The Blue Whale Challenge – Here is clear and present danger

When no one can hear you, what are you screaming for?
We can be silent, we can sing
Stay or run away, but we still we burn
A big blue whale can’t break the chain

These innocuous sounding lines are from a song called #Burn, composed by Russian alternative rock band #Lumen. Rumors abound that this very song was behind the name #BlueWhale given to an online game that has been linked to the mysterious death of several teenagers around the world. In fact reports suggest(unconfirmed) that in #Russia alone about 130 young boys and girls who took up the Blue Whale Challenge have tragically ended their lives. Last summer these reports first appeared in the Russian investigative newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.

It was while trying to understand the alarming number of child suicides (for the record about 1500 teenagers all between the age group of 14 to 18-19 commit suicide in Russia every year) all unrelated that #NovayaGazeta inadvertently learnt about this diabolic online game. There had been whispers for long. Several support groups, local communities and journalists had been alleging that on popular social networking sites like #VKontakte (Russia’s very own #Facebook) there existed these closed groups, even murderous cults and pro-suicide groups that were known simply as ‘Groups of Death’

The Blue Whale Challenge requires a participant to perform certain tasks which are assigned to them by administrators (referred to as #Curators) and post pictures/videos to ascertain that these have been completed. Thus begins a conditioning of young, impressionable minds by getting them to watch #Psychedelic videos, depriving them of sleep (thus disorienting their senses) and increasingly cutting them off from the world at large. #SelfHarm in case tasks are not completed is encouraged and slowly the image of a Blue Whale is reinforced on the subconscious.

Why a Blue Whale, you ask? Well it is due to the strange phenomenon of this species tending to swim ashore (called #Beaching) and thereby killing itself. Somewhere the perverse minds behind this game decided that since killing oneself was the final aim (read task) of this game this name was apt. Before long the Blue Whale Challenge spread it’s tentacles all over the world with reports of teenagers killing themselves in similar circumstances (jumping off roofs, stepping in front of trains) pouring in. But when renowned fact checking (and rumor busting) site, #Snopes tried to get to the bottom of this here is what they found. Precious nothing.

Firstly there is no clarity about how kids (now worldwide) are able to get access to these groups. For there surely is no such App that is available to download and play. Some say that you simply update your status with relevant hashtags(like #F57 which is supposedly the group that started all this) and ‘someone’ will get in touch with you themselves. Sure sounds creepy but highly implausible too. In the middle of all this melee one suddenly heard that a 22 year old psychology student in Russia, who confessed that he was indeed the inventor of the Blue Whale Challenge, had been apprehended by authorities. All of this news sounding very murky and incredible.

In the end as we debate whether the #BlueWhaleChallenge actually exists or if it is all mere hoax it sure serves a wake up call. For adults and parents around the world to take notice of the dangers that lurk on the internet. And to ensure that their wards get due love, care and attention. So that they do not spend an unhealthy number of hours with virtual strangers. And have a normal childhood like we did. That is not asking for too much, is it?

Why App based taxi services are a nonstarter in Goa?

For some time now, the tiny state of #Goa, situated on the #WesternCoast has been one of the most
popular tourist destinations of the country. It’s famed #Beaches known for a vibrant #NightLife are a big attraction as is it’s #CulturalDiversity (ruled as it was by the #Portuguese for almost five centuries) languid #FishingVillages and rich variety of flora & fauna. It is also home to some #WorldHeritage sites including the famous #Basilica of #BomJesus that is thronged by believers from all over. Like many of the #Tropical places of the world Goa witnesses maximum footfalls during certain months of the year what with summers being extremely sultry while the monsoon brings torrential rains. Every year millions of #Tourists descend from everywhere to celebrate #Christmas and usher in the #NewYear. As a result of which long unending #TrafficSnarls are a common sight in the coastal pockets of the state. Cost of travel & accomodation goes through the roof and with public transport being virtually non existent, renting a bike/car is the best option. In fact it is the only option.

In other parts of the country and especially in the big metropolitan cities a #RapidTransit system (like #METRO) is already in place and doing swimmingly well. But in Goa there are no intrastate #Trains in operation. Most of the #Buses which are #PrivatelyOperated are inexpensive & run across the length and breadth of the state but the problem is that these buses usually wind up by early evening itself. So if you are a night owl wanting to soak in the sights at the beach side parties then the bus is pretty much ruled out as an option. Goa is blessed with a number of lakes, rivers and of course there is the omnipresent #ArabianSea. Yet strangely connecting these via #InlandWaterways has not been explored as an option in all these years. Now this arrangement perhaps works fine for the local population but in peak season it sticks out like a sore thumb. What about rental taxis, did you say? Now that is the crux of the problem.

For years #TaxiOperators in Goa have been allowed by a lax administration to do as they please and charge whatever they deem fit. Travellers have complained of the high handedness of these folks saying that their fares are exorbitant, their behavior borders on the obnoxious and they are generally very unreliable. But wait. Surely #AppBasedTaxis are a great way to combat this menace. In fact in the last few years as App based taxis gain in popularity in the neighbouring states (read Mumbai, Bangalore) murmurs have begun that this should become the norm in Goa too. But look at the #ModusOperandi of App based taxi operators and you will realise why they will never work in Goa. The moment you order a taxi using an App, the software inside the App quickly lets you know how soon the cab will arrive at your doorstep and how much the ride will cost too. But how well this system works depends on two simple words – Demand and Supply.

In a sprawling metro the network of taxis are so well connected that most times you will not have to wait too long for a taxi to arrive. There is always a cab in the vicinity. More importantly once the taxi driver has dropped you off to a chosen destination he will usually have another pickup & drop request ready for him. That is how these App based taxi operators are able to give you cheap, fast and reliable rides. On the one hand if the supply is found lacking customers will have to wait endlessly for the ride whereas if the demand is less the taxi driver will not find it feasible. Either way the well oiled system that works so well in the metros will come undone. With the local population happy to make do with the existing public transport, the onus of using these App based services will fall on the tourists. Now for two to three months of business which company would be willing to put up with losses throughout the year? This will also mean that using App based taxis might cost you a whole lot more. Which brings us back to square one. Developing inland waterways is a step that is necessary but that is a long term solution. What is the way out, right now? Your guess is as good as mine.

” Real life begins at night….”

By day each soul must walk within its shadow,
Only night can make us whole again….
Nicholas Gordon.

God creatings are always amazing. Night is also like this. Though it is dark and black, but attractive and charming. Have you ever looked up to the sky and just stare in amazement at  how beautiful it is? It is cool, clear and quiet. Night like this …is perfect.

In fact , we have day and nights, because the earth rotates. When the earth faces away from the Sun, it doesn’t receive any light, so we have nights. Night- it is the period of darkness between the sunset and sunrise,  time between morning and evening. It is the tune of darkness between one day and the next the time of the day when no light from the sun can be seen.

There are so many things in our life associated with night. When we speak about the night, there are advantages and disadvantages, good and bad ideas about it. Various culture, literature have different opinion about night. For instance, in Islam night is considered significant, as the QUR’AN was revealed during the Night of Power, Prophet Muhammad had his journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in the night and etc. Nevertheless, in some literatures , night oftenly linked with darkness which is historically symbolic in many cultures for villainy, lack of knowledge. They say, night is often associated with danger and evil. People say  night is danger and evil, as they have belief that ghosts, vampires wonder around absolutely during night time.

On the other hand there are advantages as well. As artificial lighting has improved, especially after Industrial Revolution, night time actively increased in our life and become an essential part of economy in most places. A lot of establishments like shops, markets , night clubs , pubs, fast food restaurants , distribution facilities, police stations now operate 24 hours a day or stay open at least until 1 or 2 am. Sometimes moonlight also make it possible to travel or work outdoors at night.

Must be remembered here that , real life begins at night. Night is the time of fantasy. It is the moments of romance, time of dreaming and relaxation. It is inspirational to see illuminations and lights in the streets, the moon, stars and the dark blue sky at night that highlight the beauty of the night once more.  While during the whole day when most people are awake and busy with work and other things, night time is given for them to take a rest, enjoy. The most important job of the night is sleeping, it prepares our body for tomorrow’s hard day , repairs.

Different from the day, though day is much more productive than night, there is still something really fascinating , charming and personal in night. Why do you think that most of the couples choose night for dating? Most of the holiday celebrations are also done at night. Because night is different. And everything totally different at night. You notice things you didn’t before. It is impossible to imagine night without sparkling streetlights. The streetlights , other outside lights make everything around you seem foreign and exciting. Lights shine more brightly because of the contrast with the darkness surrounding them as they usually are overwhelmed by  the sun day time.

At night we are all strangers even to ourselves. The feeling of loneliness and emptiness that often night brings  can be thought-provoking. Minds work better and memories become stronger. Flashback always seem to come at night with more clarity that allows you to think better. Most solutions are thought up at night, the trick is remembering them next day! When you think about the day automatically comes to your mind hectic schedule, the arranges you have to run, the work you have to done. Nighttime is the time you can distress and get some alone.

Night is so beautiful and unique time that should be taken advantage of. Night time we get the chance to enjoy peace and quite in places you never  would  during day time. The cool windy weather of the night make you feel refresh and relax. Night appeal and charm people to make conversations. The most memorable and meaningful conversations with family and friends happen in the middle of the night. There must be something comforting about nighttime, because people tend to open up and get in deep discussions only then. Night- time to do whatever you want!

Goan Carnivals – An experience to behold

  It is that time of the year again. When flight and bus prices hit the roof, hotels and resorts are packed to the hilt and virtually the whole world seems to descend to celebrate. In Goa. No prizes for guessing that one is talking about the Carnival that will take places in different cities of the state over the next week or so. As things stand Goa is already a favoured tourist destination where festivals, parties and revelries are de rigueur. The annual event that is the #Carnival is what one would term the proverbial icing on the cake. And this is how it has been for past many centuries now. The Carnival was of course a gift or perhaps a legacy that was inherited from the colonial masters of the state, the #Portuguese. And though it has been half a century and more since the state attained independence, the locals have wholeheartedly embraced the Carnival. Today it is without a shred of doubt, the biggest festival of Goa.

Historically speaking, the Carnival has been celebrated for many centuries in western civilisations and be it Germany, Italy, England or far away Goa it always takes place in the period between the last week of February and the first week of March. It is said to take inspiration from the festival of #MardiGras. Talking from the local point of view, in Goa the Carnival began as an event that was specifically meant for the Catholic community . It is considered as a time for four days complete with unabashed music, dance, drinking and making merry before the month of Lent begins. And traditionally #Lent is a period of 40 days where the practice is to refrain from consuming meat and alcohol. What makes Lent significant is also that this month precedes Easter that is considered one of the important festivals as it celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Over the years the Carnival has grown into a festival that all Goans irrespective of caste, creed and religion come together and proudly celebrate. After all, it is this very vibrant culture that includes elements of all faiths that makes #Goa such a unique place.

Today the biggest Carnivals take place in Colombia, London and of course, everyone’s favorite Carnival destination# Brazil. The Goan Carnival is held on a very lavish scale with no costs spared and there is even a lot of prep work that takes place much before the D-day itself. Hundreds of floats (colourfully decorated stage that is usually built on a moving vehicle) exploring myriad themes are built and made ready a couple of months in advance. On top of these floats, you have thousands of performers, singers, dancers and artists taking part in a procession that is all immersive. Then you have some elements of circus with various men & women dressed in weird coloured costumes as well as some wearing funny & grotesque masks on their faces.The procession that takes place usually in one city every day passes through the heart of the city and moves slowly while onlookers and tourists gathered on both sides of the street to watch the Carnival jump in sometimes to be part of the whole dance and song and join the celebrations.

As mentioned at the outset, travelling and lodging options are likely to be expensive at the time of the Goan Carnival. So it is prudent to confirm dates for the event and book your tickets a little before in advance. The good part is that the event goes on for a good four days and in certain instances for a day or two extra. Now that is a lot of partying time. Best part is there is no entrance fee to go watch and be a part of the entire Carnival. Just get there early to get best vantage points for sitting & viewing. As this piece is being published, the first day of #GoaCarnival2017 took place in the capital city of Panaji. With over 50000 people attending (conservative estimate) the response clearly was rapturous.