Monday, December 10, 2007

Ready, Steady, Go

It feels like his first breath. Finally his exams are over. He looks forward to the next day, when Liverpool have a do-or-die game against Marseille. Whether they win or not is irrelevant. What matters is that he will be able to watch it and lose himself in it. An exciting match would be very welcome. A Liverpool win would be even better. He plans to wear his jersey during the game.

On the way to the laundry room he meets the mother from a Malaysian Indian family and speaks to her. He really didn't want to, but she kept staring, trying to make eye-contact. In the end he said a few words and was puzzled to find that mother and son went by the same name. She was surprised to hear him speak in Tamil. And he was even more surprised that he still remembered how to speak it.

Maybe it is better not to know this strange feeling of not having anything urgent to do. If we cannot learn to drive ourselves it is better to be driven.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

(Nice Dream)

He is using the clippers for only the second time. But why? It has only been 3 weeks since he gave himself the buzz. It's true - it is looking a little spiky, but surely he can't afford the time to cut his hair now? He has so much homework to finish! With the first sweep he knows it is a mistake. Wrong adaptor.

Now he is rushing for the class he teaches. It's the last class. He himself shouldn't be late when he doesn't allow late students in. On top of that he has to finish class early to allow evaluations to be done. He can't even remember why he's running late. How does his hair look?

Now he's doing his sit-ups and push-ups and heading for class. He decides to skip breakfast and eat at chipotle today. He feels like he's been awake all night.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


In an attempt to re-instill his self-discipline, he installed a program that displays virtual post-its on his virtual desktop. On one of them, he lists two goals for the next day. Two simple, and certainly achievable goals. The first was to wake up at precisely 0745.

At five to, he is awake, and as is usually the case at this time, he hears a little devil in his ear,

"Aww, come on.. Sleep a little longer. It's a Sunday. You deserve to sleep in a little."

It seems as though he will capitulate. He closes his eyes for a moment, but it is only to prepare himself. He exhales sharply and pushes the covers off, sitting up at the same time. The devil cowers, startled by the alarm which has just gone off. The day begins, and one target is already attained.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


It seems as though he has lost all the mental discipline he once had. Unable to concentrate for more than 45 minutes at a stretch, he scurries back and forth from computer to dining table - where his books lie open. His mind wanders while he strains his brain to solve the problems at hand. Yet every stray thought is chased down, hunted and a mental note is made to Google it. Every idea unrelated to his job is welcomed. At the computer he plays song after song - delaying the return to his books.

His productivity is low. Yet a part of him tries to explain this as nothing abnormal. The problem-solving process involves creativity and luck, both of which are non-linear.

Upstairs the children are scampering, like children do. Gleeful giggles are interspersed with heavy pounding on his ceiling. If only they would be quiet, then he would be able to study in peace. Then he would surely be able to solve all the problems.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More Than Words

Last weekend was an unusually slow-paced one - no mad scramble to finish up homework and no tests to study for. On top of that there was the Homecoming holiday. How I wish the Wife had been here for that weekend instead of the one where I had three homeworks to do.

I took the opportunity to clear the mind somewhat by going to a cafe to chill out. There is nothing extraordinary about the cafe I visited - in fact it is not a place I would recommend for food as it only serves vegetarian stuff. What is attractive about it is that it is next to a second-hand bookstore, which means you are free to pick up a book and spend a couple of hours buried in it. Reading - possibly my second favourite form of escapism. I looked for Irvine Welsh's sequel to Trainspotting as it would have been perfect for a two-hour session - hilarious, entertaining and it wouldn't have left me hanging if I managed finish a whole chapter. I really do hate that "high and dry" feeling when it comes to books and movies. And beer, of course.

Unfortunately they didn't have it so I picked up a book published by the Mensa society. It was about the pronunciation and origin of words. The book is not authoritative by any means because all the author did was check 4 separate dictionaries to decide on the "correct" pronunciation of words. In any case I learned some interesting 'facts'. Here are a couple of them : Both the 'c's in Arctic should be pronounced. Don't ever forget that. You never know when you might need it. Second, when someone says a point is moot when they mean that it is not relevant, or when referring to an issue that has already been settled, tell them that they are wrong! A moot point is an issue that can and should be debated! Now I understand why they call it moot court in Law school. I wonder how many other words I've been misusing.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Original of the Species

Originality. What exactly is it? Consider Ben & Jerry, as an example. They have created several never-tasted-before flavours of ice-cream, which are all lip-smackingly yummy. But is this originality? All they have done is think of foods that had never been married with ice-cream before, and tested to see if they tasted nice. In that case originality would be formulaic, and that seems like an contradiction in itself.

When I read a review of a new movie or a television show, they are almost always described as "original" or "refreshing". What does this mean? Take House for example. Where is the originality in that? In the fact that the hero is not a nice guy? It cannot be, because we've seen that so many times before. Is it in the storylines? No, because the creators explicitly stated that they wanted to create a character like Sherlock Holmes. Is it the setting? Maybe, but that argument is still afloat only because I cannot remember another tv series about a diagnostician. But if the originality is concentrated merely on that pinpoint, it is silly because it again means there is a formula to it. There are so many new occupations/ job titles popping up these days that you could have so many "original" shows!

When the Lord of the Rings was published, it was feted for it's scale, grandeur, detail. Nothing like it had been read before. It even had new languages. Yet Tolkien himself said his intention was to create a mythology like the rest of Europe, and Scandinavia in particular had. From what I read, the languages he created had a basis - they reflected the races he created in the book. Now the readers who have reached this point of the post might argue that the beings he created - hobbits, orcs, etc, had never been heard of before. My riposte would be - how can you be so sure? Almost certainly they were sparked off from some thought or experience he had.

An idea that is born of itself. With no connection whatsoever to anything in our prior knowledge. A solution to a problem that is not merely an application of a solution to another problem in a seemingly unrelated domain. That is the version of originality that I would really respect. But is that even possible? On the other hand, how can you prove if you have had an original idea? How can you be so certain that it was not your subconscious processing some 'forgotten' information?

If you feel I am deriding B&J, House or LoTR, you are missing my point entirely. Those are three of my favourite things in life. My point is that ideas come from somewhere, and that somewhere is probably not thin air.