Original Love, Retroverted

Of late, I seem to be warming up to an old flame – mathematics. In a moment borne of an impulse to do something new, I’d blurted out to a friend, albeit wistfully that perhaps I should have studied pure mathematics – mathematics devoid of any applications to the “real” world – somehow I felt the detached nature of obscure theorems (punctuated by queer Greek alphabets) wildly alluring. A week or so later when I’d all but forgotten about that impulse (that’s the sad way most of them succumb – death by laziness) – my friend pointed me to YouTube videos about maths lectures. Now, I had to resuscitate, and fast.
And today a week later – I’m decided to take up the “Theory of numbers” (yes that is a whole discipline) as a pure hobby; I Googled for and today made a pilgrimage to the Tata Book House to get hold of the book that looked most useful to me to start up. Even if I’m able to UNDERSTAND the unsolved Riemann’s hypothesis, I’d deem this endeavour as worthwhile.
It’s an exciting feeling, like being drawn back to a school-time crush after entering mid-age. Maths classes always used to be fun – perhaps it was because the young Kashmiri woman who taught us Maths in high school – she was the first rational person I ever knew. She made no bones of discussing the pros and cons of natural vs C-section delivery in front of a class of 12 year olds – and that too in a maths class – so undogmatic – so unpedantic. So much so that I came to love the subject, since, it started looking like it was never forced on us (so unlike most other subjects). And numbers, seem to look so full of such vibrant persona – and distinctive too – approaching infinity.
After Std X, the interest ebbed a little – an old-school dogmatist had returned to reign – and whatever life was left was sucked always by the humbug called “competitive” exams after XII. Enter “engineering” years and maths was denigrated to its (maybe) more pragmatic but immensely uninteresting cousin with an “applied” tag prefixed to differentiate it from the original.
Today, 14 years after I lost contact with pure mathematics I realise what I’ve missed in the mad race of building a “career”. I donot want to do a formal research as for once I’m not eligible and now its not practical either (with all of my financial liabilities) and anyway I want to do my own things at my own pace without being rushed – without having to worry about completing credits – presenting papers – incentives – recommendations from professors – the dirty politics of claiming credit for something found.
I write about it lest I forget.If I fail to proceed from cipher (as is most probable) this blog will serve as the requiem.


I for an Eye

One of my favourite pass-times of all time is to Google for long-lost acquaintances from my school, college or from previous companies I’ve worked in. I usually search for blokes I would have thought years ago, to turn out to be extreme cases.Of course, only the extreme cases on the “good” side  yield any search results, because the others (by definition) might be at large, disguised  or incarcerated – and either way unsearchable by Google in the their original identity.

One day I found X, an unusually bright computer engg student one year senior to me at college. He is now the founder and CEO of a networking start-up the Silicon vale. And unlike most others start-ups by Indian-Americans, there are no more desis in his crack team.
I remember him most for punching (albeit inadvertently) my eye-ball with a rubber ball while X played bat-n-ball (a poorer cousin of the national obsession called cricket) with a friend in the filthy corridor of our college hostel. Needless to say, I was not playing and was just walking to the toilet blearied by laziness and boredom (typical of my college years), when, in an epiphanic moment I turned back and the locus of my eyes intersected with the trajectory of the oncoming projectile.
Head On.
( A highly improbable event, I thought, and one that could be used to frame a really challenging physics numerical). My eye (left or right I forget) swelled up to a multiple of its original size and X (and his pal) rushed me to the nearest cure-all “clinic” they could possibly find. In my sane state I’d have never visited such a sordid quackery, but ofcourse I was a patient now and so, not in charge. The quack-in-charge glowed a bright torch into my lenses perhaps to check the consistency of my cornea and exclaimed (to my inflictor’s relief) that there was no bleeding. A ointment was pleasantly prescribed, to be applied for some days.
X returned back to his word-crunching preparation for his GRE exam (scheduled for the next morn) – his bat-n-ball break had gotten an unsavoury extension. The next day while he came to check on my eye-pop (which was slowly but steadily receding, though definitely – or so thought I – not due to the quack’s goo), I got the news that his GRE was over and that he’d scored 2390 out of 2400.
The rest, as they say, is history.
A fellowship from IIT, an MS and PhD from a popular American university and then starting up an enterprise…
I sometimes feel if I should send him a mail (and after a brief, unmistakable self-identification using the above anecdote) tell him that its pay-back time and that I need his reco on my resume. I too have worked for networking co.s, perhaps that could come in handy. (Though in all honesty I know next to nothing about networking – no not even the social kind)

Traffic Etiquette – the Indian way

After six years of motoring on Indian roads (and surviving, without serious injury, app 50,000 km across 3 states and 1 UT), I think its about time to pause and reflect (before its too late) to pen down the traffic rules that I’ve learnt hands-on (meaning, the ones not taught in driving schools):

* Its possible to stop your vehicle anywhere (e,g. in the middle of a busy road) anytime (e,g. middle of road at night on a desolate road) – to do various odd chores like dropping a passenger, lighting a smoke or just chatting with a driver coming the opposite way. “Hazard lights” were invented for this very purpose.

* Its possible to drive up on the wrong side of the road – all you have to do is to put your head-lamp in full beam even in broad daylight (and honk as well if someone is stoned enough to ignore the beam)

* Its possible to get into a “No-Entry” marked road especially if you’re on a two-wheeler – you just need to get off and push your vehicle – that qualifies you as a pedestrian. This is tougher for a 4(or more)-wheeler – but theoretically possible if you have healthy passengers.

* To take a right turn you need to extend your right arm and poke the index finger vociferously into the air ( till the guy behind you relents and gives up overtaking from right); to take the left turn do the same with your left arm, this is tough if you’re on a 4-(or more) wheeler and you don’t have a passenger on the front seat to do this for you, in such cases you can use the turn-indicator lamps.

* Horns are the most useful part of any vehicle – originally designed for the potential over-taker to coerce his/her victim into slowing down (and maybe halting) so as to make way for him/her. It can also be used to hasten up folks you have come to pick up from a quiet neighbourhood. When someone who is on the verge of bumping into you, you can use incessant honking to attract his eyes so as to pump choicest invectives into his ears. You can honk from your behind too when backing up – in a sing-a-song way – this can be used to inform your neighbours of your devotion to the God or to the country even at 2 am (when you return home and park your car). A lot of options are available with horns e,g you can put a car horn on a bike so as to surprise your overtakee and attract more respect on the road.

* Full beam lights were invented to dazzle the bloke coming from the opposite side into slowing down ( thus preventing over-speeding and consequential accidents). You can also double ( or quadruple) the number of your head-lamps for the added effect and use halogen lamps and what-not to generate the perfect dazzle – white, yellow , off-white, blue … (I wonder why nobody has used lasers yet). Full beam is also used to discover oncoming vehicles which are one-eyed (thus mistaking a truck for a bike) or completely blind (he’s protecting environment by saving energy).

* In any accident the fault ALWAYS lies with the larger vehicle (by size or cc or price in that order), so if you are in one, be prepared to be instantly lynched by the jurist crowd of rubber-neckers. On a 2-wheeler watch out for pedestrians and cyclists – in a car watch out for those and bikers too; you can ignore all vehicles bigger than you – as they’ll take care of you.

* When your vehicle breaks down mid-road, you can stick leaves, plants on it to warn other road-users ( a STOP sign is simple being too pompous). You can also fence your broken-down territory with stones and pebbles for extra effect.

* A truck with oversized cargo (like iron rods jutting out from the back) can use a small while plastic bag to warn other victims, this would suffice even in the night.

* In a multi-lane carriage-way,the right-most lanes are always reserved for the slowest moving vehicles ( e,g overloaded and oversized trucks and tractors); this allows all the faster vehicles to overtake peacefully from left, while the driver of the slow vehicle can concentrate on his conversation with his conductor, unperturbed.

* When you are too pressed for time to reprimand another overzealous driver for coming too close to you in the busy rush hour; worry not; just look at his direction – spit contemptuously and move on – the offender would get the message.

* When you do have time to pick up a fight, but the other party is reluctant, just challenge him with mother/sister abuses and once he stops and enters the arena; then you may proceed to break his window-shield and/or bones.

The list is virtually endless….