alochana

yes Gods are crazy

Archive for the ‘IISc’ Category

Abort, Retry, Ignore?

with 2 comments

I was reading this old post by GreatBong lamenting about the lack of traffic to his posts that can be judged as sensible by any objective standard, while seemingly crappy blogs keep getting heavy traffic. It is a testament to his skill that, even in such a moment of frustration, he had managed to come up with a post that conveys the pain that is caused when one is rejected by a subjective standard that one finds unreasonable. May be the mythical ‘frustration of poverty’ that forces great works of art is at play here. I don’t know. But this post is not about what is behind works that touch our hearts. This post is about the frustration that is a consequence of being rejected by seemingly subjective standards. This post is not about whether its ubiquity is restricted to nerds. This post is about the role of chance behind these frustrations. It is about an instance that demonstrated how much a casual act by a stranger can change the fate of an enterprise from a soul-crushing humiliation to something that warms the hearts even years later.

Back in the fall of 2003, PJ and I were given the ambitious task of selling T-shirts to IIScians. Ambitious, because we had to convince the students, particularly the new entrants, to buy T-shirts from the non-entities that we were. It looked like there existed a T-shirt design, and we just had to do the front-end work. Blissfully unaware of the absence of any such design for the shirts, we made posters promising the moon (“babes for the guys, and dudes for the girls”) in a language that was meant to convince the readers that we were qualified to make such promises. A week before we hit the mess’ with prototype T-shirts, the truth of the non-existence of the design was revealed to us, and we had to come up with designs that were ‘cool’ and ‘acceptable’. Not surprisingly the designs that we came up with were, we were convinced, particularly unremarkable. And we went with these unremarkable designs to a students’ mess to begin the sale. And then began the long wait where we kept trying, unsuccessfully, to catch the eye of any student in the hall, in the hope of getting someone to wander by our table.

It was a good half-hour before the first set of students finished their dinner, and it was a good ten minutes after that before anyone even bothered to stare in our direction for more than a few seconds. You put a bunch of smart-sounding posters, notice that the reaction to the posters is good, and then occupy a few tables of the dinner hall with your T-shirts… You should have students dropping by your table, right? Wrong, apparently. We were being ignored by the same students who were frustrated about being ignored by the people that they were interested in all their lives. Being ignored appears to be something that we humans are incapable of empathizing with, in spite of being at the receiving end of the same treatment forever. Coming back to the mess that we were in, another few minutes, and we would have given up on any hopes of succeeding, and left with our stuff. At least that was what PJ and I had resigned ourselves to. What else can one do, when one has just become invisible to one’s acquaintances? And then, as Tolkien might have put it, something happened that we had ceased to expect. One non-descript student who we had not noticed till then (ignored by the ‘ignored by the ignored’) wandered towards our table while sipping on his tumbler of Boost. After a few, insanely long, seconds of looking at the shirts, he smiled, and asked, “How are you doing?” The rest was just a blur of people and numbers and cash. That smile of his was the difference between public humiliation and a memorable adventure. To this date, I don’t dare think about what the scene might have been had he not decided to walk towards our table. I don’t even dare to think whether the decision was about whether to walk towards our table, or whether to ignore us! I don’t know if PJ dares to think of it either. Occasionally we talk of him, but never do we try imagining the alternate scenario.

But then, as Tolkien said, somethings that should not have been forgotten were lost. The ungrateful bastard that I am, I don’t even remember this man’s name.

Written by kowsik

August 12, 2009 at 18:20

Posted in courage, cribs, IISc, life

Winamp, Galadriel…

with 6 comments

Archana: Obama is this dude, you know

Me: Yeah right! He is to politics what Aishwarya Rai was to acting… I prefer Sarah Palin. And, by the way, that line sounds familiar, and not in a good way at that!

Furious Archana goes for the kill: What do you mean? Ok why did ever our Winamp ji not consider politics?

Me in the ‘You can’t handle the truth‘ mode: Elementary… That was answered by Tolkein long time back. Take this

Written by kowsik

June 13, 2009 at 06:05

Posted in humour, IISc, kboy, life

konni uchita salahaalu

with 3 comments

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’05(+/- 10 yrs):Drink Coffee.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, coffee would be it. The long-term benefits of coffee have not been proved by scientists, the rest of my advice has no scientific basis either. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the beauty of IISc. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the beauty of IISc until you’ve left it. And more often than not, it is not what you think it is either. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of you at IISc and recall in a way you can’t grasp now what a lovely campus you were in.

Don’t hate the crows; probably they are statistics students!

Don’t worry about being a pensioner. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as getting a girl-friend by watching Darrr… The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 11 AM on some random weekend when T-board is closed. Do one thing every day that scares you.

Attend a Rhythmica programme. Or join Voices.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember the compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old scholarship sheets. Throw away your old grade cards.

Read the Graduate Student Handbook, even if you think it is too early to know the information.

Do not read too many papers. They will only make you feel confused.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what your thesis is going to look like. The most interesting people I know didn’t know whether they would get to write their thesis, even in their third year. Some of the most interesting guys, now in fifth year of PhD, still don’t. May be you’ll have an easy compri, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll graduate in four years, maybe you won’t. Your thesis might actually have some impact on the society, maybe it won’t. Maybe you will become a professor by the time you are 40, maybe you’ll end up at NIAS by 60. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s. Look at your advisor, and pray to God that you don’t end up like that; or atleast that you get better students than he did!

Get to know your professors. You never know when you’ll need their recos. Be nice to your lab-mates. They’re your best option to count on in case of a deadline and are the people most likely to treat you for dinners.

Enjoy your lab. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest place you’ll ever get.

Share and Enjoy!

Eat in C-Mess for some time, but leave before it makes you hard. Eat in A-Mess for sometime, but leave before it makes you soft. Keep changing Mess. If you are in B-Mess, changing the floors will do.

Accept certain inalienable truths. Food is not cheap. Professors will belittle. You too, will grow bitter. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were in Master’s, food was cheaper, Professors were nice and research was universally believed to be a good idea.

Respect your seniors.

Don’t expect anyone else to support your coffee bill. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe your guide will pay you from some project. But you never know when either one might dry out.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the coffee.

Note: The above article is based on a ‘Guide to Life for Graduates’ composed by Mary Schmich, published in the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1997. It has been widely circulated on the internet as ‘the 1997 commencement address at MIT by Kurt Vonnegut’ (which he denied of course.) The Phdcomics has its own version of it for Stanford! In this age of Google, I think this much is enough to lead to the original article.

Written by kowsik

December 7, 2005 at 03:04

Posted in coffee, IISc

Vastramul…

with 5 comments

“Concentrate only on the Crow, for that is the only inhabitant of IISc from whom you know what to expect”
Ancient words of wisdom at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

It was an eventful day, almost as if all the vicissitudes of life rolled into one. Nothing serious, I admit now itself, I am one of the first persons who hate to raise false excitement. It all started with a woman, a talking one at that. She was talking on and on about all the stuff that she had to bare…, and as any red—blooded virgin male on campus is known to react, I too was shocked. The immediate thoughts that ran through my mind were: “Why?”, “When?” and “Where?” (Not necessarily in the same order though.) My shock was mercilessly reduced into mere amusement when my good friend (you can choose to accept my apologies for not mentioning his presence earlier) pointed out that, considering the region that the lady comes from, the word used by the lady had to be wear. Quite a few unmentionable nouns (with appropriate adjectives) came to my mind, but there is not much that a man can do in such moments of sudden changes in the mood– to put it mildly, the mind’s control over the body weakens: a sudden surge of excitement, and then the dampener. Since that day, I have tried to find out if there was any person in the history of mankind who could handle such a situation properly; the more I think the more I am compelled to come to the conclusion that I missed the chance of being the first one.My friend’s free imparting of wisdom didn’t stop there (I knew at that stage that there were some valid reasons for his choosing me for being subjected to all his random BS theories, but couldn’t remember them then.) Not leaving me with such an elation-dampening revelation, he went ahead to point out that considering the state of (un)dress prevalent among both the sexes on campus, I had no justification for being shocked at the perceived meaning of lady’s statement (please go to the fourth line). Though the argument did seem to be a coup de grace dismissing me to the artificially lit confines of my lab, after some amount of thinking I succeeded in finding a fault with it. What has become the norm in the campus was the display of human bodies similar to some of these fighter aircrafts. The philosophy seems to be on the lines of: the more edges the better, when in doubt think Lara Croft and so on. This is not necessarily same as “bare”. Bare is like honest trade where the customer knows what he gets, but what we see is more like the Hindi movies.

Needless to say I went ahead like Abhimanyu did a few millennia ahead of me. Both of us met with the same fate. My good friend had the pleasure making a trap and finding it occupied with no great effort from his side. He immediately went on to condemn me and all the others who consider bare to be better than fake (for the want of a better word to describe imitation-Laras) for winning debates, but go ahead and stare the plastic out of the fakes while denouncing the bares. My feeble attempts at pointing out that since there were no known-bares on campus, I never had the opportunity to express my bare-related opinions, did not succeed. Arguments of the fakes being mortally hurt in the absence of a good stare were not accepted either.

For the rest of the day I remained wondering about what arguments can compel a person to package the God-given and technology-given features on one’s body for a vulgar display in public, and there-by ruin the happiness of innocent research students on the campus whose only crime being a quest for an intellectual debate on all matters under the Sun. May be the Crows have an answer, I should frame the question first. That reminds me, I am yet to have a topic my MSc and my good friend was supposed to help me out in that. That lousy…

Written by kowsik

June 3, 2005 at 05:16

Posted in crow s**t, IISc