Double Envy at Ashram Chowk

The young beggar approached

the shiny new Mercedes

at the red light

and admired the polished life

of the rich man

in the back seat.

The rich man glanced

up from the morning paper

and caught sight of the perfect smile

on the beggar's face.

As he admired the boy’s strong white teeth

he closed his own mouth

and with his tongue

he touched his brittle yellowing teeth

and with his mind

he touched his vacant soul.

He thought about his dental bills

big money spent on a mediocre smile

and how that could have paid

for this boy’s entire education and more.

Then the light turned green

the car lurched forward

the old man looked back

and the boy smiled

and his smile touched the soul of a better India.


Delhi Buses

I don't often ride the buses in Delhi. But because I frequent the roads, I notice them often, and I know enough to respect them. As one who is concerned about the environment, I appreciate the fact, emblazoned on the side of every city bus, that Delhi has the World's Largest Eco-friendly CNG Fleet, which means that all 3106 buses in the system run on relatively-clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG). That friendly fact at least helps me to not feel so bad about bringing four young girls from Canada to live with me here in this fine city -- it's not nearly as polluted as it could be.

I have also noticed that, with 2010 on its way, the fleet is being replenished with new buses. They are bright and shiny and they come in two colours -- red for AC and green for non-AC. However, out of a sense of nostalgia, I prefer the old ones that look like they've been through the revolution, as they say. In fact, I stand in awe of them. Compared to the friendly look of the new buses, the old ones look downright mean. They are brash and battered beasts, and they rule the Delhi roads during the day. At night is a different story, because that's when the trucks are allowed into the city limits, all the trucks, like a giant herd of elephants, barging into the city... but that's, well, a different story. The big, bad buses rule the day.

It seems that the bus drivers know how big and bad their buses are, and so they pretty much do what they want on the road, which makes for a scary situation in Delhi traffic. Sadly, there are almost daily reports of deaths under their wheels, which has caused uproars in the city from time to time, though in general the behaviour of the bus drivers has not changed. The reasons for this lack of reform are complicated, but one of the biggest factors, not surprisingly, is money and the pressure put on drivers by the owners of the buses. But that's also, well, a different story. It is enough to know that Delhi buses are dangerous.


I could give countless examples of the real-life craziness that I have personally witnessed with Delhi buses. I've seen them bumping and scraping other vehicles, and most of the time not bothering to stop. Even the time I saw a bus kill a man, the bus just kept driving. I still cringe every time I recall that scene. But that's also a... well, this is not the time or the place for gruesome stories.


I simply wanted to give two examples of the typical craziness that we in Delhi see from our buses, two acts of audacity that I saw recently and that merely help me to keep expecting the unexpected.


The other day, I saw an old city bus approach a major intersection, which was crowded as usual, and I watched in amazement as it swung wide and proceeded to do a massive u-turn, cutting off innumerable others in the process. To do that kind of maneuver in a vehicle of that size requires a huge chunk of the road. No one else seemed to think much of it, except to stay clear. I briefly imagined something like that happening in downtown Vancouver and laughed at the extreme improbability of it.


Then, as if the spirits of the traffic gods were still inconvinced of my awe, they conjured up an even greater act of menace. This time, it happened right in front of me, and I was among those who sat and waited until the event was complete. It was another u-turn in another intersection, but this time it was performed by not just one city bus but two, and the first was towing the second. They were connected by some great piece of metal, which looked like an old drive shaft with make-shift ball joints to accommodate turning. But the maneuver was again accomplished with great boldness and skill, and not much fanfare or honking.


The old Delhi buses are, for me, a piece of the old India, which may be soon to pass away from the Capital. Those buses smell of danger and risk and even of corruption, but also of efficiency and economy and even humble service. For this reason, I appreciate them and respect them, even as I stay clear of them. And when they go, I will remember them, and perhaps I will even miss them.

Domain Names

I enjoy reading and learning new things, and the internet is a fascinating place to do that. Of course, it's also a convenient place to get addicted to things like gambling, pornography and social networking. But thankfully it's possible to avoid the vices and to use the internet for some wholesome learning.

Most people today, like myself, know their way around the internet for a lot of things, but probably know very little about how it all works. Most of us know how to find an internet domain like google.com without any trouble. Many of us have even taken the next step to pay bills or shop online or even to start our own blog. But we would probably have a harder time setting up our own website with our own original domain name, like giggle.com (which is already taken, by the way).

So, recently I learned a little about domain names on the internet. You see, I had this idea about starting a website, so I inquired online about a certain domain name. Unfortunately, my brilliant idea for a dot com name was already taken. Darn.

I did notice, however, that the website at that address was being utilized merely for advertising purposes, so I became curious about whether or not the owner would be interested in selling. It actually didn't take much searching to find the owner's name, address and phone number, and of course his email address. Incidentally, he is from Canada and lives a couple hours from my hometown. His name is Garry.

I sent Garry a short note from my BlackBerry asking if he was interested in selling that particular domain name. Within hours, Garry sent back a personal reply, albeit short. He was not really interested in selling, and if he was, the price would be about $15,000 USD.

I told him that I wasn't really interested in that kind of investment at this stage. Yeah, not even close.

I was, however, just a little bit curious about how this guy named Garry from a little town in BC could be dealing in domains of such value. Well, thanks to Google, I found out pretty quickly that $15,000 USD is relatively small money in this market, at least for the good names. Just last week, server.com was sold for $770,000 and jesus.net went for $124,000. Sadly, the biggest domain sale to date happened a few years ago when porn.com was reportedly sold for a sum of 10 million dollars. Such is the world, including the world of the internet.

I also found out that this Garry is quite a big player in the domain game. A former electrician, Garry started buying up domain names in the 1990’s and eventually developed one of the most impressive portfolios in the world, which has made him millions of dollars. He was also a pioneer of sorts in using his various sites, numbering in the thousands, to make money through links and advertising. In fact, it was Garry who inspired another obscure Canadian named Frank to broaden his thinking in regard to internet domains. Frank subsequently developed the most prestigious collection of domain names in the world, and he still calls Garry his mentor. Even though Frank entered the game late, he now owns domains in the hundreds of thousands and is said to be worth over a billion dollars. (You can read Frank’s story, including the part about Garry, at http://www.dnjournal.com/cover/2007/december.htm or you can read the full story on this subject in David Kesmodel’s book, The Domain Game, also at thedomaingame.com).

It was especially fascinating for me to read about Garry after being in touch with him by email. It felt strange to have had such quick and easy communication with someone so famous in his field.

Despite the fact that I find this stuff fun to learn about, one thing is for sure, I’m not about to enter the domain game, especially not at Garry’s level. I clearly do not have the mind or the drive for such ventures. However, let it be known that I did proceed to buy a domain name, a dot com even, for the site that I may open for business someday. My own piece of internet real estate cost me $20. I’ll let you know if I ever gain back my investment.