Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The latest Flipkart ad

I have been a fan of Flipkart ads for a while now. I love this one. That critical appraisal, that mock quirk, that despair that there is nothing and the pile of clothes tried on and strewn all over is all too familiar. 

If only my closet could pull the trick I couldn't see
I'd give anything to know, how happy I would be
Everything is too tight, too bold, so boring, too floozy, I just don’t feel like it…
I am the girl with the classic fault that I have got a closet full of nothing…
In a world where I want something, I have a closet full of…ugh..
When you have everything and still

Nothing to wear!

This is when I turn up to work in Batman shirts.

Monday, December 02, 2013

On my first Thanksgiving (and the giddy pleasures of throwing money around)

This Thanksgiving break was all about being crazy. The first few days were about rallying support from my friends for the impending Black Friday madness. After having worked in credit card fraud and account hacking for more than a year, I have always associated Black Fridays with midnight escalations about machine learning models going haywire. I have only heard of doorbusting- people trampling over each other to get deals. I wanted to be one of those crazy people too though I don't really have to try.

In my course work, I study this very interesting concept called Mental Accounting. It is about how people create different pockets of accounts in their head that would justify their spending. Much of Black Friday is about how retailers screw with people's head and make them re-adjust these mental accounting pockets. There is also something called time discounting, where people over estimate the utility of the product that they buy. In fact, it is amazing that there is an entire branch of science to see how retailers can make money by messing up the weaklings' heads.  I will leave the digression for a different post. Interested folks can read this very influential paper here

Despite the fact that I am aware of the evil machinations of these deals, I am totally okay with them retailers screwing up with my head. It reminds me of an interpretation that one of my professors talked about in his class and I could totally relate to. When people sold Britannica Encyclopedia (the physical hardbound ones), they weren't selling Encyclopedias; they were selling hope, pride of having a smart kid around in the house and a brighter future that the encyclopedias, which were destined to be unopened, promised. In a non unrelated way, I willingly let these retailers seduce me with their wares, the bargains and the promise of a better life that comes along with owning a pair of fluffy earmuff. Ok, before I meander further, let us say that the monster inside me was fanned and prepped up during the week by the mass emails and the red tags on these emails, not to mention the other factors such as months of anticipating and actually abstaining from Amazon. I unleashed myself in the malls of Pittsburgh.

If only I can track how many resolutions I made, and failed on the day. My knees went weak and my ears went to the happy hot stage (that generally happens in the quizzes) when I was in the mall full of 75% off deals. To cut the story short, it was a long night of pretzels, Oh-so-glorious, wonderstruck shopping and my endorphin splashing the roofs of all the shops I went to. I remember this block from Tintin and the Cigars of Pharaoh.

We spent the night in JC Penney and Macy's cleaning out the shelves. I can attach a pictorial evidence, but I shan't for reasons that will remain undisclosed. 

The second part of Thanksgiving was spent working like a demented person. I started at 10 PM Friday night and didn't realize that it was 5 AM the next day. I was just following hunches and digging data feeling like a detective. This has never happened in history (the working hard part, not feeling like a detective part) and hey, academic work can be this cool! There is something so pleasurable in working hard. And the best part in this is that, unlike shopping, there is no aftermath of guilt. I have been uber productive in the holidays that I took some time off today to write.

Actually, I should also take a moment in the last few hours of Thanksgiving break to think about things I am thankful for, just to live up to the spirit of the holiday, if the spirit of the holiday is not just shopping.  I am actually thankful to cool Orwellian paper titles that put me on track to this wonderful adventure, to people who were once strangers, their continuing kindness and incredible support. Also, here is a wish to more of the non-quizzical, non-black Friday, but, academic "happy-hot-ear" moments that just make me grin into hours after they happen. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Surprise surprise

On the other news today, The Happy Page took my idea and illustrated the following :-)

Sort of inspired from this :-)

And this is one such sunny spot

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Of easy wind and downy flake

After days and days of waiting for snow, here it is. A couple of weeks before, I was almost sure that it was snowing but then it melted before it hit the ground. I assumed I was hallucinating after three cups of coffee.

Nevertheless, it is here, it is incredible and I haven't stopped smiling since morning. I was looking for an unsuspecting victim whom I could thwack with a snow ball from the back. I found one later in the day and he was not pleased. One off the bucket list though.

Snow is sort of fluffy which is surprising because I imagined it to be like grated ice not unlike the snow cones. Now I know why Robert Frost  called it the "downy" flake.

I can't *wait* to build a snowman and have an actual snowball fight.

If you see someone near CMU jumping up and down and singing off key, it should probably be me.

I had to abandon this perfect snowball that I made in the morning!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Quora question: What did you do when your parents left you at home alone?

Obviously, I had a lot of things to say on this topic. (I have already written about some of the stuff here in this blog)

I spent a considerable amount of my childhood at home alone. The story goes that my school started at 7 AM and it got over by 12:15 PM. This meant that my parents had to put me on the bus by 6 AM which also meant that they should be up by 5 AM. My mother thought it was too much of a bother for five hours of school which, in her opinion, was not teaching me anything. I bunked school at least 3 days a week. Both my parents worked and being a single kid, I pretty much spent all my time at home.

This was pre-internet and pre-exciting TV channels. We had cable TV (which was anyway introduced only in late 90's) but I somehow I never liked cartoons (I didn't understand the accent in which the characters talked ). My parents were voracious readers and read quite a bit in Tamil. No one was really interested in watching TV in my house and therefore, for the lack of better things to do, I started reading, crazily. My school had a wonderful library and I checked out tons of books every week whenever I went. I wheedled the librarian into giving me more books than it was normally allowed.

Madurai is not a big place. There weren't too many people who read, let alone children's books written by arcane authors. Only my grandfather read English books in the circle of people I knew . He harped on the classics of his times and snorted derisively at my taste. Due the distinct lack of a recommendation mechanism, I discovered all the books that I loved by myself and that helped me try out a lot of things before I started appreciating good writing.  It was only after the Internet came about, I discovered how popular Enid Blyton, Herge(not technically an author), P.G.Wodehouse and my other favorite authors were among others who liked reading and I felt a strange kinship with the world.

Apart from the time I spent reading, I used to paint, collect stamps, sew clothes for my dolls and cook clandestinely because I was not allowed to switch on the stove. For some time, I was even interested in clay modeling. Basically, I learned to keep myself super occupied and when my parents came back home in the evening I had tons of stuff to tell them about the exciting happenings of my day, that was exciting even within the confines of my house. After the Internet came to my home in 12th grade, things changed massively- well, even with a dialup one could do so much. (I nostalgically observe a minute of silence for the creeps of AOL/Yahoo chatrooms at this point. A/S/L, anyone?)

Anyway, the point is I spent a very significant portion of my childhood, at home, alone. I loved it, though it (obviously) had major repercussions. Till date, I simply cannot work from desks and prefer to work in my nightclothes and from my bed because that is how I used to study or get any work done -by being a blob- as no one was around to chastise my weird ways. Things got slightly better after I lived in a dorm during undergrad and later, when I had room mates - but I used to love the all the little moments when I had the place I called home, to myself.

There is one particular reason why I love Calvin. Except for the figment of Calvin's imagination, Dad, Mom and the occasional kid he plays with, there aren't too many characters in his childhood. I resonate with this sentiment so much.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Happy Page

My urge to write becomes astronomical only when I have two tests, a gigantic assignment and other important stuff that I have been trying to get to. Hence, I would like to write about a recent discovery of mine on Facebook. It is called the Happy Page (website here). People around the world write to these guys who illustrate in a meme like fashion on what happiness means to different people.

This page is sort of addictive to flip through and see how many of the pictures I can relate to.

My favorites are

And the best

If I read some of my early posts from my college, I sound like a completely messed up person (not to  mention the gazillion grammatical errors and mortifying writing). I seem to have focussed entirely on being contentious. Some of these issues are so irrelevant that I do not understand how they riled me up to write such torrential amount of garbage in the first place. I seem to have wasted oh-so-much time in my undergrad and learned random stuff (like how to solve cryptic crossword puzzles) just so that I can get into the finals of a random made up event in an even more random cultural fest at some college.

Nevertheless, here I am, almost as depicted in the picture, wise enough recognize the follies of my squandered youth. As JK Rowling says, I guess there is an expiry date to all the anger that you feel towards the world at large which is pretty much the underlying theme of undergrad days. These days I don't even pick up fights on Facebook. If that is any sign of maturity, I attribute it to the copious amount of character building that happened between January and up until I came here.

All this renders a zen like quality to my sleep deprived self that I have started finding happiness in

1) Nice sunny spots to work from
2) Daylight at home
3) Figuring out things on whiteboards
4) Better still -walls made of whiteboards which I accidentally found out in a building on my campus
5) Days without feeling a sleepy haze around my head
6) Being a blob on my bed on Saturdays
7) Remembering where I last left my spectacles (and keys, and ID card..)

and most important of all

which is all this blogging business is about.

Now, I really really have to do something about the homework.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Quality of Mercy

It is one of those days when I feel incredibly dumb and yet so good at the same time, to be in a place with extremely talented people. Part of it comes because of this class I take every Wednesday that requires me to read long papers on experiments that folks at decision sciences conduct to study human behavior. Today was my turn to present in the class and I had to look at experiment that measures altruistic behavior in people. In the experiment, the authors put a person in front of a shopping mall who rings a bell but doesn't explicitly ask for a donation. In another case, they put a person who rings the bell but explicitly solicits donation. They also repeat this with two solicitors. 

They find out that people when asked, give 75% more donations than when they are not asked. Also, 30% of the people avoid the door where the solicitor is standing and choose the door where no one is standing when they see that the solicitor explicitly asks them for money. They do not avoid a door where there is a solicitor who does not explicitly ask for a donation.

So basically, the authors are list various reasons to figure out why people like to help others and how a verbal "ask" creates a feeling of empathy that makes people give money. But it looks like people go out of their way to avoid a situation where they will be asked for a donation. So it is not the act of giving that people avoid as much as the act of being asked. They still don't know why people do that.

All through the time I was put together the presentation, I was thinking how profound this concept was and that I was actually studying this with the academic rigor that was expected out of me.

I was also thinking about Portia's monologue in The Merchant of Venice, in which she implores Shylock to show mercy on Antonio

The quality of mercy is not strain'd.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

The quality of mercy is not strain'd? Academic literature thinks otherwise. :-)

However, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the kindness of people who never knew me when I sought their help. And somehow that makes me believe in the quality of mercy, more so now than ever.

P.S: I titled the presentation with the same title as this post.. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Age of Pencils

I find the American practice involved in writing out the homework very funny. For one, you can turn in homework by tearing the sheets from your notebook. Better, you can write in pencil- even in grad school.

I find this funny because we typically quit the pencil business at about fourth class. Starting to write with pens is a sort of coming of age ritual in India. The pencil hangover continues for a year or two, mainly as a back up to the "Hero Pens". The pencils are usually spotted as sidekicks nestled alongside an array consisting of a primary pen & back ups including a ball point pen.  Ball point pens have always been looked down upon with an unjustified derision. The anti-ball point league comprising of admonishing mothers and caring fathers criticize that these pens encourage their offsprings to write fast and thereby symbolize their inattention to important stuff like handwriting. Work, like worship should be painstaking and it ain't work if not written with a well tempered Camelin ink pen.

 The school days progress and before we know it, life thrusts us upon us, a geometry box. Multiple times during this phase, we fathom the use of the oddly shaped triangular things in the geometry boxes.

Mysterious triangular component

After this, science gets split into Botany, Zoology, Physics and Chemistry. Social becomes History and Geography. We start prefering bags that are more vertical than horizontal. Then comes the denouncement of lunch bag/box and the ubiquitous "snack boxes". As a direct result, all of us have had at least one instance of our tiffin boxes leaking their contents in our school bags. One can almost always catch a whiff of stale curry or curd when a friend opens his/her bag. Note that these are bygone days. Odor free school bags are marketing tag-lines for Tupperware "Executive lunchboxes".

After this phase, cometh the log books. We then start using the mysterious triangular objects in the geometry box, the way the Lord meant them to be used. This almost signs the end of school and perhaps the wisdom obtained from the swathe of colored pens we carry to our board exams, makes us feel enormously ready for the world.

Then, all of us enter an engineering college and acquire a drafter.

I remember these drafters distinctly because I had borrowed a discarded one from a senior  and arrived to the Engineering Graphics class, quite pleased with myself, about the amount of money I had saved on the drafter. It so happened that the drafter had been discarded for a reason. The handle and pretty much anything that was supposed to move was rusted and jammed tight. I tried so hard to unscrew the rusty handle and irked everyone in the vicinity with my loud  grunts. The professor was not pleased. The next day, in a sudden stroke of inspiration, I thought of pouring coconut oil over the screw hoping that it would lubricate the parts better. It did help me move the handle but I ended up having huge circles of oil stains all over my A2 sheet. It is a miracle I passed the subject.

Engineering education also ensures that we get to feel self important by using grown up instruments like  "polar" and log graph sheets, "pro-circles", Z and star transform tables not to mention the multitude of HB pencils.

That's pretty much all the stationery we typically use, sans the boring ruled and unruled notebooks. Maybe later we all buy a file for our job interview and a "harmonium folder" for a visa interview.

Stationery usage in Indian schools emphasized on presentation & handwriting which is tied to the probability of scoring better in tests. Here, I see that the emphasis is on organization. I have never seen such a selection of tools. There are page tabs, file tabs, filler papers, folders in various forms- much fancier than the "harmonium" ones. I was fascinated to see a lot of multicolored paper sticking out of a classmate's book. It looks like these guys mark the important pages with different colored papers which are made especially for the purpose of marking important pages! There are label makers and rolls of labels for the label makes. There is stationery for purposes that you would not have imagined existed before.

After all, necessity is the mother of invention. In all the days of using a geometry box, have you ever thought that life will one day unravel the mystery of those triangular things in the geometry box? We should all live in the hope that maybe, one day, we will discover the purpose of ink erasers that never erased anything as much as tear out our beautifully scripted homework. 

Here is to cooler stationery and huge discounts at the local Staples.

This post was written on a coffee induced vigor.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Zen Pencils

In the recent days, I have become a big fan of Zen Pencils. This is basically a comic which takes up quotes, speeches, songs, poems as its themes and gives a wonderful interpretation in the modern day context.

This week's comic is particularly close to heart because it has taken up Bill Watterson's commencement address at Kenyon College and has converted the speech into a beautiful, poignant comic with Calvin and Hobbes evoked very subtly in all the boxes. For a person who can quote Calvin and Hobbes verbatim, it is a carnal sin when people attempt to create a modern day version. It sullies the collective wisdom of a five year old and his tiger and worse it makes Calvin to grow up. However, I was completely blown away by Zen Pencil's interpretation which while quoting Watterson, takes us through his life hinting Calvin all along but never saying so.

It is beautiful. Do check it out here. Do look out for the Dinosaur & the author's daughter holding up a gun. I definitely know the sheepish look.

There were two pieces so profound that it worth adding them here.

Finding what you like is definitely not easy but is definitely allowed. It just reminds me of a day this February when I went to buy milk and returned home devastated that I had been buying the same milk at the same super market every weekend and nothing in my life was changing the way it should be. Just to figure out what I really wanted to do took me so much time and to get there, and to "will" things to happen was a brutal, masochistic process. Whenever I sit in some awesome class chuckling at what the witty professor just said to get his point across, I tell myself that it was worth it.

When people ask me why I didn't start my PhD right after college, I often wonder what I can tell them.  How do I explain that these things cannot be planned. I cannot really explain why I like doing certain things in a certain way leveraging what I can do best instead of trying to be good at something I don't like but people expect me to be. I cannot explain how important it is for me to be excited about what I do and even now, I feel it is okay to go back and forth until I get it right.

Sometimes I don't even know who or what we are running up against. When I see some of my classmates from middle or high school on Facebook, I wonder why we all squabbled over who got the first rank or won a stupid Math quiz. Life averages us out eventually. Our definitions of happiness varies so much that it is stupid to make us all stick to arbitrary timelines and measure us all with the same success metric. After a point, the value of 12th standard marks, CTC, GRE/GMAT score diminishes to insignificance. At this point, I see people envying each other only on the quality of life apparent on their social media feed- the fun things that they get to do after work, the biking trips, exotic vacations and so forth (given the assumption that most people consider all work to be boring as everyone codes for someone else) - which is rather sad.

Ok, time to get back to work. Hope you enjoyed the comic as much as I did!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hardbound and Huggable

It has almost been a month since I landed in Pittsburgh. I brought with me from Madurai 76 Kilograms of luggage and incredible heat and humidity, to boot. Ever since I came here, I have been moaning about how hot this place is, while people around me smirk and ask me to hold on to my thoughts. Though I know why, I cannot bring myself to believe that Pittsburgh can get cold. It feels as bad as Madurai- the sickly heat and the sweaty aftermath.  I am just getting used to the fact that one has to clean the house by oneself, do the dishes, and assemble every piece of the furniture that gets delivered. I have also been wandering around- figuring out the streets and acquiring a taste for American coffee.

The other stuff to get used to is that one has to pay for coffee. And for food. And heck, even for a soda! My heart bleeds in buckets every time I swipe my card in an infernal machine. I have not paid for a soda in the last three years. Nor for popcorn, and nor for any comestible that the land of magical food offered me for three glorious years. A week before, my friends took me to this Indian place saying that it has one of the best buffets in Pittsburgh. When I stepped into the restaurant, I squawked in despair for the buffet was smaller than the buffet one would get at Google on a Sunday afternoon. I suppose it is safe to assume that my days of rhapsodizing about the heavenly Masala Dosas or the crispy onion pakoras and the infinite pani puris is finally over. I can almost hear my friends, who had to endure my prandial showing off on Facebook, clapping their hands in glee.

I have been waiting for this rush of happiness and emotion ever since I came here. You know, the general introspection, looking back and ahead sort of thing that I tend to do when there are big changes in my life. However, the old heart seems to have turned cold. No amount of rumination, or why, even the gorgeous view of Pittsburgh from Mt.Washington could elicit tender feelings.  I kept wandering by the university store looking at the Carnegie Mellon T-Shirts and the other related paraphernalia which generally possess the ability to kick me up into a state of blissful frenzy. Surprisingly, even a clearance sale on CMU T-Shirts did not have any effect on me. I gave up thinking that I have quite some time ahead to pledge alliance to the Tartans and that the rush of happiness would find its way in the upcoming years.

Today, I happened to go the library. I have always associated college libraries to be these drab buildings filled with outdated Engineering books half of which one was not allowed to borrow.  College libraries reminded me of  moldy dungeons and didn't rank high up in the places I would tend to hang out in. Therefore, I didn't give this library at my university too much of a thought except to go in there to scan/print stuff. Today, I was looking up some books when I stumbled across a whole shelf of Marios Vargas Llosa. This is when I noticed that they had a whole shelf of Gabriel Garcia Marquez too. Around the corner, there were collections from Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth and what not! They had Rushdie, Rowling and almost three shelves of P.G Wodehouse. And this is just the beginning.

All of these books were so resplendent in their regal hardbound covers unlike the cheap flimsy copies that all the libraries my life possessed. This, is the real deal. E-books come and go, but hardbound is forever. Almost. These books are a sheer pleasure to hold and more so to read. I realized that I could borrow about fifty of them at a time (and pretend that I owned them), which is something that I could have never done back in India. I checked out about half a dozen today and came out of the library grinning like a cat. 

I was meaning to go back to my apartment. Instead, I plopped down on the lawn, under a tree, luxuriously stretching my legs and have been reading under the August morning sun ever since. Just as I started writing this, I thought it would be appropriate to mark the occasion of feeling peaceful for the first time in ages, with a photo of the huge sunny lawn that lay across me. Very instagramable memory, I must say.

Somehow my faith in goodness, life and the immense possibilities that it beholds, has been restored. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Black Calico bound textbooks

When I was at school, my father developed an ingenious, almost patentable way, to tamper proof my textbooks. First, he would place a cardboard sheet on top of my books, drill tiny holes along the edges and stitch the books with the cardboard. He would then append a layer of black calico on top of these sheets and let it dry for a day. The usual brown covers would go on top of this calico layer. Then came the labels after which my father would use transparent plastic covers as the final layer of protection. This was a back breaking job and my father would spend two three days on this while I waltzed in and out of the house supervising the operations with insightful remarks such as "Oh, not that green dinosaur label on my Maths book! I was saving it for Science".

Now, one would wonder why my father invested so much time on my books. I am sure much revered documents like the original copy of the Indian Constitution or why, even the Magna Carta would probably not have four layered covers. At this point, I need to elucidate my mother's beliefs on the Indian educational system. To keep it short, she didn't believe in it. This meant I occasionally popped in and out of school for writing a test or for a quiz or when I had to go to the library to check out my Enid Blytons for that week and that was it. I was at school hardly three times a week and I very rarely went to classes thanks to the quizzes. This methodology worked wonder on my social skills, of course, but I loved it when I was at school. My mother would rather have me at home reading a novel than go to school and be bored all day.

My school didn't mind my erratic attendance because my grades were always super good and frankly, they didn't have a choice as they couldn't really complain to my parents. I suppose it was better not having me around rather than getting caustic post cards from my mother pointing out flaws in their teaching methodology.

Tangents apart, this meant I never really attended any classes and learnt most of the stuff by myself. My mother coached me until 5th grade (to see that I was actually doing something) and my father had to help me a lot with Math well into my high school. This also meant I really had to read the textbooks myself, multiple times- not just the questions at the back of the lesson, but every word inside. As much as she did not believe in trivial things such as attendance, my mother used to go Nazi on me when it came to marks.

My mother would advise me to consider my books like yet another paperback and finish them in the summer holidays so that I had the entire year to goof around. Apparently, this is what they used to do when they were kids and which is apparently how my uncles aced everything they ever did. I used to point out the flaw in her otherwise impeccable logic that I was anyway planning to goof around all year and books were not going to stand in my way.

When the tests loomed before me, I had a ritual - For some unfathomable reason I would watch my books carefully for a week or two. I guess it was more to acclimatize my visual senses to the mere existence of these books. Two days before the test, after a lot of maternal insistence and revoked reading privileges, I would render a melancholic moan not unlike that of our friend Myrtle. I would sniff at the book suspiciously, look at the print size, admire at my father's neat stitches and then decide to take a break. Post the "break", I would potter around filling ink in my pens, getting my scented erasers out and arranging my pencil box.

At this point, my mother would have that vein throbbing dangerously on her forehead which would hurriedly drive me back to my desk. After opening the book to say, "Classification of animal kingdom", I would sigh and count the number of pages till the end, hold the pages between my thumb and forefinger to gauge the thickness and utter one more moan. This is when my mom would go bananas, snatch the book off my hand and throw it across the room telling me, not in subtle terms, what a waste of her time I was.

I would sullenly retrieve the book and read the damned chapter on how the members of Phylum Coelenterata procured food and reproduced. If all went well, the books would lose their plastic shield in a month and be reduced to the bare calico in 3 months. In three months, all my books looked uncannily like the book of judgement what with the gloomy black calico portending a year full of tests. Books before the tamper proof era had to be replaced three times in a year which is why this rigorous protection mechanism was established. One would ask why my books were not hard bound - that's because I refused to carry such heavy bound books to school, even for the meagre 2-3 times per week and my parents loved me so much that they had to invent a lighter weight option.

While at college, I would happily walk into Ukkadam shops with my syllabus book and get the cheap Prentice Hall (for sale only in the Indian subcontinent) books while my father paying happily for the books, like he always had. I never used xeroxes like my fellow CITians did because I needed those big prints on off-white sheets and the book had to feel voluminous enough in my hand. Spiral bound xeroxes with their deathly pallor and tiny prints put me off more than the drab VLSI content in them - not to mention the unpleasant feeling of spiral coil poking me at unexpected moments.

At college, I again had a ritual. I used to stack up all my books in a huge pile and beam at the prospect of knowledge I was to glean from them that semester. I would then read the preface scanning for signs of witty remarks. I would then put the book next to me on the bed and sleep partially on it for a week to get used to the feeling. In this period, they would serve as a laptop stand, you know, as a heat dissipating agent.

One such stack in my final semester

In short, when it comes to text books, I am a tough nut to crack. No one moans and groans like I do when it comes to reading books that are plain textbookish in their own old fashioned way. I relish interesting material, interactive lectures and witty books-  stuff I can laugh at, like Tanenbaum's Operating Systems, Computer Networking and this other Electronics book. This is why, after a lot of failed attempts at conventional reading, I had to order a copy of what is called as "A cartoon guide to statistics".  It is good they have a clientele like me who like to consume knowledge through pictures. Reminds me of the good old days of calico books and dangerously throbbing veins on my mother's forehead. This is also a good reason to completely switch to Coursera and Udacity which is probably the best kind of education I have had. Really, I had tears in my eyes after I watched classes from this Calculus class.

P.S: I started this out as a tribute to world book day but ended up meandering quite a bit and had to change the title :)

Monday, March 04, 2013


Been writing this blog ever since I was 17 and I have written a post on most of my birthdays. Keeping up with the tradition, on a rather tiring day, here we go.

Birthdays don't feel any different anymore, there are no milestones. I get to eat cake everyday :)

I hope I get to go by the year following the two principles.

 Phil Dunphy

Green knees and make life go "whaaat"

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Dedication Post

I started this out as a post in Facebook, but decided to blog as my days at college deserve one more post. It is dedicated to one of my best friends.

Happy Birthday Bhageshvar Mohan.

There are a thousand admirable things that makes him the man of action that he is- I have never seen someone so doggedly determined, so street smart and oh, so precocious, right from the first year of college. We spent hours lamenting incessantly about our circumstances- but he always pulled things together and gave hope to the rest of us in our gang, that things will eventually work out.

But I really need to make this dedication about food here considering how much of our gang's time and money was spent in the pursuit of good food.
Srivatsan Varadharajan, Bhageshvar Mohan and I would often take bus No.2 during weekends, to the railway station about 10 KMs away from my college. The tiny street opposite to the station beheld Geetha Cafe along with other shady looking restaurants. At Geetha cafe, we used to immerse ourselves in the Brahminical joys of Paruppu Rasam and More Kozhambu while watching Bhagesh polish his plantain leaf with clinical precision. 

We would then slowly waddle back, sweltering in the midday sun, into "CS meals" to have lemon soda. We would then walk up till Gangotri where the coffee guy would make one medium strong and one extra strong/extra sugar coffee for Bhagesh and me, while Srivatsan would have his ginger tea. Sometimes, we sauntered off to "Chocolate room" with its pricey food, just to have coffee (the cheapest thing on the menu) and bitch about the rich kids around us who had so much money to afford such expensive food.

On really long days, we would take the Gandhipuram bus, get down at Women's Polytechnic and would arrive at Krishna mess with gusto. We would consume plates and plates of Ghee Pongal/Kolaai Puttu/Vadai/Pesarattu  before we started our tales of woes. We would  drown the sorrows of labs, records, hostels and the other associated miseries of our 19 year old lives, into the Godlike sweetness of Kalkandu (Rock Candy) milk.

And about a zillion times during the course of college, we had our meals at Anandas replete with Vathakozhabu and Keerakootu. There was Thatha, of "thatha mess" who used to read my Computer Communication exam question paper right after the exam, with more interest than I had shown during the exam. It was at this time when Bhagesh used to order a  tea from Royal Bakes for five bucks and spend hours piggy backing on the Wifi from the internet cafe above. At this point I have to interject that he was one of the first in our gang to have a phone that actually connected to Wifi. It was this phone that I used to incessantly check my inbox for Google results.

 Occasionally, Chandru would accompany us, but he was too attached to his Paati's filter coffee to come with us all the time. Ela was one of the other guest appearances in our entourage.

RHR idly shop with its famous podi onion oothappams and Jigardhandas made malfunctioning circuit boards and the "outputs" that never manifested, much easier to deal with. Dosa Plaza, Agarwal sweets for Vada Pav/Pani Puri, Boomerang, early morning coffees at Caramel before mock CATs, podi dosa at Aaryas Peelamedu, Chandini for Paneer Butter Masala, Annapoorna Sambar, Rasagulla at Chowpatti at Big Bazaar- We hand picked our meals.We even ate in hospital canteens. Many an evening was spent at GKN hospital canteens, some in Arvind eye hospital and a few in PSG Hospital. This would gross out Chandru and many of our other friends who never understood how people can eat in hospital cafes for pleasure.

We made our own money to finance our food exploits, something I am proud of until today. We scraped work, attended arbitrary quizzes, talent shows (:-|) and heck, we even wrote content for websites. Till date, I can never look at Abercrombie and Fitch without getting nauseated. In our second year, we wrote so much bullshit for this website that sold A&F. Bhagesh had a flair for stocks. Can you think of a 19 year old boy staking all his college fee in Satyam stocks when it hit 1 Rupee and selling all of it the next day when it hit 3? He did that and it paid for our gang's Ghee roasts for the next 6 months.

I am not going into the depths of our loyalty to Jenney and how much we contributed to its growth. It is heart wrenching to write about the food in Coimbatore, despite being drowned by food at Google.

 I have a bunch of other things to thank Bhagesh for - for being such a willing partner in crime and for putting up with our gang's eccentricities and sometimes egging our madness on. I can never forget the day we whipped up a business plan sitting at "Royal Bakes", on a tissue paper and actually pushed it till the finals at this ruddy competition in CEG- just in a day. One just needed to ask Bhagesh to execute plans to perfection. During Brahma (our quiz club's national level contest), we raised nearly a 1,00,000 INR in less than two weeks, bang in the middle of recession when our regular sponsors backed out. I still smile when I think of Chandru describing Bhagesh's haggling tactics with Stanley, the backdrop vendor for Brahma

To think back, we were a bunch of geeks (still are), each obsessing about the future and making grand plans with no idea on how hard it was going to be. But I guess we were never boring. We were always in the thick of things and cooked up very interesting schemes for the heck of it. Hey, we even built a robot for money. We were probably the only bunch from college who went to Goa, with all the "Goa!" fanfare, hated the place instantly and ended up searching for Pure-Vegetarian restaurants; the most exciting time of the said holiday was  rushing back to BITS Goa hostel from Colva beach so as not to miss the Boondhi Raitha at the college cafe. It is like this. Equate Boondhi Raita to the cardboard box

 But we had each others' back and pushed each other through what we thought was important at that time. CIT would not have been same without these guys. 

As they say, you are an average of your five best friends. I am.

Again, here is to Bhagesh and to better food for the rest of the year!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ferrari Ki Sawaari

Today I watched this brilliant movie called Ferrari Ki Sawaari. The other Boman Irani movie I have seen before is "Well done Abba" which was again, amazing. As far Ferrari is concerned, the movie's story line was simple but hilarious. Every character was so accurately portrayed. The Mumbai that they showed in the movie looked so clean and beautiful unlike the Mumbai that I have seen. I want to gush about it more, but then it is around 1 am and my adjectives tend to be limited at this time of the day. I am kind of going through an epiphanic phase, lately. As I was watching the movie I found a bunch of pertinent takeaways that I thought would be worthy enough to jot down in this journal of mine.

  • There are a lot of hardworking people who badly want a lot of things to go their way. It is important to acknowledge them while evaluating personal miseries
  • There are a lot of unfair things that can happen to good people. The true meaning of growing up, so I am told, is to move on
  • If someone gets something that we want so badly want means that they wanted it more and they worked harder than we did
  • If certain things were meant to happen in a certain way, we cannot tweak them to suit our convenience
  • There are good people in this world 

End ramble.