Friday, December 24, 2004

The Gift of The Magi

"The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi. "

The above extract is from this story by Mr. William Sidney Porter (Popularly known as O.Henry with O standing for nothing) which I read many winters back and the following sentence still sticks in my mind for some strange reason (because I havent fathomed it.)

"Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on. "

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Leave Letters In Indian English

A few months back I had a post on Indian English. This post is an addendum to that in the sense that it just extends the theory out there with respect to formal letter writing in India.

  • A candidate's application: " This has reference to your advertisement calling for a 'typist and an accountant- Male or Female'... As I am both for the past several years and I can handle both, I am applying for the post."
  • An employee applied for leave as follows: "Since I have to goto my village to sell my land along with my wife. Please sanction me one week leave"
  • Another employee applied for half day leave as follows:"Since I've to go to the cremation ground and I may not return,please grant me half day casual leave"
  • To the headmaster: "As I am studying in this school I am suffering from headache. I request you to leave me today"
  • "I am suffering from fever, please declare holiday to the school"
  • "As my headache is paining, please grant me leave for the day"
  • A cover note:- "I am enclosed herewith..."
  • Another leave letter written to Administration dept: "As mymother-in-law has expired and I am responsible for it, please grant me 10 days leave."
  • Actual letter written for application of leave: "My wife is suffering from sickness and as I am her only husband at home I may be granted leave"
  • Letter writing: - "I am in well here and hope you are also in the same well."

I would also recommend the forewarned reader to peruse a Must Read blogpost by Priyanka.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Solution

The Solution, so it seems, is Contentment. Being Content with what you have instead of wondering if you deserve better. Well.It will take a lot of time to figure out what the problem is.

In the past few weeks I have been trying to discern a pattern in all those around working around me.The problem was it seemed that everbody seems happy around while I was not.The final delta (read difference) between me and them was that these guys carried a sense of permenance and a sense of status quo.For me I always had this nomadic sense of wandering constantly bothering me and the tendency to rock the boat was not helping me cause either. People seemed to settle down in their molds pretty comfortably with some assurance that things are going to be the safe and stable if they stick to their guns.

This epiphany struck me when I was reading an email today. The exact words were that I have written sometime back in my treatment of Class 4 types which were boomeranged on me "you know this feeling won't last". That exactly seems to be the one causing the issues I have had lately. People need something to cling on , something to be true in the ever changing world, something comforting, something to lean on, something dependable like a rock and so on..Hmm. This episode reminded me of the story in "A Bug's Life" where the protagonist is Flik , a misfit ant whose sole desire in life is "to make a difference". In the climax when he loses steam and about to give up the two bird characters whom he inspired, come back with his own lines to rejuvenate him.I feel that kind of a sudden sense of liberty. YoooHooo.. I am back( In the Voice of Schwarznegger). A typical repartee to that from my co-worker is that "Okay, I will be Beethoven" ..Go figure

Coming to other things, I love Christmas lucheons and dinners. Free as in Beer and Food. I checked out some nice food and had fish like Mahi Mahi, Tilapia and even an exotic dish that served an oxtail marinated in walnut sauces. I did throw one at a new resutaurant serving Cocina Mexicana.Awesome.The restaurant was called "Oyamel", named for a tree in Mexico where Monarch butterflies land amidst their lengthy migration. They had a nice suspension of plastic butterflies in the middle of hall creating that illusion.Everything is like an appetizer out there.Enjoyed it so much that I went for lunch out there today..Of course there is only so much to be said for Taste and Appetite.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A Nice Cup of Tea

George Orwell in 1946 wrote this article bringing his charcterstic style on the art of brewing a proper cup of tea.

  • First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays—it is economical, and one can drink it without milk—but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.
  • Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities—that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.
  • Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
  • Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes—a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
  • Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.
  • Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.
  • Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
  • Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup—that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold—before one has well started on it.
  • Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
  • Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
  • Lastly, tea—unless one is drinking it in the Russian style—should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

My own addition to this list is having a English Marie Biscuit would occasionally heighten the effect of the consumption (particularly when watching sunsets!). I just did that yesterday after ordering a fine Darjeeling Tea from Harney and Sons .

ps : I apply the last rule of Orwell's to Coffee rather than "Tea" thus earning me the title of a "Coffee Purist" at my workplace.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Up Close & Personal

Inebriated, I ask myself these questions (lagers have a different effect than pilsners) :

Is there an intimacy possible that is bottomless where no matter how closer you get there is still a distance that could be covered by coming much close(much like the asymptotes of a hyperbola) ?

Could there be someone who will be your army, your war and your favorite enemy all at the same time?

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Smooth Between Sea and Land

Smooth between sea and land
Is laid the yellow sand,
And here through summer days
The seed of Adam plays.

Here the child comes to found
His unremaining mound,
And the grown lad to score
Two names upon the shore.

Here, on the level sand,
Between the sea and land,
What shall I build or write
Against the fall of night?

Tell me of runes to grave
That hold the bursting wave,
Or bastions to design
For longer date than mine.

Shall it be Troy or Rome
I fence against the foam
Or my own name, to stay
When I depart for aye?

Nothing: too near at hand
Planing the figured sand,
Effacing clean and fast
Cities not built to last
And charms devised in vain,
Pours the confounding main.

by A. E. Housman

Simple yet the "ambition" sneaks through in every line..
Math seems to be the only way for immortality!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Spirituality, Bonding and Fishing

I finished watching this Rober Redford movie "A River Runs Through It" yesterday. This is the screen adaptation of the Novel by Norman MaClean. It's set in Montana and the fly fishing shots were exceptional.Its a story of quite a dysfunctional family but most appealing part was the bond that existed between Norman's (Craig Sheffer) and Paul (Brad Pitt) . It focuses on efforts of the elder brother trying to understand his younger brother and his attempts to get the young one off certain tendencies.If you like Brad Pitt, I can tell you that this is one amazingly powerful role that he pulled off.I am not a great fan of his but this one certainly will be on the top of his movies.

Watching this kind of movie in Solitude does compel you to relate some of the quotes used by the narrator.For example Norman's Fiance quotes the following about her brother :
"Why is it the people who need the most help... won't take it?"..Just in case that whets your appetite you can read more click here.

I was wondering about how good do I understand my own folks. In the last few years I have not quite been out in touch as much as I would like.Its almost a fashion to say that you dont have time.If a person is really intent on something I am positive that he'll do something about it instead of taking the easy way out of saying "I dont have time." Genuinely sometimes its not possible but more often than not its used as an excuse.

It was my sister's birthday today, so I called her up when she was out dining with my BIL.I used to call The Pearl Harbor an international disaster and my sisters' birth a national one.Gosh! I dont even know what to talk to her after the usual inanities like "Happy Birthday", "Howz your kid doing?", etc., Same with my BIL enquiring about his well-being. Its like I dont even know what her dreams are these days.Gone are the days when we were kids absolutely detesting each other's presence, and spent most of the time fighting (Oh those pillow fights!), verbally abusing each other(of course I taught her some four letter words to use against some of her classmates) and trying to hide each other things just to irritate. Of course if confronted with an external party then we would join forces to combat them but internally we used to be so interesting because we both were very different.

The same with my brother. He was a far tougher guy than me in school/street fighting.His head thinks much more on the practical lines than mine I remember him drawing some strength from some external force as if nothing in this world could shake him. His apparent coolness-of-a-british-officer-in-a-war look made me look neurotic Its been more than 6 months, since I talked to him (thanks to email!). He used to call me "MunnaBhai" and "Topi" and some other crackerjack name he had coined.I dont know much about him anymore apart from the fact that he wanna be in the management chain rather than start as a Techie. Thats not much.

I am not really sad that this are this way but just reminiscing how things came about to be this way As I grow older I would accept that this is just the normal way of life and the chasm grows along with age but I think its worth my time wondering occasionally what the rest of the family is upto, listen to them, their stories, their dreams (if any) and wonder what its like to be living in the other person's shoes.Refreshing..

The movies ends with these lines:
"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters"

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Poet Completed

Visu tied the knot today. Pop sent me a text message assuring me that the ceremony was a grand success. I thanked Pop for attending it on my behalf and hosted a lunch for my ex-roomie's family.Quite a luncheon to celebrate his getting hitched.

I dont know how many clicked their way to this blog I have titled Poetic Incompleteness. Its author is my roomie and friend. He also maintains his pcitures at this blog called Cubic Shadow.
Since he doesnt accept comments on his sites, Please feel free(or cheap) to drop any wishes/communication as comments on this post, which you can be sure will reach him.

The reason I am publicising above is because I am pretty positive that he would be thinking "If I had a woman like this, my blogs wouldnt not have been so wistful". His wife is going to be the only star in the universe ,he has just created. I hope she will be the end of of his wandering( He was never lost just wandering). From now, if there is a tad bit sadness in his blog it will be because of the prospect of losing her and not otherwise.

I still say to myself when I am down or when being forced to listen to some pompous half-witted person "Well, I have done something that you could have never done, and that is to have colloborated with Visu on something like equal terms".

Visu, I can safely say that "It is an honor to be perceived as your equal".

Here's to You!! Cheers!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Musings on Love

I was listening to my usual radio station and this song called "Accidentally In Love" by Counting Crows struck my fancy.It goes
So she said what's the problem baby
What's the problem I don't know
Well maybe I'm in love (love)
Think about it every time
I think about it
Can't stop thinking 'bout it
How much longer will it take to cure this
Just to cure it cause I can't ignore it if it's love (love)
Makes me wanna turn around and face me but I don't know nothing 'bout love
Come on, come on
Turn a little faster
Come on, come on
The world will follow after
Come on, come on
Cause everybody's after love ...........(X)
So I said I'm a snowball running
Running down into the spring that's coming all this love
Melting under blue skies
Belting out sunlight
Shimmering love
Well baby I surrender
To the strawberry ice cream
Never ever end of all this love
Well I didn't mean to do it
But there's no escaping your love
These lines of lightning
Mean we're never alone,
Never alone, no, no
Come on, Come on
Move a little closer
Come on, Come on
I want to hear you whisper
Come on, Come on
Settle down inside my love
Come on, come on
Jump a little higher
Come on, come on
If you feel a little lighter
Come on, come on
We were once
Upon a time in love
We're accidentally in love
Accidentally in love (x7)
I'm In Love, I'm in Love,
Accidentally (X 2)
Come on, come on
Spin a little tighter
Come on, come on
And the world's a little brighter
Come on, come on
Just get yourself inside her
Love ...I'm in love

Musing #1 : Why is that there is no other synonym that expresses something greater than "love" itself because by definition it presumes a lot of things and each experience has something distinctly different about it...Probably some one has already tried coining something new but it never stuck.

Musing #2 : Define "Love" just in case it means something different? The best I could come up with is "It is something that you cannot shut up about and something that you can speak of" but that would fit into Orwellian definition of "doublethink": "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind and accepting both of them. I will do better next time..

Friday, December 03, 2004

On The Universe of Faith and Reason

Asking anyone about the origin of the universe drops you some interesting clues about their inclinations regarding "faith" or "reasoning".The devout follower would bring in God or some equally powerful force into the equation whereas some rationalists are very comfortable with the idea that "nothing" was existing before the creation and that a random fluke event got us here.You might also find a certain species of people emphasizing the tempering of faith with reason by sayin that they accept something rather than nothing because its simpler and easier to live with .The reason for the lack of consensus is the same reason as Why everybody doesnt drive a Hyundai?

In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. - Carl Sagan

The above quote is the ultimate expression of rationality methinks.I am coward posing as a coward so let me quote George Mikes on the same subject as to why it isnt so rational

"Rationalists, like Euclidean geometers, based their case on a few "self-evident truths." But Einstein convinced the world that there was no such thing as a self-evident truth. A few things were self-evident all right; but they were not true. The shortest way between two points is not the straight line; Time and Length are not absolute notions. This seemed to be the death-knell of Rationalist philosophy. If there is no self-evident truth, there is no Rationalism. But Rationalism refused to lie down and die. Luckily, Rationalism was not quite as rational as all that." --George Mikes, How To Be A Guru

Consider this historical example involving some of the finest minds. Most people have heard about the famous confusion and controversy of the discovery of Calculus between Newton and Leibniz. In his novel Candide Voltaire actually was caricaturing none other than Leibniz. Voltaire was Leibniz's opponent, and a Newton supporter. Voltaire was against one and in favor of the other, not based on an understanding of their work, but simply because Leibniz constantly mentions God, whereas Newton's work seems to fit in perfectly with an atheist, mechanistic world view. This was leading up to the French revolution, which was against the Church just as much as it was against the Monarchy. This is a prime example of preferring to believe on something very arbitrarily.

If Voltaire atcually had read Newton's private papers, he would have realised that Newton computed the age of the world based on the Bible. Whereas Leibniz was never seen in a church, and his notion of God was sophisticated and subtle. Leibniz's God was a logical necessity to provide the initial complexity to create the world and was using more or less as a placeholder.What a Bummer for him!

All this seems to lend a strong weight to Arthur Koestler's opening lines in The God That Failed (For the Record ' The God ' in the title is a reference to Communist Party)

"A faith is not acquired by reasoning. One does not fall in love with a woman, or enter the womb of a church, as a result of logical persuasion. Reason may defend an act of faith—but only after the act has been committed, and the man committed to the act."

Do you find a lot of times we do some things for no reason that saves us in the end and sometime the best laid plans(all logical and well reasoned) go awry.

All I can say is that once again I will take refuge in George Mike
"Confusion and contradiction have always served humanity better than clear, cold logic."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Home Alone

I am Home Alone and I am loving it. Its quite a nice break to be left to yourself.First off my productivity at work increased.Quite a good thing to do occasionally.(The inertia lies in starting the damn editor/browser/shell and boom!).I finally yanked out some time for catching up with my final exam and have some nice idea for the class project due on the 15th.

That being said when I usually come home, my roomie and me try spending the time at the driving range,tennis court, pool table or TT depending on the season of the year. Now That's something I miss because its kind of convoluted process to find another sports enthusiast. The time usually spent in chatting up is now used for reading books like Guns,Germs and Steel. There is a great pleasure in cooking while listening to the radio with no interruption.You can surprise your co-workers by sending some additional stuff at Midnight making you seem work hard(while the reality is that you are hardly working!).

Then its time to catch up on your long awaited list of movies.Yesterday I watched Hero (Chinese Movie). It has some Zen-like philosophy and some excellent screenplay.Presented by none other than Quentin Tarantino.Today I watched The Legend Of Suriyothai(Thai Movie) presented by Francis Ford Coppola.There's something to be said for watching a movie in a language you dont understand. Occasionally I tried to turn the subtitles off just to see how much meaning could be grasped in the native version.In fact the Thai movie can easily be related by any avid Indian movie buff.

Its just been two days, so let me see how this goes for a fortnight. In a fortnight lets see what all could be accomplished :
(a) Finsh the semester with flying colors
(b) Be the "Golden Boy"
(c) I will move into a new office space with modular furniture and no one to snoop around.
(d) My roomie will be married and hence will move into a new apartment
(e) Take some time in Solitude to hear myself again and think where I wanna go to next year

Sheesh! Thats quite a list to prove in a matter of fortnight but what life is worth living without atleast one unreachable target...