals would not be unique. Again. this might hurt the sentiments of people who believe their country and their capital are better than others. So this approach fails too.

What then is the capital of a country? It is the place where the government rules from. Does Afghanistan have a government? Yes. Do they have a ruling government? Yes again. Do they have a ruling government whose decisions are implemented? No. So the government is void. Power is in the hands of a number of warlords. So the capital has to be the place where the most powerful of them rules from. But they are all equally powerful and have been so for centuries, else one of them would have conquered the rest. Only one group has been powerful enough to control Afghanistan in the last many years, and that is the Taliban. It was spread all over the country, and governed from all over too. Its boss always kept roaming around to avoid retribution so there was no one place he stayed in. So the capital has to be the Taliban. Continuing in this vein, the current capital of Afghanistan is Washington D.C.. End of story.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Communication Problem

As Shammi Kapoor rolled down the snowy mountain slide screaming at the top of his voice, or rather at the top of the playback singer’s voice, the words emerging out of the speakers on either side of the TV entered my ears and stayed there. There I was, a kid, not yet entered double figures on the chronological scale, and I was enjoying the song originally sung almost a couple of decades ago. The title of that song had come to be associated with the cry of jubilation made by people who are especially ecstatic about something. Later it was to become a global movement that would rock the richest man in the world in his plush armchair and make him rethink his business strategies.

This famous word then got associated with another word, which is also used to define a type of spicy foodstuff which is most famously available on the Chowpatty beach in Mumbai. These two words were joined by a third word, which happens to be common to both Hermes and Mercury. This led to a global revolution as it were, especially among members of the younger generation who loved spending hours at a time staring at modified TV screens and metatarsing away at modified typewriters, aiming to get to know people they had never seen before and who lived on the other side of the world. This occasionally led to members of opposite sexes (and the odd cases too) exchanging secrets and then vows over the Spider’s home on the scale of the Earth, causing conservative parents many heart aches and making them abuse that thing known as the ‘Generation Gap’. Personally, I despised this revolution, but as they say, if you can’t beat them, join them!!! So I let myself adrift and joined the flow.

Fast forward a dozen years and I am now working for a respected software company. Though I have resisted the revolution, the brainwashing tactics used by its flag bearers, combined by the fact that all my acquaintances are a part of it, are forcing me to give in. So as soon as I was able to sit in front of a modified TV, I started downloading the required application. But I had scarcely started when a voice said in my ear, “Aha!! Caught you! Wasting time eh?” I turned around to see who was speaking, but there was no one. It was unnerving to say the least. Here I was, engaged in something perfectly legal and above board, and I feel guilty. Then I stood up and had a cursory glance at my co-workers, and discovered that all of them were deeply engrossed in whatever tasks they were working on. A deep pang of remorse and guilt stung me. It was then that I resolved not to use the ‘Yahoo Chat Messenger’ in office. Now that I had come to the question of morals, I decided to extend my prejudice to all such applications. So when a friend suggested that I download an application that shares its name with a character from the Douglas Adams series, the dilemma resurfaced. Do I give in now after exercising the greatest control for the last couple of months? Or do I use the conventional method of communication? Eating company bandwidth is criminal, and this thought has arisen by itself, it has not been drilled into my cranium by my boss. I guess I am weak, or some may say I am too chicken to do it… The truth is, I just prefer the old style. Enough for now!! Good old mail is the best.