Friday, December 26, 2008

My Christmas 2008

The picture precisely summarizes my Christmas this year. I am moving, my current lease ends on the 31st, so I am packed and getting ready to leave for the new apartment. Excited and tired, happy and pissed, both; because the place is awesome as what it seems, but at the same time packing is a big pain!

When I was a kid, Christmas eve and Christmas used to be the times of great fun and excitement - because Santa had some gift or the other to give each year, and it used to remain a surprise. Things changed once I moved out for college in 2001, and things have been rapidly changing in life ever since.

Though single, I have accumulated a lot of stuff, as you can see above (this is just the kitchen packing!); which makes me think I am getting old; old because now I need so many things which I probably won't need four years back; for example, a toaster, a slow-cooker or a set of wine glasses. On that note, the packing also made me go back to the times of our move from one town / city to another in the 80s and the 90s, when Dad would get transferred to a new place. Though I vaguely remember all the packing phase, but I do recall it was a lot of hassles, a lot of pain and a lot of mess. And I never liked it - I hate chaos, I am perpetual lover of orderliness.

Nothing new as of now for this Christmas. I can almost recall all the Christmas since I came here and every time it had been quite boring, though very different everytime. The first time it was rather a worry and sickness phase, I was sick right before Christmas, and had to spend a night at the hospital emergency due to some 106 F fever. So winter 2005 wasn't so cool. The next time I was in India with parents having some fun times in Rajasthan. And last year I was on the east coast shivering in the snow :D.

Nevertheless this time, looking forward to the move in the morning and wrapping up the remaining packing. And also hoping some good fun in San Jose next week! I visit there for the new year!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Recently I was tagged by Partha. Here are my replies to his questions. Some of them I liked, quite serious and profound!

1. If marriage is optional, would you rather stay single and why?
It's not about marriage being mandatory or optional, it's a choice of life we make. Of late, I like staying single. Helps me lead a much simplified, independent and hassle-free life.

2. If you can have a dream to come true, what would it be?
Turing Award, or a research accomplishment for which I can be remembered for the next three generations.

3. Whose butt would you like to kick?
No one really. The offenses I take are quite short-lived. I am a perpetual forgiver.

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?
Buy a mansion kind of a house in the countryside, drive a Lamborghini and travel around the world. The rest I would use in doing some fruitful research which benefits the common man.

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?
Possibly. Though I believe that love always means being best friends; however, being best friends might always not indicate love.

6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?
Cannot choose between the two. However I would say that loving someone is a big virtue, needs a big heart, a sense of forgiveness and a sense of understanding and respect.

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you really love?
Forever. Though I might not wait, but love never dies, maybe the expectations from the person you love change with time.

8. If the person you secretly like is already attached, what would you do?
Doesn't matter. Love is always about giving, irrespective of whether he or she is attached to someone else or not.

9. If you like to act with someone, who will it be? Your gf/bf or an actress/actor?
Shah Rukh Khan.

10. What turns you on ?
Intelligence, smartness, research and publications, and last but not the least, respect for women.

11. How would you see yourself in ten years time?
A tenure-track faculty in a good research school in the US; with a hefty number of publications, teaching motivated and intelligent college kids.

12. What’s your greatest fear?
Getting detached from loved ones.

13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
A sweet and nice guy. A friend who has always been there all the time! :)

14. Do you hate people with alternate sexual orientation?
Of course not! It's all about "live and let live". Actually I am a big advocate of gay and lesbian liberation.

15. Are you living a life you always would have loved to live?
Yeah, I make things happen the way I wished them to. If not, I write a new end!

16. Would you give all in a relationship?
Yeah, whatever it takes, of course barring self-esteem and research.

18. Would you forgive and forget no matter how horrible a thing that special someone has done?
Sure, everyone deserves one chance. But only one though, afterwards I stop giving a shit for such people - why waste valuable time and effort on them?

19. What's your favorite color and why?
Black. It reflects composure, gravity and it's also versatile.

20. List people you would like to tag.
Anyone who likes it!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The "Third" Kind...

"I always believed there are two types of men in this world: men who go to their death screaming, and men who go to their death in silence. But then I met the third kind..."

This is a quote from the popular Bollywood movie, Rang De Basanti, summing up the vigor inside the revolutionaries of the then times before Independence. Somehow today I was lazing at home and got glued to some of the deleted scenes from the movie on YouTube; and I found this quote, by the character Mr. Mckinley, very captivating.

Somehow I feel we can relate this quote to several things in our lives. It hints at those among us for whom the world is the way it is today - the pleasure, the luxury, the innovations and the myriad obvious things we take for granted in our lives. It is those of the third kind, the rebels, the unusuals, the ones who dare to go beyond the commonly perceived peripheries of life to make a difference to the world, in some positive sense.

It takes a lot of courage, self-confidence, faith, perseverence to be different; different not for the sake of it, but with a clear motive in mind. Variety, the diversity is the very spice of the human race. Those of us who think they are capable enough to stand out in the crowd; even if they know the road they are planning to tread is not all red and rosy; even if it would mean shunning several of the pleasures of life.

Life is not led in the days you live or the pennies you earn, but what you leave to the world when you leave. Given a choice, I would prefer being the above "third kind" and living a mere 10 more years, but having fulfilled the goals I have set for myself, for the world; than living another 40 more years to reach an unceremonious funeral.

So do I make more sense to those of who have been grilling me all this while for the kind of life I have always been leading? I don't know if fortunately or unfortunately I think I am not one of many of us, but I think this was needed in my life; or rather I feel my life itself was crafted this way, since the very beginning...

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Paradigm Shift of Today's Age

Several reasons over the past few months have led me to constantly go back now and then, to the popular concept called "Paradigm Shift" first coined by the renowned social scientist Thomas Kuhn in his famous work of the 1960s: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Ever since it has emerged into a very popular idea in the scientific, technological and marketing community, apart from the humanities and the social sciences.

Paradigm shift - meaning a major change in the scientific process that governs a concept over several years, resulting in emergence of newer processes, techniques, methods and completely revolutionary ideas. And Kuhn bolsters this theory by using a quote from Max Plank:

"a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

However, if you want to use the term loosely, you can associate the term as and when to every other new idea or concept you encounter everyday. However to a researcher of today this term has a special meaning. And today I am going to write about my experience in an age of a major paradigm shift we are living through today.

A very concrete paradigm shift that has occurred in the past five to eight years in the decentralization of our society, societal relationships, social behaviors and social actions through the advent and popularization of the Web - redefining our very mode of communication, interaction and sharing information among us as well as between us and the (intelligent) machines / computers. The scale, profundity and periphery of this paradigm shift is way much more far-reaching I believe than any other shifts which had occurred in the early 20th century, e.g. Quantum mechanics, Darwin's theory of Natural Selection or the Turing machine. I believe it is so because this scientific revolution (or technological revolution if you say so) has an impact which is changing the very way we evolved into civilized humans - the notion of flocking into communities and forming societies. I and you can associate ourselves to this paradigm shift in a much inherently comprehensible manner than probably how our great grand parents or the grand parents did a hundred years back with E=mc^2!

As a matter of fact, think about the amount of time you spend on the blogosphere, Facebook, or Orkut. Or the times you get onto LinkedIn to find a good reference for a job. Or the times you look upto Friendster to find a date. Or the times the teenagers get onto MySpace to popularize their own new rock band. Or the times when the average Joe becomes the star with his videos on YouTube. Or the times you feel placated inside yourself looking at the 1073th comment on your Flickr photo. Or the times you love catching on to the world with Twitter. Or the times the election polls are dictated through the stories of Obama and McCain 'digged' on the Digg. The essence of the Web and its increasingly social nature has overcast our very little things of life!

We are living in an age of a major paradigm shift. A shift which is defininig our society. A shift which is illuding us with the notion of a 'shrinking world'. A shift which is thinning the membrane between the real and the virtual society...

And I am very fortunate to have got an opportunity to contribute in some little means to this paradigm shift - a shift with the potential to make many of Asimov's fictions come true to the upcoming generations! Cheers to science, to innovation and to the guards of it!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Are we Really Advancing as a Human Race?

In the pretext of spending some time with a friend who was visiting Tempe this weekend, I happened to spend considerable amount of time roaming around in the Borders (... books, music, cafe) in the evening. Killing time from one part of the store to another, more because they are closing soon and all books are having a 20% discount on its marked price, I checked out quite a few interesting books, ranging from Fiction, Thrillers, Horror, Politics and Literature. However couldn't find a book which completely made me feel, that I gotta buy it. Finally we went to this remote corner of the store, which I was earlier absolutely ignorant of, called the "Psychology" section.

Not that I was completely shocked at the collection in that aisle, but in retrospect after I came back home, I realized that it was so eerie the kind of books that sell well! To my surprise and to add to yours if you aren't aware of, more than 80% of the books were either about how to deal with a woman / man, how to have a better love life, how to tackle depression, how to be happier, or how to deal with rejections (from the opposite sex) in life. Though I completely agree these are issues almost everyone of us faces at some point of time or the other, however I don't quite understand why our lives have to be groomed in the manner as to spend our times of rest and relaxation in reading books which vaguely and faintly attempt to solve these grave issues, though ironically even remotely the authors have no idea of the vista of problems that might have led the readers to them!

I am not criticizing the writers for the kind of books they write - many of them are renowned psychologists. Nor am I saying that these issues aren't serious or big enough in life. However, I don't think they are larger than life.

What kind of a juncture we as a so-called intelligent race have led ourselves to, that we have to rely on other people's judgment to tackle our problems? I am not against the idea of books being a mentor to life and learning, however, how many times have the books about "understanding a man or a woman" helped you indeed?

It is very unfortunate that in a day when we have so much of knowledge and experiences to share, and given the inexpensive media-sharing ability available through the Internet, why we aren't able to act more mature in tackling problems in our lives which probably don't need enough attention; or problems which are to be solved with our conscience; or problems which should make us stronger in the future, than resorting as helpless folks to some psychologists? Why can't we take these issues as a challenge in life and proceed forward? Why do we have to search for the "key to happiness" in some long aisles in a bookstore down the pages of an obscure book, when in reality it's really just about us and our outlook?

Sometimes I wonder, is all the scientific and technological advancement we are working on really worth it? Worth in a world where people are losing their confidence in themselves; in their own happiness; in their ability to tide over failed relationships? Are we really advancing as a human race collectively?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Remembering The Newton Quote...

End of a chapter of life, of an official student; of being officially registered in courses in school. Yeah, Fall 2008 is my official end of coursework at Arizona State University, hopefully for the rest of my life too; unless my urge to do a second PhD in either Physics or Philosophy or Social Sciences overrides the practical considerations of life! That way, I want to believe in reincarnation, one life just isn't enough, there is so much to do in life!

Coming back to my reason of being placated, relaxed, placid, happy - a sense of finishing one segment of this long journey called PhD that I have chosen to embark upon. I have now all the time, all the focus, all the energy to work on things that interest me, that intrigue me, things that I love to do, things I believe I can work on and help make the world a little better place to live in - even if a small scale. Though not that I did not enjoy being a student; neither that the feel of the classroom bugged me ever. I absolutely love them; and if things go the way they have worked so far, I hope and plan to return to the same very classroom ambiance once again, and for the rest of my life; but on the other side of the platform, this time as an imparter of knowledge, of enkindling a few candles of enlightenment, of getting an opportunity to inspire another person tomorrow. Let's see what future has in store for me, and how I live up to the goals I have set for myself in life - even if at the moment they are sky-high.

The journey from a student to a full-fledged researcher wasn't abrupt or did not happen in one single day - it encompassed years of toil, self-learning, identifying self-motivation as well as miles of erroneous steps, decisions and failures. From the days of KG in Kailashahar, to prestigious Shishu Bihar till the 12th, a nationally renowned college during B Tech, and then finally in a completely different educational system here in ASU, I believe I have seen wide and profound variations in education, learning, success and career. Life has found its way through the meandering ups and downs of being a student, sometimes stuck in material success, or sometimes just making a point to a different folk of people about my actual potential. I have seen a lot of color in my life as a student. And today wherever I stand today, I thank my teachers, my contemporaries, my friends and those ill-wishers too for the sake of whom I have always bettered! Not the least at all, my parents - the greatest teachers of my life and two people who have always been with me through all the times of fruit and toil.

Nevertheless this is not the end. Though my celebration for this mere coursework end event was reasonably big, with a small get together at home and me cooking some sumptuous meals for some friends, yet I believe learning never ends. In the hands of mighty life and the destiny we write for ourselves, we would all continue to be her students, learning from small and big happenings, some successes and also some failures; some rosy paths and some throny labyrinthine roads. But isn't that what makes life so exciting - the sense of the unknown, the sense of incompleteness, the sense of just being a mere pebble in a desert as large as the Sahara?

I still remember those talks I would have with my Dad at the dinner table when he would tell me, quoting Sir Issac Newton,

"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

It may be an official end to what we call "being a student" in a layman's langauge, I want to remain a perpetual student, as and when this marathon of PhD takes its little twists and turns...

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 and the Life Beyond...

2008. It has been one of the most eventful years in my life, probably after 1999 / 2001 or 2005. Though apparently it is very different from all these three, because it has been more about learning, than substantial achievements to portray or accolades to demonstrate.

I recall I had written a blog post just at the beginning of the year, jotting down some of my thoughts and targets I wished to fulfill this year. At the end of the day, today on the Dec 15 of the year, I feel this year has been significant and I have been able to work up some of the goals I had put forth for myself then. Learning has been amidst several successes, a few failures - both professionally and personally. I strongly feel I understand myself a little better now. And I know I now see my goals a little more clearly today.

It has been a mix of several successes and some failures. 2008 began on a vacation note; me spending sometime around new year and Christmas on the east coast. It was a sweet and bitter experience - but gave me an opportunity to explore that "snowy" places are not some places I would love to settle! I like Tempe way better! The trip also made a sea change in some of the aspects of my personal life which were yet to come. At the end, probably whatever happens, happens for the better; or we cull out means to make things better. Because the other day I read somewhere: we cannot make a new beginning, but we can write a new end!

When I got back to Tempe, I had several targets in mind. First and foremost, I wanted to ramp up my paper submission rate considerably. I felt I wasn't doing research upto the mark I had the potential to. Though many people argued, it is not the number of publications that matter, but the impact of them, I argued with my inner self, that unless I take several risks and opportunities, how would the probability to make an impact increase? I also felt, I was almost at the verge of completing my third year in PhD, and it was high time that good research, good publications and reasonable impact become my primary targets. I was doing good, but wanted to do better. So I identified some areas which need work. One of them primarily was the math aspect of research. So I spent considerable time in mid of this year to brush up and polish my math skills. And I think I have bettered in it by now!

I planned to set a very challenging schedule in my research this year. I loved the pressure and always kept on the right track, with little times to deviate away and ponder on things which didn't really work out in life: after all, we should focus on things which are good in our lives, which we are personally good at, instead of trying to set straight some other issues which are beyond our control or only leave us unhappy. And time had lent me a big helping hand to me in this regard!

I also took the opportunity to drive and travel quite extensively this year, in the pretext of conferences. I traveled to three conferences this year: Pittsburgh, Denver and Napa Valley - all lending me a scope to explore very different places, topography and lifestyle. I also got to meet very bright people and some of the top researchers in my field - making me realize I have a long-long way to go; but I could do it, if I am planned, focused and committed on my targets.

Here is where I summarize. Some of the big learnings of life and research have happened this year. I know completely what I want from life, more than before. And I also learnt finally that past has to be set aside. There are a lot of mountains and terrains to tide over next year, with another very busy publication schedule coming up, and also likely some fun times with parents visiting me! 2009 I wish to be another little bit better and successful in research, wiser and happier from inside, and keep the people who care about me, happy and jovial!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Mustard-grilled Catfish

Pasta Alfredo


Irish Chips

Punjabi-style Chhole

Fudge Brownies

Spicy Onion Pakodas

A few of my recipes: includes a wide range from Indian to Italian and Irish. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Journey so far...

PhD is a very long journey; a journey in the course of which you gain ten things, but probably lose ten other things as well. Three years down the line, and sometimes I now look back and think about the implications of this not so short journey. And not so surprisingly I see it has helped me be somebody I have always wanted to be. :)

I don't know where this journey is going to take me to. Neither can I imagine where my life would stand ten or twenty years down the line. However, I have started to understand one thing, it has helped bring to me an astounding freedom - a freedom which I am sure I would not have encountered unless I took the courage to embark on this mesmerizing yet traumatic journey...

Freedom has always meant a lot to me; because I have always loved to live for myself and loved to make the world a "free"er and better place to live in! PhD deserves as much as it can take; it is certain it would be as pleasant as it has always been! :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

If they can do it, we also can do it!

I was a passive voter, but a very active spectator in the historic 2008 US Presidential elections; a point in time in the history of civilization of this country, and possibly the greater world, which saw a sea change in how politics has come down on people yet so far. I am referring to the historic win of Barack Obama for the highest position in this country, and possibly the most influential rank in the world as it exists today. After several years, the vista of emotions, elation, happiness, surprise, excitement and placation that has enamored the people (like me) now, I believe would be an interesting page of life to flip back and re-experience! The pages in history might get less consequential, however it's impact on current society would exist ever.

Mr Obama made it. He proved the trend set since 1776 wrong. He wrote history. Being a man of only 47 years, and with zero political backing from his predecessor family, it was sheer his hard work, committment and the promise he showed that has brought him this glory. Whatever from this point onwards I would write in praise of him, would be just repeating what has been said so many times already.

However, what intrigues me more is not Mr Obama being elected, but the people. The people who are broad-minded, liberal enough to think straight at a time when the country is in deep trouble - be it military expenses and resources, energy problem or to add salt to the wound, the recession. I absolutely appreciate the people to have had thought straight - to have had picked the right guy at the right moment, and being unbiased by the legacy that has reigned since the past 250 years.

I am amazed, even after all the criticisms over the commonplace people here for not being politically aware, not taking enough interest in the nation's problems, they have for the first time answered that they do care. And that, they do have the capability to bring in CHANGE when it is needed. It is a very unique quality that has characterized this country so many times in other realms, especially in science and technology. They have been the trendsetters; breaking free the shackles of pre-nurtured customs.

I still dream of our people back in India this way. I wish we would become politically and socially more aware at the least, even if we personally aren't able to make any substancial contributions. We should at least contribute to taking the decisions for India which cater for its own betterment - may be pick a more deserving person, be it politics, administration, sports or technology.

If they can do it, we also can do it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

When are we really Successful?

Each of us are engaged in some of endeavor in our lives which intrigues us. Our lives are crafted towards succeeding in those endeavors, and we set out own set of logic, explanations, excuses and goals to reach there. If we do, then we delve into thinking that life is a success. And for other contemporaries whom we watch not quite reach there, we are very good at teaching our children the so-called "do"s and "don't"s in life.

However is success in life so precisely defined? It is so easy to say that person X is successful because he is a great musician, or a great physicist or a great entrepreneur? I am struck here to think that defining success isn't so easy as it seems like.

It's not about earning enough money. It's not about being famous. It's all about the people around you. What difference can you make to the world tomorrow? What is a single sole reason that would make people use your piece of success-yielding element in their lives? Would you still continue to live for a better world when you die?

Ironically enough, as soothing and pleasing they might sound, most of us are away from that defining the success of our lives in this manner. However there is the bigger question, why not? Is it the challenges we are afraid of? Is it the throny road that scares us? Or it is just a fear to tread a difficult against an alternative path that seems so lucrative?

We have to address these questions when we look ahead in life. Living just for oneself somehow isn't enough ...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Passive Communication

I have always regarded communication to be central to human endeavor and to be playing a key role in crafting the civilization we all are part of today. Communication dates back to the times when meaningful exchange of symbols among humans gave rise to societies, eventually to language and culture and heritage. Communication has paved the way towards sharing of knowledge, evolution of novel ideas to even the point of the myriad scientific discoveries.

What strikes to us at the very first moment when we hear someone talking about communication is a group of people sitting face to face and conversing. In fact this has really been the traditional way to think about human communication since a long time. However, communication does not need to be an active exchange of meaningful words through some agreed upon language. Communication can be passive - modes by which certain information percolates in a society via variegated media.

I am talking about passive communication when you borrow a book from the library. When it happens to be a very old torn book, you would often find that several parts of the book are marked, underlined with ink, notes written on the margins, or pages folded by their corner for future reference. What do all these cues tell us? What kind of information is being conveyed to us through these passive, non-sequential, sporadic bursts of "hints"?

I would label this "passive communication". Communication which need not be based on some language. Communication which is not intended to cater to an individual or to an audience. Communication which percolates through time, non-periodically. Communication which does not associate itself with any feedback mechanism to the communicator.

I believe such passive communication plays a significant role in crafting our thoughts, and caters to emergence of newer meanings with time and with multi-faceted individuals. When you see a couple of sentences marked in ink in a long densely typed page of a library book, you immediately know they are key ideas. Even before knowing the context of the entire page, such passive communication cues give you an idea of the content of that page.

This kind of passive communication is extremely rich in my opinion. Because their analysis can lend us interesting insights into how thoughts have evolved with respect to that book. And the dynamics of thought process are central to understanding our society. Because a society gradually moves towards progress when it generates a collective thought out of all these miniature passive communication cues hidden under the piles of text since time immemorial.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Social Symmetry

I have always been amazed at the way the human society is groomed towards searching for symmetry everywhere. Time and again I have been encountering this question, why is it that we are able to identify with someone with the same culture as ours, same upbringing as we got and same customs as we cherish? Why is it that we form these groups of friends whom we call "like-minded" people? Why is it that "Bengal" feels proud when Ganguly hits a century? Why is it that despite never having met him, never having interacted with him, the Bengalis are able to connect with him? What is about this strong bond of language that binds completely geographically dispersed crowds together?

The question of hunting for symmetry is not new to the civilization, however. The desire to connect and be connected have been an artifact of human nature since time immemorial. That's how societies grew, languages evolved and networks of people were built through villages, towns and cities. Symmetries grew out of several contextual factors, sometimes living needs, sometimes culture and language and sometimes passions and interests. Even in today's digitized world, symmetry occupies a central place with the rapid evolution of these wide array of social networks across the Web.

My central idea in this blog is what is the reason we are looking for symmetry everywhere? As per the second law of thermodynamics, the entropy of a closed system always increases. However, what is not clear to me is whether the social symmetry is contributing towards this ever-increasing entropy. Or whether the idea of symmetry is actually countering the law of increasing entropy that governs the universe.

Understanding under what conditions hunt for symmetry arises is interesting to me. I conjecture it can lend us better understanding of individual human behavior, and of the changes that he embarks upon the moment he goes out looking for symmetry - the evolution of collective ideas, thoughts, opinions and semantics.

Whether or not the hunt for symmetry is another name of defining compatible entities on the Earth, the idea of compatibility still remains an open question. As in how do we know what kindof social symmetries are compatible for natural selection though evolution? Why is it that despite several species having evolved and gone, the natural tendency for symmetry hunt still exists. How is it that social symmetry is a very intuitive idea to us, though often it might involve satisfying contradictory constraints to conform with a real world? How is this amazing evolving human behavior so naturally adapted to find symmetry in the universe?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Inside Explanation

I have mostly been thankful about the decisions I took in my life. They have fitted very well in life along the course of time; even those circumstances which you did not really want to encounter. Life makes it up over time anyway. Life just goes on. You either find alternative sources of happiness or you just get used to it. In a way, precisely life just gets fine. Isn't it the biggest adventure and mystery life has? Probably yeah!

Life just goes on. It finds a way. And I think I found that way - the pleasure in research. The adventure to leave a mark in the world even after you are gone.

Life doesn't await anyone. Though life just gets more and more complex. But it definitely finds a way. And what I learnt is that, we should put attention to only things which deserve attention. Life is short and there is no scope to wander away on things or people who have departed from you at some point of time. They don't deserve it, especially if they caused you pain.

I look forward to life, and I am happy with my state of things - more, because I am moving towards what I really wanted in life. It is a sweet pleasure, although sometimes it means getting away from a host of other things. Life after all, always find a way; and it is always a positive attitude, especially when you know the things or people responsible for your hard times don't deserve any attention, or time or even the least degree of thought. Sometimes life should be led extremely selfishly.

I have found the philanthropy in selfishness. I am happy and would be happy. Don't give a damn to anyone; no tears; no emotional turmoil. I have set out on a voyage which is much more demanding; and I don't care who have given me pains along the journey.

Duties and responsibilities springing from the extreme bottom of heart are the things which make life meaningful. Things which wander away really needed to be so. And I am happy they are that way!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

What is it about the whole Women Empowerment?

I am going to write about a very serious social issue which needs immediate remedy. However, I am writing not to present a solution, which is very difficult, rather to put forth a few customs and reasons which are preventing a remedy to come up.

The issue is about women's empowerment. I could be poles apart from some of you in the views and thoughts I am going to pour down here, yet I believe it would be a worthy read and food for thought for anyone, man or woman.

Tell me, how many festivals do you know in which men fast, often oriented towards wishing "better life" for some woman? The reverse is very common, at least in Hinduism, as far as I know, women would often fast either for their husbands, or their boyfriends or their brothers. Have you heard of any guy fasting for his wife, mother or sister? Tell me if you have.

I am not against fasting, which are often inter-twined with a religious norm. It is a personal choice. But the motivation is important - important because it often defines customs in our society. Since eons when women in India have been fasting for men ever since the tender age of probably 13, how many of them actually knew why they are fasting at all? To get a good husband? Bull shit. To pray for brother's long life? Also bull shit, if fasting could increase the life span of people, then why invest billions of dollars in medical research?

It is not the fault of those young 13 year old girls who even at 25 fast, for days together, thinking they are doing some holy act (better could have been working for some charity!). But what is ironical is that, theoretically all such women are decently educated and are holding respective jobs somewhere or the other. However, the inside motive to fast or to submit to a man still exists: may be to their ignorance.

One problem lies with the flawed education system. However many degrees a woman might get, given today's "equal opportunities", she needs to have an ear to learn. Degrees don't mean anything until the education helps one to think logically, to distinguish between right and wrong based on her own thoughts and to enlighten herself. Unfortunately this is not happening with the current education system. Gargantuan degrees she might attain, at the end of the day she would go back home and keep "Karwachauth" for her husband. But, does the husband do so as well? If he did, I would know this is affection. However, things are often uni-directional.

The other problem lies with a girl child's upbringing. Parents often think that marriage is the ultimate goal for a girl, however educated she is, however established she is, however better she is from a whole bunch of men. But why? Why does a woman have to need a man to make her life complete? Why is a woman supposed to be a good cook to establish that she is the ideal woman? I don't see a reason; because I believe, my life is quite complete and any man in it would be quite redundant. I am a good cook as well and my motivation never sprang from a desire to be better known among men. Marriage should be something which can make both the man and the woman better, or the same if not worse by considering it as the "goal of life".

Parents have to think differently while bringing up a girl child. It is a bigger challenge than bringing up a guy, given the current social bias of male-domination in most places. Parents need not instill their own bias of right and wrong in their kids at a tender age. This hinders their mental growth and the ability to take their decisions by themselves. And when such a girl with dependent thoughts grows up to be 25, she invariably needs another person (possibly a husband) to take decisions for her. This is unfortunate.

The societal gender bias will never go away until and unless there is significant change in our education system and parental upbringing at home. The tradition of fasting is only one of the many such examples which is hindering women's uplift, intellectually and socially.

I went to the Grace Hopper Conference this year too and I met all kinds of women. I met the very ambitious and successful ones and I also met the ones who clamor women's rights but at the end of the day go back home and leave their jobs for thier husbands or in laws; or change their ways of life for them. Changes are fine, as long as they make you a better person or mark something good for your neighbor or for the society at large. Unfortunately this is often not the case.

I realized one thing. The hue and cry about women empowerment won't make any sense till the day women themselves realize the need for it in their lives (note, not as a social responsibility), start to think independently, shun borrwed ideals which probably they themselves cannot justify and break out from the realm of thought that they are "women" and so a different class of treatment.

May be I made some sense to you all. Or may be not. But ever since the conference was over, I have been thinking this wide and deep. And I just poured them down over here. Hope the women (and men) who read this could share this thought with me. And be better parents to their girls tomorrow: parents like my parents had been to me - parents who gave me the room to breathe, to think, to take my own decisions and to be courageous enough to tide over difficulties, should something in life go wrong.

Self-esteem, original-thoughts and mental-resilience are three things the woman of today needs. Then there is no need for any sort of empowerment.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Learning is the Law of Life

This semester, the beginning of the fourth year of Ph.D has marked the beginning of a different time for me. Earlier, it merely used to be just another year coming and then eventually passing by, but this time somehow it was different. Since the past one month I have been trying to analyze what has really made the difference; because I believe the difference has been for the better!

I think mid of this year marks the end of the "mid-phase" of Ph.D, a seemingly slow, sometimes depressing phase. However, each year of Ph.D has brought something more, new and nice to me - I never really had the "mid-phase" problem, probably because I was never short of the bigger motivation or the goal. It kept me going.

Despite this, keepng ambitious and short-term targets have been keeping me busy. While this good on one hand, that it doesn't let your attention lurk the dark allys of philosophical thoughts about life (note, I used to write a lot about "life" etc earlier!), yet, at times, it can be stressful. And this is what had been happening to me since sometime. Peer pressure, desire to be better and work and short-term targets seemed to leave me so stressed that I started getting sleeplessness at night.

However, now I realize one thing. All this has happened for the better, as usual, as they say! I have become so used to the stress levels now, and the work pressure now only makes me work harder, while the philosophical "life" talks are just some residue at some remote corner!

What is learned is that time makes up for everything. We are extremely manoeuverable individuals, time and the course of life evens out all the rough undualations we have had in the past. And of the ruggest road of present, it makes us fit enough to face it. Time takes care of everything...

However, I have also learnt from my experience that it is very necessary to rediscover and redefine ourselves every now and then. Only that can affect the strength we need to match up with the healing over time. And this self-discovery or refinement could be anything. For me, I learnt a ne way to define life altogether. I also found an immense source of pleasure in learning new things, be it research or life.

Learning brings us in contact with new ideas, new thoughts, and even sometimes a newer self inside us altogether. Learning has no end and it is one area where nothing is ever enough! And by learning I mean anything under the Sun which enhances ourselves, and our lives for a better tomorrow.

So to wind up, I believe there is no good time or apt age to learn about something. It only enriches us, enables to cope up with the changes in life and lets us tide over certain chapters of the past. All of us learn some bit about life everyday, however, learning something you cherish makes a lot of difference. Hence this is a blog for those friends who are looking for a motivation to learn, to do something in life; who think their present life is not upto the mark. My suggestion says, go out there are discover what you want to learn, and then trust me, there won't be any looking back! There doesn't need to be a clear materialistic goal for learning, learning can make differences larger than life and wider than perception-evident Earthly goals.

Learning is the law of life...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Some Ramblings...

I am excited about my trip to Colorado early October, more because it has been a while I had driven out of Tempe! Colorado would be a new state for me, and one where there is so much Nature to enjoy! I plan to spend half a day at Denver, and then a day in Aspen; and then drive to the Keystone resort where the conference is. Just to keep track of my traveling, which I love so much, here goes a list of the states visited yet:

Arizona, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, California, Utah, Virginia, Illinois

And drove through these:

Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia


I attended the ISA (Indian Students' Association) Freshers yesterday evening and I was thinking one thing - how fast time flies, it just seemed to me that only "that" day I attended the Freshers, and already it has been an year! Several things have changed since the last time, especially the research pace, which has rather been very positive for me, in turn been an artifact of some other things and happenings in the past one year, especially early this year. And while its fun on one hand, that probably it's not too long I have to be in Arizona, on the other hand it sometimes feels scary - so much to do in so less time! Time flies, and life is short!


I am trying to implement the "law of conservation of sleep" - wherein I plan to sleep less during the weekdays and get work done; and then relax in the weekend - less of partying, more of cooking, and some good sleep (ref. probably is Quarter-life crisis effect :P). Also I have realized I am doing less of my favorite pastimes: photography, writing, reading and watching movies. I think all of them are much needed in life for self-evaluation, to broaden the perspective, to reach out to alternative thoughts and to re-invent yourself and thoughts.


Whenever you lose something, you are bound to gain something else! And I think this is what defines life - the choices that we make, and the choices we are obliged to make due to circumstances. Finally, hopefully it all ends well - something which I always tell myself and friends, "whatever happens, probably happens for the better!" And probably that's why I am happy with everything, no complains about the past whatsoever! Things have turned out to be pretty positive yet; and hopefully life won't let me down to disbelieve this philosophy in the future too!


I have always had several smart, intelligent, hard-working and competitive people around me. And I would say, while sometimes this can be stressful, it is actually good, since positive competition makes you better, extracting the best out of you. Since I came to ASU, having competitive people around me has let me work harder and harder, learn things and try to get the best out of me. And it has worked for my own good!


And finally cherish life - it's a golden opportunity - a truth I realize every morning I get up!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Grass on Your Side is Always Greener!

This blog is dedicated to all the readers who think something somewhere in their life is missing! Hope you enjoy it and get the message :)

The other day I was flipping through some people's pages (read my contemporaries / social contacts, not necessarily friends) when I was elated to see them happy with their significant other, an-apparently-good-looking-well-paying-job, and a decently nice car. Though I am far away from knowing what they think, yet it did appear to me that to them, life was full upto the brim, with all the necessary elements needed for a good life defined in the societal terms.

Contrast me. Not quite sure where the "significant-other" chapter is heading to; rather, to be precise haven't been looking out, for reasons more than one, and lessons beyond simple popular notions. And I am happy the way things are regarding this - after all, who can parallel a girl like me? ;-) Oh yeah, I am a little too proud when it comes to finding that "significant other". And I don't see a reason why I shouldn't be!

Jokes apart, about the apparently-good-looking-well-paying-job, I don't believe in the entire concept of working for the sake of money, or doing something which "people" around you consider fulfilling, yet leaving you go back home thinking "what the heck I am doing with my life?". I live a life which I can enjoy, work on stuff which intrigue me, so that the next morning when I get up, I can look back at yesterday and feel ecstatic about the little accomplishments I made, the little differences I could make to a much larger goal.

A loving partner, a well-paying job and other material comfort are necessary in life, no doubt. But are they sufficient as well? I am sure most of you would think no! And this is what exactly defines the way my life is.

Life doesn't have to be exactly the way other people lead it as. Rather life should be led the way you think it makes you happy. Having a relationship is good, but not a necessary element for happiness in life. I know so many friends (and I was also one of them at one point of time) who think that their life is so incomplete because that "significant other" is missing. However, they don't realize that being in a relationship is not the end of the world, or the attainment of Nirvana. The reason you are not in a relationship is because either you haven't met that "right" person, or the ones whom you have met, weren't "right" for you - whichever way, or whatever the reason for the past not working, it's good you are not a part of that mess anymore.

And of course the realm of job, money and satisfaction, or the opportunity to do what you want to or love to do. Honestly, there are very few people bold or courageous enough to tread a risky path as to go ahead and find that job or that work which leaves them satisfied. And the ones who do tread that thorny path, are warded away from the societal definitions of a so-called comfortable life. Yet, to all of those like me, who are set on a journey to make a difference to the world, in some way, small or big, I would say, kudos! May be you feel something somewhere in your life is missing, yet you know whatever you have, it is the best you could do to yourself. And definitely that defines why you are better than all the other commonplace crowd!

Life is too short anyway, note, I am 26, and time seems to be flying! Then why wither away time thinking and comparing yourself with others, being morose imagining how your life could have been? It is foolish to do so.

I sometimes feel so bad that I want to do so much in life; so many things which could make me happy (note, I am very happy with my current life, I have no grudges, no complains whatsoever!) and could make others happy; things which could affect another person's life positively; things which could impact the world a little bit. There are so many things I want to do, and yet so less time!

I agree, probably my life is so very different from many others, when you evaluate it in the popular societal terms of having a good partner, good paying job, big house and elegant car, yet I feel this is the way my life should have been; even if given a chance to go back, I would still wish my life to be this way: however much stress it might involve! And about the societal material happiness, it is often a matter of time and a method of personal evaluation - and as long as you pass your own test, you don't need someone else' certificate of happiness!

So keep living each day, like a live happy person, who thinks the grass she has is the best she could have then, and work and hope that it will be greener, more lush and better with each new day!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Welcome back to my blog, after a span of 13 days of not blogging! It has been really really hectic at school, with all the research and everything. After all the reason being, the PhD years are closing in. And the thought itself runs a streamy blood down me - the magnanimity of a lifetime's dream to make a difference. Specifically, I have been stressed about several research and research-related issues. And my night-owlish habits have also been giving me a tough time live up to normal human schedules!

Well, excuse is not a good option especially when it comes to the best of someone's pastimes, I am talking about writing, which I always enjoy to the fullest. It is a way to better understand myself. It provides an affordance to tide over difficult times. And nevertheless it is a platform to instantiate my online presence, as someone rightly said, "The Web is really the last resort where you can exercise Freedom of Speech"!

However, all this time not blogging has taught me a lesson. That, you don't need a medium to tread a difficult path. You need to have the confidence that you can make it till the end. After every sunset, there is a sunrise.

There have been several things running on my mind everyday, each day that I was not blogging. Most of them were related to my research, which goaded me to revisit my desire of starting a "brainstorming" social research blog. Let's see when that finally happens.

I encountered an interesting idea in the Wired magazine last week. And it was how there has been an inherent shift in the way we tackle scientific research now-a-days, especially armed with zillions of data. Have you heard of PetaByte? It is as of now the biggest sized information defined! And what the magazine said was how the profuse online data is changing our basic methods.

I felt research, for example, a hundred years back was linear and unidirectional. Scientists would form a hypothesis, develop a mathematical framework, test or simulate it on some data and thereby validate the hypothesis. However, with those overwhelming data, research paradigm appears to be circular. We observe a phenonmenon, form hypothesis, check if the data fits that hypothesis, formalize a model and then test and validate; which is followed recursively given the data, resulting in a circular paradigm.

With this interesting thought, I would leave. Hopefully, given the same amount of stress at work, I would be more regular with the blogs from now on!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Next Generation Web

Today I came across a paper which said:

Despite the fact that we already see the approach of the 'social network fatigue' syndrome it seems to me that the social aspect of media generation and consumption on the web will grow. The key push for this development will be the wish of humans to share experiences in a globalized and nomadic world, where the trace replaces the tag. The most valuable experience challenges our assumptions and perspectives and ultimately alters our understanding of information and thereby our own internal model of the world. In this sense, challenge is indeed the challenge we face for information systems. Current systems utilize similitude as selector of new experience. ‘If you liked that then you’ll like this’. However the more profound and hence lasting experiences are the unexpected ones that are at once accessible and confrontational. It is easy to be either, but being both is a demanding challenge. So far we have little capability in marshaling such experience for users but in 2020 this will be different.

Given the above perspective and coupled with newer conceptual technologies like Web 3.0 coming up already, the next generation multi-way dynamic and participation based WWW would be interesting.

I envision a Web where our interests, social interactions and our communication dynamics are taken into account to satisfy our media consumption, media participation and media generation needs better in a more systematic manner.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I-Day Celebration

Aug 15 morning, at the Indian Students' Association I-Day celebration, courtesy: Sashi.

I-day night dance party at Neha's place, courtesy: Divakar.

For the first time, I became a part of the Independence Day celebration after coming to US - right from attending flag hoisting, to singing the national anthem, to wearing Indian clothes, to having a "desi" dance party at a friend's place! It was great fun after a long time. We played Hindi numbers, played cards, imitated each other's dancing styles and pulled each other's legs!

Nevertheless, there is a more serious and profound thought associated with the celebration. The question is, how much can you do staying thousands of miles away from your country? Has the importance of Independence Day reduced to just feeling a little Indian?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Three Year-long Journey

"The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different."

It is completion of three years in US today, a totally different place, country and culture; in ASU, an endeavor to do something more with life; and in PhD, a desire to excel and make a difference to the rest of the world. As I look back, time seems to have just drifted so fast; however, each day has been different; and I have had the opportunity to gather a wide spectrum of variegated experiences, both professional and personal, sweet and bitter, which have been a great learning, preparing for the life in the coming future.

I find this quote so apt in describing the journey of our lives; when I came here, I was so excited about this whole new experience, apart from thoughts of finally being able to do what I wanted to do, and everything else. Each dawn it was something new, and I have come a long, really long way. I don't repent anything, I don't want to go back and change any bit of it. For, at the end of the day, it has been a learning of life; things you don't imbibe in formative education. And I want to gather that learning in the same manner as it has been, had I had the chance to go back and change anything.

There have been several changes about me. How I look at life, how I look into my future, how I judge relationships and how to be responsible for myself. Precisely maturity has crept in wide and deep; which has been for the better I strongly believe! Growing up has been a wonderful journey in the past three years here.

There were so many things which I was inquisitive about three years back, which I was skeptical about. I have answers to many of them now. I know where I am going to be in the next five years, a thought which used to be a question then. And still there are some questions which spring up every now and then and sweep my entire thought process. However, life is about getting more questions and the quest for their answers in the way, isn't it? And therein lies the role of the hidden future, a future which is obliged to be different from today - a hope that is always alive, in some remote corner of our mind.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

*Today* and Some Bits

Today is one of those numerous days that made me feel like a real PhD student! Some of the highlights are here!
  • I had the longest meeting of my life - lingering for three hours. This was with my advisor to discuss the paper we are submitting tomorrow.
  • I needed to call home today, but since I had too many changes to make to my paper and so little time, I called them to just literally say "I am fine" , "Hope you all are doing good" and "I need to hang up, have loads of work"; that was a mere couple of minutes talk. Note, I never talk home this less; it is always at least 20 minutes.
  • I had terrible headache since morning, so ended up buying coffee with a Columbian shot (!) to make it as strong as possible.
  • I am stuck at the lab all night likely, note, today is a Sunday and that too, this is summer time!
All said and done, hope my paper turns up good. After all, it is going to be held in Barcelona, Spain, and I need to get there, apart from satiating all the PhD desires! Rest for next time: I have another deadline on Wednesday! Whee, I am loving this life, no pun intended!

On a different note, please read about Quarter-life crisis (QLC) on Wiki. If you are in the twenties, you will find tremendous ways to connect to the feeling. At least I did, so did some of my friends whom I asked.

Some of the ways (refer to the above link) I feel I suffer from QLC: tendency to hold an opinion about everything on Earth, I can talk on anything under the Sun; the realm of personal relationships, I am not happy about some of the ways things have worked out in the past; stress, oh well, it is a part of life when you are building up your coming future; desire to have children, I love kids; nostalgia, I am suffering from it tremendously these days; and re-evaluation of past life, it is always a great feeling and learning to retrospect and reflect on things that have happened, nonetheless I am happy about how life has been, despite all the bad times and the intermittent good times, well, don't they say, "Joy and woe are woven fine" (William Blake).

And some of the ways I don't think I suffer from QLC are: I am not confused, in fact I am never confused about anything, I always knew "which is which"; I am not unhappy with my job, in fact I am pretty happy with it; I don't feel that everyone else around me is doing better, yeah, I sometimes think I have sort of a superiority complex; and I don't suffer from insecurity about future plans, of present accomplishments or of the near future, I always knew what I wanted to do in life, ever since I was in 4th grade.

Note, this is not about self-analysis or anything of that sort; remember we were talking about QLC! So, check out what you think about yourself!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Slavery, Resilience. Then?

Man is a slave of circumstances, of habits.

I hail from a place in India where it pours very heavily; we almost have four to five months of real monsoon. Then, when I used to be there, I was accustomed to playing in the rain, going round the city with raincoats, umbrellas, riding rickshaws with water-proof curtains or even running across huge puddles of rainwater in front of our house. Rains used to be a part and parcel of life and so were out lifestyles; be it buying shoes especially for rainy days, be it getting dressed like that, or be it carrying an umbrella or raincoat while going out, if you guess it is going to rain that day. There were no surprises; we even knew which places to avoid, in case it rains too bad and areas get flooded.

Now the other aspect: power-cuts, for heaven's sake, we used to have plenty of them in Agartala - everyday for at least an hour, at an uninformed time. It used to be a part and parcel of life, too sarcastically, and reading in candle light or kerosene lamps used to be common long back, till things graduated to an alternative emergency electricity line. Preparations would go on since evening itself for the power-cuts, like keeping that part of the evening free and finishing off important things earlier or possibly later.

Life changed radically once I moved here. No rains (thanks to Arizona) and then the technology-slaved lifestyle in US, made me lame to handling situations like rains and powercuts. I was coming back with a big basket of laundered clothes today when unconsciously I stepped into a puddle of water and almost slipped. I realized I am wearing flip flops which have completely flat and smooth bases, a complete no-no for rains, as Mom used to say in India. Alas, the lifestyle here made me forget that!

And surprisingly, when I was driving to a grocery store later in the evening after the rain stopped, I passed between two intersections which were completely dark, jet black, and a poor traffic police guy was standing (with still little drops of rain pouring) and controlling the traffic. The irony being, certain places in Arizona, not being accustomed to such heavy rains, went almost crazy when some electrical equipment failed to operate and deliver electricity! And icing on the cake, even the traffic lights weren't working due to this power-cut! And trust me, unlike the rickshaws in Tripura which can operate on a flickering kerosene flame, driving without traffic lights working freaked me out totally. It was like putting yourself "out there," for some accident to occur!

This is all aside the ordeal the people living in that area were going through. This place is close to ASU campus, so quite a few students live there. Life is so much poised on this so called blissful technology that you cannot possibly cook anything (which means you starve unless thriving on already cooked food), can't get hot water (which means cannot shower), stay in the dark (which means no AC, no sleep) etc etc. Life just comes to a standstill, and especially if it persists for hours together.

I was just wondering at how we become accustomed to our situations, to our ambience and turn into slaves of technology. Only three years back, rains or powercuts per se, used to be no big deal at all. And now life just stops. A complete stop.

Man has this amazing capability to be resilient to whatever situation he or she is in. There is an inherent ability to adjust to the surroundings, to the situation, many be given sometime. Eventually everything gets leveled, we are the slaves of our own lives, of our own circumstances. Still, at the end of the day, knowing all of it, why do we panic when things are not our way? Where does that bliss of tremendous resilience go away all of a sudden?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

All About Me

October, 2007 (Courtesy: Arvind, ISA Freshers')

February, 2008 (Courtesy: Rahul's Tempe visit)

July, 2008 (Courtesy: Deepak's Arizona Trip)

Me sometime back, a few months; a re-collection. The first pic goes back to the time of last year's ISA (Indian Students' Association) Freshers. There was a drama simulating the life of Indian graduate students at ASU, and I was playing the role of an administrative staff. The second pic is taken by my friend, Rahul, when he visited Tempe (and subsequent Grand Canyon and Las Vegas) last February. The third pic is the most recent, and courtesy taken by my friend Deepak when he was making a trip to Arizona last month. It is taken in a nice Mexican restaurant in Sedona, and I am cherishing a heavenly glass of Margarita!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I learned a few lessons

Life teaches so many lessons. Some of them aren't the ones you read in secondary school, or the ones that your parents would teach you or even the ones your friends could tell you. These are the lessons you learn from life's variegated experiences. And I have jotted down a few of them here.

Don't be foolishly romantic. Love exists, but preserve it for someone who deserves it. It doesn't mean that you hate others, or be mean to them, but yeah indifference is the best emotion you could deliver, when you aren't sure about any other!

Set a goal in life: a short-term one, and a long-term one. These could be something about your professional career or could be simply your alter-interest. But do have them with you, round the clock. They let you cling to something and something to look forward to. The short-term goal keeps you on your toes. And the long-term goals, which could be pretty high level, or very generic, keep you motivated and cater to keeping you overflowing with aspirations.

Realize you aren't the perfect human being, but strive towards being so. Craft the principles, ideas and thoughts which you think could make your life more perfect, which could be for optimizing any self-set motive.

Live life everyday: which also doesn't mean don't think about tomorrow. But yeah brooding over the past is the last thing in life. It leaves us morose, affects our day-to-day lives and disturbs our mental agility.

Be adaptive to your surroundings; keep all the five senses open to what you can be a part of, and what you could be aloof from. A wide heart and open mind often makes life easier.

And finally I would like to say, sometimes hope could kill people. Because at times, it does not come as a boon - rather it leaves us alone in never-ending roads of optimism where no positive ray of light ever gets to sway the golden grounds. We keep expecting things to go our way, things to revert back to the state where we left off, or to reach the disposition wherein we felt the most contented. Nevertheless life is sometimes a brutal reality: hope does not always come very handy.

I learned it is best to tide over the past; to start looking forward to things which have a meaning in the days to come. And also to live life at its best at this moment: pensive yet pragmatic, fancied yet the realist. To hope for things in the future, not the past and should the future not cull out the way we wished it to, never ever say "I wish, I hope." Rather, tell unto yourself "I would, I can tackle the ordeal."

Always rely on yourself for all the needed strength in the world: there is no magic wand or a Alladin's lamp to set things right in life. You are the architect of your tomorrow. And past is not going to help you do so; neither are the false hopes going to come to your beck and call. It's all about you; tomorrow as it stands right there, so close, so merry, so rosy, yet needs one extra thing for everything to materialize, and that is you yourself, ready to embrace life as it comes.


On a more casual and comic note, Kartik pointed out the other day that some of the most frequently used tags in my blog are: academics, happiness, research and random. So he made a sentence out of it (remember the Make Sentences thing we used to do in primary school!). And here it goes:

Searching random happiness in academic research.

Ironically or coincidentally I would agree anyday, that this is really what I have been doing the past three years! And I am happy and proud to be doing so :)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A little piece of good news!

Just to share this piece of good news with all my readers! I got a scholarship acceptance for the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing (2008) which is in Keystone, Colorado (90 minutes drive from Denver, CO). I will be traveling there and presenting the technical poster which was accepted there earlier.

I am extremely passionate about encouraging ambitious young women pursuing wonderful careers and I find this conference to be a great budding ground promoting this. A related blog post about my thoughts on this issue and the conference can be found here.

Apart from everything else, I would get an opportunity to explore a new state Colorado which is supposedly among the most beautiful states in the country!

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Motivation Factor

What do you do when you start getting disillusioned about life and the goals you had crafted for yourself? How do you tackle this situation when the primary motivating factor in life stops delivering its rejuvenating sap in your day-to-day little happenings?

I have been struggling enough of late, primarily due to de-motivation. Not because my PhD is not going great, in fact, it is very good I guess (so do several other people think); but it has been something else. I guess, on one hand it is the emotional turmoil which has created a mess, and on the other, it is the constancy of a research career, a degree you are pursuing which is crunching a fat slice of the ripe time of your life, along with ripping thick flesh of your efforts everyday. I don't mind indulging into an ambitious endeavor as that, but sometime, it has to reflect to me in some manner, why I am doing all this; why I have let go several nice things when I made the choices; and why I am in a position today when I feel I don't have anything to look forward to tomorrow.

This is not a depressing blog; I am not moaning over the melancholic life, nor am I re-iterating the bad experiences of the past. It is a piece of writing which should enable me re-think; re-think why I chose the path I did, three years back or may be even more. What the goals in the long run are. How is it going to make the lives of others different tomorrow. And when I run these questions in my mind, it feels like I am back on my track: the much larger than life picture I need to paint, eventually!

Life has its ups and downs. There are days when everything looks so perfect; and then there are times when nothing seems right. This truth is so cliched, but hardly ever we realize it when it is the most necessary. We brood over the past. We curse what has happened and what went wrong. It is difficult to forget certain happenings or people; difficult to put apart certain things which you could have worked out but did not really happen. But life is about looking forward, living each day full to the brim. Because what is past will never come back. It is just there. While, the motivations, they help us move forward in life. So the wise is who can weigh the motivations over past worries. He or she is then the winner, the winner of life at its best!

I would like to conclude by saying:
"There is just one life for each of us: our own." - Euripides.

PS: Please pray (if you are a theist) or wish (if you are an atheist) that my aunt who is ailing with cancer in its secondary stage, gets fine. I just got to know about this tonight and haven't been feeling great all the more. She has been a wonderful person in my life and I hope life doesn't take its toll on her this way.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Truly, Madly, Deeply :)

This defines my current mood today. Dedicated to all of whom I have loved or still do! I know if you are reading this blog, you would know!

However, life and love are transitory to a great extent. Roads merge and part, we meet and part with a host of people, things and happenings. Everything gets swept in the lashing waves of life. What remains is the feel of it. So there it is...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time Travel

I was listening to the title song of Kuch kuch hota hai tonight. It was a movie profusely popular in my friend circle back in those times (1998) and I personally loved it, since it talked about the love (triangle) among three young school-going people, very much like all of us. And suddenly I found the lyrics to take me back to those times. Then, falling in love was so beautiful, matched exactly what the song had to say "ab to mera dil jaage na sota hai...".

The contrast between then and now amazes me widely! Not that I don't believe in falling in love anymore, in fact, I still believe that it is possible that we fall in love, everything becomes pretty around us and then there is no looking back. But the perception is somehow very different. Falling in love then (if at all it was love!) was really amazing, it was like flying with all multi-colored wings in the blue sky, a background adorned by all the best things and happenings and where life merged with the movie-akin romance.

For some reason which I don't know, I have been treading the path of the past pretty often of late! Times like ten years back; my thoughts then and the perspective of life I had then (if at all I understood all this that point of time!). Whatever the reason is, the backwards time travel has been very interesting. I have enjoyed it every time, irrespective of whatever memory time pulled up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Self-quotes and their analysis

"I am trying to rise above all earthly desires; it is only papers that I care about now."

This was a statement I made to a friend sometime back about why and how I am looking forward to life, after all the things happened which I didn't want to.

However, how many times are we really capable of doing that? I thought you merely need one reason to live, one motivation to move forward in life. And it could be anything. Though I have hunted down that one reason to live, there is something somewhere else, lying around in some corner of my mind, that iches time and again; making me realize, may be there are two reasons you need in life. So that when things don't seem to be going much right on one end, you always have another reason to cling to. Let's see what the future says about this reasoning!


"Certain memories make me nostalgic."

Today I was talking to another friend of mine, when we stuck on the topic of how we associate certain specific happenings, events to specific people at different points of time. We were talking about how we would associate certain music with our past crushes, with past relationships, with exam results, or simply with the dreams we used to cherish then. Somehow today afternoon I ran into one of those kind of music back from 2001 which reminded me of several things at that point of time - it was those times when we were bursting with hopes, plans, dreams to start an altogether new kind of life (right after 12th grade finals). And then there was the odd feeling of how things of the past 12-15 years would seep down in the sands of time. Probably some of those will never revert back. They would just exist there.

But there is one very interesting point I noted about being nostalgic about those memories. Somehow I could recall only the red and rosy things; even the stress that used to torment us then feels so different now. It was the times of hopes, zero responsibilities and zealous pursuits.

I don't mean that life has been stripped of fun and hopes now. But somehow it is very different. I think life is now more shallow; our thinking is less convoluted, and our subscription to principles and rules are rather flexible. We no longer dream we could be astronauts. We no longer dream of life to be exactly like a romantic-comedy movie. We longer dream that we could change the world in a day with our accomplishments. We are more mature now; we know our little grounds. We cherish dreams, we plan, but only those which we know we are capable of. And when the gone-by memories sometimes come back to you, you feel nostalgic and going back to those times gives a very astounding feeling.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Checker-board

I like it when I find my life like a checker-board - everything laid out in a proper manner which I know, and every move that I would make is calculated and as per the current circumstances and future happenings. I am never confused; and I do exactly what I want to do in life.

But how many times does life really happen like that? I am not sure: and that is one of the major complains I have all the time - why cannot I embark on a decision or take a footstep towards something conclusively? Why is so many times a layer of uncertainty dwelling over the skies of our hopes and plans?

Hopes and those moves on life's checker-board that goad towards fulfilling some goal or the other keeps me going all the time. As a matter of fact, whenever some cloud of uncertainty would overcast them, life gets all the more interesting. It opens up newer avenues to take life as a challenge and not succumb to it.

That's why I don't like times when I don't have anything to do, anything to look forward to. I find life too hollow then - the captivating moves of the twists and turns in life make it lively and worth living!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Mere Existential Things...

Life sometimes surprises me big time: things which you would never expect happen and then leave a trace somewhere in some corner. But may be that's just a trace, may be it does not have any significance in the future, whatsoever.

Trying to come to terms with this seemingly true fact. Not quite up for it though. Because I think, whatever happens in life, has a meaning, be it for the better or the worse. May be sometimes, it doesn't. Certain things are just there, they just exist, without any significance at that point of time, or later.

Am I right? Can these traces be of any use later? Are they good enough at least to impart some experience or lesson or little bit of learning? Or are they just merely existential?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It is not what life has to offer ...

Whenever things in life don't seem to be going much right, I have often had this consolation from friends telling me, "don't worry, life has more to offer." Unfortunately, such consolations never came to help for me, and that is also precisely one of the reasons why I get much paranoid when things don't seem so right in life.

I am a person who grew up always trying to shape things in life as it came, never really trying to leave things to chance. However, sadly, life is sometimes unpredictable; one or more of the infinite variables controlling a segment could often go wrong, and that is when the uncontrolled situations would often drive me nuts - the lack of my control over a set of circumstances. And isn't that obvious for a person of this kind, to find all the consolations involving "life has more to offer" appear meaningless?

Of late, experience and maturity has taught a myriad lessons. I realized, that things could go wrong at any time and any place about anything, but what time and situation cannot steal from you is the desire to remain upright, all the time. For, I believe, it is us who define what life could offer.

Mostly, life is really what we extract out of it, how we define it, how we justify it to ourselves. Several things in life depend upon chance or are purely beyond our control; obviously, things could go wrong at any time - however, what we could control is how we want our lives to be from that point onwards. It is not what life has to offer, rather what we want life to offer us!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The darkness in "The Dark Knight"

"He is what Gotham deserves to have, but not what Gotham needs at this moment."

The Dark Knight is the story of the human superhero, the hero of a civilization which has been bogged down by the darkness of wisdom in a deep valley of hopelessness. He is the ultimate self in a time when the human mind has lost its faith in goodwill; a time when people started to be driven by their selfishness, their mundane desires and their gory revenges of the past, turning Gotham City into a reality hell of daemons.

Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) has been doing the "shit-cleaning job" of Gotham all the while. He has been letting the people of his city sleep in peace; he has been driving all those ill-motif souls to their deserved places of sins. The children have been looking up to him as the ultimate resort, and every Tom, Dick and Harry has been motivated to tread his path by wearing his gadget-y suit. Yet, Batman is Batman - his passion to make Gotham a better place to live in makes all the difference.

The movie shows the war inside a commonplace man's character, a man though like you and me, has the profuse responsibility of sweeping the gory floors of a world turned selfish and wicked. The movie raises a question on our love of the presence of a superhero - a person godly enough to possess all the qualities which could make the world a better place to live in. A person who transcends all human limitations. A man in the real sense of the term. The man of every woman's dream. A man of character, of motive, of warmth and of self-resilience.

But reality is far from this dream. Batman, a superhero with a mask cannot inspire a generation; he cannot motivate twenty other teenagers to leave the path of sin and embark on a path towards a new dawn. So Batman decides, "let there be darkness before there is that twilight." He feels Batman needs to be erased from the soul of Gotham; what Gotham needs at this moment is a real hero, of flesh and blood, a man whom the commonplace can relate to.

The movie ends with our man of character and power having to flee. Flee with no wrong-doing in record. Flee for the sake of humanity, for a better civilization, more responsible by itself. Flee with the image of a real human as the hero, not a masked superhero.

The movie somehow made me think our definitions of perfection. We dream of an utopia, and we dream that sometime someday there would be one great man who will wipe the world clean of every misdoing. We laze around, sit without the sense of a responsibility, waiting for that superhero incarnated person to come up and end all the woes in the world. But don't we ourselves have a role to play? Aren't we ourselves responsible for a better tomorrow?

The world does not need comic-book heroes, men of dreams or people whose intellect or wisdom is a bolt from the blue, rather it needs real and mundane heroes, like you and me, who can deliver the crusade of making the civilization wiser and better at each dawn, everyday.

Let us wake up before it is too late for one single person with a noble thought (like Batman) to sacrifice the 'hero' in him and get doomed cleaning a world full of shit.

I would not reveal the actual story here, but it is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever watched. It has profound philosophy, it has the passion of fulfilling one's dream and it has the real world connection of a superhero being a part of the same world we live in. The movies ends with a note which asks us the question of our own responsibilities towards mankind, instead of a all-powerful superhero accomplishment.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The "real" and the "virtual" Society

I have been trying to formulate two new problems related to my research for the coming months. The bliss I have in this regard is the considerable overlap between my sociable nature and online presence, coupled with my research which entails inputs from the wide vista of observations I can make from my own online activities. For example, the other day when I posted a photo on my Orkut profile, several people commented and I c0uld clearly observe a conversation emerging out with respect to the media (photo) that I shared. And more interestingly most of these friends of mine engaged themselves in conversation despite not knowing each other!

So what immediately came to my mind was that, can this kind of an affordance provided by online social media actually be considered as a model of social network growth? It could be an interesting novel endeavor to look at!

Coming back to my online experience and the pointers I keep getting on my research with its help, I came to know about Dunbar's number sometime back, which says that there is an upper threshold on the number of contacts (friends) a person can maintain social relationships with. And psychological studies point out that this threshold is 150!

Ironically enough, I have a decent 591 contacts on Orkut and I know several other people for whom it is much more than 150. Now the question is, while Dunbar's research is based on people's real world social contacts, does it also hold good in the virtual world? Are the rules and laws that define social relationships on the Web being redefined with technology? If yes, then what is the model for online social networks? If no, then how do we explain 591 versus 150?

But I have this understanding - despite this never ending contact list, I probably maintain social terms with less than 30 people on Orkut. What does this signify? That Web 2.0 is making us more gregarious? Or the definition of a social relationship is getting diluted with newer social media technologies coming in?

I have often seen our online experiences redefining our lives - I have known friends who tend to use smileys while talking! (though theoretically, smileys were created to mimic real human expressions!) And then I see friends having some 200 friends on the GTalk list - do they constantly chat with several of them?

I see a significant change in our societal structure - for the good or for the worse, the Web is modifying the underlying laws that would govern our societies for centuries. And I see a significant contribution that could be made by the community of social networking researchers.