Friday, June 29, 2007

Hacking


News Update: found ants in my water bottle. I woke them up from their early morning slumber, only to send them straight to hell. Don’t wince. If you had as many bugs in your room as I do, you’ll lose all respect for insect life. My new room sucks yet again.


Khair, as I say, getting down to business. I shall talk about hacking today. No not teach you it, per se, but tell you a few things about the psychology of hackers. You see, I’m a psychology expert too.

A few of my friends hack and I’ve never learnt anything from them. First of all they talk in jargon which goes way over my head. Second, they are so secretive about their stuff that they seldom tell you anything useful. They have to be. Hacking is serious offence. I remember a hacker friend once talking in such low tones (outdoors and in complete desolation) that I thought he had gone mad and was mumbling to himself.

So why do hackers hack?


Power

Hacking gives them power. Or at least, the illusion of it. They control every machine on the network. They have access to all the data. They can read you mail and look into your private files. They may upload porn into your girlfriend’s folder and name it the Lesbian Spank Inferno (cf. Coupling 104 Inferno). They can do anything to … er … your PC.


Sniper Syndrome

They suffer from the sniper syndrome. Just like a sniper sitting safely in his apartment in a high rise with French fries and coke and feeling his power over the passers by in the street down below, the hacker sits in the comfort of his room and has absolute power over the lesser mortals who cannot keep their PCs safe. A hacker takes pride in the fact that no one can find him. No one knows who he is. He will go to extremes to hide his identity over the network. He is in a constant game of one-upmanship against the system admin. He takes pride in the fact that the admin is a dolt and the hacker knows much, much more than him.


eVoyeurism

Yes, I just coined that word. I have coined another one – eOgling. But more about that later.

As my hacker friend says, with Awesome Power comes Awesome fun. A lot of post hacking time is spent in deriving this Awesome Fun. Peeking into emails, personal files, photos (yes, especially! (wink)) and affairs is what constitutes this awesome fun. Perhaps writing a prank email on your behalf and then following up on what happens. But the Awesomest fun comes when the admin is actually trying to nab you and you have so much access to his PC and email that you already know what he is planning and what he is doing. You are always one step ahead of him. So unless the admin starts using pen and paper to keep his notes there is no way he can get at you. Isn’t that fun!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wheel of Time


Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is a giant work of fiction. The guy has already written thirteen books and intends to write till he dies. Since he has recently recovered from cancer, luck seems to be in his favor is he is not going to leave us anytime soon.


This giant fantasy world can be described as jhelable at best and gloriously uninspiring at worst. Still it does have some peculiar properties when compared to other giant works of fantasy.


Here I will compare it to two works that I’m most familiar with (I wish to read more fantasy but they usually are so long that it takes a lifetime to get through one) – The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. And people should please pardon me for writing those two titles in the same sentence which itself is enough of an insult to LOTR.


Anyhow, getting down to business.



The Wise Old Man


The Wise Old Man, the staple archetype of every fantasy novel, is conspicuously missing in Wheel of Time. In LOTR we have good old Gandalf, in Harry Potter we have Dumbledore but there is no like character in Wheel of Time. In fact, there are no old men at all. Neither are there any old women. Most characters, at least the major ones, are very young and they are very much on their own. There is no one to guide them. No one who knows more than them. No one they can trust and turn for counsel and no one who has any idea what is going on.


The archetype of the Wise Old Man represents, to a certain degree, the tendency of people to hold on to tradition and stereotype when faced with uncertainty. With such an archetype missing in Wheel of Time, it becomes a more contemporary fantasy where the world is changing so fast and things are so uncertain that one cannot rely on any Wise Old Men any longer. It is each man and each Aes Sedai to himself and herself and thus (fortunately) we have faces that are devoid of hair longer than a few micrometers.


The Gender Dichotomy


Both LOTR and HP are stories about men. The chief characters are all men and all action is centered around men. Yes, there are some women here and there but they are not really important. In LOTR they are chiefly elvish females who are there to inspire awe and wonder at their beauty and purity and in Harry Potter they are just the usual next door neighbor type women who are either school teachers or mean aunts.


Not so in the Wheel of time. Over here, not only are the chief protagonists female, the One Power is also held in the strict monopoly of women. It is only women who can channel after the Breaking of the World and men who can channel either go mad or are caught and stilled by these women. The most powerful city in Jordan’s world is The Tower where the Amyrlin Seat resides and she is perhaps the most powerful person in the world. The men on the other hand are mostly young and na├»ve and don’t know much about anything.



This kind of strict gender dichotomy, apart from being unusual in fantasy, also creates and unusual effect within the story. Let me relate, as an exempli gratia, a scene that I have been recently reading (in the fourth book, The Shadow Rising). What happens here is that a princess first tries to seduce the Dragon Reborn for her own dark purposes. The seduction fails when disturbances (bubbles) in the One Power occur around the Dragon Reborn and he has to fight his own images leaping from the mirrors (of which there seems to be an uncanny abundance in the room). Once he has vanquished the enemies, a scantily clad princess leaves in an embarrassed and frightened state. Soon thereafter, two Aes Sedai, who are friends of the Dragon come to meet him. One tells him that she does not love him and the other tells him that she does.


Things like this happen again and again and the effect is multiplied by the fact that the power that the Aes Sedai have is rather girly. The Aes Sedai specialize in healing and not hurting. Hurting is chiefly the job of men. Thus, in putting such female morality in a position of power, the readers mind is constantly forced away from physical violence to a more subtle emotional violence. In this case, it is women playing with the Dragon’s romantic feelings.



It is in this sense also that the story becomes more contemporary. In the modern world people have developed some aversion for physical violence and it is shunned and avoided at all places. However, emotional violence is replete with the corporate and the government flinging subtle propaganda at us day and night. No wonder that most people in today world feel as foolish are the male protagonists in the Wheel of Time with regards to dealing with the day to day vagaries of the world.


PS: If you suddenly got inspired and want to read the work let me tell you. It is VERY LONG. Thirteen books each more than six hundred pages is no small feat. Second, I lied in my first paragraph. The books are only excruciatingly boring at best.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia


The Bridge to Terabithia is one story that delivers the true potential of a fantasy. While the 1985 film struggles with the technological backwardness of those times, the 2007 film has no such shortcomings. It uses CGI to generate an effect that moves you and nearly brings a lump to your throat.


The story revolves round Jesse a lonely farmer boy and Leslie, the new girl at school who befriends Jesse and introduces him to the imaginary world of Terabithia.


Jesse is good at drawing. His practical minded father does not approve of his artistic talents. Jesse is lonely, both at home and at school. Only his little sister May Belle is the one who likes and adores him. It is then that Leslie moves in to the neighborhood and befriends Jesse at school.


Leslie’s parents are both writers and the art is inborn in her. She cooks up stories all the time, be it for her school homework or just an idle walk through the woods. Together, Jesse and Leslie explore the woods and create the imaginary world of Terabithia around it.


Within moments, you are transferred to the children’s fantasy world of Terabithia where they weave stories around the squirrels and the dragonflies of the woods.


Their fantasies are like any other child’s. And that is perhaps what the story is trying to tell us. Somewhere along the way of growing up, we tend to lose that imagination, that talent to write stories. The talent to cook up things. It is this mood that the director is trying to capture. And why should he?


The next thing that happens in the story is that Jesse’s music teacher, Miss Edmonds, who understands Jesse’s talent, decides to take him to the art museum in the city. Understandably, Jesse is awestruck by everything that he sees. It is then that Miss Edmonds tells him - -Perhaps these people also started off in their notebooks. And perhaps Jesse too can one day become a great artist.


So what is the big deal about letting your imagination run and being an artist. The film says it is all about bringing beauty and joy to your life. Terabithia is beautiful, as compared to the mundane greenhouse that Jesse’s father works in. Leslie’s parents who are both writers are much more happy with their little family than Jesse and his family are. But to get all this you have open up your mind. And opening up your mind has its dangers.


Leslie’s parents are not religious and don’t go to church. Leslie goes to church with Jesse and then as they come back, they have a great discussion about religion and the Bible.


So when Jesse comes back from his trip to the art museum, tragedy hits. The children used to go to Terabithia by crossing a creek by swinging over a rope. As Leslie was swinging, the rope gave way and she died by falling into the creek. The movie hits you hard in the face at this point. Suddenly the whole fictive world crumbles and stark reality hits you.


Unable to cope with his loss, Jesse runs back to Terabithia to find a fallen tree lying across the creek. A bridge to Terabithia has been created. He walks over and calls out to Leslie in desperation. But in reply he only hears his sisters voice who is caught over the bridge, unable to cross it. Angry with her on having followed him he pushes her.


But then, the next day Jesse gathers the waste wood planks from Leslie’s home and build a proper bridge to Terabithia. And then he calls his little sister and takes her along, telling her about Terabithia and crowning her the princess.


Terabithia is, in fact, the metaphor for art and imagination in this story. Jesse and Leslie use it to conquer their fear of bullies at school. But this is also the way man conquers his fear of the world and great things are done. If you let your mind be free, Miss Edmonds tells Jesse, you can create entire worlds of your own. Worlds that are beautiful, just like Terabithia.

Snehidane

He closed the novel, folding the upper right corner of the page to keep track of where he had been reading it. He laid his head on the table and closed his eyes. The music filled him, gradually seeping into his head. It woke something in him. An old something that he had forgotten in the busy course of life. He followed the sweet cadence of the song, up and down, round and about, straight to his heart.


With a start he realized that he was singing the song in a language that he did not understand. Meaningless words. Sounds learnt by rote. But sounds that were imprinted in his memory as if they’d been burnt there. Slowly a face came back to his memory.


The face that had made him listen to this song years ago.


“Listen to this,” she had said, “it is lovely.”


Her southern accent was still sweet in his ears. The memory of her voice still new.


He had listened to the song over and over again till he could sing it out aloud in her language. A language that he knew not a word of. Yet, so much could be said without words.


“What does it mean? Snehidane?” he had asked her.


“Lover,” she had said. It had made him strangely giddy.


He mused over the strength of memories. And the way they suddenly sprang up. The way his psyche was jolted if he met a girl wearing the same perfume as she used to wear. Would he ever be able to forget her?


No. Memories don’t go away. He had met her long ago. And he had not met her for a long time
after that. Then he had loved someone else, and then someone else. But relationships don’t replace each other. Each one is new. And the old ones remain. They just … fade.


He opened his eyes and stared at his computer screen. The song was about to end. The singer was singing in Hindi. Chupke se, chupke se.


Snehidane, snehidane. He hummed to himself one last time. As the song ended he shook his head and went back to his novel.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sadhu – Awesome Art, Lousy Story


Many would know that Virgin Comics has been running India based storylines in their comics for quite some time now. One of these lines is Sadhu, which was reported to be good. Eagerly I read the entire eight issues that I could get my hands on and found the storyline to be lousy at best.


Which is not to say that the artwork is lousy. The artwork is simply awesome. It is just the storyline that falters.



The setting: The story is set in British India. A young British officer James Jenson comes to India with his wife Tess in search of a new life. However, Jenson is troubled by a haughty superior officer who takes offence when Jenson refuses to follow orders and tries to punish him by taking his wife by force and beating the hell out of Jenson. Jenson escapes into the forest where he meets a group of dakaits and a sadhu who is leading them. As he convalesces, Jenson discovers that he, in actuality is a sadhu, and rediscovers his supernatural powers.


All of this is okay and makes for an interesting setting in which to tell the tale. However, very soon we see that Jenson returns to England to take revenge upon his arch rival. And then the entire story keeps happening in England! If the story had to take place in England, why the hell did he have to come to India at all? What does the India connection imply? The entire question is conveniently ignored.


In the initial few issues, the difficulties that the natives were having in facing the modern British ‘weapons’ was mentioned. It looked as if the struggle of Indian independence would feature. But then it disappeared. Bang! Clear from memory. No mention at all.


So apart from a few brief interludes in which the author glorifies Indian gods and goddesses and sadhus, we don’t get to see India at all.



The dialog: the dialog is rather strange. The author has put in no effort to portray the setting with authenticity. Characters use dialog like ‘don’t mess with me’ which is entirely a modern (American?) phrase. The British circa 1850 did NOT use such language. The comic is full of such stuff.


The dresses seem to be very modern too. There is some effort to portray England of those times but it does not look very authentic. But I don’t know, my only reference is movies I have seen of that period which I hope put in a little more effort at authenticity than this comic book.


All in all, it is a very lousy work. Virgin Comics is merely trying to sell the Indian mystical stereotype which, fortunately or unfortunately, has already been sold millions of times. I wonder if it would appeal to anyone anymore. To add to the irony, they have some real great artists working for them. Such a waste of their talent!


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Imaginary Friend

A lot of people have imaginary friends when they are young. I had an imaginary girlfriend. She used to go to the same school as I and used to live upstairs. We used to have sex when no one was home and I used to worry myself sick if she’s get pregnant because we didn’t use a condom. I was too young to go and buy one at that time.

Later our parents figured what good couple we made and decided to marry us off. We were so happy. After that I kind of lost interest in that fantasy.

Don’t we all?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Honesty -- the Best Policy?

Of Comic Books and Super Heroes


Some people think that comic books are a miserable compromise between film and writing. When one reads a written text, the visual element goes missing. The readers have to imagine everything in their heads and the entire process lacks the clarity that the artist may have aspired for. When writers write, many of them do imagine the happenings within their story like a film strip. But there is absolutely no way to convey what they have imagined within the confines of the twenty six letters. However, the written word has its own magic. It corresponds directly to a fundamental mode of human thought. There are thoughts that can be written down but never filmed.


Film are a different ball game altogether. Although one does start from a written script, a film is imagined and developed visually right from the start. In fact, the story itself may be written keeping the visual effect in mind. With recent advances in CGI it has increasingly become clear that a new genre of film is emerging where the visual is much, much more important than the spoken/written word.


It is no surprise then that comic books are seen as a compromise between the two mediums. You have words and your have pictures. Comic books lack the striking verbosity of novels and also the gut wrenching action sequences of a modern science fiction movie. It has images – static and unchanging – which stimulate the reader’s imagination while he reads a narrative which is made rather insipid and fragmented due to the confines of the medium.


But this is a rather shallow picture of what comic books really are. Even from the beginning it was clear that comic books were a different medium in themselves.



And that is because it is comic books that gave us superheroes. Rest of it, we may have got from books or films. But not superheroes. Comics gave us superheroes and then they migrated to films and later television. The latest addition to these being the series ‘Heroes’ which premiered on NBC on September 25, 2006. Since then, twenty two episodes have been telecast and the show has already won several awards and acclaims. This show is rather unique in its blend of the television and comic books. Even if one does not like the storyline itself which isn’t really path breaking, it is the format alone that makes it stylistically very interesting.


There are some fundamental differences between how plot is constructed in a comic book and how it is constructed in a novel, a film or a television series.


Visual Continuity: Visual continuity has an entirely different meaning within the comic book. Within traditional film making, the action is supposed to be one continuous sequence. If you see, a hero kicking the villain in one frame, you must see the follow through of the villains head falling back, the blood spurting out and the villain collapsing onto the floor in the next. Not so in a comic book. The comic book delivers to you only the essence of the actions. In one short frame it will show you the heroes kick connecting with the villains jaw. None of the falling back, spurting blood or collapsing on the floor. Just the intense impression of the kick on the villains jaw. The frozen expression of agony on the bad man’s face. The drops of blood suspended in the air with sanguine brightness. And lo, in the next frame you may have the villain running out the door into the street with no evidence of any action in between.


Narrative Voice: In most comic book stories, the narrative voice plays a very important role. Dialogs are primary in a comic book. But the author is telling a story here. And a story has stuff other than dialogs. Opinions, authorial and characteristic; moods, descriptions and explanations. All this is delivered to the readers through the narrative voice. Typically these are the square bubbles in a comic book, the round ones being reserved for direct speech.


The narrative voice in a comic book is not limited to a single narrator. In fact, it is seldom so. There is, of course, a Universal Narrator. However, the characters themselves take on the role of the narrator from time to time. They have no inhibitions about broadcasting their innermost thoughts through the stolid square text boxes in the frame. The narrator may be the superhero in one frame or his teenage sidekick in another. There is no continuity to ne maintained. Within the confines of a single page one may get as many as three or four narratorial perspectives.


Fragmented Narrative: A comic book narrative is naturally fragmented. A comic book may come out once a month or once a week. Each issue features a small but self contained narrative. Sometimes the story may run over a two or three issues. Comic books may run for scores of years but the characters don’t age. It is as if they are suspended in an animated universe where time progresses only in a very local fashion. The clock ticks from one frame to the next but there is not significant time lost from one comic issue to another. Stories may be retold, familiar happenings can be given an altogether bizarre twist. Many versions of the same story may be told. Characters may be introduced in one issue and may reappear several issues or even years later. The comic book universe is one of chaos where order and sequence are strictly local.


So what effect do all these things have on the reader? The effect is to create an alternate reality which becomes believable by the sole virtue of being so chaotic. It is so chaotic that the reader’s mind finds it futile to find order within the narrative except from one frame to another which link together (quite physically) by associative logic rather than a causal one. That is to say, the happenings appear to be in a logical order merely because they appear side by side in two frames. Over the long run there may be no causal connection between the various happenings. In fact, each frame itself maybe regarded as a mini-narrative. Defined in its immediacy. Telling the reader something that the larger picture misses.



So how does ‘Heroes’ draw on to this rich and elusive comic book universe?


‘Heroes’ does it on various levels. It uses many techniques to create a fragmented narrative some of which are native to television while some have been borrowed freely from comic books. The most clever but the least imaginative of all is introducing too many characters.


In ‘Heroes’ we get to see seven or eight simultaneous storylines. Of course, parallel storylines are nothing new to television or film. However, seven or eight are just overwhelming. Let me count – 1) Claire, the cheerleader 2) Isaac Mendez, the painter 3) Hiro and Ando, the japs 4) Niki with her alter ego Jessica 5) Mohinder Suresh and his father Chandra Suresh 6) Claire’s father and the Haitian 7) Eden the hyponotist 8) Sylar 9) The Perterelli brothers – phew! There may be more. And more characters get introduced every now and then. There are just too many storylines in there. It is reported that they actually got six different writers to create six different storylines in isolation and then sat down and yoked them together. The show also buys into the American comic book tradition of encapsulating little stories into a larger arc. Each episode or two will tell you a small story but eventually the series is tending towards a larger story arc.



Comic books are central to the plot itself. The painter, Isaac Mendez, can see the future and paint it. Most of his artwork is done in the comic book style. His artwork gets published in the form of a comic book which Hiro Nakamura, a Japanese who can travel in time and space, retrieves from the future. The comic book depicts incidents from the future and Hiro and his friend Ando go on to enact the episodes printed in the comic. It is interesting to note here how this corresponds to reading an actual comic book. While reader an actual comic book the reader may occasionally flip to the middle of the comic or even to the end and by glancing at the visuals alone have some idea about what is going to happen next. And then as he reads the comic he finally experiences the actions in its full detail. This is the kind of effect that the series creates through its constant prediction of the future and the consequential enactment in detail. The viewer knows the gist of what is about to happen but does not know how it is going to happen.


The effect that is created is one of timelessness. One already knows what is about to happen. Therefore the narrative is static. One merely gets to know the details as one watches. Second, by focusing on how things are happening rather than what or how, causal logic is delegated to the background.


As part of the publicity material a ‘Heroes’ comic is also being distributed free on the internet. Each comic book is just six to nine pages long and is released every week. The entire exercise shows what deep impact comic books have on the design of this show.


Comic books are an entirely different way of storytelling. And if one leaves the Superman, Batman and Spiderman movies aside, which do not take much from comic books as a medium, ‘Heroes’ is perhaps the first experiment of its sort. It is a beautiful blend between the world of comics and television and a laudable effort at that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What is it that People have Against Stereotypes?

A day back, Swetank sent me a piece of his writing which, in my opinion, is the best piece that he has ever written. However, when I talked to him afterwards, he himself was not very happy with the way his writing had come out. He said that it was too stereotypical. He wanted it to be more subtle.

A writer not liking his writing in hindsight is hardly a surprising fact. It happens all the time. In fact, I may claim that it happens always. And he might really have wanted it not to be so stereotypical. But his comment made me think. What is it that people have against stereotypes?

I do not like the negative connotations that are linked with the word stereotype. So like all engineers true to their profession, I googled. (BTW, Blogspot composer does not recognize the word googled, neither does it recognize blogspot. And blogspot is owned by Google. How very intellectually honest of Google!)

Here is the definition that Wikipedia came up with: Stereotypes are ideas held about members of particular groups, based primarily on membership in that group. The article also goes on to explain that most stereotypes have a negative connotation. In fact, some people believe that all stereotypes are negative.

In real life, certainly stereotypes can pose a problem. However, within literature, stereotypes have a very important role to play.

1. A Common Language: Stereotypes provide us with a common language. It gives a writer immense freedom. If I'm writing a fantasy and I introduce a character that is old and wise and has a long flowing beard and knows magic, I have a stereotype of the old, wise wizard. Now this, to my understanding, isn't all that bad. I suddenly get a character who I don't really need to explain to my readers. There is a plethora of history attached to such characters (remember Gandalf or even Dumbledore?) and I can rely upon this history and leave a lot of things unsaid. This is a boon for any writer because then I can concentrate more on what the real essence of my story is. So unless I'm actually trying to attack the stereotype, it is quite okay to have them in my story.

2. The Mythical Element: Barthes in some of his essays argues that a myth is something that is repetitive and unchanging. Clearly myths have a very important impact on human psyche. Myths are part of our collective subconscious. Stereotypes are modern myths. Take for example one that Swetank uses in his short piece. (It doesn't quite qualify as a story and it is hardly a poem, though quite poetic. So I don't know what to call it.) He uses the stereotype of an Indian prostitute -- gaudy make up, raunchy behavior. This stereotype, I think, constitutes a modern myth. One that we have seen countless times in countless movies and countless stories. As a myth it has powerful story-telling potential.

I like stereotypes. I use them a lot in my stories. A lot of other people also like stereotypes. Frank Miller is one. He's used exaggerated stereotypes in Sin City and 300 and turned out beautifully graphic novels and movies. So maybe stereotypes aren't all that bad really.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Why Do We Write?

(C) Deviant

Why do writers write? This question has been asked number of times to numerous authors. Surprisingly, the answers are usually two. Writers either write for themselves or for their readers. What constitutes real writing is a matter of debate. There are those who would die before they admit that they write for anyone but themselves. There are those who believe that anything and everything is written to be read and the reader is supreme.

I cannot really comment why people in general write, I have very little experience with writers other than myself, but I would like to say a few things about why I write.


I certainly write to be read. But for me, my most important reader is myself. As I write, I also keep reading what I am writing. Part of my head is composing sentences and another part of it is constantly blabbering – oh yes, this is wonderful or come on, you can’t pass of that kind of crap as a story! This reader in me is the most important reader to me.

(C) Deviant

Which is not to say that other readers are not important. It is just that I don’t listen to them as often as I do to myself. But I do like to know what they think about my stories or other writings. I may not often agree with what they say, especially when it comes to matters of style. However, it really excites me to hear their mind. In fact, the most exciting part of the entire story writing process is not writing itself but sending it out to people and getting their responses!


Writing thus becomes a medium of expression and also that of self discovery. Often there is something that I wish to say and usually I find my stories the best way to say that thing. A little less often than that, a story would stem from the dilemmas and conflicts that I may be experiencing at that time. It is then that self discovery occurs. When I write, I try to be as honest as possible. And that honesty is not to my readers, although it may spill over, sometimes. The honestly is to myself -- the self of mine that is also the reader. And when one is honest in this manner, one discovers things about oneself that one had chosen to ignore.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

India Uncut

This is the map that Google Analytics shows as the borders of India. A picture says a thousand words.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

An Evening in Paris

For a change, this is not something that I wrote. One of my very good friends, Swetank, went to Paris a few days back. Here is something that he wrote about the city. Also, am real sorry for the cliched title. But after all, we all fall for stereotypes.



But I must tell you, Paris moves me. For one, though I thought I wouldn't fall for the stereotype that Paris is a lovers' paradise, I did. It is. I agree. Maybe it is because the others also think so, and there are so many of them from all nationalities over there that the atmosphere is such, but whatever the reason being, and after having been in 9 cities in the past 20 days, I can safely say it is. But more than that, it moves me. It is a feeling that I cannot describe. Paris moves me from deep within (a feeling that really dies down if you are in the company that I was in - am not going with those guys again), it stirs a desire, a slow, intoxicating, smiling, desire to live, to draw, to paint, to write, to walk, to feel with my eyes closed, the sounds, the wind, to go into a state of hibernation that is deliriously happy at the same time. A desire to live and to keep living. To kiss, to embrace, to watch the sky for hours at end, to lie down in the open and not move for days, to continue walking and never stop till I reach the end of the world. I really cannot express it, and I haven't felt it fully because I was trying to cover all the popular and some not so popular stops in two days, but I know that feeling I felt in some moments I had.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Frustoon!

Frustoon, the comic story of the common man amongst students. Frustoo -- a computer science undergrad with no grades to speak of, no girl and no life. Check out here.

How the World Changes

In the lab that we work in, we have a former lab assistant who is commonly known as Mishraji. Mishraji has already retired and yet, he comes to office each day and it is immensely difficult to imagine how the office would be run without him. And despite his age, he is amazingly fit and lively.

Another amazing thing about him is his sense of humor. You cannot but keep laughing at his quips and jokes as you work in the lab. Today Mishraji told us another of his stories of the time gone by.

During the sixties, IIT Kanpur had a professor named VJ Patel. Apart from being very intelligent, Dr Patel had an integrity of character that was appreciated by everyone. Mishraji narrated one such incident to us today.

One fine day the director of that time issued a circular stating that all daily wage workers have to come to the institute by the first bus and leave by the last. The intention was that professors and other staff should not be ‘inconvenienced’ by travelling with the daily wage workers. So, on the day that the circular is implemented, Dr Patel comes to his office at 8 (he had a class) and finds a daily wage worker sitting nearby. Surprised, he enquired as to why this guy was there at 8 even though his duty started at 9. The worker told him about the whole situation. He had actually come to campus at 7:30 and would not have reached home for another 14 hours. And of course, the institute was paying him only for 8 hours besides everything else.

Dr Patel was quite peeved at the entire affair. That afternoon, he took the bus to the city. Some workers who did not think the circular was serious came but the conductor did not let them board. The bus moved and reached the crossing at IIT gate. (For those who have seen IITK, this is not the current IIT gate but the old one). Dr Patel got up and forced the driver to stop the bus on the railway tracks. He got off and stood in front of the bus and said

“Soon the train will come and we’ll have two buses. Then one can be used by the daily wage workers and one by the professors.”

People realized that something was wrong. They prayed him to get back into the bus but Dr Patel said that if the bus moved without the workers it would have to move over his body. When he did not relent even after repeated requests, the bus had to go back pick the workers up and only then could it go to the city.

The next day, the circular was repealed by the Director.

It is amazing how in a campus where there was so much respect for the dignity of working class, a time has come when we cannot even ensure minimum wages for them. How the world changes!

As narrated by Mishraji.