Thursday, December 28, 2006

I thought this was a desi aunty monopoly

'Pianist! Oh, that's one of the words they just love, almost as much as doctor, Doctor. And residency. And best of all, his own office. He opened his own office in Livingston. Do you remember Seymour Schmuck, Alex?" she asks me, or Aaron Putz or Howard Shlong, or some yo-yo I am supposed to have known in grade school twenty-five years ago, and of whom I have no recollection whatsoever. "Well, I met his mother on the street today, and she told me that Seymour is now the biggest brain surgeon in the entire Western Hemisphere. He owns six different split-level ranch-type houses made all of fieldstone in Livingston, and belongs to the boards of eleven synagogues, all brand-new and design by Marc Kugel, and last year with his wife and his two little daughters, who are so beautiful that they should be in college - he took them all to Europe for an eighty-million-dollar tour of seven thousand countries, some of them you never even heard of, that they made just to honor Seymour, and on top of that, he's so important, Seymour, that in every single city in Europe that they visited he was asked by the mayor himself to stop and do an impossible operation on a brain in hospitals that they also built for him right on the spot, and - listen to this - where they pumped into the operating room during the operation the theme song from Exodus so everybody should know what religion he is - and that's how big your friend Seymour is today! And how happy he makes his parents!"
- Philip Roth (Portnoy's Complaint)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

In case you have forgotten how exquisitely funny it is, or if you are wondering what I am doing up blogging at 5am, I discovered an hour ago that someone recently uploaded the first four episodes of Yes, Minister to youtube.

Another short clip, from Yes Prime Minister, where Sir Humphrey explains Britain's defence policy.

My favourite quote from the series:

"They like activity. It is their substitute for achievement."

I must be special, to need neither ;) .

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday morning 4am


Good night, world. See you at 11.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tough week ahead.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Truth about George

George: Are you a philosopher?
I: Yes.
George :I am too.
I: What do you philosophize about?
George :I like kittens.
I: How about puppies?
George :Puppies are tasty.
I: Are they more tasty than kittens?
George :No. Humans are more intelligent.
I: Do you eat humans?
George :Yes.
I: Does that make you a cannibal?
George :No it makes me what I am.
I: And what are you?
George :Human.
I: So am I. What a coincidence. Do you like Shakespeare?
George :Yes, but some people do not like Shakespeare.
I: And do you like opera?
George :Not really.
I: Which is your favourite play by Shakespeare?
George : None, you talk to people that see Shakespeare? Aren't they on skivacations all the time?
I: Maybe skivacations is where secret cabals meet to watch Shakespeare.
George : No. I mean. You do not answer my questions.
I: I mention a lot of things that I don't even know of.
George :Yes, we humans are not perfect.

So, did he pass the Turing Test ?

For people who are not into machines for intelligent conversation, George is a chat robot with a famously snarky sense of humor, that won the Loebner award in 2005, for coming closest to passing the Turing Test. He almost did with me, above, but then an anaphor did not resolve, and the conversation went rapidly downhill. But still, in my experience with chatbots, this is the best conversation I have ever had.

George is available online for chat 24 hours a day, so is his cousin Joan, who won the 2006 Loebner award. But be warned, there are over a 100 people chatting with them at any given time, and you will not be spoilt for attention. First, there is a short wait time after each sentence, and also they maintain no memory of what you said a sentence ago(not that they can't do it, but with so many people talking to them at the same time, it is probably too much trouble). So conversations are more fun if each of your sentences stands independently by itself.

The way George works is different from most chatbots. It remembers smart things other people said to it. When you say something it searches its memory for smart things people said when it had said something similar to your current statement. In turn, it will remember all the things you say to it, and use them later, so you'll be training it as you talk.

As Maugham said (and I quote ;) ), quotation is a serviceable substitution for wit.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Another connect

More trivia. Less nerdy than usual.

Who connects, the fifteenth Poet Laureate of England, the 'first American hero', the only character to appear in all M*A*S*H* episodes, and the first detective story.

Hint: Think British-born Oscar winner leading male.

Answer: Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis, son of Cecil Day-Lewis, the fifteenth Poet Laureate of England, famously played Hawkeye/Natty Bumppo in The Last of the Mohicans, the movie based on James Fennimore Cooper's novel. The tagline of the movie was the first American hero. Alan Alda's character Hawkeye in M*A*S*H* supposedly got that name because Cooper's famous novel was the only book his father ever read. The movie's director Michael Mann felt the audience would snicker at the name Natty Bumppo. So Day-Lewis' name was changed to Nathaniel Poe. Poe, of course, is credited with writing the first detective story(ok, this one is a slight stretch, but I wanted four :) ).

Related Trivia: Cecil Day-Lewis had strong communist leaning and fought for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. He also wrote seventeen successful crime novels under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake, when he initially couldn't make a living as a poet.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

In the beginning was the nerd

"Sir: In your otherwise beautiful poem 'The Vision of Sin', there is a verse which reads - 'Every moment dies a man, Every moment one is born.' It must be manifest that if this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill...I would suggest that in the next edition of your poem you have it read - 'Every moment dies a man, Every moment 1 1/16 is born'...The actual figure is so long I cannot get it onto a line, but the believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry."

- Charles Babbage (letter to Lord Tennyson)

From Doron Swade's The Cogwheel Brain.

The book does not clarify this, but I certainly hope to God he was kidding. Though it would surprise no one if the 'father' of computer engineering was a nerd.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

First day at school

First day at school
the large boy
hurled my ball
with amazing skill
high over the roof

soaring out of sight
out of my prosaic life

I gave him
my admiration

As others have done
when their respect
honour hope and lives
have been hurled
triumphantly out of sight

- Michael Ivens(1914-2001)

First day at school, I was accosted by two kids on my way back home, who made fun of me and the stupid little briefcase-like steel box I used to carry to school(I never understood why I used to carry that back then, and not a school bag like everyone else). The box had its purposes: I gave their heads a solid smack each with the box and executed a quick exit while they lay flat on the ground bawling their throats out.

That is the first memory I have of being uncommonly pleased with myself.

Friday, December 01, 2006

'Research ! A mere excuse for idleness; it has never achieved, and will never achieve any results of the slightest value.'

- Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893)
(English theologian, master of Balliol College, Oxford)

Someone got it right ;) .

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Only connect

Nerd trivia.

What is common to the alphabets x, q, z, and i, in the context of the Internet?

Answer: If you type x,q, i or as the URL, it works. No, the other letters don't.

There are six single-letter domain names on the internet, which were registered before ICANN refused to distribute any more in 1993. They are, for Qwest Communications; owned by PayPal (it still works); for Nissan's Z cars;, a domain name registration company;, for Q Networks; and for the X.Org Foundation.

ICANN stopped giving out single-letter second-level domain names in 1993, because it was afraid that 'two-dot' domain names may not be enough to cover all the websites in the world, and it may need to use these single letter domain names to introduce another level (eg,: ).

More nerd trivia.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Math is War

Reductio ad absurdum, which Euclid loved so much, is one of a mathematician's finest weapons. It is a far finer gambit than any chess play: a chess player may offer the sacrifice of a pawn or even a piece, but a mathematician offers the game.

-G. H. Hardy (A Mathematician's Apology)

Wow. Hardy sure knew how to write.

Incidentally, this sounds even better in Bollywood hindi/urdu ;) : "shatranj me khiladi to bas ek pyanda ya ek mohra daanv pe lagata hai. Par Euclid wo shaqs hai jo saari baazi daanv pe lagaya karta tha."

PS: No disrespect to Hardy, of course.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Story my professor told me

An engineering and a mathematics professor go on a camping trip. And because they did not consume enough Ramen in grad school, they carry a couple of packets with them, so they can have some for breakfast as well as dinner. Every morning and evening one of them has to light a fire, go down the hill they are camping on to get water from a river, boil Ramen in the water, and then wash the Ramen pot back by the river.

The first night the mathematics prof does everything according to plan. He lights the fire, gets the water, cooks Ramen, then washes the pot and brings it back. The next evening, its the engineer's turn, and he decides to do his friend a favor. He covers the dying evening fire with brush so its easy to relight in the morning, and he brings back water in the pot after washing.

The mathematician wakes up promptly at six. He notices the water in the pot, and the dormant fire. He promptly throws out the water, and extinguishes the embers. Rubbing his palms together with satisfaction, he says: "Now that reduces it to a problem with a previously-known solution."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A friend blogs about what he aptly calls the Gowda circus ...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

If I were called in to construct a religion...

Philip Larkin reads his poem Water.

The text is here.

Few poems showcase Larkin's technical mastery as this poem. He sounds facetious when the poem starts: whoever gets called to construct a religion? The second line seems even stranger, and you wonder if he has any idea what he is talking about. But when the poem ends, merely twelve lines later, and only thirty seconds in his reading, he has already moved from his inane premise to build the sense of a religious experience.

Like many agnostics, Larkin had a clearer conception of what religion tries to answer, than the very religious.

There is one poem where he does it even better, his celebrated High Windows . Who else could write a poem that starts with the f-word, and ends in a church, and so convincingly?

Friday, November 10, 2006

I work all day, and get half drunk at night...

The last poem Philip Larkin wrote was Aubade. An aubade is a special kind of poem, about two lovers separating at dawn. Larkin wrote his aubade to life. There is an audio recording online of him reading the poem. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.

For the visually inclined, here's a video of Alan Bennett reading Aubade, set to New Order's 'Your Silent Face'. But be warned, Alan Bennett is an excellent actor, but there ain't nothing like Aubade in the old man's voice himself :) .

And simply because I love it so much, I'll copy the poem below.

I work all day, and get half drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not used, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never:
But at the total emptiness forever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says no rational being
Can fear a thing it cannot feel, not seeing
that this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no-one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

The poem's sense of depression is almost numbing, and not for everyday, but when Keats said that truth is beauty, few poets took him seriously, but Larkin did. His poems always saw life 'plain as a wardrobe', and when he faces death, he cannot see it any differently.

What is strange is, what is Larkin doing in a Crowded House video?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Taal sa hilta raha man

Dhar gaye mehndi rache
do haath jal me deep
janm-janmo taal sa hilta raha man

baanchte hum reh gaye
geetbandhuo ki vyatha
le gaya chunkar kamal-
koi hathi yuvraj
der tak shaival-sa hilta raha man

jangalo ka dukh
taton ki traasadi
bhool, sukh se so gayi-
koi nadi
thak gayi ladti hawaon se
abhaagi naanv,
aur jheene paal-sa hilta raha man

tum gaye kya-
jag hua andha kua
rail chhuti, reh gaya keval dhua
gungunate hum bhari aankhen-
phire sab raat,
haath ke rumal sa hilta raha man.

- Kishan Saroj

I had been planning to translate it to english, but I don't know if it will work in a translation. Definitely not in one by my hands.

You can read the poem in devanagri here .
The fonts can be downloaded here .

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dawkins clips again (Haggard and Al-Khatab)

I did not know that Dawkins had done a BBC documentary, The Root of All Evil? in January 2006. This clip, that seems to be all over with the recent evangelical scandal, tipped me off. The most fascinating part of the clip is the pained expression on Dawkins' face, as Haggard bludgeons him to silence by the sheer arrogance of his humility.

Searching for other clips, I found this one about an interesting character called Yousef al-Khatab, aka Joseph Cohen, a secular New York Jew convert to Islam.

Dawkins is remarkably patient with him, but loses it in the end.

Yousef: ...Correct yourself, fix your society, fix your women.
Dawkins: Fix my women! Its not my business. Its my women's business.
Yousef: When you take women and dress them like whores on the street...
Dawkins: I don't dress women. They dress themselves!
Yousef: But you allow women to go on the streets dressed like this. What's going on with your society?

So he grew up in New York, and does not realize that men cannot 'fix' women? The good thing about being a fundamentalist is that, when you lose an argument, you do not even know it.

But what was saddest was the lost expression on Dawkins' face, as he tried to reason with these men, and failed each time. I don't know if he ever was naive enough to imagine he could use modus ponens with these people, but this sure looked like a learning experience for him.

I was getting bored with Dawkins' god-baiting, but now I think he is really doing us a favor.

Match Point

"It would be fitting if I were apprehended... and punished. At least there would be some small sign of justice - some small measure of hope for the possibility of meaning."
I liked Match Point, what seemed like Woody Allen's interpretation of Crime and Punishment. Though the movie does not see any final redemption for its Raskolnikov. As a character scoffs: 'Faith is the path of least resistance'.

It does come across as pretentious at a couple of points, but I am willing to tolerate a hint of pretension, so long as a movie is interesting.

The Woody Allen movie I disliked was Manhattan, which was pretentious about quite stupid things.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fire and Ice

A long discussion on sepia mutiny today about science and religion. Reminded me of this poem.

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Ah, the not so gentle Frost. I wish we saw him more often.

The poem could be an allegory for so many things, but if science is fire and religion is ice, then I'd say it is a tossup between fire and ice.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Constructing HAL

An interesting presentation by Doug Lenat, AI pioneer and founder of cycorp, at google.

Cyc plans to feed all the information in the world into a computer, and then let the computer use first order logic to reason with the information to answer questions. Now before we go all 2001 over this, its interesting that Lenat has been working at it for over twenty years, and the system can now answer questions like 'Is President Bush inhaling or exhaling right now?' correctly, with an 'I don't know'.

To be fair, some of the examples in the presentation are impressive, but is it a victory for AI, or for Moore's law? I am not a great fan of the Deep Blue approach to AI problems. It seems the way to solve an AI problem is to destroy it.

On the other hand, Lenat does point out a very serious problem with gradual learn-by-experience approaches: a Catch-22 situation where the less the system already knows, the harder it is for it to learn further or evolve. So classical AI might be a good bootstrap to give learning systems a headstart. That is actually a very good idea, and I haven't seen anyone doing that.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Only connect

Nerd Trivia.

Connect the Unabomber, pornography, Lord Byron, and a concurrent programming language.

Answer: David Gelernter

David Gelernter, professor at Yale, and a target of the Unabomber, invented the concurrent programming language Linda, named after Linda Lovelace (the star of Deep Throat) as a twisted sort of joke, as the only other woman to have a programming language named after her is also a Lovelace: Ada, daughter of Lord Byron.

You can't make this stuff up.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Some of us just go one God further

"Usually they say they were expecting a man in a wheelchair who can't talk. They confuse me with Stephen Hawking.
Is he going to hell too?
I reckon so...
Ya, maybe so, maybe so...God doesn't like black holes..."
Colbert interviews Richard Dawkins.

I idolized Dawkins as a teen, but he is getting a little repetitive. Still, for nostalgia's sake.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A day before the (Moharram) processions were due to take place, a young [Sunni] Saudi prince told me he could not understand why the Shias had to scourge themselves. "The events they are remembering took place long before they were born, and there's no reason for them to blame themselves now because there's nothing they can do to stop what happened."

-Michael Field (Inside the Arab World)

It is gratifying to see how reasonable people can be about religion - if it is not theirs.

Friday, August 25, 2006

In Minstrels Today.

Guest poem sent in by Lakshmi Jagad.

"On Death, without Exaggeration"

It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.

It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
missed blows,
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.

There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.

always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.

-- Wislawa Szymborska

Monday, June 26, 2006

"I have known more men destroyed by the desire to have wife and child and to keep them in comfort than I have seen destroyed by drink and harlots."

-W. B. Yeats

I will not stick my neck out and agree with him entirely. But I can see what he was talking about.

Banality kills, faster than booze.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Thunder Road: The Dirge

Bruce Springsteen has a different version of Thunder Road in his 'Live 1975-1985' collection. It is a tired dirge to youth and ambition, unlike the album version, which was a celebration, powerful and desperate at the same time.

The live version is a distinct song in its own right.

So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore

You don't believe him when he sings this in the original, but in the live version you do. Springsteen sounds old. And the girl seems much more important.In the album version, he is not talking to the girl. Sure she is addressed, but it is merely incidental. You can see the guy is wrapped up in what the future will bring him. It is Springsteen, of course, and you know that the future did bring him a lot, and the song becomes a huge celebration of that special belief that people have in their uniqueness, which was proven to be true in dear Bruce's case, and when you are young, you think it will be proven in your case too.

The live version came as a shock to me. Coming from Bruce the Boss, it should have been a gloat as much as a song. Who can sing the song with a smugger, more satisfied smile? But it is strange what he makes of it. Was Springsteen disappointed in any way? Well, I would have been too, if I had released such horribly mediocre albums as Human Touch and Lucky Town to follow up Darkness on the Edge!

Kidding. But only partly. We all end up being disappointed to some extent. Not with the world, but with ourselves. We are not the perfect, ideal heroes we see ourselves. As we grow, we catch ourselves lying, cheating, manipulating, compromising, and getting used to the mediocre, and we realize we are no better.

It's a town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win.

Only, you pull into another town of losers. Maybe fewer losers, if you are lucky. But losers, nonetheless.

Yes, I am not exactly upbeat today.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Gieve Patel: Desi Doctor Poet

It takes much time to kill a tree,
Not a simple jab of the knife
Will do it. It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out if it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leprous hide
Sprouting leaves.

So hack and chop
But this alone won't do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.

The root is to be pulled out –
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out-snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,

And then it is done.

- Gieve Patel

A killer of a poem, if you will excuse the lousy pun. I always admired its surgical precision, and today I discovered the poet was a doctor. Another poem by Gieve Patel, I discovered while searching for this one.

it makes sense not
to have the body
hermetically sealed, a
box of incorruptibles.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Seventh Seal

I saw The Seventh Seal today. It was perhaps Ingmar Bergman's first major movie, and you can tell. Not in the sense that it is an immature or flawed work, but by the theme. The movie is about the Godless universe, the pointlessness of life, the inevitability of death, and the overall stupidity of it all. Only a fresh young film director can decide he shall make a movie that will ask the most important questions ever. And the central premise of the movie is breathtaking in its theatricality - death confronts a knight back from the Crusades in medieval times, and tells him he has to die. The knight challenges death to a game of chess. If he wins, death has to let him go. The very idea: a medieval knight and death play chess for the knight's life. Yet, it does not appear absurd in the movie. In Bergman's words:

'It was a delicate and dangerous artistic move, which could have failed. Suddenly, an actor appears in the whiteface, dressed all in black, and announces that he is Death. Everyone accepted the dramatic feat that he was Death, instead of saying "Come on now, don't try to put something over on us! You can't fool us! We can see that you are just a talented actor who is painted white and clad in black! You're not Death at all!".'

But somehow it does not happen.

One of the best scenes in the movie is where the knight Antonius Block(played by Max von Sydow) visits an old(even by middle ages standards ;) ) church. He goes to confession and death masquerades as the priest(screenplay translation from Swedish, excerpt from here):

The KNIGHT is kneeling before a small altar. It is dark and quiet around him.
The air is cool and musty. Pictures of saints look down on him with stony
eyes. Christ's face is turned upwards, His mouth open as if in a cry of
anguish. On the ceiling beam there is a representation of a hideous devil
spying on a miserable human being. The KNIGHT hears a sound from the
confession booth and approaches it. The face of DEATH appears behind the
grille for an instant, but the KNIGHT doesn't see him.

I want to talk to you as openly as I can, but my heart is empty.

DEATH doesn't answer.

The emptiness is a mirror turned towards my own face. I see myself in it, and I am filled with fear and disgust.

DEATH doesn't answer.

Through my indifference to my fellow men, I have isolated myself from their company. Now I live in a world of phantoms. I am imprisoned in my dreams and fantasies.

And yet you don't want to die.

Yes, I do.

What are you waiting for?

I want knowledge.

You want guarantees?

Call it whatever you like. Is it so cruelly inconceivable to grasp God with the senses? Why should He hide himself in a mist of half-spoken promises and unseen miracles?

DEATH doesn't answer.

How can we have faith in those who believe when we can't have faith in ourselves? What is going to happen to those of us who want to believe but aren't able to? And what is to become of those who neither want to nor are capable of believing?

The KNIGHT stops and waits for a reply, but no one speaks or answers him. There is complete silence.

Why can't I kill God within me? Why does He lives on in this painful and humiliating way even though I curse Him and want to tear Him out of my heart? Why, in spite of everything, is He a baffling reality that I can't shake off? Do you hear me?

Yes, I hear you.

I want knowledge, not faith, not suppositions, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His hand towards me, reveal Himself and speak to me.

But He remains silent.

I call out to Him in the dark but no one seems to be there.

Perhaps no one is there.

Then life is an outrageous horror. No one can live in the face of death, knowing that all is nothingness.

Most people never reflect about either death or the futility of life.

But one day they will have to stand at that last moment of life and look towards the darkness.

When that day comes ...

In our fear, we make an image, and that image we call God.


Quoting Larkin:

'And saying so to some
Means nothing; others it leaves
Nothing to be said.'

For me it was the latter.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Rang De Basanti

I always thought there were two kinds of men in this world; those who go to their death screaming, and those who go to their death in silence.
Then I met a third kind.

The movie rocks!

the four years...THE four years...

A part-proxy Post: Courtesy Deepu

It has been aeons now and we started off at a time, which in hindsight, almost seems like some long-lost childhood.

Dodging the ragging sessions of seniors to the bullets of the STASI like police force; countless hours spent in idle planning about elusive treks across the length and breadth of the country; late efforts to hurdle across insurmountable-looking barriers for REC tests and then even latter minute decisions to give it all up for another session of idle gossip on esoteric topics from Alexander to Mobutu Sese Seko; planning dilettanteish endeavours ranging from breathing life to the dying embers of the quizzing culture at REC to still-born attempts at creating literary magazines and then scaling down our literary ambitions to a successful launch of a raunchier one; dumb charade competitions to forming a crack quiz team, which roared in the halcyon days and bowed out unfortunately with a quiet meow; emulating Lance Armstrong on our home stretches - the Ring Road; expanding our knowledge of ourselves with impromptu folk dance performances; the first session of Rum and Coke in the hallowed precincts of B-69; the rave sessions of bacchanalian merrymaking at Hotel Radhika; star-crossed hillocks which would go on to name this Yahoogroup; cycling to Mandira Dam and back in a 50 km cyclathon; Dolo Gobindo Sahoo and the Ranga-Kutta methods which makes the eponymous wedding boy what he is today; snipping off bullet-ridden jeans until they became your first acquisition of designer denim briefs; the highs and lows of the campus period;Buddykoti and myself striving hard to outdo each other on Mess Charges and occasionally on the lawns of Hall-3 as we fought over the rights of use of a Bhutanese owned cycle;load-shedding induced musical soirees on the corridors of successive hostels; the thousand mistrusts with Boney M over a whole lot of issues; Vishy boy being made to do the laps of the stadium as the 'Gunduest' of us all during ragging to the countless bangs that your fists had to endure to wake up Kumbhakarna from the arms of Morpheus; the 'bald-pate' fashion statement which elevated REC-Rourkela to the forefront of inter-REC haute-cotoure initiatives; cycling across the mountains behind Hall-5 and slipping into wilderness between empty snake-skins and mountains that seemed as if they were from Middle Earth; the first endless night of conversation in Hall-1 46 about puppy love episodes; the change of address of Suratna to the romantic alcove of the REC library as Cupid struck hard; morning shows at Konark and the libido-induced mass rush of Hall-1 to the Kama Sutra in the middle of Sem-1 exams; German club books and election strategies - phew!

And Ranga's endless wall-staring sessions(someday I expected him to start talking to it); the six week hiatus when we resolved not to discuss girls,and did not; the 3 days after that when we talked nothing except girls; Ranga and I forming an antakshari team, clearing the prelims to end the main rounds at MINUS five; Fredrick Wright's insufferable audio rounds; the depression in the civil(ranga, boney and vishy) camp, with SSPP saying aye to Kalia; our first quiz at REC(Hall-3 with Subrat), a day before the ED submission; surdie's eternally fathomless gyan on life, women and Nietzche; acting out Tierra del Feugo and god-knows-what-else for Dumb Charade practise; Deepu's indiscriminate beliicosity, including antagonists like Ratul and Swagat; his final revenge on Variyar; the tragi-comic sinedie; the Spice tent and the free cake coupons; the all night walks through Kharagpur; Ranga as Reading Room Sec, and the lurid magazines; the 250-odd times we listened to Bada Din on that odd contraption....
And on and on and on... Some of the above would perhaps be decipherable only to some and some others may just have become corrupted files in your memory due to non-use over the years - but we have the Aegean stables here of memories and we haven't even scratched the surface of the Pune ones. Guys, TheSadKaffe was created to keep rejigging the memories of the past and celebrate the togetherness that we created. It has been nearly 8 and a half years of knowing each other inside out and I guess, all of us have in a whole lot of unusual and queer ways, become a part of each other.

Vishy's marriage happened in a bit of a hurry and Wally, old boy and Priya, my sincere apologies for not having the time to pen down something in those maddening, frenzied days of B-School life. But as Ranga readies to tie the knot, I feel happy in a very quaint sort of way - almost as if the years are beginning to tell upon you and the feeling of an epochdawning and another setting. Don't know if I have been able to put it forth aptly, but I thought that I will scribble a few lines about the old days and hope, it brings a welcome whiff of nostalgia and a thin smile on the faces of all you hopeless bunch of baboons. Cheers RANGA boy and from everybody at TheSadKaffe, congratulations and best wishes.

Add a toast to THE SADKAFFE and all that it stands for.P.S. And to think of it,"Ranga" was never his name.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yet each man kills

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

- Oscar Wilde

If you put the words kill and love in the same stanza, I guess you cannot go wrong.
It gets better.

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.

Too many have lived

Too many have lived
As we live
For our lives to be
Proof of our living.

Too many have died
As we die
For their deaths to be
Proof of our dying

A story by Dashiell Hammett begins with these lines. It was in a detective story collection I had. Far as I remember, I never read the story. But the lines would jump out of the book, eight lines of verse in a book containing approximately eighty murders.

Its cliched and teenagish. But like some people are suckers for romantic comedies, I am a sucker for this kind of stuff. I am quite the armchair revolutionary.