Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On letting go ....and growing up....

"For heaven's sake, please grow up"- he burst out. She was shocked and just stared at him.

"You are precious to me. But I can't make you grow up," he said softly. And that came as a stunning blow to her. She was shattered inside. An eerie calmness enveloped her. So, is that it, she thought. That's how it felt to be at the receiving end, she realized.

She was a poet; she led a lonely existence, content in her loneliness and satisfied with the hand dealt to her by chance. She was famous in her field. But she was tired with the snide remarks she received about 'writing from experience' whenever the subject of her poems were love and longing. She felt it was unfair when a man writing such poems was accepted and acclaimed. And then she met a fan who was different. She found in him a soul mate. He had a family of his own, yet found time to reach out to her and bond with her.

And now this statement .... Was she that demanding? She always thought of herself as someone with some calibre - elegance, dignity and poise. That image melted away. She felt cheap. And she remembered their early days when she stayed within the confines of her small world and reached out to him only at an intellectual level. He drew her out, mocking her, taunting her and challenging her about 'stretching the envelope of existence.'

When she demurred while he made passes at her, he teased her, "Oh, what kind of relationship do you want with me? Neck up?" Slowly she lost her inhibitions and became comfortable discussing all and sundry with him. She was never overt but she was not bashful either. Thus she experimented with stretching the envelope of her existence.

And then it appeared he lost interest in her. It was not a single event. He stopped calling on her and the phone calls were never returned. He did not reply to her passionate letters or replied with a clinical "Oh ok, more later I guess," which was never followed up. It did not strike her odd initially but slowly she realized the change that had crept into their relationship. Her ego was terribly hurt. She could not believe that someone could shake her off so easily. On the few occasions she confronted him with the change in the fabric of their relationship, he either feigned ignorance and said she was extrapolating or bluntly said, "That was during the initial days - initial rush." He talked of letting go in some other context. Slowly it dawned on her where she stood with him. And it was painful. She was hurting very badly. The mental agony manifested as physical ailment, surprising her that she had let someone affect her that deeply. She still longed for their earlier closeness - an unique intimacy she had shared with him.

Then one day she was having a normal conversation with him and during an unguarded moment, let something slip by, revealing her need for him. That was when he told her to grow up. When he said that he can't make her grow up, it was like a solid slap on her face. That did it. She realized the irrevocable path their relationship had taken - a fork in their journey. What about all those statements he had made which affected her? Well, it was all part of his growing up and part of the ego boost he needed. She had been useful and she had played her part well. Now the curtains were down and she had to move on.

She knew the pain will lessen with time. But for now, she is clutching her heart, clenching her fist and savoring the pain. Sure she will move on and this will soon become a distant memory. But then she will never be the same again. And that was exactly how she learned to let go and grow up.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A journey called Reading

Reading a book is a lot like a journey. Especially if it is Non-fiction. You have to mentally prepare yourself to embark on the journey, take time to savor the sights instead of rushing through it, mull over it to assimilate it for later remembrances, stick to the journey without giving up halfway and finally enjoy the feeling of having successfully completed it.

And so I have started a journey now. With Murray Gell-Mann's The Quark and the Jaguar - Adventures in the Simple and the Complex.

Murray Gell-Mann is a physicist, a Nobel prize winner. He postulated the existence of an elementary particle, he named as 'quark' a word taken from a novel by James Joyce. Simply put, the quarks are basic building blocks of all matter. Quarks combine to form the more familiar protons and neutrons. There is more. He named the six types (called them flavors) of quarks: up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom.

The book does not deal with elementary particle physics but is about the connections between the fundamental laws of physics and the complexity and diversity of the natural world including archaeology, linguistics, child development, computers and other complex adaptive systems. The title of the book comes from a line in a poem by Arthur Sze : "The world of the quark has everything to do with a jaguar circling in the night."

I read the Preface and the first two Chapters today.


"At most I require only a pencil, some paper and a wastebasket. Often, even those are not essential. Give me a good night’s sleep, freedom from distractions and time unburdened by worries and obligations and I can work. Whether I am standing in the shower, hovering between wakefulness and sleep on a late-night flight, or walking along a wilderness trail, my work can accompany me wherever I go."

When Murray planned to study archaeology or linguistics, his father wanted him to study Physics at the Yale University to which he replied that it was the dullest course in his high school curriculum.

"We had had to memorize such things as the seven kinds of simple machine: the lever, the screw, the inclined plane and so on. Also we had studied mechanics, heat, sound, light, electricity and magnetism but with no hint of any connections among those topics." Sounds familiar, eh?

To humor his father he went along and then he was hooked.
" My father had been right about relativity and quantum mechanics. I began to understand, as I studied them, that the beauty of nature is manifested just as much in the elegance of these fundamental principles as in the cry of a loon or in trails of bioluminescence made by porpoises at night."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Male weedy seadragon seduces female with dazzling dance

Male weedy seadragon seduces female with dazzling dance

Friday Quote

Only human beings guide their behaviour by a knowledge of what happened before they were born and a preconception of what may happen after they are dead; thus only humans find their way by a light that illuminates more than the patch of ground they stand on.
-Peter Medawar

More Poetry .....

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

- W.Shakespeare, King John


Ode to a Nightingale - John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness, -
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.


Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!

The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music: - Do I wake or sleep?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Humbly about Hubble

Source: Hubblesite.org

I am surprised ... How would I even dare to write about the Hubble Space Telescope.

I have been always fascinated by the Images sent by the Hubble and just want to share a bit of that magic .... nothing academic ... no pretensions of knowledge.

The Hubble Space Telescope orbits the Earth and is able to capture images of the Universe without the distortions caused by the Earth's atmosphere. Scientists have learnt about the age of the Universe, various stages of evolution of galaxies and so much more like the dark energy, quasars .............

For a lay person like me, the spectacular images sent by Hubble are mind boggling and liberating.

The Hubblesite (http://hubblesite.org/) best describes it... Out of the ordinary .... out of this world.......

The Mysterious boy at the Petrol Bunk

A week back I filled Petrol and waited to fill air in the tyres. I saw a boy, nondescript, pumping air in the tyres of the vehicle ahead of me and when the man offered a coin he refused to accept it. After my turn I too proffered a few coins and the boy said, "Vendam, Akka." I was surprised and then I said Thanks pa. He looked at me and smiled. And my idle mind set thinking.

What could be the reason? The boy looked obviously poor. A few coins would have surely helped him either to assuage his hunger or to mitigate some basic need. Or his mother could have used it for their household expenses. Why then did he steadfastly refuse to accept the money in spite of my mild persuasion.

Maybe he had his reasons. Maybe he felt it was beneath his dignity to accept tips when he was being paid a salary by the petrol bunk owner. Or maybe he felt accepting a few coins just like that was akin to begging. Or maybe someone sometime had made him feel bad when he asked for money for pumping air. Still for someone like him, even a little amount mattered a lot. To say No to that was inexplicable. I imagined myself in his place and was sure that I would have been greedy for every penny that came my way.

And then today when I visited the Petrol bunk again, the mystery turned deeper. I saw the boy accepting money from a car driver. I wondered whether it was the same boy .... or his brother. Or may be that day was an aberration. Or some holy day when people take all strange vows. Or does he take money only from car owners and not us mere 2-wheeler owners. Whatever...... I remembered how my imagination had run riot the last time .....

Then mindlessly when I offered some money, he again said Vendam Akka. I was stunned. I asked him why and told him that even the last time he did not take money from me and that I saw him taking money from others. Again he smiled and said, Illa Akka, Vendam. Neenga Ponga. Even after much insistence he absolutely refused.

Shaking my head in disbelief, I started my vehicle and turned to see him smile at me. I wagged a finger at him and said, Next time ....... To which too he just smiled and shook his head. And again my imagination ran riot ....... Why would he refuse ....... Maybe ............

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Friday quote

Each one of us is alone in the world...... We seek pitifully to convey to others the treasures of our heart, but they have not the power to accept them, and so we go lonely, side by side but not together, unable to know our fellows and unknown by them. We are like people living in a country whose language they know so little that, with all manner of beautiful and profound things to say, they are condemned to the banalities of the conversation manual. Their brain is seething with ideas, and they can only tell you that the umbrella of the gardener's aunt is in the house.

- Somerset Maugham (Moon and Sixpence)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Quote

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
-George Bernard Shaw

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Quote

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."
T.H. White (The Once and Future King)


She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:

- Byron

An Atheist in a foxhole

Christopher Hitchens, the author of God is not great and the recent Hitch-22 has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. He has written eloquently about his 'battling with cancer' - http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/09/hitchens-201009.
"To the dumb question 'Why me?' the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?"

In an Interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Hitchens stated that: the only way there will be a deathbed conversion is if he's rendered irrational and babbling with pain, and concedes that the person who dies could very well be someone very different from the living Hitch. But while he's lucid, he's adamant: he doesn't believe in gods at all. (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Omar Khayyam

I had heard of Omar Khayyam and knew him only as a poet, as someone who wrote a lot about wine and women. I was intrigued by this verse years back.

Ah, Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire!
Would not we shatter it to bits-and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

Recently I rediscovered Omar and found him fascinating. He was a polymath - oh what a beautiful word. Wikipedia says : A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. Leonardo Da Vinci, Rabindranath Tagore and Benjamin Franklin come to mind, thinking of polymaths.

Omar Khayyam was a mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and poet.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Khayyám What an interesting life he would have led, dabbling in such diverse areas. Reading the literal meaning of his quatrains and the translations by Fitzgerald I was struck by how it occurred to the translator to interpret the verses in such manner. Of course, any literary work would shine through only if read in original. Bengali, Urdu, Spanish ........Forget it, to read Kurunthogai and Kamba Ramayanam is in itself an herculean task - you need the help of Tamil Agarathi to make sense of literary Tamil.

The Giving Pledge

Forty billionaires of the USA have signed The Giving Pledge (http://givingpledge.org/#enter) thereby resolving to give atleast half their wealth to charity. The initiative was taken by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. The familiar names in the list apart from the above were Ted Turner, George Lucas, Michael Bloomberg and David Rockefeller.

The work done by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in developing countries is phenomenal tackling health and education issues. In India, among other things, the foundation concentrates on preventing HIV infections and reducing infant mortality.

Fantastic amounts of money are being donated by these rich people and I hope others would follow suit including those in India.

Warren Buffet once said, "I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing." Wise words, indeed.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Message to Graduates

I do not remember who presided over my Graduation Ceremony nor what he or she spoke. Obviously the speech was not much to remember - nothing too inspirational. Not that a motivational speech would change the lives of all those who listen. But it is a tradition that as the students leave the portals of their college and move on to higher studies or to take up a job, a few tips from an experienced achiever would kind of illuminate their way. Maybe the charged up nature of the atmosphere would increase the impact of such a motivating speech.

Happened to listen to the Commencement Speech of Marissa Mayer, VP of Google, given at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2009. Though she claims to be a shy person towards the end of the speech, the advice she delivers is powerful and timeless. Being from Google, the search engine, the central point of her speech was 'Find.'

1. Find something that you are really passionate about.

2. Find the smartest people you can and surround yourself with them.

3. Find allies rather than adorers.

4. Find the courage to do things you are not ready to do.

5. Find places where you're comfortable with.

6. You can help others find things. Be an information fountain.

I hope our College going children would use the Internet to listen to such speeches, learn about inspiring people and acquire knowledge from the vast ocean of material available in the websites of Universities of MIT, Stanford etc.,. Our own IIT professors have recorded several lectures and posted them in Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8Dq8blTmSA.

I really wish youngsters would stop playing Farmville and Mafia wars in Facebook and use the World wide web for acquiring knowledge. Do I sound like an old hag?

Getting our priorities right

That seems to be the need of the hour.

We as a nation seem to excel in practicing mediocrity and take it to sublime levels. Being mediocre is good enough in most spheres of our lives.

Take the tamasha that is the Commonwealth Games. Why did we even have to offer to host it when so many of our countrymen still go without food? What relevance does "Commonwealth" have in the present global scenario? Do we really delude ourselves into thinking that our nation's pride will go a notch higher after we host the CWG? In whose eyes? And is it worth the Rs.11,000 crores that is said to have been spent?

Allegations of corruption and shoddy work are heard day after day. Will the structures put up stay stable after the Games are over? And I wonder whether our sportsmen and women will be allowed to use these facilities for their training. We have a wonderful Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai here and we use it for many purposes other than sports - including television dance shows like Maan Aada Mayil Aada. What is the point?

I can think of so many ways the money could have been utilised effectively and efficiently to benefit the people of India. The least that could have been done is to identify budding sportsmen and train them and help them participate in games held world wide. Not to speak about using all the mindboggling amount of money to alleviate hunger or educate the poor children in a better manner.

And I do not subscribe to the view that infrastructure improves when such International Games are held. Where? In Delhi? Why not hold them in Bihar and Chattisgarh?
We need to gather our act together if we truly want our nation to be promoted to the category of 'developed country' instead of continuing to wallow under the title 'developing country' which is what we have been for the past 60 years or so. Otherwise our skewed up development with high rise buildings at one side and unimaginable poverty on the other side would be nothing other than a ticking time bomb and it will not be long before it explodes in our face.