Posts Tagged ‘security’

Mr Mathrubhootham and airline travel, 150417

April 15, 2017

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write to you following a conversation I have just had with one of my grandchildren. I call him Arun. But his real name is some modern confusion that his parents found on the Internet. Aryamaan or Antenna or Aquarium or something like that. I only call him Arun. Because at most I have 10 good years left on this earth and I can’t waste eight of those trying to address him or his sister Shamiana.

So Arun came running a few minutes ago and showed me a WhatsApp video of a passenger being dragged off a plane in the United States. In the video you can see that he has been hurt quite severely. Poor fellow.

“Can you believe this?” Arun asked me.

“Keep quiet,” I told him, “and look at all the other passengers. Look at how they are sitting with so much discipline!”

Arun grabbed his phone and went away complaining that I lacked humanity for other people. As if he has been building free hospitals for the downtrodden with his bare hands since the age of 6.

Sir/madam, if there is any aspect of human life in which I would sanction the use of excessive force, it is air travel. From the very moment you step into an airport you come face to face with the very worst examples of humanity.

Some months ago I had the opportunity to take a short flight from Chennai to Bengaluru for a family function. First I had to show my passport and ticket to enter the airport. Then I had to show my ticket but not passport to stand in a line. At the end of the line a third fellow wanted to see my passport and ticket to give me a boarding pass. Then a fourth policeman wanted to see boarding pass but not passport, and my ticket he treated with contempt. And then I told Mrs. Mathrubootham that she can go to Kochi by herself, I am going back home because even Veerappan was not investigated so much.

But she persuaded me and I proceeded to the departure hall. There I approached a pleasant young lady in a modest shop and purchased two vegetarian samosas and two cups of tea. For this I paid so much money that I told my wife that we will share one samosa and keep the other one in bank locker in case of any family emergency. Shameless black-marketing.

And finally I met the worst of the worst: other passengers. Sir/madam, never in my life have I met a group of people dedicated to the act of doing the exact opposite of what they are told. Ask them to stand up and they will sit down. Ask them to sit down and they will stand up. Ask for only families to board, and every single bachelor will run. Ask them to keep boarding pass ready and they will hold in their hands every piece of paper from their life including passport, ticket, PAN Card, Aadhaar card, marriage certificate, Padayappa matinee ticket, but not boarding pass.

Things only got worse on the flight. One young couple sitting in front of me, perhaps on honeymoon, were behaving as if they are one of those insects that come out in the rainy season and have only fifteen minutes to produce children before dying. My wife spent the entire flight reading the air-sickness bag.

Finally, when I reached Kochi the airline informed me that my bag was still in Chennai. It is OK, I said, I will buy a whole new wardrobe after selling this samosa.

Sir/madam, therefore you will understand why I am not entirely against better discipline in the field of air travel. Of course there should be no violence or dragging or bleeding and all that. Maybe just a little bit in case of emergency.

Yours in exasperation,

J Mathrubootham

Safety and security, STL, 170814

August 19, 2014

Yesterday I went to

<a href=”http://www.academyofsciencestl.org/calendar/functions/popup.php?ev=2456888&readFile=0&readSQL=1&showCat=&oc=1″&gt; this event </a>

at the St.Louis Zoo auditorium.

I had not read in detail about the extinction of Passenger Pigeons in the US (where a population of several billion birds was wiped out, purely because of human intervention), and it was a revelation to me.

However, I did not want to call on DnA to pick me up from the Zoo auditorium and I walked back. As I did, I mused on safety and security. There was nothing different about my walking back at about 9pm from the Zoo auditorium, across Forest Park, back home, I usually do it during Muny shows, Shakespeare-in-the-Park, or the Royal Philharmonic on Art Hill (it took me about half an hour, you can go to Google maps and look at the St.Louis Zoo, and look for Christ Deliverance Ministry, Enright Ave…you’ll know where I walked) I usually cut across the grass, not always keeping to the roads. I was wondering, yesterday, if walking in the dark was a wise thing to do. Then I told myself that the fears were mostly in my own mind and perception…in fact, it was probably safer now than before the Ferguson incident,
(here’s a video of John Oliver’s take on it:

…actually, with so many police cars on the prowl ! I walked uneventfully back home. (It does help that I am a “black” person, not white, I suppose, in this area!)

So much of our fears are in our own perceptions, coloured by our own prejudices…where should we draw the line between genuine concerns and our own timorousness?

The trouble in the US is the stupid gun culture. I might be walking far away from any know source of trouble, and might get cut down by a stray bullet! Well, at the end of it all, I believe it’s Fate…and I walk briskly, not loitering. And when I’ve got home safely, I like the feeling that I didn’t give in to the feeling of “Oh, what might happen to me!” and just call DnA to leave their hectic chores and come and pick me up!

But IF something had happened, I would have been reviled for my foolhardiness…how to know, in advance, if my fears are well-founded or groundless? No way, alas, but to put it to the test, and walk home!

A visit from the police

July 20, 2011

All the residents on our block got this email from the residents’ association (or whatever it is called!) a few days ago:

“Two Officers will be in the neighborhood tomorrow 7/18 from 4-6pm to properly mark your property, assets such as flat screens laptops, desktop computers, ipads, other electronics that can be taken from your home. They will also pass out safety information to help protect us against crime. For more information contact the officers directly: Officer Michael Butler and Officer Kathy Suarez North Patrol Special Operations.”

Sure enough, at about 5pm, several police officers rang the doorbell, gave us a sheet of paper on which we could list out our valuables. They also brought a special pen with which they marked the TV, the laptops, and few other valuable items around the house. They also told us that we could make the list at our leisure and keep it ready.

As they left, I went and asked if I could photograph them, and they agreed:

police 180711 stl

How lovely to have such an interaction with the police force! Instead of the usual “us-and-them” feeling that I often get in India, here I got a feeling of committed officers, working hard for our welfare. I watched them talking to many of the neighbours, too, in the sweltering heat of the day, before they finally left. One of them was in casual clothes, one in full uniform, and the others had “POLICE” tees!

They can’t have an easy job….in a society where, especially, guns are so prevalent…so I appreciate their efforts all the more.

I emailed them the photograph, and got an immediate reply from Janice Y Bockstruck (who’s in the photo):

“Thank you for sending us a copy of the picture. It was a pleasure to
serve the community in such a positive way and meet such nice residents
as yourself who support our efforts!

“Lt. Janice Bockstruck”

Wow…I’m hoping for the day when I can email Karnataka Police, and get a quick reply like that…..but meanwhile, thank you, St.Louis Metropolitan Police Department!

The Shankar Mahadevan Concert

December 4, 2008

After a long time, I went to attend a concert in the centre of town. Shankar Mahadevan, Sivamani, Zakir Hussain, and Selvaganesh were playing/singing, and it would be interesting, I thought. I did, also get some nice images…

more about the concert and the attendant concerns

Protected: Security Issues, Especially in Bangalore

November 27, 2008

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Security

November 14, 2008

our
Of how much use are the locks and keys and other security devices that we use?

Very little, if the onslaught is determined. Mostly, our home security devices are deterrents, not prophylactics.

If someone is determined to breach the defences of a home or living/working space, I think that person can do so, in most cases. Very few us are perpetually prepared for worst-case scenarios.

Once, my friend’s front door key was lost and I brought over our local “key person”.

This guy seems so archetypally the “burglar” type that I used to joke that he used to make keys by day and use them nefariously at night! But he has been peacefully plying his trade in Jayanagar 9th Block for at least 12 years now, though I am sure that by now, he would have made keys to the front doors of practically every flat in our apartment building, and quite a few of the houses in the area!

To get back to the story, this guy came over and opened her front door in about two minutes’ time. Rather shocked, I asked him, “Can you do this with all locks?” “Yes,” he replied calmly. All these ‘nightlatches’ and ‘navtal’ and other locks are for YOUR peace of mind, they won’t stop the determined housebreaker at all!”

I realized, then, how much we rely on our social fabric for the security of our households, and how tenuous and weak are the defences that keep our homes intact and inviolate. In a typical Indian household, the domestic help, the people who deliver the milk, newspapers, ironing, and even vendors…all have access to a home, and it is a network of implicit trust.

Dogs as house guards may be generally reliable, but I know of at least two instances where burglars regularly fed them food and then walked into the house and rifled it.

A joint family, where there is someone in the home almost all the time, is one of the best forms of security…but alas, it’s no longer very common.

Abroad, security systems and neighbourhood watch programs have now taken the place of family and guards…but they, too, can be breached.

So…security, and the perception of it, is mainly in our minds…so perhaps the simplest thing is not to have too much of valuables at home, and be prepared to do without some material possessions….but is this always possible?

*

Security….

May 3, 2008

I want to be safe and secure. To this end, I lock my front door when I am away, or asleep. But how secure IS the front door?

Once my friend got locked out of her flat, and I called a locksmith, who demonstrated that her front door locks (both the navtal and the yale door lock) could be picked within a matter of minutes! He made a profound observation…Madam, these locks are only for YOUR self-satisfaction!
So actually I think shutting the door and locking it is not to deter ..er…determined thieves, but to deter the casual ones, and the rest..for my own mental satisfaction.

So..the real security exists (mainly) in our perception of it….and resides in the general network of amorphous trust that exists between the people around me. I am fairly sure that though someone can, if s/he wants, break open my front door within minutes, it won’t happen within the apartment building. My neighbours opposite are away, and I do check casually that their door is properly locked…

Also, I think that I must assess the value of what I have to be protected, how important it is to me, and what the replacement-ability (er, you know what I mean) and the replacement-value would be, and take measures accordingly. Jewellery cannot be stored at home; it must be kept in a bank locker, for example. Neither should large amounts of cash be kept at home. Credit cards and cheque books should generally be kept locked up even within the home…and so it goes.

And sometimes, I do use two reasonably known entities as a check on each other. Right now, the building electrician (whom I have known for several years) is working in my home. And I need to step out to buy vegetables. So when my maid (whom,also, I know very well, including exactly where she lives) comes to clean the flat, I will tell her, “just keep an eye out, Prakash is working”, and go out for about 20 minutes and get my work done. Each will keep an eye on the other (or at least, I hope that they will not form an unholy and rapacious alliance to loot me!) and I too will be able to step out for a bit without worry. I use my knowledge of the risks, or lack of them, and construct my security according to that. I know that no security can withstand the determined security-breaker (so many novels and films are based just on this opinion!), but I trust that the security will hold up to a reasonable level. What is reasonable, though? That…varies from person to person.

I think internet security is also similar to this…one takes a reasonable level of precaution against being spammed or hacked…and trusts that the rest will go well, too.

What say, kalyan? If everyone did this, security firms might not come into existence at all…obviously, this solution will not work for everyone!

The best security systems, though, are ones that rely what is unique to the user: fingerprints, for example, or iris-of-the-eye. I can never understand why passports do not have the fingerprints of the holder, it is such an easy and unique parameter to have and the passport holder can never say s/he hasn’t brought hes fingers along! And they could be so easily compared, too. In fact I am amazed that such a simple way of eliminating the use of stolen passports (forged passports with matching fingerprints are of course possible) is not carried out…

December 11, 2006

Will be posting tomorrow about the various thoughts and experiences on a 15 hour flight, with a window seat…..

Will post about seeing, quite literally, the world go by…the Alps, the awesome white desolation of the Arctic circle, travelling economy again after a few years (these are all mem.s to myself!)

Will post about being back to having “SSSS” on my boarding pass, which means special screening, and my thoughts on security theatre, especially as a large bottle of contact lens solution,that I had forgotten about, made it all the way in my handbag…

But right now, I want to write about our visit today to Meramec Caves

Tomorrow I will try to post some of the photos that KM took. We visited some very similar caves in Uttaranchal in May;the differences between the way the caves are maintained, marketed and revered are so striking…the caves in Uttaranchal were tied to mythology and were supposed to be the residence of the Pandavas; everywhere the rock formations were likened to gods and goddesses. Access was really difficult and we came out covered in dirt and water; but everything was natural to a degree not possible in the Meramec Caves where Jesse Jackson is supposed to have had his hideout…the floor of one of the largest caves has been converted, I am not joking, to a dance floor, with a strobe-light ball, too! We paid 60$ for the 4 of us, the tickets at Uttaranchal were five rupees each…but inside, what Nature has wrought was equally amazing in both places. In Meramec, we had a guide whose words NONE of us (we had another family from Connecticut visiting too) could understand,between her nasal twang and her sing-song way of speaking, with no enthusiasm at all about what she was showing us….but then, we didn’t need her enthusiasm to be anthralled!

Driving (both yesterday and today) was a big relief as I was wondering whether a) I had lost my touch and would go off to the wrong side of the road and b) I managed fairly well on the snowy and sometimes icy roads. But then, the last two days were the weekend…let’s see how I cope on weekdays!

That’s it for today, as my carriage turned into a pumpkin long ago….tried\getting amoghavarsha online but got chatting to beast_666 A little earlier, madrasi_in_mo and mriga had come home with their son and we had a wonderful time!

Must also post about the bunnies in the house,two of which someone palmed off on DnA, and one of which had to have a $245 X-ray last month…oh well, time enough for it all tomorrow!

Letter to TSA

October 11, 2005

Hi,

I am an international passenger, who has travelled on Delta Airlines both to come to your country, and on domestic flights to many states. This is probably my 8th visit to your country, and I have visited since 9/11, too.

On the first few flights on this visit, I was selected for screening. I thought this was a random process but I was not happy that it was on each and every flight. Then a TSA official explained to me that when my boarding pass had four “S”s on it, I would always be selected for more intense screening.

While I do understand the safety concerns that lie behind this kind of screening, and certainly would not mind occasionally going through it, I am unable to understand why I should be selected for this on each and every flight that I have boarded till date ( about 12 flights so far.) My husband, who travels with me and whose ticket was booked at the same time, is sometimes selected and sometimes not.

I cannot help feeling, as a genuine passenger, that all the time spent on going through my luggage would be better utilized. I would at least like to know what the criteria are that make me get selected for this type of screening. I am now budgeting 20 minutes extra on every flight for this and you can imagine, for example, when I traveled from Florida to JFK to LA on the same day, it can get extremely tiring in terms of extra time and the feeling of being delayed while other passengers go through. I do realize that I am a stranger in the country and can understand OCCASIONAL screening; I would like to understand why it has to be on EVERY flight that I take.

For a genuine passenger, the feeling of distaste and discomfort at being searched never really goes away; I have not gotten used to it at all. I thought I would email you and get some information about this….

I do look forward to hearing from you.

With regards,

Letter to TSA

October 11, 2005

Hi,

I am an international passenger, who has travelled on Delta Airlines both to come to your country, and on domestic flights to many states. This is probably my 8th visit to your country, and I have visited since 9/11, too.

On the first few flights on this visit, I was selected for screening. I thought this was a random process but I was not happy that it was on each and every flight. Then a TSA official explained to me that when my boarding pass had four “S”s on it, I would always be selected for more intense screening.

While I do understand the safety concerns that lie behind this kind of screening, and certainly would not mind occasionally going through it, I am unable to understand why I should be selected for this on each and every flight that I have boarded till date ( about 12 flights so far.) My husband, who travels with me and whose ticket was booked at the same time, is sometimes selected and sometimes not.

I cannot help feeling, as a genuine passenger, that all the time spent on going through my luggage would be better utilized. I would at least like to know what the criteria are that make me get selected for this type of screening. I am now budgeting 20 minutes extra on every flight for this and you can imagine, for example, when I traveled from Florida to JFK to LA on the same day, it can get extremely tiring in terms of extra time and the feeling of being delayed while other passengers go through. I do realize that I am a stranger in the country and can understand OCCASIONAL screening; I would like to understand why it has to be on EVERY flight that I take.

For a genuine passenger, the feeling of distaste and discomfort at being searched never really goes away; I have not gotten used to it at all. I thought I would email you and get some information about this….

I do look forward to hearing from you.

With regards,