Wednesday, April 04, 2007

You think you won? Perhaps you did......

Saturday, January 27, 2007

British super-fools

Check out this news about the 'liberal' attitude of two British MPs- Roger Godsiff and Jeremy Corbyn. They have demanded "justice" for the barbarian named Afzal. So they hold Anti India placards on Indias Republic day (and if you are wondering when that is, Jan 26th). They claim the trial Afzal has gotten is not fair.

Well, If you oppose a country on its Republic day, you are bound to get some media attention (there is a slang for all this- Keeda karna) and then Godsiff's Birmingham constituency has a large Muslim population, with roots in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir! My points are- 1. why Afzal only? 2. Why Republic day? 3. Why British Parliamentarians (given Afzal may only have had a fake British passport, if at all)? If you still do not get it, you probably, never will.

Now I dont know if brings me joy or frustrates me more, but am I glad to see appeasement outside India? For all the whining of the BJP, they would atleast be relieved to know fools exist everywhere.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A religious atheist

In another of my adventures on the internet, I found this peice of priceless misunderstanding . What profoundly impressed me in this blog is how our thinking is influenced and how rigidly we manipulate happenings to fit our views (and nothing else). For example, the concept of God, religion and political thinking. Some old-timer, sane, dead person, once advised not to mix all three or was it the last two? Because, the one with God and religion was not something Macaulay-like people could see in their society. The concept of religion, a modern day person has, is of a headquarters issuing out step-by-step instructions on the upkeeping of morals. And this borrowed concept is imbibed into our society blindly. There, right there, exists the difference between an organized religion and others- like Hinduism.

An Abrahamic religion is an example of an organized religion. Thus, you are expected to go to a Church if you are a Christian or offer namaz if you are a Muslim. But ask any Hindu if there is a compulsary need for him to attend a sermon (or like some people think, watch Fox news!). Somehow, inspite of their experiences with it, people tend to apply a single-dimensional western outlook to Hinduism. (and whats more, call themselves liberal!). Better still, do a random check on social networking sites like Orkut for the number of Hindus (names might help -Eg: 'Krish'na is a Hindu name as a Muslim or a Christian rarely has this one ;-) who claim to be 'Atheist', 'Agnostic', 'Spiritual but not religious', 'Religious humanist' , 'Unitarian universalist', 'Neo-paganist' etc as compared to people of any Abrahamic religion. It gives you quite the indication why Hinduism is, in reality, a liberal 'religion' unlike otherwise percieved and why they are different.

Whats with God and religion? Every religion has a God. Yes, definitely so, in an Abrahamic religion only. I challenge any Hindu, atheist or whoever to try and show me why a Hindu must believe in a God. Or why my political leaning cant be Right and I cant be an atheist at the same time. I can loathe the self-proclaimed liberals and still be an atheist and no self-hater can stop me from doing that.

"One who fights a monster, becomes one himself"-Neitzsche. Atheism is belief in non-existence of God. And like all other religious fundamentalists, atheistic fundamentlists will always claim to be intellectually superior. Even an Osama Bin Laden can claim superiority of intellect by default. For any frog in the well, the well is the ocean- Is it even a surprise?

All Atheists need not be liberal or rational and we have examples to show that. I end with this dialogue from RHTDM to the men of 'wisdom': "Chashma utaar aur duniya dekh".

PS: For all claims on superiority-by-non-existence-of-proof, try explaining Law of conservation of energy and creation of matter on the same blackboard. And unlike others, this religious atheist welcomes liberal, conservative or confused views. :-)

Some words....

Ah, I had decided I wont post more than one blog a day but then i come across this one and am so(ooo) given into it that I couldnt resist. Some words just inspire you so much...(that you decide to blog on them!). For example, consider this stanza, I came across from my random internet browsing:
Tujko peeda mein dhundhungi, (तुझको पीड़ा में ढूंढूंगी)
Tumme dhundhungi peeda (तुझमें ढूंढूंगी पीड़ा)
(I'll search you in pain,
I'll search pain in you)
This is from Mahadevi Varma's Neer bhari dukh ki badli (I am a nimbus cloud of sorrow). Wow, so much depth in those words. That is precisely what strikes me in great poets/ writers. After you have gone through the whole story/ poem, you relaize it was just another simple story but I guess its the way it touches you that makes it awesome.

I am no fan of Fiction but I read philosophy, science, history and political writings. But a few of them you cannot afford to miss out: Great Expectations (Charles dickens), Mill on the floss (George Eliot), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn(Mark Twain), Nirmala and Godaan (Munshi Premchand), Pushp ki abhilasha (Makhanlal Chaturvedi), Mera Naya bachpan (Subhadra Kumari Chauhan). This is a decent site for all those people who like hindi poems. Also I had read this essay (X std, AP Board syllabus, I language Hindi) called "Nakhoon kyon badhte hain?" by Suryakanth Tripathi 'Nirala' (I think) I want to read it again, does anyone know if its available on the net??

Looks like book review is coming up next. Man, life is getting so exciting. Wonder why I still go with 'Life Sucks'. ;)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On maturity

Over the last few days, I feel I have grown-up and this must come as a respite to the numerous divine souls on orkut or otherwise who have requested me to (well, dont get too excited- I say this because I am getting my wisdom tooth now). What gives me this feeling is something I realized when I was talking to someone today.

In life you generally do not end up getting what you wanted, atleast not always. My general perception of a life-well-lived used to be the one where you could get most of what you wanted and could blatantly blame what you didnt, on parents, dog or luck- strictly in that order. (Thomas Brugenzi, no, that still wasnt me). Life would really get messy with thinking about it time and again and so on. In the end, I still would end up not far from where I had begun- only this time, I would hate myself so much more for not being able to get it. Such arrogancy!

I now realize that a big part of maturity, and that is wholly my thought because this is my blog, is to know when to give up and more importantly, how to give up what you dont get. In other words, it is realizing how good you are and living fully within that matrix. When I say "how good you are", I do not mean obviously your looks or piousness or religiosity et al., its more of knowing how much pressure you can handle in a given situation.

I see a lot of people define their lives by saving money, apparently for tomorrow. (And if I were to believe the 'sooth'sayer next door, not for much long). People are so involved in living their lives for tomorrow that they forget they have to live today and by doing so they make sure that tomorrow never comes! Its nice to be thinking of the future, securing your and your family's future and all that but seriously one must take a deep breath and relax, have a cup of coffee or two and do something they really like doing.

Happiness is a state of your mind and we obviously so look for it outside. Life comes at you and you dont want to live?I end with this verse from Chandogya Upanishad (which I think is in context, although you may not):
Yo vai bhuma tat sukham;
Nalpe sukham asti Bhumaiva sukham

And finally the disclaimer: It might just appear that I am being extravagantly faking knowledge but, believe me, that isnt the case. I am still as much stupid as you last knew me, only (perhaps) I spoke that much less. (For people finding it hard to believe- I am quite an introvert, when and if you ever meet me, (your) God forbid, touch wood).

Monday, January 15, 2007

I like.....

I was very influenced by Anurag's Must watch blog (and character, but lets keep that aside for today). I am definitely not good at movies (except that I have watched RHTDM 133 times in all -swear not for Diya Mirza... or that guy.... or any of the guys or gals- damn its so difficult to be precise and yes if something else is brewing in that mind of yours- no, it was just for the story- I liked it). My list of movies would include that one and Pulp fiction, Forrest Gump, Ben Hur, Ameircan Pie, Naa ninna bidalaare (Kannada) and Hungama (Hindi). In all other movies I have been in, I have either slept off or irritated my neighbor so much that they didnt talk to me for a long time. (After watching a few others, I cribbed badly on Orkut and got thrown out of a couple of communities).

When it comes to tv shows, I love That 70s show, Swat Kats, Friends and South Park. Thats pretty much it.

Ok heres my favourite. Music. I love it -any kind. As long as its loud and as long as I have coffee next to me I can stay. (I have a coffee mug that inspires the life out of me: "Life's short, Stay Awake"). So heres what I am going to do: I will post the music I like and youtube links to it. And I will keep updating it and date it so you know if theres anything new (Its funny I just thought what if no one ever read it? See, that would be insane. But who cares. Most things we do are Insane.) Also let me know your personal favourites. So here is my list for today:

Date: January 15th 2006
Genre: Rock and pop

1. Coldplay- Clocks
2. Cyndi Lauper- Time after time
3. Guns N Roses- :Sweet Child of Mine, November Rain
4. Metallica: Wherever I may roam (An all time favourite), Nothing Else matters, Enter Sandman, One, Unforgiven II
5. U2:Elevation, Vertigo
6. Greenday:Boulevard of Broken Dreams
7. RHCP:Californication
8 Iron Maiden:Educated Fool (another favourite)
9. Linkin Park:PaperCut, Numb, Somewhere I belong, Crawling, One step closer, In the end, Faint
10. Three Days Grace:Animal I have become, I hate everything about you
11. Robbie Williams: Feel
12. Engima: Gravity of Love
13. Dire Straits: Sultans of Swing
14. Creed: Sacrifice, Higher
15. Hoobastank: The reason
16. Evanescence: Everybodys fool, My immortal
17. Eagles: Hotel California
18. Pink Floyd: Comfortably Numb
19. Maroon5: Shiver
20. Bond:
Explosive, Shine

Sunday, January 14, 2007

About me

I am disillusioned to put it mildly. But when someone asks me to describe myself, I go blank. I mean, for all you know, that is all I may just be but le me try and describe myself and venture to look at what others think of themselves.

Orkut is one place where you find this question and many people go ....daaaaaaaaaaamn it, yuuuuck or the likes. And then there are some who are the "I am me" types. Some self-anointed-wit-masters come up with nutty quotes like "its a two letter word" or "Ithink I am odd, I think I agree" and stuff. But I seriously doubt if anyone asked you that in an interview, you would come up with anything remotely what you put up in your orkut profile.

Life is so damn strange. You get a PhD in Material Science and can describe the domain interaction in the most complex semiconductor material, but you cannot clearly define yourself. Atleast I cant. No, neither can I explain the domain interaction well nor do I have a PhD but you get the point. Many people in a formal interview that I have been around in start off with, my name is so-and-so, I am from so-and-so, I have a degree ....blah blah blah. Yeah! got it. I guess I asked tou to describe yourself and not the degrees you've got or the best restaurant in the place you come from. So who the hell are you, now.

So, Who am I? I now go venturing out into self-description (and to an extent, hate) after a lot of thought .. umm no... after a lot of being in some kind of a state where you appear to be thinking . So forbear at your own prerogative. Heres what I think about me:

I suck at most things in life. And I dont give a damn about the rest.

To know more about the nit-wit kind of shit you are used to, go and have a look at my homepage or orkut profile (if you can find me, that is). Life sucks man. Damn it does. You ******* even dont know yourself.

Ok, I was just told I am very insensitive. I think I agree.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Why I believe in a God? (and still maintain I am an atheist)

(Please note: This is a real life experience and deemed hazardous to health. And beware- The interpretations are only and wholly yours).

Knock! Knock! It was early in the morning- 10AM to be precise. It had been a while since I had gotten up as early. I woke up grunting profanities and opened my door. There was no one outside. My friends played prank on me all the time but not now... during exams when everyone would be digging up their (and others') notes. A passing thought claimed it must've been my roomie, but he was out answering one of his own! naah! I shut the door - almost.

I noticed it then. A yellow note attached onto the door from the outside. Ah! so someone stuck it on and went away was my guess. I took it and read it out aloud: "Prakash Kini, please see me at once- $$$". I shuddered. That was my project advisor. And a summon meant something was wrong (and more importantly, I was supposed to rectify it). This person was the best in business- which, sometimes, makes it difficult to be appreciated. I wasnt in the best books of my advisor, but I was not doing badly in my project work inspite of my course load - 17 credits plus 0:4 lab in my second semester in IISc.

Life in IISc can be very demanding. And that challange is what makes you, what you will end up as, when you leave the portals of this great Institute. But certain challenges, I was unwilling to undertake, for instance - foregoing sleep. ME students are expected to work on their projects starting third semester culminating into a interim project report. And then one semster dedicated to research. But my advisor wanted me to get going from the second sem onwards.

As I dressed up, thoughts of me getting - in IISc slang- screwed, came to my mind. But I assumed, since I had just answered an exam the previous evening and was supposed to answer one more that afternoon, I would be asked to pay attention to project and let off. I hurried to a friend, who gleefully told me that the note was on the attendence register and he thought it would only be appropriate to bring that to my notice immediately. I realized that I could always bash him later but for now I had to meet my advisor immediately.

As I entered my lab, I saw my professor fuming at a labmate- uh oh! spells trouble. I meekly stood by the door and waited for my turn. As he was done with Maddy, he turned to me and asked me for a report on some stuff he had asked me to complete that week. I replied I couldnt complete it and was about to state my reason, when I noticed my advisor would have none of it. He shouted at me for being lazy and not completing my work. After this, I do not remember anything. There is a state I get to, when after the threshold is crossed, my brain stops responding. It happens rarely but it happens nevertheless.

The last I heard him say was: "I want this one done by 4 PM". Thats when I felt the jolt. I had to turn in this one AND write an exam. I pleaded that I be given some time but apparently, couldnt make my point. I saw no returns in thinking about what to do and set down completing my project work. and complete I did, (with a lot of errors- I came to know this later on) after which I went on to take up my test. I was about 45 mintues late into the (3 hour) exam and could answer about 75% of the questions. The worse part was, I couldnt refresh my mind and did not answer it to the best of my abilities.

This made me think whether I must continue on with this (to be frank, 'put up with this' is what I thought back then). No, hold on. If you are thinking I am blaming my advisor, you are mistaken. If A is not compatible with B, no assumption of A or B being good or bad can be made (without an error in judgement, that is). Incompatibility is an issue of mutual interaction not working- and that is it. For one, if there was any shortcoming, it must have been in me.

A thought of changing your Advisor was one thing- actually thinking you can do it is another but doing it is unthinkable (or atleast was).I do not know why I ended up thinking that I must talk to some Professor from my department then. But that is what I thought was the best step to take. The trouble was whom do I go to? Now, Vikram Jayaram (VJ) is one name that came to my mind. It must have been because of the 2 courses of his that I had taken in the first semester. This person would toy with us - 'proud' BE grads with top all India rankings- like bread and butter, in class. It wasnt just his way of teaching that influenced us all but his way of thinking. If there ever was a good teacher here was one.

I was jittery as I headed into his lab- and while waiting for my turn to speak to him, I was weighing my odds. I realized that I dont stand a chance and was about to turn back when VJ called me. For meetings like this, you usually think up a strategy and go in- and I definitely didnt have one. I jumped onto a chair without being asked to sit (VJ doesnt mind formalities) and stared at him for a couple of seconds. Words didnt flow out (not that I was thinking then). "Yes, Mr Kini?", boom! All my attempts at trying to think just blew away. I tend to get skeptic when odds are against me and the only thought that occured to me was why would anyone encourage me, given my stance? I dont know what compelled me to believe in this person, and I blurted out "I want to change my Project Advisor". A normal feedback you expect from your professor at this stage is a scream translating roughly to "WHA...AT?". On the contrary, VJ asked me why. And that, there, precisely at that point, I knew he would understand me. And I blurted out my story. He listened to me patiently, not interrupting even once. At the end of it, he asked me whom I wanted to work with, what I wanted to work upon and my plans and so forth. My replies were all direct and simple. I said I wanted to work with him and wanted to get into academics and so on. He laughed back wondering out loud, why all students wanted to get into academics - something which I dont have an answer for, even today.

Next Monday, I was summoned before the Departmental Chairman and asked to explain. Dr Natarajan was also kind and patient and evaluated the depth of my reasoning and finally when he saw that I was adamant and stubborn (attributes which go well with me, to date), he asked me to get consent from my advisor. My advisor was understandably upset when I talked to him about this and signed my resignation letter and threw it back at me- yes, literally.

After this incident, I went back to VJ. The first thing VJ told me then was this, "If you are thinking I will be any more linient, you are wrong". Then we talked about what I would do and other technical stuff before he let me go with a list of things to do (background reading etc). I realized that I will have to work hard and I had my point to moot. Not only did I have to prove myself to others, but more so to myself. A person had believed in me and taken the pains to help out a student and now was my time to atleast not dissapoint him.

I then concentrated on my course work and parallely worked on my project. The time that followed in IISc were the golden moments of my life. With excellent company from my labmates and friends, I was on the right track. Time and time again, I would report back to VJ and always get encouragement from him. VJ never gave an answer back when I was in doubt- it would always be a case of him asking me the questions and I trying to find suitable answers, and when I knew I couldnt answer, I knew what exactly my problem was.

Few incidents come flying to my mind where VJ was really unhappy with my work. One particular incident was just after a symposium he had organized, where I was busy with the arrangements etc and had little focussed on my ongoing research. I must admit that I was a little careless then. Right after the symposia got over, VJ asked me for a report and when I answered back saying I was busy in the symposium, he only looked back in his inimitable style and replied thus, "You are here to learn something, and inspite of what you do other than that, that is what you will carry back with you. It is your own grave, dig as deep as you want it to be". I dont know if any other words have made more effect on me than these, but given my weak memory and that I remember this, it must have made atleast a significant one. That also made me realize that VJ doesnt care about how much time you spend in the lab, how much time you spend reading a book or how well your shirt is ironed. What matters is if I was doing what I was supposed to do.- learn something.The fact that he thought I was responsible enough for my actions made me responsible- (not that I wasnt, but yes, sometimes that jolt is what I require). He made it amply clear to me time and again that the ability to question self (and find the right answer) is the most important character a scientist must posess.

Also etched in my memory is the case where I had bungled up a 'simple' calculation- converting pounds per inch squared(lbf/in2) to newtons (kgf/m2) and was interpreting the result differently. It was anamolous and interesting the way it seemed. When I revealed my calculations to him, and when he found out my mistake, he reclined back on his chair and calmly asked me about it. I was actually relieved that it was a 'simple' calculation error - for a second. And then I saw VJ pretty angry - as angry as I have seen him to date. He was not (I think) as angry that I made this 'simple' error, as he was about the fact that I was taking it easy. It wasnt meant to be! He lectured me about why I was not henceforth reliable and how foolish I was to take it easy. He made me see the point about why remaining focussed is important.

As I came out of his room, the one fact that stuck me was his ability to see through actions. It made me feel very happy that he tried to correct me and not the error. That is VJ's greatness. He would hurt you to kill your pride and ego. And once beyond it, all your research problems are merely a question of time. Many times, the answer is within us and we only have to overcome ourselves to get to it.

During my thesis presentation, a professor questioned me about something that I thought was pretty simple and answered all around it. When he re-iterated the question a couple of times and when I (sort of) scoffed and gave out the answer, I took time to notice VJ's face, which was expressionless. After the presentation was over, I was asked to go to his room where VJ reprimanded me for my actions. I realized then that no matter how great your work is, you are evaluated at how well you can communicate it to others. Being shouted at may just be supericial, but the impression that it carries on is important.

VJ would discourage me from going for a PhD and take up a job whenever I talked to him about it- even now. And I always wondered why. Two and a half years out of IISc I realize that my commitment for PhD is stronger than when it was back then. I see that it is important for a student to realize something thoroughly in order to achieve it. The point of WHY I want to do a PhD (my next blog) should be addressed more. It is also gainful to get to know your options before you choose. And today, I realize why. Research is not easy. It requires patience and dedication. There will be times when you will look back and wonder if this was the right way to go. To be definitely sure, you require time to reflect on it yourself and appreciate if that is what you want to do. And once you have taken a firm decision, you must stand by it.

There are so many other things I have learnt from VJ (and many more because of him) that, probably, writing a blog will not suffice. I cannot agree there were Gods who performed great magic and require worship. They are great characters from the past whom we look up to as a role model. For a person who has had this much influence on me, I dont know what I can term as, other than God. Yes, God does exist.

This is VJ's homepage.