Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Story 34 The Pill to Purge Emotions

Introduction
The origins of this story are rather strange. It all started when I decided to write down some of my observations about male sexuality in the form of a story. I had been looking for a suitable plot for a long time. Several were concocted but none appealed so the story never materialized. Second, I wanted to write a love story. A mushy and tragic one which portrayed how emotions make life so painful for no reason at all. This is what this story was till yesterday evening. I had already written about two thousand words of a crappy love tragedy when my beloved friends dragged (literally) me out to dinner in the city.

It was in that frustrated mood when I was struck by these strange visions. And that is when the story changed its form completely. A couple of visions (particularly the one in which the narrator becomes a ray of light in the girl's diamond ring) were so strong that I decided to mold the entire story in that form.

Style
I would have called this story psychedelic, had I been able to write it down exactly as I had percieved it. But if I was that good a writer, I wouldn't be rotting in a stupid engineering college. Anyhow, I guess, the style is something that I have never tried before and although I was very happy with the first draft, subsequent revisions showed that it was not quite what I had wanted it to be. The overall effort is to create a surreal atmosphere. It is for you people to say how far I've succeeded.

Meaning
There is of course, a hint of some of my observations on male sexuality. But more than that, the story is about emotions. I'm afraid it only raises questions and does not give any answers. What are emotions? What is the positions of man's emotions in this universe? Is there a great plan, if any, and are emotions the 'gears and wheels' of that great plan? Is is better not to have any emotions? Indeed, I often desire to be emotions less. And in extrapolations -- what would I be if I were emotionless?

Acknowledgment
Thanks to Rakshit and Ankit for literally (I mean physically. These guys were almost about to throw me down the third floor!) dragging me to city against my wishes. Without your great efforts at weight lifting with my body I would never have struck with the psychedelic angle. Thanks to Swetank Gupta for keeping me engaged in a totally meaningless (okay, not so meaningless) conversation while I was drunk last night. Had you not done it, I was planning to write this one while drunk and it would have been a total disaster. Thanks to Microsoft for making a delightful software called MS word. I have recently installed Office 2007 and I can't begin to tell you how exciting it is to write my first story on it. And finally thanks to everyone-knows-who for being the beautiful inspiration behind the story.

A clarification. The green pill in the story is (by authorial intention) the pill to purge emotions. It is not dope.

If you need a copy of this story, drop in a mail. If you want to be added to my permanent reader mailing list, drop in a mail.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Problems Faced by Science Students While Studying Humanities

1. Summarization: while reading long essays I (as a science student) find it difficult to summarize what has already been said in the preceding thousand words or so.

This is probably because in most scientific texts, summary is automatically provided by a concise formula or law.

2. Modularity: I find it difficult to break a long essay into smaller modules making some simpler sense on their own. And if such breakage is not possible at all, I find it difficult to follow the text.

This is probably because in most scientific texts, modularity is strictly followed. The subject matter is broken down into smaller independent pieces which can be contemplated on their own.

3. Logical relations: I find it difficult to figure out the exact logical relationship between the various parts of the text. That is, it is difficult to understand what is implying what and what is contradicting what etc.

This is probably because in most scientific text, such logical relations ships are explicitly stated in form of a formula or law. Also, scientific texts are less given to circumlocutions and digressions than humanities texts.

Thus, as a pedagogical aid, I may make the following suggestions:

1. Summarize: summarize whatever is being taught in as few words as possible. I know that this is a daunting task as most topics in humanities are neither straightforward nor definite in any sense. But still, try …

2. Emphasize the precise logical relationships: reiterate the logical relationships in your summary.

3. Modularity: maintain modularity of some sort. Of course, this may actually sap the beauty of many of the subjects the humanities deal with. But often they are making logical arguments during analysis and this strategy may work.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy Review

Potential Spoiler Warning: this article may spoil some of your fun in reading the novels.

Introduction

The Bartimaeus Trilogy is a fantasy novel series by Jonathan Stroud. It consists of the following books (in order) The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golems Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate. The most notable things about the books are the fast and thrilling narrative and very good humor.

Style

Like I said, the narrative was fast and thrilling. The pace never slackens (perhaps a little bit in the second novel) and the best part is, it is absolutely hilarious in parts. I wish more of the narrative was from Bartimaeus whose witty repartee is well worth reading about a thousand and five hundred pages of this series. The best part is, the author ended it in three parts rather than dragging on unnecessarily. It is the most fitting length for this trilogy.

Characterization

The characterization is excellent. All the major characters have been drawn out in sufficient detail. Nathaniel aka Magician John Mandrake comes out very well as a talented un-spoilt youth who gradually becomes just like everyone else. He does, however, always keep alive that small spark of goodness within him which kindles into a fire at the climax of the story. Kitty Jones again has been portrayed very well as a commoner who is seeking to do something about the corrupt system. Her rebellious tendencies do not prevent her from seeing the truth as she always doubts the motives of his fellow revolutionaries who appear to be happy in just spreading vandalism. And yes, there is our dear Bartimaeus. Well, you got to read the novel to know what he’s like. Words just don’t do justice to this most delightful character Stroud has created.

Meanings

The series is full of alternate meanings. It is a very good allegory on how political power functions in human societies. The magicians are the powerful people in the society. The commoners are, well, commoners. The people who have power make all effort to prevent others from getting it. For example, the magicians make magic the exclusive craft of their own kind, while it is clear that commoners can learn it without trouble, as Kitty Jones proves in the end.

It is also an excellent portrayal of the Master-Slave relationship. Perhaps even a comment on the colonial tendencies of Britain where the master makes almost no effort to understand the motivations of the slave. Indeed, such tendencies become so very ingrained in popular discourse that the people in power almost start believing what misconceptions are popular about the slaves.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Music Suggestion Kabul Express


The Kabul Express Theme from movie OST.

Kabul Express Review


John Abraham does not know how to act. Let us ignore him for the duration of this review.


Kabul Express is what one can call another innovation in Bollywood. It is perhaps for the first time that a film with an almost documentary kind of feel has been made in Bollywood and I must say that the director has been successful to quite some extent.


The film is also an example, how the Hindi movie genre can be decently blended with other genres to produce good movies. Kabul Express is a typical Hindi movie with its share of clichés but that does not mar the effect of what the movie is trying to say. For example, in a ‘realistic’ movie one would hardly expect the wisecracks that Arshad Warsi continuously keeps delivering throughout the movie. Comic relief, the quintessential cliché of Bollywood, has been done quite well in this movie which yearns to be realistic in its portrayal of Afganistan.


The movie is trying to show several sides of the story at once – the Afgan side, the Indian side, the Pakistani side and yes, the American side too. And it does that with finesse. It does not make judgments. It just shows.


And it raises many questions in the mind of the viewer. As I sat in the air conditioned multiplex watching this movie in confort, the dialogue that hit me most hard was – Aap khushnasib ho. Aapki dunia alag hai. (You’re lucky. Your world is different.)


This is spoken by a Talib to an Indian reporter in the film. Indeed our world is different. We wallow in relative prosperity while a country which is practically neighbors with us is torn with war. Why is that? Who is responsible? I was awestruck by the stunning beauty of the Afgan landscape. What drives humans to turn such a beautiful country into such a hellhole?


I left the theater with these questions in mind. And they bug me yet. Is there hope for people? Will these parts of the world, including my very own Kashmir, ever become better places to live?


And yes, there is that sad question of why John Abraham was chosen to do this movie.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dainik Gadar Zero





Download pdf here (~ 9 MB!!)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Inverse Logic

It is surprising how easily people who are supposed to be good with such things (for example IIT students) fall for common logical fallacies. For example, one of friends argued thus a few days ago: war is natural. This is so because there are processes that keep the population of a species in check under natural conditions. Examples of such processes are predators, disease, scarcity of resources and (surprise!) war in the case of humans. Now, since humans have eliminated (to a large extent) all other processes of keeping a population in check, it is only natural that it is war that will keep the numbers of human species under control.

It took me some time to get over my stupor generated by the blasphemous nature of this argument. There are couple of logical fallacies involved here.

  1. The assumption that war is just like any other natural process.
  2. The assumption that (rise in species population) (is the cause of) (evolution of natural processes to keep the population in check). In fact it is the other way round. (Natural processes that keep population in control) (are responsible for) (keeping species population in check)
Here I try to keep my IITian arrogance aside :) (cf. the first comment on this post)

When IITians, the students who are supposed to be the top problem solvers of this country can fall for such obvious logical fallacies, what hope do I keep for this country?

Movie Review: Khosla Ka Ghosla

I saw Khosla Ka Ghosla last night. I just started to browse through the DVD with no intention of watching the movie at that time. However, after I had seen the first fifteen minutes, I was hooked. So I watched that movie despite it being late in the night (and consequently getting up late and missing first two lectures today) and guess what, I watched it again today afternoon!

Needless to say, I was mighty impressed with the whole movie. It isn’t surprising, given that we have Anupam Kher and Boman Irani in the star cast. Neither of them disappoints you. In fact, Boman Irani is positively awesome. In an interview he said that he had done extensive homework before portraying the character of a real estate agent. Believe me, it shows. Not that I have had many dealings with estate agents, but whatever little I’ve seen, reflect faithfully on screen.

Anupam Kher is natural in his role as a meek middle class man. He portrays it almost too well. And both the actors playing his sons portray their characters well too.

So let me enlist what I like about the movie.

First is the script. After a very very long time have I seen such a good script. What I have always felt about bollywood is that they don’t need anything to make good movies except good writers. They pick up good concepts but cannot turn the script into a blockbuster. However, with this movie the script alone could have carried it through. The dialogues are natural, at least in the first half of the movie. The picturisation accompanying that appears very natural too. Also, in the second half where things start getting more fictional, the entire affair is done very tightly so that at no point is the movie becoming boring or farcical.

The characterization is wonderful. Each character is typical and identifiable. I could especially connect to the younger Khosla son who is a feeble hearted IITian not knowing much about the practicalities of the world.

Another pleasant surprise within the movie was its music. It is quite good. Especially, the songs ‘Ab Kya Karenge’ and ‘Chak De Phatte’ have the quality of lingering on.

Perhaps the only minus point about the movie is Tara Sharma. That girl neither knows how to act nor how to deliver dialogues. I could have done better than her but alas, I’m not a girl.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

More Rotoscoping

As my research has revealed, what I'm calling rotoscoping is not rotoscoping at all but only a small part of it. However, I'll keep calling it that. The idea is to transform real images in such a way that they appear to be drawn by an artist. So some futher progress has been made.

1. Color rotoscoping has been acheived.
2. The edges are coming out better now. They are not yet perfect but are better.

Some samples are given below.



I think I'm satified with the way the fill is coming out. I can get both 'flat' fills and more textured ones like the ones in these samples. Edges still need a lot of improvement so further work would concentrate on that.

Some people have asked for the details of this work. Please contact me personally. I cannot post the technical details on the blog for the fear of plagiarism.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rotoscoping

Rotoscoping is an animation technique used in the movie the Scanner Darkly. I tried some digital rotoscoping myself. The results were not very encouraging. Edge detection is a problem. The fill is coming out fine.





Thursday, October 12, 2006

Qoute # 2

Governments don't do what's best for people, they do what's best for the government.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

VinniQuotes # 1

The trouble with computer engineers is, the smartest of humans are making products for the dumbest of humans.

Nationalism

I link to this discussion about nationalism that I had with my friend some time ago. I wanted to post it first but because of my utter laziness Aneesh beat me to it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Email Record August 2006

Total Mail Recieved: 858
Junk: 563
Absolute Junk: 229
Relevant: 295
Sent: 158

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Devlupment

I must link to this post by Aneesh. It is surprising how much such small incidents in life can teach you.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More than Human

I have been getting a little informal education in literature for the last couple of years through my involvement with Literary Discussion Group (LDG) at my college. Although my primary preoccupation remains science fiction, it is almost never discussed at the LDG and therefore I am forced to read a lot of ‘real’ literature too.

What irks me is literature’s preoccupation with the ‘human’ aspects of life. What I mean is this. Most literature that I get to read is dealing exclusively with human emotions, human life and human problems. It places the human on a pedestal higher than rest of the universe and at the centre of the universe. Sometimes I get into the spirit too and feel that that is all that is important in life. Helping the downtrodden. Exposing inequality in the society and exploring misery at all levels. Bring it all out into public consciousness so that the world becomes a better place to live in.

However, every now and then I find myself beneath the night sky staring at the stars. And then I contemplate on the size of the universe and our position inside it. And then I feel how insignificant humans and the little self contained world of theirs is. Their preoccupation with themselves appears almost ludicrous to me. What if, someday, in the wink of an eye, humanity was to disappear from the face of this earth? What difference would it make in the vastnesses of the Universe? Would the earth stop rotating around the sun? Would the heavens stop moving the way they do?

And then I’m also plagued with the questions about who I am and what I am doing here. What is the purpose to my life? What is the purpose to this entire drama that is unfolding beneath the skies?

Are these questions not worth the enquiry? Are there questions not worth taking the trouble of contemplating about them?

Perhaps if have to go without food for three days in a row and have not a penny in my pocket, I’d find that they are not.

The included image is that of the Helix Nebula taken through the Hubble telescope. Due to its shape, the nebula is generally being referred to as the 'Eye of God'.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Why Pesticides?

Why do the cola companies put pesticides in their soft drinks? This is one of those aspects of modern culture which is so unbelievably ludicrous that no one actually perceives it as funny. In fact no one ever bothers to answer this question.

Why indeed do they put pesticides in cola? Let me look at the possible reasons. Not that I know the answer. I’m just trying to be funny and failing miserably.


A. For taste. This is possible. Pesticides might make the taste of cola better and distinct. But then, of all things in this world why do you need to have pesticides in cola? There are a plethora of food items available that might enhance the taste. People put spices in their food to improve the taste. McD puts animal fat in vegetarian stuff to enhance the taste. That is understandable if not entirely moral. But pesticides? Why in the world? In any case it is not because of the taste that people drink cola. People drink it because, well, people drink it. I have never understood the concept of a cold drink but let me not bring in my personal prejudices into the issue. People drink cola because it is marketed so aggressively.


B. As preservatives. As far as I know there are preservatives available which are relatively harmless and do the same job as pesticides would do. Perhaps pesticides are cheaper and these ‘drinkable’ preservatives are not. That would make sense. But then, fellows, you are already selling a half rupee product at seven or eight rupee a bottle. Using the stuff that you are allowed to use would not reduce your profit margin by much would it? Maybe it would. Well then, increase the prices. The idiots who drink a half rupee sugared aerated pesticidal water at seven or eight rupees a bottle wouldn’t mind shelling out a couple of bucks more. In fact, imagine what a ball your advertising section can have! New improved cola with active preservatives! And you can raise the prices by two rupees before the launch and then give a discount of a rupee on each bottle after the launch and imagine what advertising potential the whole thing has!


C. To kill pests. Yes, this is a distinct possibility too. The cola bottles might have pests and the company might be forced to put pesticides in to kill them. Perfectly logical. But then I’d wonder – why put it pests in cola in the first place?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I Can't Help It, Can I?

Featured here is Media Player 11 Beta from Microsoft. Except for a great user interface, there is nothing new it has to offer. Download it from Microsoft's site.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Nation of Mediocrity

I know someone called Mr. M. He is a civil engineer and works for a government body. Mr M has always been a very intelligent person. He a gold medalist ME in structural engineering. Everyone in his office regards him as an efficient worker. Recently he got into an argument with the chairman of his office. The chairman happens to be a political figure with no knowledge of civil engineering and little knowledge of anything else.

"Mr. M, I know that you are intelligent and and efficient worker. However, I don't give a dam about your talents. I want you to do as I tell you and I'm not going to listen to anything you say."

A few days earlier, another person in the same office exchanged a piece of banter with Mr. M. This other person is eligible to be only a sub-engineer but is an executive engineer (which is two rungs up in terms of rank) due to preferencial treatment under the system of caste based reservation.

"Now that you are finally executive engineer you should try and get some work done now instead of politics to get promotions." said Mr. M.

"Sir, you worked sicerely all your life, what did you get? Politics is what I like to do and this is what I'll keep doing." said that person.

Mr. M has now taken a furlough and is sitting comfortably at home.

Back to College and Back to Linux!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Arguments for Reservation

http://www.theotherindia.org/education/the-truth-about-merit.html

The above article argues that since merit cannot really be defined or is largely a farce in the present system, we should have reservations. Rather stupid I'd say. In the first place I don't agree with the point that IITs are a farce. The reason that they don't produce path breaking research is that well, none of the developing countries do. The reason is lack of world class infrastructure. It is a miracle that despite being in a developing nation IITs enjoy a brand value that they do.

Second, even if merit IS a farce, then it should automatically lead to reservations is a logic that is beyond me.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Contemplating Suicide

Those who are reading this please don't get alarmed. I'm never going to do it -- no matter what. I keep thinking about it all the time, but that is just me :-)

This is just an inpromptu reflection after hearing a lot about the recent suicide at IITK. Please bear in mind that it is inpromtu and I'm sitting a stupid internet cafe right now with a sick keyboard.

It is true that I have contemplated suicide a lot many times during my stay in IITK. Not that I'm even going to do it. I'm always reminded of my family and friends and the immense amount of support that they give me and so I can never do it, but yes, I am forced to think about it often.

So why do I think about it? Mostly because my CPI is 6.5 which is miserably low for IITK, even for Civil Engg. department. Why is my CPI low? Because I do not go to class, I do not do my assignments and I do not take my studies seriously at all. And why do I do all that? I don't really know. Most probably I'm not interested in the course I'm pursuing. Perhaps I'm interested but the courses are not being conducted in an interesting manner.

I have never been interested in the grades that I get. I do not remember my tenth or twelfth board exam marks, something most people can recite without thinking twice when woken up in the middle of the night. I often forget my JEE rank -- a number that is almost sacred to most IITians. Thus the fact that each attendance has 1% wieghtage and that assignments would get me 15% of the total credit for the course are facts that are as insignificant to me as the cockroach in the corner of my hostel room.

That is why I don't take my courses serously. What matter to me is the beauty of the subject which, fortunately, some really good professors have sometimes revealed to me. Yes, there certainly are good professors in IITs. But they are few, too few. Still, I'm grateful for them.

But an appreciation for the beauty of the subject, or the scope and expase of the field does not get you a job. It does not get you a scholarship. CPI does that. And that is what I do not have. I look at my books in the beginning of the semester and I feel so excited. There is this whole world of exciting stuff waiting to be explored. But that is only till I start attending classes where the whole exciting world is turned into the dark and morose torture of exams, exams and more exams.

At the end of it all, I'm left with no sense of accomplishment at all. I feel so insignificant in this world that life does not seem worth living at all. When I look back at the three years I've been here I see nothing. There is nothing I've learnt, there is nothing I've done. Add to this the numerous people around you who are doing really great things and going really great places. (In retrospect all this complaining seems rather childish. After all there is no free lunch in this world. If you dream about getting to MIT, which is like a dream life for me, you have to work hard and you have to get good grades, no matter what. But who said contemplating suicide was a rational activity? heh heh)

And it is not only that. I have nothing to look forward to as well. At best I'll end up with a stupid software job that will most probably take me nowhere at best or somwhere I don't want to be at worst. With that kind of CPI I can never do what I want to with my life.

All this drives me to think about ending this miserable life. I'm not really sure whether it is good or bad that I'll never be able to do it myself.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Music Suggestion

This is the New Shit -- by Marylin Manson. Do see the video if you can get hold of it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Latest Crush

My latest crush is Rani Mukherjee. But that is not what I want to show in here. My system uptime has reached 5 days!! I know, it's not a lot for some people out there but this is the first time I've done 5 days.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rob the Rich and Feed the Poor?

Is there no other way to achieve social justice than rob the rich and feed the poor? Can’t we just produce more food?

Instead of increasing the reservations can’t we increase the number of IITs? Perhaps start a new one just for the marginalized classes? We spend millions every year on TA/DAs and telephone bills for our parliamentarians who do nothing much anyway. Why not spend the money on more meaningful purposes? Why not increase the number of seats for prep-course students in IITs? I think prep course is a good idea. It is much better than direct quota admission. At least is gives students opportunity to reach a higher level of academic performance.

After all what is the purpose of reservation? Is it only providing opportunity? Providing opportunity is the means. The end that should be in sight is that the socially backward classes should attain same social status as others. When the means is no achieving the end, the means should be modified. If you push the wall, just pushing harder is not going to make it fall. You have to bring in a hammer. You have to modify your method.

So many years have passed since we’ve had reservations. If it has not worked, there is something wrong somewhere. Perhaps it does not work. Perhaps it is time to review the pros and cons and come up with modifications. Perhaps it is time for a real Mandal II and not a virtual one. We have had the least bad solution for such a long time now. Perhps it is time for a better solution.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Looking at the Smaller Picture

I study at an IIT. The one which is located in Kanpur. I came here through a extraordinarily tough examination they call the JEE. From a normal Indian schoolboy, I turned into the crème de la crème of the country. Because of all this, for me it is really very difficult to talk about IIT in any kind of neutral or objective terms. However I will still try.

I’m talking about reservation here and I’m talking specifically about reservation in IITs. I might actually go further and say that I’m talking about reservation in IITK, for that is the only thing I’ve seen. That might be true and it is for the reader to decide how far my arguments can be extrapolated.

I’m a man of limited intellect. I cannot analyze large scale policies of issues of social justice. Such issues elude or confuse me. I will thus talk about my own small community which we in IIT Kanpur call the student body. The observations will thus be limited to this small community and it is again for the reader to decide how far they can be extended.

When a student comes here he is always asked his rank by other students. If you are a general category candidate then you state just plain rank. However, if you are a reserved category candidate, you have to state that you are from the reserved category.

The reason is not that people discriminate against the reserved category students. No, at least not at that point. The reason is that the judging criteria are different. For example a CSE guy of reserved category might got the same marks in JEE as, say, a civil engineering guy from the general category. Everyone is eager to know where a student stands academically.

There it is that the first line is drawn. Since category students are let in on relaxed criteria, they stand lower in the academic society.

The bachelors program commences and we start getting our CPIs. The JEE ranking is left in the past and a new stratification begins, based on CPI. That is not all. A parallel stratification begins based on other aspects of your personality – cultural activities, sports and managerial abilities. You are judged on what you do and not what you are. Never once is the question about your caste or religion raised. You can be a ten pointer and come from the most backward of all classes and nobody would bother about it and would respect you like hell.

Except in one context. If you were admitted through the quota, everyone would notice that. It stays with you throughout your stay.

Reservation thus creates an artificial class system with in the student community which would not have been there if everyone came based on the same criteria. And I reiterate. This class system is artificial in the sense that it is imposed by the reservation system and would not be in place if only merit was the judging criterion.

I listen to my grandmother talk about numerous castes and creed and she makes a lot of effort to explain to me the traditional occupations and the hierarchy of all there castes. All these things are irrelevant to me and the people of my generation. My mother knows some of such things and is less meticulous. What is more important to her is that there is a reserved category and there is a non reserved category. I don’t worry about caste distinctions either. In fact, I do not even know all of them. All I care about is whether the guy gets reservation or not.

Do the policy makers know of such phenomena? Are they bothered about them? Or do they argue that these are the only the lesser evils which must be tolerated in view of the greater good. Somehow that does not convince me. “Rational” hatred runs deeper and stronger than traditional hatred.

My culture teaches me to discriminate against certain people. However, obviously, no reasons for it can be provided. Because of the present scientific method of education, I’m forced to question such beliefs and there is some chance that I will discard this traditional hatred. Provided that I’m willing to listen, people can come and argue with me and convince me that my hatred is irrational and I might convert.

On the other hand, I work very hard to get a seat in the medical college. And hard here mean working something like fourteen hours a day for two to three years in the least. But then I do not get a seat in the medical college. That seat is given to a reserved category student who actually happens to score a zero (yes, this has actually happened as a fact correction: as Anirudh has pointed out (see comments), the evidence that I have about this is dubious. I distinctly remember something like this having happened. It was there in the newspapers. Since I was very young at that time, I do not remember the details.) on the entrance exam. Naturally I’m going to hate that person and the likes of him. I cannot help it, it is human nature. And there is no way that I can tell myself that this hatred in irrational. There is no way that anyone else can prove to me that my hatred is irrational. Such hatred runs deeper and stronger, much deeper and stronger.

Are the policy makers troubled by such things? I don’t know. At least I am. But then I lack the intelligence to look at the big picture and to analyze macroscopic policies. I can only look at the smaller picture!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Loss

Here is a short story that I wrote sometime back.

There is an almost unmanageable crowd out on the street. I try to peer over the swarming sea of heads and see what’s happening. The sun shines sharply above our heads. The atmosphere is hot and tense. I can see tortuous wisps of air distorting the view above the shops that line the street. There is a subdued murmuring rippling back and forth across the crowd. The leader is no more.


The people cannot believe it. They are still wishing that all of it is a dream. I wish that too. I never imagined it would end this soon. I knew it would end one day. But I also thought that there would be a goodbye, an exchange of last words, apologies made with moist eyes and accepted with the wave of a hand, gratefulness expressed with a tight hug. I had never imagined that our friendship would end so abruptly.


Suddenly the crowd moves and there are people all around me. I’m a small man. All I can see now is the person in front of me. They are bringing his body out in a van, someone tells me. I’m eager to see his face one last time. I try to push past the sea of people. I can’t. I see that some people have started climbing the roofs of the shops around us in hope of catching a last glimpse of their beloved leader. I follow suite. I climb on to the roof of a nearby shop with difficulty. There is no stairway to go up and we have to climb over the wall to get up. But at least I’m able to see things when I get up there. His body is in a glass box on a van where everyone can see it. It is decorated with flowers and garlands. I catch a glimpse of his face and the tears I have kept at bay flow down my cheeks. The van turns and the glint of sunlight reflected off the glass blinds me for an instant. When I can see again, the van is gone.


The crowd begins to disperse. Some of the more persistent ones follow the van on foot or in their own vehicles. I do not have the energy to do that. I climb down from the rooftop and sit down on a boulder beside the street. The boulder is hot and burns my bottom. I keep sitting and take off my shoes to relax my toes. I wince as I flex them.


“He was a great man,” says a man standing beside me, “The country has not seen a leader like him after independence. And I don’t think it will, either.”


I nod in agreement.


“I had the chance of meeting him once,” the man continues, “Such a humble man he was. So down to earth. He did so much for my community. He did so much for all of us.”


I wonder what to tell this man. Do I tell him that the leader whose death he’s mourning is one of my best friends? Or that, at least that is what I like to believe, for our relationship became skewed, twisted and gnarled a long, long time ago. Do I tell him that we spent a significant portion of our youth together, at the same college? Do I tell him that we were partners on numerous secrets that form the cherished memories of college life?


He would not believe me. He would think I’m another one of those who brag about personally knowing a successful person. So I tell him nothing.


I returned to my house. My wife left me a few years after marriage. My parents are long dead. I have a brother who has been more successful in life than I have. He doesn’t sit in his ancestral house and crib about old friends.


I switch on the TV. They are telecasting his last rites. The van moves slowly across the city. It is surrounded by a vast crowd. Men and women who mourn his passing away. I keep the TV running and go into the bedroom. I switch on my computer. I search for a photograph. His and mine. Taken a long time ago. I call it up on the screen. We are standing in a garden. Our spouses are right beside us. The colors are still rich and vibrant. I run a hand across the screen and then smile at my own stupidity. Of course I cannot feel the texture of the photograph on the screen or smell those flowers. They are all images only. Images of a time long past.


The photograph was taken just a couple of months before he decided to run in the elections. It was a tough decision for him. I remember him spending many weekends with me, deliberating whether he should run or not. In the end we concluded that he should. It was for the greater good of the community.


All of us friends got together to organize his campaign. It was a Herculean task. None of us had ever done this before. We learnt as we went along. For about three months we did not think about anything else. The only thing on everyone’s mind was to make him win. And win he did. That too spectacularly.


How happy we all had felt the day he entered office. A large crowd had gathered that day too. He was being showered with good wishes. In all this he never forgot us. We got equal share in the glory of his victory. He constantly kept hugging us and thanking us. People clicked pictures. They made videos. All of us apeeared on TV at that time. But all the same, I felt very lonely in his office at that moment. There were lots of people over there. Lots of very important people. And my friend was now one of them. He was important too. And I was just that, his insignificant friend. It was as if the entire crowd had shrunk into a garment that he was wearing, reveling in the glory of this wonderful adornment and I was standing in the corner of his office, lonely and waiting for a morsel of his attention, for a warm smile or a loving glance from him.


I went away and locked myself up in my house. I busied myself in my work. Despite all that, I could not keep my mind off him. I wanted to sit with him once more, like we had always done, and discuss life, his and mine. But I could never gather the courage to go and meet him. Neither did he come and meet me. I am not complaining. I understand that he was busy. I understood it at the time too. He needed his time for better things. That is why I never went and met him. I did not want to encroach upon his time.


I think that is only what I kept telling myself in an attempt to fool myself. The real reason, I guess, was that I was afraid of the crowd. I feared that I’d get lost among the countless individuals standing at his doorstep.


He did keep calling me up every now and then. But our conversations were hurried. He kept saying that he was busy. He kept telling me about the big things that he was planning to do. Our conversations became formal and even curt as if they were being carried out like a burden. The burden of a friendship long past.


After a couple of years or so came the first allegation of corruption. The media was full with news of him having taken crores of rupees as bribe. Of course he denied all these charges. Then one weekend he suddenly appeared at my doorstep. He was carrying bottles of wine. He sent his secretary and chauffer away. We were alone in my house that night. We dined together. He began to talk about the great mental trauma that he was undergoing. He was an honest man. The mere suggestion that he was corrupt was too much for him to bear. But he was determined to fight it out. He was a strong man.


He had come to seek guidance just like he had always done. Over the years we had developed this relationship of playing counselor to each other. For years it had worked wonderfully. We had been a great support for each other. But that day I realized my inadequacy for the first time. He had grown beyond me. I could not understand him anymore. In the past couple of years he had matured much beyond my understanding. I was of no help to him. My suggestions sounded childish now, they sounded naïve.


We got drunk together that night. We had got drunk together on numerous nights before that but it was always for the same reason. That day, the reasons were different. He got drunk because he thought he had lost his reputation. I got drunk because I had lost him.


He said a lot of things that night. It is very lonely at the top, he kept saying again and again. It is very lonely at the bottom too, I wanted to say but I didn’t. He began sobbing. I just hugged him.


He fell asleep on my bed that day. I slipped a pillow under his head and slept in the living room myself. His chauffer arrived early next morning to pick him up. We woke him up and he was alert immediately. He went away hurriedly without even saying a proper good bye. It is okay, I told myself, he has to catch a flight.


Hours later he was inaugurating something big in Hyderabad. I saw him on television.


We kept meeting on and off over the years. He always invited me on all occasions. Sometimes I went and sometimes I didn’t. I attended his daughter’s marriage and his wife’s funeral. I did not go when he became a minister.


But all the same, we never really talked in the true sense of the word after that night. We only exchanged words. Smiling and nodding all the time but never really feeling.


I lost him a long, long time ago but I never figured out how to deal with it. Today I’ve lost him forever. I go back to the living room. They have set fire to his pyre. The flames reach high, just like he had always wanted to.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Back to Linux

I'm back to Linux now. This is how it looks.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Gender Woes?

A lot of people in my class are really pissed off by the fact that a lot of girls rely a lot on boys to get much of their work done. Girls try to be sweet to boys so that they can get some favours or advantages. Some guys are really pissed off by this behaviour. They feel that gilrs "use" boys in this way. Strangely, this annoyance comes only when this girl is not a friend of yours. If she is a friend, her dependence on you makes you feel all good inside. In fact, it probably becomes an important part of any romatic relationship. Boys like to be patronising and dote over their girls. Atul feels that a lot of romantic compatibility is decided by how much a guy likes to "parent" and how much a girl likes to rely on her boy. For a good relationship, they should have mutually compatible levels of dominance and submission (I hope this does not sound too kinky!! heh heh).

Human relations are strange!!

And please do not make any "feminist" comments on this one. This is an observation on what really happens and not on what should or should not happen.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Figure of Eight

I would like to link to Saumya's great story here.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Second Rejection

Sent "Comfortably Numb" to the same stupid magazine. This time they did not reject it on the basis of bad english. This is what they said : "Comfortably Numb" deals with a suicide that probably couldn't have been stopped by a friend of family member. The story gives no hope. While other publications might find this story to be enlightening, I found it merely depressing.

At least they did not say the story was bad.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

About My Stories

Many people have been complaining that I haven't been writing for a long time. Well, here goes, you asked for it! Being the egomaniac that I am, I'm gonig to write about my stories.

Title

Date

The Meteorite

1-Aug-1998

The Black Hole

1-Nov-1998

The Humanoid

19-May-1999

Teleported to an Alien Planet

1-Jun-1999

The Green Dread

15-Aug-1999

A Cup of Coffee

1-Jan-2000

Relics of the Past

28-Dec-2000

A New Age

5-Mar-2000

The Wormhole

25-May-2000

Gods

28-Sep-2001

The Stellar Reactor

27-Oct-2001

AI

28-Nov-2001

A Different Reality

20-Jan-2002

Life and Death

14-Feb-2002

Timeline

13-Aug-2002

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

4-Jan-2004

Let Me be Me

16-Jul-2004

Ragging is Banned

24-Jul-2004

To Ma'm With Love

24-Aug-2004

Contemplations on a Leisurely Evening

17-Jan-2005

Destiny

11-Apr-2005

Comfortably Numb

21-Aug-2005

We Can Change You

14-Sep-2005

The Probe

6-Oct-2005

Ignorance is Bliss

7-Oct-2005

Cybermind

30-Oct-2005

Quantum Café

8-Nov-2005

Alone

18-Feb-2006


Given above is a chronological list of my writing. As you can see, it is quite a formidable list. Understandably so, because I’ve been writing since I was in class 8th. The reason that I present this list to you, apart from the fact that I want to generate curiosity and make you read my stuff, is that a lot of people have been pestering me to write something and I’m having that classical case of writers’ block. I haven’t posted anything worthwhile in almost a month now. I can always do that regular piece on writers’ block itself, but that has become quite a cliché now and I don’t want to do it. Perhaps I will do it sometime in the future, but not now.

My writing can broadly be divided into two categories, one, before coming here, and the second, obviously, after coming here. Before coming here my writing was mostly unguided. Nobody read my stuff and nobody commented on it. So I just wrote to please myself. If you look carefully at the list you’ll realize that I wrote 15 out of 28 stories before coming here, so clearly the fact that I like writing is more than enough to keep my writing going.

After having come here, there was a period of almost a year during which I wrote nothing. This was because I was in my first year of college. I think what I was doing at that time was trying to figure out where my interests lay and what it was that I wanted to do. Not that I’ve really figured that out as yet, perhaps I never will, but at least I know that writing is one thing that I’ll keep doing no matter what.

So when I did start writing again, the writing became guided. First and foremost, I got a small but regular audience over here. I even managed to get one story published in a magazine. Apart from that Suchitra madam has been more than kind in regularly reading my stuff, crappy as it is, and making some very useful suggestion every time. Thus, if you have been regularly reading my stuff you’ll realize that I’ve improved a lot during the last two years or so.

The earlier phase of my writing is characterized by a potboiler style writing with the same sort of plots. The plot was essentially like this: there is some problem created due to some technological advancement and the protagonist has to find some technological solution for it. I guess, I was writing this kind of fiction because of the kind of SF that I was reading and watching at that time. Michael Crichton was a great favorite of mine (still is, I guess) at that time. I loved movies like the Jurrasic Park and Godzilla. Of course, I was getting my dose of Asimov too and was well versed in my Robots and my Foundation, but you don’t expect a sixteen year old to think like Asimov, do you? Hell, I don’t expect anyone to think like Asimov.

So this trend continues even until the story Mirror Mirror on the Wall. After that, my work becomes more exploratory. I begin writing fiction that is of a different kind altogether. Although, this is not the first time that I’m doing this. Works like Gods and A Different Reality already show that I was capable of different kind of writing from the very beginning. Although I didn’t really do it on purpose at that time, something that I’ve begun doing now.

A lot of my writing in the second phase has been person oriented. I’ve tried to explore, in my own way how an individual interacts within a technology rich society. The classic stories of this type are Destiny, Let Me Be Me, Cybermind and Comfortably Numb. I’ve done some experimental writing too, as in Destiny where I try to write a story in second person.

I began to dabble in socio-realistic fiction too. As in To Ma’am With Love and Ignorance is Bliss. But I assure you, this is not my favored mode of writing.

I guess, the most distinguishing feature of my recent writing has been the focus on the individual. Individuals en-masse appear to be doing a very different sort of stuff than what really motivates them at a more personal level. This is something that really fascinates me. At the level of a society one may attribute certain causes for certain things that may not really be applicable at the individual level. And that varied individual behaviors can lead to behaviors on a mass scale that more or less make sense is another fascinating fact. In other words, I have the suspicion that Asimov’s psychohistory may actually exist. In one line the focus of my society is the individual and not the society. And this is primarily because I do not understand the society well. I’m not a social creature. Rather, as Atul says, I’m “anti-social” in the sense that I interact with very few people around me. Its bad, but that’s just how I am.

Any of you who want to read any of these stories should just drop me a mail. IF you want to be part of my readers’ list so that you get all of my future stories for free, you may drop me a mail for that too.

Desktop Eyecandy

Some of my friends know that I'm a self proclaimed desktop eyecandy expert. Here is some of my work for your viewing pleasure.



Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Single Track Life

It is surprising how many people in this world consider life to be a single track lane. Read the first two comments on my previous post. Both these readers have difficulty in connecting religion with science. And perhaps rightly so. That is how these people and even myself have been bred to think.

However life is not a single track road. It does not walk down a fixed lane. Furthermore life is not a binary tree comprising solely of mutually exclusive decisions at each node. Life is a web – inseparably interlinked in all its parts. Perhaps more than we can imagine.

Person one says that religion is a personal matter. I propose a correction. That is how one would like it to be. However, the reality is that it is not merely a personal matter. In all times and ages men have been ready to kill and die for religion. Also, even if it is a personal matter, such personal matters deeply affect what people do in various circumstances. Scientists for example have their own religious beliefs and these beliefs strongly reflect in their scientific beliefs as well. Science like everything else is also a human endeavor. Unlike what most people think science is not all that objective about the reality that it is trying to investigate and the reason is simple. It is men who do science. Men who are never free of their own prejudices and presumption. This is a reality that has yet to be understood by many.

On the same token, the mystic and the scientist are both humans. Both are trying to satisfy their curiosity. The method that they follow is different. However the kinds of questions that they ask are the same. Both are interested in understanding the nature of reality.

One of the worst philosophies that modern science has brought into vogue is that of reduction to essentials. Humans have learnt to make compartments. This is science, this is religion. Economics, politics, sociology, psychology, technology. We go on making compartments. But the truth is that all these things are related both in themselves and in the fact that all of these are human endeavors limited by human limitation.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Children

It is surprising how the perception of children varies between the Hindu culture and the Christian one. In Hinduism, children are godlike. The belief largely stems from the Hindu mythology of the "baal lila" of lord Krishna. Stories of childhood of lord Rama and Hanuman are also popular. Thus the mythology supports the belief of children being godlike.

In Christianity on the other hand, the child is a product of "sin" and therefore inherently sinful. It has to be purified by baptism. Thus John the Baptist was already present to purify baby Jesus although Christianity per se had not been established. There is evry little account about baby Jesus. It is only when he grows up that he goes about doing his godlike stuff.

This difference in the religious background reflects a lot in the culture too. Especially literature and the arts. In Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Chronicles of a Death Foretold" a character thinks that "only children are capable of anything". She is referring to murder and is quite frightened by the fact. It will be hard to find such depiction of children in Indian culture.

The difference in religion also affects science. Most of the western scientists have great trouble in accepting the notion of and endless (and beginning-less) universe. That is why they are constantly is search of a "beginning". Fritjof Capra in his book "The Tao of Physics" says that this attitude comes from the biblical notion of creation. God said "let there be light, and there was light". Thus God "began" the universe.

In Hinduism however we have two views about the creation myth. One of course is the "beginning" camp in which God just came into existence and created everything else. However, Hinduism also subscribes to the view of "sanatana dharma" ie a religion which has been there for ever and the cyclic nature of creation as in the repeated occurings of the four yugas. Thus a Hindu philosopher will have less trouble in accpeting the notion of a cyclic or endless universe.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Indian Food

This is what an outsider, in fact, a Canadian told me about Indian food - The food is so spicy that it is hurting you, but at the same time, its so delicious that you can't stop eating.

I coudn't agree more.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Dream Person

I've been tagged by Sindhu. I don't usually do this tag business but at the end of the day Sindhu is a girl and as a matter of principle I don't refuse girls. Besides, the poor damsel was supposed to tag eight guys but could do only three because she knew only four damned bloggers and one of them had already tagged her. Anyhow, the tag goes like this :

1. The tagged victim has to come up with 8 different points of their perfect lover.

2. Need to mention the sex of the target.

3. Tag 8 victims to join this game & leave a comment on their comments saying they’ve been tagged.

4. If tagged the 2nd time, there’s no need to post again.

Target: I'm not really sure about this one anymore. I used to like females at some point of my life, I'm pretty sure about it, although the memory is a bit vague now. Its been a while since I've seen a female (a proper one, the ones over here don't really count) and I'm beginning to wonder about my sexual inclinations. The boy next door isn't so nasty after all (I'm talking about Anubhav, NOT Akshay).

The Traits

1. Shouldn't be too beautiful: (shouldn't be ugly either) People who are too beautiful make me insecure. They look like people who are out of this world - unreachable, ununderstandable. I want someone down to earth. Someone who you can relate to.

2. Should be interested in one or more of these things (otherwise what else would we talk about?) literature, science, philosophy, psychology, arts, politics, technology, economy, writing and STAR TREK.

3. Broad minded.

4. Should be wheatish in complexion (not dark) I have a fetish for wheatish skin.

5. Understanding.

6. Good sense of humour (I don't have any)

7. Loyal and honest. I don't mind truths that hurt but I do mind lies.

8. Heck, can't think of anything! A good cook?

I tag nobody.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's in the Race

According to a recent article in The Hindu, three scholars have published a paper last year which theorises that Jews are more intelligent than other races. The reason given is that their traditional occupation of doing business and making money leads them to develop genes for cleverness. A similar “study” was done in 1994 which stated that African races are dumber than others.

Both these studies have lead to huge controversy and discussion as is to be expected. But the question that I ask is – what difference does it make?

I question the hopeless futility and sheer uselessness of the entire exercise.

Okay fine, maybe Jews are smarter and Africans less so. What difference does it make? Surely, nobody in his sane mind can declare that all Jews are intelligent and that all Africans are dumb. There are always individual variations in such cases.

So when we talk about university admissions, I would certainly have to look at the individuals credentials. Or even when I’m talking about job offers.

I don’t understand when people will start treating people based on personal characteristics and not group traits. Because more often than not, group traits do not even exist. Or even if they do exist they are of no consequence is practical life.

SMS Lingo?

This is a classic example of the kind of crap that people post on email these days in the name of SMS lingo or whatever (whatevha?) Names have been replaced by ##. To add, not only do I find such messages infinitely irritating, I also take them as the indicators of the mental level of the writer. If you can't even type, what else can you do in life?

heya ol!....
wel wel wel....am i excluded from da grp...or da grp
is really dormant!!???....apologies fr nt chipping in
da grp discussions fr a real long tym nw!....

wishing #### and #### a very happy birthday fm ol
dose who dinno as well as who've olready wished
em'(like me!)....m a day late in sending dis e-mail
though!...

#### as many f u must not be knowing had an amazing
NEW YEARS nd BIRTHDAY BASH!!!...hahhaa....guess
wha!!!....his exams were on!!:):).....buh
unfortunately as m writing this e-mail,he is appearing
for his last paper 2day....
......####,wish u hav such enjoyable birthdays every
year!!
....hahhaa...jz cant frget da gloomy voice i heard
yesterday on da phone while talkin ta ya!!...

ugh!!..m in da practical lab in college n da teacher
has come back!...gta start wrking on da assignment
now!!

catchya guyz later!.....
####

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I Doubt It

People often argue that ancient or even pre-medieval India was sexually more liberal than it later became. They often put forth this argument in favour of more sexual freedom in the country today and against moral policing.

While I would agree with their cause of more sexual freedom, I somehow do not agree with the fact that India was some kind of a sexual paradise in the old times. Being a civilization that has preserved its roots for more than three thousand years, it seems highly unlikely that we would take such a one-eighty-degree turn in this respect.

The evidences put forth in support of this argument often comprise of ancient Indian sculpture/paintings like those at Khajuraho, Ajanta and Ellora or even those belonging to the Mughal times. These often depict couples in a variety of sexual positions and even sex with animals and sex in public surrounded by numerous vassals and servants. Literature such as the Kamasutra are cited every now and then. Epics such as the Mahabharat and works of Kalidas also depict relative sexual freedon.

Although I have no doubts that ancient India was more liberal in these matters that we now are, I have my doubts regarding the extent of this liberalism. Even a cursory glance at above examples is enough to show that most of these works were patronized by the ruling class. The actual perpetrators of these sexual acts were also either gods or people of the ruling class. I’m yet to encounter an example were people of the lower strata of the society or even the middle class, such as it were at that time, subscribes to these liberal ideas.

An even more cursory glance at today’s society will reveal that the lifestyle of the rich and elite, the P3P’s in today’s parlance, is far removed from the lifestyle of the masses. Indeed, the amount of sexual promiscuity in the privileged section of the society is far more than that in the less privileged one. I have reason to believe that it was so in the ancient times too. Kings were kings – absolute monarchs – what was to prevent them from breaking the sexual norms of the society – whatever they were.

One of the fundamental natures of the Indian society has been different codes of conduct for different sections of the society. The Kshatriya was allowed to eat meat, hunt, play dice, keep as many wives as possible, drink alcohol – a lot many vices were allowed, in fact, almost all of them. A Brahmin was supposed to lead a more austere life. Eat what is called “satvik” food. Refrain from sexual promiscuity etc etc. Thus, while Kunti can bear a child without marriage and Draupdi can take five husbands at a time, Ahilya was turned to stone for a crime she did not even commit. Indra and Chandra were repeatedly punished for misbehaving with the wives of Brahmins while they could freely watch Apsaras dance in their own court. Clearly the rules of the game were different for different people.

In light of all this, what the evidence merely suggests is that only a certain (upper) strata of the society was sexually liberal rather than the entire society. Even today the upper class in sexually liberal so there hasn’t been much difference. The lower strata are conservative and I believe that it was conservative all along.