Saturday, December 31, 2005


Deadline slips by, silence
Boss realizes -
Ten screeching crows.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Effect on MEI of the IISc incident

By now everyone would know of the incident at the IISc. For those who have just arrived from the Andromeda galaxy, go here for an insiders account.

This post is to chronicle the effect that this incident has had on My Esteemed Institution(MEI) mainly for my readers most of whom I gather are away from MEI but still retain an interest in it.

The first effect was immediate. The gates of the institute were shut immediately and for further protection a small wooden stick was driven through the bolts. Quite innovative!

Next the security guards were actually trying to guard the place, not just playing cards or discussing their children's progress in school or solving the daily crossword in Saamna.

The real pain started the next day. When entering the institute something unusual happened. The guard asked for my I-card - which is a good thing, no doubt. The bad thing quickly followed. My I-card had expired in June.

What followed was a tirade about why I should renew my I-card and how important it is. I made an excuse that I had a lecture to attend and made a quick exit, promising that I will get it renewed soon.

The icing on the cake was yet to come. The lecture was by a Great Scientist from Abroad (GSAB) who incidently had done his Ph.D from IISc! The conversation which I report well and truly happened.

My boss: It is sad what happened in IISc.

Head of Department
: Well, IISc security is almost non-existent.

: That was the beauty of it. We could come and go when we wanted. I have seen all sorts of things happening on the campus.

*Slightly embarrassed silence*

My boss: Now the security will increase.

GSAB: Yes now no more walking around holding hands with your girl-friend!

*Totally embarrassed silence*

Did someone say something about scientists not being good at social conversation?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Melancholiness is a state of the mind

I am unhappy.

My boss just told me to make a poster in two days flat. I am to integrate two things that are as different as chalk and cheese into one poster and in only nine slides!

Back to the point. I am sad. So what right do you guys have to be happy?

Therefore here is a poem gauranteed to make you sad too.

My Father's Love Letters

On Fridays he'd open a can of Jax
After coming home from the mill,
& ask me to write a letter to my mother
Who sent postcards of desert flowers
Taller than men. He would beg,
Promising to never beat her
Again. Somehow I was happy
She had gone, & sometimes wanted
To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou
Williams' "Polka Dots & Moonbeams"
Never made the swelling go down.
His carpenter's apron always bulged
With old nails, a claw hammer
Looped at his side & extension cords
Coiled around his feet.
Words rolled from under the pressure
Of my ballpoint: Love,
Baby, Honey, Please.
We sat in the quiet brutality
Of voltage meters & pipe threaders,
Lost between sentences . . .
The gleam of a five-pound wedge
On the concrete floor
Pulled a sunset
Through the doorway of his toolshed.
I wondered if she laughed
& held them over a gas burner.
My father could only sign
His name, but he'd look at blueprints
& say how many bricks
Formed each wall. This man,
Who stole roses & hyacinth
For his yard, would stand there
With eyes closed & fists balled,
Laboring over a simple word, almost
Redeemed by what he tried to say.

-- Yusef Komunyakaa

There, I feel much better now.

For insightful comments, hidden meanings and other melancholy stuff go here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sangeeta Singh, Ph. D.

The first South Asian character on Ph.D. comics - Sangeeta Singh.

It is strange how the choice of name for a peripheral character from a particular community reflects the perception of the community by outsiders.

There were a few smatterings of South Asian characters in Jeffery Archer and Arthury Hailey novels - very typecast, very typical. Either they were the counter clerks or loyal employees.

They were usually called by some very general name like Mr. Singh or something terribly wrong like Dr. Rao Shastri. (Strong Medicine). For God's sake, both Rao and Shastri are surnames. You would never find a real person named like that. Another was the cashier in the Simpsons but I dont recollect his name. I dont know whether he has one in the first place.

Asok (the IIT graduate from the comic strip 'Dilbert') was the first character whose name was apt somehow. I love his dialogue -"At the IIT, we are trained to sleep only on national holidays". He was shown to be super-intelligent, super-deductive. Type-casting? I say, yes!

J.K. Rowling was better with Parvati Patil but there was the still-unbelievable Padma Patil. Here they are thankfully just students not menials or super-smart geniuses. (Though no fault of hers, IMHO these things were negated when the characters were made to wear those terrible ghagra-cholis at the Yule ball in the movie)

Sangeeta Singh from Ph. D. comics seems just right. Though the cynic in me wishes that George Cham could have used a more unique(?) surname.

Too bad that she is just from the past of Professor Smith.(She was a fellow student that Prof Smith supposedly had a crush on during his grad school days). That means she won't be a recurring character!

See the comic here and here!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Geekiness gone too far?

Presenting.....the ultimate geek accessory.

A blank keyboard! That's right. The keys are there but they are blank. Nothing insribed on the keys at all. As blank as a black hole.

In case you are flummoxed, their website explains why it is a geek must-have.

If there are no keys to look at when you are typing, you will look down less and therefore will be able to type more rapidly. Soon you will be so fast that you will be the envy of your colleagues and then no other keyboard will do.

They had to coin a new word just to describe the kind of people that would use it - uber-geeks.

See it here!

But my point is that instead of spending such a lot of money why don't I just cover the letters of my keyboard with plastic tape?

In case any of you come across someone who actually buys it let me know....

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ghosts and presences

The world of research with its late nights and long waiting periods in between(read incubation times) is uniquely suited to the generation of stories about the supernatural. Quite contrary to our purported scientific and logical ability. These stories reflect the imagination of the students and are directly related to the level of loneliness while working.

During my Masters in the M.S. University of Baroda, where the buildings are old and far apart there were quite a few stories. The site on the third floor near the stairs was said to have a 'presence' which was attributed to a labourer that fell during the building construction. This is a picture of the place taken from here.

But regarding the subject of ghosts, our adjacent department at Baroda was more fertile.

Their old building and the new building was seperated by a walk-way that was on the first floor. To go to the ground floor of the new building you would have to enter the old building, go the first floor, then the walkway and then walk down to the ground floor of the new bulding. Heaven only knows why they had this clumsy arangement. But this ensured that the ground floor of the new building was totally 'cut-off', thus becoming a breeding ground for ghosts!

Students working at night had claimed seeing a yellow dupatta that fluttered across the walkway. Then there was the distillation unit on the ground floor that started on its own one night. Interesting times indeed! A good ghost story needs a solid reason. Some said that the whole department was cursed. Some said that this curse extended to the faculty becuase none of them save two had children! Why this curse? No good reason.

Comparitively MEI was a desert - no stories at all. Maybe it was because of the security that sits at the main entrance throughout the night or maybe the students here are really scientific and don't bother about illogical things.

Our Sister Instituion Down South (SIDS) was much better in this regard. There the labs are placed far from each other and some labs also have a terrace seperating them form each other. Some labs are empty. Perfect for the generation of stories!

There are rumours of an entire section of the building being haunted, with people seeing things over their shoulders when sitting at a tissue culture hood. People encoutering things when taking the long walk to the hostel from the institute. The reasons for this vary from a 'pregnant labourer falling to her death' (ho hum...heard this before) to 'the institute was built over a graveyard' (priceless!).

Recently closer home (MEI) a talk with a driver gave some interesting anecdotes. Opposite the canteen we have several sofas which serve as a place for general meetings, discussions and such-like. Earlier drivers used to sleep there at night. But one day a driver slept there and was woken up by some old lady. What happened to the driver? Legend is silent on that matter.

I have never seen or felt anything supernatural yet. However I am thoroughly convinced that I might soon.

My boss currently occupies the lab that was once used by the founder of our department - a very, very revered person. He has now shifted to Banglore and is very old. I am utterly convinced that when he dies, he would want to visit the place from where it all started. Maybe I will see a subjective ghost.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Movies Part Deux

This being December is 'Oscar Season' for the movies. Therefore I have had to come up with a list of 'movies to see' very soon compared to the first.

These movies won't be here for a few months at least. Therefore I vent my frustrations by blogging about them.

1) Syriana: This is about oil poilitics. I love a good conspiracy theory and if there are huge barrels of oil at stake even better. I am looking forward to see how Arab Sheikhs are portrayed in the movie.

2) Aeon Flux : This movie is not exactly critically acclaimed but I am a sucker for science fiction. Add to that, the publicity blurb goes "400 years in the future, as a disease has wiped out most of the Earth's population, those who have survived live in Bregna, a walled city-state ruled by scientists". Now how can I miss that?

Movie that I will definitely not see even if someone pays for the ticket, the cab fare and the dinner afterwards.

1) King Kong: No, no no I dont understand what can be so appealing about a huge gorilla falling in love with a small tiny female. Big gorrillas are impossible. They have not existed in the past and will not in the future either. To top it all this movie has a rating of 8.3 at IMDB and is currently ruling the U.S. box-office. Life is unfair.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ten Things

Ten things that are not supposed to happen but always do by some arbit extension of Murphy's law.

1) It is when you are not wearing your specs that a cockroach will dart across your room. What follows is a hunt for the specs followed by hunt for cockroach.

2) It is the most important experiment for the paper that will require the most troubleshooting.

3) You will spend three hours trying to fix the microscope computer so that it will give you beautiful images but it is when you are 5 minutes into playing Mah-jong solitaire that your boss will walk in and ask "So what are you upto?"

4)It is the night, when you have to give a presentation at 9 a.m. the next day and therefore need a good nights sleep, that your next door neighbour will choose to play tymphanic membrane splitting rock music at the highest volume possible.

7) When your boss has a discussion with you he will invariably ask you about the experiment which you have not done.

8) By corollary, he will not ask you about the experiments which you have done and which have worked.

9) It is the reference ,that you need the most, that will be in a journal which the institute library does not subscribe to.

7) You may attend all (ummm...well....MOST) of the talks in the department but it is the talk that you do not attend which will be attended by the Head of the Department and you absence will be noted.

8)It is the one talk that you will not attend in which the molecule that you work on will be mentioned and hotly discssed. To add insult to injury, there will be public annoucements of "Where is samudrika?Where is samudrika?"

9) It is when you are dressed like something the cat dragged in that your boss will insist that you show your data and discuss things with the Great Scientist from Abroad(GSAB) whose talk you have not attended by the way. (see 7 and 8 above)

10) It is when you have composed your most creative, most witty post (which you think will receive the most comments) that it will be gobbled up by Blogger and sent to the Great Recycle Bin in the Sky.

More details on the GSAB later.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Poem and A Vision

The Gardener (LXXXV)

Who are you, reader, reading my poems an hundred years hence?
I cannot send you one single flower from this wealth of the spring,
one single streak of gold from yonder clouds.
Open your doors and look abroad.
From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the vanished
flowers of an hundred years before.
In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one
spring morning, sending its glad voice across a hundred years.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

Poetry is like the distillation of emotion. A good poem can transport you to the place that the poet is writing about and a good poem can also make you have 'visions'.

Permit me to a little flight of fantasy along the same lines.

These words that I write in my blog they will forever stay here in cyberspace long after I go away. Some lost soul will come here, read my works and be inspired. He will accept my words as his religion. Thereafter, his life will change. My words and works he will carry to others and convert them to my disciples. He will be my prophet and I WILL BE GOD.