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Note from Present Self to Future Self: Pre-Book your Travel Tickets

Dear Future Me,

I know you don’t want to pre-book travel tickets. You tell yourself that you like the sense of adventure and uncertainity that it gives you. You tell yourself that you need these life expriences.

But I know the truth, ofcourse. You’re just plain ol’ lazy. Too lazy to book your damn tickets. So, get off your ass and book them now. I’ll promise you that I’ll hunt you through time and kill you. Also, I have unlimited access to almost all your past selves (since they will be my future selves), so I might just as well kill them.

So, BOOK YOUR TICKETS, IDIOT!

Sincerely,

Irritated Present Me

 

So, I broke a law by photographing a clock in a railway station

The Forbidden Clock

(Update 3: Manish (@jimanish) was awesome enough to point me to the official stuff from Railway Ministry (pdf here). It starts off by stating the cause for the rules being strict:

A case relating to lapses in allowing shooting of a feature film (which resulted inburning/damage of some passenger coaches provided to the party causing a huge loss tothe Railways)

It then notes that it’s archaic, since you can even shoot from mobile phones, etc. The first few pages give you hope, because they actually read like they were written by normal people (mass reach of still/videography equipment, pointlessness of enforcement, time wasted by enforcement, etc).

However, they then go on to list the list of documents you’ve to submit to whichever people (possibly in different cities), and pay fees (waived if you’re using it for non-commercial purposes! Be grateful!) and then you can take photos. Multiple levels of bureaucracy, that would perhaps set a Vogon salivating. It also goes on to tell you that in certain cases all these can be waived if you can get stuff written to the appropriate level. Sigh.

So, yes, this rule exists. You cannot photograph railway stations without prior permission from a lot of people)

 

(Update 2: Expert governmental bureaucracy navigator @Planemad (Arun Ganesh) offered first hand experience/advice on flickr that I’m reproducing here:

Ive taken pics right in front of RPF personnel, locomotive pilots and other railway people and have never run into any issues. A law does exist, but is not enforced in normal circumstances, especially with cameras becoming a common gadget.

If you ever run into issues at the railway station, the most sensible guy with authority is the station master, and you can be pretty sure he will understand the situation and sort things out.

The RPF guys are better avoided, its a frustratingly shitty job and they dont miss an opportunity to victimize someone who has strayed into some gray area of the rulebook, especially when there’s nobody else with authority around.

Sounds good. I’m sure I wouldn’t have run into issues even if the guy had taken me in, considering he was drunk. Also, somehow, I think the fact that I was shooting with a DSLR was a factor here)

(Update: Sundar (@oliglot) points me to these guides (1, 2)about the laws in place. In short, *yes* these laws exist. Yes, they are stupid. And no, I’m not going to shoot at railway stations anymore. And I’d advice anyone against doing so too (unless they are expert at bribing people (which I’m not, and which isn’t something I condone)) – just heard another horror story where a young guy with a compact was ‘arrested’ and beaten before being released on being bribed. Sigh)

The law in question is one that says you need permission from two different government departments before you can take pictures inside railway stations. The law itself is not certain – my twitter timeline could find only this reference (thanks @cnu!)- and that seems very much focused towards foreign nationals. I’d be glad if anyone could tell me if such a law really exists. I don’t go about breaking laws for fun – laws exist for a reason. This one, however, just feels so much like just an employee out on a power trip than a law designed to keep someone safe – so my guilt/strong moral compass doesn’t kick in.

Now, the story is simple. I was on my way to Velacherry, my preferred form of transport being the MRTS. I was at Chennai Fort station (incorrectly tweeted as Park, apologies), and since I had just missed a train and had to wait 20 mins for another one, decided it would be a good time to test my new 550D.

So I start shooting randomly. It’s been a few years (3?) since I’ve shot photographs ‘properly’ (and then my camera broke), so it took me  a while to get my lines straight and framing right, etc. I shot off quite a few photos, though only three turned out flickrworthy.

Just a few minutes before my train is scheduled to arrive, I walk along and notice this awesome old clock (pictured above), all dusty and not working. I take a picture. Immediately, an obviously drunk (and old – I’d suspect 50+) railway employee (he had a Union card prominently displayed out of his pocket) started screaming at me. His basic argument being variations of:

“Who the fuck do you think you are, taking photos inside railway stations?”

“I’ll put you in jail and beat the shit outta you, I’m (part of|know the) railway police!”

All were in Tamil, repeated, and spoken in a way that made it very obvious that he was drunk. Unsure of how to deal with this situation, I slowly backed away while keeping my mouth shut. This only seemed to enrage him more, and the abuses/threats increased in intensity. He was screaming for well over two minutes. I never opened my mouth.

The train arrived, I got on it, and went on my way. A few bystanders who witnessed the whole situation (but did nothing) told me to chill, that that was just a drunk asshole I should ignore, and that yes, you need prior permission to shoot inside railway stations. I wasn’t sure such a law existed, so I asked around on twitter and got contradicting opinions (jury’s still out on weather such a law exists).

So, what should I have done?

My options were pretty limited. I think staying shut was the best course of action – you can’t argue with a drunk guy, much less a drunk entitled government employee on a power trip. But, I’m sure more experienced streetphotographers would’ve handled the situation better. How do you think I should’ve handled it?

Photographer Rights

This isn’t the first run in I’ve had with Government Employees regarding photography (the last time was when I photographed some traffic police resting in the shade on a hot summer day, they questioned me and made me delete the photographs. That was four years ago though), and I’m sure it won’t be the last…

Thomas Hawk has a lot of posts about how Photography isn’t a Crime. They are, however, US specific, and hence I don’t think I can rely on them in India. Also, even if Laws do exist, they are not enough to save me – nothing will protect me from a policeman who smashes my camera and then arrests me on a false charge because he thinks you were going to use his photograph in some demeaning newspaper article (you know this isn’t far fetched). I love doing street photography, and am wondering how exactly I can keep myself safe. Photowalking in large groups is one, any others?

P.S. Props again to Vijay and iRatzzz for calming me down right after the incident. Also thanks to HP:MOR (read this chapter and you’ll understand).

“Infosys, TCS or Wipro?” “None”

Succinctly written post that every engineering college student should read.

Ofcourse, someone should write a post called “CS, EC or EEE?” “Neither” for high school students, because for a lot of people the answer to the question “Should you do Engineering?” is a huge “No”.

The comments section is even more awesome. Choice quotes:

A sympathizer/astroturfer/cognitively dissonant person writes:

Are you saying that anybody who can browse the internet and knows about the computer can do our jobs? Don’t you think we would find that a bit insulting? It might be true in many cases where the proper training can make a monkey do our jobs, but isn’t that true for many fields? Aren’t monkeys being trained to pilot airships?

And is responded with multiple ‘yes’es. I was quite astounded, surprised, even enraged when I heard someone working there describe his job as “I do nothing, really. I’ve to press buttons and record answers in excel sheets. Rest of the time I can hit on the girls and do my own thing. Nobody cares. It’s more fun than college!”. Sigh.

Also, another point mentioned by someone anonymous:

  1. Brand name: Students feel that Infosys, TCS, Wipro are great brand names. It is far from the truth. Infosys, TCS, Wipro are embarrassing brand names to write in your resume with the exception if you want to join another Infosys, TCS, Wipro like company or Cognizant, Accenture like companies who are ready to hire any crap that comes out of Infosys, TCS, Wipro. Good technical companies know that these brand names are like balloons. They look big from outside but has only gas inside. Actually an engineer from a good but less popular startup has more chance than a person from Infosys to get a call of interview from a big technical company.

“Working at Infosys for 6 years!” only sounds awesome to maamis who want to buy you for their daughters.

Another typical attitude that boils the blood of anyone with a tiny bit of work ethic:

hello all, what if someone(CS/IT engineer) is not interested in engineering and he wants to do mba from a very good college. But he needs time for preparation. So he make decision to join tcs/infosys/wipro (cause he didn’t get job other than these companies), only for job experience and he can get time for preparation of CAT/XAT/snap/cet etc.. Will it be a good decision??

And of course, the actual ‘client’ who gets shafted:

I am quite alarmed by Sam’s response, especially his 5th point where he writes that the Indian vendors send their employees to work on client’s site not because they are proficient in technology but because you need to factor in everyone’s needs and desiers. Excuse me! We need good technology people. Why can’t you guys just be professional and keep your personal lives and poverty away while discussing technology?

I highly recommend you guys go and read the entire blog post *and* the comments. Especially if you’re still in college. The placement cells at many colleges make it appear as if these are the ultimate companies ever, that you should fast and pray for 30 days to get a job there – but they have no other go. This, and their reviews at Glassdoor (Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL)

I’m waiting for this boom to crash. And burn. Mass de-brainwashing is important for our future. This topic definitely needs a bigger rant from me someday.

Stolen Disclaimer:

ALERT: If you are not interested in making a career in engineering, lack the confidence to do so, or you are very content with working for one of these three companies for reasons that are valid to you, you may stop reading this and go back to what you were doing before landing on this page.

Thanks to Shankar Ganesh for pointing this out to me.