Sunday, September 7, 2008

cut the carp already

The superstar quipped in his blockbuster Basha, ‘A Japanese will die if he cannot work. An American will die if he cannot -’, I forget what – ‘An Indian will die if he cannot talk.’ Sweeping generalizations aside, here in India, it is a thin line between a talker and critic, for we are a nation of armchair experts, of people who have an opinion about everything from the n-deal to the traffic congestion at pondy bazaar, and are only too eager to enlighten anyone with half a functional ear. They can (and do) wax eloquent on all and sundry issues with such panache it’d be impressive - if it weren’t for that pompous dismissal of the entire system. Chronic whiners are a dime a dozen, and finding one dysfunctional tap in a train can set them off into reciting Top 12 Reasons Why The Govt Is Hopeless. Replace Govt with Railways, Media, Auto-drivers, PFA people, pretty much any form of organized effort, and then some – and you have a decent picture of the specimens.

While it is entirely understandable that people are less than happy about a good many things beyond their control(and not even the most regular contact with the irritant can dampen the quibbling spirit), all the harping and carping, with no suggestions for improvement, can sometimes get maddening. These are the people who can list flaws and faults in a trice but balk at the prospect of putting their money where their mouth is, and actually doing (or trying to do) something more than passive criticism.

I’m not against complaining about the things that are, and the powers that be, and everything in between. Hell, no. This blog, this very post, is proof I’m not. What gets my case is how often we hear people saying- and I paraphrase - ‘Those idiots don’t know how to do their work; if only I’d been in their position the contrast would be so glaring’, when in fact they have no intentions of being in anyone’s position but their own. ‘The one thing the Electricity Board has to do is give us power’, they lament, ‘and that they don’t do properly. What has become of efficiency?’ Extending that logic, what if we were to say ‘The one thing man has to do is live, and that he doesn’t do properly. Tch tch’? Balderdash!

Complain all you want, but woe betide you if that’s all you will do! Join a club; vote; write to the editor; contribute for a cause – and not a one-time Bihar Flood Relief Fund either; teach someone to read and write; sign up for a clean-up drive sometime; tell a few kids that people come before gods; try using plastic bags less; conserve water, power, paper; and get others to join you. At the very least, do nothing positive but say nothing negative. Not all the time. Even most of the time is quite putting off, come to think of it. Few things are worse than being a noisy empty vessel.

Monday, July 7, 2008


If nature loves symmetry so, why are there more questions than answers?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A pair of rose-coloured glasses, please

Friday, June 13, 2008.

Midway through my newspaper ritual, I happened to notice the date. Friday the thirteenth. It was the first time I was around to witness the union of the pretty much innocuous day(it’s actually supposed to be auspicious, isn’t it?) and tainted number, to present the ‘sinister’ date. The earlier occasions (if any) don’t count – I didn’t appreciate the significance then. I was wondering idly if the day would bring any sort of misadventures. It didn’t,. Possibly because I didn’t have occasion to venture out of the house for most part of the day. That is, until 7pm.

My brother, struck by a sudden inspiration, looks at the clock and with a violent start demands to know if I’ve collected his spectacles from Turakhia. Ensconced in the island at the centre of washed clothes waiting to be folded, I nonchalantly reply in the negative and continue folding his shirt, tut-tutting at its collar. Rather than express derision at the Surf Excel lady on the small screen at that very moment, he gives me what he imagines is a threatening glare, and bursts out ‘But they were due an hour back, you fool! Go get them right now!’ My aunt, reaching for a towel from the pile, is about to say something when he bellows ‘GO! NOW!Wincing from the assault on her tympanums, she gives me a beseeching look that clearly says ‘Spare my eardrums any more damage and just go get the darned glasses.’ With a sigh, I hand over my dad’s half-folded shirt – collar unworthy of any remark – and straighten up and ask my brother to get off the sofa already. ‘But why?’, he has the nerve to ask, ‘I’m not coming with you.’ Hands on hips, I inform him, if he doesn’t care about his precious spectacles, I most certainly don’t so would he please stop expecting people to run his errands for him and also change the damn channel before we all scream bloody murder? Watching the likes of Jackie Chan saying 'Aaku paaku vethala paaku' is only tolerable for so long. Obligingly, he channel surfs and, with a look of incredulous delight, settles to watch two early-men specimens trying to knock each other’s teeth out. Momentarily forgetting that he hasn’t acknowledged the specs part of my tirade, I ask him how on earth we’re getting Ten Sports without a Set Top Box. He simply shrugs happily and continues to stare at the screen rather gormlessly. One of the barbarians is lying prostrate and the other is holding up this one’s hand, with a horrible menacing smirk on his grubby face. Excuse me while I puke. Before I can launch into another tirade, my brother tears away from the tv long enough to give me a puppy face and explain his homework schedule in minute detail and plead with me to go by myself.

Statutory warning – My knowledge of spectacles and frames and lenses and whatnots is abysmal, mostly because I have never had anything to do with them. I daresay that isn’t much of an excuse, but there it is. I’m not even sure what my bro’s specs look like, and what the guy in the shop told me they would do to repair the broken black part.

I walk to the shop, hand over the bill, gaze around at the objects on display with mild curiosity while the assistant tries to locate the right brown-paper cover. There are lines of them, brown-paper covers with their fragile contents, neatly stacked in drawer after drawer near the counter. The assistant hurries forward now, triumphantly clutching one such cover in one hand and my bill in the other, apologises for the delay and makes quite a show of carefully opening the cover, extracting its contents, and brandishing the pair of glasses inside. A drumroll would not be inappropriate now, for all the drama he made of it. I accept the proffered item and examine it rather ineptly. Like I said, I’m not really familiar with my bro’s spectacles, except that they are much sleeker than either of my parents’ and makes him look intellectual as opposed to geeky. I remember the first time we went to the eye doctor, both non-specs-donners then. After getting half the letters on the last line wrong, my brother told the doctor he just wants a cool pair of spectacles. Stylish, he said. Cheeky little jackanapes. Anyway, back to the present. The specimen in my hand seemed a good likeness to me, except for the, whatsitcalled, frame? The long thin line, its end rests behind the ear? Yeah, that. My bro’s, I knew, was quite slender, almost like a wire, pretty much 1-D. This one, though, was kinda fat, definitely 2-D, and forcibly reminded me of my grandpa’s spectacles. Hesitatingly, I ask the assistant for the bill, not that I expect it to be of much help. Was inconsequential anyway, cos he announces it’s company policy to keep the receipt. Now whoever heard of that? Whatever. The assistant, finally realising I’m lingering in his shop with a look that does not convey satisfaction, deigns to consult the bill and assures me they did what they could to repair it, and it’s fully usable now. He even flexes the frame(that line, whatever it’s called), as if to prove it’s fully functional now. Semi-convinced, I thank him and let him usher me out of the shop.

I congratulate myself for my near-perfect timing in sync-ing with the traffic lights, manage to cross the road walking, only breaking into a small run 5 feet from the platform. A boochandi (that right? Bogeyman?) muttering on the pavement at passers-by, grins suddenly and for one mad moment I wonder if it’s at me. Bah, you flatter yourself, my mind tells me, he’s mad, isn’t he? Of course he isn’t really looking at you, even if it seemed that way. He’s laughing at the world, hon. Reassured, I walk on, mostly averting my eyes from people.

By the time I reach home, any doubts I may have had about the specs, have disappeared and replaced by an evil anticipation to see the look on my brother’s face when he sees the thatha-frames. Kicking off my floaters, I give him a thoroughly nasty smile and nudge him to open it, barely containing my excitement. Yes, I know. I’m evil. Muhahahaha. With a great deal of apprehension, he tears open the cover and seizes at the glasses inside. One moment’s silence. And then - Enna di idhu?? what the hell have they done to my frame?’ My cousins can barely contain their laughter, and my aunt wrinkles her nose at it in open distaste. None of it helps my brother’s mood. With his usual disregard for other people’s aural apparatus, he asks me, with no hint of politeness, what on earth I asked the shop guys to do, and why, why they had to use such a hideous frame. Without waiting for an answer (not that I had much of one – I simply told them the thing was broken, so could they please fix it, and when could I collect it?), he gives a fresh moan and now starts cursing the lenses. ‘Did you ask them to change the lens as well?’ He tries it on as I honestly answer no, and in a new tone of surprise, declares the specs aren’t his. Oh boy, that sure wiped the grin off my face. I stutter at him stupidly. ‘Huh? Not yours?’ ‘No, you idiot’, he replies scornfully, all the tension evaporated now, and my cousins’ amusement is now at my expense.

Chagrined, I retrace my steps in silence, my weak ‘I told you to come with me! This is why you should listen to me’ falling on deaf ears. Shaking his head merrily, my brother feigns reproach and repeats the same phrase over and over again. Any annoyance at having to walk to the shop after all is forgotten as he gleefully makes unflattering comments about my competency in such simple things. To my mortification, as we turn the corner, he is seized by an abominable idea - to loudly say ‘Second time to same place!’ and give a pained sigh, at intervals, intended for passers-by. Pooh-poohing my suggestion that some of them might think him cranky, he tells me the others will definitely know I’m the clown here, and that’s good enough for him. Sigh. So much for an uneventful Fri the 13th. I don’t venture any more opinions, and concentrate all my energies into tuning out the litany of his one-word summing up of my abilities. Not that I succeeded. The phrase continues resound in my head whenever my mind takes a break. Doesn’t miss a chance to leap front from where I’ve shoved it, the back of my mind.

‘Dubuku di, dubuku’

This post is a helluva long one, I know. To make up for the prolonged sabbatical,perhaps. Mostly, it comes as a result of my decision to take a leaf out of naren’s book and convert everyday nothings to humorous anecdotes. How bad was it? And be honest!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Change of cast

My good readers, rip van's decided to take a break from blogspot. And to take his, er, her, place, I give you - wait for it - fiddlesticks! **smiles happily**

Come to think of it, this blog has mostly been sleeping, and that's exactly what the proverbial Rip Van does too, so maybe that's why! Now howzzat for some sophistry? (gre fodus, you better grin now!)

Wonder how long this one will last, now.

Exit rip van winkle. Enter fiddlesticks.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


There was once a blogger called rip van

who, interestingly, was not a man.

She thought and sought

to outdo the drought,

and they gathered her ashes in a dustpan.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Critical analysis

Hypothetical situation -

X is walking down the road, minding her own business and looking nowhere in particular. Ten feet from the shop she meant to go to, she is stopped by a scraggy-looking man and a woman carrying a child. All three look lost and tired. Feebly, Man asks X if she knows Hindi. Somewhat reluctantly, X gives a diffident nod.
Man (croaks; X has to strain to hear him): We were going to go to Rameswaram but.. (trails off on seeing X’s face)
X (without meeting his eye): No money-
Man: Don’t want money. Biscuits.. food.. (points to child)
X looks at child and quickly looks away. ‘ I’m not carrying food’
‘..If you could help us.. child.. milk.. biscuits..
After a moment’s indecision, X fishes out two ten-rupee notes, hands it to grateful Man, points vaguely at the distance to a grocery store, and walks on hurriedly. As she's walking, she becomes aware of two hitherto unnoticed bystanders with unmistakeable sniggers and just a hint of amusement on their faces, and hastens into the shop in relief.

Question -

Was X a gullible fool in the above passage?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

au revoir

It’s time for the resurrection post again, the first back-home-to-good-net-speed post. The one that is usually a recap of the sem that was, and plans for the hols. The sem that is to be is too far ahead as yet( and anyway, that will be part of the last-rites-before-hibernation post) Right now, the only thing I can remember about the last sem is.. just that – it was the last sem. Still feels surreal to think that I might never see some of those faces again, that when I go back to campus for the last time, to see it rain-washed as I first saw it, it will not be quite the same.

Because it’s not just your circle of friends and all the times you had with them that you’re going to miss. It’s everyone, and everything you’ve always associated with them, set against that one unifying background of BPGC, that you’re going to miss. It matters not if they were a Somebody or a Nobody to you, whether or not you can attach a name to their face or a face to their name, they were all part of the big picture that will be incomplete without them all.

The guy who always came late to class, the one who always wore one of two tshirts only, the funny- haired fellow (which one of them, you’re wondering, now, aren’t you :B), the girl with the phone round her neck, the guy who slept through s.k.ghosh’s first p&s lecture and began a long series of thoroughly forgettable pj's, the Breakfast Guy whom you only seemed to notice in the mess in the mornings, the girl who petted the campus dogs when noone else would go near them, Bandage Guy cos his hand looked like a mummy’s the first time you saw him, the guy who spoke of Internal Bleeding Inside, the always impeccably-dressed Mr.Mon , the girl who always got up and ran for class, Familiar Face (and to this day, you dunno who he reminds you of), The Enlightened One, the Blue Brilliant Boy, the Insomniac, and Case and Whistle and Red Shoe and Superstar and DDRF and Cannonball and Smiling Face and Hermione and Assistant and all the rest of them, who, bless them, probably have no idea you know them, or worse(?), this is how.

Maybe you no longer refer to them by these first-impression nicknames, maybe you found that first impression isn’t always the best impression. Maybe you now know them well enough to call them something that alludes to a special memory between you, or maybe you know them no more than you did when you coined that first nik. They may have been the first people you noticed as you began a new life in this campus, even before you made your first friend; they may be the people who, unwittingly, are part of your first memories with your best friend, or they may be your best friend. It doesn’t matter, you’ll miss them all, varying degrees or not.

This post, then, is dedicated to all those friends/acquaintances/strangers, nay, to all my batchmates and seniors – the first faces I saw on campus – for all the memories we shared without really sharing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

tch tch

Midsem ppt and report for COP due in a day. Both yet to be started.
T2, the current next time of ‘I will do better next time’, in the near future. Disturbingly near. Preparation - zilch.
Lab tests in analog and eiit shortly thereafter. ‘Nuff said.
Ditto PSOC project. Whatsit stand for again?
Project hunt for 4-1. What, who, what?
Placements next sem. Silence.

And yet, all I could think of as anita agarwal was teaching dual slope ADC was which color recycled paper to use for my college-memories scrapbook. :/

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Poetry (ahem ahem) for a change

Remember Fatty of the Five Find-Outers (Enid Blyton) and how he used to make up poems at the drop of a hat?? As it turns out, it's not that difficult after all, if you're sufficiently vetti, and have a fellow jobless freak to egg you on to make up 5th-standardish poems (as in, poems written, not read, by 5th grade kids). Presenting Whose Chat Is It Anyway, courtesy rip van and naren.

Monday, January 28, 2008

ज्ञानं परमं बलम्

A few days ago I was reading this one ebook, Hacking for Dummies, so as to get some sort of footing for a Quark event. Anyway, the introduction made for pretty breezy reading (cos it was all in plain English). Which is when decides to inform us that he's made a bunch of Foolish Assumptions (yeah, it's actually titled that) about the readers,and apologizes for it too. And Foolish Assumption no. 1 is that I'm familiar with basic concepts of computer-, network- and information-security-related concepts. Arghh. It said Hacking for Dummies, for crying out loud, how much plainer could I get?? I dunno the first thing about networking and security and crap except that I can't stand this McAfee Security Centre on my comp now. And no, don't ask me why, long story.
There isn't a single topic I know of in Wikipedia, whose explanation does not include several links to other (possibly) new, related concepts.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it just makes me realize how interconnected soo many things are, and how little we know no matter how much we know.
The ocean of all things unknown makes me feel so small, so insignificant, so full of wonder. Behind anything, everything we use every single day, things we don't even think about, from a toothbrush to this laptop, is a story of a myriad minds and hands, from the ones who conceived of the idea to the independent efforts of so many others in implementing it, to bring it home to us, ready to use.

Guess it's the Quark spirit (and the Techfest spirit and the Pragyan spirit and god-knows-what-other-college-fest spirit, except those spirits are all second-hand for me) but it's a time to pause, cherish and savour this unending quest for knowledge that sets us apart as a race.

When you leave behind the studying-for-exams factor, you just have to appreciate any science for what it is. Any subject.

The whole wide world is just.. so.. grand.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Felix Felicis.. slurp :P

I’ve always considered myself lucky, if there’s such a thing as luck. I’ve never really thought much about it, except for the small prayer of thanks I mutter on those happy occasions. Just making the cutoff for a grade, being fortunate enough to maintain an 8-point cg with minimal efforts, things generally falling in place after the initial chaos - I’ve never questioned the quirks of fate any of those times. Why would I, you ask, when everything’s just fine and dandy for me. After all, who says ‘Why me?’ in the midst of good fortune? Fair enough. It’s the ‘Why her?’ of bystanders that I’m scared of, that I do not like. Is it my imagination, is it a guilty conscience, a low sense of self-worth, or is there an accusatory undertone to that question? ‘She doesn’t deserve it, why her?’ I can almost hear the unsaid words hanging in the air. I don’t know, I want to tell them, I don’t make these things happen. It’s as unexpected to me as it is to you. And I can’t help but share some of their feeling, that maybe I don’t deserve the good fortune. Hell, it kills the joy of feeling lucky in the first place. In fact, it’s almost worse than being unlucky, this, having ‘ill-deserved’ good luck thrust upon you that makes you feel all guilty and unworthy. Almost.

But when I think about it, I realize there are as many instances of bad luck as good, just ignored or forgotten. I’ve missed grades by just a few marks, too. And I’ve had my fair share of just-missing-the-bus (yes, figurative) episodes; instances that make me wonder if Murphy used me as his subject. But no, they are only seen as either amusing anecdotes, or what I had coming, due to my own faults.

There is method in the madness, even if it is not apparent to us. God doesn’t play dice with the world, after all. So even as the seeming injustice rankles, and you frown disapprovingly as Lady Luck smiles at me, remember, whatever happens, happens for a reason. Today it’s me, tomorrow it could be you. Or the day after. Or - you know.

PS - And any fool who calls a totaling mistake in my paper, luck, deserves a punch in the face. Those are my marks, smart alec, I’d be unlucky not to notice it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

new year request

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

- The Serenity Prayer,
as it appeared in A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey