Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Life is Musical

It's not as if Music is something new I've encountered, I have been listening to it since maybe 10 years- both English and Hindi. But one genre I refrained from actively pursuing was Rock- thanks to performances like Rock Nite, where the eardrums weren't comfortable but I headbanged nevertheless in the initial years, and stopped attending later. The bands chose the euphemism of 'Rock' for Heavy Metal. So it was not easily I got over the inertia, but now that I have, it feels as if a change has dawned in life- for the better. I had always listened to music, but was never addicted to it. Earlier journeys would have been facilitated with a novel, but now its headphones all the way. And the genre- Rock (not much Hard rock, still!)

The story of how I broke my inertia is memorable to me, and would like to keep it penned with me. When a dear neighbor with whom I wasn't on good talking terms played a song I took fancy to, I inferred it was by Beatles and began brute-force on Youtube, until I had taken a fancy to their music. And finally, when I came across 'Imagine' by John Lennon I was convinced for it being the song I was looking for, played it repeatedly and got mesmerized. It was only after I had listened to much more of Beatles' discography and many more songs from the Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500, that I came across the suggestion "Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel given by Multani Mam in one of the tutorials of Intro to Lit. And then came the realization, this was the song and not Imagine. The realization wasn't harsh, for the wrong inference had brought a divine collection to me. And came again the phase of being mesmerized and figuring why I had loved the song so much, and wanted to find it so desperately. Since then, the list of my favorite songs has been expanding encompassing more genres of rock, and Metal to the slightest (the likes of Metallica). Folk rock such as by the likes of Simon & Garfunkel stands atop, but harder versions of rock have also dumbfounded me. Essentially my mood now revolves around the music I am listening to, and my misconception of Rock as something unpleasant to the ears has entirely vanished. I can slowly understand from where the perception amongst the lovers of 70's music of disliking contemporary music surfaces.

I always used to say (what I have also heard later many others say)- "I don't follow music by bands, just random discrete songs". Now that sounds naive to me, as there is just so much these bands have got to offer. The best of them is Psychedelic Rock, where I doesn't need to resort to alcohol to get that high feeling of transitioning into another world. Moreover I know the sort of music I gotta listen to whenever I do consume alcohol next time. I have also tried to infuse the culture into those, who cringe at the name of Rock like I did, and this is a list of 10 songs (in no specific order) I like very much, and I feel some of them are likable in the very first try:

1. Baba O' Riley (The Who)- (do try the part from 3:33 to 5:07)

2. The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel)

3. Imagine (John Lennon), Stand by Me (John Lennon version)

4. The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles), I Want You, Across the Universe

5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Eric Clapton version / The Beatles)

6. Black (Pearl Jam), Alive

7. Paint It, Black (The Rolling Stones)

8. Coming Back to Life (Pink Floyd), Comfortably Numb

9. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)

10. Firth of Fifth (Genesis)


I have intentionally chosen not to mention immortal songs such as Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin), Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) and Nothing Else Matters (Metallica) in the list. Try these out, if you aren't a rock music fan already. Tell me if this could get you initiated into rock music, it isn't as hard as it's been made out by the metal performers. I would be glad to suggest more songs For others who like rock music, I am sure listening to them once again won't harm you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Nostalgia

Today I had a dream. The setting was of a long time back, sometime nearly 4 years ago. The dream wasn't one which would bring a grin, for I wasn't pacified but persevering in adverse conditions sitting in front of a pile of books, rejecting social life accepting the role of an outcast. It wasn't a pleasant dream, but somehow I didn't get entirely depressed as I could sense my projection in it had a dream itself. I tried harder to go a level deeper, and guess what I was successful. In the next level of dream, it was again me but this time surrounded by people and indeed with a grin on my face. People seemed to be congratulating me for some reason, for I had cleared some exam and was being admitted in an institution which they called was everyone's 'dream'. So I wanted to enquire if it was indeed a misleading dream, and successfully I delved another level deeper to enter new surroundings altogether.

I was uncomfortable, the setting was eerily familiar- I knew if I would wake, I would find myself in the same surroundings but I didn't dare wake up for the dream was too powerful. I was speaking to a new group of people- laughing with them, being laughed at, sharing some joyous moments, playing games and it seemed as if I had entered the idyllic world. But somehow the urge to delve deeper had entered me, and I couldn't let the dream stay where it was- such has become the habit of my life: I can't let it be, always am striving for more. So it was. The new scene was again depressing, as I was confronted by people writing stuff on blackboard and threatening us to study the same lest we (I and others from the previous dream were still together) would face grave consequences. Euphemisms were used constantly as the word "importance of learning" was repeated many times but somehow a voice continued to suggest another meaning, that I was mishearing earning as learning and this was the purpose of this scene. To get closer to this voice, I dreamt a little harder and guess what- I had went down another level.

This scene seemed terrible- the worst indeed. I wished I could get out of here as soon as possible, but failed to see how. Somehow the question on whether the voice meant earning or learning still persisted and moral conflicts had dragged me to rebellion where I had convinced myself it couldn't mean both- it was either. While I chose to believe the louder voice, which reemphasized learning by shutting down the inner voice the headache seemed to grow worse as I seemed to be losing on the other front, and indeed it was only one of the faces from the previous scenes who steered me past it into a more cheerful background, which would be my next level of dreaming indeed. The conflict persisted but I seemed to have chosen one firmly, was still with the same guy and more cheerful. The rebel hadn't died, he had just taken control over. There was a sense of purpose in it and I somehow sensed the smile and cheer was deceptive so allowed myself to go another level down. This scene was the most fickle- I never knew whether I was happy or sad. At one time, I could be rejoicing and frustrated, cursing and dejected the next moment. Deals were being struck in my background, I didn't seem to understand the meaning. Euphemisms were at work again- "reward for work" but as I had convinced myself earlier I chose to go with what was said loudly. Some 'posts' were at offer, I lost out. It pained- immensely and I didn't know who to go to. Belief in established systems and everything around crumbled, as helplessness soared. 'Dreams' were shattered, and it was inevitable proceeding to the next level.

Luckily my projection in this dream seemed alien enough to the precedents, moving around care-free working here, there and everywhere with almost new-found purpose in life. One would have described this as Shakespeare's '4th age'. But looking into this boy's dreams, certain scenes flashed reminiscent of previous scenes- the confusion, the dilemma, the heartbreak and the purpose to find answers to them. This me seemed entirely changed from the previous versions, but the core hadn't. An eerie observation which I kept repeating and I could affirm with my eyes was the gender bias in the scenes which kept flashing. Not a single figure from the fairer sex was visible, and my craving for the same could be felt- sometimes low and sometimes high to the point of desperation. However I walked the lonely road, with the fierceness looking for something until the dream took me somewhere completely different.

There was only expression which could describe the mood here- bliss. It seemed of remote resemblance to any of the backgrounds I had encountered in the previous dreams. The signs were written in a different language- neither English, nor Hindi but some European language and the whole culture seemed so welcoming and joyous that as the dream ended I was on the verge of tears, tried to hold on to it but realizing I have to let go as the dream proceeded, back into familiar territories. Some seemed hostile, some the same but I definitely had transformed. Perspectives had changed as well, and although the phase of 'deals' returned once again, and I seemed to be in the middle of things again with capricious emotions I didn't seem heartbroken till the end. Maybe I had become more sporting. And now the dreams focused on a different surroundings, with a limited number of people rather than changing faces as it had been till now- the ones who I had seen in those initial layers of dreams with whom I seemed to be relishing moments. There was an amicable environment of friendliness- lighter moments, little-less worries. I seemed to have hardened, maybe disillusioned as well. Dilemmas such as learning & earning which had haunted me either seemed to matter no more, or I had already transcended to the dark side accepting the answer as earning. That's what my dream told me as I kept on moving deeper into the brain of the protagonist. I seemed to be holding something in my hands with the words 'Grade Sheet' with numbers written on it- the ones in the latter part clearly seemed greater than the initial ones but with the overall numbers low. A bit of indifference had taken me over and being alongside the faces seemed to give comfort, making me less fragile. The surroundings kept changing to some markets, places like the one I lived in but the board at entrances read something else, all united with the word 'College' and 'Delhi University' (in most of them).

Some passions were born, some evaporated but I couldn't hold the dream for any longer as the surroundings changed again, in a cooler place where the breeze swept past my face all day, all night and for the first time I found myself 'what they called earning'. Some new faces were seen, times were joyful- as new scenes kept flashing constantly with me trying out various stuff from climbing high rocks to drinking weird stuff and acting strangely following it. There was a lot of laughter, and when it seemed eternal joy the dream silently shifted itself (as it had developed its habit by now without requiring any efforts from me or disturbing my sleep). The scenes I saw now were almost tickling my memory seeming matter of days before, as I sat stupidly and constantly in front of a machine- seeing the faces of those I was so familiar by now (even in this dream) in a virtual form and also of many more girls on the screen than I had seen in the previous layers. Most of the questions I had challenged myself with- the dilemmas- had inclined to the other side of my previous conclusions. I awaited the end of this dream almost to take me into a new land called "future" -which though in my sleep I could sense being a futile purpose- but the drive in the protagonist was too strong. And in the next few layers, as they transitioned smoothly I could see my attire changing wearing overcoats and speaking in distinct mannerisms to strange people, who somehow I seemed to almost pray to in those moments.

And then came a moment of unknown elation when someone out there offered me an "opportunity to earn", as the venues within my dream seemed to be changing with drinks flowing, me behaving strangely seemingly too happy until a moment when I started realizing the sun was about to rise, my dream was about to break. And I started to close my eyes tighter, and valuing those faces (barring some) around me since the beginning of my dreams. It wasn't always happy from here as well, as I encountered the scene of someone writing on the blackboard once again and it wasn't the dilemma which haunted me this time, but the mere prospect of going there again, appending numbers to the 'grade sheet' but the indifference encompassed me again, as the moments with the machine increased as well as those with others.

And this was the second time since the beginning of the dream when I wanted to keep holding to it, but this time it wasn't just moving onto the next layer but it kept growing hazy until the shock of it ending from the too many layers was felt. The dream had ended, I sat awake on my bed feeling uncomfortable it had ended and I was about to transition into that place in the dream called 'future' leaving aside all this, but was somewhere content to know I had it all bottled in the form of a dream- I had just dreamt some invaluable memories and when I would feel alone, closing my eyes could again taken me through this long and winding road.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I wish God Existed

I would be speaking as a witness to one side of a (an almost) legal issue. Being close to them, I
could be party to their views and disenchantment regarding the case. I couldn't listen to the other side first hand, but the mere fact that they were the prosecutors, I could imagine their feeling of being aghast and cribbing at the unfairness of it all while here speculations ran on the possibility of money extraction motives and no attachment to the cause as probable reasons. Despite attempting to provide my support (emotionally) to one side, a certain thought crossed my mind. Let me affirm before stating this I am not an Atheist as some perceive, neither am I a firm believer. Diplomatically speaking, you may classify me as an Agnostic but as a skeptic I pretty much don't believe God exists. Christopher Hitchens defines an Anti-theist as “direct opposition to any deity” or “opposed to belief in existence of God”. What I am definitely not is an Anti-theist. And thus the thought which crossed my mind was: I wished God did exist.

Now you maybe wondering on the nature of the digression from speaking about a legal case to
delving into the debates on theism. Does it have to do with seeking his help in this time of need
since God is Omnipotent. Well, no! Rather I looked forward to the existence of God due to the
classic example of “duality” I was witnessing as I wished it weren't there. Duality on light works,
on daily life I discovered it may not. My usage of the word here refers to the dual perspectives
offered about the same thing when seen from different person's eyes. This maybe primarily caused by lack of information on either side. Whatever the reason be, a customized perspective provides each side with the self-righteousness and the determination to fight till death despite being wrong at times. What's worse, this self-righteousness often becomes the foundation for vengeance and a non-ending vicious cycle until things go beyond reparations as each of them feels wronged reigniting the feeling of revenge. Of course to provide justice and determine which side is right, judiciary exists on the earth. But that is where I wished God had been the substitute. For this God must be omniscient (all-knowing) and won't suffer from the classic lack-of-information which in the real world is the cause for the wronged self-righteousness and to make up for which produced evidences are required in front of the judges. Being heavily dependent on the same, it suffers from a huge setback leading to the fair side being wronged at many times- an undesirable situation definitely.

Thus God, without needing any produced evidence would be able to pass judgment letting justice
prevail ending the concept of duality and multiple perspectives to the same issue. After all isn't it
desirable for a single incident to be seen in the same way by all (including both sides)? Thus, in the world of subjective opinions I wish for an objective- but an objective not defined by another man but an actual God, as envisaged by the Churches of faith around the world. Just like light- which reveals its either facet depending on the situation- the analogy with mankind is similar where only the side which one wishes to see is perceived. But as said earlier although the duality of light as a wave and particle has opened various branches of research with many implications, it would be useful for this duality to vanish from daily life such that each observer perceives a given event in the same way, analyzing the righteousness in a uniform way. I know there are some huge fallacies in this demand and a Godless world may flourish more (with its arts as a result of the subjective opinions brought forth), I get this feeling often that many situations would be better off were there no subjectivity and objectivity prevailed.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sports Quiz, not Quiz


13th January 2012: Metro travel with Umang Srivastav

A ride to remember!

(Click on the image to magnify, and get a clear resolution)

Friday, January 6, 2012

God Delusion, Mount Abu and Atheism

For a welcome change, I celebrated New Year's Eve at Mount Abu and Udaipur and I would write on it elsewhere. Here in brief, I would pen down an interesting phenomenon which happened to me during the journey relating to atheism.

Despite being the capital of 2 states,

Chandigarh's connectivity with the rest of India mainly depends on Ambala Cantt and Delhi, and the case here was no different as on 30th December, I was supposed to catch the train from Delhi at 7:55 pm for which train from Chandigarh was scheduled to arrive at 4:30. A big gap it seems, but I had to dump the bulk of my luggage in my campus (to-fro journey needs at least 1 hour 30 mins), leaving me with lesser time. To pass my time in the train, I begun the novel- God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, a work of non-fiction rationally and probabilistically analyzing God's existence. I was liking the read. However at Ambala, the train kept waiting for a long time- 30 mins, 1 hour but I started fretting when ever after an hour-and-a-half it didn't show signs of movement. After all, I couldn't afford much delay. Instinctively I kept down the book after an hour due to anxiety. However the train resumed services after 1 hour, 45 minutes of stoppage at Ambala. When I thought of resuming the book, I somehow decided against it. Was it the anxiety leading to half-concentration which influenced the decision? Alas, no!

I didn't read it since whether the train reached in time wasn't in my hands, and I had no power over it letting God be the decisive player (despite knowing the power lay with train driver, signal-controllers: humans, not God). Believing that while reading a piece on Atheism, my prayers would be futile I chose to keep it down. And thus despite Dawkins' beliefs on his book making even religious people into atheists his claim in that moment was far from true, as despite my affinity towards rationality I succumbed to being God-fearing and superstitions. In the past, I have been a very firm believer. Strangely despite lack in firm belief now, somewhere the tendency to believe does lurk.

PS. On my return journey which seemed to be sailing smoothly, I finished 90-odd pages without disruption.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Grades 7.0

Academics undoubtedly forms an important part of my life at college, and at least deserves a post at the end of every semester. Posts in the first half of my curriculum (Semester 1-5) had an intonation of frustration, signaling indignation with the system arising from a combination of inability to score as well as not getting to terms with lack of respect for ‘genuine learning’. Two semesters later, inability to score is a thing of the past but sadly so is the quest for such learning. It took me 7 semesters to become a 7-pointer! Underperformance in the initial stages looms over the rest of the stay persistently, and it has taken high-level scoring to undo the stigma of being a 6-pointer. Here is how my report card looks like:

Semester

CGPA

SGPA

5th

6.64

7.00

6th

6.875

8.20

7th

7.177

8.91

So I felt the need to pen-down the reason which I feel is behind the unexpected soaring of grades within a short period. Generally such a boost is noted for me in the case of hurt pride- on occasions when I am unable to perform in accordance with the arrogant attitude I am somehow used to carrying. Such a thing did happen for me here as well, when I had decided following the 4th semester to focus myself more on studies rather than the stuff I was used to doing in the previous 2 years. Result- I failed and another post full of indignation. Disillusionment followed and I vowed not to be inclined towards academics the next semester, and tour Delhi more often- be more active in Quizzing, visit more colleges after the realization that half my college life was still remaining- and either I could end it cursing like the first half (waiting for it to end), or make it memorable for myself- to be able to enjoy it thoroughly.

To be able to enjoy the semester, I dropped some courses which were sure to make life more difficult- despite them being core(compulsory courses) postponing them for another day. I didn’t opt exclusively for more Atmospheric Science courses or some Rural Development ones- in order to fetch higher grades, but the general ones I do- Graph Theory under Tripathi Sir (but I’d developed the sense to audit it), core courses like Software Engineering, DBMS, DIP—tough enough, but somehow we had a lot less minors to write and I was lot less concerned. With my lenient attitude, distaste for learning (it would be unfair to refute the role of sycophantic attitude with certain teachers) I somehow managed to score a decent 8.2- without tension in my head, I was able to write the exams, study in the last few days much more casually. Thus I would cite lack of tension as the main reason, alongside newly developed sense of understanding what sort of questions to expect rather than why the phenomenon were happening the way they were.

The 7th semester was just riding the wave of my previous semester’s good performance- with a new confidence, knowing that 8 SG was a possibility and carrying the same lenient ways- touring Delhi. Again the choice of courses turned out to be excellent, with regard to the number of minor exams to write but the courses weren’t tactfully chosen- but a rare incident of my lack being favorable. I had just happened to fill the courses most suitable for me (other than Cryptography-compulsion of DE and being rejected for a Humanities course in the same slot), the ones which I actually found interesting- Algorithmic Game Theory, Economics & Literature courses. True- they were easy courses, and were instrumental in lifting my grades.

Attendance was as bad as always in Maths courses- but still I managed 8s, lots of credit to question-oriented studies, while it was almost full in Algorithmic Game Theory(1 absent), European Renaissance (3 absents), Planning and Economic Development (3-4 absents)- each of these courses without any attendance requirements. No classes after 1 anyday helped in keeping the mood positive. As a result of the increased confidence (from the previous semester), I had developed the knack to score a minimum 8 in each course. The grades finally turned better than my most optimistic calculations- completely contrary to worse than worst calculations earlier. Three perfect 10s amounted to a SG of 8.91, and exiting the club of 6-pointers. Overall it has been the lack of hectic minors (6 in a semester), provision to lead a more relaxed life with less tension which I believe was instrumental in yielding some good grades.

PS. My heart still lies with the 6-pointers, and would react to shit like "even the 6-pointers got this".

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

News is Objective?

For long, I believed that since newspapers deliver news and not opinions, they are bound to be objective. Indeed this pervasive view- due to which many consider it a worthier source than biased opinion Editorials- gives them immense power in shaping masses thought processes. Media is more powerful than Government for it can report an allegation on the ruling party one day turning the tide against them, while next day scandalize the Opposition swaying it back in favor for the former. Alas, support for oneself is garnered more easily by ridiculing the opponent due to which choices are mostly an aversion towards one than an aversion for the other. But how is it possible for media to report for-or-against an issue using facts? After all, the subject must have committed the act to be reported. And how can facts be biased? Till a debate with Andri (fellow intern at ABB, on one of my long detours from work) where he pointed out on the possibility of media-bias (on an Indo- Pak debate where I ridiculed Pakistan based on local-media sources). Andri's allegation compelled me to observe the possibility, and finally after observing for long, I think I can explain few ways in which the bias successfully works.

So much happens in the world each day, such a huge spectrum of possible news, so many news-makers. If Aishwarya Bachhan's newborn can make headlines in the major publications (not just supplements), no wonder there is no dearth of news-makers. Even me writing this article can be news tomorrow (if I had the stature, or an influential person was writing rather than me). Thus there is a lot to choose from for the publishers.

An important point to be noted is everything has its pros-and-cons. Assume the publishing house be biased towards one of the views. All it needs to do is publish 'facts' on that side, ignoring those on the other side. For instance, reporting only on the pros of Indian growth story while not reporting (remember, not opining-even reporting) of a tragic story caused by it (similarly, reporting the cons of an issue while leaving the pros, before you allege to be pro-sad news). A common example (the subject of my debate with Andri) is news on Pakistan. Almost every news emanating from the nation is negative in our newspapers- bomb blasts, corporal punishments, SMS bans, Hindu-persecution. Not that these are false (though they can be at times) but consider India. If one wants to portray it as a God-obsessed Hindu-fanatic country in deep disarray, worse than Pakistan one can. Just go to a village where cows are worshipped, necromancy practised, girl-child killed, alcohol consumers punished and other ridiculous petty stuff, which we city-dwellers are aloof from. Reporting incidents from this village can make India seem disastrous if the article simply quotes 'in a village in India'. Moreover, there are these protest movements, corruption scandals- painting a sad scene for India. Experts can portray India as a stone-age country (maybe Pakistani media does that). Thus without deviation from facts, but simply applying the filter of 'facts' wisely the media can be successful towards reflecting its side of the view. Another example is China. A news was published where a businessman said "My only wish is to escape China". Out of the billion people, the view of an ordinary businessman (shaped as news) made the columns- wonder why? Similarly, there are stories about Putin being jeered at, portrayal as a dictator while lots of positive things keep happening in his life, celebrated by people in Russia.

Another powerful tool is Headlines. The recent viral pic on Facebook denoting different headings for the same news in The Hindu and TOI. The content can be seen both in the adjoining pic, as well as the link. Clearly the first thing a reader sees is the heading in bold. Some may ignore to read the details and thus only the view from the headline remains while for some it creates a confirmation bias while reading the article in alignment with the headline.

Another tool, not very visible is the use of adjectives. The brave, valiant Ratan Tata. The corrupt minister. Confused Kambli. These minor insertions set the tone and help in aligning the view with the writer without being explicitly opinionated. At times, advertisements are printed as news, with adjectives as per the advertise. Huge-scale event, successful results. Such was the case at one point when a 'news' article reported a particular coaching class delivering excellent results for JEE selection. If media can print such blatant advertisements as passive facts, can't they do the same with other news, with appropriate adjectives, expertise in journalism.

A question maybe raised on the assumption "assume the publishing house be biased towards one of the views" made earlier in the article. However with the power media has on the masses' opinions, the parties involved in the news very well know the effects a certain news would have. Moreover these people have a lot of clout as well as monetary backing to be supporting a publication thus ensuring their filter runs by filtering away their cons, while championing their pros.

The trigger behind this article is the news circulated by TOI today on "Anna Hazare tying alcoholics to a pole and beating them up". The timing of the article can be questioned, as this has been known to many since long and been said long ago by Anna, but it has been posted just before the start of the Winter Session of the Parliament, where the Lokpal issue is to be raised. Thus news we get is not objective, but biased. Possibly every publication has a view, and filters news according to it. To get the true side of stories (as true as common-men can get to the truth) maybe a resort can be increasing the sources of reading, before being opinionated on any issue.

PS. None of the examples used should be mistaken for my opinion on the topic.
On Pakistan issue, I am still embittered about the nation (reasons for which I may write some other day), and before rubbishing me as a Communist due to China, Putin etc. I would like to clarify I am left-leaning, don't support CPI(M), but have used these examples as they exemplify contemporary media's tone. Neither do these reflect any of views on Anna Hazare (although I do ridicule Aishwarya Rai's child making headlines).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Messing the Unmessed (HD)

Yet another incident in my life- true to the blog title- surprisingly this time, I was demoted to the position of a silent spectator (call accomplice at worst, if you may) as apparently experts- to whom I had referred- efficiently messed situations from apparently unmessed ones.

  • ~15 August: As I switch on my laptop, the unusual tragedy which follows compels me to refer to the local expert- Kshitij Tulsyan(remember that name, he has a bigger role to play later). The laptop didn't switch on, despite many tries convincing even Tulsyan the problem was beyond his skills, pushing me towards unreliable stores of Nehru Place for a cure. After 4 days of touring and Rs. 1500 in expenditure, I got back a running laptop, with all but one thing working- Windows. It had been corrupted, and in the classic Nehru Place style they offered a 1-month warranty excluding software errors in the claim (including Windows crashes in the exclusions).
  • #Problem: Though I am not much of a coder and Windows suits me more, I found life with Ubuntu workable. This was until at home, I realized the data card which worked only in Windows, demanded a life of internet-continence for my duration at home. Installing Virtual Machine didn't resolve the problem either. Moreover, MATLAB wasn't working, oDC was back- it was time to get Windows alongside Ubuntu once again.
  • 3rd November, 2011: I pleaded Kshitij Tulsyan to install Windows for me, and without a CD (desperate to have it installed finally) I suggest to use Onboard NIC service (provided by Computer Service Center (CSC) at IIT-Delhi for installing Windows 7), requiring laptop to be connected to LAN cord. As the process is on, and the active installation screen shows an affirmative tick ahead of "Copying Files" and a ticking meter for "Installing", Tulsyan feels the urgency of LAN cord elsewhere and pulls it out ("But I thought the image had already been copied"). Doom follows. Following this act, the laptop can run neither Ubuntu, nor Windows but the enormity is realized only after a bootable Ubuntu disk is inserted to at least have the Ubuntu working again. Alas, all the data has been lost- the Hard Disk rather than having the 3 partitions of Windows, Ubuntu and Other Data now has 1 partition, of all 500 GB, with no data. Of course, I didn't have backup for most of it. Still, believing in Tulsyan's ability of miracles (after all, he is considered the God) I prayed until he gave up and convinced of the sarcastic undertone in the use of 'God' against his name, having done the impossible, messed the unmessed Ubuntu, Hard Disk.
  • 4th November 2011: Back to the nemesis, Nehru Place. Enter a shop with poster of Data Recovery, haggle over the price settling for Rs. 1200. After 5 hours of waiting (and vendor's optimism about his capability during these hours), and me praying to God (the one of Churches, temples) after a long time finally my new God- Murphy- triumphs yet again, as the vendor replies in negative.
  • 5th November 2011: A confident vendor keeps the Hard Disk for 2 days, giving me a few hopes and a few more lessons.
  • 6th November 2011: Running the laptop with a bootable Ubuntu disk and without a hard disk, I am writing this blog article.
Lessons:
  • As non-IIT students maybe thinking, being an IIT student why do I have to run to others to get system faults fixed. I'm sure the IITians understand. Just to clarify, the knowledge from these years hasn't really developed any practical skills. Now I am eager to learn doing this myself, so that the degree is good for something, other than brand name and pomp.
  • Keep backup for all important data outside the laptop (preferably in Gmail). Moreover, maintain a file stating the data you have.
  • Messing the Unmessed is an axiom in my life.
  • Agnosticism, leaning to atheism, doesn't have good payoffs. But then, I may just be attributing the losses to this faultily.
  • One of the Gods I believe in has successfully defeated the other- Tulsyan lost to the wrath of Murphy, and now I believe in the only omnipotent Murphy.

Friday, September 30, 2011

GRE

A simple title, a simple post- based on an event, which created lots of hassles in my life- an examination known as the GRE. I had previously once enumerated how it caused me much undesired pain, and since it became an important chapter in my life it was inevitable another post be written for it.

#Lastcompetitivexam- This is effectively the last competitive exam I write, for which I prepare. I have never quoted "Kucch nahin padha tha" and giggled -as if that was so cool- till date (showing I confess to studying when I do- and I do mostly), but from now on, any competitive exam I give (if I do) I vow to myself not to study really. Preparations are hell tiring, they demand so much compromise on the part of jolly living and may not yield correspondingly satisfactory results.

#Monotheism- Once a devout follower, this seems troublesome as my beliefs have now changed and the only God is not Hanuman or Christ or the concept of a divine force- rather 'he' goes by the name of Murphy, and I've realized my life's task is to defeat this God in whom I have started believing.

#Kinship- Unfortunately however much I try to dissociate myself from this God, he looms over my life. As Tulsyan (Murphy's competitor for being The God, and making me a Ditheist) once stated "Murphy kept you in mind while framing his laws" and also "Murphy tera rishtedaar hai pakka", I can't help but believe in the kinship theory maybe in past births. This is not mere indignation, but a continual habit of satisfying the worst-case analyses.

#Actualexam- I scored 750-800 in Quantitative Analysis -which I would like to believe to be 800- while in Verbal I scored 500-600 where I won't be optimistic by a simple application of Murphy's Law. Thus a score of 1300- 1400, which is not considered bad but considering the preparation and the belief (of others) about my familiarity with English, it is a major letdown.

#AnalyticalWriting- Still waiting for the results for it, takes around 2 weeks. This was somewhat my area, discussing a topic of general interest and debating on it. Having been blogging for so long, writing here and there this isn't surely a skill I need to 'develop' now and I look forward to a good score. The topic was "Colleges should convince students to choose their areas of interest rather than ones which fetch good jobs" (there was a better word for convince, which I am forgetting). Time was restricted- 30 minutes thus limiting my flow of ideas, but nevertheless I spoke freely of the surge of individuality in the Modernist period, its need etc etc as well as citing good jobs mean market demand, logically implying social need thus motivating students to pursue lines with good jobs ensure lucre for the student as well as fulfilling the needs of the society. (The evaluators don't want the writer to seem bigoted, and want them to analyze both sides of the coin).

#Grumbling- What a hopeless examination! Why do examiners care about my knowledge- even worse, vocabulary- of English when words where I get stuck can be Googled and my area of future studies would almost surely be technical. Moreover, the new format sucks- with the multiple blanks for the same question, and no partial marking and a looming ambiguity in so many questions where more than one answer could've been feasible on certain instances but were not. A paper in English should not be Objective!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Great Indian Novel

This year although I have read many Classics and critically acclaimed novels, most of which I liked, I felt it apt to write a review for the one which doesn't sit atop any lists, is by an Indian author (turned politician) but nevertheless amazed me the most. I am talking of the Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor- the controversial tweeter while he was State Minister for MoEA and assured his exit by trying to please his third wife.

As the name itself translates to Mahabharata in Hindi,it is a story of Indian Independence Struggle and post-Independence India till times of Indira Gandhi as a satire with the characters and plot from Mahabharata- the Great Indian epic. Like most other Indians, I haven't read the Mahabharata and knew the story in bits and pieces like the names of the major characters, the game of dice, undressing of Draupadi and the eventual defeat of Kauravas by the Pandavas apart from some bits and pieces of the plot from here and there, like the way Bhisma or Drona was killed. About the Independence Struggle, I have read a lot- while in school- but since cramming the answers fetched more marks than appreciating the content, I had did the same and didn't know much about it in as well.

However, since the novel carefully combines the two and takes liberties to twist one of them by small amounts at times, for me it served as an awesome knowledgable experience as well. The book urged me to read more about the Mahabharata from the source of all knowledge nowadays- Wikipedia, thus providing me the opportunity to know the tale of the great epic and marvel about its brilliance.

The style of writing- it needs a special mention. Its a first person narrative (by Ved Vyas), the story moves with rapid speed and often comes up with pieces of poetry by one of the speakers, which is amusing. It is much more humorous than any of the spicy Chetan Bhagat novels, and features a great plot which is a hybrid of the Mahabharata and the Independence movement, although more often it deviates from the former to do justice to the latter. Another marvellous fact is the updating of the epic, and removing all elements of divinity from Mahabharata to make it more believable. Like Pandu being cursed by a conjugal pair who he killed to die when he commits sexual act himself next time. Here Pandu (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose) is diagnosed by the doctor with heart problems, making him unfit for sexual intercourse anymore. Moreover, the way in which Pandu of the book dies is similar to real character and the analogy- he dies while having sex with Madri in the plane from Japan. Or the way Karna dies (I won't mention here his analogue) ! He gets a heart-attack while lifting a car's wheel which was stuck in mud, which refuses to come out (His chariot wheel gets stuck to the ground on the 17th day, following which Arjuna kills him in the Mahabharata). Such is the brilliance of Tharoor's imagination.

Tharoor makes no business of preaching anything, but still ensures it is much more than a historical account as Ved Vyas often takes liberty from the narration to speak to Ganpathi (the South-Indian who is noting down the whole account, similar to Ganesha in the real Mahabharata) and provides strong views about the story - making it very engrossing. Ved Vyas has all the elements of a great narrator- omniscient ('I have my sources, I have told you Ganpathi'), important character himself (but not too important) and moreover with signs of being flawed at times.

His choice of characters for analogies can be a little debatable, owing to some people's sentiments or some inconsistencies to one of the two subplots, but I feel no other matching could have done it a better justice. Some of the matchings are indeed unclear, especially the ones post-independence as I am sure many like me wouldn't have heard the names of the real-life analogues at all. In such cases, refer to the Wikipedia page but do take care not to see anymore than you want. Even the names of chapters are parodies versions of famous books mainly by British authors.

And the ending- he does justice to Ved Vyas's line 'there is no ending' but the way he does justice to it in the extreme last page is astonishing. A blatant violation of Mahabharata's plot and the constant rhetoric of Dharma in this page is amazing, and alters the foundations of the novel. This is a must read novel for every Indian, to get more perspectives on the greatest epic, recent Indian history in a humorous, satirical way.

Friday, August 26, 2011

How will Lokpal help exactly?

This article won't do 2 things:-
  1. Criticize the Government for a 'Jokepal', mishandling the fast issue and how corrupt it is since I haven't collected the data and don't believe every word media feeds into my mind.

  2. Criticize Anna Hazare for undemocratic ways, 'My way or Highway' attitude and other allegations put on him by Arundhati Roy.

What drives me here is curiosity. I know Anna wants to end corruption, and anti-corruption combatants are supposed to support his Lokpal Bill. I am just interested to know how would this end (or reduce) corruption? I am mainly infuriated at the media (especially spicy papers like TOI) who haven't laid emphasis on explaining its readers the clauses of Lokpal and rather emphasized on gathering support for the movement, portraying the government as an absolute villain. The question asked is: 'Are you against corruption?'. (see pic) The number of people who affirm the question somehow end up as the number of people supporting Jan Lokpal.

Currently we have some weak investigative bodies to combat cases regarding corruption, unable to deliver appropriate punishments to the corrupt. And we somehow believe this new body (Lokpal) would be able to tackle these cases once it is given the appropriate power. Since we feel so tired currently with so much corruption in our country, one can imagine the enormous number of cases the Lokpal would have to face. Of course, the 11 members at the top won't be handling each of these cases and would outsource them to what they currently call 'Lokyuktas'. The workload as stated would be enormous! It is natural for many of the workers to feel underpaid compared to the workload. So ultimately doesn't this become same as the current system? The people at the top maybe unimpeachable, but can we expect the whole hierarchy to be so honest? In a country where corruption is so widespread (within each of us as many may have told you already), it is tough to believe all of the honest ones would land up as Lokpal workers. Thus I have pointed out just the problem of corruption within the Lokpal. Of course, I know there are clauses against corruption by the Lokpal members.

The cases of corruption against Lokpal members would be investigated by members of another indepedent commitee. And what if members of this 3rd body are corrupt? Refer it to the 4th body, ad infintum. Passing between different bodies, wouldn't this be similar to the current situation, where a file is passed to so many officers with bribes at each stage, and thus the case being in limbo. After all, the Lokpal is a powerful body now and in a power to influence the decisions of the 3rd body, just like Government cynics argue the 'very powerful' members of the Government can influence decisions currently.

Isn't the assumption that the current set of people at the top are the most rotten, and Lokpal is providing us with alternatives with more integrity the foundation for the support amongst the common man. I personally don't believe currently the Cabinet Ministers are the most corrupt. It's just that the system is too flawed, so that they are unable to cope with the failings at the lower level. Similarly for the Lokpal- the members at the top maybe clean, but that guarantees nothing about the rest. What if members of the Lokpal tomorrow dream of contesting the next elections? Then with the power bestowed on the Lokpal, it would be another form of Opposition Party- intent on taking down the current Government, without the pains of having to debate each of its views publicly like the current Opposition.

However the biggest of all problems is this. If as a corrupt citizen who skips the red light and bribes Rs. 50 to the policeman, I can get away or I can get some other favor by paying off some government official, why would I bother to file a case against the official? In many cases nowadays, the offer is first made from the bribe-payer rather than bribe-seeker demanding it. If the offer is not made, legal action, such as fine or jail, is taken (because the rule was indeed broken and action is what a corruption-free society demands!). Thus most bribery cases would go unreported. If somehow I can pay the bribe and later file a complaint against the official for acceptint it, there is some serious flaw in the bill.

Personally, my opinion is in the favor of the bill being passed but I won't take to the streets to support the bill (I may go there for tourism though!) as I am not at all an ardent supporter of the bill. I just believe it is a step in combating corruption and a signal to the Government (as supporters say) they have to behave responsibly to survive. the power of regulations than incentives in many fields, and the regulations imposed by this Bill would be one of them, but am skeptic about the ability of the bill to resolve many corruption-related issues and seek answers on how the bill can combat corruption, considering the rooted-corruption in the country.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Paradox of Communication

The article refers to the increased communication possibilities in modern times, with the advent of social networking sites like Facebook. Moreover, I am not going to speak on the issue of security as usually cited as the main criticism of this field.

One recess in my 8th class, I was discussing with a friend what it would feel like if many years down the line after separating we were to meet one day. We envisaged remembering the past days, and laughing at them while updating each other with the life spent in these years.

However 2 years later, we had gone our separate ways in different schools- devoted to our entrance examinations and made new social circles. Meanwhile, the boom of social networks was also being felt as it became easier for people to stay in touch. Few years later, we actually met after a long time but guess what- nothing was as we had thought earlier. First thing said was “You have stopped remembering me (bhai aap to bhul hi gaye humein)”, but the response was reciprocated since the lack of communication had been mutual. Then the realization that communication had become so easier, and it wasn’t the lack of means which served as a hindrance to ‘stay in touch’. Thus rather than a casual atmosphere, to begin with there was an uncomfortable atmosphere. The conversation didn’t last long somehow, both parties weighed down by the guilt of not having utilized the easy communication modes to retain the cordial friendship we had then.

Simply putting, I feel it is the natural way of life to dynamically keep changing our social circles with respect to current environment. It is very comforting if in these scenarios a friend from older times meets after a long time, and we share memories and all that. But with the increased communication although thousands of opportunities open up to stay connected, the opportunity to meet after a long time, get updated and share memories without guilt of not having interacted perishes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

24

Dedications:

Thanks to Utkarsh Malhotra for suggesting the title, and how it could be an episode with appropriate mixture of spices.

Kshitij Tulsyan always says “While stating his laws, Murphy kept Bhatta in his mind”. Well yet again the God was right.

Thanks to Nikhil Gupta for being a constant support to the extent that I didn’t even read the format and rules and believed what he said. It paid off badly in the end, as although he didn’t say anything wrong, but just missed telling something crucial.

Scene 1:

17th June 2011, ~ 11 am

About to print my admit card, I take a deeper look at the regulations stated in the familiar and ignorable format of T&C. However digging deeper to my surprise were exceptions laden with shocks, such as stating the following exception-

‘For students in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria and Pakistan the only valid form of Photo ID is a passport. There are no exceptions to this rule.’

Surely being a part of this elite 4 list wouldn’t raise the head of any Indian. Anyhow I made an urgent call home to courier my passport immediately via airmail as it lay at home. Unsure whether it would reach within stipulated period, I could breathe only an iota of relief 4-5 hours later after receiving my father’s call confirming delivery of the courier.

Scene 2:

22nd September 2010, ~ 5-6 pm (ironically exactly 9 months prior to GRE)

At the Delhi Cantt Station, I alongside my bag got drenched entirely in rain as not a single item within the bag was spared. However the shock dawned on finding the passport entirely faded from the original color belonged to the list. Thus I beheld the very passport, which had been my key to the outside world being annuled by the Regional Passport Office, Delhi to make way for a new one till 24th January after standing in queues for a long time and harassed endlessly. Paying a fees of Rs 2500 rather than the standard 1000 (Rs 1500 as punishment for damaging, to rub salt on my wounds) I expected Tatkal-speed services as they informed me about lack of tatkal service in this case. To console, they handed a slip (receipt) for the same, rather than some temporary usable document. Without an automatic visit by the police and obliged to call him myself by the guard’s information a month and a half later,the matter of police report clearance settled with a bribe (amount not to be declared publicly). Since then, 3 months have passed and online track reads as it did 2 months ago:

“Police Report is Clear. Application is under Process.”

Scene 3:

17th June, 10 pm

The contents of the courier were the damaged (cancelled) passport, renewal receipt alongside a print-out of application status by me, which I considered an apt replacement for a currently valid passport. Despite that, the briefness of the authorities in stating the rule compelled me to call GRE office in US- early morning according to NY Standard Time. An air of confusion and sympathy was pervasive in the ISD call, as when the receiver began informing me about their senior’s decision regarding the issue, my balance (Rs 148 to begin with) had vaporized late into the night with shops being closed and no major notes in my wallet. With only ATM card in the pocket, I ran, withdrew Rs 800, got my SIM recharged to be relieved- only to be reminded few hours later about having forgotten my card in the machine itself adding to my woes.

After speaking to another receiver at the GRE office and explaining the situation all over again, with confirming my details on the other side (ISD), the reply was adamant stating “I understand your situation, but rules are rules. You can go to the centre, but we would recommend you not to since you’d lose all your moneyif not allowed ($ 190)” rather publicizing their introductory offer of 50% fees with full refund to take in the new format. To worsen situation, the rules required decision 3 days before the test- meaning the next day which was a Saturday (closed office) with the regional office already closed due to the lateness of the hour and with no defined online procedure for the same. Consulting my parents for the same, who asked me to take the risk to avoid future regrets, I once again noticed despite my age I could still break down at times and weep on till I was loudly crying and the only in front of them. Consulting Prometric office later into the night for some online makeshift and being rewarded with helter-skelter procedure, I postponed the decision till the next day.

Scene 4:

18th June 2010, 10 am

Thankfully GRE center in Bangalore was open on a Saturday morning and they entertained my call but rebuffed the documetns as inappropriate but when I called again with serious tone asking to arrive personally at the office, he explained how he must abide to American instructions. Thus a caprice of 80-20(%) of being allowed inside now stood at 100-0 and postponement was the only sensible thing. Through the long and unreliable suggested online method, I availed the date of 29th September for the new format- the very thing I’d set to avoid and thus avidly learned the word list. Meanwhile I blocked my ATM card which could be unlocked only at IIT-Delhi branch. These 24 hours easily summarized one of the worst in my life.

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