Saturday, December 20, 2008

Brigadier and Brigadier General + John Nicholson

Brigadier General - Transient Throne
John Nicholson
and General Custer as a footnote

I have always been interested in the history of military and it was not entirely unnatural for me to ponder a bit on the sudden promotion of a Captain John Nicholson to the rank of Brigadier in 1857. This jump in ranks ultimately led me to understand a bit more of military ranks and of John Nicholson. Here's what happened.

While reading an account of the Siege of Delhi of 1857 I often came across the name John Nicholson. This is no surprise since to most of the British present at the siege and thereafter Nicholson was the first among equals in the line of heroes of the siege. He was one of Henry Lawrence's Young Men, each of whom was in the words of Philip Mason "Moses and Napoleon" - tax collector, magistrate, army commander, political officer, division officer all rolled into one; usually the only white face for hundreds and hundreds miles around his jurisdiction in the Punjab province or the North East Frontier Province.

Upon the outbreak of the Mutiny, Nicholson was a captain serving under John Lawrence (younger brother of Henry Lawrence), the governor of the recently conquered Punjab province. The Delhi Field Force was assembled on the ridge overlooking Shahjahanabad in May - June 1857; the Moving Column from Punjab joined up with the force to lay siege to Delhi in mid August and Capt. John Nicholson came in with the column. He fought alongside the rest of the British officers against the Sepoys and Mughals of Delhi who fought back with just as much ferocity. The next month was spent in an internecine impasse and finally the majority of the British officers voted for frontal assault on the walls of Delhi on the 14th of September with none other than Brigadier General John Nicholson to lead them.

"Eh?" me sputters in surprise,
"Brigadier General? But he was a captain wasn't he?"
me scans the last few pages skipping words and lines searching for the name John Nicholson and, yes indeed, he had been a captain till now. "So? Then? What just happened is the space of the last two lines to pole-vault him from Captain to Brigadier General?"

Turns out it's not such a big deal after all. I mean it is and yet it isn't. Let me explain.After years of conducting PhD. quality research, back breaking investigations and talking to retired and surviving army officers I have come to discover the following.

There were at least four types of ranks in the British Army in India -
Temporary and
A substantive rank is a permanent rank which governs the pay and allowances due to an officer. An acting rank is a rank awarded for a time which may or may not be converted into a permanent  rank; holding an acting rank allows for the higher pay associated with the higher acting rank to be given to a holder of a lower substantive rank. Thus a substantive Captain, Acting Major would be paid as per the pay scale of a Major. A temporary rank is exactly what is says - temporary, more on this below. Each of these three is a commissioned rank which means that the ranks is conferred on the officer by the ruling monarch or by the Board of Representatives (of the East India Company) or a similar such authority. A brevet rank however is not a commissioned rank. Other than by the usual channel above, it can also be awarded by the commander of the army for exemplary bravery and is ceremonial (though years of service as a brevet rank holder do go towards the calculation of seniority); it is however permanent and one can not be 'demoted' from a brevet rank just as the in case of a permanent rank.

The rank of Brigadier or Brigadier General was almost always a temporary rank. Brigadier was a rank awarded for a specific purpose (or mission) such as taking command of all the forces in a battle ie commanding the full brigade, commanding a section of a wartime activity (like arranging for troop recruitments or logistics) or acting as the commanding officer of group formed for a special task such as the Army Of Retribution formed to avenge the massacre of the Kabul Residency in the 1870s. Brigadier or Birgadier General was usually an emergency rank awarded for a task to be accomplished in the near future. This temporary rank was always withdrawn as soon as the task was accomplished. Hence, for example, any Colonel promoted to the rank of a Brigadier for a battle was always 'demoted' back to the rank of a Colonel after the battle.

As a useful digression I present here the military ranks in ascending order of hierarchy for the British Army in India and for the Army of the East India Company at the time of the Mutiny of 1857:

Subaltern - Ensign in Infantry and Cornet in Cavalry - equivalent to a modern day Lieutenant
Lt. Colonel
Brigadier - Brigadier General
Major General
Lt. General

The difference between the terms Brigadier and Brigadier General was due to the source of the temporary appointment. If the appointment was made by the monarch or his or her representative (Governor General or Viceroy for example) then the term used was Brigadier General. If appointment was awarded in the field on the authority of a senior General then the term used was Brigadier. Ultimately though this made little difference as the term was often used inter-changeably.
There could be no brevet-Brigadier since a temporary rank could not be awarded for bravery shown in past actions. The temporary rank was always awarded for some future intended outcome and not as a reward. Also brevet ranks were permanent, temporary ranks were, well, temporary.

Brigadier and Brigadier Generals are ranks still retained by the British and most Commonwealth armies though now these ranks are mostly permanent and substantive (not temporary) and no demotions can be made from this rank under normal circumstances.

Till now this is not such a big deal.
The Brigadier was usually the senior most Colonel from among all the Colonels present during the emergency. As can be seen in the hierarchy given above this rank was always somewhere in between that of a full Colonel and a Major General. As a matter of fact the Brigadier was and is still referred to as Colonel-General is certain armies. And this is where John Nicholson's advance from Captain to Brigadier is so unique. The man jumped at least 3 ranks and close to 15 years of service to become a Brigadier overnight. Brigadier John Nicholson superseded scores of other higher ranking Majors, Lt. Colonels and Colonel to become the commander of the assault party. He was made the supreme authority for the charge on the walls of Delhi and all officers (senior and junior) in the attack gladly accepted to follow his lead. The overall Commander of the Delhi Field Force was still Brigadier Wilson, senior to Nicholson in age and years of experience by many a decades, who supervised the attach from atop the Ridge.  Had Brigadier General Nicholson survived the assault he would had to go back to the rank of Captain after the completion of the assault. Incidentally the tombstone of John Nicholson gives the rank of the John Nicholson as Brigadier General (temporary) and not as Captain (substantiative). It is set in a cemetery named after him, located in an erstwhile Mughal garden situated just outside the Kashmiri Gate. It was this very bastion of the wall of Delhi which Nicholson attacked on the 14th of Sept 1857 and this is where he fell. Nicholson was fatally wounded at the beginning of  the road which connects Kashmiri Gate with Mori Gate, running along the arch of the wall which is in between these two gates. This road was named Nicholson Road.

I do not wish to spin off this post as an essay on the life of John Nicholson or on reputation and respect John Nicholson enjoyed amongst his British brethren and the Sikhs as well (check out the fanatical Sikh sect 'Nikel Sanis' loyal only to John Nicholson). And nor do I wish to dwell too much on his cruelty in dispensing punishment on the rebellious Sepoys.  I point the reader towards the rich encomiums showered in the thoroughly enjoyable memoirs of Lord Roberts of Kandhar and to other such memoirs written by the contemporaries of Brigadier General John Nicholson. It is also significant that the usually highly acerbic character of writer George MacDonald Fraser, Col Harry Flashman, who usually lashes away with his vitriolic tongue to decimate the reputation of all from Queen Victoria down to the lowest clerk in the far reaches of the Raj, doesn't sully the name of John Nicholson one bit when he recounts his encounter with the towering-heavily bearded frame of John Nicholson (in the Flashman series novel - The Great Game). Such is the stature of John Nicholson.

Another star on Nicholson's chest - a 150 years and one independence on, the cemetery is still called Nicholson Cemetery and the road is still called Nicholson Road. 

Interested reader (hint for detractors and other such folk) should also however lookout for (quite irrelevant and how-does-it-matter) charges of homosexual relations between John Nicholson and, another of Henry Lawrence's young men, Herbert Edwardes.

Walking along Nicholson road at dusk, the sky rife with hues of orange and rust lethargically blotting into one another merged further by the muezzins evening call, the wall of Delhi (still) stoutly standing on one side and an unending row of hardware shops with bored-to-death-owners-who-spend-their-whole-lives-staring-at-the-wall,siting inside on the other side with only about 15 feet separating the two, I could only think of how these shop keepers and the Kashmiri Gate wall are inextricably intertwined with the rank of Brigadier in my mind.

Another (not very useful but highly interesting) digression.
The famous American military personality General Custer was a  Lieutenant Cadet (Subaltern) at the start of the American Civil War in 1861 and was temporarily made a Brigadier General at the age of 23 years in 1863 just 3 days before Gettysburg. He also became a brevet Major General in the mid 1860s and his substantive rank at the time of the death in 1874 at Little Bighorn was Lt. Colonel. Now, finally these ranks make some sense, phew!
I suppose this also the right place to mention another place Brigadier General of the Indian Army (Imperial) - General Reginald Dyer of the Amritsar masacare of 1919. Brigadier GeneralDyer retired with the substantive rank of Colonel.

This post is very unstructured (can't help it; the rank of Brigadier and John Nicholson go hand in hand in my mind). Perhaps this post leaves no one in the world any wiser and nor does it do much to reverse global warming but it's just something I discovered and which led me further onto a never ending and superb journey into the world of the Raj and that is why I decided to commit it to paper, er, screen...yeah commit it to screen and to space of blogger's server.

To know more:

1.  British Army in India and the rank of Brigadier General

Wikipedia on British Army

Wikipedia on British Army in India

Sahibs by Richard Holmes

Redcoat by Richard Holmes

A Matter of Honour by Philip Mason

2. John Nicholson

Soldier Sahib by Charles Allen


Memoirs of Lord Roberts - download for free from gutenberg

Life of John Nicholson by J. Trotter

Encyclopedia Britannica on John Nicholson from 1911

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mumbai Attacks - 26/11 - Nov 2008

A lot has been said about the Mumbai attacks. I agree with somethings and disagree with some other things. Here are some things I feel the need to say to those who wish to know:

1. Save the money which would be spent on the candle and / or flowers and / or text messages to each other asking to burn candles. Let's say Rs5 are saved per person.
2. Donate these saving to Army Wives Association or other such organisations. Assure the armed forces that we as a nation will continue on our own to support their families withouth passing the buck onto the government or to the army. The families of those who sacrifice their lives for the nation should be the priority of the nation. When they did not pass on the buck onto the government after being called to take charge how can we pass on the buck now?
Simple maths:
If each person above the poverty line living in just Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras was to donate Rs5 then the corpus would excees millions of Rupees.
Donate to anybody you want to or help otherwise (PM's fund, local gurudrawara, orphanage, school take your pic); all such actions help. But remember do not make them one-off-I've-done-my-bit actions. Small but continuous steps are better.
It does not matter how and where we help but we must. Our armed forces have our respect and rightly so. Even if they do not give up their lives just their presence is important. I can enjoy my life, go to the movies, do what I want, eat, drink, sleep, shop do whatever because there is somebody donning a uniform in my stead. He or she is there on my behalf, not on the government's behalf. Armed forces people risk their own lives for their comrades around them and for us, not for the government, not for the notion of India but for the people who are with them in conflicts (their teams, their group, their subordinates and colleagues) and for the people back home.

3. Ignore the glamour-affected-latest-hero-worship-fish-market-hollier-than-thou media houses which want to tell us how we should show solidarity with the armed forces of India and which news to focus on. Media houses (TV Channels esp) have a huge amounts of costs to recover; they are in an industry where the competition is extremely stiff.They have to make every second of air time count. Working the way they work is the only business model they know of and the only one that helps them to make money. They have to show returns on investments. It is foolish for the citizens of India to expect news TV channels to improve the quality of news reporting and analysis. Let the media be. We all get angry at them but they are to be pitied. They have no credibility and nor do they enjoy the respect of most of us. And of course this applies not just to the news channels but to the highly visible faces of these news channels, the so called news heads and to the content editors as well.

4. Do not forgive the politicians and the bureaucrats. Do whatever it takes to shake the fetid political foliage of our nation. Our politicians play with our lives our parents' lives our children's lives, destroy our youth, get the most courageous from amongst us killed for no reason (often facing terrorists without adequate equipment), dilly dally with reforms, cause the deaths of lakhs of Indian every year due to avarice, negligence and plain apathy and then the corruption...
One way is to invoke Sec 49-O of the Conduct of Election Rules Act 1961. Possibly the only weapon we the citizens have againt the politicians. It is our constitutional right as well as our duty.
Sec 49-O, under the Indian Constitution, essentially empowers each citizen of India to vote for "nobody". A voter can choose not to vote for anybody.
As of now this power can not be used by voters as the electronic voting machines do not have a nobody option but the Hon. Supreme Court of India is reviewing cases to get this option included. The Election Commission of India has also made similar recommendations. Although the Returning Officer at each booth can be informed of a "I vote for nobody" decision this would constitute a violation of the law which states that the decision of a voter can not be disclosed to anybody else.
With some changes this can become a possibility and in that case if the number of people in a constituency who exercise this option were to exceed the victory margin of the winner from that constituency then the election results would stand canceled. Re-election would have to be called for and none of the contenders from the initial election would be allowed to contest again.
Text of Sec 49-O
"49-O. Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his
electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters
in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as
required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his
vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in
Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb
impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark."

Source - Law Ministry Website

To know more:
There are other ways also, Checking the affidavits filed by the contenders in your area for criminal cases, and assets declaration among other things , using RTI Act for example.
5. Be good to each other as much as we can be. You love me I love you, to hell with the government, cause it just loves its own self (and even that can be disputed). The government is not the cure for all evil in our country, I have come across many in the government who are hard and honest workers and administrators. It becomes unjust to blame the entire government for everything.
All of us are busy, all of have problems and we can go on doing whatever we do, we can live our lives happily, we just need to make small efforts and do good.
There is some good news. I am happy to know that the Centre has decided to immediately setup new NSG bases in all the metros of India to reduce the reaction time in Mumbai-like situations (as of now the NSG is based out of Manesar near Delhi and it took them more than 3 hours to get to Mumbai).
Further,the states are also being advised to establish their own state-level NSG units which will be the first ones to reach the location of the crisis and act in concert with the Centre-Level NSG units (based out to Delhi and soon out of the other metros as well). The state-level NSG units will be of the same calibre as the Centre-level NSG units. Karnataka has already requested the Centre to help it establish and train a Karnataka NSG. I hope this plan works.
Just remember that more than 4/5th (40 odd) of the Mumbai Attack terrorists have escaped. They are now inside India and waiting for the right time. Better for all of us to be prepared and do our small bits.
Related post

Friday, November 14, 2008


I say cheese when I want to say salt,
Or ask you to run when I want you to halt,
I wave goodbye when I want you to talk,
Or push you away when I want you a lot

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To forget I write

To forget I write,
The more I write the more images become sharp,
The more images become sharp the more they cut through my heart,
The more my heart bleeds the more alive I be,
The more alive I feel the more I want thee,
The more I want thee the more it pains to not have you near me,
The more it pains the more I want to forget,
To forget I write

and maybe one day

and maybe one day

you will  just talk
and i will just watch

you will tell me of life
and i will live what you describe

you will use your words to help me rest to massage me
and i will roll in them to remove my burden from me

you will speak with happiness gesturing from your eyes sitting on the bed
and i will sleep listening to you with your lap under my head

you will touch my cheek and run your fingers through my hair
and i will slip deeper into slumber knowing you are there

you will unflurl your memories and take me to your childhood
and i will lie in them and dream of enjoying all that you could

you will ask if i am to go to be somewhere else to do something
and i will reply that just lying with you when you speak  is the only thing

and maybe one day

you will  just talk
and i will just watch

Monday, November 3, 2008

Umrao Jaan - 1981 - Yeh Kya Jageh Hai Doston - Urdu + English LYRICS

Umrao Jaan - Yeh Kya Jageh Hai Doston Lyrics

Lyrics - Akhlaq Muhammad Khan "Shahryar"

Music - Muhammad Zahur Hashmi "Khayyam"
Singer - Asha Bhonsle

امراو جان ادا - یہ کیا جگہ ہے دوستوں

یہ کیا جگہ ہے دوستوں

یہ کیا جگہ ہے دوستوں

یہ کون سا دیار ہے ، یہ کون سا دیار ہے

حدّ نگاہ تک جہاں،

حدَّ نگاہ تک جہاں، غبار ہی غبار ہے

غبار ہی غبار ہے

یہ کیا جگہ ہے دوستوں

یہ کس مقام پر حیاّت

یہ کس مقام پر حیاّت ،

مجھ کو لے کے آ گیٔ

مجھ کو لے کے آ گیٔ

نا بس خوشی پے ہے جہاں

نا بس خوشی پے ہے جہاں ،

نا غم پے اختیار ہے

نا غم پے اختیار ہے

یہ کیا جگہ ہے دوستوں

یہ کون سا دیار ہے ، یہ کون سا دیار ہے

تمام عمر کا حساب

تمام عمر کا حساب،

مانگتی ہے زندگی

مانگتی ہے زندگی

یہ میرا دل کہے تو کیا

یہ میرا دل کہے تو کیا،

کہ خد سے شرمسار ہے

کہ خد سے شرمسار ہے

یہ کیا جگہ ہے دوستوں

یہ کون سا دیار ہے ،

یہ کون سا دیار ہے

بلا رہا ہے کون

بلا رہا ہے کون مجھ کو چلمنو کے اس طرف

میرے لۓ بھی کیا کیٔ

میرے لۓ بھی کیا کی اداس بقرار ہے

اداس بےقرار ہے

یہ کیا جگہ ہے دوستوں

یہ کون سا دیار ہے

حدَّ نگاہ تک جہاں، غبار ہی غبار ہے

غبار ہی غبار ہے

یہ کیا جگہ ہے دوستوں

Transliteration and Translation of Lyrics of Umrao Jaan - Yeh Kya Jageh Hai Doston in English

Yeh kya jageh hai doston - What place is this my friends?
Yeh kaun sa dyaar hai - Which realm is this?
Yeh kaun sa dyaar hai -
Hadd-e-nigaah tak jahan - For as far as the eyes can see
Hadd-e-nigaah tak jahan -

Ghubaar hi ghubaar hai - there are only dust storms for me
Ghubaar hi ghubaar hai -

Yeh kya jageh hai doston - What place is this my friends?

Yeh kis maqaam par hayaat - Which is this stage?
Yeh kis maqaam par hayaat -
Mujh ko le ke aagayee - where has life brought me?
Mujh ko le ke aagayee -

Naa bas khushee pe hai jahan - Where I have no control over my happiness
Naa bas khushee pe hai jahan -

Naa gham pe ikhtiyaar hai - and nor can I command my despair
Naa gham pe ikhtiyaar hai -

Yeh kya jageh hai doston - What place is this my friends?

Yeh kaun sa dyaar hai - Which realm is this?
Yeh kaun sa dyaar hai -
Tamaam umar ka hisaab - An account of each step
Tamaam umar ka hisaab -

Mangati hai zindagee - is demanded by life
Mangati hai zindagee -

Yeh mera dil kahe to kya - How can my poor heart explain my deeds?
Yeh mera dil kahe to kya -

Ke khud se sharmsaar hai - it is engulfed in its own shame
Ke khud se sharmsaar hai -

Yeh kya jageh hai doston - What place is this my friends?
Yeh kaun sa dyaar hai - Which realm is this?
Yeh kaun sa dyaar hai -
Bulaa rahaa hai kaun - Who is calling out to me?
Bulaa rahaa hai kaun mujh ko -

chilmano ke us taraf - from behind the curtains?
Mere liye bhi kya koi - Is there one assigned to me?
Mere liye bhi kya koi -

Udaas bey qaraar hai - to miss me, to impatiently await me?
Udaas bey qaraar hai -

Yeh kya jageh hai doston - What place is this my friends?
Yeh kaun sa dyaar hai - Which realm is this?

Hadd-e-nigaah tak jahan - For as far as the eyes can see

Ghubaar hi ghubaar hai - there are only dust storms for me
Ghubaar hi ghubaar hai -
Yeh kya jageh hai doston - What place is this my friends?

This song is just so perfect.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Google Chrome 0.2 - Google's New Browser

A Layman's Review of Google Chrome 0.2
Or confessions of a decade old Opera user
Or here comes the "IE Killer"

Google has just released the beta version of its new browser called "Chrome". Although this release is not related to history per se or historical in nature I thought I'd jot down a few of my observations on Google Chrome because I've take to it like a fish to water, like Stalin to propaganda, like a gamer to Warcraft, like paparazzi to celebrities,like James Bond to Martini, like governments to corruption,like...

Google Chrome has been built from scratch as a browser meant to be safe, secure, stable, intuitive, fast, and fresh.

What's so different?
(and how do the differences work for me?)

Well not much and quite a lot. To look at Google Chrome is quite similar to some of the new versions of Firefox, Opera, and even IE 8.0. It uses tabs just as they do and it's layout and icons are a little reminiscent of IE 7.

However here are the differences:
1. Google Chrome places the tabs right at the top of the window, where they are easy to reach, and easy to use. It does away with the menu at the top thereby freeing up more space to display the tabs and the web page below the tab.

2. I know I just said it's not too dissimilar to the existing browsers, but yes, Google Chrome's looks are very fresh, clean, uncluttered, and purposeful.

3. Google Chrome uses a multi-process technique to run the show and this is where the greatest difference lies between Google Chrome and other browsers. Other browsers use a single thread - single process system which basically means that the browser can only run one process (in simple terms computation) at a time hence opening a page such as Facebook or Yahoo takes a long time because all the elements on the web page (such as photos, text, clickable boxes, Javascript based items, games, widgets, applications, wall, superwall etc...) are run using that one single process. This also mean that an error / crash / security breach in that process decimates the entire web page and sometimes even the user's system.

However Google Chrome changes all this by assigning each element its own process, thereby making all the elements in a web page load and run faster and also making the whole browser extremely stable and very very secure. Each text item, photo, Javascript aplication etcetera directly interacts with the CPU using its own process and hence a crash / error of one element only affects that particular process (or element) thereby insulating the rest of the web page elements (and their respective processes) and the any other web pages which maybe open from such a crash or error. Similarly any breach / compromise of security in one element does not affect the security of any of the other elements in that web page or any other web pages thereby enhancing the safety levels of the browser and the operating system. Hence fewer or almost no errors and crashes. This blog itself has many widgets and applications and Google Chrome is the only browser which manages to load everything perfectly. Refer to the comic book to understand this in greater detail. More about the comic book at the end of this review. This is not a joke.

4. Google Chrome uses superior memory management for temporary storage of web pages which allows it to avoid memory fragmentation caused by "too much web surfing" thereby enabling a lot more tabs to be used simultaneously and also reduce the "rotting away" of memory which can often make one's browser very slow after some time of heavy duty web usage. Hence the system does not slow down.

5. Google Chrome is built upon something called Gears which is essentially an an open source software. Google hopes that soon all or most of the web will be based on Gears or at least be Gears compliant as this will result in plug-ins becoming safer to use and web pages becomes more efficient at everything. You Tube, Firefox, IE 6, Google Docs, Google Reader, Picasa amongst others are already either based on Gears of Gears compliant. Opera's new version is also Gears compliant. This means the web will become a little more safe and more customised at the same time due to the open source nature of Gears.

Google Chrome's Cool Features

Some of these features are already available in Firefox, Opera, and IE. Google openly admits to being inspired by other existing browsers while determining the features for Google Chrome

Things to look out for in Google Chrome
1. Incognito Window - Google Chrome has a special window in which any link or URL can be opened which would be untraceable once closed. The user's computer and browser will have no cookies or history for the web page opened in the Incognito Window. It is the ultimate form of browser usage privacy.

2. Tab Play and Drag and Drop - Any tab can be pulled out to be opened as a separate window. Any link / image / element on a web page can be dragged onto the tab bar to be opened as a separate tab. Fast and cool, eliminates the need to right click and open in a new tab, almost Mac-like.

3. Task Manager for Browser - Google Chrome includes a task manager for browser which provides memory and CPU usage details for each web page open and for each plug-in being used. This is extemely helpful in tracking down and closing the more memory intense web pages. The End Process button works just like in the Windows's Task Manager. The task manager also provides details for other browsers which may be open at the time and further it provides ever more numbers aptly titled "Stats for Nerds". Very handy, I like it.

4. Domain Name Highlighted - The domain name part in the address bar is highlighted. May not be uselful for many but I do appreciate it.

5. Omnibox - Google Chrome calls the address bar as Omnibox. Typing any word here shows some interesting options in the drop down list; such as search results for the word, previously typed websites names featuring that word, auto complete options for that word etcetera. Make the act of browsing faster. Ripped off from Opera.

6. New Tab Window Features - In Google Chrome a new tab opened will display thumbnails of the 9 most frequently visited websites also with a list of recently closed tabs and a search function right there to search the browser's history (naturally no results will be displayed for sites browsed using the Incognito Window). Makes the browser more intuitive to the user's needs. Ripped off from Opera's Speed Dial feature.

7. Inspect Element - Most Google Chrome user would never use this feature but I'll describe it nevertheless because I do like it. Right click on any element (link, text, image, Javascript applet, button...anything) and click on inspect element. The HTML source code of the page will open and you'll be taken to the relevant code line for that element. The metrics, properties and style for the element are also displayed. This is helpful for me as I know basic HTML and often wonder about which tag has been used to create a particular element. It'll go a long in improving my knowledge of HTML and web pages. This feature is highly recommended for developers. Please note the regular view source feature is also available.

8. Web Page Shortcut - Google Chrome has an application shortcut feature which allows any web page / URL to be created as a shortcut on the computer's desktop, quick launch bar, and start menu. It's a nice feature which allows for a simple double click on the desktop to take you to the web page for which the shortcut has been created.

9. Download Manager - Google Chrome features a regular download manager, the only differences being that downloads initiated from a tab are shown in that particular tab and not in the central download window unlike in Opera and Firefox. However the central download window can be accessed using a shortuct (Ctrl+H). Closing the tab does not interrupt the download though and this is a good feature.

10. Pop Up Management - Pop ups are confined to the tabs of their origin. Clicking and dragging them out of the tab results in their being opened in a new tab. Neat.

11. Sandboxing - Google Chrome uses a process called Sandboxing to determine trust levels and permissions to various elements in web pages. Each tab gets its own sandbox. This segregation into different levels of trust allows for a more secure web experience.

12. Anti-Phishing and Malware - Google Chrome constantly updates it's list of phishing sites and uses this list to conduct verification check of all the URLs typed and opened within the browser.

13. Auto Spell Check - A simple spell check performs spell check on all text typed by the user within Google Chrome. For a natural spellings assassination pro like me this is nothing short of maana from heaven.

14. Open Source - Google Chrome is open source and hence not only can other developers learn from it and use its code for their ideas they can create customised versions of Google Chrome. This feature is Google Chrome's most exciting feature and will take this product from Google's stable far and wide. Google is banking upon the open source nature of Google Chrome and Gears to make the internet more efficient and dynamic.

15. Extensive Testing - Google Chrome has been tested for millions of web pages from a very diverse range thanks to Google's gargantuan data base of the internet. Hence Google Chrome has probably undergone the most extensive and best testing amongst all the browsers recently released.

16. Speed - Google Chrome is much faster than IE or Firefox though Opera might still beat it.

So why don't I name Google Chrome the greatest human invention, what's stopping me?

Well. Google Chrome is a great broswer but there are some shortfalls:

1. No Mouse Gestures - I've been using Opera for close to a decade now and mouse gestures have become a part of my net experience. I love using the left and right mouse button to navigate pages and links without having to push around the mouse. Google admits that in order to ensure safety mouse gestures will never be a part of Google Chrome. Sad. Sniff.

2. Lame Keyboard Shortcuts - Keyboard shortcuts are standard (Ctrl+H for history, Ctrl+T for new tab ...) but nothing close to the superior navigation experience using keyboard keys offered by Opera.

3. High CPU Usage - Because Google Chrome uses multi processes each element on each web page makes a demand individually on the CPU and these multiple origins of CPU usage put a strain on the CPU. Google Chrome will run on a 1.7GHz machine with 256 MB RAM but try running Ms Word, or Paint or along with Google Chrome and you'll see the CPU usage stats immediately shoot up. Google admits that high CPU usage is a characteristic of Google Chrome but it points out to enhanced speed, safety, stability, and security with are obtained in return. For someone like me who runs multiple applications while using the net (MS Excel with Opera with Google Earth with Corel Draw with Google Talk) this is the most major drawback of Google Chrome. I haven't yet tried to run Google Chrome and Google Earth (that other giant guzzler of CPU resource) together but I can anticipate a slow and highly constipated performance from my computer.

4. Spell Check - Well the spell check is great but then the beta version of Google Chrome doesn't allow new words to be added to the dictionary and further the dictionary is not up to date in terms of terminology and technical and corporate brand names. This results in absurdities like the very word Google showing up as a spelling error (recommended changes include goggle, googly, and go ogle :D ). I can't add Google as a word and hence till Google actually updates its dictionary the word "Google" will continue to show up as "go ogle" misspelt.

5. Plug-in errors and Misc drawbacks - Some plug-ins for Facebook, Google Analytics and other sites won't work immediately. Sometimes it does become slightly unstable under certain circumstances. :(
I have also found out that Google Chrome is not as customizable a browser as either Opera or Firefox. For eg - Google Chrome has no option to check / uncheck exit confirmation. Skins...Google Chrome does not offer any skins.

Final Word - Google Chrome a.k.a. IE Killer

Google Chrome will certainly take away most of Internet Explorer's market and hence I have no hesitation in calling it the "IE Killer". I would certainly prefer the beta version of Google Chrome over any version of IE including the recently launched IE 8.0.

If however you are a Firefox or Opera user then weaning you away from Firefox or Opera won't be too easy for Google Chrome. Subsequent versions of Google Chrome will have to come up with better navigation and tweak some other issues before Google Chrome can become your browser of choice. I know that the next version of Google Chrome might replace the special place I have accorded Opera in my heart. However having said that let me still recommend Google Chrome to you as you will find it to be more safe, more stable, and cleaner / neater than either Firefox or Opera.

I would rather use Google Chrome for online financial transactions than any other browser, no second thoughts on that, plus the Incognito Window is a clear winner. I am also very excited about the endless possibilities offered by Google Chrome's open source nature. Google Chrome handles Blogger, Flickr, You Tube etcetera way better than either of IE, Firefox, or Opera. Many pages which were opened by these browsers with errors are loaded flawlessly by Google Chrome.

If you use the net to watch movies, play games, check out live finance data, read PDF files, social network, or anything involving Javascript then surely Google Chrome is your weapon of choice.

Despite its drawbacks Google Chrome is a high quality product but some people expected a lot more from a Google product and wanted to see a "revolution" (as opposed to an "evolution") in the world of browsers. However as far as I am concerned Google has taken some very bold steps with Google Chrome and these should not only leave behind an indelible mark on the browser industry but even change the way we think about browsers themselves.

Now about the comic book. Google has prepared a great comic book to explain everything about Google Chrome and I recommend those interested to take a look at it here. The comic itself is quite enjoyable and an lesson is instructional design.

You can download Google Chrome from here.

Please do let me know about your user experience of Google Chrome.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

India's Oldest Pensioner, Habib Miya, Passes Away at the Age of 138 Years

Habib Miya (20th of May 1870 - 19th of Aug 2008)

Habib Miya (alias Raheem Khan) passed away today at the grand grand grand grand grand old age of 138 years. Born in 1870, he was India's oldest pensioner and every year around the time of his birthday, 28th May, many news stories would be published about this miracle man. To put things into perspective observe that the great Ranjitshinji (in whose honour the Ranji trophy has been named) was born in 1872, a good 2 years after Habib Miya was born and died in 1933, a good 5 years before Habib Miya even retired and a super duper good 75 years before the death of Habib Miya.

Habib Miya was born in Rajgarh in Alwar district of Rajisthan, only back in 1870 it was not called Rajisthan; it was called Rajpootana. Rajpootana as a name had been used since time immemorial to describe the land which lies south of Punjab and Delhi, west of the Chambal river, north of Malwa and Gujrat and east of Sindh. Neither did the British directly rule over Rajpootana nor did they meddle in the day to day running of the hundreds of small and fragmentary princely states which together comprised Rajpootana. Yet Rajpootana was firmly ensconced within the British empire as every princely court had a British political officer attached to it and also because the British Government in Calcutta had treaties will all of them which made it responsible for defence of these princely states from external aggression.

Habib Miya had served in the Raja Mann Singh's ADC Band Group based in Jaipur (or in this case Jaypur or Jeypore - take your pick) as a clarinet player. His official records state his year of birth as 1878. He retired on the 1st of June 1938 and then started drawing a pension of Rs 1.86 per month. This amount after many subsequent revisions finally stood around Rs.2600 per month at the time of this death. That is a 9.73% compounded annual growth rate. Not too bad in relative terms I would say. His bank's manager Mr Rajesh Nagpal always delivered the pension at Habib Miya's home. Habib Miya's name is in the Limca Book of Records as Jaipur and India's oldest person as well as India's oldest pensioner among other things.

It is said that if 1870 were to be taken as his genuine year of birth then Habib Miya would have qualified for the world's oldest living person record. Although his vision started failing in the mid 1960s yet his super centurion could perform all of his daily activities unassisted (including the annual much celebrated cake cutting ceremony on his birthday) and in fact undertook a Hajj at the age of 134 years in the year 2003. Now I am sure this too is a record for the world's oldest Hajj pilgrim. It had been reported in early 2003 that his impecunity had been denying him the oppourtunity for a Hajj however he did succeed in this endevour in the same year.

Habib Miya's food was usually cooked in riri ghee and his advise to others who may hope to emulate his life span was always "If you take care of your body, your body will keep you fit." He attriubted his long life and good health to his good dietary regime. He also advocated keeping strictly away from addictions such as smoking of cigarettes and chewing of tobacco. He was fond of drinking tea. Habib Miya's relatives described him of a positive and happy disposition though he often felt sad about having outlived his wife and three sons. Habib Miya leaves behind a family of 142 immediate descendants.

Immediately upon hearing about the Jaipur serials blasts of this year, Habib Miya condemned the terrorist using very strong words. He felt despair, started crying and refused to eat food. He promptly decided to not celebrate his birthday in any manner in order to show his solidarity with the families of the victims and to display his anger and reproval towards the perpetrators. Special prayers were also held at his home for the same.

May Habib Miya rest in peace and may his spirit of tolerance and good will proliferate.

Habib Miya's life is a kind of a living-history link to the heydays of the Raj when most Indians did not know of or believe in the existence of a nation called India, when the Sun dare not set on the British Empire, when manned flight was another 40 years away, and if you told somebody that voice can travel millions of miles and Arabia will be able to influence global geo-politics you'd be ridiculed at best and beheaded at worst.

This comparison table provides some interesting facts relating to the three years mentioned above relevant to Habib Miya's life and also gives us a look at how long Habib Miya's life has been and how close he was to important events of past and how he often lived throughout the lives other so many famous and influential people (and their grandchildren's as well) :
Truly Phenomenal


Habib Miya is born

Habib Miya retires from job

Habib Miya passes away

Income of India
30 per annum
100 per annum
36000 per annum
Monarch of the British Empire
Queen Victoria


"Grandmother of Europe"

- She is Habib Miya's first Malika (though not really as Rajpootana was
never under her empire), much loved in India; wonder what Habib Miya
thought of her.

She ruled over the UK for 30 years of Habib Miya's life.
George VI


He is Habib Miya's fourth Badshah (again not really....) and also the
last one to reign over India.

Just a dude.
Queen Elizabeth II

(1926-and still going strong)

She can never have the pleasure of reigning over Habib Miya as by the
time she ascends in 1952 India has already been independent for 5 years.

she is Queen Victoria's great great grand daughter and has ruled over
the UK for more than 55 years of Habib Miya's life
of India
Viceroy 6th Earl of Mayo


Establishes Mayo college for princes at Ajmer, not
far from Habib Miya's birthplace.

Assassinated in 1872 by an Afghan Sher Ali at the prison in Andaman
Islands for pretty much nothing except ..."the word of an Afghan is
always honoured...."
Viceroy 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow


enacts the Government of India Act 1935 by which Congress comes to
power in 5 provinces for self governance.

Please note
Linlithgow himself was born in 1887, 17 years after Habib Miya
Dr Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister of the independent Republic of

born in 1932, just
6 years before Habib Miya's retirement
and becomes his
17th Prime Minister
submarine cable connection established between England and India

Another 6 years to go before Alexander G Bell can transmit his famous
message to his assistant "Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you" and
herald in the era of  'tele-communication'
starts beaming scheduled broadcast shows to New York City television
viewers from its studio
have an iphone"


I wonder if Habib Miya used mobile phones?

He was born 7 years before the beginning of the
first telephone service
Ghalib passed away last year.

Chandrakanta hasn't been written yet (Devki Nandan Khatri is only 9
years old)


Munshi Prem Chand
will be born after another 10 years
Munshi Prem Chand passed away 2
years ago


 Ahmed Ali's Twilight in Delhi (ranked in the top echelon of
Indian writings in English) will be published after 2 years
Munshi Prem Chand's grandson
Alok Rai is a senior professor of English literature at IIT Delhi
CricketRanjitshinghi will be born
after two years of this year ie in 1872.

W G Grace is born just 22 years before Habib Miya and will remain alive
till Habib Miya is 45 years old ie till 1915
First television coverage of a
test match
. Ashes 2nd Test from Lords


5th Ranji trophy bagged by Bengal. Series started in 1934 after Ranjitshinghji's death in
corporate beast known as IPL becomes an integral part of cricket.
Television rights sold for a whooping $1 billion
Strength of the Administrative Machinery of India
Indian Civil Service

approx. 900

(yeah just about 1000 fellows managed the "jewel in the crown of the
British Empire")
Indian Civil Service

approx. 1100
Indian Administrative Service and
Indian Foreign Service and allied departments

approx. 5900
direct railway line between Ahmedabad and Bombay flagged off.

Lord Mayo agrees to the adoption of the meter gauge as a compromise
between the broad gauge and the narrow gauge


Wright Brother's'
flight is still a good 33 years away
compartments introduced in Indian Railways.

First jet engines tested by Frank Whittle


Amelia Earhart looses her life in an attempt to circumnavigate the
Earth by air
The Concorde retired 5 years

 NASA is flying automated solar powered aeroplanes called


Space tourism has
taken off

Oh and for skeptics who may not believe in Habib Miya's year of birth being 1870 here's more fuel to the fire....HABIB MIYA WAS LESS THAN A YEAR YOUNGER THAN MAHATMA GANDHI
Personally I do believe his year of birth to be 1870 for it is not an incredulous claim to my ears. I believe such things can happen and in fact happened more often in the remote past.

With Love to all of you.