Sunday, 7 December 2008

Circle of friends

They say life comes a full 'circle'. I say its fair for 'them' to say that. 'cos 'they' would have seen the full circle of life when 'they' said that.
To me, life comes in moments of all sizes, large and small, tiny and big, nano and giga, yocto and yotta, so on and so forth. so theoretically speaking, the circles would/should also scale from one 'y' to another. Obviously I am alluding to eddies in turbulence, but thats another story.
There is/was this one 'circle' of 1-yr timescale that i am especially thinking about as i write.
It started Nov last year with me arriving in southampton. sometime before that the decison had been made to shift - albeit with a heavy heart. Feeling quite lonely, soon to realise that it was more a case of riches to rags, everything to nothing. Rewind 1 yr prior to that Nov. and I had just arrived in London. But having spent an year in london, a band of friends soon developed. To be more precise, there was something about this place - 94E, Hounslow East. It was more than a place - a home.
And down in southampton awaited a new home - a studio flat.
But place of staying is just one aspect, perhaps trivial, perhaps not so, who knows ? . The more important credit crisis, then, was lack of friends. So began a new experience.
And the first people to star in this story are my lab-mates. From Germany to spain, france to italy, they had seen it all. And it was time for me to get used to the same. So we crawled pubs, and sctratched clubs, only to get a feel of things. That was the time to make some decisions - 'to experiment or not to experiment'. But having experimented with the people themselves, I kept to 'lemonade' for the best part. Those were times. And they still are. I remember a greek dinner, where I could hardly make out a single dish. I was told the one I suspected to be chicken, was actually so.
Those were times. And they still are. Live music at soul cellar, small talk at giddy bridge, long chats at the Stags. They still are.
But the circle was gradually expanding all the time. And new stars emerged on the scene. A group, more like a close-knit family. Obviuosly from closer home. From Adyar to Besant Nagar, Mylapore to Marina, they were all there. Sprinkled with a few from higher latitudes. Suddenly everything started to look more real. The 'coconut water' made a re-appearance, if only in thoughts and jibes. The circle took its time. Slowly but steadily it kept feeding its own expansion. Off course, no circles are perfect - atleast not in the non-platonic world.
Onward to the recent past - we were at one point inches away from formation of an Indian society on campus. Only to find myself member of a Bollywood dance society. I remember having watched 'American Gangster' in the 'those were times' days. Now we were on the brink of watching 'Rock on' on campus. These are times. But its getting rather cold here and I am hibernating where it suits 'us' best.
I remember Nov. last - not a single southampton mobile no. to call to. And now, pick and choose. For those who turned up, 'junk' was an experience to carry with. Atleast for a few hours; the ear-drums still ringing to bass. This time it is techno music - but non-techno people as a group. So for once, the voices rung loud and true - higher than the music. And 'turbulence' would be thankul for its debut in a club chat. An interesting combination - a group with its roots miles away - coming to terms with a reality inches close. Lemonade made way for vodka.
So a year on - from a 'home'-ly farewell in a not-so-quiet mexican restaurant in Leicester square - to now - a pseudo-farewell from 'another home' in a hip-hop London (misleading:) road club.
A year on - from Last november - seasons come and go. seasons asserting themselves on a background of rain. The circle has bloomed and blossomed. And today, the 'circle' is ripe enough to be a blog itself.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Circle of honesty

Taking the World philosophy day, as an excuse, I am translating some thoughts into words.
Philosophy, is probably an under-rated science today and science, an over-rated philosophy. But a balance of both is perhaps what we ought to look for.
On these lines, i share my philosophy of dealing with people. I tend to trust people. Putting trust is my way of putting responsibility on people. But to complete the cycle, I need to act retrospectively. (turning to third person singular now, since too much of first person sounds snobbish). One must align his/her actions by assuming that all people around himself/herself are honest. Waht this would lead to is actions supposedly for the better-ment of others. At any rate, actions which wont be objected by others. At any rate, no objection can be shoved at you in first-person, 'cause he/she can repudiate using an honest argument. What this does is to cultivate a circle of honesty.
As with any argument, let us perturb the system. Supposing that someone is dishonest, our first-person would still act assuming honesty. Somewhere down the line, actions interacting with actions lead to heart-burn for the dishonest one. And there-in lies the root of this argument. So in a nutshell - 'honesty is the best policy'.
For lack of space/time, I (from now on, myself) zoom down to the parameters involved in this process. Somewhere i mentioned 'trust'. Now how much of it ?. Science tells us that evrything has a critical value to it. So also with trust - too much of it and the cycle will break down and ditto with too little.
That much for now ..
[Disclaimer: An unwritten axiom of philosophy is that the world is rational]

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Unarmed truth and Unconditional love

a nice movie to watch -

amazing movie and all … truly inspiring in some sections in some sense …

set me reflecting on it contents .. checking the zeitgeistmovement website leads to the following link ..

now if the project accepts “cash” using VISA/American Express/Mastercard/Discover/Paypal , what does this mean ?
If the project says, all payments lead to exemption under so and so “law”, what does this mean ?
and was there mention of not using any of the above monetary brands towards the end of the movie ?

And this from a movement who made such an elaborate movie ..
Am i being too cynical ? .. I hope not ..
But truly unarmed truth and unconditional love are the key .. and I am ready to understand that someone out there co-ordinating this movement has yet to fully comprehend the full nature of what we all are in a sense trying to achieve ..

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

research - importance of team work

I am just trying to put together a few thots I got about my work in general and role of a team in particular. I am just trying to put in words as I think.
I think its important to have had a research group (under a supervisor, in this context) working on similar things. I mean a team is so important in research I realise.
I started with my seniors code and tried to understand it for some time. During this time, I started believeing that whatever he must have done would have been validated. But as it turned out, some of his things (for eg. A particular value in one of the tables was labelled incorrectly) were not entirely right. By not right I mean not correctly presented. And in retrospect, I feel, I lost considerable time in reaching this conclusion. Time apart, it also means that I have naturally become suspicious about other things he has presented.
As it turns out, the senior who wrote the code left before i joined. So we couldnt meet when i started and moreover i was the only person working on this code ! All and All I feel, either he should have been here so that I could have discussed things with him. Or there should have been more than one person using this code, so that things would have been faster. By faster, I mean infinitely faster.
So I mean if we had a group (in fact only a couple of ppl working together would suffice) working on same thing as me, the phd would have been a different story till now …
I am not complaining or ruing, but reflecting ..

I imagine how fast and easy it would be to do research if someone was working with you on the same thing .. it would be really a blissful situation !!

Anyways, this is kind of what I am feeling about research in groups right now. Working in groups is going to be much much faster way to do research !

the point is, I want views from other phds/researchers on this point ... have they noted this too ..

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A journey of imagination ..

As we count down the minutes to a remarkable event, I can hardly resist the emotions. Today, India will awake to a new reality. This event marks the entry of india among the deep-space faring nations.
But this is just the beginning. We need to chart higher goals and higher missions. The red planet, the outer solar system with its fascinating moons, the solar-interstellar interface and beyond beckon us with their limitless queries and charming riddles.
But this is no time to get carried away, it is rather time to reflect on more exigent beauties. The moon, our closest companion, is also a source of energy, and is perhaps going to rescue us from the looming energy crisis. With its helium reserves, it could be more important than we can imagine.

So as the early morning sun makes a soft arrival on the east coast of India, preparations are on in full swing. The majestic PSLV C-11 is allset to soar high, with no only indian instruments and dreams on board, but an international suite of experiments on board too.

15 minutes to go for launch. While its morning and alight on the screen, its a clear sky outside here. And within sight is the destination - a perfect half-moon with its soft soothing glow.

All is calm and confident. Was it a coincidence that I just finished watching the movie - "Nanhe jaisalmer", a story about the power of imagination. Its as if nature is conspiring to bid a fitting bye-bye to chandrayaan on its sojourn.

and its 9 minutes to go now. With imagination, comes its fair share of ideas. The Moon is an ideal destination for being a stepping stone to the outer world. Its our first base camp. The difference from Everest is only that in this climb, the summit is ever so farther.

And its 5 minutes now.
Best wishes to PSLV on its journey.
50 secs. Hope you have a safe ride.

And with the news that Chandrayaan has been successfully deployed in its orbit, I sign off. But not before congratulating the PSLV team for unblemished first phase of this mission.

clear skies ..

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Final county game of the season ...

The county season 2008 was poised for a dramatic send off. Both the top and bottom places were at stake even as the final day of the season began. I decided to catch the action at Hove where the hosts Sussex (sharks) were facing Yorkshire (snaps here). As always the action starts early morning at Southampton under misty conditions. I miss the first service to Hove but before long I am on the Southern train bound for brighton. This journey is a new first for the direction taken from southampton. A few pages of sherlock holmes and a few kids on the seat ahead of me are enough to keep me entertained for the 1.5 hour sojourn. As we head south-east, the attraction swings from distant hills to the left to the ever closer coastline on the right. Hove is the last but one stop to brighton. And the first thing (line) that strikes you on reading the heritage board outside hove station - "Hove is separate from brighton !". That much for satiating the hovian pride.

The Sussex county ground is a 10-min walk from the train station towards the beach. To me, Hove reminds me of the first game for india in 1999 world cup vs South Africa here.

As it stands at the start of the day, Yorkshire are safe but Sussex need to save themselves from defeat to avoid anxiety of relegation. However if Kent were to lose at canterbury, both the teams playing here were to be safe. So the day began with a few butterflies in the stomachs of sussex supporters.

Murray Goodwin showed no signs of nerves though and began by 2 superb straight drives. Followed by a drive through covers to race to 78 before long. But the hero of the morning session was young Yorkshire spinner Adil Rashid. Just 20 years old he is. Bowling all the 15.3 overs from the sea end in the morning session, he picked up 4 wickets in the session making it 5 wickets for the innings. Truly masterful performance and looks a sure england prospect. By the end of the day he had picked 7 of the 9 sussex wickets. Another emotional moment of the morning session was the coming to the crease of Sussex skipper Chris Adams. After captaining Sussex for 11 long years, this was to be his last hurrah in the middle. And fittingly the Yorkshire players gave him a guard of honour as he walked to the crease. I was reminded of the sort of formation the ball boys do at Wimbledon when the prince enters for the presentation ceremony. But chris adams .. what a career he has had at Sussex .. not the least bringing sussex their first championship in 2003. Following it up with back-to-back titles in 2006 and 07. It was not for nothing that the atmosphere was heavy with emotion at the end of the day.

But coming back to proceedings, lunch brought news of Kents' demise at canterbury at hands of Durham and both Sussex and Yorkshire could breath a sigh of relief. Both groups of supporters shared a healthy laughter, albeit at the expense of Kent. The proceedings thereafter were only academic. So I shifted focus to the 2 young pre-school kids a few rows from me. They were busy playing with their tiny dinosaurs who were jumping all over the place. This is in between the chips, cakes, drinks, colas their mother was fuelling them with from time to time. so by the time they were having their lunch, I had reached for my apples to keep in sync.

One of the most amazing experiences was a chance to step on to the field at lunch time and experience some on-the-ground atmosphere. It is truly a heavenly experience to get to walk around a playing wicket at the middle of the day. And with the outfield full of kids playing cricket, balls were flying all over the place. It was touching to see this celebration of cricket in all directions. For one, I got to have a look at the bowlers run-up marks, grab one of the polystyrene markers and rub shoulders with a few groundsmen.

Among the international players playing were Matt Hoggard and Matt Prior. And watching Hoggard bowl to prior, one couldnt help but think of divisions in england camp :). Among others were Luke wright and jacques rudolph. Meanwhile soon news came in of "Durham crowned new champions", as Nottinghamshire couldnt muster the win they needed to win the championship.

The day ended with an emotional adieu to Chris Adams. But not before Murray Goodwin was named Player of the season for sussex, not the least for his sterling century earlier in the day. so the day turned out to be ones of emotional ups and downs. And towards the end even Mohammed Sami was hitting sixes. I managed to catch Sami for an autograph. One thing however struck me - whenever the ball was hit for six, it was invariably lost, and that too when it had landed in the crowd !

among other things, on the sidelines was a sale of cricket-related books. And one could lay hands on any biography/autobiography you could think of. There were autobiographies of Richie Benaud, Henry Blofeld, Vivian Richards, Sunny days, Dickie Bird , you name it and it was there. I also caught a glance of "Cricket" by Neville Cardus.

To soak in the atmosphere, I had a stroll around the family area and the members area. Here cricket seems to be just one of the entertainers. People are chatting around, relaxing and reading books. I too joined in with an ice-cream on the sidelines. and more importantly, they know their players and seasons, so its nice to eavesdrop on a few lessons in cricketing history.

By the end of the day, one cannot help but think - whatever "happens" to cricket in other parts of the world, here in a small country town, cricket will always remain "cricket".

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Olympics sign off

As i watch the olympic closing ceremony, a stream of thoughts starts to trickle through my mind. All the thrills and spills, the highs and lows of the last few days. But before I get on with that thread, heres a phd comic, an original one ..
scene: discussion in lab about olympic success ..

French guy (complaining as usual): 34 medals but only 5 golds, we are lot better than what the standings show ..
Spanish guy : whatever the tally suggests is one thing, but Nadal is truly something ..
German (ambitious as ever) : umm .. 14 gold is just about ok, but we can and should do lot better ..
British guy (doesnt know a thing abt sport otherwise): our success is quantified - 1.5
All: ???
British: you see, Australia have 12 gold and we have 18, so 18/12 = 1.5.
Indian (beaming and seemingly happiest of the lot): We did infinitely well this time.
All: ??????????
Indian: you see, Pakistan has 0 medals and we have 3, so 3/0 = infinity.

Anyways, back to the main thread ..
I was wondering what memories would stay with me long after the games are forgotten otherwise .. and being in britain this time has definitely made an impact on the memories to stay ... for one, seeing 14-year old tom daley make it to the finals of diving was something. This lad definitely has a cool head on young shoulders. for another, Chris Hoy getting 2 golds in the velodrome, just symbolic of the overall performance of the Team GB cycling team.
The belgian high-jumper (i forget her name), jumping 2.05 and getting a first track and field medal for her country ..
the highs I save for the end ..
among the spills, the need for american relay teams to appreciate the importance of 'co-operation' ..
looking at the closing ceremony, an idea crossed my mind - if there was one event a nation should target to get a gold medal - it has to be the mens marathon - for its the only event to have its award ceremony in the limelight of the closing ceremony ..
Athletes apart, the venues are here to stay, not only physically, or symbolically, but also in our hearts - the magnificient 'birds nest' and the cool 'blue cube' among others ... Qingdao for the sailing and Hong Kong for the horses ..
And what perfect hosts china have been .. perfect hosts for 'sport' ..
I see it as a role model for India to follow - give it another 40 years or so, and we should be dreaming about New Delhi in the same vein. And by same vein, i mean in all respects, including, not the least, athlete performance. But thats a long way away ..
For the moment, the focus shifts to our very own london. And the closing ceremony already gave hints of the cultural precipice we need to cross to get here.
But all said and done, olympics is all about spirit .. and I relish to dwell on that aspect .. In fact, If I had to advise my 1-yr old nephew in the future, there are a few aspects which the olympics have made simpler -
Look at the races which Usain bolt ran .. and watch closely not only the race but the post-race celebrations - and you will know what 'sport' is all about ..
Look at the 7th race which Phelps won - and you will know that to be a 'champion', you not only need ability, but also 'hunger' ..
and then watch Abhinav Bindra on the podium, and you will know the definition of 'modesty' and perhaps 'composure' ..

signing off beijing .. welcome to london ..

Thursday, 3 July 2008


The protagonist of our story, Mr. Wimby is a fan of Wimbledon. Its been ages (atleast his age) that he has followed Wimbledon. Be it watching Boris becker making delightful volleys, Be it Goran climbing up to his father upon making it finally to where he belonged, Be it staying up late hoping that the stupid television channel realises that paes is playing on court 10 - please switch to it, Be it hoping Nirupama vaidyanathan becomes first indian woman to make it to round 2.
Wimby is no novice at the art of crashing in early at wimbledon to get ground entry on the day. But this time, there is more in store.
Sunday, June 29 (6.30 pm): Wimby is languishing in his room at southampton. The distance to Wimbledon has gone up from last year (when he was based in london) but perhaps the urge is commensurate. An idea is seeded. A quick check with BBC weather and the idea takes root. A sunny Monday and Roger Federer on centre court. Sounds like an invitation to Wimby's ears. Just as a fail-safe check, destiny has more to offer - Roger is playing hewitt, theres leander and sania playing on outside courts. And most importantly, theres been just enough progress on work front to face his boss on tuesday and say - "I have been to Wimbledon yesterday !".
So out goes Wimby on another of his favourite train journeys. And before he realises it, he finds himself at Wimbledon park tube station. Its 10 pm now and the streets are deserted. Wimby has no clue to where the overnight queue starts, save what "google god" showed him on their map. But before long he finds his way to the secluded Wimbledon park. Its dark by now and there are a couple of people in sight walking with tents and stuff. Seems like the right scent to follow. Indeed Wimby's stealthy chase leads him to the overnight queue.
Theres a surprise in store now. A "queue card" is placed in his hand and the steward cheerfuly tells him - "you are only 979 in the queue". "What, there are 978 people more stupid than me, cant believe it", says Wimby, almost aloud. The dreams of watching Federer have melted in a flash and the reality of getting to see "Nadal" is sinking in. But there are more exigent matters to attend to - primarily getting some sleep, sans a tent. wimby is carrying only a sleeping bag with him, and soon becomes the cynosure of his fellow queuers. Comments like "You are brave", "I think you will die tonight" are making the rounds. But that does not deter Wimby. Its not a bad night after all - the sky is clear and the big dipper is in place. From his sleeping bag, he spots a shooting star zooming by, and makes a quick wish for sound sleep.
Granted - its 5 am and the stewards come to wake people up. By the way, the stewards are all 60+ veterans - many a queue, and perhaps many a match old i guess. Theres excellent "early-morning" facilities, to let you feel at home - atleast the important ones. Its time for a hot coffee and anticipation of the day to come. Sleeping bag is disposed off to the "left-luggage" counter, further lightening up wimby.
And he finds good companions to while away his time. 2 Teachers - a girl from south africa and a guy from canada are flanking him in the queue. Inevitably talk zeroes down to teaching standards - and what do children in primary schools need and what not. Interspersed with an invitation for Wimby to watch cricket at durban - not bad.
Wimby notices people turning up at around 7 am and thoughts go back to last year. He sees himself among the hopeful "early-birds", tch tch, little do they know the difference between a "show-court" and "fooling around on outside courts". As wimby will soon find out.
The queue appears to move much faster this year. And this year, theres an exhibition on the way - caricatures of past champions. so while Nadal and safin are on the mind, theres Bjorn, Jimmy, Boris, Goran, John, Michael for the eyes.
After the routine security, ticket turnstiles, wimbledon shop, its time to recharge batteries. Not the least for the mobile phone. Soon wimby finds out that though he is carrying a charger, the authorities of such a mammoth event, havent thought of putting up plug-points for the public. But help is nearer than expected. The newsagent next to Wimbledon shop is a gem of a person and without second thoughts makes place for wimbys mobile to be charged up. From the look of it, a couple of lights in the shop have been sacrificed. Meanwhile Wimby charges himself up at Food Village around the corner. A 40-min charge and Wimby's phone is ready for collection. A parting question to wimby - "where 're you from". "Pune", wimby replies and pat comes the first genuine smile - "me from chennai", says the newsagent. "Vanakkam" says wimby and a circle is completed somewhere.
First its leander on court 5. A few glimpses of "the volleys" themselves, but overall its a struggle to win the first set 7-6. Cant help but notice - Dlouhy, leanders fellow, is such a talkative person, the chair-umpire is a light-hearted person, the ball boys/girls are so disciplined.
But theres no time to get carried away by paes. The show-court, "Court 1" beckons.
A step into court 1 - and the realisation dawns on wimby - "this is perhaps, after all, what Wimbledon is all about". Nicole (Vaidisova) and Anna (Chakvetadze) are out practising on the court. The images of the crowd on the far side, the chair-umpire and the players seats, the score-board in the corner. The camera on wimbys mobile is working overtime. Anna, though enjoying wimbys support (for her tennis, wimby keeps reminding himself :), struggles to cope with Nicole's power and eventually succumbs. But not before 3 gripping sets.
And then the moment - "Rafael Nadal" makes his way on court. The crowd go into raptures.
An injury time-out by Rafa, gives the crowd time to do a mexican wave. Rafa, perhaps being over-cautitious, understandably so, with an appointment with the "King of wimbledon" coming sunday looming on his mind. Hapless "Youzny" shows glimpses of brilliance, but after all he is human - by the third set, he has surrendered. Wimby cant help but reflect what must be going throught youzny's mind - "I have to spend inhuman amount of energy just to hold my service game, and you hold yours as if it were a stroll in a park, c'mon, is this a game of equals ?"
Next, its Safin and stainslas wawrinka on court, and some "equal" tennis resumes. Wawrinka picks up the 3rd set to pull the match to the 4th set, but Wimby's thoughts are wandering to Sania, playing on court 18. So, safin is sacrificed and Wimby lands up on court 18, just in time to watch sania and bethanie pull off the 2nd set and stay in the match. Wimby is right in the line of the service from the far side of the court and before long a ball zooms towards him. Quick reflexes help, the ball is held in one hand, returned to the ball-girl, the other hand holding the mobile-camera dutifully.
Sania is enjoying the support of the predominantly indian crowd. But her game is patchy at best. Thankfully, their opponents pull out due to injury and the match is awarded to sania-bethanie.
Meanwhile, drama is unfolding on henman hill, just next to court 18. Its electrifying- the cheers of the 1000 odd people gathered to watch drama unfold on the giant screen outside court 1. The drama is performed in person some 500 meters away inside center court by Mr. Andy Murray.
But wimby is half asleep by now, and thinks it better to head off back home. Sleeping bag picked on the way, Wimbledon park, Clapham junction and before long southampton central. Its 11.30 pm and a 30-min walk to his room beckons at this time of the night for want of buses.
Wimby reflects "there are miles to go before i sleep", photos to upload and a story to write.