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!