Thursday, August 18, 2011

Drink beer, talk about cars

Thinking of the way in which men handle people in general, compared to how women do the same, I am left wondering how come it is possible to have men in management/administrative/leadership positions. Men get upset so fast, they are always behaving as though it is a fight and everyone is trying to beat them up and is unfair to them. Fuck off is the strategy. Whereas working women in general seem to assume others are more childlike or foolish whose tantrums you have to stand, and always seem to have a polished yet firm response.

Now, this is of course not true for many men. Especially for what I would call the cosmopolitan men, who are comfortable with the world, men, women. They can handle things in a simple way. I am only talking about the hardheaded-fool type you meet so often at work and elsewhere (and one rarely meets such women).

One can say men are brought up to be fighters and women are brought up to stand them, etc. Nothing original about these thoughts, just writing it down because I have ended up in a lab filled with testosterone (12 men and no woman), and hence suffering. Men just assume that the beer-drinking, talking-about-cars-and-stockmarket-men we see so often in hollywood movies are so them, and being nice and sensitive is a woman's job. As a result, lunches and coffee are nightmares these days.

Update: Friend says too much generalization. I agree. Just that the concentration of a few such people provoked me to generalize and curse the manhood.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Notes from a boring weekend

[Indira Gandhi] implemented Article 356 41 times.

No internal election took place in the Congress after 1972

The irony of Mrs Gandhi’s modus operandi – which stood in stark contrast with her father’s – laid in its counterproductive results. While she aimed at retaining power in the state and at maintaining the national unity by imposing her political control over them, she fostered centrifugal forces and precipitated the crystallisation of regional identities. Hence, it led to the development of state parties and they became more entrenched in their new bastions.

Christophe Jaffrelot in Tehelka


Among the poor, or those with tight budgets, married women went out to work after 1945 because, to put it crudely, children no longer did so. Child labour in the West had almost vanished[..].in the past, children had worked so that their mothers could remain at home[..], now when families needed additional income, mothers worked instead of children.
[....]
If there was an incentive for [married middle class women] to go outside the home [in 50s and 60s], it was the demand for freedom and autonomy: for the married woman to be a person in her own right and not an appendage of husband and household, someone judged by the world as an individual and not a member of a species ('just a housewife and mother'). Income came into it not because it was needed, but because it was something that a woman could spend or save without asking her husband first.
[....]
When women streamed into a profession opened to them, as in the USSR, where the medical profession became largely feminized in consequence, it lost status and income. As against Western feminists, most married Soviet women, long used to a lifetime of paid work, dreamed of the luxury of staying at home and doing only one job.
Age of extremes, Eric Hobsbawm

Many American women particularly are prepared to think that there is no longer any place for woman as such; if a backward individual still takes herself for a woman, her friends advise her to be psychoanalysed and thus get rid of this obsession. In regard to a work, Modern Woman: The Lost Sex, which in other respects has its irritating features, Dorothy Parker has written: ‘I cannot be just to books which treat of woman as woman ... My idea is that all of us, men as well as women, should be regarded as human beings.’ But nominalism is a rather inadequate doctrine, and the antifeminists have had no trouble in showing that women simply are not men. Surely woman is, like man, a human being; but such a declaration is abstract. The fact is that every concrete human being is always a singular, separate individual. To decline to accept such notions as the eternal feminine, the black soul, the Jewish character, is not to deny that Jews, Negroes, women exist today – this denial does not represent a liberation for those concerned, but rather a flight from reality. Some years ago a well-known woman writer refused to permit her portrait to appear in a series of photographs especially devoted to women writers; she wished to be counted among the men. But in order to gain this privilege she made use of her husband’s influence! Women who assert that they are men lay claim none the less to masculine consideration and respect. I recall also a young Trotskyite standing on a platform at a boisterous meeting and getting ready to use her fists, in spite of her evident fragility. She was denying her feminine weakness; but it was for love of a militant male whose equal she wished to be. The attitude of defiance of many American women proves that they are haunted by a sense of their femininity. In truth, to go for a walk with one’s eyes open is enough to demonstrate that humanity is divided into two classes of individuals whose clothes, faces, bodies, smiles, gaits, interests, and occupations are manifestly different. Perhaps these differences are superficial, perhaps they are destined to disappear. What is certain is that they do most obviously exist.
Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir(1949)

At a cocktail party, a discussion of the definition of feminism was raging without a clear conclusion. Some participants suggested that feminism was the demand for
‘equal rights’, some that it involved the dismantling of the ‘sex/gender’ system, still others that it was the unending struggle against male domination in all its forms.
Finally, an eight-year-old who had been listening intently to the conversation disingenuously asked the following—‘isn’t feminism the belief that women are human
beings’? At this question, all conversation stopped; the eight-year-old boy had hit the nail on the head. All that was needed was a slight emendation of his interrogative—
that is that feminism IS the radical belief that women are human beings.
Intro. to modern feminist theory, Jennifer Rich (2007)

Though radical, neither Fidel nor any of his comrades were communists nor (with two exceptions) even claimed to have Marxist sympathies of any kind. [..]. The US diplomats and policy advisers constantly debated whether the movement was or was not pro-communist - if it were, the CIA, which had already overthrown a reforming government in Guatemala in 1954, knew what to do - but clearly concluded it was not. [..]. by March 1960, well before Fidel had discovered that Cuba was to be socialist and himself was a communist[..]
Age of extremes, Eric Hobsbawm

Other points: went out for a drink with some friends, and the girl was explaining how she had a six year old love in another country, but since she is not sure whether they are in real love or it is just a habit, and because seven months in a foreign country is sad and even a kiss means a lot, she is now having a relation with someone else, but she is sure it wont last long, and she will "sit and talk" to her old love about what to do about their affair (though she wont mention her new affair)... She says it is easy to look from outside and judge, but in the inside, things are different.

Saw Midnight in Paris. Long been anti-Woody Allen now, with his simple characters and simple moralistic messages, but it was a movie that made me smile in the end. Unlike normal Woody Allen movies, where the main male protagonist is a pseudo-intellectual-asshole-loser, this one was better. In the beginning, you feel he's the normal Woody Allen one, but later you start liking the character, and the beautiful last scene, when he meets the woman who loves to walk in the rain, like him... Additional takeaway: inspiration to read Hemingway. Whoa, what a man (in the film)! Good film for fun.

Friday, June 17, 2011

blah

Emptiness.

Loneliness.

I want to talk.
About what?
Nothingness. Nothing much important. Nothing serious. Just like a child. Blahblahblah.

There's no one to talk to.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

No title

Here I am not going to be politically correct - I want to express my love to the two Russian women I love.

In fact one of them was born in Latvia, studied in a ballet school and then went to Ireland, found a job for her dad (a mechanic) and took her family to Ireland. When she was ~16. When she was studying here with me, she was working in the evening for some company in Ireland, for a real salary. Yesterday she taught me how to bind a set of papers.

Regarding the other Russian, it's difficult to paint a resume like that. She would, for example, say - "damn, writing a paper, the colorful graphs, you've to have flying butterflies...". Another day, when I introduce this person called Mayakovsky whose name I only know from some Mir publications book I read in childhood, she would say - "have you read his poems? I love them..". Yet another day, when you are too tired to think of a new topic, she would break into how she was asked by the security in an airport in Tel Aviv to hand over her gun.

How I will stop being politically correct is what I will now say: if there's a competition for the least petty women in the world, the Russians will probably top it.

I know I am stereotyping pettiness here, and of course I understand that this will be used against me when I become a socially respected successful gentleman who is allowed to fart once in a while in consideration of his age and his success, but that's why I would be paying my PR team then?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Politics and the Indian male abroad

Today I heard an Indian explaining to some French what Baba Ramdev is doing. About black money etc.

A few days back I heard another Indian explaining to some Americans about Montek Singh-Manmohan Singh liberalizations and how they saved India

I told a Romanian girl that I like politics and she told me she knows another Indian and he loves politics too and guess all people from our country like politics.

In Zurich I met an Ukranian girl and the above said thing happened again.

Indian students abroad are suddenly so political ?

We eat dinner together sometimes, and the topic invariably leads to politics - about Modi, about Budhadeb, about the need for BJP, about Quran, etc etc.

Why the Indian academic student outside suddenly so interested in discussing politics?

Anyway, their politics is quite homogenous. Nobody is well read, no one reads even. Nobody thinks Mayawati/Lalu/Mulayam/VP Singh/CPM has done anything good. Modi/Nitish Kumar is pro-development. Gender/caste/class etc etc? Dont think its much of a problem, but Arun Shourie/Jaitely/Tharoor/Jairam Ramesh have good personality.

Politics discussion like sports discussion, almost.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Musings while writing a thesis



The Genes are Selfish,

and Greed is Good.

Women must be pretty and men must be funny,
for there's no Evolutionary reason for them to be otherwise.
Or so says a quote from several of my friends' Facebook Walls.

Happiness from chocolate has a gender bias,
Or so says a new study - says an advert of a Deo.
Which gender it is biased to is no wild guess, alright.

Another writing on the Wall:
It's all about Is and Ought,
But Evolution can find out Is from Ought.

But, gene expression is random,
And a function of its environment.
Butterflies and tornadoes,
Small numbers are not Large numbers, and More is Different.

Oh, but, the randomness must be controlled by Evolution,
or you'll be mired in the darkness of Biology.
Ergo, self-interest is hardwired,
and women cannot be funny.

But is randomness the chicken or the egg?

What about Plato's cave and That Paper from Future?
And in the mean time, those Facebook Walls and page long adverts?
And their impact factor?

Who cares? Those scoundrels and their last resort!
"You don't have to be responsible for the world you're in".

The otherworldly fun of doing Science,

The uselessness and beauty of Number Theory,
And the elegance of that equation,
which cut the sales of A Brief History of Time by half.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Parameters, models and data

Let's take some interesting data.
Data plot does not look too complicated.
A two variable, two parameter model can explain it mathematically.
Let's make a model.
With around 50 parameters and a dozen equations.
Let's fit the data to the model, with some algorithm.
For some parameter set, it will surely fit.

Let's publish.

If someone asks something, tell: the model is right as long as it can explain data.

Repeatability? Sensitivity?

Next paper, may be...

But sorry, we dont have funding, so no next paper on the topic.

Science!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Horn of Kinetic Honda

You grow older, your father becomes an old man.
You advice your father on how he should spend his time,
and how to take care of sleepiness while reading.
Yet, when you are at home,
and you hear the distant horn of his Kinetic Honda
You shudder.

Petty and pathetic

"Books, which we mistake for consolation, only add depth to our sorrow."

This quote comes directly from My name is red, Orhan Pamuk.

Of course, true.

Why only books? Every single in experience in life is like that. Well, may be, we dont mistake them for consolation, but they all add depth to our sorrow.

Another quote from the same book:

"Maybe you’ve understood by now that for men like myself, that is, melancholy
men for whom love, agony, happiness and misery are just excuses for
maintaining eternal loneliness, life offers neither great joy nor great sadness.
I’m not saying we can’t relate to other souls overwhelmed by these feelings,
on the contrary, we sympathize with them. What we cannot fathom is the odd
disquiet our souls sink into at such times. This silent turmoil dims our
intellects and dampens our hearts, usurping the place reserved for the true joy
and sadness we ought to experience."

Why I hate Orhan? Because he seems to be a happy fellow. He seems to make fun of people he can observe so well. Could he be writing merely by observing others, or did he feel it himself? Can an author write about things he doesnt really mean? So that, what he has written, even though is very correct, is actually fake?

(Uptade: Perhaps this is not true about Orhan - several of his books are filled with the word melancholy, like the character of Ka in Snow)

Looking back, how petty and pathetic life seems to have been, and still is!

Other references: monologues by the male character in Dostoevsky's White Nights.

This helps, though:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Parayaan maranna





Why two videos of the same song?

Because I liked some images in the first. Not the rose, not them.

And I wanted more Murali and others and less musicians in the second. Especially Ramesh Narayan.

Third, I feel like hearing it over and again. So this is symbolic of that.

End of concerts in Grenoble.

Time to wrap up life here, and move on.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lack of exit polls this time

Because the EC has banned it till the 10th of May. Why?

The only reason I can think of the 10th May date is that other state elections – like the West Bengal one – end on 10th May. May be the EC thinks that exit poll results in Kerala may affect West Bengal elections, etc.

On the whole, publishing exit polls before original results, while giving some good fun to the politics junkies, are useless for democratic purposes. The only use of exit polls is for statistical and demographic analysis: caste, religion, issue, class basis in the voting pattern of a population. And in case of the Kerala-West Bengal situation like the current one, we do run the risk of manufactured exit polls to suit political purposes, and the use of this as a campaign device, disadvantaging sincere, non-rich political parties.

The right of the powerful to break the law



When someone famous broke the queue as though it was their right, the polling officer did not accept it as the way things should be. Instead he followed the due process, and asked the people in the queue: "Does anyone oppose this?". Instead of being afraid of authority, the famous actress' fame and power, the mob and the police who generally discourage lone dissenting voices , someone was brave enough to raise one. Instead of playing the killjoy with some lame rubbish, he justified his opposition by saying grand principles about democracy. Instead of mob justice : the mob labeling him with an epithet - 'jobless' is typical - and asking him to shut up - and then supporting the actress and the right of the powerful to break due process-, and on-the-spot-police-justice : the police asking the rebel voice to "shut up and not create any problem, otherwise you will be in lockup"-, the mob was silent, and the police enforced the due process. That is: because there's someone challenging it, the book says : the famous actress cannot break the queue. This, while not being violent or aggressive, but placating the actress, suggesting that she can come later when the queue is less, and not saying anything bad to the rebel guy, just accepting his dissent.

This perfect, Utopian narrative, about law being enforced, due process followed, is something we can be proud of. I am happy about this.

The pessimist in me wants to bring in the role of Asianet camera in this Utopian drama - in due process being followed, and the police not yelling at the rebel guy - then that would be a forced Utopia, a kitsch. My own experience says this is the correct version. But let's be optimists for now, perhaps we cannot generalize, perhaps things have changed...

Now, back to what happened:

A fan is allowed to do that gesture, of vacating your place in the queue for your favorite actress, yes.

An actress assuming that she deserves to vote ahead of all others: No.

If she wanted to not stand in the queue, she could have done what other famous people do: come and vote in the morning, or in the evening (which she eventually did), when the queue will be very less.

Whether or not the guy was sober, what he did was perfectly sober.

I am forced to write this clarification, because several people in facebook, youtube and even in media: Mathrubhumi etc - support the actress' right to break the law, and finds that the problem was with "only" one guy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Muslim kids in Modiland


"Pakistan SHALL pursue this policy and do all it can to create a sense of security and confidence in the Non-Muslim minorities of Pakistan. We do not prescribe any school boy tests for their loyalty. We shall not say to any Hindu citizen of Pakistan ‘if there was war would you shoot a Hindu?"

--Mohammad Ali Jinnah


Think.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The India Against Corruption Farce

Recently I decided that the momentary rant blogposts should give way to more thoughtful analysis, and hence I should not publish anything here without sitting on it for a few weeks, rethinking, editing and rewriting. But the anger makes me feel like breaking this decision. Something has to be said.

A bunch of social activists draft the conditions of a law that appears to be impossible, autocratic and even childish(1).

Some of these activists go on hunger strike, demanding that the law be enacted by the government.

The media goes to a frenzy, like they do everyday, saying that the activists are The Right fighting against the corrupt government, The Wrong. They show a 300 people crowd and say, the protests are at the scale never seen before. Pictures of Mahatma Gandhi - who is not allowed to be a bisexual - are shown. The main activist is a Gandhian. He's also a former army man, says the campaign website but of course they will not tell the whole truth - that he was a driver in the army - because that will make his credentials appear a lot inferior for the audience: the urban middle class.

The urban middle class of the country, fresh from an ego boost and sudden synchronization of nationalism from the country's recent "World cup" victory - in a game played only by around 10 countries, with its regulator's headquarters shifted from London to Dubai, whose largest source of money easily happens to be India itself - , and yet manages to be the mass pill / safety valve for frustration, hears some slogans like "India Against Corruption", and decides to join the "movement" - mostly in Facebook. They do not read the draft law, or its conditions, but they think that is the solution for the problems in the country, and should be enacted, but the government is playing the obvious villain, so à la Rang de Basanti, à la Youth for Equality, à la candlelight vigils after 26/11 Mumbai attack, voila, let's support the Gandhian against the biggest problem: Corruption.

The media runs a live coverage of a journalist, who, while gasping for air due to the excitement, tells us that the protests are spreading.

More people see the news, join the facebook group. Many people see their friends talking about this and they too join the facebook group. Some are even going to protest. There's even a protest planned in my town - a student city in France - and their event plan says: "We are organizing this in an open public space, inviting the local media and informing the Indian Consulate in France about our reasons and efforts". Several people says this is our Tahrir square revolution. Most of them still dont know much about the law, except that it is against corruption, and must be good. Bollywood actors starts announcing their support. Some call for the cricket team - the current national heroes - to support.

Media creates a "positive feedback loop". Something great is happening. More people join.

The opposition parties also supports the protest, and says the government should give in. Just like how they normally oppose government policies even though they dont really oppose the policy itself.

The media broadcasts this too. But no one really talks about the prospective law itself. Everyone is quite sure this law is The Solution. An austere Gandhian cannot be wrong.

Finally, forced into a corner by the images of protests and the shrill voices of news anchors in 24x7 media, the government yields, and decides to implement the law.

The last step hasn't happened yet, but is that how this farce going to end?

(1): The darn salient features ZIP file (If the site is down, try this)

Update: NDTV's coverage of the protests:

As the government tries to hold its ground, Mr Hazare is being urged by lakhs of Indians across the world not to cede. Mr Hazare has long used hunger strikes as his tool of protest. But a younger audience of Indians has made his acquaintance through his India Against Corruption campaign. In colleges across the country, students are fasting in solidarity with him. In cities across the country, housewives, executives and schoolchildren are taking the time to join rallies that have a singular agenda - zero-tolerance for corruption.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rashomon

And like a trained handler of large audiences, Pamuk bit into each one of them, cutting them short, rephrasing their questions impatiently, hurrying on to the next. One somewhat long-winded but patently sincere questioner was waved disdainfully into stammering silence. Perhaps Pamuk did not intend to be rude at all and I am certainly not suggesting that there was a touch of Ottoman arrogance about it. Perhaps it was only a combination of his somewhat didactic manner, his heavily deliberated sentences and a quicksilver intellect, eager to get on with things. In any case, the spell was broken and I found myself wishing that at least I should have been seated. - Navtaj Sarna in The Hindu

Mr. Pamuk is very funny in person.[..] We also liked the masterful way he guided the audience during the question-and-answer session, since the people who ask questions often seem to be completely unconstrained by any sense of the passage of time and only vaguely aware of the distinction between question and soliloquy.[..] To the relief of the audience, he cut off one man, who made sundry remarks—including the fact that he had read the novel in three days—before beginning to share his thoughts on the quality of the translation. - Report in Wall Street Journal

One involved this old gentleman who gushed on about Pamuk’s novel My Name is Red and wondered aloud about how good the translator was to have captured the essence and beauty of Pamuk’s storytelling. I’m not sure if the question was posed in the right way, but Pamuk’s dismissal of the point/question and person was a bit of a sad comment, more so after the topics that he spoke at length on and will do so in later events. - Bookchums.com

“Let’s move on to the next question before I am deported,” he added hastily, much to the amusement of the audience and Chandrahas Choudhury, who was interviewing him. The Telegraph

But in Rashomon they did not video tape what happened in the forest. These humans: subjectivity, etc, even for simple things! Ottoman arrogance or an intelligent, smart man's humour? Who talked about deportation, Chandrahas or Pamuk?

But, thanks to modern technology, the subjective can be made a lot less one. The questions start at ~ t=10 minutes.



Also, it can be reasonably concluded that the cameraman went for a cup of tea during the shooting of this session. A photographer's head come into the view in the video, it gets auto-focused, then Pamuk is back in focus, and then the photographer's head again, until he moves out. May be the cameraman didnt like Ottoman arrogance :-)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

King's speech

A boring movie. Who says its a great movie? Yawn, yawn! Everything predictable and simplistic, same old drama & cliches, and yes, a story about how a White king got rid of his stammer with a good trainer... Yea, might like if you like the king and things 'royal' :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Heroes

Egypt has been thrilling. Just like Tunisia. And Jordan. Seems even Saudi Arabia is going the same way.

People can be amazing heroes. Who would have predicted?

Heroes.

For no shitty ideology behind it, no religious crap behind it, only things that can be justified universally - food, jobs, freedom, justice, democracy. Its amazing.

Why is there an al-Jazeera doing what it is doing? Why is the Guardian doing what is it doing? Why there was a Wikileaks doing what it did? Why did everything happen in concert, in almost perfect symphony?

Amazing, thrilling, unbelievable. That people can rise up for such simple yet great ideals, and work together in such huge masses, with no demagogue inspiring them with sensational speeches, with no mass leader spewing venom and hatred, no ensuing chaos where women are raped and houses are burnt, nothing. Just anger and the want of justice and peaceful protests.

And its not just the men. There are enough women on the streets.

Who would have thought that the people can be this great?

A modification of a deviation of the average Indian curry

The average Indian male is 25 years old, lives up to 67 years, can read and write his name and is a bad cook, but even the worst cook among them can cook potato, egg and chicken - overcooked, over-oiled, over-masalad and over-chillied as it is.

One that can spoil the making of a potato, egg or chicken curry must be a fool.

Just like the statements A picture is worth thousand words, Ayyappantamma Neyyappam Chuttu and Saare Jahaan Se Acha Hindoostaan Hamaara, these ones too need not be necessarily true. However, a small but growing subset of the Indian male - “The Indian males who have to cook for themselves” - on average, cooks the average potato/egg/chicken curry, and like in every statistic , there are many standard deviations from it which are not represented by the mean (sample: Mukesh Ambani’s income vs India’s per capita income). This article is about one such deviation: the Aloo-Egg curry. Or rather, a proposed deviation from the deviation itself: the Butter-Aloo-Egg curry.

Aloo Egg curry is often hailed as the National Eggitarian Curry of West Bengal (The National Non-Vegitarian one is, of course, Hilsa/Ilish). This specie - unlike Communism, Rice, Art films and Football - is absent in Kerala - except in the case of some rare mutant curries and cases when some cook turns rebel -, so its origins are considered to be after the Proletarian migration from Bengal to Kerala (which, bye the way, brought along with it the above mentioned similarities). The fact of the matter is - an average Bengali male - or at least the ones found outside India - can be seen cooking an Aloo-Egg curry, than any other combination of {Aloo, Egg, Chicken}.

Background: The average Aloo-Egg curry is cooked just like any average curry. Oil is heated, ginger-garlic cut/pasted is thrown in, with some chilli and a lot of onion, and are sautéed together till the colour starts changing, to which tomato is added and sautéed again, proceeded by some masala. This stuff is cooked till oil rises up, after which cut potatoes are added along with some water and is cooked till cooked. Add boiled eggs to this mixture of compounds, and heat more. Serve hot with Rice.

The Deviation proposed is: 1) The use of butter instead of oil 2) A change in steps of how the potatoes and eggs are cooked.

The final algorithm is: Heat some butter. Add chopped potatoes and sauté well. Add boiled eggs and fry them too, till all sides are nicely fried. Take the stuff out and keep aside. Repeat the steps of the average curry, i.e, the garlic-ginger-chilli-onion-tomato-masala part, but this time with butter. Add the fried potato-egg and turn and mix well, add water and simmer till the gravy becomes thick. You are welcome to add spluttered mustard seeds (or splutter them in the beginning), and replace tomato with tomato sauce/ketchup. Two trials of the later gave excellent results, and this means: 1) you dont need to cut the tomatoes 2) you dont need to buy the tomatoes 3) you dont need to throw the rotten tomatoes away from the fridge. The Malayali improvement on every single curry in the world - addition of Coconut milk - may be considered as a future work.

Note: 1) Boring criterion like average case calorific value etc are not considered in the algorithm. 2) The quantity of ingredients are left to the taste of the implementer and environmental conditions (weekend or weekday, availability of toilets etc). 3) Universe-{Bengali,Keralite} is welcome to try out this curry with non rice items.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

School

Why did I have to learn tens of poems - each in Malayalm, English and Hindi - by heart, and remember and reproduce eight lines from these poems (they will tell where to start) in the examination? I never understood most of the poems, I just by hearted them. I still cannot read simple poetry.

Why, in the language examinations, they used to give an obscure sentence from the whole text book, and then tell us - explain the context and meaning of this sentence. You needed to know the whole book by heart to know where this sentence came from. In Basheer's Paathummayude Aadu - our "Malayalam second" textbook for tenth standard - some of the sentences asked in the exam appeared in more than one place, but with very minor difference. But your answer should be about the exact one.

Why, in all the biology drawings, the beauty of the drawing was so important, and not the scientific structure and functionality? Should'nt a student be allowed to approximate a printed drawing, if he/she maintains the structure and function correctly, because it is a scientific drawing, and not art? But if one did that, drawing a non-beautiful but correct drawing, the teacher would tell him: Repeat!

Many teachers told us that for the final, state level exam in class ten, the evaluators will be from other disciplines, that is, a Malayalam or History teacher might evaluate Physics or Math, and they might be even from "Malayalam medium" and may not know even English let alone the subject, hence they would just go by the solution provided to them (in which there will be two bulleted "points" for a two mark question etc.), and hence the key was to produce these "points" our answer papers, which could be done by memorizing the text book and regurgitating it exactly. So if you learnt the subject well, that is, understood it well, and wrote the answers in your own words, the teachers would just strike them out.

And why, many teachers used to tell us that masturbation is a sin and must never be done? That playing, sports and music is a waste of time, instead study and good marks in the Secondary School Leaving Examination?

That even though we used to have 1 hour of sport, painting and music per week, they were always free hours (the teacher would never come), and we used to just talk, or go home. And in the rare case of a "PT" teacher coming to the class, he used to call a random guy or a girl, and ask him/her to repeat the specific exercise he had taught, in the same exact order. If he/she didnt remember, or did a minor mistake: 5 beatings on the palm with his big cane. Those "PT" hours were hell, one was so afraid, and inevitably, several would be crying due to the beatings at the end of an hour of that class.

Why,in all the schools I studied, the "PT" teachers were the most dreaded men? And why was playing cricket in the school ground banned, and we were asked by the Head Master with a cane to run off to classes and study, even at the breaks between classes and even in the evening after school time?

And why, we used to write in all compositions, that Hindi hamaara rashtra bhaasha hein, that Hindi is our national language, when India doesnt have a National Language? That Onam is the national festival of Kerala, celebrated by all religions equally, when it was not really true? If we wrote the truth, what would have happened?

On and on....

(I am in the middle of probably the last exams in my life. Was talking to a friend about our old exams, etc. Nostalgia.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Immortality - Popular, Official and Real

“Devenir immortal, et puis, Mourir”

“Become immortal, and then, die.” - was the answer by the writer/philosopher character in Godard’s À bout de souffle, to the question of plus grande ambition dans la vie, or, the biggest ambition in life.

Everyone dies, but only a few die after becoming immortal. Governments have formalized this notion since long, for example, in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, there is a guide map at the entrance with the list of graves of some 100 odd people, and the information to locate them amongst the few thousand unimportant ones. Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison make the official cut, Joseph Fourier, Gertrude Stein, JRD Tata and several former French presidents and several thousand commoners do not. However, in spite of the official accreditation, there were some who were more immortal than others - to which I will come in about three paragraphs.

Pere Lachaise is a world famous cemetery, supposedly most visited cemetery in the world. Several of the most famous statesmen, generals, musicians, painters, philosophers, scientists and writers that lived in the last 200 years are buried here. A cemetery that is in the must see lists, and I was there in the peak tourist season, in the summer.

For a map of the cemetery one needs to pay a euro or something, which appeared weired to me because wherever one goes in France, even if he doesn't get drinking water, he will get free brochures and leaflets, printed in the most beautiful colours. I suddenly felt like not buying the map, might have been the result of reading Kerouac’s On the Road on the way to the museum. So I went through the list and selected about 10 people whose graves I felt like visiting, and noted their location in my diary.

Like most cemeteries, this one was also extremely calm, the most visited cemetery status might not have made it the noisiest cemetery. It was full of beautiful structures and paved ways lined with old trees and lush green foliage. I spent the next few hours walking around and looking at tombs, and thinking.

Among the graves, Jim Morrison’s - the alcoholic lead singer of “The Doors”, who died in a car crash - had the most visitors. I was looking for it myself when a French lady came and asked me the way to it. We asked the lady who was coming behind us, who turned out to be lost too(both said “Morrison” and not “Jim Morrison”). After walking here and there, traversing more generals, musicians and Presidents de la Republic, we reached Morrison’s. There were more than ten people surrounding the grave, which was separated from the crowd with metallic frames. Among them, a Morrison lookalike kid, with a grave, sad expression, stringing his guitar aimlessly. Another - an American - asked me to take pictures of him smoking weed passionately while standing in front of the grave. I overheard another American - an elderly one - saying “So I finally drank with Morrison”.

Another popular one was Chopin’s. But Chopin is not Morrison. I heard there a young wife asking her husband who Chopin was, he replied - some composer.

Marcel Proust’s was surrounded by no one. Philosophers and intellectuals are not normally celebrities, but Proust is supposedly very popular among intellectuals and very relevant now and all that, yet, no one. Another granite grave glistening in the summer sun like several hundred others.

So were the graves of n number of Generals, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Resistance leaders - people like Felix Faure whose names are immortalized by being the names of bus stops in most cities of France - were surrounded by no one. Same about the memorials for those killed by Nazis, and the French soldiers that died for Imperialism in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

But I felt that the soldiers’ who died fighting in the colonies were in an even worse state - they came from a past which any liberal country would have to accept as brutal and unjust, and hence cannot be considered heroic, and eventually have to be forgotten. No one would care about them except may be their families. Military men - however bravely and skillfully they fight and however lucky they are - run the risk of shifting from being heroic martyrs to those who must be forgotten.

As an Engineer, I have been hearing about Joseph Fourier for a long time. He was there in Physics in school, in Heat when I studied Mechanical Engineering, and everywhere in Image and Signal processing now when I am studying Computer Science. Heck, my University’s name is Universite Joseph Fourier. But since he was not there in the original official map, I had to find his grave by mere luck when I was sipping my bottle of water out of sheer exhaustion from the summer heat. It was just another petty grave, with no beauty, nothing written, nothing special, no one watching it, except random people drinking water from their bottles.

Oscar Wilde’s was most surprising. It was full of lipstick marks of kisses, heart signs in red and rave comments. Sample: “Dorian Gray made me love literature, thanks for that”. Another: “real beauty, ends where intellectual expression begins” - a quote from Dorian Gray. Like Morrison’s, there were about ten people around the grave.

The Americans left their mark here too, there’s a note from a someone saying she would be writing about visiting Wilde’s in her diary on her way back home.

What makes a tourist visit Morrison’s, Wilde’s and Chopin’s while not Proust’s and Fourier’s, and all those Presidents and Generals and Resistance heros? Morrison is a pop hero, but what about Wilde and Chopin? Chopin might have been a fluke, may be its position was conveniently near to some other famous ones or some silly reason like that, but clearly Wilde’s was being visited by people who kind of knew who he was. I left the cemetery for the nearest kebab shop, musing about what makes a person really immortal.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones



This TV film (1989) that appeared in DD gave Arundhati Roy the national award for best screenplay. I loved the film. Its funny and nice. It can be watched in youtube.

National Motto

National Motto of some countries:

USA: In God We Trust.
England: God and my right.
Pakistan: Faith, Unity, Discipline

France: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (Was changed to Work, Family, Fatherland during the brief Vichy Regime - the Nazi stooge)

India: Truth alone triumphs

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Grandiose, not really.

Some clear plans for the summer is getting developed in my mind. I will be traveling length and breadth of France for two weeks, another two weeks in may be Spain, especially - Barcelona, Cordoba and Granada, and then onwards to Morocco (but might go to Portugal too). I of course have no money, the bank balances are way into the negative, but hope things will work out and I will earn some minimum travel money, and hope I will use carpooling and hitchhiking and couch-surfing a lot more this time. And then fly back to India, and then travel in Kerala at least. The ´at least´ is because I do not yet know how to ride a bullet, so I am not sure if I will go to the Himalayas this time. May be I will learn to ride it at least. In Kerala, go to Aymanam, to Thodupuzha and Pala, to Manjeri, Perinthalmanna and Kasargod. To Munnar with my family, to Kottayam, Irinjalakkuda and Mavelikkara and Kozhikkode and all the other places where I grew up, to all the schools I studied, and then to Parassinikkadavu Muthappan temple to reminisce an old romantic trip - I can clearly foresee that I will be at the heights of loneliness on that day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Feeling Berlin

To Berlin, once again.

I’ve been feeling Berlin for sometime.

Like, last week, when I was showing my best friend here the pictures from my 10 day stay in Berlin in the summer. And explaining what it is like it in Berlin, or what Berlin is, for me. That day we discussed a lot of politics, like the photo from the GDR (East Germany) museum of a 1:1 banner in a crowd, which is about the currency conversion issue after the German reunification, which, according to the museum, “West Germany made a concession to East Germany by giving a 1:1 instead of 1:2”. Concession. There’s a Kennedy museum behind the most important place in Berlin, just near the American Embassy, and McDonalds and “Charlie’s beach” near Checkpoint Charlie. Everyone knows who won the cold war, and what is the meaning of a concession to a loser.

Back to feeling Berlin.

How the Russian researcher girl from St. Petersberg, with whom I am very much in love with and who detests Putin and loves Vienna and 10-euro piano concerts, was so excited about visiting Berlin during the new year’s eve. And the film Good Bye Lenin, which I saw three weeks back, and about which I was talking to her, or rather, trying to give my sagely wisdom, when she said she already had seen it two years back.

And the French girl in my lab, a staunch trade unionist who attends the strikes about pension age, whom also I love, who is so freaking excited about Berlin, and told me last week that she wanted to do her PhD there (she is finishing her PhD in France, now), and that she thinks Berlin is so great, and said there’s history alive on the streets, and that you can go to some place (which I forgot) and dance, and says, may be if she stays in Berlin for two more days she would probably hate it and she is probably stupid to love Berlin so much.

And the something that I read in some blog, under “My travel plan for 2011”, that the author had clear plans like 1) 1 Festival 2) 1 Historic place 3) 1 Natural park 4) One ocean etc, reading which I too decided to go to some Festival this year, and freaking me decided that Festival will be a Film festival, and decided it will be Cannes, and checked, and found that Cannes screenings are mostly for the invited elites, but I can join the thousands that will see some movie in the beach in the evening if I wanted, which I am sure gonna do, but it still doesnt pass as a Festival because I wont be seeing the main part of the Festival,

and then I saw the German-Turkish film Gegen die Wand yesterday and I absolutely liked and loved. There’s something about Germany that I find very interesting. Something stupid of course, some feeling that the houses and windows and all that there are more straight and squarish rather than round, it has strong edges or something unlike the French one, some stupidity like that, and something about the “depth” of Germany and German movies compared to the simplicity of France and French movies, for example the Berlin punk culture, and counter-culture, where they wear so many tattoos and have weird hair and listen to punk and rock, while the French eat their cheese and drink their wine, and Paris is so dead anyway, and the strength of listening to German and the fun of listening to French, ah, there is a tram stop Denis Papin, and what do they call it - “Denni Paappa” !! , and look at this, they call their firemen “Pompiers”, and the funny nosed French actors and the fun I had while involving in hurtful jokes with a French friend in my lab, who calls me brown and gives me 5 cents ( 3 Rupees) to send to my family in India so that they can eat for 1 year, to whom I respond with who ruled France in the 1940s, and such and such jokes.

Stupid reasons and thoughts of course but that is mind.

Anyway, Cannes is out as a Film Festival even though I’ll be visiting it, and then I thought of Berlin and decided to check out Berlin Film Festival, which I knew is very famous from my friend there who’s a wanna-be film maker and a film lover, and yes it is in the next month, and I check the air ticket prices and sure it is great prices, just below 50 Euros two way, while even 1 way train costs 100 Euros. I checked with my friend in Berlin, who generously offered this poor student tickets to the festival, and I booked the flight tickets, and then came the cream:

Another girl with whom I am in absolute love, a Turkish one who I met in a party and told me about Wilde’s Dorian Gray and which I later read and loved so much, but never met her again because she said she’s mostly with her boyfriend, but this time she tells me she is jealous of me going to Berlin, and I ask if she wants to join, she says she cant but may be Cannes, and then we talk about Gegen die Wand which I saw and is somewhat about Turkish people in Germany and the director is Turkish, and she says she loves the film and the director, and recommends another one from the director “Soul Kitchen”. She tells it might be possible to get ticket to Cannes by luck, she somehow saw Revolutionary Road by some luck at some festival, etc. Of course I love this film too. And guess what, she says her favorite music is jazz, all of which means she’s freaking cultivated, and I rarely saw anyone of that specie before, and I say we have met only once, and she says what a pity.

Back to feeling Berlin, and yes, Berlin here I come. But this time I want to do what I missed last time, like the ever present Currywurst, which is pork sausage with curry sauce and I avoided last time because I hate pork, and visit at least some parts of the punk Berlin, and the pubs and such, unlike last time when I totally avoided the nightlife, instead eating rice and omelette with my friend while discussing Kerala politics, and then also take some photographs, visit some specific places, like the Soviet war memorial museum which was closed last time, take pictures of the ghost metro stations, etc, basically use the 3.5 days I'll be in Berlin maximum squared, super busy, etc. I am super thrilled.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

എപ്പിജെനിടിക് സ്വിറ്റ്ച്ചും വേനല്‍ ദിവസത്തിലെ സിപ്പപ്പും

പാപ് പിലി എപ്പിജെനിടിക് സ്വിറ്റ്ച്ചില്‍ ഫൈനൈറ്റ്‌ സ്റ്റേറ്റ് പ്രോജെക്ഷന്‍ അപ്പ്ളൈ ചെയ്യുന്ന പേപ്പര്‍ വായിക്കാന്‍ മണിക്കൂറുകളായി ശ്രമിക്കുന്നു. ശ്രദ്ധ നില്കുന്നില്ല. മനസ്സ് മുഴുവന്‍ ഒരു പതിനഞ്ചു കൊല്ലം പിന്നിലുള്ള ഒരു വേനല്‍ ദിവസത്തിലെ ഉച്ച സമയത്താണ്. പരീക്ഷ കഴിഞ്ഞു അലസമായി സ്കൂള്‍ പരിസരത്ത് അലയുന്ന സമയം. അല്ല, അമ്പതു പൈസയുടെ സിപ്പപ്പ് വാങ്ങാന്‍ കാശ് തികയാതെ ഗള്‍ഫുകാരന്‍ സുഹൃത്തിനെ അന്വേഷിച്ചു നടക്കുന്ന സമയം. പരീക്ഷയെല്ലാം കഴിഞ്ഞതിന്റെ, ഒന്നും ചെയ്യാനില്ലാത്തത്തിന്റെ, ഉച്ച വെയിലിന്റെ സന്തോഷത്തില്‍. ആ സിപ്പപ്പിന്റെ ആശയില്‍. എന്ത് കൊണ്ടോ, ചുട്ട വെയിലില്‍ വിയര്‍പ്പില്‍ കുതിര്‍ന്ന ഷര്‍ട്ടിനെപ്പറ്റിയുള്ള യാതോരാവലാതിയും ഓര്‍മയിലില്ല.