Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Atrocious Administration

I just had an encounter with that monster of a body called the administrative section !! It is so hard to wade through all the muck that fills up their offices, its a miracle any body survives such encounters and lives to tell the tale. It reminded me of a previous encounter I had with their counterparts in my college. Here are images that come flooding back:

Setting: The accounts/administrative sections of my college. Strangely both were located in a big basement area - it was in every sense the underworld !

My reason for being there: I had gone to collect a certificate and a check I was supposed to receive - it was actually for a scholarship I got. The amount was a paltry sum of Rs 180/-, but I wanted the certificate. So I braced myself and descended into the netherworld.

Clerk 1: Who are you? Why are you here? He almost made me feel like a impudent brat !
Me: Sir (anybody and everybody is Sir !) I wanted to collect a certificate ...
Clerk 1: What certificate? Go see Clerk 2 - don't waste my time.

Clerk 2: Certificate - scholarship - then he gave me a look as if I had materialized before his eyes miraculously and uttered words in an alien tongue. Which year, what branch - how did you get a scholarship ?
Me: Third year - I ... well you can check my mark sheets - I topped my year.
Clerk 2: I can't believe all you say - go get yourself verified by the head clerk, and then come back.
Me: Get myself verified? Can't you just check my I-card or something?
Clerk 2: I didnt make your I-card - I cant believe just about anybody, can I?

Defeated by his precise logic, I proceeded to the Head Clerk-
Head Clerk: Yes?
Me: Mam - I need to be verified - to get my scholarship.
Head Clerk: I can verify who you are but I cannot authorize the release of the scholarship.
Me: duh ?
Head Clerk: Only the OSD can do that ?
Me: the OSD ? another Ostentsible Stuffy Demon?
Head Clerk: (Ignoring my incoherent rants ...) The Officer on Special Duty will come at 6pm after finishing his classes.

I waited till 6pm that day and got lucky with the OSD - he signed my scholarship release form.

Next day -
Me: Sir, I have been verified - Can I get my scholarship ?
Clerk 2: (Looks at me thinking The Mummy Returns) - Let me search for the certificate.

After searching for an hour or so, a certificate emerges from the greatest depths of his steel almirah - shining like Excalibur in the presence of Arthur. I almost felt like I had won the battle and was probably grinning, but
Clerk 2: Here, take it ....
Me: And the check?
Clerk 2: Am I supposed to do the whole college's work alone? His fuse went POP! and he just spat out .. Go to Accounts !

I ran for my dear life - thankful that I was still breathing and made my way to accounts. Alas it was lunch time so I waited and gazed at the deserted cubicles for 45 minutes.

Me to the first person who enters: Err.. Sir where can I collect my check for the scholarship?

First Person: He looks at me in amazement and laughs and goes away without answering.

Me to second person who enter: I repeat the same question ...
Second Person: hmm - check you say - ask the cashier and points to a grilled counter looking like a dungeon from the Cellular Jail with CASHIER written in bold red ink over it.

I waited at the counter for the cashier to appear. A person appears at the counter and settles down.
Me: Sir - I wanted to collect a check ....
Cashier: No No .. today nothing can be done ... cashier is not here.
Me: I try to look around inside the prison cell - trying to spot another person ... but...but - who are you then?
Cashier: Arre - what are you searching clutching that grill like a prison inmate? I told you - no work today.
Me: Who are you then?
Cashier: I am the substitute cashier - the actual cashier is not here now ....
Me: Then why cant you do his work?
Cashier: I am on leave today !
Me: Dumbfounded, awestruck, stupefied !!! I retreat almost bowing to him. Who can argue with such astute logic.

Next day I did get my money - but not as a check - as cash including a very torn ten rupee note.
Without bothering to get the note changed - I just headed straight for my dimension - where the world made sense again.

I got the scholarship again the next year - but made no further attempts to collect it ...

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Tell-tale stories

A book, a movie, a long chat with friends, travel, history, mythology - what do all these have in common? They all tell a story - stories of men and women in adventure, in joy, in pain, tales of far distant lands, of other planets, of other life forms. And I just love a story ! When I read I can hear and see it unfold in my head - when I hear one I can feel it in my heart - and when I see one I live in it for the moment.

But why love a story? Because it teleports me instantly to this other space and time where I am the observer and the world performs for me. It brings to me the unreachable, unthinkable, unblemished elements from within itself. It envelops me in a cocoon of fantasy and transmutes my mind.

A story seems to emerge from the most unlikely of things. Equations (as in integrals or quadratic) tell stories of quantities, of abstracts. Atoms, molecules and chemicals tell stories of creation. Bridges and buildings tell stories of spirit, of ingenuinity. Songs tell stories of love, of pain. Even my reflection in the mirror tells a story - it tells how I look at myself.

The story is also the essence, the very life blood of another of my loves - Animation. But that is another story, for another blog ....

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Kolkata Kromosome

My trip to the City of Joy was quite an experience. Here's the interesting travelogue:

  • Day 1, 13/12/2004
    All of us S, M, Y, P and I reached the station together and way ahead of time only to find that our train was 2 hours late. I spent the time wallowing in the sights of the New Delhi railway station - a cart laden with heavy cubical luggage pulled by two rickety men hollering at the top of their voice to clear the way, the chaiwala near the leaking water tap, overdressed aunties to barely dressed kids asking for alms - it was a medley of man-made nature. When the train finally chugged into the station we clambered into it without much ado. M had packed a huge dinner for all of us so after having a stomach full of chapatis and aaloo gajar ki sabji we soundly dozed off.

  • Day 2, 14/12/2004
    In the morning we found the onboard ambiance was impeccable and as our seat was just next to the compartment door we were greeted with dizzying scents every time it opened. The conversations ranged from topics like life after death to bio-medical visualization. I had my hand read, handwriting analyzed, even my foot scrutinized - apparently since my foot's index finger is a little longer than my thumb it indicates that my "wife" will dominate me - go figure that one !! Poor S has his index finger a whole lot longer than the thumb and continually has to give in to higher authorities at home; so it might just be true. We reached Howrah at 8:30 pm - 4 hrs late and reached the prepaid taxi stand somehow. The taxi allotted to us didn't know the way to the guest house we were supposed to go to - so with much trepidation I agreed to guide him on Kolkata roads using the map S had drawn for me. As soon as the taxi came down the Howrah bridge it chose to kiss another fellow taxi smack on the lips ! Our poor already confused driver barely missed a thrashing and continued. But he was not to be our charioteer on Kolkata roads - as his taxi mysteriously conked out on a dark highway refusing to budge. We somehow hailed another taxi, went round the city a couple of times before reaching the guest house at 11:30pm. After frantic calls to home and a cold but sumptuous dinner the guest house people had cooked for us - we finally hit the sack.

  • Day 3, 15/12/2004
    First day of conference - we managed to slip into the only interesting tutorial at the conference and then slip out again when the boring ones started. I made P learn his presentation by heart - poor chap was very nervous for his first ever paper presentations. The guest house rooms were five star and the food was ok. Things were looking up already.

  • Day 4, 16/12/2004
    P's presentation went off ok - though he concluded without a conclusion slide. Then came my poster session and guess what - It went of ok too, pretty good infact. I had about a dozen groups (which also meant I had to explain the whole paper a dozen times) in a span of two hours. After a very sore throat, and about six glasses of water I left the poster hall feeling satisfied. From there I proceeded to my uncle's place (And you thought I was going to get away without visiting the relatives - no way !). However it was quite pleasant - I got to meet my new bhabi and got a really really tasty dinner.

  • Day 5, 17/12/2004
    Got dropped at the venue by cousin some 5 mins. late for S's poster session to find him already overwhelmed by the response to his work. It was really good - its a shame it got wasted at this stupid conference - it should have gone international. After that we decided to ditch the conference and tour the city of joy. We went to Babughat, got on a steamer (called a "launch" in Kol lingo) and cross the Ganges to Howrah - and the pearly lights of the city shown brightly against dark navy satin of sky. It was so mesmerising we decided to cross under the Howrah Bridge to Shobha Bazar on a steamer again. We even got a few puzzled "launch" commuters to take snaps of our crowd - they being thoroughly confused over the way we were going gaga over the ride. Yep - we acted like seasoned tourists !! Then we got on the Metro at Shobha Bazar to go to Rabindra Sadan. S got a ticket for 5 people. After 4 of us had crossed, the gate got stuck leaving Y on the other side. Ticket counter dada came gallantly to the rescue and let Y out - bless him ! From Rabindra Sadan we hurried on to the Taj Bengal to catch the banquet dinner of the conference. Inside the hotel I was definitely feeling like Dunston (and was obviously wanting to check in). The food was ok and the dessert "chanaar payesh" was out of the world. Then it was back to the guest house.

  • Day 6, 18/12/2004
    Last day of conference was full of boring papers so we bunked the whole day. Saw the Vidyasagar Setu (one on which Yuva was shot). Waltzed around inside Victoria at a fabulous exhibition on Kolkata's history. Came out feeling angry, sad and happy - don't know what to make out of colonial history. Charnock certainly left his mark on Kolkata for all times to come - for good or bad is for others to decide. I think for the first time I realized at that exhibition how thoroughly subjugated we were - that makes me angry and sad. But to know of Kolkata and her history made me happy. I feel I know India a teeny-weeny bit better now ! We roamed in college street browsing through the innumerable book shops, had a chinese lunch and then I went back to the guest house as I had to visit Nani, while the other's went off to Dakshineshwar Temple. Reached Nani's place at 8. Nani looks the same - she always has - from ever since I can remember. And she bears a kindness in her voice I have never found anywhere else. Had loooong chat with her - to say she's not well would be an understatement but she does all her own work . Way to go Nani !!

  • Day 7, 19/12/2004
    Hurried off to Howrah on a local train praying that my train was on time. It was - down to the last minute ! But guess what while we slept that night it did not budge at all ..... <

  • Day 8, 20/12/2004
    .... and lo behold in the morning it was six hours late. When it finally touched Delhi it was a full eight hours late. Ah - Home at last. And so ended our tryst with a very unique city.

Comments on commenting

Whew !! After a good two hours of hacking through the blogger template I got both blogger and haloscan commenting to work together. Haloscan had quietly removed the original blogger comments when I used the automatic wizard on their site to enable haloscan commenting here. But now it all works, and I am enabling anonymous comments as well ...so ... any comments ppl !!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Plot's the problem ?

Yours truly got a poster accepted at a conference (applause !! Ahem ...) - now the poster had to materialize overnight out of thin air because I have to catch the train tomorrow. Now I have made presentations before - but never a poster. So what's the big deal you may ask, but preparing a poster is a medley of choices (My choices, S's(a co-presenter) choices, my boss choices and the correct choices - try choosing between these). Here is chronological blow by blow:

Day one: Saturday, 8:30 am

  1. Paper Size - Big problem here - the poster board available at site is A0 size (well nearly - its about 2 inches shorter in height). So do I use 16 A4 sheets to tile the space or use one huge A0 sheet.

    • Ask the boss: "Use A4 or maybe A0" - a lot of help from those quarters !!
    • Ask S (He's also presenting a poster with me): He says A0 - so A0 it is!
    • Time taken to decide - 30 mins.

  2. Designing the poster - Now illustrator/pagemaker options are summararily overruled - besides its a tech poster so better stick need some math typesetting support as well. Decide to stick to Linux - and attempt Latex as result.

    • 1 hour later : Exhausted, confused, too much typing to do, give up latex
    • 2 hours later : Switch to OpenOffice - decide to create one huge slide.

  3. Content - Hmmm - S says put the whole written text into the poster with figures sprinkled here and there - I think this will land me into trouble later - but I go along as I cannot think of anything better yet !

    • 5 hours and 1 lunch break later : More Exhausted, very satisfied, the poster is

  4. Printing - I go down four floors to find the one plotter I know exists in the same building as I do, and voila - there it is - things looking ominous - plotter standing on two legs and a chair - will it or wont it plot ? Finally after making use of my cell to gain operating instructions from far away quarters I sent the plot only to realize that the damn thing could print only A1 size posters at max. Yaaaa !! The axe fell right on my foot ! Accept defeat at the cartridges of the plotter - took only recourse available - shrunk the poster and took a plot.

    • 9 pm - Plot in hand I return home

Day two: Sunday - 11 am

  1. Encounter with the boss - "Too much written material for a poster - chop this, chop that" - chop my head off instead !

    • 2 hours later - Newly chopped poster - boss approved

  2. Coordinating a print with S - I have been trying to get S to chop his poster up (as boss will make him do the same anyway) and print the damn thing - but S's wife (higher boss) called and he's gone home for lunch so now its my lunch break too !

Eating, and praying that the thing get done before I leave for the City of Joy - yup that's where my conference is.

Time to get off the blog, and plot .... Wish me luck !

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Hard Books

Some books are really really hard - if I throw them on somebody's head it is very likely you'll witness a large bump forming instantly. But then why read them - I mean there are easy books (not to be confused with boring books, happy books, sad books, heavy books, light books etc.) - these are the books which I can enjoy without having to give up reading the book in your first "n" attempts. I have often put down a book, picked it up after a month, again let go and so on till I could finally finish it without letting it drift away (Every time starting from the beginning - because after a month I cannot remember a half finished storyline). As I have often wondered what is it in the book which beckons so strong that I keep searching for that elusive successful "n+1 th" read when I finally conquer it. And the best answer I can come up with is that I do not know. For once I have finished the book - no two books have ever left me with exactly the same feeling. So I never figure out what was so hard about them anyway but somehow in those first few attempts when I gave up, it feels as if I was perhaps not worthy enough for the book.

I do not know if I got across what exactly I meant by hard books but here are some examples off my list - Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Beautiful Mind - Sylvia Nasser, Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. I am still midway the last two! There is little common between these books - except that they all are hard and will leave a serious bump on your head if you ever get hit by any one of them ....

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Vincent - a fury of colours .....

I was just playing a CD and one of the tracks which just came up was "Vincent" by Don McLean and just today evening the history channel was showing Vincent Van Gogh in Biography. And I just had to come and blog all my thoughts ....

How can colours so violent in mood look so soothing to the eye? I am not an art buff by any standard - but just one look at a Van Gogh overwhelms my senses. Every stroke of the brush is so defiant as if staring right at you and daring you to look away. Every iota of colour is infused with his passion for his craft. Van Gogh knew his art was not conventional - he did not - could not draw the way others did - so he drew the only way he could. He is still remains different from any other artist's work I have ever seen. He paid for being different though - unappreciated by his peers when he was alive and was driven to madness and ultimately, suicide. And today, long after the paint has dried on his canvases, his legacy - his pathos, his joy, his world lives on.

May the fiery reds, the burning yellows, the mellow greens and the soothing blues of Van Gogh always haunt unsuspecting eyes and make them wonder what made the creator of these works imprison such fury, such spirit, such pain in so much beauty.

My very own Eureka !

My very own eureka moment happened just few hours ago. I had been locking horns with this dastardly stubborn problem for the past two months now. The first thing on my mind from the moment I awoke to the last thought in my head when I conked out at night - it had been hounding all my conscious moments like a bloodhound. And today it got solved - whatever chaotic piece of programming I did (Its nothing short of a work of art) - finally worked and boy does it feel good - I feel ecstatic !

Never mind that it took two months to do and drove me half mad (thats the remaining sane half btw) - it works now, like a charm - even the bosses luv it !

Whew - that was something - even made me log in here and write this blog. For now there is still half a weekend left n I'm off to party .... ciau !!

Monday, November 08, 2004

You do what you are

Once there lived a gentle soul,
Who had a gift in ample share,
When the wet clay dried in the mould,
Under her hands' magic care.

It came alive with its own breath and life,
And gave joy to countless unknown,
Oohs and aahs adorned its praise,
With divine beauty, the creation shone.

You are what you do, said them all,
A true genius, a magician, o giver of joy,
Your creation is a work of priceless art,
For you bring alive every earthen toy.

And yet in her deep inside,
A tiny voice seemed mute in dread,
For she found no joy in all her fame,
And she did not know where next to tread.

To find in her heart, a hope anew,
She began to write her mind, in ink and pen,
And lo behold, the peace she sought,
She found in those paper pages, there and then.

She left her gift, and wrote her heart,
For the words had helped her find,
True sense, of her being alive;
The many screamed - she has lost her mind.

But the many did not matter then,
For she felt the happiest now, by far,
And when I asked her the reason why,
She replied - you do, what you are.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A thoughtless worse ....

As I stare at this blank expanse of white,
thinking about what next to write,
A thousand thoughts in my head, a haze,
taking shape in the mist, a labyrinthine maze.

Did I just write a verse,
of complete nonsensical stuff, even worse,
Hey, I think - this is it, just let it flow,
and maybe after this very boring day, I'll find that elusive glow.

That glimmer of light, that ray of hope,
the strength, the will, the resolve of mind which helps me cope,
With the chaos of my existence, with the conflict of my being,
of the sounds in my hearing, of the colors in my seeing.

Where, oh where is that fractal of order and sense,
which will soothe my being, make light my dense,
Perhaps in this babel of words, if a line I cast,
I'll find my sense of my world, at last.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

To Grenoble and back ... home !

I was on a European sojourn for the past three weeks. And now that I am back I am thinking about what it was like, how different it seemed, and given a choice will I stay there ?

I have lived all my life in Delhi. And here I was, bang in the middle (well a little off-centre maybe) of the French Riviera in the small town of Grenoble. And it was a BIG change - all the landscape around me was different - surrounded by 3 alpine ranges Grenoble is the atypical town one would draw in a painting. Teeming with buildings reminiscent of a bygone era, beautiful squares with abundant fountains, slow moving (but modern nonetheless) trams, life in the town seemed to have slowed down for an easy stroll by the river Isere, which adds that dash of refreshing blue to the pristine green of the surrounding mountains. Grenoble, as much of Europe, has a rich history - told by the Bastille fortifications, the Revolution memorial and it also has the famous Chartreuse wine. Grenoble is also a university town with a big chunk of its population comprising of students. When I reached the place it was completely deserted as the university was closed for holidays, but as the holidays got over one could see the buzz returning to the beehive. I stayed there for two weeks.

I could go on and on writing about my exploits there but the that's not the point I want to make.

What I want to say is this:

Anyone would fall in love with such a place. I did too - and then I snapped out - I started longing for the sounds and smells and tastes of ... well ... home. I got restless, and the alps and the rivers, and the wine (I must be mad !!) and the beautiful french maidens (I must be really mad !!) did not matter then, I wanted to go back home.

And now here I am back in front of my computer, in my usual seat in the lab, and it feels good - and it feels at home ....

And now I wonder, given a choice would I stay in Grenoble (I mean forever) - or would I forever be homesick !!

BTW - Does this happen to everybody or do I have a special mutation of the homesickness gene?? Any random thoughts on this anyone .... ??

Thursday, July 22, 2004

A Beautiful Mind

I was really impressed by this movie and so I decided to read the book by Sylvia Nasar. Its not an easy book to read and I've taken about 2 months to finish it - but I must say the effort was worth it. I am not super good as far as mathematics is concerned, never was infact, but I do appreciate it a lot better now than I used to. But the book just bowled me over as I came to realize the sheer genius of the man (John Nash). I've had a chance to see the man for real, when he came to Delhi for a game theory conference. He seemed a mere shadow of the character which Russell Crowe portrayed in the movie. But the book taught me so much more - he has done some phenomenal amount of work and I only thought he did his Nash Equilibrium and non cooperative games stuff !
The book is tragic, inspiring and heartwarming at the same time. Kudos to Ms. Nasar for writing some great stuff. Anyone who's loved the movie ought to read the book and do not let the maths deter you - the spirit and courage of the genius which shines through the book will help bridge that gap ......

Is the whole world getting married?

In the last few months atleast a dozen of my friends got married - what is the matter with folks out there?
I've seen it happen to one of my colleagues - from the moment he got married, he's walked the razor's edge.
He does that fine balancing act between buying groceries for home and solving some uber complex math problem everyday. I've seen him stay up nights, working and hacking away at a keyboard just to get some sensible numbers on a screen while still not forgetting to sms his sweetheart every 30 mins because she feels lonely at home. Ask him anytime and he'll advise you not to marry ..... ever !
But then there I times when I see them together and there's that momentary glint in both their eyes and a feeling of bliss on their faces which makes me wonder ! Perhaps even this not so utopian marriage has something special which misses the onlooker's eye .... May all my friends find that something to keep them and their marriages going lifelong.
Cheers !!

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

another day goes by ...

Whew !! What a day! Drove at 10am to college - and the sun almost drove me crazy with the heat. And what have I been doing since morning - coding - what else ! Trying to make this stupid computer to do my bidding is not easy. But atleast my new LCD flatpanel Samsung syncmaster monitor looks absolutely stunning :-)) - so I am staring at something good !

What are other people doing around me - the same as me - coding :-O (what kind of cursed place is this !!) hehehe ... well thats life for a grad student - every body is working on their little baby ofcourse as am I. hmmm - between all this I managed to catch a few glimpses of the trailer of king arhtur n van helsing - how r the movies? has ne one seen them?

Time to wrap up the day - plan to laze around for the rest of the evening - mmm the very thought of it is relaxing. And ppl who are following the euro - arent the checs playing sum smashing futbol ....

ciou evbd.

Monday, June 28, 2004



This is not my first foray into writing some sort of a diary - but I always give it up - someway, sometime in the middle of it all the chaos of my existence I always give up writing. Well ... here's another attempt - lets hope it manages to sustain itself through ....

Let me introduce myself - I am 25 and from Delhi, India (why would anybody want to know that - I have no idea!!)
What do I do - well I tinker around with computers, read a lot, draw a little, play a little, and I talk a whole lot more though finding listners is tough most of the time ... And I like to find out stuff about various countries, and to travel their many cities and to know people and .... (how many of you are still reading this :-) ).

Though I must confess I havent been anywhere much yet - most of my own country is quite a mystery to me still (as if anybody else has a clue what it is all about (lol)... but I plan to find out someday

well, now thats that.
... and surely more coming up later.