Every once in a while you read a piece of news that makes you blink and go,"This can't be true!" Well today was one such day for me. As I scanned through the TOI after lunch (yes I know it's a morning paper but I get 4 of them, so...) there was this report on page 1 which briefly caught my attention:
'Kill Bush' call lands Indian in US jail
WASHINGTON: An Indian graduate student in the US who posted inflammatory messages on an internet bulletin board has been arrested and charged with threatening to kill President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Vice-president Dick Cheney and top Republican leaders.
Hoga koi bewakoof, I thought and that would have been that except the next line read...
Vikram Buddhi, a Purdue University graduate student, allegedly posted the detailed and threatening messages on a Yahoo finance board.
This couldn't be. Vikram Kapoor or Vikram Shah or Vikram Agarwal there can be hundreds. But Vikram Buddhi I know only one. He studied in school with me.
The maths whiz
Vikram Buddhi was a short, dark, quiet boy. I must have exchanged less than 5 words in the 6 years we spent in St Joseph's High School, Colaba. But we had a connection. I was the 'girl who always came first'. He was the 'boy who came second'.
But we didn't really compete. There was never any danger of Vikram taking over my place because while he was brilliant at Maths and Science his Hindi absolutely sucked. And he didn't care to improve it so he could improve his rank. It simply did not matter to him.
Anyhow, we passed out of school and lost touch with Vikram but a couple of years later, there was a shocking bit of news. Vikram's father, Capt B K Subbarao, was arrested at Mumbai airport for allegedly smuggling out sensitive defence documents.
It was really a tale of jealousy and intrigue - Capt Subbarao was falsely implicated but it took many many years for him to prove his innocence. The sad story is extremely well documented here.
Subbarao was charged with trying to smuggle secret documents out of the country under the Official Secrets Act and the Atomic Energy Act. A vicious propaganda campaign was launched against him through the national and vernacular press to build a case, suggesting that he was caught at the airport carrying atomic and defence secrets of the country on board a foreign flight.
But all that Subbarao was carrying with him was his Ph.D thesis approved by IIT Bombay, and other literature on nuclear technology which is freely available and can be readily accessed from various universities and research centres in the world. In fact, Subbarao had not violated any law.
The scientists of BARC and DAE, who had failed to match Subbarao's ingenuity in nuclear science and technology, were immensely successful in causing harm to his body, mind and reputation. They used the legal system and state authority to fulfil their ends. Neither the Constitution of India nor the Courts were of any help to him....
The court case dragged on for five years. It was placed before three Magistrates, five Sessions judges, 21 High Court judges and 13 Supreme Court judges. In the meantime, Subbarao had spent time in the jail studying law and appeared-in-person in the Sessions Court, Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court where the case reached for a second time. Finally, in October 1991, the Bombay High Court passed Subbarao's acquittal orders. The appeal against the acquittal was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 1993.
What happened to Vikram, we wondered? We learnt he too ran from pillar to post during this period. "So sad," people whispered."Such a bright boy, he was".
Frankly, it's hard to comprehend the kind of stress he must've been through at this point. But eventually, he returned to his studies and went off to the US. I bumped into his mother once, a few years ago, and asked about him. She said he was "OK"...
And so, it's really sad and surreal to read this new piece of news. I searched for 'proof' that this is the same guy. No pictures turned up on the net. But this was enough:
Vikram wrote his M.Sc. dissertation on Affine and Projective Varieties, which was completed in 1994. Currently he is doing Ph.D. in Algebraic Geometry at Purdue University, USA.
I just know it's him. There can't be two Maths geniuses with this name. And although I am sure even today he must appear to be a kind and gentle soul in the way most 'lost in their own world' mathematical types are, there must have been rage inside him. Simmering there, waiting to explode.
Sadly, misdirected at George Bush. And in a country paranoid enough to mistake just about anyone for a terrorist today.
I'm not justifying his rantings - it is kind of thing you do not do in a post 9/ 11 America. That you should not do if you have chosen to make your home in that country. But now that the deed is done, I hope he is able to come out of it with dignity.
May God give his family strength, after all they've been through. And the lesson is: think about what you want to say, before you say it. Even on the internet.
Especially on the internet!
Online, on record
What you post can and will be used against you - if not by Uncle Sam or Aunty Sonia -by your current or prospective employer. New York Daily News reports
An increasing number of employers are investigating potential hires online to find out more about an applicant than what's on their résumé...
Sure, you may not have intentionally posted something controversial about yourself online, but from blogs to dating profiles, the Web has become a place where people air dirty laundry without a thought, making it a dangerous place to mix business with pleasure.
Just ask 27-year-old Colleen Kluttz. Type the freelance television producer's name into Google and the second item that comes up is her popular My Space profile. This online social network has become an outpost for photographic and written self-expression, but it's not always an asset in landing a job. "A friend of mine posted a picture of me on My Space with my eyes half closed and a caption that suggests I've smoked something illegal," says Kluttz.
While the caption was a joke, Kluttz now wonders whether the past two employers she interviewed with thought it was so funny. Both expressed interest in hiring Kluttz, but at the 11th hour went with someone else
And yeah, blogging can be equally 'dangerous'. The same article recounts the tale of Ciara Healy, who applied for a job at a university.
When a member of the search committee Googled her, he found she had called him a "belligerent jerk," though not by name, and canceled the interview.
Coincidentally, just today I received a phone call from a guy who is an HR manager with a company in Bangalore who wants me to delete certain comments he made on my blog. Because he got carried away and used unparliamentary language and now when he googles his name, this comment appears on the very first page thrown up.
A wicked part of me says, let him suffer but sigh! the noble part wrests back control and I do try to do the needful. But the trashcan icon just does not appear next to his comment and I am clueless how else one can delete in blogger...
Life is strange, the virtual world stranger!