Extreme Rainwalking

It rained in Mumbai yesterday like it has never rained in India before, with 37 inches of rain, thereby beating the high-school trivia of Cheerapunji, which had some 30 inches of rain in 1910. It poured, oh-my-freaking-heavens, it poured. I was mostly in my lab through the deluge, now and then flinching at the force with which rains lashed the huge glass walls of my department, which at worst saw some slippery corridors. The worst was elsewhere.

My first reaction was that of ecstasy, with this primitive desire to get drenched in the wonderful rain. So, a few of us guys ventured into a rainwalk from the department to our hostel – the excuse being that we were all hungry. Down the IIT main building road, and well into the road section near the grounds, it was just heavy rains. The intensity of the rains, and the failure of the storm water drainage hadn’t dawned on us yet. The first signs of trouble were near the hostel 11 entrance. H11 is the PG girls hostel, and has a very short roadway from its gate on the main road till the guard booth, and into the hostel itself. The entire road in front of H11 was submerged in ankle deep quick flowing water, all of which converged at the H11 gates, and were gushing through the small gate into the roadway of the hostel like a scene from some disaster movie. White water nightmare with super-quick currents. Cycles were being swept away in front of our eyes. Ecstasy had turned into horror.

As there was no obvious call for help from H11, and we could see a few guards and women watching the floods with some interest, we walked on towards H8, the first men’s hostel on our way. With no power, H8 looked like a gloomy Titanic deck, with knee deep water rushing through the gate into the corridors. I guess all the water from the highlands of the academic area was rushing into these two hostels, on its way into Powai Lake. I also heard that there was some fish in the water that was flowing on the grounds. Sure death awaited anyone who stepped into the drains that surrounded the grounds. 6 feet deep, water rushing at breakneck speeds. Screwed!!

My hostel, H5 greeted us with water rushing in through its gates into the lower rooms of the first wing. My very close friends, KantuPatil, Rajveer, and Kaushal got screwed with knee-to-waist deep water in their rooms. A few computers, beds, clothes, and related stuff got screwed. Surprisingly, the mess was serving some really good food, and we hogged like pigs, hung out at Nishant’s dry room for sometime, and then, walked back the same route back to the department.

Later, I heard that the PG girls had formed human chains to get people into the hostel from the main road, their flooded mess blocking an entire wing, power shutdowns, flooded computer rooms and ground floor residential rooms. H6 and H9 had submerged cycles and cars. The newly constructed H12/13 basement mess was fully submerged in water, with tables and chairs floating all the way up. I have no idea how they cleared it.

This was just IIT. Mumbai suffered more. 50 dead, gazzillions worth of property lost, transportation halted – life came to a stand still. For others who were not so fortunate, it was the end of their normal living conditions. My heart goes out to them.

Similar weather has been forecast for the next 48 hours, and this time, with heavy winds as well. Hopeth against hope that the worst has passed. I love Mumbai rains, but this was not what I had in mind.

Attention Deficit

I am passionate.

At this point, I tried looking up the meaning of the word “passion” in a dictionary, and much to my consternation, I couldn’t find a concise meaning that I could use here. So, I will just stick to my own interpretation of the word.

I have been passionate about quite a few things (for the lack of a better term). Most of these passions have been purely academic; I have never acted on any of them. But a few of them, I charted my life around them; I followed them. A long time ago, I started acting on the management bug. I read books, followed people, perused biographies, idolized the likes of Iacocca and Welch, and was convinced that an MBA was all that was missing in my arsenal. But as time went on, this passion in management waned. I tried to analyze why this happened, and could come up only with two axiomatic reasons which couldn’t be questioned further: lack of intrinsic interest and no pleasure. Maybe those two are closely related, but thats a different thought altogether.

Computer Science has been a passion for a long time now. First, it was programming to reverse a number, sorting, and some level of computer architecture. Later it was fueled by other sublime ideas like NP-Completeness (Intractability), Undecidability, Incompleteness, AI, space-time trade off, etc. At this point, I figured that this was one area which could lead to the next level of bliss, if pursued under formal tutelage. I also was in a good shape to try because the computer science bandwagon of the nineties had landed me with the basic qualifications.

During the days leading up to my admission to IITB, and for a long time after coming here, I was awed by all the new concepts I came across, the little anecdotes of the great people in this area (a few of whom I have seen in person here), the underlying mathematical foundations, the so called cutting-edge research that was actually happening here, etc. This awe convinced me that I had made the right decision in turning my life around to get here.

But all’s not well in passion-world.

After a year in the middle of it, the awe is gone – replaced by some form of pragmatic understanding of how all this fits into the real world. I sense that every school of human thought converges into reality. As of now, this convergence seems to be governed by economic principles. Agents like religion, morality, computer science, emotion, management, philosophy, political thought etc. seem to interact in games controlled by demand, supply, comparative advantage, prisoner’s dilemma, tragedy of the commons, etc.

And now, the ruling academic passion seems to be the Principles of Economics. Currently, I am in no shape to go formal in this. But time will tell.

Up, arranged, and re-chopped

Jadav (Bhatt ko) – Pralaynath Gendaswami kaise dikhta hai?
Bhatt – Kya?!?!
Jadav – Kis desh se hai tu?
Bhatt – Kya?!?!
Jadav – “Kya” naam ka koyi desh maine to nahi suna? “Kya” mein Hindi bolte hai kya?
Bhatt – Kya!!
Jadav – Hindi maadarchod!! Hindi – Tu bolta hai kya use?
Bhatt – Haan!!
Jadav – Toh tu jaanta hai ki mein kya bol raha hoon
Bhatt – Haan!
Jadav – Bol ki kaise dikhta hai Pralaynath Gendaswami
Bhatt – Kya?!
Jadav – Ek aur bar “Kya” bol, Ek aur bar “Kya” bol – mein tujhe chunauti deta hoon, mein tujhe dugni chunauti deta hoon maadarchod. Ek aur baar “Kya” bol saala!
Bhatt – Kaala hai!
Jadav – Aur????
Bhatt – Takla hai…
Jadav – Kutti ki tara dikhta hai kya?
Bhatt – Kya?!?!
Jadav Bhatt ko kandhon pe goli maarta hai…
Jadav – Kutti ki tara dikhta hai kya?
Bhatt – Nahin?!?!
Jadav – Toh phir kutti ki tarah usko chodne ki koshish kyon ki tune?
Bhatt – Nahin, maine nahi kiya
Jadav – Haan tune kiya!!! Haan tune kiya!!! Bhatt, tune usko chodne ki koshish ki…
Bhatt – Nahin..
Jadav – Pralaynath Gendaswami ko yeh pasand nahi ki Srimati Gendaswami ke siva use koyi chode……….Tu Gita ko padta hai kya Bhatt???

Jules (Jadav) and Vincent could be two facets of any human being (say Impulse and Logic) trying to accomplish something for a higher control (Marsellus). Impulse fucks up (Vincent shoots Marvin), and somehow logic, with the help of some luck (Winston Wolf) gets them out of the situation. Butch (conscience) has some weird nostalgic attachment (the watch) which drives his value system. But he evolves from killing a boxing opponent (evolving conscience making mistakes earlier), to saving his worst enemy (the supreme magnanimous sacrifice). And of course, at some level, they are all controlled by/related to the higher power of Marsellus. Conscience (Butch) killing Impulse (Vincent) in an impulisve reaction (the toaster timer) has an element of Tony-Rocky-Horroresqe irony. If you like this pilot, I can churn out more.

Is it the deadpan dialogue? Is it the black humour? Is it the inexplicable element of style? Is it the countless references to American pop culture? Is it the seemingly arbitrary choice of music? Or is there something more to Pulp Fiction? An (over?) extensive philosophical analysis can be found at Pulp Fiction – The sign of the empty symbol (on MetaPhilm). This particular interpretation of the movie is all about how Jules and Butch start seeing more meaning to their lives as the events of the movie unfold in this almost meaningless fucked up order. Of course, if I tried hard – real hard, I could interpret movies like Hot Shots, Sholay, or Godfather in a similar vein. Any small sequence of events can be explained by some pattern or the other. So, is trying to find meaning in Pulp Fiction an exercise in futility? That’d be a damn shame. No “quack quack” any more; and so, here is my own allegorical attempt (a la Upendra’s Upendra)…

Anyway, as of today – Pulp Fiction is my favorite English movie. Jatin and I are attempting to translate it to Hindi, while keeping all the deadpan-ness and black in the dialogue.


“The more interesting your life becomes, the less your post… and vice versa.” – Jorn Barger

The first blog I came across was Kalyan’s, sometime in early 2002, and it struck me quite strange that someone could actually maintain an online journal. For the next two years, blogs appeared in and around places I inhabited, mostly computer science technical, a few on everyday happenings of people I was close to, and a few opinion journals on interesting topics.

The first blog I started to seriously follow was Lance Fortnow’s very technical blog on Computational Complexity. Now, this blog was really serious stuff, and it might even have convinced the ever skeptical Nandu that blogs could be cool. From there, I went over to the Geomblog, and then to the very technical (again) hunch.net. Sometime thereabouts, Sudeep had started Alpha-Q, and his dry wit was rampant through the first few posts. He gave me write-rights and Lo! I was in the web. I have found blogs that were, in the least, informative; or sometimes, intriguing; or inspiring even.

As far as I know, the big search engines do not re-crawl the web frequently enough to get all the dynamic content on the blogosphere. Smaller ones like Technorati and related companies do blog-crawling, trackbacks, analysis, and of course, blog search. One cool thing about this particular blog-search on Technorati is that they subjectively boost up a few blogs’ ranking in the search result-list to encourage quality blogs, and not just heavily linked blogs (a la PageRank of Google).

To digress some more, this boosting up introduces the very interesting “Exploration vs. Exploitation” problem. Say Google decides to tinker with its results-list-ranking function and boost up a few webpages based on some other judgment (other than the in-link count based PageRank), it will definitely help a few webpages and give them the deserved traffic; but Google’s users will also suffer because inferior websites might be ranked high, and the overall quality of the search engine decreases. So, the explorer suffers. While the explorer suffers by boosting low ranked webpages, these webpages’ visibility increases, and they are gradually linked to by other sites, thereby increasing their in-link based ranking. The exploiter waits for this to happen, and enjoys the fruits of having the erstwhile low ranked good pages being highly ranked now. This develops into an interesting game between big search companies, and is a research problem involving ranking functions and game theory. There is an outside chance that I might work in this area in the near future.

On a personal note – I am waiting for Samba, Akshay, Archana, Deepti, Nandini, Nagesha, Jatin, and Raghotham, among others, to either start blogging, or renew their blogs. And hopeth against hope, it’d be superlatively cool if Soumen or Sundar started blogging. Wishful thinking I guess.