Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Life in Retrospect

People often say - you can never unfold time in retrospect in the same way as it naturally unfolded then. Take the example of a PhD student's thesis. Good research (in the sense a good thesis which indeed makes a contribution to the relevant area) is never done in a day; neither is it ever dictated from a month or even an year's of single line of thought. Rather the process is more or less recursive - we hypothesize, we test, we validate and then come back and re-examine our hypothesis again. The process continues until we are able to hit the so-called "scientific truth" - okay maybe for many of us, the "technological leap".

Thesis ideas don't bloom in a day - people rarely would have their ten chapters of the actual thesis figured out in the very first month of their grad school. However, when you look back at a good thesis after seven (or hopefully several) years, it gives you the feel, the girl or the guy dreamt of doing the exact same thing and expected the exact same results the day s/he was born. We know that's often not the case though (okay not talking of Turing Award winners here)!

Life looks different in retrospect. It lends us a spectacle which enables us analyze the past in the context of a number of variables that have come to emerge and affect our lives in the present. Hence when we look back, we feel that life in retrospect has happened the way because they were bound to happen that particular way! Some people would call it luck. But I woudl refrain from digressing into that - needs a separate post.

Retrospective thinking and the conclusions derived from them are often misleading, or are at least quite illusive. However it is of utmost necessity in life. When I look back at my life retrospectively, I feel happy. Because I feel I won't have been probably sitting her writing this blog about my weirdest philosophical thoughts unless things happened the way they actually happened. I feel, in retrospect, life molds us in a (sub)optimal way which can help us lead our lives in a manner which we, if we want, would be able to justify to ourselves, if not another ten people.

Since I was a kid, everyone used to tell me - look forward, think about tomorrow, don't brood over the past, etc etc. But sometimes the retrospect helps. It gives you the courage for today when you think of the hard times you have had tide over in the past. It tells you that wherever you are, it's your sequence of actions that has led to this, and hence you are the one who has responsibility of your own life - not some other random contextual factors which had just fallen in place in the past. Precisely, looking at life in retrospect makes us ready to tackle a tough tomorrow. Yeah several times, if not always.

When I look back at the person I was in 2007, exactly two years back, I feel strange sometimes. I feel strange at the manner (and also the fast pace) I have evolved as a person, learnt of life's greater responsibilities, started to take things as they come and to love the things I do, and do the things I like, as long as it's justifiable to the larger set of people you care about. If life had been hard then, it was like that for the today I have.

And the today I have is probably for something more meaningful tomorrow...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Thoughts in Some Wet Wind

I can smell the wet air and can feel the damp soil,
I can ride oceans and seas to find the first summer foil;
In a country with some unknown crowd and words of a less learned strain,
I breathe in and dwell in a dreamland of body and some brain.

Sometimes the blowing wind would shudder a tremble in me,
As I hold a hot cup of coffee and attempt to look through my bunch of key;
The key which locks out a future of some hope and some memory
Of past and of the let-go days' territory.

I stand as I feel the wet rainy wind blow my face,
I see, I hope, I expect, I disgress
To a future adorned with all the best of the gone-by times,
And a lot to do for those yet to come - but yet what rhymes
Is a promise - a pledge that life has bore all through,
As I enjoy and work my way as a ship's crew.
A journey as meandering it could be
Yet as many dreams as there could possibly be!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Europe Trip: First Accounts...

Much wanted for is a blog post, precisely a travelogue, which depicts my Europe trip. I must say, it was one of the trips I would never forget - whether it is from the career point of view, or just for my mere love of traveling. My trip was short, but very sweet, and the places that I traveled to were Madrid and Paris, both in western Europe. A per-day account follows from this point onwards. In this blog I have accounted for my first three days in Madrid. The rest, along with the Paris blog would follow soon!

Apr 19: I started from my home early morning, helped by Uday to get dropped at the airport. I needed to get a domestic flight first, to Chicago, and then had a connection to Madrid on the Spanish airline Iberia. The one stress that I always had before I started my journey was my 100% ignorance of the language in either of the two countries. Apart from a "hi" and a "thank you", I had no clue about how I would express myself out there. Much before I started, friends recommended I learn a bit of Spanish and French, but my ever-busy schedule did not let me a single opportunity to do so. My Chicago flight was delayed, almost by an hour due to bad rains there. Though I was skeptical I am going to miss the connection to Madrid, which would mean staying a night in Chicago, things fell in place when the Iberia flight was delayed as well! I embarked on my journey, when I figured a significant number of the passengers were Spainiards.
The flight was long and boring. The food was mostly continental, and so were the drinks, ref. Heiniken (not one of my favorites). This wasn't the real feel of Spain yet!

Apr 20: I reached in the Barajas Intl Airport in the morning, about 11:30 am local time, which is nine hours ahead of Arizona time. I knew how to get to the hotel from there - went down the terminal, got some currency exchange and walked to the Metro station. I had to change at a certain station in the middle and then had to walk to the hotel which was hardly about 200 meters from the station. At this point what really helped me was Google Maps street view. I had already looked up where the station was and how I needed to walk up to the hotel. So when I walked out of the station, it felt I had been there already! Good God, technology!
The hotel was 3 star and so quite upscale as far as the amenities and the hotel associates were concerned. They would speak English, so it wasn't an issue for me. The guy helped me take my bags to the room and I thanked him "Gracias". To my surprise, I found the elevator to be really small, even at a upscale hotel - unlike the ones you see in the States where you can virtually sleep! The room was nice and cozy. I quickly freshened up and got ready in formals. I had to run to the conference venue where one of my friends / ex-colleague was presenting his paper at a workshop. I took the Metro again and used my Google Maps street view experience to find out the conference venue easily!
The conference venue was quite different from the locality my hotel was in. It looked new and the buildings you would see were new and quite urban, much like a regular office area in the States. I registered for the conference onsite and quickly moved on to the room where that Workshop was. Soon after had lunch and checked out some talks.
That day I was terribly jetlagged. Had to return to the hotel about 6 pm because I was too sleepy to even sit upright! No dinner, I came and dozed off.

Apr 21: This was in fact the real "free day" at the conference, because most of the talks were not of interest to me. So me and the friend who was presenting there went out after lunch at the conference to visit the Palacio Real (The royal palace of Spain). For the first time we saw the real face of the city! Madrid is adorned by lots of old buildings which have survived hundreds of years. However the Palace was a different story altogether. It was beautiful and elegant despite being old - something you would hardly see in the architecture in India.
Unfortunately the palace was closed on that day so we walked around some church, and took a nice walk at the Plaza Mayor which is a 17th century historic locality in Madrid. We caught some glimpses of Madrid life - narrow streets, old houses, canopy windows, a painter and the regular people.
On our way back, we were surprised and pleased to come across with the official welcome to the Indian President! Apparently Pratibha Patil was visiting Madrid at the same time as a National tour. So we were coincidentially a part of the entire royal welcome she got - horses well enamoured with jewels, nice vintage cars and what not! As a second coincidence we met one of my collaborators and her friend there as well!
We paused during our walk next to grab some coffee. Just to give you an idea, a small coffee which is half the size of the ones you get in Starbucks here, costed 2 euros. We sat and chatted nicely for a long time. We din't even realize it was two hours already!
I had an invitation from the Yahoo! party at the conference, so I had to rush there. Going there was nice fun. Though technically not a Yahoo! yet, but as a future Yahoo! person it was nice to interact with some of the people there. I tried the Yahootini - which is a vodka based Martini specially made on account of the Yahoo! party!
I returned back to the hotel at about 10 pm. Again I was very tired, but worked on my talk a little bit, which was scheduled a couple of days later.

Rest of my account would follow soon. Hope this left you excited! :)