Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Of Complacency!

 As I approach the end of another journey in my life, there are so many questions that irk me and many others day and night. I believe, the fundamental question is that 'How did I get here?', or 'What am I doing wrong?'. Often we might tell ourselves that 'we didn't avail a better opportunity' or 'we didn't work hard enough'. From my perspective, I suppose it's wrong to quantify what we might make of an opportunity as long as we are taking that leap of faith. I think, the true fault is that we grow complacent of our past accomplishments. 

 I believe that it's temporary success that often deludes us, and we stop stretching. I think it's the complacency of assuming to be a big fish in a pond, that we stop competing the sharks and whales in the sea. The arrogance that comes with it prohibits us from listening to criticism. We assume that the world outside our institutions will graciously welcome us. Worse, we settle for lesser options subconsciously because we experience a fear of moving out of the pond and dealing with rejections.

 However, one day you wake up and observe that where that contentment has landed you and  you find yourself and everything that you truly loved in a wreck. Your friends don't recognize you as what you thought you were. You wear a mask, and start believing a lie that everything is alright even when it never was. Inch by inch and all through this time you were losing everything that you were once proud of. And in this humility and shattered arrogance you realize how much you need to build on each of these inches again no matter how hard you thought it was.   

- Article from a close friend of mine!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Serendipity, Stupidity and Start-up

 It's been almost six months, since I have resolved my life and given it a new turn. I believe now; that I should perhaps catch on to the things in which I am naturally good at, and be done with the reckless experiments that I had been conducting with my life. So here I am implementing statistics in communication systems and practicing guitar regularly for almost three months. But, somehow wacky ideas just keep coming to me; so I decided I would blog about it this time, rather than raise an in-marketable start up upon it again.

 I have been sitting in IIT Delhi's library for seven hours daily now; and it's here that I often have conversations on life, music and the balance required in it, with one of my friends. So these conversations lead to inception of two rather serendipitous and stupid start-up ideas for apps in my mind.

Rating songs, without user feedback: Every song and every genre follows a pattern. For example, a typical alternative rock song would begin with a really low intensity verse, followed by a chorus which is usually of relatively high energy, it usually falls back to the second verse having the same intensity or a medium intensity with a few variations in the rhythm (which is usually increase in notes per beat, or increase in frequency of the notes on the lead guitar). The song appeals to us if the difference in these intensities are significant enough to push us into a mood. There must be a constant rise and fall in the intensities for the song to be laudable by a significant percentage of listeners. A statistical model can be developed on these songs, to identify verse, chorus, bridge and leads. Furthermore a Markovian modeling (predicts what should a following event/mood be, based on the past information/moods) can be used to predict what should be the suitable time for the rise and fall of the intensities (A verse of fifty seconds followed by a chorus of ten seconds can be rather dull to the ears). Realization of this idea can be pretty useful for upcoming artists; who are looking forward to attract an audience for their songs. 

Forecasts: Even though this idea is not to be believed in (or at least shouldn't be believed in); it may push astrology out of business. Our life is also a function of rise and falls; our emotional states, if we are happy today; we know sadness will follow soon. The faster we climb the ladder to feel triumphant, we crash down that ladder equally fast. For those who believe in 'Karma'; bad things happen to people who do bad deeds to others, and people are rewarded fairly if they work towards redemption. I believe that mostly; we are not able to predict what may follow next in our life; because we can't recapitulate what deeds we did in our past.  The idea is strangely heretic, however if a person fills up a questionnaire with basic yes/no questions on his life, daily (for eg. 'did you hurt someone today?'; kind of a psychology questionnaire); there is a discrete data on his life's past which can be recorded. Based on this past data; and a few other external factors a statistical model can probabilistic-ally predict what mood of events should follow next. This application is as ridiculous as astrology, however it's more logical. And a person who wastes his ten minutes daily reading an astrological forecast, can definitely waste two minutes in filling five yes/no questions.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Memories of Home

At the age of 23 there are very few who would be attached to more than one cities as their home. As it is; we enjoy running around in pursuit of our ambitions. However some exceptions like me feel a plunge in nostalgia, whenever they have to move in and move out of cities which they could call home. 

Hyderabad: Even though I have been brought up in Delhi; I would never cease from calling Hyderabad my home. As a kid I was an introvert, an social outcast among peers; and never got the freedom to roam around freely in the city. As a young undergraduate in Hyderabad, even though my campus was miles away from the city; I discovered a life of freedom, friends, carelessness, love and passion. I happened to run to the city every weekend; especially during my last semesters. Inorbit mall and Hi-tech City has memories of me socializing with friends and acquaintances from other college campuses; which otherwise would be quite confined to online social networks which comprise of a major part of a lonely engineer's social life. La-Makaan, Banjara Hills is where I found connections with like minded people; who have taken up full time into photography, music and film-making. My campus; it taught me how to survive, adjust, rejoice and cry in regular life. My baby; Elan (College Fest) still gives me a tint of nostalgia whenever I think of it. And even though I am really really bad on holding on to my past contacts (thanks to my indifferent nature); the thought of my younger brothers in the campus still brings a smile to my face. I still imagine and smile to myself when I ponder upon, how amazing they must have become in practicing guitar, organizing concert, and taking a leap of faith towards entrepreneurship. It's a city where I grew young, which changed me from an ignorant hi school boy to a bit more matured man. 

Mumbai: Always been an escapade. When I get too tired of Delhi, or Hyderabad, I used to run away to Mumbai. The homely touch comes from staying connected with a lot of people; and still finding idle time to reflect back upon my en-devours and what I have been up to. Mood-Indigo, IIT Bombay; always gave me a feel of the culture I wanted to be a part of. Colaba is the place I dream of dining and hanging out if I actually become rich. Wadala for obvious reasons is indeed my second home. Andheri is definitely where I would want to be if I ever become a film-maker, or set up my own production house. Quite surprisingly; while most people crib about the locals there; I somehow love them! Can't imagine going from Dadar to Andheri or CST to Kanjurbhag in half n hour by road. Somehow the times spent in Mumbai ever since I grew young; have been an important turning point in my life. What can I say? perhaps it's in the breeze there.

Delhi: I never really loved Delhi in my initial years from 5 to 17; for I didn't really know what Delhi is. The School, my home and later my coaching was my life. Yes; I do have memories with friends and family in the times I have spent here, but I never regarded Delhi as a place to feel nostalgic about until quite recently when I came back after graduation in May 2012. Loving Delhi; for me is perhaps hanging out in Hauz Khas Village talking and befriending new people; whom you might have never thought that they would become such important part of your life. It's about the events that take place in India Habitat Centre and Mandi house. It's about the food in Chandni Chawk and beer in Canought place. It's perhaps loitering around in Select City Walk or Promenade. It's a place where I decide to do a few things but there are way more distractions. I never felt empty in stomach at the thought of leaving Delhi until recently.

But what's important is important. I don't know where I will be, a few days; or a few months from now. But I certainly hope it's one of my homes!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Into the Buddhist Vale: Mc. Leod Ganj

There is no doubt that most of the hill stations in India; especially the ones in Himachal Pradesh bear heavy influence of the Tibiten Culture, and Buddhism. However I believe it’s fair to call Mc. Leod Ganj the best place to experience a different culture far away from what we have experienced or heard of general India (After all it’s also the capital of Buddhist under exile and home to the Dalai Lama). People know it for its Monestry and a good summer get away; however there is more and perhaps the best place to run to if frustrated of the routined city life. Movies and novels often show people running away to Tibet, or Nepal in search of inner peace. A cheaper option for cheap Indians is Mc.Leod Ganj also known as upper Dharmashala.

My visit was rather an un-predictable one; where I was expecting Mc. Leod Ganj to be like any other hill-station; though it was after having the lamb Thukpa and Tingmos (rolled breads) that I realized there is a lot more to the place. The place is inhabited mostly by Tibetans and western folks; who come down here to learn the ways of Buddhism, or understand their philosophy. Often you see them interviewing a Buddhist monk in a Cafe. ‘Free Tibet’ flags and ‘rescuing the next Dalai Lama from Chinese custody’ posters are a common sight on the streets. Perhaps one of the most spiritual experiences that I have had is that of the Monastery where devotees have their way of kneeling down, and pushing themselves forward at the altars (Just like any other Buddhist Monastery). However, something that you probably don’t observe at other monasteries in India is Monks having their debates on Buddha’s principles. I found it amusing for some reason; two monks challenging each other with intimidating gestures surrounded by a circle of onlookers. 

There are several treks one can take up from Mc. Leod Ganj; the most famous perhaps being that of the Triund peak, which offers the scenic beauty of Himachal Pradesh on one side of the range and Ice caped rock mountains on the other. Camping there is indeed an awesome experience, by a bonfire and overlooking the lights of various hill-stations in Himachal Pradesh. The trek; however does go on into the mountains to the Indrahar Pass. However due to time constraints one might leave behind the expedition, and wish that some other day he could fulfil his fantasy of taking the expedition and crossing over to Tibet on the other side.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Through the ruins and wilderness: Mehrauli Archaeological Park

It’s had been two years; since I had planned a proper heritage walk for myself. The Mehrauli and Qutub area, was on my list last when I had this idea of filming a documentary. Hence I decided resume my journey from where I left; at the ramparts of Lal Kot (The first city of Delhi) south-east to Qutub Minar Complex. I really thought they go on further; and tried following the walls into the wilderness when finally I stopped after passing through a lot of spider webs and thorns and bushes. Later I realized that the full extent of the ramparts didn’t lie where I was looking; but to the north into a forested area known as the Sanjay Van.
Metcalf's Boathouse
I didn’t realize it until then that there is a back entrance from Qutub Side to Mehrauli archaeological park as well (Most people know it as the Jamali Kamali; though Jamali Kamali is just a small part of the region). So I thought maybe I’ll explore the region which is known for encompassing the entire medieval history of Delhi. So from the Qutub side one comes across the Quli Khan tomb; and found it rather bizarre that the tomb was used as a weekend suite by a British official ‘Metcalf’. Some rumours hold that he desecrated the sarcophagus and placed his dining table or billiards table (Pretty upsetting for the soul of the Mughal Noble, who served Emperor Akbar). Further east as one goes downhill we witness yet another medieval building which was converted to a boat house by Metcalf. One would now think twice before boating in the swamp amidst the overgrown wilderness; it now plays host to spiders, insects, dogs and birds (However once the rains are done; I am sure the depression would be left pretty dry). Perhaps the best thing he did was covert a major chunk of the area to a garden, with canopies where one could lay back and enjoy the view.
pavilion tomb of Jamali Kamali
Jamali (L) and Kamali (R)
The famous Jamali Kamali Mosque; is now a protected monument and hence is no longer operational as a regular mosque (After all, encroaching mosques and temples is a pretty common activity in India). There is a courtyard next to the mosque which hosts several unknown graves sharing the site of burial with the Maulana Jamali (during the reign of Humayun in the sixteenth century). The sarcophagus of Jamali lies in a chamber (pavilion); along with another of a man of whom no one has any knowledge. To make the tomb sound rhythmic they named him Kamali. Probably one could cook up a pretty controversial story between Jamali and his unknown companion. Further east lie the ruins which were perhaps once excavated in 1993; and now are a home to pigs, dogs, and sometimes goats which are brought in by the villagers for grazing. Though, one could consider pigs sniffing graves of Jamali’s disciples pretty blasphemous.
                At a depression from the ruins lie the main entrance of the Archaeological Park and the Tomb of Sultan Balban (of the 13th century), and if observed pretty closely he did spend quite amount of fortune in building it (However the sarcophagus present there is not his; it’s of his son). Though currently in ruins; the walls at some points reveal small patches of blue tiles and plaster which has engravings. Apparently his reign was the first one in India to master the art of building true arches.
Rajon ki Baoli
                Walking further away from the entrance in search of ‘Rajon ki Baoli’ or ‘Masons’ step well’ one comes across a long chain of debris, tombs and structures which all lie in ruins. I guess more than the eagerness to find the destinations; it’s the feeling of time travel to the medieval age that appeals to one. Even though in the busiest areas in Delhi; one feels falling back in past as he/she observes wilderness climbing around abandoned and ruinous structures which covers about seven hundred years of history. Finally ending my journey at Rajon ki Baoli; a step well of four levels I felt I could just sit here forever in the serene environment and perhaps have a few of my friends over for an acoustic JAM (Well; even in the past, step wells used to be pretty cool venue for social gatherings, I believe it hasn’t lost its touch).

Qutub Minar peaking behind the traffic
It was nearly sunset and my legs finally gave up after walking continuously for about four hours. Reclining back against the stairs of the Reebok Showroom across the Anuvrat Marg Road, the Qutub Minar was perhaps the only archaic structure standing high above the new urban city of New Delhi.

Over the Hills; with KLoD.B

There are two ways of making one’s trip; either as a lone ranger and rediscovering places on your own or find a group of like minded people and make your experience a really constructive one, by sharing knowledge, perspectives and ideologies about the destinations. Coming across a fifteen years old circle ‘KLoD.B: Knowing Loving Delhi Better’, made my walk in Jawahar Lal Nehru University a more insightful one. For me everything is rediscovery since I have been back to Delhi after a long-long period of time; and it’s now that I explore traces of left over Aravali Hills in Delhi. JNU is about a thousand acres campus known for its academia, food and politics. In fact; food and its natural landscape of unblemished Aravalis and greenery is one of the main reasons why it’s on the list of many young Delhites to hang-out. There is another reason as well; but well let’s not highlight that in my blog (Let’s say ‘Sandwich’).
One finds JNU within the cliffs that lie between IIT Delhi and Vasant Vihar. In fact it’s believed that IIT Delhi was established in the Valley of the Aravalies and JNU over the Aravalies. Here you find the highest natural point in Delhi; the Partha Sarthy Rocks and it’s a completely different world from the peak. Amidst the busy, urban and polluted South Delhi, you find yourself over a range surrounded by wilderness on all sides (Thanks to the current season, we often crept through the shrubs and thorns). I found the campus as a pretty good spot for weekend rock climbing and trekking. The Dhaabas; and their food are known to most Delhites for their delicacy and the economic price (I mean really economic). You find them everywhere, whether it be behind the central library on the rocks overlooking the green campus, or the famous Ganga Dhaaba in the valley right opposite to the Ganga hostel. And then, there is one which is operated by an ex-student of JNU because he just didn’t wish to leave the campus; known as ‘Mamu ka Dhaaba’. When one can’t find food anywhere in Delhi late in the night; 24/7 is perhaps the only Dhaaba which serves you delicious food no matter what time it is.
I personally didn’t interact with a student there; however the culture is quite apparent from the ambiance of the place and the magnificent and evocative posters that you find everywhere in the campus. Among common students; it’s here that I first witnessed art inspired by true reason and political and social views. Some of them, I found just loud enough judging by the use of colours and strokes. Other members of the group who had seen enough of JNU then enlightened me that one observes politics whether it be left, right wing, or capitalist in its full swing amongst the students in JNU and indeed some of them later do get a seat in the parliament. And yes; every now then you observe students distributing pamphlets for some seminar, or event.
I almost expected to find the twenty years old history of JNU, from a personal diary of 1993 which was pushed between couple of rocks; but unfortunately only the dirty hardbound cover was left behind with no pages in it. Apparently someone did want us to read; but the rains which might have dissolved the papers over years didn’t. There is yet more to explore, the caves and the haunted house that I was told of further south to the Partha Sarthy Rocks; but I have left them to another visit. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tracing Ancient India - Camouflaged rock edict in Delhi

Most of us know the legend of indraprastha or how it is associated with the old fort. It is said that the city of the pandava lay here; as its ancient name and archaeological excavations prove thus. However my journey lies south near Kailash colony and Kalka ji temple. There is a hypothesis that the temple is ancient and sacrifices were predominant here. Also Delhi lay on the ancient highway to the northwest. So what better place could emperor Ashoka find to inscribe his notion of peace on the rocky ranges behind the temple. I arrived there one day to have a look at the minor rock edict myself. Thanks to the insistence of the Buddhist communities, the edict is now a protected heritage site. It's tough to identify the locality as a part of the Aravalies though; the urbanization has lead to eclipsed natural landscape. So there is just one part of the range that remains here and at its peak is the sheltered ashokan edict.

Just like most of the sites in Delhi the enclosure is locked and I had to persuade the guard to unlock the railings for me. India shares another interesting aspect; where guides are missing local security guards of the heritage site take up the task of enlightening you about the site. Sometimes you don't doubt there knowledge for they have been here for such a long time assisting tourists and often have a good story to tell. According to him the place is usually visited by Bhuddhist groups from Japan, Nepal, Korea; Thailand in the summers and they light incense sticks or candles and kneel down to the edict. They recite their hymns and tie Buddhist flags to the railings (which were still there). What amused me was his description that 'they worship Ashoka next to Lord Buddha as we worship dau Balram next to Lord Krishna'. He had quite some knowledge of the inscriptions and told me of the Dharma Chakra which even though not clearly visible, could be traced by the fingers and how to take the photograph of the inscription such that they are visible in a camera.

The edict resides in an urban colony however from the peak of the ridge one can identify the pinnacle of the famous ISKON temple to the west and a few other temples here and there. And indeed my next interest there lies the massive ISKON temple and Buddha Vihar inaugurated by Shiela Dixit.