Deep Slumber and the Awakening

Start

Finally, after almost a year, I felt the need to write something. This delay wasn’t because I didn’t want to write, or there was some kind of ‘block’; it was simply because I’m keeping too busy these days with my research and there’s hardly any motivation left post some short and sweet Twitter updates once in a blue moon.

Science

This news about Large Hadron Collider (CERN) raising hopes of Higgs-Boson particle’s sighting actually pulled me out of my comfort zone of 140 characters. I’m more into Mathematics and CS, but advances in Physics excite me no end. More importantly since many breakthroughs in theoretical and applied Physics have transformed the Computer and Electronics industry as such.

Gibberish

There are other churnings happening in Indian Polity, India is at the crossroads… yet again.

One is about the unfortunate episode of government attempting to check the freedom of expression by (proposed!) monitoring of the Internet – thankfully the giants of the www didn’t budge. I can only pray that this disgusting culture of sycophancy, egotism (and nepotism) somehow gets decimated and that of tolerance and public debates befitting a true democracy prevails.

Two is about the Lokpal (people’s ombudsman) bill making pretty big strides, and going by the look of things, it’s going to be a reality sooner than later. Kudos to all of India for achieving an awakening at least. Perennial skeptics have their daggers out already about the efficacy and what-not of the proposed bill in curbing the corruption menace, but the protagonists (that includes one and all who sympathise with this movement – I’d excuse myself from calling it Anna’s movement) shouldn’t lose heart. They have taken the all important first step. The way would be only easier from here on.

The Bradman Oration – 2011

Rahul Dravid was invited to deliver the annual Bradman Oration at the Australian war memorial. I’d like to say that he finally (and rightfully) got his due, I’m happy that he got this opportunity before Tendulkar – for obvious reasons. The speech was impeccable, balanced and touched upon major pressing issues facing the game of Cricket.

An important point raised by him was that of respecting (listening to) the spectator. In Asian stadia, it’s a normal practice to ignore the comforts of the general public, no shades, no open areas for the fans to feel welcome for a family outing, makeshift and substandard parking, touts, utterly mismanaged ticket sales & pricing, and above all, absolute lack of hygiene.

Overdose of non-test cricket isn’t helping the cause either. Hats off to Dravid for stating it the way he did.

Yet Another Day, Many An Upset

June the 1st:

Underwent an operation, bought many books, started attending the office once again, had a long walk in days… Did so many things during the last two days when I was finally allowed by my doctors to behave in a perfectly normal way.

Strange, even a minor operation like Appendicitis can curtail your freedom like never witnessed, no spicy food, no heavy lifts, no running, yada yada… for days and let me tell you, these days were the ones when I found the beauty in sitting idle and doing nothing but ponder (not that I otherwise don’t), ponder over the events of the past (I so love this activity, but it was sweeter this time around), times bygone and people forgotten.

During one of these in-numerous lazy moments it dawned upon me that I’ve not paid a visit to Pune for the last 4 years, a shame… And that’s the reason why I didn’t bat an eyelid before accepting the 10th anniversary celebration of the day when our entire batch of circa 2000 stepped into the Department of Computer Science, University of Pune.

That was the day when the students from almost all the states converged into the first-year lecture hall that resembled a school classroom more with those miniature benches and wooden platform (for the professors) to encounter the lecture by Rustom Mody reminding us “Don’t you think that you’re the sharpest of the 16000 that wrote this exam to make the cut among 60, you’re merely the luckiest few”, I’d say he echoed my thoughts exactly, in the year 1999, I wrote the same entrance and wrote it way better than I did in 2000, but couldn’t make it; 2000 was a different story though. I almost took him for a research scholar (he didn’t look like a 40+ guy at all) when I first saw him in the admission office 🙂

The quintessential Bengali, Achyut Roy was also there to support the seniors in their mischievous acts to unfold in the coming days. Some of the unanimously chosen seniors donned the hat of professors for the first couple of days (with tacit support of professors) and taught real courses and took real ‘mock’ tests just to bring diverse classroom up to the mark. This exercise also did another job, it used to bring crashing down a lot of misgivings about oneself a student could have… I’ve heard many classmates mutter in secret about their being toppers in their respective schools… ‘but here it’s like hell’ (sic) and stuff. I had the benefit of coming from another institute which had even sterner grading system and hence was not perturbed by the happenstances like a very good marking in a test or a poor one in another. But many a folk did break down due to their own expectations or lack thereof.

I can also never forget the mock-test (a tradition unique to the CSD-Pune), although I had some idea about what’s going to hit us courtesy some of the contacts amongst the seniors, it still bit all of us. I think Asit or Tushar topped the charts, I stood somewhere in the middle of the table (more of less an indication of things to follow during the academic years 🙂 ) thanking my stars after seeing the ‘bump’ treatment of the chart-topper preceding the utter slaughter of his wallet by the seniors in the name of a ‘treat.’

I met some of the best friends there during our introduction session, Pareekshit by virtue of his flamboyant demeanour and carefree attitude about life in general and studies in particular; we struck a perfect chord after initial friction due to my being the small-towner who believed in all things Pink Floyd, Kafka and Tolstoy, and him being a typical Delhi dude with all the shades of the world and with an admiration for everything Bon Jovi. Our tribe grew to the max size of 4 with Achin and Priyesh filling the rest of the slots for the first two years. Some falling-off and misunderstandings later we were reduced to 3 and ultimately when we passed out of our course, it was back to Parry and me.

Batch of 2000 was undoubtedly (and by the admission of faculty too) one of ‘the’ most versatile batches ever. It was only fitting that ours was the last batch which was taught by the stalwarts who made the department what it was, they all moved on once our class passed out.

The department is only a shadow of its glorious past due to many factors which deserve another dedicated writeup.

We (Rahul, Priyesh, Pareekshit and I) also made a department movie spoof which ran repeat shows houseful and on popular demand, I was actively involved with theatre in Pune and in constant touch with the folks in the Centre for Performing Arts, University of Pune (Darshan Naik, if you’re reading this, PM me!)

Those days are still fresh in my memory, especially the time spent on things not related to studies (treks and other outings with friends, Guitar classes which never got completed, German language course for which I didn’t take the certification exam on principles). Sadly though, I also remember many fellow students from there who wanted to just get the hell out of the department never to look back, though I do not grudge that – to each his own – but I think sometime, whether this is the general feeling among majority of the alumni. I’d not be surprised if it is, going by the plight of the school these days.

July the 4th:

Watching a FIFA world cup was a revelation, in more ways than one 🙂

I got to know that there is a thing called Vuvuzella which can scare the guts out of players on the pitch, make the hearing so difficult that even a screaming locomotive would go past without raising an alarm.

I also got to know that Football and controversy can never be taken out of Maradona, the list is pretty long, hence I’d put bullet points…

  • Maradona doesn’t like Pele one bit
  • Pele reciprocates in kind
  • Muller will no longer be known as the ‘ball-boy’ that Maradona addressed him with, he’d rather be known as the one who made Argentina kneel down and feel humiliated like never before
  • Maradona will never learn the lessons in economy of spoken words
  • Pele will keep going after Maradona even more now
  • Brazil are knocked out of the world-cup courtesy an own goal and a red card that followed
  • The Netherlands-Brazil duo at the world cup stands equal on all counts (wins, losses, GF, GA)
  • Ghana didn’t go far, although they very well could have (hurts)
  • The beautiful game took some beating and this should force FIFA to alter its stand on technology usage
  • C. Rolnaldo, Messi, Rooney and all the over-hyped names didn’t live up to their billings
  • Germany as a team impressed one and all, but Spain impresses more
  • Lastly, India may not be able to send its team to the FIFA WC finals, ever, going by the standards of the other teams
  • It was much better watching the FIFA WC and Wimbledon (though at times it became difficult to manage) than watching ICC WC (even here in India)
  • I’ve decided to follow only Test match cricket from now on

Now I think… even if Paul the Octopus doesn’t predict a German WC win, I reckon they’re already on their course to this first FIFA trophy post unification of East and West Germanies lest Spain spoil their party.

~

Back to Start

As Barry Schwartz once said in one of the Google Talks, “The spectre of regret I think, makes even unimportant decisions loom large.” I was so awestruck with the prophecy like quality of this observation; and at the same time wanted to observe the behaviour of people (me first) when provided more options to choose from than not, that I decided to take a break from everything mundane and see it for myself.

Scenarios

0 – Since I’ve been employed, I have been invested in the markets via the mutual fund route

1 – For the last 5 years or so, I’ve been saving money to buy my own car (without any outside help like loans etc.)

2 – Job switch scenario

I found out that while making an investment choice, bigger number of NFOs available was in fact a bane to a newbie like me. I still remember few of the SIPs that I enrolled myself to with so much of expectations, which I regretted later when other funds that I overlooked earlier outperformed them.
Lesson learned: ‘You can never predict the market, and you can never make better choices based on your dreams and expectations.’

During the last two months, I noticed that I have suddenly turned myself into some sort of motor geek (or something like that if this term is horribly out of place :-)) while deciding on the car model and make for my long awaited purchase. It’ll be worthwhile to say that I took this opportunity as a well worth research project on verification of various theories on human decision behaviour.

I would not go too deep into what exactly I did, but one thing’s for sure that I did spend a lot of time collating the qualitative observations and matching them with those of mine during the process. The most profound thing that I found out (and that’s the most relevant here) that the more I studied about the pros and cons of a particular model or trim, the more I got alienated with it. The more I sought opinions from other folks whom I unfortunately deemed more knowledgeable than myself on cars, the more confused I got (and so did they,) also, I found out that everyone’s is as confused and petrified as I am due to the obscenely large number of options available at hand to an average consumer.

To overcome this phenomenon (kid in the toy store), I tried it on myself, unlike the kid who window-shops each and every toy at the high end kiosk where he in all probability would not set foot in a hurry, I decided to go head on and booked almost all the cars that were available within my budget.

The next part of the story is interesting, and that’s why Mr. Barry Schwartz finds a quote of his mentioned as a start to this blog post… I started seeing things that I could never have. The car models that I booked must all be having some pluses and many minuses, but I didn’t realize earlier that the minuses start creeping in the moment you have this feeling of owning (at least partially) a particular entity.

I know there are many who’d say that this is not something new (the grass is greener on the other side thing…) but I still wanted to know about the person who does own a worldly article and is reasonably happy about it. My motive to go into such a study was to see whether it is possible to be happier than sad with one’s choice, especially in light of options available.

So, I was at ‘seeing things differently,’ and I reckon this can be applied to anything that can be ‘purchased’ 🙂

Since now I ‘almost’ owned few of the cars available in the market at that point, I could figure out with enough impartiality which one of those I wanted to play with the most; as in who would be the Woody or a Buzz Light-year in that figurative world of toys. And as that kid would do, I found that most of the cars, with the passage of waiting period, started to loose the centre stage and only a few were left in the end (I thought of ‘Less if More’). Needless to say that I found the Woody in the end at the cost of cancellation amounts for all the cars that I decided to put in the box back. On the hind sight though, I’m happier now. (Lesson learned: ‘You can never choose from 1000, but you can choose from 2, always try to eliminate as many choices as possible before even start off, sometimes the best way to do this is to LET GO! :-)’)

How many of you had already have far too many offers at hand before making a move to the next job? I guess, many of us. Now, the next question, how many of us do make the best choice? I guess again, not many of us… 🙂 I won’t go beyond this point now because you can’t have lessons here, you only can have an Aphorism, ‘A job can’t be purchased, unless it’s associated with anatomy.’ LOL

I have been off this blog for close to three months now, and I was pretty sure that it would have vanished from Google search indices, and so it did. I was keeping busy with my day job and my academic work that required hell of efforts to time-manage, besides, I was also going through the customary (temporary) disenchantment after a period of initial (and euphoric) peak with blogging. Now that I’m back with whatever I wanted to do, I hope it’ll be a while before I go off Radar again 🙂

To Life!

~

That Time of the Year Again…

It’s barely February end and Bangalore is already feeling the heat of the things to come. Last few days have been a lot hotter February days than what I have faced during the 5 year stay in this beautiful city. Temperatures are soaring, lakes are vanishing, so is the green cover. Worst thing is that no one cares (or at least seems to.)

Two events; a fire at Carlton Towers which consumed 9 innocent lives and Sachin Tendulkar’s double ton in Gwalior were at the extremes of emotions that one can face.

The tragedy that happened in Bangalore could have been easily averted had the routine checks of fire/emergency response systems been carried out regularly. I gathered from news-bites filtering through from the folks in and around that area that all the emergency exits were locked out, and the building didn’t have enough detachable glass panes interspersed. Video clips were showing men and women sticking their necks out in precariously dangerous positions to get away from the smoking interior and towards fresh air, some of them were trying to break open the panes by hitting from the outside. May this be the last of infernos Bangalore sees for a long time to come is all I can wish for apart from praying for the departed souls.

Sachin Tendulkar made a mockery of SA bowling attack at the Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior today, which eventually took India beyond 400 and ultimately, RSA’s reach. The only argument against this knock would be that the pitch was an absolute graveyard for the bowlers and the boundary ropes were pulled in to make the field ridiculously small… My take is that it still needed resolve and patience to go out there and score those runs. Otherwise why on earth has this been the only 200+ score in all of the ODIs played in the history of the game?

Only thing that should linger is the greatness of this man who has brought smiles to so many people and gratitude towards the almighty for letting him accomplish this feat. Now the only thing left for him to do is scale the 300+ (let me be greedy here, even a 400+) in tests and the way he has started enjoying his batting again during the last year or so, it seems more probable than otherwise.

Today was one of those days when all went as expected (now that’s interesting) and still in a weird sense I was absolutely pissed off with almost everything. I was kind of expecting them to unfold that way — and praying somewhere within that they do not — nevertheless, it made a surreal learning experience. Boy! what an eventful and forgettable day but for Sachin’s marvellous achievement. Hail the little master!

Brand New Day and Year

The festive season has peaked now. Inflation is finally on the upward swing, Karnataka floods have receded and the stock indices are back to doing their bit in influencing common man’s choices. The urban middle class has started believing that the worst is just ebbing out and the good times would remain here long enough for a change.

Cars etc.

One of my colleagues who has many contacts in Hyderabad was telling me that Maruti Suzuki has offered a discount of INR 1,00,000 per car for a bulk booking of Ritz if the number is 100 or more (and I hear a group is actually doing it!) I read (too much into) this offering as – this model has really not picked up in the market which had just started to accept the designs and contours of their last bestselling model Swift. However, I would surely not hold anything against the design or the model (in fact the reviews are splendid) if it comes cheaper by this amount. Nevertheless, I do not have enough dough to cough up even the least possible down payment for a loan, and I’ll pass.

North Karnataka Floods

North Karnataka and Andhra are trying to come back to normal from flood fury and a swell of people have played their part in them doing so. I was pleased to see the kind of activism in the corporate world for fund collection (in my office and around.) Our country head announced it proudly that in spite of us being one of the smallest companies (head-count wise – we are roughly a 100 odd strong) in the campus of around 20 Co.s, have stood second in the list of contributors. I do not wish to brag about the above, but the context is the contribution from one of the world’s biggest chip manufacturers, a leading EDA software producer was a mere INR 1000 each. Whereas the biggest contribution was ~INR 2,50,000 (1000+ strong,) the second biggest was ~INR 62,000, the grand total was around INR 3,70,000. Not passing a judgement here, just bewildered…

Loss at the Office

Lost one of our colleagues due to respiratory complications last week, he died outside Bengaluru most probably due to lack of immediate and proper medical attention by experts. It’s not confirmed whether it was due to H1N1 or a Pneumonia and we’ll probably never know. Interestingly, I was told that the seat he used to occupy is known to be jinxed (if not now, it soon will I reckon going by the general sentiment) and two more people associated with it have died prematurely in the past.

Diwali

Deepawali is to be celebrated tomorrow and the preparations all around are in full swing, the lights are installed, puja related purchases done and last minute petty shopping trips completed (most important.) Almost everyone looks happy doing their chores and so am I. Wishing you all a very happy Deepawali and a wonderful start to the new financial year.

May the new year usher in greater progress for all, lesser divide between the haves and have-nots, lots of environment activism, feverish pitches for water resource management by one and all, smaller C12 footprint, bigger government spending on education, hefty healthcare allocation in the plan expenditures, rejuvenated Ganga (the holy Ganges) and… greener and more beautiful Bengaluru with the dying lakes and parks restored. Too much to ask for eh! No harm in trying the luck anyway, may be the one up there is still interested in us and our prayers. 🙂

LeChaim!