November 22, 2010

De-Pressing Press

Once upon a time, not so long ago, folding a newspaper earned me a praise from my parents. It was during this golden era of color TVs when I first came across divine souls called newscasters. Baldevanda Sagara, with his famous starting line संस्कृत वार्ता .. प्रवाचीतः बलदेवानंद सागरः, Pradip Bhide of the evening news in Marathi, and the English news presenters of Doordarshan were my demi-gods. As I grew older, I witnessed an exponential growth in number of news channels. It was during this time that I actually experienced an even faster decline in the quality of news. I have seen the Times of India evolve into a soft porn magazine which sells sex in the name of art and erotica. Pune Times (previously known as Pune Plus) evolved to having two kinds of articles: how much did one have to expose just before sleeping with Mr/Mrs. X; and whose make up can scare you more than all the Ramsay movies put together.

Things were a bit different during the Kargil war though. It was during this war that I witnessed some really courageous reporting. I can still remember Barkha Dutt interviewing soldiers and seeing the courageous fuel tank drivers piercing the fire from other side. One of the interviews I cannot forget was that of the great Capt. Vikram Batra. Sadly over the years my respect for this reporter and her so called journalism has gone so low that I do not want to write her name in a sentence having the name of Vikram Batra. This decline in respect began a few years ago when I saw some of her debates. During each debate I was getting a feeling of some preconceived idea being forward. There were times when someone making a valid point was stopped by really stupid excuses such as, "I believe Mr. X has something to add to this; lets go to Mr. X". The level went really low during some of the interviews I saw of the CommonWealth Games. These have been criticized in my previous blog posts "Where are the reporters?" and "The Great Indian Tamasha: Common Wealth Games." Here are the two videos that really highlight the lack of any spine in her interviews.



Sadly she is not alone and is part of the mother of all reality shows called News channels. The flashing news in these channels literally flashes. Lighting flashes are less painful to the eye as the colors used by these channels compete with the creativity of Ekta Kapoor. One question to all news channel - Why are you bombarding us with inconsistent text and video? If there was some consistency then the brain would not have any problems getting the message. However, most of the text you show is completely out of context and many a times makes no sense at all. Due to this inconsistency I can either read or listen but never comprehend what you want to say. There was a time when news clips came without background scores. These news clips were neat and simple presentation of facts or events. Lately, rather than the voice of the presenter, I hear background scores trying the vibrate the very emotion chords that have been incapacitated by the works of Ekta Kapoor & Co. Such cheap tricks were once used by the Times of India when it started highlighting some words of a news article. Did the editors of the Times forget the purpose of something called a headline? Was the editing time so less that the editor just highlighted the words he/she read before publishing the crap.

For me the press died the day newspapers evolved from a समाचारपत्र or journal to a PR newsletter; the press died when it became a medium to brainwash the masses and stopped being a medium to inform events and facts; the press died when ratings took precedence over the very conscience that separates us from parasites. Just like we want Kalmadi to resign, it is high time that people like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, and their partners quit. The impact of paid news is worse than every scandal that rocks the country as paid news can control and manipulate how people can perceive the scandal. There is an age old saying that being स्तिथ प्रज्ञ is a necessary condition for understanding the truth. I can only say that the press in its current form does not satisfy this condition.

November 16, 2010

An Obama Diwali

Diwali is the time of the year when shopkeepers make the most of the temptation to spend. Well the biggest shopkeeper just visited India and returned as a demi-god thanks to the "Athithi Devo Bhava" philosophy. Indians expected this visitor to be a Nobel Atithi - he however turned out to be a very shrewd businessman in a Nobel Athithi's clothing.

Barak Obama came, saw, and conquered (just fell short of plundering). He just showed what a bunch of spineless leaders we really have. It is pretty clear that his visit was not mutually satisfying. America's gain dwarfs even the illusion of gain which India was shown. He left with jobs for America and yes mesmerized the press with perfect diplomatic sentences such as, "That is why I can say today — in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member." One question to Mr. Obama - just how many years did you say? On Headley, USA just showed that India has the duty of being resilient but not the right to have a concern let alone voice the concern. I just wonder what would have been the reaction of the US if India hid the information of a double agent who was plotting against the US.

India is not a friend of the US; it is just a market or should I say dumping ground. Have we forgotten the Congress grass that plagues almost every district of the country. Why is India pushing for untested and potential dangerous agri-tech from the US (Article by TJS George on this issue)? Why are they not safe for use in the US but safe for India? If we are really a developed nation, then why these double standards? For the last two decades China is a manufacturing hub for America, and India's vast population its market. If Obama was really concerned of Indo-US business trade, he would not have skipped Bangalore or have a phobia of being Bangalored. He did not come to improve trade, he just came to sell stuff. His magical spell worked so well that the Indian press completely forgot that India has (at least on paper) a President and it is not Barak Obama.

One thing that hurt me (personally) the most was his statement, "Strong, peaceful Pakistan is in India's interest." Can he make such statements in China about the dams they are building or the troop movements they are capable of? Then why should India care what he says? To be frank, for the last 60 years Indians would have been much more happier if they had a strong and stable Pakistan, rather than a one being run by the sympathizers of Taliban. One can draw a simple analogy from cricket. Indian cricketers would love to face the bowling a person like Wasim Akram who truly loves Pakistan than the playing with guys like Sohail Tanvir who make public statements full of hate such as "Hinduon ki zahaniyat hi aisi hai". Any sane International Cricket team would prefer to face the Pakistan that won the world cup rather than a team full of match fixers and their sympathizers. Similarly, India would have loved to have a stable Pakistan as its neighbor rather than one run by the Taliban and its sympathizers. Saldy, India and Pakistan has to suffer the legacy of Zia-ul-Haq and the mess US created while fighting a proxy war against the ailing Soviets. Another question:

To conclude, Obama is a capable of doing great things. However he received far more attention than he deserved, and India got far less compared to what it truly deserves. I only hope and pray for a better leader to lead India who knows who is an Athithi and who is a shopkeeper...

November 12, 2010

Buddhi and the Coalition Dharma

बुद्धि (Buddhi) and धर्मा (Dharma) are two Sanskrit words that do not have an equivalent in English or any Latin based language. Their meaning is supposed to be imbibed in the very essence that makes us Indians. When our Buddhi tells us that something is not right, it is our Dharma to take appropriate action. Each Dharma comes with actions to be performed and right now we are witnessing the actions of a new Dharma. It goes by the name Coalition Dharma. So what exactly is Coalition Dharma. Here is what I have seen in the last few years...
  1. Let us first have a look at the party which projects itself as the one that has the copyright on the Bhagvad Geeta. Does anyone remember a person called Shibu Soren. Four years ago, the BJP was trying its best to skin this guy alive. A couple of years later they decide to dress him with an armor called Chief Minister. Then one fine day they decide to strip him naked and don the armor themselves. I guess life of Schrodingers Cat is more predictable than the future of Jharkhand.
  2. Does any one remember the circumstances when a party called the Nationalist Congress Party was created? On May 20, 1999, Sharad Pawar and three of his friends were expelled for revolting against Sonia Gandhi. According to its website, the NCP claims to be "a true inheritor of the rich and glorious political legacy handed to the Indian National Congress (INC) by early stalwarts like ...(infinite list of every person whose name can be found in 3rd standard history textbook)". Sadly in their zeal for nationalism they forgot the name of the congress founder Alan Hume. Well I am not sure if any Nationalism still exists in this party, as they are busy plundering Maharashtra for close to a decade now with the Congress Party.
  3. My knowledge of Communism is limited however even a little Buddhi can tell that one Communist pointing guns at the other seems to be wrong. Further, they claim to be secular and yet have an on and off relationship with the Indian Union Muslim League. How according to any communist ideology a political party that has the name of a religion be secular?
    Satish Acharya
  4. About the Congress. They are the ones who taught India its current version of Coalition Dharma. They started by giving us Deve Gowda as the PM. Now as their power has increased their Dharma has evolved to new heights. To become part of their Dharma one has to worship their three demi-gods: Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi. A footnote read while being introduced to their Dharma is the that one has secretly worship Sonia. Once this is done you become part of their Dharma which is part of the grand Coalition Dharma.


Satish Acharya


One of the best cartoons talking about the insanity called Coalition Dharma is the above cartoon by Satish Acharya. Such promiscuous behavior just shows the lack of any Buddhi in the Coalition Dharma. It just highlights the true essence of this Dharma which has its root in corruption. A good proof of the corruption being the only motivating factor in politics is the following video.



This video from Pakistan sheds light on the mentality of all the politicians in the sub-continent. The politician being questioned says "We have a right on being corrupt. A party can be less corrupt only if it is not in power." This is true and is inline with an age old saying, "power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Coalition Dharma leads the politicians to absolute power and we are now facing what is absolute corruption. Sadly, the insensitivity towards stopping this absolute corruption is now making the Buddhi present in the Indians obsolete; and we all know that a country can exists only if there is some Buddhi in its citizens.

To conclude, like the current version of Coalition politics, this article is a jugaad of weird stuff that comes to the mind. I couldn't help it. All what I see in the current version of coalition politics was a big time jugaad to ensure a better loot. Have a nice look at Jayalalitha's offer to UPA II, the operation Kamala and Jharkhand alliance of the BJP with Soren, Mamta and DMK calling the shots in UPA II. Coalition is fine, but good coalitions are becoming as rare as good politicians. This feeling of spiraling down in a bottom less pit is making me really sick and hence this sick blog post.

November 7, 2010

Moving from Sophia Antipolis to Nice

This week I moved from Sophia Antipolis to Nice. The reason was I needed a change; a change from my monotonous schedule. I was getting used to being in Sophia Antipolis and I was worried that I am being addicted to the relaxed life in Sophia Antipolis.



Staying in Sophia Antipolis was literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air. My studio was really nice and close to INRIA. Being close to INRIA was a big plus point as I was not worried about missing the buses while coming to work. However the lack of buses on weekends was one my reasons for moving out. I was also worried that I was making my studio a cocoon and it was time that I came out from my cocoon. The more I delayed it, the more difficult it would have been to get out of it. These feelings are similar to the ones I heard about the X+1 syndrome. I had delayed my move by about 1 year and I realized I was slowly becoming a slave to procrastination.



Sophia Antipolis was really relaxing and it had life in the form of birds, foxes (I saw a baby fox on my way back in 2009 winter) and wild boars (which I did not see during my stay). Nice on the other hand is a micro version Mumbai. A city close to the sea and people crowding the bus stops from 7 in the morning; peak hour traffic from 6 in the evening and night-life till 5 in the morning. I had visited Nice many times and I fell in love with the sea the first time I saw it while my plane landed at Nice. I had always love the sea, thanks to listening to my mothers childhood memories of Kundapur and having the swamps between Diva junction and Thane as an indication of being close to my uncle's home in Mulund.




My first weekend at Nice was the Diwali night and I cannot forget it as Hu Jintao decided to spend his Diwali in Nice. The 2 hours it took me to reach Nice from Sophia Antipolis reminded me of the the 3 hours it used to take me from ITPL to Vijayanagara when the BBMP decided to experiment with the Magic Box at the Cauvery Junction. Thanks to Hu Jintao, there were police everywhere in Nice and yes they appeared stressed and frustrated. I had seen similar faces during the bandobasts I used to see in Delhi and Pune.

To conclude, I guess the jitters of doing something different, something new, and the hope of having a nice time in Nice have resulted in this post. I just hope and pray that I perform better when I am living in Nice.

September 8, 2010

Stages of grief

This is my log on the stages of grief I went through yesterday. I normally tend to see the page on stages of grief when I am really upset. Externally I try to remain calm, but at times it is hard to hide all emotions. Normally each one of us tends to pass through these phases beginning with

1: Denial.

I received a call from my sister at about 6 in the morning giving me the saddest news I heard this year. At first I thought I was strong but at night I realized it was basically denial. I was resisting the feeling of sadness by mentally saying everything is fine, I have to be strong, I have to continue as if everything is normal and I should go ahead with my University registration (I had taken an appointment the previous day for paying the fees). I couldn't concentrate much but once I paid my fees I ran for the French lessons at INRIA. The teacher had arrived and the lesson was over like a dream. I couldn't remember much but I realize I answered most of the questions. It was fine till the end of the lesson when I decided to go for the blood donation at INRIA. The form needed to be filled in French and I asked them if I could take my friends help but they said no. I got upset, and I brought my friend and requested them but they said no! This triggered my next stage

2: Anger.

I closed my office door and I was upset. It was a combination of anger, helplessness, and irritation to the drizzle outside. I went to the library and issued a book and I got upset because the first few pages were coming out when the librarian gave me the book. I brought to her notice but she said it was fine. I didn't know how to react but starting mumbling when I got out of the library. I felt like pulling my hair while reading the book as I could not concentrate. This is when one of my lab-mate saw me; I guess she realized something was wrong and she asked if I was okay. I said yes and decided to browse some photos I had taken last week.

3: Bargaining.

Browsing the photos I wished if my parents could be with me. I wished they could travel with me. I felt home sick and felt like being with my uncle, my cousins, and my friends. I wished I could have stayed a few more days in Bangalore during my last trip! The very thought of visits to Bangalore not being the same triggered by my next stage.

4: Depression.

I felt helpless and wanted to be alone. I couldn't read the book I had taken and the photos takes seemed awful. The colors in the photos because of the rains frustrated me. I took some hot water but even that felt odd. I wanted to take sugar, but couldn't. I felt hungry as I had not taken lunch. However, the very sight of food reminded me of the words "Hotte Paksha" (Group of Food Lovers). The echoes in my mind and the silence that followed was deafening. Even my lab-mates were quiet in their respective rooms. At times every second felt like a day and at times minutes felt like a second. I just couldn't concentrate on anything and I felt like doing nothing. Everything felt useless, and I felt helpless. I then called by mother.

5: Acceptance.

I called up my mother and talked to her for about 20 minutes. The word "Hotte Paksha" came many times but then I started thinking about cousins. I chatted with a friend of mine at India. My hands were loosing sync with my brain and I do not remember what I typed. But then, after some time, I could get hold of my thoughts before they were typed. I then had the courage to talk somewhat patiently with my father who was the most affected by this. I couldn't talk with my cousins and I didn't have the courage, I talked to them in a few days. I chatted with my cousin in US, and talking with him changed everything. He appeared calm as ever. He had been through what my cousins were undergoing. I then realized I had to move on, we all have to move on. Such things happen and are not in our control. It was not like the feeling I had in the morning; this time I was not trying to run away. I was getting a hint of how heavy it is on the heart to actually move on. I still feel helpless but then I know I am helpless to these kind of things. I cannot change what has happened, but I still have some control over what happens next....

August 13, 2010

Where are the reporters?

One of the best essays questioning the credibility of reporters is the one titled Reporters and Parrots by Peter Norvig. In this essay he highlights the most important thing that all reporters must to do, which is to think. Sadly thinking is the only thing that most reporters do not do, they are masters of everything else.



Running the Moss Tool on News Articles

If you look at most of the news articles, you see that the content is the same. I guess this is pretty evident on the success of google news which can easily identify the primary story of a news article and show you tons of other sites showing similar stuff. If a CS professor were to run moss he would have rejected most of the news articles for lack of authentic content.

As the reporters do not think, the presentation of the content also has to be similar. One of the best spoofs that presents the template of any news item was given by Newswipe. You just need to add the content what a PR firm gives you and voila you have a news item that can be bombarded on humanity for the next 24 hours!





How hard is thinking?

The eagerness to show that they were the first ones to have their hands on a particular content shows how less the reporters think. I wonder how many of the news channels have a copy of wikileaks content? How many know that the content is 3.8 GB of war logs? How many Indian reporters actually read even one log of the 35 logs mentioning the ISI? Do they know how many articles mention India? It takes a wget, tar, and a grep command to get all the information you need. But I wonder how many reporters actually did this before jumping in the bandwagon of being the first to point fingers at the ISI. Sadly this takes effort of one night to do. It is not the same as getting a copy of the speech written by a bureaucrat and read out by creatures who have reversed the process of evolution to transform from a human being to an inanimate rubber stamp.

The lack of thinking also shows how deep the marketing and PR firms have penetrated the fortress of journalism. The reporters are just vomiting the content fed by the PR firms. In my previous post of Common Wealth Games I gave an example of the following two interview clips. The reporter in question is one of the few reporters for whom I have (or had) a lot of respect. The preparation for the interview was minimal and she was satisfied by answers for which even a 6 year old kid would find flaws. Her expressions and her nods show her willingness to not think. Also have a look at what is being flashed in bold. In this case it is pretty evident that they are flashing what Kalmadi Inc want to be shown, i.e., "Perception of India is very good abroad" and "All we have done is transparent". The mascot in the background shows how much pain Kalmadi Inc have gone through to ensure a perfect setting for a nice 10 minute ad to show everything is fine and pure as the river Yamuna flowing from Delhi to Noida.



As Peter Norvig mentions, good reporters are extremely important. They are so important that one of the first things done by the great freedom fighters was to setup a press; the Kesari and the Harijan newspapers are the best example of this. Sadly given the current state of reporters and journalism, it will take a miracle to save journalism from reporters who have sold her to the pimps in the PR firms.

August 11, 2010

Testing math


$x^2+C$

Wow this works!!!..

$e^{x} \frac{sin(x)}{x} = x $


NOw for more equations and

$2x^{2} + \int_{x=1}^{\infty}$

August 10, 2010

The Great Indian Tamasha: Common Wealth Games

Some time last week I burst out laughing after lunch while reading an article. I guess it was the this one, the one with pots worth 43 lakhs. When I told my bemused labmate that the scarry laugh was regarding the corruption at the Common wealth games, he looked even more confused and gave me the most common italian hand gesture.

Publicity यह क्या है?

During this gesture I realized the amount of the so called crappy publicity this games gives. This is not the Olympics, this is not even the Asian Games; this is some event where countries once under the military presence of a common country come together. I guess it is like Iraq and Afghanistan hosting an event titled Bush tried to screw me games. Just like no other country will watch those games, these games wont be watched by anyone else. Apart from the cricket playing nations I guess no other country will ever know what happens in the first two weeks of October in Delhi. And to publicize India to these countries you don't need these games you have the bigger and sleazier tamasha called IPL.

Well having games is good. Calling it pride of the nation is good. However, giving it a blank cheque is bad. Disgracing yourself to the extent where your behavior is no different from a parasite surviving on shit is bad. There were corruptions in South Africa, there were corruptions in China as well, however the guys there were not absolutely corrupt; making money was not their primary objective, they were actually keen in hosting the respective events. In case of the common wealth games, I guess as the name suggests, most of the deals followed the golden moto of Indian civil services "सब का पैसा हो अपना". While making a tantrum over the games, the opposition is just saying "और मेरे लिए? ५% से कम नहीं लूँगा."

The Tamasha by Indian Media

The media is even funnier. The funniest video I saw was this one by Barkha Dutt; the very Barkha Dutt that once went to Kargil.


1. Look at the message being displayed. It is like an ad for Kalmadi Inc. How can you say image of India is good. It is like saying that every cow in a country is white when you come across one white cow.
2. Where are the minutes of the meeting with the London police which tells in the last minute that unless you add these security issues we will not let the event go smoothly?
3. How did he get a forged letter from the High Commission? Who is responsible for this forgery? Just think, if one government organization receives a forged letter from another government organization then who can ensure the documents in hand are the original ones? What is the result of the inquiry? International relations are at stake when forgery happens at an Indian embassy.


1. The newsreporter does not even know what prices she is talking about? Just by saying these air conditioners are bigger the matter is closed. What about air conditioners in the airport? What is the price difference in this case? No questions.
2. Nations pride using German treadmills? When everything in the planet is made in China we rent a treadmill for 3 to 4 times the price it can be bought and bring a German technician with it. Isn't there a single Indian from 1 billion people who knows the internals of a treadmill? Now how could Barkha Dutt be satisfied with this crap.

Did they learn any lessons from the Common Wealth Youth Games in Pune?

The even funnier thing is the complete lack of coordination. It was pretty much evident during the Commonwealth youth games in Pune. One fine day they lay concrete. The next day the decide they have to digg the concrete as they did not lay pipes for the telephone cables.

In the above picture you can see faint orange lines behind the trees. It is clearly visible above the "et" of the get set go slogan. These orange lines are the pipes with fiber optic cables of ISPs. These are just hanging and have been hanging till the time I left Pune last September (almost 1 year after the Common wealth youth games).

Lessons in pride.

Our dear Delhi CM Dixit recently said she was worried when she visited China before the games. Ok despite we all know that China was prepared about a year before the event let us assume what she says is true. So what if China was not prepared? It doesnt mean you should imitate China. It is like you are openly saying India follows China. How patriotic is her statement now? It is like saying Zardari is in UK when his country is reeling under floods so Manmohan Singh can go on a 50 day silence when Manipur and Nagaland are blocked.

To be frank the games are showing what we truly are:
1. A nation where there is no leader and anyone can do whatever he wants. So long as you have money you will get away with it. There is no one to take complete responsibility of anything but everyone wants to take credit of even the smallest achievement.
2. If there is anything from which a commission/bribe can be taken, it will be taken in India. I guess it is time we have "ऊपर का पैसा 101" courses in all colleges, why restrict such lesson to the IAS cream.
3. १०० मै से ९० बेईमान फिर भी मेरा भारत महान.

Well we have the Independence day this week so, despite the fact that our military generals make money of the rations of troops being stoned, despite the fact that from birth certificate to death certificate we come across दलाल's, we have to be proud. Proud not because of the 90 corrupt but because the 10 who are not corrupt are absolute gems. I salute to those 10 gems who despite being surrounded by these 90 parasites shine brighter than any star in this universe.

August 5, 2010

Mahabharata and Indian Politicians

I would like to begin by saying, "We read our history and mythology as stories. Rather than learning from them, we forget them like the dreams that awaken us to the very reality that we have created."

Last Sunday I came across the Mahabharata episodes on Youtube. Thanks to Rajashri, the production house that is famous for selling marriage videos as 3 hours movies, the entire B.R. Chopra master piece is available online. There is an age old saying that if there is anything possible in this world, it can be correlated to the events of the Mahabharata. I guess this is one of the reasons why even the great Oppenheimer quoted the Gita after the Trinity test. However, reading the news articles after seeing the Mahabharata I could see the Mahabharata in modern day politicians. I guess each one of us has such moments but I thought of writing my thoughts.

One of the biggest problems in current day Indian politics is that there is no leader and no successor. Sadly, this problem also has its roots mentioned in the Mahabarata. Before Shantanu's marriage to Satyavati the king had to choose from amongst his subjects the one who is most suitable to replace him. The successor to the throne was not necessarily the son of the king. Sadly blinded by his love for Satyavati he agreed to having Satyavati's children as his successor. This is as far as I remember the first occurrence of a child born to a king being nominated as the successor. Call it dynasty politics but this has stuck with India as has now become an Indian culture in politics. I guess Bharata would be glad that it is never referred to as भारतीय संस्कृति. Each of the current leaders and political parties sadly do not have a leader and a true successor.

Dr. Manmohan Singh:
To be frank, I would be wrong if I said he is not worthy of being a leader. In fact, he is the most qualified person and the best person currently alive to lead and run the country. Sadly he is neither running nor is he leading the country. I know silence is golden but at times words need to come out. Think of Arjuna sitting on the battle field and Krishna not speaking. Think of Oppenheimer having second thoughts on testing the bomb. Now think of the children in Kashmir, the soldiers in Kashmir, the tribals in Maoist belts, and all the people being affected by the zillions of problems in India. Words help, and words from a leader have the best healing power. Obama is the best example of this. Sadly what we hear from Manmohan Singh is silence and at times words written by bureaucrats. I am not sure what is compelling him to behave like a Dritarashtra. Why is he blind to these problems? Why is he letting Mamata burn the trains? It is like he has been made a PM because he is the most helpless creature amongst the ministers and the most easily manipulated. How could a great man like him let others treat him like this?

Pratibha Patil:
She is by far the best example of how some women are treated in the country. She is nothing more than a pawn. Replace her with a skimpily clad newsreader put on news channels to improve TRP ratings and the situation in the country would not change. She is to the idea of female liberation what the skimpily clad newsreader is to authenticity of the news. She is like the Dushala, who is the least mentioned person amongst her brothers and has the least say in what her brothers are up to. Even if we assume she is innocent, if a sister cant control her brothers who are close to her, how can she be fit lead the country? Sadly rather than being a great female leader such as Razia Sultana, Ahilyabai Holkar, Rani Chenamma, and Rani Laxmibai, this leader of the armed forces is the best symbol to advertise India as a soft state.


Lal Krishna Advani:
One of the biggest mistake this person made in his life is not groom leaders to replace him. We have potential leaders like Arun Jaitely, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Jaswant Singh, and many more. However, not one of them stands out and appeals as a true leader; not one is capable of leading the others I mentioned. A good opposition is essential for democracy, else democracy becomes monarchy waiting for a tyrant to be born. I guess it is a problem of plenty but sadly not one of them is a true leader like Vajpayee who could stand out from the crowd. Further, there is a problem of dynasty politics entering this party as well. The biggest mistake that Indira Gandhi made was there was no one groomed to replace her; yes Narasimha Rao became a PM but the Congress became a shade of its past after his term ended. Now Vajpayee had Advani to follow, but no one after that. The 2009 results for BJP would remind any one the time of Congress under a guy called Kesari.

Now I have mentioned only the BJP and the Congress as the rest of the parties are no longer worthy of being mentioned. CPI I do not wish to mention. Consider what the communist party did to China from 1980 to 2010 and then look at what a communist party did to Bengal in the same time period. Bengal is the state of the greatest thinkers, the greatest artists. Creativity is in the heart of Bengal, hard work is in the heart of Bengal, yet sadly in this very state we have the Communists fighting with Maoists; each trying to redefine social justice and claiming to be on the true side of Dharma.



We the people are the ones who are responsible for this mess. The process of finding a leader and selecting a leader is in our hands and yet we prefer to stay in our houses enjoying the cool air of the fans and AC's rather than pressing a big button. I guess we act like Deedee from Dexters Lab asking the rhetorical question, What does this button do?. Jayprakash Narayan was useless without the crowds that came to listen to him. Abdul Kalam, one of the true presidents since independence, became a demi-god because of the support and faith he enjoyed. Yet despite the power we have we prefer to act helpless. There are many things that can be done. One just needs to listen to ones heart to compile a list of such things. One just needs to perform an action rather than sitting and waiting for some one else to do the right thing.

Network Address Translation (NAT)

Why do we need NAT?

Well before I start explaining NAT, I guess it is important to know why NAT is necessary. The machines on the Internet use a 32 bit address (IP address) to uniquely identify each other. A machine can communicate with another machine in the Internet so long as it knows its 32 bit IP address. 32 bits implies there can be about 4 billion IP address. This number is far less than the population of this planet, and far smaller than the number of machines that want to access the Internet. A hacky solution to this small address space is to let multiple machines use the same IP address. NAT boxes enable you to let a large number of machines in your home/office/college access the Internet with a small number of (usually one) IP address. A machine behind the NAT box can be in one the LANs (top portion) of the figure given below.

Network Address Translation

What is a Global IP and what is a Local IP?

In the context of NAT we come across the terms Global IP and local IP address. The IP address your NAT box uses to communicate with your ISP other machines (including other NAT boxes) in the Internet is the global IP address. The IP address of the machines present in the LANs behind the NAT boxes (above NAT box in the figure) is the local IP address. The local IP addresses are typically 10.x.x.x or 192.168.x.x.

How do machines in the LAN access the Internet?

NAT stands for Network Address Translation. So as the name suggests, to the outside world all the machines behind the NAT box are seen as one machine accessing the Internet. Say, machine A with IP address 10.2.3.4 wants to access google.com which has an ip address A.B.C.D and the global IP address you have is I.P.A.D. The NAT box replaces 10.2.3.4 with I.P.A.D. and sends to the packet google. The response from google is forwarded by the NAT box to you. Now if two machines M1 and M2 from the LAN access google, the NAT box needs to ensure that response from google to M1 is forwarded to M1 and not M2 and vice-versa. There are various ways in which NAT boxes do this. The main idea is that the packets between a machine in the LAN and a remote server should not be lost and garbled.


How can machines in the Internet connect to machines behind NAT?

A simple answer to this question is NO. Say a machine A.B.C.D in the internet wants to connect to M1 (10.2.3.4). Now note that 10.x.x.x and 192.168.x.x addresses are reserved for machines behind the NAT. So if you have a NAT box in your house/office, you can assign 10.2.3.4 to a machine behind your NAT box. Similarly, your neighbour can buy a NAT box and assign 10.2.3.4 to his machine. So when A.B.C.D wants to connected to 10.2.3.4, how can a router in the Internet tell that it needs to connect to your machine M1 and not your neighbors machine.

What is port forwarding?

One way a remote machine with address A.B.C.D can to your machine 10.2.3.4 is by connecting to you NAT box. The source address of the connection request is A.B.C.D and the destination address is I.P.A.D (the global address of your NAT box). The NAT box can then be configured to forward requests on a particular port to 10.2.3.4. Say you want to run an HTTP server on M1 (10.2.3.4) behind the NAT box. The NAT box can be configured to forward connection requests on port 80 to 10.2.3.4. This is one way in which a remote IP in the Internet can connect to machines behind the NAT box.

NOTES
The contents of this post are simplified to a large extent and some technical content needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.


Articles to Read:
[1] http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1631.txt

[2] http://www.howstuffworks.com/nat.htm

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_address_translation

July 24, 2010

An Automatic Paper Submission Engine for Improved Acceptance Ratio

Abstract

In this paper we present an automatic paper submission engine that aims at improving the acceptance ratio of any conference. We create a random title picked out from words chosen from the titles present in the proceedings of popular conferences such as SIGCOMM, SIGMETRICS, SOSP, NSDI, and Infocom. We then pick random sentences from the abstracts of these papers and create an abstract of at most 5 sentences. We then extend this algorithm for section names, section content, and even create an appendix with incomprehensible equations; we also add an acknowledgment to acknowledge all the machines used to generate the paper. We believe that this technique when integrated with any conference managing software can do wonders to improve the acceptance ratio of any conferences, especially those that no one has heard of.

Introduction

We keep the rest of the content hidden from the reader due to shortage of space :).

The infinite monkey theorem


Acknowledgment

The 5 sentence abstract given above was generated by a monkey randomly clicking on the keyboard [1].

References
[1] Monkey1, The infinite monkey theorem, in the proceedings of First International Conference for Intelligent Monkeys.

April 21, 2010

Scheduling Jobs without Cron: Using at or batch command

Cron is one of the most widely used job schedulers in the *nix systems such as Linux. However one needs to add jobs in the crontab file to schedule the jobs and this is not possible (typically) for users without super user privileges and not having privileges of being added in cron.allow. For such users job scheduling is possible with the help of the batch/at command or (batch command). An example for using the at command to schedule the execution of the file present at /tmp/test.sh is as follows:

For example I am using program that touches a file in a given directory. So I create the /tmp/test.sh file by executing the following commands
#> echo "touch /tmp/abc.text" > /tmp/test.sh
#> chmod +x /tmp/test.sh

To use at, first make sure that the atd deamon is running, which is the daemon that is responsible for scheduling the jobs.

#> ps -ef | grep atd

Now schedule the job test.sh at say 03:00 tomorrow

#> at -f /tmp/test.sh 03:00 tomorrow

The output will be something like

job 1 at 2009-11-05 03:00

The process will execute /tmp/test.sh at the given time. Do a 'man at' for a glimpse of the complex time specifications such as tomorrow, or +3 days, which are possible with the at command. Some of the examples are as follows:

#> at -f /tmp/test.sh 03:00
#> at -f /tmp/test.sh 4pm + 3 days
#> at -f /tmp/test.sh 12:00 july 15

The list of jobs can be viewed using the atq command

#> atq
6 2009-11-05 02:00 a username

5 2009-11-06 04:00 a username

Removing the 5th job from the above queue is simple. Execute

#> atrm 5

#> atq
6 2009-11-05 03:00 a username

Hope this is useful as I was not able to find a simple tutorial for the 'at' command. I guess its difficult to google search 'at' :).

The IPL experience

Watch IPL live on youtube.com/ipl was the paint on the Vayu Vajra bus that brought me from the heart of Bangalore to the flashy Bengaluru International Airport during my recent India visit. Seeing the ad made me happy as I could watch these matches in France. To be frank the last few weekends have been fun as I prefer to watch the matches held on weekends. But given the events of the last few days I might just skip the matches.

The overall experience of viewing matches on youtube was good, however there were a few things that irritated me during these matches. The most irritating was the blimp and the commentary, *** has been at the forefront of technology. Are the commentator and the marketing firm of *** serious. They could have picked another better tag line related to the pace foundation or the bat wielded by Sachin, the Alchemist, for the last couple of decades. The funniest thing was, irrespective of the match, irrespective of the venue, and irrespective of the cameraman, the video clip used by the commentators was always the same. How perfect can a cameraman be, and how perfectly similar can the weather conditions be? in short how can the cameramen at different venues get the same view? I believe there is no blimp and this story in a way confirmed the absence of the blimp.

The second thing was the constant blabbering of *** Kamaal, *** moment of success, *** timeout and all the crap we are bombarded with. Now the saddest thing was that even in the awards ceremony I heard Kumble say, "It is nice to win a *** Kamaal even at this age". Because of my respect towards to the greats such as Sachin, Dada, Dravid, and Kumble, I am censoring my words matching *F*; but at times I cannot control it. Luckily youtube has fewer but highly irritating ads; irritating because the volume suddenly shoots up virtually tearing the eardrums. The most irritating is the one in which a biker jumping from one ship to another to reach an island full of bimbos playing the holy and peace loving game of beach volleyball.

But this IPL gave me a proud moment as the Pune team was bought for about $370 million. Yes $370 million. Now the funny thing is, while mentioning the amount, a good number of the English dailies preferred to use $ and millions as the currency compared to Rs and most importantly the colonial standard of Crores in their website. I know RBI is yet to decide on the symbol of Rupees but why $, why not £, ¥, or €. Also $370 million for Pune? Seriously? Why? Why not $1 billion? How did they come to this magical figure for a city which is famous for its Sawai Gandharva (सवाई गंधर्व) and Natak (नाटक -plays) and NatyaSangeets (नाट्यसंगीत - operas) and most of all the Puneri Patya(पुणेरी पाट्या).

Speaking of Patya, the press has been very busy with the P's lately. Apart from the pictures of Shoiab Malik who refused to use skype and get married to a girl based on his trust on BSNL, the most important news flashed on google news was the true P in IPL. Here are a few P's that I came across.
  1. Paisa or should I say Penny: I guess this needs no introduction. Given the amount of money exchanging hands and most of all the amount spent on motivating Harsha Bhogle to grow, weave, or transplant hair like our ageing film stars.
  2. Politics. Well this blog by Prem Panicker details on all the stories ranging from Dial M for Modi/Mauritius/Money, the perils of a news daily which act like a parrot and not a reporter, and the hair pin bends in the life of Shukla, the potbellied face of Indian journalism. Some newspapers articles are also well written which give a better insight on these issues; the articles I liked are available [here] and [here]. All of this makes me glad that Shashi Tharoor was not selected as UN Security General; just imagine the disgrace - if he was the Security General he would have acted like the pet dog of US for a few meaty bones.
  3. Privileged. One most important point is the split IPL is creating. Most of the teams are based out of towns that have a bigger English speaking base; for example, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, and so on. These are representative of the states which are doing well. We do not have a team from the North-East which has produced great footballers like Bhutia but cricket seems to have not reached there. I guess the primary purpose of a cricket board and to sustain a league is to spread cricket to these areas and motivate new talent by giving them steady incomes. Imagine the development IPL can bring to a state of Bihar. Even Jharkhand, the state of our cricket Captain, Dhoni, does not have a team. I guess no one bid for Tatanagar or Jamshedpur and yet we have to bear ads like this.

On the lighter note, it is ads like these had made the past IPL experience really funny while the excessive ads in the current version have made the viewing experience pathetic. The sixes have become *** maximums, the catches *** Kamaal, and wickets *** moment of success. What is remaining is having an ad for single, dot ball, no ball, wide, and third umpire calls for run-outs. In any case I guess it is a matter of time when all of this IPL business converges to something comprehensible and sustainable.

April 18, 2010

Sania's Swayamvar (सानिया का स्वयं‍वर)

This week the tennis star and the poster girl of many Indians decided to get married. Yet, compared to the fake marriages one is being bombarded on reality shows, her marriage or should I say Swayamvara (स्वयं‍वर) was more entertaining than all soap operas put together. In fact, her marriage was more controversial than her short skirts and the fatwas that tried to lengthen them. More-soever, the time she managed to stay in the limelight was definitely much more longer than the time she currently spends on the tennis court.

What worries me most is that this is a celebrity marriage, whose average length can be computed before a complete scan of the page three of any newspaper. And speaking of loyalty this marriage has its foundation in dis-loyalty as both the bride and the groom were respectively engaged and married to someone when they started seeing each other. In fact based on Shoaib's statements, he was seeing two girls; one supposedly fat and the other whom he called thin, beautiful, and the younger sister of the former; is he trying to say he was involved with two sisters...yuck! Based on these incomprehensible statements the funnier thoughts that came to my mind were based on Shoaib Maliks behavior. How stupid can a guy actually be if he thought his first wife was the elder sister of the bride he married over telephone. Then he backtracks and says he is divorcing her because she was fat. Now, couldn't he just fly to India or have the marriage held in a neutral venue like the US or UK; but no he wanted to set an example of being desperate by marrying a supposedly hot girl over phone (Didn't he hear of Skye, it free you dumb ***). Based on all these desperate behaviors of both the bride and the groom, it will take divine intervention to ensure a happy married life for the couple. However, for the sake of peace between them and the countries I have to wish them a happy married life.

Now coming back to Shoaib and the Siddiqui family; I cannot help speculate that all is not well in cricket. Siddiqui being an Indian and based in Saudi was able to get his chubby little girl move around easily in Dubai and according to Shoaib masquerade another girl as his daughter. He also hosted parties for the Pakistan team in India. All of this along with the Dubai connection has got to appear hazy to anyone who has his eyes open. This Dubai connection makes me really scared thanks to videos of Anu Malik and Kumar Sanu singing praises of Dawood; link between Miandad and Dawood; the statements of Hansie Cronje; and all dirty things about Sharjah as a venue for Indo-Pak matches thanks to our honorable MP Azhar and his accomplice Jadeja. Thanks to all these hazy deals, one cannot consider Shoaib to be as Pak (pure and holy) as his chocolaty looks. In fact I find it difficult to believe his innocence given the amount of money, speculated to be Rs 15 crores, he gave of to break his past marriage.

Given all these complexities, the head of PCB would be a fool to have, either a stupid guy who marries of a phone or a potential match fixer given the money exchanging hands, in a team supposed to represent a country; but then the PCB has turned a blind eye to the Miandad controversies. Also I am really scarred as the couple are extremely media savvy. God forbid, but if anything goes wrong in this marriage, then there is a high likelyhood that both of them, and all their stupid fans and the media, will blow the their personal issues out of proportion to create tension between the countries. In fact I would like to stop here rather than increase the incoherence of this post. Since Shoaib likes technology in the crude form, I would like to send a telegram code 25 and 17 for the couple. And for the sake of peace I am hoping to send code 30 in the following years to come.[Here are the telegram codes: Best wishes on your wedding anniversary - 30, May Heaven’s choicest blessings be showered on the young couple - 25, Wish you a happy and prosperous wedded life - 17].

March 29, 2010

JDIR Experiences

I was attending JDIR from March 24, to March 26. This was the first time I was presenting a paper at such an event and I was not sure on how to go about it. Most of the presentations were in French and I was afraid of being the odd man out. My presentation was on Friday, March 26, and my advisor, Arnaud, and my lab mate, Stevens, had given me nice feedback about my presentation on Thursday. I missed the excursion to MarineLand on Thursday as I was busy modifying the presentation.

My initial presentation was in Beamer, however, based on the comments given by my advisor I was tempted to use PowerPoint. Sadly due to my inexperience on Windows and Office, I just couldn't get the effects I needed; hence I stuck to Beamer. I was done with the modification in the night at around 11. The presentation was in morning at 9 in INRIA and I woke up early at about 5:30 to rehearse. It was around 7 when I started rehearsing, and for some stupid reason I decided to practice on Windows. The machine booted and I finished my presentation in about 15 minutes. I had skipped the text I was to speak at the outlines; this was a mistake and my advisors email sent to me during the presentation was a confirmation of this. But as the presentation was over my eyes fell on the clock on the bottom right of the screen; it was showing 8:30. My heart lost a beat. My office mate, Roberto, had warned me that daylight saving time kicks in this weekend. I had read that it doesn't happen at the middle of the week but I thought my computer cannot be wrong as it normally syncs the clock with the timeservers. In the hurry I even forgot to check the current time on worldtimeserver.com.

I packed my bags, took the pen drive which had the copy of the presentation, and ran. Murphy's soul was playing a joke with me as it was pouring like it does in Mumbai while I was rushing to INRIA. My phone, which was manually set and doesn't understand day light saving, was showing 8:45 when I reached the INRIA gates. I swiped and my card gave an error. I was petrified; my card stopped working on the day of the presentation, 15 minutes before the event; I thought I was screwed big time. The guard, with his big white beard which will remind anyone of the foreigners representing the East India Company, came out with a frustrated look; it was quite natural as no one would want to begin their day with some problem. He showed me the time; it was 7:45 and he said my card would be activated only at 8. The guards office had been shifted to another conference room that day and he was kind to offer me a seat near his table.

I reached my office at 8 and left for the conference hall at 8:30. My slides were copied on the notebook connected to the projector and I confirmed that the latest version was copied. The presentation went fine and during the course of the presentation I realized I was talking in my normal pace (which is very very fast) . I slowed down and decided to concentrate on the pronunciation of the words. Overall the presentation went fine, however, for reasons unknown, while answering the questions I realized my pace had returned. My advisor was present for the presentation and it was nice as my mailbox had all his feedbacks and the time at which each of the feedback was sent. Stevens, my lab mate, also had a presentation that day and his presentation was amazing; he won one dolphin as an award for his presentation.

However, the JDIR had stored the a surprise for the end. After the event was over, I was approached by a guy who had asked questions about the error bars used in the plots and the TCP implementation for which the experiments were conducted. I was impressed as most of the other crowd just wanted me to finish (I guess my accent and pace had a lot to do with this); but this guy was unfazed. He was a French national and when we met me, he asked from where I was. My reply was India, but he was not convinced and asked, which part of India. On receiving Mumbai for an answer, he asked if I was a student of IIT Mumbai. I said that I was a masters student at IIT Delhi. His face lightened and he said that even he was a masters student at IIT Delhi. I was shocked. Here in INRIA Sophia Antipolis, I am meeting a French guy who said he was a masters student at IIT Delhi. He was an exchange student from EPFL and spent 1 year of his masters in the Maths Dept at IIT Delhi; he was currently a part time student at Eurecom and was working in Orange Labs. I felt really glad as I had met a French national who was in India for his masters.

Overall JDIR was really an amazing experience for me and I am hoping to publish another paper in JDIR.

March 13, 2010

Questions asked during my visit to Pune/Bangalore/Mumbai.

The most common question asked to me in the last few days is शादी के लिए आये हो? (Have you come for marriage). My mind would answer शादी के लिए नहीं, शादी के वजह से आया हूँ, लडकियाँ देखने के लिए आया हूँ ; I have not come for marriage/Shaadi, but I have come because of Chadi, I have come to see girls (my nieces and cousin sisters :p). This answer would be really complex to explain hence I would respond by a smile and let them interpret the smile.

The Planete team in INRIA has a permanent researcher named Chadi -- pronounced शादी by the Lebanese; his wife recently gave birth to a baby girl. His excitement and happiness in the last few months was one of the primary reasons that motivated me to come to India and visit my cousins, nieces, and nephews. My mother is also to be given a lot of credit for this visit as she ensured that whenever I called them on Skype she would make my sisters two year old daughter say - मामू यॉ (Mamu come in Konkani) with a toy airplane in her hand. This trip has been successful till now as I was able to meet most of my cousins, nieces, and nephews. I was able to see them dance, sing poems and most of all their tricks, flexibility, and climbing skills while trying to run away from their mothers who in turn give their 100% while trying to feed them :).

Another question which was asked was, Will you settle down in France? Now this was unexpected as no one asked me if I would settle down in Delhi while I was studying in IIT Delhi. My answer was a smile and I left them to interpret it. To be frank, I have no answer to this question. Preferably I would like to come back to India and teach, however, that is what I would like to do. I am no sooth-sayer who can predict what can happen three years from now; further, given the events that have happened in the last 3 years I am confident that I cannot predict what will happen in the next 6 months. I had not expected nor planned a PhD while I was studying in Delhi. In fact it was because I was not sure about a PhD that I decided to pursue an M.S. in IIT Delhi even after being selected for a PhD in IIT Kanpur. When I came back from my masters and while working in a start-up I finally confirmed that a PhD is what I need, but even then I had not decided as to where I would study. It was because of Arzad, my advisor in Delhi, and his post-doc experience in the Maestro team in INRIA Sophia Antipolis that I decided to apply to INRIA; however, even now I do not have satisfactory reasons as to why I decided to do pursue PhD studies in the Planete team despite all the good things Arzad told me about the Maestro team - the team which shares the floor with the Planete team in INRIA. So studying in France was unexpected and given all this unpredictability I have only one answer -- I need a good PhD with good publications; what happens after that will be decided after I defend my thesis. I only know that my advisors, Arnaud and Walid, are good and INRIA offers me the resources that are required for a good PhD. I am not bothered about what I will do after my PhD and where I will go after 3 years.

I also got to face many questions about my other plans of the future such as marriage, and as in the case of the above questions, I answered with a smile :). I realized that this is what my sister meant when she advised me to keep my mouth shut and mind open while doing a PhD :).

February 14, 2010

Bomb Blast in Pune: Another wake up call to all of us in deep sleep

I was shocked not by the attacks that took place today in my hometown Pune, but by the response shown by most of my friends - "Pune is no longer safe", "Why Pune", "Pune destroyed by blasts" .... My friends are responding in the way the terrorists want them to -- be terrified. Further, it appears that the media has succeeded in making most of us dumb as most of us are increasingly becoming more interested in the page 3 gossip of who is sleeping with who and not on news items that matter the most. It was a matter of time that such a blast would have happened in Pune given that the LET was suspected to be giving training its cadres near Kondhwa, Pune, and the latest meeting of JUD had mentioned Pune and Kanpur along with the so called liberation of Hyderabad.

Further, despite such warnings, the police was busy dancing to the tune of vote bank politics and protecting the cinemas for the release of My Name is Khan, and acting like guard dogs in the parks, pubs, discos, and malls to enjoy the chaos which has become an annual event during valentine's day, thanks to the fundamentalists of all religions.

I am not worried about these attacks as these are slowly becoming a way of life because the administrators have long been well oiled and show no accountability and politicians are busy playing games of divide and conquer such as reservation, and vote bank politics.

We the people are also to be blamed. I am not sure how many stupid and utterly useless candle light protests will be performed, before the masses forget such incidents and get back to the self feeding cycle of giving and taking bribes for all the things from the birth-certificate to the death-certificate; performing activities to ensure that loop-holes that allow such attacks exist for another attack. If a terrorist is caught, he will be allowed to make a joke of the people who lost their lives catching him and make a mockery of the judicial system while proving Nani Palkhivala statement that the closest thing to eternity are the cases running in our courts.

Sadly the solutions to, or the measures to protect people from, such problems -- education, responsibility, and accountability -- are manipulated by the myopic aspirations of the people and especially by those in power. So, as long as we continue with an irresponsible life based on the statement "शिवाजी जन्मावा पण, शेजारच्या घरात" (may Shivaji be born but let him be born in the neighbors house), and wait for a rebirth of Mahatma Gandhi, we should continue to expect such attacks.

February 11, 2010

Buzz!! - My reason for disabling it

The word Buzz reminds me of the shaking message windows from the good old days when I used to use Yahoo messenger. However, the new buzz from Yahoo's arch rival Google did more and zapped me instead of the web browser.

I logged into gmail yesterday from INRIA and I was asked if I was interested in buzz. I clicked on disable Buzz as I thought it was just another gmail labs feature. Opening google reader just after lunch showed me that I had 11 new followers. I was amazed, as most of the followers were ones whom I had last contacted a few years back. I was unable to understand as to why these people were all of a sudden, in the same day, interested in the blogs I read. I ignored it and got back to work. The gmail was still active in some firefox window and when I logged out at night there were no signs of buzz in gmail. Later at night when I connected to google reader from my residence, I saw the same stuff, but this time even more number of followers. At first I thought it was an attack and when I opened gmail, I saw buzz written in bold with a 1 next to it just below inbox. I thought I had disabled it as I clearly remember that my gmail session at INRIA did not have buzz. It showed I was following 30 people and about 40 people were following me. When I clicked on one my old friends name (whom I was following for no reason), I could see the names of all the people he was following.

This scared the hell out of me. I could virtually see almost all the contacts of my friend; some of whom which I believe he would have liked to hide from me :). Anyways just as I could see his contact list, I believe someone else could see all my contacts and the list of people whom my account was forced to follow without asking me any questions. The disable buzz, which my friend told me today, was nowhere to be found in the settings tabs. Now my gmail shows me the last 100 emails and I never scroll down; I should have scrolled as the disable buzz was placed right next to disable chat. I had to manually unfollow all the accounts I was following and disable all the sites such as google reader and picasa which were being shared by me.

I disabled buzz today and as of now I do not have any regrets. I am not very active on social networks and most probably I will not be in the near future. 99% of the time, I am not interested to see what videos my friends are viewing or what they have in mind. This is the very reason why I do not have a twitter account. I use google reader to read blogs and to see which blogs my friends found worthy of sharing; I use orkut and facebook (I still use and prefer the old orkut in low bandwidth mode) to connect with my friends and classmates. I use picassa and flickr to upload the photos and manually send the links to my parents and friends using email; the links to albums of the places I visit are shared using facebook and orkut. I am fine with using multiple web-tools to share my data. I don't mind logging into these handful of website as this decentralized approach gives me some virtual hierarchical structure to organize the stuff. And most of all I am not comfortable sharing my email contacts to every tom-dick-and-harry of this planet.

So buzz is disabled and I believe it will be disabled for some time to come, at least till google sorts out this privacy issue which I believe most of us are facing.

February 7, 2010

Beautiful Sights in France: Heart-warming sights of goodness

Here are few of the beautiful things I saw in France. Being in the French-riviera, beautiful scenes implicitly implies the snaps of the sea and the Alps; however, the most beautiful sights I saw are based around the good deeds of the bus drivers in this region.

1. Lady Bus-Driver at Garbejaire :
The first month I had to stay in a hostel called CIV, which required me to take the bus from a stop called Garbejaire. Children going to the schools near CIV also used to get down at this bus stop. One day, after the other passengers got down, I saw kid jump from the bus. The kid began to run towards the direction of the woods and it appeared he had no intent of talking the walking path leading to the school. A matter of seconds later, the bus which had gone a few meters ahead stopped, a beautiful young lady jumped from the bus, ran behind the kid, caught him with his bag and escorted him a few meters in the walking path. A few words with the parents escorting their children to school might have given her the assurance that the kid would in-fact go to school. She adjusted her hair and dress while walking back to the bus, got back in the bus, started the engine and drove the bus away. Yes, a public transport bus driven by a lady, who stopped the bus to run after a kid to make sure he goes to school.

I felt ashamed that I could not help the lady, but I was proud of the responsibility showed by her. No one would have questioned her if she had left the bus without stopping the kid. She didn't think twice before stopping the bus beyond the bus stop having its front end in the middle of the road. She did what she felt was right, and that is the very reason why these few seconds have made a permanent impression in my mind.

2. Helpful driver at Templiers:
The bus number 11 had stopped at the Templiers bus stop; about ten seconds after the door had opened, the first passenger who was trying to get down could be seen. A small kid with a box covered with shreds of gift wrapping was trying to get down from the bus, one step at a time. His mother was helping him in the last step as he was having a tough time balancing the gift (which he refused to give to his mother) in one hand while trying to descend. After he was standing on the foot-path, the mother went back. I could see the bus driver helping the mother get down with a baby pram with a toddler gurgling and playing with gift-wrapping paper. When the pram was on the footpath, he helped the mother adjust the wheels of the pram, which had been jammed apparently when it was in the bus. All this time, the bus was stopped. None of the passengers complained about delay, and the driver did not give petty excuses, such as get down quickly -- you are delaying the bus. It was a really simple but beautiful gesture of helping a mother with two kids.

I had seen such similar behavior of goodness when I was a kid in Pune. The most striking one was when my mother came to pick me up for some reason. One of the teachers, who taught in the secondary school and who knew I used to take the school bus, stopped my mother. After confirmation from me that the lady taking me was my mother and the similarity in the faces made her smile, followed by an apology which was was not necessary. My mother still uses this incident as an example while recommending my school to her colleagues.

I realized that such good incidents used to happen around me all the time, however, for reasons unknown I used to ignore them. The ones doing such good deeds do not required explicit encouragement; they do it because they know it is the right thing to do, and they will continue to them; however, a simple gesture such as a smile to acknowledge their goodness can be a really useful source of encouragment.

January 26, 2010

The Most Powerful Rubber Stamp

I believe the 25th of January must be happiest day for the President of India, Pratibha Patil. For it is on this day, she does not have to take explicit permission of the party high command to speak on the television. She will be handed over a letter drafted is beautiful bureaucratic english, made to sit in front of the camera, and read the paper like any news-reader.

Sadly one of the worst presidents will go down in history as the first female president; the dogs in the media after receiving meaty bones, hailed her, the one who doesn't even have a clear stand on the purdah, as a symbol of female liberation. Among all the 500 million females in the country, was this alleged supporter of murders the best person to represent the females? What happened to children of Rani Laxmibai, Ahilyabai Holkar, Chennamma of Keladi, Razia Sultan, Savitribai Phule and all the great females who blessed the land by their presence. I am glad however, that the history books will have Razia Sultan as one of the first female ruler of Delhi.

If the ministers wanted a lady to lead the country, nobody would have stopped them if they had chosen ladies of the calibre of Kiran Bedi and Sudha Murthy; but instead they wanted a rubber stamp. A stamp who, despite being the chief of the armed forces, would pray in Indonesia when gunman enter her country.

Today, the honorable President Patil read about various issues concerning India. Now here are two speeches for you to compare two presidents of India.
1. The speech by Kalam on 25th January 2003, and,
2. The speech by Patil on the 25th of January, 2010.
The first few lines by Patil are the best examples of plagiarism rampant in the education system of India. The rest of it, like a press release of a failing organization. The vision, connectivity with the grass roots, and feeling of being the same as the fellow countrymen is just not present in Patil. Education, population control, accountability at all levels in the government, and honesty are nowhere emphasized nor reflected in any part of the speech. Further, population is mentioned only three times in her speech;1 billion and growing at a rate of one Australia a year is enough to get mentioned three times in a speech given once in a year. Education twice, and accountability is mentioned in a way it is handled in India.

No matter how many Sukhois flights she undertakes, no matter how many Viraat cruises she does, her greatness is like an ant-hill compared to Abdul Kalam who is an Everest.

January 24, 2010

What's in a name

My name is अश्विन. The reason for writing it in Devanagari script is because I prefer to use this syllabic script when I care about the pronunciation. In English I prefer to write it as, primarily because my parents preferred to write it as, Ashwin. I do not know why they chose a "w" and not a "v".  However, my birth certificate has it as Ashwini with the last i cancelled and my NCC certificate has it as Asvin. Luckily most of the other certificates and my passport have my name as Ashwin. The funny thing is that in my passport my fathers name is part of my given name. We do not have middle names in India as people have in other parts of the world. Therefore at times when forms explicitly mention name as in passport I write "Ashwin Satish" -- the two named monster.

My surname/family-name is even more complicated. Officially according my family tree I am a पै - Pai as in Paisa :). However my official family name is complicated being a descendant of the community whose migration can be tracked to places all over Asia and Europe. My most recent forefathers are from Shirvanthe. In the temples in Goa my name can be called out as Shirvanthe Ashwinkumar Pai. Phew this is nowhere close to Ashwin Rao. The story of Rao is really convoluted and funny.  Because my recent forefathers came from Shirvanthe, my grandfather (father's father) whose name was (पांडुरंगाराऊ) Pandurangarao went by the name Shirvanthe Pandurangarao. I am not sure who was zealous to convert this to S.P. Rao, however, this coupled with the lack of consistency, made my fathers surname Rao. Sadly some of his brothers use the surname Shirvanthe. Yes my fathers brothers have different family names or should I say surnames. The name (राऊ) Rao, has thus stuck to me but to complicate stuff even more, my birth certificate has it spelt as Rav (राव) .

So my name is "अश्विन राऊ /राव" (Ashwin Rao).

A few weeks back during lunch I was asked to confirm if my name was pronounced correctly. What I heard was something similar to आश्विन, i.e., the अ (a as in a name) was replaced by an आ (aa as in open your mouth for the dentist). The primary reason for this was because the letter 'a' is pronounced as 'आ' (aa) in French. Definetely I wouldn't have complaints because most of my relatives call me अश्विन (ashwin), अश्विना (ashwina), अतिन (atin), or अचिन (achin) depending on their age. But, then there have been times when my name is pronounced as अस्विन (asvin), A-swine, Oshbin, and Oshobini by my fellow countrymen. One of the funniest incident based on the pronunciation (which I can recollect) is as follows.

One day my name was being called out in the Zanskar hostel by a guy who wanted the keys to the laundry room which was shared by 450 other hostel-mates (yes we like big hostels). I had returned the keys to the room and signed off. But the guy who took them after me had taken them without writing his name. My name was written in capitals "ASHWIN RAO". So for this reason a name, which should have been mine, was being called. I am not sure what was in that guys mind or tongue because the name I heard was अश्विनी राय (ASHWINI RAI) followed by intermittent curses. Well I guess he was hoping for an Aishwarya Rai but I believe seeing a guy rather than a celebrity in a boys hostel at IIT must have pissed him off even further. I had taken some time to respond as no matter which part of the planet you are from, there is no way "ASHWIN RAO" can be called "ASHWINI RAI". I wanted to argue with him but it would have been futile as I believe in teaching only those who can be taught. Further, this was proof for me regarding the extra 'i' in my birth certificate, but this guy had gone further and replaced and 'o' with an 'i' in my surname as well :).

When people find it difficult to remember Ashwin I tell them "October" or "Octobre" because I simply do not care how you call my name!