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Monday, August 22

Google : Looking Back in Time

Well, yet again nostalgia at work. I promise this is going to be the last post in this mood, at least for the time being (of course I may have to post nothing at all for sometime to honour that but ab bol diya to dekha jaayega).

Sometimes I think of Google as the Hubble Telescope. Now Hubble was a wonderful thing. Along with Voyager 1 and 2, it was the Hubble Telescope that made sure that I want to be a astronomer even today. Now in the age of ISS and mars rovers, it is difficult to understand the kind of fascination and excitement that something like voyager and Hubble generated. I had a big poster of Hubble Telescope from a science magazine that I used to cherish a lot. Ah ! the good old days of big dreams when satisfaction was so easy to achieve !!

But lets move over Hubble. The topic of this post is not Hubble but Google and why I think of it as Hubble sometimes. One of the most exciting part of Hubble was that it could look into very distant corners of Universe. Now the farther we look, the older the pictures get since light takes a lot of time to reach us. So the farther ahead we look in distance, the further back we look into time. Now this was something amazing. Every few months, some images taken by Hubble would be released and you would find yourself looking further back into time. So how does this connects to Google? Well, in a rather peculiar way.

I have now walked this earth for about 23 years and in those 23 years, there have been so many things that I have loved and lost. That odd piece of poetry, that lovely snap, that wonderful story, that song from the lost lanes of childhood, that innocence!! Some of those are lost for ever and can never be recovered but others would still be around, somewhere if only I could reach out but the search space accessible before Google came up, was very minimal. What Google did, I can never be too grateful for. So many things have turned up before me when I had no hopes of finding them ever. As time passes, and here enters Hubble, Google reaches out to more and more things and comes up with another lost piece on my past. It keeps looking deeper and farther back and keeps getting better :-).

And following is what I found last month. It took Google 2-3 years since I first looked around for it but eventually it did find it. So before the curiosity kills the cat, this is the text of a Motorcycle ad. It appeared in 1998-99 when I was down and out in IT-BHU trying to make some make-or-break decisions in life (it all turned out to be good in the end, almost too good ) and I liked it so much that I had it struck on my wall. No great poetic gem or deep philosophical vibes here but just something that touched my heart at one point of time in my life. So guys, here it comes, my way

I am not a star.
There is no halo over my head.
Fate doesn't like the colour of my eyes.
Struggle and strife are old friends of mine.
Who am I ?
I am survival. I am guts. I am pride.
I like odds.
Especially when they're
stacked against me.
Because there will
come a time when I will
stare them in the eye.
And smile the smile of
the one who's pulled it off.
I am the guy who will have
deep lines on his face someday.
And it'll make me look good
when I laugh.
Because that is the day
I will fear no fear.
And taste sweat that is sweet.
And look back for the
very first time and say,
I did it my way.
The long hard way.

Tuesday, August 16

2 Kshanikaayein

The ocean of beauty,
The Islands of pain.
The Earth.
The men.
---------
Clear blue sky,
No rain but Sun.
Some tan,
Some burn.

Thursday, August 11

Musings from the edge of life !

"How many lives do we live? How many times do we die? They say we all lose 21 grams... at the exact moment of our death. Everyone. And how much fits into 21 grams? How much is lost? Twenty-one grams. The weight of a stack of five nickels. The weight of a hummingbird. A chocolate bar. How much did 21 grams weigh?"

He must have been so happy when I was born. So many times he must have carried me in his arms. So many times he brought me chocolates when he returned from office or market, brought me comics. How happy he became on seeing me and mom and my sister. And somedays ago, I carried his body on my shoulders and gave it to fire.

I always thought I was wiser then all are, that I knew and understood the inevitability of death. I could hardly imagine myself crying over somebody's death. Even that day when I reached home and looked at his body lying in the room, the sense of grief was more because of surrounding environment rather than inner grief. But when I finished performing his last rites and sat down by the burning pier, from somewhere those tears came and started rolling down my cheeks and I couldn't stop them. Yes I knew he had lived a full life, that now he was in acute pain and may be it was best for him to go but heart knows no reasons.

But it is all okay now. Mind has taken over, reason has won and good sense has prevailed but the sense of peace that I felt after those 2 minutes of tearful eyes is still with me. Its only so sad that some good Samaritan spotted me crying and took upon themselves to calm me down. Perhaps few more tears would have been much more effective.

But it's okay. Nobody dies by stopping to breathe. It is a much longer process. Till even one person is alive with memories of him, he lives on. God bless !

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

My mom was at his bed side when nana ji left this world. She told me it was the first time that she saw somebody leave the body. I have never seen anybody die. Never seen that final moment, just before that there is life and just after that there is no life. Medical science tells us that this is not a well defined point but that is besides the point.

The point is that this moment is unique to death. Birth on the other hand has no such moment. When we are born we are already alive and no matter how far back in time we go, there is no point, well defined or not, when we can say that at this point life started. Do you know why? Because there is never any new life created in this world. It is merely passed down from the parents to the child. And around that life, a body is built. The whole process of procreation just passes on what already exists, it creates nothing new.

And that means that the whole world, everything living in it is just the manifestation of that same life. There is no beginning or end for it, there are no two different beings. The same being keeps branching, sprouting in new ways, spreading around and death keeps trimming it, just like a gardener trying to keep some tree in shape.

There is little that this simple point of view explains about the complex phenomenon of life and death but I never thought this way before.

Wednesday, August 3

To bend and not to fold

There are thousands of things in my mind right now that I would like to put on this blog, share with the world. But I hardly manage to find time or the kind of tranquility that I want in order to write. There is one thing however, that never fails to push me to the emotional state where words just seem to flow. Few minutes ago, I watched a video prepared by IITK students called "The Way We Were".

There was nothing much in the video. Large part of the video is a music video produced in house at IITK which, I must say, is quite good. The rest of the video is brief snippets of some junta talking about how they feel about IITK and what makes it special for them. It is this part that prompted me to write this post.

First to quote a dear friend of mine, the later part in the video looks rather like a "boisterous attempt at self-glorification". I somewhat agree with that and it is this feeling of agreement that forces me to think what would I have said if I was there in the video? What has IITK given me? What makes it special? so very special?

For answering this question, let me first look at what the junta in the video said. Most of what they said, involved the facilities, the people, the place, the activities that happen in IITK. They talked about having become tough and mature through the 4 years they spent in IITK. They talked about the friendship and camaraderie that people shared and so on. What I believe, though, is that most of these have little to do with IITK in particular.

In fact, most of those feelings have to do with the fact that this was the first time for most of them that they came out of their houses and parental guidance and stayed alone in hostel. Staying in IITK gives it a flavour of its own for sure but they probably would have felt the same way on leaving from any other college. And on the same note, people across the college hostels make bonds and friends that they cherish for life. These things do not make IITK stand out. There has to be something else, something different.

And probably I am in a better position to see it since I spent one year in another college before coming to IITK. I have fond memories of the place, all those late night sessions that happened there, my first 9-12 movie, all those delicious journeys back home and the atmosphere there. It was all so wonderful. What was missing then?

There were 9 hostels there in which BTechs used to put up. We lived according to our Depts and years. So the set of students one lived with remained same for 4 years. Classes were held in small groups formed out of.. again, students from the same batch and same Dept. So at times you could be hanging out with the same guy, maybe your roommate, for 24, 48, 72 hours straight. We developed strong friendships, we had lovely talks but mostly within this small group. True there was interaction across batches, across Depts and across hostels but that was minimal. For all the 4 years, I was 1st meta, then 2nd meta, then 3rd meta and then 4th meta. In fact, I was Roll No 31 to be precise, a number that always reminded me that I was the 31st person to have taken this Dept in the order of my rank in entrance exam. Didn't matter if I topped the Dept., I remained Roll No. 31. I am not saying that the system was repressive or mocking in anyway but such small things tell you something important about the attitude of the place, the culture of the place. The junior senior interaction was governed by these Roll Nos. So the person with the same roll no in the senior batch would be my "baap" and would help me out.

Contrast this with IITK and you know what is different. If I have to say in short, then at the cost of intending a little pun, I would say IITK is a "melting pot". It melts everything that gets into it, consumes any identity that all the external things impose on us and frees us to discover what lies inside. Consider that I was roll no 4, that I lived in Hall 2 and that I took quantum Physics, Linear Algebra, Data Structures, Mechanics of Solids etc etc. None of this information will let you say with certainty what my Dept was, what my year was and what my Rank in JEE was. As the joke goes - "Saari AIR pahle hafte me hi nikal jaati hai". It was after the freedom from all these outside aberration that I was set free, set free to explore, to do, to take up responsibility, to stand up for people, to fight for causes, to touch the sky and most importantly, to bite the dust.

I stayed in a hostel that housed 500 junta, junta across batches, junta across Depts and each one of them was there as a result of a flip of a coin, completely random. There was no scheme, no choice. It was like being born again. I studied in a class of 400 junta, across Depts. and what sitting in L7 feels like, anyone from IITK will tell you. I did courses with my seniors, got an A, did courses with my Juniors, got a C, did courses in other depts, did courses in which I was the only BTech. .. the list is endless. In one of the courses I did, there was so much variety of junta that no slot from Monday 8:00 to Friday 5:00 was free for classes. We finally settled for the weekends and late evenings.

And everything that I mentioned above, everything that happened around me told me something. It told me that there are no boundaries that cannot be crossed, no labels that cannot be scraped and no challenges that cannot be accepted. And the system identified me for what what I am. It didn't categories me and set me aside, it gave me a chance to choose my own labels. And what is more, it made sure that no matter how high I reach, there is never lack of things, of people to look up to. The end of the road was always only the opening to a whole new landscape, with higher peaks, with new challenges. There was no best, everyone was best in something. And this was possible because system allowed it and in fact encouraged it.

This is what IITK did for me. It made me tough but not brittle. It made me flexible but not plastic. I remember a poem I learned in school which talked about "things in life have taught me to bend but not to fold". Something similar happened in my life around 5 years ago.