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 !!