Sunday 26 August 2007

Mousetrap - 116

Once upon a time
Khaufpur city welcomes you
More than twenty years ago, Bhopal woke to horror. A chemical leak in a factory poisoned the area, and many died that night. It didn’t end there. The toxins stayed, scarring and permanently handicapping some, affecting children not born at that time, the earth, the water. Activists still fight for justice, for compensation. Indra Sinha, the writer, is one of the people who have campaigned tirelessly for the victims and survivors. His newest book, “Animal’s People,” is based in a fictional city called Khaufpur—“Khauf,” in Urdu, means “fear” I am told—which bears a not coincidental resemblance to Bhopal. While the site could be seen as canny publicity for the book (which has made the Booker long-list), to me it, and the book, are really part of the bigger continuing campaign for justice in Bhopal. It is put together with attention to detail, with no little sense of humour. The typos are planned, the language reflects that used in some many babu-run sites. And the biting satire of some of its sections makes one smile. And think. Go visit Khaufpur, the city of promise. [Link via Nilanjana S Roy.]

Like this
Wikipedia, with all its flaws, is the reference site of choice for many, and has enough excellent content for to make it worth checking on when one is doing a spot of research. Wikipedia is big—almost 2 million articles as of this writing—and you might need a bit of help if you don’t know the naming conventions and taxonomy. This site can help you with that. Simply enter a URL, or a bit of text, and hit the search button. You get links to a bunch of Wikipedia articles on topics that the site’s alogorithms determine are related, or similar. I tried this with some of the sites I run, and the results were pretty good. [Link via “qaro”]

Not so Fab?
What Goes On - The Beatles Anomalies List
So many decades after they last recorded together, the Beatles are still objects of devotion. This site lists anomalies from their output. As in flubbed beats, stray sounds, errors, comments that crept in, and so on. It started off on a mailing list, as so many great sites do, and grew and grew. Why so many anomalies in the work of so famous a band? As the site says, part of the reason could be that the band was “innovating, experimenting, and working beyond the limits of the equipment. Equipment that at the time was the best available, but now looks very dated and clumsy.” It also points out that this is a labour of love. “Spending so long listening to and analyzing every last moment of the Beatles over a period of 12 years is something you could only do if you were a fan.”

Africa, regarded by scientists as the where our species evolved, is still very poor, and comparitively low-tech. Nevertheless, human ingenuity comes to the fore, solving complex problems, problems that more advanced cultures throw a lot of machinery at, with very simple ideas and basic technology. This blog showcases the best of these “AfriGadgets.” There is much here that can be adapted for use in India’s poorer areas. And, I think, we’d have some pretty good ideas to offer them too. IndiGadgets, anyone?

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 26th August, 2007.

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