Pokemon Go; menace or Childhood enjoyed/revisited.

My 8 year kid goes down every day in the evening for 2 hours or so to either run around or cycle or play badminton. All 3 activities make me very happy. However yesterday she came back and said excitedly “Daddy, you wont believe what i did. I and 2 bhaiya’s (brothers) spent the entire time searching for Pokemon’s with their cell phones and played Pokemon Go”. I was very surprised.

She went on to say, “I finally know what i am going to do when i grow up, I am going to spend my entire life searching for Pokemon’s”. I was concerned. My instant thought was that you are 8 years now, i have not given you a smart phone yet and certainly am not going to give you a cell phone for several years to come.

Incidentally today’s newspaper has reported a person in UK who has quit his job to play Pokemon Go full time.

Now what is Pokemon Go.

It is an augmented reality game played on the mobile phone where the user goes around hunting for virtual creatures who appear in the real world. There are Pokemon Stops which are public spaces where Pokemons appear frequently. The next step is a PokeMon gym where 2 players can battle it out.

How Pokemon Go works

It uses your GPS. You play by walking around the real world catching  virtual monsters like Pikachu in places near your phone location and training them to fight each other.The monsters in it were first popular in the 1990s when they started on the Nintendo Game Boy. Trading cards were a huge hit in schools playgrounds and extensively played as a trading card game, but this is the first time it’s been a smartphone game.

Where did it Start

Launched first in USA, Australia and New Zealand, the game  in just a few days caught the imagination of all, becoming so popular that the roll out in other nations including England and India had to be postponed to avoid crashing etc. Pokemon Go topped the app store download chart on both iPhone’s App Store and Google Play just days after its release.The game has dominated gaming charts everywhere.It has been such a big success that it has added more than $7bn (£5.4bn) to Nintendo’s value.

The negative Points

In my view this game proves that most of the People are really living in virtual world than real world. And the truth is they prefer Virtual life which is definitely sad as well as alarming.  There have also been plenty of reports of people falling over and grazing or cutting themselves because they’re not paying attention to what’s in front of them while they play.

Some alarming stories/real life examples

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has asked people not to play Pokemon Go on their phones during their visit. A spokesman for the museum in Washington said that playing the game inside a memorial to victims of Nazism was “extremely inappropriate”.The Arlington National Cemetery, just three miles away from the museum, has also warned off Pokemon players.

In USA, 4 people were arrested after they used the game to lure players to remote places and then rob them at gunpoint. The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in the US is the location of a gym in the game, and players planted a Pink Pokemon called ‘Love is Love ‘there. The church has responded with a series of derogatory social media posts and it is becoming an ugly fight in virtual world , threatening to enter the real world as well.

Security aspect 

Pokemon Go creatures have even been spotted outside 10 Downing Street, ahead of Theresa May’s first appearance as prime minister. Concerns have been raised over the fact that it can have very broad access to user data – from emails to search history and Google Drive – when users give it access to their Google accounts on iOS devices. Concerns have also been raised about the app’s safety. The chief executive of children’s charity NSPCC warned that adults could use it to prey on children.

I also feel that it could be a security threat as in this world where terror is a reality, in the guise of playing pokemon Go, recce can be made of sensitive government offices and public places. I therefore request the makers not to have any security sensitive spot as a pokemon stop or pokemon gym.

Response of Makers

The makers of the game gave a statement as follows: “We take player safety seriously and want everybody to have a fantastic time exploring while safely playing Pokemon Go. We encourage all people to be aware of their surroundings and to play with friends or family, especially when you’re exploring unfamiliar places. Please remember to be safe and alert at all times, don’t drive and play, abide by local laws, and respect the locations you visit and people you meet during your exploration.” The Makers said they want people to “play with friends when going to new or unfamiliar places” and “remember to be safe and alert at all times”.

In the end however, one has to accept that Pokemon Go is a reality.  Will the craze continue ? Or will the craze vanish, like it did with games like angry birds, or subway surfers or farmville or candy crush saga. One advantage and difference is that those were stationary mobile phone games, while this is an augmented reality one. So its chances of success and continued success are much much more.

The choice is ours. Whether to treat it as a game for relaxation, or to allow it to be an obsession, so much so we prefer it to cycling, or jogging or walking or reading a book or watching a movie. it is up to us, whether to allow it to be a menace or simply use it as a means to enjoy our childhood or to revisit our teens.



Random Musings on Vahan Chaalak(Drivers)

One of my favorite movies is Chupke Chupke, one of the only 3 movies featuring Dharmendra and Amitabh, the other two being Sholay and Ram Balram. In Chupke Chupke, Dharmendra is a Botany Professor who pretends to be a Hindi Speaking Vahan Chaalak or Driver . The movie is a laugh riot.

However this current blog post is not on movies but on the various types of drivers I have come across. Here goes;

The most common image of an Indian Bureaucrat is a non-AC White Ambassador Car with red beacon. All 4 points are together and concurrent. Non-AC, White , Ambassador and red beacon. Of late though, Ambassador  car has almost vanished. Judiciary has also made red beacon restricted to very very few. However Officers continue to have cars depending on their posts for functional reasons.

Staff Car and Operational Vehicles. Only very senior officers of the level of Joint Secretary to the Government of India are eligible for Staff Cars. Others are given Operational vehicles which include vehicles hired from vendors selected on the basis of an open tender. The advantage of operational vehicles for the Government is that they do not have to give permanent employment with salary, overtime etc and can simply give a contract to a vendor who provides a car with driver. Diesel, repairs etc are the vendors responsibility and in case of breakdown of vehicle, a replacement is given. Generally Government is restricting purchase of new cars and encouraging more hired cars for reasons of economy and convenience.

I have been using operational vehicles for several years now as the nature of my job is such that a vehicle is a must. I have observed different drivers and memories of some of them are as follows;.

The Height of Confidence Man (HCM). He was probably the best driver i have ever come across. Confident and smart, he was perfect in his duty as well. Whatever time he was assigned he would report. He was always chosen as pilot car driver of VVIP Visits . I call him the height of confidence man as he had the ability to park anywhere even in the most blatantly no-parking areas. In fact he often used to choose to park right next to No parking signs. The logic being that there would be no traffic jam/snarl and one can easily move on.

Now You will ask , did police not object ? Yes. they used to come up to him and he used to say something to them and usually they would smile at me and go away. I was mystified . Later the HCM told me that he used to tell them that I was a senior IPS officer and also brother of the then sitting West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi. ( Apparently I have a very strong resemblance). I asked him why You say IPS instead of IRS. and he replied “Sir, police ke saamne IPS ka vajan hai, IRS ka nahin” ( Sir, in front of police , IPS has value and not IRS)

I told him , please do not repeat as I dont want to be arrested for impersonation.

The Simpleton He was most relaxed, most simple. Problem is, he was so simple that he knew no roads, and was content in driving the car at a leisurely pace towards the destination, convinced that sooner or later we will reach. Well, we used to, but it was stressful. And one always had to be on watchout or one does not reach destination, and also start earlier than required.

The Businessman He was always on the cell phone, juggling the duty of his various cars under his disposal. He was himself an owner driver and also was owner of a few other cars and always was coordinating their movements. It was stressful for me, as my firm belief is that driving the car while talking on cell phone is same as driving when drunk.

The Boyfriend He was smart and well dressed. Every few days he would not come and send a substitute. When I asked why he would give an excuse and so would the substitute. After a few times, I asked sharply and one of the substitutes said, “Sir, whenever his girlfriend is free he doesnt come for duty” I was stunned. When i asked him, he confirmed and said that the girl is a college student from a very good family.

He is the only driver i have asked to be changed immediately without notice.

The Politician. He was from Bihar and very much upset with the system. He was also very much upset with the anti-Bihari and Anti-UP Sentiment in Mumbai and always used to go and attend meetings and so on. He was convinced he will be a top leader one day. All the best to him.

The 24 hour worker. His duty was excellent. However he always looked sleepy. One day i asked him why and he said that after operational duty here he used to drive whole night on duty of call centres. So he used to sleep whenever he had time. I felt unnerved.

The Student. His English was impeccable. On asking he said that he was the son of a taxi driver and had completed his graduation with 76% and was planning to study further. He said that his aim was to be Inspector in Income Tax or Central Excise and he was studying hard for it. I hope his dream comes true and he gets even better job than what he aspired for.

These are some random thoughts penned down. Hope You liked them.