Poland, Travel

Hiking the Polish-Czech Friendship Trail

The first time I heard about a walking trail perched on top of the Karkonosze (Krkonoše in Czech) Mountains that meanders through the border between Poland and the Czech Republic multiple times, I was instantly intrigued. It is a moderately difficult trek of about 30 kilometres while traversing most of the prominent peaks of the Karonosze mountains in the Sudetes range. The first and the most obvious reason for this newfound excitement was my lack of trek fitness, and the second was an opportunity to witness the crisscrossing of boundaries between these two countries.

Arbeit macht frei - The story of inverted letter B
Photography, Poland

Arbeit macht frei – The story of an inverted “B”

As soon as you pass the entry blocks at the Auschwitz former concentration camp and assemble for your guide to brief the group, you’ll notice written arching over the main iron gate: Arbeit Macht Frei. It loosely translates into English as “Work sets you free.” A cynical lie that the Nazis propagated, as they starved, tortured, maimed and gave horrible death to 1.1 million people that were sent here during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland.

Arbeit macht frei - The story of inverted letter B
The Gate: Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Photo: Romil Javed; 18 Sep 2017

There are many stories, anecdotes and examples of true grit and character that come out of these fenced barbwires. One of them, however, is less known.

Story of the “B,” that’s upside-down

A careful gaze at the very gate with the cynical lie, and you can notice the letter “B” in the word Arbeit. It looks upside-down!

The inverted “B”: A lesser-known fact about the Auschwitz I main gate
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This may not look apparent to an unsuspecting eye at first, but someone with a basic knowledge of typography can confirm that it’s indeed inverted.

According to the International Auschwitz Committee, “…the prisoners placed their hidden message in the word “Arbeit”: they turned the letter “B” upside down. They were enraged by the endless fear, the everyday humiliations, the beatings, the hatred and the murder that they were forced to witness. They created a mark of their courage, their will to overcome the fear, to survive and later to tell the world about what happened in Auschwitz.

Auschwitz – A lesson in humanity, for humans

A walking tour through these relics of not so distant past, one is reminded of the despicable atrocities committed by one group of humans on another. Similarly, there are stories abound of personal grit of some in the face of certain death, of innumerable selfless sacrifices and the sheer will of human survival.

Arbeit macht frei - The story of inverted letter B
Portraits from Auschwitz: (From left) A professor, a lawyer, a smiling woman and a labourer

Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite.

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
Arbeit macht frei - The story of inverted letter B
Remnants of the past: Shoes segregated from a stack

Executions took place in a courtyard between Block 10 and Block 11. Block 11 was known as the “Block of Death” by the prisoners.

Arbeit macht frei - The story of inverted letter B
Block No. 10: A closed block at the Former Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Photo: Romil Javed, 18 Sep 2017

The Auschwitz II Birkenau Concentration Camp

A short 30 minutes ride from the main Auschwitz I camp brings you to the biggest of the Auschwitz camps, and one of the largest killing fields of World War II.

Arbeit macht frei - The story of inverted letter B
Arrival: The railway track into the former Auschwitz II Birkenau concentration camp. Photo: Romil Javed, 18 Sep 2017

Trains filled with victims from throughout occupied Europe arrived at the camp almost every day between 1942 and the summer of 1944.

The prisoners were forced to live in the barracks as they were building them; in addition to working, they faced long roll calls at night. As a result, most prisoners in the men’s camp in the early months died of hypothermia, starvation or exhaustion within a few weeks.

Arbeit macht frei - The story of inverted letter B
Rubble of a Crematorium: A group of Jewish visitors offer a remembrance prayer next to a demolished crematorium. Photo: Romil Javed, 18 Sep 2017

So, let us be alert – alert in a twofold sense.

Since Auschwitz, we know what man is capable of.

And since Hiroshima, we know what is at stake.

― Victor E Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Internet, Travel

Working Remotely from the Hills in India

With advent of newer technologies and practise of better work culture, the way we approach work is slowly but surely changing. While it’s true of most new age startups, the experimental HR executives of technology behemoths are not too shy in letting their employees work form home or a location of their choice. The caveat: As long as work is done, and on time, it’s a win-win for all!

Advent of newer technologies and adoption of better work / personal life balance is slowly changing the way we approach work.


तो ज़िंदा हो तुम…

Film: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Written by Javed Akhtar, Recited by Farhan Akhtar

दिलों में तुम अपनी
बेताबियाँ लेके चल रहे हो,
तो ज़िंदा हो तुम
नज़र में ख्वाबों की
बिजलियाँ लेके चल रहे हो,
तो ज़िंदा हो तुम

हवा के झोकों के जैसे
आज़ाद रहना सीखो
तुम एक दरिया के जैसे
लहरों में बहना सीखो
हर एक लम्हें से तुम मिलो
खोले अपनी बाहें
हर एक पल एक नया समां
देखे यह निगाहें

जो अपनी आँखों में
हैरानियाँ लेके चल रहे हो,
तो ज़िंदा हो तुम
दिलों में तुम अपनी
बेताबियाँ लेके चल रहे हो,
तो ज़िंदा हो तुम

Dilon mein tum apni
Betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho
Toh zinda ho tum
Nazar mein khwabon ki
Bijliyaan leke chal rahe ho
Toh zinda ho tum

Hawa ke jhokon ke jaise
Aazad rehna seekho
Tum ek dariya ke jaise
Lehron mein behna seekho
Har ek lamhe se tum milo
Khole apni baahein
Har ek pal ek naya sama
Dekhen yeh nigahaein

Jo apni aankhon mein
Hairaniyan leke chal rahe ho
Toh zinda ho tum
Dilon mein tum apni
Betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho
Toh zinda ho tum

If you are moving
with an eagerness in your heart,
then you are alive
If you’re moving
with the sparks of dreams in your eyes,
then you’re alive

Learn to live freely
like the gusts of wind,
Learn to flow in waves,
like a river does
Meet every moment
with your arms open,
Every moment these eyes should
watch a new weather

If you’re moving with
a bewilderment in your eyes
then you are alive
If you are moving
with an eagerness in your heart,
then you are alive

Inspired by a post from Atul Chitnis (1962-2013) – FOSS evangelist, Pink Floyd fan and a fine human being.



Google “That’s all we know” Errors

Ever tried adding an event invitation sent to your Gmail?

Gmail add to calendar error

It fires a *very* long URI, which, of course is too much to handle for Google Calendar. It humbly yields an innocent:

414. That’s an error.

The requested URL /… is too large to process. That’s all we know.

Yes, this one precisely:

414. That’s an error

It appears to be a known issue and people have already forked it on places like Github. There is a workaround, but no permanent fix I suppose.

However, today my main point of contention is Google’s approach towards handling such errors. “That’s all we know.” — The (in)famous Google Blah page. Com’on Google, you’re not trying to be funny like us new age start-ups, having a fancy and sometimes kitschy 404 pages to impress people. Especially if Google fires up a 404 upon a search query, with no hints for users for the next step, it defeats the purpose of having an advanced algorithm and so much machine learning which Google prides itself over. TechCrunch did a piece over it when Google introduced them last year, a practice which we all thought was temporary, still persists.

Maybe just another hint from Google, of the boundaries between AI and human intelligence — Google’s 404 Fail Robot. With broken springs and parts.

EDIT: Am I being too skeptical here? Focusing more on such trivial errors, rather than on the solutions. I should fix my 404 pages first. :)


A season of astronomical delights!

I dearly missed two things in the last two days: Owning a aperture-rich Telescope and being at a place with minimal light pollution. I am a casual skywatcher and this month, specially, last two days have been nonetheless quite delightful for me!

Although the planets near to earth (Mars, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter) are visible to naked eyes quite often, but since December 14 last year, they have been sort of aligning together in some sort of pattern or visible at the same time in a clear night sky. On February 25, 2012 they were kind of aligning perfectly moments after dusk. I missed the Mercury as it almost followed Sun and wasn’t possible to notice it. However, I did take several sumptuous view of Venus, Jupiter and Mars and our very own crescent Moon with craters visible.

Moon, Venus and Jupiter: Degrees apart

Mars on the eastern horizon

Red bleak yet bright enough to notice.


Internet, Web Development

Filter your own traffic on Google Analytics

Put this code in your browser address bar and hit enter:


Don’t forget to set the your_keyword as your unique word in Google Analytics filter settings (Cookie method of course).

…and to test if the cookie is set in the browser:

javascript:alert((/__utmv=.+?.(.*?)(;|$)/.test(''+document.cookie))?RegExp.$1:'No unique word');void(0);

Note: Modern browsers will strip-off the javascript part, please use Inspect element on Google Chrome or Developer Mode in Firefox.

Still won’t work? It does for me, at least, so far. Post here, I’m working to find a full-proof method, especially after GA updated with new set of codes.